Sunday, December 30, 2012

Is it time to gear up for an abbreviated NHL season?


I think so.

It might be jumping the gun a bit, but the latest offer from the NHL makes for some significant movement on their part. Methinks the players will probably make one more offer and the sides will come to a middle ground on remaining "hot-button" issues like contract length and variance.

From the way it looks, the distance between the two sides is anything but a "gulf." The only gulf is the size of the NHL owners' collective ego which would want them to put a final offer on the table for the players to agree upon.

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, who has done a masterful job of negotiating despite starting out in a deep hole, seems to have a pretty good feel for what the players want and what the owners are willing to compromise on. He and the NHLPA spent Saturday going over the 300-page NHL offer, while Deputy Commish Bill Daly mentioned "informational sessions" set for Sunday morning but, "nothing beyond that."

Edit:  Link extra:  Toronto Globe and Mail's Bruce Dowbiggen blames the owner's scorched earth first offer for the players rallying behind a calm, cool, collected, and somewhat mischevious Donald Fehr


Last Friday was a good hockey day which started in the morning with the World Juniors and it would have been great had the USA U-20 team defeated the Russians.

The US squad held their own in the 2-1 loss, with a group of hard working players who were simply outclassed up-front by a pretty fast and talented Russian group.

Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko (2012, #12 overall) was on display and had a solid, if point-less, game for Russia.

Sabres 2012 second-round pick (#44-overall) Jake McCabe was on the US squad and the big defenseman more than held his own. McCabe is the captain of the US squad who happens to be coached by former Sabres defenseman Phil Housley.

Later that night, I was one of 19,070 fans at the F'N Center to watch the Rochester Americans 4-1 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters. It was a record crowd for the Amerks and eighth largest in AHL history.

BTW, Mike Schoppsie. The Lake Erie Monsters are Colorado's minor league affiliate. They were bought in 2006 by Cleveland Cavaliers and Horseshoe Casino owner Dan Gilbert.

Anyhow, it was good to see a hockey game this season. Although it never achieved the level of an NHL game, for the most part, the guys on the ice worked hard.

Two players who seem ready to get back to the NHL are Cody Hodgson and Marcus Foligno.

Hodgson had two goals and clearly looked like a man amongst boys while Foligno just did his thing--nothin' crazy, nothin' stupid, just a solid NHL-type/power forward game.

Brayden McNabb had a rough game with three minor penalties, although he did manage to garner two secondary assists.

Amerks defenseman TJ Brennan (2007, #31 overall) looked as if he's ready to make the jump to the NHL on a full-time basis.

After spending three years working on the finer points of his defensive game, the offensive defensman seems ready to really bust out on the score sheet. He presently leads the team with 12 goals.

One player I was keenly interested was 2012 first-round draft pick (#14 overall) Zemgus Girgensons.

The "Latvian Locomotive," as he's been called had a good game in what looked to be a clearly defined role on the third line.

His capacity to see the plays evolving and his constant movement to, and around, the puck were on display. He wasn't a Patrick Kaleta-type wrecking ball, which is not his style, and really didn't do anything stupid throughout the game, but he did manage some decent checks.

As you watch him, you can see he's soaking everything in and as of right now it doesn't seem as if the AHL game is too fast for him.

When the NHL season starts, one would think that he'll be up on the Amerks first line soaking up even more.

Until then, he looked real good as the youngest player in the AHL.

Williamsville native David Leggio had a strong, 3rd-star, game in net.

I'm not sure if he'll get a shot at the NHL, but I'd sure like to seem him get the opportunity to play in an NHL game.

This is not to say he's the next Terry Sawchuk or anything like that, but he is a very sound goalie with some attitude and aggressiveness.

At age 28, the guy has worked his way into the position that he's in as the #1 goalie for the Amerks. He has spent years both overseas and kicking around the minor leagues before he finally found a home with Rochester. (For some background, click here.)

Leggio audio from WGR.

Hodgson audio from WGR.

Amerks Head Coach Ron Rolston audio from WGR.

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