Sports Outside the Beltway

Chicago Blackhawks fire coach Denis Savard

He was replaced by former Blues and Avalanche head coach, Joel Quennville. From ESPN-

The Chicago Blackhawks fired head coach Denis Savard just four games into the season on Thursday, replacing him with NHL coaching veteran Joel Quenneville.

“I’m disappointed but I guess it’s the nature of the business,” Savard said from his Chicago home Thursday.

Savard, who was in the last year of his contract, was told he’d been fired Thursday morning by general manager Dale Tallon.

The firing of Denis Savard after just four games did not rank as a record for an NHL coaching change.

• Bill Gadsby left the Detroit Red Wings after just two games of the 1969-70 season.

• Fred Glover departed the California Golden Seals after three games at the start of the 1971-72 season and went on to coach 68 games as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.

• In 2001-02 the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Ivan Hlinka, the first European-born and trained NHL coach (along with Alpo Suhonen who coached in Chicago at the same time) after the Penguins lost the first four games of the season.

• Jacques Demers saw his tenure as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens end after four games at the outset of the 1995-96 season ( indicates Demers coached five games that season).

So there is ample precedent for Chicago’s move. Was the firing a good decision?

The dismissal came hours after the team won its first game by beating Phoenix 4-1. The Blackhawks are now run by owner Rocky Wirtz, and the combination of a slow start and a big public relations push may have led to Savard’s abrupt ouster.

Wirtz took over the team following the death of his father, Bill Wirtz, a little more than a year ago. Since then, he has hired former Chicago Cubs president and marketing guru John McDonough as president. The team has mended fences with former stars such as Bobby Hull, made sure that home games are televised — something Bill Wirtz was opposed to — and allowed Tallon to spend in the free-agent market.


Quenneville, who had been working as a scout for the Blackhawks, coached the Colorado Avalanche from 2005 through 2008 and led the St. Louis Blues for seven seasons (1996-2004). He has a 438-283-118 career record, including a 44-31-7 mark in Colorado last season.

Led by sophomore stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have high hopes to make it into the playoffs this season. They lost their first three games before finally winning Wednesday night.

Chicago is both young and talented. Will Quennville make a difference? He was good in St. Louis, but Colorado underacheived under Quennville. So I’m a little skeptical because of it being too early to judge a coach, being its only 4 games into the season.

Pierre LeBrun writes-

In the wake of Thursday’s Denis Savard firing (the worst part of my job is calling a guy like that at home on a day like this), I thought to myself: Here’s an organization that employs the greatest coach of all time in Scotty Bowman.

Why not give him the gig?

“No, no, my coaching days ended six years ago,” Bowman, a senior adviser of hockey operations for the Hawks, told me.

Another reason Bowman may not want to coach- his age. He’s seventy-five-years-old. Very old to be starting a new and stressful job anywhere in professional sports. Maybe more so when you are talking one of America’s biggest cities.


St. Louis Blues Defensemen injured in golf cart accident

Is September 2008 the month for bizarre sports injuries. From AP-

St. Louis Blues defenseman Erik Johnson will miss the first three days of training camp because of a knee injury sustained in a golf course accident.

Johnson, the Blues’ top draft pick pick in 2006, was trying to stop his golf cart on Tuesday when he jammed his right foot between the accelerator and brake and felt pain in his right knee, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

While Johnson was able to finish the round, he noticed swelling in the knee on Tuesday night, according to the report. The swelling got worse on Wednesday, but an initial MRI exam was inconclusive and a follow-up MRI exam is expected Sunday or Monday, the Blues said.

Who knew driving golf carts could be dangerous to a hockey player’s knee or a dugout bench in baseball a potential hazard to a MLB pitcher? I didn’t till my discharge from the hospital three weeks ago. Maybe those pain killers I took are still causing hallucinations.


Nashville Predators trade Goalie Chris Mason to St. Louis

With Mason’s departure, the Predators are now without the two goalies who took them to consecutive Central Division 2nd place finishes in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

OTTAWA — The St. Louis Blues acquired goaltender Chris Mason from the Nashville Predators for a fourth-round pick in Friday’s draft.

The 32-year-old Mason played in a career-high 51 games for the Predators last season, posting a 2.90 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.

“Acquiring Chris really solidifies our goaltending position which was one of our goals going into this weekend,” Blues president John Davidson said in a statement. “We are looking forward to a big day today at the draft.”

Nashville has two picks each in the first, second and fourth rounds. The team also agreed with goalie Dan Ellis on a multiyear deal.

Mason compiled a 58-43-12 record in 135 appearances for Nashville during two stints with the team (1998-01 and 2003-08), mostly serving as a backup behind former goalie Tomas Vokoun and Ellis.

Vokoun was dealt to the Florida Panthers a year ago. I don’t know who the Predators have in the minors, and Ellis did have a good year last year, but I see the team now thin at Goaltender. One strong year in the NHL doesn’t certify Dan Ellis as a quality #1 Goalie in my opinion.


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.


Florida Panther Coach Jacques Martin gets his 500th victory

He is only one of 10 NHL coaches to win that many games. From AP-

NEWARK, N.J.– Jacques Martin joined a club so exclusive, its members numbered in the single digits.

Until he joined, anyway.

Martin became the 10th NHL coach with 500 wins after Radek Dvorak and David Booth scored early in the third period to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Backup goalie Craig Anderson made 31 saves and the Panthers ended a three-game losing streak.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work in this league, the best league in the world and to have some good players to coach,” said Martin, who is also Florida’s general manager.

Dvorak and Booth scored 1:17 apart in the third to give Florida the lead. Dvorak got the equalizer 2:28 in. Brett McLean unloaded a hard shot on Martin Brodeur who made a stick save. Dvorak pounced on the rebound for his first goal in 11 games.

Before taking over the Panthers, Martin coached in St. Louis and Ottawa.

Friday’s win was Florida’s 2nd triumph over Martin Brodeur this year in three tries. At present the Panthers are mired in a slump that leaves me doubtful about the team’s prospects for winning the weak Southeast Division. The team losing 5-3 to a weak Washington team on Saturday night. The team isn’t scoring and Goalie Tomas Vokoun is in a slump. I’d let Craig Anderson start versus Ottawa on Tuesday night, but Martin seems reluctant to use his #2 goalie much.

If Florida doesn’t get their act together soon the 2007-08 year can be marked as just another disappointment for the team’s fans.


The incredible Tomas Vokoun

He scored his second shutout in three games as goaltender for the Florida Panthers last night versus the St. Louis Blues.

ST. LOUIS — The Panthers are going to have to learn that one goal is almost never enough to win in the NHL. But Thursday night, it was.

For the second straight game, the Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the second period and tried to make it stand up. This time, they did it.

Stephen Weiss knocked in the rebound off a Nathan Horton shot 1:10 into the second period and Tomas Vokoun stopped 33 shots to register his second shutout in three games and third of the season as Florida tied a franchise record with its fourth straight road win at the Scottrade Center.

The Panthers (14-15-2) have won four straight games on three previous occasions, the last of them coming in February 2003.

“It’s nice to win,” said Vokoun, now 7-0 against the Blues since the end of the lockout in 2005. “We’re not in a position where we can give games away. We were two points out of last place in the league. We have to start winning on the road if we’re going to go anywhere.”

The Blues came into the game as one of the more productive teams in the league, having scored 13 goals in their previous three games and three or more in seven of their past 10.

After a slow start this season, it appears Tomas has come into form finally. This is good news considering how much Florida gave up to get the Czech born former All-Star goalie.

The way the Panthers have been scoring of late, Vokoun needs to shut out opposition teams. Florida has scored only 4 non-empty net goals in the their last three games. In spite of Vokoun shutting two of those teams out and allowing only one goal in regulation or overtime in the same three games, Florida is only 2-0-1 result wise.

Florida has a good enough team to win the Southeast Division. They have to start producing offensively.


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.


Calgary Flames to hire Mike Keenan

The well travelled NHL Coach and General manager has found employment again.

TORONTO – The Calgary Flames have hired Mike Keenan as their new head coach, The Canadian Press reported Wednesday night.

The Canadian Press, citing unidentified sources, reported an official announcement is expected Thursday or Friday.

Current Flames coach Jim Playfair will remain with the organization.

The Flames went 43-25-10, finishing eighth in the Western Conference last season under Playfair. They lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games in the first round of the playoffs.

Keenan has 569 victories in 1,014 games as an NHL head coach.

He won the Jack Adams trophy awarded to the league’s top coach in 1985 after leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup final. He also took the Chicago Blackhawks to the Cup finals in 1988, and won the Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.

Calgary will be the eigth NHL team Keenan has been head coach of.

My take- Considering he traded the Florida Panthers’ star goaltender Roberto Luongo for garbage, and then bailed on the team two months later, forgive me if I don’t wish Keenan well in Calgary.


NHL Draft Lottery Results

It appears the Chicago Blackhawks have won the NHL Lottery thus making the first 14 picks of the NHL draft order look like this:

1 Chicago Blackhawks (moved up from 5th spot)
2 Philadelphia Flyers (moved down from 1st spot)
3 Phoenix Coyotes (moved down from 2nd spot)
4 Los Angeles Kings (moved down from 3rd spot)
5 Washington Capitals (moved down from 4th spot)
6 Edmonton Oilers
7 Columbus Blue Jackets
8 Boston Bruins
9 St. Louis Blues
10 Florida Panthers
11 Carolina Hurricanes
12 Montreal Canadiens
13 Toronto Maple Leafs
14 Colorado Avalanche

Picks 15-30 will be settled after the palyoffs.


NHL Trade Deadline Day

Today brings the NHL Trade Deadline, a national holiday in Canada. Of course most of the trades won’t many anything except to Canadians and the five die-hard American fans, I’ll just bring you some of the big name/impact trades as they happen through out the day. But if you are Canadian or one of the five, visit’s site they will give you everything from Edmonton and Toronto trading 7th round draft picks to the guy traded for a bag of pucks. (oh yes they have a live broadcast too.)

Deals of Note

To NY Islanders: F – Ryan Smyth
To Edmonton: F – Robert Nilsson, F – Ryan Omarra, 2007 1st Round Pick
The inability of Edmonton to reach a new contract agreement with Ryan Smyth forced this trade. Edmonton gains nothing and loses the cornerston of their franchise who has been with the team since they drafted him in 1994. Great move by the Islanders, that will help them in the playoff push. I am suprised Edmonton didn’t get a bidding war going, but it was reported that they refused to deal him to a Western Conference Team.

To Dallas: D – Mattias Norstrom, F – Konstantin Pushkarev, 2007 3rd and 4th Round Pick
To Los Angeles: D – Jaroslav Modry, D – Johan Fransson, 2008 1st Round Pick, 2007 2nd and 3rd Round Pick
This wins the award for most complex trade of the day and most difficult for many Kings Fans. Dallas gets Kings’ Captian Mattias Norstrom a solid (but old school) defensive defenseman to shore up their defensive core, who is under contract for next season. Dallas also picks up Pushkarev who can play bigger than he is, but has attitude problem caused mostly by Russian Clubs who consistently tell him he gets no respect in the NHL and should be playing in Russia. The Kings eat the salary of turn over machine Modry (who is a free agent on July 1st) and get the first right to Swedish prospect defensive Fransson. As for the picks… The Kings net a 1st rounder in the stronger 2008 draft and swap around draft positions in 2007 (the Kings’ original 3rd round pick would be higher than Dallas’ original 3rd round pick based on this season standings. Overall the Kings moved up in the draft board in 2007 while Dallas moved down.

To Colorado: F – Scott Parker
To San Jose: 2008 6th Round Pick
Nothing major here, San Jose just picks up an additional draft pick and frees up some roster and cap space.

To Toronto: F – Yanic Perreault, 2008 5th Round Pick
To Phoenix: D – Brendan Bell, 2008 2nd Round Pick
Yanic, who was unsigned for the frist two months of the season, pays off for Phoenix with a higher draft pick and a defensive prospect to build for the future. Toronto picks up a healthy and effective center for a playoff run in what will be a tight playoff push in the east. This is Yanic’s 3rd stint with Toronto.

To Buffalo: F – Dainius Zubrus, D – Timo Helbling
To Washington: F – Jiri Novotnv, 2007 1st Round Pick
Buffalo adds a talented forward but raw forward (with motivational issues) and a defensive prospect to build for the future and a playoff push. In return Washington gets a low 1st round pick in a weak draft and a talented foward who lacks finishing skills and is prone to laziness

To Detroit: F – Todd Bertuzzi
To Florida: TBA Pending Trade Call with NHL Head Office F – Shawn Matthias, 2007 Conditional Draft Pick, 2008 Conditional 2nd Round Draft Pick
Florida gets a top prospect and picks for rebuilding while giving Detroit Bertuzzi who has only played 7 games this seasons. When healthy Bertuzzi is a force on the ice, but no one knows if he will regain his for and if he can avoid sucker punching other players.

To San Jose: F – Bill Guerin
To St. Louis: F – Ville Nieminen, F – Jay Barriball, 2007 1st Round Pick
San Jose gets a first line winger, Stanley Cup Winner and six time All-Star. He possess a big shot, a mean streak that combine power and speed. He will help the Sharks immensely as they make a push for the Stanley Cup.

To Pittsburgh: F – Georges Laraque
To Phoenix: F – Danny Carcillo, 2007 8th Round Pick
Pittsburgh gets one of NHL’s best heavyweights and enforcers to protect their young stars for the playoff run.

To Philadelphia: G – Martin Biron
To Buffalo: Undisclosed Draft Pick 2007 2nd Round Pick
This deal unloads unhappy goalie Biron to Philadelphia. Biron had lost his starting spot in Buffalo and was going to walk away from the team this summer as a free agent, so they pick up what they could for him. I imagine the draft pick will be determined based on Philadelphia’s ability to sign Biron this summer. (in a minor deal, Buffalo acquired Ty Conklin from Columbus for future considerations a 2007 5th Round Pick to fill Biron’s role as backup for the rest of the season and playoffs)

To Pittsburgh: F – Gary Roberts
To Florida: D – Noah Welch
Roberts is a power forward who loves to crash the net and battle for loose pucks. At 40 years old, he is a short term rental for the young Pittsburgh team to provided leadership and grit from past Stanley Cup Playoffs. Welch is a 24 year old defenseman; he’s a big presence on the blue line (6’4″) with a big shot from the point. With his upside this could pay off for Florida in the long run.

To Vancouver: F- Bryan Smolinski
To Chicago: 2007 Conditional 2nd Round Pick

To Vancouver: D – Brent Sopel
To Los Angeles: 2008 2nd and 4th Round Pick
In both of these trades are to improve Vancouver, currently the #3 seed in the West. Smolinski is a veteran center, who becomes a free agent on July 1st, while Sopel can play like a top 4 defensemen (but is prone to stupid mistakes) and provides additional offensive spark at the blue line. The picks are a wash; Los Angeles got a better deal than Chicago as the 2008 draft is projected to be stronger than the 2007 draft.

To NY Islanders: F – Richard Zednik
To Washington: 2007 2nd Round Pick
Islanders pick up extra offense to sneak into the Playoffs, provided Zednik doesn’t go into one of his prolonged scoring slumps.

To Atlanta: F – Keith Tkachuk
To St. Louis: F – Glen Metropolit, 2007 1st and 3rd Round Picks, 2008 2nd Round Pick
Atlanta gets a veteran scorer (with historic playoff scoring problems), while St. Louis gets a career reserve forward and a bunch of picks to rebuild the time. This deal is mainly to set the price for Bill Guerin.

To Philadelphia: D – Braydon Coburn
To Atlanta: D – Alexei Zhitnik
Philadelphia gets a young defenseman with lots of upside, while Atlanta gets a veteran defenseman with a big slap shot and the ability to play a big man’s game…when he’s motivated to.

To Carolina: F – Anson Carter
To Columbus: 2008 5th Round Pick
Carolina gets Carter, who had been a disappointment from Columbus on the cheap. Could pay dividends for Carolina IF Carter rediscovers his scoring touch.

To Nashville: F – Peter Forsberg
To Philadelphia: F – Scottie Upshall, D – Ryan Parent, 2007 1st and 3rd Round Pick
Nashville sold the farm to get Forsberg, which means this is the year they are really going for the Cup hard. Forsberg is a immense talent and game changer, but recent history shows he is one big hit away from the injured list. By far the biggest risk-reward player out there and really could push Nashville over the top. On an ironic side note, Nashville now has two of the biggest divers in the League on their team in Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya.


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