Crosby

I was pretty convinced that Crosby was the real deal a while ago, but his recent performances have been clutch–and that’s the difference between a truly great player and a stat whore (like Jagr).

He would be well advised to shut his yap and let his play do the talking, but he’s apparently been working on that. (The oft-cited defense that he was young would work if all of those his age were yappers…)

Anyway, I think Crosby has the potential to be a super star and an ambassador for the game. But I have to wonder if transplanting him to Las Vegas or Kansas City before he is laden with Cup rings will really work, or just beat him into obscurity.

Sports Jourmamalism

There’s always something wrong with the Devils, isn’t there?

Forget that Marty Brodeur is having the best season of his career, a true MVP season, and that the Devils as a team are succeeding with, what on paper, appears to be a very very thin scoring forward and defense corps.

NHL Neanderthals and Troglodytes

Just asking–have any of the Figure Skating Keyboardists (FSK) made a compelling case as to why the instigator rule decreases non-fight violence? Maybe I’ve been hoodwinked by the “Troglodytes” ($10 says no hockey columnist in North America can define that word without looking) but it does seem to me that fear of getting your ass kicked might make you think twice about dirty hits.

Even the Figure Skater in Chief, Wayne Gretzky, thinks that tough guys aren’t the problem, it’s the non-tough guys trying to act tough, at least that’s what he said to TSN when asked about the Georges Laraque trade.

Anyway, they’ve used the so-called loosening of the instigator rule as “proof” that the Neanderthals have won. So, I’m just asking.

Figure Skating Advocates Resort to Name Calling

The Darcy Tucker Leafs and their fighting keyboardists have reacted like abused Millhouses to the Kaberle hit. Here the intrepid David Shoalts, using the power of arithmetic complains that Janssens’s three game suspension wasn’t even a “slap on the wrist” because he’ll only miss a handful of actual minutes on ice.

Of course he blithely ignores that Janssens will sacrifice pay for those games, and he is barely a non-minimum wage player.

So, I asked Mr. Shoalts the following:

Dear Mr. Shoalts:

Could you point me to any article you penned condemning similar actions by Darcy Tucker or Tie Domi? Please advise. If so, you would be one of the few in the Toronto-specific media to been singing the same tune in both regards.

To date, of course, I have received no response.

Of course many of the same typing tyrants condemned Todd Bertuzzi. But he wasn’t a Leaf. At that time, much of the condemnation revolved around the fact that Bertuzzi got treated a certain way because he was a “star player” and Steve Moore was just a jobber. (In reality, he was an enforcer, just like Janssens.)

Now, because it fits the facts, we’re getting minutes on ice comparisons. When it was Bertuzzi, who probably averaged close to 20 minutes a game, versus Moore, who maybe skated for 5 max, this kind of logic was inapt. Funny how the rules always are different for the Leafs.

The reality is that players get punished based on the injury that results, not their intent or recklessness. If Kaberle hadn’t spun into the boards, no one would be saying a thing. That’s something you can’t say about Darcy Tucker’s intentional knee to knee hits. But he seems to get away with it.

But the funny thing, the real telling thing, is that the anti-accidental violence jocksniffers never seem to make a compelling case. Indeed, Mr. Shoalts even resorts to “troglodytes”–others have referred to the nefarious pro-injury caucus as “neanderthals.”

This, of course, is the classic ad hominem. Sometimes, pointing out the deviousness of a source is worth pointing out. But it is only compelling if you have a cogent affirmative point to make on your own.

So, what to do Mr. Shoalts? Take all hitting out of the game on the theory that it would prevent all accidental (and intentional) injury?

There’s a name for that sport–it’s called figure skating. Good luck selling tickets to that.

Ludicrous Hockey Rumor of the Day

Sakic to Anaheim.

This is the second ludicrous hockey rumor involving the Ducks and a member of the Divealanche championship teams. The price Nashville paid for Forsberg was a coup for interim/quasi/temp GM Holmgren in Philly. (That was a better trade than Bob Clarke ever made in his life.)

But Nashville made that trade for non-hockey reasons. Given the lecherous douchebag of an owner they have in Nashville, the constant taxpayer funding demands, the shitty attendance, and a team on the cusp, it was time to go for it. Nashville paid more for Forsberg for 20 games plus the playoffs than the Ducks did for Pronger for 3 years.

Now if the Ducks weren’t ready to give up their top prospect, a rookie 30 goal scorer and some picks for Forsberg, what makes anyone think they’ll pay what the Avs would inevitably demand for Sakic, who, though less injury prone is not as good?

Forsberg Watch Red Alert?

Forsberg to Philly reporter: situation will be resolved by the weekend.

UPDATE: It’s Nashville. They were gouged, but hand it to ’em for the win now mentality. Bertuzzi’s price just skyrocketed, I bet.

WTF

Hockey Blogger “Eklund,” who is currently involved in a bit of a scandal, reported this last night:

“Rumor is the Ducks balked at 2 picks, Bobby Ryan and anothr [sic] roster player. “

Bobby Ryan was picked #2 behind Sidney Crosby. He is a top prospect. The roster player could be anyone, but let’s say it’s Penner. And two picks? That doesn’t even pass the guffaw test. Here’s what the Ducks gave up for Chris Pronger, under contract for years:

Ladislav Smid, a top defense prospect
Joffrey Lupul, the kind of “roster player” you might look at here
The 2007 (decent year) first rounder of the Ducks, which won’t be in the top 20
The 2008 second rounder of the Ducks

And the suggestion is that MORE than that be given up for a four month rental of an oft-injured player past his prime?

More questions before posting this shite, please.

Rumor Mill

Just some thoughts on the NHL rumors.

Darcy Tucker to Ducks. NFW. I don’t think Scott Niedermayer likes this guy.

Forsberg to Ducks. Of the few teams TSN says he’s willing to go to is the Ducks. If they make this deal (a mistake, IMHO) they have an inside line: the Ducks’ top prospect, Bobby Ryan is a Collingswood, NJ native and is well known in the greater Philadelphia area.

Bertuzzi to Detroit. Bert doesn’t fit the mold of a Detroit deadline acquisition. If he were 5 years older and a bit more accomplished, I could see it.

Stuart to the Devils. Is Brad Stuart a Devils’ type player? I don’t think so. In fact, the number one problem with the Devils this year is not their current roster: it’s their inability to refine it as usual due to cap problems. But even if they could swing this one, Stuart would just be Deron Quint part deux.

Lindros to Pittsburgh. This actually makes a great deal of sense. Has Lindros accepted his non-star status? If so, he might be able to help Sid with childhood and stardom. Or not.

The Arrogance of old Oilers

The first hockey team I ever even pretended to like was the Montreal Canadiens. I never formed a real connection to them, but in the late 80s, they still seemed almost royal. Today they focus on the glories of the past, like Italians or Brits.

Throughout the century they dominated hockey, winning 25% of all the Stanley Cup championships that team played a significant role in the evolution of hockey from 24 guys skating around a frozen pond to half that many skating armor-clad in multi-million dollar arenas. But there is no Canadien player that I can name that ever decided that he should be the de facto commissioner of the league and put forth proposals on how to run the game.

I can’t say the same for the Oiler’s dynasty of the 80s. Gretzky, who even a detractor like me will grant is the best offensive player of his era, became part of the program to expand the league by agreeing to play that role in Los Angeles, and he also vigorously argued for the removal or reduction of fighting from the game, purportedly to bring out the “skill” in the game. These are the two worst things ever to happen to hockey.

The the casual American fan, who can probably only name one hockey player if asked (Gretzky), the multi-pass and shoot, high scoring games have the same flat brain-wave appeal that most of what they enjoy does. But aficionados of the game enjoy all aspects, including the physical, grinding, intangible part of the game where players seem to practically will the puck into the net to win a game, even if they haven’t scored in months. A true hockey fan gets more pleasure out of a 1-0 game than out of a 7-6 slop-fest.

I think Gretzky isn’t succeeding as a coach because the game is too easy for him, and the average NHL player just can’t replicate what he thinks is easy. I think he fails to realize that it’s not a matter of changing rules or snapping fingers and having 30 teams today that play like the 1985 Oilers. Na ga hap pen. And it shouldn’t. The Canadiens of the 70s or the Devils of the 90s both won multiple championships playing defense–but that’s not “exciting” according to John Q. Nascar fan.

The arrogance is astounding. And today, I’m reading that Mark Messier is trying to annoint himself GM of the Rangers, as if he has done anything in his life to qualify him for that position. 6 cups? all those goals? That qualifies him for the player hall of fame–and it barely even commends him as a scout, let alone a GM.

Then again, he couldn’t do much worse than the clown parade that’s been running that team for decades…. could he?

Three Weeks Until The Deadline

The NHL season is starting to take shape, starting have an identity. The race for the cup is wide open, and the deadline day deals will have playoff implications.

Here’s where I think we are.

Teams with a realistic shot to come out of the East:

Buffalo. They lack the long history of playoff experience that other teams in the East do, but they did get to the Conference finals last year with mostly the same group. They are likely to coast into the playoffs, so their first round performance will speak volumes.

Atlanta. If this team can pull all of its parts together in the playoffs, they will be a team to fear. No one knows what they’ll do in the playoffs, though.

New Jersey. In stark contrast to the previous two, this group has experience and knows what to do. Being up against the cap limits what trades can be made, and I’m not sold on this year’s edition of the Devils yet. But I never bet against Marty Brodeur.

Out west:

Nashville. There’s a certain Je-ne-sais-quoi about this team that fails to instill confidence in me. They’re good, yeah, but they play 24 games against the Blues, Hawks, and Jackets. I guess what really concerns me is their team defense in the playoff context. I certainly expect them to win at least a round or two.

Anaheim. When healthy, this is the best team on paper and in practice this year. They’re extraordinarily balanced in a pre-cap elite kind of way, and have two goalies who have established playoff shutout records. Barring an injury, they’re returning to the Conference finals at least. There’s cap room here too, so we’ll see what the deadline brings. Concerns? Injury, but that applies to everyone. I’d like to see fewer penalties too.

San Jose. This team doesn’t appear as good as it is in the regular season because Doug Wilson built them for the playoffs, explicitly stating his intention to use the Devils as a model. The big problem with doing that is you need to get yourselves a Brodeur, Stevens, and Niedermayer to do that. Easier said that done. Still, I think this team could win the Cup if the get off on the right foot.

Current rumors around the web:

Sundin and/or Tucker to Anaheim.
Forsberg to Nashville
Bertuzzi on the move.

Yes, the "Boring" Devils Are Back

DJS is correct–all of a sudden, I’ve heard the Devils called boring again. That must mean they’re winning by keeping the other team from scoring. What a concept.

The Devils lack the depth everywhere except in goal that their championship teams had. There is no doubt about that. Thing is, no team is as deep right now as the pre-cap elites were, except, perhaps, Buffalo and Anaheim, both of whom are experiencing a 1999-2000 Devil-like crop of excellent rookies. (Note to oppoents: put your checking line on Getzlaf, not Selanne. No. Don’t. You can lose to Getzlaf, but if you don’t check Selanne, the media will criticize you. Lose the right way!)

Is there a trade to me made for the Devils? I think there is. As dead as this season has been on that front, I think at the deadline things will happen. And, of course, it will be a defenseman. If I had to guess, I’d say (if available) Sheldon Souray. Lou likes old Devils a lot.

The NHL needs to stop trashing one of the only two post-Bettman dynasties, one of the few teams that is consistent enough to matter every year, and, now, a team with such a strong tradition.

The Pittsburgh Problem

I’ve known this for over 10 years. If you don’t give Canada affirmative action or subsidy, or whatever you call it, you aren’t watering the roots of hockey, and the farthest reaching branches will die no matter how bright their blooms may be.

The NHL blocking even the notion of the Penguins moving to Canada is myopic, stupid, and greedy. There are many cities with a weaker hockey tradition than Pittsburgh, but as of right now, none of those teams have teams that have been economic failures despite the presence of three very huge stars spanning the last 22 years.

This is the same league, after all, that took hockey away from Minnesota for over 5 years.

The money-men around Bettman and New York insist that the NHL have a presence is as many major media markets as possible, so they can have their revenues. One step. No vision. Underlying that is the simple fact that the list of major hockey markets is not the same as general media markets. Further complicating the picture is the fact that the game needs to play to its base, as it were, and keep itself #1 in Canada (and Minnesota, for that matter) if it’s going to continue to draw the talent it needs to have any star power.

We need three more teams in Canada, and three less teams in the American South. But until one of those teams is a failure, I don’t see any reason why Pittsburgh can’t do without.

Adjusted Goal Differential Among Top Teams

This Google Spreadsheet looks at some of the stats (I haven’t figured out how to make it hot-sortable there yet) of the top teams in the NHL. I think it’s interesting to subtract power play goals and power play goals against from the teams overall stats to see how the teams are doing 5 on 5.

This shows contrary to the CW, that NJ leans heavily on its special teams (both of them!) and that Buffalo and Anaheim do not.

I’m looking at this number in part of my quest to develop or develop in part, the sabermetrics of hockey. So far, I believe team goal differential is the beginning of that.

Buffalo vs. NJ

About this time 9 years ago, the Devils played a pivotal game at home against the Dallas Stars. At that point of the season, both teams were favorites to come out of their respective conferences in the final. The Devils lost that game, and I never felt they were the same for the rest of the year. Ultimately, two season later, they handed Dallas their ass in the Final, but that season seemed to turn on that game.

It was lost when future Devil Joe Nieuwendyk scored with less than a minute left, set up by future Devil Jamie Langenbrunner. Jamie also set up the Jere Lehtinen’s winner in overtime.

I feel like last night’s game against Buffalo was similar. I hope it doesn’t have the same result. They were within a tip of tying it up, and it was a close game for the first periods or so. A victory would have established that Buffalo’s high-flying offense couldn’t stand up to Marty and the Devils D.

They have three chances to prove this was a fluke.

Coaching Deadpool: w00t!

A long time favorite of the Coaching Deadpool (see here (most recent), here, here, here, here, and here) has been Mike Kitchen. Today he got the axe, and the annoying and frumpy Andy Murray took his place.

He was off the list for a while, because I figured if JD was keeping him around, he’d get this season. But, I put him back on the “bonus” list (i.e. pure hunch) because other coaches in that same division who were frankly only underachieving relative to overhyped expectations also got the ax. That leaves Babcock and Trotz in that division. I think this is Barry’s last year if they don’t at least get to the Final. Same for Babcock (and that’s not fair).

So, we’re 2 for 4 for the year, nailing Hitch and Kitch, but missing Yawney (a former list regular, which makes it worse) and what’s his name in Columbus.

Updated Picks:

(1) Tortorella. The Lighting and languishing, and they probably just can’t stand this jerk crowing at them anymore. He’s gone.

(2) Gretzky. “What do you mean you couldn’t just dance around three defenders?” It’s hard coaching average players when you’re 99. That’s why shitty players make good coaches. Wayne is advancing the theorems of hockey by proving that the reverse is true. Good players make shitty coaches. He’s no coming off this list if even if Laura and Barney are the only ones that agree with me.

(3) Playfair. Has it been long enough? I don’t know, but overheated expectations in that neck of the woods are making it harder than it used to be.

(4) Martin – Gotta wonder if he won’t hire someone, because he’s doing a shitty, pointy-headed job.

Bonus picks: Julien.

Trotz is off the list, even though he’s been there longer than god. He’s back once the playoffs start and Nashville loses in the first round because they aren’t sneaking up on anyone this time.

NHL Western Conference Teams Are Boring?

So says Damien Cox of the Toronto Star.

I’m assuming like most talking hockey heads, he means scoring. He seems to be saying as much when he says, “[r]emember the days when the Western Conference was all about flow and speed and Gretzky and offence?”

Well, it’s true. Only 5 of the top 15 (i.e. half) scoring teams are in the West. (But 2 of the top 5, Anaheim and Nashville.)

Cox though wants the individual stars. “No wonder of the top 20 scorers in the league, 18 play in the east.” Huh? Oh–scorers, as in people with assists. What about goal scoring? Well, that increases to 4 in the top 20. (But I’m not sure about the arbitrary cut off at 20.)

It’s not that Cox is without merit on claiming that the West is scoring less. But all of the teams except Jacques Lemaire-coached Minnesota are boring? “Of the top eight teams out west, only Minnesota, really, is a particularly interesting team to watch.”

So, the trap must be okay with him, as long as there’s scoring? I’m not sure.

And whether he things Anaheim, San Jose, and Edmonton are dull–well, that’s his opinion, but it’s not mine. Those teams are scoring!