Sweeeeeeeet Carolinnnee

Yes, it’s Sweet Caroline the song. The song that the Rangers play at MSG everytime they win at home. Big win for the Rangers last night, which could spell….. Cup Contender?

The gambling scandal is spreading around the media, good or bad?

Just four days away from Olympic Hockey. Is Team USA good enough? And the Jay Bowumeester decision…. bad one?

My MVP player of the past few weeks, you’ll be surprised who it is.

Where will Keith Tkachuk go?

The Panthers….chaos on the horizon?Two big victories for the last two Rangers games, one against the Philadelphia Flyers and last night’s against the Ottawa Senators. Rangers reclaimed 1st place spot in the Atlantic Division….and is it now time to say that they could compete for the Stanley Cup?

Where do the Rangers stand?

The Rangers are the 2nd best defensive team in the NHL with a GAA of 2.45 and 137 total goals against. Yes, tons of credit goes to Henrik Lundqvist who has now moved up my rankings of Calder points to 2nd place behind Alex Ovechkin. But, last night the Rangers managed to kill all of Ottawa’s eight power plays, one point it was a 5 on 3. This is due to the great defensive work of no names such as Michal Rozsival (3rd in +/- rating in the league), Jason Strudwick, Fedor Tyutin, Jed Ortmeyer, Dominic Moore, and Jason Ward.

When talked about in the media, journalists only mention names like Jaromir Jagr, Henrik Lundqvist, and sometimes Martin Straka, and of course Petr Prucha, now injured. These guys are the key ingredients for the Rangers, but they are not the whole team. The Rangers would not be where they stand right now without the other players. Marcel Hossa is playing pretty good hockey right now and he has his rare moments where you actually think it’s Marian Hossa. Ville Nieminen had a slow and ugly start, but since the second half, he has been….well… he’s been the same Nieminen that Calgary Flames know about. Jed Ortmeyer is one of the hardest working players in the league. Jason Ward was never given such a fair chance in Montreal, and since he received a chance in the Big Apple…he’s been a huge contributor to the wins. How about Dominic Moore? Solid player. The “overpaid” defenseman, Marek Malik, that Larry Brooks called the worst signing of the off-season. And…. yeah, Tom Poti gets a positive comment out of me. The guy has been terrible offensively, but has become dependable and reliable defensively. Amazed? Yeah, so am I.

These are the New York Rangers. Hard working, chemistry, with a strong coaching staff.

They are very sound defensively, and quite good on the offense due to their defensive awareness and solid forechecking. Lundqvist could become this year’s Mikka Kiprusoff, and the Rangers may find a possible chance to appear in the Cup Finals. They beat the Senators, Flyers, Hurricanes, Sabres, Devils, and the Lightning. The Rangers can do it, and if they do…well….teams will want Sports Illustrated to rate them 30th in the league for the 2006-2007 season.

The gambling scandal is getting attention from nation wide news, even big outlets such as ABC, FOXNews, and so on here in the US.

I am not going to make any judgements or speculate on the people involved. I just hope that it clears up cleanly. I wish the best to Mr. and Mrs. Gretzky, to Rick Tocchet, who I think will be a great future head coach, and definitely to the New Jersey state trooper. You know, a lot of people think state troopers are quite mean….but they are actually nice. I was supportive of them in NJ, and very supportive of the troopers down here.

Anyway, is this bad or good for NHL hockey? Ethically, it’s bad. I am not a gambler…I never gamble with games and use money. Sure, I can bet with a friend on a sporting event and whoever loses buys lunch. But when played seriously, it’s a dumb game. If you want to gamble, go to the casinos.

Now for publicity….this CAN be good for the NHL. Why? It gets attention, and the key factor is that Gretzky is recognized by tons of sports fans. This story has the potential to get people involved and take a peak in the NHL world to see what goes on. Of course, this story won’t last too long, unless drastic updates come along, because of the Winter Olympics.

So…. for publicity I think it can have some positive impact, but ethically it is just sad and wrong.

Annnnd…. we’re just FOUR days away from the Winter Olympics. Excited? I am! Starting tomorrow I’ll be setting up all the goodies for you to read about Northern Italy. Hope you all kept a good diet the past few weeks. I tried… I really did. I go to the gym so I’m okay….but darrnnn… how can I say no to food and beer…..wine? I just can’t. …. bah…

Anyway….is Team USA good enough? And my answer is…. N…………O. No, it’s not good enough. I’m not going to say the offense has issues, or the defense… or the coaching. Management is the problem!

Here is what ticked me off about GM Don Waddell. The guy locked Keith Tkachuk on the USA roster even when he was injured TWICE, one long-term, but he totally looked away from the best US goalie of the year… Ryan Miller.

Obviously if he was not injured he would have been selected, but he was injured and that was a good enough reason for Waddell to not pick him. I call BS on that poor decision. Miller was definitely coming back before the Olympics, and quite a while before the break. Yet Miller is sitting in the taxi squad, but will stay in Michigan. Poor decision. I am not going to point fingers at the selected goalies, but let’s face reality… Grahame, Esche, and DiPietro have not been consistent, not even close. Esche has been slightly better, Grahame much better….but that’s in recent games. Miller has been solid all throughout the season.

DiPietro has been the weakest of the three, can’t the guy drop from the roster so Miller is added on, and then DiPietro gets selected on the taxi squad? I know it sucks, I know it is unfair to DiPietro….but it’s Team First.

Team USA will struggle if the goaltending is not going to be sharp. I like the offense, the speed, and the grinding force of the team. I don’t like the selection of Paul Martin. I think Tom Poti has been better than him and Poti has Olympic experience too, plus….he’s got the best poke check and his stick stops passes.

How did Waddell get chosen anyway? Jay Feaster won the Cup in 2004 by building his team… shouldn’t he have gotten it? What about Brian Burke? Waddell…guaranteed Thrashers Hockey will be present in the playoffs….but a 2-8-0 performance in the last 10 games doesn’t back up his statement well enough….unless a big trade comes along.

I guess time will tell, hopefully the three goalies can pull it off. Go USA Go!

As for Team Canada…. I am still scratching my head over the Jay Bowumeester selection over Dione Phaneuf. I’ve been watching Panthers hockey for two seasons now and Jay Bo is far…. so very very very very FAR from being a defenseman worthy of the Olympics. The guy has skills….talent, but the mental side of his game is out in space. There is not much thinking process in his decision making. The guy is just not that good. Why can’t the media understand that? I’d say Lukas Krajicek has been a more effective player than Bowumeester. Yeah, he’s got a good amount of assists, but no goals and he takes very untimely penalties.

Phaneuf has by far outperformed Jay Bo in all categories for a defenseman. He plays physical, makes smarter plays, and is MUCH better on the point for the PP. Jacques Martin is known to develop good players, especially defensemen. I’d give Bowumeester one more season and if he does not show any good improvements….then he is a bust. He was expected to be a top pair defenseman, yet on a good team….the guy is a 3rd pair guy…..nothing special. Bad pick by the Panthers, imagine where they would be if they picked Rick Nash to then play with Jokinen and Horton. More on the Panthers later on.

My MVP player of the past weeks is….. Patrick Elias of the New Jersey Devils! Surprised? I know, I am a Rangers fan and it’s a sin to make such a decision, but I am a great diehard hockey first….and Elias is my choice. The guy comes in and the Devils come out of the swamps as they were sinking deep. He’s an impact player…probably the best Czech captain in the NHL, maybe even in NHL history. Great skills, smart player…. and Team Czech is not upset to see Prucha out and Elias in. Way to go Elias for a great recovery and for saving the Devils. GM Lamoriello should already set up contract proposals to lock him up long term this time.

Where will Keith Tkachuk end up, IF he even gets traded? So far, I have four thoughts on Tkachuk’s future.

1)Montreal

-He is a Gainey type of player. The Canadiens are struggling big time and things seem to get worse. Gainey has two choices, fire sale or playoff force-in. The Blues could be looking at Theodore, but I highly doubt it. Larry Pleau wants another 1st rounder so he can draft three prospects in the 1st round. With Tkachuk having a team option of a fair $3M or so, he is more valuable than just a soon-to-be UFA player playoff rental. A first rounder is a lock and maybe Michael Ryder plus Jan Bulis. Bottom line: He’s a possibility, an impact player….Gainey can pull a trade.

2) Boston: The reason why I say the Bruins is because they have picked up their game and getting Tkachuk could lock them up for the playoffs, which would save O’Connell… PLUS…. Tkachuk is a Mass. born player who would enjoy his time there. A force-in playoffs move, but possible. A first rounder, plus Raycroft and a B-level prospect.

3) Philadelphia: They lost Primeau, which means losing more character. Tkachuk is a typical Bobby Clarke player and Clarke knows he has to make an impact in the playoffs this season. Of course, the guy never gets it because the re-occuring problem is not the Flyers offense, defense…. but goaltending. Maybe Esche could find his way back to Phoenix and Curtis Joseph to Philly? Who knows. Anyway, Tkachuk can fit in the Flyers and though he is not a center…the guy can lift them up a few levels, plus…he gives them more security if Forsberg is not healthy enough for the playoffs. A 1st rounder, maybe Branko Radivojevic and prospects.

4) St. Louis: Hey…it won’t be a surprise to me if GM Pleau feels he is not getting good enough offers and ends up not trading Tkachuk. He could then pick up his option, which would make Tkachuk happy since he loves to stay there in St. Louis, and that would give Pleau enough interest from the free agency market to sign some good free agents, which will be plenty available.

The Panthers may face some difficulties soon as Olli Jokinen changed his mind about the contract. First, he wanted a proposal before the Olympic break. Second, after he got one, he basically says “I’ll get back to you in April”.

Hey….that’s not good enough Olli. The Panthers need to know if you want to stay or go. Stop listening to The Clash singing “Should I stay or should I go now”. It’s not April, make it early March. If you don’t like the offer, which I think is VERY fair, of four years $16M…. then say so and let Keenan trade on in March. He can’t lose you for nada.

If that happens, this also kills all hopes of Roberto Luongo wanting to re-sign long-term, which also means he is a possible trade bait in March, but possible in June, or off-season, too.

Annnd…. before I end this, I’d like for every reader of this article to vote on the poll (top left of the page). It’s for my Olympic writing for you guys to read about…so.. I’ll know better what you guys want to know.

Thank you all for reading!

Micki Peroni

Vice Administrator


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