Sports Outside the Beltway

Peter Forsberg seeks wants to play in the NHL again

The one-time NHL MVP has been playing in his native Sweden of late. From AP-

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Peter Forsberg has decided not to play for his hometown team Modo this season, instead setting his sights on a return to the NHL.

Forsberg made the announcement to Modo hours before the deadline for transfers in the Swedish hockey league. “My goal is to go back to the NHL,” Forsberg told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

The 34-year-old Forsberg has been sidelined with a foot and ankle injury since finishing last season with the Nashville Predators, but has recently indicated he wants to return to the NHL if he is healthy.

He has practiced with Modo in his hometown of Ornskoldsvik, raising hopes there that he would play for the team in the Swedish league. Modo sports director Erik Holmberg said that Forsberg informed the club Thursday he would not be available this season.

Forsberg told Aftonbladet that he would continue training before the Feb. 26 deadline to sign with an NHL team.

Forsberg won two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche and was the league’s MVP in 2003 after scoring 29 goals and adding 77 assists. He also helped lead Sweden to Olympic gold medals in Lillehammer in 1994 and Turin in 2006.

Injuries have plagued him in recent years and he hasn’t played more than 60 games in a season since suiting up for 75 games in 2002-03 with the Avalanche.

Forsberg’s play in the 2006-07 NHL wasn’t very good. Yes he was injured, but Forsberg averaged less than one point per game last season.

Could Forsberg still help an NHL team? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t want to pay out too much on this injury prone player if I was a General Manager.


Inside scoop on the Santana deal

from Jon Heyman:

If you can really fault the Twins, perhaps it was for failing to pounce on the Yankees’ offer of top young pitcher Phil Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera, pitching prospect Jeffrey Marquez and a fourth undetermined prospect when it was briefly on the table for the first couple days of the winter meetings back in early December. Instead, the Twins pressed for the Yankees to also include another top young pitcher, Ian Kennedy, going for the grand slam. If you want to hit the Twins, hit them for that.

The Yankees’ proposal, however fleeting, may have been the best one. Even the AL scout who defended the Twins thought so, saying, “I think the Yankees’ deal would have been better because those two guys (Hughes and Cabrera) already showed what they can do in the big leagues.”

Even if that’s true — and Cabrera is no world-beater yet (even those who don’t love Gomez say he’s “a tick above” Cabrera in terms of value) — it’s still hard to knock Smith for ignoring Hank Steinbrenner’s quick deadline and pressing for more.

Who could have thought Hank the Yank would actually stick to the deadline this time? In Steinbrenner the Junior’s tenure at the top, he has showed he is willing to change his mind (hence the re-signing of A-Rod), to seal certain deals by giving away the store (thus a fourth year for 36-year-old catcher Jorge Posada) and even to over-rule general manager Brian Cashman (both A-Rod and Posada). So it’s understandable why Smith still hoped for more.

But as we know by now, Cashman made a strong stand, building a convincing case regarding Hughes’ toughness and potential. Then Hank’s younger brother Hal, who controls the purse strings, tightened hard before Hank could loosen them again.

When the Twins made a last pass at the Yankees on Tuesday, it was too late. So when Cashman told the Twins yet again that Hughes was off the table, the Twins went for the gusto, requesting that instead Cashman send them both Kennedy and Chien-Ming Wang to go with Cabrera and Marquez. Why not? By then, it was clear that there was only one place left to go, and that was the Mets.

That’s insane to ask the Yankees for that much. I guess it just shows how badly Minnesota wanted Santana out of the AL.


Ottawa Senators to fine Goalie Ray Emery up to $14,700

For being late to practice the team’s General Manager says

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery will be “fined substantially” by the team after arriving late for a team skate a day after the All-Star Game.

Emery’s explanation for being four minutes late was that he went to Nassau Coliseum for the skate, when it was being held at the Islanders’ practice rink Monday afternoon.

“Ray has got to be in uniform with the rest of the team,” general manager Bryan Murray said. “This is a uniform league. We have rules, and he has to follow them, just like anyone else.”

Murray said Emery will be “fined substantially.”


“We think Ray is a good goaltender,” Murray said. “We’re asking him to be accountable.”

Emery could be docked up to one-187th of his $2.75 million salary, roughly $14,700.

That is a great deal of accountability. The fine coming out at 3,675 dollars a minute.

Why was Emery late? The goalie had this to say.

“When the club came back from the break, I just didn’t go to the right location,” Emery said. “I didn’t want to cause a ruckus, and I want to make up for it.

“They said it was a one-time thing, and they know it was accidental, but it’s kind of me all the time, so it’s [management's] job to do something about it,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss the practice, but I did, and I have to try to get past it. I haven’t heard any of my teammates say it harmed them or anything like that. All I can do is show up on time and try to get through this as best as I can.”

What Emery’s teammates think, has nothing to do whether the Goalie should or shouldn’t be fined. That is a decision for management.

A $14,750 fine would seem excessive. Then maybe GM Bryan Murray is sending Emery a message to get his act together.

Murray did admit that the transgression itself wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, but this wasn’t Emery’s first incident this season. He threw his stick in the stands after a morning skate, angry that he wasn’t starting that night’s game. He also fought teammate Brian McGrattan in practice.

Emery is definitely a talented goalie. He has issues however, ones Ray Emery needs to address. A hit in the wallet may be exactly that message.


Jordin Tootoo gets new deal from Nashville Predators

I guess a low scoring thug deserves to make nearly one million a year in the NHL.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Nashville Predators signed forward Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuit to play in the NHL, to a two-year contract extension.

General Manager David Poile announced the deal worth $1.95 million Thursday, after the team’s morning skate. Drafted in 2001, Tootoo has career-highs with seven goals and 13 points in 41 games this season.

“Jordin is a physical player that can not only get under opponents’ skin and draw penalties, but has proven he can score at this level as well,” Poile said. “We are excited about watching his continued development over the next two seasons.”

The 24-year-old Tootoo has 40 points and 365 penalty minutes in 210 career games with the Predators. He debuted in the league Oct. 9, 2003, against Anaheim and helped the Predators to their first playoff berth.

Poile when he says Tootoo has proven he can score at any level is just laughable. Tootoo has scored 40 pts in 210 NHL games. That is goals and assists. That isn’t a proven scorer, not for a forward.

What Tootoo’s real job is an enforcer. The NHL really employs these guys, denials not holding up when the league barely punishes players like this when they get out of control.

Exhibit A- Tootoo’s sucker punch of Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars last March.

That’s what Tootoo’s real job is in the NHL. Why else would Jordin get paid as much as he does for so little offense?


Format changes to 2008 Ryder Cup matches announced

This seems comprable to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to me

Paul Azinger has already introduced sweeping changes to the U.S. Ryder Cup team selection process. Now he has altered the format of the tournament.

The U.S. captain announced Wednesday that the order of the team matches on the first and second days of the competition will be reversed, meaning there will be four foursomes (alternate shot) matches followed by four four-ball (best ball) matches. As usual, the Ryder Cup will conclude with 12 singles matches on Sunday.

In each of the past two Ryder Cups  routs for the European team  the four-ball format was used in the morning each day.

“I believe it was 1997, I think Seve (Ballesteros) changed it to best ball in the morning and alternate shot in the afternoon. I felt like the Americans had an edge in alternate shot and I think it’s partly responsible for why Europe has gotten off to a pretty hot start,” Azinger said at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he is competing in this week’s FBR Open. “So I’ve decided to change that back. I hope it’s the right decision. We’re switching, we’re going back to alternate shot in the morning and we’ll just see how it plays out.”

The matches will be played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. As captain of the home team, Azinger has say over the order of the matches and course set up.

“I’ll do everything I can to get an edge,” he said.

What edge? Altering when the matches are played, isn’t gong to eliminate the cause behind the USA losing five of the last six matches. The American team needs to play up to what it is capable. If not, Europe will win in another rout this September.


Post NHL All-Star game playoff assessment- Western Conference

From top to bottom, the standings

Detroit Red Wings 51-37-10-4-78
San Jose Sharks 50-28-15-7-63
Dallas Stars 54-29-20-5-63
Anaheim Ducks 53-27 20-6-60
Minnesota Wild 50-28-19-3-59
Calgary Flames 50-25-17-8-58
Vancouver Canucks 51-26-20-5-57
Colorado Avalanche 50-26-20-4-56

Phoenix Coyotes 50-27-21-2-56
Columbus Blue Jackets 52-25-21-6-56
Nashville Predators 51-25-21-5-55
St Louis Blues 49-23-19-7-53
Edmonton Oilers 53-23-25-5-51
Chicago Blackhawks 50-23-23-4-50
Los Angeles Kings 52-20-29-3-43

Note- The numbers above from left to right are- Games played, wins, losses, Overtime losses, total points

Teams in Bold are Northwest Division teams

I think its more than reason to say Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, and Anaheim are going to make the playoffs, while the LA Kings have no chance. Edmonton’s chances are slim also.

The closest division is the Northwest. Three points separate first to fourth place. I like Vancouver because of Goalie Roberto Luongo. The division is both talented and very tight and I could see anyone but Edmonton could come out on top and deservingly so. The Avalanche, Wild, Canucks nor Flames rate as mediocre or badly underacheiving teams unlike members of the Southeast Division.


Post NHL All-Star game playoff assessment- Eastern Conference

From top to bottom, the standings

Ottawa Senators 51 32-15-4-68
Montréal Canadiens 50-27-15-8-62
Philadelphia Flyers 49-28-16-5-61
Pittsburgh Penguins 50 28-18-4-60
New Jersey Devils 50-28-19-3-59
Boston Bruins 50-26-19-5-57
New York Islanders 51-24-21-6-54
New York Rangers 52-24-22-6- 54
Carolina Hurricanes 53-25-24-4-54
Washington Capitals 51-23-23-5-51
Atlanta Thrashers 52-23-25-4-50

Buffalo Sabres 49-22-21-6-50
Florida Panthers 51-22-24-5-49
Toronto Maple Leafs 52-20-24-8-48
Tampa Bay Lightning 51-20-26-5-45

Note- The numbers above from left to right are- Games played, wins, losses, Overtime losses, total points

Teams in Bold are Southeast Division teams

First of all barring a complete collapse by these teams, you have to think Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Montreal are locks to make the playoffs. You can probably also toss Boston in.

The rest of the conference is pretty wide open. The only teams that appear to have little chance are Tampa and Toronto.

The Southeast Division is wide open. It is also a division likely to send only one team to the playoffs. First to fourth place is separated by a measly 5 pts, and the 4th place team Florida has played two less games than division leader Carolina. That would point to Florida having a good chance to make the playoffs for the first time in 8 years. On the other hand, there is the team’s listless play of late, only 4 wins in 14 games and this from today’s Palm Beach Post.

The Panthers, who return to action tonight against Buffalo following the All-Star break, say they are determined to end their agonizing playoff drought.

But some observers think the Panthers haven’t exhibited enough determination to reach the post-season for the first time since April 2000.

To put it more bluntly, some critics think they are soft.

“This team plays too much on the perimeter; I haven’t seen the willingness to get their noses dirty and do the dirty work,” said NHL broadcaster John Vanbiesbrouck, who starred in the nets for the Panthers when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

“Winning isn’t easy. You’ve got to make up your mind you’re going to do whatever it takes to get there and play like that every night.”

I’m not totally sure if Vanbiesbrouck is right in what he says. Florida has blown at least five games this year in the last minute of play. They’ve also played games where they either quit or showed little effort. I’ve missed only a handful of games on television this year, Florida has the talent to win the division and even make a run in the playoffs. The only teams I worry about in the conference are Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto (The Maple Leaf oversized defensemen seem to intimidate the Panthers) when Florida faces them.

I question if the Panthers has the desire, and perhaps the coaching. Why the hell did the team send Shawn Matthias back to the minors? He scored two goals in four NHL games, two of which Jacques Martin barely played him in, and 21 in 32 games of OHL play before his callup. I rather have Matthias on the roster than the overrated Brett McLean or Kamil Kreps. After all, Kreps has just 4 goals in 45 games played!

Boy am I getting gloomy about this Panthers team.


Santana dealt to the Mets

So Carlos Gomez was pulled from Winter ball as part of a trade. Frankly, Minnesota got screwed here. Both the original Boston and Yankee offers were better. Instead, rookie GM Bill Smith overplayed his hand (a phrase that’s quickly become cliched over the past week) and got a disappointing haul for Santana: Gomez, Humber, Mulvey and Guerra (the Mets 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th best prospects). In early December, Minny had their choice of Phil Hughes, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury – all better than any of the Mets trade chips. A Yankee offer of Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Melky and AJax destroys that Met offer, so perhaps it really was about the money (for the Yanks). I can’t believe the Twinkies caved and accepted an FMart-less offer. The deal still isn’t 100% done, as the Mets have 72 hours to reach an extension with Santana, but that should merely be a formality. It seems Smith was going to either (1) try to fleece an AL team, or (2) get him out of the league for the best offer he could muster.

Thank goodness the Sawx didn’t acquire him, because they would’ve been nearly unbeatable for the next three years with Santana leading the rotation. They probably could have acquired him for only Lester and Ellsbury – yes, two good prospects, but certainly not studs, and Santana would have locked up the division for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the money seems to have been too much for them too. This is a win for both Boston and the Yanks. A true rarity.

Credit should be given to Brian Cashman for not overreacting to Boston’s (and Hank’s) interest. I’m relieved he didn’t go to Boston and that we didn’t lose Hughes, but also pissed the Mets got him for a considerably inferior offer.

The only real loser is Minnesota. If you want to feel real pity (by reading the disgusted opinions of Twins fans), visit here.


New Jersey’s Jason Kidd wants a trade

What will the Nets do with the malcontent point guard? From AP-

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jason Kidd says he wants to be traded from the slumping New Jersey Nets. “We tried to make this work. We’ve found out it doesn’t,” Kidd told ESPN The Magazine on Monday. “It’s time for us all to move on.”

The Nets, losers of nine in a row, were scheduled to play the Milwaukee Bucks at home Tuesday night. Kidd attended the team’s morning shootaround but did not talk to reporters.

Nets president Rod Thorn did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

Trade speculation has followed Kidd since last February when the Nets reportedly were close to making a deal that would have sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last month, Kidd sat out a game against the New York Knicks with a migraine, a move suspected by some to be a one-day walkout to try and force a trade or new contract.

At a news conference, Kidd denied those were his motives, saying, “I am having one of my best seasons — why would I want to be asked to be traded? And as a team, we are doing better than last year.”

New Jersey was 9-10 at the time. Since then, the team has dropped 16 of 25 games to fall to 18-26.

Truthfully I’d trade Kidd. He isn’t helping the Nuts as much as he is hurting the team. Trade the idiot for two good players. New Jersey won’t be the NBA’s worst afterwards. The Miami Heat have a headlock on that at present.


Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

The Philles have signed former Giant third baseman Pedro Feliz to a two-year $8.5 million contract with an option and bonuses that could raise the total of three years and $15 million. Third base has long been a troublesome lineup spot for the Phils, and that trend seems likely to extend another two to three years. Let’s look at Feliz for a minute.

timeframe Avg OBP SLG BABIP OPS+
Feliz ’07 .253 .290 .418 .259 81
Feliz ’06 .244 .281 .422 .266 79
Feliz ’05 .250 .295 .428 .273 85
Feliz ’04 .276 .305 .485 .295 100
Feliz all .252 .288 .433 .261 84

The typical BABIP is around .300. Feliz’ poor plate discipline leaves him forty points below average for his career. This would be okay if he slugged 40 homeruns every year, but he doesn’t. He slugs 20. Even moving to Citizens Bank Bandbox won’t improve Feliz’ power numbers enough to make him a better than average ballplayer. His fielding ability is rather good, but it hardly makes up for his deficiency at the plate.

As terrible as Feliz is, he represents an improvement over the three headed monster (Greg Dobbs, Wes Helms and Abraham Nunez) that tallied a combined line of .255/.321/.368/.689. The Phillies won the division thanks in part to an historic collapse by the Mets and a little internal luck. Their black hole 3B solution did not doom them last year, and they might be able to overcome that problem in 2008, too. However, without Aaron Rowand’s production in center, that task will be tougher. Their hitting core of Rollins, Utley, Howard and Burrell are all still young enough to be relied on to produce near current level or above for another few seasons. But a young third baseman with the capability of improving would have been far superior to an aging player with a good glove and limited ability at the plate.

Strangely, the Phils dealt away the best third base prospect in Michael Costanzo as part of the package to obtain Brad Lidge. I can’t imagine that the Astros were so bent on getting Costanzo that the Phillies substituting a different player or cash would have prevented them from acquiring Lidge. After all, Costanzo was later dealt by the Astros to the Orioles as part of the package to acquire Miguel Tejada. Costanzo looks like he will be in prime position to take over for Melvin Mora in late 2008 or early 2009. Costanzo, a Philly native, could have been underpaid to underperform for the next two or three years, freeing up a few million with which the Phillies could have shored up another area of need.

Teams that eschew inexpensive and equally effective solutions in favor of aging veterans of limited utility are failing their fans. Enjoy the title defense, Philadelphia. The cupboard looks pretty bare coming up next year.


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