Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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 take heart losers: Switchfoot says that “only the losers win.” So you’ve got that going for you.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have started the 2011-12 season in the worst way possible. They are currently the only team left in the NHL without a win, starting the season 0-6-1. Their longest streak without a win last season was also 7 games, but in that stretch in March they managed to at least pick up 3 points by losing in overtime or the shootout.

Speaking of last season, the Blue Jackets are actually on a much longer winless streak. They finished out the 2010-11 season with an 0-4-2 record in their final 6 games, which stretches their current streak of futility to 13 games without a win.

While the general rule of thumb is to wait until 10 games to start making judgements and pronouncements, the Blue Jackets could win their next three games and still be three games below .500. The thing is, this team can’t possibly be as terrible as their record would indicate, right? Will the Blue Jackets go 82 games without a win? Are they bad beyond all infinite dimensions of possible badness?

Of course not. They couldn’t possibly be. That doesn’t mean they’re good; they’re just not this bad.

The Blue Jackets have been outscored 25 to 14 to start the year, but have actually outshot their opponents.* A few bounces going their way and their four games that they lost by one goal could have had a different result. Their powerplay was 0-for-20 through their first 4 games, but have scored powerplay goals in three straight. With James Wisniewski returning in 2 games from his preseason suspension, their powerplay should turn around.

But the main two points of concern have to be the penalty kill and the play of Steve Mason. The Blue Jackets currently boast the second-worst penalty kill in the league, just barely better than that of the Senators. One of the reasons for their shorthanded struggles is Mason’s terrible .795 shorthanded save percentage, a number that is unlikely to remain that low. Until the penalty kill gets sorted out, however, they’ll need to stay out of the box. In their latest game against the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets gave up 3 powerplay goals in a game they lost by 3 goals.

As for Steve Mason, it’s been made eminently clear that he is extremely unlikely to repeat his numbers from his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season. After putting up a .916 save percentage in 2008-09, he recorded two straight seasons with a .901 save percentage: unsurprisingly, the Blue Jackets missed the playoffs both those years. So it’s not too surprising to see him struggling, but his save percentage is currently sitting at .881. It’s not just that his statistics have to improve or he’ll lose his job; his statistics will improve once we have a large enough sample size to draw from.

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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. These are their stories. Dun dun.

The first week of the NHL season is an odd one. Hockey fans, desperate for meaningful games after a long off-season, invest every shot, pass, and hit with universal import. Each slapshot from the point that gets blocked is a sign that your star defenceman isn’t going to score any goals this season because he can’t get his shot through traffic. Each man advantage that fails to result in a goal is a sign that your team is destined to have the league’s worst powerplay. Each puck shot from behind the net that banks in off your goaltender is a sign that he’s washed up and should be traded immediately.

Relax. While the points that are gained in October are just as valuable as those gained in March, the season is 82 games long and the events that we have seen in the NHL in this first week of action can’t even properly be considered trends yet.

Sure, the Penguins and Capitals will likely be at the top of the Eastern Conference all season long, but they’re going to lose a few games in regulation. And so will the Maple Leafs, who have won both of their games so far. Yes, the Red Wings will battle for top spot in the Central division, but does anyone expect the Avalanche and Stars to be at the top of the Northwest and Pacific divisions at the end of the season? Of course not. The quick start definitely doesn’t hurt, but their results so far just don’t seem sustainable.

But enough of the teams at the top of the league. That’s not what this feature is about. Let’s take a look at the teams in the cellar. Each conference has one team clearly in last place, a team that isn’t the least bit surprising. Each conference also has a handful of teams tied for second last, including a few that are the least bit surprising. Only the least bit, not the most bit. That would be Patrice Bergeron.

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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. Those losers also deserve to have their stories told.

I will never get tired of this GIF.

The 2010-11 NHL season saw many tremendous tales of success. Corey Perry scoring 19 goals in his final 16 games to win the Rocket Richard trophy and carry the Anaheim Ducks into the playoffs. The Penguins battling the loss of their two biggest stars to injury to finish with the second most points in the Eastern Conference. Daniel Sedin responding to his brother Henrik’s Art Ross victory in 2010 with 104 points to win an Art Ross of his own. Tim Thomas capping off one of the most impressive regular seasons in NHL history with an astounding performance to win the Stanley Cup and the oldest player to ever win the Conn Smythe.

These are all marvelous stories and the players and teams involved all deserve praise and attention. But what about the other teams and players? What about the teams that faced adversity and tripped over it? The teams that hyped up their chances at making the playoffs at the start of the season, then found themselves hyping up a top five draft pick at the end of it. The teams that told their fans they were entering rebuilding mode…five years ago. What about those teams?

Not everyone can be a winner, but losers are people too. That’s why Bottoms Up will be telling their stories. It’s called Bottoms Up because it will be all about the teams at the bottom of the standings. Also, being a fan of a terrible team can really lead a person to the bottle.

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As most readers of this site know by now, today will be the last day that theScore’s hockey blog will exist in its current format. We are very excited for Justin Bourne to launch his new blog, Backhand Shelf, early next week. Before Justin begins his tenure here, I’d like to take a minute to express some thanks to all of the people that made my job running Houses of the Hockey the best gig a guy could ask for.

I’d like to thank theScore for offering a guy who was running an irreverent hockey blog from his living room the opportunity to take things to a bigger stage. I’d also like to thank Jonathan Willis, Scott Herkes, Sean Tomlinson, Kent Wilson, Rick Moldovanyi, Bloge Salming, Down Goes Brown, John Matisz and Kevin Burgundy for providing the content that made our site one of the web’s more interesting stops for hockey news and insight. Most of all I’d like to thank the readers that came by HOTH on a daily basis.

Be sure to keep up with all of the latest work from our former contributors in the various places they’ll continue to pump out top notch hockey content around the web. As for me, I’ll be moving to a new role here at theScore with the Buzz section on our front page and lending some humour and sports knowledge to The Break.

With that, we’ll leave on a high note by republishing our award winning Hockey Cats series this afternoon. You’re welcome.

Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Los Angeles Kings in a preseason game played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. As you may recall, those very same Pittsburgh Penguins almost moved to Kansas City a few years ago before plans to build the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh were finalized. The Nashville Predators were also linked to Kansas City a few years ago. The New York Islanders have been talked about as well.

Yesterday’s game was officially a sell out, though strangely enough it was not televised.

Would NHL hockey work in Kansas City?

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A lot of words come to mind when you think about the NHL Winter Classic: “Spectacle,” “Picturesque,” “Impressive” and “Overblown” are just a few of them. “Anger” and “Hatred” don’t usually come to mind. But the 2012 Winter Classic might be different. That’s not really very surprising when you consider who’s involved.

The NHL has put some big rivalries into the outdoor game recently, including Chicago versus Detroit and Pittsburgh versus Washington, but you could still never call the game hate-filled. There has always been an aura of fantasy and fun surrounding the Winter Classic. But that could change quickly.

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This is how you disappoint people

Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds made headlines last week following an incident of racism that we wish never took place. Simmonds had a banana peel thrown at him during a shootout attempt versus the Detroit Red Wings at an exhibition game in London, Ontario. Although it was despicable act by one idiot fan, Simmonds was rightfully lauded for the manner in which he handled questioning from the media after the incident. Unfortunately, Simmonds was accused of committing his own act of intolerance during a Monday night exhibition match against the New York Rangers.

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