Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Earl Takes a Request

Tim Sassone, Chicago Beat Writer, November 25:

Is it being a little too greedy to think the Hawks can go 6-0 on this road trip? Wednesday's game in San Jose won't be easy, but the Sharks can be beat and the Hawks almost did it last week at the United Center. The Hawks led 5-4 going to the third period then took a couple dumb penalties and wound up losing 6-5. It's on to Anaheim Friday and the Ducks aren't anywhere near as good as they were when they won the Stanley Cup. The Hawks close the trip Saturday at Los Angeles against an improved, but nothing special Kings team.
Rudy Kelly, BoC Blogger, November 29:
The Blackhawks have lost both California games (against San Jose and Anaheim) this weekend. Let's make it one more so Earl has to bust out the ol' rape graphic again.
Well, apologies for the absence this week, but with siblings in town for Turkey Day, I was away from the computer for a bit -- but I've had myself a great week. I was even in Row B for Friday's game against the Blackhawks, and had great seats to see Wild Wing trip over some carpeting thanks to his duckbill-obstructed view. It was a pretty fun afternoon and a decent 1-0 game, and it's not hard to see why Blackhawks fans are excited this year -- this looks like a top-eight roster and once a goalie gets moved there's even salary room for improvement. Still, I'm not sure they're ready to call for sweeps just yet on the west coast swing; those are rare even for the great teams since the lockout (see comment #2 in this post), and there's always plenty of legit excuses -- miles, time zones, often back-to-backs, home refereeing, and the fact that SJ is killing all visitors this year. Whatever, the dude called the BoC road trip out and crapped out hard, and will get what he deserves.

San Jose Sharks 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Anaheim Ducks 1, Chicago Blackhawks 0
Los Angeles Kings 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2
Battle of California 9, Sweep-Talking Blackhawks 4

Modified from the State Rape cartoon that started it all.

Go Ducks (and sure, Kings and Sharks too when it makes for a good graphic).


You know, I probably come up with a hundred different line combinations between games, and yet Terry Murray always manages to come up with a line that completely blows my mind. The Frolov-Stoll-Handzus line is one such line, and yet it's different from the others because it doesn't make me want to kill someone. The line is actually pretty awesome. All three can play defense very well, all three can put the puck in the net, and all three can play heavy minutes. The line did a fairly good job at shutting down Patrick Kane when they were out there (he got a goal off a line change and an assist on the power play) and contributed 2 goals themselves. If the Kings are going to heavily rely on 2 lines like they have been, they might as well put their best players (and Kyle Calder*) on those lines.

*I'm actually kind of worried about Calder. My brother was at the game yesterday and reported that people were actively decrying Calder's existence, and there were shouts of, "I hate you, Calder!" Watch, someone's going to kill him and then his niece is going to get revenge by killing me in my bathtub and someone's going to paint a famous picture of it. It's been known to happen.

Brian Boyle has been sent down to Manchester, which makes sense since it doesn't seem like he's going to play much. It does kind of suck for him though, seeing as how he got saddled with Zeiler and Ivanans when he played and then Derek Armstrong takes his spot and gets to play with O'Sullivan and Moller.

Also, Denis Gauthier apparently messed up his foot blocking a shot. I'm not one to cheer an injury, but... yay.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kings Gameday: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

LA Kings (9-9-3) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (10-5-6!)

1:00 PST, Fox Sports Prime Ticket

Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have been attached at the hip since Kopitar came into the league. Brown gave Kopitar a steady hand to feed the puck to, while Kopitar seemed to elevate Brown's game from that of a third-line grinder to a top line power forward. Both guys owe much of their success to one another and it's hard to imagine the two of them on different lines. But is it time to break them up, just to see what happens?

Dustin Brown's game has evolved these past two seasons. Kopitar used to be the dynamic playmaker of the two, but Brown has taken it upon himself to carry the puck a lot more this season; that's good, but Kopitar has looked a little lost when he's not the one carrying the puck into the zone. It's like two best friends in middle school, but one came to high school with breasts grown over the summer. It might be better off to throw Brown with Stoll and Frolov, giving that line a guy that can finish his chances, while putting Patrick O'Sullivan and Oscar Moller with Kopitar. The latter line managed to score both goals against the Oilers on Wednesday despite not actually playing together. Sully and Moller give Kopitar 2 players that can shoot well while still keeping the puck on his stick. Brown and Kopitar have been great, but it may be time to break them up.


The Blackhawks have lost both California games (against San Jose and Anaheim) this weekend. Let's make it one more so Earl has to bust out the ol' rape graphic again.

Prediction: Kings win, 4-3. Goals by Quincey, Kopitar, Stoll and Handzus.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kings Gameday: Dean Lombardi is a Dead Man

LA Kings (8-9-3) @ Edmonton Oilers (9-9-2)

7:00 PST, NHL Network, TSN

What is up, douche bags? This is Lubomir Visnovsky, El Diablo, and I'm running things around here from now on. You may be thinking, "Hey, where's Rudy Kelly?" Well, last time I saw that sniveling son of a bitch he was running towards the Arizona boarder with his pants around his ankles pleading for me to not shoot him in the back, so I don't think you're going to be seeing him for a while. (Not so funny with piss running down you leg, are ya Rudy?) Now I'm in charge, and I'm going to share the real story behind my stay in Los Angeles, and why I am going to get Dean Lombardi.

What? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I was born on the mean streets of Topolcany, Czechoslovakia. We were so poor we couldn't even pronounce the name of our growing up. I was good at 2 things: shooting pucks and killing capitalists. Naturally, I had the opportunity to do one more than the other in Slovakia, but I still tried to shoot pucks whenever I could. This is funny: this one time a guy owed a buddy of mine some money, so I went over to his house while he was sleeping and shot him in front of his kids. It was hilarious. Anyway, eventually I got drafted by the Kings and came over to Los Angeles because I was ready for a new challenge and also things were getting a little hot for me in Slovakia. So I packed up my glock, my tech 9 and my cookboook recipe (I make an excellent cookie) and I headed to LA.

Big pimpin'.

I quickly made LA my town. I had a special corner of the locker room where I made my business deals and baked and my teammates knew better than to get in my way. When they did, they were either left injured (right, Adam Deadmarsh?) or dead (RIP, Jason Allison). Sean Avery made the mistake of crossing me (I don't look like a child, mother fucker!) and had to be traded to prevent his own demise. I'll get him, though. (Here's a hint, Sean: it rhymes with "bomb!") I "convinced" Lombardi to bring over a couple of my associates, like Ladislav Nagy and Pavol Demitra, but they quickly wore out their welcome. I'm a lone wolf. I even got a contract extension from that rat Lombardi. He claims the contract talks weren't fair, but if he can't take a gun to his head than I don't want to play for him. Life was good for me.

Then, out of nowhere, that son of a bitch traded me the day before my no-trade clause kicked in. Not even that, to fucking Edmonton! Have you ever been to Edmonton? How the hell am I supposed to smoke crack up here if the shit freezes? I can't even find a proper ho because they all have this thin layer of blubber to protect from the cold. I hate it almost as much as I hate Dean Lombardi. I don't even know what I did that upset him so much; I mean, I did sleep with his wife, but that's not a big deal in Slovakia. Is it a big deal here?

PIC. He's dead now.

Dean Lombardi. You're dead, hombre. You messed with the wrong Slovakian and I'm going to make you pay. It's going to start on the ice, and then I'm going to move to your office, and then to your home. The last thing you'll ever see is my pretty little face. And I'm going to smile while I do it.

Prediction: Destruction, Lubo-style. Oh, and you better vote for Lubo for the All-Star Game. That's not a prediction, that's a threat.

Sharks Gameday: Guess Who's Back?

No, it's not Claude Lemieux. That dude's skating in the AHL, not the NHL, and despite some people speculating that this move might be made to intimidate the Detroit Red Wings (uh...I don't think Lemieux's intimidating anyone in the NHL at this point, but interesting theory), we won't be seeing him in San Jose unless he wants to buy Doug Wilson a pizza or something.

Of course, Darren McCarty just got sent to the AHL too, so they can sell some minor-league tickets promoting Avs-Wings circa 1997. That could be fun.

In the meantime, Evgeni Nabokov will return in net today against the Chicago Blackhawks. The crowd gave Nabby a good welcome-back chant on Saturday night when he was shown on the in-house camera. As well as Brian Boucher has played, I don't think anyone's unhappy about having Nabby back between the pipes. That is, except for this guy.

Chicago comes in on a hot streak and they're thinking sweep even though they're only halfway through their six-game road swing. Of course, if the Sharks play like they did last week at the United Center, they'll give the Hawks every opportunity to do so. I'd try and come up with some statistical crunch regarding this but it's a busy pre-holiday work day, so we'll have to save that for another time.

One more thing about tonight: it's the second night of the black jerseys. The victory over Washington pushed aside any bad memories of the old Black Thursday curses, but a second win tonight will put lingering doubts out to pasture.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Join my digi-team

For the first week or two of its release, I bandied about the interwebs playing NHL '09 with a group of whacky Canadians. Aside from their silly accents, these guys were GOOD. They played like ... dare I say, a team.

Soon enough, though, Time Warner Cable put it in my pooper (metaphorically, I hope). That meant an internet connection as consistent as Oprah's weight and a tragic inability to fight for the polygonal Cup with my Canadian pals. Eventually, the team either dissolved or decided that it would be best if we saw other people.

Enough background, here's the deal: I started an EA Sports League team called Battle of Sedins and my roster includes only my doppelganger Sad Panda. This saddens and enrages me. So, if you have a copy of NHL 09, an X-Box Live account and a modicum of digi-talent, message/friend request/whatever me on X-Box Live so we can represent for our blogging gangstas.

Not sure what kind of demand there will be with this, but at first it will definitely be a first come first serve thing. (Naturally, BoC contributors will get on the team even if they suck balls) Eventually, we might get to the point be a B-team or some roster cuts, but that's another story for another day.

My gamertag is jimbobri. Since this team is for the BoC as well as my fledgling blog, I decided a BoC-team neutral logo would be best (so it's a European league mascot - a polar bear biting through a stick ... fucking sweet, right?). While I'm here let's discuss a few things:

  • Goalies will be treated as prima donnas, second only to myself and BoC writers. If you're really good at goalie in this game, you'll probably not going to need to worry about going on waivers.
  • Douches aren't necessarily barred. It just depends on what type of douche you are. Being the wrong kind of douche will get you kicked off the team. Want more specifics? Eh, fuck you. Remember, I make the rules.
(the power's already going to my head)
  • Don't be a dick about playing defense or a position you don't want to play. Not everyone can be blond haired, blue eyed quarterbacks, you know.
  • Use a headset. Yes, the headset is ridiculous and its use means you don't deserve to get laid for a week ... but it's necessary. C'mon, you know you want to hear me burn the roof of my mouth with a grilled cheese sandwich and admonish you for my own mistakes. Don't be delusional.
So, right now, that's the criteria. If you're tired of your team, looking for your first team or just want to hear my awful voice and even worse jokes, let me know. Most likely I'll be on and off for much of Wednesday and probably for a bit on Turkey Day (anything to get away from my dreadful family). It would be pretty kick ass if we could get at least 3-5 people on at the same time before my brother says something crazy while eating stuffing. God, I hate Thanksgiving.

Anyway, it's time for you to rejoice. Finally, your meaningless lives can be temporarily satisfying!!!

Bring Back Zeiler

Derek Armstrong- 11:21 TOI, 0 G, 0 A, -3, 0 SOG, 0 PIM

Brian Boyle- 11:19 TOI, 0 G, 0 A, -3, 0 SOG, 4 PIM

Raitis Ivanans- 9:59 TOI, 0 g, 0 A, -2, 0 SOG, 8 PIM

I'm not even mad, I'm impressed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kings Gameday: 20 Games In

LA Kings @ Calgary Flames (11-9-1)

6:30 PST, RSW (Regehr Sucks Wang?)

Record: 8-8-3 (49 Goals For, 49 Goals Against)

Special Teams: 16.7 PP% (19th), 84.1 PK% (10th)

Top Scorer: Anze Kopitar, 15 points

Best Forward: Dustin Brown?

Best Defenseman: Drew Doughty

Biggest Surprise: Drew Doughty/Erik Ersberg

Biggest Disappointment: Anze Kopitar

(It's only 19 games in, but tomorrow's Lubo Day so I'm doing this now.)

All coaches search for a balance between top-line talent and depth with their forward lines. At the beginning of the season, the Kings were running 3 lines that were of relatively equal strength, with Brownitar on the top line, Frolov/Handzus on line 2, and O'Sullivan/Stoll on the 3rd. These lines helped spread out the Kings' talent but probably did so a little too much and the Kings had trouble hanging with the top-level talent on other teams. Then Terry Murray apparently had a stroke and screwed with the lines for about 4 or 5 games, banishing O'Sullivan to the 4th line while promoting Kyle Calder to the top line. This gave the Kings the worst of both worlds: it hampered their top players while also neutering their depth.* Finally, the Kings moved Patrick O'Sullivan up with Brownitar to form the fearsome Maxi-PAD Line; since their reuniting, the three sleepy musketeers have tallied 7 points in 2 games. (Is that a lot? I don't know.)

*Of course, the Kings won a bunch of games while this was going on. Hockey is weird.

The reuniting of the Maxi-PAD solves one problem (it forms a top line that instills fear into the hearts of Los Angeles' opponents), but it also creates a depth issue that the Kings are ill-equipped to handle right now. Murray has apparently solved this problem by creating two dynamic scoring lines, a pretty good defensive line, and then (sound of toilet flushing here). Alex Frolov, Jarret Stoll and Oscar Moller have generally been getting assigned the other team's top scoring line and have been doing an admirable job of keeping them off the score sheet. Jarret Stoll should have about 15 goals by now but should start rounding into shape as he and Frolov build some chemistry. Michal Handzus has done a pretty great job of shutting down whatever line Murray sees fit to line him up against, but he desperately needs speed on his wings and Kyle Calder isn't cutting it. Wayne Simmonds looks good in spurts but I still think he could use a little time in the minors. 2 points in 20 games isn't good for him. Basically, the Kings are trying to create a overall mismatch with their top line; stop the other team's top offensive line with their 2nd line; and then prevent any line mismatch with their secondary stopper line. So far, so good.

The bottom line has been the source of much of my ire, and I really think the Kings are missing an opportunity to pile up cheap goals. As it stands now, the Kings' 4th line is pretty much worthless because there's no real reason to put them out on the ice. They aren't going to score, they're not going to control possession and wear down the opposition; the only thing they're going to do is take a penalty. The Kings would be wise to use someone with a modicum of offensive talent and get them involved in the game instead of using John Fucking Zeiler.* A line like Armstrong-Boyle-Richardson would actually help the Kings win a game, which is much more than I can say for Ivanans and Zeiler.

*If you buy into the premise that Ivanans prevents injuries to Kings' players, don't you have to believe that Zeiler is likely to get a King injured because he pisses off the other team and causes them to seek retribution? I don't get why that's not the case.

Overall, the Kings seem to have adapted into a system that relies heavily on their top two lines, both offensively and defensively. This has worked pretty well the past few games, although it remains to be seen how well Michal Handzus can be worked into the game without quality linemates. I keep expecting the Kings to start scoring goals any time now, but we're 20 games in and they haven't really shown signs that they're going to break out. Hopefully it comes soon, because I'd rather hit myself in the head with a hammer than root for the Blue Jackets.


Defensively, the Kings have been outstanding so far this season. I know, right? Strange. Even crazier: Drew Doughty is leading the team in ice time per game and is third (behind Kopitar and Brown) in power play time per game. The 18 year-old wunderkind is insanely poised for being so young; he looks like he's playing the game at a slower speed than everyone else. He's 5th among defenseman in penalty kill time per game, but that's more because he needs to get rest some time than because he's not good at it. The Kings' 2nd best defenseman? Kyle Quincey, who was waived by the Red Wings earlier in the season and is now leading all Kings' defenseman in points. Third best? Why, that'd be Sean O'Donnell, the wizened greybeard that was forced out of Anaheim due to cap constraints. He's leading Kings' defenseman in both even strength and penalty kill minutes, all while schooling Doughty in the finer aspects of the game. Plus, he kind of looks like Hellboy, so that's cool. 4th best is Matt Greene, who was acquired this last off-season along with Jarret Stoll for Lubomir Visnovsky. Basically, Dean Lombardi rebuilt the entire defense this off-season with one high-profile draft pick and a series of castoffs and renegades. The Kings' blueline looks like the offensive line from The Replacements; no word on whether Denis Gauthier eats a bucket full of eggs before every game. (Although his play makes me feel like I have! Oh snap!)


The first 10 games of the season, Jason Labarbera posted a 3.01 GAA and a .884 SV%. The problem wasn't that he was bad in every game, it was that he had a handful of stinkers that crippled the Kings. Since then, Erik Ersberg has started every game and has posted an admirable 2.05 GAA and a .907 SV%. His stats are inflated by the Kings' incredible shot prevention so far this season, kind of like Nabokov's last year, but the point is that Ersberg has been consistent. The Kings know what to expect from Ersberg and thus don't have to overcompensate. His lowest individual save percentage has been .867 and his highest has been .963; everything else has been in the low .900's. Compare that to Labarbera, who had a shutout but also had games like this and this, and you can see why the Kings have stuck with their little cherubic Swede. Of course, teams may start saying, "Hey, why don't we shoot high?" and then Ersberg is doomed, but I'll ride this little wave while it lasts.

Overall, the Kings have been... pretty good. They're limiting shots from their opponents and seem to be building an identity around tough team defense. While I would like them to score more, the reality of the Kings' roster situation makes it hard for them to bring up additional help. If the biggest complaint I can muster is that I'd like to see Brad Richardson play more, than I guess they're doing OK. Now they need to build on their relative success so far this season and make a push towards respectability.


Last season the Calgary Flames were the first team to exploit the defensive liabilites of the Maxi-PAD line by teaming up Craig Conroy (who shadowed Kopitar) and Jarome Iginla, who neutralized the Kings' best line by keeping the puck in LA's zone. The game's in Calgary today and the Flames will have the last change, so I expect that strategy to continue. However, that line is much improved defensively and Dustin Brown has actually been shouldering more responsibility carrying the puck, so we'll see how that little strategy looks this time around.

Anyone want to see a Boyle/Phaneuf scrap tonight?

Prediction: Kings win, 4-3. Goals by Moller, Doughty, Calder and... O'Donnell??? Sure why not.

John Zeiler Breaks Foote, Will Miss 3 Games

John Zeiler is dumb. If you watch the video, Adam Foote looks back behind him twice and sees Zeiler coming at him, and you can see him assume that there's no way Zeiler is going to hit him because it would clearly be boarding. Foote is so positive in this assumption that he doesn't try to protect himself at all. You could even argue that Foote was daring Zeiler to board him. And that's what Zeiler did. He plowed in and boarded the fuck out of Adam Foote. I know some people say that Foote deserved it, or that it's an unfair advantage for a defenseman if a forward can't be aggressive when getting the puck, but the NHL has made clear that if you hit a guy in the back and he hits the boards with his face then you are getting a penalty. John Zeiler hit Foote in the numbers, Foote hit the boards with his face, Zeiler got a penalty. Sounds fair. I only wish Zeiler had gotten the death penalty instead. Well, not the death penalty, that's a little far; maybe a 10-year sentence in federal "pound me in the ass" prison. That sounds about right.

San Jose Sharks vs Washington Capitals photos

Here are a few photos from the Sharks 7-2 thrashing of the Washington Capitals on Saturday night. Evgeni Nabokov returned to the lineup to backup Brian Boucher, and he is expected to start Wednesday night against Chicago. More photos and notes from the game are available here, and postgame comments from the coaches are available here. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was kind enough to answer a lot of questions for me about technology and the NHL prior to the game here, and Offwing.com and AOL's Eric McErlain also answered a few questions for me about the Capitals here.

Naturally Jody Shelley and Donald Brashear fight when I am in the tunnel going from one side of the rink to the other, but hockeyfights.com posted a video clip of the fight here. I am the first to admit I was not as positive about Shelley when he was with Columbus, but scroll through some of his fights this season on HF. He is having an incredible season, and Todd McLellan is throwing him out on a line with Marleau and Thornton late in the game, and sometimes subbing Marleau or Thornton at center on the fourth line. Something to keep an eye on.

Thanks for hitting the highlight video.

Ducks Gameday—Burke Week #5: Finale

Colorado Avalanche (9-10-0, t-12th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (11-8-3, t-4th in west)

Ah, we finally arrive at the conclusary installment of Burke Week, a five-day gander back at the Anaheim legacy of Brian Burke.

Part I: Defending three "bad" Burke moves that I don't think were that bad.
Part II: Criticizing three Burke moves that I don't think get enough flak.
Part III: Nothing but shout-outs.
Part IV: What I like about Burke the roster-builder.

And now we arrive at Part V: Scattered final thoughts, where I squeeze everything I've missed into a final post for the series. We'll start with some counterpoint: Two things that I didn't like about Burke the roster-builder.

Regret One: Europe, Where Art Thou?

Since Brian Burke's second year in Anaheim, there has been a fairly rigid three-player maximum on players from Europe -- Teemu Selanne from Finland, Sammy Pahlsson from Sweden, and the back-up goalie (first Ilya Bryzgalov from Russia, now Jonas Hiller from Switzerland), but before Burke arrived, Anaheim used to be a melting pot. Burke rid the team of Vitaly Vishnevski (Russia), Ruslan Salei (Belarus), Niclas Havelid (Sweden), Sandis Ozolinsh (Latvia), Petr Sykora (Czech Republic), Sergei Fedorov (Russia), and Ladislav Smid (Czech Republic), among others. Think about this: in 2003 the Ducks went to the Stanley Cup Finals with zero Canadians on their blueline. In 2007 the Ducks won the Stanley Cup with zero non-Canadians on their blueline.

It became very clear over Burke's tenure what sort of player he was building around -- skilled or not, he wanted North American skaters in nearly every roster slot. Now I don't want to attack this mindset too badly -- you can still make an impressive team from mostly one continent. However, one only had to look at the success of Swedish forwards on Detroit or the Finnish forwards on Dallas (or really, the European contribution to any team's success) to see that Burke's one-continent focus was biased against plenty of world-class talent.

It's one reason that I'm not upset to see Brian Burke leave -- he certainly did very good work while he was here, but I don't think too many years of Europe-phobia is good for an NHL franchise. By artificially limiting the available talent pool, the Ducks seemingly ignored a source for creativity and puck control -- and I think that they would be well-served to reintroduce that intercontinental element into their post-Burke philosophy. I just hope that Bob Murray has an open mind to the contributions of overseas players; I think it's an element the Ducks have been missing.

Regret Two: How Bad is Burke at the Entry Draft?

I don't follow prospects that well, so I can't really tell you how much more barren Anaheim's prospect pool is compared to when Burke arrived, but I assume it's been rather depleted. One of the problems, I assume, is Brian Burke's draft record, which will have to be judged in future years, but based on reputation and what I have seen looks unimpressive thus far.

I guess the indicting argument against Burke's draft record is that I believe Bobby Ryan and Brett Festerling represent the only players that Burke has drafted that have tasted NHL ice, and Ryan was selected in a high-expectation slot (2nd overall, one spot behind Sidney Crosby). I'm definitely not an expert here, but I'd expect that a draft-savvier GM would have accumulated more NHL-ready players by now (though granted, a lot of Anaheim's top picks were sent to Edmonton in the Pronger deal). I think it's premature for any hard criticism here (and a lot may be based on Bobby Ryan alone), but so far, it's tough to spot where Burke's draft record has served the Ducks very much.

Of course, there is a flipside to this criticism, which is that Burke has demonstrated that it's possible to build teams almost entirely outside of the draft -- the 2007 cup squad had very few players who were actually drafted by Anaheim (I believe Getzlaf, Perry, and Bryzgalov). Also, with Dave McNab finding lots of talent outside the draft (Anaheim's undrafted talent includes Andy McDonald, Dustin Penner, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Shannon, Ryan Carter, and Jonas Hiller), perhaps the importance of the draft is overstated. Still, the entry draft is a definite source to replenish talent, and it may prove that Burke's draft mediocrity hampers the Ducks in the near future.

But let's not overlook the upside.

I don't want to end Burke Week on all sour notes, though. Even with his drawbacks, Burke did transform the team's image from a Disney sidestory into one of the west's top teams. Burke became a source for franchise legitimacy -- I don't know if the team lands a Scott Niedermayer or a Chris Pronger without the presence of Brian Burke, and I don't know if a Mathieu Schneider or a Brendan Morrison even seriously considers the franchise as a signing option. Burke had the clout to trade away a high-priced Sergei Fedorov and a high-priced Mathieu Schneider for spare parts, and the bravery to stand behind moves like the waiving of Ilya Bryzgalov.

Basically, no matter his flaws and strengths, Burke was a high-profile GM and hockey personality, and he added relevance to the Anaheim Ducks. His coming to SoCal legitimized the franchise and fixed its focus on winning, and without that, the team's fortunes could have gone in a very different direction -- probably one without a Stanley Cup. There's definitely been some baggage to Brian Burke, but the upside has been pretty spectacular.

What I'll miss most about Brian Burke:
What I'll miss least about Brian Burke:

The answer to both of these is his mouth, which has definitely been a regular source for amusement, but also has diverted many of my blogging man-hours to defending the guy's often-malicious quotes. For better or worse, there is no topic in hockey that Brian Burke is too timid to discuss, usually with the spirit of antagonism. There's no doubt that I'm going to miss that mouth -- it sure beats the usual media-timidness that most hockey personalities have, but I won't lie. It's also going to be nice to have a little less controversy coming from the GM's mouth, as well.

Entertaining quotes occasionally do come at a price, not only in terms of franchise perception but also with burnt bridges as well. Anyone want to put an over/under on the number of months before we see another Anaheim-Edmonton trade?

A classic example of Burke's mouth making headlines.

Bottom Line: Overall, I'm a huge Burke supporter, even though over Burke Week I've split my positives and negatives pretty evenly. The upsides to having a strong-willed GM far outweigh the drawbacks (though it's important to remember those, as well). As a Ducks blogger, I've never had much desire to interview Ducks players (though nobody's really given me any opportunity) -- generally, I am disgusted enough with bland cliches that I don't think I'd do very well in that setting. That said, I would have loved to have an opportunity to interview Brian Burke -- even though the interview would have been generally awful (I'd probably conduct it at a bar and wouldn't write or record anything), I imagine shooting the shit with Burke would be ten times as entertaining as doing the same with any player.

Ultimately, Burke built a Stanley Cup Champion team in Anaheim, and nothing should take away from that. We'll miss you, Burkie, and wish you limited success in Toronto/wherever.


So that's the scattered last chapter of my Burke Week -- I definitely had a lot to say about the guy and what he did in Anaheim. For the comments, what's your final analysis? What grade would you give Brian Burke for his GM job in Anaheim, and how much do you think he will be missed? Any final thoughts are welcome in the comments.

Prediction: Ducks win 4-2. Goals by Ryan, Getzlaf, Pahlsson, and Pronger.

Go Ducks.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Verdict on the Kings' 3rd Jersey

Who has his arms raised and loves scoring goals? This guy.

-Drew, check out Stastny's face.
-What... oh my God.

Gotta admit, it looks pretty sharp. I hate the crest but the jerseys look pretty amazing while the action is going on. My favorite part are the socks, to be honest. If they put the crown from the regular jerseys on the front, I could see these jerseys becoming full-time. What do you guys think?

***Damn, no hand in this one either.

-John Zeiler should be shot into the Sun.

-Jarret Stoll should have about 30 goals by now.

-Drew Doughty played 29 minutes last night.

-When is Kopitar going to create a goal for himself?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kings Gameday: Seize the Day

LA Kings (8-8-2) vs. Colorado Avalanche (8-10)

7:30 PST, Fox Sports West

The Stars have imploded and just lost their best player. The Coyotes haven't sparked offensively and their youth hasn't quite lived up to the height so far. The Ducks look to be rounding into shape after a slow start but aren't quite the dominant team they've been in years past. The Sharks... well, the Sharks are amazing. But after them, there isn't a team that has really made its mark in the Pacific Division. Why not the Kings? They're sitting at .500 right now despite losing their best defenseman in the 2nd game of the season. Their top scorers from last year have underperformed, their goaltending in the first 10 games of the season was subpar, and they just now put together a legitimate top scoring line. And yet they're right there. The Kings have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, assuming the Stars continue to fall apart and need to use the next month to build up points before they spend the 2nd half of the season on the road. Let's start today.

Prediction: Kings lose, 4-1. Goal by John Zeiler. Fuck these guys.

Cue "Taps"

WOW. Someone just played Panic's entrance music. If things looked bad for the Stars just a few days ago, now the team is pondering meteor shower insurance. Rudy posted the news but if you have anti-scroll disease, Brenden Morrow is out for the season.

The Stars are effectively "fixed." As in they've been de-balled.

With Marty Turco having a mini-meltdown and Brad Richards giving weepy interviews in emo shirts, trading away Jussi Jokinen and Mike Smith is looking closer to Bochenski for Versteeg these days. Honestly, Richards had enough positive moments in the playoffs that he gained a ... sort of flattering nickname in the "Five Dollar Shake." No Pulp Fiction jokes for him now, though. Although perhaps a "do I LOOK like a bitch?" might work.

So, with chicken little getting on the first trip to DFW Airport, I thought it might be fun to look at the different ways this mess can shake out:

1. The put-your-head-between-your-legs-and-pray approach

The plane's losing cabin pressure. Oxygen masks just popped out over your head. Babies are crying. Virgins are tearing off each others clothes and all you can do is prepare for a fiery grave.

In the Stars case, they are hoping the after-life includes one of the top two draft picks. There seems to be some hockey nerd slap fights over who's going to be the number one pick, but it's pretty hard to imagine John Tavares suffering an Angelo Esposito-type fate (or Aaron Rogers type fate, for you hockey borderliners). But even if Tavares suffers from a Fannie Mae-ish drop in stock, the Stars could benefit from getting the next big hype machine (Tavares) or Victor Hedman, Sweden's answer to Zdeno Chara.

Let's face it, kids, Smokin' Sergei Zubov is aging as hastily as Meg Ryan (seriously, what butcher of a plastic surgeon made her lips into couch cushions?). Turco's struggles are well documented, but even if he rights the ship he's not exactly a young man either. And the Stars' offense is anchored by really old players (Modano) and guys who are hovering around the dreaded 30-zone (Morrow, Mike Ribeiro). (Oh, and of course douche bags like Sean Avery)

In other words, this might be the perfect time for the Stars to have a free fall to a high-end pick. Dallas doesn't have NHL draft savants like Detroit so those perpetual playoff runs and future mortgaging trades make it tough to bring in high-end offensive talent. The defense has some guys who still have a chance to be good again, but no Jack Johnson, no Erik Johnson or any other future franchise D guy not named Johnson.

So maybe the Stars can pull a San Antonio Spurs - a team that hovered around good for years, had one atrocious year and ended up with Tim Duncan. Just sayin'.

2. Us against the world?

Something tells me that Linda Cohn and Co. left the Stars bandwagon in a ditch somewhere in podunkia. Allowing awful end of the period goals, taking stupid penalties and generally shitting the bed means that the Stars can go back to being way under the radar.

Could that be a good formula for a rebound? Stranger things have happened and Morrow, despite his playoff heroics, was struggling too this season. *Shrug*

3. Liquidation time!!! Clearance sale!!! All underperforming players must GO!

Never hurts to dream.

Then again, the Stars COULD go apeshit and go into full-on rebuild mode. After all, the economy is shit and the crowds will get sparser by the meltdown. Carrying an expensive losing roster might not be feasible with the economy getting gang raped. And if nothing else, the Stars have some big contracts and big names who could actually have decent trade value.

Turco might not exactly be at his most valuable level, but he has a huge contract. Who knows ... maybe a miracle could happen and they could move him for Jason Spezza.

WOW! This is fun! Making up completely unsubstantiated rumors is almost as fan as playing Gears of War 2!

In all seriousness, the Stars could look to shop players (kinda doubt Turco will go anywhere though). Zubov is a high-skill, high-age guy who could be a splendid trading deadline candidate. Richards might be too expensive, but he's still a very talented player. Ribeiro is a tool and an injury faking douche. This is undeniable. But he's also been a point per game player. He actually was really good in the playoffs and didn't writhe around on the ice like an asshole last year.

Would there be anyone crazy enough to take Avery off their hands?

If there's anything the NHL has shown me, it's that stupid trades and free agent signings happen all the time. It would be nice if the Stars came out on the winning end this year.


So, those seem to be the three paths the Stars can take. Without bias or any "research" to get in the way of my opinions. Hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sharks Gameday: Black Jerseys, Huh?

So, you may have heard there's this little thing called, erm, BlackArmor debuting against the Caps on Saturday night. It's black (duh) and not a heck of a lot different from the old black jerseys. Guess those early reports were wrong.

(The good news? There's not a Seagate logo to be found. Fortunately, Euro-style sponsorships haven't crept into the league as some had feared.)

Still, you guys know that I'm just a teeny tiny bit superstitious. The old black jerseys were seemingly cursed, at least for the first few seasons. I don't have specific numbers but I believe that the team's record when wearing them was roughly 0-19573893-2. They did eventually start winning with the black jerseys on, so whatever curse they had was apparently shaken off.

History does tend to repeat itself though, and with the Sharks wearing the new duds on consecutive nights (Caps and Wednesday night against the Blackhawks), I say this: if you lose both games, burn them. Burn them all and never speak of them again.

Oh yeah, and some dudes named Alexander Something-or-other are going to be skating. Fingers crossed that Jose Theodore will be in net. What are the odds of a Donald Brashear/Jody Shelley fight -- and what's the over-under on number of punches Shelley actually gets in before Brashear takes over?

Brenden Morrow Out 6 Months With a Torn ACL

You know, I've been predicted every season for the past 6 seasons that the Stars were going to falter, and every season they've made me look like a jackass. This season I finally don't predict a letdown and this looks like the season they finally falter. Just thought you'd like to know how this is affecting me personally.

4th Line Checklist

-Can't score? Check.

-Can't keep the puck out of their own zone? Check.

-Takes 2 penalties, including one when the opposing team has the puck stationary behind their own net? Check.

That Zeiler-Boyle-Ivanans line is terrible. Can make Derek Armstrong a coach, waive Zeiler and bring up Matt Moulson and Ted Purcell?


The Maxi-PAD line was matched up against Ovechkin's line all night, with Dustin Brown pretty much shadowing Ovy all night. Ovechkin was getting frustrated and in the third period took it out on Dustin Brown, blindsiding Brown with a little bit of an elbow in front of the net when the puck was in the corner; unfortunately for Ovy, Brown's skate got up and clipped Ovechkin in the ear. He fell to the ice and rolled around for a little while before he got up and realized he was getting a penalty for interference. Suddenly his ear wasn't bothering him that much anymore. Exactly one minute later, Dustin Brown scored on the power play. Hilarious.


Does anyone else feel bad for Alex Frolov? He and Kopitar are the opposite: I keep looking at Kopitar's stats and can't understand how he has as many points as he does, while I keep expecting Frolov to have a lot more points than he actually does. He made a great play to get Jarrett Stoll wide open right in the slot but Stoll rang it off the pipe. If we can ever get Anze and Alex going at the same time, the Kings will be pretty dangerous.


It's important not to read too much into last night's game. Yeah, the Kings played well and limited the Caps to only 21 shots, but the Capitals were missing this season's best offensive player, their best offensive defenseman and their best checking forward. Plus, the Caps were worn out from lighting up the Ducks so many times the night before. It was a good win but we need to keep perspective about the whole thing.

Ducks Gameday—Burke Week #4: GM Lessons from a Cup Champ

Anaheim Ducks (10-8-2, 7th in west) at St. Louis Blues (6-8-2, 15th in west)
Ducks had better have a better start or somebody's going to the dentist!

So for Part IV of this series, I thought I'd take a look at some of the ways that Burke was a very good general manager -- things that worked for the Ducks not only on their Cup run but also looking forward. Think of these as a bit of a primer for good ol' Bob Murray, or more accurately, Part IV: What I like about Burke the roster-builder.

Lesson One: If you want depth, don't acquire depth players; instead insert talent at the top of your roster.

While I've stated before that I’m not overly impressed that Burke had the "wisdom" to acquire Niedermayer, Selanne, or Pronger, I don’t want to take away from the fact that Burke knew what he was going after – a superstar. His focus wasn’t on filling in his roster with supplementary depth players, though he certainly put those pieces in place as well; he was looking to acquire top-flight players for the top end of his roster and let his existing roster form the depth. Not only was a superstar able to drop players down to more manageable roles, but Carlyle could even form a legitimate pairing with Scott Niedermayer and a league-minimum Francois Beauchemin, for example, and further benefit from an all-star's abilities. In a nutshell, if you ask me how Burke was able to build a cup winner, the answer is that he took a franchise with a lot of supporting parts and inserted talent at the top. By doing so, he made everyone more effective.

Lesson Two: Shelter your kids – It’s good for them and it’s good for you.

I think the way Getzlaf and Perry were brought into the league was phenomenal. Their rookie year they were played as fourth-liners, with Todd Fedoruk watching their backs – a very no-pressure environment to learn the ropes of the NHL. To effectively remove them from Calder consideration, they were even demoted for a month or so to the AHL Pirates, but played together throughout. Their sophomore year they moved up to second-liners, still sheltered from top defenders (Selanne drew those matchups) and top scorers (Pahlsson of course got those). That year was of course the cup year, so needless to say it worked out well. Then finally last year, their contract year, they were given responsibilities as top-liners, and having been groomed for the role they delivered. The payoff to the Ducks was two well-prepared top-liners who not only proved their abilities but also signed at reasonable rates ($5.6 million apiece, which certainly could have been worse). That salary in part has to do with their limited time on the top line – by holding them back not only were they better prepared but also had less career points come contract time. This also holds true for Bobby Ryan, who I can only speculate on his worth, but will certainly have limited NHL exposure come contract time two summers from now. It will be interesting to see how good Bobby Ryan becomes, or how prepared for NHL duty he is, and how much his sheltering pays off in his next contract for Anaheim.

Lesson Three: Be true to your players and they’ll be true to you.

I can't think of one time Brian Burke didn’t righteously stand up for one of his players in Anaheim – no matter how stupid or how idiotic it was. It’s one reason Brian Burke is as hated as he is by rival fans, but probably one reason why players seem so loyal to him. Whether it’s Bertuzzi’s suckerpunch, Pronger’s elbows or skateblade, Selanneidermayer’s semi-retirements, or even softer stuff like Giguere dealing with his baby’s health – Burke is front-and-center deflecting criticism and supporting his guys. He’s done seemingly honorable things in waiving Bryzgalov and proving Giguere with a no-movement clause, and I think there's payoff to those moves -- I know players are loathe to say anything controversial, but I haven't heard any player critical of Burke, even guys who have left under tough circumstances (Penner, McDonald, Schneider, Bertuzzi). Whether or not fans like or dislike what Brian Burke has to say, it does seem that players do respond favorably to it, and I think that perception is helpful in luring free agents to sign or players to re-sign.

Lesson Four: No Long-Term Deals ... Flexibility = Positivity!

This is a big one for me, too. Brian Burke has committed to two 5-year deals (Getzlaf and Perry), four 4-year deals (both Niedermayers, Kunitz, and Giguere), and only a few 3-year deals (McDonald and Carter, notably). He’s also acquired two deals with 4 years remaining (Marchant and Pronger). He’s stayed away from mammoth-year contracts, though, and I’m glad he’s done so. Burke hasn’t crippled rosters seven or eight years from now, and that has to be the wise move -- with a changing NHL landscape and a newly-implemented salary cap, it's tough to foresee what player values will be five years down the road. Now don't get me wrong -- I'm not against all long-term deals (I once advocated a fifteen-year deal for Getzlaf), but I'm glad it's not a crutch that Burke used to lure players to Anaheim. I think GMs who do that are selfish -- they are trying to win now while risking their franchise's ability to win in the future (partially it's because of mixed motivations -- the roster seven years from now is likely going to be a replacement GM's problem). So while many like to say that Burke has ruined the Ducks, it doesn't seem a long-term problem; in two or three years there will hardly be any Burke contracts on the books at all.


So that's some of the positive GM lessons that Burke has demonstrated; if you feel like I've missed anything, feel free to add your own lesson from Burke in the comments. Part V I'll try to do a wrap-up; some GM lessons I didn't like, what I'll miss most and least about the guy (first in both categories: his mouth), and a conclusion.

Prediction: Bob Murray's Ducks 5, Andy Murray's Blues 2. Goals by Perry, Ryan, Morrison, Pahlsson, and Montador.

Go Ducks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's eating the Dallas Stars?

The Dallas Stars are stumbling worse than a fat chick after 15 tequila shots. Seriously, tonight's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks (6-3) was ugly. The lowlight was Kris Versteeg's goal on Turco, in which the Stars made the talented rookie look like the second coming of ... well, Jonathan Toews.

(My internet connection has been Turco-like in its consistency, but I'll keep an eye out for Versteeg's goal. Link it in the comments/edit this post if you find it before me.)

It's easy to blame everything on Turco, but it's obvious that this isn't all his fault. Honestly, it's really hard to pin the tail on this blame donkey.* Could it be that, after being unappreciated and hard working for all these years, the Stars relaxed once it started to believe its press clippings? Did Turco morph into Dan Cloutier? Can they find a way to blame Sean Avery?

* - Ever wondered what it looks like to die in print? Wonder no longer ...

ANYWAY, it's getting harder and harder to stick to the "don't panic, it's still early" plan. Really, at this point the Stars can only hope for a dreary #8 seed and an absolute shellacking by the Red Wings or Sharks. The Pacific Division is off in the distance and the NHL doesn't use Mario Kart's "don't make loser kids sad, let them inexplicably go from 12th to 1st place" logic so they might as well kiss that goodbye.

How fucked is this team? Is it time to admit that the Stars just need to cut their losses and get into the Tavares sweepstakes? Do they even have their first round draft pick this year???

What a disaster. So, what now?

Kings Gameday: Red Dawn 2

LA Kings vs. Washington Bolsheviks

7:30 PST, Fox Sports West

Tonight is Russian Heritage Night at Staples Center, which is a great idea because it gets all of them in one spot so we can capture them. I stopped paying attention to politics in 1989, so I don't know too much, but I do know that commies are bad and I hate them. They tried to trick me with that whole Glasnost thing, but I know what's up: Russians, having failed to take over the world economically, are now trying to take over through hockey. They've infiltrated our nation's capital, led by their furry leader, Alex Ovechkin. His comrades Alex Semin (hehe) and Sergei Fedorov are probably "out" tonight, but I'm pretty sure it's all a ruse for some sort of un-American activity.* Standing in their way? The good, solid, American squad of Los Angeles Kings, led by Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Erik Ersberg. The Kings are the only thing standing in the way of a Russian invasion, and I'll be damned if they're going to fail. "Wolverines!"

*We really should start some sort of committee to investigate all these Un-American activities. I think the House of Representatives should get on this.


As part of Russian Heritage Night, the Kings are offering a ticket that allows you to get two free vodka drinks. Does that seem offensive to anyone else? Are they going to have a African-American heritage night and offer Kool-Aid? I don't get why we as a society let stuff like that slide and yet when I offer my penis to the girls' soccer team I'm the asshole. Geez, you've never seen 10 year-olds create such a commotion.


As promised, here's your chance to vote on a new nickname for the Patrick O'Sullivan-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown line. I vow to call this line whatever nickname you pick for the rest of the season or until I get bored. The popular option in the comments was Danzick O'Brownitar, and commenter Reeces came up with this picture (I think he used Kopitar's eyes):

Weird that you can take three ugly guys, combine them, and the result is James Marsden.

Brian Burke Week Part III: Nothing but shout-outs

Time to take a break from my normally scheduled Burke Week -- tomorrow I'll get to the positive GM lessons we can learn from the Burke. Today instead I'm just going to toss a few links and call it a day (partially because I feel bad just tossing these at the end of a long post; mostly because I'm lazy).

First off, in keeping with Burke-themed tradition, I was a guest again on The Rink Podcast this week to talk about what the Burke departure means for Anaheim. I'm the first of three guests in a virtual All-Star Game of blog guests -- Steve Lepore of Puck the Media also talks about Versus ratings, and Alanah McGinley of Canucks and Beyond talks about Roberto Luongo's shutout streak. Not my strongest work, but then again, podcasting ain't my forte.

Secondly, I wanted to give an update on the guy sometimes known as Kyle J and sometimes known as "the Swede" -- our mysterious comic book contributor here at BoC (Episode 1: Toronto, Episode II: Detroit). Well since his BoC debut, Comic Book Guy has taken the new name "Good Kyle", and has started his own multi-faceted blog: Good Kyle Versus Evil Kyle. I've added the link under "Hockey + Cartoons = Awesome", even though hockey cartoons seems to be a small portion of what that blog is offering. Good Kyle assures me that there's more hockey-themed artwork coming, though, and sent this image as a token of good positivity:

Why so sad?

And lastly and leastly, I also stayed Burke-themed on today's PuckToon. It was a rush-job, no doubt, but I'm not dissatisfied with the result. Enjoy!

Bobby Ryan = Positivity! Go Ducks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Sharkspage films premiere

A Sharkspage films premiere. Highlights after 20 games to "I am the night, colour me black" by Priestess.

What to Name the O'Sullivan-Kopitar-Brown Line

Terry Murray has reunited the Patrick O'Sullivan-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown line that was such a surprising success in the 2nd half of last season. If that sentence sounds familiar it's because I wrote it about 3 weeks ago the first time Murray did this; then they played one game together and Murray put O'Sullivan on the 4th line. Now O'Sullivan is seemingly back and I think it's time the line deserved a name. because I had this all set up before Murray dicked them (and me around). Here's a few options I came up with, and then I'll take a few good suggestions in the comments and have a vote tomorrow. Hooray for democracy!

Option A: LAPD, Central Division- This option evokes memories of the old LAPD line (Allison-Palffy-Deadmarsh), but it has the added bonus of being a little bit more rough 'n tumble than the old line. The name works because their names work (Anze-Patrick-Dustin) and it's similar to the older incarnation because all three had a niche that complimented the other two. The downside to this name is obviously the fact that all three LAPD members were out of hockey 4 years after they first hooked up. Also, the name isn't entirely original.

Option B: Dawn of the Dead Line- A solid comedy option, the name works because the line is unyielding and relentless; also, all three of them look like zombies. I chose "Dawn" because they're all young and at the dawning of their career. (I'm clever.) This line could also be called the Sandman Line, although I'm starting to think that Dustin Brown should take that name for himself. The best part of this nickname: when they score, the entire arena could moan, "BRAAAIIIINNNSSS." It admittedly wouldn't make much sense, but it would be funny.

Option C: The Whew Line- "Shit, is that Kyle Calder? Oh, it's just Patrick O'Sullivan. Whew."

Option D: The Maxi-PAD Line- So called because their names line up (Patrick-Anze-Dustin) and because they give maximum effort on every shift. The downside is... actually, I can't think of one. Try to make fun of that name, pundits!

So there you go. Let me know if you have any good ideas in the comments. Something involving raccoons would be appreciated.

Update: This doesn't have anything to do with anything, but I'll be damned if it's not the most adorable thing I've ever seen:

Ducks Gameday—Burke Week #2: Let's get critical!

Washington Capitals (10-4-3, 4th in east) at Anaheim Ducks (10-7-2, t-4th in west)
NHL's other poster child is in town.

Welcome to the second installment of Brian Burke Week, as I ponder back on the Anaheim yester-legacy of the mouthy one. Yesterday I made a case for three moves that I think Burke gets too much flak for; today it's time for Part II: Criticizing three Burke moves that I don't think get enough flak.

A few things (1) I'm not going to include the Todd Bertuzzi signing; that one's so obviously bad that I don't know if it's worth discussing. Just know that my list has these three things plus signing Todd Bertuzzi. I'm still not passing judgment on Brendan Morrison, either (he gets a free pass for a while because two knowledgeable Canucks fans I talked to were shocked that B-Mo was even playing already). (2) I am not saying that any of these moves are guaranteed to fail -- there's still judgment to be made on all of them. It's just that we should keep all these things in mind when remembering Brian Burke. (3) I am not talking about his draft record until later this week.

1. The J.S. Giguere Contract

Sleek's initial reaction: Thanks, Giguere. We may never know what he passed up by signing this contract today and not waiting for a desperate team on July 1st, but I gotta think he would have landed somewhere upwards of $7 M per year, and he probably could have landed something in the 6-year range. Hooray for ambiguous savings!

Now don't get me wrong; I'm quite a fan of J.S. Giguere, and he's still going to be my #1 goalie whenever I get around to posting Anaheim's All-Time Team (a shout-out to my fellow slackers!). But still, not a week goes by that I don't worry about that no movement contract -- $6 million against the cap for two years beyond this one. Now I fully understand why Giguere earned the raise, coming off a Stanley Cup and all, and I have to guess he turned down bigger money to stay in Anaheim. And I know that there's good reasons for the no-movement clause (Burke looked good there because Giguere's newborn child was under local medical care). But still, we're four years into this salary cap and I'm still unsure what the value of goaltenders really should be -- it's not just a question of value on the ice (demand), but also a function of the players available that can do it (supply). And for a team that's invested so heavily in its blueline, was a $6 M goaltender even that necessary?

For the record, I was very happy with Giguere's play last year; I thought he certainly was a $6M goaltender, or at least close enough, but that's the thing -- almost at best, this contract works out. If Giguere becomes average or worse (coughTurco!cough), that can quickly become a handicap, especially for a netminder's contract. If good goalie contracts have to be given away, then bad goalie contracts have to be swallowed. Also, the contract probably means that Jonas Hiller will be goaltending elsewhere in the coming years. One really has to ask the question, though -- if the Ducks really had cheaper alternatives in Ilya Bryzgalov and Jonas Hiller that could sit behind the "best blueline in history", should Burke have let Giguere sign elsewhere the summer after the cup win? Could he have used an extra couple million on his forwards?

I'm honestly not sure here -- there's certainly a playoff monster in J.S. Giguere that I've never seen anything like, and if that ever shows itself again, Brian Burke will be a god for the contract. I really only bring it up because it's a pretty big risk, especially if a team like Detroit can spend significantly less on its netminding and more on its skill players. I probably would have preferred a shorter contract (the Ducks' two most successful postseasons have come in J.S. Giguere's last two contract years, I think). We shall see how we feel about it later; it's all up to Giguere now.

2. Buying Out Todd Bertuzzi's Contract

Sleek's initial take: I didn't say anything useful on this one. But doesn't it look like Todd Bertuzzi is telling some fans to "suck on this"?

Yeah, I know I wasn't going to bring up the Bertuzzi signing, but this is a different matter entirely -- once that contract was signed and a year in, should Burke have bought it out? For those not tuned in to cap math, basically what it amounts to is instead of paying Bertuzzi $4M this year, the Ducks will pay him $1.33M this year and next to not play for them, plus of course paying some player to fill in on a top-six role (Brendan Morrison, give or take).

Now again, I don't want to be misunderstood here -- I am thrilled that the Ducks are playing without Bertuzzi. It's so nice to know that everyone backchecks again, or at least pretends to. And while Morrison has been an offensive letdown early, I'd still take him over Bert anytime. But still, I'm not sure I like that Burke went the buyout route -- it's always struck me that buyouts are what rich teams do, and SoCal's Anaheim is not one of those teams. Burke has effectively spent some of next year's money on a player not in a Duck uniform, and that sort of future-spending should be off-limits for a departing GM.

I really expected the Ducks to suck it up and carry Bertuzzi through his contract year, and I'm not sure it would have been that terrible. Part of what hurt the Ducks last spring, in my opinion, was that they had to carry around both Bertuzzi and Weight among their top six, and couldn't even play them together effectively -- neither guy wanted to shoot the puck or skate, and they were essentially passengers. With Weight departed and Bertuzzi finding a potential center in Ryan Carter (who made Bertuzzi stomachable by backchecking for two), I thought that the Ducks could carry one passenger on a scoring line and just not worry about the sunk cost. I reasoned that a one-year $4M gamble was more stomachable than the original two year gamble -- plus it's a contract year, why not?

Again, we shall see. It may turn out that I'm way wrong on this, and the $1.33M pre-spent next year doesn't impact next year's team much at all. Or perhaps Brendan Morrison could awaken and the Ducks could roll four dangerous lines, and I'll gladly rescind. But still, I probably would have just sucked it up and hid Bertuzzi in the lineup, or found another way to be rid of him (his contract, theoretically, gets more tradeable by the day). Buyouts probably shouldn't have been an option.

3. Becoming a Salary Cap Ceiling Team

This all is related to the notion that not that long ago, the Ducks were an incredibly cheap team. Remember the days when the top line of Kunitz-McDonald-Selanne was playing for about $2.5 million total and the Ducks were millions away from the cap ceiling? Of courses, raises had to happen, especially with the cup win, and I certainly do support most of Burke's maneuvering around Niedemayer and Selanne's semi-retirements. Still, as a result of all that reactionary GMing was that the Ducks quickly became a cap-ceiling team.

The sweet irony, of course, is that they have no business whatsoever being a cap-ceiling team. Playing in Southern California is a double-edged sword, revenue-wise (note: best I understand). For one, there's a pretty tepid fanbase -- ticket prices must remain low enough to keep fans coming. But also, because there are so many people in Southern California, neither the Ducks or Kings can ever collect on revenue sharing, even if needed. That's not a huge deal, but it does mean that on paper, the Ducks should be more near the salary midpoint than the ceiling. Burke got to spend up to the ceiling, but the real question is: What will Bob Murray be allowed to spend?

That's why the $1.33 M to Bertuzzi next year might not matter -- it prevents Anaheim from approaching the ceiling but that's probably going to happen anyway. Should Selanne for some reason retire, his unpaid salary would count against the cap, too, but that might be unspent cushion also. Overall, I'm not too worried -- I do mostly like the contracts that Burke has set up for next year -- Murray may fill in some spots cheap, but I think there's plenty of talent to work around. But it should be understood, Ducks fans and Burke fans -- there will be some natural letdown once payroll returns to a more rational level. To tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to those middling-spending ways -- it's only been one year, but serious cap math makes my head hurt; I'm much more comfortable "sort of" knowing what players' salaries are (you know, without having to know how many days they spend in Bakersfield).


So that's Part II -- sorry it got so long-winded. Feel free to agree, disagree, add your Burke criticisms, or insert your own randomness in the comments. Part III is more positive, possibly tomorrow: What we can all learn from Burke the GM.

Prediction: As for this game tonight, oh yeah, some guy named Ovechkin's coming to town. I do feel obligated to report that I was in Anaheim to see Ovechkin's first career hat trick, so just to avoid any suspicion I'm staying home tonight. Anyways, visit your Japers Rink for all things Cap-related (Capitals, not salary cap). Ducks 4, Caps 3, Anaheim channels the spirit of Joffrey Lupul and puts four pucks past Jose Theodore. Goals by Selanne, Marchant, Pahlsson, and Festerling.

Go Ducks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Getting to know Getzlaf

David Amber's Q & A sessions started gaining a lot of attention about a year ago for actually getting hockey players to say something interesting. (Keep in mind this was in a time before Russian journalists were quoting Alex Semin slamming Sidney Crosby)

Getzlaf was Amber's most recent guest and it's a pretty interesting interview. It highlights Todd Marchant not as a stone-handed center but a jokester, provides some interesting insight into the Dustin Penner situation and touches on Getzlaf's older brother, who plays in the CFL. Not bad for North American media.

Dustin Penner Sucks, Take 1,783

I've been an independent observer of this whole Dustin Penner fiasco, and like M*A*S*H* or a penis, it just gets better the longer it goes. To recap: The Oilers sign Dustin Penner to a 5-year, $21.25 million dollar deal after his astounding 43-point season playing alongside 2 scrubs named Ryan Getzly and Chris Perry or something like that. Who cares, they've never done anything anyway. There was much gnashing of the teeth from bloviating jackass Brian Burke, who criticized Lowe for ruining both teams; this was followed by a lot of back-and-forth between the outmatched Anaheim blogging contingent and the Edmonton juggernaut. But, in the end, Brian Burke was right: the Dustin Penner offer sheet not only left Edmonton with an overpaid, unmotivated baby, but also screwed the Ducks over when they had an opportunity to win a 2nd cup. To that I say, "Huzzah!"

The problem with the Edmonton offer sheet from their perspective was that they were not in the position to offer it. The Oilers were coming off a poor season, finishing 11th in the Western Conference. They had just traded their "heart and soul" in Ryan Smyth for a number of prospects and draft picks and had seemingly committed to rebuilding. Then they spent over $4 million dollars a year on Dustin Penner, losing 3 draft picks in the following draft. Strange. Now the Oilers have a weird amalgamation of good young players, overpaid free agents, and aging goaltenders that no one likes. They might make the playoffs but they're not likely to be a favorite at any point in the future and the money given to Penner can't be used on anyone else. The Oilers are a strange team.

The Ducks, on the other hand, were precisely the kind of team that was in a position to poach another team with an offer sheet. The problem, of course, was that they didn't have any money.* The Ducks ended up getting screwed by a problem mostly of their own making because for some weird reason they had signed Todd Bertuzzi and they lost Dustin Penner. This ended up killing them last season because what position did they need to fill the most? 2nd-line left wing, the exact position Penner filled last season. You may wonder why Penner is perfect in this spot yet subpar for the Oilers. One, stop asking questions. Two, when Penner was playing with Getzlaf and Perry he didn't have to bang in the corners (because Getzlaf does that) and he didn't have to fight in front of the net and paw at defenders like a little bitch (because Perry does that). What he could do was hover and find the open space for a Getzlaf pass, and he does that pretty well. Bobby Ryan will most likely fill that position in the future, but by that time Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne will be retired and the Ducks' Stanley Cup window will have temporarily closed. Hooray!

*That's why offer sheets aren't more popular, despite all the hand-wringing by writers and GMs: the teams that would benefit from them are good teams that want one more piece, but those teams are generally near the cap; the teams that can afford to spend the money need the draft picks to rebuild their franchise.

Of course, creating a counterfactual where Dustin Penner stayed on the Ducks creates a whole other set of scenarios: they probably don't sign Mathieu Schneider and they probably trade Andy MacDonald anyway. Maybe they end up trading Penner anyway and get less than the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick they got for him. But overall, I think both teams screwed themselves: the Oilers ended up with an overpaid player that doesn't fit their needs and the Ducks were hurt in one of their last years at being competitive for a Stanley Cup. It's pretty awesome if you think about it. You know, for me. The Oilers are one of those teams that could contend for a few years if they got their act together and I hate the Ducks, and in one fell swoop they managed to destroy each other. Now I just need Erik Johnson to get hurt and the Blackhawks to waste all their cap space on a red-headed goof and the Kings should be all set in the Pacific. Oh wait, that happened? Excellent. *strokes white cat

Brian Burke Week Part 1: Sleek defends three "bad" moves

Hey, everybody! Welcome to Burke Week, where I'll take a scattered look back on what I take to be Brian Burke's legacy in Anaheim. I do have a lot to say about the guy, and rather than cram it all into one post I thought I'd break it into semi-coherent parts throughout the week.

Part I: Defending three "bad" Burke moves that I don't think were that bad. For better or worse, opposing fans love to criticize Brian Burke's management style, and at times, the desire to call out Burke for a "bad" move ignores a lot of important context. Burke's first few years, of course, are now left alone because the Ducks won a cup, but since then it seems that critics are all-too-ready to point out where Burke has made his supposed mistakes.

There's really two things to keep in mind when discussing some of these debatable moves, though: (1) Thanks to salary cap mechanics, it's always going to be difficult, if not impossible, to keep a championship team together. I hold little expectation that any cup-winning roster could or should be fully retained -- there's always got to be adaptation and prioritization after a team experiences success. (2) Behind every one of these moves is the decision to allow Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne to semi-retire. I'll certainly talk more about this later, but basically if you disagree on giving players that freedom (and would rather Burke forced retirement on them), then probably you won't agree with the validity of these moves, but it is important to understand Burke's underlying motivation.

Lastly, I don't want to overstate things in this post -- I'm not saying that these moves were ideal, by any means. My main point is that they are more tolerable to me than people suggest -- I'm not angry with Burke for making them, at any rate.

1. Waiving Ilya Bryzgalov

Sleek's initial take: It seems absolutely amazing to me that a goaltender with the lowball salary and highball postseason success couldn't be traded in today's league, but I've had low expectations ever since the seemingly poor returns for Tomas Vokoun or Vesa Toskala last summer. As much as it might pain rival fans to admit it, I think the departure of Bryzgalov has very little to do with Scott and Teemu, and really has more to do with Bryzgalov trying to be a #1 and Hiller being promoted to the big leagues.

On paper this sounds horrible, because Breezy was definitely a proven playoff performer, given away to a divisional rival for free. And generally, I’m not in favor of losing assets for nothing. However, you also have to consider the Ducks were locked into J.S. Giguere for four years (including a no-movement clause), and had signed a promising netminder in Jonas Hiller as well. Not only was Breezy prevented from upward movement in the organization, but he was even in the youngster’s way, plus he was due for a raise the next summer. Burke claims that the move was done for Bryzgalov’s benefit, and it’s tough to disbelieve him on that statement, and for sure the goalie-trade market was thin (that’s the inherent irony in goalie salaries: they are no doubt the most important player on the ice, yet there are more than 60 players who could play in the NHL). So Burke ensured that Breezy gets picked up by a bottom team while publicly keeping his word to his netminder – there’s definitely payoff in being a “player first” GM like that, and while there was no trade return, you have to remember that Hiller cost the Ducks nothing either. It seems a relative wash to me, with some good PR on the side.

2. Trading Andy McDonald to St. Louis for Doug Weight

Sleek's initial take: Of course, it's sort of a mistake to look at this just as a McDonald-for-Weight trade, as context is huge for this deal. In return for trading away Andy Mac, the Ducks get Doug Weight, the right to play Scott Niedermayer, the right to keep Mathieu Schneider, and the possibility to sign Teemu Selanne. Even if DeadWeight turns out to be a bust, there's still a lot of trade return there.

Yes, this was salary-necessitated, and yes, I’d rather have Andy Mac than Doug Weight on my team any day. Still, this needs context more than anything. As my quote above suggests, it wasn’t just a one-for-one trade; Andy McDonald was traded for Doug Weight + the tag space to keep Mathieu Schneider + the room to welcome back Scott Niedermayer + the room to later sign Teemu Selanne. The salary side sucked, I guess, but the Ducks by the end of that season had more than $24 million tied into three defensemen plus a goalie – a more expensive team than they could have afforded for a full season. As for success, yeah, there was no Stanley Cup, but in the 48 games after the McDonald/Weight trade (Scotty's return), the Ducks dropped nearly a full goal-against-per-game, and played on a pace that would have won them the President’s Trophy and the Jennings Trophy. Hard to be overly critical of a trade that transformed a .500 team into a top-tier contender.

3. Signing Mathieu Schneider

Sleek's initial take: Brian Burke certainly acted as if Niedermayer's retirement is a sure thing. Think about this: if Scott were to play his contract next year, that would mean that the Ducks' goalie and top four defensemen would cost roughly $26 M next year; that's more than half the salary cap. And then the logical move, oddly enough, would probably be to trade away the newly-signed Schneider.

It’s really tough for me to get angry with Burke for this signing, as it seemed a logical reaction to Scott Niedermayer’s effective retirement. It didn’t pan out, obviously, and did put the Ducks in a heck of a salary cap crunch at the end of last summer, but I think the signing made sense in its context and Schneidermayer certainly knew what a potential salary mess he was getting himself into. What clouds this issue somewhat is the poor start that Schneider has had in Atlanta -- certainly his numbers suggest that he is washed up. However, I'd guess that he's being mis-used on the Thrashers; for the past few seasons Schneider has been an extremely effective weapon in easy minutes, playing behind a Nick Lidstrom or a Chris Pronger. In Anaheim, Schneider certainly had a solid year: At even-strength in the regular season, Schneider was on the ice for 50 GF, 23 GA, a better than 2-to-1 ratio. On the power play, he was on the ice for 34 GF, 5 GA. While certainly the team would have been easier to manage last season without Schneider's salary on the books, Burke saw a gaping hole on his blueline and reacted to it. In retrospect, the signing proved excessive, but at the time when Niedermayer's retirement seemed believable enough, I think Burke got a decent replacement option off the UFA market, and that's not something I'll spend too much time criticizing.

So there you have it, three moves that I don't criticize Burke for (at least, not to the extent that others do). Agree or disagree with my assessments, or do you have another example of your own? Feel free to leave it in the comments. Then stay tuned for Burke Week Part II (possibly tomorrow?), where I'll point out some moves where I am more critical on Burke's decision-making.

Go Ducks.