Already suffering from a slide down the Eastern Conference standings, consistently poor goaltending from partyboy Carey Price, and the surprising dominance of their rivals in Boston, the Montreal Canadiens have yet another problem ruining their centennial campaign. La Presse is reporting today that several Habs players, namely Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, are linked to an alleged drug trafficker named Pasquale Mangiola. The National Post sums it up for us non-Francophones:
Pasquale Mangiola, who faces drug-trafficking and illegal weapon charges, is a close associate of the brothers and spoke to them often, La Presse says.
The three were often seen together at local bars and restaurants, the French-language newspaper reports.
Canadiens defenceman Roman Hamrlik was also acquainted with Mr. Mangiola, La Presse reports.
The gossip is only the latest problem facing the team, following a string of game losses.
Montreal police on Friday refused comment on the anti-gang operation, Project Axe, as well as the rumours circulating about the Canadiens’ players.
“Concerning the numerous rumours that have been running around last night and this morning, they are still rumours as far as we are concerned,” Constable Yannick Ouimet said.
Habs fans have not been taking the news well, forcing HFBoards to shut down briefly. Perhaps this scandal is a blessing in disguise for trade-rumor magnate Alexei Kovalev, or perhaps his diabolical master plan has come to fruition.
The New York Islanders have sent head coach Ted Nolan packing after a disappointing 35-38-9 season in which he sparred with GM/former goaltender Garth Snow over personnel decisions.
The rift between Nolan and the organization became apparent last spring after his request for a contract extension before the final year of his three-year contract was denied by owner Charles Wang. When Snow became convinced that Nolan did not share his belief in rebuilding by emphasizing the development of the organization’s young prospects, he made the decision to end the power struggle and seek a partnership with a coach of his own choosing.
Describing the reasons for making a coaching change, Snow said, “There were philosophical differences between Ted and myself. Since last season and continuing into the summer, I have realized we don’t share the same philosophies. I’d like to thank Ted for his two years with the team and wish him the best.”
Asked why it took three months since the end of the season to reach this conclusion, Snow said, “That’s a fair question. This has been a difficult decision for both Ted and myself, especially for me because of Charles Wang’s desire to give Ted the opportunity to coach in the NHL and because of his loyalty to those he hires.
“I understand there could be some criticism, and if there is, it can fall on me. What I can tell you is there was a process. I spoke with Ted regularly following the season and when the draft and free agency ended. Our strong belief about our philosophical differences led me to believe, and Ted as well, that we needed to part ways. I know this decision will be best for not only the team and our fans, but for Ted as well.”
Considering how little talent the Islanders possess, the decision to fire a coach who kept them in the playoff race until Rick DiPietro’s season-ending hip surgery in March does not seem like a sound hockey decision. Game On hopes former Lightning boss John Tortorella fills the Islanders’ vacancy, which would invert his “great offense, no goaltending” conundrum in Tampa by introducing him to the Isles’ current scoring vacuum. After losing Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedetenko to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders are left with the aging combination of Doug Weight and Bill Guerin, Hillary Duff“accessory Mike Comrie, and unproven rookie Kyle Okposo to improve on their conference-low total of goals from last season. Recently signed defenseman Mark Streit is effectively a forward, so add his name to that impressive core of talent upfront. Perhaps the only good news for Islanders fans is that this move puts them in contention with the Maple Leafs, Thrashers, and Kings in the John Tavares sweepstakes.
As for the fate of Ted Nolan, he did push the team to the playoffs in his only other season on Long Island, so hopefully he’s earned himself a shorter sabbatical from coaching than his decade-long absence after being deemed a “GM killer” in Buffalo back in 1997. Maybe the Los Angeles Kings will snap him up to fill their coaching vacancy and instill some team defense, a concept the Kings struggled to understand under Marc Crawford.
Several sources in the NHL have informed TSN that former Penguins sniper Marian Hossa has signed a one-year, 7.4 million dollar deal with the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Mark Spizziri of Hockey Buzz recognizes that Hossa left money on the table to head to Motown:
Another outstanding move by Ken Holland & Company. As great a move as it is, it took the co-operation of Marian Hossa to forego a huge sum of money from many teams offering multi-year contracts. Hossa gets to play for a Cup once again this season and then can hit the jackpot next July 1st for a long-term deal. For his sake, I hope he gets insured against injury this season.
The Wings also signed backup goaltender Ty Conklin away from the Penguins for a mere 750K.
While big name forwards like Penguins sniper Marian Hossa and Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin remain on the market, most of the
premier living defensemen in the NHL free agent pool have been snapped up. The biggest deal went to former Shark and Sabre Brian Campbell, who parlayed coining the term “Umbergered” (and smooth puck-handling skills) into eight years and 56.8 million dollars with the Chicago Blackhawks. Campbell moves a bit further east to be closer to his family, but he certainly didn’t take a pay cut to do so.
Elsewhere, Wade Redden turned no interest (and some disdain) from his former team, the Ottawa Senators, into six years at 6.5 million per year with the New York Rangers. The Rangers also re-upped Michal Rozsival for four years and twenty million.
If these salaries seem inflated given the relatively recent history of the 2004-2005 lockout, keep in mind that redbeard defenseman Mike Commodore swindled the Columbus Blue Jackets out of 18.5 million over five years and the Toronto Maple Leafs gave Jeff Finger, a young defenseman with twenty-four career points, 14 million over four years. The latter move prompted All Things Avs to quip “No wonder that team hasn™t won a Stanley Cup since 1968.“
While increasing the salary cap 6.4 million to a ceiling of 56.7 million means that teams can afford to pay second-pair defensemen like Commodore more than five million per season, these moves seem downright ludicrous considering NHL owners’ gripes about rising salaries during the lockout. The NHL still lacks a TV deal that pays money up front or garners attention on the Worldwide Leader
of Idiocy, so perhaps employing a bit of restraint might be a good idea if fans want to watch hockey in two years.
It’s Canada Day for our neighbors to the north (opening day of NHL free agency for the rest of the world) and is there a better way to celebrate than to sit around TSN and wait for jaw-dropping free agent signings like… Radim Vrbata to the Lightning for three years, nine million?
Just like hockey fans throughout the great white north, Radim can’t control his glee for signing with a restocking Lightning club that’s already grabbed Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, and Vinny Prospal to replenish their meager talent at wing past Martin St. Louis.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Oilers GM Kevin Lowe followed up his deal for Kings offensive defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky by dumping children’s entertainer and gritty winger Raffi Torres on the Columbus Blue Jackets for permanent prospect Gilbert Brule and sending Joni Pitkanen to Carolina for injury-prone winger Erik Cole. The Minnesota Wild filled a need for an offensive defenseman as well, picking up Marek Zidlicky from the Nashville Predators for a prospect and a fourth-round pick.
Numerous teams have resigned their own pending free agents, the most notable being Ducks winger Corey Perry getting 26.625 million over five years. The Detroit Red Wings resigned both good defenseman Brad Stuart and weakest link defenseman Andreas Lilja. I suspect the NHL mandated Lilja’s presence on the team in the interest of league parity.
Update: The Vancouver Canucks have apparently offered Leaf Legend Mats Sundin a 20 milliion dollar two-year deal to bolster their anemic offense. The Washington Capitals signed former Avalanche and Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore to a two-year deal, starting an exodos from Colorado that has also seen corner-man Andrew Brunette sign a three-year, seven-million dollar deal with the Wild and defenseman Kurt Sauer sign for four years at 1.75 per with the defense-decimated Phoenix Coyotes.
TSN.ca reports that the Anaheim
Mighty Ducks placed Todd Bertuzzi on waivers today with the ultimate intention of buying out the remaining year of the two-year, eight-million-dollar contract he signed last summer. It’s difficult to stomach one of the NHL’s true class acts being without a home, but I imagine some team direly in need of a once-dominant power forward with crippled confidence will give Bert his fifth home in four years.
I must admit that the possibility of Bertuzzi and Rangers super-pest and pending free agent Sean Avery landing on the same team is tantalizing. Imagine the potential increase in merchandising revenue from fans hoping to deface their new jerseys. Somebody call Gary Bettman. Hell, he might even create a new expansion franchise for the occasion, since Penguins agitator Jarkko Ruttu is also available.
Glen Wesley, the last remaining member of the Hartford Whalers in their no-longer-new digs as the Carolina Hurricanes, retired today after twenty years of NHL service. No word if “The Brass Bonanza” was played at his press conference.
Wesley won the Cup back in 2006 with Carolina, but I usually think of the Whalers’ failed attempt to sign him to an RFA offer sheet followed by the Bruins dealing him to the Whalers for three first-round picks, which included Sergei Samsonov and Kyle McLaren. He also accompanied Cam Neely from Vancouver in the Canucks’ ill-fated deal for Barry Pederson. Wesley follows former Flyer, Whaler, and Hurricane Sami Kapanen into NHL retirement.
The Atlanta Thrashers have fired fifth-year head coach Bob Hartley today after their 0-6 start. GM Don Waddell is expected to name himself interim coach, perhaps so he can encounter the follies of his main gig firsthand, e.g. presuming Bobby Holik is a number one center, drafting Patrik Stefan, trading for short-term solutions like Keith Tkachuk, and letting valuable two-way center Eric Belanger go. Well, except for Stefan, who was shipped to Dallas and then deported to Switzerland.
“You know what? If anyone is not satisfied with the team effort, I don’t agree,” Hartley said. “I think those boys work hard. … Let’s keep working, let’s get a couple of breaks going our way and we’re going to turn this thing around.”
“The last thing that those guys need right now is to be hard on them,” he added. “It’s hard enough right now. When people don’t have great confidence you don’t step on them. I’m part of this. We have to find solutions, we have lots of young players, we have lots of new faces, and to get in those guys face and to start yelling and throwing stuff, I think that we would go backward.”
Given that Hartley is only six games removed from coaching the Thrashers to their first playoff appearance in franchise history, perhaps the ax swung a bit too soon. It’s unfortunate that Mike Keenan can’t be cloned for the rare circumstances when a head coaching job opens up and he is gainfully employed.
The New York Islanders have bought out the remainder of Alexei Yashin’s ten-year, $87 million contract for the paltry sum of $17.6 million. Owner Charles Wang apparently no longer needed the Yashin deal as evidence that handing Rick DiPietro fifteen years and $67.5 million was nowhere near the dumbest move he’d helped author. Considering that the Isles traded behemoth defenseman Zdeno Chara and newly drafted scoring stud Jason Spezza (now in the Cup finals with the Senators) for Yashin, perhaps hoping that he would average a point a game during some point in his Islanders career is not outrageous. Despite his scant ice time and lack of production during the the Isles’ first-round defeat to the Buffalo Sabres, Yashin leaves with his head high:
“The Islanders have treated me with the utmost respect,” Yashin said on the Islanders’ Web site. “I’ve always believed in the vision Charles Wang has for the organization and although I won’t be a part of it, I believe that the team is headed in the right direction. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my life.”
That chapter? Not giving a fuck somewhere else.
Super-sophomore Sidney Crosby (above) can focus on breaking scoring records and getting home ice for the first round of the playoffs now that the Pittsburgh Penguins have reached a deal to stay in Pennsylvania for at least 30 years:
The Pittsburgh Penguins reached a financing deal for a new arena that will keep the NHL team in the city where it has played since 1967.
Gov. Ed Rendell announced the agreement Tuesday at the Pennsylvania Gaming Congress. He said money from the state’s new slot machine parlors would help fund the arena.
According to multiple media reports, the new arena would be completed by the start of the 2009-10 season. The Penguins would pay $3.8 million a year for construction and $400,000 annually for unspecified capital improvements, the newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources.
Apologies to Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Houston, who are now out of the running for the franchise, but Scott Burnside nominates the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators as deserving candidates for new locales. Burnside doesn’t suggest that the west-leading Predators move to Chicago to replace Bill Wirtz’s infuriating Blackhawks, but I don’t think that too many fans in the Windy City would mind.
The Philadelphia Flyers, mired in last place in the NHL, have traded Peter Forsberg (above, returning his jersey) and at least one working ankle to the NHL-leading Nashville Predators in exchange for right wing Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent, and Nashville’s first- and third-round draft picks in the 2007 entry draft. Upshall and Parent are former first-round picks, but the Upshall hasn’t been able to crack Nashville’s top six forwards and Parent has yet to play in the NHL. Expect that to change in Philadelphia, where a dog with three legs and mediocre puck-handling skills would be an improvement over the likes of Derian Hatcher.
Off Wing Opinion opines:
That’s a heck of a price to pay for what may amount to an 8-week rental, but it’s a trade that’s sure to electrify the fanbase in Nashville and help pack fannies in the seats come playoff time.
I’ll disagree with Eric here. Nashville needed a genuine number-one center for Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan; if healthy, Forsberg provides both physicality and play-making prowess. Jason Arnott fits better as a second-line center for Scott Hartnell and J. P. Dumont. The deal pushes promising rookie Alexander Radulov out of contention for the scoring lines, but Nashville must’ve seen Thomas Vanek fall out of favor for the Buffalo Sabres in last year’s playoffs. Not including Radulov, Shea Weber, or Ryan Suter keeps the best of Nashville’s young players in the fold. Forsberg may be an impending UFA, but a deep playoff run may be necessary to finally get support from the business community in Nashville.
Only through the magic of photography could Anaheim Duck Andy McDonald’s (above) victory in the fastest skater competition seem interesting. The announcers on Versus enjoyed guessing the relative times of the skaters, since the computerized timing system was out of commission and a stopwatch had to be used. Eddie Olczyk correctly determined that McDonald was slightly faster than his peers, but it’s unclear whether he won a $25 gift certificate to Chili’s for this achievement.
Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s leading scorer and pitchman (pictured alongside Alexander Ovechkin, who attempted to draft Crosby), helped win an absolutely meaningless points battle for the Eastern Conference with a victory in the individual shootout. Though Crosby didn’t benefit from the new streamlined uniforms, which make their official debut in Wednesday’s all-star game, his new baby mullet scored major points with Barry Melrose.
Though the skills competition lacks even the worn-out spectacle of the slam-dunk competition (a round per all-star with former cocaine aficionado Bob Probert might liven things up a bit), it still beats the NHL YoungStars game. Kostya Kennedy calls it “dull and miscast”:
The YoungStars play 4-on-4, for three, 10-minute periods. In others words, a pretend game. Everybody skates around formlessly — and unenergetically. “The game was more slow-moving than I expected,” said Ryan Getzlaf, a YoungStar from the Ducks. Guys fire shots and pass the puck sloppily while defensemen occasionally wave their sticks in benign protest.
The score this time wound up at 9-8. That’s 17 goals in 30 minutes. All of them scarcely contested, none of them memorable. No one was expecting a hard-checking affair but a little intensity would have been nice, might have stopped the audible snoring rising up from section 117.
Do you feel like you just played a hockey game? I asked the gently perspiring Penguins forward Ryan Whitney a few minutes after the East’s win? “No,” he said. “More like a summer practice or a shinny or something.”
If the YoungStars game is brought back next year, the least that the NHL could do is replace the overworked goaltenders with shooter tutors.
Boston rookie Phil Kessel capped off an exciting back-and-forth match with the Pittsburgh Penguins with a goal in the fourth round of the shootout, leading the Bruins to a 5-4 victory tonight. Kessel is now two for two in shootouts in his career, unlike Penguins talents Sidney Crosby (a woeful two for eleven) and Evgeni Malkin (one for five). Kessel’s recent shoot-out victory over cancer is not counted in those stats.
There was another, far less likely game-winning goalscorer in Ottawa, where near-All Star Rory Fitzpatrick’s first goal of the year helped push the Vancouver Canucks over the Senators 2-1. Fitzpatrick was denied in his attempt to get even a third star of the night by the hometown preference for Daniel Alfredsson’s seventeenth goal of the year. Your voting system is a nepotistic sham, Ottawa, and you know it.
After lulling the New York Rangers into a nice slumber with a series of failed power play opportunities, Dan Boyle led the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third period comeback over the New York Rangers, winning 4-3 in the unofficial Hockey Bay USA. Boyle bolstered his first career hat trick with an assist on Vincent Lecavalier’s game-tying power play goal, giving him another personal record with four points. Whether this game helps quell recent trade rumors for the Lightning’s big four is unclear, but it won’t stop barely literate Maple Leafs fans from dreaming up ridiculous proposals:
MAN, they should trade vinny,stlouis,or richards to the leafs…the leafs need more canadians on their team we can give them like aubin, hes pretty solid. The leeafs relaly should pull this trade, it would help them a lot if they were to acquire stlouis or vinny lecavalier. no matter what, tampa has great offesnce , bad defence and bad ggoaltending
The Leafs may have to give up “valued” back-up goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin if they would like to replace Michael Peca’s two-way contributions with the scoring, smarts, and defense of Buffalo’s pending free agent Chris Drury, but the Sabres would have to throw in Ryan Miller to make it worth imspanish‘s while.
David Stern has announced the suspensions and fines stemming from Saturday’s brawl: 15 games for Carmelo Anthony, 10 games for J. R. Smith and Nate Robinson, 6 games for Mardy Collins, 4 games for Jared Jeffries, a game apiece for Jerome James and Nene for leaving the benches, and $500,000 fines for each team. It would seem that Isiah Thomas has not been punished for his supposed direction of the night’s events, but I digress: he still has to coach the Knicks. Even worse, he won’t have his enforcer. Maybe he should give Anaheim Ducks goon George Parros (pictured below with non-mustachioed teammates) a call in advance of Wednesday’s matchup with Adam Morrison’s Charlotte Bobcats.
Meanwhile, Nate Robinson (below) has not yet announced his plans for his impending vacation”perhaps he’ll read The Cat and the Hat again before embarking on Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day”but I personally hope he takes a photography class. Imagine his emo mirror shots taken with a new digital SLR.
The Chicago Blackhawks downed the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 tonight, getting 28 saves from a healthy Nikolai Khabibulin and the game-winning goal from another one of last year’s overpaid free agent signings, defenseman Adrian Aucoin. Recent acquisition Peter Bondra, seen below bracing his teeth for an impending Jose Theodore cup check, failed to score his 500th goal, depriving Blackhawks fans of a milestone none of their homegrown players is likely to meet within the next decade.
The game did, however, improve the Blackhawks’ record under new coach Denis Savard to 7-1-3, suggesting that the team may have finally found a replacement for fan favorite Alpo Suhonen. The Blackhawks are now within two points of the bottom rung of the crowded Western Conference playoff tree, a nearly inconceivably feat considering last year’s 26-43-13 record, but beating out Colorado, Minnesota, and Vancouver might be difficult for a team so dependent upon the fickle health of Khabibulin and Martin Havlat. (First-line center Michal Handzus is already out for the season.) Enjoy this temporary rush of near viability while you can, Blackhawks fan, because if Bill Wirtz has his way, he will undoubtedly trade off the solid core of young forwards and defensemen (Seabrook, Vrbata, Ruutu now, Barker, Toews, Skille in the future) in baffling attempts to appeal to the team’s withered fan base. GM Dale Tallon may have denied Seabrook trade rumors (his idiot man-child brother Dick was unavailable for comment), but I’ll need at least a full season of glorious mediocrity before believing that the worst franchise in professional sports has turned the corner from astounding failure.
After benching outspoken nutjob Jeremy Roenick (pictured above from far better days) for watching some of Tuesday’s game from a restaurant, the Phoenix Coyotes are somehow managing without having JR’s stunning goal output this season (one) in the lineup and currently lead the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 in the second period. If not for Owen Nolan’s somewhat inexplicable production (now seven goals, eight assists in thirty-one games) this season, Phoenix would be leading the new NHL in sending aging, washed-up stars out to pasture, e.g. Brett Hull last season. Reminder to slow, washed-up defensemen: Philadelphia is still your destination of choice.
Since Kevin did it, I figure that the Can’t Stop the Bleeding readership might appreciate a little insight into who is cramming NHL news and scores into their daily allotment of Will Leitch hatred and New York Mets hot stove chatter. My name is Sebastian. I’m a graduate student in English at Boston College. My family heritage of hating the New York Yankees while residing in the Hudson Valley has largely turned me against my home teams, but my baseball aims have been temporarily aligned with those of the underreported local squad in Boston. I’m far more likely, however, to air my thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings goaltending situation (dump Hasek for a longterm solution before he eats Kris Draper as a mid-morning snack) or the University of Illinois starting five (Rich McBride must go). Yes, I share an alma mater with Will Leitch, but I have never eaten my weight in Crunch Wrap Supremes.
Recently included in the fifty options for Top Line of All Time on ESPN.com, Sidney Crosby did his best to sway voters with a six-point performance in an 8-4 rout of the wretched Philadelphia Flyers tonight. Here’s hoping he enjoys a long, distinguished, and injury-free career like fellow nominee Eric Lindros and keeps up his manly physique in the process.
No word yet if Sid the Kid likes the Arcade Fire, but rumor has it that he’s quite fond of the back catalog of Pittsburgh-based math-rockers Hurl.