The Return of the Popsicle Brothers: Part 1

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: January 11, 2011

EDITORS’ NOTE: We are now nearing the halfway point of the 2010-11 NHL season and there are many changes this year. Today, Goal Brother Gary Norris Gray will cover the Western Conference while Goal Brother Michael Louis Ingram will cover the Eastern Conference later this week.

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — We are happy and proud to see our Goal Brothers from Los Angeles to Montreal representing on the ice, as they continue to turn heads in the NHL.

The Goal Brothers have come a long way since the days of Willie O’Ree of the Boston Bruins (1958-61). Even the 15-year absence of Goal Brothers in the league did not stop Mike Marson in 1974 from being drafted by the Washington Capitals.

The league created a NHL Diversity Program with O’Ree as the director. This has improved the numbers of Black players (29 on the NHL rosters at the beginning of the season).

Inner city youngsters have taken to the ice for the first time. Young minority men and women are now understanding the strategies and rules of the game of hockey. In about 10-15 years from now, maybe the NHL will be a sea of colors.

There are more players playing today than during the period between 1958 and 2006. As the Jefferson’s TV sitcom theme states, the Goal Brothers are “Moving on up to the East Side“. They are beginning to change the way the game has been played by putting more speed on the ice.

My beloved New Jersey Devils are in last place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. They’re going to struggle make the playoffs this spring, something they haven’t missed since 1984.

My feelings are that New Jersey traded away their whole defense line to get the so called scoring guru Ilya Kovalchuk from Atlanta. The experiment has failed, and as a result the Devils are in last place.

Known for their defense and that famous left wing lock system, the Devils have let in more goals at the halfway point than the entire 2010 season. However, you can’t blame Goal Brothers Mark Fraser and Colin White for the defensive lapses, the whole team in the first half have not played together.

The change in Jersey has already begun with the recent trade of captain Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars on this past Friday. This is a warning shot by management to all of the players that nobody is expendable and could be leaving the Rock.

My second favorite team — the New York Rangers — have come alive and are definitely in the hunt for the Atlantic Division crown. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has finally shown up in the Ranger net, giving them a strong last line of defense.

New young stars wearing the Broadway Blueshirts are on the hockey map again. They also have the Garden rocking with the sounds of DEFENSE while veteran Marc Staal, and youngster Mike Sauer.

With the new Russian Line the Rangers are ready to go. Now if only they released or traded known trouble maker Sean Avery things would be better at Madison Square Garden.

Also in the East, the big bad New Broad Street Bullies out of Philadelphia — yes, those pesky Flyers — look like they are ready to win the Eastern crown.

They are scary and they are bigger then the old Bullies of the 70’s and they have more scoring skills and power. Just plan on seeing them in late May/early June.

By the way, Black History in the NHL happened a few months earlier than Black History Month. Not many sports newscasts even mentioned this historical moment on the ice.

BASN and the Popsicle Brothers salute the Atlanta Thrashers in their moment of Black American History.

In November this historical moment happened in the NHL. The Atlanta Thrashers with Goal Brothers Evander Kane scoring a goal with assists from Dustin Byfuglien and Anthony Stewart.

It was the first time in NHL history that a scoring play was made by an all Black line! Not a word was spoken by the Almighty Mouse ESPN!

Now for the Western Conference report.

The Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars, and Detroit Red Wings are the leaders of this very competitive conference from top to bottom. Everybody’s in the playoff picture except for the Alberta teams — the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

It may be time for one of the best Goal Brothers on the ice, Flames captain Jarome Iginla to get out of Canada and play for a contending hockey club.

The Red Army, no I mean, the Detroit Red Wings are at it again – second in the conference and leading the Central Division by nine points over the Nashville Predators.

The old heads like Tomas Holstrom, Kris Draper, Nicklas Lidstrom and Todd Bertuzzi seem to play better with each passing year.

They arel passing the torch to Henrik Zetterberg, Brian Rafalski, and Niklas Kromwall.

Goalies Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood — their two-headed monster — will share the net duties and that works well for the Wings neither goalie will be tired come playoff time.

The Nashville Predators are second in the Central Division with goaltender Pekka Rinne. The first line is good but could be better. The Ward, Wilson, Kostitsyn line needs to put up more points.

Goal Brother Joel Ward has produced goal scoring opportunities for the Preds but they have to be more aggressive in the second half. Marcel Goc and Goal Brother Francis Bouillion are carrying the Preds and this cannot last if they are going far in the playoffs.

The St. Louis Blues are the youngest team in the league with only three veterans — Eric Brewer, Carlo Colaiacovo, and goalie Ty Conklin. This team still has many things to learn and they seem to be a quick study.

They are the scariest team in this division. They could hurt a playoff team late in the year. Jaroslav Halak will keep the reins in goal. Alex Steen has scored 13 goals with 14 assists. David Backes led the Blues in scoring with 10 goals and 20 assist and 30 points.

The Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks could be the league’s most disappointing team. Letting go of goalie Antii Niemi and Dustin Byfuglien last year could come back to haunt them.

The injury bug has hit the Hawks like a ton of bricks. Patrick Kane was absence a few weeks and has slowed the Hawks offense this year. They are still at a loss in net with Marty Turco and Corey Crawford sharing duties and neither one has performed well.

I still don’t know who will take the lead in net.

Once that is resolved the Hawks should be on the move. This team could make history and miss the playoffs. Jonathan Toews might be out for another two weeks. So that leaves Marian Hossa stepping up and leading this very talented team.

The Hawks are also not playing well at home and that needs to change before Chicago can be taken seriously to repeat as champions.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are at the bottom of this division, a place that they have not seen in three years. They are only three points from a playoff spot, so a winning streak could put them in the Stanley Cup playoff chase.

They have a large contingent of players from the province of Ontario with nine. Steve Mason has taken control in nets and backup Mathieu Garon will have to wait another year to really show his skills. If the Rick Nash-R.J. Umberger line leads this team they should carry them to the playoffs; but that is a very big if.

The Vancouver Canucks lead the conference and the Northwest Division with a healthy lead over the Colorado Avalanche. Goalie Roberto Luongo seems to be getting comfortable in the Vancouver nets as he keeps missing shutouts with seconds to go in a game.

The Sedin Twins could carry the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1994. They are red hot in January with a 12-0-2 streak after a very slow start last October.

The Avalanche rise and fall with the Matrix Man, Craig Anderson in net. This year is not like last when Anderson saved Colorado. Anderson‘s record is near .500 with 11-9-2 mark.

Peter Budaj record is 10-6-3.

He has already played more games than last year in net at this time.

Adam Foote is the last of the old guard and has become the de facto leader.

The Minnesota Wild have a decision to make about which line is number one and move on.

This is part of the growing stages of a very young team. Their goaltending seems to be set with Niklas Backstrom and the veteran Jose Theodore from the Washington Capitals.

Both are sharing duties but only one should be the starter. Once that decision is made they can move on to which line should be the “A” line. Waiting for Goal Brother left winger Robbie Earl to come back to the majors.

The Calgary Flames have just imploded.

The Sutter family conflict reached a head this year when father sent son packing. That firing, the lack of producing scoring power, and the downfall of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has put this franchise on the verge of not playing in the Stanley Cup for the fifth year in a row.

Super Star veteran Jarome Iginla does not deserve to end his career this way. Maybe a trade out of Canada can save Goal Brother Iginla’s star power.

The Flames only have one line that can score consistently – that is the Iginla/Jokinen/Tanguay line. When they are shut down the Flames don’t win. They have also been lazy on defense letting soft goals in with little help from Kiprusoff.

I do not see any chance of improvement in this team. Coach Sutter could be the coach fired this year and it is not his fault. The Flames just don’t have enough talent.

The Edmonton Oilers could be described as the worst team in the Western Conference and have been so the last three years. The Bulin Wall has been crumbling and is showing cracks all over the place. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin might wish he were back in Chicago with the Blackhawks.

The Oilers are in last place in the Northwest Division and the only place to go is up.

This is the second youngest team in NHL with only other veteran is defenseman Jason Strudwick who has played sparingly this year. The Oilers have almost completed their rebuilding program. Khabibulin might not be wearing Oiler orange and blue for long because that is the last piece to this disjointed puzzle.

The Dallas Stars lead the Pacific Division and are third in the Conference with the San Jose Sharks right behind them. This is the most competitive division in the conference.

All five teams could win this division and each team has had the lead at one point this year. A long slump could land any team in last place and a long winning streak could catapult any team to the leading position.

The Dallas Stars let long time teammate Mike Modano go to the Detroit Red Wings but don’t seem to miss a beat. Kari Lehtonen has taken control of the Stars net-minding duties.

Brenden Morrow has picked up the scoring duties that Modano left behind. Goal Brother Trevor Daley plays a mean defense for the Stars and dares anyone to come into the Dallas zone.

The San Jose Sharks who won the Pacific Division last year finally got their motor running after a very slow start. They could not decide who would be in net, Antti Niemi from the Chicago Blackhawks or Antero Niittymaki from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Once that question was solved, San Jose began to move up the ladder in the division. The Sharks have two strong lines with the Heatley, Couture, Clowe line and the Marleau, Thornton, Setoguchi line.

Once Joe Pavelski returns to the lineup watch out!!!

This coach has the luxury of mixing and matching these lines which prevents the Sharks from going into a long losing streak an advantage that no other team in the west has.

Goal Brothers Derrick Joslin and Jamal Mayers will be playing more the second half of the season. Mayers is definitely glad to leave the slumping Buffalo Sabres.

The Anaheim Ducks are in a rebuilding mode and are still competing for the Pacific division lead. This may be the last year for veteran Teemu Selanne. With each game he sets another Duck record.

Saku Koivu, after all those years with the Montreal Canadiens, is now in his second season in Southern California. One more season and he will reach the 1000 game mark.

The Los Angeles Kings after a very strong start could be the biggest disappointment in this division. They were in first place for some time at the beginning of this season. Goal Brother Wayne Simmonds has taken on the role of being one of the leaders in Los Angeles.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick is now number one in net.

The Kopitar line has to produce more goals or the Kings could be in trouble.

The Phoenix Coyotes are now at the bottom of the Pacific Division and that can be traced to the Coyote net. They have not decided whether Jason LaBarbera or Ilya Bryzgalov will stand in goal.

The Whitney, Belanger, Doan line have to become more aggressive or the Coyotes will be watching the playoffs like most of America on television. Most teams know this and send their very best defensemen to counter the Coyote “A” Line.

NEXT: Gary Norris Gray moves the puck into the slot where Michael Louis Ingram is waiting to score for the Eastern Conference.