Is Fleury for Real?

Is Fleury for Real?

After ragging on Marc Andre Fleury forever based on his string of poor playoff performances, the embattled goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins comes along and posts back-to-back shutouts of the New York Rangers in their second round matchup.

The question needs to be asked if all of a sudden, Fleury has put his shaky confidence on hold and become the goalie that the Pens need to continue on their quest for another Stanley Cup victory. Or, if he is merely fortunate and has had a good string of luck over the past couple of games.

MarcAndreFleuryOne argument against Fleury being for real is the exhausted nature of the Rangers team. They have been forced to play 5 games in 7 nights over three different cities, for which the league can be faulted for poor schedule making. This is a team that is completely spent, and after putting together a strong game in Game 1, they appear to be completely out of gas, and rightfully so. That is a lot of games to play in a short amount of time, at the very highest level. The playoffs are a level of intensity unseen in the regular season, and one could argue that Fleury is simply taking advantage of a team that has very little left at the moment.

With that, he has managed to avoid the mistakes that have plagued him in the past. A weak goal here or there would be damaging to the Pens, especially since they know they have a team on the ropes. So credit goes to him to pull it together and make the saves that he needs to make in order to keep his team in the games, and to preserve the leads that they have worked so hard to attain. This is not typical of Fleury, as he has had a propensity to give up a soft goal that is completely deflating to the rest of the team.

I can’t believe that this Fleury that we’ve seen over the past two games is the one that we are going to see for the rest of the series, or the rest of the playoffs for that matter. There is too much evidence against him rising to the task in big games, that I fear for the Pens any time they are in a tight situation.

Shannon Szabados: Blazing a Trail

Shannon Szabados: Blazing a Trail

shannonRecently, Canadian women’s hockey goalie Shannon Szabados signed a contract to play with the Columbus Cottonmouths in the Southern Professional Hockey League. She is now one of the few female goalies who will have suited up with a pro men’s hockey team.

Szabados is already a hero to many hockey fans, especially female hockey fans, for helping lead Team Canada to another Olympic gold medal at the Sochi Olympics. Now, she is breaking down the barriers, proving that a female can play with the boys when it comes to hockey.

She suited up for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers a while back in practice, to fill in when there were a few trades going down and the Oilers were short a goalie. Now, she is a pro goalie in a men’s league, after making her debut the other night. Sure, she may have lost 4-3, but she made 27 saves, and from the accounts I have read, it was a successful start to her men’s pro career.

Szabados is not a gimmick. She can play. This is great for her, and great for young female hockey players, to realize that there are opportunities out there. Sure, these chances are still extremely rare, but it only takes a few to prove so many wrong.

Shannon Szabados, Nail YakupovThere is a great article on Puck Daddy today about Szabados and the influence she is having on young girls who love hockey. It is quick, and definitely well worth a read.

Shannon Szabados plays for men’s team, inspires future female goalies

 

Mike Gillis: Worst GM in the NHL

Mike Gillis: Worst GM in the NHL

Even since Steve Tambellini was fired by the Edmonton Oilers last year, the position of being the worst General Manager in the NHL has been vacant.

We all saw this coming, from the way things have been mishandled in Vancouver over the past couple of years. And now, it is official: Mike Gillis is the worst GM in the league.

Mike-GillisHe has had far too many missteps, so many in fact that he is more laughable than other league punching bags, such as Paul Holmgren over in Philly, who never seems short on making baffling moves and contract signings.

Here are some of the lowlights of Gillis over the past while.

  • Signed goalie Roberto Luongo to an insane, cap-circumventing contract. 12 years for a goalie is absolutely insane. Poor decision.
  • He made his goalie his team captain. A silly gimmick that backfired.
  • Said he wanted to trade Luongo. He couln’t/wouldn’t pull the trigger. As far as rumours are concerned, he had a deal on the table with the Maple Leafs last year, and chickened out.
  • Traded his new #1 goalie, Cory Schneider, to the Devils for nothing more than their #1 pick. They drafted Bo Horvat with that one. Other rumours persist that other teams had offered much more for Schneider before the draft. This was a shocking move, but showed his allegiance to Luongo once again.
  • Hired John Tortorella as coach of his team. Not a bad coach, but a bad coach for the team that he had assembled.
  • Re-signed the fading Sedin twins to long and expensive extensions. Sure, these guys have been the cornerstones of the Canucks over the past decade, but they have already begun a mid-30’s fade, and one year in, this looks like a bad deal.
  • Watches as his coach plays backup Eddie Lack a lot more this season than anyone would have expected. Sure, this is more of Torts’ fault, but I’m sure Gillis could have at least stepped in and said something about Lack getting the start in the Heritage Classic.
  • Finally trades Luongo. Back to Florida, where he had wanted to be all along. Gets not much in return. Another prospect goalie, who could eventually push Lack for playing time, but that’s about it.
  • Seems to run organization so poorly that another top player, Ryan Kesler, has asked out of town. It will be interesting to see how Gillis manages to botch this move as well.
  • So much drama on one team. A good manager would have found the problem early and taken care of it. His rotating #1 goalies was a perfect example of gross mismanagement.

Overall, his tenure has been poor. For years, he had a top-contending team, and even got them to the Finals once. But could never put them over the top. Now, they are being forced to rebuild on the fly, as so many of the pieces he has put together have not worked out. Now, a team that had perhaps the best goaltending duo in the league before the draft last year, now has a couple of kids in net, hoping for the best. A coach who isn’t liked. Aging stars who are locked up for years to come at a significant cap hit. Players trying to get out.

And only one person to blame: Gillis. Even though I have no affiliation to the Canucks, it’s time that this clown is let go, and they get somebody competent in there who can run this team, and help turn them around before their very small window is completely closed.

NHL: Ryan Miller to the Blues

NHL: Ryan Miller to the Blues

With the trade deadline approaching in the NHL, we as fans are always glued to all of the rumours that swirl around the league prior to the day that is an inevitable disappointment.

There are some huge names out there this year, which has fans salivating at an active day and not a complete waste of many hours of TSN coverage: Martin St. Louis, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Miller.

Well, there will at least be one big trade this year, as Miller and Steve Ott were traded to the St. Louis Blues for Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, a prospect and a couple of picks, including the Blues’ first rounder in 2015 (the Connor McDavid draft).

millerMy thoughts on this trade is that both teams win. The Sabres get a handful of pieces that they can hang on to, or turn around and trade again for more picks and prospects. Buffalo seems to be doing this rebuild thing the right way. They have a ton of first and second round picks in the next two drafts, and this will help them build to a much brighter future. They are not a better team today than they were yesterday, but that’s not what we are expecting them to do, anyways. The players they got back aren’t scraps, as Halak has numbers similar to Miller’s, and has been a pretty solid goalie in the league the past few years. Granted, that was playing behind the Blues’ mighty D, but he’s no slouch in the crease. Stewart is a solid power forward, who has the ability to put up points if he is in the right situation. He was up and down in St. Louis, and I think Buffalo will be a better fit for him, as more will be expected of him.

As for the Blues, many people have argued that getting Miller is only a marginal upgrade over Halak, and if you are purely looking at the numbers, this is true. But the fact is, Miller was playing in Buffalo, where they are simply awful. Now, he is on a strong, contending team, with a stellar defence in front of him (the best in the league, I would argue). He will turn out to be strong for the Blues, and in my mind, is a definite upgrade. If anything, it will give the team some confidence with him back there, something they obviously lacked by trying to get him in the first place. Now the D doesn’t have to be as concerned with making a mistake, because they have a solid stopper to cover up some mistakes.

As for Steve Ott, he is a good depth addition, who makes the Blues even tougher to play against. He is a pest with some offensive upside, and he does well to fill in the void left by Stewart.

The Blues gave up a lot for two guys who could merely be rentals, but for a team that needs to get into the deeper round of the playoffs for the first time in forever, it was a move in the right direction. I am excited to see how Miller does once he settles into his new surroundings, and if this team becomes the true Western powerhouse I believe it to be.

St. Louis was my Stanley Cup pick at the start of the year (beating the Rangers, I figured), and this move does nothing, in my opinion, but help that.