Friday, November 01, 2002

Will Minnesota Golden Gophers repeat their great success of last season? As always, goaltending will tell the tale.

It took just three short years for head coach Don Lucia to lead the University of Minnesota to the pinnacle of college hockey. And as the 2002-03 season nears, the Golden Gophers are ready to reload and defend their national title.
"I'm not worried about our players or coaches being satisfied," Lucia said. "Winning the national title last season in St. Paul will probably be the greatest experience any of us will ever have in the sport of hockey, but even by last May, I could tell our players were already looking ahead to this season."

To make a return trip to the Frozen Four this season, the Golden Gophers will have the unenviable task of replacing the nation's top player in Jordan Leopold, the nation's top scorer in John Pohl, the nation's second-leading goal scorer in Jeff Taffe and a four-year starter in goal in Adam Hauser. While a seemingly impossible task for most programs, the quality and depth of talent accumulated by Lucia in his short stint at Minnesota keeps the expectations very high for the upcoming season.

Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota's toughest competition, saw the suprise departure, over the summer, of Toronto native Mike Cammalleri.
"Michael was generally regarded as the best player in college hockey this past season," said Kings general manager Dave Taylor. "He is a highly skilled, intelligent player who has excelled at all levels of hockey thus far. He will certainly compete for a spot with the Kings this season as we consider him to be an elite prospect."

According to the Los Angeles Times, Cammalleri forced the Kings' hand by threatening to leave Michigan for the major junior Ontario Hockey League. Had he played there one season, the Kings would have lost his rights.
"That increased their leverage, and we increased our offer and got the contract done," said Dave Taylor to the Times. "We've been talking for a while, but it really picked up in the last week."

Cammalleri joined fellow Wolverine, Mike Komisarek, who opted to leave Michigan as an underclassman and sign with the Montreal Canadiens.

Despite a bout with the "kissing-disease" [mononucleosis] Cammalleri scored 23 goals and racked up 44 points in 29 games last season as a Wolverine. Cammalleri also won a silver medal with the Canadian National Junior Team at the 2002 World Junior Championships, leading all players in scoring with seven goals and 11 points and garnering honors as the tournament’s top forward. He was a two-time member of Team Canada.

However, the "Red" one, Wolverine coach and NHL alumnus Red Berenson, with a fiery opinion to match his hair, spoke out.

"Cammalleri made a move he didn't have to make," said Berenson. "You should have a little more trust, loyalty and commitment to what you're doing. You shouldn't drop everything to make a quick buck".

The decision by Cammalleri and Komisarek stands in stark contrast to Hobey Baker Award winner Brendan Morrison and the rest of Michigan's fabled class of 1997.

"Morrison was asked to sign by New Jersey when he was still in school, but he didn't even ask how much money they wanted to offer," Berenson said. "He just said, 'I'm not leaving Michigan.' That's the kind of attitude you can't preach enough. That's a sense of family, commitment and loyalty."

"People are forgetting about development. If [the pro teams] would call the college coaches, the coach would tell them whether or not the player needs more development. There's not a lot of communication between the pro teams and college coaches."

Berenson vehemently disagrees with making the early jump to the pro ranks.

"[The NHL] is going to be there in the future — this isn't a one-time opportunity," Berenson said. "I've always been a believer that you don't have to take shortcuts to be successful. And the first thing — the most important thing — is getting that degree. I'm not trying to take opportunities away from college players, but if you come to school, you should finish school. If you don't want to go to school, you should go to a Major Junior league and play there"

Suprisingly, on October 3rd, the Kings announced that Mike Cammalleri would not play on the first line openning night but was sent to the King's minor-league affiliate in Manchester N.H. Cammalleri left Michigan for a $1.3 million signing bonus and a three-year deal worth $3.5 million if he remained in the NHL for the life of the contract. His Manchester salary will be around $75,000.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Dave Babych gets $1.37 million for broken foot.

From AP:
After one day of deliberations, the six-woman, three-man jury awarded former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Dave Babych $1.02 million in lost earnings and $350,000 for pain and suffering.

Initially diagnosed as a bone bruise and later as a fracture, the foot was swollen and painful and needed ice to reduce the swelling enough to get it into his skate, he testified.

When he told then-coach Roger Neilson he couldn't play, Neilson told him he had to, Babych testified in the trial.

``I told him I can't go, and didn't want to hurt the team or hurt myself,'' Babych said. ``He says, `Well, you have to go. We'll take that chance, even if we have to play with five defensemen.'''

When coaching the Peterboro Petes, Roger Neilson outlined the factors needed for a championship team:
Number one, you've got to be tough enough [his emphasis]. I've had teams that lost even though they were the better club because the other team intimidated them. ...we finished in first place, but we lost to the Marlboros [Toronto Marlboros], who were in fifth place, and they outbumped us badly. They put our top player out and I made a resolution that it would never happen again.

Number two you have to be able to win on the road.

Number three, your team has to be able to come from behind.

Number four, you have to be able to defend a lead. Let's suppose that you know a team in the league is going to play tough. You've got to run them. I don't care what style your team favours, you can get them up to play a tough game...being first in the corner and making sure the other team knows you're out there ready to hit. We had a player on our team, Tony Featherstone, [played with the Toronto Toros of the WHA]...he was really of those stand-up type fighters...never went down on the ice after anybody, he just punched and never lost. London [Knights] had a player by the name of Bert Wilson [ had a stint with LA] and every game that we played them, Bert fought Tony and every game Tony annihilated him, but [Wilson] was right back the next game. It really had no effect on the [London] team because they knew [Wilson] was not afraid...

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Bruin fire plug Sergei Samsonov has more to worry about than his injured wrist, these days. The Muscovite's parents, Viktor and Tatiana, live about 30 minutes from the scene of the recent Chechen hostage taking. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Samsonov tells Kevin Dupont,
''I was watching CNN, 24/7,'' he said. ''What can I say? It was awful. It shows again that you aren't safe anywhere from things like that, whether it's Russia, the United States, anywhere in the world. And it was tough being here, wondering what it must have been like for the hostages. One second they're in there, thinking they're going to see a play, and in the next second they don't know what's going on - if they're going to get out, or even going to live. All of a sudden, their whole world's been turned around, right out of the blue.''

At 5 feet 8 inches, and barely 180 pounds the left winger, at 15 years of age, scored an incredible 46 goals and 37 assists in 24 games in a tour of Canada with his Russian junior team in 1994. He joined the IHL Detroit Vipers in 1997, only to become Rookie of the Year and then was drafted 8th overall by the Bruins and and went on to become the NHL's Rookie of the Year the following spring.

Dupont writes:
Now five-plus years into his NHL career, and making $2.2 million this season, he can't help but ponder the large odds he overcame to get here. He wonders about good fortune, how some of his friends back home, many with great talent, peaked and left the game at age 16, 17, and 18. But here he is, still standing, successful and healthy, figuratively and literally thousands of miles from a life that no doubt would have been vastly different, and perhaps far less rewarding.

''No question, it was a long shot,'' said Samsonov, whose wrist injury will keep him on the sideline tonight when the Bruins face the Capitals. ''Obviously, you don't plan life like that. I mean, for me to come over here, it was really - how do you say it? - a shot in the sky. A new country. A new league. There was no way of knowing what to expect. But at some point, I guess, you have to take a shot, and lucky for me, everything went my way.

''I mean, think about it, you can't plan that. You can't think, `OK, I'll play one year in the IHL, then get drafted by Boston.' I think about that all the time. I can't say enough about how lucky I am. No question. Hey, it's the only thing I can do, play hockey. It's all I know. I can't just quit my job and go find something else. It's all I do. It's my life.''

The Bruins sit astride their division playing .750 hockey riding a seven-game winning streak. Dupont writes:
Imagine where they would be if they had the highly talented stickhandler and shooter in their lineup. How hot can it get here in the Hub of Hockey?

''Oh, I'll be watching it, maybe with ice on my arm,'' said Samsonov, following a brief workout on his own. ''It's frustrating, though, because you want to be a part of it, but I've got to get my wrist better. We've been thinking, you know, `Next game, next game,' but that hasn't worked. Now we've backed off a couple, and we'll see.''

UPDATE: The Bruins go eight straight after last night's win against the hapless Caps. Brian Rolston got two and Boston is now 6-0-2 since their opening season loss in Minnesota.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Is this the year that Olli Jokinen becomes an NHL luminary proving it wasn't a mistake when he was drafted No. 3 by Los Angeles in 1997?

Jokinen [12] picked up an assist in a 2-1 squeaker, losing to Canada in Salt Lake City. The Finns had hammered Belarus 8-1 and comfortably handled the Russians, and with a little luck could have toppled the eventual Gold Medal winner.

Linda Robertson thinks Olli may be on track to a banner year and the Panthers are the better for it.

"At this time last year, the Panthers had only won one game. Jokinen didn't score a point until Game 21 on Nov. 19.

Now, the Panthers are a decent 3-5-1-1, and Jokinen has 11 points in 10 games, miles ahead of his pace last season, when he scored only one point in the first 30 games, and of 2000-01, when he scored only four points in the first 34 games.

He was the Finnish Flash on the Panthers' first goal Monday, when he crisply turned the corner from behind the net to center a perfect pass to Marcus Nilson, who put the Panthers up 1-0.

Jokinen almost scored on a power play when he lured goalie Nikolai Khabibulin out of position, but the puck sailed wide.

He showed his commitment to Keenan by working hard during a two-week conditioning camp, and Keenan increased his responsibility by moving him to No. 1 center, a position he could own now that injury-prone Viktor Kozlov is hurt again.

Keenan believes all Jokinen has lacked is confidence. He's determined to let him play into a tougher mental state.

''Sometimes, I was too hard on myself,'' Jokinen said. ``If I made a mistake, I'd keep it in my head. If things went bad, I'd get afraid to play.''

Call it Jokinen's Scarlett O'Hara philosophy. ''We have 82 games,'' he said. ``We lose, yes, but tomorrow is a new day.''

Monday, October 28, 2002

Fred Shero, during his days behind the bench of the Broad Street Bullies developed 16 commandments that he called the FLYERS BIBLE. Here are the first eight.

1. Never go off side on a 3 on 1 or 2 on 1.

Next time you watch a hockey game count the number of good scoring opportunities nullified by offsides.

2. Never carry the puck backwards in your own end except on a power play.

Fred believed that his team was not as disciplined as the Russians and it is better to gain the zone than lose the puck deep in your own end.

3. Never throw a puck out blindly from behind your opponents own net.

Freddy insists it's too easy to give the puck away and get trapped.

4. Never pass diagonally in your own zone unless 100% certain.

5. Wings on wings between bluelines except to intercept stray pass.

6. The second man must go all the way for the rebound.

The trailer shouldn't let up because more times than not he scores.

7. When the defence has the puck at the opponents blueline, they should look four places before shooting.

Freddy has the opposite defenceman on the outside of the goal post, left wing at the hash mark, center high in the slot and right wing in front of the net.

8. When in front of the opponent's net, face the puck at all times.

Hey kids, face the puck, stick on the ice and by geez you'll get those tip-ins!