'Tis the season for stops and starts

This is my final column here at ESPN.com.

In 2008.

I've been instructed to take a week off next week to enjoy the holidays, which for me means the World Junior Championship on NHL Network. So I thought this would be a good time to dredge my brain by looking back and looking forward, and to get ready for a fresh start in 2009. When I was a kid, I loved the turning of the calendar year. I lived for the year-end news and sports year-in-review shows, and I looked forward to a new year with a clean slate. There is nothing like a fresh sheet of ice and all the mysteries and possibilities it represents.

Here we go. See you in 2009.

• Patrick Kane will go down as one of the finest U.S.-born NHL players of all time. He has become one of my favorite NHL players to watch. If he plays his entire career with the Blackhawks, he will have a chance to break Stan Mikita's record for career points. He sees the ice and feels the game as well as anyone and also has a very good snap shot that should get stronger. What I don't like about him is how comfortable and confident he is in his own skin. I wish I felt like that for just one day.

• Of all of the designated fighters in the NHL, the most boring is Andrew Peters of the Sabres. The worst kind of NHL fight is when a guy throws a punch every eight seconds while keeping his face out of harm's way. The best fights and the most entertaining fighters are the guys who employ the take-one-to-give-one method: Riley Cote, Arron Asham, Milan Lucic, Eric Godard, Eric Boulton, Colton Orr, Dan Carcillo, Jody Shelley and Ian Laperriere, to name a few. (Mr. Peters, please keep in mind that if you challenge me to a fight, I will employ the Monty Python "run away" theory.)

• Here are my latest probability power rankings for winning the Stanley Cup. I would be surprised if any team other than these wins the Stanley Cup: 1. Detroit; 2. San Jose; 3. Boston; 4. Philadelphia; 5. Pittsburgh; 6. Washington; 7. Montreal; 8. Chicago; 9. Vancouver.

• Award winners at the end of this season: MVP: Evgeni Malkin. Norris: Dan Boyle. Calder: Drew Doughty or Steve Mason. Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist. Jack Adams: Brent Sutter.

• Next season's Winter Classic should be at Fenway Park in Boston, and it should be Boston versus Montreal. If NBC is adamant about requiring teams from two U.S. television markets to play, it will be Bruins-Rangers, although scheduling Alex Ovechkin in the highest-rated regular-season NHL game might be a good idea. But, if it's the Rangers who play in Boston, it would mark the first time an athlete played an NHL game in a venue (Fenway Park) where he also hit a batting practice home run. Another win for Chris Drury.

• Columbus Blue Jackets fans are crushed that center Derick Brassard will miss the rest of the year with a shoulder injury. They were thinking their team would make the playoffs, but now they are not. That's the impact Brassard was having in Ohio. But Jackets fans shouldn't give up. The contest for the eighth spot in the West is wide open. Minnesota should be a playoff team, so that leaves one spot open in my mind, and I don't see any one team that I would call a favorite. Maybe Nashville, as it seems comfortable playing low-risk and low-scoring games. It's hard for young players to play that way when they've been used to attacking all of their hockey lives.

• The Eastern Conference is a better conference than the Western Conference.

• Barry Melrose as Lightning coach after 16 games: 5-7-4. Rich Tocchet as Lightning coach: 2-9-5. That's the last time you'll see Melrose and Tampa in the same sentence in this column. That era is officially history. Barry resumes his ESPN career Jan. 1.

• The Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan wrote a nice piece on next year's possible No. 1 overall pick, John Tavares. Some Tavares quotes from that story:

  • "One of my oldest memories as a human being is when [Wayne] Gretzky high-sticked [Doug] Gilmour in 1993 [during the playoffs]."

  • "Every time I played hockey, I had so much fun. I never wanted to stop. When we used to have family get-togethers, I used to get all of my uncles and cousins to play down in the basement, and I would be the last one down there."

  • "That desire never stopped. It has only grown. My passion has been right there from day one."

That's a good way to end the year. The NHL continues to grow because young players such as Tavares continue to pour in, making the game faster and more competitive every year. These are the good ol' days. Peace.

Shot of the Week

It's back. You know how it works: We present an NHL photo, and Bucci provides a caption. E-mail him your suggestions (include your name and hometown/state), and we will use the best ones and provide a new photo the following week.


"Nucks in a box." (Courtesy: Getty Images)

Your captions:

Canuckle sandwich.
-- Drew Shortall, Los Angeles

"Nuck, Nuck, GOOSE!"
-- Jimmy Abel, 911th Airlift Wing, Pittsburgh

It is the holiday three-pack.
-- Erik T. Montgelas, Oxford, Ohio

These new toilets are so accessible.
-- Dustin, Pennsylvania


"Mmmm, chocolate-covered pucks! I love this time of year." (Courtesy: Getty Images)

Weekly Tribute to Jack Falla

The following is an excerpt from Jack Falla's "Home Ice." Falla passed away Sept. 14. We'll honor his memory each week with a few lines from one of his classic books:

It is Thursday, February 27, 1986. … The story woke me up in a hurry. "Jacques Plante died," I said to Barbara, and then I read aloud the report that said Plante had died of stomach cancer at a hospital near his home in The Valais, Switzerland.

Brian walked into the kitchen in time to hear me read the last few paragraphs of the story. Maybe just to humor me or to make conversation, he asked if I thought Plante was the greatest goalie ever. I wanted to say yes, but instead I gave him the most honest answer I could: "He may not have been the greatest, but he was the most important."

The Mother of All Mailbags


I had not heard of Jack Falla until I read your column at the beginning of the season, so I picked up a copy of "Home Ice" and was completely blown away. How many authors can turn a simple story about buying new skates into an engrossing 10-page chapter mixing apprehension and relief with a bit of nostalgic history? Whether he is talking about a single stride on his backyard rink or going to the Garden with his father (or grandkid), you can feel his passion and love for the sport of hockey on every page. Reading "Home Ice" is about as close as you can get to playing the game without putting on skates. Thanks for enlightening those of us who were a little late to the rink, and my copy of "Home Ice" is in the mail.



I know some of you are having trouble finding Jack Falla's book, "Home Ice." I'm trying to find places for you to order it. If I discover those, I will pass along that information.

I'm in the mood for quotes. You might see some randomly placed quotes in this week's e-mail bag.

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." -- Michelangelo

Hey, Bucci,

Great to read your excerpts from Jack Falla's works. Jack and I are contemporaries, having lived in adjacent towns, he in Natick and I in Framingham. While I left Framingham a few years before he moved to Natick, I'm sure we frequented many of the same outdoor venues. For an old-time hockey die-hard, nothing beats good outdoor ice.

The readings bring back many memories. For me, hockey in the late '50s and early '60s meant Gleason's Pond. Games involved everyone from old-timers, college and high school players and anyone younger who could keep up. As a little kid playing with the big boys, I was the one who got sent out on the thin ice when an errant pass slid the wrong way. More than once they fished me out with tree branches or hockey sticks and drove me home soaked, including the first day I wore my brand-new CCM Tacks. No one in town could have been happier when the big kids won the state championship for Framingham in 1961.

One vivid memory of Gleason's: Freddie Keane got new hockey gloves for Christmas. The next day he fell in the partially frozen pond. Not wanting to ruin his gloves, he tossed them on a floating piece of ice and climbed back onto the solid sheet. That afternoon he returned to salvage the gloves. We chopped out a body-sized piece, and Fred lay down on it while we tied a rope around him. Then, surfer-style, he paddled out 50 yards to the gloves and grabbed them, and we towed him in.

Bill Crane

Bridgewater, Mass.


As a longtime Kings fan who has suffered through many frustrating years, I am finally encouraged with the direction of the team.


Fullerton, Calif.

Readers of this space know I've liked the direction the Kings have shown the past couple of years outside of the Ladislav Nagy and Mike Handzus signings. Nagy is gone, but Handzus has $4 million a year coming for two more years. That's the equivalent of having car payments on a 1987 Honda Prelude.

The Kings have tons of cap room and will gain even more in the offseason because of expiring contracts. Kyle Calder, Derek Armstrong, Sean O'Donnell and Denis Gauthier make a combined $7.5 million. Would you trade those four players for Marian Gaborik or Jay Bouwmeester? Yes. And the Kings would still have lots of cap room.

How big a gain the Kings make in the coming years will be determined by how wisely they spend their cap space and how well their recent high draft picks turn out, such as Thomas Hickey, the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft. Hickey is a smallish defenseman who is playing for Seattle in the WHL. He'll turn 20 in February.

How the Kings play the free-agency game will be interesting. They have multiple needs. The Kings need goaltending and another defenseman. They probably can get a free-agent goalie cheaply for a few years, such as Manny Fernandez. Or, they could take a chance on a productive backup netminder, such as Dany Sabourin, who becomes unrestricted in the summer. Sabourin puts up good numbers and could be had cheaply for only a few years. That can be a risky move. Think Roman Turek. But scouting players such as Sabourin to determine whether they can be unexpected starters also would help expedite the Kings' rise.

The Kings then have to decide where and to whom they should allocate their cap space. Do they go after Bouwmeester, if he doesn't re-sign in Florida, or Gaborik? They need another defenseman more than they need Gaborik. I would sign Bouwmeester before Gaborik. But as I explained above, they might be able to get both.

Before I explore free agency, I would explore a deal for Ilya Kovalchuk at the 2009 NHL draft if he lets Atlanta know that he will choose to be a free agent in 2010. Atlanta could do very well trading Kovalchuk to the Kings. Los Angeles, with all its prospects and a decent No. 1 in the 2009 draft, would be a great suitor.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Kings construct their team from this point forward.

Mr. Buccigross,

What are you listening to right now?

Adam Sperry

Lake Placid, N.Y.

I've been rotating between the latest CDs from Ben Folds and AC-DC and MGMT's CD "Oracular Spectacular," especially the songs "Time to Pretend" and "Electric Feel." Those are must-downloads from MGMT.

I also finally picked up Sufjan Stevens' 2005 CD, "Illinois." A friend made a mix CD with a few songs from that Stevens release, but I just picked up the full CD last week when it was staring at me while I was in line at a Barnes and Noble buying books. I also am an old-school eject-and-insert-while-driving music guy. The Killers can't seem to repeat their rookie success, but their new CD is OK, and I can't stop listening to their song "Human." I misplaced Angels and Airwaves' second CD and just recently found it in a heap of mess in the basement, and I am enjoying that again. Mary Chapin Carpenter's new Christmas CD is really good.

Mr. Buccigross,

I was a big fan of hockey while in elementary and middle school, but for reasons I don't recall (which means they're probably not good ones), I stopped following the game. However, as a senior in college, I have rediscovered how much I love the game and begun to follow it again. (Go Preds!) I really enjoy your writing, and your book is on the way to my house via Amazon, but I was wondering if you could suggest some other must-reads about the game? Thanks.


Franklin, Tenn.

  • Jack Falla's hockey books

  • "The Game," Ken Dryden

  • "Searching For Bobby Orr," Stephen Brunt

Those are three that come to mind. Google "BEST HOCKEY BOOKS" or something like that, and you will find a huge selection. Hockey books are like pizza and doughnuts to me. It's really hard not to make one I like.

"Getting ahead in a difficult profession requires avid faith in yourself. That is why some people with mediocre talent but with great inner drive, go much further than people with vastly superior talent." -- Sophia Loren

Hey, Bucci:

What's your opinion on the Mats Sundin situation?

Happy holidays,


As far as his vacillating on where to sign, it stirred nothing inside me. Whatever. But, I like Sundin a lot. He is a lock Hall of Famer with lots of charisma. He's big and plays mean. I think he will provide a jolt of energy initially in Vancouver. He hasn't played in the postseason since 2004! So you know he will practically explode come playoff time. He will turn 38 in February, so we don't know when his career will hit a wall. He is coming off a 32-goal season, so one doesn't expect Sundin's career wall to arrive in the spring. The Canucks are without question better than they were without him. They have a varied group of good forwards and a great goalie. They need an upgrade on defense to get closer to the Sharks and Red Wings.

In the meantime, here are some awesome Sundin nuggets for you to chew on, courtesy of ESPN researcher Vince Masi. My boy Vince is a huge hockey guy here at ESPN and a big Devils fan.

1. Mats Sundin has played 17 NHL seasons, the past 13 seasons with the Maple Leafs. When he returns, he will be third among active players in goals (555) and points (1,321). He was the first Swede to score 500 NHL goals.

2. Mats Sundin's 12 straight seasons with at least 70 points is the sixth-longest such streak in NHL history.

3. Sundin's signing with the Vancouver Canucks means he will be playing for his third Canadian team (Nordiques, Maple Leafs and Canucks); he has never played for a team in the United States.

4. Sundin hasn't won the Stanley Cup, but he's been successful in international play. He has won four gold medals -- one in the 2006 Olympics, three in the world championships (1991, 1992 and 1998) -- a silver in the 2003 world championships and two bronze medals ('94 and '01 world championships).

Most consecutive seasons with 70-plus points, NHL history
Marcel Dionne, 16, 1971-72 through 1986-87
Jaromir Jagr, 15, 1992-93 through 2007-08
Dale Hawerchuk, 13, 1981-82 through 1993-94
Wayne Gretzky, 13, 1979-80 through 1991-92
Phil Esposito, 13, 1967-68 through 1979-80
Mats Sundin, 12, 1995-96 through 2007-08

Most OT goals, NHL history
Mats Sundin, 15
Patrik Elias, 15
Jaromir Jagr, 15
Sergei Fedorov, 14
Steve Thomas, 13

From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Canucks (tied for third in the West) offer the possibility of playing deeper into the playoffs than Sundin has ever gone before. Sundin advanced to the conference finals once, with the Maple Leafs in 1999.

Most goals scored for Canadian teams
*Wayne Gretzky, 583
Mats Sundin, 555
*Maurice Richard, 544
*Guy Lafleur, 542
*Jean Beliveau, 507
*Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame


It's great to see Bill Zaniboni is still in hockey. He played at Northern Michigan my first two years there. The first time I heard his name, I thought it was Zamboni, which would have been perfect.

Go Cats!

Tom Haight

Bill Zaniboni is a 26-year-old goalie for the Flint Generals of the six-team International Hockey League. His hometown is listed as Plymouth, Mass. That's where my parents, Ed and Mary, live. I must get a hold of Bill.


How do [you] see Sergei Fedorov's chances of getting into the Hall? He has to be one of the most gifted skaters ever to play the game, and I think his awards and rings speak for themselves. His perceived lack of heart won't hurt him, will it?


Washington, D.C.

Sergei Fedorov is a lock Hall of Famer. Next question.

Hey, John:

You think there's any way that players would be allowed to play the shootout without helmets? How cool would it be to see a breeze blowing through some of the players' quasi-mullets? It doesn't seem like there's any chance of an injury, and since the shootout is pretty much a marketing ploy, showcasing the star players (usually the guys who are taking shootout shots) while skating without any interference from the helmet would give us an NBA-like closeness to the players and the game. What do you think, Bucci?

Happy holidays,


I'm all for personal freedoms, Danny, but if I were an NHL team owner, I wouldn't want to see my $6 million-a-year player without a helmet during the shootout get poke checked by Evgeni Nabokov, trip over the goalie stick and whiplash the back of his skull on the goalpost, ice or end boards.

We all would like to go back to the days of Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur, when their game-show-host hair was flying through the air from sea to shining sea. But the game is completely different today. The speed and recklessness (I mean that in the entertaining way) of the NHL game today make the helmet an absolute necessity. And sometime during this century I think we will see full-face protection. Martin St. Louis came very close to a catastrophic facial skate blade incident in Ottawa earlier in the month.

Hi, John,

Just one simple question from a Caniac: Is Rod Brind'Amour Hall of Fame-bound?


Cary, N.C.

I don't think so, Ron. He played in only one All-Star Game and was a career minus player (although part of that was playing against great offensive players a lot, so I'll give you a pass on that). I've always said a Hall of Fame takes all kinds, and when it's close, I'm for putting a guy in, but this one falls a bit short even for my easier standards. But Brind'Amour appears to be an amazing person and great role model for the game. Add that to his other attributes, and you wouldn't see me protesting in the streets of Toronto if he were to be inducted. Courage, toughness, perseverance, off-ice training and leadership also should be considered in Hall of Fame voting so that it doesn't select just offensive-minded forwards.

I do know that banana Laffy Taffy should be in the Candy Hall of Fame.

"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open." -- Dorothy Allison

Hi, Bucci,

I have long enjoyed your column, not only thanks to the Hakan Loob angle. (By the way, is he aware of your obsession with him?) But [last week's] piece was just amazing. That song, although I am not enough of an Adam Sandler fan to hear the melody, was a perfect treat. And there was even a reference to my hometown (although the Lakers rose to "prominence," relatively speaking, quite a while after I left Vaxjo)!

I don't have any really good new Swedish hockey names up my sleeve, the new kids are the usual -stroms, -bergs, -lunds … but keep an eye out for Magnus Svensson Paajarvi in the coming under-20 championship. A very skilled Swedish guy with a Finnish name, to counter Hagman, Backstrom and Lind.

Speaking of hockey names, yes, my name is Ulf Samuelsson.

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Hey, Bucci,

What's your take on the call during the shootout the other night between Colorado and Tampa Bay? Mike Smith was judged to have thrown his stick at the puck, but it looks pretty solidly like it just fell out of his hands. Shouldn't there be some sort of intention on the goalie's part to actually throw the stick? This seems like a really bad break for a team that really could use a good one.

Mike, the Bolts fan in Chicago

Upon further review, it was the incorrect call. Mike Smith simply dropped his stick and made a blocker save. His momentum slightly pushed the stick along the ice. We used to see Dominik Hasek drop his stick in normal game situations to give him more movement to make an acrobatic save. I just don't understand why replay can't be used in this instance. It could have been seen in five seconds that Smith did not throw his stick. I understand the NHL doesn't want to expand the replay to look at every offside call or other infractions, but in the case of the shootout, there should be no limits. I mean, it's a shootout! How much more finality do you want, and what more important moment can you think of?


I am a little late with the Podes e-mail, but just wanted to share that I went to high school with Shjon Podein's brother-in-law. It seems like a strained connection … at least I thought it was. But after he won the Cup in '01 with Colorado, he brought it to a little dive bar near the University of Minnesota called Bullwinkle's and let my friend, his brother-in-law, invite anybody he wanted. Shjon spent a good portion of the evening pouring champagne into the Cup and then tipping the Cup to the lips of everyone in that bar. Even though he didn't know many of us, he made us feel welcome and really seemed to enjoy sharing the experience. He's a real class act.




Thanks for the update on Podes. I got to know him and [wife] Sherri while working at the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation and can say without question that they are two of the finest people I have ever met. Shjon was our first NHL player to sign up and couldn't have been a better ambassador for the foundation. Glad to hear he's doing well.

Chad Caldwell

(a hockey fan stuck in Oklahoma)

Hey, Bucci,

It's just come across the wire that Sergei Zubov is scheduled for another hip surgery in January. While no timetable has been given, it's reasonable to assume that he might be out for the season, if not his career.

So, a two-parter: Does Zubie, with his two Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medal, three NHL All-Star appearances, 1,000-plus NHL games, 0.7-plus PPG in both regular season and playoffs and highest-scoring Russian-born NHL D-man status belong in the HHOF? And, if you're Stars management, what do you do to fill the premier puck-moving defenseman void?


Lewisville, Texas

Zubov in the Hall of Fame? Yes.

Puck-moving defenseman? The Stars will be in the market for Jay Bouwmeester if he becomes a free agent and if they can fit him under the cap.


Real quick, I think Zach Parise is one of the most underrated young stars in the game today. Watching him game in and game out makes you appreciate a man's love and work ethic for the greatest game on Earth. What do you think about Parise?


Sparta, N.J.

He might be underrated among casual NHL fans but not among the devoted. He is a 24-year-old entering his prime. He is on pace for 40 goals and 100 points. After a bit of a lull in high-level U.S.-born players, Parise is part of another generation of highly skilled American players.

Hey, John,

Just wanted your opinion on who you think will captain Team Canada's 2010 Olympic entry as well as the possible captain for Team USA.

Nelson Santos


Canada: Jarome Iginla
United States: Chris Drury


I usually write about your weekly articles, but I simply needed to express my joy. This might be odd, but you are one of the first people I could think of that might understand this.

Hockey and baseball are in a constant battle for my favorite sport. On the ESPN.com Web page, I always took it as an odd insult that the NHL page was so far down the list on the sports dropdown box, below college sports and NASCAR and Racing. But on the new Web layout, NHL has jumped up to just below the other three major professional team sports. I find myself oddly excited about this type of recognition, and I thought you might share in that type of enthusiasm.

Matt Hawk

ESPN Beta rocks! It's the little things.

Dear Bucci,

I write to you as a Pittsburgher living in New Jersey, forced to watch my beloved Pens from afar. My girlfriend of nine months, who has picked up the game quickly, has become nearly as big a fan as myself. For my birthday, we made the trek last week to the Prudential Center to watch the Pens face the Devils. It was my girlfriend's first time at an NHL game, and despite the 4-1 defeat, we had a great time. I think the fact that she would go into enemy territory, put on a Crosby jersey and put up with the home fans says a lot about her toughness factor, which I read often about in your columns.

My question for you is three-fold:
1. Isn't she a keeper?
2. Do you see the Pens getting back on track with the return of Marc-Andre Fleury?
3. Can Geno and Sid stay one-two for the remainder of the year?

I wish you and your family a happy holiday season, and all the best to you in 2009!

Matt Z.

New Jersey

"If she can change a flat tire, keep her."

The Penguins are flat. They need Sergei Gonchar back and they need another forward.

I think they can. The return of Gonchar and Ryan Whitney should help the power-play numbers, and I really think the Penguins will add a high-end forward before the deadline if such a deal falls into place.


My Flyers have been looking good. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter continue to get better, and they improve the play of everyone around them. Their power play and penalty kill are both explosive. But I have a few questions: Are they good enough defensively to contend for the East? Also, will Marty Biron ever learn to stop making turnovers? It seriously drives me slightly more crazy every time I see him handle the puck. Also, Tally Hall is the best band you haven't heard of. They are great musicians and have really sick vocal harmonies in their music. Check them out.

Tom Bradshaw

The Flyers unquestionably have the talent to make it to the Stanley Cup finals this season if they get great goaltending for two months. They have leadership, a high level of skill and size and grit among their forwards. They probably have a better group of forwards collectively than the Penguins. They don't have the defense or goaltending of the Penguins, so they would be a slight underdog. The Flyers will have to identify whether they have a Stanley Cup goalie because they are a team that has an excellent chance to reach the finals.


I just came from watching the Red Wings shut out the Sharks and wanted to share the experience with you. Much has been made about Detroit fans in recent years, but tonight was amazing. The score was a blowout. Situations like this one might expect that as the likelihood of victory increases, the crowd might just relax and watch it unfold. Some might leave to beat the traffic or to catch more sleep before work tomorrow. But about halfway through the third period, the crowd started buzzing. We knew what this game meant. Sure, it is still early in the season, but the San Jose Sharks have been threatening this season to take the role we Detroiters are so used to filling, being the best in the NHL. While they have been on a record-setting pace, the Wings have not been fulfilling their potential. We knew this game was an opportunity to make a statement, and we wanted to make a positive one desperately. So, halfway through the third, the crowd starts chanting the loudest and longest it has all night. It starts singing every song that is played and carrying the melody on long past the start of action. And with more than two and a half minutes left, the crowd stands and begins to cheer a shutout. Along the concourse, the tunnel and into the parking garage, chants of "Let's go Red Wings" fill the air. We wanted this moment and felt a sense of victory along with the team.

It is this sense of community that I love about hockey.

Happy holidays,
Julia Helene Delekta

South Lyon, Mich.

The Wings without question made a statement in their convincing win over San Jose. I picked the Sharks to reach the Stanley Cup finals because I think they have a great goaltender who could win a series against Detroit, and they also are a complete team. But the Wings have better offensive talent among their forwards than San Jose does, and you would have to call the defensive corps of the two teams a push. So it is close between the two overall.

I still like the Sharks as a Stanley Cup contender. Hey, you can't win every game. They have depth, and I think they have a player like Ryane Clowe, who has the potential to have a monster postseason sometime during his career. He looks built for the playoffs. But Sharks fans cannot argue anyone who has doubts about whether the Sharks can pull it off. They can counter with the depth argument. Joe Thornton doesn't need to have a monster postseason for the Sharks to win. But he probably does need to have a real good one, and he's never had one. His playoff stats in 70 games: 11 goals, 37 assists, 48 points. That's dreadful, and it has to change this spring. I always expect it to. Maybe this season.

To conclude: Sometimes a midseason spanking is good for a team. It provides humility and gives a team and coach a reason to reassess and to adjust.


I'm a big fan of the column and a long-suffering fan of the St. Louis Blues. Here I am passing on a lifetime of frustration and disappointment. I hope we have some healthy veterans left to deal for picks at the deadline.

As a glutton for punishment, I've signed up for my first marathon, which leads to my question. I need some song suggestions for the middle of the race. (Around Mile 17.) Need something to keep the legs moving when I've got a long way to go.

Any suggestions you can give would be awesome.


Dan Thomasson

I'll have a Blue Christmas without you.

I'm not a runner, so I can't put myself in your running shoes. But when I'm in the gym and I'm trying to reach my personal-best bench press of 135, I'll listen to songs that motivate me. I like a mixture of tempos for a "pump-up" mix of songs that flow well into one another. I would have these ready around Mile 17.

  • 1. Songs 4, 5 and 6 on U2's "The Joshua Tree." Still my favorite natural hat trick of music on a studio release from any band

  • 2. "Selling the Drama," Live

  • 3. "I Miss You," Blink 182

  • 4. "Under Rug Swept," Alanis Morissette (I can't explain why this song gets my blood flowing, but it does.)

  • 5. "Zak and Sara," Ben Folds

  • 6. "The Ghost in You," The Psychedelic Furs

  • 7. "Viva La Vida," Coldplay

  • 8. "Electric Feel," MGMT

  • 9. "Smokers Outside The Hospital Door," Editors

  • 10. "Badlands," Bruce Springsteen

  • 11. "Running Down a Dream," Tom Petty

John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or crosschecks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.