Aug 202008
 

19-year old Stefan Legein‘s sudden retirement shocked everyone. The Columbus draft pick’s decision to quit hockey not only came as a surprise to the hockey world, but to his parents as well. His mother did not know the news until it was reported in the news, while his father has denied any reports about Legein’s decision to quit. Legein has yet to comment on the situation or make any public announcements. The news was first broken by the Columbus Dispatch. Legein, one of the key players in the Canada-Russia Super Series, was one of the most highly touted prospects in the Columbus system, and was on his way to making it to the big leagues.

While Legein’s decision to quit has been surprising, it’s not unheard of. In 1975, the Canadiens picked defenseman Robin Sadler with the 9th overall pick after having a great season with Edmonton in the WCHL. However, Sadler never played in the NHL or WHA. One week into the Habs’ training camp, Sadler notified the team that he was hanging up his skates, apparently unable to cope with the pressures of NHL training camps, and began a career as a firefighter, forfeiting every single penny of the NHL contract he had just signed. After a two year hiatus, Sadler reappeared in hockey circles once again, being invited to the Oilers’ training camp, yet only to quit one week later, citing emotional stress and eating disorders.

I will be following this story closely, because of the intrigue and mystery that surrounds it. Perhaps Legein’s decision to quit hockey will become less murky in the coming weeks, but for now, it’s left everyone scratching their heads.

EDIT: Legein has until September 12 to change his mind. He needs to be report to training camp in Michigan should he choose to return. Since notifying the Jackets of his premature retirement, they have suspended him but maintain his rights. The Jackets will not be receiving compensation of any kind from the league.

Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch has more. Apparently the Jackets should’ve seen it coming after Legein’s return from a shoulder injury.

EDIT: Eric Duhatschek has more.

Aug 202008
 

Todd Bertuzzi has yet to find a home. Since his Vancouver days, the burly winger has never spent more than a full year with any team. First, he was traded to Florida for Roberto Luongo, but promptly shipped to Detroit at the deadline. He wasn’t as effective as Ken Holland had hoped for, despite putting up 4 points in 8 games. He then promptly signed a lucrative contract with Anaheim, re-uniting him with Brian Burke, and with the promise of possibly playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf or Andy McDonald, things looked pretty bright. But with Scott Niedermayer notifying the team of his commitment for 82 games, and with Teemu Selanne still mulling over retirement, it left Bertuzzi, along with his hefty contract, the casualty. So, for the third straight season, Bertuzzi will be putting on a different sweater than the season before.

All this, some argue, can be traced back to the 2004 Steve Moore incident. Moore suffered facial lacerations and broken vertebrae as a result of Bertuzzi’s sucker punch and the pile-up that followed, and promptly smacked a $38m lawsuit against Bertuzzi, Marc Crawford, Brian Burke, Brad May, and Orca Bay. The lawsuit was filed in Colorado, the place of the event, but was thrown out as the judge felt that BC would be a better venue. In Vancouver, Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to charges of assault causing bodily harm, and completed his probation successfully. In 2006, Moore filed another lawsuit against Bertuzzi in his native province of Ontario, citing loss of income, aggravated damages, punitive damages, and mental distress. The lawsuit claims that Bertuzzi should owe Moore roughly $20m.

Of course Bertuzzi didn’t have $20m lying around (he had tried to settle with Moore for $350k), and has since filed a lawsuit against Crawford in his own defense. Bertuzzi claims that he was obeying Crawford, and that he was contractually obligated to do so. However, just recently Crawford has came out saying that Bertuzzi refused to listen to him, and that his actions were of his own doing and further claims that he had tried to get Bertuzzi off the ice. Crawford is vehemently denying any involvement in the incident. It’s a battle of his word against mine, and I don’t ever see Bertuzzi winning this lawsuit because Crawford is innocent until proven guilty. Bertuzzi will have to bring forth some very convincing evidence to win.

Aug 202008
 

The NHL and KHL are in a war and marking clear their territories. Bill Daly, the NHL’s second-in-command, recently commented that the NHL is not interested in compensation from the KHL for signing players under NHL contracts, referring to Nashville’s Alexander Radulov, who recently signed a lucrative deal with Ufa in the KHL even though he had one year remaining on his NHL contract.

Daly maintains that contractual obligations must be respected, and that Radulov should not be allowed to suit up for Ufa (the Preds have been wise enough to defer the responsibilities to the league). Alexander Medvedev, the KHL’s commissioner, argues that Radulov’s signing (July 5) came days before the KHL-NHL agreement (July 10), and because the agreement was not retroactive, it doesn’t apply to Radulov. Medvedev also argues that Nikita Filatov, Viktor Tikhonov, Jason Krog, Tomas Mojzis, and Fedor Fedorov should not be playing in the NHL because of their existing contractual obligations to their respective KHL teams.

However, there seems to be a hole in Medvedev’s argument. Asides from Krog (11th) and Filatov (10th), the other three players signed before the date of the agreement: Fedorov (4th), Tikhonov (1st), and Mojzis (June 28th). Krog has maintained that he was not under contract with any KHL team despite previous reports that he had signed with a Russian team because he had an out clause that gave him until September 1 to find a NHL contract. And for Filatov, depending on what time zone you were in, he could’ve signed the contract before or after the deadline, although that would spark another endless debate between the two leagues.

The KHL, established after the end of the RSL’s playoffs, became a true legitimate threat to the NHL after they managed to lure away Jaromir Jagr. They had attempted to lure Evgeni Malkin back to Russia, but when that failed, most people breathed a sigh of relief, believing that perhaps the threats the KHL proposed should be taken with a grain of salt. Now that there is almost a bidding war on players, both leagues have decided to mark their territories by coming to this agreement, although it has come to be scrutinzed as fast as it was signed.

There is no governing body for both the NHL and KHL. The IIHF has no power over the two leagues, and as such cannot hand out punishments to players in either league. The six players are currently under investigation by the IIHF, and have been suspended indefinitely from international play, but I’m sure that doesn’t really bother Krog (Canadian), Fedorov (Russian), or Mojzis (Czech), considering they have zero to minimal chances of making their respective national squads. The IIHF lacks teeth, and as such I don’t expect their decisions to really hold any weight in the NHL or KHL, and as such, a complete waste of time. Whatever may be the case, the KHL and NHL will have a healthy rivalry for the foreseeable future.

Aug 202008
 

Losing Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston hurt. Doug Risebrough was obviously disappointed that both chose to leave for greener pastures, after being optimistic that Rolston, or possibly both, would be back in Minnesota next year. While Demitra’s in Vancouver wondering when Mats Sundin will be his linemate and Rolston’s in Jersey wondering if he could potentially lead the team in goals (Zach Parise was the only player to top 30), Risebrough wasted no time in making sure that he wouldn’t be letting Marian Gaborik go without a fight. The oft-injured Gaborik had a career season last year, posting 42 goals and 83 points. The year before saw Gaborik post amazing point-per-game numbers, including 30 goals in 48 games, but only to be sidelined for nearly half the season. When healthy, Gaborik is as dangerous as any forward in the league with game-breaking scoring ability. The slick-skating Slovak forward will be an UFA next summer and is currently contemplating testing the free agent market.

Since the departure of his best friend Demitra, there has been numerous reports about Gaborik’s supposed disappointment in that he doesn’t play on a more offensive-minded team. Being Minnesota’s most valuable and talented player, some were suggesting that Risebrough offer the winger the max compensation of roughly $11m/year, but Risebrough has denied any intention of giving Gaborik the league maximum. However, Risebrough has expressed a strong desire to retain the forward, flying to Trencin to gauge Gaborik’s interest in staying with the Wild. Both sides have reportedly started off on a good note, and Risebrough is ready to make a long-term offer, anywhere from 4-7 years, with as much as $8.5m/year, making him one of the most highest paid forwards in the league.

I think Demitra and Rolston’s departure sparked Risebrough into early negotiations with Gaborik. He knows that he cannot lose the key piece to his offense, and he’s willing to break the bank to do so. At this point both sides are just touching bases, and despite Demitra’s departure and Gaborik’s lack of enthusiasm of the Wild’s system, I would be shocked if Gaborik doesn’t stay in Minnesota for a long time. Of course, other than the dollar numbers, I’m sure Gaborik would also be pushing for Risebrough to get some extra offensive help.

Aug 172008
 

1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Washington Capitals
4 Philadelphia Flyers
5 Ottawa Senators
6 NY Rangers
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Carolina Hurricanes
9 Tampa Bay Lightning
10 Boston Bruins
11 Buffalo Sabres
12 Florida Panthers
13 Atlanta Thrashers
14 Toronto Maple Leafs
15 NY Islanders

Again, I’m going to have to disagree with THN over this. If the Pens had managed to keep Ryan Malone and/or Marian Hossa I’d be inclined to agree that they would finish atop their division, but they won’t. When you potentially have Miroslav Satan as your top scoring winger you’re not going to go anywhere fast. The rest of the team remains largely the same.

I have a hard time believing the Sens will finish ahead of the Rangers and Devils. Despite the fact that Wade Redden‘s game is in decline, losing him will hurt because they didn’t replace him. The Sens are still looking for ways to fill out the rest of their roster, but like so many other teams in the East, goaltending is their primary concern. If Martin Gerber doesn’t hold up, they’re slightly above average at best by virtue of their incredible top line.

The Bruins are going to make some noise this year, especially with a completely healed Patrice Bergeron. Michael Ryder will head into camp as the favourite to land the first line right winger slot, and considering the success Claude Julien had with Ryder, along with an elite playmaking centre in Marc Savard, he could be a very nice surprise. Once again, however, they head into training camp with a 1A-1B tandem of fan favourite Tim Thomas and the disgruntled Manny Fernandez.

The East is much more clear cut than the West because so many teams have holes. The Habs, arguably the best team in the East, also has a shaky goaltending situation considering how Carey Price fell apart last year. These goaltending problems also plague at least 3 of the playoff teams listed. It’ll be interesting to see how this season plays out – a lot of teams have areas to improve, and considering the mass exodus of players from the East heading West, this year could be rather different.

Aug 162008
 

The Hockey News’ Rankings in the Yearly Yearbook were released, and for the West they’re as follows:

1 Detroit Red Wings
2 San Jose Sharks
3 Minnesota Wild
4 Dallas Stars
5 Anaheim Ducks
6 Edmonton Oilers
7 Chicago Blackhawks
8 Calgary Flames
9 Nashville Predators
10 Phoenix Coyotes
11 Vancouver Canucks
12 Columbus Blue Jackets
13 Los Angeles Kings
14 Colorado Avalanche
15 St. Louis Blues

Detroit at the top is an absolute no-brainer. They won the Cup and somehow got better by adding Marian Hossa. They’ve got Pavel Datsyuk locked up for awhile, and it’s hard to see Henrik Zetterberg not follow suit. Niklas Kronwall, and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Ericsson, look to take over Nicklas Lidstrom‘s mantle when he retires. They’re going to remain a powerhouse for years to come.

I have a hard time believing Minnesota will finish atop the Northwest Division. They lost key offensive pieces in Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston, and replaced them with two aging veterans (Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette) and a mid-level winger in Antti Miettinen. Their biggest acquisition is Marek Zidlicky, but the Flames have improved more – Calgary’s the early division favourite.

I don’t think the Oilers will finish that high. Adding Lubomir Visnovsky was huge, but they will miss Jarret Stoll‘s shot on the PP. Erik Cole was also another nice add, but I don’t think Visnovsky and Cole makes them better than the Coyotes. Their biggest question mark remains in net, and with some quality goaltending in the West that might be their downfall.

The Coyotes to me are a playoff team – they’ve got a talented forwards, a responsible captain, a respectable defense highlighted by a rejuvenated Ed Jovanovski, and good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. The dogs have tons going for them, and with Kyle Turris expected to make the squad out of training camp the team will be loaded with offense, led by the newly-acquired Olli Jokinen, who might get his first taste of playoff hockey this season.

How the Kings are ahead of the Avs and Blues is beyond me. Technically, they don’t even exist in the NHL because they’ve yet to reach the salary floor. Even with they do be re-signing all their RFAs, their team is laughable at best, and just might win the Calder Cup. This team needs at least two more season to grow before they’re even a playoff contender – it looks like they’re going for the John Tavares sweepstakes and rebuilding Pittsburgh-style.

The Avs, even without Joe Sakic for most of the season, remained competitive until the late stages of the season. Should Sakic retire, they don’t have a player to take over as captain or offensive dynamo yet, although Paul Stastny comes close. A healthy Ryan Smyth and having Adam Foote for a whole season, with some of Darcy Tucker‘s toughness, will make them a respectable squad, but like the Oilers, their biggest question mark remains in net.

Stay tuned for the East.

Aug 152008
 

For those out there wondering who’ll be the top-ranked player in EA’s winning hockey sim, you’ll just have to wait. However, IGN has provided a sneak peak at the ratings of players for all 30 teams. An overall rating will not be released until the game is finished. You can view it here.

Aug 152008
 

The best way to get a free meal is to just visit potential new homes for the Penguins. Just ask Mario Lemieux. In the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Lemieux revealed that it was never a possibility in his mind that the Penguins would leave Pittsburgh. In order to pressure the city into funding and building a new arena, Lemieux made trips to Las Vegas and Kansas City out of formality, but really came back with nothing but a full stomach. Lemieux and Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle called the city’s bluff and reached a new deal for a new arena in March of 2007.

Aug 142008
 

As many as 5 different sources are saying that Bryan McCabe has waived his NMC to go to Florida. Long Island was rumoured to be the favoured destination, as McCabe’s wife is from the area, but it seems like sunny Florida sounded like a good spot too. It’s funny how Florida is always able to land or attract top players, but can never seem to quite put it together to ice a Cup-contending team. The Panthers reportedly got into talks with the Leafs after it was clear that Jay Bouwmeester would not be back next year. This does not mean that Bouwmeester would be headed to Toronto, but more likely a package with Mike Van Ryn as the centrepiece, on a crowded Panthers blueline. However, there are also sources that although acknowledge the Panthers’ interest, maintain that McCabe will not be moved prior to September 1. The Panthers have a little over $7m in cap space with Greg Campbell to re-sign. A lot of moves being discussed right now depends on where Mats Sundin will sign. Once that domino falls, the fates of Glen Murray and Mark Parrish will also be decided.

EDIT: It sounds like it’s a done deal – after McCabe collects his $2m signing bonus from Toronto on September 1st, of course. No mention of which Panthers will be headed north of the border.

Aug 132008
 

As Canada’s #1 sports network, and hockey obviously at the forefront, I’m a little disappointed and frustrated at times by their hockey coverage, especially those of their staff writers. They’ve recently coughed up a short article on the Canucks. (The Leafs and Habs have also been covered). You’d think that for a sports network as large as theirs they’d take a little more prudence when writing these things, but they don’t.

In the Canucks article, they noted that Jason Jaffray as a potential “youngster” that could be thrust into a scoring role should Mats Sundin not sign, but Jaffray is 27 years old – hardly considered a “youngster,” unless by “youngster,” they mean “inexperienced,” in which Jaffray has only 19 NHL games under his belt, all of them coming last year. Another thing that really bugs me is their lineup projections. Now these lines are based on personal opinion, but how can you misspell “Ryan Kesler?” Vancouver’s arguably most prized forward must deserve at least a spell-check. It’s not like we’re asking them to spell “Schwarzenegger.” I also think sitting Darcy Hordichuk in favour of Jeff Cowan is a little ridiculous.

These short articles are for die-hard hockey fans like us to pass a little time, but you’d think they’d take a little more prudence and give a little more thought to, or even proofread, what they write.