Sports Outside the Beltway

Anaheim Ducks sign Defenseman Steve Eminger

He last played in the NHL for the Florida Panthers. From AP-

The Anaheim Ducks have signed defenseman Steve Eminger to a two-year contract.

The Ducks also acquired left wing Shawn Weller from Ottawa on Friday in a trade for right wing Jason Bailey.

Eminger played for Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Florida last season, compiling a career-high 26 points.

The former first-round draft pick by Washington played parts of five seasons with the Capitals before being traded three times in less than nine months, culminating in his move to the Panthers last March.

The Panthers acquired Eminger just before last March’s trade deadline. He did very little during his stint with the cats. Anaheim is hoping Eminger will finally show some of the skills that led Washington to spend a first round draft pick on him. Honestly, I see no reason for such optimism.


Minnesota Wild sign G Wade Dubielewicz

He only appeared in five Columbus Blue Jacket games last year. From AP-

The Minnesota Wild have signed veteran goaltender Wade Dubielewicz to add depth behind All-Star Niklas Backstrom.

The move gives the Wild a third goaltender on the roster and more stability should they decide to trade backup Josh Harding, who had a 2.21 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage last season. The Wild signed Backstrom to an extension that will make him the No. 1 goaltender for the next four years.

The 30-year-old Dubielewicz has a career record of 17-15-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 40 career appearances with the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Now the Wild have a good #1 goalies, and two backups who haven’t played all that much but have shown good ability. The Florida Panthers have Tomas Vokoun and the recently acquired Scott Clemmensen. In addition to that, they have Mike Brodeur who played well at Rochester of the ACL and the recently acquired Alexander Salak. Some teams are awash in Goalie options.

Then you have the Washington Capitals. This team has the overpriced underperforming Jose Theodore and the inexperienced Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. Admittedly Varlamov did a good job during the last NHL playoffs but the Russian goalie has exactly six games of regular season experience. It is far too early to say if Varlamov is a quality NHL goalie. Harding and Dubilewicz don’t have much experience, but they aren’t trying to backup a #1 goalie who isn’t up to the job. Why Washington didn’t try to replace Theodore is beyond me. Throwing good money at a bad goalie makes economic sense, but won’t improve your chances of winning a Stanley Cup.


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.


Chris Kunitz fined not suspended for hit on Washington Goalie

Just the usual slap on the wrist from the NHL.

Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz has been fined the maximum amount under the collective bargaining agreement, $2,500, for cross-checking Washington netminder Simeon Varlamov late in Game 2 on Monday night, has learned.

The fine comes in spite of calls from Washington star Alex Ovechkin for Kunitz to be suspended.

Reporters in Arlington — where the Capitals practiced before traveling to Pittsburgh Tuesday afternoon — heard an angry Ovechkin complain that the hit was a “cheap shot” and that Kunitz should be suspended.

“I think it’s dirty and I think the league has to do something about it,” Ovechkin was quoted as saying on the Washington Post Web site.

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau called the hit vicious. Here’s a You Tube video of what happened.

I think the crosscheck was uncalled for too. What is your opinion?


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.


Washington and Carolina advance in Stanley Cup playoffs

The last two first round series concluded last night. First Washington rallied to eliminate the New York Rangers.

Fedorov beat Henrik Lundqvist with 4:59 left in the third period, rookie Simeon Varlamov was good in the net when he had to be, and the second-seeded Capitals edged the No. 7 New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal Tuesday night.

If Washington coach Bruce Boudreau had stuck with the veteran Theodore as Goalie, The Rangers would have advanced. It was a gutsy decision.

New Jersey was victimized by two late Carolina goals in their loss.

Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored in a 48-second span late in the third period as the Hurricanes stunned the Devils 4-3 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference series.

To me, Carolina’s win is more surprising than Anaheim knocking off San Jose.

The conference semi-finals are set. My predictions are-

Boston takes Carolina 4 games to 1. I think the Bruins are the best team still in the playoffs.
Washington beats Pittsburgh 4 games to 3. Can Varlamov stand the pressure of Crosby, Malkin, and company? He better, otherwise the Capitals will make mincemeat of Theodore.


Washington Capitals Donald Brashear suspended for six games

This for his hit on New York Ranger Blair Betts on Sunday. From AP-

Capitals forward Donald Brashear was suspended Monday by the NHL for a total of six games — five for what the league called a “blind-side hit” on Rangers center Blair Betts — and will miss Game 7 of the teams’ first-round playoff series.

In addition to leveling Betts midway through the first period of Washington’s 5-3 victory at New York in Game 6 on Sunday, Brashear made contact with Colton Orr in pregame warmups and was barred from one game for that.

“Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player,” said Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive VP of hockey operations. “It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury.”

Betts has a broken bone in his eye socket and was ruled out of Tuesday night’s series-deciding game in Washington. He is New York’s top penalty-killing forward.

Here’s the video

Brashear deserves every game he is suspended and more. The trouble is, Betts inability to play is liable to have a detrimental effect on the Rangers’ playoff chances. He is the team’s best penalty killer. However the way Goalie Simeon Varlamov has been playing makes it seem unlikely the Rangers can pull the upset.


NY Ranger Coach John Tortorella suspended for Game 6

This for an altercation between him and a fan on Friday night. From ESPN-

Rangers coach John Tortorella has been suspended by the NHL for one game because he squirted a fan with water and threw a water bottle into the stands, striking a spectator in Washington.

Tortorella, who replaced the fired Tom Renney in February, will miss Game 6 on Sunday when New York hosts the Capitals with a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The NHL ruled Saturday night that Tortorella’s actions Friday night during the Rangers’ 4-0 loss that cut their series lead to 3-2 warranted a serious punishment.

At 6:33 of the third period, Tortorella got into a verbal confrontation with a fan behind the bench. A video replay showed the coach heaving a green water bottle into the crowd. Tortorella then grabbed forward Aaron Voros’ stick and held it high, waving it in the fan’s direction.

Here’s the Youtube video of the incident.

The fan was loud, obnoxious, and probably drunk. Tortorella, who is fiery under the best of circumstances, lost his cool. He should have remained focused on what was going on in the game, not the stands.

Now can someone please tell me what ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is drinking? He writes-

It’s a ballsy move by the league, which is apparently trying to send a tough message to its players and coaches about crossing that fine line when emotions run high in the postseason.

I’ve pointed out countless times, the wrongheaded priorities the NHL has. Tortorella gets suspended one game for throwing a water bottle, John Avery is put on indefinite suspension for off color comments, but Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play even though he ended another player’s career with a gruesome act of thuggery. Tell me which was worse, what Bertuzzi did or that the NHL hasn’t kicked that thug out of the league already.


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