Friday, December 28, 2012

Buyout Candidates: Mike Komisarek or John-Michael Liles

komisarek liles buyout leafs
Welcome back to the NHL, Wade Redden.

One of the concessions the league made to the players in its latest proposal was accepting a one-time compliance buyout prior to the 2013-14 season. The buyout will not count against a team’s salary cap, meaning teams like the Rangers can finally rid themselves of ugly contracts like Redden’s. (Note: The buyout will still count against the players’ share, which might be an issue for the union).

The Leafs are actually in a fairly envious position; only two players are signed beyond four years—Mikhail Grabovski, their best two-way forward, and James van Riemsdyk, who is only 23.

Unlike in Anaheim, Brian Burke has done a good job creating cap flexibility. The bad deals, like Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi, are both done after this season.

The roster isn't without its fixable mistakes, however. The two players who are most frequently cited as buyout candidates are Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cashing in the Paul Ranger Lottery Ticket

paul ranger leafs marlies
If there's a silver-lining to Jake Gadiner's "concussion", it's that the Leafs are getting a better look at Paul Ranger.

Gardiner left a game on December 8 against Rochester after receiving a blindside hit from Kevin Porter, who was penalized for the hit, and hasn't played since.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daniel Alfredsson

Daniel Alfredsson hurt
Today is Daniel Alfredsson's 40th birthday. If this lockout doesn't end his career, Father Time soon will.

Here is my present, a list of low-lights from Alfredsson's distinguished career.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Who's Conceding What: CBA Negotiations Recap

Bettman and Fehr fight
Two days of unbridled optimism followed by catastrophe.

Just as it looked like the NHL and the NHLPA were making major traction, to the point that people were eagerly anticipating puck drop, everything went to hell, coincidentally when the players wanted to bring Donald Fehr back to close the deal. Now everything's off the table and Gary Bettman is fuming.

"What you're witnessing is very tough bargaining," Bettman said in a press conference after Thursday night's talks. "We kept giving and giving and giving. We made five different proposals. We did something completely unorthodox—we kept negotiating against ourselves."

If Bettman is upset that the owners are negotiating against themselves, he has no one to blame but himself. The fact that the NHL tabled such a ridiculous proposal in the summer gave them no choice. The owners were going to have to give up plenty of the outlandish terms they initially wanted in order to get the terms they realistically could expect (e.g., a 50-50 split of HRR).

But that isn't the usual give-and-take that happens in negotiations. Usually, you give the other side something important in order to get something important for yourself.

In the last round of CBA negotiations, the ones that ultimately cost the 2004-05 season, the players were forced to take on a salary cap and were generally hammered by the owners. All was not bad, however. During negotiations they won in other areas, such as liberalized free agency. Give-and-take.

During these negotiations there has been less give-and-take. It's more like give, give, give. But despite what Bettman claims, it isn't the owners that are giving.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Boo Bettman

Donald Fehr has Gary Bettman fuming. Considering it's Bettman that usually has everyone else feeling that way, it's a nice change.

After Fehr met with the media last night to say the two sides were "close", only later to find out by voice message that, in fact, they weren't, Bettman responded with a press conference of his own and ripped the NHLPA.

For a man usually composed and collected, Bettman was visibly angry, the stream practically pouring out of his ears. He did his best to spin the NHLPA's spin, all the while conveniently forgetting to disclose the fact that talks fell apart once the players decided to bring in Fehr to close the deal (because that's his job, you know).

The whole scene may as well have been a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum on the playground because little Donnie wasn't going to hand over the best parts of his lunch just like Gary demanded. "No no no no no, I wanted all of the Dunkaroos, three of the cookies, and only half of the sandwich. What don't you get? I want it noooooooowwwwww."

It was bizarre theatre.

But it's Bettman that usually makes fans infuriated, so to see the NHL commissioner meet his match, find someone who vexes him to no end, is satisfying.

Despite fan antipathy towards Bettman, today for The Good Point I wrote that his long-standing tradition of handing out the Stanley Cup should persist, boos and all.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Much Longer Does Burke Have as Leafs GM?

Brian Burke Leafs
Four years ago today Brian Burke took over the Toronto Maple Leafs. His reign has coincided with one of the worst four-year stretches in team history.

On average, GMs last between five and six years with one team. If the Leafs once again fail to make the playoffs in Burke's fifth season as GM, ownership will have to seriously consider changing leadership.

After next season, Leafs ownership has two options: 1) fire Burke immediately, or 2) commit to Burke long-term. Giving Burke any more than one year to guide the Leafs, but less than a long-term mandate, will be catastrophic.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What You Need to Know About Decertification

Donald Fehr evil
The NHLPA made a big step towards the owners on Wednesday, only to be summarily rejected in about the time it takes to get your pizza delivered.

Now the NHLPA is fuming and for the first time this lockout the whispers of decertification are turning into shouts.

But what exactly is decertification and how can it help end the lockout? Below is an easy to read guide to everything you need to know about decertification.

Big thanks to sports lawyer Gabe Feldman for much of the information used in this article. For Feldman's full and much more detailed legal description of decertification, you can read his FAQ at the Huffington Post and Grantland.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Seeds of Dissent: Hamrlik Speaks Out Against NHLPA

Roman Hamrlik Capitals
The first real ripple of dissent has ripped through the NHLPA.

In an interview with the Czech newspaper Daily Sport, Washington defenceman Roman Hamrlik blasted NHLPA head Donald Fehr.

"I am disgusted," Hamrlik told Daily Sport (translated by TV Nova's Roman Jedlicka). "We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us. We lost (one-quarter) of the season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us, Mr. Fehr?"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don Cherry's Twitter Stories

Don Cherry subtle jacket
Don Cherry is killing it on Twitter.

Most of his tweets are the usual Coach's Corner-type rants, but he has also started telling some more mundane stories that are actually pretty (unintentionally) hilarious.

In a recent interview with James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, Don Cherry opened up about many things, his newfound love of Twitter among them.

"Well, nobody knows why I’m on Twitter. But what happened was, about five guys had my name out there, using my name as Twitter. So, CBC, they said we’ve got to protect ourselves. So we want you in the playoffs to start a Twitter. And I was ‘Come on, are you kidding?’ I thought Twitter was for birds to tell you the truth."

But Don doesn't tweet himself, something Marlies coach Dallas Eakins made light of after Don criticized how Eakins and the Leafs handled Nazem Kadri arriving at training camp out-of-shape. 
"So what I do is I phone in if I see something that bothers me. She (Kathy Broderick) takes care of it. She does the typing and all of that because I couldn’t do all that.

I'm having some fun on Storify compiling the tweets and adding a little extra.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why a Year-Long Lockout Helps the Leafs

Getzlaf Luongo Leafs
"Meet me in Toronto," Roberto Luongo whispered to Ryan Getzlaf.
The lockout is undeniably terrible. But when play resumes (hopefully before 2022) Leafs fans might discover it was the best thing to happen to the team.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Where Will Matt Frattin Play?

Matt Frattin Leafs
Matt Frattin is too good for the AHL.

He has 24 goals in 36 career AHL games, which includes 10 he scored in 13 playoff games.

With a disappointing 6-4-0-1 start and a scant 33 goals forward, the Toronto Marlies will be happy to add the winger to their lineup when he returns from injury, which could be as early as Friday.

Frattin was one of the brighter lights on a strong Marlies team last season, which gave Leafs Nation hope that he would soon help the Maple Leafs.

While Frattin has shown an ability to score at the AHL level, he was used primarily in a bottom six role with the big club, minus a few games played alongside Mikhail Grabovski after Randy Carlyle took over. 

Physically, Frattin has the making on a banging, crashing style forward that would be extremely valuable on the third line. And statistically, he should be able to excel in that role immediately. He scored 8 goals in 56 games, which prorates to about 11 over a full season. That's the amount a good third line winger scores.

But after his goal-scoring barrage in the AHL, perhaps his NHL ceiling is higher than that of a third line player.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bad Photoshops: Fantasy Hockey Avatars

Kriss Cross: A terrible rap group named after a terrible hockey player.
In the quest for fantasy hockey superiority, you need to spend time studying sleepers, obviously, and everyone knows a kick-ass name will help too. But a seemingly undervalued aspect of creating a fantasy hockey juggernaut is outfitting your team with the type of logo that strikes fear (or, more accurately, laughter) into the hearts of your opponents.

Here is a sampling of my (bad) Photoshop efforts to create a logo/avatar for different fantasy hockey team names. I will take requests in the comment section if you are brave.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Will AHL Success Translate to NHL Superiority?

Justin Faulk Hurricanes
Barring a shocking lockout resolution after today's "secret" bargaining session, the closest thing to NHL hockey is taking place in AHL rinks across the continent.

And although AHL hockey is great, it can't replace NHL hockey. Sure, I want to see the Marlies do well, but I don't hang on every shot like I do with the Maple Leafs. In fact, I'm largely watching the AHL to see if the players can eventually help the Leafs.

Many Leafs fans clung to the fact that the Marlies made last year's Calder Cup Final as evidence that the future was bright for the parent club. A slow start to the season doesn't have everyone putting the same stock into results, which made me wonder how predictive AHL success is of NHL success.

Today's post at The Good Point looks at how well AHL success translates into NHL success. Do NHL teams that have good farm teams eventually become better teams themselves? Is the relationship between the two stronger after a lockout?

Click the link to find out!

But...I also have some additional content on the matter. If a strong AHL team means a strong NHL team, which teams will follow the path set by their AHL counterparts and blaze a trail into the playoff? More specifically, which NHL teams that were bad in 2011-12 (ala Toronto) will reverse the trend and play hockey in the spring?

Monday, November 5, 2012

2012 Fantasy Hockey Team Names

Bieksa and I Know It: No team name is complete without a terrible Photoshop
Follow Five Minutes For Fighting on Twitter and Facebook! And read the list of 2013 Fantasy Hockey Team Names.

Studies show that how well you do in fantasy hockey is directly related to how creative and funny your team name is. The funnier your name, the better you will do. It's science. Don't question it.

With that in mind, you better pick a great team name this year. But here's the secret: You don't actually have to put much effort into a great name, just refer to this year's handy list of the best fantasy hockey team names.

I do not claim to have thought of all of these myself, but like a homely librarian, I have done my curatorial duties and amassed a list of the web's best for your own personal use.

If nothing on this year's list suits your fancy, you can find the list from 2010 here and 2011 here. There is sure to be something that you like.

So, in keeping with tradition, here is this year's list of the best fantasy hockey team names. Feel free to post your own suggestions in the comment section.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Movember: NHL Style Guide

The moustache has endured in hockey, much like the mullet, even during times when it has fallen out of favour with the general population.

Now moustaches are given a whole month, whether in style or not, all for raising money/awareness for prostate cancer

If you are growing a moustache for Movember and are having a hard time determining how to style your soup strainer, why not look to the pros.

The internet has plenty of style guides already available (like here, here, here, and here), but they won't tell you what is NHL-chic.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Rebuild Off the Rails

Steve Sullivan Leafs
Brian Burke's five-year rebuild that wasn't supposed to take five years is taking longer than expected.

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs rebuilt, it was quick and almost painless. The team missed the playoffs only twice—in 1997 and 1998—but would become a post-season mainstay for the next six years.

But that mid-90s rebuild did not happen in one fell swoop—the three biggest trades actually occurred over a five-year period—and could be better characterized as a slow core replacement, rather than a fire-sale.

After bowing out of back-to-back conference finals, the Leafs began a process of turning their three most important players—Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, and Felix Potvin—into what should have been a strong group to build around in the future.

In Wendel Clark's case the return was overwhelming, but the players that came back in other trades were bungled away.

The Leafs still became a perennial contender in the late-90s and early-2000s, largely thanks to successful plunges into free agency, but poor asset management and pure, dumb luck ruined the rest of what should have been an overwhelmingly successful rebuild.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How a New CBA Affects a Roberto Luongo Trade

Roberto Luongo Canucks Leafs
A lockout hasn't stopped the endless Roberto Luongo rumours.

Last week, Sportsnet's John Shannon reported that there is an agreement between Toronto and Vancouver that would send the 33-year-old netminder to the Leafs once the lockout ends. Apparently Brian Burke and Mike Gillis (who both denied Shannon's report) have been in communication for a long time, ever since the Canucks reportedly asked for Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin, and a first-round pick at June's entry draft. That asking price was obviously a non-starter for the Leafs, but a deal surrounding Bozak is supposedly very much alive.

However, with the owners' latest CBA proposal, which would stick teams who sign a player for more than five years with that player's cap hit upon retirement, there is speculation in some corners that the price just went up.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure: CBA Negotiations

After hockey fans became briefly optimistic over the owners' surprise proposal, the air was let totally out of the balloon once it was made clear that it wasn't an invitation for negotiation, it was an ultimatum.

We know it wasn't an offer to negotiate because the NHLPA gave three different counter-offers, all of which were flat out rejected. It was basically a Choose Your Own Adventure proposal.

Here's some background information if you are too old and never had the opportunity to read a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Or if you are too young, which would mean they have stopped making them. That would be a true injustice. 

Choose Your Own Adventure books were great. You read a story until the main character had a crucial decision to make. At that point you became the protagonist and you got to choose what adventure to lead. You skipped to a certain page based on the path you chose. Sometimes your decision would lead to a happy ending, while other times it would result in you being eaten by a pride of lions. It wasn't for the faint of heart. Luckily, if you kept your finger on the "decision page" you could easily go back and justify to yourself that you meant to pick "don't open the creepy cellar door". Other times you died either way. It was fun!

It's not well known, but there is actually a Choose Your Own Adventure: CBA Negotiations book. It's your chance to get into the thick of the negotiations and help save the NHL season. Watch out for traps!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: The Best of Down Goes Brown

Felix Potvin Wayne Gretzky
The exact moment Down Goes Brown decided to use comedy to ease his pain.
Sean McIndoe, better known as Down Goes Brown, runs the funniest blog on the internet.

Of course, he's long since graduated from being simply a blogger. His work has appeared in The National Post and Grantland; TSN often has him live-blog or tweet through an event, such as the rebroadcast of classic international games; and he is a frequent guest on radio and TV spots (including an episode of The Agenda in which he debated concussions with Ken Dryden).

Now he's gone totally mainstream with his newly published book, The Best of Down Goes Brown.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012-2013 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

Picture courtesy of D. Courville, who awards it to the owner in his league who trades the most draft picks.
Follow Five Minutes For Fighting on Twitter or "like" us on Facebook.

I must admit I've had this article written for weeks now. I've been too sad to post it.

That infernal lockout.

Fantasy baseball seasons are over, and usually that means immediately shifting gears and preparing for your hockey draft. But what's the point when you know the lockout is going to last until sometime between 2015 and 2022.

However, the two sides are meeting today (to discuss non-core economic issues), which should give a brief 10 minutes of optimism (which will surely be crushed swiftly).

But in those brief moments, you might think there will be a season this year. If that's the case, here are some players to help you win your fantasy pool.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Can Kadri Follow in Pacioretty's Footsteps?

Nazem Kadri Leafs
Another training camp, another unflattering Nazem Kadri story.

This time, however, it wasn't even at Maple Leafs camp. On the opening day of the Marlies' training camp, head coach Dallas Eakins answered a reporter's question about Kadri's fitness levels (supposedly better after an off-season training with Gary Roberts) and responded that he was in the bottom 3-5 in camp. He was also described as being "average" on a number of fitness drills. Not the type of story to start the year.

Now Leafs fans are worrying over the former seventh overall pick's development, wondering if he is another bust in a long line of Toronto draft disappointments.

It wasn't long ago that further east along the 401 Montreal Canadiens fans were similarly fretting about one of their own top prospects.

Max Pacioretty, like Kadri, was a first round pick, although he was taken later in the first round (22nd overall). Just like Kadri, Pacioretty failed to make the NHL immediately after being drafted, instead hitting the books and going back to college for a year. Once turning professional, he also was yo-yo'd back and forth between the AHL and NHL, although not to the same degree as Kadri.

Now, after years of fan agony, Pacioretty has finally established himself as a top-line winger, something Kadri has yet to do. But the Montreal left winger's slow ascent should give hope to many waiting for Kadri to similarly fill his promise.

Leafs fans can learn something from Max Pacioretty's development.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto

The Maple Leafs suck and you're an idiot for liking them.

That's essentially the premise of Why The Leafs Suck And How They Can Be Fixed by Al Strachan and Leafs AbomiNation: The dismayed fan's handbook to why the Leafs stink and how they can rise again by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange.

The titles of both books imply that the authors, in their infinite wisdom, have the secrets to turning the Leafs around, although neither really does. Instead, both books spend the bulk of their print describing years worth of Leafs idiocy and basically laughing at anyone who is stupid enough to support the team.

Peter Robinson, author of the upcoming book Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto: Life as a Maple Leafs Fan, chooses not to take the same tired path as the aforementioned authors. Robinson doesn't want to profiteer off Leafs fans' misery, because he is one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Norm Macdonald Recaps the '72 Summit Series

In a collection of amusing and entertaining tweets, comedian Norm Macdonald recapped the 1972 Summit Series on Monday night.

Here are his tweets, in addition to highlights from the series as well as some footnotes explaining what he's talking about in a little more detail.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lockout Lasting: What to Watch

We're over a week into the NHL lockout and the lines of communication between both sides has pretty much disintegrated.

Bill Daly said today that he hopes talks will resume shortly. Well, if you're one of the heavy hitters during negotiations don't you think it would be helpful if you picked up the phone and scheduled something? Don't be afraid of making the first move, this isn't a middle school dance.

So as the outlook becomes bleaker every day it's time to start preparations for a long, protracted vacation from the NHL. But that doesn't mean a vacation from hockey. There is plenty to look forward to this season, it just won't be happening in the NHL.

Check out a list of some of the things to look forward to over at The Good Point.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Retro Diary: Canada Cup Final 1987 - Game 3

Mario Lemieux goal Canada Cup
It all came down to this. Canada vs. the Soviet Union. At stake? Only world domination (at least on the ice).

Canada got off to a rocky start and initially looked like they were on the verge of being blown out. But a little bit of Canadian gumption helped the team pick themselves off the mat and eventually back into the game.

Like the other two games in the series, game three was a classic, and goes down in history as one of the best hockey games of all time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Retro Diary: Canada Cup Final 1987 - Game 2

Gretzky Lemieux Canada Cup
After losing a shocker to the Soviets in Montreal, Team Canada traveled west to Hamilton for Game 2 of the 1987 Canada Cup Final.

The team was battling the injury bug, with only 10 regular forwards in the lineup. It got to the point that defenceman James Patrick was being used up front.

But like every smart coach before him, Mike Keenan went to his big guns to pull out the victory. He sent Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux over the boards every chance he got, basically running them into the ground.

It was a wild back-and-forth affair that took two overtimes to solve. After the game Gretzky would tell reporters that it was the most physically and mentally draining game of his life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Retro Diary: Canada Cup Final 1987 - Game 1

Gretzky Lemieux Canada Cup
The Summit Series in 1972 is one of the defining moments in Canadian history. 

In many ways it was more than a simple hockey series, it was a battle between communism and capitalism. It was a battle between two very different ways of life.

The Iron Curtain shrouded the USSR in mystery, which led many in Canada to severely underestimate the Soviets' ability, which was evident by the total shock the reverberated from coast to coast after the 7-3 drubbing Canada received in the opening game.

Eventually, thanks largely to Paul Henderson, Phil Esposito, and a tomahawk chop from Bobby Clarke, Canada prevailed, although the myth of Canadian superiority was shattered. In addition to showing the talent gap between East and West was miniscule, the series made it apparent that not all of the best players in the world were in the NHL.

The success of the Summit Series led to demand for a true world championship of hockey, which eventually led to the creation of the Canada Cup in 1976. That year both Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull, two players who were forced to miss the Summit Series for various reasons, helped Canada capture the tournament's inaugural championship.

The Soviet Union won the next edition in 1981, with a 8-1 drubbing of Canada in the final. It was a national embarrassment, and one that was only slightly avenged in 1984 as Canada eliminated the Soviet Union in the semifinal, before defeating Sweden for the gold.

Nothing could compete with the tournament in 1987, however. Canada met the Soviet Union in the final, which Wayne Gretzky described as "the biggest thing since '72." The two hockey super-powers had another chance to determine who was the greatest hockey playing nation on Earth. More importantly, the tournament marked the first and only time that Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, the two greatest hockey players ever, donned the same uniform. The pair didn't disappoint.

Besides Gretzky and Lemiuex, Team Canada boasted nine other Hall of Famers, including Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, and Ray Bourque. The team was so stacked that players like Al MacInnis, Patrick Roy, and Steve Yzerman didn't make the team. It might just be the greatest collection of hockey players ever assembled.

TSN is replaying the classic final (Sept. 11, 12, and 13 at 7:30 PM ET) and it is definitely worth the watch. It might just be the best series in the history of hockey. It's also pretty easy to find on YouTube if you don't want to wait. And if you want to own a piece of hockey history yourself, it is also available on DVD.

Over the next three days I will have a three-part series recapping each game in detail. Here is a running diary of the classic first game, in which the Soviets stunned Canada and put them on the brink of elimination.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A History of Harold Ballard's Villainy

Harold Ballard Leafs
The recent passing of Art Modell, the former Baltimore Ravens owner who moved the team from Cleveland, has prompted the "new Browns" to hold a special tribute before Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. 

While most people do not feel the joy in someone's death, even someone they very may well have hated, any sort of tribute for the man who ripped the Browns from Cleveland will surely be met with hostility.

It wasn't long ago that Toronto had their own Art Modell. Not an owner who was hell-bent on moving the team, but one that destroyed them nonetheless.

Harold Ballard.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Youth is Served

Gabriel Landeskog has topped off his Calder winning season with another accolade: He's now the youngest captain in the history of the NHL.

In most cases I'm all for conservatively bringing along young players in the NHL, not giving them too much responsibility before they are ready, and putting them in the best possible position to succeed. Draft picks are too valuable to just throw an 18-year-old to the wolves and hope he can figure it out for himself.

That's why you might think I would be against Colorado's decision to name Landeskog their new captain, what with the added pressure and responsibility that comes with the title. But for certain special players, the choice is obvious. No one batted an eye when Jonathan Toews was named captain after his rookie season because he was such an obvious choice, he just oozed leadership (pesky teenage hormones). Landeskog is from a similar mould and as history has shown, young leaders work.

Check out The Good Point to read more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cap-Cutting Measures

Amazingly, this picture was not Photoshopped.
Labour negotiations between the league and the players' association are still in their infancy, despite the lockout deadline looming ever larger. The two sides are set to meet again today after the league tabled a new proposal that is much softer than their initial ludicrous demand. It still likely isn't going to go over well with the player's association, but it's a start.

The league's offer would cut the salary cap to $58 million next season, down more than $12 million from the current figure. As it stands now, there are 16 teams already over that limit, yet the league's offer did not include any sort of salary rollback. How are teams supposed to become cap compliant? Well, a contract amnesty would be a good start.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article for The Good Point on the benefits of a one-time contract amnesty. With the league's proposal there would have to be a five-time contract amnesty for some teams (looking at you, Calgary).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anti-Fantasy Hockey

Did you draft Nino Niederreiter as a sleeper in your fantasy pool last year only to be rewarded with a disastrous one point, minus-29 rating in 55 games?

What if instead of being a total bust, that was an MVP-calibre season. No, I don't mean what if Uncle Nino scored 100 points, I mean what if that terrible season was exactly what you envisioned.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Many Faces of Gary Bettman

It isn't a stretch to say that Gary Bettman isn't well-liked among fans. Case in point: Every year fans boo Bettman mercilessly as he hands the Stanley Cup to the winning captain. It doesn't matter if the home team won either, fans just love booing Bettman. They can temporarily put aside their euphoria over winning the cup.

Bettman also hasn't found many friends in the media. It isn't as obvious as a cascade of jeers in front of a national TV audience, but by examining the pictures reporters use for their stories, it's clear they aren't fond of the NHL commissioner.

Almost none of the pictures used make Bettman look serious. In fact, many of the photographs are so utterly comical that you'd think the piece was satirical. Wrong. Most of the following photos come from actual news stories.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Falling Down

"I'm done. Good luck with Niklas Kronwall as your No. 1 defenceman."
It's a sad state of affairs when every article has to be prefaced with "if there is a season." It makes reading and writing about hockey almost a futile venture, unless of course you're actually reading and writing about labour negotiations (and I'm with most fans in the 'wake-me-when-it's-over' boat).

But in the face of an impending lockout, I'm taking the stance that there will be a season, facts be damned. The league is making too much money to throw it all away with another lost season. I'm sure the Sept. 15 deadline will pass and the players will get locked out, but this won't be a repeat of 2004, when the season was eventually cancelled.

So if there will be a season (and there better be), I might as well act like it's going to happen. Here's an article I wrote for The Good Point looking at a group of teams that are poised to drop in the standings this season (you know, if there is one).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tomas Kaberle: A Trade Rumour History

Tomas Kaberle Leafs trade
Not so long ago, Tomas Kaberle was the only bright light during increasingly dark times in Toronto.

With the Leafs attempting to rebuild, Kaberle's name was linked in just about every trade rumour imaginable. Finally, after what seemed like years of endless rumours, Kaberle was dealt to the Boston Bruins for Joe Colborne, a first-round pick, and a conditional second-round pick, which eventually went to Toronto after Boston won the 2011 Stanley Cup.

However, Kaberle has been involved in trade talks long before Brian Burke struggled to bring respectability back to Toronto. Here are five major trades that would have seen Tomas Kaberle packing his bags and the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs change dramatically.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to the Future IV: Burke to the Future

It is late July 2012. The scene opens in Brian Burke's office at the ACC. The Leafs haven't made the playoffs since 2004 and have finished in the bottom third of the league in each season of Burke's three-and-a-half year reign as GM.

He is sitting at his desk, tie untied, empty bottle of whisky in the trash can, as he looks at a sheet of paper titled "Toronto Maple Leafs Roster, 2012-13". It is making him sad. The margins of the page are filled with the names Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, written over and over again in loopy handwriting, and set inside the centre of a heart. Burke also has scraps of paper on his desk with the words, "Will you be my No. 1 centre? Check yes or no. Sincerely, your secret admirer." He will be mailing them soon.

Burke takes a break from his current predicament to fondly remember his days in Anaheim. Winning. Truculence. No Mike Komisarek. Suddenly, Cliff Fletcher bursts through the door.

FLETCHER: It's your team, Burkie, something has got to be done about your team! Read this!

Fletcher hands Burke a newspaper from 2006. On the front page is a picture of Bryan McCabe and JFJ smiling and shaking hands.

BURKE: "The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Bryan McCabe to a 5-year, $28.75 million contract, General Manager John Ferguson Jr. announced last night." Fletch, I already know about Bryan McCabe. Why are you making me read this garbage.

FLETCHER: You see, this one event starts a chain reaction that completely destroys the entire franchise. I already went further ahead into time to see what else happens. I backtracked everything to this one event, that's why we have to prevent this incident from ever happening.

Burke looks at Fletcher like he has two heads.

BURKE: Hold on, how are we supposed to stop something that has already happened?

FLETCHER: I did it. I finally did it. People have been wondering what I've been doing on the team payroll all these years, and I finally did it.

BURKE: Uh, did what?

FLETCHER: I built a time machine, Burkie—out of a Vespa.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Soon is Now? Is Kadri Ready

Nazem Kadri Leafs
The time for Nazem Kadri to make the NHL is now.

On average it takes a prospect about three years to stick in the NHL. That’s exactly how many years it has been since the Leafs spent the seventh overall pick in the 2009 entry draft on Kadri.

This is a pivotal season for Kadri to prove he’s capable of playing in the NHL. The Leafs need to see it happen now, because the longer it takes for him to prove he’s ready, the more his trade value diminishes. And as a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004, the Leafs can’t afford to waste a top-10 draft pick.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Crying Poor

Five Stanley Cups put Edmonton on the map, helping it land the nickname 'The City of Champions'. But if you listen to Oilers' owner Daryl Katz and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel it's going to take a brand-new rink to put Edmonton on the map. And who should pay for that rink? Why not billionaire Daryl Katz, but rather the good people of Edmonton. What a surprise.

Sure, a nice, fancy, new arena would be a whole lot of fun, but when the public is held hostage by owners and made to subsidize the cost, which inevitably go way over budget, it's a scam.

Check out today's post at The Good Point to read more.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How Much is Shea Weber Worth?

Shea Weber Predators
If you could sign the best defenceman in the NHL, how much would you be willing to pay? That's the question many GMs are asking themselves as the possibility of Shea Weber becoming an unrestricted free agent is only one year away.

The Nashville Predators just lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild and have to immediately work on signing Weber to a long-term contract. But without his defence partner, which certainly hurts Nashville's chances of contending, is Weber committed to staying with the Predators?

Last year Weber signed a one-year deal as a restricted free agent to determine whether the team was committed enough to winning. Well, GM David Poile re-signed Pekka Rinne to a massive deal, brought in rentals at the deadline, and made a strong pitch to keep Suter.

Accordingly, if Weber signs a one-year deal this year he will essentially be telling the Predators it wasn't enough, he's leaving.

With that possibility, rival GMs are asking the same question that Poile is asking: How much is Weber worth?

Friday, July 6, 2012

What's the Hold Up?

Unlike last year, this year's free agent market hasn't produced a feeding frenzy like everyone expected. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter got paid, but no team has taken the Florida Panthers approach of overpaying every average player available and hoping it's enough for the playoffs (I still can't believe it was for Florida).

Sure, the Flames overpaid both Dennis Wideman and the soon-to-regress-terribly Jiri Hudler, but that's just the Flames doing Flamesy things. Jay Feaster doesn't think he overpaid either of those players; in his mind the Flames got a steal. It will be interesting to see what the team does when the cap drops from $70 million. I want a camera there when someone tells Feaster he's over the cap by a good $5 million.

Yesterday at the Good Point I wrote about whether the big hold up on the UFA-front is due to the CBA that will expire at the end of the summer. I also speculate about whether a certain Tim Connolly, and players of his ilk, can be traded (hint: yes).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why the Sharks Need Rick Nash

Rick Nash Canada Joe Thornton
The San Jose Sharks are at a crossroads.

After making back-to-back Western Conference Finals in 2010 and 2011, the Sharks were ousted in the first round this season by the St. Louis Blues, a younger, faster, and hungrier squad. The Sharks squeaked out a 3-2 win in double overtime in Game 1, but lost the next four straight. Overnight, it looked like San Jose’s window to contend slammed shut.

That’s why more than any other team, the Sharks need to trade for Rick Nash.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Buying Low: Peter Mueller

The Toronto Maple Leafs have spent over $66.5 million on unrestricted free agents since Brian Burke took over in 2008. Of that, only $12.5 million, divvied up between Francois Beauchemin and Clarke MacArthur, was spent wisely.

The rest of the money has gone to Colby Armstrong, Mike Komisarek, Tim Connolly, Brett Lebda, Colton Orr, and other even less notable names.

Burke once promised that “July 1 would be our draft”, but the list of names that have arrived in Toronto has made Leafs fans wish Burke traded his “picks”.

So far this off-season Burke has resisted overpaying any of the underwhelming free agents. Aside from Jay McClement, who inked a reasonable two-year deal worth $1.5 million a season, the Leafs have watched other teams feast on the UFA buffet. Brandon Prust did not become Colby Armstrong 2.0 and Bryce Salvador did not get the Mike Komisarek treatment.

Barring a miraculous signing of Ryan Suter or Zach Parise (which isn’t happening, sorry), the Leafs' best chance is to wait for the market to cool and take a flier on a player later in the summer. Burke did the same with MacArthur in 2009, waiting until late August to sign what would be a 60-point scorer for only $1.1 million.

The player the Leafs could take a chance on this year is former eighth overall pick Peter Mueller after the Colorado Avalanche failed to offer Mueller arbitration, thus making him an unrestricted free agent at the age of 24.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Justin Schultz's Decision

Justin Schultz Wisconsin Edmonton
Justin Schultz abandoned the Anaheim Ducks and he had every right to do so.

Thanks to a loophole in the CBA, Schultz was able to become an unrestricted free agent before playing a game in the NHL. After completing his junior year at Wisconsin, he refused to sign with the Ducks and was courted by close to every team in the league, ultimately signing with Edmonton.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Mats Sundin is a Hall of Famer

Mats Sundin Leafs
Mats Sundin was never the best player in the NHL. He never won a major award and he never won a Stanley Cup. Despite lacking these typical qualifications, Mats Sundin is a Hall of Famer.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Draft Day Wheeling and Dealing

"Trade the pick!? That would require an ability to do more than sit around and pray for the lottery."
A couple of years ago Scott Cullen of TSN wrote a couple great articles breaking down the value of draft picks. It basically broke down how likely a team was to draft a quality player from certain spots in the draft. Amazingly, even if a team owns one of the first three picks there is only a 60 percent chance that player turns out to be at least a top-6 forward or top-4 defenceman. 60 percent! That's crazy.

Here's a graph I made showing how likely a player is to develop into a top-6 forward or top-6 defenceman based on when they are drafted in the first round. After round one the chances are less than 10 percent.

Likelihood of a first round pick becoming at least a top-6 forward or top-4 defenceman.
He also looked at the chances of a player suiting up for at least 100 games in his career. After the first round even that minimal accomplishment is a pretty difficult feat to achieve. In conclusion: drafting is hard!

Likelihood of a draft pick playing at least 100 games in the NHL.
I've used this data to take a look at when it is best for teams to trade up or down in the draft. You can read more at The Good Point.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why Luongo is Toronto's Answer in Goal

A stray elbow to the head turned more than James Reimer’s world upside-down last season; it sent Brian Burke’s carefully constructed plan for contending crashing to the ground. Now Burke must search desperately to find a veteran netminder capable of leading the Maple Leafs to the playoffs.

Although Ben Scrivens just finished an amazing season in the AHL, winning goaltender of the year, the disaster of 2011-12 means the Leafs cannot start training camp pinning their hopes on two unproven goalies. With public anger rising around Burke, entrusting the keys to the post-season to Reimer and Scrivens won’t happen. Burke was burned by this same gamble last season and is in no position to roll the dice again.

More importantly, failing to find a goalie was the same problem that eventually caused his firing in Vancouver. If he doesn't find a proven goalie to share the net with either Reimer or Scrivens it could ultimately be his downfall in Toronto as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2012 5MFF Playoff Awards

Dustin Brown stanley cup
Welcome to the hockeyless nights of the summer. It is truly a barren wasteland of nothingness. Sure, there's baseball, and that will keep you sane, but without hockey, you might as well just go into summer hibernation.

Before shifting gears totally into off-season modegetting excited for the draft, the blockbuster trades, and the free agent bonanza that is sure to comewe should shed a tear for another season gone, and hand out some awards to the deserving few for a playoffs well done.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Crowning the Kings of the NHL

dustin penner king stanley cup
Building a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup is hard; building a team capable of doing it year after year is even harder.

The model franchise in the regard is the Detroit Red Wings, a team that won four Stanley Cups in the past 20 years, not to mention to other appearances in the Final. They’ve built a team about as close to a dynasty as you can get and are the type of organization that others try to emulate.

This year’s Stanley Cup Final pits two teams that could head in different directions after Gary Bettman hands over the silver mug. One, the LA Kings, have all the necessary ingredients to stay atop the NHL for the foreseeable future, whereas the other, the New Jersey Devils, may wind up being a one-and-done contender.

Check out yesterday’s post at The Good Point to read more.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Wendel Clark All-Stars

wendel clark doug gilmour
"Where's your beard?"
Dustin Penner's playoff beard is overrated. There I said it. The mountain man from Manitoba may have a beard that is the woolly mammoth of beards, almost like an air bag of hair protecting his face from harm, but it's overrated. Just as overrated as Shea Weber's beard last year.

Now, this is certainly blasphemy, because anyone with a working set of eyes can see that Penner's beard lords over all other beards, just as Weber's beard last year took on a "Madness? This is Sparta" quality that kicked all other beards into a pit of death.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Going For It: The Calgary Flames Story

bob hartley flames
According to Albert Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If one of history's greatest scientists was alive today he might look at the Calgary Flames and see insanity personified.

The Calgary Flames have missed the playoffs for the past three seasons and haven't passed the first round since making the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. The roster is aging and the prospect pool is thin, which seem like good reasons to start a rebuild, but Calgary has other ideas. The Flames are blind to the apparent, and yesterday's hiring of Bob Hartley confirms that, although not on the surface.
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