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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Just What The Doctor Ordered


Willie Mitchell may be one, tough S.O.B. on the ice, but off it, he smiles probably as much as Jarome Iginla. Ben Kuzma (Vancouver Province) has more:

Whether skating with his new teammates or engaging in banter, Vancouver Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell has had a wide grin plastered on his mug - think Jack Nicholson in Batman.

Of course, pocketing a four-year, $14 million US free-agent contract last month has a lot to do with it. So does being a native of Port McNeil on the north end of Vancouver Island who grew up idolizing such Canuck greats as Cam Neely, Stan Smyl, Cliff Ronning and Richard Brodeur.

And so does marrying Minnesota fiance Megan on Aug. 17 in the Napa Valley.

''I like having fun,'' the amiable Mitchell said Thursday following a skate at the Canucks' training rink in Burnaby. ''When I was in Minnesota, (coach) Jacques Lemaire always thought he couldn't understand me because I'm always having fun and he's all business.

''But I also take a lot of pride when the game starts. But around the rink, if you're not having fun why do it? It's a great occupation and it's pretty fun.''
Good thing he feels that way. With the departures of Ed Jovanovski, Bryan Allen and Nolan Baumgartner, Mitchell is expected to play a major role with the Canucks and their more defensively-responsible system.

He isn't new to that role - he played it for four-plus seasons with the Minnesota Wild before being traded to the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline last season.

When I asked Roy Mahlberg of Wild Puck Banter for his thoughts, he concured:

He was the core of our defense and was definitely missed when he left. Doesn't score, but a very solid player. Excellent on the PK; he was the main reason the Wild were no. 1 in PK percentage last year. After he left, the Wild allowed many more PP goals.
Considering the Canucks finished 17th in PK% and 21st in PP goals against last season, that's great news.

Remember 2003? Canucks fans saw first hand just how good a defenseman Mitchell is as he anchored the Wild defense and the team overcame a 3-1 second round playoff series deficit. More impressively, it wasn't just how well he played, it was the fact that he played at all.

Minnesota's Willie Mitchell played in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, a 25-year-old defenseman that quickly emerged as the defensive bedrock of his team. Growing up in British Columbia, Mitchell was reared on tales of playoff heroism. Despite his inexperience, he innately understood and, more importantly, respected the fine, and often blurry, line that has to be traversed during the postseason between playing hurt and playing injured.

In the end, he decided to do both.

In the first round, an epic upset of Colorado, Mitchell suffered a broken cheekbone during Minnesota's Game 7 triumph. Yet, he never missed a shift, never mind a game. In the next round, he donned an awkward shield to protect the injury and willingly laid his body on the line against the favored Vancouver Canucks.

Unfortunately, the protective shield broadcast to all involved in that series that Mitchell was vulnerable. The Canucks processed that knowledge, targeting him for an extra dose of punishment in order to exploit whatever edge was offered. As a result, Mitchell suffered a wrist injury.

Again, Mitchell did not miss any games, playing despite the fact that he was so hampered by the wrist that he had trouble dressing himself before and after each game. It wasn't so much stubbornness on Mitchell's part, as much as it was a sense of duty.

Mitchell wanted to be there for his teammates as they struggled along the playoff route. It is a sentiment shared by most, if not all, players in the postseason.

"I wanted to be in there, so (defensemen) Filip (Kuba) and Andrei (Zyuzin) and Nick (Schultz) didn't have to play 30 minutes apiece," he said at the time.

That selflessness paid off in the short-term as Minnesota sprung its second-straight upset, sending the Canucks home in a brilliant come-from-behind seven-game ouster.
Defense, leadership and character. After a tumultuous and inconsistent season, that's exactly what the doctor ordered.

Here's some final thoughts from Roy:

I love Willie Mitchell and was very disappointed when he was traded to Dallas. It will be harder to hate the Canucks now that Willie is there.
No Bertuzzi to boo; Willie on our side. What will Wild fans do?

[update: 08/31/06, 6:43 AM]

Elliot Pap (Vancouver Sun) also talks about Willie Mitchell today and Willie's growing up days in Port McNeill, BC. It's a good read. Learned what a 'burl' is too.

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Skating With Markus


Here's a nice Markus Naslund story courtesy of Isabella from stick in rink:
Not many kids can say they've laced up and hit the ice with Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund.

Fewer still can say they've actually had their skates laced by Naslund, whose National Hockey League peers voted him the winner in 2003 of the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league's most outstanding player.

Eight-year-old Metchosin resident Spencer Bourne can say both.

Naslund was at G.R. Pearkes arena Saturday, as part of a Kraft Post Cereal Hockeyville essay contest. Bourne's eldest brother Taylor, 12, entered and won for his essay about his other brother Landyn Bourne, 9, who is autistic.

Taylor, who plays in the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies minor hockey system, got to choose 18 friends to join him on the ice for a full-gear practice session with the NHL superstar.

Before hitting the ice, Naslund met the young players in the lobby and spent a few minutes signing their bright yellow jerseys and a few other bits of memorabilia.

In the locker room, he chatted with the youngest Bourne brother and then laced up the youngster's skates.

Talking briefly with the media, Naslund said participating in events like this - the last of four across the country - is "refreshing," noting that Taylor's winning essay was a "touching" tribute to his younger brother.

"It's neat to see how much being here means to the kids," he said.
It means much more than you can possibly imagine, Markus. Much more.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(Photo credit to Mitch Wright/Victoria News)

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Trevor Ready To Return


Anytime now, Trevor Linden is expected to re-sign with the Vancouver Canucks. And after a tough season last season that followed a the year-long lockout, Trevor is ready for redemption:

Retirement was not an option.

"Never crossed my mind," he said. "Last year was probably the most disappointing year I've had in professional hockey for a number of reasons, but it never crossed my mind, no."

"I look forward to coming back. I feel I can make a difference and that's the only reason I'm here. We've made a lot of changes and we have a lot of work ahead of us, but that's exciting."

Linden was loathe to blame his duties as president of the NHL Players Association for his sour 2005-06 season.

Linden was a principal figure in the year-long lockout and, once it was settled, still faced some heavy criticism from a dissident union faction. It seemed to wear on him and affect his performance.

Linden finally stepped away as association president last month after eight years in office.

"I think I'm in a much better place mentally than I was last year," he admitted. "But I'm not going to use that as an excuse. There were times in the season where I felt I played well."

"There is no question, though, that from a mental standpoint, I'm in a much better state and probably physically much better as well."
Unfortunately, that won't score him negotiating points with Dave Nonis. Given the Canucks' salary cap structure and the mentorship role he is now expected to play, Trevor will most likely re-sign somewhere around the league minimum to $800K-ish this season. And that's fine with him:

"We had a great meeting last week and talked about a few different ideas and we'll continue to work on that this week," said Linden. "It's really not a contentious issue and we're pretty much on the same page. It's a matter of tweaking a few things."
What exactly does that mean?

The Canucks signed Taylor Pyatt, 25, to a one-way contract at $700,000 and he's considered a third-line winger. Where Linden slots in financially as a projected fourth-liner will be interesting. Does Linden warrant more than Pyatt if he takes on a leadership role with 14 players gone from last season's roster? Or does he get less as a fourth-liner?

"We have to make sure it's a good fit," said Nonis, who added that he expects to have Linden signed by end of the month. "Trevor has great leadership abilities and I think he can continue to help in that regard."
Personally, as long as Trevor stays in a Canucks jersey, it's a good fit.

Postscript

Here's what you thought - the results of last week's poll question:



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Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Looooong Summer


Kevin Allen (USA Today via Waiting For Stanley) looks at what could be an extended summer for Anson Carter:

Even though 33-goal scorer Anson Carter doesn't have a job with training camp just around the corner, he certainly doesn't see himself as being on the discount rack.

"I've told everyone along the way that Anson won't be a bargain," said his agent, Pat Brisson.
Brisson says the former Vancouver Canucks winger has plenty of patience, even to the point that he is willing to wait beyond the start of training camp or the regular season.


"In our game there are a lot of injuries," Brisson said. "And I might get a call on Sept. 20 or Oct. 1 when a team has a player who blew out his knee, and at that point, the price may go up. I mean that Anson needs to be paid what he is worth."
Give Brisson points for being honest, though I wonder about his strategy of waiting for a player to blow out his knee before he can get his client a contract.

Why Carter hasn't been signed yet?

Is it because he isn't worth $3 million per season? Considering that guys like Sergei Samsonov (23G-30A-53P, $3.525 million) and Doug Weight (15G-42A-57P, $3.5 million) signed within that salary range and Kyle Calder (26G-33A-59P) was awarded $2.95 million in arbitration, it doesn't seem like it.

Is it because teams see him as a one-year wonder? I don't see why. Carter has actually been a consistent scorer in his career. Yes, he set a career-high in goals scored last season, but he still only totalled 55 points in 81 games. He scored 60 points in two previous seasons and at least 40 points in four others.

Also, his 0.68 points per game average last season is close to his 0.64 ppg career average. In fact, if you take away his disaster of a 2003/2004 season, when he played for three different teams, his career average goes up to 0.68 points per game.

Most likely, Carter hasn't signed simply because of the dynamics of the salary cap. The truth is, not a lot of teams can meet his salary demands. As it stands, 14 teams have already commited more than $41 million in salary; of the 16 remaining teams, most have key restricted free agents left unsigned and their salary commitments will easily increase to $40-41 million. Really, unless other teams trade away key players, only eight teams: the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets (if Zherdev signs in Russia), Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals have the cap room to sign him at his salary demands.

But will they? Will anyone?

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Nothing More Than Feelings


George Richards (Miami Herald) has a piece on Roberto Luongo and his still bitter feelings about the trade that brought him to the Vancouver Canucks (link via Kukla's Corner):

Luongo still feels bitter toward the Panthers, saying they made him out to "be the bad guy" during the past negotiating period. Florida had been trying to get Luongo to sign a long-term contract, although Luongo's agent publicly said his client only wanted a one-year deal.

With Luongo facing unrestricted free agency after this coming season, the Panthers didn't want to go into another season with uncertainty and rumors swirling around their franchise goalie.

On the day of the trade, however, Luongo said he told the Panthers he would sign a four-year deal with the team. According to Luongo, he wanted $1 million more over the course of the contract than was offered.

He also wanted a number of concessions -- including Florida re-signing backup goalie Jamie McLennan, hiring a new goalie coach and saying publicly Luongo wouldn't be traded until his no-trade clause kicked in.

"I really don't know what happened in those final hours,'' he said. "You never know what can happen in the future and I don't want to burn any bridges. I feel bad because of what happened, but that's part of the business and things happen. . . . I was portrayed as a greedy player. People who know me know that's not how I am. I basically agreed to the deal. And that's hard to take."

The Panthers ended up trading Luongo, defenseman Lukas Krajicek and a draft pick to the Canucks. Less than a week after the trade, Luongo signed a four-year, $27 million deal with the Canucks. The Panthers maintain the trade wasn't personal and was made to improve a franchise that hasn't been to the postseason since 2000.

"We made some choices that we think can improve the Panthers," general manager Mike Keenan said then.
For the first time in franchise history, the Canucks are entering the season with an all-world goaltender so I'd like to think that, despite potentially some less scoring from the wings, our team has improved as well.

Dave Nonis made a huge gamble with this trade, especially because 1) he gave up some good assets to get Luongo and 2) he has tied up a huge chunk of his salary cap room to Luongo for four seasons. It's simple, really. Luongo should stop feeling bad about how he is portrayed (especially by those from more than 4,500 kms. away) and just prove that the Panthers made a big mistake letting him go.

I know Canucks fans would like that.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Markus Speaks Out

Maybe Markus Naslund is tired of hearing his name in trade rumors. He chats about them with Ben Kuzma in today's Vancouver Province:

The face of the franchise put to rest Wednesday the ongoing rumours that he could be swapped for unsigned Philadelphia winger Simon Gagne and join long-time friend and countryman Peter Forsberg on the Flyers.

"No, I've been committed," Naslund said following a skate at Burnaby 8-Rinks. "I like playing here and it's a special place. It's been tough not having the success we expected with a group that had the possibility of having success.

"And that's how I felt. But that being said, I'm happy about starting over again and proving myself again and getting some revenge and that hunger back.

"It's going to be different for everyone and I think it's a fresh start, too."
And after a season of many disappointments, both from an individual and a team perspective, it's a necessary fresh start.

Click here for the rest of the piece.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cookie, Nazzy and Some Trade Rumors

VCOE and stick in rink have posts today on Vancouver Canucks trade rumors circulating the internet.

First, VCOE posts a rumor from Spectors's involving Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins:

“According to CKNW 980 AM radio out of Vancouver the Canucks are in talks with the Pittsburgh Penguins, to seal a deal that would send LW Matt Cooke to the Penguins for RW Michel Ouellet. This would free up $1 million in cap space for the Canucks and would bring some more grit and leadership to the Penguins.”
This rumor is intriguing because the Canucks don't have a lot of offensive forward prospects and this trade would address that problem. Besides freeing up cap space, Ouellet also brings some scoring touch. Last season, his rookie season, he had 32 points (16G-16A) in 50 games, though exactly half of those points came in his first 13 games.

The flip side of this trade is that the Canucks would lose the intangibles that Cooke brings. Last season's injury-plagued season aside, he has been one of the Canucks' grittiest and most versatile players. He has also proven to be a clutch playoff performer (video opens in new window) - the brutal, honest truth is that we can't say that about too many players on the team.

I understand that a trade like this, like an increasing number in the NHL's salary cap system, is about money. However, I don't think Cooke, who will make an average of $1.5 million per season for the three more seasons, is grossly overpaid. Considering what he brings to the team, I personally hope they keep him in the Free Willy jersey.

stick in rink also posts another rumor from Spector's, this one involving captain Markus Naslund and the still-unsigned Simon Gagne:

The stalled contract talks between Philadelphia Flyers GM Bob Clarke and the agent for center Simon Gagne has given rise to speculation Clarke may attempt to trade rather than re-sign Gagne.

Internet speculation last month claimed Gagne would be shipped to the Vancouver Canucks for Markus Naslund, but that makes little sense for either club.

The Canucks currently have almost $39 million committed to 17 players and must re-sign promising Ryan Kesler, find an affordable backup goalie for Roberto Luongo, and fill out the remainder of their 23-man roster. Dumping Naslund's $6 million in exchange for Gagne's anticipated $5 million per season saves the Canucks all of $1 million, not substantial enough to flesh out the roster and still allow for suitable "wiggle room" under the cap for next season.

As for the Flyers, it simply doesn't make sense for Clarke to trade away a 26-year-old who's seeking over $5 million per season for a 33-year-old winger who'll earn $6 million in 2006-07.
Why the Canucks do this trade:

Forget sentimentality in a salary cap system. Gagne is cheaper, younger and still has his best years ahead of him. Naslund's no-trade claus is a non-issue here as another rumor mentioned that he was willing to waive it to go to the Flyers.

Why the Canucks don't do this trade:

How much change is too much change? Already, 14 players that suited up for the team last season have switched jerseys. Does Dave trade his best player and captain as well? There must be some room for loyalty in this business, right?

Why the Flyers do this trade:

Forsberg has one year left on his contract and it's possible the Flyers want to make one big push for the Cup. They may be willing to give up a young player or two for Naslund to help themselves do so.

Remember when the Dallas Stars traded Jarome Iginla for Joe Nieuwendyk, then won the Cup? I bet the Stars don't regret that trade one bit.

Why the Flyers don't do this trade:

Bobby Clarke remembers that Gagne is cheaper, younger and still has his best years ahead of him.

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Who Owns The Canucks?

Lawyers for Orca Bay are quite busy these days. They have to deal with Steve Moore's lawsuits even though all the individuals named in those lawsuits - Brian Burke, Marc Crawford, Todd Bertuzzi and Brad May - are no longer around. But also today, Ed Willes (Vancouver Province) reports on another lawsuit that has so far flown under the radar - the one that determines who actually owns the Vancouver Canucks.
The guts of this matter go back to October/November 2004 when Ryan Beedie and Gaglardi were negotiating to purchase Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment -- i.e. the Canucks and GM Place. Acccording to court documents, McCaw, then the full owner of Orca Bay, made a proposal to the would-be purchasers on Oct. 30. After the Beedie-Gaglardi group responded in writing three days later, they were told on Nov. 5 that the Oct. 30 offer was off the table and negotiations were at an end.

This became interesting when, 12 days later, Aquilini purchased 50 per cent of Orca Bay from McCaw. Aquilini, who declined to comment on the case, had originally been partners with Ryan Beedie and Gaglardi but, according to court documents, had dropped out of the partnership in March of '04.
Some two months after Aquilini's purchase, the Beedie-Gaglardi group filed suit for, ahem, breaches of contract, fiduciary duty and duty of confidence.


The matter has since been in the discovery phase -- where lawyers from both sides gather evidence from all involved -- for most of the past year.
And Beedie and Gaglardi are aren't just suing for pride.
For starters, it should be noted that Beedie and Gaglardi aren't suing just for damages. They're suing to have the Oct. 30 deal reinstated so they can assume ownership of the Canucks.
Winner gets to sit in the owner's box; loser gets to keep their season tickets.

More background information here and here. A tentative trial date has been set for April 2007.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Signings and Updated Cap Total


Now that Rory Fitzpatrick's signing and Tyler Bouck's and Kevin Bieksa's re-signings are official, here is an updated picture of the Vancouver Canucks' salary cap situation:


I originally assumed the Canucks' total cap hit to include just 13 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies. However, with Bieksa's, Fitzpatrick's and Tremblay's contracts being one-way contracts, I have instead included 7 defensemen on the team's total cap hit.

(Interesting side note is that Lukas Krajicek is still unsigned. If he signs a one-way contract, it leaves the Canucks with eight defensemen, including Luc Bourdon. Either Bourdon doesn't automatically make the team as has been expected all along or Tremblay is this year's Sven Butenschon.)

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Canada's Greatest Ball Hockey Player

There's a nice piece in the Montreal Gazette (subscription req'd.) about Vancouver Canucks winger Alex Burrows:

Pincourt's Alex Burrows will head to training camp with the Vancouver Canucks next month in top shape, thanks to a summer of playing ball hockey.

Left-winger Burrows, 25, credits ball hockey with helping to develop his maturity as an athlete by giving him more responsibilities, especially after being named to Team Canada and winning the world championship in 2005.

He's certainly a leader on the Montreal Red Lite, which won the Canadian Ball Hockey championship at Martin Brodeur Arena in St. Leonard on Saturday.

(snip)

Team Canada coach George Gortsos said ball hockey helped give Burrows, who was rated as the country's greatest ball-hockey player in a poll, the final push last season into the National Hockey League.
Canada's greatest ball-hockey player? That's no small praise for Burrows, who is also becoming one of the Canucks' fan favorites because of his all-out, all-heart style.


Naturally, he doesn't want to stop there and hopes to compete for one of the Canucks' few open roster spots:

He said the running demanded by ball hockey will have him in great shape for the game on the ice.

"I'll be ready to go from Day 1," he said. "I want to make sure I have a great camp."
Personally, I hope so too - Tracy and I are big Alex Burrows fans - however, Burrows will face some stiff competition at training camp. It should be interesting to see if he can build on what was a great year, professionally, for him.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Reunited

It didn't take long for the Canucks' "old core" to get back together one more time (Vancouver Sun):

Where else would an avid Pitt Meadows fisherman like Brendan Morrison go for a birthday dinner than the Coho Room at West Vancouver's trendy Salmon House? The popular Canucks centre celebrated his 31st Tuesday night with teammates Markus Naslund and the Sedin clones -- Daniel and Henrik -- as well as new Los Angeles Kings goaltender Dan Cloutier. Jaws dropped -- including Morrison's -- when Todd Bertuzzi sauntered into the room. For at least one more evening, the Canucks' once-notorious West Coast Express forward line had been reunited.
Hey, wasn't Crow invited?

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ryan Being More Realistic

Kurt Overhardt, Ryan Kesler's agent, was in denial mode after speculation a couple of days ago that his client was seeking to do double his salary:

"That couldn't be further from the truth and it's absolutely wrong and really has no merit," Kesler's agent, Kurt Overhardt, said Tuesday from his Denver office.

"I don't make demands. We've had some real positive conversations with Canucks brass. There have been no lines drawn and there have certainly been no threats about anything.

"And there's never been any discussion of holding out. It [the contract] will get done."
A $1.4 million salary would have put Kesler in Matt Cooke or pre-2005 Sedins territory - ummm, not quite yet, Ryan - but instead, a couple of comparables now thrown out include Miko Koivu (MIN) and Jason Pominville (BUF):

One comparable for Overhardt in negotiations with Nonis could be Minnesota centre Mikko Koivu, 23, who had 21 points [6-15] in 64 games last season and signed a one-year deal for $902,500.

Another could be Buffalo right winger Jason Pominville, 23, who had 30 points [18-30] in 57 games last season and 10 points [5-5] in 18 playoff games. He signed a three-year deal for $3.1 million, so $1.033 million will count against the Sabres cap -- even though he's being paid $800,000 this season.
That's more like it. Now let's just get it done, shall we?

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Avery Bares His Soul. Kinda.


Besides drinking beer and watching sports, there are two other things that guys religously do - watch Swingers and read Maxim. Anyway, Maxim being the guy's bible and all, imagine my disappointment at reading this article (link via On The Wings) about the player I love to hate the most - Sean Avery. Here's a sampling from the piece:

Are there nights when you think, Man, I’d really like to pound someone’s face in?

Yeah. That usually happens when you’ve lost. And not by one or two goals, but a blowout. Pretty much every time there’s a blowout, I get upset and take it out on someone.

What’s up with pulling guys’ shirts over their heads? Do they teach you that in junior hockey?

It just makes sense. If you pull his jersey over his head he can’t see, and you can just punch away.

Seems like kind of a dishonorable way to fight.

You try to win at any expense. That’s the whole point of sports.
Classy. But I suppose we can't really expect much more from the NHL's resident idiot.

But you’re not losing sleep over the 1,000 bucks.

No, but what I am losing sleep over is the fact that I’m not allowed to speak my mind. What happened to freedom of speech? It’s nonexistent in sports. I mean, when does a reporter ever ask a hockey player about his political views? You’ve never heard that.

So what are your political views?

I don’t really have any [laughs]. I guess that’s why they don’t ask!
No Sean, it's probably because they don't care much for your opinion.

Postscript: Why Maxim wasted precious pages on Avery when they could have allocated more to features like this is beyond me. But before anyone points it out, I also realize that I wasted yet another post on him as well. God, I need help.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Playing With A Poll

I'm playing around with some code to run a regular poll on my sidebar. I'm just testing it right now, but if you folks could amuse me, cast your votes and leave me with some comments on how it works, if it works, etc. it would be most greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your input!


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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More Malkin

James Mirtle and Eric McErlain weigh in on the continuing Evgeni Malkin saga.

First, James:
Defections in hockey are nothing new, and we saw our fair share of them in the early 1990s — most notably with the trio of Sergei Fedorov, Alex Mogilny and Pavel Bure. The difference then was that Russians playing in the NHL was sort of a new frontier — a great unknown, if you will. At the time, defectors like Mogilny left as much to escape an oppressive regime as to play hockey in the NHL. (His first few games saw Mogilny looking pale as a ghost as he feared for the safety of his parents given the hostility back home.)

Malkin, on the other hand, is more of a modern-day athletic equivalent: He's after the money, the fame, the fortune. His parents didn't endorse their son's apparent defection — or even know about it.

All accounts are Malkin was disgruntled with the Russian hockey federation's failure to sign a tranfer agreement and get him to his preferred destination — Pittsburgh — as soon as possible. He's also earned himself a reputation as a bit of an impetuous fellow, and this move is just one in a growing line of curious decisions.
Next, Eric:
There really isn't anything new to report about the disappearance of Evgeni Malkin from his RSL team training camp in Finland, but this passage from the latest AP dispatch caught my eye:

"We all are really shocked by his departure and we will take legal actions against the NHL club Penguins from Pittsburgh," Metallurg general director Gennady Velichkin told Itar-Tass news agency. "Americans like to speak about democracy and teach the whole world how to live but engage in sport terrorism and simply steal people."

Gotta love how the Americans always get blamed. From what I've read, Malkin escaped with the help of a Canadian visa.
Acording to this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report, Malkin's location is a big secret (oh really???), though the fact that he had a Canadian visa seems to have fuelled rumors that he is somewhere in Toronto with his agents.
Speaking of his whereabouts, speculation has centered upon Toronto, where his agents, Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry, have an auxiliary office and where one Russian tabloid reported that a fellow resembling Malkin had been spotted.
This fellow?




Hmmm.

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On Trev and Kes

Iain MacIntyre reported this past weekend that Dave Nonis will re-sign Trevor Linden when Nonis returns from his vacation this week. That's good news.

MacIntyre, however, also has not quite so good news on the Ryan Kesler front:

Without salary arbitration rights to strengthen his bargaining position, Kesler has refused the Canucks' qualifying offer and is trying with agent Kurt Overhardt to negotiate a major pay increase for this coming season.

Historically, the Canucks have crushed players in Kesler's position, reasoning that the club must take advantage of whatever leverage the collective bargaining agreement allows it.
Yes, they have.

Since general manager Dave Nonis began handling contracts eight years ago -- then, as Brian Burke's assistant -- the Canucks have liberally wielded their negotiating clout and dropped the hammer on high-profile, restricted free agents Brendan Morrison, Brent Sopel, Matt Cooke, Dave Scatchard and others. They dropped the guillotine on Peter Schaefer four years ago, trading him to the Ottawa Senators after the winger was forced to miss a full NHL season.
If you remember, Cooke and Sopel were among the NHL's most underpaid players, earning just over half-a-million dollars for years. They played their way to earning their current salaries. Kesler should expect to be treated the same.

What exactly is he expecting?

Neither side is saying how far apart but Kesler, whose salary and pro-rated signing bonus for last season was listed as $722,000 US, may be trying to double his pay. If that's the case, forget about him being at training camp in Vernon.
I love Kes and all but if he's expecting to get paid $1.4 million per season, he'll be holding out a looooong time. And he can't start to play for the large paycheque by not playing at all.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Stickhandling Through A Slow News Day

It's a slow news day so take your pick of links:

There's Sidearm Delivery and stick in rink and their all-you-can-reads about Evgeni Malkin and his abrupt departure from his Russian club.

James Mirtle is back home and has posted some pics from his trip to Kamloops. And oh, the Stanley Cup was in attendance.

For something that requires your more serious attention, JP proudly presents the first annual Japer's Rink Ice Princess competition. Don't forget to cast your vote.


And finally (courtesy of VCOE via Covered In Oil), the girls from Hot-Oil (welcome to the blog roll) took some time to introduce themselves to the hockey blogosphere. Is it too late to enter them in the Ice Princess competition? (Just kidding.)

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

People You Love To Hate

The Vancouver Province took a poll on the top 10 sports personalities their readers love to hate. A couple of notables on their list that that would have made mine:
6. Gary Bettman

The peak of the modern-day NHL is generally considered to be Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final between Vancouver and New York on June 14, 1994. The trough was the cancellation of the 2004-05 season on Feb. 16, 2005. It took 11 years and one commissioner to fall that far. This is why so many Canadians want to put a fist through the TV whenever the camera cuts to Bettman smiling smugly in the luxury suite.

7. Steve Francis

When the Grizzlies took him second overall in the 1999 NBA draft, tens of thousands of B.C. basketball fans were looking for any small sign of love. Instead, Francis pouted all the way to the podium because you can't get ESPN on basic cable here.

"His nickname -- 'Stevie Franchise' -- is fitting as he singlehandedly destroyed Vancouver's NBA product," writes Jared Harman of Langley.

Hey Jared, don't forget Stu Jackson.
The rest of the results are here.

Amazingly, there's no mention of Mike Keenan and Greg Millen. Who do I love to hate the most? Michael H-ass-ley is up there.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

If I Had 42 Million Dollars

$42 million dollars. That's how big the Lotto 6/49 jackpot is tonight, the second-largest lottery prize ever in Canada. What would you do with $42 million dollars?

Dave Nonis should know. Coincidentally, he is working on a self-imposed salary cap of $42 million and this is what he's used the money on so far:


Note: Salary cap hit figures courtesy of this site. Canucks total cap hit assumes the team carries 21 players like it did most of last season and includes salaries of their top 13 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Cup Is Coming To Town

Speaking of Stanley Cup, the greatest trophy in all sports is coming (close) to town. If you can't wait for the real parade to start along Georgia St. - if Terry Frei is right - you can at least celebrate with the Cup when Carolina Hurricanes forward, Andrew Ladd, brings it to Maple Ridge:

And while cup festivities in his hometown are still in the early planning stages, Ladd confirmed Tuesday that he and the cup will be at Maple Ridge's Arts Centre Theatre and Memorial Peace Park for three or four hours during the afternoon of Aug. 23.

"We haven't really figured out the details yet, but it will be something with the public, some of it outside the ACT and part in the ACT," Ladd said yesterday.

Gary Manson, manager of corporate communications with the District of Maple Ridge, said the segment inside the ACT will be restricted due to space, but will include members of Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association.

Following the cup celebration inside the ACT, Manson said the trophy will be taken to the park, where members of the public will have the opportunity to line up to see it and take pictures, within certain time constraints.
The Stanley Cup was in Kamloops earlier this week. Hope James Mirtle got some good pics.

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Wanna Bet?

Terry Frei (ESPN) is in a gambling mood, and while he most likely won't be placing his bets with Rick Tocchet, I like his "best-buy" pick to win the Stanley Cup this year:
I'll check out with this "best buy," and unlike at the chain store of the same name with capital letters, nobody is going to hit me up to commit to a magazine subscription "free trial" that never is free because I always forget to cancel the subscription in time to prevent me from being billed for another year.

Vancouver, such a dramatic underachiever last season, has a fresh start after Todd Bertuzzi's trade to Florida, which was good news for all involved, including Bertuzzi. Marc Crawford still is one of the best coaches in the business, but he couldn't escape the dark cloud, either, and his move to the Kings also will be mutually beneficial. The Canucks have added Willie Mitchell, and Roberto Luongo has the chance to affirm that the "given" -- he was a great goalie with a rotten team -- was true. Alain Vigneault's voice is fresh, at least in Vancouver.

So my "best-buy" pick is the Canucks, at 20-1.
Sounds good to me. Click here for the rest of his piece.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Looking For Some Bang For Their Buck

Randy Turner (Winnipeg Free Press via Manitoba Moose official site) examines one of the impacts of the NHL's salary cap:

Remember not so long ago, when NHL observers looked at the signings of big-ticket free agents to $5-million and $6-million deals and asked: "So what's changed in the NHL economically if GMs continue to unload the bank for every Zdeno Chara and Ed Jovanovski who comes along?"

Well, don't look now, but the much-less hyped other shoe is about to fall, and you can notice it in the NHL transaction wire, of late, which is littered with teams loading up on American Hockey League veterans and refugees from European leagues to fill out rosters under the $44-million salary cap.

Just do the math: If the Ottawa Senators have five players -- Wade Redden ($6.5 M), Daniel Alfredsson ($4.33 M), Jason Spezza ($4.5 M), Dany Heatley ($4.5 M) and Martin Gerber ($3.7 M) -- eating up over half of their cap space, who do you think is going to fill out the other 16 or 17 roster spots?

Enter the lowest-paid yet most critical component of the new NHL: The minimum wage player.
Specifically about the Vancouver Canucks, he says:

Look at the Vancouver Canucks, the NHL affiliate of the Manitoba Moose, who are a prime example of a team up against the cap. So far, the Canucks have committed about $35.9 million to 13 players, most notably Roberto Luongo ($6 M), Markus Nasland ($6 M), Daniel and Henrik Sedin ($3.575 M each), Mattias Ohlund ($3.5 M) and Willie Mitchell ($3.5).

Since the Canucks are aiming for about a $42-million roster, that leaves the team to add about eight players for some $6 million. Hello, Moose prospects, several of whom will hope to follow in the footsteps of former teammates Nolan Baumgartner and Kevin Bieksa, who took full advantage of the new NHL last season.

Baumgartner, after bouncing around the AHL for almost a decade, was so effective in his role with the Canucks last year that in the offseason he signed a two-year, $2.4 million free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. Bieksa, meanwhile, quietly signed a two-year, one-way deal with the Canucks ($500,000 in 2006-'07, $550,000 in 2007-'08) last week.

Both defencemen were poster boys for a new economic reality where contending teams must ensure their third and four lines and sixth and seventh defencemen do not betray a team loaded with top-end, high-priced talent.

In fact, Moose head coach Scott Arniel, who last year was behind the bench for the stellar playoff run of the Buffalo Sabres, believes openings for AHL players looking for their NHL shot have never been more apparent. Or needed by NHL teams, for that matter.
Reading this article actually reminded me of something that Tom Benjamin had mentioned in the past:

A Tyler Bouck is far more common than a Patrice Bergeron. A player like Tyler bounces up and down for a few years before disappearing or earning a fourth line spot. If he does make it, he tries to work his way up the depth chart. If he ends up being a pleasant surprise, it does not happen until the player is in his mid twenties. Until it does happen, the team is both better and cheaper if they hire the right veteran free agent at the minimum wage.

For example, Mike Keane in 2003-04 was a better buy than Tyler Bouck. He was a more useful player and he was cheaper. If Ryan Kesler is merely a role player, why play him at $800,000 when Tim Taylor will be available at $450,000? Why play Mike Commodore or Steve Montador if Marek Malik is the same price and better? Brian Pothier or Shane Hnidy may not be very good players, but they will be cheap and they will be better than most 22 or 23 year old defencemen including lots of first round picks. Heck, most veteran AHL defencemen are better than most NHL rookie defencemen. The young guy used to get the job because he had a better future, not because he was better.
The context of Tom's post was to compare the importance of good drafting versus signing good free agents, but I think the same principles apply. The new NHL is about value. Salary cap or not, the high-end players will always make their money. However, there's only so much money to go around and the key, simply, is to find other, lesser-paid players - including some who may come from the minors - who are able to contribute just as much as the highly-paid ones.

Last season, Anson Carter was a steal at $1 million. At his current asking price of $3 million per season for three seasons? Not so much and is still a free agent despite coming out of a 33-goal season. Ditto JP Dumont. He had a nice contract ($1.6 million) for the type of season he had (20 goals and 20 assists in 54 games), but is now a free agent after the Buffalo Sabres walked away from his $2.9 million arbitration award.

To replace Carter, the Canucks acquired Taylor Pyatt ($700K) and signed Jan Bulis ($1.3 million) to hopefully provide the same value that Carter did last season. They'll hope for the same from Moose graduates Kevin Bieksa ($525K), Rick Rypien ($450K) and Alex Burrows (RFA).

$3 million for one player who had one good year or for 4-5 players who can contribute (hopefully) similarly?

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