… Ahhh, my sigh of relaxation.

Did you find that introduction….. intriguing? Those are guitar tabs of Bouree; that’s J-S Bach’s Bouree… of the finest tunes in classical music. You may have heard Jethro Tull play it with his flute.

You know, I love…., it’s great to finally have time to post my column. I missed reading it too, but Hurricane Wilma was a tough one and the past two weeks things have been crazy. What I love about HTR is that we get to be smart…funny, weird, and silly…. all at the same time.

…..but that’s not me.

I like the fine things in life, such as food and wine, and food and beer and hockey. I like to hear classical music, and listen to old skool punk rock right after it.

Yes, I am the kind of person who just sits back and enjoys minutes go by in relaxation. Such as sitting on my couch with my two dogs while watching hockey, and we all share a glass of beer.

As you see… I ain’t weird. Only normal people are weird.

Enjoy life….the way you want to. Ahh….







Well, intrigued enough? Of course I’m a total weirdo! Anyways..

So we already got a bunch of trade rumors going on, and I enjoyed how journalists had a tough time fabricating them at the start of the season, but of course one rumor just had to slip away into Retardotown.

I want to make it a big one this time, give you all some good reading material for the weekend.

Talks: Leafs Hockey, Oilers Hockey, Canucks Hockey, Rangers, Isle’s, Devils, Panthers, Lightning, Sharks….

First thing though, I want to talk about the shootouts. I still see some people being upset about them, and I can understand why they don’t like them. What I don’t understand is how those people just can’t see the reasoning behind the shootout. Unless, of course, you are a Bettman basher a la Larry Brooks and enjoy bashing anything that is new about the game.

The first time I truly got excited with the shootout was during the week after the hurricane hit Florida. I had electrcity, but my satellites were down and therefore I could not catch the games. So, I listened to the Rangers vs. Devils on the radio that Saturday afternoon. I was on my feet when the shootout was on, up to the point where I could feel the excitement and intensity in the building.

Just a great experience. It brings hockey to the next level. The better experience was the 4-3 shootout win by the Rangers in Florida against the Panthers, and I was there to watch it in Sunrise Florida. Watching Lundvqist and Luongo was amazing, but the series of events where Dominic Moore scored the equalizer with 3 seconds left, and then the shootout, just amazing. Few people leave the stadium.

The other night I watched the Canadiens against the Penguins. It was unbelievable. The shootout is the best thing to happen in the NHL in the post-lockout era.

Let’s talk some Leaf’s Hockey. Why is Jason Allison rumored as tradebait? I am just getting sick and tired of the Toronto media which thinks it is running the team. It is ludicrous to say that because of Wellwood and Steen, Allison can be traded.

Why? Has it occurred to anybody that the Leafs are just 17 games into the season? Is it possible that the Toronto media ACTUALLY thinks that Wellwood and Steen will keep up the same pace? That they will be healthy for every game?

Seventeen games into the season, YOU DON’T TRADE a guy like Allison, UNLESS the return deal is a no-brainer.

What did the Toronto media expect from Allison, a point a game? That he’d be a leading scorer? This player has been injury plagued for years, missed two whole seasons in a row, and people expect him to play great? Thirteen points in 17 games is not that bad. Give the guy a chance to get back into it for crying out loud. Just because two rookies have been quite good in recent games, doesn’t mean that someone should be traded.

If Jason Allison prefers to get traded and play top line minutes, then it’s a different story because the Blue Jackets are a team in desperate need of offense, as are the Panthers.

It’s either trade Allison as he would request, or trade him because the other team is giving a really good offer. But, to trade him because of two rookies doing well in just 17 games….. ridiculous.

If the Leafs were run by the Toronto media, you wouldn’t see the team stay in tact for more than a week. Roster changes would be an abundance. If you do a research that in the past 5 years you want to see which team had the most rumors, you’d probably find out that the Maple Leafs would have made the most transactions over the past 5 years, according to the media’s rumors.

Aside from that, I am sure to say that I was wrong about Bryan McCabe. After watching him in a few games, he is the #1 defenseman for the Leafs. He gives them an opportunity to win on almost every shift. Buying out his contract would have put the Leafs in the bottom of the Conference.

They do, however, need some defensive help. The Leafs are a -37 (total players +/- rating). Brandon Witt of the Capitals was a possibility, of course according to the media, but it won’t be too easy. It appears that Pavel Kubina is also frustrating coach Tortarella of the Lightning. Another possible defenseman is Janne Niinimaa. But, I believe the Leafs need more than just a defenseman. They need better backchecking forwards.

The Slippery Oilers. I enjoy watching Oilers hockey later at night, especially when they play at home. I think they are the best team to watch on TV, when on home ice. The camera angle is perfect, and the ice is gorgeous to watch. But besides that, Oilers hockey is quite fun to watch.

They haven’t had the best of starts, and unfortunately I believe that Conklin was a major disappointment as i had him pegged for a major sleeper in the goalie department. When the Oilers went on that 7 game winless streak, the talks involved bad goaltending and that Pronger and Peca were not really playing as well as expected.

Yes, and I agree with both assessments. But, the main reason why the Oilers went on that skid was Ryan Smyth’s injury. This guy IS the Oilers. They have to lock him up long-term and find players best suited for his line.

Goaltending is the second issue with the Oilers. I like Markkanen a lot, I think he is a good goalie. But since when do “good” goalies ever turn out successful in the playoffs? I’ve watched him play and yes he does well, but he does not put the Oilers anywhere above the safety line for post-season play. Still, that should not be a priority until it becomes a grave issue.

Any team that has Pronger and Peca is a playoff team, unless that team is the Rangers paying a total of like $15M for these two. Anyhow, players still need to get back into the game after a whole season without play, and both Pronger and Peca need time in Edmonton. They need time to fit in and find their place. These two are former captains, they had high leading roles in previous teams, and now they are a step below that. That isn’t a problem for them, these guys are winners. But, they just have to fit in, find their place in Edmonton and it will take time.

These two will prove their worth in the playoffs, and it’s no gamble to say as such, it’s a bet.

Canucks Hockey.

The Canucks are in one of the toughest and most competitive divisions in the NHL as no team is under .500, but when playing against the Avs, Oilers, and the Wild…. eight times each, you know it will be a long hard season. All five teams are capable of finishing the season with a good .500 and above win percentage. So far, the Nucks are the leaders in the division, but have not been too impressive, mainly because of inconsistent play.

The main issue with the Canucks is defense. They can score over three goals a game, but the problem is that they allow three goals a game. In 17 games, the Canucks scored 56 goals and allowed 51. Yes, Cloutier was very missed, but that Nucks defense, as I like to call it, appears to be as good as Swiss Cheese. I am not calling it a bad defense, but they allow the opposition to get through too easily.

This is why I say that Marek Malik was a solid addition to the Rangers and worth his price. The Canucks miss a guy like Malik. I believe Matt Cooke is a useless player on the team and $1.5M should have been used to re-sign the stalwart. Now, you got the Nucks in need of a defensive defenseman. I’d prefer a brute defenseman for them, but they need one. The defenseman I believe they should target, Brandon Witt. He is the kind of player that will put the Canucks above competitors. I’ve seen Witt play for a bunch of years and when he’s motivated, this guy is very effective. He wants out of D.C, go get him Nonis. Trade Matt Cooke. I don’t like Kessler either. You need an agitator, find a cheap one.

Yes, when the Rangers traded Barns we all felt bad, as Rangers fans. But, it’s not like he is one of a kind. I love to watch rookie Ryan Hollweg play. The little guy has a great hockey story and against the Panthers he put Branislav Mezei, a gigantor, out for the whole season, possibly, with a bone crunching hit against the boards.

Trade Cooke, what is he good for? If he was an under $1M player, then I would not have minded, but $1.5M? I’d take Jordan Tootoo at $450K. The Canucks must get Brandon Witt. I think two Western teams will be the ones getting him. The Sharks or Coyotes.

And the Blueshirts keep their 1st place spot in their division as they are 7-3-0 in their last ten games. You know, people keep saying that Jaromir Jagr is carrying out this team on the offense and so on, and yes…. that is true that Jagr is the main factor on the offense, but he also went 4 straight games without a goal and yet the Rangers managed to score 17 goals in four games, and only losing once.

When Jagr is being held back, the Rangers still keep rolling the lines and the hard work of Dominic Moore, Jed Ortmeyer, Petr Prucha, and Steve Rucchin pays off. They keep strong defensively and finally Kevin Weekes is also starting to play sharp.

Tom Poti is being shopped around. Though he played very well against the Penguins last night, the guy has worn out his welcome in the Big Apple. It’s not so much for his inconsistent play. Rangers fans know, and accept, the fact that Poti is just not that good defensively. But, his offensive abilities should make up for it, especially on the powerplay. He has not been able to do that, nor will he do it here in New York. That isn’t the main reason as to why he is disliked. When Tom Renney put Poti as a healthy scratch, Tommy Boy went out in public whining about it, saying he’s been playing “awesome”. That was ridiculous.

Poti will become a UFA by season’s end, and he most likely will not re-sign with the Rangers, also because he’d have no room. It will be a win-win situation if the Rangers trade him. It does not necessarily matter for who either. The two scenarios are that he 1) Get traded for another struggling player 2) He gets traded to a team that desperately needs PP help.

So, how is it a win-win situation for the Rangers? Though they are playing well and in 1st place in the Atlantic Division, they still remain a rebuilding team. That means once Poti is out, the Rangers will be glad to give room to Tomas Pock, Ivan Baranka, or even Bruce Lampman. Most likely it will be Tomas Pock who plays very well offensively, but is also stronger defensively. It’s just a win-win situation for the Rangers.

By the way, does Larry Brooks of the NYPost STILL think that Marek Malik was the worst off-season signing of the year? Nothing major about him this season as far as numbers go, but the Rangers are one of the better teams defensively and they are ranked #2 on the penalty kill. It’s not all because of Malik, but he’s a part of it and those 5 on 3’s…. he’s a major factor on those.

It is still early in the season and the Rangers playoff chances are still a question mark. Anything can happen along the way. But so far, only one person, that I know of, has been correct about the Rangers. And that person is Mr. Stan Fischler himself who said that the Rangers “will surprise a lot”. And so they have.

The Islanders are a confusing team to watch. I have not been able to watch them as much as I’d like to, but what is going on with this team!? Not so much for the lack of depth both on offense and defense, but the attitude of this team is lost. This Isle’s team lacks character. When the Islanders are a successful team they always have an attitude. In the 1980’s they proved that. In the 1990’s they lacked character and were a non-playoff team for years. Then they got Peca, and they made the playoff for three straight years. They lose Peca and now they are an under .500 team.

There’s Janne Niinimaa who most likely will be traded for getting kicked out of practice. Where are the Islanders going? GM Milbury cannot even fire Steve Stirling. I mean he can, but he should get fired for it too, especially when Peter Laviolette is doing well with the Hurricanes. The Isle’s need to re-identify themselves, and it is up to Milbury to take chrage.

As I said about the Devils before the season started, they are not that good. They overpaid free agents and their offense is not working out. Marty Brodeur is now playing in a much tougher league where more shots are taken and more goals are scored. In front of Brodeur is a grade B defense, no longer a grade A one. The offense is weak, and I do not expect it to get any better once Patrick Elias returns as GM Lamoriello will be forced to trade away a forward, maybe two.

It is just not the same team anymore and they can’t even make many improvements. If the Devils make the playoffs, it will really be because of Brodeur. If it is not for Brodeur, then the Devils are not a playoff team.

Expect GM Mike Keenan to make a trade sometime soon as the Panthers are plagued with injuries. Two nights ago, youngster Anthony Stewart was also sidelined with an injury and the Panthers, though giving a tough time to the Flyers last night, have got nothing to work with offensively. Losing Mezei is a major loss as he was their better defenseman. Meanwhile, Jay Bowumeester still remains a question mark and has been disappointing. At this point, Mike Keenan has got to pull a big deal and trade Bouwmeester.

Stephen Weiss may also become a tradeable assett. I like this team and the young players are very promising. I had the pleasure to watch Rostislav Olesz in training camp and during the early start of the season. While everyone talks about Crosby and Ovechkin, Olesz is one of the most NHL-ready rookies I have ever seen. In all areas of the ice, he plays like a pro who has played for years. He is lethal on breakaways and will be an A player for the Panthers on even strength, powerplay, and penalty kill.

Another young player that is enjoyable to watch is Lukas Krajicek. The only problem is, he is not used enough by Jacques Martins. Yes, he is weak defensively because of his size, but this guy is one of the few defenseman who skates with class. For years I have watched Ray Bourque, Brian Leetch, and Scotty Niedermeyer skate with such class and skill….. as if they were born on the ice with skates. Krajicek has that same kind of class in his skating, but has yet to be an impact player. If used and coached correctly, he will become one.

But, if the Panthers want to make the playoffs, or even get close to them, a trade must be done before other teams, such as the Hawks and Blue Jackets, will pull a trade on a key forward.

The defending champions are no longer playing like champs. The Lightning are weaker in all areas and two games under .500 is not looking good for Jonh Torturella. He has shown frustration towards John Grahame and Pabel Kubina already, who is rumored to be possible trade bait. Martin St. Louis is far from performing at the same pace of last year, which I considered a fluke. Their powerplay is attrocious, which will most likely lead GM Jay Feaster to make a trade.

Let’s face it folks, it is a new era for the NHL where the level of competition has stepped up a few notches. We’re twenty games in and who would have thought the the Rangers would be leading the Atlantic? Who would have thought that the Carolina Hurricanes would be 12-3-1? Anyone guessed that the St. Louis Blues would have two wins out fo 17 games played?

It is a much bigger challenge for general managers, where time IS precious. Almost 20 games in, teams will have to look for possible trades to make soon before time runs out. I believe Jay Feaster is in that situation right now, if not then soon he will be.

I have been watching the Sharks play, actually caught seven games. Overall, they are not that good of a team, as far as players, but their play is very good. And, that’s due to coach Ron Wilson. It is a team that you HAVE TO watch if it is trailing by one goal because they keep tying those games with few seconds left in the 3rd.

Their main weakness? The powerplay. Finally, Ron Wilson decided to put Patrick Marleau on the point. This proves my statement about powerplays not being as good as they should be; reason being…. defensemen! No longer does the NHL find itself with a young Brian Leetch, Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, Sergei Zubov and so on. Defensemen can no longer QB the powerplay as well as they used to. Now, you see forwards being used on the point for that reason. It appears to me that scouts are looking offensive potential in a defenseman for shot power and accuracy. My favorite defenseman to watch on the point is no longer Sergei Gonchar, but Dion Phaneuf (who in my mind will be the next best defenseman in the NHL). Still, quite a difference from the older days of the greater defensemen.

Which leads me to say, Sharks would be interested in a defenseman to use on the point.

How about Curtis Joseph? Has anyone watched this guy play? He is definitely not performing like a 38 year old, more like a 28 year old! His reflexes are as sharp as ever and he has been winning games for the Yotes. To think that he wasted two years in Detroit, and that the Leafs still chose Belfour over him. Not saying Belfour is bad, although this year I would take Cujo over Eddie any day….. especially with the salary difference.

Most surprising team: Carolina Hurricanes

–Yes, 9-0 is bad but the record speaks for itself, 12-3-1.

Most overrated team: Detroit Red Wings.

–They had the easiest schedule thus far, and are in the easiest division.

Well….. this is it. This was supposed to be for the weekend, but it took me the whole weekend to write it. Enjoy reading it….take your time with it. But hey, it is good to read! Especially when it’s about hockey.

Anyway…..I’ll go back to my wine….and music.

Till next time…

……. ta`ta`…