Archive for December 13th, 2008

NHL HOCKEY HITS . . .

December 13th, 2008

I watched the Flyers and the Pens play Saturday afternoon between chopping wood and there is no question about a few things. First Crosby and Malkin when they are on, are two of the most creative players in the National League. Crosby gets more involved in the rough stuff now a days and the more I watch this kid play the more I like his “compete level” . Crosby will play on Canada in the next Olympics that’s a pretty easy call, Saturday the Canadian Brass met to make their first list of 40 plus players.

Mike Richards and Jeff Carter from the Flyers are shoe-ins to be named in the 40 plus players. But if you really take the time to watch them play a full game there should be no question about either. The young Flyer Captain Richards is such a competitor its scary, this kid never gives up and has such a unique ability to be both a gifted Centre and will drop his gloves if called upon. The fact is, he has a nasty side to his game that coaches fall in love with. Look, when this kid was in Junior his coach Pete DeBoer told me on many occasions that this kid will not just play in the NHL, he will be dominant. He was and is dead right about all of that and more, I represented Adam Keefe when the two played in Kitchener together and they were great buddies. Keefer doesn’t say a whole lot about his teammates but could not say enough of how much respect he had for his former PK - partner and Captain in Kitchener. Keefer like DeBoer called it way back then that Richie was going to be a Star in the NHL. Richards when you watch him close on the ice does so many things that a coach would love, it’s those little things along with his balls and skill that make you realize how valuable he would be for Team Canada.

Jeff Carter played Junior for a buddy of mine and he said then that Carter’s natural ability and skill set was outstanding and predicted that he would become the player he is now in the NHL. Richards who played 19:40 yesterday afternoon against the Pens has 12 Goals 22 Apples for 34 Points. Carter has an amazing 21 Goals 11 helpers for 32 points who Saturday had 23:09 of ice. Can you imagine if the Flyers traded Carter for the soft Euro Thomas Kaberle at last years deadline which was rumoured around the NHL. WOW!

BOSTON IS DOMINATING THE NHL WHY?

First look no further than this kid Milan Lucic, he is tough , he has a great shot and drives the net as hard as anyone in today’s game. He has literally pounded some tough guys around the league and reminds you of a Wendel Clark or for Bruins fans Cam Neely.

Bruins coaching staff have used this kid this season the exact right way and with his 9 Goals & 20 Points to go along with his 58 Pims. Lucic just happens to play on the top line with Marc Savard 34 Points & Phil Kessel 31 Points and they have been dominating.

You also got to love massive D Captain Zdeno Chara coming to the aid of Kessel the other night, showing he is not only a great D who can cover a ton of ground out there. But he is shaping into a great leader that will stick up for his teammates and answer the bell when needed. Miss him much Sens fans?

One quick look through the Bruins line-up and a few games watched and its easy to see how the Bruins are running through the conference and the rest of the league. How tough is Shawn Thornton and how much grit does he bring to your bottom six Fwd units. Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez have been solid enough to lead the Bruins to the Conference lead with a 21-5-4 46 Points record.

PANTHERS COACH HAS PLAYERS ACCOUNTABLE

Coach Peter DeBoer said Saturday afternoon in Vancouver he’s learned a lot recently about his Panthers, who’ve gone from basement dwellers to playoff contenders in all of two weeks.

“I’ve learned we’ve got some character people in the dressing room,” DeBoer said.

DeBoer, as he did in the OHL is starting to show what I said he would way back when his record was lousy with the Panthers. That he can flat out coach and knows how to get the best out of his players and holds them accountable to their play.

DeBour will no doubt last a long time in the NHL coaching ranks because he is a guy that understands the game and is a tireless hard working coach with knowledge of the the game. Give him time to get to know the League as he moves forward and as we are starting to see with the surging Panthers who are at 7-1-2 in there last 10 and improved to 14-12-3 on the season. DeBour will be a front line head coach in the NHL in no time and the Panthers are lucky to have him.

AL STRACHAN LOOKS LIKE HUGH HEFNER ?

Last night on Hockey Night In Canada P.J Stock told HNIC Host Ron Maclean that Al Strachan looked so good on the shows second period intermission Hot Stove. Stock who does  score updates throughout the show went on to say the “older Strachan looked like Playboy’s Hugh Hefner”. I almost fell out of my chair laughing when Stock, the former tough turned TV guy said it. Stock helps make the show more entertaining. You be the judge of Stock’s statement in the pictures.

STAYING WITH TV - SPORTSNET

Saturday’s on Sportsnet, their Hockey show just before the NHL games start is mostly a must watch to get up to speed on Hockey. Host Darin Millard who along with Hosting this show also does another good Hockey show  weekdays at noon on 590 The Fan radio with Nick Kypreos. Kypreos a former Leaf tough guy is thought of around hockey circles among the players to be the most trusted and informed player turned media guy in the NHL. Whenever Kypreos is not on with Millard on radio it is far less interesting to listen to. In any event the show that airs Saturday Nights Millard and Kypreos are joined by the fossil former Asst Gm Bill Watters. To make this program far more informative and better for the audience they should change Watters, who is generally known as a blow hard. For Former GM and 590 The Fan & Sportsnet regular Doug Maclean. Maclean would as a recent former GM have much more to offer this show. I mute the TV when Watters talks or change to another channel.

SUNDIN IN NEW YORK SATURDAY

Former Leafs captain Mats Sundin was in New York sitting in a box at Madison Square at the Rangers game Saturday. He was there to meet with GM Glen Sather to talk about contract and where Sather and coach Tom  Renney feel Sundin will fit on the current Rangers roster. Look for Sundin to end up playing in New York with the Rangers when all is said and done.

SENS VERMETTE TRADE BAIT ?

With all the emails we are getting on when and if the Sens are about to trade top 6 forward Antoine Vermette?

I have one thing to say about this possible trade. Who is going to want this underachieving forward? Sens fans should not hold their breath with getting anything back worth a damn in any deal that only involves Vermette.

McGRATTON GOES INTO THE NHLPA/NHL SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAM

The NHLPA & NHL announced Saturday that Brian McGratton has entered the league & Players Association substance abuse program. Good luck to Brian to getting back healthy and back to playing when he completes his program with the NHLPA/NHL Doctors. If there is anyone out there that didn’t think Sens Gm Bryan Murray knew that there were problems last year with this, you are simply fooling yourself!

SPEAKING OF THE PROGRAM- AVERY

The ongoing drama with Stars Sean Avery looks like it will come to some sort of end Sunday. Look for the Stars to allow Avery to stay in the NHLPA/NHL behavioral program and then be placed on waivers when completed and ready to play hockey again. There is no chance that he will be traded, more likely that he will be picked up off re-call waivers which would hold the Stars responsible for half of Avery’s salary still.

Saturday’s Games

December 13th, 2008

Saturday’s Games

PIT @ PHI: Take Flyers, they are playing very well lately and are at home

MIN @ LAK: Take MIN, the Kings have been slipping as of late

ATL @ BOS: Take Bruins, this is a total mismatch

WSH @ MTL: Take MTL, they will bounce back after bad loss to Tampa

TBL @ OTT: Take Sens, this is a tough call TBL coming off a big win in MTL and Sens coming off a tough loss but give the edge to Sens at home

BUF @ NJD: Take Devils, they are 9-1-0 in last ten, Sabres are struggling

CAR @ NYR: Take Rangers, with NYR at home and with their fire power they are a solid bet

NYI @ CLB: Take CLB, Isles struggle on road and CLB play their best hockey at home

DAL @ NSH: Take Stars, coming off their biggest win of the season against the Red Wings may be the start of something

DET @ PHX: Take DET, good teams like DET always bounce back after a tough loss and the Coyotes will feel it

VAN @ EDM: Take VAN, these Western Conference games are always very entertaining, VAN is just the better team

STL @ SJS: Take Sharks, SJS are too strong at home and Blues have too many injuries

McGrattan enters NHL/NHLPA program
NEW YORK/TORONTO (December 13, 2008) — The National Hockey League Players’ Association and the National Hockey League announced today that Brian McGrattan of the Phoenix Coyotes has voluntarily entered Stage #1 of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program of the NHL and the NHLPA.

Under terms of the program, McGrattan will continue to receive his full salary and benefits and will have no penalty imposed as long as he complies with the prescribed treatment and follow-up care program.

The program’s doctors, Dr. Dave Lewis on behalf of the NHL and Dr. Brian Shaw on behalf of the NHLPA, are administering McGrattan’s care.

Lou’s Devils World . . .

December 13th, 2008

The New Jersey Devils are run by former University coach Lou Lamoriello, get these titles in today’s NHL Lou is the CEO, President, General Manager of the Devils.

Lou runs a very tight ship with very close to the vest lieutenant’s that he trusts in every way. First off to get an understanding of Lou you first must have had some sort of dealing with him. As an agent I had Mike Danton who was drafted by the Devils after winning the OHL Championship with the Barrie Colts. Mike came to the Devils as a champion and as you read this story you will begin to understand the way Lou thinks and runs his teams. David Conte who is Lou’s right hand man when it comes to drafting players or calling players up from the farm (AHL). Conte is a very bright extremely loyal scout who because of his loyalty Lou made Conte the position of  Exec. Vice President of Hockey operations and Head Scout. With that Conte would not leave the Devils/Lou to try to become a GM or a higher, better paying job anywhere else. Lou takes care of his own its a simple as that, if you are one of Lou’s boys in his eyes you have a job for life.

UNIVERSITY RULES APPLY

Lou runs the Devils and believes in a system that goes like this. You are drafted to the Devils and end up at some point playing for the AHL affiliate of the Devils. When you arrive there and all Devil players do this at the starting point you are considered in Lou’s eyes as a Freshman. The same way in NCAA you are considered in your first year. Then when you make the Devils you officially become a Sophomore battling and learning your way through the Devils systems. During this time you are closely monitored to see if you can fit into the Devils way of playing. Further more Lou’s very close monitoring of the: “following the Devils way and code of conduct”. Lou, who without question understands the game does things his way and tests each new player with their loyalty and dedication to the Devils. Lou has always closely monitored his players off the ice and their performance above all on the ice will dictate how far you go with Lou’s Devils.

Danton went through all those rituals and tests while he was part of  Lou’s world. Danton was tested as a rookie during practice when called over and told to take off his necklace that was shining to the point where Lou had saw it from the double sided mirror in his office facing the rink in the Devils  Practice Facility. The trainer calls Danton over and is told “hey its coming from above to take that necklace off during practice”. Meanwhile veteran or if you want to call it University way Senior Jason Arnott is skating around at the same practice with his necklaces bouncing around his shoulder pads. Danton who took this personal did not want to take off the necklace and felt that Lou should worry about his play and not about the fact that he was wearing a necklace in practice.

Danton didn’t realize then that this was just Lou’s way of testing rookies, a small way to see if Danton would follow orders, the same way when Lou told Danton to get a hair cut. Danton was told by Lou ” I  think you need a hair cut” and offered to give him the money to go get it. Danton laughed and said its OK I will go get a trim myself . When Danton told me this I had to admit I thought Danton needed a hair cut as well, but I told him he should have taken Lou’s money to go get it. There were several more of these so called tests throughout Danton’s time there and he learned what it was to be a Devil. Only today does he fully understand what Lou was trying to do and figure out back then.

You see,  Lou had a real good understanding of Danton’s situation and biological family life prior to Danton getting there. Lou took the time to try and get into Danton’s head and with conversations I had with Lou, I could tell that Lou wanted to try and help Danton with the wall he always put up with others regarding trusting them. Lou went as far as having other players talk to Danton that had gone through similar issues with their biological families. Lou cared and he wanted to try and get into Danton’s head, the simple fact was Danton was not ready at that time even though Lou felt Danton’s ability was well worth the time and energy. Danton didn’t like that Lou was basically telling him what to do and although Lou would have captain Scott Stevens among others talk to Danton to try and work Danton’s confidence in Lou, so the two could co-exist. I tried and at one point succeeded in getting the two to sit down and work out all their so called differences. Danton at that time needed Lou and he just didn’t know it. Today Danton would still tell you that Lou was way over the top , but I guarantee you Lou saw something in Danton’s ability on the ice and demons Danton was living with from his childhood off it. Lou really did try to reach out to Danton and I believe today that if they could have found some common ground Mike may have been able to get the treatment he is now getting and still playing in Jersey like the Maddens, Pandolfo’s, Whites to name a few. If nothing else Lou, as Danton will share in his book “When the Ice Melts” did want to help Danton and understood at least somewhat the issues he was going through. Lou and I talked at length about these things and as much as I was pissed at Lou for not trading Danton right away and believe me we had it out several times on this topic. Lou was always up front never once did he ever not return a call or reach out himself when he felt something needed to be talked about. Lou is known as a control freak in the NHL and some media (Al Strachan ) have written about cameras that Lou has stationed around the outside of the dressing room to know who is going in and out and what’s going on. Along with Lou knowing at all times what is happening through his loyal PR staff,  who stay very close when players are being interviewed by media and keep their ears close to the ground and report back to Lou. But saying all that Lou wanted to help Danton back then and I wish Danton was ready then like he was for the last 4 years to take that help.

WHY THEY WIN

Look at the Devils record and it will give you a hint at what they preach as an organization in terms of style and over all play. The Devils are 16-8-2 and are in 7th in the Conference 2 points out of 5th. The Devils without their loyal to Lou number one goaltender Marty Brodeur have won 10 of the 15 games he has been out . So how do they use an AHL call-up goalie in Scott Clemmensen and go on to be 9-1-0 in there last 10 games? Easy taking nothing away from Clemmensen who has played well for stretches the Devils play such a structured Defensive system that I’m sure even talented highly paid new coach Brent Sutter must have been in awe. U see the Devils don’t need to be told by any of their new coaches how to play in their own zone. The Devils when working there way through the Devils University system from Freshman to Sophomore, Junior then Senior, its engraved into their heads how they have to play in their own zone. If they sign or trade for a new player, that player quickly gets up to speed on what its going to take to stay a Devil. Look Brodeur IS Lou’s boy make no mistake, he is a quality goalie to that there is no question, his Cups and play back that up. But Brodeur’s  loyalty has pissed off the NHLPA because he lowered salaries and settled for less money than he was worth several times because of his loyalty for Lou. Brodeur had lots to say about the NHLPA run by Bob Goodenow in those years because Lou had his back and even though Brodeur had some shady problems off the ice himself Lou stood my him. Brodeur as good as he is, is well protected by the Devils system, look no further then their record without him and how good they are making an AHL call-up look today.

DEVILS KNOW HOW TO BUILD A TEAM

If you look at the Devils roster you see a ton of players with Lou’s hand-prints and then those that are becoming very quickly Lou’s boys all over again.

He hired the exact right coach in Sutter and quickly made him one of the top paid coaches in the game right out of Major Junior. Sutter is a tough no nonsense coach who knows how to push his players.

The players from their checking line for years now of Madden, Pandolfo and who ever at that time is believed to be the best fit. They went out and got back old friend and Cup winner Bobby Holik after yrs away with the big contracts. Their top 6 when healthy is Travis Zajac, Patrick Elias, Brian Gionta,  Brian Rolston, D.Zubrus, Leading scorer Zach Parise. There remaining forwards are a collection of toughness and defensive specialists like the before mention Madden and Pandolfo and when there is no injuries in the top 6 Captain Jamie Langenbrunner make up there “Checking Line”. The Holik pick up allows the Devils to play Holik when healthy with tough 2nd year gritty performer David Clarkson who David Conte found in the OHL, off the surprise surprise  championship Kitchener Rangers team as a free agent. The teams other forward is without question the very tough Mike Rupp, who is fast becoming a very hard punching large man to play against. Rupp also went away and was brought back by Lou like Holik.

Their defence is not the same as years ago with Stevens and Niedermayer . But is still a solid D with the likes of Bryce Salvador, long time Devil Colin White, Paul Martin, Johnny Oduya, Jay Leach and Anssi Salmela. Their D could use an upgrade for the Devils to really push for another Stanley Cup. But like I said with their system as solid as it is there always seems to be the chance of winning a Cup in Lou’s world of the Devils!

For Hockey God on Line I’m Dave Frost