The hype continues

Another round of cuts has turned into another story gushing about Guillaume Latendresse.

The cuts announced are Corey Locke, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jonathan Ferland, Andrew Archer and Jean-Philippe Cote - no surprises. The AP writer took the opportunity to drop Guillaume's name rather than mention the performance of the other half dozen or so players also fighting for jobs. I think it would be ill-advised to keep the kid in Montreal and waste one of his seven years before he's unrestricted. In the old CBA, junior-eligible players could stay with their NHL club for something like ten games, then be returned to junior for the rest of the year. If the same option exists in the new CBA, that might happen with Latendresse.

In what can only be considered good news for Habs fans, the Bruins still haven't signed Nick Boynton. No one likes to see a good young talent waste valuable playing time in a contract dispute, but if it helps Montreal, I'm all for it. As this story drags on, watch for the Toronto media to float the idea of the Leafs sending his agent an offer sheet. Stay tuned.

One week to go before they drop the puck, and the CBC is still playing chicken with it's employees. The union isn't likely to make any big concessions now that the network's flagship Hockey Night in Canada is in jeopardy of missing the start of the season. On this side of the border, October 5th will be a very big media day and the broadcaster should start to feel the heat.

On Avery, Waivers, and PET/CT scanners

While noted bigmouth JR is on the DL with his 11th "documented" concussion, hooligan Sean Avery has decided to take up the slack in the "shooting off one's mouth" department.

"I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up. I'd think if a guy like Brett Hull was coming up the middle, somebody probably wouldn't have stepped up and hit him, but like I said, a typical move from a guy wearing a visor that certainly doesn't like to get scratched at all."

The idea that those wearing visors shouldn't play physical hockey is as asinine and outdated as Don Cherry. I wonder what Avery's teammates think of his comments, especially the visor-toting Luc Robitaille and Eric Belanger. Next time the Kings play the 'Yotes, watch for Denis Gauthier to strike up a conversation with Avery during a break in play and say, "Wow, you're right. I guess I never really thought about it that way."

Why is it that skilled players like Bryan Berard, Al MacInnis, and Dany Heatley suffer eye injuries instead of boobs like Sean Avery?

In some older news, the Habs' made their second round of cuts on Monday. Kyle Chipchura and Carey Price were assigned to their junior teams, and Olivier Michaud, Andre Benoit, Jonathan Aitkin and Michael Lambert were assigned to Hamilton.

Aitken must clear waivers. The article says Ron Hainsey has the edge over Mark Streit for the 7th defenseman spot because Streit can be assigned to Hamilton without clearing waivers. Hainsey would be picked up by another team for sure. This sheds some light on the battle among forwards - I believe Hossa and Plekanec would have to clear waivers if they were cut, giving them a leg up on Higgins and Perezhogin. Vandermeer has a one-way contract so he's in, and Latendresse will surely be returned to junior.

McGill University Health Centre unveiled their shiny new PET/CT scanner.

"The Saku Koivu Foundation, with contributions coming from piggy banks and corporate vaults, provided $2.5 million of the $8 million required to purchase and install the scanner, the first of its kind in Quebec."

Finally - start planning the parade route. The Habs are now 4-1 in the preseason.


A smorgasbord of links

Making the usual rounds of the mighty interweb, I found plenty of Habs news to fill up a blog post.

1) Who the hell is Matt Canamucio? Apparently, he's this smug-looking... person.
The Hockey News trusted him to write this Montreal Canadiens season preview. He projects that the Habs will be out of the playoffs, citing their lack of blockbuster moves in the offseason and Gainey's dismissal of several "dependable" veterans, such as "Patrice Brisebois, Karl Dykhuis and Stephane Quintal."

"...this could be a developmental season in Montreal, one that has the team in contention until the very end. Unfortunately, growing pains may leave them falling short."

Well, Matt, Karl Dykhuis played nine games Montreal in '03-04. Quintal has retired and any reasonable observer would have interpreted his return as a sign of trouble. Brisebois? If you were unaware of his situation, what are you doing writing a Montreal Canadiens article?? To be fair, maybe the hockey part of his brain petrified during the lockout. It happens to the best of us after a period of time away from our jobs. After a weekend of heavy drinking, I often forget how to do basics like brew a fresh pot of coffee when it's empty or surf the web when my boss isn't looking.

2) Word on the Habsworld boards is the Habs Goal Song has been replaced by U2's "Vertigo." That's a shame. The Goal Song was an original piece of music produced by a company called l'Oreille (that's "ear" in French) for the team in 2000. You can
hear the tune here.

3) CP says Guillaume Latendresse is
trying to keep a level head with all the attention he's been getting. Another example of the intense media and fan attention paid to this franchise.

4) Another article by CP says
Mark Streit is fighting hard with Ron Hainsey and the unheralded Andre Benoit for the seventh defenseman spot. I figured Streit would be a lock for #7 if Hainsey performed his usual disappearing act at camp, and that he might even edge out "Bubble" Bouillon. The article also mentions this interesting tidbit:

"If [Streit] makes the team, Montreal will have three national team captains - Streit, Saku Koivu of Finland and Alex Kovalev of Russia."

Aragorn is a Habs fan!


My, oh my.

Hmmm. It's true.

The National Hockey League, evidently a "non-profit association" in Canada that provides "entertainment services, namely professional ice hockey exhibitions" has trademarked a new slogan. My NHL.

They obviously hired the same sort of cattle-minded marketroids that are responsible for the current rash of "my whatever" ad campaigns, including, according to TESS, "My Invisible Gloves," "My Ex-Husband's Gravy" and "My Choice tobacco.com."

What's wrong with letting the product speak for itself? Why not produce simple, informative marketing that showcases the game itself? It's something that goes way beyond hockey - Why must organizations stoop to advertising that is more about projecting and selling an attitude? And who exactly are the idiots who buy into this nauseating trash??

On the upside, Martha Burk finds the ads offensive.


Conference Predictions

It seems to be the "Blogger" thing to do: prognostifications. So here goes.

Yeah, nothing too bold or outrageous.

The Conference standings will be...

That's right - Leafs and Sens, first round.


The Habs' roster from last year is basically intact. Swap Brisebois for Dandenault, and Perreault for Bonk. All of the young talent played and developed last year - something that, IMO, will make a difference this year. If the obstruction crackdown sticks, Montreal is in good shape on offense and defense with their skilled forwards and relatively mobile defense. Now for Kovalev. I warn you, Habs fans, from time to time he will disappear for stretches and frustrate us, his coach, and his teammates. As long as he brings his 'A' game at crucial times, like he did in the '04 series vs. the Bruins, all will be forgiven.
I have always watched the Canadiens with a critical - nay pessimistic - eye, and, on paper, this team looks to be top-five in the conference. Not many teams can boast as much NHL-ready rising talent. There is a good possibility Boston will falter, and a slim chance Ottawa will. Unfortunately, the Northeast is arguably the toughest division. On the whole, I think home ice in the playoffs is a reasonable, if somewhat optimistic, goal for this club.

Now let's compare them to the competition.

Toronto took big steps backward in terms of depth. Even in the cap era, they found ways to make Ranger-esque moves.
Gone: Nieuwendyk, Roberts, Mogilny, Leetch, Nolan, and Francis.
Added: Allison, Lindros, O'Neill, Khavanov, Czerkawski
Many key players - Sundin, Belfour, McCabe, Tucker - did not play last year. The lockout off did not give the aging vets "a much needed year off." They're just an extra year older than when we last saw them.
I envision the team getting frustrated. Then Lindros and/or Allison will take it upon themselves to do too much, let down their guard because Scott Stevens has retired, and take a big hit. Then all heck will break loose, because Quinn's team features Tucker, Domi, Belak, Brown, McCabe, and possibly Perrotte and Marchment.

Ottawa is still the class of the division. They lost depth down the middle, but hopes are high that Spezza will make up for it. Most of their key players were active during the lockout. The biggest question mark is Hasek.

Boston had a lot of roster turnover, so they're hard to predict. Swap Gonchar for Leetch, Nylander for Zhamnov, Knuble for Isbister, Lapointe with Scatchard and McEachern. Their still-developing #1 defender, Nick Boynton, took the year off and is still unsigned. On sheer talent, the B's should be better than the Habs, but there are a lot more uncertainties with this club. This could be the year Joe Thornton asserts himself as the best player in the world.

Buffalo lost their #1 forward and their #1 defenseman. I am expecting a big year from Maxim Afinogenov, but the Sabres will not be a threat.

The other divisions...
Atlantic - Philly appears to be the favourite, if their current injury rate is an anomaly. With the loss of their two stud defensemen and Patrick Elias, the Devils have to be worse. Although I think Boston and Montreal are better teams than New Jersey, the weaker Atlantic division will deliver home ice in the playoffs. Both New York teams took backward steps. For all the buzz and marquee names, the Pens still seriously lack depth.

Southeast - Tampa managed to keep their skating core intact - for this year. Even if they stumble, their punching-bag of a division will save them. Washington and Carolina will be non-factors. Florida and Atlanta are among the harder teams to guage. Luongo may just pull this season out of his... hat and deliver a playoff spot to the veteran(?) Panthers. Then again Goalie Killer Keenan may just drive Roberto to quit hockey and take up macrame. The Thrashers, however, may have turned the corner. Player-for-player, they have built a good young team. With Bob Hartley running the show, I think they will have a very good year.


Guy! Guy! Guy!

One name I forgot to mention yesterday among those performing well at camp: Guillaume Latendresse. That point is made well in this article by Jason Menard at Hockeysfuture.com.

Menard suggests that, in the dogfight among the forward prospects, Higgins is on top, followed by Hossa, Perezhogin, and Plekanec. Kostitsyn and Latendresse are almost sure to spend another year grooming their skills.

Last Friday NHL.com published their Canadiens season preview, which was written by Phil Coffey. Among his nuggets of brilliance:

"Bonk may be pushed for minutes by Jan Bulis..."

Consensus among those following the team is Bulis will be Bonk's left winger.

"Alex Kovalev... should give the Habs plenty of speed..."

Well, I suppose 'speed' is subjective. It's a mistake lots of writers make: Russian=speedy.

Coffey goes on to name Huet as Theo's backup, neglecting to mention that he will miss half the year, then misspells Zednik. Then he really goes out on a limb, making this bold prediction:

"With the pieces in place in Montreal, it would be hard to envision a scenario where the Canadiens are not in the thick of things all season."

So, the article is up to NHL.com's impeccable standards.


First cuts

If you can parlez français, RDS has reported the following cuts:

Jimmy Bonneau, Maxim Lapierre, Francis Lemieux, Cory Urquhart, Duncan Milroy, Jeff Paul, James Stanford, Jaroslav Halak

Halak is the biggest surprise, and the degree of surprise is slight. I thought he would compete with Yann Danis for the temporary backup job while Cristobal Huet recovers from his injury. It's promising that Carey Price is proving himself worthy of his draft position.

Milroy is a bit of a disappointment - he's been to a few camps, and to be among the first cuts at his age has to sting. Oh well, he may be a late bloomer.

From what I've read, Perezhogin, Higgins, Hainsey and Price have been impressive. Begin, Dagenais and Bouillon have been have been performing well, making it very hard for Julien to demote them.

We have an update to the Keith Tkachuk cupcake conspiracy. Apparently, the big man has friends in high places. The NHLPA is going to bat for Keith [insert Cecil Fielder joke here], filing a grievance against the Blues. I'll keep you informed as this story continues to grow...


Ryder's ankle tweak

Michael Ryder's ankle is achin' after being squashed by Jonathan Aitken. He is listed as day-to-day.

In other camp news, Keith Tkachuk has been
suspended after showing up overweight. The Blues lost Pavol Demitra, then traded Chris Pronger, then Al MacInnis retired. Keith is clearly depressed and has been sitting at home with a bucket of Ben and Jerry's. $7.6 million per annum just can't buy happiness.

This weeks' sign that the apocalypse is upon us: Clint Malarchuk ranks third and Mark Howe eighth in
this Sports Illustrated article that ranks the ten most gruesome sports injuries of all time. Apparently, #1 was a recent collision involving some baseball players. Who else is sick of top ten lists? Sports Illustrated used to be one of the last bastions of actual sports writing. Now it seems more and more dumbed down every week. I give it a year before the content is composed entirely of articles in bullet-form, top-ten lists, and swimsuit photographs.


Line design

This is the way the lines are shaping up:

Five of the top six are pretty much set in stone. There have been a few reports indicating that Bonk's role will be to replace Juneau as the checking line centre. That's somewhat of a relief, to have his role defined rather than having him and Ribeiro duke it out for the second 'scoring' line.

Bulis is mentioned as a natural linemate of Bonk, as that has been his role for a couple of seasons. However, I think Bulis still has some untapped offensive potential and it would be nice to see him get some opportunities on the top lines.

Hossa and Sunny find themselves in the top 12 only because of age/contract issues. They, and Dagenais, should bust their butts to earn a spot.

The Habs have a logjam of skilled young forwards looking for spots: Plekanec, Perezhogin, Higgins, Kostitsyn, Hossa, Latendresse... Too many to all make the NHL with this club. It's a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless - no one wants to see one of these kids turn into a star for another team.

I have Vandermeer in the top 12, because it's very likely we'll see the team carry an enforcer. Whether it will be Vandermeer, time will tell.

Again, five of the six are set in stone. My pairings are a guess. Only Francis "Bubble" Bouillon has a chance of losing his job to Hainsey and/or Streit.

With the rule changes I think it would be wise to carry an extra defenseman or two on the roster. With the obstruction crackdown and limit on goaltender puckhandling, they may be on the receiving end of more big hits. In fact, they're more likely to get into penalty trouble as well, so having seven on a game sheet wouldn't be a bad idea either.

With Huet out until 2006, the fight for the backup job is a little more interesting. Is either Danis or Halak really ready for the big leagues?

Cap Map

A number of reports have said the Canadiens still have plenty of cap room. I don't see it. Those reports are probably based on missing information. TSN, for example, has Theo's '05-06 salary listed at $4.5M. Technically that's correct, but it's meaningless because the cap figure is $5.33M ($16 mill over 3 years).

Here are the cap-wise salaries, to the best of my knowledge:

I believe there have been announcements that Plekanec and Aitken have been signed as well, probably to two-way contracts. Of the 'undisclosed' salaries, I figure only Komi's would be much more than the minimum. Any player in camp taking the place of Hossa, Vandermeer, Huet or Streit would probably be earning close to the minimum.

So, for a roster of 21, my total is about $34.5M. That's pretty close to the cap considering this team's age and talent. Taking on any more long-term contracts could really tie Gainey's hands when the time comes to lock up the younger stars. The current payroll is high enough - maybe even a little too high for my liking.


The Clarkson Cup

The article is here.

''The Clarkson Cup is something that has evolved in the most wonderful and meaningful way,'' Clarkson said Wednesday.

She's naming it after herself. How modest! This is yet another attempt by Clarkson to add to her legacy and enduring fame during her term as powerless figurehead of the Canadian government. On the taxpayers' dime, of course.

''I thought (it was) an intriguing idea of giving the Stanley Cup to women's hockey if no men were going to get it. It seemed to be perfectly logical - the women were still playing,'' she said during a speech.

News flash, your honour - the men were still playing too. You're supposed to be a Canadian. Please stop making the idiotic assumption that hockey and the NHL are equivalent.

Of course, I'm all for women's hockey. It's a great idea to produce an icon for the sport in it's emerging days - something that, years from now, we can look at in a similar reverence we now have for the Stanley Cup. Instead of the egotistical Clarkson, why not attach the name of a woman who has really done something for womens' hockey, or womens' sport in general?

Salute to Ronnie Franchise

Constantly overshadowed by guys like Gretzky, Lemieux, and Messier in the era of great centres, Ron Francis seems destined to retire the same way - in the shadow of the Moose's retirement.

A lot of writers are calling Mess 'the most complete player since Howe.' By complete, I assume they mean a combination of skill and violence. Francis was a very complete player in his own right. Fourth in the all-time scoring list, he lays claim to a Selke trophy.

The TSN article states:

"...with Igor Larionov retiring in April 2004, that makes five shoo-ins with only a maximum of four players allowed to be inducted per year."

The other three shoo-ins are Stevens, MacInnis and Messier. What the author of the article fails to realize is that 2004 was last year, making Larionov eligible a year ahead of this bumper crop.

Hockey's Back!

It's official! The Habs have had their first media fiasco of the new season!

TQS played tape of Jose Theodore evidently making a rude gesture. Sigh. This is yet another example of the Montreal media's sensationalistic and overblown reporting.

Theodore said: "That's why we have some players who would rather sign somewhere else," in a statement quite likely to be sensationalized and overblown by the Montreal media.

Theo makes a very good point. There is a good editorial piece by a writer at Habsworld.net on the subject here.

Jack Todd says the decision to run with this story would have been made by TQS news director Bernard Brisset a former member of the Canadiens' PR department who apparently has an axe to grind. Todd continues:

"The worst effect of all this may be on future francophone free agents who hear about such blatantly unfair treatment of French-speaking players in this market and elect to sign elsewhere."

It's not an easy place to play, especially for francophones, and could conceivably lead to a 'hometown premium' instead of the hometown discount enjoyed by the Leafs. In the new 'capped' league, that would be severely detrimental to building a team. How many times have we seen the Habs acquire a star player only to watch his production drop? How many times have we seen a good young player develop into a star with the Habs? How many times have we seen a good young player develop into a star once he is moved to another city? This would be a good topic for some in-depth analysis in a later post...

In other camp news, Pat Hickey is saying Guillaume Latendresse is turning some heads. Apparently, Mike Ribeiro is impressed with his skating. Of course, getting a skating compliment from Mike Ribeiro isn't exactly like getting a passing compliment from Gretzky or a fighting compliment from Tiger Williams. I'll take notice if Jan Bulis is impressed with his skating.


Not-so-Easy (to sign) Ryder

Ryder has finally signed a 1-year $1 million deal. Not sure what took so long since his salary would surely be limited by Ribeiro's, who will be earning $1.178 million. The term was sure to be 1 year, just to prove his '03-04 all-rookie season wasn't a fluke.

Ryder put up some big numbers playing on a second division team in Sweden last year. Expectations this season will be to play on one of the top two lines all year. No matter where he plays, he will be alongside a decent centreman with a top trio of Saku, Ribeiro and Bonk.

On shootists and goofy analysts

Steven Ovadia, a much more accomplished blogger than I, made an interesting point worth responding to:

"You're really going to see hockey turn into baseball, with really specialized roles for players. I guarantee there will be a team with one guy whose only role is to shoot in the shootout."

So shootout specialists (dubbed "shootists" by some other guy) may start to appear on NHL rosters. Is that really so bad? In fact, the possible introduction of these players is one of the few good things about shootouts.

The skills emphasized by the shootout are stickhandling and shooting. If guys with these skills (and presumably a lack of size, checking or skating) crowd out the goons and other roster bottom-feeders, the game will be better for it. We'll be replacing low-risk, low-reward skaters with high-risk, high-reward types. If these players get icetime, we'll see more goals. If they see less icetime than the grinders they replace, the top-nine forwards will have to take up the slack and they will become more fatigued which will lead to more goals.

I love hard-fought draws and well-played defense as much as the next guy. I just can't stand "first goal wins" hockey. The team scoring first won all seven games of the Stanley Cup Finals in '04. Lead changes are fun. A glimmer of hope for a team down by a goal or two going into the third is fun. Having "shootists" on the roster is a step in this direction.

Finally, if shootouts were implemented 5-10 years ago, maybe we wouldn't have missed out on so many years of Martin St. Louis in his prime. Maybe a guy like Corey Locke will have an easier time breaking into the league. Something's not right when a CHL player of the year and two-time OHL player of the year is considered a long shot to make the NHL.

Mr. Ovadia also mentions ESPN re-signing Barry Melrose:

"That network's love of Melrose always kind of defined the reason hockey didn't totally work on ESPN. It's almost like they saw hockey as something goofy — all mullets and silly suits — rather than a serious sport... it sure didn't help having a caricature be the sport's face on a major sports network."

Yeah. I'm sure glad there are no silly caricatures on the face of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.


Keen on the Leafs?

Keane on the Leafs??

"Concerned about the leadership void left by departing veterans, the Toronto Maple Leafs will extend a training camp invitation to Mike Keane."

There are a few things to say about this report. They're only extending an invitation, and it doesn't say anything about him accepting. So Keaner's not a Leaf just yet. Secondly, the standard line about the Leafs this year has been "old and bloated." I don't think they a need 38-year-old to show the ropes to Sundin, Domi, Allison, O'Neill, Lindros and the other young pups.

For the record, I don't think they're old and bloated anymore. They were last year, which led to the current salary cap conundrum. Now that Roberts, Nieuwendyk, Leetch, Francis, and Mogilny are gone they aren't old - they're thin.

In their ongoing efforts to be old and bloated, salary cap be damned, the Leafs did
sign the Polish Prince. Good Gravy, JFJ will stop at nothing to keep Stajan and Steen out of the lineup this year!!

Habs fans will remember Czerkawski's incredibly putrid stint in the 2002-03 season, when he was outscored by the plugger he was traded for, Arron Asham.

Breathe a sigh of relief, Sens fans

Muckler almost traded Martin Havlat for Eric Cole. Whew!

Cole is a good player, and gets a lot of respect from hockey folk given his meagre accomplishments. I suppose it's because he's called a 'gritty' or 'rugged' forward. He is is built for the old NHL - he has the strength to fight through the clutching and grabbing to get his scoring opportunities. Of course, I remember him well from the 2002 playoffs when his 'Canes dispatched the Habs.

However, Havlat is one of the most mind-bogglingly talented skaters in hockey. He has moves that just make you shake your head. Removing him from the sens seriously compromises the incredible forward depth they're so well known for. In the *New & Improved* NHL, he should be able to really put his speed and skills on display.

He's broken his last ankle

Al MacInnis has made his retirement official. Here's a delightful article by Eric Francis.

MacInnis broke into the league as a one-dimensional player. He had the big shot, and he used it on the power play. Looking at his physique, it's amazing he could put so much velocity on his shot.

Over time, he developed into one of the best all-around defensemen in the game, and is a sure bet for the Hall of Fame.


Vincent Damphousse hangs 'em up

Another tie to the '93 Cup moves on.

In the news, Damphousse's retirement has been somewhat overshadowed by that of Scott Stevens. That's fair - Stevens is a sure bet for the Hall of Fame while Damphousse is highly questionable.

His numbers are startling - 38th in scoring, all-time. Vinny finished ahead of names like Sittler, both Richards, Bernie Federko and Lanny McDonald. His numbers are a testament to his durability and consistency. Unfortunately, he never quite reached that 'superstar' status, apart from a brief moment in the spotlight as the All-Star game MVP after potting four goals.

Stevens has some startling numbers, too. He's sitting at 83rd (that's 38 backwards!) on the all-time points list, ahead of Ted Lindsay, Jaques Lemaire and Tony Amonte. Not bad for a guy who is mostly known as a bone-crunching, stay-at-home defender. I wonder if Eric Lindros knows he's still 91 points behind the guy who almost ended his career.


Crosby gets a '10'

I've been waiting for this: the folks at hockeysfuture.com have given Sidney Crosby a rating of 10.0 C. According to their rating scheme, a 10.0 is a "generational talent." "Think Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr..."

They qualified this prediction with the 'C' which means there is a risk of him sliding down as far as two pegs into a player of the calibre of Patrick Elias.

That seems fair, I guess. I would have given Sid a 9.5B because it's tough to put an 18-year old in the same group as Gretzky, Orr and Lemieux. One of the kid's criticisms is that he didn't dominate the QMJHL like Lemieux. Mario led the league with 282 points in '83-84, with the runner-up scoring 170. Crosby finished first with 168 points last year with the second place player getting 116. What goes unmentioned: Crosby did this as an 18-year old. Lemieux's season was accomplished as a 19-year-old. When he was 18, Mario finished 50 points behind Pat Lafontaine. So, perhaps the 10.0 rating is justified.

What would Sid do in the QMJHL as a 19-year-old? One thing is for sure - we will never know.


Winter of My Discontent

Peter Bondra has declined a one-year, $1.5M contract with the Caps, and is seeking a two-year deal.

That's fine, I have no problem with that. However I feel I must call Bondra's agent, Rich (perfect name for a player agent, no?) Winter, on the flaming horse-manure emanating from his mouth.

"Peter is prepared to play for significantly less than his comparables," Winter stated.

According to Winter, Bondra's comparables include Paul Kariya, Zigmund Palffy and Pavol Demitra. Puh-leeze. Don't insult our intelligence, Mr. Winter.

"The agent told the Post that Bondra has more goals over the past three seasons (95) than those players."

Just how dumb do you think George McPhee is? And how long did it take you to find a stat to back up your claim of comparables?

For the record, here are the stats of these players for the last three seasons:

Bondra clearly leads the four in bad penalties. His points-per-game is the worst. Goals per game, he's tied for second with Demitra, behind Palffy. His +/ is only better than Kariya's, and only marginally. He's the only one who has declined in points over the period. And he's the oldest - Bondra is 35, Palffy is 33, Kariya and Demitra are 30.

Bondra's production matches Kariya's but no one in his right mind expects that to continue this year. The only category he can seriously claim is comparable is games played. Bondra has been durable. What about playoffs? Bondra has 10 points in his last 24 games. Kariya has 13 in 22, Demitra 18 in 22, and Palffy 9 in 7.

I love the start of hockey season. I just wish Winter didn't have to come with it.


And then there was one

Good news: Jose Theodore has signed a 3-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

That leaves Michael Ryder as the only unsigned marquee RFA. I'm a little surprised by this. I was expecting a one- or two-year deal with the dollar amount dictated by Ribeiro's contract. Free agency is still a long way off for Ryder.

Theodore will get $4.5 million this season, $5.5 million in 2006-2007 and $6 million in 2007-2008. The cap amount will be $5,333,333.33.

Kevin Lowe is not a hypocrite

A number of angry fans seem to be suspicious of the spending habits of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames in the new NHL. How can they cry poor for so many years, then crank up their payroll under the new system?

Here are three reasons:

1) The fans will be back
Unlike US teams, Canadian teams are counting on attendance being no worse than it was for the '03-04 season. If revenues are down, it won't be by much.

2) The strong Canadian dollar
Bad for exports but great for imports, so why not go ahead and import Chris Pronger! The loonie is worth 25% more than it was when the Canadian Assistance program was initiated. When paying salaries in $US, that translates to being able to increase payroll by 25%.

3) Linkage
League-wide player salaries can not exceed 54% of revenues. The more teams spend, the smaller that ~$37M payroll gets. Even if the nuttier GMs try to spend the game into oblivion, the players will have to grudgingly give money back.

So in my opinion, the smaller market teams were not crying wolf over the last several seasons. They were doing their best under those market conditions, and they are now doing their best under the new market conditions, and Kevin Lowe is not a hypocrite.