Sunday, March 25, 2007

Another Season Ends

Should any of us really be all that surprised about North Dakota 8, Michigan 5?

I hate the expression as much as I hate the radio personality who uses it as his show's title, but the Michigan hockey team "It is what it is" and in the end, the flaws that have plagued them for most of the season bit them.

We're a stupid hockey team. It starts at the top with our senior captain who could never stop taking dumbshit penalties at the worst possible time. And it goes on down from there. Dumb penalties + a fairly ineffective penalty kill aren't a good combo. Especially against a team with a power play like NoDak's. It shouldn't have taken 5 power play goals to get the point across (not that that was an exceptionally well-officiated game or anything).

As for our goaltending, wow. I think I more than anyone have been skeptical of Sauer's improved play. I never quite bought into the fact that after a year and a half of overall poor play he was suddenly a quality goaltender. Hell, my signature on the Yost Post is still a picture of Bryan Hogan with the plea "Please be for real." I was hoping he'd keep it up long enough for us to make a tournament run, but in the end a couple pucks got by and all the confidence he built up over the last couple of months seem to go away as quick as our tournament hopes.

The preceding paragraph shouldn't be taken as completely blaming last night on Sauer, however. As I mentioned earlier, we took a ton of stupid-ass penalties, and as a whole the defense sucked.

North Dakota's goalie was probably more shaky than Sauer in the early going (He gave up 5 goals on 10 shots) but to his credit, he made three big saves late in the second period that turned the game in North Dakota's favor for good.

I wish like hell for guys like Rohlfs, Hensick, and JMFJ that this season had ended better. It was a joy to watch those three especially this season and I wish them all the luck in the world in the NHL. I think Jack is the first guy that has left since I've been following the team who I didn't bat an eyelash when I saw he departed. It would've been great to see him back at Michigan next year, but this was a move he needed to make. He was beyond ready and I'd like to thank him for two great seasons. Make us proud in the NHL, Jack. And I hope the Staples Center crowd likes your family as much as we do.

My last comment for now has to deal with tape delay. Most notably how I miserably failed once again in my quest to watch a game on tape delay without finding out the outcome ahead of time. And an explanation about why I don't have all that much to say about the game.

I live in Madison, WI now, so the game was shown on tape delay at about 11:00 EDT. Around 8:45, my dad called me. I'm not sure why I answered the phone, but I figured "He can't. He knows that I'm not seeing this game live." I answer the phone, and he says "Are you watching this?" "NO!" "Well this is unbelievable." I can already tell from the tone of his voice that things aren't great. "Why are we getting killed?" "No, it's close....all I will tell you is that there have already been twelve goals scored." Already more than I wanted to know, since for the first half of the game, I didn't get remotely excited/pissed when a goal went in. I knew it was either 7-5 or 6-6, and based on his voice, I figured we were down 7-5. I also didn't get a lot of joy out of the 3-1 lead Michigan had when CSN broke into the game. I knew it was going away quickly.

It gets to the second intermission and my phone rings again. It's a friend who was out at the game. I pick up the phone and say "On my broadcast it's only the second intermission so don't tell me anything." We chat for a couple of minutes about the game to that point and then he says "I gotta go, I'm getting on the plane."

Well then. I texted him back saying "Getting on the plane huh? I guess we lost."

Then I turned the game off.

A few last comments for tonight:
-All the Eastern teams with the exception of Boston College suck. All of them.

-No more complaining from anyone about the autobids for the CHA and Atlantic Hockey. The only reason Minnesota wasn't embarassed for the second straight year was that Air Force started watching the clock and stopped doing what got them the 3-1 lead in the first place (and what allowed them to dominate the first period). Alabama Huntsville had Notre Dame on the ropes--though it was obvious they were holding on for dear life. Either way, those were two impressive performances by the "two worst teams in the tournament".

-It makes me happy that Minnesota lost again.

-It doesn't shock me that none of the #1 seeds made it to the Frozen Four. Clarkson was obviously a fraud, Minnesota had a tough game in having to face North Dakota, UNH probably wasn't favored to get past BC (and they didn't make it that far), and Notre Dame was a very beatable #1. But it does shock me that no #1s and only one #2 made it to St. Louis.

-I have to say this again, due to all the threads that I saw when I pulled the Yost Post: We didn't get screwed. It sucks that MSU got the much easier draw even though we finished ahead of them in both the regular season and conference tournament, but this is the system that we have. But we didn't get screwed. It's not the committee's job to reward the #8 seed over the #9 seed. We didn't take care of business to ensure ourselves one of those cake regionals out East or a spot in Grand Rapids. And even if we did go to Grand Rapids, there's no guarantee that we would've beaten a team that we were 0-3 against this season.

The team that really got screwed was Minnesota. They had a tougher first round game than they should have gotten because of geography. Then, instead of having Michigan and Michigan State in their regional as the #2 and #3 seeds, they got one of the hottest teams in the country swapped in over Michigan State (because conference matchups can't happen in Round One). And they lost.

Think Minnesota wouldn't have won a regional with Michigan, Michigan State, and Alabama Huntsville? They got screwed (not that I'm upset about it). We didn't. We got a bad draw. It happens. We weren't in a position to deserve a reward of any kind.

-One thing I will say, however, is that the sides of the bracket are horribly unbalanced. The regionals with North Dakota and Boston College had probably 5 of the top 6 teams in the tournament. An idea I've been kicking around has been that the Pairwise should be used to determine the field for the tournament, but that the committee should have the leeway to seed the teams as they wish.

Think about it. The controversy with the basketball tournament is always with who got in versus who didn't. There was a little talk about the Big East getting poor seeds this year, but by and large that's not a big sticking point.

This plan would at least let the committee reward a team like North Dakota for improving throughout the year and showing by the end of the season that they were one of the top teams in the country.

It would also let them alter things so that Minnesota isn't "rewarded" with a weaker three seed by putting North Dakota in their regional, when it actually probably would have been better for them to have the Michigan-Michigan State game split up by putting a "tougher" Boston University team into their region.

Sure there would be controversy, but I feel that I would rather trust humans to seed the teams versus going exclusively off the numbers--which don't take into account if a team is going in the tank or playing out of their minds coming down the stretch.

Or maybe the system itself just needs to be tweeked...

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Quick hits on the Michigan/ND championship game before I get into talk about the NCAA Tournament Bracket:

-Sauer was outstanding. He made one mistake and it ended up being the game winning goal. But when you only give your goalie one goal of support, you're asking him to be perfect in order to win the game. That's a tall task. He played a great game.

-Notre Dame had the "luck of the Irish" with them on St. Patrick's Day, as we hit at least 4 goalposts--if not more.

-That was one of the worst officiated games that I've seen this year. Before the "sour grapes" comments come out, let me say that there were horrible calls against both teams. I don't believe that it cost us the game. I just feel Shegos was beyond brutal last night. The no-call on Hensick's breakaway not only kept us from getting a 5 on 3 or a penalty shot, but it also took us off the power play since Porter took a stupid-ass penalty five seconds later. Hensick was also boarded later on in the game, which was at least a two-minute penalty, but probably should've been 5. To be fair, though, the "throwing the puck" penalty on Notre Dame that had us on the power play at that moment was extremely weak as well, IMO. Notre Dame intentionally knocked the net off while Hensick was circling around the offensive zone. Those are just a few of the ones that I remember (I obviously remember the ones against us more clearly...I have no doubt that a lot of them went in our favor as well). The hit from behind on Hensick was the worst of the lot, however.

-I thought Mitera was pretty bad throughout the weekend. Kolarik was fairly quiet as well. Don't remember seeing him out there apart from missing that chance with about 10 seconds left.

-Summers had another strong game. I really like what he adds to that second line.

Now onto talk about the NCAAs:

As soon as the "BU/MSU" graphic graced my television, I had roughly the same reaction that Brian did.

Unlike a lot of my friends over at The Yost Post, however, I really don't feel that we got screwed, per se. Yes we ended up in the Bracket of Death. Yes it's very likely that our season will come to an end next weekend. Yes it sucks that even though we beat MSU, they get to stay home in a not-so-difficult regional while we get shipped out West and face the very real possibility of having to go through North Dakota, Minnesota and Boston College to get to the championship game while MSU would face something along the lines of Boston University, Notre Dame, St. Cloud. But I still don't feel that we got "screwed".

You could make the argument that since Michigan won the comparison with MSU, and finished ahead of them in both the regular season and conference tournament that we should've been rewarded by getting to stay home. The only problem with that argument, however, is that by flipping Michigan/North Dakota with Michigan State/Boston University, as the numbers go you would be giving the number one seed in the tournament a tougher 2 seed (#7 overall vs. #8 overall) as well as a tougher #3 seed (#9 vs. #10). It may not be that way in fact (as Michigan and North Dakota are likely both better than Boston University and Michigan State), but if we're going based on fact then there's no way in hell Clarkson should be a #1 seed.

Michigan--as the worst #2 seed in the tournament--hasn't done anything to deserve to be rewarded. We didn't win the CCHA, we didn't win the CCHA Tournament. We had plenty of chances to jump up and grab a low-one/high-two seed and get a nice cushy regional out East, but we didn't grab the chance when we had it, and as such, I don't think we've got a leg to stand on.

The team that really got screwed in all of this is actually the Gophers. Instead of getting to face the #16 team, Alabama-Huntsville, the committee decided to swap UAH in favor of the #15 team (I assume for attendance purposes), the Air Force Academy. So instead of getting to face a team that was six games under .500 in the regular season, they get to play the nation's second-leading scorer along with a team that's playing fairly close to home (It would basically be the equivalent of Michigan playing in Grand Rapids).

Then, instead of getting a team in MSU--that wasn't assured of a spot in the tournament until they scored a seventh goal against LSSU yesterday--as their three seed, they get one of the hottest teams in the nation in North Dakota.

It's a screwy system that actually gives the #6 team in the country the easiest road to the Finals out of anybody. There's no question that the system could be better, but at least this way there are no arguments about teams being snubbed...only the brackets that have been arranged.

So, do the Wolverines have a chance? Yes, although I think the chances of each team coming out of the region is something like:
Minnesota: 50%
North Dakota: 40%
Michigan: 10%

North Dakota smoked us last year, but in the interim our goaltending has gotten better, theirs has gotten worse. They aren't scoring as many goals as they did last year, we're scoring more. And we're also not facing them in their own building.

On the downside, North Dakota has been playing extremely well as of late. They haven't lost in regulation since the first game of 2007, and they haven't lost by more than a goal since Mid-December.

If we get through the Fighting Sioux, we would likely face a Minnesota team that freaking owns us. No, they aren't the same team that ran off 22 in a row without a loss earlier in the season (and beat us 8-2 in the process). They've been strangely human since then, going 8-8 over their next 16 games before winning 3 straight to take the WCHA playoff championship.

We're also not the same team that got beat 8-2 by them earlier in the season. Sauer has been much improved since that point, Chris Summers has sparked the second line, and I feel like we're playing a much better all-around game (Probably four of our best six games of the season have come in our last four games). The game would be on a normal-sized sheet of ice as well. For those reasons, I would give us a chance against the Gophers, but I still think they have us figured out, and our team is a bunch of Tyler Hirsches (cheap shot??) against them.

I don't think it gets to that point though. As much as I'd like to say differently, I think we go out in the first round to North Dakota for the second year in a row.

It's too bad that we got the draw that we did. This team is rounding into form nicely, and with a different draw (like the one that St. Cloud received), we really could've made a run for the Championship Game. We're the #8 seed overall, but the only teams in the country that are probably better at this point are Minnesota, North Dakota, Boston College, and I suppose you have to include Notre Dame as well, even though I feel we outplayed them yesterday.

It's just too bad that we ended up playing one of the hottest teams in the country, and then potentially a game against a team that has our number more than anybody. But...we didn't take care of business against Notre Dame. If we had, we probably would've ended up as the #5 or #6 seed rather than in the Bracket of Death. We've got no one to blame but ourselves.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

CCHA Semifinals: Michigan 5, MSU 2

That was an interesting one!

Talk about one or two plays completely changing the momentum of a game. Michigan State scores in the first period, it gets waived off. They get a short-handed breakaway that leads to a penalty shot, Billy stops it.

From that point on, the next 45 minutes or so were all Michigan. Hensick and JMFJ were just dealing out there. Porter missed a great scoring chance and then buried one just a few seconds later. TJ added a three-point night to his Hobey resume (including the nice "Kessel" into the empty net to pad the stats).

Sauer played well again tonight--even though he looked shaky at times, he managed to keep the puck out of the net for the most part. Hard to really blame him on either goal. We had a great angle on the first tally and it's pretty unlikely that he ever saw it (and MacKenzie made a great shot). On the other goal, when a guy like Kennedy has a shot through traffic ten feet from the net, he's probably going to bury it.

The game got a little hairy toward the end--would've liked to have seen Michigan close out the game--but thankfully Kolarik put a laser into the top part of the net so it never really got to the point where we had to be nervous (great feed from "Drew Cogs" by the way).

Summers to forward has to be considered a great success. Since he's moved up front, he's had something like 7 points in 8 games, including 3-1--4 in two games against the Spartans.

The guys that really deserve a call tonight, though, are our penalty killers. They had to kill off a lot of power plays for the Spartans, and they rose to the challenge. High marks for all of them tonight. The power play wasn't as good. Too much passing around the perimeter. Too many guys giving up open looks at the net trying to find the perfect pass.

Overall though, that was a great effort out of pretty much everyone on the ice tonight. I hated to see that letdown at the end, but for the most part that was a championship caliber performance. In a year with no clear-cut favorite, they've got a shot if Sauer keeps playing the way he's been playing for the last couple of months.

Time to send a message to college hockey with a big win over the #1 team in the country tomorrow night (and it'd be nice for TJ to pot a couple against Dave Brown to maybe sway some Hobey voters as well).

Lastly, JMFJ Sr. got into the act tonight during his dance (courtesy of

That is great stuff right there! It's funny that he was wearing the shirt, even funnier that it got on TV, given what the shirt means. Funnier still that KMFJ (Jack's little brother, Kenny) was wearing one of The Store That Yost Built's "JohnsOWNED" JMFJ shirts.

I love that family. JMFJ could without a doubt be playing in the NHL next year, and I highly doubt that anyone would blame him for making the jump the way some of the others were criticized. But it's going to be a sad day at Yost when we stop getting to see Mr. Johnson dancing (and of course, his son playing).

Here's the JMF Feature from Fox Sports tonight:

I couldn't have asked for a better going away present than a nice big win over the Sparties at the Joe after getting to play at the JLA the day before. My team won 7-2 in the media game, I had an assist. What a thrill to get to play on that ice. One quick note...Trevor Thompson from FSN Detroit is an absolute baller. That guy can play hockey, let me tell you!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

CCHA Quarterfinals Game Two: Michigan 8, Northern Michigan 3

Well if anyone still needed a reason to vote for Hensick for Hobey, that should've settled it. What a performance out of the best player in the country! Nice for that kid to get a hat trick in his last game at Yost.

Thoughts on last night's game:

-Hensick, as stated above, was awesome. I'm pretty sure he's the best passer I've seen since I've been following college hockey. I don't think I've ever seen anybody with that ability to put a pass right through the slot no matter where he's at in the offensive zone.

-Cogliano put on a show as well. One of his goals--I believe it was our third of the night maybe?--was a nifty little play where he pulled the puck out of the corner, got to the center of the ice all alone, and kind of back-handed-slap-shotted the puck into the net.

-Despite the piss-poor save percentage that he had working for awhile, Billy was actually decent. Hard to fault him on any of the goals. The first two were complete breakdowns by the defense--one against Santorelli, which you know isn't going to end well. Then the third goal was a shot from the blueline that got tipped on its way through. He also made some pretty big saves in the third period. Not his best performance of the year, but he didn't revert back to early-season Billy by any means. We can win a championship with the way he's playing right now.

-JMFJ had a nice game out there, though I was happy he made it through without getting ejected or anything like that. There are few things I enjoy more than watching him wind up for a slapshot and let one rip. He stung Stewart on one of them--though he didn't knock his mask off unfortuantely. He also had one of the most amazing moves that I've seen when he was coming down the wing. He absolutely froze the defenseman, cut toward the net, and roofed one. The goalie barely got his shoulder on it and it ended up on top of the net. The roof would've blown off that place if he would've was buzzing even though it just ended up netting a stoppage of play.

-I was less happy with Hunwick's play last night--mainly because he took another stupid penalty that ended up with the puck sitting in the back of our net. Just a needless slash, and they scored like 15 seconds after the call. We can't have our senior captain doing that. I understand he's a defenseman and they take penalties, but you have to play smarter.

-If the power play is ever going to get going, now would be the time to do it....

-The crowd last night was as good as it has been the entire season. Loud for most of the game, some clever chants from the students, and the place was packed. Great way to close the year.

-It was also great of Red to get Mike Mayhew into the game at the end. He also made a couple of decent saves. He had one for his career coming in...which was iffy if it was actually a shot on goal. So it was nice to see him make a couple of legit stops between the pipes.

-Based on the way Jack's dad was waiving to the crowd and the way the players were patting Jack on the head as he was leaving the ice, I gotta believe he's gone. Though I always read way too much into that stuff. I'd love to see him back, but he's ready for the next level. Anything after the first year was gravy...still hoping for seconds, but I think I'll have to settle for watching him on Center Ice next year.

-I've never been a Pio fan, but after a steady dose of Hoberg, McInchak, and a few of those other jokers, it makes me really happy to see him doing our game. He might not get everything right, but you never get the feeling that he's making things up as he goes along.

-That whole "Sweep of Miami" thing? Yeah. That's why I wanted no part of Jeff Jakaitis. Jakaitis vs. Brown should be a nice matchup, even if the score is going to be like 1-0.

-Well...I guess we can't tie MSU this time when we play at the Joe. Hopefully the boys come out with more spark than they had in the GLI Championship.

-I'm playing in the CCHA Media Game at the Joe on Thursday. That will be an absolute thrill for me to skate on the same ice that so many of my heroes have skated on. I'm already giddy thinking about it.

-Lastly, a brutally honest take from NMU coach Walt Kyle during his FSN interview in the second intermission (courtesy of Tech Still Sucks II):
Shireen Saski: "How do you stop the Michigan offense?"
Walt Kyle: "End the game."


Friday, March 09, 2007

CCHA Quarterfinals Game 1: Michigan 4, NMU 1

My thoughts, in response to DC Nole's Game Wrapup at The Yost Post:

I completely agree with a lot of [James's post]...particularly that Billy played very well and looked confident doing it. He didn't give me the feeling that he was making saves by accident. That was in contrast to a lot of the games this year where he played well, but looked shaky doing it. Very nice to see.

TJ had 2 assists but he could've had at least 5 if the guys on our team were finishing plays tonight. It amazes me how every pass he makes somehow goes right through the slot. It doesn't matter where he's at or how many guys he has to go through, it's getting through. Brian (mgoblog) made a great comment tonight that if Andy Hilbert were on this team, TJ would probably have 80-90 points. So true....

Stewart was VERY shaky in the first period (the first two goals were really weak) but he turned the game on that save on Rohlfs. If it became 4-0, lights out. But instead they got a little momentum from the save, then came down and scored a goal that Billy would probably like back. Suddenly it's a hockey game again.

We must've hit 5 posts tonight.

Hensick had a highlight reel assist on the 3rd goal. The goal itself was ugly...Lebler and someone else both had pops at it and missed. Then it finally just snuck across the goal line. But TJ had the puck out by the blueline, 3 guys were on him. He hit the brakes, spun around em and had open ice to move toward the goal. Prettiest move he's made since that goal he had against ND in Fort Wayne a couple years back.

I thought we did a great job of keeping Santorelli in check. I barely noticed him out there tonight. Olver got robbed a couple times though.

Matt Hunwick played a really good game tonight IMO. Nice goal (even if the guy probably should've stopped it), he was pretty good about getting back on D, and he made a couple of really nice defensive plays. Definitely one of his better performances this year. Still not sure how he was 1st team All CCHA.

Loved the guy walking around with JMFJ written on an inside-out t-shirt (and the dry-erase board giving it some love too). It's definitely spreading!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

JMFJ Shirts

The phenomenon is sweeping the country!

From to GoBlueWolverine, to here, to The Wolverine, to Michigan Hockey Net, mgoblog, USCHO, and even MLive, the world is learning who "JMFJ" is.

To commemorate the career of the man, the myth, the legend......there are shirts for Wolverine fans and Kings fans alike.

Questions, comments, requests? Let me know.

The Shop That Yost Built

Sunday, March 04, 2007


I really wish I could be this excited about a Wings' prospect. Actually I wish we had offered up Kronwall in a package if the Canes were aching to give away the best defense prospect not in the NHL. If you want proof that the Hurricanes made the wrong move letting this guy go, just read on.

The LA Kings fans over at are having way too much fun Chuck Norris-izing Jack Johnson. They've dubbed him JMFJ, which obviously stands for Jack Mother F***ing Johnson.

The linked thread is absolutely hysterical. It gets better as the thread moves along. They've got some great photoshops in there. Here are my favorite lines (some/all of which are obvious modified Chuck Norris ones, but it doesn't make it any less funny to me):

JMFJ once ate a whole cake before his friends could tell him there was a stripper in it.

JMFJ died ten years ago, but the Reaper's too afraid to tell him.

JMFJ's Rice Krispies are too scared to go Snap Crackle Pop, they just sit in the box going "Shhh, here he comes."

JMFJ makes no wishes when he sees a shooting star. He calculates when he smacked the ****ing puck out of orbit.

Hockey officials decided to rename it regular "Overtime" instead of "Sudden Death" because they already lost 244 hockey players when JMFJ took the wording literally.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because JMFJ told the chicken, "Get to the other side of the ****ing road!"

I went on Millionaire and put JMFJ on my phone-a-friend list, and they just gave me the money.

And my favorite of the Photoshops:

Goodbye Ahman

According to the NFL Network, Ahman Green has reached a contract agreement with the Houston Texans, to rejoin old head coach Mike Sherman.

Even though he's on the downside of his career, it's sad to see him go. I felt the same way when Dorsey Levens left. He's going into the Packers Hall of Fame, he was only 40 yards or so away from becoming the team's all-time leading rusher. I'm guessing Houston offered far and away more than the Packers were prepared to go, so he had to take the money. I think he's got a couple good years left in him, but word was he wanted $5 million per, and that's a lot of money to offer a guy on the downside who has been beat up. I would've liked to have had him back--particularly so he could get the rushing record, but once I see the final dollar amount, I imagine I'll be pretty happy that Thompson balked.

He gave the Packers some great years, and I've really enjoyed watching him. I wish him nothing but the best in Houston. Good luck, Batman.

The Packers still have some options at tailback. It's not a great free agent crop, but word is they've been in contact with Travis Henry's agent. I cringed when I read that name, much in the way Bears fans probably cringed when they saw Thomas Jones was coming to town. But I pulled up his profile and he actually had a pretty great year in Tennessee last year. 1,200 yards, 4.5 a carry and 7 touchdowns, despite only starting 13 games. Lynch could very well be the man when Green Bay picks at 16 if they don't sign anyone via free agency. They could do a lot worse than Henry though. And I didn't think I'd be saying those words anytime soon.

I'm still keeping my fingers crossed on the Randy Moss rumors. We've heard conflicting reports--CNNSI says they haven't even made contact--but I think there's way too much smoke around this rumor for something to not be going on. Either that or Randy is toking up. I don't necessarily believe the Packers will give up on Rodgers for him--unless they're convinced that he's not the guy--but a pick this year and a conditional pick next year could probably get it done. That would give the Packers a WR corps of Moss, Driver, Jennings, Robinson, and a couple guys who looked great down the stretch in Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday. The latter intrigues me. He showed some outstanding hands in that game against the Bears. He caught a couple of balls that I wouldn't have blamed Driver for dropping.

Lastly, a quick comment on the Wings game today. Once again, we get killed on a typical Osgood goal. They were playing like crap for two periods, Detroit fights back to make it 2-2 and then Colorado scores a softie through the five hole on their first shot of the third period, a few minutes after we tied the game. Ridiculous. He's now 7-3-4 on the season, which means that when he plays, we're just as likely to lose the game as win it. And considering most of his games have been against the likes of Columbus, Chicago, St. Louis and LA, that's not saying much for him. His save percentage has dipped to .897 and his GAA is now up around 2.70. Again, not good when you're playing the weak sisters of the poor.

Today wasn't completely Osgood's fault. Schneider had some horrendous turnovers, our defensive zone coverage wasn't real good, and our offense failed to capitalize on some great chances (Holmstrom missed on a penalty shot, Langfeld took too long when he had a wide open net, etc.) but when we were buzzing and we had all the momentum on our side, you simply can't give up a dribbler through the five hole on their first shot of the period. That's a save that has to be made. It's inexcusable.

Frankly, the only reason he's on the team anymore is because he's Holland's baby. There was no reason to bring him back after the performance he put in last season, and there was DEFINITELY no reason to give him a two year extension.

On the bright side, Kyle Calder was an outstanding pick up. He's fast, he goes in the corners, and he works his butt off. Just what we needed on our second line. He's only been here three games or so, but I'm really impressed. I'm already at the point that I'd like to see him brought back next year. Good kid and I think he's going to do some good things for us.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Breaking Down the Wings Trade Deadline Pick Ups

Anyone who has read anything of mine (blog, message board posts) knows that I'm not a Ken Holland fan. But I can give credit where credit is due, and his moves at the NHL trading deadline were absolutely brilliant.

The Kyle Calder trade was an upgrade on so many levels: He'll crash the net unlike Williams. He'll go in the corners unlike Williams. He's a free agent after the season, Williams still had another year. And he's not Jason Williams.

I can't begin to express how happy I am that I never have to watch Williams run the point on the power play again. He was absolutely terrible back there.

Both players probably needed a change of scenery. Williams was brutal in the playoffs last year, and hasn't been nearly as good this regular season as he was in 05-06. Calder had a huge year for Chicago last year before moving on to Philly, where he disappointed.

But the players seem to be going in opposite directions. Before the trade, Williams had scored something like 4 goals in his past 18 games, and his line (Cleary/Lang/Williams) had gone completely stagnant. Calder, on the other hand, started the year with just 4 points in his first 37 games and was a -23 in that span. In the 23 (or so) games since then, he had an 8-9--17 line and was just -8 (playing for the worst team in hockey, mind you). He acclimated himself pretty quickly, tallying a goal on his first shift, adding an assist, and was a +2 in his first game as a Wing.

While he won't be the answer, he does have some grit (despite being small), he'll do the dirty work in the corners, and he's great on the forecheck. Anytime you pull a player-for-player swap, and not only get the better player, but also free up future cap space, you did a good job.

If the Calder trade went off without anyone batting an eyelid, the Wings' other move most certainly did not. Todd Bertuzzi is headed to Detroit.

I have mixed feelings on this one, solely because of the Steve Moore incident. That was a shameful act, and while I don't think he meant to hurt him as badly as he did, it was still a cheapshot. And it was the final act of a complete overreaction by the Canucks team to a hit by Moore on Naslund that was probably not even illegal.

Now, I do feel that he was remorseful. He took his medicine for the hit. And hopefully he's a better person now because of it. But I really do feel that the Wings are a bunch of likable guys. I can't think of a bad guy on that team. And maybe Bertuzzi isn't a bad guy. But the onus is on him to prove that. Because he will be forever linked with that lapse in judgement.

Character issues aside, he could really help this team. He's the type of big, talented forward that we have needed for years--but that aren't especially easy to acquire. And on a day when the asking price for players was just going up, up, up, the Wings got him for virtually nothing, including all sorts of conditions in the trade to protect themselves if they a) tank in the playoffs again, b) don't get any use out of Bertuzzi because of his health.

He is a medical risk. He hasn't played since early in the season, and back injuries can linger. But they swear he's going to be close to 100% when he comes back, and if that's true this could be a huge addition. Even in a down year for him last year, he still tallied 71 points and 25 goals. Maybe he's not the 45-50 goal scorer he used to be. But he's big. He's skilled. He's physical. And based on what we gave up for him, he's pretty low-risk.

I liken this to the Hasek acquisition. You don't know if he's going to be healthy, but this team probably wasn't good enough to win the Cup without him. And if he DOES stay healthy, he sures up a major area of need on the team.

We changed our second line from Cleary-Lang-Williams to Bertuzzi-Lang-Calder without giving up a top prospect, without taking on any salary for next season, and the only way we give up a first round pick is if we make it to the Western Conference Finals or farther. Hard to argue with that.

Great job, Kenny! Now just don't use that added cap space to drastically overpay #13.

Does this make the Wings the favorite in the West? Probably not. I'm as big of a homer as there is, and I still like San Jose. They've run our show several times this year, and they're ridiculously deep up front. They aren't as good on the blue line or in goal (as long as Hasek is healthy) but they're good enough.

The top 4 in the West (Detroit, Nashville, San Jose, Anaheim) are all great teams. And that ignores the sleeping giant in Dallas, and a team in Calgary that improved as well. It's a wide-open conference. It's just too bad that with Zetterberg, Cleary and Samuelsson out, the Wings probably will not catch Nashville...meaning we need to keep our fingers crossed that Dallas holds off SJ for the 5 seed. I want no part of SJ in the first round....

Edit: It should also be mentioned that the Wings had a deal in place for a guy I really wanted in Owen Nolan, but due to his wife's pregnancy, he didn't want to leave Phoenix and the Coyotes honored that request even though he has no no-trade clause. He would've been another really good fit and Kenny gets another atta-boy out of me (not that he cares) for that one. The Coyotes should also be given some good pub for looking out for one of their players, even though they weren't obligated to do so.