Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Panther Forward Richard Zednik signs with Russian league team

Zednik had been playing in the NHL since 1996. From the AP-

Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik is leaving the NHL to join the Russian league.

Russian hockey club Lokomotiv of the KHL announced Thursday it has signed Zednik to a two-year contract.

Also Thursday, Zednik was named a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given in honor of the late Minnesota North Stars player. The award honors “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” The winner will be announced June 18 in Las Vegas.

Zednik had 17 goals in 70 games a season after his carotid artery was sliced by a teammate’s skate blade during a Feb. 10, 2008, game in Buffalo.

Zednik won’t be the last roster move for the Panthers this off season. The team has many unrestricted free agents, the most prominent of which is Jay Bouwmeester who I will be greatly surprised if he is still in a Panther uniform next season.


Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire to retire

He is the only head coach in the franchise’s history. From AP-

The Wild have scheduled a news conference for Monday morning to make the news official and discuss plans for the future of the position.

“I think it’s time for the players to get a new coach and myself to look for other stuff,” Lemaire told writers from the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the St. Paul Pioneer Press after the season finale at Columbus. “I always said there’ll be a time. There comes a time that you know it’s the right time to go, and I know this. I had a great time, man. I had eight great years.”

General manager Doug Risebrough hired his former Montreal teammate and good buddy Lemaire to preside over the expansion team, which began play in 2000. Lemaire used his superior strategic sense and defensive acumen to lead the team to the Western Conference finals in 2003 and to a Northwest Division title last season.

Lemaire was 291-256-107 with the Wild, including winning records in his last six seasons. Despite several significant injuries to Marian Gaborik, Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the Wild barely missed the playoffs this season.

The 2008-09 season was a frustrating one for the Wild. While there is no disputing Lemaire built an expansion Minnesota into a competitive NHL team, I think he outlived his usefulness to the franchise.

Lemaire who previously coached New Jersey and Montreal may find head coaching work again. The turnover rate in the NHL is very high.


Montreal Canadiens fire Coach Guy Carbonneau

General Manager and former coach Bob Gainey will be standing behind the bench beginning tomorrow. From ESPN-

Guy Carbonneau was fired as coach of the struggling Montreal Canadiens, hockey’s most historic franchise that is in danger of missing the playoffs in its 100th season.

The timing of Monday’s move was a bit surprising because the Canadiens are currently in a playoff position and there are only 16 games left in the regular season.

General manager Bob Gainey, who handed the coaching duties over to Carbonneau three years ago, will return behind the bench when Montreal hosts Edmonton on Tuesday.

The Canadiens started Monday in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but they were only two points above the postseason cutoff. What was supposed to be a season of celebration has turned into one of difficulty.

Montreal (35-24-7) went into a free fall in late January and February, losing 10 of 13. The Canadiens, 5-4-1 in their previous 10 games, won 3-1 at Dallas on Sunday in their last game with Carbonneau as coach.

Carbonneau officially became an NHL head coach for the first time on May 5, 2006, after serving as an associate to Gainey for the final 41 games of the 2005-06 season.


In 230 games with the Canadiens over three seasons, Carbonneau was 124-83-23. He is the seventh NHL coach fired this season, and the fourth in five weeks.

Carbonneau had a good record in Montreal. He was a victim of the usual high expectations hockey fans have up there, and events out of his control. Like two players who have a relationship with a criminal and this is being probed by the NHL.

Montreal may have been slightly underperforming, but what proof is there that Gainey will change this?


Have you no sense of decency?- Montreal Canadiens sign Andrew Conboy

He was suspended by his college hockey team two months ago. From AP-

Andrew Conboy, suspended by Michigan State this season for an attack on a Michigan player, signed a three-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

Conboy opted to turn pro with Hamilton of the AHL, Montreal’s top farm team, after he was suspended. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound left wing has one assist and four penalty minutes in seven games with the Bulldogs.

The 20-year-old Conboy and teammate Corey Tropp, a Buffalo Sabres prospect, were suspended for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs by the Spartans on Jan. 26 after an incident with less than 1 minute to play in a 5-3 loss to the Wolverines.

After Michigan’s Steve Kampfer knocked Tropp down with an open-ice hit, he was punched to the ice from behind by Conboy, and Tropp then swung his stick at the Anaheim prospect’s head. Kampfer was taken to hospital with a sprained neck, but there was no concussion.

This guy is an animal. I swung a hockey stick at a player’s neck. The NHL could have another Todd Bertuzzi in the making.


Montreal Canadiens acquire Mathieu Schneider from Atlanta Thrashers

The trade brings him back to the NHL team he started his career with. From

Montreal Canadiens General Manager Bob Gainey announced today the acquisition of defenseman Mathieu Schneider from the Atlanta Thrashers, as well as a conditional draft pick from the Thrashers at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, in return for a second-round pick at the 2009 draft (Anaheim’s pick previously acquired by the Canadiens from Washington) and a Canadiens third-round pick at the 2010 draft.

Schneider, a 20-season veteran, made his NHL debut with the Canadiens in 1987-88. The 39-year-old, New York City native recorded 717 points (216 goals, 501 assists) and posted a plus-63 rating in 1,241 NHL regular-season games, with Montreal, the New York Islanders, Toronto, the New York Rangers, Los Angeles, Detroit, Anaheim and Atlanta.

Schneider is a good journeyman defenseman, and I understand Montreal is trying to rev up for the playoffs, but I feel a 2nd round pick for a player about to turn 40 is an awful lot to give up.


Florida Panthers and the Eastern NHL Conference at the half way mark

The Florida Panthers played their 41st game of the NHL season last night. A 4-2 win over division rival Carolina Panthers. Before I make some comments, here are the standings

1 Boston Bruins Games played- 41 Record- 30-7-4 Points- 64
2 Washington Capitals 41, 27-11-3, 57
3 Philadelphia Flyers 41, 22-10-9, 53
4 Montréal Canadiens 40, 24-10-6, 54
5 New York Rangers 42, 24-15-3, 51
6 New Jersey Devils 40, 23-14-3, 49
7 Carolina Hurricanes 42, 21-16-5, 47
8 Buffalo Sabres 40, 20-15-5, 45
9 Florida Panthers 41, 19-16-6, 44
10 Pittsburgh Penguins 42, 20-18-4, 44
11 Toronto Maple Leafs 41, 16-19-6, 38
12 Atlanta Thrashers 42, 14-23-5, 33
13 Ottawa Senators 39, 13-20-6, 32
14 Tampa Bay Lightning 40, 11-19-10, 32
15 New York Islanders 42, 12-26-4, 28

First I can safely conclude the NY Islanders, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, and Atlanta are out of the playoff picture. Toronto faces a uphill battle, but I won’t count them out yet.

Look where Pittsburgh is only one year after making the Stanley Cup finals. What is going on up there? They recently had a five-game losing streak at home.

They aren’t the only recent memory Stanley Cup final team fallen on hard times. Ottawa who made it in the 06-07 looks to be re-building. How did anyone in Senator management think Alex Doug Auld and Martin Gerber were playoff quality goalies?

Tampa Bay has gotten out of the cellar. Two wins against Florida in late December helped. Will Rick Tocchet still be coaching next season?

Florida has its best record at the half way since the 1999-2000 season, or the last time they went to the playoffs. I had high hopes for Florida last year only to see them dashed. Could they make it this year?

Definitely. The teams immediately ahead of them are beatable. If Florida sneaks in as the 7th or 8th seed, they are most likely to get buzz sawed by Boston or Montreal.(Though Florida does have a good record against Goalie Tim Thomas and are the only NHL team with a lifetime winning record against the Canadians. )

Some miscellaneous Florida notes-

Their defensemen have scored more goals than any other team in the Eastern Conference

Florida has gained at least 1 pt in every game Gregory Campbell has scored in.

Yesterday’s game marked just the 3rd time ever Florida went without a penalty in a game.

Tomas Vokoun now has 201 career wins as a goalie.

Florida has a very good goalie at Rochester that the name eludes me. Would Florida consider a deal for Craig Anderson and bring up the rookie before the season ends? Anderson is a free agent at the end of the year and not expected to be back.

Florida signed a multi-year agreement with Fox Sports Florida which as a result have more Panther games on television.(I got NHL Center Ice too, so I rarely miss a game unless there is no television at all) That’s good news. Now I would like FSN to stop showing upcoming programming promos while play is happening on ice. Those idiotic spinning pucks fill 1/8th of the television screen and often interfere with watching play. Every time I see this crap I feel like screaming at the television.


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.


Chris Chelios plays in record 248th NHL Playoff game

The defensemen is forty-six-years-old and still going strong. From AP-

DETROIT — Chris Chelios was on the ice for his 248th playoff game, breaking the NHL record set by Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy.

The defenseman played Saturday for the Detroit Red Wings against the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of the first-round series. He is making his 23rd postseason appearance, extending his own mark.

The 46-year-old Chelios became the second-oldest player in an NHL game earlier this season. Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was still skating at 52 for the Hartford Whalers during the 1979-80 season — almost a decade after leaving the Red Wings.

I had a Strat-O-Matic hockey set from the mid 80′s and remember Chelios playing back then. Hockey is a physically demanding sport, it amazes me this player is still going.


Washington Capitals get goalie Huet from Montreal

This trade is a real head scratcher.

WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals have acquired goalie Cristobal Huet from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2009 second-round draft pick. The deal Tuesday comes a few hours before the deadline for making trades in the NHL.

Huet has been Montreal’s No. 1 goalie this season. The 2007 All-Star is 21-12-6 with a 2.55 goals-against average.

The Capitals’ top goalie has been Olie Kolzig, who is 21-19-6 with a 3.03 GAA.

Washington has climbed from the bottom of the NHL to within striking distance of a playoff berth.

The draft pick Montreal gets was previously acquired by Washington from Anaheim for Brian Sutherby.

This trade works out well for Washington. On the other hand I don’t get it for Montreal. The Canadiens have two very unexperienced goaltenders now, Jaroslav Halák and Carey Price. I haven’t seen Halák play but Price looked very green in the one game I saw him play against Florida. Montreal is 5th in the Eastern conference playoffs race, and only 1 pt out of the division lead. The East is pretty wide open, Montreal could win the conference though I was predicting them not to. Now I wouldn’t pick the Canadiens at all. This deal doesn’t make sense to me at present.


Ottawa Senators fire coach John Paddock

This comes with less than 20 games left in the NHL season.

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators, looking sluggish in a recent, lengthy slump, on Wednesday fired coach John Paddock.

General manager Bryan Murray will take over coaching duties for the last 18 games of the regular season. Murray was coach when the Senators advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006-07, but stepped aside to become GM during the summer, and Paddock was given the job as coach.

The Senators lead the Northeast Division by a point over the Montreal Canadiens, but have been shut out in their past two games. Ottawa has lost six of its past eight games and 14 of its last 21.

Murray’s first game in his return behind the bench will be Thursday against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

Murray has been almost as well traveled as Mike Keenan. With stops in Anaheim, Detroit, Washington, and Florida. The Senators have been a disappointment after a fast start to the 07-08 season. I still feel the talent is there for Ottawa to win the conference. A resurgent Pittsburgh Penguins look like the Senator’s biggest obstacle, that is other than themselves.


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