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A Tale of Two Florida Franchises.

2019.09.26 20:49 KikiFlowers A Tale of Two Florida Franchises.

For this one, I’ve decided to try a different approach, rather than just writing about one team, or one player, I’m going to write about two teams, specifically the Panthers and Lightning. As we all know the Lightning are considered to be pretty good, while the Panthers are considered to be, pretty bad. From the Rat Trick, to Quenneville signing, the Panthers have seen a lot, but so have the Lightning.

Expansion, Expansion Never Changes.

Lightning

In the late 80’s the NHL was hungry to further expand, and they selected, Tampa Bay, San Jose and Ottawa. San Jose was a no brainer, as North Stars owners Gordon and George Gund had been trying to move the North Stars to San Francisco for years, San Jose was given to them on the condition they sell the team to a local owner(Norm Greed), while the new Senators would be in the heart of Canada’s capital, they were a shitshow from the beginning, while the Lightning…. oh boy that’s a can of worms.
So to begin with, there were two groups here bidding for the St Petersburg, Florida. One group owned by Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford, looked to be the more stable, while their opposing group was led by the Esposito Brothers, Phil and Tony Esposito, who in turn had money coming in from The Pritzker Family(Too many things to list, they’re rich), who in turn backed out at the last minute, leading Kokusai Green, who...we don’t know shit about, to come in as the new investors for the Esposito Group. Kokusai Green were a group of masked people, who managed a golf course / resort. It looked like Karmanos / Rutherford would be the winning bid, but the Esposito Group were the ones willing to pay the $50 million expansion fee up front, because even back then, Karmanos was a cheap bastard.
For their first season, they played at the Expo Hall of the Florida State Fairgrounds, so obviously not an arena built for hockey. It was tiny(11K seats), but it was fine for the first season, before they moved to play at the Thunderdome(Tropicana Field now), until the Ice Palace(Amalie Arena) was built. In their first season, they had goaltender Manon Rheaume play a pre-season game, making her the first and only Woman to play in a NHL game. She stopped seven of nine shots against the St Louis Blues. It was a publicity stunt, obviously, but she wasn’t awful. She played an IHL game too.

Panthers

December 10th, 1992 was a promising day for the NHL. The Walt Disney Company had announced they were bringing a new team to the NHL, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim(based on their movie series), at the same time though, Blockbuster owner Wayne Huizenga was also announced as bringing an expansion team to the NHL, the Florida Panthers. Huizenga was no stranger to sorts, he had purchased a 15% stake in the Miami Dolphins and their stadium, Joe Robbie Stadium(now Hard Rock Stadium), Dolphins owner,, Joe Robbie had recently died and his family was struggling to keep the team afloat. In 1994, he bought the remaining shares for around $115 Million, changing the name of the stadium soon after, to “Pro Player Park” due to a deal with Fruit of the Loom’s “Pro Player” brand. He also owned the Florida Marlins, who had yet to play a game at the time of this announcement.
There was an initial concern of territory infringement, but the NHL shrugged it off. For their initial few seasons, the Panthers would play at the Miami Arena, sharing with the Miami Heat of the NBA. Huizenga had the name “Panthers” since 91, since he bought it off a group trying to get a MLB team in Tampa. Huizenga was great for the Panthers for the most part, he had money, he spent it on his team and he didn't meddle.
For their first few seasons, the Panthers had shared an arena with the Miami Heat, at the Miami Arena a still relatively new arena at the time(single digit age), but it was clear early on this would not be able support pro sports for long, it only held around 14K. It was good arena for its time and people showed up at the least.

New Teams, New Struggles

Panthers

Obviously the first few years for these teams sucked, expansion was designed to make the expanding team awful, especially with how the rules were set up. But the Panthers were the exception, it took them two seasons of missing to make the playoffs, where they went to a cup final, only to lose to the new Avalanche(formerly Nordiques). This playoff run was accompanied by the now famous “Rat Trick”. The prior season during the home opener, Scott Mellanby had killed a rat with his stick in the locker room and proceeded to score two goals that night, with goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck coining the phrase. Fans loved the idea and would flood the ice with plastic rats, after every goal. In the 96-97 season this was changed, so that the home team would be penalized if the fans disrupted a game(see Flyers fans throwing bracelets onto the ice, during Ed Snyder’s memorial). The Rat Trick carried on though, with fans throwing thousands of plastic rats onto the ice, after the Panthers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, to capture the Prince of Wales Trophy, punching their ticket to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. Coincidentally, it was also the Chinese Year of the Rat, which helped things too.Fun fact, the team brought on Orkin as a sponsor, so ice crew would come out to clean up the rats, dressed as Orkin Exterminators, great marketing if you ask me! Area supermarkets even sold cupcakes with rats on them, to show support for the team.
That was the first, last and only big playoff run for the Panthers unfortunately, as the following season they lost in the first round to Gretzky’s Rangers(who got their shit kicked in by the Flyers in a Conference Final 4-1, who in turn got swept by Detroit.). 97-98 was also..bad, this time they missed the playoffs. During that season coach Doug MacLean was fired after going 7-12-4, with GM Bryan Murray taking over his duties and leading the team to an even worse overall record of 24-43-15, even worse during 15-game winless streak, John Vanbiesbrouck was shelled by the Blackhawks, playing his final game in a Panthers jersey. He walked in free agency to sign with the Flyers. To replace him the Panthers had a bit of a three-headed goalie monster going on as Mike Vernon, Trevor Kidd, Mikhail Shtalenkov, Sean Burke and Richard Shulmistra, all played in 99-00.
Stability came back in that offseason as they acquired franchise legend Roberto Luongo, from the Islanders, due to GM Mike Milbury being a fucking idiot. Milbury hated Luo and previously criticized him for apartment shopping on the day he let in 7 goals against the Bruins. Luo had two stints with the Panthers before retiring this past offseason. He's set so many franchise records and is set to have his number retired on March, 7, 2020.

Lightning

While in this same timespan, the Lightning had broken 30 wins only once. The Lightning rebounded in season 4(95-96), just barely knocking out the defending champion Devils, by a single point. They went onto face the Flyers in their first playoff series. They had just barely squeaked into a playoff berth, taking the final eastern wildcard spot, with a record of 38-32-12, or 88 points. They had split the first 2 games at the Spectrum, bringing it back to the Thunderdome, with a record crowd of ** 28,183** a record that stood until 2003’s heritage classic. Right away, Tampa was crazy for hockey even if the team wasn’t that good. The two teams split games yet again, but ultimately the Flyers won the series 4-2. It wasn’t bad though, for their first playoff berth the Lightning were building something good, but had they advanced to a Conference Final, we could have seen the battle of the Florida teams, unfortunately the Hockey Gods are cruel and that series has never happened.
The draft that year for the Lightning wasn’t great, their first rounder Mario Larocque never played a game for them and most of their picks were traded away, although they did draft Pavel Kubina, who stuck with them until 2006 and then again from 2010-2012. Unlike the Panthers, the early Lightning didn’t find much success on the ice, it didn’t help that they played in a baseball stadium, rather than a proper hockey rink. But it could be worse, they could be mismanaged like the future Thrashers were. Plus Daren Puppa was nominated for the Vezina, but lost out to Jim Carey of the Capitals.

New Millenium, Same Struggles.

The 90s were coming to a close, but there was so much more craziness before that century ended:
The Panthers finally moved into their own space, the National Car Rental Center(BB&T, soon to be Truist), but that came with an instant problem. It wasn’t in Miami, it was in Sunrise, which wasn’t really a sports town.
The Reason Huizenga went to Sunrise instead of staying in Miami with the Heat was a few reasons:
There were early talks about the Heat and Panthers sharing a new arena, but Micky Arison has vehemently said absolutely not to sharing with the Panthers. Being as Arison is the owner of the Heat(has been for decades), it’s never happening. Plus renovating AAA(soon to be named something else) would be a nightmare. As it is, it’s not built for hockey, so you’d have another Barclays / Talking Stick Situation. I’ve seen a lot of people saying “Sunrise is perfect for hockey”, but unfortunately the attendance says otherwise.
Couple that with the distance from Miami and the fact there’s nothing to do before or after the game near BB&T. You got a large mall and some shitty restaurants nearby, while you look at Vegas as a good example of actual life around the arena. The team would be better suited to build a new arena in Hollywood, Downtown Fort Lauderdale or go back to Miami Dade and figure something out. Combine that with Cohen coming in and gutting this team financially, fans quit showing up after the “new stadium” effect wore off and the Panthers didn’t get much better. The Panthers(in my opinion) can’t succeed in Sunrise, they’ve tried their damndest to build a fanbase, but the on-ice product has been awful and nobody wants to support a team that’s been in a perpetual rebuild since Dale Tallon took over almost a decade ago. Attendance wasn't an issue at the Miami Arena, but the problem was that it was so small despite only being around 8 years old, when AAA opened. I don't know if games were "sellouts", but they were doing fine in attendance.
Obviously not, it's built for basketball, has no ice plant, awful sightlines and the owner doesn't want them.
A lot to cover here. The Lightning were bad, they were bottom of the league because Kokusai Green(Maybe Yakuza???? / Primary Owners) didn’t carry about the Lightning, they are losing money at an incredible rate and Kokusai was forced to transfer money to keep the lights on. There’s a lot of blame here, first off:
The NHL, these idiots got scammed by John Spano years earlier and didn’t do their due diligence again with Kokusai Green. NHL didn’t care if any checks cleared, they wanted that sweet, sweet $50 mill is all, hell the Lightning could be playing beach hockey and as long as they got the money, they’d look the other way.
Hillsborough County, had agreed to build the Lightning, the Ice Palace but the question remained, Who The Fuck Is Takashi Okubo? The Answer will surprise you, because nobody knows. NHL President John Ziegler never met “Okubo'', Bettman never did(though he tried), nobody from Hillsborough County or Tampa met with “him”, but apparently(?????) Saburo(Steve) Oto(Japanese-Born, he was the team executive) and Chris Phillips claimed to have met him. Is he real? Who the hell knows!? Was Kokusai Green, Yakuza? Who the hell knows!? Two things are for certain:
(There is a lot more to this, but I’ll let y’all read the 3-parter for this, plus these news stories)
The Lightning desperately needed a new owner who wasn’t possibly a figment of our imagination. Which is where Art Williams, comes in. Williams was a motivational speaker, not much else to it. It looked like Pistons owner William Davidson was going to get the winning bid, but it turned out to be Williams. Williams was for lack of a better word, an idiot, he knew nothing about hockey, spoke with a thick southern drawl and was a fundamentalist christian. But he pumped $6 Million into the Lightning’s payroll and cleared away most of the $102 million debt(thanks to Kokusai Green). His first move was to “assure” fans, that the Espositos wouldn’t be going away, but then 2 games into the 98-99 season? HE FIRES THEM INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO! His next move was to give Jacques Demers total control of Hockey Ops, making him Coach & GM!, which was a shitshow.
Williams didn’t know much about hockey and the other owners hated him as a result, giving him the nickname “Jed Clampett”(Beverly Hillbillies) because of his thick southern accent. It didn’t help that he quit attending games by Spring of ‘99, because "this team broke my heart". They lost as much money in one year as they could have lost in five($20 million), which is not a good sign, especially when you’re doing worse than a brand new expansion team(Predators).
Williams sold the team to Detroit Vipers(IHL) and Pistons owner William Davidson, the same man trying to buy the team just a few years ago, for only $115 million, $2 million less than Williams bought the team for. His first move was to bring on Tom Wilson as Team President, who fired Demers and brought on Steve Ludzik as the new coach, it wasn’t enough though, the damage from the Kokusai Green bullshit was done, even transferring everyone good from the Vipers(this is what helped kill them) didn’t help much.
Despite all the craziness from the last few years, in 1998 the Lightning drafted Vincent Lecavalier, who went onto become the franchise GOAT. His first few seasons weren’t that great, but 00-01 is when he turned it around, despite a leg injury. In that same draft, they had taken Brad Richards, who became another big core piece. In 2000, the Lightning brought on Martin St. Louis, an undrafted player who the Flames bought out. Fredrik Modin was also brought in, via trade with the Maple Leafs. These moves helped establish a future contender and a core group going forward.

Mismanagement Galore.

The new millennium brought with it new challenges. Huizenga finally sold the team in 2001 to a group led by Alan Cohen(owner of a Generic Drug Company), Cohen was...pretty bad for the Panthers, he led their slide into mediocrity and into being forgotten by everyone, but he did pump a shitton of money into them, to keep them from moving. I won’t sugarcoat it, Cohen ruined this team, he got fans to stop caring, by making moves or lack thereof. Sure he saved this franchise from moving, but ultimately it’s his fault that the Panthers became a joke. As soon as they were sold to Cohen, the decade streak of no playoffs started, it’s obviously unfair to blame the start on him though.
It wasn’t all bad though, they drafted Jay Bouwmeester at 3rd overall, who was about as good as you could expect from him playing for a franchise that squandered everyone. This was so fucking stupid though, the Panthers were given 1st overall and what do they do? They trade it to Columbus for 3rd overall. Why? I don’t know! They wanted Bouwmeester and could have got him at 1st overall if they wanted, Nash would have been available to Columbus at 3rd, it’s just another case of Florida throwing away their Firsts. Not only that, they had to give 2 picks to Atlanta to make sure Bouwmeester would be fucking available at 3rd. In return, Florida got to swap picks with Columbus in the 2003 Draft, but because they got 1st overall AGAIN, they didn’t exercise that right surprisingly.
What did they do in 2003? Well they TRADED 1ST OVERALL AGAIN, this time to ** The Fucking Penguins** because they wanted Nathan Horton at 3rd overall, rather than first overall. Who was 1st? Marc Andre Fleury a literal cornerstone of the Penguins franchise for over a decade and now a big piece of the Golden Knights. So you could tell that management was literally pants on head stupid and seemed to not know what they were doing.
Head Coach Mike Keenan had this to say about the 02 blunder: "We shouldn't have done that ... Jay would have been number-one if we'd kept that pick." Well no fucking shit sherlock. I don’t blame Keenan for this, it’s all ownership and GM Rick Dudley who...came from Tampa. That’s right the last team he was an executive with was the Lightning.
Say what you will about Edmonton wasting 1st overall picks, at least THEY KEPT 1ST OVERALL. Florida traded it twice to draft people who they got rid of, through sheer incompetence. Bouwmeester and Horton won a cup, with the Blues and Bruins at the least.
While the Panthers were playing with fire, figuring out “how do we make this team a cup contender, without spending a dime?”, the Lightning’s new ownership spent money, they made sure this team could be good. And with a core consisting of Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Fredrik Modin, you better fucking believe they were good. They were early bloomers, in the best ways possible. They just squeaked into division winners, by 1 point, securing a playoff berth for only the second time in franchise history. The division winners looked awful in the playoffs though, going down two games to the Capitals, before making an amazing comeback in Washington, winning both games at MCI, before heading back to the Forum, where they beat the Caps 2-1, following that with the series clincher in Washington. The Lightning had gotten some mojo going and they looked hungry, unfortunately that hunger was quickly fed as the Devils came in and utterly kicked their shit in, winning the series 4-1.
Next season(04-05) was even better. The Lightning went from barely winning the Southeast Division, to winning that and the Eastern Conference, showing that crushing defeat to Jersey wasn’t all she wrote. They entered the first round playing the Islanders, swatting them like a fly and winning 4-1. They moved onto face the Canadiens who...fell flat, as they got swept by the Lightning, who won it in Montreal, just to pour salt in the wound. The Conference Final was different, the Flyers weren’t rolling over and dying like the Islanders or Canadiens, this series to all 7 games, winning the Prince of Wales Trophy at The Forum!, so not only was it a sweet victory, it was in front of the loyal fans who stuck with them from the beginning, that expansion team that looked to be going nowhere fast, had secured a ticket to their first Cup Final, against none other than the Calgary Flames.
The Flames weren't a joke, they’d won their previous two series 4-2 and their first one 4-1, they were strong and looking to bring The Cup back to Canada where it belonged. The Lightning had a challenge ahead of them and it showed. Both sides seemed evenly matched, splitting a game at home and on the road, it was definitely a match for the ages. Game 6 was a controversial one by far. Late in Game 6, the puck had deflected off of Martin Gelinas’ skate, at the same time, Nikolai Khabibulin kicked his pad to deflect the puck. Issue is, in replays(with one select camera angle) it was shown to have crossed the line, which would have given the Flames a one-goal lead, possibly avoiding double overtime. Instead the Refs ruled it as no goal, because they didn’t see it cross the line and they didn't review these things. The teams went to double overtime, where Calgary lost thanks to Martin St Louis. There’s controversy here as the NHL reviewed it later, via a CGI video analysis, showing it did not in fact cross the line, funny enough though, the company that did this was based out of Calgary. The ABC Replay backed this up, but with no goal line tech this shits hard to tell.
The Lightning marched onto Game 7, returning to a packed St Pete Forum, ready to give the Flames a good slapping. Late in the 1st period the game was scoreless with 6:29 remaining, when Ruslan Fedotenko scored a beautiful powerplay goal, giving the Lightning a lead late in the first. Fedotenko followed this up in the second period with another goal, to give him his 12th of the Postseason. The Flames meanwhile..they kind of had no answer for Khabibulin, Nilson got his revenge and got one past the goalie and it was legal this time, but that...that was all she wrote for the Flames. The seconds counted down and the Tampa Bay Lightning had won the Stanley Cup! Even better THEY DID IT IN TAMPA!
The Lightning had done what the Panthers couldn’t, they won the cup. To commemorate this wonderful season here’s all the trophies:
It was an unbelievably historic season for the Lightning, they became the Southernmost team to win a cup and it only took 12 years of pain to do it. From being(allegedly) Yakuza-owned and their owner(allegedly) not existing, to being sold to an idiot, to finally getting Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Lightning did it and it was sweet.
Unfortunately shit happens. 04-05 didn’t happen due to a lockout, so they had to wait to defend their title. And when they did? It was bad, oh so bad. They got their asses handed to them by the Senators and then the Devils the following year, signaling to everyone it was time for a rebuild. 06-07 had a funny ending though, the Panthers were awful but they beat the Lightning who were in a tight race with the Thrashers for 1st in the Southeast. Thrashers won their game and got 1st, while the Lightning had to settle for 2nd / 7th Seed in the East.(Awful division that year, but it usually was)
Yes that Doug MacLean, the now former Sportsnet Host had previously coached the Panthers(weird how they’ve shared staff like this) and was now leading Absolute Hockey Enterprises, a group led by MacLean to buy the Lightning from Davidson. For his time, Davidson was a great owner, he didn’t meddle, he had money and he had someone smart in charge, while he just sat back approving trades as needed. Unfortunately, the deal was called off, because Absolute Hockey didn't make the required $5 Million fee and were plagued with inner turmoil. So instead, Palace Sports sold the Lightning and their arena to OK Hockey, who were anything but OK!

Late 2000’s:

Somehow the Panthers aren’t the worst run team in Florida?

Despite what the title says, they were still awful. Cohen was not willing to spend and they were losing money like crazy(so normalcy). On the ice it was much worse, as they got rid of Roberto Luongo in the worst trade I’ve ever seen, at least 1 for 1 made sense.
June 23, 2006, The Florida Panthers trade Goaltender Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round draft pick (Sergei Shirokov), to the Vancouver Canucks, in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld and Bryan Allen. Luongo was in the prime of his career and was traded because once again Florida was run by idiots, who wanted immediate help. Because Cohen was a goddamned moron who ran this into the fucking ground.
That wasn’t the only Luongo trade though, there was a proposed one for Jumbo Joe Thornton himself.
Obviously Thornton wasn’t happy in Boston and got traded to San Jose, where he’s become a franchise legend. There was a proposed trade that was allegedly ready to go to the NHL Offices, the catch? Alan Cohen was a cheap bastard(tale as old as time) and didn’t want to take money back. Luongo was on a $3.25 million AAV one-season bridge deal at the time and Thornton had just signed a three year, $20 million contract in the summer. So to help his franchise he’d have to take back money which was an instant “go fuck yourself”.
So as you can see Cohen was and probably still is hated by Panthers fans and rightfully so. Not only did he not spend on them, he made them worse and alienated every fan who still gave a shit.
There’s not much else to talk about with Cohen, he ruined the team, but unlike the Lightning, there wasn’t much bright spots, so here’s a list of big trades they made:
June 20, 2008. The Florida Panthers trade their captain Olli Jokinen to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Keith Ballard Nick Boynton and a 2008 2nd round pick (#49-Jared Staal). It was as usual a fire sale for them.
November, 2009. The Florida Panthers announce majority owner Alan Cohen is stepping down and allowing minority partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel to take over. The era of cheap-o Cohen was finally over, the remaining Panthers fans would be cheering.
Why did Cohen do that? Well it’s pretty simple. He ran them into the ground and had lost up to $100 million on this team. Hmm...I wonder why he lost so much money? Cohen had been around much less over the years while Viner and Siegel had cared about the team at least. I don’t know if they did much of anything, but they sold to Viola, who has saved this franchise.

Exit Doug MacLean and Enter Oren Koules and Len Barrie

If you’re like me and wondering “who the fuck is Koules?” turns out he produced the Saw movies. As for Barrie, he’s a former NHL player and Tyson Barrie’s Dad. Funny enough Koules is a former WHL player and tried out for the Blackhawks.
I’ll skip the formalities. Koules was absolutely the fucking worst. He ran the team like it was his fucking fantasy roster, he had no intelligence to run a team, his partner was a lying sack of shit, who’s biggest contribution was nixing “Vinny to Montreal” or so goes the rumor. Let’s go over what he did:
So once again, Barrie is shit for brains. Midway through Stamkos’ first season? He wanted him gone. The talks started IN OCTOBER and picked up around American Thanksgiving. The list of potential players coming back were Michael Del Zotto, Evgeny Grachev, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky or Dan Girardi. Barrie was asking to choose two or three of these guys. It was so done that they shook on it, but Koules not being the fucking idiot of the two for once, vetoed it. Barrie didn’t like Stamkos and argued with the coach on how he should be developing Stamkos.
Getting rid of Boyle after signing him to a new deal Fucktards tried it with Vinny and failed and then turned around and did it with Dan Boyle. He had just re-signed to a Six-year $40 Million Contract, which wasn’t bad for a guy like him. Problem? They wanted him gone. He was given a full or limited NTC(unsure) and they basically told him “accept the trade to San Jose or we’re waiving you and Atlanta is going to take you”. So he accepted it and got away from this horribly run franchise, that was trying to burn money. The value for Boyle a #1 Offensive Defenseman was...laughable. A prospect who didn’t pan out, Matt Carle and Ty Wishart. Wishart then got traded for goalie Dwayne Roloson(oldest active player and last born in the 60s, while he played). These idiots didn’t know what they were doing, that much was clear.
Coach Barry Melrose...or not? They hired Barry Melrose as the coach for the 08-09 season only to fire him 16 games into the season, because they were incompetent. He left his job at ESPN to work for these idiots and got rewarded with the boot. That team was hot garbage and Melrose wasn’t a good coach. Whodathunkit?

New Owners, New GMs, New Everything!

Panthers

The biggest move in 2010 for the Panthers was a no brainer. Dale Tallon had been relegated to Assistant GM of the Blackhawks, he built most of that championship squad only to be replaced with Stan Bowman. So on May 17th, 2010, the Panthers announced their new GM to be Dale Tallon. He tried to do a rebuild process similar to what he did with Chicago, trading off everyone he could, almost immediately. Two big names to go were Keith Ballard and Nathan Horton. The Panthers may have been a bigger challenge than the Blackhawks, previous ownership had gutted this team and didn’t really allow talent to build, because they kept trading away picks. His efforts helped...briefly. The Panthers won the Southeast Division in 2012, where they ironically were eliminated by former coach Peter DeBoer's Devils.
Tallon was nominated for GM of the year, for his team making the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, but this would be the only other playoff run in Tallon’s tenure, so far. I don’t know if Tallon is 100% to blame for the lack of success, but they’ve been 6(7 if you count DeBoer, but he was there already) head coaches since Tallon was appointed, he deserves a share of the blame.
September 27th, 2013, the Panthers announced Vincent Viola has bought the team and would become the new owner. I have no idea on Viola, but as of late he’s spent more on the Panthers, with the hiring of Q and acquiring Bobrovsky. Due to the damage that Cohen and associates did, the Panthers had to give out free/discounted tickets early on, because nobody wanted to go to games, the team on the ice had one good season and went back to bottom feeding.
He came back home to Sunrise, after being traded by the Canucks, during the 2014 trade deadline in exchange for Jacob Markström and Shawn Matthias. He came back and set even more franchise records, because of course.
Lightning
There is a lot to cover with the Lightning and it’s a lot of good news! Firstly: The Sale!
A day after the 2010 Season ended, Vinik cleared house, firing GM Brian Lawton and Head Coach Rick Tocchet. Who was the new GM? Red Wings Legend, Steve Yzerman. Vinik had lured him away from the Red Wings front office, which...wasn’t hard. The Red Wings had made it clear Ken Holland was going to be the GM for the foreseeable future, there were no plans to replace him. Can’t blame them, since the Red Wings were still good. Yzerman's impact was felt pretty quick, "trust the Yzerplan" was a common theme with Lightning fans and would you know it? Trusting the "Yzerplan" worked.
Their next move was letting Yzerman bring in a new coach: Guy Boucher. He was what this rebuilding team needed and it worked..for a season. They made the playoffs, running off to a Conference Final in their first season, before they fell to the Bruins. Unfortunately with Boucher comes hell. They missed the playoffs the next 2 seasons before Boucher was fired on March, 24 of 2013, the 1-3-1 has a short shelf life, go figure. Jon Cooper of the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, the Lightning’s AHL Affiliate was brought in as the Lightning’s eighth head coach in franchise history, coaching his first game not long after in a 3-0 win against the New Jersey Devils.
On June 27th, 2013, the Lightning announce they will use one of their two compliance buyouts to buy out team captain, Vincent Lecavalier. There’s no sugarcoating this, LeCavalier was past his prime, but it was a good move. OK Hockey made awful moves and this was by far the worst. If the trade rumor that Montreal wanted him was true, they should have taken it, but again, OK Hockey wasn’t very smart. Lecavalier went onto sign with the Flyers, where he played 2 ½ seasons, before being traded to the Kings, where he finally retired.
On March 5th of 2014, The Lightning announced a trade: The Tampa Bay Lightning trade Martin St Louis, along with a Conditional 2nd-round pick in 2015(Oliver Kylington) to the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Callahan, a Conditional 2nd-round pick in 2014(Later given to the Islanders) (Josh Ho-Sang), 1st-round pick in 2015 (Anthony Beauvillier) Conditional 7th-round pick in 2015 (Ziyat Paigin). St Louis had begun his NHL career in Calgary, though his tenure in Calgary was short, he made a name for himself in Tampa, he had won The Cup and so many trophies over the years. The Rangers brought him back for his final season in 14-15, where he scored 21 goals

Epilogue / Final thoughts.

Should the Panthers be moved?
This is a topic I see brought up often and...maybe? Unlike with the Thrashers they have a good arena and an owner who isn’t looking to sell. The Panthers arena location sucks, the biggest issue is there’s no nightlife, there’s no life around it at all. Look at Tampa, Amalie is in the heart of Tampa(ish?) there’s plenty of goings on around the arena, while BB&T has...nothing. Sunrise isn’t a great location for an arena, but they have a sweetheart lease, meaning they’re safe from relocation at least and while people will complain about the Panthers existence, they have an owner who wants to make this right, even if he is a little meddlesome.
A lot of this was Lightning-Centric and that’s more because a lot of their mishaps are easier to research in depth, while it seems like the worst thing that happened in the Cohen-Era, was he just didn’t spend and let the GM do whatever.
..Kinda? In the sense that they play in the same state, but there's barely any hate. Lightning are good, Panthers aren't and they've never played each other outside the Regular Season. I hope that'll change, these fanbases need someone close to hate. And hockey is more fun with a heated rivalry.
submitted by KikiFlowers to hockey [link] [comments]


2019.02.08 21:20 AdmiralFartmore Gung Hay Fat 48 Years of Disappointment 1/3: Divining the Canucks' Regular Season Record Through the Chinese Zodiac

Gung Hay Fat 48 Years of Disappointment 1/3: Divining the Canucks' Regular Season Record Through the Chinese Zodiac

Prologue

A big white disc rose softly above a dark sleepy city on Tuesday, February 5th. The disc was the Moon, and the city was Vancouver.
The Moon was comfortable: the yappin’ year of the Dog was over, the trufflin’ year of the Pig was about to begin, and the Vancouver Canucks were sitting with about 30% odds to make the NHL playoffs. Surprised at the Canucks’ success so far, the Moon hopped on Google to see what was going on.
The Canadian media was typically divided: for every article suggesting that the Canucks could make the playoffs, there was one reminded us that they could fall off a cliff. For every article wondering how far that cliff might fall, there was one speculating how the moss forming on the side of the cliff might affect the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Moon was confused. No one seemed know what this team really is or what it could be. And so it turned to the spirits for answers.

Introduction to Study:

This post will examine the relationship between the Chinese Zodiac and the Vancouver Canucks’ performance in the regular season. It is the first of three posts on the subject:
This post (1/3) will cover the Canucks’ regular season results
Sunday’s post (2/3) will cover the Canucks’ playoff results
Monday’s post (3/3) will cover the Canucks’ draft results
Just in case you’re already bored and don’t read on: the Canucks were actually created in the year of the Dog (1970). That means the number 11 is particularly unlucky for the team.
So yeah, this stuff is legit.

The Chinese Zodiac

The Zodiac consists of 12 creatures in a specific sequence: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Cock, Dog, and Pig. Each is assigned to a specific year and has specific traits.

The Canucks Regular Season History

Rat Ox Tiger Rabbit Dragon Snake Horse Goat Monkey Cock Dog Pig
44.6W% 44.7W% 44.1W% 50.5W% 51.5W% 50.5W% 45.9W% 51.3W% 52.8W% 49.9W% 49.8W% 49.2W%
Please click here for a graph of these numbers.
The first tough reminder here is that the Canucks has played a lot of sub-500 hockey in their history. It’s difficult to say that any year is really that auspicious for a club that has returned home winless from the Stanley Cup Final 3/3 times and has a high of 52.8 win% with any given sign.
Furthermore, it needs to be said that there can be a pretty extreme variance in results for a given sign: the year of the Ox, for example, includes both the excellent 08/09 season as well as the disastrous 72/73 season. The Cock brought Pettersson at the 2017 draft, but also a leaguewide lockout in the 04/05 season, which many feel denied a superb Canucks core a year of contention in their prime.
Regardless, certain years seem good to the Canucks and others spell doom.

The Good(ish):

Year of the Monkey:

1979-80, 1991-92, 2003-04, 2015-16
This may be a surprise, but the year of the Monkey saw good returns for the squad, including Bure’s debut with the team (91/92) a strong 03/04 season, and the breakout sophomore season of Stan Smyl. The Monkey is the lord of chaos, however, and this includes some of most serious blackmarks on Canucks history, including the tragic Bertuzzi-Moore incident (03/04) and Willie Desjardin’s tough second season as head coach (15/16).

Year of the Goat

1978-79, 1990-91, 2002-03, 2014-15
While the year of the Goat was tough on the team the first couple times around, it’s been good in the 21st century. This saw the heyday of the West Coast Express in the 02/03 season and the surprise bounce back of the 2014/15 season. Now, you may be thinking that 2015 was actually a disappointment given the team’s early exit in the playoffs, but please take a second to remember that they drafted Brock Boeser - a literal GOAT - 2 months later.

Year of the Dragon

1975/76, 1987-88, 1999-00, 2011-12
The results in this year are buoyed by the Canucks second of back-to-back President’s Trophies in the 2011/12 season, as well as a surprise playoff appearance in 1975/76. We also saw Trevor Linden drafted in 1988. 2012 also stands out to me as it was the first time I met Jason Botchford personally at a wheat-and-greet. This year doesn’t bode particularly well for the Canucks in the playoffs, however (more on this Sunday.)

The Bad:

Year of the Tiger:

1973/74, 1985/86, 1997/98, 2009/10
The one bright spot is the 2009-10 season; where the Sedin core became too good for the NHL, Hank picked up the Art Ross, but the simple tune of Chelsea Dagger transformed from goal song to literal poison. The team sucked in the 70s and 80s as per normal.
But worst of all, a single shaved, stripeless Tiger rained misery on this franchise in the ’98 season: Mark Messier joined the team.

Year of the Ox:

1972/73, 1984/85, 1996/97, 2008/09
This is another example of the Canucks’ renting a hot-windowed suite on the southside of Pooptown; they were sub-50 in win-percentage every Ox-year until 2009. And what happened then? Doo-dododo…

Year of the Rat:

1971/72, 1983/84, 1995/96, 2007/08
It seems crazy, but this has nothing to do with Marchand. Frankly, I’m as disappointed as you are. I started this whole article hoping this joke would work. But it doesn’t. Instead, the year of the Rat stands out as one where the Canucks’ didn’t have too many highs or too many lows; they were just pretty mediocre – the last kid down the slide in the playoffs in ’84 and ’96 – and missing out entirely otherwise.

The Rest:

Year of the Rabbit:

1974-97, 1986-87 1998/99, 2010/11
It wasn’t the golden ticket, but by god it was something. The Sedins define the Year of the Rabbit for Vancouver, drafted in 1999 and leading the team to one game from the Stanley Cup in 2011. Our beloved weird Swedes redefined class and creativity in the National Hockey League for nearly 20 others.

Year of the Horse:

1977-78, 1989-90, 2001-02, 2013-14
This is one of the Canucks’ worst Zodiac signs on the whole, but it’s more mired by mediocrity than it is a disaster. The Canucks slipped on a banana peel in ’78, smacked their faced into it in ’90, got up and shook it off in ’02, and then were coached by John Tortorella in ’14.

Year of the Snake:

1967-77, 1988-89, 2000-01, 2012-13
You can’t have the yin without the yang, my friend: the year of the Snake brought Canucks both the beginning of great things (Linden’s rookie season in ’89) and the end of shit things; Messier left.

Year of the Cock:

1980-81, 1992-93, 2004-05, 2016-17
“The 2004-05 team could have made a legit run,” I whisper, my hand swatting at the left turn signal.
“What’s that?” my fiancée asks, thumbing through her purse.
“Nothing. I’m in the mood for a snack. Let’s stop somewhere.”

Year of the Dog:

1981-82, 1993-94, 2005-06, 2017-18
Remember, we are only talking regular season. In the post-season, of course, the year of the Dog is one of pure heroics for the Vancouver Canucks. But when it comes to regular season results, this is the Canucks’ most average RGP/CZC: 0.481, 0.506, 0.561, and 0.445 over the last four cycles.

Year of the Pig (This season):

1970-71, 1982-93, 1994-95, 2006-07, 2018-19
This is where it gets tricky. The Canucks average just 0.492 on points in the year of the Pig, but they’ve also surprisingly made the playoffs 3 out of 4 times.
But in statistics we must look at trends, and the Canucks trend to a downturn from Dog to Pig years. As such, the Zodiac suggests that the Canucks will finish slightly lower point percentage from last year.

Prediction for this Year:

History tells us the Canucks will end up with a surprisingly weak point total this year, just around 72 points, good for something around 25th in the league. The Canucks are just 18 points off from last year’s final standings with 27 games remaining. They’ll have to go 1 - 2 – 0 for the remainder of the season to match it. That seems pretty darn rough for a somewhat healthy squad.
That might sound like an insane drop given that they are in a playoff spot, but as of writing the Canucks are also only 4 points away from 25th.
This means there will be a lot of losing down the stretch.

Prediction for Coming years:

This is where things get scary. The ensuing years of the Rat, Ox, and Tiger have all been traditionally tough on the Canucks. The Chinese Zodiac seems to be firmly in the “Linden” camp, arguing that this team is still a few years away from meaningful contention.
It gives this team a timeline of 3 more years of struggle before they begin to dominate their division.

Until Next Time:

All that said, the Pig shows a history of the Canucks squeaking into the playoffs. I guess wee-wee-wee’ll have to talk about that on Sunday when we look at playoff results.

**EDIT EPILOGUE

Unfortunately things getting crazy at work prevented me from doing a follow up post on the draft or playoffs. I will do that next year.
submitted by AdmiralFartmore to canucks [link] [comments]


2015.12.05 22:23 Svennyish Tap The Posts: Goalie Scouting Report - James Reimer

This one was both fun and not so fun to write. Too much Leafs film makes you think they might actually be an OK hockey team. I wanted to say thanks again for reading my work so far, and being so supportive! I never thought that I would get the responses I have, and it's been wonderful. You can catch up on all my posts at taptheposts[dot]wordpress[dot]com I have loads of school work, exams, and my actual job next week, so I'll be taking a week break. Thank you.
My dad has always and will always be a great father first, a Habs fan second, and everything else third. I grew up surrounded by le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge, learning the lore of all the Canadiens greats, wishing to someday be one of them. I've been told on numerous occasions that I stayed up and cried in my crib because I couldn't see Patrick Roy carry around the Stanley Cup in 1993, which is probably where my love of the goaltending condition started. All of these things make it really odd to me when I look back and realize that I have liked so many Leaf goalies growing up. I adored Felix Potvin. I thought Curtis Joseph was great. I genuinely thought that Jonas Gustavsson was going to be a good NHL puck-stopper. And lastly, I believe in James Reimer.
The Leafs' goaltending situation has been tenuous at best since the lockout. Ed Belfour was on and off injured, they traded Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, Justin Pogge didn't turn into the franchise goalie they expected. Vesa Toskala was a never ending series of these:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9WuzswaKHs
I'd keep going on, but it's painful to type all that misery out.
This year the Leafs hired the best coach in the NHL, Mike Babcock, who decided that he was done messing around with his goaltenders, and told them that one of them was going to have to win the job. James Reimer has done just that, posting 7 wins in 16 games, with a .935 sv% and a 2.01 GAA, making him one of the 5 best goalies in the league stat-wise.
Take that in for a second. James Reimer, the guy who was routinely roasted by his coaches and fans for being the worst goalie to ever walk the face of the earth and generally all-around terrible person, is one of the five best goalies in the league. Maybe they were wrong. I've watched more Leafs games this week than I think I ever want to watch again to figure it out, and bring you my findings.
As always, video and pictures taken from the following games: Nov 2 v DAL, Nov 6 v DET, Nov 7 v WSH, Nov 14 v VAN, Nov 20 v CAR, Nov 23 v BOS
The Good
Confidence is always important in a goaltender. You have to know you're going to stop everything that comes at you, and not get shaken if you don't. One of the terrific indicators of confidence in a goalie is how much they challenge. If they come far out, it means they feel comfortable in their net, that they have a really good grasp on their angles and crease awareness.
Right now, James Reimer is challenging more than anyone else in the NHL.
http://i.imgur.com/cv5jDwb.png
http://i.imgur.com/gOJe2zy.png
Look how much white ice is in-between him and the crease. Doing this means that you just take away so much of the net, leaving virtually nothing to shoot at, and it drives shooters insane.
Here against the Caps, he comes out past the white ice to take away Ovechkin's shooting angles, trusting his defencemen to take away to pass.
http://i.imgur.com/9t9FpuK.png
He's able to do this, and not be afraid of getting beat by a deke, because he gap controls very well on breakaways.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLnI5fH_xJs
During the penalty shot, he comes out almost to the hash-marks. This forces Nichushkin to attempt to beat him via a deke because there's just nothing to shoot at. Reimer then judges speed and gap controls perfectly, giving Nichushkin really no place to score.
He's also not afraid to cozy right up to the defender on a screen.
http://i.imgur.com/Dpxinrt.png
http://i.imgur.com/V8G80x6.png
The reason you want to do this is to not only give the shooter less to shoot at, but to minimize the risk of deflections. If you're further back, away from the screen, and the screener manages to get a stick or a body part on the puck, then the closer you are the less deviation from the original trajectory there can be. Just be sure you aren't hindering your own movement to do it.
He just seems to have no problem fighting around screens.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Mic1Sz0c7o
It's a hard thing to catch on video, but you notice that during the games, Reimer is constantly pointing and shouting at his defencemen. Communication is a very important part of goaltending, and he excels at it.
It seems as though he just has a generally good feel for the pace and structure of the game, which is a huge boon in his favour.
Understanding this allows him to really control the pace and flow of the game, which he mostly does through covering the puck. He sees moments where his team is struggling, or out of position, and he covers the puck as soon as he's able to. This not only give the team a breather, and a chance to refocus and reposition, but for a team like Toronto, who rests inside the top 10 in team face-off percentage, this gives them a great opportunity to gain control of the play.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm2KQqOVqYA
Here against Dallas, he recognizes the scoring chance of the rush, realizes he needs to slow the play down, and pounces on the puck.
Again, here against the Canucks, he'd rather freeze the puck than take a chance throwing it into the corner on a rush. Its very good game awareness.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umnbGd1cJ4U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXBZHIDiHPA
Not even eight seconds into the game, Reimer decides to calm it down and give his team a chance at a face-off.
This last one combines two things. We've just talked about his great rink awareness, and here he smartly comes out of his crease and pokes the puck into the corner. This is a risky move, but knowing that the opposition is less likely to score on you from the corner is big, and capitalizing on the gap to put the puck in a less likely position to end up in your net is sometimes a smart thing to do.
Secondly, this replay shows right off the face-off, both his incredible ability to track the puck off deflections, but his explosive athleticism.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3xqWPFXfOU
The puck careens off Polak's skate, and Reimer not only realizes it immediately, but he extends over and covers the post.
Here against Vancouver, he combines the two again. The errant shot hits the boards behind the net, and comes out the other side at an awkward angle. Reimer initially commits to the shot as if it were coming on net, but he tracks it down and makes a strong push towards his post. He then tracks the bounce to the other side, gets maybe the best rotation I've ever seen, and explodes across at the proper angle to the other post faster than Han Solo makes the Kessel Run.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff296tfcH6I
His puck tracking is inferior to no ones. Here against the Stars, he gives up a weird rebound, and tracks it right off his body, into the air, and tries to bat it away with the glove.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-jQJ06coOA
I probably should have made an "Iffy" category for this, but its just so amazing to see that I left it in good. Not only does he track the lost puck once, but after his failed swatting attempt, he keeps track of it to the ground and attempts to slow the play down by freezing it. Granted, he missed the freeze, but the attempt shows he realized what a mess he just created in his crease.
He also runs the pick!
http://i.imgur.com/vtr1svS.png
http://i.imgur.com/5unudmG.png
Just look at how annoying he is the Higgins here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbqKfsYUp0E
What a beauty!
The Bad
Mechanically, James Reimer is mostly a mess. His movement is never consistent, he flails around, and sometimes just straight up misses the puck.
When the puck goes D-to-D, Reimer often takes his stick right off the ice when he pushes across his crease.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ5RoBD8Lr4
It actually happens twice in this sequence. Once as he comes out to challenge the short side, then as he crosses his crease. He's always set by the time a potential shot is ready to come at him, but you don't want to get into this habit because you never know where the puck might stop, and because you it reinforces the habit of having your stick off the ice.
Despite the fact that he has such an explosive power-slide, it doesn't always seem to trigger in his head that he needs to use it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WzgiAiCbEQ
Here against the Stars instead of getting that great rotation like he should, Remier elects to just reach of and throw his arm and paddle down across the crease. He literally doesn't cover any of the net when he does this, and make his job way harder as he's now in an awkward position to get himself off the ice.
In fact, his body control is horrendous at times, leaving him with a brutally low chance at a second or third save.
Sportsnet actually does a great job of putting together a highlight package of this. Just watch.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0DPTW1oG1E
Clip 1: Awkward flail at the puck ends up in a bad weird rebound that trickles in behind him.
Clips 2 and 3: He over extends to one post, forcing him to lunge at a shot that he really only covers a third of the net for.
Clip 4: He ends up inside his own net, falling backwards, needing a decent amount of time to get up.
Clip 5: He makes 2 great saves, but manages to fall on his rear before scooting around to attempt a pad stack.
Clip 6: He makes a save by throwing his leg out so far, he loses his balance and ends up on his stomach.
Clip 7: I actually have no issue with this one.
And what was that I saw at the start of the video? Was it? I think it was!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ4uaorPrac
Cardinal Sin Alert!
This one I really don't understand the thought process. He makes a great save on a one-timer, and the rebound darts out to his left. He follows it with his head, knows EXACTLY where the puck goes, he even gets up with the leg he'd need to get a great explosive push over to the puck. Instead of pushing he goes, "Nah guys, watch this 360!" flails himself around to the right and throws his paddle and blocker down as if its going to cover a decent portion of the net. James, why?
Here against the 'Canes, his lack of bodily control actually costs him a really shady goal.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jALpxE3ZZvE
This kind of thing should just never happen, and its the kind of goal that just demoralizes your team. Trust me, I've been there.
The Verdict
James Reimer, above all else, is stopping pucks right now. A lot of them. He has many, many, many, many, flaws mechanically, but its not like anyone with poor body control ended up being one of the greatest goaltenders ever, right?
Right?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0OVEvwn_6E
Do I think Reimer is going to end up as one of the best in the league? Probably not, but he's got something going right now, and his game awareness and athleticism is so far off the charts that he makes things happen, and right now for the Leafs, that maybe be just what they need.
submitted by Svennyish to hockeygoalies [link] [comments]


2015.12.05 22:09 Svennyish Tap The Posts: Goalie Scouting Report - James Reimer

This one was both fun and not so fun to write. Too much Leafs film makes you think they might actually be an OK hockey team. I wanted to say thanks again for reading my work so far, and being so supportive! I never thought that I would get the responses I have, and it's been wonderful. You can catch up on all my posts at taptheposts[dot]wordpress[dot]com I have loads of school work, exams, and my actual job next week, so I'll be taking a week break. Thank you.
My dad has always and will always be a great father first, a Habs fan second, and everything else third. I grew up surrounded by le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge, learning the lore of all the Canadiens greats, wishing to someday be one of them. I've been told on numerous occasions that I stayed up and cried in my crib because I couldn't see Patrick Roy carry around the Stanley Cup in 1993, which is probably where my love of the goaltending condition started. All of these things make it really odd to me when I look back and realize that I have liked so many Leaf goalies growing up. I adored Felix Potvin. I thought Curtis Joseph was great. I genuinely thought that Jonas Gustavsson was going to be a good NHL puck-stopper. And lastly, I believe in James Reimer.
The Leafs' goaltending situation has been tenuous at best since the lockout. Ed Belfour was on and off injured, they traded Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, Justin Pogge didn't turn into the franchise goalie they expected. Vesa Toskala was a never ending series of these:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9WuzswaKHs
I'd keep going on, but it's painful to type all that misery out.
This year the Leafs hired the best coach in the NHL, Mike Babcock, who decided that he was done messing around with his goaltenders, and told them that one of them was going to have to win the job. James Reimer has done just that, posting 7 wins in 16 games, with a .935 sv% and a 2.01 GAA, making him one of the 5 best goalies in the league stat-wise.
Take that in for a second. James Reimer, the guy who was routinely roasted by his coaches and fans for being the worst goalie to ever walk the face of the earth and generally all-around terrible person, is one of the five best goalies in the league. Maybe they were wrong. I've watched more Leafs games this week than I think I ever want to watch again to figure it out, and bring you my findings.
As always, video and pictures taken from the following games: Nov 2 v DAL, Nov 6 v DET, Nov 7 v WSH, Nov 14 v VAN, Nov 20 v CAR, Nov 23 v BOS
The Good
Confidence is always important in a goaltender. You have to know you're going to stop everything that comes at you, and not get shaken if you don't. One of the terrific indicators of confidence in a goalie is how much they challenge. If they come far out, it means they feel comfortable in their net, that they have a really good grasp on their angles and crease awareness.
Right now, James Reimer is challenging more than anyone else in the NHL.
http://i.imgur.com/cv5jDwb.png
http://i.imgur.com/gOJe2zy.png
Look how much white ice is in-between him and the crease. Doing this means that you just take away so much of the net, leaving virtually nothing to shoot at, and it drives shooters insane.
Here against the Caps, he comes out past the white ice to take away Ovechkin's shooting angles, trusting his defencemen to take away to pass.
http://i.imgur.com/9t9FpuK.png
He's able to do this, and not be afraid of getting beat by a deke, because he gap controls very well on breakaways.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLnI5fH_xJs
During the penalty shot, he comes out almost to the hash-marks. This forces Nichushkin to attempt to beat him via a deke because there's just nothing to shoot at. Reimer then judges speed and gap controls perfectly, giving Nichushkin really no place to score.
He's also not afraid to cozy right up to the defender on a screen.
http://i.imgur.com/Dpxinrt.png
http://i.imgur.com/V8G80x6.png
The reason you want to do this is to not only give the shooter less to shoot at, but to minimize the risk of deflections. If you're further back, away from the screen, and the screener manages to get a stick or a body part on the puck, then the closer you are the less deviation from the original trajectory there can be. Just be sure you aren't hindering your own movement to do it.
He just seems to have no problem fighting around screens.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Mic1Sz0c7o
It's a hard thing to catch on video, but you notice that during the games, Reimer is constantly pointing and shouting at his defencemen. Communication is a very important part of goaltending, and he excels at it.
It seems as though he just has a generally good feel for the pace and structure of the game, which is a huge boon in his favour.
Understanding this allows him to really control the pace and flow of the game, which he mostly does through covering the puck. He sees moments where his team is struggling, or out of position, and he covers the puck as soon as he's able to. This not only give the team a breather, and a chance to refocus and reposition, but for a team like Toronto, who rests inside the top 10 in team face-off percentage, this gives them a great opportunity to gain control of the play.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm2KQqOVqYA
Here against Dallas, he recognizes the scoring chance of the rush, realizes he needs to slow the play down, and pounces on the puck.
Again, here against the Canucks, he'd rather freeze the puck than take a chance throwing it into the corner on a rush. Its very good game awareness.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umnbGd1cJ4U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXBZHIDiHPA
Not even eight seconds into the game, Reimer decides to calm it down and give his team a chance at a face-off.
This last one combines two things. We've just talked about his great rink awareness, and here he smartly comes out of his crease and pokes the puck into the corner. This is a risky move, but knowing that the opposition is less likely to score on you from the corner is big, and capitalizing on the gap to put the puck in a less likely position to end up in your net is sometimes a smart thing to do.
Secondly, this replay shows right off the face-off, both his incredible ability to track the puck off deflections, but his explosive athleticism.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3xqWPFXfOU
The puck careens off Polak's skate, and Reimer not only realizes it immediately, but he extends over and covers the post.
Here against Vancouver, he combines the two again. The errant shot hits the boards behind the net, and comes out the other side at an awkward angle. Reimer initially commits to the shot as if it were coming on net, but he tracks it down and makes a strong push towards his post. He then tracks the bounce to the other side, gets maybe the best rotation I've ever seen, and explodes across at the proper angle to the other post faster than Han Solo makes the Kessel Run.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff296tfcH6I
His puck tracking is inferior to no ones. Here against the Stars, he gives up a weird rebound, and tracks it right off his body, into the air, and tries to bat it away with the glove.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-jQJ06coOA
I probably should have made an "Iffy" category for this, but its just so amazing to see that I left it in good. Not only does he track the lost puck once, but after his failed swatting attempt, he keeps track of it to the ground and attempts to slow the play down by freezing it. Granted, he missed the freeze, but the attempt shows he realized what a mess he just created in his crease.
He also runs the pick!
http://i.imgur.com/vtr1svS.png
http://i.imgur.com/5unudmG.png
Just look at how annoying he is the Higgins here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbqKfsYUp0E
What a beauty!
The Bad
Mechanically, James Reimer is mostly a mess. His movement is never consistent, he flails around, and sometimes just straight up misses the puck.
When the puck goes D-to-D, Reimer often takes his stick right off the ice when he pushes across his crease.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ5RoBD8Lr4
It actually happens twice in this sequence. Once as he comes out to challenge the short side, then as he crosses his crease. He's always set by the time a potential shot is ready to come at him, but you don't want to get into this habit because you never know where the puck might stop, and because you it reinforces the habit of having your stick off the ice.
Despite the fact that he has such an explosive power-slide, it doesn't always seem to trigger in his head that he needs to use it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WzgiAiCbEQ
Here against the Stars instead of getting that great rotation like he should, Remier elects to just reach of and throw his arm and paddle down across the crease. He literally doesn't cover any of the net when he does this, and make his job way harder as he's now in an awkward position to get himself off the ice.
In fact, his body control is horrendous at times, leaving him with a brutally low chance at a second or third save.
Sportsnet actually does a great job of putting together a highlight package of this. Just watch.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0DPTW1oG1E
Clip 1: Awkward flail at the puck ends up in a bad weird rebound that trickles in behind him.
Clips 2 and 3: He over extends to one post, forcing him to lunge at a shot that he really only covers a third of the net for.
Clip 4: He ends up inside his own net, falling backwards, needing a decent amount of time to get up.
Clip 5: He makes 2 great saves, but manages to fall on his rear before scooting around to attempt a pad stack.
Clip 6: He makes a save by throwing his leg out so far, he loses his balance and ends up on his stomach.
Clip 7: I actually have no issue with this one.
And what was that I saw at the start of the video? Was it? I think it was!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ4uaorPrac
Cardinal Sin Alert!
This one I really don't understand the thought process. He makes a great save on a one-timer, and the rebound darts out to his left. He follows it with his head, knows EXACTLY where the puck goes, he even gets up with the leg he'd need to get a great explosive push over to the puck. Instead of pushing he goes, "Nah guys, watch this 360!" flails himself around to the right and throws his paddle and blocker down as if its going to cover a decent portion of the net. James, why?
Here against the 'Canes, his lack of bodily control actually costs him a really shady goal.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jALpxE3ZZvE
This kind of thing should just never happen, and its the kind of goal that just demoralizes your team. Trust me, I've been there.
The Verdict
James Reimer, above all else, is stopping pucks right now. A lot of them. He has many, many, many, many, flaws mechanically, but its not like anyone with poor body control ended up being one of the greatest goaltenders ever, right?
Right?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0OVEvwn_6E
Do I think Reimer is going to end up as one of the best in the league? Probably not, but he's got something going right now, and his game awareness and athleticism is so far off the charts that he makes things happen, and right now for the Leafs, that maybe be just what they need.
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