Posts Tagged ‘ NHL ’

AHL Re-assignments

With the NHL players now officially locked out by the owners, the fate of the 2012-2013 season is up in the air, but it’s almost certainly not going to begin on time — if it begins at all.

However, as with most things, there is a silver lining.

The Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps. Formerly the Manitoba Moose.

The NHL squads have all made re-assignments of some of their current, younger talent to their AHL affiliates.

This gives prospects a great opportunity to hone their skills, and get lots of ice time that they probably wouldn’t see if they were playing in the shadow of the seasoned veterans of the NHL.

It also brings NHL-caliber talent to some smaller markets, at a more affordable price. And since these young guns will be big fish in a little pond, hockey fans can likely expect to see some jaw-dropping highlight-reel goals coming out of the AHL this upcoming season.

To date, the players to watch in the AHL this season are:

*Last season’s stats in parentheses.

St John’s IceCaps (WPG): Alex Burmistrov (13G, 15A, 28P)

Adirondack Phantoms (PHI): Sean Couturier (13G, 14A, 27P), Brayden Schenn (12G, 6A, 18P)

Oklahoma City Barons (EDM): Jordan Eberle (34G, 42, 76P), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18G, 34A, 52P) and possibly Taylor Hall (27G, 26A, 53P)

Toronto Marlies (TOR): Jake Gardiner (7G, 23A, 30P), Nazem Kadri (5G, 2A, 7P)

Albany Devils (NJD): Adam Henrique (16G, 35A, 51P), Adam Larsson (2G, 16A, 18P)

Portland Pirates (PHX): Oliver Ekman-Larsson (13G, 19A, 32P)

Charlotte Checkers (CAR): Jeff Skinner (20G, 24A, 44P)

So basically what this means is that if the lockout lasts for the entire season, the Oklahoma City Barons are your 2012-2013 Calder Cup champions.

Enjoy the AHL this year, I know I will!

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Money vs. Moments

If you haven’t watched Janne Makkonen’s video Together We Can, just take a moment right now and watch it; you won’t regret it.

I think he did an absolutely fantastic job of basically summing up the frustration of the fans (the ignored third party in these CBA “negotiations”), who seem to be the only ones who are capable of remembering what the sport of hockey is all about. A hint; it’s not money.

For the average joe, blue collar NHL fan, watching the back and forth between the millionaires and billionaires of the NHL as they selfishly fight eachother for a bigger slice of the pie is enough to make most of us sick.

Where along the way did everyone in the NHL, players and owners alike, stop being fans like the rest of us, and become corrupted by the heaps of cash they’re paid to do something that they supposedly love?

We can’t lose sight of the fact that the NHL is a business like anything else, and money is what makes it tick, but for those of us who don’t even breach $50,000 annually, it can be hard to comprehend someone complaining about being paid millions to do what most of us would do for thousands, or for free.

The infinite number of things that don’t make sense about the CBA negotiations aside, Makkonen’s video inspired me to take a look back at some of my all-time favourite hockey moments.

Disclaimer to self-proclaimed NHL historians: This is a list of moments that I was alive for, and remember. Bobby Orr’s world-renowned “flying through the air” Stanley Cup winner doesn’t really resonate with me, as I was -18 years old.

 5) “Welcome back, Sid!”

After being sidelined with a concussion on January 5, 2011, arguably the most anticipated moment of the 2011-2012 season was the return of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain, Sidney Crosby. Sid finally made his season debut almost a year later on November 21, 2011, and to say there were high expectations of him would be an understatement.

All eyes were on Sid “The Kid” right from the puck drop, and it only him five minutes to find the back of the net, roofing a backhand shot on the New York Islanders’ Anders Nilsson and bringing every fan in the arena to their feet.

Crosby would finish the game with two goals and two assists for a four-point performance that not even the most fanatical fans saw coming.

4) The Finnish Flash Returns

After the smoke had cleared on the initial explosion of hysteria surrounding the Winnipeg Jets’ return to the NHL after 15 years, the first thing most fans did was circle December 17, 2011 on their calendars.

It was the day that Winnipeg would play host to the Anaheim Ducks, and one of the greatest Jets of all time, Teemu Selanne.

The reaction Selanne received from the Winnipeg fans was awe-inspiring. From the initial eruption of applause when he came out onto the ice, to cheering him every time he touched the puck on his first shift of the evening.

With an NHL lockout looming, Winnipeg fans can at least count their blessings in that they had one final and emotional opportunity to welcome Selanne back to Winnipeg, and thank him for all the memories he created there.

3) Wings vs. Avs

The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche will always be one of the greatest (and bloodiest) rivalries in all of sports.

It all started in 1996, after Colorado’s Claude Lemieux crushed Kris Draper from behind, causing him to break nearly every major bone in his face and requiring reconstructive surgery to repair.

The next time the two teams met, in March of 1997, a standard tussle erupted into one of the biggest brawls in NHL history, after the Red Wings’ Darren McCarty took matters into his own hands, socking Lemieux in the mug, and repeatedly punching him despite Lemieux’s defensive, turtle-like position.

The scene of Brendan Shanahan and Patrick Roy colliding in mid-air (0:37 of the video below) is almost as epic and iconic as Bobby Orr’s 1970 Stanley Cup-winning goal.

2) The Captain Caps It

Possibly Steve Yzerman’s greatest moment of his career.

Playing in the second overtime period, the Detroit Red Wings were locked in a fierce battle with Wayne Gretzky’s St. Louis Blues, in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semi-Finals.

After stealing the puck The Great One himself, Yzerman brings new meaning to the phrase “full clapper, top cheddar”, rifling the puck top cheese from the blue line, past the Blues’ Jon Casey, to win the series.

Stevie Y is usually pretty reserved when it comes to goal celebrations, but he let it all out after this one. A great and defining moment in the career of who I consider to be the greatest captain in NHL history.

1) The Golden Goal

Up to this point, I could have called this list my favourite NHL moments, but had to specify HOCKEY moments just for this one right here.

This is one of the rare moments in my life (and not just hockey-specific) that I will never forget exactly where I was, and exactly what it felt like.

After Zach Parise tied the game 2-2 with only 25 seconds left in the third period, the epic battle between Canada and USA in the Gold Medal game of the 2010 Olympics would need overtime to decide a winner.

With the Olympic games being played in Vancouver, BC, the pressure on Canada to take home the Gold in our nation’s sport was overwhelming.

I can’t say for sure whether or not my heart dared to allow a single beat for the entire seven minutes and 40 seconds of overtime that it took before Sidney Crosby slid the puck between Ryan Miller’s pads and ignited an entire nation of hockey fans.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud to be Canadian.

The Winnipeg Jets: Year In Review

Whether the record read 82-0-0 or 0-82-0, the verdict would be the exact same: what a year for hockey in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

I’ll never forget the feeling on that day in May 2011, when we found out the NHL was once again going to be calling The ‘Peg home.  But looking back, I now realize that I had no idea just what we were in for.  What a roller coaster ride it’s been, from the name announcement and logo design, to heartbreaking overtime losses and thrilling come-from-behind victories.

While it was a lot closer than most of us expected, the Jets just barely missed out on the post-season, but I think we can all agree that a run in the playoffs would have just been a bonus prize on what was a truly groundbreaking, and successful season.  The entire NHL knows now that Winnipeg has hands-down the best and loudest fans in hockey.  O Canada will never be sung the same way again.  But most importantly, I think the biggest success story of the Winnipeg Jets’ 2011-2012 season was the growth of almost each and every individual player on the team.  Let’s take a look:

Blake Wheeler (17 G, 47 A, 64 P)

It seems insane when I look back to the start of the season, and remember feeling bad for poor Blake Wheeler, who just could not seem to find the back of the net, no matter how hard he tried.  After every game, he’d say “Just gotta keep pluggin’ away, and hopefully they’ll start going in.”  And boy, did they.  Wheeler has put up some highlight-reel goals this season, and finishes with a career-high (get used to that word) 64 points to lead the team.  A truly classy player, who cemented himself as a staple on the team this season and beyond.

Ondrej Pavelec

What can you really say about Pavi?  Winnipeg was introduced to an all-star this season. When our guys weren’t executing the game plan, the reason we were always able to stay in the game was Pavelec between the pipes.  He faced the 5th most shots of all goalies in the NHL this season, and was nothing short of a human highlight-reel.  You can’t have a great hockey team without a great goalie, and that is one thing that the Winnipeg Jets can absolutely check off the list.

Andrew Ladd (28 G, 22 A, 50 P)

The captain.  Anyone who knows me knows I was far from a fan of Laddy in probably the first three quarters of the season.  I didn’t like his play, he was a turnover machine, he seemed to really enjoy taking penalties in the offensive zone in the last three minutes of a one-goal game… I’ll stop there.  And I’ll also give him a hell of a lot of credit, because he stepped up in the last 15 or 20 games of the season.  He was responsible with the puck, took his penalty minutes down, and started putting those pucks in the net like he was a goal-junkie.  The Andrew Ladd I saw at the end of the season is the guy I would be happy to call my captain, and will be glad to see back next season.

Dustin Byfuglien (12 G, 41 A, 53 P)

Big Buff is a player that brings bad with his good, and all you can really do is just hope that the good outweighs the bad.  I enjoyed having him on our team.  He brings a big presence to the ice, which is important.  There’s no question that he’s a capable defenceman, he just also likes to pinch in off the point, and sometimes gets caught out of position.  Personally, I think he is much more suited to a forward position, and hopefully once we get some more capable defencemen on our squad, he can be put back up where he belongs.  But there’s no question that Big Buff is consistently one of the most exciting players to watch, and he brings a lot of energy to the bench with his bone-crunching hits, 105 mph clappers from the point, and always-upbeat personality.

Evander Kane (30 G, 27 A, 57 P)

Our leading goal-scorer.  At only 20 years old, Kane has the potential to be this team’s all-star player in the near future.  But does he have the attitude? TBD.  There’s no question that Kane’s performance this season was downright impressive, as he set career highs in all three columns.  He was also the cause of a lot of whispers in the community, lashed out on Twitter a couple times, and didn’t even come out to thank the hometown fans once when he was the third star following a loss.  The question is, “Does Evander Kane want to be here?”  And that question will be answered in the off-season, when we find out whether or not he’ll be returning to the Winnipeg Jets for the 2012-2013 season.

Alexander Burmistrov (13 G, 15 A, 28 P)

I think 2012-2013 is going to be this sensational 20-year-old’s season.  Some of the glimpses of brilliance I saw from this young kid this season were exciting beyond words.  Burmistrov has a fantastic attitude, and I would go so far as to say that he has easily the best hands on the team.  He just needs to work on finishing now.  I can’t see anything but a young Evgeni Malkin or Pavel Datsyuk when I watch this kid play, all he needs is some more experience and I’m confident that Winnipeg will watch him grow into one of the top-calibur players on our team. This was an outstanding season for Alex Burmistrov.

Kyle Wellwood (18 G, 29 A, 47 P)

For a guy who played five and a half seasons in the NHL before coming to the Winnipeg Jets, setting a career-high in points is a pretty big deal.  I think Wellwood has finally found a home here with the Winnipeg Jets.  His hockey sense is outstanding, and this season he was one of, if not the most consistently good player on our team.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he didn’t turn the puck over once the entire season.  He sees the whole ice surface, makes great heads-up plays, and even put up a respectable number of goals this season as well.  He’s a UFA at the end of the season, but I hope Chevy has a big raise planned for this guy, and he’s one that I will welcome back for 2012-2013 with open arms.

Zach Bogosian (5 G, 25 A, 30 P)

Bogosian almost falls into the same category as Wellwood.  He looked like a consistent player out there, he’s easily one of our best young defencemen, and I think this season was a great growing season for him.  Like Burmistrov, Bogosian had a great career-high performance this season, but I think next season is when we’ll really see what he can do.

Bryan Little (21 G, 25 A, 46 P)

Bryan Little was our clutch player this season.  When I think of Little, I think of “game winning goal”, because he got so damn many of them.  He was a player that we could count on to come through when we needed him to this season.  Unfortunately he’s one of those guys who just goes to work almost silently, and flies under the radar a little bit, so there’s not a lot to say about Little except to just look at his numbers, and know that he made a significant contribution to the team’s success this season.

GST (Tanner Glass, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn) (22 G, 26 A, 48 P)

Two words: Heart, soul.  “GST” wasn’t a marketing gimmick developed by True North, and force fed into the fans’ mouths.  We all recognized the importance of the GST line, and paid those three guys the respect they deserved.  Known as “grinders”, the GST line went to work against the NHL’s elite, blocking shots, battling in front of the net, and dropping the mitts to beat a little respect into their opponents.  The GST line is about as much of a staple on the Winnipeg Jets as Ondrej Pavelec as this point, and their contributions this season are worthy of a standing ovation.

Mark Stuart (3 G, 11 A, 14 P)

If you looked at Mark Stuart, you’d probably guess that he’s a veteran. And you would not be wrong.  Not taking anything away from Andrew Ladd, but Stuart felt like the captain out there sometimes.  He’d never hesitate to put his body on the line to block a hard slap shot, or stick up for his teammates by dropping the gloves.  Stuart produced some of the most cringe-worthy hits of the season, and commanded respect with almost everything he did on and off the ice.  You know you’re doing something right when you’re honoured with your very own fan chant.  “STUUUUU!”

Spencer Mahacek (2 G, 7 A, 9 P)

How can I not mention Spencer Mahacek? Called up to the Jets on March 18, Mahacek continues to look like he’s been playing with this squad for years.  The nine points he has on the season were tallied in his first nine games back on the roster, and that is outstanding for a player called up from the AHL.  He’s even been moved up to replace Andrew Ladd in a game when Ladd got the boot after a fight.  No doubt that Coach Noel is high on this kid’s performance at the end of the season, and I expect to see a lot more of Mahacek in the 2012-2013 season.

And there it is, your 2011-2012 Winnipeg Jets season.  What will 2012-2013 bring? The triumphant return of Mark Scheifele? Who will the Jets pick up in the entry draft, with their extra two picks?  Learning from this season’s mistakes, are the Jets now favoured to make next year’s post-season? What sort of off-season moves has Chevy got planned for the summer?

It may feel like it’s been one hell of a ride, Winnipeg, but the Jets didn’t just come back this one season. It’s hard to believe, but this ride is only just beginning.

Big Buff Needs A New Home

Yup, I said it.  But it’s not what you’re thinking.

"Suck it, Vancouver!"

I love Dustin ‘Big Buff’ Byfuglien.  I think, like probably most ‘Peggers, he’s the player that I’m the most up and down with.  I haven’t loved any player on the Jets as much as I’ve loved Buff when he’s on, and he’s probably been my most hated player at times too. Whether it’s not hustling hard enough on the back-check, or a lazy turnover.  But nothing brings the crowd to their feet like a Big Buff clapper from the point that snaps the twine, or when he sends a guy literally flying, like only he can.

I’ve got a friendly rivalry with a pal who lives in Richmond, BC, so, naturally, we’re both gearing up for the only showdown of the season between the Jets and Canucks on March 8.

Back in 2010, before there were any serious whispers about an NHL team coming back to Winnipeg, I was just a regular Canadian hockey fan.  And here’s the honest-to-God truth: The only thing I vividly remember about the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run is Dustin Byfuglien.

Specifically, the series between the ‘Hawks and ‘Nucks.  As a Canadian with no team to call my own, I was pulling hard for Vancouver to go all the way.  And let me tell you, when that final whistle blew, sealing the demise of the Canucks in the 2010 Playoffs, I knew one thing only: I hated Dustin Byfuglien.

That guy was parked in front of Luongo from the start of the series, to its finish.  He was smug, arrogant, big, strong, talented, and loved rubbing it his opponents’ faces.  My face.  But the real reason people hate(d) him, is because he’s damn good at what he does, and is effective.

Naturally, now that he represents Winnipeg, I love the guy.  But with every passing game, I feel more and more strongly that he needs to go back where he belongs; forward.

I am really having a tough time understanding why he was moved to defence, unless it was by his own request.  He’s easily one of the biggest, strongest players in the NHL, and has proven that he is far and away most effective when he’s parked in front of the net.

Sure, he’s got a hell of a slap shot, but he seems to struggle to hit the net a lot of the time.  He’s not the fastest skater, and everyone has seen how much he loves coming down off the point and going deep into the offensive zone.  So why are we surprised when he can’t make it back in time to even up a 2-on-1?  He’s an offensive-minded player, with the size and strength to wreak havoc in front of the net, and doesn’t stay in position on defence.  How many more reasons do we need to put him up on forward?

We’re at a little too critical of a point in time right now to be doing any experimenting, but I hope that Claude Noel will consider trying him out on forward maybe for some exhibition games in the next season.  Or hell, experiment with it on March 8 against the Canucks, and then ask Bobby Lu what he thinks of the decision after the game.

Jets/Flyers

First and foremost, welcome to the revamped website!

I wasn’t all too happy with the way my site was laid out before, so I made a few adjustments aesthetically, but also updated a lot of information, and made my online portfolio more expansive, and threw up the ol’ resumé.

Photo I took from my seats at the Jets/Flyers game.

I had the (mis?)fortune of being at the Jets vs. Flyers game last night at the MTS Centre. I seriously don’t know which one it is.

What a game.

Just when it looks like we’re going to sweep the Philadelphia Flyers over the season… 15,000 strong on their feet, red in the face for yelling, paying respect to our Winnipeg Jets who were about to go four wins a row, and take down one of the best in the NHL yet again.  Our goalie and, quite frankly, saviour Ondrej Pavelec had made nearly 50 saves over three periods of play and had held on right to the end.  The two points were well in hand.

And then it all came crashing down.

Wayne Simmonds puts one in with under 10 seconds to go, and let me tell you… it was the Great Depression inside the MTS Centre.  I couldn’t believe it.  But even still, an OT win, a shootout win, it’s all the same.  There was still hope.

That Jagr salute will haunt me, as the Jets fell 5-4 in overtime, right after Pavelec made his 50th save of the evening.

An absolute heartbreaker to be sure, but we all (including the team) have to realize that a hard-fought loss to a top team like that, while at least grabbing a single point, is a hell of a lot better than a 2-1 loss to a team scraping the bottom of the barrel like the Carolina Hurricanes.

The positives out-weigh the negatives here, including the fact that our scorers are scoring, most notably our captain.  Our power play was outstanding last night, and has been good over the past couple games after being non-existent for about 17.  And we are still as much in the playoff race as we have ever been, right on the doorstep, tied for 8th place, and tied for the top of our division.

Like all the boys are saying right now, we need to take the positives from the last game, build on them, and put the loss behind us.  I’m impressed as hell with what I’ve seen from our Jets over the last four games.  They’re playing like a playoff team.  Win, lose, or draw, if they just keep doing what they’re doing, they’ll see the post-season.

Christmas in May

I think for a lot of Winnipeggers, Christmas has already come and gone and it was back in May, 2011.

It’s actually crazy for me to think of how invested I am in our shiny new NHL team, the Winnipeg Jets, when only about seven months ago, having the NHL back in our city still seemed like a distant dream.  After True North’s acquisition of the Atlanta Thrashers was announced, the emergence of details like our team name, our logo, and our jersey design, seems like it took ages to surface.  But looking back now, with 35 games under our belt, it somehow seems like everything came out of nowhere.

I’m still not used to the fact that I’ll be watching hundreds more Jets game well into the future, and I also don’t think I appreciate having our team back as much as I eventually will, just because it still doesn’t seem real to me.

I can’t remember how old I was when I started playing hockey, but I’ve always loved it.  I think I probably would have loved the sport no matter what, but there’s no question that my mom definitely helped push me in that direction.

My mom was a huge Winnipeg Jets fan at the time that the team left our city, and a picture of her, holding a sign she made, at a “Save the Jets” rally, was widely used in newspapers and books in 1995/96 when the team left.

My mom is on the left, holding her sign.

Yesterday, my mom got the new Winnipeg Jets “Back in the Bigs” book for her birthday.  She flipped it open, and guess what was staring back at her? Yep, her photo, featured once again.

So for anyone who has wondered in the last couple months why I am so crazy about the Winnipeg Jets, it’s simply not my fault; I was born with Jets in my blood.

Just kind of wanted to dump off some Jets media that I’ve created that hasn’t been pushed and publicized by me yet, including a photo of Ondrej Pavelec that I doctored up for his 1-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

And also the latest video that I made one night before an installment of Hockey Night in Canada featuring the Jets. CLICK HERE TO WATCH

With all of that out of the way, I hope everyone has a great holiday, Jets fans and Jets haters alike.

JT

All I Want For Christmas…

Is a referee who can call a damn hockey game.  Let’s go:

WANTED: Dean Morton, Robbery

For those who had the displeasure of watching the Winnipeg Jets vs. Buffalo Sabres game tonight, we were treated to a real doozy, weren’t we?

The Jets came out looking strong and determined, and by the end of the game I’m sure it’s safe to say that most of the players, much like myself, were steaming.

With a total of 14 penalties for the Jets to the Sabres’ six, the number one star on the night is referee Dean Morton; just the way he wanted it.  Talk about a sad little man just dying for some air time.

Burmistrov’s penalty, the first of the game, set the pace for the disgraceful whistle-blowing that would follow.  Burmistrov throws a hard, clean hit that he needs to come up on just a little bit since he’s shorter than average.  But, charging?  No chance in hell.

The Jets continued to take penalty after penalty, and as hockey fans know, it’s standard practice for referees to try and keep things as even as possible.  Key word: possible.  It doesn’t mean that if the Jets take a penalty, the Sabres are owed one to even it up.  It means if the Jets take, say, three in a row, the Sabres should be under a microscope in the eyes of the refs, and should be called for penalties that might otherwise be overlooked.  The logic behind it makes sense: If you just had three power play chances, you clearly had quite an advantage, so you better not take it for granted, and be sure to be on your best behaviour.

But as the Jets continued to be banished to the sin bin time and time again, the calls on the Sabres were few and far between.

And the 5-on-3’s, oh my Lord. Help me to understand why a referee would think it’s okay to just hand out 5-on-3 advantages like they’re candy and it’s Halloween.  Giving a team a 5-on-3 power play is giving them a goal 90% of the time.  You had better have a blatant penalty in front of you to make that call, and I don’t think they ever did.

Where things really got out of control was the end of the game.  At 11 penalties on the night, to the Sabres’ six, Stuart tries to clear the crease of an opposing player after the whistle, and the guy goes for an Oscar with his epic dive, and Stuart sits for two!?  With everything that had happened up until that point, with how closely the Sabres should have been being watched by the officials for crap just like this, Buffalo easily – easily – should have taken the penalty for diving.

But don’t stop me yet, it gets worse.  After Buffalo ties the game thanks to this atrocious call, Kane breaks away with Burmistrov in the dying minutes of the game.  Burmistrov has his stick clearly pulled out of his hands, a cheap, lazy move that eliminates the 2-on-1, and there is no call on the play.

At this point I think I had to pinch myself.

And then we take a penalty in overtime?  If there’s one thing that is usually handled with more care than giving a 5-on-3, it’s giving a penalty in overtime.  Even before overtime was 4-on-4.  Now when you decide to hand out a penalty in overtime, you’re giving a team a 4-on-3 advantage.  Easy goal.

To put it simply, I’m nothing short of disgusted by the desperate attention-grab by Dean Morton tonight during the Jets/Sabres game, and his performance should be reviewed by the NHL.  This was a game that the Jets not only could have, but should have won.  And only because of one man’s pathetic antics were we denied of the ‘W’ tonight.