– The NHL has suspended Sharks’ F Joe Thornton two games for his hit on Blues’ F David Perron. Thornton’s agent and brother John Thornton intends on talking to the NHLPA about possibly appealing since Campbell did not conduct the hearing, but it’s unlikely the decision will be overturned. Thornton who was originally assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit that occurred in the second period. “I felt like I established myself on the ice. I just braced myself for the hit. He just ran into me, to be honest with you.”
– Canadiens’ prospect F Max Pacioretty is under the spotlight in Montreal these days, and he hasn’t even played a game with the NHL club this season. The 2007 1st-round pick told TSN’s sister station in Quebec RDS and local sports radio station the Team 990 this week that if he can’t be a top six forward in Montreal, he would rather be one with the team’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton this season.
“I just don’t see the need, for my development, to play the bottom two lines in the NHL because ultimately I feel I’m going be a top six forward. That’s what I want to be. I’ve experienced the bottom two lines in Montreal and it’s obviously not what’s going to develop me into the player I want to be.”
Pacioretty, who was in town Friday as the Hamilton Bulldogs played the Binghamton Senators at the Bell Centre, also drew comparisons on his development between current head coach Jacques Martin and former head coach Guy Carbonneau.
“I was in the doghouse every time I made a mistake and that’s what got me sent down and turned my confidence to the negative side. When I was first called up with Carbo as the coach, he gave me all the confidence in the world. Put me in situations to succeed and at times I did and if I didn’t he didn’t punish me. Regained my confidence by him telling me I’m playing well and he’d still give me a fair amount of minutes.
“He did a good job with that and that let me be ready for the next season. But last year I kinda struggled because it was a different situation for me.”
Pacioretty played 34 games with the Canadiens under Carbonneau in 2008-2009, scoring three goals and 11 points. In 52 games last season under Martin, he tallied three goals in 14 points.
The former Michigan Wolverine finished the 2009-10 campaign in Hamilton and was an early cut from Canadiens camp this fall. He has three goals and 12 points in 10 games with the Bulldogs this season.
“I’ve never felt better in my life about my game right now. They let me play the hockey game I’ve played my whole life and that’s what has made me successful, and that’s what’s going to make me successful. That’s what gives me confidence instead of having a bad shift, getting sat, or maybe going down on the fourth line – I’ve never felt that that’s the way to build me up as a player. That’s kinda why last year, as the season went on every day, my confidence went down a little bit. To tell you the truth I think I even got worse at hockey. We’re gaining it all back right now, and if not we’ve made steps much further.”
– According to TSN’s Darren Dregger, the NHL plans to discuss many things at the next GM’s meeting (Tuesday) in Toronto. Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon will propose a “coach’s challenge,” similar to what the NFL has. A full review of how the new blindside head-hit rule is working will draw attention. Hockey Operations is believed to be preparing a video for the managers which will include examples of head hits this season, as well as examples of behavioural changes that show how the rule change may be making a real on-ice difference.
Also expected to be a key agenda item are: supplemental discipline, the process, the gamesmanship some GMs use to defend their player or encourage discipline against opposing players.
Confrontation in pre-game warmups will also be discussed, where they will try and find a way to better police these confrontations. Currently, the NHL doesn’t have a game-by-game pre-game monitoring system, whereby either the assigned on-ice or off-ice officials strictly watch warm-up. The possibility of an automatic suspension for any physical contact in the pre-game warmup is likely to be discussed.
Along this theme, the role of NHL agitators and the trash talking and taunting that some use to bait their opposition will also generate discussion next week. Also, Hockey Ops is expected to open the floor for a review of the Research and Development camp that the National Hockey league hosted in Toronto in August. Interest in future Research and Development camps is also expected to be on Tuesday’s agenda.
– ESPN’s Ed Werder reports that Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf very nearly fired coach Brad Childress after Childress decided on his own to waive WR Randy Moss earlier this week. Childress didn’t even run it by the owner before making the announcement in a Monday morning team meeting. Wilf was reportedly “furious about being circumvented,” and considered firing Childress and keeping Moss. Hence, the transaction being delayed until Tuesday. Wilf’s team probably would’ve been better off with Childress gone, Leslie Frazier as head coach, and Randy Moss attracting double coverage down the sideline for the remainder of the season. It’s unclear what convinced Wilf to keep Chilly around.
– Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports that the Chiefs plan to sign ILB Derrick Johnson to a lucrative extension. “He’s not going anywhere,” writes Robinson. Johnson was deep in the doghouse as a backup nickel-linebacker for all of last season, but he’s emerged as an every-down player the new DC. Johnson, who turns 28 later this month, is in the final year of his rookie contract. He was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2005 draft.
– Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals plan to pursue free agent RHP Brandon Webb this offseason. Webb hasn’t pitched in a major league game since the start of the 2009 season and showed pitiful velocity in a couple of bullpen sessions this fall. If he rebuilds the strength in his right arm and regains control of his sinker, he could make for a low-risk, high-reward signing for a Nats team desperate for starting pitching.
– The Rockies have declined the $7M option on LHP Jeff Francis, one of the top pitchers in franchise history. The Canadian led the Rockies to their only World Series appearance in 2007 when he won a then franchise record-tying 17 games. He missed 2009 after shoulder surgery and didn’t make his debut last season until May. The 29-year-old was 4-6 in 20 games. Francis was the ninth overall pick by Colorado in the 2002 amateur draft. He was 55-50 with a 4.77 ERA in his career with the Rockies.
– The Mariners have declined their $8.5M option on LHP Erik Bedard, as well as a $5M option on DH Russell Branyan and a $4.5M option on INF Jose Lopez. Lopez becomes eligible for salary arbitration. Seattle will pay a $250K buyout on Bedard and $500K on Branyan, making each a free agent. In addition, 1B Casey Kotchman has refused an outright assignment to the minor leagues and has become a free agent.
Bedard, a citizen of Ottawa, could never stay healthy following his much-hyped trade from Baltimore before the 2008 season. He made just 30 starts in three years with the Mariners and hasn’t pitched in a major league game since the middle of the 2009 season. He finished with an 11-7 record and 3.24 earned-run average in his time with the Mariners, but was sidelined for nearly two full seasons by shoulder problems.
Branyan was re-acquired by Seattle in June in a trade with Cleveland. He was a breakout for the Mariners in 2009, hitting a career-high 31 home runs and 76 RBIs, but a bad back made Seattle leery of bringing him back in 2010. After coming over from Cleveland, Branyan hit 15 homers for Seattle, starting 30 of his 34 games at DH. Lopez moved from second to third base proceeded to have the worst offensive year of his career. Lopez hit just .239 and had an on-base percentage of .270. His homers dipped from 25 in 2009 to just 10 last season and RBIs dropped from 96 to 58. Kotchman hit .217 with 20 doubles, nine homers and 51 RBIs in 125 games for Seattle.
– The Reds have declined options on RHP Aaron Harang ($12.75M) and SS Orlando Cabrera ($4M), but have decided to keep RHP Bronson Arroyo ($11.5M) and OF Jonny Gomes ($1.75M). Harang will receive a $2M buyout, and Cabrera a $1M buyout. Harang finished with a 6-7 record and a 5.32 ERA after three consecutive subpar seasons. Cabrera batted .263 with four homers in 123 games.
Arroyo was the top starter last season, going 17-10 with a 3.99 ERA. Jocketty began talks on a contract extension with Arroyo before the season ended. Gomes was one of the Reds’ top hitters early in the season, when it played its way into contention. He batted .266 with 18 homers and 86 RBIs in 148 games.
– The Jays have declined options on RHP Kevin Gregg ($5.25M option, $750K buyout) and C Miguel Olivo ($2.5M option, $500K buyout). Both players will bring compensatory draft picks to Toronto when they’re signed. In addition with the looming departures of free agents LHP Scott Downs, RHP Jason Frasor and C John Buck, Toronto is in position to add seven draft picks within the top 45-50 selections if all five players sign elsewhere.
Olivo, 32, hit .269 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs in 112 games, and is a Type B free agent, compensated by a draft pick between the first and second rounds. That’s the same return Gregg may fetch for 2011 and a 2-year option worth $9.5M for the next two seasons were declined. Gregg recorded a career-high 37 saves last season in 43 chances, many of them an adventure. Overall he was 2-6 with a 3.51 earned-run average, although a point of concern was that the 32-year-old had an ERA of 7.90 with 16 walks in 13 2/3 innings when pitching on the second day of consecutive games.
– The World Series champion Giants have declined their $9.5M option on World Series MVP SS Edgar Renteria. He’ll receive a $500K buyout. Renteria was the hero of the Series-clinching Game 5 win just four days ago. The shortstop said Wednesday he will rest for a while before determining his future.
– Padres’ 1B Adrian Gonzalez has confirmed that he’ll test the free agency pool following the 2011 season. The Padres exercised their 2011 option on Gonzalez on Tuesday. Originally worth $5.5M, the option grew to $6.2M based on escalators. His salary will increase by $100K if he wins a third Gold Glove award this fall. Next season is the final year of Gonzalez’s 5-year/$15M deal signed back in 2007.
– Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson has passed away at the age of 76. The 3-time World Series champion was the first manager to win titles in both leagues and the only manager to lead two franchises in career wins. Anderson’s win total of 2,194 was the third highest when he retired after the 1995 season, trailing only Connie Mack and John McGraw. He’s still 6th on the career list, winning 863 games in nine years with the Reds and 1,331 in 17 seasons with the Tigers.
– The Rays have declined a $4.25M option on RHP Dan Wheeler and a $2.2M option INF Willy Aybar. Wheeler gets a $1M buyout and Aybar a $275K buyout. Aybar batted .230 with six homers and 43 RBIs in 100 games this year. His 10 RBIs as a pinch-hitter this season were the most by an AL player since 2004. Wheeler is a veteran of 11 major league seasons who has spent parts of seven seasons with the Rays. He went 2-4 with three saves and a 3.35 ERA in 64 games in 2010.
– The Padres have declined options on RHP Chris Young ($8.5M) and C Yorvit Torrealba (mutual, $3.5M). GM Jed Hoyer said the day after the season ended that the Padres are open to bringing Young back at a lower amount. Young was sidelined most of the season with a strained right shoulder, his third significant injury in as many seasons. He returned to the rotation in the season’s final weeks.
– The A’s have exercised club options on 2B Mark Ellis and OF Coco Crisp, but have declined their option on 3B Eric Chavez. Chavez has spent his entire career with Oakland after the A’s selected him in the first round of the 1996 draft. He established himself as one of the game’s best third basemen early in the decade, averaging 29 home runs and winning the Gold Glove every year from 2001-06. The 32-year-old has played in only 64 games over the last three seasons because of various injuries — primarily back problems.
Ellis, 33, has spent his entire major league career with the Athletics, and last season led the team with a .291 batting average. He committed only three errors in 116 games at second base. The 2011 season will be his ninth with the club. Crisp was limited to 75 games last season, his first with Oakland, because of injuries. The 31-year-old hit .279 with eight home runs and 38 RBI, and was successful on 32-of-35 stolen base attempts.
– The Cubs say Ryne Sandberg will not return as manager of triple-A Iowa next season. GM Jim Hendry said in a conference call from Arizona on Wednesday that the Hall of Fame second baseman would “always be welcome” in Chicago. Sandberg spent the past four years managing in the Cubs’ farm system. He was among the leading candidates for the opening created by Lou Piniella’s retirement, made interim manager Mike Quade the official manager after he managed the team through the final weeks of the season.
– The Rockies have declined their $4.5M option on RHP Octavio Dotel, opting for a $250K buyout. Because he was traded to the Dodgers midway through the season, Dotel had the right to reject the option if it had been exercised. Dotel, who will be 37 in three weeks, was 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in eight appearances for the Rockies. Overall last season, he was 3-4 with a 4.08 ERA in 68 contests.
– The Nationals have declined their $2M option on 2B Adam Kennedy, instead giving him a $250K buyout. Kennedy made $1.25M last season. The 34-year-old hit .249 with a .327 on-base percentage, three homers and 31 RBIs in 342 at-bats.
– Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that RHP Hisanori Takahashi is looking for a 3-year/$15M deal worth up to $5M annually. The Mets, meanwhile, were hoping to sign him back on a 1-year contract. The two sides have about 12 hours to work out an agreement and it seems unlikely that they’re going to meet in the middle, considering that the Mets view Takahashi as a long reliever. He had a 3.61 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 122 innings this past year for New York.
– The Indians have released 3B Andy Marte. He was once tabbed as the club’s future third baseman, but has been a disappointment since he was acquired as part of a 2006 trade with Boston. Marte batted .227 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 80 games.
– The Nationals have released RHP Tyler Walker. Walker went on the 15-day DL in June, then had season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder in late July. He went 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 35 1-3 innings, all in relief, in 2010. He signed a one-year contract with Washington in January after playing for the NL champion Philadelphia Phillies in 2009.
– The Dodgers have signed OF Jay Gibbons to a 1-year/$400K deal. In addition, he’ll receive a cost-of-living adjustment to be announced next month. The 33-year-old outfielder batted .280 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 37 games following his Aug. 8 promotion from Triple-A Albuquerque. He appeared in 19 games in the field, including 13 starts in left and two starts at first base.
– The Pirates have avoided arbitration with LHP Wil Ledezma. Ledezma appeared in 27 games for the Pirates in 2010, going 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA.
– The D’Backs have claimed RHP Brian Sweeney off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. The 36-year-old was 1-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 24 relief appearances last season.
– After losing on the field for two straight seasons, the New York Mets will take in less money at the box office for most tickets next year. The Mets said Wednesday they are cutting prices by an average of 14% and that season-ticket holders and groups will get an additional 10% off at Citi Field. Prices for 62% of the Citi Field’s tickets have been cut, while five per cent of the seats will have higher prices — mostly the cheap seats in the upper deck. To help drive sales, an “Amazin’ Mets Perks” program will let season-ticket holders take batting practice on the field on non-game days, watch BP before games from the left-centre warning track and attend an event with owner, management or players. In addition, renewing season ticket-holders will be entered in a drawing for awards, such as announcing the starting lineup, having a child bring the lineup card to home plate, a game-worn player jersey and a personal fielding lesson from a Mets player. New York was seventh in the majors in fielding percentage last season.
Attendance dropped to 2,573,137 this year at Citi Field, down from 3,154,262 in the ballpark’s first season. While sales picked up in May and June, they trailed off with a 2-9 trip following the all-star break.
– A person familiar with the investigation says the Mets suspended longtime clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels because he’s involved in an investigation into illegal gambling by the Queens District Attorney and the NY Police Department. The team announced the suspension Thursday but did not explain it. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because details weren’t announced, says MLB believes the alleged gambling involved mostly NFL games. The person says MLB security officials became aware of allegations of betting and notified New York City law enforcement.
– WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross has updated his blog, which you can read in its entirety at JRsBarBQ.com. Here are some highlights of what JR said about:
Steve Austin Not Hosting RAW? “To the best of my knowledge, Steve Austin has not been officially scheduled to appear on an upcoming Raw as has been reported elsewhere. Steve is preparing to film another movie in Vancouver soon that will take him into December. At that time I assume he will head to his Texas ranch for some R&R and to celebrate the holidays. Jan and I hope to visit Steve and his crew at the Broken Skull Ranch in late December or early January. BTW Steve’s latest movie ‘Hunt to Kill’ is out next week on DVD and it’s a cool, kick ass movie that I really enjoyed. I think that you will too especially if you like to see Stone Cold kick the bad guy’s butt. Good storyline/script that makes for some stout action/adventure.”
Lita Appearing On RAW: “Enjoyed seeing Lita make her cameo on Raw Monday night. She was one of the all time great Divas in WWE and I can still vividly remember her job interview in my WWE office many years ago. I assume she will not come back to WWE full time but, as a fan of her work, it would be nice to see her back for a short run. I think that the team of Trish & Lita vs. Lay Cool, for example, would be a really nice attraction type bout at WM27. Just an idea.”
– Earlier this week, a video leaked of TNA star Hulk Hogan playing the new “Def Jam Rapstar” video game with his daughter Brooke and allegedly exposing himself. Hogan’s private parts were censored in the video with a black box, but it was pretty apparent exactly what Hogan was doing. Now, Hogan has gone on Twitter and has responded to the story:
“Be on the lookout for press, from people apologizing and releases of real footage from the video with nothing but good, clean fun”
“My real friends and fans know what I’m really all about and after 30 years, I’m not about public displays of private parts.”