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The Weekend Warrior

by Randy Nicholson
on

Another in a series of weekly articles summarizing activity in Leafland during the previous 7 days – with some personal observations, commentary, prospect updates and fun thrown in for good measure.

Ownership changes loom: According to published reports this week, the Toronto Dominion Bank’s shares in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. are now for sale … several concerns within the ownership group of MLSEL (including both Larry Tanenbaum and Steve Stavro) are said to be interested in acquiring all or part of this package, thought to be worth approximately $120 million CDN … it has been confirmed that a standard agreement is in place whereby any available shares must be offered to the other shareholders in proportion to their current ownership stakes … that means neither Stavro nor Tanenbaum, whose relationship is said by those in the know to be indifferent at best, can gain any more control than they already have … moreover, nothing would really change substantively even if one or the other acquired the TD’s entire position … however, should an outside investor seek to gain control, Stavro and/or Tanenbaum could become important power brokers – as useful in preventing control from shifting as they would be in assisting someone to gain full control … last September, BCE (which controls the CTV network) and the powerful Thomson family announced a new $4-billion joint venture into electronic media … BCE/Thomson is anxious to acquire the broadcast interests of MLSEL, though not necessarily the entire company … if this is not possible Read more »

Legwand carves path from hockey in Michigan to pros

by Derek Berry
on
The player they compare to Mike Modano, another state of Michigan
hockey superstar, is making a name for himself in the ranks of the
National Hockey League. It will only be after several years in the
league that those comparisons will start to diminish.

In the meantime, the high-profile draft pick and native Detroiter
continues to create excitement on the ice with his talent and
ability…talents that many saw him use to his full capacity while playing
in the Compuware system and with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.

“You can see the signs that he’s going to be a great player,” says
Nashville Predators assistant coach Brent Peterson. “He’s only
20-years-old, he’s still learning the game, and yet we’ve thrown him
into the lineup every night and he’s handled it well.”

Certainly Peterson says Legwand has a lot to learn about the pro game,
but the tools are there.

“He has the potential to be an outstanding player as soon as he
matures,” says Peterson, a former Detroit Red Wing, who played with the
Wings back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before Legwand was even
born. “He’s a Modano-style player, with terrific skills and he’s done
as much as we want him to.”

Adjusting to the long season schedule in the NHL and the travel has
been a big part of the climb for Legwand, who has 9 goals and 23 assists
for 32 points in 64 games so far this season for the Predators.

“It’s a different game up here,” says Legwand. “You get better every
game and you realize it’s all about total team effort,” h Read more »

Prospect Profile: Rick DiPietro

by Drew Bennett
on
At the 2000 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the New York Islanders,
with the first overall selection, shocked the world by selecting Goaltender
Rick DiPietro, and trading Roberto Luongo and Kevin Weekes. DiPietro
instantly made hockey history by being selected the highest drafted
Goaltender ever, surpassing Luongo, who was selected by the Islanders with
the 4th overall choice in 1997.

At Boston University, DiPietro had a 18-5-5 record with a 2.45 goals
against average and a .913 save percentage. DiPietro won the Kevin Mutch
award as the Most Valuable Player of the Boston University vs. Boston College
Series. One of DiPietro’s top qualities are his confidence and his puck
handling ability. His ability to play the puck was the reason that Mike
Milbury, General Manager of the New York Islanders, believed he would be a
better Goaltender than Luongo. Milbury was quoted a few weeks after the
draft saying “DiPietro will revitalize the goaltending position.”

After struggling at training camp, where he suffered a groin injury, he
was sent to the Chichago Wolves of the International Hockey League. He also
struggled in Chicago where he posted a sub-par 3.39 Goals Against Average.
In the World Junior Championships for Team USA, DiPietro played almost 360
minutes, and allowed only 8 goals on 109 shots. He played in six games, and
had a 5-1 with a 1.33 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.

After the World Junior Championships, DiPietro finally got his chance to
play in the NHL. In Read more »

Kelly Miller has no regrets about jump from NAHL to NHL

by Derek Berry
on
You can probably call Kelly Miller an alumnus of the North American
Hockey League, even it was only a three month stay.

In December, the former Michigan State star and NHL standout (notably
with the Washington Capitals) received a phone call he did not think
would come for awhile.

He started as coach of the Lansing’s Capital Centre Pride in September,
as a first-time head coach in a brand new job with a sparkling,
promising new franchise-in an area he was very familiar with-Lansing,
Michigan.

Little did he know it when he started out, but he was a wanted man
behind the bench in the professional ranks. Around the same time in
December, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim fired head coach Craig Hartsburg
and replaced him with assistant coach Guy Charron.

Because of his success in the pros and his connections (and
aspirations to move up) Miller had an opportunity that many don’t always
get a shot at and he had some soul-searching to do.

“It really tore at me,” says Miller, now an assistant with Anaheim.
“It was a difficult decision. It was hard to leave the team in
midstream, but I knew they would be in capable hands.”

Indeed they were and have been. Assistant coach Jeff Blum took over
and made what could have been a terrible situation turn into a big
positive for the Lansing club.

The Capital Centre Pride’s Ron Gay, director of hockey operations says
Blum took over right away and got the team rolling. Immediately.

“Not to say Kelly wasn’t a good coach, but we went on a f Read more »

Bulls Sweep Frontenacs

by Bill Thompson
on
The Bulls finished off the Kingston Frontenacs last night with a 5-3 victory in Kingston. It was a hard fought series with 3 out of 4 games ending close, the only exception being the first game, a 10-2 Bulls win. The other games ended up: 3-2, 6-5 2OT and 5-3 for the sweep in 4 straight games. If all of the favorites win in the first round, it will be Belleville vs. Ottawa in the second round. These are always very entertaining series, but are also nerve racking for fans, players and coaches alike because of the way the series is played. It never seems to matter who has the better team, every game is played on pure emotion rather than skill and talent due to the long standing rivalry between the two cities. Other possible opponents are the Peterborough Petes and the Barrie Colts. The outcomes are not decided as of yet, but we will know in a few short days.

SERIES RECAP

Nate Robinson scored the first goal of the series, which was just the beginning for him as he proceeded to dominate the rest of the way providing the spark for the Bulls in each game. He collected 4 points (1G, 3A) in the first game and played extremely well short-handed. The Bulls were a well-oiled machine in the first game with the top two lines providing the scoring punch and the third line banging and crashing. Banging and crashing might somehow be understating a bit, since the Bulls set a team record with 118 registered hits and Cody McCormick (CSB #93) recording 22 hits himself. It appeared it would be an even game after the first period with the score only 1 Read more »

Rangers top 10 prospects reranked

by Michael Theodore
on

On the Rangers roster right now, one will find several emerging talents who are all under the age of 25. Wingers Radek Dvorak and Jan Hlavac showed they could net 30 goals ands 60 points at the pro level, and they are only expected to improve. Mike York showed that he could play in situations other then offensively and may just be the most versatile member of the whole team. Tomas Kloucek jumped from AHL rookie team member and all-star to a solid NHL rookie who is logging close to 20 minutes a game and may earn a spot on the NHL’s All Rookie squad. Kim Johnsson battled slumps but improved upon his point totals and defensive play from his freshman campaign, while Dale Purinton made the seemingly impossible jump from the AHL to a semi-regular spot on the Rangers blue line. Mike Mottau learned the pro game and after a successful season in the minors finds himself playing the point with his idol Brian Leetch. Peter Smrek was acquired in a late season deal and looks like he may be a quality defenseman who isn’t always noticed but always gets the job done. Most importantly once forgotten first round pick Manny Malhotra returned to the NHL having learned a new position which lately has been put to excellent use. While not only chipping in with the odd point or so, Manny has added speed, energy and size to a line that appears to possibly stick as the first line next season. At the very least the combination has shown the Rangers brass what Malhotra and Dvorak are capable of with a little development.

Yet with all the developments at the NHL level, progress at the minor, Read more »

Avalanche Interview: Radim Vrbata

by Billy Gilliam
on

HF: How is your relationship with fellow Avalanche draft pick Vaclav Nedorost, and is there a rivalry going with him to see who will become the better player?

RV: I have to say that me and Vaclav are very good friends. We were roommates in Russia at the WJC. We keep in touch a lot during a season over the internet and we are also planning to go on vacation in the summer together. I don’t think there is any rivalry between me and him at all. How I said we are good friends and we hope that we will play for Colorado Avalanche together one day.

HF: What was the best moment when you won the gold medal in the World Junior Championships?

RV: The whole tournament in Russia was a special time for me. Even the training camp in Czech before. We had a lots of fun as a team and I was very happy to be on that team. But the best moment was probably right after the final game against Finland. After the final buzzer we realized that we achieved something what we come for so it was a big relief and lot of happiness. So winning the gold medal for my country was probably the best moment in my hockey career.

HF: How will playing for the best team in the QMJHL prepare you for playing for the Stanley Cup contending Colorado Avalanche?

Read more »

Hainsey Signs With Habs

by Chris Boucher
on
Ron Hainsey, the Canadiens’ first round pick in last years’ draft, was signed to a 3-year contract. He will report to the AHL’s Quebec Citadelles immediately, in order to begin an AHL amateur try-out.
Formerly of U Mass-Lowell, Ron Hainsey is the popular choice as the Canadiens’ top prospect. He played consistently well all season, going no more than 2 straight games without a point. He registered 16 points in his first 10 games, and was named Hockey East’s player of the week for the week ending November 12th.
The 6’3″, 194 lbs. Hainsey has played 33 games. He has 36 points (10-26-36), with 51 minutes in penalties. Six of his goals were scored on the powerplay, while 1 was scored short-handed. He had point-scoring streaks of 4 games on two different occasions, as well as one streak of 3 straight games with at least 1 point.
Hainsey also played for the US squad in the World Junior Championships. He had a strong tournament, as he put his puck movement skills on display. He played 7 games, helping the US finish with a 5-2 record; Good enough for 5th place. He had 5 points (0-5-5), and was +3 with 2 minutes in penalties. He finished 3rd overall in scoring among defensemen, and registered 14 shots on net during the tournament.
Hainsey has all the skills to be an NHL regular. He must however increase his upper body strength. A jump to the NHL next season would be an incredible achievement. However he does have the skills to compete at the AHL level.

Hab you Heard?

Francois Beauchemin, the Habs’ 3rd round pick in the ’98 Ent Read more »

MSU unstoppable behind Ryan Miller, wins 2nd straight CCHA title

by Derek Berry
on
The University of Michigan’s Andy Hilbert raced down the left side from
the opening face-off of the CCHA championship game, grabbed a loose puck
and tried to drive a shot from the left circle past eventual tournament
MVP Ryan Miller, sophomore goaltender for the Michigan State Spartans.

Miller stopped it and 19 shots later stopped everything else as MSU
glided to its second straight CCHA playoff championship, defeating the
Wolverines 2-0 in the CCHA title match at Joe Louis Arena.

It was a muscular defensive effort by the Spartans and their Hobey
Baker-nominated netminder, who in most hockey worlds could be referred
to as a human wall.

But, the promising goalie and cousin of three of MSU’s greatest
contingent of Millers says the defense in front of him should not be
discounted.

“The guys in front of me played outstanding,” said Miller, who became
the first-ever two-time tournament MVP. “They really limited the shots
and didn’t let them (U-M) stretch the ice out on us. They took away a
lot of the back-door plays.”

Miller was outstanding in getting his second straight tournament
championship shutout (last year the Spartans defeated Nebraska-Omaha in
the final 6-0) but those green and white defenders (Andrew Hutchinson,
Jon Insana, John-Michael Liles, Brad Fast, Joe Markusen and Kris Koski)
had a hand in it too, tying up potential maize and blue offenders at
every opportunity and forcing them into taking bad shots at times.

“That was Spartan hockey at its best tonight,” said head coach R Read more »

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