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Date: Friday, 21 Jan 2011 18:07

Here's a pretty big programming announcement: starting Monday, From The Rink will be integrated into the SB Nation hockey hub. If you're curious why, it's really to consolidate writers and resources into a central NHL site for the network. Nothing will really change for readers except that the posts will be at SBNation.com/NHL rather than here (and I believe FromTheRink.com will redirect there). A few other notes:

-If you read FTR via RSS feed, that will change. You'll need to update your feed to the SB Nation NHL Features feed. Also, if you want to receive breaking news, SB Nation NHL Headlines is also worth subscribing to. Note: As of right now, the Feedburner for the Features feed appears to be down. SBN's tech team is aware of the issue.

-If you get your post notifications via Twitter, the FTR Twitter account will stay active. There are some magic interwebs wormholes that will work out, so this might not be the smoothest transition. Same goes for Facebook.

-The archive of FTR posts should be imported over to SBN Hockey. That means that whenever you need to hear the best of uncensored NHL TV broadcasts, you should still be able to find it.

-Finally, with all of the linking out that SBN Hockey does to our network sites, along with the new AM recaps, it's been decided by the higher ups that the Gameday posts will be redundant. From a content perspective, that makes sense, but that means that the six people out there that liked the daily indie rock tunes will miss out. Never fear, dedicated hockey/music half-dozen, I'll figure a way to incorporate good music from obscure bands into the posts.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Friday, 21 Jan 2011 15:01

Several WHL players made a respectable showing at the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game earlier this week in Toronto. 13 WHL players took part in the skills competition and game, which gives scouts and teams a good look at the top players going in the NHL Entry Draft this summer. No surprise, the Portland Winterhawks sent the most players (4), but it was Red Deer Rebels forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who turned the most heads. Nugent- Hopkins played a strong game all-round and contributed two assists to be named player of the game for Team Orr, which beat Team Cherry by a decisive 7-1 score. Portland's Sven Bartschi scored a goal and an assist for Team Orr. Seattle Thunderbirds' forward Colin Jacobs also had an assist for Orr. Winterhawk Ty Rattie assisted on Team Cherry's only goal. Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Liam Liston stopped all 18 shots during the 29:30 he played in the first and part of the second period for Team Orr, while Saskatoon Blades defenseman Duncan Siemans showed how tough he is by squaring off with Vancouver Giants d-man David Musil. Regina Pats' defenseman Myles Bell won the skills competition for hardest shot, at 98.4 mph.

WHL officials have to be happy with the way their guys represented at the game and competition, and hope to see all 13 go in the first round of the draft (Last year, 17 WHL'ers went in the first round). Here's a look at all 13 WHL players invited to play in the prospects game: Team Cherry - D: Duncan Siemens/Saskatoon, Myles Bell/Regina, Joseph Morrow/Portland, Tyler Wortherspoon/Portland. F: Ty Rattie/Portland, Mark McNeill/Prince Albert. Team Orr - D: Reece Scarlett/Swift Current, David Musil/Vancouver, F: Shane McColgan/Kelowna, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Red Deer (Team Orr Captain), Colin Jacobs/Seattle, Sven Bartschi. G: Liam Liston/Brandon. You can read a game recap by clicking here.

Seattle T-Birds, Mic'd up

The Seattle Thunderbirds are taking a page out of the Pittsburgh Penguins' & Washington Capitals' playbook, with help from Seattle TV station KCPQ. They took to Facebook and Twitter to get the fans to vote which player should be mic'd up during the game versus the Kelowna Rockets Tuesday night. KCPQ shot the game and plans to unveil the "mic'd up" segment this Sunday on the show "Q It Up Sports," with sports anchor Aaron Levine. People who live in the Seattle area can catch the show at 9:30pm on Joe TV (Channel 22) and at 10:30pm on KCPQ (Channel 13). I'm sure the T-Birds and Q13 will post video after it airs as well.

Win FREE tickets to a WHL game

The WHL teamed up with Re/Max Realtors to offer free tickets to WHL games for fans who live in Western Canada (and to promote their Facebook and Twitter social media platforms). All fans have to do it "Like" the WHL page on Facebook and enter using a special link at the page, or follow the WHL on Twitter (@TheWHL) and answer weekly questions. Each winner receives 4 tickets to a game, hopefully close to their home city. This special promotion runs until March. You can read more about the contest by clicking here.

A question for YOU

Now that we've passed the halfway point in the season, what grade would you give your team? And what ONE thing do you think your team needs to do to improve - or stay on track if your team is leading its division? Comment below or email me. Just look for the link at the bottom of the page. Thanks in advance for playing!

Now, a look at this weekend's match-ups:

Tonight (Friday, January 21)

Calgary @ Prince Albert

Regina @ Swift Current

Lethbridge @ Brandon

Moose Jaw @ Edmonton

Red Deer @ Medicine Hat

Chilliwack @ Kamloops

Kootenay @ Spokane

Prince George @ Vancouver

Portland @ Everett

Kelowna @ Seattle

Saturday, January 22

Seattle @ Portland

Lethbridge @ Regina

Calgary @ Saskatoon

Swift Current @ Brandon

Medicine Hat @ Edmonton

Moose Jaw @ Red Deer

Prince George @ Chilliwack

Vancouver @ Kamloops

Kelowna @ Spokane

Everett @ Tri City

Sunday, January 23

Red Deer @ Kootenay

Spokane @ Portland

Chilliwack @ Vancouver

Kelowna @ Tri City

Author: "Su Ring"
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Date: Friday, 21 Jan 2011 12:01

For the first time in the Aggregated NHL Power Rankings, we've got a significant amount of zero movement from last week. The Vancouver Canucks retain the top spot, but the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings also keep their second and third spot, respectively. In fact, the biggest change was for the surging Phoenix Coyotes, who jumped up eight spots. Everyone else is five or under.

Does that mean things are starting to settle? You're starting to see a little bit of separation in the Western Conference, and you're also looking at some teams beginning to consider their trade options as we head past the 50-game mark.

Here are your rankings.

Rank Team Last Diff
1  Vancouver Canucks 1 0
2  Philadelphia Flyers 2 0
3  Detroit Red Wings 3 0
4  Pittsburgh Penguins 6 2
5  Dallas Stars 6 1
6  Boston Bruins 10 4
7  Washington Capitals 4 -3
8  Phoenix Coyotes 16 8
9  Nashville Predators 9 0
10  Tampa Bay Lightning 5 -5
11  Chicago Blackhawks 13 2
12  Montreal Canadiens 12 0
13  New York Rangers 8 -5
14  Anaheim Ducks 11 -3
15  Carolina Hurricanes 18 3
16  Colorado Avalanche 16 0
17  Atlanta Thrashers 14 -3
18  Los Angeles Kings 19 1
19  Minnesota Wild 14 -5
20  San Jose Sharks 21 1
21  St. Louis Blues 20 -1
22  Florida Panthers 25 3
23  Calgary Flames 25 2
24  Buffalo Sabres 22 -2
25  Toronto Maple Leafs 23 -2
26  Columbus Blue Jackets 24 -2
27  New York Islanders 27 0
28  Ottawa Senators 28 0
29  Edmonton Oilers 29 0
30  New Jersey Devils 30 0

Coming up after the jump, conference rankings and the always popular mega-spreadsheet.

Here are the conference rankings with a comparison to the SBN rankings. First the Eastern Conference.

Rank Team SBN Diff
1  Philadelphia Flyers 1 0
2  Pittsburgh Penguins 2 0
3  Boston Bruins 3 0
4  Washington Capitals 5 1
5  Tampa Bay Lightning 4 -1
6  Montreal Canadiens 7 1
7  New York Rangers 6 -1
8  Carolina Hurricanes 8 0
9  Atlanta Thrashers 9 0
10  Florida Panthers 10 0
11  Buffalo Sabres 11 0
12  Toronto Maple Leafs 12 0
13  New York Islanders 13 0
14  Ottawa Senators 14 0
15  New Jersey Devils 15 0

Then the Western Conference.

Rank Team SBN Diff
1  Vancouver Canucks 1 0
2  Detroit Red Wings 2 0
3  Dallas Stars 3 0
4  Phoenix Coyotes 5 1
5  Nashville Predators 4 -1
6  Chicago Blackhawks 6 0
7  Anaheim Ducks 8 1
8  Colorado Avalanche 7 -1
9  Los Angeles Kings 9 0
10  Minnesota Wild 11 1
11  San Jose Sharks 12 1
12  St. Louis Blues 10 -2
13  Calgary Flames 14 1
14  Columbus Blue Jackets 13 -1
15  Edmonton Oilers 15 0

That's a heck of a lot of consensus between the various rankings and our SBN bloggers. Great minds and all that.

Here's the mega-spreadsheet sorted by rank.

Rank Conference Team ESPN CBS THN Sportsnet SI TSN Ave Std Last Diff
1 West  Vancouver Canucks 2 1 1 1 2 1 1.333 0.516 1 0
2 East  Philadelphia Flyers 1 2 2 2 1 5 2.167 1.472 2 0
3 West  Detroit Red Wings 3 3 3 3 3 6 3.5 1.225 3 0
4 East  Pittsburgh Penguins 5 7 4 4 5 4 4.833 1.169 6 2
5 West  Dallas Stars 4 4 5 7 4 7 5.167 1.472 6 1
6 East  Boston Bruins 7 8 6 8 6 2 6.167 2.229 10 4
7 East  Washington Capitals 6 11 8 5 7 14 8.5 3.391 4 -3
8 West  Phoenix Coyotes 8 5 9 11 9 13 9.167 2.714 16 8
9 West  Nashville Predators 9 6 10 10 11 11 9.5 1.871 9 0
10 East  Tampa Bay Lightning 12 10 7 6 8 18 10.17 4.401 5 -5
11 West  Chicago Blackhawks 10 12 14 15 12 3 11 4.29 13 2
12 East  Montreal Canadiens 14 9 11 14 10 15 12.17 2.483 12 0
13 East  New York Rangers 11 15 12 9 13 16 12.67 2.582 8 -5
14 West  Anaheim Ducks 15 13 17 12 15 9 13.5 2.811 11 -3
15 East  Carolina Hurricanes 13 14 15 17 17 12 14.67 2.066 18 3
16 West  Colorado Avalanche 16 16 13 16 14 17 15.33 1.506 16 0
17 East  Atlanta Thrashers 18 24 20 13 16 10 16.83 4.997 14 -3
18 West  Los Angeles Kings 20 19 16 19 20 8 17 4.648 19 1
19 West  Minnesota Wild 17 18 18 18 18 21 18.33 1.366 14 -5
20 West  San Jose Sharks 21 20 21 21 19 19 20.17 0.983 21 1
21 West  St. Louis Blues 19 21 19 20 21 24 20.67 1.862 20 -1
22 East  Florida Panthers 22 17 22 25 22 20 21.33 2.658 25 3
23 West  Calgary Flames 24 26 24 22 23 22 23.5 1.517 25 2
24 East  Buffalo Sabres 23 22 25 23 25 25 23.83 1.329 22 -2
25 East  Toronto Maple Leafs 25 23 26 26 26 23 24.83 1.472 23 -2
26 West  Columbus Blue Jackets 26 27 23 24 24 26 25 1.549 24 -2
27 East  New York Islanders 27 25 28 28 28 27 27.17 1.169 27 0
28 East  Ottawa Senators 28 28 27 27 27 28 27.5 0.548 28 0
29 West  Edmonton Oilers 30 29 29 29 29 29 29.17 0.408 29 0
30 East  New Jersey Devils 29 30 30 30 30 30 29.83 0.408 30 0

And by standard deviation:


Rank Conference Team ESPN CBS THN Sportsnet SI TSN Ave Std Last Diff
29 West  Edmonton Oilers 30 29 29 29 29 29 29.17 0.408 29 0
30 East  New Jersey Devils 29 30 30 30 30 30 29.83 0.408 30 0
1 West  Vancouver Canucks 2 1 1 1 2 1 1.333 0.516 1 0
28 East  Ottawa Senators 28 28 27 27 27 28 27.5 0.548 28 0
20 West  San Jose Sharks 21 20 21 21 19 19 20.17 0.983 21 1
27 East  New York Islanders 27 25 28 28 28 27 27.17 1.169 27 0
4 East  Pittsburgh Penguins 5 7 4 4 5 4 4.833 1.169 6 2
3 West  Detroit Red Wings 3 3 3 3 3 6 3.5 1.225 3 0
24 East  Buffalo Sabres 23 22 25 23 25 25 23.83 1.329 22 -2
19 West  Minnesota Wild 17 18 18 18 18 21 18.33 1.366 14 -5
2 East  Philadelphia Flyers 1 2 2 2 1 5 2.167 1.472 2 0
5 West  Dallas Stars 4 4 5 7 4 7 5.167 1.472 6 1
25 East  Toronto Maple Leafs 25 23 26 26 26 23 24.83 1.472 23 -2
16 West  Colorado Avalanche 16 16 13 16 14 17 15.33 1.506 16 0
23 West  Calgary Flames 24 26 24 22 23 22 23.5 1.517 25 2
26 West  Columbus Blue Jackets 26 27 23 24 24 26 25 1.549 24 -2
21 West  St. Louis Blues 19 21 19 20 21 24 20.67 1.862 20 -1
9 West  Nashville Predators 9 6 10 10 11 11 9.5 1.871 9 0
15 East  Carolina Hurricanes 13 14 15 17 17 12 14.67 2.066 18 3
6 East  Boston Bruins 7 8 6 8 6 2 6.167 2.229 10 4
12 East  Montreal Canadiens 14 9 11 14 10 15 12.17 2.483 12 0
13 East  New York Rangers 11 15 12 9 13 16 12.67 2.582 8 -5
22 East  Florida Panthers 22 17 22 25 22 20 21.33 2.658 25 3
8 West  Phoenix Coyotes 8 5 9 11 9 13 9.167 2.714 16 8
14 West  Anaheim Ducks 15 13 17 12 15 9 13.5 2.811 11 -3
7 East  Washington Capitals 6 11 8 5 7 14 8.5 3.391 4 -3
11 West  Chicago Blackhawks 10 12 14 15 12 3 11 4.29 13 2
10 East  Tampa Bay Lightning 12 10 7 6 8 18 10.17 4.401 5 -5
18 West  Los Angeles Kings 20 19 16 19 20 8 17 4.648 19 1
17 East  Atlanta Thrashers 18 24 20 13 16 10 16.83 4.997 14 -3

Biggest outlier: There's plenty of differentiation with TSN's calculated rankings as opposed to everyone else's subjective rankings. But in terms of biggest difference, you have the Atlanta Thrashers with two wildly different rankings -- 13th by Sportsnet and 24th by CBS.

Most consensus: Well, there's a little bit of differentiation regarding the worst team in the league. ESPN picks the Oilers as worst while everyone else pegs the old standby New Jersey Devils as worst.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Thursday, 20 Jan 2011 20:05

Tonight's soundtrack: Face To Face On High Places by School Of Seven Bells -- Because there are a number of playoff-affecting games tonight in both conferences. Grab a Newcastle Brown Ale and get your remote handy for channel flipping, it's going to be a busy and fun night.

New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 PM ET
So, is Marian Gaborik out of John Tortorella's doghouse now? When will Carolina get out of the ninth-place hump?

Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins, 7 PM ET
Buffalo will have to discover another source for offense with Drew Stafford out. Does Peter Chiarelli frequent SBN's Stanley Cup of Chowder blog?

Anaheim Ducks at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 PM ET
Do the Ducks need to get more forward depth like their California brothers? The always-frank Ron Wilson talks glowingly about the last Toronto game.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Atlanta Thrashers, 7 PM ET
Tampa's got a big chance to pad their divisional lead tonight. Will the Thrashers miss Ben Eager at all?

Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils, 7 PM ET
No Evgeni Malkin, no Sidney Crosby, so who will center the Penguins top line? The Devils will have to strategize a little differently without Pittsburgh's top guns to shut down.

Washington Capitals at New York Islanders, 7 PM ET
How has young Mathieu Perrault fared this season compared to last? Kyle Okposo is back, and that prompts a Total Recall reference over at Lighthouse Hockey. "Hey Kyle, see you at the party!"

Ottawa Senators at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 PM ET
Considering where the Sens are at, maybe it's time to get nostalgic about John Muckler. Get your vote in on the Name That Line contest for Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, and Ville Leino.

Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues, 8 PM ET
Jimmy Howard returns tonight for Detroit and he'll probably be motivated by those Evgeni Nabokov rumors. The Blues have lost out on KHL re-treads thanks to the waiver wire, but is that a bad thing?

Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche, 9 PM ET
In a team with no #1 line, a new #1 line has formed for Nashville. Colorado is looking for three in a row tonight.

Dallas Stars at Edmonton Oilers, 9 PM ET
Is the Dallas media finally realizing that they've got a pretty good team? The Oilers don't seem to know how to handle their concussion issue.

San Jose Sharks at Vancouver Canucks, 10 PM ET
Despite winning two straight, tonight is a definition game for San Jose. Vancouver says hello to Kyle Wellwood. Please refrain from the fat jokes, he's a slim 180 pounds now!

Phoenix Coyotes at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 PM ET
Tonight is the first of back-to-backs for Phoenix. Since Thanksgiving, the Kings have been the worst team in the Western Conference. Ouch.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Thursday, 20 Jan 2011 14:01
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby poses with the Mark Messier and Maurice Richard trophies during the NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

More photos » Isaac Brekken - AP

7 months ago: Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby poses with the Mark Messier and Maurice Richard trophies during the NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Earlier this week, a report said that Sidney Crosby may skip the NHL's All-Star Game festivities to protest the lack of calls for headshots (this story has since been updated from its original release). That's not exactly a Sidney Crosby-like action, so of course the report was immediately suspect. Still, it caused enough of an uproar - probably because quite a few people wanted to believe it, for various reasons - that it was splashed all over the hockey firmament, all the same.

Naturally, it was later refuted. Crosby himself was quoted as saying that if he could go to Raleigh, that he would go. He still may not be able to play, however, because his concussion symptoms are still lingering.

But let's pretend for a moment that it was true - that the NHL's marquee player, Sidney Crosby, would use the All-Star Game to protest an inadequately addressed league issue.

We all know that head shots are a problem. And we all know that officiating is horrifically inconsistent. (And no, it's not just for your team that the on-ice officials are calling/not calling stupid things; it's everybody.) And don't even get me started on Colin Campbell and his "Wheel of Justice".

The only way that's going to change is for someone like Crosby to stage a protest. Or all of the players invited to join him and stage a protest. We all know that the NHL's Board of Governors - the people with the real power to change things - don't listen to the fans. The other alternative is for it to be one more discussion point in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) talks.

The theory goes that the employer - in this case, the NHL and its member teams - is supposed to create a safe work environment for their employees - in this case, the players - to work in. But employers won't change their business practices unless they're forced to; if they're making money as things are, then they'll keep things the same. So it's up to the employees to force the employers to change.

That's what unions are all about. If anyone remembers their American history, it was the manufacturing unions that forced employers - and the government - to create safe environments for all people to work in, even those not in manufacturing. And not just work environments, but living conditions as well.

Yes, a lot of these guys make millions of dollars a year. And yes, it can be annoying for some to hear them complain when many fans think they have just about the best job in the world. But the fact of the matter is, they're putting their health on the line every single game they play, and for what? To entertain the fans.

They don't have to come back from facial fractures, blown knees, bruised brains, or skate-slashed throats. They can take their sticks, pucks, and money and go home. But they don't. And that's a big part of what fans admire about them.

The point is, that in order for things to change on the ice, someone has to make waves.  And Crosby's just the guy to do that - not that he would. Especially since he's the darling of the NHL - whether he likes it or not. He can toe the party line and be a good little hockey player and do what the league wants him to. Or, he can stand up for what's right, and in helping himself he's helping his fellow players as well.

The NHL has given him that clout, and if he's going to use it, then he should at least make it worth the effort. Maybe then poor or inconsistent officiating won't be a point lost in the future CBA negotiations if it were tackled now. The players don't have a lot of bargaining chips to begin with, but the All-Star Game - which many players don't want to attend, anyways - is certainly one of them.

What would he have to lose? The NHL would probably drop him as their poster boy. Oh. What a loss. I mean, he didn't ask for that, anyways. The NHL took a talented but relatively naive 18-year-old and shoved him into that role. If I were in his place, I'd probably find that to be a relief if they did.

Besides, the NHL already has the next poster boy lined up if Crosby decides to do his own thing. And it wouldn't even be that hard for him to pick up where Crosby left off, either. Not that I would wish that on any player, but still.

Seen Stamkos?

Although, who knows. Maybe the fact that Crosby may miss the All-Star Game due to his concussion will be enough for the NHL to decide that they need deal with the headshots problem. Stranger things have happened, after all.

Author: "Cassie McClellan"
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Date: Wednesday, 19 Jan 2011 21:53

Tonight's soundtrack: Mis-shapes by Pulp -- Slim pickings tonight, though Columbus and Florida are both on that cusp of staying in or falling out of the playoff hunt, which should make for an interesting head-to-head match-up.

Game of the Night: Columbus Blue Jackets at Florida Panthers, 7:30 PM ET
Columbus is playing a team with a worse power play than they have. Florida needs better goaltending tonight than what they got against Atlanta.

Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers, 7 PM ET
Check out an interview with the red-hot James Reimer and other Leafs prospects. The Rangers will have to cope without the services of Brandon Dubinsky for up to four weeks.

Minnesota Wild at Calgary Flames, 9:30 PM ET
What happens when your turn on the Hockey Wilderness Rumor Generator 2000? Jarome Iginla will be sitting out of this year's All-Star festivities.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Wednesday, 19 Jan 2011 12:01

It seems like just yesterday we were watching the World Junior Championships and gearing up for the Winter Classic. However, it's already mid-January, and that means there's only a few more weeks before the NHL trade deadline hits. You can be certain that tires are being kicked, though both Jay Feaster of the Calgary Flames and Brian Burke of the Toronto Maple Leafs are more than happy to public talk about the lack of realistic deals coming their way.

From both Feaster and Burke, it sounds like teams want to match up both cap hit and skill in a deal, though you can bet on things loosening up as the trade deadline nears. Usually, it just takes the first domino to fall before things really get going. While there are certainly big-name question marks, the easiest trade fodder is the impending UFA, as their contract will be done come June and there aren't any worries about lingering cap hits.

In short, the following players have the potential to be hired guns. Of course, not all of them come with the cap hit or skill to be in it, but you can bet that GMs on losing teams want to get anything in return for assets that will disappear in a few months.

The following lists are impending UFAs from teams that are essentially out of the playoff race. That's the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and Florida Panthers out east. Out west, the Edmonton Oilers are really the only team that factor into that, but let's throw the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jacket in there as well just to round out the list.

The positional lists are sorted by team and cap hit (descending), along with any notes about injuries. All values are courtesy the good folks at NHL Numbers and all injury updates are from TSN.



Player Age Team Position Cap Salary Injured
Lalime, Patrick 37 Buffalo Sabres Goaltender 0.6 0.6
Garon, Mathieu 33 Columbus Blue Jackets Goaltender 1.2 1.2
LeNeveu, David 28 Columbus Blue Jackets Goaltender 0.55 0.55
Drouin-Deslauriers, Jeff 27 Edmonton Oilers Goaltender 1.05 1.05
Gerber, Martin 36 Edmonton Oilers Goaltender 0.5 0.5
Vokoun, Tomas 35 Florida Panthers Goaltender 5.7 6.3
Hedberg, Johan 38 New Jersey Devils Goaltender 1.5 1
McKenna, Mike 28 New Jersey Devils Goaltender 0.5 0.5
Lawson, Nathan 27 New York Islanders Goaltender 0.5 0.5
Leclaire, Pascal 28 Ottawa Senators Goaltender 3.8 4.8 On IR
Brodeur, Mike 28 Ottawa Senators Goaltender 0.6 0.6
Giguere, Jean-Sebastien 34 Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltender 6 7


Obviously, the big catch here is Tomas Vokoun. Word has it that the Panthers are exploring contract negotiations with Vokoun, though his recent benching can't really help things. Would a team like the Philadelphia Flyers grab a veteran like Jean-Sebastien Giguere?



Player Age Team Position Cap Salary Injured
Connolly, Tim 30 Buffalo Sabres Forward 4.5 4.5
Grier, Mike 36 Buffalo Sabres Forward 1.4 1.4
Niedermayer, Rob 36 Buffalo Sabres Forward 1.25 1.15
Ellis, Matt 29 Buffalo Sabres Forward 0.63 0.625
Stuart, Colin 28 Buffalo Sabres Forward 0.55 0.55
McCormick, Cody 28 Buffalo Sabres Forward 0.5 0.5
Tanguay, Alex 31 Calgary Flames Forward 1.7 1.7
Glencross, Curtis 28 Calgary Flames Forward 1.2 1.2
Morrison, Brendan 35 Calgary Flames Forward 0.73 0.725
Conroy, Craig 39 Calgary Flames Forward 0.5 0.5
Clark, Chris 35 Columbus Blue Jackets Forward 2.63 2.5
Moreau, Ethan 35 Columbus Blue Jackets Forward 2 1.75 On IR
Murray, Andrew 29 Columbus Blue Jackets Forward 0.63 0.65
Jones, Ryan 27 Edmonton Oilers Forward 0.98 0.975
MacIntyre, Steve 30 Edmonton Oilers Forward 0.5 0.5
Giroux, Alexandre 30 Edmonton Oilers Forward 0.5 0.5
Stillman, Cory 37 Florida Panthers Forward 3.53 3.5
Dvorak, Radek 34 Florida Panthers Forward 1.7 1.8
Higgins, Chris 28 Florida Panthers Forward 1.6 1.6 Day to Day
Reasoner, Marty 34 Florida Panthers Forward 1.15 1.2
Hordichuk, Darcy 30 Florida Panthers Forward 0.78 0.8
Cullen, Mark 32 Florida Panthers Forward 0.6 0.6 On IR
Thomas, Bill 28 Florida Panthers Forward 0.53 0.525
Arnott, Jason 36 New Jersey Devils Forward 4.5 4.5
Mair, Adam 32 New Jersey Devils Forward 0.52 0.515
Mills, Brad 28 New Jersey Devils Forward 0.51 0.5
Moulson, Matt 27 New York Islanders Forward 2.45 2.45
Weight, Doug 40 New York Islanders Forward 1.15 0.85 On IR
Sim, Jon 33 New York Islanders Forward 0.65 0.65
Parenteau, P.A. 28 New York Islanders Forward 0.6 0.6
Konopka, Zenon 30 New York Islanders Forward 0.6 0.6
Gillies, Trevor 32 New York Islanders Forward 0.5 0.5
Kovalev, Alexei 38 Ottawa Senators Forward 5 5 On IR
Ruutu, Jarkko 35 Ottawa Senators Forward 1.3 1.3
Shannon, Ryan 28 Ottawa Senators Forward 0.63 0.625
Sjostrom, Fredrik 28 Toronto Maple Leafs Forward 0.75 0.75
Brent, Tim 27 Toronto Maple Leafs Forward 0.58 0.575
Boyce, Darryl 26 Toronto Maple Leafs Forward 0.53 0.525
Crabb, Joey 28 Toronto Maple Leafs Forward 0.53 0.525
Zigomanis, Mike 30 Toronto Maple Leafs Forward 0.5 0.5

There are a lot of two-way depth forwards available, such as Rob Niedermayer and Marty Reasoner. Zenon Konopka is a brawler, but he's also strong at faceoffs. For teams looking for scoring depth, some skill options exist, though there's no slam dunks when you've got guys like Radek Dvorak on the list.



Player Age Team Position Cap Salary Injured
Rivet, Craig 36 Buffalo Sabres Defence 3.5 3.5
Montador, Steve 31 Buffalo Sabres Defence 1.55 1.55
Staios, Steve 37 Calgary Flames Defence 2.7 2.2 On IR
Babchuk, Anton 27 Calgary Flames Defence 1.4 1.4
Pardy, Adam 27 Calgary Flames Defence 0.7 0.7
Kronwall, Staffan 28 Calgary Flames Defence 0.5 0.5
Hejda, Jan 33 Columbus Blue Jackets Defence 2 2
Vandermeer, Jim 31 Edmonton Oilers Defence 2.3 2.3 On IR
Strudwick, Jason 35 Edmonton Oilers Defence 0.73 0.725
McCabe, Bryan 36 Florida Panthers Defence 5.75 4.15 On IR
Callahan, Joe 28 Florida Panthers Defence 0.53 0.525
Wilson, Clay 28 Florida Panthers Defence 0.5 0.5
Greene, Andy 28 New Jersey Devils Defence 0.74 0.75
Davison, Rob 31 New Jersey Devils Defence 0.5 0.5
Martinek, Radek 34 New York Islanders Defence 1.5 1.9
Phillips, Chris 33 Ottawa Senators Defence 3.5 3.5
Hale, David 30 Ottawa Senators Defence 0.68 0.675
Kaberle, Tomas 33 Toronto Maple Leafs Defence 4.25 4.25

Now here's where it gets really interesting. You've got the ongoing Tomas Kaberle saga, Bryan McCabe and his broken jaw, and former #1 overall pick Chris Phillips. Anton Babchuck is an interesting possibility, and there are plenty of depth journeymen that could be used to round out the 5/6 spots on the blueline.

There aren't any gamebreakers, such as last year when the New Jersey Devils sold their soul to the, erm, devil by acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk. Instead, it's a lot of depth players and over-30 talent that could be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Take a good look at these lists. Do you see targets you want to round out your team or is this much ado about nothing?

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011 19:30

Tonight's soundtrack: Far Gone And Out by Jesus & Mary Chain -- with the Wings/Pens and Ducks/Sens tonight, it's the battle of former Finals match-ups. Of course, the Wings/Pens game will probably hold a little more drama than the Ducks/Sens.

Game of the Night 1: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 PM ET
This week's edition of Caps Ups & Downs. GM Paul Holmgren apparently has a new three-year extension in Philadelphia.

Game of the Night 2:  Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 PM ET
Detroit is hoping for fewer weird bounces than the last game against Columbus. If you haven't seen it, here's a link to the original David Shoalts piece about Sidney Crosby possibly skipping the All-Star Game.

Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 PM ET
It's the mid-season grades for the Bruins. Carolina is looking to avenge an embarrassing 7-0 loss to Boston.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 PM ET
Nobody wants Mike Commodore for half-price. Don't forget that Columbus was in the running for Guy Boucher during the off-season.

Anaheim Ducks at Ottawa Senators, 7:30 PM ET
Anaheim has played some of its best hockey this season without Ryan Getzlaf. A quick guide to fixing Ottawa's terrible breakout.

Montreal Canadiens at Buffalo Sabres, 7:30 PM ET
Montreal's last win against Calgary was more difficult than expected. Ruff is going all Herb Brooks on the Sabres in practice.

Los Angeles Kings at St. Louis Blues, 8 PM ET
Should the Kings get yet another new jersey design? TJ Oshie may return tonight for St. Louis.

Nashville Predators at Phoenix Coyotes, 8 PM ET
Nashville will bid for the NCAA Frozen Four tournament. Phoenix's last game was their first 2011 regulation loss.

Vancouver Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, 9 PM ET
Has the scoring dried up in Vancouver? Here's an in-depth chart of split stats so far for Colorado.

Minnesota Wild at Edmonton Oilers, 9:30 PM ET
How have Minnesota's left wings recently fared? Maybe Todd Richards should study the Jacques Lemaire playbook.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011 17:26

More photos » Tony Avelar - AP

"Seriously, 1,000 games?" (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

1,000 games. In NHL terms, that's just a little over 12 82-game seasons. How many people do you know that have been at the same employer for more than 12 years -- successfully and fairly happily to boot?

With all due respect to Jamie Langenbrunner, who hit the 1,000 game mark yesterday as well, it's a bit shocking to think a guy like Patrick Marleau played in his 1,000th game, all as a San Jose Shark. The 1997 #2 draft pick, Marleau's career arc seems to have defined the Sharks, even when he hasn't. Consider when he first broke in as a gawky 18-year-old, the team itself was devoid of talent and desperately needed goals from anyone not named Owen Nolan. With ball-busting new coach Darryl Sutter in town to try and whip this meandering bunch of wet-behind-the-ears kids and not-so-wily veterans into shape, the Sharks were past the "We're just happy to be here" phase and needed an identity.

Over those first few seasons, Marleau -- like the Sharks -- flashed occasional moments of greatness, his share of face-palming groans, and plenty of growing pains on his way to becoming a respectable NHL player. The team itself became known more for Owen Nolan's gritty play and Darryl Sutter's even grittier scowl. And when enough talent finally filled out the roster in the early 2000s with an emerging Marleau and Marco Sturm flanking Nolan, Vincent Damphousse, and Teemu Selanne, the Sharks once again followed Marleau's career path -- good, but not great, and never seemingly able to tap consistently into all that skill to get to the promised land.

During the Ron Wilson era, Marleau was once again just a bit left of the spotlight. In 03-04, he captained a fairly no-name team (Nils Ekman? Alyn McCauley? Wayne Primeau?) to the Western Conference Final, and following the NHL lockout, media focus spent much more time on Joe Thornton (and for some time, Jonathan Cheechoo). Even after All-Star nominations and stints for Team Canada, Marleau just quietly did his job, and only a few people really seemed to notice.

Was this because of the west-coast coverage that was inherent with being a career Shark? Or just part of the quiet, controlled personality he presented to the media? In a parallel universe, Marleau played 1,000 games in the Eastern Conference, perhaps even for a media-hungry Canadian team; I'd love to jump through a wormhole and see if that Marleau reacted to the spotlight under different circumstances or if he maintained the same even-keeled persona that San Jose has seen for more than a decade.

In some ways, Marleau's style of game is similar to this person. Blessed with immense speed, a hard shot, and better playmaking skills than most people give him credit for, Marleau's highlight reel doesn't include gaudy Alex Ovechkin-esque moves. And he certainly can't match the thread-the-needle passes of teammate Joe Thornton, nor does he create check-your-skates dekes that someone like Pavel Datsyuk can do. No, most of Marleau's goals are sharp but not stunning, a combination of the tools he brings but never oozing with did-you-see-that? talent. They're consistent, effective, with just a touch of flash -- kind of like Marleau himself. That's not to mention how he's gradually rounded out his game, transforming from a soft one-dimensional speedster to someone who has become one of San Jose's go-to penalty killers over the past few years, along with being strong at face-offs.

Patrick Marleau's 1,000 career games come with some fairly gaudy numbers despite the slow start to his career, including 338 goals. Should he have a strong finish to this season and play to expectations next season, there's a slight chance he may hit 400 goals in the 2011-12 campaign; if not then, he'll certainly achieve that milestone the year after. In fact, if the durable, speedy forward plays long enough, 500 goals is a possibility. Had the NHL lockout not occurred, this achievement would be inevitable.

That nugget in itself is enough to make many NHL pundits take a step back. Patrick Marleau and 500 goals? And yet, that seems to be the way his entire career has gone -- it's been stellar, but always in the shadow of someone else, be it Owen Nolan or Joe Thornton. Never exactly the most vocal person, Marleau's under-the-radar career has hampered his reputation at times, most notably during his stint as Sharks captain, but his quiet consistency just kept plugging away, a slow career ramp-up to cruising speed that potted 25+ goals season after season. Even in this year's sub-par campaign, Marleau should still eclipse the 30-goal mark, and depending on how things go, approach 35-40 if he gets on a hot streak.

Now 31, Marleau should still have a few seasons of strong productivity left, followed by the inevitable tailing off that so many aging star players go through. At best, he'll probably finish up with around 500 goals and 600 assists over 1,500 games. Those are some pretty hefty numbers for a career, and yet when it's all said and done, I'm guessing there will be plenty of people who won't realize quite how many accomplishments Marleau's put up. That's what happens when you have a great stats and great skill but are always just in the shadow of someone or something else, be it a teammate or the team itself. And yet, given what we know of Marleau's quiet, guarded persona, I'm guessing he's ok with that.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Monday, 17 Jan 2011 12:01

More photos » Darryl Dyck - AP

"Wait, we're only halfway done with the season? Crap." (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

The Vancouver Canucks, the team that recently went on a stellar 14-0-3 run, have lost two of their last three. During that 17-game points streak, the Canucks looked like an absolute machine, rolling over the opposition high and low. Their two recent losses? Shutouts, including the latest one against division rival Minnesota.

Is it time for "uh oh" in Vancouver? No, of course not. However, the Canucks may have experienced a similar problem to plenty of teams over the past few seasons: peaking too early. The Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks can tell you about this.

Still, you can't really read too much into it either way. The unbeaten streak was remarkable, yes, but it's no indicator of playoff success. And getting shut out twice in three games doesn't mean that the scoring has dried up.

No, what this means is that the Western Conference is still up for grabs. Let's not forget that the Canucks had their share of problems before going on their torrid run through December and January. In fact, pretty much every team in the Western Conference has had its share of ups and downs; the Detroit Red Wings have probably been the most consistently successful team, and even then, they've hit their spells when inconsistent play and injuries have affected them.

The Dallas Stars -- currently the third seed -- have spent a good chunk of this season the outside looking in while also holding on to the Pacific Division lead. Let's not forget that there was a time when both the 12th seeded St. Louis Blues and the 13th seeded Columbus Blue Jackets were the hottest teams in the league.

NHL coaches often like to talk about how they evaluate their teams in five- or ten-game segments, and there's about 35 or so games left for each team. 

The x-factor to all of this is the ramping up of divisional games as the playoff races hit their stride in February and March. Suddenly, everything becomes a four-point swing.

Prolonged winning streaks, like the kind Vancouver hit upon, create a bit of a cushion that allows for the inevitable stumble to not impact playoff chances too much. However, things like that mask the heart of the problem facing every team in the Western Conference: every team has the capability to turn into world-beaters for a few weeks.

Think of all of the ups and downs we've seen in the standings. Can you really pick favorites when looking at these teams? Each team has its share of strengths and weaknesses, and for the most part, we've seen both sides for each team. 

There are plenty of reasons to think that Vancouver and/or Detroit will keep pace and slug it out for the top spot in the west, but I think we've seen enough this season that it wouldn't be a surprise to find either team mired in a slump for a weeks. At this point, every conference game -- and especially division game -- is essentially like a playoff game, with teams slugging it out to avoid the dreaded three-point game.

The good news is that it provides compelling games to watch every night. The bad news is that there are no sure bets. Unless something drastic changes, things should remain quite unpredictable out west until, oh, around mid-May.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Saturday, 15 Jan 2011 02:13

The WHL will make history tomorrow when it stages the league's first-ever outdoor game and some are already calling the matchup between the Kootenay Ice and Spokane Chiefs a "Canada versus the US" event. And just like the NHL's Winter Classic match between the Capitals and Penguins, Mother Nature may play some tricks on The RockStar Outdoor Hockey Classic in Spokane. No matter. The fans I've spoken with are ready for whatever conditions arise with the sun tomorrow and both teams are eager and excited to help inaugurate what could become a yearly tradition. As of this writing, the temperature in Spokane is a balmy 49 degrees. Tomorrow's forecast includes temps in the high 40's - low 50's and... rain. Similar conditions in Pittsburgh pushed the Winter Classic to 8pm Eastern, to take advantage of cooling temperatures, and even though it still rained, no one seemed to pay any attention. The WHL laid out a list of contingency plans, none of which include pushing the game back to a later puck drop, but focus on what should happen if weather conditions deteriorate after the game has begun. You can check out the contingency plans by reading this post at the website for KREM-TV in Spokane.

Players are obviously thrilled to be part of this historic event. Chiefs Captain Tyler Johnson told WHL.com writer Jesse Watts, "Watching (the rink) get built at the stadium, you get the jitters thinking about getting out there on Saturday. Our whole team is pretty excited." Kootenay players are excited to play outside, but they're also looking forward to facing a surging Spokane team. Defenseman Brayden McNabb told Watts, "Spokane has a really good team this season, and we are looking forward to seeing how we stack up against them. At this point in the season, points matter a lot in the standings, and there are two points available from this game, too." (Note: you can see what else the two teams had to say about the game by reading  Watts' full story at the WHL.com website. Just click here.) Want to see time lapse of the outdoor rink being built? Click here.

We know that players would be up for the challenge. We also know that fans are lining up to watch history be made. Avista Stadium is filling up quickly, with roughly a couple hundred tickets left at last check. I'm not sure about the hotel situation, though, so you'd better call now if you're planning to hit the road at the last minute.

I put out several calls to Spokane and Kootenay fans to weigh in on the game. A grand total of TWO PEOPLE responded to my call - both of them Chiefs fans. Well, maybe more like one and a half Chiefs fans. 

Longtime fan Rhaen is excited about the novelty of the game, but a little perturbed about the "US vs. Canada" angle. Hannah, who's an Everett Silvertips fan at heart, but cheers for the Chiefs since she's attending school in Eastern Washington, thinks the Outdoor Classic is a great way to showcase the league. "I think it's great to generate any positive buzz about hockey and the WHL and I think this does just that," Hannah told me. "Plus, I imagine it must be great for players to get the chance to play outside, something I'm sure a lot of them did as kids but might not get to do as much now."

Hannah also thinks that the home team will have the upper hand tomorrow afternoon. "Maybe the Chiefs for getting a practice in on the ice surface, since ice conditions don't seem like they'll be ideal with the warmer temperatures." Hannah adds, "The Chiefs have been surging to the top of the Western Conference & can certainly score in bunches. Though I haven't been able to watch Kootenay this season yet but with the acquisition of Eakin and them already being in 2nd in the East should make it a good game especially since they play in Kootenay the day before the Outdoor Classic. It should be a great game though between two of the WHL's best."

She also expects a lot from Chiefs' Captain Tyler Johnson, saying, "I'm sure Johnson will be a bit more motivated to impress the hometown crowd playing outside."

In addition to the game, the Chiefs are hosting two public skates tonight at at the outdoor rink. As I write this, Hannah is skating her heart out at the later public session. I expect her to blog and tweet about her experiences tonight, and at tomorrow's game. Her blog is: Defense, Dangles & Dagger (Just click on the name for the link). Her Twitter handle is: Palindrome713 (again, click on the name for the link).

The puck drops tomorrow at 4pm Eastern, 1pm Pacific. You can watch the game live on Shaw TV, Shaw Direct and SWX (Spokane). FSN Northwest will air the game at 10pm Pacific. The game will also be streamed online and live on the radio. For full details of broadcast plans, just click here.

Another outdoor game!

Fans who live too far away to enjoy tomorrow's RockStar Outdoor Hockey Classic in person  might want to consider making the trip to Calgary for a second outdoor game next month. The Hitmen will host the Regina Pats at McMahon Stadium on Monday, February 21st. The puck drops at 1pm Calgary time. For more information, visit the Calgary Hitmen's website. I'll have more about this game in an upcoming post.

Trades, trades and more trades

This was a busy week for a number of teams, working furiously to make changes before the trade deadline. the biggest trade saw the Brandon Wheat Kings sending star Brayden Schenn and a 3rd round pick in the 2012 Bantam Draft to the Saskatoon Blades, in return for four draft picks and two prospects. Schenn is coming off a stellar showing at the World Junior Hockey Championships, in which Canada picked up the silver medal for the second year in a row, but Schenn was voted tournament MVP. The Blades are understandably over the moon about their newest acquisition. They gush talk more about it here. Brandon also sent defenseman Darren Bestland to the Vancouver Giants for forward Matt MacKay and a pick in 2012.

The second blockbuster trade sent forward Cody Eakin from Swift Current to Kootenay, in exchange for forward Christian Magnus, plus prospects Ryan Bloom, Jarrett Zentner, Colby Cave, Steven Myland and 3 draft picks.

The third trade that made me do a double involves the Everett Silvertips and Medicine Hat Tigers. The 'Tips sent forward Kellan Tochkin (Canucks prospect) and defenseman Alex Theriau (Dallas Stars prospect) to Medicine Hat, in return for forward Ryan Harrison and a 2nd round draft pick this year. The Everett Herald's Nick Patterson breaks down the trade here.

Here's a look at other trades that took place this week:

The Calgary Hitmen sent defenseman Matt MacKenzie to the Tri City Americans, in return for forward Brooks Macek, defenseman Spencer Humphries and a conditional pick in 2012.

The Portland Winterhawks traded defenseman Branden Scheidl to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for forward Ryley Bennefield.

The Vancouver Giants sent defenseman Tanner Sohn to the Saskatoon Blades for a 10th round draft pick in 2013. they also sent forward Brett Lyon to Moose Jaw for forward Nathan Smith; defenseman Dalton Reum to Swift Current for d-man Joel Rogers and forward Craig Cunningham to the Portland Winterhawks for forwards Spencer Bennett, Teal Burns and two picks.

The Regina Pats sent defenseman Mitch Spooner to Seattle. The T-Birds gave up a 5th round conditional draft pick in 2012.

The T-Birds also traded forward Charles Wells and a 1st round pick in the 2011 CHL Import draft to Prince Albert, in exchange for defenseman Ryan Button, and sent forward Scott Ramsey to the Medicine Hat Tigers for a 4th round pick in 2011.

Prince Albert also dealt forward Sebastian Svendsen to Moose Jaw, in exchance for forward Michal Hlinka and two draft picks.

The Edmonton Oil Kings sent a 5th round pick in the 2012 draft to Vancouver, in exchange for forward Mark Reners.

Is your head spinning yet??

Now, to this weekend's games:

Tonight (Friday, January 14)

Prince Albert @ Moose Jaw

Edmonton @ Regina

Saskatoon @ Swift Current

Red Deer @ Brandon

Spokane @ Kootenay

Calgary @ Lethbridge

Chilliwack @ Prince George

Portland @ Kelowna

Kamloops @ Tri City

Medicine Hat @ Vancouver

Everett @ Seattle

Saturday, January 15

Kootenay @ Spokane

Moose Jaw @ Prince Albert

Red Deer @ Regina

Swift Current @ Saskatoon

Edmonton @ Brandon

Portland @ Kamloops

Chilliwack @ Prince George

Seattle @ Everett

Medicine Hat @ Kelowna

Vancouver @ Tri City

Sunday, January 16

Lethbridge @ Calgary

Edmonton @ Moose Jaw

Red Deer @ Swift Current

Spokane @ Everett

Vancouver @ Seattle


As always, I'd love to hear from you-- about how you think your team is doing, what you think about the trades they made (if they made any trades at all). Weigh in about the WHL getting involved in outdoor games - good or bad idea? Or, just let me know what you want to see in this column. See you next week.

Author: "Su Ring"
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Date: Friday, 14 Jan 2011 12:00

"Leaps and bounds" might be the theme of this week's Aggregated NHL Power Rankings, as four teams move eight or more spots. Not surprisingly, they're all in that wacky Western Conference -- the place where a three-game skid can have you go from home ice to out of the playoffs. But first, let's tip our hats to the Vancouver Canucks, who've maintained the top ranking two weeks in a row.

Now that they've finally got a regulation loss under their belt, it's up to the Canucks to hold the standard of play as high as it'd been during their incredible run. The worst thing they can do right now is to peak halfway through the season. But for now, they'll retain the crown. Here are your rankings. Note that TSN had the week off, but The Hockey News is back in the mix.

Rank Team Last Diff
1  Vancouver Canucks 1 0
2  Philadelphia Flyers 3 1
3  Detroit Red Wings 4 1
4  Washington Capitals 5 1
5  Tampa Bay Lightning 6 1
6 (tie)
 Dallas Stars 8 2
6 (tie)  Pittsburgh Penguins 2 -4
8  New York Rangers 12 4
9  Nashville Predators 17 8
10  Boston Bruins 7 -3
11  Anaheim Ducks 13 2
12  Montreal Canadiens 18 6
13  Chicago Blackhawks 15 2
14 (tie)  Minnesota Wild 24 10
14 (tie)  Atlanta Thrashers 10 -4
16 (tie)  Phoenix Coyotes 20 4
16 (tie)  Colorado Avalanche 16 0
18  Carolina Hurricanes 19 1
19  Los Angeles Kings 11 -8
20  St. Louis Blues 14 -6
21  San Jose Sharks 9 -12
22  Buffalo Sabres 25 3
23  Toronto Maple Leafs 28 5
24  Columbus Blue Jackets 21 -3
25 (tie)  Florida Panthers 22 -3
25 (tie)  Calgary Flames 23 -2
27  New York Islanders 26 -1
28  Ottawa Senators 27 -1
29  Edmonton Oilers 29 0
30  New Jersey Devils 30 0

The once mighty Pacific Division is dropping fast, with LA and San Jose plummeting down the rankings. Those teams are still over .500, and there's no reason why the Sharks or Kings can't put together three or four-game win streaks to right the ship. But for now, it's ugly.

And one interesting thing to note: we're starting to see some of the Western teams drop down to the bottom tier after the lowest dredges of power rankings featured mostly Eastern teams for so long. Yes, it looks like things are finally starting to shake out.

After the jump, your conference rankings and mega-spreadsheet.

Here's the Eastern Conference:

Rank Team
1  Philadelphia Flyers
2  Washington Capitals
3  Tampa Bay Lightning
4  Pittsburgh Penguins
5  New York Rangers
6  Boston Bruins
7  Montreal Canadiens
8  Atlanta Thrashers
9  Carolina Hurricanes
10  Buffalo Sabres
11  Toronto Maple Leafs
12  Florida Panthers
13  New York Islanders
14  Ottawa Senators
15  New Jersey Devils

And the Western Conference:

Rank Team
1  Vancouver Canucks
2  Detroit Red Wings
3  Dallas Stars
4  Nashville Predators
5  Anaheim Ducks
6  Chicago Blackhawks
7  Minnesota Wild
8 (tie)  Phoenix Coyotes
8 (tie)  Colorado Avalanche
10  Los Angeles Kings
11  St. Louis Blues
12  San Jose Sharks
13  Columbus Blue Jackets
14  Calgary Flames
15  Edmonton Oilers

And now, the mega-spreadsheet sorted by rank:

Rank Conference Team ESPN CBS THN Sportsnet SI Ave Std Last Diff
1 West  Vancouver Canucks 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 0
2 East  Philadelphia Flyers 3 2 2 2 3 2.4 0.547723 3 1
3 West  Detroit Red Wings 2 3 3 3 2 2.6 0.547723 4 1
4 East  Washington Capitals 5 4 5 6 5 5 0.707107 5 1
5 East  Tampa Bay Lightning 4 6 4 5 9 5.6 2.073644 6 1
6 West  Dallas Stars 8 5 8 8 4 6.6 1.949359 8 2
6 East  Pittsburgh Penguins 6 11 6 4 6 6.6 2.607681 2 -4
8 East  New York Rangers 7 7 10 7 7 7.6 1.341641 12 4
9 West  Nashville Predators 9 8 7 10 8 8.4 1.140175 17 8
10 East  Boston Bruins 12 10 12 11 10 11 1 7 -3
11 West  Anaheim Ducks 11 12 9 12 12 11.2 1.30384 13 2
12 East  Montreal Canadiens 15 9 14 13 11 12.4 2.408319 18 6
13 West  Chicago Blackhawks 10 13 11 18 18 14 3.807887 15 2
14 East  Atlanta Thrashers 17 22 15 9 14 15.4 4.722288 10 -4
14 West  Minnesota Wild 14 19 13 15 16 15.4 2.302173 24 10
16 West  Colorado Avalanche 16 21 17 14 13 16.2 3.114482 16 0
16 West  Phoenix Coyotes 18 15 16 17 15 16.2 1.30384 20 4
18 East  Carolina Hurricanes 13 14 21 21 17 17.2 3.768289 19 1
19 West  Los Angeles Kings 20 16 19 16 20 18.2 2.04939 11 -8
20 West  St. Louis Blues 19 18 18 19 19 18.6 0.547723 14 -6
21 West  San Jose Sharks 21 17 20 20 21 19.8 1.643168 9 -12
22 East  Buffalo Sabres 22 20 22 22 22 21.6 0.894427 25 3
23 East  Toronto Maple Leafs 24 26 24 25 23 24.4 1.140175 28 5
24 West  Columbus Blue Jackets 23 27 28 24 24 25.2 2.167948 21 -3
25 West  Calgary Flames 25 28 26 23 25 25.4 1.81659 23 -2
25 East  Florida Panthers 26 23 25 27 26 25.4 1.516575 22 -3
27 East  New York Islanders 27 24 23 28 29 26.2 2.588436 26 -1
28 East  Ottawa Senators 28 25 27 26 27 26.6 1.140175 27 -1
29 West  Edmonton Oilers 29 29 29 29 29 29 0 29 0
30 East  New Jersey Devils 30 30 30 30 30 30 0 30 0

And by standard deviation.

Rank Conference Team ESPN CBS THN Sportsnet SI Ave Std Last Diff
1 West  Vancouver Canucks 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 0
29 West  Edmonton Oilers 29 29 29 29 29 29 0 29 0
30 East  New Jersey Devils 30 30 30 30 30 30 0 30 0
2 East  Philadelphia Flyers 3 2 2 2 3 2.4 0.548 3 1
3 West  Detroit Red Wings 2 3 3 3 2 2.6 0.548 4 1
20 West  St. Louis Blues 19 18 18 19 19 18.6 0.548 14 -6
4 East  Washington Capitals 5 4 5 6 5 5 0.707 5 1
22 East  Buffalo Sabres 22 20 22 22 22 21.6 0.894 25 3
10 East  Boston Bruins 12 10 12 11 10 11 1 7 -3
23 East  Toronto Maple Leafs 24 26 24 25 23 24.4 1.14 28 5
28 East  Ottawa Senators 28 25 27 26 27 26.6 1.14 27 -1
9 West  Nashville Predators 9 8 7 10 8 8.4 1.14 17 8
11 West  Anaheim Ducks 11 12 9 12 12 11.2 1.304 13 2
16 West  Phoenix Coyotes 18 15 16 17 15 16.2 1.304 20 4
8 East  New York Rangers 7 7 10 7 7 7.6 1.342 12 4
25 East  Florida Panthers 26 23 25 27 26 25.4 1.517 22 -3
21 West  San Jose Sharks 21 17 20 20 21 19.8 1.643 9 -12
25 West  Calgary Flames 25 28 26 23 25 25.4 1.817 23 -2
6 West  Dallas Stars 8 5 8 8 4 6.6 1.949 8 2
19 West  Los Angeles Kings 20 16 19 16 20 18.2 2.049 11 -8
5 East  Tampa Bay Lightning 4 6 4 5 9 5.6 2.074 6 1
24 West  Columbus Blue Jackets 23 27 28 24 24 25.2 2.168 21 -3
14 West  Minnesota Wild 14 19 13 15 16 15.4 2.302 24 10
12 East  Montreal Canadiens 15 9 14 13 11 12.4 2.408 18 6
27 East  New York Islanders 27 24 23 28 29 26.2 2.588 26 -1
6 East  Pittsburgh Penguins 6 11 6 4 6 6.6 2.608 2 -4
16 West  Colorado Avalanche 16 21 17 14 13 16.2 3.114 16 0
18 East  Carolina Hurricanes 13 14 21 21 17 17.2 3.768 19 1
13 West  Chicago Blackhawks 10 13 11 18 18 14 3.808 15 2
14 East  Atlanta Thrashers 17 22 15 9 14 15.4 4.722 10 -4

Most consensus: Should we stop mentioning the New Jersey Devils? How about they're disqualified from the consensus title until they move. Like last week, the Canucks are unanimous on the top. Most of the time, high-consensus picks hover around the top and the bottom, but this time the St. Louis Blues got pretty close around the board despite being in the middle of the pack.

Biggest outlier: With a ninth spot and a 22nd spot, the Atlanta Thrashers are the schizo pick of the week -- and that's without TSN's formulated rankings to skew things.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Thursday, 13 Jan 2011 19:29

Tonight's soundtrack: I Am The Resurrection by Stone Roses -- One of my favorite Stone Roses songs, and also a good nod to a certain false Messiah that links the Rangers and Canucks.

Game of the Night: Vancouver Canucks at New York Rangers, 7 PM ET
The two photos on Nucks Misconduct's preview says it all for tonight's game. Where does New York's cap situation stand after the Michal Rozsival trade?

Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins, 7 PM ET
The Danny Briere - Scott Hartnell - Ville Leino line deserves a nickname. Can Boston put up another six-goal outburst?

Carolina Hurricanes at Buffalo Sabres, 7 PM ET
Canes Country grades Carolina at mid-season. Meet Tomas Vanek, shootout master.

Ottawa Senators at New York Islanders, 7 PM ET
Maybe Dany Heatley was right after all. Check out the mid-term grades for the Islanders.

Nashville Predators at Florida Panthers, 7:30 PM ET
Barry Trotz is doing a great job, but what else is new? It's the ex-Panthers All Stars!

Toronto Maple Leafs at Phoenix Coyotes, 9 PM ET
Take a look back at the Mikhail Grabovski trade. And take a look back at the Lee Stempniak trade.

St. Louis Blues at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 PM ET
St. Louis needs to play better than last game's laugher. What are LA's needs six weeks before the trade deadline?

Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 PM ET
Is Edmonton's penalty kill an elite crew? Meet The Shark, a surfing superhero with tech abilities. Ok then.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Thursday, 13 Jan 2011 14:01
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Develpoment Brendan Shanahan (L) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Mike Cammalleri of the Montreal Canadiens chat  during the cocktail reception hosted by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter at The Monkey Bar on September 14 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for the NHL)

More photos » Andy Marlin - Getty Images for the NHL

5 months ago: NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Develpoment Brendan Shanahan (L) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Mike Cammalleri of the Montreal Canadiens chat during the cocktail reception hosted by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter at The Monkey Bar on September 14 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for the NHL)

As most hockey fans know, the 2011 NHL All-Star Game festivities are coming up in a couple of weeks. There's already been a lot of news, speculation, and criticism about it. But much of it is the same as usual - Fan Fair, the Skills Competition, and finally the All-Star Game itself.

There isn't a Rookie Game this time, and the game format is neither Eastern Conference versus Western Conference nor North America versus the World. Instead, the rookies will be participating in the Skills Competition and nothing else, while a new "fantasy draft" will divvy up the players chosen for the event. New takes on the same old event, really.

The NHL changes things all the time - game rules, how they balance inter-conference games in the schedule, and how they hand out disciplinary actions, just to name a few - so that's nothing unusual. In the NHL, change itself is a tradition. This is one of the few sports leagues, probably in the world, that changes things so often and sometimes pretty drastically instead of trying to maintain long-time traditions.

So the changes in the All-Star Game, and subsequent weekend, aren't all that surprising. It's one of the NHL's favorite things to tinker around with, after all. But some of what they decided to do is a bit surprising, however.

The biggest change is how the teams themselves will be chosen. The fans voted in six players - one for each position - instead of voting in the starters, as was previously customary. And the NHL never guaranteed that those six players would start the game, either, just that fans would get to choose six players.

Then they released how this "fantasy draft" will work - two captains would be chosen, and they'd get to choose from a pool of predetermined players, like this was some elementary school PE class with people picking teams. It's to be quite a spectacle, in fact. They'll be televising the draft, probably in a game show type atmosphere, I'm sure.

But it was the NHL decided who the team captains would be, and who the remaining 36 players to be chosen were, as well as the rookies - not the fans. In fact, the fans have very little to do with this whole venture, other than to pay money for tickets, merchandise, and concessions. They didn't even get to pick the starters, after all.

It's because the change in format isn't for the fans at all, but for the players.

One of the knocks against the All-Star Game is that the players don't even want to be there - and that can be true. There was an All-Star Game not so long ago that a couple of Detroit Red Wings tried skipping after they'd been either voted in or picked to go. They were told to show up, anyways, though.

And Brendan Shanahan, the NHL Vice President of Hockey & Business Development, implied in a tweet that players - through their GM's - let the NHL know that they'd rather not attend due to injury or wear and tear on their bodies. Presumably, they were told that they could do that, which is why they did. And I would guess that would be to avoid any awkward situations with people not showing up. That might help explain why some people were left off of the roster.

And, from what's been out on the internet about this picking teams format, it seems to me that most fans find the format to be rather silly. It won't stop them from tuning in to watch them do it when it happens, of course. That'd be like people who hate the shootout not watching the shootout to see if their team will win, if they didn't. It'll be something on par with watching a train wreck for some, I'm sure.

So instead of the All-Star Game being about the fans, as it has been in the past, it's now turned into being about the players. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if they're more excited about going. Although, I would argue that finding a more of a balance between fans' and players' expectations would be better in the end.

Still, you have to wonder why the NHL bothers with the entire All-Star Game event if the players don't want to go in the first place, and if they're not involved the fans very much anymore.

Author: "Cassie McClellan"
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Date: Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011 20:38

Tonight's soundtrack: GGet Some by Lykke Li -- With the Caps and Bolts squaring off tonight, the Southeast Division lead (and as of right now, the second seed) is up for grabs. No one wants to see this game go to OT tonight.

Game of the Night: Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 PM ET
Michal Neuvirth was Washington's best player against Florida but he faces a more formidable offense in Tampa Bay. Since Tampa beat Washington last week, they haven't played nearly as well.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 PM ET
Is Brooks Orpik the league's best shutdown defenseman? Montreal tries to make it four in a row tonight.

Colorado Avalanche at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 PM ET
Tonight closes out the Avs/Hawks season series. Check out the Blackhawks Blogger Roundtable at Second City Hockey.

St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks, 10 PM ET
What to make of St. Louis signing Kyle Wellwood? Should Joffrey Lupul get more ice time in Anaheim?

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011 15:05
Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky was named to the NHL All Star Game, but was inclusion due to anything other than placating hockey-mad Canada? (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jimmy Jeong)

More photos » Jimmy Jeong - AP

Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky was named to the NHL All Star Game, but was inclusion due to anything other than placating hockey-mad Canada? (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jimmy Jeong)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is always the focal point of any fan discontent with the game of hockey. American TV contract? Bettman blew it. CBA loopholes? Botched by ol' Gary. Sidney Crosby overexposure? The Commish loves him!

But Bettman is probably criticized most for leading the NHL's expansion into the Sunbelt and turning his back on small market Canada. With the All Star Game roster announced Monday, Bettman could take pride in one of the league's Southern success stories.

Is Raleigh a perfect market? No, it — like most small market pro sports cities — is reliant on the team’s success to consistently draw respectable attendance numbers. But the Carolina Hurricanes have evolved from a homeless team (the pre-RBC Center Greensboro days when many fans looked a lot like a tarp) to a Stanley Cup winner whose fans are known for not only their college-esque tailgaiting, but also their hospitality to (most — sorry Buffalo) visiting fans.

That doesn't mean there aren't questions about other Sunbelt teams that haven't fared as well, such as Florida and Phoenix, or failing markets like Long Island, where the team's once-proud tradition has been tarnished by enthusiastic-but-foolhardy ownership and a local government that refuses to assist in upgrading the aging facilities.

But for those who think Bettman and the powers that be in the NHL’s corporate offices are so pro-U.S.A. that hockey's birthplace is being ignored, I present to you one name: Ales Hemsky.

Let's start things off by saying that this isn't an attack on Hemsky, one of the game's under-appreciated playmakers. But Hemsky’s inclusion in the midseason classic reeks of Canadian compromise. 

Hemsky, you see, plays for the Edmonton Oilers, one of the NHL’s six north-of-the-border teams. And if you go by the numbers — even when considering players who supposedly asked out of attending the All Star Game — there's only one conclusion you can make as to why the 27-year-old winger was invited to Raleigh for Jan. 29-30 events: Edmonton needed to have a representative in the All Star Game.

Hold up, you say? Doesn't every team get representation? Why yes, they do. Even Ottawa is sending someone, even if he is shocked at his inclusion. But the league also deemed that even rookie participation in the day-before-the-actual-game SuperSkills competition was enough to fulfill the "every team is represented" criteria.

The rookie rep clause was good enough four teams — and curiously enough three of them are mentioned above as struggling markets. The Islanders (Michael Grabner), Panthers (Evgeny Dadonov) and Coyotes (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) will not have a player in Sunday’s All Star Game. Throw in Buffalo (Tyler Ennis) — an TV market success story who is loved by the league when they're good, mostly ignored when they're not — and those four cities will have to settle for seeing their rookies play Saturday night.

Edmonton? The league’s second worst team will have three players in Raleigh the end of January. Deserving rookies Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will participate in the SuperSkills, while Hemsky — the guy who ranks 123rd in the NHL scoring and, for those who say he ranks that low because he was hurt, tied for 39th in points per game — will join them Saturday and play in the All Star Game.

So why was Edmonton deemed worthy of a third player when they had two rookies already in the fold? Hemsky doesn't seem to know, seeing that he told the Edmonton Journal, "I don’t know how I got there, but I am happy to experience it for the first time."

Is it their one-time status as a historical dynasty? The Isles would say no.

Was Hemsky the best player left given that many (ahem, Detroit) asked to sit out the weekend? Daniel Briere, whose team sits atop the Eastern Conference standings and will be represented by just one player (Claude Giroux) and their coach (Peter Laviolette), is in the league top-25 in scoring, and given that he was talking All Star Game captain voting the other day and giving reasons why he thinks he was snubbed Tuesday, it's safe to say he was not among those who wished to be bypassed. Wouldn't it be nice to see former first overall pick and rising star John Tavares represent the Islanders, or long-time captain Shane Doan on the ice for Phoenix, rather than Hemsky? I guess not.

Nope, there's only one logical conclusion: The NHL created their roster with two sets of rules. Every team would be represented, but if you're a Canadian franchise you'll be represented in Sunday's All Star Game.

Dear Phoenix, Long Island, Buffalo and Sunrise: enjoy Saturday.

Dear Canada: Don't fret about those Sunbelt teams. We still love you.

Author: "Cory Lavalette"
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Date: Tuesday, 11 Jan 2011 12:01

(Note: After spending the last few post discussing serious things like head injuries and concussions, the time seemed right to lighten the mood, don't you think?)

I've never been one to hide my geek background. I make Star Wars references on a hockey blog and I've paid a stupid amount of money to have my photo taken with Patrick Stewart, for Jebus' sake. (Hey, and that's a Simpsons reference.) I indulge in a lot of things that are considered nerdy or dorky, so I think that maybe it comes from a place of sincerity when I say that the NHL Guardian Project is probably the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. In fact, my reaction when I first saw the press release was very similar to Keith Tkachuk watching the Backstreet Boys sing the national anthem.

Seriously, folks. I have no idea who this is supposed to appeal to. Superheroes sponsored by NHL logos? Haven't we learned our lesson from previous attempts to mix superheroes and hockey? There are several things in life that should never, ever go together, such as a orange juice and toothpaste, Dick Cheney and shotguns, or Brian Engblom and hair clippers. Yes, superheroes and hockey fall into this mix.

Remember, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Must I remind you about hockey's last two forays into this little bit of worlds colliding?

Let's start with the Mighty Ducks TV series. No, no, no. Not the semi-endearing Emilio Estevez movies. I'm talking about the animated series that featured hockey-loving cyber ducks fighting evil and, um...oh hell, I'll just copy and paste the Wikipedia plot summary.

In this series, in another universe exists a planet populated entirely by humanoid ducks. Dubbed "Puckworld" by its inhabitants, it is a very cold, icy planet, perfectly suited to the Ducks' favorite pastime, ice hockey. For the citizens of Puckworld, hockey was not simply a sport, but a way of life, occupying virtually every aspect of day-to-day existence, from fashion to philosophy.

A very popular legend has it that centuries ago, during an invasion by a reptilian race called Saurians, a duck by the name of Drake DuCaine became the planet's savior over the Saurians' Overlords. The legend tells that DuCaine did so with a seemingly normal goalie mask that transforms into a high-tech mask. With it, DuCaine sent the Saurians to a mysterious dimension, known only as "Dimensional Limbo".

As it turns out, the legends ended up being true. The last of the Saurians escape Dimensional Limbo and return to Puckworld with an armada of robotic attack ships. The group of four is led by the last of the Saurian Overlords, Lord Dragaunus. They invade the planet, enslaving the people of Puckworld so that they can produce more weapons to conquer the universe. However, a resistance was formed by Canard, a brave duck who found The Mask of Drake DuCaine in a tomb in the mountain called Twin Beaks. With it, the wearer of the Mask could see through the Saurians' invisibility cloak. Canard formed a band of Ducks to fight Dragaunus. The members of his team consists of Wildwing, Nosedive, Tanya, Duke, Mallory and Grin.

Yeah. When Wildwing isn't being set on fire before Anaheim Ducks games, he's busy leading duck crusaders to fight evil on planet Puckworld. But wait, it gets better. If you can follow that convoluted storyline so far, Disney took it one step further and  managed to tie the whole thing into reality. I'm sure this is the very reason why the Samueli family decided to purchase the team from Disney.

Dragaunus finds out that they're following him, attempts to get rid of the Ducks inside the portal by attacking them with an electromagnetic worm that will grow until it can swallow the Aerowing. In a desperate attempt to get rid of the worm, Canard sacrifices his own life by throwing himself to the worm. The plan succeeds, but at the price of Canard being devoured by the worm and never being seen again (except for in the episode "Take Me to your Leader", though this was Chameleon disguised as Canard to lure the ducks into a trap).

Luckily, Canard gave the Mask and the leadership of the team to Wildwing Flashblade, his best friend. Both the Raptor and the Aerowing leave the portal and enter a different dimension, landing on Earth. The Ducks meet Phil Pomfeather, a human who becomes their manager and makes them a legitimate NHL team. Their arena, only known as The Pond in the show, has a hockey rink that doubles as a landing pad for the Aerowing above and has a formal HQ below. On Earth, the Ducks and Dragaunus continue their fight, although there are other villains that also challenge the six Ducks.

The Ducks and Saurians that landed on Earth are the only ones seen except in some flashbacks done by Grin when speaking of his past and one Lucretia DeCoy who was a traitoress to the race of the Ducks and a spy for the Saurians.

That's right, folks. Somewhere within Honda Center is a special spaceship portal where humanoid ducks fight evil. If you ever really needed to see what this show was actually like, here's the opening credits.

Mighty Ducks The Animated Series Intro (via mdtas)

The show debuted in the fall of 1996, most likely as an effort by Disney to get children more interested in going to Ducks games at the then-Arrowhead Pond. Of course, they could have just spared themselves the effort and let things play out naturally, what with that whole Paul Kariya/Teemu Selanne combination about to ignite.

That's not enough to deter any sane person from creating a hockey superhero line? Ok, then let's go one step further back into Things You Can't Unsee and present Pro-Stars. You know, that show where Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, and Bo Jackson fought crime. Pro Stars was so successful that it only ran between September and December of 1991. Here's what you missed out on:

Originally intended to air on ESPN, the show centers on Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretzky fighting crime and helping children, often protecting the environment as well. These three were chosen to represent the pinnacle of all four major American professional sports in the early 1990s. While Jordan and Gretzky are broadly associated with their respective sports, Jackson was included since he could represent both football and baseball and was a high-profile celebrity off the field as well. A reference to his "Bo Knows" Nike ad-campaign was worked into almost every episode.

Got 22 minutes to kill in your workday? Here's an entire episode of Pro Stars, with Wayne Gretzky providing tons of comic relief.

Pro Stars - 1x01 - Gargantus & The Highway Of Doom part 1 of 3 (via Toonaholic1)

Pro Stars - 1x01 - Gargantus & The Highway Of Doom part 2 of 3 (via Toonaholic1)

Pro Stars - 1x01 - Gargantus & The Highway Of Doom part 3 of 3 (via Toonaholic1)

(By the way, in the category of "That's strange", if you search for "Pro Stars Cartoon" on YouTube, you'll get an episode in Spanish and some sort of Indian softcore porn with the the exact "Pro Stars Cartoon" phrase inserted into its title. Some stuff just can't be explained. No word on who played Spanish Wayne Gretzky and if he did it with an Ontario accent.)

Ok, so now we've got exhibit A and exhibit B of why superheroes and hockey just don't work together. With all apologies to Stan Lee, can we stop this whole NHL Guardian Project now before it gets anymore embarressing and get back to important things, like the logjam in the Western Conference and the upcoming trade deadline?

And seriously, Stan Lee -- anyone who created Wolverine is a god among men, but even you had to think this was a ridiculous idea.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Monday, 10 Jan 2011 22:01

Tonight's soundtrack: EEchoes by Klaxons -- It's the first face-to-face meeting for Marc Savard and Matt Cooke since last season's brutal hit. While there won't likely be any revenge from Savard, it will further intensify the head hit debate that's already got a spotlight thanks to Sidney Crosby's concussion and the Tom Kostopoulos/Brad Stuart incident.

Game of the Night: Boston Bruins at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:30 PM ET
It looks like Tuuka Rask will be in the net for Boston tonight. Pittsburgh's locker room is battling the flu and that will create some changes in the lineup.

Phoenix Coyotes at St. Louis Blues, 9 PM ET
Five For Howling hands out mid-season grades for the Yotes. How did St. Louis' prospects fare in the WJC?

Detroit Red Wings at Colorado Avalanche, 9:30 PM ET
More fallout from the Brad Stuart injury, this time from a Detroit perspective. Peter Budaj gets the start tonight.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 PM ET
No player on Toronto's roster is untouchable. Quisp takes a look at everything that is/isn't wrong with the Kings.

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Monday, 10 Jan 2011 12:01

Plenty of games littered the NHL schedule over the weekend, but the hot topic seemed to be head injuries. From Sidney Crosby's concussion to Tom Kostopoulos and his six-game-suspension hit on Brad Stuart, head hits are once again back in the spotlight.

While Kostopoulos and the Calgary Flames organization are disputing the six-game suspension, I argued that this type of hit -- high velocity hits that connect high and follow through even higher -- is the exact type of thing the NHLPA should be trying to educate its constituency on, all in an effort to change the lack of respect that runs recklessly through hockey.

For fans, it can be sometimes difficult to understand the human impact of concussions. After all, we mostly just see a name on the Injured Reserved list. However, the reason why concussions should be of great concern to anyone that enjoys the game and respects players, from beer leagues to the NHL, is that they can create life-long debilitating effects that range from depression to light/sound sensitivity to migraine headaches that incapacitate. It's a serious topic that deserves to be treated with care.

Here's what some very notable hockey people have said about their experiences with concussions:

Marc Savard from this past September, months after Matt Cooke leveled him:

''I think everything you just summed up there,'' said Savard, when a Globe reporter asked if he were dealing with nausea, headache, dizziness, seeing spots, depression, among the more common issues related to concussions and often PCS. "I've had issues with everything so far, so....like I said, I have to see the doctors, get the help that I need and go from there.''

On follow-up, when asked which of the symptoms he finds hardest to deal with, Savard noted depression."Oh, probably the depression part,'' he said, his tone noticeably somber, his emotions clearly stirred. ''That's probably the toughest, so....that's it.''

Eric Lindros speaking to the Toronto Star in 2007:

"It's not just being able to remember a telephone number or being able to read a book," he said. "It is all the elements of your life and how they all interact together that create your every day, your being. And when you go through some of these things, it's hell on wheels, not just for yourself but for everyone surrounding you."

Former New York Ranger Jeff Beukeboom speaking to the OC Register:

He couldn't remember things. He forgot what he was talking about in the middle of conversations. Light bothered him. So did the slightest noise. He slipped into depression, was frequently irritable and always exhausted.

"That was my life on a daily basis," the 14-year NHL veteran said. "Waking up every day and hoping you would feel better and you didn't. Every day I woke up and my head felt like an over-inflated basketball. It was 2½ years of feeling like (garbage). I felt like (garbage) every day."

The oft-injured Tim Connolly giving advice to young USA Hockey players about concussions:

"I just had headaches every day constantly for the first few months. Little by little they would go away, but it was tough to concentrate. Even reading was tough."

Former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brian Pothier speaking to the News & Observer:

"You get to the point that when you get another one, you ask yourself, 'How many is enough?' Is it worth it? Is it worth your future with your kids, hopefully your grandkids?"

Former NHL All-Star Keith Primeau talking about his concussion in December 2009 -- four years after his career-ending injury:

"Day-to-day I am in a much better place that I was even a year ago," he said. "It was certainly a long road and there were days when I thought that I was never going to feel well enough or healthy enough to live as normal a life as I've been able to."

Primeau's greatest frustration is that he can't exercise the way he once could. Increasing his heart rate triggers some of symptoms, he said.

Marybeth Lafontaine, wife of former NHL All-Star Pat Lafontaine back in 1997 during Lafontaine's New York Rangers comeback.

"He was very emotional," Marybeth says, describing the bad times of a year ago (1996). "I would walk into a room, and he would be crying. He cried a lot. Or he would be holding his head from the migraine headaches. They were terrible. He wouldn't leave the house for a week. He wouldn't change his clothes, wouldn't shower. It was all the classic signs of depression. I thought he was having a nervous breakdown."

Is there a divergent opinion to all of this? The Toronto Star piece I cited featured some telling quotes from Colin Campbell. If Campbell's attitude toward Marc Savard in email-gate from earlier this year left a bad taste in your mouth, well, these quotes won't cleanse the palate. If Campbell's attitude was from the mid-1990s, when concussions were less understood, that might be one thing but this is pretty stone-age thinking in my book.

But Colin Campbell, the NHL's executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, believes that number (of concussion-related retirements) is inflated.

"Some are legitimate," said Campbell. "I think some you might find aren't legitimate. ... I think there's a small percentage, not a great percentage, of players who use it as an excuse, `Oh yeah, I've got a concussion.' They can milk it. It's a hard thing to really say that you haven't, you know, if you're trying to get some extra insurance money out of it to get paid an extra year or something."


Campbell, who acts as the NHL's disciplinarian, cites an interesting discussion with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren after one of numerous transgressions by his players.

"I said, `Homer, he was hitting to hurt him,'" recalled Campbell. "He said, `Well, don't we hit to hurt?' I said, `I'm not so sure. That's a good question.'"

Yet Campbell calls the lack of respect theory "a crock."

"I just think that that's overblown and the players who say it don't understand," he said. "Players are competitive. We sell hate. Our game sells hate. You guys, the media, sell hate. ... It was worse (in the '70s when he played), in my opinion."

With Campbell at the helm, would the NHL make an effort to really protect players' heads? Unless his attitude has changed in recent years, don't look for it:

"That's just part of our game," he said. "The F1 (Formula One auto racing ) – I'm not talking death in our business – but the F1 with a death, do they put restraints on the car so they can only go 110?"

That's an interesting take on it. And on the other hand, here's Jeff Beukeboom speaking in the same Toronto Star article.

"You hate to say it, but eventually there's going to be a fatality in this game."

That leaves it to the NHLPA to protect its members, doesn't it? Anyone want to take bets on Donald "Steroids In Baseball" Fehr championing player safety? Anyone?

Author: "Mike Chen"
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Date: Sunday, 09 Jan 2011 21:10

Update: Kostopolous suspended six games. From Colin Campbell's statement: “Kostopoulos delivered a blow to the head of an unsuspecting and vulnerable player. As well, he targeted the head of his opponent and, while the hit was not from the blindside, the head was the principle point of contact. The fact that Brad Stuart was not in possession of the puck when the blow was delivered and the serious nature of the player’s injury were also considered in my decision.”

If you haven't seen it already, Calgary Flames forward Tom Kostopolous destroyed Detroit Red Wings defenceman Brad Stuart with a shoulder to the jaw. The hit broke Stuart's jaw, and while there's nothing official yet, I can't see how this doesn't also give Stuart a concussion. Many fans may not remember that Stuart had the first major concussion of his career years ago when he was with the San Jose Sharks. That hit was a sucker punch by Jody Shelley (who, ironically, later became an enforcer for the Sharks), and those of us in San Jose could easily see that Stuart was never the same after that concussion.

Here's the video of the Kostopolous hit on Stuart.

Tom Kostopoulos jaw breaking check on Brad Stuart (via NHLArchive)

Remember, the Blindside Hit rule (AKA the David Booth/Marc Savard rule) references "a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact." Judging by that criteria, I don't see how you could call this a blindside hit. Kostopolous isn't moving laterally to Stuart; if Stuart's center is zero degrees, then Kostopolous is coming in at maybe 60 degrees, not a hard 90.

It's still a very obvious hit to the head, though. And what makes matters worse is that after Kostopolous connects with Stuart, he follows through on his hit high. I feel like each time one of these hits happen, I wind up repeating the following fact: young hockey players are taught to compress their body in before a check, then target the opponent's low chest area, then push through diagonally up. It's all about center of balance, not decapitation, because you're trying to knock the guy off the puck rather than, you know, freakin' kill him.

I hope that Colin Campbell does the right thing and give Kostopolous a worthy suspension; considering Joe Thornton's blindside "short guy runs into tall guy" hit on David Perron got two games, I hope this is five or six at the very least.

But the suspension handed down by the NHL is beside the point. If the NHLPA's goal is really to take care of its constituents, then they must take this video and hammer the point home: you must respect your opponent because he is A) your NHLPA brother and B) a human being with a life after hockey. But I'm guessing they won't.

The PA is under enough duress with the upcoming CBA negotiations and the transition to Donald Fehr's leadership. And even still, it really feels like on-ice safety has never been a primary concern of the PA's. If so, the PA as a whole would have the foresight to understand that visors could be grandfathered in to promote better protection of player's eyes. The PA, especially under Bob Goodenow, seemed hell-bent on squeezing as much money out of the league's owners as possible and trying to break the NHL's leadership.

Player safety should be at the foremost of both the league's concern and the PA's concern. However, the true power to change hits to the head comes from the PA. It's all about education and repetition; educate the players on potential lifelong effects of concussions and repeat the mantra "Respect your opponent" until its as natural as a Canadian saying, "Eh?"

When guys like Keith Primeau, Mike Richter, and Jeff Beukeboom speak out about severity of post-concussion syndrome and how some of it doesn't go away after years, you'd think the players would sit up and listen. These are well-respected players who've played with the current generation of players and the current era of medicine. They know what they're talking about. And yet, we don't hear a word from the PA about having someone like Primeau be hired out to talk with each team about concussions and dangers of hits to the head.

Concussions don't just change careers, they change lives. Savard spoke out about how he dealt with everything from depression to dizziness to fatigue following the Matt Cooke hit. Peter Mueller has been out since the tail end of last season. Paul Kariya only missed a handful of games last year and played down the stretch, and yet he opted to sit out this season due to post-concussion syndrome, most likely from the cumulative effects of multiple concussions over his career.

Now that the NHLPA has leadership in place, maybe it will finally do the right thing and take a hard stance on promoting a culture shift within its constituents. It is possible to re-train hockey players; just look at how many hooking infractions happened post-lockout, and now players are aware that if the stick goes horizontal, they'll probably be called. It took a few years, but the awareness gradually became instilled in them. This can happen the same way, but no amount of coaching or penalizing or suspending will create this change. It has to happen from within.

Too many careers have been cut short by reckless, selfish, and careless hits to the head. When will the NHLPA draw the line?

Author: "Mike Chen"
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