Kukla's Korner

Guess Who’s This About?

From Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators (via the Canadian Press):

As a businessman, I know about playing tough and getting your elbows up.

I also know lessons that most of us learned early in our childhoods - you play fair; you play by the rules and you help others when you can.

...

I used to privately feel sympathy for his plight, but as I’ve watched his conduct with and towards the league and other owners, I clearly believe the sport of hockey is better off without him.

You get three guesses who Melnyk is talking about and the first two don’t count (don’t look at this post’s tags). Read the whole thing here.

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: jim+balsillie

In Defense of Patrick Marleau

Several years ago (pre-lockout), a friend and I debated what Patrick Marleau’s actual upside was. This was when he still floundered in 40-point brilliant-one-game-awful-the-next land, pre-captaincy and with the life being squeezed out of him by then-coach Darryl Sutter. We finally agreed that under the right coach and with the right circumstances, he could ultimately turn into a Mike Modano-style player: 80-90 points per season, a good penalty killer because of his speed, and a threat for 35+ goals each season.

It seems fitting, then, that like Modano a few years ago, Marleau was stripped of the captaincy. While Todd McLellan has left open the possibility of the C returning to his chest, reports out of the San Jose Mercury News make it seem like that won’t happen. McLellan hinted at a decision come training camp based on work ethic and focus, but that just seems to pave the way for Dan Boyle being named captain. He’s skilled, signed long term, honest without Roenick-style foot-in-mouth disease, and brings a genuine intensity to the team, along with Stanley Cup experience. It’s a logical choice, and as a fan of Boyle since his Tampa days, I fully support it.

(The dark horse candidate is Joe Pavelski, in a move that might mirror Dallas’ choice to make Brendan Morrow captain.)

But I continue to find fault with people who make it seem like Marleau’s head deserved to be on every possible chopping block from here to Saskatoon. It’s funny, not in a “ha ha” kind of way but in a shake-your-head-in-bemusement kind of way. It seems like everyone forgot about the year that Marleau had.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: dan+boyle, patrick+marleau, san+jose+sharks

If Gretzky Ran America’s Energy Policy…

It’s not everyday you read a political/scientific article in Time Magazine with a random hockey reference, but I flipped open the new issue (dated August 24) today and a little sidebar (well, bottom bar) on page 32 showcased Wayne Gretzky in Heritage Classic tuque.

Ok, that seemed a little weird, especially when the rest of the article seemed to be about energy efficiency and carbon footprints.

A closer look at the article (which you can read here but it doesn’t have the awesome sidebar) shows a profile of Nobel-winning Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. The part that mentions Gretzky is a little blurb called “The World According to Chu: Inside the mind of the U.S. Energy Secretary.”

On Leadership: U.S. energy policy should be like hockey star Wayne Gretzky: not just chasing the puck where it is now but heading where the puck will eventually end up.

Well then, if only every politician could compare policy to a hockey player’s style, people might actually be a little more interested in their agenda. Chu grew up on Long Island, so perhaps if you asked him about foreign policy, he’d say the U.S. should be like Bryan Trottier in the corners (or not like Rick Dipietro’s hip).

(Please, no political debates in the comments. Snarky Islanders references are ok, though.)

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: new+york+islanders, wayne+gretzky

Random X-Men Reference Of The Day

Here’s your semi-related-to-hockey detour of the day. I haven’t said too much about the Patrick Kane incident so far, but when James Mirtle made this post with the title “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”, well, a certain response popped in my head. I just pictured Patrick Kane tossing cab driver Jan Radecki around—with helmet on, of course—while yelling out, “Jan, don’t you know who I am? I’m Patrick Kane, BIIIIIIIIIITCH!”

Where does that reference come from? If you’re an X-Men fan, you know of the Juggernaut parody cartoon (and its homage in X-Men: The Last Stand). If not, here’s something to pep up your hockey-less off-season day. Earl Sleek, this one’s for you.

Warning: Video after the fold contains, um, colorful NSFW language. And if you’re looking for any sort of high-concept humor, it’s not here. If you ever wanted to see the X-Men and their enemies swearing like rappers, then you’ll be amused.

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  Tags: patrick+kane, x-men

Jeremy Roenick: A Lifetime Of Memories

A few weeks ago, I titled a Joe Sakic retirement post “A Class Act.” Now I’m writing one for Jeremy Roenick—a guy who over my 20 or so years of hockey fandom has pretty much been my favorite player—and I can’t quite say the same thing. It’s not the appropriate description, and it wouldn’t really describe his career best. I’d call him honest, emotional, witty, perhaps impulsive, and passionate, but not always classy. Still, that’s not to knock his character; I think even he’d admit that his journey hasn’t always been a steady one.

I’m guessing there’s a certain segment of readers cringing at the thought of associating “Roenick” and “Favorite.” The guys at LCS Hockey sure gave me grief about it when I appeared on their show, and I’ve had plenty of debate with people over many, many years. To those that can’t stand JR, I ask that you take a step back, look at his stats, think of the way he played in his prime, and see how he changed his entire approach and attitude to become an elder statesman on the Sharks. It’s hard to refute that he was a special talent on the ice.

(Some of those people sent me messages when word of his retirement came out. Perhaps there’s more respect for JR out there than people would like to let on.)

Oh, I know he had his faults. I know why people find him crass, stupid, or annoying. There have been plenty of times when I’ve just had to shake my head at something he did. Still, JR was, in all ways, unique, and he provided me with some of most vivid and favorite memories, both hockey-related and just life in general.

So if you love (or like) JR, here are nine JR memories from a lifelong fan. If you hate him, well, go see my Joe Sakic appreciation post.

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  Tags: jeremy+roenick

Zherdev: Tremendous Upside Or Waste Of Talent?

At first glance, I have a hard time trying to figure out why an arbitrator awarded Nikolai Zherdev $3.9 million. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for such an enigmatic player, and it feels like it’s paying more for potential than anything else.

Here’s the thing. If I’m a GM, I’d have a difficult time taking Zherdev at even his qualifying number of $3.25 million. The guy can be Pavel Datsyuk-style brilliant with stickhandling on one shift, then be a useless pylon on the next. These days, the salary cap is too restrictive to give up significant space for an unknown quantity.

I think what is more telltale about Zherdev’s grit (or lack thereof) is his coaching history. I can understand if he went nowhere under Doug MacLean; as amusing as MacLean can be when he’s on sports radio, he’s always been a one-hit coaching wonder in my book. But when Ken Hitchcock took over the Blue Jackets, I figured it was make or break time with Zherdev. In Dallas, Hitchcock instilled defensive responsibility in Mike Modano and roped in Sergei Zubov’s freelancing tendencies, eventually transforming him into one the league’s best blueliners. In Columbus, part of his job would be to elevate Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev into complete players.

We can probably all agree that he was successful with Nash. Zherdev? Not so much; he had his spurts but ultimately it was an exercise in futility—despite his upside.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: john+tortorella, nikolai+zherdev

You’re Just Figuring This Out Now?

You gotta love the way the NHL’s investigation branch works (here’s s hint—they’re not quite as efficient as the guys on CSI). They’re just catching on to the fact that these ridiculously long contracts with significantly cheaper final years may have been designed as, shockingly, a way to circumvent the cap. First, everyone’s favorite whipping boy Marian Hossa was under the microscope, then word came out today that Chris Pronger’s new deal with the Flyers is under review.
Well, jeez guys, don’t you think you should have done this before actually approving the contract?

If you’ve got some time to kill and want to learn the ins and outs of NHL contractual logistics, you can read the entire 472-page PDF of the NHL CBA. It’s loads of fun and just slightly less dry than an advanced thermodynamics textbook. If that’s not up your alley, then here’s a pertinent section regarding contract approval. By the way, SPC stands for Standard Player Contract.

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  Tags: cba, chris+pronger, marian+hossa

Juuuust A Bit Outside

From the ever-amusing Drew Remenda at the Seagate Broadcaster Blog (remember, he was an assistant coach for the Sharks before he became part of the only NHL broadcast team to publicly discuss their telecast’s drinking game):

Now a normal video before a game at the team meal would be 6 to 10 minutes. Dean Evason and Kelly Kisio used to walk in the room and ask, “How long?” Just so they could watch the clock and get out of there. Well Deano asks me “how long?” I respond 45 minutes. Dean and Kelly almost punched me out they are so mad. I said “Hey guys, we’ve lost the last two games by a combined score of 19-1, so we’ve got some things to fix.” I said they could watch it while they ate and that the video was self-explanatory so we wouldn’t have to start and stop and go back. That settled them a bit. They stacked their plates, sat down and I turned on the video.

First scene has Charlie Sheen as Ricky Vaughn taking the head off the wooden batsman with a big time out of control fastball. The guys laughed and continued laughing for 45 minutes. The tape was funny but it also had the underlying message of the movie still intact. A message of hope, teamwork, sacrifice and friendship when the odds are against you.

The perfect coda to this would be if next season prior to a big playoff game, Patrick Marleau looks at his stick and says, “F&*! you, Jobu, I do it myself” and gets a hat trick to get past the second round of the playoffs.

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  Tags: drew+remenda, san+jose+sharks

Sakic: A Class Act

Super Joe. Burnaby Joe. Quoteless Joe.

Of all the nicknames that stuck with Joe Sakic, perhaps the friendly mockery of “Quoteless” summed up Sakic’s persona the best. He didn’t blurt out thoughts without the brain/mouth filter a la Jeremy Roenick and he certainly never grabbed the attention of Extra or the E! channel a la Sean Avery. Instead, he spoke with his on-ice performance, a mixture of top-level skill and pure class.

I think we all respect (and possibly even like) Joe Sakic. Maybe it’s because of this “Quoteless” nature; with that, there’s not that much bulletin board material so you leave it to his play on the ice. He wasn’t dirty, crass, or obnoxious, and while you’d see him sticking up for his teammates, you’d have to look hard to see any Pronger-like cheap shots in his career.

What type of impact did Sakic make? I like to think that you could tell how highly everyone thought of him by seeing how fans of his hated rivals treated him during the peak of their feud. For me, that rewinds the clock back to college, where my apartment had four hockey nuts living together up in Davis, California (definitely not hockey country). While geography kept us all supporting the Sharks, we each had our other teams, including my one roommate who loved the Red Wings and loved to hate the Avalanche.

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  Tags: joe+sakic

“He would just like this to all go away.”

One thing hockey fans appreciate more than anything else is the down-to-earth hard working mentality of most hockey players. Sure, they’re millionaires but they work their tail off on the ice, are respectful off the ice, and appreciate the special chance they’ve earned. They live in a different world than us but most of the time, they’ve come from our world, and they respect that.

Hard work, honesty, and accountability. It’s all we ask for as fans and it’s traits like that that have made someone like Mike Ricci probably the most beloved player in San Jose Sharks history despite having guys who’ve put up way more points and shown much more skill. They work hard, they remain humble, and they keep things in context.

Now I understand that players can demand to be traded. It happens, and sometimes it’s best for both parties to move on. Just like I have the freedom to quit a job or not renew a client, players have the freedom to ask to be traded—but it comes with a price. In this economy, no one’s going to quit a job—just like in today’s recession-hit salary cap world, players have to understand that when they ask to be traded, their options will be limited.

There’s a process and there are logistics to trade requests. Respect the two, and things will be work themselves out. Lash out against it and expect a backlash, from the media, the fans, and from other teams. Which brings us to the case of one Dany Heatley.

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  Tags: dany+heatley, ottawa+senators

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