Saturday, December 22, 2007

How not to fix the NHL

Recently the Vancouver Sun ran a column called "12 Ways to Fix the NHL" which listed...12 ways to fix the NHL. Well, it was actually more of a re-hashing of the same old problems that always get thrown around, but anyway, the point is that I'm getting sick of a lot of these complaints about the NHL being repeated over and over. The league definetly has some real problems, but they're not necessarily the ones that get brought up every day in the newspapers and the talk shows. So, every once in a while I'm going to discuss one of these long-hailed suggestions/complaints and point out what I think is wrong with it. (Take that, media establishment!). For today we're gonna start with:

Sugestion #1: Getting rid of the instigator. I don't have anything against fighting and I don't think the league should be trying to discourage it. My problem with this one is the argument that the instigator rule is the reason players don't respect each other anymore, and if we'd just let goons police the game things would magically return to the good old days when nobody ever got hurt playing hockey.

First of all, I doubt there was ever a period in NHL history when the players respected each other to the degree that it's claimed they did. I'm not really sure enforcers ever laid off Bobby Orr or whoever just because he was Bobby Orr. That just smacks of "back in my day...." type bullshit to me. Even if there was smewhat more respect among players back in the day than now, I'm willng to bet it wasn't because of the firm handed yet effective policing of the game by the good squad, but because there were fewer teams, fewer players, and so you ran into the same faces a lot more often back then than you do now.

Second of all, if someone goes after your best player and you want to punish him for it, there's a lot better ways to do it than fighting. It's not necessarily that easy to get someone into a fight. Even without the instigator, guys are still gonna be able to pull a Matt Cooke and avoid fights when challenged. Even if you do manage to get a player into a fight, he can just drop to the ice after one hit and let the linesman clean things up. If you really want to go after someone, a good hit is both more readily available and can do a lot more damadge. It doesn't even have to be a dirty hit. You can lay someone out pretty good with a nice clean check. Just ask Scott Stevens. So if players want to "police the game" there's still ways to do it. (Bonus side point: a hit's a lot more likely to leave a player injured than a fight, but by discouraging fights as a method of retaliation you're encouraging players to retaliate with hits instead. So the instigator rule actually encourages injuries.)

Third of all, why is "letting the players police the game" even considred a good idea? Is it because that's how it allegedly was in the old days, and therefore it must by definition be a better way to do things? Because in the old days we also had goalies playing without facemasks, and I'm not sure that was a good idea. I guess you could argue letting the players sort things out is supposed to reduce violence in the game by threatening players who commit violent acts with the possibility that violence will be done to them in return. At the same time, though, isn't allowing players to violently punish each other for their transgressions as likely to increase violence by creating a never ending cycle of "im fighting you as revenge for that time you fought me as revenge for fighting you"-type things. There's a plausible argument to be made for either one of these interpretations, but everyone out there seems to take the first side of the argument and not even consider the second.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Canucks 21 Game Mark Awards

Biggest Positive Surprise: Alex Burrows. Alex Frigging Burrows. The whole "he's a gritty, hard working player" thing gets thrown around a lot in the NHL. A lot of the time players getting this label don't work any harder than anyone else, but have no other discernible qualities so that's the only nice thing the announcers can think of to say about them. Alex Burrows is not one of those players. Alex Burrows genuinely works harder than everyone else, and that's the only reason he has an NHL career right now. I mean seriously, when Dave Nonis spent the off-season signing grinder/energy type players like he was Brian Burke, leaving the Canucks with approximately 23423 options on the fourth line, would you have predicted that Alex Burrows, who went undrafted and had all of 3 goals and 9 points last season, would have played every single game for the team this season and made a meaningful contribution? That's exactly what he's done, matching his goal total from last season (including 2 game winners) and putting up 8 points. So, you know, well done there.

Biggest Negative Surprise: Kevin Bieksa. Even before the injury. Nothing else to say, really.

Least Surprising Moment of the Season Award:Sami Salo's injury. It's just getting silly at this point. You'd think that eventually, just through the sheer force of probabilities, he'd have a season where he doesn't get injured, the same way normal players have seasons where they do get injured once in a while. Salo's had maybe two seasons without a major injury. In fact here's his games played every for every season of his career before this one: 61, 37, 31, 66, 79, 74, 59, 67. This isn't necessarily meant to be an insult, you can't really blame a guy for getting injured, and he doesn't seem like the type of guy who's always trying to sit games for every little thing. Still, it's just strange to see. And by strange I mean horribly frustrating.

The Ryan Shannon Memorial "Help Me I'm Stuck in the Minors Award"-The first iteration of this award goes to...Ryan Shannon. Two goals in three games! I think whatever point about defensive discipline the coaches were trying to make has been made already. Can we let him back up now? Hell, play him as a defenceman if we've got more room there. You can say it's some kind of ironic punishment for his defensive failings. Have I mentioned he scored two goals in three games?

The "Good Stuff's Happerning, Let's Not Screw it up by Talking About it Award". This award goes to Luc Bourdon. Playing not horribly now that no one's actually paying any attention to him. Let's try to keep it that way. You hear that, Tony Gallagher? That's not Luc Bourdon. That's Ryan Shannon in disguise.

Rookie of the Year Award: Alex Edler. I actually think it's gonna be a sad day when all our defencemen are healed up and back at it, because a lot of the guys who've stepped up right now are going to have to get sent down. Is there any team in the league that has more depth on defense than the Canucks right now? Every move right down to Mike Weaver has worked out well. Good times.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NHL Teams and Their Corresponding Teams in Other Sports

Did you ever notice how certain NHL teams seem to have really similar counterparts other sports? Here's some, and their corresponding teams in other leagues.

Ottawa Senators-Indianapolis Colts. Both are extremely good regular season teams defined by their lack of playoff sucess. Both play an offensive, run and gun style that doesn't necessarily translate well in the post season. Both get thoroughly disrespected for their inability to get it done in the playoffs. Yes, I know this comparison stopped applying after the Colts won, but before that the similarities were so strong that I'm still putting it up. Maybe this means good things are coming for the Sens.

NY Rangers-Washington Redskins. Both are teams whose money is their greatest curse. They keep spending more than anyone else in the league attempting to assemble teams entirely out of (usually overpriced) free agents. One of the funniest subplots in the first couple of years after the lockout was that the Rangers weren't able to spend twice as much as anyone else in the league anymore and, ironically enough, that caused them to actually be good for a couple of years. Of course this year they went back to their old ways, overpaying for Gomez and Drury, and look what happerned.

Toronto Maple Leafs-New York Yankees. Well, if the Leafs were actually good.

Detroit Red Wings-San Antonio Spurs. Closest comparison I could think of. Both are venerable teams whose players are older, on average, than almost anyone else in their league and both have been good for as long as anyone can remember. Every year people predict that they can't possibly continue being as good, but every year the drop-off fails to happern. Championships as well as regular season sucess, although neither team won enough in a row to be considered a true dynasty. Both teams remain good even after making large changes to their rosters.

New Jersey Devils-Atlanta Braves. Both teams were among the best in their respective leagues for most of the 90s and the early part of this decade. Both did it by playing a low-scoring, defensive style. Neither team was particularly exciting, and both had a lot less fan support that would be expected for teams that good. Both teams have fallen on hard times recently.

Anyone got more? I'll be adding to this list as I think of more.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Well, shit

On October 26, with the Canucks floundering, I claimed on this site that "they don't have it this year" and kind of predicted the season was done. Since then they've gone 6-2-1 and looked solid. With that in mind I would like to take this opportunity to make a few aditional predictions.

  • We're not going to win the division
  • Dane Cook will have a long, distinguished movie career
  • The Middle East conflict will remain unsolved for decades to come
  • I will not hook up with Jessica Alba

Here's hoping my predictive powers remain the same.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Brief Moments in the History of the NHL

And now ladies and gentlemen, because theres nothing else to write about, I present to you the first of the soon to be critically acclaimed series: "Brief Moments in the History of the NHL"

SCENE: The summer of 2007. Brian Burke and Todd Bertuzzi's agent discussing an offer for Bertuzzi.

BURKE: We're willing to go as high as 4 mi-

BERTUZZI'S AGENT: We'll take it.

BURKE: You intrerupted me there. I was hoping to tell you more about the great playing conditions we'll have for Bert here in Anah-

BERTUZZI'S AGENT: That's no need, we'll take it.

BURKE: Don't you want to consult the other teams bidding for him?

BERTUZZI'S AGENT(constraining laughter):No, we'll take it.

BURKE: Allright, well come back in a couple of days and we should have the paperwork ready to sign.

BERTUZZI'S AGENT: Is it allright if we speed up the process? We'd like to get this finished by the end of the night if at all possible.

This has been a "Brief Moment in the History of the NHL".

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Magicpie Power Rankings

Well it's been about a month since the season's started. Time for more power rankings. As always the West leads off:

1. Detroit. Every year I predict that this is the year they drop off, and every year I'm wrong. As a side note, I've thoroughly enjoyed Thomas Holmstrom's career progression so far: from random fourth liner, to good checking line forward, then legitimate secondary scoring threat, and now to playing with Zetterberg and Datsyuk on the first line. All this happerning slowly over about 10 years, not within his first two years as he was breaking into the league. Good to see someting like that. Also, doesn't it seem that Detroit is one of the only teams in the league on which things like this ever happern happern?

2. San Jose. Good teams know they're good, allright? They don't need to actually start off the season well to prove that to people. They're not insecure like that. They leave that stuff for the Minnesotas of the world.

3. Minnesota. Started the season 7-0-1, went 0-3-1 over their last 4. I'd still pick them over anyone in the NW though.

4. Calgary. They've scored the second most goals in the conference as of today. They've also allowed the third most, with 37 (two teams have 38). What the fuck has happerned to the Calgary Flames??? It seems to be working for them, though. At least for now.

5. Columbus. Allright you caught me. I just go by the standings. I'm as disturbed at having them here as anyone else, and I'm not even sure there aren't laws against this, but how much lower can I reasonably put them?

6. Colorado. This is the only team in the NHL from which you can pick second line players on your fantasy team and have absolutely no fear that they're not gonna produce.

7. Los Angeles. They're a good team, damnit.

8. St. Louis. They're no Columbus, but they also get the job done.

9. Vancouver. Of the three Western playoff teams currently underachieving horribly (Dallas and Anaheim being the others) they probably have the best chance to turn things around as things stand right now. But the expectations for the season have officially been lowered significantly. Sixth seed here we come.

10. Anaheim. The biggest thing I want to know about them is how much of this is due to the Stanley Cup Hangover, and how much of it is due to Scott Neidemayer and Teemu Selanne being MIA. I'm saying it's more the hangover.

11. Chicago. They've got a pretty good (for them) record of 6-6-0 so far, but they pulled this crap last year too and still ended up at the bottom of the league in the end. The future certainly looks bright with Towes and Kane, but the future's not here yet.

12. Dallas. Everyone predicted their colapse this year, but they're still clinging to a .500 record, refusing to go gently into that good night. It's coming though. Sticking them down here in anticipation.

13. Edmonton. The league's most entertaining train wreck. Lots of teams fail, but no other team's failiure is so entertaining to watch.

14. Phoenix. At 4-6 they're probably overachieving. At least we get to find out what it would be like if an AHL team was allowed to play in the NHL for one year. For some reason I really want them to do well, though. This team having a movie-script-type season and somehow finishing third or fourth would be a really cool thing to see happern. And you know what, I don't rule it out. They're so bad, and expectations for them are so low, that in a weird way it kind of makes you feel like anything's possible. Yes, I know that makes no sense. Stop looking at me like that.

15. Nashville. Assuming that the team would be moved in the end no matter what, do you think Nashville fans would have chosen "slow protracted struggle spanning years, with the team essentially tanking the whole time" or "just get it over with as fast as possible"? Me too. Look, I know what's gonna happern, you know what's gonna happern, everyone knows what's gonna happern. Why are we torturing these people like this?

I would do my Eastern Conference power rankings now, but I don't really care about the Eastern Conference. There I said it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

They don't have it this year

Bill Simmons, one of my favourite sports writers, used to have a running story in his column about a yearly ritual between him and his dad. A few months into every baseball season, after yet another losing streak, and Bill would ask his dad what he though about the Red Sox that year. His dad would respond with "They don't have it this year." and they'd start talking about something else. Over time this yearly pronouncement came to mark the unofficial end of the Red Sox season for Bill, the point at which he kind of accepted that, while there were still games to be played, the season was done.

So what does this have to do with the Canucks? Well, ten games into the season there's a defenite sense of "they don't have it this year" about this team, what with the weird snap personel moves three games into the season, Markus Naslund's emergence as media whipping boy, and the lack of a full 60 minute effort during any game so far. The "20 guys who genuinely got along and played hard every night" vibe that this team gave off last year doesn't look like it's there this time.

In my oppinion chemistry, or "a team working together" or whatever you want to call it, is a huge factor in hockey, more so than the other 3 major sports (just look at how a 6th or 7th seed gets hot for 2 months and makes it to the cup final every year). Comparing this year's team with last year's kind of provides an example of that. I think most people would agree that this year's team's got a better overall lineup, but for whatever reason they just don't have it together the same way they did in 06/07, and the result has been a far worse team on the ice.

This isn't to say I'm writing off the season. Just the first half. Every year there's always a couple teams that aren't quite up to snuff during the first half of the season, but get their shit together right about the time of the all-star break and finish things up on tear. Here's hoping that happerns.

(And yeah, I know this is exactly what happerned last year: crappy team hovering around .500 for the first half, awesome team tearing up the league in the second half. The difference, though, is that last year's team was playing hard from the begining. The issue for them during the first half of the season was just everyone learning their roles and overcoming huge scoring slumps from a lot of the forwards. This time around it's the playing hard that's the problem.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yet Another Random Thoughts Post

  • Does anyone else get the impression that the whole point of those "after hours" interviews at the end of Hockey Night in Canada is to dig up as many embarrassing pieces of information from the past of the person being interviewed as possible? Last night it was Willie Mitchell and they had: a picture of him as a wrestler when he was like 11 years old, the revelation that he used to take figure skating (complete with his former instructor calling in), Roberto Luongo noting how he actually has more points than Mitchell right now (he picked up an assist on friday), and like 3 other things I can't recall off the top of my head. Why do the players even subject themselves to such shabby treatment?

  • Speaking of Hockey Night in Canada, it's good to see Sean Burke working again.

  • That shift the Sedins had midway through the second Edmonton game, where they kept the puck in the Edmonton zone for the entire powerplay before finally scoring after 2 mins and 15 seconds, was probably the coolest moment of the season so far.

  • Is it just me or does Roberto Luongo look kind of tentative/twitchy in net? He's getting the job done for now, but something seemed a bit off about him the past two games. I blame Aaron Miller. And society. Always good to blame society.

  • The strangest sub-plot of the season so far? Minnesota bringing all the players moms to their games. I could actually research why this happerned and maybe find out that it's a moving and heartwarming story. Or I could just point and laugh. Hmm.

  • As of this writing, the Canucks have the 6th best powerplay in the league. By the way, the worst pp in the league, at a woeful 4%, is Edmonton. Considering a lot of people's reaction after they brought in Pitkanen, Souray and Tarnstrom was probably "Well, at least their powerplay will be good", this is not a good sign for them.

  • I still expect great things from the LA Kings. (Hey cool that rhymes) Just wait till they get the kinks out. Every year there's one or two teams that go insane after the All-Star Break, and this year the Kings will be one of them. This will happern. It will. I keep telling myself this.

  • One of my favourite things about the first few weeks of the season is the yearly ritual that is the "so and so is on pace for 234 goals right now " jokes. By the way, Brendan Morrison is on pace for a 50 goal season. Just saying.

  • Everyone who took Markus Naslund in their pool is feeling pretty smart right now.

  • Overall for some reason I just don't feel as good about this year's team as last years. Whenever they score too many goals they make me uncofortable. That's just not the Canuck way.

  • By the way, did you hear that Minnesota's players brought all their moms to a game? HAHAHAAHAHA.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Canucks Season Predictions

Biggest Dissapointment: Taylor "I'm not with the Sedins anymore" Pyatt. Although he still has one thing both Shannon and Raymond lack, namely size, and that may be enough to put him back in his old role this year. If he's not with the Sedins, they should consider playing him with Naslund where he can fill in as a worse version of Todd Bertuzzi.

Biggest Positive Surprise: Trevor Linden. Yes hes old, but for the love of God, he's not that bad. He's still an effective 3d/4th line player. He's still as effective as almost everyone else on the team on a points/60 mins basis, he just doesn't get the ice time needed to put up better numbers.

Biggest Surprise That's Not Really That Surprising: Ryan Shannon ends up being pretty good.

Markus Naslund Points Prediction: 75.

Kevin Bieksa Points Prediction: 35. Just have a bad feeling about him for some reason (that's my hard-hitting, in-depth statistical analysis for you).

Sami Salo Games Played Prediction: 65.

Canucks End Of Season Lineup Prediction: Sedin-Sedin-Shannon, Naslund-Morrison-Pyatt, Cooke-Kesler-Raymond, Cowan-Linden-Burrows.

Aspect of the Team That Will Be Better Than People Think Prediction: Secondary scoring.

Aspect of the Team That Will Be Worse Than People Think Prediction: The Bulis-less PK. No seriously. Shut up. Stop laughing.

Playoff Finish Prediction: Third Round Exit.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Division-Adjusted NHL Standings

Ever wonder how much playing in a strong/weak division has affected your team in the standings? Well here's what the Western conference standings would have looked like last year if you ignore divisional play (taking only the 50 non-division games each team played and expanding the rate at wich they gained points in those 50 games into a full 82 game schedule). Sorry, my excel/word are currently messed up, so I couldn't put these into a graph.

Team Actual Points Division Adjusted Points Difference
San Jose........107.......115.....+8
St Louis.........81..........87...+6
Los Angeles..68.........72....+4

So, if you don't like looking at that graph type thing up there, here's what the Western Conference standings would have looked like if you ignored divisional play:

1. Vancouver (115)
2. San Jose (115)
3. Anaheim (110)
4. Nashville (107)
5. Detroit (103)
6. Minnesota (102)
7. Calgary (97)
8. Dallas (95)
9. Colorado (92)
10. St. Louis (87)
11. Edmonton (80)
12. Columbus (77)
13. L. A. (72)
14. Pheonix (72)
15. Chicago (69)

As expected, Detroit benefits quite a bit from its easy division, getting roughly an extra 10 points from facing its easier division opponents. Dallas is the team most helped by its weak division (or strong divisional play, depending how you want to look at it) gaining a whopping 12 points. In contrast, Vancouver, Edmonton and San Jose are all hurt the most by their division schedule, losing 10, 9, and 8 points because of their divisional record. Despite changing teams' point totals by up to 12 points, though, division schedules did not change who made the playoffs. Every team that made the playoffs using the regular points sytem still makes it using their division-adjusted point totals.

DISCLAIMER- What I did is only meant to compare how well teams did within and outside their divisions. It is in no way meant to provide a fairer version of the standings that ignores differences in schedule (instead of playing Columbus twice as much as a regular team, Detroit doesn't play them at all in these standings, so we're not improving things just moving them to the other extreme). This is meant as a fun little exercise and nothing more.

One thing these numbers are good for, however, is figuring out what the best division in hockey was last year, basically by adding up the points that the 5 teams in each division had versus non-division opponents (adjusted for 82 games). Here are the results:

Northeast: 494
Northwest: 486
Pacific: 464
Central: 443
Atlantic: 441
Southeast: 413

It seems that the Northeast did in fact have the Northwest beat just slightly as the best division in hockey last year, although I guess you have to take into account that they play in the weaker Eastern conference.

The Magicpie Power Rankings

Time for my first edition of the power rankings. Because I'm a lazy, lazy man this first batch of power rankings will also double as my season predictions. I'll do a separate set of power rankings for the A.L and N.L....I mean Western and Eastern conferences because they barely play each other anyway so there's no point trying to rank Western and Eastern teams against each other. For all we know the west might have 8 of the league's 10 best teams or something. Anyway, first the Western rankings:

1. San Jose. By default. Every team that finished ahead of them in points last season has taken a step back, they're the only ones that haven't. Should be a fun year for them.

2. Detroit. I only have them this high because I still think they'll win their division, and will have more points than whoever comes out on top in the Northwest. Other than that I'm predicting a major step back for them this year. Once the inevitable Hasek injury strikes all bets are off. I'm not even that sure they'll be able to hold off St. Louis and win the division, but I'm not quite at point where I'm willing to predict that.

3. Vancouver. They won the division last year and remain innocent untill proven guilty, but I'm not that confident about this pick. Arguments in their favor: the first few months of last season, when they were playing .500 hockey, were a feeling out period, and the real Canucks team we're gonna see this season is the one that had the best record in the league after Christmas. Markus Naslund is in a contract year. They haven't lost anyone significant and have added a few pieces, so if you go by the whole "if a team stays together they play slightly better each season because of some crazy synergy" theory then they should be better. Arguments against them: everyone in their division improved (even Minnesota improves by having a healthy Gaborik). They were lucky in OT/the shootout last season (17-7, best record in the league), and might not be able to keep that up this time around. Last season was one of those feel-good seasons where everyone buys into the team concept and plays hard every night, and you don't get two of those in a row very often. It could go either way but I'm leaving them here for now.

4. Colorado. They were one of the best teams in the league to finish last season and they've made some significant improvements. Goaltending's still a problem but I don't think they plan on winning many games 2-1 this year.

5. L.A. Kings. For the record I've been saying this long before they beat the Ducks in the season opener(besides, as I write this Anaheim's leading the second game 1-0). They're my favourite sleeper team this season. They have one of the best defenses in the league, and one of the best groups of young forwards in the league (at least 4 guys on that team could average one point per game this season). Best of all they didn't make any major "let's save our season with this one move" type signing/trade last season, instead choosing to bring in a few medium names to fill holes as neccesary. I love it when teams do that. Mark my words, they'll be up there this year.

6. Minnesota. This might actually be a bit low for them but I'm not confortable putting 3 NW teams in a row on top of these standings. Last year was kind of an off-year for them, and they didn't make a single major move this off-season because they know they have a solid team. They should be much better playing one complete year without major injuries. Maybe the most underrated good team in the league.

7. Anaheim. That's right, behind the Kings. Never, ever underestimate the power of a Stanley Cup hangover.

8. St. Louis. Finished the season up strong last season, and made lots of improvements. I'd be surprised if they didn't make the playoffs.

9. Nashville. Up until writing this I actually thought they still had enough to make the playoffs. Then I changed my mind. So there. I really can't think up a scenario where they manage to sneak in, aside from one where St. Louis and L.A. aren't as good as I thought they would be...but that would be crazy. Their crappy division saves them from going any lower.

10. Calgary. One really good team had to get left out of the playoffs in this preview and they were the odd man out. This is mostly because what they did this summer is more of a sidegrade than anything, and Mike Keenan is not the coach you bring in to turn your team into a winner, he's the coach you bring in to punish them for slacking off last season (which they did). Also, I couldn't have 4 Northwest teams making the playoffs, as cool as that would be if it happerned.

11. Dallas. This has all the makings of turning into a rebuilding year for them. After however many first round exits in a row, they probably know that they don't have enough to go far with their current team. Look for them to make some major shake-ups at the first sign of trouble this year.

12. Columbus. They were actually a fairly good team on paper last year, and a full year with Hitchcock will likely improve things (just don't pick anyone except their goalie for your fantasy team). The only problem is that the teams in front of them are pretty good too.

13. Chicago. Maybe next year.

14. Edmonton. The sad thing is that they actually improved (at least on paper) this off-season. Being in the most competitive division in hockey doesn't help.

15. Pheonix. The only teams that I'm truly confident will not make the playoffs this year are Edmonton and Pheonix...and I'm not so sure about Edmonton.

And now for my Eastern power rankings:

1. Pitsburgh.
2. Ottawa.
3-15. Everyone else, in no particular order.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Don Taylor Play-By-Play Drinking Game

Well as you all likely know by now, the most notable thing about last night's Sharks-Canucks pre-season game was that Don Taylor was doing the play-by-play. I thought he settled in pretty well after some early jitters, but judging by the boards oppinion was more mixed than that. One brilliant idea that made its way out of there, though, was that of a Don Taylor drinking game. Every time he says one of his regular Sportsnet News lines as part of the commentary you have to take a drink, with more unusal lines requiring more drinks. For example:

Refferences to players' old jersey numbers ("and there goes so-and-so wearing so-and-so's old number 22")-1 drink

"Brouhaha"-1 drink

"Boondoggle"-1 drink

"The _______-ian spinorama"-1 drink

"With a rapier-like glove hand"-1 drink

"In _________-ian fashion"-1 drink

"They're loving it in _______" 1 drink

"Gingerly"-1 drink

"Bulges the twine"-2 drinks

"Ripples the mesh"-2 drinks

"Top shelf where mom keeps the peanut butter"-2 drinks

"Markus Naslund skating like a modern day _________."-2 drinks

(in Marv Albert voice)"And it WAS a GORGEOUS move"-3 drinks

"Nyayahay"-down the whole bottle. Seriously, if he lets one of these out randomly during a play-by-play it will be one of the greatest moments in Canucks announcing history.

Any I missed? Thanks to the guys at the message boards for reminding me of many of these.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jan Bulis We Hardly Knew Ye

This is my farewell post to Jan Bulis. It was actually one of the items in the "random thoughts" post before this one, but it ran a little long so I decided to make it its own post.

Well anyways, as was expected, Jan Bulis is now officialy gone. He signed with a Russian team for about the same ammount he was getting with the Canucks last year. You may not have heard about this because it was hardly mentioned even among the Canucks blogs, and the only official article relating to his deparutre was from a Russian website (and thus written in Russian...I don't exactly know what people were trying to accomplish by linking to it).

Count me among the people who are actually sad he's gone. I actually bought the story he told in that Province article, the one about him calling his dad for advice after making his trade demand and his dad basically telling him, "It's not them, it's you", with that being the reason he straightened up. Bulis's whole problem, as many have pointed out, was that he wanted to be more than he is. He had the ability to be a very solid defensive player, but he wanted to put up big numbers, so instead of playing like a very good 2-way forward he ended up playing like a very bad scorer for most of his career. During the second half of last season, after the whole trade demand episode and the call to his dad, though, he surprised pretty much everyone by turning things around. He didn't put up big points, but he played good, effective two-way hockey, earning the praise of the same people in the media who were his biggest detractors two months before.

I actually think we saw a fundamental change in Bulis'mindset in those last few months. It looked like he was done trying to be a scorer and had instead decided to accept the role given to him and contribute that way. One other quote that stuck out at me from that same article was Bulis saying that he used to actually want to play for a bad team, so that he'd get more ice time and have a better chance at putting up points, but by the end of the season he didn't really think that way anymore. Maybe I haven't yet grown jaded enough about the questionable pronouncements of hockey players, but that actually rang true for me. Besides, I don't think a player would actually admit to something like that if he hadn't made a serious commitment to change his ways.

I think it's pretty true that in life people almost never change. If someone was lazy 20 years ago, they're probably still lazy. If someone was an ass 20 years ago, they're probably still an ass. It's pretty rare to see someone actually make a fundamental change to how they approach any aspect of their life, and even more rare to see them actually stick with this change in the long term. That's why I would have really wanted to see Jan Bulis in a Canuck (or failing that any NHL) uniform this year, to see wether he'd be able to keep up the same kind of play for the entire year or if he'd go back to being the old Jan Bulis.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that, as far as I know, most European contracts do have an out clause if the player wants to go back to the NHL, and Nonis has said that if his other moves don't pan out before the season starts, bringing back Bulis is still an option. So maybe all is not lost. Here's hoping.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random thoughts

Twenty-five posts in 2 and a half months isn't that good is it? Time for some filler.

If I ran the NHL my first act would be to decree that all rookies are to be reffered to only as noobs.

Second act: the game will now be played in a completely dark arena with a glow-in-the-dark puck.

As you may have heard, the New England Patriots got into a lot of shit this week for taping their opponents' signals from their own sideline. Why exactly is it illegal to do this? If they just had a guy with binoculars writing everything the other team did down instead of taping it would that be illegal too? How about just casually looking over at the other team's sidelines? Where do you draw the line?

It appears that the whole "Let's make a drinking-related joke whenever one of the Staal brothers comes up" thing has really taken off throughout the blogs/newspaper columns (I will never, ever in my life use the phrases "blogosphere" or "mainstream media"). My personal message to those making these jokes: Where the fuck were you people when Keith Tkachuck showed up for camp 30 pounds overweight a couple years ago? That was supposed to be a source of comedy gold for years and years. Instead here we are three years later and most people have forgotten that even happerned. There need to be some strict guidlines for what is and isn't made fun of so this kind of thing never happerns again.

Remember when I used to actually talk about the Canucks on this blog? Those were the days...

With that in mind, Luongo took a shot in the neck today at practice, and didn't come back to the ice. The guy needs to start wearing a neck protector. Remeber in Montreal last year when he spent the night in the hospital for the same reason? I know he finds them uncomfortable, but getting hit in a neck by a puck going 100 mph is uncomfortable too.

Also, get this, Sami Salo is injured. His wrist is apparently in a cast right now, and they don't know if it's broken or not. I know, I know, I never saw something like this coming either. It's like Jan Bulis trying a spin move. (I know I've used that before, I'm trying to get all the mileage I can out of this joke before people forget who he is) Also, sorry Sami, you're actually one of my favourite players, that's why I want to see you play a full season one of these years.

I think this post officially makes "random crap" the second most used tag on this blog. I'm trying to decide wether this is a good or a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NHL Stock Watch

Allright it's time for the first installment of what I hope to be a running segment: NHL stockwatch. Basically this section asks which NHL teams/players/executives you should be buying and selling assuming they were stocks. As with stocks, you'd want to sell assets that have reached their peak value and are on the way down, and buy those which are undervalued and look to be on their way up. (allright, fine, so this whole thing is basically a convoluted version of those "hot and not" sections every magazine in the world has, except its focused on the future not the present)

First, the sell section. These are "stocks" which have reached their peak value and you should be selling...if they were actually stocks.

Brian Burke. If Brian Burke was a corporation right now I'd be shorting his stock like crazy. He's turned into the man who can do no wrong in the past two years, with the Pronger trade, winning the cup, and everything else. At this point there's really not much higher he can go. He does have plenty of room to fall, however. Picking up Bertuzzi for 1 mil per season would have been a great move. Picking him up for 2 years at 4 million per, not so much. He's now put himself in a position where a hell of a lot of things have to go right for this signing to be regarded as a sucess. Combine this whith the downgrade the Ducks upcoming stanley cup hangover season, which might have seen the team take a sep back even if it was kept entierely the same from last season, and lingering resentment from other managers for his decision not to match the offer sheet to Penner, and I see Burkie taking a lot of crap from a lot of people this year.

The Detroit Red Wings. Ever since the lockout at the beginning of every season I've been asking the same "is this the year that Detroit finally falls off?" and each time the answer has been no. But, well, it's gotta happern some time and this year looks as to have as big a chance as any. Other than that, there's also other factors, like the fact that the entire city of Detroit is falling apart, and that the team's bajillion-game sellout streak actually ended last season in the first round of the playoffs(with the Michigan economy being blamed). That can't be a good sign. Eventually it all has to come apart for a few years. It may not happern tommorow, but the weaknesses are already starting to show.

Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Sheldon Souray. Way, way overvalued because of this last free agent season. All three of these guys are non-elite players who are coming off one good year, and all three got way more than they should because the teams apparently said "hey, someone's gotta get 6 mill per year this free agent season" and these guys were the best players available. A lot of people are gonna feel pretty stupid when these guys go back to their regular selves.

And now for the buy section. These are undervalued "stocks" that are on their way up.

The Kings, Caps and Blues. My three sleeper teams this season. The Avs aren't a sleeper because everyone's expecting them to do well this season. Of these three the Kings are my personal favourite. They have what may be one of the best defences in the NHL (seriously, look it up, they have 5 guys who've had at least a 39 point season in the last 5 years and the other one's Jack Johnson). They have one of the best group of young forwards in the league (Frolov, Kopitar, Calimaneri), and solid depth with Nagy, Hazndus and Calder. On paper this is at the very least a playoff team, and I really dont get why they're not getting more recognition aside from the fact that they sucked last year and did not make any single major move in the off-season (although this may be a point in their favor). The Blues were already good for the second half of last season, and only got better in the off-season. I'd be surprised if they dont contend this year. The Caps made a few good moves, but more than that just have "feel-good season" written all over them this year.

The NHLPA. Getting their shit back together at last.

The New Jersey Devils. Entirely because of the new arena. One of the most depressing recurring NHL stories of the past 15 years has been how the Devils have always been one of the best teams in hockey, but didn't have the fan support to match their on-ice performance. A lot of people, rightly or wrongly, blamed this on their former arena's proximity to MSG(apparently it's literally half an hour away). The new arena solves this problem and, aside from that, is probably just plain nicer than their decrepit old haunt. There's no guarantees here but it should probably do a lot to the franchise.

California Hockey. Ok maybe not.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Shoot'Em Up Review

Hockey blog or not, just for the hell of it here's my review of Shoot'Em Up:

The depiction of violence on film presents a constant struggle for filmmakers. They must balance the audience's desire for more with the constraints of moderation and good taste, which prevent them from providing excessive displays of carnage in their films. Thankfully, the arrival of Shoot'Em Up has provided audiences, and indeed filmmakers the world over, with an excellent example of how to walk this fine line. Seldom has a film breached the subject of violence in such a nuanced and thoughtful manner, evidencing such grace and concern for its subtleties.

I'm just fucking with you, of course.

The only things you really need to know about this movie are that it's called Shoot'Em Up, and it's the most blatantly, wonderfully ridiculous thing to come out in a long, long time. This becomes readily apparent from the opening sequence: The movie opens with our hero "Mr. Smith" (like all good anti-heroes, we never know his real name), sitting on a bench on a deserted city street munching on a (soon to be very lethal) carrot. A preagnant woman then walks by in front of him, followed by an armed thug who chases her into an abandoned building screaming that he's going to kill her. Mr. Smith, completely unphased by this entire scene, lets out a "I gotta do this now?" sigh, and follows the armed thug into the building, quickly dispatching him (using that same carrot..don't ask) and saving the preagnant lady. At this point, around 20 anonymous henchemen inexplicably appear out of absolutely nowhere, guns ablazing. Mr. Smith, without missing a beat, as if this was the most natural thing in the world, gets to work dispatching them. Compounding his problems, the woman he saved decides to go into labor. So now Mr. Smith is heroically dispatching anonymous henchmen with one hand, while helping this woman give birth with the other. The baby is finally delivered, although his mother doesn't survive, and Mr. Smith spends the rest of the movie running and trying to protect him from yet more anonymous henchmen, led by the always enjoyable Paul Giamatti.

Yup, it's that ridiculous. Halfway through this first scene I actually turned to my friend and said "this has to be a dream sequence or something"'. I thought it was too over the top, and that the real movie would start as soon as this sequence was over, answering all our questions. Questions like: Why is Mr. Smith risking his life to save these this baby from all these henchmen without even pausing to consider it? Why doesn't he look even a bit surprised by everything that's going on? Where did he learn to dispatch anonymous henchmen so effieciently? Alas, these questions are left unanswered. The movie keeps right on going the way it began, with little time spent on such petty details as why exactly any of this is happerning. Oh there's a plot, of sorts, but the whole thing smacks of the writers going "OK this movie's going to have a lot of action scenes. It's going to start with a random guy deciding to be a hero and save a preagnant lady he doesn't even know. We'll figure out the rest as we go along."

Generally being light in the plot department isn't a fatal flaw for an action movie. They're action movies first and foremost, and that's fine. As long as the plots provide some explaination for why one group of guys is shooting at the other group of guys, there's usually no problem. But there's a line, damnit! And this movie crosses it. It doesn't as much ignore the idea of a plot as it actively disdains it. It's as if the filmmakers felt insulted by the fact that they had to fit all the awesome action scenes they came up with into some sort of story, and so spent as little time and energy on it as possible. Yeah, yeah, i know... "To hell with the plot, nobody's watching for that anyway". Even if they aren't, this move ignores its plot so thoroughly that it's actually hurt by its absence. The whole thing seems too sudden and unexplained, and the action scenes lose some of their entertainment value because you've always got that little voice in the back of your mind saying "wait, why is this stuff happerning?"

Now that we got that out of the way, though, the action sequences themselves are as ridiculous and entertaining as you'd expect. Aside from the aforementioned scene where our hero helps with the birth of a baby while partaking in a shootout, we also have what may be the first free-falling-from-a-plane shootout in movie history and a hilarious combination of a love scene and action scene(our hero's having such a good time that he continues his tyrst with his love interest even as armed henchmen burst into the room and he has to fight them off). The movie makes a point of trying to give each scene its own little twist to mix things up (sometimes our guy gets to set up traps for the anonymous henchmen, sometimes he's out of bullets so he has to throw carrots at them, etc.) keeping things fresher than they would otherwise be. Aside from the whole "Look, now he's shooting people while doing (such-and-such) at the same time" gimmick, and the general over-the-topness of everything, though, there's nothing really that groundbreaking about the way in which the action scenes are shot. You've seen most of this stuff before. Nonetheless, everything is so well executed, and done with such glee, that you can't help but be entertained even as you wonder what's going on.

As much as I hate this movie for bringing us closer to the day when Hollywood releases a movie that's literally two hours of people shooting at eachother without any context whatsoever, it was still a good time. As long as you go in knowing what you're getting yourself into, there's worse ways to spend two hours.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The goalie rankings

Since goalies are again, by far the most important position in yahoo fantasy, here's my personal rankings for most of the top goalies on yahoo.

1. Miikka Kiprusoff (Yahoo rank: 3d among goalies)-Kipper, Luongo and Brodeur are in a class of their own above all other fantasy goalies, of course. But why Kipper above Louie and Brodeur? Fist of all, he underachieved last season and should have a bounce-back year. Also, far more importantly: contract year! contract year! contract year! In the end, though, youre fine picking any of the top 3 guys in each other's place and so for all practical purposes the distinction between 1 and 3 isn't that big a deal. Just feel that Kipper has the edge this year.

2. Luongo (Yahoo rank: 1st among goalies)-Had his coming-out party last year but there's still a lot of unfinished business with him, considering he was shut out in awards voting, the Canucks didn't get past the second round, and his mistake at the end of game 5. No drop-off predicted.

3. Brodeur (Yahoo rank: 2nd among goalies)-With him there will indeed be a drop-off, partly because he had the 2nd best season of his career last year, and partly because the Devils are going to be quite a bit worse this year, or at least that's what it looks like. If you've got him, consider trying to trade him for Lulongo or Kiprusoff.

4. Henrik Lundqvist (holy crap I spelled that right on the first try, also, Yahoo rank: 7th among goalies)-He doesn't get as much credit as he should. Year in and year out(fine, for the past 2 years) this guy's right behind the three top guys, quietly finishing 3d in Vezina voting for both the past two years. A far surer bet than the three guys ranked 4 to 6.

5. Evgeni Nabokov (Yahoo rank: 8th among goalies)-Again, always good to go with a sure thing. Has the team to himself now, and the Sharks look good yet again this year.

6. Niklas Backstrom (Yahoo rank: 6th among goalies)-We're now out of the first two tiers and are at the point in the rankings that everyone listed starts to have some sort of flaw that keeps them from being considered a sure-thing like the first 5 guys. I'm actually not as high on Backstrom as most people. He put up his crazy good stats playing only the last few months of last year, while his team was going on an insane run of it's own (2nd best record in the league after Christmas). Any goalie's going to put up good stats when his team's playing .750 hockey for 3 months. Don't expect him to keep up that .929 save percentage this season. The main reason I'd still take him as high as he's ranked, though, is that this looks to be a big year for Minnesota (after they went through all that BS with the Gaborik injury and the bad start last year, they probably just want a full season to show what they can do) and they're almost always one of the best teams in the league in terms of goals allowed anyway. And anyways, when Kipper first got traded to Calgary and finished those last two months on a tear a lot of people (including me) said he couldn't keep it going next year either. He's more of a gamble than people think, but still worth a high pick.

7. J.S. Giguere (Yahoo rank: 5th among goalies)-I'm kind of reluctant to even place him this high. Never underestimate the power of a Stanley Cup hangover. The Ducks have also downgraded pretty significantly this year: from Selanne to Bertuzzi, from Neidemayer to Schneider, and losing Penner. Considering he just got a new contract, just won the Stanley Cup, and has some family concerns with his son's situation, the movitation's got to be at an all-time low for him. At the same time, he's still a better bet than the guys behind him.

8. Ray Emery (Yahoo rank: 15th among goalies)-Good stats last year (essentially the same as Giguere's, with a slightly worse GAA), good team, why take him any lower?

9. Marty Turco (Yahoo rank: 9th among goalies)-Probably the lowest he's been ranked in the past few years. There's nothing wrong with him, but Dallas really doesn't look good this year.

10. Dominic Hasek (Yahoo rank: 4th among goalies)-Well I guess I had to have him on here at some point. The risk of injury is just too huge to spend a top-round pick on him. Considering that that Detroit might also be slipping a bit this year (of course people say this every year), and I don't think he's worth the risk anywhere higher than here. His backup might make a good low-round pick though...

11. Manny Legace (Yahoo rank: 20th among goalies)-St. Louis was among the best teams in the league to finish the season last year, and they look to be equally good this year (they got the Paul Kariya seal of approval after all). Legace's save% in Dec, Jan and Feb last year, when St. Louis started playing better: .931, .920, .906. Also has a .915 career save percentage. Any pick you make at this point is going to be a bit of a risk, and he seems the best one to take at this spot in the rankings.

12. Rick DiPietro (Yahoo rank: 14th among goalies)-Quietly put up surprisingly good stats last season (.919 save percentage on a 8th place team), and you know he'll get lots of playing time. Of course, if you're one of those people that thinks the Islanders will finish last in the league just because they're the Islanders, stay away.

13. Chris Manson (Yahoo rank: 12th among goalies)-Seeing what his stats were last year, you'd think he should be ranked higher (Alan Ryder at Hockey Analytics claims there's a case to be made that he was the best goalie in the league last year). Nonetheless, that was for a team that finished third in the league in points. I don't think the Preds' collapse will be as complete as generally assumed, but they're obviously not the same team they were last year.

14. Marc-Andre Fleury (Yahoo rank: 10th among goalies)-A good example of a goalie who'll get bad stats on a good team. If you just need wins, then by all means pick him higher than this. He won't do your goals against or save percentage any good.

15. Vesa Toskala (Yahoo rank: 23d among goalies)-You know how in my comments about Backstrom I said that a goalie can look better than he is when he finishes the season as the starter for a team that's really hot? Toskala's save percentage when this happerned to him three seasons ago: .930. His save percentages for the next 2 years: .901, .908. I dont know what kind of saviour he's gonna be for the Leafs. Nonetheless, for some reason I just can't rank him any lower.

16. Thomas Vokoun (Yahoo rank: 11th among goalies)-Good goalie, bad team. Not much else to say.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Magicpie's sure-to-suceed guide to fantasy players

Now that the general rules posts are out of the way here's a look at some of the specific players in this year draft and where they should be picked. A lot of these players can be divided in a few specific categories:

The "we've bottomed out" group. These are players who had bad years last season, and are thus at the bottom of their potential value, going as low as you could ever expect them to possibly go. A lot of good teams are built on guys like these. If they go back to their old selves then you just got a good player a couple rounds later than he should have gone. If not, then you only wasted a low pick on them. The only way to screw yourself over with these guys is to assume that their return to form is a sure thing and pick them higher than they're being picked (i.e. passing up 80 point guys to take Markus Naslund coming off his 60 point season because you just know he'll be back to his old self this year). Some notables this year:

Markus Naslund. Sixty points is as bad as you're going to get with him.

Pavel Demitra. Last year was probably the worst of his career and he still had 62 points. Injuries always a concern though.

Todd Bertuzzi. He's ranked like 500th. Take a chance on him instead of some miscelaneous left winger you'll drop right after the draft.

Marek Zidlicky. His ES points remained the same last year but he only had about 10 PP points (30 pts total). Now that Timmonen's gone he should be back to his customary 50 points.

Rob Blake. Remember him? He used to be pretty good... Kings should be much better this time around.

Joni Pitkanen. Bad year on a horrible team and he still had 40 points. Going far, far lower than he should be.

Pick him, you won't be sorry.

The "we were injured and are thus underranked" group. Guys who missed 20 or more games and still had good years on a per-game basis, but are ranked below where they should go because they still put up only 60 points instead of 80. And they are:

Martin Havlat, Wade Redden, Mike Modano, Ed Jovanovski and Marian Gaborik. Jovanovski and Gaborik seem to be on this list every year, though so you should probably take that into account before picking them.

The "we're coming off a contract year, whatever you do don't pick us" group. This group ruins more fantasy teams year in and year out than any other. These are guys that put up huge numbers last season but are due for a slowdown now that they signed their ginormous deal:

Sheldon Souray. Ranked fifth among defencemen right now. It's amazing what one 60 point season when you've never been past 40 in your career before gets you. Stay away, just stay away.

Daniel Briere. Before last year his best season was 65 points (although he did put up good point-per-game numbers in an injury-shortened season two years ago). It also bears noting that Philly is not Buffalo. Again, best to stay away.

Of course we've also got this group's distant cousin, the "I wasn't in a contract year but I still overachieved insanely last year" group, which includes:

Andrew Brunette. Fifty years from now Andrew Brunette will be telling his grandkids about the one year he got above 80 points in an NHL season.

Jarome Iginla. Turns out Iginla was sort of in a contract year last season. Either way, last year was only the second time he's had more than 73 points, and it's doubtful that Calgary's going to play the same kind of offensive hockey they played last season this time around. Not a good way to spend your first pick.

That's it for now, more to come.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Magicpie's sure-to-suceed fantasy guide (part 2)

Here's some more fantasy advice, as always focused mainly on Yahoo leagues, now that I've had a chance to actually do a draft:

I was wrong about LWs.Last time I said that since Yahoo doesn't let players play multiple positions too much anymore LWs are going to be in far shorter supply than RWs. This is usually true, but after actually looking at this year's player rankings, the division of skill seems to be pretty even between LWs and RWs this year. So nevermind what I said. RWs and LWs are equal this year.

Plus Minus Matters.Don't ignore plus minus when making your picks. It's easy to get caught up in the "well Kovalchuk will get me so many points that this should cancel out his horrible +/-" line of thinking and draft 2 or 3 horrible +/- guys as your forwards. For the love of God don't do this, it's not worth the cost. The -20 that a bad +/- guy will get you will almost always lose you more standings points in the +/- stat than the extra points he will get you in goals and assists. Basically a bad +/- should be a dealbreaker. If a guy's got a bad +/- just don't pick him, simple as that.

Another argument against picking up guys with bad +/- is this: as we all know, people in yahoo leagues often realise they have no chance/just stop caring halfway through the season and stop updating their team. Injured players stop getting substituted, and so forth, meaning their teams stop accumulating stats as quickly in most categories. Simply by sticking around and being active for the entire season you should thus be able to beat these guys in most stats. Thus even if you actually have the worst team in the league, if half your league quits you should end up at least 5th/6th in goals, assists and most other stats. Plus minus, though, doesn't work like this. Even if a guy quits and benches all his players, his +/- won't actually go down but will stay at +28 or whatever it was. If your team's at -20 and last in +/-, you'll still be last in +/- at the end of the season and only get one standings point out of it. Thus even if your team's not great in points/assists, the worst you'll realistically be is 5th/6th in these stats, but if your +/- is bad you'll be dead last in it. So the short version is this: +/- is the only stat that doesn't benefit from people quitting so don't ignore it.

If you have to make changes to your team after the draft wait two days. All players go on waivers in the first two days after a draft. Thus when people decide to make minor changes of the "I didn't like my 15th pick let me get this guy instead" variety they don't realise that they're taking the guys off waivers and going to last in waiver priority in the process. Just wait two days until players aren't on waivers anymore to make these minor changes so you don't lose your waiver priority.

The two defencemen rule. A lot of times, because of off-season acquisition, a team will end up with more good offensive defencemen than it should have. This worries fantasy owners because they think there might not be enough powerplay time to go around, and so not everyone will be able to get their usual stats. Usually, if a team has two very good offensive defencemen, this doesn't become a problem. If it has 3 or more, then in general only the best two will get the minutes they need to have a season that's up to their regular standards. For example, last season Pavel Kubina went from 26 powerplay points to 8 because he went from being one of the top 2 guys on his team to playing behind McCabe and Kaberle in Toronto. If you're thinking of picking Dick Tarnstrom or Schneider(if Nedemayer comes back), you have been warned.

Get guys on overachieving teams. Every year there's one good offensive team that has "one of those years", where everything just clicks and the team performs well above its already high offensive standards. Last year it was Buffalo, the year before that Ottawa, and the year before that it was Tampa. This year, it will probably be Pittsburgh. The reason I mention this is that everyone on that team overachieves. More specifically, there's always a couple of fringe players that are usually not quite fantasy worthy that end up being quality, point-per-game guys for this one season and can usually be picked up cheaply at the start of the season to fill holes in your lineup. Thus, if you find yourself looking for a sleeper this year, take a chance on Pittsburgh's second-tier guys.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Magicpie's sure-to-succeed fantasy hockey guide

Allright it's fantasy season. So with that in mind, here's my fantasy league advice, focused mostly on yahoo leagues. This post is mainly going to be about general advice that applies every season. I'll try to have something more specifically related to this year's players and rankings once I have a better look at the player list.

Goalies Should Be Your Top Priority. As anyone who's played will tell you, this is by far the most important rule of yahoo leagues. Goalies take up two of your twelve roster spots but make up 40% of your total stats. What's more there's only about 20 good goalies in the league, and while you can usually pick up plenty of good forwards and defencemen off waivers throughout the season, good goalies are almost impossible to find after the draft. Your team can recover from not drafting enough left wingers, or picking crappy defencemen. The only sure way to fuck your team over for the rest of the season is to pick bad goalies. So make these your top priority. Unless you can get Sidney Crosby if any of the top 3 goalies (Lulongo, Brodeur, Kipper) are still available when you pick in the first round you should take them.

The first 8 picks are when the draft is lost, the last 8 picks are when the draft is won-In your first 8 picks you should have only one priority: Don't fuck up! By this I mean, don't waste any of your top picks on players who overachieved the previous year and are consequently overvalued. People who picked Chechoo in the first round last year know what I'm talking about. The first 8 rounds of the draft are littered with possible mistakes like these. As long as you recognise who these players are (it's actually not that think Andrew Brunette's gonna put up 80 points again this year?) and avoid them, you should already be better off than most of the managers in the league who will probably have wasted at least a couple of their high picks on these overrated players at this point. As for the last 8 picks, well there's not much to say about this except that there's much more value to be had here than people assume. Players fluctuate to the point that a 4th-5th round pick 2 years ago goes 10th or 11th this year because of one bad season. Don't let that one bad season scare you. Take these guys and if they come back to their old selves you have a good shot of winning your league.

Better to take the misranked players earlier rather than later-For those of you that don't know what I mean by misranked players, these are quality players that end up being ranked way way lower than they should be by yahoo because they missed most of the previous season and thus put up no stats. I'm not talking about players ranked 10 or 20 spots lower than they should be, but top-20 picks being ranked 500th. This means that they're put at the bottom of everyone's draft list and everyone forgets about them, meaning they can be picked far later than they should be. The draft then becomes like a game of chicken between some managers, as they see how long they can wait before finally taking these guys. My advice is this: don't wait. If you see Alex Tanguay ranked 600th when you know he should be going in the 4th round, don't push your luck and wait untill the 9th or the 10th round to take him because some some other jackass who's thinking the same thing might take him in the 8th and letting you end up with nothing. Even if you get him only 2-3 rounds later than he should be going, you're still helping your team, and you're running a far lower risk of ending up with nothing.

Draft magazines are useless-There I said it. They're not bad for entertainment but their predictions arent too great.

Positions matter. Back a few years ago every left winger turned into a player that could play both left and right 10 games into the season so you could get away with just picking the best players and worrying about the rest later. This is no longer true. Most wingers can play only right or left, meaning that left wingers are in far shorter supply and thus more valuable than right wingers. Make sure you're solid at this position before picking any RWs. As another note, centers are probably the deepest position fantasy-wise so you can get away with picking them later in the draft, and defencemen, while important (aside from a good goalie, a defenceman who can put up a point per game is the most valuable commodity in yahoo fantasy) tends to be overvalued, so a lot of the good defencemen get picked earlier than they should be, so my advice would be to stay away from them in the early rounds. In contrast, defense is also the position where you're most likely to pick really really good contributors in the later rounds. It's usually possible to not pick any defencemen with your first 7-8 picks then pick four midrange/undervalued guys in a row with your next 4 picks and still end up with a solid defense corps.

Follow this advice and I guarantee...well nothing. Good luck to all in their drafts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


There. It's over. It's done. Now we can all shut up about it.

By the way, Linden's stats last season adjusted for ice time:
points/60 min ES ice time: 1.53
points/60 min PP ice time: 2.71

And Bryan Smolinski's:
points/60 min ES ice time: 1.57
Points/60 min PP ice time: 2.70

I don't hear anyone calling Smolinski washed up.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This needs to happern

One of the most annoying things about watching hockey on TV is all the pauses. Icings, penalties, goalies freezing the puck, pucks going out of play, etc. Basically for every minute of actually watching the game you get another minute of watching players skate around getting ready for a face-off. This kills the flow of the game and makes it a lot more boring to watch (us kids these days, we don't have long attention spans). As such, I really wish they'd start running edited replays of Canucks games with all the pauses between plays cut out, and just the actual game being shown.

Yeah, I know the CBC already shows edited versions of its Hockey Night in Canada games later that night. The problem with these, though, is that they're edited pretty badly. They cut out about a third of the game itself along with the pauses in play and the whole thing seems random and disjointed. That's not what I want. Instead they should show every second of actual play, as well as leaving in a few seconds before a face-off and after a stop in play so the whole thing doesn't look to disjointed. Also, after a perticularly nice goal it might be good to leave room for some replays before going to the next face-off. Basically the editing needs to be done right for something like this to work.

If done right, though, game replays like these could actually make for a pretty good programming choice for, say, the more dead time slots like those on mornings and late-nights when some networks (this means you, Sportsnet) don't feel its worth the cash to buy actual shows and just end up playing the same damn Sportsnet News re-run over and over.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I demand a recount!

Well it seems I lost the canucks blogger contest thing. So instead of voting for me this round I'm gonna ask you all to vote against the guy that beat me. Vengeance will be mine.
At least this time around they're asking people to submit their email every time they vote (last round you could vote as many times as you wanted) therefore hopefully preventing a scandal of "vote for Rory"-like proportions.

Since I took the time to write it I might as well get something out of it so here's what my post would have been if I'd gone through:

I have to say that I came down with a bit of writer's block trying to come up with a post about the Canucks' prospects. So after seriously considering putting up a post titled "Harold Druken: The Man, The Legend"(I'm not joking), I've instead decided to rip off ESPN's Bill Simmons and write a post based on quotes from the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa and Bart are on different hockey teams. Why? Why the hell not. Each notable Canucks prospect gets a quote from the show and an explaination.

Homer [upon seeing Uter the German kid]: "Look, that kid's got bosoms! Who's got a wet towel?"
This one goes to Michael Grabner. Based on everything the Canucks are saying, Grabner better start putting on weight if he wants a shot at making the team. There's a small chance that the Canucks may know more about this stuff than me, but count me among the people who don't get the whole "this guy's too small to play, he's not getting ice time unless he bulks up" approach to prospects. It just seems like a lot of the time it does more harm than good.

Apu[after shooting a puck at Lisa]: "The goalie of my dreams!...Now let's try a hard one to make sure it wasn't a fluke."
He may not be a goalie but this quote goes to Janik Hansen. He played surprisingly well during his short call-up in the playoffs last year, but a lot of young players play above their normal level their first few games in the league purely because of the andrenaline (look at how Alex Edler's play worsened later into his stint with the team last year). Hopefully he gets more of a long-term shot this year and we find out if that was the real Janik Hansen we saw in the playoffs.

Homer: "Oh my God Marge. A penalty shot with only four seconds left. It's your child versus mine. The winner will be showered with praise. The loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore"
This one goes to Luc Bourdon and Alex Edler. Based on our current defence situation, there's only really room for one young defenceman to earn himself a regular spot on the team in the next couple of years. Wether they like it or not, those two have a bit of a competition on their hands. It would also make for a great running sub-plot for this season if these two played equally well and the town split into "pro-Edler" and "pro-Bourdon" camps that reularly duked it out on sports radio and message boards and such. Seriously, this needs to happern.

Marge: "I don't know how you two can sit here laughing at poor Lisa while she's out there probably scared to death."
Luc Bourdon gets himself an additional quote here. All reports during his 9-game stint at the start of last season indicated that the problem was not lack of talent but mental. And you know what, I actually feel pretty bad for him. It would probably suck to know that you've missed your chance chance at an NHL career not because you didn't have enough skill but because you couldn't get it together confidence-wise. Here's hoping that he pulls it together this year.

Milhouse[playing goalie for Apu's team]: "I could have been equipment manager, but noooooo."
To Cory Schneider. I don't know why it was just a great quote.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

And now for another exciting edition of "people who look like things"

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


The good people are having a "choose our new blogger" contest, and your humble corespondent had his entry chosen as one of the options. To the five of you who actually read this blog, if you guys could throw a vote my way that'd be great (my entry's the one named Magicpie). Either way if you want to check out all the entries here is the link.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Burke doesn't match

As you've no doubt heard, Brian Burke did not match the offer sheet and Penner is now headed to Edmonton for 5 years at 4.25 million per year. This offer, or rather the muted reaction to it, might be the most significant thing to happern this off-season. The surprise and anger that you would have expected after Burke didn't match hasn't been there so far. Yes, it's still early, but there haven't been any angry quotes from anonymous GMs calling Burke a pussy for not matching and claiming his actions will destroy...well I don't know what exactly. Compare this to last year, when even though Nonis matched Kesler's RFA offer he still got angry calls for other GMs for not doing so quickly enough. By now, though, he stigma that used to be associated with RFA offers, both in terms of offering them and even remotely contemplating not matching them, seems to have mostly dissapated. For the first time in a long while, or I guess ever, we've seen the RFA process occur without a huge ammount of scorn being heaped on all sides by the hockey community. Offer sheets are now a legitimate tactic. In the hockey world, this might be one of those huge historical moments that changes the way things are done from this point on. I think it's pretty likely that next summer we're going to see a lot more RFA offers and that not a lot of fuss, at least of the "RFA's are forebidden asshole!" variety, will be made about them. So congratulations Kevin Lowe. Your desperation has created a new world for us all.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mirtle on the Canucks

James Mirtle, one of the most well-known NHL bloggers, recently had this to say about the Canucks' prospects for next season:

Still, if one of those top six blueliners isn't moved and Nonis decides to go with the same forward corps as last season, there's a real chance the Canucks miss the playoffs this year. I can't see Markus Naslund getting much better given his decline since the lockout, and Roberto Luongo can't play any better than he has already.

Is there any room for growth on this roster?

And you know what, he may have a point. Maybe missing the playoffs is a bit harsh but can you name a position on the team where we're significantly better than last season? Let's face it, 3d seed or not, last season the Canucks actually finished 6th in the conference in terms of points, and part of that may have been due to luck (see: our best-in-the-league 17-7 overtime record.). This may not be what many people want to hear, but there's a makeable case that the Canucks will actually be worse next season. I'm surprised it took a guy like Mirtle, who doesn't folow the Canucks on a daily basis, to make it. I don't even think he thought this was a particularly bold prediction. Nonetheless, considering everyone in this city seems to be assuming that the team will be either the same or better this year, maybe Canucks fans should at least consider the possibility that the team might worsen instead. Now, I'm not saying that it necessarily will. What I am saying, though, is that the possibility is definetly there, and that it deserves more discussion than it's getting right now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Staal brothers arrested for steroids, illegal dogfighting and tampering with the refereeing of NHL games

Just kidding, it was for getting rowdy at a bachelor party. Doesn't it make you love the NHL when this is the worst we can come up with? Seriously.

The full police report:

On 07/21/07 at approximately 12:30 a.m. the Cook County Sheriff's Office received several complaints in the area of Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas. All complaints were similar in nature, and reporting the same incident; a group of approximately 20 people screaming, yelling, and playing loud music.

At approximately 12:50 a.m. Cook County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived at the Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas. The suspects were warned multiple times to be quiet or they may be removed from the property, issued citations, arrested, and/or deported from the country.

At approximately 3:00 a.m. staff at Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas ordered the group to leave the property, as they were not obeying the warnings they had been given. Cook County Sheriff Deputies, a Minnesota State Patrol Trooper, and a United States Border Patrol agent assisted with the removal of the suspects.

After leaving the property, the group gathered on Highway 61 and began harassing passing motorists. At approximately 4:00 a.m. the suspects were placed under arrest for disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. Some of the suspects fled in to the nearby woods.

I mean, really, we've all been there. Who hasn't put back a few with his buddies and decided "Hey, let's go harass some passing motorists". My favourite quote of this whole ordeal, though, comes from the Staals' agent. Apparently "this is what can happern when you get any group of 15-20 people together and there's loud noise." Oh no it's... loud noise. Loud noise make Staal want smash!

By the way here's the Staals' wildly dissapointing mug shots. Apparently these guys look clean cut even after a long night of drinking and harrassing motorists. Their faces aren't even red!!! God bless the NHL...

All in all, the older Staal spent a day in jail, his brother was released after a few hours, the Canes apparently decided to chalk this one up to "boys will be boys", and a good time was had by all. I would like to personally extend my thanks to the Staal brothers and suggest that all future NHL bachelor parties be held in July and August when there's not much else to write about.

(police report and mug shots shamelessly ripped off from Eric McErlan at AOL Fanhouse)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What's wrong with Markus Naslund (Part 2)

Welcome back to the ongoing series that tries to figure out just why Markus Naslund's production has been wavering the past two years. Today we're going to look at the issue of linemates and try to assess how important the loss of Bertuzzi was in downgrading Naslund's play. At first glance the effect seems pretty large. The fine folks at The Canucks Genome Project blog have helpfully put together a chart of Naslund's production with and without Bertuzzi which I'm now going to shamelessly rip off. The short version is this: Naslund's ppg with Bertuzzi:0.93 Naslund's ppg without Bertuzzi: 0.52. Of course this doesn't necessarily prove anything. Bertuzzi only played with Naslund when Nazzy was at the peak of his career. Naslund's stats during his peak years are gonna be higher than his stats before that with or without Bertuzzi. Nonetheless, I think there's something to this theory, and that Bertuzzi was a huge part of Naslund's sucess. This old article from The Sporting News explains why as well as anything else:

Naslund is not big and leaves the banging to power forward linemate Todd Bertuzzi. Naslund can win a battle for a puck but is best when playing with a linemate who can go into the corners and feed him the puck. Because he thrives most often in open ice, he is not as successful if his space is limited. Teams can contain him by crowding him.

As we all know, Naslund's greatest skill as a player is his shot. But in order to use this skill he needs some sort of room out there, and that's exactly what Bertuzzi, with his big frame and his ability to battle guys provided. Without someone like him making room Naslund found himself under more pressure from defensemen and less able to get a shot off effectively. Maybe that's why last season Naslund attempted the fewest shots he has since 1998-99(2.7 per game, down from an average of 3.58 per game his previous 4 years), and had his lowest shooting percentage since 1999-2000, scoring on only 10.8% of his shots. Another huge piece of evidence in support of his theory is the fact that Naslund's effectiveness has declined at even strength but remained the same on the powerplay. Room isn't as big an issue on the powerplay, so it's logical that his effectiveness would remain the same there.

So here's where we are so far: Naslund's drop in effectiveness can be blamed in large part on the lack of a big man like Todd Bertuzzi who can go out there and make room for him to get his shot off. More to come, including hopefully a more detailed analysis of Naslund's shots at ES and on the PP to see if this theory holds up.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Link of the day...

Mysterious hockey trade rumor monger Eklund almost breaks down and cries on his blog about the crowd gathered at a "Save the Predators" rally in Nashville. Maybe there's hope for hockey there after all.

More on the rally at one of the Nashville Hockey Blogs (feels funny just saying that). Hopefully this gets some sort of positive coverage in the press tommorow. It's a freaking hockey rally in Nashville! They sold something like 700+ season tickets in one day. Even people in the organisation like Barry Trotz were buying them to support the cause. Sure those 7500 people who showed up might include every single hockey fan in Tennesee, but it's still nice to see something like this in a place where they had to have a PA announcement at the end of their first NHL game telling people to go home because the game was three periods not four quarters long. Also the Preds unveiled their new uniforms. Not that bad:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let me tell you guys a story...

Not long ago, a very familiar hockey team was entering its season with many questions hanging over its shoulders. Many thought this team's best days were behind it and few believed the season to come would see the team improve. Nonetheless, bolstered by its recent addition of one of the league's best goaltenders, the team decided that a focus on strong defensive play was it's best chance at sucess. This approach paid off, and despite a lackluster offensive year from its captain and star player, and the fact that it was in the bottom third of league scoring, this team had a pretty damn good season, finishing with over 100 points and winning its division before being knocked out in the playoffs by the Anaheim Ducks.

The next season, however, the team began to take its offensive defficiencies to heart. Despite the fact that its defensive style was paying off the team decided they needed more scoring and traded one of its main defencemen for a fairly prominent forward as well as adding a few other minor offensive names through additional trades. The team's offence certainly improved, and they finished the season in the top-10 in league scoring. Regardless of this, however, the team's record worsened considerably. Instead of 3d they finished 8th in their conference, barely squeaking into the playoffs and making a quick exit once they got there.

As many of you may have realised by now(either through blazing inteligence or because there's a picture of Darryl Sutter at the bottom of this post), I'm not describing the 06/07 Canucks and making my prediction for what will happern with them next year. I'm describing the Calgary Flames' last two seasons. I'm doing this because, in my own long-winded and kind of douchebagy way, I'm trying to make two points:

1. Holy shit the 05/06 Flames and 06/07 Canucks' seasons were similar.

and, more importantly

2. When your team's able to win consistently through defense, having a bad offense may not be a flaw, but rather the price you pay for your solid defensive play. The object of hockey isn't to score goals, it's to win hockey games. If you can win every game 2-1 then who cares that you're averaging 2 goals per game as a team and you're last in the league in scoring. Whatever you have going it's working, and trying to tinker with a winning formula just because you're not scoring so much may end up doing more harm than good.

Look what happerned to the Flames. They excelled at the defensive side of the game and despite their mediocre offense they were one of the best teams in the league. Then they decided that they weren't scoring enough, so they'd better trade some of their defense for some scoring and instead of improving they ended up damn near missing the playoffs.

It's easy to look at the stat sheet and go "Hey we're third in the league in goals allowed, but our offence is 22nd. If only we could score some goals we'd be unstoppable", without keeping in mind that if you change things around to try and score more goals it's pretty damn likely that you'll be allowing more goals too, and the end result may not necessarily be more wins for your team. So, to get to the final point of my post, let's hope that Dave Nonis keeps the Calgary Flames in mind before he goes off trading Ohlund or someone else in search of more scoring.

And, since I couldn't think of any other picture to go with this post, here's a shot of Daryll Sutter. For extra effect you can pretend he's saying "Nooooooooo! I knew bringing in Tanguay and Husselius would do more harm than good!" or some such thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's wrong with Markus Naslund (Part 1)

Welcome to the first of what may be many installments in a series looking into why exactly Markus Naslund's performance has slipped the past two seasons. For starters I wanted to check wether some of his decreased production could have been caused simply by shrinking ice time rather than poorer play. To take ice time out of the equation we can look at his production in terms of points per 60 minutes of ice time. Here's how those stats look for the past five years for both even strangth and on the powerplay.

First here's his even strengh stats:
Season Even Strength Points per 60 mins ES ice time
2006-07: 1.70
2005-06: 2.14
2003-04: 3.01
2002-03: 2.55
2001-02: 3.05

As you can see, there's a sizeable drop-off in the last 2 years to match his overall decrease in production. But now look at his powerplay stats:

Season Powerplay Points per 60 mins PP ice time
2005-06: 5.13
2004-05: 5.56
2003-04: 4.41
2002-03: 7.31
2001-02: 4.86

Surprisingly, these stats show that Naslund's powerplay effectiveness hasn't declined one bit. Hell, aside from his great performance in 2002-03 his last two years have actually seen his powerplay stats improve slightly. So, strangely enough, it seems that Markus Naslund's stats have dropped off exclusively because he's playing worse at even strength, while his powerplay effectiveness has remained exactly the same throughout the last 5 years, through both the good times and the bad. Weird. I can't really think of an obvious reason for this, but I have to say that this rules out many possible explainations about Markus's poor performance, or at least makes them less likely. More to come on this in the future.

Canucks forwards' stats adjusted for ice time

The title pretty much says it all. For those that may be curious, and since these stats are way harder to find than they should be, here's the points per 60 mins of even strength and powerplay ice time for most of the Canucks' forwards last season. (I apologise for the bad quality, click on the picture for an image of marginally better yet still crappy quality)

Biggest surprise here is how similar everyone's stats are except for the Sedins and Nazzy(on the pp anyway). According to this Smolinski and Linden are pretty much the same guy, for example, even though one ended up with 44 points the other with 25. Shows what increased ice time can do.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Souray to Edmonton

Well there you have it folks, the last of the big-name free agents finds himself a team, going to Edmonton for 5 years at 5.4 million per year. When I heard he was going to the Oilers I was prepared for the worst salary-wise, but 5.4 million seems downright reasonable. This says a bit about the interest Souray generated on the free agent market. First of all he signs with Edmonton of all teams. Yeah he's from Alberta, but seriously, If you were an NHL player, knowing what you do about the state of that organisation right now, would you want to play in Edmonton? In adition to that, he was the last big-name free agent on the market and he was dealing with Kevin "I'm trying to keep my job here" Lowe, who's got to be absoulutely desperate to bring in a big name at this point. You're telling me 5.4 million per year was the best offer he could get? I'm thinking that either Souray took a lower salary to play in his home province or there wasn't as much interest in him as it was thought there would be.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Will the East be any better this year?

As we all know, the East has been getting its' ass kicked up and down by the Western conference this past season, to the point that Ottawa stood almost no chance against a Western team after playing it's creampuff Eastern schedule. Just to put this in prespective the Western teams' combined record against the East was 82-48-20 (63-48 in regulation) and only a single Western team(Columbus) had a losing record against the East. So will the East be any better this year? Well one way to find out is to see if the East has picked up more quality free agents than the East. So without further ado, here's all the players that have switched teams from West to the East and those that have switched from the East to the West, with the bigger names in bold.

West to East:
Radek Dvorak
Shawn Thorton
Brett Mclean
Todd White
Petr Sykora
Dany Sabourin
Daryl Sydor
Roman Hamrlik
Kevin Klee
Bryan Smolinski
Ted Kostopoulos
Bill Guerin
Vitali Vishnevski
Joe Motzko

East to West:
Brian Rafalski
Yanic Pereault
Cory Sarich
Jed Ortmeyer
Ryan Smyth
Tom Preising
Greg DeVries
Radek Bonk
Brad Isbister
Eric Belanger
Shane Hindy
Sean Hill
Trevor Bryne
Shane Willis
Mike York
Todd Fedoruk

So really there's been no change, two medium-name defencemen and two medium-name forwards are lost and gained by each conference. If anything the biggest surprise has been how few big names have switched conferences, with the biggest name being Ryan Smyth who only went to the East on a deadline deal.

Of course there's also trades. From this we have a bit more movement:

West to East:
Jason Smith
Jeoffery Lupul
Thomas Vokun
Mark Bell
Vesa Toskala
Manny Fernandez
Kimmo Timmonen
Scott Hartnell
Jassen Cullimore
Tony Salmelaien

East to West:
Joni Pitkanen
Geoff Sanderson
Sergei Samsonov
Darryl Sydor
Petr Klaus

Here the East has finally made some gains, aquiring three of the preds best players and three starting goaltenders while the only good player the West gets back is Joni Pitkanen. So looks like the East is primed to make up at least a little ground, in part because of The Great Nashville Sell Off(tm).