Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beyond the trade deadline: Other dates to look forward to this season

I have no idea what any of these words mean.
It’s over. After weeks of nonstop speculation, swirling rumors and backroom intrigue, the trade deadline has finally passed. The dust has settled, the phone lines have gone quiet, and there won’t be another significant NHL player transaction made until the offseason.

Wait! Where are you going? Come back!

OK, it’s true that the days immediately after the deadline can feel like a letdown for hockey fans. The buildup to the big day can be so overwhelming that it can be difficult to make the sudden adjustment to a world without trade talk. It’s only natural that some hockey fans may find themselves, at least temporarily, struggling to stay interested.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, there’s still plenty of excitement left to come in the 2011-12 season. So just to refresh your memory, here are some of the important moments that fans can look forward to over the coming weeks and months

February 28 – After several days of trying, Leafs goaltenders James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson finally extract themselves from under the team’s bus and head off to Ron Wilson’s office to find out which one of them is starting that night.

March 1 – As he continues to get settled in with his new team, Ben Bishop wonders why the Senators are suddenly enforcing this new “Goalies may only ever eat ice cream and soup” rule.

March 4 - A confused Jay Feaster tries to figure out why nobody seems interested in talking trade with him.

March 8 – Jeff Carter returns to Columbus for the first time as a member for the Los Angeles Kings and is greeted with a lengthy ceremony, if Rick Nash following him around and sobbing “Please take me with you!” all game long can really be considered a ceremony.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trade deadline day

Happy deadline day. No live blog this year, but it will still be a busy day. You can find me in a few spots:

  • I’ll be joining today’s TSN TradeCentre coverage via Twitter. You can follow me here, and can follow all of TSN’s Twitter coverage by using the #TradeCentre hashtag.

    (And no, I won’t actually be appearing on TV. Unless there aren’t any big deals today, in which case everyone will be on TV, including you.)

  • I should have a post over at Grantland later today explaining why NHL deadline day is one my favorite days on the sports calendar. Will pass along a link once I have it. Update: here's the link.

  • In addition to Twitter, I’ll be checking in with thoughts on the DGB Facebook page, which you didn’t know existed until just now.

  • Finally, tomorrow’s post (which you can find here or in the Post) will cover the big dates we still have to look forward to during the rest of the NHL calendar.

Enjoy the day, everyone.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A fan's guide to NHL trade deadline day

Rick Nash currently spends every waking moment
preparing to remove his Blue Jackets jersey
Did you know that there’s some sort of trade deadline happening on Monday? It’s true. Apparently, it will even be covered on TV.

Of course, this isn’t news to diehard hockey fans, most of whom have had the date circled on their calendars ever since roughly five minutes after last year’s deadline passed. In fact, the trade deadline has arguably become the most anticipated day on the entire NHL calendar. And now, finally, it’s almost here.

You have 48 hours left to prepare. If you’re a hockey fan planning on joining in on the fun, here’s a refresher course on how to conduct yourself on the big day.

Do: Try to sound convincing when calling in sick to work, while making sure to act as if your absence has nothing to do with hockey.
Do not: Blow it by insisting on describing your illness only as an “upper body injury”.

Do: Immediately assume control of any nearby TVs, mobile phones and computers to ensure that every available screen in the room is tuned in to some form of deadline coverage.
Do not: Allow yourself to become distracted just because your spouse keeps saying things like “Um, can you please change the channel back? That ultrasound screen was showing the first images of our baby’s heartbeat.”

Do: Tell the guy sitting next to you at the bar about your theory that the Blue Jackets are all talk, and won’t really be trading Rick Nash at the deadline after all.
Do not: Hesitate to offer a tissue and a sympathetic hug if that guy turns out to actually be Rick Nash.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The DGB anonymous NHL player survey

Even though he desperately wanted
to ask if Dion was really overrated,
Phil was just too intimidated.
It seems like anonymous player surveys are all the rage these days. Everywhere you look, somebody is unveiling a new poll that claims to tell us what the players really think of today’s NHL.

First up to the plate was Sports Illustrated, which has been releasing individual questions from its survey over the course of the season. This weekend saw a new survey released, with the CBC and NHLPA revealing the results of their Hockey Night in Canada Player Poll.

Well, Sports Illustrated and Hockey Night in Canada may be well-respected within the hockey world, but I don’t see why they should have all the fun. And since NHL players apparently can’t turn down an opportunity to anonymously offer up their thoughts on the state of the game, I figured I’d send out my own survey. Here’s what the players had to tell me.

Which player has the hardest slapshot?
Shea Weber – 28%
Sheldon Souray - 15%
Zdeno Chara – 57%

Which player is the fastest skater?
Marion Gaborik – 33%
Michael Grabner – 10%
Zdeno Chara – 57%

Which player is the best goalie?
Henrik Lundqvist – 31%
Pekka Rinne – 12%
Zdeno Chara – 57%

Um, is Zdeno Chara standing right behind you as you fill out this survey?
No – 43%
He just cracked his knuckles. Next question! – 57%

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Buyers and sellers at the 2012 trade deadline

No seriously, Todd Gill was awesome.
The Gill for Geoffrion trade featured a player
who shares a last name with one of the greatest
players in NHL history. And also, Blake Geoffrion.
The countdown to the 2012 trade deadline has reached single digits, with just nine days remaining until the big day. Only a handful of deals have been made so far and most of the top names rumored to be in play are still available, so fans can expect plenty of teams to be busy between now and February 27.

Of course, “busy” will mean different things to different teams. Some are planning to stock up for a run at a championship. Others have thrown in the towel on the season and will be looking to rebuild for the future. And of course, there’s a third group: the ones who haven’t decided which of the first two groups they fit into yet. Those teams have nine days left to figure it out.

So where does your favorite team fit? Here’s a handy guide to which teams are likely to be buying and which ones will be selling in the days ahead.

Buyer: Chicago Blackhawks – General manger Stan Bowman has repeatedly told reporters that he isn’t looking to add a goaltender so the team will presumably focus on a more pressing need, such as a GM who realizes that they desperately need a goaltender.

Seller: San Jose Sharks – Recently acquired Dominic Moore for a second round draft pick, so as per NHL rules must now focus all their efforts on trading away Dominic Moore for a second round draft pick.

Buyer: New York Rangers – Have recently come under heavy pressure to make a major move from local newspapers, but only on the strict condition that the player they acquire have at least one syllable in his name that rhymes with “Lin”.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Take the quiz: Should you waive your NTC?

"Yes, I will waive my no-trade clause,"
said Rick Nash, immediately, every
time he answered his phone.
Mats Sundin had his number raised to the rafters by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. But while the honor naturally lead to plenty of warm memories, it also stirred up some old debates about the nature of loyalty in modern sports.

Sundin’s infamous decision not to waive his no-trade clause in 2008 helped write a controversial final chapter on an otherwise brilliant career in Toronto. To this day, many fans feel he made a selfish choice that hurt the team, while others argue that his only sin was being too loyal to a franchise that didn’t deserve it.

With the trade deadline just two weeks away, plenty of players can expect to find themselves in Sundin’s shoes in the coming days. The no-trade clause dilemma is no easier today than it was four years ago: Do you waive your rights and accept a deal, or stand your ground?

It’s a tough call. So if you’re an NHL player who finds himself wondering what to do with your own no-trade clause, this simple quiz might help:

While it’s natural to be concerned around trade deadline time, relatively few players are actually dealt each year. What makes you think you’re about to be traded?
a.) Have been personally told by my general manager that several teams are very interested in acquiring me.
b.) Have seen my name mentioned in speculation by well-established media insiders.
c.) A big-time hockey rumor blogger started telling me that all his super-connected sources are talking about me, before his manager started yelling at him that the deep fryer wasn’t going to just work itself.
d.) Had over two dozen scouts watching me in person last night, which was odd since we didn’t have a game and I was just eating dinner in my kitchen.

Many of today’s no-trade clauses have loopholes or are otherwise limited in some way. Does this apply in your case?
a.) My no-trade clause is complete and covers me in all circumstances
b.) If my team misses the playoffs a window opens up, in the sense that the team can trade me without my consent during the offseason.
c.) If my team misses the playoffs a window opens up, in the sense that that’s what the GM and coach will be throwing my overpaid carcass out of.
d.) I can provide a list of teams I do not wanted to be traded to each year, if frantically writing “Edmonton” over and over in increasingly larger letters on a sheet of loose leaf paper can actually be considered a “list”.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A brief history of Mats Sundin

Even in 1989, teams had trouble
fitting Sundin under the cap.
Mats Sundin played for three teams during his 18-year NHL career, but for a generation of fans he’ll always be a Maple Leaf. Tonight, he’ll see his number 13 raised to the rafters in what’s sure to be an emotional ceremony at the Air Canada Centre.

Sundin’s career was often spectacular, but his legacy is complicated. To this day, Maple Leaf fans can’t seem to agree on what he meant to the team. He owns several franchise scoring records, but was criticized for underachieving. He refused an opportunity to leave the team, but was accused of lacking loyalty.

Before Sundin takes his place alongside Maple Leaf immortality, let’s take a look back at the career of one of the game’s most polarizing figures.

October 4, 1990 – One year after being taken first overall by Quebec, Sundin makes his NHL debut in Hartford and records his first career goal in what to this day remains one of the most memorable moments in recent Nordiques/Whalers history.

June 28, 1994 – A blockbuster trade sends Sundin to the Maple Leafs, with Wendel Clark going to the Nordiques. Upon witnessing the outrage in Toronto over the deal, Sundin makes a mental note that Leaf fans obviously really hate it when a popular veteran captain is traded for younger players.

September 30, 1997 – Sundin is finally given the captain’s “C” a full seven months after the Doug Gilmour trade had left it vacant, a delay caused by team president Ken Dryden’s desire to “say just a few quick words” prior to the presentation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

DGB turns four

Blogs are like children. They’re a lot of work, there’s plenty of crying involved, people are endlessly fascinated with hearing all about yours, and every now and then you get the nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten their birthday.

That last one happened to me this week, but after checking a calendar I realized I was in the clear. It turns out that today is the fourth anniversary of the launch of this site. That very first post was a recap of a Leafs win over Montreal, because it was four years ago and beating the Canadiens still seemed kind of newsworthy back then. Ah, memories.

Once again, a sincere thanks to everyone for your continued support. Every time you stop by to read the latest, or pass a link on to your friends, or check in on facebook or twitter, or frantically race to the comments section to tell me about a typo you fund, you make it all worthwhile.

Stay tuned for some interesting site news in the next few months. In the meantime, here are the ten most popular posts from the past year:
  1. A detailed look back at game seven, which due to a scheduling error had to be published twelve hours early (June, 2011) – As accurate today as the day it was published.

  2. The official map of an NHL rink (April, 2011) – Mad photoshop skills, yo.

  3. The Matt Cooke suspension hearing (March 2011) – Hey, remember when Matt Cooke used to randomly hit people in the head and then we’d all argue about the suspension? Those were good times for those of us in the hockey comedy business. Come back, Matt. We can make this work. (Quietly hums “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” while staring wistfully at picture of Matt Cooke’s elbow.)

  4. Winners and losers at the NHL’s midseason mark (January 2012) – The beauty of the winners/losers format is that it virtually guarantees that at least a few commenters will completely miss the point and get really upset at how their team was ranked.

  5. A review of NHL 12 (September, 2011) – This year, after four years of doing these, they finally sent me a free copy. And they said blogging wouldn’t pay.

  6. A hockey fan’s guide to the World Series (October, 2011) – Enjoy it now while the joke about the Rangers never winning anything is still timely.

  7. What an official NHL trade call sounds like (February, 2011) – Fun fact: “Brian Burke with tie done up” is the only google search in the English language that returns zero results.

  8. Hidden NHL playoff injuries revealed (June, 2011) – I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to find that image. Totally worth it.

  9. Winners and losers at the NHL draft (June, 2011) – This is the infamous “Mike from Philadelphia” comment thread that still gets referenced today.

  10. The biggest free agent signings of 2011 (July, 2011) – They said you couldn’t work in a reference to the Hextall/Potvin fight and Robert Esche’s neckbeard in the same punchline. They were wrong.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Twelve big names who could be on the move at the 2012 trade deadline

Eventually Getzlaf began to wonder if his poor
season could have something to do with having
one skate blade six inches higher than the other.
It’s February, the all-star weekend has come and gone, and we’re still a month away from the final playoff push. Hockey fans know what that means: it must be time for several weeks’ worth of wall-to-wall trade deadline coverage.

This year’s official deadline doesn’t arrive until 3:00 pm on February 27 for all teams except the Kings, who for some reason will get until 3:00:01. But even though we’re still almost three weeks away, the rumor mill is already churning out plenty of names, big and small.

Of course, most of those names will belong to players who won’t end up going anywhere. In fact, if history has taught us anything it’s that we should all relax and just wait to see what happens. But that’s no fun, so instead let’s feed into the hype with a dozen big name players who’ve been rumored to be on the market leading up to the deadline.

Jeff Carter, Columbus Blue Jackets – Recent reports have indicated that his no-trade clause is no longer in effect due to a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement, and also because he set it on fire on top of Scott Howson’s desk three months ago.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks – The Duck seem to be intent on entering a rebuilding phase, and if there’s one thing we know about successful rebuilds it’s that they always start with trading your best young player when he’s at his absolute lowest possible value.

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres – Plenty of teams will be making offers for the star goaltender but they probably won’t even have their calls returned, since nobody who takes a run at Ryan Miller ever gets a response.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Beyond the clock: Other ways NHL teams get an unfair home ice advantage

The Blue Jackets hated how the broadcaster
insisted on keeping their chances of making the
playoffs in the next decade on screen at all times.
When the talk of the entire hockey world is a mid-season game between the Kings and Blue Jackets, you have to assume that something has gone horribly wrong. And this week, you’d be right.

Thursday night’s game in Los Angeles between the two teams was decided on a late Drew Doughty goal that appeared to cross the goal line with a fraction of a second left on the clock. But replays showed something mysterious: the game clock appeared to pause for over one full second right before the goal. That slight delay was enough to turn a goal that shouldn’t have counted into the game winner.

Predictably, conspiracy theories were floated immediately. The league has promised a thorough investigation, while making clear that the game’s results will stand. The incident could end up deciding the Western Conference playoff races, and everyone is outraged.

Should they be? No. Because even if the glitch was intentional, it wouldn’t be unique. After all, the Kings wouldn’t be the first hockey team to get a little boost from their home arena. In fact, it’s common practice.

Here are just a few of the ways that teams around the league are using their rinks to gain an unfair advantage.

New York Islanders - Attempt to unnerve opposing players by ensuring that the visiting team's dressing room is infested with vicious disease-carrying rats that are slightly larger than the ones in the home team’s room.

Toronto Maple Leafs – Thanks to the typical mid-week crowds at the ACC, are often able to get out to a quick start against confused opponents who can take up to two full periods to realize that the pre-game moment of silence has ended.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Blatantly attempt to damage the retinas of opposing players by placing a bright red light directly behind their goaltender and then turning it on three or four times every period.

Vancouver Canucks – An intricate installation of mirrors and holographic lasers has actually succeeded in convincing foolish opponents that the Canucks’ best player has a linemate who looks exactly like him.