Sports Outside the Beltway

Did the NHL make a mess of the 2009-10 schedule?

The upcoming schedule was released yesterday. Right away I noticed something interesting. Florida has a home and home series with Nashville.

Nov 28 and Mar 29 are when the Panthers and Predators play next season.

What I find interesting is- Florida is playing Nashville home and home for the second straight season. In 2008-09, the Panthers and Predators played on November 1st and December 23rd.

In light of the way the NHL season is set up, namely that any Eastern or Western conference team plays only play 3 home and homes in any season, Florida and Nashville shouldn’t meet home and home more than once every five years 15 western conference teams divided by 3 home and home series equals five.

Here’s a link to the 2009-10 schedule. Anyone have theories as to what happened here or am I off base?


Philadelphia Flyers Defensemen Derian Hatcher retires

He is the only American to ever Captain a Stanley Cup winning team. From AP-

Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher retired Monday, two weeks after knee replacement surgery in effect ended his 16-year career. The 37-year-old former Flyers captain joined the coaching staff as player development coach.

“It sounded like the perfect way to stay in the game and see if I like it,” Hatcher said. “I will be watching the younger players and making sure everything runs smoothly for them. I will be involved with running the rookie camp this summer.”

On the coaching staff, Hatcher replaces former Flyer Eric Desjardins, who resigned to pursue business interests.

Hatcher underwent a right knee replacement June 1 and said afterward he did not expect to play again. He missed all of last season and played only 44 games for the Flyers in 2007-08.

Hatcher finished his career with 80 goals and 331 points in 1,045 games for the Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and the Flyers. He also scored 33 points for 133 career NHL playoff games.

He signed with the Flyers as a free agent in 2005. He won a Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999 and is the only American-born player to captain a team to a championship.

Hatcher was a good player but hockey is a rough sport without the type of surgery he underwent. He got out at the right time.


Dallas Stars name Marc Crawford head coach

He replaces Dave Tippett who was just fired yesterday. From AP-

For Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, it became clear in less than two weeks on the job that a coaching change was necessary. The team needed a leader with a tougher edge.

Nieuwendyk turned to Marc Crawford, a coach he once played for in the Olympics and someone similar to the coach he played for when the Stars won their only Stanley Cup 10 years ago.

“What Marc will bring is a real command at the top,” Nieuwendyk said. “The players will know who’s in charge. They will be held accountable on a daily basis. That’s what I think is necessary.”

Crawford was introduced Thursday as the replacement for Dave Tippett, who was fired Wednesday. The coaching change is the first significant move made by Nieuwendyk since he was hired May 31.

The more player-friendly Tippett had replaced Ken Hitchcock, who was fired midway through 2001-02 season. Now the Stars are going back to a more dominant coach after missing the playoffs for only the third time since moving to Dallas in 1993.

While Tippett did a good job in Dallas, he probably outlived his usefulness to the franchise. Will Crawford(Who took Colorado to a Stanley Cup Championship in 1996 over my favorite team, the Florida Panthers) make the team better? The Stars have more than their share of aging and or injury prone veterans. Michael Modano, Sergei Zubov, and Brendan Morrow. Crawford has a lot of work ahead of him.


Former NHL player Peter Zezel dead at 44

His best seasons were with the Philadelphia Flyers in the mid-1980′s. The AP article makes no mention of the controversy at the end of Zezel’s career. He had a niece who was very ill in the Toronto area, so Zezel requested a trade to an Eastern team. At the time Zezel was playing for the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks traded him, but to Anaheim the team furthest from Toronto in the NHL. Zezel retired rather than play for the Ducks. The trade, made by then Canuck GM Brian Burke, was heavily criticized at the time. RIP.

Peter Zezel, a center who played 15 NHL seasons after breaking into the league with the Philadelphia Flyers as a teenager, has died. He was 44.

Zezel struggled with the rare blood disease hemolytic anemia for the past 10 years and died on Tuesday. Zezel suffered from the ailment off and on, but had rebounded after being in critical condition in 2001.

He was admitted to the hospital last week for scheduled surgery, but complications developed and his conditioned worsened.

“Peter will forever be remembered as a great teammate and a wonderful individual who touched the lives of many both on and off the ice,” Zezel’s family said in a statement released by the National Hockey League Players’ Association. “In his typical character of generosity, Peter donated his organs through the Trillium Gift of Life Network.”

The gritty center was known on the ice for his strong two-way game. In 873 NHL games with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Toronto, Dallas, New Jersey and Vancouver, Zezel had 219 goals and 389 assists.

His matinee idol looks also earned him a small role in the 1986 hockey-based movie “Youngblood” that starred Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze.

Zezel was born in Toronto and played junior hockey with the Toronto Marlies before the Flyers chose him with the 41st pick in the 1983 draft. He made his NHL debut in 1984 when he was 19.


Dallas Stars, Texas Rangers owner defaults on $525M loan

Tom Hicks claims this won’t won’t affect the teams. From AP-

The company that owns baseball’s Texas Rangers and hockey’s Dallas Stars has defaulted on about $525 million in loans, with owner Tom Hicks saying on Friday that he intentionally made the move to help negotiate with banks.

Hicks told The Associated Press the teams won’t be affected after Hicks Sports Group, his holding company, didn’t make an interest payment on the syndicated bank loans Tuesday. A syndicated bank loan is one made by a group of lenders to one borrower.

“What we want is the banks to allow us to use our interest revenue,” Hicks said. “We need 51 percent approval, which we anticipate. It is hard to get two banks to agree to anything, much less 40 on a timely basis.”

A financial news Web site called FINalternatives first reported Friday that Hicks Sports Group did not make its interest payment on a $350 million bank-term loan, $100 million second-lien loan and a $75 million revolving credit facility.

“Like so many other companies and institutions, HSG has been impacted by a global credit crisis which no one could have anticipated,” Hicks said in a statement. “The company is not asking for additional money; it is only asking for full access to the interest reserve account and revolving credit line as well as some amendments in the debt covenants.”

He said that the negotiations have nothing to with his other assets or his family’s assets.

“This will be a nonevent to players, to the fans, our sponsors, our vendors, anybody,” Hicks said.

Hicks admits he is seeking minority owners for the franchises. I don’t see how these financial problems CAN’T affect the teams Hicks owns. In a few months it will be the time of year when NHL teams sign free agents or try to retain those players they have now. If these teams are unable to pay for a loan, how will they be able to compete in the player market?


Dallas Stars Steve Ott suspended for eye goguing

He says it was an accident. From AP-

Stars center Steve Ott was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Sunday after he received a penalty for attempting to injure Anaheim’s Travis Moen at the end of a game one day earlier.

Ott missed Sunday’s home game against Pittsburgh and won’t be eligible to play until after a hearing with league officials that will determine a specific length of the ban.

Ott and Moen squared off in a fight after the final horn sounded in Anaheim’s 4-3 victory Saturday over Dallas. Ott’s hand made contact with Moen’s eye, which game officials ruled was an eye-gouge and gave him a match penalty for attempting to injure.

Ott left the ice with two cuts on his face.

The bout ensued after Ott cross-checked Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer during the final seconds of the game. Once time ran out, Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere whacked Ott in the knee with his stick and punched Ott behind the head.

Moen saw Ott involved with Giguere and began punching Ott, who has a broken bone in his right hand and can’t punch back. Ott said the eye-gouging was an accident.

Here’s the You Tube video of the incident.

The video is too unclear to pass judgment. If its determined Ott tried to gogue out Moen’s eye(s), I’d suspend him for the rest of the 2008-09 season. Realistically I expect no more than a 10-game suspension.


Dallas Stars place Brad Richards on IR with fractured wrist

This is definitely a blow for the team’s playoff hopes. From AP-

Dallas Stars center Brad Richards was placed on injured reserve Tuesday because of a fractured right wrist. He could miss the rest of the regular season.

Richards was hurt in the Stars’ 3-2 shootout win at Columbus on Monday night. He scored only 27 seconds into the game, but took a hard check midway through the second period and skated to the bench holding his right wrist.

The Stars medical staff evaluated Richards on Tuesday and determined that he will not need surgery. Richards, expected to be out six to eight weeks, will be re-evaluated in a month.

Richards had 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) in 55 games for the Stars. He led the Stars with 179 shots, and was second for assists and points.

At present Dallas stands 6th in the Western conference but five teams are within 6 pts of them. If I had to place a bet, it would be the Stars don’t make the postseason.


Claude Lemieux signs two-way deal with Sharks

He hasn’t played a NHL game since the 2002-03 season. From AP-

Claude Lemieux signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks on Monday after spending the past month with their top minor-league affiliate, giving another boost to his NHL comeback hopes.

The 43-year-old Lemieux signed with the Worcester Sharks on Nov. 25 after a five-year absence from pro hockey. The four-time Stanley Cup winner’s new contract is a two-way deal, allowing him to play in San Jose or Worcester.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said Lemieux will stay with the Worcester Sharks if he clears waivers Tuesday after signing his new deal. He has two goals, four assists and 12 penalty minutes in 14 games in the minors.

“This is simply the next step in the evaluation process with Claude,” Wilson said.

Lemieux played parts of 20 seasons in the NHL, winning titles with Montreal (1986), New Jersey (1995 and 2000) and Colorado (1996). He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1995, and his 80 postseason goals rank ninth in league history.

Lemieux was a great player in his day, but five years away from the NHL is likely to leave him deficient as a player. MLB players(Jackie Jensen, Bruce Bochte, and many other) who came back after losing a whole season have had struggles. Two goals in 14 minor league games doesn’t exactly scream he is ready for a comeback either.


Dallas Stars- Sean Avery won’t return

This comes after the NHL handed down a 6 game suspension for the forward. From AP-

Sean Avery’s days with the Dallas Stars are done.

Although the combative forward was eligible to return from a six-game suspension Sunday, the Stars instead announced Avery will not rejoin the team — ever.

“All parties said there is a clear understanding that a return to the Stars is not in the best interest of either the hockey club or Avery,” the team said in a news release.

Details of his departure still must be worked out. He could be traded, sent to the minors or bought out next summer. The club said it will work with Avery to try making this an amicable divorce.

In a way, I don’t blame Dallas for wanting to be rid of this jerk. Then what is the uproar about the following?

On December 2, 2008; during the morning skate prior to the Stars’ game against the Calgary Flames, Avery approached a crowd of reporters in the dressing room and made the following comment about Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating Avery’s ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert:

“I’m just going to say one thing. I’m really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just wanted to comment on how, it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about, but enjoy the game tonight.”

So far as trashtalking goes, this is pretty mild if not lame. People in the NHL want nothing to do with Avery, but Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play in the league. What is wrong with this picture?

Avery, who has supposedly gone to get treatment for his behavior, I expect to be playing in the NHL again.


Ron Wilson becomes new Toronto Maple Leafs coach

He was fired by San Jose less than a month ago. From AP-

TORONTO — Ron Wilson was introduced Tuesday as the new coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, less than a month after he was fired by the San Jose Sharks.

The 53-year-old Wilson appeared at a Tuesday news conference at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre after signing a four-year deal.

Wilson was fired May 12 by San Jose after the Sharks lost to the Dallas Stars in the second round of the playoffs. He succeeds Paul Maurice, who was fired by Toronto last month after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

“I’m the happiest person in the National Hockey League today,” Wilson said. “I’m fulfilling a dream.

Wilson played for Toronto back in the 70′s. In addition he coached at Anaheim and Washington before his stint in San Jose.

Can Wilson succeed in Toronto? The Maple Leafs have been mired mostly in mediocrity for a time span that predates Ron Wilson’s time as player with the team. The Leafs have Mats Sundin, but not a whole lot else that stands out. This dream job stands a good chance of ending up as a nightmare.


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