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.
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Shown: Brian Burke and Bobby Ryan.
When the stewards of the American men’s Olympic hockey team met to start their roster selection process, two journalists (Scott Burnside of ESPN and Kevin Allen of USA Today) were granted unprecedented access. You can read Burnside’s piece here, and Allen’s here. Both did a great job highlighting how names came and went from consideration, and how the men in charge arrived at the final roster.
Unfortunately, a reality of these situations has caused some fallout – a few of the names who fell on the “snub” list had some negative things said about them, and they aren’t too pleased with the dual junk-kick of both being left off the roster, and being disparaged by some of the most important men in hockey. That’s fine and all – I wouldn’t be too pleased about it either – but those comments have to happen.
What boggles my mind is that the guys who decided to include reporters in the meetings know that negative things get said about players – highlighting both strengths and weaknesses is sort of the norm. And, what those reporters did was quite literally how someone in their role writes an article – when granted access, you use that access to filter out the good stuff and you share it. It’s unfortunate for Brian Burke that he has such a way with words. Had he said “I feel like other guys offer a little more jump in their step” instead of “the guy can’t spell intense” about Bobby Ryan this is probably a non-issue. And, it’s not usually Burke’s job in those situations to be careful with his words, because that information rarely gets back to players. Which, again, is why it’s odd they decided to let guys sit in on the meetings, knowing they can’t pick a team solely saying sunny words. That David Poile mentioned “they thought they’d have some editorial control” almost makes the situation look even worse. Read the rest of this entry »
I was inspired this morning when watching one of my favorite rappers Killer Mike give life advice (yup, that’s a real start to an actual sentence), because holy hell, he kinda killed it. Seriously, this 2:12 is better than most fancy speeches given to graduating classes at big Universities. Give it a go:
With that in mind, I thought I’d use the last post before my Christmas vacation to give a little hockey life advice. It’s not just aimed at young players; pros, beer leaguers and the rest are targeted too.
Shut up and play
For young players coming up trying to make it, do your best not to compare your opportunities to those afforded others – just do what you can with what you’re given, shut your mouth and do your best. Players spend too much time bitching about the ice time their teammates get and complaining that the coach’s son gets more powerplay shifts or that they were wholly wronged by not being included in the group asked to go get the game-tying goal in the final minute. It’s amazing how things usually work out for the kid who shuts up and works hard and doesn’t bitch all the time. We all want those opportunities, but a coach isn’t going to stop playing his son because you had your parents complain, and pouting just breeds more resentment in coaches. All told: just f***ing play hockey and let the chips fall where they may.
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Jay Feaster’s took over the Flames when they were in rough shape, and he managed to take them from there to…well, still rough shape. He hesitated on a rebuild, meaning the team and fans suffered longer than necessary before arriving at the conclusion everyone else was at – they needed an entire overhaul.
The Flames hired Brian Burke as Team President, and here we are now, roughly an hour later (ballpark) and the GM is out and Burke is deciding who comes in. The press conference is coming this morning.
The point is, you know what’s coming out of that.
The consensus seems to be that Burke is going to take over, not as the actual GM, but as the puppet-master of sorts. You know, hire a guy he can manipulate into doing what he wants so he’s back making actual on-ice hockey decisions. I don’t necessarily agree that he’s that devious.
What I do think, is that this had to happen. A lot of Flames fans wanted it to happen for awhile (as it goes with floundering franchises), and others are surprised it happened at such a random point, but whatever: it simply had to happen. They’re bad, they know it, and “more of the same” isn’t a great call from that position.
The Flames are in a position where anyone who gets the job as GM can do whatever they like. You’ve got draft picks, prospects and no expectations. The replacement GM is the most important hire in a looong time for this club, because anyone with a correct philosophy on how to build a team has the time and resources (Burke says they’re going to be a cap team) to get it done. There’s no excuse for failure for the Flames new GM.
Watching Feaster run the Flames was like watching a teen learn to drive a stick. Stops, starts and stalls. They were right to get him out of the driver’s seat; now they just need to make sure they replace him with someone who can operate the machine.
It’s not news that hockey is a staple of the Canadian lifestyle. Whether everyone likes it or not, it’s stitched into the fabric of our national identity up here. Where and how we consume “our” game is huge news. (And while it’s not actually “ours,” best believe that’s the perception up here.)
So, when the collective We found out that Rogers bought the next 12 years of NHL rights for 5.232 BILLION dollars (ho-hum), the scramble for information began. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, men and women by the thousands screamed from their knees at the sky. If you’re one of those folks with scuffs on your pants from doing that, you can check out our story stack that’s compiling the news as it rolls in here.
But from a less newsy perspective, I wanted to look at how this actually affects the viewing experience of hockey fans north of the border. Because a quick look at the navel-gazing side is interesting, but not that relevant to most outside the media. Here’s a quick look: the rug has been pulled out from under a lot of great hockey people at TSN and CBC. It’s going to be musical chairs for them this upcoming summer, but while a lot of people may be hurt by the changes, there’s certainly not going to be less hockey jobs, so the qualified will almost certainly land on their feet (y’know, with SportsNet). Both TSN (Curling! CFL!) and CBC (News and stuff!) will likely survive, but in their own ways. Read the rest of this entry »
Made possible by Lexus.
You don’t make the highest level of professional hockey without being a high-end skater. It’s generally well accepted that it’s skating the separates the minor leagues from the bigs, and the players that fans tend to think aren’t good skaters – Douglas Murray, Ryan Smyth, Hal Gill, and Colton Orr come to mind – are better skaters than your average hockey player by miles (the biggest difference tends to be balance). The current speed of the game throws context all out of whack.
So to be able watch NHL games and notice players that are quite clearly faster than others is a real compliment to those exceptional few.
With the 2013-14 NHL season taking shape it seemed like the right time to pay homage to the 10 most exceptional skaters in the NHL today, from household names to burgeoning stars. In the interest of narrowing down the list, we went with straight-up speed as our focus.
From the top:
#10 Mason Raymond
Mason Raymond might be the most pure north-south skater on this list. It’s not that he’s not great at the east-west stuff, he’s just a machine built for a drag race, not NASCAR. Which is to say, if the 10 players on this list were to hop on a frozen river and race for 500 feet or so, there’s a good chance his nose is in the mix at the finish line.
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I highly recommend watching the videos that go along with this post. They’re a touch ridiculous.
The NHL is home to a seemingly endless supply of ridiculously talented hockey players. From first-to-fourth liners, pretty much everyone was the best player on their minor hockey teams, or at least among the best, all the way through to junior. And once there, NHL muckers and grinders were all-stars. Dan Cleary had a 115 point junior season. Blake Comeau easy eclipsed 100 points twice. Hell, Arron Asham had back to back 90+ point seasons playing for the Red Deer Rebels, while Vern Fiddler hit triple digits in Medicine Hat. You could play this game for months.
So to look good at the NHL level – to have your skills be noticeably, appreciably better than players who’ve been the best at many respected levels is pretty incredible. Which is why I’m writing an ode to Matt Duchene today.
Someone made the comparison the other day, I believe it was Avalanche fan @AnthraxJones, between Duchene and Pavel Bure, and I thought it was pretty apt. Both are extremely dynamic offensive players, both use their crazy speed to challenge opponents one-on-one, and both are just entirely electric. They can embarrass you at any given moment. Trying to contain them is about as easy as trapping the Tasmanian Devil with a refrigerator box.
Duchene’s greatest gift is probably his first two-to-three steps, which allow him to get up to (a very impressive) top speed while long-legged slugs scramble to get their limbs working in the same direction. His ability down low with possession is borderline unfair. There’s a drill hockey schools put kids through in the summer that involves one kid doing Gretzky shuffles back and forth, hitting the ice, backing up, and moving forward while his partner tries to mirror those movements. Matt Duchene would render that game utterly pointless with his ability to change direction.
But enough with the words: here’s a reminder of what I’m talking about.
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