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01/19/2010

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Cheers,
Alexander


The One Who Never Won It All

01/10/2010
 Coyotes v Sabres

Arguably the best Finnish player never to win a Cup, Teppo Numminen will receive recognition for his remarkable career when the Phoenix Coyotes induct him into the “Ring of Honor” on January 30, 2010. Numminen, drafted in 1986, played fifteen seasons for the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise, and continued to play an additional five years for Dallas and Buffalo.

At the time of his retirement on August 4, 2009, the stay-at-home defenseman was the last player from the 1986 draft still playing in the NHL. He was a three-time all-star, a two-time silver medalist at the Olympics (along with one bronze medal), and as of January 2010, he holds the record for most NHL games (1372 games) played without winning a Cup. The longevity of his career was largely due to his vision, his positioning, and his passing.

He never won the Norris Trophy —for the league’s best defenseman — though, Jeremy Roenick once said Numminen should be up for the award every year, but the media and market of Phoenix was not conducive to winning an award. Numminen was a great captain for the Coyotes, but not many outside of Winnipeg and Phoenix gave him the recognition he deserved. His contributions to the Coyotes were outstanding; the Coyotes have not made the playoffs since trading Numminen to the Dallas Stars in July of 2003. He was never a flashy or physical player, but he gave hope to defenseman that positioning can makeup for size and strength.

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The New Coyotes

01/09/2010
Los Angeles Kings v Phoenix Coyotes

After a hectic and worrisome summer, the Phoenix Coyotes came into the 2009-2010 season completely revamped.  With a new coach, Dave Tippett, and a new owner, the Coyotes have remodeled their roster, acquiring fourteen of its 25 players in the year 2009.

The new roster has proven to be a successful change, as the Coyotes with 45 games played sit fourth in the Western Conference with 26 wins, and 56 points. They are on pace to shatter the Phoenix Coyotes franchise record, of 95 points (achieved in the 2001-2002 season)*, with a total of 106 points. If the Coyotes want to establish the Coyotes fan support in Arizona, they will need to make the playoffs—and ideally, win the first round. Through half the season, the Coyotes have proven they are a new, rejuvenated team (average age of team is 27.8 years) that can win.

Though attendance has not been outstanding this season at Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes have posted a great home record (16-6-1), and fared decently on the road (10-8-3). Hopefully the days of 5,000 fans in attendance are gone, as they will need the support to continue winning.

Though the Coyotes dropped their home opener to the Columbus Blue Jackets (2-0), bringing back the White-Out showed how great the momentum and energy can feel when the Coyotes play in front of a nearly sell-out crowd.

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The Ken Hitchcock Effect

01/08/2010
Florida Panthers v Philadelphia Flyers

If the words of Nikita Filatov are not enough to describe how much of an effect Ken Hitchcock has on his young players, then you will definitely want to read this.

The young Russian said in a recent interview, when questioned on his decision to return to the NHL, “I highly doubt it. But [moving] Ken Hitchcock can really help it.”

There is a pattern and we will show you it.

On January 8, 1996, the Dallas Stars appointed Hitchcock’ as their head coach. This team displayed a nice mix of veterans and youth with promising players like Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Jamie Langenbrunner, Richard Matvichuck (acquired via trade), Trent Klatt and Darryl Sydor.  This same team found chemistry together eventually leading them to a Stanley Cup Championship just three short years later.

However, in his first season, the kids barely saw the ice. Outside of Modano and Matvichuck, forwards Lehtinen, Langenbrunner and Klatt played a defensive checking role. Lehtinen was not drafted to be a defensive type player. Yes, he developed into a very good two-way player but a lot of his offensive potential lied to rot with Hitchcock not using him in a more offensive role or in a more offensive system.

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Storybook Ending to Another Great #WJC

01/05/2010
U20 Game - USA vs Russia

With the stage set Team Canada and Team USA faced off for the gold medal in the 2009-2010 World Juniors Hockey Championship.  With the home team slightly favored to win, it appeared to be an uphill battle stopping Canada’s gold medal run.

When the tournament first kicked off, many were not sure what to expect from the Team Usa while most projected the Canadians a lock for the gold medal game.  The scoring went as follows:

Canada 1 – USA 0

USA 1 – Canada 1

USA 2 – Canada 2

USA 3 – Canada 2

Canada 3 – USA 3

With the score knotted at three, starter Mike Lee pulled in favor of 17-year-old 2010 draftee Jack Campbell.  The latter posted a 1-1 record with a 2.40 GAA and a .912 SV% with 1 SO in the tournament. Lee just let in 3 goals on 7 shots.
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Will the Red Wings Make the Playoffs?

01/04/2010
Stanley Cup Finals - Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings - Game Five

Coming into last year, the Detroit Red Wings looked stronger than ever.  Fresh off a dominating cup win they added arguably the best sniper on the market and seemed poised to create another dynasty, even in this cash strapped salary cap era.

This year certainly seems to be another story.  Gone are Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson amongst others leaving the team with roughly 31 percent of the offense to replace.

Who did they bring in?

Todd Bertuzzi, Drew Miller, Jason Williams and Patrick Eaves amongst others.  Those four combined for a whopping 54 goals last year, a little more than half of the 89 goals that left this past offseason.  If you subtract 35 goals from last year’s totals the team still would finish 7th in scoring and not first.

GM Ken Holland planned on using rookies and young players such as Ville Leino, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm in scoring roles, hoping it would force them to step up their games and make up the remaining 35 goals needed.  What Holland did not expect were injuries.  Injuries and injuries alone could derail all hope this team had to make the playoffs, let alone another return to the Stanley Cup.

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Here's to a New Year Without Head Shots

01/02/2010
New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Five

I am certain that an opinion piece of this nature will upset each team’s fans but these head shots have got to stop.  Of course, we are all hockey fans and love the big hit, some live for it but there needs to be a line drawn with the increasing speed to the game.  These hits need to stop or else hockey becomes a survival of the fittest in which young players stand little chance of establishing a career due to playing scared due to footage from the last gruesome head shot.

While the League’s general managers mull over a rule change, I would like to propose a rule change of my own.  Repeat dirty hits will lead to a permanent suspension from the League.  The OHL instilled a similar rule when they banned Michael Liambas, a notoriously dirty player, from playing in their League following a career ending hit against Ben Fanelli.  This instance marked just another time Liambas made a questionable hit, you cam see another one on first overall pick John Tavares here.  The NHL made a similar move with former NHL pugilist Ryan Hollweg, essentially calling any hit remotely borderline until he played his way out of the league.

The moral of my rant will be that these types of players simply do not deserve a paycheck in the National Hockey League.  A League where the rest of the world comes to play and play for the sport’s greatest trophies.  What kind of message does it send when careers start to end due to these injuries? Do we need Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin seriously injured before we start to see lifetime bans?

My nominees for a lifetime ban…

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