Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dear Mr. Hedges

Mr. Hedges,

As a loyal follower of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the National Hockey League, I feel it my duty to inform you that the holdout you have masterfully guided Nikolai Zherdev through is about to come to an end. Today, Joffrey Lupul signed a 3 year, $6.935 million contract, and all your squabbling about comparables ends right there. There isn't a more perfect comparable to Zherdev than Lupul. For example:

- They are both top 10 draft picks, one year apart.

- Their rookie and second seasons are the exact same years.

- Their career points are a difference of one in favor of Zherdev. Lupul does have one more goal than Nicky, though.

- Their rookie scoring numbers are identical.

- In their second season, Zherdev managed one more point in less games.

That's it in a nutshell, to use your words. Meaningful discussions with Columbus in June is laughable, you were waiting to see what Lupul would get and Doug was waiting to see what Lupul would get. Well, Lupul got $35,000 more than Doug offered you a week ago. Regardless of what you told the CP, Zherdev's different set of circumstances on the ice, which is what he gets paid for, is apparently now worth roughly $6.935 million.

Have fun trying to prove why your client deserves $2.065 million more than Joffery Lupul.

Tim Wingfield

Monday, August 21, 2006

And then there were two...

We're down to two RFAs that the illustrious Doug MacLean has yet to sign...Dan Fritsche and the well noted Nikolai Zherdev. Personally, I'm not overly worried about each, it's August afterall, signing them today isn't going to put many pucks in the net next week.

Fritsche will likely fall into line fairly soon, he doesn't have a huge amount of leverage in the negotiation of his second contract. He's played a fair share of NHL games sooner than most thought he would, and he's been a servicable NHLer, but the production isn't there to be playing much hardball. Danny will sign soon enough, I'm sure.

Zherdev, though...this one seems much more interesting. TSN covered it well today, following on the Dispatch yesterday. Nicky is threatening to play in Russia for the year...a place he couldn't WAIT to get out of three years ago. Snuck out in the middle of the night with his skates and what he was wearing. Sounds like a guy who'd LOVE to play a season in the RSL, doesn't it?

MacLean is playing hardball, and I think rightfully so. Zherdev's poor, underperforming start last year isn't some great secret. With Nasher out, he had every chance to step up and be The Man for the Jackets, and he'd take nights off. Was demoted to the 3rd and 4th line, even healthy scratched a couple times. Didn't seem to have much of an effect on him, he just kept doing his thing. The arrival of Fedorov and the return of Nash turned not only Z around, but the whole team. He went on a tear, starting arguably with his end to end rush through the Blackhawks the day after Christmas.

But, how does all that factor in now? Doug is using Oct and Nov of last year as his, "Zherdev needs to prove something," stance. Zherdev is using the rest of the season as proof that he has proved something. Personaly, I'm with Doug...play a full 82 games and the money will fall in your lap, Nicky.

The kid has unreal talent and potential, but tapping it through that thick skull has proven tricky so far, and this just seems to be the latest chapter.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Off season so far...

Draft is over, the free agent madness has begun in the NHL, and so far MacLean and Co. have wowed us with the signings of Anders Ericksson, Tomas Kloucek, and Ty Conklin. Of course, there's that whole Denis for Modin thing, too...

First off, Modin makes the Jackets better instantly. This guy does it all...scores, plays good d, kills penalties, goes in the corners, goes to the net, and probably makes a mean Swedish meatball. He's going to bring an upgrade to both special teams and 5 on 5, so this is a good move.

Losing Denis seemed to be inevitable. But given the relative talent of Denis and Leclaire, Denis and his larger salary were the ones to get shipped off. (And for what Tampa signed him for...wow.) So the net is now Leclaire's, with I'd guess Conklin as his back up. Though it appears Norrena will get a shot at that spot, too, since Ty has a two-way deal signed. (For the conspiracy theorists out there: Norrena is listed on the Jackets roster with Leclaire, Conklin as "in the system.")

As for the other signings on D, not sure what to make of it at this point. Seems 5 of the 6 defense spots are pretty much locked in with Foote, Berard, Klesla, Westcott, and Hainsey. So, just need to fill that 6 slot, and we've got Johnson, Tollefsen, Ericksson, and Kloucek to slug it out for that spot. Personally, I figured it was about time for AJ to step up and take his place on the big club, we'll find out in September.

Lots of things to look forward to in September...yet again...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Draft Day

So the Jackets picked up Derick Brassard with the 6th overall. Admittedly, I don't know a heck of a lot about the kid. Though he did put up 44 goals and 116 points in 58 games in the Q this year. Not bad, but scoring usually isn't a real problem in the Q. But, as I said before, I know very little about the kid. Hopefully I can hit rookie camp next week and get a look.

In the second round, the Jackets apparently traded the 36th pick away to St. Joe, but I can't find what we got in return. I'm guessing picks of some nature, because nhl.com and TSN have nothing about it. Of course Metro is down, and hfboards is slllooowww, so can't find anything on it. Guess I'll just wait for the Dispatch in the morning.

One other draft comment...WTF was Minnesota thinking? They traded a first round pick AND Patrick O'Sullivan to LA for Pavol Demitra? OK, Demitra is a scorer, no doubt about that and the Wild need somebody who can play offense. But the Roloson trade is now Roloson and O'Sullivan for Demitra...seems a bit lopsided, and not in Minny's favor. O'Sullivan was almost a shoe-in to make the Wild this year, he just led the AHL in scoring. Obviously he wouldn't have put up Demitra numbers, but the kid was looking good. We'll see how it turns out...wonder how Demitra will take to playing defense first, second, and third?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Not feeling so good...

Usually at the end of the season, I feel pretty good for whoever is hoisting the Cup. Even when it's the Wings, I still feel pretty good for the players and fans of the winning team...but I don't have that feeling this year.

At all.

There are so many things that just drive me nuts about Carolina that I can't be happy that they won. Just can't.

I have no problem with hockey in the state of North Carolina. I'm a firm believer in the more hockey spreads, the better it is. Having a team in Raleigh is not a bad thing...neither is having one in Nashville, Tampa, Atlanta, or Miami.

My feelings stem directly from having to deal with Peter Karmanos on a number of levels...

1. 1997 - The city of Columbus is on the verge of building a new arena (and soccer field) to lure an NHL team (and give the Crew an actual home). Issue 1 is hotly contested, but things are looking up. Just before that election, Peter J. Karmanos Jr. comes waltzing into town carrying the Hartford Whalers in his pocket. He woos some people, gets on TV, gets in the paper, and does just enough to get The People thinking, "Hey, we don't need to vote for that, Pete will bring us a team ANYWAY!!"

WRONG! Days before the election, we see Karmanos on TV live from Raleigh announcing that he's moving his team there...but it's too late for our vote here, Issue 1 goes down by narrow margin. (Later McConnell did his thing, but that's a different subject.)

2. I worked for Compuware, Pete's "real" company. He started it many years ago, and it's a fairly successful company. But, thanks to Pete's management and lack of foresight, CPWR has been in the tank for many years after his Y2K money dried up. While I was there, everybody took mandatory pay cuts...good way to win friends. After my third pay cut in less than six months, I finally got out, but not before I vowed to never pull for Carolina again as my own personal crusade against the short, bald guy from michigan with a rather severe Napoleon Complex. (CPWR closed at $7 today...guess those options Pete gave me with a strike price of $21 are pretty much worthless...)

3. During the lockout, you couldn't find anybody quicker to pop off about "linkage" and salary caps and, "We'll lock 'em out for YEARS if we have to!" than Peter Karmanos. This guy was a loose cannon the whole time complaining about the money he was losing. (Yeah, same guy who started the whole mess with the Fedorov offer sheet just to piss off his Detroit rival, Illich.) It was rarely constructive out of Pete, it was combative.

4. The good folks of Carolina have barely noticed this team all year. Now I know there are die-hards there that have been to every game, but the attendence figures don't lie. Announced crowds of 10k are under that. This particular Carolina team has been AWESOME all year, not just in the playoffs. Eric Staal alone should have had them cramming at the turnstiles, but it didn't happen. In April, 3 weeks before the playoffs started, the Canes played a home game before 12,137...6,000 under capacity. This is a division leading, headed for the playoff team taking on Ovechkin...12k. Pathetic.

But wait, there's more...a gentleman from the greater Columbus area went online three days before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals and bought two tickets to the game. Lower bowl, blue line. Guess that's all they had left.

Game 7, Eastern Conference finals tickets were available just before face-off.

Some Carolina apologists in the past have said, "Well, wait until we win, you'll see!!" Well, you're winning. You won all year, and now you have the greatest trophy in professional sports in your possession...better sell out the season.

I hope that whole thing came off as bitter because it is. No, not jealous that they won, our situations are entirely different. Just totally bitter...the man who took a dump on Hartford with a fly-by shitting on Columbus now owns the Cup.

Somewhere there's a Carolina fan who bought a jersey the day the team was announced. He or she hasn't missed a game. They died when the Wings took them out a few years ago. This person lives and breathes Hurricane hockey. For that person, I am genuinely happy...they deserve to enjoy this. For Pete and the folks who didn't bother to show up in November to see one of the most explosive teams in hockey...well, it feels pretty empty in that sense.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ryan Smyth moves back DOWN the list...

Two posts...and several months ago I blogged that Ryan Smyth was such a pain in the ass that he moved up my list around Bert and into rarified air occupied only by Sean Avery and Kirk Maltby.

Well, having just sat through a rather enjoyable game 6 of the Finals, I've come to the conclusion that I am WAY wrong about Smyth...he doesn't belong on the same page with Avery and Maltby, he doesn't even belong in the same book. Hell, he should be in a different library from those two because this guy would do anything in his power to win a hockey game. If removing his right arm and beating a defenseman with it would give the Oilers a scoring chance, I believe Smyth would do it.

Over the season I got to see a lot of the Oilers, and enjoyed watching them. This team moves up the ice without regard for their own bodies, let alone their opponents. I might be one of the few people outside of Edmonton not surprised by their run through the playoffs.

But, during those games I never thought much of Smyth, even though the guy was a major piece of their team. But in the playoffs, I've been enamoured with the guy. He'll do anything to get a goal, to win a game, and on Monday a chance win the Cup.

Now, next fall I'll probably be right back to screaming for somebody, ANYBODY to get Smyth out of the way, but for now I've got to give the guy the credit he's due.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Weekend of Hockey

This was one of the best hockey weekends for our family, possibly ever. Starting at about noon on Friday, we headed north to Findlay for Brendan's first travel tournament. Findlay hosts a mini-mite tournament every year about this time, and it's a lot of fun for the kids. All five CCYHA teams made the trip up, so lots of familiar faces on the ice and in the hotel. All in all a great time...so to recount the weekend...

4PM Brendan and his Predators play their first game against one of the host teams. The kids played a great game and got the win. Following the game, the whole team had a pizza party, and celebrated Justin's birthday at the pizza place. (Reservation for 50. :) ) After the party, back to the pool to turn the kids loose, because they were WAY more intersted in the pool than the hockey, anyway. But, the Jackets were on at 7. So, more hockey. That was followed by the opening ceremonies in Turin. No hockey, but it's the Olympics.

Saturday, back to the rink for game #2 for the Preds, and they again play a great game and win that one. Happy mini-mites everywhere, and a lot of smiling parents. Then, another team meal, this time at the local BWs, and the US women's game is on TV...more hockey. After lunch, back to the hotel where...yes this will be shocking...but there was even MORE hockey on as the Canadian women were playing AND the Frozen Tundra game between Wisconsin and Ohio State started. But, we didn't get to see much of either of those games because it was time to head back to the rink for more mini-mite hockey, which is the best kind of hockey, afterall.

Saturday evening saw the Predators win their third straight game and earn themselves a trip to the championship. In this game, though, Brendan took a nasty spill. Typical mini-mite chain reaction where one kid falls and takes out another kid...and Brendan was at the end of the chain. He got hit from behind by a sliding teammate and did a full flip in mid-air landing on his back pretty hard. He laid there for a bit, coaches out to check on him, but he just nodded and hopped back up. I think he was way more stunned than hurt, didn't complain about anything hurting other than his cheek where his helmet hit it.

So, lots of cheering in the locker room, more happy mini-mites, and bigger smiles for the parents. We head back to the hotel and what's on TV? That's right MORE HOCKEY! This time around it's time for Hockey Night in Canada as the hotel actually had CBC on the channel line up. A bit of the Leafs and Rangers, and then it was time for the Jackets and the (real) Predators...which didn't exactly go the Jackets way.

On to Sunday and the finals...but before we got there, there was more Olympic hockey to watch, so we did. In the finals, the Predators once again prevailed, and earned a nice big trophy and they each got a medal for their efforts. Big pile of mini-mites at the end of that one, and VERY large smiles for the parents. (And the coaches. :) )

That should be the end of the hockey weekend, right? WRONG! Beer league time! Sadly, it was the lowlight of the weekend as we got shutout the second straight week. But, it was a nice ending to the weekend of hockey...

...which continues for two more days: Pred practice tomorrow and more beer league fun on Tuesday. Then Olympic hockey...well, maybe it'll never end!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ryan Smyth moves up the list

Since the Jackets have a rare weekend off, I'm taking in the Oilers again after just watching the Jackets take them in an shootout on Thursday. Tonight they have the Canucks in Edmonton, and so far its entertaining. (Way more entertaining than the Wild and Coyotes...somewhere there's paint drying more exciting than that game.)

So, Ryan Smyth has a redirect goal doing what he does best...standing in/on the crease and annoying the goalie. He did it all night to Denis on Thursday, and did enough of it to Anaheim last week that Giguere drew a couple penalty minutes for chasing him down and smaking him with his glove.

As such, I have determined that Ryan Smyth has now surpassed Bertuzzi on my top three most hated players list. No threat of the top two going anywhere...Sean Avery and Kirk Maltby have those two spots locked up until they decide to quit playing. But slot number three is now Smyth's. Was Bert's, but Bert has pretty much lost the edge that got him there, and Smyth is about to don the Red and White of Canada and annoy me even more in the next few weeks.

So, Ryan, welcome to the top!

Friday, January 20, 2006

One to remember

Every so often you have one of those nights that's going to stick with you. Tonight was that night for my oldest son, Brendan, and in turn for me.

On Tuesday this week I told Brendan I'd take him to the Blue Jackets game tonight if he wanted to go, and he did. He laid his jersey out on the chair this morning, and when I got home at 5:15 he was asking when we'd leave. I ask who his favorite player was, knowing the response was going to be a rather loud "RICKY NASH!"

So, off to the Jackets game we go, ready to watch them whip up on the Blues. The game had very little whipping, and it was a one goal game for the most part. Blues up one, Zherdev ties it. Blues up again, Vyborny ties it. Blues up one more time, Hrdina ties it with about 13 minutes to go. As soon as it was tied, Brendan says, "I'm ready to see a shootout, dad!" I told him he had to get through overtime, which required the Jackets to kill about 1:40 of penalty time at the end to get to the shootout, they did.

In the shootout, Denis stops the first shooter then Balastik misses for the Jackets. Denis stops the second guy from the Blues, and out onto the ice steps #61 along with cheers beside me of, "LET'S GO RICKY NASH!!!!" Nash, being Nash, scores an absolute amazing goal by crashing the crease and one handing the puck around the goalie and into the net. The place erupts, as it should after seeing that. Denis stops the last puck, and the game is over, Jackets win 4-3 in a shootout.

Now's when the fun starts... :)

We're pretty good friends with Dan Singleton, the video coordinator with the Jackets, and his wife, Karin, emailed me earlier in the week to see if we'd be interested in meeting Dan downstairs following the game. Since Brendan was going along, I took her up on the invite, but didn't tell him about it. When we met up near the staris, his face lit up at the possibility of meeting "a hockey player."

We got downstairs and stood behind the barrier and saw hockey players going past, Brendan asking who each one was and dad doing his best to figure them out without numbers. (Dad did alright, too, even recognized a couple of the St. Louis guys.) While we were standing there, one of the managers from the Blues walked up and gave him an official Blues game puck. That was pretty cool to a six year old, didn't matter that it said Blues on it, either.

Of course, we're waiting on one specific guy to come out, and it's getting late. "Where's Ricky Nash, dad?" was asked a few times. Finally, he stepped around the corner, and Brendan went silent. Other kids are getting cards and stuff signed by anybody that will walk out, so he notices he has a puck in his hand. A few of the players wives were standing there, so Adam Foote's wife scrapes up a silver puck signing pen, gives it to Brendan, and he's all set. He strides up to Nash, coming allllll the way up to mid-thigh on Rick, and holds the puck and pen out. Rick obliges, smiles, and hands it back...and thoroughly made a six year olds day, week, possibly year. Nash didn't say a word, just bent down, signed it, and handed it back. The look on Brendan's face was priceless.

Of course, that's where the silence portion ends. He was so excited and proud of his newly signed puck that I heard it recounted a number of times on the way home. Before the garage door had shut he was upstairs telling his mom. I have no doubt that all the grandparents will know about this before they have their morning coffee.

Oh, and stupid dad owns a camera phone, and has uttered the words, "I have NO use for a camera in my phone," a few hunnert times. And, I didn't use it for this either...forgot all about it.

But, that's how Brendan went from just going to see the game with dad to getting quite possibly the only Rick Nash autographed St. Louis Blues puck in existance.