We're not going to delve into the mind-numbing details and theories behind expansion and contraction...again. But a new column by The Globe & Mail's Eric Duhatschek takes a close look at the current health of the league as told from those outside the commissioner's office.
On tap tonight at the BAC: our friends in red from Newark. We can only hope they're still laughing at the outcome of last week's debacle; time to catch someone off guard. Oh, and still no Brodeur. As for tonight's starters, I'm going with Anderson and former Cat Kevin Weekes, though Scott Clemmenson is on a bit of a tear. Pure speculation.
AccuScore has this one razor-tight, but since the Panthers are the Panthers, New Jersey gets the nod. Be nice to see a bit o' bad blood spill over from last week.
UPDATE: Clemmenson starts for the Devils. So much for my speculation.
Following my mature, well-reasoned (!) rant the other night re: FSN/Comcast switching from the Panthers HD pregame broadcast to the Miami Heat HD broadcast, Fox Sports contacted me soon after. Attend:
Hi Don, Thanks for the email. We double checked with our producer and lastnight's Panthers game telecast was indeed offered in HD as you mentioned. Who is your cable or satellite provider? We can follow up with them, or you might want to, to see if there were any technical problems last night but we did not receive other emails so perhaps this was an isolated issue. Below is a link to our website along with a list of all the SouthFlorida cable and satellite systems who are offering FOX SportsFlorida's Panther games in HD. And by the way - approximately half of the Panther and HEAT games are offered in HD - one is not favored over the other.
A list of all of FSN's standard and high-definition channels was included, you know, in case I wasn't familiar, being a fan and all. No other emails were received probably because I was the only Cats' fan in West Palm Beach, which is precisely one more than the Heat have up here. Whatever. At least they bothered enough to send me a "Dear John" letter with my name on it, and appreciate their effort, at least to that extent. I'll never get anywhere with Comcast, so Creek - Paddle = Me. Case closed. Spoiled, I was.
Terrific blogsite covering the Devils: In Lou We Trust, over at Mirtle's SBNation. Don't miss it.
Our buddy James Mirtle's world-class From the Rink blog has been nominated (again!) for the Canadian Blog Awards' Best Sports Blog. No surprise there. Let's do our part in helping him get over the hump. Congratulations on the nomination, James!
The league has chosen to "honor" Tomas Vokoun (4-10-0-1, 3.02, .912) and Jay Bouwmeester (0G-8A-8P, -7) with spots on the 2009 All Star Game ballot. Shiny numbers and all, but I'm thinking we fans can do a better job. Now, it's sweet and cuddly that every club, no matter how pathetic, gets represented in the "game"; guess it's all part of Gary Bettman's outreach program. That being said, how about some realism? Some folks who've been there, night after miserable night, giving their all regardless of the apocalyptic situation? (For the record, Vokoun's a gamer, and his record is not entirely his fault, but he hasn't been the "rock" that his resume demands. And Bouwmeester's been walkin' the green mile since the second week of the season.)
So in the spirit of inclusion and diversity (and boy, am I tired of those words) we hereby submit for your approval the following three player as write-ins on the NHL's official ballot. And by the way: VOTE. A. LOT. Or not. Up to you.
Forward: David Booth (19GP-9G-1A-10P, even). Horton's got more points (12) but he's a minus-5. Cory Stillman might've snuck in here if not for the involuntary facial-reconstruction he received a couiple of weeks ago. Booth has been everything to this club up front, and a ball of energy that has no equal.
Defense: Keith Ballard (19GP-2G-10A-12P, -1). All we could have hoped for defensively in the Jokinen deal, Ballard's been nothing short of the torch carrier on the backend (wasn't that job already spoken for? Meh). Speed, skill, a thundering checker. You don't pick these types up every day. Alternate: Bryan McCabe.
Goal: Craig Anderson (3-1-1-1, 2.08, .940). He's given up a couple of stinkers, but not many. And none of those three losses were his doing...especially being left for dead as his blueliners so often do. He probably won't qualify anyway based on games-played, but this one sure would be the cat's ass, to coin a phrase. No matter how painful the inquisition-on-ice may be, he's always got a smile, and he never ever quits. Gets puck bunny points, as well. Alternate: um, Craig Anderson.
So there you go, South Florida and the Outer Rim Systems. If we've gotta have a Panther in that most meaningless of games, let's make it the right one. GET OUT AND VOTE!
Here we are, redefining the term "laughingstock", mired at 15th place in the conference. The league? Twenty-ninth. Only Dallas is statistically worse, and there's no way The Brett Hull Experience will allow for that much longer.
Perennial jokes such as Atlanta, Columbus, and Phoenix (um, sorry) are looking down at us in the standings. Every respectable MSM Power Ranking has Florida in 29th or 30th (and you wonder where I've gone with those updates...how many different routes can I travel to arrive at the same spot?).
My two cents? Thanks for asking:
- The "D" is far too porous for a group of this sort. Cullimore escaped serious injury and is day-to-day. Bryan Allen remains the only long-term casualty. Welch has proven to be capable of playing respectably, if unspectacularly, each night. Boynton? Big, strong, fearless...and the perfect complement to conjoined twin - and new fan-favorite - Keith Ballard. Skrastins? Does it all (just ask Phil Kessel). Seriously, steady and reliable. Bryan McCabe? Awesome PP addition, less-than-stellar 5-on-5 play (but we knew this before he arrived). Who's the other guy? Starts with a "B"? The guy who's value is dropping faster than his team's? Oh well...must not be important.
- Goaltending? What's to say? Andy's been the star to this point, but neither he nor Vokoun has - realistically, salaries aside - locked up the starter's spot. Reliability and consistency have been frightening concerns, but face it folks...this tandem is what we've got for the year, and we all know they are both far superior than recent performances have shown. This should at the very least improve.
- Weiss? Vanilla. Horton? Back on the wing. Give it another game or two. Complete flop at center. Booth? As usual, the point of ignition for the entire offense. Stillman? Ah, what could have been. Once again, the Cats need a center. Like really really double badly now. Nylander from Washington? Big contract, little return in his second stint with the Caps. And dealing with a divisional foe is never without great risk. Could he work with Horts? Or (currently benched) Olesz? Might be quite a spark. Who to deal away? Yikes...the Caps are a positionally-sound club, though some cheap defensive help probably wouldn't be frowned upon. What do I know...I'm at work.
To borrow an overused phrase in PantherLand, I'm "frustrated". Sure would be nice if JM gave some indication of life with his office.
And another evening of glorious Panther pucks is upon us. Now that we've had the opportunity to shower off and peel the discontent over last night's travesty out of the pores of our collective skin, the Boston Bruins open the doors of the ____ ______ ______ _____ Garden to Florida.
Been a bit of a struggle finding any pregame notes of interest, and considering the kooky day I'm attempting to put behind me, I defer you to the terrific Bruins resource known as Cornelius Hardenbergh and the Hockey Blog Adventure. I owe Cornelius an apology for not having a link to his awesome site posted up before today, and was honored that he wanted to include a few of my "thoughts from the enemy" in his pregame notes. His collection of links and info on both clubs is first-rate.
As regular readers - yes, the twelve of you - know all too well, I was no fan of the Bruins or their beloved palace (my personal chamber of horrors), the Boston Garden. There was absolutely no love lost between the B's and the Whale. But it's funny how time has lessoned - heck, disintegrated - my disdain for All Things Boston (except the city...always a liquor-saturated blast). I really hated that club with every fiber of my being. Hated their colors. Their fans. Their arrogance. Now? Not so much. I'm actually rather pleased the Bruin Faithful are back on the map. It's good for them, and good for the league. And yes, I've already written Tim Thomas in on the All Star ballot.
A terrific opinion piece by SI's Jim Kelley provides a darker tone to the Melrose Mauling. Not piling on to the Lightning (not right now, anyway) but simply really agreed - ultimately - with the article and found the following to be rather applicable to anyone building a team with a Playstation3:
"To improve a team -- especially a team put together by "thinking outside the box" -- you need, in addition to patience, a coach who is part teacher, part taskmaster, part preacher with a healthy dose of success attached to his name. The idea should be to have someone who has enough of a reputation to convince all the bright new faces and at least a line's worth of the craggy old ones that there is one person in the room who knows what he's doing."
Kids, I'm at work and thoroughly trusting my instincts by expecting to be let go within days, if not hours. Darn economy. Got me pretty freaked out. Stomach's in knots. Had to get it off my chest, so thanks for that. Oh well...been there before. Been lucky to remain employed to this point. Glad it's hockey season.
If only I had a decent pirated copy of PhotoShop...
If you're a Panthers - or Bolts - fan, you find yourself in the same sinking ship as I. Where to find tonight's divisional matchup, featuring the home debut of the Lightning's newest coach-of-the-week, and the premier of Steven Stamkos on the number-one line? WAXY 790 AM! No disrespect to the capable hands of our radio boyz, but THIS IS A GAME THAT MUST BE TELEVISED.
An absolute travesty that we are forced to watch the Habs at Raleigh. This is supposed to bring new blood to the sport? What about us, eh Gary? You remember, Florida fans: the folks who have sat through your lockouts, rule changes, expansions, and relocations, all the while begging the media to kick us while hanging on for our dear franchises' lives? I speak for Tampa Bay, Sunrise, Orlando...heck, Opa Locka. Why oh why must this ridiculous "exclusivity" clause be foisted upon us? Puck fans in the Sunshine State finally have a game that WE ALL care about and it's ripped away in the name of "promoting" the league in...where? Who is going to be drawn to Montreal-Carolina who isn't an established hockey fan? Looking for stragglers too anebriated after the fourth re-run of White-Tailed Deer Gone Wild to hit the remote? I mean pah-leese. A joke, and a cruel one at that. This is punishment for something. Some days it's not worth being a supporter of this backward, uncaring, damn-the-torpedoes league. Why even waste my time writing this? History has proven the NHL will do anything in it's power to do The Wrong Thing.
Is it too late for me to be a poker fan?