Saturday, August 30, 2008

Good peoplewatching at DragonCon

This morning was the DragonCon parade. It's a national sci-fi convention that's held every Labor Day in Atlanta. I don't know what most of the stuff is that they dress up as, but it's good peoplewatching.

Is it just me, or does he look like he's texting?

There's always lots of Stormtroopers.

And a group of Stormtroopers who make their costumes out of boxes, cuz it's funnier that way.

Even the crowd dresses up. This little guy in front of me came as Jango Fett plus bag for candy. The parading Jango Fetts came and high fived him as they walked by. When the Netherworld Haunted House people walked by, a scary guy came over to the boy and yelled "Back in line!" He backed up.

There's always a sizable number of paraders who shouldn't be wearing what they are wearing.

Not all of them though.

Do you think Superman skates? Look at those thighs.

Had to include a shot of those who do skate -- the Atlanta Rollergirls.

None of them beat the best costume from last year. A guy marched who was a dead ringer for George Lucas. He wore jeans, a brown leather jacket, and carried a Starbucks cup. It was hilarious.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Machacek a guest coach for Giants

Thrashers prospect Spencer Machacek was an alumni guest coach in an intrasquad game for his former team the Vancouver Giants this week.

Ladner BC - The Giants wrapped up training camp this evening with the Annual Black and White Game. This year the Giants have changed the format to include Alumni as guest coaches. Former Giants Captain Brett Festerling and Team Black scored four times in the second period en route to a 4-2 win over the Team White Squad, led behind the bench by former Captain Spencer Machacek and Boston Bruins forward and Giants fan favourite Milan Lucic.

The thought of Machacek coaching makes me chuckle, just because he's so young looking. There really should be a photo gallery for this. The one photo on the Giants website is just of Festerling (I think). Machacek worked out in Vancouver all summer, one of several "gym junkies."

Meanwhile, Riley Holzapfel will practice with his old team the Moose Jaw Warriors before reporting to Thrashers camp. Keaton Ellerby and Ty Wishart are other 20-year-olds who will practice before heading off to play pro.

And Grant Lewis is practicing with a group of pros in LA for a few more days. I believe he'll be in Traverse City, as will Gladiators coach Jeff Pyle.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back from vacation tidbits

Summertime thought: don't you find that gazing out at the water...

Is equally seductive as gazing on a newly-Zambonied sheet of ice?

It may seem quiet right now, but there's lots going on to prepare for next season. At HF, we're having a meeting tomorrow to discuss coverage for next season. How much change there will be is an open question. Some have noticed the boards were slow today. The admin said "The majority of the slow loading seems to be Firefox 3.x related." So if you have trouble, try another browser for now.

According to USA Today, former Thrasher Mark Popovic will sign with a Russian team. The writing was on the wall for his departure at the end of the season, so I went ahead and said a proper goodbye to him then. He was always really good to me over the years. I first saw him play in Cincinnati before he was traded to the Thrashers and thought he was underrated. I hope he succeeds wherever he goes.

Lyon Messier, son of Mark Messier, will be an invitee on the NY Rangers team for the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. The Thrashers roster will look a lot like the group who came to prospect camp this July minus the Europeans.

The QMJHL will not ban fighting. For a league that is already kind of the red-headed stepchild of the CHL for not producing as many NHL players, this is probably a good move to stay in step with what the others do.

MONTREAL — There will be tougher sanctions on brawling, but no outright ban on fighting in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.

A committee examining hockey violence following a melee during the playoffs in the spring did not include an automatic ejection for fighting ...

Instead, it calls for stiffer penalties for brawling and other acts of "gratuitous violence,"' for files to be kept on repeat offenders, better support for players, coaches and officials and an anti-violence campaign.

And in a story near and dear to my heart, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld says he has a problem with journalists...

“Only if they are really stupid, or if they’ve got bad breath, or if they smell. Yesterday [at the Chanel couture show] I had a problem. I said, ‘I’m sorry, you’ve got to tell this woman that she needs to be taken away. Her smell is not possible.’”

Note to self: stock up on fragrance if moving from covering hockey players to fashion designers. The entire interview with Lagerfeld is a hoot, by the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Material GM

Today Thrashers GM Don Waddell celebrates his 50th birthday and joins the ranks of the half century club, which this week also welcomed Madonna.

It's not often you have occasion to put those two names in the same sentence.

Photoshopping by Jonathan Peterson.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thrashers Traverse City Prospects Tournament schedule

This eight-team prospects tournament is broken into two conferences, East and West. The Thrashers are joined by Tampa Bay, NY Rangers and Detroit in the Eastern Conference. They will play each of those teams, plus one Western team depending on how they do in the other games. Dallas is the new entrant this year.

Sept. 12 - practice
Sept. 13 - vs. Tampa at 3pm
Sept. 14 - vs. NY Rangers 2:30pm
Sept. 15 - practice
Sept. 16 - vs. Detroit 7pm
Sept. 17 - finals, 2pm to 6:30pm. The format is 4th in West vs. 4th in East, etc.

Hockey's Future will have daily coverage of the tournament as a whole via our NY Rangers writer. No there is no radio coverage.

All players under Thrashers contract and some select invitees will then fly back to Atlanta for main camp.

Berkhoel signs with WBS

I've been trying unsuccessfully to work this in for two days, so I'll go ahead and post it on its own. The main reason I found this signing of Adam Berkhoel with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton interesting is that he could end up with ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers -- the place where former Thrasher prospects go to die it seems. Both Lane Manson and Mike Vannelli retired shortly after being sent to Wheeling.

Assuming M-A Fleury and Dany Sabourin are in Pittsburgh, that will leave John Curry, David Brown and Curtis Darling as competitors for Berkhoel. That's a lot of goalies. Berkhoel played last year with the ECHL Dayton Bombers and AHL Grand Rapids Griffins.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Desire trumps talent in climb to the NHL

This is something I see over and over in covering prospects. But it's hard to demonstrate well, so I was glad to come across these two stories to show as extreme examples.

Contrast these players -- one a highly-skilled player with WHL teams competing for his services, and the other one a tough guy who was cut from his junior team. In the end, which one do you think will have made it?

The high talent with low desire:

[W]ith the bright lights of the Western Hockey League staring him in the face – not to mention the dream of a potential NHL career after that – highly touted prospect Brandon Regier has made a stunning decision to hang up his skates.

The 16-year-old Abbotsford product recently informed the Brandon Wheat Kings, who made him a first round bantam draft pick in the spring of 2007, that he doesn’t intend to play hockey this year – not in the WHL, not on any other junior circuit, not even in the local men’s league. And while Regier hasn’t completely closed the door on returning to the game, it sounds for all the world like he’s done with hockey for good.

“It’s never been my favourite thing to do in the world,” he told The News on Tuesday. “Everyone’s telling me they hope I change my mind.

“But I haven’t been on the ice since March, and I haven’t missed it at all.”

And the low talent with high desire:

I got on a bus when I was 17 to go play junior hockey and I actually got cut from the team. The next day, I showed up at practice with my equipment on and went on the ice and skated around with the team. The coach skated over to me and said, ‘Hey Archie, I thought I cut you yesterday?’ I looked at him and said, ‘You did coach. But that was yesterday!’ I went on to play 700 pro games.

Viability of the Russian sports market (read KHL)

This is something I've been meaning to post for a while, but now that it's getting ugly between the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and the NHL, it's particularly appropriate.

Whenever people talk about how much of a threat the KHL really is to the NHL, inevitably the question is raised of how many people are actually going to Russian games, because that shows long-term viability. We know a lot of money is being invested, but that won't last if there are not enough fans. Attendance is not very high now, but that could change quickly, if the trends in the feature below continue.

From a BusinessWeek special report:

[F]or the foreseeable future at least, few investors in Russian sports can expect to turn a profit. The size of the investments means most Russian soccer clubs still run at a big loss. And Russia has a long way to go before sports enthusiasm reaches the levels seen in the West. "The popularity of sport here is not comparable to Europe and especially the U.S.," says Sportima's Krasnov. "After the collapse of the Soviet Union it was a hard time, and people didn't have much time to think about sport."

That's starting to change. As incomes rise, and the corporate investments of recent years pay off in the form of greater success on the field, public interest in sports is rising. The current Euro 2008 championship is a case in point. According to TNS-Gallup, 67% of Russian adults watched the Russia-Sweden match on June 18, establishing a new record for any Russian television broadcast (even beating the President's annual New Year address). In comparison, the 2004 European soccer championship was followed by just 40% of the population.

The report seems convincing that spectator sports are on the upswing. It would be interesting to see some numbers on how hockey compares to soccer.

I came across another story that reminded me of the NHL-KHL struggle, this time between Hockey Canada and some upstart leagues. The most interesting wrinkle is that US colleges are now recruiting out of these new leagues. Something to keep an eye on.

Hockey Canada’s warning that it will punish players who sign on with so-called “outlaw” leagues has piqued the interest of the Canadian Competition Bureau, The Journal has learned...

For the players in the GMHL, the sanctions work in their favour. According to Russell, Hockey Canada has told the U.S. Colleges to go to the GMHL when looking for players, since athletes are now restricted from playing Junior for twelve months following a season in a non-sanctioned league. “The Colleges like it,” said Russell, adding the Lakers received seven College offers this year for players who couldn’t catch on elsewhere.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My first baseball non-fight

I only go to two or three baseball games a year, so the likelihood of me seeing anything memorable is low. But at tonight's Braves/Cubs game, I saw three rare events: Mark Kotsay hit for the cycle (the first Brave to do so in over 20 years), Jeff Francoeur hit a homerun (the way he's been batting this year that's really something), and a bench-clearing ... um, event.

A Braves batter was hit by a pitch, and walked a few steps and pointed towards the mound to give it to the pitcher. Players converge, the dugout empties onto the field, the umpires run interference, and -- this is the part that got me laughing my ass off -- both bullpens come running in. I think they were just bored. No punches were thrown, everyone stayed on their side of the confrontation line. It was really just a team gathering. All making it, from a hockey person's standpoint, funny enough to be worth the price of admission.

Rules: Length of rights of draft picks in the NHL

Thank you to reader Tony for asking about the retention of draft picks. It's a good topic for a post. This area is more complicated than one would expect, and it's timely because tomorrow is one of the deadlines. How long a team retains the right of a draft pick is determined by what kind of league the player comes from: college, junior or European. The rules are found in Article 8 of the CBA (8.6 to be exact).

The rights of college players last until Aug. 15 of the year that the player's class graduates. If the player leaves school early, the team still holds his right for four years from the year of drafting (deadline to sign changes from Aug. 15 to June 1). This rule is designed to avoid players leaving school early and playing in the minors so that they can become free agents (see: Mike Van Ryn). The deadline to sign all of them used to be in June, but they moved it to August, which gives more leverage to teams I think because it's hard to find a job this late in the offseason. The rules above also applies to college-bound players, as long as they enter college within a year of being drafted. Blake Wheeler entered college two years after being drafted, which allowed him to become a free agent this summer and sign with whoever he wanted, which obviously was not Phoenix.

The rights of players drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League are retained for two years. The deadline to sign them is June 1. If they are not signed, then they generally go back into the draft. The exceptions here are for older draftees, but generally speaking this is what happens.

The rights of players drafted out of European leagues are supposed to be for two years to match the junior players (the CHL pressed for this in the last CBA because they thought junior players were being underrepresented in the draft). This worked fine for the first couple of years after the 2005 CBA until the IIHF agreement fell apart. Now, since there is no IIHF agreement, the NHL has decreed that the unsigned European draft picks are all "defected" and thus teams retain the rights until it says so. We're kind of in a holding pattern now. As this drags out, reality drifts back to the previous CBA timelines which held rights through a player's prime years.

But the Canadian junior leagues certainly got what they wanted in any case -- fewer Europeans and more junior players are being drafted. And now they're talking about eliminating Europeans from play in their own leagues. If that happened, the consequences would be huge. But it seems unlikely to happen due to the amount of money involved right now. But that's a topic perhaps for another time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Road signage

The fact that Congregation Beth Jacob is an Orthodox congregation makes it even more amusing.

Bruce Graham signs with Gladiators

In the first "name" signing of the summer, the Gwinnett Gladiators have brought in former NY Rangers prospect Bruce Graham, a 6'6 center. The 22-year-old was let go by the Rangers after his entry-level deal expired this summer. During his time with the Rangers, he spent time with ECHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers, a division rival of the Gladiators. Graham played his junior hockey with his hometown Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL.

Hometown paper story.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rules: Entry-level contracts

Very soon, Zach Bogosian's contract signing will be announced. We already know several things about what that contract will look like, just from reading the CBA.
1. He will be paid a maximum of $875,000 in base pay. It's rare that first rounders don't get the max.
2. His signing bonus cannot be higher than 10% of his pay (including bonus)
3. Performance bonuses could top the total out at about $3.7 million
4. The contract will be for three years, because he's 18

The last point is the focus of this post about rules. Whenever a deal is signed, people inevitably will ask how long it's for. Well, it's not a mystery, nor negotiable, when it's an entry-level contract. There's a chart in the CBA (Article 9) that says exactly how long the contract is for. Entry-level deals are for a pre-determined number of years depending on the player's age at the time of the deal. All of this is unchanged from the previous CBA.

Age (on Sept 15) ......... Years of contract
18-21 ..............................3 years
22-23 ..............................2 years
24 ..................................1 year
25 and older ..................No required number (unless European*)

The rules are supposed to protect rookies, to give them time to develop while under contract. The biggest complaint with it is that teams often want to sign older rookies to longer deals, but are hamstrung by the CBA.

*Europeans have additional stipulations, in that players aged 25-27 are still subject to the entry-system for one year. Ilya Nikulin would have fallen into this for 2008, but would not in 2009, since he will then be 28. (Currently, the Thrashers indefinitely retain his NHL rights due to the lack of IIHF agreement. If a deal is signed sometime before next fall, Nikulin would likely be a free agent, per NHL rules.)

After the entry-level contract is over, a team can sign a player for as many years as it wishes. Insert your own Rick DiPietro jokes here.

Because of the rookie maximums on salary and bonuses, there's not much that's negotiable in an entry-level deal. This actually makes signing first-rounders rather easy for teams to do, if the team thinks the player is worth it. If they do not think the player is worth it, they can release the player back into the draft and receive a second-round pick as compensation. The Minnesota Wild did this in 2007with A.J. Thelen, who is now on a tryout in Austria.

Entry-level contracts are all also two-way deals, meaning there is a different salary paid in the AHL than the NHL. And this is capped as well. A player drafted in 2006 can be paid a maximum of $62,500 in the AHL (I picked that year instead of the current year because those are the guys who are mostly turning pro this year.) Entry-level players can also be sent to the ECHL at any time, no consent necessary.

This ends today's reading from the CBA. Peace be with you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reading material, mostly hockey related

I've been poking around the far corners of the internet lately -- with a purpose, though you won't be able to tell from this smattering of what I happened across.

First, there's a good rumor that the AHL will use the same web streaming company that the NHL used last year, NeuLion, which is owned at least partially by Charles Wang of the Islanders. This is good news because the former provider, B2 Networks, left a lot to be desired. I'm interested to see if you have to pay per game, per year, or if it's ad supported. Here's an announcement PDF from the NHL last year that gives some background on what they do.

I've been watching more of the Olympics than I expected. I was fortunate to see the swimming relay win live, which was amazing. Also saw Latvia beat the US in beach volleyball. I'm sure Artie Kulda & Co. were happy about that one. Going in, I was most looking forward to Joe Posnanski's blog posts from Beijing. They've been good, but I wish he didn't talk baseball in the last one. He can do that anytime.

Talking about Beijing leads us right back to Canada, where China's pollution is melting Canada's arctic. Besides pollution, lots of immigrants are also coming to Canada. The country admits plans to brainwash them upon arrival.

"The majority of people who come here want to become Canadians and we have to convince them that playing hockey is part of being Canadian."

In America, we want immigrants to learn English. In Canada, they want them to play hockey. Speaking is optional.

A Belfast couple bought half of their local hockey team, the Belfast Giants. Yes, that's Belfast, Northern Ireland. If you've never read anything about the team, I recommend doing so. It's heartwarming how sports can bring disparate groups together.

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has a blog, and I found this entry interesting.
When the NHL was in lockout, I had a debate with a well-respected newspaper editor. The debate focused on whether it was better to own a professional sports team or a newspaper in the town that you lived in. At the time, this editor basically posited to me that the NHL was “dead as a doornail” and that there was no real consumer interest in hockey. I posited that we were getting our game restructured and that hockey was a global game. Its interest level was growing with young people and that we would lead in digital delivery of our content and services. I bet him that in less than five years that all of our growth arrows would be green and all of his growth arrows would be in the red.

I'd say Ted wins this one walking away.

Good thing the Thrashers third jerseys are rumored to be a dark red. A story came out today where psychologists found that red-clad sportmen are favored by referees. Any team spending close to the salary floor needs all the help it can get.

In case you haven't heard, men wearing pantyhose -- mantyhose -- is catching on. I ask how come this puck fan headgear never caught on?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Construction of new arena in Pittsburgh begins this week

Finally. They've only needed a new arena forever. The Igloo (Mellon to most) is 47 years old, and it definitely feels it. It's cramped, dark, no frills whatsoever, and a lot of seats have some kind of obstruction to the view. I've been to seven NHL arenas, and eight AHL arenas, and all of the AHL arenas, save perhaps Allstate, were nicer than the Igloo inside. The AHL Hershey Bears for sure have nicer digs, which stands out in particular because it's in-state. The Igloo still impresses from the outside though, with the round dome and setting on a hill.

Years ago they retrofitted additional seats into the Igloo by suspending them from the ceiling. I've sat in those seats -- it's a little scary. And how they meet fire code is a mystery.

I saw my first NHL game there, at an age too young to really remember it. And during college I would get the student rush tickets, which were a great deal. They probably don't have too many of them left over anymore though. Despite the fond memories, I'm not sad to see it go. It's too long overdue.

Anyway, happy new construction to the city. The official groundbreaking is Thursday and we look forward to puck drop in 2010.

And in what turned out to be a related topic, here's a fun question from a Q&A with Pens prospect Ben Lovejoy:

HF: From my understanding, your former teammate and Pittsburgh native Grant Lewis is quite the gamer, is there any videogame that you can play better?

BL: He plays all video games better than I do. I don’t play any, and he is sort of a connoisseur. That guy loves the city of Pittsburgh more than anyone else I know loves their hometown.

Did I put Ian up to asking that? Yep. The funny thing is that I wasn't even thinking about Grant being from Pittsburgh. I just thought of it because they played together at Dartmouth.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Players under contract 2008-09 and reserve list

By request, here's a list of the players the Atlanta Thrashers have under contract. Currently 44 players are signed for next year. Newly-drafted defenseman Zach Bogosian is still unsigned. I would expect that one to be done shortly. He wraps up USA national team camp this weekend. There are four goaltenders under contract, but I expect one more to be signed. The organization lost out on college free agent Peter Mannino, who signed with the Islanders, but it would likely be someone else of that vein (turning pro). Note, this doesn't necessarily mean that they will send two to the Chicago Wolves. It's entirely possible that one or two prospects could be assigned somewhere at the AA level that is not Gwinnett.

Signing Bogosian and another goalie would bring the Thrashers up to 46 contracts, leaving a bit of room under the 50-contract limit for flexibility. Below the contracted players are those on the 90-player reserve list.

Players under contract 2008-09

Forwards (29)
# Player Height Weight DOB Age
Colby Armstrong 6' 2" 190 Nov 23, 1982 25
Eric Boulton 6' 1" 225 Aug 17, 1976 31
Erik Christensen 6' 1" 210 Dec 17, 1983 24
Ilya Kovalchuk 6' 1" 220 Apr 15, 1983 25
Vyacheslav Kozlov 5' 10" 190 May 3, 1972 36
Brad Larsen 6' 0" 210 Jun 28, 1977 31
Junior Lessard 5' 11" 191 May 26, 1980 28
Bryan Little 5' 11" 190 Nov 12, 1987 20
Eric Perrin 5' 9" 180 Nov 1, 1975 32
Marty Reasoner 6' 1" 202 Feb 26, 1977 31
Jim Slater 6' 0" 195 Dec 9, 1982 25
Chris Thorburn 6' 3" 225 Jun 3, 1983 25
Todd White 5' 10" 195 May 21, 1975 33
Jason Williams 5' 11" 194 Aug 11, 1980 27
Joseph Crabb 6' 1" 190 Apr 3, 1983 25
Angelo Esposito 6' 1" 180 Feb 20, 1989 19
Mike Hoffman 6' 5" 248 Sep 20, 1980 27
Riley Holzapfel 5' 11" 170 Aug 18, 1988 19
Rylan Kaip 6' 0" 175 Mar 19, 1984 24
Jordan LaVallee 6' 3" 225 May 11, 1986 22
Spencer Machacek 6' 1" 182 Oct 14, 1988 19
Joe Motzko 6' 0" 184 Mar 14, 1980 28
Chad Painchaud 5' 11" 190 May 27, 1986 22
Tomas Pospisil 6' 0" 185 Aug 25, 1987 20
Matthew Siddall 6' 1" 205 Sep 26, 1984 23
Brett Sterling 5' 7" 180 Apr 24, 1984 24
Grant Stevenson 5' 11" 170 Oct 15, 1981 26
Myles Stoesz 6' 2" 197 Feb 15, 1987 21
Colin Stuart 6' 2" 205 Jul 8, 1982 26

Defensemen (11)
Tobias Enstrom 5' 10" 175 Nov 5, 1984 23
Garnet Exelby 6' 1" 210 Aug 16, 1981 26
Ron Hainsey 6' 3" 209 Mar 24, 1981 27
Niclas Havelid 6' 0" 200 Apr 12, 1973 35
Ken Klee 6' 1" 210 Apr 24, 1971 37
Chad Denny 6' 3" 210 Mar 27, 1987 21
Arturs Kulda 6' 2" 194 Jul 25, 1988 20
Scott Lehman 6' 1" 194 Jan 5, 1986 22
Grant Lewis 6' 3" 190 Jan 20, 1985 23
Nathan Oystrick 6' 0" 215 Dec 17, 1982 25
Boris Valabik 6' 7" 240 Feb 14, 1986 22

Goalies (4)
Johan Hedberg 6' 0" 185 May 5, 1973 35
Kari Lehtonen 6' 4" 205 Nov 16, 1983 24
Ondrej Pavelec 6' 2" 200 Aug 31, 1987 20
Dan Turple 6' 5" 215 Jan 1, 1985 23

Reserve List (total 66)
Forwards (14)
John Albert 5' 9" 180 Jan 19, 1989 19
Yuri Dobryshkin 6' 0" 189 Jul 19, 1979 29
Jonas Enlund 6' 0" 185 Nov 3, 1987 20
Michael Forney 6' 2" 185 May 14, 1988 20
Juraj Gracik 6' 3" 187 Aug 14, 1986 21
Andrew Kozek 5' 10" 175 May 26, 1986 22
Nicklas Lasu 5' 11" 176 Sep 16, 1989 18
Daultan Leveille 5' 11" 163 Aug 10, 1990 18
Denis Loginov 6' 1" 211 May 5, 1985 23
Niklas Lucenius 6' 0" 189 May 3, 1989 19
Jesse Martin 5' 11" 170 Sep 7, 1988 19
Danick Paquette 6' 0" 210 Jul 17, 1990 18
Vinny Saponari 6' 0" 179 Feb 15, 1990 18
Miikka Tuomainen 6' 3" 207 May 22, 1986 22

Defensemen (6)
Zach Bogosian 6' 2" 197 Jul 15, 1990 18 (expected to sign)
Ilya Nikulin 6' 3" 211 Mar 12, 1982 26
Will O'Neill 6' 0" 193 Apr 28, 1988 20
Paul Postma 6' 3" 173 Feb 22, 1989 19
Zach Redmond 6' 2" 197 Jul 26, 1988 20
Andrei Zubarev 6' 1" 202 Mar 3, 1987 21

Goalies (2)
Christopher Carrozzi 6' 3" 185 Mar 2, 1990 18
Alex Kangas 6' 2" 175 May 28, 1987 21

Note: Andre Deveaux is still listed on the Thrashers website, but he has been signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lasu scores hat trick in Lake Placid

During yesterday's 7-3 winS against USA Team White at the 2008 USA National Junior Evaluation Camp, Swede Nicklas Lasu scored not only three goals, but also two assists. This now puts him among the point leaders in the games. He's fearless in crashing the net, and has been continuing to hit at the camp. Here's a good photo of him at the net yesterday.

John Albert was among the 53 US players invited to camp, but he did not make the roster for either Team Blue or Team White. He participated in the intrasquad scrimmages, but not the exhibition games against Finland and Sweden.

Zach Bogosian and Vinny Saponari (USA), and Niklas Lucenius (Finland) are also at the camp.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Rules: 50-contract limit

As promised, I'll go over some more rules during August. Today, the 50-contract rule.

Every NHL team wants depth in order to deal with injuries and develop players. But teams are limited in the number of players they can sign to contracts per year to just 50. Over half of those 50 can't play for the NHL club at any given time though, since the NHL roster limit is 23. If a team uses all 50 contract slots, it's enough players to completely stock an NHL and AHL club, and have a few left over to send to the ECHL. Most teams do come close to the 50-contract limit, leaving just a little room for potential trades.

Occasionally someone will say that a team should "release" a contracted player. This isn't something that can be done in hockey, unfortunately, as it can in football. Contracts are guaranteed. Think of it like the law of conservation of energy.* Contracts cannot be destroyed during the year, they can only be bought out during a specified period in the offseason. Contracts "taking on different forms" is how you end up with players like Arturs Irbe playing in the ECHL -- the Hurricanes had no other way to get rid of him.

In addition to the 50 signed players, a team may have 40 more players it owns the rights to, but are currently unsigned, up to 90 total on what's called the "reserve list." (In the last CBA, the reserve list was 75, but this number was raised These players are draft picks, or restricted free agents who are holding out.

To tie this in to current events, there are some teams that still need to get to the salary floor for 2008-09. Signing more and more cheap players isn't going to get them there, because they'll run out of contracts. And they can't just give their current players more money either, since contracts cannot be renegotiated. This means they will have to trade their way up to the floor. With a salary floor of $40.7 million and a 23-man roster limit (minor leaguers don't figure in), a team needs the average salary per player to be at least $1.77 million. With a minimum salary of $475,000, you need a fair number of multi-million dollar salaries to balance it out. Parity of course is the goal, but the logic of the rules has the potential to lead teams into odd moves.

*The law of conservation of energy states that energy may neither be created nor destroyed. Energy in a system may take on various forms (e.g. kinetic, potential, heat, light). Therefore the sum of all the energies in the system is a constant.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bryan Little vs. Parliament

From the Barrie Advance:

Former Colts captain and junior world champion Bryan Little will be in the lineup of NHL stars, past and present, taking on a bunch of Members of Parliament, in an evening of entertainment aimed at helping build the Simcoe-Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre at Royal Victoria Hospital.

Only in Canada. When you think about the US equivalent of this event, it's funny to the point of being absurd. Nancy Pelosi on skates? Oh yeah, I'd pay to see that. Even getting state legislators on the ice would be a riot.

In the article, Little was asked his opinion on lots of topics, and he answered in his usual diplomatic way. Of particular interest:

On John Anderson: "He loves to win. Some coaches don’t show a lot of emotion, but you know that he loves to win, and, as a player, you want to win for him. He’s a player’s coach, and guys love playing for him.”

Rookies of the year

Playing solitaire til dawn with a deck of 51
Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.
-- Statler Brothers, Flowers on the Wall

Suddenly, I’m very busy again. More on what's changing later as details get worked out. It could be an example of 'be careful wishing for change because it may not be what you want,' or it could be good. We’ll see.

As for what I’ve been writing lately, it’s funny the things you’ll do when you’re procrastinating. Cleaning the bathtub suddenly looks very appealing. So did writing an article on next year's Calder Trophy race instead of the Thrashers Top 20 prospects. But do not fear, the Top 20 will come in the next week or two.

Regarding the Calder, there are no Thrasher rookies on the likely list. Of the logical candidates to make the team, Zach Bogosian has two things against him – he’s 18 and he’s a defenseman. The last newly-drafted defenseman to win the Calder was Bryan Berard in 1996-97. If Bogosian can outscore Berard straight out of the gates, more power to him. One could reasonably make the argument that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has a better chance than Bogosian, even though he’s slated to play in Chicago, due to the susceptibility to injury of starter Kari Lehtonen. Goaltenders have an easier time winning this award than defensemen. I would buy that argument, but not put my money there.

But my pick for the Calder is Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders. I saw him play for Univ. of Minnesota, and came away impressed. He played nine games in the NHL last year (25 is the limit for eligibility), and scored five points. Not bad. His college, AHL and NHL experience will all help him. He should get plenty of ice time too.

Other small items

Kevin Doell signed with Leksand. It’s important to note that this is the farm club level (2nd league) in Sweden, not the elite league.

The Buffalo Sabres signed Colton Fretter as soon as they hired Kevin Dineen as their AHL coach in Portland. (Dineen coached there last year too, but that was under Anaheim.)

Among the NHL and AHL, only the Islanders and Rochester coaching jobs remain unfilled.

Don't forget Project Runway is on tonight at 9pm on Bravo.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Something to get you through til camp

Personally I'm happy for August, the only month off in the hockey calendar. But for those who need a little hockey jones, and don't want to leave their computer, here's something that may help.

There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire, and a Zamboni clearing the ice." -- Charlie Brown

You can watch the Zamboni go around via a live web cam at Snoopy's Home Ice at The Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa, California. Peanuts creator Charles Schultz was a big hockey fan, as you could tell by how much he drew skating and Zambonis.