Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Pierre Page was a good coach

no one said ever. 

You know those guys that were coaching when your parents we young? Those guys that know everyone, have been everywhere, yet have not done anything at all? 

Pierre Pagé
Pierre Page who is currently a coach of Red Bull Salzburg, director of hockey operations, and a guy who works on team's hiring policy, is one of those people. Given the chance this guy can talk for hours. I've heard his players comparing his speeches to those of Fidel Castro on Cuba.

When my local team cancelled post game press conferences in favor of press statements done in passing by players and coaches one of the things I started to miss were his speeches on these. Previous years, regardless of winning or losing, Pagé just started to talk, and talked for quite some time. 

My first encounter with Pagé as after winning a game over a team crippled by injuries and overcoming a 2 goal deficit in last two minutes followed by a win in OT, "my" local team playing with two D-men in 3rd line as forwards. Pierre promptly recalled some SC run with one of his teams sometime between '80ies and mid '90ies and proceeded to talk about it for good 15 minutes.

And then there were playoffs

This time he has outplayed even himself. After barely qualifying for the playoffs Pagé team lost in the opening game. He didn't congratulate the opponents, or commented the game. This was a playoff game. 

Pierre Pagé, EC RBS player, Marty Raymond, Curtis Fraser
Pagé said (quote): "I've been in this league for 6 years now. And just last week I heard a comment by Swiss ref saying that this league has no speed and no skill. These are not my words but words by Swiss refs, Swiss GMs and Swiss coaches."

Well too bad mr. Pagé, but is this not a league in which you with almost unlimited budget can't compete? A league where you wouldn't qualify for PO if there hadn't been a system that favored you rotating a thousands of players? In few months of regular league Pagé has dressed 28 different import players and had overall of 57 players on his 22 men roster at some point.
Dont blame the players, blame the bad coach

I'm not sure here but it sounds to me like he didn't get a single player with speed or skills that mattered to him this season. Note at this point that Salzburg acquired several LOCKOUT players (most in league) this season like Johnny "The Rocket" Boychuk, Clarkson, Dorsett, Brassard, Tobias Enstrom. These guys weren't good enough I guess.

I wonder what they would say. Or Nick Ross, Ryan Kinasewich, Tyler Maxwell, Justin Keller, Shawn Hunwick and many more from previous seasons. The team is a joke. Hopefully it'll become something as it has means and facilities to be big. Without Pierre Pagé.

The issue with dropping a bomb in closed quarters full of people

was never a problem with Pierre Pagé as he managed to say the following:

"NHL has become a league with lack of skill and speed recently and is not looked upon anymore." 

Erm... what? Best players, best coaches and best venues in the world, but the league lacks skill and speed to be the best in world? 

It's not over till Pierre sings

Playoffs are a series of games between two clubs. They are played until last man standing and many things are done that wouldn't be done otherwise in a regular season game.

Now, Pierre Pagé is a master in those games. Not playoff games but in dirty games. 2007/08 Red Bull Salzburg was losing to Olimpija. One of the reasons was a superb goalie Alex Westlund between the pipes of Olimpija.
Player in crease holding a goalie and its a good goal. 

Tactics? Easy, ram the goalie. Didn't work then.

It worked today. When faced against a superb goaltending its best to brew a old recipe - have a sucky player ram the goalie and lets take the game home. Daniell Welser, a mediocre austrian player rammed and injured an Olympic Slovenian goaltender just so his team can win. Shoulder to the head works. Usually.

Also this is a good goal apparently:

This won't work as Medvescak has two excellent goalies and hopefully Pierre Pagé dirty moves will be penalised soon enough with a plane ticket to a nursery home. So long old man, we'll miss you...

That one you will never hear. Beat it.
Ha - Ha (Nathan Perkovich) 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Olympics, playoffs, Russians, hockey

What do Croatia, Germany and Denmark hockey players all have in common?

They're all going to watch Olympic games on TV. 

Robert Kristan standing firm for Slovenia against Denmark
Austria and Slovenia made an uproar and qualified to the Olympic hockey tournament in Socchi 2014! Beating "hockey" countries like Belarus, Ukraine and Denmark Slovenia qualified for the first time (since 1984 and OG in Sarajevo where they played as part of Yugoslavia), while Austria took a point from Germany with a goal in last minute to tie the score.

Slovenian team trying to hug their goalie all at once for stellar performance
at OGQ tournament. Photo by iihf.com
What do Austria and Slovenia have in common? Well, its a similarity at least. Almost all players from Austria play in the local/regional EBEL league, but almost all players from Slovenia play abroad. And they're mostly out of a single, and world-known, hockey school. A school where Anže Kopitar was made, on a sunny side of Alps in Jesenice.

So, in a league where Vanek stayed with his folks in a village in Austria (Graz) and scored like 15 points in 11 games. A bit less then he managed to do in his dozen or so games of a shortened NHL season. Yikes, EBEL is better league than NHL!

Btw. three countries with teams playing in EBEL are going to Olympic games. Only two countries with teams playing in NHL are going to Olympic games. Do the math! I know I did.

So, Sammy Gagner said congrats to his Austrian Eskimo brothers:
Also, Andy Chiodo, his former teammate and two times draftee commented the same. He discovered twitter as well recently. Coincidence? I think not.

Though, somehow I think Gagner's tweet went to a broader audience. But we're all praying that finally this is the year Oilers and Sammy go to playoffs. If not, he'll always have the Alps.

Anže Kopitar was also proud on his baby bro and his papy who pulled Slovenia to the first Olympic Games tournament in history. No one understood what he wrote though. Well, his teammates in Slo did. Maybe. Not sure.
He did say though that he's playing in Socchi 2014. Take that NHL.

"This is a miracle," Slovenia head coach Matjaz Kopitar, father of the Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar, was quoted as saying afterwards. "A great success, not only for our sport, but for our nation."

http://instagram.com/p/VmrMGWrOc1/ This picture sums it all up.

What else? Oh yeah, they have to brothers actually named Rodman. Cool right? And their brightest stars is a young trio that emerged from Jesenice school Sabolič - Tičar - Jeglič, twenty something kids playing in DEL and Allsvenskan. Going to Olympic games. Good luck boys!

Dustin Jeffrey is doing some graveyard shifts in NHL. And he was a star in Europe. Just like Muršak. Hope Jan gets better though and starts playing again like he knows he can.

Russians are coming

Ergo Arena in Gdansk
Or are they? Poland nominated Gdansk for KHL team. Their idea of a KHL team is a road show that'll be based in Gdansk but will tour around Poland in order to promote hockey. 

Seriously? Who comes up with ideas like those? 

In other news: Russians plan to have Milano in for 13/14 and by 14/15 another Swiss based team. That would sum up to 28 teams, with one spot open for either a Croatian team and Polish team, or someone else with money. 

Two cups one league 

But there's still playoffs to be played in EBEL league before Russians arrive (if?). EBEL has a really silly intermission round system worked in a way to give bottom teams a chance to qualify for playoffs while doing jack shit all season. Also gives chance to Red Bull Salzburg to dress a 28th foreign (transfer card) player this season. A frenchie. Yikes, seriously guys?

Vienna continues to dominate, and are now a team most would bet to win championship. Two cups one league? Yes, thats EBEL. Vienna will miss their star D-man, Dan Bjornlie who's out with a season ending concussion.

Trade deadline doesn't end by 15th so we'll see if they'll bring a substitute by then.

Bears from Zagreb, who are declining in this intermission round, got a new goal scorer, Roman Tomas from Slovakian team Poprad is supposed to arrive to Zagreb tomorrow and join the team for the away game in Vienna. Live video will be at www.medvescakizbliza.com under STREAM. Hopefully we'll have a good game to watch. Its about time.

Geoff Waugh might return to roster after a month long absence due to concussion.

Clayton Stoner still didn't reply to a few questions, but its okay, he's busy in NHL. Hopefully he'll do it soon and we'll have something to read about.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Mike Danton and Ned Lukacevic talk about...

A new / second part of season, both in Europe and North America. Some life, and some emotion. Read all about it:

NHL is starting on 19th while most of European leagues are getting really close to Playoffs. Somehow I feel like we're in early September with all the fantasy drafts, trade rumors and talks about first, last seeds and possible underdogs. While NHL starts soon, Europe is nearing trade deadline (Feb 15th). What will it bring remains to be seen. Hopefully it will be fun couple of weeks!

In Zagreb there's just one difference. There's like 60 cm of snow so far. And its fun. Except for guys. After a loss (and not important at all for 2nd seeded team in EBEL) in "big" Arena on Sunday to last (and worst) team of league they were sent shoveling:

Everyday I'm shoveling: Brandon Buck, Arena employee, Dennis Bozic, Ivan Šijan and Gal Koren. Working hard. 
Sam Gagner and Andy Chiodo (Edmonton / EC KAC) both rediscovered twitter. It's something of a "get a room you two" conversation. Oh boy.

Then I stumbled upon an interview by NHL network with Dustin Jeffrey.

I guess he really liked playing here. Good thing we're all basically literate and can speak English to some degree. Just like any proper country. Right guys?

I've talked to Mike Danton and Ned Lukačević. 

These two guys were extremly nice, and happy to respond to few of my questions. Danton, 5th round draft pick for NJ Devils in 2000, and Lukačević, a 4th round pick for LA Kings in 2004 have something in common. Both are currently playing in Banska Bystrica of Slovakian Elite league. 

Mike Danton in a practice jersey of HC '05 (Banska Bystrica, Slovakia)
Q: Mike, from making to the big league, NHL, to Canadian CIS league. From Sweden to Czech (Austrian EBEL) and back, and now in Slovakia. Quite a trip so far. What are your expectation of this season?

Mike: My expectations for this season are simple: be successful. This year was a little different for me because I became a father in the off-season. So, my priorities for the season were centered around my son. We felt it important to be in a similar culture to Canada for the upbringing of our son. That is why I intended on playing for the Coventry Blaze this season in the UK. However, my criminal background interjected once again and the UK border agency denied me access after two attempts. At that point, I just wanted to play hockey in a country that I was familiar with. So, I signed in Sweden. I played well there and got an opportunity to play here in Banska and it has been great so far. Hopefully, with the talent and speed that we have, we can make a strong push in the home stretch and go as far as possible.

Q: As player vast life and hockey experience, you are regarded by your teammates as a natural leader and something of a "life coach" in every team you play in. Do you consider yourself a changed man?

Mike: Yes, I consider myself changed, but not entirely. I am the same charismatic and entertaining guy that I have always been. That will never change. However, I have matured in life and mentality. I have been through so much in my life that I have a wealth of knowledge in so many areas. I hav eben up and down so much in my life that I have learned from all of those scenarios and can help guide younger players when I recognize similar situations they are going through. That is also a new aspect of my life that I enjoy. I do not mind it at all.

I've talked to Ned as well about Mike, and about having many lockout players this season on team. He talked quite a bit. Ned just loves to talk. 

Q: Your team (Banska Bystrica) had quite a few lockout players on roster. Now that they're gone, how does the team feel?

Ned: Having the NHL lock out players here was great for our club, and also great for the city. The city had a lot of buzz and it was really nice playing along side Micheal Handzus in particular for myself, he helped me really establish my game in the Extraliga. We have been struggling as of late to string together some wins, but the great thing is we're still in a playoff spot, and we feel good about the team we have in front of us.

Q: Your newest teammate is Mike Danton, a guy with huge history and obviously skill. Do you think you can learn a lot by playing with guys like Mike and Handzuš?
Mike Handzus and Ned Lukačević during a game for Banska Bystrica

Ned: Meeting Mike (Danton) for the first time, was a great experience for me and something I'll always remember. Mike has always been judged on his past, and the mistake he made... But just like anyone he deserves a second chance, I'm glad to say he is getting it, in life and in hockey. He (Mike) is a good person with a good heart. On the hockey side of things, he can still play- it's really interesting that someone who was locked up for 7 years is still as good as he is. It just shows why he was where he once was.

Q: You're a student of criminology. Does the understanding of human nature and psychology help you in hockey games?

Mike: Actually, I am a student in Psychology and Criminology with my focus being in sports psychology. In saying that, my education definitely plays a positive role in my hockey career. It is amazing to learn how significant the mind is when it comes to playing sports. I wish I was schooled in this field when I was playing in the NHL. One of the main concepts that I have really focused on the last two years in confidence and self-motivation. It is true: without belief, you really have nothing. Proper self-motivation and confidence can become your best friend or worst enemy in sports.

Q: You played a good season in Czech, and your former colleague at Saint Mary's Univ Kyle Wharton came to the club this season. Why didn't you stay? Can you compare the league to other top leagues you played in?

Mike: Znojmo was a great experience for me. I played well, and the fans were absolutely amazing. However, hockey is business and most of the time emotions do not make the best judgements for contractual agreements. Like I said earlier, we found it important to play in a similar culture to Canada this season because of the birth of our son. Playing in a country where English was not spoken too often would have hindered our situation if something were to happen to our son and daily errands that would have needed to be completed. The EBEL is a very good league. It is fast, skilled and tough like North America. There are many North Americans playing in that league which bring an element of physical hockey to their teams.

Q: What are your plans for this season and future? Do you see yourself working in hockey after you end your player career one day?

Mike: My plans for this season are simple: be as successful as possible. I want to perform as well as I can and help the team win as many games as possible. In the future, I want to play hockey for as long as I can, but I realize that might not be able to happen. Whenever children enter the picture, priorities seem to change. Whatever is best for my son and family is what I will decide to do. I would love to stay in hockey to some degree after my career whether that be coaching or in some type of psychological setting. I guess we will see.

Big thanks to Mike Danton for this great opportunity to talk to him. After I've finished with Mike, I went back head to head with Ned. While he loves to talk (did I mention that?) his second passion is hockey, and third probably poker. For next interview I might call him to play some heads up. 

Q: So Ned, you're in Slovakia for a while now. This is your second stint in Europe. How do you like it so far? Have you been to any of the great cities?

Ned: It's been a great start to my European career. Obviously with my brief stint in the Allsvenskan (Swedish 2nd league) last year, this is my first real taste at European hockey fully. It's a great pace, great life style, and hockey has become fun again. My favorite city I have visited so far has definitely got to be Vienna. 

Q: You played a few games in Sweeden (Allsvenskan) and some in Slovakia now. How do you compare those leagues? How do they compare to AHL and ECHL?

Ned: I think the difference between Allsvenskan and Slovakia is a few things. The conditions are a lot more modern in Sweden, rinks wise. Facilities are a little newer, but the fans in Slovakia are real passionate about hockey and are very loyal. Both leagues were up pace and real up tempo. On paper Allsvenskan is probably touted by general managers as better but I think the top teams here would be good teams in Allsvenskan as well. 
Ned Lukačević during 2008. Flyer's camp sporting a jailhouse jersey

Q: You've been regarded in past as top prospect by LA King's organisation and you eventually decided to play in Europe. Was it a hard decision? What do you miss the most?
Ned Lukačević while playing with Adam Miller (Medveščak Zagreb)

Ned: Obviously everyone's goal playing pro is to play in the NHL some day. At some point you either have to realize you may not make it, for whatever reason. It may be politics, luck, or just not being good enough. You just have to do what's best for your career at that moment, and at the same time enjoy the game of life because at the end of the day hockey is just a game. 

Q: Being born in Podgorica, MON, and you speak fluently the language. Did you find it hard to adapt to Slovakian? 

Ned: Being originally from (and born in) Montenegro , I can pick up bits and pieces of the Slovak language. It is still much different and hard though. It's nice to be close to my heritage as well, and hopefully even closer next year with a possibility of joining the bears (in Zagreb).

Thanks to both Mike Danton and Ned Lukačević for this opportunity. I wish you guys all the best in upcoming games this weekend and hopefully playoffs. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

And we're off!

We got ourselves a season. Europe is feeling better, KHL is still crying over Ovi, Malkin and not sure about Kovi. But hey, its not first time best and brightest are running out of USSR

Also, USA beat Canada. Then Canada got mad. And Don Cherry almost got a heart attack. Poor man, getting so excited over nothing. Lets pretend we cared and lets go on.

So, as we wait for hockey for another week or so, lets preview what happened so far in #Europe

1. Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL in Austria and surrounding countries) had its share of linking and popularity thanks to a nice guy playing for Olimpija Ljubljana, Mike Ratchuk. Over a million views total, not bad man, and nice goal. Feel poor for the kid goalie.
2. Then Patrick Kane went to dangle a bit around Corey Schneider in Swiss. Showoff mostly, and a battle of nerves. Kane won. Woooot.

3. And finally it was time for good old Pavel Datsyuk to teach these kids a lesson. In a KHL game shootout he decided to add a new move. Check out this:
4. But nothing can top Ilya Kovalchuk. I'm sure there are lots of guys on Devils' team that are sweating and swearing just watching this pure art. Спасибо Илье
What can you say? I'm sure lots of these Locked-out guys had fun in Europe. In USA and Canada its all just work. Most of these guys have had first Xmas off since way before they were even drafted. Most of them worked out, enjoyed the Europe for first time.
Dustin Jeffrey selling Xmas cards for Medvescak partner UNICEF

Just think of guys like Dustin Jeffrey, who worked hard to get into a star filled Pens roster. And had first Christmas off. He decided to spend it with his family and friends in Canada.

Michael Grabner got a chance to play for his childhood team, EC VSV in same league as Jeffrey. Guys made him such a sweet video, wonder if he got a mix tape as well? Villach is so cute I just cuddle them all together. Also you can see how awesome Grabner's beard got over time.

Rumours are Grabner's beard got sentient and he had to remove it upon landing on US soil. Or something like that.

Tyler Myers as a farewell gift got a pounding by Nathan Perkovich. 203cm vs 196cm and 10s fight. But was nice. Notice the screams in the arena. Hi Becky.

And another POV with a camera guy having a great feeling of the game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80LNkJ6o-50

Damn he must be proud.

Anyways, thats it guys. Lockout is over, tears over new fan favorites have been shed, and we're off to see another, very short, NHL season. Go draft your fantasy teams, set up your leagues and we're off to go.

And Gagner's team is doing great since he left. They might even get to playoffs now. Which is unlikely for Edmonton Oilers.

Burke who?