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.

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