Friday, January 26, 2007

Upon Further Review . . .

Well, it looks like this is the end of the line for There It Is. I grew disenchanted with the Flyers -- a 2-9-1 record in December will do that -- the holidays hit, and then I came down with a bug that knocked me flat.

During the downtime, I reflected on what I had been writing and what I wanted to do. I came to the conclusion that I wasn't happy at all with the way things were going. I had been flirting with the idea of re-vamping the site with a new layout anyway, so I figured why not just start from scratch.

Thus, you can now visit me at Dynamo 26, where you'll still find plenty of hockey content, but hopefully peppered with coverage of other topics (that's the plan, anyway).

There It Is was fun while it lasted and I thank all of you for stopping by my little corner of the world. Please keep the love going by visiting my new venture.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stay Tuned

John Buccigross dropped a few hints about the future of him and the NHL in the e-mail section of yesterday's column:

With an almost perfectly accurate prediction of Crosby's G/A/PTS total last year, and then writing that the Blues would fire their coach within the week only a day before it happened, I might have to start asking you when I want to know anything about the hockey future. Go Leafs!

Jeffrey Turner
U.S. Naval Academy

The NHL will soon announce they will continue their relationship with Versus for at least the next two years. And I will eat 18 pounds of cheese in 2007.

[ . . . ]


ESPN wants its fans to create the ultimate lineup, "using a pool of 50 forwards selected by our NHL experts." I'm praying that you were not in this group of "experts" that left Joe Sakic off of that list! Say it ain't so. And while you're at it: How about your list? Who makes your four lines of the NHL's all-time best forwards?


I was not among the experts who made up's list. I am neither esteemed nor respected at the Worldwide Leader in NBA highlights. Most of the ESPN suits have no idea I even work here. This time next year, I'll be hosting the "World Barbecue Challenge" on Versus and they'll be like, "I know I've seen that guy somewhere before."
A lot of what Buccigross says in the e-mail section is tongue-in-cheek, but he does like to play "I Told You So" every once in a while (like earlier in the column, for instance). I doubt that if he were planning on moving to Versus that ESPN would let him talk about it. That being said, I hope it's true. Versus desperately needs a nightly NHL highlight show a la NHL 2Nite.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

More On Zhitnik

From Tim Panaccio:
The Flyers are 16 points behind Carolina - tomorrow's opponent - for the eighth and final playoff spot. According to general manager Paul Holmgren, the decision to trade for Zhitnik should be a signal to fans that the club has not conceded the season.

The reality is, with a six-game losing streak and another injury to captain Peter Forsberg, the Flyers are out of the playoff picture.

The team already has a long list of free agents it will go after in the summer and is focusing on getting a fairly high draft pick - perhaps the No. 1 overall - for the first time in decades.

Sending the 25-year-old Freddy Meyer to the Island for Zhitnik will help the Flyers in their rebuilding.
I don't see how trading a young player and a high draft pick for an older player with a bad contract helps in the rebuilding process.

From Ed Moran:
Saturday's trade with the Islanders that brought Alexei Zhitnik is sure to be followed by critics saying that trading the young Freddy Meyer for the veteran defenseman was a move contrary to everything the Flyers have said about staying young at all costs.

But there are limits. One veteran out of six defensemen doesn't cut it. The Flyers have been talking to the Islanders about getting Zhitnik for weeks.

When Mike Rathje went on long-term disability, his salary became available and the trade for a young defenseman for old makes sense.

Zhitnik for Meyer is a good move because it provides needed experience from a player capable of playing a lot of minutes and running a power play from the blue line.
Well, I agree that one veteran defenseman out of six doesn't work. However, what's the point to adding a veteran for this season? The Flyers will not make the playoffs. No way, no how. They should be trying to build for the future. Meyer was that future. Zhitnik is not.

From Bullies Blog:
This is a move that would make a lot more sense for a team trying to contend for the playoffs or look to make a championship run. I think we can all agree that the Flyers history of trading younger players for older veterans hasn’t exactly helped the squad.

Maybe General Manager Paul Holmgren thinks the Flyers are a lot closer to competing than some of us do. Maybe he’s right, we’ll have to wait and see.

But this sure looks like something you’d see from Bob Clarke, which doesn’t exactly fill me with the most confidence.
Amen, brother.

From Flyers Fan Central:
Personally I am not sure how much I like this trade from a Flyers fan standpoint although the longer I think about it the more it seems to make sense.
I don't see how this makes sense at all. Before the season started the Devils had to cough up a first-round draft pick to help clear cap space. Meanwhile, we pay a third- or second-round pick to help someone else clear cap space? I'm still shaking my head.

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Second Verse, Same As The First

On Saturday, the Flyers traded defenseman Freddy Meyer and a conditional draft pick to the New York Islanders for defenseman Alexei Zhitnik. The draft pick is reported to be the Islanders' choice of either a third-round pick in the 2007 draft or a second-round pick in 2008.

When I told my significant other about this move, her first reaction was, "Seriously, are they trying to finish last overall?" I couldn't have said it better myself.

I'm still trying to figure this one out. Each time that I look at it, though, the answer is the same -- this trade makes zero sense. In trading away Meyer, the team is losing a young, swift, tenacious puck-moving defenseman who, oh by the way, is making just $525,000 this year. You are also losing an upper-round draft pick, which is not an insignificant loss given the salary cap.

In acquiring Zhitnik, the team is getting a defenseman who is on the downside of his career, is making $3.5 million for this year AND the next two, but one who can also move the puck and help the younger defensemen on the team learn how to play in both ends of the rink.

All in all, I don't like this trade. I don't hate it as much as I did when I first read about it, but I definitely don't like it. With Mike Rathje going on the long-term injury list -- and probably retiring -- that was $3.5 million that the Flyers gained in cap space. Not any more. Zhitnik's contract eats that space up through 2009, at which point Zhitnik will be 36 years old. (Meyer will be 28 in 2009.)

It's no secret that chemistry is an important ingredient in putting together a winning team. Chemistry is not something that can be forced -- it just happens. A team either has it or it doesn't. That being said, chemistry can also take a little while to develop. Given the Flyers group of young defensemen -- Jones (25), Meyer (25), Jonsson (24), Pitkanen (23), Timonen (23), and Picard (21) -- it's not unreasonable to think this group of defensemen could have learned how to play together and to play well together. (Should we not also mention that all six are the type of swift, puck-moving defenseman that most teams covet?) At that point, if it behooved the club to move one of them, a lot more could have been gained than an aging, overpaid defenseman.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

This May Take A While

Taking a page from Rocky Balboa, ESPN is wondering what the greatest line combinations in the history of the NHL would be. They list 50 of the greatest forwards in NHL history and ask the fans to come up with four lines from that list. Results will be announced on Wednesday.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Game #31

Same story, new game. The Flyers come into tonight's game at Pittsburgh having lost four straight, while the Penguins have won two in a row. Pittsburgh is 4-0 against the Flyers so far this season, having outscored them 20-7. Penguins star Sidney Crosby has netted six goals and three assists in those four games. For the Flyers, Freddy Meyer is expected back in the lineup tonight after sitting out mast night's contest against the Rangers.

Inside the Numbers

 Philadelphia Pittsburgh
PtsSimon Gagne25 Sidney Crosby41
GSimon Gagne16 Evgeni Malkin15
AJoni Pitkanen16 Sidney Crosby27
+/-Todd Fedoruk+2 Sidney Crosby+11
PIMBen Eager72 Jarkko Ruutu49
GWGSimon Gagne2 Evgeni Malkin3
TOI/GJoni Pitkanen25:17 Sergei Gonchar26:41
See: Game Notes
See: Preview

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Injury Updates

I have a feeling this column will be repeated throughout the year.

Defenseman Freddy Meyer sat out last night's game with back spasms, while both Sami Kapanen and Joni Pitkanen returned to the lineup. All three are day-to-day.

From the already injured list, Jeff Carter skated with the team and is about a week or so away from returning. Robert Esche has been cleared to practice and will rejoin the team tomorrow.

With very little fanfare, Mike Rathje has been put on the long-term injury list -- making his $3.5 million salary available to the team. The Flyers would be wise to eat this cap space, as there is almost no way that the money can be spent to immediately improve the team.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Game #30

Man, how do you preview this? The Flyers come in losers of three straight and are last in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Confernce, while the Rangers have won three straight and are second in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Confernce.

The injury list is growing almost daily for the Flyers. Add Mike Richards and Geoff Sanderson to the list, as they will each undergo surgery for a sports hernia sidelining them for around three to six weeks. Jeff Carter (fractured left tibia), Robert Esche (adductor muscle surgery), Denis Gauthier (shoulder surgery), Peter Forsberg (foot/ankle), and Mike Rathje (back) as the players are already out indefinitely. Day-to-day are Sami Kapanen (back spasms), Freddy Meyer (back), and Joni Pitkanen (abdominal strain). All told, that's 3297 games played sitting out indefienitely, and 946 games played that are day-to-day. That's a lot of experience sitting in the press box.

Due to the injuries and recent waivings -- goodbye, Mr. Nedved -- the Flyers will now be icing one of the youngest teams -- and probably the least experienced -- in the league. As many as six rookies may dress tonight, including Ryan Potulny, Ben Eager, Alexandre Picard, Jussi Timonen, Stefan Ruzicka, and backup goaltender Martin Houle. Fellow rookie and Philadelphia native Tony Voce may also see game action.

Inside the Numbers

 Philadelphia New York
PtsSimon Gagne25 Jaromir Jagr44
GSimon Gagne16 Brendan Shanahan22
AJoni Pitkanen16 Jaromir Jagr30
+/-Todd Fedoruk+3 Jaromir Jagr+16
PIMBen Eager70 Ryan Hollweg55
GWGSimon Gagne2 Brendan Shanahan3
 Martin Straka3
TOI/GJoni Pitkanen25:20 Michal Rozsival23:16
See: Game Notes
See: Preview

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Game #28

Well, it's finally back to hockey for the Flyers. After a weeklong layoff, the Flyers will travel up the New Jersey Turnpike to take on the Devils in the Meadowlands tonight. The Flyers last played on Saturday, losing to the Devils in a shootout, 4-3. Though the Flyers are still fifth in the division and last in the Eastern Confernce, they have been playing much better recently and are 3-1-1 over their last five games. (They have also gone 5-3-2 over their last 10.) Antero Niittymaki will be in goal tonight, as Robert Esche is still out following groin surgery.

The Devils come into the game in first place in the Atlantic Division, 12 points better than the Flyers. New Jersey is coming off a win against Montreal on Wednesdya night, while riding a three-game winning streak (itself following a four-game losing streak).

Beginnig tonight, the Flyers will play eight games in the next 16 days -- including two sets of back-to-back games -- that will take them into the three day Christmas break.

Niittymaki will be the key to this stretch drive. Despite starting something like 16 of the 20 games since the coaching change, with Esche out, the team is now his for the taking. If Niittymaki turns into the true #1 goalie many think he can be, then the Flyers have a chance to win every night and Esche becomes tradeable. If Niittymaki stumbles, backup Martin Houle will be called upon as a stop-gap until Esche can come back.

Another factor here is Niittymaki's hip. Suffering from a torn labrum, he has already received one cortisone shot in order to postpone surgery until the offseason. Scheduled for a second shot this month, Niittymaki is putting it off for now since he hasn't experienced many problems.

Inside the Numbers


 PhiladelphiaNew Jersey
align="left">PointsSimon Gagne22Patrik Elias21
align="left">GoalsSimon Gagne14Brian Gionta11
align="left">AssistsJoni Pitkanen16Brian Rafalski16
align="left">Plus/MinusTodd Fedoruk+4Zach Parise+4
align="left">GWGSimon Gagne2Zach Parise4
PIMBen Eager66Cam Janssen63
align="left">TOI/GJoni Pitkanen25:23Paul Martin25:11

See: Game Day
See: Preview

See: Perplexed Forsberg hopes for the best
See: Forsberg doesn't find answer to skate problem
See: Forsberg still seeking comfortable skates
See: Captain Footnote
See: Skate problem continues to vex Forsberg

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