--> Site news: You might notice a new sidebar on the main page. As most of you know, I am participating in the first-ever BlogPoll, a collaboration of brilliant college football bloggers from around the country, along with some dorks from Notre Dame. Brian from mgoblog has put together a test-run of the BlogPoll, and the results appear on the right side of the page. We will be messing with some things and possibly making a few more changes to it as time goes on, but the BlogPoll Top 10/15/20/25 (whatever number I decide to roll with) will be a regular feature now that we are nearing football season.
--> I don't understand Bobby Clarke. First, he signs three defensemen (Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje, and Chris Therien) who have the combined speed and skill of three fire hydrants. Hatcher, especially, seems like an incredible liability in the "new-age" NHL, where the league hopes to place a premium on skill and cut down on the goonish thuggery that players like Hatcher have made famous. Anyone who saw Hatcher grab, punch, clothesline, and hook various Calgary Flames during the 2003-2004 playoffs knows what I am talking about. To make matters worse, Clarke gave Rathje $3.5 million a year, a number he probably isn't worth without a salary cap, much less with one.
After those questionable signings, he turns around and signs Peter "Floppa" Forsberg, the diving/injury machine from Colorado, to the tune of $5.7 million per year over two years. Keep in mind that the Avalanche won their last Cup, for the most part, without an injured Floppa, and keep in mind that Floppa talked openly about wanting to play in his native Sweden after his last contract expired. "Desire" is not a trait I would quickly attach to Floppa. "Desire", however, is what Jeremy Roenick is all about. He probably wouldn't even know how to take a shift off, and he never has talked about leaving to play in a different country. Roenick has his character flaws, unquestionably, but he's a talented player who always plays hard, and he is a good fit in the "new-age" NHL because of his speed and skills.
--> Nikolai Khabibulin signed what basically amounts to a maximum contract in Chicago (4 years, $27 million). I know the Blackhawks have a chance to re-invent themselves under new GM Dale Tallon, but it's hard to believe that the franchise is going anywhere as long as Bill Wirtz, possibly the worst owner in the history of major professional sports in North America, is pulling all the strings. Maybe Khabibulin only wants to win the Stanley Cup once in his career. Or maybe he's delusional enough to think that he can carry the Blackhawks by himself.
--> The Minnesota Wild are, so far, staying away from the free agent frenzy, only signing an enforcer (Andrei Nazarov), and a couple of big defensemen who were not highly regarded. I have mixed feelings about how the Wild have handled things since the lockout ended. On one hand, it's probably smart to stay away from these free agents. After all, Alexei Zhamnov got overpaid by Boston, Hatcher and Rathje by Philadelphia, Mike Modanna by Dallas, and Paul Kariya by Nashville, just to name a few. The Wild don't need to make a splash and overpay for a veteran, but they need to add some scoring. And they need to show the fanbase that they won't be cheap. Now that they're saving 24 percent on all contracts that existed through the lockout, and they've decided not to touch their average ticket price of $50.72, it's time to show the fans that they're serious about winning, and serious about spending some of the money they'd normally pocket. I'm not saying the Wild should spend to the $39 million cap, but I'm thinking they should come a lot closer to that cap than it seems they're planning on.
--> The NFL preseason is officially underway, as the Falcons and Colts started things with an American Bowl game in Japan. The Hall of Fame game is Monday night in Canton, featuring the crappy Bears and wretched Dolphins. The Packers looked awful last night, getting pushed around by the Buffalo Bills in a Lambeau Field scrimmage. The Vikings, meanwhile, continue to spew optimism as they enter what could be a championship season. The defense will be improved, they say, and the offense won't miss Randy Moss much. While the offense will probably miss Moss more than anyone in Mankato is willing to let on right now, that defense could vault into the top 10-15 in the league, which will more than make up for Moss being a Raider now. By the way, Moss' assertion that the Vikings' offensive playbook was "one plus one", while the Raiders' playbook is "Algebra II", is possibly the most ridiculous thing Moss has ever said. And, yeah, I do remember "I play when I want to play". That "one plus one" offense was one of the best in the league after Moss' arrival, and it wasn't all because of Moss. I smell "Ewing Theory" (brainchild of ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons), the idea that a team may actually be better after their best player bolts to a different organization. Moss is just upset because the Vikings may very well represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, while the Raiders will be lucky to finish 8-8.