Kansas CIty Blades Pretend Time

Since I am not sure who actually watches Comedy Central's Nick Swardson's Pretend Time, I will just assume I'm the only one who has seen this skit.  (editors note: Yeah, it happened last year apparently, but whatever.)

The above picture appears to show comedians Nick Swardson and Natasha Leggero in a version of the original Kansas City Blades logo/jersey.  You can watch the entire video here.

The short cut-away of hockey shown at the beginning of the clip features the Blades playing at the Grand Rapids Griffins (the favorite team of the DeVos family).  The most recognizable player name in the video is that of the Griffins Mark Conforth (#12).  Cornforth played eight regular season games and three playoffs games for the Griffins during the 1997-98 season, which probably means he played at the end of that season.  The Blades only played the Griffins in Grand Rapids once in the last month of the season, a 6-1 victory.  That would mean that the Blades players shown are defensemen Steve Jacques (#3) and Steve Heins (#5), and forward Dean Sylvester (#11).  I cannot find a box score of the game, so I’m not sure if Sylvester scored or not, but Swardson sure thought so.  The Blades would go on to lose to the Long Beach Ice Dogs in seven games in the Western Conference Semi-Final, in case you were wondering about any of this.

I'm not exactly sure why they chose that footage or the Blades faux jerseys, but I think we should be honored or something.  Actually, I'm not really sure how to feel.
Click to embiggen

2012 Champions: The Beginning of Something Great

First off, Macek was waived, and Jardine was given a "five-game contract allowing the Mavericks to start the season with 20 players on the roster" since he has a two-way contract with the Mavs affiliate in Chicago.

Also, the Mavericks opened up with a win over the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.  Hogg and Mahovsky picked up goals, so thanks for nothing McGrane.  Effinger had 29 saves, and the Mavs were 0-4 on the powerplay.  If the season ended today, the Mavericks would share the title with three other teams.  Think about that...

Here are some season previews for your perusal:

2012 Champions: Saying Goodbye is the Hardest Part...of Progress

The Mavericks, currently in the training camp portion of their 2011-12 title run, have cut and traded their roster in an attempt to get to the "Perfect 19" necessary for a CHL roster.

At the end of last week the team announced they have waived forward Matt Dias and defenseman Janis Brakss (by the way, defensemen preview coming up after camp ends).  I had Dias as high as the second line in some projections, but, uh, I suppose that was wrong.  This left the roster with 27 players.  Only 8 more to go!  See more moves after the jump.
Earlier on Monday, the Mavericks rid themselves of six more players.  Defensemen Joshua Hepditch and Jared Lavender, and forward Derek Knowles were all traded away.  Lavender spent the past two seasons with the Mavericks, recording a +9 and playing in 94 games.  Knowles played last season with the Mavs, but only played in 38 games and two playoff games.  He had seven points overall.  My early projection had him riding the bench on the expanded roster, so his departure does not seem so surprising with so many new faces.  All were traded for future considerations.

Meanwhile, the remaining three players were waived.  They are forwards Toms Hartmanis and Derek Pallardy and defenseman Steven Later.  Pallardy played nearly all of the past two seasons with the Mavs, and his departure seems the most curious.  Although not a potent scoring threat (13+31=44 points in two seasons), he was a young player learning head coach Scott Hillman's system nearly straight out of college.  I would imagine he did not provide the scoring punch the team appears to be looking for this season.  The Mavs were sixth in goals for last season, and just appear to need more out of a second line-type forward.  I stated earlier that Hartmanis and Vern Cooper may be in a battle for a second line wing spot, and if I was accurate then it is safe to say that Cooper won the battle.  Later played the end of last season in Independence totaling 13 points in 18 games, and playing 9 playoff games.  This leaves the skater roster at 21, meaning two more players need to be cut.

Typically the Mavs carry six defenders, about eleven forwards, and two goaltenders.  This would mean three full defensive lines and nearly four full forward lines.  Who will be the next two players cut?  My guess is O'Nabigon or Dickson, just because they are similar players fighting for a bottom six-type role.  The other cut will probably be the goalie Macek, but he may stay somehow connected with the organization.

Remember, forward Ryan Jardine, defenseman David Pszenyczny and Dustin Friesen, and goalie Charlie Effinger are all under two-way contracts with the Chicago Wolves and Mavericks.  Friesen is currently one of eight defenders on the Wolves roster and has played in all four of their games and has a -3.

Also, along with trading for Knowles, the Rapid City Rush have also picked up former Mav Blake Forsyth.  He spent all of last season and seven games in 2010-11 with the Mavericks scoring a total of twenty points (3+17=20) and was a +26 last season.

Yes, I Understand the Season Has Already Started: Hey KC, Follow This Team...or Not


I am not a fan of this next team, but I do know that many Kansas Citians follow them closely.  It's not so much I hate them, it's just too much over-saturation based on past living arrangements.  And because I'm a Kings fan.  Alas, this team ranks in my top 5 of the most KC-esque teams.  I will try to remain unbiased as I list the reasons for you to like them for the years to come, and the reasons to maybe choose another of the five.

By the way, this team played at Kemper Arena more than any other NHL franchise at nine times (three of these were recent exhibition games; I don't know the exhibition schedule of the Scouts so it may be more).  Who is it?  Jump to find out, or just look at the tags.  Whatever.



Village West Best Potential Award:  Player that brings the most to the team

David Backes scored the biggest point total in his career last season (31+31=62), and has played almost all of the past four seasons.  He is the face of the organization, and one of the more consistent players in recent years.  He's not a huge goal scorer, but as a big bodied second round draft pick in 2003, he is everything the Blues need him to be and more.

The blog St. Louis Game Time has a bit of a different perspective, but it doesn't discount his important role on the team:
The bottom line is that Backes plays hockey the right way. He's physical, he's responsible in his own end. He passes the puck about as often as he shoots it. He can drop the gloves if he needs to. He plays in front of the net and in traffic. He's a strong skater. I could go on. Of all the players on the Blues' roster, he is right now the most established and rock solid. But I think he's close to his ceiling. Unless he changes how he plays, Backes won't see a big jump in goals or assists. That's not a bad thing. But it means there are a couple guys who still have some room to grow that I will argue are more important on this team.
A good assessment of a young leader.  There may be better players on the team, but Backes is reliable and consistent.  Again, no major injuries nor glaring scoring inconsistencies.  Named the Blues captain about a month ago, he is the youthful leader on a team full of veteran leaders.  Langenbrunner, McDonald, and Arnott add the veteran presence, but they may not be on the team much longer.  No need to worry about Backes leaving; he’s locked up through 2016.

Union Station Biggest Burden Award: Player with least upside and carries a big financial burden

Geez, it’s hard to pick a guy that is a huge financial burden on a team that doesn’t spend a lot of money.  The Royals can do it (e.g. Jose Guillen, etc.), why can’t the Blues?  So, let’s just say Jamie Langenbrunner.  He adds veteran leadership (e.g. Jeff Francoeur) and all of that fun stuff, but is getting $2.75MM for just one year.  He is a low risk type of guy, but he’s 36 and didn’t score much for two teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season.  He appears to be a good choice for this spot.  

Plus, Scott Nichol is only getting $700,000 for this year, so he’s not much of a burden just to get in useless fights or he would have this spot hands down.

Eric Hosmer/ 2004 2008 2012 Royals Hope Award: Reason for Optimism

Gosh, well, you will want to stick with this team, I suppose.  They kept their cap low for a reason, since most of their core players are either UFA or RFA at the end of this season or next.  I can’t imagine this team will be too dangerous this year in the Central Division that features the tough Predators, Red Wings, and Blackhawks.  Maybe next year, depending on major signings or free agents.

Also, the ownership situation is getting much clearer since Matthew Hulsizer has entered the picture.  You might remember Hulsizer as the guy who wanted to buy the Coyotes last year.  Yeah, well, the Blues are a much better investment with much better fan and local support.  All the Blues need is a stable ownership group, and it seems business can get back to normal without the worry of future money woes.

Katie Horner Scared-Sh!tless Award:  Reason to Worry

Another year of mediocrity, and then it’s all up in the air after that depending on this season.  If the Blues perform well this season, a bunch of dudes probably get resigned and the team continues the course they are on.  If they perform poorly this season, more affordable veteran "leaders" come in as the team embarks on a rebuild within a rebuild, of sorts.

Buck O’Neil Positive Attitude Award:  Reason to cheer them

  1. They are the closest team to KC, and occasionally appear on local TV.
  2. Long history + no championship = Big 12 North football territory.  Plus the Chiefs’ last championship came only five years after the Blues came into existence.
  3. Team with a long history with solid teams.
  4. Hope for new ownership dedicated to improving the NHL's product in St. Louis.
Mark Funkhouser Memorial Trophy:  Reason to Hate Them

  1. You live in Kansas City, and hate St. Louis.
  2. You live in Kansas, and hate Missouri.
  3. No championships for the club since their inception in 1967, and you need to brag about something.
  4. Again, it's St. Louis.  So, just think about that.

Worlds of Fun Ride that Best Describes the Franchise:  Mamba

They are a thrill ride-type of team.  They are up, they are down.  They rebuild, they go to the playoffs, they run out of steam, and start rebuilding again.  Just like the Mamba, especially recently, the Blues' build-up to the season is like a steep hill and you just can't see the other side.  They may be good, they may be bad.  This may be scary, it may be lame, or it may be good.  This season is another one of those years.  This team has a lot of working pieces, but they certainly are not flashy like their Central Division counterparts.  Like the Mamba, the most recent Blues start with some skepticism, go over the first hill of the season, crest another hill, maybe hit a peak, and by the middle of the season they use some early momentum but start going in circles, then there are a lot of annoying bumps at the end of the season that keep them out of the playoffs.  At some point during the whole dilemma, someone takes their picture and they end up looking something like this:

Number of Floating, Disembodied Jack Harry Heads:

Four out of five

I think Jack would like to talk about this team, and I personally would love to hear how he attacks the front office.  If anything, the Blues management makes decent decisions, but they are typically very safe.  I'm sure Jack would scream his head off at Dave Checketts for trying to sell and the process taking so long etc. etc.  Also, their mediocrity over the years surely would upset him, even if Jack really doesn't care about hockey.  But, they are a team Midwesterners can get behind.  After the Scouts left KC in 1975, the Blues were the only club in Missouri and were able to grow throughout the state and the region.  When the Blues played the exhibition games in KC in the past years, their fans were there in full force.  They make the playoffs occasionally, and they have strong, exciting teams at least once every decade.  Yet, they rarely have any significant wins in the playoffs, so there are still plenty of problems for the local media to fain anger at a few times every month.  Which sounds eerily familiar to a certain NFL team that plays at Arrowhead.  As a team for Kansas Citians to follow, they make.... a lot...of.... sense....

Ugh, that was painful.

Relevant (NSFW language).  And that is indeed JACK'S SMACK!

2012 Champions: Jardine Rediscovered and Goalie Preview

The Mavericks have reported that Ryan Jardine has returned for his second season with the organization.  The veteran had 54 points (23-31=54) and played in all 66 games last year for the Mavs.  Jardine has a two-way contract and could see some time with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL this season.  The Wolves are the new "AAA" affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks and the Mavs first affiliation to a high-level professional organization.  It will be good to have Jardine's presence on the ice, especially with all of the new faces.  He understands head coach Scott Hillman's system, and can maybe help to integrate the multitude of new forwards.

In addition, Mike Berry has been released to make room for Jardine.  So, forget Berry is in the lineup and just pencil in Jardine instead.  This sounds like a mutual agreement, since Berry will surely get an opportunity elsewhere.  It's easy to assume Berry believed the Mavs were getting top-heavy among the forwards.  This can be seen as a good or bad thing, of course, as the organization is getting better and even very good players feel they may not get a legitimate opportunity.  But, it can be bad because an overzealous front office may have upset Berry and prompted him to look for work elsewhere.  You don't want to upset the stars, they're fragile.  Either way, good luck to him in all of his future endeavors.  Therefore, the Mavericks have lost their top two point scorers from a year ago.  But, they get Jardine and all of those other guys.  So, we got that goin' for us, which is nice.

Chances Jardine gets called up to Chicago at some point?  Eh, probably pretty good.  Alas, that's the reality of an affiliation.  Quality players can get taken away by better competition.

For those of you asking for the whereabouts of Nick Sirota, he is currently playing with the Kalamazoo K-Wings of the ECHL, which, oddly enough, are also affiliates of the Canucks.  So, a good player leaves the league that wants to be the "AA" of hockey to go to a competing "AA" league.  Alrighty then...

Goalie preview after the jump.
First, in order of signing.

Jakub Macek, from Slovakia, begins his first season in America.  Although his professional European resumé isn't incredibly deep, the Mavericks want to give him a shot.  At only 24 years old, he has nothing to lose.  He may be the odd one out in camp though, as the Mavs bring back two familiar faces.

Gerry Festa returns for a third season with the Mavs.  He is one of just a handful of players that have been with the organization since the beginning.  Goalies have come and gone for the Mavs, but he has been the constant bench presence.  He will have a lot to prove in camp to hold down the backup job from now on.  A 3.11 goals against average last season isn't terrible coming off of the bench, and his .894 save percentage is certainly starter worthy on some clubs in the CHL.  Provided he continues to post solid stats, he could see a lot of starting time due to the two-way contract of...

Charlie Effinger!  Ol' Charlie is back, sporting a two-way contract that could allow him to see some time in Chicago.  Effinger led the Mavs to the second round of the playoffs in 2010, then split for Newcastle, UK and the Elite League (the UK's highest level of hockey competition).  He was 14-39-2 (!) with Newcastle, and obviously did not see time in the playoffs.  He will look to recapture the magic of 2009-10 where he was 17-6-2 in CHL regular season play.  The Canucks are not in need of goaltenders, and the Wolves currently have two solid goalies on their roster, so it appears Effinger's future depends on how he plays.

Maybe, just maybe, the goaltenders are the weak link in the impending championship run for the Mavs.  The organization appears to have spent most of their time adding forwards and rehabbing the defense and just pieced the net minders together as an after-thought.  Let's hope not, but it's hard not to look past Effinger's poor showing in Europe and Macek's lack of experience.

My guess: Effinger starts with the Mavs, Festa and Macek switch off as backup until someone is dealt down the line.  Effinger stays at the CHL level for a majority of the season.

Training camp starts next week and the first game is October 21st! 

Which Team is Your Team? The Second of the Best NHL Team For Kansas Citians

Which team do I play for now?   Do you even know who I am...?

In the second of our series of five NHL teams that Kansas Citians can cheer for, we have a team very similar to the Kings.  But in what way?  Jump to find out.

Well, hellooo...


Village West Best Potential Award:  Player that brings the most to the team

Eh, call it a long shot, but if we are talking the most potential, I have to go with Mike Santorelli.  Last year he played in his first full season in the NHL, but still scored 41 points (20-21=41).  He was a miserable -17 on a team that did not score a lot, but that number should go down with an improved defense this year.  Of the 195 team goals scored, though, he scored over ten percent of them.  Plus, he is getting $1.6MM for the next two years, and will be an RFA at the age of 27.

Yes, Booth and Weiss are the heart and soul, blah blah blah...  How droll.

Union Station Biggest Burden Award: Player with least upside and carries a big financial burden

Tomas Fleischmann, like him or not, is getting paid a lot of money to play on the top line and (hopefully) score.  His cap hit is something to the tune of $4.5MM over the next four years on a team that was desperately trying to get to the cap floor in the offseason.  He only scored thirty-one points in 45 games last year with the Avs and Caps (12-19=31) and he has only scored as many as 51 points (23-28=51) in any one season.

Eric Hosmer/ 2004 2008 2012 Royals Hope Award: Reason for Optimism

The Panthers blog Litter Box Cats puts it best, so I will defer to them:

Three rookies looking to make the jump: Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howdenare all in contention to start the year with the Panthers, but do not think any have assured spots on a very competitive roster that is already at capacity. Howden is worth mentioning after a great year Moose Jaw of the OHL but after a possible injury in rookie camp, he has probably fallen off the radar for a roster spot. Huberdeau has been fantastic in the last few weeks, but size is still his major hurdle to jump. If he signs an entry level deal in the next weeks there is a very good possibility he gets the 9 game NHL tryout, but expect him back in juniors after that. Hubs still has a way to go before we see him crack the lineup. That leaves the most developed of the prospects, Erik Gudbranson, in contention for a roster spot. Gudbranson has shown he wants to be a Panther, and assuming he competes well with the big guns in the next weeks, should have that distinction when the season opener rolls around. Gudbranson will undoubtedly get the 9 game tryout, but should also be part of a 7 man defensive group.
After constant GM changes since the new owners took over in 2001, the team looks like it will stick with new GM Dale Tallon’s rebuilding plan for the franchise.  Digging around the cap floor, the team has chosen not to pay many of their veterans ridiculous salaries.  Thus, by the time the youth of the system hits the ice full time, it will be easier to lock them up long term.

Katie Horner Scared-Sh!tless Award:  Reason to Worry

The organization’s past instability operates as a double-edged sword.  The owners have given GM Tallon a fairly long leash so far, but how much farther will it go?  Will the new additionsmesh well, or do they need to have a full season under their belt?

Buck O’Neil Positive Attitude Award:  Reason to cheer them
  1. Again, if you are a bandwagoner, now is as good of a time than any.  They can’t get any worse, and they seem to be going in the right direction.
  2. Maybe they will continue to struggle financially and pack up and move to KC.  Nah, probably not...
  3. They have a lot of cap room to make moves if they want to (but they don’t, so don’t count them out.
  4. They have an awesome marketing deparment.
Also, Randy Moller.  (Does he do this anymore?  I listened to a few games online last season and he didn’t scream the pop culture references.  Made me sad.)

Mark Funkhouser Memorial Trophy:  Reason to Hate Them

  1. You are not a fan of non-traditional hockey markets. (*cough* Kansas City *cough*)
  2. You dislike an unstable organization that ranks towards the bottom half in team attendance every year.
  3. You already cheer for teams that haven’t won playoff games since the ‘90s (or before).
  4. Their inability to keep quality goaltenders (Vokoun, Luongo) reminds you too much of the Royals with Beltran, Damon, Dye, Cone, Greinke, etc.
  5. You are afraid of panthers.
Worlds of Fun Ride that Best Describes the Franchise: Le TaxiTour

I was going to say the Halloween Haunt thing they do every year, but that’s not a ride.  So, instead, the Panthers are a lot like the Le TaxiTour, antique looking (French?) taxis on a auto-guided track.  I wanted to ride the taxis every time I went to WoF as a kid.  They were nice and safe, no loops, not too fast, and my dad let me “drive” around the time I was five or six.  It was cool.  But every time I rode, I knew what was going to happen.  There was no big surprise.  Such is the Florida Panthers.  Every season the Panthers come out with a somewhat different, albeit mediocre, look and don’t do anything too exciting on the ice.  Then the regular season ends, and they are forgotten.  Forgotten, that is, until the next year when everybody is all like “hey, I remember this” and the cycle begins anew.

By the way, I still like Le TaxiTour, so, yeah.
"Follow me to freedom!!!"
Number of Floating, Disembodied Jack Harry Heads:

Three out of five

One finals run and no real history other than that.  Very similar to the Royals, though, in that they are finally starting to build up deep in the minors for a future that could be somewhat lucrative.  Also a compelling parallel, the fact that they fill out their roster with a bunch of veteran "character" guys.  You could call them the Royals of the NHL.  But, Jack and other media types only scream about them for so long, and then midseason hits and no one cares.
Misunderstood and ignored in south Florida, the Panthers struggle from attendance and support issues, prompting many to start relocation rumors even though the Panthers have a stable ownership group.  Those following them are hardcore fans and not just bandwagon jumpers, so you cannot be plagued with that semi-pointless stigma.  
You will not see them in Kansas City unless their situation gets worse, but the media probably wouldn't care anyway.  They probably aren't the "right situation" we need, like the Rangers, Bruins, Red Wings, or Blackhawks...

Still, a solid choice for Kansas Citians to follow.  I mean, few others follow them, so why don't we start a Midwest support group.  That would be cool.  Jump on the empty BANDWAGON and be a part of something you create!

And that's JACK SMACK!!!