Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Enough is enough...

Sean Avery is a pig. End of post.

Well it could be anyway. Pig pretty much sums up the guy but we’ve all known that for a long time. Avery has had far too many ‘moments’ to declare him anything else. Sloppy seconds? This latest nugget is just another item on a resume of idiotic and distasteful accomplishments.

So why then did he get suspended by the league this time? Did he really cross some line of acceptability with his comments yesterday about Elisha Cuthbert that he hasn’t crossed before? Don’t get me wrong, I think what he said was disgusting, demeaning, degrading, misogynistic, and all the other adjectives that I have heard used to describe it, but is it beyond what we have heard or seen from him before? Could someone look at this and say ‘That’s not the Sean Avery I know’ besides a very close relative or maybe a pet? I don’t think so.

I think the real reason he got suspended was because the league wanted to avoid the bloodbath that would have ensued had Avery played against the Flames last night. The lead up to the game was already super-charged with anticipation just based on what Avery said about Jarome Iginla and all he called him was ‘boring’. Can you just imagine the result of having Avery play this game, in Calgary no less, after his comments towards Ms. Cuthbert and, indirectly, Dion Phaneuf? Phaneuf, nor Iginla for that matter, are the type to let this sort of thing slide. This is a ‘protecting the honor of a lady’ deal. Its pistols at dawn!

Nope, the league could not allow this to happen. They were afraid of how ugly it could get and rightly so. By suspending Avery they were able to do what they no doubt realize should have happened a long time ago while at the same time avoiding a very ugly incident.
The Dallas Stars were quick to jump on the band-wagon after the league made it’s ruling and several players (most notably Marty Turco) voiced there displeasure about the carnival that is Sean Avery. It had been reported for quite some time that Avery was a cancer on that team but the Stars publicly supported their teammate, that is, until yesterday.

They, like the league, figured this was as good a time as any to get off the Avery-go-round. The Stars publicly denounced Avery's actions and took the first steps in cutting ties with the jerk. Whether or not they follow through with that remains to be seen but I, for one, certainly hope we've heard the last of him in the NHL. That might be a lot to wish for but hey, it's nearly Christmas.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hi, my name is Ryan O-Burn-Me-Alive-At-The-Stake...

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus; he dresses all in red, plays defence, and wears number 3.

Well it’s not quite Christmas but don’t tell Ryan O’Byrne that. He’s definitely in the gift-giving mood. With the Islanders on a delayed penalty, Ryan O’ (short for Oh my sweet *****) played the puck back for Price while being pressured in the defensive zone. Price couldn’t quite reach it because he was on the bench!

Boos rained down on O’Byrne as the game was now tied with only a few minutes to play in regulation. The Habs couldn’t do anything on the ensuing power-play and it was off to overtime where the Islanders came very close to winning it there. They would have, except that, well, Price was actually in the net so his chances were clearly better than they were on the tying goal.

For some reason O’Byrne didn’t see any more ice for the rest of the game.

With some solid goaltending from Joey McDonald and two great shots by Richard Park (who in my opinion deserves Selke consideration) and Bill Guerin, the Islanders won in the shoot out.

Oh how sweet it is.

This time it was the Habs who gave the game away late and the Isles, who have been on a bit of a roll lately, were only too happy to accept. 'Tis the season.

Fa la la la la, la la, la la


Saturday, November 22, 2008

The hits just keep on coming...

The Islanders, after riding a three game win streak, were brought back to earth last night with a 5-2 loss to the Devils. They face the Sabres and Canadiens next with a chance for redemption on Monday night in Montreal after that heart-breaking loss to the Habs a couple of weeks ago. The Habs are still struggling a little so the motivation for the Islanders is to not be the springboard to confidence for the Canadiens because if they don't play a solid game the Canadiens have the skill to make it ugly.

Speaking of the Canadiens, it appears they are very much still in the hunt for Mats Sundin. No surprise really. Montreal has shown a very strong interest from the get go and I didn't think that acquiring Lang when Sundin wouldn't commit made any difference. When he comes back, he's still going to dominate like very few can. The fact that Montreal have not been playing great as of late only intensifies the desire to get him. Bob Gainey will have to do some wheeling and dealing to make room, salary cap wise, for Sundin but you can bet he'll do it.

Sobering Report

I saw reporter Bob McKeown, from CBC television's The Fifth Estate talking on The Score about an upcoming report that deals with concussions. McKeown, former a Canadian Football League player, talks about a report compiled for insurance companies in the US that basically says that former NFL players can only qualify for insurance up to age 52 because of such a low life expectancy. One of the biggest contributing factors to this low number according to the report is brain trauma due to concussions suffered over the course of a playing career.

The report should be mandatory reading for NHL players who continue to deliver dangerous head shots. The latest was to Islander Frans Nielsen by New Jersey Devil defenceman Mike Mottau. It was a brutal elbow that left the young forward laid out on the ice. He also suffered a leg injury on the play. It was every bit as bad as the hit Thomas Pock put on Ryan Shannon of the Senators yet instead of trying to send a strong message to reiterate that head shots are not wanted in the game, the NHL suspends Mottau for two games. It's a joke.

Bob McKenzie of has an excellent article on the subject here. Give it a read.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Whoa, that was awesome...

Took my five year old son Clark (yes, named after Gillies) to Mile One Centre here in St. John's to see the Bridgeport Sound Tigers take on the Binghamton Senators Wednesday night. It was his first hockey game. I had meant to bring him to a Fog Devils game before the QMHL team left town but just never made it down. I guess that's the kind of dedication that caused the team to pull up stakes to begin with.

Before we left the house my wife told me she was afraid he could get hurt but I told her not to worry. I could tell that she appreciated my anticipation for the impending father/son experience. She as much as said so with her parting words at the door “Don’t let him get hit by a puck!”.

At any rate we were pumped - me, because I was getting to catch the high flying farm team of the New York Islanders in action; him, because he was hoping for a foam finger.

The game started really well for me with the scoreboard showing the Tigers taking an early 2-0 lead. It started really well for Clark because the scoreboard showed us on the big screen.

After the first it was 2-1 Tigers. We went in search of foam fingers to no avail. Ice cream would have to do.

The Senators scored early in the second to tie it up at two a piece but the Tigers pulled ahead for good shortly thereafter eventually winning 6-2. All in all it was a pretty good game. The Tigers carried most of the play and clearly held the skill advantage. McLean and Comeau stood out for the Tigers with the former grabbing player of the game honors for Bridgeport. Blake Comeau, especially, was impressive from a skill perspective making several beautiful passes. He was a threat every time he had the puck. He looked like he had a little more to give in the effort category though and I thought he could have completely dominated if the intensity had been there.

Clark had a great time – eating popcorn, drinking juice, dancing to the music during play stoppages, and occasionally watching the game. He enjoyed the hits against the glass the most punctuating them with “Whoa, that was awesome!”. He also liked directing my attention towards the big screen to see who they were showing next. I, however, being the vigilant father and with my wife’s words planted squarely in the back of my mind, tried to keep at least one eye on the puck.

Sure enough, half way through the third, a cross-ice pass from Blake Comeau got tipped. Sure enough, it went flying into the stands and sure enough it went straight at Clark. Let me tell you, I’m no goalie; those things are hard to pick up when they’re hurtling through the air. But Dipietro would have been proud. With cat-like reflexes I reached out and snagged the puck. Catastrophe averted. Little boy (and marriage) saved.

As I looked at him with the look-what-I’ve-done-for-you-aren’t-I-a-great-father expression on my face he looked back, tilted his head and said “You know you have to give that back.”

Eventually I convinced him that he was allowed to keep the puck. It was no foam finger but he was pretty pleased anyway.

No good deed goes unpunished however. When we got home he raced in the door and called out “Mom, Dad caught a puck!”

Oh boy.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quick hits...

Been a while since the last post so I wanted to throw out some quick-hit thoughts.

-The Islanders had another third period breakdown against the Penguins Saturday night. What else is there to say? Everyone knows they are a couple of years away from where they want to be but they have to find a way to bare down and prevent these comebacks in the third.

-Watched the Oilers vs the Blue Jackets the other night. It was a very entertaining game but the best part of it was watching Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky. When he's on, he is one of the most electrifying players in the league from a pure skill perspective. Unfortunately he struggles with consistency a little but with 15 points in 15 games he's having a pretty good season so far.

-Montreal has looked lousy since their 6 day break. Carey Price has been below average and Alex Kovalev was no where to be seen in their 6-3 loss to the Leafs. It's always hard to figure out when Kovalev takes a night off. This one was even more puzzling given the fact that the Hockey Hall of Fame honored one of his heroes, Igor Larionov, before the game. You would expect him to be pretty pumped but instead he was flat.

-Speaking of the Leafs and Canadiens, the hit from behind on Mike Van Ryn by Tom Kostopoulas was scary and completely unnecessary. Kostopoulos offered a lame apology and inferred that the Leaf defenceman was partially to blame because he made an attempt to change direction at the last second. This might have been a possible excuse if the Canadien forward had not used his arms to follow through on his check and drive Van Ryn into the boards. He made absolutely no effort to let up. It only takes an instant to recognize when a player is in a vulnerable position. You might not be able to stop but you could definitely take your foot off the gas a little and you could certainly not drive a guy's head into the boards. Kostopoulos was suspended three games for the hit which, yet again, shows how seriously the NHL takes this type of dangerous behaviour by it's players - not much. Three games is laughable and in no way acts as a deterrent against such hits in the future. One funny thing though was that reporters scrummed around, of all people, Ryan Hollweg of the Leafs to get his take on it all. Ryan Hollweg? I actually didn't get to hear what he said but I can only imagine the gems of wisdom someone like Hollweg could offer. Maybe he was critiquing the hit; comparing it to one of the many he's perpetrated. At any rate it made for a pretty funny scene - the only thing funny in all this.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Another wild ride...

I was still trying to digest Saturday's collapse against the Canadiens when I turned on Sportscenter to see the highlights of the Islanders game against Columbus. Lo and behold but it nearly happened again.

The Blue Jackets erased a three goal deficit in the third period, but this time the game went to overtime where one of the strangest things I've ever seen in hockey occured. Chris Campoli scored the winner, not once but twice. It was definitely the play of the year so far. Campoli scored what should have been the winner in overtime but the puck went through the net and play continued. The puck came back to Campoli a few seconds later and he scored again - this one counting.

To say the Islanders looked relieved is an enormous understatement. Finally they had two points to show for a pretty solid effort. Like Bill Guerin said after the game, they deserved it.

Say what you like about this Islanders team, they're not dull.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hard to take...

Well it wasn't a blow-out like I thought it might be. The Canadiens have been playing very well and the Islanders have been on a losing streak. I thought that there was a chance that these circumstances could collide and the result could be ugly. I was wrong.

For some reason though, I don't take a whole lot of comfort in that.

It's not that I wish that the result had been lopsided - that would be weird. I don't think though, that a blow-out would have hurt like that game did on Saturday. I mean they were playing great. They scored some really nice goals. Nielsen's goal was awesome! They were up by three in the third for crying out loud!

Then it all fell apart like a kid's magic act. We're left to applaud the effort but no one was fooled. Least of all the Habs. They kept coming - confidently, persistently, and they got the result. They got a little lucky for sure. Higgins' goal, where he got left all alone in front, resulted from a couple of strange bounces that had all the Islander defenders looking at the puck and not at the man in the slot, and the winning goal went in off a defenceman's (Pock I believe) skate but it was sickening nonetheless.

It's another hard loss to take for a young team trying to find it's way but on the bright side Scott Gordon (aka the GATE keeper - see previous post), will have no problem finding positives and avoiding the 'captivity of negativity'. They really played well in the first two periods and no doubt Gordon will focus on that. Sooner or later though you figure he's just going to lose it from sheer frustration if they keep losing close games like this.

Of course this is all made worse by the fact that it was the Habs that came back to win. There is nothing worse than a Habs fan in all of sports - especially when their team is good.

Saturday was made worse by the announcement that Rick Dipietro will be out 4-6 weeks after having surgery on his knee. DP's leadership will be missed just as much as his minutes, if not more.