Sports Outside the Beltway

Montreal Canadien Maxim Lapierre suspended for 4 games

Welcome to case #2318 of wacky NHL discipline decisions.

Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre has been suspended four games for a late hit on San Jose Sharks forward Scott Nichol.

The NHL announced the discipline on Friday.

Lapierre knocked Nichol into the end boards 1:50 into the third period of the Sharks’ 3-2 win Thursday night in San Jose.

Nichol was injured on the play and did not return to the game. No penalty was assessed on the play.

Lapierre will miss games at Los Angeles, at Anaheim, against Tampa and against Edmonton. He will be eligible to return March 13 against Boston.

Lets get this straight Lapierre isn’t penalized during the game but has to serve a suspension. Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards whacks Florida Panther David Booth so hard he earns a five minute penalty and Booth can’t play because of a concussion for three months. Yet the Richards serves no suspension. Isn’t this pro league’s discipline system in serious need of an overhaul?

Here’s a video of the hit

Lapierre deserved the suspension IMHO.

Special Note- This is the 4000th post made to OTB Sports since the blog began on February 21, 2006.


Florida Panthers trade Dominic Moore to Montreal

He only spent 48 games in a Panther uniform. From AP-

The Florida Panthers have traded center Dominic Moore to the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round pick in the 2011 draft.Dominic Moore

Moore, signed by the Panthers as a free agent after the start of the 2009-10 season, had eight goals and nine assists in 48 games for Florida.

Moore is a six-year veteran who has also played for the Rangers, Penguins, Wild, Maple Leafs and Sabres.

Moore’s best season was 2008-09 when he scored 32 points, 13 of which were on goals.

I liked Moore in his brief tenure with Florida. He always seemed to hustle. I don’t think he is worth a 2nd round pick, so IMHO Florida came out great on this deal. The bad side- It will be 4-5 before Florida has something to show for this trade. Unless they deal the make a trade with it in order to get a scorer.

This trade tells me Florida is throwing in the towel on the 2009-10. The team is 12th in the Eastern Conference at 24-26-9 but more importantly have lost 4 games in a row in which the team looked absolutely horrible. Over the last 11 games, the Panthers have only scored 13 goals. I was never optimistic about this team’s playoff chances. Now I’m writing Florida off for sure.


Shawn the Man- Florida beats Montreal 2-1

Tonight was just one more case of Tomas Vokoun carrying the team.(a Save percentage of .963 or only 12 goals allowed in the last 328 shots against him) For two plus periods he held Montreal to one goal. Unfortunately, Florida was its usual punchless self.

Then this happened at 3:01 of the third period.

Shawn ‘Keep your bags packed for Rochester’ Matthias scored on a penalty shot to tie the game at 1-1. Sorry about the video being in French.

Matthias who has been shuttling between Florida and the Panthers affiliate in Rochester New York all year, wasn’t through for the night. Almost nine minutes later, with assists by Michal Repik and Dominic Moore, Matthias put a goal in the net again. Florida was up 2-1 and that was all the team needed to win tonight.Shawn Matthias

I’ve been writing about Matthias for two years. He has put pucks in the net, not just tonight, but whenever he has gotten some support around him. Someone will point out he has just 5 goals this year and two in previous years. That’s seven goals in 46 games though.

He’s doing it in about 7 minutes of play a game. Also tonight wasn’t his first two goal game. He had one against Washington on Jan 19, 2008. It was only his second game ever. 19-year-olds who score two goals in a game isn’t impressive in Florida lala Panther land. It lands you in the AHL for the next season and a third with only 18 more NHL appearances scattered here and there.

Matthias has produced the numbers he has with the 4th line the Panthers have. Which consists of Nick Tarnasky or Victor Oreskovich and Kamil Kreps. Who have a combined 3 goals and 9 assists this year. Matthias has 5 goals and 2 assists in part-time play.

Florida has handled Matthias horribly. He has, with just one exception, been relegated to garbage duty but still scored goals. He even had a 3-game scoring streak in December. So what does Coach Peter DeBoer do? Ship him back to Rochester while players like Kreps, Gregory Campbell, Oreskovich, and Radek Dvorak continue to be punchless. Well Dvorak has two shorthanded goals on the year, and a hat trick night in early January. The rest of the time, he’s been shit on even strength or in power play situations, 9 goals and 12 assists or not for the year. In fact, Dvorak has had no more than one shot on goal in his last six games(and no points either I may add.)

Why is Matthias so misused? At least part of the problem is Coach Peter DeBoer’s preference for his ‘Kitchener boys’. Players like the mighty Gregory Campbell of 11 points for the year. I’ll bet anyone $20 that Matthias gets sent back to Rochester again before this season is over. There’s no way he can impress DeBoer enough to be kept in Florida. Just on this alone, if I could be Florida’s General Manager, I’d fire Peter DeBoer. Florida needs Matthias, with Horton out for a month at least and the team in a frenzied 6 to 8 team battle in the Eastern Conference for three playoff spots. Opening play tonight, Florida was 11th in the East, but only two points out of a tie for 6th!


NHL Eastern Conference at the mid point of the 2009-10 season

Due to the Winter Olympics, the NHL season is being being played at a more accelerated rate than normal. For instance, prior to Christmas week the Florida Panthers had four games in a week, five straight weeks in a row.

A NHL season is 82 games in length. Half of 82 is 41. Most teams are at 41 games or more

New Jersey 39 games 28 wins 10 losses 1 overtime loss 57 points
Buffalo 40 25 11 4 54
Washington 40 24 10 6 54
Pittsburgh 42 26 15 1 53
Boston 40 21 12 7 49
Ottawa 41 21 16 4 46
Montreal 43 21 19 3 45
NY Rangers 41 19 17 5 43

Tampa Bay 41 16 15 10 42
Philadelphia 40 19 18 3 41
Atlanta 40 18 17 5 41
NY Islanders 42 16 18 8 40
Florida 41 16 18 7 39
Toronto 41 14 18 9 37
Carolina 41 11 23 7 29

Bold denotes all teams who would make the playoffs as of this minute.
The above standings are as of 6 p.m. on Saturday January 2nd.

Teams all but certain to make the playoffs- Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Washington
Team that won’t make the playoffs- Carolina

That’s hardly rocket science based on the above.

I will be greatly surprised if Florida, NY Islanders, or Toronto are playing in the post season. The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years and this will be no exception. How is a team that hasn’t won more than 3 games in a row since March 2008 supposed to get the momentum up for a playoff run?

Tampa Bay and Atlanta have been pleasant surprises this year. I’m still not convinced either team can make the playoffs. Particularly so in the case of the Lightning who are most impotent offensive teams in the league,(28th of 30 teams)

Honestly I think the teams who are currently 1-8 will all make the playoffs. There will be reshuffling but I think the 7 other teams each have enough liabililites that it will keep them out of the postseason.


Get the puck out of there- NHL wrap-ups as league takes break for Christmas

Where as the NBA will play games on Christmas day, the NHL won’t.(Florida announcer Billy Lindsay said there may be a clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement with players that rules out holiday games) Therefore there is no hockey on either December 24th or 25th. My favorite team, the Florida Panthers, doesn’t return to the ice till December 27th.

The NHL is almost at the half way point of 2009-10. With all 30 teams having played at least 35 games. Due to the Winter Olympics and the over two-week break the NHL takes as a result of it, the schedule is accelerated this year.

Here are some random notes on games played yesterday and how the NHL shapes up at the moment.

The New York Rangers beat the Florida Panthers 4-1. Now Florida, Montreal who defeated Carolina 5-1, and the Rangers are in a three-way tie for the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Since the Rangers have played the fewest games, for the moment they have tiebreaks.

Pittsburgh routs Ottawa 8-2. The big news out of this game is the injury to Senator Winger Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson, who is Ottawa’s leading scorer, is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

Ilya Bryzgalov shuts out Anaheim 4-0 to extend Phoenix’s home winning streak to 8 games. The Coyotes are currently 4th in the Western Conference standings.Steve Mason

If Phoenix is one of the pleasant surprises of the 2009-10 NHL season, the play of Columbus Blue Jacket Goalie Steve Mason ranks as one of this year’s biggest disappointments. A almost 3.50 Goals against average was only helped slightly as Dallas beat Columbus last night 3-1.

Backup Chicago Goalie Anti Niemi notches his 4th shutout of the year as the Blackhawks beat Detroit 4-0.

While not shutting out Tampa Bay, Philadelphia’s 3rd Goaltender of the year Michael Leighton looks impressive as the Flyers beat the Lightning 5-2. Before the game was played, Philadelphia’s practice had to be cancelled due to sewage line problem in their locker room.

Merry Christmas NHL. I hope the season is as exciting (and unusual) post Christmas as it was before the holiday break.


Minnesota Wild trade Benoit Pouliot to Montreal

The 4th overall pick of the 2005 NHL entry draft has scored 18 points in 65 career games. From AP-

The Minnesota Wild have traded former first-round draft choice Benoit Pouliot to Montreal for left wing Guillaume Latendresse.

The 23-year-old Pouliot has been one of a handful of first-round disappointments for the Wild in recent years after being drafted fourth overall in 2005. Defenseman A.J. Thelen, drafted in 2004, never played for the team and 2005 pick James Sheppard, a center, has not developed as quickly as the team had hoped.

Latendresse, who has only 2 goals and 1 assist so far this year, I think is just off to a slow start.

Benoit Pouliot(2 goals and 2 assists for the year) on the other hand looks like a NHL draft bust. Maybe a change of scenery will get Pouliot’s career on track, but I doubt it.


Tampa Bay Lightning sign F Alex Tanguay

He still has to take a physical before the deal is finalized. From ESPN-

Alex Tanguay is off the market.

The sought-after free-agent forward has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning worth $2.5 million, a source told’s Pierre LeBrun.

“We’re pretty happy he is with the Lightning and he’s looking forward to giving his best,” Tanguay’s agent David Ettedgui told the St. Petersburg Times

Though a separated shoulder sidelined him for most of last season, Tanguay finished with 16 goals and 25 assists in 50 games.

Lightning GM Brian Lawton told the Times that Tanguay was “the guy we wanted.”

“It’s a chance for him to play with some really high-end, high-skill players, which we think he is,” Lawton told the newspaper. “And we think together, it should be a nice combination.”

Nice combination, but does it really improve Tampa? The Lightning had a horrible 2008-09 season. They were weak at defensemen, average at best at goalie, and other than their front line, mediocre when it came to scoring. Tampa needs a whole lot more than Alex Tanguay to make it back to the playoffs and I don’t see that happening at the end of the 2009-10. Tanguay on the other hand is free to move on to his next sucker team.


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?


NJ Devils hire Jacques Lemaire to be head coach

This will be his second stint in New Jersey. From AP-

After six years without a Stanley Cup, the New Jersey Devils are handing over the team to the coach who led them to their first NHL title.

Jacques Lemaire, who coached the Devils for five seasons in the mid 1990s and led them to the Cup in 1995, is New Jersey’s coach again. He was hired on Monday, some five weeks after Brent Sutter resigned and eventually took over as coach of the Calgary Flames.

“I never thought I would be back,” the 63-year-old Lemaire said in a conference call. “I said at that time when I was leaving after five years, and it was five great years, I wanted to cherish this for the rest of my life and the rest of my career, but I never thought one day I would come back.”

The deal reunites Lemaire with general manager and president Lou Lamoriello and goaltender Martin Brodeur, the combination that turned that Devils from a contender to a champion in 1995.

“Jacques Lemaire is one of the most respected coaches in the game,” Lamoriello said. “He is a teacher and a communicator, and knows what it takes to have success.”

The Devils also won Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003, but they have not come close in recent years. They were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs the past two seasons under Sutter.

Lemaire has been a very successful coach in the NHL. His Minnesota Wild teams had a very distinct style of play. Will Lemaire try to force the same system on the Devils? New Jersey has much more offensive punch than the Wild ever had. I think Lemaire will adapt to the personnel he will have in New Jersey. The Devils are good enough to make the Stanley Cup finals again IMHO.


Montreal Canadiens hire Jacques Martin to be next head coach

He is currently the Florida Panthers General Manager. From the Sun-Sentinel-

Panthers’ general manager Jacques Martin is leaving to become head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens have scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference to introduce Martin.

Martin and Panthers’ owner Alan Cohen couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. This will be the third head coaching job for Martin, 56, who just finished his third season as the Panthers’ GM. Martin coached the team for three seasons before Cohen asked him to relinquish those duties last summer after the team again failed to reach the postseason.

Cohen asked Martin to stay on as GM, though, and Martin signed a contract, reportedly for four years. Before joining the Panthers, Martin spent eight-plus seasons as coach of the Ottawa Senators, leading them to the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons. He was fired after the 2003-04 season after another disappointing playoff exit.

The Canadiens desired Martin for several reasons. Along with being a French speaker, Martin is a defensive-minded coach, which fits the philosophy of the organization and its personnel. Martin also has extensive coaching experience and a strong relationship with Canadiens GM Bob Gainey.

Before I get to anything else, I’m a little disappointed by the Sun-Sentinel’s Steve Gorten not knowing this is Martin’s 4th head coaching job, rather than his third. He led the St. Louis Blues for two years back in the 1980′s. In general Groten does the best job of any South Florida sports reporter of covering the Panthers.

I think Martin will fit in well at Montreal. His tenure in Florida was hamstrung from the beginning by the team’s front office. Alan Cohen has clearly shown he isn’t interested in building a contending hockey team then or now. As can be seen by the Jay Bouwmeester situation. The Panthers are about to lose the best defensemen in the NHL to free agency. Three years ago the team traded the league’s best goalie Roberto Luongo for garbage.

Bottom line on Jacques Martin- I wish him well in Montreal but suggest he don’t look too much at some of the advertising along the walls of the Bell Centre.

Assistant Florida GM Randy Sexton is likely to be Martin’s successor. The Panthers, who have many free agents this off season, are likely to be a middle of the road hockey team at best in 2009-10.


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