Friday, December 7, 2012

Serving Justice

Ever since Warner Bros. announced plans for a live-action Justice League movie due out in 2015, there has been much speculation as to who will be playing the roles of the film's heroes.  With its only successful film franchise now wrapped up following The Dark Knight Rises, DC Comics and Warner Bros. are in desperate need of a film franchise that they can bank on.  Of course, every actor picked to play a role will hopefully begin their own franchises as their respective heroes.  Here are my picks to play the characters of the movie:

Superman:  Henry Cavill

This of course is banking on the fact that next summer's The Man of Steel will work.  Marvel had the success of Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America to kick start The Avengers.  Superman Returns and Green Lantern didn't get it done, so The Man of Steel is essentially DC's last hope to jump start the Justice League franchise without having The Justice League movie itself be the catalyst.

Wonder Woman:  Odette Annable

The 27-year-old House actress certainly has the look of Wonder Woman.  Even though she doesn't have an action background, with the right training she can certainly get into Amazon form, much like Anne Hathaway did for her role as Selina Kyle.  Annable is relatively unknown, so audiences won't have preconceived notions about her.

Green Lantern:  Idris Elba

Unless DC and Warner Bros. want to continue with Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan incarnation of Green Lantern, it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce the John Stewart Green Lantern.  Idris Elba, who has some comic book movie experience from Thor, would fit the bill perfectly. 

The Flash:  Ryan Reynolds

Before he ever signed on to play Green Lantern, Reynolds stated that he thought he could play The Flash.  DC however, decided to move forward with Green Lantern instead and cast him.  Now that Green Lantern failed to meet expectations, why not give Reynolds a shot at the hero he originally wanted?  With The Flash being a wise-cracking, sarcastic super hero, Reynolds would certainly work perfectly.

Green Arrow:  Josh Holloway

Holloway is of course best known as the conman Sawyer from Lost.  He could certainly fit the bill as billionaire archer Oliver Queen.  The fact that Holloway is in his 40s would be ideal for the Justice League film because a younger Oliver Queen would be too similar to the current Arrow incarnation on the CW and even Smallville's Green Arrow. 

Aquaman:  Alexander Skarsgard

True Blood fans of course know him best as Eric Northman, the antihero vampire of Bon Temps.  Skarsgard could bring the necessary energy to Aquaman to make him a legitimate hero rather than just a joke of a guy who talks to fish.

Martian Manhunter:  Djimon Hounsou

Hounsou voiced Marvel's Black Panther in the short-lived BET animated series and was rumored to play the character in the now scrapped third Fantastic Four movie.  Hounsou could certainly play Martian Manhunter and his alter ego, John Jones. 

Black Canary:  Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood made her film debut in 2010's drama Soul Surfer.  If she wants to further expand her acting resume, then why not take on the role of a superhero?  She's got the look of Dinah Lance and she certainly has the vocal cords!  Plus, there could be some interesting chemistry between her and Holloway...

Darkseid:  Dwayne Johnson

Darkseid is the immortal ruler of Apokolips and is powerful enough to challenge the entire Justice League.  The 6'5", 260lb. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson can certainly step into the larger than life role and become the force necessary to best Superman and all of his colleagues.

Batman:  Michael Fassbender

Following Christain Bale's legendary performances of the Dark Knight will certainly be the toughest task for any Justice League hero.  Michael Fassbender made a name for himself as Magneto in X-Men: First Class, taking the role over from another legendary actor, Ian McKellen.  Fassbender will have to do the same from Christian Bale and bring his own fresh take to the character without bringing back the campiness of George Clooney's Batman.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 Fall TV: Keep 'Ems and Cut 'Ems

As previously mentioned, Revolution is a keeper.  The ratings have concurred, giving NBC rare Monday night wins and NBC has in turn rewarded the show by giving it a full season pickup.  The Mob Doctor's attempts may be futile at this point as it may very well be headed for the morgue.  It avoided being the first cancellation of the season, but its lifespan might not be much longer.

I watched the pilot episode of 666 Park Avenue, but from the get-go, it was facing an uphill battle with my packed Sunday lineup, which gets even more crowded this week with the Season 3 premier of The Walking Dead.  666 kind of had a Devil's Advocate feel, but it also seemed like ABC wanted to bring the horror genre, which is all over feature films these days, to network television.  Aside from the aforementioned Walking Dead, I am not a fan of the horror genre, so 666 was certainly expendable from my lineup.  Its ratings have been described as "frightful" as well.

The pilot episode of Vegas was decent.  Dennis Quaid brings in his gruff Western character, reminiscent of his portrayal of Doc Holliday in Wyatt Earp, which was a ok, but far less superior to Val Kilmer's in Tombstone.  Michael Chiklis is good.  He's got the same edge about him that made Vic Mackey and The Shield a success.  Vegas' second episode got a nice boost with the addition of Sarah Jones, the star of the short-lived Alcatraz.  Although there are standalone storylines in Vegas, the ongoing budding feud between Quaid's Sheriff Ralph Lamb and Chiklis' Vincent Savino gives it the nice feel of a serialized drama, which I prefer.

I'm a big fan of Tosh.O, South Park, and Family Guy.  Brickleberry seemed to incorporate elements of all three.  Daniel Tosh of course stars and brings his edgy comedic stylings playing an anthropomorphic bear cub (a mix of Brian and Stewie from Family Guy) and the pushing-the-limits jokes made famous by South Park.  Unfortunately, despite the winning formula, Brickleberry fails.  I watched the first 2 episodes and just didn't find the jokes funny.  I'll stick with the former 3 shows.

Arrow is the CW's latest attempt to bring a DC superhero to the small screen.  The WB/CW enjoyed a decade of success with the Superman-themed show Smallville.  The character of Green Arrow was actually featured in Smallville over the course of its latter 5 seasons.  It seemed feasible that they could have just used Smallville actor Justin Hartley and made Arrow a true spinoff of Smallville.  Oliver Queen's mansion in Arrow even looks very similar to the Luthor mansion in Smallville.  The CW however, decided to go in a different direction and start the Green Arrow storyline over with a fresh, new show.  Canadian actor Stephen Amell takes over the titular role with a supporting cast of Katie Cassidy as a character who could very well become DC Comics' Black Canary and Willa Holland as Oliver Queen's sister, whom he nicknames "Speedy," a nod to Green Arrow's comic book sidekick.  Arrow is good for what it is.  You wouldn't expect Lost or Dexter quality TV from the CW, but Arrow is entertaining and for superhero and comic book fans like me, Arrow is a show worth watching.  The CW will certainly be hoping that it can channel Smallville's success rather than the short-lived Batman-themed show, Birds of Prey.

Perhaps the surprise hit of the season is Last Resort.  The cast, storyline, and overall show are all very well executed and Last Resort seems like it has a lot of potential going forward.  It certainly has a serialized storyline, but one that can capture viewers, or so ABC hopes.  Although its ratings haven't been what Revolution's have been, I think Last Resort can sustain a viewership.  Though it's a rather large ensemble type cast, there is a good blend of solid, veteran actors (Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, and Robert Patrick) as well as promising relative newcomers like Daisy Betts, Autumn Reeser, Daniel Lissing, and Jessy Schram.  Serialized shows can have difficulties with ratings since they're not friendly to the casual viewer, but if Last Resort is able to build and maintain a faithful fanbase, it will certainly thrive.

I have a new edition to my lineup as well.  I didn't catch on to Cinemax's first successful endeavor at original programming, Strike Back, but its newest show, Hunted, looks like it has potential.  It stars Melissa George (the hot nanny from Friends) as a spy who's trying to find out who's trying to kill her.  Like Burn Notice, but hopefully less cheesy.  It premiers in the U.S. on Friday, 11/19.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Only a couple of new shows premiered this week (along with the disappointing NBC sitcoms that debuted during the Olympics last month).  Let's take a look, shall we?

Although it wasn't on my initial list of new shows, I decided to check out the pilot 'sode of The Mob Doctor.  Jordana Spiro is very good as the titular character.  You may remember her from the TBS sitcom My Boys as well as last season of Dexter.  She had a memorable scene in which she tried to kill Deb and the Miami PD by gassing them, but our hero Dexter shrewdly realized her intentions at the last minute and pushed her into a room by herself, making her the only casualty.  Back to The Mob Doctor.  It's basically half House and half The Sopranos, but not as convincing as either.  (I never watched House, but heard only good things).  William Forsythe brings the "mob" portion of the show.  He's looking a lot puffier these days than he did in The Rock 16 years ago, but he certainly plays a convincing mobster, just as he did in Boardwark Empire and UC: Undercover.  I like Michael Rapaport, who appeared in the pilot as another mobster, but he only guest starred and won't be part of the main cast.  Overall, The Mob Doctor is not a bad show, but it didn't really captivate me enough to continue watching.  With Monday Night Football, How I Met Your Mother, Hawaii Five-O, and Revolution, my Mondays are full.

Which of course brings us to Revolution, J.J. Abrams' latest TV bid.  In his post-Lost TV career, Abrams is only 1-2 when it comes to his shows lasting longer than one season.  Person of Interest will be entering its second, while Undercovers didn't even make it through its entire first before getting yanked and Alcatraz was canceled upon completion of its first.  With Revolution, Abrams brings with him frequent collaborator Bryan Burk as well as Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director, Jon Favreau, who also directed the pilot episode of Revolution.

The premise is pretty simple:  The lights go out.  All of them.  The entire world's electricity and power go out; flash forward 15 years later to see what the world has become.  The United States has become "republics" ruled by militias and people fight to survive.  Billy Burke (24, the Twilight series) heads up the cast in a role being compared to the legendary Han Solo and newcomer Tracy Spiridakos plays his niece as a character who's been compared to The Hunger Games' heroine Katniss Everdeen.  Giancarlo Esposito of The Usual Suspect and Breaking Bad plays a member of the bad guy militia and Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell and David Lyons, the star of the short-lived NBC show The Cape co-star as well.

I think Revolution has potential.  Dystopia is in right now, namely with the aforementioned Hunger Games and I think Revolution has a good premise and cast in place to garner and keep viewers interested.  While Undercovers, Alcatraz, and Person of Interest were all mostly stand-alone episodes, Revolution seems to have a more serialized feel to it, which I prefer.  I understand the network's desire for stand-alone episodes to attract casual viewers, but I think stories and even characters can be better developed in a serialized storyline.  Revolution certainly has a long way to go before being considered a hit, but I will keep watching for the moment.

Next week Brickleberry, Vegas, Last Resort, and 666 Park Avenue will all debut.  Stay tuned!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Best Time Of The Year (New TV Shows Time)

Thanks to Colorado Avalanche Alternate Captain Paul Stastny via Twitter, It's Always Sunny has been confirmed for an October 11th season premier.

NBC debuted two of their new, hopeful sitcoms a month before new shows typically come out.  This followed their strong Olympic numbers, so it was a good strategy to try to lure in viewers.  The problem...neither show was any good.

Matthew Perry's new endeavor, Go On, is much more Mr. Sunshine than Friends.  While I am a fan of Joanna Garcia Swisher, even she could not save Animal Practice, nor could I even get through the entire episode.  After just one episode of Go On and half of an episode of Animal Practice, both these show are off my DVR.  Let's hope the new dramas that will premiere next month will be better than these two sitcoms and fortunately, we will be getting It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Happy Endings, and South Park as well as the potential for Brickleberry.

The fall brings us back football, hockey, and relief from summer's brutal 100 degree temperatures.   It is also the time when TV networks debut their best and brightest and we get the return of some of the best shows on TV today.  There are some promising new shows this upcoming season as well as the long anticipated returns of some other great shows.  Here is what to watch...

Per usual, Sundays will be jam-packed.  The rest of the week is pretty spread out, but we shall see how things shake out with the inevitable cancellations and midseason replacements. 

Sundays will boast the return of the premium channels bests including the 7th season of Showtime's Dexter.  If you recall, season 6 left us with a killer of a cliffhanger!  Once again, it will be followed by Homeland, the military psychological thriller entering its 2nd season.  HBO will bring back the critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire for its 3rd season, which will certainly look to feature some new cast members (if you saw the end of season 2, you'll know why!).  Family Guy and The Simpsons will be back on Fox.  Family Guy is still funny, I watch The Simpsons out of obligation and not much else these days.  Does anyone else still watch the new Simpsons?  In October, The Walking Dead will return for its fall set.  Hands-down, one of the best shows on basic cable and my personal favorite (show or movie) in the horror genre.  The newbies on Sunday will include 666 Park Avenue, which will revolve around an apartment building owned by the devil, played by Terry O'Quinn (Lost's John Locke and the man in black "Barry" as Locke).  This show may be on a short leash for me simply due to the logjam of shows on Sunday nights.  Do No Harm is a medical thriller which will debut midseason, starring Rescue Me's Stephen Pasquale and Law & Order's Alana de la Garza.

Mondays will feature the return of the reliable How I Met Your Mother and Hawaii Five-O on CBS.  JJ Abrams will take another crack at network TV with NBC's Revolution, a post-apocalyptic show where technology no longer exists.  Looks like it has potential, but Abrams has had more busts than hits post-Lost (Undercovers and Alcatraz vs. Person of Interest).

The best network sitcom on TV today, Happy Endings, will move to Tuesdays and will return in October.  Watch this show!  It is hilarious!  There are also a few newcomers on Tuesdays with potential.  Stand-up comedian and Tosh.O star Daniel Tosh will debut his animated show Brickleberry, which will also co-star Kaitlin Olsen, It's Always Sunny's Dee Reynolds.  After Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Mr. Sunshine failed to make an impact, Matthew Perry will get his 3rd shot to find some post-Friends TV success with Go On.  Perry will play a sportscaster trying to get over his wife's death.  CBS will debut Vegas, a 1960s Western set in Las Vegas with Dennis Quaid as a sheriff and Michael Chiklis as a mobster.  Sounds a tad different from the James Caan/Josh Duhamel show Las Vegas and Chiklis as a mobster should be good.

On Wednesdays, Law & Order: SVU will return for its 14th season and rumors are that Det. Stabler may return as a guest star.  South Park will also be back for its fall run.  NBC will debut Animal Practice, featuring Joanna Garcia Swisher (from Better With You) and a monkey.  The CW will try to emulate its Smallville success with Arrow, a show about DC superhero, The Green Arrow.  They (back when they were still the WB) struck out in 2002 with the loosely-themed Batman show, Birds of Prey, which only lasted one season.

Thursdays will see the return of JJ Abrams hit CBS show, Person of Interest, a decent show, but certainly not Lost-caliber.  30 Rock will enter its final season and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia will return in October.  The funniest show on TV.  Last Resort looks promising.  It is about a renegade submarine and is from Shawn Ryan, the creator of The Shield.

Fringe will enter its final season on Fridays this season, hopefully getting the ending this underrated and underappreciated show deserves.  The Kiefer Sutherland show Touch moves to Fridays as well, possibly signifying a lifespan for this show similar to that of Danny Glover's character on the show.  They don't call it "the Friday night death slot" for no reason.

Boardwalk Empire - 9/16 HBO
The Simpsons - 7:00, 9/30 Fox
Family Guy - 8:00, 9/30 Fox
Dexter - 9/30 Showtime
Homeland - 9/30 Showtime
666 Park Avenue - 9:00, 9/30 CBS
The Walking Dead - 10/14 AMC
Do No Harm - 9:00 Midseason NBC

Revolution - 9:00, 9/17 NBC
How I Met Your Mother - 7:00, 9/24 CBS
Hawaii Five-O - 9:00, 9/24 CBS

Go On - 8:00, 8/8 (9/11) NBC
Vegas - 9:00, 9/25 CBS
Brickleberry, 9/25 Comedy Central
Happy Endings - 8:00, 10/23 ABC

Animal Practice - 7:00, 8/12 (9/26) NBC
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - 8:00 - 9/26 NBC
South Park - 9/26 Comedy Central
Arrow - 7:00, 10/10 CW

Last Resort - 7:00, 9/27 ABC
Person of Interest - 8:00, 9/27 CBS
30 Rock - 7:00, 10/4 NBC
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 10/11 FX

Fringe - 8:00, 9/28 Fox
Touch - 7:00, 10/26 Fox

New shows in bold

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Sadly, one of the most anticipated movies of all-time and unquestionably the movie of the year in 2012 will be forever shrouded in darkness due to the horrific events that occurred in Aurora, CO during the midnight showings of the film on July 20th, 2012.  These terribly tragic events certainly hit very close to home for me and my wife and we decided to make t-shirts to benefit the families of the victims of the tragedy via  The can be found on Facebook at Shirts for Aurora.


Eight years after the flop that was 1997's Batman & Robin, director Christopher Nolan took the helm of the Batman film franchise and took it in an entirely new direction.  Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns were dark in classic Tim Burton style and the franchise got increasingly campy once Joel Schmacher took over.  Nolan, whose work prior to the Dark Knight trilogy were the psychological thrillers, Memento and Insomnia, brought the Dark Knight back to a darker tone and wanted to create a sense of realism in his Batman projects.  This was evident in Batman Begins when the primary antagonist, Ra's al Ghul, was portrayed as just a man, rather than an immortal who keeps himself alive with the use of the Lazarus Pit like his comic and cartoon incarnation.

While Batman Begins was not the box office blockbuster its successor would later become, it was the Batman film the world needed at the time and it was successful in rebooting the Batman film franchise.  It received positive critical and fan responses for the darker plot, the cast and the performances of its stars like Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson.  Bale was lauded for his performance as Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman and the supporting cast was full of Oscar winners and all-star actors alike.

Begins also paved the way for its highly-anticipated sequel, The Dark Knight which was hands-down the most successful film of 2008.  While Begins utilized lesser-known villains who had previously not appeared in any Batman films, The Dark Knight introduced villains into the Nolan universe who had been previously been portrayed in the Burton-Schumacher series including Harvey Dent, who would become Two-Face, and the Joker, masterfully portrayed by the late Heath Ledger.  Ledger's tragic and untimely death six months before The Dark Knight's release, along with universal acclaim for his performance and the movie overall led to the film surpassing the $1 billion mark worldwide and becoming one of the most successful films of all-time.  Ledger even won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of the supervillain Joker.

After Ledger's untimely death, there was much speculation as to which direction Nolan would go with his series.  Nolan ultimately decided not to bring back the character of the Joker, due to Ledger's passing despite the fact that the character was not killed off in The Dark Knight.  Instead, Nolan opted for Bane as the primary antagonist in his third Batman film as well as the antihero Selina Kyle (most notably known ass Catwoman in the comics).  Nolan also wanted The Dark Knight Rises to be the definitive ending to his series, bookending the trilogy, whereas many comic book storylines are infinitely ongoing.

Tom Hardy, who rose to fame in Nolan's 2010 hit Inception, was tabbed with the very difficult task of succeeding Heath Ledger's Joker as Batman's nemesis, but was certainly up to the challenge.  Hardy, who normally stands at 5'10", 168 lbs. packed on 30lbs. of muscle to play the hulking Bane and had to wear lifts in his shoes to equal Christian Bale's 6'2" height.  At nearly 200lbs., Hardy's Bane is still much smaller than other incarnations of the character.  Nolan's Bane also differs from the classic perception of Bane in that he is not strength-enhanced with Venom.  Instead, his mask feeds him a painkiller for severe injuries sustained when he was young after he saved Talia al Ghul.  For people only familiar with Bane from Batman & Robin, Rises' Bane actually serves as a much more true-to-form version of the character (sans the Venom) with him being a criminal mastermind as well as being a physical force whose strength and physical prowess exceeds even Batman's.

While it's not fair to compare Hardy's Bane to Ledger's Joker, the comparisons will inevitably be made.  With that said, they are certainly very different types of villains with Joker's goal of anarchy and chaos versus Bane's carefully calculated plot to systematically destroy Gotham.  When it's all said and done, Bane actually accomplished a lot more of his goals and achieved more success than any villain in the Batman film franchise.  He handily defeats Batman during their first encounter and even breaks The Dark Knight's back, which is an iconic moment taken from 1993's Knightfall storyline, Bane's first appearance.  He also blows up a Gotham Rogues football game killing Gotham's mayor and countless citizens (including pretty much all of the Gotham Rogues and the visiting Rapid City Monuments players except for Hines Ward) and he successfully holds the entire city of Gotham under martial law for five months, a nod to the No Man's Land storyline. 

While Tom Hardy may not win the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award Heath Ledger did, his portrayal of Bane was certainly menacing, effective, and a very worth adversary for Batman in this final installment.  In addition to Bane, Anne Hathaway joins the cast as Selina Kyle.  While Michelle Pfeiffer previously played the role in Batman Returns, Hathaway brings a fresh take to the character.  While elements from the Catwoman character are certainly there, she is never actually referred to as such in Rises.  Halle Berry also portrayed Catwoman in the 2004 film of the same name, a DC movie that was actually worse than Batman & Robin.  While Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal played Bruce Wayne's love interest, Rachel Dawes, in Begins and The Dark Knight respectively, Rises boasts the best female cast of the trilogy with Hathaway and Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul, whose true identity is not revealed until end of the film, similarly to her father's at the end of Batman Begins.

The supporting cast are all at the top of their respective games as well.  Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman deliver as Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox and Michael Caine delivers a moving performance as Alfred, Bruce's butler, who has essentially serves as his father figure since his parents' murder.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was also very good as a Nolan original character, John Blake, who certainly has a nod to Batman's sidekick Robin as well.  Although we see Blake inherit the Batcave and all of Batman's tools at the end of the movie, I doubt we will see any further spin-offs with this universe as Rises has a conclusive, fitting, and solid ending.

When Christopher Nolan announced that The Dark Knight Rises would be the end of his trilogy, there was much speculation as to whether he would go so far as to kill off Batman.  One of the early promotional posters even had the tagline, "THE LEGEND ENDS" with Bane seen walking away from a broken Batman mask and previews showed Selina Kyle telling Batman to leave and that he doesn't owe the people of Gotham anymore and that he's given them everything to which he responds, "Not everything.  Not yet."

The penultimate scene of the film shows Batman seemingly sacrificing himself by flying Bane's and Talia's bomb away from the city where it detonates and presumably kills Batman.  He is later revealed to have survived as Alfred sees him and Selina at a cafe in Italy, mirroring a fantasy Alfred previously said he had. 

When you look at great movies, especially great trilogies, I would say ending of The Dark Knight Rises puts the pieces together and ties up the trilogy masterfully.  The original Star Wars movies, The Lord Of The Rings, and The Godfather are all regarded as the best trilogies ever, but Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy tops them all.  While you may not necessarily agree with that strong of an assessment, The Dark Knight Trilogy is certainly among the tops as far as comic book trilogies are concerned.  Nolan, Bale, and company will be missed on screen as this legendary franchise hangs up its cape and cowl, just at Bruce Wayne does at the end of the saga but much like Batman himself, the legend of this trilogy will become immortal.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Notes on Tonight's Game

-Matt Duchene will not play tonight, but may return Sunday in Winnipeg.  He has been upgraded to day-to-day.
-Peter Mueller will not play tonight, but the Avs say that his injury is a torso injury and not related at all to his concussion history.  Very good news that it's not concussion-related.  It's to be expected that Mueller may get banged up a bit after missing a year and a half of game action. 
-T.J. Galiardi is out 7-10 days with a torso injury as well.  He has been placed on IR and Mark Olver has been called-up and will skate on a line with O'Reilly and Landeskog tonight.  Landeskog will move to the right wing and Olver will be on Factor's left side.
-Jean-Sebastien Giguere is day-to-day with a groin injury.  He was not placed on IR, but will not suit up tonight.
-Cedrick Desjardins has been called-up to backup Semyon Varlamov.  Here is a look at his new Avalanche mask.
-Tyson Barrie has been sent back down to Lake Erie to make room for Desjardins.  He and Elliott will both be back.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Varly vs. Chambers and other goalie thoughts

Mike Chambers

On Monday, the Avs suffered a 6-1 loss at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes.  Afterward, Denver Post writer Mike Chambers wrote a piece about how he asked Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov for a quick interview and Varlamov waived him off and "rudely declined."  Let me first start off by saying, I have tremendous respect for both Varly and Mike Chambers.  I've played goalie for the past 10 years, albeit not in the NHL and obviously, I've written about the Avalanche, but never with a platform as large as the Denver Post.  I've been in Varly's and Chambers' shoes, but of course on a much, much smaller scale.

Chambers stated that Varly acted unprofessionally and that he should "act like a pro hockey player."  Sure, it is Chambers' job to get post-game interviews from the players, but goalies are different animals.  Goaltending is as mental of a position as any in professional sports, right up there with NFL quarterbacks and MLB pitchers.  I've had games in rec leagues where I've been lit up and I didn't want to talk to my teammates, friends, or anyone afterward.  I just wanted to forget about it.  I can only imagine that feeling is exponentially magnified at the NHL level with the media, fans, and the world watching.  Patrick Roy was infamous for not making himself available to the media during game days.  Now Varly has certainly not earned himself the passes that Patrick Roy got, not even close.  If Varly went into Joe Sacco's office and trashed it, I don't think that would end well for Semyon.  With all that said, I do think Varly and every NHL goalie is entitled to a pass every now and then.  Every goaltender who's ever strapped on the pads has had those games where seemingly everything goes in and all you want to do is forget about it.  Milan Hejduk wears the "C" and should be available for a quote.  Chuck Kobasew netted the Avs' only goal that afternoon and I'm sure he would have liked to have been asked about that, but a goalie who just allowed 6 in a loss, probably isn't going to give you any profound insight as to why.  Perhaps Chambers was fishing for an entertaining quote.  If so, Varly's fellow countryman, Flyers goalie and 24/7 star Ilya Bryzgalov might be the right guy.

Much like the Avs team as a whole this season, Semyon Varlamov has been very streaky.  Unfortunately for him, he is coming off two consecutive losses in which he allowed 10 combined goals.  Fortunately for the Avs however, veteran goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been the model of consistency this season.  Now I am not a fan of the term "goalie controversy."  It has become as overused and cliche as "must-win" and "it is what it is" (thanks Todd, for that one).  Giguere's numbers and wins have earned him more starts.  There's no question about that.  However, in my mind, nothing has changed.  Varlamov is still the future of the Avs' goaltending and Giguere is the mentor goalie, who also happens to be a wily veteran who still has some gas left in the tank.  It has never been a question of talent for Varly.  He has the excellent quickness, flexibility, and reflexes and can be a #1 goalie in the NHL.  At just 23, give him time to develop mentally, and he can get there.  Even Giguere the other day, said he doesn't understand why a lot of teams, including the Avs, do not employ a full-time goalie coach.  Coach Joe Sacco said that he feels it might be "overbearing" for the goalies to have a full-time guy there, but I don't see Sacco or assistant coaches Sylvain Lefebvre or Adam Deadmarsh taking days or weeks off so as to not make it overbearing on the 20+ skaters on the team.  I fully agree with Jiggy on this one, every NHL team would be wise to employ a full-time goaltending coach.  I mentioned quarterbacks and pitchers earlier.  There are full-time quarterbacks coaches and full-time pitching coaches, why not full-time goalie coaches as the standard?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

At The Half...

The Colorado Avalanche have played exactly half of their regular season games of the 2011-2012 season.  After 41, the Avs are 22-18-1 with a total of 45 points.  They are tied for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West (although LA currently holds the tiebreaker as they've played 1 fewer game).  How has the first half of the season been?  Overall, not bad.  The season opened with a disappointing loss to the rival Detroit Red Wings on Peter Forsberg night, but then the Avs proceeded to go on a tear on the road, sweeping a 5-game road trip and winning 6 of their first 7 road games overall.  Unfortunately during this period, the Avs could not win at home.  In fact, they did not pick up their first home win until October 30th against the Kings.  They won only 4 times in their first 13 home games.  However, after that, they won a franchise record 8 consecutive home games in a row.  However, during that time, they dropped 8 consecutive on the road.  Needless to say, this young Avalanche club has been a streaky one.  They enter 2012 and the 2nd half of their season on a pretty good roll though.  They've won 9 of the last 11, which included wins on both home and road ice.  While long road/home winning streaks are certainly nice, the Avs will never be much better than a .500 team if they are losing the other games.  Winning with consistency at home AND on the road is the key to this team staying in playoff contention.

In November, when the Avs were struggling mightily, Avs Nation was vehemently calling for #firesacco.  In fact, the Blues, Ducks, Hurricanes, Canadiens, Kings, and Capitals have all replaced their coaches so far this season.  That's exactly 1/5 of the NHL coaches who started the season and who are now no longer with that club.  However, Joe Sacco managed to weather the storm and since the Avs have been on a 9-2 run, the rumblings for his job have died down.  As this is the final year of his current contract, his long-term future with the team is certainly not guaranteed, but unless the Avs take a nosedive during the 2nd half of the season like last year, Sacco will most likely finish the year behind the Avs bench.  Despite the Avs success of late, I disagree with some of the recent coaching decisions made by Sacco.  First and foremost, during the Avs' 8-game home winning streak, he kept the same lineup game in and game out, to almost a superstitious point.  Kyle Quincey, the Avs leading scorer amongst defensemen was injured during 2 games, but kept out of the lineup as a healthy scratch because Sacco didn't want to disrupt the winning lineup.  Matt Hunwick, Quincey's replacement, wasn't terrible, but he only has 1 assist, and is minus-1 in 10 games this season.  Hardly a reason to keep him rolling.  He also started Jean-Sebastien Giguere for 5 consecutive games.  Now don't get me wrong, Jiggy was playing great hockey, but he's your #2 goalie and hasn't started more than 26 games in each of the last 3 seasons.  In the 5th game, Jiggy looked tired in the 4-1 loss to the Jets.  I think it's important to keep Varly rolling to keep the young goalie's confidence up. 

Over the first half of the season, I think it's apparent that the Avs' goaltending is much-improved.  The speculation in late June was that the Avs were going to sign veteran all-star Tomas Vokoun to be their short-term #1.  Instead, the Avs made a bold trade with Washington to acquire the promising but unproven Semyon Varlamov and signed veteran and former Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner, Jean-Sebastien Giguere to be the team's backup.  Aside from perhaps former Av, Brian Elliott, Giguere has had the best season of any backup in the NHL, playing his best hockey since his Anaheim days.  By the way, very classy of the Ducks organization and fans to pay him tribute the other night in his first game back at Honda Center.  I bet we'll see his #35 hanging in the rafters there when he calls it a career.  When he signed here, he knew that his role would be a different one than he's ever had in his career before.  In Anaheim and Toronto, he was supposed to be the starter, but here, one of his primary purposes is to mentor Semyon Varlamov.  Jiggy actually does have a history of being a mentor to younger goalies with Bryzgalov and Hiller in Anaheim and Gustavsson and Reimer in Toronto.  Varly, although his numbers have not been as consistent as Giguere's, has also been good.  He's certainly shown flashes of brilliance and potential which is why I'm sure Greg Sherman and Joe Sakic made the trade for him.  Monday's 2-1 shootout win in LA was probably his best Avalanche performance to date.  At only 23-years-old, Varlamov has all the raw talent needed, he just needs to get the confidence and consistency to be a long-term #1 NHL goalie.  Varlamov is a very quick goalie, perhaps the quickest one the Avs have ever had.  He can move laterally like lightning and is capable of making the unreal, highlight saves.  He robbed a sure goal from the Kings' Jack Johnson the other night.  Varly has also been unstoppable in the shootouts, going 6-0 and stopping 19 of 21 shooters.  Ironically, during his post-game interview, he said he doesn't like shootouts.  I'm guessing the shooters he's faced this season, like them even less!  J-S Giguere has a much different style than Varlamov.  Although they're both about the same size, Jiggy relies a lot less on reflexes and quickness and much more on good, solid positioning.  Giguere has always played a positional style, but it's even more pronounced now that he's in his mid 30s and doesn't have the quickness he did 10 years ago.  I hope that Giguere and goaltending consultant Kirk McLean help Varlamov to become more of a solid positional goalie as this will certainly help him in the long-term in addition to his assets of quickness and flexibility.

The Avs' MVP to this point has unquestionably been Ryan O'Reilly.  "Factor" impressively made the team right out of the 2009 draft and was a very good defensive center his first 2 seasons.  This season however, his offensive game has really blossomed and he has become one of the top two-way centers in the game.  With Matt Duchene out with a knee injury, O'Reilly certainly should be selected to represent the Avs in Ottawa for the All-Star Game.  In half a season, he has already eclipsed his career high in points, and has been valuable on the penalty kill and power play.  He has also scored some big, clutch goals including the Avs' lone regulation goal late in the 3rd to send the game to overtime the other night.  If Factor keeps it up, not only should he be an all-star, he should get some serious consideration for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league's best two-way forward.  Currently, O'Reilly has 55 takeaways, which is 1 more than 3-time Selke winner Pavel Datsyuk.  Here's a very good article on O'Reilly from today's Denver Post by Mike Chambers.

While O'Reilly may be the Avs best player to this point, fellow 3rd year player, Matt Duchene is the most talented.  Unfortunately, Duchene is currently on IR with a knee injury and is out until at least late January.  Duchene's talent has never been a question.  His puck control is reminiscent of Peter Forsberg, his speed with the puck is uncanny, and he can score big, highlight reel goals.  He had the big OT winner against Tampa Bay, and his goal against all-star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is hands down one of the best of the year.
Aside from his talent that made him a #3 overall pick, Duchene's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness.  He is a very emotional player and person, which can be both a blessing and a curse.  When things are going well, Duchene can feed off of the emotion to propel him to further success, but when the team is losing or when he's not producing on the scoresheet, he can get down on himself.  Joe Sakic was the best I've ever seen at remaining even keel through both good times and bad.  Current captain Milan Hejduk is of the same mold as well.  The fact that Duchene is not doesn't make him a bad player or a bad person, it's just the way he is.  Guys like Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, and Adam Foote were emotional players and that didn't hamper their success.  However, this time on IR away from hockey and the team will certainly be a trying one for the youngster, but I have no doubt he'll be able to have great success this season when he returns.

The most maligned players this season have been Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson.  While neither player has achieved the all-star caliber success expected of them, neither player has been particularly bad.  People have called for them to be traded or benched and I think either of those cases would be a bit drastic.  First off, you don't want to trade a player when they're under performing.  You want to trade a player when he's at the top of his game so that you can get the most in return.  Stastny has been selected to 2 all-star games and has been a near point-per-game player throughout his career.  Certainly he can turn things around and play the game that earned him the 2 all-star nods and the assistant captain's "A" he wears on a nightly basis.  EJ is still only 23.  Give him time to develop into a full-fledged NHL defenseman.  If he hasn't progressed in a year or two from now, then maybe it's time to put the future of the Avs' defense elsewhere, but for now, EJ is the guy.

Gabriel Landeskog has been everything the Avs could have hoped for from their #2 overall pick.  Like O'Reilly, this kid does it all.  He's on the PP, PK, and is obviously very strong at both ends of the ice.  He leads the team in shots and hits and is only going to get bigger, stronger, and more confident.  #92 is the real deal.

Certainly a lot can happen over the next 41 games and the Avs resiliency will be further tested as long as Matt Duchene is out of the lineup, but this young team has talent, character, and emerging stars and leaders that should propel the Avs into playoff contention and hopefully further!  Here's to a good 2nd half and a great 2012!  #GOAVSGO

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mid-Season TV Lineup

2012 is upon us.  With the new year of course, means new mid-season TV shows!  Here are the ones I'll be watching:

Let's start with new network shows.  On Monday, 1/16, J.J. Abrams will debut his latest project, Alcatraz.  The Fox series will be about the infamous titular prison and will star former Lost alum, Jorge Garcia (Hurley).  It seems to have a sci-fi element as the plot revolves around former Alcatraz inmates who went missing decades ago and are now turning up in present day.  Abrams' first post-Lost endeavor, Undercovers, was short-lived, but his second, Person of Interest has been a hit thus far.  Alcatraz is definitely worth a shot.

Also on Mondays on Fox will be Touch, from Heroes creator, Tim Ring.  The series will star Kiefer Sutherland, who was last seen on Fox as Jack Bauer, one of the greatest TV characters ever.  Sutherland will reprise his role as Bauer...just kidding, but how sick would that be?  Sutherland will actually play Martin Bohm, a man whose wife was killed in 9/11 and whose son has autism and does not speak, but is also able to see into the future.  The show will co-star Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was the female lead in the aforementioned Undercovers, and veteran actor Danny Glover.  Also, definitely a must-watch.  The show will have a preview episode on Wednesday, 1/25, but will begin its official run on Monday, 3/19.

On Tuesday, 3/6, the Fox sitcom, Breaking In will return.  The show stars Bret Harrison, Odette Annable, and Christian Slater, and is only the second show behind Family Guy to return from cancellation twice.

On Thursday, 1/12, Rob will debut, starring Rob Schneider.  Back in 1996, Schneider had a funny, but short-lived sitcom called Men Behaving Badly.  Anyone remember that one?  The new series, Rob, will be a semi-autobiographical endeavor, with Schneider playing a man who marries into a Mexican-American family.  The show will air on CBS.

One that's a may or may not watch for me is Missing.  The show stars Ashley Judd in her first starring TV role (unless you count Sisters in the early 90s), as a former CIA agent who tries to track down her missing son.  Taken, with Liam Neeson was a good movie, but a lot of its appeal was that it was a very fast-paced film.  Time will tell if Judd can take a similar plot, stretch it out over an entire TV run and keep it interesting.  Thursdays are also pretty full with Person of Interest, Rob, the returning 30 Rock, and Up All Night on its new day, which might work against Missing.  We'll see.  I have a feeling Heidi might want to try the Ashley Judd show.

Over on basic cable, FX will begin the third season of its show Justified on Tuesday, 1/17.  Another reason I'm glad DirecTV and Fox resolved their stupid dispute!

Now on to the money shows, i.e. the shows you have to pay for because they're on premium channels.  The most anticipated new show is House of Lies on Showtime which premiers this Sunday, 1/8.  The 30 minute comedy stars one of the best actors of our generation and Colorado native, Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell as cutthroat management consultants.

The much anticipated new season of Spartacus, titled Spartacus: Vengeance will premiere on Friday, 1/27.  The second season of the Starz hit epic show (third if you count the prequel series, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) has sadly been delayed due to the cancer and passing of former star Andy Whitfield.  Before his death, he graciously gave his blessing for Starz to continue to show without him and Liam McIntyre inherited the title role.  This has been Starz only show to make it past a first season and is keeping Starz original programming credibility alive.  I did however, really like Camelot and thought it deserved to be renewed.

HBO's highly acclaimed epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones, was renewed however, and will begin its second season in April.

Mid-Season Lineup:

House of Lies, Showtime - 1/8
Game of Thrones, HBO - TBD, April

Alcatraz, Fox - 1/16
Touch, Fox - (1/25), 3/19

Justified, FX - 1/17
Breaking In, Fox - 3/6

30 Rock, NBC - 1/12
Rob, CBS - 1/12
Missing, ABC - 3/15*

Spartacus: Vengeance, Starz - 1/27