Archive for the ‘General’ Category

The Calder Trophy for rookie of the year is always a difficult award to predict before the season starts. Plenty of highly-hyped young players fail to even make the rosters of their prospective teams, while other prospects with completely unfamiliar names surprise out of training camp and play a major role.

While teams have yet to play a quarter of their total games, we are a quarter of the way through the regular season in terms of time and I’m curious to see how the preseason Calder Trophy favourites are doing and which players have come out of nowhere to stake their claim as the best rookie in the league.

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I’m not really interested in providing yet another voice in the debate over Milan Lucic avoiding a suspension for his hit on Ryan Miller. The issue has been discussed to death from all sides and will likely be renewed in the wake of the NHL GMs meeting this morning. I am, however, concerned about ignorance.

Whether in the comments sections of blog posts or in the posts themselves, a lot of people seem to think that goaltenders are, in fact, fair game as soon as they exit the crease. The assumption is that a goaltender is treated like just another player as soon as he leaves his crease. As biased as it might be, a poll on the New England Sports Network indicates that over 60% of their readers thought Lucic’s hit was clean, compared to 34% who think it was illegal. 4.7% think other, which I assume means “What the hell is a Lucic?”

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Bottoms Up is a weekly feature on Backhand Shelf that admits that sometimes the underdog doesn’t win; sometimes they just lose and lose and lose some more. But, as a loser, you do get to hang out with Zoe Saldana. So that’s nice.

It should come as no surprise that the Columbus Blue Jackets are still in last place. What’s astonishing is how far in last place they are: this past week they managed to get just their second win of the season in their 12th game, giving them only 5 points thus far. They’re already 9 points out of a playoff spot and they’re not showing any signs of turning things around.

In a previous Bottoms Up, I opined that the Blue Jackets couldn’t possibly be as bad as their record indicated. I was right: they hadn’t won any games yet and they won 2 of their next 6. So they’re not abysmally awful, they’re just terrible.

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"There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. Its knack lies in learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, that provides the difficulties." - Douglas Adams

It’s a frequently stated truism in hockey circles that you shouldn’t judge a team until after 10 games in order to avoid making snap judgements based on too little information. It’s generally considered that 10 games is a large enough sample size to get a feeling for how good or bad a team is and their record will generally reflect this. Elliote Friedman talked about this in a recent “30 Thoughts” column, quoting an unnamed GM as saying “With the three-point games, teams can’t win the Stanley Cup in the first 10 games of the season, but they sure can lose it that quickly.”

With most of the teams in the NHL now having completed at least 10 games, the judgements are raining down like the apocalypse is nigh. With the Maple Leafs in first place in the Northeast Division and Phil Kessel on a scoring tear, Toronto fans are breathing a sigh of relief that the good times have continued past 10 games. Boston fans, on the other hand, are hiding in the shadow of their Stanley Cup after the Bruins’ 3-7-0 start and last place position in the Eastern Conference.

But how much can we actually read into the standings at this point in the season? What does a team’s record tell us after just 10 games? Can a team really lose a Stanley Cup in the first 10 games of the season?

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Another weekend of the NHL’s regular season has come and gone, and one thing is starting to become a bit of a reality: a few of the teams who used to hand out points like candy on Halloween might just be on the other side of the door this year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently first in their division, and second in the Eastern Conference. They’d be even higher if it weren’t for yesterday’s loss to the fourth place team in the Conference, the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa has won six straight hockey games in the National Hockey League, which is something I can’t believe I just wrote.

In the other Conference, the Edmonton Oilers are tied with the Dallas Stars for first with a combined win/loss of 15-5-2. Hell, Colorado is still ahead of San Jose, Vancouver and Detroit.

Of all the reasons to love the NHL, parity has to be one of my faves.

The general feel of these surprising contenders boils down to a youthful confidence with a dash of speed, and they don’t look ready to back down yet.

While the weekend revealed that fact, it also gave us some fantastic highlights.

This is your Monday morning “Weekend That Was” – here are the top 3 plays.

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In the battle between two of the top teams in the East, Ottawa drew first blood with this fantastic stretch pass from David Rundblad to Colin Greening.

Usually a forward has to be cutting across the far blue with speed to make this work, but Greening found a soft spot with the two d-man caught too wide, took the fantastic pass, spun, and never hesitated. Read the rest of this entry »

Last night I saw something take place in a hockey game that I haven’t seen in years.

One of the best games on the hockey calendar is anonymous to all but a few dedicated supporters in the windy, dusty town I call home. It’s the game that the hometown Thompson Rivers University WolfPack take on the hated Simon Fraser University Clan in a contest between the top two teams in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League. The BCIHL, being a private organization and not sanctioned by Canadian Interuniversity Sport or the Canadian College Association of Athletics, remains an unknown league even among the student bodies of schools that host teams.

It’s pay-to-play in most cases, and the lack of funds is apparent. Game times are either very late in the evening or very late in the morning and the atmosphere is made up of a lot of the same people you’d see at minor hockey games. Friends and parents and other members of the player’s families sipping on hot cocoa huddling under blankets because most of the heating in the fan section doesn’t work. The old Memorial Arena in Kamloops is one of those old rinks that is usually colder inside than it is outside.

Also, fighting is "banned" in the BCIHL.

The two teams that saw each other last night hate each other. One side skated in modernized jerseys ressembling the Washington Capitals, the other skating in cheap black and orange sweaters that have the school’s athletic logo stamped on, really indicate the financial inequity between Simon Fraser and, well, the rest of the league. Without the money for the extra ice time in many of their arenas, the BCIHL has a different overtime format than most leagues in hockey do today: None.

David Gore, who was the first ever player to commit to the WolfPack two years ago, tipped home a Cody Lockwood shot (Lockwood is also a first-year holdover for TRU, and has thusly been on both teams that lost in the finals to the Clan) with 1:48 to go to knot the game up at 2s. The game opened up from there, with chances at either side, but goaltenders Riley Wall and Evan Kurylo stood tall and the game ended. A few loyal fans stayed, anticipating the start of overtime, but the teams were already lining up at centre ice for handshakes as the public address announcer was going through the three star selections.

You don’t see the tie game anymore, but there’s something noble about its intent. Two teams, playing a heated game for 60 minutes couldn’t find a goal of difference between the two. Up until 1984, this is how games were determined in the National Hockey League as well. A tie game. One point in the standings, and move on, as the crowds salute both teams for their hard work. Read the rest of this entry »

Bottoms Up is a weekly feature on Backhand Shelf that admits that sometimes the underdog doesn’t win; sometimes they just lose and lose and lose some more. On the plus side, being a loser worked out pretty well for Beck.

A rare image from Thursday's game between the Jets and Flyers when the puck was not in one of the nets.

I could have sworn the biggest news from the cellar this week was going to be the Columbus Blue Jackets finally winning a game. Instead, the Winnipeg Jets and the Philadelphia Flyers got into the spirit of the World Series and put up a baseball score in their game on Thursday, with 17 goals being scored between the two teams.

There are two things that are shocking about this game: first of all, they came one goal short of doubling the score from the Seattle Seahawks’ loss to the Cleveland Browns. Yeah, that’s a football game that ended 6-3. The second shocking thing is that the Jets actually won the game and propelled themselves out of last place in the Eastern Conference. Yes, in a game with 17 goals, the Jets actually scored more than their opponents.

Yesterday, Bourne gave some insight into what it’s like not to score in such a high-scoring game, but what’s crazy is that only three players on the Jets didn’t get a single point. Yeah, there were 9 goals scored, but there are 18 skaters: it seems odd that the points were so evenly distributed, with 15 players recording at least one point. Only three players recorded 3 points, one of them being perennial fourth-liner (and all-around awesome guy) Tanner Glass. It was the first 3-point game of his career, tying him with Kyle Wellwood (who only recorded one point, a goal) for third in team scoring and putting him just 5 points away from his career high 11 points in 2009-10. In the ninth game of the season. Yeah, he’s probably going to set a new career high.

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