Random nonsense. But read it anyway.

Posted in Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers, Mike Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Nino Neiderreiter on October 4, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Cut down nerves aplenty

As thus-far-surviving NHL hopefuls everywhere sit on pins and needles today wondering if they will remain a member of the parent club or be sent back down to the minors to further their development, I thought it interesting to note I write this blog from the lounge/waiting room at Milestone Mazda in Lethbridge – awaiting an oil change on my girlfriend’s car.

Why is that worth mentioning you ask? Well this dealership just so happens to be owned by Barry and Doug Dubnyk, father and uncle of Oiler prospect Devan, who just so happens to be neck deep in that did-I-make-it feeling of pure nausea as I write to you.

They’re all hiding it well but I’m guessing that same sickness is plaguing much of the staff in this building. I spoke with Barry briefly, who is quietly confident but knows one of either his son or Jeff Deslauriers is likely to get the axe. He thinks this is Devan’s year.

So do I.

When the 6-foot-6 monster was drafted 14th overall by the Oilers in 2004 from the Kamloops Blazers, it was clear he was pegged by management for a career in blue and orange. He’s maybe not developed quite as fast as they had hoped but he has had some decent AHL numbers considering he has played on some awful teams.

In his longest season in the minors (62G with the Springfield Falcons), the club was so bad he compiled a record of 18-41-2. However, through all of that he still managed a .910 save percentage and a GAA under three, which is pretty remarkable considering how much attack he was obviously facing any given night.

Anyway, seeing as how the Oilers are obviously riding the youth movement – mostly because it’s the only movement they have that has a chance of actually moving – I would imagine no matter which one of the two goalies in question makes the Oilers, they will see some significant time.

That basically means it comes down to which one the Oilers see as their long term guy after the Bhulin Wall’s career finally topples. I would personally be partial to a 6-foot-6, 210 lb frame but I made that clear with my unwavering advocating of Carey Price long before you know who was traded.

I asked my buddy Evan (@nasty45)  — a massive Oil fan — what he thought and he said: “I’ve always been partial to JDD (Deslauriers) but I think they’re the same poison at the end of the day.”

Meaning: Either/or would be just fine.

*Update to this — Both Dubnyk and Deslauriers remained with the club after today’s cuts. However one more player must come off the roster by Wednesday and one can only imagine that will be one of the aforementioned goalies.*

A little love tap for a rookie

Quick thought on Mike Cammalleri’s slash of Nino Neiderreiter and subsequent one-game suspension: I’m not defending Cammy, nor am I saying he shouldn’t be reprimanded. But to me the poke to the face was worse than the slash, yet it gets MUCH less discussion. Meanwhile, the slash has been referred to as “Paul Bunyan-like.”

I know from experience adjectives can be hard to come by when you write everyday. But Cammy, who spends most of his time on the tongue of the media being referred to as a Smurf, never even took his back swing past his tiny little blue-skinned waist, so let’s ease up on the lumberjack references.

And since El Nino left the game with a bruised calf, can we agree to stop with the attempt-to-break-his-ankle crap? Mike Cammalleri does not = Bobby Clarke. So suspend him, fine him, hell, hold him down and let Nino slash him right back but please quit making the rookie a victim of a vicious attack. He got nipped in the lips and then smacked in the leg, leaving absolutely zero marks on his face and a bruise on his calf. No offense to Nino, who I’m positive is a tough kid, but if people keep talking about a bruise on his leg not named Charley as if it’s an injury, he’s going to look pretty silly.

He’s a rookie and a veteran reminded him of it. Sure Cammy was wrong and will pay $32,258.06 plus put his team down a superstar for opening night against the Leaves but I promise you Nino learned a lesson last night, one every budding star before him was also taught one way or another.

Lineup set, sorta

And lastly, to those who read this blog but couldn’t give a rats fat arse about which dozen millionaires will don Bleu, Blanc et Rouge and make up the Montreal Canadiéns’ starting forwards on Oct. 7, I vaguely understand your feelings, am somewhat remorseful and can halfheartedly vow this will be my last post regarding it.

But the final lineup has more or less materialized and it looks like we know who’s starting Thursday. Since Cammy is out, assume Lars Eller will take his spot and it’s going to look something like this:

Pouliot     Gomez     Gionta

Eller     Plekanec     Kostitsyn

Moen     Halpern     White/Darche

Pyatt     Boyd     Lapierre

I’d personally switch the third and fourth lines around and I’d no-doubt play White over Darche. So, how did you do with your picks? I was a lot closer than I thought I might be. Can this group win a road game in Toronto to open the season? Guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, there’s only one way to end a post this all over the map.

Challenge more than met.

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on September 30, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

The following is the results from what we hope to be the first of many blog ‘challenges’ where we all focus on one specific Habs topic to show our varying thoughts, as well as our undeniable genius as budding GM/coaches… 😉

A massive thanks goes out to everyone who participated, the response was more than I could have hoped! A special thanks to Kamal Panesar (@KamalPanesar), who blogs Habs for Habs Addict and Hockey Buzz for his added promotion of this challenge and to Steve Farnham (@stevofarnham) for indirectly inspiring me to pose the challenge in the first place.

We had tons of participation and tons of great ideas! We even had some go outside the box and bring in outside talent – my fault for not specifying otherwise – which only added to the great selection of ideas from fellow bloggers. So without wasting anymore of your time, here they are (mine is the first post after this one titled Zero need to rush). Enjoy all!

Who’s your starting 12?

Hey my name is Will (@heymynameiswill)

Bleu, Blanc, Rouge (@emann_222)

Habs Addict (@KamalPanesar)

Willey (guest on Habs Addict)

RobertPTome (@robertptome)

Habs Rants (@Cathie_AK27)

Hab it Her Way (@HabItHerWay

Czechtacular (@czechtacular)

Tyg (Guest on Habs Addict) (@Tygerlylly) Follow her personal blog here: Tyger by the Tail

Oh Habby Days (@guccipucciprada)

Cowhide and Rubber (@kyleroussel)

Habs Laughs (@HabsLaughs)

Lyse (From All Habs) (@touteparpillee)

George Prax (From The Checking Line) (@GeorgePrax)

ED of the Atrux Collective (@TheAbraxasCo)

*Newly Added – Don’t Miss*

All Habs Picks from their writing staff, including Steve Farnham, Lyse, Erica, Rick Stephens

Cokeaddict (@cokeaddict)

Habs and Hockey (@SeriousFan09)

Check back later as well for late straggler entries, of which I know at least two. Great work all!

If you’re not up here already, feel free to leave a comment below with your own starting 12! Go Habs Go!

Zero need to rush.

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on September 29, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Ok so I’m not going to waste time with a big introduction here, as this ‘challenge’ has attracted a fair amount of interest and we all have a lot of reading to do.

I asked the blogging world ­of the Montreal Canadiéns to all write a piece on the exact same topic, post them as well as submit them to me, and I would put them up on this site for quick access. Of course, I urge all who participated to link either my post with the links or the individual blogs by themselves to their own sites, because the entire idea here is to hear each other’s opinions and have a chance to discuss them.

The topic: Name YOUR starting 12 Habs forwards for game one on Oct. 7 in Toronto. Include two players wearing suits and anyone considered a ‘bubble’ player who you choose to send to Hamilton or elsewhere. Include line combinations and an explanation for why your choices were your choices.

So without further small talk, here is what Shmitzy Says the Habs would look like opening night if my opinion actually mattered one iota:

First off a Tweet to me yesterday stuck in my head when making this decision, which was, “Look at how many players have had great camps and wound up doing nothing.” That is so true, I thought. So what I have decided to do for opening night is not make any real decisions at all.

My lineup:

Line 1 — Andrei Kostitsyn, Thomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri

Line 2 — Benoit Pouliot, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta

Line 3 — Tom Pyatt, Lars Eller, Maxime Lapierre

Line 4 — Travis Moen, Dustin Boyd, Ryan White

Press Box — Jeff Halpern, Max Pacioretty

To Hamilton — Ben Maxwell

To Waivers — Mathieu Darche

OK so there it is, and now since I can feel the disagreement in your voices all the way over here, I offer my explanation.

My decision involving the first two lines wasn’t so much who played together as it was which of them would get top billing. I went with the Plekanec line for a couple of reasons.

The first being, no matter who led the team in goals last season and who gets paid the highest salary on the team, Cammalleri is my best sniper and Plekanec is my best all-around forward. The second is that Kostitsyn played himself out of my doghouse in the preseason, while my question mark on line 2 didn’t come close.

Which brings me to the second line. Clearly everyone who writes for this ‘challenge’ is going to pair Gomez and Gionta together but who they put on left wing will most definitely cause some debate. Benoit Pouliot most certainly did NOT earn a spot on the second line with his play in preseason, however – right or wrong – he didn’t get a raise in the offseason just so we could cut him loose based on exhibition play.

Besides, if I start cutting players who were ‘penciled in’ to certain positions during the summer, some fans might begin nagging me to exercise that power in goal…

Anyway, Pouliot gets a handful of games – five-10 depending on our record – to get his game going. If my mini experiment doesn’t work, he goes to waivers then. But at this point I still maintain the former fourth-overall pick has the skill set. He just needs the mindset.

My third line was also a no-brainer for me. Since I already decided to continue Pouliot’s evaluation into some games of meaning, I had to find a spot for my new budding star, Lars Eller. I believe Eller is going to be great and will in all likelihood be in the top-six by game 11 due to the Pouliot Plan, but until that happens he gets to play with a couple of sparkplugs, staying somewhat out of the limelight. The biggest NHL hurdle rookies tend to struggle with is the speed of the game. Playing with Pyatt and Lapierre would be like trying to run beside two fighter jets; I think he’d acclimatize fairly quickly.

As for my fourth line and press box dwellers, much like the case with Pouliot, training camp isn’t over for most of these guys. In an 82-game season, I am going to need more than 12 forwards anyway and so on one hand, I’d like to look at as many as I can for as long as I can. On the other hand, like the aforementioned quote from Twitter, a good camp does not a superstar make, so I want to see more of what guys like Ryan White and Max Pacioretty can do against top talent – when it counts – before I commit to them.

I platoon my bottom six for a good 10 games and take a real good look at all of them. So guys in the press box today — like Halpern and Pacioretty — are going to play in the next game, while two others sit, and so on. And I do it knowing the argument about how not playing every game makes it hard to be good consistently and blah, blah, blah… We’re talking about 10 games, not half a season. They’ll be fine.

If the young guys don’t pan out, they go back to the minors to develop and I get some role-playing veterans to sit in the press box. For any older player who doesn’t earn his spot on the ice, it’s either the press box or the waiver wire for them.

As for my cuts, Maxwell was the odd man out in my opinion because he plays centre and as shocked as I am to say it about the Habs, the boys are all set at centre for a while. I’m not giving up on him yet though – unless he asks for a trade – because I want the depth in my back pocket in case something happens to one of the roster players.

Darche hits waivers but I want to quickly say how great he played last year and how hard he worked. And I know I’m likely going to need a veteran to sit in the press box without complaint – which he’d no doubt do – but I have absolutely no place to put him for at least a month and it’s just not fair to him to drag him along and ignore him.

So there you have it. Like I said, I decided to take the decision part out of it and keep my options open. This way, if my lineup doesn’t work, I can make all the same decisions then that I could be making now. No real harm, no real foul.

But if it works, I have a very deep roster, with a ton of youth. And if guys like Jeff Halpern – who I’m not at all saying isn’t good – end up feeling left out, then I’m simply alienating a guy who has no chance of playing here next year anyway.

I think I’ll be able to pick up the pieces and move on. 😉

Thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to reading what you all chose as well!

A challenge to Habs bloggers…

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on September 28, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

OK here’s what I want you to do. This afternoon, into the evening, I was involved in quite a discussion about the situation with forwards on the Montreal Canadiéns heading into the upcoming season and figure it’s something we should all have our say on.

There is no denying with how the preseason has played out that at least a couple of players who are either signed to one-way deals or played well enough to deserve a spot, are going to Hamilton or worse.

What I’d like to do is all write our own pieces on who WE would take as our starting 12 forwards for opening night. This is what YOU would do, not what you think will happen.

Your piece should include line combinations for those 12, as well as two names who will be in the press box. You will no doubt be cutting a few players from your roster, which will need explanation so make sure you also say why your bubble players are either in or out.

Deadline will be 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Post to your own websites obviously but if you send me your link on Twitter, I will post it on this blog as well. That goes for those in my blogroll too, as I’ll post them in the content section as well.

Anyway, it’s been a great debate today already and I know you all have an opinion, so we want to hear it.

Tweet me if you have any other questions @shmitzysays. We’ll be discussing them Thursday night and beyond.

Do it. 😉

It’s not that you’re wrong. It’s that you’re not right.

Posted in Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens, NHL on September 27, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Let’s talk about booing.

I tried desperately to avoid this because it’s just been talked to death since the Montreal Canadiéns played their first exhibition game last week. I SHOULD be writing my tribute to Uncle Sam I promised my sister and brother in law after our recent trip to California. But after the ticket-holding rejects who contain their boos like an 18-year-old boy contains his wad received journalistic backing from the Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd today, I simply have to weigh in.

I wouldn't sit down either if I had the hottest seat in the league.

Todd’s argument – like most out there – essentially revolved around a fan’s right to boo because they have paid “through the nose” to get their seats. Truthfully, he makes a great case; they absolutely pay through at least some hole in their body to be there and once they get there, freedom of speech gives them all kinds of rights.

Meanwhile, a fellow blogger  – The Active Stick – made a great argument in retort to that a few days ago (before Todd’s piece) by defending the true fan’s right to not be incessantly annoyed by a small band of idiots while they are trying to enjoy their own paid-through-an-orifice ticket.

She too is totally right. The idiots are bothersome and it’s not fair to the rest of us.

So in a dispute where both sides are right, where does that leave us? To me, that leaves the side with the best ability to display logic beyond what is deemed correct as the victor.

So here’s my logic:

There are two versions of thought regarding the Habs’ goaltending situation – there are variations and subcategories but they all basically stem from two places.

The first is that Halak is about to be a superstar and not only did the Habs keep a bust instead, they also pulled the trigger too early to get full market value for the parting hero.

The second is that business in the 2010 NHL simply takes decision making to a level well beyond what most fans comprehend and one of the two goalies had to go. When it was deemed Halak would cost too much, he was shipped out for a player EVERY scout in hockey would agree is close to being a top-six forward already. The team was able to make this choice because the kid waiting in the wings to take over between the pipes has the potential to be as good as anyone alive.

There are entire blogs one could add to each of those sides but the gist is all there: Either Halak is great and Price sucks. Or it all works out and the world is sunshine and roses.

And while both sides have some compelling arguments to make, I can assure not one person from either contingent can say for sure which way this will all go. So even though it’s clear which side of the fence I reside on, I am not going to tell anyone not to boo No. 31.

I just want to ask those fans why they would rather see the team they claim to love lose games and be embarrassed in the media? You see, I may not be able to prove yet that my side is right – only the future can do that – but I don’t need to direct you to too many informational websites to get confirmation that constant booing and heckling affects athletes in a negative way.

For the dummies: the only results booing will get is further bad play.

That’s not to say every athlete who gets booed by his own fans is affected by it, I’m just saying I bet you can’t show me a single documented case where fans hating their own player so much that they’ll boo him in the freakin’ preseason has made that player better or helped lead the team to success.

So yes, you have all the rights in the world to boo and heckle whoever you want once you’ve purchased a ticket. Just tell me why you choose to not only aid the opposition by sabotaging your own players but actually pay good, hard-earned money to do it.

Would you rather they lose just so you can be right? Would it make you feel better if Carey ends up the next Dan Blackburn? Does it fix your problems if Halak wins the Cup in St. Louis? Because if the answer is yes to any of that, let me remind you the money you’re spending in tickets aren’t like taxes. You don’t HAVE to part ways with it.

But I actually believe all this booing – and bitching and whining – is just the thick passion of certain people, who can’t stop horribly butchering it with hatred. I believe the whole lot of you would be the first voices lost singing Olé Olé Olé during Price’s first win, defending it by saying you “love” your team. So if you love your team, as you’d all claim to do, and you want to help them and not hurt them, the next time you’re overwhelmed with the urge to boo in the Bell Centre, maybe try this instead:

Stop. Sit down. Remove your shoe. Remove your sock. Roll up your sock. Jam your mouth as full as you can with your sock. Gag on your sock.

(I said I wouldn’t tell you not to boo, I didn’t say I wouldn’t suggest an alternative.)

Price’s shaky play right now is almost certainly due to a lack of confidence. So while the games don’t mean anything whatsoever, why not try instilling some into him? Don’t worry you can all still unjustly crucify the kid once the season has started.

I still say it. But with more of a whisper.

Posted in CFL, Saskatchewan Roughriders on September 24, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

I feel compelled to write.

It’s likely I should be choosing the growing pile of paid assignments I have to do today but I don’t feel very local-country-western-star-headlines-Oktoberfest or junior-varsity-football-team-looks-to-be-competitive-this-season at this moment so I’m going to post.

I’m told summer is over – even though it’s warmer outside right now than I remember any day this whole year – and I’m noticing other bloggers throwing up posts nearly everyday, so I figure I better join the brigade or be forgotten forever.

That, and someone said I was illiterate. Of course, he also said I was a punk, who needed to learn some manners and admit when I’m wrong, but if I wrote every time I was offered that advice, I’d have no time to be a punk with no manners who always has to be right.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting couple of months for the sporting world since I last wrote a regular blog and there is so much I could potentially talk about.

Off the bat I probably owe some sort of explanation for my last blog, which all but guaranteed something like 16-2 for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and an automatic birth in the Grey Cup. I’m not completely backing off my early predictions (I still think they are better than Calgary, DK) but I definitely need to acknowledge the aspects of the game I clearly never took into account.

First of all, it’s no stretch to admit the Riders have the worst special teams one could possibly assemble. The return game is worse than embarrassing and the coverage team is so terrible, the coaching staff will apparently attempt a freakin’ punt to win a game before risking what might happen if Luca Congi misses from 35 yards out.

Which brings me to the team’s biggest problem. Even before the latest gaff, my pop and I had this coaching staff pegged as a serious hindrance. With nothing really against Ken Miller, who has done nothing but win and can unify a room like I’ve never seen, his support crew doesn’t look so up to the challenge and – worst of all –they seem to be able to sway the boss toward the wrong side of the sanity line.

Special teams coordinator Jim Daley was obviously in Miller’s ear about trying the game-winning punt after the head coach had originally sent out the field goal unit.

Miller, as respectable and team oriented as he is, took responsibility for what was his call took to make. But if you ask me, when the camera showed his first reaction to the shanked punt, his facial expression was teeming with why-the-crap-did-I-just-let-that-go-down and holy-smokes-are-folks-gonna-be-pissed.

He says he’d make that call again in a heartbeat. I bet he’s lying.

But I’m not falling off the bandwagon, I still say they can catch Calgary and finish first. They have the Stamps once more at home and Calgary still has two dates with Montreal, while the Riders’ most difficult matchups are supposedly behind them.

This all goes straight to hell, of course, if they don’t learn to win on the road pretty quick, opportunities of which are upcoming in back-to-back away games in Hamilton and Toronto. If the team can’t figure out how to flex its talent against a couple of .500-ish teams, who sport mediocre-to-awful offences, then all bets are off.

But talent-wise, the Riders are just too potent a team to keep losing games they ought to win. As silly as it sounds since they’re already at four losses, I think they still have a shot to win 13 games.

I also think the Montreal Canadiéns are an obvious playoff team so I wouldn’t read much into what I have to say…

A post on that to come…

Yeah, I said it.

Posted in CFL, Saskatchewan Roughriders on July 15, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

In my 33 years alive on this planet I have never one time said what I’m about to say so to all you reading this, who are about to dismiss the following due to my loyal following of the team in question, I say relax, it doesn’t work like that here.

And trust me, in many ways, I’ll be just as appalled at this statement as you will be. Sure I’ve desired these words — no self-respecting green-bleeding Canadian would say otherwise — but I’ve never actually said them.

That is until now.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are without a doubt the best team in the CFL and there’s only one opponent in the whole bunch that even comes close.

I’ll admit I should have publicly announced these feelings on this blog before the season began — because rest assured I’ve had them since Nov. 29 of last year — but I was pretty busy ignoring my website for no particular good reason whatsoever and didn’t get around to it. But the boldness of this claim only loses a little merit after a 2-0 start when 16 games remain.

Because I’m not saying the Riders are going to have a good season and finish in first place in the West for the second-straight year. Who with half a brain isn’t saying that right now?

Let’s face it the Riders lost three players of huge significance — John Chick, Stevie Baggs and Rey Williams — and a fourth if you count the veteran leadership of Eddie Davis. But every team loses players to the NFL every season unless they totally suck. And the Riders lost not one player off an up-and-coming, potent offence and added more-than formidable replacements on defence in Barrin Simpson and Brent Hawkins.

So I’m not trying to join the masses by saying, ‘Well gee guys, the Riders sure have a swell squad this season.’

What I’m saying is by the end of this campaign — barring all kinds of injuries, which seem to have plagued this team throughout my life in ways that could only be laughed at, i.e. seven GD broken legs on starters in one GD year — the Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to be so far ahead of the rest of the West and any team in the East not rhyming with Flontreal that it’s going to be laughable.

Watching any other team so far this season has been nothing more than a showcase of who wants to lose more. The Riders, on the other hand, look like a well-oiled machine and when they get the ball, it just feels like they will score.

In about two plays and 90 yards I might add.

Let’s just look at the reality of this right now. The CFL is an offensive game. Period.

An offence is broken up into four categories essentially — quarterback, receivers, running backs and linemen — and the Green Machine is at or near the best in every category.

QB? So many will still say Darian Durant is fourth or fifth in the league right now but I think you’re kidding yourself if you don’t have him in your top-two already. Because this kid has NEVER ONCE shown a sign of cracking when it counts and he’s getting ridiculously smarter with every down.

Give him the best receiving corps in the league — sorry Ricky Ray, ya drunk, but it’s true — and easily the best O-line in the CFL with or without Wayne Smith — Bryan Chiu’s retirement from the Alouettes solidified it — and Durant will put up disgusting numbers against every team all year.

A running back tandem of Wes Cates and Hugh Charles might not be the absolute best duo possible but they’re both pretty flippin’ good and will never be tired EVER because they are only needed for a combined 15-20 touches a game.

Honestly, when you look at the starting 13, crap I mean 12 (sorry, standard Saskatchewanite error) it actually makes head coach Ken Miller’s goal of scoring 60 points in 60 minutes seem just a tad less senile. I’m willing to take any bet out there — with the stakes being an embarrassing act recorded and posted on this site — that the Riders amass the most total yards and most points in the league this season.

And it won’t be close.

Now, I’ll admit the defence’s 69 points against and sixth-ranked pass protection isn’t exactly something to brag about but most of that came against the aforementioned “team that comes even close” and most of THAT came in the first half of the first game of the year.

In week 2 Hawkins took the defensive player of the week honours in simply a precursor of a huge season to come. Simpson might not be Williams but he’s always been the best linebacker on whatever team he’s on so I don’t see that stopping now.

No one will run well against this front seven and I believe the defensive backs can only get better as the season progresses and even if they don’t they are the only weakness on the entire team.

With the best offence — by a long shot — and an up-and-coming defence full of unpredictable and confusing schemes I see just one game left on the entire schedule that I believe the Riders might enter as underdogs and that’s Aug. 6 in Montreal.

And that game will simply be a preview for the Grey Cup rematch every Rider fan wants (and needs).

If I were completely speaking as a fan in all this I would be making the cockiest statement of my sports-following life. And believe me, with every letter I type I’m becoming more and more sure this whole post will just turn out to be a death sentence for the team.

But I honestly don’t think I’m the only one out there thinking this right now and pretty sure that includes some non-Rider Priders as well. Because for once in my life they just might be THAT good.

They’re young, they’re fast, they’re deep, they’re extremely talented, and if you can even freakin’ believe it, they’re wearing green and white.