September 06, 2009

Slap Shots - A Busy Week Gone By

I am back from my last major camping trip of the year. Now it is time to get ready for Hockeyville, the NHL season and the Olympics.

It was a busy week gone by, so here's a few slap shot observations:

Paul Kelly Firing
  • Wow. Paul Kelly fired. Glenn Healy and Patrick Flatley resign. The NHLPA continues to be a mess of an organization, likely thanks largely to a powerful few who are manipulating the masses. That is how unions really work, isn't it? I'm curious to see how much of a role ardent union man Buzz Hargrove played in this. Jeremy Roenick is bang on on this one, while Ted Lindsay's thoughts were fascinating.
  • The ramifications of all this could be significant, especially come CBA time. Even worse, the over-the-top Healy may make a return to television. I think Scott Russell said it best when he said all the recent progress made on ice has been derailed thanks to off ice stories like this, the Lightning ownership squabbles and the Coyotes situation.
Phoenix Coyotes
  • The never ending story that everyone wishes just would end. Kudos has to go out to James Mirtle for breaking down this story all summer long for the rest of to understand. Same goes for all the bloggers who keep working religiously all summer long, despite a relatively slow summer news-wise when it comes to hockey. Things should get interesting this week, as NHL camps near and the Coyotes go on the auction block.
Len Barrie
  • Len Barrie gets ousted as a NHL owner because he does not have any where near the cash he said he had. In fact, he actually owes the Bear Mountain Resort real estate project, his supposed cash cow, upwards of $20 million. He was effectively stealing money from other people's pockets, although not necessarily in an illegal accounting fashion, at least not yet. These things tend to catch up with these guys though. Just another failed NHL ownership story from the past 15 years or so. Does the NHL not do due-diligence on prospective owners? Apparently only if their name is Jim Balsillie.
More Turbulence
  • You can not blame the NHL for this one, but they have another headache to deal with. It seems transportation officials in the US and Canada are having a spat, all in the name of more American protectionism. The Americans are banning Air Canada charter flights bound from one US city to another, saying that that should be done by American companies. They always are, except for pro-sports team, vis-a-vis a side agreement. The Americans are banning such flights, with Canada matching the ban in retaliation. This will greatly affect the NHL, as well as the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) and Toronto Raptors (NBA), as already difficult travel scheduling just got a whole lot more messy.
Vancouver Canucks
  • Roberto Luongo gets a massive 12 year, $64 million deal. Each side has some out clauses, so this is not quite as dangerous as say Rick Dipietro's contract. It is dangerous for Alain Vigneault though. This is very clearly Luongo's and the Sedins' team, and they are not going anywhere. Another weak playoff showing means Vigneault will walk the plank.
  • It will be interesting to see what the Canucks do with super-goalie-prospect Cory Schneider. There is no need for a goalie of the future with Luongo locked in for at least 5 if not 12 years. The question is when will they trade Schneider? They could move him now, using him as a centerpiece to a deal that would move out salary for cap relief purposes. Or they could let him play the season behind Luongo and hope he shows well in relief, supposedly only upping his trade value for the trading deadline where teams always over pay. Early cap relief or late season playoff push - tough call. One thing is for sure - it won't look good to send him back to the farm behind Andrew Raycroft.
  • There will be a Schneider playing in Vancouver this year regardless. 40 year old Mathieu Schneider signed as a free agent, while the Canucks also took on salary in acquiring Christian Erhoff and Brad Lukowich. This gives the Canucks blue line a much needed new twist of identity, although if everyone is healthy, these three are bottom 4 defensemen in Vancouver.
Three More Retirements - Last week saw three long time NHLers announce their retirements:
  • Philippe Boucher - The hard shooting, hard luck Philippe Boucher goes out on top with a Stanley Cup ring. It took Boucher a long time to find a NHL home, as his defensive and physical games were slow to develop. Drafted in the first round back in 1991, he did not really become a NHL regular until 2001. In 2005-06 and 2006-07 he finally emerged as a top talent, putting together two great seasons thanks to a terrific slap shot that reminded some of Al MacInnis. Very quietly he played in parts of 17 NHL seasons, scoring 94 goals, 206 assists, and 300 points in 748 games
  • Jason Smith - Jason Smith, on the other hand, is an example of a good NHL warrior who held on too long. He was a shadow of his old self in the last two campaigns with Philadelphia and Ottawa, respectively. But for the longest time he was one of the NHL's best kept secrets. He is best remembered playing with the Edmonton Oilers, where he was not only the team captain, but a rugged and reliable crunch-time player. He lacked mobility and offensive instincts, but he was a nice shut down defenseman, wearing his heart and a lot of his own blood on his sleeve.
  • Mike Sillinger - The well travelled and well liked Mike Sillinger announced his retirement after a 17 year career. The one time hometown junior superstar carved out a NHL career as a nice role player, always finding a way to make a useful contribution to the team. He will continue doing just that, as he was later announced as the Edmonton Oilers director of player development. Sillinger has done a lot of informal coaching with young NHLers in his 1049 games with 12 different NHL teams, a NHL record.

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