Friday, September 13, 2013

The Weekend Getaway

In Friday's KHL action, Slovan Bratislava needed overtime to defeat host Medvescak Zagreb in the lone game of the afternoon. On Thursday night, Moncton defeated Halifax, 4-0, in the regular-season opener of the QMJHL.

In that game, the defending Memorial Cup champion Mooseheads were without Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, who are in NHL training camps. Neither one is expected back in the Q. MacKinnon is with Colorado and Drouin is with Tampa Bay.

While I am at it, here is the Buzzing the Net preview of the QMJHL Maritimes Division. Earlier this week I gave you links to previews of the OHL (East and West), QMJHL (East and West) and WHL (East). Still waiting for the WHL West preview.

Line change: the switch from hot and humid on Thursday to sunny and cool today in Manhattan has me anticipating the start of the NHL exhibition season on Saturday (the Capitals-Jets game from Belleville, Ontario, will be broadcast Saturday at 7 Eastern on the NHL Network). I know these games have no real meaning and you might catch a shift or two from a name player before the hopefuls take up the rest of the night's shifts. Still, it's hockey and I will view it as a great excuse to look forward to cooler days ahead.

Speaking of cooler days ahead, the Lounge will be taking a break for a visit to Maine and New Brunswick. I am reviewing my travel schedule and the QMJHL schedule. That Acadie-Bathurst Titan at Saint John Sea Dogs game on Sept. 21 at 7 Atlantic time is calling to me.

In any event, I'll set up a cold one for you when I get back into the Lounge on Sept. 23.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Small World and a Big Night

OK, I know I am getting a little too excited about hockey being back, and it will be back in North America tonight when Moncton visits Halifax to open the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season. That game starts at 7 Atlantic time.

But first I'm looking at the team photo of Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL. Nice uniforms by the club, and I might say that I like the numbers on the shins rather than on the shoulders (I'm talking to you San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres). And I am a big fan of the retro color selection of the goalie pads by goalie Barry Brust, front row left. Brown or some similar shade is what all goalies across this great globe should be wearing.

Note that the Cheechoo train (Jonathan, for those of you who prefer regular names) calls Zagreb home. In fact, look at the roster. Hugh Jessiman, Kyle Klubertanz, Brian Willsie, Kurtis Foster. Plenty of familiar faces working for the Croatian entry in the KHL.

And with that, let's get to the KHL scores for Thursday:

Avangard Omsk Region 4, Atlant Moscow Region 3
SKA St. Petersburg 5, Barys Astana 2
Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 3, Severstal Cherepovets 1
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 0
Ak Bars Kazan 3, Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 0
Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3, Vityaz Chekhov 2
Spartak Moscow 3, CSKA Moscow 2
Dinamo Riga 4, Donbass Donetsk 2
Lev Prague 3, Dinamo Minsk 1

The standings are here. UPDATE: the roundup, with highlights,is here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Few Shots for the Road

A light day in the KHL, with just two games on Wednesday.

Admrial Vladivostok, still on that long road trip, defeated Metallurg Novokusnetzk in overtime, 2-1. Sibir Novosibirsk Region needed a shootout to get past Amur Khabarovsk, 3-2. The roundup is here.

With the NHL teams reporting to training camp. TSN has put up its season previews online. The NHL had their five-story-per-team 30 in 30 preview package last month. The links on this 30 in 30 calendar still work, so get on it.

Hockey's Future has a KHL preview with the focus on prospects who might someday appear in a rink on this side of the Atlantic or Pacific -- yes, we remember that Vladivostok, should it ever play host to a home game, is in the KHL these days. The link is here.

The same site has been breaking down the top 20 prospects for each NHL organization. The New York Rangers were the latest team posted. There have been 20 posted as of Sept. 11.

Buzzing the Net is previewing the QMJHL (East, West, Maritimes), OHL (East, West) and WHL (East, West).

The QMJHL Maritimes preview is scheduled for Thursday, when the league opens its regular season, and the WHL West preview should not be far behind. The OHL and the WHL begin regular-season play on Sept. 19. The USHL opens on Sept. 20.

The Hockey News website also is amid its schedule of short previews, as is The Score's Backhand Shelf blog and Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog. In addition, the Coming Down the Pipe blog has started its One to Watch series focusing on a young player for each NHL team.

There's a lot on the menu, so take your time and enjoy a cold adult beverage while you do your homework. The exhibition season begins Saturday, which is great news on a swampy day in Manhattan.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

KHL Payrolls, From Soup to Peanuts

The misnamed salary cap -- it actually is a limit on the size of a payroll -- in the KHL owes a debt of gratitude to the NBA and Larry Bird.

Back when Larry Bird was a youngster with the Boston Celtics and approaching free agency, the team appeared concerned that they would be losing the star because he would be the only one on the court if the Celtics were to meet the limit on payroll size. In the league office, the slide rules, calculators and finger counters helped devise a way for teams (I say plural but others say the Celtics) were able to keep their stars.

Teams could with seemingly no restrictions to keep their players, payroll limit be damned, while outside bidders had to mind their cap space.

The KHL does set payroll boundaries, but there is some wiggle room for teams to have top players. Here's the word from the KHL:

As a result of a ballot among the clubs’ owners, the salary cap for clubs competing in the Kontinental Hockey League season 2013-14 has been set at 1,290,300,000 rubles, based on the current average exchange rate of 33 RUB = 1 USD. The lower limit of the salary cap remains at 250m rubles. In order that the KHL may keep its world-class players, and to create the conditions to attract more star players to the Championship, the League has introduced a measure which permits clubs by way of exception to exclude from the salary cap the earnings of the following players: Anton Babchuk (Salavat Yulaev), Alexander Burmistrov (Ak Bars), Ilya Kovalchuk (SKA), Leonid Komarov (Dynamo Moscow), Sergei Kostitsyn (Avangard), Alexander Radulov (CSKA) and Ruslan Fedotenko (Donbass).

The journalist Dmitry Chesnokov tried to flesh this out more on Twitter:

Babchuk, Burmistrov, Komarov, S. Kostitsyn, Radulov, Fedotenko & Kocalchuk removed from KHL cap space consideration; will make combined $30m

He went on to add:

The 7 players, whose contracts do not count towards the #KHL salary cap, will make as much as the entire SKA team.

Upon being questioned by a reader, he added:

One player on each team may be designated to be outside the cap. The measure was put in place to lure Kovalchuk-caliber players.

The journalist Slava Malamud seemed to alert us about a Larry Bird rule on Twitter back in May 2012:

And here goes KHL, doing its thing again. The league announces that all returning Russian NHLers will not count against the salary cap.

The KHL release includes a link to a PDF, which lists the teams payrolls in alphabetical order. So, with some patience, here is the list from greatest to least, with the payrolls listed in U.S. dollars based on the Oanda currency exchange rate for the day:

1. SKA St. Petersburg -- $38,225,000
2. Ak Bars Kazan -- $32,631,900
3. Metallurg Magnitogorsk -- $31,092,500
4. Salavat Yulaev Ufa -- $30,409,300
5. CSKA Moscow -- $29,030,200
6. Traktor Chelyabinsk -- $26,422,400
7. Dynamo Moscow -- $26,027,600
8. Avangard Omsk Region -- $25,921,200
9. Lev Prague -- $22,300,300
10. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl -- $21,541,800
11. Donbass Donetsk -- $21,523,300
12. Atlant Moscow Region -- $18,436,300
13. Barys Astana -- $16,911,600
14. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk -- $13,826,700
15. Severstal Cherepovets -- $13,399,000
16. Sibir Novosibirsk Region -- $12,227,500
17. Vityaz Chekhov -- $11,790,500
18. Amur Khabarovsk -- $11,075,700
19. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg -- $10,579,900
20. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod -- $10,577,800
21. Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk -- $10,459,100
22. Spartak Moscow -- $9,756,010
23. Dinamo Minsk -- $8,808,920
24. Admiral Vladivostok -- $8,648,960
25. Dinamo Riga -- $8,043,020
26. Metallurg Novokuznetsk -- $5,837,180
27. Slovan Bratislava -- $5,593,570
28. Medvescak Zagreb -- $5,436,540

As you can see, with a payroll ceiling at $38,799,700 and a floor at $7,517,580, it appears three teams need to start spending to reach the floor. Another way to use this chart is to guess which team will get the most bang for the buck (rise from the ruble?) in the standings at season end. Those salaries that are not officially on the cap can be factored in as well. It will be fun to watch.

And with all that out of the way, here are the scores for Monday:
Avangard Omsk Region 4, Severstal Cherepovets 3 SO
SKA St. Petersburg 5, Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 1
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3, Atlant Moscow Region 2 SO
Barys Astana 5, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3
Ak Bars Kazan 3, Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 OT
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 5, Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0
Vityaz Chekhov 1, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 0
Dynamo Moscow 4, Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1
Dinamo Riga 3, Spartak Moscow 1
Donbass Donetsk 4, CSKA Moscow 1
Dinamo Minsk 2, Slovan Bratislava 0
Lev Prague 3, Medvescak Zagreb 1

The roundup, with highlights, is here. The standings are here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Weekend Is a Blur

To know me is to, well, know that I loathe projects involving work on, in or around my house. Heck take a walk to a library, where there are more than 300,000 better things to do in there alone.

But I save a few weekends a year for work. This past one was one of them. Permit me to use this as a way to say I had no time to post on Sunday. But I am giving you a double shot of KHL today with games of Sunday and today. There were no games scheduled on Saturday.

It is nice to see that the KHL is putting together a daily roundup online and as well as a highlights package on their YouTube channel. It is a great way to see the differences in that league versus what we have grown up with in North America. The leagues in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Czech Republic and such would be well ahead of the game if they had seen fit to offer English language highlights to attract people to their teams and top players.

Look, all it takes is for someone in a booth to watch the highlights and offer quick commentary in English, French, Spanish, German and the numerous languages spoken across the former Soviet republics. The NHL's website comes with a number of language options, and it is not to sell the game to the locals, but to those abroad who want to take in the NHL experience.

So kudos to the KHL for taking this step, one that its elders in Sweden and Finland should have done, and much earlier, too.

Sunday's roundup is here. If you are scoring at home, Spartak Moscow goalie Jeff Glass is the man of the hour and the week with his second shutout in as many games. His latest effort came Sunday in a 5-0 victory over Slovan Bratislava. Glass is in his fifth KHL season, having spent five seasons in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators. He played his juniors at Kootenay in the Western Hockey League. Glass has been selected as the goaltender of the week.

Sunday's scores
Avangard Omsk Region 5, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2
Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 4, Atlant Moscow Region 1
SKA St. Petersburg 6, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4
Barys Astana 10, Severstal Cherepovets 1
Traktor Chelyabinsk 4, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3
Ak Bars Kazan 4, Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 SO
Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5, Vityaz Chekov 4
Dynamo Moscow 4, Neftekhimik Niznehkamsk 0
Spartak Moscow 5, Slovan Bratislava 0
CSKA Moscow 2, Dinamo Minsk 1 OT
Donbass Donetsk 3, Lev Prague 2 OT
Dinamo Riga 5, Medvescak Zagreb 1

Monday's scores
Metallurg Novokuznetsk 3, Amur Khabarovsk 1
Sibir Novosibirsk Region 3, Admiral Vladivostok 2

UPDATE: Monday's roundup is here.

The standings are here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Who Allowed Kvasha in the Door?

Oleg Kvasha, welcome back to the Lounge. Who did you bribe to get in here? Dear patrons, I used to assign Mr. Kvasha the booth near the washroom door, the booth of contempt. It's a tag I pretty much gave him just for showing up, which to me was pretty much all he did when he was with the New York Islanders, one of his three stops in the NHL.

No, I was not a big fan of his then. And you would be wise to see the amount of scorn I have scooped up for him as we proceed in this post.

There is a fine Italian restaurant in Corona, Queens, not far from the lot where Shea Stadium and its failed attempt at plumbing once stood. The fine establishment is called the Park Side, and it has a ring of tables that come with the famous names who once sat there as regulars. My favorite was the Dallas Green table.

With that inspiration, I might have to post a cheap plank with Mr. Kvasha's name in the booth of contempt. These days, Mr. Kvasha is a forward for Avangard Omsk Region, which opened its KHL season at home against the money men of SKA St. Petersburg. He had one shot, lost 58.3 percent of his faceoffs, had his usual tripping penalty and played 17 minutes 40 seconds of work.

In short, just what I expected from the man who came to the Islanders in the deal (hmm, who made that one?) that sent Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers prior to the 2000-01 season.

While Mr. Kvasha was up to his usual efforts, one Viktor Tikhonov, a notable bust with the Phoenix Coyotes when they were led by Wayne Gretzky, had two goals on four shots, won all of his faceoffs and no penalties in 16:52 of ice time for SKA. (Tikhonov did, however, make a great promotional video for the Coyotes, who were trying to attract fans with talking puppets.)

Final result, SKA St. Petersburg 5, the fighting Kvashas of Avangard Omsk Region 1.

In other scores: Vladivostok Admrial defeated Amur Khabarovsk in a shootout, 4-3. Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk beat Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, 2-1; Severstal Cherepovets over Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg in a shootout, 2-1; Neftekhmimik Nizhnekamsk defeated Ak Bars Kazan, 3-1; Salavat Yulaev Ufa over Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in a shootout, 3-2; Vityaz Chekov over Traktor Chelyabinsk, 5-3; Dynamo Moscow beat Metallurg Magnitogorsk, 3-1; Donbass Donetsk over Slovan Bratislava, 4-2; and Medvescak Zagreb defeated CSKA (which some of us used to know better as the Red Army team), 7-1.

When I get any firm roundups or highlight videos, I will update and post them here.

UPDATE: The KHL's official roundup, with two videos, for Friday's games is here.

One final note: I know that we are always told not to take everything from Wikipedia as fact. Given that, I was pleased to note that written on Mr. Kvasha's Wiki page is the tidbit that he is known as "the Chosen One." There are many things that I can make up. This is not one of them.

Now get in the booth, Mr. Kvasha. You have been chosen.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Daily Afternoon Shot of KHL

More fun as hockey moves to Day No. 2 in the KHL (or Night No. 2 on your side of the Atlantic, if you have somehow stumbled upon the Lounge over there).

Spartak Moscow was the lone visitor to win, defeating host Atlant Moscow Region, 2-0. Rastislav Spirko had both goals for Spartak. In other games, Metallurg Novokuznetsk beat Sibir Novosibirsk Region, 3-2, and Dinamo Riga topped Dinamo Minsk, 2-1.

And while I'm waiting for the KHL to post the highlights video and roundup for Thursday's games, here's a KHL preview from R-Sport, which is always a good place to check when looking for KHL or Olympic hockey notes, like this one from Pavel Bure.

UPDATE: Here is the KHL roundup, along with a video from the Atlant-Spartak game. If you wait long enough, good things do pop onto your screen.

More good names to follow on Twitter are Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) and Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud). They are fluent in NHL, KHL and humor, so click on them early and often.

And while we're updating, here's Sean McIndoe's take on Team Canada Olympic anxiety in Grantland. He can also be found on his Down Goes Brown blog, as well as on Twitter (@DownGoesBrown).

Hey, You're the First Ones Here

Hey, thanks for sticking around, but you probably should have said something before I locked up the Lounge for the summer.

But, you managed to survive the darkness of the Lounge in summer. For your reward, it's time to talk hockey in an Olympic season.

The KHL is the first league to get going, with Dynamo Moscow defeating Traktor Chelyabinsk, 5-1, in the season opener on Wednesday.

Keep your ear tuned for the mention of Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, who's in a rather generous mood late in the game. Nice giveaway by the Traktor forward. An Even better conversion by defending champion Dynamo.

Love the enthusiasm of the announcer here. Nice job capturing the spirit of the first day of the best time of year, the hockey season.

For a quick catch-up on who or what is going on in the KHL this season, here are previews of the Western and Eastern conferences.

From here, we only move forward as more leagues come on line. The QMJHL opens its regular season on Sept. 12, with the OHL and WHL starting play on Sept. 19. The USHL begins its regular season on Sept. 20. With the juniors in action, the next league to start is the Big League, which will capture the bulk of my attention. The NHL opens on Oct. 1 with the AHL following on Oct. 4. From there, we turn to U.S. Division I college hockey, with the Atlantic Hockey conference schools leading off on Oct. 10. The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, along with the WCHA, Big Ten, Hockey East and ECAC Hockey schools taking to the ice for regular season games on Oct. 11. The last league in the Lounge's personal view of the world on ice is the ECHL, which begins play on Oct. 18.

Got all that? Great, now what are you having? The Lounge is open.