Olympic Hockey Orientation Invitations

Let's do it again, boys!

Let’s do it again, boys!

So the Hockey Canada has sent out it’s invites to who they consider the best of the best of Canada’s NHL talent. The list has some hits and some fairly major misses in my opinion. Let me break it down for you.

Goalie Invites
Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith, Brayden Holtby and Corey Crawford.
Hits:  I am not Bobby Lu’s biggest fan but he bailed out Brodeur, and our Country’s ass, in the 2010 Olympics and kept us in medal contention so you can’t not pick him. Price didn’t have the best year last year but he’s been solid in the past. Holtby is young but when he’s hot he is sweltering.
Misses: Crawford won the Stanley Cup so I can understand the invite, but… I’m not sure he’s ready for the pressure of a Nation. And as for Smith. He is much too much of a diva and a baby to be of any value to Team Canada. His flopping and tantrums will go over like a lead balloon in an international setting. Also, I feel like Cam Ward should have gotten an invite. Yes, he was injured last year but he is still a stronger choice than Smith.

Forward Invites
Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Logan Couture, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Rick Nash, James Neal, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Patrick Sharp, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews.
Hits: Anyone on the 2010 Gold Medal winning team deserves a callback (Toews, Nash, Getzlaf, Bergeron, E Staal, Perry, Thornton). I can’t deny they’ve gotten us there before… even though I am not a fan of Perry, Gretzlaf or Thornton. New additions that I am ecstatic about: Jeff Carter. I have really and truly fallen in love with the way he plays. He’s got grace, percision and size. Kunitz is another great choice. He is a sniper and paired with Crosby, especially, he is a goal-scoring-titan. James Neal. He’s brilliant, the end. JORDAN STAAL. Why is he in all caps? Because he is JORDAN STAAL. His transition year in Carolina was less than stellar but I have faith that shorty-scoring beast from the Penguins is still in there and ready to re-emerge. Plus he’s won with his brother before, on a Junior level. I’d love to see it again. Stamkos and Giroux are also strong and obvious choices… on paper. (More on that in the misses…)
Misses: Brad Marchand. He is not that good. And more importantly, he is the exact opposite of everything that is suitable to Olympic-style hockey. His cheap shots, ignorant attitude and genuinely violent style is not something I want associated with our Country on this stage. I honestly don’t think I can cheer for a team with him on it. Not even kidding. Other choices that leave me lacking: Milan Lucic (for very similar reasons as Marchand) and Couture, who I think is yet to actually prove himself in a pressure situation. Also, I adore Claude Giroux and his skills are unquestionably excellent, however, he and Crosby hate each other. I might be thinking like a “chick” here but are these two actually going to be able to play together? If not, I pick Mr. Golden Goal. Also leaving off Jarome Iginla after he set up the game winning golden goal, from his effing knees no less, is a travesty. Nothing short of a travesty.

Defense Invites
Karl Alzer, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis,Travis Hamonic, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Seabrook, Marc Staal, P.K. Subban, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber
Hits: Pretty much the whole list. Even though I can’t stand playing against Keith, Seabrook, Subban and Weber I know they’ll be assets to my Country’s team. And I know, unlike Marchand and probably Lucic, they won’t embarrass us. I’m particularly happy about Letang and Hamhuis as I think Letang’s offensive defense and Hamhuis’ solid, clean defense is exactly what we’ll need. And yeah, the fact that Marc Staal’s inclusion means 3 out of 4 Staals could be on the Olympic Team makes me giddier than a Belieber at a Justin concert. I am a Staal groupie and proud of it.
Misses: I would have liked to see Kevin Bieksa, but maybe that’s just the Canucks fan in me. I think he was worth a chance.

If I was picking the final roster
The 2014 Socchi Olympic Team Canada Men’s Hockey Roster would be… drumroll….
Three Goaltenders: Roberto Luongo, Starter. Carey Price, Backup. Corey Crawford, 3rd.
14 Forwards: Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Jeff Carter, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards, Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, James Neal, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Rick Nash, John Tavares, Martin St. Louis.
Eight Defensemen: Kris Letang Dan Hamhuis, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Dan Boyle and Marc Staal for the STAAL TRIFECTA!

So what are your thoughts? Who do you think got missed? Who do you think, from these invites, should make the team?

The Season of Big, Hard Changes

Now that the 2012 season is over, it’s time to look back and reflect. For me there is one thing that really rings true – making the big, hard changes can change everything. Exhibit A: The Los Angeles Kings. Also now known as the first team in NHL history to enter the playoffs as an 8th seed and win Lord Stanley’s coveted Cup.

They didn’t have a stellar season, hence cinching the last spot in the West. But from the minute the 2010-2011 season ended the Kings started to do what more than a few teams are afraid to – they made big, hard changes. Their first was acquiring Mike Richards from the Flyers last year when they had their “fire sale”. Unfortunately, Mike alone, didn’t solve their problems. Was he a big, hard change that backfired? I would say no. He had a productive season but just wasn’t the motivator that I think the Kings expected. Until LA also acquired his partner in crime, Jeff Carter (more on that in a second).

While struggling early in the season, the Kings fired their coach Terry Murray. Why is this a big, hard change? Because it can lead to chaos in the middle of a season that’s already not going well. Luckily for them it paid off. The introduction of Darryl Sutter seemed to motivate and light a fire under the Kings collective butts. And then came the aforementioned Jeff Carter.

Can we just talk about Carter’s luck for a moment? Traded from continual contenders Philly, to the hopeless Columbus where he struggled, and then suddenly whisked West just in time to make the Playoffs. Talk about a rollercoaster career!

The trade for Carter was another big, hard change for LA. Sure they gave away a defensemen, which isn’t a big deal because the Kings had a plethora of talent in that field, but they also gave a first round draft pick. That is a bigger deal, especially considering they were trading for a guy with a reputation for having a so-so work ethic (Carter in Philly was apparently an underachiever on the ice and an overachiever in the bars) and was having a really disappointing season at the time of the trade. For CBJ Carter was a -11 and only had 15 goals and 10 assists. But LA took the chance that this previous top goal scorer could be that way again with his old center and best bud Richards and a better team. It could have gone horribly awry very easily but as the world now knows, it didn’t.

Other big, hard changes to reflect on now that the 2011-2012 season is in the record books? Philadelphia Flyers trading Carter and Richards in the first place and acquiring Bryzgalov. This is a example, in my humble hockey opinion, of big hard changes that bite you in the butt. Now to be fair it wasn’t so much the trading of Richards that was a mistake. Sure he went on to win a Stanley Cup but that wasn’t because of his hard work alone. In fact before adding Carter and a new coach, Richards was exactly carrying the team on his back. He was just another struggling Kings forward. And Simmonds, who Philly snagged in return, was a pretty good addition to the Flyers. He’s done well and is a strong asset for them. Same goes with Carter. Sure he was the Flyers top goal scorer but Claude Giroux more than picked up that slack, as did Briere during the playoffs.

What really makes this big hard change one that backfired is that the Flyers traded both elite forwards to clear cash goalie for Ilya Brygalov. The tiger loving, Universe philosopher of a goalie was luke warm and cold all season long, never hot or, more importantly, consistent. And in that final game of the Flyers playoff run he essentially scored on his own net. As if his underwhelming performance wasn’t enough to call this a failed gamble, Flyers gave Bryz a rumored 51-million, nine-year deal. Signing any player to a monumental contract like that is sheer insanity in my opinion, especially if it’s a goalie. Which leads me to an example of a team that did the same – The Vancouver Canucks.

Luongo is locked in with a big contract and a no trade clause. And subtly through the 2011-2012 season it seemed like despite the contract Vancouver was making a big hard change – Cory Schneider was becoming their number 1 goalie. That was made crystal clear when, without having to have an 8-goal meltdown, Luongo was benched in the playoffs in favor of Schneider. For Vancouver, who is all about the steady and doesn’t do big hard changes this is a big deal. Why do I say Vancouver doesn’t make big hard changes? Well they just gave both GM Gillis and Head Coach Vigneault contract extensions despite the fact that their biggest hardware is a couple President Trophies. Sure that’s something, but not really. I mean ask yourself this – when kids play road hockey how many of them pretend it’s a President Trophy winning game? Exactly. If it ain’t Stanley, it’s not good enough.

So will this shift in number one goalies be a big hard change the Canucks stick with? Maybe, but maybe not. Luongo has agreed to be traded but who can afford him and who wants him? He’s over 30, past his “prime” and, although he has more epic saves than epic meltdowns, his press is mostly bad. Also Schneider is younger and has what seems to be a better mental grip on the game. So if Gillis gets what he considers a bigger better offer for Schneids will he take it? Maybe. But hopefully Vancouver sticks by the statement they made last season. Because the Canucks need to get comfortable with big hard changes or they’ll never get a Cup. Tried and true doesn’t seem to win Lord Stanley’s Cup anymore.

Round 1 Review: The 2012 Playoffs

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….. I’m a Canucks fan and a Penguins fan so it was just the worst of times, actually. Sigh. Anyway, here’s the best and worst highlights of Round 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Best Series
This has to go to the Flyers and the Penguins. Everyone knew that it would be epic but I don’t think anyone expected the Pens to lose 3 straight. Marc Andre Fleury was unbelievably very un-Fleury. To me, it looks like he might have been nursing some sort of injury – possibly groin, as his 5-hole was open like a drive-thru window. That was never revealed in the post press conference though so I’m probably wrong.

Flyers infuriated Sid the Kid

Then just when you thought it was over, Pens were on like Donkey Kong scoring 10 goals in game 4. Jordan Beast-Mode Staal even got a playoff hat trick. Sadly though they barely showed up in Game 6, which is standard Pens form for a day game, which this was. I’m just sad that they finally played how you would expect them to play at the most inopportune time. The highlight and lowlight of this series had to be Crosby losing his mind and behaving like a six year old. After trying to fight everyone in Game 3 and causing both Letang and Adams to get kicked out of the game for jumping in and defending him, he then sticked Voracek’s glove across the ice and in the post-game presser declared “I don’t like anyone on their team.”  I’m sure Max Talbot spent that night locked in his room eating ice cream and listening to bad 80s love songs after that. The bromance they’ve been fostering since Juniors is clearly over and he had to find out on national television!

Worst Series
Hmm…. It would have to be Vancouver-Los Angeles. There just wasn’t any fight from the best in the league, and even if I wasn’t a fan of the Canucks, I would find that depressing. Because I am a huge fan of the Canucks, I find it heartbreaking. It wasn’t that the Canucks were out skilled – they have more skill in one line (Sedin-Sedin-Burrows) than the Kings have in 4 lines – the problem is Henrik, Luongo and Schneider were the only ones trying in the first 3 games. Daniel thankfully came back from concussion and tried hard in Games 4 and 5 but 2 guys and a good goalie can’t dig you out of a 3-game hole. The writing is on the wall that big changes should and probably will be made in Vancouver after this Round 1 loss. The first change will probably be in goaltending but I wouldn’t be surprised if other “Stars” besides Luongo aren’t there come October. More on that in another post.

Biggest Hero
I’m giving this to Joel Ward for one simple goal that knocked out the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. A great deal of hockey fans were thrilled to see the Dirty Bear bite it. Let’s face it their play is rough and borderline dangerous and gets progressively worse the deeper they go in playoffs. It was nice to see them out early. Also, for the Washington Capitals, it was great to see them make it through Round 1 despite their “stars” not trying at all (as per usual in playoffs).

Biggest Goat
Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler. The three musketeers when it comes tofalling down, missing checks, missing nets and passing directly to the opposition. Maybe I should call them the 3 Stooges but at least the Stooges make you cry. These three made Canucks fans cry.

Creeptastic. Barf.

Worst Playoff Beard
Tim Thomas. Because it’s not a beard it’s a creepy “I drive a windowless van and loiter near playgrounds” moustache.

Best Playoff Beard
This is all Maxim Lapierre. It was full, well groomed and sexy as all hell. No really, check it out in the pic up above. And this is also the last time I can say “Max Lapierre” until next season so I had to give it to him  - so I could say the pretty boy’s pretty name one more time.

 

For my picks on who’ll win round 2, which I’m already late on announcing and wrong in predicting (since this is going up way late and Kings have already swept the Blues) head to  Canucks Hockey Blog

Dear Vancouver Canucks

Dear Vancouver Canucks,

Here we go again. Me writing open letters, you in the playoffs. Only this time, the do or die part has come a little earlier than anyone expected.

I wish I knew what to say here. I wish I was confident and passionate like I was right until the end of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year. But this year… call it a Cup hangover, but I’m just not so zealous.

I don’t hate the Kings like I hate the Hawks or the Bruins, probably because I have never had to before. They’re a non-factor. So I’m more perplexed than anything that they are some how a factor suddenly. Maybe that’s why they became a factor. Because you, like me, don’t have a hateful fire burning deep for them.

Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know I believe in your talents. I know you have it in you. The core did it last year and I see no reason why you can’t do it again. The newbies – Booth, Kassian, Pahlsson – should be full of drive. It’s become an easy, over-used catch phrase but it’s also a hard truth – THIS is what YOU live for. As an NHL player there should be nothing you try harder at than getting as close to Lord Stanley’s cup as humanly possible.

You’ve gone on winning streaks before and you can do it again. I don’t buy the hype that “playoffs are different” and neither should you. Let’s be honest you guys face scrutiny from media, hate from around Canada and the league and attacks from “fans” year round so this is just another day as a Vancouver Canuck.

Who cares if the odds are stacked against you? Who cares if the math is not in your favor? Who cares if the Kings twitter is run by a Communications department that thinks bad attention is better than no attention? You’ve dealt with worse.

Schneider or Luongo it doesn’t matter – you both have the talent and the ability to blank the Kings. Kesler, find that strength, patience and determination that had you carry the entire team on your back for large parts of last year’s run. I believe it’s still in you – dig deep and find it. Burr, picture a rolling puck and Crawford in net with every freaking shot you take – and take every shot you can. Bieksa, find a stanchion and a puck and make them your bitch. Hamhuis and Henrik, you’ve been everything you could possibly be in this series so far so keep on keeping on. Lapierre focus on skating and pestering for the puck not the penalty. You have the potential to cause a Kings collapse, more so with your mouth shut than with it open. Believe in your hockey talent. Kassian, Weise, Booth – hit something! Hard and clean and as often as possible.

If I had to pick a team in Round 1 that’s likely to drop a lead – it would be the Los Angeles Kings. And if I had to pick a team that has the ability, stamina and talent to come back and win four in a row – it would be the Vancouver Canucks.

It’s do or die time. You have it in you to win this. In the words of the most passionate and dedicated Canucks I’ve ever known; I don’t just believe, I know. Go Canucks Go!

Sincerely,
Me

Bullying in the NHL

Today is Pink Shirt Day. It’s to raise awareness of bullying. Bullying is a serious thing that’s causing kids to kill themselves. Campaigns like Pink Shirt Day and the multiple youtube videos speaking out against bullying are hopefully letting kids know what they’re doing to each other with taunts and jeers is wrong and it will stop. But as adults we need to do more than wear a shirt in support. We need to call out bullies – adult ones.Yes that’s right bullying isn’t just a kid thing. Adults do it too. NHL ones.

Brad Marchand is a violent bully

Here’s an example of NHL bullying; Brad Marchand punching Daniel Sedin 5 times in the face after the whistle.

It’s essentially the grown-up, NHL version of stuffing a kid in a locker or giving them a wedgie.  Now before you Boston fans or Canucks haters (I’m looking at you, husband of mine) start trying to tell me “hockey is a tough sport and this is part of the game.”  It isn’t. A fight after a face-off, shoving someone down in front of the net to stop a rebound attempt, a hard check that knocks someone on their butt in the middle of the game – THAT is hockey. What Marchand did was violence for the sake of violence. He wasn’t stopping a scoring opportunity or taking on a player for a legitimate hockey fight. He was simply trying to humiliate Daniel. Picture this – a 12 year old in gym class gets punched repeatedly in the face until the teacher (ref) finally stops him. Is that bully going to get sent to the principal and disciplined? Of course. Is the kid getting punched going to feel bad about himself, yes. If you were the kid getting punched parent wouldn’t you be furious? Yes. Well you should be furious now.

Dave Bolland is a bully

Dave Bolland is another NHL bully. So is radio Host Dave Kaplan.
Both these men thought it was appropriate to call Henrik and Daniel “sisters”.  This is an attempt to belittle them or take away their manhood. Bolland went on to insult and belittle the entire city of Vancouver saying “There’s a lot of weirdoes there. You don’t want to be out there too long.” An entire city huh? I liken that to calling all the kids in the science club are “Weirdoes” or “losers.”  Not cool at 15. Not cool now, Bolland.

If Bolland was in high school and went over the PA system and said “Those Sedin twins are total girls.” Do you think the principal would call Bolland’s parents and/or dole out a punishment for his actions? Yeah. He would. So why is it okay to be a bully as an adult? Do you think that the Sedins deserve to be called names and insulted by Bolland because he doesn’t like their non-aggressive style of hockey? Do you think because they’re adults it doesn’t hurt them? They have kids. Do you think they want their kids hearing their dads called sisters? Bolland was interviewed at an intermission during the next Canucks-Hawks game and waxed poetic about what a great city Vancouver was and how skilled the Sedins were. No one was buying it. He should have just apologized. Just said “I made a mistake when I insulted this city and these players. It was immature and stupid.” But that was more than Bolland could manage. Like most bullies, he’s probably lashing out due to his own insecurity and lack of self-worth. The Sedins probably realize that but I’m sure it still sucks.

Alexandre Ovechkin's arm candy is a bully

And that takes us to Alyonka Larinov. To be clear, I am unsure of what this woman’s career is, exactly. Is she a sports announcer? An on-air personality? A professional host? Presenter? Or is she a like Kim Kardashian building a career off a famous last name? I’m not judging. She has no Wikipedia page so I’m confused. She first came to public attention as Alex Ovechkin’s award show date. And her dad was an NHL player. Somehow from those two facts she’s started being associated with NHL media, most recently as a  twitter reporter at the All-Star game.

Before the All-Star game Larinov went on Off The Record. Landsberg asked her who she would pick last and her response was “The Sedin Sisters.” Wow. Suddenly Alyonka is that pretty, but not very bright girl in high school who wants so badly for the boys to like her that she’ll say anything. Think one of the click in Mean Girls – probably Amanda Siegfried’s character.

Calling the Sedins’ “sisters” in order to get laughs is bullying. If Alyonka was in high school and did that in the middle of a crowded cafeteria (which probably had slightly less people than the nationally broadcast OTR) she’d be called a bully. Well guess what? She still is.

And why I liken her to a dimwitted Mean Girls character is because #1) she seems to be completely unaware that using her own gender as an insult is degrading herself. And #2) she then attacked a user on twitter for calling her out and tried to convince everyone that she called them sisters because “I think it a compliment. Women are beautiful & gentle & have grace. That is the Sedin’s style of hockey. If u think it’s negative”

Why is that argument not believable? Because  the use of “sisters” for the Sedins has already been established as not referring to their grace. Alyonka’s defense would be like her saying that yes, everyone calls the overweight girl in high school a “pig” because she’s obese but Alyonka calls her that because the girl lives on a farm with lots of pigs. Yeah….. sorry Aloynka, you are a bully. And you’re the worst kind. You’re doing it to become popular.

Me in my anti-bullying T

So on this day, Pink Shirt Day, I wear a pink shirt not just for the kids, like my niece and nephew, who I hope never have to go through bullying but also for Daniel and Henrik Sedin who sadly prove that being the quiet, smart, skilled person is still – even in adulthood – is like wearing a target on your back.