Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

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When the puck dropped to start the 2006, a major milestone had been reached. With the donning of number 84 by Guillaume Latendresse, every number from double zero to 99 had been worn by a player in the NHL.

The reason the number 84 had not been worn in over 100 years of NHL action is a dark and complex tale, but I feel comfortable saying I’m the right man to reveal the truth: it’s because 84 is a stupid number.

While I’m not sure what drove Latendresse to 84, a lot of the 80s were finally checked off thanks to trend of players selecting their birth-year as their jersey number. It’s a cute concept that young players use as a subtle bit of braggadocio, though it becomes less cute as they move towards league average age (I see you #82, Curtis Glencross). I suppose it’d be cool again if someone like Teemu Selanne rocked his (70 – one off being really cool), but for the most part, I think it’s pretty lame.

When I saw that Nathan MacKinnon has chosen to wear 29 with the Avs (Matt Hunwick wears MacKinnon’s 22, and players don’t give up “their” number easily), I thought I’d lay out my general understanding of jersey number selection for the uninformed. Read the rest of this entry »

Canada's coaches at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi

Canada’s coaches at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi: Hitchcock, Ruff, Babcock, Julien

The initial list of players invited to Canada’s Olympic orientation camp has been released, which means it’s time to scream and yell and pull our hair out. Here’s what Team Canada is working with, from theScore’s handy-dandy NHL section:

Hockey Canada has announced the 47 players who will make up their preliminary Olympic roster for the 2014 Games in Sochi.

The team will be coached by the Detroit Red Wings’ Mike Babcock.

He’s the best in the biz, so I love this.

The preliminary roster is as follows:

Goalies: Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith

* Braden Holtby with the nod. I suppose that’s not unreasonable.

* What, no James Reimer? (Ohhh, right, he was deemed not good enough to be a starter by the Leafs.)

* Also: the whole “Marc-Andre Fleury” thing is officially done, eh? I’m perfectly okay with this. Feel bad for the guy, but yeah…the majority of smart hockey minds are off that bandwagon. Funny, at one point it was all about him and Cam Ward.

* Martin Brodeur is definitely, definitely past where he’d need to be to be invited to this camp. But it’s still weird. He’s been a part of the program forever.

Defense: Karl Alzner, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis, Travis Hamonic, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Seabrook, Marc Staal, PK Subban, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber

* This is a pretty deadly group. My “really?” group of interesting invitees includes Marc Methot, Karl Alzner and Travis Hamonic, but I suppose it’s not like they’ll make the team. Still, huge compliment to a guy like Hamonic to be a part of this group.

Oh, that’d be just lovely.

* Francois Beauchemin is a bit of a notable omission from this group. Who would possibly want Methot over him? Hell, I’d take Dan Girardi over Marc Methot. Playing with Erik Karlsson is good for your career, it seems.

Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Logan Couture, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Rick Nash, James Neal, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Patrick Sharp, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews

* Couple interesting notes here, with “no Jamie Benn” being near the top of the list. Especially when you’re tossing in Chris Kunitz and Brad Marchand.

* You have to feel for Jarome Iginla here. I realize he might be in Camp Brodeur for players just too far along in their careers to provide much value, he’s just been a part of it all for so long, and did so much for Canada in international play. But…yeah. Here we are.

* Also notable: No Tyler Seguin, no Patrick Marleau, no Vincent Lecavalier, no Jason Spezza, no Evander Kane. I have a hunch some of this could change.

* I heart Matt Duchene and would love to see him on this team.

* I’ve heard some people making noise about Brent Burns. He’s a fine player. Take a look at the group above. That ain’t his level.

So, what are your thoughts? Any glaring omissions or surprises?



Yesterday was a weird day.

The gamut of emotions that Leafs fans have been run through in the last seven days has been unlike anything I have ever experienced as a sports fan. You all know what happened by now, you don’t need a recap. Hell, I don’t need a recap. Ever. Walking into the office yesterday, seeing five screens all replaying the worst heartache I have ever experienced in sports, I mean…how do you even begin to justify that within your own sphere of reference.

The Toronto Maple Leafs did the unthinkable this year and I’m not referring to pushing the Boston Bruins to seven games. I’m referring to the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs made the goddamn playoffs and there is nothing any heartbreaking loss can do to change that fact. Predictions ran rampant before the truncated 2013 season that the Leafs would finish anywhere from 9th to 15th in the Eastern Conference. The notion of a playoff birth was silly and justifiably so. When I said that the Leafs would finish seventh (I think) in our pre-season prediction podcast, I ridiculed my own choice. It was a homer pick, a fandom pick, a pick based out of the faint hope that there would be something to cheer for come April other than another draft lottery. I was wrong. This was the best wrong I had ever been.

Read the rest of this entry »

This guy with the funny stick and big pads is getting good again.

This guy with the funny stick and big pads is getting good again.

For much of the year the Los Angeles Kings, reigning Stanley Cup champions though they may be, have languished in relative mediocrity. Anaheim jumped out to such a big lead in the Pacific that their neighbors never really got a chance to stake a claim to the tops division, and even if they wanted to, they never really played well enough to warrant it.

It’s looking more and more, though, like the Kings are going to come a lot closer to the Ducks than anyone had a reason to believe even a few weeks ago, having overcome a rather bizarre handicap.

Jonathan Quick — who, if Sergei Bobrovsky is becoming a clearer Hart contender as the Blue Jackets keep winning, should have won that award last season instead of Evgeni Malkin as well as the Vezina taken by Henrik Lundqvist — has for most of the season been playing like absolute garbage. His stats stand at pathetic marks of 2.44/.901, with an even-strength save percentage of .908. The save percentages are actually worse than Ondrej Pavelec’s numbers, and it’s important to remember that Pavelec is terrible.

Read the rest of this entry »

Calgary Flames v Colorado Avalanche

In an ongoing effort to make Actual Trade Deadline Day as painful as possible for those of us covering it, two more (relatively) big name players were dealt yesterday. Let’s take a look at the deals, and share some thoughts.


To St. Louis: Jay Bouwmeester

To Calgary: The Blues 2013 1st-round pick, minor-league d-man Mark Cundari, goaltender Reto Berra of the Swiss League. Read the rest of this entry »

Marek Zidlicky, Jhonas Enroth, and a Corsi Event. Not pictured: a high-quality scoring chance. (Jim McIsaac, Getty Images)

Marek Zidlicky, Jhonas Enroth, and a Corsi Event. Not pictured: a high-quality scoring chance. (Jim McIsaac, Getty Images)

Last week, Cam Charron wrote about the NHL’s counting problem here at Backhand Shelf, bemoaning the secrecy of NHL teams when it comes to advanced statistics. One part in particular, however, caught my eye when he talked about hockey’s “Aha!” moment when it comes to statistics.

There’s a reference in the Friedman piece to Craig MacTavish walking around looking for the “Aha!” moment when it comes to hockey analytics. I don’t think MacTavish has realized that half the hockey world is a step ahead of him in that regard. The “Aha!” moment comes when you realize that shots are a hell of a lot more predictive than goals for determining future events. As soon as you realize that hockey is a game between two teams trying to take shots on goal, I think the rest of it falls into place.

Cam isn’t really wrong, but this is also one of the biggest problems that people seem to have with so-called advanced statistics: they’re almost entirely reliant on counting shots. Corsi and Fenwick are both shot-based statistics that are pretty much the opposite of “advanced.” All they are is adding and subtracting shots. The more shots for your team and the fewer shots against, the better. Outshoot your opponent enough, particularly at the right time of the game (such as when the score is tied or within one goal), and you’ll win a lot more games than you lose.

If this seems like an incredibly simplistic view of hockey, that’s because it is. It’s also a completely inaccurate view of hockey. That isn’t to say that Corsi and Fenwick aren’t useful, because they certainly are. As Cam points out, shot-based analytics have impressive predictive power. But they also are coming at hockey from the completely wrong end.

I believe this is part of the reason why so many people are resistant to shot-based statistics. What matters is winning, winning requires goals, and a high volume of shots does not, strictly speaking, create goals. Shots are a by-product and not a cause.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of attending a hockey game with some excellent seats, and over the course of the game, I thought some thoughts. Because I write for a living, I thought “Hey, maybe if I jot down these thoughts, I can write said thoughts in a post about my thoughts.”


Anyway, the game was between the New Jersey Devils and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

These are those thoughts.


Anthem time

I can’t help but think how absolutely overwhelming (and awesome) it must be for the boys and girls who get to skate out before the game, cut a lap with the flag, and stand on the blueline for the national anthems in Toronto (or anywhere). I played in front of some sizeable crowds over the years, and I gotta say, I never really got over that part. It’s always cool. You can hear the whole crowd sing along to the anthem, which is better than being in the crowd, in which case you can only hear the terrible person behind you. Also, you get to rock on your skates, which is a pretty fun habit to get into. (Just don’t forget to take off your helmet like I did in North Dakota, cage and all. I was a little preoccupied thinking about my first shift.)

Has to be a lifelong memory for those kids.

The Grocery Stick Skate during TV timeouts

For those of you who don’t know, “grocery stick” refers to a player who gets off after a shift, shuffles towards the middle of the bench as players roll out, then doesn’t get his number called for a long time, so he ends up just being the divider for the d-men and forwards.

Anyway, Read the rest of this entry »