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
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.
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.
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.
Quite the puzzling performance by the Sharks in their 5-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning. I can’t really articulate what happened. The Sharks seemed to try but nothing ever came to fruition.
For the first two periods, the Sharks were giving an acceptable amount of effort, but they couldn’t put it in the net. Very frustrating for fans and the players, I’m sure.
Things started off 30 seconds in when the Lightning scored from a weakside play. Dan Boyle was the culprit this time by not covering his man.
The Sharks got a power play opportunity shortly after and I absolutely loved the lineup. Heatley-Vesce-Clowe. What a great line along with Boyle and Vlasic on the man advantage. To have a selfish (in a good way) shooter and two guys who go for rebounds was an excellent idea from head coach Todd McClellan. He ended up keeping Clowe and Vesce together for the rest of the game, rotating the third forward. I hope that keeps up.
San Jose was down 0-2 after the first after sustaining a nice forecheck throughout.
Brad Staubitz tried starting a fight when the second period started, but the Lightning showed could patience to not join Bitz in a dance.
The Sharks finally got on the board with Ryan Vesce. He started the play with a steal in Tampa’s zone, had a breakaway but was blocked by goalie Mike Smith. The Sharks kept it in with some D-to-D passing, shot it into a crowd, and Ryan was there. I tell you what, (wo)man. This kid is the epitome of scrappy and never-say-die. I’m going to look into cloning and see if I can’t field a team of 18 Ryan Vesce’s.
Unfortunately, Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov decided to misplay the puck, and d-man Jason Demers got tangled up with Ryan Malone, leaving Steven Stamkos with a wide open shot, which he scored. I think Nabby could have taken a much better angle on it.
That goal was the turning point as the Sharks came out in the third with a “whatever” attitude. Nabby seemed to echo that sentiment x1000 when he let in a wrister from the blue line. Sure, it was slightly deflected, but he had plenty of time to adjust. This was worse game of the season. He just seemed lost.
One thing I really want to point out was an embarrassing play by Joe Thornton. Coming out of the zone, in the third period, he nonshalantly handled the puck, glided into the neutral zone, and a Lightning player easily stole it. What a joke. I don’t ever want to see that from any NHL player. No matter what the score. As an alternate captain, you are bound to give your best and set a great example. Not that crap.
The Sharks showed up again with about seven minutes left when Boyle netted a power play goal. Too little, too late, of course.
Thornton and Heatley
0 combined shots
Hit-o-Meter: SJ 17 TB 16
Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra switched lines. I completely disagree with this. Nichol has played excellent on the third line with Ortmeyer and Ferriero. I don’t know if it was the lack of ice time or if the move got to him, but I saw nothing out of him. Shame. He’s been so good, so far.
I can’t wait until Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell are back. I can’t friggin’ wait.
Atlanta Thrashers are next on Saturday, October 24.
Quite the about-time performance for the Sharks in their 7-3 win against the New York Rangers. The game marked the second time the Sharks have won two games in a row, and the third time they have scored 4+ goals in a row. With the win, the Rangers seven-game win streak came to an end.
Once again the Sharks started out slow and dug themselves an 0-2 hole. At that point the best player for San Jose was — gasp — Manny Malhotra! He looked like a hockey player tonight and actually showed speed and intelligence.
It was a night for the hard workers, though, and deservedly so. Brad Staubitz got on the board first with a Joe-Pavelski-like wrister past Ranger goalie Stephen Valiquette.
Not to be outdone by a tough guy, Dany Heatley showcased some eye-foot coordination kicking the puck to himself while skating between to Ranger defenseman. He finished it off with a backhand to the top corner.
From then on, it was what I’ve been waiting to see — hard work and net presence. The Sharks finally learned that easy goals come when you stand in front of the opposing goalie. Jed Ortmeyer got a rebound goal when Kent Huskins wristed the puck to the net.
Devin Setoguchi scored when he and Joe Thornton camped out in front of the net, while Patrick Marleau shot the puck at them. Seto pocketed the rebound underneath the crossbar.
Seto wasn’t done though. He and Marleau continued some really nice chemistry when Marleau streaked down the left side and passed to Seto in the right slot. Easy pickings for Seto.
And my boy Ryan Vesce scored in his second game up with San Jose. This kid is awesome. Heatley was on a breakaway, shot it, a juicy rebound found its way to Vesce’s stick for an easy goal. I told you. Sharks players: pay attention to Vesce. He goes to the net and gets goals; simple as that. Keep doing what he’s doing.
Marleau got on the board near the end. Jason Demers fed him a nice pass, and with Ryane Clowe in front of the net, the puck went in. I sincerely hope coach Todd McClellan drives this point home because it works.
Now we get to see if the Sharks can reach three wins in a row. One doesn’t mean anything, two is a trend and three is a hot streak.
Sharks extended their multi-power-play goal streak as they once again scored two on the man advantage.
Most Valuable Line was the fourth line. They sparked the goals and sparked the entire team. Ortmeyer, Nichol, Vesce, Staubitz, Shelley and Malhotra did their job. We need the secondary scoring badly.
Hit-o-meter: SJ 33 NYR 22 (Ortmeyer and Vesce led the team with 5 and 4 hits respectively.)
The Sharks travel to Tampa Bay next, and if there was any time to begin a win streak, now is the time. After Tampa is Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Colorado. We shall see, but until I see consistency, I won’t believe.
Last Week’s Results:
Nathan: 8-6 (82-48)
Ray: 6-8 (74-56)
|DEN @ CLE|
|STL @ NYJ|
|JAX @ DET|
|GB @ MIN|
|BAL @ HOU|
|NO @ ATL|
|TEN @ CHI|
|SEA @ MIA|
|BUF @ NE|
|CAR @ OAK|
|IND @ PIT|
|KC @ SD|
|NYG @ PHI|
|SF @ ARI|
Well, it’s back to the grind of churning out a lot these posts. I got a lot wrong this week so I won’t waste anymore time with the anecdotes.
New York Jets 26 Buffalo 17
Buffalo. Buffalo. Buffalo. What happened? You had a chance to pull away a bit from the Jets but let them back in with your loss. You held Favre without a touchdown pass which is good but you just couldn’t get things done. Trent Edwards’ 2 INT did not help the cause either, nor did the pitiful offensive line performance. I really want to see Buffalo succeed but right now, they are acting as another of the many Jekyll and Hyde teams.
Baltimore 37 Cleveland 27
Allow me to issue a formal apology to Mr. Flacco. I do not know what I was thinking picking Cleveland. I am deeply sorry and my condolences go out to you. Ray Rice had 154 yards on the ground which is amazing. Not much else to say about this game. Good job Baltimore.
Tampa Bay 30 Kansas City 27
Come on Chiefs! What are you doing choking away the game! Tyler Thigpen even had a TD reception off a WR reverse pass! It was perfection. You deserve it. Go play the Lions and have 0 fans. Your effort disgusts me, much like Nathan does every time he wakes up in the morning. You allowed Jeff freaking Garcia to throw for 339 yards. Despicable. You’re dead to me Kansas City.
Tennessee 19 Green Bay 16
Congratulations to the Titans for being cemented as worst 8-0 team in NFL history. Man, this team is bad. They are nowhere near contenders. They will lose in the first round of the playoffs. You heard it here first. The Packers cannot play defense worth a lick. For some reason they released Kabeer Gbaja Biamila. That made no sense. Al Harris’ injury is still hurting the pass defense. Atari Bigby should go back to riding pine and let Aaron Rouse play more. This just makes me sick that a team such as the Titans is undefeated when they are clearly a 4-4 team at best. They will get what they deserve. I am sticking to my word — not picking the Titans until they lose.
Miami 26 Denver 17
Now here is a game that was truly disgusting. The Broncos, known for an amazing rushing attack year in and year out, put up a phenomenal 14 yards rushing! That meant the game was on Jay Cutler’s shoulders, but unfortunately those shoulders were able to throw 3 interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. There was so much promise in this team early on, and now they are going down the toilet. At least Eddie Royal got a touchdown today.
Atlanta 24 Oakland 0
Props to me for picking a team to score 0 points. I feel honored. The Raiders were able to put up 77 total yards during the game and only had the ball for 14:45. If anybody can find a more crappy performance, be my guest. It is time for the Raiders to fold and go away for good. Let’s play a little game of Russian Roulette with the Chiefs, Lions, and Raiders. Hopefully, the ball can split, via fission and land on all three teams. I’ve got no problem with deadweight loss.
Don’t forget to set your clocks back..
Last Week’s Results:
Nathan: 7-7 (74-42)
Ray: 9-5 (68-48)
|NYJ @ BUF|
|DET @ CHI|
|JAX @ CIN|
|BAL @ CLE|
|TB @ KC|
|HOU @ MIN|
|ARI @ STL|
|GB @ TEN|
|MIA @ DEN|
|DAL @ NYG|
|ATL @ OAK|
|PHI @ SEA|
|NE @ IND|
|PIT @ WAS|
Nathan was nice enough to give the nice side of the story but I will not.
I was willing to be nice to Philadelphia but after the owner of the Phillies told fans to congratulate the Rays on a good season, more than 75% of the fans booed. Show some class. You have obtained the title as worst fans in the world (although you kind of already had it). You beat a team who came from worst-to-first, dethroned the Red Sox (who you would have easily got beaten by), and you boo them. That is truly disgusting. Enjoy not winning another title for another 25 years. That is your kharma.
I have nothing against the players, though. I have always been a Cole Hamels fan (not just because his wife is hot), and it was good to see Brad Lidge get the save, after everything in Houston. I hope his streak ends soon, however, because I am not a fan of someone being undefeated. I like to see people humbled.
As much as I want to shout the Phillies suck, I can’t because they really are good. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, etc.
As for the Rays, they are not going to be good like this again next year. I picked them in this World Series because most of the time, heart beats skill, but not this time. They are the new Colorado Rockies (remember they were in the Series a year ago). Next year is Toronto’s time to shine. Halladay deserves it.
For all the Philly fans, two words: JOE CARTER!!!
Go Blue Jays!!!