Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wheel of Free Agency

The NHL's free agency period officially begins tomorrow at 1 pm. Usually it's the time of year when you see a lot of players switching teams, teams trading draft picks, or teams just trying to get some cap room. And in my opinion, I don't see how many insane movements we are actually going to see. The wheeling and dealing has always seemed to start the night of the draft before, with teams trying to move closer and closer to the top of the draft order to snag one of the coveted top picks. I didn't notice too much of that this year. Of course, I only watched most of the first round at the draft party. And there was free beer. And free food. And Chris Dingman. Who can be expected to fully concentrate on any deals the Minnesota Wild or St. Louis Blues are trying to cut? No offense to any Wild or Blues fans. Especially Jon Hamm.

There are some bigger questions like who is going to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a giant contract or what goalie the San Jose Sharks are going to secure. For my own Lightning, I just don't see a lot of moving or shaking on the horizon. For a few reasons: 1) There aren't too many goalies they could get that would fit their price range. Cap room is definitely an issue, especially when a contract extension for Steven Stamkos and a new contract for Marty St. Louis are looming after the 2010-11 season and 2) everything I have read seems to indicate that Yzerman and company are going to step back and watch the feeding frenzy for a while before stepping in to make their own decisions. Not too bad of an idea, personally. Let the big players move out of contention and then get down to business.

We don't necessarily need a marquee name, we need someone solid. Like a solid backup goalie, because I do think we have seen Niittymaki's time in Tampa come to an end. He had a good year last year and I am sure someone will be willing to pay him for that. I can see Chris Mason fill that void. Add a goalie, seriously look at the defensive core and sign Kurtis Foster, and maybe ink a good and affordable third line center. I would like to see them bring Zenon Konopka back next year, but I have a weakness for the fighters.

Excited to see what happens and I know I will have twitter open to follow TSN's coverage of the action. Let the games begin!

Baseball fans.. I swear I'll talk about it tomorrow. Don't feel left out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I read the news today, oh boy...

Brief update under terrible circumstances.

Two Tampa police officers were shot and killed early this morning while conducting a traffic stop. One suspect is in custody, the manhunt is still on for the shooter.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Officer Jeffrey Kocab and Officer Dave Curtis.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Can one of their sponsors donate a metric ton of bubble wrap?

Interleague play is finally over for the Red Sox this season. It was very fruitful for them in that they went 12-5 against National league opponents. If you would have told me the Sox bats would have chased Tim Lincecum from the game in the 3rd inning, I know I wouldn't have believed it. Even 2 time Cy Young award winners have bad games, but throwing 79 pitches by the third before getting pulled? Bananas.

On the not so rosy side of interleague play, three more Sox players went down with injuries. Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, and Victor Martinez all gone in three consecutive games. It makes me wonder if the boys shouldn't just be wrapped in bubble wrap or institute a mandatory two feet of personal space rule to keep the opposition at bay. I think the worst part of all is that with most of these injuries, it was just a freak thing. Pedie wasn't climbing the outfield wall on a dare, all it took was a foul ball. Not to diminish Clay and Victor's roles on the ball team, but Pedroia is the little, bad ass, trash talking, heart and soul of this team. I am pretty sure he asked them to cut off his broken foot because he didn't need it to win another Gold Glove.

Luckily, the All Star break is coming and will hopefully give the Sox a chance to rest and heal up. In the meantime, I will continue to marvel at their ability to insert a player into a role and have them just turn it up and keep on winning. The depth is pretty amazing, actually. I don't see the mounting injuries stopping the Sox, which really makes me excited for what will happen when everyone is healthy.

In brief hockey news, the Stanley Cup was in attendance at the Chicago Gay Pride this past weekend and I am just thrilled. I love to see the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks being so open to celebrating their championship. Brent Sopel and his wife were on a float with Stanley, and it just speaks even more about hockey players' integrity that he would spend part of his 24 hours with the cup doing this. Especially when he had just been traded to another team less than a week ago.

I am always proud to be a hockey fan, but I am very proud today that a league that is so diverse when it comes to fans in the stands and players on the ice is open to letting it's most iconic symbol be enjoyed and celebrated by everyone.

Brent Sopel has said in interviews that he was doing it as a tribute to Brendan Burke, the late son of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, who was killed in a car crash this past February only months after coming out to his family and hockey team members at Ohio University. A very touching tribute indeed.

You can read more about Lord Stanley at Chicago Pride here:

Or watch this:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Boys of Summer & Winter. And the NHL Draft.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how this first post would go. Set the tone for the blog and let everyone know exactly how things were going to go. No point in any smoke and mirrors, I am going to come right out and say it.

I am a Tampa Bay Lightning fan. I am also a Boston Red Sox fan.

If you don't think those two things go together, well.. not first time I have heard that. My hockey friends don't really want to hear me going on about a pitcher's ERA or someone's On Base Percentage. Most of my baseball friends don't really want to listen to me talking about an awesome top shelf goal or how many penalty minutes Zenon Konopka had last game. This is going to be an outlet for that. There has to be other people like me whose sports affection is divided between summer, winter, ice, and grass.

Might as well jump right in. The NHL draft took place on Friday, the Lightning had the 6th overall pick in the first round. The team had a draft party at the arena, so I went down there with some of my friends. I have been very interested in seeing how the franchise will move forward under the new ownership of Jeff Vinik. So far we have a new coach in Steve Yzerman, a state of the art rink system to improve the ice surface, and brand new Zambonis. As fans, we got so used to seeing the prior owners take things away, downsize, or promise things that just never happened. It's nice to see someone doing something to improve they Lightning, even if it is just by painting the building. Someone is doing something for the first time in a long time. And I have to say I'm optimistic. Cautious, but optimistic.

The Bolts ended up drafting Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars in the Western Hockey League. Some people in attendance at the draft party saw this as a bad pick. Was his season hurt by hip injuries? Sure. I have a harder time seeing a team take a defenseman so high in the draft because the forwards are generally NHL ready. Defensemen and goalies usually take longer to mature and grow into their position. I'm interested in seeing what Connolly can do. I might be partial because he seems like a good Irish kid.

And because he can do this:

I need to take a closer look at some of the guys my team drafted in the later rounds, but overall I am feeling pretty good about the draft. The fact that this is the last hockey related event for a while doesn't feel as good.

Tomorrow: Red Sox are up.