Archive for the ‘Dave Lozo’s Bag Skate’ Category

This is one of Justin Bourne's cats. This is what July has done to us.

This is one of Justin Bourne’s cats. This is what July has done to us.

Mid-July. It’s the worst time of year for a sports fan. Let us count the ways.

1. Baseball, the only true sport during the heart of summer, takes three days off to play an All-Star Game no one wants to watch.  The spectacle includes the torture of American civilians, as Chris Berman screams the word BACK for three consecutive hours during the HR Derby.

2. Football is still seven weeks away.

3. Basketball is still…I don’t know. Whatever.

4. The oppressive heat of July is especially terrible for the sports fan, for the sports fan is generally overweight and out of shape, thus leaving him or her sweating through parts of their bodies no one else dare dreams.

5. Most importantly, the NHL season is in the desert of emptiness. The rush of free agency a week old, fans go into a painful detox, twitching in their beds as the signings of Harry Zolnierczyk and Benn Ferriero serve as the useless drug to treat the sweats and vomiting caused by NHL withdrawal. The new season is still more than two months away, and times are tough.

That pain hockey fans feel is felt even more by people who run hockey Web sites, as there is just simply nothing to write about these days. That’s why you see heated 11-hour Twitter debates about where to place a locker-room logo. It’s the hockey person’s way of dealing with withdrawal by lashing out at those they love.

Instead of being a hockey writer who waits around for stories to write about – the Olympics! – why not be a proactive hockey writer and write about the stories that aren’t true but you wish they were? That’s journalism, people. You can’t spell journalism without fiction.

So without further ado, although I do love ado, here are the five biggest hockey stories of the offseason that haven’t happened but I hope they do. Read the rest of this entry »

Jim Nill, who probably has a better understanding of what a hacker is than Jim Nill, has had a pretty good start to his career as Stars GM.

Jim Nill, who likely has a better understanding of what a hacker is than Tyler Seguin, has had a good start as Stars GM.

One of hockey journalism’s true follies is the immediate reaction to the first weekend of unrestricted free agency. Every writer is dying to tell you which teams won and which teams lost before the newly signed player has even put his apartment on the market. It’s foolish, embarrassing and hurts the reputation of the media as a whole.

That’s why today, I won’t give you the winners and losers of free agency.

Today, I will give you the winners, losers and SO MUCH MORE of free agency.

Look, I’m no better than anyone else. I have opinions. Some good, some bad, all pointless. To be honest, it’s the summer, and there’s less and less to write about, so let’s go just go into this fully aware that it’s silly and have fun with it.

So without further ado, here are free agency’s winners, shootout winners, ties, losers, blowout losers and healthy scratches after just three days. Read the rest of this entry »

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins - Game Four

How can a hockey season that’s only 48 games feel so long? You could swear the lockout happened years ago, but in reality, if you conceived a baby on the night the third lockout began (September 15), that baby has already slipped through the birth canal and into the world.

Unless, of course, that baby is Buster Bluth.

Well, the 48-game cash grab that is the 2013 season concluded Monday night with the Chicago Blackhawks winning their second Stanley Cup in four years. As is the case in any season, the end of the postseason signals the beginning of a rest and recovery period for everyone – players, coaches, fans, media, peanut vendors and agents. Head to the cottage, drive to the shore house, fire up the barbecue; it’s a well-deserved break everyone has earned.

Sadly, all they’ve earned after a 48-game season is a 48-hour break, and that’s not even a guarantee for everyone.

A season that starts late, ends late, and that means transactions that have been brewing for weeks and months are going to flood the hockey landscape like a wild river barreling through a dam held together with sticks and hockey tape.

It started over the weekend with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings for Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, a second-round pick and $500,000 in salary-cap relief, a deal that had been in the works for about a year. That deal is just the start of the avalanche of transactions coming down the pipeline.

The compliance buyout period starts Thursday; free agency begins July 5 and the swap meet that is the NHL Draft takes place Sunday in New Jersey. The salary cap will drop by about $8 million next season, so it all translates into what should be the most hectic offseason in the history of the league.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Well, sometimes I do. But not in this instance. All 30 NHL teams have at least one major decision to make this summer, and this will be my attempt to get you ready for it with guesswork – some of it educated – along with the occasional intelligent insight.

So here’s at least one person on each team to keep an eye on now that the season is over. Read the rest of this entry »

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three

Mention that Jonathan Toews is playing poorly in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and an angry mob of advanced statistics people will march on your home carrying charts and graphs. Mention that Jonathan Toews is playing well in the postseason by pointing toward his Corsi and Fenwick numbers, and old sportswriters will roll their eyes and ask if you pay rent while living in your mom’s basement.

Trying to determine why in the heck a player as good as Toews has one goal in 20 playoff games is about as difficult juggling chainsaws with your feet, only instead of feet, you have stumps smothered in baby oil.

During the regular season, Toews was so good at the sport of hockey that he finished fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy. On the strength of a career-best (pro-rated) 23 goals and 48 points in 47 contests and excellent defensive game that won him the Selke Trophy, the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks also received the third-most first-place votes for the Hart.

The Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy with 131.5 (again, pro-rated, obviously) points, which if you round up ties the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens for the most in a season. Sure, it happened over the course of 48 games so it doesn’t mean as much, but the Blackhawks put forth the NHL’s most dominant season in nearly four decades, and Toews was a major reason the Blackhawks brought hockey back the way Justin Timberlake brought sexy back in that neither brought anything back because it was already there. Read the rest of this entry »

Boston Bruins v Chicago Blackhawks

At the end of every speech made by every American politician today, you will hear a common refrain that has become something of a tick, a unique form of Tourette’s that only comes out when pandering to a large portion of the population – “God bless you, and God bless America.”

Allegedly, God has been hanging around this planet forever, sort of like Chris Chelios during the 2000s. America has only been in existence for about 240 years, but politicians have only recently become aware of the need for God to bless America and its citizens at the same time. Some say it originated with Ronald Reagan, others point to a speech from Richard Nixon, but it’s become commonplace over the past decade.

Of course, “God Bless You And God Bless America,” is goofy, but it’s also exclusionary. If you’re a representative from Missouri, and, in theory, you have God listening to your speech about why you think gay people shouldn’t be married in your state, why only ask Him to bless America? Why not Canada? What about some poorer countries that could really use a blessing? Or anyone who is dealing with hardship? “God bless you, and God bless anyone who paid to see Trouble With The Curve.”

Also, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t acknowledge the existence of an invisible man in the sky and doesn’t particularly care if others feel the same, that politician is choosing to ignore you. You’re not as important. You don’t get your own special nod and wink. Forget if you’re atheist – what if you worship Satan? Or perhaps you live by the code of The Highlanders. Where’s the acknowledgement of your existence? Why are you being excluded?

And now for the hockey segue.

The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will play at least four, but no more than seven, games starting Wednesday that will decide which team wins the Stanley Cup. This is not a unique occurrence. The Stanley Cup has existed in some form since 1892 and has been the NHL’s trophy of choice since 1926, the year the Montreal Canadiens drafted Chris Chelios.

Yet the 2013 Stanley Cup Final is somehow more special than any in recent memory, for it pits “Original Six” combatants, something that hasn’t happened since 1979.

“Original Six” is hockey’s version of “God Bless You And God Bless America.” Whenever a matchup occurs that involves the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, Blackhawks or Rangers, an involuntary reflex occurs that causes people to blurt out “This is an Original Six matchup.” That’s how the game is marketed on television, how it is framed by announcers.

Say what you want about the NHL’s marketing style – I hear that guy from that TV show that you don’t really watch is taking over the Twitter account for two hours on Friday – the fact that “Original Six” is something people parrot today speaks to the campaign’s power and reach. Read the rest of this entry »

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins - Game Three

Dave Lozo’s Bag Skate is a weekly feature that’s named as such because A) it’s kinda part mailbag, and B), like a bag skate, it’s very long. Unlike a bag skate, however, it is very enjoyable. Lozo worked for NHL.com for five years, three months, and 19 days (seriously), and finally left after getting his resumé to the point where he was qualified to write somewhere as prestigious as Backhand Shelf.

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For a better part of the past three seasons, David Krejci has been living something of a double life. The Boston Bruins center doesn’t have a secret second family back home in the Czech Republic, but he has been two different people on the ice.

The player most of us know is Regular Season David Krejci, the one who tends to disappear for extended stretches and has been somewhat disappointing since his 22-goal, 73-point season in 2008-09. He’s been known to not bring his best over the course of an 82-game season, and he has drawn criticism for that. He’s like your cool funny buddy who promises to be your wingman at the bar, only he spends half the time on the other side of the bar checking sports scores on the TV because his fantasy team is “really surging,” leaving you to drown in your own nervous sweat and boring chit chat.

If you’re looking for comparables for Regular Season David Krejci, his numbers are on par with Erik Cole, Michael Ryder and Mikko Koivu. During his 52-point campaign in 2009-10, he finished tied for 85th in scoring with Kyle Okposo and Saku Koivu. Those are average to above-average players with which Krejci is on par, but it hardly puts him in rarified air with the NHL’s elite.

Bruins coach Claude Julien recently offered a less-than-subtle interpretation for Krejci’s regular-season play: his No. 1 center is prone to an in-season vacation or two. Read the rest of this entry »

New York Rangers v Boston Bruins - Game Five

Dave Lozo’s Bag Skate is a weekly feature that’s named as such because A) it’s kinda part mailbag, and B), like a bag skate, it’s very long. Unlike a bag skate, however, it is very enjoyable. Lozo worked for NHL.com for five years, three months, and 19 days (seriously), and finally left after getting his resumé to the point where he was qualified to write somewhere as prestigious as Backhand Shelf.

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“Safe Is Death,” read the sign that hung inside the locker room of the Tampa Bay Lightning as John Tortorella guided them to a Stanley Cup in 2004. In an era when getting through the neutral zone was akin to skating through freshly poured tar, Tortorella’s team refused to sit back and clog.

That club was rewarded for playing that aggressive style with a championship.

Nine years later, the only place “Safe Is Death” is written is on the figurative tombstone of John Tortorella just outside Madison Square Garden.

Despite four-plus seasons that could be described as successful using nearly any standard for judging a coach, Tortorella was fired Wednesday with one year left on a contract he signed in 2011. Since the ink dried on that deal, Tortorella guided the Rangers to the conference finals in 2012 and the conference semifinals in 2013, which seems to show he was living up to the terms of the agreement.

In the end, it was Tortorella’s shot-blocking, grinding style that grinded his unhappy players to the point where Glen Sather believed they were better off with a new coach and a fresh start.

And he was right. Read the rest of this entry »