Rumblings and Grumblings From Around The League – Dec. 21

It’s been a while since there has been enough minutiae out there in hockey cyberspace for me to put an article together. So, after culling all the newspapers and dotcoms this morning, here is what I have to bring to our HTR roundtable for discussion. Proceed at your own risk.

SHARKS AT THE “BUTT” END OF THE YEAR’S FIRST BIG SPANKING (faceoff.com)

We all expected a quality hockey match on Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks came into the Corel Centre to play the Ottawa Senators, right? Well, what was supposed to be just that turned into a twelve-goal bonanza, with the majority of those goals going into the Sharks’ net. The Sens humbled the “new darlings of the Western Conference” (As Sports Illustrated’s hockey preview put it) with a 9-3 drubbing in which trade bait forward Magnus Arvedsson scored twice, captain Daniel Alfredsson registered four assists, and recent AHL call-up Steve Martins (who?) was named #1 star. Despite various trade rumors surrounding them, the Senators are playing inspired hockey, and now lead the Eastern Conference heading into today’s matinee matchup with Philadelphia. Conversely, San Jose is the prowd owner of the number 11 slot out west, after being picked by most prognosticators as the favorite to represent the West in the Stanley Cup finals.

My take: This is the kind of game that could get Ron Wilson fired already, and see Teemu Selanne dealt to the New York Rangers for a package involving Cory Cross. And the Sharks thought that Brian Sutter was the problem? Telling stat of the game for San Jose – newly acquired defender Dan McGillis, who was supposed to bring steady, defensive play and a big shot from the point, no goals, no assists, one SOG, minus-3. Question for Marion Hossa – you score a goal and your team wins by a 9-3 count, how are you minus-1 on the stat sheet? Bottom line: Watch out for the Senators, they are for real. Alexei who?

NEILSON JUST “GOING ABOUT HIS BUSINESS” (ESPN.com, Philadelphia Inquirer)

If there was ever a time to wish for a cure for cancer, it would be now. Senators assistant coach Roger Neilson, who had been battling multiple myeloma and melanoma for the past three years, is suffering another setback. Reports out of Ottawa state that the cancer that is attacking Neilson’s body has spread to his brain, and that the recent Hall of Fame inductee is in dire need of a “massive” radiation treatment. In the meantime, Neilson continues to do what he does best – work. While he no longer travels with the team due to his illness, he continues to work home games from the press box or, in the case of the aforementioned San Jose contest, from his office. The team has repeatedly told the media to back off Neilson, as they don’t want news about his illness to become a major story. Neilson, a very private man in his own right, has told news sources that he just wants to “go about his life,” and that he hopes to get back on the road soon.

My take: If you are, in any way, religious or believe in some sort of higher power, I ask to to say a prayer for Roger Neilson. There is not a more genuine human being in all of hockey that Neilson, and we would do well to wish him a speedy recovery from his illness. Hockey can ill afford to lose an innovator like Captain Video right now. Expect the Senators to continue their strong play, as they seem to want to do it all for Roger.

SAMSONOV TO MISS UP TO THREE MONTHS (Boston Globe)

Boston Bruins star winger Sergei Samsonov is expected to miss the next three months of the season due to a broken right wrist. He is scheduled to have surgery performed on Tuesday. Samsonov first injured it some 10 years ago while playing junior hockey in Russia, and it never fully healed. He re-injured it approximately two months ago, and has been playing in pain ever since. The surgery, known as a “bone graft,” will take a long time to heal, and Samsonov faces about three months of rehabilitation. It is concievable that he could miss the rest of the season, including the playoffs.

My take: Bad timing. The Bruins have lost five games in a row, and the Senators have quietly tied them for the conference lead. Now, they have to trudge on without one of their best players. It is entirely possible that this could stimulate Mike O’Connell to finally hammer out a Kyle McLaren trade, since the B’s are going to need someone to pick up the slack. Alex Tanguay, anyone?

PENGUINS FALLING BACK TO EARTH, KEHOE IN TROUBLE? (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

After being a pleasant surprise to the opening of the 2002-03 NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have gone from first to worst in their division, with their recent losing streak reaching ten games on Thursday night. Team owner and star centerman Mario Lemieux has repeatedly expressed his frustration, but both he and GM Craig Patrick remain confident (publicly, at least) in head coach Rick Kehoe. The Penguins, already thinned down in recent times with the trade of Jaromir Jagr and the loss of Robert Lang to free agency, have been further weakened by a plethora of injuries. Martin Straka, Dick Tarnstrom, Aleksey Morozov, Michael Roszival, and others have all missed significant time due to various maladies.

My take: It’s difficult to say whether or not Kehoe could get the axe. The team has shown what it can do when healthy, it’s just that the team can’t seem to stay healthy. A coaching change won’t mend broken bones. Patrick remains under the gun, as the Alexei Kovalev situation looms ever larger as the season progresses. My guess is that the team stays the course for now, until the lineup is healthy again. If, by that time, the season could be salvaged and they can squeeze into the playoffs, then I don’t see any major deal coming. My guess is that Kehoe would be kept around, since he is essentially second-fiddle to Lemieux at gametime, and Mario doesn’t want anyone in the organization to second-guess him.

MODANO PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE WITH POST-CONCUSSION SYNDROME (Dallas Morning News)

Rather than rush their star player back into the lineup before he’s ready, the Dallas Stars put center Mike Modano on IR retroactive to Wednesday, 18 December because of concussion-like symptoms. Modano was checked from behind by Philadelphia’s Jeremy Roenick in the Stars’ 2-2 tie with the Flyers, and had to be helped from the ice by his teammates. Modano says that he is still suffering from headaches, and the team did not want to take any chances. He missed Thursday’s game against Detroit, and will be held out of the Stars’ next two contests, at New Jersey today and at Carolina on Sunday. He will be re-evaluated before the Nashville game on 26 December in Dallas.

My take: Didn’t the Dallas doctors initally rule out a concussion when he was first hurt? And now he’s got all the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome? We are seeing this all too often nowadays. I expect Modano will be fine after his noodle stops ringing. In the meantime, players like Jason Arnott and Pierre Turgeon need to step up their play, unless Dave Tippett wants to give more playing time to Manny Malhotra or Rob DiMaio.

THE NEW HEAD COACH OF THE COLORADO AVALANCHE IS….TONY GRANATO???? (The Sporting News, FOXsports.com)

It’s bad enough that coaches lose their jobs because the players don’t do theirs. We’ve become all too familiar with that. Bill Barber, Ron Low, Ron Wilson, Brian Sutter, Greg Gilbert, all of these men were head coaches on talented teams where the talent often didn’t show up. Bob Hartley recently joined that group. We can harp on how it sucks that a coach with such impressive credentials as Hartley’s can get fired, but what’s even more strange is his replacement. Pierre Lacroix ignored conventional wisdom, along with a long list of potential (and qualified) replacements (Ted Nolan, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Sutter, Terry Murray, etc.) to name someone with less than six months of TOTAL coaching experience as his “permanent” head coach. Many heads were being scratched at this move, and just as many were left to wonder if Lacroix had lost it.

My take: Let’s face the facts, shall we? Granato wasn’t exactly a superstar player in the league, but he was a serviceable forward with respectable numbers. He just retired as a player at the end of the 2000-01 campaign, immediately after which he took a seat in the broadcast booth, offering color commentary on the Sharks for the 2001-02 season. He joined Hartley’s staff in Denver this past July, when Brian Trottier left to coach the Rangers. Now, a mere five months later, he is the head coach of a franchise that is expected to win another Stanley Cup? Is there a more meteoric rise to power in the NHL than that of Tony Granato? This guy is more remembered right now as having a sister who won a gold medal than as being an NHLer for 13 seasons. Personally, I think it’s a bad move by Lacroix, as he doesn’t want to get blamed for the wrongs of the players. Jim Kelley of Fox Sports put it best: “This situation is like asking the trainee on the fry vat at McDonald’s to take over as Chief Operating Officer AND run the Burger King into exile in the process.”

Interesting little factoids of the week:

Carolina LW Jan Hlavac has six goals for the ‘Canes, all coming on the power play. (ESPN.com)

New Jersey forward Joe Nieuwendyk scored his first goal in 20 games Thursday night. (Bergen County Record)

Philadelphia goaltender Robert Esche is now 6-1-2, and has not allowed more than two goals in any of his starts. (Philadelphia Daily News)

Since the return of Jason Allison, Ziggy Palffy has five goals and seven assists for 12 points in the last seven games, and the Kings are 5-2-0 in that stretch. (ESPN.com)

That’s it for now, y’all. Happy Holidays, and release the hounds!


17 Responses to Rumblings and Grumblings From Around The League – Dec. 21

  1. Tony says:

    You miss the biggest story of the week. Yzerman now might have to retire. His doctor said there is only a 50/50 chance of him coming back, and he goes to suggest that Yzerman should retire. Not only is this huge because this might take Detroit out of the top favoured team to win the Cup, but also because the game maybe losing one of the top players of the last 20 years.

  2. mikster says:

    San Jose:

    They still have a good record with Wilson in there, and Selanne appears to finally play his offensive game.

    Defense was as bad as goaltending that night.

    Lombardi has to acquire a player to shake things up.

    I wish a Meery Christmas to Roger, and our prayers are with him.

    It’s not easy to recognize a concussion for doctors. If Mike said he was “ok” then doctors said he would be ok, but his headaches didn’t stop and that’s when you confirm a concussion.

    Bottom line, Roenick’s hit caused a concussion, and Modano has been injured before…

    The Avs were underachieving. That’s it, they were just underachieving. Something similar to Larry Robinson’s firing, team is underachieving, so fire him.

    I also think that Tanguay was in the doghouse under Hartley, he might come up with more goals under Tony.

    f the Avs start winning, then it was a good move, if they perform the same way….then Lecroix made himself look like a dork. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    Hlavac is getting a better system in Carolina, and he will be a good player for them on the PP.

    Esche certainly did prove me wrong, he is more than a back-up and possibly could beat Cechmanek to the starting job if he faces some struggles or slips some unnecessary comments about the Flyers.

    Allison is the Kings.

    Happy Holidays to you too.

  3. MantaRay says:

    All the pieces SHOULD have been in place for this team to contend from October 1st. New management buried this team by not signing Nabokov and Stuart.

    Sutter was a scapegoat and Wilson’s magic will wear down quickly since he similiar to Sutter.

    This team has the tools and will probably regroup after the holidays and have a great second half.

    Anyone who didn’t think the Boucher deal was a steal by Philadelphia just didn’t know about Esche.

    When Burke went down to injury last season Esche made them a solid team and didn’t miss a beat.

    Phoenix probably still wishes it hadn’t made that deal. The second blunder for Gretzky’s new management crew (Amonte being the first).

  4. Tradedude says:

    know what be funny, although very NOT GUNNA HAPPEN, if san jose lose 9 – 3 against toronto, ottawa, and maybe montreal (if they haven’t played them yet to the eastern canada trip)

    yes i know, its rare, but hell, it be funny as hell.

    Wilson still needs to adjust to the skarks.

  5. Tradedude says:

    that’s sad, now the wings are REALLY in serious crap, other than the signing of cujo, luckly have legace to back him up.

  6. Rushing says:

    There’s just one thing with what the Dr. is saying. Yzerman is seeming to think otherwise.

    Still, Yzerman, 37, wants one more Stanley Cup ring.

    “Three’s nice but four is nicer,” he says with a smile.

    His career, and the struggle to extend it as described by Fowler and others, are presented in an outstanding CBC documentary to be aired at 5 p.m. EST Saturday.

    “Talking to him, he sounds pretty determined,” Harrington said Friday. “If anybody can come back from that surgery, he can.”

    The Red Wings media guide says Yzerman is expected to return to the lineup in January or February 2003.

    http://www.sportingnews.com/nhl/articles/20021220/446454.html

  7. Rushing says:

    Roenick’s hit “didn’t” cause a concussion. Modano does not have a concussion! He is just having the same reactions as if he did. He has been put on IR though for precautions. The tests showed that he did not have one.

  8. mikster says:

    He will be re-evaluated on Monday. Let’s see what it willbe. Right now it’s not a concussion i guess, and i hope.

  9. titans says:

    As for Samsonov and the Bruins, this injury will not hurt them much. Samsonov has been hurt all year and has only played about 5 games or so. So there won’t be much of a loss felt.

    HOW BOUT THEM EAGLES!!! WHOO HOOO!!! KILL THE COWGIRLS!!!!

  10. meetak says:

    Apart from the score, the Ottawa – San Jose game was a good opportunity for their respective Gm’s to look at each other’s players.I wouldn’t think that a San Jose/Ottawa trade is that unlikely.

    I’d like to see Bonk/Arvedsson and Phillips for Owen Nolan and Scott Thornton.

    Nolan has been ineffective for San Jose this year, and they need a shake up big time, so changing captains would be a great way to do that.Give Selanne the C (has he been a captain before?).

    That trio would help San Jose’s defense a lot, and Owen nolan fits the bill for Ottawa’s need for a gritty offensive forward, and thornton would bring needed size to the left side.Mov havlat to the left and Ottawa would have the best first three lines in the League

    Schaeffer/Spezza/Nolan

    Schastlivy/White /Alfredsson

    Havlat/Fisher/Hossa

    with

    Thornton/VanAllen/Neil as a very respectable checking line.

    Defense would still be very very solid:

    Redden/Rachunek

    Chara/Volchenkov

    Hnidy/Leschychyn

    and Kwiatkowski and Hull would be depth/spares, with lots of quality guys down in Binghamton ready to step up.

    Ottawa only picks up 650k salary in this deal, which they can manage.

  11. garry1221 says:

    best first three lines in the league????….. lmao, nice joke there, but seriously, ottawa got off to a pretty good start and is on a roll now, but if that trade were to occur they still wouldn’t be the best 3 lines… detroit, colorado, carolina, edm. even nyr is or could be better than those ‘lines’ u’ve got typed there

  12. Nothingman says:

    Amonte with 25 or so points in 34 games hasn’t worked out at all on a new team in a new environment with no genuine number 1 center. Phoenix hasn’t played the same lines in any games and lately has been running call-up Ramzi Abid on the Amonte line.

    Amonte almost leads the team in points and provides leadership…wait til Burke, Savage and Kolanos return and they make a good trade and then we’ll see how they go.

  13. meetak says:

    OK maybe Detroit

    but the other teams with the supposed “best three lines”????Give me a break,the Rangers???LEts see #1 line “Soft head” Lindros, “No knees” bure and “where is he this year” Holik.

    Colorado, once you get past Sakic Forsberg and Hedjuk just doesn’t have it this year.

    Edmonton has a great #1 line, and then half a second line etc etc.

    Carolina?Not bad but still a little spotty.

    Adding Owen Nolan and Scott Thornton to Ottawa would give them the most well balanced front three lines in the league,period.

  14. Rico71 says:

    Keep smoking the stuff man…*lol*

    Presently, the best line in hockey is Gilmour-Perreault-McKay. Another 7 points last night, 5 the game before and 20 in the past 4 games.

    All of them are playing incredible hockey. I am not saying this will last all season, but what a line to watch!

  15. big_booty says:

    I didn’t miss the story, it just seemed to speculative to even report on right now. The doctor says one thing, the player says another. We’ve all seen this before. I held it out only because I’d rather wait for a concrete decision by both parties.

    Besides, the bigger story in Detroit is that Legace is out-playing Joseph.

  16. big_booty says:

    I highly doubt you would see a Bonk/Arvedsson & Phillips for Nolan & Thornton deal go down. While San Jose might jump at that proposal, it would be a step backwards for the Sens.

    Ottawa is playing the best pure hockey in the league right now, and there is no pressure on them to make any sort of deal. Bonk and especially Arvedsson have picked up their play of late, the two of them have looked unstoppable in the past couple of games.

    Sending them off for underachievers like Nolan, Thornton, Brad Isbister, or Dave Scatchard just doesn’t make any sense right now.

    Face the facts – Spezza’s not ready yet.

  17. big_booty says:

    Lombardi already acquired a shake-up player. McGillis was brought in to steady the defense, and so far he hasn’t done so. The Sharks miss Ragnarsson.

    Hartley got screwed, and Lacroix will end up screwing himself in the end. Granato is not a good choice, the guy does not know how to coach.

    Hlavac might start out OK, but he’ll eventually cool off. It has become a pattern with him.

    Allison may be the Kings, but I don’t think that team is going anywhere with Potvin or Storr. Maybe they make a play for DiPietro?

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