FSNBA will air USA-Canada WJC game tape delayed on January 2nd

It was announced today that Fox Sports Net Bay Area will air the Team USA vs Team Canada World Junior Championship game from December 31st tape delayed on January 2nd at 7:30PM.

A press release on coverage of the WJC hockey tournament in the U.S. is available here, and a longer post on the WJC is coming up tomorrow.

FSNBA producer David Koppett, who produces the Sharks and Athletics telecasts, examines the new NHL division intensive schedule. Koppett suggests that a long regular season, reduced conference and interconference play, an absence of marquee names visiting each year, and an unequal distribution of travel for West Coast teams has reduced the importance of the NHL's "pennant race".

Koppett also suggests a solution. Creating four divisions [Howe, Lemieux, Roy, Gretzky], each with 7 or 8 teams, that would increase divisional rivalries and add more meaning to the stretch NHL playoff run.

Send Koppett your solutions here, or send 5 questions to the FSNBA Sharks pregame show Shark Byte here.

[Update] Eric McErlain at Offwing comments on a John Buccigross mail bag submission by Jason Lamb of Irvine requesting a return to the Campbell, Wales, Smythe, Patrick, Norris and Adams divisions.

With the new NHL returning to a more freewheeling style from the '80s, can we also start a campaign to get the old-time division names returned? I long for the Campbell, Wales, Smythe, Patrick, Norris and Adams.

Jason Lamb
Irvine, Calif.

The first year the NHL used those division names was 1974-75. The last year was 1992-93. Fewer than 20 years, yet it's talked about as though it was around forever. I do the same thing. - J.B.

An expanded 4 division league vs the current 6 division setup may or may not be better for the league, but tying the division names to notable historical figures could only benefit the game.


Wheels fall off in final period, four 3rd period Coyotes goals lead to 5-4 Sharks loss


The San Jose Sharks matched the Phoenix Coyotes shift for shift, and held on to a 2-1 lead until the start of the third period Wednesday night. The Sharks were looking for 2 points against a Pacific division rival after dropping 4 of the last 5 games.

Up 2-1, San Jose's Jonathan Cheechoo was called for an interference penalty with 4 seconds left in the second period. The infraction carried over into the third as the Sharks started the final stanza on the penalty kill. A Phoenix forecheck 36 seconds into the period pressured Evgeni Nabokov to play the puck in a restricted area. The resulting delay of game penalty gave Phoenix a 5-on-3 power play. To make matters worse, Kyle McLaren was issued a marginal boarding call 1:46 in. Derek Morris converted on the PP before the original penalty expired.

Shane Doan, Oleg Saprykin, and Mike Johnson also scored for Phoenix, giving the Coyotes 4 goals in the first 5 minutes of the third period. Trailing 5-2, the Sharks picked up momentum and answered with goals by Nils Ekman and Milan Michalek. The Coyotes held on, walked away with a 5-4 win, and earned two 1 goal victories over the Sharks in 8 days.

Phoenix goaltender Brian Boucher [2-2-0, 2.47GAA, .915SV%] made 30 saves on 34 shots for the win. Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov [8-11-5, 3.06GAA, .885SV%] made 19 saves on 24 shots, and was pulled in the third period for Vesa Toskala.

Ross McKeon of the SF Chronicle described it as a nightmare at the tank, and also noted that Phoenix head coach Wayne Gretzky was glad to be back after missing 5 games with the death of his mother Phyllis Gretzky. Victor Chi reported in the San Jose Mercury News that Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov looked shaky, and that the 17,496 fans who attended the game earned the first home sellout in 7 games since the Joe Thornton trade on November 30th.

David Vest of the Arizona Republic quoted Phoenix interim head coach Rick Tocchet on Wayne Gretzky's return to the bench:

"The family's back together," Tocchet, the interim coach in Gretzky's absence, said after the team's morning skate at HP Pavilion.

Rick Tocchet earned a 2-3 record, with wins over San Jose and Dallas, during his 11-day tenure as head coach.

[Update] Paul Kariya was quoted by the Calgary Sun after being left off of Team Canada's 2006 Olympic roster. Link from the Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed Thursday quote sheet.

"I was disappointed, for sure, but we live in a country where there's a lot of great hockey players. I got the opportunity to play in 2002 and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I'll be pulling for the guys that are over there... it's a difficult decision with a lot of great players. I'll become a fan now."

[Update2] NHL shootouts no perfect science - Scott Burnside. Another breakdown of NHL shootouts is available here. Shootout reports are also available now via NHL Stats.


Eric Byrnes close to signing deal

My brother, Mike Sasson, was quoted Friday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The Pirates have renewed interest in acquiring outfielder Eric Byrnes.

Team officials have spoken the past two days with Mike Sasson, Byrnes' California-based agent, to make initial inquiries about the five-year veteran who became a free agent Tuesday when he was cut loose by the Baltimore Orioles.

"I really think Pittsburgh would be a great fit," Sasson said. "It's a blue-collar town, and Eric's a lunch-pail kind of guy. He'll break through walls for you."

Inside sources tell me Phoenix and Cleveland also were interested in the 6-2, 210 pound center fielder from Redwood City, CA. Eric Byrnes hit .226 with 10HR, and 40 RBI in 126 games played for Oakland, Colorado and Baltimore last season. In 2004, Byrnes hit .283 with 161 hits, 20HR, and 17SB in 143 games played for Oakland.

On the KNBR morning show today with Brian Murphy, Byrnes also noted that he has talked with the Boston Red Sox. Boston is in need of a shortstop and center fielder after losing Johnny Damon to the Yankees and Edgar Renteria to the Atlanta Braves.


Before the start of the 2005 season, the Oakland Athletics front office let trade rumors run rampant around Byrnes [San Diego, Arizona, Pittsburgh and the New York Mets were all repeatedly mentioned as possible destinations]. Oakland head coach Ken Macha uncharacteristically called out Byrnes in the press for struggling against right handed pitching, and later criticized him for tackling a fan who ran on the field.

After attending several very tumultuous Boston-Oakland regular season and playoff games, including the series ending game 5 Oakland loss in 2003, and the infamous chair tossing game in 2004, if a fan jumps on the field and approaches a player, he is fair game.

Macha was gone as the A's head coach in October, only to be brought back after a brief look for a replacement. Oakland signed right-hander Esteban Loaiza to a 3 year deal in November. Rumors are now swirling around the lone remaining member of the Big Three, Barry Zito.

The wildly fluctuating 2005 season continued for Byrnes with several play-of the-year type diving catches, and a declaration by Sports Illustrated columnist Stephen Cannella that Eric Byrnes was the most entertaining player to watch in the game, albeit for good and bad reasons.

Then there are players such as A's outfielder Eric Byrnes, who bears watching in a torch-juggler-riding-a-unicycle-along-a-jagged-cliff kind of way. Every play is a potential Hall of Fame moment, but it's also equally likely to end in a flaming tangle of limbs and metal, which is why Byrnes gets my vote as the most exciting player in the game today.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a 4 part series in January about Eric Byrnes's exploits playing winter baseball in the Dominican Republic. Byrnes earned league MVP honors with the Licey Tigres, and earned the nickname "Captain America" with the Dominican fans. Licey teammate Carlos Pena described how the fans accepted him:

"After we won the (Dominican League) championship two years ago, I was in a restaurant in Santo Domingo, and I heard all this commotion, so I stood up to look, and I see this parade of people, total chaos -- and the next thing I know, there's Eric, bobbing up and down on top," said the Dominican-born Pena, who was briefly Byrnes' teammate in Oakland in 2002 and now plays first base for Detroit. "There are thousands of people, he's being thrown up and down, and he's loving it."

Byrnes said the impromptu street party began when he and some teammates stopped at a gas station en route to a nightclub. Byrnes was spotted, and, he said, "All of a sudden it turned into a mob. I can't express how many people were there, grabbing and tugging at me. So I just decided to enjoy it."

[Update] More from the Arizona Republic:

Michael Sasson, Eric Byrnes' agent, said he has spoken repeatedly with the Diamondbacks in the past few days, adding that the Diamondbacks could be a good fit for his client, who has homes in the Bay area and Scottsdale. Byrnes could provide energy and a dependable glove in center, and his right-handed bat would be a welcome addition to a predominantly left-handed-hitting lineup.

[Update2] The Sharks pacific division rival, the Phoenix Coyotes, visit the Shark Tank tonight as San Jose looks to end a three game skid. Phoenix Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky reportedly will return to the bench to face the Sharks.

A statement from the Phoenix Coyotes:


GLENDALE, ARIZONA - Phoenix Coyotes Managing Partner-Head Coach Wayne Gretzky announced today that he will be returning as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. Gretzky will be behind the bench tonight when the Coyotes play the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion. Gretzky left the team on Dec. 17 to be with his mother Phyllis who passed away on Dec. 19.

"I am excited to be back behind the bench," said Gretzky. "I am very fortunate to have a great coaching staff and would like to thank Rick Tocchet, Barry Smith and Rick Bowness for all their help while I was away with my family. I would also like to thank Steve Ellman for all his support and my players for all their hard work and understanding throughout this difficult time."

Following tonight's game against the Sharks, the Coyotes will return home to play the Los Angeles Kings at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night and the Colorado Avalanche at 6:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve. For ticket information, please call 480 563 7825.

[Update3] Athletic Supporters deals with the misperception that Oakland A's GM Billy Beane trades only for prospects instead of established players. And where did the misperception start? Ray Ratto.

[Update4] More on the 2006 World Baseball Classic with Japan, Korea, Taipei, China, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, Netherlands, USA, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and Italy competing at venues in Anaheim, San Diego and Puerto Rico, from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Still waiting for word on if Cuba will be allowed to participate. The U.S. Treasury Department initially denied a license for Cuba, but Major League Baseball reapplied last week.

Puerto Rico threatened to pull out as a host of preliminary round games if Cuba was not reinstated. Colombia or Nicaragua could be added if Cuba is denied again. Today, Venezuela also proposed hosting the preliminary games so Cuba could participate. Another interesting development today, a group of Cuban defectors formed an association and will ask to represent Cuba in the Baseball Classic.

[Update5] E. Byrnes agrees to deal - Arizona Republic.

Postcard from Spain, Nou Estadi del Futbol Club Barcelona

My sister Michelle, studying for a semester in Spain, sent in a postcard after visiting the "Nou Camp" stadium of Spanish soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona.

Barcelona will face Chelsea in a home-at-home Champions League round of 16 series, February 21st at Stamford Bridge in England, and March 8th at Camp Nou in Barcelona. FC Barcelona is atop the Spanish Primera Division standings with a 12-4-1 record this season. Chelsea leads the English Premiership standings with a 16-1-1 record in 18 games played.

Samuel Eto'o leads FC Barcelona in scoring with 17 goals in 17 starts this season, followed by Brazilian sniper Ronaldinho with 10 goals in 15 games.

[Note] Michelle has also studied Danish at the University of Washington and the University of Copenhagen, and Spanish in Argentina and Spain.


Blues down Sharks in OT shootout, NHL shootout statistics to date

After nearly 59 minutes of St Louis grinding out a solid but boring 1-0 road win over the San Jose Sharks, Mark Smith fed Nils Ekman for a late goal to tie the game at 1-1. Ryan Johnson scored earlier in the third period to open the scoring for the Blues, with assists by Mayers and Salvador.

A scoreless overtime period followed, and the St Louis Blues earned a 2-1 overtime shootout win over the San Jose Sharks on the strength of shootout goals by Doug Weight and Petr Cajanek.

A recap of the Sharks-Blues shootout followed by shootout statistics for the entire NHL up until 12/24:

SJ-STL Overtime Shootout

Dean McAmmond took the first penalty shot for St Louis. He glided in slowly at an angle to Nabokov's left. Evgeni came very far out of the crease, and blocked the shot with his right pad.

Joe Thornton shifted from forehand to backhand while bearing down on Blues netminder Jason Bacashihua, and tried to roof a shot high at the last second. Bacashihua goes down, but has his glove in the perfect position for the save.

Doug Weight accelerates quickly, and is able to tuck a backhand past Nabokov. 1-0 Blue notes.

Patrick Marleau took several strides to also come in quickly on the Blues netminder. The Sharks captain tried a quick release to surprise one past Bacashihua, denied.

St Louis right wing Mike Sillinger, tied for Dean McAmmond for the Blues goal scoring lead with 11, skates in hard on Evgeni Nabokov and directs a puck an inch wide of the right post.

Jonathan Cheechoo takes a wide angle on Bacashihua, and scores on a low shot.

Petr Cajanek, a name very difficult to spell if your first name is Peter and you do not have the Blues roster in front of you, started his shootout attempt with the crowd chanting "Nabby, Nabby, Nabby" in unison. Cajanek waited till the last second, and scored up over Nabokov's leg pad to put the Blues up 2-1 in the sudden death shootout. Crowd silenced.

Nils Ekman, the San Jose Sharks last hope for pre-Christmas eve hockey salvation, threw a number of faints and fake shots, only to deke himself a few feet past the crease. With Bacashihua extended far out left, Ekman tried to fire one past him. Stoned. Game over. Blues win.

Sharks feeling blue at break, St. Louis nabs win in shootout - SF Chronicle.

The odd NHL statistic is also regularly available from the NHL stats blog written by Sam Lubeck. Here are the NHL shootout statistics from games up until 12/24, as requested by a fan.

Shootouts - 55
Games - 521
% - 10.56

Goals - 122
Attempts - 371
% - 32.88

# of shots needed to decide shootout
4 - 10
5 - 17
6 - 14
8 - 8
10 - 2
14 - 1
16 - 1
18 - 1
30 - 1 [NY-WSH]

Top 5 shootout records:
1. Nashville 4-1
2. New York Rangers 4-1
3. Washington Capitals 4-2
4. Dallas Stars 3-0
5. Los Angeles Kings 3-0

Worst 5 shootout records:
26. San Jose Sharks 1-4
27. Florida Panthers 0-1
28. Boston Bruins 0-2
29. Anaheim Mighty Ducks 0-3
30. Atlanta Thrashers 0-4

Top shootout goaltenders:
Brent Johnson [WSH] 2-0, 6SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Mathieu Garon [LAK] 2-0, 5SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Marty Turco [DAL] 2-0, 4SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Vitaliy Kolesnik [COL] 1-0, 7SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Chris Mason [NSH] 1-0, 3SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Phillipe Sauve [CGY] 1-0, 3SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Cam Ward [CAR] 1-0, 3SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Cristobal Huet [MTL] 1-0, 2SA, 0GA, 1.000%
Jason Labarbera [LAK] 1-0, 2SA, 0GA, 1.000%

Top shootout goal scorers:
Alexander Ovechkin [WSH] 5G, 6S, 83.3%, 3GDG
Paul Kariya [NSH] 3G, 3S, 100%, 2GDG
Viktor Kozlov [NJD] 3G, 5S, 60%, 2GDG
Brian Gionta [NJD] 3G, 4S, 75%, 1GDG
Jussi Jokinen [DAL] 3G, 3S, 100%, 0GDG
Ales Hemsky [EDM] 3G, 5S, 60%, 0GDG
Michael Nylander [NYR] 3G, 5S, 60%, 0GDG

GDG = game deciding goal.

Source: NHL Media.

[Update] Paul from Kukla's Korner had more on the NHL gaming rights battle, from Next Generation.

Earlier this year, the NHL Players' Association agreed to give Electronic Arts exclusive third-party rights to player's names to the tune of $44.2 million over the course of six years. However, according to EA's official hockey website EAHockey.com, the league will not see a penny of that revenue, which upsets NHL executives.

The NHL, however, owns the rights to all league and team trademarks. To counteract the union's move, the league refused to extend EA's license until NHL 2K publisher Take-Two was allowed to use NHLPA properties. In addition, the league is attempting to extend their agreement with Take-Two, which is set to expire after this season.

"The best thing for me to say is we’re currently in negotiations with the [NHL] Players’ Association," said Steve Glickstein, VP of licensing at Take-Two. "The more people competing in the space, the better the games are. When you look at certain deals that are exclusive out there, the quality of game tends to come down."

More here.


U.S. Coverage of 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship set

A press release from USA Hockey on coverage of the 2006 WJCs.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Hockey fans in the United States will have multiple ways to keep track of the happenings surrounding Team USA as it competes at the upcoming 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship it was announced today by USA Hockey.

The 10-nation competition will be staged in British Columbia, Canada, from Dec. 26, 2005 - Jan. 5, 2006 and features the best ice hockey players in the world under the age of 20.

FOX Sports Net North will be the lead television entity in the United States. FSNN, with Jim Rich (play-by-play) and Jeff Sauer (color commentary) calling the action, will provide the following coverage along with FOX College Sports.

Date/Game/Air Time

12/31 USA vs. Canada (TD), 8:30 PM ET
1/3 USA semifinal game (TD), 11PM ET
1/5 USA medal game (TD), 11PM ET

In addition, fans with access to the NHL Center Ice package will be able to watch the following U.S. games:

Date/Game/Air Time

12/26 USA vs. Norway (TD), 1PM ET on Dec. 27
12/28 USA vs. Finland (TD), 1PM ET on Dec. 29
12/31 USA vs. Canada, 7 PM ET (live)

USA Hockey's website, usahockey.com, will provide live audio streaming of all Team USA games with Rich and Sauer providing the call. In addition, game recaps, feature stories, boxscores, tournament stats, and more can be found throughout the event at usahockey.com with usahockey.com managing editor James MacDonald on-site in British Columbia to cover the action.

NOTES: Additional Fox Sports Net regional networks will be carrying the FSNN broadcasts as well. Complete details will be released next week... The 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship will feature athletes under the age of 20 on international teams from Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland, and the United States.

2006 U.S. IIHF World Junior Championship Schedule:

12/21 USA 3, SWE 2 (EX), Bear Mountain Arena, 10PM
12/22 Norway (EX), Recreation Complex, 10PM
12/26 Norway, Pacific Coliseum, 11PM
12/28 Finland, Pacific Coliseum, 11PM
12/30 Switzerland, Pacific Coliseum, 7PM
12/31 Canada, Pacific Coliseum, 7PM
1/2 Quarterfinals, GM Place, TBD
1/3 Semifinals, GM Place, TBD
1/5 Medal Games, GM Place, TBD

If you are planning on providing blog coverage of the WJC, let me know and I will link to your posts.

For Sharks defense, it's the quality of shots, not quantity - SF Chronicle.


Cheechoo notches first hat trick in 4-2 Sharks win over Ducks, Parker scores in his return

Each of Jonathan Cheechoo's 3 goals in the 4-2 win over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks should be on the scouting reel for opposing teams headed to the Shark Tank.

Goal #1 occurred on a power play in the first period. Parked to the right of Giguere, Cheechoo picked the puck up off a rebound on the backhand and nimbly fired it home to make the score 1-0. Problem for other teams: Moving him from in front of the crease, can stick handle in a phone booth. Goal #2, after a nice pass by Hannan, Cheechoo was tripped/fell and awarded a penalty shot on J.S. Giguere. A stutter step and well timed delay was followed by a quick shot roofed up high. Problem for other teams: Hard shot, extremely quick release. Goal #3 was sparked on a turnover created by a Joe Thornton forecheck. Cheechoo gathered the puck and tried to split Jonathan Hedstrom and Francois Beauchemin of the Mighty Ducks, but was checked hard trying to drive the lane. Unfortunately for Anaheim, he was not checked hard enough. The hit wobbled Cheechoo, who was able to remain on his feet, drive to the net, and pot his third goal of the evening. Problem for other teams: Wide center of gravity, very difficult to knock off the puck.

In 2003-04, Cheechoo's linemates Scott Thornton and Mike Ricci struggled offensively to start the season. They had trouble putting up numbers as they had in the past, but they worked hard to deliver a solid two way game. Then Jonathan Cheechoo started scoring goals from all over the ice. He scored from impossible angles, while being leveled in front of the crease, and even on a deflection from a stick between his legs. To their credit, Scott Thornton and Mike Ricci were delivering equally jaw dropping passes with any number of opponents draped over them. It steam rolled with Cheechoo eventually tying Patrick Marleau for the team scoring lead with 28 goals. Nine of his were of the game winning variety.

Was Cheechoo's success after the Thornton trade was a surprise? No. Replace Mike Ricci with the puck control and power game of Joe Thornton, and you are going to see dramatic results. But without Ricci, you are going to see a decline in the number of pileups in front of the crease.

Scott Parker returned to the lineup after a lengthy absence, and scored his first goal in two seasons. David Singer of Hockeyfights.com posted an informative interview with Scott Parker last year where "The Sheriff" talked about improving his all around game, about being brought in after the Jody Shelley-Brad Stuart incident, and about why Garrett Burnett kept coming back for more after repeated pummelings.

Mark Smith welcomed Parker back with an assist on his goal, and an appearance on the fight log shortly thereafter. Smith and Zenon Konopka dropped the gloves, and although Konopka had the advantage positionally, both players were able to land only glancing blows before the refs intervened. Draw.

[Update] Happy 75th birthday to Ranger Pundit!


Carnival of the NHL #16

Carnival of the NHL #16 is up at Japer's Rink.

The tour of the hockey blogs includes Population Statistic on tonight's San Jose Sharks opponent, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, reviving the neutral zone trap. Thanks to Offwing for the link.

Sports Illustrated's Darren Eliot has the specifics:

They are routinely dropping four men between the blue lines, with one man passively funneling the puck carrier to one side, typically the Ducks left wing side. Even when the opposition has the puck in full possession behind their net, the Ducks are using just one man deep in the zone, with the wingers positioned on the boards nearer the blue line than the goal line. They are firmly entrenched in trying to capitalize on failed forays through the neutral zone, working solely on turnovers to generate offense.

After the trade for Joe Thornton, the Sharks have become much more of a puck possession team, although the dump in is still utilized often on the power play. In the 5-4 Ducks win Sunday, Anaheim was able to capitalize on turnovers and mistakes from the young Sharks blueline. Although they have stepped up to fill the minutes of Brad Stuart [traded to Boston] and Kyle McLaren [arthroscopic knee surgery], in critical situations the Sharks defense was pressured into making mistakes.

Thornton Gives Bite to Sharks - LA Times.

Unless they correct their defensive problems, the Sharks will play a lot of high-scoring games. But Thornton, who has been centering for his cousin Scott and right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, gives them the playmaking skill and balance to prevail when the tempo and scoring pick up.

Carle Leads Pioneers to a Sweep for Christmas - Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Los Angeles Kings center Jeremy Roenick was not happy about being left off the 2006 USA Olympic team.

"I don't need to prove myself to anybody," said Roenick, who wasn't among the 23 players named to the U.S. squad before the game started. "There's nobody on that Olympic team that has scored more points than I have, who has had a career like I have in terms of physicality and putting points on the board and being a leader."

"I'm one of the guys who has gotten USA to where it is today and to not have the opportunity to go back and try to win a gold one more time, to me it's just disrespectful. They can beat me down and say I'm over the hill or say that I don't have it anymore, but to me I know that I do."

Ultimately, your play on the ice determines whether or not you will make the team. Roenick had a goal and an assist in the 4-3 Kings win over Western Conference rival Vancouver on Monday night. But that only leaves Roenick with 6 goals and 7 assists in 32 games for the season. Underperforming based on his $4,940,000 contract according to many of the Kings faithful.

Jeremy Roenick deserves recognition and respect for his contribution to the sport, the fans, and to USA Hockey. Leaving him off the starting roster, but naming him to a reserve squad, or as an injury replacement, would be in line with Team USA's transition from veteran leadership to a younger core of stars.

Roenick to Team USA: I better be on Olympic team - ESPN.

Kings center Jeremy Roenick told The Los Angeles Times that he "better be" on the Olympic team that will compete in Turin, Italy, in February.

"It would be a travesty if I'm not," Roenick told the newspaper. "I know they want a youth movement, and they need to have one, but it'd be disrespectful of the guys who have gotten Team USA to this point internationally."...

Roenick, 35, told The Times that if he doesn't make the cut, Team USA "better hope that I don't get a job as a commentator on NBC for [the Games], or it'd be 'Go Canada' all the way, and I don't want that."

Rooting for Canada in an international hockey competition is like rooting for the sun to rise in the morning.

[Update] Well, all of this speculation was worthwhile. Breaking news from TSN: Roenick out 4-6 weeks with broken finger.

[Update2] Anyone else see Manny Fernandez on OLN last night stop a shot with his face that sent his mask flying 8 feet from the crease? He stood there looking at the referee until he finally blew the play dead. If there was a photo or video captured of that play, look for it on the OLN opening highlight reel the rest of the season.

[Update3] An age-old question, Will U.S. hockey team be able to keep pace? - SF Chronicle.

The 23-man U.S. Olympic team roster has more players making their Winter Games debut than those with experience, but don't think for a moment that means the Americans opted for youth.

Players on the American roster, announced Monday night, average 31.2 years in age and are rather big at 6-feet-1 and 202 pounds, which makes one wonder if they will be fast enough to keep up and compete for a medal at Turin in less than two months.

Actually I thought that for a few moments. There is a lot of good information in this column from Ross McKeon. More on the USA Olympic roster will be posted tomorrow.


Hockey Notes - December 19th edition

nhl on oln

- In addition to airing the Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild tonight at 5PM [PT], OLN will announce the roster for the 2006 Men's USA Olympic Hockey team. A press release from OLN:

OLN To Announce The Roster For The 2006 Men's USA Olympic Hockey Team LIVE On December 19 at 8 P.M. ET

Former "Miracle on Ice" Players to Discuss Announcement with OLN’s NHL Team During the Dallas-Minnesota Game

Stamford, CT (December 16, 2005) OLN, the national cable television home of the National Hockey League (NHL), along with USA Hockey, will announce the complete roster for the U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team to compete at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino LIVE on Monday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. ET. OLN's Mike "Doc" Emrick and John Davidson will make the exclusive announcement from St. Paul, Minn., just prior to the network's telecast of the Dallas at Minnesota game. The network's coverage of the announcement will also include exclusive interviews with members of the former gold medal-winning 1980 "Miracle on Ice" hockey team, including: Ken Morrow, Mike Ramsey and Dan Brooks, son of the late Herb Brooks.

Emrick and Davidson will be joined on the ice by Don Waddell, general manager of Team USA and executive vice president and general manager of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, and Paul Holmgren, the assistant general manager of Team USA and assistant general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, as the 23-man roster is unveiled.

- A goal apparently deflected in off Rob Niedermayer's stick above the crease, ended the Sharks 6 game winning streak in Anaheim last night. The Los Angeles Times notes that the Ducks will take the 5-4 win and move on, as the San Jose Mercury News reports that the Sharks are human. Boston is still bitter.

With the two points, Anaheim [15-13-6] moves into 3rd place in the Pacific Division. San Jose [14-13-4] falls to last in the Pacific, 5 points out of a playoff spot with 51 games left in the regular season.

Without Kyle McLaren and with Scott Hannan in the lineup, the Sharks were forced to ice 4 defenseman in their first or second year in the NHL. Jim Fahey, in his 3rd NHL season, has a career total of 74 NHL regular season games played. San Jose answered each of Anaheim's 3 goals in the first and second period, and tied the score a fourth time on a Scott Thornton goal midway through the third period. The Rob Niedermayer "magic bullet" goal was his 10th on the season, with assists credited to Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin. Down 5-4 with the goalie pulled off the ice, a series of defensive miscues kept the Sharks from even getting the puck in the Anaheim zone.

- Niedermayer brothers play strong, Ducks snap Sharks' winning streak - AP via SLAM.

- NHL and union clash on rights for video games - Sports Business Journal [subscription only].

Shortly before the end of the lockout, the NHLPA reached exclusive deals in the video-game and trading-card categories, with Electronic Arts and Upper Deck, respectively. According to a memo that NHLPA executive director Ted Saskin sent to players dated Aug. 17, Electronic Arts will pay the players’ association $44.2 million over six years, while Upper Deck will pay $25 million over five years.

Both deals, Saskin said in a subsequent interview, are exclusive. With video games, that means that starting in 2006, EA will be the only third-party software company that will have rights to NHL player names. (Sony, a hardware manufacturer, will still be able to produce its own game.) Upper Deck’s exclusive in trading cards has already begun.

The bottom line apparently is that the NHLPA negotiated exclusive rights for player likenesses in hockey video games for 2006. The Sports Business Journal's Andy Bernstein reports that the exclusivity agreement would not affect Sony's Gretzky NHL line of video games, but that the leading NHL 2K series by Take-Two Interactive Software would not be able to use player names or likenesses. The NHLPA would receive all of the revenue from the deal.

The NHL reacted by refusing to extend EA's licence unless Take-Two was granted an NHLPA license. This would affect team names and logos in the EA hockey titles.

Faced with having to eat the poison pill of having two separate games, one with no player names and one with no league or team trademarks, all of the parties came back to the table. The league now says it is close to announcing deals that will keep both Take-Two and EA as licensees, with the union’s participation.

Ted Saskin is making statements that a deal with Take-Two would need to be in the players interests, and an NHL Enterprises representative is touting the benefits of competition in the gaming space.

Incredible. After losing an entire season due to a labor dispute, playing hardball with one of the products that develops young fans is bad business. You may negotiate a better deal, but you are disrespecting fans in the process.

EA Cuts Forecast as Industry Seems in Slide - NY Times.

- Wayne Gretzky took an indefinite leave as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes to care for his ailing mother. His position as the Canadian Olympic team's executive director is also unclear as he takes time to care for his family.

- Larry Robinson resigned as head coach of the New Jersey Devils. According to the New York Daily News, he cited health problems as the reason for stepping down.

- Alexander Ovechkin line from the Capitals 4-1 loss in San Jose on Friday: 22:46 TOI, 24 shifts, 2 SOG, 0 points, 5 hits.

- NHL's Fedorov Won’t Play for Russia at Turin Olympics - Mosnews.com.

- New NHL is not on 'schedule' - Terry Frei.

- From Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed, Dan Barnes of the Edmonton Journal wants to see a good honest heavyweight fight in the NHL this season. Oilers center Jarret Stoll agrees.

Also from VCOE, a link to the NHL photo gallery of the week for December 12-18th. Nine AP images and only 1 from Getty. The NHL gallery of the week from December 5-11th opens with Atlanta Thrashers RW Marian Hossa lifting a shot over the pads of San Jose Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala.

This is reminiscent of the popular Slam Hockey Hits photo gallery that ran from 1999-2002.

[Update] Phyllis Gretzky passed away this evening at age 64. My condolences go out to her family.


Las Vegas downs Stockton 3-2 on a late third period goal



After goaltender Marc Magliarditi lead Las Vegas to a 5-3 win over the Stockton Thunder on Friday night, the Wranglers were looking to keep pace with the Alaska Aces atop the ECHL West Division. Alaska blew out the Victoria Salmon Kings 8-0 on Saturday to open up a 1/2 game lead over Las Vegas. Stockton [5-13-3], the Phoenix Coyotes ECHL affiliate, is in fifth place in the 5 team all-California Pacific Division.

The game opened with a scrum in front of Las Vegas goaltender Mike McKenna, before new arena growing pains became evident. Play was delayed while a problem with the ice was re-freezed. The fans were patient, participating in team promotions and walking around the concourse evaluating the new arena. Derek Campbell of Stockton, and Todd Alexander of the Wranglers, wasted little time dropping the gloves and bringing the crowd to its feet a few minutes after play was re-started.

Stockton left wing Landon Bathe had the most jump in a very physical first period. Driving into the Las Vegas defensive zone, Bathe faked a slap shot to stop a defenseman, and threw a 360 spinorama to his right to create a scoring chance. The next shift Landon lost his helmet in a collision along the left boards, and skated all the way across the ice to level a Wrangler forward on the right side. Bathe collapsed to the ice with a knee injury after checking a second player later in the period.

Both teams put on a special teams clinic, trading power play goals to start the second period. Tim Hambly scored his 6th goal of the season for Las Vegas, and Nathan Martz scoring his 6th of the year for Stockton. A too many men on the ice penalty against the Stockton Thunder led to another PP goal by Tyler Sloan, and a 2-1 Las Vegas lead heading into the final period.

Stockton struggled to put sustained pressure on Las Vegas early in the third, but scoring chances increased in quality and quantity as time ticked down on the clock. Stockton left wing Mike Lalonde scored his team leading 13th goal past a diving McKenna to tie the game at 2-2 with just less than 7 minutes to play in the period.

A missed scoring chance in the Wranglers defensive zone lead to a quick Las Vegas transition up the ice. All 3 Stockton forwards were caught behind the play, and center Casey Bartzen was not able to catch Tim Hambly, who scored the game winning goal for Las Vegas with less than three minutes to play.

Las Vegas Wranglers goaltender Mike McKenna [7-0-1] made 36 saves on 38 shots to earn the 3-2 win. Stockton Thunder goaltender Jake Moreland [3-6-0] made 21 saves on 24 shots.

Las Vegas Wranglers vs Stockton Thunder photo gallery.

Another loss for Thunder, Frustration is evident after eighth loss in nine games - Stockton Record.

Wranglers Corral Thunder Again - Our Sports Central.


Interview with Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis

MCI Center

Washington Capitals Chairman and Majority Owner Ted Leonsis has long been one of the most progressive owners in the NHL. His dedication to Washington hockey fans, openness, and love of the game are hard to conceal.

The Washington Capitals became an offensive powerhouse in the 1990's, reaching the playoffs 10 times since 90-91. The Capitals defeated Boston, Ottawa and Buffalo in 1998 to earn the Prince of Wales Trophy awarded to the Eastern Conference Playoff Champions. The Capitals, including head coach Ron Wilson and goaltender Olaf Kolzig, were defeated in 4 games by Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals.

2003-04 was a transition year for the Capitals franchise, as Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Jaromir Jagr, and Robert Lang were traded to stockpile youth and draft picks. The Washington Capitals drafted the highly touted left wing Alexander Ovechkin first overall in 2004.

Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 18 goals and 34 points in 29 games played this season. With 5 multi-goal games, and 9 multi-point games, Alexander's size, speed and tenacity has left a trail of awed hockey players, fans and journalists around the league.

Mr. Leonsis agreed to take a few questions over the phone Wednesday, before a 3-2 come from behind Capitals win in Los Angeles that evening. Washington faces off against the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion on Friday.

[Q] On the ice, you mentioned the Washington Capitals are striving to rebuild the team identity with youth and speed to take advantage of the higher scoring NHL. Were you able to take advantage by starting a year before the rest of the league had to get under the salary cap?

[TL] Teams have always had a difficult time when they come to play us. There were no easy games. One of the issues is that we lost our identity. We were getting older, while other teams in our division: Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay were drafting better and taking advantage of it. We were an older veteran team. We were on a slow glide path downward.

With the lockout coming, we said there will never be a better time to be radical, take risk, and re-craft the team, than right now. And our goals were lets craft a team for the new NHL. Both economically and talent wise.

We had a lot of games stacked together. We are going to struggle. It comes from inexperience. It comes from a lack of skill, and it is something we are working on. As for a team identity, the players really like being in the room. The kids are getting experience. Some of them are ahead of schedule, Steve Eminger and Ovechkin are building something.

[Q] What are a couple of things you are working on to improve the power play?

[TL] Everyone is new. Semin would have really helped us on the power play. Being a QB for the power play, we could have had Ovechkin down low, where he would probably be better suited. Deep down low.

[Q] About Semin, what is his status?

[TL] I think he is a wonderful player and a great kid. He went to Russia during the lockout. He played a summer with Lada, and now he says he has military duty. And we are going back and forth because we have a contract with him. We are hopeful that it will be resolved this year.

[Q] Before he took the ice in D.C., did you get to see Alexander Ovechkin play at the World Cup, the World Juniors or with Moscow? What were your impressions?

[TL] I was given DVDs of him that the scouts compiled. The first time I met him in the flesh was at the draft. And he is pretty much out of central casting. He is a physically gifted young man with a body made for hockey. He is big, he is strong, he has great reflexes and a great hockey sense. He has no fear on the ice. So just on those counts, he is everything you would expect in the consensus first overall pick.

He is also a great human being. He lived with our general manager for a couple of days, maybe a week. He hung out with me and my son, and my family. We played basketball. He is such an all around athlete, it is unbelievable.

[Q] Have you seen him do anything on the ice that you did not expect?

[TL] It is interesting in that there are not many players that I remember that have the speed, the brute strength and the creativity at the same time. In the shootout, he has been unbelievable. I think he leads the league in shootout goals with 5 for 6, or 4 for 5. There was a goal against Tampa Bay that people are still talking about. He beat everyone to a loose puck, and with a defenseman draped on him, he held his stick out and used his body to turn at the last second. The goalie came out, and Ovechkin was able to go top shelf while tumbling over the two of them. It was creativity, hockey sense, strength and speed. And it was just his will, I am going to score. I think you will see it for yourself on Friday.

[Q] It is difficult to knock him off the puck.

[TL] Definitely.

[Q] There have been a couple of recent negative articles about the NHL on OLN. And a mention that the ratings dropped.

[TL] I think it has just become... The way the press works, that is why I like working with people like you. There is a herd mentality. If a major publication writes something, it gives permission for everyone else to write it. Even if it is not based on facts.

How I look at hockey, is that we sell as many tickets as our NBA counterparts. Our fans are probably more loyal than any other set of fans. It is the best game live. Hands down. Our issue is that we don't have the TV revenue that the other leagues have. It just boils it all down, that is the single biggest issue. And I think that is where HDTV comes in, and as Comcast gets more and more committed, and as NBC comes along, we are going to provide higher production valued. I think hockey will start to keep pace and build those revenues.

[Q] Do you think OLN needs to juice up its coverage, to ESPN-ize its broadcasts?

[TL] No. I think OLN's biggest issue is getting distribution. It is owned by Comcast.

[Q] They only had a few weeks before the season started to prepare the broadcast and work out the problems.

[TL] I was upset with ESPN. I did not think they were respecting our game enough.

[Q] Do you think OLN offering a straight broadcast, without a lot of gimmicks, with information and analysis, is that a positive thing?

[TL] That's right. That is a respect for the game.

[Q] Do you think OLN needs a weekly highlight show to build their audience?

[TL] I do think they will make the requisite investment to make it a premiere sport. And they are going to use that to build a competitor to ESPN.

[Q] What do you think of the play of Jeff Friesen, who went down with a groin injury?

[TL] I have always admired his game. I thought he would be fabulous for us. He has always been fast and worked very well defensively. And he never was injured. He really struggled because of his health. He has a severe groin injury, and he has not played for around 20 games.

I have gotten to know him personally. He is really happy here. He likes the guys, he likes the coaches, he likes the building. He is itching to get back out there. He is another reason our power play is struggling. He was on our second power play unit.

You asked earlier about Pettinger, Bradley and Clymer. I love they way they are playing. They are part of our identity. We have our third and fourth lines. No one likes playing against them. They are big, they are strong, they hit. They finish their checks. They stick up for one another. It is our first two lines that we have to tweak the depth and make a little stronger. And we need some help on the blueline. Right now I am happy with the way our kids are playing.

[Q] You mentioned in an article that you have seven defenseman who were taken in the first round of the draft, what are your thoughts about the blueline?

[TL] Mike Green is a player who I think will be a player in our league for a long time. Eminger is exceeding everyone's expectations. He is playing 20-25 minutes a night. Shaone Morrisonn is playing terrific hockey. We have enough players we drafted, that if we just let them play and develop, we should be in good shape.

[Q] Earlier in August, the Sports Business Journal and the University of Massachusetts Amherst ranked washingtoncaps.com 2nd overall in NHL team websites. On your site you list player charities, a kid friendly section, local hockey rinks, an online fan club, in addition to stats, articles and multimedia content. What are your goals with the site, and what feedback have you heard from fans about it this season?

[TL] Washington Capitals fans are the most wired, tech savvy people around. I look at the PC and broadband penetration in our community, and it is one of the top 5 markets in the country. We are not going to look at our website as being a brochure for the team, we are going to look at it as where our fans live online. And it is where the Caps and the fans intersect. And we are going to try to make it a hub for all of our activities. We have a very lively community. We have lots of video, we broadcast games in the preseason that were not on television or radio. We do a lot for our minor league franchise, the Hershey Bears AHL team, and we try to cross promote from them to us. We also want our fans to meet the next generation of players. I use it often. I am still answering 30-40 emails a day. Our franchise has grown up knowing the interactive world. Where we are going to overindex, and be leaders in delivering content.

[Q] How did you create so many different content offerings?

[TL] We sit around and think would should we be adding. We also talk to our fans. Fans email us suggestions all the time. When it is a good suggestion, we say terrific, and we will give you credit. And we have a big staff. We probably have more people working full time as interns, that's where they start out. They get to know the website, they get to know ticketing, the get to know the fans. We have done things like creating a huge opt-in database. We do our ongoing newsletter, but we also prospected with E-brochures. You would expect that because of my background. But also because that is the kind of people we recruit.

[Q] Can you remember one suggestion from a fan that turned into a feature on your website?

[TL] One of them was coming out of the lockout, we did not know yet how many games are going to be televised during the preseason. They asked if there was a way we could broadcast them, so we did. A second suggestion was, tell us what our favorite players are doing off the ice. Another asked about player charities. Those are two great examples. And then we will do polls. 88% of our audience comes to our website over broadband. The consumer industry is more around 50%. Our base is 88%. So there are a lot more things we can do content-wise with video.

[Q] One of the fans also suggested that you talk to Offwing.com blogger Eric McErlain. How did that come about?

[TL] It was just serendipitous. I did not realize he lived here. I was trying to do a little bit of research on Ovechkin to see what other people were writing about him. I went to AOL search, powered by Google. And then I went to Google's blog search function. I typed in Ovechkin, and found a bunch of articles that were different. You know how you said earlier that you do not want to write about the same thing everyone else is writing about, that you want to do something different.

I read through it, you know the reason I am talking to you. You can not help me with the fans in Washington D.C., you are blogging, and writing every day because you love the sport. You are not in it for the money, you are doing it for the love of the game. And so that love needs to be respected, and we need more of that in our league, and for our team. So I read through Eric McErlain's website, and I thought it was good. And then I get an email from a guy who works at AOL. And he said take a look at this article. Did you see this guy who writes every day about the Caps, you ought to invite him to a game. And I went, sure (laughs). I sent him an email, and he sent me an email back asking when I would like to schedule it. I said I am going to the game tomorrow, do you want to come? It was very informal, and I introduced him to the people who were there. It was a fun game, and we won. After that we went to the locker room. It wasn't a formal thing. Because guys like him, guys like you love the game. You don't have an axe to grind. It seem to have caused some buzz. I did not do it for that either (laughs).

[Q] Well it worked.

[TL] I thought we had a good guy.

[Q] What do you think about his suggestion that the Washington media have downgraded coverage of the Capitals this season.

[TL] Very much so. Last week there were days when we did not have a single word in the newspaper. Basically I have two reactions. The first reaction is that we have to keep working the press, make news, and create an environment where they are interested in writing about us. The second is that the Washington Post is shrinking. I grew up in a world where Moore's Law ruled. Every year you would offer more and more, and charge less and less. Petroleum-based print products are on the opposite role. They charge more and more and offer less and less. And the Washington Post readership is significantly down year over year. What I said is that they are one of the outlets, and we have to create our own outlet.

So now I have a database of around 60,000 names. People who have opted in for newsletters. What we are trying to do is to use our web and the website, and our cable partner more and more. I think you will see this as a trend in sports, where we want to bypass these gatekeepers. If you can activate a blogosphere, then you will have the blogs become more relevant, and more further up in search engines. And the Washington Post will be pushed further and further down. So I can see one day if you go to Google or Yahoo, and you type in Alexander Ovechkin, that there are 4 or 5 blogs and the Caps website, and maybe Alex's website as well that are the first listed.

[Q] Do you think it is important to use the Washington Post to appeal to non-traditional fans. Not only fans who did not renew their season tickets, but maybe fans who have never been to a game, or have only been to a handful of games?

[TL] Because our community is more and more diverse. We are finding different ways to reach college students, women, people of color. The vertical markets are growing dramatically, and we have to have communications partners that reach them, but that also bring together viral marketing programs like we just launched. We just launched a referral program giving away a Hummer as a grand prize.

We are basically saying that the Washington Post and Washington Times are outlets. Important, but not the be all end all that newspapers used to be. In our market we have cable, broadcast, radio, internet, we have search. We have our website. We are trying to encourage the blogosphere. We want fans to build their own homepages. And we even offer them tools on our website to help people blog. We want 1,000 communication flowers to bloom. That would be in our best interest, but also in the consumers best interest. The concept of an editor and a couple of reporters deciding what is news is kind of 19th Century. We are in the 21st Century. So I pay the Washington Post respect, but they are not my first and last stop for everything we do.

[Q] That is a very controversial opinion, but I like it. I have to ask you about your thoughts on the Joe Thornton trade if you can talk about it, what did it mean for Boston or for the San Jose Sharks?

[TL] I am not allowed to discuss other teams players because it might be considered tampering. But I will say a couple of things. I believe firmly, time will prove whether we were right or not, that this first year many teams will make mistakes offering contracts to players that they will regret. Because no one really knows the law of unintended consequences with the salary cap, or even what the salary cap will be next year. The cap will be 54% of revenue.

[Q] It was recently reported that it might be going up.

[TL] We will see. Maybe it goes up, maybe it goes down. But you don't know. So I look at a lot of the teams that made big splashes in the offseason, and I see them not performing much better than us. Yet we are really young, and we will be a team on the upswing. When the time is right, or when we think we know what we need, we will have the means and the flexibility to do that. I already see a bunch of teams today that are not performing well, and they are over the cap. When you are over the cap, you have to pay for that next year.

[Q] What are your thoughts on Friday's Washington game against the San Jose Sharks? What do the Capitals need to do to shut down San Jose's high powered offense?

[TL] I think San Jose is a great team, and they are very well coached [Earlier Ted Leonsis talked about Sharks head coach Ron Wilson's strong interest in technology]. The Sharks have great strength down the middle with Marleau and Thornton. They have a great balance between seasoned players and young players, and I am surprised that their record is not better. But it is a very long season, and I thought going into the season that they would be one of the best teams.

On an interesting side note, Alexander Ovechkin always was a fan of the San Jose Sharks growing up. He is looking forward to playing there. It will be a thrill for him.

[Q] You are going to be watching the game on...

[TL] I will be watching on Direct TV.

[Q] Thanks for taking the time to answer questions.

[TL] Thank you.

Ovechkin & Capitals A Concern For Sharks - SJSharks.com.

Ted Leonsis created a stir by inviting blogger Eric McErlain to attend a 4-3 shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in November. McErlain writes about the evening on his blog here and here.

In August, the Sports Business Journal and the University of Massachusetts Amherst released their annual rankings of all major sports websites from the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and MLS. In 2005, the washingtoncaps.com site ranked 2nd overall in the NHL. In 2004, the Washington Capitals ranked 1st overall out of all the sports team websites evaluated.

[Update] The discussion of blogs and their role in relation to the media has accelerated after several large newspapers have struggled financially. Visit Romenesko, paidcontent.org, Press Think, or Buzz Machine to wade into the hue and cry.

[Update2] Sharks head coach Ron Wilson believes that Alexander Ovechkin is the top rookie in the NHL. Sharks await red-hot rookie - San Jose Mercury News.

"Right now he looks like the whole package," [Ron] Wilson said. "Personally, he's the best rookie in the league right now. That doesn't mean he's eventually going to be the best player, but right now he's the No. 1 rookie."

[Update3] Wings awed by Ovechkin - Detroit News.


The other shoe has dropped, AEG announces that the San Jose Earthquakes will move to Houston

San Jose Earthquakes

Stunned by the news of the San Jose Earthquakes move to Houston for the 2006 MLS season. Stunned.

AEG was unable to sell the team, the Sharks and SVSE were not able to negotiate an agreement, other potential owners failed to materialize, local city efforts failed, and SJSU and Spartan Shops barely blinked when asked to make concessions to keep the team operating out of the antiquated Spartan Stadium.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber left open possibility that San Jose could receive an expansion franchise in 2007, and now the team enters a Houston market looking for a new investor for a soccer-specific stadium?

I would like to personally thank Soccer Silicon Valley for their efforts to try to keep the team in San Jose, and to preserve the Earthquakes name. After seeing the Quakes leave and return once, it can happen again. Also thanks go out to the bigsoccer.com Earthquakes forum, for creating an enjoyable soccer community online.

Thanks go out to Landon Donovan, for giving Bay Area soccer fans someone to root for at home and away while traveling with the national team, and also someone to root against while with LA. The taunts by other fans were just soccer business, not personal. Thanks go out to Agoos, Barrett, Cerritos, Lewis, Wynalda, Wright, Mulrooney, Conrad, Cannon, Dayak, the flying Dane Ronnie Ekelund, De Rosario, Ching, Chung, Onstad, and all the other players I failed to mention.

More posts on the Earthquakes from me can be read here and here. There are many more in the archives.

Open question, what are the top 10 soccer games played in the Bay Area all-time? I will give you a head start: [1] World Cup Brazil vs USA July 4th Palo Alto, [2] Pele and the NY Cosmos 2-1 over the SJ Earthquakes 1977, [3] Womens World Cup USA over Brazil Palo Alto 1999, [4] USA over Costa Rica 1984 Olympics.

Where do the Earthquakes games, college games and friendlies fit on your top 10 list, email me here.

[Update] End of an era - Soccernet.

If there is one thing that I've learned about professional soccer in this country over the years, it's this: Never underestimate the sport's ability to inflict damage on itself. With the announcement that owners AEG have finally pulled the plug on the San Jose Earthquakes, and are moving the team to Houston, I feel no reason to change that view.

McLaren to miss Washington game after minor surgery

Victor Chi of the Mercury News reports that Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren will miss Friday's game with the Washington Capitals due to minor arthroscopic surgery performed on his left knee Monday.

"There's nothing structurally wrong," said McLaren, who is second behind Scott Hannan for the team lead in ice time. "It was just about cleaning it up. Since we had five days off, this was the perfect time to do it and get back at it for the rest of the season."

Defenseman Jim Fahey, and Cleveland Barons callup Josh Gorges are probable replacements in the lineup.

[Update] After 8 losses in the last 9 games, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and former player Ed Olczyk was fired Thursday by general manager Craig Patrick. Assistant coaches Joe Mullen and Randy Hillier were also let go. Former Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien was named as his replacement.

Penguins primp for migration to richer climate - SF Chronicle.


Joe Thornton conference call transcript December 12, 2005

Joe Thornton was named the NHL top offensive player of the week for the week ending Sunday, December 11th. Thornton, skating on a line with Scott Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, scored 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points in 3 games.

Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff earned defensive player of the week honors with a 0.47GAA, and .983SV% in two starts. In the week ending December 4th, San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau earned offensive player of the week honors with 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points in 3 games.

A transcript of Joe Thornton's conference call with the NHL media on December 12, 2005:

Q. Undefeated so far in your first five games as a San Jose Shark. What has the transition been like? Did you ever think it could start off this good?

JOE THORNTON: Well, the transition has been pretty easy. I played with a lot of guys that play on the Sharks, so it's been easy that way. Yeah, the team has just been playing great. You know, obviously they went on a 10-game slide with no wins, but I think they were losing a lot of games by one goal. Now everybody has a lot of confidence and we're playing really well together right now.

Q. What is your take of the hockey club when you look at not only the goals they've been able to score but the way they played defensively, too?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, they play really tight. Their defensemen have been playing great. (Evgeni) Nabokov has been playing awesome. I think the transition game here in San Jose is very crisp. It suits the offensive players very well because we get the puck so much.

Yeah, the defense has been great for us. It's been a pleasure playing with them.

Q. Now that you're five games in, have you noticed very much about playing in the west compared to being with Boston in the east?

JOE THORNTON: Well, to be honest with you, I've played all the east teams so far since I've been in the Western Conference, but I'll get my first taste with Anaheim this weekend. Yeah, it's just a little bit quicker out here, a little bit more room. So far it's been a good change.

Q. You're five games in. From watching from afar, it looks like the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. Is that fair to say?

JOE THORNTON: You know, in Boston, I never really read the papers. You hear how bad they treat some of their players. I put so much pressure on myself, it doesn't really affect me. But I think my job has been pretty easy with playing with Scotty (Thornton) and Jonathan Cheechoo. Jonathan has been putting the puck in the net, which has been a pleasure to play with so far.

Q. Can you talk about what the team needs to get into the playoffs? That 10-game losing streak put them really a long way behind the eight ball. Even though you've won five in the row, you're still on the outside looking in. Is there a sense in the dressing room that there's enough time to make up this ground?

JOE THORNTON: Oh, yeah. We just got to keep winning our games, you know, keep playing the kind of hockey we've been playing the past five games. We are a confident bunch. We have a young bunch. Yeah, everybody in the dressing room feels like we can make the playoffs for sure.

Q. The Olympic selection thing is going to be in about nine days. I think most of us believe you're going to be there. What would you say about a player like Rick Nash who you played with all of last year, Davos, who had such a strong World Championship but really hasn't had a chance to impress Wayne Gretzky or any of the people making the selection. If I asked you should Nash be on this team on the basis of what he's done in the past, what would be your take?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, I love playing with Rick. Obviously, I've seen a lot of Rick Nash in the past 12 months, playing with him in Davos, then played with him in the World Championships. He's definitely one of the best forwards in the League. I know he hasn't played so much this year, but his World Championships, he had a great World Championship, and he had a great year with Davos. I hope personally they pick him on the team.

Q. Back to the Olympic selection. How do you see the departures of Lemieux and Yzerman from the team affecting a bit of the leadership void in that room? Do you see that being a bit of an issue?

JOE THORNTON: Well, I think so. I think obviously Mario takes a lot of the media pressure away from some of the younger guys. But I think you see guys like Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Chris Pronger, Jarome (Iginla). I think a lot of guys have dealt with pressure in their careers, been on Olympic teams, World Cup teams, things like that. I think leadership-wise, there's a lot of it on this Canadian team.

Q. Some people are touting Joe Sakic as kind of an ideal captain. What would you think of him as the guy with the C?

JOE THORNTON: Oh, sure. Joe has played on so many Canadian teams, he' s won g old at the Olympics and won the World Cup and the Stanley Cup. He definitely has the resume to be the captain. He is a great leader. Yeah, he's a good choice.

Q. Was it kind of an instant chemistry when you got on the ice with Cheechoo and Scott?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, Jonathan is a great shooter. Just kind of took a practice to know where to give him the puck on the pass. Yeah, it's been instant. He's a pure goal-scorer. Scotty kind of just gives us a little bit more room out there to play. He's been very effective with us, too.

Q. Have you managed to find yourself an apartment yet?

JOE THORNTON: No. I just moved out of Scotty's house. I'm down at the Hilton now in San Jose. We don't play till Friday. I'll be looking all this week to get a house.

Q. This is the week?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, this is the week. I'll be bearing down and trying to grab something here.

Q. Getting traded in one respect is kind of getting rejected by the team that drafted you, the team you've been with your whole career. Any kind of internal reward with how well you're playing? Is it kind of like, What were you thinking, looking back at Boston at all?

JOE THORNTON: You know what, I don't look in the rearview mirror. I just keep looking forward. It is nice, though, coming out here and helping out the team right away, getting some wins under our belt. Obviously I hope the Bruins do well. I have a lot of friends on the team. I hold no grudges. But I'm a San Jose Shark now, just helping the team.

Q. Are you used to putting on a different jersey yet? Is it weird at all?

JOE THORNTON: Oh, yeah. No, it's not weird any more. Obviously, we've been home for the last couple games with the fans. Yeah, everything feels natural now.

Q. I suspect you're not going to miss winter?

JOE THORNTON: No (laughter). Wore a T-shirt out here yesterday, so it's been nice to me so far.

Q. I noticed Kyle McLaren was the Bruin's No. 1 pick in 1995. Showed a lot of ability, but had a lot of injury seasons. They traded him. Now you're back together. You enjoy playing with McLaren? How is he doing? Is he in good health?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, Kyle is such a big force for us on the blueline. He feels good and strong. He's been playing great. He's such a big hitter and a big presence out there. I played with Kyle in the past and it's been a pleasure rejoining him.

Q. Brian Rolston, when he signed with Minnesota back in the summer of '04, that was kind of a period where a lot of guys were leaving Boston. Nylander, Gonchar, Knuble. Before the lockout, before you signed last summer, did you get a sense of where the direction of the franchise was heading at that point and what that kind of meant?

JOE THORNTON: I didn't really -- obviously, they got Zhamnov in return, Scatchard in return, Leetch in return. I thought they got some pretty good quality players in return. Obviously they let a couple guys go. I thought they did a pretty good job with grabbing some guys, too.

Q. You played with Brian in Boston for five years. He's now in Minnesota leading the team in scoring. Can you talk about the impact player he was?

JOE THORNTON: Sure. Playing with him for a lot of years, he was just a great two-way player. He has a great shot. He's a great skater. Just an all-around gifted player. He played on the power play on the point for us, was really effective. Yeah, he's a great two-way player. He should be on the U.S. Olympic team.

Q. You had so much success with Muzz (Glen Murray) on your right, whether it be Mike Knuble on your left or Sergei (Samsonov) on your left, yet I don't think you've scored at a pace like this before. Any similarity with Cheechoo and your cousin or is it just something that fits a style that maybe you didn't even know you had?

JOE THORNTON: Yeah, well I think Cheechoo is a little bit like Muzz. He has a great release. Isn't as big as Muzz, doesn't have the overpowering shot that Muzz has, but the same qualities with quick release, very accurate with his shot. I think Scotty is like the left-handed Mike Knuble. He goes in, does a lot of the hard work, creates a lot more space for me and Cheechoo.

Q. January 10th, does that date mean anything to you at this point?

JOE THORNTON: No. I'm looking forward to Friday against Washington. As it creeps a little bit closer, it will be exciting to go back there and play.

Q. How much of a whirlwind has it been, something like five games in nine days from the trade? Is this the first chance you've really had to get to know San Jose a bit, look around?

JOE THORNTON: A little bit. Scotty, my cousin, kind of took me around, drove me around a little bit. I kind of got to know the city a little bit already. But this week is going to be nice just to kind of relax, get a feel, a real feel, for the city.

Q. Has that been a bit of a challenge this year with the schedule, you have these large gaps in games?

JOE THORNTON: It's been tough. Since I've been traded, we've played pretty much two on the road to start, but then we came to San Jose right away and I think we're going to be here for the next week. It 's kind of come at a good time when we're in San Jose for a long period of time.

Tough test for Turin; cap on the brain - ESPN around the rink.

[Update] Two updates on NCAA college hockey, the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine college hockey poll for December 12th, and the NCAA Hockey Report for December 12th. Visit the newstand from Inside College Hockey for more.


Stockton Thunder open new arena with a 4-0 win over the Phoenix Roadrunners

ECHL Stockton Thunder hockey

A photo gallery from the Stockton Thunder 4-0 win over the Phoenix Roadrunners to open the Stockton Arena on 12/10/2005.

ECHL Phoenix Roadrunners

There is a unique level of excitement when a community opens a new sports venue. Unlike a heated rivalry, or a hard fought playoff series, when the doors of an arena open, it often becomes the face of the city to the outside world.

The local Stockton Record paper published weeklong features building up to opening night. The Record chronicled the players meeting for the first time at Angelina's Restaurant, answered 15 questions for the non-hockey fan, posted the first of many Stockton Thunder weather reports, tried unsuccessfully to coax a guaranteed win out of captain Dean Stork and defenseman Geno Parrish, and posted an answer to the eternal question... Hockey, in Stockton? The day of the game, the Record featured a special 10 page section, with a full panorama photo of the arena ice on the front page.

Driving into the central valley, at first only a lone Sharks jersey was visible passing me on Interstate 5. Then a few people drove by wearing black and gold. Traffic slowed to a stop upon entering downtown, lighted crosswalks and street signs blinked in unison as crowds of people streamed by. The proverbial "buzz" was now the real life chatter, honking horns, and police whistles as hockey fans were herded into the right direction.

The inside of Stockton Arena is every bit as impressive as the waterfront exterior. It was built for hockey, with a lower bowl absent a single obstructed view seat, and two rows of luxury boxes with a gorgeous view from on top. Both Stockton Thunder goaltenders wore Mississippi Sea Wolves jerseys during the warmups and the first period as a gesture to the ECHL franchise that was closed this season due to damage from Hurricane Katrina.

The 10,117 fans who ensured an opening night sellout were treated to goals, and lots of them. Mike Lalonde and Tony Johnson [unassisted] each scored in the first period. Steve Slonina, Sharkspage MVP of the game, scored his 9th goal of the season in the second period, and added an unassisted shorthanded goal in the third [pictured above]. Play was decidedly tilted in Stockton's favor, with the fans roaring applause at almost any situation that took place on the ice. In the second period, the Phoenix Roadrunners struggled mightily to get a shot on net.

A fifth Stockton goal was called off when the refs determined a player had knocked the net off its moorings shortly before the puck went in. It was a harbinger of a delay to come, as play was stopped for 10 minutes for ice maintenance later in the third. When the final second ticked off, Thunder goaltender Jake Moreland was greeted by his teammates and a standing ovation.

Jake Moreland [3-4-1] made 22 saves on 22 shots to post a shutout for Stockton. Phoenix Roadrunners goaltender Mike Mole [3-4-1] made 28 saves on 32 shots. For more information, visit stocktonthunder.com.

I asked ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna what he thought of the inaugural 4-0 Stockton win, the fans, and the new Stockton Arena.

"The reception for the team by fans, civic leaders and the media has been outstanding. The facility is certainly one that the citizens of Stockton and the surrounding area can be proud of, and the Stockton Thunder is a welcome and positive addition to the Pacific Division and the ECHL."
- ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna

My list of Stockton Thunder firsts:

First sellout: 10,117. First faceoff: Nathan Martz of Stockton drew the puck to the sideboards against Mark Wires. First advertisement that made me laugh: 1st period brought to you by the World's Largest Inland Seaport [Stockton]. First homemade sign: Go Stockton Thunder! First penalty: Jason Metcalfe for Stockton. First 5-on-3 penalty: Ouellet and Deskins in the box for Phoenix at 5:33 in the 1st. First goal/First PP goal/First GW goal: Mike Lalonde for Stockton from Ziedins and Parrish at 7:51 in the 1st. First loud intermission song: Who let the Dogs Out. First wave: 6:45 in the 1st period. First play that made me stand out of my seat: Steve Slonina checked with his back up against the boards, drop passes the puck to himself around 2 Phoenix players. First taunt: "Hey (blank), Your skate is untied." First home win: 4-0 over the Phoenix Roadrunners.

[Update] Box score - ECHL.com.

Stockton's new arena cheered in its debut - Sacramento Bee.

Stockton scores; For hockey fans, the wait was worth it - Stockton Record.

More than 10,000 people Saturday downed beer and peanuts at Stockton Arena -- a building where construction crews for more than 18 months piled up hundreds of tons of concrete and 1.3 million tons of reinforcing steel.

The city labored through a wet winter, battled its contractor, then reached a deal that delayed a payment dispute and caused the $65 million arena to open Saturday, two months after it was scheduled to be finished.

On Saturday, no one cared.

[Update2] The Sharks powered to a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. Jonathan Cheechoo had 2 goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and 3 assists, and Nils Ekman contributed a goal. The winning streak stands at five games.

One odd note, the Sharks have not sold out a home game after trading Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau for Joe Thornton on November 30th. With a HP Pavilion maximum capacity of 17,496, the three San Jose home games since the trade have seen 15,812, 16,007, and 17,241 fans attend. Seven out of the next ten Sharks games are at home, and seven home games have sold out earlier in the season.

[Update3] In the Thunder-Roadrunners encore on Sunday, the Phoenix Roadrunners scored late in the 3rd period to win 4-3 over the Stockton Thunder.

[Note] On the horizon, the 2006 World Junior Championships live from Vancouver, British Columbia starting December 26th, and the ECHL Allstar Game and Skills Competition January 24-25th in Fresno, California.


Hockey Notes - Goalie Day edition

Hockey photos France

- Thanks for hanging in there with this post, could not squeeze it in under the wire after transcribing an audio interview yesterday. Other posts on the first inaugural "Goalie Day" on Sharkspage: Interview with Sharks goaltending prospect Jamie Holden, Scouting Reports - Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa Toskala and Michael Garnett, and 5 Christmas gift suggestions for your favorite goaltender.

- Early Vezina speculation:

1. Marty Turco [DAL] 16
2. Dominik Hasek [OTT] 15
3t. Tomas Vokoun [NSH] 15
3t. Miikka Kiprusoff [CAL] 15

Goals Against Average:
1. Manny Fernandex [MIN] 1.94
2. Dominik Hasek [OTT] 1.99
3. Henrik Lundqvist [NYR] 2.07

Save Percentage:
1. Manny Fernandex [MIN] .934
2. Dominik Hasek [OTT] .932
3. Dwanye Roloson [MIN] .929

Setting a record pace with the Ottawa Senators at age 40, Dominik Hasek has to be considered the lead contender for postseason honors. Manny Fernandez is making a quiet push in Minnesota. Henrik Lundqvist and Jason Labarbera could be considered dark horse candidates for rookie of the year.

Joe Tasca agrees that Hasek is the best in the game:

Hasek's one of those guys who makes you feel comfortable late in the game when you have a one-goal lead. He follows the puck in traffic, makes ALL the routine saves, and adds a few of the spectacular variety for good measure.

Tom Benjamin votes for Miikka Kiprusoff:

If I had to vote right now, I give the Vezina to Kiprusoff. I've seen Cujo have a couple of terrific games and from all reports he's been that way all season.

- New NHL rules as demonstrated using EA sports NHL 2006. Recommended: New trapezoid goalie restrictions.

- A Brief History of the Goalie Mask - Goaliepro.com.

- The Stockton Thunder host their inaugural ECHL home game tonight after finishing construction on the new Stockton Arena.

The Stockton Thunder will host the Phoenix RoadRunners this Saturday, December 10th at 7:30 pm for the first time ever in the brand new Stockton Arena.

Opening Night, presented by Jackson Rancheria, Food 4 Less, Coors Light, Zamora Automotive Group, KAT Country and News10, will be the first sports contest ever played inside the new Stockton Arena and is expected to be a sellout.

Numerous dignitaries from the City of Stockton and the ECHL anticipated to be in attendance, including ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna.

- Top 5 team goaltending during NHL shootouts according to Bob Duff of MSNBC: Ottawa, Florida, New Jersey, Dallas, and Tampa Bay.

- Latest Forbes NHL financial evaluation numbers. Only limited data is available online, you need the November issue for the full article. Top valuation? Toronto Maple Leafs 325 million. Lowest? Carolina Hurricanes 65 million.

- An article from Goaltending instructor Rick Heinz, who has several goaltending schools available throughout the year in San Jose, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles and San Diego. Information on regular, advanced, elite circuit training, and super elite training sessions can be found here.

Mathematics and Goaltending.

The best positional play for a goaltender is made up of the proper angle, the distance or depth and body position relative to the net and puck. Knowing where to stand in the crease during the play is the most important ingredient in goaltending. There is no other way of providing the best net coverage, depth of position and stance than being in the right angle.

The angle for a goalie is the position of the goalie in relation to the puck and the net. The goalie has to be centered or square to the puck and in the right stance and this will give the best net coverage possible. The distance or depth to the puck is the next consideration. Being in the right angle is important but knowing at what depth or distance to stand between the puck and the net is the key ingredient in playing angles.

How do you determine this depth? There are 3 ways: 1) location of the puck, 2) position of opposing players, 3) where your defense is positioned.

I am sure that you have heard coaches preach to goaltenders to challenge out as far as you can. This is correct in some cases but what must also be considered is the type of scenario that exists on the ice at the time: where all players are standing and who are threats to score. If the puck is at the point and the goalie challenges way out to cut down the angle, this is all good and fine as long as there are no other opposing players either to the side or back of the goalie. A goalie must quickly look around and analyze the situation, noting where all players on the ice are positioned before determining where to stand. This enables the goalie to adapt to several ways opposing players can try to score, and not just the one way of shooting from the point. It also allows the goalie to be in position for rebounds and other types of broken plays which happen all the time. That's why a goalie has to know where all players on the ice are at all times, because this determines how the goalie plays the angle, how far to challenge, where to stand , type of save to use and other possible scoring threats or possibilities.

The importance of good angle play for a goaltender the and the value it brings to successful play cannot be understated. Being strong positionally is just as important as having good fundamentals and quick reflexes. Don't just sit back in the net for fear of straying to far and being caught out of position. Study the game, learn where players are on the ice and study different types of scoring opportunities. Take it upon yourself to become a smart goaltender.

Thank you very much for sending that in. Rick Heinz also has a video titled "Smart Goaltending" available at www.rickheinz.com. Send me an email when you are in San Jose.

- Excellent article on goaliestore.com messageboard contributor Steve McKichan, now a Goaltending Coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs: Maple Leafs New Goaltending Coach Has Advice From The Pros.

All pro goaltenders do things really well as you would imagine but clearly they all have areas of weakness or more accurately areas the need to improve on. The fact that they are getting paid to play doesn't mean they have the position perfected. This applies to the guys on their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the guys trying to get their first taste of the Big Leagues.

Each individual goaltender in our system would have specific areas to address but all goaltenders need to work on three core areas. Even goaltenders still playing in youth leagues or in the recreation leagues can benefit from some of these ideas.

McKichan explains how goaltenders "connect the dots" to read where a play is going before the puck gets there. In another article for Future Pro Goaltending School, Steve McKichan discusses three core areas that all goaltenders should work on:

1. Rebound control - In practice and games all shots on net can cause rebound control issues. The best in the business focus on this area every practice trying to maintain puck possession on every shot or at least direct the pucks out of danger to the corner.

2. Movement drills - Getting where you need to be early enough means you will be able to stop over 90% of the shots you face. This requires that you have to be a great skater. All the Leaf goalies spend daily time skating around their crease working on shuffling, challenging, retreating, transition movements and sliding butterflies.

3. Puckhandling - Advanced goalies must be able to shoot and pass the puck intelligently so their team keeps possession of the puck. We spend a lot of time working on this area in practice and during video study.

A lot more on puckhandling for goaltenders here. That is a must-read thread if that is an area you want to improve on.

- Youth & Adult Hockey Goaltending Clinic from the San Jose Sharks [word document]. Date: Saturday, February 4, 2:30-4pm @ HP Pavilion. Cost: $125.00. Details: 90 minutes of on-ice instruction at HP Pavilion, Clinic Jersey, One (1) ticket to Sharks v. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim game.

- Evolution of Protection in Pro Sports - Sports Illustrated.

- 2 quick tips for amatuer goaltenders from Wayne Anderson, Director of the Huron Roller Hockey School. Keep your stick on the ice, and stay in net as long as possible.

- Rajah Kumar runs the excellent website hockeyinformer.com. Of particular interest to me, and other fantasy hockey enthusiasts, is his section on which goaltenders are going to get the start on a certain day. His year-to-date prediction ratio is 761/844 for 90.2%. My year-to-date ratio is trying to keep its head above 20%. I asked Rajah how he does it.

I basically got started because I felt that there wasn't enough coverage on fantasy hockey unlike the other major sports. And playing fantasy hockey myself for a few years, I know how important it is getting valuable goalie information. So that's my primary purpose of Hockeyinformer.com - to get the goalie news and updates and focus on the player notes on a secondary level... beacause let's face it, you can get that anywhere.

As for the readers, they are of a great help. Every day, I'll get at least a couple of emails updating me with information that is not otherwise available (like from radio shows, local TV, etc.). It's unfortunate though that I also have a full-time job so often I won't get home until games have already started. I basically wake up at 6 in the morning to start reading the papers, update for a couple of hours, go to work, try to sneak in an update or two during my break and then come home and see if I can update further.

- In the latest issue of Goalie's World Magazine: Style analysis Dominik Hasek, interview with the Dominator, 20 page playbook on the unique style of Hasek, and an editorial on what goalie coaches can learn from the Dominator.

- Preliminary NHL rankings for the 2006 entry draft:

OHL Goaltenders 1. Ryan Daniels, Saginaw; 2. Bryan Pitton, Brampton; 3. Jason Guy, Guelph; 4. Parker Van Buskirk, Sarnia; 5. Neil Conway, Owen Sound.

QMJHL Goaltenders 1. Jonathan Bernier, Lewiston; 2. Jean Blanchard, Moncton; 3. Bobby Nadeau, Val d'Or; 4. Michael Dupont, Baie Comeau; 5. Travis Fullerton, Lewiston.

WHL Goaltenders 1. Leland Irving, Everett; 2. Kevin Armstrong, Saskatoon; 3. Kris Lazaruk, Kootenay; 4. Gavin McHale, Seattle; 5. Dustin Butler, Portland.

NCAA Goaltenders 1. Billy Sauer, Michigan; 2. Jeff Zatkoff, Miami; 3. Mark Dekanich, Colgate.

Czech Republic Goaltenders: 1. Michal Neuwirth, Sparta; 2. Lukas Cikanek, Kladno; 3. Miroslav Broz, Slavia; 4. Jakub Lev, Kladno.

Finnish Goaltenders: 1. Riku Helenius, Ilves; 2. Niko Hovinen, Jokerit; 3. Mikko Tolvanen, HPK.

Russian Goaltenders: 1. Semen Varlamov; Yaroslavl 2; 2. Ruslan Guriev, Spartak.

Slovakian Goaltenders: 1. Branislav Konrad, Nitra, 2. Marek Simko, Zvolen; 3. Vladimir Kovac, Trencin.

Swedish Goaltenders: 1. Jhonas Enroth, Sodertalje, 2. David Rautio, Lulea; 3. Stefan Ridderwall, Djurgarden; 4. Joel Gistedt, Frolunda; 5. Pontus Hansson, Frolunda.

Swiss Goaltenders: 1. Reto Berra, Zurich; 2. Raffael Walter, Zug; 3. Leonardo Genoni, GCK Lions.

German Goaltenders: Josef Mayer, Landshut; 2. Sebastian Staudt, Krefeld.

Denmark Goaltender: Simon Nielsen, Herning.

Arturs Irbe Latvia hockey

- More from Latvia on Arturs Irbe. Irbe is playing for the Latvian team HC Riga 2000. Photos available here. Last year Darby Hendrickson and Sergei Zholtok both played for HC Riga, with Zholtok later passing away after a heart attack. Former Sharks Arturs Irbe and Andrei Zyuzin were both friends of Zholtok.

Irbe is now involved with kidsfirstfund.org, a Latvian charity for abused and abandoned children. More on hockey in Latvia, which will host the World Championships this year, is available on hockey.lv.

- December 9th next year, Goalie Day #2. You have been warned.

[Update] How could I forget to include my list of top 10 goalie nicknames from last March:

1. Nikolai Khabibulin---"Bulin Wall" [aka "Habby"]
2. Arturs Irbe---"Like Wall"
3. John Vanbiesbrouck---"Beezer"
4. Andy Moog---"Moog" [not really a nickname]
5. Blaine Lacher---"The Lach Net Monster"
6. Scott Gordon---"Flash"
7. Jean-Sebastien Aubin---"Seabass"
8. Brian Hosler---"Hoss"
9. Derek Puppa---"Supa Puppa" [aka "Poops"]
10. Jean-Sebastien Giguere---"Jiggy" [aka "Vitamin G"]

Interview with Sharks goaltending prospect Jamie Holden

Goaltender Jamie Holden

Joe Tasca of Tasca's Take, Offwing and Offwing podcasting, passed along an audio interview he did earlier last month with Sharks goaltending prospect Jamie Holden.

Jamie Holden earned a 5-5-0 record and 3.26GAA in 10 games for the AHL Cleveland Barons this season. An earlier 3-0-0 run with a 1.62 goals against average and .952 save percentage earned Holden the AHL Player of the Week award in November. According to the Cleveland Barons, Holden also a set a franchise record with 5 consecutive wins. As a senior in 2004-05, Holden lead Quinnipiac University to an Atlantic Hockey conference regular-season title.

[Q] Can you tell us how you were signed by the Sharks? From what I understand you attended a Rookie Tournament. How did you get invited to play in the Tournament?

[JH] It started with my senior year at Quinnipiac. We played at Dartmouth at the start of the year, and we pulled out a win at 2-1. I played really well. Some of the scouts for San Jose had seen that game and started talking to Quinnipiac. They kept talking to them, and they kept interest in me throughout the year. The season ended and they started calling me. Quinnipiac sent them some game tapes and footage. They liked what they saw, and from that they invited me to the Rookie Tournament.

We played against rookie teams for Phoenix, Anaheim and Los Angeles, and I played pretty well. From that I got invited to their main camp. Did really well there I thought. They were pleased with how I played and they offered me a minor league contract.

[Q] It is nice to see young goaltenders taking advantage of the opportunities they get. With Cleveland goaltenders Nolan Schaefer and Dimitri Patzold filling in for the injured Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, did you have any extra pressure to perform in Cleveland?

[JH] No. It was kind of a shock to get that call. I expected to play a couple of months in the ECHL. When both goalies went down and I was told I had to play, it was a shock. There was definitely some nerves, but I just took the opportunity I had and did the best with it. Hopefully if I play well enough, that will make their decision to send me back down more difficult. That is the only thing I can control, how well I play. [Q] How difficult has it been to adjust to the level of play in the American Hockey League? Obviously the players are bigger and stronger, from a goaltenders perspective, how long did it take to adjust? Do you think you are prepared right now to play in the AHL full time if the opportunity presents itself?

[JH] The players are bigger and stronger and faster. They shoot better, they develop plays faster. They turn an innocent play into a scoring chance in a fraction of a second. It is definitely a step up from the ECHL, and the ECHL is a step up from college. It did take an adjustment to learn what systems teams are going to play and what they are looking for on the power play. They first game I was a little uncomfortable because you are not sure what to expect. I've got more comfortable with it. Every day in practice I have adjusted to the level of play out there. If the opportunity presented itself, I could battle for a spot here in the American Hockey League.

[Q] Professional hockey has undergone significant changes this season. The NHL in conjunction with the AHL has implemented several new rules changes to increase scoring, and the speed of the game. One byproduct is the fact that forechecking forwards are becoming a bit braver. Players seem to be crashing the crease with reckless abandon because of the restrictions on what defenseman can do on charging forwards. Have you noticed that as well?

[JH] I have definitely noticed that as well. Players are coming to the net hard and especially since the defenseman can't hold them up like they used to. They can't give them that extra whack up front. That is something the league has to look at. Players can come to the net hard, but they can't come to the net and go through a goalie. You can't have goalies sitting back there and getting injured, and having players not really respect the crease area. Goalies make saves and your legs are bent out there in some awkward positions. You get a 220 pound guy falling on you and you can injure a lot of groins, and a lot of knees. I think the league definitely has to protect the goalies.

[Q] I know this may hurt, but I have to ask you about the post game shootout. You won a game against Hershey stopping all 5 shooters you faced. But nevertheless, you are not used to them as a goalie. Is this the correct way to settle the games?

[JH] I am not really a fan of the shootout. Just because I don't like how 2 teams can battle for 65 minutes, and the entire team is involved. A shootout comes down to 2 goalies, and 5 players for each team. That does not really seem like a fair way to hand out points. That being said, the fans like it. It is exciting to watch. Ultimately as a professional athlete, you are in the entertainment business. If that is what the fans want to see, and they enjoy it, we have to deal with it.

[Q] Jamie, you collegiate career speaks for itself. As a Quinnipiac graduate, as a Bobcat, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few of your accomplishments. You have the school season record for wins, shutouts. You hold records for goals against average, and save percentage. And of course you lead the team to its first NCAA tournament appearance. You won 20 games last year. Looking back on your college career, what is one accomplishment you are most proud of on the ice?

[JH] I think the proudest moment for myself was when we won a championship my freshman year, and we got to represent the school and the conference in the NCAA tournament. For me, that was a great season, and that just capped it off to go to the tournament. To be up there among the nation's best college hockey teams, that was exciting. And that was probably my favorite moment to look back on.

Download the interview audio file here. Photos of Sharks training camp scrimmages are available here and here.

5 Christmas gift suggestions for your favorite goaltender

Jose Theodore - 2003 Heritage Classic ©Photofile

If you are a goalie who wants something different for Christmas, a goaltending equipment manufacturer who is selling something different for Christmas, or Santa, feel free to add to this list.

1. Shiny new pads. More here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. This should be suggestions 1-5.

2. It may be expensive, but a new paint job for a goalie mask is worth its weight in gold. More custom mask designs here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and last but certainly not least, Bishop Custom Designs.

3. There are any number of Hockey Books available, but putting together a book of photos of your favorite goalie is easy and not that expensive with mypublisher.com. If you want to use a wedding book manufacturer to make your goaltending photo book, go for it, but make sure to buy me an extra copy because you obviously like to light cash on fire in your spare time. hockey books

4. Goaltending Equipment manufacturer apparel: RBK Hockey, TPS Hockey, and Nike Hockey are three options. What is up with all the hockey flash websites? Yes, making it impossible to link to your product, a 50/50 shot on whether the page will load, and navigation options that seem to be arbitrary are great ways to generate business.

5. My favorite suggestion is also the least expensive option, a poster or print of an NHL goaltender. Martin Brodeur, Nikolai Khabibulin, Evgeni Nabokov, Ed Belfour, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Dominik Hasek are the usual favorites among current goalies, Tony Esposito, John Davidson, and Bernie Parent are a few of the classic photos available. Whoever programs that site must be from Vancouver, they have Dan Cloutier listed as a member of the Hall of Fame.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

[Update] Christy Hammon and Heather Creegan have more ideas.

Scouting Reports - Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa Toskala and Michael Garnett

Evgeni Nabokov

#20 Evgeni Nabokov
San Jose Sharks
6-0, 205 pounds
Catches: Left

2005-06 Regular Season:
18 GP [5-7-0]
Minutes: 1024
GAA: 3.11
SV%: .877
Shutouts: 0

Summary: After starting the preseason 7-0, expectations were high for the San Jose Sharks and Evgeni Nabokov. An up and down start to the regular season culminated in a shoulder injury that forced Nabokov to miss 8 games. Rookie goaltender Nolan Schaefer filled in with a 5-1 record in relief, but Nabokov came back to lose the next 8 games, 3 in OT, 7 by one goal. Nabokov re-injured his groin making a highlight post-to-post save against Buffalo December 2nd. Rookie Nolan Schaefer entered in relief to preserve the shutout.

Strengths/Weaknesses: Confidence and a world class glove hand are an integral part of Nabokov's game. Evgeni is extremely quick going down to block a shot, and rebounding back into a standing position. Nabokov's anticipation and superb reflexes make him a dominate NHL goaltender when he is on. A higher ratio of saves to blocked shots compared to other goaltenders requires more focus and offer him a lesser margin for error. Aggressive when challenging the shooter from the top of the crease, Nabokov occasionally overplays the puck when trying to make a save.

All-time San Jose Sharks leader in games played, minutes played, wins, ties and shutouts. 2.54GAA with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Super League in 2004-05 during the NHL lockout. 31 wins, 9 shutouts, and Western Conference Finals appearance for 2003-04 San Jose Sharks. Third season with 30 wins or more. Scored a PP EN goal against Vancouver on March 10, 2002. 32-21-7 record, 2.19GAA, .917sv% for 2001-02 San Jose Sharks, finished 4th in Vezina Trophy voting. 2000-01 Calder Memorial Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year, NHL all-rookie team, NHL allstar. 1999-2000, shutout the Colorado Avalanche with 39 saves for a 0-0 tie in his first NHL start.

Vesa Toskala

#35 Vesa Toskala
San Jose Sharks
5-10, 195 pounds
Catches: Left

2005-06 Regular Season:
7 GP [2-4-0]
Minutes: 321
GAA: 4.49
SV%: .834
Shutouts: 0

Summary: Vesa Toskala started the season with 3 losses, but has finished with 3 wins in his last 4 games. Toskala injured his groin October 26th against Dallas. Returning to play November 8th against the Avalanche, Toskala re-injured it and drew a reprimand from the coach for returning too early. Vesa Toskala earned his first win, with 24 saves in a 5-4 victory against the Maple Leafs.

Strengths/Weaknesses: A combination goaltender, when on the top of his game Vesa Toskala is extremely patient and forces the shooter to make the first move before committing to a shot. When down, Toskala blocks a large portion of the crease with his pads. When standing, the 5-foot-10 Toskala crouches and reduces his coverage of the net. Toskala uses solid positioning, and an ability to find the puck through traffic to consistently put himself in the right spot to make a save. Still unproven in the postseason.

2005, helped Ilves Tampere reach the quarterfinals of the SM Liiga playoffs during the NHL lockout. 12-8-4 record, .930sv%, and 2.06GAA for the 2003-04 San Jose Sharks. Backup to Miikka Kiprusoff in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. 15-30-2 record, 3.21GAA for the 2002-03 AHL Cleveland Barons. 2000-01 AHL all-rookie team. 1998-99, 21-12-0 record for Ilves Tampere in the Finnish SM-Liiga.

Michael Garnett

#35 Michael Garnett
Atlanta Thrashers
6-1, 200 pounds
Catches: Left

2005-06 Regular Season:
13 GP [3-7-0]
Minutes: 674
GAA: 4.09
SV%: .861
Shutouts: 0

Summary: The story of Atlanta Thrashers can be gleaned with a brief look at the goaltender injury log this season; K. Lehtonen - injured reserve groin, M. Dunham - injured reserve groin, S. Shields - injured reserve knee. Adam Berkhoel has struggled in net with a 4.08GAA, and 2-4 record in relief. Former Senators and Pathers goaltender Jani Hurme is making a comeback with the AHL Chicago Wolves after missing two seasons with injuries. Michael Garnett is in the midst of a 5 game losing streak, including a 4-3 overtime loss to Carolina on November 29th.

Strengths/Weaknesses: Garnett uses his size to his advantage, he has a quick glove hand and reacts well to shots from outside. His stickhandling, and aggressive play of the puck is a strength. Garnett does not always square himself to the shooter, and his puck awareness is sometimes questionable when he goes down to block a shot.

11-9-0 record, 2.86GAA, .911sv% for the AHL Chicago Wolves in 2004-05. 4 shutouts, 2.14GAA, .926sv% for the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators in 2004-05. Posted 2-1-0 record and a 3.39 GAA in three games with Thrashers squad at Traverse City (Mich.) Prospect Evaluation Tournament held from Sept. 5-9, 2002-03. 2000-01, member of the WHL All-Rookie Team.

- Above are three scouting reports for three of the last four goaltenders to play at HP Pavilion in San Jose. The fourth, Florida Panther's backup goalie Jamie McLennan, was recently featured in a segment on TSN; A Day in the Life of a Backup Goaltender. TSN takes an in-depth look into McLennan's role in the development of Roberto Luongo. Looks good, until McLennan drives over Luongo with a Zamboni.

[Update] Second opinion on a scouting report of Evgeni Nabokov from Darren Eliot during the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Darren Eliot was a television analyst during the Sharks-Thrashers game on OLN. In addition to being a color analyst for Thrashers games, and writing for SI.com and NHL.com, Eliot is also Director of Community Sports Programming for the Atlanta Spirit.

[Update2] Sample monthly and draft specific scouting reports are available from internationalscouting.com. Red Line's latest report for USA Today notes the lack of premiere prospects coming out of Europe this year. McKeen's Hockey has a feature on the consensus 2006 top draft pick, University of Minnesota center Phil Kessel.

December-January National and International hockey calender

National and International hockey calender dates for December and January.

[December 1, 2005] CHL Canada/Russia Challenge Regina, SK
[December 6-7, 2005] CJAHL Prospects Skills Competition & Game Yorkton, SK
[December 11-16, 2005] Canada's WJT Selection Camp Vancouver, BC
[December 11-18, 2005] IIHF World U20 Championship, Division II, Group A Bucharest, Romania
[December 11-17, 2005] IIHF World U20 Championship, Division I, Group A Bled, Slovenia
[December 12-18, 2005] IIHF World U20 Championship, Division I, Group B Ice Palace, Minsk, Belarus
[December 14-18, 2005] SWE U18-CZE U18 Sweden
[December 15-17, 2005] Avon Old Farms Christmas Hockey Classic Jennings Fairchild Rink, Avon Old Farms & The Kingswood-Oxford School
[December 15-17, 2005] Slovakia Cup, National teams Piestany, Slovakia
[December 15-18, 2005] Rosno Cup, Nationalteams Moscow, Russia
[December 17-23, 2005] Canada's WJT Pre-Competition Camp Chase, Kamloops, Kelowna, BC
[December 19, 2005] Team USA Olympic roster announced on OLN (DAL at MIN, 8 p.m., ET)
[December 21-22, 2005] Holiday Tournament at Providence Providence, RI
[December 22, 2005] Final Olympic rosters due (20 skaters, three goaltenders). Players injured after this date can be replaced until the final rosters must be registered with the Olympic Directorate in Turin 24 hours before the start of the tournament.
[December 26 - January 2, 2006] Viking Cup Camrose, AB
[December 26 - January 5, 2006] 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship Vancouver/Kelowna/Kamloops, BC
[December 26-28, 2005] Florida College Classic Estero, FL
[December 26-30, 2005] Jr. A Showcase Tournament Newmarket, ON
[December 28 - January 4, 2006] World U-17 Hockey Challenge Regina, Moose Jaw, SK
[December 29-30, 2005] Dodge Mariucci Classic Minneapolis, MN
[December 29-31, 2005] Edward G. Watkins Boys' Invitational Tournament Cushing Academy
[December 29-30, 2005] Great Lakes Invitational Detroit, MI
[December 29-30, 2005] Ohio Hockey Classic Columbus, OH
[December 29-30, 2005] Toyota UConn Hockey Classic University of Connecticut
[December 29 - January 4, 2006] World Under 17 Hockey Challenge Regina, SK
[December 30-31, 2005] Badger Showdown Kohl Center, Madison, WI
[December 30-31, 2005] TD Banknorth / Sheraton Catamount Cup University of Vermont
[December 30-31, 2005] Wells Fargo Denver Cup University of Denver

[January 3, 2006] Mid-Western Jr. B All-Star Game Stratford, ON
[January 3-9, 2006] IIHF World U20 Championship, Division III Kaunas, Lithuania
[January 5-8, 2006] IIHF European Championship Cup for Club teams St.Petersburg, Russia
[January 7, 2006] Hockey Day In Canada (CBC tripleheader, OTT at MTL, TOR at EDM, CGY at VAN)
[January 10-16, 2006] IIHF World U20 Championship, Division II, Group B Serbia&Montenegro
[January 12, 2006] Mark Messier Night (EDM at NYR)
[January 13-15, 2006] St. Andrew's College MacPherson Hockey Tournament Aurora, ON
[January 14, 2006] Debut of NHL on NBC (regional coverage, NYR at DET, COL at PHI, DAL at BOS)
[January 15, 2006] SJHL All-Star Game Humboldt, SK
[January 18, 2006] BCHL All-Star Game Salmon Arm, BC
[January 18, 2006] 2006 CHL Top Prospects Game (Corel Centre, Ottawa)
[January 19-22, 2006] NAHL Showcase Tournament Boardman, OH
[January 21-22, 2006] AJHL Prospects & All-Star Game Spruce Grove, AB
[January 24-25, 2006] ECHL Skills Competition & All-Star Game Fresno, CA
[January 27-28, 2006] MJHL Prospects & All-Star Game Winkler, MB
[January 28, 2006] Ron Francis Night (ATL at CAR)
[January 31 - February 1, 2006] OHL All-Star Game & Skills Competition Belleville, ON

Sources: IIHF, NHL, CSB.


San Jose Sharks re-assign goaltender Nolan Schaefer to the Cleveland Barons

Nolan Schaefer

A press release from the San Jose Sharks:


SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has reassigned goaltender Nolan Schaefer to the Cleveland Barons, the Sharks top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

In seven games with the Sharks, Schaefer posted a 5-1-0 record with a 1.88 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He was victorious in his first five appearances, becoming the first Shark to begin his career with five consecutive wins. Schaefer also posted his first career shutout in a 1-0 overtime win against Anaheim on Nov. 4.

The six-foot-two, 200-pound goaltender from Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan was originally selected by San Jose in the fifth round (166th overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

[Update] A new search box from Rollyo has been added to the NHL, Sharks, and Blog newspages to the right. Instead of a usual search across the entire web, this Rollyo box searches 25 sources for hockey news.

Included are Sharkspage, Offwing, JMirtle, Spectors, Proicehockey on About, Hockeys Future, USA Hockey, Hockey Canada, IIHF, Eurohockey.net, Inside College Hockey, US College Hockey Online, CHL.ca, NHLPA.com, Eishockey.org, Swehockey.se, Finhockey.fi, Russianprospects.com, Rushockey.com, NHL.com, TSN.ca, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News.

If you want this search box on the front page, let me know. A second option for searching the top 25 hockey blogs will be created shortly. Here is a Rollyo search for Nolan Schaefer, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.


OLN double header tonight, Islanders at St Louis, Thrashers at San Jose

Tonight is the first NHL double-header in OLN history.

At 5PM, the Islanders face St Louis at the Savvis Center. In the rubber match at 7:30PM, the Atlanta Thrashers travel to the HP Pavilion for Joe Thornton's San Jose Sharks home debut. The NHL Pregame Show starts at 4:30PM.

Visit olntv.com for more information.


USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll Released For Dec. 5-11

A press release from USAhockey.com:

Wisconsin Remains Unanimous No. 1 On USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups

Friday, December 9
No. 14 St. Lawrence @ No. 2 Miami (Ohio)
No. 8 Minnesota @ No. 4 North Dakota

Saturday, December 10
T-No. 15 Clarkson @ No. 2 Miami (Ohio)
No. 8 Minnesota @ No. 4 North Dakota

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Wisconsin held on to the No. 1 position on this week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll, claiming all 34 first-place votes for the second straight week. The Badgers swept then No. 4 Minnesota on the road last weekend to further solidify their claim to the top spot.

Miami (Ohio) University jumped six spots to No. 2 following a pair of victories against No. 6 University of Michigan, marking its highest position ever on the poll. Meanwhile, Clarkson University and Providence College are each making their poll debuts this week tied at No. 15.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 11th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the official publication of USA Hockey.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #10

(first-place votes in parentheses, Last Week, Record, Weeks in Top 15)

1. University of Wisconsin, 510 (34), 1, 13-1-2, 10
2. Miami (Ohio) University, 462, 8, 11-2-1, 6
3. University of Vermont, 444, 5, 11-3-1, 8
4. University of North Dakota, 356, 9, 10-5-1, 10
5. Colorado College, 334, 2, 12-5-1, 10
6. University of Michigan, 289, 3, 9-5-1, 10
7. Boston College, 288, 6, 7-4-1, 10
8. University of Minnesota, 283, 4, 7-5-4, 10
9. University of New Hampshire, 198, 10, 8-5-3, 10
T-10. University of Denver, 187, 15, 8-6-2, 10
T-10. University of Maine, 187, 7, 9-5-0, 10
12. Colgate University, 171, 13, 10-2-3, 3
13. Cornell University, 157, 11, 8-3-1, 10
14. St. Lawrence University, 104, 12, 11-5-0, 4
T-15. Clarkson University, 31, NR, 9-4-1, 1
T-15. Providence College, 31, NR, 8-6-1, 1

Others receiving votes: Harvard University, 20; University of Nebraska Omaha, 10; The Ohio State University, 10; Bemidji State University, 4; Boston University, 2; Mercyhurst College, 2.

Monday Hockey Notes

Gold Rush hockey tournament

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4 | Videos: coming soon

- With a 9-0 win over Berkeley in the Gold Rush Tournament final on Saturday night, San Jose State finished the semester undefeated [17-0-1]. Sean Scarbrough lead the Spartans with a hat trick while John Garcia, Alex Redmond and Ray Kellam each contributed a goal and an assist.

From SJSUhockey.com:

"This is the best start in club history, and this is by far the best team that San Jose State has had in my 15 years as the coach," SJSU head coach Ron Glasow said. "These guys have always found a way to win no matter what."

Berkeley's loss in the finale came after a 4-1 defeat over Washington earlier in the day. SJSU opened with a 6-3 win over the University of Washington on Friday, and Berkeley pummeled Palmer 14-1.

- The Sharks exciting come from behind 5-4 win over Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada has to be one of the feel good games of the year for San Jose. Shortly after the end of a 10 game losing streak, former Maple Leaf Alyn McCauley scored two goals and new Shark Joe Thornton contributed two assists to give San Jose their second straight win.

HNIC host Don Cherry comments on the Thornton to San Jose trade on Coach's Corner, and Ron MacLean discusses the Thornton trade among other topics on the Satellite Hotstove.

The Toronto Star audio archive page has clips from Ken Klee, Darcy Tucker, and head coach Patt Quinn discussing the loss. Another interesting statistic comes from a Toronto Star article noting the decline of NHL ratings on OLN, but the increase in ratings for regional broadcasts.

At the season's quarter pole, audiences are up 31 per cent on the regional networks, which is where most Americans get their hockey. Some of the ratings jumps are phenomenal: up 175 per cent in San Jose, 127 per cent in Minnesota, 125 per cent in Nashville. In fact, 17 of the 24 U.S. markets have shown increases.

Does "hockey mad" = 175%.

- The Hockey News has a feature where fans can email questions to one of several NHL players. Although the graphic features one Boston Bruin and one San Jose Shark, it is outdated. Joe Thornton, Scott Hannan, and Jonathan Cheechoo are participating from San Jose as well as Craig Conroy, Andrew Ference, Mike Cammalleri, Andrew Raycroft and Olaf Kolzig.

It would be a toss up what to ask. Does Jonathan Cheechoo think he has a shot at a 50 goal season in the new NHL, what did Joe Thornton think of Ray Bourque as a player, and who does Olaf Kolzig think will eventually replace him in net for Team Germany [Greiss, Ehlechner,Patzold...?].

- Excellent SJ/Cleveland prospect report is available from Max Giese here.

- Sunday you could have watched Behind the Glory Denis Rodman on Fox Sports, or you could have watched him play live with the Tijuana Dragons against the San Jose Skyrockets. Tijuana has a pretty nice website.

- Fox has launched their own sports blog service, with a contest among blog sportswriters to be a paid contributor to Foxsports.com. Kareem Mayan of reemer.com is involved with the effort, which bodes well for its success. Details to follow. Thanks to Offwing for the link.

- Video of Ottawa Senators head coach Bryan Murray unleashing a stream of expletives at Los Angeles color man Jim Fox is available from LetsgoKings.com. The Senators beat the Kings 5-1 in a game filled with several fights and penalties. Ottawa defenceman Zdeno Chara was suspended for a game, and Senators coach Bryan Murray was fined $10,000.

- From NHL.com:

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau, who led all scorers with six points (one goal, five assists) in three games, has been named the NHL's Offensive Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday, December 4. Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who backstopped the Predators to three consecutive victories, one by shootout, and recorded a 1.30 goals-against average and .952 save percentage, is the League's Defensive Player of the Week.

- Sound clips of game highlights and player interviews from SJsharks.com. Patrick Marleau, Kyle McLaren, Scott Thornton, and head coach Ron Wilson all comment on the Joe Thornton trade.

- What does Jon like to do when not posting on Sharkspage? Jon likes to drive fast, sometimes very fast (alt1) (alt2) [mov file]. Links courtesy of Kottke and JerryKindall.com.

[Update] My apologies for flubbing this twice, but a link to A. Sheldon's writeup of the 2-game Cal vs Stanford "Big Freeze" tournament has been added here.

Three local players are in the top 25 in ACHA D2 scoring: Sean Haq [10G, 35A] and Amir Moazeni [23G, 20A] for Berkeley, and Sean Scarbrough [23G, 15A] for San Jose State. Adam Dekeyral [#27, 19G, 13A] of San Jose State and Christopher Moulton [#31, 13G, 17A] of Berkeley are just outside of the top 25.


Marleau Next? Toronto Star trade rumor

Ken Campbell of the Toronto Star suggests that Patrick Marleau may be the next San Jose Shark on the trade block:

MARLEAU NEXT? There are a number of observers who believe the Joe Thornton trade was only the first of several planned by the San Jose Sharks this season. Now that they have a player who can be a dominant No. 1 centre but still in need on defence, speculation is that Patrick Marleau will be next to go.

One well-connected NHL executive is convinced the Sharks will trade Marleau to the Calgary Flames, who picked up Kristian Huselius yesterday from the Florida Panthers.

The deal would make sense for the Flames since they need a better No. 1 centre than Daymond Langkow and are loaded on defence with the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Roman Hamrlik, Andrew Ference, Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener, Jordan Leopold and Bryan Marchment.

Well connected NHL executive or not, this trade would make no sense. After trading Marco Sturm [tied for the San Jose Sharks scoring lead in 2002-03] and Brad Stuart [the Sharks leading scorer on the blueline], goals are at a premium for this historically low goal scoring franchise. There was a hole defensively after the departure of Mike Rathje, and it grew even bigger when Brad Stuart was traded, but San Jose has enough depth in the organization to weather the storm.

With three solid NHL goaltenders, Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa Toskala, and Nolan Schaefer, burning San Jose's most consistent regular season and playoff goal scorer would not be wise.

Mike Chen blogs about the same Marleau rumor coming from the Globe and Mail. That rumor is Daymond Langkow and a Calgary defenseman for Marleau. Mike is skeptical of the rumor, unless the Sharks struggles continue.

Analyzing the Thornton trade - Sports Illustrated.

Sharks CHL prospects update - Hockeys Future.

[Update] Final word on the Thornton trade for now goes to Jim Kelley of Sportsnet.ca, A good deal for both teams. Kelley weighs the plus and minuses and calls San Jose's acquisition comparable to the Edmonton Oilers signing Chris Pronger or the Philadelphia Flyers nabbing Peter Forsberg in the offseason.

Toskala and Clowe Recalled from the Cleveland Barons

A press release from the San Jose Sharks:


SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced that the club has recalled goaltender Vesa Toskala and forward Ryane Clowe from the Cleveland Barons, the Sharks top development affiliate in the American Hockey League. In addition, the club has placed forward Scott Parker on injured reserve, retroactive to the last game he played-Nov. 21 at Edmonton.

Toskala was assigned to the Barons on a conditioning stint on Dec. 1 while recovering from a groin injury suffered on Nov. 8 at Colorado (placed on injured reserve following that game). He appeared in one game for Cleveland, stopping all 16 shots he faced, taking the loss in a shootout vs. San Antonio on Dec. 1 despite the game ending in a 0-0 tie after regulation and overtime. With the Sharks, the 28-year-old Toskala has appeared in five games and has a 5.05 goals-against average.

The five-foot-ten, 195-pound goaltender from Tampere, Finland was originally selected in the fourth round (90th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

Clowe has posted six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in three games with the Barons after being assigned to Cleveland on Nov. 20. He began the season with San Jose, making his NHL debut on Oct. 5 at Nashville, and posted two assists and nine penalty minutes, along with a +1 rating in 15 games with the Sharks.

The six-foot-two, 225-pound native of St. John's Newfoundland, was originally selected by San Jose in the sixth round (175th overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Last season, he led the Barons in goals (27, assists (35), points (62) and plus/minus (+19) en route to being named the team's most valuable player.

This is the second stint on the injured reserve list for Scott Parker, a six-foot-five, 225-pound forward who has played in just one game this season (Nov. 21 at Edmonton) while recovering from a training camp injury.


Liveblogging San Jose vs Buffalo - and the Joe Thornton trade aftermath

- More on Nabokov's injury in the third period, and the split goaltending shutout by Nabokov and Schaefer from SJsharks.com.

The split goaltending duties came when Nabokov tweaked his groin in the third period. He is questionable for Toronto.

- Ross McKeon of the SF Chronicle claims that Joe Thornton is the Sharks first legitimate superstar in the prime of his career. That is a very bold statement, but one that I think is not accurate. Joe Thornton does not become the best player to put on San Jose Sharks teal until he scores goal #45 or brings San Jose its first Stanley Cup Championship.

Until that time, that title belongs to Owen Nolan in my small corner of the hockey blogosphere. But I can be bribed. Email from Pat: "Patrick Marleau?".

Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Rob Davison... my statement above is open ended.

- Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tim Panaccio quotes former Sharks defenseman Mike Rathje on the Joe Thornton trade.

"I don't really understand the trade," said Flyers defenseman Mike Rathje, who played in San Jose. "San Jose gave up a lot. Here's a kid (Stuart) who can play 20 to 25 minutes and can play power play and penalty-kill."

- Game over. 10 game losing streak over. San Jose Sharks down the Buffalo Sabres 5-0. Joe Thornton was named player of the game with 2 assists.

- According to the Buffalo radio broadcast, the Sabres have never been shut out 5-0 at home. According to the Sharks FSBA telecast, the Sharks have never taken a point with a win or a tie in Buffalo.

- Nabokov out middle of the third period, Nolan Schaefer comes in as a replacement. More soon.

- Sharks defenseman Doug Murray, in his first NHL game, and Buffalo center Chris Thorburn, just traded a pair of checks. During training camp and a few practices, you noticed Murray by the sound of people being crushed to the ice. At 6,3 and 240 pounds, Murray has a lot working for him in the force = mass X acceleration equation.

More on Doug Murray from the San Jose Sharks 11/30 prospect report:

DOUG MURRAY: Earned first point of the season on 10/14/05 assisting on PP goal from former U of Cornell teammate Mike Iggulden…Suffered injury on 11/02/05…Returned on 11/11/05 @ Hamilton and registered an assist…Scored first goal of season on 11/25/05 @ Hamilton

- Martin Biron made a pair of saves on Joe and Scott Thornton. He is holding it close. Faceoff comparison halfway through the third period, Sharks 22-50 [44%], Buffalo 28-50 [58%.]

Alyn McCauley is 0 of 6, Marcel Goc 3 of 9, Patrick Marleau 5 of 8, and Joe Thornton is 13 of 22. Tim Connolly [8-14] and Chris Drury [9-18] are the best face off men for Buffalo.

- Katie gets my vote.

- Buffalo looks like they entered prevent offense mode. They are having trouble just getting out of their zone. Maxim Afinogenov takes another penalty for the Sabres, Sharks power play with 15 minutes left in the period.

- 2nd intermission, Sharks lead 5-0. Buffalo Sabres have 17 total shots on goal, San Jose Sharks 19. Biron has only faced 2 shots in the second half of the first period, and 5 in the second. Buffalo color analyst says the Sabres have no illusions about coming back to win this game. If I was in the lockerroom and I hear that statement, someone is going to get a fighting major in the third. Or two.

Buffalo has five consecutive victories, and achived 17 of the last possible 18 points. Barry Melrose labeled the Sabres the hottest team in the NHL.

One of the big reasons for the Sabres' success is their power play -- they have the fourth-best in the league (21.7 percent). Another reason is their high level of skating, a big plus in the new NHL. Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Ales Kotalik and Tim Connolly are just some of the great skaters.

The team is also stable. It has a good mix of veterans and youngsters. The Sabres also are winning without a 100-percent lineup (Briere and J.P. Dumont are battling injuries), so there is the potential for them to be even better. Scary thought.

Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell is in the building, probably not for Buffalo. I have to wonder if Nabokov has lost his "untouchable" status, but Waddell could just be scouting the Sharks for Thrashers game in San Jose Tuesday. The Thrashers play in Buffalo December 30th.

Evgeni Nabokov made 3 highlight saves in the second, one on a breakaway, a second on a scramble in front of the net, and a third sliding across the crease to rob a Sabre of a goal.

- Tom L from Sabre Rattling wrote this about the Buffalo defense yesterday after the win over Montreal.

- The Sabres special teams continue to bail them out of tight situations. Last night both the Power Play (Drury's highlight-reel roofer over Theodore's shoulder) and the Penalty Kill (1:45 long 5 on 3 that kept the game 2-1) played a major role in their getting to OT for Campbell's GWG.

- Our team defense is becoming scary. Tonight we limited the Canadiens to just 18 shots in regulation, that includes taking an uncharacterstic 7 minor penalties.

Buffalo broadcasters also mentioning how the Sharks and Sabres are two of the least penalized teams in the NHL.

- A tussle between Gaustad and newly called up defenseman Doug Murray. Sharks get an extra, looks like an instigator.

- Buffalo just had a 3-on-1 breakaway. Evgeni Nabokov stoned Maxim Afinogenov. Coverage of the game so far has been slanted heavily in favor of the Sharks, but the same goes for the action on the ice. Switching to the Buffalo WGR 550AM radio feed from the game thanks to NHL radio.

Is it just me, or does the red Buffalo jersey with the black spot and two crossed sabres look like they got the last costume left in the Halloween store? Sorry Buffalo Sabres, you have to dress as pirates this season.

- Sharks score on a 5-on-3 power play at 2:09 into the second period, 5-0 San Jose Sharks. Jonathan Cheechoo gets his ninth goal on the power play with assists by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

- A question from Allison in Boston, "Did Joe Thornton make the front page of the local paper?"

Thornton made the front page of the San Jose Mercury sports section. Rain beat him out for the front page. Rain, and any temperature below 60 is big news in San Jose.

- Another goal. 4-0 San Jose. The scoresheet is filling up quickly. Josh Langfeld with men on him, dishes a long pass to Niko Dimitrakos up high and right in the slot. Dimitrakos puts yet another one timer past Buffalo goaltender Noronen. Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff pulls Noronen, and Martin Biron is getting the call one night after Biron made 18 saves in a 3-2 OT win over the Montreal Canadiens.

- Stevenson gets the puck on a Buffalo turnover in their own zone. Stevenson passes it back to Milan Michalek in the middle of the slot, and Michalek one-timed it past Noronen. 3-0 San Jose. Still more than 10 minutes left in the first period.

- Joe Thornton drives wide right around #19 for Buffalo like he was standing still. Another Buffalo defenseman is too late to check him and Joe backhands a pass to Jonathan Cheechoo who fires one home. 2-0 San Jose.

- The puck has been in the Buffalo defensive zone most of the first five minutes of the game. A shot from the slot bounces off Mika Noronen to his right. Grant Stevenson collected the puck and fired a backhand up high for the first goal of the game. 1-0 Sharks. Announcers said it was Marleau, Michalek, Stevenson on a line, but I can't verify that.

- Joe Thornton hit the post 10 seconds into the game.

- San Jose Sharks coach Ron Wilson says Joe Thornton will skate on a line with his cousin Scott Thornton and winger Jonathan Cheechoo because he wants established players who will play hockey, instead of watching Joe skate with the puck.

- An example of the affect Joe Thornton will have on the local San Jose sports scene, take a look at this ticket offer from Soraya van Dillen of the San Jose Stealth NLL lacrosse team.

With our trade yesterday for NHL standout Joe Thornton, we have had many many people taking us up on our offer of free Sharks tickets with purchase of a Stealth season ticket Package. If you purchase season tickets, you will receive four FREE tickets to the December 6th game and see Joe Thornton's home debut here at the Shark Tank in San Jose. This date is expected to fill up extremely quickly and we only have a small window to offer the promotion for this specific game. For more information, call 408.999.5796

- If you are going to read one article today, read Ex-Sharks sink their teeth into fresh start by Amalie Benjamin in the Boston Globe. If you are going to read two articles, read that Boston Globe article and this Liveblog.

This quote by Marco Sturm is priceless:

"None of us are Joe Thornton," said Stuart, who played more minutes (23:45) than anyone not named Brian Leetch (26:55). "We're not going to pretend to be. He was, obviously, a big part of this team and a big part of this city. There's going to be a little bit of bitterness from certain people. I don't think that's anything for us to worry about. We're just going to go out and do what we do."

Or, in the simplicity of a laughing Sturm's assessment: "That's why they got three of us."

Sharks fan trapped in Boston, LDS, emails in about Sturm, Stuart, and Primeau's opening night with the original six Boston Bruins.

Preems started (opening faceoff) last night in Ottawa, and looked good. Same with Sturm and Stuart. Sturm on his first shift got a nifty goal off a feed from Brad Boyes (remember him?) while Stuart faked a slapshot, passing instead to Patrice Bergeron who netted a goal.

I hope Joe does us proud in his debut. He had a day off, whereas the former trio told sportcasters that they had 2-3 hours sleep (the sportscasters told the bruins tv audience this in the pregame show).

- Victor Chi notes on the Bay Area sports blog that the 1st round pick the Sharks received for Kozlov eventually turned into Brad Stuart, who was traded for 1997 1st round pick Joe Thornton, drafted just before Sharks overall 1997 1st round selection Patrick Marleau.

- Also Rans; Yesterday it was mentioned that exclusive negotiations between Boston and San Jose may have hurt the Bruins return for trading Joe Thornton. Today reports are coming out that there were a number of other trade discussions made prior to the trade.

The Toronto Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported that up to five teams were involved in talks with Boston, and that the original deal was supposed to be Sergei Samsonov for Brad Stuart. The Chicago Tribune mentions that the Blackhawks were interested but did not have a time to make an offer, and the Newsday reports NY Islanders GM Mike Milbury had discussions with Bruins GM Mike O'Connell and the Sharks GM Doug Wilson. TSN's Bob McKenzie notes that Thornton's no-trade clause does not travel with him to San Jose.

Lyle Richardson also speculates "Regarding the Blackhawks, one wonders if O'Connell didn't use them as a bargaining ploy to put pressure on Sharks GM Doug Wilson to swing the deal".

- Taking song suggestions for tonights game: Staying Alive, Hold On [Thornton's] Coming, Gone Daddy Gone, Hit That [Sabre], Unforgiven, [San Jose is] A Million Miles Away, The Man who sold the World [Doug Wilson], Boom Biddy Bye Bye [Sturm, Stuart and Primeau], Wonder Whats Next [by Chevelle], Just Dropped In, 99 Problems [and a goalie ain't one], Loser, Hard to Explain, and You Can't Blame the Youth.

That is all I got. It was hard not to include [Hell looks a lot like L.A.], but what can you do.

- The liveblogging shall commence at 5PM Pacific, midnight Copenhagen time. The Sharks vs Canucks liveblog from a few weeks back is here.

Interesting stat, after the first 13 games the San Jose Sharks were 7-5-1. After 24 games, the Sharks are 8-12-4 for last place in the Pacific Division.


News Roundup - hit parade edition

Brady Stuart

Time for one last post to round up the news articles covering the Joe Thornton trade. My three posts on the trade are here, here and here.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Deal should provide boost rest of way and that Three departing players were popular with team. One interesting footnote was left on a greaseboard in the Sharks locker room by departing center Wayne Primeau "Good luck boys, I will miss you guys, Preems".

Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle delivers the headline: Sharks shake it up with big trade, Tottering team deals 3 for Boston's Thornton. McKeon also notes the new salary landscape after the Sharks took on Joe Thornton's $6.67 million payroll.

Thornton will become the top-paid Shark, earning an average of $6.67 million for the remainder of this season and two more that follow. Stuart ($2.15m), Sturm ($2.05m) and Primeau ($1.125m) combined to average $5.325 million this season, meaning the Sharks are taking on approximately $1.34 million more in salary.

We're looking for people the right age who fit now and going forward," said Wilson, whose team payroll of just over $30 million is still well under the $39-million salary cap. "When players like that come available you have to do what you have to do."

Thornton traded to Sharks for three players - ESPN.

ESPN also takes a look at the performance of all the #1 overall draft picks since 1998 (Joe Thornton was #1 overall in 1997).

1998 -- Tampa Bay Lightning select Vincent Lecavalier
1999 -- Atlanta Thrashers select Patrik Stefan
2000 -- N.Y. Islanders select Rick DiPietro
2001 -- Atlanta Thrashers select Ilya Kovalchuk
2002 -- Columbus Blue Jackets select Rick Nash
2003 -- Pittsburgh Penguins select Marc-Andre Fleury
2004 -- Washington Capitals select Alexander Ovechkin
2005 -- Pittsburgh Penguins select Sidney Crosby

A great resource for a quick rundown of hockey news north of the border comes from the new blog from the Toronto Star, The Hockey Page. Good stuff, although it seems like most of the reporters unloaded all the dirt they had on Thornton as he heads West into hockey oblivion [from a journalists perspective].

Jackie McMullan of the Boston Globe drops the hammer on Super Joe on his way out:

Like it or not, Thornton's tainted legacy as he heads out West in exchange for defenseman Brad Stuart, winger Marco Sturm, and center Wayne Primeau is that in his final playoff series in a Boston Bruins uniform, he skated in seven games and came up with zero points.

Ouch. Two words that will send a chill down the spine of any true Boston Bruins fan, Ray Bourque. Need I say anymore? Ok, Colorado Avalanche.

Another Boston Globe columnist, Kevin Paul Dupont, opens with this:
Joe Thornton and California. That just seems to fit, doesn't it, dude? Joe Thornton and Boston. Somehow, it just never worked. Not the way anyone hoped, or expected.

Neither did Kevin Paul Dupont and a hockey article worth, uh nevermind. Dude where's my chowder?

Instead of looking at themselves, B's blame Joe - Terry Frei.

Their New World, post-CBA strategy seemed to be waiting for great free-agent players to fall into their lap because of a love for Dunkin' Donuts, Bobby Orr, the North End, Legal Seafood, the Green Line, Phil Esposito, Faneuil Hall, Ray Bourque and maybe even the wit and wisdom of Carla Tortelli.

It didn't happen, despite Mike Modano's angst-filled negotiations and flirtation.

Kukla's Korner posts about Bob McKenzie's shock value of the Thornton trade.

Bruins ship Thornton to Sharks in blockbuster four-player trade - National Post.

Bruins acquire Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau for Joe Thornton - BostonBruins.com.

"We felt we needed to shake up the team and sometimes you have to make some difficult decisions to better the team," said [Boston Bruins GM Mike] O'Connell. "We feel we received three players who can help us immediately. Brad Stuart is a top-four defenseman who is strong at both ends of the ice. Sturm is a proven scorer, a good two-way forward who is a terrific skater and Primeau is a solid, two-way player who has good size at the center position."

We Get to Buy the Whole Bridge? That's Wicked Awesome! - Puck Update.

From Heather Creegan:

I never thought I'd see the day when I was upset about Joe Thornton being escorted out of Boston. Hell, I never thought I'd see the day when Joe Thornton would BE escorted out of Boston. From the way everyone around here loves him, I just kind of figured he'd become an icon of Boston, like the Liberty Bell is to Philly or the Statue of Liberty is to New York.

Adam Proteau writes for the Hockey News, Thornton fed to the Sharks.

"I was blindsided," Thornton said late Wednesday night after learning of the trade, which was made days after Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs criticized the players for Boston's 8-13-5 record and last place standing among Northeast Division teams. "Obviously they believe in the coach (Mike Sullivan) and the GM (Mike O'Connell), and I'm next in line."

From Hockey Country, a take on the exclusive San Jose vs Boston trade discussions and how it may have hurt Boston's return.

Now, I've seen some defend the move to keep it low key and only deal with San Jose by saying that they needed to keep it quiet and involving many teams would've made that nearly impossible. My response: who cares? If you're committed to moving your captain, you're basically turning over your team, so what does it matter if the other players or even Thornton finds out it's going on? It might be a bit of a black eye on the franchise if that got out, but this is after all the Boston Bruins and Harry Sinden we're talking about. They don't exactly have a startling reputation for dealing with their players.

By dealing exclusively with San Jose, O'Connell limited his return. Based on what they got back, I assume that Doug Wilson, today's greatest NHL GM in the universe, told him there were two untouchables: Patrick Marleau and Scott Hannan, because I would think O'Connell would've tried to get either one to Boston in the swap. He didn't.

More Boston reaction from WEEI 850AM, Boston Sports Media, and Barry Melrose from Hockeydirt.com.

Offwing has a roundup of more Thornton trade opinion. Not surprisingly, his roundup is decidedly East Coast heavy. It is just more of the same hockey blog West Coast bias. You can't keep a good coast down. Do you feel me Vancouver?

Joe Tasca has more:

Reading the Globe this morning gives you an idea how despised Thornton was in the Boston media. Each article has a common these - Thornton wasn't a leader. What the hell does that mean anyway? What, exactly, is a leader? And how would the media know a damn thing about Thornton's leadership qualities (or lack thereof)?

The problem with Thornton is that he didn't say boo to the media. He avoided the shooting gallery after Game 7 against Montreal in 2004, and he's been shunning guys like Dupont this season. It's shameful how they're persecuted him today. I don't think Patrick Roy received this bad a beating in the French press ten years ago.

These articles all seem to talk about how Thornton never held himself or his teammates accountable. How the hell would they know? The problem is Thornton didn't hold himself accountable to the media. When you're captain, especially in Beantown, that's an obligation.

Also joining the Joe Thornton hit parade today? NESN play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards, ESPN analyst Scott Burnside, Karen Guregian, and Phil Stacey.

For a dissenting opinion, Sharks radio announcer and former Sharks forward Jamie Baker: Biggest Trade In Franchise History. Also read this companion piece I wrote on former San Jose GM Dean Lombardi.

Jeff Odgers and a 5th round pick for all-world defenseman Al "The Planet" Iafrate? That was a blockbuster trade for Bruins fans living in San Jose.

[Update] A press release from the San Jose Sharks:


SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced that the club has assigned goaltender Vesa Toskala to the Cleveland Barons, the Sharks top development affiliate in the American Hockey League, on a conditioning assignment.

Toskala re-aggravated a groin injury on Nov. 8 at Colorado and was placed on injured reserve the following day. In five games this season, the 28-year-old Toskala has appeared in five games and has a 5.05 goals-against average.

The five-foot-ten, 195-pound goaltender from Tampere, Finland was originally selected in the fourth round (90th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

To replace Toskala on the roster, the Sharks have recalled defenseman Doug Murray from Cleveland.

Murray is being called up to the Sharks for the first time in his career. He started the 2005-06 season as one of the alternate captains for Cleveland, appearing in 19 games and scoring a goal on seven assists for eight points with 35 PIM. Murray had the best season of his professional career last year with the Barons by scoring six goals and 17 assists (23 points) in 54 games.

The six-foot-three, 240 pound defenseman from Bromma, Sweden was selected by the Sharks in the eighth round (241st overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Murray played his college hockey at Cornell from 1999-03.

Murray is expected to join the Sharks in time for Friday night's game in Buffalo against the Sabres.

Doug Murray is huge, and plays the position like Ronnie Lott. Goaltender Vesa Toskala was activated and sent to Cleveland for a conditioning stint. So it begins...

5 Questions I would like to ask the Joe Thornton trade

If the Joe Thornton for Sturm-Stuart-Primeau trade was a person, and it took my call, here are the five questions I would like to ask:

[Q] Where will Joe Thornton fit in the San Jose Sharks lineup?

[JTT] The depth chart at center now stands at Thornton-Marleau-McCauley-Goc-Smith. Patrick Marleau has been the most effective forward on the power play, and rookie Marcel Goc has been very impressive at regular strength. There is more than enough depth down the middle to pair Marleau with Thornton on the top line, or spread them out on the top two.

[Q] Does the team who gets the best player win, or is 3 quality players better than 1?

[JTT] It depends on the success each team has during the regular season, and if they qualify, the postseason. The San Jose Sharks [8-12-4] are 13th in the Western Conference, 9 points out of a playoff spot, and diving fast with a 10 game losing streak. The Boston Bruins [8-13-5] are last in the Northeast Division, but are only 10 points out at this stage in the season.

Marco Sturm is one of the fastest forwards in the league, creating an inordinate number of breakaways in the past. If he can up the ratio of breakaway conversions, a 30 goal season and an entertaining future in Boston is in the cards for the speedy German. Brad Stuart, 4th overall in team scoring and leading all Sharks defenseman with 2 goals and 10 assists, developed into more of a defensive defenseman than he was projected to be at draft time. When the Boston media gets ahold of a few of his punishing hip checks, Bruins fans will realize what they gained in this trade. Wayne Primeau is a large forward who can fly down the ice.

Joe Thornton will be counted on to score enough goals to cover a few of the Sharks weaknesses while the team undergoes this midseason adjustment. Super Joe will need to run over people in front of the crease to create scoring chances for a struggling power play. He will need to score regularly in the postseason to make up for a tight defensive, but low scoring offensive San Jose team. And Thornton will need to get on at least one local commercial so the grade school kids can name 1 San Jose Shark player. After Nolan-Selanne-Ricci left, the Sharks have really lacked the star power needed to draw in more casual sports fans. I recommend SleepTrain mattresses. They advertise 5000 times a day on radio and TV.

[Q] Is this the last trade of the season for San Jose?

[JTT] No.

Starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who is an unrestricted free agent after this season, is struggling. Injured backup Vesa Toskala also underperformed. Rookie Nolan Schaefer came in and reeled off a 5-1 record in relief. When Toskala comes back from injury, San Jose will have three NHL-caliber goaltenders. One might have trade value enough to bring in the defensive help that the Sharks need.

Remember the Nabokov-Kiprusoff-Toskala logjam? Do you think each goalie got enough of a look in San Jose for the team to decide who should remain in their long term plans? Not only the Sharks should be evaluating these three goaltenders for the remainder of the season, the rest of the NHL should be taking a long look as well. Or at least Pittsburgh.

[Q] The Sharks lost three players to the trade [Sturm, Stuart, Primeau] but only had two players in reserve for the 4-1 loss to Dallas. Who is going to get called up?

[JTT] Niko Dimitrakos and defenseman Jim Fahey should be in the lineup instead of being healthy scratches. Scott Parker did not make the road trip with the team to recover from an injury. Six foot two, 215-pound left wing Ryan Clowe was sent down to Cleveland from San Jose on November 21st, and scored a goal and three assists in his next two games. Earlier callups Steve Bernier and defenseman Josh Gorges are also possibilities.

[Q] How do you spin this trade if you are the Bruins or the Sharks?

[JTT] For the Bruins, we got a top line left winger, a top two defenseman, and size and speed on our checking line. This fills holes, makes salary room for a future move, and gives us a shot to turn the season around. For the Sharks, we got Super Joe over every other team in the Western Conference. This is the biggest name traded in the NHL this season, and he went to our city just south of the city by the bay. Downtown San Jose built its new landmark City Hall, and got an allstar NHL power forward to go along with it. The Sharks might even listen to a local blogger and take a look at Niklas Hagman from Florida. But even if they don't, San Jose has the core they need to build a solid team around Thornton and Marleau.

Peace, out.

[Update] An email from Sharks fan K:

It is nice to see Sharkspage finally write about the Sharks again. I was about to rename it Sumopage in my bookmarks.

You better hold off on that, I spent the better part of an evening a few days ago scouring the Japanese blogs and papers for results on the latest Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament. Yokozuna Grand Champion Asashoryu won the Sunday finale to make it 7 Championships in a row, and a record 84 wins on the season.

In fact, now that you mention it, I am going to add links to the Japan Sumo Association and the 2006 US Sumo Open to the general sports links to the right.

Here is a photo just for you K.

[Update2] An email from GCJ:

"For the Bruins, we got a top line left winger, a top two defenseman, and size and speed on our checking line." What 2 top defensemen? Please read your post. And why was Nabby not the catalyst in this fiasco, and why did it happen throughout a game which totally threw all the guys off the focus point?

Brad Stuart. A few have labeled him the best defenseman on the Bruins, but with the blueline in Boston, there will be competition for that top pairing. A change of scenery gives Stuart a break from the lofty expectations held over him ever since his first day as a Shark. He will impress on the defensive side of the ice and Stuart will not be the lone option on the point for the power play.

The fact that Nabokov was not needed to push this trade through is a bonus for San Jose. The Sharks will eventually have 3 NHL-caliber goaltenders on the roster [Nabokov, Toskala, Schaefer]. Give one up for a puck moving defenseman? It is more than a possibility, it is just shy of absolute metaphysical certitude. With goaltenders dropping around the league like flys, Sharks GM Doug Wilson can sit back in his high chair like Stavro Blofeld, stroking his cat, and wait for the best deal to come to him.