Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The "K" Stands for "Krybaby"

"Russians. Anti-semite cossack sluts." -Cousin Avi

The KHL is pissed because the Kings recently signed both Vyacheslav Voinov and Andrei Loktionov to entry-level deals, saying that the players were already under contract with Russian teams. This is odd, since Dean Lombardi gave an interview to Rich Hammond at Inside the Kings right after the draft stating that they had done all the research and the reason the Kings drafted those two was because they did not have a real contract. The way he explains it is that both players were under contract with a 30-day buyout clause. Their clubs tried to sign them to a new 5-year deal with a bigger buyout clause but both players rejected it to come over the CHL instead. The sole reason the Kings drafted them was because they were willing to do this; without that, the Kings pick someone else. More information can be found in this interview by Voinov with a Russian journalist, which is both enlightening and hilariously passive-aggressive.

(Also, Voinov kind of implies that he did not give assurances that he'd come over to any team other than Los Angeles, which seems vaguely wrong. Oh well, I guess it works out for me so it's okay.)


This sounds like sour grapes from the KHL, who are trying to sign their younger players to entry-level deals at 17 and with huge buyout clauses to prevent them from going to the NHL. Voinov and Loktionov are one of the last Russian prospects who aren't signed to that deal and thus their teams are pissed that they got "screwed." I don't imagine anything will come of this because it sounds like the Russians are trying to use new laws to enforce old contracts, but the Kings might want to assign someone to follow Alex Frolov around and make sure he doesn't sign anything, not even a receipt, without reading it top to bottom. You know, just in case.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hey, Remember This?

A year or so ago, Rich Hammond had an interview with Dean Lombardi wherein the Kings' GM unveiled what he would like to see the team looking like in a few years. Dean listed the team as follows:

Frolov-Kopitar-Purcell
Brown-( )-Cammalleri
Lewis-Cliche-Brady Murray/Tukonen
Westgarth-Boyle-Zeiler

Johnson-( )
( )-Visnovsky
Harrold-( )

Labarbera
( )
Ersberg

Obviously a few things have changed since then (breakout seasons by almost everyone from the 2007 draft, for one), but you can see this line-up starting to take shape. Cammalleri has been replaced by Patrick O'Sullivan, Murray/Tukonen have been replaced by Moulson or Brad Richardson, and Zeiler I hope to God has been replaced by anyone. Trevor Lewis and Marc-Andre Cliche will probably play together in the AHL this season and then move up together as Michal Handzus and Kyle Calder move on.

Another thing I wonder when I look at this: could we see Frolov and Kopitar together this season? That would make a pretty devastating 1st line and Brown, O'Sullivan and Jarret Stoll would probably make an effective 2nd line. I'm not sure the wisdom in breaking Brown and Kopitar up, but I wouldn't be surprised if something like that happened. Just something to keep an eye on when training camp starts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It Sounds Vaguely Dominatrix-y

The Kings' new slogan is allegedly PRIDE=PASSION=POWER. I didn't like last year's slogan and I'm not a huge fan of this year's either. Since school is starting around the country, I thought I'd help students get back into the swing of things by presenting a multiple choice question.

1) The Kings' new slogan sounds like:

a) The slogan of a Tony Robbins' self-help seminar in Wichita, Kansas

b) Words that flash during a promo for General Hospital, set in between:
1) Sonny trying to show Nicholas a world without violence
2) A passionate embrace between Carly and Jax
3) Sam McCall's final conflict with Diego Alcazar, AKA the text message killer

c) A Black Panther slogan

c) Something Luc Robitaille came up with and no one had the heart to tell him it was stupid

Besides, I'm not sure if I want the team confusing their pride with passion. I can only imagine the uproar when Derek Armstrong celebrates a come-from-behind victory against the Red Wings by french kissing Michal Handzus. Then sodomizing him to show him who's boss.

The 5 Ways I'd Change the NHL

As you know, everybody and their mom has been invited to write a lazy post postulating 5 ways they'd change the NHL over at Puck Daddy. Everybody except me. (Whatever, Wyshynski, Bon Jovi sucks. There, I said it.) Still, not being invited to something has never stopped me before (e.g., the prom, my parent's 40th wedding anniversary), so I made my own list. These are my 5 ways I'd change the NHL.
1. Institute the shootout in the playoffs. God, is anything more boring than overtime in the playoffs? I stayed up late watching that interminable Stars-Sharks game 6 and I almost missed my seaweed wrap the next day. Luckily Gunther didn't have an appointment the next hour, but I was so distressed I couldn't properly enjoy it. I guess more hockey is good, but only to a point. Put the shootout in the playoffs and let us all get a good night's sleep.


2. Put a cap on the number of Canadian players. Canadians like to say that hockey is their game, but the reality is that over half the revenue in the league comes from the United States. American viewers won't watch a game if there's not Americans in it, so let's cap the number of Canadians at, say, 30% and fill that void with good, honest, hard-working Americans. Don't worry about those Canadians losing their jobs, though; from what I understand, they have a great welfare system going on.


3. Make every game an outdoor game. We all saw the Outdoor Classic and thought it was awesome; why not have that atmosphere every game? Make every NHL game an outdoor game and the media will pick up on it, the 30% of Canadian players will feel like they're back at home, and sponsors will love it. People sometimes complain that the NHL doesn't get enough attendance, so putting the league in larger venues means they'll get more people, right? I see no reason this wouldn't work.

In a similar vein, I'd put the Super Bowl on every week.

4. Erase Winnipeg and Quebec City. I mean literally erase them with a nuclear strike. Hey, it's a little radical, but I figure if Roger Goodell can suspend NFL players that have never been convicted of a crime then I can commit a little mass destruction. Erasing Winnipeg and Quebec City means that I don't have to put up with the insane pleas of desperate fans who don't realize that the NHL isn't going to move into an arena with a maximum capacity of 16,000. That way we can give new franchises to cities that really deserve it: cities like Las Vegas, Houston, and Mexico City.

Umm, if he were gay then he wouldn't be married.

5. Shut down the pensblog. I'm sorry but I just don't get it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sharks All-Time Players: Mike's Take, Part 1

Gee, that subject is kinda grand in a Star Wars: Episode 5, The Empire Strikes Back kind of way.

I'm taking RudyKelly's challenge of coming up with a "Best Of" team (plus, there's not much to talk about right now and my own blog and business are waiting for server repair). I'm doing something slightly different, mostly because so many Sharks players have had up-and-down seasons, so I'm going to pick a single season to represent each player.

Also, you'll notice that the centers and right wings far outweigh the left wings. There really haven't been too many spectacular left wings in Sharks history (Ray Whitney became a great player after the Sharks dumped him). Perhaps Milan Michalek can change that some day.

1st Line:
C-Joe Thornton 05-06
MVP, league's leading scorer, and catalyst for turning a stuck-in-neutral San Jose Sharks into a league powerhouse, Joe Thornton will probably go down in history as one of, if not the most talented forward in Sharks history. From day one, Thornton was an absolute monster, and his first season in teal provided so many memorable "holy crap" moments -- from his booming slapshot off the post in his first shift in Buffalo to his total undressing of Washington's defense and Olaf Kolzig -- that the memory of Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau faded pretty darn fast.

RW-Jonathan Cheechoo 05-06
In 2005-06, you couldn't tab Thornton without mentioning Cheechoo. As Thornton's triggerman, a fully healthy Cheechoo (something that hasn't happened much over the past two seasons) fired off so many spot-on one-timers fed from Thornton that an early goal had you thinking, "Maybe he'll get another hat trick." But Cheechoo wasn't a one-trick pony that year; while groin issues have prevented Cheechoo from being able to be as scrappy as he could be, a good chunk of his goals in 05-06 came from being persistent all around the net for rebounds, second chances, and "hit it till the damn thing goes in" goals.

LW-Jeff Friesen 97-98
Ten years ago, Friesen was the projected franchise and future captain; seemingly on the upswing, Friesen broke 30 goals for the only time in his career. In that season, Friesen used his speed, hands, and wrist shot to become the Sharks' most dangerous weapon. He'll never recapture that, but we'll always have our memories of #39 speeding down the wing past opposing defenders.

By the way, did you hear Freeze is back in San Jose on a tryout?

2nd Line:
C-Patrick Marleau 05-06
While Marleau became captain and the go-to guy in 03-04, it wasn't until after the lockout when Marleau put it all together. Before the Thornton trade, Marleau was seemingly the only Sharks player that was effective that season; after the Thornton trade, Marleau became even more deadly with defensive pressure split between the two centers. while Thornton had Cheechoo on his wing, Marleau wound up with rookies Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier -- and even then, he propelled them to one of the best lines in the Western Conference that season.

RW-Owen Nolan 99-00
By the time 2000 rolled around, Owen Nolan was a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate. While ultimately potting 44 goals, Nolan was a force in all aspects -- special teams, hitting hard along the boards, and scoring goals through sheer force of will. That year, Nolan finished fifth in Hart Trophy voting and solidified Darryl Sutter's hunch in making him the captain.

LW-Milan Michalek 06-07
Michalek's sophomore campaign had him working up to star-player status, notching 26 goals and 40 assists, mostly on a line with Joe Thornton. This, much more so than in his rookie year, showed Sharks fans how devastating Michalek's speed could be. In fact, even on a team with Patrick Marleau, Michalek's bursts up the wing made him appear to be the fastest player on the team.

To be continued... (though PJ and Cheechew are welcome to make up their own list).

All-Time LA Kings Hockey Team, '91-Present

Here's an idea we had kicked around a few months ago that I'm just getting to now. Hey, you get what you pay for. Anyway, we here at Battle of California thought it'd be fun to comprise a all-time all-star team for your enjoyment and also because we're bored. Obviously it'd be unfair if I were allowed to choose from the entire history of the Kings, so it was decided that I would only select from the creation of the San Jose Sharks franchise in 1991. What you'll see is an eclectic mix of Hall of Famers, flashes in the pan, and guys that are inexplicably etched in my memory. If you don't agree with my list then, you know, fuck off.

(Thanks to Hockey-Reference.com, which I'm seriously thinking about making my home page.)


Offense

1st Line:

Luc Robitaille-Wayne Gretzky-Jari Kurri

Luc Robitaille is the greatest King in the history of the team and obviously belongs on the 1st line. Wayne is 4th all-time in Kings' points and has the highest points per game total in team history (1.70). Jari Kurri was only on the team for a little while and wasn't as great as he was in Edmonton, but he played a great two-way game and was a leader on the ice. He was my 2nd favorite forward from those early '90s Kings teams, behind someone else that'll make an appearance later.

2nd Line:

Ziggy Palffy-Jason Allison- Adam Deadmarsh

The LAPD line was only really together for one season, in 2001-2002. Though they were never healthy together for a long period of time, they managed to tally 195 points as a line and were 1-2-3 in scoring on that team.* It's crazy to think that those three comprised one of the best lines in hockey in 2002 and by 2004 they were pretty much done as NHLers. When people declare Dave Taylor's tenure as Kings GM a failure they usually neglect to reference that point.

*4th? Jaroslav Modry. Hockey is weird.

3rd Line:

Alexander Frolov-Anze Kopitar-Tony Granato

It's weird to think about, but Alexander Frolov has been on the team for 5 seasons now. He's the last link the Kings have to the playoffs, and for that he earns a spot on this list. Kopitar is there mostly because the Kings haven't had good luck with centers in the past 2 decades. (Seriously, who was I supposed to put here, Josef Stumpel?) I imagine he'll actually earn his way onto this list before too long. Tony Granato was my favorite forward growing up, mostly because he was a huge asshole and had a nice shot. I know, he sticked that one guy in the head, but I thought that was hilarious so it's okay. Plus, he's related to Ray Ferraro and I don't think Ray would allow that if he didn't think Granato was cool.

4th Line:

Ian Laperriere-Dave Taylor-Gary Shuchuk

If hockey goons were The Brothers Karamazov, Ian Laperriere would Alyosha. That doesn't make sense, but it makes me sound smart, doesn't it? Dave Taylor wasn't a great player by the early '90s, but he's still Dave Taylor and he would provide invaluable leadership to my imaginary team. I've always had a strange affinity for Gary Shuchuk that I can't explain and I'd appreciate it if you respected my right to privacy.

Defense

Rob Blake-Matty Norstrom

Rob Blake may be a horrible bastard that enjoys kicking sand in children's faces but he's still the best defenseman during this time period and he would've gotten more recognition in the late-90s if he hadn't been on those horrible, horrible Kings teams. Matty Norstrom embodies what you'd want your kid to play like when he or she were out on the ice. Hell, he's how I want to be when I grow up.

Marty McSorley-Lubomir Visnovsky

Marty probably doesn't belong here because he probably caused more harm than good, but I'll be damned if he didn't scare the shit out of people when he was on the ice. Lubo was a solid NHLer that blossomed into an elite player in the New NHL. Hopefully he can recover his game in Edmonton and make their All-Time team.

Alexei Zhitnik-Mark Hardy

Zhitnik was special for 2 reasons: he was the 2nd best defenseman in a core of young players that the Kings had during the early to mid-90s, and he was the subject of the one of the worst trades in Kings history. Zhitnik was traded with Robb Stauber and Charlie Huddy for Grant Fuhr, Denis Tsygurov and Philippe Boucher. Fuhr would play 14 games for the Kings, accumulating a 4.04 GAA and a Cloutier-esque .876 save percentage, while Zhitnik would go on to be a key contributor to a Sabres team that went to the NHL Finals. Mark Hardy did this:




Goaltending

Kelly Hrudey
Felix Potvin

Fuck what other people say, the fact is that Kelly Hrudey had the longest tenure of any goaltender on the Kings and wasn't that bad. Felix Potvin had the best peak of any Kings' goaltender, posting a team-best 2.35 GAA and a .906 save percentage. I had a Felix the Cat shirt during the Kings' run in 2001 and wore it to school throughout that period. I was beaten mercilessly.

So there you go. I'm throwing down the gauntlet to Sleek, O'Brien and the San Jose Clan: come up with your own all-time team that can beat mine. I can't wait to hear how Paul Kariya and Owen Nolan are somehow good.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Your Monthly Reminder that Raitis Ivanans is Big

Kimbo Slice, shitty fighter and popular "mixed martial artist," is listed as 6'2", 240 lbs.

John Cena, professional wrestler and closeted homosexual, is listed as 6'1", 250 lbs.

Raitis Ivanans, the Latvian Liquidator, is listed as 6'3", 263 lbs.

Lady and gentlemen, Raitis Ivanans is big.

The time I nearly stumped the internet

Two weeks ago, I was working on a piece to anger Red Wings fans, and I wanted to research and write up ten playoff performances. However, I ran into a problem: I couldn't figure out how many points Scott Niedermayer had scored in the 1995 Cup Finals. This wasn't super-critical to the piece, but I was planning on breaking down ten playoff performances, and it seemed like an answerable question with the wide resources of the internet, right? Well, barely.

Sure it's easy enough to find out what Scotty scored in the entire 1995 playoffs, and the scores of those Finals games, and even a game-by-game re-telling. But I searched and I searched and I found nothing that could resolve what seems like a very answerable question.

Frustrated with fruitless web searches, I then turned to some of the biggest hockey minds around the blogosphere: notably die-hard Devils dude Wyshynski and the guys from Fanhouse -- McErlain, Mirtle, Gőlbez, Ciskie, J.P., etc., and the best I got from that group of hockey know-it-alls was either "Wait a day -- I'll check my hockey yearbook tonight" or "Why not write a nice-sounding letter to the league?"

I had nearly given up in the disbelief that a seemingly an easy answer was nowhere to be found on the web, when finally deep in a set of search engine results I was directed to The Professional Hockey Server: Hawaii's NHL Page, which is apparently hosted at the University of Hawaii in Hilo.


Fear not, mainlander. Hawaii has your answers.

So after a few more clicks, the answer I sought was found here, in a day-by-day scoresheet breakdown of the '95 playoffs, with the four games I cared about being the last four on the page. Question answered. Scott scored 1 goal and 3 assists in the '95 cup finals. Hawaii 1, Mainland 0.

And while that was helpful, it raised a whole new question: Why the hell is the only internet source for 1995 game logs maintained on the Hubble server of the University of Hawaii? According to the FAQ, it all appears to be the doing of one Richard A. Crowe, Ph.D., who was quite the busy fellow while compiling NHL stats in the late 90s:
"There are other things in life besides maintaining hockey statistics. In fact, I am an extremely busy individual. I teach physics and astronomy classes 6 hours a week, maintain a research program on spectroscopy and photometry of variable stars, manage a large education/research grant, sit on a division personnel committee as well as an outreach committee, serve as a member of the Board of Directors of a local networking organization, play clarinet in the Hawaii County Band 30 hours a month, regularly sing in the UH Hilo Chorus as well as practice piano, and support a young family of four."
Here's a peek at his process, back in the day:
"The scoring data is entered at the keyboard using a Fortran program (SCORESTATS) and then I run another Fortran program (BATSEARCH) which checks for consistency with the information available in the newspaper box scores. SCORESTATS simply puts in the number of games played by the respective teams rather than for individual players. BATSEARCH takes 180 minutes to execute, but when it is completed, both regscore03.html and scorerstat03.html are updated and list GP for individual players, not teams. The latter file will then also include Shots, Game-Winning Goals, and +/- statistics for individual players. The updated files should usually be available after 7:00 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time."
Sounds rigorous. At any rate, the point of this post is twofold:

1) To point out another resource on the internet for those interested in looking at basic boxscore stats going back in time. For the record, here's my list of resources:
  • 2002-03 to current: NHL.com Statistics page. A really nice site for queries about the last five years.
  • 1997-98 to 2001-02: Boxscore Central. You have to know/guess the date of any game in question, but the boxscores include basic +/- and shot stats for each skater.
  • 1994-95 to 1996-97: Hawaii's NHL page. A bit difficult to navigate, but the answers are in there.
  • pre-1994: Write a nice-sounding letter to the league.
2) There's an overriding theme at BoC about die-hard hockey fans emerging from non-traditional markets, but I don't even know if we're in the same ballpark of out-of-market fanticism as Dr. Crowe. Does anybody know the story of this guy? I'd love to hear it. Displaced Canadian? Spontaneous Hawaiian puckhead?

At any rate, I wasn't on the search for hockey stats back in 1995, but I certainly am grateful for this guy's decade-old effort nowadays. Congratulations, Dr. Crowe. In an era of an expanding NHL and an emerging internet, apparently the leader of real-time hockey statistics resided in the hockeyless paradise of Hawaii.

Take that, mainland traditionalists of the 90s (you know who you were)!

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Sounds Like Far Side's "Trouble Brewing"

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Duck and old-timey devil lookalike, has announced the creation of some sort of paramilitary organization. The group, called Getzlaf's Gang, will attend 20 Calgary Hitmen games and get a signed picture of Getzlaf, which will then be bought off eBay by Finny for $20. The group will help immigrants and children with mental disabilities; I guess Getzlaf wanted to bring a little bit of the Anaheim Ducks fanbase to Hitmen games.

Season Review: Brian Boyle & Ted Purcell

AHL

Brian Boyle: 70 GP, 31 G, 31 A, -2, 87 PIM
Ted Purcell: 67 GP, 25 G, 58 A, even, 34 PIM

NHL

Boyle: 8 GP, 4 G, 1 A
Purcell: 10 GP, 1 G, 2 A

Last Season


Brian Boyle and Ted Purcell would have been in the NHL last year if Dave Taylor had still been the general manager. All three were and are better hockey players than Brian Willsie, Jeff Giuliano and Scott Thornton, yet they toiled in the AHL last year because Dean Lombardi likes to slowplay his prospects. Slooooowwwwpllllaay. Ted Purcell had a great year in the AHL last season, winning AHL rookie of the year and being named the MVP of the All-Star Game. Boyle also had a great year; after being converted back to forward from defense, he averaged over a point a game while also finding an edge to his game. Still, none of that matters to Kings's fans. According to them, Boyle will easily win the 2nd center job while Purcell will likely spend all next year in the AHL. Why do they think that? Because they're idiots. Because they only trust their eyes.


Brian Boyle was the least favorite prospect among fans in the Kings' organization last year. Drafted in the 1st round in 2003, he spent 4 years at Boston College and didn't do too much while guys like Patrick Eaves, Corey Perry and Kevin Klein were all making their mark in the NHL. At the beginning of last season, the Kings were going to move Boyle to defense because they didn't think he had the speed to play center in the NHL. Then he converts back to center, scores 4 goals in 8 games in the NHL, and everyone thinks he's the best prospect in the organization. It's not like he's gotten faster or anything, or suddenly become better defensively. He knocked Dion Phaneuf down, which is awesome, but that doesn't make me feel any better about his prospects over 82 games.


Ted Purcell couldn't be more different. Undrafted as an 18 year-old, Purcell went to the University of Maine and played outstanding, accumulating 43 points in 40 games. He was highly regarded as a free agent but signed with the Kings. Dean Lombardi once slotted Purcell to a first line with Frolov and Kopitar, showing how highly thought of he is by the Kings' organization. He was the key offensive player on the Monarchs last season and has proven himself time and time again. Then he plays 10 games in the NHL, looks kind of timid on the puck, and now no one thinks he can hack it in the NHL.

Next Season

I am much more confident about Ted Purcell than I am about Brian Boyle going into next season. Purcell's career in the AHL maps out similarly to Patrick O'Sullivan: both scored a huge amount of points in the AHL and won AHL Rookie of the Year, then struggled a little to adjust to the NHL game. I expect Purcell to be used similarly to how O'Sullivan was used last year: he'll probably start out on a line with Handzus and then work his way up to a line with either Frolov or Kopitar by the end of the year. Boyle, on the other hand, is probably going to be a liability at even strength and would be best served centering the 4th line most of the year, while occasionally centering Frolov when Stoll has been out on special teams.


It's not that I think Brian Boyle is a bad player or anything; I just think fans tend to factor in what they see way more than what they read. Brian Boyle had a lot of issues going into last season that don't just disappear because he looked good in 8 games. Plus, he's the same age as Ryan Getzlaf, so it's not like he's going to improve a ton over the next few years. I'm not 100% that Purcell will have a better season than Boyle, but I have a feeling fans are going to give Boyle way more benefit of the doubt than they'll give Purcell. And that ain't right.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kopitar Day!

Slow down, Anze, you'll get a tummy ache.


Happy birthday, big guy. Go ahead and take today off. Go get drunk on some Lasko Pivo, eat some Potiva, and then double your training tomorrow. We need you this year.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Because there's nothing to do in August

Being that August is basically the biggest beating of the year for hockey fans, I thought I'd let people know that there's a demo of the other NHL video game NHL 2K9 (I feel bad for the Christmas shopping moms of hockey gamers: could there be two titles that are more similar???).

After playing around with it today, I'm glad that they've developed a rip-off of EA's innovative Skill Stick -- even if it was sort of a white flag. It works somewhat well, although I noticed that a lot of times I tried to shoot it would lock up until I could score a goal. This is good, but it doesn't match that "complete control" feel.

The other factors are big minuses: the graphics are, well, awkward; the speed burst is a stupid holdover that has been left in the dust by EA's absurdly awesome skating mechanics; the faceoff controls are just terrible.

Still, you cannot really mess up hockey and there's some fun to be had. You get to play one period of Pens-Red Wings in Detroit and the only difficulty level is incredibly low. A nice distraction in a month where hockey goes to die.

But I'd be shocked in NHL '09 doesn't absolutely blow it out of the water.

Kopitar Week: Where He Stands


Kopitar is a pretty awesome dude, but how awesome is he? To be honest, I don't have a well-formulated opinion on the matter. I'm inclined to believe Kopitar is the fifth best young player in the league, behind Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin. (There is no fourth because those three are way above everyone else.) Kopitar's great and I think he'd get a lot more dap if we wasn't the same age as those above three. I think most people think Jonathan Toews will be better than Kopitar because he's... Canadian, but I don't agree. I'm biased though, so let's hear what you guys think. Here's a list of 10 players:

Jonathan Toews
Steve Stamkos
Sidney Crosby
Alexander Ovechkin
Evgeni Malkin
Anze Kopitar
Nicklas Backstrom
Patrick Kane
Kyle Turris
Jordan Staal (teehee)

Put them in order. Help me get an idea where Kopitar stands.*

*Please try to refrain from pointing out that I obviously forgot about (x) and how I'm a complete idiot for doing so. And if we keep one NHL argument from devolving into a Crosby v. Ovechkin donnybrook that'd be great.


***

How Kopitar does next season will be interesting. The Kings should hopefully have a more defensive scheme so Kopitar could possibly see a reduction in points. But he'll be better, so he could see an increase in points. I think a successful season for Kopitar will be 80+ points with a ppg of over 1. If he plays with Dustin Brown and Patrick O'Sullivan all season, I think 90+ isn't out of the question. The only thing I can guarantee is that Anze will be awesome and I will gush about him like Earl Sleek at a Jonas Brothers' concert.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Maybe the Fans Won't Even Notice

The Devils waived Vitaly Vishnevski today. The big Russian was terrible last season, accumulating the worst +/- on the Devils despite only playing 15 minutes a game. Still, he has a reasonable cap hit (2 years left at $1.8 million) and he's a left-handed shot. He's basically a better Denis Gauthier and could help out on the penalty kill. The Kings would still need a defenseman to play on the power play, though.

Ducks' fans, any thoughts on Vitaly?

Bad Puns III: The Sanford Mask Contest

Well, I may finally be out of the hockey-photoshop-contest woods. There were three nearly-simultaneous blogger-led contests out there, and as an avid supporter of web nonsense, I've now participated in all three. Here's my previous efforts towards Bettman heroism (Puck Daddy) and Gretzky negativity (The Pensblog).

And now we get to Curtis Sanford's mask, which is actually an official Canucks-sponsored contest, but has also received a side-push by Dr. Mirtle. Before we take a look at my offerings, I should note two things: (a) I'm not submitting any of these into the official contest, but if anyone feels like stealing, I won't protest. (b) As such, I've slacked a bit on production value here: I created a transparent mask template and mostly overlayed it on images. Most of these could use a touch-up.

Still, I'm not that upset with the outcomes. Let's take a tour, shall we?:

Submission #1: Playing Behind Luongo

Why not show off the reason why this helmet won't get any airtime?

Well, I'm not sure how well Sanford would enjoy wearing a Luongo-themed helmet, but at least it offers him an easy comeback: "You'd be benched, too!" I don't know if it's that clever, but hey, it's honest.

Submission #2: Learn Your Goalie History

The final version of this will feature a chalkboard so the save-differential can be updated.

Ah, yes. Ranford vs. Sanford. I picked saves as a category only because it offered a comically high number that could be updated throughout a Sanford-played game. Plus it offers a nice humble look at Sanford's paltry place in the history of goaltending.

Submission #3: Sanford's Labyrinth

Can you navigate your way to this guy's five-hole?

You know, it's kind of difficult coming up with good puns for the name "Sanford", given that I always avoid the most obvious choices (Sanford & Son, Stanford University). This pun is way half-assed, but perhaps the maze design can help confuse shooters. Also confusing? When Sanford gives you a root baby to help with your mother's childbirthing.

Submission #4: The Helmet About Nothing

A double-headed pun here: Sanfeld? Seinford?

On the other hand, I do really like this pun, but the design could have had a little more time put into it. I think this helmet should also have a little computer chip built into it, and whenever anything hits Sanford's mask, it could play the bass guitar Seinfeld theme. Whatever the design, I will say this: a bald Demitra makes for a fabulous Costanza.

For these last two designs, I have to give inspirational credit to fellow BoCer Mike Chen, who threw me a few bones on my quest for Sanford silliness:

Submission #5: Things Could Be Worse

Ah, a hockey photoshop classic.

"At least I'm not Cloutier." That really should be a positive mantra for all of us, and I think the message would resonate strongly with a memory-haunted Vancouver fanbase.

Submission #6: The Crawford Hair Helmet

This is just a prototype. The actual version would involve real hair.

And finally, another call-back to Vancouver's not-too-distant past. The Crawford Hair Helmet could allow the gelled-up hair-monster be a fixture on the Canucks bench once again. Of course, there'd probably be some debate about how much hair could be used; I'm quite sure the zero-fashion-sense competition committee would try to set some limits.

So there you have it. Six offerings with a wide range of brilliance, all that have roughly zero chance of making it to the big leagues (not unlike Sanford's chances of being a regular starter for Vancouver). Like 'em? Hate 'em? I don't care; at least I'm done with obligatory photoshops.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Anze Kopitar: What Needs Work


As I covered yesterday, Anze Kopitar is a very good hockey player. No player is perfect, however, and there's a few things I think Kopitar could work on. They're just little things and I fully expect him to improve on them during the upcoming season.

If this could not happen that'd be great too.

The biggest thing Kopitar needs to do is cut down on his turnovers. Kopitar ended up 8th in the league in giveaways with 85. If you'll look at the list, you'll notice that all the people at the top are good players; after all, you can't give the puck away a lot unless you're the one driving the play. Still, giveaways put your defense out of position and are never a good thing.* Most of Kopitar's giveaways come when he's entering the zone as defenders stand him up. The easiest solution is mixing up who carries the puck in and dumping it in occasionally. One person who does this well is Ryan Getzlaf, who can either carry it in or throw the puck into the corner and punish the defender who corrals it. Having Kopitar dump it in and then letting Brown destroy whoever touches it first seems like a good idea.

*Lubomir Visnovsky, Kopitar, and Alex Frolov were all in the top 20 in turnovers. I wonder if that means something...


Secondly, Kopitar needs to work on his positional defense. He's pretty good at stripping the puck but his focus away from the play needs work. Look at this goal, for example:



Ales Hemsky breezes into the zone and gets a quality scoring opportunity against a terrible, terrible goaltender* because Kopitar didn't recognize the play until it was too late. (Also, poor Lubo. How many times did he look like a dick because of someone else last season?) He has to recognize that better if he's going to be an elite two-way center in the NHL. I'm of the opinion that defensive play by forwards is underrated, but there's no real way to quantify it. Still, I can quantify that play and say that Kopitar cost us a goal there. That can't happen if he's going to play 20 minutes a night.
*Terrible.

Finally, I'd like Kopitar to work on his faceoffs. He's not bad by any means (49.5%), but most of the elite centers in the league win around 52-55% of their faceoffs. All young centers need work on their faceoffs though, so this one isn't a biggie... I mean, not a big deal. No, I don't use the word "biggie" in casual conversation, fuck off.


Anze Kopitar is one of the best young players in the league, but we can't shower him with rose petals 100% of the time. He could improve on none of these things and still be one of the most talked about players in the league, but he wouldn't help us win as many games as he should. On a team like the Kings it's hard to find good things to talk about, so I get why everyone loves Kopitar so much. I do too. But he's not infallible. He's a soon-to-be 21 year-old kid and he needs to work on getting better. I'm confident he will, too, because he's that kind of guy. Kopitar's great, but he's not one of the 10 best centers in the NHL. Yet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Anze Kopitar: What He Did Well


32 G, 45 A, -15, 22 PIM

I don't know if you know this, but: Anze Kopitar is pretty good. He spends most of the game with the puck on his stick and is masterful at creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. Probably my favorite thing about Kopitar is his ability to change his game to counteract his defender's tactics. Kopitar thrived his first season because he outwaited his opponents. Most of the time when a defenseman tried to stand him up, he simply went around them and wrapped around the net. From there he could find Dustin Brown or Lubomir Visnovsky for a one-timer and an easy goal. This season, however, defenders changed their methods a little bit by forcing Anze Kopitar to the middle of the ice and towards a waiting helper. Kopitar counteracted that by shooting more. He decided that if the defender is going to give him that shot, he might as well take it. The result? Kopitar became a much more prolific scorer* while still setting up his teammates at a consistent rate. His first season, Kopitar had 20 goals. This season, he had 32.

*A lot of people may not realize it, but Kopitar does have an amazing shot. It's hard and quick off his stick, but not very accurate. He's worked on it, however, and it's quickly becoming a strength for him.

Another thing Kopitar improved upon was his rapport with Dustin Brown. In their first season, Kopitar was the puck handler and Dustin Brown was the net crasher and that was the extent of their relationship. Brown picked his game up noticeably when Kopitar injured his back at the end of '06-07 because he was actually given the puck and forced to take responsibility for his play. This was important because it showed Marc Crawford and Anze Kopitar that Brown could be relied on as an equal member of their partnership. This season, Kopitar passed the puck much more willingly to Brown, who could then either make his own play or give it back to Kopitar for a scoring opportunity. This change in their relationship not only improved both players but created an uncertainty in the minds of defenders that they could now exploit.

Kopitar was the engine on the 1st power play unit and led the team in scoring when up a man. The Kings were tied down by a certain, let's say "immobility" on the power play and were thus forced to do most of their damage through their forwards. Kopitar mostly played at the Joe Thornton spot, along the side of the boards in line with the faceoff circle. From there he could either pass it up to the point, throw it across to Cammalleri, or step in front and take his own shot. He had a little trouble when a defender would challenge him and get inside his stick and that's something he can improve on, but overall Kopitar is a valuable member of the Kings' power play.

One interesting thing to note is Kopitar's penalty kill play. He did not play on the penalty kill very often so he could rest, but when he did he was pretty effective. Despite playing less time than Jeff Giuliano, Kopitar still managed to end up tied for 2nd in points while on the penalty kill. His value on the penalty kill mostly lies on his ability to steal the puck, which he surpisingly led the team in. (I'd have bet any amount of money that Frolov would have the most takeaways on the team.) More importantly, Kopitar did this while taking very few penalties (11 on the year.) I wouldn't classify his defensive play as great quite yet, but it's about where you'd expect to 20 year-old to be.

Overall, Kopitar is awesome. Kopitar managed to build on his first season while adjusting to the NHL game. A lot of young players shoot out of the gate because they don't know that they're not supposed to be able to skate through an entire NHL team; when teams adjust to them, they often have trouble adjusting back. Kopitar has changed his game and has gone from a budding star to a legitimate NHL talent.

More Bad Puns: the Pensblog submissions

As I noted a week ago, it's hockey photoshop contest season, and today I'll show what I've done for the Pensblog's anti-Wayne movement. If you recall, their challenge was easy enough: "The task is simple, make photoshops that depict Wayne Gretzky in a negative way or just make fun of him."

Well, just like before when I had trouble making Gary Bettman look heroic, I'm similarly challenged in bringing out Wayne's negative side. So as usual, I just ignored the stated challenge and went back to what I'm good at: lame-ass puns. Let's take a look, shall we?

Submission #1

Rawr.

So I don't know if this is truly negative, though it does show off a bit of an angry side for Gretzky, and historically the T-Rex was pretty bad at avoiding extinction. It was actually kind of difficult to find pictures of "Angry Wayne" to put on this dinosaur's body. Strangely, the only angry shots I could find featured Gretzky the head coach. Ha ha, I wonder why.

Submission #2

Quite talented and yet quite inept.

OK, this might get a little more "on theme", though Rain Man has as many positive qualities as he does negative. Still, I think there's some parallels with Gretzky -- a sheltered upbringing, a superhuman talent, and a questionable grasp of reality. I don't know how well Brent Gretzky was able to exploit his brother's talents, though.

Submission #3

Aha! Finally some evil!

This one's sort of appealing to me: it's got a negative spin, a villainous overtone, and a built-in dose of hilarity. I like this pun-parallel, except for the fact that Wayne was successful in his takeover attempt (while the Brain is regularly frustrated in his).

So, what did I miss? Anybody have any good Gretzky puns they want to see made? My next project (barring any Ducks news) will be the ol' Sanford mask. Trust me, though, I'm betting it will be lame like Wayne.

Eep

James "The Commissioner" Gordon of the Ottawa Citizen managed to muckrake a few possible alternate logos for the upcoming season. Among them is the alternate logo for the Los Angeles Kings.

Eep.

That's going to be on the front of the jersey? Yikes. It's basically a giant arrow pointing down at their dicks. That would look good on the shoulder of the jerseys, but on the front it would look like hell. Gordon points out that it's possible this isn't actually the logo (companies will register logos that they might possibly use but then never end up using it), but for now consider me unimpressed.

(H/T Puck Daddy)



Update: Connie is similarly unnerved.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Alyn McCauley Sharks Appreciation Post

If you didn't see the news, former San Jose Shark (and LA King but, uh, we can conveniently forget that since he was basically injured the whole time) Alyn McCauley officially retired and became an assistant coach at Queen's University.

It's unfortunate, but McCauley's last fully healthy season was 2003-2004; during that year, Sharks fans really got to see McCauley play to his potential. Not only was he the team's top penalty killer (nominated for the Selke), he was an effective second-line center able to win face-offs and create offense. A good skater, McCauley gelled on a dynamic line with Nils Ekman and Alex Korolyuk.

I know some of you are probably wondering how the hell a McCauley/Ekman/Korolyuk line could possibly be effective. However, if you saw that line during the last third of the 03-04 season, you know that they emphasized speed and creative passing and were often as much of a threat as Patrick Marleau's line.

I always admired McCauley's game, and during the post-lockout year, it was frustrating because you could see that his knee problems were hampering his effectiveness. At his best, McCauley was a smooth skater who was willing to play the body when necessary but spent his best games using body position and angles to defend while firing off crisp passes at obtuse angles to generate offense.

He was never going to be a point-per-game player, but I always appreciate the guys who combine hustle, skill set, and brains into an effective package. If he'd remained healthy, I'm sure McCauley would have been a perennial Selke candidate. Unfortunately, constant knee problems just took the zip out of his stride, and when you lose an important component such as skating speed and strength, your whole game can fall apart (unless you're Luc Robitaille).

McCauley was noted in Toronto as a great locker room guy, and Ron Wilson tabbed him as one of his ten-game captains during the post-Owen Nolan season. It says a lot about McCauley's character that he actually took it upon himself to tell Wilson that the C should go to Patrick Marleau based on how he saw the rest of the team turning to Patty as their go-to guy.

I always thought he'd make a great coach when he was done with his playing career. After all, the best players-turned-coaches are either the players who can think the game best or the players who can capture the spirit of their teammates as a motivator. I think McCauley had a little bit of both; without the puck, you really didn't notice McCauley -- he didn't land monster hits or cherry pick a la Pavel Bure -- but if you watched him from shift to shift, you'd see a combination of smart positioning, excellent stick work, and hustle. And while he didn't have Mark Messier-esque locker room speeches, McCauley's reputation as a good locker room player started in Toronto and grew greater during his time in teal.

For a lot of people, Alyn McCauley might be a mere footnote in Sharks history but during his brief time in San Jose, his combination of heart, brains, and speed made him one of my favorites. Good luck Alyn; I'm sure we'll see you helping out an NHL team behind the bench someday.

Kopitar Week: Kopitar's Greatest Moments


This Sunday, everyone's favorite Slovenian is turning 21 years old. To celebrate, we here at Battle of California are going to spend this week commemorating the lovable bastard, covering what he's improved upon since his first game, what he still needs to work on, and where he sits in the hierarchy of young stars. Today, however, we're going to kick things off with three of my favorite Kopitar moments. If you have one you'd like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments.

10/06/06- Chris Pronger Gets Burned


Why I Like it: As a Kings fan, you're used to hyped prospects that don't work out. Pavel Rosa, Jeff Tambellini, Denis Grebeshkov, and Jens Karlsson were all supposed to electrify the Kings, only to fall by the wayside once it was time to perform. Even Dustin Brown had seemed like a possible bust at that point. So I took the rumors from Kings training camp that there was a new superstar on hand with a grain of salt. But after that goal I became a believer. Kopitar swung around Chris Pronger and handcuffed JS Giguere and I was hooked. From the first game, Kopitar was a star. I was worried that Kopitar would eventually disappoint me but I think that fear has been assuaged now.

2/10/07- Kopitar Makes Nashville Look Ridiculous (Skip forward a minute)




Why I Like it: I like it for a couple of reasons. One, Kopitar took a pretty big hit from Martin Erat at the start of this game and rallied to score 2 goals. There aren't many opportunities for Kopitar to show that killer instinct that he possesses, but he did in this game. Two, Kopitar shows patience. A lot of players will take the first opportunity they have to try and score a goal. It makes sense, in a way; most defenses are so good that you never know when you'll get another chance. Kopitar, though, has an uncanny ability to wait, and wait, and then wait some more. He knows that he's good enough to create more opportunities and uses the defender's assumption that he'll take the shot when he has it against him to create a scoring opportunity. (Sorry, that's a lot of "he's." You can figure it out, you're smart people.) That patience was a hallmark of his first year and this goal is the greatest example of it.

10/16/07- Kopitarded



Why I Like it: I still believe that this goal is absolutely unstoppable. There is just no goaltender in the NHL that can move to one side and still outreach Kopitar while he's going the other way. Maybe if the goalie knows that Kopitar will pull it, but even then it's iffy. Kopitar pretty much cemented himself as the unquestioned star of the Kings with this goal.

The Red Wings’ Biggest Rival: the Ducks? Here’s Five Reasons Why…

The Chief over at Abel to Yzerman has created a bit of a project to pass the summer dead time, trying to categorically determine who really represents Detroit’s best current rival. He starts his study with the Colorado Avalanche, the first of ten candidates, and scores them in six categories: Quality of Team, Hate Factor, Past Playoff Adventures, Blogger Quality, Regular Season Sadness Factor, and Miscellaneous. It’s a pretty decent set of criteria, and aside from Blogger Quality (Ducks bloggers are a bit shorthanded), Anaheim figures to score highly across the board.

Still, I think it’s worth writing up a case for the Ducks, though I should take a moment and clarify: in this post I am writing about the hatred of Red Wings fans, not who Ducks fans hate. Detroit’s rival search is much different from Anaheim’s, in that the Wings have been alone in the Central Division for so long that they need to their sights elsewhere. Go see Dan Wood for the Ducks rivalry question (bonus: my answer is in the first comment there)—we’ve still got plenty of options in the Pacific Division, with Detroit and Edmonton thrown in for fun.

Anyway, as promised, here's five reason why Wings fans should hate the web-footed ones, Five Guys Who Eliminated Detroit in their Last Two Playoff Meetings. Not many active NHLers can boast about eliminating the Red Wings in their last two tries, I think, and while this is by no means a complete list, I don’t think that it would get much longer with more research. It's a rare achievement, as Detroit has a 26-9 series record since the '94 lockout. Here's some Wing-killers, though:

1) J.S. Giguere: Really, this conversation should start and end with Jiggy and his 2003 upset sweep, but it’s worth talking about his 2007 series as well. In both series Giguere made just enough saves to win, but aside from that these series were quite different. Let’s take a look:

2003: I can’t stress enough how awesome the 2003 Wings were—hell, just look at their 12 forwards that postseason: Yzerman, Shanahan, Fedorov, Hull, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Robitaille, Larionov, Maltby, Draper, and McCarty. Heck, if they find a place for the Grind Line in the HHOF, this could end up being a list of eleven hall of famers plus Holmstrom. Sure enough, the Wings dominated play, outshooting the Mighty Ducks 171-120 in four-plus games (including a triple-OT and a single-OT). And yet, with all those snipers taking all those shots, they managed to score only six goals. Six. Goals. Giguere murdered in his playoff debut, sweeping the defending champs, which not only exorcised Anaheim’s playoff demons from the past (the Ducks were a combined 0-8 against Detroit in their first two postseasons), but also started a Cinderella run to the seventh game of the cup finals. And as impressive as Giguere’s later sweep of the Wild was (4 games, 1 GA), I really have to say that Minnesota represents his second-most impressive series of 2003. Giguere finished Round One with three first stars of the game and one second star. How sick is that?

2007: This was a different story completely, as the '07 Ducks were a much more formidable team in front of their netminder. Long gone were the days of getting murdered on the shot board, as were the days when Giguere had to be the unreal difference-maker. Still, the Red Wings were the top seed in the west, and were dominant especially on home ice and on special teams. Indeed, this was more a Goliath vs. Goliath battle than anything that had happened in 2003.

Giguere ended up with more saves in the four-game 2003 sweep than he made in the six-game 2007 win, and his save percentage wasn’t even in the same stratosphere (2003: .965, 2007: .908), but one thing that J.S. was able to duplicate against the Winged Wheel: overtime perfection. Combined, Giguere went to OT against the Wings four times, and four times he came away a winner. 46 Detroit OT shots. 46 Giguere OT saves.

2) Sammy Pahlsson: Another member of the 2003 and 2007 squads, Pahlsson remains the longest-serving Duck (his Anaheim debut was November 24, 2000, one day before Giguere’s) and of course has been my favorite player since well before this blog started. You want offense? Go buy a Selanne jersey. You want flash? Getzlaf is your guy. You want hard work, defensive positioning, and attention to detail? Welcome to the Pahlsson Party.

2003: In the first cup run, Pahlsson centered a line with 19-year-veteran Steve “Stumpy” Thomas and 19-year-old Stan “Cheesy” Chistov, which would prove to be a great source for secondary scoring throughout that playoff year. The Sammy line was a huge boost in the Detroit series, as that trio contributed 4 of Anaheim’s 10 goals scored in the series (including a really cheesy Cheesy goal in G3).

2007: By this time Sammy was the unquestioned shutdown center for the Ducks, on a “Nothing" Line with Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer. It was a banner year for Pahlsson, who probably got robbed of both a Smythe and a Selke within weeks of each other, but as usual put up zero fuss. Against Detroit, he worked the most difficult minutes available against Zetterberg and Datsyuk, and even got the two split up in an attempt to escape the Swedish Shadow.

In each of Anaheim's long playoff years, Sammy ended up playing the defensive center position on my favorite line of the postseason. His point totals against Detroit weren't that stunning (5 points in 10 games), but he did finish each series a +2 while averaging more than 4.5 shorthanded minutes per game.

3) Rob Niedermayer: The last member of the “2003 and 2007” club, Rob also played a significant role in twice eliminating Detroit. In both years, he played wing on the shutdown line, but had surprisingly strong offensive numbers (well, at least for Rob) while playing against the Wings' best.

2003: In his first playoffs for the Ducks, Rob played on a shutdown line with Steve Rucchin and Mike Leclerc, and proved to be a really strong forechecker. I remember him being a fabulous "first man in" after a dumped puck; Rob's strength is really on the offensive boards. Rob got 3 assists in the 4 games, which in Rob terms is phenomenal. In his first 31 playoff games with the Panthers before 2003, Rob had 4 assists.

2007: While Rob’s biggest contribution to the post-lockout Ducks was probably being Scott’s brother, he was also a strong contributor on Pahlsson’s shutdown line, strong enough that the trio played together for all 103 games of that season/postseason. Rob scored 3 goals in the Wings series to lead the team, and even though one of them was an empty-netter, we'll see below the importance of being able to score on an empty net.

Despite his shut-down role, Rob’s actually had impressive points totals against the postseason Wings: in 10 games, he has scored 8 points (0.8 pts/gm). Over the rest of his Anaheim career, he has played 50 playoff games NOT against Detroit and scored 15 points (0.3 pts/gm). Of course, Rob has his drawbacks also – between the two series he played more than 18 minutes of power play time without being on the ice for a PPG-for, but that’s more of a bad-use-of-personnel issue than a knock on Rob.

4) Scott Niedermayer: With Scott, you have to go way back in the time machine to look at his first time eliminating Detroit – he was a third-year player playing in his first cup finals for the New Jersey Devils. Still, Scott is another player who is 2-0 lifetime against the Winged Wheel, and while he might not inspire the same level of hatred as a Giguere or a Pronger, he’s scored some awfully kick-to-the-nuts goals against the postseason Wings.

1995: Ah, remember the days when lockouts would only last part of a season? At any rate, the 1995 cup finals featured Niedermayer’s Devils and the Detroit Red Wings, who at that point were 40 years removed from their most recent championship. Scott and the rest of the smothering Devils continued that drought, dropping the Wings in four straight. Though Claude Lemieux would end up taking home the Conn Smythe, Niedermayer had an impressive finals, with a highlight-reel, end-to-end goal and three assists in the four-game sweep.

2007: And if you think that ’95 goal was a back-breaker, Scott got even more clutch a dozen years (and 127 playoff games) later. He scored two goals in the six-game ’07 WCF, and both turned out to be huge. Game Two in Detroit he scored the game-winner from down low in the 15th minute of overtime to tie the series at 1 game apiece (assists to Rob & Sammy). Then, late in regulation of Game Five, with the Wings up by a goal and Giguere pulled for a 6-on-4, Scott delivered the "kick to the groin": a weak shot that deflected off the stick of Nick Lidstrom and fluttered lazily over Hasek’s shoulder (1:15 into this video). That shot, more than anything, decided that coin-flip series in Anaheim’s favor, and was probably the strongest case for Niedermayer’s Conn Smythe win.

The craziest thing about Scott’s tendency for huge goals is that the guy is pretty mediocre at shooting pucks. He’s nowhere near Pronger or Lidstrom in this regard. Still, there’s a lot of benefit having a full-time rover, and sometimes his weak-sauce shot is exactly what is needed to disrupt a goalie’s rhythm. Scott might not be as despised by Wings fans like Giguere or Pronger, but it’s tough to argue the importance of the goals he’s scored.

5) Chris Pronger: Ah yes, Sasquatch (as they call him). Pronger is the only member on this list to ever get eliminated by the Red Wings (four times on the Blues, I believe), but he’s certainly had his comeuppance since the lockout. In fact, one could make a claim that one of the biggest differences between Detroit’s 2008 cup run from the two previous attempts was that this time they didn’t have to go through Pronger. Or his elbows.

2006: Pronger was a monster for the Oilers in ’06, as the Red Wings would learn early and the Ducks would find out two rounds later. He scored seven points in the six-game Detroit series and ended the series a +4. That began a 2003-like run for the 8th-seeded Oilers, who proceeded to eliminate the Sharks and the Ducks before bowing out in their own SCF G7. Pronger finished Round One with three first stars of the game and one second star. How sick is that?

2007: Pronger was much more muted offensively in the ’07 WCF, only recording three assists in five games played, but his defensive numbers more than made up for that. In the '07 series, Detroit didn't score a single even-strength or power-play goal while Pronger was on the ice. While that’s impressive enough, I doubt that’s what Red Wings fans remember most.



Get off my elbow, Homer.

There’s a real case to be made that Pronger was the best player in both the 2006 and 2007 playoffs. Except for the technicalities that in 2006 he was a cup-loser and in 2007 he was suspended twice, he could have been the first back-to-back Conn Smyther since Mario Lemieux. Against the Wings both those years, he scored 10 points in 11 games and was on the ice for 20 GF, 10 GA, all while averaging more than 32 minutes per game. And despite his reputation, against the Wings he only had eight minors (somehow Rob Niedermayer went to the box for five minutes after this play).



The Two-Time Wing Killers. Can they make it Three?

I know this piece got awfully long and if you’re still with me, congrats. Still, I think it was worth going through the stories of these two-time Wing-killers, because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of players who have such streaks going (the only other one I could come up with in very limited research is Sandis Ozolinsh, who eliminated the Wings in his last three meetings – ’99, ’00, and ’03).

Combined, these five Ducks players made huge contributions in eliminating the Wings in ’95, ’03, ’06, and ’07, and it’s not a huge stretch to think if they hadn’t, Detroit might have won as many as four additional Stanley Cups by now. And really, who wants to live in that alternate reality? (Wings fans are insufferable enough as is.)

There's still plenty of other reasons for Wings fans to hate the Ducks (I didn't even mention the yappy mouth of Corey Perry), but I think this fivesome might prove as strong a rivalry argument as any. I'm hopeful that Detroit fans found this post as angering to read as I found it pleasing to write, because you know what that means. They'll be licking their lips for the next matchup, their chance for postseason revenge.

Welcome to the rivalry, Wings fans. Go Ducks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

TSN is Humorous

Well, he did get in one tussle last season... although he ended up getting hurt in that fight and missed a month.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This is Stupid and Awesome

No, no, yes, is that a bee, yes, yes, probably, lose weight, definitely yes!

The Stupid:

The Kings are getting ice girls.


I personally don't like the concept of ice girls. Hold on, hear me out. I'm fine with women being objectified for my amusement; I mean, I watched every episode of She Spies. However, I do have a problem with them being on the ice because they take away a job from kids. The Kings currently use kids to clean the ice, which in addition to providing cheap child labor (an endeavor I whole-heartedly endorse; who do you think is typing this post?) also gives those kids an opportunity to be right next to some of their heroes. It's probably an exciting opportunity for any kid and giving that opportunity to some chick in tight pants who wouldn't know Roberto Luongo from Oded Fehr is kind of bullshit.

What are those, replicas? Pfft.

The Awesome:

The Kings are getting ice girls!

I haven't had an opportunity for this much goofy writing material since Bailey moved from the MGM Grand to Staples, plus I can get more cat jokes on the blog.* I enjoy judging women almost as much as I enjoy judging hockey players, so this should be fun.

*A euphemism for cat is...

Season Review: Alex Frolov

71 Games, 23 G, 44 A, +1, 22 PIM

Grade: B


Last Season:
A common criticism of Alex Frolov is that he's inconsistent, a charge that I've never understood. Frolov has increased his point total every single year except for the last, but even then his points per game still went up. By now, we all know what Frolov is: he's a good player who doesn't shoot enough but can control the game with his puck possession abilities. I'm of the opinion that Frolov was the Kings' best player last season when he played, not only because he can hold onto the puck seemingly forever but because he is also extremely adept at taking the puck away from the opposition. Frolov isn't as popular as Anze Kopitar or Dustin Brown because he's not a flashy player: he isn't that great at the shootout, he's not going to dangle anyone and he's going to pass up a shooting opportunity to give someone else a better opportunity. You could make the argument that he's the last Soviet player; the younger Russians in the league are all shoot-first, speedy, North American players. Frolov still plays that anachronistic team-oriented game that was a staple of those Red Army teams. It's kind of romantic, in a way.


The funny thing is that the season prior Frolov had seemingly taken a step toward becoming more of a goal scorer. That season was the best he's had so far, as he led the team with 35 goals while playing alongside Derek Armstrong and Mike Cammalleri. He did not have regular partners this season and had to create every opportunity for his line. Frolov responded by passing more, taking it upon himself to draw defenders to him with his puck possession ability and then passing it off to one of his bumbling linemates. If Frolov had better linemates last season, I think we would all be talking a bit more about him.

Frolov also never really had a chance to get into a rhythm last season, first sustaining a hamstring injury in one leg while playing in Europe and then missing 11 games with a hamstring injury in the other leg in December. He mostly played with Ladislav Nagy before his injury and Mike Cammalleri when he got back and still managed to put up 67 points, a testament to his ability. The thing with hamstring injuries is that they don't necessarily put you out of commission but they last a long time. Frolov basically played all last season while not being at full effectiveness. Rich Hammond notes that Frolov has been living in the gym this off-season, and I imagine he's strengthening those legs to prevent a similar thing from happening this season. That's good news.

He kinda looks like Will Leitch, doesn't he?

Next Season: Alex Frolov will most likely be playing most of the season with Jarrett Stoll. Stoll has an excellent shot but by all accounts does not use it very often. The two of them will play off one another and hopefully Frolov will be able to balance more between 2 seasons ago (where he was a goal scorer) and last season (where he was a set-up man). There's no telling what kind of player Stoll will be: will he be the center Frolov has been missing since the first half of 2005-06 or will he be Derek Armstrong 2.0? Stoll kind of reminds me of Craig Conroy and Frolov did play well with him, so I'm cautiously optimistic. The other wing spot is the open question heading into training camp, with the consensus being that either Ted Purcell will win the spot or Brad Richardson will begin the season there. Most likely it'll be Richardson at the beginning with Purcell earning it as the season goes on.


One problem the Kings had last season was their inability to get Frolov enough playing time. He averaged about 18 and a half minutes a game, two minutes less than Kopitar and Brown. Now, this could have been done because Frolov was battling his hamstrings, but I think it was because of a lack of imagination on Crawford's spot. Frolov is a better power player than Kopitar because he is much, much better at moving in tight spaces, yet Frolov was stuck on the 2nd unit because Kopitar was a "1st line player." I understand that Frolov and Kopitar probably can't play on the power play together (because it'd be a never ending display of passes and feints), but I think the Kings would improve their power play if they switched the two. The Kings should also put Frolov back on the penalty kill (because he's awesome at it) and give Kopitar more even strength time. Voila, you've just given your two best players over 20 minutes a game in a way that's similar to the way Zetterberg and Datsyuk are used.

One interesting thing to watch is to see how Frolov will respond to being a leader on the team. He's the longest-tenured King now with the departure of Lubo and is the best player over 25. I'm pretty sure he speaks English fine now and he's gone through the development process that many of the younger players are just now beginning. I think the Kings should give him an "A" next season and see how he does.


The Kings and their fans take Frolov for granted. There is a perception that Kopitar is the best player on the team and he needs to be taken care of, while Frolov gets to skate with whatever random schlub that happens to find his way into the locker room. I personally think the Kings should have Frolov and Brown skate together but that's never going to happen because Kopitar and Brown already work so well. Still, the Kings could help Frolov out by giving him someone like Patrick O'Sullivan (who's basically Mike Cammalleri anyway) and give him a chance to show his full ability. A 2nd line of Frolov-Stoll-O'Sullivan is pretty kickass.

We're going to begin the whole "will he or won't he sign" thing with Frolov pretty soon. He has an awesome deal worth $2.9 million dollars a year that ends in 2010. The Kings will have Johnson and Kopitar locked up by then and they should have an idea of where Frolov will fit in. Frolov is probably my favorite player on the Kings now and he's the one I most want to be there when the Kings exit the wilderness, but I fear he may be lured away by a more secure future with another team. There's nothing I can do about that this season, though, so I'll just watch the Kings and marvel at Frolov's game. He probably won't have a huge breakout year this season, but he will just keep getting better like he's done every year of his career. As someone who's watched him since he was a turnover-happy 3rd liner, I couldn't be more excited.


(You may be wondering why, after licking Frolov's balls for 1,000 words, I gave him a B. I gave him that grade because he missed a few games and wasn't clearly the Kings' best player like he should be. There's still potential for him and I don't think he's tapped it yet. When he does, he'll get an A.)