New Jersey(s) ... Part V

The season gets under way tomorrow afternoon, so I think I had better finish these uni critiques now.

First, I want to announce the second annual steak dinner bet with Gurnee-based blogstatician and lunatic marathoner Christopher Marvin Altruda.

To refresh your memories, gentle readers, last year’s bet resulted in dinner at the Chicago Chop House … and me forever cursing defenseman Lasse Kukonnen, then with the Blackhawks, now in Philadelphia.

The bet was this: I said the Blackhawks wouldn’t win six games in the first six weeks of the season. If they did, I would be on the hook for the check, After six games, Chicago was off to a 4-2 start, but these are the Blackhawks – now free from the clutches of Bill Wirtz, praise God – and it would be possible for them to go on a long losing streak.

As if on cue, the ‘Hawks went 0-7-1 in a three-week span and managed only 11 goals. It looked like I would be enjoying a free dinner. After beating St. Louis for their fifth win, the ‘Hawks played host to Columbus. Surely, Chicago could lose.

Though they were outshot 28-19, Kukonnen scored midway through the second period and Nikolai Khabibulin made it stick. Blackhawks 1, Blue Jackets 0.

Shockingly, Altruda and I have agreed on one thing this season: the Phoenix Coyotes will be the worst team in the Western Conference. All you need to do is look at that roster and ask who’s scoring – Steve Reinprecht? Daniel Carcillo? Daniel Winnik? – and that the goaltenders will be a combination of Alex Auld, David Aebischer and Mikael Tellqvist.

So, the number to watch for with them will be 62. If they finish the season with fewer than 62 points, I will enjoy a dinner at Morton’s. More than 62, Altruda goes for the surf-and-turf.

Now, back to the uniforms …

DALLAS STARS – B: Before this season, the Stars had one of the most unique uniforms of all time with the striping forming a star, but in this new Reebok-ified age, that apparently was impossible to duplicate.

The road whites clearly are the better ones. Cleanly designed, with none of that insipid apron striping on the front, it’s a sweet look. As for the home blacks – that’s right, no longer the home greens – it will take some getting used to.

With ‘DALLAS” and the player’s number taking the front of the jersey, it’s clearly a nod to some college programs. The use of a wordmark rather than a logo is not new: it’s worked quite well for the New York Rangers for decades, the Pittsburgh Penguins did the same for a while as did the Colorado Avalanche with their third jerseys.

Not horrible, just different.

NEW YORK RANGERS – B+: As a die-hard fan, even here in Chicago, I am glad to see that no radical design changes were made here, save one.

Right now, as I am waiting for my laundry to dry, I am wearing a New York Rangers player T-shirt (bonus points if you can guess who’s name and number is on the back – STATS, LLC employees not eligible), and the wordmark essentially goes from 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock.

If you look at these new duds, the wordmark is more – what would you call it … vertical? Seems to go from 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock. A subtle change, and again not horrible, but hockey fans are used to tradition and change is not always welcome.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – A: The best thing about this 1) Nothing’s changed and 2) there won’t be a black third jersey at least for this season.

Though some consider the use of a native American’s profile insensitive, this truly is on the of the classic looks in the league. With the recent passing of longtime tightwad … er, owner … Bill Wirtz, I hope the ‘Hawks now take the opportunity to move the franchise into the 21st Century and back into relevancy in this city.

Just don’t change the uniforms.

MINNESOTA WILD – A-: Since hockey returned to the Northland, the Wild have taken great pains to please their fans. The St. Paul Civic Center, where I used to watch the IHL’s Moose years ago, was transformed into a gleaming jewel known as the Xcel Energy Center and enjoys continual sellouts.

The uniforms were wonderful from the moment they were unveiled. Gone though are the home greens, replaced by their third jerseys. The reds were always seen as the most popular of the three. I like them, but I don’t see the uproar. Nice crest, sure, but I would have preferred the dark green body instead.

If they can only find a way to Marian Gaborik on the ice for more than 50 games a season. Wishful thinking, I know.

ANAHEIM DUCKS – C: No, sir. I don’t like it.

Last season, the Ducks got rid of the Disney duds for a more classic look, and it worked: Anaheim became the first Stanley Cup winner from California. The striping, though, is bizarre, and with the new Reebok template, it looks like the wordmark got smaller.

Don’t get me wrong – I am glad the era of jade and eggplant are gone – but this has swung completely the other way. Perhaps there can be a common ground by 2008-09.

BUFFALO SABRES – B-: Like the Ducks, the Sabres introduced this new look last season … and thus was born the “Buffaslug.”

Look at it one way, it’s a slug. Look at it another way, it’s Barney Rubble’s hair. They’re not horrible, but they don’t really scream, “Holy shit, these suck” either. Since teams like the Rangers, Blackhawks and Canadiens were able to retain their identities with these new unis, longtime Sabres fans would be salivating to see the round logo with the charging Buffalo and crossed swords come back full-time.

A wonderful idea sure, but how else will they pay Thomas Vanek $50 million over seven years outside of merchandise sales?


No. No. No. No. No.

Stripes on the inside of the sleeves? Bad. Apron-string piping? Bad. Removal of the secondary logo of the oil worker? Bad.

OK – something good? The main logo didn’t change. Other than that … FEH!

NEW JERSEY DEVILS – A: I’m indifferent when it comes to this team. I like that they’re moving from the swamps of East Rutherford to revitalized Newark.

I like that they pretty much left the uniform alone. No logo or color changes to go with the new building. Another case of leaving well enough alone.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – A: See above. No bells. No whistles. No issues.

Now, wins a Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967.

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