Check it out at http://www.battleofcali.com/
Incidentally, if you count the two new posts we've already published on the new site, this new-site pointer now represents BoC's 1,500th published post. Huzzah!
Monday, December 08, 2008
Yup, that's right. Some big-ass news.
Battle of California is moving to a new home. http://www.battleofcali.com/ (an SBN blog)-- though this link won't work until later today, I think. Once our new site is active, I'll add the link up above, but this does represent the final post of the blogspot site we've inhabited for some 2 1/2 years. That's right, we're selling out.
I guess the first topic to talk about is why we're moving over to SBN, and the answer is pretty much because James Mirtle asked. He's the guy who started this blog back in the day when I had no idea how to start a blog; more or less he's the reason this blog exists. Plus in the two years I've been monitoring blog traffic, roughly 10% of our traffic has come straight from his site, now at From the Rink. Mirtle has been amassing a set of team-specific bloggers to cover the 30 teams at SBN, and it's a pretty cool vision, one I'm willing to support...in spirit.
That's right. I went there.
You see, this is actually where we are letting Mirtle down, as he was originally hoping we could fill his Ducks and Kings vacancies. But I was pretty insistent on keeping our multi-team multi-author Voltron unit together -- as a blogger, I'm way too in love with the BoC dynamic. I'm very interested in the takes of Sharks and Kings fans, it turns out I enjoy writing for both Ducks haters and Ducks fans, and I'm also too lazy to carry a blog on my own.
We've arranged things to hopefully stay exactly as they are -- PJ will still be at Sharkspage, Mike Chen will still be at Kukla's Korner, James O'Brien will still cross-post at Cycle like the Sedins, and I'll still try to do a weekly cartoon at NHL FanHouse -- the way we interacted with BoC yesterday will hopefully be the way we interact with BoC tomorrow.
I'll apologize now for new bookmarks, new hyperlinks, new RSS feeds, new logins, and any other technical nonsense we'll run into because of this (which will all be entirely my fault -- the tech dudes at SBN have been kick-ass), but hopefully it's not too much a pain for anybody. There's some cool new functionality at SBN -- you can post your own FanPost or FanShot content, for one -- plus with the aforementioned kick-ass tech team, I think we'll find some benefit in the move. I do want to say though -- after two and a half years, I don't have anything bad to say about blogspot. They hosted our shit for free for years, and we'll keep this site as-is for as long as they continue that service. We are also in the process of migrating our archives over to SBN, though (one of the reasons we're not live just yet), just in case blogspot turns into a back-stabbing whore.
The last two years of blogspot traffic.
I'll update this post when the new site is fully active, but for now, while we're still just talking about it, it feels appropriate to give a little thanks. Thanks first and foremost to the commenters and fellow bloggers that gave our little website some legs -- you guys are awesome, and hopefully will continue to interact with our SBN posts with the same wit and insight as before. Also, thanks to the Ducks, Kings, Sharks, and Stars for never taking our asses to court. I don't think we've done anything terrible towards our teams, but with NHL politics, you never can quite tell. And finally, thanks to the NHL media's east coast bias -- without it, we may have never found anything in common to develop a collective perspective.
So, that's BoC's Super Big News (SBN). Feel free to react in the comments here or comments at SBN once we're up and active. Betrayed? Excited? Worried? Confused? Good, so are we.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Columbus Blue Jackets (11-12-3, t-12th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (14-10-3, t-4th in west)
No, we will not die like dogs! We will fight like lions!
"Three Patos, Anaheim, California. You are very great. 100,000 pesos. Come to Santa Poco, put on show, stop. The Infamous El Guapo."
In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face.
Sometimes that El Guapo is the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Jackets 2. Goals by Little Neddy Niedermayer, Dusty Pronger, Lucky Day Selanne, and Santa Poco resident Pahlsson. Together they prune the hedges of many small villages. For your El Guapo coverage, go visit Bethany's Hockey Rants.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
LA Kings (10-11-4) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (11-11-3)
7:30 PST, Fox Sports West
The Kings' power play feels shitty right now. The numbers don't really back me up (the Kings are about where they were last year, around 17th) but I don't know, I'm still not a fan. There's something vaguely unlikable about it; if the Kings' power play were an actor, they'd be Cole Hauser.* I think the problem I have with it is that it relies way too heavily on the Kings' forwards to move the action. When the Kings get the puck in the opposing zone, they end up passing it back and forth between the forwards while the defensemen just kind of stand there. There's no movement, there's no position-switching to confuse the defense. You kind of kill the man advantage when you allow the defense to stand still. What the Kings need is a small, nimble puck mover, one that can get involved in the play. Maybe pair him with a big, aging asshole with a booming shot. That would work.
*Dude just looks like an asshole, you know? By the way, I've always thought a cool movie would be Hauser and Josh Lucas conspiring to kill Matthew McConaughey so they can get his movie roles.
Another problem with the power play? The top defensive pairing (most of the time) is Doughty and Preissing, while the other is Jarret Stoll and Kyle Quincey. Doughty and Preissing are both Feeders, in that they are usually best at corralling the puck and setting up their other defenseman for a one-timer, while Stoll and Quincey are both Boomers and are best at shooting the puck. I would say the Kings should switch things up but I think the reason the lines are this way is probably because Terry Murray doesn't trust Stoll and Preissing defensively. That's probably a good decision. I don't see this changing until Jack Johnson gets back.
Finally, the Kings have absolutely no one that can deflect the puck on the way to the net. Seriously, it seems like other teams are constantly scoring on deflections and tip-ins while the Kings are busting their asses trying to score nice goals like a bunch of chumps. Dustin Brown and Kyle Calder are the men in front of the net on the Kings' power play, but they usually try to sneak open for shots or try to bang in rebounds. Make them stand in front of the net and deflect pucks like they do in peewee.
The Kings' power play hasn't been terrible this season, but it hasn't been great like it should be either. I think the power play will go the way of Anze Kopitar and Alex Frolov; if they're doing well then the Kings will be fine. If not, then they're boned. I still think the Kings should switch it up and give Frolov primary ice time on the power play instead of Kopitar, but that's just me. Either way, a good power play can help a team when they're slumping and it's exactly what the Kings need right now.
In case you haven't been paying attention, it's fashionable for Kings' fans to declare Erik Ersberg the 2nd Coming while accusing Jason Labarbera of taking 2nds at the pregame spread. The reality is that they were pretty close, Ersberg was just more consistent and had fewer terrible games, but last night kind of changed that. Labs has been playing excellently of late and will probably get the start tonight. He had 30 saves in 2 periods last night and was only really done in by the shootout, which is his Everest. If you're in want of a good time, go on a Kings' messageboard and read how it wasn't Ersberg's fault last night and how even though Labarbera didn't mess up too bad did you see him in the shootout oh he's fat. It's hilarious.
The Kings are playing the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. They played valiantly in a losing effort to the San Jose Sharks last night. Will they be hungry for a win after being denied against the Sharks, or will they be deflated and tired after a game the night before? I'm sure the sportswriters will wait and see how they play and then tell us.
Prediction: Kings win, 4-3. Goals by Brown, Frolov (who is on a 4-game goal scoring streak), Stoll and Calder.
Friday, December 05, 2008
LA Kings (10-11-3) vs. Edmonton Oilers (11-11-2)
7:30 PST, Fox Sports West
To recap: Sean O'Donnell takes a boneheaded penalty and giftwraps a goal for the other team? Right back on the ice. Dustin Brown takes a bad penalty with the team already down a man? Right back on the ice. Alex Frolov misses an assignment and costs the team a goal? Benched for the rest of the game (despite the fact that the team is down a goal and Fro leads the team in goals), swathed in the red jersey of the 4th liner, and forced into a one-on-one meeting with Terry Murray. That's kind of fucked up. That's like suspending the straight-A kid for talking out of turn. I hope he wasn't sad, that would break my heart.
The Kings haven't been scoring recently, with pretty much all the scoring coming from the Stoll-Handzus-Frolov line. Brownitar has been absent from view since Kyle Calder re-joined their line (I think I should have another line naming contest: Used Condom seems appropriate) and the O'Sullivan/Moller combo doesn't quite have enough juice to feast on the underbelly of other teams. Want to hear a crazy, not true theory of mine? The Kings don't want to bring up Ted Purcell because he has a lot of performance bonuses in his contract and the Kings don't want to pay for them. Insane, but possibly true.
The Kings just had a player's only meeting to try to uncover why they can't put the puck in the GD net, so we'll see how that goes tonight. Something needs to happen, though, because the Kings look pretty terrible right now.
If one person boos Lubo tonight, I will freak the fuck out. I will find them and kick them square in the ass.
Prediction: Kings win, 3-2. Goals by Frolov (x3). Then he talks out of turn and gets benched.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
NORRIS TROPHY (top defenseman)Shea Weber, Nashville – I said several times during the summer that Preds GM David Poile was genius in getting Weber, a restricted free agent to be, to sign a very reasonable deal before other teams had the chance to knock on his agent’s door with an offer sheet.Five months later, I’m looking prophetic; Weber has dazzled in both ends posting 10 goals and 23 points, both a blueline best, and a plus-12, tied for fourth best among rearguards.Nashville fans have been calling for years to have Weber’s name spoken in the same breath as Dion Phaneuf’s. Turns out Weber may be in a class of his own.Runners-up: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, S.J.; Mike Green, Wsh.
LAST BOC/CLS DOUBLE POST FOR A WHILE, REALLY!
This Sean Avery story sure has legs, doesn't it? Before this it seemed like the only time the NHL was the top story was if Todd Bertuzzi broke someone's neck (although hockey being a lead story only when something bad happens still rings true).
On Wednesday, the Avery coverage just wrecked every other big story. It was:
- The lead story on "Rome is Burning."
- No. 4 on ESPN's insufferable "Around the Horn."
- The first topic during "Pardon the Interruption." Among others ...
ANYWAY, since this story is quickly getting beaten into the ground, why don't we have some more fun with it? With that in mind, the NHL should take advantage of it's rare moment in the sports spotlight. Here's a few suggestions free of charge:
Sean Avery punching bags - All the satisfaction of slapping the taste out of Avery's mouth without the momentum killing penalty minutes! Deluxe version includes simulated Avery whines and whimpers. Tears of pain and overpaid athlete blood not included.
A "Sloppy Seconds" Charity Dinner - With Thanksgiving only a week old, perhaps a hearty helping of the last remaining leftovers is in order. And if the NHL really wants to make Avery regret his comments, why not make the mainstream media's favorite agitator the bus boy? Other recommended celebrity bus boys: Theo Fleury, Claude Lemieux and Barry Melrose.
Avery endorsed "hot water bottles" - Because no one knows them better than the King of the Douches.
Dion Phaneuf made guest editor of GQ- First, Phaneuf steals his girl. Then he becomes the cover star of NHL 09. And the final insult: Phaneuf completes the "anything you can do I can do better" trifecta by trumping Avery's scrawny Vogue internship by guest editing a superior magazine. Admit it, that would be awesome.
Gary Bettman starts his "hey, I'm not THAT bad, right? RIGHT?" tour of Canadian cities without NHL teams - The Napoleonic blunder should seize Avery's "indefinite" suspension by going on a tour to polish his image. Sure, Bettman is to the NHL as George W is to the USA but ... he's not napalming cities, right? For every Joseph Stalin there's an Adolf Hitler.
Apologies to Stalin's mustache for that unfair Bettman comparison.
Avery, Cuthbert, Phaneuf and secret guest Avery's childhood baby sitter appear on Dr. Phil - Sure, Dr. Phil is a choad. But can you imagine his twang-heavy chiding of Avery for the sloppy seconds remark? And then a further examining of Avery's alleged cross dressing youth? Gold, you miserable sons of bitches, gold!
Finally, I'd like to apologize for Benedict Arnold-ing the NHL 09 club. But, dammit, I'm impatient and it was hard to get all the ducks in a row. Anyone who joined the club/was thinking of joining the club is more than welcome to join me on the whacky new team I've on. Please, alleviate my guilt.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Anaheim Ducks (14-9-3, 3rd in west) at Chicago Blackhawks (10-6-6, t-7th in west)
How much will this post cost me in karma dollars?
Instead of talking up this Chicago rematch, I'm going to throw my two rambly cents in on the Avery suspension. I don't like it.
Now don't get me wrong; there's a lot to dislike about Avery, including this recent set of inflammatory remarks, but you have to recognize Avery for what he is -- a sensationalist media creation. Over the years, reporters have glorified his personality and encouraged his bad boy behavior (which I can understand -- NHLers are generally too boring for newsstands). And that's the thing -- I do believe Avery's statements were intended more to feed the hungry media than they were to hurt Dion Phaneuf / Elisha Cuthbert's feelings. He was doing what he was expected to do -- agitate and entertain -- and more or less in the manner that he was trained to do.
It wasn't out of line with the media characterization that was built up over his career, nor with the persona that the Stars signed last summer. I dunno, it's like giving a dog a treat for coming inside six days a week but then beating it for doing so on Sunday -- maybe there was a vague line that was crossed, but I don't think Avery thought he was "detrimental to the League". If anything, he was promoting the league in the best way he knew how.
Sure, it's not normally acceptable behavior to be calling out players for their love lives, and we can debate the shock value of the words "sloppy seconds" compared to other word choices, but it's not as if this elephant wasn't already in the room -- Avery did manage to get himself in trouble without naming a single name. In a practical sense, Avery took a topic that dozens of hockey writers have already made crude jokes about and then shockingly made one himself.
In short, Avery was Avery, and the NHL suspended him for it without any strong precedent. As an isolated incident involving a rival team, I probably don't care about this that much, but I do worry about where it leads. We're already in a period where player interviews are purposefully bland and carefully measured, and while Avery is certainly not the model of ideal media interaction, he was different from the robotic mold and punished because of it. Going forward I think the NHL should probably publish a list of do-not-discuss guidelines -- it's a sham that they can't define a social barrier until after it's been crossed. Even so, as I point out in the cartoon, I suspect we'll see even less personality in front of a microphone from players in the future, and that general insincerity will probably be another barrier between the players and the fans, and that's sort of a shame.
Sean Avery is no hero, and I don't mean to present him as even a likeable figure, but it's really tough for me to see the rationale for the league's suspension. I think it's a dangerous path to discourage personality in front of the microphone without any specific guidelines, and we're probably in for a blander NHL as a result (though in fairness, we were probably in for that anyway). Anyways, I'm open to being convinced -- feel free to agree or disagree or add your own two cents in the comments.
And now to the part where Sleek gets suspended:
Listen, I love Canada. It's just when it comes to Battle of Ontario teams hiring head coaches and general managers, they really seem to have fallen in love with Anaheim's sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about.
Ron Wilson, Craig Hartsburg, Bryan Murray, and Brian Burke --
That pretty much spans the entirety of Anaheim's history right there.
Prediction: Last Friday the Ducks and Hawks skated to a 1-0 game in Anaheim, so I suspect Hiller might get the start tonight, but there's no real wrong answer in net right now. The Ducks do need to start scoring some goals, though, so let's say Ducks 5, Hawks 3. Goals by Getzlaf x2, S. Niedermayer, Pahlsson, and Perry.
Sloppy seconds? Seriously? The NHL's collective feathers are ruffled over this?
That being said, reactions from Marty Turco, Mike Modano, Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro do show that this Sean Avery experiment isn't exactly going well. We're only in December and the team is already clearly tired of hearing about Avery (and his gorgeous, cleft-chinned ex-gfs).
Obviously, Avery needs father figures and/or players who obviously wear the pants so he'll tow the line. In Detroit, he was just some annoying gnat of an undrafted free agent in a locker room full of larger than life personalities. After that, he's been in big markets where hockey isn't exactly the main event (LA, New York and Dallas) so he could cultivate his bad boy image without the necessary "But he's actually not all that productive" backlash.
It keeps feeding that gluttonous Avery ego and don't expect it to stop anytime soon.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
LA Kings (10-10-3) @ Phoenix Coyotes (10-11-2)
6:30 PST, Fox Sports West
Last night the Kings were leading, 1-0, going into the 3rd period. They hadn't played particularly well, but had used a fast start to gain an advantage on the scoreboard. During the 2nd intermission, Terry Murray stressed the importance of not taking a penalty because the Kings had just been given a 5-on-3 (which of course they didn't score on) late in the 2nd. The very first shift of the 3rd period, Sean O'Donnell carried the puck up ice and attempted to pass it out of his own zone. Unfortunately, he bounced it off a Toronto player and then hooked another Toronto player that was attempting to skate the puck into the zone. Penalty, Sean O'Donnell. The penalty was exacerbated by an unfortunate Dustin Brown trip and the Maple Leafs scored on the two-man advantage.
Way to go, Sean.
Still, the Kings were tied and only had to kill off the rest of Dustin Brown's penalty. O'Donnell was rested because he had been in the box and came out to kill the penalty. He made a nice play to corral the puck behind his own net and tried to pass it to Drew Doughty. Unfortunately, there was a Toronto player standing in the way; the Toronto player easily intercepted the pass and relayed it to a teammate in front of the net for an easy goal.
Way to go, Sean.
No King had a good game last night, with the possible exception of Alex Frolov, but I don't think I've seen one player screw up a team's chances of winning a game that much since Denis Gauthier thought he was a Red Wing at the beginning of the season. I think of players as contributing positively and negatively; some players, like Tom Preissing, are going to make a lot of good plays that contribute to goals but they're also going to fuck up and cost the team goals. The trick is to get more positive plays than negative plays. Sean O'Donnell does not make many positive plays but he usually doesn't make many negative plays. I like O'Donnell and I don't want to be mean to him or anything, but he cost the Kings the game last night.
Kind of funny: last night, some shitheel named Andre Deveaux got feisty with Anze Kopitar, hoping to send a message to the Kings or some such. Brown bumped Deveaux, then Peter Harrold came over and shoved him. Then Raitis Ivanans came out on the ice. Ivanans followed Deveaux all over the ice, trying to convince Deveaux to drop the gloves. Deveaux refused, both because he was trying to goad Ivanans into a penalty and because he didn't want to die. Then, after the whistle, Wayne Simmonds tried to get Devaux to go and again was refused. It's good to see teammates standing up for one another.
Phoenix has kind of sucked this year, huh? They're 28th in the league in scoring, which is not what I expected. They're also missing Olli "Big Baby" Jokinen, who is out with a shoulder injury, so this is another game that the Kings should win. Let's hope the Kings play a little better tonight.
Prediction: Kings win, 4-2. Goals by... whoever.
San Jose Sharks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
7:30 PM, Comcast Sportsnet
Sharks fans weren’t particularly nice to Brian Campbell when he returned to HP Pavilion. That’s to be expected, as Campbell came with a lot of potential and promise and he failed to deliver, then he said, “Screw you” to the team before cashing in.
So what happens when the guy who came with the most potential and promise returns? Perhaps Ron Wilson himself didn’t embody that potential but his roster – and regular season performance – certainly did, and as the guy who runs the show when it comes to motivating players, the combined lack of inspiration and toughness can fall on Wilson’s shoulders. If only to accentuate the point, Todd McLellan’s got this team doing those things, though it certainly helps that McLellan’s got a better set of defensemen.
Does Ron Wilson deserve a harsh greeting when he steps behind the bench as a visitor for the first time since the axe fell? In my opinion, no. In fact, as critical as I was of the guy, I think he deserves hearty recognition for what he accomplished with the team.
Put it this way: Wilson took a team that focused more on grit than skill and brought the best out of them, if only for a short time. Wilson seemingly has a penchant to make mediocre players good (see: Wayne Primeau) but when the roster become stronger and more skillful, Wilson couldn’t figure out the right combination.
There’s plenty to criticize with Wilson. His stubborn refusal to depart from his “five guys in formation” system gave the team an identity of a fast team that became so entrenched in their roles that they failed to truly use their natural skill and creativity. On the power play, rather than use movement and skill, Wilson’s system simply said, “Go to Joe Thornton on the half boards.” And then there’s his whole public smiting of players, something that Toronto’s getting a taste of now. That sort of abrasiveness only goes so far.
Still, you can’t take away the 2003-04 conference finals away from Wilson, and when you look at a roster filled with the Nils Ekmans and Alex Korolyuks of the world, it’s hard to figure out how that particular squad was so awesome to watch. And you won’t hear me criticizing Wilson on the defensive side of things; the team’s goals-against were always strong and for the most part, the penalty kill was solid. It’s just that after the team moved past the overachieving 03-04 squad, something was always off about the team, be it passion or toughness or chemistry.
The bottom line is that despite the team’s post-season failures and inconsistencies, Wilson’s still got the best record in Sharks history – and he’s taken them farther than Darryl Sutter or Kevin Constantine. For that simple fact, Wilson should get a rousing ovation when he’s shown on the HP Pavilion jumbotron.
Monday, December 01, 2008
LA Kings (10-9-3) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (8-9-3)
7:30 PST, Fox Sports West
Labarbera's in tonight, Boyle's out, hopefully Zeiler's on the bench. The Leafs score more than you'd think but also let in a lot of goals. I've actually liked the Leafs since they moved to the East and I think they'll become good faster than people think. But today I hope the Kings embarrass them in front of their new GM.
Prediction: Kings win, 5-4. Goals by Kopitar (x2), Moller, Frolov and Labarbera.
Anaheim Ducks (14-8-3, 3rd in west) at Detroit Red Wings (15-4-4, 2nd in west)
Battle of the Hangovers
For today's post I threw together a comparison table looking at how the Ducks and Red Wings have been performing compared to a specific stretch of games last season. For the Ducks, the selected stretches have been hand-picked from each season:
07-08: the first 19 games after Scott Niedermayer returned to the lineup.I decided to stick to stretches where the Ducks have been performing well points-wise. In the 07-08 stretch, the Ducks went 12-5-2; in the 08-09 stretch the Ducks went 13-3-3. For the Red Wings, the selection is much more straightforward:
08-09: the most recent 19 games (excluding the 1-5-0 first six games).
07-08: the first 23 games of the season.This one's much more obvious: I'm just looking at how Detroit's "hangover" start (15-4-4) compares to its season start from last year (15-6-2). Now I don't want to read too much into these early-season comparisons, but I think it's worth noting that while each of these teams have actually improved their ability to accumulate standings points (for a stretch, anyways), a lot of the underlying numbers have gotten worse. Let's take a look:
08-09: the first 23 games of the season.
Note: excludes shootout goals. Click image to enlarge.
Patterns: For both the Ducks and Red Wings, the current-year versions have been surrendering way more goals than they did last year -- each team is giving up around 2/3 an extra goal-per-game, with some of that comes from a declining penalty kill. Each team has found a way to generate wins despite a shakier defense, though, mainly through an improved team offense.
Offensively, one of the keys has been each team's power play, which has for each team produced more power play goals in fewer power play opportunities than the year before. Overall, each team has improved its offense, though not by the same margin that the defensive numbers have changed; each team this year has a worse goal-differential-per-game than the previous year.
Shot analysis shows a similar story: shots-for per game are marginally improved, but shots-against per game have increased even further; the net shot differential has gotten worse this year for both squads (the Ducks, in fact, are now typically outshot).
So basically, what does this mean? Both squads have shown an improved ability to accumulate standings points this year vs. last year despite some declines in the differential statistics and underlying numbers -- in a way, this suggests that the current win pattern is a bit illusory. I'd expect that each team would have gotten worse results with the current year's statistics, but at least so far, that hasn't really been the case. I wouldn't worry about these patterns just yet for either team (there is absolutely nothing wrong with illusory win streaks in November), but here's some open-ended questions for the comments:
- Why do you think these teams have continued to win despite worsened statistics: is there something to the notion of "knowing how to win all styles of hockey" where these veteran rosters are capable of adjusting to a more free-flowing game?
- What do you see as the primary drivers for the change in offensive and defensive numbers for these teams? Are opponents treating them differently, or are these squads more careless than they used to be?
- Going forward, what do you expect out of each team? Will the numbers eventually tighten up, or is this an offense-friendly evolution for the Ducks and Red Wings? If the statistics do not tighten up, can these teams continue winning the way they currently are?
Prediction: Now that I've demonstrated a more offense-friendly tendency for both the Ducks and Red Wings, we're probably in for a tight defensive battle tonight. Ducks 2, Wings 1. Goals by Ryan and Pahlsson. For your Wings coverage, there's always A2Y, Winging it in Motown, and On the Wings.