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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

One trade-deadline transaction that went under the radar

In fact, this acquisition happened so late in the day that NHL still has not been notified:

Battle of California trades a conditional pick for Kings blogger Rudy Kelly.
That’s right, we’re trading away future assets for immediate gain, based on RK’s tryout post and the one below, which addresses GM Dean Lombardi and the future outlook for the Kings. (note that it was written before Jason Ward and Mattias Norstrom were moved yesterday).

There will be a little legwork getting RK on-board and posting, but hopefully this will be the last time I post on his behalf. Any way, read on for more Kings thoughts, and feel free to welcome Rudy Kelly aboard.

Dean Lombardi:

A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma Surrounded By Terrible Hockey

When the Kings hired Dean Lombardi, I was pretty stoked. I read an article about him that discussed his love for stats and his close relationship with Billy Beane, the GM for the Oakland Athletics and a revolutionary in the baseball world. I figured that Lombardi would be able to find the deficiencies in the scouting of hockey players and quickly get the Kings back on top; obviously, that hasn’t happened. Lombardi’s moves have been confusing (or retarded, depending on your view), but there are three different theories that I think can explain Lombardi’s mindset. But first, a few things to keep in mind:

  1. I am not factoring in Lombardi’s reasoning to the newspapers. We all know how much GM’s lie and I refuse to believe that Lombardi was telling the truth when he said that Jason Ward “… obviously is an NHL player.” I will be using what he said at events with season ticket holders as clues to his real intentions, and I’ll try to point out when I do so.

  2. I am mostly focusing on the moves made at the beginning of the year, since those had the most bearing on the Kings’ season.

  3. I’m not very bright, so feel free to point out all the mistakes I made.
Theory 1: He’s an idiot. Lombardi’s stated goal at the beginning of the year was to keep the Kings competitive while building on the fly, so he tried to shore up the defense by signing Rob Blake and then trading for Dan Cloutier, thinking that he’d be something other than mind-blowingly awful. The trade of Pavol Demitra was acceptable because Patrick O’Sullivan would do a good job of filling the void.

Why it’s Plausible: If Lombardi didn’t think that Blake was capable of being a great defenseman, he wouldn’t have given him 6 million dollars a year. The same holds true for Cloutier; Lombardi wouldn’t have given up a 2nd-round draft pick if he didn’t think that Cloutier could hold down the fort. Obviously, these are the actions of an idiot.

Why it’s Implausible: This theory doesn’t really hold for me because I just can’t believe that someone would be stupid enough to look at this team at the beginning of the year and think it was playoff-caliber. The trade of Demitra kind of puts a hole in this one too. You wouldn’t trade your best offensive player if you really wanted to be good. Also, he wouldn’t have traded a promising young defenseman for an even more promising (promisinger?) defenseman who wouldn’t even play this year if his goal was to win this year or the next.

Theory 2: He’s an evil mastermind. When Lombardi said that he presented a plan that called for a complete overhaul and owner Phil Anschutz rejected it, he was lying; the plan all along was to have this team be terrible but Lombardi lied to keep the season ticket holders happy.

Why it’s Plausible: The trades for O’Sullivan and Jack Johnson help this theory. Why would Lombardi trade for two players who wouldn’t have a big impact for at least two years if he didn’t want to be terrible this year? He signed a bunch of mediocre veterans to short deals to give the appearance of depth when he knew that they wouldn’t have an impact in the long run. Plus, isn’t it more comfortable to believe that Lombardi knew Cloutier would be as bad as he was?

Why it’s Implausible: I don’t like this theory because it implies some sort of wide-ranging conspiracy, and I generally don’t take to conspiracy theories. (Except for the one about how Rod Brind'amour is actually Frankenstein. I mean, Jesus, look at his face!) Plus, when has Anschutz ever shown a willingness to spend money on anything, let alone on something that would ultimately end with the Kings being this bad?

Theory 3: Lombardi tried to rebuild while also keeping the team competitive, but failed. The signing of veterans in the off-season would keep the team afloat while the younger players got their feet wet. Cloutier would help the team stay competitive and possibly sneak the team into the playoffs. The veteran-laden defense would make up for the young offense.

Why it’s Plausible: A lot of this depends on what you think of Dan Cloutier. His performance has been hilarious (at least to my Duck-supporting roommate), but you can’t let that color pre-season expectations. Lombardi traded for Cloutier because he didn’t think that Garon and LaBarbera could be a consistent goaltending duo. Cloutier wouldn’t remind Kings fans of Rogie Vachon, but he would be consistent enough to win a few games until recent draftee Jonathan Bernier would be ready to take over the reigns. This obviously didn’t work out, but the theory still seems plausible. (To be fair, Cloutier was consistent; he was just consistently awful.)

Why it’s Implausible: This theory can be hard to accept because the opposite of what was intended occurred. The offense has been good this year (though hurt by a lack of depth) while the defense has been poor. There have been breakout seasons by Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov, and Mike Cammalleri, while Rob Blake, Mattias Norstrom, and Aaron Miller have looked cool (sweet goatee, Blake!), but have played pretty terribly. This can make people forget that our offense was supposed to be the weaker aspect of the team as the season opened. Remember that at the beginning of this season Kopitar was surrounded by doubt because no one knew where the hell Slovenia was, Frolov was still derided as inconsistent, and Cammalleri could never be a good player because he looks like he’s 10 years old.

When Lombardi said that his goal was to rebuild on the fly, I think he was being somewhat dishonest (though not to the extent that I’d say he was lying). I don’t think the goal was to make the playoffs this year, and I’m fine with that. At the same time, I don’t think he wanted to be in the hunt for the top pick in the draft for publicity reasons. The terrible goaltending severely hurt Lombardi’s plans and he has been attempting to come up with some sort of compromise ever since.

It’s important to remember that a GM can’t be expected to have a plan and completely stick to it. Lombardi expected to rebuild, but he tried to get Zdeno Chara and Patrik Elias when he could because they were good players who were available. He has shown a willingness to divert from a plan if it means that the Kings can ultimately benefit. (I think the Jack Johnson deal was a reflection of this.) This is good, because his plan this year seems to have not worked out. His willingness to change and adapt gives me confidence in Lombardi, even if this season has been a disappointment in some ways.

That contract extension to Cloutier, though… never mind, this guy’s an idiot.

Sitting still at the trade deadline

I won’t lie to you, I’m surprised as hell that the biggest move B. Burke pulled off yesterday was Brad May, who reportedly offered an attractive $100 bounty to the GM who could trade him to a playoff-qualifying team. That is not to say that Burke didn't warn us fans that there might not be any moves, but really, Burke lies to us all the time.

I guess all this e2 talk got me fantasizing a little bit, though. I mean, it’s tough not to stagger a bit as players like Forsberg, Smyth, Tkachuk, Guerin, Bertuzzi, etc., all get moved to other playoff-hopeful teams, while Anaheim gets a mention as possible destinations for all of them. But still, I gotta give some props to Burke for sticking to his guns—given the contracts of Niedermayer and Pronger, and the emergence of the kids, this is not a one-time shot-at-the-cup, no matter the unused cap space this year.

It’s kind of amazing, but for a guy who talks a lot about the trade market, Burke has actually touched the roster very little in the past year—observe the resulting lineups from last year’s trade deadline to this year’s (names in red represent players moved or acquired). Other than the Pronger trade (incidentally, the price paid for 4 years of Pronger was not dissimilar to the price for 40 days of Forsberg / Smyth / Tkachuk), the roster is fairly untouched.

My point, I suppose, is this: If I believed in last year’s squad's postseason chances, I certainly think this year’s squad is improved from that point, both by a year’s experience and by the addition of Pronger. Burke’s on-ice product is still strong, and short-term additions didn’t cost us the farm.

I can’t help but wonder, though, at what point Burke decided not to make a big splash at the deadline. Is he conniving enough to continue to act as a potential trade competitor, just to drive up demand and prices for other teams’ rental acquisitions? I wouldn’t put it past the guy.

I'm happy enough with consistency and long-term building; let's show these quick-fix teams how it's done.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

BoC transaction tracker

Actually, not just on the deadline, but here’s a recap of 2007 trade activity from all three BoC Teams (to be updated throughout the day). I’m only showing transactions that affect the big-league rosters. Post your thoughts in the comments:

Anaheim Ducks:

  • Jan. 3 trade a 3rd round pick to Florida for D Ric Jackman
  • Feb. 24 trade D Shane O’Brien and a 3rd round pick to Tampa Bay for G Gerald Coleman and a 1st round pick
  • Feb. 27 trade G Michael Wall to Colorado for F Brad May

Los Angeles Kings
  • Jan. 18 claim G Sean Burke off waivers from Tampa Bay
  • Jan. 29 trade F Craig Conroy to Calgary for F Jamie Lundmark, a 2nd round pick, and a 4th round pick
  • Feb. 5 trade F Sean Avery and F John Seymour to NY Rangers for F Jason Ward, F Marc-Andre Cliche, and F Jan Marek
  • Feb. 24 trade D Brent Sopel to Vancouver for a conditional 2nd round pick and a conditional 4th round pick
  • Feb. 27 trade D Mattias Norstrom, F Konstantin Pushkarev, and a 3rd and 4th round pick to Dallas for D Jaroslav Modry, D Johan Fransson, and a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick
  • Feb. 27 trade F Jason Ward to Tampa Bay for a 5th round pick
  • Feb. 27 trade a conditional 5th round pick to Washington for D Jamie Heward

San Jose Sharks
  • Feb. 25 trade D Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick to Montreal for D Craig Rivet and a 5th round pick
  • Feb. 27 trade F Ville Nieminen, F Jay Barriball and a 1st round pick to St. Louis for F Bill Guerin
  • Feb. 27 trade F Scott Parker to Colorado for a 6th round pick
  • Feb. 27 trade G Nolan Schaefer to Pittsburgh for a 7th round pick

Boom goes the dynamite

A few notes and photos from the Ducks 3-2 win over San Jose last night are available here. A few notes from the trade deadline are available here. The final two meetings are both in Anaheim, March 2nd and the Sleek Bowl game on April 4th.

Monday, February 26, 2007

BoC Gameday—Ducks trade away a real S.O.B.

Anaheim Ducks (36-17-10, 3rd in west) at San Jose Sharks (38-23-1, t-4th in west)

(Author’s note: Sorry this post is so hasty, but I’ve got very little intuition about trade scenarios Anaheim is involved in or what sort of game the Ducks will be bringing tonight.)

Well, the Ducks and Sharks play tonight’s late game on Versus, and it really has caused some emergency prioritization in the Sleek household, as now there are three simultaneous programs that are regular DVR-recordings: Ducks hockey, Heroes, and 24. Sorry to say, Jack Bauer, you’ll have to catch those terrorists without me this time.

Both the Ducks and Sharks have made trades this past week, but it’s a little tough to comment on them until the other shoe does or does not drop. I’ll leave the Rivet-for-Curious-Gorges trade for the Shark guys to discuss, but as for Anaheim, here’s what I keep referring to as “Deal 1A”—Ducks trade D Shane “S.O.B.” O’Brien and a 3rd round pick to Tampa Bay for G Gerald “Gary” Coleman and a 1st round pick. O'Brien is a mildly effective player, and I’ll throw some proper commentary on this if and when we see a “Deal 1B”.

As for the game, Sharks are back from a season-high 8-game road trip where they managed to go 4-4 despite being outscored 19-29. The Ducks, meanwhile, have been mostly reliant on their division-heavy schedule to stay atop the Pacific. Ducks since Christmas:

vs. Pacific opponents: 7-3-1, 3.2 GF – 2.5 GA
vs. non-Pacific opponents: 2-9-3, 2.2 GF – 3.4 GA

Prediction: Ducks 4, Sharks 2. Selanne, Penner, Pahlsson, and I’ll leave one open in case there’s a “Player 1B”.

p.s. Check out BTJ’s Behind the Blog this week, featuring Mike Chen, who apparently is brimming with postseason confidence (hee hee, about the Ducks, that is).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Trading Rob Blake

"Rob Blake: For some reason Blake's name popped up this week in the rumor mill, shipping him to the San Jose Sharks. Don't bet on that happening. Kings GM Dean Lombardi apparently wants to keep Blake around to tutor promising young defenseman Jack Johnson."

-Spector at FOXsports.com
Rob Blake, bad team or not, has had a horrendous season. He managed 3 points in his last 10 games. His plus/minus is an atrocious -25. Even if his numbers improve, it is obvious that his best days are behind him and that his skills will only decline from here.

I have to ask: is a $6 million "tutor" really worth it? Granted, Spector plainly stated that the Blake rumor mainly came out of nowhere, especially since his supposed destination would be San Jose. Blake in those awful uniforms certainly would be a terrifying sight on a couple levels (not to say he looks great in our duds, to be honest), but what would the Sharks hypothetically give up for Blake?

Either way, I'm not sweating it too much.

If Blake stays and the Kings can re-sign Lubomir Visnovsky and scuttle Jack Johnson out of Michigan, something nice might be developing in front of our woeful goaltenders. And better yet, he only has one year left on his contract.

If Blake is traded, the Kings might get a minor-to-quality addition(assuming it's a 1st round pick in the 20s or a prospect) and $6 million to throw at someone who can "tutor" by feeding the puck to Frolov, Kopitar and Co. (say, a Chris Drury, Scott Gomez or someone of that ilk).

Hey, when you're losing like the Kings are, it's nice to have a win-win situation every now and then, right?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ducks Gameday—will the Stars try to make one goal stand up again?

Anaheim Ducks (35-16-10, 3rd in west) at Dallas Stars (35-21-3, t-6th in west)

A quick glance at the (playoff-relevant) Pacific division race:

Anaheim, 61 GP, 35-16-10, 80 points
San Jose, 61 GP, 38-22-1, 77 points
Dallas, 59 GP, 35-21-3, 73 points
You gotta figure that somebody somewhere is grumbling that the Ducks, even though they have the fewest wins-per-games-played of this trio, still hold a 1 ½ game lead on the Sharks and the Stars, going by BoA’s baseball-style standings. Again, yay loser points! Including tonight, by the way, the Ducks and Stars have 3 games remaining (2 in Dallas), the Ducks and Sharks have 3 games left (2 in Anaheim), and the Sharks and Stars have 1 game left in Dallas.

During the past offseason, I wrote a pretty fun post about the Pacific Division: Circle of Life, wherein there was a circular logic about who was dominating whom in the Pacific division series. Well, for the Ducks, their main problem last year was against the Stars, who went 6-1-1 against the Mighty Ducks in 05-06.

This year, however, things seemed to have corrected themselves a bit in this series, the Ducks thus far having a 3-1-1 record against the Stars, and Dallas has scored but one goal against Anaheim in each of the last four contests. As a matter of fact, just for comparison’s sake:
J.S. Giguere vs. Dallas, regular season 06-07: 1.12 GAA, .960 s%
J.S. Giguere vs. Dallas, postseason 03 (Conn Smythe): 1.85 GAA, .936 s%
And I might as well point out also that Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald have as many goals combined in this season series thus far (7) as the entire Dallas lineup.

Prediction: Ducks 4, Stars 1. Selanne, Getzlaf with a pair, and good ol’ Sammy P. closes it out.

No Korky for you!

So much for the return of shifty Alexander Korolyuk:

“It was conditional to Alexander [Korolyuk] reporting and clearing medical,” said Wilson. “I’ve been informed by New Jersey that’s not the case in that he won’t be coming and has decided to stay (in Russia). And that’s fine. It was all conditional on that, so there’s no pick involved. It was an opportunity to add a player, it didn’t work out, so we move forward."

"Decided" as in pressure from Russian waste management supervisor Tony Sopranovski to "stay with the family in the motherland" not like that defecting bastard Evgeni Malkin. Could Korky's cryptic "I will call you soon" text message to Evgeni Nabokov be his way of saying this?

Almost there, Jes.

Jes Gőlbez has been chastising GMs for not going to a three-point standings system.

Aw, c'mon Jes. Look at last night's scoreboard. If two-thirds of games get settled in the extra session, isn't that good enough? Call it the 2.666666666666666666666667-point standings system.

p.s. You gotta love it when your team sits idle while 20 other teams pick up standing points.

[Edit: Also check out David Johnson's take at HockeyAnalysis.com.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

So you want to be a Kings blogger, Episode I

Well, well, well, Kings do have fans with typing fingers, it seems. Meet 'Rudy Kelly' (another solid blog-alias) who was brave enough to answer our call for another Kings voice in this Ducky/Sharky world we live in. He's definitely a front-runner in that (a) he's the only one who's submitted anything, and (b) he's actually got opinions as to the direction of the Kings.

As I wrote back to RK on our first e-mail exchange, I'm a long-time Ducks fan, and it is pretty telling that I don't have much of an opinion on long-time King Derek Armstrong (who RK addresses below). He's a guy I generally don't notice on the ice, am not afraid of in any sense, nor do I worry when he signs a 2-year extension. I believe the term I used was "strong indifference".

So any way, here's a little 'try-out-post' for RK: take a look and see how a Kings fan feels. Oh, and if you're a King fan who can do better, follow the link above and we'll make this a regular "American Idol" (without the prestige, of course).

Armstrong Can’t Do the Heavy Lifting

I’ve always had an indifferent attitude towards Derek Armstrong. When a friend asks me about him, my first response is usually, “Who?” That’s followed by, “Oh, yeah, he’s alright, I guess.” I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by Armstrong because I’ve never expected anything from him. He’s been the guy who plays until the Kings improve and find someone better. The new contract he signed with the Kings on Wednesday (for two years, 3 million dollars total), however, implies Derek Armstrong is a bonafide hockey player; that is not something I’m willing to accept.

Derek Armstrong’s path to the NHL was not an easy one. A 6th-round draft choice in 1992, Armstrong floundered around between the NHL and the minors until 2002, when he joined the Kings. Since then, he’s been a fairly solid contributor, averaging around 62 games played and 38 points the past three years. He’s set to blow by both numbers this year (he’s at 54 games and 39 points as of Friday) while anchoring the Kings’ top line alongside Mike Cammalleri and Alexander Frolov (although on that line Armstrong plays the role of “the other guy.”).

That being said, why do I dislike Derek Armstrong now? First of all, he’s 33; I don’t think we signed him because of his upside. I have a hard time believing that money couldn’t have been used to sign someone with similar ability that’s younger. Secondly, I can’t really see where Derek Armstrong fits into GM Dean Lombardi’s grand scheme. Anze Kopitar has locked down one of the Kings’ top center positions for a couple of years to come (and a top spot in my heart) and Armstrong is not quite talented enough to play second-line center for a Stanley Cup-contending team. At the same time, he’s not a defensive center, and even if he was, the Kings already have Alyn McCauley tied up for next year. Perhaps his destiny is as a 4th-line center, but 1.5 million dollars a season is a little much for that position (though the Kings have shown they have no problem signing veterans and then have them play on the 4th-line, like Brian “Career-High 19 Goals” Willsie and Scott “The Wrong” Thornton). The problem with Derek Armstrong is that he does not really have a set position; if he played basketball Armstrong would be a ‘tweener, in baseball a swingman.

I wish that I could see both the Kings and Armstrong succeeding, but it’s more likely that he’ll join the long list of Kings players that I hate (right before Len Barrie). He seems like a good guy, what with the Mohawk and his penchant for practical jokes (sewing someone’s pockets together? Oh Derek, you card!). It’s also never a bad idea to have a back-up plan at a position like center, especially since it seems that Alyn McCauley’s knees are weaker than Joe Thornton’s hold on heterosexuality (zing!). Maybe I just don’t like this signing because it embraces mediocrity. With Armstrong, what you see is what you’re going to get. That’s the problem.

I’ll make a deal with Kings management: as long as this signing was done with the idea that Armstrong will play on the 4th-line, I’m perfectly happy with the signing. Nobody likes the idea of a front-office that’s disloyal to its players, and if the Kings want to reward a player who has only done what’s asked of him, great. If this signing is supposed to quell the voices of those who scream for another legitimate top-line center, then I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ducks Gameday—C’mon, Ducks, win me a t-shirt!

Vancouver Canucks (34-21-4, t-5th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (35-16-9, 3rd in west)

Now I’m a guy who’s mostly sworn off sports betting, especially since the sport I know most about seems the one that is most prone to bounces and breaks, but I did engage in one Ducks bet this past offseason that may come to fruition tonight.

The bet-rival: Temujin, of West Coast Chaos
The bet-subject: the 06/07 regular season matchup between the Canucks and Ducks
The stakes (as chronicled in the WFS reader bet thread): Temujin bets Earl Sleek that when the Canucks and Ducks play each other this season, the Nucks will come out with more points. The winner recieves a T Shirt of choice. Aug.29/06
The series thus far:

Nov. 9th in Vancouver: Ducks 6, Canucks 0
Nov. 30th in Vancouver: Ducks 2, Canucks 1
So it all looks pretty in the bag for me, eh? Two games remaining in Anaheim, and so long as the Ducks can avoid two regulation losses, I should be sporting some Anaheim green in time for St. Patty’s day.

Of course, I should mention how fortuitous timing seems to have been when it comes to this bet, both Vancouver games happening early in the season when the Ducks were killing everyone and the Canucks were still learning how to play in front of Roberto.

Records through Nov. 30th (the second VAN-ANA matchup)
Anaheim (27 gms): 19-2-6, 44 points, .815 win pct.
Vancouver (26 gms): 12-13-1, 25 points, .481 win pct.
Since that 2nd matchup, however, the Canucks seem to be the team possessed:
Anaheim (33 gms): 16-14-3, 35 points, .530 win pct.
Vancouver (33 gms): 22-8-3, 47 points, .712 win pct.
And if that’s not enough, check out how well the Canucks have done on the road since Christmas: 9-1-1, outscoring opponents 39-19 and only allowing 2 power play goals in 67 chances (a whopping 97% PK rate!). Maybe there is hope for poor Temujin.

Prediction: Ducks 3, Canucks 2. By the way, I wear a Large.

p.s. I haven’t spent any time yet gloating about it, but I am in two separate fantasy leagues with Temujin and the WFS crew. After drafting two Duck-heavy teams, I’ve spent roughly 99% of the season in first place in both leagues. You might think this makes me some sort of credible fantasy advisor, but really, my advice is not to stockpile players from your favorite team—I was drunk-drafting and I’m pretty surprised it worked out so well.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Korky's back!

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting to see this in the news:

San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has acquired forward Alexander Korolyuk from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a third round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Korolyuk has spent the past three seasons playing primarily for Chekhov Vityaz in the Russian Elite League, where he has posted 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) in 39 games this season.
“We are very excited to have Alex rejoin our organization and we look forward to him integrating quickly into our line-up,” said Wilson. “He brings an added element to our team that has been very effective in the past. Alex knows our style of play and we expect him to be a natural fit.”
When Korky left the team, he finally seemed to "get it" -- he was skating hard, using his hard shot, and actually hitting people. I have no idea what he's been doing in Russia, but it'll be interesting to see if he's still playing the way he did when Ron Wilson put him, Nils Ekman, and Alyn McCauley together for a very dynamic second line.

Obviously, this Sharks team is WAY different from the one he last played on. However, the system remains the same and Korky stated before that he was pretty loyal to Ron Wilson for molding him into a better player.

I'm sure Wilson will give him a chance on the top two lines for the first game or two. Do you go Joe Thornton/Jonathan Cheechoo/Korolyuk or do you go with pure speed with Patrick Marleau/Milan Michalek/Korolyuk? And what happens to Joe Pavelski and Steve Bernier when they get healthy? Part of me thinks that this is a depth move in anticipation of finally getting some defensive help.

Take that, Nashville!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Dang" say the Ducks and Sharks

One of the interesting things about the good ol' Battle of California is how right now, even though the Ducks and Sharks are built a little differently, any sort of trade rumor that pops through my head makes me think, "I hope the Sharks get him so the Ducks won't." That sort of knee-jerk thinking is often proof that I'm not viewing things through a completely objective lens, at least when it comes to my Sharks and the Norris Ducks.

The thought of Peter Forsberg going to the Ducks scared the crap out of me. And even though Doug Wilson said the Sharks weren't in the Forsberg sweepstakes, I thought it'd be pretty damn interesting to keep Thornton/Marleau together on the same line and have Forsberg anchor the second line. Well, now all I have to say is dang.

Now, I was well aware that Nashville was as much as a favorite to win the Cup as our beloved California teams. But getting Peter Forsberg without touching their roster -- and the fact that Forsberg has looked much better over the past ten games than he has all season -- is just, well, kind of unfair (said in the least whiny way possible). Assuming Forsberg's as healthy as he says he is, the Preds are getting a guy who never disappears during the playoffs. Don't forget the year when he missed the entire season, only to lead the playoffs in scoring without even going to the Cup finals.

That's bad for either California team with Cup dreams.

Looking at the rosters, Nashville is built more like the Sharks (stacked up front, two good goalies, young defense) than the Ducks, but the problem is that Nashville suddenly has a new level of depth. And one of the problems that both the Ducks and Sharks will come to realize is that Forsberg is one of those really annoying players that makes his linemates better.

So, in theory, if the Preds are already happy having Legwand play with Kariya and Arnott play with Sullivan (or whatever combo they've been using lately), the Preds could have three scoring lines by sticking Forsberg with, say, Dumont. As much as I've trumpeted the Sharks offense since the Thornton trade, I don't see any team with as much depth as the Preds -- maybe the Sharks could say that if Mark Bell, Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, Joe Pavelski, and Jonathan Cheechoo all pull it together at once (though I think Cheechoo finally figured out that moving his feet is a good way to get to open ice), but I don't see that happening.

Sharks and Ducks fans, this ain't a good thing (unless Forsberg's ankle snaps in half, then we can all point and laugh) and the bar has been raised. Obviously, the most depth on paper doesn't make for the best team, but this move makes me think of the Hurricanes getting Doug Weight last season...except replace Doug Weight with a former MVP who, when healthy, can still be one of the best players in the game.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Food for Thought: Think like the Swedes

You know, I wasn’t blogging at the time, but one of the most fascinating hockey games I ever saw was at the most recent Olympics at the end of the preliminary round when Sweden took on Slovakia. On paper, it was a meaningless game, as both teams had already qualified for the elimination round.

But oh, those devious Swedes. You see, the seeding in the elimination round was still dependent on this game’s outcome. If the Swedes won, they would be matched up against Canada. If they lost, then it was a considerably easier Switzerland match-up. The IIHF, of course, was not pleased with the situation, and even assigned some sort of “effort assessor” to ensure that Sweden would not tank the game, even though that appeared to be in Sweden's best interest.

Now Sweden lost that game 3-0 in a game that seemed honestly played, then went on to breeze past the outmatched Swiss on their way to a gold medal. Did they tank that Slovakia game? Probably. But more importantly, should they have tanked that game? Definitely.

Team Sweden reacts to their shutout loss to Slovakia

You may disagree, but really, the objective was to win gold, and there was a fairly obvious choice that factored very strongly in Sweden’s chances. Sweden is not bound to act honorably in the face of a motivational flaw in the seeding system, nor should they be. Sweden, like all teams, should be looking out for its own interest, and if that meant tanking a game for a more favorable opponent, that was the IIHF’s fault, not Sweden’s.

Anyway, the whole point of that memory jog was to take a look ahead at the western conference playoffs, which are starting to take pretty solid form. In all likelihood, we will see a first round seeding as follows:

1 1st in Central vs. 8 3rd in Northwest
2 1st in Pacific vs. 7 2nd in Northwest
3 1st in Northwest vs. 6 3rd in Pacific
4 2nd in Central vs. 5 2nd in Pacific

I know none of this is guaranteed, but several factors, I think, play into this seeding scenario: Detroit and Nashville’s games against the weakside of the Central, the Pacific trio playing against each other, and the Northwest in general being a self-regulating point-generator. Now who fills what spot is where it gets interesting, specifically as it relates to the three Pacific teams, who are now separated by but 4 points and somewhat safely planning on a postseason (Anaheim 74, San Jose 73, Dallas 70—thank you Nashville and Detroit!).

Now nothing here is as obvious as Canada-or-Switzerland, but if the above seeding scenario holds true, here’s the follow-up truth: Whoever takes 2nd in the Pacific division will face a more difficult opponent than the team that finishes 3rd (and it may be a difference of more than 10 points).

Now points are probably not the best measure of opposition, but still, imagine one of the Pacific trio pulls out to a sizeable lead. That would leave the other two teams with a choice of starting in Detroit, say, or Calgary. Given the choice, a coach might opt for Calgary (or at least decide that Detroit isn’t worth working your tail off for).

Now I don’t know if I have any strong point, really (neither Detroit or Calgary look to be any postseason picnic), but I think it will be extremely interesting to see what happens if a Pacific team pulls ahead in the final third of the season—will the other two teams go nuts-to-the-wall out in order to finish 2nd and play perhaps a better team? Is that sort of effort even worth it?

Or maybe, just maybe, will Swede-think take over, forcing Bettman to play the “effort assessor” card?

Like I said, just food for thought.

Happy Valentine’s Day—Ducks showing “love” on the scoreboard

Boy, am I depressed lately, and it has nothing to do with being single on V-Day. As usual, I can put up with personal issues a lot better than I can put up with on-ice issues concerning the Ducks.

Anaheim's current problem now is not health-related, as for the first time in more than a month the team has healthy scratches, and currently nobody is even day-to-day. Good news, right?

Except for no good reason, the scoring and winning I've grown accustomed to have dwindled to a pleasant memory. Here’s a little month-by-month breakdown thus far:



October 06




3.3 – 2.0



November 06




3.7 – 2.5



December 06




3.4 – 2.4



January 07




2.7 – 2.8



February 07




1.8 – 2.6



Yeesh. Talk about falling apart. Here’s two main points of emphasis:
  • That 0.0% power play rate for February is not a misprint—the Ducks are 0 for 21 in 5 games thus far this month, spanning more than 35 minutes of power play time. Zero PP goals, while the opposition has managed to score 7 PP goals. Yuck.

  • And while the Ducks have put 9 pucks in over those 5 games, those all came in two games against San Jose. The Ducks have faced four netminders thus far this month, and managed to put pucks past only one of them (thanks, Vesa!). 107 shots-on-goal directed at Tomas Vokoun / Mike Smith / Peter Budaj have yielded 107 saves.
So I don’t know what to think, really. Yes, the team appears to be playing well, but to score zero goals in 3 of the last 5 outings? That’s a lot of unrequited “love” (tennis terminology used here), and even if the team does deserve better, could this lousy performance be the trigger to a big “save the Ducks” trade?

Still, (sigh), we hold top spot in the Pacific for another day, so again, I’ll mute the complaints. Happy V-Day, all ya couples out there.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fantanking and the Kings

I am a firm believer that most NHL teams aside from, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs should either shoot for a Cup or shoot for high-end draft picks. This subject is illustrated expertly by Bill Simmons in his article about "Fantanking."

The Kings spent far too many years as part of the creamy nougat of the NHL, resting alongside the pre-Cup run Edmonton Oilers, Alexei Yashin-New York Islanders and Chris Pronger-St. Louis Blues as medicore, borderline playoff teams. Sure, it's no fun to be a fan with a paper bag over your head for a couple of years, but there's one other gigantic factor to consider.

The Pacific Division is clearly at its peak right now.

The Ducks are loaded, but when you look at their roster, there is one comforting fact: three of their best players are more than 30 years old and have played a ton of games. Scott Niedermayer (1027 GP; 34 years old) and Teemu Selanne (1015 GP; 36 years old) are remarkably durable, while Pronger is a little more than a season away from the grand mark.

The Kings certainly don't have an answer for either three right now, let alone J.S. Giguere, so why not wait until the graybeards (see: Niedermayer, right) start to break down or retire? Even if they manage to hang on more gracefully than a J. Roenick or R. Blake, age accelerated Norris Brothers seem (slightly) less destructive.

Now, I know the Ducks have some young up and coming forwards, but comparing and contrasting the youth movements of the Kings and Ducks, I'm pretty happy with the dazzling combo of Kopitar, Alex Frolov, Patrick O'Sullivan and Cammalleri, thank you very much. (Not to mention a certain defenseman who shares a name with a surfer-songwriter)

Not too far behind, the Sharks and their awful teal jerseys bring a different threat. When you look at their talented, youthful nucleus - Jumbo Joe (28) Marleau (28), Cheechoo (26), Michalek (23), Carle (22) and on and terrifyingly on - there's one very different friend of the Kings: the salary cap. Keeping two franchise centers, two fantastic wingers and two No. 1 goalies plus sub-30 year old depth together for a few years is possible, but something (hopefully) will have to give.

Again, the practical question is: why fight the Sharks at their best?

Finally, ignoring Phoenix since the Coyotes might be a bigger mess than the Kings, there's the most obvious reason to save your best for a couple years down the road: the Stars. As I mentioned on Monday, The Stars are primed for an under-the-radar run at the Cup, especially with the addition of Ladislav Nagy. By giving up a 1st round pick for a player who might not be a Star in '07-'08, the Stars are a team that will clearly be easier to deal with in the future.

Simply facing a Stars team without Mike Modano, which hopefully will happen in this decade, is enough reason for the Kings to look to the future. So, battle on other California teams. Much like Steve Buscemi in the final scene of "Reservoir Dogs," the Kings would be wise to allow their division rivals to slug it out. Let's just hope the Kings face a better fate than Mr. Pink.

Help Wanted: Kings Need a Voice!

(...among other things)

It has been brought to my attention on several occasions (Mirtle being the latest) that this blog fails on its overall premise—biased coverage from all three California teams. And for sure, you can look back through the archives and note that most everything is Duck this, or Shark that, or here’s why the Ducks hate the Sharks, or vice versa, and a lot of that is dictated by standings and the fact that this blog started last postseason, when there were only two CA teams playing (zing!). Oh yeah, plus we plan on blogging through this coming postseason also (zing! zing!).

Even though the Kings’ story looks to be nothing but an 82-game kick-in-the-junk, there’s still been plenty worth writing about the poor L.A. squad over the life of this blog—a new GM and coach, big trades (Demitra, Cloutier, J. Johnson, Avery, Conroy), a mess of goaltender suffering, and both the best Japanese and the best Slovenian prospects in hockey history. (Plus I never get sick of hearing how much everyone hates Pronger).

So yeah, we are putting a “Help Wanted” sign out for a King blogger, anyone brave enough to represent the crowned crusaders for the ol’ Battle of California (which I should point out is extremely non-profit, in the purest sense of the word). What is the perspective from that other CA hockey fan? We’re keeping James O’Brien around for occasional posts, but he’s going to need some help keeping that chin up.

Yeah, I know, it’s tough sledding being a King writer in Shark/Duckland, but if it’s any consolation, it is a pretty fair certainty that the Kings in the near future will be a better team than they have been in the near past, whereas both the Sharks and Ducks have pretty good probabilities to get worse (regressing to the mean), and you have an opportunity to chronicle it and be there as it happens to rub it in our faces.

Besides, even though the Kings get the short end of the stick this year, at least it won’t erode down to a Battle of Alberta debate (“Edmonton 5 cups, Calgary 1. ‘Nuff said.”). To date, none of our teams have any cups, so everyone can argue from a position of futility.

Sound good, Queens fan? To apply or ask any questions, send me an e-mail.

Ducks Gameday—Two Degrees of Desperation

Anaheim Ducks (33-15-8, 3rd in west) at Colorado Avalanche (26-25-4, 10th in west)

Well, the Ducks are off to Denver to play an Avalanche team that is threatening to miss the playoffs for the first time since the team relocated from Quebec more than a decade ago. The Avs currently sit 10 points out of 8th place with a game-in-hand, and also have to leapfrog the 9th-place Oilers on their way to securing a postseason seed.

The Avs are coming off an stretch of games where 8-of-11 were played in Denver, but they only managed 4 wins in those 11 games. Probably more indicative of their recent play is the fact that they have allowed 3 goals or more in 10 of those 11 games.

Bottom line: The Avalanche need wins now, no questions asked. Their schedule doesn’t promise to get much easier, though, as 21 of their final 27 games are against teams ahead of them in the standings.

The Ducks, to contrast, sit in a much more comfortable spot in the west (14 points above 9th place), although their top spot in the Pacific (which they’ve held since Oct. 27th) appears to be in some jeopardy, as they have only a 3-point lead on the Sharks (who have a game-in-hand) and a 4-point lead on the Stars (no games-in-hand).

For perspective: back on December 20th, this used to be a 12-point lead on SJ and an 18-point lead on DAL, but the Ducks have only gone 6-11-2 over their past 19, and probably would already be caught in the Pacific standings if it weren’t for the fact that 4 of those 6 wins came against the Sharks and Stars in regulation. Still, the Ducks are coming off consecutive regulation losses (against these two Pacific rivals, no less), which is actually the first time this L-L phenomenon has ever happened to a roster featuring both Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.

Bottom line: The Ducks are healthy again, but will need some actual point-producing results if they plan on staying ahead of the surging Sharks and Nagy-fied Stars. As the post title notes, Anaheim is not under the same must-win situation as the Avs, but there is some win-now pressure on this Duck team, as well.

The game tonight will be nationally carried on Versus, and oh yeah, the season series thus far has featured two shootouts, both won by the Avs.

Prediction: Ducks 5, Avalanche 2. Goal-droughts broken by Ryan Shannon (0 goals in last 30 games), Todd Marchant (0 goals in last 19 games), Corey Perry (1 goal in last 17 games), Chris Kunitz (1 goal in last 17 games), and Sammy Pahlsson (1 goal in last 20 games).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Marty and Peyton

OK, I know that the Dallas Stars aren't technically part of the Battle of California, but let's face it, the Pacific Division is basically BoC + Dallas + Gretzky.

Anyway, two Saturdays ago (I know, I know) I was able to take in an extraordinary game at the American Airlines Center between the soon-to-be KC Masterpiece (the Penguins) and the aforementioned Stars.

It was an absolutely fantastic game, with a heavy dosage of Penguin fans, lively end-to-end competition, an outstanding overtime period and a SO win for the tentative Penguins.

As I watched the upstart Penguins sneak by the crippled Stars, I realized something. The Dallas Stars certainly will not take the Pacific Division this year, but I hate to say it: this might be their best chance in years to go deep into the playoffs.

Would I bet my house on Marty Turco and Co. to drink Shiner Bock out of Lord Stanley's Cup? Well, not quite. But then again, I would not have wagered on Peyton Elmer Fudd Manning to do it either, and look what happened. Ugh.

Marty Turco is the Manning of NHL goalies.

The parallels are horrifying. They both appear poised in front of a TV camera, although Turco settles for local Comcast spots and lovable mic-ups on barely viewed All-Star Games while Manning mugs for just about everything other than urinal cakes. Their regular season stats are gaudy: Manning holds the single season TD record and Turco (briefly) had the best pre-WWII GAA before Kipper stole it from him.

And then, as we all know, the bottom falls out once the games start to count. Manning always crapped the bed against Tom Brady, the Red Sox always lost to the Yankees and Turco sucks in the playoffs.

But with Manning "getting the monkey off of his back," maybe we should look at a few other similarities between the two. Much like Manning, Turco will finally go into the playoffs as an outright underdog. And much like Manning, Turco's supporting cast is deceptively good.

Sure, the Stars are a #6 seed, but they've done that with Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov and Brendan Morrow missing significant amounts of playing time. If Morrow can round into shape come playoff time (he's tentatively expected to come back in March), the Stars might be the type of sleeping giant that could dismantle a No. 3 seed (especially the paper thin Canucks) and make a certain probable No. 2 seed very nervous.

Turco with as little pressure as possible, a hardworking offense and a very solid defense. It might just take the easiest-to-ignore Stars team to finally win in the playoffs again. Hey, if it worked for Peyton and his wildcard Colts, it could work for anyone.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Battle of California round 3 photos

Jean-Sebastien Giguere prepares for a shot in the second period.

Vesa Toskala dives to the far post to stuff a rebound attempt from Corey Perry.

The B.O.C. readers or Earl Sleek can caption this photo. More from the Ducks 7-4 win is available here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Drinky Math: How do you spell "Cheechoo?"

Well, I spell it like this:

That guy only knows two kinds of streaks, Cold or Hot, and not much in between. 4 goals in 2 games against the Ducks, which was preceded by a seven game goalless streak, that followed a 5 goals in 7 game stretch, that followed a 1 goal in 9 game slump, and well, you get the picture.

Well, I got curious about one thing, and here's what I found out:

Fuckin' Cheechoo has been murdering his BoC brothers since the lockout.

  • C/HeeC/Hoo vs. Anaheim, 15 goals in 12 games (5 multi-goal games, 1.25 g/gm, Ay carumba hot!)

  • C/HeeC/Hoo vs. Los Angeles, 11 goals in 13 games (4 multi-goal games, 0.85 g/gm, still a lot of hot!)

  • C/HeeC/Hoo vs. non-California, just 54 goals in 117 games (8 multi-goal games, 0.46 g/gm, lotsa cold there). The most he has scored against any other team is 6, despite the fact that three non-CA teams have had more games against the Sharks than either the Kings or Ducks.
Since the lockout, roughly one-third of Cheechoo's goals and more than one-half of his multi-goal games have come against the BoC teams.

That's fucking prejudice, man.

[Oh yeah, picture above stolen from PJ's picture pages. Awesome stuff.]

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I wave the white flag for tonight.

A summary of my thoughts during the first two periods:

Stupid fast Ducks.

Stupid crappy Sharks defense.

Stupid Cheechoo not scoring on an empty net.

Stupid slumping Sharks power play.

Stupid really crappy Sharks defense.

Stupid awful passing.

Stupid awesome Chris Pronger.

Stupid freakin' Dustin Penner always working the Sharks.

Stupid really freakin' crappy Sharks defense.

Well...there's always tomorrow night. Tomorrow, Ron Wilson should dress Ville "Vile" Niemenen just so he can run Pronger and Giguere and MacDonald and Selanne and Penner and both of those god damn brothers. Then they can suspend Vile for the rest of the season but Anaheim will be crippled and things will be good.

Not that I'm, you know, a bitter Sharks fan or anything. God I hate Chris Pronger.

Post-game update: Well, maybe Ron Wilson read the team this post in the 2nd intermission. The 3rd period Sharks squad is what I hope to see tomorrow night. Finally, Cheechoo scores on a good shot from the high slot. It's about freakin' time. Now, about that defense...

Drinky BoC Gameday Post Part 1: Ducks at Sharks

Anaheim Ducks (32-13-8, 3rd in west) at San Jose Sharks (34-18-1, 4th in west)

Well, here it is—a home-and-home today-and-tomorrow with the top two teams in the Pacific, and going in the Sharks have only 3 less standings points (69) than the hot-and-cold Ducks (72).

I don’t have much to offer number-wise for this game (yay, red wine!), but I would like to point out how difficult it is to even think about the standings even just two games into the future, with overtime and shootout results being possible. For example, there are ten (!) possible point outcomes to these two games, not even counting permutations:

  1. Sharks get 4 points, Ducks get 0.
  2. Sharks get 4 points, Ducks get 1.
  3. Sharks get 4 points, Ducks get 2.
  4. Sharks get 3 points, Ducks get 2.
  5. Sharks get 3 points, Ducks get 3.
  6. Sharks get 2 points, Ducks get 2.
  7. Sharks get 2 points, Ducks get 3.
  8. Sharks get 2 points, Ducks get 4.
  9. Sharks get 1 point, Ducks get 4.
  10. Sharks get 0 points, Ducks get 4.
With the first 2 of these 10 outcomes, San Jose would take the Pacific division lead. Otherwise, Anaheim holds it.


If you haven't noticed, this blog was moved to Blogger 2.0 recently. A few notes on that:

a) Though I generally managed (crappy) maintenance of this blog, I didn't make the decision to upgrade (though I don't mind it much either). The one time I investigated the option, Blogger told me that I wan't the "owner" of the blog, so I generally suspect that this upgrade was the work of James Mirtle (who set us up); plus the conversion of his site times well with BoC's. Thanks, JM.

b) Generally, I'm generally indifferent to 2.0, except for two nice features: First off, I was never any good at making the sidebar and body of the blog fit well on different screen resolutions; this appears to be auto-fixed in the upgraded version (so far as I know). Secondly, there is a categorization function in 2.0 that is pretty cool; if you scroll down on the left sidebar you can check it out. I've gone back and tagged almost all of our archives (yay manageable post total!), so you can go check out all the posts that pertain to karma, or grammar, or whatever you'd like.

c) Does anyone else find that they have to log in with much more frequency on Blogger 2.0? That is made doubly obnoxious by forcing me to log in with my e-mail address rather than my (shorter) blogger account name each time.


Psst, Mark Bell, I saved you a parking spot, dude.

Prediction: Ducks 3, Sharks 1. Pahlsson, Selanne, and Pronger.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Peyton Manning is Lord of the Dance

After a thrilling superbowl that saw more fumbles and more first half turnovers than any other title game on record, I only have one question. When did Earl Sleek start doing Superbowl highlight videos?

[Update] Back to regularly scheduled hockey programming: A headless Travis Moen dropped Shea Weber with one of the most violent punches of the season. Anaheim outshot Nashville 36-20, but could not crack Tomas Vokoun in the 3-0 loss. The Anaheim Ducks (32-13-8) trail the Nashville Predators (37-14-3) by 5 points for first place in the Western Conference.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Exclusive BOC Sharks-Blackhawks photos from the Blogfather

I spent most of the Sharks-Chicago game up near the rafters chatting with Lew Shapiro, PR director for the NHL's Oakland/California Seals (1967-76), and the PHL San Francisco Shamrocks (1977-79). It was interesting talking to him about the media coverage back in the day, the opening of the Oakland Coliseum, and a few other hockey related topics.

I wandered down to the top of the aisle in the lower bowl in the second period to take a few photos. After the above Chicago goal by Martin Havlat over a sprawled Vesa Toskala, one fan in a soccer jersey let out a gooooo-ooo-oooaaa-ooooaaal that would have made Andres Cantor proud.

Patrick Marleau answered with a goal of his own a few minutes later. Marleau wristed the puck around Khabibulin before he could reset after a scramble. This time soccer fan stumbled, barely getting out a gaa ol-ol. The section had a good laugh.

There was a massive collision between Mark Bell and a player who is not on my score sheet, #89 Troy Brouwer.

After the game, Vesa Toskala said he could not remember ever scoring 2 assists in a game before. It was 1 point shy of an NHL single game record, and half of the total for current NHL goalie points leader (Turco). When someone jiibed him about Evgeni Nabokov's power play goal a few years back, he said he picked one up in Europe so he was fine. Toskala had an open net late in the third, but he cleared the puck off the boards instead of trying to loft a shot up ice. Given the way the bounces have gone the last few games, smart move. More on the Sharks-Blackhawks here.

Sharks play Anaheim at HP Pavilion in beautiful San Jose on Tuesday, before heading to Anaheim on Wednesday to play in the smog. Let the Battle of California begin!

This might be a good look if I attend Wednesday's game in Anaheim.

Ducks Gameday—the top team in the west (a good sign for the Ducks)

Anaheim Ducks (32-12-8, 2nd in west) at Nashville Predators (36-14-3, 1st in west)

If the playoffs started today, the top 8 teams in the west would be (in order, using conference leaders): Nashville, Anaheim, Calgary, Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, Vancouver, and Minnesota. And currently, 9th & 10th place are six points back of joining this list.

For a way-too-early glimpse into the coming playoffs, here’s a look at how those top 8 teams played only against each other:


RecordWin PctGF/gmGA/gmDiff/gmPP%PK%

















San Jose
















































There's some strange numbers in here, for sure, with lots of asterisks to go around (SJ has scored 13 power play goals against Detroit, for example).

But for the Ducks, indeed it is a strange breakdown, as they are finding it easier to win within this group than they are outside of it (overall they have a .692 win percentage). In fact, aside from power play percentage, each of these Anaheim statistics is better when facing top-8 western competition than when facing the entire league.

Even when the Ducks were injured, this trend continued—if you can believe it, Anaheim went through a month-and-a-half stretch (between 12/14 and 1/30) where its ONLY wins came against Dallas (3x), Detroit, San Jose, and Calgary.

What's it all mean? I dunno, probably that Anaheim is ripe for a playoff upset, but really, it appears that Anaheim is not only primed for the playoffs, but particularly primed for these playoffs against these opponents. Sure anything can happen in a 7-game series, but at this point, you gotta say that barring triple-injury, Ducks should probably be considered favorites in the west.

Certainly, this could all change pretty quickly, as the next four games for Anaheim are @NSH, @SJS, SJS, and @DAL.


Of course, my main point above was going to be about Nashville, owners of a pretty enviable 16-2-1 record against CBJ / CHI / STL (yes, I'm going there again). It's not that this isn't a commendable feat or anything (heck, the Ducks are 3-2-1 against the set), but really, is that sort of cushion that helpful when all those teams disappear come postseason?

Last season, both Detroit and Nashville utilized a combined 40-5-3 record against these teams to secure their playoff spots, but once there? No division ended up with fewer postseason wins last year than the Central's three—tougher competition demolished them pretty quickly.

Thus far, Nashville has shown an ability to score against these top-8 teams, but their goal prevention is the worst of the set.


So far this season, the Ducks beat the Preds 4-0 in Anaheim and the Sucks lost in overtime in Nashville 5-4. I can't say I mind that latter result, given how bad Anaheim was playing at the time. How bad, retrospectively, was this team without the Giguere / Beauchemin / Pronger combo?

Pro-rated to an 82-game season, the injured Sucks (using games between 12/29 - 1/19) would project to a 15-52-15 record, good for 45 points, and would have been outscored 216 - 286. Their goal-differential-per-60-minute rates come to +6.85 on the power play, -0.86 at even strength, and -7.00 when shorthanded.

If you look at the 41 other "healthy" games and pro-rate that, the Ducks would have a whopping 60-10-12 record for 132 points, outscoring opponents 284 - 178. Goal-differential-per-60 rates: +8.20 on the power play, +1.02 at even strength, and -4.18 shorthanded.

Even if you don't fully follow those stats, suffice to say that the difference between that 11-game Suck-stretch and the rest of Anaheim's season is astronomical—all thirty teams this year and last will fall within this wide spectrum of pro-rated results. While there is some concern as to the potential to become those Sucks again, it's equally amazing how gaudy the results are when modestly healthy.


Prediction: Ducks 5, Predators 3. Goals by Thornton, Kunitz (2), Selanne, and of course Sammy P.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Groundhog Day!

On a personal note, I have been busy as an All-Star goalie this past week, just getting back from another business trip at about 1 am last night.

I got some posts coming this weekend (including the long-put-off contest details); stay tuned!