Sports Outside the Beltway

NHL Hall of Famer Ted ‘Teeder’ Kennedy dead at 83

He Captained the Toronto Maple Leafs to five Stanley Cup championships. RIP.

Ted “Teeder” Kennedy, the captain of five Stanley Cup championship teams with the Toronto Maple Leafs during a Hall of Fame career, died Friday. He was 83.

He died of congestive heart failure at a nursing home in his hometown of Port Colborne, son Mark Kennedy said.

Kennedy spent 14 years in the NHL, all with the Maple Leafs. He was a five-time All-Star. The center captained Toronto from 1948 to 1955, when he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

He finished his career with 231 goals and 329 assists in 696 games. He had 29 goals and 31 assists in 78 playoff games.


Toronto Maple Leafs trade Goalie Justin Pogge to Anaheim

The winters in Southern California are so much appealing than those offered to people living on Lake Ontario. From AP-

The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded goaltender Justin Pogge to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick in 2011.

Pogge had one win and a 4.35 goals-against average in seven appearances with the Leafs last season.

He spent most of the season with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, where he had 26 wins and a 2.70 GAA in 53 games.

Drafted 90th overall by the Leafs in 2004, the 23-year-old was once expected to be Toronto’s future netminder, but the Leafs signed Swedish free agent Jonas Gustavsson in July.

On Monday, they also signed free-agent goalie Joey MacDonald to a one-year deal. He was 14-26-6 with a 3.37 goal-against record and .901 save percentage in 49 games with the New York Islanders last season.

Pogge has failed to impress so far in limited NHL play. He certainly didn’t get much help from the team he played for. Toronto was not a good team at all during the 2008-09 season.

Toronto has very questionable goaltending at present. Vesa Toskala has the starting job, but he is coming off a poor 08-09 plus surgery. Joey McDonald, like Pogge, hasn’t been impressive in limited NHL duty but that may have caused by the poor team(NY Islanders in MacDonald’s case) they were playing with. Jonas Gustavsson has yet to play a minute in the NHL. For this and other reasons, I don’t see Toronto being much better in 2009-10 than they were last season.


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?


Joe Sacco named new Colorado Avalanche coach

The franchise didn’t waste much time after firing Tony Granato. From AP-

Joe Sacco envisions a fast and feisty team taking the ice, one that attacks and stays aggressive.

Perhaps a version of himself when he was a forward in the league.

Sacco, who spent 13 years in the NHL, was introduced as the new coach of the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, a day after the club fired Tony Granato and shook up its front office.

Flanked by newly appointed general manager Greg Sherman on his left and assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre to his right, Sacco talked about carving out a revamped identity for a team that’s coming off its worst finish since moving to Denver in 1995.

“We want to be a team that plays with a lot of energy. We want to play on our toes, we don’t want to play on our heels,” Sacco said. “We want to be a team that attacks, we want to be a team that doesn’t sit back.”

Most of all, Sacco wants this team to return to glory, when the Avalanche were perennially challenging for a Stanley Cup crown.

Sherman shares that vision.

“We all want the Avalanche to return to the standards that made this franchise so successful,” he said. “There will be no shortcuts to return to those standards.”

Sacco, 40, was promoted from the Avalanche’s American Hockey League affiliate, where he coached the Lake Erie Monsters the last two seasons.

Sacco should know the Av’s young players intimately from his AHL days. He has also been an NHL player.(A 13-year career with five teams) On the other hand, I think Colorado is in a rebuilding phase right now. Sacco will have to work hard just to make the Avalanche playoff contenders in 2010.


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.


NHL Left Winger Gary Roberts announces his retirement


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.


A year later- Florida and Richard Zednik defeat Toronto 5-4

Florida who was behind 4-1 at one point last night, came back to tie the game and then win it in regulation. Richard Zednik scored the last two goals of the game.

This is noteworthy because of what happened a year ago yesterday-

Richard Zednik sustained a major gash in his neck when the right skate of Panthers’ teammate Olli Jokinen with his back to Zednik caught him with 9:56 left in Sunday’s game at Buffalo and the Sabres leading 4-3. The game was suspended temporarily.

Sabres’ doctors stopped the bleeding and Zednik was transported to Buffalo General Hospital in “stable condition,” said Panthers team spokesman Justin Copertino. Sabres’ team doctor William Hartrich and Dr. Les Biffon worked on Zednick to stop the bleeding.

Blood poured out of Zednik’s neck as he skated to the Panthers’ bench and was quickly escorted off the ice with a white towel on his neck. A trail of blood remained from the goal line in the Sabres’ zone all the way to the Panthers’ bench.

Jokinen was tangled with Buffalo’s Clarke Macarthur near the boards and while falling down kicked his skate up into the air. It sliced his linemate’s neck.

Zednik was quite fortunate to survive the type of incident he did. Now he’s trying to help the Florida Panthers make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

As it stands Florida is in 8th place or the last playoff slot in the Eastern Conference. Which is deceiving because they have played one less game than the 5th place Montreal Canadians and only trail them by five points. I really think Florida will make the playoffs this year and Richard Zednik will be a key reason why.


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.


Carolina Hurricanes fire coach Peter Laviolette

The man who led the team to the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship, will be replaced by his predecessor, Paul Maurice.

The Carolina Hurricanes have fired coach Peter Laviolette, who led the team to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship.

The team has called a press conference at 11:30 a.m. to announce the coaching change.

Laviolette was in his fifth season with the team and this season became the winningest U.S-born NHL coach. But the Hurricanes missed the playoffs the last two seasons and are 12-11-2 this season after Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

In a strange turn, The Sports Network is reporting that the Canes will replace Laviolette with his predecessor, Paul Maurice.

ESPN is also reporting Maurice, who last coached in Toronto, will be taking over in Carolina.

Luke Decock writes-

The news that the Hurricanes have called a press conference this morning to announce a coaching change comes as no surprise to anyone who watched this team play this season.

With each passing game, it was becoming clear that Peter Laviolette no longer possessed the ability to get this team to play hard on a regular, consistent basis. It’s also possible that wasn’t his fault.

He wasn’t given the most talented roster in the NHL to start with, and injuries and poor performances left him with a shell of even that. It’s entirely possible no coach could have been able — or will be able — to get more out of this roster.

But in the end, Laviolette paid the price for a string of home losses — three in a row, and a 6-7-0 home record — that highlighted this team’s most critical failing:

Whether to start games (the Hurricanes have given up the first goal in 10 straight games) or to end them (the late collapses against Los Angeles, Edmonton and Washington), there was no way of telling how hard the Canes were willing to play on any particular night.

I see the same thing with the Florida Panthers on a regular basis.

One last note on Laviolette- He is the winningest US born coach in NHL history.


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