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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ducks Gameday—Cartoons are my anti-depressant

Anaheim Ducks (19-16-5, t-7th in west) at Vancouver Canucks (21-13-4, 5th in west)

Well, a piss-poor, gift-wrapped finish against the Flames (and their pals, the officials) probably deserves a solid rebound game. Unless, of course, the Ducks are dead-set on not making any penalty-related resolutions until the new year.

Here's hoping for a tasty outcome.

No Pahlsson = no prediction. Go Ducks.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Kings Gameday: Stupid Noon Games

Los Angeles Kings (12-24-2, eep!) @ Colorado Avalanche (21-14-2, 5th in West)

Here I was, all ready to write a big post examining why the Kings have played so poorly this season (short version: they're awful at everything), but I forgot the game was at noon today. Whoops! Anyway, the Kings are terrible and have lost 8 games in a row; they haven't scored more than 3 goals in that span. They're not a team that's going to win a lot of 2-1 games, so they really need to pick up their scoring if they're going to have a chance today.

Remember when I wrote this and asked "Who would you disappear?" Apparently Dean Lombardi read that and decided he'd disappear John Zeiler. I'm not a big fan of John Zeiler because he sucks at hockey and his checks are meaningless, but I did appreciate the fact that he actually seemed to care. Kevin Dallman also broke his foot a week ago, so Jon Klemm got the call-up to sit on the bench. I guarantee you, though, that he will be playing important minutes of Tom Preissing. It's a lock.

We'll see how Crawford chooses to "set" his lines without Cammalleri in the line-up again; he'll probably go with Brown-Kopitar-O'Sully and Frolov-Armstrong-Nagy, although maybe he'll just say, "Fuck it," and put Bowlby up with Kopitar again. Did you guys see that? That was weird as hell.

I'm off for the rest of the new year and possibly a few days after it. Take a little time off yourself if you're a Kings fan and try to forget about their suckitude for a while. This is Valley Forge, people, and these are the times that try men's souls. All we can do is grit our teeth and accept it. Complaining about how badly the Kings suck isn't going to change anything, and picking up a guy like Marc Denis or Andrew Raycroft is only going to exacerbate our problems. We all knew this was going to be a rebuilding process; we can't throw in the towel just because we don't like losing.

Prediction: Long live the rebuild! Kings lose, 4-2. Goals by Handzus and Visnovsky.

Ducks Gameday—My dad's wrong, right?

Anahiem Ducks (19-15-5, 7th in west) at Calgary Flames (17-14-7, 8th in west)

When it comes to hockey, my dad is not the savviest of spectators. It's not that he's a fool or anything, but he's a guy who will complain about 45-second shifts and will a lot of times credit or blame the wrong guy on the ice for a goal. Not to trash my dad's habits or anything—he watches more hockey than I watch football—but he's still only watching about 10 games a year, and it's not often that he'll mention something about hockey that I have to think about.

On Thursday night, though, he managed to get my wheels spinning. We had just got home from my mom's birthday dinner in time to catch Doug Weight score the winner against the Oilers, and my dad offers, "You know, if the Ducks keep this up, that Niedermayer guy should be a shoo-in for the MVP."

My brother and I immediately laugh it off. "No way," I reply. "They'll never give it to a guy who misses 34 games voluntarily. It's not even possible."

And of course I'm right—it's my dad's opinion, for chrissake, and he couldn't even name the trophy. But still, it was tough to shake the question in my head: How big a demonstrable difference would a guy have to make in order to win a Half-season Hart?

So far, the returns are only five games in (go grab a grain of salt), but some of the Niederresults are pretty staggering. In the first 34 games, the Ducks were afloat at .500, 15-15-4; in their last five they are at .900, 4-0-1. In terms of goal-differential, pre-Niedermayer the Ducks were being outscored 2.38—2.82 (-0.44), post-Niedermayer the Ducks are outscoring opponents 2.40—1.00 (+1.40).

Yeah, that's right. 5 games, 5 goals-allowed. The PK has improved from 78.8% to 95.5%, and the team has allowed 5.6 fewer shots-against per game as well. The PP numbers seem to have taken a hit (15.4% down to 11.1%), but that you can credit with the teams Niedermayer's been playing against. He's already played against the PK-master Sharks three times, with one each against the Avs and the Oil (Edmonton had outscored the Ducks 11-3 in three pre-Niedermayer games thus far).

So, here's the real question for the comments: What would the Ducks or Niedermayer have to do over the remaining 43 games for you to consider Scott Hart-worthy? Is it even a possibility, given the reason for his late-season start?

There's one other wrinkle to consider—adding Niedermayer to a lineup may bolster the team results, but based on what I saw last year, when the team's going it's really Pronger that puts up the monster results. Take last year's playoffs, for example. As I brought up in the last GDP of that playoffs, counting all situations, Scott Niedermayer ended up on the ice for 24 Anaheim goals and 26 opponent goals (EV: 16-11, PP:8-3, PK:0-12), and he won the playoff MVP for that. Pronger, ineligible because of elbow issues, was on the ice for 32 Anaheim goals and 15 opponent goals (EV: 18-8, PP:12-2, PK:2-5). Basically, with Niedermayer available to break even in key minutes, Pronger is able to dominate games. So far the pattern seems to hold true; in five games, Scott's been on the ice for 5 GF, 3 GA. Pronger over those games has been on the ice for 6 GF, 1 GA.

Prediction: For once the averages hold true; the post-Niedermayer Ducks win 2.4 to 1. Goals by Pronger, Niedermayer, and a 2/5 goal gets scored by Pahlsson, still stuck in Anaheim. For the Flames' angle, I'm not sure if Matt's on post-Christmas break, but I'm pretty sure MetroGnome has got you covered.

Go Ducks.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sharks Petition League to Play Rest of Season on the Road

How do you explain this team? An 8 game winning streak on the road and 11 games in a row with at least one point. Tonight was not a pretty win but a win is a win. I am trying to figure out what the difference is in style of play or what. The only constants are that the Power Play stinks and Nabby is standing on his head. The only reasons given are usually the players are trying to make the "pretty" play at home while on the road they keep it simple. Whatever it is, I can't explain it.

Tomorrow night would seem like an ideal spot to give Nabby a break and start Patzold. But, can you really sit Nabby after a shutout? I really don't expect that to happen as Ron Wilson always seems to keep his lineup intact after a victory.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ducks Gameday—Behindthenet does BoC a solid

Anaheim Ducks (18-15-5, t-7th in west) at Edmonton Oilers (16-18-3, t-12th in west)

I'm not going to write too much about tonight's matchup; you know where to go to read up on that. Instead, I'm going to praise Gabe Desjardins at Behind the Net for his always-solid work aggregating and crunching through NHL data to really help promote the notion of data-driven hockey analysis. In the past, I've talked up his strength-of-opposition and strength-of-teammates metrics; they really help to put a context around a player's 5-on-5 production (for example). This season, he's added lots of other interesting stats; you could spend a solid day looking through the metrics on his site.

One thing that really caught my eye over at BTN's blog, though, was tracking shots and goals from where they are taken on the ice. This is a pretty fascinating new layer of data, and while its accuracy or its usefulness is still being explored, I think it's pretty darn cool that the data is being collected. It may not mean much just yet, but I think it's day is coming.

As an example, I asked Gabe in the comments of his blog whether it would be possible for him to run some shot and goal charts for the BoC teams, specifically on their 4-on-5 penalty kills. Why the PK? Well, just for starters we've observed this year how the Sharks are killing penalties with ease, whereas the Ducks and Kings have struggled in that area. Perhaps by looking at the shot charts side-by-side maybe some aspect might become apparent--some difference in how the different PK units are allowing shots, and which shots are becoming goals.

All this data is pre-Christmas, 4-on-5 only, and just for illustrative purposes.

Anaheim Ducks:
200:28 4-on-5 time, 170 shots against, 28 goals against, 26.87 expected goals against

First off, let's just get a handle on what we're seeing here. I've indicated on the chart where the goalie sits and where the red line is; you'll have to imagine faceoff circles and the rest from there. Every shot that didn't score is indicated on the chart with a blue X, and every goal that was scored is highlighted with a red O, which I re-colored myself.

A lot of what's emerged is fairly intuitive; there seems to be a lot of activity and a lot of goals that cluster right around the goalie. These may be one-timers or rebound shots, but it seems that power play units are working to generate shots from that "danger zone", and the better they seem to generate those shots, the likelier it will be that the PP unit will find success. Also somewhat interesting are shots from distance--they seem to be taken with a lot of frequency, but rarely do they seem to beat the goaltender. Still, you have to say that the point shot does have an effective use; overall, teams still score against Duck penalty-killers with good effectiveness.

Los Angeles Kings:
177:16 4-on-5 time, 189 shots against, 30 goals against, 32.39 expected goals against

Here's the same chart for the L.A. Kings this season, another squad that's struggled to keep the puck out of their net when shorthanded. A lot of the same observations apply, although note how much more vulnerable the Kings' "danger zone" leakage appears to be. That seems like a thing for that unit to maybe focus on defending.

Also a bit strange seems to be bleeding from one side of the ice; it looks as if a lot more goals are being scored on the Kings from the goalie's right side than from the goalie's left, even though the shot counts seem kind of equivalent from both sides. I think this is a question maybe for observant Kings fans. Is this a function of having dangerous PP options playing on one side, or maybe is it a flag that there is a weak defender on one side? Perhaps this is a goalie issue that could be explored, who knows? I'm not really sure what the proper response for a team that notices these trends, but it is worth noting where trouble patterns emerge; addressing them might be the key to improving PK performance.

San Jose Sharks:
170:26 4-on-5 time, 107 shots against, 13 goals against, 16.56 expected goals against

And for contrast, here are the results for a successful penalty kill, courtesy of the Sharks. A large difference seems to come from shot prevention; this chart isn't nearly as dense as the Ducks' or Kings' were. Also, it seems that the Sharks are much more adept at defending the so-called "danger zone"; there's a cluster of activity, but it seems much more controlled and limited. There seems to be a lot more ability to prevent point shots from getting through; this probably contributes a great deal to SJ's success.

At any rate, I don't want to put out any super-strong statements about what the data means or indicates; we're still in a bit of an exploratory phase (certainly feel free to leave your own observations in the comments). Mainly, the thing to take away here is that the data is being collected and even at this stage can be examined in different manpower situations. The consistency of the data may be a bit suspect at this point, but for sure that will improve, as will analysts' ability to incorporate these coordinates into aggregated findings. For today, these charts are interesting and a bit revealing, but probably not very "actionable". Looking to the future, though, I can see where these sorts of charts will become fundamental for coaching analysis. We are probably on the brink of a new age in hockey understanding, and I'm glad there's guys out there like Gabe that can put it in a form that idiots like me can toy with.

Thanks again, Gabe.

Prediction: Crap. No Pahlsson tonight, or for any of this road trip. I won't be able to watch this game tonight; I'll be at my mom's birthday dinner. Still, somehow the Ducks claw their first victory from the Oil tonight in their last meeting of the season, 4-2. Goals by Bertuzzi, Weight, Pahlsson, Getzlaf, and Beauchemin.

Go Ducks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Kings Gameday: Feeling Charitable

Los Angeles Kings (blech) vs. San Jose Sharks (18-12-5, 2nd in Pacific)

The Kings are terrible, and a big part of this has been their propensity to turn over the puck. The Kings have 5 players in the top 20 of turnovers; that's not good. Lubomir Visnovsky leads the league in giveaways, Kopitar is 2nd, Frolov is 6th, Brown is 14th, and Jack Johnson is 20th. These are all players on the team who are responsible for carrying the puck up ice. Why can't the Kings carry the puck up the ice consistently? There are two possible reasons: either the Kings' offensive system puts too much pressure on individual players to get the puck into the zone, or the above players aren't good enough. I don't think it's door #2, so I'm inclined to believe that Crawford isn't creating an adequate gameplan. He's just saying, "Hey, go score," and then sending them out there. I don't know, maybe I just like blaming Crawford because it means there isn't something wrong with their personnel, but something needs to change. Their breakout is horrible, their break-in is atrocious, and they basically suck ass at hockey and also life. Hopefully that can change tonight.

Prediction: Kings win, 5-3. Kopitar (x2), Frolov, Preissing, and Lubo all score.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas: Presents for everyone!

Hope everyone has a merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season! Make the most of it--hockey stress resumes tomorrow!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New NHL Rule: Ducks Allowed to Have 6 Skaters

Or it just seems that way. The Ducks dominated the Sharks tonight. They seemed to be toying with the Sharks dominating the play the entire night. I am sure glad that two hour meeting worked. I look for changes after the holiday freeze is over on the 28th. Observations from tonight's game:

-The Ducks do a good job of interfering with the forechecker on dump-ins. Not enough to get call for a penalty but just enough to give time to the D to move the puck out. Smart move on their part.

-George Parros went to Yale???

-Corey Perry is a pest. And that is a compliment. Every team needs an agitator like him, and unlike other players like him, Perry can actually play and play well. The Sharks could use a player like him. We have not had anyone like that since Ville Nieminen. We need someone to create a skirmish, currently we only have players who react to hits, not give them. We need someone like Adam Foote. Sure he is overpaid and probably near the end of his career, but he is as Barry Melrose likes to say "hard to play against." If not Foote, someone like him.

-It is not good when your most physical and vocal player is 37 year old Jeremy Roenick. That tells you something when Roenick is probably the 2nd best offensive player right now. Where is the secondary scoring?

-Who goes first? Marleau or Ron Wilson? Doug Wilson has some interesting decisions to make in the next few weeks.

Battle of California trilogy, Sharks-Ducks 12/18 photos

Here are a few photos from Anaheim's 2-0 win over the Sharks on Tuesday. NHL.com's recap of San Jose's 2-1 OT shootout win at Anaheim is available here.

The Sharks held a 2-hour team meeting Friday instead of its usual practice at Sharks Ice. The meeting was in part a result of poor play against Phoenix and Anaheim, in part a reaction to post-practice comments Jeremy Roenick made to Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy, as detailed in this article: These are games that matter for Sharks.

Jeremy Roenick knows exactly what must be done. And he's not afraid to say it. This is why Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson brought Roenick's veteran voice to the team. After missing five games while resting his achy knees, Roenick returned to the lineup Thursday and scored a power-play goal. But while watching those five games from the press box, he made some telling observations, which he shared after practice one day this week.

"When this team gets in trouble," Roenick said, "we wait for somebody else to do the job; instead of taking initiative to do what you can do to help, we're waiting for somebody else to do it. . . . With the exception of maybe a couple guys, we have no grit in terms of our meanness to want to compete. And when we do that, we're an easy team to play against."...

"Guys are doing their own thing, not supporting one another," Roenick said. "When you don't work away from the puck and help the guy you're playing with, you're just putting him in a bad situation. We get caught standing around, looking, more lackadaisical instead of stepping up the pace. . . . It comes down to how much you really want it. Are you here just to make the paycheck and pass the time away, or did you come here to win?"...

"I think we have to come to the realization that you're not letting yourself down, you're letting 20 other guys down by not competing," Roenick said. "A lot of people are looking to you for bringing that leadership, and when it's not brought, it's easy for the other guy to say, 'Well, he didn't do it so why should I?' And that's a disease."

I have to write up the Stockton Thunder v Bakersfield Condors game I attended last night, Bakersfield earned a 6-4 win on the road. Yutaka Fukufuji was in goal for Bakersfield and former University of Denver goaltender Glenn Fisher was in net for Stockton. 2005 NHL Entry Draft first round selection Ryan O'Marra also plays for the Stockton Thunder. Bakersfield dropped 4 unanswered goals on Stockton in the third period to squash their come-from-behind attempt. After that I will post a few quotes from Roenick after San Jose's 3-2 OT loss to Phoenix.

Earl can caption the photos above, or add your own in the comments. Note the duck hanging from a rope in the third photo. Nicely done.

[Correction] Center Ryan O'Marra was the NY Islanders first round selection in 2005, 15th overall. O'Marra, Robert Nilsson and a 2007 1st round pick were dealt to Edmonton for Ryan Smyth on February 27, 2007. O'Marra was named yesterday to the National Conference roster for the 2008 ECHL Allstar game which will be held in Stockton January 23rd. Stockton Thunder rookie left wing Jacob Micflikier and captain Brad Farynuk also were named to the Allstar roster.

2007 NHL fan map

Commoncensus.org is an open source mapping project using user input to generate interactive maps on a local, regional and national level. The reliability of the data hinges on the amount of participation from the public, but there are a few interesting "sphere of influence" trends that can be examined as the project builds a userbase.

The Common Census projects measures the sports sphere of influence with data from 25270 NFL fans, 25099 MLB fans, 19144 NBA fans, and 17412 NHL fans. Looking at the 2007 NHL Fan Map geographically, the Dallas Stars (1260) have the largest sphere of influence drawing fans from 9 states, with Colorado (886) and San Jose (622) coming in second and third. Numerically, the Detroit Red Wings (1491), Boston Bruins (1332), and Dallas Stars (1260) have the most data to draw from with this project.

With 622 entries from San Jose fans, 307 from Los Angeles, 229 from Anaheim, and 157 from Phoenix, it is possible to draw an early map of fan support for different NHL teams in the Southwest. The Sharks have large blobs of support in the SF Bay Area, Lake Tahoe, and northern Oregon regions. Allegiences are a little mixed between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in southern California, Phoenix holds sway over Arizona, Las Vegas appears to be conflicted.

Cross-posted on Sharkspage.

BoC Gameday—Discovering your inner Spartan

Anaheim Ducks (17-15-5, 8th in west) at San Jose Sharks (18-11-5, 6th in west)

I've mentioned before that this Ducks season mirrors the plotline to D2: the Disney Sequel. You know, fresh off its first championship, the underdog protagonist team falters under the sudden spotlight, then needs to rediscover its team identity in order to reachieve success. In that spirit, here's a really strangely-inspired rally cry I found on YouTube. Enjoy!

Prediction: Ducks 3, Sharks 2. All goals by the "Nothing" Line.

Ride 'em, Pahlsson.

Go Sparta. Go Ducks.

Kings Gameday Guest Post: (New Jersey) Devil's Dictionary, Part II

Los Angeles Kings (12-22-2, pbbbbt!) @ Nashville Predators (14-16-2, 14th in West... wow, what a bunch of losers)

5:00 PST, FSN West

(Here's part II. Once again, feel free to make up your own and put them in the comments.)

Masterson Trophy
- A trophy awarded to a player who would have quit hockey if they were smart but for some reason kept playing.

“That's a real hockey play”- Meaning unknown.

Spearing- Attempted murder.

Slough-Footing- A joke penalty called by refs to check if anyone is paying attention.

Old-Time Hockey- Shitty hockey.

Selke Trophy- This player plays the wrong position.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct- The player used two or more of the following concepts in a single sentence - GENITALS/HOMOSEXUALITY/DEATH/MOTHER/FORNICATION.

Calder Trophy- This player’s career has peaked at age 20.

William Jennings Trophy- This award properly recognizes the luminous careers of men like Rick Wamsley, Bob Sauve, Rejean Lemelin, and Roman Cechmanek.

Douche Bag-

Inconsistent- European.

Finesse- European.

Soft- European.

Talented- European.

Streaky- European. (Specifically, Russian.)

Visor- A device worn to protect a player's eyes. Real hockey players eschew them, because eyes are for pussies.

Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy- Awarded to the NHL's top goal-scorer each season. Created in 1998, the trophy was renamed the "Jonathan Cheechoo Trophy" in 2006. It was returned to its original name the following season.

Shootout (SAN JOSE)- A loss.

Heavy Shot- Used in phrases like "it's not a hard shot, but it's heavy," this phrase can have no possible logical meaning, when you think about it. I mean, a puck has a set mass, and it has a certain speed when it is shot (how "hard" a shot is), and that's it. There aren't any other variables associated with a shot that could possibly be described with the word "heavy." "Not hard, but heavy" - WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?

“Does the little things well”- This player does the big things poorly.

Gritty- Sucks, but is Canadian.

Franchise Player- The best player on a given team, this player’s relationship with a team’s fans will go through 4 stages:

1) Euphoria, where this player’s unlimited potential makes him untouchable in the eyes of the fans; any expressed thoughts of trading him will be met with scorn and attempted murder.

2) Optimism, where fans come to the realization that their franchise player is not the next Wayne Gretzky but should still easily become the cornerstone of consecutive Stanley Cups.

3) Disillusionment, the stage in which the fan’s unrealistic expectations become the fault of the franchise player.

4) Scorn, where fans revolt against their franchise player for his inability to fill the void in their worthless lives; he will soon be traded to another team for $.50 on the dollar. (Note: Boston fans, skip the 1st 3 steps and go straight to this last one.)

Prediction: Nashville is leading through 2 periods but gets contracted before the 3rd; the Kings still manage to lose.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Greetings to Mommy Sleek's mailing list

For the year-plus duration of this blog, I've been living in semi-anonymity—it was a fairly short list of people who knew that by night, I was secretly blogging under the pseudonym Earl Sleek. Until now.

Apparently my mother, needing some content to fill up my paragraph of her annual Christmas letter, has "outed" me to her family and friends, describing me in the barely-technically-true term "professional cartoonist". All of a sudden people I barely know (or worse, know quite well) are coming up to me and asking me about my secret double life.

So to those stumbling to this site for the first time, welcome to Battle of California, a mixed-bag-blog that follows the misfortunes of the three California-based NHL franchises. We do lots of writing, whining, and number-crunching, but apparently you only care about my "professional" cartoons, so here's a few you can check out.

I know many of you friends-of-my-mom know me as a nice guy and a decent fellow. If that's the case, definitely do not click on this link. It is my most viewed cartoon of all time, but unfortunately, if you see it my nice-guy reputation will be forever tarnished.

Merry Christmas, mom and friends!

Kings Gameday Guest Post: The (New Jersey) Devil's Dictionary

Los Angeles Kings (12-21-2, whoops) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (14-13-6, 12th in West)

7:00 PST, FSN West

Here's something Meg and I have been working on for way too long. It's a glossary of terms that we often hear in hockey and what they really mean. This is part I, with part II going up tomorrow. I apologize in advance to Ambrose Bierce and the many people out there who I am sure have already done this. In the meantime, I encourage anyone who read the debate on Monday to read this even-handed article by Terry Frei over at ESPN.com. Obviously Frei is trying to leech off the immense popularity of this blog, but I guess it's alright because his article adds to the conversation.

Shootout- A fun, exciting, fan-friendly part of the game; as such, hockey purists believe it is a travesty and demand it be removed.

Inner Thigh- A player has been hit in the balls, but the announcer is unsure of how to indicate it. This phrase is usually preceded by a few seconds of awkward silence as the commentator struggles to make his phrase appropriate for the television audience. Jimmy Fox famously came up with this term after almost getting fired in 1988 for saying, "It looks like Bernie Nichols got clocked in the cock right there."

Offensive-Defenseman- A defenseman that produces half as many goals for his team as he does for the opposition. ("Sergei Gonchar has been a premiere offensive-defenseman for years.")

Gordie Howe Hat Trick- In order to be credited with a Gordie Howe hat trick a player must have a goal, an assist, and an inability to let go of the game.

Flu-like symptoms-
Hungover (ex: "I'm throwing up and feel like shit - just like the flu!")

Lower-Body Injury- A concussion

Upper-Body Injury- Broken foot

Borderline call- An obvious penalty against the home team

Optional Practice- Mandatory practice

Lady Byng Trophy- An anti-trophy, used to penalized one player every year for a lack of toughness

"Holy Jumpin!"- I am quite excited by whatever has just occurred

"Scratch my back with a hacksaw!"- ...?

Marc Crawford steals Pascal Leclaire's presents, hoping to ruin his Christmas; however, Leclaire joins a circle with the rest of Whoville and sings Christmas carols, causing Crawford's heart to grow 3 sizes.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Looking back at one of the dumbest trades in NHL history

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at one of the dumbest trades of all time. Indeed, on Nov. 30 2005, the Boston Bruins foolishly gave away the most hyped player since Eric Lindros (at least when Jumbo Joe was drafted) for a buncha schmoes.

"Joe for schmoes" read the headlines.*

So, in commemoration of this wonderful, Hart trophy-sized gift, let's follow the careers of those who were involved in this painfully idiotic trade.

San Jose Sharks get: Big Bird Joe Thornton

That picture really has to hurt Boston Bruins fans. I mean, seriously, look at how happy Joe looks.

Since that trade, Thornton scored 245 pts in 173 regular season GP! Holy shitballs!

And, even though he certainly could grow some playoff balls he does have 20 pts in 22 playoff GP with the Sharks. So, even though his numbers take a bit of a dive when the games start to matter, he has improved...compared to when he was an ineffective Bruin. (Wow, I'm pouring a lot of salt in that wound. Yikes.)

I'm sure one of the three(?) SJ bloggers could wordsmith and pontificate about Big Joe's greatness during his time wearing increasingly ridiculous Sharks jerseys better than I, but he certainly has made a positive impact. He signed a Sidney Crosby-like manageable contract to give the Sharks cap flexibility and will keep them as a contender for at least the next 5 years.

Sure, the Shawwks did make it to the WCF that pre-lockout year without Joe, but few would argue against the point that Big Bird raised the team's ceiling substantially. He also made Jon Cheechoo a multi-millionaire.

Good deal for the Sharks, yes?

The Bruins get:

Brad Stuart

Brad Stuart, at least from my memory, was the "blue chip" player who somehow justified the Bruins to push the red button on the Big Bird firesale. Matt at Battle of Alberta did a good job of capturing the vague talents of Stuart last February.

Since the trade, Stuart has yet to complete a full season with the same squad (though we're pulling for him to stick with the Kings). He was a dreadful -22 in just 48 GP with the Bruins, bounced back with a +12 in 35 GP with the Flames and sits at -12 with the Kings this year.

What does that tell us?

He's a bit player, but who knows, maybe someday he'll have a Van Halen-style eruption. As the #3 pick by the Sharks in '98 he's certainly been a disappointment. Every now and then, early draft picks end up "getting it" later than many hoped. But I doubt the Sharks really miss Stuart.

The Kings are certainly hoping that Jack Johnson follows Rob Blake rather than Stuart's footsteps. (Potty mouth language not included, naturally)

Germany's favorite Marco Sturm

Unlike the underachieving Stuart, Marco stuck with the Bruins. He recently signed a four-year extension with the Bruins and seems to be the only player the team can even point to as being a "success" in the deal.

It's hard to pick on Marco too much, even if he hasn't done as much as some might expect from him. He's a speedy winger but he's somewhat on the smaller side. He's probably going to stay in the point-every-other-game-or-so range for most of his career.

He's doing better so far this year, with a solid 21 pts in 32 GP.

Wayne "not Keith" Primeau

Wayne Primeau was a throw-in to the deal, a mediocre two-way center with a good attitude. A locker room guy. Who is now a decent fit in the Calgary Flames locker room.

So, not even three full seasons later, all the Bruins have to show for is a solid, hard working forward in Sturm. But, hey, it's not like Thornton is one of the top 5 forwards in the NHL, right?


* - Not true.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ducks Gameday—Second Try: Sleek at Honda Center

Colorado Avalanche (19-13-1, t-6th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (16-15-5, 8th in west)

First off, make sure to check out Rudy's gameday post below (stupid NHL, always scheduling BoC games on the same day!). Meanwhile, our good friend and loyal commenter spade-in-victorhell sent me a link to this picture yesterday, with the suggestion that I use it in today's gameday post:

I was researching stuff for as avalanche cartoon and came across this....made me laugh...theres a funny caption that needs to go to this....Cant think of a good one.

Insert your caption here.

I really didn't think I was going to use it, but as I got crammed with day-job-work last night and didn't really have anything else prepared, the idea gained more and more steam. So here it is--feel free to add a caption, hockey-related or not, in the comments.

I haven't really written anything about the game I went to last Friday. You know, the one where I promised a Niedermayer return but instead got treated to the Ducks falling behind 5-0 to the Wild before deciding they were allowed to score goals in the game also. Well, that game certainly sucked, though I was able to do a lot of heavy drinking, plus some Ducks-related Christmas shopping during the 3rd period. I was really proud of one feat--despite not spending all of regulation in my seat, I managed to piss off both the person sitting directly in front of me (for being too negative about the 5-0 deficit) and the person sitting directly behind me (for standing for the last minute of a decided game).

Now I'm a guy who probably should be more apologetic for over-drinking at games, but even so, I refuse to take a lot of crap from Anaheim fans behind me too enamored with their seated view, especially since I'm not a guy who spends much time standing anyway. I usually have one of three comebacks ready for anyone with the nerve to tell me to sit down:
  • "Well your legs don't look broken."

  • "Aw, did you think you were going to the library tonight?"

  • "If you spent a little more money, you could have had these seats in front of me."
Yeah, it's not really that tactful, but when you're properly inebriated, it's fabulous.

Anyway, that's my roundabout way of saying that I'll be back at the Honda Center tonight for some redemption, (fortunately for some whiners) sitting in an entirely different section. Tonight, rather than sitting in the lower bowl, I'll be rubbing elbows with the rich kids in the 300 section. It's a pretty unique perch, actually, as I'll be in front of the Jack Daniels bar in the wheelchair row, wearing the green shirt as usual. Good news: Nobody will be complaining behind me if I stand up and cheer or jeer. Bad news: I'll have to be more careful than usual assuming that people's legs aren't broken. Dilemma: Should I utilize the waiter service or just walk twenty feet to the bar?

Prediction: Since Scott's return, the Ducks have allowed only one goal in two games, and that was on a shorthanded breakaway. It's really amazing--the guy takes six months off hockey and returns to be the best Duck on the ice for two games straight. Ducks 4, Avs 2. Goals by Getzlaf, Pronger, Pahlsson, and Bertuzzi. Drinky Sleek only pisses off one fan, but after a few more drinks all is forgotten.

Go Ducks.

Kings Gameday: Who Would You Disappear?

Los Angeles Kings (worst) @ Detroit Red Wings (best)

4:30 PST, FSN West, TSN

The Kings have a lot of dead weight laying around. They have 2 players in the AHL, Peter Harrold and Ted Purcell, who have clearly shown that they deserve at least a few games in the NHL. Who’s going to make room for them, though? Depending on what kind of team you’re looking for, at least one of the following players is unnecessary. Which one would you disappear?

Kevin Dallman

Pros: Can play offense and defense… still relatively young… available to play the point on the power play… his last name sounds like a really shitty Batman villain.

Cons: Sucks… he’d never actually play defense (we’d just call someone up)… offensive defenseman, which we don't need... this is his only picture available on Yahoo!:

Raitis Ivanans

Pros: Fights… one of the better enforcers at actually playing hockey… has not killed a person yet (that I know of).

Cons: Sucks… can’t fight right now, which makes him worthless… takes bad penalties… always a possibility that he’ll learn how to read and find all the bad things I've written about him.

John Zeiler

Pros: Physical… makes a lot of noise when he plays… looks like he has a stick up his ass when he skates… can draw penalties… he looks like a guy I played college hockey with.

Cons: Sucks… falls all the time… his hits have no affect on the play whatsoever… has a two-way contract so not subject to waivers... kind of a jackass… I was never fond of that guy from college.

Jeff Giuliano

Pros: Good energy… effective on the penalty kill… can also help shut down other scorers… young... his face is quite humorous.

Cons: Sucks… has a two-way contract, so not subject to waivers... so poor at stick handling I wonder how he can piss properly… he made me write that last comment… honestly, look at his face:

Brian Willsie

Pros: Umm... is not a cannibal?

Cons: Sucks… takes bad shots… no special teams ability… his blood burns through steel… not too sure about the cannibal thing.

Scott Thornton

Pros: Physical… good character guy… leader and elder statesman on the team… can fight… looks fetching in bike shorts.

Cons: Sucks… slow… no special teams ability… makes $1.5 mil…might have to get rid of him just to keep Crawford from putting him on a line with Kopitar… seriously, what the fuck… that’s ridiculous.

So, who would you waive? Ultimately, I think you have to go with Brian Willsie. Each of the other guys brings something that another can't: Dallman brings options, Ivanans will eventually instill fear into the hearts of men again, Zeiler instills energy, Giuliano gives Kopitar a rest on the penalty kill, and Scott Thornton provides leadership in the locker room. What does Brian Willsie bring? I honestly don't know. I know it's harsh, but I really don't think he's doing anything that a 22-year-old Ted Purcell couldn't do much better. Sorry, Brian; good luck in Europe next year.


This doesn't have anything to do with anything, but doesn't Joe Thornton's beard make him look like Snarf from Thundercats? Here's Joe (left):

...and here's Snarf:

I don't know, maybe I'm crazy.


Prediction: The Kings are the worst team in the league and they're playing Detroit, the best team in the league. Obviously, Kings win, 7-1. Goals by Brown x2, Frolov x3, O'Sullivan and Handzus. I've never been more confident in a prediction in my life.

Things that make you go hmmm...

"You shouldn't play the way we did in a big game like this," Wilson said. "We had an opportunity to put some distance between ourselves and Anaheim, and we didn't do it. ... It's inexplicable to me not to have the extra passion tonight."

Gee, Ron, kinda been the problem for about two years now. Not saying you're necessarily a bad guy or a bad coach, but you know, you can't fire the whole team...

(Yes, I'm leaning towards the "Fire Ron Wilson" bandwagon. I have no idea who I'd replace him with, though.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Better late than never: IPB Blogging Questionnaire!

(The comment-happy Devils blog Interchangeable Parts, inspired by recent hockey-blog publicity, has put together the following questionnaire about the role of NHL-themed bloggers. I was asked to contribute to this a few weeks ago, but thanks to some quality Niedermayering, I've finally gotten back to it today. If you'd like to see some less tardy responses, you can check them out at IPB's Questionnaire Page.)

IPB Blogging Questionnaire
Earl Sleek, Grade 8

1. What was your motivation for starting blogging? Has that changed at all in the time you’ve been blogging?
My main motivation to start blogging about the Ducks was that up to that point, it seemed that nobody on the internet was doing so. I really started with two main objectives: (1) to promote the notion that there were indeed knowledgeable Ducks fans in southern California (even fans who had never played hockey before), and (2) to further promote the legitimacy of independent blogging, both in terms of analysis but also in terms of a fan voice—an alternative from what the mainstream media provides. I’m not sure that these loose goals have changed very much in the year-and-a-half that I’ve been at it, though now that the Ducks are cup champions I’m discovering new challenges, mostly around my level of team expectation.

2. What do you think your blog contributes to the hockey conversation?
I love BoC mostly for its regular inconsistency, even among just my own posts. On any given day, it’s tough to know what you’ll find on the blog—a silly cartoon, a whiny rant, a number-driven analytical piece, or just a personal recollection. There’s plenty of room to talk serious about the California teams or the league, and there’s plenty of leeway to stray from that as well. The overall multi-author, multi-team format works really well for the blog also—I think it does a great job in demonstrating that even though we’re individuals who root for different teams and respond to hockey in different ways, there’s really more that’s common among hockey fans, especially in a hockey wasteland like California, than there is that’s different. The blog is extremely non-profit, too, which I enjoy because (a) BoC will never be meaningfully sued, and (b) it demonstrates pretty well our sick devotion to the sport.

3. What do you want to get out of the blogs you read?
As silly as our blog gets, I’m a numbers guy by nature, and I really enjoy learning about the dynamics of hockey through statistical analysis. Oftentimes player contribution is inferred by very basic statistics—goals and assists, or shots and saves—but there’s plenty more to think about when it comes to determining player value. Which linemates does a player play with? Which opponents does he regularly go up against? What sort of special-teams assignments does he cover, and how do his minutes contribute to overall team success? There are plenty of valid and explorable data questions that frankly don’t get much media attention, but they are really what drew me to hockey blogging in the first place, mostly in the Oiler-blog-arena with mc79hockey.com and Irreverent Oil Fans, among others.

Of course, I do try to keep abreast with hockey news developments and league issues through sites like James Mirtle’s, Paul Kukla’s, and Tom Benjamin’s. And of course I still do love the silly side of hockey writing—Battle of Alberta and Covered in Oil are some of my early influences there.

Overall I don’t have huge criteria on what blogs should provide—whether it’s analysis, information, reaction, or cynicism, though, it should reflect a fan’s perspective. That’s the angle I relate with the best.

4. What determines which blogs you read and which ones you don’t?
Sorry, east-coasters, but being a Ducks fan I am heavily biased towards blogs that cover western conference teams, as they are the opponents that are competing on the same standings board as the BoC squads. Writing style is fairly important, as I’ll read well-written blogs for teams that I’m not even that interested in.

5. How important is the issue of gaining press access to you as a blogger?
I’d accept a press pass to figure out what it really meant, but I really don’t know if I’d be a guy to use it regularly—I don’t know if it contributes very much to our fan perspective, and also I’m not sure I have a lot to ask players (I have very little tolerance for generic cliché answers). Personally, I have no desire to duplicate the mainstream media’s functions; their reporting is usually sufficient for me. As I’ve said in the past, one of our strengths at BoC is remembering what side of the glass we sit on.

On the other hand, I would love to have several drinks with Brian Burke, if given the opportunity. He’s both a great hockey mind an an excellent quote, and I’d much rather experience something like that than listen to an out-of-breath player tell me how many minutes a team should stick to a system.

6. To what extent do you feel accountable for the content of your blog? How concerned do you think readers should feel about the authority and accountability of your blog?
Well, first off, BoC has never been in the business of “breaking news”, so in terms of reporting, we’ll generally throw a link to an actual news source. As for our other content, generally our best source of accountability is in our comments section—we have a pretty broad and knowledgeable readership that has shown little hesitance to point out what aspects we may have omitted or overlooked, and our e-mail contacts are readily available on the blog.

Most of our writers use ghost names on the blog, primarily so that we can keep our day jobs. While that may cause some accountability concerns, I don’t see it as a huge problem. While it may not say “Earl Sleek” on my birth certificate, there’s a lot more hockey credibility built up over the past year-and-a-half under that name than under my birthname.

7. How concerned are you about the authority and accountability of the blogs you read? Do you find it difficult to judge the authority and accountability of the blogs you read?
It depends on the purpose of the blog I’m reading. If someone is in the business of breaking news or spreading rumors, that’s probably the only time I will really consider accountability, and that accountability is developed by longevity and consistency.

8. What value, if any, do you think blogging brings to the NHL?
First of all, it provides an avenue for hockey fans to express their reactions to their teams, which can provide a much more relatable experience than what traditional media can offer. It allows for tough questions to be asked and answered, or unique observations to be made, and with linking these thoughts can be easily shared and developed on other blogs.

The main thing that has struck me about hockey blogging, though, is that it helps reinforce the idea that hockey fans are more alike than unalike; I may hate the hell out of some rival team, but the blogging experience reminds me that even though me and rival fans each come with a different set of biases, I still have more in common with them than I do with a neighborhood Laker fan.

All in all, blogging is a great way to put interesting perspectives into a useful medium where intelligent and creative minds can develop a conversation of sorts. It provides passionate fans of the NHL a perspective they can relate (or disagree) with, and if nothing else, serves as a testament to how addictingly fascinating NHL hockey can be.

(So those are my answers. If anyone has anything they'd like to add or subtract, feel free to keep me accountable in the comments. If any local cup-winning GMs want to experience a drinking-themed interview, contact me and I'll clear off my schedule.)

BoC Gameday—Ducks invest in the greybeard market

Anaheim Ducks (15-15-5, 8th in west) at San Jose Sharks (18-10-4, t-2nd in west)

OK, OK, so Andy McDonald gets traded to the St. Louis Blues for Doug "don't call me Douglas" Weight and some change. First off, this was fairly expected; I had Andy Mac as my third-most likely player to be Niedermoved.

From my perspective, the reaction to the trade return has been pretty mixed. I know one Ducks fan who claims he's swearing off the team for trading away his favorite player, especially right after he set the franchise ironman streak. To him, trading an All-Star center for a former star is a ripoff. Also I got a call from my Kings buddy, who couldn't believe Burke was able to get a land a guy like Weight while keeping Sneaky Schneider.

Of course, it's sort of a mistake to look at this just as a McDonald-for-Weight trade, as context is huge for this deal. In return for trading away Andy Mac, the Ducks get Doug Weight, the right to play Scott Niedermayer, the right to keep Mathieu Schneider, and the possibility to sign Teemu Selanne. Even if DeadWeight turns out to be a bust, there's still a lot of trade return there.

Niedermayer and McDonald pose with the Cup.

One thing this trade does not do for the Ducks, if my math is right, is enable them to extend Corey Perry's contract before next summer. The Ducks needed some $900 k of tag space to fit Scott into the lineup and unloaded McDonald's $3.33 M; that only allows for a $2.4 M or so in leeway, not enough to pay a guy who's top-10 in the league in goals. I don't know if waiting for the summer for a Perry extension is that bad--he'd be plenty expensive to re-sign right now with his current numbers anyway.

I'll do a proper Andy Mac send-off-post in the near-future; for now, here's the resulting lineup:
C.Kunitz - R.Getzlaf - C.Perry
T.Bertuzzi - D.Weight - B.Ryan
T.Moen - S.Pahlsson - R.Niedermayer
B.May - T.Marchant - G.Parros

S.Niedermayer - F.Beauchemin
C.Pronger - S.O'Donnell
M.Schneider - S.Hnidy


I'll tell you what--that blueline is stunning, though it's certainly still penetrable. I had to laugh once at the plight of Doug Weight in his debut; you get traded to a cup champ only to look around and see Bertuzzi, Ryan, Schneider, and Hnidy as your linemates, and realize that you are the most defensively-responsible player on the ice.

Still, I think adding Niedermayer and Weight instantly brings two things to this team. For one, neither of them is a thug or a fighter, which is a pretty needed counterbalance for a Ducks lineup that has plenty of hot heads already. Secondly, though, is puck delivery; both are guys gifted at giving linemates opportunities to score.

The Ducks have mostly managed to stay afloat in the standings, not so much through their own success, but because the west remained so congested; only Detroit for a while was pulling away. Recently, the gap has widened a bit, though, and the Ducks could really use a good stretch of games to get back into the hunt.

It's time for the Ducks to find another set of legs.

Prediction: Ducks 4, Sharks 2. Goals by Kunitz, O'Donnell, Pahlsson, and clean-cut Parros.

Go Ducks.

[Update from PJ] I ran the stats on all of the Sharks-Kings-Ducks matchups so far this season yesterday on Sharkspage. Here are the latest intra-state numbers through Sunday:

- Anaheim Ducks 6-1-1, 8GP
- Los Angeles Kings 4-4-1, 9GP
- San Jose Sharks 2-2-3, 7GP

- Cammalleri, D. Brown, Getzlaf 5
- Thornton, Perry, Kunitz 4
- Mitchell, Kopitar 3

- Cammalleri 10
- D. Brown, Kopitar 8
- Frolov, Getzlaf, Perry 7
- J. Thornton, Kunitz, McDonald 6
- Beauchemin, Visnovsky, Preissing 5
- Roenick, Pronger, Armstrong, O'Sullivan 4

- J.S. Giguere 5
- E. Nabokov 2
- J. LaBarbera 2
- Aubin, Bernier, Hiller 1

- Dustin Brown 31
- Ryan Getzlaf 19
- Patrick O'Sullivan 17
- John Zeiler 16
- J. Johnson, K. McLaren 15
- T. Mitchell, T. Moen, C. Kunitz 14
- M. Grier, C. Perry 13

- Parros, S. Thornton, Handzus, Pronger 1

- Brian Burke (+Weight, +Niedermayer, -McDonald, -Bryzgalov)
- Doug Wilson (+Ozolinsh, +Setoguchi)
- Dean Lombardi (+Klemm, +no re-entry waiver for LaBarbera, -Cloutier)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Catching up...a bit

Well, it's been a long, long LONG time since I've written about hockey, the Stars and the BoC. I've been in DC for months, with very little exposure to hockey (my housemates watched plenty of Versus, unfortunately it was of the rodeo and low budget UFC-ish league variety).

You'd think I would have been able to soak in all things Ovechkin, but I never had a chance to go to a game and only watched a few on TV. My, mostly unfair, thoughts about the Caps can be summarized real quick, as I know BoCers care little of the DC puckers:

1. Maybe this is due to my Crosby fawning, but although I endorse Alex O's talent, I wonder if he's not just a bulked up Pavel Bure. Yes, he makes my brain explode at times with his goal scoring ability. But I feel like he's one of those NBA shoot-first point guards at times: just as likely to shoot his team in the foot and turn over the ball/puck over badly as he is likely to score a breathtaking highlight reel goal.

I don't know if he's really going to be a winner and I don't know if he makes his teammates much better. He almost reminds of Washington's other fawned over, flawed superstar Gilbert Arenas.

2. That Bakstrom kid is really good.

3. When it comes to disappointment, V. Kozlov is like saying "Bertuzzi" in Russian.

4. No one in Washington DC seems to care about any of this. And the ones who do happen to make up its jawdropping blogosphere, most notably Eric McErlain. If not for Ovie, they wouldn't deserve so many bloggers.

Anyway, a lot of big developments have passed me by for the most part. I still need to do a double take whenever I watch a Stars' road game, with those weird Reebok demons (pictured above)

Ex-GM Doug Armstrong is replaced by a duo that includes...Bret Hull? Strange.

The Stars remain near the top of the Pacific. I'm starting to associate them with other teams who are experts at merely entering the playoffs: the pre-lockout St. Louis Blues, the long ago KC Chiefs. Might as well call them the Dallas Schottenheimers.

Anyway, I'll be around more frequently (though I still lack a stable Internet relationship) to throw some Stars and general NHL-related thoughts in when I can.

Sticking to My Comfort Zone

Chris Pronger isn't the only Californian defenseman with a blog. Go, Jaroslav:

"Our coach in Los Angeles, Marc Crawford, has paired [Jack Johnson and Modry] up together this season and I try to give Jack a pointer or two here and there of what I’ve learned over the years."

If Jack falls down on a 2-on-1 tonight, now we know why.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Open Letter to Canada

(Today's regularly scheduled gameday will be not be seen today because I felt like writing this instead. All I'll say about tonight's game is that if Ryan Smyth leaves California with his bones intact, I'll be very disappointed.)

Dear Canada,

Hey, what’s up, ya hosers? (Sorry, I bet you’re really tired of that. By the way, how do you guys say “Behoove?” I bet it’s hilarious.) I hope you’re not too cold up there in the Great White North, and hopefully you were able to get all that snow out of the way. It’s been cold here in L.A. too; yesterday it was almost 40 degrees! Anyway, I think we have to have a little talk. You see, I’m a hockey fan here in L.A. (I know, they exist? Good joke, really, I can’t hear it enough) and I’m starting wonder about your commitment to hockey. I’m not saying you’re not good fans, you guys are passionate and that’s great, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe you’re hurting the sport by loving it too much.

I think what I’m trying to say is that you guys are a more little focused on making sure hockey is still a “Canadian” sport than worrying about its health overall. Read this thread or this article and tell me that Canadians really seem concerned with growing the sport. You guys are acting like that one Biblical dude who would rather split the calf in half than let someone else have it. (What was his name… Jesus?) Look, if Nashville eventually has to move, fine, I get the economics of the situation… but you guys seem to be reveling in their failure, like it proves your hockey superiority or something. It’s not good for the sport if Nashville moves, no more than it was when Winnipeg and Quebec moved. The future of the game rests with the teams in the Southern part of the United States; if they fail, the league fails. I’m not sure you guys realize that.

Another thing that’s been bothering me: you guys criticize the NHL's position in the American sports scene a lot. Actually, there are 2 groups of people that constantly mock the NHL: idiot sports "personalities" like Jim Rome and Canadians. The first I can understand: radio talk show hosts are lower than Ducks fans. But the second? I think there’s something deeper here. I get the impression that you guys don’t really want hockey to succeed in the United States. You want to keep hockey to yourself, and you justify it by saying, “Well, nobody watches hockey in the United States, they don’t even want the game.” I think I understand why, too; I’m not Canadian, so I can’t really pretend to know the national psyche, but I think you guys might be a little worried about being irrelevant. Hockey is what makes Canada unique on the global scene, and if you lose that then the only thing you’ll have left are moose and flannel. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Is that accurate?

You guys have to understand, though, that someone isn’t going to watch a sport if they think they don’t think it’s important. It’s like… you guys ever get the show Firefly? It was on a while ago, it was created by the guy who did Buffy I think. Anyway, it had a loyal fanbase that constantly talked about how great the show was and bombarded magazines with letters any time they mentioned it. What happened was, new people didn’t watch the show because they didn’t feel like they knew it enough to engage with it like the older fans. The result? The show got cancelled. I’m not saying hockey’s going to get cancelled or anything, but it’s running the risk of being irrelevant. Basically, these constant articles questioning hockey’s relevance are fulfilling their own prophecy by pushing away people that might otherwise be attracted to hockey. You keep trying to gauge your importance in hockey, and you’re pushing away potential fans because of it. You’re holding the game so close to your chest that you’re suffocating it.

I’m sorry if this is kind of rambling, but I’m not really trying to make a point, just trying to get a dialogue started. I’m still not quite sure what I think myself, but I think what I’m trying to say is this: you don’t own hockey anymore. I know you created it, and hey, I’m very glad you did, I love the sport. But it’s not yours anymore. I know you hate Gary Bettman because he’s American and he doesn’t understand the history of the game or whatever, but trying to expand hockey in America is a good idea. Moving teams to Hamilton is a step backwards for the league because those people are going to watch hockey whether they have a team or not. A team moving from Nashville or Pittsburgh or Anaheim (fingers crossed) will completely destroy hockey in that area.

If you think about it in terms of making the sport better, there’s a good chance the greatest hockey player in the world has never laced up a pair of skates because he decided to play basketball or baseball or football or soccer instead. Think about it like this: California leads the NFL, MLB, and the NBA in terms of athletes currently playing the sport. In contrast, there have been 18 NHL players in the history of the sport from California. (I’m not sure if that’s current.) In the last draft, a defenseman named Jonathon Blum was drafted by the Nashville Predators. He was the first Californian to be drafted in the 1st round in the history of the NHL. This isn’t a fluke; this is the future of hockey. The choice is yours: do you want to keep hockey and watch it sink into an abyss shared by lacrosse, soccer, and paintball, or are you willing to let it go and watch it succeed? It’s up to you.


Rudy Kelly

Can Someone Explain to Me...

...what this quote by Marc Crawford from over at Inside the Kings means?

"Right now we are not at the top of our game in that one crucial category, which is most crucial of all -- difference making and wanting make difference."

What? What the hell does that mean? I like thinking that Crawford screamed at the guys after the game because they didn't "make difference" and everyone looked around confused. I don't even know what he's trying to say. "Difference making and wanting make difference." Are we sure this wasn't Lubo instead of Crawford?

I'm baffled.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kings Gameday: So-Cal Pity Party

Los Angeles Kings (12-18-2, ahhh!) vs. Minnesota Wild (17-12-2, 5th in West)

10:30 PST, FSN West

The Wild just finished taking the Anaheim Ducks out to the woodshed last night, and this does not leave me confident going into tonight's game. Both the Kings and the Ducks have been disappointing so far this season; the Ducks were expected to compete for the division, while the Kings were just expected to compete. I've been lying around all mopey for the past few days because I actually thought the Kings were going to make major strides this year. I don't know why, I guess I always start to think that around September and slowly build them up all the way into October. When you think back to the team we had most of last year, though, is Michal Handzus that much of an upgrade over Craig Conroy? Is Brad Stuart that much better than Mattias Norstrom or Brent Sopel? Is Kyle Calder really better than Sean Avery? (Yeah, actually.)

Thanks, T, I really appreciate it.

If you look at it, we're basically the same team except we got full seasons out of Mike Cammalleri and Alex Frolov. You want to know something really depressing? Last year we tallied 68 points in 82 games; this year, we're on pace for 66. If you had told me we were going to be better this year, I would have agreed with you. If you had told me we were going to be the same, I would have been angry and argumentative. But worse? I wouldn't have even known how to handle that. I still don't know how to handle that.

There's still hope though. Both the Kings and the Ducks look to be teams that will do better in the 2nd half of the season than they did in the 1st: the Ducks because of Niedermayer, the Kings because they should finally get some sort of familiarity with one another. Still, right now things aren't going well, so feel free to complain about something involved with your team in the comments. (No Sharks fans. You're not allowed to complain when you're in 1st place.)

Prediction: Kings win, 4-3. Patrick O'Sullivan reminds us why we traded for him with 2 goals, while Frolov helps with 2 more. (I know, I don't know why I do this to myself either.)

Okay Sharks fans, I guess you can complain now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Weight For Scott is Over? Andy Mac to Blues

(See what I did there? The "Weight?" GET IT???)

I guess Earl is gone for the weekend, so I thought I'd go ahead and put this up for you guys to talk about: Andy McDonald has supposedly been traded to the Blues for Doug Weight.

This frees up room for Scott Niedermayer to come back, as Weight's contract is up after this year. Andy never could really get it going this season without Teemu Selanne; he had 16 points in 33 games this year. Doug Weight gives the Ducks another big, slow, plodding forward, which I guess they're hoping they can form into some sort of super-forward. Whatever, neither guy is as important as the person they're making room for.

So, Ducks fans, any memories of Andy McDonald that you want to talk about? I always kinda liked him because he went from being undrafted to being a star. Who's going center the 2nd line now?

Update: Confirmed by TSN, whose title was "Ducks Put on Weight." I like my title more.

Ducks Gameday—The long-awaited appearance of Sleek (oh, and Scott I guess too)

Minnesota Wild (16-12-2, t-6th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (15-14-4, t-6th in west)

Another guest-art submission by spade-in-victorhell

Lots to cover today, but let's start with the important shit: I'll be in attendance at the old Ponda Center tonight on a pal's ticket--224, row J, green shirt. First one to buy me a beer wins a friend for life.

Maybe just as importantly for the Ducks' success, though, will be the return of Scott Niedermayer. I can hear the naysayers now, "But Sleek, what about the tag issue? Nobody's been traded to create next-year-salary-space for a cap-that-has-yet-to-be-set through a rule-that's-just-silly-but-in-the-way-nonetheless."

Yeah, yeah. But I'm trusting Burke on this one; he'll put a bullet in some poor guy's head if it will make the Niedermagic happen tonight. I even got a karmic sign--the Ducks put 41 different cup pictures on their season-ticket pack, and this was the picture used for tonight's game ticket:

Mama Niedermayer and her two bearded sons

It's a conspiracy I tell you! The team was in on this pseudo-retirement all along! (e1)

Anyway, outside of the numbers, what does Scott Niedermayer really mean for a team that's had a long run of mediocrity? Well, let me throw the calculator away, take a deep drink, and tell you.

The Oiler guys at IOF in particular have me convinced that hockey is a forward-driven sport; that they are the ones that largely drive scoring events, and that assuming goaltenders and coaching are generally competitive the team with the better set of forwards will win more often than not. I think this holds true for a lot of teams, but Anaheim's in a strange boat.

Take our top line the last two years, for example. You've got Teemu Selanne, a guy who during the lockout was considered washed up in this league. Then there's Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz, two guys who somehow never got drafted nor really were considered top-line material. Did they all of a sudden turn really good on their own, or were they legitimized on the ice by a blue-line difference maker?

The rest of the forwards last year also had their drawbacks; on the second line were three young kids Getzlaf, Perry, and another undrafted Penner. On the stopper line was a legitimate stopper in Pahlsson carrying around a Chicago-throwaway in Travis Moen and a career-disappointment named Rob Niedermayer. Todd Marchant and Brad May were also throwaways, yet somehow they all combined for a cup-winning squad. What gives? Why did this ragtag set of forwards dominate the regular season and playoffs?

The answer, in my mind, is the ability for Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger to elevate everyone's results, including even their own defense partners -- Frenchie Beauchemin and Sean O'Donnell, two guys other franchises didn't seem to want also. Largely I think this stems from each Norris guy's ability to singlehandedly transition from defense to offense; the forwards benefit from this support immensely. This season without Scott, Pronger has still demonstrated this ability, but it's largely in connection with the Pahlsson line defensive minutes; the top two lines haven't gotten any Norris benefit and thus they've had trouble outscoring their opposition like last year's top lines.

So my hockey philosophy, if you will, is that generally, a successful team gets built around its forward lines (and obviously goaltending). However, an alternative path to success can be achieved with the right kind of defensemen, provided they are the quality of player that can make their linemates better. I don't know if there are that many of those types of defensemen in this league, so to have two of them on one roster is certainly a rarity, one that I plan on enjoying for the rest of the year, at least.

We'll see whether Scott really does play tonight or how long it takes for this double-Norris effect to kick in; feel free to offer your Niedertheories on how well this team will finish the year.

Scott's at least done a little heavy lifting this summer.

Interesting fact: The Ducks have as many points through 33 games as they did to start 05-06 (14-13-6). That Mighty Ducks team finished the rest of the season going 29-14-6 to earn the 6th seed, which shockingly earned them home ice in two rounds of the playoffs. This year the playoff-requirement is probably lower, but I'd sure like to see that kind of improvement.

Prediction: Ducks 5, Wilds 2. Goals by Sutherby, Kunitz, Bertuzzi, Pahlsson, and ______ Niedermayer. I'll fill in that blank later. Nobody buys me a beer, but I have a great time nevertheless.

p.s. I probably won't be doing anything for Sunday's Sharks contest, as I'll be offline all weekend. The Sharks are playing tremendous hockey lately, but I'll have a few more opportunities next week to talk about that.

Go Ducks.