April 24, 2013

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NHL PLAYOFF RACES

By: Tyler Vespa

With 5 nights left in the 2012-13 NHL regular season, the final spots in both conferences are still up for grabs. 6 teams in the Eastern Conference have clinched playoff berths, as well as 6 teams in the Western Conference.

Can Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers hold on and make the NHL playoffs?

This is where the fun begins. In the Eastern Conference, it’s 3 teams for two spots involving the Ottawa Senators, the New York Rangers, and the Winnipeg Jets. Ottawa and New York sit 7th and 8th in the conference, each with 52 points. Ottawa has a game in hand on the Rangers.

The story for the Jets took a turn for the worst with their loss last night to the Washington Capitals. Winnipeg must win its final game of the season and hope for the Rangers and Senators to each lose all of their remaining games.

Out West, the game of musical chairs is much more complicated. It’s 5 teams for 2 spots. The Minnesota Wild are 7th with 53 points. With 2 games left, the Wild need at least 2 points to clinch a playoff spot. In the precious 8th spot are the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 2 games left, the Jackets sit 1 point in front of the Detroit Red Wings, who have made the playoffs in 21 straight seasons. The Red Wings have a game in hand on Columbus.

The 4th team still in the mix is the Dallas Stars. However, the stars did not align last night as Dallas lost a heartbreaker 3-2 in regulation to the San Jose Sharks. With 2 games left, the Stars need to win out, and hope Detroit loses 2 of their final 3 in regulation, and Columbus loses their final 2.

The final team will need a miracle. It’s the Phoenix Coyotes. The Yotes’ must win out and have Detroit, Dallas, and Columbus all basically lose out. Except for the Stars, if Columbus and Detroit lose out in regulation and Dallas loses 1 of 2 in regulation and earns just one point in its final game, the Coyotes are in.

Western Conference

7. Minnesota  53 points- 46 GP

8. Columbus   51 points- 46 GP

9. Detroit        50 points- 45 GP

10. Dallas       48 points- 46 GP

11. Phoenix    46 points- 45 GP

Eastern Conference

7. Ottawa        52 points- 45 GP

8. NY Rangers 52points- 46 GP

9. Winnipeg    51 points- 47 GP

April 2, 2013

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Why NHL Realignment Makes Sense

By: Tyler Vespa

With the NHL realignment approved for next season, the league will now feature four divisions instead of six. These would be the Midwest, the Pacific, the Central and the Atlantic. The Midwest and Pacific divisions would makeup the Western Conference, while the Central and the Atlantic divisions would make up the Eastern Conference. The Central and Atlantic divisions will have 8 teams each, while the Pacific and the Midwest will each have 7 teams.

The Red Wings will say goodbye to the Western Conference and move to the East nest season.

Here is what the NHL will look like next season:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Midwest

Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas Stars

Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators

St. Louis Blues

Winnipeg Jets

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings

Phoenix Coyotes

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Central

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

Detroit Red Wings

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Atlantic

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

The playoffs will still feature 16 teams, eight from each conference, but will not be division based with a new wild-card feature. The top 3 teams from each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs The final 4 places will be filled in by the next two highest placed teams in each conference, and will be based on regular season points, regardless of their division. This means one division could send 5 teams while another could only send three.

Regular season points will also determine the seeding of the teams. Meaning, the division winner with the most points will play the wild card team with the least points, and so forth.

This plan is exactly what the league needed after two lockouts in the past 8 seasons. Something needed to change. As you can see the only two teams changing conferences will be the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Detroit has been crying for this move for years.

With that I give you 4 reasons this plan for realignment is a win-win for the league and everybody associated with it:

Geographic simplicity: We will see fewer issues with time zones and travel. Teams in the same conference will enjoy easier travel simply because they are now crossing over fewer time zones.

More Original 6 matchups: Detroit is now in the same division with 3 other teams from the Original 6: Boston, Montreal and Toronto. Also, the Red Wings and the New York Rangers are in the same conference.

New Playoff Format: With the imbalance of teams in each division, there is talk of a “Wild Card Format” being added to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This could mean a play-in game where two teams play one game to become the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Another win or go home game would be genius.

Dream for Television: The Eastern Conference would have a rivalry game almost every night. Teams in Canada will get awesome exposure, with a myriad of Canadian vs. Canadian rivalries. New rivalries and big matchups will be made out West such as with the 3 California teams; San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Even more Canadian exposure is bred with Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

January 9, 2013

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Four Words for Hockey Fans: The NHL Is Back!

By: Matt Bowen

It may have brought up bad memories or left a bad taste in one’s mouth, but the best news for any hockey fan this New Year is that the NHL is back in session.

The NHL is back!

Just when fans were beginning to accept the thought of missing another season due to a labor dispute, the NHL and NHLPA worked out a deal. Hockey enthusiasts everywhere have not forgotten the locked out 2004-05 season and this time the league got a much needed deal done in the eleventh hour.

So, when does the puck drop?

That’s the beauty of this deal, we don’t really know yet.

What we do know is that the season will be 48 games, teams will report to camp no later than Sunday, January 13, and that the regular season will most likely begin within a week from then.

So, as gut wrenching as it was to miss months of NHL hockey already, instant gratification takes place with games beginning seemingly overnight thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. The new CBA’s biggest perk is certainly the 10-year deal with an opt-out clause after eight years.

This is what the league needed most—to guarantee its fans that the game can gain momentum after its latest hiccup. The NHL has officially done that and the sky is now the limit.

While there may be plenty of jilted fans at the moment, as soon as the lamp is lit smiles will overcome those who currently frown.

What’s not to love about NHL action?

At this point, a 48-game season is perfect. There will be a league-wide competitive (dis)advantage with the lack of preseason play.  The teams that gel together the fastest will find themselves in the playoffs.  Rookies will have a true trial-by-fire. No team can afford a losing streak of more than three games.

So, who are the teams to keep an eye on this season?

The Minnesota Wild and their fans have been waiting for this moment since last summer when they landed free agent stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The passion for hockey runs thick in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the buzz surrounding the Wild right now has reached a fever pitch.

Another team to expect big things from is the Edmonton Oilers. After having the No. 1 overall draft pick three-straight seasons, the shortened season could be a blessing to the franchise looking for prominence. The trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will look to get off to a fast start and reach the playoffs. With so much young talent on the Oilers it’s only a matter of time before the team is the most feared in the entire NHL.

One NHL team to fear right now is the New York Rangers. They are built to win now and the addition of superstar Rick Nash in the offseason only bolsters their chances for a Stanley Cup.  With Henrik Lunqvist between the pipes, captain Ryan Callahan, sharp shooter Marian Hossa, and all-world talent Brad Richards to accompany Nash, anything short of a Cup in 2013 will be considered a failure.

Hockey fans get ready—the season will be here in the blink of an eye.  True NHL action is what we’ve been waiting for and the league will definitely deliver.

August 9, 2012

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NHL Offseason: Winners and Losers

By: Tyler Vespa

With the beginning of the regular season just two months away, the NHL offseason has brought some surprises, some heartbreak, and some confidence. There were many teams that have been quiet including the Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and the St. Louis Blues because they felt the core of their team was strong both offensively and defensively.

After winning the Stanley Cup, the Kings didn't feel the need to change the roster much.

Then, there are the teams that gained some necessary pieces, and the teams that were not able to acquire the necessary pieces. To me, these are the winners and losers of the NHL offseason:

Winners:

Minnesota Wild: Along with adding two superstars in Parise and Suter, the Wild also added some depth by signing Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka.

Carolina Hurricanes: Along with acquiring Jordan Staal who will now play with his brother Eric Staal, the Canes also added offensive power with Alexander Semin and some solid defense with Joe Corvo.

New York Rangers: The Blue Shirts added superstar forward Rick Nash to an already solid team on both ends of the ice. The acquisition of center Jeff Halpern will make the Rangers stronger in the faceoff circle. Along with a healthy Marc Stall, they will be one of the top 2 teams in the Eastern Conference.

Losers:

Detroit Red Wings: The retirement of captain Nick Lidstrom, the departure of Brad Stuart, and the loss of Jiri Hudler hurt Detroit. They also missed out on Parise and Suter, leaving them with holes on defense and without the top-6 forward the Red Wings were hoping for.

Buffalo Sabres: Buffalo traded star forward Derek Roy to Dallas and failed to get anything significant in return.

Nashville Predators: After the departure of star defensemen Ryan Suter, Nashville paid way too much money to keep Shea Weber.

Now, the offseason is not officially over, and teams still have UFA and RFA decisions to make, but definitely look for the Minnesota Wild to contend in the Western Conference as they got off to a hot start last year, but fizzled down the stretch. There is also the Red Wings, who could change the rest of this offseason with one key signing on either offense or defense. However, for Nashville and Buffalo, they will not be as fortunate.

September 7, 2011

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Is it October yet?

By: Joe Williams

Do you know what Zach Stewart did last night? The Chicago White Sox pitcher flirted with history as he mowed down the Minnesota Twins lineup for seven perfect innings. Danny Valencia broke up the bid for a perfect game with an eighth-inning double and Stewart finished the game with a one-hitter.

With all the excitement surrounding the start of the college football and NFL seasons, and the absence of compelling pennant races in baseball, a performance like that can go under the radar. This month of September will be full of meaningless (unless you qualified for the playoffs in your MLB  fantasy baseball league) games. Can’t we just skip ahead to October and start the playoffs already?

Look at the MLB standings and you will see that the Yankees or Red Sox will win the A.L. East and the top seed and the other will be the Wild Card team. Does it really make a difference who wins the MLB division to anyone other than New York and Boston fans? Is it October yet?

 

Barring a major collapse, Detroit is going to win the A.L. Central. The way Justin Verlander has been pitching; he could win enough games by himself in September to get the Tigers to the post-season. Is it October yet?

The only spot that is really in doubt is in the A.L. West. The Rangers lead the Angels by 2.5 games. They will meet in Anaheim for the last three games of the MLB regular season. Let’s just hope a playoff berth comes down to that.

The story is pretty much the same in the N.L. The Phillies are running away with the East and the top seed, the Braves are running away with the Wild Card and Milwaukee is running away with the N.L. Central. Even the surprising Diamondbacks have built a seven-game lead over San Francisco. Is it October yet?

There has been talk of expanding the MLB playoffs and adding another Wild Card team in each league. That would at least give the last few weeks of the MLB season some intrigue. Tampa Bay would be in a battle with the A.L. West runner-up and the Giants and Cardinals would be tied for the final MLB playoff spot. That doesn’t help this year though. Is it October yet?

The MLB baseball season is too long. Playoff baseball has a tough time competing with college football and the NFL. Regular season games have no chance. The powers that be are not going to shorten the MLB season because fewer games = less money but I hope something happens to add some meaning to the end of the season whether it is expanding the playoffs or changing the format or maybe even realignment. I’m ready for the MLB playoffs to begin. Is it October yet?