Friday, July 30, 2004


THN: Hockey's Greatest Debates

Over at The Hockey News Website, the �Bible of Hockey� is asking the fans for their input into some of hockey�s greatest debates.

Since I�m great at giving my own opinion on anything, here�s how I would answer on some of these debates.

1. Who is hockey's best-ever player? Pure goal-scorer?

Well, I already covered the best-ever debate in an earlier post. I�m still torn between Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr, although Gretzky is certainly a good argument no matter how pillowy-soft he was.

As for �Pure� Goal-Scorer?

Well, Gretzky has the amazing records that you cannot ignore, but he piled up so many assists and generally looked to make plays, so he isn�t my idea of a �pure� goal scorer. The same could be said for Mario Lemieux.

Looking at Daryl Shilling�s study on Normalized Production (Production to adjust for the offensive environment of the day), Brett Hull holds the record for the best �Normalized� goal-scoring season with 89 in 1991 (The year he really scored 86).

Hull has always been seen as the typical sniper, setting up in the slot for one of his patented quick-release one timers. Hull has 741 career goals (compared to 649 career assists, a 1.14 ratio).

At the same time, Hull has rounded out his game in recent years and has become a good playmaker. Is he the best �pure� sniper?

Peter Bondra � In terms of goals-to-assist ratios, Bondra has one of the more lopsided ones that I�ve ever seen with 477 career goals compared to 362 career assists (a 1.31 ratio).

In the past few years, Bondra�s goals-to-assist ratios have been around 1-1. He also started his career in Washingon the same way.

Then, when he hit his peak, and was paired with playmakers like Adam Oates, Joe Juneau, and/or Michal Pivonka, Bondra became the quintessential �shooter�, and he would only get assists accidentally.

1994-95: 34 goals and 9(!) assists (The Strike season) (a 3.77 ratio!)
1995-96: 52 goals and 28 assists (1.85 ratio)
1996-97: 46 goals and 31 assists (1.48 ratio)
1997-98: 52 goals and 26 assists (2.00 ratio)
Overall, Bondra�s ratio during this period was 1.95 goals/assists.
Bondra has only ever had 1 season (93-94) in which he had more assists than goals.

Let�s compare this to Hull�s crazy peak-period

1989-90: 72 goals and 41 assists (1.75 ratio)
1990-91: 86 goals and 45 assists (1.91 ratio)
1991-92: 70 goals and 39 assists (1.79 ratio)
1992-93: 54 goals and 47 assists (1.14 ratio)

Overall, Hull has a 1.63 goals/assists ratio during this time.

Hull or Bondra? It depends on how you would define a �pure� goal scorer.

There is no question that Hull was a superior goal scorer to Bondra, putting up greater totals (real or normalized) throughout his career. On the other hand, Bondra was more �pure� in his goal-scoring efforts, if we are talking about overall offensive production.

(The strike-shortened season was amazing on its own, as Bondra was paired often with Joe Juneau, who finished the year with an equally lopsided 5 goals and 38 assists.)

Another interesting fact is that both snipers played with Adam Oates for a good chunk of their peak years. I don�t think Oates have even been given enough credit for the great work he did as a playmaking center. It�s hard to think of a better counterpart for snipers such as Brett Hull and Petr Bondra, and it�s no wonder why both canoneers put up the goal scoring totals that they did.

2. Should Brett Hull's 1999 Stanley Cup-winning goal have counted?

Answer: NO!


Hey, I know the toe-in-the-crease rule was one of the biggest follies of all time, and even the NHL acknowledged that, but a rule is a rule.

How many goals were called back that season because a toenail was in the crease before the puck arrived? It seemed every game had at least one, and there were probably 300 or so of these nullified goals (by my unscientific estimation).

It�s simple, the Stars scored the apparent winner in OT, and the refs and the league didn�t have the balls to stop the �moment� and review the goal like they did for every other instance of the same thing 300 times during the season.

Hull was in the crease before the puck, and the NHL screwed the Sabres like a Motomaster. It�s a pretty open and shut case.

3. What was a bigger moment for hockey? The 1972 Summit Series or the 1980 Miracle on Ice?

In Canada, it�s obviously the 1972 series, and vice-versa for the US and 1980.

The fact is, as we Canadians know all too well, the US is the center of the universe (sorry, Toronto), and anything that is big in the US trumps anything that is big in Canada.

There are 2 things that even non-hockey fans in the US know about hockey: One is Wayne Gretzky, and the other is the 1980 Miracle on Ice. When you get writers on ESPN (The ones who never care about hockey any other time) talking about the 1980 US victory, you know it�s huge.

When Disney makes a hit movie about the 1972 Summit Series, then we�ll talk.

4. Would the face of the NHL have changed if Eric Lindros had reported to Quebec?

Next to the Gretzky trade, the Lindros snub and subsequent trade had the biggest impact on the NHL as a whole.

Even disregarding the economic impact of Lindros walking away from Quebec (Bryan Berard and Ottawa) and signing a mega deal with the Flyers, the Lindros trade forever shifted the landscape of both the Western and Eastern conferences.

If Lindros had reported to Quebec...


Of course, the planets would have aligned differently and perhaps that infamous night where Patrick was left out to dry may never have happened. Montreal might have still been competitive for a few more years.


5. Who has hockey's best/worst hair?

Best = Kerry Fraser

Look at that �perfect� hair. Forget the mullets, the spiky comb-your-head forward crap that every boy band has, or the messy 70�s style mosh hair that whiny rockers like Finger 11, or NBA star Steve Nash possess.

Folks, Kerry Fraser has hair like man SHOULD have: Short, neatly kept, and able to deflect bullets. You wouldn�t see Fraser of the �Governator�, Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking any other way.

Fraser�s hair is so manly that other mortal men look like schoolgirls in comparison. It�s so perfect that he doesn�t even wear a helmet, lest he ruin its perfectness.

Worst = Brent Sopel

What the hell do you call his hairstyle, anyway? Even panhandlers in downtown Vancouver have better hair than Sopel.
You�d think a multi-million dollar athlete would be able to afford shampoo and a hairbrush. I wonder what kind of new bacteria have been generated in Sopel�s hair.

I think he�s the reason to blame for the Avian Flu that�s killed millions of chickens in the Lower Mainland.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


Thursday's Crazy Roundup

Mario Lemieux is at it again!

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Lemieux and Luc Robitaille are part of an ownership group that has reached an agreement to buy the USHL River City Lancers.

Stabbey, stab, stab!
Lancey, lance, lance!

Shouldn't Super Mario worry about rescuing Princess Peach (the Penguins) from evil Bowser (debt and financial doom)?


Who wears the pants in this relationship?

Petr Nedved would be signed with the Oilers right about now, but apparently his hot supermodel wife (Veronica Verakova) thinks that Edmonton is about as fashionable as Gilbert Godfried.

"Besides, when it comes to wearing the pants, Verakova, perhaps best known for her SI Swimsuit cover, tucked almost as much cake in her jeans for modelling last year as did her new hubby, who pocketed $4.75 million with the Rangers and Oilers.

If you had a wife that looked like this, would you really want to argue?


Grapes and Cherrys for all of Canada!

According to the toilet tabloid, the Toronto Star reports that Don Cherry is set to come back to the CBC for another year. I don't know why CBC would ever consider not bringing him back. Cherry = Ratings, and the anti-french sentiment is overblown. Really, Canadians seem anti-personality sometimes.

For me, however, the real news is that CBC is set to bring Brian "He's tougher than a night in jail" Burke aboard as an analyst.

If there was ever a guy meant for TV, it was Burkie.

Hell, it'll be worth it if he has a semi-regular feature during the intermission where he rips apart Al Strachan like a Hulkamania t-shirt. Burke will replace the decent, but boring, Glen Healy.


Vinnie to Sparta??

There was some hubbub in the Czech press that Vincent Lecavalier may sign with evil Sparta Prague in the case of the lockout(tm).

Slava Lener, the Czech Tom Selleck, has shut down that rumour, but said that Sparta is having former Spartan David Vyborny in training camp, along with the very crappy Jan Hlavac.


Preseason Games???

Yeah, I mentioned it before, but preseason games have already begun, even in July!

Trinec (czech) vs. Dubnica (slovak) - Trinec won this battle easily by a 6-1 score, in front of a whopping 250 fans (Most of whom were there for the free air conditioning).

This came after Trinec travelled to Poland to beat up on UNIA OSWIECIM (also known as Auschwitz).

Just look at how packed the place is!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Brendan Morrison: 1 year at $3.55 million. What�s next on the menu?

If there is one mad skill that Canucks GM Dave Nonis possesses, it would be the fact that he has a very good track record of negotiating contracts with his own players.

In addition to signing Cloutier, Nonis managed to finalize a 1-year deal with Brendan Morrison for $3.55 million, as reported here. This represents a nice $1mil raise for Morrison, one of the few Canucks that shows the total package of skill, grit, and resiliency under pressure.

In my earlier entry regarding Morrison�s arbitration prospects, I predicted a similar windfall for the local Centerman.

Morrison is 29 years old, and one of the few core Canucks that is not under a long-term deal. I expect he will get something similar to that of Shane Doan, a 28 year-old player that has put up slightly inferior offensive numbers, but adds a more physical dimension to his game.

Doan made $2.8mil last season, and he is slated to make $3.45 million next season. Morrison, who had around $2.5mil last season, should get an award that will fall into the range of $3.25-$3.5mil next season.

So, falling in line with the market (looking at the numbers), Morrison�s deal isn�t a bad one for either side, and now the Canucks totally avoid the nasty arbitration process entirely.

With those 2 deals out of the way, maybe baby bear Nonis will awaken from his slumber and get some free agent help. The Canucks wish-list isn�t large, but the Canucks do have holes to fill if they want to enhance their championship chances. (And since Cloutier is #1 again, we won�t worry about that situation, as much as they need to).

#1 � Physical Offensive Winger
Apart from the psychotic enigma known as Todd Bertuzzi, the Canucks offensive forwards are soft, small, or poor in front of the net. In past years, the Canucks have put guys like Trent Klatt, Matt Cooke, and Jason King with the Sedins, with decent results.

Still, �decent� doesn�t cut the cake, and the Canucks could use a bonafide 2nd line winger that combines offensive ability with physical acumen, especially in front of the net.

Given the Canucks are tightwads with a moderate payroll, a player like Scott Mellanby, who recently signed a contract with the Atlanta Thrashees, would have been perfect for the Canucks.

Who else is there? There isn�t a lot that�s left�

Honestly, the market doesn�t look good for physical wingers with skill. Nonis already missed the boat on Mellanby, and two of the three above aren�t the most realistic possibilities for the Canucks� salary structure.

#2 � Top 4 Defensive Stopper/Defensive Depth
The Canucks started last season with a good 7-pack of d-men after signing my favourite defenseman Jiri Slegr. Unfortunately, Mark Crawford didn�t trust Slegr (why? Because Crawford is a doofus sometimes), and they gave him to Boston. After he was dealt, the Canucks suffered some untimely injuries and were forced to play class clown Marc Bergevin during the playoffs.

The Canucks have great skill and offensive ability on the back end, but their lack of a defensive masher was obvious come crunch time. Sopel is in over his head, Jovocop has more crashes than Windows 98, and gives the puck away 3 times a night, while the other defensemen, except hairy Marek Malik, are all a bit too finesse and soft as a whole.

Fortunately, there are more possibilities here than at forward. If the Canucks are to make a signing, I would expect one of these 4 defensemen to don a Canucks uniform next season.


Unless the Canucks are willing to pay some big bucks for a guy like Dan McGillis, or get lucky enough to sign Jon Klemm, I�d expect the Canucks to sign a physical defenseman that will only enhance the lower-tier depth, rather than upgrade the top 4. Good depth is necessary, but quality is hard to find without paying for it, even in today�s market.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Dan Cloutier: 1 year for $3,000,000

What does an average NHL goaltender cost you these days?

Answer: About $3,000,000 USD per season.

The Canucks and Dan Cloutier avoided a nasty arbitration hearing and agreed to a 1-year, $3mil deal for next season.

In my previous entry regarding the Canucks� upcoming arbitrary battles, I was expecting this kind of dough for Cloutier.

So, Lalime just signed a deal that will pay him $2.9million next season, with an option for $3.2mil for the following season. I would expect Cloutier would fall into line with Lalime�s contract, and his award would be around $3mil for next year.

Why did both sides come to the table and hammer this out?

My guess: fear.

For the Canucks, they probably feared that some buckethead arbitrator would award Cloutier around $3.5mil, which would be too much money to pay an average-at-best goaltender. The Canucks would probably have to walk away from that deal, and be left without a bonafide #1 goaltender for next season. As bad as Cloutier is, there aren�t a lot of other options easily available without giving up a lot in a trade (Kevin Weekes Part II? I don�t think so�)

Cloutier probably feared that the Canucks would walk away from any award that would be too high, leaving him unemployed next season.

Would any other NHL team pay $3mil or more for Cloutier�s services next year? Does Paris Hilton have any real talent?

The Canucks would have the right to match any offer to Cloutier under 80% of the arbitration award. So, say Cloutier is awarded $3.5 million, the Canucks could match any offer to Cloutier that was $2.8mil or under. The Canucks would love to have Cloutier back at that amount, and they know that no other team is going to be offering over $2.8 mil if Cloutier were available.

Overall, this is a win-win situation for both sides. The Canucks get a decent #1 goalie for next season at the maximum price they were willing to disburse, and Cloutier gets a pretty good salary which is in the neighbourhood of what an arbitrator would have likely given him.

Cloutier also avoids having his ego bruised by having his game chopped to bits during the arbitration hearing, although Dave Nonis couldn�t do a third of the ripjob that Brian Burke would be capable of. One day with Brian Burke and Cloutier would be reduced to a blubbering alcoholic.

Cloutier is happy, the Canucks are happy, and the fans need some Maalox.

Monday, July 26, 2004


Masters of the Mic

In a recent Article, Michael Farber (The one lackey they assign to hockey) outlines his picks for the best Play-By-Play and Colour Commentators in the sport past and present.

As Farber states: Compiling a list of the best hockey announcers -- like the age-old question: Ginger or Mary Anne? -- is a matter of personal taste. And taste is a question of experience and exposure

Thanks to the 3,000 channel universe and internet broadcasts, I have been able to pick up other team�s broadcasts over the years, and I am quite thankful that Canada is, overall, blessed with much better play calling and commentary than our friends in the USA.

Whether it�s personal style of a directive from the teams, US teams tend to have very homerific local broadcast teams. Evenhandedness and objective analysis are thrown right out the window, and it�s as if the play-by-play and commentary is being done by 2 or 3 long-time hardcore fans.

Of course, since at least 90% of the hockey I watch is on Canadian based networks, I�ll focus on the guys I�ve been exposed to many times over the years.


1. Jim Hughson - Sportsnet - Hughson is the top dog in the whole broadcast world today, and it isn�t even close. In addition to his local Vancouver Canucks broadcasts, Hughson also does the national broadcasts for Sportsnet, as well as the commentary for the games from EA�s NHL series. Jim also hosts an excellent once-a-week talk/interview show called �Snapshots�, where he has conducted some awesome interviews of current players, former players, and other executives.

Hughson, especially in the local broadcasts, delivers the action in a very clean manner, and when analyzing or critiquing a certain play or call, he�ll call it as he sees it, with little or no bias involved. He�s excellent in every aspect of play calling, and he gets along very well with any colour commentator that he is paired with, especially John Garrett (For Canucks broadcasts).

Hughson has a crisp voice, confident delivery, and even after playing 2,000 games of NHL 2003, I still haven�t grown tired of him�now that�s amazing.

Signature Call: �GREAT SAVE CLOUTIER!�

2. Chris Cuthbert � CBC - The heir apparent to Bob Cole at the CBC, Cuthbert may not have the best �voice� of the bunch (It�s a little high for my tastes), but he calls the action extremely well with a lack of bias and a lot of enthusiasm. Cuthbert is generally on top of the action, and sets up his colour commentators well.

Once Cole finally retires, or kicks the bucket, Cuthbert should get the lead role for Hockey Night in Canada. Unless the CBC decides to give that gig to Hughson, it�s just a matter of time until Cuthbert is �the man�.

Signature Call: ��and that didn�t miss by much��

3. Paul Romanuk (Romaniuk, to the Ukes) � Free Agent? - It�s really quite a shame that Romanuk no longer works at TSN, or seems to have a play-by-play job of any sorts, because he is still one of my favourites.

Most Canadian hockey fans will instantly recognize him from his calls of Canada�s entries in the World Championships and World Junior Championships from a few years back. He was a staple on those broadcasts, and is synonymous for his call of �IT IS OVER� when Canada won the 1994 World Championships, ending a very long drought.

Romanuk and partner Gary Green formed an excellent tandem that worked well together. I wonder what Romanuk did to piss off the Powers That Be, because in today�s 30 team NHL, there are a lot of inferior play-by-play guys holding onto their jobs.


In the past few years, ever since both Sportsnet and TSN started broadcasting games, there has been a disturbing trend: Converting sports news anchors to play-by-play callers.

Whether it�s a lame attempt to save money, or the Powers That Be actually think these guys have what it takes, these networks have put their reporters and anchors into the broadcast booth, often with poor results.

Now, I need play-by-play is a tough job to do (Try doing it sometime, and you�ll sound pathetic), but for the $$ that these networks pay to secure the broadcast rights, would it really hurt to spend a few extra dollars to hire a good play-by-play guy (like Romaniuk)?

1. Dave Randorf, TSN - �Randork� has long been a staple of the Vancouver sports scene. For many years, he was sports anchor with �Sports Page�, a popular local sports news broadcast. Then, he moved to TSN and was the West Coast voice of the 11PM Sportsdesk broadcasts. Randorf was at his element here, but TSN decided that they would stick him in the broadcast booth for their NHL games.

Bad idea.

I�d be willing to bet that TSN�s lowest rated NHL broadcasts have Randorf as the play-by-play guy, because he is really that bad. Rarely would I turn off a broadcast due to the PbP guy, but I make an exception for Randorf. I can�t even enjoy a Blues game with him calling the action, and I have had others tell me the same thing.

His voice�it�s like coarse sandpaper over my precious eardrums. His game descriptions, his verbage, his butchering of certain names, and his dorkiness�it just doesn�t work, TSN. Randorf seems to be unaware of certain events all too often, and I don�t think he�s going to get better. He�s been calling games for a while, and I�ve heard no marked improvement.

I have nothing personal against Randorf, but as good as a news reporter as he was, he�s been an equally awful PbP guy. Please, TSN, do the right thing, and replace Randorf with an epileptic-seizure dancing Elmo doll.

2. Joe Bowen � Leafs

It�s no surprise that the local Leafs guy is an obnoxious homer, just like many of their fans (as Jes ducks bullets and beer cups).

When he�s not giving verbal massages to Tie Domi and Mats Sundin, or blowing his wad over one of Belfour�s routine saves, he�s throwing out annoying catchphrases like �Holy Mackinaw� 300 times a game. I bet he makes out with Harry Neale during intermissions.

Bowen�s actual play calling isn�t too bad, but he�s just incredible annoying to Non-Leafers and people with the ability to hear audible sounds. The other local broadcasters in Canada have a distinctly Canadian lack of homerism, but the Leafs, like their city, have always had that �American� flavour to them.


Bob Cole - Bob Cole is a lot like Mark Messier.

When he was in his prime, Bob Cole was the �leader� in his industry, and he was probably the one guy you�d ever want to anchor your play-by-play coverage.

Cole has one of the best �voices�, clear and manly enough, combined with a good knowledge of the game, a good working relationship with colour-man (And former Canuck coach) Harry Neale, and a very fluid calling style. Cole was always on top of the action, and his voice has become synonymous with Hockey Night In Canada.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and as many Canadian hockey fans know, Cole is well past his prime.

Just as Mark Messier was a detriment to his teams in his late career, Cole has been cringe-inducing to listen to on many occasions over the past few years.

I mean, the Colorado Rockies haven�t been in the NHL in over 20 years, but apparently Cole forget that during a couple of Avalanche playoff games over the past few seasons.

As old age creeps in, the reflexes and mind start to go. Cole has noticeable been behind the play in recent years, and has forgotten or either butchered some names completely, or just plain said the wrong name entirely. These are forgivable instances if they happen in rare spurts, but they seem to occur every game for Cole, and it�s painful to listen to. It�s like seeing your favourite player, who was one king of the hill, struggle to even make the simplest plays.

Bias � As Cole has been the anchor for HNIC, and the Leafs are on EVERY FRIGGIN WEEK, Cole has developed a very noticeable pro-Leafs bias to his play calling over the past few years. HNIC�s main PbP guy should always call the action evenly for all teams, but Cole has let this part of his game slip as well. I remember when the Czechs beat Canada at the Nagano Olympics, and how evenly Cole called that game all the way through. That kind of evenness is something a lead guy needs to have in every game.

I don�t think it�s any small coincidence that HNIC moved Cole and Neale from some late-season Leafs broadcasts and onto some West Coast broadcasts, as they probably were responding to public pressure to get some non-Leafers calling the #1 game each weekend.

This brings me to local broadcast legend Jim Robson who surprisingly retired as the Canucks main man a few years back. Robson was probably my all-time favourite broadcaster, but he started to slip just a little bit during his last couple of seasons (usually getting the wrong name on occasion).

To his credit, Robson retired when he was still nearly on top of his game, and he acknowledged that he just had a hard time keeping up with the increasing amount of new players entering the league. Robson could have kept going for a few years, but at least we haven�t had to witness any Bob Cole-like regression.


Farber gives a mention to TSN�s Gord Miller, another excellent studio man who was given Play-by-Play duties for TSN�s World Junior Hockey Championship broadcasts.

To his credit, Miller has improved over the years, and he is fairly easy to listen to nowadays. He works well with analyst Pierre McGuire, and I think Miller will continue to get better at this aspect of his job. Just as Miller developed into one of the better studio/host guys at TSN, he�s handled this transition with the same level of professionalism and dedication. If only Randorf could show as much improvement...

And to finish off� if there is one American-based broadcaster I like, it�s the Rangers� Sam Rosen, (From the Monosodium Glutamate [MSG] Network) who Farber mentions in his article. Rosen forms an excellent tandem with the chatty John Davidson, and Rosen does everything well without too many biases. It�s too bad, like Farber states, that Rosen is wasted on the Rangers.

Friday, July 23, 2004


Wayne Gretzky: The Greatest One?

If you ask most hockey fans who the greatest player of all time is, you will most likely hear the name Wayne Gretzky mentioned.

An article by Kevin Hench of, about his choices for the 10 Greatest Myths in Pro Sports, has an argument that the Wayner is not, in fact, the greatest of all time.

Using some (selective) statistics, Hench details his argument that Gretzky�s offensive contributions weren�t enough to make him the greatest.

Myth: 3. Wayne Gretzky is, without question, the greatest hockey player of all time

To suggest otherwise is blasphemy. Hell, we're practically forbidden by international law from even discussing it.

But there's no way you're going to convince me that a guy with a concave chest who couldn't knock Michelle Kwan off stride was a more dominant player than Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux or, for that matter, Mark Messier.

All the pro-Gretzky arguments are about numbers. Offensive numbers. Well, hockey is a physical game, and just because a guy was the greatest offensive player in a cartoonish offensive era does not mean he's the greatest hockey player of all time.

But let's look at another number: Gretzky's plus/minus. After leaving Edmonton, where he was surrounded by a bunch of Hall of Famers in their primes, over the last 11 years of his career, he was a net minus. That's right, from 1988-99, when Gretzky was on the ice at even strength, the Great One's teams were outscored by 33 goals. In his last eight seasons, he was a woeful minus-86. You see, backchecking � it turns out � actually helps your team. Crunching a guy into the boards helps your team. Clearing guys out of the crease helps your team. In all these ways and more, Gretzky did not help his teams. Sure, he put up mind-boggling numbers, but wouldn't you rather have your mind boggled than your bones jarred?

Now no one would suggest with a straight face that Gretzky was as good in his own zone as any of the other nominees for greatest hockey player of all time. The case for Gretzky is that he was so much better offensively that it made up for his defensive limitations.
Is this true?

(Sports Nerd Alert: Stat-heavy analysis ahead.)

In his best offensive season, Gretzky tallied a record 215 points. The league average for goals was 7.94 per game. Gretzky's 2.69 points per game average represented 33.8 percent of average goals per game. In his best season, Orr averaged 1.69 ppg, or 24.6 percent of the total goals per game. Do you suppose Orr made up for this gap in his own zone as the best defenseman of all time?

A comparison with Lemieux invites the possibility that Gretzky wasn't even the best offensive player of his generation. In 1988-89, when he scored 199 points, Lemieux's point per game total as a percentage of league average goals was even higher than Gretzky's best year (35 percent to 33.8). So Lemieux not only matched Gretzky as a scorer, but he also lugged the puck from end to end with guys hanging all over him and made goal scorers out of Warren Young, Terry Ruskowski and Rob Brown. Lemieux also had a higher career points per game average than Gretzky before his last two injury-plagued seasons, despite having a career that bridged a high-scoring era and a low-scoring one. As it stands now, Gretzky's career points average (1.92 ppg) is one one-hundredth better than Lemieux's (1.91).

So if Gretzky might not be the best offensive player and is certainly below-average defensively and didn't win as many Cups as Messier, by what measure is he the greatest player ever?

He's not. It's a lie.

How about a rebuttal? Russ Cohen presents his argument for Gretz�s greatness.

The author made a horrible reach saying that until the last two injury-plagued seasons Mario Lemieux had a higher points-per-game average. Well, the fact is he slipped and will continue to slip because of his age and bad hip. Gretzky also had a bad neck his last few seasons and slipped himself. That's sports.

So as it stands today Gretzky has the highest points per game total and he's not supposed to play defense. However, one of the four playoff records that Gretzky has with the Kings is for short-handed goals. How did he get them? He played on the penalty kill because of his exceptional vision and amazing skating ability.

If Messier or Gordie Howe calls Gretzky the greatest ever, believe it.

Now, here are my arguments and rebuttals to both points:

Ok, so I�m rambling, so let me sum this up for you.

Wayne Gretzky, in my opinion, is the Greatest Hockey Player� of all time, and it isn�t close...but, I don�t think he�s the best.


To me, no other player has had nearly the impact on the game of hockey that Gretzky has.

The scoring records, the record for most scoring records, the numerous All-Star and individual awards, the insane offensive numbers, the way he changed the game from his �office�, and the way he grew the game off the ice.

When Gretz was dealt to LA, the explosion and expansion of hockey in the USA was in large part to his presence. When the Canes couldn�t draw flies during their first year in Carolina, Gretz�s trip with the Rangers drew their only sellout of the season.

Even non-hockey people like my mom know who Wayne Gretzky is. He�s got �street-cred� that no other NHL player possesses. Only Mark Messier in his NYR prime had any level of real street cred, and he never came close to what Gretzky achieved in the PR world. You�ve never seen Messier on Saturday Night Live, have you?

There is a reason why #99 is retired in every NHL rink across the land.


If I was to pick the �best� player, and by that I mean the player, who in their prime, I would build my team around to win...I wouldn�t choose Gretzky first.

To me, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, and Dominik Hasek are 3 players I would absolutely take for their overall level of skill and dominance if I was playing to win.

So, Gretzky is the greatest, but not the best. Let that be another argument solved :)

Thursday, July 22, 2004


Mediot of the Day: Don Romani

So, I was cruising through the news this morning when I stumbled across this story about Tie Domi suing radio personality, Don Romani and the station over some remarks Romani made about Domi and his wife.

In the land of the hockey media, especially in the realm of talk radio, there are far too many �personalities� who see it fit to make themselves the story, rather than the game of hockey itself.

Case in point: Don �Dandyman� Romani

So, what is Domi so upset about?

According to Domi's statement of claim, Romani went on the air on April 6 and said, "I'll bet you his idea of aerobics is to bang her around once a week. Well, lookit, you think a man would go after Magnus Arvedson would not go after a woman? Same thing ... same thing."

"One would suspect that she could take a good punch," added Romani, according to the statement.

Now, I think Domi is a hypocritical whiny shill, but even he and his (rather hot) wife didn�t deserve this BS.

As much as I can often see the humour in any situation, and as dark as my sense of humour really is, I don�t find anything the least bit funny about what Romani said.

What the hell was he thinking? Did Romani honestly think this would be funny, and that he wouldn�t be punished for it?

And you have to question the intelligence of a broadcaster who calls himself �Dandyman�. Does he fight crime at night?

And what about the �corporate� apology by CHUM:

"The Team 1200 regrets comments made by host Don Romani regarding Tie Domi and a member of his family," station owner CHUM said in a statement. "Mr. Romani regrets making inappropriate comments and has publicly apologized to Mr. Domi and his family."

I don�t recall hearing about a public apology from Romani, and it would be typical if he hid behind his station and their lawyers.

As for the lawsuit itself, if anyone comes out of this whole incident damaged, it�s Romani.

For one thing, he lost his job, and may have really FUBARed his future employment chances. (Although, it seems controversial loudmouths, who know very little, always seem to find a job elsewhere).

And, if there is a man that I would view as a wife-beater, it would be Romani. Who else, other than a buffoon with a lack of respect for women, would come out and say such cavemanish BS over the airwaves?

Don Romani: Ass-clown

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Is it that time of the month already???

It�s July 21st, the sun is shining, people are voluntarily putting themselves at risk for skin cancer, the NHL and NHLPA are having another �productive� chat, and training camps begin!

Well, only if you are a crazy-ass Czech.

Really, the training never stops for these guys. They�ve spent the last month and half doing dry land training like mountain biking, tennis, rollerblading, and Jazzercise.

Now that�s it is perfect(?) hockey weather, HC Trinec and many of the other Czech teams have taken their act inside and began on-ice workouts. They start now in preparation for August preseason games.


Of course, with the labour issues at hand, these Czech League (and other European leagues) teams will have some big names dropping in later in the summer.

Tomas Vokoun has been talking with Znojmo, while Martin Hamrlik is trying to convince his brother, Roman, to join him and Petr Cajanek in Zlin.

Trinec, which is close to the Polish border, has talked to Mariusz Czerkawski and Krzysztof Oliwa about joining their squad. Since most players realize that a lockout would likely be a short-term thing (The NHL is not crazy enough to lockout for a season or more), the players feel that playing close to home for a lesser salary is a wiser decision than playing in the rich Russian league or somewhere far from home. Consider it a nice vacation.


In happier and less crazy news, the Stanley Cup� has now made its way through Belarus (Khabibulin) and Ukraine (Fedotenko) and into Slovakia.

Martin Cibak has brought the cup to his hometown of Liptovsky Mikulas, where most of the town�s 35,000 people, cows and pigs are expected to come into the �Aquapark� and party hardy.

In addition to the obligatory beer garden, Cibak and a few other talented hockey players from the region will take part in an exhibition game. The winners get to have their picture taken with the cup, or something...

There is no truth to the rumour, however, that one of the teams will bring in rollerhockey goon Dominik Hasek as an enforcer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Old Hockey Cards: Waxing Nostalgic

Not only were hockey players much more colourful (personality wise) and outgoing in the �old� days, but the hockey cards from earlier era�s were also totally sweet! There wasn�t any of this 3-cards-for-$50 crap, nor cutting up rare game-worn sweaters and sticks and inserting them into cards (Oh boy, I own 1/500th of Bobby Orr�s jock strap!) simply got a bunch of cards and some cheap nuclear bubble gum for a nickel or a dime.

I was going through my old hockey card collection the other day and I came across this beautiful 1971 O-Pee-Chee card of Gump Worsley.

Worsley was a roly-poly goalie who was a hero to all non-athletic fat guys everywhere in Canada. He played 861 games and won the Vezina and Calder trophies, all while possessing the physique of the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man.

I mean, just look at that goofy face? Gump was the kind of guy that you could sit down and have a beer with�during the 1st intermission!

And look at the back of the card? During the 70�s, O-Pee-Chee cards typically had a little comic on the back of each card. They actually paid someone to draw up a little descriptive comic on the back of EACH and EVERY player card.

These little pictures would give you a little background detail or tidbit about the player in question, and it added a cool characteristic to the stats and vitals. (Such as Worsley tossing the mask aside)

It�s been quite a few years since I�ve actually purchased a pack of new hockey cards, so I don�t know if any company has gone �retro� for real�but I�d love to see a newer set that was cheap in price, and had a little comic drawing on the back of each card.

You could have a picture of Alexei Yashin with a cocky little smirk, smoking a cigar and sitting on those comic-book money bags (The ones with the $ symbol to tell you there is money inside), with a caption �Alexei signed a 10-year, 87.5$million contract�

�or a picture of Pavel Bure: �Pavel has had 23 knee operations�, complete with a sad-looking Bure walking with crutches.

Now, that would be cool�

Monday, July 19, 2004


Money Players: An Insider's Look

Have you ever wondered why some NHL GM�s throw ludicrous amounts of money on free agents, and why players sell themselves out so heartlessly to the highest bidder? We don�t often get an inside look at the �agent� game, as it were.

I came across a nice excerpt of a book "Money Players: How Hockey's Greatest Stars Beat the NHL at Its Own Game," by Bruce Dowbiggin, which was posted on here, on

This excerpt details the events of July 1st, 2002, with an insider�s look at the wheelings and dealings or agent Mike Gillis, who represents Robert �Bobby� Holik and Tony Amonte.

It also delves a bit into Gillis� background, including a legal battle with Alan Eagleson over insurance money and legal fees, which was the beginning of the end for Eagleson�s reign.

If you have some time, I would highly suggest that you give it a read. Some of the notable aspects from this excerpt include...

Overall an interesting read, covering many different issues. If I ever buy another hockey book, this would be an interesting one to purchase.

Sunday, July 18, 2004


WHA Draft - Wha da hell is dis?

The fledgling World Hockey Association has now completed its Amateur Draft and Free Agent Draft, with some very interesting results.
The 8 teams (Including a Founder's Team) each drafted the rights to 30 amateurs and 30 free agents, in the slim hopes that any of these players might sign with their club.
The whole draft was held at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. This is fitting seeing as how it appears to be a bunch of drunk online fantasy league GM's rolling the dice for a random player, or as my friend Duc would say, 'Throwing darts'.
Since the WHA is basically going to die a quick death if the NHL doesn't lock out the players, it looks like the WHA GM's are throwing up a lot of prayers, and hoping that at least 1 of them hits a BINGO.
Free Agent Draft:
Simon Gagne was the first overall pick, followed by...Travis Green???
Only in such a Bizarro World draft would you have names like Travis Green and Craig MacDonald mixed in with Todd Bertuzzi and Joe Thornton.
Once you get past the big names, you'll see a lot of fringe players like Craig MacDonald and Steve Kariya, who are exactly the types of players that you would expect to fit into a league such as the WHA. If I were a WHA GM, I'd spend most of my picks on the Steve Kariya's, since there are talented players who don't fit into the NHL, and would want a chance to play closer to home while making decent dough. No use picking a Todd Bertuzzi or Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Old Guys: Is the WHA trying to become an Alumni league or a seniors league? Some of the retired players that were drafted include Doug Gilmour, Stephane Richer, Tommy Albelin, and Kirk Muller.
Now, I could see Stephane Richer coming out of retirement to play for Quebec, but I can't see any of the others wanting to play, especially Gimour.
I'm thinking the GM's just wanted a chance to say "I drafted Doug Gilmour!"
Amateur Draft:
As expected, the Toronto franchise selected Sidney Crosby 1st overall, which I'm sure produced big laughs within the Crosby household.
Now, I can't see any top prospect such as Brent Seabrooke and Dion Phaneuf making their way to the WHA. For one thing, it would be better for their development if they stayed in junior or went to the AHL (Which will still be up and running). For another thing, these prospects aren't going to want to piss their parent clubs off by running off to the WHA.
The types of players that make sense to draft are those who went undrafted by NHL clubs, such as Pauli Colaiacovo or late draftees such as Canucks 7th rounder, Francois-Pierre Guenette.
The French Connection - Vive le Quebec! (Or is that La Quebec? Hella if I know)
I know the Quebec Nordiks (Yes, that's the name they want to use) want to play to the hometown crowd and have a strong French presence, but selecting 26 out of 30 Quebecers with their Free Agent Draft picks...isn't that a little overboard?
Perhaps with the Parti Quebecois winning 50 seats in the recent Canadian federal election, the Nordiks want to play right into the big seperatist sentiment of the region. How could you like to be one of the only English speakers on that club? (Providing one of Brendan Reid, Damien Surma, PJ Stock, or Daniel Corso sign with the team).
At least the Nordiks weren't quite so exclusionary with their Amateur Draft picks, taking 'only' 15 of 25 Quebecers in that draft.
And I bet they'll all wear visors :)

Friday, July 16, 2004


Canucks Arbitrary Decisions

As the deadline passed for players to opt in to having some overpriced lawyer decide their salary for next season, a record 67 players, including Brendan Morrison and Dan Cloutier, two of the Canucks� more important players, filed for arbitration.
We know the arbitrators look purely at the numbers�and this can be a good or bad thing.
Good � Arbitrators should always seek to take a sceptical and objective view of the situation. If they allow bias to slip in, then their judgements could be swayed or flawed onto one side. Arbitrators are supposed to be the independent party that will award a contract based on the arguments made to him/her.
Bad � Since the arbitrators have shown a great lack of knowledge and understanding of the game, their awards have been quite monstrous and biased towards players who put up big offensive totals, despite however much �real� value they have to a team. Players are often eager to go to arbitration, because they know that they are likely to win big bucks. Der Komissar Gary Bettman knows this, and that�s he why he tried to stop the NHL from keeping real-time stats.
The NHL is also responsible for appointing the arbitrators (Those who give big awards eventually get fired), but that�s a tangent I�m not too interested in right now.
The Canucks have only 2 players filing for arbitration, and neither should expect to break the bank, although they will receive nice raises.
Brendan Morrison - In my mind, Brendan Morrison deserves whatever he wins (and he will WIN) in arbitration. He�s one of the more underrated players in the league, he plays hard (one of the few Canucks giving a real effort against the Flamers in the playoffs) he�s good defensively, he�s extremely durable (hasn�t missed a game in over 4 seasons) and he�s one of the better all-round centers in the league today.
His totals the last few seasons:
00-01  82GP 16-38-54 42PIM
01-02 82GP 23-44-67 26PIM
02-03 82GP 25-46-71 36PIM
03-04 82GP 22-38-60 50PIM
He also has 21 points in 31 playoff games over that stretch, which is fairly consistent with his regular season totals.
Morrison is 29 years old, and one of the few core Canucks that is not under a long-term deal. I expect he will get something similar to that of Shane Doan, a 28 year-old player that has put up slightly inferior offensive numbers, but adds a more physical dimension to his game.
Doan made $2.8mil last season, and he is slated to make $3.45 million next season. Morrison, who had around $2.5mil last season, should get an award that will fall into the range of $3.25-$3.5mil next season.
I worry, however, that the Canucks may do the dumb thing and try and trade him if his salary is deemed �too high�, rather than try and sign him to a long-term deal.
Dan Cloutier - We know the Canucks (Nonis) may have dropped the ball when he could have had Patrick Lalime for a draft pick (pretty much nothing), so we�re going to have to live with �Clouts� for at least one more season, barring some unexpected miracle.
By the numbers�
01-02    62GP  31-22-5  2.43GAA  91.0SV%
02-03    57GP  33-16-7  2.42GAA  90.8SV%
03-04    60GP  33-21-6  2.27GAA  91.4SV%
Cloutier has had 3 straight 30-win seasons, which will certainly look good in the eyes of an arbitrator. He has also played a lot of games over the past 3 seasons, and workhorse goalies tend to get paid accordingly.
Of course, he also has some god-awful Save Percentage stats, when compared to his peers. Daryl Shilling�s goaltender ratings do not rank Cloutier as one of the Top 10 or Bottom 10 goaltenders in the league. Cloutier has generally been �league-average� at best throughout his tenure with his Canucks.
What don�t these numbers tell you?
1. Durability Dan Cloutier, despite his games played totals, tends to get injured quite often for a goaltender, and often at the worst times (late in the year). Part of the blame could be shifted on coach Marc Crawford, who has no trust in the backups he�s been given. When healthy, Crawford tends to ride Cloutier quite hard, playing him in at least 8 out of every 10 games, if not more. Cloutier just doesn�t have the durability to play 75 games a year like Martin Brodeur, so that�s a black mark against him.
His injuries this season:
Dec 16: Missed 3 games with a groin injury (and wasn�t 100% for awhile afterwards)
Feb 14: Missed 1 game due to the flu
March 24: Missed 2 games due to a �lower body� injury
and the killer��.
April 11: Suffered an ankle injury and missed the last 4 games of the first round series against the Calgary Flames
2. He�s shakier than George W. Bush�s Iraq alibi - He�s just not that great! Like any �average� goaltender, Cloutier hasn�t shown the ability to carry the Canucks in any respect, and his win totals are quite a reflection on the talent in front of him. He�ll have his good games, and he�ll have his bad games�it evens out in the end and you are left with a pretty pedestrian goaltender who is good enough for half of the teams in the league, but not the kind of goaltender you want if you have aspirations of the Stanley Cup.
Cloutier ranked 19th in Save Percentage last season (among those who I considered qualified), and this was his best Save Percentage to date.
What kind of award could Cloutier expect? What should he get?
Let�s compare him to Patrick Lalime, a similarly maligned goaltender who was just recently signed to a new deal with the Blues
01-02    61GP  36-19-5  2.48GAA  90.3SV%
02-03    67GP  39-20-7  2.16GAA  91.1SV%
03-04    57GP  25-23-7  2.29GAA  90.5SV%
Looking at these �unadjusted� numbers, Lalime appears to be somewhat inferior to Cloutier, while playing behind a superior defensive team. Most people, from what I gather, seem to value Lalime higher than Cloutier. Looking at these numbers, I can�t quite see how Lalime could be viewed as a superior goaltender, especially after the poor season he just had.
Why would I prefer Lalime? Well, Lalime has always seemed more dependable than Cloutier (Durability and less likely to run HOT-COLD). Since Cloutier has proven that he can�t take the Canucks to the promise land, I felt getting someone like Lalime, who would have something to prove, would provide a nice change of pace at a reasonable salary.
So, Lalime just signed a deal that will pay him $2.9million next season, with an option for $3.2mil for the following season. I would expect Cloutier would fall into line with Lalime�s contract, and his award would be around $3mil for next year.
Now, my crazy co-worker thinks the Canucks would get up and walk away if Cloutier�s award was too high ($3.5mil or so), but I just don�t see it happening. There really aren�t a lot of proven options out there that the Canucks could get that would be an upgrade�not without giving up a lot of assets. As much as I�d love Martin Prusek in Vancouver (who just signed for less than $1mil for next year), the Senators aren�t going to trade him away, nor are the Canucks going to trade for him.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Marek Schwarz: A Black Mark for the Giants

According to the homeland media, it�s official!! Marek Schwarz (Mark Black) will, indeed, be coming over to play for the Vancouver Giants next season. reports that Trinec and Sparta agreed to release Schwarz to the Giants, which is electrifying news for Giants fans.

Think about it...3 first-round picks will be playing for the Giants next season: Marc Fistric, Marek Schwarz, and Andrej Meszaros, plus the possible #2 pick in the 2005 Entry Draft, Gilbert Brule. I will certainly have more incentive to go to see more Giants games this year.
Of course, I�m not completely thrilled with the fact that Meszaros and Schwarz will be coming to the WHL.

On one hand, these two kids will be able to play for a strong team and have a chance at the Memorial Cup. They will get a chance to get acclimatized to the North American style of game, culture, and language. Marek Schwarz will be working with goaltending coach Bill Ranford, and combine with head coach Don Hay to give them some quality coaching and instruction.

Both of their respective NHL clubs view their coming over as a way to fast-track their chances at making the NHL, and it will certainly be fun to observe these 2 kids play here, rather than following their exploits strictly over the Internet.

On the other hand, both kids would be better off back in their respective senior Extra Leagues.

Schwarz: He was slated to be the #1 goaltending for HC Trinec this season, an offensive, free-wheeling club that will allow a lot of chances against. Facing 30-40 shots a night against far superior competition would be better for his development than facing 25-30 shots a night against Canadian Junior Players. Schwarz would also get a lot more $$$ with his pro contract, rather than the meal money he�ll get every week from the Giants to purchase Big Macs with. He really enjoyed his time with Trinec last season, which is why he wanted to go back there this season, to play in front of an appreciative crowd.

Meszaros: The Slovak Extra League isn�t the world�s greatest development league, but it�s certainly far stronger than the CHL in terms of quality. Dukla Trencin is a proven developer of talent, with the tremendous quality of coaching in the organization (plus Robert Svehla, who�s a part owner). Meszaros was set to be a key figure (again) on his pro squad, plus the fact that he would be a customary feature on the back-line for the Slovaks at senior national tournaments.

Now that Meszaros is coming to the CHL, he can kiss his national team spot goodbye for the time being, plus he�ll be giving up his pro contract and the chance to play big minutes against stronger opposition.

Obviously, it�s not often that you see 2 kids in their situations (keystones on an Extra League team) come to the CHL to play for less money and against lesser competition.

And according to a news release by Robert Neuhauser of McKeen�s:

McKeen�s scout Robert Neuhauser is reporting that the Vancouver Giants will be getting a hefty boost to their lineup next season. St. Louis Blues� draftee and one of the top netminding prospects in the world Marek Schwarz will make the trip overseas, but not without some controversy.
�The information was confirmed by a Blues� scout,� says Neuhauser.

�Schwarz personally isn�t that happy with the solution as he was looking forward to playing for Trinec in the Czech senior Extraleague. He signed a good contract there and was a fan favorite last season.

�His agent has basically forced him to decide not to play for Trinec and head to Vancouver in August.�

Another 2004 first rounder from the former Czechoslovakia will be joining Schwarz in Vancouver this fall. Ottawa pick (23rd overall) Andrej Meszaros is leaving Dukla Trencin, despite the chance to play for the Slovak senior national team.

So, it looks like the Czech agent for Schwarz, Jaromir Henys, is twisting his client�s arm to play for the Giants?


$$$$$$$$$$$$ Money, of course.

From the comments of Henys, he states that Vancouver is a lovely city with a good hockey team, yada yada yada...but it�s also obvious that he believes coming to the WHL will get Schwarz him an NHL contract faster...and that, folks, equals �bling bling�
Henys and his agency will not make that much money from Schwarz playing in Europe, but once Schwarz and Meszaros (who also falls under the same agency) sign their first NHL contracts, the commission from that contract is all the incentive that they need to push their kids into the CHL.

What role do the Giants have in all of this? I can�t say for sure, but I speculate if the Giants weren�t making some �side� payments to Schwarz�s agent to get him to push their clients towards Vancouver. If Schwarz and Meszaros were openly willing to come to the CHL, you�d better believe they would have been drafted (CHL IMPORT DRAFT) much higher than they were.

Of course, the small-market CHL clubs could never afford such side payments to the agents and/or the European clubs to ensure the kids would come to Vancouver, so there may be an even darker side to this story that will never come to light. As prevalent as money talk is with the NHL, it almost never gets discussed with Canadian Junior hockey.

It would also be nice if someone could help remind Schwarz that Henys and his agency works for Marek Schwarz, and not the other way around. If Schwarz truly doesn�t want to leave Trinec, then he should tell his agents to go to hell.

If I hire a real estate agent, I�m not going have them dictate where I live.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


A Character Study

Let�s face facts, people! Despite the globalization of hockey and the fact that the NHL has a diverse group of players from various countries, hockey players are more �vanilla� than ever before.

When people talk about �character� players, they typically refer to �heart-and-soul� guys like Dave Lowry or Mike Ricci. Ask a hockey fan to define a �character� player, and you�ll likely hear words such as gritty, hard-working, industrious, physical, defensively responsible, leader, and so on.

Is that really �character�? I�ve always associated character with personality, and the true character players in the NHL seem to be few and far between.

Aside from a few brash and outgoing Americans (Roenick, Hull, Conroy), and a couple of nutty freakshows (Mike Danton, Dominik Hasek), hockey players, for the most part, seem like the most freakin� boring people alive.

Long gone are the days when players partied hard and whose idea of summer training was a round of golf followed by a round of beers. Players used to have fairly good relationships with reporters, often on a more personal level. Reading some stories and articles from yesteryear, you really got to know the players more on a personal level, and you often got their true opinions on the subject at hand.

Today, we get the same recycled clich� quotes with the same monotonic enthusiasm of a Vulcan. Players are afraid of saying the �wrong� thing, so will always play it safe and give the same boring answers to the same boring questions.
Hockey players seem to be more interested in investing in mutual funds, fishing, and playing bridge, at least from their image they try to project.

Oh, sure, many players still like their beer and babes, but it�s just not something that is out in the open all that much.

The Real Characters

Until the late 90�s, the NHL had a lot of strange characters and players with some �loud� personalities. If we were to stereotype players into certain groups, we would get some of the following.

The �Goon� - Gary Bettman�s personal achievement to date has been the near extinction of the Goon in NHL hockey, and it�s too bad.

While the Goon may not have the most value to a team, they had a lot of value to the fans and could be counted on for entertainment.

Typical Goon: Wild hockey hair, a love of the brew, explosive personality on the ice, but outgoing and personable off of the ice. Goons like Gino Odjick were often the more popular players to the hometown fans. They didn�t have great hockey skills, so they knew the only way they would stay in the NHL was to drop the gloves early and often.
Back when hockey fights weren�t wrestling matches, these Goons would actually throw punches. Watch any fight from the 1980�s, and it�s a battle of the free-swinging haymakers. Today, very few true goons exist. Those who do exist tend to exhibit the lack of personality found in most players, although they still have more personality than most of their team-mates. These players are also expected to have some skill, and take a regular shift.

Old Style Goons: Gino Odjick, Joey Kocur, Tiger Williams, Brantt Myhres
New Style Goons: Donald Brashear, Scott Parker
Holdovers: Rob Ray, Rocky Thompson

The Hard-Partying �Star� - Oh, there are stars in today�s NHL, but they are just so dull in terms of personality. Here in Vancouver, we have two of the biggest dullards in Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund. It takes a Herculean effort on their part to even crack a smile. Chuck Norris would be proud. More and more, NHL players seem to shun the spotlight, not allowing much of a glimpse about their true selves.

Not too long ago, the stars of the NHL loved the status and fame that came with their profession.

If you ever want to read a candid and entertaining look at hockey in the 70s, Phil Esposito�s book, Thunder and Lighting: A No B.S. Hockey Memoir is a great look at how hockey players used to play hard, and party harder.

He saw it all: the booze, the drugs, the women, the wheeling and dealing, the good times and the camaraderie, the bad times and the back-stabbing. In telling what it was really like, Esposito takes readers into the boardrooms, back rooms � and even the bedrooms � of the men who make their lives in the NHL.

The Rangers of the 1970s were the definite party boys of the NHL, and they loved to the New York social scene. Players such as Ron Greschner (Carol Alt) and Ron �Donkey Dong� DuGuay (Cher) were often seen dating supermodels and living it up at any number of New York parties. While players these days drink Gatorade and protein shakes after a game, the Rangers openly drank beer to rejuvenate themselves after another battle with the Broad Street Bullies.

Now, apart from some freaky shots of Mats Sundin and Ed Belfour getting sloshed with some friends, how often do you hear about a player sleeping around or getting drunk?

The Skilled Pest - Thankfully, this breed of rodent still exists in today�s NHL, albeit in a less prevalent aspect.

Ken �The Rat� Linsemen, Bobby Clarke, Fleo Fleury, and Esa Tikkanen excelled at getting under the skin of opponents, hiding behind their goons, and putting a few biscuits in the basket.
As much as the hometown fans loved these pests (or put up with them), these chatterboxes were often hated vehemently by opposing fans. I lost count of the number of times I told Theoren Fleury (Through my TV set) to �Shut the hell up!�

If it wasn�t their constant cheap shots and yapping that pissed you off, it was the fact that they could score a goal or complete a nice pass on top of that.

These guys could write cheques that their asses could cash, without the annoying service charges.

Now, we still have pests and agitators, but they are basically 4th liners and role players:
Ville Nieminen, Tyson Nash, Matt Barnaby, Jarko Ruutu, Steve Ott, and Sean Avery.

These guys don�t tend to draw the ire of opposing fans nearly as much as the likes of Tikkanen, nor can they add the same amount of skill and productivity to their teams. Unless you are a fan of their rival team, it�s hard to really develop a dislike to someone like Steve Ott or Ville Nieminen.
To their credit, these guys do excel at pissing off some opposing players and receiving facewashes.

Wild child Darcy Tucker is somewhat of a throw back to the old-school pests, but he�s more ultra-competitive than he is calculating. Jeremy Roenick likes to talk (and talk and talk), but he�s not making a concerted effort to be a pest.

The Abuser - It�s probably a good thing that this type of player has gone almost extinct in the NHL. While the drug abusers provided some interesting stories and a �Can�t help but stare at the accident scene� kind of morbid curiosity, these guys often ruined their careers and lives (and lives of others) with their substance abuse.

You had your cokeheads: Bob Probert, Grant Fuhr, Bryan Fogarty
...and you had your alcoholics: Link Gaetz, Ken Daneyko, Bobby Hull, Steve Chiasson (oops!), Fleo Fleury

Oh, players still like to drink, but it�s more of hockey�s dirty little secret than anything, plus the level of drug abuse is clearly not as prevalent.

With the NHL and NHLPA Substance Abuse Program in place, players generally get the help they need before it is too late. Players are more likely to abuse bodybuilding supplements and steroids more than beer and cocaine.

The Fatties

...and you had Vladimir Krutov, who, as the Vancouver urban legend goes, tied a long string around the light switch in his living so that he could turn off the lights from his couch after polishing off his 6 Big Macs. I�ve heard countless accounts of fans or friends of fans who claim they saw Krutov at a local McDonalds (especially after a game) ordering his �health� food. He really let himself go once he got to North America, and his career and health quickly deteriorated with that.
NHL players are just too well conditioned these days. If they aren�t (ie. Roman Turek), they are often publicly chastised (since they stand out) and their play really seems to slip. Gone are the days when the likes of Gump Worsley could waddle to the rink and still have a good career. Baseball has their big heroes, but hockey, alas has a bunch of fitness magazine cover models like Mike Modano.

Still, there is hope!! Calgary Flames prospect Andrei Medvedev is Russia�s new experiment in goaltending. Why have waif-like athletic goaltenders like Marek Schwarz when you can produce 300-pound sumo goaltenders that cover the whole net?

Despite the added girth, Medvedev is quite agile and athletic. He would do wonders if he could hold off on the hot dogs with extra mayo, but wouldn�t it be something if he made the NHL while possessing the full figure of Oprah Winfrey?


So, while we get the once-in-a-blue moon freakshow like Mike Danton, we don�t seem to get many funny stories about hockey players in their personal lives (think of Dino Ciccarelli flashing his underage babysitter).

As hockey itself has gotten more boring on the ice, the players have followed suit off of the ice. If there is ever anything an old hockey fan says that is true, then it is the fact that old-time players were far more interesting than new-school players.

As a hockey fan, I find it a lot easier to connect with a player if they seem �genuine� or �flawed�. It�s hard to really connect with today�s multi-million dollar players, who put off a polished image that glares way too brightly. That�s probably why I have a hard time understanding why anyone would go and stand in front of a courthouse to protest Todd Bertuzzi�s court case. That�s also why Don Cherry has such an avid following: He�s the everyman echoing the thoughts of many Canadian hockey fans (Not mine, exactly, but many others�)

Enough rambling�bring back Eddie Shack!

Monday, July 12, 2004


Goodbye: Welcome to Bizarro World

The news is slow these days, what can I say?

Korea to get �Tikked� Off! reports that ex-Canuck, Oiler, Ranger, pottymouth Esa Tikkanen has signed up to coach a junior hockey team... in Korea?!

Is there a Tikkanese-Korean dictionary even on the market? Imagine that combination.


Tikkanese + Korean = Romulan

Better alert the Federation!

Babych is a bitch to the Environment

Island residents around the Lower Mainland are up in arms over Dave Babych and his clear-cut logging ways.

Not simply content with bilking the Flyers out of an injury settlement after they �ended� his career, nor the big fat paychecks he �earned� as a member of the Canucks, Babych has decided to cut down a few thousand trees and develop another resort for rich snobs.

This, after brothers Russ and Geoff Courtnall did something similar not too far away.

Look guys, we know you are rich and bored, but could you do something less damaging to the environment, perhaps? Like own a junior hockey team, or grow medical marijuana?

The Recchi(n) ball is back in Pittsburgh

Well, this is strange to me. The Penguins, who are basically the shameless panhandlers of the NHL, have signed Mark Recchi to a 3 year/$9mil contract!

The Penguins? $3mil a year? Free Agent?

The same team that practically tries to give away any player making over $1mil a season?

It�s great to see some talent going IN to Pittsburgh, no doubt about it. I just wonder how they can �afford� this contract, when all they�ve done is pinch pennies and cry poor for the past few years.

Unless Mario retires, then I wonder where this extra money is coming from.

As for the contract itself, Recchi is 36 and it�s a bit of risk giving a 3-year deal to a player that old. Still, Recchi put up almost a point a game last year, and we�re seeing defensive role players get even more money than Recchi.

According to my psychic, this will be a good deal for at least 1 season, and maybe even 2. The 3rd year, however, could be a ball and chain to the Penguins. Recchi could easily fall off a cliff when he turns 39, and it would be very hard for the Penguins to deal him off to a contender. It�s obvious that Recchi took this deal because of the guaranteed length, rather than the salary.

Which makes me wonder, will Recchi even last a full season in Pittsburgh? In February and March, when they are WELL out of the playoff race, will they be tempted to offload the last 2 years and $6+ mil to another team?

The Devil loves his 'D'

And lastly, Richie Rich Matvichuk is richer after signing a new 4 year/$8.5mil US$ deal with the New Jersey Devils.

This is a great deal for both sides, as the Devils get a pretty solid defensive defenseman at a decent price, and Matvichuk gets to play in a boring trap-me-to-death style that he�s excelled in for most of his career. If Scott Stevens can return from his concussion, Martin Brodeur won't have to face more than 5 shots against per game.

For the Stars, the only link to their Minnesota days is now Mike Madonna.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


Oil Spill - The Exxon Oilers' Drafting Disasters - PART TWO

As we saw in Part I of my look at past first round pick of the Oilers, it was the Oilers inability to get useful talent in the first round, rather than the small market economics, that really caused the Oilers franchise to turn into a sludgepool of mediocrity.

From 1984 to 1993, the Oilers drafted 12 times in the first round.
Out of those 12 players, the Oilers netted just 2 GOOD regulars (Arnott, Rucinsky), 1 fourth-line 'role player' (Wright), one fringe goon (Leroux), and 8 complete busts!

According to Simon Richard, a freelance author who has done statistical studies on the NHL draft...

33% of all first round picks since 1979 turn into regular players.
29.0% of all first round picks play less than 200 NHL games.
13.3% of all first round picks produce 'superstars'

Looking at the Oilers to date
25% of their first round picks (3 of 12) turned into 'regular' players
66.67% of their first round picks played less than 200 games. (Wow!)
and if you consider Arnott a 'superstar', then the Oilers werent 1 for 12, which is a lovely 8.3% score.

Pretty ugly numbers. Now let's look at 1994 and onward:

1994 (4th) - Jason Bonsignore, C (79GP 3-16-16 34PIM) and...
(6th) - Ryan Smyth, W (642 198-232-430 511PIM)

Talk about your night and day draft, in which the Oilers netted one of their franchise keystones and one of the biggest dissappointments in their draft history.

Both are big strapping guys, but that's what the similaries end.

Smyth: Heart of a champion, excels in heavy traffic areas, works hard to succeed. He was a great junior player and carried his team.

Bonsignore: Heart of a Tin Man, shys away from traffic, more interested in dirt bike racing. He wasn't even the best player on his team in junior, and found himself traded twice during his OHL career. He always had a habit of driving his coaches batty, and he never showed much in his brief NHL career.

The other picks in the top 6? Ed Jovanovski, Oleg Tverdovsky, Radek Bonk, and Jeff O'Neill. Typical Oiler luck that they were end up with the only bust of that bunch.

1995 (6th)- Steve Kelly, C (147 9-12-21 83PIM)

If you ever want to raise the ire of a smart Oilers fan, just mention the 1995 draft, and they'll be reduced to tears within minutes.

Picture this scene: The Oilers fans have the draft held in their hometown, their team has the 6th overall pick, and Shane Doan a local boy from nearby Halkirk, Alberta, is still available at #6.

The crowd chants "Doan, Doan, Doan, Doan!". Unlike the Calgary Flames, the Oilers don't bow to the hometown pressure. Nope...they don't pick Doan...they pick Steve frickin' Kelly!!

Barry Fraser's famous quote: "YOU CAN'T TEACH SPEED!!!"

Of course, this after years of saying "YOU CAN'T TEACH SIZE!!!"

Despite all of his SPEED(!), Steve Kelly hasn't even been able to stick in the NHL as a servicable defensive player. Shane Doan, on the other hand...well, he's just the cornerstone of the current Phoenix Coyotes.

1996 (6th)- Boyd Devereaux, C (431 38-71-109 123PIM) and...
(19th) - Matthieu Descoteaux, D (5 1-1-2 4PIM)

To be fair to the Oilers, 1996 was, perhaps, the most craptacular draft in NHL history since the entry age was reduced from 20 to 18.

Good thing the Oilers had, yet again, two first round picks in which to throw away.

Devereaux became, and is still, a decent 4th liner in the NHL. A poor return on a 6th overall pick, but he's actually one of the better picks from that first round!
Descoteaux, another big 6'4" defenseman, flopped badly. The Oilers should just stay away from big defensemen. (Good thing they didn't draft Boris Valabik, or he'd probably end up a pylon on some highway)

1997 (14th) - Michel Riesen, R (12 0-1-1 4PIM)

The 1997 first round had some very strong picks in the top half of the first round (Thornton, Samsonov, Luongo, Hossa, Jokinen, Brewer, Mara, and Boynton). Leave it to the Oilers to pick up the "Swiss Miss", Michel Riesen.

Like most Swiss draft picks, Riesen did not have the passion or incentive to work very hard for an NHL career. He's now back in Switzerland, where he pays far less taxes, and has a much easier life as a hometown hero.

I love Swiss cheese, Swiss Army Knives, and Swiss watches, but I'd stay the hell away from any Swiss draft picks.

1998 (13th) - Michael Henrich, R (0 0-0-0 0PIM)

Only one player from the 1998 first round hasn't played a single NHL game, and he's an Oiler, of course! :)

Based on his AHL career to date, he may never see an NHL game, either.

1999 (13th) - Jani Rita, L (15 3-1-4 0PIM)

It's been five years, so it's fairly safe to say that Jani Rita is turning to be a bust for the Oilers.

Despite some decent play at the AHL level, he hasn't even been able to parlay that into a regular job with the Oilers. Rita won't be a high scorer, but he should be able to play some kind of role on the bottom 2 lines. Rita has questionable work habits and hockey sense, and unless he is struck by lightning, it's safe to call him a bust right now. He may yet turn into an NHL regular, but time is running out.

2000 (17th) - Alexei Mikhnov, ? (0 0-0-0 0PIM)

With the last pick during the Barry Fraser era, he certainly went out in style with one of his usual craptacular picks.

Just call Mikhnov the mystery man, because hardly anyone knows who the hell he is or what the hell he has done since he was drafted.

This past April, the Oilers brought Mikhnov over for their first good look at the big Ukey. The Oilers really hoped to sign Mikhnov and get him playing in the AHL.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, that won't likely happen.

For one thing, Mikhnov makes about U$300,000 in the Russian League, and he wouldn't want to play for peanuts in the AHL. Add to that the expiring IIHF/NHL transfer agreement and the Russian teams demanding more compensation for their players, and despite whatever talent Mikhnov may have, he probably won't be of any value to the Oilers.

We can't say he's a bust with any certainty yet, but it doesn't look good for Oilers fans.


So, out the dark years of the Barry Fraser era, 1984-2000, 21 Oilers first round picks produced

We can see that the Oilers hit a couple of home runs, but all too often came up with COMPLETE and utter draft busts, which left the Oilers system depleted and hindered their ability to develop their own players or develop quality assets for trading.

So, the next time some Oilers fanboy whines about Edmonton's small market economy hurting their NHL chances, just point them to their team's draft record, and tell them 'It's their own damn fault!'

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Friday, July 09, 2004


"I married The Devil, and all I got was this lousy prenup!"

Assorted news from the Homeland:

1. Sorry ladies, but the world's most eligible lord of Darkness is engaged.

Miro Satan is set to marry Ingrid Smolinska, an opera singer (Edit: Yeah, I said Doctor, but my Slovak ain't THAT great) from Bojnice. She looks good in "Devilish Red", eh?

2. The Ottawa Senators have offered canoneer Peter Bondra a new 2-year contract, at a reduced salary from what he used to be making. In the event of a lockout, Bondra would play for his hometown team of Poprad. Poprad is a pretty poor team (Financially), so I hope he plays for free.

3. Lubomir Sekeras, formerly of the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars, has agreed to a contract with the Nurimberg Ice Tigers of the Deutsch Bierliga. He'll wear his familiar #77, and he doesn't expect to see the NHL ice again.

He could still be a useful defenseman in the NHL, but he prefers the lifestyle of Europe together with the fact he won't be a bit player like he was in Dallas.

4. The Headline reads, "The end of the Hasek Fighting Affair". Dom Hasek got away almost scot-free with his assault on, as the courts said his fine of 2000 crowns (about 67$ CDN) was enough of a punishment.

Yeah, that'll teach him. Getting away with a crime isn't just for American celebrities.

The maximum fine that he could get was 3000 crowns, or about $100 CDN. For a guy like Hasek, all that will do is lighten his change purse.

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