Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rumors of QMJHL trade for Esposito

From the Moncton Times & Transcript:

There's also rumours that Quebec has placed centre Angelo Esposito on the trade market. If he moves, he may be headed to his hometown Montreal Juniors who could be looking for a high-profile player as they prepare for their first season.

[Quebec head coach and general manager Patrick] Roy dismissed the talk, saying "They're all just rumours." Esposito, 19, has seen his production decline in each of his three QMJHL seasons. He had 69 points, including 30 goals, in 56 games this past season. That compares to 98 and 79 points in his first two seasons.

This would of course only mean a change in QMJHL rights, not NHL rights. The QMJHL is currently in a trade freeze until the day before their yearly draft, which will take place June 7.

The Montreal Juniors are a new team, as the St. John's Fog Devils move to the city. Montreal used to have junior hockey, the Montreal Rocket, but has had trouble supporting it in the past.

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald says it's the Juniors who are initiating the trade talks:

It’s also believed that Roy is listening to an aggressive pitch by the Montreal Juniors for forward Angelo Esposito. It seems Juniors owner Farrel Miller has targeted the 19-year-old Esposito to be the face of his franchise and is prepared to pay a handsome price to pry him away from the Remparts.

That has to be sweet music to Roy, who will gladly sit back and let the Juniors back up the truck for Esposito. Watch for this one to end well for the Remparts.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New AJC beat reporter will be Mike Knobler

So said an AJC internal memo today. Knobler is currently the Georgia Tech football writer.

Here's what the AJC internal newsletter said about him in March 2002 when he was hired:

Mike Knobler has joined us as a deputy Sports editor. He comes to us from The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., where he was a sports editor. Mike formerly worked for the Savannah News-Press. A native of Pasadena, Calif., Mike graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor’s in English and American literature and language. He’s an instrument-rated pilot, a two-time runner-up in the Worst Golfer
in Mississippi tournament and winner of the Jackson Generals Media hot dog eating contest.

Sounds like an interesting guy, but nothing in there screams hockey, does it? I did find a link to an 1983 column he wrote in The Harvard Crimson about Harvard's hockey team. And another story from 1984. (Harvard couldn't have been putting their student paper online all the way back in the 80's, could they? I'm guessing they did it later as an archival project.)

Here's a link to the AJC Tech page, you can probably find some of Knobler's work there, or maybe do a search on his name at

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Traverse City tourney dates

The Thrashers send a group of prospects virtually every year to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, hosted by the Detroit Red Wings in Traverse City, Michigan. The dates and teams for the 2008 tourney are now available.

The prospect tournament, which is scheduled for Sept. 13 to 17, will feature entries from the Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.

NHL training camps usually start a couple days later. From this we can see that camps will start almost a full week later this year.

RIP Luc Bourdon

Canucks rookie defenseman Luc Bourdon was killed today in a motorcycle crash. Thrasher fans are too familiar with this type of tragedy. Above is Bourdon in the only visit he made to Philips Arena.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Former player of Peter DeBoer talks about coach

At the ECHL finals this weekend, I was able to talk to someone who has played for Peter DeBoer, the GM/head coach of the Kitchener Rangers who is a candidate for the Atlanta Thrashers head coaching job. Ryan Donally, with the AHL Quad City Flames and ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers this year, spent parts of the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons playing under DeBoer.

There are plenty of people in the Thrashers organization who have either played with or for DeBoer, but in Donally, we have someone for whom DeBoer is only a former coach - not a former and potentially future coach - so he shouldn't have an agenda. And below you can see that indeed he wasn't bound to positive comments. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised by both the honesty and the content of his answers. Quite revealing by Donally, who I found to be bright and helpful. The 23-year-old winger is in his second year pro.

This is him below, eating a banana on the bench at morning skate. (He's currently out with a high ankle sprain and is only 50-50 for getting back this series.) I guess he's rooting for the Penguins in the SCF, based on the t-shirt.

First, to let you get to know Donally a little bit, here's what he had to say about former Kitchener teammate Boris Valabik, who we know well: "Boris is an unbelievable guy. I love Boris. He's kind of misunderstood. He's a big, mean, intense player, but you get him off the ice, he's a teddy bear with a great heart. He's awesome."

I asked if Donally had a favorite memory of Boris. He said, "I think one of the times we got into it at practice between each other and then we went out for dinner right after. It's one of those things - the shared intensity. I really hope he does well."

I then told Donally that I had seen him play for Omaha in Chicago last year when he fought Guillaume Desbiens. "Oh, I broke my nose that game," Donally said, remembering it all too well. Desbiens had told me after that game that Valabik had given him tips for fighting Donally beforehand. Naturally, I shared this information with Donally this weekend. "Did he? Oh geez," Donally said, eventually laughing. "I'll have remind Boris that I'm not a pushover."

Alright, now on to Donally's comments on DeBoer, which were actually the start of the conversation.

Me: What kind of guy is DeBoer?
Donally: He's a pretty tough-nosed coach. He tries to command respect out of... kind of showing he's boss. You know, that's his style of coaching. I spent about a year there with him. It was good for my development to go through an experience with a coach like Pete because there's a lot of coaches at higher levels who are hard-nosed guys.

Me: Where would he be on a scale of coaches you've had?
Donally: He's well-respected, he's educated. He knows the game. He's done a great job as a general manager at Kitchener too. Typically it's not the style of coaching that I like as much. I'd much rather be sat down and talked to face to face, man to man, as opposed to being yelled at. But everyone responds to different things. He's done a pretty good job with Kitchener right now and they seem to be responding to his teachings.

Me: Was everyone yelled at or were there any taken aside?
Donally: I think if you work hard for him, there's that mutual respect, but he's more of an intimidator as opposed to like a good friend.

Me: How about Xs and Os? Does he do a lot of that?
Donally: Yeah, he did some of that. Steve Spott, his assistant coach, he did most of that. They make a good duo together.

Me: Do you think he uses his assistant more than other coaches?
Donally: I don't know, you don't know what's going on behind the scenes.

Me: Do you think DeBoer will do well in the NHL?
Donally: If he gets an opportunity. It's a tough life there. The shelf life for a coach in the NHL is really not long. I guess if he can get them to respond to him, yeah. If he's put in an opportunity that he can prosper in, then yeah. But he could be put in a bad situation with not good characters - you never know how it ends up.

Me: What kind of team do you think he would be best for?
Donally: Probably a younger team. He's more of a motivator. The older players might kind of like a not as hard-nosed guy. They might prefer someone who's more face to face and not yelling. But dealing with 16 and 17-year-olds is one thing, dealing with 26, 27-year-olds - millionaire players - they're completely different mindsets. I haven't been in those shoes, so I can't really tell you for sure.

Me: What are your favorite memories of Kitchener?
Donally: You know, I didn't have the best time in Kitchener - not solely based around Pete. I had some injury trouble at the time. He was good at getting a lot out of our team. But I have great memories of the guys there. Those are the things I want to remember.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

ECHL finals road trip

Hello from Cincinnati, site of Games 1 and 2 of the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. This series pits the affiliates of two Canadian franchises, Montreal (Cincinnati Cyclones) and Calgary (Las Vegas Wranglers). Who was I rooting for? I root for whatever outcome will put the people I want to talk to in good moods. Cincy won 4-2. Sub-optimal for my purposes.

I've been to Cincinnati many times to watch hockey, but it was always the AHL. A few years ago it was the closest AHL city, and the Chicago Wolves played here often because they were in the same division. But then Anaheim pulled their prospects out and the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks franchise went dark. They used to play in the old Cincinnati Gardens, which was a very outdated facility. I remember how uncomfortable the wooden chairs were and the ice had some perennial bad patches. The Cyclones play in US Bank Arena, a bigger, modern arena right next to where the Reds play. I enjoyed the exceptionally cushy seats.

The importance of the ECHL finals was not something everyone agreed on tonight. Approaching the building, I wasn't sure where to go, so I started at Will Call. An off-ice official asked me if I had my media card already. I said no, I'm from out of town. He led me a bit towards a staircase and then asked where I was from. Atlanta, I said. "And you came here for this?" he asked. Uh-huh, I said. "Wow...good to hear it," he said.

Once inside, I stepped into the nearly-empty bowl. The Cyclones equipment guys were out on the ice shooting some pucks on net. An usher came out of nowhere and said "Came to watch history, huh?" Yep, I said. He nodded in response. "Something for the kids to remember."

On the other hand, my cab driver didn't know the city had a hockey team. But he was nice and I had heard how taxi drivers are struggling with the gas prices so I gave him a big tip anyway.

Attendance was 8,676, which is far above what the Cyclones did in the regular season. Bodes well for them, as a team that has had bad attendance problems.

Biggest issue I had: the glass. It had to have been purchased used, there's no other way it could be so scratched up. It was epically bad. So bad you can barely see the irony in the photo below.

Here's a familiar face, Bruce Mulherin. Many Georgians consider the Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville to be the "local" college team (nearest Div I), and Mulherin played there. He also played for the Gwinnett Gladiators briefly. He was traded to Toledo for Jon Sitko at a time when the Glads really needed defense. That looks like a bad trade looking back, since Mulherin has blossomed, and Sitko is already looking for a new team for next year, but the Gladiators have never had trouble finding people to score.

Puck behind Kevin Lalande, a Calgary prospect.

A face-off. Jason Rollins was the ref (not pictured). He does Gwinnett games often. He called a good game I thought. It was chippy, and he called the stuff. One time an opposing player knocked the goalie's stick farther away from him. Rollins called it. A fan near me yelled "since when is that a penalty?" All year long, dude.

This is Twister, the Cyclones mascot. I want you to notice something very specific here -- how flat his head is.

Yes, he really did just take a running start and slide on his head across the newly-Zambonied ice. Frankly, this was worth the trip in itself. Degree of difficulty in the mascot suit -- I'm giving it a 10. I made sure I was back in my seat in time during the second intermission to see it again.

Cyclones Coach Chuck Weber at his press conference. He was a little too hyped up to sit. I liked that the team organized this in a separate room with lights and cameras already set up. Much less chaotic than when Gwinnett was in the finals. Although it may have meant you couldn't get anyone else, which is bad. Speaking of previous finals though, I kept thinking Las Vegas was Alaska -- as the western team that made the long trip. Didn't help that they wore black and white uniforms.

The players were tired, so they sat. These were the three stars. I wasn't interested in these three, so I headed off for the Las Vegas locker room. Except that security was tight and you could only go with an escort. I had to wait for the Las Vegas reporter and our escort to go, but what I got was fruitful, and will be of interest to Thrasher fans. I'll post that when I get home. Don't want to give too much away, but it's related to the coaching search.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Atlanta native baseball player traded for 10 bats

People always joke about trading a hockey player for a bag of pucks. Well, the baseball near-equivalent just happened.

During three years in the low minors, John Odom never really made a name for himself.

That sure changed this week - he's the guy the Calgary Vipers traded for a bunch of bats. "I don't really care," he said Friday. "It'll make a better story if I make it to the big leagues."

For now, Odom is headed to the Laredo Broncos of the United League. They got him Tuesday from Calgary of the Golden Baseball League for a most unlikely price: 10 Prairie Sticks Maple Bats, double-dipped black, 34-inch, C243 style.

This is the best part:

Laredo offered cash for Odom, but [Vipers president Peter] Young said that was "an insult."

Next time you think your boss isn't appreciating you, well, remember it could be worse.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's "hard to keep track" of the coaching insanity

I usually don't comment too much on what other people write, preferring instead to just march to the beat of my own drum. But AJC columnist Mark Bradley's comments on the Thrashers coaching job search tonight were just too much.

Take his predictions and do a 180-degree turn, and that's more like reality. I do have some information to back that up, I'm just not going to lay it out for you. It's not in anyone's interest to do so. But I assure you that Bradley is several shades of wrong.

Here's what Bradley wrote:
Likely suspects: John Anderson, who coaches the Chicago Wolves; Paul Maurice, who was fired by the Maple Leafs; and McCrimmon. • Unlikely suspects: Ron Wilson, who was fired by San Jose, and Peter DeBoer, who coaches the minor league Kitchener Rangers. DeBoer could be headed for the Maple Leafs and, with six NHL teams looking for coaches, Wilson could see other jobs as more inviting. • Hiring timetable: Early June, according to Waddell. • Prediction: Paul Maurice

Paul Maurice will not be the next Thrashers coach, nor will McCrimmon, nor will Anderson. I'd take that to the bank. Ron Wilson, as a taskmaster, is a bad fit for the team at this time. DeBoer is actually the most likely off that list. But he doesn't coach "minor league" hockey. I'm also not sure how you can say a coach may be headed for the Maple Leafs when they haven't even hired a GM yet. Typically, GMs hire coaches right?

Signing deadlines for prospects

It's fish or cut bait time on players drafted in 2006. I actually really like the June 1 deadline because it tidies things up. We get some closure on guys all across the league and it clears the decks for a new crop at the 2008 draft.

The NHL CBA states that players drafted out of Canadian juniors or Europe are subject to this deadline or they return to the draft. The wrench in the machine is this thing about the IIHF agreement falling apart. I blogged about it a few weeks ago. Previously the Russians had dropped out, causing the signing deadline for Russians to be extended indefinitely. It's unclear if the NHL is going to do the same for all European countries now. Extending it puts the power in the hands of NHL teams and takes leverage away from the players, so one would think so.

Note that it's the league a player is drafted out of that matters for these rules, not your country of nationality or current play. So Arturs Kulda is subject to rules on Russia, not the OHL, because he was drafted coming out of a Russian league.

Here are the Thrashers prospects in play right now. Two CHL guys have already been signed -- Holzapfel and Machacek.

June 1 - CHL and Europe (deadline fuzzy on Europeans)

Jonas Enlund - Finland
Juraj Gracik - Slovak
Arturs Kulda - Russia
Denis Loginov - Russia
Miikka Tuomainen - Finland
Andrei Zubarev - Russia

August 15 - NCAA graduating seniors

Rylan Kaip
Matt Siddall

I've been getting emails asking me who I think will and won't be signed. The only guys I expect to get a press release about in the next week are Kulda and Enlund. Zubarev would be a plus, but don't hold your breath. Gracik, Loginov and Tuomainen are not worthy of contracts.

On the two college graduating seniors, with an Aug. 15 deadline, I don't expect Siddall to be signed. Kaip, I have a feeling he'll end up with an affiliate next year. I think he's a solid, character player you want in the system, but his NHL upside is low. That's exactly the kind of guy you set up with Chicago or Gwinnett. Then if he overachieves, you haven't cut ties.

Sometimes guys who aren't signed by their drafting team within the window are reselected in the draft, but it seems like they rarely pan out. The Thrashers have been on both sides of that equation. Rob Zepp reentered the draft after being taken by the Thrashers in 1999, and Paul Flache was a redraft in 2002. Both of them played in Europe last year.

On a side note, in ECHL news, the Ducks announced an affiliation with the Bakersfield Condors, thus ending their relationship with the Augusta Lynx.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Team USA must have ordered too much room service in Quebec

Because I got this email today from USA Hockey, which I can only interpret as a fund drive:

WE'VE MISSED YOU! You or members of your family were recently proud members of USA Hockey. We'd like to invite you back by becoming an Allied Member. Your membership will strengthen our great sport, expand opportunities to participate, and prepare our teams for World Championships and Olympic competition.

Kidding aside, it's a good cause if you want to support hockey at both the grassroots and international levels. Here's the link -- it's $25 and you get a monthly magazine.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oreo invades Britain

I couldn't not post about this. I really tried to resist, arguing to myself this is a hockey blog and you guys want to read about hockey. But, I think you also want some diversion during a long offseason. This qualifies.

First, some full disclosure: I'm an Anglophile. It's not only my ethnic heritage, but I helped administer a study abroad program at Oxford while I was in grad school and later taught a course on British politics. The Brits are highly interesting and entertaining to me. After reading this article about the introduction of the Oreo into the British biscuit market, I think you'll see why. Biscuit=cookie to the Brits, by the way. That will help you follow along. And also note that most of the cookies over there are of the dry oatmealy, or shortbread variety. I know this from an informal cookie survey I conducted.

Second disclosure: I really like Oreos. Did this need to said? What red-blooded American doesn't like Oreos?

I first heard about the Oreo kerfuffle on NPR, but I think this article, originally out of the Christian Science Monitor, is even better. An excerpt:

One tabloid newspaper has attacked those "Yanks" who are trying to "snatch the biscuit from our mouths and replace [it] with a tackier piece of inferior confectionary." Another described the Oreo as "an imperial juggernaut of a biscuit backed by one of the world's biggest food companies." ...
"Before we know it, the next generation of kids will not know the word biscuit at all," he grumbles. "Whether it's fast food, TV chat-shows, or cookies, we must resist all that is American for the sake of our own souls."

Meanwhile, in other Oreo news, there was a big spill last night outside Chicago as a tractor trailer hit the median. Fourteen tons of cookies were lost. Double-stuff to boot! I found $1.40 in the change return at the toll booth today and thought I hit the jackpot until I read about the Oreo spill.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

If you're in the mood for a funny story

Here's a blog post by Joe Posnanski, who is a columnist in Kansas City, but I think an even better blogger. I was crying from laughing so hard by the end. It's about his greatest day in sportswriting, covering the 2000 Olympics. I could relate to walking into an event knowing very little, and then when you sit down to write, either having too much or too little information.

It's long, but stick with it.

So, this was at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. I mentioned here earlier that the Olympics are like nothing else in sports journalism. You become entirely and inexplicably consumed by the Games, especially at the Summer Olympics where there are always about twenty different things going on at once.

Posnanski mostly writes about baseball, but I'd read anything he writes, he's that good.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hockey and the sea

I considered driving to Charleston, South Carolina this weekend to watch the Stingrays take on the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL conference finals. But for several reasons, the biggest being I needed a longer vacation from hockey, I didn't go. Instead, today I went to the Georgia Aquarium. And wouldn't you know, they have stringrays there.

I never thought the stingray was a very fearsome mascot, but I take that back now. He looks pretty ominous, doesn't he?

There were a lot of hockey mascots actually.

Beyond the penguins, they also had an octopus (for the Red Wings) and starfish (Dallas Stars). OK, that last one was a tiny stretch.

Here's a river otter with his trainer. They have them do tricks like dogs -- sit, stand, turn around, etc. Pretty cute. If you're saying, yeah that's cute, but no one named a hockey team the otters, you're wrong. There's the OHL Erie Otters.

Finally, the alligators, the mascot of the ECHL Florida Everblades. I am not a fan of anything that resembles a snake, and as far as I'm concerned, alligators are snakes with legs. Thankfully there was thick glass between me and them.

Off now to watch the Detroit/Dallas game and do a bit of Memorial Cup-related work. I've already started writing the 2003 Thrashers draft evaluation, the five-year retrospective we do every year, so you can probably expect that next.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Valabik feature done

I just finished a long feature on Boris Valabik.

I first met Boris almost exactly four years ago, the day before he was drafted by the Thrashers in the first round in 2004. There was a media luncheon at the 2004 draft in Raleigh, and knowing that the team was going to take defense, I very purposefully chatted up the several defensemen who were there.

It's funny what you remember about things four years later. I remember thinking Cam Barker looked virtually identical to one of my high school boyfriends. I remember sitting across from Evgeni Malkin and his parents, and how impressive he was physically, and he was still 17.

The next morning when Valabik was picked, I remember waiting for him to come into the media room standing next to Tom Hughes, the Thrashers head PR guy at the time. I mentioned to Tom that I had talked to Valabik the day before. Tom was planning on putting him on the radio in a few minutes, so he asked me how Valabik's English was. "Really good!" I exclamed, realizing just then how good it was for only being in Canada for a year. It really was phenomenal. He has a real gift for language to be able to pick up English so quickly. There are players who've been here many more years who never reach that level.

Valabik was very pleasant to talk to then, and has continued to be so on many occasions since then. And that's despite me asking him some tough questions at times. As things stand, I'm fairly certain that despite his short fuse, no matter what I ask, he's not going to pop me one. I do wonder if I were a male reporter if I'd feel quite so secure. Tough to say. Anyway, no matter what you think of his skills or potential, it's hard not to respect him personally. He's a stand-up guy.

Fast forward to this year: a window into the anatomy of a feature article. A week before the end of the season, Craig Custance and I were waiting for the players to come off the ice after practice, both waiting for Valabik. Craig asked if I was planning a feature. I said probably, but it depended on what I got. I was hoping so, but things don't always work out the way you'd like. Well, as soon as Valabik said how he got close to McCudden in a way he normally doesn't with people, case closed. My question to Boris had been simply if he planned on working with Kenny that summer, but I pushed a button I didn't know was there.

I was headed to Chicago the next weekend, so naturally I talked to Kenny to follow up on it. To me, this story is an end of year outlook story -- about what Valabik needs to continue to do this summer to make the team in the fall. Since it wasn't yet the end of the year when the information was gathered, it needed to simmer. And I think Valabik would be glad that it simmered. He didn't really want to talk about the summer when he still had the entire playoffs with the Wolves to go. But I was persistent with the summer questions, as sometimes you have to be in these cases because seasons end so incredibly quickly in the playoffs.

The Wolves are moving on to the conference finals, having beaten Rockford in Game 7 tonight, but I think this is the right time for this story in any case. The summer is much closer at hand. And it's good to get it out before anything changes drastically. You just never know.

A couple extra notes. I asked Pavelec if he missed Boris while he was gone in Atlanta. "Best three weeks of my life. Nooo..." he joked. He admitted he missed Boris.

Popovic called him Borat. I'm not sure a non-teammate would want to try that though.

The Swedish camp that several Thrashers may go to -- the Swedes on the team aren't among the group who are going. And why would they? They are already excellent stickhanders. If Enstrom was there, it could only be as an instructor.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Keep an eye on Toronto

The city of Toronto thinks it is the center of the hockey universe. Though that's no longer even close to true, annoyingly, they still believe it. So, trust me when I tell you it pains me to say it, but we need to pay attention to what's going on there.

The Maple Leafs, which are owned by a teachers' pension fund of all things, will be hiring a new GM soon. They plan to go after a big-name person, maybe someone who is already with another NHL team. The dominoes that fall from that hire will likely spread out in many directions as underlings, like coaches, are effected. One of those many directions the dominoes could spread in is Atlanta.

Or not, depending on who they pick. The waiting is maddening isn't it?

Meanwhile, here in Atlanta, the scouts are gathering to pound out the final list for the 2008 entry draft, in which the team holds two first-round picks. Just six more weeks until the draft in Ottawa. Not very much time at all.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dual battles of Pennsylvania

Interestingly, as the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare to meet the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals, their AHL affiliates are already battling it out in a divisional final.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period and held on for a 3-2 road victory over Philadelphia on Monday at the Wachovia Center in Game 3 of the East Division finals.

As a native Pennsylvanian, let me tell you about the two halves of the state. We don't like each other very much.

Western Pennsylvanians are really midwesterners, and think the people from Philly are a "little too east coast" (yes that's an insult). Philly gets all the favors by the state government and pushes everyone around. The eastern Pennsylvanians, as far I can tell, don't really care what the western Pennsylvanians think, since they outnumber them. They probably think we're behind the times (there's some truth to that though). Pennsylvania is essentially two cultural regions separated by mountains. About the only thing we would agree we have in common is that we all like our sports teams a lot.

Makes for a good rivalry, no?

I was raised a Penguins fan. Everyone I was related to was a Penguins fan, except for my uncle who liked the Islanders. Something about the glory days. But he married in.

Cheesesteaks vs. Perogies (or better yet, Primanti Bros.) for the Eastern Conference. I'm calling Perogies in 5.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Kangas named Minnesota's MVP, third freshman in history

That's impressive, no matter how you look at it.

From Gophersports:
Kangas Becomes Third Freshman MVP in Men's Hockey History

Goaltender Alex Kangas was rewarded for his record-setting season as just the third freshman in University of Minnesota men’s hockey history to earn the team’s Most Valuable Player award at Saturday’s team awards banquet at Mariucci Arena.

Kangas joins forward Thomas Vanek in 2002-03 and goaltender Murray McLachlan in 1967-68 as the only first-year team MVP’s in Gopher history. The team has awarded an MVP, named after former player and coach John Mariucci, since 1955-56.

Kangas was also named the team’s Frank Pond Rookie of the Year and Tom Mohr Playoff MVP after setting single-season school records with a 1.98 goals against average and .930 save percentage.

Mike Vannelli was on hand to make awards presentations.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Junior review done

Just finished the review of the Thrasher prospects who played junior this year. Here are a few notes that didn't make it in.

If he weren't still with the Chicago Wolves, Arturs Kulda would have been a candidate for the Latvian senior national team, now playing in the World Championships. He's a veteran of the national junior team.

Spencer Machacek and Riley Holzapfel were born only two months apart, though they fell into different draft years. That's important when comparing them.

I came across an article in the Regina Leader-Post that bemoans the lack of offense in the WHL. It's noteworthy that Holzapfel was mentioned as an exciting player to watch.

"It's not as exciting to watch a defensive struggle as it is to see an offensive game,'' [Regina Pats general manager Brent] Parker continued. "That probably goes without saying. But the players who are exciting and fun to watch -- like Tyler Ennis and Zach Boychuk and Zach Hamill and Jordan Eberle and Riley Holzapfel -- because of the way our game is played, they don't get the opportunity to show the skills that they've got.''

Statistics show that it is harder to score in the WHL than the QMJHL (the OHL falls in between). It's important to keep this in mind when comparing the numbers of two prospects across leagues. The WHL is generally thought to best model the pro game. So it is always more likely that a WHL can make an easy transition than someone out of the Q.

Listening to the inteviews again, it struck me how funny Kulda is. It's mostly intentional, but partly a function of his struggle with the language too. The humor doesn't translate to paper -- er, screen -- that well though.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Czechs out of IIHF agreement, outlook bad

Chaos! It will be chaos! You think your NHL team has a player signed for the whole season? Well not so fast. He could be skipping the continent at any time. And vice versa. There will be more Freddy Brathwaites this year as it won't just be Russia who makes their own rules.

From the Hockey News:
The Czech Ice Hockey Association has decided not to sign the IIHF’s player transfer deal with the NHL after the 14 hockey clubs in the Czech Extraliga voted in favor of ending the current deal immediately. This likely means there will be no regulations surrounding the transfer of players between the European teams and the NHL next season.

The NHL is unlikely to sign an agreement with just five countries, meaning it will be a free-for-all across Europe.

These developments will surely have consequences for the upcoming NHL entry draft as well. Teams do not want to waste picks on players who they may have trouble bringing over. Especially high picks.

It won't mean teams need to scout Europe any less, it just means they need to do it smarter, with an ear on who wants to jump, and an eye on older players. It's a brave new world.