The Top Shelf: Back to Work

The Kids Table at the TPL Holiday Feast

How does this thing work again???:: After gorging ourselves on the finest food and consuming all of the best top shelf adult beverage offerings, we’ve finally pried ourselves off the leather and cherry-wood couches and are ready to get back to work here at TPL. Apologies for the lack of posting around the St. Louis win earlier this week, but all of us were still in the midst of our long winter’s nap. That said, a big thanks goes out to @stevieroxelle for holding down the fort and kicking ass while Petrella, Disch and myself were busying ourselves with all of the fun and excitement that comes with this time of year. Don’t worry: there will be plenty more of Stevie in the future, so turn those frowns upside down.

The Sak Attack:: With the Wings getting a rare day off, the big news out of our friends at the MSM was the return of Jan Mursak to the Grand Rapids Griffins for a conditioning stint now that his broken ankle has healed. From Khan(!):

Mursak said Tuesday that he expected to play tonight in Lake Erie. He has been out since Sept. 25 with a broken left ankle.

He anticipated playing between 4-6 games with the Griffins but could be brought back to Detroit sooner if the Red Wings have another injury and need him.

While it’s good to see Mursak getting himself in shape to make the jump back up to the Wings, the timing of his return will eventually force some lineup shuffling from Ken Holland and Mike Babcock. While Patrick Eaves remains sidelined with a fractured jaw, Chris Conner – impressive in his time with the Wings – is likely to return to the lineup in early January, and Tomas Holmstrom should work his way back into the rotation before long as well. This, of course, assumes there are no additional injuries, but one would assume that Holland and Co. would look to get Mursak in the lineup at the expense of Conner and then rotate guys in the Leino Lounge. At any rate, good to hear that #39 is on his way back and we can only hope he’ll be ready to get down to business when his number is called.

Take Care Champ:: Sad news yesterday as the Wings lost a legend and a leader (B1G pun intended) as four-time Stanley Cup Champion player/coach Johnny Wilson passed away. From the official release:

The Detroit Red Wings mourn the loss of former player and coach Johnny Wilson who passed away this morning at the age of 82 following an extended battle with lung disease.   Wilson skated in 379 games over six seasons for the Red Wings, and was a member of four Stanley Cup championship teams as a player forDetroit (1950, ’52, ’54 and ’55).  Johnny registered 79 goals, 100 assists and 179 points in 379 regular-season games for Detroit. In 50 post-season games with the Wings,Wilson tallied 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points.

A native of Kincardine, Ontario, Wilson served as the Red Wings Head Coach for 145 games in 1971-73 and 1972-73 (67-56-22).  He also served behind the bench with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Colorado of the NHL and Cleveland, Michigan and Baltimore of the WHA.

One of the best things about being a fan of the Wings is the appreciation the entire organization has for their history and heritage, and it’s great to see them acknowledge the success of a man who is often overlooked in the history books. Godspeed Johnny Wilson. Smile warmly upon the Wings.

Fire Up the Rumor Mill:: Nope, not Eklund. This time it’s ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who says the Wings are in the mix to pursue the up-and-down Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers:

Another club that could come calling on Hemsky is Detroit. The Red Wings have cap space and will be an aggressive team come the trade deadline. They’ll look at all kinds of options but I believe Hemsky will be among the names on their shopping list.

While LeBrun is just getting the train rolling on this one, our good buddy George Malik has been all over this and isn’t sure that Hemsky is the ideal target for the Wings:

I’m not so sure that the Wings are interested in another finesse player, but that’s just me.

If you’re one for predictions, even from a legitimate journalist, Matheson doesn’t believe that Nicklas Lidstrom has a chance in hell of winning the Norris Trophy this year, either, so take that with some salt, and I will say this about Matheson and Wings-related rumors, lest you have visions of a top-ten scorer for a seventh-round draft pick dancing in your head: when Matheson was really “on” regarding the Wings and free agents or re-signings, it involved Ken Holland’s dealings with Edmonton-based agent Rich Winter.

Guess which agent happens to represent #83? We might be talking about a case of a familiar source dangling suitable destinations for his client in front of a hockey writer willing to indulge the agent’s GM-baiting for an easy story’s worth of salaciousness.

While I tend to agree with George on this one in that Hemsky isn’t exactly what the Wings need, his case is an interesting one in that Detroit runs the risk of losing a Cory Emmerton or Jan Mursak trying to pass them through waivers once the roster is fully healthy, and Ken Holland may decide it makes more sense to get something in the short term by trading for a rental player like Hemsky and then filling the void next season with the young talent steadily climbing up the ladder in Grand Rapids. One thing is for sure: the Wings have money to spend, but where they choose to spend it is anyone’s guess. With rumors circulating that bigger trades will happen well before the deadline this year, one would think that the stage is set for the Wings will do some soul-searching and potentially walk away with a new player, but with Kenny you just never know.

And Finally…:: Joakim Andersson heads into uncharted waters in Detroit hockey history. Remember Danny Dekeyser? He’s all the rage right now. @commie22 has usurped Jakub Kindl’s role. Can it last? Finland dropped the US at the World Junior Championship. I hope my professional colleagues are out celebrating.

Weekend Top Shelf

This morning, the team announced that Fabian Brunnstrom has been assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Perhaps impressed with Chris Conner’s hustle in Friday night’s game in Buffalo and realizing that Bruno is no closer to cracking the lineup that he has been all season, the Wings decided it’d be best if he got to play some real minutes on the farm. He will be available tonight against the Chicago Wolves. With Conner’s recall to the Wings, the Griffins will be without their leading scorer for at least the duration of Detroit’s current road trip. Louis-Marc Aubry was promoted to the top line with Jamie Johnson and Goose Nyquist and had the first three-point night of his professional career last night. One would assume that Brunnstrom will occupy the other wing on the top line. Brunnstrom’s wife, Sandy, gave birth to their first child, Alexander, on Friday.

It’ll be like old times on Sunday, as the Wings take on the Avalanche in Denver. Following Friday’s unfortunate passing of Ken Daniels’ 96-year-old father, Marvin, Mr. Daniels will head to Toronto to begin making arrangements for his family. Former Red Wings play-by-play man and current NHL on NBC/Versus announcer Dave Strader will be calling Sunday’s game, reminding us what it’s like to be six years old again. Except, hopefully, Glen Hanlon isn’t in net for Detroit.

Photo Credit: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

The Top Shelf: Hockey As An Art Form

One man's art...Another man's mess...

Vladinating the Canvas:: It seems like once or twice a year we get an update about our old friend Vladimir Konstantinov and his long journey to recover from the Day That Shall Not Be Mentioned. For me, it’s still tough to see a guy like Vladdy in the shape that he is in, and I always wonder how difficult it must be to walk in his shoes and live a life when so much was taken away. There’s no denying the guy has guts, though, and he’s off on a new endeavor now: painting. And the works of #16 are going to be on display on November 17th:

The show, called Animals and Inspirations, will be at Gallery U & Boutique in Royal Oak on November 17, 2011 from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm.  (To find out more about Gallery U & Boutique and the incredible work they do, please read Gallery U: Art and Inspiration).  Vlady and his family will be in attendance.  Vlady has personally signed and hand framed his pieces and anyone who makes a purchase will be able to have their picture taken with Vlady and the art.  “We are very excited for Vlady the artist” said Barb Hill, Vocational Director for Therapeutic Rehab Centers, “We are hoping that this show will go very well and that he will continue to do shows in the future.”

There’s a couple examples of his works at the link before the quote, and – as a person who can’t draw a stick figure well – they are pretty darn good. Personally, I like the penguin, although I think Vladdy should have painted himself in there crushing it into the glass. I would have dropped fat stacks for that one.

The Art of Negotiating:: Apparently Columbus doesn’t have it, since the people’s choice to replace Scott Arniel behind the bench – Ken Hitchcock – up and left to take the reigns in St. Louis. As much as it’s fun to ridicule Hitch, he’s a guy who has always had the respect of Uncle Mike and therefore is someone you don’t necessarily want to see six times a year in divisional play. For the Blues, it’s a bit of a radical change in that they’ve gone from a disciplinarian like Andy Murray to the “player’s coach” in Davis Payne to a guy that demands respect and order in Hitchcock. It will be interesting to see how the Blues players respond to the new bench boss, but if they do take well to Hitch, there’s a good chance they will put up some points and make some noise in the division. As for the Blue Jackets, well, PD hits it on the head:

As for the Blue Jackets … well, the assumption was that Hitchcock would slide in behind the bench with one more year on his contract with the team. Scott Arniel remains the coach, and doesn’t have any meetings with Jackets brass scheduled. As he told Puck-Rakers: “I’ll keep showing up until somebody tells me I’m not supposed to.”

Other than his contract, there never seemed to be a compelling reason for Hitchcock to take over the disaster that are the 2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets. So he didn’t.

If Arniel makes it out of November, he’s got the brass by the balls with some incriminating photos or something.

Starving Artists:: As in “starving” here at TPL. We are still on the hunt for some ideas for new shirts for the TPL store, but the inbox isn’t exactly filling up with ideas. Maybe it’s because you have as much artistic talent as I do and can’t even color in the lines, but we’re sure there are ideas out there and we want to hear from you. So much so, that we’ve actually enlisted the help of our very own Stevie (who’s just now finding out about this…) to help you sketch out ideas to put on a shirt. Seriously. If you have something funny or catchy that you think would make a good shirt, just send us a mail and we’ll put Stevie on a plane out to draw for you. Wait, no. We’ll have Stevie e-mail you and work to make your Picasso come to life. If your shirt makes it on to the site store, we’ll even give you one for free. Make it happen peeps.

And Finally… :: Bert and Huds are sick (no more making out) and won’t play tonight against Colorado. Meanwhile, Commie dreams of (and apparently practices) playing right wing with Twitter buddy Cory Emmerton. How are they going to Twitpic each other? Despite the six games of suck from his teammates, Jimmah remains hot. Babcock has opted for reverse psychology. Jiri Hudler is still confused. Water is wet.

The Top Shelf: No Wings Hockey? No Problem!

Commodore Cat Wants YOU to Spend!

Buy More Stuff! :: Since you’re currently sitting on a couch/chair/desk reading this post, odds are you’re bored. Bored with watching other teams play while the Wings sleep in. Bored with staring at that report you’re supposed to have on your manager’s desk in 10 minutes. Bored with the same five dollar footlong you’ve picked up from Subway for the last three days. Well friends, nothing cures the boredom like spending some of your hard earned greenbacks, so why not have a thrill this afternoon and pick up some swag from our friends at Underground Printing? The guys at UGP have launched a Detroit focused online store over at MotorCitees, and there’s plenty of excellent Motown apparel that is ripe for the picking. And to help you along, UGP is offering 15% off for the rest of October if you use the promotional code “TPLmotorcitees15” at checkout. Imagine the thrill as you break through the doldrums while picking up a Megatron shirt along the way. Watch your friends gasp in amazement as you swiftly secure a stylish Detroit Cougars shirt. Feeling generous? Outfit that clown in the cube next to you with his very own Shirtuzzi. The possibilities are endless!

Not looking to spend cash? No worries. You can still head on over to MotorCitees Facebook page and show your support for their awesome work.

Speaking of shirts… :: We’re looking to update the offerings over at the TPL Store and we’re looking for your help. If you’ve got an artistic bone in your body, bust out a pen or pencil, sketch something up while you long for Red Wings hockey and send it our way. If we love it, we’ll add it to the store and you’ll get accolades beyond your wildest imagination. And a free shirt of course.

The YouTubez Call :: You may remember us plugging the guys over at “Fake Henrik Zetterberg” a few months ago as they quested to raise $5,000 in order to turn a few web shorts into a real-life online series. Well, they’ve hit their goal and you’ll get to reap the benefits starting on October 26th. If you haven’t seen any of the original episodes, you should. The dude who plays Hank has an uncanny resemblance to the real Hank Z, and they’ve already fooled at least one member of the hockey community into thinking #40 was actually walking the streets of New York in his full hockey getup.

Shufflin’ :: At our weekly board of important peoples meeting at TPL World Headquarters, Petrella, Disch and myself decided that some change was in order with how things are done around here. Namely, TP:60. So after some intense discussion and one too many Pacificos, we’ve decided to change up the format of the show a bit. We’ll be debuting the new format on this week’s show, which should be up sometime on Thursday. I won’t go into specifics about what this means, but the biggest change that you’ll notice is that “The Pipeline” will no longer be a standalone segment, rather, it will be rolled into the larger TP:60 brand. Fear not, it’ll still be the same show you’ve come to expect, just surrounded by the mindless jibber-jabber and drivel of the regular TP:60 program. Of course, we’re always open to feedback, so don’t hesitate to let loose in e-mail, in the comments or on Twitter if you don’t (OR DO!) like the new setup.

And Finally… :: The Chief is back from sailing around the Globe and hits the airwaves on XM Radio, which can only be a good thing. Commodore looks “doubtful” for this weekend, which means Twitter buddy and fellow defenseman Brendan Smith will likely finish his five game suspension while Commie heals up. The Wings hit the town earlier this week to show their appreciation to the fans and did everything from bagging groceries to making pizzas. Then they went and shot guns. Life is tough when the league gives you a week off. Also, Logan Morrison is a giant douche despite being a self proclaimed “good guy.” Uncle Commie comes to the rescue though.

The Top Shelf: Prospecticus Reflecticus and a “Social” Solution

(Ed. note: Sorry for the disappearance. New jobs present challenges. Also, being without a computer presents even bigger blogging challenges. But that’s all taken care of now, so off we march.)

Prospectin! :: Despite falling off the face of the Earth for a few weeks, I did manage to check out a bit of the annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament coverage, which is remarkable given my complete lack of technology for the last week. Despite finishing 7th in the tournament – and failing to break a 13 year streak of not winning the thing – it sounds like the young Wings at least put on a good show. Names of regular mention and growing importance included Gustav Nyquist (who led the young Wings in scoring), Joakim Andersson and Brendan Smith (of course), but it was another player who stole the show in the eyes of The Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau:

Ryan Sproul has set the bar high with his strong performance at the NHL prospects tournament in Traverse City, MI. His big game ability was a key reason for the Red Wings strong finish on Wednesday night. The 6-foot-3, 176 pound defenseman potted two goals and assist to lead Detroit to a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes earning the team a seventh place finish.

“For me personally it’s been a pretty good tournament,” Sproul said. “Obviously for the team it was been tough after losing the first few games, but we turned it around.”

Sproul finished the tournament second behind Gustav Nyquist in team scoring with three goals and four points. The 55th overall pick in this years draft tied for third in scoring among tournament defensemen.

Well then. While it sounds like Sproul has some growing to do over the next couple of years, you won’t find me complaining about the Wings planting the seeds of defensive depth early. Sproul sounds like a very likable kid with some great upside, and he’s got my attention for the upcoming season. He’s also got an open invite for “The Pipeline” (er, get on that Petrella.)

For those who care, the Buffalo Sabres prospects won the tournament, defeating the Rangers prospects.

The Sounds of Social Silence :: It seemed like it was only a matter of time until the NHL decided to put a formal spin on players and social media, and it’s now come to fruition. After working with the NHLPA, the league announced the following steps will be implemented in regards to players and their social communication:

As per the new policy, there is a total “blackout period” on the use of social media on game days, which for players begins two hours prior to opening face-off and is not lifted until players have finished their post-game media obligations. The suggested blackout period for hockey operations staff is even longer, beginning at 11 a.m. on game days.

Also, the new policy makes it clear that players and club personnel will be be held responsible for their social communications in the same manner in which they are held responsible for other forms of public communications. As a result, discipline is possible for any social media statements that have or are designed to have an effect prejudicial to the welfare of the League, the game of hockey or a member club, or are publicly critical of officiating staff.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly calls the plan “sensible”, which I don’t necessarily agree with. For the players, sure, a two hour blackout before the game makes sense, as does the fact that they need to fulfill media obligations after the game before hopping on Twitter and re-engaging with fans and friends. What I don’t understand is the “suggested” blackout for the hockey operations staff. If taken to heart, this would imply that OFFICIAL team twitter accounts have to go silent 8 hours prior to a game, and can’t come back online until the completion of said game. In essence, that’s a prime 12 hour chunk of space where promotions, marketing, fan engagement and potential sales are now offline. Game updates go bye-bye, as do in game promotions and giveaways, which the Wings have used in the past with seemingly successful results. Sure, there is some wiggle room in the fact that this is a “suggested” blackout for staff, but the fact remains that the NHL just doesn’t understand that their fan base demands real-time engagement from the organizations that they support, and turning off all operations related tweets for an entire gameday limits the engagement that those fans would normally have with their team. Fans are going to interact with other fans in real-time, so why limit organizational engagement as well, especially when those tweets or posts are 99% sure to encourage growth and interest in the game, not to mention potentially grow ticket sales and advertising exposure.

Maybe I’m just looking into this a bit too deeply. It’s just surprising that the league would issue such solid guidelines for player use, and then cram a vague suggestion for teams and operations staff right underneath it. Time to dig a bit deeper on this.

UPDATE (1:35 PM EDT): So I sent a tweet to Mike DiLorenzo, manager of social and business communications for the NHL, and asked him to clarify “operations staff” and if the new policy would impact team twitter accounts and marketing operations. His response? “No”. I, for one, feel much better now that I have a clear as mud explanation on what operations staff entails. While much of the above argument now appears to be a moot point, I’m now struggling to see any point in including this operations staff suggestion in this policy, since there’s no clarity around what constitutes an operations staff.

Aren’t you glad there’s a clear and sensible policy in place?

And Finally… :: If you want your brain to go numb, Bleacher Report has offered up three Wings that could be on the trading block this preseason. First, preseason trade = not happening. Second, as much as I and the rest of the staff here want Rig shipped out of town, @RedWingsFeed is right in noting that Big E has this. Research is a good thing. Ian White grabs the golden ring and gets paired with Lidstrom in the preseason. Darren McCarty is now working at a pawn shop, which you cannot deny is fricking hilarious and ironic. Maybe he’ll get his Cup rings back. Todd Bertuzzi is heading to court next fall to hopefully put an end to the ugly issue with Steve Moore. The Wings are preparing for camp with a little golf. With Modano gone, the title of “best golfer” is up for grabs, although Johan Franzen seems to think that belongs to him. Maybe a little more focus on scoring consistency on the ice as opposed to greens-in-regulation, eh Mule? Also, Hank with the preseason playoff beard? I’m taking him to win the golf tourney.

The Top Shelf: Gone Camping

(Ed. note: “The Top Shelf” is our newest attempt at staying relevant in all of the happenings around the hockey interwebz. Why “The Top Shelf”? Because it’s one of those great hockey cliches that also happens to be the only kind of booze we sip here at TPL. While there won’t be a regular posting schedule for it, we’ll be using it as our standard platform for sharing all the happenings we find entertaining or relevant, without blowing out an entire post. Have something you want included? Mail us, fool.)

Salute Your Shorts :: Since it’s Mid-August, that means all the youngsters packed their bags and headed to Brendan Shanahan’s Crazy Camp of Rule Changes and Other Oddities. Back for the second year in a row is the brightly colored goal verification line – this time sporting a shade of lime green as opposed to last year’s yellow – alongside updated ideas like the 3-on-3 overtime and the “Max Pacioretty Memorial” curved glass near the benches. Perhaps most interesting, though, is the return of “icing on the penalty kill” that was decried by every GM in the league, as well as college hockey coaches across the country. Nevertheless, the league continues to sees importance in exploring ways to add value to the powerplay in an attempt to jack up scoring and keep play moving. Wysh over at Puck Daddy presents an interesting counter-point though:

If there’s one thing to know about NHL coaches, it’s that they’re adaptable creatures. Create rules that restrict something, and they’ll find a way around them. Or have you not noticed variations of the trap in 2011?

One theory on penalty kill icing — coaches will simply instruct their killers to ice the puck with regularity.

It’ll give them a breather. It’ll break up the other team’s momentum (and it’s not like the shorthanded team needs to create any of its own, being that they’re in a defensive mode). And as long as your best defensive center is a better face-off man than their best offensive center, there’s a chance your team comes out unscathed.

This would be the hockey’s equivalent to a filibuster in Congress. “I don’t agree with this, so let’s waste everyone’s time until I get my point across.” It would probably be worse than the last two minutes of an NBA game. That said, it’s not the worst idea in the world from a coaching standpoint…if you hate hockey fans and want an arena full of booing.

Meanwhile, Wysh started the Camp Shanahan fun last week with some new proposals to beef up power play scoring, including the “two-minute major” which…yeah:

Welcome to the Atom Bomb.

This is truly the nuclear option for the NHL and its power plays, fundamentally changing minor penalties by having every penalty served in its entirety. Score in the first 15 seconds of a power play? Congrats, sirs; now you’ve got 1:45 to score a few more.

It’s the hockey equivalent of those air-blown money grabbing machines.

It’s also a throwback to when power plays were really dangerous: Back in the 1950s, when the penalties were served in full and the Montreal Canadiens were scoring so often with their Hall of Fame unit that goal judges would just keep the goal lamp lit for two minutes.

Wysh goes on to talk about how this could be beneficial with penalty calls being on the decline over the past few years, but it was his reference to a quote from’s Michael Farber that really got me thinking critically:

“Maybe it further discourages penalties and increases the amount of five-on-five play, worth considering given the special-teams fests now on display many nights.”

This is stupid. I understand the “more goals = more entertainment value” argument, but I also know that there’s nothing worse to the casual fan than flipping through the channels and stumbling onto an 8-1 blowout. And while Farber’s point may be somewhat outdated with the recent drop in called penalties, his point about not wanting to see a special teams fest still holds true, which is exactly what you open the doors to if this rule were to take effect. Sure, teams would likely even the “penalties called” ratio over the course of a game in terms of 5-on-4 play, but can you imagine a 90 second 5-on-3 that has to be served in its entirety? The game could be over in those 90 seconds. Sure, you get your scoring, but at what cost to the fans that potentially have to suffer through a game that was ended by the whistle of the referee? And can you imagine the outrage if the call that put the team on the 5-on-3 advantage was of the borderline variety? No thank you.

I Went to the Fights and a Hockey Game Broke Out :: There’s been plenty of chatter this week about the New York Islanders scheduling a viewing party tonight to coincide with MSG re-airing the brawl filled attempt at a hockey game last February 11th (greatest day of the year, BTW) against the Penguins, but Stu Hackel over at reports that the party has taken a turn toward “tame”: has learned that the party will go on, but the Islanders and MSG Network have agreed to switch the game to a victory over the Sabres in which Michael Grabner’s hat trick goal was the winner.

The Feb. 11 game, which featured 15 fighting majors, 14 game misconducts and 346 minutes in penalties, resulted in two Islanders receiving suspensions and the team being fined $100,000. It was a post-lockout lowpoint for the NHL. The Penguins, and most people  around hockey, consider it an embarrassment  (Penguins owner Mario Lemieux called the game “embarassing” and “unacceptable.”) With Zdeno Chara’s vicious hit on Max Pacioretty a few weeks later, it ranks as one of last season’s worst incidents. While the concept of celebrating it was admired in some places, others reacted negatively, ranging from mild rebuke to near-apoplectic outrage.

“We do not approve of the use, based on what we know,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Kevin Allen of USA Today.

Frankly, it’s disappointing to see the Islanders and MSG pull back the reigns on this. Sure, the game will long be remembered for Trevor Gillies cheapshot punch-up of Eric Tangradi, but taking the game off the air is nothing more than caving to a league that’s incredibly sensitive about the image it projects to prospective and casual fans. Meanwhile, Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux regularly stage book signings and promotional tours based on the bad blood of a rivalry over a decade old, and if the Wings decided to host a viewing party for “The Brawl In Hockeytown” I hardly expect there would be a peep out of the league protesting it. Instead of allowing a suffering fanbase the chance to rally around a defiant moment in franchise history, everybody in Long Island can now get drunk while watching Michael Grabner notch a hat trick in a largely meaningless game. In a way, it’s fitting for the Islanders. Personally? I’d rather watch Brent Johnson drop Rick DiPietro with one punch again. Way more entertaining, right Rick?

On second thought, I’d rather watch the ice babe take down DiPi. Better step up your game this year Brent.

Why go to the park and fly a kite, when you can just pop a pill? :: Seinfeld references aside, friend of the blog Justin Bourne has a very serious and well-written piece over at Puck Daddy on the culture of prescription pill use in hockey, and if you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you get on that:

I sat in my hospital bed the night before and had the chance to speak with (OK, mumble at) my girlfriend on the phone after the accident, at what really should have been my lowest of low points. There was a chance I might look different, my hockey season was likely over (and having turned 26 the day the puck hit my face, I didn’t have many years to play around with), and my jaw would have to be clamped shut for nearly two months.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I would never play another shift of pro hockey again.

Instead, I was PUMPED when I talked to her, because apparently morphine is a hell of a drug (to steal a line from Rick James). I was going to catch up on my reading and get box sets of TV shows on DVD and watch ’em all and make awesome smoothies with berries and ice cream and peanut butter and have more time to hang out with her and … and … and then it would start to wear off.

Another hit, and more excitement coursed through my veins. Maybe I’ll start a blog!

That that stuff can warp your mind in that way is incredible. And scary.

I’m completely comfortable saying that I was morphine and drug free when I decided to start blogging, but I can’t speak for Disch and Petrella. I assume they were on something good when they asked me to come over and start writing here. At any rate, Petrella’s got a follow-up to Bourne’s piece on the site this morning, and, again, I  suggest that you give it a look. It’s a very serious subject among athletes everywhere, and increased awareness and support can only be a good thing.

Somebody likes us. Or feels bad for us. :: Apparently, TPL has been nominated as one of the “Most Valuable Blogs” as part of CBS Detroit’s “2011 Most Valuable Blogger” competition. If you nominated us and are reading this right now: Thanks. If you didn’t nominate us and are still reading this, click the shiny button below and go throw a vote of confidence in our corner.

The good news for you is that we won’t be asking you to incessantly click on the voting button – see “Operation: Curly Fries” – since there’s only one vote per day. The bad news is this means Malik is probably steamrolling us, looking back over his shoulder, and then putting it in reverse to roll us again. Love you buddy.

Meanwhile, my Mom is in full campaign mode on Facebook (so says the fiance), so don’t let her down. Otherwise, her and the rest of the TPL Moms will guilt-trip you just like your mothers did all through your formative years.

And finally… :: Howe and Yzerman are in NHL 12 as “Legends.” I still can’t wrap my head around the video of Yzerman in a Bolts jersey next to Stamkos, but “The Dark Knight” soundtrack-type music is sweet and you better believe “Pegi 16” is going to get some kind of play on the site this year. The Wings national TV schedule is out, which means Petrella’s due for a “Wings Wings Tuesday” post. Oh wait, there it is. The Grand Rapids Griffins are also going to play some hockey this year. Steve Kampfer (GO BLUE!) is bringing the Stanley Cup to Ann Arbor next Thursday. Feel free to drop it off at JLA, Steve.