Archive for the ‘LeBut’s Cheap Shots’ Category

Right now there are 62 players who can say they were born in La Belle Province and also put on an NHL jersey for a living, or, 10 more

Two Quebec born players battling for on-ice supremacy. Bergeron won this time, is it Luongo’s turn next?

French Canadian players than the entire country of Sweden.  The province of Quebec has supplied the league with some of the best hockey players in the history of the game of hockey but they used to get more attention when their names were Belliveau, Richard, Lafleur, Plante, Roy and of course, Lemieux (no, not Claude).  Even though that level of athlete comes along maybe once or twice a generation you can look around the NHL right now and see quite a few French-Canadian players contributing on top lines and putting up big-time numbers.

LW Depth Chart:   Marleau, Tanguay, Gagne, Perron

LW: Patrick Marleau, SJ, Aneroid, SK
GP         G            A          TOT         +/-           PIM
1035    357     409       766        19               341

Marleau, shown here scoring against fellow 1997 draft pick, Roberto Luongo, has had an impressive NHL career.

Marleau was born in Saskatchewan, and played junior hockey with the Seattle Thunderbirds.  He was drafted second overall behind future teammate Joe Thornton, but he still leads the Sharks all-time in goals, assists, and points.  He learned how to play the game from then-Sharks coach Daryl Sutter who is a big believer in the defensive game first.  Now he plays the two-way game as well as anyone in the league.  I don’t think he speaks very much French, but he is a Canadian national team member whose French roots are undeniable.  Like so many Canadian hockey players, Marleau is a farm boy who made it big.  Sometimes he gets some critique about his play in the big games, but that only means his team counts on him the most to win the big games.  He will go down as the greatest player to ever pull on a Sharks jersey, as well as having an outside chance for a hall-of-fame place when all is said and done.  After 13 years in the league, all with the Sharks, the veteran winger who can play centre is still going strong with his two-way play, and big time wheels.

“haut” stuff

I’m not the biggest Lecavalier fan actually, but if I’m making a hockey team I have to consider that putting my favourite Fench centre, Danny Briere on this first line would cause a size mismatch problem every night.  Lecavalier is is giant at 6’4″ and can take some of the physical pressure of the two wingers on this line, kind of like he does in Tampa already.  To tell you the truth, this line was already an experiment in Tampa when Tanguay played one season there.  It wasn’t really a failure then either, even if Tanguay had his worst statistical season and Tampa missed the playoffs.  Tanguay separated his shoulder at the end of the season in Montreal the year before, and he had a hard time coming back from it, even though he played a full season in Tampa the next year.

Anyway, this is about Vinny, so let’s talk about the big man from Ile Bizard, which is pretty much a laid back island off the shore of the

Sometimes number one picks work out… sometimes they become… a nurse?

mainland of Montreal, filled with parks, beaches and other destinations where people like to get married.  I had no idea there was even a hockey rink there.  When Tampa Bay drafted him first overall in 1998, then-owner Art Williams declared that he would be “the Michael Jordan of hockey”.  Well, that never happened, but at least Vinny didn’t exactly end up the next Alexandre Daigle either.  Vinny isn’t the most reliable defensively but he has great vision on the ice and has been a pretty consistent offensive producer in the regular season and playoffs.  Other than recovering from a Matt Cooke cheap shot, he’s been one of the best centres in the league, never mind French centres, for the last ten years or so.  Now with Yzerman as the GM, Tampa looks like it could contend as long as they stay healthy, and Vinny Lecavalier will be a big part of any run they make.

Waiting for a line change:

Daniel Briere,  PHI,  Gatineau, PQ GP: 743   G:  264     A:  330      TOT: 594    +/- : -10     PIM: 617
You won’t find a more clutch player than Briere, great powerplay specialist, impressive playoff performer, fast and smart with the puck.

Patrice Bergeron, BOS, Ancienne-Lorette, PQ — GP: 456   G:  121     A:  216    TOT: 337    +/- : +10     PIM: 142
Solid 2-way centre, scores timely goals, can shutdown anyone, drives to the net with measure, doesn’t back down from anyone, excellent leadership, very tough on faceoffs

Stastny and Duchene the next Sakic and Forsberg?

Matt Duchene, COL, Haliburton, ON — GP: 161  G:  51     A:  71      TOT: 122    +/- :-7    PIM: 49
Powerful skater, can get around defenders with ease, plays 2-way game, skilled passer, plays big minutes in every situation, has star-potential, but plays behind Stastny right now.  Born in Ontario, but French ancestry undeniable.  Colorado is hoping he can provide the team with a second line centre who plays like a first liner like the good old days with Sakic and Forsberg.  

RW Depth Chart:  St. Louis, Giroux, Pominville, Dumont

Martin St. Louis, TB, Laval, PQ
GP         G            A        TOT          +/-           PIM:
854      298       480      778        +15          250

“Too small” Martin St. Louis, takes this Seidenberg licking and keeps ticking in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Everyone said this guy from the provincial capital couldn`t survive at the NHL level because he was too small.  Everyone was wrong. He proved himself at all the different levels, from Nationals, to AHL to NHL to playoffs when he won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004.  He was in tears when his team was taken out by Boston in 7 games this season after a playoff run which saw him collect 10 goals and 10 assists in 18 games.

The guy might not level people with a huge hit, or take one himself (although he`s been super durable in his 13 year pro career), but this guy is clutch, clutch, clutch!  He’s pretty speedy and likes to create lots of plays off the wing, as well as make a few chances happen for himself.  He doesn’t take a lot of stupid penalties and he leads his team in the locker room and on the ice. This is exactly the kind of guy who wouldn’t have survived in the league 10 years ago, but since the rule changes, he’s been allowed to play his game and we’re all pretty lucky for it.  Probably a first ballot hall-of-famer when it’s all over.  Hopefully not for a long time yet.

Claude Giroux, although not born in Quebec, grew up playing hockey in Hearst, Ontario, which but he definitely has the French flair for the game.  I think within a few seasons Claude will be at the top of the RW list for French Canadians.  Giroux played for the Gatineaux Olympique for three seasons, he has French background, and he is talented so he makes the cut here.

Hopping over the boards:

Claude Giroux, PHI, Hearst, ON — GP:  208   G:  50    A:  100   TOT:  150     +/-:  +22    PIM:  84
He’s still a pass-first guy, but he has a huge list of moves that get fans out of their seats in Philly.  He’s not a big man, but he’s a dangerous offensive player with huge heart.  His numbers are going to keep going up, and he’s probably the main reason why Philly is ok with letting Carter and Richards.  Maybe Philly’s next captain?

Jason Pominville, BUF, Repentigny, PQ — GP: 459   G:  145    A:  213   TOT:  358    +/- :+47    PIM: 127
reliable defensively, is outstanding when he’s hot, good stickhandler, and powerful first stride, but needs to add bulk and grit

Jean-Pierre Dumont, NSH, Montreal, PQ  — GP: 822   G:  214    A:  309   TOT: 523    +/- :-2    PIM: 364
best days are behind him, but can still give you 20 goals if he’s right, has big body, crashes the net well, good solid veteran leader, excellent hands

Goal Depth Chart: (Luongo), Fleury, Bernier, Brodeur

Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT, Sorel, PQ  —  GP:  367       W: 184           L:  126        T/O:  37      SV% : .908        GAA: 2.74        SO:  19

Without this save against Kane the Canucks would have been left to ponder another early exit but is he “french” enough?

Ah, I can already hear the haters.  I can see the reason why people see Luongo as a facade of a goalie.  He must be the only goalie in the

Martin Brodeur was counting down the days until the end of the season in 2011

history of the game to have allowed more than 7 goals in the playoffs twice and still made the Stanley Cup Finals racking up 4 shutouts along the way.  I, myself, sometimes can’t seem to understand how he can be so dominant, then lose so badly the next game.  I’m not a coach, so I don’t have any solutions, but I can say that even if he isn’t Francophone, the guy is the best Québécois goalie going right now. Give him some credit for growing up 4 blocks away from Marty Brodeur… that’s the closest you can get to being French-Canadian.  Remember, Patrick Roy has Irish blood, yet he is considered the best French-Canadian goalie of all time.  Still, this is an “All French Team” as some readers have been pointing out to me these days, so I’m going to take Luongo out of the equation and look for the goalies with the French roots.  And since this is a list about right now, I’m giving Martin Brodeur a rest for a change

Luongo will, eventually, smile with a Stanley Cup in arms and then Quebec will call him “French”. .

Even though Luongo is the next closest thing to a hall-of-famer in the making that the NHL has in terms of this generation’s goalies and without him the Canucks wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the finals, he’s considered an Italian-Canadian born in Montreal.  When he is on, he is far and away the best technical goaltender in the league (when he’s off, he’s about the worst).  He’s much better because of a french goalie coach, Rogie Melanson, but let’s talk about Le Francophone, and not players born in Montreal, otherwise I’m opening up a discussion on Corey Crawford and several other notable players.

Marc-Andre Fleury is the goalie almost as talked about as Louie for his inconsistent play with Pittsburgh.  He has the ability to make some crazy saves look pretty routine, but he also lets in some softies once in a while too.  He is still money when he’s counted on.  This season when Pittsburgh lost Sid and Evgeni Malkin, it was “The Flower” who put the team on his back and won games in steel-town.  He won a Stanley Cup and made another finals, plus he’s a national team member.  Give Fleury some credit – he’s French-Canada’s number one goalie going right now.

Fleury can make even the best look silly

Laval’s Jonathan Bernier is no hall-of-famer and he can’t hold Marty’s jock strap in terms of credentials.  I know this and I’m not handing him the torch here.  Still, right now he’s good enough to mention over Marty Brodeur these days.  The pool has been pretty deep for years with guys like Giguere, Biron, Lalime, Theodore, Garon and Leclaire all being mentioned at one time or another in the conversation of “who’s next after Marty?” Well, this kid is the real deal and will star for somebody in the near future.  L.A. will probably do what Vancouver did this season with Luongo.  Bernier will see about 20 starts, giving Quick the rest for the deep run, and the NHL will see this kid’s amazing game.  Is he going to be the next Martin Brodeur?  Probably not.  But if you asked the Devils to trade Marty straight up for Jonathan, they’d do it faster than you can say “poutine”.


Bernier the “next-one”… but in L.A.?

Jonathan Bernier, LA, Laval, PQ    —  GP:  32  W: 15   L:  11  T/O:  3      SV% : .911       GAA: 2.56   SO:4   Still learning the game.  Makes quick reflex saves and shakes off bad goals.  Never seems to let in the next goal after a bad one.  Is capable of playing big minutes and can win games on his own.  Still pretty young, so might play for another team with Quick locked in the cage for the Kings.

Is it purely mental for Marty?

Martin Brodeur:   GP:  1132     W:  625      L:  350     T/O:  137      SV%: .913       GAA:  2.22    SO:  116

NHL’s all-time leader in several goaltending categories, and  first ballot hall-of-famer  Martin Brodeur plays a high-risk high reward game.  Possesses the best hybrid game in the history of the game and sublime stickhandling.  Gotten a bit careless in his later stages of his career.  Is he mentally in need of focus or has he lost a step?  2012 will tell you if he has any gas in the tank.

 Defence Depth Chart:  Letang, Vlasic, Bergeron, Demers, Robidas, Noreau

Chris Letang, PIT, Montreal, PQ:  
GP         G            A        TOT       +/-           PIM:
299      29         100      129         +5            203

Kris Letang showing off some of those old-school French-Canadian defender moves

The list gets a little thin on the back end, which tells me that Quebecers like to score the goals, or stop the pucks but don’t enjoy chasing people around and fishing the pucks out of the net.  Even the finest Quebec-born defenseman who ever played, Raymond Borque, was a guy who liked pushing the pace of the game and scoring big goals.  410 to be exact.  In fact most of the great Quebec-born D-men, like Eric Desjardins, Carol Vadnais,  Sylvain Cote,  Serge Savard, Dave Tallon, Doug Harvey, Steve Duchesne and Guy Lapointe are synonymous with turning defence to offense.

So, even though this generation is more of a stay-at-home bunch, there are still some pretty good ones to choose from. To me, Kris Letang is in the tradition of terrific Québécois playing in the NHL.  He kind of has it all.  He’ll hit you, block shots, make stick plays, he’ll make the soft passes out of the neutral zone, he’ll slide one over for the forwards to bang home, he’ll slap home the big powerplay goal, and he’ll deke out a few guys, making them look silly en route to scoring a goal.  He also plays big time minutes for Pittsburgh and leads by example on and off the ice.  He’s my first choice in French-Canadian defenseman for my team.

Also Patrolling the Blue Line:

Marc-Eduard Vlasic  SJ, Montreal, PQ :  — GP: 389   G:  18   A:  92    TOT: 110     +/- :+51    PIM: 135
rarely noticed for errors, plays stay-at-home positional game, moves puck swiftly out of defensive zone, can play in any situation

Marc-Andre Bergeron, TB, Hauterive, PQ— GP: 422   G:  77    A:  125    TOT: 202   +/- :-14   PIM: 185
can play either D or LW, can really crank it from the point, supreme speed, good powerplay instincts

Jason Demers, SJ, Dorval, PQ:   — GP: 126   G:  6    A:  39    TOT: 45    +/- :+24     PIM: 49
plays a really clean game, with few mistakes, can move the puck beautifully out of his zone with stretch passes, can play physically, is extremely mobile

 Stephane Robidas, DAL, Sherbrooke, PQ: — GP: 724   G:  45      A:  161     TOT: 206     +/- :+1    PIM: 555
big game player, lots of poise, is not spectacular but is solid all-around, has good offensive instincts, lots of experience

Maxim Noreau, NJ, Montreal, PQ:  — GP: 6     G:  0    A:  0    TOT: 0   +/- :-1    PIM: 0
still waiting for chance at NHL, has massive potential offensively, should help the Devils in 2011/12 with mobility on back end, deft puckhandling abilities for a d-man 



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For the 2012 version click here

It’s getting a little ridiculous these days with all the dumb money being invested in NHL players other people wouldn’t pay.  I still want to blame Garth Snow, because I think he started it when he signed Rick DiPietro to a contract that will see him play hockey until he’s old enough to be teammate with his kids.    That’s why the Islander’s get two trophies named after them, one for dumbest free agent signing GM in the league, and one for the worst goalie contract of the year.  The other awards I’m calling the Christian Ehrhoff award for the worst defenceman signing of the year, even though he doesn’t win it.  I think it’s a much higher honour to have a trophy named after you.  After that, I have an award for worst forward contract of the year, and I’m naming it the Heatley award, and in honour of the GM who actually managed to find a trading partner for Dany Heatley’s stupid contract, the shrewdest GM of the free agent season award is named the Doug Wilson.

The Rick DiPietro Trophy for Most Outsandingly Bad Goalie Contract 2011:

Bryzgalov, like Raskolnikov, lets pride separate him from society


Ilya Bryzgalov – PHA – 9 years, $51 million

Ilya Bryzgalov – PHA – 9 years, $51 million

Ilya Bryzgalov – PHA 9 years – $51 million

DiPietro only has 15 years left at a cap hit of 4.5 million dollars, so it doesn’t get much worse than that.  Or does it?  How about 9 years at 5.6 for a goalie whose claim to fame is reading Dostoevsky on the bench?   Ilya Bryzgalov wins the DiPietro because Philly was always going to be better with a bad goalie and Richards and Carter, than they are with Jagr and an okay goalie in Bryzgalov.  Philly just made the Luongo contract look a lot more respectable than before.  Throw in the the front-load, and Ilya is taking home a cool 10 million dollars next season.  No one even comes close.

Winner:  Ilya Bryzgalov, PHA

auf wiedersehen Christian Ehrhoff

The Brian Campbell Award for Incredible Waste of Money for a Defenceman 2011:


Christian Ehrhoff, BUF – 10 years, $40 million;

James Wisniewski, FLA – 6 years, $33 Million;

Andrei Markov, MTL – 3 years $17.25 million

It goes without saying that Ehrhoff’s contract is so stupid that he should already be the winner of this by becoming the richest defenceman in the league for one season next year when he makes 10,000,000 dollars.  That’s more than Chara, Keith, Lidstrom, and Pronger.  Even so, I can’t believe the money these D-men are getting nowadays.  The true winner of the dumb-dumb award for defenceman contracts is Montreal’s Markov, who gets paid $5.75 million a year!  That put him in the top 11 cap hit for defencemen in the whole league.  This is for a guy who destroyed his surgically repaired knee last year, I mean come on!  He’s like a slow poor man’s Zubov, who is starting to get old.  The Canadians could have kept the right to sign Wisniewski, for a lot cheaper and get a d-man who is 5 years younger.  This is not a good deal for this desperate club.

Winner:  Andrei Markov, MTL

The Dany Heatley Award for Moronic Spending on a Useless Forward 2011


Ville Leino, BUF – 6 years, $27 million;  

Brooks Laich, WAS – 6 years, $27 million;

Tim Connolly, TOR – 2 years, $9.5 million

Leino is still a little unproven to me, but I have to say he was pretty impressive when Philly went to the cup in 2010.  Giving Laich the

why the flyers don’t mind spending $3.5 million on a washed up 39 year old…. sales!

same contract as Ville doesn’t make sense, but he’s a pretty good leader in the room and Washington need those tough gritty scorers so I get the idea there.  Still 6 years seems like a long time.  For me it was a toss up between a few guys on this list.  I’m not sure the Brad Richards deal is so bad when you look at the guys that make his kind of money.  He has around 800 career points and a playoff MVP, so I think he is kind of proven.  I don’t know about the Jagr return, but the team will make the money back on jersey sales probably.  What I don’t like is Tim Connoly’s contract for Toronto.  I know how desperate this team is for a centre who can make the plays for Kessel, but this guy is injured more than Sami Salo at an obstacle course.  The two years seems ok to swallow, but I remember the Canucks regret signing Pavol Demitra for around the same money.  If you look at the 2012 list of free agents though, I can see where Burkie is coming from, so I kind of get that he needed something there, but Connolly is a softer centre than a Rolo.  Toronto better have a good med staff.

Winner:  Tim Connolly TOR

Garth Snow Award for GM Who Failed His Fans the Most During the Free Agent Frenzy 2011:

Charles Wang and his drinking buddy, Garth Snow should let real hockey people run the storied franchise.


Garth Snow, NYI;    

Brian Burke, TOR;    

Bryan Murray, OTT

Snow traded for Ehrhoff to get the rights to sign him, lost a fourth round pick, then traded him to Buffalo to get another fourth round pick, probably lower on the totem pole than the one they gave up.  So, basically, Snow lost a few positions on the draft order in the fourth round of 2012.  After that, he moved his payroll into 2012 and thought about how many more years he had left to pay DiPietro.  Only 1 or 2 at the rate he’s going, because he won’t be signing off on cheques much longer in New York if the kids don’t improve.  Signing Trevor Gillies and Marty Reasoner is something, but it’s not like he’s doing much down on the Island.  Burkey lost Brad Richards because he was saying hi to Canadian troops on Canada Day, and didn’t want to pay any front loaded money.  The best player available for the next 2 years won’t go to Toronto because he’s too stubborn to play the game.  Then he signs Connolly for only 2 million less than he could have signed

Do something Brian, seriously… Connolly is bunk.

Richards.  Pretty dumb.  Finally, Ottawa probably doesn’t have any money to spend, but they do have over $18 million of cap room to buy something to improve their team.  This is a bad, bad team which isn’t going to get any better by sitting around and hoping Spezza keep developing.  Still pretty hard to deny Brian Burke his credit.  He likes credit for things.

Winner:  Brian Burke, TOR

The Doug Wilson Award for Excellence as a GM During NHL Free Agent Frenzy 2011


Dale Tallon, FLA;  

Doug Wilson, SJ;  

Steve Tambellini, EDM

Doug Wilson moved Heatley, so the award is named after him, but he didn’t do much after that, or did he?  One thing he did do I haven’t seen for a long time.  He traded a guy who just sign with his team!  Devon Setoguchi signs for 3 years then is shipped to one of the worst teams in the league.   In return, the Sharks get a big, nasty D-man in Brent Burns.  He signs Handzus from L.A. and Jim Vandermeer to shore up the D a bit, then trades the biggest floater on his roster, and worst contract in the league in Dany Heatley, for a guy with serious wheels and a better cap hit.  Tallon in Florida basically signed 2 lines and a top 3 for his back end.  We’ll see how all this works out, but I really like Jovocop coming back to Florida to finish his career as captain, and Upshall is a winner who will help with leadership and good goals.  Fleischmann could be a

Maybe the Oilers know what they’re doing after all….

point-a-game if it works out, and they still have David Booth.  If your team sucks, you should do something about it and Tallon did something. Another team that sucks is the Edmonton Oilers… for now.  While these kids improve, they’re going to need some beef on the lines to protect them from all the cheap shot artists in the league.  Tambellini just made his team a lot tougher to play by adding Josh Green, a big winger with some D and grit, Eric Belanger, a faceoff veteran like Manny Malhotra, Corey Potter, a younger D-Man with a huge shot, Cam Barker, another tough D-man with a shot, Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk, two guys who like to beat up Canucks.  I really like what Brian Campbell did, but he took a big risk in the locker room by signing and trading Setoguchi like that.  I think the GM who really deserves this award is the GM whose team is going to be a lot better in the future years because of the guys he signed as well as the guys he’s stockpiling.  Or the one who wants Eager fans to come out more often.


Steve Tambellini, EDM

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Ron Hextall, a Philadelphia staple, was the best puck-handling goalie the game has ever seen.

In the efforts to build an NHL franchise, GM’s have two ways of thinking when it comes to the position of goaltender.  It’s interesting that the teams we see in today’s NHL represent “the new NHL”, but even some of those teams are using an old style of thinking when it comes to the goaltender.  The old NHL told you that you needed a “franchise goalie”.  If you think back in time you can name a goalie and name the one, maybe two teams that goalie is connected to.  Ron Hextall?  Flyers.  Patrick Roy?  Montreal/Colorado.  Martin Brodeur?  New Jersey.  Gary Cheevers?  Bruins.  Even today’s NHL has some goalies in more or less permanent positions.  Guys like Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller, Cam Ward, Roberto Luongo, and Mikka Kiprusoff are not going anywhere anytime soon.  Still, you look at the playoffs this year and you have to ask yourself if there is some kind of big change happening which might make GM’s think twice before signing that goalie-of-the-future to a long term deal.

Philadelphia Flyers:  Brian  Boucher/Michael Leighton – both signed as free agents

After naming Ron Hextall just now I can’t think of a single goalie I would associate with “Suitcase Philly”.  As far as sports towns go, this is the most disloyal city in the NHL, or any other professional league.  The fans in Philly are so fickle that they would run the cheesesteaks out of town if they could.  Anyway, this is what I’m talking about.  How on Earth can this team be two games away from the Stanley Cup final with these goalies? They barely made it to the playoffs to begin with after beating the Rangers in a shootout on the last day of the season, and they came back after being 3-0 down!  This formula cannot work long-term for sure.  Basically, they survived on lucky goaltending from Boucher and he went down with an injury right before he was about to suck, and now they are getting lucky with Leighton.   This lightning-in-the-bottle method is not safe enough to use because you can have the opposite happen too.  Pure luck.

Halak played well in the 2010 Olympics early on, but ran out of steam for Team Slovakia in the Bronze medal game.

Montreal Canadiens:  Jaroslav Halak – Drafted in the 9th round, 2003

For a while the Canadiens were trying to force Carey Price to play goalie for the highest pressure city in the league.  After they realized the path to success was to let teams shoot 50+ times and put Halak in net for the win, the Canadiens have been on fire!  The Flyers have realized the key to success is to get outshot by Montreal, and keep their shots to around 30.  Halak looked so bad yesterday night that he fell backwards into his net while the play was in the other zone.  Halak is the classic “hot-goalie” right now.  Sometimes that lasts the whole playoffs, like Bill Ranford in 1990 who won a Conn Smythe trophy on the way to winning it all, but his career save percentage is .888 – horrible!  Sometimes this luck runs out earlier, like Halak against Philadelphia right now, and the team will have to question goaltending at the end of the season again.  Still, I think Montreal will be ok with Halak.

Chicago Blackhawks: Anti Niemi – Undrafted and signed in 2008 by Chicago

When I first heard about Chicago going to the playoffs with Antti Niemi in net I was so happy because I thought they would be out in the first round.  Everyone thought that, actually.  Why?  This kid had the 4th best goals-against average in the league this year, with a .912 save percentage.  Those are great numbers.  This is a classic case of a goalie who emerges after playing a couple years in the minors.  Excellent scouting by Chicago to find this kid and sign him undrafted in 2008.  He has nice positioning and keeps his rebounds under control even though he had some problem against the Canucks.  Niemi hasn’t been spectacular but he has been consistent, so I think maybe Chicago found a new number one. Maybe team Finland too.

Has Nabokov played his last Olympics for Team Russia?

San Jose Sharks: Evgeni Nabokov- Acquired as a 9th round draft pick, 1994

Nabokov has been around this team forever, and now he is enjoying a successful playoffs for the first time in his career.  It’s a bit too bad that he has to go up against the Blackhawks this year but he has been the main reason the Sharks have made it this far.  He plays a good positional game and has especially quick reflexes to help him stop the puck.  Sometimes he can lose concentration and focus, but he usually is money for 30-40 wins and efficient goaltending in the playoffs.  It’s not his fault that his team keeps choking in front of him is it?  Even the Russians in the Olympics this year played a bad game against team Canada.  Or maybe it is?  After a decade with Nabokov in net, I wonder if the Sharks are re-thinking their plan.  If they do, they might want to consider what to do with Joe Thornton first.

The Goaltender position is the toughest in sports.  You are the last to see the puck before it goes in your teams net so that makes you pretty popular if you stop it, and not so popular if you let it in.  Most fans (and even some players) seem to feel that every puck is stoppable so that makes you wrong every time you let one go by.  Still, you can see that there actually is a recipe for success for goalies.

Montreal had to wait for Halak to develop, same with Chicago and Niemi, and San Jose developed a starter in Nabokov that has played for 10 years in the same city.  There is always going to be a hot goalie (or two, you lucky Philadelphia Flyers!) but this is an impossible method to gamble your whole franchise on.  It’ s like saying “I know our goalies are not good enough to win the cup but who knows?  Maybe they’ll get hot.”.  Last year Marc-Andre Fleury, a Pittsburgh draft pick, won the cup.  The year before was Chris Osgood, originally a Detroit draft pick.   Giguere played 8 years for Anaheim before winning a cup there and Carolina drafted Cam Ward.  Once in a while, the odd Khabibulin (or Leighton) gets hot enough to win you one, but the only tried method with goalies is patience.

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Sami Salo doesn’t deserve this, that’s for sure.  Not only is he an all-around nice guy, he has had so many injuries over the years that this would be a sad way to go down (and a painful one!).  Even so, I think there are some people out there who probably deserve this injury more than Sami Salo, so here is my list of top five people who deserve the testicle rupture.

5. Gordon Campbell

Thanks to Lucien Bouchard, former PQ leader, I had to contemplate the possibility of being nationalized as a Quebeccer.  I would kick him in the balls for this, but he got flesh eating disease, so Karma got him anyway.  Now that I live in BC, I am not a fan of being split in ideology from the governing party in my adopted province.  How can we have an idiot  like Campbell destroying things like the arts and education in our province, I really don’t know, just like I don’t know how anyone can vote for a guy who takes his family for a ride in Hawaii while he is drunk.

4. Lawrence Taylor

Only because he is the most recent, but I could add any of the NFL’s douche bags who have been arrested in recent memory to the number 4 spot and line them up cupless for a Dan Marino bullet pass to the groin.  I didn’t realize it was so tough to tap girls for famous people without raping them, you know?

3. Tiger Woods

I would rank him higher on this list, but he has to live the rest of his life with his psycho wife so I guess top 3 is enough.  I am pretty sad that his image is so controlled because I was enjoying the world taking him down on a daily basis.  It’s too bad we forget news so quickly or we’d have more songs dedicated to this guy, who probably already has a ruptured testicle after his wife attacked him with a club and caused him to pass out in his moving SUV.

2. Patrick Kane

He beat up a poor cabbie for twenty cents.  That alone made me wish that he, and not Salo, blocked a shot while killing a penalty.  Then I realized, he doesn’t kill penalties, and he probably doesn’t block shots either.  He should take a puck there.  He probably won’t, but now he added a poor man’s Jaromir Jagr mullet look to his already scummy appeal, so I guess it makes up for something.

1. Stephon Marbury

I still cannot understand why he subjected the world to his personal disaster of his life and related depression, but he needs a Steve Nash pass to the nether region to wake him up.  I wonder where he is now, but then again, maybe someone already did this and that’s why we haven’t heard anything about him lately.  His behaviour was so annoying that I list him at the number one spot even though he hasn’t really broadcast his pathetic life publicly for about one year now.

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