Thursday, January 30, 2003
"Sudies" will get ya every time: Jason Rushton has been banned from U.K. hockey for two years.
Great post by LvsRattlers breaking down the playoff race, especially for those of us who don't like math. Looking at it really drives home the significance of games in hand, while also emphasizing that you gotta win 'em. (PS -- I'd totally forgotten that Tom Gomes was a Rattler, not that the '99-'00 Amarillo team produced a lot of memories).
Strange comments re: Trottier from Bobby Holik. He told the New York Times (registration required) he's been frustrated by the Rangers' failure to commit defensively. Can someone explain to me how one of the best checking centers in the NHL failed to anticipate something every fan in North America knew would be a problem? Did they not tell him who was on the team before he signed the deal? I guess it's understandable he'd be confused, given GM Glen Sather's usual predilection for grind-it-out blue-collar two-way hockey.
Holik also felt a rookie coach was just not the right fit. "I saw back in the summertime that there were other options to consider," he said. "This team needs something more than just a coach. It needs a proven guy that's done it before. That's my opinion." It just wasn't his opinion when he took the $45 mill, three weeks after Trottier was hired.
Sweet dreams, Bobby -- may you see Pat Burns and Ken Hitchcock screaming at you in them. What might have been.
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Garry Unger says who is the best goalie in the league? Not that it's Branch's fault by any means, but stats still count for something. These days, #67 is tops in work but 16th in goals-against and 10th in save percentage. He's better than that of course, but Barnes and Silver have clearly passed him by, with Gorman and the DeGagne/DeBus tandem right there with them.
The Amarillo Globe-News' John Kaltefleiter responds to the Laredo fans today, sort of. He also devotes 143 words to a basically verbatim reprint of the CHL's playoff format, then incorrectly states, "the Gorillas would miss the playoffs by four points if the playoffs started today."
Granted, it's a meaningless, purely theoretical debate, and one that we've already rehashed to death. But if for some reason the rest of the regular season was cancelled and the playoffs literally began today, Amarillo would not only make 'em, they'd be the Northwest champs. Memphis would be fourth and Tulsa would be out (the first tiebreaker is wins).
So is the booster club gonna feed Michael LaPlaca too? More importantly, had he finally had enough, or did he get fired for talking to the press?
Does this mean we get to see Shawn Silver in a toga? Does that consitute legal goalie equipment?
I'm actually in the middle of a whole other blog entry; this was one was written on the fly after receiving the latest edition of The Farm Report. So thanks to Steve as usual (but where's my Faceoff column?!).
Lastly, welcome back to Regan Harper. Play hard, stay healthy. And no, this move doesn't give Tulsa too many vets, if you look three transactions down.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Here's my Faceoff.com report from Oklahoma City. Alas, it's my final column, as the site is downsizing its low minors coverage.
Sunday, January 26, 2003
Strange fact: until tonight, an Oklahoma team had never won a hockey game when I was watching (a streak that included four Ice Bat victories, a Blazers loss to Odessa, Apes-Oilers on Friday, and, for all intents and purposes, the All-Star Game.
How 'bout Matt Barnes' week? A nice write-up in the paper and two games off (what the heck, it was El Paso and San Angelo, and Brady's good). On a down note, Barnes' Thursday GAA was higher than he's used to, but that's the All-Star Game for ya.
Had a strange non-confrontation at the Bat Cave last weekend (bit of that going around, y'know?). Mitch Cooper put it diplomatically. Roscoe was steamed after Laredo's loss, and who could blame him? Coming off of Tuesday, this was a chance for the Bucks to further prove themselves, as a division rival and a road team. But mostly, the coach was pissed at me, the poor schmuck who happened to be chuckling about something as he wandered into earshot. Apparently convinced that I was mocking him or his team's play (I wasn't), he listened to one question from Mitch (an innocent bystander), then stormed away.
Now, I've had a coach tell me to fuck off. I've had coaches use me as a way to tell his players to fuck off (though that part doesn't make the papers). Same guy, in fact (one guess who, and no, it's not Al Tuer). This was just weird. Mitch and I both know from past interviews that Ruskowski is a super-friendly guy. So I'd like to say here, in this semi-public forum, "sorry for the misunderstanding."
And having said that, I gotta ask, "what's up with that big trade?" As you can probably tell, Austin fans are hardcore acolytes of defense-first hockey. Given Ruskowski's comment, I have to agree with the theory that Schneider could be gone. Florida is very much alive, but a top eight finish remains doubtful. If they get busy with deadline deals or call-ups, that could affect the Rampage and the Bucks. Bringing in Gilmore after losing Gove worked out great, and like Gilmore, Petruic did a lot of damage in the UHL, which Terry saw firsthand. Otherwise, I just don't get the deal. There's no doubt Petruic will be a better player on the Bucks, and they had an extra D-man. But I don't think another scorer is what gets Laredo past the second round.
"He looks like a baby moose being born." Is that not the greatest color commentary (from Glenn Healy) ever?
So far so good on Amarillo's road trip. If the next six go like the next two, you could be looking at the Northwest champs. Probably doesn't hurt that nine of the Gorillas' last 19 are against San Angelo, El Paso or Wichita. (Daft joke about Laredo in that same article, however. Classist, at the very least.)
Could "no visors" become part of the CHL's recruiting pitch, or will they adopt the rule as well?
Nice to see someone take a stand against the "HEY GOALIE" chant, even if my friends in Austin are among the best at it. Looking forward to the anti-cowbells rant.
What Jody Hull is to Roger Neilson, Adam Robbins is to Bill McDonald.
And finally... never again will a Scorps fan need to ask, What happened to Alek Stojanov?
Saturday, January 18, 2003
You'll have to buy the mag to read it, but the new issue of Indianapolis Monthly has a piece about the stench of hockey (related to the Ice, of course).
In fact, simultaneous diving/hooking calls are somewhat common, and utterly correct. Some would say, "why call either?," and most times, that's what happens. But a hook is still a hook, and turning a stumble into a somersault is just as "unsportsmanlike" as turning nothing into a stagger.
When folks talk about Brett Seguin's NHL equivalent, they usually mention Gretzky or Adam Oates, but he also reminds me of that other Brett. One of 'em starts plays, the other finishes, but both Seguin and Hull are unremarkable skaters (relative to, say, Gerald Tallaire and Sergei Fedorov) who rely on brains, vision, positioning and hands.
LET'S GO BUZZARDS. Does this make Brian Kennedy eligible for the Rick Kozuback Award?
BTW, Derek Laxdal is a good hire. Comparisons to Ken McRae are apt, and look what he did.
Bookmark this discussion, just in case Tulsa and Lubbock do a deal next week.
Al Rooney is back in net for Jacksonville of the ACHL, but I doubt he's really bothered about turning 30. When you're on the same team as Ron Duguay, even Mike Sanderson feels like a little kid.
And finally, congratulations to the ECHL, who are set to try out some kind of special real-time scoring system at this year's All-Star Game. Poinstreak Pro, it's called. Wonder how they thought of that?
Friday, January 17, 2003
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Still, in the end, an All-Star nod is not a Purple Heart. If you dropped Gorman, there are other goalies who'd have to be considered, most notably Brusseau. I do like the idea of three goaltenders, but someone's gotta pay their travel, right?
Love the suggestion by this frustrated fan: San Angelo goalies should have MADE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC pre-stamped on their foreheads. When you look at how many saves he's made, you realize Scott Reid could be an All-Star in the making. But for what team?
A happier Saints thought: Steve Roberts was an excellent addition, with 11 goals in 12 games.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Big news from the NHL, where Gary Bettman has found an owner for both Ottawa and Buffalo.
"Billy Davidson is a former player, a Canadian, and a heck of a nice guy," the commisioner said. "He already knows what it takes to run two teams with a lot of unpaid bills. We're thrilled to have him in the league."
In other news... does this mean we can expect the Ice to "sign" George Foreman?
Good thing New Mexico and Corpus don't meet up often, or W.D. Sports might have to hire Eric Bischoff. Alas, the "Frank Cup" isn't in the cards, and the "Frank Quarterfinal" is a long shot. That ought to be motivation enough for both the Rayz and Scorps.
So Brent Scott should be nervous on February 1?
This just in: the real reason for Ottawa's bankruptcy. When a Vegas dinosaur like Paul Anka says "stoned," he means booze, right? (thanks to Blazer Dad for spotting that one).
Worth reading: stories about Memphis assistant Dave Nicholls (I just can't call him "Midnight"), NHL refs, the death of the Tulsa Oilers (in 1984, that is) and a senior league goalie who someone has already suggested Bill Inglis should look into (indeed, Coxe has gone through enough netminders).
The funny thing is, the NHL already has a Bill Davidson, and so did Topeka (that one is now busy with the AWHL and ECHL).
Sunday, January 12, 2003
The hockey media never gets tired of mentioning that Naslund-for-Stojanov trade.
No, really. But c'mon, Mr. Matheson... it's only three or four leagues below the NHL.
Well, with 30 shots in the second period alone, maybe the Bats could have put up eight, but 5-0 will do. One impressive thing about this team (and Barnes) is that they play shutout hockey even when it isn't needed, especially in garbage time (think how many 45-minute goose eggs are ruined by a meaningless goal or two).
And how 'bout Ryan Rivard? 29 games without a goal (including his Fort Worth stats, which Pointstreak has yet to merge), then two tallies in one night. With Greenlaw injured, Legault suspended and O'Brien unavailable (he only filled in last night because Darryl McArthur was on call-up), that's huge.
Matt Mullin has left Fort Worth (you'll need Adobe to view that one).
Ok, sorry to harp on poor San Angelo -- it's like kicking out somebody's crutches -- but Saints box scores are more horrifically entertaining than Joe Millionaire. Think everything is going great? That's when the nightmare starts.
Tonight, "Scooter's Skaters" chased Steve DeBus out of the game, but couldn't hold leads of 2-1 or 4-2. They got outshot 49-14 over the last two periods and 9-5 in OT, allowing an astounding full-game total of 67. Then Amarillo pots the winner with 18 seconds left.
Contrast that with Oklahoma City (down 5-4, won 7-5), Laredo (down 4-2, won 8-4) and Tulsa (down 2-1, won 6-2).
But hey, at least they got a point, and the Apes are out of conference.
By the way, I gather this is a more likely place to find disgruntled Saints fans (the better for the team to hear them). Love the Winamp skins.
The only thing worse than being the Saints? Losing to 'em 7-5, then dropping your next four while only scoring one a game. Looks like Odessa should worry about Lubbock (seven points back, two games in hand) for awhile, not Austin (11 up, two in hand).
Almost forgot: Go Iggles! And could the Flyers finally have their act together? Hey, Michal -- it's never "lucky" when your stick is on the ice!
And finally, I'm thinking Darcy, Shayne and Theo have got nothing on Joe Nedney.
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Let me start with one of my semi-regular shout-outs to The Farm Report, for keeping me and everyone else in touch with all the news.
And now, the details of the Thunder-Corpus trade. It's still not clear what Memphis really gets (or got) out of it, but for Wichita, it's the equivalent of a baseball deadline-deal -- they're pretty much done, believe Nelson won't fit in under the vet rule next year and can now try out new players while looking forward to two more at season's end.
But one thing about the Rayz -- in October, Bill McDonald told me that in exchange for Cosmo DuPaul, he received both Mike Dawson and, as a future consideration, first crack at any player Corpus chose to move. Lubbock has been an incredibly stable team -- adding Luke Volk on December 21 is the only roster change they've made all year -- and thus they've passed on Chris Hollens, Shaun Fairweather, Byron Pool, Matt Sharuga, Jason Renard and now Cam Werfelman. I believe they could have taken a flyer on one of Giffin, Munro or Marks as well (Giffin would have come in handy now, but that's another story).
So the question is, if they don't cash in that chip during the season, does that mean they get to pluck someone from the Corpus unprotected list before the Thunder do?
Also, let's not forget, there'll be a two-team expansion draft this summer. Losing Nelson means losing a player Wichita could have exposed without a second thought.
One final clarification re: Bourque. This New Mexico press release says it was a straight-up trade for Currie, but that still doesn't change the four-team collusion theory, if you buy it (and FWIW, the CHL has the two transactions happening on different days, though that could just be down to paperwork).
Two sides of the same coin: "state of the team" articles about Tulsa and Amarillo... I wrote them off in my Faceoff article, but certainly, the Mudbugs could still salvage their season -- look at what the Blazers did to Tulsa. (Man, between that piece and the "Ugs," I bet Vernelis is getting great hate mail from the boosters. Hey, at least they've got coverage to complain about.)... El Paso will probably win 3-2 just because I'm gonna say this, but tonight would be a good time for the Bats to put up eight.
Friday, January 10, 2003
Glad to see I'm not the only one bothered by the issue of shared ownership transactions. The deal in the CHL is, trades between dually owned teams are illegal. Third-party swaps and waiver claims are not.
That's a sharp contrast from the ECHL, which allows none of those things. Once a player appears on the roster of Team A, even in training camp, he cannot play for a club with the same owner at any point in the current season. Doesn't matter if he's traded seven times -- any team that picks him up does so knowing they can never trade him to Team B. The only exception is if a waived player gets passed over by every single team, making him a total free agent.
In our league, the affected clubs are New Mexico/Corpus Christi, Wichita/Indy and (I assume, because of the Express management takeover), Wichita/Oklahoma City. Next year, Lubbock/Rio Grande will join the list.
Now, I doubt Scorps/Rayz ownership had anything to do with getting David Bourque to Corpus. Using two teams instead of one wasn't required, nor did it fool anyone, so there is probably a legit futures payoff for the Thunder. And only Bill MacDonald and Doug Shedden know for sure if the RiverKings agreed to flip Bourque as a condition of the Currie acquisition, or the Margeson-for-Gorewich-and-Alcombrack deal.
I also have no clue if Fort Worth promised to send someone to Albuquerque when they got three Rayz for Tilson -- but there Jeff Cameron goes. And who knows, maybe Oklahoma City got Mike Payne because Wichita did Corpus a favor.
What I do know is according to CHL rules, all these scenarios are on the up-and-up, thus opening the door for speculation. It's not that I question the integrity or intentions of the teams involved. But as in journalism, appearance of conflict of interest is the same thing as actual conflict.
Ditto the appearance of competitive advantage. It's unfair to the rest of the league's teams -- how would Amarillo, Tulsa and Memphis feel if, the day before the trade deadline, Wichita sent Vladimir Hartinger and Travis Clayton to El Paso, then the former ended up a Blazer, the latter on the Ice? Or, less dramatically, let's say Indy loses a defenseman to injury at a time when it's fairly high up on the claim list, then the Thunder "coincidentally" waive a guy?
The punch line is, fans of the dually owned teams could get it even worse. Thunder fans wouldn't be happy with what I just suggested. Or let's say Bourque scores the power-play goal that clinches a playoff berth for Corpus... and eliminates the Scorps. Tires have been slashed for less. (Ah, the "Plaman Cup" year. Good times. Good times.)
So why have the rule at all? Salary cap and vet/rookie issues already limit trading flexibility, and the league approves every transaction anyway. If Bill McDonald calls and says, "Bourque wants out, and I don't want him. We're happy to give him up for futures and going back to Corpus is his wish," the league can say, sure, go ahead. If Joel Lomurno calls and says, "we're trading Clayton, Duda and Stachniak for Jamie Morris," nix the deal.
Of course in reality, the last thing the CHL hockey ops bunch needs is another reason for conference calls with coaches (they've got suspensions and the refs for that). So close the loophole. Give the rule some teeth. People already view the ECHL as the more credible league -- why give them another reason?
Holy lack of players, Batman! The Buzzards faced the Rayz with 3 defenseman, and 12 skaters overall. Maybe Mahar or Gray helped on the blue line? That would also explain why a team that averages 30 PiMs a game had 11 tonight.
Bryce Wandler has a New York Rangers contract, but did anyone tell him his new team plays 'D' about as well? And hey, let's hear it for another stellar performance from Brent Scott -- some ex-players wish they could still score goals. He just wants to keep on taking penalties. I'm sure you'll find further details, along with mucho griping from certain rightly pissed-off Saints fans here.
Two wins in a row after starting 2-6 -- we'll see if "the Macker Effect" is finally kicking in.
Austin's win over Laredo and Indy's edging of the Thunder were both business as usual. The Bats have been in 19 one-goal games, the Ice in 16.
And finally, congrats to the Blazers, and not just for first place. 16,873! It really sucks that the All-Star Game is on a Thursday.
Yup, going all stupid and confusing Amarillo's Ben Gustavson (a perfectly healthy guy) with Lubbock's Derek Gauthier (out for the season) is just an inexcusable mistake. It's not like I didn't spend hours poring over stats, rosters and transactions either -- just one of those brain locks. Fortunately, having readers is as good as having editors and fact-checkers (except for the part where the mistake makes it in print first). Thanks to Kathy and Larry for the heads up, and apologies to all Gorillas fans, that's the second time I've goofed regarding them.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Someone with a clear case of the injured-reserve stir-crazies sent me this, so I figured, why not post it. No doubt many of you have heard this one before...
In a train car there was a Canadian, an American, a spectacular looking blonde and a frightfully awful looking fat lady. After several minutes into the trip, the train happens to pass through a dark tunnel and the unmistakable sound of a slap is heard.
When they leave the tunnel, the American had a big red slap mark on his cheek .
The blonde thought - "That American son of a bitch wanted to touch me and by mistake, he must have put his hand on the fat lady, who in turn must have slapped his face."
The fat lady thought - "This dirty old American laid his hands on the blonde and she smacked him."
The American thought - "That fucking Canadian put his hand on that blonde and by mistake she slapped me."
The Canadian thought - "I hope there is another tunnel soon so I can smack that stupid American again."
And here's something close to official confirmation that the show will go on in El Paso.
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Note to Buzzards fans: cheer up! And wise up. Sure, it's no fun joining Manute Bol as the second goofy thing to get the CHL on ESPN.com. And yeah, this Haggerty fellow seems like a real douche. But this lock-out is meant to save hockey in El Paso, not kill it.
Here's why: We know from the saga in San Angelo that if your club doesn't have a place to play, the league can seize it. So it's hard to imagine the CHL didn't want things to go down this way. We also know that in San Angelo, the Moores had 10 days to work out a deal themselves. Think it's a coincidence this happened 10 days before the next Buzzards home game, at a time when the rink was already unavailable for five days, with the team going on the road? Seems to me either Billy will announce a sale, or the league will, sometime soon.
And there's no need for anyone to get high and mighty about the El Paso market, because if it can happen to Flint (or the the Ice Gators), it can happen to anyone.
This section is 100% Smashmouth-free
Sebastien Thinel over Mike Rutter and Derek Holland over Barry McKinlay? Score two for being a plus player.
But yeah -- of course offensive defensemen are judged solely by their numbers and defensive rearguards are often overlooked. Same way great faceoff men or big hitters or stud defensive forwards rarely get the nod. I'm not sure this isn't as it should be, since in the end, All-Star Games are nothing more than beauty contests.
And stats are often all a voter has to go on. Splitting up the votes by conference helps, but not completely. For example, if I was a Memphis-based beat writer, covering only home games, I would have seen the Oilers zero times before the deadline. How can I really know if Mike Mohr's overall play is more impressive than being league assists leader?
Personal to Brad Treliving: how 'bout Brett Seguin as this year's President's Choice? "Piglet" isn't putting up his usual numbers, but as the captain of the league's best team, he must be doing something right. More significantly, he's been a CHL/WPHL all-star for eight straight seasons (would have been ten, but the Colonial League never had a game). Only you-know-who in Oklahoma has done something similar. You never know, this year could be Seguin's last, especially if things go well.
Man, the Indianapolis Ice have some really fired-up online fans. Actually, McRae got my vote too (with apologies to Roscoe -- chalk it up to my Ice Bats "objectivity"). I don't know if Indy has the best defensemen in the league, but Mac certainly had a big part in building Austin's sturdy blue line.
Does anybody know if a team that gave up nine goals in a game ever won a Cup? (That applies to Amarillo too, of course).
Think David Bourque actually travelled to Memphis or Wichita?
Great story here about former Ice Bats goalie Dan McIntyre... Gratuitous Al Sims reference here.
The Ugs! Good one.
And finally: He's baaaaaaaack.
Saturday, January 04, 2003
Nope -- don't believe in objectivity. Especially not in a blog, which is by definition personal. This ain't journalism.
The truth is, I'm more objective than any fan I know. But a fan I am. I write about what interests me, what I know about and what's compelling. The Bats, the Southern Conference and the former Wiffle clubs come first. It can't be otherwise, any more than the CHL-Underground could have as many Mudbugs fans as Blazers nuts.
For me, it's the schedule as much as anything. This season, I have yet to see Tulsa, Indy, Memphis, Bossier or Fort Worth. I've caught Wichita, Amarillo and OKC one time each. That doesn't mean I can't crunch stats or spout off a semi-informed opinion now and then, but why make a habit of it? (there are enough semi-informed opinions out there). If my December entries were especially Northern Conference-free, that's probably because Wichita didn't hire away Doug Sauter from the Blazers, Amarillo's owners didn't buy the Thunder and the league is not about to take over the Oilers.
So if you want more balanced stuff, visit Faceoff.com, where I practice actual journalism and the coverage breaks down equally. Around these parts, I'm sure I'll have more to say about the North around the All-Star game (I'll also see the next night's Tulsa-Amarillo contest) -- and when the Ice Bats beat whoever in the finals.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
"We will find out tonight if Barnes can defend against the very best." Indeed.
To be honest, I didn't even hear the Ice Bats-Bucks game, but based solely on the SOGs, I'm guessing that Brent Hughes made a politely dismissive remark about the scorekeepers, Lance Leslie had no comment on that subject, Terry Ruskowski opted for "their goalie stood on his head" and Barnes said something like, "most of the chances came from the perimeter."
And is there a term for Kelly Smart's performance -- three goals and a slashing major/game misconduct? A Bill Guerin Hat Trick? That must have made the last five minutes interesting, especially since he's Austin's top gun on the kill.
Finally, how 'bout Hughes' development (with help from Ken McRae) of blueliners Darryl McArthur and Pat Brownlee? It's not just that they're solid in the Austin zone -- with Greg Willers and Daniel Tetrault gone, those 30 points are huge.