A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

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

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 66

Quite the Price-is-wrong-B—- game for the Sharks as they beat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2. If you can tell me where that quote is from, you get 200,000 points.

Montreal goalie Carey Price made it his mission to tick off the Sharks and their fans by flaunting every single save he made. It was sickening seeing him do Statue of Liberty after Statue of Liberty. I’m guessing Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov took notice because he did a few himself.

Last game against New Jersey, the Sharks could only muster 20 shots, and coach Todd McLellan worked on getting more shots and second chance opportunities in practice. It worked. The Sharks attempted 85 shots on goal — 40 hit the net, 26 were blocked and 19 were missed.

Montreal would score first in the first period and would take the lead again 2-1 in the second period.

In between that, Patrick Marleau scored the Sharks’ eighth shorthanded goal of the year off a beautiful deflection. Plenty of other Sharks chances ensued only to be denied by the post. Dan Boyle found iron on a penalty shot during the second frame as well.

Persistence paid off. Dany Heatley and Manny Malhotra put the Sharks ahead for good in the third period. Heatley was in a bit of a scoring drought, and it was good to see Torrey Mitchell assist on a goal (Malhotra’s).

Hey Brad, come take a whiff of this new scent I'm wearing: "Lousy Canadien" (From SJSHARKS.com)

One thing that needs to be mentioned is the absolutely cheap cross check by Maxim Lapierre on Scott Nichol in the third (Nichol never returned). I believe it was Ray Ferraro, the analyst for the game, call it complete garbage. Well put. Nice name by the way.

Unfortunately, no Sharks noticed immediately who did it and nobody ever fully paid Lapierre back. Maybe McLellan made a point to stay disciplined, but come on now. When something like that happens, somebody needs to send a message to that clown Lapierre. Punch him in the face. Lapierre was laughing on the bench! This is where I miss Jody Shelley.

New Paint Job

This is the third different helmet Nabby has had this year. I’m not sure if it’s permanent or not. He’s worn his regular skull/fishhead helmet, a black one and now a Neptune one. Not a big fan of the Neptune one. Something about a topless old man turns me off.

Staying the Same

I should mention the Sharks made no deadline deals, and that they were content with adding Niclas Wallin and trading Shelley. Obviously, they like their talent pool from Worcester, and I can’t say I blame them. During the playoffs, there’s usually one really young guy who breaks out for successful teams. Last year, Bobby Ryan of Anaheim comes to mind. I’m looking for Logan Couture, who’s been killing it in the AHL, to come up playoff time and contribute.

I was kind of hoping the Sharks would add Ray Whitney, former Shark, for scoring depth, but then one of the current players would have had to have gone.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 33  MTL 20; Nichol and Heatley led with five.

Saturday, the Sharks will battle Columbus — a team that shut them out right before the Olympic break.

–Ray

March 5, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 33

Quite the unlucky game for the Sharks in their 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. For the second straight game, the opposing goalie made saves he has no business making. The Sharks can’t buy a goal right now.

The game was action-packed, no question about that. Thirty-six shots a-piece and 35 hits a-piece made for another playoff atmosphere.

Ryane Clowe extended his points streak to nine games with a goal tonight. That came off a rebound from Dan Boyle’s shot. Other than that it was the Mikka Kiprusoff show. He couldn’t be beat. San Jose tried everything.

One of his saves was a miracle; he was on his stomach, a shot was taken, he flung his glove up which deflected it. The puck was on its way in when he kicked his skate up to kick it out. Unbelievable. That’s how it went all night for the Sharks.

I think Kipper has X-ray vision because the Sharks stacked a bunch of players in front of him for screens. They were doing everything right according to their game plan. When you hit a hot goalie, there isn’t much you can do except pray.

It was nice to see the Sharks never give up despite all this. Any number of teams would pack it up and take a seat in the press box after seeing saves like that. The Sharks didn’t do that at all. But unfortunately “will” couldn’t win it for them tonight and they’ve lost three of their last six games.

Every broadcast the opposing announcers make mention of the Sharks being No. 1 in the NHL. Can we stop that please? I don’t care if the points say they’re in first, they’re not the best in the league. San Jose’s record is now 19-7-5. Now change the numbers up a bit and we’re 19-12 (Overtime/Shootout losses are losses.) 19-12 is mediocre. That’s not too far from being .500.

Players battle for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

That one stretch earlier in the season where they recorded a point in 12 straight games is why the record is what it is.

Reviewing the postgame quotes from last game against St. Louis, coach Todd McClellan was ticked off at his team for allowing that last minute goal. Coaches will say it’s a team loss that encompasses the entire game, but you could tell Todd knew it came down to that last shift. It certainly looked like he sparked something in the players tonight. Good to know they respond well to Todd’s anger.

Also from last game, goalie Evgeni Nabokov mentioned Marc-Edouard Vlasic should have blocked that shot which tied the game up. A little “90210” in the Sharks locker room? Not so much. Not that big of a deal. Nabby and Vlasic shook it off, and while I know players act like they don’t care all the time, this was an exception.

Maybe I’m spoiled, but losing three of six makes me feel like a New Jersey Nets fan (The Nets started this season 0-18). It’s never fun losing, but losing because of these redonkulous goalies is beyond frustrating. Here’s to turnarounds.

Battle of the Mc’s

Frazer McLaren took on Brian McGratton, but it was too much McGratton for the youngster. He’s officially caught the Jody-Shelley syndrome. There is no cure except to choose more weak combatants. Tread carefully my friend.

So close, yet so far

Before the game Derek Joslin was reassigned to Worcester but then immediately recalled to play. Darn. We were so close to freedom and becoming good again…

Sick Heatley

Heatley is battling flu-like symptoms and was a game-time decision. He played below average. Dion Phaneuf nailed him with a neutral-zone check, and Dany had a bunch of giveaways.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 35  CGY 35; Devin Setoguchi led the team with five.

The Sharks have three days off before facing the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. McClellan better not give anyone the day off.

–Ray

December 6, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment