Monday, July 25, 2011

Leave Ovi Alone!

Ask any actual Caps fan (i.e. someone who can name the whole roster) about Alexander Ovechkin, and you will start to think you are listening to a broken, and whiny, record: "He's lazy," "He's out of shape," "He never wins anything important," "He's not a good leader," "He's fat," "Crosby's not fat!". Actually, that last one would be thrown out by a Pittsburgh fan in defense of their favorite boy toy, but the Penguins are so pathetic they couldn't even prevent Methuselah Jagr from signing with the equally-terrible Flyers. If you are a fan of either of those God-awful teams, I am sure you could overcome your personality defect and if not root for the Caps, then at least root for the Senators or something. Flyers fans would find that to be an easy transition, seeing as Ottawa also believes that good goalies are just a myth, much like unicorns or Tampa Bay Lightning fans (joke courtesy of the Bruins). Now that I have gotten my jokes that only I think are funny out of the way, I can defend the honor of our captain, Alex Ovechkin. I am sick of hearing people trash my favorite Russian because they think he is out of shape and that his healthy love of leisure is the main reason that the Caps haven't won a Cup since he's been in DC. I am sure all of these arm-chair hockey coaches have six-packs, run monthly marathons, and never go on vacation, but according to national statistics, these people are probably overweight vacationers that only run if there's a fire; therefore, I think people should think twice before they criticize Ovi, and to prove it, here are 3 reasons why he's awesome.
Even the best basketball players want his autograph. That's right, I think Lebron is great.
3. His Lifestyle
Alex Ovechkin isn't just a ridiculously talented hockey player; he lives every man's dream life. Ovi drives the best cars, dates the prettiest girls, and makes a living having fun. Other people's lives don't depend on his success or failure; he's paid to play a game, not perform brain surgery. As long as he still gives it his all out there on the ice, I don't care what he does in his free time. I think people that criticize his lifestyle are just jealous that they can't live like that.
I bet the only exercise Mr. Piggy gets is lifting thin women.
Oh my God, he drives a fast car? He must be too lazy to walk!
2. His Play
Ovi is pretty freaking good at what he does. In case you haven't watched hockey in the past six years, here's a video I edited together from Youtube footage to prove it. The song in the background is "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO, and I do not intend any copyright infringement by using it here. It is a cool song, and you can purchase it here.

1. His Personality
One of Alex Ovechkin's most appealing qualities, in my eyes, is that he's a fun guy with a lot of energy and a goofy smile. He is a lot of fun to watch because he isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. He celebrates wildly when things go his way, and if someone crosses him he makes them pay for it. He injects some badly-needed personality and candor into a league that often lacks it. He can be as entertaining as Chad Ochocinco, but without the awful reality show and fool-hardy attempts to branch out into bull riding. Unlike his most famous rival, Ovi is easy to root for and easy to like.
pictured: fun 
This dweeb went all the way to Cannes and he couldn't even meet Brangelina.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Exciting News!!

My first article for Capitals Outsider is up and can be read at this link: http://bit.ly/pXW59d. All content I write for Capitals Outsider will be exclusive to that site, so head over to capitalsoutsider.com for lots of Caps-related goodness from some of the best hockey writers on the web!! THANK YOU FOR READING, and as always, GO CAPS!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Season Preview: Top Five Reasons to Look Forward to the Upcoming NHL Season

Yesterday, I detailed my top five reasons that the Capitals will reach the Cup Finals this year. Today, I am detailing my top five reasons that hockey fans should be counting down the days until October 6, the NHL's opening night (for the record, I am keeping track, and as of today, there are 92 days). This season promises to be even more exciting than the last. Read on to find out why and if you think I missed anything, let me know in the comments!

Top Five Reasons to Look Forward to the Upcoming NHL Season

1. Familiar Faces on New Teams
The past few weeks saw some blockbuster trades and signings. The Wild and the Sharks linked up to provide some of the most interesting trades so far in the offseason, with the Sharks acquiring Brent Burns, a 2012 second round pick, and Martin Havlat and the Wild acquiring Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi, the 28th overall pick in 2011, and Dany Heatley. In my mind, the Dany Heatlery trade is really interesting for a couple of reasons. In Heatley, you have a player with a tremendous amount of talent, a guy who has scored more than 40 goals four times in his career and who has twice surpassed 100 points, but on the flip side, his production slipped after he demanded a trade to San Jose after the 2008-2009 season. Could a change of scenery be just what this former Calder trophy winner needs to breathe some life back into his career? Or will this noted playoff underachiever continue to decline with each passing year? Only time will tell.

Another player who will be one to watch in 2011-2012 is this year's best-available UFA, Brad Richards. Richards just signed a massive, front-loaded deal with the New York Rangers to the tune of $60 million over the next nine years. The craziest thing about this contract isn't that Calgary was offering even more money, but that Richards has never been a 30 goal scorer and that he has never scored 100 points. Can Brad Richards thrive under the scrutiny of the piranha-like New York media, playing for former coach John Tortorella? My prediction is that Brad Richards will turn out like Chris Drury and Marian Gaborik, and get progressively worse as his time in New York wears on. His contract, like most Glen Sather contracts, will turn out to have been a mistake. Brad Richards is a great player, but joining the Rangers seems to make some players simply forget how to play hockey.

2. Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr shocked a lot of people by snubbing Mario Lemieux and the Penguins and signing with the Flyers. He claimed that it wasn't about the money, but rather that he thought he fit in better with Philadelphia's roster than Pittsburgh's. I think the Jagr ordeal will add a lot of fuel to the fire of the rivalry in the Keystone state, but the Penguins should be glad that he picked Philadelphia. Jagr has spent the past three years in the KHL, where he was not facing NHL-quality opposition. He never had to play an 82 game season, and I will be surprised if he plays a full season for Philadelphia. Jagr still has an amazing scoring touch, but I don't know how well he will hold up against NHL defenders. He's probably not going to look as ageless as Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom, and the Flyers are stupid if they think he will be a replacement for Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. I am not sure why they signed Jaromir Jagr; at least in Pittsburgh he would have been a source of warm and fuzzy nostalgia.

3. HBO 24/7: Flyers and Rangers Edition

HBO 24/7: Penguins and Capitals was one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen. I had high hopes going into it, since I was already a big fan of HBO's Hard Knocks series about the NFL, and it exceeded every one of my expectations. A 24/7 series following the Rangers and the Flyers should be terrific for five reasons: Larry Brooks, Sean Avery, John Tortorella, Maxime Talbot, and a friendly fellow by the name of Chris Pronger. Larry Brooks and John Tortorella have a hilariously adversarial relationship which should play out nicely on camera. Sean Avery was born to be on a show like this, and look for him to shamelessly self-promote his various off-ice ventures at every chance he gets. Maxime Talbot, as much as I despise him as a player, was great on the first edition of 24/7, and I can't wait to see what new facial hair and/or sweaters he will have in store for viewers this time around. Chris Pronger is crazy, and his interviews are golden. Chris Pronger, uncensored on HBO, will be awesome.

4. The Return of the Winnipeg Jets
Unfortunately, I am too young to remember the glory days of the Winnipeg Jets first-hand, but I am nonetheless extremely excited for the Jets to return to the NHL. The Jets might not be very good to start off since most of the roster are coming over from Atlanta, but sometimes playing in front of a passionate fan base can give a team the confidence needed to start winning. Losing feels worse when there are more people paying attention to you, and the fans in Winnipeg are going to be among the most ravenous in the NHL. Winnipeg will have a tough travel schedule for now, but with league realignment in 2012-2013, the Jets are a welcome re-addition to the NHL. The Jets have the perfect combination of nostalgia for older fans and novelty for younger fans.

5. The Possible Cancellation of the NFL and NBA's Seasons

With the very real likelihood that the NFL and NBA lockouts will continue long enough to jeopardize part or all of both leagues' seasons, and with baseball ending in the fall, sports fans in the US and beyond could suddenly find themselves with nothing to watch; this is the perfect opportunity to expand the NHL's fan base. Hockey combines the hard hits of football with the speed of basketball, and if the NHL works to increase their exposure in non-traditional hockey markets and makes an even bigger spectacle out of events such as the All-Star Game and the Winter Classic, they can capitalize on the mismanagement of the NFL and the NBA for their own benefit.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Season Preview: Top Five Reasons The Capitals Can Make It to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011-2012

Considering all of the great moves that GM George McPhee has already made this summer, the Capitals are already an early favorite to finish first in the East this season. Unfortunately, the past two seasons have proved that winning the East (or the President's trophy) is not a sure-fire guarantee of playoff success. The good news is that in hockey, if you are lucky, there are second chances (2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins) and it is never too late to finally get your name on the Cup (Lanny McDonald with the 1988-1989 Calgary Flames). Could this finally be "our year"? Read on to see why I believe this is a new Caps team that can finally reach the brass ring in 2012.

Top Five Reasons why the Caps will reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2011-2012:

1. The Grit Factor
With the additions of Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, and Jeff Halpern to the line-up, along with returning muckers & grinders Matt Hendricks and Brooks Laich, the Capitals look to be a much more physical team in the upcoming season than they were last season. Grit wins games, as evidenced by this season's Stanley Cup winners, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins offense looked, at times, pathetic when compared to supposed high-wattage teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vancouver Canucks (Finals games played at the TD Garden notwithstanding), but what they lacked in 40 goal scorers they more than made up for in mental and physical toughness. Between this and this, the Bruins never lacked the intimidation factor in their game. Sure, Tim Thomas stood on his head from October to June, but he didn't have a team of divas in front of him either. The Capitals are more than capable of the high-wattage offense, and if GMGM's gritty re-boot looks as good on the ice as it does on paper, the Capitals should be a tough team to beat in the coming season.

2. Tomas Vokoun
With the addition of Tomas Vokoun and the exit of the unreliable Semyon Varlamov (FOR A LOTTERY PICK!!!!!), the Capitals promise to have great goal-tending next sesaon. Vokoun posted a .922 save percentage last year, good enough for 7th among goalies playing at least 50 games last year, an amazing feat considering all of those other goalies played for playoff teams, while Vokoun played for the pitiful Panthers. Considering how much of a pay cut that Vokoun was willing to take in order to play for the Caps, it's clear that he is a team-first guy with a desire to win. When you remember how bad Florida's defense was compared to ours, Vokoun is shaping up to be a top 5 goalie next year. Neuvy and Holtby are the future of Caps goaltending, but in the present Vokoun will shine in net.

3. Coach Boudreau's System
After "the great losing streak of Christmas 2010", as future generations will refer to it, everyone's favorite foul-mouthed bench boss changed his system from offense-first to defense-first, and while our stars suffered off years statistics-wise, the Caps were phenomenal down the stretch, including a nine-game winning streak and a seat atop the Eastern Conference. In round 1 of the playoffs, the Caps were in fine form against Swedish superstar Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers, easily besting them in five games. In round 2, however, the Caps were swept by the Lightning when they were unable to adapt their system for Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 system. Luckily, Bruce should have the kinks in his new system ironed out by October 8, and with 82 games to figure it out, the Caps should be more adaptable in the face of adversity in the spring of 2012. Bruce Boudreau is a former Jack Adams award winner for a reason, and he is a much better coach than his team shows sometimes.

4. Olie Kolzig
Olie the Goalie will always be fondly remembered in the hearts of Caps fans, and for good reason: he holds nearly every goaltending record for the franchise, he's a Vezina trophy winner, and he was around for a very long time. Olie was there for some of the Caps' glory days (the team's lone appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998) and for some of our lowest points (my friend Jeremy Roenick had this to say about the Caps before the lockout), and the addition of Olie to the coaching staff is tremendous. The young stars on this team need a mentor, and Olie should be excellent in that capacity. Olie Kolzig will once again be a strength in the Capital's goaltending, even if he's not strapping on the pads himself, and he is just one more reason that the Caps will have goaltending which is among the League's best in 2011-2012.

5. Nicklas Backstrom
By his standards, Nicky had an bad year in 2010-2011, posting career-lows in points (65) and assists (47), in addition to having an abysmal playoffs (2 points, zero goals, even rating, 4 PIMs). He was suffering from a thumb injury late in the season, and his thumb caused him to miss games for the first time in his NHL career. The good news is that he is hard at work in the off-season, and his dedication will be rewarded in the long run. I expect Nicklas Backstrom to return in fine form next year, and he will further solidify his status as one of the elite centers in the NHL today. He's still very young, and he has a lot of potential. With the addition of Troy Brouwer to the top line, we will get to see more of the play-making ability that we came to expect from number 19 in 2009-2010. Backstrom could very well turn out to be a Conn Smythe winner, just as Brouwer's former teammate Jonathan Toews was in 2009.