Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Greatest Hockey Player Ever Created

Have you ever wondered what your favourite hockey player would look like if they just had some aspect from someone else’s game? Sure, Jarome Iginla is great, but what if he was as fast as Michael Grabner.

Well, what if we combined the best talents from a group of current players to create a super player – an unstoppable force of hockey juggernaut?

What would the ultimate hockey player look like? If we could take the best aspects of current players in the NHL whose talents would we plunder?

I'm solely looking at current players because it wouldn't be fun to just take Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, and Gordie Howe and be done with it.

Some notable players don’t show up here and that’s not a knock against them. Some of the league’s best players are supremely good in a lot of important areas of the game, but aren’t the best in any one particular area.

I proudly present The 600 Million Dollar Hockey Player (because that’s the type of contract the New York Rangers would throw at this man, except probably over 100 years to keep the cap hit low).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Toronto the Good; Penalty Kill the Bad

ron wilson leafs angry
Ron Wilson about to punch his penalty killers in the face.
For the 6th straight season, the Toronto Maple Leafs own one of the worst penalty kills in the league. The high-water mark for the team was in 2005-06, when they were only the 7th worst team in the NHL with a nice, round 80% mark. Flash-forward to the present day and they are only killing off 73.5% of all penalties taken, the absolute worst rate in the league.

This atrocity isn’t even uncommon. This is the third time since the lockout that they have owned the dubious distinction as league worst and they haven’t killed off more than 80% of their penalties in eight years.

The Leafs have employed a rotating collection of players over the past few seasons, except none seem capable of getting the job done in even a mediocre way. Sure, the goaltending has been atrocious, but that surely isn’t the only reason the Leafs are so patently bad.

On a team that is scoring in bunches, with the first legitimate playoff chance since the glorious time of middling success before the lockout, the penalty kill is a legitimate concern, waiting to derail springtime hockey in Toronto.

In a previous post I was going to make a blanket statement that no team with a bad penalty kill has a shot at making the playoffs. I was just going to throw it in without checking because it just sounded true and I like when I come up with those bold statements. But I thought better, lest the stats police call me an idiot on the internet. And that’s when a somewhat curious stat popped out.

Not every team with a bad penalty kill will live a playoff-less life. In fact, some actually go to do quite well for themselves.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

phil kessel joffrey lupul bffs
After 33 games, the Leafs are who we thought they were. They are in a dog fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, sitting tied with Ottawa (Ottawa!) for 7th place with 36 points. That puts them one point behind New Jersey for 6th, but only one point ahead of Washington, Buffalo, and Winnipeg. It’s a log jam that will likely continue for the rest of the season.

Toronto’s fast start fooled fans into thinking the rebuild was a little ahead of schedule, but a mediocre November (7-6-1) and an awful start to December (2-4-2) has dropped the Leafs from their once lofty perch among the Eastern Conference élite.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Claude Giroux is the NHL's Best Player

claude giroux flyers moustache
Claude Giroux just might be the best player in the league not named Sidney Crosby.

Giroux is currently leading the league in scoring with 39 points, despite missing the last four games with a concussion. His 16 goals are four behind league leader Steven Stamkos and he is the best player on the Eastern Conference's second best team.

His ascension to élite status is even more impressive considering the Flyers placed enormous pressure on the fourth year forward to lead their team after they shipped out Mike Richards and Jeff Carter - their best defensive forward and their best goal scorer. Giroux, at the ripe old age of 23, has effectively replaced both Richards and Carter in all aspects of the game. Why pay over $10 million for two players to do the job one can do?

One might argue that another 2006 draft choice, Chicago's Jonathan Toews, is a better player than Giroux and that would be a totally defensible position. Toews has 18 goals and 35 points and plays in all situations for the best team in the Western Conference. However, Giroux's production combined with the role he plays for the Flyers gives him the edge over the former Conn Smythe winner.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Six Types of Fantasy Hockey Managers

This article originally appeared in the February issue of Puck Life, which was then solely a digital magazine. It has since gone to print and can be found in Chapters book stores across Canada. A year's subscription gets you 40% off the cover price! Wow, you'd have to be a fool not to buy that. And just wait, I'll even throw in my love. Ok, sales pitch over.

I've made only minor updates to the piece. One was making fun of people who take Phil Kessel in the first round, which has thankfully become a non-joke this year! Huzzah!

Fantasy hockey is blowing up in popularity. It combines some of the things men love the most: sports, gambling, and making fun of each other.

Whether you’re playing fantasy hockey with a bunch of friends or a group of strangers on the internet it’s likely you’ll encounter certain types of people. Here are six types of people who probably make up your league.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Like a Dagger to the Heart

vince vaughn laugh roberto luongo
Our scene opens with Roberto Luongo curled up in a ball, rocking back and forth in a white padded room. He has bags under his eyes and looks like he’s been awake for days. He tries to focus on what his therapist said: “the seawall, Roberto, think of the seawall”.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Regrets, I've had a Few

kris versteeg panthers leafs
Making a trade is always a risky proposition. You may think you know what you're giving up, but sometimes, especially with young players, you really have no idea. If you have to give something to get something, in a lot of cases that something you give could turn out to be a lot more than you expected.

It’s very rare that you can rummage in the dumpster out back, throw your findings in an old, dirty burlap sack and get Dion Phaneuf. It just doesn’t happen all that often, especially now that Darryl Sutter isn’t employed as a GM.

Sometimes you're the one giving up the Dion Phaneuf in the deal. In other words: the loser.

Being on the losing end of a deal is a bad feeling. There’s the shame in knowing that your team once had that certain player now dominating the league, and there’s an even greater shame in knowing the team you support is run by people dumb enough to let that player get away.

That’s the feeling Toronto fans get when they think about Tuukka Rask, Boston’s backup goalie who just needs to wait for Tim Thomas to vacate the crease before becoming the league’s best netminder. He's already amazing, but Thomas is so unhumanly good that Rask sits patiently and bides his time before everyone can see his awesomeness 60+ times a year. Thanks, JFJ!

It’s also the feeling Leafs Nation gets whenever Tyler Seguin’s name shows up in the boxscore. Although this feeling is somewhat mitigated every time Phil Kessel’s name shows up, which, thankfully, is quite often.

In addition to Seguin and Rask, another former Leaf is doing quite well for himself. Kris Vertseeg has 28 points in 26 games for the Florida Panthers. He sits 10th in points and is in the top-20 in goals.

But despite how well Versteeg is playing right now, very few Maple Leafs fans are bemoaning his loss. There are a few reasons for this.

Friday, December 2, 2011

November Recap: Not Dropping Down to Earth

Winning! Scoring goals! Getting goals scored on! But still winning! Sometimes! More often than not! Bobby Ryan wet dreams!

All in the month of a Leafs fan. November recap. Get at it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Trade Winds Keep on Blowing

bobby ryan ducks trade
Bobby Ryan was close to being a Maple Leaf… or a Ranger… or a Flyer… or pretty much anything but a Duck. Well, at least that’s what it looked like for a couple of days before Anaheim fired head coach Randy Carlyle less than an hour after a 4-1 win over Montreal.

Yes, Bobby Ryan was reportedly available. Bobby Ryan, the 24-year-old power forward drafted right after Sidney Crosby. A player who has scored back-to-back-to-back 30-goal seasons.

But Ryan has struggled this season, with only 12 points in 24 games, a pace which would be a severe drop-off from last year’s 71-point campaign. Ryan’s struggles, combined with the team’s awful performance set off the perfect storm.

The Ducks lost 18 of 20, sat second last in the entire league and were beginning to get desperate. The Ducks’ thinking was that if they could ship out Ryan they could patch a lot of holes on the roster – a top-4 defenceman, a top-6 forward and a high pick/prospect at minimum. The rumour mill was going crazy, pretty much linking every team in the league to Ryan, because seriously, who wouldn’t want this guy.

The mere thought of trading Bobby Ryan was an idea born from desperation – the type of thought that arises during an almost interminable losing streak. It was as if the Ducks were drunk with losing. Not happy go-lucky drunk where everything is fun, but a depressive, end-of-the-world, nothing is right type of drunk.

But the rumours seem on hold now with Bruce Boudreau taking over behind the bench. If the Ducks start winning Ryan isn’t going anywhere. And the fact that Boudreau is the fastest coach to 200 wins and is taking over another talented roster, my bet is that the Ducks do indeed start winning.

But just the possibility of Ryan’s availability really emphasizes the fact that no one in the league is truly untouchable, it simply takes the right combination of factors. The old cliché is true: if Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kyle Turris: Doomed to the life of a Desert Dog?

When I heard Kyle Turris wanted to be traded from Phoenix my first thought was: "just wait a few months and the team will move itself". But I guess that wouldn't solve Turris' problem of playing for Dave Tippet, in what he presumably considers a bad situation for himself.

I also began to wonder whether or not Turris was actually a bust. He was drafted third behind Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk in 2007 and he still hasn't really cracked the NHL (last year he played in 65 games). Turris feels like a bust because Kane has seemingly been around for forever, so what's taking Turris so long?

Then I looked at his age and realized he was 22. For comparison's sake, Nazem Kadri is 21. If I was going to label Turris a bust, then I better start preparing to do the same for Naz. I wasn't prepared to do that, I still view Kadri as a quality prospect (hold on while I adjust my rosy Leafs-coloured glasses).

With super rookies like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and to a lesser extent, players like Jeff Skinner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, coming into the NHL and making an immediate impact at 18, it becomes easy to write off someone like Turris for failing to make a similar impact 3-4 years later. But the truth is that it is very rare for an 18-year-old to play at a high level. Most often, players take years to develop into quality NHLers.

So altering my thinking through that lens, it became clear why some teams would still have an interest in Kyle Turris, and why the Phoenix Coyotes didn't give into his trade demands. You don't just give away a player you took with a lottery pick, even if it's three-and-a-half years later.

For today's Good Point article I wrote about the whole Turris saga.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sidney Crosby Returns: A Retro Diary

sidney crosby penguins
Did you enjoy Crosby's return as much as I did? I had an inkling it was going to be pretty special, so I kept a running diary of what happened. Here it is.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ovechkin's Trajectory: Yashin or Yzerman

alex ovechkin capitals
There's a problem with Alexander Ovechkin. It doesn't matter that he has the 7th highest points-per-game of all-time, or that he's cracked 50 goals and 100 points four times. It doesn't matter that he's won two Hart Trophies. There's a problem.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy the Neutral Zone

I hate boring, defensive hockey so much I once proposed fining and banning defensive coaches. Of course, that was a little tongue-in-cheek, although sometimes that doesn't translate well on the internet because people take everything super seriously.

There is a lot of hullabaloo lately about the Lightning's use of the 1-3-1 trap, which started some murmurs that the league might even look into adding some sort of shot clock style system that requires teams to move from zone to zone in a certain time. That's stupid.

What's really stupid is that the Lightning are being killed for using the trap even though it hasn't affected how offensive of a team they are. They are still a top-10 offensive team even with the trap.

When people hear trap they immediately picture the New Jersey Devils. But there's a difference between being a defensive team because you know you can only score a maximum of two goals a game, and just being a good defensive team. The 1995 New Jersey Devils probably were more of the former, as they were a middle of the pack offensive team; but the 2000 New Jersey Devils were definitely the latter, as they led the league in goals.

Just because you use the trap does not immediately make you boring - just plenty of boring teams use it. The Lightning, however, are not one of them.

That's today's post at The Good Point.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Monstrously Horrific Goaltending

jonas gustavsson leafs bad
Oh, look, a rebound.
It's over. Jonas Gustavsson must be stopped. He isn't stopping anything, so the only reasonable course of action is to stop him.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reviewing the UFA Class of 2011

jaromir jagr flyers salute
I'm so cheap I'm still pissed about the day I spent a dollar on a mystery bag of comics. I thought "wow, a mystery bag, I bet there could be tons of Spider-man comics in there". Wrong. I was young, the comics were crap, and I still mourn the loss of that dollar.

But most NHL GMs don't share my miser ways. In fact, every summer they take a great, big wad of cash burning a hole in their pocket, which is undoubtedly there because some horrible contract just came off the books, and they proceed to spend it on a new contractual anchor, which might as well be tied around their neck (unless we're talking about Glen Sather, then we're talking about the contractual anchors that will eventually be around some other GM's neck).

This summer, most GMs spent as wildly as ever, but some actually spent their money wisely. It's early in the season, but it's about time we start looking at what the 2011 UFA class is doing.

Some players such as Brad Richards and Christian Ehrhoff have provided a level of production that is fairly consistent with their salary. You won't find them on this list. Other players like Simon Gagne are just 'meh'. They aren't paid too much and they are playing half-decently. They're no fun.

This list is the best, the worst, and the 'OMG how is this player not on the bust list', based on the early returns of the 2011-2012 season. Of course, this list can change at any time, but in some cases, you know it won't.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sustaining the Surge

bozak kessel lupul super best friends
First place. It's got a nice ring to it doesn't it.

The last time the Leafs were in first place this late in the season was in 1998. Yup, I think that about sums up what's happened around these parts lately. The Leafs already have nine wins, which they didn't achieve last season until early December.

It is truly miraculous that the Leafs sit first overall in the league despite owning the league's worst penalty kill and one of the worst goals-against per game. But they have outgunned their problems on the way to a 9-3-1 record, and when you win, nobody cares how you do it.

But there is legitimate reason for concern. If the Leafs don't rectify some of their problems, it won't matter that they've started the season like gorillas out of a cage, they'll find their lead atop the standings slowly slip away, and they'll fade, joining a long list of teams that looked like Stanley Cup champions in October, only to find themselves forgotten by January.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Recap: Flying High

Stephane's mom always warned him about playing close to the tracks.
The Leafs are off to a great start and the derisive cries of "it'll never last" get quieter and quieter after their improbable run continues. The longer they hold high in the Eastern Conference the more people have to wonder whether the Leafs are a legitimately good team this year. They certainly don't look like the bottom dwellers of years past, although there are certainly some major flaws to their start.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Safety Trumps Rights: Make Visors Mandatory

chris pronger injury
Chris Pronger narrowly escaped becoming an older, more accomplished Bryan Berard. Last night in a game between the Flyers and the Maple Leafs, Mikhail Grabovski's stick hit Pronger in the eye after following through on a shot. Pronger, who is one of the toughest players in the NHL, screamed so loud his pain was audible all the way up in the press box.

People immediately worried Pronger might lose sight in his eye. Thankfully, the prognosis was much better and Pronger is expected to return between ten days and two weeks.

Unfortunately, Pronger's injury isn't an isolated incident. A number of high-profile players, such as Steve Yzerman, Dany Heatley, and Al MacInnis, received serious eye injuries during their careers, which convinced them to go with a shield. Manny Malhotra was hit with a puck in the eye late last season and had to undergo emergency surgery. Malhotra returned during the playoffs with a full face shield.

The most high-profile case was Bryan Berard, then a member of the Maple Leafs, who was hit on a Marian Hossa follow-through. Berard almost lost his eye and after seven operations his vision improved to 20/600. He eventually made his way back to the NHL after losing more than a full season, thanks in part to contacts that brought his vision to a league minimum 20/400.

Chris Pronger is one of the most accomplished defencemen in the history of the league, but his career nearly ended under the most preventable of circumstances.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Battle of the (Better) Blade

Last week I conducted my first real interview. The lucky interviewee? None other than four-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux.

Lemieux has teamed up with researchers are Brock University to help curb the incidence of foot injuries that are seemingly being caused by modern skates. The thinking that lighter is faster, and faster is better might not be true.

Check out The Good Point for the full report.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Us, We and Them: The Psychology of Support

hockey fans
Chris Jones, a writer for and Esquire magazine, recently wrote a piece on sports fans' use of the word "we" when describing their favourite team. As in "Hey, we won last night!" or "I'm really glad we didn't blow that lead last night" or "Man, I'm glad we fired that deadbeat Mike Milbury."

Jones is pretty adamant in his stance on the issue: "Here's the deal: If you don't play for, or you are not an employee of, the team in question, 'we' is not the pronoun you're looking for. 'They' is the word you want." - via

It's a concept that I endorse. It's weird to associate yourself so personally with a team that you have no actual association with other than a one-way emotional bond. You didn't have any influence on the outcome of the game, so you can't say "we".

But it isn't quite so simple. There's actually science behind fans' use of "we".

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Appreciating The Silver Fox

cliff fletcher leafs brian burke
Honestly, I have been really proud of this MSpaint-job I did sometime last year and I've had no idea when I could actually write a Cliff Fletcher post to use it on. To solve that problem I thought it was about time we start appreciating the wonder that was Cliff Fletcher's second time around in Toronto. He did sign Jeff Finger, which is always good for a few laughs, but that's no reason to consider his Toronto redux anything other than a complete success.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Martin Brodeur: One Last Season?

The New Jersey Devils went through a disastrous season last year. They fell flat on their face and didn't put it all together until the new year, when they went on an impressive, but ultimately futile tear to close the season.

For the first time during the regular season the Devils also received sub-par goaltending from the immortal Martin Brodeur. Suddenly, after one season (and a brutal Olympic performance still fresh in everybody's mind), it looked like the game finally caught up to Brodeur.

Brodeur always seemed like the rock of those great Devils teams, and New Jersey continued to play well even after defensive stalwarts like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, and Brian Rafalski moved on, confirming as much.

So is this the end of the road for Brodeur? Or was last season just a minor bump in the road? Can we except a Roloson-like longevity out of Brodeur?

That's the issue I looked at for this week's article on The Good Point.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Death of the Trolley Tracks

All the talk surrounding Rule 48 is that it's going to eliminate hitting from the NHL. That's a very knee-jerk reaction. More likely, there will be a temporary feeling out period between players and officials to deem what is and isn't legal. Eventually, players should become better hitters, without resorting to walloping each other over the head at every opportunity.

However, in the mean time, what does the rule mean for the big open-ice hitters in the league. Are they going to change their game in reaction to the new rule and how effectively will these players be with the new rule. Certainly, a player like Scott Stevens could never play in this NHL, he'd become a weekly guest star on Shanahan TV.

My post this week at The Good Point is on this very topic and how it relates specifically to Dion Phaneuf. How will the rule change affect Phaneuf's long road back the Norris calibre defenceman he once was in Calgary?

I also hope this is the last post I write on stupid head shots this season.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Word Up: A Leafs Season Preview

mikhail grabovski carlton bear leafs
The NHL season starts on Thursday, which indicates my life is close to regaining meaning.

I'm too excited, there's no time for coherent intros. Let's look at the Leafs' forwards, defence, and goaltending, describing them in one word (and then if you're unsatisfied, many words).

Friday, September 30, 2011

Puck Life

Since last February, I have been writing a fantasy hockey column for a digital magazine called Puck Life that comes out once every couple of months. However, for their latest edition, they have pulled out all the stops, killed some trees, and gone to a hard-copy format.

This month's edition, with the Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler on the front page, is being sold in Chapters all across Canada!

You should definitely check it out. My fantasy column is but a humble piece of the magazine, the majority of which is filled with excellent profile pieces on some of the top players and prospects in hockey. There's an article on Mad Men's Jon Hamm in this issue as well! He's a big Blues fan. I know you think he's dreamy, so what are you waiting for?

As always, I just want to thank everyone who has stopped by and shown an interest in my writing. I truly appreciate your support and hope to continue writing quality pieces in the future.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Viktor Stalberg Effect

So far this preseason, the Leafs are 3-3, good enough for fifth best in the Eastern Conference. Although this is a little disingenuous as they have played more games than anyone, except for Montreal and Ottawa, who have a combined three wins between them.

But, really, it doesn't matter at all. Tons of people get so worked up over the preseason and how well their team is doing when it doesn't matter. These games are pretty pointless.

Some people would agree, but argue that individual efforts are worth considering.

All I have to say to that is Viktor Stalberg! Viktor. Stalberg.

My latest post for The Good Point examines just how pointless these September games are, for both individuals and teams. The take home message: relax, there's plenty of time for you to push the panic button during the first week of the regular season, you don't have to get worried before the season actually begins.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Non-Dilemma

jake gardiner leafs marlies
The Leafs have themselves a problem. It's a nice problem, admittedly, but a problem nonetheless. They have too many defencemen. More importantly, one of those defencemen, Jake Gardiner, not seen as a serious contender to make the team before camp, is playing better than most of the players above him on the depth chart.

The Leafs must get Jake Gardiner in their line-up. He's so talented that his inclusion alone will propel the Leafs out of their playoffless hell. Brian Burke needs to do it by any means necessary: trade, demotion, kidnapping Mike Komisarek.

Or they should ignore the irrational cries of their fan-base and do what's best for their prospects and, more importantly, their organization.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Introducing the New Leafs: 2011

cody franson leafs
Today we have a guest post from my good friend Ted Rigby, who has previously lent his knowledge of all things moustachioed. We also intended to write together for the ill-fated John Olerud's Helmet, a baseball blog that died a fiery death.

Here is an introduction to the Leafs' newest acquisitions.    

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Leafs and Habs: Rediscovering the Rivalry

I could have become a Habs fan. A startling admission, I know.

My family is originally from Montreal and is full of die-hard Habs fans. But, for some reason, when my Dad was a kid he took no interest in le blue, blanc, et rouge (check out that awesome French I just pulled out). In fact, he was adamantly anti-Habs. Instead of cheering for the home town team who consistently won championships, my father decided to root for the Boston Bruins, the team that was consistently broken by the Habs.

Eventually, my Mother and Father moved to Toronto. The romantic in me likes to believe they moved to escape the oppressive Habs culture dominating their lives. This is unconfirmed.

It isn't hard to imagine if my Dad grew up a Habs fan he would have brainwashed me into the same cult when we were living in Toronto. Thankfully, he wasn't a Habs fan and didn't even attempt to brainwash me to become a Bruins fan.

So I merrily became a Leafs fan, aided by Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Felix Potvin, and that upstart 1992-1993 team. I had a VHS copy of The Passion Returns that I taped off TV that I watched relentlessly. I usually stopped it before game 7 against the Kings.

This week for The Good Point I wrote about the state of the rivalry between the Leafs and the Habs. The family we still have living in Montreal are as Habs-centric as always, making family get-togethers full of good-natured ribbing. It's definitely more fun when the Leafs are doing well and I can do a little gloating (those being all but a distant memory now). The rivalry is alive to me. But is that still the general feeling around the league?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Can't Fight This Feeling

james reimer lupul leafs
I am fighting an opponent I can't win against: my heart.

Those are the words of the incomparable Jose Canseco. Of course, he spelt opponent 'apponent', but his words still carry meaning. 

Those words might as well describe my feelings towards the Maple Leafs. No matter what they put me through, they still grab hold of my heart and refuse to let go.

This off-season the Leafs have made changes to their line-up once again, and just like some idiot that never learns, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. The heart is a powerful thing. Consequently, I’m convinced this season is different from all the others! Hmm, that sounds eerily familiar.

But I’m not such an idiot that I think this team is the 1976 Montreal Canadiens reincarnated (that reference hurt). There are reasons to seriously doubt the Leafs and I acknowledge them (and hate them).

With the season gearing up, here are five reasons to be optimistic, five reasons to be pessimistic, and five reasons to be realistic about the upcoming season.

Friday, September 16, 2011

By Divine Right: Why Leafs Nation Wants all the UFAs

john tavares islanders leafs
John Tavares' new six-year deal with the Islanders solidifies a major piece of their future and affirms his desire to stay on Long Island and build a winner that will make the Islanders' legacy proud.

But Tavares' deal also represents something else. Something far less rational. Tavares' commitment to the Islanders represents a betrayal; a betrayal to the team he grew up rooting for, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Well, at least that's what a certain delusional faction of Leafs Nation will have you believe. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rebuilding the City of Champions

The Oilers are a team on the rise. They have Taylor Hall – who looks deadly, but sort of skates like he’s slack-jawed – and Captain Clutch, Jordan Eberle, which could become a pretty fearsome 1-2 punch in the near future. They also could have the ‘Nuge, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but he’s about as heavy as a fart in a strong wind at this point, so he might not be making the team this season.

If the Oilers can only get some goaltending maybe they can make their big first step towards respectability this season. But if for some reason they have to actually play Nikolai Khabibulin more than 30 games this season they are headed straight for another 1st overall pick. Khabs is terrible. He can’t stop anything. It's amazing he stopped his car during that police check...

Check out The Good Point for my latest article looking at what's in store for the Oilers this season and beyond.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2011 Fantasy Hockey Team Names

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Last year I compiled a pretty comprehensive list of all sorts of fantasy hockey team names I've found over the years in various leagues, message boards, and random surfing on the web. My friend Mike added a bunch of gems he came up with as well. You can find last year's list here.

But, as you can imagine, a year is a long time to scour the internet and rack your brain for other clever (and stupid) things to name your fantasy team. Sure, that year could have been better spent doing a lot of other things, but I'm here to help you make your friends laugh, so I've amassed another set of names to help you.

Because, as always, no one should feel the shame of a lame fantasy hockey team name. You might not have the best roster, and you might finish in last, but at least you'll get a few laughs. And, ultimately, isn't that what fantasy sports are about?

No? They're about money? Okay, well read my post about sleepers then.

For the rest of you, onto the names!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011-2012 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

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Last year I waited until closer to the start of the season to post my fantasy sleepers in the vain attempt to do better in my league, but this year I’ve decided to share my knowledge with ample time before the season begins. I’m a giver.

I will make one disclaimer: the term sleeper is relative. If you’re in a pool with a bunch of fans from one team then those players instantly become overrated. That doesn’t mean you still can’t get them and they won’t be productive, but it means other people will be reaching for those players as well, so they probably won’t really fit the true definition of a sleeper.

I have one more piece of advice: don’t doubt yourself. In one of my pools last year I was planning on taking Carey Price. My thinking was that he was actually pretty decent in the previous season (despite the hate) and with Alex Auld as the backup he was going to play a ton. Anyway, he was hanging around pretty late (everyone already had at least a goalie, some had two), and I was ready to pounce. The only problem was I was in a league with Montreal fans and I began to worry why they were leaving him. Did they know something I didn’t? Was he back in the party scene? If emotionally invested Habs fans didn’t want him, why should I? Well, I didn’t take him and he turned out into a Vezina quality goalie. Trust yourself.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

JVR: The Market Matters

More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk to a 6-year deal worth $4.25 million per season. That sure seemed like a whole lot for someone who hasn't really done much in his career.

The deal has also emboldened some other restricted free agents, notably Kyle Turris. Sources told ESPN that Turris is now looking for a deal worth $4 million a season. Um, good luck with that, buddy. James van Riemsdyk has at least proved he's a quality NHL calibre player; Kyle Turris hasn't even come close to proving that.

My latest post at The Good Point tackles the JVR extension and argues that it's actually a lot more reasonable than people initially think. Sure, the Flyers are taking a risk. But they took the same risk with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux, and those all worked out pretty well.

One final note: I have been named The Good Point's hockey columnist, which means I will have a weekly column that looks at some of the major issues in the NHL during a given week. The column will be published every Thursday, so set your clocks accordingly.

Once again, thanks for reading and supporting my writing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Warrior's Cry

wade belak death
This was the hardest post I’ve ever written. I can barely comprehend what happened, so how can I write about it? I can’t write anything that comes close to explaining what happened, and, ultimately, no words can. Instead, I wrote about my memories of Wade and what this all means for the NHL, from that point the words just started to come out. It is my humble submission and my inadequate attempt to answer one question: why?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gary Bettman: Surprisingly Less Loathsome

Quite a while ago I received an e-mail from a reader asking for a post on Gary Bettman. Specifically, explaining why exactly I hated the man in charge of running the NHL. It was a topic I was only too happy to tackle.

I decided to go through the history of Bettman's tenure as commissioner and made what I liked to call 'a timeline of disaster'. It was going to be a smashing hit. Accompanying events would be snippy little remarks or explanations of what the event signified. For example, "1996: Winnipeg Jets move to Phoenix. Gary Bettman's popularity could only decrease if he kidnapped Wayne Gretzky."

But a funny thing happened: after getting through the lockout the timeline of disaster just started to fizzle out. All of a sudden there was nothing bad to say about the man, which surprised me because it seemed like there was always something bad to say about Gary Bettman.

From that day I began to think something so utterly taboo that I didn't dare mention it in public. Has Gary Bettman become a good commissioner?

That's the topic I wrote about for the Good Point this week. I wasn't proud of defending Gary Bettman - I felt dirty and had to take a shower - but I think he deserved it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Mighty Ducks Mailbag

gordon bombay mighty ducks 2
Last summer I wrote a post outlining the results of an NHL Entry Draft that featured fictional players from all sorts of movies, but most prominently the Mighty Ducks series. Since that time there have been plenty of people who have asked Google questions about the Mighty Ducks. Those questions led here.

These are the answers to those questions (edited for grammar, of course).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why the NHL Doesn't Need More Goals

wayne gretzky oilers
After the lockout, fans and management alike were quick to congratulate the game for ridding itself of clutching and grabbing and creating a much more exciting product on the ice. Goal scoring was up and teams could no longer sit on a lead in the third period, otherwise they would quickly find themselves on the losing end of the scoreboard.

Flash-forward to the present day and most people agree that the league is as strong as it has ever been.

People generally acknowledge that an increase in goal-scoring is the cause of the league’s revival, but the numbers actually paint a different story.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Can the Jets Make the Playoffs?

If you’ve read this blog for a while you should already know that I pretty much hate every Canadian team in the NHL, except for Toronto obviously. The short answer as to why is that pretty much everyone else in Canada hates the Leafs, so why shouldn’t I return the sentiment?

But at the same time I am intensely passionate about bringing struggling southern franchises back where they belong: Canada. We need to stop the charade in Phoenix and move them to Quebec.

I, like most people, was extremely happy when the news broke that Winnipeg was getting a team again. And, oddly enough, I will cheer for the Jets this season, despite the whole ‘I hate everyone but Toronto’ thing I have going on.

The reason for cheering on the Jets is that they’re wounded. They’re back in Winnipeg, but their economic viability is somewhat of an unknown. I want to see them do well until they establish that they’re back and aren’t going anywhere.

At the point where they’re safely entrenched in Winnipeg, I can proceed to hate them.

I wrote a post for the Good Point arguing that the Jets have a shot at the playoffs in their first season in Winnipeg. It will make for a nice feel-good story and I’m sure more than a few people will be rooting for the little guys.

Of course if it comes down to Winnipeg and Toronto for the final playoff spot they can contract the Jets for all I care. I’m beginning to forget what the playoffs are actually like, so a heart-warming Jets story will leave me nothing but cold if it costs Toronto a chance at Lord Stanley’s mug.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Challenge to Roenick's Video Game Throne

jeremy roenick video games best
The geniuses at EA Sports, makers of the outstanding NHL series of video games, have made a major announcement about their upcoming version of the popular game. NHL 12 will feature nine hockey legends: Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Jeremy Roenick, Borje Salming, Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, and Chris Chelios.

It would certainly be nice if EA included legends such as Bobby Orr in the game, but there was probably some sort of licensing issue that EA couldn’t get around in order to have him in the game. Still, it’s a pretty cool set of players.

Some people may complain about Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick, two players who only recently retired and sort of feel out-of-place among the other legends. I can't really explain Chelios, but Roenick’s addition to the game might be due more to his status as a video game legend, rather than an actual NHL legend.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hockey Hipsters: The Brooklyn Islanders

brooklyn islanders hipsters
Hat tip to my friend Mike for the excellent Photoshop.
With an uncertain future on Long Island, the Islanders, and owner Charles Wang, are looking at all available options to keep the once-great franchise in the greater New York area. It’s almost certain that the Islanders will leave Nassau Coliseum when their lease expires in 2015 because it is a horribly outdated excuse for an arena that resembles a poorly lit barn.

There are preliminary discussions between another Long Island county, Suffolk, and Charles Wang to determine if the Isles could fit there. Others suggest that the Islanders could move to either Queens or Brooklyn. I don’t know anything about Queens, except that Kevin James drives a mail route there, so I can’t vouch for its viability, but I do know that Brooklyn is absolutely perfect for the Islanders – at least culturally.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What is Mikhail Grabovski Worth?

mikhail grabovski leafs faceoff
Cross another name off the list of potential free agents in 2012. The Chicago Blackhawks locked up all-purpose forward Patrick Sharp to a five-year contract with an annual cap hit of $5.9 million per season.

The two premier free agents remaining – assuming they make it to July 1st, which is, admittedly, a total unknown – are Alexander Semin and Zach Parise. Both are high scoring wingers who are capable of topping 40 goals a season. Both will also be only 28-years-old by the start of next season. To suggest they will be highly sought after is an understatement.

After Parise and Semin, the second-tier of forwards consists of Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky, R.J. Umberger, Brad Boyes, and Mikhail Grabovski – the latter being the only real quality top-6 centre option available.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No Wang, No Way

charles wang garth snow islanders
A large crowd by Islanders' standards
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The once proud New York Islanders franchise that was dynastic during the early 1980s is now skating on thin ice. The team has been consistently terrible on the ice for a number of years and the attendance figures at the Nassau Coliseum reflect that: the Islanders drew an average of just over 11,000 fans for home games last season, a figure lower than the number that show up in Phoenix.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Hockey Hall of Fame Needs Fixin'

For the second consecutive year the Hockey Hall of Fame failed to admit Pat Burns. Ostensibly, they did this because they didn't want to be accused of inducting him on account of his recent passing. This is so bogus because anyone with half a brain knows that when you have won the Jack Adams Award more times than any other coach in NHL history you're a pretty worthy selection.

The Hockey Hall of Fame needs to take a look to baseball to change the way they induct their members. I've had enough of secret Stonecutters style voting. The people making these choices shouldn't be afraid to publicly state why a player should or shouldn't be admitted. This is the Hall of Fame, it's supposed to be exclusive; it isn't a Friday night fish fry.

My latest post at The Good Point tackles the issue with less references to the Simpsons and fish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

FACT: Chris Osgood is NOT a Hall of Famer

chris osgood wings sucks
According to TSN, Chris Osgood’s retirement opens up another good Hall of Fame debate. In their article, they state that Osgood’s career numbers are strong: his 401 victories are tenth all-time; he recorded 50 regular season shut outs; and he won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings (although he was only a starter for two of those teams).

During Osgood’s retirement press conference he said, “if I could sum up my career in Detroit, I was the perfect goalie for the team at the perfect time.” – via TSN

Well that’s nice. But unless we’re inducting those entire Red Wing teams with you, there’s no way you deserve induction into the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Steven Stamkos and the End of the Mega Deal

steven stamkos
Steven Stamkos is off the market. No need to continually refresh HockeyBuzz to find out the latest outlandish fable concerning who is soon to trade for the talented pivot.

Today the Lightning signed Stamkos to a five-year deal worth $37.5 million, which works out to an average annual cap hit of $7.5 million. Some might suggest he left some money on the table, but it’s important to remember that he was an RFA and couldn’t truly maximize his value as if he was a UFA.

This signing marks the first major RFA to re-sign with his club, leaving Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Zach Parise, and Luke Schenn as the most talented players currently without a deal. It also marks an end to the various trade rumours and offer sheet speculation that happens when there is little to discuss during the summer.

Stamkos wasn't presented with an offer sheet because the reality was that it was a futile venture. The Lightning possessed enough cap space to match any offer another club could have imagined extending to Stamkos. And any notion of a trade was equally ridiculous because there are no teams that would possibly consider moving a 21-year-old franchise player who has already scored 119 goals in his first three seasons. Even if the signing means the Lightning spend a disproportionate amount of money on their forwards it doesn’t matter, you find a way to shed salary elsewhere. I understand it made for a good story, but let’s be realistic, you can probably count on one hand the players you would actually trade Stamkos for.

What’s really interesting about the Stamkos signing is what it means going forward.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Evolution of Roller Hockey

This week's post over at The Good Point can certainly be inspired by the summer heat wave currently assaulting my air conditioning-less apartment. Have you ever wondered which NHLers played inline hockey (also known as roller hockey) during the summer? Or have you ever wondered if your street hockey days made you destined for the NHL? (hint: they didn't, but inline hockey can still benefit your ice hockey game). Check out my article on inline hockey to find out.

The piece also has quotes from Chris Wills, a member of Canada's IIHF World Inline Hockey Championship team in 2008 and 2009. I primarily asked about the differences between inline and ice hockey and what sort of benefits playing inline can have for your ice hockey game.

One quote I liked but didn't make the article, so I'll fit it in here. When describing some of the differences between an inline puck and a normal rubber ice hockey puck, Wills says "the [inline] puck tends to dance in the air quite a bit more and is capable of having the bottom drop out of it more frequently, handcuffing the goalie." Sounds like the knuckle puck is real.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

NHL Ready to Become Popular Again

sports illustrated nhl nba
Just slightly over 17 years ago Sports Illustrated ran a cover story that proclaimed the NHL was hot, while the NBA was not. Yes, at one point hockey was cool in a mainstream way.

The New York Rangers just won their first Stanley Cup in over 50 years. There were major stars in all the major American markets: Wayne Gretzky in LA, Mark Messier in New York, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh, Jeremy Roenick in Chicago, Steve Yzerman in Detroit, and Cam Neely in Boston. It was a good time for the NHL.

It was such a good time that newly appointed commissioner Gary Bettman continued aggressively expanding the NHL into non-traditional markets. It seemed like a good idea at the time (well, as long as you weren’t Canadian and violently opposed to such things).

What happened next was a decade of decline. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hopping Off the Bradwagon: Richards to New York

tim connolly sabres leafs
The NHL’s free agency period opened on Canada Day and GMs everywhere went mad. July 1st isn’t usually a day of tepid, reasoned action: it’s a day of all out anarchy. This year proved even more extreme than usual. Because of the increasing salary cap and a general lack of difference-makers on the market, teams were outbidding each other to throw crazy money at mediocre players.

Teams like the Florida Panthers desperately needed to make the escalating cap floor and spent an inappropriate amount of money on players like Scottie Upshall and Ed Jovanovski.

Not only was the amount for a former third-liner obscene, but the term given out was maddening. Max Talbot for five years? Ville Leino for six? Crazy.

The Leafs wisely chose to avoid getting into a bidding war on free agents like Joel Ward and Scottie Upshall, who they likely had interest, but not for the amount players of that ilk eventually signed for. Some people in Leafs Nation were upset with Burke's inactivity, but at that likely stems from their desire to see something happen. Some tangible evidence of "progress". In reality, avoiding these deals and allowing a young player like Matt Frattin or Nazem Kadri to grab a roster spot is much more prudent.

The one bidding war the Leafs did engage in was for the services of Brad Richards – the only legitimate star among this year’s crop of mediocrity.

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