Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

rick nash2

honda-presenter

 

 

There was once a time in sports fandom – a simpler time, some would say – where fans didn’t know what every player earned. They watched the games, followed their stats, and rooted for the guys they liked best. This is not so much the case anymore, especially when it comes to “serious” sports fans.

Today, every player is viewed through the lens of his contract, which is not entirely unjustified. The NHL is a league with a salary cap, which means that overpaying one guy limits you from being able to pay someone else more money, meaning you end up with less talented fill-in guys. That makes your team worse, so…overpayments bad, underpayments good. Pretty simple.

But man, has it become blinding, to the point where fans take players earnings personally, and wind up comparing guys based on relative value instead of true contribution.

They’ll boo Scott Gomez when they feel they aren’t getting good bang for their buck, they’ll mock Rick DiPietro mercilessly, and they’ll even bemoan the stats of a guy like Brad Richards (in fairness, DiPietro was generally bad, but you get the point). This is not what We, the collective We as fans and part of this organization, paid you to do, Brad. Along the same vein, there are contract superstars. Mediocre output on a low salary? Value!

The obsession with that much-vaunted word is messing with perception to where it doesn’t accurately reflect reality.

Here’s the thing: a guy under-performing on his contract is not necessarily less valuable than somebody over-performing theirs. It’s okay to occasionally skirt contribution-to-salary ratio in favor of just the first word. All things are equal on the ice. Read the rest of this entry »

sestito orr

I know, I know, the fighting “debate” sucks, so I’m sparing you that. Instead of engaging in that cesspool I just want to lay out a reality so you have more information: fighters often fight for selfish reasons, not for the good of the team. GASP. It may sound like common sense to those from within the game, but I don’t think your average fan believes that’s true. I think the majority believe the Selfless Warrior stuff – to serve, protect and defend and all that.

The common conception seems to be that heavies do it because it sparks a team, that it keeps stars safe, that the adrenaline overtook them, or that they do it to defend teammates. In many cases, those are legitimate reasons for fighting, and I’ve got no issue with them. In fact, I took them up whole-heartedly as a player (who was sh**ty at fighting).

One of my two fights that was on YouTube (apparently stricken to save people from losing their lunch while watching me dish out such savage beatings) shows one of our best defenseman getting kneed while cutting across the blueline, and I come from out of the shot with gloves already off, because damned if we were going to be a team that let people take liberties on us. That was our “identity” of sorts. You hope that by establishing the clear message that this group sticks together - mess with him and mess with us - that people are less inclined to take a passing shot at someone because they know it won’t end there. There’s something to this, no doubt about it, but even if the message isn’t sent to other teams it’s sent within your own locker room that I got your back, and your team gets (and stays) close and gets better together. Success comes easier when everyone is out for the team, like at any workplace. (By the way, slow motion replay revealed that, nope, guy didn’t even come close to kneeing our guy. My b.)

Gillies never eclipsed the 100 PIM mark.

Gillies never eclipsed the 100 PIM mark.

And so, cut back to the “glory days” of fighting. I think a lot of the love for tough guys came from the era when players like Clark Gillies scored a crapload of points, but was also so feared that opposing players genuinely gave more room to his linemates, Bossy and Trottier. It’s such a clean, easy to understand picture. And around that time, the Boston Bruins were tough…but they could play too. Dave Semenko played with Wayne freaking’ Gretzky, which sent a pretty clear “Don’t f***ing touch that guy” message, but also meant he played a regular shift.

From those heroes of yore, things started to drift.

Junior hockey coaches watched that “protect the stars” model work, and started grooming tough guys in their teen years. Goals became secondary to punches. To go back to Clark Gillies, the dude had 112 points one year with the Regina Pats. He was hockey first. The guys who admired him and his ilk from their living rooms growing up didn’t have the same focus, nor were the coaches who were so enamored with the punchy-punchy part. Somewhere we came to believe that teams need an assigned protector, so some teams began wasting roster spots on them, and so the arms race began.

Read the rest of this entry »

(pic via Toronto Sun)

(pic via Toronto Sun)

You can follow @67sound on Twitter here.

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-by @67sound

Friday night, as you may have heard, a series of fights broke out at a hockey game, and people are upset about it. Why are people upset? Fights break out at a hockey game all the time. Even line brawls are hardly unheard of. The only really unusual thing about this fight is that two of the combatants were goalies, but goalie fights are typically a source of great amusement even among people who usually oppose fighting. Heck, the goalie in question – Ray Emery of the Philadelphia Flyers – was even named the third star of the game by Philadelphia Daily News beat writer Frank Seravalli.

On Monday, Seravalli went on the Marek vs Wyshynski podcast. Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshynski are two of the most outspoken, intelligent and entertaining advocates of fighting in the media today. But here is the twist: they excoriated Seravalli. They seemed disgusted by Emery’s actions. Someone who opposes fighting like me should have loved it. Nonetheless, I found myself thinking Seravalli advanced the more logically consistent position.

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I have not changed my mind about fighting. I still think it is a mostly pointless exercise that detracts from the skill, beauty, and yes even the spontaneous brutality of hockey. However, if you are going to defend fighting’s place in hockey, as Marek and Wyshynski do, I find it hard to criticize Seravalli or his honouring Emery with the game’s third star. The arguments Seravalli made are the same ones that fighting advocates, like Marek and Wyshynski, have trotted out for decades.

“It’s Part of Hockey”

This argument boils down to what former Flyer defenceman and current Flyers radio broadcaster Chris Therien said the night of the brawl: it’s a part of hockey and “if you don’t get it, then go watch Ice Capades”.

Seravalli wasn’t quite so blunt, but he did note that what Emery did isn’t against the rules. Seravalli is not entirely correct, but the truth supports his argument even stronger. What Emery did is prohibited NHL Rule 46.1: Read the rest of this entry »

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

“He’s grown up with our organization, and he’s been to the ultimate with our group,”
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Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, on Corey Crawford

Back in the winter of 2003 or so, I can remember sports talk radio shows in Vancouver being almost exclusively about how the Vancouver Canucks needed not just a good goaltender to replace Dan Cloutier in net, but a “proven winner”. That last for most of the 2003-2004 season. Cloutier posted the worst even strength save percentage among starting goalies in 2001-2002 but is better known for allowing a half-court goal to Nik Lidstrom in Game 3 of the Canucks’ series against Detroit, and despite taking the first two games at the Joe, that goal seemed to turn the tide of the series, and Detroit wound up winning Games 3, 4, 5 and 6 to take the series.

Cloutier was slightly better in 2003, with a .917 EV SV%, 21st among starting goalies (although only 24 goalies qualified) but still he’s best known for his playoff performance—with a 3-1 series lead over the Minnesota Wild in the second round, the Canucks dropped the next two games 7-2 and 5-1, and then after taking a 2-1 lead into the third period of Game 7, eventually lost the game 4-2 and the series 4 games to 3.

Read the rest of this entry »

patrice Bergeron 2What is Steve Yzerman’s role as the general manager for Team Canada? Without getting too technical, his job is to take the players to Sochi that will have the best chance at medalling.

Somehow, this isn’t accomplished by Yzerman simply taking the best players. Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press noted that “Yzerman has made it clear he’s not constructing an all-star team, but rather wants a mix of role players”. Before the 2010 Olympics, something called the Hockey Family Advisor suggested that “Yzerman’s job is not to pick the 20 best players in Canada. It is to pick the right 23 players. The 23 players who compliment each other, who are great team players and most importantly who are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to win.”

I think there’s a sentiment in Canada that you can’t construct a hockey pool team and expect them to compete, and that’s fair. Among the parts of the blogosphere I read, the mere idea that Chris Kunitz would make Team Canada above Taylor Hall is blasphemous. It’s a fun contrast to see the people that generally agree with Yzerman’s premise in the above paragraph turn around and suggest that Kunitz should be on the team. Nothing against Kunitz, but he wouldn’t have been considered for Orientation Camp if he hadn’t been 19th among Canadian players in point-scoring in the last three seasons. He wouldn’t have earned three MVP votes without 52 points in 48 games in 2013, but those were mostly acquired thanks to playing alongside Sidney Crosby, and Crosby has shown in his career that he doesn’t need Kunitz alongside him to score a bundle of points. Read the rest of this entry »

luongo TSN interview

In case you’re unaware of the Roberto Luongo saga, it breaks down as such: The star goaltender signed long-term, big money contract in the summer of 2009. In the spring of 2011, he lost the starting job to the younger Cory Schneider. Luongo asked for a trade, but general manager Mike Gillis had difficulty finding teams willing to take on a 33-year-old goalie with 10 years left on his deal and Luongo stuck around Vancouver for the shortened 2013 season as a backup. On draft day, Luongo went silent after Schneider was traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the 9th overall pick.

That’s all we know for sure. When James Duthie interviewed Roberto Luongo in three brief segments shown on TSN’s Sportscentre this past weekend, there was nothing revealing. We’re about three weeks from the beginning of training camps coast to coast which comes as a blessing for those of us tired of the most over-covered story of the offseason.

I’m not sure why Luongo gets such a disproportionate share of coverage, but reporters at Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp Sunday afternoon had a knack for making half their questions directed at Luongo or in reference to Luongo in some way. He’s an interesting character, whose humour on Twitter has won him a lot of fans over the last season, and one of the few NHLers who will answer questions honestly even when an honest answer gets him into trouble.

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I wrote about the Ottawa Senators on Monday, and how Bryan Murray has assembled a pretty good squad on a budget that, well, doesn’t seem to exist. It raises the question of what Murray would be able to do in Toronto, or New York, or Philadelphia, or a market where money is less of an issue. I posited that question on Twitter yesterday.

Twitter dot com’s @garik16 and @DrivingPlay jumped in and suggested that it may not be an advantage if Murray had a wad of cash to spend. DrivingPlay pointed at Lou Lamoriello having more success when his team cost less, and Glen Sather is Exhibit A in all of this. I’ve heard about a million versions of the famous “if I had the Rangers’ payroll, I’d never lose a game” quote from Sather from when he was in Edmonton. A 2010 post on Blueshirt Banter expands on that a bit. Let’s just say it’s true:

“even if I had been in Atlanta and I had the budget that team may or may not have, I still would not have paid Curtis Joseph 24 million for four years. I think you’re a lot better off getting a group of young guys together, teach them about the game and about life and bring them along. You’re much better off than trying to hit a home run with a bunch of 30-year-old free agents.”

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