Monday, August 30, 2010

Circus continues to run a muck

Something really could be said for how the Rangers are treating bloggers. I know BlueshirtBanter and they're quite respectable and do a solid job covering the team from a fan perspective. So, why am I not shocked at the lack of respect given to them following their simple coverage of the Fire Slats protest?

This organization has sunk to new levels, doing whatever it can to infuriate a loyal fanbase that continues to support mediocrity. Cause there's no other way to sum it up. That's what we are getting. A team that can't seriously challenge for a Cup and even was called out by franchise netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who doesn't expect them to be at the top. What does that say about this ongoing circus? Since when is just making the playoffs acceptable?!?!?!?!?!

Sadly, this is what you get under the leadership of Dolan, who is Hell bent on bringing back Garden failure Isiah Thomas to run the Knicks- disrespecting Hall Of Fame current GM Donnie Walsh. How low can they go? Also hear service fees for individual tickets will run nearly 50 bucks to sit in the cheapseats. Anything to insult the intelligence of puckers. But hey. This from the same building that won't ever acknowledge that there's an All-Star game in our league. But you'll find plenty of NBA ballots this winter.

Sure. Tickets didn't decrease for season subscribers. But hell-o McFly! They missed the playoffs last year. By that logic, shouldn't they throw fans a bone like they did pre-lockout? Oh wait. What was all that fuss again about "cost certainty" and being more fan friendly. Ha. Not if you're a Ranger fan or a devoted blogger who has more passion than any of the nimrods that run The Garden. Of course, beer will go up again to like nine bucks. Simply amazing.

I could go on but what's the point? Our top defenseman remains unsigned with camp a little over a week away. But they managed to add ex-Sabre energizer Tim Kennedy for the fourth line. I like what Kennedy brings but what's more pressing? Forward depth or a position that isn't exactly a strength? Shhhh. Better not tell lackeys Rautwig, Giannone or Micheletti who'll be dishing the same MSG propaganda about this club. One which THN picked to finish 13th in the East. And while I do think they'll compete with Tampa Bay, Montreal and Atlanta for the final spot, they could easily finish 12th.

That doesn't seem to matter. As long as they got seats filled (even if not, bought-same difference), it'll continue to be the SOS. I wish I could say I am excited for 2010-11. But I'm really not. Not unless the Wisconsin kids (Stepan/McDonagh) become regulars at some point and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen isn't royally screwed. Oh. And there better not be a Tinman sighting. :P

As I close, all I can think about is how there should be a new MSG sponsor. Barnum & Bailey. Why not? They already have the circus in town. Bring on the elephants and plenty of peanuts and cotton candy. I'm ready. Are you?

D Day for Devs, Kovalchuk

This could finally be it. At least that's what the Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk are hoping. Lou Lamoriello sure hopes the third time's the charm after submitting the much rumored 15-year, $100 million contract to the NHL Friday.

If it doesn't get Gary Bettman's signed stamp of approval, what's next for Kovalchuk? Should we take Russian agent Yuri Nikolaev at his word about the 48-hour deadline for a league that seems Hell bent on tossing one of their stars back to Russia where the 27 year-old sniper could wind up home in the KHL? That all depends on what comes out of today.

While this dark cloud hangs over Devil fans' heads, it also has been a huge detriment to hockey- negatively impacting other free agents who remain unsigned. That the marquee FA of this year's class could still possibly be without a contract as September looms is just nonsensical. But what else would you expect from a chaotic league intent on Armageddon II? Though if you count the post-'94 lockout, it's really No.3, which ironically enough was the last time their product was hot coming off a strong Cup with the Blackhawks ending a long drought in a great series with the Flyers.

No matter what's said out of league spin quarters, losing a player of Kovalchuk's caliber isn't good for business. Another rejection would only further draw a line in the sand, opening up a pandora's box for other stars who signed long-term deals.

Hopefully, some sanity will prevail this time. Just don't go in with too much enthusiasm.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bettman has eye on prize

The whole summer seems to have flown by like sand on a windy day at the beach. For us puckers, it has and continues to be about Kovalchuk, the Devils and the biggest pompous egomaniac to run a league named Buttman Bettman.

So, here we are just a few days away from August commencing with schools starting up and camps around the corner. Only nothing's been decided thanks to Blochhead's controversial decision. Retirement contract. Who ever heard of such a thing? As our Buffalo blogger Brian astutely noted during this fiasco, the average NHLer lasts a shade over six years. Earth to Blochhead and the powers that be. Ilya Kovalchuk is far from average, having already lasted a decade. Well, aside from the utter failure of Lockout II throwing away an entire season. Oh. And if you don't think it is by now, you also believe in the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and that jolly old fellow who shall remain unnamed for the kiddies.

Bettman wanted "cost certainty." One of the dumbest terms to hit hockey along with "New NHL." Where a panicked league continues to do just that, tweaking every rule trying to confuse players, coaches and fans alike. Brilliant. The owners were supposed to stop overpaying their product. But in case you hadn't noticed, GMs found an innovative tactic around the cap- locking up cornerstone players to eccentric long-term deals that would make both Alexei Yashin and Carol Alt drool. This is the part where I love how it's the players' fault. As if someone was going to tell them not to sign on the dotted line.

The NHL is right that these ridiculous contracts are an issue which will be up for debate at the next CBA. Otherwise known as the real 2012 or perhaps hockey's final death bed. Because apparently, Gary's not satisfied with two. He wants to dare to destroy even more. Ever hear of the three strikes rule when you do something wrong? You get three chances. The first two and you're on notice. Third time and you're out. Well, that grand 'ole commish we just can't rid ourselves of hasn't. He wants to lockout the players again. Who cares about consequences. Credibility again tossed aside.

So, the PA is taking things a bit more seriously with Donald Fear Fehr about to take over an operation that's as dysfunctional as Bettman. I know what you're thinking. This is the same universally loathed man who cost a baseball season in '94. But the circumstances are different. The players need someone who will stand up and fight for their rights. A corrupt league is milking Blochhead's decision, trying to run Kovalchuk out of town and back home to Russia. And if Bill Daly's serious, pffft.

Who's gonna stop this evil regime? The clock is ticking...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Feature Interview Up On Battle

In case you're wondering, we recently completed a nice feature interview with Oswego student Elizabeth Bernath, who enters her second year behind the mic. She calls the women's hockey team. In the Q & A session, plenty is covered including her radio/college experience, the Devils, Kovalchuk, NHL and her taste in music which features Iron Maiden.

It can be caught on our other site:

Battle Of New York

Here's an excerpt of the piece including a quick analysis on my subconscious state:

BONY: You’re a Devils fan. How long have you drank the Kool Aid?

EB: I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Devils. I was actually living in Texas when the Devils played the Dallas Stars in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals so that was a pretty rough time. Now I’m up in Sabres country but there’s a surprising amount of Rangers fans lurking around that place.

BONY: Do you go to games? Anything stand out?

EB: Yes, I’ve been to tons of Devils games. The thing that stands out to me the most when you’re at a game is how knowledgeable and passionate the fan base is. You can walk up to anyone in the arena that’s wearing a Devils jersey and talk some serious hockey with them and you’ll always leave the game with more friends than you walked in with from talking to the other people in your section. It’s really like a big hockey family.

BONY: If yes, give us your Rock experience.

EB: The Rock is a great place to see a hockey game. It’s a state of the art building and was obviously designed with hockey in mind. I’ve been seated all over the arena, from the first row behind the bench to the last row in the upper corners, and there’s not a bad seat to be had in the building. Wherever your seat may be you always feel like you’re right on top of the ice and that building can really get loud.

BONY: Last night I dreamt that Kovalchuk scored off a face off from way out. I’m a Ranger fan. Does it mean anything?

EB: It’s your fear of him being a Devil and the Rangers facing him six times a year manifesting itself in your unconscious mind.

Devils submit second Kovy contract for approval

So now are we finally approaching a resolution to the Ilya Kovalchuk circus? With word coming out just a couple hours ago that a second contract was sent to the league for approval that supposedly addresses the NHL's concerns maybe we're finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, we won't know for certain until the league gives its official stamp of approval or second (and likely final) rejection, which they have five days to decide.

Either way it's seemed since yesterday that the tipping point was just around the corner when the KHL rumors started to heat up again with word that Kovy's Russian agent put a call into the KHL president and let him know his client was frustrated with the NHL and was now interested in the KHL's hassle and tax-free money. With a self-imposed deadline of 24-48 hours, maybe this threat was designed to put pressure on the NHL to approve this final deal.

Sure enough after this news came a statement from a defiant Bill Daly who vowed that the threat of losing a player to the KHL, even a star in the prime of his career wouldn't sway the NHL from doing what was right which is utter nonsense since if that star player was named Crosby or Ovechkin the league would be bending over backwards trying to make it work. Not to mention the utter hypocrisy of a league who doesn't call farming out Cristobal Huet to Switzerland a cap circumvention but god forbid we try to get a long-term deal done with front-loaded money, that's cap circumvention!

Make no mistake about it, there won't be a third attempt made after this, really there can't be. Even if Kovy's bluffing about going to the KHL should this latest contract also be rejected, it's extremely likely that a second rejection would then be followed by fines and/or cap penalties that would make it prohibitive for the Devils to even attempt to sign Kovalchuk again. If this goes badly again there's plenty of blame to go around for all sides as I wrote in my last entry a couple days ago, but the black eye will be more glaring on the league than anywhere else.

As negative as I am about this league part of me still has hope that the NHL will do the right thing and accept this deal. Really the league has too much to lose here, having Kovy go over to the KHL will give them instant credibility and lead to other stars bolting, especially if the NHL is going to continue writing contracts for other teams as well since they think arbitrator Richard Bloch's contreversial decision now gives them imperial power to decide term limits and how much money can be front-loaded (stuff the CBA doesn't actually give the league power over). Not to mention other owners might start to put pressure on Gary Bettman to get this deal done since they don't want to face the same hassle with their own players down the road.

Even should the league accept this contract though, I'm also worried about whether we gave in and threw up some ridiculous 12-96 type deal to get it done. It didn't seem like Kovy was willing to compromise despite the fact the Devils were already getting penalized with a higher cap hit, why else would another deal have even taken more than two weeks when both sides had a month to mull over possible Plan B's? However, TSN believes the deal will be for 15-100 which would be a (get ready for this irony) $6.66 million cap hit, and that I wouldn't have an issue with at all though I'm somewhat skeptical of that number since this could have been done six weeks ago quite honestly, without any hassle.
In any case, this whole thing has just been so un-Devil like I'll just be glad when it's finally over and we can get back to being passionate over things that matter, like wins and losses instead of contracts and hearings. If this thing breaks tomorrow, I won't be around either way so don't worry people, I won't throw myself off the GW Bridge in the event of a final rejection (though I may try to bash my head through a wall in total frustration over the combination of this and the Revis fiasco in Jet-land) and I won't have died of shock in the event of a thumbs up. Rest assured I will be back once this thing gets decided with more thoughts, especially once the terms of the second deal become public knowledge.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Devils' latest contract framework rejected (again) by the NHL

Well two days ago it looked like this was the beginning of the end (finally) of the Ilya Kovalchuk saga with various reports that he was ready to sign a new deal with the Devils. Especially considering Lou Lamoriello, Jeff Vanderbeek and agent Jay Grossman visited the NHL offices in New York to present the framework of another deal, which was rumored to be in the neighborhood of 13 years, $91 million. Whatever the terms, the league was supposed to render a decision yesterday and most people - including me, stupidly - figured this would be a fait accompli, that there would be absolutely no way a second deal gets a thumbs down, especially after two weeks plus of working on it.

Well, guess what? It looks like the NHL has once again thrown up a roadblock, with both Mark Everson of the Post and Tom Gulutti of the Record (among others) reporting the NHL has rejected the Devils' latest framework for a contract. Simply unreal. Now at this point I'm getting impatient and annoyed with everyone involved. Especially with less than three weeks to go to camp. I hate to sound like Jet fan Joe Benigno with the Darrelle Revis situation at this point but at this point...JUST GET IT DONE!!!

Of course the league now looks like they're on a total witch hunt to make it as hard as possible for the Devils to sign Kovalchuk. Arbitrator Richard Block's heavy-handed decision gave the league imperial power to decide the validity of all contracts where it didn't exist before, and the league is flexing its muscles big-time now. What would make the league happy, $8 million cap hit (resulting in an erstatz $2 million per year fine from the initial contract)? A completely flat contract of $7 million per year? Less than ten years on the deal? Or dragging its feet long enough so that Kovy can't sign with us at all, though unfortunately for Inspector, Gary Bettman the Plan B might be going to Russia for year if he can't work out a deal in time for the season.

Admittedly we're no sweet innocents in this fiasco. If anyone though that our first contract proposal was some bizarre psuedo-conspiracy concocted by Lou to force the league to come down on long-term deals, then this round of failed negotiations should prove once and for all that's not the case. Let's face it - there was no reason this deal should even have been close enough for the league to reject, especially since at this point we're bidding against ourselves for Kovy.

Even Dean Lombardi in LA can't get his grubby paws involved in driving up the price, since there's no way in this climate the league even approves their rumored initial offer of 15-80, plus the fact he signed Alexei Ponikarovsky, further limiting the Kings' cap space. Nobody else has been truly involved all summer so I admit, when I first heard the 13-91 rumor I was dissapointed. Is anyone else in the NHL even offering half of that?! Not with the apparent lack of interest in Kovy this summer.

As far as Kovy and Grossman, well you tried not once but twice to get your's time to face reality, it just isn't going to happen in this country. Instead of hoping for some 12-96 deal that does get approved, it's time to help the team out a little here. It was going to be hard enough to fit Kovy in under the first two deals.

Our first contract compensated Kovy well ($98.5 million in the first eleven years of the deal) and this one sounded more than fair too. We didn't have to offer as much as we did the second time around but maybe there was a sense of Lou and Vanderbeek trying to do right by the player and not making him pay for the league's tomfoolery. Well now there's got to be some form of compromise by player and agent, if they truly want their client to play here and are committed to not hamstringing this team.

Until multiple people get their heads out of their rear ends here, the waiting game looks like it'll continue right into camp which would be disasterous with a drop-dead date of October 1 (a week before the Devils' opening game) where the Devils can't be over the cap at all, and other players on the team - everyone knows who they are - still in limbo.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A road to nowhere

Ever root for a team even though you know deep down it won't do any good? We've all experienced that in this space. Brian with his two Buffalo teams. Hasan with the Mets and Jets, who appear to be defying logic 101 with their best player. And of course, yours truly with the Knicks, Rangers and my alma mater St. John's, who tries to bring in a big name coach in hopes of becoming relevant again in college hoops.

What does any of this have to do with the tired subject of the NHL defeating the Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk thanks to Richard Bloch's cap defining decision? Just this. By disallowing the controversial 17-year, $102 million contract, it opened up a pandoras box. A whole new can of worms may have been created, allowing Gary Bettman and his cronies to further investigate similar mega deals that were already approved. But that shouldn't stop a league hell bent on more chaos as we get closer to Armageddon II. In other words, beware Roberto Luongo, Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa and Marc Savard. Didn't Hossa just win a Cup in his first year with Chicago? And Pronger was instrumental in getting the Flyers to the the Final.

Just imagine if Bettman Inc. does the predictable. What are they going to do? Erase history. Something like this is unprecedented. No other league would dare break contracts that already were signed off on. Of course, that won't stop the NHL. Why would it? When has logic ever prevailed? To think that '04-05 was sacrificed so they could get their precious cap. As it turns out, it wasn't good enough. GM's found a way around it by locking up star players long-term. Fittingly, the chaos started thanks to Charles Wang, who inked Rick DiPietro to a then record 15 year, $67.5 million back in '06. That it would be an unorthodox owner who obviously didn't realize the tremendous risk he took in signing the No.1 goalie until the age of 40, speaks to another issue. One which was supposed to go away due to the lockout. Owners were supposed to be fiscally responsible. But here you had the uncanny Islander owner going over the top for a goalie who'd never even won a playoff series. Since, it's been one catastrophe after another with the franchise netminder suffering injury after injury, sidelining him for long stretches.

What's even sadder is that under Wang's leadership if you could call it that, this is the same organization that's still paying Alexei Yashin for the nonsensical 10-year $87.5 million albatross pre-lockout. Hard to comprehend two of the worst contracts coming from a team whose hands are tied, just treading water at the bottom of the cap. While it's easy to look at Glen Sather for many NHL/Ranger fan headaches, it was actually Wang calling the shots over Mike Milbury, which changed organizational philosophy in the Cap Era. Now, such mega contracts are common as more and more teams lock up players before the rules change.

Detroit's done it with both Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg. The Flyers also with star captain Mike Richards. The penny pinching Sabres with Thomas Vanek with an assist from Kevin Lowe. At least Darcy Regier got it right with Vezina winner Ryan Miller. Not so much with Jason Pominville. The rating Cup champion Blackhawks have cornerstones Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith tied away along with Hossa, who will be over 40 by the end of his deal. However, other players like Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland and Cristobal Huet forced Stan Bowman to trade away key pieces Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Ben Eager while letting Antti Niemi and Adam Burish go. That's what the cost of winning has become in a constantly revolving league where more and more players are changing jerseys.

If it's true that there was technically nothing wrong with the Kovalchuk contract under the current CBA, then it's also true that the NHL should be concerned about what these deals are doing. We maybe against the league in this particular fight but they are justified in wanting to make adjustments for the future. Problem is they can't do it now. Dragging more players into this mess would do an incredible disservice for a sport that's coming off an exciting Cup where a major market won for the first time in half a century. Ratings were up and popularity was as well. The game doesn't need another post '94 when it was also hot before they locked out the players. How many times does a disorganized NHLPA take it on the chin? The players are the product and want to play.

When it starts up again sooner than you think, the focus needs to be on hockey. Not the current nonsense. It's called good PR. Like a classic Run DMC hit, time for the NHL to check itself before it wrecks itself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Just Like Death And Taxes...

Dear NHL Schedule-maker,

You have a great job in this world, given the bad economy and all. You have the opportunity to schedule NHL games for all of the NHL teams, probably somewhere in a nice cool office, a leather chair, and a nice computer. And you probably take a 2 hour lunch as well, Life is good.

Having said this, I have always had my suspicions about your motives. Over the years, I was met with skepticism from some other hockey fans as I suggested you were out to get the Buffalo Sabres based on the scheduling of their games. I sat in wonderment about the blocks of 3 games in 4 nights, and such. And I thought to myself 'Whomever is making this schedule, are 'they' out to get the Sabres?'

I am sure you thought you could continue on with your ways and mask the truth. But now, thanks to the great work by those from, 'you' cannot hide any longer, as this site provides data available to show the amount of times a NHL team faces a team on a back-t0-back night, and when the team themselves has a back-t0-back games scheduled.

And guess what team has the most back-to-back games scheduled and tied for the worst balance with Atlanta?

Take a look for yourself!

An astonishing 22 times the Buffalo Sabres play back-to-back nights! And here I thought I was imagining things. Thanks for confirming that you are out to get us, whomever 'you' are.

Now if only I can show this link to Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier to show the importance of a solid backup goaltender and stop his love affair with Patrick Lalime, then maybe we are getting somewhere.


Bitter Sabres Fan Till The End

Summer Sabres Shots:

I understand that the Buffalo Sabres want to save money, but a $333,333 buyout over the next two seasons for Tim Kennedy, a scrappy player who is from South Buffalo and loved playing for the Sabres? What a message to send to the team. Has Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson taken over the Sabres Front Office?

While Gary Bettman and his cronies are out to get the likes of the New Jersey Devils for circumventing the system they agreed to when signing Ilya Kovalchuk, can Darth Bettman investigate why Regier gave Tim Connolly all that cash and reject his contract as well? Just saying...

This has been the 'Summer Of Status Quo' for the Buffalo Sabres which has frustrated much of the fan base, but it would not be fair not to give Regier kudos for the signing of defenseman Shaone Morrisonn to a 2 year contract, who adds much needed size and shot blocking ability to the blueline. Plus, it will be fun to see how many times Sabres beat writers misspell his name.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Suprised Over Ilya? Don't Be

I know what some of you are thinking: You see the picture above and you are thinking to yourself 'Can this Sabres fan just stop whining about the massive injustice from the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals?' Ok, trust me here, this isn't about that fateful night that still sticks in the minds of the most passionate Sabres fan.

OK, so what in the world does this picture have to do with the Ilya Kovalchuk contract situation?

If you look close, perhaps more then you might realize.

Let's go into the time travel machine back into the 1990's shall we? Plenty of goals were reviewed and reversed, some calls I am sure are still considered controversial (Bill Guerin's reversal as a member of the Devils against the Rangers in the 1997 NHL Playoffs come to mind right away), so the reviews were not perfect.

Then Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals arrived with a vengeance, and the powers that be in the NHL asylum were shaken to their knees, after blowing the call and potentially costing the Sabres a shot at Lord's Stanley. So what did the 'great minds' at the NHL do? Well, they had a knee jerk reaction of course! About 48 hours after No Goal, it amazed me that Bettman and Co were able to change the crease rule so fast based off of 1 really bad judgment.

If only the NHL acted so swiftly and diligent to get other rules changed for the betterment of the game, imagine the possibilities.

Again, are you asking yourself what does this have to do with the Ilya Kovalchuk ruling today? Stay with me, if you have not fallen asleep yet!

The average length of an NHL players career was studied and analyzed by the following website:

The basics? The average length of a career for a forward is 5.52 seasons, which if you are not paying attention, can flash before you and go before you know it. And since the new CBA has been in existence, the NHL teams have begun to offer lengthy NHL contracts. Shall we show a sample of just two?

Henrik Zetterberg: 12 years, 40 at expiration
Marian Hossa: 12 years, 40 at expiration

Remember we discussed that the average length of an NHL player is just over 5 years? Every single one of these contracts is considered a major risk, and why is Kovalchuk's any different? Oh wait, because the NHL does not like it, that is why! I wonder if Bettman's beloved Pittsburgh Penguins gave Kovy this contract, and paired Ilya with Gary's true love, Sidney Crosby, would the same knee jerk reaction be in play?

From this vantage point, I do not think so.

Did Devils GM Lou Lamoriello attempt to circumvent the salary cap for the betterment of his franchise? Of course he did, just like any great GM tries to do to help his team. Go look at the NFL and all the tricks the old San Francisco 49ers pulled while on their way to winning multiple Super Bowls. That is what great organizations do, but of course when the NHL feels like changing something but letting other obscene contacts like Marian Hossa stand, this is what happens.

And do not expect this to be the last knee jerk reaction from Darth Bettman, not by a long shot.

So now the top NHL Free Agent is a 'free agent' yet again, and we are creeping closer to Labor Day. What a surprise that the NHL has turned this into a circus.

And with a clown at the helm of the league, I expect more circus acts in the near future.

Kovalchuk saga takes another sharp turn

In what came as a surprise - but not a total shock - arbitrator Richard Bloch denied the NHLPA's grievance over the NHL's rejection of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract. Until the arbitrator's written statement is made public, one can only speculate over why he sided with the NHL in this case, since there's nothing in the CBA that was explicitly circumvented. Odds are the vague circumventing the 'spirit' of the cap wording in the next to worthless document which ended the lockout in 2005 played a big factor.

Words cannot describe how much I hate this league right now. It is Knicks fans towards Jim Dolan for hiring Isiah Thomas type hatred, or Mets fans hatred for Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. Not to mention Jet fans hatred for Bill Belichick. You just know if the Penguins or Maple Leafs had worked out this deal they would have let it slide without a peep. Of course since it's the Devils what happened three weeks ago happened, leading to this decision which came down less than an hour ago - predictably a half hour after the 5 PM deadline.

So what's next is anyone's guess, since this entire situation is unprecedented in the history of the league. All we know now is that Kovalchuk is again a UFA and is currently in Russia taking a trip he had to postpone last week because of the two-day hearing which will live in infamy. If you want to say it's good for the league that teams can't sign twenty and twenty-five year deals now fine by me, just don't try to tell me that if Kovalchuk leaves for LA, the KHL or re-signs with the Devils at a higher cap hit that leads to us making a move we wouldn't have had to otherwise. Especially since the NHL can write its own rules on the fly now where they didn't exist before.

If I'm not around next week or the week after it's because I've officially gone crazy over the five weeks and counting of this saga. I may have to be locked in a strait jacket any minute, because having to wait even longer to find out how this unfolds is just going to be utter torture. Especially with my baseball season going up in smoke yet again and my football season hinging on the holdout of one greedy player. All I have to say is if we do wind up with Kovy when it's all said and done, he'd better prove to be worth this much trouble.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

If only it were true

Sometimes, what's buried deep in your mind can really play tricks on you. Ah. The essence of dreams. We all have them. Most of mine don't make much sense but almost always seem to involve things/people I know. Hence, yesterday when I dreamt that the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. How illogical and screwed up my head must've been. But let me preface by admitting earlier this week, I also had one where Ilya Kovalchuk scored off a faceoff from the left point, blasting a rocket in for the Devils. What does it mean? I'd rather not find out. While the prospect of the much debated Russian lingers until tomorrow, the actual deep thoughts that my team could ever win another Cup are as rational as Jim Dolan undermining Donnie Walsh, bringing back Isiah Thomas. This from the same owner who's fascinated by Glen Sather.

That's why we now refer to it as Mediocre Square. Home to mediocrity. Where bloggers such as Scotty Hockey know the deal. Just make the playoffs and it's a success so that crook can boost revenue and rip off more fans. Perhaps that's why I finally told my Dad to not renew my seat. Well, that and also saving money right now takes precedence over donating cash to an evil corporate stench who'll never get it. As long as they got enough boosters who couldn't tell the difference between a basketball and a puck, what does it matter?

Oh btw, something I knew for a while thanks to an "insider" who tipped me off before the Olympic Break. The Play by Play is no more. Gone as part of the beloved Renovation which is geared towards more of the higher ups. What? You really thought it was for us? Nothing about the future of MSG will benefit the diehards. So, savor these final years because if you think it costs a lot now, just wait until you're priced out. That sound you hear is the circus clowns laughing uncontrollably.

So, what could I have been on to have actually believed that our team could win another Cup, ending the Curse of '94? Yes. I already refer to it as that based on how far off they still are while an owner who had nothing to do with it still rides the coat tails of Leetch, Messier, Richter, Zubov, Beukeboom and Graves. Leetch before The Captain because it was No.2 who was No.1 that memorable summer. Only Dolan/Slats act as if Messier was the only reason we won. I'm appreciative of The Guarantee but don't act like he did it alone. A guy by the name of Kovalev scored to swing the momentum and Leetch was instrumental along with Richy, who along with a goalpost kept them alive.

The harsh reality is that 1994 is a long time ago, even if I and other True Blue faithful wish otherwise because of what it meant. In another four years, it'll be 20 years since that team won. And by then, do you think our franchise will have made any significant progress? With apologies to Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Evgeny GrachevDylan McIlrath, Ryan McDonagh and Tomas Kundratek, there just won't be much belief as long as Sather is still employed.

Every time the senile old man talks up the future, another over the hill vet is brought in to take a roster spot away from a kid. Todd White?!?!?!?!?! Well, considering what they got at center, it's explainable. But come on. Who does Mats Zuccarello Aasen get to play with? Or is the talented soon to be 23 year-old Norwegian, who turned heads at the Olympics, going to be blocked before he even gets a chance? You do the math.

C-Christensen, Anisimov, Drury, White, Boyle
LW-Frolov, Dubinsky, Prospal, Avery, Boogard
RW-Gaborik, Callahan, Prust

Fyi...isn't it a bit odd how the official New York Rangers site fails to list Frolov up front but includes White? Wasn't the enigmatic yet gifted Russian their best addition? Never mind. Why mess with logic? Especially from a GM who again treated complete strangers better than his own. Even a two bit scrub like Boogard who does one thing well gets the royal treatment while our most important player Marc Staal remains in limbo probably till preseason. How would you feel if you were Henrik Lundqvist?

At least in the dream, even though I wasn't in the building, I was genuinely excited/surprised to see the Rangers win the Cup. Of course, I don't know who they beat, which probably explains why it was just my brain teasing me much like the club I root for. If only it were true.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sabres add Morrisson to D, buyout Kennedy

While most of the talk continues to center around Kovalchuk, the Sabres made a couple of interesting roster moves the other day. First, teflon GM Darcy Regier signed former Cap Shaone Morrisson to a two-year deal worth $2.075 million-per-season.

The 27 year-old original Boston '01 first round pick adds size to the Buffalo blueline. Listed at 6-4, 215, he'll be looked upon to help shoulder the burden with Henrik Tallinder now in Jersey while Jordan Leopold is an adequate replacement for Hostess cupcake Toni Lydman. As our resident Buffalo blogger says, 'Have fun with that guy Anaheim.'

Meanwhile, Morrisson proved to be a steady influence for the Caps the past five seasons getting into 374 games (74.8 average) while compiling nine goals, 53 assists and 405 penalty minutes along with a plus-26 rating. Solid but unspectacular numbers for the physical defensive blueliner whose 163 hits paced all Washington defensemen- ranking second to Alex Ovechkin (185) in '09-10. The Vancouver native also blocked 104 shots, placing behind club leader Jeff Schultz (129), Tom Poti (121) and ex-Cap Brian Pothier (107-Wsh/Car).

He'll turn 28 two days before Christmas. Overall, it looks like a solid signing by Regier, who added a character player to a Buffalo corps which prominently features Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera along with vets Craig Rivet and Steve Montador. Including extra Chris Butler, all seven Sabre D are signed. With the exceptions of Rivet (35) and Montador (30), every other blueliner is under 30 including Leopold (29), who will be a key to how good it performs.

If there's a drawback, injuries have caused Morrisson to decline in games played. Since he took part in a career high 80 in '05-06, it's dwindled little by little each year spiraling below 70 last season.

Morr Risson For Concern

Year        GP
'05-06     80
'06-07     78
'07-08     76
'08-09     72
'09-10     68 

On the plus-side, in six-plus seasons with Boston and Washington, he's never finished a minus even posting a plus-10 his rookie year split with the B's and Caps in which a deadline trade sent Sergei Gonchar to Beantown pre-lockout. Overall, he's 10-60-70 with a plus-36 in 418 career games.

Kennedy Bought Out In a startling move, Regier opted not to accept the arbitrator's $1 million reward, placing Tim Kennedy on waivers and then buying him out. A tad curious considering that the 24 year-old made the club and performed admirably as a rookie, posting 10 goals and 16 helpers for 26 points along with 50 penalty minutes, a power play goal and three game-winners in 78 contests.

The Buffalo native was used primarily in a checking role under Lindy Ruff, providing a lift when the club needed it. Interestingly enough, Kennedy fared alright in his first playoff series going 1-2-3 with four PIM and a plus-three rating in six games.

Instead of paying him a difference of $200,000 (seriously), Regier bought him out for $333 K. On why he made the decision, the Buffalo executive explained:

The only thing I would say to the fans is that our objective hasn’t changed here. It's about building the very best team, a championship team. That's the goal, that’s what we do, that's why we do it. ... That's why we make tough decisions like this. It is a tough decision. I know it hits home, I know it's personal to our fan base; I know it's personal to South Buffalo. And it’s unfortunate in that regard."

What objective might that be???

Kovalchuk hearing concludes, decision Monday

Finally, there will be a conclusion to this mess. We just won't know it until Monday. For Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils, arbitrator Richard Bloch will render a decision on the catastrophic 17-year, $102 million contract the 27 year-old electrifying Russian star signed back on July 19. Here's the long and short of it via's Dan Rosen:

Bloch has until the end of business Monday to rule on whether the NHL was justified in rejecting the 17-year, $102 million contract Kovalchuk signed with the Devils last month. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated at the time the NHL rejected the contract that it was doing so because the deal circumvents the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If Bloch rules that the NHL was within its legal right to reject Kovalchuk's contract, the Russian sniper immediately returns to unrestricted free agent status. If Bloch rules that the NHL unjustly rejected the contract and it is indeed valid under terms of the CBA then the League must immediately approve the contract.

Pretty cut and dry. It would be astronomical if Bloch ruled for the NHL, creating a firestorm as they near the end of a CBA in which the same league approved similar long-term deals as was cited in our previous post yesterday. What ever way they rule, one side is going to be awfully steamed, which probably won't bode well for the future.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kovalchuk hearing begins among crickets

The fate of Ilya Kovalchuk still isn't known. On Day One in Beantown of the hearing between the Devils and a cynical league that was minus Gary Bettman, who opted instead to attend a conference call for the second Hockey Heritage Classic between host Calgary and visitor Montreal, nothing has been decided just yet. In fact, crickets wouldn't be able to tell you what happened today.

So, it looks like those hoping for a quick result to this chaos will have to wait until the end of the week before the 17 year, $102 million contract the Devils and Kovalchuk agreed upon is ruled on. In the mean time, the 27 year-old Russian who'll turn 44 in his final year would earn $98.5 million the first 11 seasons before his salary decreases to an average cap hit of $550,000 the final five years after $750 K in 2021-22.

Honestly, the way this astronomical contract is set up, it's enough to make your head spin from East to West a la Rocky when he meets Ivan Drago in Rocky V at Moscow. Of course, the KHL is rooting for the contract to be rejected so they can scoop up one of their own. However, even if it gets rejected, the feeling is Kovalchuk and Lou Lamoriello will work something out and he'll stay put in the NHL regardless of another threat of a lockout.

Even if the Devil architect who knew ways around a cap he helped write, there's technically nothing wrong with what he did. In the past, other teams have done the same thing with star players (ie Islanders-DiPietro, Flyers-Richards, Pronger, Red Wings-Zetterberg, Franzen, Blackhawks-Hossa, Canucks-Luongo, Capitals-Ovechkin). Should New Jersey really be penalized for taking advantage of the same rules other clubs have? Why? Because the CBA is about to expire and the league and its minyons are furious with these sorta outlandish contracts??? Hey. The cap was supposed to solve everything. Remember? If players want security and GMs and owners agree that they're worth it, who are we to disagree?

Besides. Is there a worse contract than the one Glen Sather handed out to Wade Redden with Chris Drury right behind? Maybe they should investigate the Ranger GM for robbing his own fans blind along with Dolan. If only that were true.

If the arbitrator has any sense of purpose, they'll rule in favor of Kovalchuk and the Devils, leaving collective egg on the faces of Bettman and Co. Here's hoping the right decision is made.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rangers dump Brashear and Rismiller for White

In case you were living in a bat cave which sometimes being a fan of this team I wish I was, the Rangers made a deal yesterday. With it first circulating late Sunday night that they acquired Todd White from Atlanta, speculation was a little premature on what the Thrashers got back, which ranged from a fourth round pick to even Michal Rozsival.

Of course, neither were close as instead, our senile GM actually found a way to dump Donald Brashear and Patrick Rismiller on Atlanta, making it almost a match. The 35 year-old White who played the past three seasons with the Thrashers after teaming with Marian Gaborik in St. Paul is set to earn $2.6 million in the final year of his contract. Brashear earns $1.3 million and Rismiller, who became AHL fodder, makes a cool million. In essence, Atlanta saves $300,000. However, White is a $2.375 M cap hit while Brash and Rissmiller combine for $2.4 M. So, it's basically a wash.

Watch Brashear go back to being the royal pain in the ass who knocked Blair Betts into next week. Public Enemy No.1 is sure to get a rude welcome back to MSG. It's not like anyone liked him anyway. Too bad someone forgot to inform Glen Sather and our coach who actually thought a washed up goon was an upgrade over Colton Orr. Now, he's been replaced by Derek Boogard, who can't take regular shifts despite an even heftier pay tag ($1.625 M). Ah. Only in Rangerland.

So, what to make of the latest Ranger? If this were a few years ago, we'd love the move. But fact is White's coming in off his worst year since his final one in Ottawa pre-lockout. A year removed from centering Ilya Kovalchuk and posting career highs in assists (51), points 73), power play goals (12) and games played (82), the Kanata, Ontario native sunk like the Titanic to seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points in 65 games. He also posted a third consecutive minus season finishing minus-11.

The big question is does he have a place on our roster? Our centers aren't exactly scaring anyone with Artem Anisimov having the most potential. Especially if John Tortorella keeps Brandon Dubinsky on left wing. At the moment, Erik Christensen is slated to center Gaborik. Vinny Prospal can play center but is better suited for the wing. And then there's captain Chris Drury and his albatross ($7.05 M) with the club stuck two more years with him and Rozsival ($5 M). As for Wade Redden ($6.5 M), if White's on the roster, it all but ensures that he's going to Hartford. They have to clear space for Marc Staal. Assuming Ryan McDonagh is ready and Matt Gilroy stronger, the Rangers could be set with a blueline of Staal, Rozsival, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Gilroy, McDonagh and Steve Eminger. That would be ideal with Eminger serving as a veteran fill-in.

Is Brian Boyle still considered our fourth line center? White can easily fill that role as he's got experience as a checking type two-way pivot who can kill penalties. He also can play power play if needed and is a much more fluid skater. The question is was last year a tell tale sign that his scoring days are over. Has age finally caught up or can he bounce back? If he does make the team and he certainly can help in the face-off dot (401-344, 53.8 Pct), it's a definite upgrade over Boyle (198-323, 38.7 Pct) with Anisimov (44.9) and Christensen (48.8) not much better. Drury was our best winning 52.9 percent while Dubinsky and Prospal both were over 50 percent.

Adding another center who can win draws is fine. But one look at this roster and who's scoring the goals aside from Gabby? Alexander Frolov better rebound with at least 25. They need more consistency from Ryan Callahan, who's averaged a shade over 20 the past two seasons. Can Prospal duplicate last year's success? Anisimov likely will go up from the dozen he scored in his rookie year. Sean Avery's a candidate for a few more than the 11 he got. Dubinsky enters Year Four coming off a career high 20 markers after being shifted. He's also playing for a contract, which should serve as motivation.

Still, when you look at the roster, it once again looks like a one horse show. Unless Derek Stepan or Evgeny Grachev blows them away in camp, there's not much to get excited over. This looks like a middle of the road team who doesn't know what it is. On one hand, we got kids who'll continue to get valuable experience as part of a retooling. On the other, there's all these vets mixed in making high salaries. Is there any direction?!?!?!?!?!

One word to describe this chaos. Mediocrity.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Islanders add Wiz to blueline

Lately, there hasn't been a lot for Islander fans to get excited about. However, a few nights ago while I was out with the big guy and bro over our friend's new house for a fun barbecue, Garth Snow made a solid move acquiring defenseman James Wisniewski from Anaheim for just a conditional third round pick in 2011.

Considering that the original Chicago '02 fifth rounder is still only 26, it looks like a calculated gamble by the Islander GM. When healthy, Wiz is easily a top four D who can log important minutes and play any situation. In five seasons spent with both the Hawks and Ducks, the Canton Michigan native who was part of the '03 USA WJC gold medal team has proven a capable puckmoving D who combines skill with physicality. Loose translation: Wiz ain't soft as evidenced by his 129 hits (41st among D) and 102 blocked shots, which ranked him in the top 100 for his position. Unfortunately, that edge also resulted in an eight-game suspension after this controversial hit in which he retaliated on former 'mate Brent Seabrook for a hit on Corey Perry prior in the shift.

Islander fans will like that edge as it's certainly something their blueline can use in support of budding teenager John Tavares. What also is a plus is that Wisniewski's in no way one-dimensional as he can also contribute offensively. Following two straight seasons of 20 points or more, the ex-Duck registered a career high 30 including a new best 27 helpers to go with three markers in 69 contests (also a new personal best). The Wiz also racked up 69 penalty minutes with two power play goals, 146 shots while posting a minus-five rating. Numbers he'll look to improve on in his new Long Island home.

Why was he essentially dumped by Duck GM Bob Murray? Because apparently, he didn't think the $3.25 million Wisniewski was due was worth it. Especially for a defenseman who's never played a full season and will turn unrestricted next summer. Still, he gave Sabre reject Toni Lydman basically the same money ($3M) which makes you scratch your head.

For the Islanders, it looks like a win. They get a good player while losing zilch. Does Wiz team with Mark Streit while other key addition Mark Eaton works with Bruno Gervais? What happens to Andrew MacDonald, Jack Hillen and Milan Jurcina if Radek Martinek returns healthy? Considering that there's a an IL slot reserved for Martinek, you can never have enough defensemen. It'll be interesting to see who the odd men out are once the season rolls around. Something which could be a tough choice for Scott Gordon.

On paper, the Isles improved with this trade and should be tougher to play against. However, they still haven't addressed gaping holes up front like who's going to put the puck in the net other than Tavares and Matt Moulson? Expect Kyle Okposo to increase production and perhaps Rob Schremp can finish a little more as well. Unless top pick Nino Niederreiter makes the roster, the team still lacks enough skill to help Tavares and Co. Given that they have plenty of cap room, what about bringing back a vet like Bill Guerin or taking a flier on Paul Kariya? Unless P.A. Parenteau proves the Rangers wrong, it looks like the club may struggle to score again.

The Puck Stops Here


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