Archives for category: Sports

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Round One

Opinion
By James Pavel

Unforced errors, lackluster back checking, and the ability to go invisible for an entire 60 minutes are traits that have come to define no. 64 in Oil City.

The 2014-2015 season has vividly demonstrated that Edmonton Oiler forward Nail Yakupov is the most over-rated and grandest bust of the first overall decisions made over the past ten years.

The Oilers organization have managed to sink to the bottom of the West once again, a stat almost as incredible as Detroit’s ability to make the playoffs for 23 straight seasons. The Oilers seem poised to tank for rumoured super-kid Connor McDavid especially since it is painfully obvious that their first overall selection in 2012 was a dreadful error.

Yakupov currently has 10 points this season but the number may as well be in the negatives. He has been a glorified Soviet pylon all season and has only made an impact when he commits a defensive blunder to the benefit of the opposition, which seems to happen on a bi-nightly basis.

When compared with the other first overall choices of the past decade, one begins to quickly recognize just how underwhelming this Russian ghost has been.

Since 2005, the first overall selections have been: Crosby, Johnson, Kane, Stamkos, Tavaras, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, MacKinnon, and Aaron Ekblad.  While Ekblad has not had sufficient time to prove himself,the only player that comes close to the anti-climatic performance of Yak is Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche. That said, Johnson plays an important role on the Avs blue line and with top tier back-end players at an all-time premium, he is certainly fulfilling a vital requirement.

Where does Yak fit? He has yet to gel with the Nuge and Taylor Hall and placing him on a line with David Perron has resulted in sub-zero chemistry.

Yak isn’t just stagnant, he appears to actually be digressing as a player. While rookies can often undergo a sophomore slump, the third season is where future stars begin to glisten.

But Nail has not glistened – No, he has rusted like an old pick-up truck. When he is not completely absent, he is missing the net by 20 miles or begin caught horribly out of position. He has unwillingly surrendered the skills he demonstrated in his junior career and seems destined for Alexandre Daigle status.

Current rookies and second-year first overall picks have already rocketed past him in terms of value. Yak has performed so poorly that he is currently untradable. What could the Oilers possibly get for him? Another draft pick? That would be borderline insanity. Of course the way the Oiler management has operated over the past seven years, madness may be the only solution.

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Opinion
By James Pavel

East versus West. Palm Trees versus skyscrapers. Biggie versus Tupac. There is nothing more climatic than when the city that doesn’t sleep and the city of angels drop the gloves.

The Los Angeles Kings versus the New York Rangers potentially facing off in the Stanley Cup final is a victory each in their respective hats from reality.

No the semi-finals are not over. And based on the way the 2014 playoffs have been completely shaken upside down like they owe the town bully milk money, Montreal and Chicago could still advance for a classic original six showdown.

But facts are facts, and the Kings and the Rangers currently have strangleholds in their respective playoff assignments.

A LA/NYC season finale is what Gary Bettman and company have been fantasizing about since the success of 1994.

The New York Rangers vs. Vancouver Canucks 1994 final is considered one of the greatest fourth round playoff series of all time for a number of reasons. With the exception of Mario Lemieux, Canucks forward Pavel Bure was the most exciting player of the 90s and he was absolutely soaring in ‘94. The Rangers were raging with star power, with Mark Messier as captain, Mike Richter in net and Brian Leetch, who would go on to win the Conne Smythe trophy, at the helm on defence. It went to a dazzling game 7 where the Rangers were eventually crowned league champions.

But most importantly, it was the world’s most celebrated city going up against a west coast opponent and the television ratings were worthy of champagne popping before Lord Stanley was even presented.

Whenever New York is successful, this is great news for the league because quite simply, it is the apex of the universe. Even better is if the Rangers can make it to the final and face an electrifying west coast gunslinger like the Canucks. But only in Gary Bettman’s wildest fantasy, would they somehow come to match up against the cornerstone of the wicked west, the LA Kings.

The potential is limitless. This west versus east showdown equals maximized exposure for the National Hockey League. Hockey will always be booming in Canada, but to have it abuzz across all 50 states would be a riveting advancement for the sport.

The NHL has one of the most marketable stars that sports can offer in Sidney Crosby. Alexander Ovechkin and Patrick Kane have become regulars on Sports Centre highlight reels.

If The LA/NY showdown could come to fruition, the league could finally join the holy trinity of American sport, accompanying the NBA, NFL and MLB and thereby forming the royal quadrant of American sporting entertainment.

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Opinion
By James Pavel

Don’t blame Paulina Gretzky for the squabbling over the recent cover of Golf Digest. No no, the blame for the consistent sexualization of women’s sports lies squarely on the broad shoulders of men.

Sex, sex, sex. That’s right. For at least fifteen hours a day, men have naked women dressed as nurses and French maids marching circles around their membrane while they pretend to be productive. Sure, we make time for a job and plus we’ve evolved slightly over the past 15 years. Improvements in cooking, attire and the elimination of undesirable hair downstairs have become proud badges of the modern man. But don’t give us too much credit.

And definitely don’t blame Paulina Gretzky. It’s not just beating a dead horse. It’s beating an entire horsey cemetery.

The perverted and sexually repulsive brain of a man will make a woman wearing a turtleneck and long johns morph into a Victoria Secret angel.

There is nothing wrong with women’s sport. The 2014 Olympic hockey final between USA and Canada was one of the most dramatic  endings you’ll ever witness. Women’s World Cup soccer is seat-of-your-pants action these days.

Poor Paulina isn’t adding any injury to women’s sport that did not already exist. Men can cheer for the female red team or the ladies in blue. And we will do it sincerely and loudly. But you have to forgive us. At some point, sexual thoughts will infiltrate our brain like a snake’s venom and temporarily leave us determining what Halloween costume would look the best on number seven in blue.

It’s not women’s sport. It’s the psyche of the majority of heterosexual men. Paulina Gretzky is well aware of this. No, she is not a star athlete. But she is getting married to a professional golfer and every man that loves a bag of clubs and hot blondes would love to see them paired together.

That’s what Golf Digest has done. It’s for the money. It’s for the readership. But it’s mainly because men still and always will have primal instincts that cry for the sexualization of anything of age and with curves.

Let’s also not forget that Gretzky Jr. has a rack that possesses the magic of thirty wizards and a stomach flatter than Saskatchewan. She is stunning. And she probably likes golf. So she did what she does best (look pretty) and posed on the front of a magazine that is right now the hottest cover on the shelves.

Women’s sport deserves better. On behalf of men, I want to say sorry, but it’s an empty apology.

When Julia Roberts asked Clive Owen why sex is so important in the film “Closer,” he responds with an animalistic yell, “Because I’m a fucking caveman!”

Although he was speaking in character, he could easily have been answering the question as to why men will always attempt to inject sex into women’s sports.

Opinion
By James Pavel

5. P.K. Subban

Subban is caramel chocolate delivered from the heavens with flavour so pungent it makes Willy Wonka yearn to brand him. He is ushering in a new wave of top-tier defensemen, that has Habs fans cheering and women hollering.

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4. Erik Johnson

This blonde prince reigns from the United States, but has a crown of hair that swears it stems from the heart of Sweden. He’s a viking disguised as an NHL hockey player who plays for the Colorado Avalanche with a smile that he minds to ensure it doesn’t accidentally melt the Denver Rockies.

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 3. David Clarkson

Toronto’s bad boy hasn’t lived up to the impressive contract he garnered in the off-season, but his sexual appeal remains in the trillions.

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2. Patrick Sharp

Sharpie’s sexuality is razor-like, cutting into the soul’s of sexually-starved female hockey fans like a freshly-pierced ice blade. Patty Sharp has eyes that could could convince you to jump off a cliff, convert to Buddhism, or much more understandably, become a die-hard Blackhawks’ fan.

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1. Henrik Lundqvist

The reigning NHL sex symbol continues to be peppered with love-drunk women, facing more come-ons than a full regular season shot tally. King Henrik is not only the sexiest hockey player, but is the sexiest athlete competing in the year 2014.

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Opinion
By James Pavel

It was yet another gaff-filled night for two of the NHL’s most over-rated goaltenders, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and Montreal’s Carey Price.

Both have been touted as potential starting goaltenders for the 2014 Team Canada Olympic team, but May 7, 2013’s dual for worst play of the night between the two goats was a swift reminder of how horrific both are capable of playing.

Both goaltenders, who perform in a similar style, have managed stunning saves and strings of superb play in their careers but are rapidly becoming notorious for their knack of completely dissolving under playoff pressure.

No single player this playoffs has given away a game the way Fleury donated to the Islanders yesterday evening. With the lead changing back and forth, and the Pens up ahead often, Fleury continued to discover new and creative methods of allowing the opposition back in the game. Maybe the most brilliant maneuver was when he faced the puck while it was behind the net, had it deflect off of his paw and allowed it to slither into the back of the goal.

The Penguins have one of the greatest first two –line combinations to be established in the past decade and yet they may succumb to the Isles because of Fleury’s crafty ability to allow everything short of the Zamboni into the goal.

The Canadians desperately need Price to steal a game, and he has. Except the recipients of the theft are from the nation’s capital, as the Senators are on the verge of upsetting a team that should be completely dominating them based on their terrific regular-season performance.

It would be fitting to have either of the goalies fill the shoes of the legendary Martin Brodeur for the upcoming Olympic tournament. Yet although Marty has admittedly allowed the odd circus goal throughout his illustrious career, he was typically as safe as a bank’s vice between the pipes when the game mattered. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Fleury or Price.

The 2014 starting goalie position is as available as Sean Avery on the free market. All that has been made clear so far this playoff season is that Fleury and Price have both been etched out as potential candidates for the coveted position.

Opinion
By Séamus Smyth

Even for the most devoted Armstrong loyalists, there is no more denying that the cycling icon did in fact use performance-enhancing drugs at some point during his unforgettable run of seven Tour de France titles.

The final blow was delivered this past week when the International Cycling Union announced that Armstrong would be stripped of all titles and would ban him from all future competitions, thereby validating the accusations made by Armstrong’s former teammates.

Over the past ten years, fans have been treated to an obscene number of revelations that some of sports most prolific characters have cheated by injecting a foreign substance into their physique.

But this case delivers a stab of pain to the hearts of fans perhaps greater than any other that has preceded it.

Armstrong battled cancer and won. But he didn’t stop. He managed to continue dominating his sport, thereby cementing him as the greatest cyclist to ever live. But he didn’t stop there either. He formed the Livestrong campaign, a cancer-fighting machine that has now raised a half-billion dollars.

The yellow Livestrong bracelets were inescapable for years and were able to finally put a visage on cancer’s number one nemesis; human will.

For the past decade, Armstrong’s heroism has expanded well beyond the cycling ether.

Yet, here we are, surrounded by empty shells from the media and cyclists who have taken every shot and blast at Armstrong until finally they have been declared victorious. Yet, as easy as it would be to blame the cash-grabbers and the TV vultures for poisoning the Armstrong image, this is no fault of anyone but Armstrong’s.

What is so disheartening about the doping is that there no longer exists an athlete that can captivate and motivate an endless audience the way Armstrong could. The cycling was excellent, but his non-stop championship reign and perseverance against cancerous cells elevated him to a status arguably never seen before.

There was Michael Jordan. There was Terry Fox. One could make a case for Phil Michelson, but he is nowhere near the caliber of athlete that Armstrong was.

But then Tiger Woods turned out to be a raging nympho. David Beckham hasn’t been a true soccer superstar since 2004. Sidney Crosby is a robot. Tom Brady serves as the ultimate bro-crush but does not qualify as a true sports hero.

Armstrong dominated his sport while sporting an invisible cape. He was more than just the best in his respective sport; he was a modern-day Superman.

But that dream has been shattered. The sporting stratosphere will not forget the accomplishments of Armstrong, nor his outstanding contributions via Livestrong. But just as so many other athletes that we assumed Armstrong was better than, he will have an eternal asterisk beside his name, ensuring that no one will forget that although he was a legend, a champion, and a philanthropist, he was also a proven cheater.

Opinion
By Séamus Smyth

Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette raised some eyebrows this past week when he referred to Flyers centre Claude Giroux as the best player in the world.

But when you analyze Giroux’s 14 points and series-defining shift of game six , suddenly Laviolette’s pronounced point is a tough argument to counter.

Laviolette made the somewhat shocking claim to the bewildered media while explaining how Giroux requested a spot in the starting lineup prior to the opening of game six against the Pittsburgh Penguins, where the Flyers eliminated the Pens from the playoffs and Giroux recorded three points.

Although, The Flyers played arguably their best game of the season, it was Giroux’s miraculous performance that set the tempo immediately.

Giroux’s wish to start the game was granted and he went on to play the most dominant shift of the series. He hammered Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby to send the Philly crowd into a frenzy before scoring a perfectly-placed wrist shot all within the first two minutes of the game.

The scenario was straight out of the Mark Messier leadership  handbook. TSN analyst Bob Mckenzie said it best when he recommended that the Flyers seamstress immediately sew the “C” on Giroux’s jersey after potentially the best playoff series of the decade.

What makes Laviolette’s boatings about Giroux viable is that Giroux not only produced one of the best first-round performances in NHL history, but he completely outplayed Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin, who will likely take home the Hart trophy for most valuable player this spring, looked like a fourth-line grinder compared to the skills displayed by Giroux.

Crosby looked rusty after yet another lengthy hiatus. Crosby’s secondary-rate performance proves that it is time for Sid the Kid to re-earn his position as the best in the game. Crosby hasn’t been the top dog in the game for the past two seasons because of his unfortunate head injuries and it appears his competition have finally caught up.

Who better than Claude Giroux, Crosby’s premier nemesis, to claim the throne as best player in the world until (or if) Crosby finds his “A” game again?

Laviolette’s statement was bold, ostentatious and perfectly accurate.

Opinion
By Séamus Smyth

It wasn’t impossible, but it was incredibly unlikely that the Edmonton Oilers would once again land the 1st overall choice in the NHL draft. Yet, it was announced this past Tuesday that the Oil would indeed have first dibs on this year’s batch of juniors primed to make a splash into the big leagues.

The Oilers landed Taylor Hall followed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and could now add Nail Yakupov to their dangerous line of hot-shot forwards. However, Yakupov will never dawn the blue and orange because there is no team in the NHL more desperate for a top-tier defender than E-Town.

This summer should be celebrated by Edmontonians not because they have again landed the most prized prospect in the barn, but because they will have successfully made a blockbuster deal to acquire one of the most proven and prestigious defensemen in the game.

The Oilers last made a solid run in the playoffs when they had one of the premier blue-line players in the league, Chris Pronger. It is no coincidence that adding this bulldozer of a player to the lineup was a chief factor in their post-season success.

Yakupov has all the hype and very well could be the next Pavel Bure. However, the same has been said for dozens of first-overall picks, and it hasn’t turned out that way. Those loyal to the Oil are well aware of what Jordan Eberle, Hall and the “Nuge” are capable of. They don’t need to find another guy to put the puck in the net; they need to find a man to help prevent the opposite.

5. Patrick Kane

The All-American curly Sue has easily the most swagger in the league. Whether he’s rocking a ridiculous skullet or keeping his lettuce trim, Kane has more than just the state of Illinois taking a second glance.

4. Sidney Crosby

If you’re looking for a man that’s all business, look no further than Sid “not so much” the Kid anymore. The man exudes professionalism. Rumour has it that he wears a black tie and suit to bed. Even when he’s screaming “Fuck ya” after scoring another highlight-reel goal, he’ll be sure to charm the pants off your mother and your grandmother.

3. Joffrey Lupul

Many are curious as to how he has miraculously rescued his career after such a dismal past few seasons. The answer is simple; his green eyes contrast perfectly with the blue Maple Leaf in Toronto. Defensemen purposely allow him to blaze past them down the wing for fear of trying to sneak in a kiss when he looks up to make a play.

2. Sheldon Souray

The French/native hybrid is a tall, dark milkshake of female fantasy. He could easily beat up all your ex-boyfriends at the same time and would give your Dad a respectable fight in an arm-wrestling competition before gracefully and respectfully, bowing out.

1. Henrik Lundqvist

His flow of hair rivals the Mississippi River. The Swedish dreamboat is possibly the league’s best puck stopper, but he needs a fleet of clones to help him contend with the panties being thrown at him during the post-game festivities in New York.

Opinion
By Séamus Smyth

Edmonton Oiler Taylor Hall is again finishing off his season in the press-box after injuring his shoulder this past month.

It is the second time in two seasons where Hall has missed a notable chunk of the season due to injury. Considering how young and limber the tremendous prospect should be, his absence raises concern as to whether Hall is even capable of a full season without winding up on a hospital bed.

Hall is unquestionably one of the most talented Oilers and has all the tools to become one of the most dominant power forwards in the NHL. Yet every time he steps onto the ice he plays like an untrained pit-bull released into the wild for the first time. He’s been caught on tape crashing heavily into the boards, opposing players and even the goal posts.

When his teammate inadvertently stepped on Hall’s head with his skate on and Hall suffered one of the nastiest scars the hockey world has ever witnessed, Hall miraculously made a full recovery earlier this season.

But it again pointed out that although Hall is one of the most lethal players when healthy, he has thus far been one of the clumsiest and accident-prone as well.

He would have easily been awarded the Calder trophy last season if he had been capable of playing the full 82 games. He likely would have competed with Jordan Eberle for leading scorer on the Oilers this year. But in Hall’s first two seasons, he is a player that fans have been restrained to mere fantasies regarding his potential accomplishments rather than witness them on a full-time basis.

Hopefully Hall can lace his skates up for a minimum of 70 games next year. If not, Eberle will have to begin searching for a new BFF, as Hall and Ales Hemsky will have plenty of time to catch up as they become the two official Band-Aids of the Edmonton Oilers.