17 August 2018

Hockey Road Trip: Michigan-za! (Part 1)

Michigan has a VERY rich hockey history.  In addition to the Detroit Red Wings - who have been a part of the NHL for more than 90 years - the state is loaded with teams at every level, including multiple Division I NCAA programs and various minor-league teams.  The U.S. Men's National Team Development Program is based in the city of Plymouth, and there are even two Michigan teams competing in the Ontario Hockey League.

I had seen very little of Detroit during my previous visit to the city (which was done solely to see the Red Wings before they vacated Joe Louis Arena), so this would be my opportunity to traverse the region and cover as much ground - and watch as many teams - as possible, in addition to visiting the new NHL rink during its inaugural season.  I started out by making a list of all of the teams that I could potential see in person, then ranked them by priority and searched for a specific point in the 2017-18 schedule in which they'd all be playing home games in the same time frame.  The perfect opportunity would occur in mid-February, conveniently wrapped around the President's Day holiday, and allowed me to witness EIGHT games in NINE days!

I divided the journey into two overlapping halves, with the Red Wings game being right in the middle - the first half of the trip would see my travel companion Chad accompany me for the first five days before returning to Los Angeles, while my fiancee Charlene would join the fun for the second half.  Though she passed on joining me during my recent trip to Winnipeg, Charlene had developed a taste for some hockey-related traveling (she was still adapting to the "hockey-related" part), and also wanted to come along to see some friends and family in Ohio.  And away we go!


Chad and I departed Los Angeles very early in the morning, so that even with a layover we still made it to Detroit in the late afternoon.  I found a terrific Airbnb in Ann Arbor, and we quickly checked in and got back on the road - our first stop would be 90 minutes away in the city of Saginaw, home of the OHL's Saginaw Spirit.  

10 August 2018

Squire Report, Vol 12: Extensions

Settling into the dog days of summer after the blitz of Free Agency, it's time for the Knights to focus on re-signing some of their own players...


Coming off what was arguably his best season, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said he wanted to retire in Las Vegas, and his new three-year extension should help that happen.  After setting personal bests during the regular season in both Goals Against Average (2.24) and Save Percentage (.927), "The Flower" continued his excellent play into the spring and was a key factor (THE key factor?) in the team's Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final.  Locking him up for a few more years seemed like the obvious move, and though the $7 million cap hit could cause some problems down the line, I feel it was worth it to keep the face of the Knights franchise in net for the foreseeable future.

But should we worry about his age and not living up to the contract?  I'd argue no, as goalies often play well into their late thirties - Fleury turns 34 in November (this will be the final year of his current deal), which means he'll be 37-going-on-38 when the new contract expires, still a very serviceable age by goalie standards.  One example would be Martin Brodeur - holder of the NHL's records for most wins, shutouts and games played by a goaltender - who didn't see his statistics take a significant dip until he was already 38 years old.

Furthermore, FIVE of the last 12 Vezina Trophy winners were older than Fleury is now, and he just finished 5th in the voting for the award last year (the highest of his career).  A good comparison would be Florida netminder Roberto Luongo, whose career seems to follow a very similar path.  When Luongo turned 34, he had amassed nearly the same amount of regular season minutes played throughout his career (42,885) as Fleury's current number (42,433) - at the age of 36, Luongo would finish 4th in the Vezina voting.

Fleury's extension will also provide time for the Knights to see what they have in Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk, as they try to determine if either one could potentially replace him.  With a stout defensive system playing in front of him, I have no doubt we'll continue to see Fleury perform at the highest level and carry this team forward in the coming years.

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