Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Four

Here are 4 things I took away from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft:

4. Tyler Seguin is a class act:

As I stood outside of the California Pizza Kitchen food stand on day two of the draft enjoying a hot cheese pizza, a crowd emerged around a young kid wearing a suit. At that point I had encountered many young prospects wearing suits but few had drawn a crowd such as this young gentleman. Sure enough it was Tyler Seguin signing autographs for each fan that approached him. After crowd #1 got their autographs, crowd #2 spotted the number two pick overall and made their way toward him. Seguin apologetically asked if he could get some food then come be back to sign autographs while he walked toward the same CPK food stand where I was chowing down. He turned away from the crowd and muttered "Jesus Chri#t" but not out of frustration -- more out of being overwhelmed at the attention. I smiled and said, "must be fun being on top, congratulations." He replied, "yeah, no kidding. Thank you."After Seguin got his pizza he walked by me again and said, "well, I got to get back out there."I smiled again, "have fun and good luck next season." And back he went signing more autographs and taking pictures with fan. I was impressed with his poise and patience with all the attention.

3. North America Rules:

As the World Junior Championship and the Olympic games would dictate, North American hockey players dominated the draft with 99 Canadians and 59 Americans selected. The 59 Americans included a record 11 in the first round and 22 total in the first two rounds. It was particularly exciting for me, being a California hockey native, that Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem were both selected in the first round numbers 20th and 29th respectively. This feat is proof that NHL expansion into non-traditional hockey markets has worked, and that California is producing great hockey players.

2. Not being selected on the first day is saddening to most:

For a hockey player like myself, just thinking that having your name called in any of the 7 rounds by an NHL GM would be a lifetime achievement and tremendous honor. But to many of the top ranked prospects, not having their names called in the first round was both disappointing and saddening. Still overwhelmed by the first round spectacle I witnessed, when I returned to the hotel, I must have seen at least a dozen prospects walk into the hotel with their heads hung low and a look of disappointment on their faces. It hit me that their goal is not just to be drafted but to one day play in the NHL. Many of these players do not have much to fall back on if they do not make it to the show and their chances of making it to the NHL diminish with each passing round.

1. Kirill's plummet was no surprise to me:

On the morning of Round 1, I was in the hotel lobby seeing all the prospects hanging with their families -- I saw Taylor Hall walk through a few times, broadcaster Dave Amber was setting up in the bar for an interview with Tyler Seguin, and I saw a skinny Russian kid in a cut-off and shorts all tattooed and acting cocky. It dawned on me that he was Kirill Kabanov, the troublesome Russian with top 10 skill but  off-ice issues that saw him go through several agents, kicked off the Russian World Junior team, and removed from his QMJHL team this season. Coming back to the hotel that evening without wearing a jersey and hat from an NHL team should have been humbling for the 17 year old, but I overheard him tell a gentleman in the lobby that he would for sure hear his name called early on Saturday morning. Well, it was a good thing he did not get picked until Round 3 because he may not have even been in the building had he been selected early in Round 2. The draft resumed Saturday morning at 10 am pt and at about 9:51 I was 2/3 of the way from the hotel to the Staples Center when I spotted Kirill Kabanov. Not being in his seat less than 10 minutes before the draft resumed was probably not a good thing, but to make matters worse was that he was running back towards the hotel! I don't know why he was going back but what I witnessed speaks to his character which was a deciding factor for teams to take a pass on selecting him.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tyler vs Taylor

The first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will be loaded with talented defensemen but one thing is for sure – the first two picks will be forwards. Tyler Seguin is currently rated #1 on NHL’s Central Scouting list as the top prospect entering this year’s draft.
The 6’1 186 lbs center just completed his second season in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers more than doubling his goal total from the previous season and tying for the league-lead in scoring with 106 points. Seguin, known for his playmaking and ability to make others better around him, impressed scouts and GM’s at the NHL Combine with his strength and tenacity.
The #2 ranked prospect listed by Central Scouting can just as easily go number one overall – Taylor Hall is coming off his second straight Memorial Cup championship as well as tournament MVP to cap off an outstanding junior career. Hall tied Seguin for the OHL lead in scoring but the award went to Seguin because he had more goals – Hall played 6 fewer regular season games but won a silver medal with team Canada at the World Junior Championship in December.
Some say that Seguin will have a better NHL career overall but Hall is probably more NHL-ready – something that the Oilers probably could use – so it’s anybody’s guess as to who Edmonton and Boston will take with the first two picks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Look Back

Here's a quick look at moments from the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Turning the Page

Patrick Kane's OT goal proved to be somewhat anti-climatic for those who could not follow the puck squeak through the legs of Michael Leighton, but for goal-scorers, like Kane, they know when they score. For Michael Leighton, his mistake could be his last goal given up as a Flyer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. Like many UFA's for both teams, cap issues and contract negotiations will decide what sweater is worn next season.

Also upon us is the 2010 NHL Entry Draft held on June 25th in Los Angeles where I will actually be in attendance when the world finds out whether the number one pick will be Tayler Hall or Tylor Seguin. With both players hailing from the Ontario Hockey League, Seguin currently holds the edge over Hall as of the last rankings provided by NHL Central Scouting. Hall, however, is coming off his second straight Memorial Cup win and MVP of the tournament as a member of the Windsor Spitfires.

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll take a look at some of the potential first round candidates and the teams that may draft them.

Shortly after the draft concludes, free-agency will open up and we'll exam the potential big names looking for new deals.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Playing With Fire

I'm sorry but I have to get a little "Ray Ferraro" on Peter Laviolette for his approach to Game 5:

Coach, you should be ashamed of yourself. After losing Game 1 in Chicago by getting into a gun battle, you thought it would be 'ok' to try and go toe-to-toe with the Hawks in their own barn? You knew Quenneville was going to change up his lines and you knew the arena was going to be rocking yet you decided not to adapt or take the crowd out of the game. Frequent stoppages of play and locking up the neutral zone would have made this game real boring for the fans and would have been harder for the Hawks to gain as much momentum as they did.

Ok, enough Chicken Parm for now, let's just say it was not a good showing by the Flyers who now find themselves with their backs against the wall down 3-2 heading back to Philadelphia Wednesday night. Re-establishing their game will be key in Game 6 with aggressive forechecking and better gap control - two things absent from Game 5.

Great response by Chicago after losing on the road Friday night. With Toews, Kane, and Byfuglien all playing on separate lines, the line juggling proved to be too much for the Flyers' defense - especially Chris Pronger who had a career worse -5. Pronger seemed to be caught just trying to do too much and was also in the Sin Bin when Byfuglien scored for Chicago on the powerplay.

With an extra day off favoring the Flyers, they will have a chance to rest up and put this game behind them. Logic predicts that Laviolette will go back to Leighton to start Game 6, who was replaced between periods after surrendering 3 goals in the opening stanza.

Game 6 is Wednesday night at 8pm et with coverage on NBC in the U.S.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


With the series back in Chicago tonight, the pressure has shifted onto the Blackhawks after relinquishing a 2-0 lead. Now a best-of-three series, watch for the Hawks to come out with intensity and pressure. They will try to get the crowd into the game early and feed off the energy of the 22,000+ in the "Madhouse on Madison".

The Flyers will continue their aggressive forechecking that helped them to their victories at home the last two games. Their win in Game 4 came with a grain of salt after watching a 4-1 lead in the 3rd dwindle to just one goal with a few minutes left in regulation. The 3rd period should serve as warning to the Flyers of the Hawks' ability to strike quickly and I'm sure they were happy that periods are not 25 minutes.

I think the Flyers will go with the same lineup but expect the Hawks to mix things up with their line combinations in hopes to jump-start their top forwards in Toews and Kane. Expect Marian Hossa to have a big game for the Hawks - he does not want his team heading back to Philly down 3-2.

Game 5 starts at 8pm et and can be found on NBC in the U.S.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Canucks Sign RFA Schneider to 2-year Contract

I just wanted to comment quickly on the Vancouver Canucks signing goaltender Cory Schneider to a 2-year $1.8 mil contract:

This move by Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis aligns the interests of the team and Schneider. Schneider, a former first round draft pick and AHL goaltender of the year will have probably close to 20 games a year to prove himself at the NHL level for a possible trade down the road. This accomplishes two things:

1. If Schneider heats up for 4 or 5 games in a row, it will keep the starting job more competitive for Luongo.
2. With Bobby Luo signing such a long-term contract, paying more for a backup means less games for him (at least for the next 2 seasons) preserving the Canucks’ investment.

No decision yet has been made on what the Canucks will do with last year’s backup, Andrew Raycroft, but it’s highly unlikely that they will have 3 goaltenders under one-way contracts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Control; Hawks take 2-0 Series Lead

As expected, Game 2 was a much tighter game with both teams clamping down on defense and elevating the amount of physical play. A 22-second meltdown by the Flyers in the 2nd period resulted in a 2-0 hole after 40 minutes of play. In a failed attempt to clear the zone, Duncan Keith shot the puck toward the net and into traffic where Marian Hossa found the loose puck to notch his first of the series. The Flyers’ mishap had them reeling in their own zone and failed to tie up Hossa who probably wants to win the Cup more than any other player on the ice after the past two seasons of heartbreaking finals losses.
Again, stressing the importance of shifts after goals, the Flyers’ Arron Asham made an errant cross-ice pass in the neutral zone that was intercepted by Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien hit a buzzing Ben Eager who gained the zone and let a ripper go through a screening Matt Carle that beat Leighton on the glove side. Though the play occurred in transition, Carle cannot relinquish that shot to Eager so easily.
A power play goal a little more than 5 minutes into the 3rd for the Flyers cut the Hawks’ lead in half. The poor ice conditions favored a deflected Simon Gagne shot that took a couple of hops before beating Antii Niemi. For the remainder of the game, the Flyers played in high-pressure full desperation mode peppering Niemi with 33 shots total. Niemi answered the call putting on a show with his rebound control and ability to find pucks through traffic leading his team to victory.
Dan Carcillo did his job mixing it up and playing physical – although his best hit on the night was against his own teammate, Jeff Carter. I think we will see Carcillo in the line-up again tonight in place of James Van Riemsdyk.
Tonight’s Game 3 is a “must win” for Philly. If the Flyers can keep pace with the offensive pressure exhibited in periods two and three in Game 2 along with feeding off of the energy that will be present in the Wachovia Center, they have a chance for a win and to jump back into this series.
Coverage in the U.S can be found on Versus.