A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Fishing for Fins: Sharks add Niemi

Sharks fans everywhere scoffed at acquiring Antti Niemi throughout the summer and they all were forced to eat crow Sept. 2 when the Sharks officially announced the signing of the Finnish goalie.

San Jose now boasts a goaltending tandem of also Fin, Antero Niittymaki and Niemi as opposed to last year’s twosome of Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss.

But you won’t see any partying in the streets. Reaction everywhere on Sharks forums is negative and pessimistic. Of course, being a Sharks fan, the only thing you know is bad luck and seeing the glass half empty.

Niemi signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Sharks

Playoff Proven

The addition of a Stanley Cup-winning goalie is an upgrade over Niittymaki first and foremost. You can argue technique and positioning all day, but Niemi has shown he can make the big saves when called upon.

Niittymaki has only played in two NHL playoff games and looked awful (.828 save percentage, five goals against in 73 minutes). That isn’t a big enough sample size to judge him on playoff play, but it puts him in the same boat as Thomas Greiss.

Previous all-star Nabokov was an OK playoff performer (.907 save %, 2.56 GAA), but couldn’t steal enough games by himself to bring his team to the promise land. Some fans have even dared to bring up how good he is in the regular season. Are you kidding me? Every Sharks fan should know by now how much the regular season means.

But didn’t Niemi have a great defense?

The biggest argument against Niemi and his Stanley Cup ring is that he had a spectacular defense in front of him. That’s very true, and playing for the Sharks will be a completely different experience.

However, we don’t truly know how that defense affected Niemi’s psyche. Maybe knowing he had a defense in front of him, he didn’t play up to his potential and relied on the defense to clear out his gigantic rebounds. Now backstopping an average defense in San Jose could spark him to step up his game to higher level.

Pure speculation but it’s something to think about.

Lame Argument

Niittymaki supporters like to mention that “when he’s on, he’s unstoppable.” This is an argument I love to hate. When any goalie is “on” they can be unstoppable. And if you have to use that argument at all in the first place, it means the goalie is inconsistent.

I wonder if Niitty is "on" in this picture.

The puzzle is still incomplete

One odd reaction to the Niemi addition is that people seem to think this is the roster the Sharks will enter the season with — three NHL starting goalies on one team with another star prospect (Alex Stalock) in the minors.

There is no way this team stays the way it is now. I think some trade will happen before the season starts — probably involving Greiss — to acquire a defenseman.

Ryane Clowe is a name that’s been thrown around numerous times for a package deal to bring in a top-4 defenseman. Something does have to be done about the defense, it doesn’t matter if Patrick Roy were the Sharks goalie, the defense has to improve.

San Jose lacks a shutdown pair, and unfortunately, Huskins-Wallin just won’t cut it (haha).

I’m not a fan of the Dan Boyle-Douglas Murray pair, just because I’m not a Murray fan. I think he’s a pylon who’s only good for one big hit a game. He was terrible in the playoffs, always being a step behind the play and leaving a man open.

There’s been rumors of the Sharks trading Greiss + other assets to Philadelphia for Braydon Coburn, and other whisperings of a potential offer sheet for Rangers restricted free agent Marc Staal.

"Jesus" Greiss' days may be numbered in San Jose

Either would be an upgrade over Murray, but those may be forever pipe dreams.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson must know the defense needs an upgrade, so I wouldn’t fret about the Sharks defense as it is now. It will change — hopefully sooner than later.

-Ray

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September 4, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Column: The Boys Of Summer (Offseason Review)

Nathan Skytta takes some time from his busy summer schedule to take a look at the NHL offseason and its many twists and turns. Note: Article written Aug. 14.

Just over two months ago, fans of the NHL witnessed the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Philadelphia Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1960-61 season.  Now, with the countdown just over fifty days away from the drop of the puck in Helsinki, Finland, the Blackhawks have dismantled their championship team, the most prized free agent is still unsigned and those are just the beginning of the highlights that have made this summer so interesting for the fans of the NHL.

The Kovalchuk Puzzle

If anyone predicted this for Kovalchuk, please tell me my future.

The highlight of the offseason was the signing, or so we thought, of Ilya Kovalchuk by the New Jersey Devils. The agreement was for 17 years and over 100 million dollars, but as soon as it was signed, the NHL rejected it. The arbitrator assigned to the dispute upheld the NHL’s ruling that the contract went against salary cap regulations and therefore was illegal. We are now in the middle of August, and the most heralded free agent on the market this offseason, remains just that.

Nixing Niemi

Getting back to the Hawks, Antti Niemi, who was in net when the Hawks won the cup, won an arbitration hearing and was awarded a 2.75-million dollar salary. Because they are so close to the cap, the Hawks had no choice but to let Niemi, 26, become a free agent. The Hawks had a plan in place just in case they were forced to let Niemi go. The Hawks turned around and signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco. Turco, a three time all-star, had been let go by the Dallas Stars earlier this summer and was looking for a new home. Niemi remains unsigned and there’s no word on where he may end up.

Anybody want a Stanley Cup winning goalie?

Clipping more Hawks wings

Along with Niemi, the Hawks parted way with players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, and Andrew Ladd. When the Hawks raise the banner on opening night against rival Detroit, they will have a roster that has many people wondering if they will be able to repeat.

More Interesting Moves

Some other highlights of the offseason include former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov signing to play in the KHL (Russia), Mike Modano, a Michigan native, heading home to play for the Detroit Red Wings after signing a one-year deal, the Philadelphia Flyers either acquiring or signing every free agent defenseman on the market—not really but at one time they had 10 defenseman on their roster—and Steve Yzerman taking over the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, in hopes of bringing another championship team back to the Sunshine State.

A New Season Emerges

In the last 65 days since Patrick Kane snuck the championship-clinching shot between the legs of Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, teams have been revamped, players have changed addresses, and some big names remain on the market. Along with the aforementioned Kovalchuk, players like Paul Kariya, Miroslav Satan, and Lee Stempniak remain unsigned.

In the next few weeks, teams will begin reporting to camp and start writing the script on what they hope is a championship season of hockey. With two outdoor games scheduled this season, a new roster for the Blackhawks, and many teams making changes to their rosters, anything can happen. So fans, get the jerseys out, the hockey packages ordered on your cable network, and get your vocal cords ready for what’s going to be another fantastic season of NHL hockey.

-Nathan

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Hate Pennsylvania

The whole state of Pennsylvania. It’s full of the luckiest teams in the world and most annoying players.

Waaaaaaaaa Im such a Big Baby!

The Steelers are THE worst team to ever win the Super Bowl and they’ve done it twice in the 2000s. No, it is not skill. They barely win games, either by refs or magical lucky comebacks. Of course, fans will say that’s why their good– “They win, it doesn’t matter how.” Well, I’m not a fan, so I can say what I want, as you can. Ben Roethlisberger is a terrible quarterback. Fact. I hope Troy Polamalu is out for the season after his injury tonight that way I don’t have to hear the constant media coverage of his hair and playmaking ability. Not to mention Troy went to USC, which is just as bad as Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

This speaks for itself

This speaks for itself

The Penguins are also THE worst team to win the Stanley Cup. Give me statistics all you want, but I will still say Marc-Andre Fleury is the worst goalie to win it. Sidney Crosby is just an overall buttwipe in all aspects of life. Now, NBC and the NHL will promote him even more after he won the Cup. The whole Penguins team is soft and are not deserving of such an amazing trophy.

The Eagles are so freaking annoying. I’m tired of them winning and McNabb. Fans will always call you jealous for saying that but whatever. Let’s have a new team in the playoffs. Like the Cardinals! More of them!

Just ban Pennsylvania from pro sports. Life would be amazing.

Hi everyzbodyz! I iz doNoVaN :) I go to de special skool hehe

"Hi everyzbodyz! I iz doNoVaN 🙂 I go to de special skool hehe

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Football, Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NHL 2008-2009 Predicted Final Division Standings

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Atlantic Division

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Southeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Central Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northwest Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Pacific Division

October 9, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lace ’em up: The 2008 NHL season begins Saturday

Lace up your skates and hit the ice — it’s hockey time.

Ron Cortes/MCTPittsburg Penguins’ Sidney Crosby celebrates a goal by Ryan Malone during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The NHL season starts Saturday in Prague, Czech Republic, with the New York Rangers taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. This season begins after numerous offseason signings and trades that are sure to shake up the standings. Will the Detroit Red Wings repeat? How will the local teams, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, do? Which team is the dark horse? Which team will tumble into the depths of last place? Those questions will all be answered.

Following their Stanley Cup Finals victory, the Red Wings decided it would be best to sign another sniper — Marian Hossa. Surely, this will keep Detroit in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, but things will not be as easy this year. Goalie Dominik Hasek finally retired and defenseman Nick Lidstrom is one year older, as is Chris Chelios. Age has always been a factor for Detroit but they are winners in Hockeytown. However, the Central division, which Detroit is a part of, has been retooled and looks very formidable for the defending champs.

The Chicago Blackhawks are the team to watch in this division, and in the whole NHL. With their two young stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (both could be sophomores or juniors with us here at Virginia Tech), Chicago could easily challenge Detroit for the division crown. Its defense has been bolstered with offseason acquisition Brian Campbell, bringing offense to their blueline. The question mark for Chicago is its goaltender, Cristobal Huet. If he can match his second half of last season with Washington, Chicago will be in tremendous shape.

Let’s head back east and take a look at the defending Eastern Conference champions — the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens lost quite a few players in the offseason, namely Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and, of course, Marian Hossa. This is going to hurt them this year. They are in one of the most difficult divisions in hockey, the Atlantic.

Philadelphia is the main opponent for the Pens. There was not much movement by the Flyers except a huge contract extension for young franchise man Mike Richards. The past year allowed Richards and Briere to gel, and let Braydon Coburn break out into a top defenseman.

The Rangers lost a lot with Jaromir Jagr going to Russia. All of that experience and scoring is now halfway around the world. The pressure now solely rests with centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, both entering their second year in Madison Square Garden. The Rangers front office did help the loss of Jagr by bringing in Markus Naslund and blueliner Wade Redden. It will be a three-team race for the Atlantic title, but all three will end up in the playoffs. That means the Devils are out.

We will stay in the Eastern Conference and look at the Southeast division, won last year by Washington. Alexander Ovechkin proved again why he is one of the best players in the game, every bit as good as Sidney Crosby. There is a problem for the Capitals, though — the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa yanked Barry Melrose away from ESPN to be head coach, and with a slew of signees things look bright for the Lightning. This is the dark horse for the NHL. It would not be surprising for them to make it to the Eastern Conference finals, if they can sure up the goaltending.

Wrapping up the east is the Northeast division. Montreal goalie Carey Price, said to be the second coming of Patrick Roy, proved his worth last year. The Canadians dumped some useless salary and are still attempting to bring in will-he-or-won’t-he free agent Mats Sundin, your Roger Clemens of hockey. They should finish first in the division.

Montreal’s archrival, Boston is going to turn some heads this year. Barring any more injuries, they will be contenders, along with Ottawa and Buffalo in the division. Ottawa is going backwards, and Buffalo is at a stalemate. Now is the time for Buffalo to make its move. Watch for a big trade deadline deal for the Bruins.

Back out west, we find the Northwest and Pacific divisions. In these two, you will find some of the best goaltending and defense in the NHL. It’s all about hardnosed hockey here, with the occasional sprinkling of offensive firepower in San Jose and Detroit. The Northwest division lost a lot of talent and players shifted around to teams in the same conference. Anybody can win the Northwest — it’s that simple. Every team has a solid defense backed by exceptional goaltending.

The Pacific division is home to a perennial regular season powerhouse, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks’ problems come in the playoffs, and that is why they fired their coach Ron Wilson last year and brought in one of Detroit’s assistant coaches, Todd McClellan, to give the team a new, winning attitude. This coupled with the addition of a revamped blueline — Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich — means the pieces are once again in place for a deep playoff run.

The Stars and Ducks are going to give the Sharks everything they can handle, though, especially with goalies like Marty Turco and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Anaheim did not make any huge moves in the offseason, and Dallas lost a few key players from their Conference Finals run. That will not stop them from competing though. Both teams have superior coaches.

With all of that said, this looks to be another fantastic hockey season. More and more fans are tuning in and attending games, bringing back the love for hockey in America. It is truly a great and exciting sport. There is nothing more emotional in sports than seeing players lift the Stanley Cup after a strenuous eight-month journey. That journey begins tomorrow.

– Ray

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What the Hell Were We Thinking (Week 3, Nathan)… and the Ryder Cup Recap!

Dallas 27 Green Bay 16

So, for the first time ever the Dallas Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. It’s upsetting but somewhat expected. Mason Crosby, the best kicker in the game right now (especially since he is on my fantasy team.. sorry Ray) had 3 good field goals which helped me win my match-up in fantasy. I love when kickers can contribute to a winning team. (I am going to leave Tony Romo and Terrell “I’m a baby” Owens out of this blog. Thats because they are simply talked about too much. Until they win a Super Bowl, until they prove themselves worthy of my time, you won’t hear me say a word about them after this… ) The Packers are still the best team in the NFC North and will be back in the playoffs once again. Go get ’em boys!!!

Minnesota 20 Carolina 10

Wow! The Minnesota Vikings actually won a game. I guess Gus Frerotte can still lead a team to victory. The Panthers had won both games this season in the fourth quarter. Well, the Vikings did not even give them a chance to do that again. The Vikings looked like a good team. If this keeps up, they have a chance of challenging the Packers for the division.

Jacksonville 23 Indianapolis 21

A new stadium… Peyton Manning… and a Sunday Afternoon. What do you usually get? Usually its a Indianapolis Colts victory. But not this season. So far in the new stadium, they are 0-2 and have yet to take advantage of Tom Brady’s injury. They were supposed to be the second best team in the AFC and when Brady went down, that shot them straight up to the top of the League. Well so far, it looks like they need to go back to their old stomping grounds. Baltimore! Just kidding.

Miami 38 New England 13

For the first time in over a year, the New England Patriots have lost a regular season game. Joey Porter of the Miami Dolphins talked the talk, and he definitely walked the walk. The Patriots looked like they had no clue what they were doing out on the field. Matt Cassel spent more time on his back than a cheap hooker. (no offense… and no hate mail from ‘the corner’). Bill Parcells has made the Dolphins into a good team; not quite great but a good team. It was actually fun watching the Dolphins for the first time in a long time.

And now onto the most exciting thing that happened this weekend:

RYDER CUP RECAP

In Kentucky, Kenny Perry and the United States Ryder Cup Team brought home the trophy. For the first time in years, the Men beat the Boys from across the pond, in the 37th Ryder Cup.

While watching the Ryder Cup, I almost felt like I was watching a hockey game. The fans were chanting, the crowds were loud, and it was a blast to watch. When Jim Furyk’s championship clinching putt was conceded, I could not help but chant “USA, USA, USA!!!!!.”

While Phil Mickelson choked once again, Anthony Kim and Boo Weekly dazzled us Americans. The best part of this weekend was to see Paul Azinger, the captain of the American’s, riding around on his golf course doing “victory laps” and the fans chanting “BOO!!!!” after each and every amazing shot by fellow American, Boo Weekly. It was good to see the men having fun and celebrating a victory.

-Nathan

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Football, Golf | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Will They Repeat?

With 3 seconds left in the game, the puck sat on a member of the Penguins stick. It was just him and Chris Osgood, who had been dominant throughout the playoffs. The fans chanted 3, 2, and for a moment as the puck had gotten behind Osgood, and was trickling on the goal line, no one knew what was going on. Then, the final buzzer sounded, and the players jumped over the walls and the celebration had begun. The Cup was coming home to Detroit, home of Hockeytown. The Red Wings had won another Stanley Cup, and the celebration was just beginning.

Well now, some 3 months later, its time to start looking forward to another wonderful NHL season filled with many surprises, and at the end of the season, while Gary Bettman is being booed by many NHL fans, another group of guys will be named Stanley Cup Champions.

Believe it or not, there will be a number of teams that start out well but slowly fade off as the games go along. These guys are known as the Teasers because they simply “tease” their fans at the beginning of the season with hopes of being able to lift the Cup. The Nashville Predators and the Toronto Maple Leafs are two of the teams that are in rebuilding mode and even though their hopes are up at the beginning of the season, come trade deadline, they will be sellers instead of buyers. With the loss of key players, and many unproven players headed up to the NHL, its gonna be a tough season for both these teams.

The teams that have a decent chance at having a successful season, but with challenging schedules and tougher teams in their division, they may be looking in on the playoffs come April include Carolina and Colorado. Both teams have made some adjustments to their lineups from last season, and even though Carolina missed out barely on the playoffs, literally being eliminated on the last day, and Colorado made it to the second round before being swept by the future champs, both teams have quite an uphill battle to climp this season. Teams in both divisions have made vast changes to their lineup, and im not quite sure these two teams have done quite enough to match their opponents.

The shockers to look for in the 2008-2009 NHL season include the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. Both teams made a vast-array of changes to their lineups and the organizations, and believe it or not, this could be the matchup to look forward to come next June’s Stanley Cup Finals. If both teams can avoid injuries and maintain good defense’s then these two teams will meet in June.

The San Jose Sharks, Detroit Redwings and New Jersey Devils are 3 teams that are sure to be in the playoffs once again. All three teams have tweaked their lineups, and with veteran goaltending tandems, and bluelines that have more than proven themselves, all three teams have a great chance at meeting the standards to qualify for the playoffs.

The teams that may be on the bubble and may have to wait til April to decide whether or not they are in the playoffs include the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, and the Dallas Stars. All four teams made the playoffs last season but with a very tough schedule (all teams playing each other) and division opponents only playing each other so many times, its gonna be tough for division opponents to beat up on each other like the last few seasons. I expect all four teams to be in the playoffs but don’t be surprised if they dont qualify to the end of the season, possibly the last week.

The spoilers this season include the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, and Minnesota Wild. These teams have lost key players and have been plagued by injuries over the last few seasons. Many of their players are not yet proven on this level, and with other teams vastly approving, its gonna be a tough season for these fellas.

“ARE YOU READY..I SAID ARE YOU READY FOR SOME NHL HOCKEY!!!!” Summer is officially over, and with less than 3 weeks until training camp, I surely know I am. I hope everyone is strapped in and ready for what going to be another amazing season of NHL hockey!

-Nathan

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment