So last Tuesday, during what I would consider the worst week to make a major announcement about a brand new sports franchise, the name and logo of the brand new Las Vegas NHL team were revealed.
Your Las Vegas expansion team will be henceforth known as the…
Las Vegas Knights!
No, shit. Still wrong.
Las Vegas Golden Knights!
Yep. There we go….wait, still not right? Oh, okay.
Vegas Golden Knights
It’s true. For whatever reason, not only did the franchise make the age-old mistake of picking a team name with a descriptor, one that will be dropped by the team in probably two years or less along with being dropped by fans and analysts almost immediately, but it also decided that the “Las” in Las Vegas was completely unnecessary.
This is really bizarre to me. The Vegas Golden Knights does not sound good at all. The Las Vegas Golden Knights sounds…better. But, to me, the team should have just been called the Las Vegas Knights. Meh…even that, I’m not in love with.
Here are some team names I think would have been much cooler, but the ol’ Commish wouldn’t have allowed most of them.
-Las Vegas Aces
-Las Vegas Kingpins
-Las Vegas High Rollers
-Las Vegas Scorpions
-Las Vegas Mirage
-Las Vegas Silver
-Las Vegas Slot Machines
-Las Vegas Card Counters
-Las Vegas Pit Bosses
-Las Vegas Strip
-Las Vegas Casino
-Las Vegas Ocean’s Eleven
Okay, so I got a little off track. Those last few were just the names of things in Vegas and also movies that take place in Vegas, but the first six or so were solid in my humble opinion.
Along with the strange name choice, we also got a logo reveal. Now, admittedly, this is the part of the Golden Knights that I am completely on board with.
I think it’s fantastic. The use of negative space allowing the V to be formed inside the knight’s helmet. The gold, black, and silver color scheme is perfect and unlike any in the National Hockey League. This team is definitely going to stand out on the ice.
Well, we officially have a Vegas NHL franchise, the team name, and logo design. I guess it’s time to get them on the ice.
Oh, right, they still need players. More to come on that soon…
Last night, as I covered in a quickly written and alcohol-fueled piece, Florida Panthers GM Tom Rowe fired head coach Gerard Gallant after an 11-10-1 start and promoted…himself? Yep. Tom Rowe is now the GM and interim head coach. The Panthers organization is stressing the term “interim” so who knows what that means.
Admittedly, I knew absolutely nothing about Tom Rowe before he was promoted to GM back in January and, up until last night, I still only knew a select few things about him. Whenever a new man gets brought in to replace a veteran head coach, a few questions always pop up: Was he a hockey player? Has he coached an NHL team before? Is he qualified to coach?
Well, I have a few answers for you.
Tom Rowe began his career in the famed Ontario Hockey League, making a name for himself as a winger with the London Knights for three years. In the 1975-76 season, Rowe piled up 94 points, including 39 goals. He had a reputation for his fast-paced, aggressive style of play.
In 1976, the Washington Capitals acquired Rowe’s rights and he was given a 12-game tryout contract. His rights were retained after these 12 games, but he spent the rest of his year with the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, Springfield Indians, where he tallied 42 points.
The next two years with the Capitals were solid for Rowe. In the 1978-79 season, he had a career-high 61 points and became the first American-born player to score 30 goals in a single NHL season. Unfortunately, this was the highlight of his career, as he spent the next few years bouncing around between Hartford, Detroit, and Washington. He retired from playing in 1984.
Rowe has had an extensive coaching career over the past decade. His first major coaching job came with the Lowell — now Albany — Devils, back in 2004. For 320 games over four seasons, Rowe served as the team’s head coach, leading the franchise to Calder Cup playoff births in three of those seasons.
From 2008-2011, he served as an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2012, he accepted a head coaching position with the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
From 2013-2015, Rowe was the head coach of the Panthers AHL affiliate team. First in San Antonio with the Rampage, and then, after relocation, in Portland with the Pirates. He left midway through the 15-16 season to take the associate GM job with the Florida Panthers.
So, Is He Qualified?
Some would probably say yes. Others, no. He has a good amount of head coaching experience with top tier leagues like the KHL, but no head coaching stints in the National Hockey League. He’s served as an assistant coach and GM in the NHL, but will definitely have a lot to prove in this interim position.
Not that his playing style or career gives us a full indication on his tactics, but one would expect an offensive-minded former player to continue to let the Panthers play their brand of fast, gritty offense.
The problem will be getting his players on board. Reports are indicating that many Panthers players are fuming at the unexpected firing of Gallant. The players enjoyed playing for him and had gotten used to winning under him, so it will take a lot of work to make this a smooth transition in the organization.
And who knows how this will affect Rowe’s GM duties. GM/head coach combos don’t often happen and, when they do, they don’t usually work out that well. I made the reference in my breaking news piece last night but, Chip Kelly and the Eagles is the prime example of this situation not working.
The Panthers and their fans will have to give him a chance and hope he can keep this team on track. Remember, they haven’t had the best start, but they’re still a middle of the pack team, and should see a spark during the second half of the season when the team is fully healthy.
Shocking news out of South Florida tonight, as multiple sources around the NHL have reported that Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant has been relieved of his duties.
This comes as very unexpected news to the masses considering less than a year ago, Gallant received a two-year extension from the Panthers club. Many are saying the firing has a lot to do with the extensive front office reorganization that the Panthers have undergone over the past few months.
Back in May, director of hockey operations Mike Dixon, assistant GM Mike Santos, and assistant coach John Madden were all fired to make room for multiple front office promotions. Steve Werier, VP of legal and business, was promoted to assistant general manager along with Eric Joyce, continuing GM of the Panthers affiliate Portland Pirates. Tom Rowe was promoted from associate general manager to general manager.
Just a note, reports are now indicating that Rowe is officially the new Florida Panthers head coach as of this evening.
And the changes don’t stop there. With Tom Rowe being promoted to GM, Dale Tallon was shifted from that position to a president role. Sure, this may sound like a cushier gig, but taking Tallon out of a position that had a surefire impact on the 103-point season left a lot of hockey purists very confused.
The buck clearly stops with this new breed of front office that the Panthers have acquired. As James Mirtle from The Globe and Mail highlighted, this new Panthers team all starts with owner Vinnie Viola. Three years ago, Viola came in to a team that was hemorrhaging money, averaging an NHL-low 11,000 fans per game, and basically giving tickets away. He turned the team around with his crass, no nonsense business style and helped remind Floridians that Tampa Bay wasn’t the only hockey city in the state.
But Viola didn’t get to be the deft businessman that he is by pulling punches. Coming from a military academy —and then Wall Street— background, Viola has an unorthodox style when it comes to ownership. Along with minority partner Doug Cifu, he set out to turn a reeling franchise on its head.
And turn it on its head, they did. 103 points a year ago. A 44-year old forward that many had written off in Jaromir Jagr. An uptempo playing style that many were shocked to see from a Panthers offense. The club has, for the most part, been riding high the past couple of years. Clearly though, one great season, a season ending in an unfortunate game-7 loss in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, wasn’t good enough for Viola.
His disciplined, results-based lifestyle has obviously given him the mindset that causes him to make quick, unexpected shake-ups when things aren’t going the way they need to with his hockey team. An 11-10-1 start for these Florida Panthers wasn’t good enough for Viola, and he felt the need to do something about it.
So why not fire Gallant and, once again, promote his guy from within? Because GM/head coaches in major sports have so often had such amazing track records, right? Looking at you, Chip Kelly.
This is just truly a shock for NHL fans as Gerard Gallant was certainly not a coach who was knowingly on the chopping block. Gallant, in just his third season with the Panthers, was boasting a very solid 96-64-25 record in 185 games. Last season, he led the team to a franchise-record 103 points and an Atlantic Division title.
One might point to the less than stellar 11-10-1 start to the Panthers’ current season as an indicator for Gallant’s firing. However, the Panthers have been marred by injuries to major forwards including Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad. Clearly, the loss of top line talent has had an impact on the team in the early goings of the 2016-17 season.
You have to feel for Gallant, especially when it’s being reported that he was fired barely 20 minutes after their 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. He has apparently been seen trying to hail a cab outside of PNC Arena, as the Panthers have already left the scene and boarded their flight to Chicago.
We’ll see what happens to this Panthers team going forward, but reports are already saying that the players are extremely unhappy and taken aback by this coaching change. Gallant was a gruff, hard-nosed coach, but any casual hockey fan could see that he had the respect of his players. When he could get a 44-year old to play as hard as Jagr did, you know he was doing something right.
In the hockey world, just as in the regular world, life will go on. But the question is, will the Panthers live and florish after this coaching change? Or will they stagnate and die, reverting back to the team that they were when Vinnie Viola found them?
Whatever happens, we wish you the best, Gerrard. This Panthers season is not on you anymore, it’s on Viola.
Last night, the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers battled it out in an entertaining matchup that came down to a shootout. The Panthers, up 1-0 in the shootout, needed a second to put the game away and secure their 2 points. 21-year old Aleksander Barkov, one of the more underrated top-line centers in the league, put the puck on a rope and pulled off an unbelievable move to fool Henrik Lundqvist and win the game for the South Florida Kitties.
Check out the move below:
Unreal, right? There was so much in that move from beginning to end. The final fake, dangle, and one-handed push of the puck over the goal line is a patented Peter Forsberg move, one he used to gives the Swedes a 1994 Olympic gold metal against Canada. We’ll get more into that momentarily, but let’s break this goal down move by move.
Lefty Going Right
You’ll notice that Barkov is a natural lefty. He carries the puck in on his left side. Because of that, his strong side is going to be the left. It’s more comfortable for him to carry the puck in more toward the left side of the ice. When a natural lefty plays on the right side, the right wing position for example, it's known as playing the off-wing.
Playing the off-wing is essentially what Barkov does. As you see in this shootout move, he moves in more toward the right circle of the offensive zone as he carries the puck in. It adds a level of unpredictability to his next move. You might assume he’d carry in from the left and maybe deke left and cross the puck over to the right, or fake right to try and expose the left side of the goal, and then shoot from the left.
More often than not, less adept shootout artists will pull a move like that and goaltenders aren’t often fooled. Barkov takes this predictability right out of play from the beginning. Smart.
Off the Skate
As Barkov comes in on the right, he first does a slight fake shot. And I mean slight, you really have to look to see a bit of a shoulder move as he brings his stick back. Instead of the shot, he bounces the puck off of the outside of his left skate.
Now, skilled shootout men can do some nifty things with the puck while not breaking stride on the way to the net. One of these moves is bouncing the puck off their skate, providing a little flash for the audience while also giving the puck a lesser seen movement that the goaltender has to now focus on.
A lot of times, you’ll see a player bounce the puck off the outside of his skate and, as the puck moves back toward his stick, he’ll take a one-timed wrist shot, hoping to catch a starry-eyed goaltender off his line.
What Barkov does is much more difficult, and even flashier than a normal off-the-skate deke.
As I said above, often the bounce of the puck off the skate will lead to a one-timed shot. What Barkov does here is very clever. As he bounces the puck off of his skate, the puck heads back toward his stick. Instead of taking a wrist shot or even faking a wrist shot, he winds up and feigns a hard slap shot, basically taking a half swing with his stick well above the puck.
When you slow it down, you can see that his stick not really anywhere near the puck during this fake shot. However, because of the quickness of the move and how close Barkov is to the goal at this point, even the best goaltenders would expect a shot here.
But it doesn’t come. And what comes next is a move trademarked by a legend.
Now we’ve reached the part of the goal that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece.
After the fake shot, Barkov lands his stick right behind the puck, taking control once again. A great series of short dekes puts the puck back on his left side. Being literally inches from the crease, a shot from the left must be coming. Or so Henrik Lundqvist thinks. He slides to his right, Barkov’s left, and lunges his stick forward, hoping to poke away the puck and end the centerman’s chance at a game-winner.
Barkov’s amazing stick-handling skills prevent this from happening, as he moves into the goal-scoring move made famous by Sweden’s Patrick Forsberg. Check out his gold-metal winning shootout goal in the 1994 Olympics below. It’s a four-minute video but don’t worry, his goal happens in the first 45 seconds.
You see how Forsberg comes in from the right, even as a lefty? Look familiar?
So eventually, Barkov slides the puck back to his right, and with only his right hand, his weak hand, on his stick, he pushes the puck past Lundqvist and, after what Panthers fans must have thought was an eternity, over the goal line.
If you look closely, Barkov actually doesn’t get a clean stick on the puck during this final push. It looks like he misses the puck, but the momentum and trajectory carries it over nevertheless. I expect he wanted a little cleaner hit there at the end so that the puck doesn’t just crawl over the line, but, hey, maybe that was all part of his plan.
Whatever the case, this was an unbelievably intricate and difficult shootout goal. Probably a contender for shootout goal of the year.
With the exception of 1989’s Do the Right Thing, there’s only one thing that comes to mind when you mention Spike Lee, and that’s the New York Knicks. Along with Jack Nicholson, he’s the most iconic superfan you’ll see at an NBA game. He’s the guy you cut away to during almost every lull in action, the guy who’s courtside almost every night regardless of how the team is doing or what else he could be doing that most people might consider more important. Hell, he skipped this year’s Oscars for a Knicks game. Dedication.
However, it’s not the dedication that makes him so iconic as an NBA fan. It’s the trash talk. The sheer villainy that has come out over the past three decades. You look back at the history of Spike’s trash talk and it’s simply unrivaled. You think back to the days of the Knicks-Pacers 90s rivalry, when Spike and Reggie Miller went at it in some fashion almost every time the two teams played. The taunting on both sides was fantastic, and brought out a side of Reggie that even the most diehard of Pacers fan rarely saw.
Spike’s notion for trash talk made you hate his guts. Pacers fans, Bulls fans, Celtics fans, we all can’t stand Spike. We love to hate him because it’s fun to watch his trash talk and taunts blow up in his face. For example, take a look at the video below from the 1995 ECF, the iconic “Reggie 8 points in 9 seconds” game:
See that? 2:15 left in the game and Reggie misses one of two free throws. Spike loses his shit and starts screaming “Reggie!” and waving at him over and over. He taunts the best player on the opponent’s team after, what I believe was, his only missed free throw of the game. And we all know how Reggie fires back merely moments later.
See, that’s the greatness of Spike. By bringing out the perceived worst in himself, he often ends up bringing out the absolute best in opposing players.
Here’s another example from the 1996 Eastern Conference Semis against the Bulls:
Jordan daggers a 3 with around three minutes left in game 5. As he backpedals down the court, he looks over at Spike and waves “bye-bye.” And the look of utter despair on Spike’s face is absolutely priceless. This man had the ability to add excitement to already exciting, tension filled games just based on his trash talk from the sidelines.
These days, Spike is still around, albeit slightly quieter than the 90s and early 2000s. This has made room for a new trash talking celebrity superfan, Drake. As a Toronto Raptors fan, Drake didn’t exactly walk into the most rabid fanbase when he became the team’s “ambassador.” While the team has flourished in recent years and grown a solid (see: bandwagon) fanbase, it’s still no where near a Knicks or Lakers situation.
Drake has been seen courtside at the majority of Raptors games in recent years, just like Spike has for the Knicks. Drake tries to trash talk opposing stars, just like Spike, but it just doesn’t have the same impact on games, a la 1995 ECF game 1. It’s more just…annoying, I guess would be the right word.
Let’s look at Bulls-Raptors from March 14 of this year. Late game inbounds play for the Bulls, up 3, and Justin Holiday is inbounding the ball. Drake stands right behind him and just starts saying a bunch of shit…for like 10 seconds straight. He’s trash talking Justin Holiday. I’m willing to bet there’s some casual NBA fans out there who just went, “who?”
See, unlike Drake apparently, Spike couldn’t be bothered with shit-talking role players. He went right for the big guns: Miller, Jordan, Garnett, Pierce, etc. Drake went after Justin Holiday…
And, I’m willing to bet that Drake thinks he had a lot to do with that 5-second call. If you look closely at the play, it’s absolutely textbook defense by the Raptors. That’s the kind of tape you show when teaching young kids how to defend an out of bounds play.
Here’s another thing: where the hell was Drake four years ago? I mean, he’s from Toronto and has been a staple in media for a decade at least, going back to the Degrassi days. Oh! I know! He was in Miami!
Come on, it’s no coincidence that he wasn’t anywhere to be found in “the North” until 2013. Hell, the 2012-2013 Raptors were 34-48. He’s a bandwagon superfan, something Spike Lee would never be.
Drake, a word of advice my man, sit the hell down and stop shit-talking Durant, LeBron, Paul George. I guarantee you have all their jerseys in your closet somewhere, just itching to be worn after you hop off the Raptors bandwagon if and when DeRozan and Lowry leave.
The 6! Get the fuck outta here with that. Spike would be ashamed...
Oh, and one more example for good measure. This, from last night's game against the Warriors:
He embarrasses himself.