The season hasn't started yet, and neither has my school year in earnest, which means I have more than enough time for long entries. Like this one.
Chicago Blackhawks. With the recent death of Bill Wirtz, it'll be interesting to see if the team passes out of Wirtz hands, and whether or not it'll have any great effect on the team. If the Hawks can get it together enough to be over .500, combining that with a TV deal that lets the home fans actually see the home games could have a galvanizing effect in the area. Bad news for Detroit fans who like to make the four-hour trip to see the games, but good news for those in the Chicago area who love their team and would like to see them rise again. Anyway, they have some extraordinarily skilled players like Martin Havlat, who just can't seem to stay healthy but when he is, he's a major scoring threat, they picked up Robert Lang, and two potential starting goalies in Nikolai Khabibulin and Patrick Lalime. Lalime had the top job in Ottawa a few years ago, and Twitchy Khabi can be really outstanding. Also, he was once addicted to caffeine--really truly addicted, not "I can't get going without some coffee in the morning!" addicted, which I find endlessly funny. Anyway, I really want the Blackhawks to start doing well. I don't know how I feel about them wanting to throw Patrick Kane in right away, but generally I'm biased and don't support putting draft picks in the NHL right away. And, hilariously, Jonathan Toews, their new favorite wunderkind (who is only about 20 days older than I am, too) broke his finger in his first NHL preseason game. I won't lie, I laughed A LOT.
Columbus Blue Jackets. Blech. Ok, did you know that this is supposed to be some type of Civil War-shout-out, the whole blue-jacket thing? I didn't, and I think they might get further with this analogy if their mascot wasn't a...an insect thing. Blue Jacket? Yellow jacket? What? I don't really care about Columbus, although they do have Sergei Fedorov in his declining years and Freddy Modin, who is legitimately excellent. They have Adam Foote, too. Man, I tell people Adam Foote is playing in Columbus and they're surprised he's even still in the NHL. Me too, frankly. The only real interest I have in Columbus is in ex-Senators goalie Martin Prusek who doesn't even play for their affiliate any more, he played in Russia for SKA St Petersburg for a year, and now has gone back to his native Czech to play for Vitkovice. So basically, I don't care about Columbus at ALL.
Detroit Red Wings. The perennial contender. I think Mike Ilitch may have sold his soul to the devil to keep such a good team together. Remember a few years ago when everyone was saying that the Wings were getting too old and couldn't compete any more? Suck it! They've come up with a well-rounded nucleus who keep producing, and they went three rounds in the playoffs last year. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Tomas Holmstrom are some of the best in the business right now, and just look at the defense. Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios. Done, thank you, goodbye. Not only is Nick Lidstrom one of the absolute best defensemen ever to play the game, Chris Chelios really HAS sold his soul to the devil. Have you seen the shape he's in? He's like the Chuck Norris of the NHL. Plus, they have Dominik Hasek in net, and I love Dominik Hasek. That is all.
Nashville Predators. Is there a team I hate more than Nashville? Philly, maybe. But not by a whole lot. It's a shame, because I like Radek Bonk, and...yeah, that's it. Although I'm looking at their roster and apparently they're carrying some goalie by the name of Dov Grumet-Morris in Milwaukee who's from Evanston, the wealthy part of the Chicago 'burbs. What? I like to see a Local Boy Makes Good story now and then! He can be the goalie on my All-Illinois Team. We don't have a goalie yet.
St. Louis Blues. I've always said that St Louis is where goalies go to die, and that is the only interesting thing about them. They have Manny Legace in net, and I like Manny, he was probably the best NHL backup out there when he was in Detroit. Unfortunately, he has...mental blocks, I'll say, which seem to get in the way of his being a first-stringer. Their other notable goalie is with their farm team, Marek Schwarz, who is shaping up to be a pretty decent kid and has put up some good numbers with Sparta in the Czech league, and Vancouver in the WHL. And, their motto this year is "Whatever It Takes," which makes for some interesting conjecture. What if it takes...a nuclear strike against LA? What if it takes a "cheesecake"-style calendar to break the luck of the team? Never mind, I would pay money NOT to see something like that and keep my eyesight intact, thanks.
Calgary Flames. I have a big blank where Calgary is because I just don't care. Blah blah blah Jarome Iginla blah blah blah nothing, blank space, blank space, I can't bring myself to care.
Colorado Avalanche. Boy, they've gone downhill lately, haven't they? Remember when Colorado was a guaranteed lock for the playoffs? I think Colorado suffers from a little too much Tyler Arnason, who is perversely one of my favorite players just because he is so terrible. And fat--and, ok, it says right in TSN's little player profile that he has issues with discipline on AND off the ice! Hilarity! Anyway, their goalies are funny, too--Jose Theodore, a walking STD farm who once dated Paris Hilton--really--and Peter Budaj, the Slovakian reject. Budaj is...well, he's a decent goalie, I'll give him that, but he's a strange person.
Edmonton Oilers. Oh, Edmonton, I have no qualms with Edmonton. Actually, I know very little about them, I only have name recognition with a lot of the players--Ales Hemsky, Fernando Pisani (awesome--how many hockey players do you know named Fernando?), Raffi Torres, Marty Reasoner, Joni Pitkanen, the list goes on.
Vancouver Canucks. Hey, Vancouver! I hope Vancouver does better this year than last, they have several players I really like, and in general they seem like a pretty classy and well-run hockey club. A lot of this is probably due to Markus Naslund and Trevor Linden, a couple of the most gentlemanly players to play the game. They've also got Henrik and Daniel Sedin, a great one-two punch and also lots of comic value in their twin-ness. And Ryan Kesler, who was born in my own hometown of Livonia, Michigan, how about that! They even have a token Slovak, Jozef Balej, in the system. I'm seeing that they just put him on waivers a couple days ago, but still--. I'd be proud to cheer for Vancouver, I'll say that.
Anaheim Ducks. Ok, hate, but also--seriously, ducks? Ducks? Who thought changing the name from the "Mighty Ducks" to just plain "Ducks" would improve matters? Have you seen a duck lately? They are not intimidating. They are goofy-looking. Fittingly, so are most of the Ducks. (*rimshot*) Blech. First of all, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere is my birthday twin and also a very good goalie in the bargain...it's the DUCKS. I can't get over that. I don't even want to get into it.
Dallas Stars. Dallas is another one of those teams I tend to forget exists until the Sens play them. Anyway, Mike Modano, another one of my Livonia guys, plays for them, and he is good for a whole lot of jokes all on his own--he is married to Willa Ford, for heaven's sake, Willa Ford, whose claim to fame is a really awful hit a few years ago called "I Wanna Be Bad." Shoot for the stars, Willa. Dallas isn't as bad as I think they sound to me, but I just...I keep forgetting they're there!
Los Angeles Kings. Boy, here is one of the most depressing teams in the league. What Dallas is to me, LA is to absolutely everyone else on the planet. Anyway, LA has several Slovaks, actually, Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus, and Lubomir Visnovsky. They also have one of my very favorite players, Tom Preissing, who played very well for the Sens last year and is from very close to my hometown. Anyway, Tom Preissing loves the camera--he LOVES it--and is a pretty funny guy, as well as a good hockey player, so I can forgive a lot from him. Unfortunately, he chose sunny L.A. over Ottawa, which is an actual good hockey city, so...well, Mr Preissing, you made your bed, now lie in it. (I'm just kidding. I could never hate Tom Preissing.)
Phoenix Coyotes. Ouch. Here is everything you need to know about Phoenix: They aren't very good. Whoever thought hockey would thrive in the desert needs to have his thinking license revoked. Now, I'm not going to say Phoenix is a black hole of suck, but...you know what, I am going to say it. Phoenix is a black hole of suck. The end.
San Jose Sharks. San Jose is pretty awesome. First of all, their arena is called "the Shark Tank," and the skaters skate out of a GIANT SHARK MOUTH. How awesome is that? Beyond awesome, that's how. They also have excellent announcers for their local feed--they are really, really good, and I wish they would cover other games just so more people would get the chance to listen to their informed, yet engaging commentary. But the team is really good, too! Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Evgeni Nabokov are all excellent, and they've got a whole host of other skilled position players. Anyway, Jeremy Roenick has "come out" of retirement to play for them, and was retired for a grand total of what, three months? JR is one of those players, like Brett Hull, who I wish would retire just so he can get to his true destiny in the broadcast booth. I'd listen to a JR-and-Brett-Hull broadcast, man! I can't think of anybody who wouldn't! I suppose JR deserves his 500 goal marker, and this will make a nice wind-up season for him if San Jose can stay at a high level of play and finish high in the standings.
Tomorrow: the East Coast!