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Jun 25 12

UFC 147 Results: 3 Takeaways from Lackluster Pay-Per-View

Tony

UFC 147 ultimately ended up being one of the more lackluster UFC cards we’ve seen in a while, despite a decent main event between Rich “Ace” Franklin and Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva. However, despite the card not living up to the standards that the UFC is accustomed to, there are still multiple points that can be taken away from Saturday night’s show. 

Here are three takeaways from UFC 147:

 

Rich Franklin still has a lot to give 

The man they call Ace took this fight on short notice and was coming off a 16-month layoff. Two ingredients that would normally spell doom for a fighter who’s perceived to be nearing the end of the line and will turn 38 later this year. 

However, Rich Franklin impressed me on Saturday night. His footwork looked sharp, and his reflexes and hand speed looked excellent as well. Franklin didn’t look like a man who was 37 on Saturday night in Brazil. He looked fresh and rejuvenated, so maybe that long layoff wasn’t such a bad thing after all. He didn’t really show signs of ring (octagon?) rust, and his technique was as good as ever. 

Ace is a guy that, no matter what his age, will always come into the fight in shape and prepared to rumble, that is for certain. 

What I really liked about Franklin’s performance on Saturday night was how he responded when Silva had him hurt in the second round. Franklin was badly stunned by Silva and looked like he was on the verge of being knocked out. However, he was able to keep moving and never stopped intelligently defending himself. 

To be his age with those types of recuperative powers is simply amazing. Franklin showed a lot of heart and afterwards claimed that he didn’t even recall what happened—that he remembered fighting the first round and he “woke up” at the start of the fifth, so to speak. 

Franklin looks poised to make another title run. Although it’s hard to imagine him becoming a UFC champion again, he’ll still make for good fights and will be a tough guy to beat for whomever he squares up against inside the octagon.

 

Wanderlei Silva is still exciting, but his career is all but over

Wanderlei Silva has consistently given fans of the UFC memorable fights over the course of his entire career. He’s one of the most exciting fighters in MMA history, and will always be a fan favorite. He’s a wild slugger, and while he isn’t the greatest fighter of all-time, he’s been one of the most fun to watch out of anyone who’s’ ever stepped into the octagon.

However, it appears that Silva’s career as an elite fighter has come to an end. Aside from the second round, in which he caught Franklin and almost had him out, Silva looked slow and was on the verge of being outclassed by Franklin. He just couldn’t keep up any sort of pace. He was either out of shape, old, or both.

In fact, for large periods of the fight, Silva really didn’t do much at all. Franklin just danced around him and peppered him with shots, most of which Silva had no answer for. He looked like a shell of the fighter he used to be. 

He’s had tons of hard fights throughout his stellar career, and like most fighters it appears that it’s finally caught up to him. While Silva is a star and will almost assuredly continue to fight in the UFC, he’ll never really be a significant force again. Those days are behind him. 

Silva will still make for fun fights though, and he’ll bring in a lot of fans and revenue in for Dana White. That’s what will likely keep him going; if big paydays are still there it’ll be very hard for Silva to walk away.

Whatever he decides to do, he’ll always be revered by fans as one of the greatest action fighters in the history of MMA. 

 

The UFC is truly an international sport

The UFC appears to be looking more and more to expand their brand overseas into new markets. On Saturday night, that market was Brazil. Brazil has long been MMA-crazy, as it’s the home of the famed Gracie family and the birthplace of the Brazilian style of jiu-jitsu. 

Essentially, it’s a huge business opportunity for the UFC, and if they can take advantage of it, they’re going to have a lot of events and make piles of money putting on cards in Brazil for years to come. 

On Saturday, at the Estadio Journalista Felpie Drumond, the largest indoor arena in Brazil, the crowd was packed with a Brazilian MMA-event record of nearly 17,000 fans. The ability for the UFC to draw that many fans to an event in a foreign country speaks volumes about the organization and the sport’s popularity outside of the US. 

It has to be expected that the UFC brand will only continue to grow and will establish itself, if it already hasn’t as a sport that is huge on both the domestic and the international level. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Dana White began to put on cards in foreign countries more often than he has in the past. The UFC will only continue to grow on an international scale. 

 

Follow me on Twitter: @rlongo924

NHL

Jun 25 12

Jordan Staal trade: Reactions from Carolina, Pittsburgh range from shock to acceptance

Tony

PITTSBURGH ? Gary Bettman stood before the crowd at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, the bearer of breaking news. “We have a trade to announce,” he said as cheers began, before mischievously continuing, “and for those of you in the building, you’ll be particularly interested.”

When the words “Jordan Staal” left the commissioner’s pipes, it produced one of the most memorable reactions at an NHL Draft we’ve ever seen: a cacophony of cheers, gaps, some jeers, disbelief. Then silence, as Bettman continued to announce the trade, building to a few boos before rallying to cheers when Brandon Sutter’s name was announced.

Once Bettman was finished, Consol erupted with deafening cheers and “Let’s Go Pens” chants, the likes usually reserved for ? well, Jordan Staal goals.

The emotional response in the moment was on an NFL Draft level ? that’s meant as a compliment ? and perfectly captured the reaction for Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes fans and media for the inevitable yet still stunning trade.

From The Pensblog’s tribute to Staal:

It was unfortunately time for him to go. He was a top line player stuck on the third line. He couldn’t make the money he wanted in Pittsburgh. He couldn’t get the ice time he deserved. He wanted to be “the guy” on a team and he wanted to play with his brother. Now he has what he wanted. Best of luck in Carolina.

From Gene Collier of the Post-Gazette:

In Raleigh, Staal will burst from the shadows of Crosby and Malkin, take a place among the top six forwards, skate with his brother and team captain Eric on the power play, and probably score 30 goals or more.

In a free agent year, he could put together bank-breaking stats, which is the very reason he expressed zero interest in a 10-year offer from the Penguins earlier this week.

That proposed contract, guessed at as being in the range of $60 million, indicates how conflicted to the bitter end the Penguins were over dismantling their enviable center triumvirate.

Staal very likely did the Penguins a favor by turning it down. Had he accepted, Shero could only have shifted the rock into the spot where the hard place was and vice versa. But in the end, Shero resolved the larger question in the proper way, at least in this view.

From Pat O’Mahony of SB Nation Pittsburgh:

The plan is now clear. Shero will need to address two areas when July 1 rolls around. The first will be Zach Parise. Yes, I classified Zach Parise as a need. A winger for Sidney Crosby is still a need, crazy as that might sound. Parise is an elite scorer and will be the most-coveted free agent when the market opens. Crosby and Parise are apparently good pals as well, for whatever that’s worth. Look for the Pens to offer Parise as much as they can. He’ll be the first target, and once he’s signed (I’m being optimistic here), expect the Pens to go hard after another solid defenseman. A few names will pop up, mostly Ryan Suter and possibly Shea Weber. In either case, I expect the Pens to make a splash.

Now that the “Three-Center Model” is dead, let’s see if Shero’s new strategy will succeed. He’s clearly trying to dump salary and use his stockpile of defensemen to acquire forwards either in free agency or at the trade deadline. The club now has the room to acquire legitimate scoring talent, whether that’s Parise or someone else, as well as a (hopefully) shut-down defenseman.

Over on the Carolina side of things, KP Kelly of Cardiac Cane:

The transaction caused conflicted emotions for Canes’ fans. Tweets poured through Twitter expressing their torn emotions. Some didn’t know whether to “celebrate or vomit.” For those outside the Carolina fan base, allow me to explain. Yes, we know this is a sport and ultimately a business looking to succeed and be profitable. Jordan Staal will help the Hurricanes in both areas. For that, fans are pleased. Staal posted career highs in assists (25) and points (50), and a career second-best 25 goals in 62 of Pittsburgh’s 82 regular-season games in 2011-12.

The grieving stems from the price tag on Jordan’s sweater. Brandon Sutter is one of the top, young talents in the organization. His contributions to the team were notable on and off the ice. It is always hard to say goodbye, despite the positive exchange, to a player as respected as Brandon Sutter. In one breath, I give a warm southern welcome to another stellar Staal and sigh a goodbye and best wishes to one of Caniacs’ favorite boys.

C-Leaguer of Canes Country, which calls the trade “The NHL Version of Pascal’s Wager”:

The Canes got, without a doubt, the best player in this trade. Brandon Sutter is a very good player, and captain material, but he simply does not have the same skill that Jordan Staal does. Jordan Staal is a legitimate top 6 player in the NHL, and a corner stone center that can be a major piece for a championship team. Brandon Sutter is a very good complimentary piece and can play a large on ice and leadership role.

The prospects, Dumoulin and Pouliot, have high potential, but are by no means a sure thing and neither is at this point in time anywhere near the territory of Jordan Staal. The team got a highly talented top six player, something that they have been lacking for years. This is a good thing.

From Luke DeCock of the News & Observer:

When you’re a team like the Hurricanes, and you have the chance to get a 23-year-old star like Jordan Staal, you pull the trigger now and worry about the consequences later. Especially when it was an off-ice power play by Staal that made the trade possible.

Staal’s rejection Thursday of a 10-year contract extension worth $60 million made it all but certain the Penguins would trade him, while making it clear the only team he would negotiate a new contract with right now is the Hurricanes.

When’s the last time a player pulled the strings to force a trade to the Hurricanes?

? ? ?

The trade was a difficult necessity for Shero. The likelihood of retaining Staal for a reasonable price ? if at all ? lessened as Summer 2013 grew closer. The Penguins’ needs on the blue line and the wing could be addressed with the cleared cap space.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, coveted Jordan Staal. It served neither team to have him go to market next summer and see his price tag inflated. So they offered a trade that Shero, reluctant as he was, couldn’t refuse.

The Hurricanes are immediately better. The Penguins could be much better, depending on how they use the space they freed on Friday in free agency.

Sutter, Dumoulin and Pouliot and Zach Parise for Jordan Staal? Yikes.

Abbotsford Mariners

Jun 24 12

Who should win, and who will win, at the 2012 NHL Awards? Puck Daddy Staff Prognostications

Tony

The NHL Awards are Wednesday night, and a good number of them are seemingly unpredictable. Luckily, your friends at Puck Daddy and Marek Vs. Wyshynski are here to offer somewhat informed but ultimately faulty predictions.

Greg Wyshynski, Editor

Hart (Henrik Lundqvist/Evgeni Malkin/Steven Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

Just a dominant performance from Malkin this season, hitting the 50-goal mark and being the only player in the NHL that broke 100 points. I’m still sore that Claude Giroux was shut out of this category in favor of a player whose team failed to do the only thing of value in the regular season ? make the playoffs ? but Malkin winning the Hart will suffice.

Vezina (Lundqvist/Pekka Rinne/Jonathan Quick)

Should: Quick
Will: Lundqivst

Quick did more with less help in front of him, and was the backbone for a Los Angeles Kings team that saw its share of turmoil this season. He was the best goalie in the League this year ? but the New York Rangers netminder will finally earn his crown on his fourth try.

Norris (Zdeno Chara/Erik Karlsson/Shea Weber)

Should: Shea Weber
Will: Erik Karlsson

Calling the upset here. I think the campaign for Karlsson ? that his offensive numbers can’t be ignored, and that his defensive liability wasn’t significant enough ? may have convinced enough voters to put him over as Chara and Weber split the vote. I cast my ballot for Weber for these reasons, but he might have to wait again.

Calder (Adam Henrique/Gabriel Landeskog/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Landeskog
Will: Landeskog

Forgiving the voters for somehow leaving Matt Read off the ballot, they’ll atone for it by giving Landeskog a deserved rookie of the year prize. He was the most impactful rookie in the field this season. Nugent-Hopkins was the best offensive rookie; Landeskog did more and had the numbers to back up his case.

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Jordan Eberle/Matt Moulson)

Should: Brian Campbell
Will: Brian Campbell

There’s nothing more gentlemanly than waiving your no-trade clause so an old friend can build a division champion in Florida.

Selke (David Backes/Patrice Bergeron/Pavel Datsyuk)

Should: Bergeron
Will: Datsyuk

Datsyuk bounced back from an injury-plagued season to be Datsyukian again, but this should be Bergeron’s award as the forward equivalent to Chara’s defensive lynchpin on the blue line for the Boston Bruins. Maybe that’s a reputation based call, but he deserves a Selke.

Adams (Ken Hitchcock/Paul MacLean/John Tortorella)

Should: Hitchcock
Will: Hitchcock

Tangible results make all the difference for voters, and you can see the impact Hitchcock had on the St. Louis Blues ? from their stifling defense to the stellar seasons for players like TJ Oshie.

Masterton (Daniel Alfredsson/Joffrey Lupul/Max Pacioretty)

Should: Lupul
Will: Pacioretty

Pacioretty returned from a horrific injury, but Lupul might better fit the Masterton vibe with his perseverance. But Patches was on a stretcher.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

A Stamkos upset here wouldn’t shock, as he’s well-liked and had a ridiculous season. But it’ll be a Malkin MVP sweep.

GM of the Year (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Tallon
Will: Armstrong

The fantasy hockey GM’ing of Dale Tallon was the story of last summer, as he used the Florida Panthers’ money to cobble together a team with UFAs and trade targets that won the Southeast Division. He deserves this simply for the audacity of it all. But Armstrong made the best coaching hire of the season and added some key veteran parts that led to the Blues’ division title. He’ll get the nod.

Sean Leahy, Associate Editor

Hart: (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

Right from the beginning of the season, Malkin — rebuilt knee and all — played like he was shot out of a cannon. There weren’t many nights when he failed get on the scoresheet, and with Sidney Crosby dealing with his concussion issues, Malkin picked up the offensive load and also helped turn James Neal from a 20-goal scorer to a 40-goal one.

Vezina (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Lundqvist
Will: Lundqivst

Their numbers are pretty similar, and had the Los Angeles Kings played better for the first half of the season, Quick might have won this running away; but King Henrik was a consistent body of work as he put together a career year for the New York Rangers. He’s been a steady presence in the back for the Rangers since 2005-06 and will rightful get his due honor with the Vezina.

Norris (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Erik Karlsson
Will: Shea Weber

There comes a point when the huge offensive contributions Karlsson brought the Ottawa Senators outweighs any defensive questions. His 78 points were 25 more than Dustin Byfuglien and Brian Campbell, but seeing how some of the voting goes in past years you get the feeling that it’s Weber’s after being “due” a Norris for a couple seasons.

Calder (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Nugent-Hopkins
Will: Landeskog

The Nuge and Landeskog lead all rookies with 52 points, but the Edmonton Oilers’ rookie did so in 20 less game; not bad for a kid who some thought might not make it past the 9-game mark.

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Has there ever been an argument over the Lady Byng vote?
Will: Whoever has a Lady Byng bonus clause in their contract

It’s the Lady Byng. Are you going to be upset either way? Let’s say Matt Moulson.

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: Datsyuk
Will: Datsyuk

Datsyuk rules. He just stole three pucks and won five faceoffs in the time you took to read this.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: Hitchcock
Will: Hitchcock

While a valid case could be made with Paul MacLean, the Ottawa Senators were hovering in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference for most of the season and found their way into the No. 8 seed. On the day the St. Louis Blues fired Davis Payne they were 14th in the Western Conference. Under Hitchcock, they ended up tied for second overall in the NHL.

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Lupul or Pacioretty
Will: Lupul or Pacioretty

What is worse to you? Neck trauma/concussion or a back surgery/blood infection combo?

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

Every player got to see the kind of damage Malkin was doing all season long.

GM of the Year: (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Armstrong
Will: Armstrong

Brian Elliott was supposed to be a backup to Jaroslav Halak when he signed last summer, but ended up keeping the Blues’ season afloat and helping guide them to one of their best seasons ever. Veterans Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner helped a locker room full of young talent. Kent Huskins, Scott Nichol and Kris Russell provided depth and extra grit. Oh, and Armstrong also chose to bring in Hitchcock when the Columbus Blue Jackets decided to keep Scott Arniel around longer than he should have.

Harrison Mooney, Associate Editor

Hart: (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

Malkin wins this for two reasons: first, by process of elimination. There’s already an award for being the best goalie. It’s called the Vezina. There’s also an award for scoring the most goals. It’s called the Rocket Richard. Second, because he was incredible this year, and I don’t think people realize just how incredible he was. At times, we were so wrapped up in the Beckett-esque saga of Crosby’s moving return date that Malkin’s remarkable, unstoppable season only hardly registered. But this is his award.

Vezina: (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Jonathan Quick
Will: Henrik Lundqvist

Picking between Lundqvist and Quick is like picking between Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse. One is all sexy and irresistible and has great hair and plays in a rock band — the other is quiet, understated, maybe even a little dorky. (Although Quick got his “Aristocrats” moment this postseason for sure.) But Danny Tanner was the glue that held Full House together and, similarly, Jonathan Quick kept the Kings in it all season long before they got their stuff together. His stats are nearly identical to Lundqvist’s but he did it with less help from his team at both ends.

Norris: (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Shea Weber
Will: Shea Weber

The Bruins took a step back, the Predators took a step forward, and Erik Karlsson doesn’t defend as well as his fellow nominees.

Calder: (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Gabriel Landeskog
Will: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

I think Nugent-Hopkins wins this award because voters will look at his 52 points, the same number Landeskog put up, and recognize that he got them in 20 fewer games. I also think the Nuge benefits from optics: all year long, he looked like a standout rookie. Landeskog, on the other hand, looked like a settled, savvy, veteran — and that’s why he deserves it.

Lady Byng: (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Brian Campbell
Will: Brian Campbell

Because I had to pick somebody and pretend like I cared. But also, come on, like they’re going to give this award to Jordan Eberle or Matt Moulson.

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: David Backes
Will: Patrice Bergeron

The Selke is a reputation award, but more than that, it’s based on reputation built up over a few years. Based on this year alone, David Backes deserves this award for leading the Blues’ transformation into a team that will swallow you whole in the center of the ice, but he hasn’t been a noted Selke guy long enough to win this award. Also, too many voters still rely on plus/minus.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: Ken Hitchcock
Will: Ken Hitchcock

The other reason Backes doesn’t win the Selke: because much of his coming-out party as a defensive center will be attributed to Ken Hitchcock, who wins this award for turning the Blues around, and also because yeah right, like the NHL broadcasters’ association will willingly give an award to John Tortorella.

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Max Pacioretty
Will: Max Pacioretty

Between his horrible neck injury, his 30-goal season, and the amazing story where he met the kid that just came out of a coma, if you don’t think Pacioretty deserves this, you’re just a big ol’ grumpypants.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Stamkos

Goals are impressive, but seriously, Malkin was a beast this year. I pray the players recognize his beastliness.

GM of the Year: (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Poile
Will: Tallon

Dale Tallon will win because he did big splashy things and they paid off for the Panthers in big splashy ways. That’s how you win awards. But frankly, David Poile killed it this year. Sure, his moves didn’t pay off in the playoffs and he’ll probably lose Ryan Suter for nothing now because he’s being a weenie, but by the end of the regular-season? He was looking pretty good. He’d improved his team up considerably, and that little stunt he pulled to get Alexander Radulov out of Russia was clever. Plus, after years of savvy management, it’s about bloody time he got this award.

Dmitry Chesnokov, Senior Writer

Hart (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

I am not sure how to argue otherwise. Malkin had a terrific season. With the Cup and the Conn Smythe already in his trophy cabinet, the Hart, which Malkin almost won a few years ago, is only fitting. After that it will be interesting to listen to the arguments of some in Pittsburgh suggesting the Penguins should trade the Conn Smythe and the Hart winner to keep Staal.

Vezina (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Quick
Will: Lundqvist

Let’s face it — the Kings probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs if it wasn’t for Quick. Lundvist may be due to get the award, but in my opinion Quick should be the winner.

Norris (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Weber
Will: Weber

This is another one that is due. Weber has been one of the League’s best defensemen for a while now. Karlsson should have a case, but scoring blue liners haven’t been favored lately. Just ask Mike Green from a couple of years ago.

Calder (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Landeskog
Will: Landeskog

This is probably going to be a very close one, the one Henrique wished the playoffs would count for. They don’t. Landeskog was probably the most complete rookie this year. And “complete” is the flavor of the month.

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Campbell
Will: Campbell

This is really the “least penalty minutes” award. Or at least this is the way a lot of pundits look at it. Campbell is the only defenseman in this group and has only three minor penalties.

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: Datsyuk
Will: Bergeron

Subjective or objective, Datsyuk has a PhD in Selke and should be the honorary recipient. But just like some players are “due” their awards, others may have “had” theirs. Bergeron is a worthy choice, especially this season.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: Hitchcock
Will: Hitchcock

The “old school” coach still has so much to offer, especially if his players listen. If it wasn’t for the Kings in the playoffs and their remarkable run, the Blues may have won the whole thing this year. Certainly, MacLean’s job with the Senators has been brilliant as so many of us (myself included) wrote off Ottawa before the season start. But Hitchcock should edge MacLean this year.

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Pacioretty
Will: Pacioretty

The Canadiens’ forward had quite a remarkable comeback from the injury he sustained last season. He is so young, but handled the incident very maturely and responded by being one of the best players in Montreal last season.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

If I were a player, this award would be very special to me. Just like being picked number one in the All Star draft by your fellow players. Recognition from your peers goes a long way and shows a lot of respect. And Malkin’s done a great job to earn that respect.

GM of the Year (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Poile
Will: Poile

Poile should win this award based on, in fairness, not just this season. He has been slowly but surely building a true Stanley Cup contender with the resources he had. And he achieved it.

Ryan Lambert, Columnist

Hart (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Stamkos
Will: Malkin

I know, I know. “If you don’t make the playoffs, how valuable could you have been?” Well maybe next year if Stamkos wants to win he should just score 70 and play goal, right? The guy had 60 freakin’ goals. I don’t know what else you want out of a player.

Vezina (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Quick
Will: Lundqvist

Ballots were in before the playoffs started or this would have been the Conn Smythe winner’s award in a runaway. Lundqvist got more exposure this season, plain and simply.

Norris (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Weber
Will: Weber

Chara is probably the best defenseman alive right now but he didn’t have the best individual season. Weber got a lot of help from Ryan Suter that Chara didn’t get from Johnny Boychuk. As for Karlsson, this award is for defensemen, not top-quality out-of-position forwards.

Calder (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Landeskog
Will: Landeskog

This is probably the easiest award out there. Nugent-Hopkins put up points despite being hurt, sure, but didn’t exhibit anywhere near the all-around game Landeskog brought to the rink every night. Henrique had a nice season playing with very nice players, and still fell short on points.

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Campbell
Will: Campbell

Who cares?

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: Backes
Will: Bergeron

This is one of those things where the answer is perfectly clear and I’m terrified the voters are going to get it wrong on a reputation call. Bergeron deserved a Selke in the past, but not this year.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: Ken Hitchcock
Will: Ken Hitchcock

That kind of turnaround makes this a slam dunk. Why even bring any suspense to this?

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Lupul
Will: Pacioretty

First, let’s just get it out of the way that “Old guy who still plays the game at a high level” shouldn’t be the basis for this award. Second, Pacioretty will probably win because he was very visibly injured in a terribly serious way, and came back to have a strong season. Joffrey Lupul, though, played point-a-game hockey and scored 25 goals after recently missing a year with various health problems.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Stamkos
Will: Malkin

Same as above.

GM of the Year: (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: David Poile
Will: David Poile

The guy built a great roster despite significant constraints and has for a number of years. I feel, though, that this will be a reputation thing: He’s deserved it in the past and not won, but will do so now despite the latest iteration of the Predators being not much better than those in the past.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Fantasy Columnist

Hart (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

He won me three grand on Bodog for winning the scoring title at 25-1 preseason odds. So he’s MVP in my household.

Vezina (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Quick
Will: Quick

With all due respect to Rinne and Lundqvist, who make this such a tough call – Quick won far too many games for his team. And that’s before the playoffs. After the pitiful offense that the Kings put forth throughout 2011-12, when two or three fewer wins meant missing the postseason, you have to think about the 1-0 or 2-1 games that they won thanks to “Mike” Quick.

Norris (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Karlsson
Will: Karlsson or Weber

Please don’t compare Karlsson’s season to Mike Green’s from 2009-10. And spare me the advanced stats – the defensive zone starts, the shorthanded ice time, the Corsi, etc. Sometimes you have to stop looking through the trees to find the forest. Green beat Duncan Keith by seven points and lost the Norris Trophy to him. Karlsson beat Weber by, uh, 29 points. I don’t care if this award is for two-way play. When a category that you look at before casting your ballot is this lopsided, you don’t have a choice.

Calder (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Nugent-Hopkins
Will: Landeskog

Landeskog has been huge in every category and looks to potentially be a leader who produces 70 points per season. A cross between Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews, if you will. But RNH is a potential superstar, in the mold of a Steven Stamkos or Claude Giroux.

So 10 years from now, looking back, you will probably answer the trivia question – ‘who won the Calder Trophy in 2012 – Landeskog or Nugent-Hopkins?’ with “Hopkins”. But this award isn’t about the future career, it’s about the rookie season. And to me, a shoulder injury was all that stopped Hopkins from getting 75 points and walking away with this trophy easily.

The fact that we have to ask “did he play enough games to impress us more than Landeskog?” should give him the trophy.

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Eberle
Will: Campbell

Actually, I have no idea. I guessed. Just like all the ballot-casters

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: Backes
Will: Backes

I believe that the Blues’ system is highly touted and there needs to a leader for that system. Backes is that leader.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: MacLean
Will: Hitchcock

I think MacLean did more with less, but Hitchcock had his team playing such dominant hockey that it’s tough to see him not winning this.

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Lupul
Will: Pacioretty

Lupul was out of action for so long and fought the odds for so long, and then his comeback was remarkable. Pacioretty, meanwhile, was quicker in his return but his injury was ugly to watch and uglier to hear about. Not to sell him short, in most other years he should win this thing. But he was ready to return to the Habs in the postseason had they made it a little further, whereas Lupul was nearly forced to retire.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

This one will be tighter than the Hart, as I think a lot of players will cast their vote for Lundqvist.

GM of the Year: (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Tallon
Will: Tallon

I like what Poile did at the deadline and I also like Armstrong’s timing on the coaching change. But Tallon recreated his team for immediate impact, while keeping a firm grasp of one of the best prospect pools in hockey.

From the ladies of “What’s Up, Ya Sieve?”

Hart (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Chuck says Lundqvist. Pants says Malkin.
Will: Chuck says Lundqvist. Pants says Malkin.

Split decision on this one. King Henrik kept the Rangers at first in the East pretty much all season – without so much as a hair out of place. But the day there is no room for Comeback Crosby on the Pens’ first line is the day Malkin deserves the Hart.

Vezina: (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Quick
Will: Quick

A league-high 10 shutouts saved the Kings’ 29th ranked offense. Plus, he’s already got the Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup, so what’s one more?

Norris (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Chara
Will: Chara

We’re going to have the give this one to Chara. Because you won’t like him when he’s angry. CHARA SMASH!

Calder (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Landeskog
Will: Nugent-Hopkins

No doubt The Nuge was the more electric rookie this season, but we’re big fans of Gabe the Babe. The potential for Landeskoging tips the scales here.

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Campbell
Will: Campbell

No defenseman has won in over fifty years – it’s time!  Campbell’s 6 PIM in 82 games would be enough – but he also doubled last season’s production, notching 53 points from the blue line.

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: Bergeron
Will: Bergeron

His season was full of Selke-worthy numbers and stats (like winning 53% of faceoffs when shorthanded) so we’re rooting for the highly-underrated Bergeron to be the first Bruin to take home the trophy since 1982.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: Hitchcock
Will: Hitchcock

In November, the Blues were not good. Enter Ken Hitchcock. They got good. Although their playoff run ended early, Hitchcock managed to change the culture of the Blues and help position the franchise as a team to be watched.

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Lupul
Will: Alfredsson

We admire Alfredsson’s seniority and dedication to the Sens, but Lupul’s comeback from a spinal cord contusion and life-threatening blood infection only to be dropped by the Ducks then put up career best numbers in struggling Toronto?  Our hero.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Malkin
Will: Malkin

Malkin does it all – including make his teammates better players. Everybody wants to be on that line.

GM of the Year: (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Dale Tallon
Will: Dale Tallon

Extreme Makeover: Hockey Edition. Tallon brought in seven of Florida’s top eleven scorers. They landed their first playoff appearance in 12 years and first ever division title with money leftover to buy more rats.

Jeff Marek, Marek Vs. Wyshynski

Hart (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Lundqvist
Will: Malkin

Let’s face it, there’s a bias against goalies winning this award, so much so that I’m beyond shocked that the Rangers goalie even made his way into the final three. Lundqvist, more than Malkin and certainly more than Stamkos was almost singlehandedly responsible for the Rangers achieving what they did, but Malkin popped 50 and was the only player to break the century barrier for points.

Vezina (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Quick
Will: Lundqvist

Quick was the lone reason the Kings had their nose above the waterline and not drown in the pool of mediocrity they were swimming in for most of the season. However, as we’ve noted on the podcast, this is an award voted on by the GM’s and as such the two goalies from the West will probably split the votes which will allow Lundqvist to hit the stage at the Wynn Wednesday night.

Norris (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Chara
Will: Karlsson

An upset? Yup, if you somehow cling to the antiquated belief that defensemen should, oh I don’t know, kill penalties. Karlsson wins based on the sheer volume of points accumulated, over 20 more than his nearest competitor on the backend.

Calder (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Landeskog
Will: Landeskog

Yes, RHN had a better scoring percentage but Landeskog’s growth and eventual dominance amongst all freshman players is obvious. He played in all 82 games for Colorado (remarkable considering how Andy Sutton almost launched him into orbit last October. Be an expert, watch the video), notched 22 goals, 5 of them game winners and played on of the best lines down the stretch with Ryan O’Reilly and Steve Downie. Having said that, if the playoffs counted would there be any doubt that Adam Henrque deserves this award?

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Campbell
Will: Eberle

Not since Leonard ‘Red’ Kelly in 1954 has a defenseman won this award and as much as I think Campbell should win it, it’s Eberle’s year. Seventy-six points coupled with ten PIM’s, it’s an easy call. Eberle is such a sound positional player that he never put’s himself in position to take a penalty to either get himself back into a play or allow it to pass him by.

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: Bergeron
Will: Backes

Backes wins based not only on his fine two-way play but also the overall defensive posture of the Blues. However, I like Bergeron for this award. A plus-36, tops in the league, while drawing the toughest assignments night in and night out with a faceoff percentage just a hair under 60% and 55 takeaways to boot.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: MacLean
Will: Hitchcock

Ok, first off, HOW HAS MIKE BABCOCK NOT WON THIS AWARD YET???? Ok, just had to get that out. Hitch will win because not only is he an excellent coach but the story was an easy one to follow ? vet bench boss takes over disappointing and sputtering team and leads them to the top of their division and flirts with top position in the league.

But, the Blues were expected by most to be in the playoff mix this season unlike Ottawa who many (hands up) had in the Nail Yakupov sweepstakes. Bryan Murray indicated last summer this was year one of the rebuild and constructed his team as such. One problem ? MacLean made them win. Nobody expected that out of this bunch.

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Pacioretty
Will: Pacioretty

While you could make a case for Lupul (who came back after 2 back surgeries and a blood disorder) after what Max P went through after the Chara hit is remarkable. Not only to come back from a fractured neck but to score 33 goals and lead Montreal in points is beyond remarkable. TV question: When Pacioretty wins the award later tonight does whomever is directing the show cut to Zdeno Chara applauding as he takes the stage? Would be a great TV moment if he does.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Stamkos
Will: Stamkos

Unlike the Hart, this is for most outstanding player not most valuable. In an era where scoring 50 is a monumental achievement, Stamkos pinned up 60. No player in his position was as dominant as Stamkos and the only reason he doesn’t win the Hart is his Bolts didn’t make the playoffs.

GM of the Year: (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Tallon
Will: Tallon

Hey, can we give this award a name? My vote goes to ‘The Bill Torrey” award (and yes the trophy is a bowtie). Tallon cobbled together a team last summer that many wrote off as “just Dale trying to get to the salary cap floor” and turned them into a winner. From bringing in Brian Campbell and his big ticket to hiring Kevin Dineen, a rookie NHL coach everything worked.

Elena Pagliarello, Marek Vs. Wyshynski

Hart (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Lundqvist
Will: Lundqvist

If you go by the letter of the law for the Hart, it’s supposed to be for player most valuable to his team – but it always seems to get misconstrued as MVP of the league…. well, I think Henrik Lundqvist can cover off both those categories. Yes, the Rangers had a great defence in front of him, but the fact is that Lundqvist is a world class goalie and his team wouldn’t have got to where they did without him.

Yes, Malkin kept the Penguins afloat while Crosby was out and Stamkos was one of the premier goal scorers of the year, but they’re just a little bit behind where the man they call the king is.

Vezina (Lundqvist/Rinne/Quick)

Should: Quick
Will: Lundqvist

After all that about how Lundqvist is the best, he still wasn’t the best goalie in the league this season. Bottom line, the LA Kings would not have even made the playoffs, let alone won the Cup, without Jonathan Douglas Quick. How many 1-0 games did the Kings play in? More importantly, how many of those did they win? Exactly. Sure Lundqvist and Rinne both played lights-out in the regular season and pretty darn well in the playoffs, but Quick just calmly and consistently led the Kings from start to finish this year.

Norris (Chara/Karlsson/Weber)

Should: Karlsson
Will: Chara

As much as I’d love to believe that young Mr. Karlsson can nab the Norris this year, I really think he’s just too new and not “established” enough to win. Although Weber isn’t that much older, he and Chara just seem to have that cache that’s needed to win these awards, and I don’t discount the fact that people want to see if Karlsson can string together a couple seasons like the one he just had.

Calder (Henrique/Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins)

Should: Henrique
Will: Landeskog

It’s tough to argue against a dude who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final in his rookie year, but I’m here to do it. Over the course of the season Landeskog was consistent, and consistently getting better every game, while Henrique had some ups and downs and Nugent-Hopkins didn’t even play the entire year (yes, it was an injury and not getting benched or anything, but the fact is he still missed time). I got to see Landeskog play first week of the season, and you could just tell that he has what is needed to be a stud player in this league.

Lady Byng (Brian Campbell/Eberle/Moulson)

Should: Who knows?
Will: Moulson

Not that there’s anything wrong with rewarding fair play and sportsmanship, there’s just something about this award that seems… empty? So I’ll say that Matt Moulson should win based on nothing else other than the fact I’ve spoken to him on the phone and he was nice to me then, so he must be a gentlemanly type.

Selke (Backes/Bergeron/Datsyuk)

Should: Bergeron
Will: Datsyuk

Another one of the sorta “legacy” awards that it seems like you need to have standing with the voters to get in to real consideration. To me, the Selke finalists always seem to be guys who go about their business and you don’t really figure out how good they are until you look at the numbers. Bergeron had a great statistical season, and was a solid unsung hero for the Bruins working his way back to where he was pre-concussion issues. But Datsyuk is one of those guys who can win on merit, and who people almost go, well, why not give it to him.

Adams (Hitchcock/MacLean/Tortorella)

Should: MacLean
Will: Hitchcock

While all three of these men are deserving of winning, if you purely look at results vs. expectations for the year, Paul MacLean deserves it hands down. The Senators were roundly picked as bottom feeders in the East this season, dismissed as a roster with a few old guys being helped out by a bunch of young kids and rookies fresh off a Calder Cup championship, and generally expected to not do anything of consequence. Instead, all they did was pull off some impressive winning streaks, make the playoffs and push the Rangers to a Game 7. To me, MacLean won the award when he turned the team around in November after a pair of blowout losses, but Hitchcock seems to still be the prevailing favourite for rescuing the Blues from early season mediocrity and getting them within two points of the President’s trophy.

Masterton (Alfredsson/Lupul/Pacioretty)

Should: Lupul
Will: Pacioretty

Maybe it’s because I’m in Toronto and saw Lupul play on a pretty regular basis, but he had a really, really good season, especially considering everything he’s been through in the past couple years. You always hear guys say how unpredictable recovery from concussions can be, but it seems like trying to come back from infections and viruses like Lupul had to in the past few years can be just as unsure. Unfortunately, I suppose, it seems like you need to have a really dramatic injury/comeback story to be awarded this trophy, and it doesn’t get more dramatic than Max Pacioretty getting slammed into the boards and stanchion by Zdeno Chara and coming back to have a terrific season for the Canadiens this year.

Lindsay ? Player MVP (Lundqvist/Malkin/Stamkos)

Should: Lundqvist
Will: Lundqvist

Some of them may vote for his skill, and some of them may vote for his stunning blue eyes, but the players of the NHL will, in one way or any other, reward Henrik Lundqvist for being just slightly better than the rest of them.

GM of the Year: (Doug Armstrong/David Poile/Dale Tallon)

Should: Armstrong
Will: Armstrong

While Dale Tallon might be the obvious choice for assembling spare parts, young guys and ridiculous contracts into a serviceable team, I want to give more credit to the players themselves and Kevin Dineen for making something out of nothing.

On the other hand, Armstrong had the balls to change coaches a few weeks in to the season and banked on the two-goalie system of Elliott and Halak working out perfectly, which it did for the most part (until they traded away the insurance plan and one of the goalies got hurt, but whatever) – and while he positioned his team well last year, they may be even better set up for years to come.

Tampa Bay Rowdies

Jun 24 12

10 reasons to watch 2012 NHL Awards, despite the presence of Nickelback

Tony

Do the 2012 NHL Awards lack a little buzz this year?

Perhaps. Which is weird, because some of the races for the awards are unpredictable and, in some cases, history could be made.

So if you’re on the fence about tuning in for the Awards on Wednesday night, here are 10 reasons why it could be worth your time.

1. Will Henrik Lundqvist pull the Hart/Vezina sweep?

The New York Rangers star is up for both the Hart Trophy for regular-season MVP and the Vezina Trophy for the NHL’s top goaltender. The latter, one assumes, he should have in the bag ? Lundqvist has been nominated four times for the award; plus, Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne may split the vote from the Western Conference GMs.

But can he win the Hart? Only three goalies have ever pulled off that sweep: Jacques Plante in 1961-62; Dominik Hasek twice, from 1996-98; and Jose Theodore in 2001-02.

The MVP is probably in Evgeni Malkin’s Shrek-ish hands, but you never know.

Speaking of which ?

2. Evgeni Malkin’s Speech

From 96.1 KISS-FM, this tribute to Malkin interviews should whet your appetite for what should be an Obama-level oration when Malkin accepts the Hart Trophy.

3. The Philosophy of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins vs. Gabriel Landeskog

The Calder Trophy vote this season was a fascinating one, and not just because The Nuge and The Kog were stellar candidates. It’s a vote that speaks to the very philosophy of what makes for a successful season and an impactful player.

RNH was the League’s best rookie offensively ? tied for first among rookies in points with 52, averaging a rookie-best 0.840 points per game in 62 games. He scored 23 of his 52 points on the power play, and didn’t see any action shorthanded.

Landeskog tied Nugent-Hopkins in points and was second to Matt Read (24) in goals with 22. He played all 82 games, got better as the season went along and was a major factor in the Colorado Avalanche’s push for the playoffs during the voting period. He was a physical force and set a Colorado record with 270 shots on goal.

Nugent-Hopkins was the more dynamic rookie during a shorter time frame. Landeskog was in it for the long haul and was the more complete player.

[Related: Five NHL Awards we'd like to see added, because everyone deserves a gold star]

The voters can’t go wrong with either choice; but who wins the Calder?

4. Who Will Be Best Dressed?

The NHL Awards exist if for no other reason than awkward, staged photographs of jocks in fancy suits. Some of them embrace this. Others will be your waiter for the evening.

5. Pavel Datsyuk Guns For Gainey

Datsyuk has been voted a Selke finalist for the fifth consecutive year, matching the streaks of Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau (1986 through 1990) and Bob Gainey (1978 through 1982). He can match Gainey in another way if he bounces back to capture the Selke this season, after having his run of three trophies end last season: His fourth Selke will tie Gainey for the most in NHL history.

6. The Ottawa Upsets?

Neither Paul MacLean nor Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators could be considered the front-runner for the Jack Adams or the Norris Trophy respectively. But both have their unique charms for voters, which means the potential is there for an upset.

For MacLean, his coach of the year candidacy rests on his likeability (undeniable) and the fact that the Senators were seen by many as a conference cellar-dweller that he led to the postseason instead. Probably not enough to get around the considerable roadblock of Ken Hitchcock, but he has a shot.

Karlsson’s path to the Norris is more direct: Hope that Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber split the “total package” vote, and that enough members of the PHWA see his offensive accomplishments as spectacular and his defense as respectable.

7. Old Guy vs. Sob Stories

Joffrey Lupul had his career threatened in 2010 by two back surgeries and a blood infection. Max Pacioretty suffered a significant concussion and neck trauma after being driven into the stanchion by Zdeno Chara, and getting stretchered off the ice.

Both players worked their way back to the NHL, with career-best results in 2011-12.

Daniel Alfredsson is ? old. But dedicated. And the Masterton Award is intended for “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” Being a career Ottawa Senator ? that’s all of those things, no?

8. Please Give Jonathan Quick a Cocktail and an Open Mic

If there’s nothing else we’ve learned in the wake of the Los Angeles Kings’ Stanley Cup championship, it’s that the Conn Smythe winner is a [expletive] blast when he’s [expletive] loose and there’s an [expletive] mic on. Sit him with Roenick.

9. How Nice Is Matt Moulson?

The New York Islanders forward has a chance to become the nicest man in the NHL. He’s up for the Lady Byng, after a season in which he earned six penalty minutes in 82 games while scoring 36 goals. How gentlemanly!

He’s also up for the NHL Foundation Award, given annually to “an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

Why? Oh, because he created the 326 Foundation with brother-in-law Jon Quick to benefit the Islanders Children’s Foundation and the Kings Care Foundation. This year, Moulson donated $500 for each of his career-high 36 goals for a total of $18,000 to the 326 Foundation.

He also raised money for Hockey Fights Cancer and helped out the Wounded Warrior Project, too.

If he wins either award, we bet he’ll allow a sick kitten to accept on his behalf.

10. Finally, Please Tell Us Nickelback Is Using Massive Amounts of Pyro

Even those hockey fans that didn’t recoil upon hearing Nickelback would be the line musical guest at the NHL Awards are in the “I can stomach them I guess” party. So we ask ? nay, beg ? of you NHL Awards producers and Nickelback: Give us pyro. Massive fireballs and explosions. Flames licking the faces of the front row VIPs.

Anything to distract us from the Nickelback happening on stage. Hey, it worked for hair metal.

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San Francisco Seals

Jun 23 12

Watch Tracy Morgan join New York Rangers, become HBO 24/7 star in NHL Awards spoof (VIDEO)

Tony

Without a host this season, the 2012 NHL Awards promised more comedy bits from presenters (many of them painful) and taped segments from stars like Will Arnett, Kevin Smith and Tracy Morgan, which were actually funny.

Here’s Tracy Morgan joining (and eventually leaving) the New York Rangers, befriending a universe-loving goaltender in Philadelphia and flashing his gut on HBO “24/7″.

“He’s the Yoda of hockey …”

Some funny stuff in there, especially the bikini girl training staff. But we can’t lie ? this would have been 10-times funnier if it had been Jay Mohr doing his Tracy Morgan impression for three minutes.

But there’s something wickedly funny about John Tortorella’s Sean Avery speech being applied to a fictional Tracy Morgan comedy character.

Eastern Conference

Jun 23 12

Weekend soccer TV & online listings: European Championship quarterfinals, MLS, NASL, USL

Tony

What are you going to watch?

All times are Eastern

Of note: Euro 2012 matches are available on satellite radio: Sirius 92 and XM 207. ? Most MLS matches are available on local TV outlets in the club?s market.

Read full article >>

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Newcastle United

Jun 22 12

Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Cirque du Soleil star in ?Neon Bodysuit Pole Dancing? (VIDEO)

Tony

Edmonton Oilers stars Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are in Las Vegas for the 2012 NHL Awards, as The Nuge is up for rookie of the year while Ebs is a very nice young man.

On Tuesday, they had themselves quite the Las Vegas experience, including an audition for the new musical “Frogger: Turn Off The Dark.”

We’re kidding, of course: The Oilers duo actually experienced the unique charms of Cirque du Soleil, in which they donned flattering costumes with even more flattering masks when strategically placed (well done, Mr. Nugent-Hopkins).

From the Oilers and writer Ryan Dittrick, as the boys learned some routines from Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystere” at Treasure Island:

“I went to a Cirque du Soleil show the other day (‘O’ at the Bellagio), so it’s pretty incredible to watch the pros and see what they go through. It was a lot of fun,” Nugent-Hopkins said.

Once they were dressed the show’s elegant (and ridiculously tight) green and pink one-piece leotard, it was go time. “My Halloween costume was the Green Men from Vancouver, so it’s pretty similar. Me and Hallsy (Taylor Hall) wore that, so I’m accustomed to the tightness,” Eberle laughed.

Indeed. Oh, but there’s video.

The first few minutes of this video involves them Ferrari F430s at 150 mph in the desert (yawn!) before it gets to Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins in skintight bodysuits learning how to pole dance (cc: Puck Buddys).

An actual quote from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: “The workouts that we do help us prepare for climbing poles.”

s/t HF Boards

Laredo Heat

Jun 22 12

Guatemala-US Preview: Time To Grind Out A Result

Tony

Detroit Ignition

Jun 21 12

College World Series 2012 Schedule: Postponement Assures Arkansas Victory

Tony

Playing an elimination game in the College World Series is tough enough, but playing one with another game looming on the same day is just unfair.

The winner of Kent State and South Carolina will have to do just that, as rain postponed their Wednesday-night matchup.

Now, the two teams play in Thursday’s first game, and the winner will be forced to play Arkansas in the evening.

This gives the Razorbacks a huge advantage. They get to sit back and watch two teams fight for their lives while they relax. Mentally, and physically, this will be a huge factor.

Arkansas already holds an advantage. They are coming from the winner’s bracket, and a loss wouldn’t be fatal to their championship hopes. Their pitchers (No. 7 team ERA in the nation) will have a chance to scout each hitter that day.

This bizarre situation isn’t a good thing.

Personally, I’d rather see a rested Gamecock, or Golden Flash, squad take on the Razorbacks. It would give a more genuine assessment of how good each team really is.

I don’t want to see Arkansas beat up a mentally exhausted squad to advance, but that’s the way things like this go.

You have to expect the unexpected in sports and, in this case, the unexpected will ensure a Razorback victory.

Kent State would have a tough time either way. Their bats do not match up well with Arkansas’ prolific pitching. They managed to beat No. 1 seed Florida on Tuesday, but two games will exhaust them.

Their underdog run will come to a close.

South Carolina may be the two-time defending champion, but Michael Roth is being used in Thursday’s first game. Without their best pitcher on the bump, the Gamecocks will have to increase their run output to win the game.

Either way it’s a very good situation for the Razorbacks. They’re a very good team playing nine innings while a lesser team will be forced to play 18 frames.

That’s a steep hill to climb.

Virginia Legacy

Jun 21 12

How fitness app changed life for Victor Hedman, Gabriel Landeskog

Tony

NEW YORK — “You can’t mention it to me, I don’t really like it,” said a jokingly sullen Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning when talking about Sweden’s loss last Friday in the 2012 European soccer championships to England, eliminating them from advancing out of the group stage.

The 6-foot-6, 21-year old blueliner for the Lightning had his spirits raised not long after Sweden’s loss when news broke that Tampa Bay had acquired his fellow countryman Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators.

“That was good for my wounds,” said Hedman.

After spending some time in the French Riviera and the Ukraine, Hedman was in New York City on Monday along with Colorado Avalanche forward and 2012 Calder Trophy nominee Gabriel Landeskog to help introduce SimpliFlow’s FLOW Competitive Sports app, launching in August in North America.

The app, which was launched in Sweden, creates custom workouts based on one’s strengths and weaknesses as well as detailed analysis of results that can be shared with other users of the program. Hedman and Landeskog came on-board through their agent, Peter Wallen, and the app has been a nice aid for their off-season training.

“We were working with these type of exercises in the summer for a long time,” said Hedman. ”It’s the perfect fit for us to have this [app] so we can still be in our hometown and still have your personal trainer with you.”

I took part in a shortened session on Monday with Landeskog, Hedman and trainer Joe Costa of Mind to Muscle. The focus is on building strength and power through movement, helping with mobility and flexibility. It’s a workout that isn’t monotonous with exercises that build upon one another.

Landeskog, who played all 82 games during his rookie season, had back issues in the past which have dissipated since he began incorporating the workout routines. He said he’s felt a huge difference in his body, including a strengthened core.

“I’ve been doing this type of stuff for three years, but before that there was a lot of traditional workouts [like] running, long-distance running [and] more just straight up lifts,” said Landeskog. “That’s good if you want to be into weight lifting or running, but for a hockey purposes you want to flexible. You want to be strong in your power stands and box stands.”

Once the apps launches in August in North America, will their teammates come asking for free subscriptions?

“Probably,” Hedman joked. “I’ll try and hook them up. I can’t promise anything.”

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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