San Jose 2007 NHL Entry Draft review, Sharks trade Toskala to Toronto for 1st round draft pick

Vesa Toskala photograph
2007 NHL Entry Draft Columbus
Ottawa 67's Logan Couture

The Sharks are entering a new era after a weekend trade that sent goaltender Vesa Toskala and left wing Mark Bell to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a conditional 2007 first round draft pick (13th overall), a second round draft pick (44th overall), and a fourth round pick in 2009. A franchise that at one time had three legitimate #1 goaltenders in the same lineup, now places the future firmly in the capable glove hand of Evgeni Nabokov.

San Jose has a history of drafting players off the board or in unexpected positions, and Friday's NHL Entry Draft was no exception. General manager Doug Wilson traded the first round (13th) and second round draft picks (44th) acquired from Toronto to St Louis in order to move up and select Logan Couture of the Ottawa 67's. The 6-0, 195 pound center from Ottawa was ranked 7th overall by the Hockey News among North American skaters, and 19th overall by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau among the same group. Sharkspage contributor Max Giese, who correctly predicted the Sharks interest in the mature 2-way forward, ranked Couture among the top character players in the draft and had him slotted 20th overall.

Not content to sit still and let the rest of the draft play out, the Sharks again moved up to gain another selection in the first round. GM Doug Wilson and Director of Scouting Tim Burke traded a second round selection in 2007 and 2008 to the Washington Capitals for their first round pick (28th overall). The Sharks selected 6-3, 213 pound defenseman Nicholas Petrecki from Omaha of the United States Hockey League. Petrecki was ranked 15th overall by The Hockey News among North American skaters, and 7th overall among defenseman by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau. According to Max Giese, Petrecki was the top shutdown defenseman available in the draft, and the 14th ranked draft eligible prospect overall.

A complete list of the eight San Jose Sharks selections in the 2007 draft:

San Jose Sharks 2007 NHL Entry Draft

[1] C - Logan Couture, OHL Ottawa 67's
[1] D - Nick Petrecki, USHL Omaha Lancers
[3] G - Timo Pielmeier, DEL Kolner Haie
[3] G - Tyson Sexsmith, WHL Vancouver Giants
[6] C - Patrik Zackrisson, Sweden
[6] C - Nick Bonino, AOFHS Connecticut
[7] D - Justin Braun, U Mass
[7} LW - Frazer McLaren, WHL Portland Winter Hawks


San Jose Fourpeat - Shamrock dominates Baroni, Cung Le, Paul Buentello, and Josh Thompson all win on Strikeforce MMA card

Frank Shamrock submits Phil Baroni
Frank Shamrock Phila Baroni Strikeforce
Muril Rua Chute Boxe
Strikeforce EliteXC MMA

The Strikeforce/EliteXC mixed martial arts event in San Jose on Friday night opened a lot of eyes. The headline Shamrock-Baroni bout lived up to the extensive hype, the main fight card showcased local MMA talent and 2 Middleweight title fights, and 10,850 fans made the elaborate presentation even more electric.

A brief fight by fight recap of the June 22nd MMA event:

Main Event - Frank Shamrock vs Phil Baroni for the Strikeforce Middleweight World Championship

Frank Shamrock semi-retired after earning a submission over Tito Ortiz at UFC22 in 1999, the last time I saw one of his fights, but he has exhibited good punching power on several occasions. A number of Phil Baroni's UFC and PrideFC opponents have taken him down early, and Phil has not shown a great ability to get back to his feet. If this fight goes to the ground clear edge to Shamrock, if they stay standing there is still an edge to Shamrock but Baroni would have a punchers chance.

Baroni opens with a several combinations and backs Shamrock up to the fence. Then he takes down Shamrock, but backs off and returns to his feet. A huge Shamrock right hand lands a minute into the first, and he pantomimes Baroni going to sleep. Seconds after the taunt, Shamrock catches him with 2 rights out of a 3 punch combination and drops the NYBA. Shamrock then sinks in a deep guillotine choke but can not finish with Baroni up against the cage. Official Steve Mazzagatti takes a point from Shamrock for 2 punches to the head, and Baroni could use the time to recover and finish out the round. Baroni is trying one desperation single leg takedown after another, more to avoid trading shots with Shamrock than to take him down to the mat. Shamrock rolls Baroni to his side and lands two huge right hands. Baroni takes them, and then spins and rises to his feet. Amazing chin, but zero boxing fundamentals or standup defense. Shamrock lands a series of punches and two hard knees to stagger Baroni near the end of the round.

Start of the second, I noticed Shamrock wincing in one of the photos when Baroni went for a desperation takedown. Baroni's breathing labored, and his feet appear planted in the mat. Baroni lands a hard right followed by a knee, and Shamrock turns his back and spins away from his opponent. This is one of at least 3 or 4 times Shamrock turns his back in the second. Against a top Middleweight contender this would say, "please club me to the mat". Shamrock storms forward with a series of punches, and Baroni is having trouble keeping his hands up in front of him. Later in the round, Shamrock transitions from a guillotine choke to a side choke to a kimura attempt before taking his back. The "legend" sinks both hooks in, and Baroni eventually goes limp before Mazzagatti stopped the fight. It looked like Shamrock held on to the choke a second or two after the stoppage, before getting up and raising his hands to each corner of the arena.

Frank Shamrock TKO's Phil Baroni with a rear naked choke 4:00 into the second round. After the fight Shamrock tells Bill Goldberg, "You put me in a cage, you call me out in my town, you are going to get an a** kicking. The knee hurts, I tore my ACL and MCL two weeks ago, but I am not going to let San Jose down." Phil Baroni was gracious in defeat telling Showtime that Shamrock took care of business, and that he was the real deal.

Murilo Rua vs Joey Villasenor for the EliteXC Middleweight World Championship

Villasenor lands an early left that staggers Rua, and follows with a knee to the body. Pinned up against the cage, Rua manages to take Villasenor down and give himself a little time to recover. Villasenor reverses and gains top position. Joey Villasenor lands a couple of hard right hands before he fends off a leg lock attempt from the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist and Chute Boxe Academy member. Very high tempo in this fight, there is a lot of action. There are a couple of scattered boos from the crowd as Rua is on top of Villasenor trying to tourque his arm into a kimura lock. Not sure what they are upset about, it looks like Rua is trying to take the arm off instead of going for a submission.

Rua opens the second round with a flying knee, but it is not clean. Both fighters trade hard shots at the center of the ring, but Rua is gaining the slight edge because of a better defense. Murilo Rua is landing over the left of Villasenor at will. Villasenor lunges in for a punch and steps directly into a short right hand which leaves him sprawled on the mat. Murilo Rua is very emotional as he receives the EliteXC Middleweight belt.

Murilo Rua earns a TKO over Joey Villasenor 1:05 into the second round.

Cung Le vs Tony Fryklund

There are a few hardcore MMA fans with questions about Cung Le, but at 3-0 he has a lot of tools and plenty of time to work on his weaknesses. Le unleashes the full spectrum of San Shou kicks early against Krykland. He lands up high, down the middle, liver kicks from the side. Tony Krykland is standing in front of Cung Le absorbing as many kicks as possible, with no attempt to close the gap or to take the fight to the mat. Le is firing away with looping high kicks and spinning back kicks, but he staggers Krykland with a right punch and drops him with a counter. There is a lot of flair and style to Cung Le's striking approach, but there has not been the power behind them that say a Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic would deliver, at least not yet. Krykland finishes with a brief flurry at the end of the round, but misses with both a superman punch and a spinning backfist.

Cung Le is moving around the ring well at the start of the second. Krykland lands a combination, but can not sustain it. Le is patient, teeing off on Krykland and then moving to an open area. Krykland is methodically plodding around the ring after Le, but he neither cuts it off, nor lets his hands go when he catches him. Early in the third, Le lands a kick to the midsection that doubles over Krykland. A right drops him to the mat.

Cung Le earns a TKO over Tony Fryklund 0:25 into the third round. After the fight in a brief backstage interview, Le mentions that he still needs to work on his ground game, and that there are a few outside issues that made training for this fight difficult. He also mentioned that he was proud of the ethusiastic fans at HP Pavilion. In the post-fight press conference, Le called San Jose "the new Mecca for MMA". He also said there were martial arts gyms on every corner, a number of top local professional fighters, and that the Bay Area is going to develop into one of the top spots for mixed martial arts.

Josh Thomson vs Nick Gonzalez

I missed the start of the fight, but from the replay it looks like the San Jose native and former Stanford wrestler Josh Thomson dropped Gonzalez early. Thomson then gained position as Gonzalez gave him his back. Thomson sunk in a rear naked choke, and earned a TKO 1:42 into the first round, before jumping up on the cage and celebrating 1 inch from the Showtime camera. Thomson will be a big draw for EliteXC, and there are a number of big names at 155 pounds that would be a perfect fit for a future Strikeforce.

Paul Buentello vs Carter Williams

San Jose American Kickboxing Academy member Paul Buentello earned a heavyweight title shot in the UFC, and Carter Williams is a heavyweight K-1 kickboxing grand prix champion, which makes this one of several interesting matchups on the evening. Everyone in the building thought Carter Williams would try to utilize his kickboxing and striking skills while standing, but he ended up taking Buentello down early and landing a hard right. Carter Williams lands two more hard shots, but Buentello is able to back out and get to his feet. Williams appeared a little bigger than his K-1 highlights on ESPN, and he used his size and his strength to out-position Buentello up against the cage. Buentello is a MMA veteran, and he landed short jabs, elbows, and foot stomps at every opportunity. Carter shoots in, and Buentello sinks in a guillotine choke. Buentello lands a few short punches and elbows before the round expires.

Buentello lands a punch to start the second, and then follows that with two more. The last one hits Williams in the eye, and he can not continue. Paul Buentello earns a KO victory over Carter Williams 0:10 into the second round. Buentello is besieged by fans asking for autographs and photos on his way out of the cage. After the fight in a short backstage interview, Buentello mentions that a move to San Jose gave his MMA career a second life, that he has 3 or 4 fights left in him, and that he will fight whoever they put in front of him.

Shamrock Returns with Domination of Baroni - Sherdog.com.

For the first time since stepping away from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Shamrock reminded old fans what he had and introduced himself to a new generation by sparking memories and planting in minds that he was, in fact, once considered the best mixed martial artist on the planet.

Fighting more like the 26-year-old that stopped Tito Ortiz in Sept. 99 than the 34-year-old who came into his fight at the HP Pavilion off a terrible performance against Renzo Gracie, Shamrock dominated before choking the loud Phil Baroni unconscious four minutes into the second period.

The pay-per-view video preview and the preliminary fights are available for free online at elitexc.com and proelite.com. Behind the scenes interviews from Gary Shaw, Randy Couture, Cung Le, Josh Thomson and others are online here. The main event was available via Showtime PPV, and will be rebroadcast on June 30th.

MMAweekly.com posted a Strikeforce recap and photos, interviews with EliteXC Middleweight champion Murilo "Ninja" Rua and Strikeforce Middleweight champion Frank Shamrock, the Shamrock-Baroni salary/attendance figures, news that Phil Baroni will miss 6-7 months with a torn groin muscle and that fighter Carter Williams tested positive for cocaine.

Other reactions from MorethanUFC, Wrestlingobserver, the Houston Chronicle, fightreport (nice animated gifs), SprawlnBrawl, MMAcalifornia were positive to extremely positive about San Jose as a venue and Strikeforce/EliteXC as a promoter. MMA is just as prone to a string of unimpressive cards as boxing, and with the demise and recent sale of the Pride Fighting Championships in Japan, there is room and a solid crop of fighters waiting for another big name to emerge at the top of Mixed Martial Arts.

[Update] Shamrock's show, San Jose fighter beats Phil Baroni in MMA main event - SJ Mercury News.

Frank Shamrock is old-school in the world of mixed martial arts. But the 34-year-old added a new chapter to his MMA legend Friday night. Shamrock, with one healthy leg, scored his first title in nearly four years with an inspired second-round technical knockout over Phil Baroni in the main event at the EliteXC/Strikeforce mixed martial arts card at HP Pavilion.

"To win in my hometown is just a whole 'nother level," said Shamrock, who has lived in San Jose since 1997 and opened an MMA academy in town in 2005. "I've won titles all over the world. But to do it here means a lot to me."

[Update2] The American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose has a Myspace blog in addition to the offical website at akakickbox.com.

[Update3] Is full-on Shamrock comeback in the cards? - Fox Sports.

IFL coach Frank Shamrock has had, by most standards, a pretty rough year. His San Jose Razorclaws didn't win a single match in 2007, including their opener against his brother Ken's Nevada Lions, and then he was disqualified for the first time in his life in a bout with fellow IFL coach Renzo Gracie. For the man who's been telling anyone who will listen that he's the greatest martial artist of his generation, things didn't seem to be going his way at all.

But Shamrock managed to turn it around this past weekend with a convincing win over UFC and Pride veteran Phil Baroni. In the run-up to the fight, Shamrock made several colorful remarks (to say the least) about his opponent, of the type we've come to expect in recent years. This Shamrock fight, however, was far from what we've come to expect from him in the ring. He looked like the Shamrock we haven't seen since 1999 — sharp on his feet and technical on the mat.

The official International Fight League website is available at ifl.tv, a wikipedia backgrounder covers the IFL basics, and the San Jose Razorclaws team site is here.

Sharks draft Frank Shamrock

Frank Shamrock San Jose MMA
Frank Shamrock Strikeforce EliteXC

The long preview I wrote for Strikeforce yesterday was erased when trying to publish to Blogger. Hang in there and I will re-write it, post a recap and a photo gallery of last nights MMA action, and review the Toskala trade and the Sharks selections in the 2007 NHL entry draft.

Frank Shamrock entered the cage in a San Jose Sharks jersey for his fight last night with Phil Baroni. With his striking ability, I thought Baroni would have a clear edge on his feet in the main event. Shamrock landed the harder punches, a handful of devestating knees in a thai clinch, and locked in several quality choke attempts. After a dominant performance, Shamrock submitted Baroni in the second with a rear naked choke.

A photo gallery from the event is available here. An email from Pro Elite mentioned that a few fans may have had trouble watching a free stream of the preliminary fights. They are available online at proelite.com. The main fight card was available on Showtime pay-per-view. If it becomes available via online PPV, I will post a link here.


Strikeforce MMA in San Jose Friday

San Jose MMA Strikefoce
San Jose MMA Strikefoce

The storylines are set for the Frank Shamrock vs Phil Baroni mixed martial arts main event Friday in San Jose. At stake is the vacant Strikeforce Middleweight World Championship, a re-entry into the MMA upper echelon for Shamrock, a possible return to the UFC for Phil Baroni, and a conclusion to months of media-fueled personal attacks between the two fighters.

An accomplished submission fighter, San Jose's Frank Shamrock is regarded as one of the founding fathers of mixed martial arts. Shamrock was the first UFC light heavyweight champion and a former King of Pancrase. Phil Baroni has a background in collegiate wrestling as an All-American at Central Michigan University and is widely regarded as one of the hardest strikers in MMA. Baroni has fought the cream of the middleweight crop in the UFC and Pride Fighting Championships.

Also on the main fight card are three local fighters, Cung Le, Paul Buentello, and Josh Thompson. The trio train out of the highly regarded American Kickboxing Acedemy in San Jose. In addition to a wrestling background and a 19-0 professional fighting record, Cung Le is preeminent figure in San Shou kickboxing (IKF World Light Heavyweight San Shou Champion, ISKA North American Light Heavyweight San Shou Champion, ISKA U.S. Light Heavyweight San Shou Champion). Le also established the Cung Le Martial Arts Training Center, and actively supports the Born to Fight amateur kickboxing tournament in San Jose.

Paul Buentello rose up through the MMA ranks to earn a title shot against UFC Heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Buentello's loss to Arlovski was his only defeat in 4 UFC fights. In 2 fights with Strikeforce, Buentello has defeated "Tank" Abbott and wrestler Ruben Villareal. Josh "the punk" Thomson is a former Stanford wrestler, who has transitioned effortlessly into kickboxing and MMA. Thomson has also competed in the UFC and the Japanese Pride Fighting Championships.

The preliminary fights will be streamed online at proelite.com. The main event fight card is available via Showtime pay-per-view.

Strikeforce/EliteXC MMA Fight Card

Preliminary Bouts (starting at 4:15PM)

Bout 1 - David Smith vs Sean Basset (155 pounds, 3x3)
Bout 2 - Seth Kleinbeck vs Sam Spengler (185 pounds, 3x5)
Bout 3 - Anthony Figueroa vs Chris Cariaso (135 pounds, 3x3)
Bout 4 - Luke Stewart vs Jason Von Flue (175 pounds, 3x5)
Bout 5 - Aaron Weatherspoon vs Mike Pyle (170 pounds, 3x5)
Bout 6 - Nikk Covert vs Nik Theotokis (185 pounds, 3x3)

Main Fight Card (starting at 7PM)

Bout 7 - Victor Valenzuela vs Edson Berto (155 pounds, 3x5)
Bout 8 - Paul Buentello vs Carter Williams (Heavyweights, 3x5)
EliteXC Middleweight Championship - Murilo Rua vs Joey Villasenor (155 pounds, 5x5)
Bout 10 - Nick Gonzalez vs Josh Thomson (155 pounds, 3x5)
Bout 11 - Tony Fryklund vs Cung Le (180 pounds, 3x5)
Strikeforce Middleweight Championship - Frank Shamrock vs Phil Baroni (185 pounds, 3x5)
Bout 12 - Duane Ludwig vs Paul Daley (170 pounds, 3x5)

[Update] Sherdog is the one stop shop for MMA news online. In addition to detailing what is at stake for Frank Shamrock and his legacy with the sport, they have video of the pre-fight weighins, video of Shamrock training for Baroni, notes from a press conference with EliteXC president Gary Shaw to knock down rumors and to discuss the arrest of Charles "Crazy Horse" Bennett (which may preclude him from fighting), and interviews on Sherdog radio with Baroni and Shamrock. It has been somewhat painful watching the MSM trying to scramble to give mixed martial arts coverage on par with other professional sports during the recent boom, but from the beginning Sherdog has been delivering solid coverage since 1997.

[Update2] David Singer of The Ice Block and Hockeyfights.com, has more from the Strikeforce pre-fight press conferences at MMA on Tap (run by Scott White and John Chandler).

From Frank Shamrock:

"Phil, what you don’t know is you are the hand-picked opponent and that's why you're here. This is my town. This is my arena and this is my sport and welcome to my world, baby."

"You think (this fight) is about you. That's why you're underneath the name 'Shamrock.' So, welcome to my show. I like your glasses. Your tan is better than me. You’re ripped more than me. You've got a better beard and I can't really grow one. All I wanna see is - if you beat me, God bless you. If you don't, we just move on from here. This is about fighting. I've said all I need to say. You’ve said more than you need to say."

"All you fighters, fight your heart out. We're an independent show, making huge waves. We're gonna change MMA - help make it right. This is about fighting, about art."

[Update3] Five Ounces of Pain: Interview with Phil Baroni - Sportsline.

I had no idea what to expect from Phil Baroni going into a recent interview. I have followed his career closely for several years now, dating back to when he was a top middleweight title contender in the UFC. In addition to being one of the sport's most colorful characters, I also considered him to be one of its most volatile...


RDS reports long term deal for defenseman Craig Rivet

RDS reports long term deal for Craig Rivet
NHL defenseman Craig Rivet

Renaud Lavoie of RDS reported yesterday that San Jose re-signed veteran defenseman Craig Rivet to a 4 year, $14 million deal (3.5m/yr). The Sharks acquired the longtime Montreal Canadien and a 5th round draft pick in 2008, for defensman Josh Gorges and a 2007 1st round draft pick a day on February 27th.

The Sharks then shocked many on the February 28th deadline day by picking up one of the biggest names available in power forward Bill Guerin. Guerin was acquired from St Louis for agitating winger Ville Nieminen, college prospect Jay Barriball and San Jose's second 1st round pick in 2007. Rivet added a veteran presence to a San Jose blueline that started three defenseman 24 or younger (Ehrhoff, Carle, Vlasic). After the Sharks registered a 5-8 record with hot and cold play in February, the Sharks tightened up and reeled off a 10-4 record in March.

There is no confirmation of this deal from other sources, and no announcement from San Jose, so the RDS report should be considered preliminary. If GM Doug Wilson retains the 32-year old Rivet long-term, for what appears to be full market value or higher, the spotlight will be on remaining free agents Scott Hannan, Bill Guerin, and Mark Smith. The Sharks are deep down the middle, and have prospects that might by NHL-ready on the wing, but the lack of a true #1 defenseman on both sides of the ice has been glaringly evident in lopsided playoff exits.

In a perfect world, Hannan and Rivet could be re-signed along with a big name free agent blueliner who can quarterback the power play, start a quick transition offense, and can get a heavy point shot on net with consistency. But with ticket prices up across the board, the Sharks have signaled an attempt at finishing in the black next season. It may boil down to a choice between a former allstar who has risen up through the organization in Hannan, or a move in another direction after three playoff meltdowns (3 home losses against Calgary, 4 straight losses against Edmonton, and a number of late game breaking goals by Detroit).

Prediction? Re-sign Hannan, and get Rivet and former Montreal captain Vincent Damphousse on the phone to discuss the friendly confines of HP Pavilion with defenseman Sheldon Souray. Signal to the players, fans, and the rest of the NHL that this team needs to deliver a Stanley Cup Final appearance, or they need to prepare for scortched earth reorganization.

[Update] Report: Rivet Re-signs with Sharks - Spector.

It's not surprising the Sharks retained him, although the contract is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. Rivet turns 33 in September and while he's been a steady, reliable blueliner throughout his career he's never posted up the kind of career numbers that one would deem worthy of $3.5 million per season. Still, if the Sharks didn’t sign him to that amount, another club would've had he hit the open market.

The length of the deal – four years – is also a bit of a risk given Rivet's age and injury history, although to be fair he'd had four straight seasons of 80-plus games prior to last season.

It's a bit of a gamble but with Rivet playing on a much better team now than he did in his years in Montreal he won’t be forced into playing beyond his skill level, thus it could prove a worthwhile deal for the Sharks.

[Update2] On the NHL, Flyers bolster coaching staff - Philadelphia Inquirer.

Between the draft and free agency, the Flyers intend to make some dramatic moves to improve the club. The impact comes in free agency.

Forget Chris Drury. Every indication is he will end up in San Jose. Forget Danny Briere. He's really the wrong fit for the Flyers. And if Buffalo loses Drury, the Sabres have no choice but to re-sign Briere at any price.

[Update3] The Sharks confirmed the Rivet signing here.

"We did a lot of work last year before we even acquired him," said (Doug) Wilson. "The type of guy he, whether it's fair or unfair, is like a Mike Grier on the back end. He's easy to play with, he's got that professionalism and he's got poise. I think it was a great indication that he wanted to be with us and liked the direction we’re going. Craig didn't have to make that decision now. He could have waited and looked around. He stepped up and we appreciate that."


Tim Verbeek Hockey School opens July 9th in Stockton


Stockton Thunder right wing Tim Verbeek opens a hockey school this July 9-13th at Oak Park Ice Arena in Stockton. Focusing on stick handling and power skating, players will be divided into groups based on age and skill level. Tim is the younger brother of Pat Verbeek (aka "little ball of hate"), who scored 522 goals in 1424 games as a premier NHL agitator. The deadline to sign up is June 28th. For more information call 209-518-4192.

In other ECHL news, the league released its 20th anniversary logo here, and details of the Board of Governors meeting June 14-15 in Nevada here. The ECHL membership of the Long Beach Ice Dogs has been formally terminated, one year after the San Diego Gulls closed up shop in 2006.

Also at the Board of Govenors meeting, the Stockton Thunder picked up ECHL's Team Award of Excellence and Marketing Campaign of the Year. The inaugural award recognized attendance, marketing, and on-ice success. For the second straight season, the Stockton Thunder lead the ECHL in attendance with 244,085 fans (6,780 average), a 6.5% increase over 2005-06. Stockton will host the 2008 ECHL Allstar game and skills competition on January 22-23.

[Update] Work Out With Sharkie - SJsharks.com.

Come meet S.J. Sharkie at the new Club One at the Silver Creek Sportsplex today, Wednesday, June 20. The Sharks mascot will pump iron and flex his fin at the facility’s open house from 5:30-6:30 p.m...

The Silver Creek Sportsplex is a multi-purpose facility for roller hockey, indoor soccer and box lacrosse. Managed by former Sharks player and Stanley Cup-winner David Maley, the 240,000 square foot complex is located at 800 Embedded Way in San Jose and offers a full service health club, two pools and a kid center. For more information, click here.

Mike Chen interviews San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson

Longtime Sharks blogger and Foxsports.com contributor Mike Chen interviewed San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson last week. Chen asked about San Jose's inability to build on past success, the tenure of head coach Ron Wilson and his use of the media to challenge players, the performance of a young blueline, and about his promise to Nabokov and Toskala to utilize a #1 goaltender this season and trade the other.

[Q] As one fan put it, the most frustrating aspect of this year's collapse was that it was yet another squandered lead and blown opportunity. In your opinion, why have the Sharks not been able to build on their success the way the Ducks and Senators did?

[DW] That is a question that has been asked many times and I go down to the resiliency factor. You talk about Anaheim and it's interesting…they lose Game three 5-0 in their own building, they lose Chris Pronger yet the come back the next game and play one of their best games. Certainly Ottawa did it against Buffalo and earlier on in the series, so there's something about the belief system in what you do and how you play and you don't waver from that. There's a conviction in that. I do think that we've played that way throughout the year and maybe some of these flaws were hidden because games that we won because of our power play and our goaltending. It's an area we’ve addressed; forget about personnel changes on that issue, we have to be more efficient in how we play at certain times of the game.

You watch Anaheim and they won games in different ways in the playoffs and you have to have that balance that you can play aggressive, protect the lead, defend in your own zone, but you don't do any of them in a tentative way. You can play smart assertive hockey and protect the lead, you don't have to be tentative. There's a couple of times where we got tentative and you will not win that way. And that was something we've certainly talked about at length at the end of the year.

[Q] Billy Beane of the Oakland A's once stated that building for the regular season is possible but building for the post-season is a crapshoot. With so much parity in the NHL, do you think this applies to the Stanley Cup playoffs?

[DW] I don't know, baseball and hockey I think are different. I certainly respect Billy Beane and respect what he’s done with the Oakland A's. We know the teams we're going to play in the West and it's tough, it's a fine line from top to bottom. We finished with 107 points and finished in fifth place. But there's not really an unexpected what you’re going to see in the playoffs other than you're going to have to play three different types of teams before you even get to the final. You have to know the teams you're going to play. You have to execute better, you have to have the fortune of good health and you have to find a way to get things done, and I'll finish with a big word: you have to be resilient. Something bad happens you got to forget about it and you move forward. For our team, (resiliency) certainly is (a theme) at this point. You learn that through tough times and tough lessons, I guess, and hopefully we’re done learning from our tough lessons.

A full transcript of the interview is available here.

[Update] Rich Hammond covers the Los Angeles Kings for the LA Daily News. On his blog Inside the Kings, Hammond posted a four part interview with Kings general manager Dean Lombardi here, here, here, and here. A brief history of Lombardi's tenure in San Jose is available on this blog here.

Hammond also transcribed a recent Lombardi interview with 570-AM. Lombardi discussed the draft, free agents, and on building with a young team.

[Update2] At the start of his Stanley Cup playoff run, Anaheim general manager Brian Burke gave a television interview with Jim Rome for the program Rome is Burning. A brief transcript is available here:

[JR] I still have a hard time believing you have both (Scott Niedermayer) and Chris Pronger back on the blue line. Talk about the challenges other teams are in having to go up against those guys, because one of them is always there.

[BB] Well personnel matchups in our league, generally if you are a star player you are going to see a top defenseman. If you can get away from that guy, you are going to have a better chance for success. If one of those two guys is out there all the time, which is kind of how we play, every time a star player is on the ice he is going to see one of those two guys, and that is not good news.

[JR] You led the league this year in penalty minutes, and fighting majors, and I am guessing that does not bother you too much.

[BB] No. Our team plays a very distinctive style. I don't like watching hockey that is not physical. I don't want our young players to develop in an atmosphere that is not fear free. So we bang, we hit, and we fight when we should.


Max Giese - 2007 NHL Entry Draft preview

Devin Setoguchi San Jose Sharks 2005 1st round draft pick

The 2007 NHL Entry Draft June 22-23 in Columbus has a wide open feel. While it lacks top end prospects of previous drafts, it is loaded with solid depth. Plenty of players from this class will fill roles in the NHL, but very few will be stars. This class has an exceptional American-based crop that should produce dozens of good NCAA players and adequate NHL players. This is the USHL's deepest draft ever, and both Western and Eastern High School and Prep Schools have produced a significant amount of talent this year.

The NHL Draft preview is broken down into two parts. The first part ranks the top 5 prospects by individual attributes, the second part of the preview ranks the top 100 NHL draft eligible prospects.

The top 5 NHL draft eligible prospects:

1. C Kyle Turris, 6-1 175 (8-14-1989), Burnaby Express BCHL, NHL comparable: Joe Sakic. Plus - Vision, hands, character, competes. Minus - Lack of size. It may take several years, but Kyle Turris will be the best player taken in this draft. He is the only player in this draft that can be categorized as "special". Turris is the best finisher, with a heavy and accurate shot, and a release that makes 90% of the NHL envious already. He possesses the ability to let go with his rocket shot while skating at full speed. Blessed with exceptional vision, Turris sees the ice well and is a superb play maker. Committed to the University of Wisconsin, Turris needs to add bulk to his wiry frame. He is instinctive with the puck, and his hockey IQ is off the charts, as is his ability to anticipate the game. Turris is one of the best skaters in this draft, and it will improve when he adds some size. Blessed with a powerful stride that is similar to that of Patrick Marleau's, with a deadly change of gears he has recently mastered to use as a fierce offensive weapon. His hands are soft and he has all the tools to develop into a franchise player. His defensive game is above average. He is capable of killing penalties, and is the type of player a coach will want on the ice in the last minute of the game. The knock on Turris is his obvious lack of strength. That said, he forechecks and backchecks with vigor, wins one-on-one battles along the boards, and is a willing shot blocker. The fact that he played in the BCHL should not worry teams as he has played against elite competition internationally and excelled.

2. RW Patrick Kane, 5-10 165 (11-19-1988), London Knights OHL. NHL Comparable: Alex Hemsky, with excellent fishing ability. Plus - Magnetic hands, offensive creativity and patience, quick and accurate shot, playmaking ability, balance, nimble feet, puck protection. Minus - size, defensive play. The most dynamic offensive talent in the draft, Patrick Kane is the type of player a team can build around up front. A pure offensive gamebreaker with the most pure offensive upside of anyone available in this draft. Size and a lackadaisical defensive commitment are the only concerns with Kane, but they should not be a long term detriment. He is extremely balanced and is not shy about going into traffic areas, other areas can be coachable. Kane the best hands of the draft, and a very high skill level. He possesses magnetic hands that make the puck appear like it is attached to a string. Kane has the type of dangles that are absolutely sick, and he will be a regular on ESPN Sportscenter highlights over the course of his career. He also possesses composure and patience with the puck, and can often times seemingly make the game stand still. His puck protection is top notch and he can freeze opponents and then knife through them with a dynamic arsenal of one-on-one moves. A pure sniper, Kane's release is quick and his shot is precisely accurate. He is a threat to score from anywhere inside the blueline. The best player in the draft at finding seams in the defense and exploiting them. Kane is a creative offensive dynamo with exceptional patience and deceptively quick skating ability. An instinctive player who processes the game quickly. Kane is an underrated skater and extremely agile with nimble feet and lateral mobility in the draft. While he is small, Kane handles traffic well as is slippery with tremendous balance and is not afraid to attack the net. Currently he is not asked to play defense in London and he will need to be coached that side of the game. He is NHL ready and should contribute immediate offense.

3. RW Jakub Voracek, 6-1 190 (8-15-1989), Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL. Plus - Play making, powerful drives to the net, character, accurate shot, play in traffic, puck possession. Minus - Inconsistency. Voracek is a big, highly skilled winger who likes to drive the net. He adjusted seamlessly to the North American game, and capped it off with a dominant second half of the season in the QMJHL, including a phenomenal playoff performance. An above average skater for a player of his size, Voracek's stride is a bit stiff, but he has nimble feet and good agility. Possesses soft hands with a long reac, and he shields the puck exceptionally well. Blessed with superior vision and creativity, Voracek is one of the top playmakers available in this years draft Does a great job of drawing the opposition to him and then threading the needle with a slick pass at the last moment. Can distribute the puck from both sides of his stick equally well. Unselfish almost to a fault, and maybe passes too much. Should trust his finishing ability more. Has a heavy shot with a quick release, but his accuracy is still inconsistent. Projects as a 35-40 goal scorer in his prime. Is not a power forward despite his large frame, but he is willing to get his nose dirty and he uses his size well with the puck. Has a mature two-way game with impressive defensive awareness and commitment. A fairly complete player that is close to NHL ready.

4. D Ryan McDonagh, 6-1 205, (6-13-1989), Cretin-Durham Minnesota High School. Plus - Huge upside, soft hands, good skater, creative, physical, smart. Minus - Needs to prove himself at higher levels. The best defenseman eligible this year, Ryan McDonagh possesses special ability both with or without the puck. A University of Wisconsin recruit, Ryan was named Mr. Hockey as the top player in Minnesota this season. He is the most complete defenseman in this draft, and has terrific upside at both ends of the rink. McDonagh is a swift skater with nimble feet and a quick stride, with a very impressive burst of power behind it. His acceleration is impressive. Ryan is blessed with exceptional hands and is creative with the puck as he will stick handle around the opposition with dangles that look they are coming from a first line forward. He is composed with the puck, and sees the ice well. Can make a heads up first pass. Ryan McDonagh is an instinctive passer and also displays impressive creativity while quarterbacking the power play. His hockey sense is superb and he reads the play one step quicker than his peers. He has the size and strength along with an adequate physical edge to be a one-on-one shutdown defender. Ryan maintains a healthy gap with his man at all times, and because of his swift mobility he can stay with most players stride for stride. McDonagh has exceptional stick work and defensive positioning. He competes hard night in and night out, there is also a lot of upside to come. Several years from now he will turn out to be the best defenseman taken in the 2007 draft.

5. RW James Van Riemsdyk, 6-3 200 (5-4-1989), USNTDP. Plus - Puck protection, character, has upside but is also a safe pick, play making, shot, drives to the net, hands. Minus - Doesn’t always play to full potential, needs to use power more often. Has an enticing package of size, character, and offensive talent. One of the safest picks in this year's draft, projects to be a top six winger with good skill and size. His hands are velvety soft, and he has the best puck protection of anyone available in the draft. Van Riemsdyk is one of the best in the draft at lowering his shoulders and driving the net, although he needs to do so more often. He covers the puck well and has great puck possession. A threat to score and create. Van Riemsdyk possesses a heavy wrist shot that is fairly accurate with a quick release, however he seems hesitant to use it. Sees the ice very well and can execute a pass even through heavy traffic. Above average skater for his size, with a deceptive top gear and a fluid stride. His first step is quite good for a player of his size at this age. Has a good two-way game and holds his own in traffic. Not a mean spirited player, as he could use his big frame to finish his checks with more authority. That said he is nearly impossible to knock off his feet as he does a great job in front of the net and a long the boards.

The top 5 high risk, high reward prospects:


1. C Angelo Esposito, QMJHL – Fast and skilled, but seems to be afraid to take a hit. If he could not handle the punishment in junior, how will he handle in the NHL?
2. RW Akim Aliu, OHL – Has already been traded twice in his brief OHL career for attitude problems. First round talent but has some character issues.
3. RW Brett MacLean, OHL – Laziest player I have seen in the first half of the season, but he is always near the puck. Despite his size, if he is not scoring, he is useless on the ice.
4. C Luca Cunti, SWIS – Electrifying talent, is the most individualistic player in the draft, may refuse to play in the AHL which would hurt his odds of ever playing in the NHL.
5. RW Alexei Cherepanov, RUS – Russia did not sign the transfer agreement, this might have teams passing on Alexei early. Cherepanov also struggles with inconsistency.

The full 2007 NHL Entry Draft preview is available here.

Versus broadcast of NHL Awards Show delayed by CBC television truck fire

Versus television network NHL

Thursday night's broadcast of the 2007 NHL award show on Versus was delayed for several hours after a CBC broadcast truck almost caught fire in Toronto. According to the Globe and Mail, technical problems forced a delay of the television transmission, and glitches in the red carpet interviews and at one point on-stage sound.

Several bloggers chimed in on the awards show. Stan Fischler, aka The Maven, had his own problems in Toronto involving an airplane. Fischler also ran into former New Jersey and current Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer and asked him what he was going to do with the Stanley Cup. Niedermayer deferred that decision to his brother Rob. James Mirtle liveblogged the awards ceremony for the AOL Fanhouse. Mirtle notes that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper handed out the first award to Sidney Crosby, the Lester B. Pearson award for most valuable player as determined by the NHLPA. Mirtle also points out Jean Beliveau, Doug Gilmour, and Gordie Howe sightings.

NHL.com posted a condensed version of the show for viewing online here. Paul Kukla of Kukla's Korner posted the NHL nomination videos with highlights of each candidate for the Vezina, Norris, Hart, Calder, and Pearson awards. Later this week, Versus will broadcast from the 2007 NHL Entry Draft Friday from 7-10:00PM.

A list of the top 5 results for each NHL award (total points, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th place votes):

2006-07 Hart Trophy
1. Sidney Crosby, PIT 1225 (91-34-14-2-1)
2. Roberto Luongo, VAN 801 (25-46-35-16-6)
3. Martin Brodeur, NJ 763 (21-45-39-12-7)
4. Vincent Lecavalier, T.B. 362 (5-6-22-48-16)
5. Joe Thornton, S.J. 230 (0-8-11-27-38)

2006-07 Norris Trophy
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET 1217 (87-44-5-4-2)
2. Scott Niedermayer, ANA 1024 (46-62-22-6-2)
3. Chris Pronger, ANA 608 (6-25-55-28-14)
4. Dan Boyle, T.B. 219 (1-5-21-19-12)
5. Kimmo Timonen, NSH 144 (0-2-9-24-13)

2006-07 Vezina Trophy
1. Martin Brodeur, N.J. 122 (16-14-0)
2. Roberto Luongo, VAN 116 (14-15-1)
3. Miikka Kiprusoff, CGY 7 (0-0-7)
Henrik Lundqvist, NYR 7 (0-0-7)
5. Dominik Hasek, DET 5 (0-0-5)

2006-07 Jack Adams Award
1. Alain Vigneault, VAN 134 (18-12-8)
2. Lindy Ruff, BUF 126 (11-18-17)
3. Michel Therrien, PIT 91 (11-10-6)
4. Barry Trotz, NSH 89 (11-7-13)
5. Ted Nolan, NYI 47 (5-5-7)

2006-07 Calder Trophy
1. Evgeni Malkin, PIT 1357 (120-21-2-0-0)
2. Paul Stastny, COL 965 (16-95-25-5-0)
3. Jordan Staal, PIT 565 (6-14-52-45-12)
4. Anze Kopitar, LA 417 (0-8-40-45-26)
5. Dustin Penner, ANA 107 (0-2-6-11-30)

2006-07 Lady Byng Trophy
1. Pavel Datsyuk, DET 705 (38-26-18-15-8)
2. Martin St. Louis, T.B. 513 (26-19-19-6-7)
3. Joe Sakic, COL 354 (17-17-7-9-3)
4. Jay Pandolfo, N.J. 243 (16-5-7-4-1)
5. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, MIN 167 (6-3-13-4-9)

2006-07 Frank Selke Trophy
1. Rod Brind’Amour, CAR 420 (16-21-7-23-9)
2. Samuel Pahlsson, ANA 405 (24-8-18-4-7)
3. Jay Pandolfo, N.J. 311 (16-10-10-7-10)
4. Chris Drury, BUF 300 (18-6-9-10-3)
5. Mike Fisher, OTT 272 (12-10-12-4-10)

A full press release from the NHL:


TORONTO (June 14, 2007) -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby won the Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League's Most Valuable Player tonight, capping a sophomore season in which he became the youngest scoring champion in major pro sports history and sparked one of the NHL's most dramatic team turnarounds.

Crosby, who earlier this month was named the youngest team captain in League history, received 91 of 143 first-place votes for 1,225 points in voting by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, who tallied 25 first-place votes and 801 points, was runner-up.

At 19 years, 10 months, Crosby is the second-youngest Hart Trophy winner in the history of the award, which was introduced in 1924. Wayne Gretzky was 19 years, 5 months old in 1979-80 when he captured the first of eight consecutive Hart Trophies with the Edmonton Oilers.

Crosby finished the regular season with 36 goals and 84 assists for 120 points, winning the Art Ross Trophy as League scoring champion. He took the permanent scoring lead with a career-high six-point night against Philadelphia Dec. 13 and never went more than three consecutive games without a point afterward. The Penguins were 41-10-9 in games when Crosby recorded a point, 6-13-0 when he did not and 0-1-2 when he was out of the lineup.

The Penguins finished the season with a 47-24-11 record for 105 points, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2001 and recording a 47-point improvement over 2005-06. Only three clubs in NHL history have posted a bigger gain, most recently the Winnipeg Jets' 48-point surge from 1980-81 to 1981-82. Other honorees included Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Malkin launched his NHL career in memorable fashion, becoming the first player in 89 years to score goals in each of his first six NHL games. Before Malkin, only three players in NHL history had scored at least one goal in each of their first six (or more) games and all did so in 1917-18, the League's inaugural season. The 20-year-old went on to lead all rookies in goals (33), power-play goals (16), assists (52) and points (85).

Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings joined an elite group by capturing the Norris Trophy as the League's outstanding defenseman for the fifth time. Lidstrom becomes the fourth defenseman in League history with as many as five Norris Trophy wins, joining Hockey Hall of Fame members Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey (seven) and Ray Bourque (five). Lidstrom, who earned his fifth Norris in the past six seasons, tied for the League lead among defensemen in plus-minus with a +40 rating, ranked third among all players in ice time per game (27:29) and was fifth among defensemen in scoring with 62 points (13 goals, 49 assists).

Lidstrom's teammate, Pavel Datsyuk, won his second consecutive Lady Byng Trophy for combining sportsmanship with a high standard of play. Another repeat winner was Carolina Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour, who won the Frank Selke Trophy as the League’s outstanding defensive forward. Brind'Amour ranked second among all NHL centers with a 59.2% face-off winning percentage and ranked third among League forwards in average ice time per game (23:19).

The New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur claimed the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender for the third time in the past four seasons following a record-breaking campaign. Brodeur won an unprecedented 48 games, surpassing Bernie Parent's mark of 47 in 1973-74, led the NHL in shutouts (12), ranked third in goals-against average (2.18) and third in save percentage (.922).

Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks won his first Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach, edging last year's winner, Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres, by eight points (134-126). In his first year behind the Vancouver bench, Vigneault guided the Canucks to a franchise record-breaking season. They improved their wins record to 49 from a previous high of 46 and recorded the highest points total in club history with 105.

Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu accepted the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contributions to his community. Koivu's exemplary support of cancer treatment and research -- and, more particularly, his personal demonstration of courage as a cancer survivor -- is a source of inspiration and pride to his teammates as well as the many thousands of patients and their families who benefit from his generosity.

Boston Bruins center Phil Kessel received the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Diagnosed with testicular cancer in early December, the 19-year-od Kessel played a Dec. 9 game against New Jersey, knowing he would be admitted to the hospital for surgery on Dec. 12. He missed only 12 games before returning to Boston's lineup.

Four players who received the NHL's statistic-based trophies June 2 in Ottawa also were acknowledged at the NHL Awards Show this evening: Crosby (Art Ross Trophy), Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier (Maurice Richard Trophy as goal-scoring leader) and the Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez (William Jennings Trophy as goaltenders on the club allowing the fewest goals). The Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA) cast ballots for the Hart, Norris, Selke, Lady Byng and Calder Trophies. The PHWA also voted on the Masterton Trophy. The 30 NHL General Managers voted on the Vezina Trophy. The NHL Broadcasters' Association (NHLBA) submitted votes for the Jack Adams Award, and a special panel of representatives from the PHWA and NHLBA chose the King Clancy winner. Voting for these awards was conducted at the conclusion of the regular season.

[Update] Victor Chi of the San Jose Mercury News notes that San Jose center Joe Thornton picked up a $50,000 league bonus for placing 5th in Hart (MVP) voting a year after he won the award, and a $140,000 league bonus for finishing second to Sidney Crosby for the Art Ross scoring title. Both bonuses are paid by the league and do not count against San Jose's salary cap.

[Update2] A press release from the San Jose Sharks on Thursday reported that defenseman Matt Carle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were named to the NHL All-Rookie team. It is the second time in NHL history two defenseman from the same team have been named to All-Rookie roster in the same year. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov accomplished the feat after the 1991-92 season. Previously, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (2000-01), defenseman Brad Stuart (1999-00) and forward Jeff Friesen (1994-95) were named to the All-Rookie team from San Jose. Evgeni Nabokov won the Calder trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2001.

New York Islanders Blog in a Box

New York Islanders Blog Box

Last Tuesday the New York Islanders introduced a new way to incorporate blogs and user generated coverage into its media relations campaign. The Islanders announced the creation of a Blog Box, which will house select fan bloggers who intend to cover games and practices at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The bloggers would receive a media credential, game notes, and limited access to players and coaches while covering the game, but they would also be segregated from the general media while doing so.

MEDIA WATCH: The NYI Blog Box, Deadspin, Neil Best, Sports Business Journal and others weigh in on first-of-its kind blogger initiative - New York Islanders.

The media and blog reaction to the blog box was mixed. The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle and Offwing.com's Eric McErlain, two of the largest hockey bloggers, thought the watered down access would be a step back for blogs covering games. McErlain noted, "The Islanders idea is a press pass with training wheels". Neil Best of the NY Newsday and the Sports Business Journal refered to the blog box as innovative and interesting. Poynter.org's Steve Klein noted that the Islanders were one of the first organizations to allow female journalists in the locker room, and the Blog Box is extending that "graciousness and respect" to bloggers.

In an interview with Deadspin, Islanders VP of communications Chris Botta expanded on a few of the specifics. The Blog Box participants would need to apply in advance and be approved, there would be room for about 12, the blogs would not be censored, the official islanders.com website will link to some of the blog posts, and there would be no access to the visiting team's locker room after the game. Botta also noted that he received a few emails from members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association that this idea was "a Sign That the Apocalypse is Among Us".

The Blog Box is an interesting concept, but it should be considered a work in progress for Islanders bloggers and the Islanders media relations staff. They are going to allow a slice of their diehard fanbase limited access, and see if any of that passion and the enthusiasm bleed out onto the web. In theory, the restriction of "no cheering in the press box" will not have to be followed during the game, or when writing about the experience afterwards. That is not neccessarily a bad thing, and it should be fun to read. In addition to game coverage, the bloggers should be encouraged to write or post photos of the arena, gather opinions from local fans, or post from the occasional sports bar.

There is a downside. Segregating bloggers into a seperate area is an inherent criticism of blogs who have worked hard to cover local teams. Those that posted during the lockout when beat writers and opinion columnists where put on other assignments, a blog like Islanders Army which was one of the first to incorporate NHL Video highlights from Youtube, or a blogger like David Singer of The Ice Block and HockeyFights.com who have essentially created a huge hockey audience with minimal support on their own dime. It is another sign to the mainstream media that blogs are not legitimate, and do not deserve the professionalism and respect of a mainstream journalist. It may even make it harder for blogs to cover teams in other markets.

This is an interesting first step, but the jury is still out. If the Islanders bloggers get the opportunity to cover a Stanley Cup Final or something similar to the Ranger Santa Melee, then I have a feeling this will be a huge success.

[Update] Looking Into the Blog Box - The Ice Block.

This is one of those situations where everyone seems correct. The Blog Box is innovative, limiting, encouraging, guarded and progressive.

The Islanders want to open up, make sure they get quality coverage from those with access, and not scare away the pros. The pros, besides being protective of their turf, would like to keep their environment as professional as possible. The bloggers simply want more access to the game they love covering, and to possibly get a different perspective on the game.

One audience that hasn’t been mentioned much is the audience of the selected bloggers. Their reaction will be important as to how the Blog Box is accepted. For it to be positive the bloggers must come through with some quality pieces (or why be in the box?), and the Islanders must be thick-skinned about any reasonably written criticism. Readers will be looking for the honest opinions they’ve grown accustomed to. The first sign of a censored blogger and the reputations of both the blogger and the program will be in jeopardy.

[Update2] Isles Rolling Out The Red Carpet For Bloggers in ‘07-08 - Islanders Army.

[Update3] There have been reports of imminent job cuts at the two largest local newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. One of my favorite local blogs, SFist, interviewed the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Phil Bronstein about the impact of blogs on news coverage and how his paper needs to adapt.


James Toney tests positive for two steroids after fight in San Jose

Heavyeight James Toney
James Toney test positive for steroids
Danny Batchelder

The California State Athletic Association announced today that both main event boxers from the May 24th fight card in San Jose tested positive for multiple steriods. Heavyweight James Toney tested positive for stanazolol and boldenone, and his heavyweight opponent Danny Batchelder tested positive for stanazolol and oxandolone. It is a double whammy as the co-main event was cancelled that evening after the opponent for local Superweight Ricardo Cortes was not cleared to fight because of pre-fight MRI problem.

CSAA executive officer Armando Garcia discussed the pending suspensions with reporters, "They have a right to appeal. My recommendation is suspension until the end of the licensing year and a $2,500 fine for both. We will give them the 30 days to appeal. If they don't, that's what the suspension will be."

Toney also tested positive for nandrolone in 2005 after defeating John Ruiz for the WBC heavyweight at Madison Square Garden. The unanimous decision for Toney (116-111, 116-111, 115-112) came after an epic battle over who could punch less. Ruiz clearly was the decisive non-agressor, and Toney appeared to earn a championship in his 4th weight class (middleweight, super-middleweight, cruiserweight, heavyweight). After the positive steriod test, the bout was declared a "no contest", and James Toney was suspended for 90 days.

James Toney

Shortly after the end of his suspension in August of 2005, Toney co-hosted Fox's special Best Damn Fight Night Period Night of Olympians live from HP Pavilion in San Jose. After a night of commentary, a reporter asked Toney backstage about a hypothetical fight with Calvin Brock as opposed to a succession of live bodies.

The 10-time former World Champion blew his stack and came inches from the reporter while yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he got in my face, then went back to yelling at the original reporter. The son of another boxer on the card came up and asked "Lights Out" for an autograph. Without even a waiver in his voice, Toney continued his loud protest while signing the autograph. He then stormed off to an entrance 30 feet away before returning, complaining vehemently the entire time.

It was great. It was boxing theater performed for 3 people. I kept looking around for the video camera, but there was none. If his episode came an hour earlier on the air with the Best Damn Sports Show, it would have made the rounds of the media for a few days. That is the passion many expected Toney to bring to the fight card he headlined in San Jose, or at least some semblance of it. Instead he looked overweight, sluggish, and worst of all, uninteresting. This latest suspension may be the end of a long and storied boxing career, but it could also be the end of one of the great boxing showmen at a time when the sport is hemorrhaging personality and influence.

[Update] The Morning Buzz, aka John Ryan, unloads on both boxers today: If both cheat, it's fair, right? - Mercury News.

The California State Athletic Association has discovered that James Toney, the picture of muscles and health (as you can plainly see) during a 10-round victory over Danny Batchelder on May 24 at HP Pavilion, tested positive for two steroids.

But here's the bonus: Batchelder also tested positive for two steroids. This does present a conundrum. The whole reason to eradicate steroids from sports is to level the playing field, right? So if both guys are double-juicing, isn't that fair?


Freezer Geezers film features Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament in Santa Rosa

Freezer Geezers Senior Hockey Tournament

The film trailer begins with a dramatic voice... "They come from all over the world, one week a year, to the world's premiere hockey tournament... Snoopy's". If you were thinking Chris Chelios biography, you would be mistaken. Freezer Geezers follows four teams from around the world who travel to Santa Rosa, California to compete in the 75-and-over division of Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament. They may be playing in the world's oldest hockey division but they have the ethusiasm and excitement from their youth hockey days.

Charles M. Schulz, creator of the popular comic strip Snoopy, moved to Santa Rosa, California in 1969. According to Wikipedia, Schulz became an owner of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena (aka Snoopy's), and also created the first ever over-75 Hockey Tournament in 2001 (although goalies could be 60). The NHL awarded Charles Schulz the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1981 for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

The 2007 Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament takes place from July 15-21 in Santa Rosa. More information is available from the offical tournament website, and more about Charles Shulz is available from the the Charles Shulz Museum. The 1 hour and 42 minute movie from Whatantics Productions appears to be in pre-release, but more details will be posted as they become available.

[Note] University of Michigan head coach Red Berenson made an appearance in the latest trailer. Berenson mentioned that competing in the tournament made him feel 20 years younger. He added, "It shows you that hockey is a lifetime sport."


San Jose City Council unanimously approves further study of new soccer Stadium in San Jose with Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff

San Jose Earthquakes stadium City Hall
San Jose Earthquakes stadium City Hall
San Jose Earthquakes stadium City Hall

After considerable debate, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved exploration of building a new soccer Stadium in San Jose with FWSH Partners (including Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff). The plan hinges on the availability of a 75-acre parcel of land for the stadium near Mineta International Airport, and re-zoning a 74-acre industrial parcel of land for residential use to fund the project. San Jose City hall streamed the City Council meeting online here.

A few quotes from Lew Wolff's opening statement:

- The $80 million that is contained in the information Paul (Krutko) and his staff put together is not the entire purchase price, or development price. For the property, and for what we are trying to do. We are estimating that the stadium itself give or take will cost $100 million, that is the operational side. There is buying the franchise, which seems to be going up, and if we don't do it now we may lose the opportunity for a long time to come.

- I am going to New York next week to see if Major League Soccer will advance allowing us to purchase, without having an absolute guarantee of a new venue. Paul (Krutko) mentioned we are going to play next year, let me explain that a little bit. If we do buy the franchise, we have to buy players, shoes and soces, things like that.

- We plan on having our interim places to play. We are not identifying them, but one or two may be in San Jose if we can get to them. If not, we will play in the Bay Area under the name San Jose Earthquakes. So our idea is to field a team and hire the staff that we need.

Several members of the City Council was in favor of exploring the stadium plan outright, but there were a few concerns voiced. The cost the city would have to pay for increased neighboorhood services, who would pay for stadium cost overruns, airport noise, decreased tax revenue, a previously declined Silver Creek development, industrial employment capacity, and transportation issues all were debated and should be expanded upon in the next Stadium memorandum.

Soccer Silicon Valley, a local organization dedicated to brining soccer back to San Jose, liveblogged the city council meeting for this post: Today is the day and the time is now. SSV also linked to two memorandums on the stadium plan from Vice Mayor David Cortese and council members Nora Campos and Forrest Williams (PDF file here), and from Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilwoman Nancy Pyle (PDF file here).

A select quote from the Reed/Pyle memo:

The San Jose Sharks have delivered on the promise of generating enormous economic impact year after year. The San Jose Earthquakes during their existence here had a loyal following of supporters and generated good economic activity. We want to support efforts that enhance the quality of life of our people. Encouraging sporting teams, events and facilities, is one of the strategic initiatives that staffhas been working towards since the Council adoption ofthe Economic Development Strategy in November 2003.

This development proposal offers opportunities that could generate positive economic impacts. Having additional sports and entertainment options will help make San Jose a better place to live. The developer of the proposal has had a stake in the renaissance of San Jose since the 1970's; and continues to invest in the transformation of our community, which we appreciate.

The Cortese/Campos/Williams memo detailed potential problems, but endorsed moving forward:

In conclusion, the City Council must not lose sight of what is being asked of the city. We are, in fact, providing an extraordinary benefit to a developer who is then returning the same benefit to the city. In the process, that developer is gaining an exclusive right to negotiate a significant city owned property which has the ability to generate a sizeable financial return to that same developer, as well as securing a stadium for the developer's major league sports franchise.

Several members of the public, and various members of soccer related organizations expressed strong support in a short 30 minute public comment segment prior to the vote. Three individuals expressed concern about involving the local community around the stadium in the planning process, over a lack of space to expand Mineta airport in the future, and about making the best business decision possible for the city.

A small sample of the statements made during the public comment session:

"The Earthquakes are a business, but they also want to be a business that makes a difference. They want to work closely with the different communties within the city. For example, right now we are working with the Earthquakes, the planning commission and the Iranian community to bring a picture called 'Offsides', about the plight of Iranian women who wanted to see a soccer game and use the proceeds to build an Iranian-American cultural center. " - Soccer Silicon Valley board member Ned Zuparko

"The South Bay Adult Soccer League is the largest adult recreational soccer league in California. I represent over 10,000 players, managers and family members who play or have family members interested in soccer. I am here on behalf of those individuals to ask the City Council to support the return of the Earthquakes. I would just like to say that the proximity of the proposed stadium to the airport is ideal because it will get the Los Angeles Galaxy fans home that much faster." - David Chamberlain President/CEO South Bay Adult Soccer League.

"I played soccer here during the original Earthquakes era... I am here with a under 12 soccer team that I coach, and we are here to represent the entire youth soccer community in the Bay Area who could not be here who are adamantly supporting Mr. Wolff's proposal to build a stadium and bring the Earthquakes back to San Jose where they belong." - Former NASL San Jose Earthquake Easy Perez.

Instead of speaking to the City Council, I thought I would post my thoughts on this blog:

I have been a South Bay resident for over 30 years, in that time I have volunteered with youth athletics and teaching kids technology for 9 years, and also started one of the first sports blogs which has been covering South Bay sports for almost 10 years. My father coached youth soccer in the South Bay for 24 years, and every one of my 6 brothers and 1 sister (congratulations on graduating from U of Washington last weekend Michelle) played soccer in the South Bay.

In addition to regularly attending both iterations of the NASL and MLS San Jose Earthquakes (including one of Pele's two visits to Spartan Stadium), I have also attended Brazil vs Germany and USA vs Costa Rica during the 1984 Olympic preliminary games held at Stanford in front of over 78,000 people, every game of the 1994 FIFA World Cup at Stanford, including Brazil's 1-0 win over the U.S. Men's National team in a Round of 16 game on July 4th in front of over 84,000 fans, the U.S. Women's National team 2-0 win over Brazil during the FIFA Women's World Cup Semifinals at Stanford in 1999 in front of over 73,000 fans, and a number of international friendlies, college, youth, and minor league soccer games across the South Bay.

Soccer has a long tradition in San Jose and the Bay Area, and the impact a team and the stadium will have on locals and on the influx of new residents will have a galvanizing effect on the community. The proposed stadium is near one of the best local public transportation corridors, which would benefit soccer fans and those attending other entertainment events. But the greatest impact would be on the youth in the South Bay. The room for kids to play on a sandlot or in a cherry orchard is not there any more, and local schools and athletic organizations have a difficult time providing what is needed for youth athletics. If it is possible to include mutliple fields in the proposed stadium plan, this would not only be a showcase for the city, but it would be an asset for soccer players young and old for many generations, and maybe the stray cricket player.

The Logitech Ice Center in San Jose has become known as the largest hockey and ice skating facility on the West Coast. Through youth hockey tournaments, college hockey games, NHL traning camps, and ice skating competitions, it has had a very big impact on the Bay Area as a whole. A new soccer Stadium or soccer complex in San Jose has the possibilty to have an exponentially greater impact. The developer is asking for an extraordinary development opportunity, but what he is offering in return is too much for the city to turn down.

Upcoming on the soccer schedule: June 30th - CD Chivas de Guadalajara vs. Busan I'Park (South Korea), July 14th - Disney Friendship Cup Chelsea vs Club America, July 28th - U.S. Women's National team vs Japan.

[Update] USA Men's National Team overwhelms China 4-1 in San Jose soccer friendly - Sharkspage.

[Update2] Quakes tie Galaxy 1-1, Los Angeles advances, San Jose's MLS future uncertain - Sharkspage.


Max Giese: 2007 Mock NHL and San Jose Sharks Draft

The 2007 NHL Entry Draft from Columbus, Ohio on June 22nd is approaching fast, and this year's crop of prospects is more wide open than usual. There is a consensus top 13 in this draft, but after that the it is going to open up. Fans should expect a number of wild card and off the board selections.


1) Chicago Blackhawks – RW Patrick Kane, OHL: Chicago needs instant offense and Patrick Kane is the most dynamic offensive talent in the draft. Their staff is rumored to like Van Riemsdyk though too, but it would be a mistake for Chicago to take anyone besides Kane.

2) Philadelphia Flyers – C Kyle Turris, BCHL: Flyers have shown a lot of interest in his game breaking two-way center with exceptional speed and skill. They are also targeting James Van Riemsdyk but Turris is the guy Philadelphia should take despite their depth at center already.

3) Phoenix Coyotes – RW James Van Riemsdyk, USNTDP: His skill and power from the wing fits in perfectly with their skillful and powerful centers in their system (Mueller, Hanzal, Wheeler). His character and leadership will also help this team down the road as he could be a future captain.

4) Los Angeles Kings – D Karl Alzner, WHL: Lombardi loves to build around defenseman and Alzner is a sure thing. Him and Jack Johnson can form an exceptional 1-2 punch on Kings the back end in the near future.

5) Washington Capitals – RW Alexei Cherepanov, RUS: They get arguably the most talented player in the draft at fifth overall. Washington isn’t shy of taking a Russian and he will fit in well with their locker room.

6) Edmonton Oilers – RW/LW Jakub Voracek, QMJHL: The Oilers are targeting Alzner but with him gone they will take the best player available. Voracek deserves to go much higher for his combination of skill, power, and creativity.

7) Columbus Blue Jackets – C Sam Gagner, OHL: They need to draft smart and gritty two-way hockey players. Gagner is a great start and is the play making center they covet.

8) Boston Bruins – LW Angelo Esposito, QMJHL: His speed and creativity will fit in perfectly down the road with Kessel. The Bruins have intriguing young defensive talent but need to keep adding star power up front which Esposito does.

9) St. Louis Blues – D Ryan McDonagh, NCAA: The Blues will take the best player available and fill needs later in the draft. They aren’t afraid to be patient and take a high school player as they have an exceptional scouting staff in Minnesota.

10) Florida Panthers – D Keaton Ellerby, WHL: Panthers love big defenseman that can skate. Ellerby can be a future horse if they are careful with him.

11) Carolina Hurricanes – C Zach Hamill, WHL: Hurricanes need to draft a top end offensive talent to add to their system and Hamill is exactly what they are looking for.

12) Montreal Canadians – D Kevin Shattenkirk, USNTDP: Montreal is sky high on this puck moving defenseman as they have no one like him in their system.

13) Toronto Maple Leafs – RW Billy Sweatt, NCAA: Toronto goes for the safe bet as they bring in instant speed and character to their wings.

14) Colorado Avalanche – D Nick Petrecki, USHL: Fills the need for a premiere defensive prospect in the system. Colorado drafts big name guys, and scouts have known about Petrecki since he was 15.

15) Edmonton Oilers – C Logan Couture, OHL: With three picks in the first round the Oilers will try to make sure they get full value. Couture is a safe pick and is the two-way center and mature mentally athlete that they are looking to build around.

16) Anaheim Ducks – C Patrick White, USHS: Anaheim’s staff has been high on White all season and he brings the skill and two-way game they covet.

17) New York Rangers – RW Max Pacioretty, USHL: Rangers covet character and upside, something Pacioretty has in spades.

18) Calgary Flames – C Brandon Sutter, WHL: Even if his last name wasn’t Sutter, Brandon would still be the pick. He’s exactly what Daryl wants to build his team around. Brandon brings size, grit, and an exceptional two-way game to go a long with a blossoming skill set.

19) Minnesota Wild – D Nick Ross, WHL: Wild usually draft the best athlete that has the potential to develop into a complete player, Ross fills that criteria.

20) Pittsburgh Penguins – D Tommy Cross, USHS: Much like last years second selection Sneep, Cross is the big, mobile, and smart defender the Penguins need.

21) Phoenix Coyotes – RW Maxim Mayorov, RUS: Gretzky wants speed and dynamic offensive ability which is what you can hang your hat on with Mayorov.

22) Montreal Canadiens – D Ian Cole, USNTDP: Montreal is targeting defenseman and if Cole falls to their second round selection they will bite.

23) Philadelphia Flyers – RW Brett MacLean, OHL: Big and offensive power winger that would compliment Philadelphia’s young depth at center.

24) St. Louis Blues – LW Simon Hjallmarsson, SWE: Came a live at the U-18’s and the Blues have a knack for finding talented Swede’s late in the first round.

25) Vancouver Canucks – RW Colton Gillies, WHL: Safe pick and near NHL ready, Gillies brings size and speed to a team that needs his warrior attitude in the playoffs.

26) St. Louis Blues – C Lars Eller, SWE: More skill up front for the Blues as Eller is a talented play making center with exceptional speed.

27) Detroit Red Wings – LW Mikael Backlund: Red Wings aren’t afraid to take a talented player who just had a rough season. It looks like it probably worked for them in 2005 with Jakub Kindl. Backlund was projected as a top 5 pick but now won’t be selected until the second half of the first round and the Wings may just have a steal on their hands.

30) Washington Capitals – C James O'Brien, NCAA: The capitals can take afford to take a risk on this big, mobile, and feisty defenseman/forward that is still quite raw.

31) Ottawa Senators – RW Luca Cunti, SWISS: Senators hit a home run on a Havlat in 1999 and could take a similar chance on a kid with world class skill but questionable character.

32) Edmonton Oilers – D Thomas Hickey, WHL: Small but feisty and skilled, Hickey fits the high tempo game the Oilers play.

Barring any trades this will be the first year since 2000 that the Sharks will not have a draft selection in the first round. Fans should not let that damper their excitement as this year's draft as a whole is extremely wide open, and a player selected 41st overall may be just as good as one selected 21st overall.

The Sharks would do well to obtain as many late round selections as possible as this draft is very deep in talent from the 3rd round through the 7th. The Sharks do not have any organizational needs so they will have the luxury of selecting the best player available. It will be interesting to see if the Sharks continue to neglect Europe, as they have not taken a player from across the pond since 2004.

If the Sharks feel they need to get into the first round, they have the ammunition to do so and they could trade a second or third round picks to move up. The asking price for a late first round selection should be lower than usual. There has been talk about the Sharks trying to move one of their goaltenders, and a draft day deal involving Vesa Toskala is a possibility. If San Jose does pull the trigger, it likely will not be for a first round pick in this years draft. The 2008 class has special top end talent, and it will be difficult to pry a high selection loose.

A San Jose Sharks Mock Draft:

2nd Round, 41st Overall (Carolina’s second round selection, acquired from Pittsburgh): D John Negrin, Kootenay Ice WHL

He’s the kind of defenseman the Sharks seem target at the draft. He’s a big, mobile, and extremely smart defensive defenseman. Luckily for the Sharks because of some freak injuries and the fact that offensive defenseman are more in demand, Negrin might just fall to them at this spot. While he’s not an offensive type he sees the ice well and is a mature passer. While for a big defenseman he’s devoid of a mean streak, he is an impressive defender as his one on one positioning and stick work is exemplary much like Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

3rd Round 84th overall: RW Aaron Palushaj, Des Moines Buccanears USHL

Sharks should take a chance on a pure offensive talent and this is the guy they should take that chance on. Palushaj can be best summed up as a poor mans Thomas Vanek who will play for the Michigan Wolverines next fall. He has a long reach with velvety hands and can stickhandle through traffic. What separates him is his ability around the net. Aaron is exceptional at bearing down and finishing as well as creating a play by threading the needle with a pass through heavy traffic near the net. He’s patient, creative, and just oozes offensive upside.

4th Round 114th overall: G Kent Patterson, Cedar Rapids Rough Riders USHL

Patterson is the top goaltender in this years class as he possesses the upside to be the next Ryan Miller. Much like Miller he’s not receiving a lot of hype before the draft and this should favor the Sharks as they can likely get him in the mid rounds. Patterson plays for the same team that Sharks draft pick Alex Stalock played for and is much further a long at this stage in development than Stalock was.

5th Round 144th overall: C Alex Killorn, Deerfield Academy

Killorn is the prototypical forward the Sharks go after. He has decent size, great feet, and tremendous hockey sense. Alex is also a mature person with leadership qualities and is a good student as he’s committed to Harvard. Killorn is a play making center that uses his speed to be dangerous one on one. He’s a good two-way player who works hard away from the puck and shows some tenacity in the corners.

6th Round 166th overall (Pick acquired from Colorado for Michael Vernace): D Drew MacKenzie, Taft Prep

Big stay at home defenseman with decent feet and a blossoming mean streak that is committed the University of Vermont for the fall of 2008. Was selected in the first round of the USHL draft by the Waterloo Blackhawks where he will play next season. MacKenzie is a heady and mature defenseman with very few flaws that is viewed as a safe pick to play in the NHL for any team that is willing to be patient with him.

6th Round 174th overall: RW Matt Marshall, Nobles Prep

This year is a strong year for eastern high school talent and the Sharks likely will target a few eastern prep players in this draft. One that makes a lot of sense is winger Matt Marshall who plays a similar style of hockey as Sharks prospect Torrey Mitchell. Matt would bring a lot of exciting intangibles to the Sharks including his elite top gear and his gritty two-way play. He also possesses poise with the puck and displayed impressive vision and creativity while quarterbacking the power play this year. Matt Marshall is only a junior this season and will attend the University of Vermont in 2008.

7th Round 202nd overall (Pick acquired from Pittsburgh): G Timo Pielmeier, Germany

The best draft eligible goaltender from Germany since Thomas Greiss, Pielmeier displays the kind of athleticism and raw tools the Sharks covet and could mold into something special down the road. He’s very intriguing because he possesses exceptional feet and lateral movement. Right now he’s a wild horse in the net but with some coaching and discipline, he has the talent to be a starter some day.

7th Round 204th overall: RW Craig Smith, Waterloo Blackhawks USHL

No other team is more familiar with Craig Smith than the Sharks. Their Western US scout is Pat Funk who would’ve seen Smith over the past few years at the Wisconsin High School and USHL levels. But even more interesting is that Pat Funk’s son John Funk was Smith’s head coach during his two years of high school hockey in Madison Wisconsin. He’s also a Sharks type of player as he’s gritty, fast, and blessed with top end hockey sense. He could be a similar steal in the way that Joe Pavelski was and is already on the same development path playing Wisconsin High School, then the USHL, and then onto the NCAA playing for the Wisconsin Badgers.

The official NHL Entry Draft page from NHL.com is available here.

Blackhawks win Draft Drawing, gain first pick - NHL.com.

The Chicago Blackhawks won the National Hockey League Draft Drawing... and gained the first overall drafting position for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, June 22 and 23 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

The Blackhawks, who would have picked fifth based on inverse order of regular-season finish, had the fifth-greatest percentage likelihood, 8.1%, that one of the numbered sequences assigned to them would be the winning combination. Under the lottery system, only the five teams with the fewest points had the chance to win the first overall selection; no team could move up more than four spots and no team could move backward more than one.

The Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals, who would have picked first, second, third and fourth, respectively, now own the second, third, fourth and fifth drafting positions in the first round.

[Update] The new hockey prospect blog at NHL DraftBuzz has been added to the development blogroll to the right. NDB will be reviewing prospects and projecting their draft day status at a good clip up until D-Day in Columbus.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere 2-page photo published

Anaheim Ducks Jean-Sebastien Giguere

This photo of Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere was published as a 2-page poster in the February issue of the German Eishockey World magazine.


ECHL Notes - Idaho Steelheads win Kelly Cup, Edmonton Oilers renew affiliation with Stockton

Patrick J. Kelly Cup

- The Idaho Steelheads earned their second ECHL Kelly Cup Championship last week with a 4-1 series win over the Dayton Bombers. Idaho goaltender Steve Silverthorn made 33 saves on 34 shots in the decisive 4-1 win, and walked away with playoff MVP honors after the game. Left wing John Lammers scored twice, and Greg Rallo and Lance Galbraith each contributed a goal for the Steelheads. Tim Konsorada put Dayton on the board at the end of the second period.

- Cup Holders! Steelheads claim second Kelly Cup - Idaho Statesman.

Idaho won three consecutive games in Dayton to close out the series 4-1, and with the win Brogna lost the mustache he's worn for 32 years. He made a bet with Steelheads veteran Darrell Hay. If Idaho won it all, Brogna would lose the facial hair.

"Now, I believe," Brogna said after having his beard and mustache trimmed off in the middle of a raucous, beer-soaked locker room.

- Idaho's ABC affiliate KIVI Channel 6 has video of the Steelheads players and fans celebrating the Kelly Cup Championship.

- Edmonton Oilers extend deal with Stockton Thunder - Stockton Record.

"I called (Edmonton assistant GM Scott Howson) once to set up a discussion, then we spoke for about a half an hour," (Stockton Thunder head coach Chris) Cichocki said. "They were very happy with the playing time their players got here, and we're happy to have the deal done so early."

Eight Oilers prospects spent time with the Thunder, including goalie Devan Dubnyk and defenseman Bryan Young, who played with the Oilers late in the season. Stockton was the Oilers' only affiliate last season, but Edmonton has acquired an American Hockey League club, the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons.

Howson said he expects to send between three to five players to Stockton. The Oilers begin their training camp in the first week of September, and will decide which players to send to Springfield before assigning prospects to the Thunder.

The Stockton Thunder appeared in their first Kelly Cup Playoff series, they play in an impressive second year building, and the franchise drew the most average fans per game in the ECHL for the second straight year. The fact that Edmonton acquired a new AHL affiliate in Springfield will mean the upward pull on talent will be stronger, but it would be harder to find a better ECHL setup than Stockton.

Edmonton's last AHL affiliate, the Roadrunners, faced off against the Cleveland Barons for one game in San Jose during the NHL lockout. The Roadrunners moved from Toronto to Edmonton for one season in 2004-05 before suspending operations the following year. The Cleveland Barons, the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate from 2001 to 2006, moved to Worcester for 2006-07.

- The ECHL announced earlier this summer that the Stockton Thunder will host the 2007-08 Allstar Game on January 22-23. The Skills Competition will take place on Tuesday, January 22nd, with the game itself scheduled for Wednesday, January 23rd. When it is released, ticket information will be available on stocktonthunder.com.

- Idaho Steelheads left wing Lance Galbraith lead the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs in scoring with 27 points and 16 assists. Vince Bellissimo, formerly of Western Michigan, finished with a playoff high of 12 goals for the Florida Everblades. Gwinnett Gladiators center Brad Schell won the ECHL regular season scoring race with 110 points (25G, 85A, 63GP) before being called up to the AHL Chicago Wolves. Mike Wirll scored 47 goals in 73 games played with three different teams (Utah Grizzlies, Pensacola Ice Pilots, Cincinnati Cyclones) to lead the league.

- ECHL won't turn blind eyeFalcons official violated league policy when he played the tune 'Three Blind Mice.' - Fresno Bee.

Three minutes for "Three Blind Mice". Fresno Falcons account executive and part time music programmer Dan Poolman was sent to the penalty box late in a regular season game after disputing a call by the referees. Poolman decided to play "Three Blind Mice" over the sound system, and he earned 3:42 in the penalty box as a result. In depth reporting by Ken Robison of the Fresno Bee notes that the referees were not overreacting, there is an actual rule on the ECHL books banning the song "Three Blind Mice" by any public address system or organist. Robison also offers a few choice music suggestions.

- Former Falcon suing over ice, Defenseman alleges 'inferior conditions' led to season-ending injury - Fresno Bee.

- Added Anchorage Daily News reporter Doyle Woody's hockey blog to the media blogroll.

- The new AHL franchise in Cleveland will be called the Lake Erie Monsters. The Colorado Avalanche affiliate will begin play in the North Division of the Western Conference. The AHL has yet to expand to the West Coast, where markets like Sacramento, Portland or Seattle could be a home for a successful American Hockey League franchise.

[Update] ECHL Playoff MVP and USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year - The Des Moines Register hockey blog notes that playoff MVP Steve Silverthorn (16-6 playoff record, 1.77GAA, .931SV%) signed a 1-year contract with the AHL Iowa Stars, and that USHL Des Moines Buccaneers defenseman Jeff Petry was named the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year.

[Update2] AHL Worcester Sharks team highlights and season in review - Sharkspage. Max Giese will cover the new Quad City Flames AHL franchise (Calgary), and Darryl Hunt will occasionally post about the AHL Worcester Sharks (San Jose) for 2006-07.


USA Men's National Team overwhelms China 4-1 in San Jose soccer friendly

USA soccer Damarcus Beasley
USA vs China soccer friendly
Chinese national soccer team

In front of 20,821 fans, China held tight with the U.S. Men's National team for about 20 minutes in an international soccer friendly at San Jose on Saturday. The defending CONCACAF Gold Cup champion Americans powered past China's "B" team with a 4-1 win, worked out the 4-3-2-1 formation for head coach Bob Bradley's first "non-interim" game, and took a good look at the next wave of American soccer talent in the process.

Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley was taken down hard in front of the Chinese goal, and he opened the scoring on a subsequent penalty kick. Zhang Yaokun followed that up capitalizing on a turnover from about 25 feet out to equalize for China. San Jose's field is narrower and shorter than most other MLS fields because of the legacy stadium layout. It forced both teams to battle for more 50-50 balls, and as the match progressed the United States was clearly the side better suited to the physical play. A shot by Benny Feilhaber was deflected into the net after a strong challenge by goaltender Chen Dong, and a goaline kick by Zhang Yaokun. Feilhaber was sent hard into the grass with his legs taken out from under him, but he hopped to his feet to celebrate with Sacha Kljestan and Beasley. Clint Dempsey and Oguchi Onyewu also scored on headers for the U.S. team in the second half.

Damarcus Beasley was all over the field for USA, able to stop and start on a dime to create room in close quarters. The USMNT team cycled through all of its 6 reserve players, and fans got a brief look at young second half subs Lee Nguyen, Charlie Davies, and Berkeley's own Kamani Hill. Nguyen stutter-stepped two Chinese players at midfield, and was taken down just in front of the box as a result. The talent is there, and he plays for PSV Eindhoven in Holland, but he needs to put on some size (5,8, 149). Hill did not get a chance to run with the ball much before time ran out.

U.S. head coach Bob Bradley from the post-game press conference:

Overall we were pleased with the effort. I think that we got a lot out of this game. Anytime you play on this field in San Jose, the fact that it is a little smaller sharpens-up a lot of things. Generally, I felt that there were a lot of good efforts... it is good for us, going into the Gold Cup, to get a game like this under our belts.

Kamani Hill, Charlie Davies, Lee Nguyen, and Sacha Kljestan all got their first caps tonight. All four of are players that are Olympic age as well... players that we think have shown with their club teams that they are capable of helping the Olympic team and the full national team. Anytime you have a full week of training it's a good chance for them to settle in. They all did a good job throughout the week and it was nice to get them their first caps.

I think that we have made a lot of progress this year. Tactically, we have worked hard as a team to establish good movement. We work hard so that when the ball turns over, there aren’t big gaps in the field. We work hard so as we get the ball, we are not just passing it and not going anywhere, but we are passing with the kind of movement that creates openings in the defense. I think that I have seen, in all games, improvement in that regard. But, it never stops. So it is something that we have to continue to focus upon.

We started this game 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1, whatever you want to call it. It is something that we have not done so far this year. We worked this week so that the back group of four and the three in front of them had a little idea of how to do that. We were not satisfied after 25 minutes. I felt that we were not doing a good enough job in the center of the field, so at that point DaMarcus came a little bit deeper, and Michael [Bradley] went inside with Benny so I felt that now we were more solid in the center. I keep saying that in the games we have played those two together, the combination has been pretty good. They complement each other. At that point, I felt our ability to be on top of loose balls, connect a little faster, and moved a little bit better. We will keep trying to keep working on all phases so we have flexibility in terms of how we play.

USA thumps China in Gold Cup tuneup - Fox Sports.

With many of the stars on the U.S. national team playing with Major League Soccer clubs this weekend, some of the younger players got a chance to show they can contribute in international play.

Fresh faces from faraway places - San Jose Mercury News.

The U.S. national team that took the field at Spartan Stadium against an outmatched China team was barely recognizable. Missing were most of the faces that played in last summer's World Cup. Many - such as Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride - have retired. Others - Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson - weren't available because they have Major League Soccer commitments.

An audio slideshow is available from the Merc here.

[Update] And now, the Earthquakes press roundup - Soccer Silicon Valley.

[Update2] Pass the Dutch-ie - That's On Point.

For the first 60-odd minutes it was like my prayers had been answered. One-touch passing. Diagonal balls. Fluid, attacking soccer. There's something to be said when eight of your 11 starters had just come off a European season. The team looked poised on the ball, sharp. Fit.

The absolute apex of this came in the 32nd minute, in perhaps the best sequence I've seen by the USMNT in nearly two decades of watching it.

It began with a weighted ball up by Michael Bradley deep in his own half to Sasha Kljestan, who ran it down right on the touchline. Kljestan found his Chivas USA teammate Ante Razov with a looping cross to the left penalty area. Razov could have volleyed on the China net, but instead headed to an on-rushing Clint Dempsey, who in turn flicked a header to a rampaging DaMarcus Beasley. The Beaz threaded a pass back to Razov on the left side of the area...too bad his shot was blocked by China keeper Chen Dong.