Saturday, November 28, 2009

A time to admit the obvious

I suppose while the Avalanche are playing like crap, it's not a bad time to distract ourselves with some fun and excitement. Enter the Avalanche blog-off at The NHL Arena.

I received an email this evening letting me know that I was among the folks in the running to be declared the official Avalanche blog and the first thought that came to my head was "Who would vote for me?"

My immediate thought right after that was "Damn, that's a harsh realization." Granted it isn't out of line with my thoughts on my blogging performance of late, but it was still a bit of a slap in the face. And when you deliver a slap in the face to yourself, it hurts all the more.

I'm going to come clean on a few things here in what became a bit of a manifesto. It began as I drove home tonight from a bar where I was trying to forget about the Avs blowing a 2-0 lead. It wasn't the greatest plan since I don't drink anymore but the important part is that I tried, right?

First, as some of the long-time readers may remember, I struggled with health issues over the last couple years which were bad enough to cause me to cancel a trip to Denver. I still remember the day I decided to call off the trip. It was a gut-wrenching decision and one that I still question to this day.

While I'm well on the road to recovery and have figured out the cause - no thanks to any of my "doctors" - there are still lingering issues I'm battling with, most notably fatigue and head clarity.

Second, I work hard and take my job very seriously. I don't consider myself a workaholic any more but I exhaust a lot of energy at the office, energy that I sometimes don't have thanks to the aforementioned health issues.

Given that I hadn't taken a vacation completely away from work in years, you've got the recipes for a case of burnout. And the best part about my personality is that I'm stubborn as hell and proud as hell so I didn't want to admit to myself that I'd had enough until it was too late.

And so we arrive to this post where I'm admitting the obvious - for the past three months my heart just hasn't been in it. When I say "it", I'm referring to life on a whole but more specifically to blogging.

It started to feel like a job with a standard script: write a preview, write a recap, be snarky yet insightful, call out bad reporting, forget to praise good reporting, rinse, lather, repeat.

I sat by as new blogs popped up and other blogs expanded in coverage. And it was hard to see that all happening while my blog slid downhill. I felt a little bit like Fat Bastard. I was unhappy because I wasn't blogging, and I wasn't blogging because I was unhappy.

In fact, on more than one occasion I toyed with the idea of simply shutting it down. I didn't feel it fair to myself or to the Avalanche fan base to be putting in a half-baked effort. You all deserve the best coverage and commentary possible and I wasn't contributing to it.

Of course, that's an extreme measure and one I don't want to take. I enjoy writing, I love the Avalanche and it just makes sense to combine the two. That I've gotten a lot of recognition for my work has been rewarding as well. I'm not an attention-whore by any means but being involved in things like a CBC live-chat provide a large source of personal pride which everybody needs to have.

I'd love to end this post with a simple statement of "I'm back!" but I'm just not there yet. I've gone through a lot of moments where I felt I was back to 100% only to realize I was kidding myself, my friends and my fans.

But I am coming back. I'm nothing if not competitive and I feel the fire building up again. I won't declare the flame lit until I'm confident I can back it up though. I will continue to write and the level will improve, but it won't be the extensive coverage and commentary I used to churn out on a daily basis.

I'll end this by saying thanks to everyone who reads this blog with an extra special thanks to the ones who take the time to brave Blogger's arcane commenting system to add additional insight to it. And if you didn't want to brave it and ended up firing me an email, it's gold stars for you too.

In the meantime, you can't go wrong with any Avalanche blog out there and you really should be reading them all and not limiting yourself to one or two.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Avalanche vs Wild - Game Preview

I just got back from Vegas last night and there's an Avs game starting in less than two hours. I guess my luck is starting to turn.

I was completely disconnected for the last 5 days and it felt very relaxing. But I'm ready to dive back in to the online world.

But first, I'm going to relax and watch the game and enjoy the weekend. Then, hopefully I'll be back in full force.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Avalanche @ Canucks - Game Preview

The Avs are going to get smoked tonight. I mean, bad. Epic proportions.

See what I'm trying to do there? The last time I got cocky, the Avs got destroyed. So this time, I'm reverse jinxing them.

Avs surge ahead


After Calgary laid an egg against Chicago last night, the Avalanche now have a firm grip on first in the Northwest division. And by firm, I mean 3 points of course. Would you rather that be a pliable hold? Tenuous, perhaps?

Liles and Galiardi return


Sweet! I'm stoked to see both of those players back. Galiardi's impact was missed on the PK and anchoring that fourth line. Hopefully there's no rust from their lengthy layoffs.

Wilson not suspended


Totally agree with Jib here and it's unfortunate that he wasn't suspended for a game. I'm guessing this was the "first time offender" sentencing at play. Which I don't agree with either.

Twit death


Dater is done with Twitter. Ok. Not much to say there except if I misused a hammer by trying to tighten a pipe with it...I probably wouldn't stop using the hammer. I just wouldn't use it in that way.

Though I will say that I've been a long-time twitter user and recently took a break - as I did with many online ventures such as this blog - and feel a bit refreshed because of it.

That I'm on vacation for a week as of right now probably helped that feeling along.

Game time


The puck drops at 10:08pm ET (yikes!). Be there or be...sleeping.

Footnote


That call against the Wings was terrible. I can understand the frustration and anger. I don't like it because it makes hockey look bad and the idea that the ref is infallible in his judgment is ludicrous when all evidence says to the contrary. But it was the Wings...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Avalanche 2 - Canucks 800; Game Thoughts

The new third jerseys are cursed and should never be worn again.

And I'll never trash talk Roberto Luongo again because he apparently reads this blog and was not happy with my cockiness.

Stupid karma.

Avalanche vs Canucks - Game Preview

It's game day once again and tonight, the Colorado Avalanche are hosting the Vancouver Canucks at the Pepsi Center.

Luongo suits up


This will be Roberto Luongo's second start since returning from a rib injury and he couldn't have come back sooner, with Andrew Raycroft finally showing his true form.

Against the Avalanche though, Luongo is a it less like Darkseid and a bit more like Dr. Horrible with a 2.97 GAA and .898 save percentage in 25 games against. So you'll have to pardon me for feeling a bit cocky about the matchup.

I hope someone catches the connection between the headline and the second paragraph. I bet Jori will...

Jersey foul


The Avalanche's new third jersey is a foul in and of itself. I still don't mind the "uniprons" but I'm with Tapeleg here, these just aren't doing it for me. I know the Avs colors are burgundy and blue, but they shouldn't have barfed blue all over this jersey. It's too much. And where the hell is the yeti foot?

Hejduk Returns


The Avalanche will get Milan Hejduk back and it looks like he'll play with Matt Duchene. Most excellent. This also means that David Jones will stay on the top line and Marek Svatos will get bumped down to the third line. That's a win all the way across the board if you ask me.

Preissing Appears


Tom Preissing will suit up for the first time as a Colorado Avalanche. You know what? I'm excited to see what he'll do for this team. Don't expect a monster game as he'll need to find his groove again,

And note to Joe Sacco: this is so not a must win game. Look, I get what you're trying to do but if the team puts in a valiant effort and loses, that will still be forward progress.

Simon says


Today's game preview is a special edition which includes a Q&A; session with Simon from the Canucks blog Dan Cloutier for Vezina, where he also has posted a Q&A; session with myself.

With Roberto Luongo on the shelf, Andrew Raycroft helped carry the Canucks with some solid goaltending. Does this mean Vancouver will be more willing to rest Luongo and start Raycroft in hopes of keeping him fresh for a playoff run?

Probably not. Luongo is a guy that, while healthy, pretty much has to play every night. Even when it comes to optional practices during the season, Luongo will show up to work on his game and hates to take any time off. It even came to the point a while ago where the Canucks had to kick him off the ice from an optional skate just he’d take a break. So with all that being considered it seems pretty unlikely that Luongo will be sitting on the bench unless they are playing back-to-back on the road. The long fourteen game round trip surrounding the Olympics and the fact that Luongo will be playing in the Olympics means that Raycroft might get an extra start or two that back-up goalies typically don’t get here but ultimately I don’t see the team sitting down Luongo much at all now that he’s back.

Mikael Samuelsson was thought by many to be a product of a great team. So far, he is on pace to eclipse his season highs in points and goals. Do you think he can keep up this pace?

He probably can, but with that being said, I’d like to see him tidy up his overall game. Too often he is turning the puck over or is a defensive liability. Especially when he plays the point on the power play, if he as much as fumbles the puck, you can expect a great scoring chance for the other team. He’s a minus player on the team right now which is something that I’m sure the coaches would like to see him improve on. With all the injuries the Canucks have right now, they have been playing a defensive style of hockey which means they don’t have the luxury of being allowed to have guys who are frequently -1 or -2.

When the Canucks matched the Flyers offer sheet on Kesler, it appeared to drive up salaries for what would be considered grind-line player. Since then, Kesler has gone on to be a key cog for the Canucks. Does he appear to be future captain material for this team?

He absolutely is future captain material. If he stays in Vancouver then he’ll be waiting a long time for the ‘C’ since Luongo is here for the foreseeable future but Kesler is definitely one of the best leaders on the team. I see him more as a “leader by example” type rather than someone who is outspoken. That’s fine since no one plays harder than Kesler on a shift-to-shift basis than him. He can often go out and dominate a shift and you’ll see the type of potential he has to be a leader.

Looking back I don’t think too many people objected to the Canucks matching the offer sheet that Clarke put out there since Kesler showed a lot of signs for potential. When he first came into the league he had great speed but lacked any kind of finish. He got his game together playing on the checking line with Alex Burrows and I think Burrows and Kesler really fed off each other a few years ago when they were as automatic of a combo as Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Now that Burrows and Kesler are playing bigger and more offensive rolls they both have each other to thank for the chemistry they had on the checking line.

Was sending Cody Hodgson back to Brampton the right move for his future?

Yes, and looking back now Hodgson probably shouldn’t have been playing in the pre-season trying to earn a spot on the team. His back clearly hadn’t fully recovered from injuring it while working out prior to the Canadian World Jr. Camp. There isn’t much for him to accomplish in the OHL anymore and he might even get a little bored but it’s certainly better than having him confidence shattered by poor production in the NHL and losing a year of his entry level contract. I fully expect him to come back to camp next season and be more like the player the Canucks saw two years ago after being drafted and what we saw last December and January at the World Juniors.

Game time


The puck drops at 10:08pm ET and it's on the CBC, home of Don Cherry, Jim Hughson and Shane Giroux.

Related Links


MHH Game Preview

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CBC Sports Live Chat Replay

The live chat is over. Thanks to all who stopped by and those who fired a question my way. I was thinking and typing as fast as I could and we still couldn't get to all the questions!

You can replay all the action over at CBCSports if you missed it.

Hopefully you had a good reason to not waste an hour of your day with hockey chatter!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Live Chatting with CBC Sports

Tomorrow at 1:00pm ET, I'll be joining a live chat at CBC Sports to talk all things Avalanche.

If you have the time, please stop by and feel free to toss some questions my way. I might even be able to answer them coherently!

The gloves are coming off

David Staples over at The Cult of Hockey just threw down with Adrian Dater, bashing the Avalanche along the way.

AD twitted - from a sick bed, not from the press box - the following:
"Can't win 'em all at home. A shame the Avs had to finally lose to a dog team like Edmonton at home, though."

To say Edmonton is a dog team is a little harsh. The Avalanche didn't play horrible but they were certainly beat by the better team last night. If they lost to Minnesota, then yes that would be losing to a dog team. But nonetheless, Staples took offense as if Dater had fired a "Yo momma" shot across the bow.

Amidst a flury of knocks against the Avs and their fans, he decided to take a shot at the city itself:
"Denver is a great city. It's America's version of Calgary."

A guy from Edmonton knocking on Calgary? Seriously?

Thanks to Kukla as usual for digging this stuff up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Avalanche vs Oilers - Game Preview

The Oilers are on a 3-game losing streak and I always say that the longer a streak goes, the more likely it is to end. Unless you're Carolina, of course.

But I don't expect Edmonton's streak to end tonight. I'm feeling good. I believe the Avs are feeling good. And I believe they'll still be feeling it from their come-from-behind victory against the Blackhawks on Friday.

Settle in - or head to the game if you can - and get ready for what should be an exciting game. I'm hoping Kyle Quincey lays out Dustin Penner at some point.

What are you hoping for?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Avalanche 4 - Blackhawks 3; Game Highlights

If there's one thing we should know by now about this Avalanche squad, it's that a 2-goal deficit means the game is just getting started. With five minutes left on the clock and a 2-0 deficit, a lot of fans must have been thinking "If we can get just one goal, this game will be ours." I know I did.

Look up in the sky...


Who better to reward our faith than another gap-toothed favorite, Ryan O'Reilly. In what was thought to be Matt Duchene's year, Ryan O'Reilly has shown what this team has been missing for some time - a true 3rd-line center.

O'Reilly nabbed two goals tonight and as always, was solid from start to finish in both zones. When I watched O'Reilly during Team Canada's orientation camp scrimmages, you had the feeling that this kid was destined to be an excellent 3rd-line center. That it has happened so soon is gravy on top of what has been a sweet boat ride through the first fifth of the season.

Avast thar


Twice I've predicted David Jones to have a 30-goal season. Once, I was wrong. But this time, it's looking good. Jones' shorthanded goal in the 2nd period was the exact goal I expect him to score. That he did it by making Dustin Byfuglien look pedestrian on the point is all the better. If he can stay healthy, he's going to hit it.

Miscellany


I love Duncan Keith and can't wait to see him play for Team Canada in Vancouver. There's no way they can't put this guy on the squad.

What the hell was Andrew Ladd doing all alone in front of the Avs net on that third goal? Taking advantage of the Avs losing assignments again, that's what.

Cody Mcleod came back and laid out 6 hits. I think it's clear what the Highlander brings to this squad, eh?

Brett Clark with 12 blocked shots? I'm still not a fan of his defensive positioning but the man has brass balls.

Kyle Quincey broke the 30 minute barrier tonight. Beast! Adam Foote played 26 minutes. That's too much for him at his current speed. The Liles injury put them in a tough spot but Foote shouldn't be playing more than Scott Hannan.

Next game


The Edmonton Oilers are in town tomorrow night at 8:00pm ET. I think the Avs 6-0 winning streak at home will continue on.

Related Links


Advertising ABCs
MHH Recap
NHL.com Event Summary

Friday, November 6, 2009

Avalanche vs Blackhawks; Game Preview

Do you know what I was doing while the Avalanche were beating the Coyotes? Sleeping. That's right, I fell asleep before the game started and didn't wake up until 12 hours later when the game was won, the rejoicing was over, the worrying had started over Duchene's sore shoulder and the callouts had begun. Aside from missing the rejoicing, I was ok with sleeping through that.

Today? I'm ready to go. It's an hour until game time, I just chowed down a protein bar (just kidding, those are crap), chugged down an energy drink (just kidding, those are crap), beat up a Leafs fan (just kidding, they're all in hiding), put on my Avalanche jersey (I honestly did this) and slammed my butt down on the couch (just kidding, I have to cook supper first).

And if you're thinking to yourself "Don't cook with your jersey on! It's probably quite flammable. And prone to getting spilled on." Have no fear. The kitchen is a no-jersey zone. It comes off when I head in to the kitchen and goes back on when I come out.

"Why don't you just leave it off until you're done cooking?", you ask. Well, if I did that, how would the team get any good vibes out of me? Let's not get crazy here, folks!

I'm in a fairly good mood today - 30 minutes ago I was kick-dancing down the grocery aisles to "Love Shack", much to the chagrin of my better half - and I have no fears that the Avalanche might let me down tonight with a lackluster effort. Though there will undoubtedly be more of those to come this season, tonight will not be one of them.

So kick back, relax and enjoy what should be a hell of a hockey game. And hey, it's always fun to watch Huet get lit up, right?*

*What? I had to at least make some mention of the game in this post, didn't I?

Addendum: Huet isn't starting. So let's all laugh at Brian Campbell's contract, mkay?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Avalanche vs Canucks - Game Preview

A grueling October finally came to a close for the Avalanche and it could not have gone any better. Well, they could have done without all the injuries. And I suppose technically they did leave six of a possible 28 points on the table. But all things considered, this was a success beyond anyone's imaginations for a team pegged for dead last in the NHL.

The Avs kick off Movember with a stop in sunny Vancouver tonight to take on Andrew Raycroft and the Vancouver Canucks. It's the tail end of a four-game road trip that has seen them go 2-1 with wins against division foes Calgary and Edmonton. Wouldn't it be nice to grab a couple more points from the division tonight?

The Avalanche are having their depth tested early in the season. With Darcy Tucker, T.J. Galiardi, Matt Hendricks and Cody Mcleod out, we've seen a quick parade of AHL call-ups. And while the Avs are still holding firm in light of the injuries, they will start to catch up with them.

Thankfully, Craig Anderson has showed no signs of slowing down. When the defense fails, Neo has been there to bail them out. When the offense is lacking, Mr. Anderson to the rescue. When the team is firing on all cylinders, there he is. He is everyone, and he is no one.

Anderson leads the league with a .930 save percentage and 10 wins and is 3rd in GAA with 2.04. Combine that with being tied for #1 in the league in games played, I think we can all sleep easy with him in net.

And sleep easy tonight might be what many people will be doing even before this game starts at 10:00pm ET tonight. Thanks to daylight savings time and Saskatchewan's rebel ways, that means a 9:00pm start time for this guy. You lucky Coloradians (I didn't look that up, just took a stab at it) at least get it at 8:00pm. But given my computer science background, I'll still be up long after the game ends. bless flexible working hours!

I might even have a thought or two on the game before I hit the sack. Or I'll be busy playing Dungeons & Dragons while reading comic books and drinking Jolt cola.

Oh, and Marek Svatos will get goal #3 tonight (hey, it worked with Matt Duchene...)

Related Links


Anderson to make 15th straight start
Jay Onrait chats with Craig Anderson
One month in the books