Thursday, May 31, 2007

Get To Know: Mikael Backlund

We all know who the best Swede in last year's draft was (Dennis Persson - duh). This year, the best Konungariket Sverige has to offer is Mikael Backlund.

Caps Sign Lepistö

Yesterday's rumor has become today's news as the Caps have indeed signed Sami Lepistö to an entry-level deal. Read all about young Sami at those two links.

'Hawks Narrow It Down To Three Players

According to the CP, the Chicago Blackhawks, owners of the first pick in next month's draft, have narrowed the potential candidates for that pick to three: Kyle Turris, Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk.

"Those are the three guys we're looking at," confirmed GM Dale Tallon.

I'm a bit surprised to see JVR on their radar, but add Jakub Voracek and Alexei Cherepanov (and top-rated blueliner Karl Alzner) to that trio and it's pretty clear that if the Caps do use their first pick (fifth overall), they're going to get a very talented and highly respected player.

UPDATE: The Philly Inquirer says the 'Hawks are "leaning toward" Kane and the Flyers are most interested in Turris, as they want a center.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Caps To Sign Lepistö?

He may not be Brian Rafalski. Hell, he might not be Brian Pothier. But the intertubes are buzzing (it's more of a faint hum, really) with news of the Caps extending a contract offer to Finnish blueliner Sami Lepistö. Here's the original source - don't ask me why it references the Habs, but do note a couple of other familiar names in the article (h/t to Hckyplyr12 for the pointer).

We'll await confirmation from the team, of course, but here's a little bit on Sami, in case you're unfamiliar with him:
  • He was the first pick of the third round (66th overall) of the 2004 draft (a draft that has already been pretty good to the Caps). He'll be 23 years old on October 17.
  • "Lepisto's main strengths lie in his offensive game. He has good overall puck skills, including an excellent left-handed onetimer. He also has a good vision of the ice. Perhaps his greatest asset is - however - his confidence with the puck, which is rarely seen from a player as young as he is. He is mentally very strong and doesn't seem to mind playing under extreme pressure. While his confidence is mainly an asset, he also has a habit of being over-confident, which sometimes leads to turnovers. His physical development isn't quite on par with his skills, and he needs to further develop his skating and defensive game." - Hockey's Future
  • "[D]iminutive Sami Lepisto could be a power play quarterback for the Capitals when he comes to North America to begin his pro career." - Sporting News [note: he's 5'11" or 6'0" and between 175 and 180 pounds, depending on who you believe.]
  • "There is a lot to like about Sami Lepisto -­ if you can get past the fact he is small and won't get bigger.

    "The Finnish blueliner is a late bloomer and it has only been the last couple of years that he has made a name for himself in Finland.

    "'He has loads of talent and had a great World Junior Championship,' said a European scout. 'He had a great effort in the bronze medal game against the Czechs and had an outstanding tournament. The Finns were not supposed to win a medal but he played a big part.'

    "Lepisto's critics note he had a so-so year numbers-wise in Finland's top league.

    "'He played, but he didn't do much offensively,' said another European scout. But the fact Lepisto played a regular shift should count for something when his name comes around on the draft floor.

    "'He won't be a No. 1, 2, or 3 defenseman, but he could be a steal as a No. 4,' said one scout. 'If he got a little bigger and stronger he could be one of the top defenseman in the draft. I like the way Finns play and he is tough.'" - Hockey News (from the 2004 draft)
  • "Lepisto is a late bloomer who played his best hockey of the season in helping Finland win a bronze medal at the 2004 World Junior championship. His has loads of skill, but size is an issue." - (from the 2004 draft)
  • Profiles from: HockeyDB (full Finnish stats), Hockey's Future,
We'll no doubt be hearing more about Lepisto in the days ahead, but I wanted to get this primer out there for you so you can sound smart when you hear the official announcement - "Oh yeah, Lepisto - nice skills, but it would be nice if he was just a little bigger."

No, he's not "the answer," so don't start in with the "if this is all they do..." drivel. But he's a kid with upside, so it's good to get him over to this side of the pond so he can start to learn the North American game. And while we're on the topic of signing Finnish defensemen...

Quote Of The Day

"I want to break free of these chains that are around me[.]" - Manny Fernandez, Minnesota Wild goaltender on his desire to be traded this summer.

Poor Manny and those gold-plated, diamond-encrusted $4.33 million chains (though maybe the complaining is just Manny being Manny). By the way, Minnesota, good luck trading a mediocre goalie who will make $9.25 million over the next two years [insert Jose Theodore joke here].

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Get To Know: Angelo Esposito

At the Mid-Term, Quebec Remparts center Angelo Esposito was the CBS's #1 ranked North American Skater. He slipped to eighth in the Final Rankings, but I wouldn't expect him to be available for too long on draft day. Read more about Esposito over at the FanHouse.

Great Moments In Hockey Journalism

The Wild have offered their free agent-to-be Finnish goaltender Niklas Backstrom a new contract, and CNN/SI has attached a picture of Caps Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom to the story.

It's not the first and it won't be the last time that the MSM gets confused by the similar names of these two Scandanavian studs, and it's not nearly as bad as today's biggest MSM hockey screw up. That honor belongs to our very own Washington Post, whose print edition this morning ran the following:

Game 1 to Senators

Trailing by one entering the final period, Ottawa wins the Stanley Cup finals opener on a goal by Travis Moen. E2

Playoff Score
Senators 3, Ducks 2

Well done, WaPo! Look, you don't have to send your hockey guy to the Finals, but pretend you care just a little bit about the sport, won't you?

H/t to JT on the Backstrom link

Ovechkin The Recruiter (Or The Recruit)

Yesterday I noted that the Habs have resigned blueliner Andrei Markov. Today we find out that a member of the Caps organization had made a pitch on the team's behalf (or on his own) to the Russian rearguard:
Markov said his good friend Alex Ovechkin wanted him to consider moving to Washington.

"Alex is a funny guy," said Markov, who smiled at a suggestion he should invite Ovechkin to join the Canadiens.

"It's too early," Markov said.
And by "too early" he means "never going to happen."

Flogging Ourselves With 20/20 Hindsight

Watching last night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, one can't help but wonder what might have been had GMGM chosen Ryan Getzlaf instead of Eric Fehr back in 2003 (by the way, how stacked was that draft?).

Sure, it's easy to cherry-pick a single selection that may or may not have missed (let's revisit this in a few years), and I think that GMGM's drafting record often receives an unfair amount of criticism. But considering that Getzlaf was rated 10 spots higher in the Central Scouting Bureau's final rankings, it's hard not to be at least a little bit disappointed that McPhee went with his gut (or his own scouts' evaluations) and not the conventional wisdom on that pick.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Game 1 Live Blogging

Greg and I are live blogging tonight's game over at FanHouse. Stop on by, if you're so inclined.

Mark Off Markov

The Habs have resigned blueliner Andrei Markov to a 4-year/$23 million deal (that's $5.75m per year, for those of you whose math skills aren't terribly strong).

If nothing else, it helps set the market for free agent defensemen and means that Sheldon Souray is probably on his way out of Montreal.

That Pane Of Plexi May Have Saved This Guy's Life

Hershey Bears tough guy Kip Brennan won't be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals on Friday night. In fact, he'll be watching the whole series from the press box as a result of the suspension the AHL handed down today.

Below is the altercation in question. What do you think?

Like A Rock: Daniel Alfredsson

Who is the one person whose performance will most impact which teams skates with the Cup next week? I'm going with Daniel Alfredsson (and the Sens in six). You?

Thank You

Thank you to all of those who have given and are giving their lives for the country we love.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The View From Your Playoff Seat

Caps and Bears fans, meet your 2007 Calder Cup opponents (blogwise).
Steph (No Pun Intended), HockeyGirl (DoubleD(ion)), Sherry (Scarlett Ice), Elly (No Pun Intended). Sent by Sherry. Toronto, ON.

Bonne chance dans les finales. Ahem.

The VFYPS photo album can be viewed here. Send us your playoff pictures here.

Get To Know: Colton Gillies

With a name like Colton Gillies, you've got to be a hockey player, and today's prospect profilee definitely is.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Get To Know: Logan Couture

Tonight's prospect profile is Logan Couture, a kid whose stock has plummeted since he was the #1-ranked prospect back in the Fall.

Not-Totally-Random Pothier Love

Since teams from opposing Conferences play each other only twice every three years nowadays, there's very little familiarity between the two Stanley Cup finalists (who didn't play during the regular season) and maybe even less familiarity for their respective fan bases with respect to their opponents. To ameliorate some of that, Earl from Battle of California and Ben from Sens Army are educating one another on their teams' strengths and weaknesses leading up to the start of the Finals on Monday.

Anyway, Earl had 10 questions which Ben has answered, including this:
9. Random question--but if you could have one former Senator back for this series (one who left within the last year or so), who would it be and why? I think I'm asking a "Chara or Havlat" question, but if you have another guy in mind that works too.

Chara and Havlat each have their niches, and my initial response was Chara – he’s such a presence on the ice. But we had them both last year and were beaten out in the second round, so I’m going to skip them and say Brian Pothier, he was a free agent who left last summer – he got 12 minutes a game with the Sens, and now playing in Washington he gets 20+ minutes per game. He was a gem with the right attitude that the Sens could put to good use today.
Sure, there are personnel reasons for the ice time disparity from last season to this one, but Potsy is often a whipping boy for Caps fans, so it's nice to see him get some love, especially from a fan of his former team. I've said it before and will again - in the right role (i.e. second defensive pairing), Pothier will be a perfect fit for this team. Maybe I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Other Free Agent Discussion

As the NHL prepares for the Mid-Summer Classic Stanley Cup Finals, many of us hockey fans find our minds turning (if they haven't already) to the off-season. Trades. The Draft. New uniforms. Free agency. Rookie camp. Ice Girls. Heck, the season ended on Tuesday night for 99.8 percent of us anyway, so the off-season is upon us.

And while we've spent a lot of time talking about which free agents we'd like to see in Capitals red, white and blue next fall, we haven't spent as much time discussing those who may not be a part of the Caps' future.

With all of that in mind, then, let's take a look at the Caps who will become free agents on July 1.

First, there are the unrestricted free agents (UFAs). These are the guys who can go anywhere they can find work and for whom the Caps would receive no compensation should it be somewhere other than D.C.:
  • Bryan Muir (2006-07 salary: $600,000)
That's it (of any significance whatsoever). Before bidding farewell to Muir, I must note that he did finish the season with a plus-3 rating and had more points per game than any full-time Caps blueliner not named Brian Pothier. That said, I can't see Muir fitting into the team's plans next season, but imagine he'll find work somewhere as a 7th or 8th defenseman.

Now come the Restricted Free Agents (RFAs). These are the guys who, because of tenure in the League or NHL games played aren't free to just sign with whomever they please (unless the Caps don't tender the player a qualifying offer, which is basically an offer sheet with a five or ten percent raise, depending on the player's 2006-07 salary). Once the Caps qualify a player, if he signs with another team, the Caps would have the right to match that offer OR receive compensation from that team for poaching their player, as follows:

$773,442 or less - None
$773,442 to $1,171,882 - 3rd round pick
$1,171,882 to $2,343,764 - 2nd round pick
$2,343,764 to $3,515,645 - 1st and 3rd round pick
$3,515,645 to $4,687,527 - 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick
$4,687,527 to $5,859,412 - Two 1st's, one 2nd, one 3rd round pick
$5,859,412 or more - Four 1st round picks

In other words, when Buffalo, seeking to replace Daniel Briere, signs Brian Sutherby to a 5-year, $30 million contract, the Caps will get four first round picks from the Sabres. This is pretty much what happened when St. Louis signed Scott Stevens away from the Caps - Stevens was an RFA, the Caps qualified him, the Blues made him an offer that the Caps chose not to match (a decision that likely will be debated forever in CapsNation), and the Caps got five picks in return (the compensation schedule was a bit different under that Collective Bargaining Agreement).

Who are the Caps RFAs this year (and while you're at it, take a sneak peek, if you dare, at next year's RFA class)?
  • Steve Eminger (2006-07 salary: $993,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $1,042,650)
  • Brian Sutherby (2006-07 salary: $800,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $840,000)
  • Jakub Klepis (2006-07 salary: $722,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $758,100)
  • Kris Beech (2006-07 salary: $700,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $735,000)
  • Jonas Johansson (2006-07 salary: $646,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $710,600)
  • Jamie Hunt (2006-07 salary: $635,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $698,500)
  • Matt Stefanishion (2006-07 salary: $635,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $698,500)
  • Brooks Laich (2006-07 salary: $606,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $666,600)
  • Tomas Fleischmann (2006-07 salary: $602,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $662,200)
  • John Erskine (2006-07 salary: $575,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $632,500)
  • Alexandre Giroux (2006-07 salary: $550,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $605,000)
  • Maxime Daigneault (2006-07 salary: $507,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $557,700)
  • Dave Steckel (2006-07 salary: $500,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $550,000)
  • Milan Jurcina (2006-07 salary: $500,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $550,000)
  • Jiri Novotny (2006-07 salary: $450,000; Minimum qualifying offer for 2007-08: $495,000)
Easy enough - qualify everyone (even Johansson, who seems to be a total stiff, despite "having the tools"). If these guys don't play in the NHL, it doesn't count against the cap, if they're not qualified and they walk, the Caps get nothing, and hey, it ain't my money. For historical perspective, the Caps qualified all of their RFAs last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. You get the point - qualifying these guys is pretty much routine and a given. The tougher part will be signing some of them.

We can assume that most of the players above will accept their qualifying offers because, frankly, it's as good as it's gonna get right now. This includes all the guys who have no shot at making the big club next year, as well as some who will.

For example, Laich signed his qualifying offer last year, but may feel he's due a bit more than a 10% raise this time around. But considering that he posted nearly identical numbers as he had the previous season, he should sign his QO (or something similar in annual salary). The same goes for Eminger and Sutherby - neither did anything last year that made me say, "Man, that dude deserves a big raise."

The one player that sticks out in my mind as deserving more than the minimum bump is Jurcina. Jerky really impressed over the course of his "tryout" in D.C., pairing wonderfully with Shaone Morrisonn and finishing with a plus-5 rating in those 30 games despite usually being sent out against opponents' top offensive lines. He has a booming shot, is a big hitter and, at just 23, has loads of potential (as a point of comparison, Zdeno Chara had 2 goals, 9 assists and a minus-27 rating as a 23-year-old).

So how much is Jurcina worth? If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I'm a big believer in the importance of a team salary structure. Pothier will make $2.5 million next year, Morrisonn $900,000 and Mike Green $850,000 (those last two will be RFAs next year). In addition, at least one yet-to-be-named free agent defenseman will make more than Pothier (presumably in the vast $3-$6m range). To me, then, Jurcina is worth a deal in the neighborhood of $1.25 million. But if he asked for $1.5m, I'd much rather pay that than take a second round pick to compensate my loss.

UPDATE: I've been corrected - Brian Willsie was NOT qualified last year. I guess rooming with Alex Ovechkin for a year was compensation enough.

Jordin Sparks Fly With Kellie

Like gossip? My wife does, so this is for her.

It appears as if Nashville Predators agitator Jordin Tootoo is in a "blossoming relationship" with former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler (pictured).

As if that isn't entertaining enough, Pickler is looking forward to visiting Tootoo's remote northern Canadian hometown so she can "build an igloo," but also presumably so she can get as far away from her father (who was just arrested for the second time this year) as possible:
The elder Pickler is being charged after getting caught stealing old cars and selling them to scrap yards. He was recently released from jail after a serving a three-year sentence for stabbing his neighbor.
Looks like Jordin may have to wait a while to ask his potential father-in-law for his daughter's hand in marriage.

Young love. Ain't it sweet?
H/t to an anonymous respected hockey journalist for passing along this smut.

Did He Have To Take 'Em Down To Hang 'Em Up?

Hey, Brian Leetch officially retired.

Some might call Leetch the best American-born player of all-time, and whether or not you would, his resume is awfully impressive:
  • One of only seven 1,000-point defensemen in League history
  • The only American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP
  • Calder Trophy winner
  • Two-time Norris Trophy winner
  • Ten-time NHL All-Star

Kudos to Leetch on a great career.

Dispatches From Down On The Farm

As you probably know, the Hershey Bears are one win away from advancing to the Calder Cup Finals (where they'll likely face - gasp - Mathieu Biron and the Hamilton Bulldogs).

Per Vogs, here are a couple of stats of particular interest to Caps fans:
  • Tomas Fleischmann now ranks third in AHL playoff scoring with 17 points (four goals, 13 assists).
  • Mike Green leads all AHL defensemen with seven playoff goals and is second with 13 points. He leads the league with six power play goals.

And here's Vogs' take on Flash's game three performance:

Quite simply a dazzling performance. He worked his wizardry with the puck throughout the evening, and finished with a goal and two assists. Flash’s goal was a work of art.

I would like to think that both Flash and Green are virtual locks for the big club next year, and with the confidence they're getting - and inspiring - during this playoff run, they're doing nothing to dissuade that notion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Rink: Now In Languages I Don't Understand!

A quick note to let y'all know that I've added a few buttons in the upper right corner. Click on a flag and the site will be magically translated into a language that I either slept through in high school or never even had a chance to learn. I haven't quite figured out how to make the buttons translate anything other than the front page, but that can't be too hard (if any code geeks want to lend a hand, shoot me an email).

So добро пожаловать, willkommen, bonjour, benvenuto and hola, and sorry we don't have Swedish yet - bug the folks at Google to make it happen.

Oh, and one last thing - the buttons work much better in Firefox than IE, but then again, doesn't just about everything?

Hey, Is That Kris Beech Figure Skating In The Background?

I promise I'm not linking to this online video coverage of the Nicklas Backstrom presser because I have a bit of a crush on Lindsay Czarniak.

By the way, if you're paying attention you can see McErlain taking some of these pics and video in the lower left of one shot.

H/t to CapsChick on the link

Get To Know: Nicholas Petrecki

Today's prospect profile is of Nicholas Petrecki, a big American kid who patrols the blueline with a mean streak.

Here he is getting fed his lunch (ah, YouTube):

Horses, Pols and Pucks

Can you believe a national broadcast network opted for race coverage over a critical playoff hockey game? Only in the United States...

Well, not exactly.

H/t to Kukla's on the link

Maybe It's The Sticks

I happened across an interesting stat yesterday - it seems that, heading into last night's game, 55% of the game-winning goals in this year's playoffs have come off of Easton sticks, despite only 44% of the players in the playoffs using the brand (which still makes it the most popular stick brand, by far). The overall goal and point totals aren't significantly different from the market share, but that game-winner percentage is noteworthy.

Naturally, I then wondered how many (and which) Caps are using these magic wands. As it turns out, only two Capitals who scored more than eight goals last year - Chris Clark (30) and Matt Pettinger (16) - are Easton guys.

Of course, Alex Ovechkin has done just fine with his CCM twigs, and Alex Semin's Sherwoods have served him well, but one has to wonder if maybe there's a little something extra in the Eastons.

Then again, it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and I don't think Easton makes a stick that will turn Ben Clymer into a 50- (or even 20-) goal scorer. But a switch couldn't hurt for some of these guys, could it?

The View From Your Playoff Seat

Senatorial Respect
Hundreds of Sens fans wait for the team's arrival at the airport Saturday.
Jason Spezza captures the moment for his VFYPS album.
Pics taken by Terry and sent by Chris from Sens Underground. Ottawa, ON

The VFYPS photo album can be viewed here. Send us your playoff pictures here.

Using The FCF To Predict The Stanley Cup Finals

After a perfect Conference Finals, the Former Cap Factor (FCF) is now a robust 23-for-29 (79%).

What does the FCF have to say about the Stanley Cup Finals?

The Senators haven't yet had to use former Cap Lawrence Nycholat, but he is on the roster nonetheless (and is assumed to be "a big part of the character in the dressing room"). And, of course, former Cap bench boss Bryan Murray is piloting the ship for Ottawa.

Anaheim, on the other hand, has former Cap assistant coach Randy Carlyle as its head coach, but no former Cap players, head coaches or GMs.

The answer, therefore, is obvious: the Cup stays in the States.

What do you think? Ducks or Senators?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pierre McGuire On Backstrom And The Caps

NBC's Pierre McGuire was on the John Thompson Show the other day (Thompson, however, was not), and the interview is well worth checking out (here - direct link to the audio), especially to hear McGuire's thoughts on Nicklas Backstrom and the Caps.

And if that doesn't get you psyched, maybe this will:

H/t to Nate on the first link and Ridley Scott on the second

The Lunatic Is In The League's Scheduling Office

Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals is scheduled for June 4 at Scotiabank Place.

So is Roger Waters.

Someone's buzz is definitely going to be harshed.

H/t to 32Rebel for the pointer

Finals To Begin Monday

No matter how you spell it, the Cup Finals will start on Monday.

If There's A Parade To Be Had, Rest Assured That Dave Fay Will Rain On It

Dave Fay - who had famously claimed that Nicklas Backstrom would not be coming to North America for the 2007-08 season - can't let a positive moment slip by without getting in a shot or two.

In his latest article, entitled "Capitals' Rebuilding Begins" (hey, Dave, that started three-plus years ago, no?), Fay offers his thoughts on the Caps' newest player:

Backstrom, rookie of the year a season ago for Brynas in the adult Swedish Elite League, is said to be a smart, highly skilled playmaker with exceptional hockey sense and an excellent skater who is adept defensively.

He lacks only one thing the Caps were looking for in their search for a quality center: He is not right-handed. The club wants a pivot who can maximize the potential of left wings Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, and a right-hander might be better suited.

Note that Backstrom is not a smart, highly-skilled player, he's merely "said to be" that. But rather than dwell on unsubstantiated positives, Fay points out what Backstrom lacks (and, for the record, rightwing Brett Hull did fine taking feeds from right-handed Adam Oates, to name just one example of a duo who managed to succeed despite the awful handicap of having the scorer on the passer's backhand side).

Sure it's a little thing, but enough already, Dave. Backstrom's not going to walk on water, turn water into wine or pop every kernel in a bag of microwave popcorn without burning any of it either, but that doesn't mean he won't be a top flight second- (potentially first-) line center. Even with that crippling negative you noted, I'll take the positives that Nick is "said to" possess - you can have the right-handed Jiri Novotny.

One Thousand Down, Many More To Go

Lost (until now) in the flurry of posts yesterday was the fact that the David Perron note was the 1,000th post here at The Rink.

Thanks to everyone for reading and participating in this little community and here's hoping the next thousand are as much fun (with a lot more winning mixed in).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Quoth The Maven, "Nevermore" (Or So We Wish)

FYI: the Rangers were/are better than the Sabres, Ray Emery is awful and the Senators have already won the Cup. Aren't you glad The Maven cleared that all up for you?

If Brett Hull Is NBC's Answer To Don Cherry, Is That A Good Thing?

Is it just me or has Brett Hull's schtick already grown tiresome?

Get To Know: David Perron

Over at the FanHouse I've started a series of posts counting down the ISS Top 15 NHL Draft Prospects, and today's victim subject is #15, David Perron, a left wing from Quebec with limited offensive upside and a man-crush on Alexei Kovalev. What team wouldn't want a kid with that skill set?

Why We're Fans

Kevin over at BfloBlog has today's must-read post deconstructing the recently-concluded season not from an X's and O's perspective, but from the fan's point of view. The season may have ended disappointingly, but fans of most teams can only hope for a ride like the Sabre faithful had from October through mid-May. Kudos to Kevin for seeing that.

It's Officially Official

Slick Nick has signed.

Why The Caps Should Trade For Martin Gerber

No, not really. But the guy's got a heck of a streak going.

Anything To Sell A Stick?

Want to stand out in a crowded market place? Head for the gutter. At least that's the strategy Warrior Hockey of Warren, MI seems to be taking.

A newcomer to the hockey equipment business, Warrior has been using images of "pimps... adolescent boys with erections and slang references to marijuana," to sell its products, with taglines like "Get a taste of the bubonic Kronik. Who wants some??!!" to sell its newest stick, the Kronik, according to a Sports Business Journal article (Warrior defends that line, claiming their "thinking was that it makes you a chronic scorer"... uh huh).

And the sad thing is, it's working. "By the end of the 2006-07 NHL regular season, the company had 158 players using its sticks, or about 22 percent of the NHL market[.] That's an 8 percent increase from 2005-06, its first season in the NHL."

"We are trying to be different in respect to our equipment advertising and overall branding message," said Neil Wensley, Warrior's director of marketing. "Our intent is not to offend anyone, but to increase the audience for the sport."

Am I the only one who thinks the sport is better off without that audience, or do you take an "anything to increase the audience" approach? And why did I just give them this free publicity?

Caps 2006-07 Rookie Review

Hockey's Future is chock full o' Caps goodies today, including a review of the team's 2006-07 rookie class. Nothing too controversial or interesting there, but well worth a read on a Monday morning.

Caps Still Top Five

Hockey's Future has it's Spring 2007 Organizational Rankings up and the Caps are #5.

Here's HF's assessment:

Strengths: Washington's strengths start back in the net where they have Semen Varlamov and Michael Neuvirth. Varlamov and Neuvirth seem to have the biggest upside as of now. Both are highly athletic goaltenders that move very fast and are capable of making key saves. On the defensive end Jeff Schultz and Patrick McNeill are providing solid but unspectacular depth. Up front, Nicklas Backstrom, who is one of the best prospects outside of the NHL right now, leads the troops. He doesn't need any further introduction, while his fellow prospects Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Francois Bouchard still haven’t reached same status (but bring excellent offensive ability).

Weaknesses: The team could use some more depth on the left side, as the prospects behind Fleischmann aren’t really close to the NHL. The center position could also use another solid centerman, as the only two that look like future NHLers right now are Backstrom and Chris Bourque.

Top Five Prospects: Nicklas Backstrom (C), Eric Fehr (RW), Semen Varlamov (G), Francois Bouchard (RW), Tomas Fleischmann (LW)

Key Graduates: Mike Green (D)

Backstrom's First Pitch

In case you're wondering what it looked like, here's a still of Nicklas Backstrom firing up the ol' jelly rifle before yesterday's Nats/O's game (he was sporting the #19 sweater).

Curiously, Nick throws right but shoots left (similar to Alex Ovechkin, who throws left and shoots right).

Dinner With This Year's Top Draft Prospects

Thanks to Jes for forwarding me a copy of the NHL Entry Draft Media Guide for 2007 (which apparently anyone can download here - warning: PDF). Rather than go all Mel Kiper on you (at this point, at least), I figured I'd help you get to know some of these kids, and what better way to get to know them than to see which three people they'd most like to have dinner with?

If you want some raw data, skip to the bottom. Otherwise, here they are, by prospect, in alphabetical order (with a little added info, where appropriate):
  • Akim Aliu - nicknamed "Dream," Akim is trying to become the first Nigerian-born NHLer. Hopefully he finds the same success in North America as another similarly-named African-born gent (him or him - take your pick). As for his dinner guests, Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman and Gordie Howe.
  • Jean-Simon Allard - Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and President George Bush. Does he mean Bush 41 or Bush 43? Because if it's the former, yeah, that would be an awesome dinner, but the latter? Not sure they'd have a lot to talk about.)
  • Aaron Alphonso - Sacha Baron Cohen, Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali
  • Karl Alzner - Scott Niedermayer, Owen Wilson, Taylor Swift.
  • Keith Aulie - Gretzky, Jessica Simpson and Sidney Crosby because "they are all amazing people." Indeed.
  • Roman Bashkirov - Maria Sharapova (pictured). That's it. Well played.
  • Ruslan Bashkirov - Roman's twin brother, he would see his brother's Sharapova and raise him a Gretzky and a Vladimir Putin for dinner.
  • Jamie Benn - Joe Sakic, Gretzky, Babe Ruth
  • Ben Blood - Orr, Vince Vaughn, Herb Brooks
  • Jon Blum - Woods, Lance Armstrong, Simpson
  • Nick Bonino - Larry David, Bush, Brendan Shanahan
  • Robert Bortuzzo - Orr, Armstrong, Bob Probert
  • Drayson Bowman - Armstrong, Lemieux, Kiefer Sutherland
  • T.J. Brennan - his dad, Dion Phaneuf, Woods
  • Bryan Cameron - Yzerman, Andrew Raycroft ("to learn how to
    score more goals"), Will Ferrell
  • Max Campbell - Pavel Bure, Gretzky, Adam Sandler
  • Trevor Cann - Gretzky, Yzerman, Armstrong
  • Luca Caputi - Richard Simmons (pictured), Simpson, Freddie Mercury. Best answer yet, by far (and I see where you're going with your invites, Luca... crafty).
  • Paul Carey - Armstrong, Bono, Al Gore. Apparently we're into the tree hugger portion of the alphabet.
  • Jordy Christian - Woods, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Andrew Clark - Yzerman
  • Colby Cohen - Donovan McNabb, Chris Pronger, John LeClair. Cohen is Jeremy Bloom's cousin and, as you can probably tell from his dinner guests, a Philly guy.
  • Ian Cole - Woods, Keith Magnuson, Ali
  • Logan Couture - Willis McGahee, Barry Bonds, Evangeline Lilly
  • Tommy Cross - Nicklas Lidstrom, Bush, his mom (Cross's, not Bush's)
  • Jeff Desjardins - his dad, his junior coach, Rod Brind'Amour
  • Jack Downing - Kate Beckinsale (pictured), Pavel Datsyuk, LeBron James
  • Eric Doyle - Orr, Ferrell, Terry Fox
  • Keaton Ellerby (Shane Doan's cousin) - Orr, Ray Bourque
  • Reid Ellingson - Brooks, Gretzky, Martin Brodeur
  • Taylor Ellington - Elvis Presley, Ferrell, Lemieux
  • Travis Erstad - Gretzky, Sakic, Armstrong
  • Angelo Esposito - Sutherland, Phil Esposito (no relation), Armstrong
  • Mitch Fadden - Sakic, Yzerman, Gretzky
  • Justin Falk - Woods, Orr, Bourque
  • Matt Fillier - Yzerman, Kenny Chesney, Woods
  • Olivier Fortier - Gretzky, Armstrong, Yzerman
  • Sam Gagner - Gretzky, Orr, Yzerman
  • T.J. Galiardi - Gretzky, Armstrong, Donovan Bailey
  • Colton Gillies (Clark's nephew) - Armstrong, Mel Gibson, Halle Berry
  • Andrew Glass - Orr, Gretzky, Kiera Knightley
  • Maxim Gratchev - Sergei Fedorov, Jim Carrey (the actor, though spelled incorrectly in the Guide), Vince Lombardi
  • Jake Hansen - Peter Forsberg, Brodeur, Crosby
  • Thomas Hickey - Armstrong, Don Cherry, Rachel McAdams
  • Mike Hoeffel - Zach Parise, Roger Federer, Brittany Snow
  • Patrick Kane - his grandpa, Gretzky, Woods
  • Mark Katic - his grandpa, Orr, Bill Barilko
  • Daniel Kelly - Scott Stevens, Vaughn, Simpson
  • Mario Kempe - his grandmother, Sandler, Lemieux
  • Blake Kessel - his brother Phil, Lidstrom, Orr
  • Josh Kidd - Woods, Orr, Michael Jordan
  • Alexander Killorn - Gretzky, Ferrell, Ali
  • Dwight King - Armstrong, Gretzky, Jessica Alba (pictured)
  • Jordan Knackstedt - Gretzky, Pamela Anderson, Chesney
  • Antoine LaFleur - Lemieux, Roberto Luongo, Crosby (at a French restaurant, no doubt)
  • Matt Lahey - Carey (again, sic... I assume), Vaughn, Ferrell
  • Nick Larson - Woods, Armstrong, Yzerman
  • Drew LeBlanc - Gretzky, Sylvester Stallone ("because of the character he portrayed in the Rocky Series," so presumably he'd have to be in character throughout the meal,) Kennedy
  • John Lee - Gretzky, Orr, Chris Chelios
  • Brett Leffler - Woods, Chris Farley, Eva Longoria
  • Stefan Legein - Gretzky, Armstrong, Harry Houdini (pictured)
  • Spencer Machacek - Gretzky, Doug Gilmour, Carrie Underwood
  • Drew Mackenzie - Mark Messier, Gretzky, Howe
  • Brett MacLean - Gretzky, Orr, Lemieux
  • LoganMacMillan - Wahsontiio Stacey, Jordan, Mike Tyson
  • Brad Malone (Ryan's cousin) - Woods, Bill Gates, Tom Brady
  • Kevin Marshall - Maurice Richard, Chelios
  • Matt Marshall - Federer, Jordan, Lemiuex
  • Justin McCrae - Armstrong, Gretzky, Woods
  • Ryan McDonagh - Gretzky, Bush, Jordan
  • Radek Meidl - Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Lemieux
  • Charles-Antoine Messier - Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Federer
  • Dale Mitchell - Paul Kariya, Wayne Rooney, Denzel Washington
  • Riley Nash - Yzerman, Bush, Orr
  • John Negrin - Woods, Orr, Yzerman
  • James O'Brien - Yzerman, Woods, Gretzky
  • Max Pacioretty - Jeremey Shockey, Jordan, Messier
  • Nick Palmierei - Sakic, Gretzky, Ali
  • Aaron Palushaj - Lemieux, Armstrong, Lombardi
  • David Perron - Alexei Kovalev, Orr, Gretzky
  • Nicholas Petrecki - Messier, Pronger, Woods
  • Brad Phillips - Gretzky, Sandler, Brady
  • Casey Pierro-Zabotel - Gretzky, Yzerman, Lemieux
  • Alex Plante - Cherry, Ferrell, Larry the Cable Guy
  • Paul Postma - Orr, David Beckham (pictured), Jesus
  • Brent Regner - Niedermayer, Carey (for the love of Pete, the actor has two r's in his name, the flash-in-the-pan goalie has one), Woods
  • Mickey Renaud - Mats Sundin, Carmen Electra, Anderson
  • Michael Repik - Jagr, Gretzky, Paris Hilton
  • Nick Ross - Gretzky, Terrell Owens, Chuck Liddell (did you know that T.O.'s middle name is Eldorado? Wonder where he was conceived...)
  • Linden Rowat - his grandfather, Gretzky, Ferrell
  • Ted Ruth - George Washington ("the first President" - thanks), Alexander the Great (unclear whether he means this one or this one), Orr
  • Ben Ryan - his brother, Jordan, Scotty Bowman
  • Nico Sacchetti - Vaughn, Sandler, Dane Cook
  • Colton Sceviour - Yzerman, Gretzky, Swift
  • C.J. Severyn - his grandfather, Gretzky, Bush
  • Tyson Sexsmith - Armstrong, Simpson (pictured), Andy Roddick
  • Kevin Shattenkirk - Achilles, Albert Einstein, Jordan
  • David Skokan - Gretzky, Sakic
  • Brendan Smith - Shanahan, Ferrell, Gore
  • Jeremy Smith - his grandfather, Einstein, Kennedy
  • Brett Sonne - Yzerman, Simpson, God
  • Nick Spaling - Gretzky, Yzerman, Alexander Ovechkin
  • Joe Stejskal - Federer, John McEnroe, Zdeno Chara
  • David Stich - Gretzky, Armstrong
  • P.K. Subban - Orr, Jordan, Bowman
  • Brandon Sutter (Brent's son) - Orr, McAdams, Chesney
  • Bill Sweatt - Gretzky, Woods, Derrek Lee
  • Eric Tangratti - G. Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Bush
  • Maxime Tanguay (Alex's brother) - Gretzky, Armstrong (pictured), Woods
  • Paul Thompson - his grandmother, Gretzky, Sandler
  • Corey Tropp - Bowman, Datsyuk, Darren McCarty (guess who he's hoping drafts him)
  • Kyle Turris - Ali, Armstrong (wait, Neil, not Lance), Yzerman
  • Dana Tyrell - his grandfather, Orr, Cherry
  • James vanRiemsdyk - Gretzky, Colin Wilson and Brennan Vargas (JvR's roommates)
  • Kevin Veilleux - Joe Thornton, Gretzky, Sakic
  • Jakub Voracek - Alba, Ronaldhino, Gates
  • Yannick Weber - Woods, Heidi Klum, Federer
  • Patrick White - Brooks, Donald Trump, L. Armstrong
  • Ben Winnett - Darcy Tucker, Charles Barkley, Gretzky
Top Five Hockey Players Chosen:
  1. Gretzky (46)
  2. Orr (21)
  3. Yzerman (17)
  4. Lemieux (9)
  5. Sakic (6)
Top Six Non-Hockey Athletes Chosen:
  1. Woods/Armstrong (20)
  2. Ali/Federer (5)
  3. Brady/Sharapova (2)
Top Six Actors Chosen:
  1. Ferrell (8)
  2. Sandler (5)
  3. Vaughn (4)
  4. Alba/Sutherland (2)
Top Five Women Chosen:
  1. Simpson (pictured, 6)
  2. Sharapova, Alba, McAdams, Anderson (2)
Top Five Non-Athlete/Entertainers Chosen:
  1. Bush (7)
  2. Kennedy (3)
  3. G. Washington, Gore, Gates (2)