You're Losing Me, NHL

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Back in early September, when the NHL and Players' Association were merely digging the trenches in which they're currently submerged, we all scoffed at the outrage from frustrated hockey supporters claiming that if the league suffered through their second lockout in eight years for even a day that they'd never return as fans.

"Sure you will," we said. "You'll continue paying your season ticket subscriber fees, if only to hang on to your right to playoff tickets," we said. "And you'll be happily in your seat come Opening Night as if nothing ever happened, whenever it comes. ...If it comes."

Two months and 326 unplayed NHL games later, that's starting to make a lot more sense.

The quibbling over percentages and length of contracts as the leaves changed colors has not been without an exhausting battle in the PR department, one which both sides seem to be losing. The casual fan is gone, and the exponential growth the League has enjoyed over the past eight seasons probably along with it. That, by the way, was the pillar in which both sides have been negotiating.

So now what's left for us die-hards to do?

Leave, that's what. It's tough love for sure but sometimes, that's what the situation calls for. Whenever these two sides do come to an agreement (which may not be before this time next year, keep in mind) they are counting on you and I to fill their pockets. That alone is enough of a deterrant for me.

Let's face it, the NHL has made incredible strides in the right direction since the "other" lockout. But what else is there to unveil? The game has been modernized, and the stars of today and tomorrow have breathed some life into what was a stagnant league with aging superstars. Innovations such as the Winter Classic and HBO's 24/7 series have captured the imagination of even the most luke-warm fans and given them an insight into the cult following we've all been a part of for so long.

But what's left for the NHL to do? Is there a Sidney Crosby-type savior in the draft this year? Well, not quite. Without any new cutting edge ideas, the gunshot wound the players and owners have inflicted in their own feet gets bigger by the day. So, until someone comes up with a really good idea as to why I should continue to put up with Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr trading shots across their respective bows, I think I'll step aside.

Hockey, in it's purest state, will always be on somewhere. You might have to dig a little to find it, but it'll be there. This is no longer an NHL I want to come back to. Not to the players, not to the owners. It's an ambitious move to say the least, and one I hope I'll stick to. But it's also one that's necessary. I'll find my hockey fix elsewhere. And if your passion runs as deep as you say for this game, I encourage you to do the same.

The Weber He’s Weaved: Past Decisions Force Urgency for Poile

Written by Brian McCormack on .


David Poile is widely regarded as one of the best in the sports management business over the last thirty years, nominated for the NHL’s General Manager of the Year award for all three years of its existence.

Poile’s prowess, as well as patience, in the draft has built Music City into a hockey town, a contender in the West, with its main pillars a product of home-grown talent.

Now one of those cornerstones has been stripped away. no comments

When Social Media Goes Right: Rangers Fan Toys With Nash Rumors

Written by Mike Salerno on .

If you're an avid fan of getting your news, whether it be sports-related or otherwise, via Twitter, you've undoubtedly come across the numerous fake accounts that spew rumors at the speed of, well, sight.

These cretons, who apparently have nothing better to do with their time, continuously announce fake news citing unnamed sources that don't exist, providing rabid Twitter users with all the ammunition they need to recreate the Vancouver riots in the virtual realm.

False reports have dominated this year's free agent season in the NHL, with Ryan Suter having apparently landed in Detroit, Zach Parise in Pittsburgh, and Alex Semin, well, everywhere so far.

The fact is, anyone can throw a bunch of paint at a canvas and call it art. In fact, long-time Rangers fan and writer Greg Caggiano decided to have some fun with the all stupid people out there. Not-so-shockingly, as it turns out, there are a lot of them.

Late last night, Caggiano tweeted, like many others had before him, that not only was a deal that would bring Rick Nash to New York imminent, but that it was completed:

You could imagine the reaction of hundreds, maybe even thousands of Rangers fans, couldn't you?

"Oh my God! This is breaking news! Quick, click the link! Who'd they trade for him? Somebody help me! I need an adult! I need an adult!"

Trouble is, the link in that article was not a news story explaining the details of a trade that would shake up the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Rather it was a link to Caggiano's personal blog, and an entry titled "A Great Social Experiment with NHL Trades on Twitter." There, Caggiano gives step-by-step instructions on how he shook the masses into a frenzy with just a few short hashtags. Embedded between his sinister laughs and retweets of people both hating him and loving him for his actions, is a lesson for all of us:

"So, why did I do this? To give fans high blood pressure? To bask in the attention? No, just to prove a point that no one on Twitter can be trusted except for the people who actually work for real sports outlets, and if something is too good to be true, like a 21-year-old blogger with no aspirations of being a sports journalist and just writing as a hobby, breaking the biggest trade of the year before TSN, it’s probably not."

Perhaps the most diabolic part of his plan, was that just minutes before that tweet, with several others in his timeline hinting at a deal coming in mere moments, he dropped this little hint that he was totally full of crap, and just playing with everyone's emotions:

Yeah, that one fell mostly on deaf ears at the time, but it was a good one nonetheless. Perhaps those worked up into such a haze put their blinders on to anything not Nash-related until there was a resolution that would quench their thirsts for fake information.

"People may hate me for this, but that is their prerogative, as at least I was comfortable enough to release this was an experiment. Then again, what if Nash actually did get traded the next day? I would be a genius, immediately vaulted to the top of the rumor totem pole. If I was wrong, I could immediately flip just like everyone else does and say that family matters came into the equation, or something in the deal changed at the last moment and the entire thing fell through, and that there are now five obvious teams still in the running for said player. Either way, I hope this is a wake up call to all those who fancifully waste their lives following these people on Twitter. Thanks for the laugh, everyone!"

Nicely done, Greg. You've shown us just how easy it is to become someone Eklund, Incarcerated Bob or HockeyInsiderr, and also why we should avoid them like they've got the Bubonic Plague. We'll continue to stick with the Darren Dregers and Bob McKenzies of the world.

Click here to read Caggiano's full entry.

Parise, Suter Signings Paving Way for Big-Name Trades?

Written by Mike Salerno on .

In case you've been out celebrating the birth of the world's greatest nation and missed this morning's news, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, two of Uncle Sam's favorite hockey-playing sons, have joined forces in Minnesota, signing identical 13-year, $98 million contracts with the Wild.

With the pair of big-ticket players now officially off the free agent market, and alternative options alarmingly low, contending teams looking to make a splash will most likely have to do so via trade.

Though players like Matt Carle and Alexander Semin, both fine players in their own right (as long as you don't watch TSN) still have yet to find homes, organizations such as the Flyers, Red Wings, Rangers, Maple Leafs and Penguins seem to be in an arms race for names such as Nash, Ryan, Luongo and Weber.

So who's next?

Family Matters: Schenns United, van Riemsdyk To Toronto

Written by Casey McCormack on .


It seems the biggest trade of NHL Draft weekend was saved for after the final selection. Late Saturday afternoon, the Leafs and Flyers pulled the trigger on a deal exchanging defenseman Luke Schenn for Philadelphia forward James van Riemsdyk.

After speculation reached an all-time high that this trade would be made around last season's trade deadline, the swap of former top-five draft picks marks the second in two days in which family ties are re-kindled, when Eric and Jordan Staal were joined in Carolina. Luke and Brayden have always thought about the prospect of playing together, but for quite sometime it seemed as if it wouldn't happen.

Luke was drafted fifth overall by Brian Burke in 2008 and expectations were through the roof. But beyond stretches where Luke has been good, his career hasn't been terribly impressive thus far. At least it's the first time Brian Burke has gushed over a first-round draft pick, right? Oh hey, Nazem Kadri.

Schenn had 75 points in four seasons with the Leafs.

Speaking of underachieving draft picks, James van Riemsdyk hasn't exactly lived up to his billing either. The now-former Flyer was taken 2nd overall in 2007, after Patrick Kane was selected by Chicago, and has accumulated 99 points in roughly two and a half seasons with the Flyers. JVR's size, strength on the puck, and blistering shot were the types of things that made Paul Holmgren believe they had something really special. In fact, van Riemsdyk's expected leap forward was a big part of the reason Holmgren felt comfortable trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last summer.

Well, at least they still have Claude Giroux.

This trade has numerous implications for both teams. Toronto gets an explosive, yet still mostly unproven, forward in van Riemsdyk who has shown instances of brilliance. He was a force in the 2011 playoffs, netting 7 goals in 11 games as the Flyers lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. A change in scenery might be just the thing that he needs and playing alongside Phil Kessel and a rejuvenated Joffrey Lupul might be just the place.

Van Riemsdyk has the potential to become a superstar. And that is exactly what Burke is going to preach, and quite honestly, it may not be too far off.

Now, the Flyers didn't get such a bad deal here, either. Make no bones about it, Luke Schenn hasn't been the dominant force he has been touted to be. But he is another guy who can certainly step up his role into an All-Star defenseman. Undoubtedly, the Flyers' brass are looking at this 22-year old imploring him to become the very thing they just lost: Chris Pronger.

The Flyers' interest in a player like Schenn speaks volumes about their confidence in Pronger's potential return after a debilitating concussion forced him to miss the majority of the 2011-12 campaign.  This threw the Flyers into talks with Ryan Suter, specifically, earlier this offseason despite reports that Suter was less than thrilled with the idea of playing in Philadelphia. This trade might make any of those rumors obsolete. The Flyers may have just made the move for their man on the blue line.

Despite the "less than explosive" starts to both of these young players' careers, this trade has the makings of something that can totally revitalize the way we look at them.

Two young players, traded one-for-one.

A dying breed of trade in the NHL and something that is quite refreshing.

Staal Tactics: Penguins, Hurricanes Among 2012 NHL Draft Winners

Written by Mike Salerno on .

The NHL Draft has come and gone, and like usual there are some teams that are far better off than they were this time yesterday. While the prevailing opinion with most drafts is that you can't truly grade a team's performance, which is certainly true to an extent, some general managers were decidedly more aggressive on the CONSOL Energy Center floor.

Here are some of the teams that benefitted the most from the 2012 NHL Draft:

1) Pittsburgh Penguins

Surprisingly, the Penguins made the biggest splash of the first round, sending Jordan Staal to Carolina in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the eighth-overall pick. Staal reportedly refused to sign a 10-year extension with Pittsburgh earlier in the week. General manager Ray Shero got a great return for a player who was a key component of a Stanley Cup-winning team, but was ultimately stuck behind Malkin and Crosby.

The Penguins then drafted a pair of high-end defensemen in Derrick Pouliot of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks with the eighth overall selection, and Olli Maata of the OHL's London Knights 22nd overall. The acquisition of Dumoulin as well allowed Shero to turn a position of weakness into one of strength.

Pittsburgh also traded Zybnek Michalek on Day 2 of the draft, a move that was widely regarded as a salary dump. Shero will now turn his attention to the free agent market, where he will try to attract either Zach Parise or Ryan Suter to the Steel City.

2) Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres happily watched as eight of the first 10 players drafted were defensemen. As the draft unfolded, Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko, the fifth-highest ranked player heading into the draft, had not yet found a home. Darcy Regier & co. happily scooped him up with the 12th pick.

Regier, though, was far from done for the evening. Just a few minutes later, he moved the pick he acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline (21st overall) as well as the Sabres' second-round selection to Calgary for the 14th overall pick. Buffalo then selected Zemgus Girgensons, a heavy-hitting center from Latvia.

Buffalo's depth down the middle got a significant shot in the arm with a pair of impressive prosepects. Don't be surprised to see Grigorenko crack the NHL roster this fall.

3) Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes, who obviously made a big splash by acquiring Staal from the Penguins, had themselves a fine draft as well. Getting Staal out of the shadow of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and into a more offensive role will pay dividends for the Canes for years, assuming he signs an extension to stay after next season. He is already projected to be flanked by older brother and team captain, Eric Staal, and 2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner.

Despite trading the eighth-overall pick in exchange for Staal, Carolina still made three of the first 69 picks. They used their first selection, in the second round, on forward Phillip Di Giuseppe. The speedy winger finished sixth on the team in scoring in his freshman season at the University of Michigan.

With their second pick, the Hurricanes went off the board a bit and took gritty winger Brock Mcginn. While he may not be a prolific scorer, Mcginn certainly projects to replace some of the void left by Brandon Sutter in time.

Honorable Mentions

The Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks also benefited from an early run on defensemen. Washington, who acquired Colorado's first round pick last summer in a deal for Semyon Varlamov, selected Swedish center Filip Forsberg 11th overall. Forsberg was ranked third. They also selected Tom Wilson of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers with the 16th pick. Acquiring the big pair of forwards softens the blow of having Evgeni Kuznetsov stay in Russia.

The Blackhawks selected Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen with the 18th overall pick. Teravainen was expected to be taken in the top 10 and possibly in the top five. Chicago got incredible value at 18, adding Teravainen to an already robust group of young forward prospects including Mark McNeill, Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri.

Tonight's Healthy Scratches NHL Draft Live Blog

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Welcome to Tonight's Healthy Scratches official live blog following the 2012 NHL Draft! We'll be your one-stop shop for all the news from Pittsburgh.

Come chat with your favorite Scratches and some very special guests, including Chris Peters of The United States of Hockey, Sean Gentille, hockey editor for The Sporting News, as well as a pair of Bloguin's finest Devils writers, Darren Shetler of Running With The Devils and Chris Wassel of The Hockey Program.

 In addition to some of the finest scribes on our network, we'll also hear from a draft-eligible member of the 2011-12 Peterborough Petes as he watches players he skated alongside and against have their names called in the hopes he will find a home.

Sign in below, and let your voice be heard:

NBC Stars Save Otherwise Lackluster NHL Awards Show

Written by Mike Salerno on .


Without a formal host for the 2012 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, the format for the show was a bit different than most awards ceremonies. The League adopted a "host by committee" which included a combination of on-air sports personalities, actors-turned-fans and of course, fellow players who took turns taking big swings at making the audience laugh, and almost always coming up empty.

The theme? When in doubt, and scared of a room full of people finding you less than amusing, make fun of John Tortorella's press conferences, like Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet did, among others.

The awkward silences after bad jokes that the likes of Joshua Jackson and Erin Andrews admittedly did not write painfully gave way for over two hours. However, the NHL found some funny bones with a few spoof videos starring some of NBC's most famous actors, Tracy Morgan of 30 Rock, and Up All Night's Will Arnett.

New York Rangers goaltender, and Vezina Trophy winner, Henrik Lundqvist, introduced a video featuring "a very important player" who spent some time with the team this year. In a spoof of the popular HBO series "Rangers-Flyers: 24/7 Road To The Winter Classic," the video profiled Tracy Morgan, a player some might call "enigmatic," to say the least:

Morgan, who's known for his outlandish, yet simple comedy on 30 Rock, won over the crowd while the NHL video crew cut up a John Tortorella clip that was meant originally about cutting ties with Sean Avery, another important Ranger who didn't finish the year with the team. Hm, interesting.

Over the course of the two-hour event, Will Arnett starred in several "Shanaban" spoof videos as the Director of Player Safety himself, sporting an aggressive wig and monotoned Shanahan accent. In this instance, he takes on Kings captain Dustin Brown for his dangerous attempt at rehydrating:

Arnett's impressions of Shanahan became a running theme throughout the show, including videos where Shanahan gets into infractions committed away from the rink, like Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, and his inability to correctly park his vehicle like a proper North American:

Ovechkin drives a Honda, does he? Oh, that sneaky, sneaky NHL marketing department.

While Jay Mohr hosted the NHL Awards in years past, the League gambled big this year at the Wynn and crapped out. With a number of seemingly great would-be hosts around hockey these days in Arnett, Matthew Perry, Vince Vaughn and even former Bruins writer and comedian Bill Burr, one wonders why the NHL went hostless for their only red carpet event.

"Buck" Wild: Harding Gets Paid, But Backstrom Won't Move

Written by Brian McCormack on .


The Minnesota Wild locked up 28 year-old goaltender Josh Harding for the next three years, a deal worth $5.7 million over that stretch. The contract is a raise for Harding, whose previous deal paid him $750 thousand last season. The contract sets the Wild up for the future after starter Nicklas Backstrom, age 34, becomes a free agent, scheduled for the summer of 2013.

But for anyone playing "Brian Burke - Home Edition," don't make the mistake of believing that Harding's new deal in Minnesota makes Backstrom an option via trade for the Leafs next season, or any other team for that matter. Backstrom won't be going anywhere.

Devils Fan's Desk Spitefully Turned Into Kings Central By Co-Workers

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Courtesy of our good friend at The Royal Half, we bring you video of a Devils fan's worst nightmare, save for Zach Parise in Broadway blue. This unlucky soul, Chris, as we know him for now, had the displeasure of coming back from vacation to find his cubicle spectacularly decked out in Kings gear:

Now, it probably stands to reason that Chris threw a few playful jabs around the office as his Devils advanced past the Panthers, Flyers and Rangers and into the Stanley Cup Final against Los Angeles.

The rest of the office, who certainly adopted the Kings if for no other reason than to wipe the silly grin off their co-worker's face, added some silver and black pizzazz to Chris' desk when he was on vacation.

Tonight's Healthy Scratches has reached out to the brilliant architects of this trolling Picasso for comment, and will happily relay their thoughts if afforded the chance.

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