Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Useless Showing

A National Hockey League game consists of three, twenty minute periods. Too bad no one has told that to the Vancouver Canucks. The popular trend of the Canucks this year has been playing well for half of the game, and leaving the other half else where. Tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks was another example of how the Canucks could not pull together a full, well played, sixty minute game.

The Canucks came out flying to begin the game, throwing hits, getting shots, and creating momentum in the early going. The team had numerous powerplays given to them in the first period, and at that point was their game to lose. Unfortunately, the Canucks did not take advantage of this opportunity, and in turn, lost his game 4-2. Midway through the second period with the score being 1-0, Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov made a show stopping save off of Daniel Sedin on yet another Vancouver Powerplay. This, along with the gut wrenching fight between Doug Murray and Rick Rypien (in which Murray tooled Rypien), were the two vital turning points in the game, and from then on, the Canuck team did not look the same.

San Jose took control of the game, and the Canucks never got the chance to steal it back. Shortly after Nabokov's game changing save, the lazy play of Willie Mitchell (penalty for hooking) and Mattais Ohlund (penalty for holding) resulted in the Canucks being shorthanded for a near two minutes playing 5 on 3. The game broke open for the Sharks, after Steve Bernier scored the games tying goal on a nice breakaway feed by Patrick Marleau.

The third period was the Canucks period off, as they allowed three goals on thirteen shots (not Roberto Luongo's fault), and really didn't show up what so ever. However, the game was not all bad. It was relatively a good game for team (at least a great start). Two halves equal a whole. Maybe there is a need of a math tutor for this club, who still cannot put together a full team effort. One player that stood out for the Canucks was the off season acquisition Brad Isbister, skated exceptionally, using his big 6'4" frame to draw three penalties in the game. He also played on the powerplay, and was instrumental in the Taylor Pyatt goal in the first period. (Isbister's shot rang off the post and Pyatt "directed" it in with his skate).

All in all, the Canucks have yet to put in a full game effort this season. Even in the recent 4-1 win verses Edmonton, the Canucks showed at many times a lack of urgency, and as in most games this season, didn't have the killer instinct they really needed to win tonight's game. That being said, if the Canucks can play every game like they did the first period and a half tonight, the team should be up and rolling in no time.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Night and Day

For me, it has been really tough to stay interested in the MLB season from start to finish over the past few years. I don't necessarily think that this is a slight on the game of baseball or the league itself, rather it is most likely a byproduct of my life as a post-secondary student trying to balance course work (and getting decent grades), a plethora of volunteer work, getting exposure as a broadcaster/journalist and being a fan. Some sports have had to take a back seat in my attempt to balance the aforementioned. Baseball - to a certain extent - has done so.

Don't get me wrong, I am very intrigued by the game of baseball. I was one of those kids who went out in his yard and had imaginary baseball games and homerun contests. I have stay, those imaginary contests provided me with quite the JR like for (see photo). But unfortunately when it comes to following the game, I have lacked. I think it most probably has a lot to do with the length of the season and the amount of games that the teams play. I also attribute my lack of attention to the ailing (Blue) Jays. If someone asked me when my drop off in baseball following began, I could pretty confidently say it was when the Blue Jays stopped being competitive, and/or when they traded away my favorite players (Alex Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado).

As you can see, it was pretty easy for me to stop following baseball, I had enough reasons. But one reason which I have not mentioned, and which I beleive to be quite important is level excitement that comes with watching baseball: for the most part, the level is quite low. There are your games here and there that are exciting, but out of 162 in a season, there aren't a lot. I focused more on the exciting in your face sports like hockey, football and golf. Ok, well hockey and football.

I couldn't pay less attention to the MLB throughout the summer, but forward me to the months of September and October and the tables quickly turn. There is something about playoff baseball that is extremely enticing. The races leading up to the post-season are definitely something to watch, but once you get to the actual second season it's like no other. Take the recent NL Wildcard played between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres. A one game, winner take-all match-up to make it to the playoffs and take on the Phillies who unseated the Mets for the division title.

It's not like baseball is the type of game where you can tangibly notice that the players have gone into another gear or are giving it that extra push, but in the playoffs you can just feel it. There's no joking around in the dugouts, all the players are focused and into the game. The weather is cold and dark and every little mistake has a big impact. The Rockies ended up winning a game that ended in true MLB playoff fashion, 13 innings and by 1 run. The game could not have been any better of a precursor to the post-season; a post-season that I am very much looking forward to. For what reason? I'm not sure I could tell you, I tried to outline it above. But that is the thing about playoffs in the majors, you just have to watch because - unlike the 162 game regular season - it's always exciting.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Trip to the Barber

Monday was the time for many NHL teams to don a new look (yet again, after the introduction of the new Reebok Edge uniforms) and cut down their rosters to close to what they will look like on opening day. For many years past, specifically before the new collective bargaining agreement, training camp was a time for veterans to get in shape before the games began to count, and it was also a time for young players to make an impression on the coaching staff and audition for a possible call-up later in the season.

But now, during the newly introduced cap-era new NHL, training camp is a whole other beast. Just as the off-season has changed to have more turn-around amongst teams and players, so too has training camp. Most NHL teams which are willing to spend to be in contention have one or two players that are payed close to the max that a player can be payed. These high salaries in the past would not have been an issue, however now with a cap, high top-end salaries do not leave much room for veteran player signings to fill in the bottom-end voids.

After Monday's cuts, it's easy to see that teams are adapting to adopt a new system in the NHL. Team which have spots up for grabs, now do not look to free agents to fill those voids as free agents are commanding high (sometimes ridiculous - look at Philly's recent signings) salaries. Team's now are leaning towards filling the voids from within. And these players from within are turning out to be young draft picks. The new NHL prides itself on speed and skill and players coming out of junior, college and from overseas are those typical types of players. Not only do young players have the skill and speed to make their respective NHL teams, they have the skill and are being given the opportunity to make the team and make an impact.

The most extreme example would be Sidney Crosby but he, like Ryan Getzlaf and Jordan Staal is a special case. Take a look at this year's NHL cuts and who made what team. The Chicago Blackhawks have their number one draft picks from the last two years, Patrick Kane and Jonahthan Toews, suiting up. The Columbus Blue Jacktes are icing Jared Boll and defenseman Kris Russell. The Montreal Canadiens goaltending prospect Carey Price beat out last year's backup Jaroslav Halak for a job with the big club. Little Sam Gagner and David Perron have been given a chance to make a big impacts with the Oilers and Blues respectively and the Vancouver Canucks are dressing speedster Mason Raymond out of Boston College on their opening night.

It may be that the kids are getting better as the years go by, but I think that it's fair to see that the great talented youth are now finally being given the looks that they deserve because they are able to play in a non-clutching and grabbing, fast league which calls for good salary management.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Sound of a New Season

September is a month that I am almost always looking forward to. Each year, when August rolls around I start counting down the days to my favorite month of the year. Historically September has been exciting for me because of two reasons; two things that came around each September without fail (barring exceptional circumstances such as a strike or lockout - hint hint).

The first has usually been the coming of the school semester. In high school, by the end of August I had always been ready to go back to school and start a new school year. Don't get me wrong, I was a big fan of school and I didn't have my books wrapped and packed in my bag weeks before classes started...it was more like the night before. Nevertheless, I was always excited when the fall rolled around the corner, the leaves began to fall and familiar faces came together again at school after a summer of friends going their own ways. I knew that there would be work ahead of me, but I was ready to take the bad with the good of seeing friends, food fights and skipping class. Well, I never really have been in a food fight, and as far as my parents know and for the sake of this post, I've never skipped class.

The second reason why I was so excited and the reason which I believe will outlast the former is the coming of the hockey season, the Canucks in specific. While growing up, with each year that passed I became a bigger Canucks fan. With each year that passed I started to pay attention to the Canucks even earlier in the Summer. It went from getting back into the groove in the last weeks of August, to mid August, to the start of August and now has turned in to never stopping the groove at all. So what specifically is exciting about September if I'm thinking Canucks hockey all the time? The sound of the new season is what gets me back into it.

As hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when not all the Canucks games were televised. There was also a time when I had a bed time. Put two and two together and you realize that there were a lot of times in which I followed my beloved Canucks on the radio. The first couple weeks of September meant the beginning of the NHL preseason. Rookies were trying to make impressions on the coach staff and find a roster spot on the big club or in the AHL while veterans were trying to get in shape. The preseason also meant hockey back on the radio. This was the most exciting part.

When you're following voices of the likes of Jim Robson, Jim Hughson and now John Shorthouse throughout a season, you begin to associate the sounds of their voices with your favorite team. No wonder play-by-play commentators are called 'the voices' of their respective teams. Consciously I was always looking forward to the hockey season starting, my deepest desire was to see my team make it to the playoffs and make a run for the cup, however, unconsciously, I was always craving hearing the voices of the Canucks play-by-play guys because that meant hockey was back and my season along with theirs had started.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Throughout the whole Barry Bonds homerun saga - which is finally over, thank goodness - all that I kept on hearing was "when Alex Rodriguez breaks the Bonds' homerun record, everyone will forget about Barry Bonds". Sure this may be true, if and when someone breaks Barry Bonds' home run record, Barry Bonds, his surly arrogant attitude and his steroid controversy may just turn in to water under the bridge. This is all if someone does manage to break it.

I have two problems with the fact that everyone is pencilling Rodriguez in to break the record. Sure he is at 500 homeruns and is still in the prime of his career and has many years to play. All he has to do is consistently hit fourty jacks a year for the new few years to break the record right? But if everyone slugger who had hit 500 homeruns and the prime of their career was able to continue to play at the prime and consistently hit fourty plus long bombs, then Hank Aaron's record would not have stood for as long as it did. The fact is, A-Rod may be the player in the best position to break Bonds' records (which now sits at 757) but by no means is he guaranteed to do so.

And why is it that everything will be okay when (and again, by when I mean if) Rodriguez breaks the record? Is it because A-Rod is a charming poster boy who would never do steroids, isn't (too) short with the media and does everything the right way? Putting Jose Canseco's alleged 'stuff' on A-Rod's involvement with steroids aside, can you honestly sit there and tell me that Alex Rodriguez he who was a pretty skinny kid (just like Barry Bonds was) when he entered the league, has bulked up and become the power-hitter that he is without any help?

I think it would be pretty ignorant to think that in an era without drug testing in the MLB more players (especially big names with high expectations) didn't fall in to the trap of using performance enhancing supplements. I'm not saying that Alex Rodriguez did, but he very well could have. Let's just all take a moment to think before we start putting the proverbial halo on A-Rod's head.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Counting Down

Today marks the official launch of the one year countdown to the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing. While the countdown kicked off with singers, dancers, celebrities and partying in northern China another countdown - that coincides with the Olympic count - has been ongoing for quite a while.

There has never been a time in the history of planet earth when the issue safety of the environment has been more prevalent. Global warming is a taking strong force (which we are experiencing mildly here in Vancouver with the lack of a summer) and now it is making its way into the sporting world.

With all the celebrating going on in China as they kick of the year leading up to the Olympic Games, the Chinese and those who live in the superpower country must be using a super amount of power because the smog problem keeps on worsening. The extreme smog that covers the Beijing skies is already posing a health concern for Chinese habitants and is expected to cause a large problem for athletes competing outdoors in next year's games. Not many world records are expected to be broken due to the poor state of air and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge says that some events may end up being rescheduled based on the severity of the smog.

You would think that an institution such at the IOC would have a mandate to, if not help the environment, at least not make it worse. The fact that Beijing's environmental situation is a mess didn't seem to make a difference when they were chosen as next year's host. I mean, what can be worse than a city that is already killing the world hosting the Olympics Games, one of the most viewed and planned, and undoubtedly pollution-creating spectacles in history? Well the answer is simple, it's better than Toronto hosting them. Here's to the athletes looking forward to 2010, basking in the cool (somewhat fresh) mountain air in beautiful British Columbia.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nucks Heading to the Island

What has essentially been common knowledge for the entirety of the summer is on the verge of becoming official. It is expected that sometime this week, the Vancouver Canucks, in correlation with their ECHL affiliate, Victoria Salmon Kings will announce that the Canucks will hold their 2007 NHL training camp in Greater Victoria at Bear Mountain Arena in Colwood.

The excitement for this season’s training camp is even greater than in years past. To start with, highly touted goaltender prospect Cory Schneider will finally dawn the Vancouver Canucks jersey and showcase his “stuff” to the Canucks’ brass. Secondly, Canucks fans will finally be able to see what that jersey may look like. The anticipation building up to the unveiling of the Canucks’ new tight-fit jersey has been colossal. If you’re not looking forward to training camp itself, look forward to the fact that it will permanently put an end to all the rumored jersey concepts and alleged leaks floating around the internet.

The prospects camp, featuring the likes of Mason Raymond, Michael Grabner and Cory Schneider, begins Sept. 7 with the main camp beginning Sept. 13. The annual Blue-White intra-quad game will take place on Sept. 16 at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, a night before Vancouver’s pre-season opener against the Anaheim Ducks.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Burkie Stands Pat

Brian Burke is notorious especially here in Vancouver for his obnoxious demeanor and no-nonsense attitude in the media, but if you look underneath all of his shenanigans, you will find a very intelligent and extremely competent General Manager.

Yesterday, “Burkie” and his defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks declined to match the Edmonton Oilers' five-year, $21.25 million offer sheet for winger Dustin Penner. Consequently, Penner is headed off to the river city, more commonly known as Deadmonton, err sorry, Edmonton while the Ducks receive the Oilers' first, second and third round picks as compensation. The deal makes Dustin Penner Edmonton’s new highest paid forward, which should to be a fairly accurate indication of where the Oilers’ currently stand.

I’ll have to acknowledge the fact that Dustin Penner is a very talented hockey player with boat loads of potential. At times last season, he showed signs that he is indeed capable of becoming a dominant power forward in the National Hockey League. But in all seriousness, he certainly does not deserve to be the highest paid forward on any team in this league (yes, even the lowly Edmonton Oilers). Penner lacks the speed to excel in the “New NHL” and found himself in coach Randy Carlyle’s doghouse one more than one occasion through the course the 2006-07 regular season and playoffs.

What Oilers’ General Manager Kevin Lowe was thinking when he mustered up this borderline farcical offer is beyond me. It almost seems as though he is looking to run his team down the drain. This deal absolutely reeks of despair from the Lowe’s front, and it’s almost amusing to watch as the glorious Edmonton Oilers of old become the new laughing stock of the NHL.

Picture this. The Edmonton Oilers have yet another disgraceful season and proceed to win the draft lottery. Low and behold, they essentially threw away their first round draft pick to the Ducks who now have the opportunity to draft phenom John Tavares (should he become eligible) or Steve Stamkos. I wonder if Kevin Lowe would still stand by this illogical offer then.

I’ll admit that when I first started this blog post, it was meant to praise Brian Burke and his decision not to match the Edmonton Oilers’ offer sheet for Dustin Penner. But when you look at the Oilers’ current state of affairs, it only seems appropriate to take a couple of shots at the expense of our Northwest divisional rivals, because be assured that if the Canucks were in the same situation (which they thankfully are not), Oilers fans would do the same.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Step in the Right Direction

It is for all intensive purposes common knowledge that most viewers in the Sportsnet Pacific region would rather watch a Canucks pre-season game over anything else that the station can offer. Whether it be the Toronto biased Bob McCown show, Poker After Dark or a Toronto Jays game, who are now back over the .500 mark thanks to a season-high five game winning streak and a 13-1 shellacking over the Minnesota Twins last night, just incase you were wondering.

Early this week, Sportsnet Pacific in correlation with the Vancouver Canucks announced that two of Vancouver’s eight exhibition games will be televised live come this September. The newly born Canucks TV will broadcast Vancouver’s fourth pre-season game against Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks, along with their eighth and final game against Northwest Division rival Edmonton Oilers.

The dedicated Canucks fan will now only be required to sit glued to his radio or computer screen for six games, trying to re-create Shorty’s vivid play-by-play in his mind. Michael Grabner’s blazing speed or one of Luc Bourdon’s notorious bone-crushing hits will now become a reality, rather than a figment of your imagination. We Canucks fans will no longer have to rely on hearsay or subjective reports on the performance of our players, because just as Shakira’s hips, the camera “don’t lie” (I just had to get that one in there).

As I bring this blog post to an end, I realize that I am in all probability making a much bigger deal out of this than it really is. I’m sure many of you even question if this merits a Press Box Blog post at all, but I represent Canuck nation when I say that this is definitely a step in the right direction for Sportsnet and the Canucks. Or at least I think I do. At any rate, hopefully it won’t be long before watching a Canucks pre-season game will become regularity on the SPAC.

I guess this is why they call them the dog days of summer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Too Good To Be True

Although the Nashville Predators are fighting to stay alive in Nashville and although inflated player contracts and the salary cap have effectively rendered the 2004-2005 NHL lockout useless, Gary Bettman must be feeling pretty good lately. His league is no longer in the headlines for the negativities which were leaking in to the news while the NHL is in it's off season, due to the recent felonious happenings in other professional leagues, which now have bigger, badder, and more newsworthy problems.

The NFL is once again caught in a scandal which has Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick being investigated for his alleged underground dog fighting business the NBA finds itself in the middle of an ivestigation of one of its top level officials for fixing games to finance his mob debts. While this takes place, the MLB inches closer to having one of its most reverred records broken by a less than friendly player who is alleged to have taken streriods. Bettman's problems seem trivial compared to the webs of misdemeanour and treachery that commissioners Godell, Stern and Selig are respectively facing.

But just as the NHL commissioner was loosening his necktie and getting more comfortable in his recliner atop the NHL towers in New York, news comes down that now the NHL too, has athletes facing criminal charges. Today, news comes out that the brother's Staal, Eric (Carolina Hurricanes) and Jordan (Pittsburgh Penguins) have been arrested in Cook County, Minessota for disoderly conduct and obstructing the legal process after older brother Eric's bacherlor party seemed to lose control. The Penguins' young gun was also charged with consumption of alchohol under the age of 21. The Cook County Sheriff says that 14 people were arrested after harrassing motorists and Eric Staal was one of 10 who spent the night in jail.

While Eric's agent says that the charges are not too serious and may very well be dropped, it is still a black eye on the league which was always third best to the NFL and NBA and which seems to have (like Bettman always tries to do) tried to have followed suit with its counterparts with the deplorable actions of its employees.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Bright Future

For what seems like an eternity, the Vancouver Canucks have been dubbed as an organization with the inability to bring in young talent through the entry draft. The Canucks’ scouting staff has been the subject of continuous criticism from not only the media, but also the so-called die-hard fans here in Vancouver. I think this criticism has been completely unwarranted and unfair to chief scout Ron Delorme and the rest of his staff. In light of Juraj Simek’s signing yesterday, I thought I might analyze what Canuck fans have to look forward to possibly as early as next season with the arrival of a splendid new crop of talented prospects unearthed by Vancouver’s unappreciated yet accomplished scouting staff.

Two prospects from the draft class of 2004 headline the list of Vancouver’s prospects who are essentially ready to perform on the National Hockey League stage. Alexander Edler, Vancouver’s second round pick in 04, excelled as Manitoba’s number one defenceman last season in the American Hockey League and was heavily relied upon in all situations with the team. The native of Ostersund, Sweden also looked very impressive when filling in with the big club on more than one occasion last season. I would be shocked if Alexander Edler wasn’t on Vancouver’s opening night roster come October. Jannik Hansen, Vancouver’s ninth round pick in 04, has the potential to become one of the finest late round steals in not only the history of the Canucks, but also that of the entire National Hockey League. Hansen burst onto the radar of many Canuck fans during Vancouver’s playoff run last season. He gave the impression of being a seasoned veteran in only his first few games in the NHL. Many believe that his performance in the playoffs all but guaranteed his spot on the club this season. It surely won’t be long before the native of Herlev, Denmark will be featured on one of the Canucks’ top two lines.

Goaltender Cory Schneider and defenceman Luc Bourdon are regularly looked at as Vancouver’s top two prospects and in the case of both of these young men, the sky is the limit on their uncapped potential. Many consider Schneider to be the best goaltender outside of the National Hockey League, but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to live up to all the hype. The recent graduate of Boston College will share goaltending duties with Drew MacIntyre for the Manitoba Moose this season and will to further establish his game against professional skaters for the first time in his career. Bourdon, Vancouver’s famous first round pick in what is now being referred to as the “Sidney Crosby draft,” is another prospect who will get his opportunity to make the big club this season. In Bourdon’s first professional training camp, he impressed the Canucks brass so much that he basically set himself up for disappointment in his second kick at the can. Bourdon is continually making big strides to become a regular player at the NHL level, and will undoubtedly join Vancouver’s reputable defensive core in the near future.

Like many other Vancouver Canucks fans, when I first heard the name of these following prospects, I will admit that I didn’t know very much about them and consequently wasn’t a huge fan of the selections. But now, they deservingly headline the list of Vancouver’s top forward prospects. Michael Grabner, Mason Raymond and Patrick White all have the raw talent to make the next step in their careers. For Grabner and Raymond, that next step will likely be valuable members of the Manitoba Moose. They both certainly have world class speed along with pure goal scoring instincts, but need to bulk up in order to eventually crack the Canucks’ roster. White’s next step in his career will be with the University of Minnesota Gophers, where he too will be a valuable member of the club. White is definitely a work-in-progress and shouldn’t be expected to crack the Canucks roster any time soon but if his development continues as it has in the past, the native of Grand Rapids, Minnesota will certainly make his dream to play in the NHL a reality.

With several other talented prospects in the system such as Juraj Simek, Sergei Shirokov, Daniel Rahimi and Taylor Ellington, the future undeniably looks bright for the Vancouver Canucks. This upcoming season will be a very important year for the development and growth of several Canuck prospects but from what they’ve shown in the past, they will certainly rise to the occasion. The Canucks’ scouting staff is only now beginning to receive the credit they truly deserve and hopefully this will continue and ameliorate into the future.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

West Coast Express, Take Two?

Today, Canucks Senior Vice-President and General Manager Dave Nonis announced that the club had signed three players to contracts. Veteran forwards Byron Ritchie, Brad Isbister and goaltending prospect Cory Schneider are the newest members of the Vancouver Canucks organization. What do these signings mean for the Canucks and how do they impact the team?

At first glance, the signings of Byron Ritchie (formerly of the Calgary Flames) and Brad Isbister (most recently a New York Ranger) seem to be almost trivial. Ritchie, a speedy and hard-nosed veteran is a fourth line player at best who won't contribute much (if at all) offensively. And Isbister, who was expected to do big things early in his career has recently been a big underacheiver and has had a tough time holding on to an NHL job.

However, if you look deeper in to the first two acquisitions, you'll see that the two signings - although small scale - could possibly address two needs of the Canucks this off-season. Coach Alain Vigneault is on record saying that he would like this coming year's Canucks team to be more hard-nosed and gritty and more willing and able to drop the gloves while still playing the speed and defensive game which made the team successful last season. Ritchie fits this mold perfectly.

The Canucks have also expressed (through their actions) that they need a player that will help Markus Naslund produce. The consensus seemed to be that this player needed to be a big, talented center such as Scott Gomez or Patricky Marleau, leaving Brendan Morrison and his contract elsewhere. Now despite the fact that this scenario could solve the problems, we have seen that with the high prices of free agents that it is becoming more unlikely that it will occur. What would be more likely and possibly more acheivable would be the addition of a big, talented winger that has a scoring touch - somewhat like a Todd Bertuzzi of old - to play along side Naslund and Morrison and rekinldle the spark that they once had. This player could very well be Brad Isbister. Isbister showed in junior and in his first years in the NHL that he was an offensive player. With his size and hands and the fact that he has to be able to skate to play in the new NHL, the Canucks may just have found the right piece of the puzzle to take both Naslund and Morrison out of their so-called slumps. Effectively, with his quiet signing of Brad Isbister, Dave Nonis may have given the Canucks the tools for a threatening second line.

Of course, this would be the ideal situation. We saw last year that not all of the trio's that head coach Alain Vigneault threw out on the ice worked well together, chemistry has a large part to play. Adding a piece to the puzzle in Isbister, who at least isn't a square peg for the empty round hole that is a scoring winger, may just solve the Canucks' offensive woes. And if it doesn't pan out, Nonis always has the option of trading the other signing, Cory Schneider, for immediate offensive assistance.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Superstar, So What?

Recently the new CFL commissioner Mark Cohon announced that he plans to market the CFL through the marketing of the leagues superstars. As much as I think that the CFL is going in the right direction with their emphasis on marketing to grow the league, I don't think that putting all the emphasis on the superstar players will solve all of the league's problems.

I think that the league is missing a step in its marketing planning, and it really does depend who they are targetting because if they are targetting those who already follow the game or even the casual fan, they will have no problem with appeal. But if they are looking at getting to fringe fans, before the league can start marketing their superstars to their communities, they need to build up products in each city that are worthy of having their superstars bragged about. They can't have franchises with internal conflicts and players getting arrested and they can't have franchises going out of business.

The CFL needs to clean up the league on all front, start marketing the game to its communities through history and excitement of the game and then once they have buy in, they can start to market their superstars. Without a solid team foundation, there are no superstars.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Patrick White - A Steal?

When I first heard Dave Nonis call Patrick White's name as Vancouver's first round selection in the NHL Entry Draft this past Friday in Columbus, I thought to my self, Patrick Who? With the likes of David Perron, Michal Repik and Oscer Moller still available at that point, I was certain that the Canucks scouting staff had yet again failed to judge young talent. Without even knowing much about him, I thought his career potential was Ryan Kesler at best and Nathan Smith at worst. To say I wasn't thrilled about the selection is a major understatement. But the more I read about this kid, the more I like him. I have also been very impressed with the way he conducted himself in the few interviews I've heard. Here are some encouraging quotes I've gathered from several people that have seen him play.

"White is incredibly strong with the puck. In last year's state championship game, Roseau head coach Scott Oliver instructed his players to try and play off White, because of his ability to bounce off of checks. White also has a hard, accurate shot which allows him to score a lot of goals. He is also responsible on his own end of the ice, which should make him even more attractive to NHL teams."

"White will head to the University of Minnesota next season. Whichever team drafts him will likely want White to play at least 2 or three years as he develops physically. White has a great deal of strength, but there is a big difference between being high school-strong and NHL-strong, and it takes time to build that strength. White projects to a solid two-way player that can be a solid finisher on a powerplay. White is one of the more complete players in the draft, with no glaring weaknesses. It will just be a matter of how he continues to develop."

"I really like White. I have a feeling he will end up on the gophers top line with Stoa and Okposo. He does everything well. He has the strength and smarts to make things happen. What i like about White the most is his willingness to shoot the puck. Some snipers in the making have the shot but do not shoot. White loves to shoot the puck. He likes to be that guy. I think he will be a steal where he was picked. Supposedly he is taking classes at the U already to work out with team and get early chemistry. He says and does all the right things. I hate to to cross compare stats but Sam Gagner had 11 goals in 40 some games in the USHL last year. This year White had 8 goals in 12 games."

"It's no secret that the Wild like Minnesota high school talent and Minnesota collegians. With White, they'd be getting both as he's headed for the University of Minnesota in 2007-08. However, this wouldn't be merely a public relations selection. Minnesota needs a future first-line center and White fits the bill--albeit a few years down the road. This pick seems like a natural."

"Can be a downright scary player to go up against when his game is on. Had a nice debut in the USHL and his short stay there leaves the mind open as to what he is really capable of. When he’s motivated, he can go out there and control games with his speed and mental game. Can go end to end at a moments notice when he turns on his afterburners. Again, consistency is a problem but not something “scary” enough to warrant dropping him out of the top 30."

"Minnesota : Lots of hometown players in this draft, and some of them are good, and still available. One of them will be quite good, and could turn out as the best sniper of the draft. His name, Patrick White. His shot is great, his release is fast, his shot is deadly accurate. Add to that good skating, good two way game, and you have a complete player. Will need time to reach the NHL, but he’ll be a good one."

"Pat White. Seen him as high as top 10 and as low as "who is Pat White." Totally carried his HS team to back to back state tournament appearance in what i think is the toughest section in the state to begin with. Took second both years. Plays well at both ends. Hard to knock off of the puck. Great shot. Loves to fish out pucks down low and take them out front and bury it. Possible 2 way sniper."

"I watched him play at the MN State Hockey Tournament. He was the leader of the Grand Rapids team. He's a very smooth skating player. The bottom line is he's a gamer. He simply took over the three games I watched him play. He's scores the important goals, very clutch. The knock on him is he can drift in and out of games which I saw at times. However, with the game on the line there wasn't anybody as clutch as him."

"The best stick handler in the draft besides Pat Kane."

"On the other side of the ice, the more I see Pat White, the more I'm convinced he'll be a first round draft pick next summer. He had another great performance. Even though he was held off the scoresheet, he was still making his presence felt on the ice."

"He's a very strong two-way player and can really dominate along the wall with the puck -- very strong kid. Give him three years at Minnesota and I think you'll find yourselves very happy with this pick. I know as a Gopher/Wild fan, I'm loving the fact White's here for the next few years, but now with Vancouver taking him, it's too bad he'll get to eat up the Wild down the road."

"He was also the AP Player of the Year in the state of Minnesota. He won this award over, among others, Ryan McDonagh, who of course went earlier in the first round to Montreal."

"He's a smart two-way center with great puck sense. His poise with the puck is exceptional and his best trait is his ability to draw the opposition to him and then break the defense down by threading the needle with a slick pass. He's also a precise finisher with a quick and accurate shot, especially in tight. His skating is deceptively good and his defensive game is underrated."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sixes Wild

July 1st is still over a week away, but the free agency signing frenzy has already begun in the NHL. With Canada Day and the date at which players at the end of their contracts become free agents fast approaching, NHL GM's are trying with great fervor to re-sign their impending UFA's before other teams have a chance to offer them contracts.

The signings by the Flyers and Pantehrs in the last few days are by-products of the new NHL, the new CBA and the salary cap era. Last season, we saw the Edmonton Oilers lock up one of their young stars, who (with Ryan Smyth's departure) is now their franchise player, Ales Hemsky to a 6-year contract. This type of contract allows for teams to keep the cores of their franchise for a long period of time as an attempt to ensure a continued high level of competetion. The player is guaranteed long-term security while at the risk of not being given a raise for a good season until after the contract expires while the team is risk of paying a player so much even if they don't produce in years upcoming.

While this could have been now in the old-NHL, it was rarely seen notwithstanding the crazy Alexei Yashin type deals. But the Islanders did many crazy things, so we will discount them. The Oilers deal with Hemsky made sense to me, and to go even further so did the decade-long deal that Rick DiPietro of the Islanders received. What is puzzling to me is why teams are now starting to sign lower level players to long-term contracts at high prices. Hemsky's deal saw him get what was fair market value for his performance, over a long period of time. Again, player security and low future cap hit for the team. But when the Flyers signed Scott Hartner to a six year deal worth over four million a year, both of the reasons to make a six year deal were thrown out the window. Hartnell, a 20-goal scorer and a second line player (at best) may not ever produce more than he has, and may even begin to decline in production in the new-NHL. The Panther's did the same with Nathan Horton signing him to a six-year deal, Horton hasn't done much to prove himself in the NHL and guaranteeing him six-years without proof of superstardom may prove to be foolish.

I guess the point is that some GM's are beginning to focus more on their salary cap's over a long period of time, rather than the actual hockey. Sure a player making the same six years from now may be a good deal, but that is only if he is a better (or atleast equal) player than he was at the start of his contract.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

2007 NHL "Mock" Draft

I have taken a lot more interest in this year’s NHL Entry Draft than I have in years past. I have probably taken a little too much interest in this year’s draft considering the fact that I am spending a large portion of my time trying to figure out who the Canucks will draft, if Kyle Turris will go first overall or if Alexei Cherepanov will drop out of the top 10, when in reality I should be studying for my Socials Provincial exam which oddly enough falls on the same day as this year’s NHL Entry Draft. I definitely didn’t want to let all my extensive research go down the drain, especially when it comes at the expense of my Socials mark, so I thought why not give The Press Box Blog viewers a sneak peak of what I think will go down Friday in Columbus? As a result of everything I’ve read and heard along with my obvious knowledge and intelligence, I assembled this “mock” draft of the 1st round, exclusively for The Press Box Blog viewers. Enjoy!

1. Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane
The Blackhawks truly believe that Kane is the best player in this draft class, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a good old American kid and will indisputably put fans in the seats. Will fit in perfectly playing alongside Jonathan Toews down the road.

2. Philadelphia Flyers: Kyle Turris
With Kane out of the picture, there is no doubt that Turris is the best player available at this point. Turris has said that Philly has talked to him more than once and Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren described him as “very competitive and smart.” Has the potential to become a Steve Yzerman type player and remember, you heard him on The Press Box.

3. Phoenix Coyotes: James Van Riemsdyk
Van Riemsdyk offers the whole package, and when the Coyotes pretty much need help in all facets of their organization, James is a no brainer. Doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes have had a tendency of drafting American born players.

4. Los Angeles Kings: Karl Alzner
Los Angeles has a plethora of skilled players up front but aside from Jack Johnson they don’t have much on the back end, and while Alzner may not be the absolute best player available, he’s pretty close to it and I think far and beyond the best defenceman available.

5. Washington Capitals: Alexei Cherepanov
The Capitals will be willing to take a gamble on this skilled Russian. Alexander Ovechkin has a lot of say in what this team does and he will convince George McPhee and the Captitals’ scouting staff to pick Cherepanov, even though the Russian Transfer Agreement is still up in the air.

6. Edmonton Oilers: Jakub Voracek
While they were thinking about taking Sam Gagner from London, the Oilers feel that Voracek would turn out to be the overall better player. Voracek impressed everyone in his first year in North America and has good character and determination. The Oilers feel that he possesses too much upside to pass on. Many teams have him in their top 3.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets: Sam Gagner
Gagner will undoubtedly be a solid NHL’er. Has good blood lines and has an amazing skill set. Gilbert Brule and Sam Gagner will provide a dynamic one-two punch down the middle for the foreseeable future.

8. Boston Bruins: Keaton Ellerby
In the past, the Bruins have always chosen the best player available, but in a draft that is so wide open, they felt the need to draft this big physical two-way defenceman to solidify their back end.

9. St. Louis Blues: Mikael Backlund
The Blues are looking for a skilled forward, and while I feel Hamill or Esposito would be the better choice, the Blues always seem to end up with a European, Backlund being a pretty good one at that.

10. Florida Panthers: Zach Hamill
In the past, the Panthers have had the tendency of drafting players from the CHL, and they believe Hamill is the best player available. While they already have many skilled forwards in the system, the Panthers’ scouting staff has seen a lot of this kid in the WHL and is ecstatic that he is still available. Another future star that you heard first on The Press Box.

11. Carolina Hurricanes: Angelo Esposito
While the Canes would have preferred Alzner or Ellerby; they feel that Esposito has the raw offensive upside to become a superstar in the NHL. While the Canadiens made a strong push to trade up to draft the local hero, the Canes feel that Esposito is by far the best player available and are very excited to see him develop.

12. Montreal Canadiens: David Perron
While the Canadiens would have much rather drafted Esposito; they feel that Perron is the next best thing. They haven’t been reluctant in drafting French Canadians in the past and they feel that Perron took huge strides of improvement this season. They believe that Perron will keep on getting better and better in the years to come.

13. Toronto Maple Leafs: Logan Couture
The Leafs were thrilled that hometown hero Logan Couture was still available at 13. They feel that he is by far the best player available and will work even harder to achieve his goals playing with the Leafs.

14. Colorado Avalanche: Lars Eller
The Avs’ scouting staff yet again comes up with a gem. I haven’t read one bad thing about this kid; has good size and strength along with an amazing offensive tool set, should be a solid NHL’er.

15. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan McDonagh
The Oilers were looking for a defenceman and they felt that McDonagh was the best player available. Offensive defenceman with good size and strength; he too made some major strides this season. May be one of the steals of the draft.

16. Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Shattenkirk
The Ducks are very pleased with the selection of Kevin Shattenkirk. With Niedermayer’s retirement looming, the Ducks all of a sudden don’t have a lot of depth on the back end. Brian Burke has had a tendency of drafting American born players with his first round picks (Bobby Ryan, Ryan Kesler, RJ Umberger).

17. New York Rangers: Michal Repik
The Rangers were very impressed with Repik’s play in the WHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup. They feel as though he is the steal of the draft. Repik will fit in nicely with New York’s surplus of European players.

18. Calgary Flames: Colton Gillies
Darryl Sutter and the Flames turn some heads when they pass up on the Brandon Sutter. But they feel that Gillies is basically NHL ready and is a guaranteed 3rd line player, with the potential of becoming a 1st or 2nd liner. Gritty kid from the west; will fit in perfectly with the flames rugged style of play.

19. Minnesota Wild: Nicholas Petrecki
A big rugged stay at home defenceman with good speed that would be an ideal fit on Jacques Lemaire’s Wild. They feel that Petrcki was the best player available.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins: Brandon Sutter
The Pens had both Gillies and Petrcki ahead of Sutter on their list, but they feel as though Sutter will be a certain 3rd liner in the NHL, with the potential of becoming much more. The last name doesn’t hurt either.

21. Phoenix Coyotes: Bill Sweatt
Gretz and the Coyotes were very surprised when Sweatt was still available at 21 as they had him much higher on their list. The best skater in the draft with a lot of offensive upside. Phoenix yet again ends up with an American born player.

22. Montreal Canadiens: Jonathan Blum
The Canadiens were very impressed with his composure down the stretch with the Vancouver Giants; a great puck moving offensive defenseman, with under rated defensive abilities.

23. Nashville Predators: Brett MacLean
Put up 100 points with Oshawa this past season, but it remains to be seen if he was just feeding off John Tavares’ greatness. Nonetheless, MacLean has produced at every level and the Predators were delighted to select him.

24. St. Louis Blues: Maxim Mayorov
The Blues feel that this Russian is the best player available and is way too good to pass up on. The Blues had Moyarov much higher on their list and have no problem drafting him, even though there is no guarantee he will come over to North America.

25. Vancouver Canucks: Oscar Moller
The Canucks got the kid that they really wanted. Dave Nonis and the Canucks scouting staff saw a lot of him playing in Chilliwack of the WHL; is a good gritty player with a nose for the net. A perfect choice for the Nucks with their lack of depth at center. Yet another Swede joins Vancouver’s organization.

26. St. Louis Blues: Thomas Hickey
The Blues were once again surprised that Hickey was available this low; drafting 2 skilled forwards with their previous picks, they felt that this defenceman would be the perfect selection. Should make a nice pairing with Erik Johnson.

27. Detroit Red Wings: Joakim Andersson
The Red Wings will yet again draft a Swede, and yet again draft a very talented one. They feel like Andersson is already a top notch defensive forward ala. Samuel Pahlsson and they feel that he has a lot more to offer offensively.

28. Washington Capitals: Max Pacioretty
The Caps would have liked to draft a defenceman, but they feel that Pacioretty is definitely the best player available. They didn’t think he would be around at 28 but were very thrilled that he was. A prototypical power forward with deceptive speed and a developing defensive game.

29. Ottawa Senators: Tommy Cross
The Sens’ really like this kid from Boston College, they feel that if he ameliorates his offensive skills, he will undoubtedly become a top 4 NHL defenceman. Rumor is that the Sens’ are looking for a North American defenceman, and Tommy Cross would definitely fit the billing.

30. Edmonton Oilers: Akim Aliu
The Oilers are well aware of all the questions surrounding this kid’s attitude and behavior, but there are no questions surrounding his raw skill. The Oil are counting on the Gagners in London of the OHL to not only help Aliu develop as a player, but also as a person.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Too Much Fun League

It had been said by pundits time and time again that with the NFL's strict policies and regulations on and off the field, the league had gone from the best professional sporting league in the world to the 'No Fun League'. Well, it seems like the players in the NFL heard those critics and didn't agree. In fact the players really must love their league because it seems like players have taken offense to what the critics had to say.

Over the past few years, many NFL players have taken it upon themselves to right what they believe to be a wrong accusation. The NFL is not the 'No Fun League' it is in fact the 'Too Much Fun League' and the players have proved it through their recent actions. It really is hard to believe that the NFL, the uncontested best-run professional sports league in the world, can have so many dysfunctional players and yet still be the superpower that it is.

Every week we see someone like Micheal Vick, Adam Pacman Jones or Ricky Williams tangled up in a big mess with dogs, drugs, cops or estranged lovers and no matter how severe the crime, the punishment rarely seems to be punitive. It's common knowledge that celebrities and professional athletes are treated differently when it comes to the law, but players in the NFL are taking it to another level. It's almost as if some of these players live two lives: a football life and a life breaking the law. Imagine what the league could be if those immature players who take advantage of their status start clean up their act. The NFL is beginning to punish player with lengthy suspension, exemplified by the year-long suspensions received by Williams and most recently Jones. But of course, as long as these players are putting fans in seats and money in the pockets of the owners and leagues they really will never be treated as a human being before pro-football players, and suspensions are all they will continue to receive.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Night Amongst the Stars

The 2006-2007 NHL Awards take place tonight in Toronto and like every other year, this year there is plenty of debate taking place over who is going to win each award. It can be argued that each award has more than one deserving candidate and that can only lead to many being disappointed once the hardware is given out.

The five major awards being contested are the Hart (League MVP), the Vezina (Best Goalie), the Jack Adams (Coach of the Year), the James Norris (Best Defenseman) and the Calder Memorial (Rookie of the Year).

The Calder Memorial Award is an interesting one. After last year's Crosby/Ovechkin showdown, this year's give away may not be as high profile but may be more competitive. Nominees for this award are the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal and Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalance. Each young phenom did great things this past season. Malking scored hilight reel goals time after time and led all rookies in scoring while Staal was sixth in rookie scoring but played a large role on the team's penalty kill and led the league in short handed goals. Paul Stastny was not as flashy as Malkin or Staal, but he did end up second in rookie scoring thanks to his impressive twenty game point-scoring streak.

The James Norris Award has been anything but competitive in recent history. Out of the last five years, Red Wing Niklas Lidstrom has won four time and guess what, he's up for it again. Along with Lidstrom, now Stanley Cup Champions Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger are nominated. It would be irresponsible to discredit Lidstrom on account of his competitiors winning the Stanley cup, but one would think that Anaheim's successes were due in large part to the tandem they had on D and this would render either Niedermayer or Pronger worthy of winning the award. The award will likely go to Niedermayer as he led all defeseman in points while Lidstrom and Pronger were fifth and seventh respectively.

The Jack Adams Award is awarded to the top coach in the league but this award may be the toughest to judge. This year's nominees are Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, Vancouver's Alain Vigneault and Pittsburgh's Michelle Therien. Although Ruff did a great job with the Sabres, it is apparent that Ruff's team had the most talent throughout the roster. This coupled with his win in this category all but eliminates him from contention in my mind. This leaves the two frenchmen Vigneault and Therien. Vigneault took a Canucks team which missed the playoffs the year before and was completely revamped with 14 new players on the roster and led them to a division title and a second round playoff berth. Although Vigneault's feat is astounding, the league and writers may see Therien's as more so. The Penguins' bench boss led his team from last place in the Eastern Conference last year to fifth place this year and a long-awaited playoff appearance. Vigneault did more with a lesser team, but Therien made a more drastic improvement.

The Vezina Trophy is given to the best goalie. Genearlly this award is based on stats. This year there are four nominees. Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Mikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Lundqvist. Brodeur seems like a shoe-in for this one, he lead the league in shutout with 12 and set a new league record for wins while having a steller GAA and Save %. Luongo would be a close second, but his stats do not compare to Brodeurs.

Finally, the Hart Trophy. The player who is judged the most valuable player to his team. Martin Broduer, Roberto Luongo and Sidney Crosby are up for this one. Many in the West would say Luongo deserves to win as without him, the Canucks would have gone nowhere this past season. Although the same could be argued for Brodeur, it could also be said that the Devils had a more talented team than Vancouver. This leaves Sidney Crosby, who as a 19 year-old, led the NHL is scoring setting a league record as the youngest player ever to do so. Sure there will be the argument that Pittsburgh was loaded with kid phenoms, but the fact remains that without Crosby that team would have go nowhere fast.

The Lester B. Pearson award is given to the Most Valuable Player voted on by the players of the NHL. Crosby, Luongo and Vincent Lecavalier (led the league in goals) are on the ballot. Crosby doesn't have the best reputation amongst his peers, but I doubt this will take many votes away from him. Lecavalier has Martin St. Louis on his side and often worked as the second half of a tandem. Most players in the league believe that Luongo is the best goalie in the league and without him, the Canucks would have been a basement dwelling team.

As you can see, there is much room for debate and controvery. This means only one thing: an exciting night in Toronto and that is more than we can say about the city during the NHL season.

Here are my predictions for all awards:
Hart - Crosby
Lester B. Pearson - Luongo
Calder - Malkin
Norris - Niedermayer
Selke - Pahlsson
Adams - Vigneault
Byng - Sakic
Vezina - Brodeur

Catch a debrief on the NHL Awards on this weeks upcoming show of The Press Box at www.thepressbox.org

Friday, May 25, 2007

Healthy Competition

Competition between players, coaches, clubs and owners is not rare in professional sports and much of the time this competition stems from bad blood or a competitive nature inherent in professional athletes. And hey, I'll be the first to admit without competition sports would be boring.

But amidst the bad blood and the drive to win, you do come across the odd time where competition is all in good fun. Even more rare than that is when competition leads to helping others. A prime recent example of this healthy comeptition comes from the Canadian Football League. Earlier this week co-owners of the Toronto Argonauts, David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski, announced that they plan to donate $4 million over five years to the Hospital for Sick Children.

Cue the competitive drive of B.C. Lions owver David Braley. One day after the announcement by the Argonauts' owners, it was announced that Braley himself is donating $5 million to St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. Although Braley it is not certain or likely that Braley made this donation because his competitive counterparts had done the same, it is not a stretch to believe that it may have had some effect on his decision to donate, and donate $1 million more. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition.

Braley, a Hamilton-based business man, has made it second nature to help the community whether it be in Vancouver or Hmailton. Last August, Braley was a part of the McMaster University Alumni who contrinuted $5 million to help support McMaster's new athletics and recreation centre.

Monday, April 23, 2007

One and Done

For all those who have been jumping on and off the Vancouver Canucks' bandwagon, a game seven is everything that you have ever wanted. On the one hand, if the Canucks lose you will claim that you knew it all along, that the Canucks had no chance and that they were going to blow the 3-1 series lead. On the other hand, if the Canucks win you will undoubtedly assert that you stood behind the team all season long and have no worries when the team blew its 3-1 series lead.

The fact of the matter is that whomever predicted anything but a stalemate in the series between the Stars and the Canucks was doing so without any hard evidence. That is why I would call those people bandwagoners. If anyone expected anything but a game seven in this series, they would have been crazy. As evenly matched as the two teams were in the regular season, they were even more so in the first six games of the playoffs. Experts nationwide were predicting a long series with good goaltending and that is what they got. The Canucks may have let a 3-1 series lead slip, however it was not before they had attained that series lead in a fashion which they may not have been deserving.

So to all of you who predicted the Canucks winning or Stars winning, you were wrong. There was no way, in a series as even as this one, for you to predict anything but a close series and the possibility of a game seven. I have not done much predicting this series or throughout the regular season in fact, but I will start now and say that after tonight the series will be over and the team that wins the seventh and deciding game will be most deserving, even if it is only by a goal.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The 2nd Season Begins

The NHL Playoffs kicked off last night and the first night's schedule did not fail to disappoint. The early games saw the four and five seeds do battle in both conferences and although both series' were touted as being the best two match-ups in the the first round, only one of the two came through.

The Ottawa Senators, who have only one player on their roster that does not have any NHL playoff experience in Joe Corvo, let their experience pay off in a 6-3 thrashing of the inexperienced and evidently nervous Pittsburgh Penguins. The sens opened up an early 2-0 lead on the Pens capitalizing on jittery play by the Penguins team and a shaky goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury settled down by the end of the first period and kept his team down by only two goals after being outplayed, but by the second period the fat lady had sung. Ottawa extended their lead to 6-1 later in the game and until late in the contest, kept young phenoms Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal in check.

The Western Conference's 4/5 match-up was everything but a blowout. The game was a high tempo and high scoring contest which saw the San Jose Sharks take a 4-2 lead into the third period, only to allow a last minute tying goal on a deflection by Nashville's J.P. Dumont. After a scoreless first overtime, the San Jose Sharks came through and made amends for their blown lead when Patrick Marleau fed Patrick Rissmiller who netted his first of the post-season to give the Sharks the win. In one of the two remaining opening night games, the Anaheim Ducks won a low scoring affair topping the Minnesota Wild 2-1, in Anaheim.

The final game of the night - and the game that ran the longest - was the marathon between the Dallas Stars and the Vancouver Canucks. In a series that was expected to be low scoring and highly defensive, the Stars and Canucks came out guns a blazing in game 1, both scoring four goals before heading to overtime. Markus Naslund played one of his best games of the year notching one goal and one assist and Jeff Cowan continued his torrid pace of great play taking the spot of Matt Cooke after Cooke left the game with a groin strain. Both goaltenders who were under immense scrutiny entering the playoffs played well enough to keep their respective teams in the game despite allowing some questionable goals. In the end - which didn't come for a while, not until the 4th overtime - it was the Sedin twins who came through continuing to be the go-to-guys for the Canucks as Daniel Sedin fed his brother Henrik who ended the game late in the fourth overtime frame.

The first night of playoff hockey was far from a let down and was full of drama. The story lines are set for each set of game twos, but before we get there we have more exciting game 1's on hand tonight as Detroit takes on Calgary, Atlanta battles the Rangers, Buffalo and the Islanders square off and New Jersey and Tampa Bay begin their series.

It is official, the 2nd season is underway. Soak it in and enjoy the two months of non-stop exciting hockey!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Well, it looks like The Press Box is back. It’s been a while, far too long in my humble opinion. Shaheed and I did over 30 episodes of the show, jibber-jabbering back and forth at one another.

So, we’re back and blogging! Let me tell you, I am really starting to dig the “blog.” A friend of mine said, “Nabil, now you can sound like a total moron on air and on print.” Great, thanks for the support. But, this is a great way to be interactive which is a new exciting direction for The Press Box. But more of that to come soon…

What’s going these days in sports? Let’s see, the Chris Simon issue. You know I want to get into that, but not right now. I need to collect my thoughts and really think about this one before I say something. It’s all too familiar, bringing back a very controversial issue.

I am watching CSI Miami and the only thing I can think about is Roberto Luongo. Yes, laugh it up. For the record this is not some teenie-bopper high school type of crush. I just have been amazed with Luongo all season. A no-brainer obviously. Forget all the record books he’s coming close to or has already broken as a Canuck. What impresses me most about Bobby-Lu is that he is always composed. This is something we have not seen in quite sometime from Vancouver goalies.

I used to think the fire that Dan Cloutier had made him the goalie he was. And, you know what, I was right. However, it has hindered him more than helped him. Unfortunately, having a short fuse as a goaltender doesn’t seem to be the formula for success. Look at the arguably the three best goalies in the league: Brodeur, Luongo and Kipper, all goalies that don’t get rattled. They all seem to be so cool and confident, no matter what the score or situation is. Heck, I don’t think I have ever seen Kipper smile.

Luongo has been the target of the opposition all year. He has been bumped, run and trash-talked, sometimes all at once. But, I think the Roberto has been able to keep his cool, because he has been so motivated to stick it to the Panthers, to prove to his critics that he can lead a team to the playoffs and show the fans of Vancouver what a world-class goalie plays like.

I could go on and on about Roberto. However, I have to intern tomorrow at CBC and I am dead tired.

I just can’t to see what Luongo does in the playoffs.

Stay Tuned.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

All That Is Wrong

Welcome back Press Boxers!

I'm as glad as anyone that The Press Box is back with an interactive approach to the best place to 'just talk sports' because as many of you may know, I'm a internet junkie.

Speaking of junk, did anyone watch the Canucks vs. Ducks game tonight? A message to the know-it-alls at the NHL head offices: if you want to see an embodiment of all that is wrong with the game today (or at least some of it) then take a look at some footage from tonight's game down at the Pond (or Honda Center, whatever).

In the first period Canucks' forward Tommi Santala was pushed awkwardly from behind into the boards in his own zone, although he was not severely injured on the play and returned to the game shifts later, the outcome of such a hit could have been grave.

Problem 1: There was no penalty on the play. A hit from behind, no matter who the victim or the severity of the hit, should be penalized.

Problem 2: After a non-call on the hit, Canucks' tough guy (sometimes to the shagrin of the coaching staff) Kevin Bieksa took punishment into his own hands by challenging the Ducks' forward Dustin Penner (the hitman, so to speak) to a fight. Penner graciously accepted and the two did a little dance. After all this, along with his fighting major Bieksa was handed an instigator penalty along with a misconduct. On the ensuing power play, Anaheim took the lead. If the refs aren't calling penalties to protect the players and the rules don't allow for the players to protect themselves through good old fashioned fistacuffs, then why is the NHL surprised by all of the Chris Simon-like incidents arising?

Problem 3: Shortly after this skirmish, Canucks' grinders Matt Cooke and Jeff Cowan took a clean yet provoking run at Ducks' young d-man Kent Huskins. Shawn Thornton took exception to this hit (and Cowan's extra nudge after the hit) and jumped Cowan much like Bieksa did Penner (more instigating-like in fact). One would think that Thornton would then be assessed an instigator and misconduct to along with his five minutes of fighting, right? Nope.

The game went on like this throughout the night with inconsistent officiating and not much flow being allowed by the men in stripes. Far be it that I blame the Canucks' loss on the officials, but they did not make it any easier for Vancouver to stick up for themselves without being put in a vulnerable position and they did not call it consistently when the Ducks did so.

As far as the NHL has come in the 'new era' it is apparent through tonight's game that there is still a long way to go in making the game what it should be and then marketing it as the best and coolest game on earth. So I shall wait, patiently, albeit squirming in my seat every time an instigator penalty is called.

A New Face

The Press Box is back and ready to get interactive!

The Press Box blog is a place for you to follow the opinions and stories of the TPB hosts and writers and get your own voice heard by posting your own comments.

Keep checking back for new posts and updates on the website and upcoming shows of 'The Press Box: Where we just talk sports'.