Sports Outside the Beltway

Goalie Dominik Hasek retires after 16 seasons

No question, ‘The Dominator’ was a great goalie(but if given a choice, I’d take Martin Brodeur) and is destined for the Hall of Fame. This after Hasek had to wait seven years after his being selected in the NHL Draft before being able to play in the NHL. That mostly due to the fact he was born in Czechoslovakia which was still behind the Iron Curtain.

That’s in the past for Hasek, who is 43 years old now. Good luck in retirement Dominator.


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.


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.


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?


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.


Toronto Maple Leaf Wade Belak scores 1st NHL goal in nearly 4 years

He did however score three goals while playing in England during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. From AP-

TORONTO – The last time Wade Belak scored an NHL goal, Jean Chretien had just finished his final term as prime minister, a Canadian dollar was worth less than an American one and, well, it was a very long time ago.

Nearly four years — and one lockout — later, Wade Belak found the back of the net again, helping the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 Tuesday night.

His last goal is far enough in the past — 143 games ago, not counting the three he scored in England during the lockout — that even Belak would have had to look it up.

“God, I don’t know when it was,” Belak said after his 407th NHL game — and career goal No. 8.

For the record, his seventh came on Dec. 20, 2003.

The clock resets for Belak now. How long before goal #9? I’d predict not before the 2008-09 NHL season. How about you?

Low goal scoring defensemen are hardly unusual in the NHL. Rod Langway is in the Hall of Fame and he had more seasons with zero goals and seasons with goals scored.


NHL owners approve scheduling changes

All NHL teams will meet again once every season. From AP-

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The NHL’s board of governors approved the sale of the Nashville Predators and changed the league’s scheduling format Thursday night to allow every team to face each other at least once every season.

Paul Kelly, the new executive director of the NHL Players Association, also addressed the league’s owners during a late-afternoon session to open the board’s two-day meeting at an elite resort on the Northern California coast.

After a three-year experiment in developing rivalries in hockey’s far-flung outposts, the NHL voted to go back to the scheduling format used before the 2004-05 lockout, most notably decreasing the current eight games against every team’s divisional opponents to six.

Starting next season, teams will play just 24 total games against their four divisional foes, 40 against the rest of the conference and 18 against the other conference — one game against all 15 foes, and three home-and-home series against wild-card opponents.

First let me state, my interest in hockey was only rekindled in the last year. Otherwise I had watched little of the sport since the end of the NY Islanders Dynasty in the early to mid eighties.

The arrangement where teams didn’t all meet seemed dumb to me. Fans in the west miss out on seeing players like Sidney Crosby and fans in the east miss getting to see……. well see what problem I have. LOL, make that former Florida Panther and ace goaltender Roberto Luongo. Now I can learn about the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks etc. To be honest I’m sick of Atlanta. You would be too if you had to see the Thrashers and Panthers cross sticks eight times a year.


Homecoming- Goaltender Tomas Vokoun returns to Nashville

The question is whether he will play against his former team tonight.

SUNRISE — When Nashville started the season with back-to-back wins while Tomas Vokoun struggled in Florida, there was talk the Panthers might have gotten the wrong goaltender from the Predators.

But time has proven the wisdom of acquiring the longtime No.’1 netminder, who will return tonight to the Sommet Center and the city in which he spent the previous eight seasons.

“When you spend so much time in one place, and then go back to play, there’s mixed feelings,” said Vokoun, who led Nashville to three straight playoff berths. “I don’t have any hard feelings, only good ones.”

Vokoun, who did voluminous charity work in Nashville, said he remains in touch with many of the hospital patients he befriended there.

Coach and General Manager Jacques Martin said he wouldn’t make a decision on whether Vokoun would play until after Friday’s game. If he does, it would be his first back-to-back appearances this season.

My take on the matter is that Martin should put Craig Anderson in goal tonight. Vokoun played last night in Florida. Tonight’s game is at Nashville. If the games were back to back at home, sure play Vokoun but it isn’t.

Martin can’t be sentimental here. Nashville fans will want to see Vokoun tonight, but the Panthers need a well rested goaltender. That is more important.


Florida Panthers sign Nathan Horton

From the Palm Beach Post-

Right wing Nathan Horton, who only last February was rumored to want out of Florida, agreed to a six-year deal worth $24 million that, barring a trade, figures to make him a Panther through the 2012-13 season. The final three years of the deal feature a no-trade clause.

Horton made $1.1 million last season, when he finished second in team scoring with 31 goals, 31 assists and a plus-15 rating.


Horton joins defenseman Bryan Allen in signing lengthy contracts this off-season. Allen, 26, signed a five-year, $14.5 million extension just last week. Martin has said he hopes to do similar deals with Stephen Weiss and Jay Bouwmeester.

Retaining Horton and Allen were vital if the Panthers were ever going to become a good Hockey team. It is equally vital that Weiss and Bouvmeester get signed. The team still needs a goaltender though. Eddie Belfour is old and the other goalies aren’t very good at all.

The NHL draft is tonight. Palm Beach Post Hockey blogger Brian Biggane writes-

With Jean-Sebastien Giguere re-signed to a four-year deal in Anaheim and Manny Fernandez apparently headed for Boston, Ducks backup Ilya Bryzgalov has emerged as the Panthers’ best trade option heading into NHL draft weekend.

Anaheim GM Brian Burke as much as said he’s willing to listen to offers. At the Giguere press conference, his comment was, “Ilya Bryzgalov has clearly established that he is capable of starting in the NHL. I expect him to ask me to find him a new home.”

Panthers GM Jacques Martin reiterated Thursday that he “expects” to re-sign Ed Belfour. While he could be sincere, that also could very easily be a case of not wanting to tip his hand.

What would Anaheim want in return? With the money the Ducks have tied up, and having dealt away their first pick in the Chris Pronger deal, they’d likely be satisfied to get a couple of second-round picks. The Panthers have three of them.

If the Panthers can acquire Bryzgalov for one or two of their 2nd round picks, I feel it is worth it. The big Russian would pardon the pun, fill the gap Florida has at goalie.

Update- Florida has completed a deal for a goalie.

Columbus, Ohio — The Panthers traded a 2008 first-round pick and two second-rounders to Nashville for starting goalie Tomas Vokoun hours before the start of the NHL draft Friday.

The Panthers will give up their 2008 first rounder, a second rounder this year (58th overall) and can decide whether the other second rounder will be from this year’s draft or next.

Vokoun, 30, was 27-12-4 with a 2.40 goals against average, .920 save percentage and five shutouts last season. He was 1-4 with a 2.96 GAA and .902 save percentage in the playoffs. Vokoun, an eight-year veteran, missed the final four games of the 2005-06 regular season and the postseason because of a blood condition.

Vokoun is excellent but he came at a big price. The Panthers have 3 2nd round picks in 2007, so trading two of them is not a big impact. Trading next year’s 1st round pick is.

Which leaves me wondering if Florida will now keep Eddie Belfour. The Eagle played well last season, but he’s over 40 years old. In addition to Eddie and Vokoun, the team has Alex Auld and Craig Anderson. I don’t care for Auld and have seen very little play of Anderson. However Craig’s stats from his time in Chicago are NOT impressive. Which of these goaltenders does Florida keep? As funny as it sounds, The Eagle may be the last one I’d keep if I was Florida management. The team needs to look long-term, and at most Belfour has a couple of years left.

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Sharks Defeat Predators, Advance to 2nd Round

The San Jose Sharks have won thier series against the Nashville Predators in five games by scores of 5-4, 2-5, 3-1, 3-2, & 3-2.

It is worth mentioning that unlike the NBA Playoffs, the NHL Playoffs re-seeds the teams after the first round to set up a second round where the highest remaining seed plays the lowest remaining seed. Second Round preview and picks to follow as soon as the teams are settled.


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