Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Join my digi-team (repost from BoC)

For the first week or two of its release, I bandied about the interwebs playing NHL '09 with a group of whacky Canadians. Aside from their silly accents, these guys were GOOD. They played like ... dare I say, a team.

Soon enough, though, Time Warner Cable put it in my pooper (metaphorically, I hope). That meant an internet connection as consistent as Oprah's weight and a tragic inability to fight for the polygonal Cup with my Canadian pals. Eventually, the team either dissolved or decided that it would be best if we saw other people.

Enough background, here's the deal: I started an EA Sports League team called Battle of Sedins and my roster includes only my doppelganger Sad Panda. This saddens and enrages me. So, if you have a copy of NHL 09, an X-Box Live account and a modicum of digi-talent, message/friend request/whatever me on X-Box Live so we can represent for our blogging gangstas.

Not sure what kind of demand there will be with this, but at first it will definitely be a first come first serve thing. (Naturally, BoC contributors will get on the team even if they suck balls) Eventually, we might get to the point be a B-team or some roster cuts, but that's another story for another day.

My gamertag is jimbobri. Since this team is for the BoC as well as my fledgling blog, I decided a BoC-team neutral logo would be best (so it's a European league mascot - a polar bear biting through a stick ... fucking sweet, right?). While I'm here let's discuss a few things:

  • Goalies will be treated as prima donnas, second only to myself and BoC writers. If you're really good at goalie in this game, you'll probably not going to need to worry about going on waivers.
  • Douches aren't necessarily barred. It just depends on what type of douche you are. Being the wrong kind of douche will get you kicked off the team. Want more specifics? Eh, fuck you. Remember, I make the rules.
(the power's already going to my head)
  • Don't be a dick about playing defense or a position you don't want to play. Not everyone can be blond haired, blue eyed quarterbacks, you know.
  • Use a headset. Yes, the headset is ridiculous and its use means you don't deserve to get laid for a week ... but it's necessary. C'mon, you know you want to hear me burn the roof of my mouth with a grilled cheese sandwich and admonish you for my own mistakes. Don't be delusional.
So, right now, that's the criteria. If you're tired of your team, looking for your first team or just want to hear my awful voice and even worse jokes, let me know. Most likely I'll be on and off for much of Wednesday and probably for a bit on Turkey Day (anything to get away from my dreadful family). It would be pretty kick ass if we could get at least 3-5 people on at the same time before my brother says something crazy while eating stuffing. God, I hate Thanksgiving.

Anyway, it's time for you to rejoice. Finally, your meaningless lives can be temporarily satisfying!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bertuzzday: The NHL's dopey Heman advertising campaign

He imposes his will on his enemy, but he does not allow his enemy's will to be imposed on him. He imposes his will on his enemy, but he does not allow his enemy's will to be imposed on him. He imposes his will on his enemy, but he does not allow his enemy's will to be imposed on him.

All lockout and no play makes NHL marketing a dull boy.

Coming out of the lockout, Gary Bettman and Co. were trying to re-establish or reignite hockey's place in the sports world. During this process, the league left its unappreciative, abusive lover in ESPN for the sexually mundane but clingy Outdoor Life Network (which showed its undying love by changing its network name to the more sensible and less shit-kick-uous Versus). Thankfully, the league bounced back because it opened up the game in a variety of ways. The game sold itself.

And it had to, because christ almighty, those advertisements were Monster Energy Drink rejects. Somewhere Ridley Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer were waiting for royalty checks.

The scene starts off with a quote from The Art of War, following the time honored tradition of comparing a child's game to war. Sure, getting a Chris Pronger elbow to the head hurts but most people would prefer an attack from Stompy over shrapnel to the throat.

The war analogy is weak, but the execution is even worse. The scene starts with homoerotic man boobage only to be followed by misogyny, when TUPH ACTOR HOCKEY PLAYER is too manly to put on his hockey equipment. Nope, he needs some random piece of ass to suit him up.

Then we see TAHP square off with Bland Hockey Opponent in NHL logo Gear.

BHOiNLG: "Nervous?"

TAHP: "This is going to be fun!"

Whoa-ho. Look out Gladiator. The NHL is coming to wreck your shit! Cue the sexy female narrator and get her the Lao Tzu lines! Now, dammit!

Perhaps the most hysterical part is the ending, when the puck streams iconic hockey images on both sides on its journey to the UBER COOL GAME WINNING GOAL. That definitely made the Fox exec behind the GloPuck cream his pants.

Instead of using a generic war movie orchestra score, the NHL should have just used Godsmack. It worked for the US Army, why can't it work for a fake hockey army?

Over time the NHL's gotten better at realizing that its fans (and potential fans) are no longer impressed by meathead commercials and that hockey's niche sport status suggests a humorous approach. Over the last few years, they've hit their stride with very funny commercials (featuring Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin) and even came up with some solid cereal ones too (kinda dig this year's "talking inside the photo/Zack Morris freeze-time inspired" spots, but the real champ is that sweet ass Stanley Cup montage). Those ad campaigns actually are a solid example of the NHL listening to its fans, even if the league's hearing is rather selective *COUGH*Fire Gary Bettman *COUGH COUGH.*

Next week, we'll take a look at the absurdly goofy and strange ads from past and present (here's a hint, Max Talbot might make an appearance). I want to make sure I get as many of the best quirky NHL ads so please link any relevant ridiculous local commercials in the comments.

Until then, here's four of the better NHL ads to come in recent times:

God, this Cup raising commercial is just amazing:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Picking the brain of Sportsnet's fantasy guru Chris Nichols

There are not many people I blindly trust. One of those people is Sportsnet's fantasy hockey guru Chris Nichols.

The guy's been the ace up my sleeve for YEARS and his advice gives me almost an unfair edge on the competition. Perhaps the most useful thing he does is liveblog every game, every night. For comparison's sake, I struggle to bathe on a daily basis. This man is a beast.

Since he is an absolute fantasy hockey force, it seemed only natural to e-mail him a few of my snark-laced questions. The result: a neat little look into the life of NHL's answer to The Talented Mr. Roto.

Q: Your bio gives a nice rundown of how you got started, but what do you think made you gain recognition? Was there ever a moment when you thought, "you know, I might actually be able to make a living doing this"?

I don't think there was really one moment, at least for me. It has all just sort of evolved over the years.

Aside from working for several high profile sites over the years (, and now, word of mouth is really how anything spreads really effectively on the internet these days.
When people post links to my blog on whichever message board they frequent or just talk about the blog at work; it all helps. A hockey player makes his money by putting points up on the board or playing good D, but someone in my position relies on daily hits.

I think anyone who reads me for a few days can tell how much I love what I do and how hard I work. If they like what they see then they'll come back for more.

Maybe if I had to name one thing that has helped set me apart is the relationships I develop with readers over the years. I think people appreciate the care that goes into each Q&A answer and since I first started doing this I've always made it a point to answer as many emails as is humanly possible. People notice that sort of effort and it has helped to grow a really loyal base of readers.

Seeing the same names pop up year after year is pretty cool, actually. In some sort of weird, new-age Internet way it's like an extended family.

Can a fantasy hockey writer relate to Ron White's family dinner experiences?

Q: It seems like you legitimately live blog each game every night. Is there ever a Saturday when you'd rather roam the streets and huff paint (like I do most Saturdays) instead of examining Marian Gaborik's wonky groin and updating Mats Sundin's comeback?

I definitely do live blog every single game and it's a big time commitment, for sure. It also certainly puts a crimp in making plans to do much else from October through the later rounds of the playoffs when there aren't games every night, but this is absolutely what I want to be doing each night.

There are generally a few nights each week of light games and there's also the Christmas and All-Star breaks, so it's all good. Better this than having to do something I hated every day.

Q: Sometimes I wonder if fantasy writers read each others' material. It seems like most are divided into two camps: the "I won't spoil my opinions with the thoughts of others" camp vs. the soaking up every little bit of information camp. How do you approach that situation?

That's actually one of the benefits of doing so many blogs live daily... it's just an instant reaction to the events of the time, which also ideally helps my readers get a jump on everyone else in their pool.

The trade deadline and the first week of free agency are excellent for that as well because when readers look at live blogging they can get a sense of which writers get it and which ones don't. Then they can decide for themselves which material they find most useful.

Although I make it a specific point to avoid other fantasy articles, I do think it's great for the industry in general that the internet and the popularity of fantasy sports overall have each grown immeasurably since I started doing this professionally in 2002.

Q: Are you able to make this your full-time job or do you do something else on the side?

During the season I work 12-16 hours a day, seven days per week and in the off-season it's more like regular job hours. So there'd be no time for anything else if I wanted to do it. Fortunately there's a good market for what I bring to the table, so I don't have to worry about it.

Q: Even the wisest and most talented writers have articles they wish could be deleted from the archives. Over the years, what endorsements do you find most embarrassing and what breakthroughs gave you the greatest "I called it" feelings?

I learned a long time ago that you just have to let that stuff go and move forward each day. Don't get too high with a great pick and don't sweat the ones that don't work out. When you do this every day, year after year there are going to more than enough of each to go around.

Whatever I write is what I feel at the time based on the information available... let the chips fall where they may.

With a smile like this, who wouldn't love Hemsky?

Q: On some level, I think everyone has some bias. Sure, it seems like my bias is killed when Todd Bertuzzi ends up on my team year after year (seriously, I hate Bertuzzi) but rarely will my team include a Philadelphia Flyer. Are there any guys you cannot stand or never seem to draft, rationally or not? Any players that you'll give unlimited patience, even though you know you shouldn't?

I guess by definition we each have some bias because there's always something in our own experience that leads us to act/ react the way we do to anything in life.

I usually have virtually unlimited patience for players I believe in, so if that's the case then it's really not a case of knowing I should punt them to the curb. Even though I've got favourite players, I think I do a pretty decent job of putting the bias to the side when it comes to actual fantasy output expectations.

Ales Hemsky is probably the perfect example in the blog. Hemsky Nation has been a running theme since his rookie campaign and I always say that when choosing between Hemsky and an equal player the tie goes to the Hemsky; but there are plenty of examples where I'll tell a reader to choose someone else if they'd make a better pick for that person's roster.

In terms of avoiding or picking certain players in any given draft, it's generally just a case of picking certain types of players more than anything else. Power forwards, scoring D with good peripherals, etc are guys I tend to target, so often it'll be the same core group of players year in and year out.

Q: Being that you do a twice-per-week Q & A, you probably get some pretty dumb questions (mine included). What are some of your biggest pet peeves with those sessions and about fantasy hockey in general?

There really isn't anything that bugs me and keep in mind that until this year the Q&A generally ran five days a week, so I've literally answered several tens of thousands of questions over the years. I really don't think there are dumb questions because there are different experience levels of fantasy owners, so I try to treat each of them as such.

Every poolie has to start somewhere and I'm actually fairly proud of the fact that I've created a forum that can cater to both newbs and seasoned vets and offer something substantial to each.

There is one thing that bugs me though, since you asked. When I see a read receipt attached to an email in my inbox it makes me want to hit "delete" right away. It's almost Pavlovian.

Q: How do your friends and family react to your job? Do they understand it at all? Cannot help but picture a situation like that of comedian Ron White: Thanksgiving dinner is awkward as his brothers and sisters talk about their jobs as doctors and lawyers and he's ... a comedian. When you got the job, did your father just furrow his brow and say, "you're doing WHAT to hockey???"

Some get it and some have no clue. And when I say no clue, I mean no clue. Like, they grasp that hockey is involved and I do my work on a computer and that's about it.

Then the people who do understand what it's all about razz me regularly because even though they know what sort of hours I put in, it still basically just involves watching hockey and writing about it. This job doesn't suck, to be sure.

I also think it's hilarious when people write in and tell me that my blog has been blocked on their work computer because the word "fantasy" appears in it and that's interpreted as dirty content... never mind the fact that they'd be wasting countless hours studying up for their poolie teams.

Q: How do you feel about PIM as a stat?

I'd say I've generally been in the 80% "it's a positive" and 20% "it's a negative" camp. In the past year or so I'd say it's much closer to 50/50. The thing that has really turned me off the PIM category in general for fantasy has been how 10-minute misconducts are sometimes handed out so quickly and they make such a huge difference in pools over the course of a season. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there have been a lot more handed out in the last year or so.

I'm still more or less ok with it because you could make an argument against second assists or the validity of a game winning goal in a 6-2 route or any number of things.

I'm pleased at the rising number of instances I see average time on ice included as a pool stat though.

Rod Brind'Amour sports a -14 yet not too long ago he won a Selke trophy. Hmmm.

Q: What about plus/minus? In real hockey terms, do you think it's relevant? Is it a good stat at least in fantasy hockey or is just all around worthless?

It's not worthless, but it's fairly obvious that there are average players on great teams that have a better +/- than some great two-way guys on horrible teams. Put Rod Brind'Amour on Detroit and he'd challenge the league leaders.

But that's life. There are average guys skating in a top six slot that benefit from playing with stars and they're more valuable than someone who's perhaps a better player but has little talent surrounding him somewhere else.

Q: Describe the perfect fantasy hockey setup from categories to head to head vs. Roto.

I can't equate anything H2H-related with the word "perfect" unless there's a realistic cap placed on the amount of games played each week. Some people swear by it, which is fine, but I'm not a big fan of adding/ dropping so many players each day and week. I'm a roto guy through and through, although I can understand the attraction of the playoff system in H2H.

I'm not a big fan of stat modifiers when it comes to fantasy either, so any league I created would treat goals/ assists/ GWG/ PPP all evenly.

As an example, in my own keeper league we use fairly standard stats of G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG for skaters and GAA, SV% and wins for goalies. I wouldn't mind shutouts either, but it wasn't an option when we started it years ago and we didn't feel it'd be fair to include it now after the stud goalies had already been spoken for in the league.

I also prefer leagues with daily transactions as opposed to setting line-ups once per week.

The bottom line though is that whatever works for each group of owners is perfection.

Q: Feel free to add anything I might have forgotten. Is there anything else people should know about blogging and Mr. Nichols in general?

There's not really a whole lot to tell. I really, really enjoy what I do and aside from judging cheerleader competitions there isn't much else I can think of that I'd rather be doing professionally.

I think the most rewarding thing for me in this job is actually making a small difference in someone's life. Although people go into pools to have fun, they want to do as well as possible and being an extremely competitive owner is more fun than losing badly.

If a few tweaks that I can help implement and philosophies that I can pass along end up taking someone from third to first place or even eighth to fourth... then it's a good feeling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bertuzzday: Great things come in pairs

These duos are less Batman and Robin and more Toe Jam & Earl (two great teammates who rocked the world fairly equally)

Even though sports market individuals, just about every successful sports star needed a second banana or running mate. Joe Montana needed Jerry Rice. Michael Jordan never truly took off until the Bulls found Scottie Pippen. David Ortiz was unstoppable when Manny was being Manny.

The NHL is no different. Over the years, the league's most exciting and successful teams typically featured some terrific combinations. Often they're more than the sum of two players, but many of them center depend on two great athletes. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the best duos past and present.

Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg/Pavel Datsyuk

You only need to look back to last season's Stanley Cup Finals to see a prime example of dynamic duos.

On one hand, there was media darling Sidney Crosby and silent assassin Evgeni Malkin. They only play on the same line sporadically - both being natural centers - but when put together the results are lethal. No doubt about it, that Penguins team had great supporting cast members but Crosby/Malkin accelerated their run to the final round sooner than most expected.

Unfortunately for Pens fans, the Zetterberg-Datsyuk combination proved even more deadly. Surely those two benefited from outstanding support players including top five all-time defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, but Zetterberg and Datsyuk showed a keen ability to shut down the Penguins great forwards while pitching in some key goals.

Joe Sakic/Peter Forsberg

Along with Patrick Roy, arguably the best goaltender in NHL history, Forsberg and Sakic were the preeminent pivot 1-2 punch back in the early part of this decade and late Nineties. With their seemingly cohesive skills (Forsberg's cerebral playmaking and Sakic's supreme wrist shot), you'd think they'd make ideal linemates. Instead, Forsberg made good players like Alex Tanguay and Milan Hedjuk into All-Stars while Sakic provided opposing defenses with the impossible riddle of "who do you stop?"

Forsberg's game seemed a bit more transcendent than Sakic's but Burnaby Joe was more dependable and was just as much of a clutch performer as Foppa. Either way the two combined for 2 Stanley Cups, a few Hart trophies and a tense rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings.

Mario Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr

It didn't end well, but few pairings in NHL history compare to Lemieux-Jagr. With Lemieux being a center and Jagr being a right wing, the two were able to make music together for a few unforgettable seasons. And few defenses had an answer when the Penguins also lined up fellow hockey HoFer Ron Francis with the two superstars.

I'll never forget the quirky stat that was broken once Mario Lemieux came back from retirement: at that time, Lemieux assisted on 68 of Jagr's career goals and Jagr assisted 66 of Lemieux's career goals. Sometimes obscure stats become downright spooky.

Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger/Scott Stevens

Niedermayer played on some of the most dominant defensive teams of the last 20 years and has up close experience with two of the sport's most controversial hitters. However you feel about Stompy Pronger's line-pushing intimidation and Stevens' head hunting, their work with the smooth skating Niedermayer accounted for four Stanley Cup championships and suffocating defense.

Brian Trottier/Mike Bossy

Retrospectively overshadowed by the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers dynasty, the New York Islanders accomplished the extremely rare four-peat on the back of this stunning combination. Trottier ranks as one of the best two-way forwards in hockey history while Bossy is considered by some to be the purest goal scorer the league's every seen.

Sadly, I was a but a twinkle in my father's eye during this time so my only account is through the eyes of others.

Wayne Gretzky/Mark Messier or is it Wayne Gretzky/Jari Kurri?

Those Oilers teams were loaded like a Madden dynasty full of players with 99 ratings. Still, I'm a Penguins fan and plenty of ink has been spilled to praise the Great One. So, take this time to remember how great they were. Didn't get to see much of them myself.

Bobby Hull's balls made one of the greatest players of all-time. All mine have done is make a towel crusty.

Stan Mikita/Bobby Hull

Greatest Hockey Legends featured an illuminating piece on Stan Mikita, who for many younger fans was known only as the namesake for a Wayne's World restaurant but clearly was much more. It's arguable that Mikita was far superior to his famous, Archie Manning-ish counterpart in Bobby Hull. (Of course, Mikita cannot claim that a 600-goal scorer came from his balls)

Check out Pelletier's great piece on Mikita to get some nice perspective on a forgotten great.

Phil Esposito/Bobby Orr

"Jesus saves, but Espo scores on the rebound."

A great bumper sticker that highlighted just how beloved the Bruins once were in Beantown. Few Masser sports figures can match Bobby Orr's greatness, but who knows if #4 Bobby Orr would've hoisted a single Cup if the Bruins hadn't gotten Esposito in one of the most one-sided trades in sports history.

They didn't like each other, but they didn't have to. Their nicely meshing skills did all the necessary complimenting. Orr would captivate with end-to-end rushes and then get the puck to an eager Espo. A combination that was good for 2 Cups, plenty of goals and a lot of "What-ifs?" because of Orr's sadly brief career.

Not always the best of friends, but Orr and Espo were borderline unstoppable

Some close, but not quite good enough two-somes

Paul Kariya/Teemu Selanne

Two borderline Hall of Famers who put up some pretty impressive numbers. The passage of time hurts their impact but the biggest problems are Kariya's decline and the fact that those Ducks teams were gawd awful.

Markus Naslund/Todd Bertuzzi

It's hard to believe that the former Canucks duo was once the next big thing. Then Bertuzzi broke Steve Moore's neck and Naslund slid far away from elite status. Both are now on different teams, with Bertuzzi shuffling from Florida to Detroit to Anaheim to Calgary in a blindingly bad three years.

Eric Lindros/John LeClair

Their best years were too few and they ended up with no Stanley Cups. Maybe if Lindros didn't have so many lackluster final seasons.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Mullet gets cut

And replaced by Rick Tocchet, otherwise known as the guy who got busted for gambling with Wayne Gretzky's wife (but, allegedly the Great One was as clean as his image. Allegedly.)


Indeed, my feeling that the Lightning management team was more Dan Synder than Mark Cuban is coming true. Right down to the fact that the Lightning are taking a hit to the wallet after every boneheaded decision. From Mirtle, who must be feeling like a sage:

"Canning Melrose will cost ownership $2.25-million over the next three years, a sum to be added onto the $1.3-million already owed John Tortorella. Tocchet will also almost certainly receive a pay boost for going from an assistant to a head coach."

What an ugly situation. The Lightning were looking awful this year and Melrose certainly bares much of the blame. Simply put, the league is very different from his days with the Los Angeles Kings and Gretzky. And some questioned his coaching ability in those times, too.

Still, the Lightning ownership is wiping the most egg off its face. Their off-season orgy of stupidity involved signing past-their-due-date guys such as Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi, a good trooper but questionable talent in Ryan Malone and a dubious contract year case in Radim Vrbata.

Vrbata = the world's biggest fan of Tampa Bay's management team

They also sent away a decent young prospect in Matt Carle, poorly managed the rookie year of Steve Stamkos and botched the Dan Boyle situation on an epic level.

Just a mind numbingly bad situation that reeks of Isiah Thomas type incompetence. Clearly, Melrose is meant to smile on a loud, quasi-futuristic ESPN set and rock some hockey platitudes. Please Barry, don't make us cringe with another disastrous coaching run. Most of us like you, just stay away from a bench.

As poorly as Melrose was doing, you cannot help but wonder if the Lightning would've been better off letting him submarine the whole season. Then they could get a shot at winning the John Tavares jackpot (if you think that he's not the #1 pick you probably also think that increased ticket sales and fawning media coverage are things NHL teams avoid). Really, even a gambling creep could probably steer a team with Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Stamkos, Tavares and Co. to a playoff run. Right? RIGHT?

Can you believe this franchise won the Cup within the last five years? Can you believe Tocchet is a head coach while John Tortorella, Pat Quinn and other actually talented coaches wait for a job? What a clusterfuck.

Somewhere Jay Feaster is eating a victory turkey.

That headline is in memory of the great Wesley Willis. Saw him live in some random shack in Oklahoma, but failed to give him what was apparently a standard headbutt (he had what seemed like a horn on his forehead ... just an uncomfortable moment).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ilya Kovalchuk would look great in a different uniform ... the news cycle!

Barry Trotz graciously accepts his Goofiest Looking Coach Award
  • Puck Daddy spotlights yet another great Russian interview, this time with mercurial sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. When Alex Ovechkin burst onto the scene in his rookie year, he was first compared to Kovalchuk and then to Pavel Bure once it was obvious who was the bigger impact player.

While he burnt me the year he was my first round selection in fantasy hockey, he still grabs my attention like few others. Really, with Ovechkin's bumper car checking mentality, Kovalchuk might be a better analog to Bure. He certainly relates to Bure by playing in a struggling Southern US market without much help from his mediocre teammates.

His response of choice to the Thrashers-related probes was to say "wait until 2010," the year he will become an unrestricted free agent. It's obvious why there are trade rumors but the Thrashers would be insane not to throw all their resources at Kovalchuk. Honestly, he's the only reason the franchise deserves to exist.

If he was in a better market or on a decent team, he'd be just a rung or two lower than Crosby-Ovechkin. It's a real sin that he's never been on a hockey video game cover as he ranks as one of the most unstoppable digi forces the polygonal world's ever seen.

He brings up the fact that Barry Trotz works miracles with a Nashville Predators club that always seems to persevere through any number of calamities. It's obvious why people do not want to bring this up very often: Nashville is a place meant for country music and inbreeding in the eyes of many. But Trotz is much like the NFL's longest reigning coach Jeff Fisher, and not just because they're both coaching teams in Tennessee.

They both enjoy and earn startling longevity in a sports world where "What have you done for me lately?" is the ultimate management question. (Eddie Murphy must be rolling in his grave.*) Also, Trotz wins the Goofy Looking Coaches Cup in a heated 7-game series with Jacques Lemaire and his comb-over.

* He's not dead you say? Well, I say he died after Beverly Hills Cop and was replaced by an unfunny money grubbing robot. We all miss money grubbing but genius Eddie Murphy with his politically incorrect stand up and his fashionably incorrect loud leather suits.

  • Fans wrote in a request for the Penguins to play WHAM! for Alex Goligoski goals (man, how did people not know that George Michael was gay???). While that song will probably gain more support, I'd like to recommend a dark horse candidate in The Go! Team:

Miami Five-O for the win.

  • Am I the only one who gets annoyed that NHL 09 allows people to interfere so much? Every time there's a loose puck, some online douche hits me illegally while trying to retrieve it. And a little part of me dies.

Cleavage: nature's billboard

  • A lot of people are annoyed that Habs fans keep stuffing the ballot box. My main reaction is a whole lotta "Meh." Although I agree that Habs fans should focus their efforts on continued bra stuffing instead.

  • During the switch from Time Warner Satan Cable to Hopefully better Verizon FIOS, I've been without Center Ice for at least three weeks. Every steak tastes less juicy. Every morning less crisp. Every wound less gaping.

Life will go on but the question is: should it?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Outing the Shootout

Sometimes Google Image Searches now better than I

In an attempt to be persuasive, some people go a little bit overboard. Maybe they'll distort facts or use statistics selectively. Perhaps, instead, it will lead to an attack on a person's credibility. Or simply an attack.

But in most situations of debate (heated or otherwise), there's usually a kernel of wisdom that can be found with either side - as hard as that is to imagine when you're pointing your finger and flinging yell-spit in your opponent's face.

Such a scenario comes to mind when normally rational hockey fans discuss the shootout. On one side, there's the hockey purist who cannot stop his or her blood from boiling when a team earns a win from a skills competition. In the other corner: the devil-may-care, shootout loving iconoclasts. Their battle is mostly full of snark but occasionally a little venom slips into the water supply.

One hockey blogger went as far as to disavow the palpable, obvious buzz that takes place before a shootout. Unfortunately, the memory of the precise puckhead escapes me, which is probably for the best. But basically the author claimed that the aforementioned buzz was a coincidence. That it was happening just because of the shared realization that the game was near an end.

Or some incomprehensible load of drivel shit.

Say what you want about shootouts, you're just an unflinching douche if this goal didn't make you smile.

Look, most hockey fans agree on two things: Gary Bettman sucks and a shootout win proves nothing. Facts like those don't, however, change the fact that a lot of the ticket buying public enjoys seeing shootouts. Every time I've been at a hockey game with a shootout the audience was enraptured, engaged and delighted. All eyes were on that nervous forward and that beleaguered goalie.

Honestly, there's only two GUARANTEED times when people will stop what they are doing and watch a hockey game: a fight and the shootout. Plenty of hockey fans/purists/stat heads struggle with this fact but the evidence is undeniable.

There are times in life when you simply need to make the best of a situation. We may not like that a winner is crowned by an arbitrary event, but at least that event can bring about the occasional moment of transcendence (and give players like Marek Malik and Jussi Jokinen a brief moment in the spotlight). Sure, it sucks balls that a true winner isn't crowned and it sucks even hairier balls that some teams might make or miss the playoffs due to their shootout prowess or lack thereof. If given the choice, I'd abolish the shootout but there are worse injustices in the sport.

Like the great prophet Sean Connery would say, "Buck up, Chap." And rub some dirt on it. Maybe you should let that frozen pond once known as your heart melt a little and learn to squeeze some enjoyment out of shootouts. Just this week we got the treat of watching Mike Ribeiro bamboozle a goalie with a one-handed deke and subsequently enrage literally hundreds of Kings fans in the process.

Honestly, is this THAT much worse than kissing your sister?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't forget the 'fame' in Hall of Fame

Bure was one of the most dynamic players the NHL's ever seen

Pavel Bure was a Dominique Wilkins on ice. He had highlight reel goals, locomotive speed and an excellent sense of The Moment. Maybe he didn't persist with Recchi-like longevity, but he dazzled like few others.

Eric Lindros was supposed to be The Next One. Few will forget - and many will never forgive - Lindros for holding out as the #1 pick of the Quebec Nordiques only to be traded for a bunch of players, including the superior Peter Forsberg. His parental over involvement and squabbles with Bobby Clarke certainly did not impress.

But for a brief period of time, Lindros was an irresistible force. Even Cam Neely didn't provide a more unreal combination of brutality and deft artistry. With fellow power forward John LeClair and hockey trivia filler Mikael Renberg, Lindros lead the feared Legion of Doom line (which, by the way, is the last hockey line to have an awesome nickname) to dominance. My hockey youth was spent hating Lindros and reveling in Darius Kasparitis taking advantage of Lindros keeping his head down, but there might not be a player in sports who scared me more.

Bure and Lindros couldn't be more different - everything from their playing styles and national origin are complete opposites. They do, however, share at least three traits: they both fell a round short of a Stanley Cup, had injury ravaged careers and most importantly ... they both deserve to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Sports pundits get wrapped up in numbers, whether they are Stanley Cups, point totals or Vezina trophies. But they lose track of the fact that they're voting to decide who makes it into the Hall of Fame.

These two players transcended their sport in the ways that only super stars can and that's what they were: super stars. There's only a handful of players every generation who can change the course of a game or playoff series by sheer force of will. Bure and Lindros were two of those players, even if they didn't do it for 15 years.

Evil, but effective: the "Legion of Doom" line

Still, if you really need it, there are some numbers that help their cases for a HoF induction.

Both Bure and Lindros fell well short of 1,000 career points, but they both averaged more than a point per game in the regular season (Bure: 779 in 702 GP; Lindros: 865 in 760 GP) AND in the playoffs (Bure: 70 in 64 GP; Lindros: 57 in 53 GP). At their best, both players were near unstoppable in clutch situations.

In the trap-ravaged, obstruction era of the NHL Bure still managed two 60 goal seasons (92-93 and 93-94), as well as 59, 58 and 51-goal seasons. Keep in mind, two of those 50-goal seasons came as the only real offensive threat on profoundly awful Florida Panthers teams. And Bure also managed one of the greatest scores a Russian athlete can hope for: Anna Kournikova. If that's not HoF worthy, then what is?

Few hockey people would question Peter Forsberg's rightful place in the HoF (whenever he realizes that his seemingly young but eternally injured body is no longer capable of NHL work), but Lindros fails to garner that same level of respect. Even though, as Joe Pelletier points out, their career numbers are surprisingly similar.

In the old tale, the tortoise beats the hare. But the HoF should smile upon that hard charging hare, not promote a "slow, but steady wins the race" type mentality. Besides, if you were playing a hockey pickup game, who would you rather have: Recchi or a healthy Bure/Lindros?

If you answered Recchi, go away. Just get the fuck out of here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

That's how you live up to hype

If you missed tonight's Pittsburgh - Detroit 7-6 OT game, go ahead and cut yourself.

The Pittsburgh Penguins seemed dead at least three times, but a timely 5-on-3 goal by Evgeni Malkin started a crazy swing in momentum that was like a 10-minute version of Talbot's huge goal in last year's SCF.

The big story of the game, obviously, was the unreal play of Jordan Staal. If Brooks Orpik had the "$1 million shift" when he knocked over 1,000 Red Wings in the span of 30 seconds, could this be Staal's million-dollar game? He had three goals and masterfully set up Ruslan Fedetenko Tank Johnson for the OT GWG.

It's not every day when Sidney Crosby is your third best center, but tonight that was the truth. Staal is a big, lanky player with great defensive instincts and he's shown flashes of that 29-goal rookie season every now and then this season. Alex Goligo(GO! GO!)ski looked solid out there and Kris Letang looked REALLY good at times. Surely it couldn't hurt those two young players to get to play in a borderline playoff atmosphere like tonight's game.

The NHL should use this game as a marketing chip for the game. The Red Wings showed why they are a dominant team and the Penguins showed that anything can happen in the (is it still New?) NHL.

Aside from Gary Bettman getting decapitated by an errant puck, you cannot really ask for much more.

Bertuzzday: The Rangers immensely foolish reaction to Cherepanov's death

On a day like this, Americans think of those who gave their lives to protect and embolden this country. Hockey historian Joe Pelletier features two great pieces regarding hockey and the war on his informative Greatest Hockey Legends blog (click here for stories on such luminaries as Conn Smythe and an intriguing read about "The Hockey Jersey that saved a Prisoner of War").

Normally, Bertuzzdays are meant to be a time capsule into the silliest (and sometimes most shameful) moments in NHL history, but today made me think of Alex Cherepanov enough that it seemed like an appropriate subject. On some level, every war leads to what seems like pointless, unnecessary deaths ... but it doesn't get much worse than a person dying while playing a sport.

Over the last few years, there have been some close calls. Richard Zednik suffered a freak injury when his throat was slashed by Olli Jokinen's skate. It was a near-miracle that Zednik survived. The medical staffer actually choked Zednik in order to keep him from bleeding to death.

Another chilling near-death experience came when Jiri Fischer nearly died during a Detroit Red Wings game. Much like Cherepanov, no one was aware of Fischer's heart problems. His teammates and spectators watched helplessly as their friend was close to death, but in this case his team was prepared enough to save his life.

For Fischer, it was a near-death experience that sent him on the road trying to convince hockey teams to carry a defibrillator in order to be prepared for such emergencies. Details on Cherepanov's death are shady, but the general consensus seems to be that the ambulance needed to save his life came a tragic 15-20 minutes too late. It's not a sure thing the young man would have survived anyway, but it's truly awful to wonder if the case will justify the negligence charges brought up by Russian lawyers.

Time will tell whether or not Cherepanov's death could have been prevented.

One thing, though, that's not up to debate is how poorly the New York Rangers handled this delicate situation last week. As Mirtle pointed out in his new blog, while justifiably asking for a compensatory pick Rangers assistant GM Cam Hope broke every commandment in the tact Bible with this jaw-droppingly bad statement (I put the particularly inflammatory stuff in bold):

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue, but with all due respect to Alexei's family and his memory, he is technically eligible to be drafted again next year.

We are not attempting to capitalize on a tragedy, but there would be no question regarding the Rangers' right to a compensatory pick if Cherepanov had been revived and survived the incident and were on life support."

To paraphrase Kyle's mom: "What - what - WHHHAAAAT?"

In a sick way, that quote reminded me of the scene in Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby prefaces broad, sweeping insults by first saying "With all due respect."

Sports fans and Americans in general have a reputation for blowing sports out of proportion. But even the most hardcore sports fanatics understand that there is a line you don't cross.

It was one thing for the Rangers to meekly probe the NHL regarding the situation, but to use such crass language leaves Glenn Sather and Co. with plenty of egg to clean off their faces.

Really, it's comments like those that justify insufferable inventions like sensitivity training. Cherepanov's death was unnecessary but, even if Omsk/KHL dropped the ball, what they did was still an accident during a nightmare situation. It's not every day that a college aged, phenomenal athlete goes into cardiac arrest. Even if someone was at fault it was still a lack of preparedness or luck, not an act of premeditated stupidity. His death, along with the equally awful death of Luc Bourdon, make 2008 a tragic year for hockey.

But while you can chalk Cherepanov's death up to an accident in at least some train of thought, how can you spin the Rangers' graceless gesture? Hopefully the NHL punishes them by not giving them a damn thing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The key to marketing the NHL can be found at Ellis Island

In my mind, Alex Ovechkin should be the biggest star in the NHL ... and I'm a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. Simply put, the Russian superstar's playing style seems like the exact thing that should grab the attention of that vaunted 18-35 demographic. Beyond scoring highlight reel goals, Alex O also headhunts like a uni-browed Troy Polamolu and bangs hot blondes like hot cakes. To get more American than that you need to snatch a damn apple pie off of a window sill.

Sidney Crosby, on the other hand, mainly passes the puck, lives in a middle aged man's house and no one really knows if he ever sneaks busty coeds to his neat little basement nest. (This is the life of a man earning $8.5 million. Really?) And while Ovechkin hams it up for the press, Crosby's about as secretive as the Bush administration.

So, what is it that makes Crosby more marketable?

His name. It's easy to say and read. Two-syllables for his first name and two-syllables for his last. Rolls off the tongue. Joe Stain Shirt can read it and recognize him.

This brings me back to a simpler time in North America. When immigrants would flood the area known as Ellis Island, their bizarre European names would be changed to honest, hard working Joes, Johns and Adams. Sure, these practices reeked of xenophobia, but dammit ... assimilation is progress!

Or so they'd say.

With that in mind, it got me to thinking: what if the NHL pulled an Ellis Island and re-named incoming Russians, other Europeans and the occasional Freedom Fry Frenchie? Let's take a team-by-team look of what the league might do to make these consonant-heavy, multi-syllabic last names easier for honest, hard working 'Mericans to read and recite.

After all, not everyone's name can match the three syllable bliss of Erik Cole.

Anaheim Ducks

Teemu Selanne to Tommy Salami

Francois Beauchemin to Frank Bean.

Atlanta Thrashers

Ilya Kovalchuk
to Eric Cooper

Kari Lehtonen to Carl Leto

Boston Bruins

Zdeno Chara
to Zack Chara

Patrice Bergeron to Patrick Burger

Buffalo Sabres

Maxim Afinogenov to Max Alexander

Ales Kotalik to Al Cole

Calgary Flames

Jarome Iginla to Jeremy Eagles

Miikka Kiprusoff to Michael Crabtree

Chicago Blackhawks

Nikolai Khabibulin to Nick Wall

Johnathan Toews to Johnathan Taves

Colorado Avalanche

Milan Hedjuk
to Miles Heder

Marek Svatos to Mark Smith

Columbus Blue Jackets

Pascal Leclaire to Paul Lee

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen to Owen Toll

Dallas Stars

Fabian Brunnstrom to Fred Burns

Stephan Robidas to Steve Roberts

Detroit Red Wings

Valtteri Flippula to Val Phillips

Justin Abdelkader to Justin Adams

Edmonton Oilers

Lubomir Visnovsky to Larry Vale

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers to J.D. Drew

Florida Panthers

Jay Bouwmeester to J. Bowman

Tomas Vokoun to Tommy Vacuum

Los Angeles Kings

Anze Kopitar
to Andrew Keith

Jason Labarbera to Bruce Barber

Minnesota Wild

Marian Gaborik to Mario Goodman

Stephane Veilleux to Steve Volume

Montreal Canadiens

Guillaume Latendresse
to Guy Trendy

Francis Bouillon to Franky Cube

Nashville Predators

Pekka Rinne to Pecker Red

New Jersey Devils

Pierre-Luc Letoruneau-Leblond
to Luke Perry

Jamie Langenbrunner to Jimbo Lang

New York Islanders

Kyle Okposo to Kyle Ox

Sean Bergenheim to Sean Bergen

New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist
to Hank Loder

Nikolai Zherdev to Nick Zeus

Ottawa Senators

Daniel Alfredsson to Alf

Anton Volchenkov to Andrew Volt

Jason Spezza to Jason Pizza

Jesse Winchester to Jesse Gunn

Philadelphia Flyers

Antero Niittymaki to Arthur Nichols

Kimmo Timonen to Kimbo Thomas

Pittsburgh Penguins

Evgeni Malkin to Gene Martin

Ruslan Fedetenko to Tank Johnson

San Jose Sharks

Evgeni Nabokov
to Geno Copper

Johnathan Cheechoo to John Train

Marc-Edouard Vlasic to Edward Plastic

St. Louis Blues

Paul Kariya to Paul Korea

Tampa Bay Lightning

Vincent Lecavalier
to Vinny Cavalier

Martin St. Louis to Martin St. Peter

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vesa Toskala
to Vin Tacosalad

Vancouver Canucks

Roberto Luongo to Bob Long

Washington Capitals

Alexander Ovechkin
to Al Oven

See, that's a lot of fun. Leave some good ones in the comments

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is there ANYTHING cool about the Florida Panthers? ... The news cycle!

My take on All-Star Voting: why not simply take a kitchen sink approach and provide a drag-and-drop list of active NHL players? This would allow the process to be much more Democratic and might even encourage smart, logical voting. (Probably not)

As far as the Hockey Hall of Fame goes, sports HoFs are far too inclusive and stats-driven. The key to a good voting is to not limit the amount of people elected per year, never mandate inductions per year and to go on a "no-brainer" plan of selections. Of course, sports HoFs often are looking to make money and entice visitors, so they probably are doing the right thing.

ANYWAY, since I won't be in Florida, this list is merely for fun. But Puck Daddy asked the hockey public to name 10 things that are actually cool about the Florida Panthers. Let's see if this is possible:

1. Move over, Avery Rule

In the long-ago days when the Florida Panthers made a deep playoff run, fans celebrated their scrappy team's goals by showering the ice with plastic rats. It was a charming, if somewhat obnoxious neo-tradition that prompted the league to create a delay of game penalty so the rat showers would stop.

Rats > Avery windshield wiping

2. They fired Mike Keenan

Mike Keenan's extensive, yet glaringly unsuccessful post-Rangers coaching career boggles my mind. If you were to believe what's written in the book "Messier," that historic '94 Cup run happened in the middle of a mutiny against the hateful coach. Yet he still keeps getting jobs.

But the one silver lining about hiring Keenan is that a team will inevitably fire him.

3. Jay Bouwmeester in video games

He's not a household name, but he should be if you have a video game console. Going back to the PS2 days of NHL 2K, Bouwmeester's always been a diamond in the rough because of his blazing speed. His end-to-end digi-prowess prompted the creation of the term "Poor Man's Orr."

4. The veteran free agent/trade disappointment du jour

The Florida Panthers signing a washed up semi-big name is becoming a time-honored tradition.For years, "Scary" Gary Roberts broke the hearts of Panthers fans with seasons marred by injuries but he's been followed by luminaries such as Todd Bertuzzi (in the disastrous Roberto Luongo trade), Joe Nieuwendyk and now Cory Stillman.

Remember, misery builds character.

5. The logo/mascot actually isn't half-bad

New NHL logos - and sports logos in general - are often dominated with sharp edges and the wet dreams of Mountain Dew marketers. So it's always nice to see a team come up with a relatively simple design and the Panthers have a solid, inoffensive logo.

It's often annoying when teams lace their logos with 'tude, but shit, Panthers probably are growling and mean much of the time so this works.

Bonus points for including an endangered species and not trying to force the Panther to awkwardly hold a stick or sport other hockey gear.

6. Tomas Vokoun

He might not be the most exciting goalie on the planet, but he's the closest the Panthers can get to a legitimate All-Star caliber player.

7. Nathan Horton

One of the hidden gems of the NHL, Horton might never put up big numbers but he's a talented young power forward. Still, he fits in with the Panthers affliction of potential never meeting production.

8. John Vanbiesbrouck's helmet

I remember playing the actually kinda shitty NHL '97 on the Playstation One and thinking that the Bieser's helmet was the shit.

(Definitely grasping at straws)

9. They didn't hire Barry Melrose

10. Sure, the Lightning won a Cup ... but the Panthers beat the Mario Lemieux - Jaromir Jagr led Penguins

As you can see, there probably are only about five things that are actually cool about the Florida Panthers ... but hey, it was nice to at least give it the old college try.

Seriously, though, it brings up an interesting question: who IS the best American hockey player to lace 'em up? Mike Modano leads many of the big scoring categories, but Pat LaFontaine's brilliance is probably unmatched.

If Pat Lafontaine played today, is there any doubt this movie would be involved in a genius PhotoShop?

But Jeremy Roenick is unquestionably the most gifted, electronically. Since I'm distantly related to Brian Leetch in a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" kind of way, it is my duty to abstain.

My assumed "#11 American" Phil Housely probably shifted in his seat when he (hypothetically) learned that he was not included in this discussion. (Tough titties)
It boggles my mind that Americans cannot seem to mind their own damn beeswax when it comes to sex and marriage. Seriously, how can anyone be so sanctimonious about something that straight people only have a 50 percent success rate with? Whatev.

Interesting take on the issue and the film "Milk" at

  • The biggest news in hockey this week is that Martin Brodeur is expected to miss three to four months because of elbow surgery. Sooner or later, the seemingly invincible "fatso" was going to get injured although this year seemed the most jinx-tastic with all the talk about Brodeur breaking Patrick Roy and Terry Sawchuk's big goalie records.
Could it be the Avery curse?
  • Sid the Kid "responded" to Alex Semin's interview where the forest fire-hot forward asked what was so special about Crosby and expressed his preference for Patrick Kane's game (as well as Pavel Datsyuk's stickhandling abilities). Crosby must love dealing with these "he said she said" comments all the time, although that's the price you pay for big Reebok contracts and media adoration. My guess is that Semin - known for being quiet though that might be a language barrier issue more than anything else - simply let his guard down in the company of a fellow Russian.
To the delight of anyone who read the interesting and revealing interview, of course. Not sure how big Sovetsky Sport is in Russia but their interviews are a real gem for the blogosphere as they allow us to get a rare glimpse of Russians including Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.

One thing's for sure: whether Semin's snipes were blown out of proportion or not, adding that to Alex O headhunting Malkin and the media coverage of Sidney vs. Alex O makes for quite the rivalry between Pittsburgh and Washington.

Please, Hockey Gods, give us a Battle of California and Pittsburgh vs. Washington in the playoffs this year. We'll sacrifice Alexei Yashin if necessary.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bertuzzday: Vote for Obama McCain Rory!

Somewhere, some hockey humorist with a half-decent memory might write in Rory Fitzpatrick for president today. Chances are that the once-hot story is merely a faded memory, no longer even in the minds of those who once PhotoShopped the marginal defenseman to his 15-minutes of fame.

But not too long ago, the NHL All-Star game was doing something it had not done since players skated without helmets; it was generating a legitimate buzz. Of course, let's not give the league itself too much credit for the attention generated by the Vote for Rory campaign: it seems that the league didn't find that grassroots campaign all that funny.

The movement took advantage of the NHL allowing fans to vote for All-Stars as many times as they pleased (not surprisingly, the league changed the guidelines for future All-Star voting because of this fiasco). Eventually, Rory Fitzpatrick came just short of receiving the number of votes necessary to start the NHL All-Star game and eventually was black balled from even making an appearance.

The highly questioned final voting numbers: 1) Niklas Lidstrom (591,657 votes) 2) Scott Niedermayer (573,069) and Rory Fitzpatrick (550,177)

The NHL receives praise for being relatively "tech savvy" compared to other major league sports who threaten lawsuits against YouTube and other fan-unfriendly moves.

But the league's sloppy handling of the Vote for Rory movement shows that the league still must learn that anything but the most negative bit of publicity is good for the game. This was a harmless, good-hearted showing. Finally, a no-name player was going to get a pat on his back for his hard work. Sure ... much like Pensblog's "What Would Gary Roberts Do?" wristbands, there's certainly more than a touch of irony to the promotion. And it DID expose the league's questionable decision to beg for web traffic at the expense of all-star accuracy. But Vote for Rory was a classic moment of making lemonade out of the lemons that are the league's marketing ideas.

And the humorless NHL absolutely, positively blew it.

As shocked as we may be by the way the Edmonton Oilers organization treated DMFB, the Rory situation is all the evidence needed to show how out of touch this league can be. The NHL is not unlike that arcade owner in Wayne's World: completely unaware that they're being referred to as sphincters.

Oh, well. Maybe the league cannot keep up with the humor and insanity of the blogosphere, but that's OK. We'll just talk amongst ourselves.

Here's the Rory Fitzpatrick "Attack Ads" in their YouTubed glory:

Edit: just saw that Sean Leahy mentioned the Vote for Rory campaign in a post on Puck Daddy today, so apparently I'm not the only one who thought of the NHL All-Star game when I should have been trying to decide if a handshake visit with John Cornyn was enough to earn my vote.