Tag Archives: holik

Weird Week In Review

It was a strange week. Last week was actually stranger, as I had a few rough work days strung together by red-eye, delayed and over-booked flights across the country. But it ended well, if not equally strangely, when the Devils broke their 6-game losing streak by grounding the Bolts. But even for a Devils game, it was a strange day, indeed:

Bubba announced, publicly, that the Devils would end their losing streak as he was attending the game. The Devils have never lost with little Bubba in the (new) building. Not once in 19 tries, and last Friday was indeed a try. When the Devils went down 2-0 Bubba was bent, but not broken. He’s got more of what my grandmother would call koyach (strength, backbone) than his dad.

Before even departing Bubba-dom, I wavered on my jersey selection. Yes, I wear an appropriate jersey to each game. Yes, it looks like I’m 4 months pregnant and wrapped in nylon. Normally, Bubba picks up his Czech Olympic Elias jersey and I wear my Metallurg Elias jersey, but for some reason I went very — very very — old school: The red Koho Devils jersey from 2000, with a crest more wrinkled than the face you make when Rupp takes another dumb roughing penalty. Bubba talked me out of it. Czech mates we were.

As soon as we landed in our seats (last row of Section 21), Chico came by ostensibly on his way to the bathroom. We got high fives. A period later, NJ Devil came by, and gave us more high fives (although in his larger than life state, they count as seven and a halves, I think).

Despite Holik taking (another) dumb penalty, the Devils wrangled a power play out of it when Jeff Halpern came flying in from the far circle to rough up Holik. Halpern? The Princeton guy? Bubba’s quote: He didn’t learn that in Hebrew school.

Shanahan scored on a penalty shot, becoming the oldest player to do so in the NHL.

Throw in the other strangeness of the night — Weekes getting hurt and Marty playing in a game he was meant to sit back and enjoy; two blown leads in the third period; the thrown stick resulting in the penalty shot; Elias coming onto the ice in a suit (nursing a leg injury) to honor Marty — and the net result should have been something bizarre. A goal overturned by Toronto. Holik or Rupp bouncing one in off of Marty’s rear end. But none of that happened; if there was a bottom to be found in the market for Devils wins, we found it. It was good. Weekes isn’t down for the count. Devils won in OT. The Bubba streak was preserved. It may have been a weird week, but upon further review, it ended well.

Beauty, A?

According to the Devils team website, Elias is wearing the “A” again this season, along with John Madden. I can’t remember seeing a formal announcement of this, so perhaps it’s a subtle entree to a season in which predictions of the Devils’ demise are so frequent they go past the point of Clemensy. Perhaps it’s Sutter’s implicit call on Patrik to return to the winger of years past. Or maybe it’s just time for Patrik to be the Czech point among himself, Holik and Vrana. According to that ancient Sports Illustrated piece, we know what the “A” resolves to for Holik – and I, for one, can’t wait to see it resolve in person.

Under 48 hours, 2 days of work, and one Jewish Holiday to go.

Winner, Eleven

Winner, eleven — that is, on the eleventh goal of last night’s Devils-Thrashers game (11 goals? In a Devils game?? Hello, Coach Sutter!). I was hoarse from yelling at the television and radio broadcasts but all’s well that ends well. In this case, there was ample material for holler-backs.

The Good: Elias gets his first goal, and nets two goals and a very pretty assist on Zajac’s tying goal. The Devils didn’t give up when they were down two goals, and after squandering single-goal leads. Strong, solid forecheck, including the last power play of the game which may have been the best I’ve seen in three seasons. The days of long-range bombing from the point, typically resulting in a blocked shot, a riccochet to start a short-handed attempt, or the puck clearing the attack zone, are over and done. Precise passing and shooting through open lanes. Tying all of the good together: Elias fires from the top of the slot, rebound comes to the right where he scoops it, fires back to Martin, who re-feeds Patrik for the game-winning goal. Puck control, skating hard to make time and space, and shooting through lanes rather than into shinpads.

The Interesting and Good: John Madden has re-emerged as a goal scorer. Not that he had ever lost the touch, but I think in previous seasons he was forced into a role of sheep-dogging the opponent’s top-line, over-watched center-pieces to the point where he was playing defense instead of pivot, with or with-out overt over-hyphenation for emphasis. I think my son puts it best: “Maddog is a hard worker.” When teenagers recognize work, you know it’s valuable and valued. When you go from two scoring lines to three, it’s a big deal for your opponents. Half of the Devils goals last night came from the Madden-Pandolfo combination.

The Bad: I always follow games through live caps at 2 Man Advantage because their photo editing captures the mood so perfectly. It’s like enjoying one of the old Monkees TV shows with the cutaway jokes to make a visual pun. Last night they challenged Brodeur to stop a beachball (but stopped short of suggesting he couldn’t make do with a pitchfork, both a Devilishly good utensil and the best for spearing wayward plastic). I’m not so sure it was Brodeur, more of the weak defense on the weak side (again) and a complete lack of attention to the wings on the weak side. A possible breaking point in the game came when Kovalchuk was left unmolested on the left side, with Dave Clarkson just behind the play. When the “D” is back, cutting down the shooting lanes, the wings have to fill in and take away the passing lanes. Nobody got between Kovalchuk and the puck from the cross-zone pass to the one-time that eluded Marty. Partly a rookie mistake, partly bad defense. If the Devils are going to play a more aggressive offensive game, then the natural by-product is that they’re going to have more goals scored against them — this goes both ways. But I’d much rather see the Devils win 6-5 than lose 2-1. Any day.

The Ugly: Bobby Holik. How his crease-crashing that resulted in Brodeur looking up at the Thrasher’s third goal was not a penalty escapes me. Why give the captain-C to a player with the loyalty of a cat and the leadership qualities of a high school locker room bully? To top it off, our brilliant TV commentators relayed a story that Elias and Holik had spoken when Holik was given the “C”, just as Patrik had his revoked, randomness rooted in their Czech heritage. Maybe if Elias races across the Hudson to pimp his contract, there will be some kind of similarity here, but then we’d have to talk about Gomez.

So we will: Elias has 4 points (2 G, 2A) and Gomez has half of that, only thanks to a miserable assist late in last night’s Senatorial smackdown. If Gomer was on his way to 63 helpers, he should have quadrupled his output. Personally, I think the relative economics lesson here is that there’s half a Gome$$ separating the two. Double oof.

Gomez Is The Next A-Rod

First the strong words: Forget the comparisons to Bobby Holik. Scott Gomez is the next Alex Rodriguez, in the eyes of the fans, the league, the press, sports agents and possibly youth hockey players. Tough call? Absolutely, and not one I’ll make in publicly lightly, because as a person I still think Scott Gomez is mostly a good guy. Don’t ever confuse business success with personal and brand integrity. Gomez has assured himself of business success (financially); he’s still got his personal integrity (in terms of being approachable, kid-friendly, and an outstanding spokesman for hockey diversity); but he’s taking a brand hit. That’s the A-rod comparison.

Let’s go down the list one demographic at a time:

  • Fans. When A-rod signed his quarter-billion dollar contract with the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners fans felt betrayed. It wasn’t the notion of him going to a divisonal rival that raised hackles in the permanently dank Northwest; it was more the sense of him cashing in without any sense of the fan base that had propelled and supported him in the first place. What upsets everyone about Gomez’ meeting across the river is that it’s effectively a big “I don’t care what the fans think” to everyone who is a Devils fan. Could Gomez have gotten a deal that rich from another team? Possibly. Would it have ameliorated Devils fan’s anguish if he had signed for, say, a few million less over half a decade with another team outside of the tri-state area? Absolutely. Many people have said to me “When you only have a few years of playing time, you should sign for as much as you can get.” There’s not a lot of difference between $48M and $52M over that many years if you have a good financial manager and don’t over-spend. Either way, it’s enough to live on in just about any lifestyle after your playing days are over. The question is: what reputation will you live with in the two-thirds of your life that follows your retirement from sports?
  • League. Let’s be realistic — the league loves the Rangers, Gomez and anything that hints at creative uses of the cap system. $10M for one year is a definite bubble in the capitated spending limits imposed post-lockout, and it will be interesting to see who the Rangers can still afford as September gets closer. The NHL loves the Rangers because they’re in the largest market, and anything that draws attention and fans is good for the league (and hence, good for the cap, and by inference, good for other players too). Gomez is a favorite because he’s out in front of hockey diversity. Does MLB love A-rod? Controversy generates press, press generates ratings, and money generates all of the above. Draw your own conclusions.
  • Press. I howled quite loudly when reading the Rangers press conference coverage showing both Drury and Gomez with #23 blue sweaters. Drury is the senior guy, and the gentlemanly (and smart) thing to do is say “Hey, if you want #23, it’s yours, I’ll pick number ____ because I’m making a fresh start in a new arena.” But this kidding around — and really weak kidding around — about not honoring the deal because his number is taken is the kind of pedantic, puerile pap peddled by the press (without alliteration). Excuse me while I puke. It’s as pathetic as the flap over Mrs. A-Rod’s tank top.
  • Sports Agents With his father negotiating, Gomez got $5M for one year from Lou (never mind the cap issues or home town discount in the same year that Elias set a good example). Aren’t fathers supposed to teach us about loyalty and doing the right thing? Put in a “real” agent and that figure doubles with the Rangers, but the Devils fans are livid. Who’s right here? Doesn’t matter. What’s wrong here is that overpaying for free agents upsets the “certainty” that Bettman promised, and for which hockey fans lost an entire season. The only certainty is that beer and ticket prices in the Garden are never going to be cheaper.
  • Youth Players. One of the kids who played on a team I managed a few years ago loves Scott Gomez. Adores him. The kid identified with Gomez on everything from heritage to solid skating and passing skills. But that was with Gomez as a Devil. Gomez as a Ranger is akin to seeing the first girl you had a crush on going out with the cro-mag guy who used to give you wedgies. It’s a bad definition of “team player” for a group who need solid team player role models.
  • In the summer of 2007 it’s a parade of free agents who form a veritable Clustrmap of player movement. Continuity in rosters builds a fan base; it helps drive attendance and loyalties in kids who eventually pass those on to their kids. When the players that your kids adore take off, either their loyalties go to an out of market team or their interest in the home team declines. Neither is good for the long-term health of the league. Just because the salary cap forms a nice big allowance doesn’t mean owners have to spend the whole thing; spending less on players and then building a local fan base through local broadcast television rights, local cable coverage, or even community outreach like low-cost ticket distribution will ensure the “financial certainty” that figured so prominently in the lockout settlement. Paying players to jet set between teams only ensures that at some point, owners are going to scratch their heads trying to figure out how to de-cap-itate a long-term contract with a player who is nursing a sore groin for what seems like half a season.

    Final A-Rod comparison: Mike Greenberg of ESPN Radio claims that A-Rod is going to escape from New York this year, setting up “the biggest free agency” in recent history. Ask the kids who follow baseball if they care. None of them want to be A-Rod, proving that maybe the Beatles were right: Money can’t buy you love. But it can buy you a pair of centers.

    It’s Over in the Swamp

    Yes, I’m profoundly sad that the Devils season has ended. As many of the Devils said in the press, they had a team that could have gone far in the postseason, and now three seasons in a row have ended with the Devils going no better than 5-5. Could have is the operative phrase, but I’m equally worried about the this team suggestion that somehow this year’s roster is going to change dramatically.

    If it changes for the better, I’m all for it. The Devils looked horrible on defense. Turnovers in their own end, lack of a quick break out, and an inability to clear the big guns from Tampa Bay and Ottawa out of the slot. The Devils were clearly out-coached. Not that the Ottawa top line was that much better than New Jersey’s top line, but more than 80% of Ottawa’s goals came from those three guys. Whatever the Madden line was doing to shut them down wasn’t working, and in all honestly, probably wasn’t Madden, Pandolfo and Brylin’s fault. If you keep doing the same things and expect different results, without any other context switches, it’s a sign of insanity. The same thing goes for the attack side; I could count how many shots Ottawwa blocked but it would only emphasize that the Devils attack consisted of throwing the puck toward the net and hoping for a tip-in. Everyone caught on to it after the first few games, and more crisp passing, cycling and quick shots were in order. But see above regarding turnovers.

    I’m betting on changes at the blueline. I’m also betting that Lou doesn’t hold on to both of Rafalski and Gomez, and my public opinion is that if that’s the case, Gomez should stay. He had a great playoffs and he scored when needed. There’s chemistry on the EGG line (when healthy) that could promote them into the ranks of Heatley-Alfredsson or Lecavalier-St. Louis in terms of consistent offensive threats. With Brylin on the fourth line for the last game, it’s clear that his stock is falling, so the Devils are short of quality centers. And finally, if Gomez crosses the Hudson to wear a blue shirt, he will be the subject of more fan derision than Bobby Holik. It’s not always about money.

    Anybody know a good head coach?