Archive for January, 2010

Leafs collapse on cue

Posted in Andrew Raycroft, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks on January 30, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

So I told all of you to check for highlights of the 7-2 Canucks win after seeing the Leafs up 2-0 very early.

Not long after my post hit the public, the Buds made it 3-zip and the standard “I’m about to look so dumb in front of so many” feelings kicked in once again. I started to realize why I hate predictions in sports, even if some are simply the result of a lifelong addiction to poking fun at the NHL-equivalent of a nerdy, fat kid.

Of course, about half an hour later, when the second period started, I was hit with this overwhelming sense of reality. Hello? It’s Toronto.

Final score: 5-3 Canucks.

Thanks to a four-goal third period, including three on 11 shots off Vesa Tissue-la (I mean Toskala), the Leafs moved one step closer to solidifying that ever-important lottery pick, which of course they already gave to Boston.

Thankfully, Phil Kessel – the former No. 1 they got in return from the Bruins – actually found the net a little bit tonight so I’ll refrain from mentioning his absolutely terrible attitude, team play or ability to lead anything, anywhere.

At least for now.

On the other side, the Canucks are hotter than the Olympic flame right now – yes I know that’s super weak but it’s all I had for a tie-in right now – having won seven-straight. The club couldn’t have picked a better time to get on a roll because by the time they see GM Place again, half of those fair-weather fans might have a new team picked out.

Just kiddin’ ‘Nuck-leheads! But tonight’s game was the first of a record-breaking 14-game road trip so they can make room for the Olympics and there is no tougher test of a team’s makeup than an extended road trip. Especially one for the most-travelled club in the league.

A losing streak can begin on the road, which is hard to end until a team returns home. Of course, Vancouver gets the Habs in game No. 2 so that string of defeats is likely at least a game away.

And good for Andrew Raycroft, who had to live with the unbelievably embarrassing label of Leafs’ castaway and not only picked up the win but enjoyed a mini victory lap around his own zone during a timeout, receiving cheers from attending Canucks fans.

I’m obviously not the only one who gets pleasure out of rubbing the Toronto Faithfull’s nose in it.

Off to watch the last game of the day!!

Flames lead 2-1 I see. When a team with eight-straight losses takes on the cellar-dweller, making a call on the winner is kind of like choosing sides in a midget-wrestling match.

It doesn’t really matter who wins because you know you’ll be laughing at both when it’s over.

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Hockey Day in Canada a real bust…ed leg…so far.

Posted in Mike Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Nick Foligno, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks on January 30, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Sorry for my recent disappearance everyone but I’m going to Vancouver for three weeks in less than two weeks and there are just too many other tasks to deal with before I leave.

But here is a little tidbit to satisfy anyone who actually misses this blog:

Hockey Day in Canada is off to a horrible start no matter who you were cheering for in the day’s first game.

Congratulations to the Sens for winning their franchise-record ninth-straight, by knocking off a sputtering Habs team in overtime. But points weren’t on anyone’s mind when the game ended.

The Habs may not have been able to snap the Sens win streak but they did manage to snap Nick Foligno’s leg, which will likely keep the winger out for two months. But, while Ottawa will no doubt have major adjustments in store to make up for the giant eight-goal hole his absence will leave, somehow I think they’ll find a way to struggle on.

As for Montreal, the avalanche of what I like to call “whatever it takes to make Scott look stupid on the Internet” is gaining serious speed as it continues to head downhill. For some jackass reason I decided to not only say they should try to win now, but to also write it down and post it on the www.

Almost immediately, the team’s response since I opened my mouth – something people have tried to curb for 32 years – has been to lose five of seven (four to teams too embarrassing to mention), get into arguments in the dressing room and now to lose their top scorer Mike Cammalleri with a knee injury.

The MRI is pending and perma-optimists like Brian Gionta keep saying things like we hope it’s not serious, but hands up all Habs fans that honestly believe this will be good news Monday morning.

Les Habitants of the 21st century don’t seem to get simple injuries. This team is far more attracted to things like broken necks (Brian Savage), shattered larynxes (Trent McLeary), 11-severed-tendons in the wrist (Donald Audette) and cancer (Captain Courage).

Somehow, I won’t be holding my breath for bruised knee and day-to-day on this one.

The second game of HDIC is underway with Toronto off to a quick 2-0 lead over Vancouver, less than four minutes in. Aww, good for them.

By the way, don’t forget to watch your favourite sports news show later to see highlights on the Canucks 7-2 win.

Told you today was a tidbit!

Bye for now.

Huskies WILL appeal; Lucky loonie causing misfortune

Posted in Loonie, Olympics, Patrice Cormier, QMJHL, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Suspensions, Vancouver on January 27, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

An update on Cormier, again:

While Patrice Cormier has said he wouldn’t personally appeal his season-long suspension, the organization has a different plan. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL say the punishment is excessive, as it could equal 48 games if the Huskies were to go the distance.

Really? You mean to tell me the team forced to suffer the suspension right along with this dumbass is upset because it hurts their chances? What a shocking realization.

This is just more proof that all sports franchises have an agenda, which includes anything good for them and does not include anything good for the game, unless it is also fits into that first part.

I wonder if I would learn from my mistakes if I had a multi-million dollar business there to defend them for me?

Absolutely anything can turn sour:

Just when I start to think I couldn’t possibly be shocked by how petty and self-centred the world can be, I come across nonsense like this:

Remember Trent Evans? Yeah, neither did I at first but let me jog your memory.

He was the Edmonton icemaker, who slipped the now-famous loonie under centre ice at the ’02 Salt Lake Olympics. At the time it was just a really cool story about how someone had brought our country added good luck toward gold medals, in the only event we really care about. (Sorry to my readers who love figure skating but true sports don’t recognize men in lace, anything entitled camel spin and/or something which can also be performed while wearing a Minnie Mouse costume)

After Evans retrieved the “lucky loonie” from the ice, he handed it over to Wayne Gretzky, who proudly showed it to the world (well CBC’s world) before having it permanently displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Great story, hey? I remember everyone talking about it for a solid day, which is actually a really long time to be in the news, unless you’re a bazillionaire nympho with a short game. Then you break records.

Anyway, this great story, which seemed as pure an example of something nice as there is, has found a way to go bad.

Get this:

Evans is extremely upset with the Royal Canadian Mint for “being denied compensation for coming up with the idea and having his appearances at lucky loonie events essentially phased out and his connection to the coin glossed over,” as stated in the Canadian Press article Jan. 24.

I’ll wait while you read that again.

The article goes on to say Evans has no interest in making a million dollars but that he simply wants his kids to one day hear the story of the lucky loonie and know he was the guy.

Between ’02 and ’04, he says the Mint had a great campaign, where he was involved with the first silver edition lucky loonie and was credited with coming up with the idea.

But the Mint doesn’t see him as their “lucky loonie” spokesperson anymore and has since made statements to separate themselves from Evans and his involvement. Evans has spoken with lawyers but has determined it would be too expensive to fight, seeing as the Mint holds a trademark on the term “lucky loonie” and can do whatever it wants with it.

This story blows my mind.

First off, does anyone actually buy his claim to only wanting his kids to know whose idea this was and NOT because he wants the recognition – cough… money – for it? If that IS the reason, then write it down somewhere, ya nimrod. Don’t go to the press and whine about feeling left out. The only person responsible for your kids’ knowledge of this is you.

You’re not being forgotten because the Mint is snubbing you. You’re being forgotten because what you did was forgettable.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a nice story at the time but eight years later it’s a tidbit. A side note, at best. When my friends and I discuss the “Tournament” we talk of Sakic’s heroics or speeches from the Great One. I can’t recall anyone interrupting our conversations to say, “Remember that loonie under the ice? What a historic moment in hockey that was!”

Having said all that, I also would like to know why the Royal Canadian Mint is acting like the cool kids at high school. As self-preserving as I believe Evans is acting about this, he might actually have a point.

Why is the Mint snubbing him out? He DID come up with the idea and they HAVE sort of stolen away the credit for it. At first they use him as poster boy and ship him all over to promote the “lucky loonie” and now they act like he never existed in the first place.

All because they want to use the phrase “lucky loonie” for their own promotions, such as the issue of the official Olympic Lucky Loonie, of which only 10-bloody-MILLION are to be made. At least they’re not overdoing the concept.

I guess what I’m trying to voice through all of this babble is, this is a classic confrontation between two parties, where both are acting like jackasses about something that doesn’t matter in any way, to anyone. At all.

One needs to learn his place and the other needs a lesson in how to act in theirs. Unfortunately, it seems those are both characteristics that are more rare than a lucky coin.

Tomorrow: Back to things that really do matter to everyone, like the NHL…

What?

Why the Flames ALWAYS slump; after a quick reaction to Cormier decision…

Posted in Calgary Flames, Dion Phaneuf, Edmonton Oilers, Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Patrice Cormier, Robyn Regehr, Suspensions on January 26, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

The ruling from the QMJHL has finally come down and Patrice Cormier has been suspended for the remainder of this season and playoffs.

He was given the standard five-day period to appeal the decision but a statement from Cormier’s camp says he plans to forgo that opportunity and serve his punishment.

At 19 years old, Cormier still has a future in hockey to think about – though I’ve said it before, he’s no lock for the NHL – and taking his lumps like a man is the ONLY way to salvage any decent future reputation. Dirtiness is a tag that can follow a player for life and when you’re on the bubble to be a big leaguer in the first place, you don’t need the refs watching your every move.

So whether he was actually smart enough to figure this out on his own or – FAR more likely – someone in his corner told him to be quiet and take what’s coming to him, I would still like to commend him on doing the right thing.

After all, the first step toward not becoming Sean Avery is admitting you might have a problem.

On to other things…

The Calgary Flames have lost another, bringing the current streak of shame to six games. If you went back and read things I’ve said about this team over the last couple of seasons, it would show my obvious distaste for the makeup of this hockey club.

I don’t understand how you can expect to win when you enter every season with one superstar and 12 examples of mediocrity playing forward. All of Darryl Sutter’s moves seem to bolster the blue line, which is not at all where this team is weak.

How does finding another big-name defenseman (Bouwmeester) rank above finding someone to play with Jarome Iginla? In fact, they actually had that compliment to Jarome in Mike Cammalleri but let his 39 goals go to Montreal so they could afford to make the Bouwmeester deal.

Now, when Iginla is in a goal-scoring slump (11 games) the offense become less-than nonexistent and that stacked defense and goaltending are rendered completely useless anyway.

It makes zero sense to me. Iginla is a sniper and he’s one of the best players on the planet. But he doesn’t score many goals off of rushes and he doesn’t create plays for himself the way guys like Ovechkin and Kovalchuk do. He has an amazing, accurate shot and has great vision for where the open space is. But if he doesn’t have linemates worthy of his level, then his production suffers and he slumps.

He slumps for long periods every single year, much like many snipers, but it’s because he always has to play at the hockey intelligence level of his teammates, which is far inferior to his own.

How many goals could this guy score with a true playmaking centreman? The Flames centremen have compiled a combined, grand-total of 66 assists so far this season. To give you an idea how awful that statistic really is, the lowly Edmonton Oilers’ centremen have 83.

One great right-winger is not enough. And I promise you the Flames will be a mediocre, have-to-Cinderella-their-way-to-anywhere team until they figure this out.

Back later tonight after hockey…

Heads you win, tails this sucks

Posted in Brett Favre, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, NFL, Peyton Manning on January 25, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

I should be happy right now. For the first time in the entire NFL playoffs, the outcome of the weekend was exactly as I predicted.

The Colts proved how crazy good they are by staying in the locker room until about the two-minute warning of the first half and still hammering the Jets with 24 unanswered points to win 30-17.

The Saints emerged from a back-and-forth war against an ageless hero and his purple-headed warriors – wait for it… – to ensure an appearance in a Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Both of these outcomes were as I had previously declared, which usually I find very satisfying. You see, I have this tiny little quirk about being right, where I’m pretty sure I always am, and any hard evidence toward the contrary might lean some to believe my theory has a hole in it, which is less-than ideal.

As I was saying, I should be happy right now but I’m not. First of all, making the picks I made wasn’t exactly a daunting task; they were both the favourites to win. And secondly, after the final play completed in each of the two conference championships I instantly felt there was something wrong. The AFC feeling was obvious: Great, two weeks and four more quarters of Peyton “I’m Mr. Fancy-Pants Defense Reader, so I have to point at everyone and call an audible six times before we snap the ball and get on with this freakin’ game” Manning.

But, like it or want-to-stab-forks-in-your-eyes hate it, Manning is just a freak of nature with the pigskin and will be back in this game at least another couple of times after this. So I can’t really complain beyond my own irrelevant beefs.

However, the irritated feeling I had after the Saints won 31-28 in overtime is one I had felt before: How can a league, which claims the title of king of all North American leagues, allow games of such magnitude to be swayed by a coin toss?

There is no doubt that Minnesota made their own bed by fumbling the ball six times, losing three. And there is no doubt Grandpa Favre showed his old weakness, which has always been untimely throws into tight coverage. But once a game reaches overtime, no amount of mistakes in regulation matter and each team deserves equal opportunity.

Flipping a coin and then handing the ball to the highest-powered offense on earth, needing only a field goal in front of hometown fans to win, is not equal opportunity. That’s like handing a baseball bat to a bully; chances are his opponent is in serious trouble.

All year long the story has been Brett Favre and his career season with his former lifelong rival. The NFL even played that angle on the way into this last game, pushing to the backburner the fact the Saints have never reached the Super Bowl and are doing it for fans only four-and-a-half years removed from a city-destroying natural disaster that left their lives in ruin. Then it comes to a tie game in the NFC championship and the biggest story of the year has to stand on the sidelines and watch, while the saga comes to an end.

How stupid is that? I don’t even like Brett Favre, nor was I cheering for the Vikings (please forgive me AT, Randall and Sheri, I still love you all) but I know that’s no way for a game like that to end.

I asked a buddy what he thought and he wasn’t bothered by it. So I asked why it was a good rule to toss a coin and he said, because it’s just the way it is. Well that’s an acceptable answer for why I have to file income tax but it’s pretty weak for defending a rule in a football game. Even college football, which lets a computer, a bunch of old men and four million bowl games decide its outcomes, gives each team equal possession in overtime.

Clean it up, NFL.

As for the two teams left, many are calling the Saints a team of destiny, which of course sounds really great every single year, in every single sport when at least one team claims this title. But nonetheless that’s what I’m hearing, so I guess we’ll see.

I don’t think anyone will have to stretch too far to guess who I’ll be cheering for but my actual pick is a different story all together.

I love destiny and I’m rooting for it big time. But unless destiny figures out how to dish out violent bouts of food poisoning sometime in the next two weeks, I’m guessing Manning is going to show up.

And he just might embarrass destiny. Right in front of destiny’s girlfriend.

A crazy day in Habsville…

Posted in Coaches and General Managers, Georges Laraque, Jean Beliveau, Josh Gorges, Maxime Lapierre, Mike Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, St. Louis Blues, Travis Moen on January 22, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

I’m honestly not trying to mention the Habs this often but when a team makes the news off the ice as much in one day as they did yesterday, a few thoughts come up.

First of all, I am extremely relieved to hear the great Jean Beliveau is reportedly in stable condition after suffering a stroke on Wednesday night. Aside from being one of the greatest players and captains in hockey history, he is maybe even more known for his unwavering class.

Nicknamed Gentleman Jean, the 78-year-old legend won 10 Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972. He set the highest of precedents for how a professional should act, on and off the ice.

To this day he rarely misses a Canadiens game, sitting three rows behind the players bench. I wish him the speediest of recoveries and hope to see him back in his seat as soon as possible.

For a quick bout of the Goosebumps, tune in Saturday night when the Habs take on the Rangers at the Bell Centre. At some point in the first few minutes of the game the arena announcer will probably mention Beliveau and then you can just watch the Habs’ faithful take the building down.

Even Leaves’ fans have to admit nobody cheers for their beloved like passionate Montrealers. They may boo the league’s best power play off the ice if they go two man advantages without a goal but they sure know how to honour greatness and the five-minute eruption that will ensue Saturday evening will prove it.

So long, Georges…

During Wednesday night’s game on TSN between the Habs and the St. Louis Blues, analyst Pierre McGuire was livid as to why Georges Laraque was not dressed to play against the league’s leader in team fighting.

At the time, my answer was, “Because he wouldn’t fight anyone anyway, unless maybe they continuously told him tofu sucks.” As it turns out, Bob Gainey’s answer was, “Because we would rather pay you your full salary to go anywhere but here, than let you pull that historical sweater over your slow, talentless shoulders one more time.”

Paraphrased of course.

Initially I didn’t know what to think. Most everyone knows now that Laraque’s family is from Haiti and this has been a very hard period of time for him. At first that was all I thought about; how could they do this now? But after a few minutes of thinking about that I realized the move was a long time coming.

Gainey even said in a press conference afterward they had a day picked out last week but external circumstances prevented them from going through. Good of them to hold off but you have to ask yourself: How badly do the Habs not want Laraque around if they deem a whole week to be enough grieving period for his home country?

He was really angry at first and called the organization “classless” but has since calmed down and put things into perspective. Laraque says he’ll be back in the NHL someday soon but will take this time now to focus on raising money for Haiti relief.

The Habs will go back to getting pushed around by other teams, while all their offensive-minded personnel are busy playing a defensive “system” that makes me wish I could be watching something less boring and drawn out, like one of my niece’s dance recitals.

Speaking of pushing around…

Mike Cammalleri was ready to take his frustrations out on teammate Max Lapierre at practice yesterday, with a camera catching the Squid attempting to get at the young fourth-liner. My only question at the time was why was Travis Moen trying to stop Cammalleri from knocking Laps flat?

After following up his breakout ‘08/’09 season with a whopping eight points and -12 rating thus far, I’m pretty sure getting absolutely waxed by someone 5’9” and 182 lbs could only be seen as a positive.

This is actually the second time the Squid has gone after a teammate at practice this season, with Josh Gorges falling victim earlier in the year. I guarantee there will be some geniuses out there, who will start to question Cammalleri as a teammate and wonder if he’s a problem in the dressing room.

I personally would like to allow him free access to pick any 10 underachieving members of this hockey team, players or coaches, line them up and punch them each square in the face.

Or maybe they can try going bowling, hey Carbo?

Lastly…

To all those fans and critics who blame every single goal and every single loss on goaltending, please stop taking up precious Internet space. Honestly, when you know THAT little about hockey but feel you just have to speak up, I’d rather you just yell, “Touchdown!” after every goal and then tighten the strap on your helmet.

A dark time for hockey?? Let’s reel it in a little folks…

Posted in Drug Testing, Fighting, Head shots, Injuries, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Patrice Cormier on January 20, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

OK I know I’ve been pretty hard on Patrice Cormier this week and made it clear these head shots HAVE to be curbed for the better of the game and blah, blah, blah. But all this talk of dark days and disgracing the game and black marks on the game and so on, is getting ridiculous.

I know Cormier’s hit came just days after a less-reported hit in the Ontario Hockey League, when the Windsor Spitfires Zack Kassian left his feet to blindside the Barrie Colts Matt Kennedy. Footage here:

And I know the NHL just suspended Andy Sutton – and rightly so – two games for his brutal check-from-behind on Pascal Dupuis. Seen here (warning, not nice):

But, as gut-wrenching as these hits were and as savage an elbow as Cormier laid, are these all blemishes of hockey’s good name compared to other sports, or just in comparison to hockey? My point being:

Is all this comparable to, let’s say, Marty McSorley two-handing Donald Brashear in the side of the head, one of hockey’s most infamous moments?

Maybe. Probably not but, for argument’s sake, maybe.

So if we’re comparing the last two weeks to other moments in hockey’s history, then I’m not going to get worked up. But if anyone takes these dirty hits and uses them as excuses to call hockey a disgrace against other pro sports, then we have a problem here.

Is Cormier’s elbow still a “black mark” for hockey when put up against an athlete accidentally shooting himself in the leg? I didn’t think so either. How about doggy death matches in the back yard? No to that too then? So I guess we can safely scratch football off the list.

How does Cormier’s hit stack up against pulling a gun on a teammate? I’m thinking not at all but I’ll respect your opinion as well. How about that teammate returning the favour? Closer for sure but still not there yet. What about a referee gambling on games he officiates? Still a bit off? Well I guess that excuses basketball.

And lastly, does an elbow thrown by one 19-year-old shmuck still go down as a dark moment in hockey’s history when compared to a sport where only 11 guys in the last 20 years could find the field without intravenously-injecting a cement-truck-full of horse steroids?

I’m totally on the fence on this one, so I’ll let you decide.

In the meantime, let’s remember that hockey is still great, even with the constant risk of bodily harm. And almost all of those making it to the pros are informed of the contact beforehand.