Friday, February 26, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: PETA Sucks

If you’re like me, you shake your head in disgust every time you hear anything in the news about the so-called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Why?

Instead of looking at past examples, lets just start with the organization’s latest billboard campaign aimed at getting people to spay or neuter their pets. Before a call from his lawyers, the ad featured a picture of Tiger Woods in an orange golf shirt and reads:

“TOO MUCH SEX CAN BE A BAD THING…for little tigers too. Help keep your cats (and dogs) out of trouble: Always spay or neuter!”

Photobucket

The Huffington Post has the since-taken-down motivation behind the billboard from the PETA blog, which details the benefits of stopping your pets from having kids. What it doesn’t discuss though, is why they decided to go with Tiger Woods…but we all know it’s because they will do anything to get their names in the news.

According to the NY Post, Tiger’s lawyers “kindly, but firmly,” threatened a lawsuit if this thing saw the light of day – and PETA has since decided to take their campaign in a different, equally idiotic direction.

Who is their next target?

If you guessed the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford – you’re absolutely right. PETA's official blog says the potential slogan for this ad is “Your dog doesn’t have to go to South America to get laid.”

Ugh.

First of all – isn’t the aim here to stop animals from “getting laid”?

Further to that, if their goal really is saving the lives of the thousands, or hundreds of thousands of abandoned animals that wind up in over-crowded shelters, why are they attacking unfaithful public figures?

As annoying as it was, it made sense that PETA was all over Michael Vick (even after he got out of jail), because he was involved in dog fighting – but as far as I know, Tiger Woods and Mark Sanford haven’t been linked to any type of animal cruelty in the past.

So, why the attacks? Was organization president Ingrid Newkirk recently cheated on or something? Either way, in my opinion all PETA is doing here is losing any type of respect and credibility they have gained for the good work they actually do.

Who will they target next?

Kerrzy's Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts

Oh, Canada!

After a slower start to the Olympics than they might have hoped for, Canadian athletes have been on an absolute tear with medals in five straight days (plus a guaranteed curling medal today and Saturday...Go Cheryl and Kevin!!!!!) and seven medals in the last three days.

One of those was a third straight Gold in Women's hockey...and it came with a bit of post-game controversy!

The LA Times reports the International Olympic Committee is investigating the "behaviour" of our ladies, who apparently came back onto the ice half an hour after the medal presentation, still wearing their gear, downing beer and champagne and smoking cigars!

The IOC was made aware of the situation by an Associated Press reporter and executive director Gilbert Felli says "If that's the case, that is not good. It is not what we want to see. I don't think it's a good promotion of sport values. If they celebrate in the changing room, that's one thing, but not in public."

The issue could be underage drinking - 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin definitely has a reason to celebrate, after scoring both goals for her country.

The LA Times says photos show Poulin with a beer in her hand. Uh oh!

Royal Sluggerrr

If you think you've heard it all - think again!

As if it's not hard enough just watching them play in the first place, a Kansas City Royals fan, or perhaps former fan, is suing the team after getting slugged in the face with an airborne hot dog at a game last year.

The dog in question was tossed by the Royals mascot, a giant lion named Sluggerrr who walks around with a (pretty damn cool) hot dog gun and entertains the fans during breaks in play (of which there are many in baseball). Generally he throws a few, shoots a few and throws a few more, much to the delight of the crowd (who probably don't have a whole lot else to cheer about).
Problems arose on that fateful September night though when a man named John Coomer ended up catching the sausage with his right eye, which he says detached his retina and caused cataracts and permanent vision impairment in his other eye.

The Kansas City Star says that in court documents, Coomer says he's had two surgeries on his eyes and that his damages exceed $25,000.

Oh, and apparently the team is looking for a new person to fill the costume - but they say it's not because of what happened with the hot dog. Mmmhmm...

Incase you're wondering: here's a (grainy) look at how Sluggerrr's hot dog routine usually looks, and a look at what happens when the (pretty damn cool) hot dog gun misfires:



Another One Bites the Dust

Well, the hits just keep on coming for the NBA's Washington Wizards...

First, they lost two players to season-long suspensions for that gun-drawing escapade two months ago. Not long afterwards, the team found out that Gilbert Arenas, their franchise player, could wind up actually doing hard time for his part in the incident.

That's a pretty rough way to start 2010, isn't it? Well don't worry - it gets worse.

On February 13th the Wizards completed a seven-player trade with the Dallas Mavericks, which saw them get rid of a couple of mainstays in favour of a guy who has a history of off-the-court problems and is rumoured to have missed a game this year (oddly enough, against the Wizards) with a hangover.

Three games into his Washington career, Josh Howard is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Ouch!

Stay Classy, UFC

Business is good for the UFC, as Mixed Martial Arts as a whole gains more and more credibility as a mainstream sport...but every now and then something happens that knocks it down a peg or two, like this:

Former heavyweight champion Frank Mir was a guest on a Pittsburgh radio show last week, where he had some interesting things to say about former WWE star Brock Lesnar, who beat him up pretty good for the heavyweight belt last July. Here's what he said:

"I want to fight Lesnar. I hate who he is as a person. I want to break his neck in the ring. I want him to be the first person that dies due to Octagon-related injuries. That's what's going through my mind."

Talking about wanting to kill somebody probably isn't the best way to go about things. Aren't death threats a criminal matter in most parts of the world? I don't think the UFC was overly happy to hear one of its fighters talking like that, especially on a radio show, and president Dana White said that Mir had been "talked to," adding "he won't be saying anything like that again."

As expected, Mir apologized not long afterwards in a statement issued by the UFC, where he said "I respect Brock, all the other fighters, and the sport of mixed martial arts. I'm sorry that I stepped out of line."

Not to be outdone, here's what Lesnar had to say (from something called LowKick):

"Frank Mir wants murder? The beast is now even angrier than last time. It's okay, Frankie 'The Stalker' Mir could use another beat down. Except this time, it will be more vicious. The Champion hopes Frank Mir makes it past Shane Carwin. Frank may never be able to fight again after the third fight is over. Expect the unexpected Mr. Submission Man, you may leave without an arm."

That should sell some tickets!

One More Thing

Remember last week when Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic set a World Record by hitting a shot from over 52 feet out? Yeah, teammate Vince Carter obliterated that record in practice this week...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Olympic Apologies

This week at the Vancouver Olympics we had two athletes from two different countries in two different events saying "I'm sorry" - for two very different reasons.

First up - speed skater Sven Kramer of the Netherlands. You might remember him from a blog last week, where he told off an NBC reporter who started an interview by asking for his name, country and event (after he set an Olympic record and won a gold medal).

Kramer was back in the news this week after he was disqualified in the men's 10,000m, a race he very likely would have won, for a lane violation. What's worse is that it was his coach who told him to get into the inside lane, which caused the DQ. Not surprisingly Kramer, who is arguably the sports biggest star, was livid once he found out that he was out of the race, pushing his coach away and throwing his glasses to the side. That's not where it ended though...

The 23-year-old was clearly (and rightfully so) in one of those "stay out of my way" type of bad moods, so he tried to head to the dressing room to cool down. He was stopped by a female volunteer with the Olympic host broadcaster who told him to go immediately to the infield - for her efforts, reports say she was allegedly shoved and yelled at by Kramer.

A day later Kramer, who seems like a pretty good guy, apologized to the volunteer and gave her a small gift.

Onto the next apology - you know how Canadians have a reputation of being almost too polite? This is why:

Jon Montgomery of Russell, Manitoba, won our country's fourth gold medal of these games when he captured top prize in the skeleton (which, if you don't know, is basically a face-first luge). Montgomery was on the sidelines when he realized he had won, and celebrated by jumping around and screaming at the top of his lungs - which I'd say is a pretty standard sight in those circumstances.

I was here at work watching when that happened, and I didn't think it was an over the top celebration at all - I actually got chills down my spine watching the sheer passion of a guy who had just realized a dream that was years in the making.

But, as Yahoo! Sports' Fourth Place Medal tells us, in true Canadian fashion - Montgomery is apologizing for the way he acted, saying:

"I had said at the beginning of the race that if I was in that position and I did get gold coming from behind that I was going to remain stoic and respectful because you never want to cheer when somebody else loses. But I have to apologize to [Latvian Martins Dukurs], that didn't happen, I lost my mind when I saw the 0.07 come up and I was like I had stuck my finger in a light socket."

Only in Canada would you get a gold medal winning athlete apologizing to the silver medallist for celebrating too hard. I'm not saying it's a bad thing - but isn't it the most "Canadian" thing you've ever heard?

Kerrzy's Notebook: MLS Strike?

Last week I brought you up to speed on the impending labor disasters in three of North America's 'big four' pro sports leagues...and whaddaya know - another week, another impending strike!

This time around, it's one of the continents newer leagues, Major League Soccer, having trouble at he bargaining table.

Players say they want more freedom of movement within the league and more guaranteed contracts. The owners, on the other hand, say they're already losing money as it is.

Their current collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of January and both sides agreed to extend negotiations twice (once because of snow), but the latest extension expires on Thursday. The league was hoping the players would match their no-lockout pledge with a no-strike pledge, but that didn't happen with the start of the season now just over a month away.

Major League Soccer president Mark Abbott has gone on record as saying they're willing to start the season under the rules of the expired contract, putting the ball in the players' court. The players aren't happy with that though, saying not much progress is being made.

Even if a strike is avoided and the season begins as scheduled on March 25th, the effects of the drawn-out negotiations could effect the league's relationship with CONCACAF, the sport's regional governing body.

The Columbus Crew are scheduled to host Mexico's Deportivo Toluca FC in the first leg of CONCACAF Champions League action on March 9th, with the second leg coming eight days later. You'd have to think neither of those games will wind up being played under the current circumstances, which could result in fines or penalties, but will definitely result in a black mark on the league.

If this thing doesn't get resolved, not even David Beckham will be able to save them!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts

Mike From Canmore…

I’ve got to start things off here by giving a shout out to my buddy Mike Robertson, who picked up a silver in the men’s snowboard cross on Monday in Vancouver!

What a rush it was seeing a friend of mine race on the world stage and do as well as he did! He almost won it all too, but he was caught in the last part of the race by the defending Olympic champ from the US – either way, it was very exciting stuff! Go Mike!!!!!

Doing Your Homework

If you’re ever given the opportunity to cover a huge sporting event like the Olympic Games…don’t do this.

Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer is a bit of a hero in his homeland these days for a couple of reasons – first, he set an Olympic record on the way to a gold medal in the men’s 5000m race. Then, he showed a reporter who clearly hadn’t done her homework what was up!

The woman, apparently from NBC, starts the interview by asking Kramer, who remember JUST WON A GOLD MEDAL, for his name, his country and the event he just won…to which he awesomely replies “Are you stupid? Hell no I’m not going to do that!”

Now, I’ve never covered speed skating myself, but I would assume part of the process is watching the races and looking at the leader board.

Here’s the video of the incident:






Now, I understand the reporter was just doing her due diligence, but there’s a time and a place for that! The guy just won a gold medal!

To his credit, Kramer was polite enough to finish the interview and act like the whole thing never happened.

Say Cheese!

If you had just won a medal in your chosen Olympic sport, you’d probably be walking around with a pretty big smile on your face right?

That’s proving to be a bit of a problem for Germany’s David Möller.

According to something called The Local, the 28-year-old silver medalist in the men’s singles luge chipped one of his teeth while biting into his prize at the request of photographers.

“The corner of the tooth has broken off a few times at home, but it is irritating when you don’t trust yourself to smile as you should,” he said.

So, aside from painting the town black red and yellow, Möller is now also looking for a dentist to fix him up!

Helping Out

Lots has been done to help the people of Haiti since that devastating earthquake rocked the nation – and one Olympic snowboarder is hoping the Olympic spirit helps her cause.

Hannah Teter, who followed up a gold medal in the women’s half pipe in 2006 with a silver medal on Thursday night, is hoping you’ll help out the people of Haiti by covering your butt (ladies).

Teter and the fine people at SweetCheeksPanties.com are all about “giving with your heart, soul and booty” and they’re selling a new pair of undies each month, designed to speak to a particular cause, with $5 from each pair going to people in need.

Right now, it’s time to “Make Love, Not War” for Doctors Without Borders, and their efforts in Haiti. The goal is to raise $100,000 by May in the name of “peace, love and posterior.”

Forgot Valentines Day? I’ve got your back.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: The Battle of the CBA

It’s an uncertain time in sports right now – the collective bargaining agreement of the NFL is up this year, with the NHL’s and NBA’s agreements expiring next year.

What’s worse, it sounds like none of the aforementioned leagues are going to have it very easy when it comes time to negotiate a new deal.

First up: the NBA.

I came across an article this weekend that surprised me – according to NBA commissioner David Stern, the league is projecting losses of about $400-million this season and has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in every season since 2005.

With their CBA running out very soon, the league is apparently proposing reductions in the salaries of first round picks, a sharp drop in the maximum salary for any player (along with the number of years a guy can sign for) and a reduction in the players share of basketball related income. Not surprisingly, that proposal was immediately tossed out by the players union.

Stern says the union is welcome to send the league a counter-proposal, but that “significant changes” are needed in the next deal.

The thing is, if ‘significant changes’ means the players will have to agree to see their salaries drop, which they will, it’s going to be a long, dirty battle to get a new agreement signed. Remember the NHL lockout?

Next topic: the NFL.

According to reports, the NFL is still making money but the players are getting richer while the owners feel the pinch of the current economic climate.

Business Week says players received about $2.6-billion in salary and benefits under the current labor contract, while the owners lost about $220-million. The NFL’s chief financial officer says the league’s total revenue rose 8 percent from 2006 to 2008 to about $8-billion, but player costs are up 9 percent.

Once again, the league is hoping to get the players to take pay cuts in order to solve some of the financial problems. Once again, the players, whose salaries eat up 60 percent of the league’s revenue, aren’t having it. In fact, the NFLPA is questioning the numbers that the league is releasing, pointing out what a great year the NFL is having, with record TV ratings and attendance down just one percent.

One thing that makes the NFL’s situation interesting is the lack of a salary cap in the final year of the deal.

Going by the numbers on USA Today, 21 of the league’s 32 teams spent over $100-million on players last season, with a 22nd team (the Vikings) spending just short of that mark. So, are things going to get wild and crazy next season?

Not in Steeltown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers say they’ll follow a self-imposed salary cap, because no one knows what will happen beyond this coming season.

Steelers director of football operations, Kevin Colbert, told ESPN the team doesn’t want to “have to do something to undo what you did” if the next CBA has a cap, which it probably will.

I’ve got a feeling some teams won’t be taking the “common sense” approach that the Steelers are preaching, but I can’t wait for one of those clubs to come out and say it!

As for the NHL’s upcoming CBA battle, I don’t even want to talk about it. The players gave up so much in the last agreement, and I’ve heard whispers that the owners will be looking for another salary rollback. Looks like it could get ugly again.

Could you imagine a 2011 without professional football, basketball or hockey? I think the Mayans predicted that…

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Above the Rim

This weekend featured a whole lot of slam dunkage – from the NBA’s Development League, to a dunk-in at the Rookies vs. Sophomores game to the big show on Saturday…there was a lot of rim-rockin’ going on.

First up, the D-League dunk contest, which featured a 6-foot-5 guy dunking over a 6-foot-11 guy (1:32):





In the rookies vs. sophomores game on Friday night, which was a rare win for the rooks, first year Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan beat Eric Gordon of the LA Clippers in a “dunk in” for a spot in the main dunk contest on Saturday.

DeRozan, the 20-year-old from USC, opened things up with a between the legs reverse jam and finished it off with a powerful windmill move – Gordon, on the other hand, had a bit of trouble with both of his dunks.






Now, for the main event – the NBA dunk contest, which featured Shannon Brown of the Lakers, Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats, DeMar DeRozan and defending two-time champion Nate Robinson of the NY Knicks.

DeRozan did the Raptors proud and got creative with a couple of his dunks, but couldn’t stop little Nate Robinson on his way to becoming the first three-time champion in the contest.







I thought DeRozan’s two dunks in the final were way better than Robinson’s, but I guess the fact that a 5-foot-9 guy can do what he does is pretty impressive.

My favorite dunk out of all of those is DeRozan’s twist on dunking over a fellow player, by having Sonny Weems throw the ball off the backboard as he approached.

What was your favorite dunk of the weekend?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts

Here we go!

The 2010 Winter Olympics begin today with the opening ceremonies (and some morning ski jumping, or mountain biking if the snow doesn’t hold up).

I’m sure it’ll be a pretty wild start to the Olympics, because every host country always tries to outdo the last when it comes to large-scale choreographed ceremonies…should be interesting!

Here are the things I’m most pumped for: the hockey tournament (obviously), watching my buddy Mike compete in the snowboard cross event, Edmonton Eskimos running back Jesse Lumsden in the bobsleigh and the luge.

Why the luge, you might ask? Because the stakes just got high for Canada’s team in that event.

An Alberta company is offering $1-million to any Canadian luger who wins gold at the upcoming games, money that would be split between the athlete and the Canadian Luge Association (and if more than one Canadian luger wins gold, they’ll just split the million bucks).

That’s not all – the company is also tossing up $50,000 for each silver and bronze medal and a $5,000 reward for the top Canadian in men’s and women’s singles and doubles.

Another reason to watch the luge (which starts on Saturday), is that you literally have to be a crazy person to even attempt this sport!






Not to be a downer, but…

If you’re not feeling the Olympic spirit, you’re not alone.

There’s at least one other guy in the world with you on that one – his name? Christopher Hitchens of Newsweek.

In an article titled “Fool’s Gold – How the Olympics and other international competitions breed conflict and bring out the worst in human nature,” Hitchens pretty much defines what it means to be a “Debby Downer.”

Starting with the recent troubles at the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament, Hitchens hits all types of subject matter in his piece – from how pathetic it is to call the upcoming World Cup the World Cup, to Canada hogging all of the Olympic venues in order to protect home field advantage.

If you’re into anti-Canada, anti-sports Newsweek articles, this is the anti-Canada, anti-sports Newsweek article for you!

Super Sunday

It seems like the only people that didn’t watch the Super Bowl last Sunday are those without a television…

Super Bowl XLIV was the most-watched TV show in US history, drawing 106.5 million viewers and surpassing the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H, which held the previous record of 105.97 million (really??).

It turns out the game also set records here in Canada, beating out the Grey Cup by about 600,000 with an audience of 6.7 million. Pro Football Talk, about half of the country watched at least part of the Saints 31-17 win over the Colts.

But seriously – 105.97 million people watched the finale of M*A*S*H??

Free Throw Fail

Wayne Gretzky’s dad Walter has a saying that goes something like “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Wise words, but I’ve got a feeling that a fellow named Brady Morningstar is wishing he had taken one less shot than he did in a college basketball game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Texas Longhorns on Monday night.

Jeff Eisenberg over at The Dagger brings us this amazingly brutal video that he dubs the ugliest missed free throw you've ever seen.”






Morningstar later told reporters that the ball was wet and slipped out of his hands on the way up, adding that he “looked pretty stupid there.”

Sure, that’s embarrassing, but even Mr. Trick Shot, LeBron James, can look foolish from the free throw line.

Another baller that looked a bit silly recently was Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies, who thought he had a little less time than he did when he got his hands on a loose ball in the first quarter of a 95-93 win over the LA Lakers.






Hangin’ up the Mawashi

Here’s a pretty cool story I found in the Wall Street Journal's sports section this week – a drunken brawl in Tokyo has shaken the world of sumo wrestling.

The grand champion of the sport, 29-year-old Asashoryu, has retired after it was reported last month that he hit a guy and broke his nose after a “late-night drinking binge.” The Mongolian says what really happened that night is “quite different” from what was being reported, but has declined to give his version of the story.

The yokozuna sits third on the all-time list of title winners and just won his 25th national tournament in January. A little while ago I watched a National Geographic show called “Inside Sumo” which focused on Asashoryu and his rock star lifestyle and it was completely awesome.

He’s definitely the “bad boy” of sumo, which just sounds funny to me for some reason.

Something else that sounds funny to me is that, according to the WSJ, the 6’3, 339 pound wrestler was suspended for two tournaments back in 2007 because he got busted for playing soccer while taking a break from sumo to recover from some injuries.

Either way, sumo is serious business – Kyodo News reports that the Japan Sumo Association has decided to pay Asashoryu 120 million yen ($1.4-million Canadian) in retirement benefits.

So, what does a 29-year-old sumo wrestling champing do when he retires? I wonder if he’s any good at football!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: The Replacements

The Mule was back in the Detroit Red Wings lineup on Tuesday night after missing exactly four months with a knee injury, and his return triggered a bit of international controversy.

Sweden’s Olympic hockey team took a bit of heat from some fans for not including Johan Franzen in their lineup, especially considering his return before the Olympic break, but the team stood by their decision and even went on the offensive to defend their choice.

In the past week or so Team Sweden has taken to the newspapers, initiating a war of words with the Red Wings medical staff and trying to fend off criticism by saying Franzen came back too soon.


"You can ask yourself the following question: Would he have been back on the team if Detroit would have been first in the conference? Or is it because they're in a tough spot?" team manager Mats Näslund told the Swedish newspaper Expressen. "Surely it's been forced because of the situation the Red Wings are in."

A Swedish doctor also got in on the action, telling the same newspaper that the team was risking the “function of [Franzen’s] knee” by letting him play so soon after the injury. Bjorn Waldebäck says he shouldn’t play until six months has passed.

Here’s another interesting tidbit from the Free Press: at the ’06 Olympics, Nik Kronwall played for Sweden despite playing just three NHL games after, you guessed it, ACL surgery the previous fall.

Those accusations brought some good quotes from the Red Wings side of things too – here’s what general manager Ken Holland had to say:

“If [team doctor] Dr. Clancy says he’s OK, that’s what we go by. We’ve signed Johan to a $43-million contract. He wouldn’t play if doctors didn’t say he’s ready.”

Franzen threw in a bit of sarcasm:

“I'm going to try to get three games in here before the break, but I probably won't be 100% and then I don't want to play in Olympics. I don't want to risk not being any good."

The update to this story is that after not speaking to him since November and then criticizing the Red Wings medical staff, Team Sweden is now all "gung-ho," as the Free Press’ Helene St. James puts it, about hearing daily updates on The Mule’s readiness.

Why are they so interested all of a sudden?

Fellow Red Wing/Swede Tomas Holmstrom has a knee injury and it was thought that Peter Forsberg could miss the Games with some nagging injuries, though the latest reports have him ready to go.

The fact that a guy with 25 goals and 41 points in his last 39 NHL playoff games is Sweden’s “plan B” is pretty scary – but this is their second sorta-controversy in the lead up to the Olympics.

Will that affect the team at all? Only time will tell!

Speaking of replacement players – Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf hurt his ankle earlier this week and will try it out this weekend before deciding whether or not he’ll suit up for Team Canada.

Hockey Canada has announced that if he can’t go, Philadelphia's Jeff Carter will fill in for him, the second time he made headlines this week.

On Monday, Carter hit Anssi Salmela into 2014 as he sniped a shorthanded goal, knocking him out and out of the game.





Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Next Stop, the KHL?

Could the promise of millions of dollars per year in tax-free money actually lure some of the NHL’s top players overseas?

You might not think it’s possible, but Kontinental Hockey League president Alexander Medvedev is apparently making it his goal in life to make it happen.

According to one of my favorite hockey sites, Russian Hockey Fans, Medvedev attended New Jersey’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday and planned to speak with newly acquired Russian superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and his wife afterwards.

Here’s part of what Medvedev told Gazeta.ru:

"Atlanta already regrets that they parted with Kovalchuk. On the other hand New Jersey almost secured themselves a playoff spot. We are still considering to transfer Ilya to the KHL."

This story might actually have something to it – Sportsnet's Mike Brophy discussed the possibility of Kovalchuk, even Alex Ovechkin, ditching the NHL for the KHL in an article back in mid January.

The big issue? Money.

According to an anonymous NHL general manager cited in Brophy’s article, Sergei Fedorov is pulling in $14-million this season. If a “name” guy like that can make that kind of money in the twilight of his career, just imagine what players like Ilya Kovalchuk or Alex Ovechkin could wind up making.

Oh yeah, did I mention it’s tax free and KHL players aren’t paying 18 per cent of their salaries into escrow this season?

What Ilya Kovalchuk does with his career come July 1st will probably be the biggest story of the upcoming off-season, and these stories add a new wrinkle to the situation. Don’t forget, the soon-to-be UFA turned down an offer from Atlanta that would have made him the highest paid player in the league ($10-million per season), because he apparently wanted to make the league maximum ($11.2-million).

With that in mind, if a KHL team were to dangle something like $20-million per season (as Brophy’s anonymous GM suggested) in front of Kovalchuk, doesn’t it sound like he’d have a hard time saying no?

Here’s something else the NHL might be a little worried about: apparently Alex Ovechkin, who is under contract until 2021, has said he would consider leaving the Capitals after this season because he’s so upset about having to give up 18 per cent of his salary to escrow.

Will either of these players end up jumping ship?

I honestly think that there’s a pretty good chance Kovalchuk will at least give serious thought to any big time offers from the KHL that may come up this summer. If Ovechkin was serious about bailing on a deal that still has eleven years left on it though, that’s a whole other can of worms.

One thing is for sure - if the NHL loses Kovalchuk or Ovechkin, or both, to the “K,” it’ll be huge news. Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Another Handshake Controversy?

What do LeBron James, Sidney Crosby and Peyton Manning all have in common?

For one, they’re all high-end athletes that are fairly dominant in their respective sports, but there’s something else that ties these three together. Any guesses?

LeBron, Sidney and Peyton have all been accused of being ‘poor sports’ for not shaking hands after a big game, whether it's a win or a loss.

James was the first of the three to come under the microscope back in late May when his Cleveland Cavaliers lost in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Final to the Orlando Magic and he stormed off the court without congratulating the victors.

In mid-June, it was Crosby's turn – after his Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games to take home the Stanley Cup, Crosby was accused of snubbing Wings captain Nick Lidstrom in the post-game handshake, though he did shake some hands.

The latest athlete to be called a “poor sport” is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who left the field immediately after throwing a late interception and then coming up short in the red zone in the final two minutes of a 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

Some people are calling Manning “classless” for darting to the locker room, along with teammate Reggie Wayne, as soon as the game was over, but does that really make those guys poor sports?

If you dislike Peyton Manning, you’re probably having a field day with this one, but does him not fighting through a mob of people moments after losing the biggest game of the season really make him a bad person, or are you just ripping on him because you’re so happy that he lost?

To be honest, I think calling players out for stuff like this is just stupid. I remember hearing people get all up in arms over the Crosby thing and thinking ‘are you kidding me?’ – and I’m a Wings fan!

The examples of Manning and LeBron James are even worse – both players are so upset after a big loss that they just want to get out of there. As a fan of either of those guys, would you rather see that, or see them smiling and joking with the guys they just lost to?

All I know is, if my favorite team loses the big game and I'm the only person whose day is ruined, something is wrong!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts (on a Monday)

Sunday Funday!

What a great Super Bowl between the Saints and the Colts on Sunday!

I had picked the Saints to win and honestly wasn’t sure they had it in them after their first couple of drives, but they must have just been nervous early on. All in all it was a pretty solid game – both teams had goal-line stands and big plays at key times, but that Tracy Porter interception in the fourth quarter was probably the biggest of them all.

Here are the highlights, incase you missed the game (oh, and for the record, I finshed the season at 142-68):




Deal With the Devil(s)?

Pardon the cheesy headline, but a week that saw Dion Phaneuf, JS Giguere and Olli Jokinen change teams wrapped up with an even bigger trade.

Last Thursday, former Atlanta Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk was dealt to the New Jersey Devils, with Nik Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, (suspended) prospect Patrice Cormier, and first and second round picks going the other way.

In his debut with the Devils on Friday night, the Devils scored three times in the final three minutes of a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Kovalchuk finished the night with two points.

It remains to be seen whether he stays in a Devils uniform beyond this season, or if the soon to be UFA is just a “rental” player.

Whoever he signs with should be prepared to pay the big bucks though – Kovalchuk turned down offers of $101-million over 12 years and $10-million per year for seven years to stay in the ATL.

Tampa Bay Red Sox?

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been sold to a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox ending a long, public feud between current owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie.

According to ESPN, Koules and Barrie bought the team for $200-million and sold it to Jeff Vinik for $170-million – a deal that apparently includes the company that operates the St. Pete Times Forum and two bits of land next to the rink.

The deal is still pending the approval of the NHL’s board of governors.

At least he made the highlight reel…

It was a play that a few of the Edmonton Oilers referred to as the turning point of a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night – Josh Harding absolutely robbed J.F. Jacques with a diving glove save at the midway point of the third period.






It was also Harding’s last save of the game, as he aggravated a hip injury and was forced to hit the showers early.

Now, it turns out he’ll miss at least one more game after getting a cortisone shot, which puts the Wild down two goalies.

Commitment Issues?

The USC Trojans football program made history last week on the recruiting front, securing a verbal commitment from a 13-year-old quarterback.

David Sills of Bear, Delaware, is a much-hyped six-foot tall grade seven student that Lane Kiffin and the Trojans are hoping to utilize come 2015. As ESPN points out, a college commitment that early has been seen before in basketball, but never before when it comes to the gridiron.

“His skill set is off the chart,” his personal coach Steve Clarkson told ESPN. “I’ve never seen anyone at his age do what he’s been able to do.”

Here’s the slickly produced YouTube video that’s been making the rounds touting Sills’ skills:





Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Oilers finally broke out of that long winless streak with wins over the Hurricanes and the Flyers, before opening up a five-game road trip with back-to-back losses against Minnesota and Colorado.

In Monday’s win over the ‘Canes, Marc Pouliot potted the game-winner in a 4-2 victory over Carolina and Ryan Potulny scored with 17 seconds left to secure a 1-0 win over Philadelphia. The fun ended there though – the Wild scored a pair of late goals in a 4-2 win and the Oilers were outshot 42-20 in a 3-0 loss to the Avalanche.

This week:

It’s another busy week for the Oil – they continue their road trip with games in Phoenix, Anaheim and LA, before returning home to take on the Ducks again, a game that will take them into the two-week Olympic break.

While Edmonton did manage to bring that 13-game winless skid to an end, another streak looms – they’ve lost nine straight on the road, however that could change this week.

Oilers @ Coyotes
Monday Feb. 8th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Phoenix Coyotes had a six-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars, but their recent success has vaulted them all the way into a tie for fourth in the conference. In all, the Coyotes have won nine of their last twelve games and one of two against the Oilers so far this season. Phoenix is led offensively by their captain, Shane Doan, who has 17 goals and 43 points, but they’ve got a dangerous group of secondary scorers and that’s what makes them good. Radim Vrbata and Scottie Upshall have 18 goals each to top the team’s goal scoring list, while defenceman Keith Yandle is third among blue liners with ten goals. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has the fourth-most wins with 30 and is second in shutouts with six – he’s capable of stealing one for the team.

Oilers @ Ducks
Wednesday Feb. 10th - Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-The Anaheim Ducks are always a tough team to face because they’ve got a strong core of players and a lot of experience to get them through the tough times. They’ve struggled a bit at times this year, but they’re always dangerous. Coming into this week’s action, the Ducks have won three of four after losing three of four. Before they host the Oilers, they’ll play the second half of a home-and-home with the Kings, who beat them 6-4 last Thursday. Jonas Hiller has started most of Anaheim’s games this season, but with the Ducks trading away JS Giguere last week, any goaltending controversy that there might have been is now gone, which will probably be a positive for the young Swiss netminder. Up front, the Ducks are led by the tandem of Ryan Getzlaf (14g, 56pts) and Corey Perry (20g, 53pts), but that’s not where the threat ends. Bobby Ryan has 25 goals so far this season and players like Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne give Anaheim some serious depth up front.

Oilers @ Kings
Thursday Feb. 11th - Pre game: 7pm, Puck drop: 8:30pm; 630 CHED

-The LA Kings have won nine in a row coming into this week with one game before their meeting with the Oilers, who they are 2-0 against so far this season. The solid 2010 the Kings have been having so far has put them well into the playoff picture – they currently sit tied for fourth in the Western Conference with the Phoenix Coyotes. Anze Kopitar has turned it on as of late with 15 points in his last nine games and he leads the team in scoring with 26 goals and 61 points overall. Second in line is defenceman Drew Doughty, who is having a solid sophomore season on the LA blue line. In all, the Kings have eight players with at least 12 goals, which means they’ve got a very balanced offense that can, at times, score at will. Jonathan Quick leads the league in wins with 34, despite having the 29th best save percentage and the 20th best GAA.

Ducks @ Oilers
Sunday Feb. 14th - Pre game: 3:30pm, Puck drop: 5pm; 630 CHED

-This will be the second meeting between these two teams in a span of four days and takes the Oil into a two-week break.

Who’s hot:

Sam Gagner – The young forward had a five game point streak snapped in that shutout loss to the Avalanche but has eight points in his last nine games.

Marc Pouliot – Pouliot has only played 10 games this season and played very well in last week’s games, notching two goals and an assist.

What to watch for:

The End is near – The fact that the league breaks for two weeks after these next four games could be a factor; will the team play differently knowing they’ve got a long rest coming up?

The goaltending situation – Jeff Deslaurier seems to have taken on the role of number one goalie after splitting time with Devan Dubnyk, who has since been sent back down to Springfield. Deslaurier has allowed two or fewer goals in four of his last five games.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Another Scandel(la)

Maybe the NDP is onto something after all

Just kidding, but seriously – things are starting to get a little out of hand out east where yet another indefinite suspension has been handed out in the QMJHL for another vicious blow to the head.

This time around, the culprit is 19-year-old Val d’Or Foreurs defenseman Marco Scandella; the second member of Team Canada to cross that line in the last few weeks.

Here’s what happened: Rimouski Oceanic forward Alexandre Durette got caught with his head down as he tried to poke a loose puck past Scandella, the six-foot-two, 190-pound Minnesota Wild prospect, who was cutting across the ice with his head up.

It’s being widely reported as an elbow to the head, but the footage isn’t quite conclusive on that front. Either way, it is a shot to the head, but Durette does make himself a bit vulnerable by reaching out for the puck like he does.

The hit left Durette with a concussion and, as you'll see in the video below, what looks like a big chunk missing from his face (his visor apparently broke into pieces).






There was no penalty on the play and the league only became aware of the incident after the Oceanic sent them the tape. Unfortunately for Scandella, the timing of the hit will probably influence the length of the suspension he receives.

What do I mean?

Well, the QMJHL and the OHL have already ended the seasons of two players and sat another guy down for 20 games for similar hits to the head. Now that the precedent is set, the pressure is on those leagues to uphold that standard.

Here’s another question: Is this hit on par with the Patrice Cormier or Zach Kassian hits?

To me, it’s the open-ice version of a player getting hit from behind because they turned at the last second. I’m not saying it’s Durette’s fault, but he knows Scandella is coming and he puts himself in a very vulnerable position by reaching out to try and poke the puck past him.

What do you think: Should the league throw the book at Scandella, or is the whole thing being blown out of proportion?

PS - The two teams meet again tonight!

Kerrzy's Notebook: Super Bowl Pick

After sixteen regular season games and three weeks of playoff action, it all comes down to this Sunday's match up between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Both of these clubs spent most of the season riding unbeaten streaks and that's not where the comparisons end - both ended up losing games in the final few weeks before putting up impressive wins in the postseason that erased any doubts about the skill or drive of either side. In the Divisional round of the playoffs, the Saints thumped the Arizona Cardinals 45-14 and it was the Colts shutting down the Baltimore Ravens 20-3. The following week in the Championship round, New Orleans won a tight one over Minnesota 31-28 and Indie sent the New York Jets packing with a 30-17 win.

Are the NFL's two best teams playing for the championship? I don't think you'll find too many people that will put up an argument there – but who will come out on top?

For me, it's the New Orleans Saints.

There's no question that Peyton Manning has been a dominant force in the league this season, and that continued into the playoffs - but

Drew Brees led the league's best offence and absolutely abused opposing defenses on the way to a 13-3 record and two playoff wins.

This match up between Manning and Brees is unique in that they led their respective teams to a combined 27 regular season wins, which is the second-highest total behind only the 1998 Super Bowl between the Broncos and the Falcons. While Manning has shown his ability to adapt and adjust to changing circumstances, Brees has been the architect of a high-scoring, high-powered unit that has impressed the hell out of just about everybody this season.

The one thing that set the Saints apart this year (in my mind, anyway) was that they have the ability to win games in the air, on the ground or by utilizing both. A big part of that dual threat is Reggie Bush, who put up some big numbers in the Saints win over the Cardinals and had a quiet game against Minnesota, but still wound up with a touchdown reception.

I think it’s going to be a fantastic game between two great clubs and I really can’t wait to see what happens when things kick off on Sunday afternoon!

Oh, and incase you're wondering, my record for my first season of picking NFL winners stands at 141-68 coming into this weekend.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Stick to Politics

In the latest fallout from that Patrice Cormier cheap shot that sent a fellow QMJHLer to hospital, some members of the federal NDP are calling for a royal commission (major government public inquiry) into "violence in sports."

The call comes two days after the first meeting between Cormier's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Mikael Tam's Quebec Remparts since the vicious elbow, which landed the Team Canada captain a season-long suspension, including the playoffs (a decision his team is appealing ), and left the 18-year-old Tam convulsing on the ice.

According to a Canadian Press report, NDP sports critic Glenn Thibeault and deputy leader Thomas Mulcair say violence in hockey has "reached such a peak" that only a royal commission can deal with it. In a 20-minute news conference, the two politicians singled out the Cormier hit as a "case of things going very wrong in the sport," and they vowed to bring coaches, leagues, referees, players and doctors together to look at all aspects of violence.

Overreaction on their part? I think so.

"League authorities need to explain why a savage attack, which would result in charges of aggravated assault anywhere else, warrants nothing but a few game suspensions," Thibeault said.

First of all, lets get something straight - we're not talking about "a few game suspensions" here. So far this season there have been some severe penalties doled out within the Canadian Hockey League for violent hits: season-long suspensions for both Cormier and Mike Liambas of the Erie Otters and a 20-game suspension for Windsor Spitfires forward Zach Kassian.

I'm not even going to touch the "charges of aggravated assault anywhere else" comment; hockey is a contact sport that allows fighting - if you start laying criminal charges when guys get hurt during a game, you enter dangerous territory.

Also, it's not like we're seeing players going out and doing what Patrice Cormier did every night. In fact, it's something you rarely see in the junior or even the professional ranks of hockey. To waste taxpayer money by studying "violence in sports" is just that - a waste.

If the NDP wants to study something, the real issue in sports right now is concussions, and they should be calling for studies similar to those underway in the US. This week, a House Judiciary Committee went after the biggest conferences in college athletics for their policies on handling concussions, blasting them for failing to adopt policies that go beyond what's required by the NCAA.

One interesting thing that has come out of the US hearings is a claim from the co-founder of the Brain Injury Research Institute at West Virginia University - Dr. Bennet Omalu testified that children under 18 should sit out for three months following a concussion, adding "there is no such thing as a mild concussion."

Do you think the NDP is onto something, or are Thibeault and Mulcair just trying to get their names in the news? Are concussions and brain trauma the issues that should be getting the focus here?

Let me know what you think!

Kerrzy's Notebook: Who Dat?

Before the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV (which is 44, incase you’re wondering), Saints fans are taking on the NFL itself.

What’s the issue? Who owns "Who Dat?"

At least, that’s what certain people are trying to make you think is the issue.

Before we go any further, here’s the background: Since the team was first founded in the mid-1960s, Saints fans have been known for a chant that goes “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints.” At some point, fans got lazy and shortened the chant to “Who Dat?”

Now, to the issue:

The Saints are very popular with the people of New Orleans…like very popular. From what I can gather, if you took the Oilers during the ’06 Cup run and multiplied Edmonton’s excitement by two, you might be even with the level of popularity of the Saints in New Orleans (at least, that’s how the talking heads on football TV make it sound anytime they discuss this topic).

With that kind of popularity comes big time merchandise sales, and when the team in question has a wildly popular catch phrase – it winds up on a lot of t-shirts and the like.

Enter the NFL.

The league has handed out a bunch of cease and desist letters to several T-shirt makers in New Orleans who have been making “Who Dat?” shirts, some featuring Saints trademarks.

According to the NFL, they are trying to “protect local businesses that are selling legitimate Saints merchandise,” with the move, but the people on the other end of this dispute don’t see it that way.

Here’s what I make of this whole thing:

It seems that if you print “Who Dat?” in gold letters on a black shirt, for example, the NFL doesn’t care. If you print “Who Dat?” on top of a Saints logo, the NFL has a problem.

Is it just me, or is that not the painfully obvious and easily avoidable issue right there?

I think if you’re watching a Saints game wearing a “Who Dat?” shirt that doesn’t feature a Saints logo, people around you will know who you are cheering for…but that’s just me.

Football beats…football?

While we’re on the topic of the upcoming Super Bowl, there appears to have been a changing of the guard when it comes to the most watched sporting event of the year.

The BBC reports that for the first time ever last year, the Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United drew a worldwide audience of 109-million viewers – three million more than Super Bowl XLIII (which is 43, incase you’re wondering).

On a side note, as a display of just how wildly popular football and (American) football are compared to other sports, lets take a look at the numbers:

Champions League Final – 109-million
Super Bowl XLIII – 106-million
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – 54-million
World Athletic Championships 100m Final – 33-million

Holy crap!

Kerrzy's Notebook: Can't Win 'Em All

A recent Battle of the Dynamos in the KHL produced what would have been another solid highlight in the career of an Edmonton Oilers draft pick known for his slick shootout moves.

A few weeks after Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk successfully employed a move Linus Omark made famous (at least on the internet) last April, he was back it – this time in a KHL game between his Dynamo Moscow and Dynamo Minsk (hat tip to RussianHockeyFans for this find).

Omark comes in on goalie Andrei Mezin and tries to confuse by him sliding on his belly, grabbing the puck with his left hand and trying to bank it in off of the stick in his right hand – a move first tried (as far as I know) by Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos in the 2009 NHL Skills Competition.






Thankfully for Omark, his team won the shootout 5-4. Here’s the video of Kane and Stamkos’ attempts (fast forward to the 1:05 mark and 7:25 mark).






Trading Spaces

The Calgary Flames celebrated a 6-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday by making some pretty serious changes to their lineup.

On Sunday, they sent defenseman Dion Phaneuf (along with Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie) to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forwards Matt Stajan, Nik Hagman and Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White.

After a 3-0 loss to the Flyers on Monday night, the Flames pulled the trigger on another deal that sent a star forward packing – trading Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the New York Rangers for forwards Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik.

That Jokinen trade was all but done on Sunday night according to reports, but the Flames backed out at the last second for some reason.

It seems that after the four new Flames put up a combined one shot, two penalty minutes and a minus-one rating in 61:11 minutes of action, the other deal had to be made.

Of course that’s not the reason, but it was interesting that the team would wait until after this game to make the deal. Even if they thought they needed Jokinen for one last game, the impending trade was very likely weighing on his mind when he stepped on the ice.

It’s interesting to see a team that’s currently holding a playoff spot (even if it's only eighth) making such big changes. I mean, it made sense for the Toronto Maple Leafs to go out and pick up Phaneuf and former Ducks goalie JS Giguere. On the other hand, the Flames have lost 10-of-11, so I guess it makes sense in that respect.

What do you think of the big shake up?

One more thing…

It was nice to see the Oilers finally snap that 13-game winless skid on Monday night, wasn’t it?

What I thought was really great, and Oilers coach Pat Quinn commented on this after the game, was the reaction from the hometown fans after it was all over

Despite going 13 games without a win, and losing 20 of 22, the fans at Rexall Place gave the team a big ovation. During a stretch filled with so many negatives, I think the Oilers probably really appreciated that positive reinforcement from their biggest critics.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

Another week has come and gone without an Oilers win – this time around they fell to Chicago and St. Louis at Rexall Place before getting their butts kicked by the Flames in Calgary on Saturday night.

In Tuesday’s loss to Chicago, the Blackhawks scored on their first shot of the game and built up a 4-0 lead before the Oilers even got on the board. On Thursday, the Oilers held the Blues to just one shot in the third period, but that was all they needed in a 2-1 win.

Saturday night’s loss to Calgary may have been the toughest to swallow as the Flames were winless in nine prior to that game but came out and dominated the Oilers in a 6-1 game.

This week:

Edmonton’s winless streak now stands at 13 games and they are still without a win in 2010, but they get right back to it on Monday night, one of four games this week.

The Oilers host the Hurricanes and the Flyers before embarking on a five-game road trip, which starts Thursday in Minnesota and continues on Saturday in Denver.

Hurricanes @ Oilers
Monday Feb. 1st - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Carolina Hurricanes are seven points ahead of the Oilers in second last place overall, but they’re not playing like it – the ‘Canes have won four in a row and five of six coming into Monday’s game and have nine wins in fourteen games this month. Carolina is coming off a big win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday and will be a confident bunch as they try to add to the Oilers woes. The ‘Canes are led by Eric Staal, who has ten points in six games since being named captain earlier this month and is riding an eight game point streak. He’s not the only Carolina forward having success right now though – 37-year-old Ray Whitney is second in team scoring with 16 goals and 41 points and Jussi Jokinen is right behind him with 39 points on the season. Between the pipes, Cam Ward might not have the numbers this season (14-19-5), but he’s always capable of shutting the door and stealing a game for his club, like he did in a 39-save performance against Chicago this weekend.

Flyers @ Oilers
Wednesday Feb. 3rd - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Philadelphia Flyers kick off the week in Calgary having lost two of three (coming off a win over the Islanders), but have won four of their last six, going 8-5-1 in the month of January. The Flyers have lost three of their last four on the road and are sitting in the middle of a very tight playoff race in the East, so they need all the points they can get right now. The Flyers sit in a three-way tie for sixth place with 57 points in a conference where three points separates sixth from 13th. Up front, the Flyers are a dangerous team with players like Jeff Carter (22g, 47pts), Mike Richards (20g, 42pts) and Danny Briere (18g, 34pts), while Chris Pronger (29a, 37pts) is a serious threat from the blue line. Philly is a tough, gritty team with a lot of secondary scoring, but their goaltending isn’t always there. Ray Emery has looked great and average from game to game this season, posting a 15-11-1 record with a 2.73 GAA and a .903 save percentage.

Oilers @ Wild
Thursday Feb. 4th - Pre game: 4:30, Puck drop: 6pm; 630 CHED

-The Oilers and Wild split their first two meetings of the season and since then, Minnesota has been a very up and down team, always threatening to make a push in the Northwest, but never quite doing it. Their last win over the Oilers came at the start of a three-game win streak, which was followed by four straight losses, four straight wins, four straight losses, and almost another four game win streak, which was halted by the Sharks on Saturday. Before they host the Oilers, the Wild play the Dallas Stars having won three or four, putting them four points out of the playoffs. The Wild are led by Mikko Koivu up front, one of eight players with at least 10 goals. Koivu’s 16 goals and 49 points is tops among his teammates, with Andrew Brunette (14g, 42pts) and Martin Havlat (11g, 37pts) right behind him. Nick Backstrom is Minnesota’s starting goalie, but has been down with the flu as of this weekend, but hasn’t played since January 23rd with a back injury. Josh Harding has started the last three games, going 2-1-0 with a shutout and seven goals allowed in that span.

Oilers @ Avalanche
Saturday Feb. 6th - Pre game: 6:30, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-The Avs have split their four meetings with the Oilers so far this season, including a 6-0 win back on January 18th. That win came in the middle of a six-game win streak, but since then the Avs have lost three in a row. Before they host the Oilers, the Avs play the Jackets and the Predators as they try to get back on top in the Northwest division. Rookie and second year forwards Matt Duchene and Chris Steward lead the team with 17 goals each and Paul Stastny has the team lead in points with 48, followed by Wojtek Wolski with 45. Craig Anderson has started Colorado’s last nine games and has a 26-14-5 record in 46 starts.

Who’s hot:

Sam Gagner – The young forward continues to put up points on a consistent basis, despite the team’s struggles. Gagner scored Edmonton’s lone goal against Calgary and has five points in his last five games. He’s also one of two Oilers that wasn’t a minus player in January.

What to watch for:

When will it end? – The Oilers current streak sits at 13 games without a win and losses in 20 of 21 games. How much longer can this thing go?

Will a road trip help? – The last time the Oilers played more than two in a row on the road they won five straight – will another five game road trip help them get out of this funk?