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VIDEO: Ondrej Pavelec Collapses on Ice

The Atlanta Thrashers opened up their season on Friday night at home hosting the Washington Capitals. The mood of excitement and optimism quickly was erased by a scary moment. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who was beginning the year as the team’s starter for the first time, lost consciousness and collapsed just two and a half minutes into the game. Here’s a video of the freaky situation:

The 23-year-old netminder was taken to the hospital where he regained consciousness. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Pavelec is in stable condition and being held overnight for observation. Though they’re unsure what caused the collapse, I’ll play doctor for a moment and suggest the combination of enthusiasm and nerves probably overcame Pavelec who blacked out. Let’s just hope he’s not suffering from a serious medical condition.

Sidney Crosby Can Mash Too?

I was incredibly impressed by Tim Tebow who hit 12 out of 15 pitches he saw for home runs during a random batting practice session in May. I was equally surprised by the stellar display we heard Packers first-round pick Bryan Bulaga put on at Brewers BP a week later. The most impressive of the bunch though may have been Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Crosby and some other Penguins visited PNC Park in Pittsburgh for a batting practice session and Sid the Kid showed he may have a career in baseball if something ever goes wrong in the NHL. Batting lefty, Crosby crushed a ball that appeared to leave the entire park. It was incredible. Here’s the Sidney Crosby batting practice video:

He says he played until he was 13 but it looks like he has much more experience than that. Minus the little hitch where he drops his hands down in his swing, I think he could be a productive ballplayer if he dedicated himself to it.

Video Credit: Penguins Official Site

Blackhawks Should Have Spent the Money to Keep Antti Niemi

The Chicago Blackhawks lost their arbitration case with goaltender Antti Niemi and would have had to pay him $2.75 million in salary. They had the option to keep him, trade him or release him as a free agent. Their decision? They let him walk away.

I think this was a horrible decision. I was fine with the team trading Dustin Byfuglien and company to the Trashers, but I am not OK with this.  If it was not for Niemi, the Blackhaws would not have won the Stanley Cup. I’m not saying that the rest of the Blackhawks’ roster wasn’t stocked full of talent– because it was– but if they would have had Cristobal Huet in goal instead of Niemi they wouldn’t have made it past the Vancouver Canucks.

The part that upsets me most about this deal is the fact that they agreed to sign Marty Turco to a one-year deal. First off, Turco is like 100 years old. Fine, he’s 34, but Niemi is only 26, so it seems like he’s much older. Plus, I don’t think Turco has much juice left in him. I mean yes, he’s a three-time All-Star and was once one of the highest-paid goalies in the league, but that was in the past. He did have 30 wins in the 2009 season, I’ll give him that. I just don’t think it’s enough.

The thing that might make this OK is if the Blackahawks start preparing Corey Crawford for his role as an NHL goalie. He saw a little ice time last season, but since Turco is only locked in for a year they should be preparing Crawford for his role as the 2011-2012 starter. You can’t really have a more important role than a goalie. You can score all the goals you want, but if there’s no one there to stop the other team from scoring too, you aren’t going to get too far. I really hope the Blackhawks know what they’re doing but I think that chances of a repeat just went down with Niemi’s release.

Sources:
Blackhawks drop Niemi, sign goalie Turco [Chicago Tribune]
Blackhawks agree to terms with three-time All-Star Marty Turco [Chicago Blackhawks]

NHL was Right to Reject Kovalchuk’s Deal with the Devils

The NHL announced Wednesday that Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils circumvents the salary cap and therefore will not be allowed.  The contract would pay Kovalchuk $98.5 million throughout its first 11 years and only $550,000 per year each year after that.  Anyone see how that could present a problem?

If Kovalchuk and the Devils really believed that he would play out the last five years of his contract, there’s no way he’d take a pay cut like that.  It’s all about the money.  You make as much as you can for as long as you can.  If he really believed he would still be playing at age 44, he wouldn’t settle for $550,000 a year.  The NHL is right to call shenanigans on this one.  We all know they’ve messed up in the past.  I love Marian Hossa, but do you really think he’s going to play out the length of his contract?  I doubt it.

It’s about time the NHL made it a point to shoot down one of these ridiculous deals.  What’s the point of having a salary cap if they aren’t going to enforce it? The Devils could say the reason Kovalchuk’s contract is so front-loaded is that he’s bound to be more effective in the early years, when he’s making $11.5 million per season. If that’s the case, why bother signing him to such a lengthy deal?  I understand wanting to hold on to your best player for as long as you can, but the Devils need to adhere to the rules of the cap.  They’re in place for a reason.

Sources:
NHL Rejects Kovalchuck Deal [ESPN New York]

Riley Sheahan Can Handle a Puck

On a day when Carlos Zambrano had a classic meltdown and Edwin Jackson threw a no-hitter, it was easy to overlook that the first round of the NHL Draft took place. The draft was significant for U.S. hockey because a record 11 Americans were selected in the first round. The Tyler/Taylor debate was settled when the Oilers chose Taylor Hall first and the Bruins went with Tyler Seguin second. Despite the record 11 Americans being selected in the first round, both Hall and Seguin are Canadian. Same thing goes for Red Wings first round pick, Riley Sheahan, who played collegiately for Notre Dame. As LBS contributor SpinMax emails in, Sheahan is quite skilled as a puck handler. Check out this sweet video of Riley Sheahan handling a puck at his finest:

If that video hasn’t already gained some attention around Detroit I’m sure it will before very long. While Sheahan’s numbers at Notre Dame don’t jump off the page (17 points in 37 games), the style they played was defensive and Sheahan was extremely young most of the year. As you can see why, there’s going to be a lot of excitement over this pick in Hockeytown, USA.

Blackhawks Fans Need to Have Faith in Trades, Management

Fans of the Chicago Blackhawks are still celebrating. Even though three weeks have passed since they won the Stanley Cup, fans still sport their championship tees and hats with pride. (I know I do.) But fans in Blackhawks nation were shocked on Wednesday to hear that Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and a prospect were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for two 2010 draft picks and three players. On top of that, Colin Fraser was traded Thursday morning to the Edmonton Oilers for a 6th round 2010 draft pick.

The thing that upset people the most was that beloved Byfuglien would no longer be sporting the Indian head sweater. It was disappointing to see a player who is so talented on both sides of the puck leave Chicago. Big Buff has proved that he not only is a force on defense but that he is a heck of an offensive player too. He was a major factor in the Blackhawks championship run, whether it be his hat trick performance in Vancouver or the three game-winning goals he had against San Jose.

It’s hard news to swallow yes, but should we cry? No. The Blackhawks are running a very smart system; the front office turned the franchise around from having one of the worst records in the league to winning the Stanley Cup. The reality is that when it comes to cap space, some players have to go. I would have rather seen someone like Kris Versteeg, who has a relatively pricey salary, go but hey, that’s why I’m not the Blackhawks GM.

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Jonathan Toews: Blackhawks Want Another Cup

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has enjoyed an amazing year to say the least. He won a gold medal in Vancouver with the Canadian hockey team, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP, and oh yeah, he brought the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time in 49 years.  And things haven’t stopped there. Despite playing the sidekick to Miley Cyrus at the 2010 MuchMusic Awards, Toews still has a reason to smile — he’ll be the cover boy of NHL ’11. (Two Blackhawks in a row, Patrick Kane graced this year’s cover.)

Regardless of all the accomplishments this year, Toews is still not satisfied. In one of the captain’s rare radio appearances, he told Waddle & Silvy on ESPN 1000 that he has no interest in handing over the Cup next year:

“We may not have said that publicly, but amongst each other in the euphoria of winning and celebrating with fans around us, jokingly and seriously we’ve said let’s do this again, and we mean it. The feeling is incredible, but we realize once the puck drops next year it’s back to business, and you have to find a new champion. We don’t want it to be a new champion. We want it to be us again.”

It’s hard for me to refrain from saying “Hell yeah!”…so I won’t. Hell yeah! Of course any team that wins a championship doesn’t want to lose it the next year — that’s just common sense. What I am excited about is that the Blackhawks, amongst their celebrating, are serious about next season. It’s not an easy task to repeat a championship and I’m glad the boys are already getting down to business. After all, their season starts on Oct. 7th in Colorado and that’s only less than four months away. Opposing teams are never easy on the defending champs but something tells me the ‘Hawks can do it again.

Sources:
Blackhawks’ Toews: Let’s Do it Again [ESPN Chicago]
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images