Archive for June, 2010
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
NHL free agency opens on Canada Day, and we’re going to be all over it. By following along on this blog post, I’ll have every trade and signing in chronological order. We encourage as many comments as possible to keep a dialogue going throughout the coming weeks. Follow along on Twitter too.
D Joe Corvo is back in Carolina, signing a 2 year, $4.5 million deal.
F Rob Niedermayer signs a 1 year deal in Buffalo worth $1.15 million. The Sabres also sign G Patrick Lalime to a 1 year deal.
Washington avoids arbitration with D Jeff Schultz, signing him to a 4 year, $11 million contract.
Evgeni Nabokov signs in Russia. TSN reports it’s a 6 year deal worth $4 million per year.
The Flames sign F Ryan Stone to a 1 year, 2 way deal.
Atlanta signs F Eric Boulton to a 1 year deal worth $650,000.
St. Louis gets G Jaroslav Halak under contract, it’s a 4 year deal worth $15 million overall. His cap hit is $3.75 million per season.
Tampa signs D Brett Clark to a 2 year contract worth $1.3 million per season.
Edmonton signs F Alexandre Giroux to a 1 year contract worth $500,000.
Toronto re-signs F John Mitchell to a 1 year, $750,000 contract.
Phoenix re-signs G Al Montoya and D Sami Lepisto to 2 year contracts.
The Avalanche sign D Kyle Quincey to a 2 year contract worth $3.125 million per season. Colorado also signs F Daniel Winnick to a 2 year contract.
Toronto re-signs F Nikolai Kulemin to a 2 year contract.
Nashville signs F Matthew Lombardi to a 3 year, $10.5 million deal.
F Brad Winchester signs a 1 year deal with St. Louis at $700,000.
Oilers sign F Steve MacIntyre to a 1 year contract worth $500,000.
The Islanders sign D Mark Eaton to a 2 year deal worth $2.5 million per; D Milan Jurcina to a 1 year, $1 million deal; F P.A. Parenteau to a 1 year, $600,000 deal; and F Zenon Konopka to a year deal.
Chris Higgins joins the Florida Panthers on a 1 year, $1.6 million deal.
The Sabres sign F Cody McCormick to a 1 year contract worth $500,000.
Tampa signs D Pavel Kubina to a 2 year contract worth $7.7 million.
Montreal signs F Dustin Boyd to a 1 year contract.
Blackhawks sign Ben Scott to a two year contract.
Minnesota signs F Eric Nystrom to a 3 year deal worth $1.4 million per season.
Edmonton Oilers sign F Colin Fraser to a 2 year contract worth $825,000 per seasons.
Dallas signs G Andrew Raycroft to a 2 year deal.
Minnesota signs F Matt Cullen to a 3 year contract worth $10.5 million overall.
Report: Anaheim offers F Bobby Ryan a 5 year deal worth $25 million overall.
The Dallas Stars have signed Adam Burish to a 2 year contract worth $1.15 million annually.
Raitis Ivanans signs with the Calgary Flames for 2 years at $575,000 per season.
Tim Jackman signs with the Calgary Flames on a 2 year deal at $1.1 million.
Anaheim signs F Saku Koivu to a 2 year contract worth $2.5 million per.
New York Rangers sign F Vaclav Prospal to a 1 year contract worth $1 million with bonuses.
Goalie Johan Hedberg has signed with the New Jersey Devils.
The Buffalo Sabres have signed D Jordan Leopold to a 3 year contract.
The Chicago Blackhawks have traded Andrew Ladd to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Ivan Vishnevsky and a 2nd round pick.
The Calgary Flames have signed F Olli Jokinen to a 2 year deal worth $6 million total.
The Atlanta Thrashers sign G Chris Mason to a 2 year contract worth $3.7 million total.
Vancouver signs F Jeff Tambellini to a 1 year contract.
The New Jersey Devils have signed D Anton Volchenkov to a 6 year contract worth $4.25 million per season.
The Vancouver Canucks have signed D-man Dan Hamhuis to a 6 year deal worth $4.5 million per season.
Oilers sign defenceman Kurtis Foster to a 2 year contract worth $1.8 million per season.
New Jersey signs D Henrik Tallinder to a 4 year deal worth $3.375 million annually.
Montreal signing goaltender Curtis Sanford to a 1 year, 2 way contract that will pay him $550,000 dollars in the NHL.
Ray Whitney signs with the Phoenix Coyotes on a 2 year deal worth $3 million per season.
San Jose signs Cam MacIntyre to a contract.
Anaheim Ducks sign D Tony Lydman to a 3 year deal worth $3 million annually.
The New York Rangers have signed F Derek Boogard to a contract, 4 years and $1.65 million.
Pittsburgh signs D Paul Martin to a contract worth $5 million per year over 5 years.
Goalie Dan Ellis signs a 2 year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning worth $1.5 million annually.
Toronto signs Joey Crabb to a 1 year, 2 way contract.
Jody Shelley signs a 3 year deal with Philadelphia worth $1.1 million annually.
Derek Morris re-signs in Phoenix on a 4 year, $11 million deal.
The Vancouver Canucks sign F Manny Malhotra to a 3 year deal worth $7.5 million total.
Philadelphia has signed D Sean O’Donnell to a 1 year contract worth $1 million.
The San Jose Sharks sign G Antero Niitymaki to a 2 year deal worth $4 million.
Toronto Maple Leafs sign F Colby Armstrong to a 3 year deal worth $9 million.
The Montreal Canadiens sign G Alex Auld to a 1 year deal worth $1 million.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed D Zybenek Michalek to a 5 year, $20 million deal.
St. Louis Blues sign F Vladimir Sobotka to a 1 year deal worth $750,000.
Martin St. Louis signs a 4 year contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning worth $22.5 million.
Ottawa re-signs F Jesse Winchester to a 2 year deal worth $750,000 annually.
The St. Louis Blues have re-signed F Alex Steen to a 4 year contract worth $13.5 million.
Carolina signs D Anton Babchuk to a 1 year contract worth $1.4 million.
The Calgary Flames have signed F Alex Tanguay to a 1 year deal worth $1.7 million.
D Braydon Coburn has re-signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s a 2 year deal worth $3.2 million annually.
Erik Christensen has re-signed with the New York Rangers, it’s a two year deal worth $925,000.
The Ottawa Senators have signed D Sergei Gonchar to a 3 year, $5.5 million deal plus a no trade clause.
The Boston Bruins re-sign F Dan Paille to a 2 year, $2.15 million contract.
The New York Rangers sign G Martin Biron to a 2 year deal averaging $875,000 per season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning send D Andrej Meszaros to Philadelphia in exchange for a 2nd round pick.
Monday, June 28th, 2010
I got a few responses on Twitter last week after there was some discussion surrounding possible Calgary Flames trades or offseason moves. My contention was that I hope Daymond Langkow is on this team next year, because he’s very important to what they want to accomplish. Some didn’t agree with that sentiment, so I figured I should frame my argument.
I get it…on the surface, it all makes sense, and Langkow is dead weight. He’s counting $4.5 million against the cap on an annual basis, and his points don’t seem to go hand-in-hand with that dollar figure. Since his career-high 77 point season in 2006-07, it’s been a downward trend in terms of goals and points. On the goals side, starting with that season, the totals have gone 33, 30, 21 and 14. Points-wise, it’s been 77 followed by seasons of 65, 49, and 37. Easy to say he’s expendable and needs to be moved, especially with his age (33) and that contract. Well, I say wrong. And that’s why we look deeper.
My boy Kent over at FlamesNation wrote a similar column during the season, and he was bang on. The fact of the matter is, Langkow is one of Calgary’s most important forwards in terms of impacting the game. That impact may not come in the form of counting points, but it comes in the subtle, yet extremely, important aspects of the team.
Let’s start with Langkow from the defensive blueline in, where I believe he is one of Calgary’s most crucial players. It seems Brent Sutter and Ryan McGill would agree, as Langkow was one of the most extensively used forwards in a defensive role last season. Among players who played 60 or more games, Langkow was number one in terms of defensive starts…he was on the ice for defensive-zone faceoffs 52.3% of the time. That’s more than any other forward, and also more than each and every blueliner on the team (Regehr and Bouwmeester included). The coaching staff had faith in him defensively, and he rewarded them.
The easiest counting stat to look at is +/-, which was fairly decent for Langkow. His +2 rating was fifth among Flames forwards this past season, with Curtis Glencross’s +11 leading the way for the frontmen (Langkow was tied for 8th overall on the team; Mark Giordano lead the team at +17). But I find +/- to be an extremely overrated indicator…it only counts goals when players are on the ice and does not do nearly good enough of a job of tracking shifts and impact.
So, instead, lets look at scoring chances. Calgary’s scoring chances were tracked for almost every game last season, with fairly specific criteria. In those 70+ games tracked, Langkow’s numbers were solid, on the ice for 202 even strength scoring chances for as opposed to 160 scoring chances against. That becomes even more impressive when you take into account he was matched against quality competition each and every game. To compare, Jarome Iginla was on the ice for 291 scoring chances for and 309 against while playing 5-on-5. And Iginla was used in MUCH more offensive situations, starting in the other teams end 53.2% of the time (as opposed to 47.7% for Langkow). I think we’re starting to paint a picture of how Langkow can impact the game.
But, this is where it really becomes interesting. Remember those offensive zone start numbers…47.7% for Langkow and 53.2% for Iginla. Now let’s analyze what type of offensive action they were able to produce. A rating exists, using NHL tracked stats, comparing all even strength shots directed towards the net (shots on net, blocked shots, missed shots), for and against. A rating in the plus means you’re on the ice for more for than against and vice versa. Now, sometimes, this rating is extremely misleading, because it can be a proxy for offensive zone time (Mikael Backlund’s rating is 14.44, but he started offensively 58.0% of the time).
Langkow’s rating is 7.65, sixth on the team among regular players and third among forwards. Iginla’s number? 0.45. What does that tell you? Plain and simple…Langkow does more with his ice time than Iginla does. He drives the play from the defensive zone, where he starts a lot of his shifts, and is still able to generate scoring opportunities and shots toward the net. He becomes extremely important because of this fact.
Langkow’s ability to be sound and solid defensively while not sacrificing forward play gives you an immense amount of flexibility as a coach. You can put him and his linemates out against top flight competition, and won’t have to worry about being scored upon on a regular basis. It also allows you to get your top offensive players away from other top competition, which is needed on this team, especially with the captain. Iginla was straight thrashed against top flight competition at times last season, because his two-way game was nowhere near at the level of Langkow’s. That forces you to manage Iginla’s minutes, and if you are going to do that, you NEED a reliable player/line to throw out against names like Kane, Toews, Heatley and the Sedin’s.
Iginla didn’t do much with his time last year, so in my estimation, you’re going to need to continue managing his minutes. His linemates from last year weren’t all that much better in that respect. This is not a condemnation of the captain, I love Iginla and believe he still has a place on this team, and an extremely important one at that. But if you want him, and others, to have bounce back years offensively, your case is going to be helped in a large way by keeping Langkow on this team, high cap hit be damned.
Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
Thursday, June 24th, 2010
It’s a crazy first time experience for me, and in a lot of ways, it’s all trial by fire. So, being that it’s one of the biggest events on the NHL calendar, I figured I’d give a blow by blow description of what I’ve covered so far at the draft in LA, so you can get a few tidbits if you’re interested as well.
What a crazy effing day. It was nonstop running around, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After rolling into the Staples Center at around 1, we got right to it, starting to preview the first round of the NHL Draft. But that was the easy stuff, sitting around and talking hockey. Once the big stuff got going was when it really turned into a whirlwind.
After each player is drafted, they’re taken backstage where the media waits for them to talk. So, starting with Edmonton’s Taylor Hall, the guys would come sit at a mini stage, and field questions from the assembled media. While, as you can imagine, the players filter through while other guys are still talking, so you need to be very pro-active in how you handle it. That meant two recorders going from different audio boxes to make sure we got it all. Thankfully Rob Kerr was there to help out a little, so that made things a little easier.
Once that craziness was done, you head back to the draft floor and start “working the wall”. What that means? Well, there’s a barrier between the draft floor and the media risers, and that’s where a good number of print and broadcast media hang out. Why? Well, to hear any interesting tidbits, to pick up on anything that might be going on. But for our purposes, you also collect audio that way. That’s where Flames GM Darryl Sutter came to talk to us, and that’s where we got audio from a number of other GM’s including Doug Wilson and Dale Tallon. They’re all willing to talk and usually happy to do so.
After getting credentials outside of Staples Center, I hopped in a van with Gene Principe and Sean Colville from Rogers Sportsnet and we went from downtown LA to Santa Monica on the coast. Why? Well, Senators GM Bryan Murray was holding his draft media availability, so 10 or so reporters met us there and we heard from Murray. The interesting things from him stemmed from the Jason Spezza talk. He said the whole thing has been blown a little out of proportion, and said “there’s nothing going on with Jason right now.” Check the audio on Fan960.com’s hot audio section, but Murray says he hasn’t received a ton of serious interest and if someone calls, he’ll listen. As for pending UFA blueliner Anton Volchenkov, Murray says he’s had one offer in regards to trading for his rights and nothing else.
From there, it was back to LA, where we arrived at the JW Marriott and went straight to the top prospects luncheon. Basically, we were on a rooftop patio, and all the top guys were there sitting on directors chairs while rotating media guys and gals asked them questions. Taylor Hall was very composed and well spoken, but you can tell he’s a very reserved guy. Tyler Seguin was very interesting to be around. He’s extremely well spoken, but also engaging and very funny…he had no problem talking about movies or music or girls or anything else. But both potential #1 picks were very good to be around. I was able to get in on Emerson Etem, Brandon Gormley, and more. A very cool experience.
Then, it was back downstairs in the hotel lobby where Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini held court with the media. It was massive, with every media guy or gal and their dog there to hear what he had to say about the number one overall pick. He didn’t have a lot to say, as you’d expect, because it’s so close to the time of when the pick will be made. Tambellini said they’ll know for sure who they’re picking tomorrow morning, but clearly wasn’t going to tell anybody who it was. He was asked about the potential of moving into the top five or 15 on top of his top pick, and he’s said they’ve been talking about a number of different things. Overall, Steve said this is a very exciting time for the Oilers, and he’s not letting the staff forget about that while they’re in Cali.
Then, I chatted with ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. He had some really interesting things to say, and again you can check the hot audio section to hear it. Pierre talked about who’s going number one…his sources tell him Taylor Hall is going to go first overall, but he’s not ruling out a swap where maybe the Oilers do something once they’ve made their pick. There’s no question in most minds that Tambellini will be at the podium on Friday night making the choice, however, if Boston really wants to make a swap and take the guy they really want number one…there’s a chance something could be flipped after Edmonton makes the pick. It’s not a good chance, but LeBrun said it’s possible. He also talked about how he liked Florida’s deal of Nathan Horton from a Panthers perspective, cutting ties with a player who he said “has been immature and has underachieved.” Overall, some really good stuff.
Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
Monday, June 14th, 2010
Earlier, I put together a piece detailing the top names available come July 1st in terms of free agent goaltenders. As we move closer to Canada Day, we’ll now take a look at the top UFA defenceman. The list is headlined by one of the most accomplished players of all time, and includes some pretty interesting value picks along with a few guys primed for pay cuts.
We’ll start by looking at my top five in terms of available blueliners.
Scott Niedermayer – What hasn’t he won? What else does he have to accomplish? Both are questions that aren’t easy to answer; yet the future of the soon-to-be 37 year old isn’t clear. If he were to retire, nobody would question him; what with all those Stanley Cup’s, Olympic gold medals, and everything else he has won. But we know the guy can still play at a very high level. Niedermayer comes off a 48 point season, playing 80 games; low by his standards, pretty damn good for everyone else. Here are the facts: the guy is still one of the best skaters in the game; he can still run a powerplay; he’s one of the very best leaders in recent memories; and he’s durable (other than his time to contemplate during 07/08, Niedermayer has played 79 games or more in the last 6 seasons). He counted $6.75 million against the cap last year, and while he’ll most likely choose the Ducks if he decides to return, that’s not set in stone. I’m very intrigued to see how this plays out.
Sergei Gonchar – With Niedermayer most likely staying in Disneyland, that makes Gonchar probably the hottest blueline commodity come July 1st. It’s doubtful he’ll return to Pittsburgh according to most reports, and with 50 or more points in four of his last 5 seasons, he’ll be sought after. The one season he had under 50 was last season, where he missed a significant portion of the year with a knee injury, but returned in time to become a big part of Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup victory. But there are some red flags. One of them? Well, everyone remembers how he was victimized in game 7 against Montreal…and some of his defensive miscues will certainly make GM’s look twice. But it’s not as if that’s new news, and his offensive gifts seem to outweigh the occasional defensive gaffe. He turned 36 in April, so he most likely won’t be able to sign anything longterm; but a two year, $10 million deal is not out of the question. He counted $5 million against Pittsburgh’s cap last season.
Anton Volchenkov – It seems to be common knowledge that the big, solid blueliner will not be returning to Ottawa, after spending his entire NHL career in our nation’s capitol. After making $3.2 million, and counting $2.5 against the cap, last season, the Moscow native is primed for a big raise. He’s one of the most prolific shot blockers in the game, averaging 6.8 blocks per every 60 minutes of even strength time. It’s his gritty style mixed with his strong work inside his own end that has most GM’s liking Volchenkov heading into the offseason. He hasn’t had a huge impact offensively, mostly because he starts so many shifts in the defensive end (he was on the ice for just 46.9% of Ottawa offensive draws this season, in the lower register in the NHL). Only a select few players (names like Tomas Plekanec, Paul Stastny and Ryan Suter, Shea Weber) are going to make a true impact offensively with that percentage of offensive draws. For d-men, it’s even tougher…so don’t let low offensive numbers cloud your thinking on his skating or his all-round game. Volchenkov would be a steal for a team in need of a defensive horse.
Dan Hamhuis – Again, it seems rather well known that Hamhuis isn’t going to be back in Nashville. In fact, a source close to the situation confirmed that for me, so I think it’s fair to put him here. It’ll be a big hole to fill for the Preds, as he sat behind Weber and Suter in terms of average time on ice (Hamhuis was on an average of 21:15 per game). But with Weber and Suter both signed longer term, it seems the two sides are at a bit of an impasse…and while Hamhuis wasn’t as important to Nashville success as those other two blueliners, he was pretty close. Again, he was in the lower register in terms of offensive draws, on the ice for just 46.3% of offensive draws. But, his numbers weren’t terrible, with 5 goals and 24 points in 78 games last season…he was on ice for 5.90 more shots directed towards the net than against. His defensive game isn’t where, say, Volchenkov’s is according to most in the know…but Hamhuis is also 27, so there is still room for some improvement.
Joe Corvo – One of Washington’s big trade deadline acquisitions didn’t pay off the way they wanted, and now it seems as if the almost 33 year old Corvo is heading elsewhere, as numerous sources say the Caps will not bring him back. Corvo came over from Carolina at the deadline in exchange for UFA blueliner Brian Pothier, Oskar Osala and a second round pick. It’s a lot to give up for a guy you’re not going to re-sign, but when the President’s Trophy winners go out in the first round, I guess you can expect it. He counted $2.625 million against the cap last season, and may be in line for a bit of a raise…he’s put up some decent numbers in his career. You know what you’re getting with Corvo…a guy who will play fine in babied minutes, but isn’t a defender you want out in key situations against top players.
I put together another couple categories of players as well…
Primed for pay cuts – Pavel Kubina counted $5 mil against the cap last season, and put up okay numbers (38 points in 76 games). He’s actually not a bad player, and got an unfair ride in Toronto (it wasn’t his fault he was offered the contract). But Kubina just turned 33, so seeing him get a contract that will pay him $5 mil annually is probably out of the question. But for a team who wants a good all-round defenceman, Kubina might be a smart fit. He starts a ton in the defensive zone and doesn’t hurt you. Will Kim Johnsson even be in the NHL next season? He was brought in by Chicago, but in reality, was never going to be a big part of their team…he missed all 22 playoff games with a concussion and counted $4.85 mil against the cap.
The question mark – I was talking to a pretty in-the-know Vancouver media person this weekend, and the feeling is that defenceman Willie Mitchell may now be evaluating not only his future destination, but also his future period. He played just 48 games with the Canucks last season, missing a good chunk of the regular season and all of the playoffs with a nasty concussion. That concussion now has people wondering if he’ll ever play again…he counted $3.5 million against the cap last season.
Restricted area – A few blueliners enter this offseason with unsure futures, but will have their rights owned by their team. Erik Johnson of the Blues is the most high profile, after finishing his entry-level deal. Apparently, the Blues have started contract talks as early as December, which is good news for those talks. Also entering restricted free agency? Philadelphia’s Braydon Coburn and Denis Grebeshkov in Nashville. Apparently, the Preds were thrilled with Grebs…for whatever reason.
Later this week, we’ll start looking at forwards.
Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
Friday, June 11th, 2010
I’m in Vancouver for UFC 115, taking place on Saturday night, and what a leadup it’s been. This city is buzzing and it’s about time to get the fight going, with the main event seeing Rich Franklin take on Chuck Liddell. Remember to follow along on Twitter and check back to www.fan960.com for the live blog throughout the night.
First, let’s link you to all the audio…
- Dana White, UFC President
- Rich Franklin, former UFC Middleweight Champion
- Tom Wright, UFC Canada Director of Operations
- Carlos Condit, UFC welterweight
- Rory MacDonald, UFC welterweight
- Showdown Joe, Rogers Sportsnet MMA reporter
- Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports MMA writer
- UFC 115 Pre-Fight News Conference
First off, I’ve gotta drive home how blown away I am about the scope of this event in Vancouver. It’s as big a sporting event as I’ve ever been a part of, with throngs of media showing up Wednesday for open workouts, and then again on Thursday for the pre-fight news conference at GM Place. I’m excited for Friday’s weigh-in, as it could be out of control. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…for two reasons. First, it’s Canada, and this country loves the sport, that cannot be argued. But second, this is also the fastest selling fight in UFC history (under 30 minutes), so I guess it means there’s quite the appetite.
The main event sees Rich Franklin take on Chuck Liddell in a battle between two of the most popular guys to ever participate in the sport. Both guys are coming off losses, and both guys know the magnitude of this fight and how it impacts their future. For Chuck, he’s lost four of his last five fights. Three of those losses have come in spectacular knockout fashion. Following his last loss, to Shogun Rua at UFC 97, President Dana White was adamant that Liddell had fought his last fight inside The Ocatagon. But Liddell refocused and is back and better than ever…at 40 years old, I’ve never seen the guy look as good as he does now. He’s got the ripped up six-pack for the first time ever, he’s shredded, and comes in significantly lighter than he ever has. He also seems extremely focused and eager to prove that his best days are not behind him…the most dominant Light Heavyweight Champion of all time is hungry.
So what about Rich? Well, his last fight was at UFC 103 in Germany when he suffered a first round KO at the hands of Vitor Belfort. But Franklin also knows how important this fight is. Now back to 205 pounds (he’s been bouncing between 185, 195 and 205 the last number of fights), he knows a win will put him in the title picture. However, right now he’s not in it. And a loss will put him way out of it. With so many impressive fighters in the division (Rua, Machida, Rashad, Rampage just to name a few), Rich has to not only win, but look impressive doing it, to keep himself in the mix. How do I see this fight going? I gotta be honest…I’ve bought into whatever Liddell is selling. He seems absolutely locked in and ready to roll on Saturday; nothing against Rich, but I see a well rounded Chuck getting the best of him, maybe later in the fight.
The other headline fight is kind of interesting. Mirko Cro-Cop returns to The Octagon to take on relative MMA newcomer Pat Barry. It’s a fight that everyone wants to see…the most feared heavyweight striker of all time (Cro-Cop) takes on Barry, one of the most exciting stand-up fighters in the division today. But it’s more interesting to me from the back-story side of things. Barry started in kickboxing and grew up idolizing Cro-Cop, before Mirko started into MMA with PRIDE. He idolized him as a kickboxer, and has been brutally honest about how nerve-wracking stepping into the ring with a living legend is going to be. He’s confident and ready, but he’s also going in as a fan. His words…”to hell with him being just another guy, I’m going into this fight as a fan, but I’m also going to beat him.” Barry feels confident he can stand and exchange with Mirko, which should be exciting. Cro-Cop’s tenure in the UFC hasn’t been overly impressive…this is a fight that can really get him back on track. I think he wins here, just by using his edge in experience and cage smarts to point out a really exciting decision.
Watch for the 170 pound fight to open the PPV with Kelowna’s Rory MacDonald taking on Carlos Condit. I blogged on it earlier this week, but 10-0 MacDonald has yet to let a fight go to the judges. He’s the youngest fighter in the UFC and he has BY FAR his most difficult fight with the experienced and relentless Condit. The always exciting Tyson Griffin is on free TV on Spike as one of the prelims; he takes on impressive Evan Dunham. The other Spike fight sees The Ultimate Fighter vets Mac Danzig and Matt Wiman square off at 155. Elsehwere on the main card, very curious to see how Gilbert Yvel does giving up 40 pounds to Ben Rothwell. It has the potential to be a very good heavyweight battle.
Look, it may not be the most star-studded card in terms of name value, but UFC 115 Saturday in Vancouver has the potential to be one of the most exciting cards of the year, from a fan standpoint. We’ll be all over it Friday and Saturday, and remember to check back with www.fan960.com throughout the fight and after for live blogs and post-fight audio and interviews. Vancouver is buzzing and Saturday is going to be out of control.
Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
When the main card blows the roof of GM Place on Saturday night for UFC 115, it’ll kick off with some Western Canadian content. With Vancouver playing host to their first UFC card, it makes sense some local content would join the fray…and BC doesn’t have much better of an MMA export than 20 year old Rory MacDonald. He fights Carlos Condit at 170 pounds on Saturday.
First off, here’s my interview with Rory from Monday.
MacDonald enters Saturday’s fight as the youngest fighter in the UFC…born July 22nd, 1989, he’s just 20. He also enters with one hell of a resume. MacDonald sits 10-0 in his fight career, including 1-0 in the UFC, after a first round submission win over Mike Guymon back in January. Before that, it was nine wins in smaller promotions, including a nice stint with King of the Cage where he became the World Lightweight Champion. All ten of his fights have one central theme…ending early. MacDonald has yet to take one of his fights to the judges scorecards, with six wins via submission and the other four from KO or TKO. Pretty damn impressive.
Born in Quesnel, Rory started training when he was 14, and was one of the “new breed” of fighters. When I say that, I mean he’s not in the same breed of the current, established stable of UFC fighters. A lot of guys started being a college wrestler, or an accomplished kickboxer. After they learned that craft, they transitioned to MMA and learned the rest of the disiplines. For MacDonald, he started training mixed martial arts…going to an MMA gym, and learning all the different arts tailored to the sport. Wrestling is different in college than it is in MMA, and the same with the rest.
After two years of training, Rory took his first fight in 2005, and started his incredible run. It was after a November 2008 fight in Calgary when the UFC first showed interest, but MacDonald didn’t feel ready to join the biggest fight promotion in the world. So, he took two more fights with KOTC before signing a four fight deal with Dana White and the UFC; he debuted in January with an impressive armbar victory over Guymon.
Now, fighting Condit, MacDonald has by far his biggest career test. Condit is no slouch, and is hell to fight, as the guy will not give up. The WEC veteran is 1-1 in the UFC, and holds 29 professional fights under his belt. It’s a fight that is going to put the young and raw skills of MacDonald to the test, and it’s going to tell us a lot about the young man. If he loses? He’s still an incredible talent, but the refrain may be “more polishing is needed.” However, a win, and it’s one hell of a feather in his cap.
Do I think he can do it? Yeah, I do, but it’s going to have to come with a sound gameplan. Condit is a great fighter who still has a very bright future ahead of him. He’s out to prove he’s one of the best in the world and that his move from WEC to UFC was the right one for both parties. And if Rory starts to believe in the “invincible aura” he sort of has around him, he’s in trouble. But I don’t think he will. MacDonald’s well rounded game is going to be a tough matchup for CC…I see this one being another win for Rory, but it may go to the scorecards for the first time in his career.
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Monday, June 7th, 2010
Two key dates get closer and closer on the NHL and Calgary Flames calendar. First, we’ve got the NHL Entry Draft on the June 25th weekend, followed one week after by the beginning of free agency on July 1st. We’re going to be preparing you for those dates over the next few weeks.
We’ll start by profiling the top names available in terms of free agent goaltenders. Plenty of names are kicking around, with some high profile ones out there. Later we’ll move to the blueline and high profile forwards.
Marty Turco – Turco comes off a frustrating season in Dallas, and after 9 seasons with the Stars, he will be joining a new team. Turco ended up playing 53 games, finishing with a 22-20-11 record. In talking with Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News during the season, it was an up and down year for Turco. He’d have games where he was on, and then he’d have games where he just didn’t seem to have it. His numbers were average, and he played on an average team. Turco counted $5.7 million against the cap this past season, and at 34 years old, he’s no longer in those defined “prime years”. However, he’s a veteran guy who’s shown he can win…I think you’ll see a few teams interested.
Evgeni Nabokov – What a weird season for Nabby in San Jose. He was doing just fine prior to the Olympic break, but all reports out of the Bay Area had him not the same after being shelled by Team Canada in the quarterfinals. He was 44-16-10 in the regular season playing for the Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks. He was suspect at times and pretty good at times posting an 8-7 record in the playoffs. I’ve got two questions when it comes to Nabokov. First, is he back in San Jose? Nabokov has spent his entire pro career in the Sharks organization as a ninth round pick in 1994. If he’s not, it would end 11 straight seasons with Nabby in teal. The second question: is Nabokov worth the $5.375 million against the cap he got last year. I’ve always been a fan, but we all know he’s prone to lapses. I wouldn’t pay him that much, but two years at, say, $8 million…I might if I needed a goalie.
Jose Theodore – Here’s an interesting one. Theodore counted $4.5 million against the cap last season, and ended with a stellar 30-7-7 record on the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals. Yet he wasn’t the guy for the Caps in the postseason, as Semyon Varlamov got the bulk of the starts. You wonder if there’s any way Jose figures into Washington’s plans for next season…Varlamov is 22 while Theodore is 33, plus Michal Neuvirth seems ready to play in the NHL by many accounts. Neuvirth got into 17 regular season games posting a 9-4 record. It seems like Theodore may be the odd man out.
Vesa Toskala – Here’s a guy who will take a pay cut. He spent last season in Toronto, Anaheim and Calgary, finishing the season with the Flames. He was making $4 million and won’t get that much anywhere else, as he hasn’t shown number one chops. I do wonder if GM Darryl Sutter and the Flames take a look at bringing him back at a reduce salary. He’s got a relationship with fellow Finn Miikka Kiprusoff, which many believe to be the tipping point. If he signed for 2 years at $3 million total, I think a lot of fans would be all right with that.
Chris Mason - Here’s a really good guy, great in the room, and who has shown he can back it up in net. The 34 year old Mason 30-22-8 for the Blues this past season, one year after he helped lead the Blues on an unreal run down the stretch to qualify for the postseason. In two seasons with the Blues, he’s put 57 wins and has been their most reliable guy in net during that time. He made $3 million last year, and to be honest, I’d have no problem if a team went out and got him on a one or two year deal for the same annual salary. I’ve also heard the Blues are looking at keeping Mason in the fold, which I think would be a great move. Yes, he’s a little older at 34, but he’s going to give you reliable minutes in net, and you know you’re getting a great influence inside the room. Is he an unchallenged number 1? No, but he’s a low risk, solid reward guy in my eyes.
The Rest - I hate using that term, but the five above goalies are the highest profile of the UFA crop this year. Other notable names include Dan Ellis, who will most likely go elsewhere after 3 seasons in Nashville. He’s a guy that could be solid in a backup role, but his $1.75 million cap hit from last year might be a little steep. What’s next for Ray Emery? After an injury shortened season in Philly, it would be surprising if the Flyers re-signed him after the success Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher had. And with questions about when he’ll be ready again, will there be any team willing to take a chance? But then again, Leighton is also unrestricted come July 1st…will the Flyers feel the pressure to re-sign him after the great playoff he’s had? Regardless, Leighton will have no problem finding work.
The crop also includes restricted free agent Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak. So, while Montreal holds both players rights, many wonder if one will be moved. The feeling remains that Price would be the one to be moved, as Halak had his unbelievable playoff run. That will also be a hot goaltending story to keep an eye on. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
Friday, June 4th, 2010
They’re Calgary’s most successful mixed martial arts promotion, and they’re still going strong. The Hard Knocks Fighting Championship gets set to host their seventh event, Friday night at the Silver Dollar Casino as they present School of Hard Knocks 7. While Edmonton continues to roll with numerous different MMA promotions, Hard Knocks continues to grow using a smart and sound business model. The best part is, they’re not only gaining their own success, they’re also helping to build the sport.
A few things I like about the outfit. First off, I like that they’ve decided to go about it the right way. Instead of blowing their wad on huge venues and spending massive amounts of capital on production right away, Hard Knocks decided to grow their product. The first events saw a simple hexagon in the middle of the casino convention center with a bunch of seats. Since then, it’s grown to a light show, loud music, big video screens…and it hasn’t been at the cost of their high quality fights. The fact that they’ve grown slowly has made it easy for them to constantly give better shows, keeping their loyal fans coming back, all the while bringing new ones in.
But more importantly, I like how Hard Knocks has made an effort to help develop the sport and help up and coming fighters. How have they done this? By bringing Calgary amateur fights, along with professional bouts on their cards. Even though they’ve run into some opposition from a backwards athletic commission, Hard Knocks has grown a niche, providing fans with exciting fights, but also providing fighters with a viable place to ply their trade. The difference between amateur and professional is very simple…amateur fighters don’t get paid, and as such, any win or loss does not go on their professional record. What does this do? It gives fighters a place where they can face good competition while still getting ready for their professional fight career.
Business partners, and Hard Knocks co-founders, Ari Taub and Beamer Comfort started the promotion with a number of mandates. One of them was, yes, to make money…but there was also a focus to develop local fighters. And they’ve done that and will continue to do so. The promotion is now on the radar for bigger promotions, looking for new talent and potential fighters down the road. And Hard Knocks isn’t set in their ways…they’re all about learning. For instance, Taub has made numeous trips to Las Vegas to observe Randy Couture’s Xtreme Couture school. Comfort will be chatting with WEC founder Reed Harris later this month when the promotion debuts in Edmonton. So, as the promotion grows, the guys running it are looking for ways to make that growth even more exponential.
So, as a passionate fan of the sport, I find a group like Hard Knocks so refreshing. While groups like RAW Combat and Hardcore Fighting Championship have tried to run promotions here, they’ve failed, for simple reasons. They’re the same things being avoided by Hard Knocks right now, and for me, I hope their growth only continues.