Friday, June 27, 2008



Pretty good Sun headline, eh? Eh? BAM.

Three new pieces on Daryl Katz today in the Edmonton Journal, all by David Staples. They are very interesting stories, in particular "The Impossible Dream," which begins a six-part piece by Staples on Katz and the EIG. Of note: it looks like Patrick LaForge is safe in his job, and it appears that Katz is going to follow the "Why Downtown? It has to be downtown" plan and ask taxpayers to foot the vast majority of the bill on a new downtown arena, despite the fact that he's got the money to pay for it himself, there's little to no economic benefit to citizens to pay for such a venture, and the quality of life of Edmontonians and Oilers hockey fans will not be lessened by the team's continued presence in the current Rexall Place. Sadly, no word yet on buying out the Sheldon Souray contract, or on the coup d'état making Fernando Pisani the Mayor of Edmonton (and my pants*). So, some things change, some things stay the same.

"Katz pledges 'elite' Oilers"

"New Oilers owner has kind words for Pocklington"

"The Impossible Dream"

*currently Honorary Mayor

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


What to do, what to do...

Having just come back from a golfing long weekend with a bunch of friends, I'm taking off on Friday for 10 days with the family, and will miss the UFA media excitement (Idaho: not really a hockey hotbed).

Here is our old friend Flames Salary Chart, June 25 edition. As noted many times before, I much prefer this illustration to "Flames have $45.X mill committed to 14 players" -- this shows roster spots that must be filled by hook or crook.

So using only non-1st-round minor leaguers and veteran Byron Richie-type UFAs to fill out the roster (and assuming that the Langkow deal is done), Calgary is at about $52.2M. Signing one additional player to a $4.5M/yr deal increases the payroll by $4M, putting them at $56.2M, which is about at or over the cap. Translation: barring buyouts and waivers, they can't spend $4.5M on a UFA. So, who are we potentially looking at?

If I'm the GM, I think I'm targeting Ruslan Fedotenko and Martin Gelinas. RF put up a positive Corsi # and an OK plus/minus last year playing against tough opp with (mostly IIRC) Hunter and Sillinger. His boxcar numbers were meh, helped in part (from the buyer's perspective) by 15 games on the DL. Sutter has seen him good: he scored both TB goals in G7 of the '04 Finals vs. the Flames. I think something like $10M/3 years is actually possible, and would probably pay off.

The apparent departure of Conroy makes it possible, and maybe even desirable, to bring Gelinas back from a political (for lack of a better word) perspective. Martin G. is another guy whose G-A-Pts do not reflect his true value: he missed 25 games due to injury last year, and put up pretty decent rates pulling 3rd line duty against decent competition and without star linemates. He's fit. If you're going to hire a 38-year-old to help your team for a decent price -- and the Flames have few if any other options -- then this is the guy.

Which gives us a roster something like this, which actually gives me a bit of hope for the season. Giordano is apparently signed to a 3-year (1-way!) deal, making either Warrener or Eriksson the #7D. Seems like the practical thing to do there would be to send that guy to the minors, not as a straight-out salary burial per se, but to save a few cents against the cap until someone gets hurt; that cap space may be needed (and multiplies) closer to the trade deadline.

Actually, 4th line aside, I don't mind this lineup. Iginla w/ Cammy and DL is a solid #1 line and PP unit; Lombo between RF and Moss should be able to keep the puck going in the right direction as much as the wrong one, and maybe pot a few goals; I definitely prefer Boyd as a centre, and with Gelinas and Nilson on the wings I think that's pretty workable as an ongoing proposition.

I'm happy with the D; my present mindset is that The Warrener is still serviceable as a 3rd-pair guy. Naturally, I'd love it if Pardy or Negrin or Pelech or somebody stepped up in training camp and bumped Eriksson even further down the depth chart. And in goal... Kipper needs to play better. That's 90+% of what needs to be said about the goaltending position. My preference is Curtis Mc-E as the backup, getting 20-25% of the starts, but it's not going to matter much if Kipper can't turn things around a bit.

**Metrognome and Jean Lefebvre had good final takes on the Tanguay situation. This certainly needed to be said, so thanks MG:
This isn't the Senators dealing Havlat because they simply have too many good players to fit under the cap...the Flames, in direct contrast, are in desperate need of top 6 forwards.

No, this is Calgary moving Tanguay because he was crowded out by the suck.

Read the whole thing. And Lefebvre fleshes things out from the Tanguay side a bit more. Yes, he did want out. "Frustration at his role" is essentially correct, although he is probably owed a bit more nuance on account of the fact that he performed that role well and certainly didn't sulk. More like, "Frustration that his role virtually assured that his counting numbers would suffer and that he'd be viewed as a bust." JL sums it up nicely:
In a way, Tanguay paid the price for the fact that the other skilled left-winger on the club — Huselius — was not considered a safe option defensively and also that the play of many of the traditional plumbers and checkers — Stephane Yelle, Wayne Primeau and Marcus Nilson — suffered because of age, ineffectiveness and/or injuries.

The punchline -- where the joke is on Tanguay -- is that if Carbo uses him next season that best exploits his roster's varying strengths and weaknesses, it's not going to get much better.

**Lastly... can I request a moratorium from Darryl Sutter going forward on Entry Draft Excuses? Every interview I heard or read from him in the two weeks prior to the draft included very matter-of-fact statements about how glad they were to be picking as high as #17 this year, and that you can't expect miracles from the 20s. If you don't think you can find talent in the position you're given, then trade up! Or at the very least, if you're going to repeatedly trade down, then shut up about the whole thing. Please. Or! -- heaven forbid -- admit and take responsibility for the fact that your record since picking Phaneuf is poor.

Enjoy Christmas in July, everybody++. Hope you find what you were hoping for under the tree.

++Oiler fans excluded.

Monday, June 23, 2008


That is one big hole in the depth chart

So if the headline is "Tanguay Traded", what's the subhed? Mine is something like, "Flames depart draft without second line".

Tyler's piece on Tanguay Out, Cammallieri In is a good place to start; he demonstrates pretty clearly that Mike C is a replacement for Huselius (who was never going to be returning, and still isn't), not for Tanguay. Which isn't a disaster in and of itself, far from it. A need has been addressed -- a skilled LW to play with Iginla on the #1 line and the #1 PP unit who doesn't cost the moon.

But it was a bad trade, and I have (I think) three things to say about apart from my previous take.

1) The Flames no longer have a second line. The three players who made it up are either traded (Tanguay) or unlikely to return as UFAs (Conroy, Nolan), and there is very little reason to believe that this hole can be filled internally. For starters, Conroy and Nolan were/are barely Top 6 forwards as it is, and the line worked (against the toughest lines on the opposition, lest we forget) because of Tanguay.

Let's review one last time: last season the Flames had one line that consistently outscored whoever they played against (Iginla's), one line who kept their heads above water even against the best opp (generally anchored by Tanguay or Langkow), and two lines that pretty much got torched by all comers.

At the moment (pending July UFA activity, obviously), the Flames aren't going be 1+1+2 like that again next season, they'll be 1+0+3. That will hurt.

2) Yes, it's nice, and just about crucial, that the Flames have a bit of extra cap space now. Now, besides Langkow, they have room to sign a mid-level contributor to a multi-year deal (the forward version of Sarich) instead of being limited to shopping in the $1M/yr-and-under aisle. But context is everything, folks. They could have gained $7M in space by dealing Jarome to (say) the Thrashers for the #3 pick on Friday, but I hope we can all agree that wouldn't have been the wisest way to create that space.

Sutter gained $1.9M by trading away a valuable forward whose trade value was lower than it has ever been. He could have gained $1.5M by buying out Warrener, or $1.4M by sending Primeau to the minors, either of which would have cost the Flames nothing in terms of on-ice performance (and in Primeau's case, would probably improve it).

3) In almost every debriefing of the deal I've read, there has been mention of the idea that "Tanguay never meshed with Mike Keenan", or thereabouts.

Not that it matters now -- and you didn't have to listen too carefully to some of Tanguay's in-season comments to glean that he'd rather be playing with Iginla every shift and piling up points -- but there is absolutely no evidence from on the ice that Keenan disliked Tanguay. (I suppose Keenan can't win; whichever of Tanguay or Huselius wasn't playing with Iginla at the time was deemed to be "in the doghouse".)

Tanguay was 3rd amongst Flames forwards in Time-on-Ice per game, 4 seconds less than Langkow. 3rd in EV TOI/Gm. 4th in PP TOI/Gm. You are welcome to scroll through Tanguay's game log to find the games, or even game, where he rode the end of the pine most of the way, but you will be wasting your time because it didn't happen.

Keenan settled after a while on Huselius with Iginla and Tanguay with Others for a very simple and sensible reason: every line the Flames put together this season (for more than a game or so) with neither Iginla nor Tanguay on it got their asses kicked. And furthermore, with Huselius being (objectively) the better PP option and Tanguay being the better PK option, that also meant that there was less line shuffling on account of special teams, which seemed to work pretty well.

Kipper might rebound next season; Phaneuf might make a further leap; all sorts of things can happen that would lead to the Flames being as good or better than last season in '08/09. But Alex Tanguay is a terrific player who is not easily replaceable, and I am certain that he will be missed. I was glad to get to know him as a hockey player, and hope he does well in Montreal -- I couldn't agree more that he's just what the doctor ordered for those guys.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


On Drafting

Paul DePodesta, former General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, assistant GM of the Oakland A's (under Billy Beane), and current front-office assistant for the San Diego Padres, is now writing a blog, and he recently spent some time talking about the MLB draft. I think it's a fascinating read, with some really useful nuggets in it. They include:

"Every year presents a different crop of players, and consequently the first evaluation is a macro one. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this draft class? It's commonplace to say, "This draft isn't very deep." That's usually true, though it may also be our subconscious managing expectations. Either way, a more detailed analysis can greatly inform a team's strategy for a particular draft. As I've mentioned before, due to the fact that baseball's draft does not immediately impact the Major League level, teams don't necessarily have to draft for need. This allows for more flexibility in the process on an annual basis."

"We weren't going to take a pitcher just to seemingly balance our draft."

"One of the biggest complaints about most drafts is that certain players were "overdrafted". I'll be honest - I don't really believe in that concept. First of all, our knowledge in terms of where players will be selected is imperfect to put it mildly. Remember, it only takes one team out of thirty to step up and take a player, and then he's gone. There are no do-overs. We may really like a guy, think we can get him in the 4th round or so, and then he's gone in the second. It happens all the time. Therefore, I believe that if you like the player and want him in your system, just take him. My litmus test is how I'm going to react when I hear another team call the player's name: a) a grimace with a head bob, b) an audible "Gah!" with a twist of the neck, or c) nauseous. If (c), then take the player if he's available."

"With each selection, we expected to lose some target players before our next selection, and of course we did, but the exhaustive planning paid off as we anticipated most of the "losses". Our decisions in each round, therefore, were factoring in these expected losses."

"The first round is always the most difficult, especially when you're picking in the bottom third."

All bolds mine. DePodesta's ideas can be applied to drafting in any sport, including the NHL. It's simple enough stuff. Not conclusive, obviously, but a sensible start. To summarize:

1) You don't have to draft according to need.
2) Don't take a player at a position just because you haven't already drafted a player at that position.
3) The draft is unpredictable, so if you want a guy, and he's there, take him. Don't get too fancy, playing a game and betting that he'll be there later.
4) Prepare for, and mitigate your losses.
5) Don't give up a 12th overall pick for a 22nd overall pick unless you are absolutely certain your team is going to make the Stanley Cup Finals within a couple years of trading that pick.

Makes sense to me.

As for the Oilers, I have no idea how things are going to pan out this weekend. They gave up what became the 12th overall pick for Dustin Penner, and they got Anaheim's 1st round pick back for Chris Pronger (22nd overall). They don't have a 2nd or 3rd round pick, so the gap between their first two picks is 81 slots (22nd to 103 overall). Then it's pick numbers 133, 163 and 193. Five picks total, in seven rounds. Needless to say, there is not a lot of margin for error.

My own belief is that teams should always take the best player available, unless there is a dire need for a player at a certain position. I don't think the Oilers are in that position. They need help and depth everywhere. I'd say that the greatest organizational need is at the goaltending position, but I don't think it's a dire need, and I don't think they will find anyone at that position that will help the big club immediately. So I expect them to just take the best guy available, especially in the 1st round (hey, it might even be a goalie).

As for a trade, I don't see it happening. Robert Tychkowski comments today in the Edmonton Sun that it isn't smart to trade a player when his value is low (or probable that someone will trade with you), and I agree with him. I therefore don't see Stoll, Torres or Schremp being moved. The wild card here is Pitkanen. If he's tossed in with any of those guys, a deal may get done. But is Lowe willing to move Pitkanen? He's always been high on the guy, and with Sheldon Souray in your lineup, you need all the defensive depth you can get. Then again, Pitkanen isn't exactly Steve Larmer in terms of endurance, and he hasn't signed the dotted line on a new deal. So he could get moved. Bah. I just switched my own position!

Okay. Here's my story, and I'm sticking to it: no major trades, no moving up, a couple guys from the U.S. college system, a couple guys from the WHL, and one Swede or Finn. No Russians taken. Overall emphasis is on speed and size (as always), and more than a few times over the next few weeks (or years) we hear a variation on the line, "Kevin Lowe really wanted to trade up in this draft, but couldn't find any partners."

Lowetide and YKOIL are the place to be if you want to talk NHL Draft. GOILERS.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Katz gets approval, just not from Edmonton media

The sale of the Oilers to Edmonton billionaire Daryl Katz has been approved by the National Hockey League's Board of Governors. A source said the approval was granted earlier this morning during the governors meeting in New York.
--Dan Barnes, Edmonton Journal

So long, "all-time greatest guys in Edmonton history."

Hello, "elusive pharmaceutical tycoon."

Well, we can see how this narrative is going to be spun for the next little while. Anyway, a big congratulations to Mr. Daryl Katz. Let's hope he can help the Oilers, and the city of Edmonton, win a Stanley Cup. GOILERS!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Anderson finally makes Hall of Fame

It's about bloody time. Congratulations as well to a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, the late Ed Chynoweth, for making it into the Hall in the Builder category. As for Anderson, here's a quick recap of some of his accomplishments:

2: 50 goal seasons (1983-84, 1985-86).

3: 100 point seasons (1981-82, 1982-83, 1985-86).

4: All-Star Game appearances (1984, 1985, 1986, 1988).

5: Career playoff overtime goals, second only to Maurice Richard’s 6.

6: Stanley Cup Championships, 5 with the Edmonton Oilers, and 1 with the New York Rangers.

8: Straight seasons scoring over 30 goals (1980-87).

9: 30 goal seasons (1980-87, 1989-90).

17: Playoff game-winning goals, 5th on the NHL’s all-time list.

93: Career playoff goals, in 225 games. 5th on the NHL's all-time list.

214: Career playoff points, in 225 games. 4th on the NHL's all-time list.

498: Career regular season goals. 42nd on the NHL's all-time list.

1,099: Career points, in 1129 games. 55th on the NHL's all-time list.

Priceless: His drunken rendition of "Simply The Best" in the Oilers locker-room following their 1990 Stanley Cup victory.


Potpourri for 17, 78, 108, 114, 138, 168, and 198, please Alex

The Hockey Hall of Fame announces its 2008 class today. I don't have any particularly strong feelings about it, except maybe that Pavel Bure absolutely belongs there and Mike Vernon does not. Anyway, one guy I've never given much thought to, if only because I'm resigned to the fact that he'll get in eventually, is Glenn Anderson.

I mention this because I just read Pat/BDHS making the most compelling case for Anderson I've seen:
Let me tell you something about those teams and the talent assembled - at the time Glenn Anderson didn't take a backseat to anybody but Gretzky. What I mean is this - you had Gretzky whose genius was acknowledged (remember these are the years when he was scoring 200 points) and then you had the stars - the sneering bullish Messier, the calm sniper Kurri, the smooth Coffey (greatest skater I have ever seen), the cool and athletic Fuhr and the mercurial explosive Anderson. Then you had the supporting cast - the steady Dmen Lowe and Huddy, the chattering Finn Tikkanen and so on.

My point - a simple one. Anderson did not take a back seat to any of the other stars because he was one with them. [...]

Come to think of it, that's... true. Read the whole thing.

Vaguely related sidebar: in January, I went with my father-in-law and my sons to an Oldtimers game here in L.A. It was one of these semi-charity things where former NHL stars (and "stars") play the Police/Fire team -- I think how it works is the NHL vets get the ticket sales (and a chance to sell memorabilia), while the charity benefits by selling 6 or 8 roster spots on the Oldtimers team and running a 50/50.

Only two things worth noting from the experience. One was that a stunning proportion of the NHL vets were guys I booed at one time or another when they were in the league: Glenn Anderson (an Oiler, also filthy with the stick), Gaston Gingras ('86 Hab who beat the Flames in the SCF), Jimmy Mann (thug with the Jets in the early days of the Smythe), and Gary Leeman (who didn't deserve them quite as much as Flames GM Doug Risebrough, but whatever).

The other was that the goalie for the Police team had what I can only assume was both the best and luckiest game of his life, and stoned Anderson dead over and over and over and over again. It was gobsmacking.

**Bill Simmons makes a couple of familiar points in his latest magazine column, but I lot better than I did. This is why he writes about sports for a living and I write about fire alarm systems:
...a great tennis career always unfolds the same way: Guy kills himself for a few years getting to the top and staying there; guy gets bored; guy starts sleeping with actresses/models; guy drops in the rankings; guy makes a brief resurgence; guy loses hair and retires; guy disappears forever. This has to have happened 47 times since I was 10. I'd argue that we haven't attached ourselves to Federer because we know another Federer will eventually come off the assembly line. Because one always does.

**Also under the heading of Things I Don't Have Strong Feelings About, the draft is this weekend and the Flames should be picking up the best prospect they've had since Phaneuf. I'm not too concerned about whether Sutter takes a forward or a defenceman (though a homerun with a forward would be the best case scenario); I just hope he picks up some skill.

Since the #14 and #17 TSN prospects (Zach Boychuk and Luca Sbisa) played for the Lethbridge Hurricanes this season, I thought I'd phone up my buddy Mike who has season tickets, and get a scouting report on the two. His take, roughly:

Boychuk is talented, but small; Sbisa is a nice stay-at-home defenceman with some talent. I'd take Sbisa first, I think he'll go further than Boychuk.

Interesting, I thought. If I'm drafting a small (5'-9") forward in the middle of the first round, I'd like it to be someone who impresses the hell out of the people who watch him all the time. (Something like, "If he gets a fair shot despite his size, he'll make it."). If Boychuk is still available for the Flames at #17, I won't mind if they pass on him, which is not something I would have said half an hour ago.

Metrognome reviews the Sutter era at the draft table here; Lefebvre relays some pre-draft comments from the GM here.

**And finally, today's happy news: Glenn Healy Leaving TV. I thought the Loch Ness Monster was a nice concept, but his ratio of Words Spoken to Insight Provided was way, way too high.

Friday, June 13, 2008



Rejoice, or curse: Roger Millions is out as the voice of the Flames on Rogers Sportsnet. My view: it's a shame. He is strong technically, his verbal quirks and pet phrases don't bother me any more than those of any other broadcaster, and I think he calls it pretty straight. Most of the Oiler fans around here find him to be a brutal homer, but I don't agree; though he called the games from the Flames' "perspective", and no doubt he wanted them to do well, he wasn't constantly bullshitting the viewer about what was happening on the ice -- very little Flames apologia. (Reinforcing my opinion: this CPuck thread is pretty balanced between posters who found him too homerish and those who found him too negative.)

The new guy is Peter Loubardias -- another guy who cut his teeth doing junior games on the radio in Saskatchewan. I have generally warm feelings about him -- you gotta like his enthusiasm ("Can you... believe... what we... just saw!!!"). And hey, maybe he'll have better luck than Millions eliciting informative and/or entertaining comments from Charlie Simmer.

That's right, Chuck's back... if there's any element of this situation that must be eating Roger Millions from the inside right now, it's that someone or some committee took a look at last season's broadcasts and concluded that the problem (such as it is) was with him, rather than the analyst-who-doesn't-analyze (or if you prefer, the colourless colour commentator).

I had one beef with Millions in previous seasons (tilting at windmills, basically), and I thought he was excellent in this regard this past season.

No word yet on who will be the relief guy on Oilers broadcasts when Kevin Quinn bugs out to Mexico, or whatever he does in the middle of winter. Also, no word on Jamie Thomas, as Millions is replacing him as host. I have slightly more than a passing interest in Mr. Thomas' career... he was two grades ahead of me all through school in Cochrane, and when I moved to Lethbridge in '98, I was more than a bit surprised to find him working as the sports reporter on our one local TV station. At any rate, best of luck to him.

And speaking of homer broadcasters... seriously, by relative standards, Roger Millions is not a homer in the slightest. I spent a couple of hours yesterday listening to the WGN broadcast of Cubs-Braves, and Ron Santo is the most appalling (yet hilarious) homer in the history of homers. Constantly refers to the Cubbies as "we" (e.g. "we really need to get the leadoff man on here"), and cheers -- I mean really cheers -- when they do something good. Yells "All Right!!!" and jumps up and down (metaphorically).

Also, a slightly red-faced update to my Wednesday post: as it turns out, I didn't know the correct identity of my favourite baseball radio guy. The outstanding Padres guy is not Jerry Coleman, who is a gravelly-voiced part-timer now, but Ted Leitner, who has a high-paced baritone delivery and is merely in his 28th year on the crew.

Finally, I've been mulling yesterday's revisitation of the 1998 draft, and I think in some instances I did a pretty crappy job of following my own criteria. Just as one example, I'm not a big Brad Stuart fan (it took until this season's playoffs for his proper niche to be widely understood), but he has been a useful player for one team or another since he was 19. You can't say that at all about (e.g.) David Legwand, even though I would rather have Legwand on my team today. So Stuart should probably be higher based on his total career contributions, as should a couple of other guys.

Congratulations to Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf on their selection as 1st Team All-Stars. Go Flames.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Pisani, west left in the cold

Jason Blake wins the Masterton Trophy, and not a single player west of Chicago wins anything. It's shocking--SHOCKING, I SAY!--that only players from out east got the nod.


Ten Years On

Jean Lefebvre writes:
Hi Matt,
We're doing a retrospective look at the 1998 draft in next week's paper. In conjunction with that, there'll be some blog material including a revisionist look at who should have gone where according to several different people. If you're inclined to do so, could you have a look at this list of 1998 draftees (listed in alphabetical order) who were regulars or semi-regulars in the NHL this past season? What would your first-round draft order look like (remembering that there were 27 teams that season)?...

In fact, I AM so inclined, and I'll do it here, because it seems like a fun discussion to have, and also because I'm going to get it WRONG, and I expect some sound arguments in the comments explaining why.

As you can see, Mr. Lefebvre has left open the method by which to re-rank the '98 draft, so here's my rough criteria:
Clear enough? Here we go.

(1) Pavel Datsyuk. There is nothing bad you can say about this guy. You could drop him onto any team in the league, with any coach running any scheme, and he would promptly make that team much better. He is (IMO) the best defensive forward in the league; probably the best two-way forward in the league, and maybe even the 2nd-best forward in the league, period. Leads his draft class in career Pts/Gm (0.96) and has two Stanleys. My only reluctance in putting him here is that he didn't start in the NHL until 3 years after he was drafted, but when I looked at the impact #2 had in his first 3 years...

(2) Vincent Lecavalier. The good is that he came straight into the league; he has the most GP, goals, and points of his class; and he has won a Rocket Richard Trophy and a Stanley Cup. The bad is that he is a weak two-way player, both by nature and by design. The other: he's actually 4th in career Pts/Gm for his class -- it would be incorrect to say that he is clearly the best offensive player in his class. Probably, yes; clearly, no.

(3) Alex Tanguay. You knew this was coming, didn't you... came in as a 19-year-old and was good right away, including scoring 2 goals in G7 of the SCF as a rookie. Is a career +144 -- has been an outstanding EV player his entire career. 2nd in points, T-2nd in pts/gm for his class. The biggest misconception about Tanguay is that he has piggybacked on better players to achieve his numbers; as I noted once before, in his last season with Colorado, he was 8th in the NHL in EVPts/60 playing primarily with Brett Maclean and Ian Laperriere.

(4) Scott Gomez. 2nd in career GP, 3rd in points. Won the Calder Trophy as a 19-year-old, and has been a relatively consistent producer (if not scorer) ever since. Two Stanleys as well.

(5) Brad Richards. Not a favourite of mine (career -37), but a nice player. T-2nd with Tanguay in career pts/gm. Has a Stanley, and the Conn Smythe to go with it.

(6) Simon Gagne. A bit overlooked these days because of injury, but he was a terrific player right off the hop. 47 & 41 goals in his two healthy seasons since the lockout. Genuine sniper, and a career +123 to boot (led the league in EV goals in 05/06).

(7) Robin Regehr. A genuine shutdown defenseman, and has been for 5+ seasons. Minus: no 'O'. Plus: kind of a bastard.

(8) Shawn Horcoff. Moves ahead of a few guys with more points, more GP, and/or more flair because he is an extremely complete player and generally plays (and plays well) against the other team's best forwards. Translation: I've seen him good.

(9) David Legwand. For a centreman drafted #2 overall, he's had a very underwhelming career offensively, though part of that can be attributed to injury problems. Today, he's a very good 5v5 player even against strong competition, and moves up to this spot on my board under the "5 year contract" criteria noted above.

(10) Andrei Markov. Has been a nice sound D-man for quite a while and is now one of the premier PP point men in the league.

(11) Jonathan Cheechoo. 56-37-23 goals in the three post-lockout seasons. If you sign him to a 5-year contract today, any idea what you're getting? Me neither.

(12) Eric Cole. Nice EV player who I would have on my team any day.

(13) Mike Ribeiro. Dude's track record is a bit too spotty for me to get really excited -- and no, he'll never shoot 25% again -- but a nice enough player.

(14) Brian Gionta. Don't really know anything about him, except (a) he's a circus midget, and (b) he scored 48 goals a couple of seasons ago.

Hey, look at the time... here's the rest. Yes, I generally favoured forwards over defensemen, it's a bias that's somewhat indefensible. And re: defensemen, I definitely favoured ones with more career GP, which I think is defensible.

(15) Jaroslav Spacek
(16) Mike Fisher
(17) Brad Stuart
(18) Karlis Skrastins
(19) Martin Skoula (2nd in career GP behind Vinny)
(20) Mike Van Ryn
(21) Trent Hunter
(22) Nik Antropov
(23) Michael Ryder
(24) Mikael Samuelsson
(25) Francois Beauchemin
(26) Tyler Arnason
(27) Chris Neil

Notable (?) omissions: Antero Niittymaki, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Andrew Raycroft, Jarko Ruuttu, Manny Malhotra, Ales Kotalik, Mark Bell, Bryan Allen, Blair Betts

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Around the horn

A few non-hockey sporting things...

**A few months ago when I tossed out rather casually that Tiger Woods is "the most dominant professional athlete of my lifetime", a couple of commenters came back with No, it's Federer. I don't think so, for the two reasons I touched on in the comments. One is that tennis has had a talismanic figure for most of my life -- either men's, women's, or both. The name changes every so often, but I have a hard time agreeing that this name has been so unstoppable that his dominance exceeds that found in any other sport.

The other is this clay court/French Open thing. If Tiger Woods had never won the U.S. Open because his game isn't very well suited to narrow fairways and high rough, he'd surely be about as rich and famous as he is now anyway, but most sports fans wouldn't even consider him to be the greatest golfer ever, let alone putting him with Jordan, Gretzky, and a few others in the pantheon. Bigger tennis fans than me are free to argue about Federer's rightful legacy in his sport, but that gaping hole in his resume means he ought to be set aside in discussions of Most Dominant Pro Athlete.

**I'm right back into baseball now. My enthusiam was pretty damp early on, when my Alberta Baseball Confederacy fantasy team (The Willie McGee Helmet) went 1-11 in the first 3 weeks, but now that Shaun Marcum has turned into a near ace and C.C. Sabathia has stopped bringing a gas can with him to the mound, it's a lot more fun. Also, it's nice having the closers for the two best teams in the majors.

The other thing that has really amplified my enjoyment of MLB this season and last is having XM Radio in the car, which carries the home feed for every single game of the season. Not only are you able to catch any game you're particularly interested in following, but you get to develop an appreciation (or hate) for some of the crews.

Much like hockey -- TV and local radio both -- baseball has a LOT of PbP guys and analysts who have been on the job for a long time. And it's a pretty mixed bag. Some of them are clearly losing their chops and/or their interest (I'm not too high on the Mariners' Dave Niehaus), but some of them remain absolutely golden.

Jon Miller, better known to most fans as the English-speaking half of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball booth team, is a hell of a treat to listen to as the Giants' guy. And my absolute favourite is the Padres' Jerry Coleman, who is apparently in his 36th year as their radio voice.

My absolute favourite thing, as it turns out, has been listening to the home broadcast for Blue Jays' road games where Roy Halladay is the starter. In all sports, hearing the regular crew extol the virtues of the local hero gets old, and lord knows the national broadcasters are always intent on making everything about the superstars (Crosby). So there's something kind of thrilling about listening to the other team's broadcasters spend an entire game saying -- and I paraphrase -- "Christ, this guy is good!"

These are the times I wish I carried a notebook around. One of the few comments I do remember is the Tigers' crew last year, with Detroit coming up in the bottom of the 8th. "The Tigers must be hoping this is Halladay's last inning... while they trail only 2-0, they've only managed 3 hits tonight, and all three were batted off the dirt in front of home plate."

**And speaking of enjoyable broadcasting, I commend you to the LiveBlog-thingie that Yahoo! UK runs for the Euro 2008 matches. They write just like they talk!!! (Example: "Real fizz about this game now... High drama here. A goal now would be priceless for either side... TURKEY HAVE WON IT AT THE DEATH!!!..." etc.)

**The CTV purchase of "The Hockey Theme" seems like a resolution that should satisfy everyone. I hope we can stop talking about it now.

**Go Flames.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Do You Believe in Probable Outcomes? YES!!!!

That rather brilliant post header comes from Melt Your Face-Off. While much of the allure of sports comes from the drama of unknown outcomes, and upsets, and underdogs making good, I'm one of these people who feels a certain flavour of satisfaction when the best team wins. That feeling is all the more pronounced with the Wings clinching the Cup; principally, I think, because it puts to rest so many of the unfair raps on the team, its coach, and its players, as well as a few myths and some voodoo about what it takes to win (and what never can). You have to think now that, for any team wishing to knock the Wings off their perch, they'll be focused not on how to be tougher, or "more committed", but on how to be better, period.

I was just browsing through the archives a bit, and found this, which I think in retrospect is pretty good:
From my own perspective: Spezza, Ovechkin, Crosby, and a few others can make defenders look awful on any given shift, but there is no one who is the equal of Zetterberg (and his line) at making the opposition look completely inept for an entire game. They control the puck beautifully, one guy is always finding some open space, and when they don't have the puck, they seem to get in the way of everything. Call them the Line Most Likely to Make You Depressed About Your Team's Ability to Clear Their Own Zone.

Remember when? This was written by Colby Cosh after the '04 Cup was awarded, and I reposted it in '06:
A note about the post-victory celebration: the Stanley Cup ceremony has been allowed to go to hell and someone should put a stop to it. This business of letting the winning coach hoist the Cup, and then letting the plucky assistant coach do it, and then letting the director of player development do it, and then Christ knows who else, is really pushing established religious practice to its limits. Letting Scotty Bowman skate with the Cup wasn't a precedent: it was an exception, made for the greatest coach who ever lived. I suggest that Soapy Tortorella be allowed to lift the Cup over his head when he's won the thing eight more times, like Bowman. At the very least, let's have a little decorum and not give a victory lap with the Cup to the stick boy. It's a simple matter of issuing sidearms to the custodians of the trophy. They should also have a broad mandate to shoot the players' children, who now throng the ice when the Cup is won and wander around crying and confused, giving the whole thing the air of a GE company picnic. I can just about tolerate the players photographing one another like a bunch of Japanese tourists, but generally the intimate-family-gathering atmosphere is getting out of hand.

Thinking back, I might have missed the presentation last season, so I'm not sure when it was reformed, but props to the NHL. Access onto the ice was severely limited until the Red Wings had each taken a turn with the Cup, and had the team photo taken; I didn't see any kids or handi-cams until later. It generally seemed a lot more dignified. Greg Millen pointed this out as well, which reminds me...

I liked Bob Cole and Greg Millen, for the most part. Millen seems to be the rare analyst who gets better with experience; this goes against form, as most get unarguably worse.

I didn't watch every minute of the series, and some of what I did watch was NBC's broadcast, but Millen has definitely cut way down on the, whatever you want to call them, "folksy cliches that directly contradict what is actually happening on the ice". Best, he seemed to have a knack for seeing things right the first time; this is surprisingly helpful to me the viewer, contrasted to having the booth figure out what happened by watching the replay at the same time as I am.

Still with the CBC, "The Song"... I'm grateful for Staples' reportage on the matter (and Tyler's supplementary info). Count me in the "I'll live if they ditch the old theme" crowd. For starters, I find the CBC's reticence to conduct ongoing business with someone who has a major lawsuit pending against them quite reasonable.

More to the point though, I'm personally most partial to the song that kicks off the pre-game at 430MT ("There's a buzz on the street"). That whole thing with the song, the custom highlight package, and the minor hockey team setting up the game broadcasts is one of my favourite parts of the whole evening. On Saturdays when I know I'll be watching that night (usually because the Flames are in the late game), I actually find myself humming or singing it sometimes. It's catchy enough that I even (eventually) got over the fact that they re-arranged it this season: cut out a verse, and had it re-recorded by The Headpins or Lita Ford or who knows.

Jarome: fortunately, it is an honour just to be nominated.

Have a good weekend y'all.


Boots, Balsillie, and Bettman

Given the news coming out of Nashville and Toronto right now, this piece of mine from last July seems worth resetting. Key bit from Mirtle today:
[Balsillie rep] Rodier also seemed to suggest that the difficulty at that point wouldn't be getting the board of governors' approval; it'd be getting to the board vote at all.


Thursday, June 05, 2008


Seller's market

Without having looked at it too closely, I'm going to say that the number of NHL teams "looking to add a Top-6 forward" (or two) is somewhere in the high twenties.

This here is the list of UFAs (25 in all) who might conceivably fit that description. Names/data are from NHL Numbers; I scratched off a few players who are likely only to re-sign or retire (Sakic, Forsberg, Selanne), and also Langkow, as it seems very certain that he has re-upped with Calgary.

A rhetorical question: do you like the chances of your team landing the player you want for a reasonable price? Maybe half these players are ones who you might get excited about acquiring, and only half those again are ones whose best years might still lie ahead.

Marian Hossa is clearly in for a huge, huge payday, as 2nd prize for UFA bidders is a pretty big drop-off, either in quality, age, or both.

I think, a few days into July, there are going to be an awful lot of disappointed fans. And for that matter, front offices ("we really wanted Malone, but dropped out when the bidding went north of $30M over 5 years", etc.).


They are murdering, "duh da-duh da-duh!"

You lie in bed with a cold...You miss all the big news. And boy did I miss a doozy.

Forget about the Wings winning the Cup. Unless you are Matt or Kid Rock, that's boooring. The BIG news is that the CBC will no longer be using the theme song from Hockey Night in Canada. WHAT??? I've had about five people email me this already, and I still don't believe it. I feel like I'm being punk'd.

Obviously this is a tragedy of epic proportions. The Mother Corp. is denying, although it looks more like back-pedaling. Unless they plan on using "The Hockey Song," this is a really, really, really, REALLY dumb idea. Let's hope they do the right thing. If not, down with the CBC!!!

***Update*** I've found one protest group already on Facebook, and I'm sure there are more. Wait, here's another one, as well as an online petition.

***Update*** Staples has his take up, (correctly, I think) laying blame with both parties.


You've Got Chat

At 11AM MT, I'll be chatting with Mirtle and 2, 6, 20 other blogger types at AOL Fanhouse. Come check it out, and bring your comments and questions.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


A match made in hell

Now that John Tortorella has been officially fired by the Lightning, it appears that the rumours that the Sens will hire him will gain steam. I'm pretty neutral on the firing: I don't think it's terribly outrageous that T.B. fired him, but agree that he's worth a try somewhere else. However, Ottawa just seems like the absolute worst possible place for him to land.

Yes, I spent the week following the 1st round arguing that the wrong coach can only plausibly cost a goalie so many saves, but if there is one coach in this league who has demonstrated that he doesn't deal well with uncertain or sub-par goaltending, it's John Tortorella. The Sens look like they'll start '08/09 with a couple of 1B goalies, at best.

Ottawa also has a comically top-heavy forward corps, with very dubious depth. Who does that sound like? That's right -- the team Torts just guided to the worst record in the league. His strategy seemed to be that, rather than cultivate a system or mentality that would cut down on scoring chances, i.e. permit his dubious forward depth to contribute to winning, he would have his squad trade chances and hope that his top end would carry the day. Again, that worked out poorly. He also bagged said top-end to past the point of diminishing returns, most obviously with Brad Richards.

Obviously, I am but a lowly blogger, and do not have all the pertinent information here. I'm sure my characterization of the Lightning's past season (and the previous two, for that matter) is unfair in some fashion. But still, it gobsmacks me that the Senators braintrust would look at Tortorella's body of work, then look at their roster, and decide, "Bingo -- he's the guy for us!"

San Jose seems like a much better match to me. They have an above-average, clear-cut #1 goalie, and they have a lot of quality depth forwards that Fonzie wouldn't be afraid to use. The Sharks, for their part, get a guy who has guided a quality roster to a President's Trophy and a Stanley Cup; he's demanding, but not a dick, and he has his players' backs (goalies excepted). This might just be the tonic the Sharks need. (That, and a couple more decent defensemen.)

All those good habits that Ron Wilson instilled in the Sharks -- and he surely did -- aren't going anywhere soon. If they get the right coach, next year really could be their year.
“It’s not like we didn’t have every opportunity. I believe when you do good things, good things happen. Just do good things again.”

That's more of the Zen of Babcock. As mentioned previously ten or two thousand times, I'm pretty sure he's right. The Penguins won that terrific game last night fair and square, but if anyone thinks that the pendulum might have shifted towards the Pens really hasn't been paying attention to the Wings. They really believe that quote above, and they play like it. They were so devastated by that late, tying goal that they came out to overtime and played... exactly like they played the 3rd period.

Of course the Pens can win the next two games. But book it -- there's no way they'll do it by outchancing the Wings (the shot counts from last night's game are hilarious). They'll need luck, and probably plenty of it.

Red Wings fans are understandably queasy today, but really, they have a 3-2 series lead and a clearly superior team. All in all, that's a rather favourable situation. Of course, maybe I'm just saying nice things to them because I feel bad... I got my 8-year-old out of bed with about 2 minutes left in the 3rd last night (recall that the puck had hardly left Pittsburgh's end in the previous 5 minutes) so he could -- that's right -- watch the Stanley Cup be awarded. Sorry folks.


I have updated the blogroll/sidebar a bit, mainly just removing those that hadn't updated in a long time or had retired. I'll take another run at it soon, meaning, if you have a hockey blog that's any good and is updated regularly, let me know and I'll throw it up there. I believe I have a few URLs in my Inbox already.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Some random thoughts on Game 5, as I move from "completely not interested" to "oh yeah, I like hockey."

• What is it with Karen Newman, the lady who sings the national anthems at the Wings games? Her renditions of the American National anthem are total overkill. It's like watching someone use a hammer to smash a ladybug. And she's dressed like she's performing at the Grammys. All that's missing is the Céline Dion hand gestures. Time to tune out.

1st Period
• I just saw Prince Fielder steal a base! Seriously!

2nd Period
• I never thought I'd enjoy working on a lawn so much. Why didn't I get into this sooner? Being a grown-up rocks!

3rd Period
• Good thing I tuned back in with 90 seconds left. The Pens scored, sending the game to overtime. Guess I should watch now.

1st Overtime
• Game 5. Series at 3-1. Overtime. Ahhhhh. This game is giving me a case of the Pisanis. So let's go back. To June 14th, 2006. As called by Bob Cole.

And then as called by Mike Emrick.

Still beautiful, isn't it?

• Is NBC using the glow puck in their highlight clips? No. They can't be! Ha! They are! Wow. Wow. Wow. Have they been doing this all along? Anyone? I'll take Mike Emrick over Bob Cole ten times out of ten, but that is just too much. The streak trailing the puck was black, but cmon. We know what that was. It was the FoxTrax.

2nd Overtime
• Pierre McGuire just about lost it on that goaltender interference penalty on the Wings. WHAT IS DAN CLEARY SUPPOSED TO DO, DAMMIT???


• Petr Sykora just tapped on the glass, and told McGuire he was going to score the OT winner. Then he took a penalty on his very next shift. There's a moral in there somewhere.

3rd Overtime
• I just realized that if Detroit wins the Cup tonight, Chelios won't be on the ice. That more exciting than seeing either of these teams hoist Lord Stanley, as far as I'm concerned.

• Oh, no! Not the "Four Minuter" high-sticking penalty!

Strong, muscular legs.

• SYKORA CALLS IT!!! Pens win! BIG goal. HUGE. And there's that moral I was talking about. Universe, YOU'VE BEEN TOLD. Just like in "The Secret." Oprah, Petr Sykora says thanks.

Wow. That was a great hockey game.


What it takes to win

"That's why you build a good foundation -- so when you get an opportunity like this, you can go out and just do what you do."

That's an approximate quote from this morning's Mike Babcock presser, which I just heard on XM204. It was actually fascinating, to me at least, given the nature of the (sparse) hockey discussion around this site lately. Any listeners hoping to hear about how the last one is the toughest to win, or how proud he is of his key players stepping up when it matters most, or how he has a couple of tricks left up his sleeve to give that knife in the Pens a final twist, would have been left pretty cold. Instead, it was a lot of (I paraphrase):
We're going to do what we do... everyday professionalism... do what we do... we expect their good players to be good, we expect our good players to be good... we just need to do what we do... we have a lot of good players who do what they do well... we want to establish normalcy... we don't worry about that, we just worry about doing what we do... I slept great last night.

**Metrognome has a terrific post today, fleshing out the "experience" factor a bit. He explains many of the relevant concepts very well; read the whole thing. That's definitely something I want to follow up on further another day.

Better than that, though! From later that same post... just try telling me he hasn't coined a brilliantly useful shorthand concept:
There's a famous SNL skit about the Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper", featuring Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell. In it, Walken plays producer Bruce Dickinson who "has a fever for the cowbell". No doubt a fair measure of the skit's comedic value comes from the juxtaposition between Ferrell's typical obnoxious flailing and Walken's now iconic flat stare and wooden delivery. However, the underlying joke the skit is predicated upon is the Dickinson's (Walken's) manic and nonsensical obsession with the cowbell, which is a relatively inconsequential aspect of the track.

In a way, I think a lot of fans and even coaches or GM's have their own "cowbells": those factors they foreground and elevate above and beyond their true values. Personally, when I played hockey myself, I was under-sized and I survived via speed and agility. Now, the smaller, quicker players are the ones that elicit my sympathies (which likely explains my continued quest to insulate Lombardi from criticism). One of the reasons the above inquiry was interesting to me is I consider "experience" to be one of Darryl Sutter's cowbells: he seems to have a fever for it, even though it's contributions to the tune may be minimal.

So when news of a dubious veteran signing appears here in early July under the heading, "More Cowbell", now you know why.

**Greg Wyshynski brings in James Mirtle for a debate at his Puck Daddy blog; Mirtle's rhetorical victory is more one-sided than King Kong Bundy over S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones. Actually, maybe I'm overstating it: Wyshynski's prime beef seems to be that it's really unfair that the 2000 Devils are tarred in the history books as being a boring, trapping team when they were actually a very good two-way team (and thus, if life were fair, this season's Wings would be looked at in the same way). Fair enough, although that's a rather esoteric topic for the day the 2008 Stanley Cup will probably be awarded. A couple of points, though:

- Mismatches/routs are virtually always boring (except to the fans of the routing team, for whom they are dee-lightful). Every year, every sport. The only exception to the rule is when there is an outstanding individual performance (e.g. record-setting) in play.

- To my knowledge, no one in the anti-defense crowd -- whether they are arguing in earnest, or as a devil's advocate as Greg is -- has ever proposed a remotely plausible solution to their problem. When the object is to outscore the other team, then preventing a goal gains you the same advantage as scoring one. I dearly wish that one of these bright people who hates suffocating defense would acknowledge as their starting point that this "problem" (a rather intractable one, it would seem to me) is what needs to be solved.

- Further to that, it's probably worth noting that "volleyball-sized nets", or even "slightly larger nets", would be more to the advantage of the Detroit Red Wings (over time) than any other team. They have the puck in the other end more, they take more shots that hit the net, they take more shots that miss the net, and they take more shots that are blocked. Bigger nets wouldn't level the field, they'd tilt it even more.

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