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Why the Neal Trade is Good for the Stars

As soon as the news that James Neal was going to Pittsburgh hit Bob McKenzie’s Twitter, the backlash from Dallas fans on Facebook was belligerent, profane, and very loud. How could a team that had been atop the Pacific Division for months trade away one of their prized, 23 year old goalscoring studs right in the middle of a tense playoff battle?

It was unimaginable. I must admit that I myself, before examining the trade further, felt much the same way. But here’s a message to all of the angry Stars fans out there: We lost the battle, but we’re going to decimate them in the war.

At face value, the Stars lost this deal. It’s not quite Kevin Hatcher for Sergei Zubov (actually, it’s not even close), but the general feeling is that it was a terrible trade. Again, at face value it is. My only real grievance for this trade is that we are taking about a half step backwards. Goligoski is most definitely an improvement over Matt Niskanen, who most Stars fans would have seen gone after Zubov left the team, but he’s not twice the player Niskanen is by any stretch. Thinking of it like a math problem, the Stars traded a 3 and a 1 for a 2.

But that’s not why the trade is good for the Stars. Here’s what is:

1.) No More Matt Niskanen- Is it unfair to say that Matt Niskanen is the reason the Stars defense is as porous as it’s been? Absolutely. Is it fair to say that it would have been less sponge-like without the likes of Matt Niskanen? Also absolutely. Niskanen garnered a lot of praise in his rookie year after forcing his way into the Stars top six and playing paired with Sergei Zubov. The last half of that sentence is really all you need. If your partner is Sergei Zubov, you have to try not to look good. Zubov was just one of those players.

The next year was when Stars fans started to realize just how much the young blueliner depended on the old Russian. He’s since been the whipping boy for the Stars faithful ever since. His defensive ineptitude might be excusable if he had a good offensive game, but in 45 games this year he’s only put up 6 points, all of them assists. Goligoski, on the other hand, has 9 goals and 22 assists among 31 points. Granted, he played 60 games on a team featuring Sidney Crosby, but Kris Letang has played more with #87 than Goligoski has.

2.) More Cap Space- This one seems pretty self-explanatory given how many players went either way, but on top of the already large amount of cap space the Stars have to work with, they add just over $2.5 million more with this trade. Neal and Niskanen were to earn a combined $4,375,00 next year. Goligoski will earn $1,833,333. That money could go towards re-signing the actual reason why James Neal put up a lot of his points this year, Brad Richards. With players like Crosby and Ovechkin earning upwards $8.5 million a year, you have to think the Stars main man will require something near that to continue rendering his services in Big D.

3.) The Young Kids- After the injury bug came out of hiding and started to drop Stars players like flies, Czech forward Tomas Vincour was called up to fill the ever growing void. The Stars had done the same earlier in the year, bringing up late Training Camp cut Aaron Gagnon, Ray Sawada (who is now remembered for being blindsided by Bruins forward Daniel Paille, although he probably doesn’t remember it), longtime NHLer Travis Morin, Colton Sceviour, and Francis Wathier. They even signed veteran forward Jason Williams to a one year deal hoping to put a cork in the broken hourglass that is the Stars.

Out of all of those names, only Gagnon has played more than Vincour. He hasn’t scored yet, but those watching the team will tell you that he’s very close to doing so. He’s also been playing fairly limited minutes, being placed on the lower lines usually reserved for the checkers. Giving him a more important offensive role with Neal out of the way will bring him into the spot light and, with any luck, yield the same results that center Tom Wandell made after getting an increased role.

4.) Jamie Benn- Nothing more needs to be said about the Stars sophomore sensation (but for shits and giggles we’ll go ahead and say more anyways), who was playing phenomenally until a shoulder injury knocked him out of the lineup. Now that he’s on the cusp of returning, Stars fans can focus their man/woman love on the BC boy with an otherworldly nose for the net. Benn has largely been playing second fiddle to Neal, but the new opening on the top line alongside Richards and Eriksson will show the Dallas faithful that instead of Benn being a middle-class man’s James Neal, it was actually James Neal that was a slightly lesser version of Jamie Benn.

Benn has always been more consistent than Neal, who had started to get a reputation for being quite streaky. He also possesses softer and more impressive hands (as evidenced here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FORIUdqqIo ) on top of a physical and edgy game.
It’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow for Stars fans, but they all have to look past the emotional connection to Neal and see that in two or three years we’ll have three or more players that can fill his role.


Snowpocalypse Shootout 2011 Semifinals

Owen Sound Huskies (1) vs. San Diego Undertakers (5)

Game 1: 5-0 Owen Sound
Owen Sound Stats
Backstrom 2g
Green 2a
Eriksson 1g1a
Lecavalier 1a
Ovechkin 1a
Laich 1g
Langenbrunner 1g
Orpik 1a
Miller 8/8 0GA, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SP

San Diego Stats
Bryzgalov 13/18 5 GA, 5GAA, .722 SP

Game 2: 7-2 Owen Sound
Owen Sound Stats
Ovechkin 3g1a
Keith 3a
Laich 1g1a
Lecavalier 2a
Vanek 1a
Brown 1g
Briere 1g
Kessel 1g
Backstrom 1a
Backstrom 20/22, 2GA, 2.01 GAA, .909 SP

San Diego Stats
Backes 2g
Havlat 1a
Jovanovski 1a
Doan 1a
Bryzgalov 5/10 5GA, 10.16 GAA, .500 SP
Thomas 10/12 2GA, 3.94 GAA, .833 SP

Game 3: 9-1 Owen Sound
Owen Sound Scoring
Backstrom 3g 2a
Kessel 1g 3a
Seabrook 3a
Briere 1g 1a
Doughty 2a
Lecavalier 2g
Bissonnette 1g
Langenbrunner 1a
Greene 1a
Vanek 1a
Ovechkin 1g
Green 1a
Backstrom 21/22 1GA, 1.00 GAA, .955 SP

San Diego Scoring
Nash 1g
Hossa 1a
Staal 1a
Thomas 11/20 9GA, 9 GAA, .550 SP

St. Louis Blizzards (2) vs. Mississauga Nuggets (3)
Game 1: 3-1 Mississauga
Mississauga Stats
Richards 1g 1a
Getzlaf 1g
Sedin 1a
Michalek 1a
Kesler 1a
Iginla 1g
Lundqvist 18/19, 1GA, 1.00 GAA, .947 SP

St. Louis Stats
Lucic 1g
Myers 1a
Kane 1a
Luongo 11/14, 3 GA, 3.00 GAA, .786 SP

Game 2: 7-3 St. Louis
St. Louis Stats
Malkin 2g 1a
Michalek 3a
Gaborik 2a
Stoll 1g 1a
Lucic 1g 1a
Stamkos 2g
Samsonsov 1g
Regehr 1a
Hedman 1a
Kane 1a
Luongo 10/13 3 GA, 4.50 GAA, .769 SP
Brodeur 3/3 0 GA, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SP

Mississauga Stats
Iginla 2a
H. Sedin 1g
D. Sedin 1a
Gomez 1a
Boyle 1a
Toews 1g
Carter 1g
Malone 1a
Lundqvist 12/19, 7 GA, 7.00 GAA, .632 GAA

Game 3: 3-2 St. Louis (OT)
St. Louis Stats
Lucic 2g
Gaborik 1a
Malkin 1a
Semin 1g
Kane 1a
Stamkos 1a
Brodeur 21/23, 2 GA, 1.98 GAA, .913 SP

Mississauga Stats
Toews 1g
Iginla 1g (Penalty Shot)
Richards 1a
Getzlaf 1a
Lundqvist 19/22, 3 GA, 2.96 GAA, .864 SP

Game 4: 7-4 St. Louis
St. Louis Stats

Malkin 2g
Boogaard 2a
Stoll 1g 1a
Michalek 1g 1a
Phaneuf 1g 1a
Kane 2g
Stamkos 1a
Hedman 1a
Weber 1a
Semin 1a
Brodeur 18/22 4 GA, 4.00 GAA, .818 SP

Mississauga Stats
D. Sedin 3g
Iglina 2a
H. Sedin 1a
Perry 1g
Boyle 1a
Ryan 1a
Kesler 1a
Lundqvist 15/22 7 GA, 7.00 GAA, .682 SP


Snowpocalypse Shootout 2011 Quarterfinals

Mississauga Nuggets (3) vs. Regina Lemons (6)

Game 1: 4-0 Mississauga
The Nuggets came out flying in Game 1, not wanting to give the advantage to a Regina team who was lethal at home during the playoffs. The Nuggets got 2 goals from Ryan Getzlaf and a goal a piece from Daniel Sedin and Corey Perry. Henrik Lundqvist made 7 saves for the shutout.

Getzlaf 2g
Kesler 2a
Perry 1g
H. Sedin 1a
Iginla 1a
M. Richards 1a
Toews 1a
D. Sedin 1g
Markov 1a
Ryan 1a
Lundqvist 7/7 , GA 0, GAA 0, SP 1.000

Fleury 16/20, 4 ga, gaa 4.07, sp .800


Game 2: 3-2 Mississauga

After beating the Nuggets in their last Round Robin game in Regina, the Lemons felt confident about evening the series at home. They started out with a bang, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, but the Nuggets stormed back on two goals from captain Jonathan Toews. Andrei Markov would score with 40 seconds left to send the Nuggets into the second round.

Regina Stats
Crosby 1a
Spezza 1g
Alfredsson 1g
Cammalleri 1a
Fleury 14/17 3GA, GAA 3, SP .824

Mississauga Stats
Lundqvist 13/15 2GA, GAA 2, SP .867
Toews 2g
Richards 2a
Markov 1g
H. Sedin 1a
Getzlaf 1a
Iginla 1a

Boston Shamrocks (4) vs. San Diego Undertakers (5)

Game 1: 2-1 Boston
Boston Stats
Koivu 1a
Thornton 1g
Gagne 1a
Hemsky 1g
Streit 1a
Jackman 1a
Kiprusoff 12/13 , 1 GA, GAA 1, SP .923

San Diego Stats
Havlat 1g
Rafalski 1a
Thomas 15/17, 2 GA, GAA 2, SP .882

Game 2: 5-3 San Diego
Boston Stats
Thornton 2a
Volchenkov 1g
Marleau 1g
Savard 1g
Phillips 1a
Parise 1a
Komisarek 1a
Kiprusoff 14/19 5GA GAA 5, SP .737

San Diego Stats
Staal 1g1a
Chara 1a
Morrow 1g
Sharp 1g
Richards 1g
Rafalski 1a
Heatley 1a
Nash 1g
Jovanovski 1a
Kopitar 1a
Thomas 4/7, 3GA, GAA 5.42, SP .571
Bryzgalov 8/8, 0GA, GAA 0.00, SP 1.000

Game 3: 6-4 San Diego
Boston Stats
Plekanec 2a
Gagne 1g
Hemsky 1a
Horton 1g
Savard 1g
Thornton 1a
Zajac 1g
Phillips 1a
Marleau 1a
Mitchell 1a
Koivu 1a
Kiprusoff 8/14, 6GA, 6.01 GAA, .571 SP

San Diego Stats
Kopitar 2g
Havlat 1g1a
Sharp 2a
Gonchar 1g
Staal 1a
Commodore 1a
Backes 1a
Hossa 1g
Richards 1a
Duchene 1g
Nash 1a
Rafalski 1a
Bryzgalov 18/22, 4 GA, 4.00 GAA, .818 SP


Make It 32

Map made by Bill Turianski of billsportsmaps.com

It seems like every time we hear about the Phoenix Coyotes nowadays, the word “Winnipeg” starts to pop up in the conversation. As much as I used to be behind the entire “Make it Seven” campaign to move the team back to Canada, I’ve slowly started to rally against it. That might be because the Phoenix Coyotes have been part of the league for as long as I’ve been a hockey fan, but in thinking about it I’ve started warming to another idea, something I like to call “Make it 32″.

This would do a number of things, including giving Canada not 7, but 8 NHL teams while fixing some divisional issues that exist as it is.

This is my proposal:

WESTERN CONFERENCE
West Canada Division
Vancouver Canucks
Edmonton Oilers
Calgary Flames
Winnipeg Expansion Team

Western America Division
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
Anaheim Ducks
Phoenix Coyotes

Central American Division
Dallas Stars
Colorado Avalanche
Minnesota Wild
St. Louis Blues

Midwestern American Division
Chicago Blackhawks
Detroit Red Wings
Nashville Predators
Columbus Blue Jackets

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Eastern Canada Division
Toronto Maple Leafs
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Hamilton / Southern Ontario/ Quebec City Expansion Franchise

Southeast American Division
Carolina Hurricanes
Atlanta Thrashers
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning

Northeast Division
Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh Penguins
Philadelphia Flyers
Buffalo Sabres

Atlantic Division
Boston Bruins
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils

1.) Four four team divisions- This might just be purely for symmetry’s sake. 16 teams in a conference, 8 go to the playoffs, the 4 winners of the respective divisions get home ice advantage.

2.) Giving Winnipeg their team- Obviously there’d need to be some renovations done to their arena (the MTS Centre that plays host to the Manitoba Moose only seats 14000 or so) which may or may not be possible given the economy, but this also rids the league of the America/Canada split in the Northwest Division. I’m sure the Avalanche and Wild spend a lot more money on travel for their divisional games than most other teams in the league because they have to make 12 international flights a year as opposed to the 9 that non-Northwestern teams have to make.

3.) Taking Dallas and Minnesota out of weird divisions- I would wager that most Texans have never even seen the Pacific Ocean in their lives. Fewer still are willing to wait until 9 at night to see their Home-state team play an eighth of their schedule. The Stars and the Wild are the only two teams in the league that have divisional opponents two whole time zones away. Taking them out of those strange divisional alignments would only strengthen the markets.

4.) Giving the NHL 2 more Crosby/Ovechkin showdowns- If the NHL could find a way to have the Capitals play the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals, they’d do it in a heartbeat. Crosby/Ovechkin will always draw a crowd as long as the two are the best two players in the world. NBC and Versus would be frothing at the mouth if they could stretch another two games out of the power duo by putting them in the same division. This would also give the division a storyline from October through April as the two teams vie for the top spot in their division.

5.) Further parity for the league- The Salary Cap worked. It worked so well that as of today, all but three or four teams have a legitimate shot at the playoffs at the beginning of February. Stretching the talent across the league even further would even the playing field even more. Include an additional $120 million to the entire league’s payroll in good hockey markets and maybe a few offensively talented Europeans don’t cross the pond in the name of Rubles and Euros.


Why More NHLers Should Be Like Paul Bissonnette

Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

When I finally got across to seeing 24/7 on HBO last week, I was really struck by how deep into the lives of NHL players the show got. It was a chance for me, someone who has a directly next to infinitesimal change of making it to the National Hockey League as a player, to see into the lives of the players I idolized growing up.

It left me with an even stronger dedication to hockey coming out of it, as strange as that is to believe about someone who could probably name the height and junior team of every player on the Dallas Stars roster. It also left me wanting to see a lot more of that kind of stuff, to feel a personal connection to the players I spend my time and money on every year.

Enter Twitter, the social media phenomena that confuses and angers just about everyone until they actually try it. The site has gained so much credence over the years that CNN is replacing real broadcasting time with seeing what people have to say on it (that could just be a scathing commentary on how far CNN’s credibility has fallen over the years, but that’s up to the readers to decide).

I’ve always thought that the NHL is great because someone can make a living annoying people, and the personalities that do so are often the most colorful in all of sports. Could you imagine if Twitter was around when Jeremy Roenick or Matthew Barnaby were in their prime? Could you imagine how entertaining they would have been and how many potential new fans they could have attracted when given a virtual loudspeaker as powerful as Twitter?

Sports personalities on Twitter are nothing new, but the NFL and NBA players that you hear about on Twitter seem to have egos larger than their signing bonuses. That’s something the NHL has that the other big sports leagues don’t: genuinely funny and controversy-free personalities. In a country where the game itself has to vie for support with the likes of the mega-rich NFL, that’s something the NHL needs to exploit.

And who better as the poster-boy for that movement than Paul Bissonnette, the Phoenix Coyotes enforcer who goes by the online handle of BizNasty2point0 (the latter half of that name stems from the fact that the original BizNasty was deleted in the name of political correctness, has garnered a plethora of followers since his Blogosphere Revival brought him back into the spotlight of NHL fans everywhere at the beginning of this season.

NHLers on Twitter also aren’t anything new, if you search for an under-30 Anglophone NHLer on Twitter, there’s a good chance you’ll find him, but unfortunately there’s about as much personality amongst them as the annual Accountants Society meeting.

Take Dustin Brown, hard hitting captain of the Los Angeles Kings. If I didn’t know who he was, I’d think he was just one of my hockey playing friends that I followed updating me on how his season was going. It’s great that “Bernie” got the win against the Ducks on the 26th of December, but that’s nothing I couldn’t figure out by going to NHL.com on any given night.

Compare that to this. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. The NHL NEEDS more of that: a direct connection to the fans that makes longtimers and potential newcomers to the sport want to watch and be a part of the NHL experience as a whole.

If the NHL is going to attract a larger audience, they’re going to have to do it by straying from the sterile, spotless, and draped in tradition image the other major leagues constantly give off. That means more encouragement for the players to come out of their shells once in a while and make the viewing experience a more well-rounded and entertaining experience for the fans.

And this. A lot more stuff like this.


Welcome to hockey365

Welcome to hockey365, an upstart hockey site bringing you news and notes from the entire world of hockey (cliche new-age name included). To start off, this will be solely staffed by two people, University of Missouri Journalism students Morgan Smith and Justin Walker. We hope to add more writers over time to make this a complete one-stop source for all of your hockey news.

Our coverage will largely draw from major sports news networks like ESPN and TSN, but we’ll also feature our own commentary on the major issues that affect the game.

Stay tuned in the coming days for our first smattering of articles and, as a special treat, Morgan and Justin’s mock All-Star Fantasy Draft for the All-Star Game in Carolina this Sunday.


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