Archive for the ‘One Man’s Opinion’ Category

Shown: Martin St. Louis' actual thighs.

Shown: Martin St. Louis’ actual thighs.

So Martin St. Louis has been named the replacement for Steven Stamkos on Team Canada, and that’s a great thing for both him and the team. While he may not be the best player on the list of available names – Giroux, Neal, Seguin, Staal, Thornton and others were available as well – he’s the best suited for the Olympic Games.

Awhile back I wrote this about the difference between playing on NHL-sized ice and the big international rink:

There’s a huge misconception that because there’s more ice, you need faster players. I think you need better decision-makers with the puck. On the small sheet, you need players with great instincts who get the puck to the right areas without much deliberation. On Olympic ice, it can be alarming when you get the puck and realize you have a full second or two to figure out just what you want to do. “Paralysis by analysis” can be a thing, so composed, smart players will take you further than spazzes.

Marty St. Louis is the human embodiment of those characteristics. He’s smart, patient and skilled, not to mention experienced enough to not panic when the pace of the game becomes frenzied.

This is a guy a year removed from an Art Ross trophy who’s again leading his team in points with 54 in 56 games. He’s a great selection.

At this stage in their careers Claude Giroux is probably a better player than Marty St. Louis. But for an international event on big ice that starts in a week, the latter was the correct choice for Canada.

Nail Yakupov

Sometimes relationships just sour. In hockey, in business, in real life…it happens. In most cases it’s tough to admit to yourself when you’ve reached that point. Sometimes you find yourself existing within a constant struggle, passing off the trials and tribulations as one-offs because of a particular situation, when the reality is that things would get a whole lot easier if you just cut ties and moved on. Sometimes the situation isn’t working because it’s unfixable.

We see this in pro sports all the time – Misused or Miserable Player A gets dealt somewhere new, gets some new linemates, a different colored sweater and a few more minutes, and poof: Mikhail Grabovski suddenly has exactly double his point total in the same amount of games just one year later. And (for some reason) the Leafs don’t seem to miss him either.

So, with the talk of a “double trade deadline” this year, we can expect to see some players get some new homes. Here’s 10 guys who need the fresh start most.

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ryan milller profile#10

Ryan Miller

Salary sitch: $6.25 this year, pending UFA

Stat line: 36 games, .926 save percentage

Miller is an easy one. The poor guy was stellar for the Sabres during the years they were relevant, and had a couple fairly good playoffs runs (05-06, 06-07). Since then he’s seen a couple first round exits, the organization blow the team up with grenades, and more black rubber than a Goodyear factory. He’s 33, is having a tremendous year, and doesn’t deserve to spend his remaining years as a quality tender as part of a rebuild. He’s too competitive. Read the rest of this entry »

cameras-2

HBO’s 24/7 has, undeniably, made making a behind-the-scenes NHL documentary series a lot harder, mostly because it’s amazing from top to bottom. But that didn’t stop the NHL from trying to make a knock-off of sorts, which would serve the duel purpose of providing the fans a bit more of the rarely-seen personalities of professional hockey players, and for advertising the hell out of the fact that HEY YOU GUYS THERE’S GOING TO BE A BUNCH OF OUTDOOR GAMES THIS YEAR DON’T FORGET.

The show is called “NHL Revealed,” and it’s original episode aired yesterday, so I gave it a watch.

The show was good. Okay, thanks for reading, that’s the whole article. …But seriously, the content the NHL was given to work with was absolutely amazing, so there’s no way it could’ve been anything but.

Consider:

- They focused on the Ducks, Islanders, Senators and Penguins (obviously all teams that’ll be involved in outdoor games). They highlighted a game each. Win, win, win, win. Okay, good start.

- They followed Kyle Okposo and his wife to give birth to THEIR FIRST CHILD. Like, there were in the car for the ride there and all that. Then he scores the next night. As amazing as it was – I openly cried – I couldn’t help but think what HBO and Liev Schrieber would’ve done with it. Read the rest of this entry »

hart trophy debate

I was thinking a little bit about the Hart Trophy last night, and I came to this conclusion: if you’re one of the people who actually uses the most literal definition of the award - “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team” - then you’re rendering it a pretty pointless award.

Let’s go for a walk.

I was privileged enough to vote last year (you can see how I voted here, with explanations), and I used the following tweets from Tyler Dellow in that post to highlight why I was voting the way I was. I also specified that I think “lunatic” is a bit much, but anyway, here we go: Read the rest of this entry »

dollah_bills_yall-2

One of my all-time favorite hockey stories to tell – and tell, and tell, and tell, I know – is about a conversation I once had with Bill Guerin. We were sitting across the table from one another, and he was talking about all the things his (I believe four) kids were into. One’s riding horses, one’s in hockey, and so on and so on.

Me: “Man. Four kids that active, that must be expensive.”

To which Guerin politely responded with a half-smirk “Well not to be a dick, but I’m rich.”

Ah. Yes. Yes I suppose you are.

Guerin made $57,398,591 over the course of his career, and at one point, was receiving checks from three NHL teams (St. Louis, San Jose and the Islanders). That puts him 50th in all-time career earnings. I know this, because CapGeek tells me so.

Yes, CapGeek, the site that lets you know how much cap space your favorite team has and how much your least favorite player gets paid has put together a “career earnings” list that uses info all the way back to 1990. So “all-time” isn’t quite accurate, but I’m fairly confident if it were an “all-time” list, the names would be the same, just shuffled thanks to some 80′s salaries.

I find the list mesmerizing for some reason, and you might too. Some of the names are absolutely stunning. “[Blank] made [blank]? That can’t be.”

Those conversations are always fun to kick about, so I thought a Friday would be a fun day to share this: The Top 10 Holy S**t That Guy Made That Much Money? Surprises. Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Babcock Steve Yzerman

Up here in Canada, it’s rage hangover day (also, it’s cold as s***, but that’s neither here nor there). The Canadian Olympic team has been named, and we’ve all pleaded our cases to people who agree with us, or don’t, or those who don’t even want to listen to us, like any of these people can change the decisions Hockey Canada made.

The team, she is set. (Barring injuries.)

So, on to the next question: how do you play with all that talent on the roster? How do you adjust for the bigger ice surface? How would YOU coach that team? I mean systemically – how would you chose to maximize the team’s chances of winning gold in Sochi?

I put some thought into it since the announcement yesterday, and here’s what I’ve come up with to start. And like a coach using his assistants, hopefully you guys have some tweaks that would improve my hypothetical plan.

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In The Neutral Zone

My personal preference would be a 1-2-2. I think that the best team you can assemble plays defense-first, but has a ton of talent so they can transition effectively and challenge offensively. There’s no need to send two forecheckers at talented, poised players – they’ll just end up caught and now you’ve given up numbers.

In The D-Zone

I like the way Boston defends with layers, and would encourage my team to do the same. The only difference is that I’d be all over our wingers to take defending seriously (not that you normally don’t, but I’m asking for more movement), because the blue-line in the offensive zone is actually closer to your net on the Olympic sheet than it is in the NHL. That means giving up too many bombs from there isn’t ideal, which means that while you’d like to have them help in the layering, they also have to be cognizant of the increased threat up top. Stops, starts, and active sticks, like you’re killing a penalty.

Offensively

Once possession is established, I think you unchain the dogs, specifically from your back-end because it’s a great way to use the extra width of the ice: you push the opposing D back by driving wide (which is now easier), and you delay (unless you have a step) and look for the late layers. I think you preach possession at all costs (as in don’t dump the puck in), because it’s easier to keep the puck with the extra space, and harder to recover it. I think you encourage spreading out in the offensive zone, specifically behind the goal line, to make players who haven’t played together much communicate on coverage switches. Read the rest of this entry »

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Carolina Hurricanes

In just a few short hours, the Canadian Olympic brain trust is set to, at long last, unveil the team they’ll take to Sochi. After months (or even years) of speculation, hockey fans all across Canada get to sink their teeth into the roster.

It’s great fun, a source of endless debate in the lead-up to the announcement. Who’s in, who’s out, who deserves to be on the team that goes for gold. Barroom debates drill down to potential line match-ups and third goalie choices. Hockey reporters offer their educated guesses on the final roster, fans on twitter howl over perceived slights of their favorite player and on and on.

The debates are fun but they are nothing compared to the actual tournament – simply the best hockey we get to watch. The intensity level explodes through the roof as the most skilled players in the world go head-to-head over a two-week span. Seven games separate immortality from four years of second guessing.

But here’s the thing: it is a seven game tournament played over two weeks. Seven games, twelve days. should preclude it from second guessing. Or even first guessing. The best team or The Right Team isn’t guaranteed to win gold – the team that wins the gold medal game wins the tournament.

Read the rest of this entry »