Tuesday, June 29, 2004


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

For most teams, NHL first round picks are like blue chip stocks: You do your homework, read the prospectus, analyze some ratios, get some insider info, read the market trends, and make an investment based on your projection for that stock. Not all blue-chip stocks pan out, but the chances are good that it will at least bring in some mild return on your investment.

The Edmonton Oilers, of course, prefer to invest their big draft money in 6/49 Lottery tickets. Forget the work, just have a monkey pick numbers out of a hat and pray for the best.

Why am I talking about the Oilers? Well, their pick of Devan Dubnyk at #14 this past Saturday just reeks of past draft failures. Call me skeptical, but I have serious doubts as to whether Dubnyk can ever learn to not have the coordination of a newborn horse trying to walk for the first time.

The monkey picking lottery numbers, in the case of the Oilers, was generally head scout Barry Fraser, the man who was responsible for drafting such great players as Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Andy Moog, and Grant Fuhr..

As great as Fraser was in the early 80s, he was just as bad in the late 80s and most of the 90s, when he got a fat head and bought a house in Mexico. Fraser seemed more interested in sipping margueritas than scouting talent.

If Oilers ex-GM Glen Sather, the most overrated GM in hockey until recently, had one failing (and he does have more) it was that he was far too loyal to his 'boys'.

While Fraser was flushing first round picks down the toilet, Sather was far too loyal to do the right thing and replace him with somebody better. Sather also held the same loyalty to ex-coach Ron Low, a deer in headlights who was kept around way past his expiry date.

Although the Oilers have always played the 'small-market' card, the simple fact is that the Oilers have done a poor job in utilizing their best draft picks, hindering their ability to develop players from within, and make trades to acquire assets from other organizations. If not for Sather's uncanny ability to absolute swindle some fellow GM's ("Why, thank you, Mr. Esposito"), and the lasting legacy of the stars acquire early in the Oilers' NHL history, the Oilers would have been bottom feeders for most of the 90s and into today.

It's safe to say that no other NHL team has done as poorly as the Oilers when it comes to their first rounders...so let's analyze the results. We'll start with 1984, when things started to go sour for the Oilers. In 1983, the Oilers selected Jeff Beukeboom, and it was the last of the 'golden era' for Fraser and his staff.

(Career totals in parenthesis)

1984 (21st) - Selmar Odelein, D (18 0-2-2 35PIM)

Certainly nothing like Lyle, his younger brother, Selmar was a flashy and exciting offensive defenseman drafted out of the WHL. Odelein helped Canada win the 1985 WJC20 gold, but his career tanked after that. Odelein missed almost the entire 86-87 season, and after just 3 years in the AHL and NHL (18 games), Odelein went to play in Austria and England before retiring in 1994. The Oilers thought they had the next Paul Coffey, but they ended up just a cup of coffee instead.

1985 (20th) - Scott Metcalfe, C (19 1-2-3 18PIM)

A tough and decently productive center from Kingston of the OHL, he couldn't crack the powerful Oilers' lineup, and was traded to Buffalo, along with a 9th round pick, for Steve Dykstra (Yeah, he didn't do anything, either). The rub? That 9th round pick turned out to be Donald Audette. Double ouch! Metcalfe racked up heavy PIM and decent point totals in the AHL, but could never crack the NHL for an extended period of time. Both Fraser and Sather have egg on their face on this one.

1986 (21st) - Kim Issel, RW (4 0-0-0 0PIM)

Issel was a 6'4" power forward that was drafted to add some size to the Oilers forward corps. At a time when size wasn't a common feature among NHL forwards, the Oilers hoped that Issel would give them an advantage (Big strong powerful winger) that other teams couldn't develop.

Issel never got a real shot with the Oilers, despite putting up some fairly good numbers in the AHL. Issel was more of a raw 'project', and other teams really didn't want that kind of player. So, Issel went to Austria, where he had 4 spectacular years. He also had stints in Slovenia, Italy, Germany, and Britain. At least Issel got to travel the world, instead of being cooped up in cold Edmonton :)

1987 (21st) - Peter Soberlak, LW (0 0-0-0 0PIM)

Soberlak is the type of draft pick that would draft any fan to drink. Soberlak was another tall (6'3") 'project', and after some 'decent' numbers in the WHL, thanks to linemates Joe Sakic and Sheldon Kennedy, he had 3 pretty craptacular seasons in the AHL. Soberlak was kidnapped by aliens, but nobody cared.

1988 (19th) - Francois Leroux, D (249 3-20-23 577PIM)

Well, Francois was a 6'6" slab of beef that could fight and drink beer. He did just that, and he gave the Oilers and Penguins a servicable goon. Voila! The Oilers struck fools gold!

1989 (15th) - Jason Soules, D (0 0-0-0 0PIM)

Umm...this guy was a pretty crappy junior player, and he played a whopping 52 AHL games before being kidnapped by the same aliens that took Soberlak.

1990 (17th) - Scott Allison, LW (0 0-0-0 0PIM)

The 1990 1st round was a powerful haul, netting such names as Keith Tkachuk, Owen Nolan, Jaromir Jagr, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau, Darryl Sydor, Derian Hatcher, Martin Brodeur, and Bryan Smolinski. Who did the Oilers get? One of only 2 players in that first round that didn't play one NHL game.

1991 (12th) - Tyler Wright, C (570 77-64 141 803PIM) and
(20th) - Martin Rucinsky, LW (817 208-300-508 677PIM)

SCORE!!! Too bad Rucinsky only played 2 games for the Oilers before they traded him for Ron Tugnutt. Wright never played much for the Oilers, but at least the Oilers got 2 solid picks in 1991. 1 for 8.

1992 (13th) - Joe Hulbig, LW (55 4-4-8 16PIM)

Another 6'3" 'project', Hulbig was picked out of the US High School system, and was the Oilers version of Michael Rupp, a raw kid that hadn't played against high competition. Hulbig isn't all that physical, and he's still kicking around the AHL these days.

The pick taken right after Hulbig? Sergei Gonchar


1993 (7th) - Jason Arnott, C (743 244-324-568 897PIM) and...
(20th) - Nick Stajduhar, D (2 0-0-0 4PIM)

Well the top end of the 93 draft was very very good, indeed...
Daigle(cough), Pronger, Gratton, Kariya, R.Niedermayer, Vik Kozlov, Arnott, Sundstrom, Harvey, Thibault, Witt...so the Oilers really couldn't screw up the Arnott pick. I'll give them credit, regardless.

As for Stajduhar, a classic 'junior star' who was overmatched at the pro level. Stajduhar couldn't really rise above the ECHL and UHL ranks, and proved to be a complete bust in every sense. Players taken after him in the first round include Jason Allison, Todd Bertuzzi, and Saku Koivu.

So far, 2 for 11...

We'll look at 1994 and beyond tomorrow.

Monday, June 28, 2004


Scouring the Depths of the Draft Sea: 9th Round Hidden Treasures

Let's face it, you don't expect a draft pick from the 9th round to have a significant impact most of the time. If the player was so good, they would typically be taken earlier.

Of course, we know that NHL Scouts and GM still suffer from neanderthal tendencies, and certain circumstances have led to many 9th round draft picks rising to service and star careers in the NHL. Among them, the Slovak contingent is large

Pavol Demitra!!!
Petr Bondra
Ivan Majesky
Martin Cibak
Ronald Petrovicky

And some non-Slovaks:
Karlis Skrastins
Mikko Eloranta
Karel Rachunek
Sami Salo
Daniil Markov
Dick Tarnstrom
Kim Johnsson
Nathan Dempsey (Technically an 11th round pick, back when they had 11 rounds)
Wyatt Smith

The common theme of this group? Most are European players, drafted late either due to political circumstances (Bondra), limited viewing (some parts of Europe are still not well scouted), or the fact that they are overagers.

Looking at this year's 9th round, there are a few intriguing picks that have some potential of an NHL career, despite their late draft position. Although NHL teams don't think highly of these prospects, there are a few that offer something intriguing that sets them apart from the rest of the drudge and dreck.

#259 by Pittsburgh- Brian Ihnacak, C (Brown - ECAC) - 5'11" 185

Coming from a very good bloodline, Brian's father, Peter, had a quiet NHL stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brian, a first-generation Slovak-Canadian (He was born in Toronto) was ranked 44th in North America by CSS and was expected to go in the 3rd or 4th round...somehow he slipped all the way to the 9th round

Brian's style is very much like his father's; quiet and opportunistic. Brian put up 30 points in 31 games in his freshman season at Brown, and his scouting report from www.forecaster.ca:

As a freshman with the Bears in 2003-04, he finished second on the team in both assists and points and showed an early ability to lead an offense. Plays a smart, cerebral game and loves to create for his linemates. Doesn't play a physical game, and needs to add more bulk in order to take his game to another level. Will live and die with his scoring prowess, because the rest of his game is mediocre.

Many prospects taken in the later rounds have very little upside, but Brian has significant offensive upside and has already produced solid numbers in the NCAA. I've been monitoring Ihnacak for a while, as the Slovaks will somewhat claim him as one of their own. Out of the 9th round picks, Ihnacak has one of the best chances to make it in the NHL, in my opinion.

#268 by Carolina - Martin Vagner, D (Gatineau, QMJHL) - 6'1" 214

When Vagner was selected by the Dallas Stars 26th overall in 2002, I thought he was selected a bit too high. Still, he was a pretty solid prospect and certainly one of the more skilled prospects at the time.

2 years later, and Vagner has regressed badly and been faced with many injuries. His play at the 2004 Memorial Cup was actually fairly good, but not enough to make up for a poor season. Vagner, for all of his natural talents, was as dependable as 10 year-old Yugo.
Vagner and Dallas couldn't come to turns, and now he's been picked in the 9th round by the Hurricanes. Vagner will have to beg for peanuts, rather than the lucrative 1st rounder money he was expecting. If the Canes are willing to be patient and develop him in the ECHL (Because he's not ready for the AHL), and if Vagner is willing his career in North American, then the Canes might have come out with something decent.

#287 by Vancouver - Jannik Hansen, W (Malmo, SWE JR) - 6'0" 176

As poorly as Vancouver scouts the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Basically, they don't scout there at all), the Canucks do a great job in Sweden. With the pick of Danish-born Jannik Hansen, the Canucks may have found a real gem in the depths of the 9th round.

What's to like about Hansen?
Let's start with his production in the WJC18, where he put up 7 points and a +3 rating in 3 games...for Denmark!! According to his forecaster.ca report, Hansen "possesses blinding speed, and is one of the best pure skaters available for selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft."

And from Kyle Woodlief as Red Line Report:
"Has the kind of speed and moves that force defenders to back off the blue line. Perhaps he'll allow Wes O'Neill to keep his jock strap on the next time he breezes past him."

Why did he slip to the 9th round? He was ranked 41st in Europe.
Besides the fact he's weaker than American Budweiser Beer (If you want the real Budweiser, go here, to the Czech Republic.), Hansen's physical game is described as 'non-existant'. Yeah, he's known as a bit of a softie and perhaps not willing to work for the puck.

So, instead of looking at what he can't do, let's focus on the fact that he is potentially the best (it's subjective, after all) skater in the draft. A pure speedster can be converted into a defensive role player, as is the case with Magnus Arvedson, another Canuck Swede. Maybe Hansen will continue to use his speed and put up offensive numbers. If so, then his upside is quite high, and he'll be an intriguing pick for my hometown team.

#291 by Philadelphia - John Carter, C (Brewster, Ind. Jr.) - 6'4" 193

Flyers GM Bobby "Don't call me Bob, dammit!" Clarke promised Carter that he would use the Flyers last pick (the last pick in the entire draft) to take Carter. Surprising, Clarke kept his promise and took a 'flyer' on an intriguing project player.

If you've never hard of Team Brewster (Not related to Punky), either have I. Carter played last year for an independant junior hockey team in the USA (the Empire League in New York), and was basically playing against very poor competition compared to other prospects in the draft.

The numbers: 6'4" 193 lbs - A very tall, but underdeveloped kid.
117th - His ranking in North America by CSS
29 games, 16-30-46 and 52 PIM - It's hard to tell if those are impressive numbers given the league he plays in.

From forecaster.ca:
Is arguably the most obscure prospect available for selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, since he toiled for the independent Brewster Bulldogs in 2003-04. Owns awesome size for the center position and above-average puck skills. Must start playing against a higher level of competition to prove his physical skills can continue to translate into points. Should play at over 200 pounds as he moves up the ladder--probably to the NCAA in 2004-05.

If you are going to use the last overall pick on a prayer, Carter is the type of player to take. Sure, projects rarely pan out, but it's not as if the Flyers wasted a 1st round pick on the guy like the Islanders did on Michael Rupp.

USAJUNIORHOCKEY.COM has a nice feature on Carter.

It sounds like Carter will be working towards an NCAA scholarship, and will be a long-term project as he starts to play against higher competition and get an education at the same time.


In the end, the odds are against any of these prospects seeing the day of light in the NHL. It's likely that none of these kids will see an NHL game, or have more than a cup of NHL coffee. Given the pedigrees that each of these prospects has, I like their chances to succeed more than some of the prospects picked in the 8 rounds before them.

We'll check back in 5 years and see what happens.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Thoughts on the Draft and its Aftermath

Although the draft was quiet and void of much excitement, it certainly provided its share of surprises and deals. Now that all 9 rounds are completed, here are the thoughts floating through my NyQuil-sloshed head.

Slovakia: - As I expected, the Slovaks ended up with 10 prospects taken, 2 of which went in the first round.

10 - Atlanta - Boris Valabik, D
23 - Ottawa - Andrej Meszaros, D
71 - Buffalo - Andrej Sekera, D
78 - Minnesota - Peter Olvecky, W
103 - Phoenix - Roman Tomanek, RW
113 - Toronto - Roman Kukumberg, RW
130 - Pittsburgh - Michal Sersen, D
142 - Atlanta - Juraj Gracik, RW
145 - Buffalo - Michal Valent, G
170 - Philly - Ladislav Scurko, C

* It was nice to see one of the overagers (Kukumberg) taken, even if it was the Laffs. Still, I can't believe one NHL team couldn't spend a pick on Domin Granak. With all of the talk of salary structures and finding cheaper and younger replacements, why couldn't one team draft a 20-year old kid who has proven himself against the world's best competition?

* Poor Jaro Markovic and Stanislav Lascek went undrafted. Lascek, especially, was the hard luck case. I hope he can invest some money in some skating lessons, and prove his naysayers wrong.
As for Markovic, I'll have more on his case some time in the future.

* I knew the draft wouldn't go in order of my rankings, or anyone else's rankings, but the one name that really sticks out is Peter Olvecky of Trencin. I had him ranked about 12th for Slovak prospects, and CSS ranked him 67th among European skaters. Yet, he went 78th to the Minnesota Wild.
I honestly do not know a great deal about this guy, other than he had a solid pro debut with the Trencin senior squad, and put up decent numbers in juniors. Olvecky didn't play at the recent WJC18, and he hasn't really been regarded in the same tier as Tomanek and Gracik. If the Wild were scouting Trencin (where a great deal of good players are produced), they must see something in Olvecky that they liked a great deal. I'll have to find out more about this kid.

28 - Dallas - Marc Fistric, D
286 - Philly - Tristan Grant, LW

So, 2 Giants were indeed selected, but it was Tristan Grant and not Mitch Bartley that went late in the draft.

Grant has basically been the Giants' enforcer during his tenure here. While not quite the fighter and marketing tool that Robin BigSnake was, Grant is at least a decent skater and role player. I have no doubt that Bartley will earn himself a free agent contract when his tenure in the WHL is done, but it would have been nice to see him selected.

As for Fistric, as I alluded to yesterday, people simply want to look at what he doesn't do well (Offense, shooting), rather than he does well (Hit, defend).
When you take a prospect after the first 20, you aren't likely to get a player that is very well rounded (except Andrej Meszaros...the Sens really lucked out). As Brian Burke would say, 'These kids have warts!'

So, instead of drafting a prospect who is 'decent' in many or all areas, why not take a prospect that is excellent or very good in some areas, and poor at others. I believe the prospect with excellent/very good attributes on 1-2 categories is more likely to succeed than a prospect who is just 'decent' at everything. Look at the 1-dimensional goons (Oliwa) and speedsters (Shean Donovan, Phil Bourque) that have managed to carve out a successful NHL career.
The fact is, Fistric has excellent size and strength (there isn't a heavier player in the draft), and is a mobile skater, so he could develop into a good and tough defensive defenseman. Sure, he's a vacuum offensively, but a good defensive defenseman is more valuable to his team (Think Richard Matvichuk) than a defenseman who isn't good at any one area (think Nolan Baumgartner).


Now that we have some real deals, I can do some trade analysis. We didn't see any blockbusters, but some significant deals nonetheless.

#1 - "Why thank you, kind sir!"

To St. Louis - Patrick Lalime
To Ottawa - Condition 4th rounder in 2005.

Analysis: One man's garbage is Larry Pleau's treasure. Unlike the table scraps (Derek King, Brian Savage) that Pleau has acquired in the past, Lalime represents a significant upgrade at a position of need, and for almost nothing (except $$ for salary) at all!

I know the Senators are set to sign UFA Domin Hasek, but it's amazing that they basically gave Lalime up for nothing. This is clearly a good move for the Blues, as they can now count on havingconsistentlytly good #1 goalie. Chris Osbad is just not going to cut it.

The Senators are taking a big gamble on Hasek, although his base salary will apparently be around $2mil a year, which is less than what they would have to pay Lalime. If you believe Hasek is better than Lalime (At this point, I don't), then the Sens got what they wanted. They gave up on Lalime though, so Muckler basically traded Lalime for Hasek. We'll see if Hasek can recover his form.

The only thing that pisses me off about this deal is that the Canucks were nowhere to be found. Instead of qualifying the never-will-be Dan Cloutier at 2+ million a year, why not let Cloutier go and get Lalime instead? Lalime may not be the 'money' goalie that the Canucks are looking for, but he certainly would be an improvement.

#2 - BONKED on the head

To the Kings: Radek Bonk
To the Senators: 77th overall pick

and then...

To the Kings: Mathieu Garon, 95th overall pick
To the Canadiens: Radek Bonk, Cristobal Huet

This, my pretties, is a classic trade that helps all teams involved.

For the Sens: With Jason Spezza ready to assume a big role, the patsy playoff-zero Bonk was expandible. Bonk required a qualifying offer of $3.5 million, far too much for a guy coming off of a 44-point season. The Sens were just happy to get rid of his salary, and get something in exchange.

For the Kings: If Roman Cechmanek can't overcome his injuries and return to fine form, then Garon will finally get his shot at a #1 job and he's got a good chance at becoming a very good #1 goalie for the Kings. Garon has been a top prospect for years now, but has been buried behind Theodore in Montreal. In any event, the tandem of Cecho/Garon is very good.

For the Habs: Huet is a good soldier and should do well as a cheaper backup than Garon. Although Bonk is a patsy, he does give the Habs some size up front, which they need quite badly. The Habs have a very shrimpy bunch of forwards, so Bonk gives them an element that they didn't have before.

I know the Senators basically gave away two talented players for almost nothing, but they save some money, open up space for Spezza (and maybe Prusek/Emery down the road), and cut some fat off of the steak. Let's face it, Bonk wasn't really helping the Senators all that much when the chips were down, and if Hasek falters at all, Prusek (my favourite NHL backup) could step in and surprise everyone.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Blogging the Draft - My Fractured Thoughts

While the draft was playing live on TV, and the Hockeysfuture chat rooms were going crazy, I kept a running log on my thoughts from the Entry Draft. It's not nearly as witty as Bill "Sports Guy" Simmons' similar spiel with the NBA Draft, but I'm not being paid for this :)


Brian Burke:the only way to get players is to draft, trade or sign free agents
(Brilliant, Burkie. Where you really an A student at Harvard Law?)

Burke on Ovechkin: He�s got SKILL, SKILL, SKILL!
(Not just skill, but 3 times the skill!)

"Escapability" - Pierre McGuire's new addition to the English lexicon. Now how about "Puck Dumpability" and "Trapability"?

Burke: Why do they keep thanking the city of Raleigh?
(Thank you Burkie, someone needed to say it)

Cam Barker goes #3 to the Hawks. Now he sas that �oh &$&2� look on his face, as in
"Oh Man, I just got drafted by this godforsaken franchise. I can't wait until I'm old enough to drink"

The hometown Canes make a deal, trading the 8th and 59th picks for the 4th overall.

They pick Andrew Ladd, and he gets some mega cheers from the home crowd. I�m quite shocked he was picked this high�

McGuire just compared Ladd to Jim Sandlak(???). Oh man, that�s flattering�

McKenzie says the coyotes will go �off the board� at #5...and they get Gretzky to make the pick (to a huge standing pop)...and they take BLAKE WHEELER??!?!?
He's ranked 17th by CSS and 44th by ISS. Yeah, they reached all right.
Wheeler also has one more year of High School left. Damn, what was Gretzky tokin? Cactus joints?

Montoya #6 to the Ranger$. Peeps don�t seem to realize that this guy is a whole year older than Schwarz and the other prospects. In prospect terms, one year of development is really a bigger factor than you realize. A lot can happen in a year.

McGuire predicts: Al Montoya will not play for the New York Rangers
(Well, drafting by position is stupid Pierre, so it�s not a bad pick in that respect.)

#7 � Olesz�wow the crowd is dead silent. They must not have a clue who this guy is.

Note to Mike Keenan: Czechoslovakia doesn�t exist anymore

Nice shot of Jackets GM Doug MacLean spitting out his gum...

McKenzie calls Ladislav Smid ml. a Slovak!! But he apologizes right after the Ducks pick him #9 overall. Somebody please get McKenzie a pronounciation guide. Normally McKenzie is damn good, but today he is really off the mark on his analysis and pronounciations.

#10 � BORIS VALABIK to the Thrashees. Of course, McGuire puts in the obligatory Zdeno Chara reference. And then they show Valabik land a monster KO punch on some poor schmuck...The crowd give a big "OOOOOO" in response.

From HFChat: boris valabik once punched a hole in a cow just to see what was coming up the road!

#11 � Lauri Tukonen � The guy looks like a girl in the THN mag and looks like he should be on American Idol. Wow, we�re at #12 and still no Marek Schwarz.

#12 AJ Thelen � The Minnesota native to the Wild. This is a PR move for the Wild, but not a bad pick.

McGuire will be SHOCKED if they don�t take Marek Schwarz at #14, and says it would be a big mistake. So, they pick Devan Dubnyk!!! BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Imagine an Oilers game 6 years from now
"And another goal through the five-hole!"

Typical Oilers drafting...

McKenzie quoting Milbury: "We won�t take a goalie and we won�t take a European"
So, of course they take a European in Nokelainen.

Milbury won�t even go up to the podium, probably afraid of being pelted by tomatoes.

So Burke says Nokelainen is a �safe� pick. Why is he a �safe� pick? Does he look both ways before crossing the street?

McGuire: If the Blues don�t take Schwarz, they are making a brutal mistake.
WOO!!! Finally !! Blues take Schwarz. A damn freakin� steal and I�m hoppy! If the Blues don�t toss Demitra aside, I can really jump on the Blues bandwagon again.

The stupid hicks boo the Habs for speaking French :). Then they take Kyle Chipchura, no relation to Simon Chipmunk.

Devils trade up for #20 � You know they smell blood. One prospect slipped and they moved up to pick him. Apart from Lance Ward, and maybe Adrien Foster, New Jersey has a great track record.
The chatroom and TSN are both guessing Travis Zajac, the BCHL product, which they do. I don�t think there has been a more predictable #20 overall pick in NHL history.

Wolski � The Polish-born winger is finally taken at #21. I wonder how much higher he would have gone if he wanted charged with assault from a fight at a party.

Burke keeps mentioning that all of these lower 1st round picks �have warts�. Burke, if you have a problem with your feet, please get some Compound W

Now San Jose and Dallas swap a bevy of picks�and San Jose picks #22 � Lukas Kaspar at #22 and McKenzie says "He�s got the hockey hair going". Damn right, Kaspar wins the award for the best hockey hair at this entry draft. Him and Handzus can battle for the best hockey hair in the NHL.

Ottawa Senators get an absolute STEAL in Andrej Meszaros God damn, Slovakia owns Ottawa: Chara, Hossa, Meszaros...yet I can�t get myself to be a Sens fan.

Now they take a headshot of Robbie Schremp, and the poor kid look likes he want to cry.

Calgary Flames have Tod Button make their selection. Great, the spectre of Craig Button lives on. They take Chris Chucko, who seems like perfect bust material for me.

Burke: He�s a project

Translation, he�s got no real hockey skills and he�ll be a bust.

Another headshot of Schremp, he looks like a sad puppy. But then the Oilers take sympathy on the poor kid and take him at #25.

McGuire: I hope he doesn�t end up like Jason Bonsignore.


Canucks up next, and I predict that they will take David Bolland, a 2-way center from the OHL. (BORING!)

Burke: They will go with a project type pick.

Oh god, watch them blow it again.

Well, thankfully no Bolland, but they pick goaltender Cory Schneider. I really did not want the Canucks to spend a first round pick on a 2nd tier goaltender. He played at a blue-blood high school and faced a low level of competition. He�s also ranked #7 in North America for goalies, but played very well at the Under-18�s. Not the worst pick. We�ll see where it goes. ISS ranks him #3 among North America goalies.

Still, it�s better than Devan Dubnyk :)

Burke: [Kiril] "Koltsov has more skill than Jovanovski"

OK Burkie...

Wow, Marc Fistric, who I profiled earlier, gets taken in the first round!! The Dallas Stars take him 28th overall. Fistric is big, good defensively, and strong, but he was slipping on most everybody�s list.

Burke: He�s tougher than a night in jail
(and Burke would know this???)

Wow, I never thought he�d get in the first round. I�m pleasantly shocked!

Last pick of the first round, Andy Rogers, a 6�5� defenseman who weights about 120 pounds and had about 5 points last year. Basically, a big waste of a pick on a tall guy. Lovely.

Well, it�s off to watch the Netherlands beat on Sweden at Euro 2004.

Not the most interesting draft, but it seemed to go fast.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Todd Bertuzzi - An Assault to the Senses.

Yeah, so we all know Canucks winger/monster/moron Todd Bertuzzi has now been formally charged with assault by the Powers That Be. Excuse me while I try and express some shock at that news...nope, my face is still as wooden as Chuck Norris'.

Looking at similar cases in the past, we can see that Todd Bertuzzi won�t get more than a small fine and some community service.

"Take it from me, kids, it�s not a good idea to punch someone in the head from behind, no matter how much of a punk they are!"

Honestly, if Todd Bertuzzi suffers more punishment at the hands or the law, I�m not going to shed a single teardrop. While it doesn�t matter much to me if he gets jail time or less ice cream, it would certainly serve him right for his malicious act.

Free Bertuzzi?? - Yeah, I said my piece before, but these idiots really piss me off. These are the lemmings that hang �Free Bertuzzi� signs on their lawn, and give the ape a standing ovation. Yeah, the guy costs his team a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup and assaulted a player from behind, unprovoked.

As we saw in the Orenthal James Simpson case, you can basically get away with murder if you are a beloved star athlete. At this rate, Trevor Linden could drop a nuclear bomb on France and come out as a folk hero.

The mediots will play this as a �black eye� for hockey, but the damage was done in the US media back when the incident took place. This court case won�t go far, and won�t have any lasting impact on the game itself. If Steve Moore had been killed or crippled, then maybe it would lead to some changes in the game. (But how would you stop an unprovoked assault?)

Todd�s real fear would be that Moore would proceed to file a civil claim for damages. Still, what could Moore claim? Moore didn�t miss any salary, he�s not permanently damaged, and couldn�t look his macho team-mates in the eye if he claimed �psychological� trauma.

Bertuzzi has already lost over $500,000 (US$) in salary, his shot at the World Cup, and his (and his team�s) chance at the Stanley Cup. If you believe the NHL can police itself, then Bertuzzi has already been punished severely.


Not a lot of draft buzz as we prepare for tomorrow�s �Meat Lottery�. Don�t expect the Capitals to trade their pick unless they can pull off a ream job like the Bonsignore/Hamrlik deal. If Ovechkin and Malkin are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack, it makes much more sense to take the �sure-fire� picks, rather than take a chance on a lower prospect.

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Thursday, June 24, 2004


Giants in the Draft - 2 Days and Counting

The Vancouver Giants (WHL) have 3 talented hopefuls that could all have their
names called on draft day.

My latest article at hockeysfuture.com profiles the big and burly Marc Fistric, the industrious Mitch Bartley, and the 'Vertically-challenged' Czech defenseman Lukas Pulpan. It's too long of an article to post here, so go to the link and check it out. I'm expecting 2 out of the 3 to get picked, and we know Fistric is a sure-thing.

Other draft news, sites, notes, rants:

As I mentioned yesterday, Kyle Woodlief from USA Today/Red Line Report, had a chat session on here on USAtoday.com, unlike most chat sessions, which are full of fanboy (softball) questions and rather useless and fluffy answers, Woodlief provides some good and detailed answers in his chat.
Of course, he didn't answer my questions regarding Michal Valent and Andrej Meszaros.
I've had 1 question total ever answered on an online chat, when Ladislav "Mr. Hoppy" Nagy told the world that Jaromir Jagr was his favourite player growing up. Yukh...

The Hockey News has posted the entire contents of their Entry Draft Preview on their website. This is a good site to bookmark (besides my own, *wink* *nudge*) as a source of draft information. It has the profiles, articles, features, and so on that were in the paper edition.

They also have a list of their Top 20 First Round Busts. They list Doug Wickenheiser at #1, which astounds me.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, deserves the title more than Alexandre Daigle. For all of the money he 'earned' and the goals against he was responsible for, I can't think of a bigger bust in terms of bang for the buck and not living up to the hype. THN lists Daigle at #6, citing "Daigle might have reached the top spot on the all-time busts list, if not for his impressive comeback season in the NHL with the Wild in 2003-04"
I can see their point, since Daigle did spot 20 goals last season. But still, the Wild got him as an Unrestricted Free Agent.
The Senators invested a massive sum of money in Daigle before they even drafted him (How dumb was that?), and got the worst
return on their investment ever on a first overall pick. To Daigle's credit, he looks great in a nurses' uniform.

I also take issue with them ranking Joe Murphy on the list at #15. I know Murphy was soft and crappy defensively, but he also put up 528 points in 779 career games. He was a consistantly solid 2nd line winger, and provided his teams with some credible offense.
Sure, he wasn't a superstar, but he certainly gave a good return on a 1st overall draft pick. You can't possibly rank him on a list with the likes of Scott Scissons and give a good argument with a straight face.

Hockeysfuture.com also has an interesting interview with Scott Norton, who is the agent of the much 'maligned' Robbie Schremp.

Schremp is certainly an interesting case. Since the age of 13, he's been hyped as the next 'great one' from the USA, and he even appeared in a hockey video with Wayne Gretzky. His teammates think highly of him, and he seems to have an upbeat personality. On the other hand, he barely played in the final 3 games of his team's (London Knights) playoff games, he wasn't on the US World Under-20 squad, he's already changed agents, and demanded a trade from his junior team.

While guys like Kyle Woodlief think Schremp's off-ice issues are too much to overlook, others seem to think that Schremp is simply getting an unfair rap. Remember when Jason Spezza requested a trade from the IceDogs?
It doesn't seem to have affected his NHL career whatsoever. If Schremp slips out of the Top 15 on draft day, whichever team gets him could be very very lucky indeed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Kyle Woodlief, �Superstar� Scout

Scouting is generally an anonymous job. With the exception of New Jersey�s David Conte, and a few head scouts in real hockey towns, scouts aren�t generally well known and revered in hockey�s public eye.

Enter former Nashville Predator�s scout Kyle Woodlief, who currently writes a column for USA Today and publishes the private publication, The Red Line Report.

A direct competitor to the likes of ISS and McKeen�s, Woodlief and Red Line have quickly grown a reputation for their outspoken criticism of �old school� evaluations, NCAA Eligibility rules, and players they feel don�t get the respect of the �other� scouting combines.

From all that I�ve read, people who read Woodlief�s stuff tend to be quite polarized in their opinion of him; they either love him, or hate him. Why? It�s attitude, baby!

Most scouting reports and publications tend to put either a positive spin (Look at what a player can achieve if they reach their potential), or a more unbiased approached (Try to evaluate as if you have no stake in the player) in their writings. Red Line, on the other hand, has no problem letting you know exactly what they think of a prospect, good or bad, and it makes me wonder how it affects their ability to judge the players true talent.

On one hand, scouting is an inexact science, and with the amount of time and money invested in this crucial activity, the players you select and the success they have will ultimately decide the state of your franchise down the road. It hurts a team to invest time, money, and a draft pick to a player that never contributes to an NHL franchise, or has any trade value (like Scott Scissons). If you aren�t willing to look at the negative aspects of a player, and view that player with a very critical eye, you may blind yourself to the fact that the holes in his game may keep him from becoming a worthwhile asset.

Case in Point: Jason Bonsignore. Scouts were blinded to the fact that Bonsignore was a tall, strapping, centerman who was good on faceoffs and could skate well. They didn�t look past the fact that his offensive production was never very good at the junior level, the fact that he had less vision than a bat in daylight, or the fact that he had more interest in Dirt Bike racing than in working hard to make himself a better player. The Oilers invested a 4th overall pick, and the Tampa Bay Lightning gave away Roman Hamrlik to acquire Bonsignore. In the end, Bonsignore provided little real NHL value, and it struggling to keep an AHL career alive.

On the other hand, biased views and emotional decision making can end up leading to the worst choices and moves for any person or organization. If you let your feelings override your objective judgement, you are more likely to make the �lower-value� decision for your organization.

Case in Point: Brent Krahn.

Just ask Flames fans how they feel about this selection. With the 2000 Entry Draft held in Calgary, the Flames wanted to make a splash with the hometown fans. The Flames were coming off of yet another bad season, and they needed to engender some positive PR. They had the 9th overall pick, so they were in position to draft a good prospect.

So what do they do? They draft the �hometown� boy, letting their emotions and �other� needs override their best judgement. Krahn had played his junior career with the WHL�s Calgary Hitmen, and was a bit of a �hometown� hero to some of the fans there.

4 years, and a barrage of knee injuries later, Krahn is not even considered in the realm of top prospects out of his draft class. It�s not as if Krahn was a horrible prospect, but it was obvious to most everyone that the Flames picked him more as a PR move, rather than a smart draft-day decision.

Anyway, let�s get back to Woodlief. As his publication and reputation has grown, his ego and attitude have grown to match. As Woodlief inserts more and more of his personality into his scouting reports, he has really developed somewhat of a �Rock Star� attitude.
His public �battle� and attacks on uber-prospect Robbie Schremp have been well documented.

Here are some samples of remarks Woodlief has had about Schremp:

�We didn�t like this prima donna's attitude before the season began � how do you think we feel about him now that he's run out on his teammates and coaches in Mississauga?�

�In one of the most hilarious (at least to RLR, since we take so much heat from the Schremp sycophants) storylines to come out of amateur hockey this year, word came in early December that talented U.S. forward Robbie Schremp � you know, the kid who pouted and left his Mississaugua Ice Dogs club before parking himself in Ann Arbor with the U.S. NTDP for about a nanosecond while waiting for an OHL trade � has been (wait for it) ... left OFF the U.S. national junior team for the upcoming World Junior Championships in Finland.�

�Nothing could possibly better illustrate the point Red Line made two months ago when we publicly castigated Schremp and dropped him out of our top 10 rankings. Trust us on this one: this whole incident is not going to help him come Draft Day. It may not wind up hurting him dramatically, but if you have stock in Robbie Schremp this morning, our advice is sell, 'cause that stock ain't on the rise right now.�

And then there are his constant boastings about prospects that, apparently, only Red Line Report seems to think are great. Woodlief has no problem in letting you know that is was Red Line that discovered these fine prospects, and NHL teams and scouts are just stupid in contrast to his own publication.

His comments regarding goaltending prospect Dave Brown, who Red Line ranked #2 behind Marc-Andre Fleury
�For those of you who were the most vociferous in your taunts and jibes, including a few organizational goaltending gurus (and yes, you do know who you are), some of you have already heard it from us at the rinks this year. For the rest of you, we have one question: how could ALL of you allow nearly 300 selections to go up on the board without taking the second best goaltender available in a weak goalie crop? It's absolutely inconceivable.�
�No one can legitimately claim not to have been aware of him, especially since you were reading about him in Red Line all year. And besides, there are at least 50 NHL scouts who reside less than an hour's drive from Hamilton. It's not like he was from the side of a mountain in Lithuania. �
�We admit it's early yet, but RLR is looking pretty good thus far on goaltending evaluations�

And most recently, from a chat hosted on ESPN.com:

�Darren, Vancouver BC: You're very high on Finnish forward Lauri Korpikoski after his performance at the under 18 tournament. Is there cause for concern for teams picking in the mid-1st round that he really came out of nowhere? And that his only real dominating performance was playing alongside Lauri Tukonen and Petteri Nokelainen?

Kyle Woodlief: Came out of nowhere? What planet have you been on? He's been in Red Line's top 25 for five months now. Everyone in the scouting community has known about him at least since the middle of the season. And by the way, it's Korpikoski who was the catalyst of that line, not Nokelainen or Tukonen. Korpikoski was the one doing it on his own without either of them at the Five Nations in Pori, Finland, back in early February.
I suspect people who don't know about him only read the posers and wannabes like the folks at the hockey news, who don't employ any scouts and never set foot in junior rinks anywhere around the world, yet pretend to know something about the players they write about.


�Sean (Ottawa): Some rank Andreij Meszaros in the top 10, and even one publication in the top 5. Then there are some who have him late in the first round. This for a player who is considered to be farther along in his development considering he's a very good defenceman in the top Slovak league already. What is your take on Meszaros, and why the descrepancy among publications as to where he ranks?

Kyle Woodlief: The discrepancy is largely because some of these so-called draft publications don't actually employ any scouts and don't ever see the players they are ranking (they know who they are). So most of them just go by what others tell them, or lift information from legitimate sources. If you want accurate information, you have to be careful about what sources you choose to read, At Red Line, we have over 30 personal viewings of Meszaros over the past three seasons and we rank him as the second best defenceman in this draft behind only Cam Barker. Meszaros is very poised, mature, and solid at both ends of the rink, and it would not surprise me at all if he went in the top 10.�

Yikes! I�ve never seen a scouting publication publicly rip on another like Woodlief just did. As for Meszaros, ISS was the publication that ranked him at #4, and both ISS and Red Line seem to be high on Andrej Sekera.

I don�t know how he bases his claims about The Hockey News, or other publications, but it seems quite petty and childish to throw out claims like this about competing publications with no basis to back them up.

I know ISS, and I know they have both amateur and professional scouts that have had many viewings of the prospects they write about.

On the positive side, Woodlief has had good things to say about the ridiculous NCAA eligibility rules, teams drafting for need, and smaller players overlooked on draft day. As a big fan of Jiri Hudler, I was just astounded (and quite mad at the Canucks) to see Hudler passed by time and again simply for a lack of height.

From the ESPN chat:

Regarding smaller players...
allen freehold, nj: why are smaller players usually ranked so low? take a player like nigel dawes for instance... he has been unbelievably successful in juniors as well as the worlds, yet he isn't taken till the later rounds... hasn't it been proven that at the forward position size doesn't matter at much as say goaltending or defense (st.louis, gionta, elias, fleury etc.)?

Kyle Woodlief: Good question. This has been a pet peeve of mine, and if I have a bias, it's toward the highly skilled small player. As I've said often in interview situations, the ONLY positive thing about a 30 team NHL is that it has made a place in the game again for the skilled little guy. As long as a talented smaller player has the guts to go and play in the traffic areas, is willing to compete hard for loose pucks, and will fight through close checking, I'll continue to rank them as high as their talent warrants without regard to their physical stature.


Regarding team�s drafting habits...

matt brick, nj: what is better advice, drafting for a team's need or taking the best player available? case: rangers have three young talented goalies in the system, but if the top goalie in the draft is available at #6 do you take him?

Kyle Woodlief: Drafting for need is nothing short of imbecilic. Your needs today are not going to be your needs 4-5 years from now (which is how long it's going to take most players picked today to make it to the NHL). It always astounds me that fans just can't seem to grasp that simple concept. There are almost no teams that would make drafting decisions in the first 2-3 rounds based on immediate needs, and clubs that do find themselves consigned to the lower echelons. I have a question for you: didn't the Buffalo Sabres have some guy named Hasek in net for them when they spent draft picks on Martin Biron, Miikka Noronen, and Ryan Miller? The draft is all about COLLECTING ASSETS! Just get as many good ones as you can and let your GM sort out which ones he might use as trade bait.

In the end, Woodlief is running a business, and his comapny needs to separate itself from the pack go generate itself from the pack. I can respect the fact that Red Line is willing to put its reputation on the line with some ballsy picks, and public criticisms of top prospects that others are afraid to put out there.

On the other hand, Woodlief has developed too much of an ego, and if I am an NHL GM reading his scouting reports, I�d be worried that his bias and judgement would affect his ability to objectively and correctly scout players. It would most likely serve Woodlief and his readers well if he were publicly chopped down a little (Where is Brian Burke when you need him?), or learned to keep his ego in check. The tone of Woodlief�s columns and chats is getting more and more �selfish�, and I have a feeling his ego is the main reason he is no longer employed by an NHL team.

Woodlief has a chat on USATODAY.com later today, and I hope he answers my question regarding Michal Valent.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Slovak Draft Preview - Part II

In addition to the nine prospects profiled in Part I of the Slovak draft preview, there are some quality lower-ranked and overage prospects who could find their names called on Day 2 of the 2004 Entry Draft.

You can find the whole article **HERE** at hockeysfuture.com

I want to give a special Thank You to Daniel Kysel, who provided a lot of the information and material for Part II of the Preview. I also want to give a special shout out to my Czech soul-brother, Robert Neuhauser, who wrote the Czech Draft Preview for hockeysfuture.com, and provides the best coverage of Czech prospects that'll you will find on the Internet.

He had an excellent interview with Michal Valent, but it's for a paysite (McKeen's), so you can't read it unless you shell out some clams for it.

Monday, June 21, 2004


It's Getting Drafty in Here!

Sorry for the lame title, but here are some more draft goodies for my peeps.

Hockeysfuture.com still hasn't posted my Slovak Preview Part II, so we'll have to wait...

The profile pages for Andrej Meszaros (MEH-sah-roesh), and Juraj Gracik (GRAH-cheek) have been updated. I'm working on the others, and they'll be posted throughout the week.

TSN.ca's hockey expert, Bob McKenzie has his annual Top 50 Rankings. I am really quite surprised to see that he has Alvaro Montoya(4) ranked ahead of Marek Schwarz(6) amongst the goaltender ranks. McKenzie knows his stuff, and the list is a good read.

Note to CHL GM's regarding Marek Schwarz: Don't bother drafting him. Schwarz told the Czech media that he has no intention of coming to the CHL, as he wants another year in the Czech Extraliga (With HC Trinec, hell yeah!)

From this picture of top prospect Alex Ovechkin, you can see why the girls love hockey players. Damn, I need to stop eating so many pretzels.

And speaking of lady killers, we present Michal Handzus, the Slovak Michael Bolton.


Scouting Notes: Roman Tesliuk, Devyn Dubnyk, Max Gordichuk

I was sorting my files around when I came upon some scouting notes of mine from one of the Giants/Blazers playoff games.

The playoffs are a great time to scout and watch the prospects, since it gives you a good view of how they play under pressure in a 'natural' environment (As supposed to the WJC which is not 'natural' for the player), and the atmosphere in the Pacific Coliseum is rockin'

Here are my reports from Game 5 of the Blazers/Giants series (Which the Giants won, yeah baby). The players profile are Devyn Dubnyk, a lanky 6'5" goaltender, (ranked 2nd amongst NA goalies), Roman Tesliuk, a Ukey defenseman (ranked 26th among NA skaters), and Max Gordichuk, a 6'5" frankendefenseman (ranked 70th among NA skaters).

Max Gordichuk, D (2004) � An oddity (sort of looks like Igor the hunchback). Very �upright� style, as in Max rarely bends down, gets his body lower than a standing position, goes down to block shots...this style suggests a lack of conditioning or flexibility (or possible injury?)...On a 2-on-1 against (Giants scored), Gordichuk was covering, but stood up tall as Courchaine passed the puck by him. Max should have been down to block the pass across�he also took two bad penalties along the boards (high sticking and elbowing) because he was standing tall and delivered high hits. His �upright� style also negatively affects his shooting and stickhandling (rarely carried the puck while skating) as he doesn�t get enough body into these efforts.
Skating style is very wide�covers a lot of ground going forward with powerful strides, but his forward-to-backward quickness needs work. Needs to get more assertive with getting down and out of his �upright� style. Mostly partnered with Roman Tesliuk, and didn�t see a lot of ice time.

Devan Dubnyk, G (2004) � Giants only had 9 shots on Dubnyk in the first 2 periods, so Devan was obviously rusty with the lack of work�let some questionable rebounds in the 3rd period. To his credit, the scoring chances the Giants got in the 3rd and OT were �golden� as the Blazers defense left him out to dry. Dubnyk is very skinny and could stand to gain some bulk or use more padding in order to expand his net coverage. Despite given little support on some chances, Dubnyk did not come up with the big saves when needed. OT winner was rather weak through the legs. Communicated well with his teammates when the puck was played into his zone.
Puckhandling: The bare minimum � he stopped the puck behind the net for teammates, but showed nothing more. At the very least, he didn�t butcher any plays.

Roman Tesliuk, D (2004) � Very eager to carry the puck up the ice. A fast and strong skater (Quick and powerful strides) who can carry the puck up the ice without much of a loss of speed... His head was down a few times while carrying the puck, mainly in the 1st period. Strong balance on his skates enabled him to win his fair share of physical battles. Saw significant ice time in all situations. Despite his natural skills, did not display a lot of offensive creativity and brilliance in the offensive zone. Reminded me of Bret Hedican with his speed, balance, and lack of offensive brilliance.


In the games that I've seen Dubnyk play in, he has always looked very clumsy and prone to weak goals. Maybe I just see him on his bad days, but I find it hard to see why he is so hyped up, other than the fact that he is tall. I wouldn't spend a 1st round pick on him, based on my own viewings.

Tesliuk is an underrated gem, and despite his weak offensive numbers (14 points in 70 games), he has good skills and plays a solid defensive game.

Gordichuk is just a freakshow, and I don't think he'll succeed in the NHL without a serious change in his conditioning and adjustment to his skating style.

Of course, those are just my opinions. If you don't agree with them, then you are just wrong ;)

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Slovak Draft Preview - Part I

So, I finally completed the first part of my Slovak Entry Draft Preview for hockeysfuture.com, and now I can focus on the prospect profiles, and Part II (The Overagers) of the preview.

The full article can be found ***HERE***.

It's a really strong year for the Slovaks this year, and there should be at *least* 10 quality prospects taken, including 2 in the first round. The past 2 years have been rather dry for Slovakia, but this year Slovakia is back in the spotlight.

The Slovak prospect rankings heading into the draft


1. Andrej Meszaros
2. Boris Valabik
3. Juraj Gracik
4. Roman Tomanek
5. Andrej Sekera
6. Michal Valent
7. Michal Sersen
8. Jaroslav Markovic
9. Stanislav Lascek
10. Ladislav Scurko

1. Roman Kukumberg
2. Dominik Granak
3. Juraj Stefanka
4. Tomas Frolo
5. Karol Krizan

I hope to be finished Part II late tonight.

Saturday, June 19, 2004


Slovakian Golden Puck Award Winners Announced

The Slovak Hockey Federation has handed out it's own awards to the best and brightest in Slovak hockey, otherwise known as the Golden Puck Awards.

For the third straight year, Miro "Captain Slovakia" Satan was named the best player, although it was a close race this year due to his struggles during the regular season.

The Award Winners:

Best Player: Miroslav Satan
Best Forward (not named Miroslav Satan): Michal Handzus
Best Defenseman: Zdeno Chara
Best Goaltender: Jan Lasak
Best Slovak League Player: Zdeno Ciger (Remember him?)
Best Coach: Dusan Gregor (HK Trencin)

The Slovak Extraliga All-Star team was also named.

G - Karol Krizan (Zvolen) - They kall him 'Krazy Karl'
D - Andrej Meszaros (Trencin) - Top Slovak prospect for the 2004 Entry Draft
D - Petr Pavlas (Slovan) - The yang to Meszaros' ying, Pavlas is pretty ancient and revived his career with a move from the Czech Republic.
F - Roman Kukumberg (Trencin) - Top Slovak overager for the 2004 Entry Draft
F - Martin Bartek (Zvolen) - Came back from the ECHL to rip a hole in the league.
F - Peter Fabus (Trencin) - Former Coyotes draft pick that flopped in the AHL.

Really, not a lot of surprises here, as the fans and media had the choices pretty much made up for them.



The IIHF vs. The NHL, at least, on the ice and not bickering over money.

It seems the IIHF is seriously considering a side-tournament that would see the NHL Champion take on the IIHF Champion (The Winner of the New Super 6 tournament).

This brings back memories of the traveling teams from the USSR (Dynamo Moscow, Red Army Team, and Khimik) playing in exhibition games versus the NHL Teams. One of my first card collecting memories involves those cheap 'Super Series' Russian sets with such strange names as 'Artur' Irbe and Valeri Zelepukin. During the Cold War era, this was the first chance to see players and a style of hockey that we'd never been exposed to before. The Russians were a mysterious bunch and the NHL teams had plenty of incentive not to lose these 'exhibition' games to a bunch of robotic Russians, lest face the ridicule of the home fans.

So, what to think about the IIHF's current idea?

Devil's Advocate -


As if the NHL season wasn't long enough, do we really need more games added to the schedule? I need a break from watching hockey in July and August, and save for the occasional World Cup, most fans could live without even more hockey.

Really, do you see the NFL Super Bowl champs play the NFL Europe champs? Do the World Series winners play the winner of their minor leagues?
Obviously, the most talented players are already in the NHL, so why should the NHL champions be forced to play against 'minor' league players, or inferior competition? They've already played against the best of the best, so what's the point in forcing them to play against some lesser team from Siberia?

The players? Do you think the players want to add more games to their schedule? The cup winners already play about 110 games a season, and obviously don't have enough time to heal their injured bodies during the short offseason. Why not let the winners have a nice relaxing vacation for their efforts, rather than totally destroy whatever joint cartilage they have left.

The fans? Do they really pine to see the engrossing matchup between Martin St. Louis and Petr Leska?.
Sure, fans in Europe would love to see the NHL players against their own teams, but the real money and fanbase is in North America, and this matchup wouldn't mean much to many of them. I don't think a hockey fan in Columbus is going to get worked up over a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Frankfurt Lions.

As much as the IIHF would gain from this for their European contingent, the NHL wouldn't gain much at all. In fact, if the NHL team were to lose this 'series' against the Euro team, and possibly face a major injury to one if its stars, then the NHL has everything to lose in this deal.

Angel's Advocate

Wow, aren't you the closed-minded one? Weren't you the one that was chiding the Russian players for being too soft to play for their country?

Let's face it, the NHL is a poorly marketed league, and should take advantage of any and all opportunities to market itself. You don't think the European market is important? Considering how many players come from Europe and how many hockey fans exist in some of those countries, it would serve the NHL very well to market itself to the fans over there.

If the players are so willing to play in the World Cup of Hockey, then why wouldn't they accept a 3-game series (just my idea) against the European Champions? If they cut 3 exhibition games from the Champions' schedule, they could easily fit this in.

Remember, the Canucks and Leafs have already had training camps and exhibition games over in Sweden, so it's not as if they don't have precedent.

As for the comment regarding 'inferior' talent; just because the players aren't in the NHL does not make them inferior. There are some world-class and ex-NHLers playing for these top teams in Europe. Pavel Patera, Petr Leska, Jesse Belanger, and Peter Ratchuk are some of the names that the NHL teams could be up against. Just because a player can't excel in the NHL, doesn't mean they aren't talented players. Patera, especially, is an example of a player who has excelled for his country (Czechia) and European club teams, but just wasn't built for the NHL. In a short series, the talent levels wouldn't likely lead to a total lopsided NHL blowout.

If the fans in the NHL don't care, then play the games in Europe exclusively. The NHL fans can focus on its own exhibition games, while the European fans can enjoy some fine hockey. I would just hope that the NHL would televise these games for the North American audience.


Personally, I would love to see a series with HC Zlin vs. the Lightning, but it wouldn't be something I would clamour too hard for. Since I follow hockey a lot more than most any North American fan, the NHL wouldn't exactly have a lot to gain from this on this side of the ocean.

Now, European teams end their season in April and start playing exhibition games in August(!), so this would have to be fit around the NHL's schedule to the disruption of the European leagues.

It would be a great idea for the NHL to take any such series out of the schedule for the cup champs, so as to not burden them with any extra games. These exhibition games would be a good warmup for the champs, and would be an exceptional marketing ploy in Europe. I don't see the NHL in Europe in the next 20-30 years, so this could be the next best thing.

Of course, it all comes down to $$$. As the IIHF and NHL will soon be renegotiating the current Transfer Agreement, the NHL could use this as a bargaining chip to get what it wants (Basically, players on the cheap). If the IIHF wants this tournament, then they will have to give up some concessions to the NHL. Of course, the stupid Russian Federation could throw a wrench into the whole thing...

The NHL currently has more important issues on hand, so I don't see this 'Series' happening for another 2-3 years, if at all. The NHL has more to lose than to gain from this deal, unless they can get a sweet deal in the next Transfer Agreement.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Here's one for the Ladies...

Jaromir Jagr...

"Do I make you horny, baby? Do I?"


Hockey's Future Draft Centre is up!

With the NHL Entry Draft fast approaching, be sure to check on Hockey's Future Draft Centre for updates, profiles, and other draft news. It's the best site on the 'net for your drafting needs.

I know the Slovakian section looks bare, but I'll be finished the profiles and preview some time this weekend.

ISS, the service I mention earlier, also released it's final Top 15 Rankings for the draft:

1. Alexander Ovechkin LW 6�2" 214 09.17.85 DYNAMO
2. Evgeni Malkin C 6�3" 185 07.31.86 METALLURG
3. Lauri Tukonen RW 6�2" 198 09.01.86 ESPOO BLUES JR.
4. Andrej Meszaros LD 6�2" 195 10.13.85 TRENCIN DUKLA
5. Robbie Schremp C 5�11.5" 200 07.01.86 LONDON
6. Cam Barker LD 6�3" 214 04.04.86 MEDICINE HAT
7. Alvaro Montoya G 6�1.5" 193 02.13.85 U. of MICHIGAN
8. Rostislav Olesz C 6�1.5" 204 10.10.85 HC VITKOVICE
9. Andrew Ladd LW 6�2" 200 12.12.65 CALGARY
10. Wojtek Wolski LW 6�3" 202 02.24.86 BRAMPTON
11. Drew Stafford RW 6�2" 200 10.30.85 NORTH DAKOTA
12. Marek Schwarz G 6�0" 180 04.01.86 SPARTA PRAHA
13. Boris Valabik LD 6�6" 210 02.14.86 KITCHENER
14. Ladislav Smid LD 6�3" 200 02.01.86 LIBEREC HV
15. A.J. Thelen LD 6�3" 205 03.11.86 MICHIGAN STATE

And a little blurb on Big Boris Valabik


For a tiny country, Slovakia sure has produced some big d-men in the past few years - Chara, Mezei, Kudroc, Stehlik, and Majesky. At 6�6" and 210 lbs, Boris Valabik is the latest �redwood� to come from the forests of Slovakia. He�s already wearing the unofficial crown as the best enforcer in the draft. Somewhat unheralded before this season, Valabik has shown major improvement in all facets of his game. Not flashy, he takes care of his own end, can chip in offensively, and doesn't back down from anyone. ISS Scout Mike MacPerson had this to say- "he uses his range well and with his size and skating, the range becomes a huge asset". Valabik won�t be a flashy scoring defenseman in the NHL, but will be a franchise cornerstone because of his intensity and character.

NHL Potential: The team that drafts him will do so with one thing in mind - he's scary to play against! His 278 penalty minutes confirm Valabik�s toughness.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Khabibulin says 'Nyet' to Russia

So, Khabi is not happy with the Russian Hockey Federation, and has decided not to play in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

From this TSN.ca report,
"We have no chance of winning based on the current situation surrounding the preparation of our national team," the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender told Sport-Express. "I have already had a similar experience before the 1996 World Cup when there was total chaos in our organization."

"This time we have more of the same and, frankly, I don't see any point in my participation in this tournament."

With Khabibulin and Nabokov (injured) unavailable to Russia, the vodka swishers will face a real hole in goal. Maxim Sokolov doesn't exactly inspire fear in the black heart of Jaromir Jagr. Frankly, this defection does not surprise me, as I figured that one or more of the players would refuse the invite.

So, what do my two personalities think about this?

Devil's Advocate -
"Jeebus, how soft have these guys become ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain? Their egos are just too much to bear.
What? Did they refuse to put Evian in their water bottles?
So what if the coaches aren't cuddly and won't tell bedtime stories like, say, Joel Quenneville. Are you telling me that these grown men can't take a little bit of yelling and chiding for a couple of weeks to play in such a prestigious tournament?
Would it hurt to make a little sacrifice? Aren't they proud enough to represent their country on the world stage? It's no wonder why people think Russians are soft; They cry and whine because they coach hurts their feelings. Awwww....

Khabibulin is not going to change anything, since they will just choose a goalie who is eager to play for Russia. There are other skilled goalies in that country, and it's not as if Khabibulin would singlehandidly win the tournament for them.

If Slava Fetisov and Vladimir Putin can't even 'fix' their federation (Note that the Russians still rock the World Juniors), then how does Khabibulin expect to have any effect on how things are run? In the end, he just looks like a egotistical wuss and he'll watch his mates play on TV."

Angel's Advocate -
"Well, Devilboy, if you were Russian, would you be proud to play for that country? Or better yet, for that crooked federation?

Face it, the Russian Hockey Federation is run by Communists who run the place like it's the 1980's USSR. Hard-line tactics, treating the players like slaves, backwards thinking, lack of unity, and backroom politics have helped the Russians to not win a gold medal since 1993...and let's not forget about that debachle in St. Petersberg.

Look, it's Khabibulin's decision to not play in this tournament if he doesn't want to, and he has a very valid point; The Russian Federation is in chaos and things don't look like they will improve. Even though Zinetula Bilyaletdinov is coaching the Russkies in this tournament, Tikhonov is still in the shadows, and is guaranteed to have his coaching job back for future tournaments.

How can a player or worker possibly improve their working conditions? Like any labour strike, the player can simply choose to withhold their services. It's the best and most powerful tactic availble to their disposal.

If Sergej Federov joins Khabibulin in this 'strike', and other players follow, then the Russian Federation just may get the message and realize that they have lost the support of their best players. The Russians can't be truly competitive if the best players continually spurn their homeland.

Oh, one more thing; Nik Khabibulin had his gold medal stolen by Tikhonov after their win in 1992. Would you want to play for a team that stole your gold medal? I'd go tell Tikhonov to go do something sexual to himself."


I'd give the nod to my angelic side, since if often doesn't win out enough :)

If nobody else joins Khabibulin in pulling out, then the Russkies will just move on as always. If a star like Federov decides to join Khabi, then others may follow, and the domino effect might be enough for Steblin and/or Tikhonov to get canned.

It's sad that while Russia is quietly becoming a capitalist power, the hockey federation is still stuck in the murky past. The 'holdout' players are certainly somewhat 'soft', but I believe that they have the interests of their fellow Russian players are heart. I would hope that the other players would at least give Khabibulin a phone call and give him some support.

This may only be the beginning...

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004


A 'Primeau' Price for a Checking Center

The impending CBA doom and gloom hasn't stopped the Flyers from opening up the Comcast vaults.
Keith Primeau has agreed to a new 4-year deal with the Flyers that will see him earn $17 million over 4 years (4.5/4.5/4/4), and, according to Michael @ Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic, ex-Canucks prospect R.J. Umberger has followed the money and also signed with the Flyers.

Primeau - Much hub-bub has been made over the fact that Primeau took a paycut (He made $5mil last year), especially considering the previous insane free-agent contract given to Robert Holik, and the fact that Primeau was a greedy holdout in the past.

Given today's economic climate, it shouldn't be all too surprising that Primeau and other UFA's will be taking some form of pay cuts or signing 'lesser' deals than they had in the past.

Still, how could $4.25mil (averaged) a season be considered much of a sacrifice on Primeau's part? Primeau will be paid well for the decline phase of his career (He will be 36 when this contract is over), and none of the years are 'options' on the part of the Flyers.

Primeau is a guy I'd normally like on my team, but there is no way that I would pay that kind of money to a guy that scored 7 goals and 22 points in 54 games.

Of course, the Flyers paid for the 'intangibles' and character traits such as leadership, defense, size, and physical presence.

According to Bob Clarke, "Now that we have signed Keith it means that we can start filling in the other places. I don't think you have any chance of being good without top leadership and Keith is a great leader on this club. The players that are around him respond to Keith. His on-ice performance was obviously above anybody else in the playoffs. Had we made it to the Stanley Cup Finals he would probably have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs."

Sure Primeau had a great playoff run, but that type of production cannot be counted on again in the future. In the previous 22 playoff games before this year, Primeau had a whopping 1 goal and 5 points. Given his major decline in regular season production, Primeau is no longer a good offensive player, and the Flyers are definitely paying a high price for a big checking center.

The fact is, only a 'High Revenue' team like the Flyers could afford to pay this kind of premium for a checking center without the contract seriously hampering their ability to be competitive in the long run. If a team such as the Oilers had given Primeau kind of dough, it would have hampered them in keeping other good or better players around.

Now if the NHL manages to get some kind of salary cap system installed, the Flyers may very well regret this contract down the line when Primeau is playing on the 3rd line and providing his current level of offense.

Of course, comparing this deal to other ones, you could look at this contract as a glass half-empty/half-full deal:

Robert Lang - $5,000,000 per season - One of my personal favourites, Robert Lang is a good 2-way center who was an offensive force last season with the Capitals and Red Wing$.
Lang produced 30 goals and 79 points in just 69 games last year, and his offensive production has been great the past few seasons.
Like Primeau, Lang is a big and powerful centerman, although unlike Primeau, Lang does not play a 'power' game, but instead uses his size to his advantage for purely offensive gain. In the end, Lang provides a much better value for about the same money.

Todd Marchant - $3,000,000 per season - Coming off of a 'contract' year in 02/03, where Marchant put up an outlier performance if 60 points in 77 games, Todd returned to Earth in 03/04 with 34 points in 77 games.
Like Primeau, Marchant is generally a checking center with decent, but limited offensive skills. While Primeau is a powerhouse, Marchant is a speed merchant.

Many thought Marchant was overpaid by the Bluejackets, and he probably was, so does Primeau really deserve $4.25 mil a year?

Really, Primeau and Marchant are quite similar in their roles and effectiveness. But, nobody held a gun to Bob Clarke's head, and the Flyers were obviously willing to pay Primeau the primo bucks because they simply can.

RJ Umberger - Now here is a story that makes me ill.
In his 2 years as a Canucks prospect, he consistantly held out for his millions, despite the fact that he never played 1 game in the NHL, and never proved he deserved such a rich deal.

In his time since draft day, RJ played one rather mediocre NCAA season, and then sat out the entire year, expecting a big pro contract from the Canucks. Sincehe hired an agent, the Canucks had the leverage as Umberger couldn't go back to the NCAA.

Well, the Canucks traded his rights to the Rangers, who surprisingly couldn't find any money in their huge vault to sign Umberger.

Enter the Flyers, who have no trouble throwing around money like the Miami Heat at the Gold Club.

Umberger may turn out to be a good player, but I have my doubts. Players like him as really a 'dime a dozen', and he'll likely make it as a role player at best. In the end, Umberger will lose out by missing a year of crucial development in any league, while the Canucks will lose out for wasting a 1st rounder on the guy.

Money - Makes happiness doesn't it? :)

Monday, June 14, 2004


The 2004 Jesse Awards for De-Excellence

While the NHL gives out awards and accolades based on achievements in excellence, the true �losers� of the NHL never quite get their due.

Thus, the Jesse Awards for De-Excellence will give praise to the �Best of the Worst�.

The best part? The Jesse Awards are CBA-free. Any reporter caught asking questions regarding the labour talks will be subject to a severe, public tongue-spanking by former Canucks GM Brian �Cuddles� Burke .

Enough with the small-talk, let�s hand out some �software�:

The Human Resources and Development Canada� Least Valuable Player Award - Given to the player that gives the least amount of bang for the buck, just like the Department of Human Resources and Development of Canada.

Winner: Tommy Salo, Edmonton/Colorado - According to Daryl Shilling�s Goaltender Ratings, �Tommy Salo was by far the worst one to play so many games. The Oilers hung onto Salo till the last, desperate end, ultimately holding the club back. Salo, and his being played ahead of Conklin is the reason that the Edmonton Oilers didn't make the playoffs. Either coach MacTavish just couldn't see it, or was told to play him. Either way, it was a horrible decision, one which cost the Oilers extra home dates and playoff money. For shame!�

For the $3.5million the Oilers spent on Salo, they ended up getting a net deficit, rather than a net benefit. I cannot think of another player that hurt their team�s chances to win more than Salo. Thus, he gave the least benefit for the big bucks he �earned�. Note to GM�s, just because you pay a player millions, doesn�t mean you should force yourself to use that asset to your detriment. Sunk costs happen, to take a hit and move on.

Runner up: Brian "Mr. October" Savage, Coyotes/Blues - For his $3.25million, he produced a whopping 16 goals and 32 points in 74 games, while providing no physical presence and horrible defensive coverage. In his infinite wisdom, Blues GM Larry Pleau saw fit to acquire Savage for the stretch run, which was just as brilliant as his previous late season moves for guys such as Stephane Richer, Dave Ellett, and Derek King. Savage edged out Roman Turek, who at least played well in his role as a backup, and provided the �timely� injury that led to the acquisition of Mikka Kiprusoff.

The Marty McSorely Award for Bone-Headed Decision Making - Given to the player who made the worst decision during the course of the season.

Winner: Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver - With his selfish attack-from-behind sucker punch of Colorado�s Steve Moore, Bertuzzi ended up costing himself and his teammates a semi-legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason for his sudden lack of control, and now he may face a civil suit, as well as his loss of a World Cup spot on Team Canada.

The fans at GM Place also share in this award, as they had the gall to give Bertuzzi a standing ovation when he returned for an appearance after the attack. Why the hell would you ever support his actions? Bertuzzi just cost �your� team a good chance at the Stanley Cup, and Bertuzzi should have been subject to a rousing chorus of boos.

Runner Up: Marian Gaborik, Minnesota Mild - So, Gaborik had a couple of good seasons and decided he was worth millions and millions of Benjamins. 3 agents about 20 missed games later, Gaborik ended up with the same amount of money that the Wild offered in the first place, less the pay from the first few weeks that he missed.

In the end, it was a lose-lose situation as Gaborik had a horrible season, and the Wild ended up missing the playoffs in large part thanks to this situation.

The Craig Janney Award for Defensive Indifference - Given to the NHL�s worst defensive forward.

Winner: Konstantin Kolstov, Pittsburgh - While team-mate Rico Fata had the (un)fortune to finish the season with the leagues worst +/- or -46, at least Fata was spending a lot of time on the ice against the opposition�s better scorers.

Koltsov, on the other hand, was never asked to kill penalties, nor was he on the ice much against top offensive players. The Russian Speedster was focused mainly on offense, and his -30 rating is also quite telling in his contribution to the Penguins troubles. Pavel Bure would be proud of Koltsov�s defensive indifference.

Runner Up: Rick Nash, Columbus - With his 41 goals, some questioned how the young Power Forward could be left off of Team Canada for the World Cup. Looking at his -35 rating, and watching him play quite a few times, I could see that Nash is far too offensive minded to be placed in a tournament situation. Nash forechecks with vigour and drives to the net well, but he sacrifices his defensive duties in order to do so. He�s a great young player, but this past season, he was just awful in his own end.

The Rob Ray "Iron Hands" Award - Given to the forward and the defenseman that provide the least amount of offensive contribution to their team.

Winner, Forward Division: Kelly Buchberger, Pittsburgh - It was bad enough that they counted on this guy to be a primary defensive forward, but they also suffered with his total lack of offensive contribution. In 71 games, and with regular ice time, Buchberger provided a paltry 1 goal and 3 assists. Even if Buchberger was the league�s best defensive forward (and he�s not even close), 4 points would not be enough to justify a roster spot given that much ice time invested.

Winner, Defenseman Division: Scott Lachance, Columbus - The Vancouver Canucks heartily thank Jackets GM Doug MacLean for taking Lachance far away from Vancouver.
In his 138 games as a Jacket, Lachance has 0 goals and 5 assists, including 0 for 77 this past season. You would think a 4th overall pick (1991) would be able to provide at least 10 points of offense a season, even accidentally.

The Al Strachan Award for Journalistic Quality Control - Given to the publication or journalist that achieves de-excellence in quality control.

Winner: The Tampa Tribune - Unless you live in a cave, then you already know about this Tampa Bay Tribune editorial, stating that the Bolts had lost the Stanley Cup Finals. Wishful thinking by a disgruntled Flames fan working in Tampa Bay, perhaps?

The Bobby Clarke Award for "Goofy" Public Relations - Given to any member of an NHL staff that commits the worst PR gaffe.

Winner: Ken Hitchcock, Flyers - Well, what do you know? It�s Bobby�s coach, Fat Bastard himself.

Hitchcock�s quote about Lightning coach John Tortorella, "He's Italian, he's from Boston, and he's probably a Red Sox fan".

Ken Hitchcock will also receive a pair of cement shoes, courtesy of the Philly chapter of the Teamsters Union and a full DVD set of The Soprano�s, Season 3.

Congratulations to all of the winners (losers?) of the 2004 Jesse Awards for De-Excellence. Without losers like you, we�d never have anyone to make us laugh and feel better about ourselves.

Sunday, June 13, 2004


Objective Statistical Analysis - Breaking the 'Old School' Barriers

Out of all the major pro sports in North American, hockey is, by far, the most 'Old School' of sports when it comes to analysis.

When you talk about a player, scout a player, or compare two players, you generally see terms such as anticipation, hockey sense, balance, "Heart", "He comes up big in big games!" and so on. Rarely do you ever see a meaningful objective comparison or evaluation of players that isn't influenced by some sort of personal bias.

The problem? All of those traits are subjective, and cannot be objectively measured the same way by two different people. Where as I see Rob Niedermayer as a rather average skater due to his lack of first-step quickness and his apparent clumsiness, other scouts see a fast skater who can chew up ice like a sno-cone machine.

Hockey has very few resources for statistical analysis, an area which has always intrigued me. I have planned a few studies on my own, as I had seen nothing out there before. The famed book MONEYBALL: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, showed how baseball's Oakland Athletics exploited market inefficiencies by using statistical analysis and 'non-traditional' analysis to sign players that other teams didn't value due to lacking 'The Good Face', or the 'Tools' (Speed, Power, etc), yet could perform well enough to justify a roster spot.

As Daryl Shilling put it, "Hockey lives in a completely different world than other businesses. Brokerage firms, for example, review the performances of funds and their workers scientifically, and make business decisions based on study. Hockey
bases almost every one of its decisions based purely on perception, which is
a an extremely limited method of evaluation."

Who is Daryl Shilling? Well, I was absolutely stunned and pleased to recently come across a site called The Hockey Project, where I found a very good counter-argument to my rant for Neely's HOF chances. This site is run by Daryl Shilling, and he has already developed some good studies that could really kickstart a 'Stathead' revolution in the hockey realm.

The Roadblocks to Objective Analysis:

Basically, there are 2 major areas which present problems in performing objective statistical analysis, and then having said analysis accepted by the fans, media, and powers that be.

Lack of Deep, Meaningful, and Objective Data:
When you want to compare two players, say Martin St. Louis and Jerome Iginla , there isn't a lot of measures out there that can tell you a lot about the seasons they had, in context to the league around them.

From the basic stats readily available:

St. Louis - GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh% GWG GTG SHG SHA PPG PPA
82 38 56 94 +35 24 212 17.92 7 0 8 3 8 22

Iginla - GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh% GWG GTG SHG SHA PPG PPA
81 41 32 73 +21 84 265 15.47 10 1 4 1 8 13

So, from the stats most commonly available to anyone, what can we see?
Well, St-Louis has more points, a better +/-, far less penalties, and most short-handed goals, while Iginia has more goals, more shots, and more game-winning goals.

So, can we truly conclude, from these basic stats, that St-Louis was a superior defensive player (+/- and SHG), while Iginla was more "clutch" because he scored more Game Winning Goals?

Well, most fans probably would and will conclude that from the statistics. There simply aren't details statistics available to measure defensive contribution, or other 'intangibles'.

A question? Do Short Handed Goals = great defensive play? or sacrificing defense for offense?
I ask this because, subjectively, Pavel Bure is the perfect example of racking up Short Handed Goals at the expense of defense.

Bure had 6 SHG in 97-98, and 34 in his career. From his time on the Canucks, I could say that he often 'poached' while killing penalties, looking for opportunities to score goals. For the opportunity to score shorthanded, Bure would give up attention to the defensive responsibilies that he was assigned. So, Short Handed Goals seem like a truly shaky argument for defensive ability, given the fact that the object of killing a penalty should be first and foremost to 'not get scored on'.

Unfortunately, the NHL does not keep much data that is 'deeper' than what I have provided you above. The only other statistic that I have not shown you is 'Time on Ice', where we can see that Iginla played 2:11 of shorthanded time per game compared to St-Louis' 1:36. This tells you that Iginla played more on the penalty-killing units, but it doesn't tell you who was better.

The NHL comes up 'Short Handed':

If you look at a typical hockey boxscore, you can't get very much from it (Who scored, assisted, shots, saves, penalties). Until recently, boxscores didn't even contain the player's individual +/- and Shots on Goal totals. So, if you look at a historical box score, you can't get very much at all from it other than the basic counting stats.

This is where the NHL comes in. As a custodian of the sport, the NHL has recenly gone backwards in the realm of record keeping. Just a few years ago, we were lucky enough to finally have access to statistics like hits, giveaways, takeaways, and blocked shots.

Unfortunately, the NHL stats keepers at most arenas, like NHL referees, were wildly inconsistant in their application of tabulating the numbers. Some arenas were extremely generous in giving out hits (New York), and some were extremely stingy.

When the NHLPA was brilliant enough to use stats to show the contributions of 'role' players, the NHL, in a move driven by simply pure greed, decided to stop providing these detailed stats to the public. Although the NHL was ordered to provide this information to the NHLPA, the NHL simply refuses to release these figures to the public.

So, in the end, we are left with only the basic statistics again, which makes it harder to develop meaningful measures and objective analysis.

Lack of Mainstream Acceptance:

I am sure some of you are reading this and thinking, "What a nerd, this guy has never played the game and he thinks you can know a player just by looking at some spreadsheets!"

This type of attitude is rampant among baseball scouts and executives, despite the inroads of statistical analysis into many front offices in that sport.

Why is it so hard for 'Old School' types, and mainstream media and fans to accept objective studies?

1. It's too 'hard' for them - People tend to fear and dislike things that they don't understand. I don't tend to like nuclear physics because it's just generally too much for my head to wrap around, and 'Old School' hockey types don't tend to be the brightest lights in the chandalier.
Hockey people tend to know and understand the 'basic' stats like goals, assists, and ice-time. If you try to present some sort of basic formula to them, they will likely have trouble understanding it, and will fight it because it could be a threat to them. (Some baseball teams have drastically reduced scouting departments because they could use analysis to draft players for a much cheaper price).

2. "You never played the game" - It's a strange phenomenon in the sporting world where the league's top executives tend to be former players and coaches. Rarely is a hockey business run by a professional businessman, but rather by one of the 'boys'. The Edmonton Oilers are the perfect example of this, as the team is run by Kevin Lowe, who was very recently a coach and NHL player himself.

The Hockey Realm is a very closed group, and they don't tend to look favourably upon 'outsiders' telling them what to do. Unless you 'Played the Game', these guys tend to think that you couldn't possibly understand the game.

To them, I ask them this: If you never practiced politics, or ran for public office, does that mean you cannot have an expert opinion on political issues?

As for the media, they tend to repeat and regurgigitate the same old tried-and-not-so-true cliches. Their mentality matches that of the 'Old School', so the mainsteam media tend to look at objective analysis with a "King of the Mountain" mentality.

3. It's Boring - One barrier to objective analysis is presenting it in a format that people can understand, and that people will want to read it!
I could post pages of very useful information, but if it's poorly formatted and explained, people will not want to read it, nor come out of reading it with an understand of just what I want to explain to them.

When I perform some studies in the future, I hope to do so in a format that is 'easy to read' and 'entertaining' at the same time. You are more likely to accept a new idea if it at least intrigues you in some way, even if it comes down to me posting photos of Anna Kournikova.

Yeah, that got your attention, didn't it???

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Friday, June 11, 2004


2004 NHL Award Winners and Losers

While I was rocking the world of Industry statistical analysis and formulae, the NHL dished out a few shiny mantle pieces; complete with very few surprises.

It appears that I didn�t miss anything to spectacular on the awards show, other than more of the same CBA rhetoric that we�ve heard for months. Couldn�t somebody say something new or less clich�d?

Anyway, here are your 2004 Award Winners:
Hart Memorial Trophy, MVP - Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay
Vezina Trophy, goaltender - Martin Brodeur, New Jersey
James Norris Memorial Trophy, defenseman - Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey
Calder Memorial Trophy, rookie - Andrew Raycroft, Boston
Frank J. Selke Trophy, defensive forward - Kris Draper, Detroit
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, most gentlemanly - Brad Richards, Tampa Bay
Jack Adams Award, coach - John Tortorella, Tampa Bay
King Clancy Trophy, humanitarian contribution to hockey - Jarome Iginla, Calgary
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey- Bryan Berard, Chicago
Art Ross Trophy, points scoring leader - Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay
Maurice Richard Trophy, goal-scoring leader - Rick Nash, Columbus, Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta, and Jarome Iginla, Calgary, 41 goals
William M. Jennings Trophy, goalies with fewest goals against, minimum 25 games - Martin Brodeur, New Jersey
Plus/Minus Award - Martin St. Louis, TBay & Marek Malik(!), Vancouver.

Honestly, I can�t say I�m surprised by any of the awards given out, but there were 2 things that pissed me off:

1. Martin Brodeur - Given the fact that it�s the NHL GM�s voting for this award, I�m not surprised that they made the poor choice. Given some of the awful business and personnel decisions made by NHL executives over the years, it�s no shock to me that they made, in my opinion, the wrong choice. Roberto Luongo was simply better than Brodeur last year, and is a better goaltender overall. Brodeur should thank his teammates for this award, since they won it for him.

2. Brad Richards � Lady Byng - It�s too bad that the writers simply voted for the player with the lowest PIM total, rather than the total combination of skill and sportsmanship. Sportsmanship doesn�t just entail not taking penalties, and this shouldn�t be an award simply for having the minimal PIM total.

Sure, Martin St. Louis already bagged the MVP, but he was the clear choice for the Lady Byng as well.
Why didn�t he win? Well, because, St. Louis had the gall to rack up 24 penalty minutes compared to Richard�s 12.

Can you seriously tell me that the difference between the two players� PIM totals (6 minor penalties over the course of a whole season), is enough to justify handing Brad Richards this award?

St. Louis was the clear choice as the league�s MVP, and the point production and overall game that St. Louis played is more than enough difference to cover the negative contribution of 6 minor penalties.

Really, is Martin St. Louis demonstrably worse as a �Sportsman� than Mr. Richards? Subjectively, I don�t know how you could say he was.

When it comes to an overall mix of Sportsmanship, low PIM total, and skill level, Martin St. Louis is clearly the best package of the 3. It�s a shame that the writers simply were too lazy and purely looked at whoever could take the least amount of penalties and score more than 50 points.

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