Archive for the ‘Hockey’ Category

April 30th, 2013

Odds to win the 2013 Stanley Cup, Redux

Once again, the friendly folks at Bovada have sent along their published odds to win the 2013 Stanley Cup. But instead of just sharing the list of the 16 teams who have qualified for the playoffs, I’m including the entire list of all 30 NHL teams along with the odds that Bovada first published back this past January.

The first figure represents the odds that were published on January 7, 2013. The second figure are the odds Bovada is offering as of April 29, 2013. It makes for some interesting reading.

Team January Odds April Odds
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/1 7/2
New York Rangers 17/2 18/1
Vancouver Canucks 9/1 14/1
Los Angeles Kings 12/1 14/1
Philadelphia Flyers 12/1 Eliminated
Chicago Blackhawks 14/1 15/4
Boston Bruins 16/1 17/2
Detroit Red Wings 16/1 28/1
St. Louis Blues 16/1 14/1
Minnesota Wild 18/1 22/1
San Jose Sharks 20/1 16/1
Carolina Hurricanes 22/1 Eliminated
Washington Capitals 22/1 16/1
Buffalo Sabres 25/1 Eliminated
Edmonton Oilers 25/1 Eliminated
Nashville Predators 28/1 Eliminated
Tampa Bay Lightning 28/1 Eliminated
Montreal Canadiens 30/1 12/1
New Jersey Devils 30/1 Eliminated
Toronto Maple Leafs 30/1 20/1
Anaheim Ducks 40/1 12/1
Colorado Avalanche 40/1 Eliminated
Dallas Stars 40/1 Eliminated
Florida Panthers 40/1 Eliminated
Ottawa Senators 40/1 28/1
Phoenix Coyotes 40/1 Eliminated
Calgary Flames 50/1 Eliminated
Winnipeg Jets 50/1 Eliminated
New York Islanders 66/1 40/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 100/1 Eliminated

Keeping the original Bovada odds in mind, the Philadelphia Flyers have to be considered the biggest disappointment in the field, failing to qualify for the playoffs after getting out of the gate at 12/1. The Carolina Hurricanes also have to be seen as something of a mild disappointment, also failing to make the playoffs and starting the season at 22/1 following the offseason additions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. On the surprise side, you’d have to include the Montreal Canadiens (a 30/1 shot that’s already won the Northeast Division title), Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks (40/1 at the start of the season, but also a division winner), Ottawa Senators and the New York Islanders, though it looks like Las Vegas isn’t counting on them getting out of the first round.

So who do I favor now, while keeping in mind that I provide this advice for entertainment purposes only? At this point, I think the Ducks offer the best value bet at 12/1. Back East, I really like the Capitals at 16/1, especially in the wake of their late-season surge.

 
January 7th, 2013

Odds to Win The 2013 Stanley Cup From Bovada

In case you haven’t heard already, barring some unforeseen complication, we’re going to be playing NHL hockey again in just a few weeks. And, as dutiful as always, the folks at Bovada were kind enough to share the odds they’re offering on teams to win the Stanley Cup.

Unsurprisingly, the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming out of the gates as the favorite to win it all at 8/1. Meanwhile, our local heroes, the Washington Capitals, are going off at 22/1 — the same odds as their Southeast Division rivals, the Carolina Hurricanes. You’ll recall that Carolina added Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin to their lineup, while the Caps patched up their lineup with the moral equivalent of spit and bailing wire by acquiring the likes of Jack Hillen, Wojtek Wolski and Joey Crabb.

Please be reminded that these odds are being provided for recreational purposes only.

Odds to win the 2013 Stanley Cup

Pittsburgh Penguins 8/1

New York Rangers 17/2

Vancouver Canucks 9/1

Los Angeles Kings 12/1

Philadelphia Flyers 12/1

Chicago Blackhawks 14/1

Boston Bruins 16/1

Detroit Red Wings 16/1

St. Louis Blues 16/1

Minnesota Wild 18/1

San Jose Sharks 20/1

Carolina Hurricanes 22/1

Washington Capitals 22/1

Buffalo Sabres 25/1

Edmonton Oilers 25/1

Nashville Predators 28/1

Tampa Bay Lightning 28/1

Montreal Canadiens 30/1

New Jersey Devils 30/1

Toronto Maple Leafs 30/1

Anaheim Ducks 40/1

Colorado Avalanche 40/1

Dallas Stars 40/1

Florida Panthers 40/1

Ottawa Senators 40/1

Phoenix Coyotes 40/1

Calgary Flames 50/1

Winnipeg Jets 50/1

New York Islanders 66/1

Columbus Blue Jackets 100/1

 
April 18th, 2012

Should the NHL Add a Third Referee?

Just opened the following email from a long-time reader, one that was also addressed to my old friend Jon Press of Japers’ Rink as well as ESPN’s John Buccigross.

Gentlemen,

I am a long-time hockey fan, and have been a season ticket holder for the Capitals since the 1990′s (and a partial season plan holder prior to that). I have a suggestion, or at least a possibility for what to do regarding the violence, thuggery, what have you in playoff hockey.

Why not go to a three referee system?

I know that one of the complaints is that there aren’t enough “good” referees now, so increasing the need by 50% seems to be counter-intuitive. But isn’t it possible that the game is just so fast and there’s so much going on that two referees (assisted by two linesmen) just aren’t enough?

Here’s how I imagine it. You keep one referee on each side of the red line (or blue line if you prefer), and the third acts as a rover and goes wherever the play goes. The one who stays on half of the ice is responsible for goals and goalie interference, plus whatever else they happen to see, but mainly goals and goalie interference. The rover is responsible for watching other things that are going on around the play. The referee from the back side of the ice is responsible for watching what is going on BEHIND THE PLAY!

It’s instinctual to watch the puck and what’s going on with it at any given moment. But to have someone who is specifically supposed to NOT watch the puck at all times means that there’s less of an opportunity to pull shenanigans that aren’t seen by the refs.

It’s almost like in football, where each part of the officiating crew is assigned to watch something different, so that (most) everything gets seen. If you’re responsible for NOT watching the puck, that frees you up to notice other things that are going on.

Maybe this would prevent headshots away from the puck, provide more consistency on goalie interference calls (as that, and goals, would be the only responsibility of that referee at any given moment), and so on.

I know it’s not perfect, and you’re potentially diluting a shallow pool, but think about how much changed after they went to a two referee system, and how players found they couldn’t get away with stuff away from the play. Or think about how much the NBA changed when it went from a two referee system to a three referee system.

Anyway, just a thought. And as you are some of the most thoughtful hockey writers out there, I thought you might want to ruminate on it.

Keep up the good work.

Todd

Thanks to Todd for including me in his email. While I share his concern about some of the more recent incidents we’ve seen in NHL playoffs this season, I don’t believe that adding another referee would have deterred any of the more egregious actions. Over and above the fact that adding another official would crowd the ice, I’m afraid it wouldn’t get to the heart of the problem we’re seeing right now.

Like many other observers of the game, I think the league made a real mistake when it declined to suspend Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber after he smashed Detroit Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the plexiglass WWE-style during Game One of that Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series. Limiting Weber’s punishment to a $2,500 fine seemed to send a pretty clear signal to coaches and players that the league would be easing up on discipline in the postseason. Given what we’ve seen since, beginning on Saturday with Ottawa’s Matt Carkner attacking New York Rangers center Brian Boyle even as Boyle declined to defend himself, the thesis seems to have been borne out.

At the same time, I don’t want anyone to think I’m delivering this judgment with a tone of high dudgeon. The fact is that I believe that this playoff has been the most exciting in recent memory. The play, at least in my estimation, has been incredibly intense, something that has been borne out by the increasing television ratings. And it wasn’t lost on me that coverage of a hockey game was part of the intro on Sunday night’s edition of SportsCenter. Not only did the program recap the entirety of Game Three of the Pens-Flyers series, it followed it up immediately with a complete segment featuring Steve Levy and Barry Melrose — just the sort of attention that the league would have killed for back when ESPN was its cable television partner.

Like it or not, refereeing the NHL and policing on-ice discipline is an art, not a science. Use too heavy a hand, and the games will bog down into dueling power plays, something we saw frequently when the league returned from the lockout. In contrast, when you ease up too much, you get exactly what we’ve seen over the past week, with intense play escalating into something resembling street thuggery. To be honest, we’ve been very lucky that a player hasn’t been more severely injured.

I don’t envy the task at hand for NHL officials and league disciplinary czar Brendan Shanahan. In essence, they have to figure out how to keep a pot of water steadily simmering without boiling over onto the stove top. Crack down too hard, you’ll spoil the flow of the game and the television viewers will find something else to watch. Ease up too much, and you’ll get more UFC on ice.

So while I don’t think adding another referee will solve the problem at hand, don’t believe for a second that I don’t wish that the solution was that simple.

 
April 10th, 2012

Laying Odds on the Number One Pick in the NHL Draft

Got another note from Jimmy Shapiro and our friends at Bovada. Here are the odds on who will get the #1 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Mind you, that’s not the team that will win the draft lottery, but rather the team that will ultimately get the first overall pick:

Columbus Blue Jackets 10/11
Edmonton Oilers 13/4
Montreal Canadiens 9/2
New York Islanders 6/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 7/1

And here are the odds on who will actually win the lottery, a team that after all could ultimately decided to deal the pick …

Columbus Blue Jackets 5/2
Edmonton Oilers 13/4
Montreal Canadiens 9/2
New York Islanders 6/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 7/1
Anaheim Ducks 11/1
Minnesota Wild 14/1
Carolina Hurricanes 18/1
Winnipeg Jets 20/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 20/1
Colorado Avalanche 25/1
Buffalo Sabres 25/1
Dallas Stars 33/1
Calgary Flames 33/1

 
April 10th, 2012

Odds to Win the 2012 Stanley Cup

My friend Jimmy Shapiro sent me the latest odds to win the Stanley Cup yesterday. The odds are courtesy of the good people at Bovada. Here’s the skinny:

Pittsburgh Penguins 4/1
New York Rangers 11/2
Vancouver Canucks 11/2
St. Louis Blues 15/2
Boston Bruins 8/1
Detroit Red Wings 12/1
Nashville Predators 14/1
Philadelphia Flyers 14/1
Chicago Blackhawks 16/1
San Jose Sharks 18/1
Los Angeles Kings 20/1
New Jersey Devils 25/1
Washington Capitals 30/1
Florida Panthers 35/1
Ottawa Senators 40/1
Phoenix Coyotes 40/1

The hometown Caps going off at 30-1 seems about right, though I like them to take down Boston, the defending champs, in Round One. In terms of value, I like Nashville, Philadelphia and Chicago. Odds on winning the Eastern and Western Conference are after the jump.

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April 4th, 2012

Pat LaFontaine and the Price of Looking Out for #1

As someone who grew up on Long Island rooting for the New York Islanders, it was impossible not to be distracted by yesterday’s Wall Street Journal feature on the fractured relationship between former Islanders player Pat LaFontaine and team owner Charles Wang.

The rupture stems from a dustup in 2006 between Wang and then-Islanders General Manager Neil Smith. Most accounts agree on a broad outline of what happened: Smith, accustomed to doing things one way, started to chafe severely under what he saw as interference from a meddlesome owner. Wang, who understandably felt like he ought to have outsized influence over an asset he owned, wasn’t happy that Smith didn’t get along with the program. The conflict escalated, until Wang decided to show Smith the door after just a few weeks on the job.

When that happened, all Hell broke loose in the press, with Wang taking much of the incoming fire. That shouldn’t have come as much of a shock. After all, Smith had contacts in the New York press back to his first stint with the Isles as a scout in the 1980s, contacts that he obviously tended to with frequency during his successful tenure as GM of the New York Rangers.

It was in the midst of that media firestorm that LaFontaine, then working as an unpaid senior advisor, headed for the exit. Which is where former General Manager Mike Milbury comes into the picture. Here’s what he had to say about LaFontaine’s departure to WSJ reporter Mike Sielski:

"Pat ran for the hills. Pat ran for cover," said Milbury, now an NHL analyst for NBC. "It was cowardly, and it was terrible. And if Charles was [ticked], I wouldn’t blame him in the least." LaFontaine declined to respond to Milbury’s comments.

I know that Milbury’s bombastic style leads plenty of folks to call him a jerk, but can there be any doubt that his take is 100% on target? In business, especially when the stakes are high, it’s important to know who your friends are. I don’t pretend to know the mind of Charles Wang, but I can make a pretty good guess about how he saw LaFontaine after he left the team: when the spotlight was the brightest and the organization was under attack, LaFontaine looked for a lifeboat.

LaFontaine took a look at the situation and decided he had to do what he needed to do in order to take care of himself and preserve his reputation — and who can blame the man for that? As I recall, that’s essentially the same thing he did before the start of the 1991-92 NHL season.

In those days, the Islanders were as dreadful on the ice as they are now, and LaFontaine was tired of sacrificing his body for a team with no chance to win. With few other options, the Islanders traded him to the Buffalo Sabres, a fact that mysteriously went unmentioned in the WSJ feature. Given that Wang didn’t own the team at the time of that deal, it’s easy to see how all was forgiven and LaFontaine was able to get back into the team’s good graces and snag the unpaid advisory job 15 years later.

So will LaFontaine be able to repair his relationship with the team again this time? I’m sure that he can, but it probably won’t happen until Wang sells the team. Unfortunately, by the time that comes to pass, the Islanders probably won’t be playing on Long Island anymore.

 
January 20th, 2012

How Much for a Piece of Olympic History?

Ken Morrow, one of the heroes of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team, is auctioning off the jersey he wore against the Russians. Click here for my thoughts over at The Daily Caller.

 
January 19th, 2011

Odds on the 2011 NHL All-Star Game

Courtesty of our friends at Bodog, here’s everything you need to know about betting on the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. Who knew that the draft format would create such a betting bonanza?

Who will win the 2011 NHL All Star Game?

Team Lidstrom -110
Team Staal -110

Who will be the first Player drafted in the 2011 All Star Fantasy Draft?

Alex Ovechkin 4/1
Henrik Sedin 4/1
Sidney Crosby 5/1
Steven Stamkos 7/1
Cam Ward 15/1
Daniel Sedin 15/1
Evgeni Malkin 15/1
Marc Staal 18/1
Mike Green 18/1
Zdeno Chara 18/1
Duncan Keith 20/1
Dustin Byfuglien 20/1
Jonathan Toews 20/1
Shea Weber 20/1
Jarome Iginla 25/1
Rick Nash 25/1
Tim Thomas 25/1
Anze Kopitar 30/1
Dan Boyle 30/1
Henrik Lundqvist 30/1
Marc-Andre Fleury 30/1
Martin St. Louis 30/1
Matt Duchene 30/1
Kris Letang 30/1
Patrick Kane 30/1
Patrick Sharp 30/1
Ryan Kesler 30/1
Brad Richards 35/1
Carey Price 35/1
Corey Perry 35/1
Jonas Hiller 35/1
Phil Kessel 35/1
Loui Eriksson 40/1
Claude Giroux 45/1
Patrik Elias 45/1
Ales Hemsky 50/1
Brent Burns 50/1
David Backes 50/1
Erik Karlsson 50/1
Tobias Enstrom 50/1

Who will be the last Player drafted in the 2011 All Star Fantasy Draft?

Ales Hemsky 11/2
David Backes 11/2
Claude Giroux 15/2
Patrik Elias 15/2
Loui Eriksson 17/2
Brad Richards 10/1
Corey Perry 10/1
Phil Kessel 10/1
Ryan Kesler 15/1
Anze Kopitar 20/1
Jarome Iginla 20/1
Martin St. Louis 20/1
Matt Duchene 20/1
Patrick Kane 20/1
Patrick Sharp 20/1
Evgeni Malkin 30/1
Jonathan Toews 30/1
Rick Nash 30/1
Sidney Crosby 35/1
Steven Stamkos 35/1
Alex Ovechkin 40/1
Daniel Sedin 45/1
Henrik Sedin 45/1

What team will get the first pick in the 2011 All Star Fantasy Draft?

Team Lidstrom -110
Team Staal -110

Will Henrik and Daniel Sedin Play on the same team?

Yes +200
No -270

Will Eric and Marc Staal play on the same team?

Yes +105
No -145

Will Sidney Crosby Play in the 2011 All Star Game?

Yes +115
No -155

 
December 7th, 2010

Off Wing Opinion NHL Team Flip Video Camera Giveaway

Off Wing Opinion is happy to announce that we’re working with Cisco’s Flip Video to help launch the introduction of 30 uniquely designed NHL team Flip video cameras. And in the process, we’ll be giving away the Washington Capitals version of the camera to one lucky reader here at Off Wing Opinion.

Normally I turn down offers like this one, but given that I’ve used the Flip myself before to cover the NHL, I was inclinded to participate.  I’ve owned a Flip Mino since December 2008, and used it to cover the 2009 NHL Winter Classic in Chicago for FanHouse. The Flip went wherever I went when I was at Wrigley Field. It was easy to use and it performed flawlessly, especially during the game when I was shuttling between the press box and the stands in between periods to interview fans.

Here’s an interview I did with Detroit’s Darren McCarty after his first time on the ice at Wrigley. News of Claude Lemieux’s comeback with the Sharks had just hit the news, and given their history, I felt I had to ask McCarthy what he thought about it.

So how can you get your hands on one of the Flip NHL video cameras? One, you can buy one by going to theflip.com/nhl and plunking down $149. Barring that, you can always enter the contest here at Off Wing Opinion. Here are the rules: Tell me via the comments section below, on my Facebook page or to my Twitter feed how you would use your Washington Capitals-branded Flip NHL team video camera. I’ll select a winner at random from all of the entries that I receive by 6:00 p.m. U.S. EST tonight. And yes, entries from spam bots will be disregarded.

Below is the official announcement from my new friends at Flip about the NHL branded cameras. They’ll be sending me one as well, so look for a review of the camera here at Off Wing Opinion sometime in the next few days.

One of hockey’s most iconic phrases – “he shoots, he scores” may soon be replaced by “he shoots, he shares” – as Cisco’s Flip Video™, and the National Hockey League® (NHL) team up to offer 30 uniquely designed NHL team Flip video cameras. In addition, Flip Video will offer Facebook fans a chance to win Flip cameras and a trip to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover. Select NHL.com reporters will also receive NHL-branded Flip video cameras to capture all the hockey action on and off the ice.

Beginning December 7, fans can choose their own official NHL Flip video camera with a custom design from any one of the 30 NHL teams from the U.S. and Canada. A perfect gift for hockey lovers, the new Flip designs are available through the Flip Video online store: theflip.com/NHL. The NHL-branded Flips will be offered on all of the latest Flip video cameras including the Flip UltraHD, MinoHD and SlideHD*, starting at $149, for anytime shoot and share fun.

Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle and Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin are among the many celebrities and sports icons featured in the Flip Video 2010 holiday campaign ‘Do You Flip?’

“Flip is the only video camera on the market that consumers can customize and select from thousands of unique designs. Our ability to offer customization has enabled us to team with the NBA and now the NHL, which was a natural extension for our brand,” said Jodi Lipe, director of marketing for Cisco’s Consumer Products. “Whether it’s at the Stanley Cup Final or an afternoon snowball fight with friends, Flip video cameras are a fun and simple way to capture and share videos with friends and family.”

“Hockey fans are in a class of their own when it comes to diehard loyalty,” said Dave McCarthy, NHL Vice President Integrated Marketing. “Owning a Flip video camera representing their favorite team is a great way for fans to show support and more importantly have fun sharing their passion with fellow hockey fans and friends around the world.”

To help promote the new NHL designs, Flip is hosting a contest called the Flip Video Fan Face-off that will give away one grand prize trip for two to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina, January 30, as well as daily prizes of NHL-custom designed team Flips every day in December. Hockey fans can face-off for these cool prizes starting on December 9, 2010 at www.facebook.com/flipvideo.

Flip Video is the only video camera line to feature official designs from the NHL and all 30 NHL teams so fans can show their affinity for their favorite NHL team while shooting and sharing video with others at games, parties or events. Flip video cameras make it easy to share video via email, Facebook™, YouTube™, Twitter™ and even on a TV.

Cisco is also equipping the team of 20 NHL.com reporters with their own NHL logo Flip video camera to use as they travel to NHL games around the U.S. and Canada. With their official NHL Flips, the on-the-scene reporters will be able to greatly enhance their coverage by capturing video footage to post to the NHL.com web site.

All NHL team designs are available at www.theflip.com/NHL starting today at $149.

So what are you waiting for? Enter now!

UPDATE: Other stories from around the Web: NHL, Cisco, Renew and Extend Partnership.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Adam Vingan for winning the Caps FlipCam! Thanks to everyone for participating.

 
November 10th, 2010

On The 2011 NHL All-Star Game Format

I just saw the proposed format for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, and let me join the growing chorus of voices praising the decision to revamp the way that players and teams are picked.  After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I couldn’t be more flattered that the league has more or less adopted the format that I proposed back in November 2008.

I for one can’t wait to see how this all turns out.

UPDATE: In case you might have missed it, here are a few other ideas I posted over at Puck Daddy before the 2009-10 season that the NHL ought to adopt too.

 
October 20th, 2010

Vancouver’s Rick Rypien Attacks Fan in Minnesota

If there’s one thing that professional sports leagues don’t like, it’s seeing players get into altercations with fans. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that Vancouver’s Rick Rypien is staring down the likelihood of a major suspension after attacking a fan last night in Minnesota.

The incident came in the second period of a 6-2 Wild win, after Rypien was assessed a double minor for roughing and a game misconduct for a scuffle with Minnesota’s Brad Staubitz. As Rypien headed for the Vancouver locker room, he reached into the stands and attempted to grab a fan who was apparently heckling him.

In this clip, you can see the aftermath of the clash with Staubitz, followed by the actual incident. Afterwards, the fan and a companion of his were removed from the seats near the Canucks bench, but were allowed to stay in the arena and watch the game from some other choice seats.

While nobody should reach premature conclusions about exactly what happened between Rypien and the fan, the video shows that the fan was doing nothing more than applauding Rypien’s exit from the game—and that in fact it was Rypien who initiated the contact.  That’s something that’s a little easier to see in this fan video that uses a DVR to slow down the action:

Despite the fact that the NHL rulebook says that any altercation with a fan will result in an immediate ejection, Rypien actually returned to the Vancouver bench, though he never got back on the ice.  Safe to say, it’ll probably be a while before Rypien gets to watch the game from that close for a while.  Expect a lengthy suspension, and we probably won’t have to wait long before Colin Campbell lays down the law in this case.

UPDATE: Rypien has been suspended pending a hearing.

 
October 19th, 2010

Hockey Night in Washington: Caps vs. Bruins, October 19, 2010

Green Thomas
Tim Thomas with the save as Mike Green slides. File photo by Pete Silver

I’ll be at Verizon Center tonight tweeting live during tonight’s game between the Caps and Bruins.  Click here for a link to my Twitter feed.  I ought to be up and running between 6:45 and 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.  Hope you join me then.

POSTGAME THOUGHTS: Nobody like dropping a game at home (3-1), but there wasn’t a whole lot to complain about tonight when it came to effort.  The Caps got the lion’s share of the chances, outshooting Boston 36-21, and head coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that the team played as hard in the first 10 minute as they had all season.  Unfortunately, the bounces weren’t going their way tonight—two great scoring chances melted away thanks to broken sticks—though you also need to tip your cap to Tim Thomas (18 saves in the 3rd period), who after all is a little more than a season removed from winning the Vezina Trophy.

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Alexander Semin’s play.  He let loose with a team high 10 shots on goal, and seemed to create a scoring chance every time he touched the puck in the offensive zone.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about why intimidation still has a place in hockey, and having defensemen who can engage in a physical battle in front of the net can be so incredibly important.  For an example of what I was writing about, be sure to watch the entire video of Milan Lucic’s goal.  I don’t mean to pick on Jeff Schultz, who is a solid all around defenseman.  He’s not a physical guy, and Lucic was able to take advantage in this instance.

Special teams continue to be a good news/bad news proposition.  The penalty kill continues to be perfect as Boston went scoreless on four chances with the extra man.  Without Mike Green in the lineup, Washington’s power play can’t help but be hobbled, and it went scoreless in four chances.

The big question tonight was about Michal Neuvirth, who was lifted just 12:42 into the game after giving up two goals.  It turns our Neuvirth has the flu, and Boudreau admitted after the game that he had no idea anything was wrong until Neuvirth complained of dizziness and a headache.  While Neuvirth didn’t say anything beforehand, it’s clear that Boudreau didn’t seem terribly upset, noting that he understood why a competitor like Neuvirth would prefer battling through an illness instead of sitting out.

Semyon Varlamov was more than adequate in relief, stopping 13 of 14 shots.  Only a Matt Hunwick shot from just inside the blue line eluded Varlamov, a shot that he simply couldn’t see through a Boston screen.  As for who will start Thursday in Boston, Boudreau wouldn’t say.

If there was one silver lining, it was seeing Marcus Johansson get his first NHL goal and first NHL point in the second period.  Matt Hendricks did a great job on the forecheck to keep the puck below the goal line. Jason Chimera picked up the loose puck and popped it onto Johansson’s stick as he the rookie cut to the net on the right wing side.  After the game, the kid said he didn’t know where the puck was, but that he’d be sure to keep it.

If you’re filling out a fight card, tonight’s game had what you were looking for with a pair of tilts: Matt Hendricks vs. Greg Campbell and John Erskine vs. Lucic.  With his fight, Lucic snagged a Gordie Howe hat trick.  We were almost treated to a heavyweight bout in the first period when it appeared that DJ King and Zdeno Chara might rumble, but it didn’t materialize.

 
October 15th, 2010

Glendale Learns Lesson in Municipal Financing the Hard Way

Whatever you might have to say about whether or not moving the Winnipeg Jets to Arizona was good for the NHL or the game of hockey, there should be no doubt that the experiment with the Phoenix Coyotes has been part of an unmitigated disaster for Glendale, Arizona.

I say that after reading a tweet from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail that Glendale is going to have to make up the difference in the purchase price for the Coyotes between what the NHL is demanding and what prospective new owner Matthew Hulsizer is willing to pay.  It’s just another financial blow for the Phoenix suburb that had such high hopes when it decided to turn itself into a regional sports mecca with facilities for hockey, baseball, basketball and football.

As of today, Glendale’s total municipal debt for its sports facilities stands at a staggering $500 million. According to the Arizona Republic, by the time the debt is completely paid off, the actual cost of the borrowing will be more like $1 billion. Unfortunately, Glendale doesn’t have much of a choice but to cough up the dough to keep the Coyotes in town, as losing the team as a tenant at Jobing.com Arena could put the city’s credit rating at risk.

Granted, no one could have predicted that the nation would be suffering from the sort of economic contraction it has been enduring in recent years.  Still, the story of Glendale ought to serve as an object lesson to cities around the country as to what the worst case scenario is in terms of downside risk when you use future tax reciepts as collateral on loans to build stadiums and arenas.

 
October 13th, 2010

Why Do Sportswriters Want to Force Older Athletes Out the Door?

Yesterday in the New York Times, Bill Rhoden used an entire column to publicly lament the fact that Brett Favre didn’t have the decency to retire from the NFL before his legacy was tarnished.  That led Slate‘s Jack Shafer to point out how all too many sportswriters seem to want to push older athletes out the door and into their dotage.

Then again, maybe not everyone feels that way.  All the way back in 2002, I wrote the following when more than a few reporters were telling Mark Messier it was time to hang up the skates:

When you get to the point where Messier is in his career, it isn’t long before you start to hear calls for retirement from sports writers who never spent a moment of their lives upright on a pair of skates with a stick in their hands. We begin to hear calls for protecting the "legacy" of one’s career, and not wanting to sully the "memory" of their greatness with a few sub-par seasons during the time when there are fewer days ahead than behind.

Well, screw that. If Messier wants to play, I hope he does until Rangers management has to pry the skates off his cold, dead feet. And if that means some punk in the Rangers farm system needs to cool his heels, or more likely, work that much harder to break into the NHL, then fine by me too. Messier is simply one of the greatest ever to play the game, and every day he’s with us, the league is better off. Welcome back Mark, even if it is for only one more year.

As it would turn out, Messier would play for two more seasons, driving Rangers management batty in the process as his decision made doling out ice time all the more problematic. But the point still holds—Messier went out on his own terms and his own schedule, not one dictated by a sportswriter looking to fill some extra column inches.

 
October 13th, 2010

Hockey Night in Washington: Caps vs. Islanders, October 13, 2010

Backstrom Roloson
Nick Backstrom and Dwayne Roloson from Nov. 2009. Photo by Pete Silver

I’ll be at Verizon Center tonight tweeting live during tonight’s game between the Caps and Islanders.  Click here for a link to my Twitter feed.  I ought to be up and running between 6:45 and 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.  Hope you join me then.

POSTSCRIPT: The story tonight was a lot like it was against Ottawa on Monday: Caps allow an inferior team to hang around until Alex Ovechkin saved the day.  Some other thoughts:

  • Nicklas Backstrom might have scored the game winning goal and been named the first star of the game, but it was Michal Neuvirth who won the coveted hard hat from his teammates.  The rookie had 23 saves on 24 shots, and came up big more than a few times, perhaps no bigger than when he stopped Matt Moulson on a breakaway in the third period.  "I was just trying to stay patient. That was a big save for us," said the beaming rookie after the game.
  • Head coach Bruce Boudreau resisted the bait when asked about a budding goalie controversy, making it clear that Semyon Varlamov would play once he was ready, but that Neuvirth was clearly making the case in these first four games to keep the job himself.
  • Speaking of Backstrom, he finally broke through and got his first points of the season, assisting on Ovechkin’s game-tying goal and getting a tip in for the game winner.  Separated from Ovechkin by Boudreau in the first period, the pair were reunited in the second when the team woke from its slumber to put 15 shots on net—with the big strike being Ovechkin’s shot that beat Dwayne Roloson to the glove side to tie things up.
  • Boudreau took a timeout after a Blake Comeau penalty to stress to his team that they needed to simplify things on the power play.  Boudreau said that when his power play isn’t working he likes to fall back on his father’s advice: shoot the puck wide and look for tips.  He got what he was looking for with an Ovechkin cannon shot from just inside the blue line that deflected off Backstrom’s leg for the game winner.  The  score was just the second power play goal of the season on 17 chances.
  • As much as the power play has struggled, the penalty kill, one of the areas of concern in the offseason, continues to be perfect.  Opponents have had 15 power play opportunities against Washington this season and have yet to score.
  • DJ King got on the score sheet with his first fighting major of the season, a tussle with Trevor Gillies just 2:47 into the first period.  The locals were clearly pleased.


  • While the Islanders don’t ice the same level of talent Washington does, head coach Scott Gordon clearly gets everything he can out of his young lineup.   They outhit the Caps and won 59% of their faceoffs. Considering that the Islanders were without power play quarterback Mark Streit, former #1 pick Jonathan Taveres, suspended defenseman James Wisniewski and winger Kyle Okposo, they acquitted themselves well.  While they’re missing plenty of talent, it’s clear the Islanders have a very simple system and they execute it well.  Against about 28 other teams in the league, that’s going to be enough, but not tonight.
  • Mike Green left the game in third period and didn’t return.  Boudreau told the press after the game that Green suffered a stinger, and is "day-to-day."  Check out the video for the sequence where he got hurt:

 
October 11th, 2010

Hockey Night in Washington: Caps vs. Senators, October 11, 2010

Caps Sens Action
Washington’s Eric Fehr and Ottawa’s Chris Kelly. Photo by Roland Pintilie

I’ll be at Verizon Center again on my couch tonight tweeting live during tonight’s game between the Caps and Senators.  Click here for a link to my Twitter feed.  Looks like Michal Neuvirth is getting the start in goal tonight for Washington.  In the meantime, here are some previews from around the Caps blogosphere.

Capitals Insider
Ottawa Citizen
Mike Vogel
CSN Washington
Caps Message Boards
NHL.com
Peerless Prognosticator
Live in Red
Red Line Station
Sports Network

See you sometime between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.

END OF FIRST PERIOD: CAPS 1 SENS 0: We’ve been told over and over again that there’s no substitute for hard work, but a combination of talent and a little bit of good luck came together to give Washington its 1-0 lead.  Put simply, the puck squirted free from a scrum deep along the left wing boards and ended up on Alexander Semin’s stick right on the doorstep of the Ottawa goal.  Looking at nothing but net, Semin wristed in the puck for his first goal of the season.

But while the Caps might be on top on the scoreboard, the play on the ice has been more even.  While the Washington PK kept a clean sheet in three opportunities, Ottawa had more than their fair share of good looks at the net.  Your goalie is always your most important penalty killer, and that’s been the case thus for for Washington, as Michal Neuvirth kept coming up with big saves during Ottawa’s three power plays.  But while he was getting the stops, he wasn’t getting a lot of help from his teammates.  It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Neuvirth either, as he gave up more than his fair share of juicy rebounds that Ottawa couldn’t manage to capitalize on.

END OF SECOND PERIOD: CAPS 2 SENS 1: While the teams traded tallies this period, the story of this game continues to be Neuvirth, who has 22 saves on 23 Ottawa shots.  Though the Senators only had 10 shots on goal in the period, they’re generating good scoring chances, and Neuvirth continues to have to bat away shots from point blank range.  The Sens tied the game at 9:57 when Jarkko Ruutu deflected a Matt Carknet shot from the right point into the net.  The Caps responded just two minutes later when Matt Hendricks passed the puck from behind the net onto the stick of Eric Fehr, who skated into the slot uncovered.  He tapped the puck into an open net to give Washington a 2-1 lead.  The PK continues to get the job done, killing off another pair of Ottawa power plays.

END OF THIRD PERIOD: CAPS 2 SENS 2: Credit the Senators for playing smart hockey with more than a dash of tenacity.  The game was tied at 7:20 of the third period by BC grad Ryan Shannon on the prettiest goal of the night.  Peter Regin might have been pinned against the left wing boards, but he somehow managed to get the puck to Shannon, who split the Washington defense, cutting past John Carlson and putting the puck past Neuvirth.  The story for the rest of the period was Washington’s continued futility on the power play, now just 1-for-13 on the season.  The Caps had a pair of chances in the third, but couldn’t cash in on either of them.

OVERTIME: CAPS 3 SENS 2: All night long the Caps let an inferior team hang in the game, only for their captain, Alex Ovechkin, to save their bacon again.  With just :32 left in overtime, Ovechkin sent a wrist shot through Pascal Leclaire’s five-hole to give Washington a 3-2 victory.  Over the course of a season, talented teams manage to win plenty of games like these when they’re outplayed by a more disciplined team.  Here’s hoping we see this scenario less often over the course of this season.

 
October 11th, 2010

All the Fights From the Third Period of Saturday’s Caps-Devils Game

In case you missed it, here’s a reel of all of the fights from the third period of the Caps-Devils game from Saturday night. While I’m sure a certain set of folks got the vapors after watching the festivities, I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed myself this much since the Caps-Thrashers throwdown in November 2006.

 
October 9th, 2010

Caps Right Ship, Open Home Schedule with 7-2 Romp Over Devils

Caps Celebrate 100910
There was a lot to cheer about during the home opener. Photo by Pete Silver.

You could be forgiven if after one period of tonight’s game between the Caps and Devils if you were wondering if the home team was ever going to get its act together and start playing hockey again. 

Heading into the locker room after one period the Caps were staring at a 2-1 deficit. To be charitable, they had just played their fourth straight period of lackluster ice hockey, and this time they were doing it against a team best known for taking care of business in their own end in front of a goalie bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Fast-forward just one period later, and everything seemed right with the world again after the Caps scored four goals on just eight shots on their way to a 7-2 win.  In the process, they chased Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and shamed a historically disciplined Devils team into gooning things up in the last five minutes of the game. 

The end of the third period was most entertaining, as it included a sequence of four fights that began with Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk dropping the gloves with Mike Green, and ended with Devils winger Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond jumping Caps rookie Marcus Johansson.

Some thoughts:

  • After the game, head coach Bruce Boudreau told the press that Alex Ovechkin took a lot of heat as the coaching staff reviewed the video tape from Friday night’s 4-2 loss to Atlanta. Ovechkin clearly took it to heart, tallying three points on two goals and an assist, including scoring on a penalty shot where he beat a lunging Brodeur to his glove side.
  • Alexander Semin continues to impress, using his stick handling skills in close quarters to keep plays alive in the offensive zone—never more so than when his hard work behind the Devils net in the second period led to a Tomas Fleischmann goal that tied the game 2-2.
  • After having a brutal first period where one of his giveaways led directly to a Devils goal, rookie Marcus Johansson settled down and started flashing some of the skill that led the coaching staff to keep him on the big club instead of sending him down to Hershey. He even got to be the center of attention late in the game when he twice refused to fight Letourneau-Leblond, but got mugged anyway.
  • The Caps were perfect on the penalty kill, killing four Devils opportunities on the night.  But the unit had its best moment at even strength when moments after a penalty to Jason Chimera expired, Fleischmann hit him with a pass as he popped out of the penalty box.  Chimera streaked in alone on right wing and put a wrist shot past Brodeur to stretch the lead to 4-2.
  • Fleischmann has taken a lot of heat from Caps fans, but he’s made the most of his first two games centering the second line, posting a goal and a pair of assists in two games. Despite the points, Fleischmann still doesn’t seem to have what it takes to win battles along the boards, but you can’t deny his skill, especially not after the tape to tape pass that sprung Chimera.
  • Defenseman John Carlson continues to look like he belongs nowhere else but in the National Hockey League, getting Washington’s first goal and adding a pair of assists. It was the first multi-point game of his career.
     
  • Michael Neuvirth got his first win of the season and kept the game close while his teammates were stripping their gears in the first period.  But Neuvirth’s best work probably came in the second period when he turned aside 17 Devils shots. If the Caps care about their goalie, they’ll start doing a better job in their own zone, lest the rookie get overwhelmed.
  • The close of the game was simply bizarre. With the game already over at 7-2, Kovalchuk sought to put a charge into his teammates by challenging Mike Green to a fight. Not much was solved as the two twirled for a few moments before both falling to the ice, but the Devils bench took it as a signal to ride to the sound of the guns.
  • Next up were Matt Hendricks and Rod Pelley, a pair that fought to an unsatisfying draw. The third tilt featured Matt Bradley against Devils tough guy David Clarkson. Bradley, who had been on the wrong end of a few beatings last season brought the home crowd to its feet when he took down Clarkson with a solid right.

All in all, it was just the sort of night the team needed to wash away memories of a dog of a season opener.

POSTSCRIPT: New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov was struck in the face shield by a Nicklas Backstrom slap shot in the first period. The shot broke Volchenkov’s nose and sent him to the locker room bleeding.  Later, the Devils reported that Volchenkov required eight stitches to close the wound, but that he still expects to play in their next game on Monday.

 
October 8th, 2010

Steve MacIntyre Fights Raitis Ivanans

Edmonton took its home opener from Calgary last night, 4-0, a victory that was punctuated by the following tilt between Steve MacIntyre of the Oilers and Raitis Ivanans of Calgary.

Boy, these two really like to go, don’t they?

 
October 7th, 2010

Why Intimidation Will Always Have a Place in Hockey

This morning at Box Seats at the WaPo, Ryan Cooper is proclaiming that "Old Time Hockey is Dead:

The game has changed. Now more than ever, you need defensemen who practice special integrity (hey, that sounds like Jeff Schultz! But he doesn’t hit! Booo!!), can clog the middle, box out the forwards down low and block shots. You need an ultra-aggressive penalty kill like Philadelphia’s and Montreal’s (thankfully the Capitals are starting to do this). You don’t need slugs that can’t skate and are only there because someone thinks they’re “tough.” That era is over.

I have a hard time arguing with anything Ryan says about how the way the game is played these days. Hockey has become something of a different — and better — game since it emerged from the lockout.  Then again, regular season hockey and playoff hockey are two entirely different things.  For a reminder, click here for a highlight reel of Sidney Crosby’s goals against the Caps in their epic 2009 playoff series.

When you watch goal after goal, it’s impossible not to notice that Crosby, a man who is celebrated for his incredible skill, scored many of his goals that series down low within a few feet, or even inches, of the goal crease.  And it’s impossible not to notice that in many of those cases, Crosby was more or less unmolested as he tapped, poked and slashed at rebounds for score after score.

And if old time hockey is gone for good, you might want to check in with players like Mike Knuble, Tomas Holmstrom and Erik Cole — and be sure to chat them up immediately after the final whistle as they’re nursing multiple bumps, bruises and contusions from the hits they’ve taken as they’ve tried to stake out real estate in front of the enemy net.

So what’s the lesson here?  Well, it would seem that for all of the rule changes we’ve seen in the NHL since the emergence from the lockout, physical play still has a place in the game.  Yes, we need folks who can skate, are skilled and are disciplined enough to play sound positional hockey.  In too many quarters, those sorts of skills are undervalued.  But we also still can use people with some muscle who can put a body on the puck carrier.  What teams don’t need, and what we see less and less often, are folks who are one dimensional and serve as a drain on resources both on the bench and on your payroll.

One last thought: in the five finals since the resolution of the NHL lockout, Chris Pronger, generally agreed upon by observers of the game to be the meanest SOB in the valley, has played in three of them for three different teams.  It’s funny how people keep trading for him.  Here’s his stat line for those three playoffs:

2006: 24 GP 5G 16A +10 TOIG: 30:57
2007: 19 GP 3G 12A +10 TOIG: 30:11
2010: 23 GP 4G 14A +05 TOIG: 29:03

When you have one defenseman on your blue line who is able to play around 30 minutes per night and puts the fear of God into forwards everywhere, a lot of other problems take care of themselves.  Ask Tomas Holmstrom.  He’ll tell you.

 
October 7th, 2010

Caps Goalie Semyon Varlamov Moved to IR

I had my nose deep into something else for most of the evening, so it was close to 10:00 p.m. here in the D.C. area before I caught wind of the news that the presumptive #1 goalie for the Washington Capitals this season, Semyon Varlamov, was headed to IR with an undisclosed injury.

Like plenty of other folks I’m sure, my first reaction wasn’t terribly positive.  Of all the "burning questions" (and can we please banish that metaphor from pre-season hockey writing forever?) being asked about the 2010-11 Washington Capitals, the only one I was really concerned about was goaltending.  As young and promising as Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are, it’s impossible for me to ignore the fact that neither of them has played a full season free of injury at the NHL level. 

In fact, when I think of Neuvirth and Varlamov, I can’t help but recall another talented pair of young and promising goalies who started the 1995-96 NHL season splitting time in Colorado — and we all know how that turned out.

Given Varlamov’s injury history, it’s understandable that folks would be concerned.  Then again, given that the severity of his injury is unknown to us for the time being, concern is really all we should be feeling right now.  Neuvirth will start Friday night in Atlanta just as the coaching staff has been planning for about a week now, and they’ll reserve the right to call on Dany Sabourin on Saturday night against the Devils at home. 

Please recall that Sabourin played respectably for the Penguins over the course of two seasons, and I don’t doubt that he’d be able to do the same in limited duty behind a Capitals team that is as strong as any he’s ever played behind.

So go back to what you were doing, and get busy counting down to Friday night again.  After all, a year from now this whole thing may be just a footnote in a highlight film or just another obstacle that a young and talented team had to overcome on the way to a championship.

If the situation remains unchanged a week from now with no promise of improvement, give me a call and bring the scotch with you.  It’s then that we may have something to discuss.

UPDATE: Corey Masisack reports that it’s a groin injury.  Varlamov says he’ll be ready in a week.

 
October 6th, 2010

Sheldon Souray to Hershey

I couldn’t quite believe the news either when I first read it today, but it’s official: former Edmonton Oilers defenseman and salary cap casualty Sheldon Souray is going to be setting up shop with Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Before anybody gets to thinking that this move might mean that Souray could eventually find his way to Washington, you can forget it — TSN’s Bob McKenzie has already poured a bucket of cold water on the idea.  Then again, for the locals who are used to life with George McPhee as general manager, we know there isn’t any way that the Caps would sacrifice almost $3 million in cap space and better than $2 million in salary — after splitting the total with Edmonton — it would take to get him onto the roster.

In terms of talent, Hershey doesn’t need Souray.  The Bears have been to the Calder Cup Finals three times in the last four years, winning twice, including 2010.  Last season on the way to the championship, the Bears won 60 games, reeled off a 12-game winning streak and a 24-game home win streak.  And while the Bears have lost a number of faces from that team because they’ve been promoted to Washington, John Carlson and Karl Alzner most prominently, the rest of the team is literally loaded with talent from years of smart drafting and developing.

After taking a trip of my own to Hershey last season, it’s clear this is a team that has an identity all its own over and above any affiliate agreement it might have with an NHL franchise.  One walk through the locker room after the game I saw last Spring pretty much convinced me of that, and you’d think the same way too after looking at decades of team photos that cover the walls of the bowels of the Giant Center in Hershey. 

What this move is about is business. The Bears are indirectly owned by the Hershey Trust, and everyone in town knows that the team is operated to return a profit to its parent company and the trust.  Coming off a championship season, Souray will help put people in the seats early in the season.  Better still for Edmonton, putting him here in the U.S. with the AHL affiliate of one of the top teams in hockey means that Souray is going to have people watching his performance very closely — something that could very well help him get moved all the quicker if some team can clear the cap space.

Tim Leone, along with John Walton one of the authorities on Bears hockey, indicates that Josh Godfrey has been sent down to South Carolina in the ECHL to make room for Souray, while also reporting that the team will be picking up a small portion of his AHL salary.  As for Souray, he’ll wear #7 and is expected to be at practice on Friday.  I think I might have to take a trip up there and soon.

 
October 4th, 2010

2010-2011 NHL Regular Season Points Over/Unders

This may be the most interesting bet that Bodog.com passed on to me: over/unders on points in the regular season:

2010/2011 Regular Season Points Over/Unders
Anaheim Ducks 88.5
Atlanta Thrashers 83.5
Boston Bruins 100.5
Buffalo Sabres 91.5
Calgary Flames 92.5
Carolina Hurricanes 86.5
Chicago Blackhawks 106.5
Colorado Avalanche 89.5
Columbus Blue Jackets 79.5
Dallas Stars 88.5
Detroit Red Wings 102.5
Edmonton Oilers 76.5
Florida Panthers 71.5
Los Angeles Kings 100.5
Minnesota Wild 85.5
Montreal Canadiens 87.5
Nashville Predators 89.5
New Jersey Devils 101.5
New York Islanders 78.5
New York Rangers 87.5
Ottawa Senators 87.5
Philadelphia Flyers 97.5
Phoenix Coyotes 92.5
Pittsburgh Penguins 104.5
San Jose Sharks 103.5
St. Louis Blues 93.5
Tampa Bay Lightning 92.5
Toronto Maple Leafs 84.5
Vancouver Canucks 106.5
Washington Capitals 108.5

 
October 4th, 2010

Odds to Win the 2011 NHL Western Conference

As always, thanks to Bodog.com for all of the information.

Odds to win the 2011 Western Conference
Chicago Blackhawks 3/1
San Jose Sharks 5/1
Vancouver Canucks 5/1
Detroit Red Wings 6/1
Los Angeles Kings 8/1
Calgary Flames 16/1
Anaheim Ducks 18/1
St. Louis Blues 18/1
Colorado Avalanche 20/1
Phoenix Coyotes 20/1
Dallas Stars 25/1
Nashville Predators 25/1
Edmonton Oilers 40/1
Minnesota Wild 50/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 75/1

 
October 4th, 2010

Odds to Win the 2011 NHL Eastern Conference

As always, thanks to Bodog.com for all of the information.

Odds to win the 2011 Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh Penguins 3/1
Washington Capitals 3/1
New Jersey Devils 15/2
Philadelphia Flyers 15/2
Boston Bruins 17/2
Montreal Canadiens 15/1
Ottawa Senators 16/1
Buffalo Sabres 17/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 19/1
New York Rangers 33/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 33/1
Carolina Hurricanes 35/1
Atlanta Thrashers 40/1
New York Islanders 45/1
Florida Panthers 55/1

 
October 4th, 2010

Odds to Win the 2011 Stanley Cup

It’s that time of year again, and my friends at Bodog.com just rang me up with a whole raft of odds on the 2010-11 NHL season.  We’ve got plenty of stuff, but I’ll start with the odds to win the 2011 Stanley Cup.  As always, these numbers are provided for entertainment purposes only and should not be used in connection with any cash wager.

Odds to win the 2011 Stanley Cup

Chicago Blackhawks 6/1
Washington Capitals 13/2
Pittsburgh Penguins 7/1
Vancouver Canucks 8/1
Detroit Red Wings 11/1
Boston Bruins 14/1
Philadelphia Flyers 14/1
San Jose Sharks 14/1
New Jersey Devils 15/1
Los Angeles Kings 16/1
Montreal Canadiens 25/1
Buffalo Sabres 26/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 30/1
Anaheim Ducks 35/1
Calgary Flames 35/1
Ottawa Senators 35/1
St. Louis Blues 35/1
Colorado Avalanche 40/1
New York Rangers 40/1
Phoenix Coyotes 40/1
Dallas Stars 50/1
Nashville Predators 50/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 60/1
Carolina Hurricanes 65/1
Edmonton Oilers 75/1
Atlanta Thrashers 80/1
Florida Panthers 80/1
Minnesota Wild 80/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 100/1
New York Islanders 100/1

 
October 4th, 2010

Hockey Fight of the Weekend

Back when I was still at FanHouse, I used to post video from the hockey fight that received the best rating from the users over at HockeyFights.com during the previous weekend.  This weekend, the tilt that pinned the meter was this clash from last Friday night between Raitis Ivanans and Steve MacIntyre

For more details on the bout, visit the Edmonton Journal.

 
August 27th, 2010

The Continuing Saga of Bloggers and Press Credentials

It’s was a very long day for me for too many reasons to count, so it’s only been a couple of hours since I’ve had the opportunity to read a pair of posts by Greg Wyshynski over at Puck Daddy (click here and here) concerning the resistance a number of NHL teams are putting up over credentialling bloggers to cover NHL games.

It’s hard not to feel a little fatigued.  It’s been nearly four years since I published these guidelines with the help of the Washington Capitals to help NHL teams figure out  which independent media practitioners they ought to be granting access to on a regular basis. 

It’s tough not to be a little bewildered too, as the NHL has been very good to me in this regard.  It credentialed me on two separate ocassions: first at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus and then again for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic in Chicago.  Even though I was representing FanHouse at both of those events, my credential was issued as if I was representing Off Wing Opinion.

If there’s one emotion I’m not feeling at all, it’s anger.  Even today, in 2010, not everyone reads blogs and not everyone fully understands the value of engaging with independent online media.  And in any case, getting angry won’t help anybody, but constructive criticism just might. 

Trust me on this.  Because before I got to my final cut on the media credential guidelines, somebody over at SportsJournalists.com posted my first draft in a discussion string over there.  While it’s safe to say that most of the peanut gallery there was less than friendly, you better believe I paid attention to what they had to say.  In the end, it helped me improve the final draft in many important ways.  I’m sure the folks at the NHL, many of whom monitor online chatter very closely, will take a look at what the online community has to say and take it into account when devising their own policy.

I do have a message for independent bloggers who have been watching this episode with growing alarm.  Your credibility is based on the trust you build with your readers everyday, not whether or not you have a laminated plastic badge hanging around your neck.  If you follow your passion and develop an audience, there will come a time when the powers that be have little choice but to let you inside the gate, if that’s what you really want.

Time, as they say, and for many of my blogging colleagues in their 20s this is especially the case, is on your side.

 
August 25th, 2010

Thanks SB Nation

Just a few minutes ago, I discovered that my entire archive of content from The Sporting News had been imported to SB Nation.  In the past, when I’ve worked for other online media outlets, I’ve seen my entire archive of content erased as if it never existed.  As I was discussing with Tom Ziller last night, on Twitter (click here and here)  preserving archived content means preserving landing pages for Google searches, eyeballs and revenue.

Even though the folks at SB Nation have an economic incentive to preserve my old work, I can’t help but say thank you.  Sure, they’re acting in their own self-interest, but given the actions of some of their competitors, it’s an enlightened self-interest.

 
August 16th, 2010

Another Look Back at Media Credentials and Bloggers

About a week ago, I got a note from Jason Fry, the former editor of The Daily Fix at The Wall Street Journal and one of the founders of Faith and Fear in Flushing, one of the more popular Mets blogs around.  Turns out that Jason has a regular gig at the National Sports Journalism Center, and he had a couple of questions about my experience in the press box with the Washington Capitals.

While I was happy to answer his questions, I also told him that any story about the press box in Washington wouldn’t be complete without talking to Nate Ewell with the Caps.  Jason got in touch with Nate too.  Click here to read the result.

While there isn’t much new there for long-time readers of Off Wing Opinion, I think it still provides a nice roadmap for less experienced bloggers who are thinking about taking a shot at asking for a press pass.  And as I’ve said more times than I can count, if you think you’d like to do it, take a shot.