Around The League – Halloween Edition

I know I haven’t been the most consistent contributor to this site in recent months, but the witching hour is almost upon us, and my return from the underworld is long past due. It has been, to say the least, an interesting first couple of weeks to this NHL season. Some happenings border on the bizzare, so what better time to discuss than now?“DOLLAR” BILL NOT PAYING SMITH (Chicago Sun-Times)

There are various reports out of the Windy City that reveal that Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz is witholding payments to former general manager Mike Smith. Smith, who was ousted last week by the league’s most notorious penny-pincher, is still under contract for the rest of this season and all of next season. The organization maintains that Smith was fired “for cause,” and that he is not due payment because the GM “breached” his contract. There is speculation that Wirtz is merely trying to save a few bucks by making Smith accept a buyout at a reduced price rather than pay him what he is owed.

My take: Bill Wirtz ought to be hit by a bus, fall on a dirty soup spoon, and catch AIDS. It’s bad enough that he fires a guy who’s doing his job, but the fact that he’s renegging on paying the man his due on a contract signed in good faith is is just plain ludicrous. Smith should immediately call a press conference where all he says is: “You see? You see what I’ve had to deal with?” What possible “cause” could there be for this action? Not getting Tuomo Ruutu signed to a more club-friendly contract?

HATE TO SAY “I TOLD YOU SO” (New York Post)

The Rangers are back. And they’re just as bad. During last night’s loss to the Mighty Ducks, the same problems that have been haunting this team for the better part of the last decade were as prevalent as ever. The combination of no system, bad coaching, and a complete lack of special teams play does not a winning team make. The power play is 0-for the season, and the PK is almost dead last as well. After NJ castoff Pascal Rheaume (who was signed and brought to the club rather than a younger, more promising player from Hartford) goes down with a bum knee, resident genius Glen Sather heaps almost twenty minutes of ice time on the Methuselan Mark Messier, while banishing the still young and promising Jamie Lundmark to the fourth line.

My take: Those of you who thought that the New York Rangers might finally turn it around this season, start living up to their star-studded potential, start earning their exorbitant pay, maybe even make the playoffs, well, you’re wrong. Is it early in the season? Sure, but it is plain as the nose on your face that this season’s edition of the Blueshirts is just as inept as the previous six. It should also be just as obvious that the game has passed Glen Sather by. His insistence on not giving ice time to players who might actually make a difference is galling.

WILLIAMS FINALLY STARTING TO LIVE UP TO HIS POTENTIAL (Philadelphia Daily News)

While the Rangers continue to push non-productive veterans, 90 minutes south via I-95 the Philadelphia Flyers are enjoying watching their youth blossom into quality NHL players. Head coach Ken Hitchcock is particularly pleased with the continuing development of winger Justin Williams, using such adjectives as “tenacious, hard-working, two-way player, tremendous penalty-killer.” Hitch has been using the youngster in every single game situation thus far, and he has not been disappointed. Williams is second in club scoring, and excelled at everything he’s been asked to do, and, in the process, has morphed into one of the team’s best forecheckers. He creates oppurtunities for his teammates that way, as was evident in the Flyers’ 5-0 drubbing of the Canadiens the other night.

My take: Admittedly, I’ve never been the biggest Justin Williams fan. The kid still needs to learn how to skate better. But, I can’t argue with the results. He’s turning out to be a very productive hockey player. While his name did pop up in a lot of trade rumors last season, I doubt he’ll be sent packing if he continues to play this way.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER SHOULDER (Toronto Star)

Nikolai Antropov had to shake the stigma that he was injury prone before he had his first decent season in 2002-03. Now, he’s right back where he started. This tarnished crown jewel of the Toronto Maple Leafs drafting ability will miss the next month of the season while he recovers from a severe shoulder separation. His return to action is slated for early December. Antropov was hurt in Monday’s loss to Atlanta.

My take: Is it me, or does it seem like a shoulder separation is the most common injury sustained in the Toronto Maple Leaf organization? Oh, well. It really shouldn’t matter. Antropov isn’t all that good to begin with, and even said that if he had hit the weight room more, the injury wouldn’t be that bad. Imagine that – an athlete lifting weights. What a novel concept.

KYLE WHO? (Boston Globe)

The Boston Bruins and their fans have to be pleased with the result of the team’s big three-way deal last season. The first-place B’s, while losing Jeff Hackett to free agency, got exactly what they were looking for in young blueliner Jeff Jillson. Jillson is turning into quite the scorer in Beantown, with three goals and an assist in 10 games, while posting a +3 rating. It seems like the team doesn’t miss Kyle McLaren at all. McLaren has a goal and an assist for his San Jose Sharks, while being -5.

My take: The B’s did get the better end of that deal. Losing Hackett was inevitable, but they offset it by signing Felix Potvin. Jillson is a better fit in Boston than McLaren was. He’s a better person, a better teammate, and will be a better all-around player.

That’s it for now, y’all. Release the Hounds!


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