Thanksgiving? LAME! Christmas? Overdone. No, the holiday us Sharks fans should observe is 11/30 -- JOE THORNTON DAY! One year ago today, we got a gift from the hockey gods (or a steal from Mike O'Connell, depending on how you look at it). Joe's the gift that keeps on giving, at least until he probably hits 33 or 34 and starts to slow down.
As for my own Joe Thornton Day memories, I remember that night quite vividly. It was a dreary unending losing streak and I sat down to watch a Tivo-ed (half an hour delay) version of the Sharks/Stars matchup. FSN Bay Area had flashed the line combos on the bottom, but I noticed right away that it didn't match up what was on the ice. Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda soon picked up on it too, and they started speculating about the missing Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart. I remember thinking that the Bruins were rumored to be shopping Sergei Samsonov, and I briefly wondered about Thornton before telling myself there was no way.
My girlfriend, whose favorite player at the time was her "German Cowboy" Marco Sturm, was getting ready to leave for a nightshift at work. I told her that this looked like Marco got traded, but I'd call her and let her know. Needless to say, she wasn't really happy when she left for work.
Then, between the first and second period, Randy Hahn said the infamous words. "The Sharks now have two Thorntons. Joe Thornton." My jaw literally and figuratively dropped. I had spent the whole time before then bashing Doug Wilson on my blog about how he didn't do crap. I took everything back the next day.
I remember Drew Remenda looking really disturbed talking about it, probably because Stuart and Sturm were really beloved by Sharks fans. Still, it was Joe Freakin' Thornton. I had no bones about it -- Doug Wilson totally ripped off the Bruins. The next day, Bob McKown's show on Toronto's Fan 590 was filled with pissed off Leaf fans saying "Why didn't we get Joe?" Listening to whiney Leafs fans is always entertaining.
My girlfriend called me on her break and I told her that I had good and bad Sharks news. She instantly yelled a very Luke Skywalker "Nooooooooooooooooo!", but I assured her that Joe Thornton was ridiculously better than her beloved Marco. It took about two games to make her forget that #19 ever beloned to Mr. Sturm.
With Brad Stuart and Marco Sturm telling the media that they'll probably test free agency, it looks like the Bruins will get absolutely nothing for trading their franchise player (though SI has a good take on how it shook the mentality of the club). As for Sharks fans, make sure you have a drink in honor of Joe Thornton Day!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Thanksgiving? LAME! Christmas? Overdone. No, the holiday us Sharks fans should observe is 11/30 -- JOE THORNTON DAY! One year ago today, we got a gift from the hockey gods (or a steal from Mike O'Connell, depending on how you look at it). Joe's the gift that keeps on giving, at least until he probably hits 33 or 34 and starts to slow down.
Oh yeah, we have a real game tonight, huh? Anaheim Ducks (18-2-6, 1st in west) at Vancouver Canucks (12-12-1, 8th in west)
Don’t have time for too much today, but Tom Benjamin asks the question: Why does the NHL continue to lose ground in the United States? In the comments, there is some discussion about the move from ESPN to Versus, which naturally moves the sport out of the public consciousness.
Well check out how we got it in Southern California, which has two sports networks (Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket) to split among four winter teams (Lakers, Clippers, Kings, and Ducks). For us Duck fans, that means that excess games get shifted to KDOC-TV, a local time-capsule station that serves us all a hot helping of TV nostalgia. Look at today’s schedule, for example:
9:00 am Little House on the PrairieDid you miss it? No no, that’s not the 70s sitcom “NHL Hockey” at 7 pm, but rather tonight’s NHL contest. Hey, I for one am glad that KDOC picks up the local coverage baton, but really, who’s going to be accidentally watching tonight’s game? The guy who lost his Nick-at-Nite channel? (Note also that televised hockey is on the decline in Canada also; maybe it's not just us).
10:00 am Rockford Files
11:00 am Quincy, M.E.
12:00 pm Perry Mason
1:00 pm Matlock
2:00 pm Hawaii Five-O
3:00 pm Magnum, P.I.
4:00 pm The Nanny
4:30 pm Mad About You
5:00 pm Becker (twice)
6:00 pm Cheers (twice)
7:00 pm NHL Hockey
9:30 pm Cheers
10:00 pm The Twilight Zone
At any rate, three weeks ago today the Ducks won 6-0 in Vancouver, but that was a pretty deceptive score, as the Ducks scored on their 2nd, 4th, 9th, 17th, 22nd, and 23rd shots. That probably won’t be happening again tonight.
Still, the Canucks have scored 3 goals or more only twice in their last 14 games. The Ducks have scored 2 goals or less only twice in their last 16 games.
Prediction: Ducks 5, Canucks 0 (to keep with the post title). Goals by Kunitz, Pahlsson, Shannon, O'Donnell, and Moustache.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tom L at Sabre Rattling has pointed to a Damien Cox ESPN piece that asks a good question: which team is better, the Buffalo Sabres or the Anaheim Ducks?
Wait, scratch that. That’s not a good question, that’s a dumb question. Who really gives a shit? These teams are playing in two separate leagues on two separate leaderboards. It matters very little how good Anaheim is compared to Buffalo; what matters is how Anaheim stacks vs. the west and how Buffalo stacks vs. the east.
That said, I will offer a little fodder for this burning question. Here, for argument’s sake, is a look at regulation standings, how teams are doing when 60 minutes are up. I only bring it up because it exposes Buffalo for the extra-point slut that it is:
Buffalo, while still class of the east, does have less regulation wins than 6 western teams (and the same amount Calgary has), so maybe the real question that deserves to be asked isn’t which of two specific teams is better.
Rather, my question is: If Buffalo were in the west, where would it finish? Would it be a first-place club in a much more highly-contested conference?
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
(SPECIAL GUEST COLUMNIST: ROB NIEDERMAYER!)
A special thanks to Earl Sleek for allowing me this opportunity to address hardcore Oiler fans.
My name is Rob Niedermayer, sometimes called "RNieds", or "the other Niedermayer". You might remember me from the last western conference finals, although you probably had to be paying pretty good attention to notice little old me.
At any rate, I am not here to chastise the Edmonton faithful for feeling betrayed by last offseason’s mysterious Pronger departure, nor even to try to plead for a well-behaved Rexall crowd tonight. I remember when I was traded how hard it was on my fans, when later they learned that I was actually Scott Niedermayer’s brother.
No, I am writing today to emphasize a fact that I’m not sure has gotten enough publicity in the Edmonton area: Chris Pronger no longer wears number 44. Because of my impressive stature on this Anaheim team (again, Scott’s brother), I was allowed to keep the number, and Prongs instead chose number 25.
This is very important tonight, as you are stuffing your socks with loonies and pulling batteries out of your iPods, THINK BEFORE YOU THROW! For now, and for the foreseeable future, #44 is not public enemy #1 in Edmonton; it would be a shame if a well-aimed beer toss got sent to the wrong recipient tonight.
Prediction: Ducks 5, Oilers 3. Despite my efforts, I still get hit by a misguided Pronger projectile.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Tomorrow: Anaheim Ducks (17-2-6, 1st in west) at Edmonton Oilers (13-8-1, 6th in west)
Oh, so many things to talk about! In honor of ol' #8’s 500th goal and 600th point as a Duck, here’s 8 storylines leading into tomorrow’s game:
1. Return of the Orbs. Really, this ProngeRage is probably the most overblown part of the whole deal, but what can I do? This date has been circled on so many Edmonton calendars that you’d think Rexall was doing a PS3 giveaway. I’ve said it before; there’s plenty of room for Oilfan sympathy, but let’s not pretend they’re the only team to lose their star player days after a painful SCF G7 loss.
2. 1,000 game club. I suppose of lesser importance will be that this game will also be Scott Niedermayer’s 1,000th career regular-season game. It’ll be interesting to see how the Oil faithful will handle that announcement; will they bother to ‘boo’ or is that all being saved for Pronger? Teemu Selanne (984), by the way, is scheduled to have his 1,000th game (health-permitting) in about a month, while Travis Green (941) will likely never get there if he doesn’t start improving on his 2-appearances-in-25-games role.
3. Schedule getting tougher. I really do have to talk about strength-of-schedule when it comes to the Ducks’ success thus far. Anaheim has played 17 of its 25 games at Honda Center, and tomorrow begins a stretch of 13 of 17 on the road. From last year’s playoff teams, the Ducks have not yet this season traveled to the following cities (home record in parentheses): Detroit (6-1-3), Dallas (8-2-0), Nashville (6-1-2), San Jose (9-2-0), or Edmonton (10-2-0), so there are still a fair amount of questions to be answered about how good these Ducks really are. And the two times the Ducks have played a previous-year playoff team on the road? They got shutout in Calgary and lost a shootout in Colorado.
4. Goaltending secrecy. The Ducks do like keeping goaltending injuries a Pentagon-level secret, like last year when, out of the blue, J.S. Giguere was unavailable for the first game of the playoffs. Similar story last night, when instead of our usual Giguere-Bryzgalov tandem, the Ducks started Michael Wall (AHL), backed up by David McKee (ECHL). Per today’s L.A. Times, Giguere says he is “99 percent sure” he is starting tomorrow, but who really knows? If McKee ever gets the nod, by the way, he will join Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner, and Ryan Shannon as Duck players this year who were never drafted, but instead signed with the team as UFAs. (Side note: apparently Nashville claimed Michael Leighton from the Ducks off waivers also, and Anaheim will be paying half his salary. Sweet.)
5. Moustache watch. George Parros, after a crummy start, has looked a lot better in the last 4 games he’s played in. He still has yet to be on the ice for an Anaheim goal-for, but at least he’s not surrendering goals and when he does fight, he’s done it well enough. Still room for improvement, though, as both Todd Fedoruk and Shawn Thornton were able to produce at even-strength as well as fight. Parros has yet to be even close to useful in a game in which he does not fight.
6. Anaheim Norris race. It’s astounding to me how much Duck message-boarders seem to be stuck on the notion that Scott Niedermayer has been this team’s MVP thus far, when the Pronger-comparison numbers really aren’t that close (well, except power-play production, since they share so many minutes there). Here’s some key stats:
Even-Strength:So overall, Pronger (in about 44 extra minutes of ice time) has been on the ice for 52 goals for and 22 goals against. Scotty, meanwhile, has been on the ice for 39 goals for and 26 goals against. I would buy the argument that Pronger being paired with Sean O’Donnell should have better defensive implications than Niedermayer being paired with Francois Beauchemin, but in terms of production, you gotta give the nod to CP here.
CP: 435 minutes, 2-11-13, EV+ 29, EV- 14
SN: 404 minutes, 3-8-11, EV+ 19, EV- 14
CP: 156 minutes, 2-11-13, PP+ 22, PP- 0
SN: 154 minutes, 2-8-10, PP+ 20, PP- 0
CP: 96 minutes, 0-0-0, PK+ 1, PK- 8
SN: 85 minutes, 0-0-0, PK+ 0, PK- 12
7. Selanne responds to criticism. Don’t forget, though, that Selanne has been on fire also, ever since I called him out in the “don’t vote for Teemu” All-star ballot post. Here’s a little split for ya, before and after I called him out.
Before: 19 GP, 4-13-17, 1.82 even-strength pts/hrYikes. Look out, unknown performance bonuses! (Oh, and Teemu, you still haven’t gotten my vote!)
Since: 6 GP, 6-6-12, 5.99 even-strength pts/hr
8. Changing the rules. A weird new wrinkle this year in how division leaders are selected. Assume for a second that Anaheim wins tomorrow by two goals. Per the NHL standing rules (at the bottom of this link), Minnesota would reclaim the Northwest Division lead by virtue of goal differential (Wild +9, Oilers +8) despite identical records. Problem is, these goal-differential numbers count shootout wins and losses as “standings” goals-for and goals-against, a new development this year. Minnesota’s differential is boosted by having a 5-1 record in shootouts compared to Edmonton’s 1-1 shootout record. These would not have factored in goal differential calculations last year.
The Sharks downed the New Jersey Devils 2-0 in a tight defensive game at HP Pavilion on Saturday night. For more photos and a brief recap, visit sharkspage.com. Tough road trip for the Devils, 4 games on the West Coast in 6 nights. New Jersey has lost the first three in a row to Phoenix, Anaheim and San Jose, each by a 2-goal margin.
The Kings vs New Jersey will be broadcast on Versus tonight at 7PM.
Friday, November 24, 2006
New Jersey Devils (12-7-1, 7th in East) at Anaheim Ducks (15-2-6, 1st in West)
Today’s afternoon tilt is a rematch of the ever-painful 2003 cup finals, where my 2nd favorite team decided to become my 30th favorite team all in the course of 7 “home-team-wins-them-all” playoff games.
This will be the Devils’ 2nd trip to Anaheim since that series (and first since Nov. 2003), while the Ducks have never been back to NJ to avenge their G7 loss. (Of course, only three current Ducks really have anything to avenge—only J.S. Giguere, Sammy Pahlsson, and Rob Niedermayer remain from that ’03 squad). Incidentally, this will be the first time Scott Niedermayer ever plays against the Devils.
Of course, there’s lots left to hate from the Devils’ side of the ledger: Marty Brodeur, who shut out the Ducks in 3 out of the 4 Jersey games. Mike Rupp, who scored the G7 winner. Scott Gomez, Patrik Elias, Sergei Brylin, Jamie Langenbrunner, John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Brian Rafalski and Colin White.
These are the 4th and 6th best teams this year in terms of preventing shots and preventing goals this year, so stock up on the Tryptophan, get cozy on the couch, and go Ducks!
Prediction: Ducks 3, Devils 2 (OT). Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer, and Stumpy Thomas with the winner.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
PJ's SharksPage has a good recap from this week's Sharks-Ducks matchup, including an NHL-sponsored YouTube, featuring drunken Sleek banging his hat on the glass roughly at the 1:34 mark.
I'm not sure I have too much to add about this game from a personal perspective. I was pretty hammered (to the point where I was constantly surprised by the game score). My friends and I spent our energy pleading with the refs to put Pronger in the box, but they apparently don't take fan input when making their phantom penalty calls.
OK, time to take a nap! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Anaheim Ducks (15-2-5, 1st in West) at Colorado Avalanche (9-10-2, 9th in West)
Man oh man I hope the Ducks are less hung over than I was this morning. Any way, they are off to Denver for a quick Av-kicking tonight.
Here's how some noble YouTuber pictured it:
Prediction: Anaheim 19, Colorado 2. Hat tricks by Selanne, S. Niedermayer, Chistov and Fedorov.
Sakic, Liles, Blake, and Tanguay are repeatedly crushed throughout the game.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Per his request:
Complete this sentence...
Hey Parros! __________ called and it/he wants its/his _________ back!!!
OK, I'm drunky.
Was it really 5-0 Ducks?
p.s. What a tease that Teemu is. I ask for 500 goals, and he gets me to 499?
Are those the most vicious pictures of ducks you could find? Poor things look like they're about to become supper.Ah, yes. The old game of mascot vs. mascot. Well, in tonight's game, this 'shark vs. duck' figures to be a rather one-sided debate, it appears. A shark, the predatory terror of the open waters, vs. a duck, nature's bipedal version of Instant Noodles?
So what defense does a poor little duck have against a bloodthirsty shark?
Cough cough, go Ducks!!
Prediction: At some point, it will be Anaheim 2, San Jose 2. Beyond that, I should be pretty smashed.
p.s. Let me know in the comments if anyone else is going to the game. Maybe I’ll let you buy me a beer.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Tomorrow: San Jose Sharks (15-6-0, 2nd in west) at Anaheim Ducks (14-2-5, 1st in west), and I can’t wait!
For a state that is more used to watching first-place matchups on TV than in person, this one is huge. Let’s get some statistical hype out of the way (numbers in parentheses represent western conference rank):
Wins: ANA 14 (2), SJ 15 (1)
Win percentage: ANA .786 (1), SJ .714 (3)
Goals-for: ANA 73 (1), SJ 70 (2)
Goals-against: ANA 51 (6), SJ 47 (5)
Goal differential: ANA +22 (2), SJ +23 (1)
Power-play goals-for: ANA 25 (2), SJ 27 (1)
Power-play goals-against: ANA 16 (6), SJ 13 (4)
Power-play goal differential: ANA +9 (3), SJ +14 (1)
Power-play percentage: ANA 21.2% (3), SJ 24.3% (1)
Penalty-kill percentage: ANA 84.9% (6), SJ 86.5% (5)
Shooting percentage (no empty-net): ANA 10.4% (4), 12.1% (1)
Save percentage (no empty-net): ANA 91.1% (7), SJ 92.4% (2)
Anaheim top 5 scorers:
T. Selanne – 21 GP, 5-19-24, +4, 17:12
S. Niedermayer – 21 GP, 5-15-20, +3, 27:00
C. Pronger – 21 GP, 3-17-20, +11, 27:13
C. Kunitz – 20 GP, 13-6-19, +7, 15:36
A. McDonald – 21 GP, 8-9-17, +2, 16:40
San Jose top 5 scorers:
P. Marleau – 21 GP, 12-12-24, +8, 17:04
M. Michalek – 21 GP, 9-14-23, +12, 16:51
J. Thornton – 21 GP, 5-18-23, -6, 19:17
S. Bernier – 21 GP, 6-11-17, +8, 14:09
J. Cheechoo – 20 GP, 7-8-15, -5, 16:46
Yes sir, quite the battle of titans tomorrow. And as an added bonus, should Teemu Selanne somehow work a hat trick into his schedule tomorrow, that third goal would be the 500th of his career. Selanne does lead all active players in career regular-season hat tricks (18), but hasn’t scored one since his return to Anaheim, so I’ll call that one a long shot.
Still, maybe if I give him a little Luc Robitaille treatment?
497, Teemu. Four-ninety-seven.
More to come tomorrow…
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Longtime readers of my blog and the Battle of California will know that I am a ridiculously superstitious person when it comes to sports. There's a theory about religion and deities that they're only as powerful as the amount of belief/energy that people collectively give to it. I'm not going to go into a spiritual debate here, but I often wonder why my stupid sports superstitions, like the well documented Jersey Curse, doesn't seem to affect other people. Is it because I'm so paranoid about this?
In any case, at the beginning of the season I decided that it might have finally been time to put a name on the back of my Sharks jersey. At the end of last season, I had leaned towards getting a Steve Bernier jersey, but I decided to wait until a few months into the next season just in case Bernier, you know, decided that all of the awesomeness that he showed us at the end of the 2005-2006 season was a total and complete fluke.
Then the Sharks traded for Mark Bell. Again, longtime readers of my blog will know that I grew up a Chicago Blackhawks fan before joining the legions of disenfranchised Hawks supporters and cutting off my fandom. Still, I watched Hawks games on Center Ice and followed the team at a distant, and I always liked Bell. He was like a poor man's Keith Tkachuk without as much of a pure dickhead mean streak. I thought he'd be the perfect fit for the Sharks, and I was really excited about this trade. As a nod to my Hawks fan past, Bell became my top pick for my jersey.
Even though Bell didn't look perfectly comfortable the first few weeks of the season, he was still producing points and hitting. I was pretty comfortable with leaning towards Bell, but at the same time, I liked how Christian Ehrhoff was the only Shark blueliner who could skate through the neutral zone and fire off a monster one-timer and Milan Michalek impressed the hell out of me. So even though I was still considering Bell and Bernier, Ehrhoff and Michalek got in the running too. This is around the end of October and I figured that I'd never actually make a decision because I'm way too anal about this.
So, my friends went ahead and made a decision for me. And because of this, Mark Bell has sucked balls for the past three weeks.
Until recently, it took a few weeks to put in an order at the Sharks store for a customized jersey (they only had Thornton, Marleau, and Cheechoo at the store). For my birthday, my friends decided to just go ahead and put in an order for a Bell jersey. Right around the time, Bell began to totally suck balls. In fact, Bell hasn't had a point since my friends put in the order for the jersey. Coincidence or the return of the Jersey Curse? You be the judge!
I finally got my jersey at a birthday dinner on Friday night and wore it to last night's game. From my experience, the Jersey Curse lasts anywhere from 1-3 months. Last night, Bell had 16 minutes in PIMs, two fights, and he played with a lot more fire (hitting, shooting, speed) than I had seen in the past three weeks. Is he finally waking up and shaking off the effects of the Jersey Curse? I don't know, but I'm hoping that the Jersey Curse hasn't dragged Bell down for the season. Hopefully, the Jersey Curse lets up sooner rather than later because the Sharks sure could use the Mark Bell that got a good 25 goals for a shitty Blackhawks squad by planting himself in front of the crease and banging in rebounds -- not the Mark Bell who looks totally confused about where he should be in the offensive zone.
San Jose center Joe Thornton skates out of the Sharks head Saturday night prior to a game with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala battles Flyers forward #22 Mike Knuble. San Jose downed Philadelphia 6-1 for a convinving home win.
Philadelphia forward Triston Grant flips over the top of Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala in the waning minutes of the 3rd period.
San Jose mascot SJ Sharkie watches the action intently from the front row.
More on the game will be posted on Sharkspage shortly. If you know how to post multiple photos on Blogger with Hello or Picasa, drop me a line.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
More sucking at shootouts from Anaheim last night, thanks to a shoutout* by Khabibulin. (I wonder why Ryan Shannon was not one of the three shooters last night; I thought that was why he was on the roster...)
Still, the standings point guarantees that by next Tuesday, the Ducks will still be first in the west. The Sharks, by next Tuesday, will be 2nd.
Why, dear readers, do I make such a fuss about next Tuesday?
Tuesday is the first of eight matchups between these early-season western powerhouses. An opening blow in the (meaningful) Battle of California.
And I will be there, proudly in Row B, drunk as a skunk. I only get three games a season up there, but looks like I picked a winner.
Can't fucking wait.
* shoutout = shutout in a shootout
Friday, November 17, 2006
Also: Chicago Blackhawks (6-9-2, 12th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (13-2-4, 1st in west)
It's not as good as my Ode to Beauchemin, but it was about time I expressed my man-love to Sammy, consistently Anaheim's best forward and quite easily my favorite player in the NHL.
ODE TO PAHLSSON
S ome fans like scorers, some fans like squee,
A s for Earl? He’s a sucka for ol’ Sammy P.
M aster of Defense, Penalty Killer, and Pest,
U nrelenting, Hard-working, Sammy’s the best!
E very night he faces another top line,
L eading Duck forwards in average ice time.
P uck-pressuring forecheck gives Ducks a lift,
A gain and again, I say, “Jeez, whatta shift!”
H e’s killing this year, with Moen and R. Nieds,
L ike he did playing with the gold-winning Swedes.
S elke may have been a good checking forward,
S crew him, though! It should be the Pahlsson Award!
O h Sammy, if you’re reading, one thing I must say,
N ever ever leave Anaheim. This God I pray.
Prediction: 4-3 Ducks. Pahlsson scores 'em all.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
(Author’s note: the top graphic in the photo is one of my favorite Photoshops from Hodge at Waiting for Stanley, a true graphics guru.)
Now’s about the time when a lot of bloggers get political, and tell you why their team's guy(s) should be getting your All-star vote. Well, I’m here to tell you the opposite. Stop voting for Ducks.
Now I don’t know if there’s much I can do about the Niederpronger “Twins”, as really, they are celebrities in this league and whether I like it or not, they will be on the western team. But Giguere? McDonald? Selanne? These guys are more on the fringe, so perhaps I can actually dissuade some votes. Don’t vote for them, especially you rare-breed Duck fans.
“But Sleek, why are you against Anaheim representation at the All-Star Game?”
a) It’s pointless. At this point the Ducks have bigger aspirations than participating or winning in an All-Star game. At this point, I would think a few days off would be more beneficial than a silly promo game.
b) Other than the d-men and possibly Giguere, they don’t deserve it. Currently Selanne is sitting 42nd in overall scoring and McDonald 108th. Even Giguere, after his bad outing, dropped to 8th in GAA and 10th in sv%, meaning that there are 6 or 7 better statistical goalies to select in the west.
c) Most importantly, both Selanne and Giguere are headed for unrestricted free agency after this year. What good is it for the Ducks to have these guys chosen as all-stars in a salary-cap environment? Really, it’s just another excuse to drive up the offseason signing price. The problem in this league with “feathers in your cap” is later, you have to pay for them.
In fact, the real theme of this post is to talk about individual success vs. team success. While individual success is nice (say, a scoring title or an all-start bid), a franchise will have to pay a player for these individual accomplishments, whether they bring a team to the playoffs or not.
That’s why I’m so excited about Anaheim’s W-L record thus far, because it is being done without scoring leaders. Despite being the 4th best offense in the league (and best in the west), there is no point-a-game player on the team. Selanne’s 42nd-best 17 points leads the team.
Compare this to other teams: Carolina has five players outscoring Selanne, Buffalo and the Rangers each have four, and Atlanta, San Jose, Toronto, and Washington each have three. What does this mean? Well, when it comes time to re-sign these rosters, which will be the cheapest?
I got nothing against scoring leaders per se, but we should keep in mind the ever-looming salary cap. Franchises with league leaders on their rosters will have more difficulty keeping the team intact, as all-stars negotiating contracts get to use other all-stars as comparables. What teams stand a better chance of keeping their rosters together? Well, look to Anaheim—those that can score goals without putting any of their players in the scoring race. Long term, it’s a cheaper way of producing a winner.
Side note: To date, the eastern conference has scored 840 goals, compared to the western conference’s 718. That’s a huge disparity, and to tell you the truth, I think eastern teams are generally going to have to pay bigger premiums later for their higher-scoring superstars than the lower-scoring superstars in the west. It’s a weird disparity, but as a guy concerned about future salaries, I’d rather be on the lower-end side of that scale.
One last paradox of success is the NHL trophy race, as tracked by Mirtle. Looking at his votes, does Pittsburgh really want Malkin winning the Calder trophy? What will that cost them later? Or does Atlanta really want a Hart trophy for Hossa? What will that cost them later? Is it worth it for a team to have a trophy winner any more, especially if that person will be coming up for contract negotiation in the near future?
It’s a weird environment to think about how a player performs today will affect what you pay him tomorrow, but that is in fact the reality of our new league. Especially teams that are smaller-market should be paying attention to Anaheim’s current team model: how to win games without making any of your soon-to-be-free-agents into superstars.
Thank god Niedermayer and Pronger have their salaries locked in long-term, or I’d really have to start an anti-Norris Trophy campaign.
p.s. Jeez I'm getting preachy lately, aren't I?
Check out the new Battle of California highlight package. Cool as the other side of the pillow.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Nothing gets you drinking like giving up 7 goals to the Flyers (on 16 shots? Wow.). Random thoughts (warning: a long, directionless, Red Label-inspired post):
Anyone wanna trade for George Parros? That guy’s a human zamboni, using his jersey to slide-sweep the ice. Jeez, Burke. I’m not so sure. Todd Fedoruk was a great fighter and could even contribute in his minutes (the easy ice time, with Getzlaf and Perry). Shawn Thornton maybe wasn’t that great a fighter, but he did really well in the Fedoruk minutes. Parros? I dunno. He’s got the balance of a drunk infant giraffe. A real downgrade.
Yeah, by the numbers it looks pretty stunning that bottomfeeders Ottawa and Philadelphia would shock world-beaters Buffalo and Anaheim, but really, these teams were due. Mudcrutch makes the point pretty well, and JavaGeek does a good job with the Senators specifically. Sucks to say, but the Sens and Flyers aren’t as bad as they were letting on, just as the Sabres and Ducks aren’t as good as they were letting on.
Stats rant: John Kreisler, an NHL.com columnist (the “numbers” guy) had a note on the Flyers (emphasis mine)
When I look at the NHL standings, why does a shootout win/loss count as a statistical goal? Isn’t that already reflected in the W or O column? I mean, I don’t care particularly about the counting method, but when you look at player stats, nobody gets credit for scoring a goal or a game-winning goal. A winning goalie does not get a save, nor a losing goalie a goal-against. It is, in fact, a phantom goal. If you want to put a shootout win in the goals column, then award a damn goal, dumbass league.
The Flyers have a league-low 30 goals (including one in a shootout), though it’s not for a lack of trying. They’ve out-shot their opponents in 12 of their 15 games -- including the last eight, in which they are 2-6-0.
While I’m on the topic of numbers, here’s another thought. I’m really into the mathy stuff being done around the blogosphere, ranging from ice time analysis to shot chart analysis (both on the ice and on the net). More and more, people like us are getting a better and better handle on gathering the data elements of hockey and learning how to read them (through no help of the NHL, mind you). There’s no perfect metric to this sport, of course, but I think the first strides made in data analysis won’t have to be perfect to be effective. It’s just that raw a game.
At any rate, I would humbly like to add one thing to JavaGeek’s excellent data wish list. For every goal scored, I think there should be some sort of data collected about why the goal was scored. Was there a screen? Was it a breakaway? Did the puck deflect? Was the goalie caught in a 2-on-1? Was it just a perfect shot? This it seems to me is just as important as where on the ice the puck was shot or where on the net it was aimed.
We know fundamentally that understanding winning means understanding scoring, both from a productive sense and a preventive sense. I am really in favor of data collection about shot modeling, but I think there should be better differentiation about which goals to model around. My two cents, any way.
Um, I have slammed Hockey News in the past, but there’s two pieces in the issue I just picked up of some interest (I don't have a link). One is about shootouts, and really breaks down where on the net shooters aimed (hint: glove-side high). The other is about declines in attendance, and writer Ken Campbell, I think, kicks some real ass.
Saskin, on the other hand, tells me he isn't the least bit concerned, even though the players' pay checks are directly tied into how many fans they attract. Saskin reasons enough teams raised ticket prices to make up for the revenue shortfall and he has every confidence when final receipts are tallied, the league will exceed the $2.1 billion in revenue it made last year... wasn't the lockout and cost certainty supposed to be in large part about maintaining affordable ticket prices?... Remind me again exactly why it was we missed a full season of hockey if a significant number of teams can paper the house and still report enough in revenues to give the players well over a billion dollars in salary.
As a conclusion to this directionless drinky post, I would like to throw one more idea out there. If the NHL is really serious about the 'watchability' of hockey (which I don't think is measured in goals, by the way), one area I think it might want to take a look at is at the blue line. So hard to penetrate, so easy to defend! Somehow if the offsides rule was more 'relaxed', I think, there would be better flow to games and more chances. Here's three ideas, going conservative-to-radical:
1) Fatten the blue line. Allow a forward to break in earlier when the puck touches blue.The real idea, I think, is to make things harder to defend. To make scoring chances easier to come by (or at least, more frequent). To get tripped up a little bit less by the stickiness of the neutral zone. At the very least, changing the blueline would have to change the way the game was defended, which at this point is almost a game of "clear the zone".
2) Personal tag-up on-sides. Right now if one player is offsides, everyone has to tag up. In this version, only that one player needs to tag up while others can continue "offsides".
3) Allow one forward to be offside. This is really radical, but a whistle would only be blown if two players were offside.
OK, I'm not even sure if this all makes sense, but Drinky Sleek is putting a stop to this (the typing, not the drinking). Good luck, everyone! Rational posts start tomorrow!
Philadelphia Flyers (3-12-2, last in league) at Anaheim Ducks (13-1-4, first in west)
Philly comes to town with a league-worst 1-7-0 road record to try their lot at the Ducks' 8-0-3 home record.
This Flyer team has fallen apart in dramatic fashion. Last year the Flyers got 101 points; this year they are on pace for 39.
How best to express the futility?
- In 8 road games, they have been outscored 32-13, and their road power play is 2 of 50.
- They have but 6 players who have scored more than one goal. Conversely, they have 6 players who sport a +/- of -10 or worse.
- Overall, Philadelphia has two players with a “plus” rating, and one of them is Todd Fedoruk.
- One crazy stat about Philly is that through 17 games, they are outshooting their opponents by 60 shots. Problem is, Philly shooters have a collective 6.3% shooting percentage, while their opponents are scoring at a 13.6% clip.
- Philly has allowed 38 even-strength goals, which is remarkably bad considering they have scored only 35 goals in total. Anaheim, meanwhile, has scored 39 even-strength goals, which is remarkably good considering they have allowed only 37 goals in total.
Prediction: Ducks 5, Flyers 1. Pahlsson and Getzlaf each get a goal; Selanne gets a hat trick and knocks Derian Hatcher's teeth out.
Monday, November 13, 2006
- Ducks trade W Todd Fedoruk ($450,000) to Philadelphia for a 4th round pick
- Ducks trade W Stanislav Chistov ($800,000) to Boston for a 3rd round pick
- Ducks trade a 2nd round pick to Colorado for (former King) W George Parros ($450,000)
HF Poster fanin115 also put together some decent perspective:
I suppose that’s a pretty good spin on things, except did the Ducks really need to swap that 2nd-rounder for that moustache-named-Parros, especially with the impressive play of Fedoruk-replacement Shawn Thornton? Maybe Burke needs some help with his crossword puzzles.
You have to look at the 3 trades in aggregate to understand what Burke did.
You've replaced Fedoruk with Parros. Neither one gets big minutes. Parros is younger and a bit bigger. Fedoruk has a bit more skill, but is injured right now. If Todd can't be an enforcer when he gets back, his value is greatly diminished.
The Ducks (in essence) trade a second round pick which originally belonged to Atlanta, for a third round pick which originally belonged to Phoenix. Plus the Ducks get the right to swap third round draft positions with Colorado. How far apart do you think Atlanta's second round pick will be from Phoenix's third? 5 spots? 10? Throw in the swapped third positions and things are pretty even.
Finally, the ducks shed Chistov's $800,000 salary for the this year and next, and get a 4th rounder from Philly. Face it, Chistov has just not lived up to his billing. He wasn't going to get any time in Anaheim, and would have been claimed if sent down. Good move for Anaheim, and for Chistov.
All in all, pretty good moves by BB.
As for me? (big shrug) I don’t have a lot of opinion here; these seem to me to be very minor trades. For sure I'll miss Fedoruk, but I have no idea how broken that man is right now. If nothing else, these moves should certainly give our pressbox a new look. I've been wrong before, but I don't really see this as a precursor to a "bigger trade" or anything. Really, it just seems like minor housekeeping to me.
Now the Ducks are down to but one Russian (Ilya Bryzgalov) and down to three members of their 2003 SCF run (J.S. Giguere, Sammy Pahlsson, and Rob Niedermayer). Very Burkish indeed.
[Edit: here's another good perspective from HF commenter braincramp:
So, Ducks do enforcer swap, get Parros and give up Fedoruk. Equal salary, Parros can play but Fedoruk cannot and may never. If Fedoruk was not traded and remained on injured reserve, Ducks would pay him and he would count against the cap and an additional player would be paid. It doesn't matter what Fedoruk was or what the Ducks paid to get him, he's worth what he is now. Maybe a better enforcer could have been obtained for the same salary?
Chistov wasn't playing, hadn't shown anything in camp, and nothing since his rookie year. Do the Ducks want to put together the strongest team or work on player projects? Of course, there's the small matter of $800,000 saved for this year and next.
That leaves the draft picks. As others have noted, late 2nd round pick = early 3rd round pick. Ducks are giving up the 4th round pick.
Maybe they could have gotten a little more for Chistov, but the net result isn't too bad. ]
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I guess a little update is in order.
Or, put another way, perhaps these teams are way behind schedule. The Ducks and Sharks had 6 losses each and the Kings had 6 wins all by October 25th last year.
Well, if the Sharks or Ducks want to learn a lesson, they might want to remember that the Kings last year through 18 games: 12-5-1, 25 points. Not that big a difference, considering the Kings ended up missing the playoffs by 6 points.
It’s a crazy state to cover, this California. Nobody sits still any more.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Well, to be more specific, help my brother out.
I feel a little bit dirty advertising like this, but I've got a kid brother who's trying to make it as a musician in NYC with a band called Mercer.
They're in somewhat of a fledgling state, having just produced their first album. I think it's pretty good, but truth be told, I'm a guy who listens to more dead composers than live ones.
At any rate, you can give them a listen on their MySpace page or visit their website. If you like it, buy a copy (and keep my brother from starving). If you don't like it, let 'em starve (it adds to their street cred).
Sorry for the advertisement, but hey, "He's not heavy, sir. He's my brother."
Friday, November 10, 2006
No no, not this streak.
The mighty Ducks finally lost, their 16-game point streak killed by the Kipper and his stifling Flames. 19 seconds of suck surrounded by 59:41 of pretty tight play.
As an aside, I'm really surprised Ilya Bryzgalov has only had 5 starts thus far this year--given his gaudy playoff numbers, I would have guessed a lot more regular rotation, a la San Jose's Evgesa Toskbakov or L.A.'s Datthieu Clouron.
It's not like Ilya has been that disappointing. He's won 3 of those 5 starts, surrendering a total of 3 goals (granted, against Chicago and Phoenix twice). The other two games Coach Carlyle has yanked the crazy Russian after allowing but 2 goals against Dallas and 2 goals against Calgary. Even after surrendering 2 goals on 3 shots in the first period tonight (neither of which were terrible, by the way), he still walks away with a 1.84 GAA and a .924 sv%, some pretty strong numbers.
Not much leash for Breezy, it seems, but it allows him to pursue another asterisked Duck record: consecutive games surrendering 2 goals or less.
Methinks Calgary is getting its groove back. Well, at least the guy that matters.
12 - 1 - 4. Start the trade rumors.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Thursday: Anaheim Ducks (11-0-4, 1st in west) at Vancouver Canucks (8-7-1, 7th in west)
Friday: Anaheim Ducks (12-0-4, 1st in west) at Calgary Flames (5-7-2, 11th in west)
The Ducks are off to Western Canada, to face Vancouver (the only Northwest Division team Anaheim has never faced in the postseason) and Calgary (who wishes that description applied to them). Edmonton was going to be on the road trip also, but Lauren Pronger wouldn’t hear of it.
Remember that earlier this week the 11-2 Dallas Stars tried their hand at this Vancouver-and-Calgary gauntlet, and came away with but 2 goals scored over 2 regulation losses. These are turning into pretty stingy places to play. (The Sharks, though, won in both buildings scoring a combined 10 goals in the process.)
And while it may appear on the surface that the Ducks don’t have much at stake in these games, here’s a few items to keep the boys interested.
For one, there’s this “record” that Anaheim is set to “break”—the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers began their season with a 15-game unbeaten streak (12-0-3), that the Ducks have asterisked their way into (with one OT loss). Whatever. I mean, who really cares about the consecutiveness of it all? Being an excellent team has very little to do with never losing; in fact it probably has a lot to do with how you respond to losing, which I await with strange eagerness.
Also, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I have placed one Ducks bet this year, with Temujin, an agitator from West Coast Chaos, and it centers squarely around Ducks vs. Canucks. Nothing will get settled tonight, but whichever team gets the most points from the four regular-season matchups will determine the winner of one choice-of-the-internet t-shirt or hat or something.
But then again, that’s nothing like this bet. Luongo’s record, by the way, is 8-6.
Prediction: Anaheim 5, Vancouver 3. Giguere gets the win. Goals by O’Brien, O’Donnell, Oates, Ozolinsh, and Olausson.
Of course, the larger issue in Calgary probably remains “revenge for Game Seven”, in which a young Russian shut out the punchless Flames and a young Frenchman took down a punchless Jarome Iginla, disrupting the postseason Battle of Alberta. Of course, then Edmonton took revenge on SJ to disrupt the first-ever postseason Battle of California, and I kind of forget what happened after that.
Prediction: Anaheim 4, Calgary 1. Bryzgalov (who has started each 2nd game of a back-to-back so far this year) re-stymies the Flames, while McDonald, Moen, Marchant, and Moran make Miikka mad.
Round 1: in Anaheim, Ducks 4, Kings 3
Round 2: in L.A., Ducks 3, Kings 2 (SO)
Round 3: in L.A., Sharks at Kings
For Cowtown, you have Matt “the voice of reason” Fenwick, the boys at Hello Hockey Fans / Five Hole Fanatics, and double d(ion). (Go console them out of their despondency!)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Note: The title of this post is completely sarcastic
Jeez, some fans just have to find something wrong with everything, don't they? It doesn't matter that the Sharks are winning or that Milan Michalek is looking like a stud or that the goalie platoon thing is working. Around the Shark Tank and on message boards, there's this underlying buzz of "What's happened to Jonathon Cheechoo and how do we get rid of him?"
Please, people. Calm the fuck down. Seriously.
Yes, Cheechoo only has five goals. Yes, Cheechoo has been pretty darn ineffective this season. Yes, Cheechoo is off the Thornton line, and boy, doesn't Mike Grier look good right now?
Look, when you win the Rocket Richard with 56 goals, people expect you to come back and score, like, 231 goals the next season when in fact, most goal leaders have a bit of a slump the next season. This usually means a drop of about 10-15 goals.
Does this mean the players have become crappy over the offseason? No, but it means that defenses are keying in on them a hell of a lot more.
I've always thought that Cheechoo is a pretty good, but not great player, and that's not a knock on him. He's got a dynamic shot and is scrappy, but he can't create offense by himself the way a Jaromir Jagr or Eric Staal do, and that's fine. Put him with a playmaker and he becomes a gold mine. With an average center, he's probably a 25-35 goal guy and there's nothing wrong with that. But because he can't generate offense purely by himself a la Jagr, when defenses key in on him and his centerman more, he loses a little bit of his spark. Cheech is scrappy enough and hard working enough that he'll get it back after he adjusts a little bit (I like Ron Wilson's idea of putting him on a line that cycles a little more with Marcel Goc just to try and get him skating a little bit more).
So don't jump off the Cheechoo bandwagon yet. He's still shooting the puck even though it's not going in as much. He's still fighting through checks. And he's got the drive to get back in the groove, he's just got to adjust to the newfound attention defenses are giving him.
One of the statistical inroads into hockey analysis, I think, has been segmentation of situational play. Here’s two lines that are killing at even-strength for the Ducks, which is a huge factor in their top-of-the-league record.
First off, there’s God himself, and his two buddies Rob and Travis. What is amazing about these ES outscoring rates is that this is the line that matches up against the opposition’s best. Basically, in a situation where they should find themselves outscored, they are dominating play.
|ES minutes||ES +/hr||ES -/hr||ES dif/hr||ES G-A-Pts||ES Pts/hr|
Secondly, there’s the kid line, who play in a much different setting than the Pahlsson line. These guys get the easiest minutes, but still, they are cashing in at a bloody rate. This line at ES pretty much scores 2 goals for every 1 it allows. Ironically, before Fedoruk got Boogarded out of the lineup, he led the team in both ES points-per-hour and ES pluses-per-hour. A shame we had to lose our best offensive star.
|ES minutes||ES +/hr||ES -/hr||ES dif/hr||ES G-A-Pts||ES Pts/hr|
The other two lines (centered by McDonald and Marchant) have been adequate at ES, pretty much scoring as much as they are being scored on. They are valuable lines still, as McDonald’s line is contributing well on a potent power play and Marchant is statistically one of our best penalty-killers. Also, I’m not sure how much credit to give to these specific players, as goaltending has been outstanding for the Ducks (which should help everyone), and Chris Pronger in particular looks to be an ES monster (1.62 ES dif/hr).
So be warned, future foes. You wanna beat the Ducks, you better start thinking about these two lines—specifically, how can we prevent getting killed by these two lines at even-strength?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
15 games in, 11-0-4, on pace for a 60-0-22, 142 point season. I guess I should brag it up while I still can.
Part of the reason why the Ducks have been able to avoid regulation losses is frankly, because they are spending so much time leading and so little time trailing. Here's a quick breakdown of time spent trailing, tied, or leading.
1st Periods: 36:45 / 208:00 / 55:15 (12% / 69% / 18%)
2nd Periods: 70:12 / 86:31 / 143:17 (23% / 29% / 48%)
3rd Periods: 45:33 / 78:00 / 176:27 (15% / 26% / 59%)
Regulation: 152:30 / 372:31 / 374:59 (17% / 41% / 42%)
Of course, two quick things to bear in mind: Anaheim has played more home games than any other team in the league (10), and has faced last year's playoff teams the fewest times (4, all played in Anaheim).
The Sharks, by comparison (11-5-0), have already taken a western Canada swing, a trip through the Southeast, and (back-to-back) games in Detroit and Nashville. The Ducks have yet to attempt any of that.
The early lead is nice, but this battle ain't won just yet.
(Hell, even the Kings won tonight (5-9-3). C'mon, Kings. Eighth seed.)
Off the topic of hockey for one post, but boy, I’m getting a lot of flak today. Not because the Ducks still refuse to lose, or because Niedermayer and Pronger are atop the NHL’s defenseman scoring race, or even because of Emilio Estevez.
No, faithful readers, today is the day that Sleek gets rebuffed for not voting. Now, to be honest, I don’t really follow the news or anything; I can’t even tell you what the big issues are for this year’s election. In that way, I’m a very representative ignorant American, except probably even more indifferent than most.
At any rate, here’s a little formula to help understand why I don’t vote. Basically, I weigh the benefits to voting against the cost of voting and then no matter what it tells me, I don’t vote.
To expand on each of the formula bubbles:
a) There is practically zero chance that my vote will “count” (that is, the chance that the vote will be exactly split by the time I enter the booth, and I play the role of the tie-breaking vote). That is doubly true in California, which pretty much nullifies any “practical” benefit to me voting.
b) Even if I were a tie-breaking vote, I am blissfully unaware of any real “issues” that I know enough about to care strongly about. Being the tie-breaking voter still doesn’t solve my cynical indifference.
c) I am immune to national pride, especially when it comes to saying things like “I voted”. No fringe benefits for me.
d) I am a lazy guy who doesn’t like doing things that involve “registration”, “a shot at jury duty”, or “responsibility as a citizen”. I can find hidden costs to voting anywhere.
So, in a nutshell, there it is. Zero benefits are outweighed by whatever costs suits my fancy. Barring some sort of jarring shift to this inequality (if everyone stopped voting, perhaps?), I presume that I won’t vote once over my lifetime.
But then again, isn’t my abstaining from the ballots just a “vote for America”? I certainly abide by whatever outcome results from every election, and I trust that voters are looking out for their own best interests, which shouldn’t be that far-removed from my own. Even if I disagree with the masses, they'd outvote me anyway.
This post is not meant to dissuade actual voters*, who must (a) care a lot about issues, (b) get a lot of satisfaction from the smug act of voting, or (c) consider voting a costless act, so congratulations on getting in your voting fix. But don’t feed me nonsense lines like “The only way the system fails is if you don’t vote” or “Do you really want more of the same?”
Go do your voting and do me proud out there, but leave me the fuck alone. Trust me, the result will be the same tomorrow.
Flame away, patriots. I imagine my response will be something along these lines: “Don’t blame me; I voted for Kronos.”
* Warning: I have convinced my roommate to stop voting.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Pittsburgh Penguins (7-4-0, 8th in East) at Anaheim Ducks (10-0-4, 1st in West)
Ladies, make sure you leave a can of pepper spray in the shower, ‘cause Sidney Crosby’s comin’ to town, and he has lost all sense of personal space. He and the rest of Pittsburgh’s baby geniuses and their 4-1 road record are comin’ to Honda Center to try to take two points from stingy Anaheim.
Key stat: This will be Anaheim’s 11th game out of 15 playing against an opponent who missed last year’s playoffs. Thus far the Ducks are 8-0-2 in this scenario, outscoring opponents 32-20.
Crazily enough, this is Pittsburgh’s
first [edit: second] game against Anaheim since December 15, 2002, in a game that featured four current Ducks and zero current Penguins. J.S. Giguere stopped 19 shots and Andy McDonald had two goals in a 5-0 win. Stan Chistov played for Anaheim and Ian Moran played for Pittsburgh (though neither of them has suited up for Anaheim yet this year).
As such, Anaheim and Pittsburgh don’t have too much history to draw on, except on the matter of the 2005 draft, where down to the wire Pittsburgh won the Crosby-lottery-ball pick ahead of Anaheim. At any rate, the team’s leading scorers and probably its featured matchup:
Sidney Crosby (18 pts. in 11 games) and Evgeni Malkin (11 pts. in 7 games).
Chris Pronger (13 pts. in 14 games) and Scott Niedermayer (12 pts. in 14 games).
Prediction: 4-2 Anaheim. Penner, Perry, Pronger, and Pahlsson put pucks past the Pittsburgh Penguins’ poor phenom.
Friday, November 03, 2006
First in the west hosting last in the west in a game probably viewed by nobody.
Key stats: Anaheim is 10-0-3 in its last 13 tilts with the Desert Dogs, and haven't suffered a regulation loss to Phoenix since October 2003. The Coyotes are 30th in win percentage, 26th in offense, 30th in defense, 27th on the power play, and 29th on the penalty kill (Ducks: 2nd, 8th, 3rd, 7th, 7th).
Side story: The Ducks have been to OT in 6 of their 13 games thus far, while Phoenix has yet to see any OT.
So why do a game day post?
‘Cause I’m gonna be there, bitches. But not in any good seats or anything; upper bowl, baby. If I recall, I think I’ll be in section 410, row P. But really, if you see anybody in an old-school Vishnevski jersey in the arena, why not buy ‘em a beer?
The real reason I’m going, however, is that one of my pals is in some ice hockey league, and they get to play a game on Honda ice well after the NHL game is finished. I’ll probably wander to the lower bowl for that one, if you want to stick around and see what a regulation loss looks like in person.
Oh, by the way, I am adding One Fan’s Perspective to the sidebar, an actual Phoenix blogger. Also Casonblog I think is a transplanted ‘Canes fan who also likes to rant about his nearby ‘Yotes.
Prediction: Bryzgalov plays a beauty in a 3-1 win. Pahlsson nets a pair, and Perry roofs one.
Prediction 2: My buddy’s team wins 5-2.
Note: you should probably stay away from my predictions. I've also predicted Phoenix to make the western conference finals this year.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Sometimes it is just difficult for a professional athlete to give the proverbial 110 percent. Sure, it sounds illogical that someone who earns more than $1 million per season would have motivational problems, but think about it this way: teams cannot change that fact. Yes, they can buy out a player, but he still gets that money.
There’s one exception that gets players on the exercise bikes that much more…that spurs them on in drinking “protein shakes” and choking down “supplements”…that gives them that Eye of the Tiger.
That exception, simply, is when they have only a single year remaining on their contract. You can call it despicable or human nature or whatever you want.
I call it one of the main tidbits of information that casual fantasy hockey players don’t think about. And these facts – coupled with a player you know could make an impact if he cared just a little bit more – can net you fantasy hockey gold.
I know TSN.ca had a good source of this info early last season, so I'll keep my eyes open for a good listing. Anyway, here are two really good examples of the contract year:
Martin St. Louis
St. Louis is a great story. He’s a runt. He went undrafted, passed up by every team – in every round. And what does he do? He wins a Hart Trophy and helps the Tampa Bay Lightning win the last Cup of the pre-Lockout Era. And he did it all right before he was ready to sign a meaty new contract. Here’s a look at his stats, with his contract year in bold…in case the drastic boost itself isn’t enough:
2002-2003 Goals: 33 Assists: 37 Points: 70 Plus-minus: +10
2003-2004 Goals: 38 Assists: 56 Points: 94 Plus-minus: +35
2005-2006 Goals: 31 Assists: 30 Points: 61 Plus-minus: -3
As you can see, he had a decent year the year before his contract year. Then he had a monster year during his contract year. Then once he got his cushy, blockbuster deal he loafed with a whopping drop in more than 30 points in plus-minus and points. Keeping in mind the fact that St. Louis would conceivably be one of the NHLers who would most benefit from the open ice and the contract year law applies.
Drury and St. Louis show just how consistent the contract year rule is. Not only does it apply to NBA jackasses like Tim Thomas, whose self-interest is jarringly obvious. Drury and St. Louis are good guys and good players who "just so happen" to have their best years when their payday is coming up.
So far, Drury has 10 goals in 11 games. To compare that, Drury had exactly 1 goal through his first 11 games last year. Sure, it's a small sample, but Drury might be the best example of contract year awareness this season.
Anyway, there's a million examples, so feel free to share your amusing contract year stories in the comments. Before I go...
The formula of contract year picks goes as follows:
1. The year right before the contract year should be above average, but not a glaring anomaly.
2. The contract year, barring injury, could go through the roof if it's a talented but a) inconsistent b) not very motivated c) oft-injured or d) all of the above players.
3. Even for great players, you might see a boost in stats.
4. If you have to choose between a no-brainer superstar (like a Crosby, Ovechkin, Thornton, Kovalchuk) and another no-brainer superstar, keep in mind who signed a contract recently. Many players take a year off once they get their big payday.
More fantasy tips soon...
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
You know, as a blogger who really has no better skill than his ability to complain, the month of October has been a somewhat tough one for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic to see the Ducks march their way to NHL elitism, but the more the team continues to get points, the more I have to bite my tongue about problems I see with the squad.
Well, my bitten tongue has had enough! Here’s three issues that haven’t hurt the Ducks yet:
Bad news: Teemu Selanne hasn’t scored a goal in his last 10 games. Just for reference, the fewest goals that Teemu scored in any 10-game segment last year was 2. Then again, per Hockey Analysis, Teemu was the best offensive force in the NHL last year (given his linemates and opposition). Still, of the Ducks who have played all 12 October games this season, only Joe DiPenta trails Teemu in the goal-scoring department.
Bright side: Aside from the fact that we’re winning, the less Selanne is able to hit his undisclosed performance bonuses, the more money and cap space Brian Burke saves.
Bad news: The Ducks love their penalty box, giving their opponent (on average) an additional two minutes of PP time per game. In the last four games, it has gotten even worse, as opponents have enjoyed an average additional four minutes of PP time per game to work with. The last three games combined, opponents have enjoyed more than 5 minutes of 5-on-3 time, as well.
Bright side: Potency, potency. Over these last four games, Anaheim has still kept pace with its opponents (3 PPG for in 25:45, 3 PPG against in 42:03), despite the discrepancy in PP time.
Bad news: Ilya Bryzgalov can’t catch a break. Despite the fact that the Russian has better numbers (GAA 1.22, sv% .952) than the “league leaders” (Garon GAA 1.72, Fernandez sv% .942), the guy can’t qualify to be on the leaderboard because he’s only played 2 ½ games. This after being the best statistical goaltender in the last playoffs (GAA 1.46, sv% .944) (Ward GAA 2.14, Huet sv% .929). Oh, and as for the Ducks and their miserable-but-improving shootout history, it should be mentioned that Bryzgalov has yet to go to a shootout in his 34 post-lockout starts.
Bright side: Our second-best starting goaltender has been incredible also (GAA 2.12, sv% .928) against better competition.
BOTTOM LINE: Everyone say it together now: "Shut up, Sleek, and enjoy the results."