Smith, left, after one of his five points in 16 games with Tampa.
Trevor Smith is 28-years-old and entering his first season with a one-way NHL contract after touching six AHL teams since 2007-08. The Toronto Maple Leafs picked him up for a league minimum $550k which has to be a pretty great feeling for the guy, because as I understand it, that means you get 550,000 dollars.
Entering the 2009-2010 season, he was on the cusp of making the New York Islanders, and I (wrongly) wrote as much for Islanders Point Blank based on my time spent playing with him during the 2007-2008 season, and my assessment of the Isles team that year. It’s really quite difficult to make the NHL, you’ll be shocked to learn, and Smith just needed a little more time.
My biggest compliment for Trevor’s game is the same now as it was then, and leads me to believe that if given the right opportunity, he could be someone like PA Parenteau who breaks into the league a little older after some AHL seasoning, and becomes a quality contributor. (Frankly, I think had he received the opportunities of someone like Joey Crabb over the years he’d already be there, but I’m pretty biased in that view.)
That compliment: whether he realizes it or not, his ability to shoot the puck accurately and hard from seemingly anywhere in his stance was better than anyone else I’ve ever played with.
In baseball, they use “heat maps” to show where in the strike zone (or out of it) a hitter tends to have the most success. Some guys like their pitches belt-high, and some guys would rather golf it out of the dirt. The same is true for hockey. When you stay out after practice to work on one-timers with guys you learn where they like their passes: off their front foot, mid-stance, off their back foot or otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »
This is so confusing they might not even award the Stanley Cup next year.
The NHL has long convoluted its standings in a way that made it nearly impossible for non-hockey fans to understand what the hell was going on. There were points for overtime losses in addition to ties for a period of several years before Gary Bettman and Co. put a bullet in ties’ head following the 2005 lockout.
Now, there’s wins, losses, and overtime or shootout losses, except that not all wins are created equal because wins in shootouts don’t really count as much as regulation or overtime wins in the event of a tie in the standings, which are more common than you might think (Columbus, you’ll recall, missed the playoffs because they had two fewer wins, and three fewer in regulation or overtime, despite having the same 55 points as the Minnesota Wild).
So how, then, did the NHL decide that it could make things even more difficult to figure out? By reconfiguring the conferences so that there were 16 teams in the East and only 14 in the West and also, as a consequence, having to completely change the way in which teams are seeded into the playoffs.
Ah, you thought it was weird when the top eight clubs in each 15-team conference made the playoffs based on the number of points they accumulated but then also factored in how they accumulated them? Well, now things are a lot stupider. Read the rest of this entry »
In October of 2009 I had lived in Phoenix for about six weeks before I was given the neat opportunity to write a column for the Arizona Republic, the major paper in town. I wrote a piece explaining why I thought the attendance at Coyotes’ games was so bad. The theory: they had sucked, and watching sucky teams sucks. Not a complex idea, all told.
The piece was largely terrorized in the comment section (it is the internet, after all), and was brought up years after the fact by local fans after handshakes. I also suspect it was part of the reason I was so coldly received by the old PR team when I’d attend games in the pressbox, and came to prefer sitting in the crowd.
I lived there for three years after that column, and realized it was probably a bit of a miss. Not quite a strike out, but certainly not a hit. Having since moved out of the state and re-located to Toronto, I wanted to look back and reflect on where I went wrong. Since then, a lot of people have come to assess and understand the real issues.
The team recently secured ownership going forward, and has adopted the slogan HERE TO STAY for the upcoming season. So y’know, high five to that, ‘Yotes fans.
Now: why aren’t there more of you?
Upon learning I would be pulling in somewhere around $150 to $200 for an opinion piece in the Arizona Republic, I wanted to make a splash. In my freelance world, that was pretty darn good cheese. I didn’t want to write something I didn’t believe or anything – the aim wasn’t to troll for hate clicks – but I really wanted it to be something noteworthy. My honest feeling was that attendance in Phoenix was bad because the team was, and I figured a frank assessment from a then-outsider might start some conversation. The simple answers are often the ones people seem to take to most, after all.
I proposed the topic, and it was not just accepted, it was encouraged. I submitted it. I was never asked to write for them again. Read the rest of this entry »
It was one of the best stories on draft day earlier this summer: the New Jersey Devils traded a 7th round pick in 2015 to the Los Angeles Kings for theirs this year – the fourth last pick in the draft – so New Jersey could select Martin Brodeur’s son Anthony.
The internet (and humans with lives everywhere), collectively did this:
Anthony had a decent year playing for Shattuck St. Mary’s last season, posting a .923 save percentage, so it wasn’t that ridiculous that his name would be called. Buuut if we’re being honest, and we are, he almost certainly wouldn’t have been selected if his Dad’s name wasn’t Marty. Even he wouldn’t deny that. But still, neat story, no harm no foul, there was a cool moment with the father/son hug…you can read all about it here. In sum, neato spadeato.
Only…I’m not so sure his Dad and the Devils did him any favors. They may have actually done the opposite.
I could very well be wrong, but from what I’ve seen getting drafted in the late rounds seems to handcuff a player trying to skate his way to the NHL more than it does propel him. It’s limiting.
Obviously, there are some perks to getting drafted. First, let’s look at the pros of getting selected versus not for your average non-superstar NHL hopeful. Read the rest of this entry »
You know nothing, Garth Snow. At least, about goaltenders. Which is pretty ironic, really. (Dave Sandford, Getty Images)
The Islanders making the playoffs this past season seems to have changed people’s opinions about Garth Snow significantly. At one point, Snow was a bit of a punchline. There were many reasons, starting with how he became the Islanders’ GM in the first place, getting hired the same day he retired from being an active player. Then, a couple months later, he signed Rick DiPietro to his ludicrous 15-year contract.
Even when he was named the executive of the year by Sports Illustrated in 2007 after less than a year on the job, no one took it particularly seriously: after all, what does Sports Illustrated know about hockey, really? Sure enough, the Islanders lapsed back into mediocrity and finished at or near the bottom of the league in five straight seasons.
But with success comes recognition and Snow’s masterful manipulation of the CBA and clever use of the waiver wire to navigate his way around one of the lowest internal budgets in the NHL while still icing a competitive team has garnered Snow praise from all corners.
There’s really only one issue: Snow can’t find a good goaltender.
Read the rest of this entry »
Spoiler warning: it’s this guy. (Harry How, Getty Images)
It may have just been me, but the Calder Trophy race this year seemed a little disappointing. No one came even close to scoring at the same rate as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did last season, nor did anyone step up to take a leadership role like Gabriel Landeskog or take on the defensive responsibility of Adam Henrique. It seemed fitting that the award was handed out with minimal fanfare during the Stanley Cup Final.
The most intrigue that could be mustered surrounded Nail Yakupov and his exclusion from the top-three in voting, despite tying with Jonathan Huberdeau for the league lead in points from a rookie. It just didn’t grab my attention like last year’s race. What I do find interesting is looking back at last year’s rookies and seeing how they performed in their sophomore seasons. The dreaded sophomore slump did indeed seem to claim a couple of victims, while others stepped up and improved on their rookie years.
The season’s best sophomore didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, as he had a solid rookie season, but the strides he took in his second year had to be a pleasant surprise.
Read the rest of this entry »
With the NHL Entry Draft on Sunday came the annual tradition: the running of the fans to YouTube. Since most hockey fans don’t watch hundreds of major junior, European hockey, and United States Hockey League games with notepads out, the only familiarity they have with the prospects that have suddenly joined their favourite team is from scouting reports, draft rankings, and YouTube highlight packages.
I certainly do it. I manage to watch a bit of major junior from time to time, but I prefer to watch junior hockey in person, so I tend to take in more local Junior A than CHL games. So when the team I cover, the Canucks, gets a slate of new prospects, I turn to YouTube to get my first look at them.
As I’ve been doing that this week, it got me thinking about how the draft creates unrealistic expectations and how some of those unrealistic expectations are echoed in free agency.
Read the rest of this entry »