Thursday, June 30, 2011

Howson Fire!

Well, if anyone was still doubting the Columbus Blue Jackets organization was committed to making changes, my he/she doubt no longer.

With the window closing on free agent defensemen, and reporters saying Jan Hedja could make it to July 1 without a deal, General Manager Scott Howson pulled the trigger to get the rights to James Wisniewski from the Montreal Canadiens, for a seventh-round pick next year -- a fifth-rounder if the Jackets get his name on a contract.

So, in the last seven days, Howson has sent Jakub Voracek and Nikita Filatov packing, acquired a couple potential steals at the Draft in Ottawa, and looks to be serious about getting a good D-man for his power play before the market opens on Friday.

A year ago, many fans implored Howson and the Jackets for something awesome to happen. After some suffering, they may finally be getting their wish.

And we may finally be seeing the kind of gutsy quality we want in a GM. After more than a few critiques on Howson's ability to close the deal over the last couple years... do you like him now?

Now, does a deal with Wisniewski get done today? We don't know... but my money says yes. I think the new, bolder Scott Howson is serious. And Wisniewski coming to play in Columbus with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter isn't nearly as ridiculous as the prospect of Christian Ehrhoff  playing for the Islanders at any price.

The Isles clearly wasted a draft pick... so they sent him to Buffalo. That at least salvages their week... they need as many draft picks as they can get their hands on. Drafting someone is probably the only way they'll force anyone to play for them.

So, as we head into Free Agency Eve, the Jackets are already active. Adding Wisniewski would take another hot commodity off the market. That would leave Jan Hejda as the only remaining immediate question mark.

The next 24-plus hours could... no... will be interesting.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wrandom Wrister: Another First Rounder Gone...

The Columbus Blue Jackets' trend of "starting fresh" is fleshing out nicely.

GM Scott Howson jettisoned a little more excess baggage by sending former first-rounder Nikita Filatov to Ottawa for a third-rounder. Not surprising at all. I'm not going to bash him... he just didn't work out. I had pretty much given up on him, though.

It's a shame, really. He had come back to Columbus this year ready to work, and I think that slow start and demotion to the minors probably wreaked havoc on his confidence, because his stats for Springfield weren't that hot, either. They weren't terrible, though.

Was there a deep-seeded skepticism that he would be another Nikolai Zherdev? Eh, maybe. Two kids bolting to Russia in a span of just a few years because they didn't like the system would certainly leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe that's just me, though.

It was time. Good luck to him in Ottawa... although sending him there actually makes me feel worse for him.

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Wrandom Wristers: Draft Day 1 Edition

While the Blue Jackets undoubtedly made the largest splash in the Draft on Thursday in terms of impact (although the Flyers parted with two big chunks), other teams did some wheeling and dealing Friday, in the hours leading up to and during the NHL Draft.

Unfortunately, if Scott Howson was looking at John-Michael Liles as a potential pick-up for an offensive defensemen (that second round pick may still be up for grabs), he's out of luck. Colorado dealt Liles to Toronto for their second-round pick.


San Jose certainly made some noise, getting Brent Burns and next year's second-round pick from Minnesota for Devin Setoguchi, 2010 first-rounder Charlie Coyle and this year's first-round pick. It's actually a pretty good deal for both teams. Burns is coming off a career year and adds some scoring from the blueline, and Setoguchi can create chances for Minnesota's woeful offense.
Meanwhile, off the ice Winnipeg has decided apparently to name its team the Jets.

This is such a sad and lame idea. Had the coyotes moved back to Winnipeg, then yes... perhaps then naming the team the Jets would have been appropriate. However, this time around, a different name would have been a much better idea. Winnipeg is essentially starting over. So, why not start fresh?

Winnipeg was better off calling the team the WTF's. No, I don't mean the long version of that... I mean literally call them the "WTF's". "Dub-TF's" for short, maybe? Or how about the "What-nots"?

"Jets"? Snooze-Bar.

However, maybe they'll completely revamp the logos, and avoid an epic fail.

But, hey… I'm just one guy. It's not like I can tell Winnipeg's marketing department what to do. That would be like someone telling the Boston Bruins marketing department to take down those "offensive" Bruins Hockey Rules signs. Oh, wait... a bunch of Tampa fans actually did that.

Now, in the win column for Winnipeg... it was nice to see Claude Noel on stage tonight. Good guy for the Jets to have behind the bench. Now, considering the team that moved there, I sure as hell don't envy the Herculean task Noel has in order to get the Jets to respectability. But I'm happy he's back coaching in the NHL.

Meanwhile, the Jackets' Central Division neighbors, the Nashville Predators appear set to unveil new sweaters this weekend (or at least the road jersey at the draft). Marc Torrence from On The Forecheck had an interesting post Thursday, with a couple shots of what they might look like (apparently his source has since said these are not the new sweaters). They do look very interesting. I like the update of the main logo that they did and that number font on the away jersey looks pretty good. I'm not crazy about the guitar pick logo thing, although I do get the whole "saluting Nashville's musical heritage" bit. However, if you take a look at that away jersey in his post, you can make out piano keys on the inside of the collar. That's a nice touch.

Anyway, I guess we'll find out tomorrow, since the Preds didn't have a first-round pick.

I can't help but wonder if Howson has more up his sleeve. Could be an interesting Day 2.

Probably taping that for later, though. I made Mrs. Martini sit through a long postseason with the Bruins. She needs a leisurely Saturday with me and the dogs.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jackets Find Zen (Zenter, perhaps?)

What's the song I'm looking for right now?

"Happy Days Are Here Again"?

Well, some Columbus Blue Jackets fans might dispute that "again" part, for a franchise that has made the playoffs but once in ten seasons.

"America (F--- Yeah)," from Team America?

No, that's probably too general, and frankly, Philadelphia fans probably aren't feeling so hot about it.

"Celebration," by Kool & The Gang?

No… mostly just because it's Kool & The Gang. A little too disco-ish... not very hockey at all.

You know what… never mind trying to find appropriate song for now.

Suffice it to say I'm pretty freaking happy right now as a CBJ fan. The word has come down that the Jackets have finally acquired that coveted piece of the puzzle that they have needed for… well, since the dawn of time, really.

A top-line center.

Columbus is about to find out how Jeff Carter looks in Union Blue. The Jackets snagged Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers for Jakub Voracek, the Jackets third round pick, and that first rounder that many in Columbus have debated about for the past few weeks.

What does this mean for Columbus? Well, Carter's numbers tell a pretty nice story. Carter's 36 goals for the Flyers last year were good for 7th in the league and his point total of 66 was good for 30th. He was a plus-27 last year, and only two guys in the entire league put more shots on net. His output overall over the last three seasons has been 84, 61 and 66 points.

Now put him at center on a line with Rick Nash, who has comparable stats over the last three years (79, 67 and 66 points in the last three seasons). Yes, they are just statistics, but hockey fans have seen these guys play, and there's a reason why some Philly fans were dreading this trade.

I'm hearing the goal horns already.

Yes, the contract is scary – it goes through 2022, and when that no trade clause kicks in, that's going to be a lot of heat on the Jackets.

However, this is a move that had to be made. The Jackets cannot afford to keep waiting for first round draft picks to mature and contribute to the team. Scott Howson needed help now.

Anyway you slice it, this is a bold move. This is a risky move.

However, my money says it's also a damn good move.

The Jackets just scored the NHL's first big move of the off-season. And they are just getting started.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Hour in Boston... On Tape Delay

"The Boston Bruins. At last, the circle is complete. When Ray left you, you were but the learners. Now, you are the masters."
                                       -- Butchered Star Wars paraphrase

Sorry... it popped into my head as time expired. And I figured, "Ah, what the hell. Use it."

So, obviously this post is a few hours overdue. I can explain that. I had a mandatory meeting. What can I say, it's a professional thing... just bad timing, what are you gonna do?

My original plan was to shut off my phone, stay off the grid, and run out of Gresso's plugging my ears to avoid any potential spoilers. Then I would drive home as fast as I could, and watch the game on tape. That's what VCRs are for, right?

Well, they put it on in the basement. I didn't have my contacts in, so I was able to mostly resist the urge to gaze over and squint across the room to see the TV during the meeting.

However, there were breaks in the meeting, so I got to see scores and highlights. When it let out, there was 1:30 remaining in the game. I couldn't look away.

Hell, could you?

I still watched the game when I got home.

So, anyway… I uttered that rather strange line as time expired, because it seemed funny at the time. However, the reason it even entered my head in the first place, was because it reminded me of 10 years ago, when Ray Bourque raised the Cup at the Pepsi Center in Denver, with the Avalanche.

Back in 2000, a then-struggling Bruins team traded Bourque to Colorado, so he could have a "last" shot at the Stanley Cup. It was not to be that year, as the Avs fell to the Stars in the Western Conference Final in seven games… again. The Avs resolved to win the Presidents' Trophy for next year, to ensure that any Game 7 the next year would be on home ice. They did it, and "Mission 16W" was born. They wrapped it up with a Game 7 win on home ice over the New Jersey Devils.

All that was missing when Ray hoisted that Cup… was a Boston Bruins sweater. It was a great moment, but I had to see Boston win a Cup.

Finally, that 10-year wait – and Boston's 39-year wait – is over.

Over, because the Bruins found a way to play their game in Vancouver.

The Bruins played a good, physical game, solid defense, and one more time, for the final game of the season, goaltender Tim Thomas played like the superhuman goaltender that he has been for this entire Playoffs.

The Bruins did what they had to do. They left it all on the ice… and in the back of the net. The goals came from two guys who might as well be called The Usual Suspects this year – Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (two goals each). Bergeron got his fifth and sixth, and Marchand got his 10th and 11th… hell of a way for a guy to wrap up his rookie season. Those 11 goals were good for second in the entire Playoffs, just behind David Krejci.

The NHL makes a lot of talk about "history" and its promotional campaigns. Well, the Bruins certainly did that. Marchand's goal-scoring performance was tied for second-most in history by a rookie. Tim Thomas was only the second American player to win the Conn Smythe. The Bruins were just the third team to win the Cup in a Game 7 on the road. And speaking of Game 7, the Bruins were the first to win three Game 7s in the Playoffs.

(25 Playoff games... what the hell...?)

Obviously, that whole "ending a 39-year Cup drought" one is sort of the biggest one (heh-heh).

And the most beautiful, too.

Guess this kinda sums it up:

Congratulations, Boston. One hell of an end to one hell of a season.

Go Bruins. Actually... you know what, kick back for a few. You've earned it.

I raise my pint of Sam Adams Boston Lager to you. Cheers.

And thank you for reading.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Game 7: No Fear... Plenty of Loathing...

In one corner, you have a team that has not won the Stanley Cup in its 40 years of existence.

In the opposite corner, you have an Original Six team that has not won the cup in 39 years.

Two teams. For Cup-less decades. Like I said, this Stanley Cup Final was a series that was destined to go to seven games. And one of these two teams — the Vancouver Canucks or the Boston Bruins — will break a long Cup drought.

Hunter S. Thompson could not write a better hockey story.

Well, first of all, Dr. Thompson died six years ago.

Second of all, I'm pretty sure that many of the details in whatever hockey story he wrote would not be conducive to the NHL Substance Abuse Policy.

He's just a very enjoyable writer, and he was the first great author who popped into my head.

Hence, you also get my stretch of an attempt at a fun title for this post.

However, on that topic… there is no fears on either side tonight. The Canucks know that they play good, tight hockey at home in this series. Daniel Sedin predicted that the Canucks will win Game 7 the Stanley Cup tonight, although he apparently backed off from that earlier today.

Now, obviously, those are some bold words. They're also easy to say when a reporter puts a microphone in your face. Then again, the last guy I recall guaranteeing a win in the next game during the Stanley Cup Final was Mark Messier in 1994.

And he happened to be right.

There are certainly arguments for both sides. As already mentioned, Vancouver has played very well at home in this series. And on the road you could probably get a beach ball past Roberto Luongo without the help of Photoshop (I got a couple funny e-mails after Games 3 and 4).

This game is in Rogers Arena. Potential advantage: Vancouver.

Boston has dominated at home and, despite three losses on the road, has hung with Vancouver in Rogers thus far. Boston kicked six kinds of hell out of Vancouver on Monday, so outsiders could just as easily argue that the Bruins have all the momentum.

Potential advantage: Bruins.

Vancouver's clutch men could finally snap out of their funks and catch fire tonight. The Bruins could also break through that metaphorical brick wall that Luongo has been on home ice.

Maybe both could happen.

Maybe neither could happen.

Either way, I smell another one-goal game in Rogers.

And 40 guys leaving it all on the ice.

No, there is no fear. But you can bet the loathing is certainly there.

Nathan Horton knocked out in game three Mason Raymond knocked out in game six. The Canucks have taken it on the chin, but have played hard-nosed hockey at home. The Bruins have manhandled the Canucks at home, and play hard-nosed hockey on the road.

Rest assured, no matter what happens tonight, this evening marks the end of not only the hockey season, but also an epic series. Will it go down as the greatest seven-game Stanley Cup final in history? Probably not. At least not from the list that I saw the other day.

A nearly four-decade wait will end tonight for someone. And it will end in a Game 7.

That may be a little longer than I have been alive…

… but I defy anyone to top this series.

One more time, with feeling… Go Bruins!

Unleash hell in Vancouver.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Game 6... Game On

As the Mrs. and I were sitting at the R Bar in the Arena District last Wednesday, I was seated next to a gentleman from Vancouver.

A gentleman from Vancouver who was rooting for the Bruins.

It's not what you think… He only wanted the Bruins to win, in order to tie the series, because he has tickets to tonight's game six in Boston.

Wow. Bonus for him. He might actually get to see them raise the Cup in person, too. I personally don't think so… but he might.

I'll tell you something, though. When Alexandre Burrows isn't biting people, Alain Vigneault isn't complaining about how Tim Thomas plays in net or about the officiating, and when the Sedin twins aren't complaining about getting knocked down so damn much, or cracking a nail, or the ice is too cold and the crowd's too loud….

I guess what I'm trying to say is, when the Canucks shut up and play hockey, they're a damn good hockey team.

Of course, we knew that. The team did not win the Presidents' Trophy for nothing. Roberto Luongo isn't a Vezina finalist for nothing.

Once Vancouver got back to the friendly confines of Rogers Arena, they were comfortable enough to play their game, and win their game.

And that is why the Canucks are up 3-2 at the Stanley Cup final, and we are in a situation that we are in now. Once again, like last year, the first team to win on the road will hoist the Cup.

Or, if the home ice thing continues to hold up, Boston will be just fine tonight, but they're in a heap of trouble on Wednesday.

Of course, I can go on about how Boston needs to get itself together on the road one last time, but they have to keep it together at home tonight, first and foremost.

Yes, I know. "Thank you, Capt. Obvious."

But, Vancouver does have the momentum now… And the Stanley Cup will be in the TD Garden tonight, waiting for someone to raise it, or get packed in the case and flown to Vancouver for Wednesday's game seven.

Watching these teams play in the Stanley Cup final, however, has been like watching two completely different series. Vancouver has played a very tight game at home, hit hard, and generated quality scoring chances on Tim Thomas. And Thomas has been up to the task. If the Bruins get a couple bounces, perhaps you're not even reading this.

I mean, come on… Raffi Torres scoring with 18 seconds to go, and Burrows scoring an OT winner 11 seconds in? Those were just painful.

But the Bruins at home? It has just been fierce. These are two very, very physical teams. And this is probably the best Cup Final I have seen since 2001.

And I, for one, believe this series is destined to go seven, with the Bs solving Vancouver on Wednesday. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Go Bruins... give 'em hell. Or at least something to complain about.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The CBJ Offseason So Far...

SO... the Blue Jackets are talking with the Philadelphia Flyers about Jeff Carter. I'm quite intrigued. The deal supposedly involves the Jackets' first-round draft pick, and (if the Dispatch presumes correctly) Jakub Voracek, a restricted free agent.

Now, the guy does have 11 seasons still remaining on his contract, at $5M-plus per year. That is scary. That contract does not have a no-trade clause (per the Dispatch)... so it's less scary.

Still, he would give the Jackets that thing they have needed since... well, since the beginning of time.

A top-line center.

Dealing that first round pick also takes a little pressure off of the front office, after parting ways with Don Boyd and Bob Strumm, who had led the Jackets' scouting efforts since the NHL came to Columbus. The timing is a little odd, but... well, let's do a little exercise.

Stick your hands out in front of you, and wiggle your fingers and thumbs. Those are the Columbus Blue Jackets' first 10 first round draft picks. Your fingers are Klesla, Leclaire, Nash, Zherdev, Picard, Brule, Brassard, Voracek, Filatov, and Moore. Now bring in your middle two fingers and thumb on each hand, so that it looks like you're an Ozzy concert. Your "horns" represent Nash, Brassard, Voracek and Moore. Those are the first rounders that remain in the Blue Jackets' system.

Yes, I am pretty much writing off Nikita Filatov. Sorry, I tried, but as far as I'm concerned, the kid is trade bait. I would be surprised if the Jackets ever draft another Russian again. Full us once, Nikolai… shame on you. Full us twice, Nikita… shame on us.

Now, that's not to say that Boyd and Strumm didn't do a good job. And four out of 10 first rounders with the organization isn't a horrible proportion, really. It's just that the other six were just so … well, they didn't work out for whatever reason -- injury-prone, lack of work ethic, or a little Russian Diva Syndrome.

So, is parting with the first-round pick worth the risk? Sure, why not?

Overall, the Jackets have drafted well, and cultivated some good players out of it. But are they getting top talent in the first round? Brassard is coming along nicely. John Moore likely has a good future ahead of him with the franchise. And let's not forget that we might see last year's first rounder, Ryan Johansen, come up this year.

Maybe it's just time for change. It's a business decision. Yes, there's a certain loyalty and a soft spot for guys who are (or have been) in the Blue Jackets organization for a long time, but in the end, you have to make a sound business decision.

This isn't hockey friends, it's the hockey business.

Same deal with considering (or rather, not considering) Marc Denis or Ron Tugnutt for goaltending coach this year. As part of the audit of the CBJ's operations, the Jackets parted with Dave Rook and hired a new goaltending coach for Steve Mason. From what I have read on Ian Clark, the hire sounds good. We won't know until we see some good results on the ice, but considering that the Jackets' goaltending (and goaltending coaching) situation has descended somewhat into chaos the last couple years, some stability would be an improvement. Clark spent several years with the Canucks... and you may have heard... they're a pretty good hockey team. Look at Roberto Luongo over the last few years. This guy has to be doing something right, right?

Loved Denis and Tugnutt, but is Luongo part of any line on their resume?

Another example... looking at the fact that Kevin Dineen is now the head coach of the Florida Panthers. Sure, a year ago, even I was thinking -- and apparently the Dispatch's Michael Arace thought so, too -- it would have been a great idea to hire a "Blue Jackets man" like Dineen for the head coaching job here. However, that was a year ago, and I may have been caught up in sentiment again. It happens. I'm a fan.

Besides, I was satisfied with how the Jackets went, with Scott Arniel. Hell, I was excited, although I wasn't sure how it would turn out without many player changes in the offseason. And obviously, we know how well that went.

But, Scott Arniel's our guy.

I'm sure some would even be tempted to think that the Blue Jackets missed out, when Guy Boucher snubbed the Blue Jackets and wound up going to Tampa... then taking the Lightning all the way to the Eastern Conference Final this year. Sure, Boucher certainly looked good this year with the Lightning. And that's fine. But there's no way in hell he could have pulled off in Columbus what he did in Tampa. He and GM Steve Yzerman essentially revived the team that just needed a little direction, with perhaps a little outside help via free agency and trade. Being in the Southeast Division certainly doesn't hurt them, either. It's not the old "South-Least" Division that it used to be before the lockout, but Tampa and Washington are the only big fish in that pond. Boucher could never have pulled off that kind of turnaround in the Central Division.

Guy Boucher didn't take the better NHL head coaching job. He took the easier NHL head coaching job. Being the Southeast Division is a great way to pad the stats.

Maybe the Jackets will get to experience that stat-padding thing soon....

However, the Blue Jackets have to say in the Western Conference for at least another year. Gary Bettman decided to put the speculation to rest last week, when he said they would be no realignment plans before the 2011-12 season, which means the Winnipeg/ Manitoba Whatchamacallits will have a hell of a commute to Southeast Division games next season.

That also means the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators will have to fight in the West another year, before one of them looks to move east in search of a competitive edge. I know Arace believes the Detroit has first dibs, but I say it again: I don't think you could get enough guys on the Board of Governors to go for it. Everyone out east knows their teams wouldn't even sniff the Stanley Cup Final for at least five years if Detroit moved over there.

I still say it's Columbus or Nashville. Expert opinion? Nope. Just common sense… and a strong belief that the Eastern conference will side with self-preservation.

So, it's at least one more year in the west. The Blue Jackets will just have to rise to that challenge as they head into the draft and free agency season. Committing Grant Clitsome this week was a good step forward. The guy worked hard this year.

Getting Jeff Carter in a trade before or during the NHL Draft, that could be the first big, bold, cajones moment of Scott Howson's tenure... a move that -- in combination with some good draft and free agency moves -- could finally take the Blue Jackets to the next level.

And I'm all for that.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Winning Is The Best Revenge...

It seems that I can not seem to escape former Columbus Blue Jackets players disappointing me this season.

First, former Jacket Jason Chimera -- who regularly missed wide-open nets in a CBJ sweater -- scored a clutch goal to deliver the Capitals against the Blue Jackets late this season.

Then Chimera scored in OT in game four of the first round against the Rangers, en route to spoiling one of my first-round Playoff picks (although I will accept that complaining about that is kind of self-serving).

Then, in Game 1 a week ago, former Jacket Raffi Torres scored with 18 seconds remaining to help the Canucks take game one.

Then, there was the Aaron Rome incident in Game 3 Monday night, but I'm done wasting time on him. You can only beat a dead horse for so long.

The good news is, after the first intermission, the Bruins came alive. Maybe they drew on some of that "Win it for Horty" energy. Whatever it was, the Bruins' play embodied that old saying that "Winning is the best revenge." The Bruins exploded for four goals in the second, and four more in the third to blow out the Canucks 8-1. Interestingly enough, it was the biggest margin of victory in the Stanley Cup Final game since game three of the 1996 final between Colorado and Florida… 15 years ago to the day, by the same score. Man, trivia is fun.

Simply put, the Bruins went crazy. They went out and hit guys. They scored seemingly at will – including two shorthanded goals.

Roberto Luongo looked human Monday night.

Tim Thomas looked like a freaking nose tackle. The dude was actually credited with a hit, to go with his 40 saves, knocking a Sedin on his ass in the crease. Which one? Don't know, don't care... they look alike, especially on their backs looking into the rafters.

Now, was the hit by Thomas legal? Eh, not so sure. Pretty sure I saw Pascal Leclaire get called for less when he was in Columbus.

All I know is that it was a sweet highlight and I'm so glad that Brett Ireland shot me the link to this video (thanks, man).

The important thing to remember, however, is that this is only one game. Was it a great game? Sure.

Are the Bruins back in this series? Somewhat. It's still 2-1, Canucks. The Bruins still have to make it a best-of-three series. Whatever their motivation, battling hard and winning tonight has to be the first objective. Forget 8-1. The next game starts with a 0-0 score, like any other game. The Bruins are mad. The Canucks are mad.

That's going to make for some damn good hockey.

Go Bruins!

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Rome Is Done
Wrandom Wrister: Don't Want To Be Mocked As A Biter...? Don't Bite
Bertuzzi-Style Hockey Still Lingers In Vancouver

Other posts this week:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rome Is Done

Surprise, surprise. The NHL got something right.

Discussion... suspension... gavel. Aaron Rome is done.

The NHL just announced it has suspended Aaron Rome for his hit on Nathan Horton, which ended Horton's season with a severe concussion.

Obviously, there has been a lot of debate over the last several hours, and a lot of opinions on what the length of the suspension should have been.

Was it a headshot covered under Rule 48? Was it even a headshot?

There will probably be some Vancouver fans who will hold onto the belief that Colin Campbell (and his underlings) can't be impartial because Campbell's kid plays for Boston.

It was easy for some to think the NHL would decline a suspension simply because it didn't suspend Alex Burrows for biting Patrice Bergeron in Game 1. The big difference here, though, is that biting a glove wasn't a suspension-worthy offense. Rome's hit clearly was.

Now, maybe it's because Rome is suspendable (or expendable, however you want to put it). Rome's absence is probably of little consequence to the Canucks. One goal and a plus-3 this Playoffs. Absolutely no impact in the Stanley Cup Final thus far. At least not on the scoresheet. Wait... one shot on goal in Game 2, sorry. Thanks,

Well, anyway... now we have the answer.

The decision has been made. It's time to move on. Hope that Nathan Horton recovers, and move on.

The NHL got it right today.

Does it mean anything in the long run?

We don't know. There's still a lot of hockey to be played through next Wednesday....

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Wrandom Wrister: Don't Want To Be Mocked As A Biter...? Don't Bite

"The ferocity of the French taunting took him completely by surprise... and Arthur became convinced that a new strategy was required..."
--Monty Python and the Holy Grail





"Man, I REALLY hate the Bruins now after this."

All of the above have been used to describe the Boston Bruins' behavior in Game 3 last night, as at least a few Bruins offered fingers to Alex Burrows and the Canucks, in reference to Burrows' biting the gloved finger of Patrice Bergeron in Game 1.

Now I, for one, believe that waaaay too much has been made of the biting incident. The glove was still on. It's not like when Jordin Tootoo bit Tyler Wright's bare hand during a fight some years ago.

I'm not sure it makes Burrows any less of a sissy, but it is still not nearly as bad as the Tootoo/Wright incident. If it were me, I'd put his framed portrait up on the NHL's "Sissy Wall" next to Jordin Tootoo, and maybe fine him. Tops.

Don't want to be mocked as a biter? Don't bite people. Jordin? Alex? Talking to you....

Don't want to get a rep for dirty play? Don't go for the headshot. Todd? Romey? You listening?

Was the Bruins' behavior indeed "douchey"? Sure.

Was it stupid? Sure.

Was it unsportsmanlike? Right again.

Was it awful? Nah. I thought it was pretty hilarious.

Why? Well... think of it this way.

Are the Bruins really horrible, classless bullies?

Or are opposing fans really that thin-skinned?

Come on... the Bruins put up signs ripping on Lightning fans, and some blowhard on the radio gets a bunch of oversensitive sissies in a lather, so they harass the Bruins' marketing department to take the signs down.

Now, Canucks fans are getting oversensitive because of a wittle taunting among pwayers?


Yes, the behavior is not exactly gentlemanly.

Neither is biting, last I checked.

Neither is putting a shoulder into someone's head. The only things wounded on the Canucks were their fwagile wittle egos in an 8-1 shellacking. The Bruins' second-leading scorer Nathan Horton is out the rest of the series with a severe concussion.

What does Vancouver lose (if the NHL actually does something)? A third-pairing defenseman with one goal and a +3 in 14 games.

Ummmmm, yeah. Vancouver has nothing to complain about.

Now, conversely, the behavior was also incredibly stupid. It's "bulletin board material." It's a potential rallying point for the Canucks, much like the "Win It For Horty" attitude likely put some fight in the Bruins last night.

There are three or four more games of bad blood remaining on the ice, so...

Bruins fans, let the bite go....

Canucks fans, let the taunting go....

We're rubber, you're glue. Let's all just shut the hell up and enjoy the series.

Go Bruins!

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Bertuzzi-Style Hockey Still Lingers In Vancouver

Well, now. I thought the bush-league bullshit that Todd Bertuzzi perfected and Brian Burke endorsed left Vancouver with Bertuzzi and Burke.

Silly me.

Surely there has to be some sort of supplemental discipline on Aaron Rome after his vicious hit on Nathan Horton, when he talks to league officials at 11 this morning.

Sure... it was open ice.

Sure... Horton wasn't looking after making his pass.

Anyone could easily write this off as an unfortunate accident.

Just one little sticking point: Rome was clearly headed toward Horton, and he definitely leaned, sprang, and left his skates to make the shoulder-to-head hit.

I'm sorry... you can't tell me that wasn't intent. Even if you're not going for the head, that's a dirty hit. Even the most staunch Bertuzzi apologist would see that.

The only thing scarier than the hit was looking at Horton's face as he's on his back, face-up, looking like his arm was frozen in the air. That's freaky as hell to watch the aftermath of that hit.

That hit was pure bullshit. And there should be a suspension.

And I make no apologies for that assessment. I always call them the way I see them, regardless of loyalties. I felt the NHL made a mistake in not suspending Zdeno Chara for his careless hit on Max Pacioretty, and I've never been shy about it.

The good news is that, although Horton went to the hospital, the team tweeted he was responsive and was movement in his extremities.

Rome got a five-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct. We'll find out the rest this morning.

My bet is, he gets a game off. That's pretty standard for Playoff infractions, unless the league decides it may want to actually set an example, as this is happening on hockey's biggest stage and people are actually watching. ESPN's John Buccigross estimated Rome is done... and may even miss a few games into next season.

Honestly, I'd be impressed if Rome gets two or more. Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised one bit if he gets nothing....

It's not like the NHL has consistently enforced Rule 48 up to this point.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It Begins Tonight...

The day has finally arrived… The Boston Bruins' first shot at the Stanley Cup in 21 years. Vancouver's first shot since 1994.

Some people seem to think this is a mismatch, and that Vancouver will roll. Fine, they have the Sedin twins, former Buckeye standout Ryan Kesler, and of course, Vezina finalist Roberto Luongo. They have a lot of offensive firepower, and special teams as well... while the Bruins' special teams — notably the power play — have been… well, rather ordinary.

However, tonight we will get our first look at what happens when two teams are well rested. It has been five days since the Bruins wrapped up their seven game series with Tampa. It has been eight days since Vancouver finished off the sharks in five.

Maybe there will be some rust from not playing in nearly a week. Then again, maybe the extra time to work on defense, and work on creating chances in front of Luongo may do the Bruins some good.

The Bruins certainly have their share of weapons as well, in the form of Patrice Bergeron, the clutch goal-scoring of Nathan Horton and youthful energy of Tyler Seguin. And, of course, they have the solid goaltending of Tim Thomas. He has thrilled at times, and frustrated at other times. He's provided some scary moments, while also providing some spectacular goaltending.

This Bruins team has been resilient. This team has faced every challenge, and even in the rough times, has recovered.

In short… As I said at the beginning of the playoffs in picking the Bruins to emerge from the East, this is a team that has turned the corner.

And the test has only just begun. however, I have said for weeks but I thought the Boston Bruins were the one team coming out of the Eastern Conference that could even measure up to Vancouver. And I stand by that.

Amazingly, this has been my best year for picking the playoffs . Through 14 series this year, I went 12 and two… And only because I love ragging on the Washington Capitals so much that I picked the Rangers to beat them. My other mistake was picking the Ducks.

Now, I am putting that record on the line.

And picking Boston in seven.

True... it certainly would be preferable to have them raise the Cup at home in six games. Also true… no team has ever won three Game 7s in one playoff year.

Then again … Boston has pulled off some crazy stuff in the past year or so. And they will again.

Starting tonight.

Go Bruins!

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Mrs. Martini's (Suspected) Stanley Cup Crush

"So, what time does the game start?"

"Eight o'clock."

"So, are we meeting somewhere to watch the game?"

The question itself was not really out of the ordinary. What was out of the ordinary was the source. See, as far as I knew, up to that point I was talking with Mrs. Martini on the phone.

But, honestly, I was caught off-guard. After all, Mrs. Martini understands that I am the worst kind of hockey fan, and have been for about 20 years, starting with the first game I ever saw, which was a game between the Boston Bruins and the Montréal Canadiens.

However, this is also the same woman who very recently proclaimed to some mutual friends, "He follows like five teams, in order to guarantee that he gets to watch hockey through mid-June every year."

For the record, she does embellish that figure slightly. There are only three teams for which I will set placeholders in my calendar to not miss any Stanley Cup Final game. Those are Columbus (obviously, I have yet to experience that joy), Boston (this is my first time) and Colorado. Otherwise, yes... I would probably watch the finals anyway, but I wouldn't go out of my way, unless it was to watch Detroit lose.

However, she loves to bust my chops about it, and for the most part I let her have her fun.

So, when I hear this woman on the other end asking me if we're meeting up to watch the game somewhere… well, you can understand why I felt the need to check my phone to make sure I was still talking to the wife.

And then it occurred to me. Something that crossed my mind as Mrs. Martini and I were watching the postgame after Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

I'm strongly sensing that Mrs. Martini has a little crush on Tim Thomas.

Now, I will admit I probably did not have a lot to offer for proof. However, she did comments on how well spoken and even eloquent Thomas was during his post game interview.

"He's either taking PR classes, or he's inately well-spoken."

I didn't think too much of that comment by itself. After all, I figured the only precedent she had a in terms of off-ice comments by anyone not in a Columbus Blue Jackets uniform, was when noted NHL ladies' man Sean Avery made his "sloppy seconds" comment a couple years back.

However, it suddenly hit me… Wait a minute. Mrs. Martini never listens to off ice comments by hockey players, Columbus or otherwise.

The only way she would ever hear a hockey player say anything, would be if it was on NPR. And somehow, I seriously doubt that would happen.

So, maybe I'm a little disturbed by this, but I don't think I've committed to feeling threatened just yet.

I am watching you, though, Thomas.

Okay, I'm kidding. But the wife is acting weird.

But she's watching, so I'll let it slide for now.

If she starts swooning over him like a couple of our friends do over Antoine Vermette, we may have to start just listing to games on the radio.

At least she's cheering for the right team.

Go Bruins!

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