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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Back To School: Clarkson 4 - RPI 2

If you were following along last night either at Gross Misconduct Twitter or thanks to the guys at WRPI you know that Clarkson College took out RPI 4-2.

What folks might not know is that for the fans of RPI, Clarkson is the big rivalry. For Clarkson... not quite so much. Clarkson fans view their travel partners St. Lawrence as well as Cornell to be bigger rivals than RPI.

Having been to a few Clarkson-RPI throwdowns in the past, I can say that I've seen RPI's Houston Field House packed to the rafters loaded with loud and often obnoxious fans.

Not so much on this night. RPI is in the midst of a very down season and Clarkson is in a bit of a rebuilding year. Suffice to say, the crowd was a little bit lighter than usual but with both bands in the house and two fan bases that can be loud when there's reason to be.

Adding to the craziness was it was RPI's night to do their duty for Coaches Vs. Cancer, something taken up by the ECAC on the whole. Very classy, yet confusing since the ECAC has their own style of jersey that the host teams wear on the nights they opt to do their part.

The other fun part of this is that the schools will put the game-used jerseys up for auction as well as the coaches ties as part of the means to raise money for cancer programs. You can find a list of the items currently up for auction on Ebay here, and it won't just be items from RPI but all the teams in the ECAC and if you're a jersey collecting freak like yours truly, the bidding for game worn jerseys starts at $150. Not bad at all.

Let's Go...Black? Pink? Ah screw it...

With the home team in black and pink and the visitors wearing gold, let's just say it made it look like a bit of a technicolor nightmare on the ice. See for yourself:

That's a bit much, but at least they didn't do things over the top the way folks in the AHL are wont to do. Don't believe me? Well, take a look at this Iowa Chops promotion.

Don't get me wrong, this is all done for a fantastic reason it's just that, well, pink ice? Really?

Oh yeah - really.

There are no words for this.

Since it's the final home weekend for RPI, that means they pay tribute to the seniors and before the playing of the national anthems it was announced that instead of playing "Oh, Canada" the Russian national anthem would be played in honor of RPI senior forward Andrei Uryadov.

No, it was not sung by Nikolai Volkoff nor Ivan Drago.

Not singing anything nor breaking anyone last night.

As for the game itself, Clarkson getting a pair of power play goals in the first period really sucked what little life there was in the field house right out of it - it was so down that even the Clarkson fans weren't being their usual boisterous selves.

Down years are a major drag.

RPI freshman goaltender, and Blue Jackets prospect, Allen York made a major blunder in the second period playing a puck and trying to send it behind his net and around the boards to his defensemen but ended up bouncing it off the side of the goal where the oncoming Clarkson forechecker tapped it in for a gimmie goal.

Yeah, it was that sort of night. York later on in the second had a Brandon Defazio wrist shot get ripped by him and the rout was seemingly on with the Golden Knights being up 4-0.

Play plodded along in the third period until about the 12 minute mark. I'm not kidding when I say the game plodded along, there was nothing to write home about or excitement - nothing.

RPI was able to control the puck a bit more, keep it in the zone consistently and then with about nine minutes to play, Chase Polacek rips a wrist shot by freshman goaltender Paul Karpowich and there was much rejoicing as the Engineers wouldn't be shut out.

Two minutes and change later, Tyler Helfrich puts home a backhand rebound in front of the net and now Clarkson is back on their heels and RPI is taking play to them.

Wha...what happened? RPI was lifeless and mostly shotless in this game. After two periods, Clarkson was outshooting them 19-7 and now Clarkson can't even get the puck out of their own end.

With about 2:30 to play, Clarkson picks up a very poor tripping penalty, possibly in honor of the Russian national anthem since Jake Morley appeared to give the RPI player he was chasing after the puck with a Russian leg sweep.

Volkoff approves - Clarkson head coach George Roll does not.

Whether they'll admit it or not, many Clarkson fans might recall being RPI's opponent at the Big Red Freakout in 2002, RPIs big annual tradition, and being up 3-0 heading into the third period only to see RPI storm back to tie the game with under a minute left and then win the game in overtime (check the box score here). Now RPI is going on the power play with all the momentum on their side and a goal away from making things very uncomfortable.

Of course, this is not RPIs year and they may have spent a lot of their magic earlier this season in their incredible 7-6 win in Appleton, NY beating St. Lawrence. Clarkson was able to withstand the pressure, Alex Angers-Goulet flattens Karpowich drawing an interference call with 30 seconds to play and then that's your game. 4-2 Clarkson hangs on.

The atmosphere for this game was a serious letdown as this is the big rival RPI waits for every year and the fans just didn't have it in them until the game got back to within two goals. The Clarkson fans weren't pushing the issue that they were shutting down RPI to the point of boredom and kicking their tails on the scoreboard. Everything about the whole night was just off.

Tonight's game against St. Lawrence is the last home game of the year for RPI and the seniors will all be honored this evening and there's word that many of the big time recruits on the horizon for RPI will be in attendance.

I'd also have to guess we'll hear the Austrian national anthem being played for goaltender Mathias Lange - expect to see lots of this guy in tomorrow's wrap-up.

He's the only other guy in America that knows what the Austrian national anthem sounds like.

Hopefully things for RPI will be more like The Terminator than they will be The Last Action Hero.

Friday, February 27, 2009

"Why don't you call me some time when you have no class?"

What, you don't know where that quote comes from? That's too bad, because it's part of a theme I've got cooked up here for the next month and a half here.

That's right, Gross Misconduct is going Back To School.

Legends don't get PhotoShopped.

Starting tonight, the next month and a half will be loaded with college hockey action and given that I'm located in a nice region to get a healthy dose of a lot of games up close and personal and since Gross Misconduct will be in Washington, D.C. for the Frozen Four I figured we're taking things up another notch.

I'm delivering the Triple Lindy right in your face and I'm going to make it that much easier to tag along for the ride, and there's no way that Billy Zabka can stop it either.

Triple Lindy in your face, Zabka!

The warm-up act this weekend - we're geeking out.


Gross Misconduct will be firmly entrenched in Troy where the natives of R.P.I. are restless and struggling mightily while the rival they hate the most (Clarkson College) is coming into town along with their potentially NCAA-bound travel partners (St. Lawrence University) from the northern reaches of Potsdam, New York.

Thanks to the beauty of the Interweb, you can come along for the ride.

Sure, I'll be there in attendance at the game and snapping photos of anyone egregious and God help anyone committing jersey fouls because I'll make you famous here... but, if you're at home or have a rad high-tech phone to follow along with such things, you can do so with me thanks to Twitter.

No, I still can't wrap my head around it but I do know that I can fire questions at fake Mike Milbury and fake John Tortorella and it amuses me greatly. It also lets me post updates thanks to my phone and text messages and, yeah, all this freaking technology and it blows my mind.

We'll be giving it a run for the money tonight and tomorrow night from Troy, Tweeting (there's GOT to be a better way to phrase this) updates from the game and just so long as I'm not taken into custody or told to knock it the hell off... we'll keep at it and keep it fun cause that's how I like to do it.

So mark it off, get your computers set to follow along either right here (there's a Twitter box on the side of the page, it's neat and handy) or go to my Twitter page (feel free to follow me if you're a Twit too) while either watching the game on Time Warner 3 (if you're in the Capital District of New York) or on the radio, WRPI will be handling duties for both games this weekend and those guys rock.

7 p.m. starts for both games - and don't do it just for me or just for yourself...

Do it for Burt Young.

"What'd I tell you? My name is Lou, not fuckin' Paulie."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Fonz and I - We Be Tight, Yo!

Upon hearing the news of the New York Rangers firing Tom Renney I admit that I wasn't surprised to see that he would be the fall guy for an organization headed up by a dopey owner that hangs on to big name general managers a bit too long.

I digress.

What got to me was who the Rangers named to replace Renney. Mind you, this new coach is going to have to deal with a team that can't score in a whorehouse, has serious issues on defense and the only steady guy is the one getting hung out to dry most often in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

You figure after what a wreck Renney was, the Rangers were going to need a taskmaster and a brilliant psychologist to try and right the ship. General Manager Glen Sather called upon Stanley Cup Champion head coach John Tortorella.

You know, the guy that lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Cup the season before Herr Bettman decided not playing hockey was in the league's best interests.

John Tortorella is a great coach, I just can't help but think that by throwing him into this incredible mess of a situation is going to have The Fonz begging to be working for Len Barrie and Oren Koules in sunny Florida again, especially since Glen Sather seems to be doing everything in his power to earn the Rangers a time slot for an MTV reality show.

On Sean Avery, "[Tortorella] doesn't have the history with Sean that we do. I think that over time he could learn to love him like I have." "We'll deal with [Avery] in the next week I'm sure."

Yeah, that'll go over just great. That will be as warm and fuzzy of a moment as it was when Puck and Pedro had it out over peanut butter on Real World: San Francisco.

The great part about this is that this now allows me to say that I've been chastized by the current head coach of the New York Rangers, a guy whose name is etched upon the Greatest Trophy in Professional Sports.

Let me explain and rewind time a little bit, shall we?

It's September 2001, it's a little over two weeks after 9/11 and my friend Dom and I are in Syracuse covering a Tampa Bay-Columbus pre-season NHL matchup for our college television station in Oswego, NY. We're doing pre-game interviews so when we put the game together it'll all make sense when we wanted to air it tape delayed for our campus and sure enough we were able to lock down a talk with Coach Tortorella.

Dom and I are psyched because this is the big time for us getting to do this and Tortorella and the Lightning are a team we both had our eyes on for the future. What wasn't to like? They just traded for Nikolai Khabibulin, they had Martin St. Louis who we loved because he was a tiny guy and he played at the University of Vermont. Brad Richards was on the scene now. Most importantly, they had Vincent Lecavalier on the team.

That night Vincent Lecavalier wasn't going to play - not because they wanted to keep him fresh (a good reason why St. Louis didn't play that night) but because he was holding out on his contract. The training camp rosters were loaded with all sorts of favorites and famous names for us to look at and ask about including former Buffalo Sabres Matthew Barnaby and Dave Andreychuk.

Coach Tortorella comes out to meet with us, we shake hands and get the countdown from our friend and cameraman Justin. We're ready to roll.

Dom starts us off great and we're asking about how camp is going to this point and if he likes what he's seen out of the team so far. We fire out a question about what it will be like to get a full season out of Nikolai Khabibulin in goal after obtaining him from Phoenix at the trade deadline the year before. We ask about the great speed and youth on the team with Brad Richards.

We're flying things couldn't be going better! That is until I probe a little deeper about the youth on the way in Tampa.

I, very foolishly, ask about Alexander Svitov the Lightning's #1 pick from the draft and what he thinks he'll add to this team. Tortorella bristles a bit and winces in returning my serve:

"I have no idea what he'll add to this team, he's staying in Russia so it won't be this year."


Dom kindly picks up my fumble and ensures that I won't be alone in feeling the wrath of The Fonz when he asks about Vinny Lecavalier's absence in camp and about what his status is with the follow-up question to my personnel faux pas:

"I don't know what his status is and I don't care. Fact is he's not here when he should be. I only care about the guys that are in that room right now. That's it."

On that high note, we close out the interview, stop taping, and thank the coach for his time.

He quickly headed back into the locker room to probably mutter about what a pair of meatheads we were and get the team ready to play the Blue Jackets.

Yeah, that felt as awkward as it was to read.

I know for sure that any of the folks as well as Brooke our intrepid sideline reporter that night would vouch for this story and gladly clean up any errors in my memory of that night and I will add to this post anything they refresh my memory about.

That encounter did nothing to hurt my opinion of John Tortorella if anything it helped me like the guy more and I most certainly was rooting for the Lightning to win the Cup in 2004.

That said, is he the guy to throw into this ridiculous situation in New York?


Why? Accountability.

John Tortorella will demand it from everyone in the Rangers locker room, something that's been severely lacking under Tom Renney. Don't get me wrong here, Renney's a good guy by all accounts and he did the best he could given the platter of guano Glen Sather kept feeding him with. The problem for Tom Renney is that he didn't/couldn't/wouldn't/wasn't able to do that.

John Tortorella demands accountability for actions, doesn't care who you are, how big of a star you are nor how much money you make. Just ask Vinny Lecavalier about that. No, seriously, just ask him about it he'll talk.

Hell, I'm sick of writing "accountability" right now and it's the new buzz word in New York to describe this move. Don't believe me? Check what Google thinks of it.

A lack of accountability shows on a player's face - that or it was a right cross.

If I were one of the Rangers players who busted my hump every night doing my job the best I could, not only would my name be Henrik Lundqvist but I'd feel very secure in my job even though Tortorella had a bad habit of making all of his goalies lose their mind in Tampa Bay.

Everyone else? Look out and get to know a few names of guys in Hartford. Names like Corey Potter and Bobby Sanguinetti on defense and forwards Pierre Parenteau and Artem Anisimov have all played very well for Hartford this year and you can bet that if Tortorella wants to send a message to somone slacking off he'll do it by calling on these guys.

I know that if my name was Wade Redden or Dmitri Kalinin I'd be ready to start butting heads because it will happen with them, it's almost inevitable. Guys that will likely catch Fonz's stink-eye up front though are the likes of Chris Drury and Aaron Voros. It wouldn't shock me in the least to see Voros be the guy who gets designated for assignment once Avery is claimed by the Rangers leading to the Madison Square Garden main event rumble between player and coach.

I'm done talking about Avery for now since I'm not doing a blog focused on the AHL but trust me, I'll be laughing a lot if Avery is claimed by a team with a higher priority than the Rangers when the Stars look to fish him through recall waivers so the Rangers can take him off their hands.

I will laugh a lot at this and might even celebrate with a photo, but I'm not expecting it.

Will this be enough for the Rangers this year? Probably. Despite their terrible play, they're still a playoff team - such is life in the Eastern Conference this year. Care to wonder why so many of the NHLs top scorers can be found in the East? Take a look at the "GA" column in the standings here and look how bad some of the teams there are.


Will it get the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals? Not a freakin' chance, but it will be enough to allow the Rangers to play better and start winning some games again and maybe, just maybe, advance out of the first round in the playoffs.

After all, if the Rangers aren't going to score, they need to keep the other team off the sheet better and Tortorella will get that out of this team come hell or high water.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Stupidity Rewards Me

You can go through the history of the NHL and find any number of terrible mind-bending trades that made you wonder what the hell was wrong with half of the general managers involved in making the transaction.

Since I'm here to mouth off and that's my job, one of the worst deals made during my time here on Earth would be the deal that sent Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for a package of players consisting of forwards Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm and defenseman Brad Stuart.

For the Bruins, they felt it was important to rid themselves of Thornton who, somehow, was villified after the Bruins collapse against the Canadiens in the 2004 Playoffs when the B's squandered a 3-1 series lead and succombing to their hated rivals.

Thornton, then the captain of the Bruins, played in each game despite being injured. Go figure, a captain trying to shrug off an injury to lead his team to victory - tell me, where have I heard of this before?

The Boston fans and media were relentless on Thornton in the off-season. Thornton was held to no points in the series against Montreal and shouldered the blame for the team not getting that fourth win needed to wrap up the series.

When the NHL returned from the Season Herr Bettman Deemed Not Needed, Thornton was still playing with the black cloud of playoff failure hanging over his head and then Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell pulled the trigger on one of the most lopsided and awful trades the NHL has ever seen.

To this day, O'Connell insists that he would make the deal again and was pressed for this opinion since the Sharks are paying the Bruins a visit Tuesday night. Joy of joys.

This man routinely falls for the "Give me two tens for a five" gag.

Quoting from Kevin Paul Dupont's story on boston.com :

Some three-plus years later, O'Connell figures the trade was justified, and it is one that he would make again, given the same circumstances. As for what he got in return, said O'Connell, there will always be those who say he should have received more.

"That's always the case, even if it's your best trade," said the former Bruins general manager, these days overseeing pro development for the Los Angeles Kings. "But it was like any trade: You take in, rely on what everyone in the organization says - scouts, everyone - and let's not forget there was a money issue here, too, moving Joe with his high [$6.6 million] salary. This wasn't the pre-salary-cap NHL. Like all these deals, the money had to work, too."

I smell backpedaling... Well, backpedaling that smells like a befouled barnyard - is that what we have here?

"What frustrated me was, again, there just seemed to be so much more there," said O'Connell. "How he fit in with our team, the city, the overall picture . . . and in the end, like I say, we thought there were leadership issues. So here he is, the captain, making that money . . . all of that went into our decision to move him."

Ahh, OK, so the guy that was the poster boy centerfold for the next generation of Bruins fans no longer fit into the city. Of course he didn't Mike - because you helped light the torches and hand out pitchforks.

When asked if he felt he was being labeled the scapegoat for the organization, Thornton said, ''You could say that.

''Who knows? Hindsight is 20-20. I don't know what to say about that. I came here to win and we haven't been winning. Whose fault is that? I'm not sure. Obviously, I'm out of here so it must be mine."

Sure, time heals all wounds and all that crap, but O'Connell spreading the blame for making the deal is as cowardly as it gets. Thornton won the MVP in 2005-2006, the same season he was traded by the Bruins. Motivation? Absolutely. Shoving it in O'Connell's, Sinden's and Jacob's collective faces? Hell yes he did.

Just for retrospect sake, let's take a look at how the main components of that deal have done since then (stats accurate as of 12:30 p.m. 2/9/09).

Keep in mind that Marco Sturm is the only one of the three still playing for Boston but is out for the rest of the season with an injury. Primeau and Stuart have both since moved on, Stuart winning the Stanley Cup last season with Detroit after coming over from Los Angeles in a deadline deal with the Kings.

Joe Thornton: 272 GP | 83 G | 276 A | 359 PTS | 198 PIM

Brad Stuart: 247 GP | 24 G | 60 A | 84 PTS | 169 PIM

Wayne Primeau: 195 GP | 19 G | 31 A | 50 PTS | 191 PIM

Marco Sturm: 226 GP | 84 G | 72 A | 156 PTS | 126 PIM

Now here's my favorite part of this exercise:

All Three Players: 668 GP | 127 G | 163 A | 290 PTS

Thornton managed to out-point three players by 69 points since the trade. Apparently O'Connell feels that getting 30 cents on the dollar for a trade is what works best since both teams are now doing great now.

Never mind that new general manager Peter Chiarelli has had to do his best to help cater to the needs of new coach Claude Julien as well as trying to live under the rule of the Stickler's Regime that is life with Jeremy Jacobs - it's a minor miracle the Bruins are doing as well as they are - whether it lasts is another question, of course.

I also ask that you not buy into the spitballing comparison that Dupont makes in his story that dumping Thornton was done in favor of getting Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara. This wasn't O'Connell's grand design and neither Savard nor Chara will be winning an MVP award, they've both also had as much post-season success as Thornton has had in their career.

What folks in Boston (sycophantic media and fans alike) are doing, or at least are attempting to do to stay in favor with the front office (if you're a reporter that is), is to shine up the turd that was the Joe Thornton trade.

It's an easy formula: You take some shots at Thornton, spruce things up by saying getting rid of him helped build the team the way it is today and call it a day. Dupont going to talk with Mike O'Connell to get his take is a welcome twist on a, now, very tired story and it's just as rewarding to see O'Connell continuing to try and save face for making one of the worst trades in NHL history.