Sunday, April 30, 2017

MLB news: Miller, Eaton suffer season ending injuries

     Injuries are a big part of sports and life. Injuries can prevent you from doing your job. In baseball, and other sports, players miss seasons due to injuries. After players return from injury, they might not play as well as before, or might play like they never left. Even though it's only April, two MLB players are already done for 2017.

     In December of 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves made a very famous trade. The D-backs acquired then all-star pitcher Shelby Miller for big prospects Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair, plus solid outfielder Ender Inciarte. Miller was awful in his first year in Arizona, with a 6.15 ERA in 101 innings. He struck out just 70 batters. Blair wasn't great either, but Swanson and Inciarte were very good for Atlanta. Looking to turn things around in 2017, Miller pitched 22 innings, with a 4.09 ERA, with 20 Ks. Things were looking better for Miller, but he was diagnosed with right elbow inflammation. He decided to undergo Tommy John surgery, and will miss 1 and a half years. "It's the best decision I think we can make," Miller said in a statement. "[It's] a tough day for all [of] us. We fully believe in the process that he followed, we fully believe in everything he has learned, and we're just anxious to see how the surgery goes and start the strategy to get him back and get him working and see where he takes us next year," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.

      This offseason, there was another big trade. The Chicago White Sox sent star CF Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. The gave up a big haul for Eaton, but they believed Eaton would be the last piece needed to win a World Series. According to baseball reference, Eaton had a 6.1 WAR last season with Chicago. And he's a career .284 hitter, swiping 57 bags in 544 career games. But bad news happened quickly. Eaton started off the 2017 season with a .297 average and 3 steals. But during a game vs the New York Mets, Eaton tore his ACL. Eaton has the same injury as Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber did last year, and Schwarber missed the entire regular season.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

NHL trade review: Scott Darling to Canes

     The Chicago Blackhawks have traded goalie Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a third round pick in the 2017 NHL draft. Let's get into details.

      On July 1, Darling can become a UFA. The Hawks made a good move to get value from him before he likely leaves. Expect the Hawks to go after a goalie to backup starter Corey Crawford this offseason. After trading Darling, GM Stan Bowman thanked Darling for his tenure in Chicago, including a Stanley Cup win. "We could count on Scott in any situation as he was always reliable," Bowman told "We appreciate his contributions to the Blackhawks organization, including a Stanley Cup championship team. We wish him well as he continues he career in Carolina." Darling, 28, was drafted 153rd overall (6th round) of the 2007 NHL draft by the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes. But he's only played in the NHL for the Hawks. This year, Darling had a 2.38 GAA and a .924 SV% in 32 games. He had a career 2.37 GAA and a SV% of .923 in 75 games.

       The Canes need goaltending. Their starter, Cam Ward had a 2.69 GAA and just a .905 SV% in 61 games this year. Their backup, Eddie Lack, had similar numbers this season, with a 2.64 GAA and a .902 SV% in 19 games. The only problem is that both Ward and Lack are under contract for next season. They owe Ward $3.3 million, and Lack $2.75 million. If the Canes sign Darling, then him and Ward will share the starting job. Lack would most likely be traded for late picks. Luckily for Carolina, both Lack and Ward will be free agents at the end of next season. That would make one of them easier to deal. Canes GM Ron Francis was happy to have Darling aboard. "Scott had a very successful season in Chicago and was a big part of the Blackhawks finishing with the best record in the Western conference. He played a critical role on Chicago's 2015 championship team," Francis said in a statement. The third rounder originally belonged to the Ottawa Senators, but was acquired by the Canes in a trade that sent LW Viktor Stalberg to Ottawa.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Looking ahead at the MLB trade deadline: 5 guys who could switch teams this season

      Raise your hand if you love the trade deadline, whether it's the MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL or something else. I just raised both of my hands. The trade deadline is always exciting. Guys are switching teams, changing franchises sometimes. So, why not predict who will be traded? So, I'm predicting which MLB players are most likely to switch teams closer to - or at the deadline.

       Jay Bruce/Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
 Both Bruce and Granderson are upcoming free agents. They're occupying starting roles, but 24 year old Michael Conforto is trying to take one of their jobs. There's no way the Mets trade both of them, but there's a good chance one goes. In the offseason, Bruce almost went to Baltimore. The Mets would rather trade Bruce, but teams are interested in Granderson more. Bruce's numbers suggest he want to stay in the Big apple. He has 6 homers in 2017, 2nd out of all upcoming free agents (Mike Moustakas and Mark Reynolds). Granderson is hitting just .141 to start the season.

       Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
Everybody on this list is an upcoming free agent, because those are the most common type of players who are traded. Along with Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, Cain is one of the Royals core players from the 2015 WS that is an upcoming free agent. Moustakas is starting the season well, and Hosmer is the face of the franchise. Cain is hitting a solid .278, but has no HRs. He's swiped 6 bags. It may be time for him to Loren-go.

        Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
After the Sox traded stars Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this offseason, it looked like Frazier was going to go, too. The Sox kept him, but he hasn't started out well. He's hitting .163. He only has 1 bomb, and hit 40 last year. He's on pace for just 8 homers this year. If he heats up, the Sox can get a big haul for him.

         Marco Estrada/Francisco Liriano, Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are off to a horrible start, with a 6-16 record after 22 games. That's a .273 winning %. They're also on pace for just 42 wins. They have 2 starters they can sell if they continue to play poorly. Liriano has a 4.58 ERA in 17.2 IP. Estrada has a 2.70 ERA in 30 IP. Many teams need pitching, and they could use a guy like Estrada or Liriano.

         Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers
"K-Rod" is the Tigers' closer, but isn't starting off well. He has an ERA of 6.23 in 8.2 innings. Blowing a pair of saves. At 35, Rodriguez might be dropping off. But a team like the Nationals would probably be willing to take that risk.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Jack Adams trophy preview

  Good coaching can bring championships. Scotty Bowman, the Hall of Fame coach, won 9 Stanley Cups (a record), and was a coach during the Canadiens dynasty and the Red Wings in the 90s. Only the best coaches win the Jack Adams (best coach) award. This year's Jack Adams finalists are Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Todd McLellan of the Edmonton Oilers and John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

       In his first as the head coach of the Leafs (last season), Babcock and the Leafs finished with 69 points, bad enough for last in the NHL. This season, they had 95 points, and made the playoffs. Their top players are all rookies. Of the 28 players on their roster, 19 of them are younger than 30, and 2 others are exactly 30. It's hard for coaches to coaches youngsters who are new to the NHL.

       After 7 years with the San Jose Sharks (making the playoffs 6 times), McLellan came to the Oilers. In year one, they finished with 70 points, which placed them last in the western conference, and second-to-last in the NHL to Babcock's Leafs. But in year two, things started clicking. 20 year old captain Connor McDavid won the Art Ross with 100 points. The Oilers finished with 103 points, making the playoffs. Pretty nice turnaround.

       After an 0-8 start to the 2015-16 season, the Blue Jackets fired head coach Todd Richards, and hired "Torts". The Jackets finished with 76 points, only ahead of Babcock's Leafs, McLellan's Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks. This year, the Jackets finished with 108 points (32 from a 16 game winning streak), obviously making the playoffs. Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Vezina. The team all around played well, and thus they had a great season.

       I think Babcock, will win, but Tortorella will lose by a vote or two. The reason I think Babcock will win is because, like I mentioned earlier, it's not easy to coach rookies. Tortorella changed the team a lot since Richards' firing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NHL playoff preview: Ottawa Senators vs New York Rangers

The country of Sweden probably can't wait for this series. Their goalie in international play for his entire career, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers go up against super Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators.

      New York Rangers

      First round: vs Montreal Canadiens in 6 games
Lundqvist and his 1.47 GAA and a SV% of .947 led the Rangers in round one. They have a very balanced team, which is always good to have.

      Ottawa Senators

      First round: vs Boston Bruins in 6 games
The Sens have very strong skaters, and Craig Anderson had a solid round one with a 1.94 GAA and a SV% of .921. They look totally different than last year's Sens.

       My prediction: Ottawa Senators
Honestly, I think this will be the first 7 game series in the playoffs. Both teams are even, but I'll give it to the Sens. Whoever wins will probably be eliminated in the eastern conference finals, though.

NHL playoff preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals

It's official. We have a rematch. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will face each other in round 2 again. Last year, Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins beat "Ovi's" Washington Capitals in 6 games en route to a Stanley Cup victory. This year, the Caps are hungrier to make it to the eastern conference finals for the first time in Ovechkin's career.

      Washington Capitals

       First round: vs Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 games
The Caps didn't look like the Caps we know in the first round, but were able to beat the Leafs. Goalie Braden Holtby didn't have Braden Holtby like numbers in the first round with a 2.36 GAA and .925 SV%, which is still good. They are very good all around, and can really threaten to the Pens.

        Pittsburgh Penguins

        First round: vs Columbus Blue Jackets in 5 games
The Penguins eased through the Jackets in the first round. Behind Crosby, it gets weaker. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a GAA of 2.52 and a .933 SV% in round 1. If Pittsburgh's bottom six plays well, they can put up a very good fight.

        My prediction: Washington Capitals
It's simple. All three aspects of hockey: offense, defense and goaltending favor the Caps. I think this is really their year.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NHL playoff preview: Anaheim Ducks vs Edmonton Oilers

More playoff hockey, please. The first round has ended, and now half of the 16 playoff teams are gone, and the other half are in the second round. Once again, I'll be previewing all the second round series. Here is my previewing of the Anaheim Ducks playing the Edmonton Oilers.

      Anaheim Ducks

      First round: sweep vs Calgary Flames
The Ducks, led by goalie John Gibson, swept the Flames. Gibson had a 2.59 GAA and a SV% of .926 in the first round. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf combined for 4 goals in 4 games. Cam Fowler will return from injury, and that really helps their D.

      Edmonton Oilers

      First round: vs San Jose Sharks in 6 games
20 year old captain Connor McDavid's 100 point season was amazing. Goalie Cam Talbot almost was a Vezina finalist, and had a 2.03 GAA and SV% of .927 in the first round. If their defensive core has a good series, they'll have a good chance of winning.

      My prediction: Anaheim Ducks
The Oilers have a better offense. The Ducks have a better defense. The goalies are even. But defense wins championships, and that's why the Ducks will win.

NHL playoff preview: St. Louis Blues vs Nashville Predators

We have made it through the first round of the playoffs. Instead of 16, 8 teams remain in the second round. The first series of the second round that I'll be previewing is the Nashville Predators against the St. Louis Blues.

       St. Louis Blues

      First round: vs Minnesota Wild in 5 games
The Blues, led by Lady Byng finalist Vladimir Tarasenko, were able to surprise many (not me) by beating the Wild, and in just 5 games. Jake Allen was sharp in net with a 1.47 GAA and a SV% of .956. They played terrific, and most of their players have the experience of playing after the 1st round (they went to the Western conference finals last season).

      Nashville Predators

      First round: sweep vs Chicago Blackhawks
Did you think Allen's first round numbers were impressive? Then you haven't seen Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne numbers against Chicago. He had an amazing GAA of 0.70 and a SV% of .976. Wow. Their skaters continued to dominate, and should be good in round 2.

      My prediction: St. Louis Blues
Both teams are very even, but I'm going to give this one to the Blues. Rinne beats Allen, and the Blues beat the Preds on offense. The defenses are similar, and strong. But I think the St. Louis offense is stronger, and the depth is better. So, the Blues should be in the Western conference finals again.

2017 Bill Masterton trophy preview

  It's hard to win the Bill Masterton trophy. The trophy is awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Bill Masterton winners usually have very touching stories during the season. This year's finalists are Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators, Andrew Cogliano of the Anaheim Ducks and Derek Ryan of the Carolina Hurricanes.

     Speaking of touching stories, Anderson probably had the most touching in all of the "big four" leagues. His wife, Nicholle was diagnosed with cancer early in the season, and Anderson missed more than two months to be with her. Both times (he took two different breaks) he came back, Anderson posted a shutout, including one against the Oilers he'll never forget. He led the Sens to the playoffs this year with a 2.28 GAA and .926 SV%.

      Cogliano was nominated for a different reason. This is actually the 4th time in 6 years he's been nominated. That's because of his iron-man streak. Since 2007-08, Cogliano has played in 786 consecutive games, never missing a game in his career. He had 35 points (16 goals and 19 assists) this year.

      An old rookie in the NHL is around 24. Ryan is a rookie, and is 30. He was undrafted, and played in junior, college, Swedish and AHL hockey since 2003. In 67 games this year, Ryan scored 29 points (11 goals and 18 assists).

      I think Anderson will win. He missed so many games with a family issue, and led his team to the playoffs. That isn't easy to do. If he loses, I'd be surprised.

Monday, April 24, 2017

2017 Lady Byng trophy preview

       The Lady Byng trophy in the NHL is one of a kind. No other sports league awards a trophy similar to the Lady Byng. The Lady Byng is awarded to the player "adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly, combined with a high standard of playing ability." Basically, the formula to win the Lady Byng is to have a high number of points, and a low number of penalty minutes. The 2017 Lady Byng finalists are Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues, Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.

      For the first time in his career, Tarasenko played in all 82 games. He scored a career high 75 points (39 goals and 36 assists). He sat in the penalty box for just 12 minutes. The Russian probably grew up watching Russian Pavel Datsyuk, who won the trophy 4 consecutive times from 2005-06 to 2008-09. Maybe Tarasenko can become the third Russian to win the Lady Byng (After Datsyuk and Alexander Mogilny).

     Granlund enjoyed his breakout season in 2016-17. He scored a career high 69 points (26 goals and 43 assists, each career highs) in 81 games. Like Tarasenko, he sat in the box for 12 minutes. His efforts helped the Wild get to the playoffs.

     Gaudreau played the least amount of games, 72, and scored the least amount of points, 61 (18 goals and 43 assists), but he had the least amount of penalty minutes with 4. That helped the Flames make the playoffs.

     I think Tarasenko will win. He has the most points, so he already is halfway there to being the obviously choice. Gaudreau has less penalty minutes, but in less games. And it's not like 12 penalty minutes is so much. So, that's why he'll win.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2017 Vezina trophy preview

Many people would tell that being a goalie in hockey is the hardest position in sports. Pucks are always flying at you, and you need to stop them. So winning the Vezina trophy (best goalie) is a great honor. The NHL announced the finalists for this year's Vezina trophy. They are Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Braden Holtby of the Washignton Capitals and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

     In his career, Price has earned the title of being known as the best goalie in the world with a 2.39 career GAA and .920 SV%. 2 seasons ago, Price took home 4 (!!) trophies. The Vezina, Hart and Ted Lindsey (MVP like awards) and the Jennings (best GAA). In 2016-17, he had a 2.23 GAA and a SV% of .923.

    In 2015-16, Holtby tied Martin Brodeur for the most single season wins in NHL history. He also won the Vezina that year. In 2016-17, he had a better year, with a 2.07 GAA and a .925 SV%. He has a good chance at winning his second consecutive Vezina.

    After a very rough 2015-16, with a 2.75 GAA and a SV% of .908, Bobrovsky played more like his Vezina winning 2013 season in 2016-17. He had a 2.06 GAA and a .931 SV%. He led the Blue Jackets to a 108 point season and the playoffs.

   I think Bobrovsky will win. Price wasn't nearly as good as "Bob" and Holtby. Holtby had John Carlson and Matt Niskanen in front of him the entire season, and Kevin Shattenkirk at the end. Bob's best defenseman, Zach Werenski and Seth Jones, are 19 and 22 respectively. Usually I root for the person who hasn't won the trophy, but all 3 have won.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017 Norris trophy preview

  Every defenseman dreams of winning the Norris trophy (best defenseman). The NHL announced the three defenseman who are finalists for the Norris trophy. They are Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

       Burns was drafted as a forward, and by a look of his stats, you would have never guessed he switched to a defenseman. For the third straight season, Burns played in all 82 games. This year, he set a career high in points with 76 (29 goals and 47 assists). He was also a +19.

Karlsson with the Norris in 2015
        For a the first time since 2012-13, Karlsson didn't play in 82 games. But he played in a majority of them, suiting up 77 times. He was a +10, and scored 71 points (17 goals and 54 assists). He might be the best defenseman in this generation. In 2015-16, he scored 82 points. He will go for Norris number 3 this year.

       Many people said 2015-16 was Hedman's breakout year, with 47 points, leading the Bolts to the eastern conference finals. In 2016-17, he had a better year scoring-wise. Hedman scored more points than Karlsson but less than Burns with 72 (16 goals and 56 assists). He was only a +3, as the Bolts struggled in net.

       I think Burns will win. Now, scoring is a bigger factor in winning the Norris than it was when Bobby Orr was around. Burns nearly scored 30 goals and 80 points. "Chewbacca" should win his first Norris this year.

Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Calder trophy preview

Matthews (left) and Laine
The Calder trophy (best rookie) is special. For every other trophy, a player can be nominated multiple times, and win multiple times. But, you can only be nominated for the Calder once. If you win, congrats. If you lose, too bad. For the 2016-17 season, the NHL announced the finalists for the Calder. They are Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

     Matthews was the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft. And by the looks of his first season, the Leafs made the right choice. He played in all 82 games, scoring 69 points (40 goals ad 29 assists). Only the best players in the world can score 40 goals in a season. To be a teenager and do it (Matthews is just 19 years old) is unreal.

    After Matthews, Laine was drafted 2nd overall in 2016. He is compared to Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who is known for having one of the nastiest shots in NHL history. In 73 games this season, Laine scored 64 points (36 goals and 28 assists). To score a hatrick (3 goals in a single game) is very tough. Well, Laine scored a hatrick of hatrick during his rookie season.

    Werenski, a defenseman, was drafted the year before Matthews and Laine, but still had a great rookie season. He played in 78 games, with 47 points (11 goals and 36 assists). The 19 year old was a +17. He's the
underdog in this race, and was at the start of the season too.

     I think Matthews will win the Calder. Another fact that I didn't mention before is that Matthews lead the Leafs, who finished dead last in 2015-16 to the playoffs, While Laine's Jets went home early. Werenski lead the Jackets to the playoffs, but their offense was potent and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Vezina trophy (best goalie). Like I said, Matthews scored 40 goals. He tied with Nikita Kucherov for second in goal scoring in the entire NHL, behind Sidney Crosby. I just don't see him losing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017 Selke trophy preview

It's that time of the year again. The NHL will be announcing the finalists for all of the trophies, and the winners will be announced in Las Vegas on June 21. The first finalists that were announced were the finalists for the Selke trophy. The trophy, named after Frank J. Selke, is awarded to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in defense. This year's Selke finalists are Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks, and Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild.

      For Bergeron, this is the 6th consecutive time he's been nominated for the award. He's taken it home 3 times, and is looking for number 4. Bob Gainey has the record for the most Selke wins, winning it 4 times. Pavel Datsyuk, Jere Lehtinen and Guy Carbonneau are the only others to win it 3 times, or a hatrick. In 79 games this season, Bergeron scored 53 points (21 goals and 32 assists) and was a +12.

Bergeron with the Selke trophy in 2014
Kesler with the award in 2011
     Kesler is also a familiar face in this race. He was nominated last year, and is now a 5 time finalist. He won the trophy once. Kesler played in all 82 games this season, scoring 58 points (22 goals and 36 assists), and was a +8.

     Koivu, the captain of the Wild, has never been nominated before. As the Wild finished 2nd in the Central division, Koivu excelled at both ends. He played in 80 games this season, scoring 58 points (18 goals and 40 assists) and was a +27.

     I think that Koivu will win. It's his first time being a finalist and the others have won, so I'm rooting for him. I think he'll win because of the Wild being so successful because of their defense. His +27 rating is amazing for a defenseman, let alone a forward.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How the New York Islanders help in the community

    The New York Islanders played on Long Island for 43 years, before moving to Brooklyn in 2015. Despite the move, the Islanders remain active in the community of Long Island, and now Brooklyn. They are sincerely devoted to getting fans into hockey, honoring veterans and helping kids and adults with diseases or disabilities. The Islanders initiatives allows the fans to interact with their favorite players, while joining together to benefit the community. The Islanders view the fans as part of the organization and together can make a difference. “You buy a sports team because it’s a community trust and you’re really the trustees of it. You really don’t own it because the fans own the team. A sports team is a great platform to create change in a community,” Islanders owner Jon Ledecky said.

     “The Islanders are incredibly involved in the community, they do a variety of initiatives to give back to their fan base and to kids and families in need. The players always find time to give back to the community even though their schedules are extremely hectic between games and practices,” Islanders social media coordinator Rachel Schwartz said. Examples of their off-ice production includes the Islanders children foundation (ICF), which has an objective of getting youngsters into hockey, and helping with childhood diseases. The ICF has many programs, including Islanders Golf Outing, Casino Night, special themed jersey auctions, and league wide promotions, like Hockey Fights Cancer (HFC) and Hockey is for everyone, just to name a few.  The Islanders also show their appreciation for veterans, with their Wounded Warrior program. During each home game, the Islanders recognize and honor a vet for their service.  “It’s an honor for me to be a part of something special. I was only willing to do it because I love the Islanders,” said Army National Guard Captain Eddie Molina, who was honored for his service at a recent Islander game. The Isles also show people with disabilities that they can still play hockey. They skated with visually impaired children in December, and played wheelchair hockey with kids in February.  These programs don’t just bring joy to the fans, it’s satisfying to the players as well. “It’s nice to talk to fans in a different setting than being in the rink. That was always interesting and we enjoyed those days,” said former Islander Miroslav Satan. Since their arrival to the NHL in 1972, the Islanders have been leaders on and off the ice, creating generations of passionate hockey fans.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MLB news: Starling Marte suspended 80 games

    In 2016, Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte had a career year, hitting .311, and swiping 47 bases. He also made the all-star game. But, did he cheat? On Tuesday, Marte tested positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing drug. He was suspended 80 games. In just 13 games in 2017, Marte has hit .241, with 2 homers and steals each. The 28 year old is a career .288 hitter, with 162 steals. The only MLB team he has ever played for is the Pirates. "I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job," Marte said in a statement. "In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans and baseball in general. Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with thehigh price to pay of being away from the field that I love so much. With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me." Marte won a gold glove in 2016, and was good enough for the Pirates to move face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen from center to right so Marte can play center.

Monday, April 17, 2017

My interview with Stephen Gionta

      Many people don't think of Stephen Gionta as a big hitter. But, he showed in his first season as a New York Islander (2016-17) that he can really lay the lumber. The Rochester, New York native was undrafted. His brother, Brian Gionta captained the Montreal Canadiens, but is currently the captain of the Buffalo Sabres. After 4 years at Boston College, Gionta signed an amateur tryout contract with the Albany River Rats, the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils (the River Rats soon became the Lowell Devils, before returning to Albany, and are still called the Devils). Eventually, he made the team. He played 5 seasons for the NHL Devils, scoring 50 points (15 goals and 35 assists) in 270 games. When his contract expired, Gionta signed a one year deal with the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and signed with the Islanders early in the 2016-17 season. In that one year there, Gionta scored 6 points (1 goal and 5 assists).
      At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Stephen. Here are the questions I asked him.

      Me: "After starting the season in Bridgeport, you were called up. Is it tough to be back in the NHL after playing in the AHL?"
      Gionta: "I broke my leg in training camp. I had to go down to Bridgeport to get back in game shape. They called me up. It's great to be back here."

      M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
      G: "It's great being able to come out, and contribute as best as we can. Any dollar amount that's raised will help some kid with his treatment, and to be able to help out with that is a great feeling."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My interview with Adam Pelech

      At 22 years of age, New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech still has more years to play in the NHL. The Toronto, Ontario native was drafted 65th overall (3rd round) of the 2012 NHL draft. He made his NHL debut in 2015-16, but was injured after 9 NHL games, and didn't play again that season, though he returned in 2016-17. In 53 NHL games, (all with the Islanders), Pelech has 12 points (3 goals and 9 assists). He'll probably get a starting job to start the 2017-18 season.
      At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Adam. Here are the questions I asked him.

      Me: "Injuries and trips to the AHL have prevented you from being the starting lineup. Is it hard to sit out multiple games?"
      Pelech: "It is tough when you're switching around like that all the time. Especially when you're hurt, it's tough to not be playing, and being away from all the guys. I'm glad that I'm here now, and hopefully we can have a few good weeks here."

      M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
      P: "It's always great when we can use what we do to help a great cause. We had a great time today, and a lot of people showed up. Hopefully there's more of this to come."

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My interview with Shane Prince

      Speed pays off in the NHL. Speedy winger Jason Chimera has had a long career because of his speed. Fellow New York Islanders winger Shane Prince also has very good speed, and he takes advantage of that on the ice. The Rochester, New York native was drafted in the 2nd round (61 overall) of the 2011 NHL draft by the Ottawa Senators. But, Prince never got the opportunity to play full time for the Sens. He played just 44 games there, with 13 points (3 goals and 10 assists). At the 2016 trade deadline, the Sens traded Prince and a 7th rounder to the Islanders for a third rounder. In just a season a half, Prince has played more games with the Isles. He's played 70 of them, and recorded 23 points (8 goals and 15 assists).
       At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Shane. Here are the questions I asked him.

      Me: "How did the team change from December to March?"
      Prince: "Obviously you never like to be in last place. It's good for our team to come back and be in a playoff spot."

      M: "Was it tough to go from Ottawa to the Isles in a span of a minute last year?"
      P: "It was a big change, it changes your life, the team your with and all the people in front of it. It definitely is a big change. It's good for me, and I'm happy to be here."

      M: "How has Joshua Ho-Sang impacted the team in his rookie season?"
      P: "He's a good player, we know he's skilled. We're happy to have him here. We're hoping he can help us win games."

      M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
      P: "It's a great event for a good cause. We have a lot of great guys on the team. We're all happy to be here, and we're all having a good time."

Friday, April 14, 2017

My interview with Alan Quine

     Not many NHL players have the luxury of getting drafted. New York Islanders center Alan Quine is on the extremely short list of players who were drafted TWICE. The Belleville, Ontario native was drafted 85th overall (3rd round) of the 2011 NHL draft by the Detroit Red Wings. However, he did not sign with the Wings. So, he was eligible to be drafted again. In the 2013 draft, the New York Islanders took him in the 6th round, 166th overall. This time, Quine signed. When the Islanders wanted to rest their stars at the end of the 2015-16 season, after they clinched the playoffs, the recalled Quine for the final two games, the first of his NHL career. Quine scored in the first one. The team was impressed, and started Quine in the playoffs. In double OT of game 5 of round one against the Florida Panthers, Quine scored a PP goal, winning the game. The next game was won by the Isles, clinching their first playoff series win in 23 years. In 63 career NHL games (all for the Islanders) that year and the next one, Quine scored 19 points, with 6 goals and 13 assists.
     At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Alan. Here are the questions I asked him.

     Me: "How did the team change from December to March?"
     Quine: "We came together as a group. All the guys turned a page after Christmas, and started playing for each other. We're right in the hunt for a playoff spot. We all wanted to be in [the playoffs], and be in it for the fans."

     M: "For the past couple of weeks*, you've been injured. You finally came back this week. Was it tough not playing for some time?"
     Q: "It was tough. I stayed home when the guys went on the road trip. It's tough to watch them doing their own thing. Of course I wanted to be there. But, it's a part of the game. Once you get older, stuff like that is bound to happen. It's the way you deal with it, the way you come back stronger. It's good to be back."

     M: "Last year, you got the chance to play your first couple of NHL games, and then scored a big goal in overtime. Was it tough to go from an AHL player to suddenly an NHL playoff player?"
     Q: "I think the AHL is a good development league. I like the way the Islanders have done, as they don't like rushing guys. I was hoping for an opportunity, at a point in my third [AHL] season, I felt like I was ready, and to be an impact player. I was fortunate enough to get that opportunity."

     M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
     Q: "Anytime we can go help the community, support a cause, whether that would be cancer or diabetes, or children's foundation, whatever it is, make a wish, stuff like that where we can give back is important to us. All the guys showed up. I think it shows a lot about Anders as a person. He's a special person. He's an idol for many people out there. It's awesome that he can do that for us."

     *this was recorded March 18, and Quine was injured weeks before March 18

My interview with Nikolay Kulemin

Penalty killing is important in the NHL. New York Islanders winger Nikolay Kulemin specializes in killing penalties. The Magnitogorsk, Russia native was drafted 44th overall (second round) in the 2006 NHL draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. But, he stayed with the KHL's Metallurg Magnitogorsk for an extra season. When he finally went to the Leafs, Kulemin became good friends with teammate Mikhail Grabovski, who was his center. In 6 years with Toronto, Kulemin scored 195 points (84 goals and 111 assists) in 421 games. Before the 2014-15 season, Kulemin signed a 4 year, $16.75 million deal with the Islanders. On the same day, the Isles signed Grabovski to a 4 year, $20 million deal. In three seasons since, Kulemin has 76 points (36 goals and 40 assists) in 235 games.
    At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Nikolai. Here are the questions I asked him.

    Me: "How did the team change from December to March?"
    Kulemin: "We didn't play very good during the [beginning] of the year. We had a couple of bad games at the start. We bounced back, and everybody played hard. We found a way to get back on track."

   M: "You've replaced Matt Martin on the infamous 4th line. What's it like to go from a scoring line to a checking line?"
   K: "We don't really have a checking line. All lines can score. It doesn't matter who I'm playing with."

   M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
   K: "It's a great experience. It's good to give back, and do fundraising for the kids that get sick. It's a hard disease. Everyone likes to support the kids."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My interview with Jason Chimera

     Jason Chimera has had a long NHL career. Most players do not play until they're 37, and Chimera is 37, and can still play for a few more seasons. Probably the biggest reason why Chimera stayed in the league is his speed. He's one of the fastest players in the NHL. The Edmonton, Alberta native was drafted 121st overall (5th round) of the 1997 NHL draft by his hometown Edmonton Oilers. In four seasons with the Oilers (2 full), Chimera scored 36 points (19 goals and 17 assists) in 130 games. He was then traded to the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes) for draft picks. The lockout occurred that season. Chimera was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Geoff Sanderson. Chimera spent 5 seasons there, with 136 points (62 goals and 74 assists) in 331 games. The Jackets traded him to the Washington Capitals for Chris Clark and Milan Juncina. Chimera played 7 seasons there, with 197 points (82 goals and 115 assists) in 490 games. In 2016, he signed with the New York Islanders to a 2 year, $4.5 million deal. In one season with the Isles, Chimera scored 33 points (20 goals and 13 assists) in all 82 games. Altogether, he has 402 points (183 goals and 219 assists) in 1033 games.
     At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Jason. Here's the questions I asked him.

     Me: "How did the team change from December to April?"
     Chimera: "We weren't playing really well. Then everyone got together and decided that we needed to start doing things differently. Everyone started scoring, and it was good.

      M: "Was it tough to sign with the Islanders after playing for their rivals, the Capitals?"
      C: "I have two kids, so I think it's tough when you get a chance to change teams, there's an all new team, an all new place to live, all that stuff. So getting all those things settled is pretty hard. All of the guys on our team are really good dudes, all really good guys. They made it really easy for me."

      M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
      C: "I think it's huge. It shows support for those people, it shows support for those kids. It's not only kids, it's other people. It's nice for Anders [Lee] to have this, to raise money for kids, and all kinds of stuff. So it's nice for him to do that.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NHL playoff preview: Edmonton Oilers vs San Jose Sharks

Very soon, the 2017 NHL playoffs will begin. So, I'm previewing each and every series. Today, I'll preview the matchup between the 2nd and 3rd teams in the Pacific division. That is the Edmonton Oilers (2) and the San Jose Sharks (3). First, let's look at the teams.

     Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid is just 20, and has an Art Ross (most points) under his belt. Leon Draisaitl is a good linemate for him. Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins form a solid second line. Defense is weaker. Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Kris Russell and Darnell Nurse are all good, but not great. Goaltender Cam Talbot will need to play really well if Edmonton wants to win.

    San Jose Sharks
Star centers Logan Couture and Joe Thornton are questionable, and the Sharks need them. But, they do have Joe Pavelski, Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi, Patrick Marleau and Tomas Hertl. Defenseman Brent Burns will be a finalist for the Norris trophy (best defenseman). Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Brendan Dillon are all very good. Martin Jones showed last postseason that he can be an all-star caliber goalie.

   My prediction: San Jose Sharks
If I was comparing offenses, I'd give the Oilers the win, a close win. Besides McDavid, I'd say the Sharks win in a heartbeat. But, one man can't do it all. The defense is heavily in favor of the Sharks. Jones beats Talbot. But, It'll be a close series. I would be shocked if it doesn't go to 7 games.

NHL playoff preview: Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames

  Today, the 2017 NHL playoffs will begin. So, I'll be previewing each and every series. Today, I'll preview the series between the number one team in the Pacific division, the Anaheim Ducks, play the first wild card team, the Calgary Flames. First, let's look at the teams.

     Anaheim Ducks
On offense, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler can still produce in the later years of their careers. Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano and deadline acquisition Patrick Eaves all provide scoring. The Ducks are strong on defense. A hit by Flames captain Mark Giordano in the regular season will cost defenseman Cam Fowler the series. But, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Shea Theodore are still good enough to hold down the fort. Goalie John Gibson is young, but can still get the job done.

    Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are two young and talented forwards. The Flames have a very good second line of Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. On defense, Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie and Michael Stone create a strong top 4. Brian Elliott has very good playoff experience, leading the St. Louis Blues to the playoffs in recent years.

    My prediction: Anaheim Ducks
The main reason why I picked the Ducks is about something that isn't mentioned above. That is coaching. Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle is experienced, with a Cup win in 2007. For a head coach, 45 is very young. Panthers star Jaromir Jagr is 45, and still playing. Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan is 45, and hasn't coached an NHL team until this season. That will cost the Flames.

NHL coaching news: Isles keep Weight, Stars re-hire Hitchcock

Weight in an interview with Pierre McGuire
One of the biggest jobs an NHL team offers is the head coaching job. If you are very good, you can be the coach for awhile. But, if your team is struggling, you can be fired before you can say the words "you're fired". Today, there was some big news regarding head coaches in the NHL.
Hitchcock lifting the Cup in 1999
     On January 17, 2017, the New York Islanders had a record of 17-17-8 (42 points), and were last in the Eastern conference. Head coach Jack Capuano was fired, and assistant coach/assistant GM Doug Weight stepped in as interim head coach. The Isles went 24-12-4 (52 points) under Weight, and had the 2nd best record in the league since the firing. The Islanders finished just 1 point out of a playoff spot. But, GM Garth Snow was impressed, and today announced that Weight would be the permanent head coach. "Doug has earned this opportunity from the tremendous work he has put in over the past five seasons in our front office and especially from the time he took over as interim head coach earlier this season," Snow said in a release. Weight was also overjoyed to return as head coach. "I'm honored to be named head coach of such an historic franchise with one of the most passionate fanbases in the NHL. There is a deep history of winning with the Islanders and I look forward to doing everything in my power to return to the playoffs and have success," Doug said in the same release. His contract wasn't released.
       In 1999, Ken Hitchcock was the head coach of the Stanley Cup winning Dallas Stars, with still stands as their only Cup in franchise history. In 2002, Hitchcock was fired. Entering the 2016-17 season, Hitchcock was the head coach of the St. Louis Blues. On February 1, Hitchcock was fired by the Blues, and assistant coach Mike Yeo stepped in as head coach. At the end of the season, the Stars announced that head coach Lindy Ruff, who's contract was ending, would not return. So, the Stars hired Hitchcock, in hopes he can bring the second cup. As with Weight, no contract was released.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

NHL playoff preview: Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues

The 2017 NHL playoffs are almost underway! So, I'll preview each series. Today, I'll be previewing the matchup of teams number 2 and 3 in the Central division. That is the Minnesota Wild (2) against the St. Louis Blues (3). First, let's look at the teams.

   Minnesota Wild
In their first year under head coach Bruce Boudreau, the Wild made the playoffs again, this time in a divisional spot. On defense, they have star Ryan Suter. Suter joins with Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba and Jared Spurgeon to form a strong defensive core. On offense, Zach Parise leads the charge. Eric Staal and Nino Niederreiter join him on the top line. Newly acquired Martin Hanzal and Charlie Coyle are 2nd liners being forced to play 3rd line minutes. Mikko Koivu is a solid captain. Devan Dubnyk is a Vezina caliber goalie.

   St. Louis Blues
They traded Kevin Shattenkirk. But, they still have good defensemen in captain Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko. On offense, they might be missing Robby Fabbri, but they can still score. Paul Stastny should return from injury. Jaden Schwartz and Vladimar Tarasenko are two good first line wingers. Don't forget about Alex Steen. Jake Allen is a little unexperienced for a goalie, but he should be fine.

    My prediction: St. Louis Blues
This is the third NHL team Bruce Boudreau has been the head coach of. The other two, the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks, were great in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs under Boudreau. the Blues made it to the Conference finals last year, taking down the then defending champs (the Chicago Blackhawks) and the Dallas Stars, who were the best team in the west that year.

NHL playoff preview: Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators

The best part of the NHL season is playoff time, and that time is now! So, I'll be previewing each and every series. Here, I'll be previewing the best of the west, the Chicago Blackhawks, facing the wild card Nashville Predators. Both teams have stud defensemen, and weapons on front. First, let's look at the teams.

   Chicago Blackhawks
They've won 3 Cups in the 2010s. Stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been the stars on all 3. They're joined by Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin to form 4 solid lines that can score, even though they don't have the greatest depth. Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell will all factor. Goaltender Corey Crawford is underrated, and can control a game.

   Nashville Predators
When they traded captain Shea Weber, they got P.K. Subban. He joined with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis to make a good core. Ryan Johansen is a star center. Filip Forseberg and Viktor Arvidsson join him to make a scoring first line James Neal is also a good winger. Pekka Rinne is getting older, but can still control a hockey game, with the ability to make 35 saves without allowing a goal.

   My prediction: Chicago Blackhawks
They have experience. A lot of their core have won multiple cups. But, when they won their last cup (2015), most of the team (players and coaches) said their toughest series that postseason was their first round matchup against Nashville. But, I think the Hawks overpower the Preds by a lot, expect on defense, but it's very close.

NHL playoff preview: Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins

It's time for playoff hockey! So, I'll be previewing each and every NHL playoff series. The series I'll be previewing today is between the 2nd and 3rd team in the Atlantic division. That is the Ottawa Senators (2) facing the Boston Bruins (3). First, let's start with a look at the teams.

    Ottawa Senators
Their forward core, with Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Derrick Brassard and Bobby Ryan can score. On defense, they have the best defenseman in the NHL in Erik Karlsson. Mark Methot and Cody Ceci, if healthy, can help out. Craig Anderson will need to step up, after a solid regular season shortened by taking leave when his wife was diagnosed with cancer.
    Boston Bruins
Their strength is on offense. They have wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak scoring goals. Centers Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes can also score. There's a lot of firepower there. On defense, Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara lead. They'll get help from Charlie McAvoy, who's in his first season but doesn't qualify as a rookie. Tuuka Rask is a top goalie, and a Vezina winner. He's another strength.

  My prediction: Ottawa Senators
I picked the Sens because they have a way better defense. When I previewed each team, I stated the B's had the worst defensive core in the league, and I still think that. Both teams can score, so expect a high scoring series.

NHL playoff preview: Montreal Canadiens vs New York Rangers

   Since the 2016-17 NHL regular season has ended, it's playoff time! Today, I'll be previewing the number one team in the Atlantic division, the Montreal Canadiens, go up against the first wild card team, the New York Rangers. Both teams are known for having superb goalies. First, let's take a look at the teams.

  Montreal Canadiens
A June 29 trade that sent star d-man P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for another star defenseman in Shea Weber will make an impact, obviously. I'll say it makes a positive impact. Defensively, Weber has the advantage. Other advantages for Shea includes shot and leadership. P.K. is a better skater, but that's about it. Jeff Petry will need to step up, and so will Alexei Emelin, when he returns from an injury. On forward, captain Max Pacioretty, centers Alex Galchenyuk and Tomas Plekanec, wingers Brendan Gallagher and Alex Radulov will lead. They're led by the best goalie in the world, Carey Price. An injury caused by a dirty play by Rangers Chris Kreider sidelined Price for the Eastern conference finals years back, and Price will want revenge.

   New York Rangers
Wingers Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey can all score. Centers Mika Zibanejad, Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes are all good. Don't forget about speedy winger Michael Grabner, who scored 27 goals this season. On defense, they'll need Ryan McDonagh to step up. Henrik Lundqvist has always been a top goalie, but at age 35, is dropping off. He had a bad season, with injuries, being benched and the rise of Antti Raanta all occurring.

    My prediction: Montreal Canadiens
This series will definitely go to 7 games. Both teams are very similar. Both have offensive firepower, lead on D by one guy, and have great goalies. But Weber is better than  McDonagh, and Price blows out Lundqvist.

NHL playoff preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets

    With the 2016-17 NHL regular season over, the playoffs will begin shortly. Today I'm previewing one of the eight series in the first round. That is the 2nd place team in the Metropolitan division, the Pittsburgh Penguins, going up against the 3rd Metro team, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Can the defending champs (the Pens) beat the Blue Jackets, a team who have made the playoffs for just the 3rd time in franchise history? The last time the Jackets made the playoffs (2013-14), they were eliminated in the first round by... You guessed it, the Penguins. To start off the preview, let's take a look at the teams.

    Pittsburgh Penguins
Injuries have cost the Penguins from winning the President's trophy. Defensemen Kris Letang and Olli Maatta will be out, and the Pens will hope star center Evgeni Malkin plays. Speedy winger Carl Hagelin is also out. Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz are also on the list of injured forwards. So, guys like Dominik Simon, Josh Archibald, Carter Rowney and even Tom Sestito are starters. But, the best player in the world (hands down), Sidney Crosby, is healthy. Same goes with star winger Phil Kessel. The acquisitions of defensemen Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit slightly replaces Letang and Maatta. Rookie Matt Murray won the Cup with the Pens last year, and should play most games. Experienced backup Marc-Andre Fleury is there too. It's a very good team healthy, and still good injured.

    Columbus Blue Jackets
Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski has lead this team, and will return from an injury. All-star winger Cam Atkinson is very good, and the same goes with Nick Foligno, Brandon Saad, Scott Hartnell and Boone Jenner. Their center core, with Brandon Dubinsky, Alex Wennberg and Sam Gagner is strong. On D, Seth Jones, David Savard and Jack Johnson join Werenski to form a solid group. Don't forget about goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina trophy (best goalie) in the shortened season of 2012-13. He's also the favorite to win this year's Vezina. They're a little less experienced, but can put up a good fight.

    My prediction: Columbus Blue Jackets
I'm saying this is the big upset of the playoffs. The Jackets are healthy, and need to take advantage of that. Another advantage is goaltending. The Jackets have some of the best depth in the league, while the Pens lack that, especially on offense. Letang and Maatta's injuries will haunt the Pens. This is where injuries affect the postseason.

Monday, April 10, 2017

NHL playoff preview: Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

    The 2016-17 NHL regular season has ended. So, the playoffs will soon start. Today I'll look at one of the series. That is the President's trophy winning Washington Capitals going up against the young, 2nd wild card Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams have some firepower, and we'll see what this series brings. First, here's a look at the teams.

    Washington Capitals
The Caps have never won the Cup in franchise history. Face of the franchise Alex Ovechkin has scored 50 or more goals in a regular season 7 times, but never has played in the Eastern conference finals. When you look at their roster, it's hard to believe. Ovechkin is on the best line in the NHL (in my opinion), with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie aiding him. Their second line of Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams is good. Star d-man John Carlson should return from injury, and Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner are solid as well. The Caps made a big trade deadline move, acquiring star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues. Vezina winner Braden Holtby is very good. Their lineup is stacked, and this might finally be their year.

   Toronto Maple Leafs
They might be in the playoffs, but the Leafs are still in a rebuild. They are led by the most recent first overall pick in Auston Matthews, who netted 40 goals in his rookie season. His sidekicks, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, are also rookies. Zach Hyman is also a very good player who plays with Matthews. James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri aren't rookies, but are still pretty good. Gritty forwards Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Brian Boyle and Matt Martin are good to have. On D, they get weaker. Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner are 1 and 2, with rookie Nikita Zaitsev number 3. Their pairing of veterans Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak needs to lead them. Frederik Andersen will return from injury, and lead the way.

    My prediction: Washington Capitals
I think the Capitals are stronger. They are more experienced. I think their X-factor is Justin Williams. Williams is the only player on either team to have won the Stanley Cup. Williams has actually won three. He won in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and in 2012 and 2014 with the L.A. Kings. In 2014, he won the Conn Smythe trophy. Ovechkin's line will be too much to handle for the Leafs defense. Holtby and the defensive core can shutout the rookies.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

My interview with Dennis Seidenberg

   Dennis Seidenberg has had a long NHL career. The Schwenninggen, Germany native was drafted 172nd overall (6th round) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2001 NHL draft. 20 points (6 goals and 14 assists) and 92 games later, Seidenberg was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes) for Petr Nedved. Both teams received 2006 4th rounders in the deal. Seidenberg played just 66 games for Phoenix, scoring 13 points (2 goals and 11 assists). He was then traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Kevyn Adams. Seidenberg had 51 points (6 goals and 45 assists) in 137 games with the Canes. When he hit free agency, Seidenberg, 35, signed a one year, $2.25 million deal with the Florida Panthers. He scored 23 points (2 goals and 21 assists) in 62 games with them. That season, the Panthers traded him and Matt Bartkowski to the Boston Bruins for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a 2nd round pick. In Boston, Seidenberg did something he failed to do with his other teams: stick along for awhile. He played 401 games for the B's, with 117 points (23 goals and 94 assists). The Bruins bought out Seidenberg after the 2015-16 season, and he signed with the New York Islanders to a one year, $1 million deal. In his only season (so far) as an Islander, Seidenberg has 22 points (5 goals and 17 assists). In his NHL career, Seidenberg has 246 points (44 goals and 202 assists) in 830 games.
    At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Dennis. Here are the questions I asked him.

   Me: "How has the team changed from December to now?"
   Seidenberg: "At the beginning we didn't play as a team, and we made a lot of mistakes. Halfway through the season we started to play better, and come together more as a team. We started to be more successful. I hope we make the playoffs*

   M: "You signed with the Isles during the World Cup of Hockey, when training camp started. Was it tough to sign very close to the start of the season?
  S: "It wasn't very hard. It was nerve-racking because I would've liked to know where I'm going right before the world cup. It is what it is. I'm here, and I'm enjoying my season. Hopefully I stay here.

  *They are eliminated from the playoffs now, but were still in contention on March 18, when this was recorded.

My interview with newest Flyer Mike Vecchione

Photo by Hans Pennick
    Every hockey player dreams of making it to the NHL. On April 4, 2017, that dream came true for C Mike Vecchione, who made his NHL debut for the Philadelphia Flyers that day. Vecchione, who tied for first in the nation in points while playing for Union College, signed a one year, 2 way entry level deal with the Flyers on March 31st. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award (best college player), but lost to University of Denver's Will Buchter. Vecchione, 24, won a NCAA championship with Union in 2014, the first in school history. The Saugus, Mass. native was undrafted, had 176 points (71 goals and 105 assists) while in college. When he signed with the Flyers, Vecchione joined former Union teammate Shayne Gostisbehere on the team.
   I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Mike. Here are the questions I asked him.

  Me: "You could have turned pro last year, but stayed at college for another year. Was that a hard decision to make?"
  Vecchione: "At first it was. But talking to my parents and people close to me, I realized that staying at school, getting that degree, and get that program back to the national stage was a lot more important than moving on to the pros. The amount of positives going back to college was so high that I didn't have it in my heart to leave early."

   M: "This year, you were nominated for the Hobey Baker award. Was that a great honor?"
   V: "After learning about what Hobey did, and how good of a hockey player he was, just to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, and be part of the Hobey hatrick was a tremendous honor. I was really happy to represent Union, and it would have been nice to win it, but Will [Buchter] was a deserving candidate."

   M: "In the past couple of years, Union has produced some NHL players, including yourself. Is there any more Union players we should watch out for in the NHL?"
   V: "Spencer [Foo] is moving on, I'm sure after playing my first NHL game, I think he'll fit in quite fine. Nick DeSimone is already a pro. For the underclassmen I think [Ryan] Scarfo has a good chance. He's got really good work ethic. Cole Maier and Brett Supinski, and some of those younger guys are really skilled and work hard. Don't forget about [Sebastian] Vidmar. He's a big body guy. I think that group of guys, you should definitely keep an eye on them, and watch them.
   M: "When you joined the Flyers, you also joined former Union teammate Shayne Gostisbehere. Did that factor in your decision?"
   V: "It didn't factor as much as people think it would've. I was looking for the best place for me, it's all about opportunity in this league, you want to find the best place for you to make an impact, and stick. I felt Philly was definitely that spot. Having Ghost here, and just being a friend of mine was just a much easier transition. Once I got here, he took me in and showed me around. I didn't really have to be on my own, which made it a lot easier to transition from college to the pros. The guys on the team treated me like family immediately. Having Ghost here was just a positive, but my decision was ultimately based on my opportunity this year. It's been great so far.

   M: "What was it like to make your NHL debut after playing in college the week before?"
   V: "It was a little difficult. I'd lost to Penn state, and a week and a half later I'm playing in my [first] NHL game. I was nervous, I didn't know what to expect. Like I said, the guys took me under their wing, and made sure they were going to talk to me, and help me out any way they can. I think after the first, I had a couple of good shifts. In the second and third period I turned it on and felt my game, got my feet moving. I had a couple chances. [I] was strong on the faceoff circle, which was huge for me. As the game went on I got more comfortable. I felt like I belonged up there. That was one of the best things for my confidence, to know that I can hang with these guys, I can skate with them. I'm looking forward to my next chance tomorrow."

   M: "Being undrafted, did that motivate you more to make the NHL?"
   V: "As a kid, you want to go to the draft, put the jersey on in front of your family, hear your name called and all that stuff. When I realized that wasn't going to be in the cards for me, I had to prove people wrong. I think not being drafted was that fire underneath me that kept burning. Like I said, I had to battle through high school to be a great player, and to get drafted. I thought I should of, but it helped me grow so much that I've out overlooked once again. Same thing happened in college I ended up at Union. I started as a 4th line guy and battled my way to the top. That feeling that people don't think I'm good enough, it feels the fire for me. It always has. He's undersized, he's not that skilled, whatever it is, that they put against me, I always have to go out there and earn people's respect, and work as hard as I can to make it. It was a good feeling to sign my contract, and play in my first game, knowing that so many people doubted me, and I got to prove everybody wrong.

    M: "How do you think you can help the Flyers moving forward?"
    V: "The Flyers are having a little bit of a down year, talking to the GMs and the coaches, I feel like my role is 3rd/4th line guy, bottom 6 for now. I'm just trying to provide some secondary scoring for them. I have a pretty good offensive touch. At the same time, I'm strong defensively, and can play that 200 foot game. They're looking for me to do both, obviously. I need to be an impact, bottom 6 guy that's going to help out on the score sheet, but also keep some pucks out of our net. Just having that duel responsibility is something they really appreciate. That's how I'm going to try to help them out."

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My interview with Casey Cizikas

   Casey Cizikas helps the New York Islanders in many aspects of hockey. First, he excels at penalty killing, and can even generate scoring chances on the PK. He's also a very gritty 4th line center, and can win draws. The Toronto, Ontario native was drafted 92nd overall (4th round) by the Isles in the 2009 NHL draft. In 2015-16, the Isles 4th line of him, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin was considered one of the best 4th lines in NHL history by many. Cizikas, 26, has 108 points (37 goals and 71 assists) in 349 career NHL games, all for the Islanders.
   At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Casey. Here's the questions I asked him.

   Me: "How has the team changed from December to now?"
   Cizikas: "It's exciting. As a group we came together and decided what our fate was. Especially with Dougie [Weight]. He came into our locker room and talked to the guys and made sure we're all on the same page, and got things going."

   M: "How has Joshua Ho-Sang impacted the team in his short time here?"
   C: "He's been unbelievable. He's brought a lot of energy into the team, and he's been playing really, really well. He's done a lot of good things. It's exciting to watch [him]. He's done a really good job since being called up."

  M: "You've missed many games this season due to a hand injury. Is it tough to sit out for many games?"
  C: "It's always fun to play. It's tough watching from up top, so to be out there with the guys, battling and playing the sport we love, it's a lot of fun."

  M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
  C: "He's doing an unbelievable job, and he's doing it for an incredible reason. He's put together this Kan Jam event, and he's gotten a lot of response from it. Everyone is coming together. They're bringing awareness, and that's the main thing. He's put together one great event here, and it's nice to see all the support he's having.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Rock hard questions for Brock Nelson

   Brock Nelson is a top goal scorer for the New York Islanders. The Minneapolis, Minnesota native has scored around 20 goals in each of his last 3 seasons. He was drafted 30th overall (first round) of the 2010 NHL draft, by the Isles. He's also an ironman, playing in at least 72 games in all 4 seasons, and he played those 72 games in his rookie season. Nelson, 25, has 150 points (79 goals and 71 assists) in 314 career NHL games, all for the Isles.
    At his teammate Anders Lee's Kan Jam event, I was able to catch up with Brock. Here's the questions I asked him.

    Me: "How has the team changed from December to now?"
    Nelson: "I wish I knew the answer. I think we're just playing smart, and [have] got a few lucky bounces."

    M: "What do you think of Joshua Ho-Sang in his short time here?"
    N: "He's pretty electric. He makes a lot of plays out there, a lot of skill. It's fun to watch him play out there.

    M: "What do you think of this event Anders Lee is running?"
    N: "It's pretty awesome. He's a special guy to put on an event like this. We've raised a lot of money for a very good cause. It's fun to be here.