Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The World's Strangest Hockey Book
Plimpton's quote sort of bypasses hockey, but really, painfully, let's be honest -- wonderful though the sport may be, it's lent little to the annals of great, or even good, literature. There's "The Game," of course, and Peter Gzowski's book about the Oilers that I can never remember the title. I like what I've read of Dave Bidini's books. There's a dark horse, Ratso Sloman's "Thin Ice." And the great Mordecai Richler wrote some about hockey. And beyond that, uh...
For a while, a few years back, I collected hockey books -- I had some vague idea of assembling a vast hockey library. I eventually gave it up because you can only read so many books like "Brett: Shootin' and Smilin'" or "Manon: Alone in Front of the Net" or "Maltby: Utter Loser" before you start to stare at the walls and contemplate what you're doing with your life. Then there's the "a season with the team" books, written by sportswriters unwilling to deal any real dirt. Then there's the inspirational hockey genre, stuff so sentimental and sappy it would make Mitch Albom nauseous.
Then there's Cleo Birdwell's "Amazons."
Published in 1980, it tells the story of Birdwell's first season in the NHL. It's subtitled "An Intimate Memoir by the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey League," which should be one of the first clues that it's not exactly non-fiction.
It's an odd book, parody but too light-hearted to really deliver satirical zingers, too smart to be Harold Robbins-style softcore (despite Birdwell's propensity to jump into the sack with nearly every character). It's pretty entertaining, and Keith Gessen in the New York Times (registration required) called it the closest thing to a Great American Hockey Novel.
But what makes it really strange is who's actually behind it. "Cleo Birdwell" is Don DeLillo and a collaborator -- the same Don DeLillo that's perpetually on the shortlist of Major Literary Figures. He's always been a pretty obvious sports fan (baseball is a major plot point in "Underworld," and football is the foundation of "End Zone" -- which "Amazons" resembles, albeit on a slighter scale), but even so, "Amazons" sticks out like a sore thumb in his ouevre.
Its motivations will likely remain a mystery for a long time, if they're ever revealed -- DeLillo has never actually admitted to writing it, though his involvement is an open secret. One DeLillo site notes that it came right as DD was at the tipping point, between critically-acclaimed but not-selling and critically-acclaimed bestseller, and theorizes that it was just a light-hearted way to blow off steam.
It's good fun for hockey fans -- DeLillo knows the sport and it follows Birdwell around the NHL of the late 1970s. I'd recommend it if you can find a copy, and for people who don't mind the more salacious parts of life.
In the pre-Internet days, this was something of a legend -- when I found a copy in the basement of a Denver bookstore in the late '90s, I briefly achieved levitation, certain that I'd found a rare literary treasure. Now, it's a little demystified and Amazon.com had a used copy for $9 when I checked this morning. But it's never come back into print and doesn't seem likely to reappear.
Hockey's Trade Surpluses and Deficits
My pal Daniel sent me this study that shows the amount of hockey players that each country imports and exports to other countries. The only flaw is that it doesn't seem to include the NHL. Typical IIHF, I suppose.
Australia 25 28
Austria 93 197
Belarus 64 217
Belgium 24 68
Brazil 2 0
Bulgaria 2 2
Canada 801 196
Chína 7 32
Croatia 14 8
Czechia 424 311
Denmark 46 87
Estonia 22 18
Germany 116 602
U.K. 81 224
Finland 305 148
France 59 277
Hungary 19 84
Iceland 6 11
India 1 0
Ireland 0 1
Israel 5 0
Italy 36 114
Japan 21 20
Korea 10 10
Lotvia 68 40
Lichtenstein 0 9
Lithuania 23 3
Luxemburg 1 0
Mexico 7 0
Netherlands 50 93
New Zealand 4 8
Norway 51 142
Poland 28 38
Romania 25 13
Russia 306 197
Serbia 7 17
Slovakia 509 112
Slovenia 33 22
S.Africa 8 0
Spain 2 39
Sweden 360 327
Switzerland 70 199
Turkey 1 10
Ukraine 106 9
USA 227 169
TOTAL: 4104 4104
It's no surprise that Canada is the biggest exporter of hockey talent. It's our #1 industry! Who's #2? How about little ol' Slovakia, the country of just 5mil who churn out good talent much more efficiently and effectively. Oh, OK, it also helps that their economy kind of blows and many players can make better money playing in places like FRANCE than back home. The most lopsided exporter is the Ukraine, where many of their players get swallowed into Russia thanks to a lack of a real league and many ice arenas in their own country.
The largest importer? Germany, who have long had problems with too many Canadian and American nationals in their league, which has stymied the progress of German-born talent. It's also interesting to see how both the Swedes and the Czechs have high numbers in both areas. The Czechs produce so much talent for other, richer, leagues, while they import a whack of Slovaks. The evil Swedes import anyone they can get their hands on, while spreading their evil seed around the world at the same time.
Keeping with the International scene, Joeri sent me this clip from a Russian Superleague game. Now, that's what I call a wraparound goal.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Reader Participation: In-House Arena Replay Rules
I need small help regarding TV replays on games - do they regularly replay questionable moments of the game (fouls, fights, offsides, allowed/disallowed goals etc) on big TVs in arenas ?
I can't find anything in the official rule book about what the people who control the arena jumbotrons and video screens are allowed and not allowed to show during the course of a game. Even Lyle "Spector" Richardson was stumped.
So, this is what I know/think is true. If anyone knows better, we'd appreciate the feedback. I've heard many things on TV about how the NHL didn't want certain things shown in order not to undermine the on-ice officials who may have just blown a call. Of course, watching the game on TV at home allows you to see every single thing.
Fights - Never shown. The NHL wants to discourage fighting. I know they don't show them at Vancouver Giants games, either.
Off-sides/Icings - Never shown. The NHL does not want these calls shown and it's frustrating to me not to be able to see them.
Penalties - As far as I know, they do show them.
Goals - Allowed goals are replayed of course, but how about disputed goals and goals under review? I've heard about the NHL wanting to prevent goals being reviewed from being shown until the video goal judge makes a call. Fans in the arena, in the past, could see the replays while the goal judge was pondering the evidence. The crowd reaction was obvious and we'd see, often enough, the goal judge make a decision contrary to the crowd's wishes. Obviously, the NHL doesn't want the judge to be swayed nor do they want their decisions questioned.
When I put a third mortgaeg on my condo and go to a Canucks game in the near future, I'll be sure to keep my eye on the replay board a bit more.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
"Keep Your Eye on the Puck, Son"
1. It's always interesting when Science and Hockey mix together like a guy from North Carolina and a girl from South Carolina. Anyway...
Researchers at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Kinesiology may have found the secret to dazzling goaltending, after they discovered the exact spot a goalie needs to watch to be successful.Well, soccer is a much different game than hockey, especially for goalies. On penalty kicks, reaction time means a lot less than in hockey. Reading the non-shooting foot is a good indicator, especially among lesser players, of which direction the shot will go. Still, it does blow away Martin Brodeur's assertion that Alexander OVU-L8's robocop visor gives an unfair advantage. If you are an NHL goalie watching the eyes of a shooter and not the puck, yer just screwing yourself.
Graduate student Derek Panchuk and professor Joan Vickers, who discovered the Quiet Eye phenomenon, have just completed the most comprehensive, on-ice hockey study to determine where elite goalies focus their eyes in order to make a save.
Simply put, they found that goalies should keep their eyes on the puck. In an article to be published in the journal Human Movement Science, Panchuk and Vickers discovered that the best goaltenders rest their gaze directly on the puck and shooter's stick almost a full second before the shot is released. When they do that they make the save over 75 per cent of the time.
"Looking at the puck seems fairly obvious," Panchuk said, "until you look at the eye movements of novice goaltenders, who scatter their gaze all over the place and have a much lower save percentage than the elite goalies."
The findings also contradict some research out of Europe which suggests that soccer goalies concentrate on the non-shooting foot of the kicker to make the save.
2. For all of the talk about the new-and-improved Dinner Jackets, they still score less than Dave Coulier at Ladies Night. Last season, the BJs sucked hard offensively and scored just 223 goals, which was 4th worst in the NHL. This year? They have 19 goals in 9 games and are right near the bottom once again.
That's what you get for screwing around with Gilbert Brule and Jaroslav Balastik. Why are the BJ's keeping Brule if they intend to play him 6 minutes a night and with linemates who couldn't score in the AHL? Yeah, Freddy Modin is the answer *sigh*
3. Speaking of BJs, I hope they enjoy Tarantula Head. It's rather obvious why he didn't get the huge contract he desired and why he had to settle for Columbus.
Anson Carter: 9GP 1-1-2 -1 4PIM
Taylor Pyatt: 12GP 6-2-8 +4 6PIM & One bitchin MySpace site.
4. JP at Japers' Rink has the "Sidney Crosby Hat Trick", which is apparently a goal, an assist, and a diving penalty. *grumble*.
So, what's an Alexander Ovechkin Hat Trick? 1 goal, 1 assist, and 15 giveaways from hogging the puck all night?
5. Penguins 8(!) and the Flyers 2. Nice to see nothing has changed in Philly.
Check out this goal by Maxime Talbot. I *almost* feel sorry for the Flyers in that instance. Almost.
6. Speaking of Ovechkin, he currently sits 46th in NHL scoring with 10 points. Crosby? He's tied for #5 with 15 points. Just sayin'
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Photo of the Day: Ned Flanders is a Slovak?
Still, this doesn't make the Avalanche any better. They still suck.
(Assist to Scarlett Ice)
Friday, October 27, 2006
Introducing: Alexander Radulov
Another high-profile rookie has made his debut and scored his first goal in of the season. His name? Alexander Radulov, the younger brother of Igor Radulov, some guy who couldn't do much in a piss-poor Blackhawks organization.
Luckily for Alex, he didn't inherit his brother's sucktitude and lazy attitude and ALEXANDER RADULOV will be a name you'll get to know for years to come. Blessed with great hands and a nose for the net, Radulov loves to 'get his cookies' and brings the same enthusiasm for scoring goals as Pavel Bure and Alexander Ovechkin. Alex always seems to have a smile on his face, and really seems to be enjoying himself out there (the anti-thesis of a sourpuss like Yzerman)
After winning the Memorial Cup last year as a member of Patrick Roy's (boo!) Quebec Remparts, Alex was sent to the AHL after the preseason in order to refine his game.
Well, that didn't last long. In just 3 AHL games, Alex piled up 3 goals and 4 assists, leading the Nashville Predators to go 'Hmm, he seems to know how to produce. Let's bring him up'. In 2 NHL games so far, Radulov has 1 goal and is showing the kind of infectious enthusiasm that will spread like a positive flu of energy to the Preds.
Check out the video of his first NHL goal RIGHT HERE, BABY!
You can read more about Alex Radulov at Hockeysfuture.com
In other news, International Scouting Services (ISS), a group I used to do a bit of writing for, has released its preliminary Top 30 list for the next draft. It's great to see not one, but TWO Vancouver Giants, Michal Repik and Jon Blum, right up there.
ISS List at Hockeysfuture.com
Thursday, October 26, 2006
My Bipolar Avalanche
The trip really reacquainted me with the joys (said in a sarcastic and humorless tone -- perhaps with a bit of a sneer) of following my teams from overseas. It wasn't so bad with the Thrashers, who basically kept rolling along while I was gone -- but the Avalanche? See, I expected Colorado to be subpar this year. Not full-blown comically awful like the Flyers or Coyotes, more of a consistent, drab lifelessness as one expects from the Blue Jackets. But I didn't expect this -- worldbeaters one game, giving up eight goals to Montreal the next. No sustained performance one way or the other.
On a schedule I wasn't used to, and relying on what internet cafes I could find, I was a bit off on getting NHL news. One friend took delight in relaying Avalanche news to me, but only when it was bad. And getting these e-mails after a delay just highlighted how bizarrely inconsistent this team has become.
See, she'd e-mail gleefully after, say, the loss to Chicago on Oct. 16th. But by the time I got it, the Avalanche would have beaten the Maple Leafs (and by all accounts, looked impressive doing so) and I'd just scratch my head over my misguided friend's words.
Then a few days later, having also heard about the win over Ottawa, I'd e-mail again and perhaps "talk some trash," as the kids say, about the Avalanche's current strength -- not realizing that in the interim, Jose Theodore had gone through his well-publicized meltdown against Montreal.
I guess it's the hallmark of what really has become a mediocre team, enough scoring and defense and work ethic to compete, but not enough depth or toughness to put anything impressive together. I'm glad I have the benefit of distance now, in a way. It's aggravating enough watching this from thousands of miles away -- if I still up close in Denver, I'd go nuts.
One nice note, just so Canucks fans don't get too smug about the fate of the once-mighty Avalanche -- I'm glad to see Joe Sakic get his 1,500th point. While it's not good that they're relying on a 37-year-old as the cornerstone of the offense, he's always been a class act and one of the few players in any sport that I've never had a complaint about. That said, the way this season is shaping up, he'll probably get busted in a Commerce City motel with a hooker and a crack pipe now.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Do Europeans Rule the Shootout?
Instead of taking 5 minutes and quoting some actual evidence, Tony used the results from the Wild/Canucks game earlier this season to back up his reasoning.
Great research, Tony. Just more of the 'high quality' scripture we've come to expect from your bony, decrepit fingers.
Anyway, a simple look at last year's figures does show that Europeans tend to dominate the shootouts
From the article (which I won't link to because he doesn't deserve it), Tony offered these reasons behind the European dominance of the shootout.
1. European players practice it more.
Some Canadian hockey players were quoted as saying the Euros practice their shootouts all the time after practice. So, why aren't the North American players doing the same thing? It's a pretty weak excuse, isn't it? If the shootout is a part of the game, then every player not named Wade Belak should be getting their breaks in now and then.
2. Europeans are used to it.
This is true, as ending a game with an event from the NHL Skills Competition is a pretty foreign concept for us. In Europe? Shootouts have been deciding games and tournaments for years. We know the grand daddy World Cup uses shootouts and the mentality of the shootout is pretty much part of the European's game. Us North Americans are just not used to that one-on-one pressure.
3. The shootout sucks. OK, this wasn't in the article, but it's true.
Most of the players on the list are bonafide good players, but there are a few that stick out. Obviously, my man Balastik is one of them, but did anyone expect Viktor Kozlov to be near the top? That's one name I hadn't heard as a shootout specialist.
If anything, the Isles looked quite stacked up for shootouts, provided they can get any games to go that far with their awful team.
Chalk another one up for the bloggers!
My fantasy league nemesis, Chris Kubinec, scored an interview with the Polish Potato, Wojtek Wolski.
Check it out right here.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Introdcing: Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle
Stephen Colbert is one of my favourite television personalities, so it was quite amusing to see his campaign to get a mascot named after him work so well.
Introducing: Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle
The Saginaw Spirit have a new fan in their corner who just happens to have a whole nation in his.I know some traditionalists will cry in their panties about this, but what the hell is so traditional about mascots anyway? They are supposed to be fun, and just look at how the Eagle draws chicks?
Stephen Colbert, host of the hit Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, has been backing the team on air the last several weeks after the team named its new mascot after him in late September.
Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle has been at the heart of the publicity, transforming the Spirit from a local minor league hockey team to a sort of underground pop culture media darling. Colbert pleaded with his viewers (who he calls "nation") in mid-August to bombard the Spirit's Web site with votes that would attach his name to the new six-foot mascot. Since then, the show and the organization have formed an eccentric partnership that has drawn the attention of local media as well as put the Spirit on the proverbial national map.
The Saginaw Spirit have gone 8-1 since the introduction of the mascot, including winning their first seven straight, and it's a great marketing tactic that has drawn lots of attention to this CHL squad.
Colbert's unique partnership with the Spirit and the publicity he has given the team has had an impact in several areas. Officials report an increase in merchandise sales and requests for Spirit jerseys, particularly those with Colbert's name sewn on the back. The national attention was even picked up by Sports Illustrated, as the popular magazine ran a brief article detailing the relationship in its Oct. 16 issuePS: Ditch the male cheerleader.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Video of the Day - Markov pwns Stoll
Even Refs Don't Support Crackdown at the Lower Levels
Among all the complaints about the new standard of officiating in the NHL when it was first implemented last season, there was one unfortunate side-effect which was never brought up: the trickle down effect.I read a post from a hockey parent I know at the Face Off Circle, and he described the insanity of the 'crackdown' during a tournament his son was playing in.
This season, negative commentaries on the standard are beginning to rise again across Canada because the standard has trickled down and is now being applied at all levels of hockey governed by the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) and even some leagues that aren't. In the summer of 2006, the CHA board of governors voted to adopt the NHL standard of officiating and now tots, tykes, atoms, peewees and all other kids playing hockey are being called for incidental and accidental infractions of the rules. The result, say some, is an emerging generation of Canadian hockey players who are afraid to check, engage, or skate in the vicinity of opposing players for fear of being sent to the sin bin.
The fact is, NHL refs, while we pound on them, are highly trained, experienced, and usually know what they are doing. The refs at lower levels of the game don't have nearly the same acumen, so you just know they can't quite handle the new standards properly. (I'm referring mostly to the refs who handle midget and younger)
Well, HockeyRefs.com made this announcement regarding their lack of support for the crackdown on little kids. Yes, even the refs think the whole thing is getting out of hand.
The Wall Street Journal was right when it implied USA Hockey overstepped its abilities in mandating strict standards of enforcement in amateur hockey in a story last week.
HockeyRefs.com has always supported the new standards, which were pioneered by the NCAA during the 2004-2005 season and copied by the NHL last season, but we don't support implementing these strict guidelines at the sport's lowest levels.
While it's practical and much-needed at the collegiate, high school, professional and IIHF levels, we cannot expect the roughly 60,000 amateur officials in Canada and the United States - mostly calling games involving children - to enforce a standard designed to enhance hockey's entertainment value at levels with paying fans.
Coaches, officials, players and even parents - the only fans at these games - are generally not competent enough to understand complicated new interpretations of previously tolerated infractions of the rulebook.
Even officials at the highest levels of hockey have struggled with interpreting guidelines and rules handed down by governing bodies like USA Hockey. If they can't understand the intentions of rule makers, how will the 15-year-old kid doing a youth-level game know what actions to penalize and which ones to let go?
While Tom Benjamin, Gary Bettman's golfing buddy, also agrees against the silliness.
Gary Bettman is in the business of selling hockey entertainment. The CHA and USA Hockey administer the sport of hockey which is not the same thing as hockey entertainment. Therefore they have to learn to ignore the NHL when deciding what is good for hockey. There is no way the 14 year old referee in training who is - by himself - officiating 8 year old players can apply these standards without ruining it for everyone.I can see why the CHL adopts these standards, as one of their primary missions is to produce players for the higher levels. Anything below that and any beer leagues should just forget the madness and call the game in a 'modest' manner. Just as scouts aren't watching beer league games for the next Pavol Demitra, they aren't watching these games to find the next Kerry Fraser, either.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Bob Clarke: The Villain is Vanquished!
So, I go off for the weekend for a seminar/exile and hell freezes over as Bobby Clarke resigns from the Flyers (and Albert Hitchcock gets fired). Go figure that I’d miss all the freakin’ fun! :(
Shedding any tears for ol’ Bobby? Yeah, me neither. Don’t worry; Bobby Clarke doesn’t care, right? He’s got no feelings and no heart, so there’s no use losing any sleep over his lack of employment at the present moment.
I’m just amazed that it happened so soon. Clarke has survived like a cockroach in a Mexico City slum, letting his coaches take the fall for him and getting a lifetime of free passes from Ed Snider, his Daddy Warbucks-with-attitude.
Snider, however, said he never considered replacing Clarke and was caught off guard by his general manager's decision.
"Bob Clarke has been the heart and soul of the Flyers for nearly 40 years," Snider said in a statement. "Bob was the driving force behind our Stanley Cups as a player, and as president and general manager, he built the Flyers into one of the premier franchises in hockey. I will always think of Bob as the Ultimate Flyer and there is always a position within our organization for Bob Clarke."
That quote was ultimately the problem for the Flyers. Snider was so enamoured with Clarke as THE Philadelphia Flyer that he was willing to overlook so much stuff that other owners would never let their GM’s get away. Clarke was hardly accountable for his actions or activities and you wonder if Snider would ever fire Clarke. At worst, Clarke may have been ‘demoted’ a VP job or something like that.
Well, Clarke is gone and we can reflect back on the departure of one of the more despised characters in the game and one who represents a very ‘old school’ style of thinking.
Really, Clarke is just so easy to hate. Look at the comments in the TSN.ca story! It’s got almost 300 postings as of late Sunday night, and most aren’t wishing him happy travels. Clarke managed his club much like he played. He was arrogant, he was an asshole, and he was cut-throat. Clarke would slice his mother open for her kidneys to sell on the Chinese black market if it meant he could win a Stanley Cup. Most of all, he didn’t give a rat’s ass what YOU or I thought about him, pretty much daring or asking you to hate him. It’s as if he enjoyed playing the bad guy role, much as Sean Avery does. The whole Ryan Kesler scenario was pretty much Bobby Clarke in a shell’s nut.
I’ll have to give Bobby Clarke SOME credit for his work with the Flyers. Yes, he had lots of resources and lots of $’s to play with, but the Flyers were consistently a strong team under his watch. The Flyers had some damn fine contending teams for a period and were always in the mix when it came to picking favourites from the Eastern Conference.
Clarke’s drafting record in the past few years has also been quite excellent. The Flyers have quite a load of young talent. While Clarke isn’t the main scout, the GM is ultimately responsible for the drafting and development of talent and Clarke’s record is pretty good. Plucking out players like Simon Gagne and Justin Williams later in their draft’s first round is just one example.
OK, now it’s time to butcher the assclown. (Sorry to the real assclowns I insulted with that statement. Bob Clarke is much worse than thou)
1. “Old School” Management – Bobby has an amazing inability to manage people, show any decent level of compassion and understanding of human emotions, and establish good relationships. Calling Roger Nielsen’s behaviour ‘goofy’, when he was suffering from the effects of cancer, telling others to kiss his ass, and so forth only made his job harder. Despite what Clarke thinks, establishing bad relations with others does not help the Flyers achieve organizational goals.
How can Bob Clarke expect to make trades, have a good working relationship with his coaches and league officials if he’s so unconcerned about relationships? Do you think Clarke’s ways hindered his ability to make deals? Probably. Do you think his head coach’s really felt secure and felt like they could trust their GM to work together to build a certain type of team? Unlikely. The whole Hitchcock/Clarke scenario seems to make it like the two were very disconnected. This type of management may have worked very well in 1930, but it’s not going to work well in today’s world.
2. Goaltending – I won’t go over this for the 1,000th time, but any GM putting their marbles into Rebound Machine’s hat is asking for bad things to happen. Poor JVB and Roamin’ Cechmanek got jobbed by the Flyers mediots and fangirls, so Clarke shouldn’t be butchered for those two. Still, Clarke’s tenure has been characterized by his inability and unwillingness to get a bonafide #1 goaltending to solve the one issue that plagued the Flyers the most during his tenure.
3. “Old School” talent evaluation. Let’s face it, the Flyers gambled on the New NHL being like the Old NHL (Yes, I am using those terms and I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think) and Jes Gőlbez asking any hot chick out on a date. Derian Hatcher is slow and clumsy that he makes Gheorghe Muresan look like a frickin’ ballerina. Trading for an old, declining Petr Nedved and acquiring Brian Savage Garden to provide a playoff boost were sad, desperate moves that worked out as well Bush’s plan to secure peace in Iraq.
So, Clarke is finally gone and they can move ahead into the modern world perhaps. Does this make the Flyers less easy to hate? Sure. I loved the fact that Clarke ran the Flyers into the ground enough to make them a hated ‘power’ in the East. He was always one of the primary reasons why I’d rather wear lighted gasoline than a Flyers sweater to a bar mitzvah, so it takes some out of the fun out of hockeydom.
As for Alfred Hitchcock, he’s a good coach and he’ll get another NHL job eventually. It was obvious that the Flyers were a dysfunctional club off of the ice thanks to Clarke’s roster management, but we know the coach has a large role in team chemistry. On the ice, it was very obvious that the Flyers were dysfunctional. A coach has real control over how the team players and his players lacked more fundamentals Martin Brochu’s goaltending style. It’s no shock that he’s gone early; only that Bob Clarke went at the same time.
PS: Thanks to those who responded to my post below. I'll be getting to work on your links and suggestions during the week.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
"Captain America Needs YOUR Help!"
1. I'm going to be updating my template and blog links eventually. If anyone has a good hockey blog and wants to be on my blogroll and/or exchange links, shoot me an email to golbez(at)shaw.ca
2. Does anyone know how to save 'unsaveable' videos, like this awesome one from NHL.com, onto your computer? The Acid Queen suggested some software that could save streaming files, but it was about as effective as the Philadelphia Flyers defense.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Zdeno Chara = Tougher Than Thou
Zdeno Chara Out Two To Three Periods With Fractured Skull, Broken Leg
October 19, 2006
BOSTON—Team doctors announced that Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was cleared to return to the ice for the third period of tonight's game with the Calgary Flames after he used the 15-minute intermission to rehabilitate from a fractured skull and broken leg he received during the first period of play. "He's a tough kid," said team physician Dr. Thomas Gill, adding that Chara will forego wearing a brace that would hold together his snapped femur so that his mobility is not impeded. "Because his head is so swollen, he probably won't be able to fit into a helmet, but he prefers it that way." Chara didn't miss one shift during the third period, tallying one assist and an empty-net goal.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Kurse of Kesler Kontinues
It's hard to believe that a Ken Hitchcock squad could be so defensively disjointed, but I've seen headless chickens with more sense of direction than the Flyers D.
And, there's more!!
Philadelphia center Peter Forsberg left in the first after spraining his left wrist. The Flyers' captain, expected to miss Friday night's game at Florida, was hurt when he used his arm to brace himself against the boards. A team official said X-rays were negativeAh, who had October 19th in the Peter Forsberg Injury Pool?
While poor Nolan Baumgartner was dumped on, Chewbacca Hatcher continue to suck like Eurasian Water Milfoil and finished the night with a -3 and a stupid penalty in 22+ minutes of sucktitude. Who cares if he makes the big bucks, get rid of the guy? He's slow, he's undisciplined, and he scared little children.
Slovak rookie Stefan Ruzicka, who is NOT Vladimir Ruzicka's illegitimate Slovakian kid (just in case you were wondering), played well and got a surprising 16+ minutes of ice time. 2 shots on goal and he looked like he belonged. He certainly did a lot more than Kyle Calder, who continues to flounder and was -2 on the night.
Diet Photo Spam
500 goals and no Stanley Cups. This is how we celebrate in the TO, bitch!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Flyers getting Desperately Stupid
Yet, Rebound Machine remains on the squad. Waaaat?
From TSN.ca: (Thanks to Sherry for the pointer)
A day after getting humbled 9-1 by the Buffalo Sabres, the Philadelphia Flyers have placed three players on waivers.
The team placed defenceman Nolan Baumgartner and forwards Niko Dimitrakos and Petr Nedved on waivers and will recall right wing Stefan Ruzicka, defenseman Alexandre Picard and left wing Ben Eager from their AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms.
According to Flyers Assistant General Manager Paul Holmgren if the three players clear waivers Dimitrakos and Nedved will be assigned to the Phantoms and Baumgartner will remain with the Flyers
Well, it's not as if Clarke is trying to dump some print talent here. You've got a disintered center who is no longer effective at either end of the ice, a career minor leaguer who had himself one decent season, and a dime-a-dozen winger.
Still, there is a lot of stupidity involved here.
1. Nolan Baumgartner - Bob Clarke just signed this d00d to a deal paying him $1.2mil this season and next. If he clears waivers, they just intend to keep him around? Wow. I can just imagine how thrilled Baumgartner must be just weeks into his new contract. If he does stick around, you've pretty much screwed up a working relationship with him... for all of Baumgarter's faults, he hasn't been close to the worst defenseman on the Flyers this season. Why aren't they waiving Chewbacca?
2. Petr Nedved - He used to be a semi-decent player, but ever since his engagement to Ms. Verakova, he's been absolutely useless. Why did the Flyers bother to acquire him in the first place? You can imagine how thrilled the Coyotes were to ever find someone dumb enough to take Nedved and his albatross deal off of their hands. Now, nobody is going to claim Nedved and the Flyers are stuck with flushing over $2mil this season. It's good to get rid of him, but dumb to ever put themselves into this situation. It was obvious that Nedved had no game in the first place...
3. Niko Dimitrakos - Ok, so he makes a pittance and plays just as much, but, again, the Flyers went out and specifically acquired this guy and gave up on him pretty quickly. Do the Flyers not have pro scouts? Why do they keep going out and getting crap?
4. Yes, Robert Esche is still with the club. Is they want to dump salary and improve, why not dump this guy? Esche has a very bad attitude and obviously can't stop a puck without it bouncing off of him and into the slot.
Now, I'm excited to see Stefan Ruzicka can do. The Flyers need some secondary scoring and Ruzicka can provide that, but I suspect he won't get much of a chance. The Flyers do have secondary talent in Mike Richards, Kyle Calder, Geoff Sanderson, and Jeff Carter. Carter and Richards have been snakebit, but are getting their chances.
The Flyers may need some Goaltending help, eh!
A familiar sight…
Asked Monday about coach Ken Hitchcock's decision to start him against the Sabres, Robert Esche said, "I don't try getting in his head, that's for sure. It's an empty place."
That was before Esche played just his second start of the year. Well, The Rebound Machine sure showed him with a 9-1 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. Gee, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, eh?
Yes, it was just as ugly as the knockout game from last season’s Sabres/Flyers series. Esche sucked eggs, the Flyers defense was skating in quicksand, and Miller Time was denying most every crappy Flyers offensive foray.
Now, will this be the wakeup call Flyers GM Bobby Clarke needs in order to go out and get some actual goaltending help? Is it stubbornness? Is it a lack of ability to analyse goaltending? Whatever it is, the Flyers have been getting crappy goaltending for some time and they aren’t going to do much of anything until this is rectified.
Now, did Alfred Hitchock leave in Robert Esche to be slaughtered out of malice? Perhaps, but it’s more likely that he saw his team getting smoked like a Cuban and decided not to throw his #1 goalie, Antero Niittymaki, into the proverbial fire.
Quoth Ken Hitchock after the game: “Robert Esche played great!”
Hee hee hee!
"If we're not ready for this one, we're never going to be ready for a game," Flyers left wing Simon Gagne said. "That team beat us last year in the playoffs, and they're one of the hottest teams in the league."Well, I guess they have a pre-made excuse for every other game this season.
So far this season?
Antero Niittymaki: 4GP 1-2-1 2.72GAA 90.1SV%
Rebound Machine: 2GP 0-2-0 6.51GAA 77.6SV%
Oh, and how about the useless mounds of cow patties that Petr Nedved and Derian Hatcher have become? Both guys have 0 points and 6 games and are each -7! Sami Kapanen, normally a defensive conscious, has 0 points and -6. Forsberg and Knuble are having to do more than their fair share, here.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Juraj Kolnik Gives a Hoot!
Juraj Kolnik, at least for a brief period, must be one of the most popular athletes in South Florida.
From the Miami Herald:
When Panthers forward Juraj Kolnik scored Friday, everyone in the building won 13 free wings redeemable at any Hooters in South Florida. The promotion was tied to Friday the 13th and included Kolnik because he wears No. 13.Seeing as it was only his second goal of the season, perhaps they ought to try giving out more free stuff any time Juraj Kolnik scores a goal.
''I might make some fans happy,'' Kolnik said before the game. "I just want to know what happens if I score two or three. Do they get extra wings? How about a free beer? I think we should do more things like this. It's a great idea for a Friday night. There will be a big crowd and I know they'll all be cheering for me.''
W00T! Free Wings at Hooters!!
Monday, October 16, 2006
Colby Armstrong: Barely Legal?
hit. Scott Stevens straddled that line for so long that he left his
proverbial footprints on both sides of the fence.
It's long been established and is the practiced norm that a player is
fair game for a short time after he has received the puck. Now, normally
this isn't much of a problem since most players know to expect to be hit
just after they get rid of the puck.
Where this question of legality comes into play is a hit like Colby
Armstrong delivered to Trevor Letowski.
Now, the hit always looks worse in slow motion, so pay no heed to that.
In real-time, there is one tick and *BLAM*, Letowski has visions of
dancing pucks in his head and gets knocked so far into next year that
he's been assessed $10,000 for late filing of taxes.
It's clear that Letowski had gotten rid of the puck before he was
nailed, and Armstrong made no attempt to side-step Letowski even though
it was obvious that he no longer had the puck. This was a legal hit and
I don't hear too much bickering about it, but I wonder if the league
would be better off enforcing a standard whereby players get penalized
for hitting a player without the puck, or at least not making any
attempt to move out of the way (ala goaltender interference standards).
In happier moments of hockey lore, my friend Duc took this awesome
videoclip from the Giants/Thunderbirds game on Friday. With the 3-0 win,
the Giants ran their record to a perfect 10-0. Unfortunately, they lost
in OT the next night and fell 1 game shy of reaching the WHL record for
consecutive undefeated games streak (going back to last season, eh).
Here is Boston Bruins draftee Milan Lucic, a guy whose idea of a light
snack is eating just half the cow, potting a hard-work goal on the Power
Could Brule head back to the Giants?
There have been mumblings and rumours abound since Brule has had a poor preseason, been player very little by Gerrard Gallant, and is still eligible for another WHL season. With the Memorial Cup here in Vancouver, you can imagine how much Giants fans would love to see him back.
That said, I can't see it happening, even with the Jackets jacking Brule around. Brule absolutely demolished the WHL last season, and wouldn't benefit much from coming back when he could be learning against the best of the best.
Still, stranger things have happened.
On another note, The Dinner Jackets Curse of players I like seems to have taken a chokehold. Balastik has just 1 point and is -3 in 4 games while Brule has 0 points and a -3 in 3 games.
From the Columbus Dispatch.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Blue Jackets president and general manager Doug MacLean said he sat down earlier this week with rookie center Gilbert Brule.I can acknowledge that Brule has a rather poor preseason, but why would any smart club put so much stock into a small bundle of meaningless games? Geoff Platt? Manny Malhotra? Dan Fritsche? (Who should be a winger, anyway) and Svitov? C'mon, they have established track records and you know what you are going to get. A few meaningless preseason games isn't going to turn Cinderella's pumpkin into a DVD player.
Brule has had a hard time finding playing time early this season, and rumors started cropping up last week in his hometown of Vancouver that Brule might be headed back to his junior club.
"I just wanted to make sure the kid’s not worried about anything he shouldn’t be worried about," MacLean said. "I told him to relax and play. Just play. And he told me that he’s fine, that all he wants is a chance to play."
MacLean then was hit with the $1 million question: Are the Blue Jackets planning to return Brule to juniors?
"For now, I would say no," MacLean said. "That’s not something we’ve even discussed."
But, MacLean acknowledged, it hasn’t been entirely ruled out, either.
Brule was pegged as the Blue Jackets’ No. 2 center at the start of training camp. He didn’t have a bad camp, but he didn’t have as good a camp as Alexander Svitov, Geoff Platt or Dan Fritsche, all of whom play center.
Svitov holds down the No. 2 center spot with left winger Fredrik Modin and right winger Nikolai Zherdev. Platt is playing in Syracuse. Fritsche is out at least another week because of a shoulder injury.
So Brule, who was dropped to the No. 4 line for the first two games of the season and scratched for the third, was back in the lineup last night when the Blue Jackets played the Minnesota Wild.
Can the Blue Jackets find enough ice time for Brule to justify keeping him in the NHL?
"That’s the major issue," MacLean said. "We’ve got to do what’s right for the kid."
On the flip side, is there anything Brule can gain from a fourth season of major junior hockey?
"That’s the other issue," MacLean said. "Those are the two big things we’ve got to juggle here."
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Darcy Tucker Loves The Shrub
That's why I quite like these 1-on-1 interviews that David Amber (formerly TSN's token black guy) has been doing for ESPN.com the past year.
His latest was with Toronto's Darcy Tucker, a player that polarizes a fanbase like few others. I used to call him DDT, which could mean Dirty Darcy Tucker or Deadly Darcy Tucker, depending on your point of view. He was actually one of my favourite players at one time, when he was basically "Mr. Everyman" for the woeful Lightning. Now, after Leafs nation has infected him with Pat Quinnitis, I'm always hopeful he'll get his face smashed in by an errant Todd Bertuzzi punch from behind.
Some of the interest Q&A with my own stupid intercepts.
David Amber: Your dad coached you from age 5 to 14. What was that like for you, being the coach's son?Could you imagine having a brat like Darcy Tucker as a son, and then having to coach him on your hockey club? I'm guessing the most vigorous hockey dad might have loved Tucker's competitve attitude, but I'd probably have locked him up in the dungeon 1,000 times to play with Mr. Rat.
Darcy Tucker: It was great. He is really knowledgeable about the game, and for me to have a parent figure at the rink helped a lot. After that, I looked at all of my coaches as someone who could help me improve as a player, but also improve as a person. So, having my dad there as my coach early on really made a difference.
Amber: I've read your father was a real disciplinarian. Describe that infamous story when, at age 10, you faked an injury on the ice, and the long ride home afterward.How was that like? Duh, I'm thinking it was snowy, cold, and rather unpleasant. No, I'm sure it was frickin paradise.
Tucker: He wasn't happy. He told me he never wanted to me to do that again on the ice. I figured because I scored a few goals in that game, I was pretty good, so I brushed him off. He didn't appreciate that too much, so he told me to get out of the car and walk home in the middle of winter in icy cold Alberta. (laughs)
Amber: And what was that like?
Tucker: I thought he was kidding. Then, when he drove off, I realized he wasn't joking, so I started to walk down the road, and then I started to run. (Laughs.) Once I got home, he told me he never wanted it to happen again. And it didn't.
Somehow, I don't think Tucker REALLY learned his lesson that day. I'm guessing he has more than a few belt scars on his hairy ass.
Amber: One big part of your game has been dropping the gloves when you feel you have to. Any idea how many fights you've had as an NHL player?Darcy's probably thinking, "I've had only 75 fights?"
Tucker: No. I don't pay attention to that stuff. I just want to help my team win.
Amber: OK, but you should know you've had 75 fights, including the preseason and playoffs.
Tucker: (Laughs.) Really? Wow, that's surprising. That's a lot of fights. I'm one of those guys that won't back down from anybody. I may get my share of lickings, but the No. 1 thing is I'm not going to back down from anybody.
Amber: You're married to Shayne Corson's sister. If you and Shayne got into a fight, who is she going to cheer for?She's also sleeping with you, which would probably indicate that she's one high level of insane. If she wasn't cheering for you, Darcy, she best be looking for a new Mr. Moneybags to latch on to.
Tucker: (Laughs.) Well, first of all, we wouldn't fight; we have way too much respect for each other as family members to do something like that. I hope she would root for me; she does when we're playing cards.
Amber: You've said that if you could meet one person, it would be President Bush. Why him?Well, nobody said Tucker was a genius. After more than a few sticks and pucks to the head, he's probably had his IQ lowered so much that GW Bush is like his Winston Churchill. Who would you cheer for in a Tucker/Bush deathmatch?
Tucker: I would like to pick his brain. I think his political views are on the same line as my own. I think the wave of the future is someone who doesn't back down to terrorism. When I saw those planes go into the buildings in New York that day, that was the turning point, not only in the United States, but throughout North America. So I really back what he is trying to do.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Groins of Steel
I know Jes is just waiting for Kari's groin to tear like a wet paper towel, and my head tells me it's a bit early to be getting excited and overconfident, but my heart says "maybe they've made his groin better than the average human's. It's like the Six Million Dollar Man's groin!"
Foolish, yes. But the Thrashers have started off 3-0-1 with only one line really doing much (hello? Ilya? You aren't only on the Thrashers, you're on my damn fantasy team -- some help please), and "Kärpät" (or "Kärppä," as a commenter said his nickname should truly be rendered) is giving Thrasher fans all sorts of reasons to giggle and swoon. Watching him last night, against the Tenkrat-less Bruins, he looked great -- "unbeatable" is a bit of a cliche, but it's been a long week already, so indulge me. Very confident -- reminiscent of the feeling Avalanche fans once got from Patrick Roy, that we weren't gonna see any more goals against
The optimism probably won't last. Atlanta's fifth in the league in shots against, which is helping -- and with a pretty mediocre defense, I don't see it continuing. The thin corps of centers is already being shaken up, to little effect. But a week into the new season, I'm going to revel without guilt, and pretend that our lights-out goalie is enough to carry the Thrashers deep into the playoffs. Birth of a legend!
(A search for "Kari Lehtonen" on YouTube turns up nothing, so I can't follow Jes's lead with some amazing save footage. Just searching for "Lehtonen," however, turns up a lot of freakish video of some female bodybuilder, so if that's your thing, go wild.)
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Introducing Anze Kopitar
I know you folks on the (l)East Coast probably haven't seen this, so check out his first 2 NHL goals.
Impressive. Most Impressive.
Now, if only he'd get some sleep. Those rings around his eyes make raccoons jealous.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Peter Forsberg: Scaredy Cat?
That's not normally an adjective you'd tag on Forsberg, a guy who plays with such a lack of self-preservation that most mere mortals could never understand.
BUT, the guy who buried Canada at the Olympics once upon a time with a legendary shootout goal actually told his coach not to pick him in a recent shootout.
The first controversy to hit Flyerdom may have bubbled to the surface during Saturday's epic shootout loss to the Rangers.Now, this Adam Kimelman fellow is probably a Devils fan, so let me step to the defense of Forsberg while y'all pile on the guy for bailing out.
After the Flyers' first three shooters -- Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Geoff Sanderson -- missed their chances, there was no doubt who should have been the next choice. It should have been Peter Forsberg, who once scored a shootout goal so memorable, they put it on a postage stamp in his native Sweden.
But rather than deliver a win, Forsberg mailed his coach a no- thanks, allowing Petr Nedved and Kyle Calder to take their chances first. Then, finally, Forsberg took his turn on the ice, only to misfire on his shot.
Why would the captain pass on a chance to win the game?
Saturday, Hitchcock brusquely said, "He didn't want to shoot."
Forsberg's post-game answers were sketchy at best and confusing at worst. First he said all his sticks were broken, and then he said he used "sort of a broken one." He later clarified that to say he had just gotten new sticks, but thought the shafts were too springy and wasn't comfortable with them.Well, OK, I can't defend Forsberg's weak answers, but you know the guy isn't going to just come out and say "I just didn't think I could score." I mean, you don't want to give the impression that your pwned by the concept of the shootout. D00d, just say your sticks were from Ikea and you couldn't figure out the instructions.
But Forsberg had 14 other left- shooting teammates he could have borrowed a stick from, so that excuse doesn't fly.
The most troublesome comment came next: "I had been lack ing confidence going into it and I thought we had better shooters than me."No, Forsberg was lacking confidence in the shootout, not lacking confidence in scoring in general.
Two games into the season and Forsberg is lacking scoring confi dence? That's a real bad sign for a team looking to Forsberg for more than offense. Last season, the Flyers were done in by a lack of leader ship. Forsberg is a veteran player whose work ethic, desire, character and skill are unquestioned. But he's never served as a captain, let alone for a high-profile team like the Flyers.
OK, here is where I'll defend Forsberg's decision.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Michal Handzus Needs Your Help!
Michal Handzus, bless his soul, is one of my favourite hockey players. I've spent many tick-tocks defending him from rabid anti-European Blues fans and always-pissy Flyers fans, but I just can't defend that 'look'
Damn, bro, you make millions! Would it hurt to see a hair stylist? Martin Havlat must know a good half-dozen of them. It's no wonder why Handzus is still (as far as I know) very single. That Tennessee Serial Killer look just isn't working for ya.
Speaking of Chickenhawks. What's with this picture from their official website? It kind of looks like Adrian Aucoin doesn't really want to be the captain. He's not wearing the sweater, and he's got a rather pissed-off look in his eyes. It's like he's saying "look at what I'm stuck with!"
Yeah, well yer the one who signed on the dotted line, bubs.
Friday, October 06, 2006
A Pox Upon Thee, Comcast
So, in two days of the new hockey season, I've watched one game (Carolina-Buffalo was on while I was at work Thursday). I'm hockey blogging's secret shame.
Lacking eyewitness knowledge of much that's happened over the past two days, I rely instead on the magic of the internet for a few observations:
* It took me a year to really admit it, to myself or publicly, but I get a hell of a charge out of the shootout. I found myself hoping that the 'Canes-Sabres would stay scoreless in OT, so that I'd get to see one (granted, these are two teams I don't care much about; a bit more emotional involvement might have changed the equation).
* I realize it's only one game, but -- Tomas Vokoun giving up seven goals to Chicago? That's not what I expect from my Vezina/Conn Smythe winner (or the fantasy goalie on Team Post-Pessimist).
* The Bruins waived Petr Tenkrat (but haven't sent him down as of yet). The new regime is showing the same sort of poor decision-making that doomed past Bruins squads.
* Brendan Shanahan scores his 600th goal, and gosh, I find I don't hate the guy any longer. Many many moons ago, when he was a Blue, Shanny was probably my favorite hockey player -- then he ended up with The Team That Shall Not Be Named, and "Brendan Shanahan" was no longer spoken in my home. But just a few months after he made his escape, he's all right again. Ahh, the fickleness of hockey fandom.
* Two games, two overtime losses for Colorado. I really hope this isn't gonna be a season-long trend. I have enough stress in my life.
* A trend I hope continues: the Flyers not scoring any goals until my crap-ass cable service comes back.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Canucks 3 - Wings 1: A Good Start
A 3-1 win as the Canucks piled up 3 early goals and played a very conservative game overall. Welcome to the new Canucks, folks. This isn't thrilling, but I'll take a 3-1 win over a 5-4 loss.
My random ramblings:
Branko Radivojevic 1 (Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra)
Marian Gaborik 1 (Branko Radivojevic, Pavol Demitra)
Now for Part II of the double-header. Hockey + Baseball Playoffs = Best time of the year.
Just Warming Up...
Wade Belak - Making an early bid for the LVP (Least Valuable Player) on defence. He played about 8 minutes last night, all in the first half of the game, in which he took 2 bad penalties and looked like a newborn horse trying to walk for the first time.
I'll point the +1 wagging finger of shame, however, at coach Paul Maurice for his stupid decision to even play Belak on defence in the first place. Why would you put such a liability on the ice? Belak as a forward playing 3-4 minutes a game is acceptable. Playing Wade Belak on defence for any length of time is not. I'm glad he'll be making stupid coaching decisions like this all season for the Leafs.
As for the Leafs/Sens game itself, there were over 70 shots, but the whole game seemed to be played in slow motion. The pace was awful, and it was just a bad way to start the NHL season. The game reminded me of the 'dead-puck' era, except with a lot more outside/perimeter shots that were easy for Gerber and Raycroft to stop.
(I didn't see the Canes/Sabres game, but I heard it was much more exciting.)
Does Tie Domi add anything of value to the TSN broadcast team? Sure, but the value is definitely a negative number. The hiring of Tie Domi just shows how Toronto-centric TSN really is. Sure, I'll give Domi a chance to develop and grow into the position, but the early returns aren't good. I just wish that doofus James Duthie would ask Tie how good Belinda is in bed. Either Tie will slip out an answer, or elbow Duthie upside the head. Either way, we all win!
The second tilt gave us the old rival Dallas Stars vs. the Colorado Avalanche. These two teams have been featured on national broadcasts so long that I yawn just looking at their sweaters.
I was glad, however, that the game itself was pretty good, especially compared to the Sens/Leafs snorefest, and featured an amazing OT winner by Adam Sandler Sydor. How often does a defenseman get a breakaway set up by a goaltender?
Check out the video highlights and watch, near the end, as Turco makes a heads up pass to Sydor, who just exited the Sin Bin. The Avalanche had just 2 full minutes of playing with the puck on the Power Play and couldn't bury any one-timers past a sharp Marty Turco.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Predictions Part II: The Standings
Who's on the wacky tabaccy?
Tampa Bay - I'm amazed at how much love they are getting in some quarters. 1st in the East, Bucci? Mirtle has them winning the Southeast as well. I'm the only other one picking them for a playoff spot, though, so most are scared off by their lack of depth.
Columbus - Two of the three mainstream guides pick the DinnerJackets to make the playoffs, while the rest of us know better.
The Score Forecaster picks the Crapitals to finish as high as 10th. Based on what? They would struggle to finish in the Top 10 of the AHL, let alone the Eastern Conference.
Only Greg thinks the Wild won't make it, while the others have more faith in Pavol. Not a single source picked the Crapalanche to make the playoffs, which means Greg isn't the only one down on that squad.
Now, here's the run-through.
I see a real 3-tier system in the West, with the Top 5 club being the very best of the best and this group will be very tight at the top. Below them, positions 6-11 should be very tight as they fight for the final 3 playoff positions. Teams 12-15 will be the bottom feeders with basically no shot at the big show.
San Jose: I believe they will get good goaltending from either Nabokov or Toskala, and their offensive power, defensive depth, and productive youth will make them the cream of the crop during the regular season. It's scary how many young, talented players San Jose produces under the radar. Guys like Christian Ehrhoff, Josh Gorges, Matt Carle, and Steve Bernier got very little attention before making the big show.
Nashville: They added the size down the middle that they needed (Arnott and Vasicek) and they have a lot of offensive power all around. Their lack of size on defence is still an issue and will probably hurt them in the playoffs.
Calgary: Great goaltending, tight defence, and the addition of Tanguay should easily vault them to win the Northwest Division.
Anaheim: The lack of proven offensive talent (though not for a lack of potential) up front is their current Achilles heel, and the goaltending, who skilled, has many question marks (Bryzgalov = Cechmanek, IMO), so I can't pick Anaheim to win over SJ, but I do believe they'll be very close to the top all year long.
Detroit: They'll take a hit, but not as much as most people think. Hasek should give equal goaltending to what Legace provided for the regular season, barring another groin snap. Jiri Hudler may finally get a chance to show himself, and the Wings have more young talent than you might think. Beating up on the Blues, Hawks, and Dinner Jackets will help their record.
Minnesota: The ultimate wild card, thanks to a whole new makeover. I believe that great coaching + offensive improvements + good goaltending will get them the #6 spot over the rest of the 2nd tier. Of course, they have PAVOL, which is tilting my bias meter.
Dallas: Eric Lindros? An unhappy Mike Modano? A suddenly shaky Marty Turco? This team is still a playoff team, IMO, but they have a lot of question marks and they aren't a true powerhouse until proven otherwise.
Vancouver: Yo, Luongo! I want to see this tattooed on Alanah @ VCOE as much as the next Slav, but what I really want is for the Canucks to make the playoffs and then Luongo win the Conn Smythe as he leads the Canucks to their first cup.
Edmonton: Losing Pronger, Spacek, Samsonov...too much to overcome, IMO. I like their offensive potential and Roloson, even at partial strength, will give them better goaltending that Conklin gave them last year.
Columbus: The loss of Fedorov and the late-coming of Zherdev will definitely hurt them early on, and their lack of defence will kill them overall. Any team giving significant minutes to Bryan Berard and then relying on a young goalie is asking for trouble.
Phoenix: Gretzky isn't a horrible coach, but he's not making me think of the next coming of Al Arbour. Goaltending is a serious issue as people forget CuJo was very bad after a hot start last season. They have quite a nice bunch of risky pool picks though, with names like Nagy, Jovanovski, and Comrie.
Colorado: Svatos' shoulder is mush and will ultimately, I fear, kill his career eventually. He's already experiencing more pain. Colorado's goaltending issues mirror Phoenix, as does the fact they have a few enticing pool options. This is not a playoff team.
Chicago: Some good young players, but still a long way off. Not nearly enough quality depth, and a goaltender who lost his game last year.
Los Angeles: You...are...dead...to...me. The Curse of Pavol combined with the usual injury curse and the dependency on DAN CLOUTIER, of all people, will lead to an awful demise for the Kings this year.
St. Louis: Vladimir Orszagh's gone for the year, so the countdown is on to another #1 draft pick. Relying on a bunch of old Americans is not going to improve them from the train-wreck that was last season.
Overall, the Eastern Conference looks severely weaker to me compared to the West. Yes, yes, I'm well aware of where the past two Stanley Cup champions have come from, but compare the top teams in each conference and compare the top 8 overall. You know that most of the talent resides in the West and that more times than not, the Western teams would come out head in the long haul.
Buffalo: Ryan Miller is a Primeau...err primo goaltending. The Sabres have lots of offence, speed, and enthusiasm. The defence has issues, but I like them to come out on top over the Senators by the slimmest of margins.
New York Rangers: Adding Brendan Shanahan adds some instant offence to a team that needed some help for Jagr. The Rangers have some quality goaltending, capable supporting cast for Jagr, and an underrated defensive corps. I think they'll take their rather weak division.
Carolina: They'll take a hit from injuries, departures, and the Stanley Cup hangover, but they should take their division barring a complete collapse.
Ottawa: I think Senators fans will be ultimately disappointed by Martin Gerber, but ultimately thrilled with Ray Emery when all is said and done. The departure of Chara will hurt, definitely, as will Corvo's injury but this team has amazing offensive talent and depth and Andrej Meszaros is finally getting the respect he deserves. ISS had it right when it ranked Meszaros much higher than the idiots at CSB and most mainstream mediots.
New Jersey: This is the team that keeps getting it done, but their lack of offensive depth is still going to kill them in the end.
Philly: You've got some great young talents, and a bunch of injury-prone underachieving old farts mixed in with one of the worst goaltending corps in the league. This team has enough talent and wily coaching to finish in the top 8, but they'll never go anywhere in the playoffs with Rebound Machine as their #1 goalie. Even Antero Niitymaki, who did well in the Olympics, has been poor otherwise.
Tampa Bay: Yes, I still think they are a playoff team in the East, thanks to their powerful offence. Is Marc Denis going to give them a big boost in goaltending? Not really. Would this team make the playoffs in the West? No, but they'll make it in the East.
Boston: Don't underrate this squad. I think Tim Thomas and Hanu Toivonen will give them better goaltending than most pundits give them credit for. They have some fine young talent, and Captain Chara is here to save the day!
Atlanta: I'm not getting suckered in because Kari Lehtonen's groin is less reliable than Tie Domi's alibi for invading the nation of Belinda Stronach. Too many goals against + loss of Marc Savard's offensive help = no playoffs.
Montreal: As awesome as Tomas Plekanec is defensively, it's not enough for me to take this squad as a playoff team. Something just tells me that won't make it. They could easily pilfer the #8 spot, but their offensive struggles may continue, even with the addition of Samsonov.
Florida: They weren't a playoff team when they had Roberto Luongo, so do you really expect them to make a leap now? Sure, Bertuzzi will float and score 35-50 goals, but Alex Auld, as solid as he can be, is no Roberto Luongo. An average goalie like Auld, or an old fart like Ed Belfour, will not be enough behind this year youthful defensive corps.
Pittsburgh: They'll make a leap, but they have so far to go that it won't be this year that they'll be back in the show. Look for Gonchar to have a big year, and Crosby to take the scoring title. Ultimately, they'll lose too many 5-4 games.
New York Islanders: Signing Sillinger and Brendan Witt is not a bad idea, but signing them for the terms the Islanders did was just foolish. I don't have to tell you how bad their management is. Their goaltending? Below average? Their defence? Below average? Their offence? Maybe average... Satan is good for 60 points, as is the under-motivated Yashin. I love Jason Blake's style, and the Islanders could use another 3-4 of him.
Washington: It's still Alex Ovechkin and the anonymous filler squad. Sure, Semin could make some noise, and Zednik might get back to 25 goals (though who will feed him the puck?), but there isn't much to get excited about here, otherwise.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Stanley Cup Vegas Odds
Well, Bodog.com (Notorious for their advertising) published these odds.
Anaheim Mighty Ducks 10/1
Atlanta Thrashers 30/1
Boston Bruins 30/1
Buffalo Sabres 9/1
Calgary Flames 12/1
Carolina Hurricanes 10/1
Chicago Blackhawks 90/1
Colorado Avalanche 20/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 50/1
Dallas Stars 15/1
Detroit Red Wings 7/1
Edmonton Oilers 30/1
Florida Panthers 30/1
Los Angeles Kings 40/1
Minnesota Wild 20/1
Montreal Canadiens 30/1
Nashville Predators 15/1
New Jersey Devils 11/1
New York Islanders 50/1
New York Rangers 15/1
Ottawa Senators 7/1
Philadelphia Flyers 10/1
Phoenix Coyotes 40/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 75/1
San Jose Sharks 10/1
St. Louis Blues 80/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 25/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 30/1
Vancouver Canucks 20/1
Washington Capitals 90/1
Interesting that they have Detroit and Ottawa as the betting favourites. Given Ottawa's playoff record, and Hasek's gimpy groin, those seem like fool's bets to me, as is Philly 10/1 with goaltending that blows trumpets.
Nashville at 15/1? Tempting, but their defense is still a bit small. San Jose and Anaheim at 10/1 seem like solid bets, and I'd probably go with one of them if I felt the need to put my money where my mouth is. The best looking bet? I'd go with Calgary at 12/1. Sure, the offense might kinda suck, but with that team, it's a better bet, IMO, than Detroit or Ottawa.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Predictions Part I: The Awards
Last year, the king of all blogger predictors, ME, your blog dictator, mind flayer, and Tommy Seebach imitator, managed to more accurately predict the final standings better than yomama's mainstream media guides. THN can kiss mein ass!
What does this mean? Not much, but I'll take any victory I can get over THE MAN!
Well, now I need to apply my Jedi powers to predict the pre-season awards. Here are Greg's stupid picks versus my extremely awesome selections. Can any of you do better? Probably not.
Greg: Petr Tenkr... er, Joe Thornton again. Not that it'll do him any good.
Jes: What kind of MVP can't score 30 goals in a season? oh, that's right, Joe Thornton, the king of playoff chokes. Jaromir Jagr? He'll get hurt. Ovechkin? Have you ever seen the kid make a pass? The award is Sidney Crosby's to lose. He'll win the HART and the ART ROSS, and make more money doing commercials than you will in 30 years of scooping ice cream for bratty little kids.
Greg: Scott Niedermayer
Jes: Niedermayer? Not a bad pick, but I'll go with the safe, boring, yet reliable Swedish pick in Nicklas Lidstrom.
Greg: Evgeni Malkin
Jes: Malkin? His injured shoulder has already set him back in the race, and he's uglier than Rosie O'Donnell before the TV magicians get to her. Poor Gilbert Brule gets no respect! This award is his for the pickin and he's my pick to win over the over-hyped Malkin.
Greg: Jere Lehtinen
Jes: Ugh...I used to like this award, back when playing defence was something only the Brian Skrudland's of the world used to do up front. Now? Most forwards play just fine defensively. BORING!
I'll go with Patrick Marleau just for the hell of it.
Greg: Joe Sakic
Jes: Brad Richards. He has the personality of cardboard, but piles up the points with few penalties taken. Richards and Kiprusoff would be the worst comedic duo, evar!
Greg: Tomas Vokoun
Jes: Vokoun? He's just a bit too loosey-goosey. This award belongs to Kiprusoff. Great SV%? Check. Great defence? Check. Lots of shiny wins? Check. Charming personality? Check.
Luongo just won't get any shiny wins and Martin Brodeur is ever more exposed as the Devils continue their slide.
Greg: Dave Lewis
Jes: Dave Lewis? With that gross looking 'stache? Naw, this award goes to the that shows hella improvement. Thus, Jacques Lemaire will win.
Greg: Jaroslav Bal... Ilya Kovalchuk, I mean
Jes: Jaroslav might win the award if he plays NHL 2007 for the PSII. Sidney Crosby will win, of course.
Greg: Tomas Vokoun
Jes: A little early for this award, don't ya think? If I had to pick, I'll take Kiprusoff.
Bóža Modrý Award
Greg: L'ubomir Vaic, Liberec
Jes: Vaic isn't having much of a year, Greg. I'm going with old man Jan Peterek of Trinec. D00d is like 36 and outscoring all the other young whippersnappers.