Aug 302010
 

A nearly 2 1/2 hour show with CT and “the Forklift” of the incendiary HockeeNight.com and award-winning “PuckCast” audio program.

“HOCKEENIGHT and CHRIS BLOCK Go Prospecting”
Monday August 30, 2010

Direct Link to Hockeenight’s show page and description 

As for our show, join us Tuesday night at 8pm central, for the 50th edition of TheThirdManIn~Radio.  Our guest will be Scott Norton, head of the Norton Sports Management group.  Norton’s list of NHL clients include Dustin Brown (LA Kings), Brent Sopel (ATL) and former Blackhawks prospect Billy Sweatt.

Aug 232010
 

Steve Ludzik hockey cardTheThirdManIn~Radio “INTERVIEW: STEVE LUDZIK”
Monday August 23, 2010 ~
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Steve Ludzik has done it all.  From achieving an elite level in junior hockey with Niagara Falls to overcoming Crohn’s disease to become the Blackhawks’ second-round pick in 1980.  Ludzik was a key component of the Blackhawks teams throughout the 80’s.  He went on to transition into coaching after a brief stint with the Sabres and Rochester in the AHL, as well as a year of playing in Austria.  Ludzik twice reached the International Hockey League finals with the Detroit Vipers, winning the Turner Cup (IHL Championship) in 1997, defeating the Long Beach Ice Dogs; and losing a 7-game series with the Chicago Wolves the following season.  In the NHL, Ludzik coached the Tampa Bay Lightning from 1999-2001, and after a year leading Don Cherry’s Mississauga Ice Dogs (OHL), he assisted Rick Dudley behind the Florida Panthers’ bench and coached their minor league affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage.  In recent years, Steve has been a popular on-air personality on television and radio with The Score in Canada and on TSN.  And now, he’s penned a book about it all.

Ludzik has truly “Been There Done That.”

Always entertaining and gracious with his time, Ludzik spoke to us for an hour about his career, his teammates and the game he’s given so much to.  His book is truly outstanding and a great read for any Blackhawks’ fan, and certainly followers of those teams full of character over the course of the 80’s.  “Been There Done That” (co-authored by Steve Wilson) is crammed full of stories you don’t want to miss.  Stories, about, but not limited to, Ludzik’s great friend Steve “Grandpa” Larmer, Orval Tessier, Robert Jesse Pulford, Mike Keenan, Dr. Louis Kolb, pranks amongst teammates, officiating a midget wrestling match and a stories of the blatant arrogance of the 80’s Edmonton Oilers you’ve probably not heard anywhere else.  Its a book full of history and humor.  You can purchase a copy now at Ludzy.com.

As for tonight’s show…. Click player below to listen here

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Ludzy talked openly on anything and everything, including….  

– Being stricken with a life-threatening illness at age 16
– 2 1/2 months in hospital; stages and long road to recovery
– Legendary Derek “Turk” Sanderson
– How Steve Larmer was almost cut the year he won the Calder Trophy
– Making $25 a week
– Deck stacked against Ludzy
– Adjusting his game for the jump to NHL
– Comparing Ludzik’s conversion to plight of current prospect Evan Brophey
– How good were the 80’s Blackhawks?
– Lop-sided rivalry with hated Minnesota North Stars
– North Stars he disliked most
– The Great Denis Savard
– Smokey Blackhawks’ dressing room
– Pully lifting cigs during practices
– The ‘real’ Bob Pulford
– Ludzy’s first meeting with Pulford
– Why Larmer nearly quit hockey a month after he was drafted & how Ludzik convinced him to continue
– The popular Orval Tessier
– How the “feather-ruffler” is doing these days
– Why Tessier and Don Cherry couldn’t stand one another
– The “heart transplant” spout-off
– How that incident changed Tessier
– Making friends and enemies in hockey
– Surprising story about a young Wayne Gretzky, I guarantee you’ve never heard
– Stress of staying on top of his game and in the NHL
– Moment Ludzik knew he wanted to get into coaching
– Playing for “Iron” Mike Keenan.  Thoughts on Keenan as a coach.
– His father’s influence
– Being “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe’s last coach
– Funny story about Gordie’s bad memory
– Alexander Ovechkin and ‘larger than life’ characters in hockey
– Being fired in Tampa by GM and great friend Rick Dudley
– The 1997-98 IHL Finals series with Chicago Wolves
– Great appreciation for Chicago fans
– Thoughts on NHLPA in his day; players he is most-concerned for; the Kovalchuk contract controversy, and whether Ludzik thinks the league and player’s association is headed for another dreaded stand-off.

All that and so much more, including the revealing of our Superstar’s true identity. Steve is a tremendous guest and with so many things we’ve yet to cover with him, we’ll get him back on later on this season.  After Steve leaves the show, we discuss Cristobal Huet’s new place of residency for the upcoming season, as well as Antti Niemi’s remaining options.  And a few other topics as well, including the old Norris Division hockey rivalries and Gary Bettman’s hero, David Stern.

Enjoy.

Steve Ludzik inducted Etobicoke Sports Hall of FamePhoto credit : Flickr: Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame (2009)

Join us next week, Tuesday August 31st, for our next show at BlogTalkRadio.com/TheThirdManIn

I will also be the guest on next Monday’s HockeeNight PuckCast, which you can hear on their site beginning Monday night, August 30th or at TalkShoe.com.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

Aug 172010
 

TheThirdManIn~Radio “Tila and the Juggalos”
Tuesday August 17, 2010 – Right-Click to Download Here

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On this edition of TTMI~Radio, the “Superstar” and I recount some of the hijinks from our recent trip to Las Vegas and well as the re-signing of UFA defenseman Nick Boynton, the Roenick-Zhamnov trade 14 years later, the upcoming Bob Probert auto-biography, we dipped into the listener e-mailbag and more on the Antti Niemi departure.  We also touch on last weekend’s meeting of the Juggalos.  And, by the way, just how dumb is Tila Tequila anyway?  And Block as a special birthday message for Eddie Olczyk.

TheThirdManIn~Radio returns this Monday, August 23rd @ 7pm central time.  Our guest will be Steve Ludzik, former Blackhawk and IHL/NHL head coach.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

Aug 022010
 

TheThirdManIn~Radio ~ e.47 ~ “The Fifth Feather”
Monday August 2, 2010 ~ BlogTalkRadio.com/TheThirdManIn

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It was my distinct pleasure to finally welcome John, of the fabulous Blackhawks’ site, FifthFeather.com on this episode of TheThirdManIn~Radio.  Hopefully his partner-in-scribe Bob will be able to join us next time we get them on for a visit, which should be much sooner than another year’s worth of shows.

Of course with the big news of today being the signing of Marty Turco and subsequent dismissal of Stanley Cup winning Antti Niemi after his one year $2.75M arbitration award, we covered that story from all angles.

Other topics of discussion:

– This weekend’s Blackhawks’ convention
– Blackhawks still managing to lose money
– John McDonough’s P.R. machine
– Rocky vs McD shaping up
– After the changes – Where do Hawks sit in the West?
– Stan Bowman’s “off-season”
– Predicting the opening night roster
– James Wisniewski’s big deal
– Should fans be banned from prospect camp?
– The 2011 Winter Classic
– and changes ahead at the FifthFeather.com

All this and so much more on an absolutely loaded hour and 1/2 edition of TTMI~Radio.

Thanks as always for listening.  Those who’d prefer to listen on their IPod or through their ITUNES can do so by subscribing through the following link, or by searching “The Third Man In Radio” in the podcast section of the ITUNES store.

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ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

Aug 022010
 

First off, a reminder. Tonight on TheThirdManIn~Radio, I’ll be pleased to welcome John and BlackhawksBob, writers over at the outstanding Blackhawks blog, FifthFeather.com.

Tonight’s show airs live at 8pm (central) and you can listen live at BlogTalkRadio.com/TheThirdManIn. And if you can’t join us live, the show will be posted on this site and at BTR shortly after we go off the air.

We encourage your phone calls, emails or Tweets as well. The number to call into the show is listed on the show page during the stream.

I’m sure its rather obvious the main topic of tonight’s discussion, so I don’t feel the need for a teaser here. But we’ll also cover how the many alterations to the Cup Champions roster will impact the Blackhawks chance at a repeat; this weekend’s Blackhawks Convention; how the Blackhawks still managed to lose money in 2010 and the McDonough Monologues.

— Saturday, we learned of the arbitrator’s decision in the contract case between the Chicago Blackhawks and their Stanley Cup champion goaltender, and restricted free agent, Antti Niemi. By lunchtime today, we’ll know what the Hawks think of it.

Niemi was awarded a one-year $2.75 million deal for the upcoming season. Next summer he will be scheduled to become an un-restricted free agent.

Over the weekend rumors surfaced of the Blackhawks allegedly having made an unofficial side-agreement with Dallas Stars UFA goaltender Marty Turco for one-year and anywhere between $1.5 to $2.0M. Turco, a nine-year NHL veteran, turns 35 on August 13th. Continue reading »

Jul 292010
 

TheThirdManIn~Radio “The Waiting”
Thursday July 29, 2010 ~ e.46 ~
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Chris Block and Dieter Kurtenbach of Blackhawks Examiner review all the latest news including the Antti Niemi arbitration hearing, Stan Bowman’s conference call, new contract signings and the Cristobal Huet “era” in this edition of TheThirdManIn~Radio.

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TTMI~Radio returns this Monday, August 2nd @ 8pm (central) to review the fallout in the wake of the Antti Niemi arbitration verdict, as well as all the scoop from the Chicago Blackhawks Convention (which we won’t be attending).

For anyone who is heading out to the Convention, we’d like to hear about your experience or anything of note that wouldn’t be evident on internet videos or reported by mainstream media outlets.  You can send those to us at TheThirdManIn @ sbcglobal.net.

Discussed in today’s show:

– Niemi’s arbitration hearing
– A conference call about nothing
– Niemi’s potential realistic, and non-realistic contract awards
– Blackhawks value 3rd line centers higher than #1 goaltenders
– Block’s Niemi mea culpa
– How Corey Crawford impacts Hawks’ play on Niemi
– Jose Theodore = Huet version 2.0
– Rumor Niemi $4.0M demand: Outrageous or about right?
– Theodore/Turco won’t play for free
– Niemi Numbers & where major publication ranks him vs rest of league
– Hawk fans talking 2010 Cup run for granted?
– Misconception that Huet’s contract hurting Hawks
– The Huet “era”
– Dirk Graham and Ted Lindsay celebrating life
Jack Skille, in fact, takes a paycut
– Stan Bowman OWNS Bryan Bickell’s agent
– The future of Nick Leddy
– AT&T & I-55

…. and much, much more.  And as always, thanks very much to all who take the time to listen. 

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

Jul 282010
 

— Before we get started, as a reminder, or for those who don’t know, the NHL Network tonight will be airing Game 4 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins at 7pm central time.  This is a continuation in the network’s Raising the Cup series.  At the time, this was the greatest game I had ever seen live and still would rank in my top 3 or 5.  This is the Dirk Graham hat-trick game.  Pittsburgh shut out the Hawks 1-0 in Game 3 at Chicago Stadium two nights prior.  Again, tonight, 7pm, NHL Network.  It replays at 12:30am Thursday, and again at 8am tomorrow morning.

— Look for the next edition of TTMI~Radio with Dieter Kurtenbach and myself late tomorrow.  It appears we’ll be in Antti Niemi/arbitrator waiting mode by that time, but there’s much more for us to discuss.

— Antti Niemi’s arbitration hearing is tomorrow.  No progress, apparently, has been made in talks between the Hawks and his agent to elude this process.  The Hawks can only afford to give Niemi so much under their current salary cap constraints.  Anything more than $2.5M would trigger another trade.  While its true the Hawks will have cheaper options in free agency should the arbitrator’s decision come down in Niemi’s favor, letting your rookie Stanley Cup Champion goaltender walk without receiving any compensation in return is a tough sell to 90% of the fan base.  Its possible a ruling could come as early as Friday, which would mean a decison on whether to accept the arbitration reward would have to come down before the convention closes.  Letting Niemi walk is not a good way to climax John McDonough’s sacred creation.  And for that reason and a few others, I just don’t see it as a real option.

Nick Leddy leaves Gophers, signs contract with Blackhawks

On Tuesday, news broke that Blackhawks prospect Nick Leddy would be leaving the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers as he has signed a professional contract with Chicago.

The contract Leddy signed is a standard three-year, entry-level contract that would pay him at a rate of $900,000 with the Blackhawks, or $67,500 while in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs. Continue reading »

Jul 242010
 

While the team hasn’t officially acknowledged this, the Blackhawks have re-signed left-side power-winger Bryan Bickell to a three-year, one-way NHL contract.

According to a report by Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bickell will earn salary dollars of $500,000, 525,000 and 600,000 over the next three seasons respectively, while his “cap hit” (the average payout of the contract which comes down to total dollar value divided by length) will be $541,666 for each season.

Bickell, 24, who was a favorite of head coach Joel Quenneville in his limited opportunity with the club this past season and playoff, will become an un-restricted free agent at the end of the contract, summer of 2013.

It’s interesting Bickell’s agent would pin his client down to such a low figure for the next three years when Bickell has a big chance to play an integral role with the Hawks going forward.  The deal is a steal for Stan Bowman.  At worst, he has an affordable third and fourth line guy, salary-wise, being as cheap as they come.  Enthusiastically, we could come to know Bickell as one of the bigger “bargains” in the National Hockey League two and three years from now.

I find it hard to believe Bickell couldn’t have negotiated a better deal.  Two-years on a one-way for the same money he agreed to could have landed him in a position to enroll in the arbitration process in 2012, one year short of his UFA year (as it sits now in the current CBA, for players with expiring contracts who are 27 or older).  As it looks now, Bickell could stand to earn a million or considerably more after the next two seasons should he see good minutes and continue to progress.  While Bickell hasn’t shown near the same scoring touch, he’s not all that far behind Troy Brouwer in terms of iimpact he can make with this club.  Specifically with the departure of Dustin Byfuglien, Quenneville needs all the size he can get, and thus Bickell will see a lot of important minutes if he can carry his level of performance over from the past spring.  This is after all the same Bryan Bickell who fit in nicely in spots on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  That said, this deal could wind up more regrettable for Bickell should the new CBA push the UFA age back, or forward, a year or more when the new bargaining agreement is drawn (hopefully) prior to the 2012-13 season.

This is the kind of contract a young Canadian kid thinks is great when he first signs it.  Then he changes agents two years later when he realizes he wasted a chance to make a lot more money at a young age.

Great deal for Stan Bowman.  For Bickell, we’ll wait and see.

Evan Brophey, Blackhawks 3rd round pick (67th overall) in the 2005 Draft, re-signed a 1-year deal on Thursday.  This also hasn’t been acknowledged by the Hawks.  There is a method to these things that go over the heads in hockey operations. Continue reading »

Jul 222010
 

Today, general manager Stan Bowman afforded himself a little extra breathing room under the salary cap by trading centreman Marty Reasoner to the Florida Panthers in exchange for minor-league forward Jeff Taffe.

The transaction marks the first between Bowman and his prior mentor, Dale Tallon, new GM in Florida.

Our Blackhawks depth chart and salary cap tracker have been updated.

As it turns out, Reasoner, who was acquired in the June 23rd trade with Atlanta which sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and 2007-2nd round draft choice Akim Aliu to the Thrashers, will leave the Hawks having never played a game with the organization.

Reasoner is scheduled to earn $1.15M this season and his cap hit of $1.2M is now off Chicago’s books.

The interesting part of the deal comes in the terms of Jeff Taffe’s contract.  Taffe played 61 of his 82 regular season games, while with the Panthers’ organization, with the Rochester Americans in the AHL.  In the first year of his two-season deal with the Panthers, Taffe was paid at a rate of $105,000 in the AHL (figures provided by CapGeek.com), and $500,000 in his 21 games with the NHL club.

For the 2010-11 season, however, Taffe’s contract calls for him to be paid $600,000 whether he plays in the NHL or the minors.

Taffe posted 1 goal and 1 assist in those 21 games with the Panthers as a fourth line forward mostly.

In Reasoner, the Panthers get another dependable, versatile forward.  Tallon has focused on improving his depth up front since the draft and does further with this trade.  Reasoner, 33, is also a veteran with an expiring contract.  Reasoner will cost the Panthers $600,000 more than Taffe, however, Reasoner is a NHL-er, while Taffe isn’t likely to scratch an NHL ice surface aside from possible stints as an injury replacement.

Today’s trade served purposes on both sides.  The Blackhawks cut a few dollars under their salary cap in hopes of fitting new contracts for Antti Niemi, Bryan Bickell and Jordan Hendry under the cap maximum, while the Panthers cut salary expenses aimed for their AHL team.

As noted here before, the Blackhawks right now are concerned with two CBA related salary cap encumbrances – the $59.4M salary cap they have to be under prior to opening night of the 2010-11 season, and the $65.34M summer ceiling (the cap max + 10% summer cushion).

Per our calculations, the Blackhawks now have approximately $60.5M allocated to 17 players for the upcoming season.  This includes Cristobal Huet and Kyle Beach.  Without Huet, the Hawks are at $54.875M and have roughly $4.525M to spend on the last six open roster spots.  Or, $754,000 per available roster spot.

In some shape or form, Huet will come off the cap before opening night.  However, he cannot be assigned to Rockford until October.  Thus, his $5.625M cap hit does figure into the salary cap equation until his situation is resolved.  Hence, the Blackhawks currently have $4.84M of that “summer cushion” to play with and stay within the constraints of the CBA.

For the sake of argument, let’s stick to the non-Huet scenario.  The Hawks have $4.525M available to spend on six roster slots.  One being the second goalie position.  If Niemi signs with a cap hit of, let’s pick a number, $2.25M, this would leave $2.275M with five spots open.  That’s an average of $455,000 per player and since the league minimum is $500,000, the numbers still don’t add up.  Corey Crawford‘s cap hit alone is $800,000, and he will replace Huet’s vacated roster spot.  If it comes down to it, the cap could be Crawford’s nemesis yet again.  Hannu Toivonen is a quarter of a million more affordable at $550,000.

Stay tuned.  Today won’t be Bowman’s last rotation of the cap-shredder.  Whether Niemi stays or not is ultimately irrelevant to the bigger cap solution.  Unless Bowman resolves to defend the Stanley Cup with a Crawford and Toivonen as his goaltending tandem, another significant contract has to depart.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

Jul 182010
 

Marian Hossa was married in Slovakia on Saturday.  Story and pics here.  (thanks to reader Dave for link) 

— While the Blackhawks have made no official announcement yet, Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times reported Thursday that Jack Skille has agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him $600,000.  This is roughly a 29% pay decrease from his entry-level contract.  We talked about this on Thursday’s TTMI~Radio. 

Skille received a qualifying offer (standard 1-year offer at 110% rate of prior year’s salary) in late June but chose to negotiate down to give himself a more cap-friendly contract.  Because of it, Skille is now an odds-on favorite to make the NHL club.  His speed and shooting ability still make the 23 year old an enticing prospect, but he’s never shown an ability to apply those tools in the NHL, the way he has in the minors.  Before Viktor Stalberg‘s arrival, Skille was the natural replacement for Versteeg.  Skille can throw his weight around, but its not his strength and he’s been overwhelmed going that route when with the Hawks.  He figures in as a third-line guy, which means he has to score.  Trouble is, as a shooter, he’s predictable and one-dimensional.  To be successful, he must go into the danger areas and score dirty goals.  He did a better job of that last year than ever before, when he was mostly a perimeter player.  Depending on how close Stan Bowman cuts his roster under the cap, training camp may still wind down to a battle between Kyle Beach and Skille for that third-line spot.  Skille isn’t a fourth line player and Beach will start in Rockford if he cant win a spot with the top three lines.

— According to published reports, and also still unannounced, Russian winger Igor Makarov, 22, signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Hawks last week.  His cap hit (unconfirmed) is said to be $552,000.  Makarov needs a little work and will start in the AHL with Rockford.  He was an exciting prospect, but his progression has been stunted in limited playing time in the KHL the past two seasons.  Makarov will turn 23 in September.  In the times I’ve seen him, he’s shown to have a great shot and reasonably quick release.  There are a lot of politics involved in who does and who doesn’t get ice time in Russia, but you’d think if Makarov’s talents were at the level of an NHL-er or at least a top prospect, he’d have been given much more playing time. Continue reading »