Yes, it’s true, I am ramping up for hockey season and am now free of the corporate fetters that prevented me from blogging.
Not that y’all missed me much–I admit, I lost a lot of what little punch I had after 2006 and before the Great Hiatus. But I’m still me, I’m still opinionated, and I’m going to give ‘er another go.
I want to talk today about Chopper Harrison. Lots of electrons have been spilled over the tragic deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak–may their ancestors welcome them all warmly into their halls.
But nobody really talks about superfans like Chopper. Chopper died on 23 August at his home, after a battle with cancer. He was a year older than my husband, which did kinda hit home for me.
Chopper was annoying as hell. He drove everyone up the wall with his antics and blind homerism (the Warchief even called him on it after one particularly bad game, when Chopper said “yeah you guys played great last night!” and the Warchief said “What are you talking about? We played like crap!”), and after one incident where he said “asses” while doing an intermission whatchamadingding (during the 2001-2002 home opener), Great Leader banned him from doing any more on-ice stuff for the team. Of course, that ban lasted about as long as Dan Blackburn’s career, and Chopper was back on the ice about halfway through the season with his trademark “OVER HEEEEERRRRRRREEEEE!” and “THEY CAN HEAR YOU IN THE LOCKER ROOM!” bellowing. He was a hard drinker, a hard partier, scuttlebutt had the team telling Bates Battaglia and Shane Willis to stay the hell away from him, and eventually his antics drove the team away from him. He became the butt of jokes on message boards like thescoreboards.com and on blogs and among the folks at the RBC Center. I found myself apologizing on behalf of North Dakota for him on more than one occasion–as if my own famn damily didn’t make me ashamed enough to be from that state.
But there was no denying one thing: He was a Caniac through and through. He loved this team like he never loved anything else in his entire life–it was obvious to everyone with half a braincell. He braved Acrophobia for this team, by getting up on the canopy above the RBC Center’s box office as part of a season-ticket drive. For an acrophobe, that is a huge step. He stood up for them when few people in this state would, and was unceasing in his evangelizing of hockey and the Hurricanes to the college ball-watching masses.
Even after players eventually stopped talking to him and the org deliberately forgot he existed and Curtis Media Group fired him after a DUI arrest in 2006, he still loved the Hurricanes with his heart and soul and every last breath in his body–and when it was time for him to fight his final battle, he didn’t go back to Fargo, where he grew up and played hockey for the Spartans of North High. He came home to Raleigh, to be near his favourite team. David Martin, known to so many as Chopper Harrison, was, for all his many flaws, One Of Us–The Few, The Proud, The Caniacs–and the Caniac Nation (est. 1997) is greatly lessened by his passing.
Rest well, David Martin. May your ancestors welcome you warmly and may you enjoy a premium ice-side seat at the Eternal Game.
Last night was disappointing, but–sadly–not surprising.
The Hurricanes that scratched and clawed their way to the ECF were, in the end, gassed and surpassed. The aliens didn’t take them away and replace them with the Pod People, they didn’t “just give up”, and they sure as hell aren’t “scrubs”. They just didn’t have anything left in the tank (except for Eric Staal–who will be the next Warchief, but he can’t carry the whole team on his back), and it showed.
Such is hockey.
Congrats, Penguins. You were the better team this series, and it showed. Luck in the next round, and I just have two words for you now:
*: If Chicago somehow pulls it out in the WCF, all bets are off.
The dog days of summer are upon us. There is no news to speak of (because everyone is waiting on Mats Sundin to make up his freakin’ mind before they do anything else), the Hurricanes are still trying to move Alien Frankie, and Luke DeCock’s Monday Debate is a good one:
Name the All-Hurricanes team (as it would stand right now). The criteria used are that a player has to have played for the franchise post-1997 (which means that there’s no John Anderson, Mike Liut, Pat Verbeek, or Ulf Samuelsson).
Some comments are interesting, others are a little on the “WTF?” side (e.g. the anonymous commenter that thinks Sergei Samsonov belongs on the list even though he’s only been with the Hurricanes for like half a season)–but my favourite is from the woman who Just Doesn’t Get It:
My comments is.The yr that carolina hurricanes won stanley cup i had ball that yr because i went to 4 games that yr.
That’s an exact quote, kids. I couldn’t make it up if I tried.
Anyway. After a little thought, I decided to come up with my own roster. My criteria were that the players had to have played after the move, had to have played at least one full season with the team, and had to have done something that directly impacted on franchise history post-1997. One-shots don’t make it (which means no Alien Frankie, even though he scored the Cup-winner in 2006).
The starting lineup:
C: (tie) Ron Francis and Rod Brind’amour — Ronnie came along at a time when the franchise was most vulnerable. When he signed with the Hurricanes shortly before the 1998-99 season, he gave the mightily struggling team instant credibility that (along with Kevin Dineen’s work behind the scenes) helped it survive the second Year of Transition. As the face of the team post-Transition, he helped lay the foundation for the Hurricanes’ continued growth in the Triangle by giving the team a deserved reputation for class and community involvement. The man who became the Warchief came to the Hurricanes in March of 2000 not even knowing how long he wanted to stay here, and just over a year later wound up scoring The Goal That Saved The Team’s Ass; an OT game-winner in Game 4 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals that wrecked what the Devils fans felt would be a sure sweep and set the stage for the Great Finals Run of 2002. After a couple of somewhat lackluster seasons and a lockout spent doing some serious soul-searching, Rod came back to assume the mantle of Warchief and lead the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup title in 2006.
LW: (tie) Jeff O’Neill and Erik Cole — The first 40-goal scorer post-move, Jeff O’Neill had a reputation the team’s “bad boy” and gained a permanent spot in franchise legend when he took a puck to the eye in Game 4 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals…and then went on to score the OT game-winner. His days with the franchise were numbered after a well-publicized explosion at the conclusion of an infamous Chairman Mo bag skate where Craig MacDonald collapsed and had to be helped off the ice by Nicky Wallin, and abruptly came to an end after he was arrested for DUI and public intoxication by the Raleigh PD during the lockout. He was rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, but it’s hard to argue with his placement on the list or his appeal to the fans. Cole thrilled fans from the moment he set foot on the ice with his patented bull-rush up the wing (glovetap to WufPirate for that description), and gained a permanent place in franchise lore as a member of the BBC Line (along with Bates Battaglia and Rod Brind’amour) in 2002. Habs fans still curse his name after seeing his glass-dive (after scoring the game-tying goal in the Miracle at Molson) in their nightmares. Colesy’s broken neck after being piledriven headfirst into the boards by Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik in 2006 became a rallying point for the fans and the team during the latter part of that season and the playoffs, culminating with his dramatic return to the ice for Games 6 and 7 of that year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
RW: Kevin Dineen — The Years of Transition were difficult for the Hurricanes; Sean Burke’s domestic issues, grumbling and general discontent from players about the commute from Raleigh to Greensboro for “home” games, and other off-ice things threatened to tear the team apart, but the Original Warchief kept everyone together even after his C was given to Keith Primeau. Without his tireless “behind the scenes” work the team may well have died in Greensboro despite Ron Francis.
D: Glen Wesley and Aaron Ward — Commitment to community and team as well as consistently solid play got Glen his spot on this list. Over the seasons since the move, Glen has been a constant. Even after he accepted a trade to Toronto in 2003, Glen made it clear that he was still a part of the community–after he was traded, his wife Barb wrote a heartfelt letter of thanks to the people of the Triangle that was published in the News and Observer. After the final buzzer sounded in 2006, the Hurricane that the fanbase was happiest for was Glen. More than any other Hurricane, the redhead from Red Deer was a shining example of how the Hurricanes were our neighbours…only with really cool jobs. Ward was one of the anchors of the Hurricanes’ “Defence By Committee” in 2006, and his smart (not to mention smartly physical) play made him a favourite with fans. Words fail me when trying to describe his play other than to say that it was consistently decent, and without him the Hurricanes may well have not made it all the way in 2006.
Aaaaaaand this brings us to the goalies.
G: Arturs Irbe and Cam Ward — “Archie” never seemed the same after 2002, falling from grace like a ten-ton weight dropped from the top of the Eiffel Tower. But he never stopped working, never stopped battling, and fans never stopped loving the hardest-working man in the NHL. The diminutive Latvian’s floppy acrobatic style of play was always exciting, even if that excitement sometimes took the form of fans shrieking “OH MY GOD, SOMEBODY PUT A LEASH ON THAT LATVIAN!” whenever he went on an expedition to the general vicinity of the faceoff circles or behind the net. Until the start of the 05-06 season, Cam was best known by Hurricanes fans for getting into a brawl during the lockout with the man who will be backing him up this season (Michael Leighton). After the 05-06 playoffs, he was better known as the franchise’s first Conn Smythe winner. Cam’s teammates credited his zen-like calm with giving them the confidence to go balls-out through the ’06 playoffs, and it was that same composure and maturity that led to his being named the Hurricanes’ starting goaltender the following season.
There, my list.
So here’s the deal. We all know the off season sucks. For the most part it’s RFA signing this, depth signing that, which in itself isn’t a bad thing. It just usually happens at such a slow pace that it could drive a man to drink. I’d go golfing if it was not “holy hell I think I’m going to spontaneously combust” hot outside since the new champs were crowned. So what does a guy like me do in the meantime? Look forward to the draft of course, which is just a few days away now.
It will be in prime time starting on Friday and will be taking place in Ottawa this year. With gas prices requiring me to sell a kidney to be able to make this trip on short notice I’ll be following at home on Versus. Being a bit of a draft geek I already made a mock over on HF, but I’ll give our readers a look into my top 50 prospects for this year and my thoughts on some of my more controversial rankings. Here they are:
1 ) C – Steven Stamkos, Sarnia, OHL, 6’0/183, R
2 ) D – Drew Doughty, Guelph, OHL, 6’0/213, R
3 ) LW – Nikita Filatov, CSKA 2, Russia-3, 6’0/165, R
4 ) D – Luke Schenn, Kelowna, WHL, 6’2/212, R
5 ) D – Zach Bogosian, Peterborough, OHL, 6’2/199, R
6 ) D – Alex Pietrangelo, Niagara, OHL, 6’3/211 R
7 ) C – Colin Wilson, Boston Univeristy, Hockey East, 6’1/215, L
8 ) LW – Mikkel Boedker, Kitchener, OHL, 5’11/196, L
9 ) C – Cody Hodgson, Brampton, OHL, 6’0/185, R
10) W – Mattias Tedenby, HV 71 Jr, Swe Jr, 5’11/176, L
11) C – Tyler Ennis, Medicine Hat, WHL, 5’8/160, L
12) C – Zach Boychuk, Lethbridge, WHL, 5’9/184, L
13) C – Joshua Bailey, Windsor, OHL, 6’0/189, L
14) D – Colten Teubert, Regina, WHL, 6’3/188, R
15) G – Jakub Markstrom, Brynas Jr, Swe Jr, 6’3/176, L
16) D – Michael Del Zotto, Oshawa, OHL, 6’0/208, L
17) C – Jordan Eberle, Regina, WHL, 5’10/172, R
18) RW – Kirill Petrov, Kazan, RSL, 6’3/198,
19) D – Luca Sbisa, Lethbridge, WHL, 6’1/197, L
20) D – Jake Gardiner, Minnetonka, Minn-HS, 6’1/173, L
21) D – John Carlson, Indiana, USHL, 6’2/212, R
22) D – Tyler Myers, Kelowna, WHL, 6’7/200, R
23) C/RW – Zac Dalpe, Penticton, BCHL, 6’1/170, R
24) G – Thomas McCollum, Guelph, OHL, 6’2/208, L
25) C – Greg Nemisz, Windsor, OHL, 6’3/201, R
26) C – Nicolas Deschamps, Chicoutimi, QMJHL, 6’1/175, L
27) D – Colby Robak, Brandon, WHL, 6’3/202, L
28) C – Anton Gustafson, Frolunda JR, Swe Jr, 6’2/194, L
29) C – Joe Colborne, Camrose, AJHL, 6’5/190, L
30) C – Jamie Arniel, Sarnia, OHL, 6’0/195, R
31) C – Mitch Wahl, Spokane, WHL, 5’11/190, R (38)
32) C – Kyle Beach, Everett, WHL, 6’3/203, R
33) D – Aaron Ness, Rosseau, Minn-HS, 5’9/157, L
34) D – Vyacheslav Voinov, Chelyabinsk, RSL, 6’0/190, R (49)
35) D – Erik Karlsson, Frolunda Jr, Swe Jr, 5’11/165, R
36) C – Corey Trivino, Stouffville, OPJRA, 6’1/170, L
37) G – Chet Pickard, Tri-City, WHL, 6’2/206, L
38) D – Tyler Cuma, Ottawa, OHL, 6’1/185, L
39) C – David Toews, Shatucks St Mary’s, Minn-HS, 5’10/175, R
40) G – Dustin Tokarski, Spokane, WHL, 5’11/185, L
41) D – Cody Goloubef, Wisconsin, WCHA, 6’0/195, R
42) LW – AJ Jenks, Plymouth, OHL, 6’1/210, L
43) LW – Matt Calvert, Brandon, WHL, 5’9/172, L
44) D – Cory Fienhage, Eastview, Minn-HS, 6’2/190, R
45) RW – Jared Staal, Sudbury, OHL, 6’3/198, R
46) C – Mikhail Stefanovich, Quebec, QMJHL, 6’2/200, R
47) G – Harri Sateri, Tappara, Fin Jr, 6’1/190, L
48) D – Michael Stone, Calgary, WHL, 6’3/200, R
49) D – Justin Schultz, Westside, BCHL, 6’1/163, R
50) W – Viktor Tikhonov, Cherepovets, RSL, 6’2/187, R
Now a few questions you may be asking yourself: Tyler WHO? He’s undersized but the kid can flat out skate and score. There weren’t very many major junior players that broke the 40 goal mark this year, and Tyler was one of only two available for the draft (Eberle the other) from the defense oriented WHL to break that mark this year. His defensive game is good as well, leaving size the only question mark about this kid.
Why so low on Beach? He has a ton of talent and if anyone from this draft could break into the top 10, it’s him. Some think he has the talent to be the next Bertuzzi, or at worst the next Avery. But he has a history of concussions, disappeared in the WHL playoffs, and has a history of being a total hot head. Simply put I wouldn’t touch him with a 20 foot pole, out of both fear that I might knock him unconcious or that he might take the pole and beat me senseless with it. He’s my “bust of the year”, joining the likes of Angelo Esposito and Anthony Stewart.
Why so low on Myers? He’s a total project. The two biggest assets he has going for him are his size and his skating ability. That alone will give him a chance to make it to the NHL level, but when people talk about his untapped potential I’m just not seeing it. He could develop his offensive game and improve his defensive zone coverage but, with the way free agency is now and with how big defensemen usually take longer to develop, is he really worth using an early first rounder on only to have his game come around the year before he hits UFA status?
Who should the Canes draft? I really do get a laugh out of it every time I see it. People that think that because the Canes have a current need on defense that they should draft a defenseman. WRONG. That’s a current need, that’s what free agency and the trade market are for, this is the NHL not the NFL, you don’t draft for what you currently need. We have quite a few good defensive prospects like Borer, McBain, Lawson and Carson, the depth up front isn’t looking quite as good right now. Now, we could use a defenseman or two this year, yes, but unless one of the top end defensemen (Doughty, Bogosian, Schenn, Pietrangelo) drops to #14 somehow JR should be looking at picking a forward.
Thank the gods for that, too. This will give us some stability in goal, which will help immensely. I just hope that they don’t suddenly decide to start fighting again.
In other news: Salaries are higher now than they were pre-Ragnarok. WTF? Frakkin’ hell people, why did we have a lockout in the first freakin’ place?