- John Buccigross, SportsCenter anchor
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First Period -- Happy Holidays
I love Swedes. I love hockey. I love Adam Sandler. And the three shall meet.
I give to you the Hakan Loob Hockey Hanukkah Song 2005. Sing to the melody of Adam Sandler's holiday classic, "Hanukkah Song."
Put on some ABBA-kah
Here comes Hakan-Hanukkah!
So much Swedish-funukah,
To celebrate Hakan-Hanukkah!
Hakan-Hanukkah is a festival of ice
Instead of one day of hockey, we have 180 crazy nights.
When you feel like the only kid in town Without a Synergy,
Here's a list of people who are Swedish, just like Mats Sundin
Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden,
Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers was born in Are, Sweden
Guess who eats crayfish at a bistro in Malmo, Thomas Steen, Thomas Gradin and ex-Oiler Tommy Salo
Toronto's Tie Domi knocked Ulf Samuelsson on his fanny
Tiger Woods is married to Jesper Parnevik's ex-nanny
You don't need rock and roll or to listen to Menudo,
'Cause you can sing a song with Niklas Havelid's young son Hudo...
Put on your ABBA-kah
It's time for Hakan-Hanukkah
The captain of the Vancouver Canuck-anukahs celebrates Hakan-Hanukkah
Saku Koivu, not a Swede
But guess who is? Hakan's older brother Pete (he scored one goal in nine NHL
Sweden's Peter Forsberg and his girlfriend like to go dancin'
So do Roger, Mathias, Calle, Bjorn and Andreas Johansson
Tell your friend Per-onica
It's time for Hakan-Hanukkah
I hope for new Graf-onikahs
On this lovely Hakan-Hanukkah
So drink your cold Fal-connika
And golf 18 with Annika
If you really, really wannakah
Have a happy, happy, happy, Hakan-Hanukkah!
Second Period -- Job For Life
One of the worst trades of the last five years was in October 2002, when Colorado president and GM Pierre Lacroix sent Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle to Calgary for Derek Morris, Jeff Shantz and Dean McAmmond.
Likewise, the Boston Bruins haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1972 and continually trade away Hall of Famers, yet their front office smells the same as it has for years.
Meanwhile, Penguins GM Craig Patrick traded Markus Naslund to the Vancouver Canucks for Alek Stojanov. Patrick traded Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to Washington for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, Ross Lupaschuk and future considerations.
This past summer, Patrick had one of the worst summers in the history of NHL general managers. He made noted floaters Zigmund Palffy and Sergei Gonchar the highest-paid players on the team, while keeping an immense, albeit inexperienced goalie, in the minor leagues to avoid paying bonuses. And then he signed Jocelyn Thibault. How is that for team morale!
After all of this, Craig Patrick still has a job. NHL teams are a lot like behemoth U.S. corporations. Layers of incompetence go unnoticed and ignored for years, whether because of politics or bored middle managers who collect paychecks despite making very little contributions to the day-to-day operations. Meanwhile, the people actually doing the day-to-day grinding are let go, often as a result of the poor decisions made by those people we rarely see.
Third Period -- The 12 Days of Christmas
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
12 Hakans Loobing
11 Dingmans Dinging
10 LaFleurs A-Leaping
9 Gordie Elbows
8 Neelys Knocking
7 Hortons Donuts
6 Boughner Boogers
5 GOLDEN NICKS!
4 Bobby Orrs
2 Harvey Highlights
And a Sawchuk in a square crease.
The Mother of All Mailbags
Is Ken aware that Elisha Cuthbert is writing a hockey blog for NHL.com?
Ken the Otter, as you know, is Canadian. He is aware of all things Elisha, the Canadian actress, does, which now apparently includes dating the Kings' Sean Avery. Ken has secretly obtained Elisha's latest blog installment that will appear soon on NHL.com:
"Sean Avery is sooooooo underrated. And soooooo hot. And soooooo smart!! You should hear some of his views on life! They might vote him president of Canada some day! Well, got to go, gang! I got to nap, get my massage from Armando, and then I'm going to see Fall Out Boy tonight! They rock!"
No way can I spell their names, so I will just ask. What are the Avs doing with three goalies? And what have you heard about a master plan? Luongo's name, I can spell Luongo, keeps coming up. Any chance of a trade there? Thanks, and there is no fun hockey coverage on OLN. I truly wish ESPN could have kept the NHL.
Dan in Denver
Obviously, nearly every team in the NHL has an interest in Roberto Luongo. The Avs would certainly be high on that list. However, it would probably take Milan Hejduk and Marek Svatos/John-Michael Liles to get Luongo, and a lesser forward/defenseman from Florida. Other teams are in better position to get Luongo. The Top 5 teams that make the most sense in terms of matching a trade with the Panthers: (1) Boston; (2) Philadelphia; (3) Vancouver; (4) Los Angeles; (5) Anaheim.
Thanks for being the first reporter outside of the New York guys to acknowledge Henrik Lundqvist's achievements this season. Of course, if he's not careful, Petr Prucha could steal his thunder. Let me tell you, just the fact that the Rangers play hard makes me happy enough, the fact that they are winning is just a bonus. On a side note, the Penguins need to look in the mirror, they have Rangersitis, and they did what the Rangers had been doing for years ineffectively. It is very hard for a team to build chemistry with so many introverted veterans.
I love that last sentence from Doug. It's simple and profound. The best components of any great sentence.
I attended my first NHL game of the season the other night when the Red Wings came to Atlanta to play the Thrashers. Wow! The most fun I've ever had at a hockey game! I've been impressed with the way the new rules look on TV (though OLN's game selection has me watching less than I used to), but in person it is even better! Plus, the Thrashers' management has wisely cut down on off-ice distractions, lowered the volume on the PA, and replaced most of the music with a good old-fashioned organ. I wasn't sure I'd ever say this about a Thrashers game, but I actually felt like I was at a hockey game!
That is nice to hear, and at the same time, not surprising. I've written in this space for years that one of my favorite arenas is Atlanta. Additionally, the Thrashers have a lot of good people working behind the scenes, led by GM Don Waddell, who will one day bring a Stanley Cup to Georgia.
You hate me. You never print my e-mails. Even when I write from Brazil to tell you about a local show featuring one 60-something-year-old Swedish track and field judge taking a javelin in the chest, yanking it out and then calling it a good toss. A judge named HAKAN LOOB. I'm going down to the beach to eat some worms.
Sheridan S. McKinney
Where's the love for the Northeast Division's second-place Buffalo Sabres? This is a good, young team that everyone counted out at the start of the season (including ESPN.com, who had them pegged for dead last in the East). Do you see them keeping up this pace? Where do you see them finishing with no real "superstar"?
Also, what's a good name for a female Doberman puppy? You're good at the baby-name thing. Why not "hockey names" for dogs?
I wrote the following on the Sabres in my Eastern Conference Preview:
"I so wanted to pick this team in the Top 8. Wanted to. Wanted to. Wanted to. I love their forwards. I see them moving together fast and fluid. They can roll four speedy lines, and they almost always have a dynamic player on the ice. But the defense and unproven NHL goaltending keeps me from picking them in the balanced East."
Remember, we still have a long way to go. Looking at the Sabres' schedule the last month as they've surged up the standings, we see Washington twice, the Penguins three times, beat up Montreal twice, Minnesota, Boston and New Jersey. Now, you have to beat these teams and the Sabres have. But the Sabres still play the Senators five more times, Tampa Bay three times, Philadelphia three times, plus a six-game road trip in January against six good teams. I want the Sabres to make the playoffs and will root for them to do so, but the toughest part of their season has yet to arrive.
We know how you glow over Crosby, and he may later prove to be worthy. But to leave Eric Staal off of Team Canada is inexplicable. (Rick Nash even got a mention and he hasn't even been playing.) Staal is older (more experienced), stronger and leads Crosby in all categories except PIMs. He can be on the point on the power play and is a threat on PK to score shorthanded.
Of course, as a Hurricane fan, it would be OK with me to leave him off and keep him healthy. And I am sure he would feel like he would have something to prove if he was left off. Bucci, watch a 'Canes game now and then. I think you will see he deserves more respect.
Eric Staal was my last cut. I love his game, and you are right, that he is older and stronger. Taking him or Crosby probably won't make much of a difference in Canada's medal hopes. But I would be shocked if Sidney Crosby doesn't make the team. He is represented by a powerful agency, he is the face of the new, younger NHL, and it's important to the NHL that he is seen and promoted on a gigantic, Olympic, international stage.
The NHL participates in the Olympics to market its players and grow its game. The telecast of Canada's 5-2 victory over the United States for the gold medal in 2002 drew a 10.7 rating, the highest for any hockey game, NHL or Olympics, since the 1980 Olympics. Now that NBC has the NHL package, it will heavily promote NHL hockey and upcoming games during the Olympics. Sidney Crosby is a key part of the NHL's marketing strategy. The NHL wants him at the Olympics. NBC wants him at the Olympics. He will be at the Olympics.
How many goals do you think Simon Gagne will score this year? Before he and Forsberg got banged up, he was on pace to go over 80. It's amazing what new rules, and a new world-class teammate, can do for a player. Also, do you think anyone will seriously challenge Gretzky's single-season record this year? Or sometime in the near future?
I don't anyone will ever break Gretzky's single-season goal record of 92. The goalies, defensemen and defensive philosophies are all too effective.
I'm in a bit of a quandary. If the Penguins leave Pittsburgh, do I:
1) Cheer for them despite the city they move to?
2) Cheer for a Canadian team?
3) Cheer for the Sabres? (We're soon moving to Ithaca, N.Y.)
I've been a Penguins fan for 33 years. I honestly don't know what to do.
Some people in this situation have moved on with their team. I know I never could. Maybe the Penguins will move to Kamloops. The Sabres would be a good switch. Especially when they switch back to their blue-and-gold sweaters.
I hope you're having a good holiday season. My mom got drilled in the head with a puck at the Flyers-Tampa game a couple weeks ago. She is OK, pretty tough woman to tell you the truth, but that's the second time it's happened. My sister brought a friend who got nailed in my seats, as well.
My next game is Ottawa on Dec. 22. They're the only team in the East that worries me. I think the Rangers will fall to earth eventually, probably when Jagr pulls his groin. Hope all is well with you.
Well, it's almost Christmas and I'm still here in Iraq. I'm still biting my nails trying to wring info from Rangers' press and I even got to watch two games live. It's a whole different experience staying up till the game comes on at 3 a.m. Well, anyway, I pulled a little tidbit out of an interview with Steve Rucchin about him saying that this Ranger team reminded him of the 2002 Ducks, and you said that he was smoking something and that you saw the Rangers with no more then 78 points. You are absolutely right about Henrik and the Calder award and Jagr as the Hart, so far. Let's give Sidney his due, but without Henrik the Rangers look more like Sidney's Pens.
JACK M. BROWN, SSGT, USAF
Balad AB, Iraq
Merry Christmas to you, Jack. And to all your brave and selfless comrades.
John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.
1dDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com