Friday, December 30, 2005

Canada vs. USA (NHL Edition)

The good folks at VCOE have a post about the differences between how hockey is treated in Canada and the USA; here's another example.

First, check out this article in the National Post:
We began the year with the lights out, and the memory of an us-against-them final (does anyone remember Calgary meeting Tampa Bay for the Stanley Cup in 2004?) replaced by a them-and-them confrontation -- Gary Bettman v. Bob Goodenow. Bettman cancelled the season in mid-February, marking the first time a major North American sport had lost a full season. To our surprise, we learned we could get by without the NHL. And when it returned, we learned we had been getting by without it for at least a decade. The new rules -- two-line passes, shootouts, stricter enforcement of penalties -- have brought back the excitement that had gone missing.
Next, this excerpt from today's Ottawa Citizen:

It's not often a major professional sports operation gets a chance to drag itself into the service bay and overhaul the working parts from bumper to bumper. However, the National Hockey League got that rare opportunity after the 301-day lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

Overhauled with a new set of rules, the results were spectacular as the NHL reopened for business. So spectacular, in fact, that play in the new NHL this season was the overwhelming choice of CanWest newspaper sports editors as the Canadian sports story in 2005. Editors from across the country said the up-and-down, exciting style of play this season has led to a rejuvenated NHL, making the league's new rules the top story in the impact category.
Now, read this article from Michael Rosenberg of Fox Sports listing the top 20 sports stories of 2005 and this one from Scoop Jackson of ESPN Page 2 on the most important stories of 2005 - notice where hockey was on their lists? Neither did I.

On USA Today's poll on what their readers felt were the most important sports stories in 2005, the return of NHL hockey has so far garnered a whopping 3% of the votes.

There is a little bit of hockey coverage on USA Today; Christine Brennan mentioned it near the end of her year-in-review piece:

Meanwhile, the NHL, suffering the ignominy of putting itself right out of business last year, came back but not without further disgracing itself. When hockey returned, so did Todd Bertuzzi. Of all the changes the NHL made to try to win its tiny nationwide fan base back, it failed to make the one that would have won the most support in the kitchens and dens of North America: People who take out opponents can't return until their injured victim does.
Ditto on Sports Illustrated (mention of the NHL is on the second page):

Hockey took the ignominious honor of becoming the first pro league to cancel an entire season due to a labor dispute when commissioner Gary Bettman called off the 2004-05 season in February. This time, the owners stayed firm to their demand of a salary cap -- or in corporate lingo, "cost certainty". The league finally returned this fall with a cap and a series of new rules designed to increase scoring and make the game more free-flowing. The early returns have been mostly positive, with scoring and attendance up, but TV ratings on OLN, the league's new hard-to-find U.S. cable partner, predictably microscopic.
However, despite low ratings and little publicity south of the border, why do I get the impression that they also yield the most influence when it comes to dictating changes to the game?
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 7:26 PM | permalink/comments (5) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Something About Today

If you have hopes of raising a child sports prodigy, you might want to try for December 30th to be his or her birthday - today's notable celebrants include golf superstar Tiger Woods and basketball phenom Lebron James.

From Tiger's bio:
Eldrick (Tiger) Woods, now 30 years of age, has had an unprecedented career since becoming a professional golfer in the late summer of 1996. He has won 63 tournaments, 46 of those on the PGA TOUR, including the 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005 Masters Tournaments, 1999 and 2000 PGA Championships, 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open Championships, and 2000 and 2005 British Open Championships. With his second Masters victory in 2001, Tiger became the first ever to hold all four professional major championships at the same time. He is the career victories leader among active players on the PGA TOUR, and is the career money list leader.
And from Lebron's:
High-School, All-American, 3-Time Ohio "Mr. Basketball", Number One Draft Choice of the National Basketball Association (NBA), NBA Rookie of the Year, USA Olympian, an international celebrity with major endorsements, already being compared to the greatest legends of the NBA - and all this before the age of 20.
I imagine March shall be a busy time for aspiring sports moms and dads.
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Thursday, December 29, 2005

OT: Toronto Boxing Day Shooting

The more I learn about the Boxing Day shooting in Toronto, the more it sickens me:

On Tuesday, a downtown drug dealer familiar with the incident identified the man by his street name, TD, and said the shooting was the product of a turf war between rival drug gangs.

"It's going to get worse now," said the man, who goes by the name Junior. "This ain't over."
Unfortunately, he's right. It ain't over, especially for the grieving parents, family and friends of 15-year old Jane Creba, who was shot while doing only what most of us were doing on Boxing Day - shopping. They now begin the process of grieving the loss of a good daughter, a popular student, a star athlete, and now, an innocent victim of a senseless act.

My prayers go out to Jane and her loved ones.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 7:55 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Blast From The Past

Eric McErlain from Off Wing Opinion has a post today addressing an email sent to John Buccigross of ESPN:

John, With the new NHL returning to a more freewheeling style from the '80s, can we also start a campaign to get the old-time division names returned? I long for the Campbell, Wales, Smythe, Patrick, Norris and Adams.

Jason Lamb
Irvine, Calif.

The first year the NHL used those division names was 1974-75. The last year was 1992-93. Fewer than 20 years, yet it's talked about as though it was around forever. I do the same thing.
Eric's response:

There's a reason for that, and that's because it's right and proper that we acknowledge the heritage of the game and those who contributed to its establishment and growth. If I were voting, I'd go back to the old 4-division, 2-conference format with the old names. And if the suits in Manhattan and Toronto wanted to keep six divisions, then it's simply time to name the Pacific after Wayne Gretzky and the Southeast after Gordie Howe.

It's time to stop copying the NBA. It's simply the right thing to do.
Sign me up. It'll be a nice touch to re-introduce some of the game's heritage, especially if the league wants to educate its newest fans. My only fear is that when we want to acknowledge those who contributed to the NHL's growth, Bettman and his cohorts at NHL HQ may mistakenly think that we're referring to them and their great expansion efforts.

And while we're trying to bring back the past, I would also like to propose more vintage jersey nights.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 7:52 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Canucks 4 Predators 3

The Vancouver Canucks are breathing a lot easier after beating the Nashville Predators 4-3 last night. Perhaps motivated by calls for change from the Canucks faithful or by Crawford's new line combinations or simply by playing someone outside their division, the team put together a scrappy effort against a scrappy Nashville team that now sits second in the Western Conference. With the win, the Canucks regained first place in the Northwest Division and third place in the West.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . Vancouver Province . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • The Canucks actually got off to a horrible start. Alex Auld let in Darcy Hordichuk's shot from just past the blue line only 38 seconds into the game. Nashville then took a 2-0 lead on Marek Zidlicky's powerplay goal at the nine minute mark of the first period.
  • I thought Alex Auld looked shaky for the first 40 minutes of the game and stellar for the last 20 minutes. He faced constant pressure and 18 Nashville shots in the third period and stopped every one of them.
  • The Cooke-Morrison-Park line played a scrappy game all night. Cooke, especially, was in the Predators' face every shift. Park, of course, scored the game-winning goal. But while the line was successful last night, it begs the question - what is the $3.2 million center doing on the third line?
  • On the other hand, I wasn't a big fan of Bertuzzi being on center. Nazzy and Bert had a goal and an assist each, but Bert also missed some defensive assignments that led to Nashville scoring chances.
  • The Canucks' top-four defensemen all logged 20+ minutes of ice-time again; however, unlike in previous games, McCarthy and Bieksa played fairly solid games. Bieksa, epsecially, looked more comfortable on the ice after five games under his belt.
Next up: Minnesota on New Year's Eve.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 7:13 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Trade Rumours and Rumblings

With the Vancouver Canucks mired in a five-game winless streak, and the Christmas trade freeze now over, trade speculations have abound once again in Canuckland. The recent rumblings spare no one and include core players such as Brendan Morrison, Ed Jovanovski and Todd Bertuzzi. This isn't a surprise. In a salary cap world, for teams like the Canucks to acquire a high-quality player, one of those aforementioned, high-salary players would have to go the other way. But if the Canucks are in in "win-now" mode - they are - which of those core players will the team sacrifice to upgrade in other areas? And therein lies the dilemma that faces the team and GM Dave Nonis.

Some of the rumors that are floating out there:

Brendan Morrison for Scott Gomez (NJ)

After signing his $3.2 million/season contract, Morrison hasn't lived up to raised expectations. His numbers aren't awful (7-23-30 in 36 GP) and he has accepted every assignment Crawford has thrown at him - centering the first line or the third line, centering the powerplay, playing point on the powerplay, playing on the penalty kill, etc. He also averages the most ice-time out of all Canucks forwards (19:53 minutes/game). Somewhere along the way, he has still managed to be the team's scapegoat.

Scott Gomez is a slight upgrade over Morrison. Their games are similar, though Gomez is younger and may be a better playmaker than Morrison. He is also cheaper at $2.2 million this season.

That said, New Jersey is very close to the cap and any trade that involves them will see them take less salary, not more.

Brendan Morrison for Doug Weight (STL)

First, Doug Weight is a 34-year old center who is having perhaps his worst season with the worst team in the league. Second, he is making $5.7 million this season. The only reason the Canucks do this trade is because Weight is an unrestricted free agent after the season and the team can clear up room under the salary cap - not something a team in "win-now" mode would do.

Todd Bertuzzi for Nathan Horton and Mike Van Ryn (FLA)

Okay, this rumor was floating around before Bertuzzi started to play his best hockey in two years. That said, if Todd truly wanted out of Vancouver, Nonis probably would have already pulled the trigger on this deal. While he has had some recent injuries, Nathan Horton is an elite power forward in the making and can easily step into first line duties as a center or on the wing; Mike Van Ryn is a young, solid defenseman who can provide the depth the Canucks need.

Todd Bertuzzi for Joffrey Lupul and Ruslan Salei (ANA)

A bit similar to the Bertuzzi to Florida rumor. Joffrey Lupul gives the Canucks a young power forward with a lot of upside; Ruslan Salei is a solid depth defenseman, though I'm personally not a fan of Salei's penchant for questionable hits.

Ed Jovanovski, Todd Bertuzzi, filler for Roberto Luongo, filler (FLA)

Any trade that puts Roberto Luongo in a Canucks uniform is a good trade, though I doubt Nonis would give up both Jovo and Bert for Luongo. A more likely scenario will include one of Jovo or Bert plus Alex Auld or one of the Canucks' other goaltending prospects (ie. Ellis-Plante, Schneider). Also, with Jovanovski and Luongo both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the season, the Canucks and the Panthers will first want assurances that both players will re-sign with their new teams.

Other names that I've heard mentioned:

Martin Biron (BUF) - The Sabres need to unload a goalie, but with Martin Biron having just played the best stretch of hockey games of his career, their asking price will likely be steep. His $2.1 million salary will also take up the remaining cap space from Cloutier's injury.

Brendan Witt (WAS) - Brendan Witt wants out of the Washington and would fill the Canucks' need for defensive depth. His $1.7 million salary is manageable and the rebuilding Capitals will also probably be willing to accept prospects and/or draft picks in return.

Anyone from cap-strapped New Jersey - The Devils want to dump salary to accommodate the return of Patrick Elias. However, except for Martin Brodeur and possibly Scott Gomez, it's hard to imagine the Canucks wanting anyone else from their roster. And even if Brodeur and Gomez were available, the Canucks would then have to clear some of their own cap space to accommodate the additional salaries.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 5:13 PM | permalink/comments (9) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

The Depth on Defense

Ben Kuzma beat me to the punch with his article in today's Vancouver Province about the Vancouver Canucks' top-four defensemen and their increased ice-time.

In theory, it makes sense. Ask too many top players to play too many minutes and you get too many mistakes and too many losses.

But Ed Jovanovski doesn't buy that logic. Even though the Canucks defenceman logged 28 minutes, 51 seconds Monday in a 2-1 loss to Calgary -- his second-highest total this season -- he won't link it to five straight one-goal losses.

"I feel better when I'm playing more," Jovanovski said Tuesday. "Yeah, sometimes you have a long shift and the tendency is you might force something out of being fatigued. But that's where you've really got to bear down."

While that outlook is admirable, the bottom line is Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo, Bryan Allen and Jovanovski are overworked. Only Salo has logged less than his season average during the losing skid. Over the five losses Ohlund is a minus-4 and has averaged 25:47, compared to an average of 25:06. Salo is a minus-4 and has averaged 25:02, compared to 25:06. Allen is a plus-2 and has averaged 22:43 compared to 20:25, while Jovanovski is even and has averaged 26:31, compared to 25:26.

During the current winless streak, four of the team's six defensemen accounted for 80% of the team's available minutes on defense. Last season, the Canucks' top-four defensemen (in terms of ice-time) were: Ohlund (25:47), Jovanovski (23:11), Salo (22:14) and Sopel (21:55) - these four accounted for only 71% of the available minutes.

Compared to the top-four from last season, the current group is averaging an additional seven minutes of ice-time per game over the last five games.

Last season, the Canucks were able to count on their fifth and sixth defensemen, Marek Malik (18:05) and Bryan Allen (16:51), to shoulder extended ice-time. So far this season, none of Nolan Baumgartner, Steve McCarthy or any of the Moose call-ups have proven able to play similar minutes. Steve McCarthy, in particular, has been disappointing during the winless streak, averaging just over 9 minutes of ice-time in the four games he's played; he was also a healthy scratch for one of the games.

At some point, Dave Nonis will have to address the lack of depth on defense. Kevin Bieksa may be the answer, but his NHL career is only four games old. The return of Nolan Baumgartner (15:01) may also help. However, even after that, I think most fans will prefer an upgrade to the team's defense. And so do I.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:53 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Changing The Mix

(From Sportsnet News Pacific) In an effort to break out of their five-game losing streak - or is it a five-game winless streak? - Marc Crawford is changing his line combinations for tomorrow night's game against the Nashville Predators. The new line combinations look like the following:

Naslund - Bertuzzi - Ruutu
Sedin - Sedin - Carter
Cooke - Morrison - Park
Kesler - Linden - Goren
Personally, I would have preferred to see Ryan Kesler on the top line. Kesler is a speedy, defensively-responsible forward, not to mention a natural center, and could possibly show more of his potential while playing on the top line. Crawford also experimented with a Naslund-Kesler-Bertuzzi line combination earlier in the season and with a bit of success.

While Ruutu had played relatively-disciplined hockey at the start of the season, he had a tough game against the Flames last night and racked up four minor penalties, two of which took away Canucks powerplays. With the top line usually on the ice for 20-something minutes per game, I certainly hope Ruutu doesn't return to his undisciplined ways. Naslund and Bertuzzi, of course, don't kill penalties and if Ruutu takes more penalties during this extended ice-time, it means the Canucks' top two forwards won't be on the ice.

Here's hoping he doesn't.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:43 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Calling All Photo Enthusiasts

I've had this blog for a few months now, and while I'm sure you have liked/disliked my posts, I've decided that I need to do something to add some pizzazz to the site. And I thought the way to do that was to add some sort of a game-by-game photo gallery to the game recaps.

If you go to the games - home or away (if you are from another NHL city) - and would like to see your photos next to the game recaps, send them to me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com. I can even add your own caption if you'd like.

(Note: I won't use your photos for any other purpose other than the above.)

In the meantime, I'll try and add some of my own photos, but I figure you'd get sick of my wacky family pictures after a while. :)

posted by J.J. Guerrero, 9:16 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

World Junior Hockey Championships 2006

The 2006 World Junior Hockey Championships opened yesterday, and irresponsible Canadian that I was, I missed Team Canada's 5-1 win over Finland. For coverage of the event, check out Jes Gőlbez's Hockey Rants, who has secured press passes and is reporting from the comfy confines of the Pacific Coliseum press box and has the inside scoop. Hockey Nation has also started posting game-by-game results.

If you weren't able to secure tickets for the games - they have been sold out for months - you can still be part of the festivities through the RBC Fan Fest at the Pacific Coliseum. Among other activities, the Fan Fest will show all Team Canada games on a jumbo video screen. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 8:42 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Canucks 1 Flames 2

Home continues to be not so sweet for the Vancouver Canucks, who lost their fifth game in a row at GM Place. Last night's 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames knocked the Canucks all the way down to seventh place in the Western Conference.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . Vancouver Sun . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • Last night's game was a more typical Calgary Flames game than Friday night's - very tight-checking and physical. Full credit to the Flames. They didn't give the Canucks a lot of room to operate and even when they did, they were all over them like Tom on Katie.
  • That said, it seems like the referees decided to relax on the whole obstruction thing last night and let both teams get away with a few hooks, holds and late hits.
  • I'd be upset too if I was Finnish and their goaltender, who happens to be the best in the world right now, is skipping the Olympics. Mikka Kiprusoff is playing unbelievable hockey right now. His best saves from last night were on breakaways by Todd Bertuzzi and Ryan Kesler.
  • Robyn Regehr's game-winner, while scored on a very good shot, was probably stoppable. Hard to fault Auld for the loss, however, as he kept the Canucks in the game despite his team being out-chanced.
  • By scoring the lone Canucks goal last night, the Sedin line extended their point streak to eleven games.
  • Kevin Bieksa played a lot better tonight than he did in his two previous games. Indicative of this was not just his 10:21 minutes of ice-time (in all situations), but that he played a regular shift and logged some of those minutes late in the game.
  • On the flip side, I don't remember seeing Steve McCarthy on the ice towards the end of the game.
Next up: Nashville on Wednesday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 2:27 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Ho-Ho!

I'm off to Seattle for our annual family reunion/Christmas dinner and won't be back until Monday. I'll miss Team Canada's first game in the World Juniors against Finland, but will definitely be back for the 'Nucks/Flames rematch.

I just want to take this opportunity to wish everyone - fellow bloggers and of course, the readers of this blog - a happy and safe Christmas!

PS. If anyone managed to take a picture of Santa Fin at the game tonight, may I please request a copy? You can email it to me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com. Thank you.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:33 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Canucks 5 Flames 6 (SO)

Coming into their current six-game homestand, the Vancouver Canucks had only lost one game all season at GM Place. After a 6-5 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames, they have now lost four in a row, all of them at home. Combined with the surging Edmonton Oilers' win over the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks fall to second place in the Northwest Division and fifth place in the Western Conference.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • Nice touch to introduce Team Canada's World Juniors team prior to the game. Standing ovation from the fans was even nicer.
  • I'll take some time to post more about this next week, but while most has suggested that the Canucks upgrade their goaltender, what they should be looking at is upgrading their defense. During this homestand, the team has been plagued with sloppy turnovers and mental mistakes in their own zone. Not including the shootout, they have allowed 20 goals in four games.
  • If I'm not mistaken, I didn't notice Kevin Bieksa and Steve McCarthy on the ice late in the game.
  • With the loss, the Canucks are now a less than stellar 5-9-4 against the Northwest Division. But if there's a positive during this four-game losing streak, it's that the Canucks have at least managed to record three points. They are only one point back of Edmonton with a game in hand.
  • I know that both teams scored five goals each but it's hard to fault the goaltenders. Most of the goals were off deflections, screens and odd-man chances. When the game was on the line in the third period and overtime, Mikka Kiprusoff and Alex Auld both made some great saves.
  • Todd Bertuzzi continued his great play. Big Bert had two assists and again, was a force with the puck. He's creating room for his linemates and allowing them to generate scoring opportunities. Tonight, Naslund scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season and Morrison added four assists.
  • Sedin, Sedin and Carter combined for a goal and two assists to extend their point streak to ten games.
  • After going 0-for-6 against the Oilers last Saturday night, the powerplay has come alive with nine goals in 27 chances over the last three games.
  • I loved Ryan Kesler's and Matt Cooke's play tonight. They were all over the ice, finished their checks and got under the skin of some of the Flames; officially, they combined for seven hits.
  • Bryan Marchment is a jackass. Hitting Cookie into the boards from behind while Cookie was sliding vulnerably on the ice was dirty.
  • Why can't Nazzy score in the shootout?
Next up: Calgary (again) on Boxing Day Monday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:26 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Eight Canucks To Turin

A day after Todd Bertuzzi and Ed Jovanovski were selected for the Canadian Olympic Hockey Team, six more Canucks were selected to represent their respective countries in the 2006 Olympics. Captain Markus Naslund, Mattias Ohlund, Henrik and Daniel Sedin were named to the Swedish Olympic Team; Jarkko Ruutu and Sami Salo were named to the Finnish Olympic Team.

The full Olympic rosters are as follows:
Update: (12/23/05 11:44 pm) Russia and Italy also announced their respective rosters.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:26 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

OT: Liberal Party Blog

While I closely follow politics, I promise not to delve into it too much on this blog. However, while mentioning federal MP's on the previous post, I thought I'd add this little tidbit.

Scott Feschuk, a chief speechwriter to Paul Martin, is blogging throughout this first Christmas election campaign since 1979. His blog, which appears on the federal Liberal Party of Canada website, is hilarious. For those of you who are tired of the same, constant political bickering and bantering, Mr. Feschuk provides a more amusing and more light-hearted spin from the Liberal bus.

Here is a sample from yesterday's post:

... But it is my steadfast belief that as a basic principle, truthfulness in public life must be respected. A line must be drawn. And Stephen Harper has crossed that line with his most outrageous statement of the campaign. He said it yesterday. These were his exact words: "I can take a punch."

People of Canada: I beseech you to rise up in outrage at this most dubious of claims. I mean, look at him. A noogie? Sure, Stephen Harper might be able to take a noogie. Ditto a wet willie, a hertz donut and most forms of the wedgie, up to — but not including — The Flying Dutchman. I'll give him that. In the spirit of the holiday season, I’m even willing to go so far as to say the Conservative leader could endure a few seconds of pink belly.

But a punch? Mr. Harper, you go too far.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:23 AM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Forever Hold Your Peace

Hockey Canada announced its roster for the 2006 Winter Olympics on Wednesday. (Comparing the list to my own from Tuesday, I got 20 of 23 players right.) On Thursday morning, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) met, and despite some concerns and after a long discussion, voted to approve the selection.

The Canadian Olympic Committee has unanimously approved Hockey Canada's list of players for the Turin Winter Games.

Michael Chambers, the COC's president, said Thursday the decision was made to ''bring to the end'' any objections arising from the inclusion of Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks, Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators and Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes on the Olympic roster.

All three players are free to play for Canada at the Olympics.
This was the right move. It wasn't as if the COC didn't know that these players were being considered for the team - remember that Hockey Canada's long list was announced back in October. They could have said something then, but didn't. To say something now would have been a slap in the face to Wayne Gretzky and the executive committee.

On a related matter, a federal MP is not at all happy with Shane Doan's selection:

Former Minister of Amateur sport Denis Coderre on Thursday lashed out at Team Canada's selection committee saying Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan should not represent Canada after reports he verbally slammed French Canadians.

''I believe truly that if you are going (to) the Olympic games, you're going under a flag and the values attached to it,'' Coderre said Thursday. ''And to have people like Todd Bertuzzi and Shane Doan... specifically Shane Doan because as you know, last December 13th at the hockey game against the Habs he said something pretty nasty against frenchmen and he used the F-word.''
Doan has denied the allegations:

''Once again, I reiterate that I did not make any anti-francophone comments following our recent game in Montreal. The NHL conducted their own review and found no wrongdoing on my behalf. I am looking forward to being a part of Team Canada again and representing all Canadians, coast to coast, at the 2006 Winter Olympics.''
More to follow.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:14 AM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Canucks 6 Oilers 7

In a game that was reminiscent of the '80s era of goal scoring and sloppy defenses, the Vancouver Canucks lost 7-6 to the surging Edmonton Oilers - the 13 goals scored in the game were scored by 13 different goal scorers. The loss was the Canucks' third in a row, all on home ice.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . Vancouver Province . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • As in their two previous losses, the Canucks couldn't hang on to the lead. Last night, they held four different one-goal leads; each time, they let the Oilers tie the game.
  • For what it's worth, the Canucks chased the Oilers' goalie for the second meeting in a row. Of course both times the Oilers came back to win the game.
  • Rick Rypien played his first game with the Canucks last night and scored his first goal on his first shot. The goal gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead. This was the first time I've seen Rypien play and I thought he wasn't bad in his limited ice-time (6:31 minutes).
  • Nolan Baumgartner left the game in the first period after blocking a shot. Mostly out of necessity, Kevin Bieksa logged 17:40 minutes of ice-time. I know Bieksa comes with some hype after a great first pro season in Manitoba last season; in his first couple of games however, he either seems lost or is slow to position himself on defense. I also haven't seen much of the physical aspect of his game.
  • If Baumgartner is away for any length of time, the team's third defensive pairing may very well feature Steve McCarthy and Kevin Bieksa. Yikes.
  • The Sedin line scored two goals and an assist to extend their point streak to nine games. Sedin, Sedin and Carter have combined for 26 points (12G-14A) in that span.
  • Todd Bertuzzi has also been hot. He scored again last night and now has four goals in five games. More importantly, he is back muscling his way with the puck and creating scoring chances.
Next up: Calgary on Friday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:56 AM | permalink/comments (1) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Updated Power Rankings

Thanks to a couple of big wins against the Rangers and the Flyers, the Canucks moved up to no. 5 on TSN's weekly power rankings. Their only loss was an overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

Even after Monday's shootout loss to the Kings, the Canucks can make a statement this weekend when they play three big, home games against their closest divisional rivals. They take on the Oilers again tonight, then the Calgary Flames on Friday and Monday.

Other power rankings: ESPN (2) . Fox Sports (8) . Sports Illustrated (7)
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:48 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Ranting Roenick

USA Hockey announced its roster for the 2006 Olympics and two-time Olympian Jeremy Roenick wasn't on it. Roenick, who had lobbied aggressively and shamelessly to make the team, wasn't happy.

Roenick sounded off against USA Hockey Monday after his Los Angeles Kings earned a 4-3 shootout victory over Vancouver Canucks, saying he was left off the team ''because (USA Hockey has) been blackballing me since September.''

The 36-year-old centre called American hockey officials ''disrespectful'' and was clearly bitter with their decision. He clearly seemed fired up in Monday's game, scoring and adding an assist in the first period.

''I think they were holding the fact I haven't played in the last two World Cups against me. I'm a lot better player than my points indicate,'' said Roenick, who has six goals and seven assists in 32 games this season. ''I'm one of the guys that have gotten the USA to where it is today.''

Roenick was on the American team that finished second to Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, and was also on the 1998 team that finished out of the medals in Nagano, Japan. He thought American officials would choose him for the Turin Games out of respect for his previous tenures with the team.

''To not have the opportunity to go back one more time and try and win the gold is obviously, in my opinion, very disrespectful,'' said Roenick, who has 1,133 points in 1,156 career regular season games. ''They can beat me down and say I'm over the hill or say that I don't have it anymore, but to me I know that I do.''
USA Hockey general manager Don Waddell was more diplomatic than that.

"I took it as a compliment because I could really appreciate how much he wanted to be a part of this," Waddell said. "But at the end of the day we had 13 better forwards than Jeremy at this point."
Roenick may have more career points than any other forward who made the team; however, in this current NHL season, all of them have more points than him. In fact, Roenick's 13 points (6G-7A) only ties for 26th among US-born forwards - not exactly a convincing argument, don't you think?

And as if the hockey gods wanted him to shut up, it was announced yesterday that Roenick has a broken finger and will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:41 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Carnival of the NHL #16

The 16th edition of the Carnival of the NHL is up over at Japer's Rink. As usual, the Carnival rounds up the latest posts, musings, analysis and rants in the hockey world.

Welcome, one and all, to the Carnival of the NHL #16 - the Bengt Gustafsson/Alan May edition. I have to admit a slight reluctance to hosting a carnival, given my phobia, but I'm a gamer. And with a little organizational help from The Tragically Hip (may I suggest "Live Between Us" as a soundtrack to this edition), I think I'll get through.
Ahhh... some good hockey readin' and some good Canadian rock tunes. All that's missing is a pint of Molson and you're all set. The link to the Carnival is here and a big thumbs up to JP for putting this together.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:58 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Canucks 3 Kings 4 (SO)

The Vancouver Canucks lost their second consecutive game, this time a 4-3 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Similar to Saturday night's game against the Oilers, the Canucks scored two early first period goals but couldn't hang on to the lead. Daniel Sedin, Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund couldn't beat Mathieu Garon in the shootout.
Game Recaps: canucks.com . Vancouver Province . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • When playing with the lead, the Canucks need to learn to put teams away. Two games, two blown two-goal leads. In both games, they let the opposing team creep back into the game by allowing a powerplay goal.
  • Also in both games, the opposing teams scored the eventual game-tying goal while shorthanded.
  • Kevin Bieksa made his Canucks debut. He had some obvious jitters and seemed out of position a few times. The Kings recognized this and constantly pressured him on the forecheck. Bieksa finished with 1 shot, 2 hits, 1 minor penalty and a -1 rating in 10:45 minutes of ice-time.
  • The Sedin line had another great game, and once again, created numerous scoring chances. Daniel Sedin, in particular, was dangerous all night. The line finished with 4 points (1G-3A) and 5 shots. They now have an eight-game point streak, and in that span, have combined for 10 goals, 13 assists and 23 points.
  • Steve McCarthy finally scored his first goal as a Canuck. He looked good against the Oilers, but only logged 5:59 minutes of ice-time last night - a team low.
  • Markus Naslund has 18 goals for the season, but is now 0-3 in shootouts.
Next up: Edmonton on Wednesday.
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My Team Canada

Everybody else is doing it, so I thought I might as well join in. With Team Canada slated to announce its roster for the 2006 Olympics on Wednesday, following are my selections:


  • Todd Bertuzzi (32 GP, 11-18-29, even rating): My bias says Todd deserves to be on the team. His recent play backs it up.
  • Sidney Crosby (33 GP, 14-19-33, -9): Of the 3 kids (Spezza and Staal are the others), I'd rank Sid the Kid at no. 3 and put him on the taxi squad. That said, Wayne loves him and Wayne's good friend Mario is openly lobbying for Sid's inclusion.
  • Shane Doan (33 GP, 6-14-20, -8): Not off to a great start statistically but Team Canada can benefit from his versatility - he can play all three forward positions - and strong two-way game.
  • Kris Draper (33 GP, 1-5-6, -5): Team Canada needs someone who can provide some grit and energy. Draper has proven he can provide both in international competitions.
  • Simon Gagne (27 GP, 23-14-37, +17): Seems to save his best games for international competitions. His line with Sakic and Iginla was arguably Team Canada's most valuable in the 2002 Olympics. He is, however, injured and some reports say that the injury is more serious than the Flyers are reporting.
  • Dany Heatley (30 GP, 21-25-46, +25): A fresh start with the Senators has greatly benefited Heatley. His 46 points ties him for fifth in NHL scoring with linemate Jason Spezza; his +25 rating leads the league.
  • Jarome Iginla (32 GP, 13-14-27, +9): Simply one of the best power forwards in the league. After Sakic, I'd tab Jarome as Team Canada's future captain.
  • Vincent Lecavalier (33 GP, 14-20-34, +5): Has had a relatively-quiet start to the season, but has started to pick it up over the last three weeks.
  • Rick Nash (4 GP, 1-0-1, even): One of the best pure goal scorers in the NHL and one of Team Canada's heroes in the 2004 World Cup. He has, however, been injured for all but four games this season.
  • Brad Richards (33 GP, 11-25-36, +6): Like Lecavalier, has had a quiet start to the season, but is still averaging a point a game and is the reigning Conn Smythe winner as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • Joe Sakic (33 GP, 14-21-35, -1): With Lemieux and Yzerman withdrawing from the team, Burnaby Joe should captain this version of Team Canada.
  • Ryan Smyth (27 GP, 14-10-24, -2): There is no reason Captain Canada wouldn't be on this team. He has loads of Team Canada experience and is leading a young Oilers team.
  • Jason Spezza (29 GP, 12-34-46, +20): Most deserving of the three kids to be picked on the team. In 29 games this season, he has 46 points and a +20 rating. It helps that he has great chemistry with Dany Heatley and is a right-handed shot.
  • Eric Staal (32 GP, 22-22-44, +3): Tough call between Staal and Sidney. If it was up to me, Staal would make it before Sidney - all he's done is carried the Carolina Hurricanes to first place in their division.
  • Joe Thornton (30 GP, 12-36-48, +2): Since his trade to the Sharks, the team has won six of seven games and Joe has recorded 15 points.

  • Scott Niedermayer (34 GP, 4-19-23, +6): A proven winner and leader at every level.
  • Rob Blake (33 GP, 6-15-21, -14): Has a horrible plus/minus rating but still brings valuable experience and leadership.
  • Chris Pronger (32 GP, 2-15-17, +6): Hasn't been great but has played solid for the Oilers. Like Blake, can provide valuable experience in the back end.
  • Wade Redden (20 GP, 5-19-24, +19): Despite missing 10 games, still sits tied for sixth in defensemen scoring with 24 points. He also has a whopping +19 rating.
  • Robyn Regehr (18 GP, 2-5-7, +6): Tough, mobile and positionally-sound.
  • Ed Jovanovski (32 GP, 5-17-22, -5): High-risk, high-reward player. Pairing with stay-at-home Regehr should quell some concerns.
  • Adam Foote (26 GP, 4-2-6, -12): Makes this team purely on experience.
  • Dion Phaneuf (32 GP, 7-9-16, +2): A taxi-squad pick. He'll be a big part of future Team Canadas.

  • Martin Brodeur (25 GP, 12-10-3, 3.01 GAA, .895 SV%): After backstopping Team Canada in the 2002 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup, it's his starting spot to lose.
  • Roberto Luongo (32 GP, 12-15-4, 3.17 GAA, .913 GAA): If he was playing anywhere else but Florida (and maybe Columbus), there wouldn't be any discussion about whether or not he deserves to be on this team. Is once again leading the NHL in saves.
  • Curtis Joseph (24 GP, 14-9-0, 2.31 GAA, .923 SV%): Has played well enough to deserve to be on this team. Veteran of previous Team Canadas may also be more willing to take a press box seat.
Taxi Squad: Eric Staal, Sidney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf

My Notable Omissions
  • Martin St. Louis (31 GP, 12-14-26, +3): Should be excelling in a more wide-open NHL but has been very average.
  • Alex Tanguay (33 GP, 11-25-36, +1): Would probably make the team if Staal hadn't played as well as he has.
  • Brendan Shanahan (34 GP, 19-17-36, +2): Tough omission as he has proven valuable to previous Team Canadas. Proven this season that he can still play and can provide veteran leadership. He may make the team but only at the expense of one of the youngsters.
  • Paul Kariya (30 GP, 10-17-27, -8): Having a bit of a bounce back season but not enough to supplant the likes of Heatley, Bertuzzi and Nash.
  • Patrick Marleau (31 GP, 13-26-39, -3): Has been one of the more consistent Sharks this season. Unfortunately this team is already deep at the center position.
  • Bryan McCabe (32 GP, 11-29-40, -3): It's either him or Foote for the last spot on defense.
  • Jay Bouwmeester (35 GP, 0-12-12, -8): Would have been another taxi squad pick. Difference is, Phaneuf has been able to stand out, even on a very good Calgary team.
  • Marty Turco (26 GP, 18-7-1, 2 SO, 2.52 GAA, .902 SV%): Hard to leave out the league leader in wins, but Turco hasn't proven anything outside the regular season.
  • Jose Theodore (26 GP, 13-7-5, 3.06 GAA, .889 SV%): Hasn't put up great numbers this season.
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RIP Phyllis Gretzky

Phyllis Gretzky, the matriarch of the Gretzky family, died last night after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 64 years old.

''Throughout my career, she was in the background but she was the glue,'' Wayne Gretzky said at the time of her diagnosis. ''She's always been the toughest in the family.''
From my small corner of the hockey blogosphere, sincerest condolences to the Gretzky family.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:44 AM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Canucks 4 Oilers 5

The Vancouver Canucks blew a couple of two-goal leads en route to a 5-4 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It was only the Canucks' second home ice loss this season.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . Vancouver Province . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • Maxime Ouellet started his first game for the Canucks. Except for Horcoff's shorthanded goal in the third period, I thought Ouellet played a solid game most of the night. He made some good saves, controlled most rebounds and can't be faulted for any of the first three Oilers goals. He finished with 32 saves on 37 shots.
  • I thought Steve McCarthy played his most active game in a while. Especially in the first two periods, McCarthy played with a lot of jump and pinched in offensively.
  • Nolan Baumgartner was impressive last night. There was a lot of skating and not a lot of hits - exactly the kind of game in which Baumgartner thrives. He logged 16:05 minutes of ice-time in all situations.
  • Todd Bertuzzi was a machine. Again. Maybe this is for real. Maybe 2002/2003 Bertuzzi is back. He had 2 goals, 4 shots and +1 rating in 21:18 minutes of ice-time. Most importantly, he was a handful to the Oilers defense all night.
  • Speaking of Bertuzzi, he seemed to be in a jovial mood last night. It's good to see. He didn't look like a guy that didn't want to be in Vancouver.
  • The game had some great flow with lots of skating and scoring chances. Until McGeough and partner decided to call eight penalties in the third period.
  • If any Oilers fans are reading this, why doesn't Ales Hemsky shoot more often? He puts himself in position to do so then hangs on to the puck. He had three points last night but easily could have had a couple more if he actually decided to shoot the puck.
  • Speaking of shooting the puck, Sami Salo was doing a lot of that. Except he didn't hit the net. In the beginning of the season, he hit the net often and got off to a strong start statistically. He's slown down since and only has one assist in six December games.
  • I don't think I need to say anything about the Canucks' special teams, huh? 0-for-6 on the powerplay, 3 powerplay goals allowed, 1 shorthanded goal against. 'Nuff said.
Next up: Kings on Monday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:03 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Home For The Holidays

The Vancouver Canucks face the Edmonton Oilers tonight in what is the first game of a six-game homestand, their longest of the season. Four of the six games are against Northwest Division rivals, and if the team would like to give fans a nice holiday treat, it would be to improve their 5-7-2 record against them and build on their slim lead for first place in the division. For what it's worth, the Canucks currently have the league's best home record with 13 wins and only 1 loss.

(Small housekeeping note: My recap from tonight's game won't be posted until Sunday night.)
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 2:48 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

A Fool and His Money (NHL Edition)

At this week's Board of Governors meetings, Gary Bettman announced that if league revenue projections remain on target, the salary cap could rise to anywhere between $40 and $45 million. It looks like not all is doom and gloom as I anticipated in August.

So what does the increased salary cap mean?

Locally, an increased cap gives the Canucks more flexibility. After this season, Ed Jovanovski (unrestricted) and the Sedins (restricted) will likely command big pay increases, and while the Canucks may not have been able to fit their new contracts under a $39 million cap, they may be able to do so if the cap increases.

In the short-term, it may also affect how Dave Nonis tinkers with his roster closer to the playoffs. Rather than limiting himself to players whose contracts expire this year (and thus won't take room under next year's cap), an increased cap may now allow him to acquire a player who is already signed for next year and not worry about having to clear cap space in the off-season.

Want to load up on defense? Sergei Gonchar and the 4 years/$5 million per year he would have left in his contract may now also fit even under next year's cap. Up front, Glen Murray and his remaining 3 years/$4 million per year may also fit. In goal, they can afford to acquire Roberto Luongo and re-sign him at a potential $5 million per season salary without worrying too much about Dan Cloutier and his 2006/2007 salary of $2.5 million. This is of course providing that they don't expect revenues to take a dip in following seasons.

League-wide, the impact may be more interesting. For one thing, the cap on individual salaries is equal to 20% of the team-by-team cap, and thus, an increased team-by-team cap also mean an increased cap on individual salaries. If the team cap increases from $39 million to $45 million, the individual cap also increases from $7.8 million to $9 million - I wonder if Lecavalier, Iginla and Thornton, young, upper level free agents last year, would have signed their long-term deals if they knew the individual cap would increase by more than $1 million. You can bet this year's free agents - including stud defensemen Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara and Ed Jovanovski - can't wait to start negotiating under this increased cap limit. (For what it's worth, I don't think there is a player out there who is worth $7.8 million/season, and I certainly don't think there is one worth $9 million.)

Some things that I am unclear about with regards to the new CBA. If league revenues rise and the salary cap increases to $45 million, this also means the salary floor rises to $29 million. We already know that some lower revenue teams operate with a payroll budget lower than $29 million. Florida ($25 million) and Carolina ($24 million) are examples. If these two teams, both of which are suffering from weak attendance, are losing money with a lower payroll, how will the league mandate them to increase it? Is the revenue sharing component of the CBA strong enough to support what would presumably be higher losses for these teams? Will these teams willingly overpay a player or two simply to achieve the payroll floor, even if it doesn't make good sense for the team or their business?

Of course these numbers are subject to change. As Eric McErlain and Tom Benjamin have previously noted, we don't have the actual revenue figures. We can't even attribute the rise in the cap to a real rise in revenues or the revised method of calculating them. For example, under the new method outlined in the CBA, 2003/2004 revenues went from $2.1 billion to $2.2 billion. If the cap only increases to $40 million, that means revenues went from $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion. In this case, it may be safe to assume that the change in revenues may be due to the new method if calculating them.

And even if the cap increases to $45 million, Gary Bettman and the league may not want to get too excited yet. Remember that a $45 million cap still signifies a decrease in revenues from the lockout (from $2.2 billion to approximately $2 billion). When league revenues return to pre-lockout levels, the players' share of revenues will also rise to 55% and the cap will be upwards of $48 million.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 2:31 PM | permalink/comments (1) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

A Fool and His Money (Canucks Edition)

With news this week that Dan Cloutier will miss the rest of the regular season, many Canucks fans have weighed in on how Dave Nonis should spend the approximately $1.8 million in cap space that has now been freed up. My advice: Nonis should keep it in the bank for now.

In most of the 21 games he's played this season, Alex Auld has been solid. In wins against league-leading Senators and Northeast Division-leading Rangers, he was great. He currently has a record of 12-6-1 with a 2.65 GAA (12th in NHL) and .909 SV% (12th in NHL). All for a near-league minimum salary of $513,000.

Alex deserves an opportunity to assume the no. 1 role. He has started the last ten games since Cloutier's injury - easily the longest stretch of his NHL career - and in those games he has a very respectable 7-3 record, stopping 276 of 314 shots and only allowing a total of 28 goals.

He also has his team's confidence. According to Canucks goaltending coach Ian Clark:

"We're certainly not in any panic state here," said Clark, taking a break from his Team Canada world junior duties. "Except for a couple of hiccups, there is nothing to suggest that Alex can't carry the ball for us right now. And every time he's had a hiccup -- one against Colorado and one against Edmonton -- he's bounced back with strong performances.

"So there has been no marked trend whatsoever of weak performances on his behalf. If anything, there's been a trend of strong play."
Watching Auld's play, especially this season, you notice his cool demeanor under pressure - most of the time, he is in control and not easily rattled. And it shows with his ability to bounce back after bad goals or bad games. After an awful game against Colorado in Denver, he was great a few nights later against the same Avs; he followed the Oilers game, one in which he had some horrible rebound control problems, with his current four-game win streak; against the Flyers on Thursday, he allowed a soft goal near the end of the second period, but bounced back and stopped 19 of 20 shots in the third.

The key question for the Canucks is whether they feel Alex can continue to play at this level or even elevate his game. The fact is, the team is in "win-now" mode and would want to feel confident that he can take them deep into the playoffs.

Canucks GM Dave Nonis:
"We're not in any hurry,'' he said. "I think Alex has proven that he can play at this level and he can play a number of games at this level.

"If something comes along that will help us and make us a stronger team, then we'll do it. We're not going to make a change just to make it."
Based on Auld's play so far this season, change doesn't seem necessary yet. And if Auld keeps playing as he has, maybe it won't be necessary at all.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 2:15 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Friday, December 16, 2005

Canucks 5 Flyers 4

The Vancouver Canucks extended their winning streak to four games - all against Eastern Conference teams - by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 last night. It was also the Canucks' first win against the Flyers since 2001.

Unfortunately, we had our staff Christmas get-together last night, had a few too many Sleemans and I missed most of what looked like another solid effort from the boys (give or take the third Philly goal). Anyway, instead of my usual notes, here are the various game recaps and stats:

Game Recaps: canucks.com . Vancouver Province . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
Next up: Edmonton on Saturday.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:17 AM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Canucks 3 Rangers 2

The Vancouver Canucks broke a three-game losing streak on the road by beating the New York Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden. Matt Cooke returned from a broken jaw and scored the game-winning goal, and Alex Auld stopped 34 of 36 Rangers shots to lead the Canucks. With the win, the Canucks regained first place in the Northwest Division with 40 points (19-9-2) and a game in hand over the Calgary Flames.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . Vancouver Sun . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • The Canucks, once again, came out flying in the first period. They controlled the play for most of the period, and at one time, were outshooting the Rangers 12-3. A lot of those shots were from high-quality scoring chances and if not for Henrik Lundqvist, the Canucks could have had a multi-goal lead. Instead, both teams finished the period scoreless.
  • In his first game since the Canucks announced that Dan Cloutier was most likely done for the seaosn, Alex Auld was great. The Rangers pressed hard in the second half of the game but Auld made big saves when he needed to, some of them from in close. He was especially sharp in the third period, stopping all but one of the Rangers' 16 shots.
  • Matt Cooke returned to the lineup and immediately paid dividends for the Canucks. He got his first hit a couple of minutes into the game and set the tone for the team. Cooke checked hard and finished checks all night before scoring the game-winner with four minutes left in the game. He also had 4 shots, 4 hits and a +1 rating in 14:33 minutes of ice-time.
  • For the second game in a row, Todd Bertuzzi was grouchy and effective. Can someone explain how he got the instigator penalty when he came to Naslund's defense? As John Garrett pointed out - and replays showed - Hollweg dropped the gloves before Todd did.
  • More on Hollweg - here's what's wrong with the NHL... a relative-unknown throws a questionable elbow to the head of one of the league's star players then gets away fairly lightly. Two minutes in the penalty box is hardly a deterrent. Neither is knowing the other team can't come after you without taking 17 minutes (or more) in penalties.
Next up: Philadelphia on Thursday.
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Dan No Longer The Man

After much media speculation and discussion, Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis announced this afternoon that Dan Cloutier will have surgery on his knee and miss the rest of the regular season.
"We felt that at this time it's something that we couldn't rely on to hold up through the entire season given that he has to go up and down on it all the time," general manager Dave Nonis said Tuesday night before the Canucks played the New York Rangers.
I suppose that answered my questions...

Anyway, now that the no. 1 job is his (for now anyway), I hope Alex Auld holds up and becomes more Patrick Roy than Patrick Lalime.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:42 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Realigned Schedule Revisited

I was never a big fan of the new NHL schedule, and I like it even less now after watching a very entertaining Canucks/Senators game last week - easily one of the most exciting games of the season and a rare game that actually lived up to its billing - then realizing that the Senators won't back for three more years. For a league that is trying to build exposure, it seems asinine that, in any given year, a city will not be able to watch 10 out of other 30 NHL teams.

This excerpt from Hockey Nation:
The game had been hyped for a week in Vancouver, almost reaching that frenzy one sees at the start of the playoffs. Which leads one to wonder about the NHL's scheduling template for the next few years. As things stand now, with the unbalanced and inter conference rivalries in place, the Sens will not be back for a regular season visit in Vancouver for three years. Which seems like a complete waste of entertainment and box office potential.

Here's some math for the NHL to ponder for next year, earlier this weekthe Sens played Florida before an announced crowd of 10,000 people (widely reported as much less) and no television audience. Friday night the Sens and Canucks played before a sold out crowd of 18,630 at GM place and a Sportsnet audience that will surely report in as huge.

The question for Gary Bettman and the owners is this. Which would bring in more money and more interest to the new NHL, eight games of the Panthers and Sens or even four games of the Sens and Canucks? Unless the NHL calculators are broken they'll realize that it not only makes good hockey sense to feature the Canadian teams against each other more often, it makes good business sense.
It makes sense to me. The NHL's argument for the realigned schedule was to emphasize divisional rivalries. But is it worth it at the cost of losing league-wide exposure of some of its best players so that intra-divisional teams meet eight times a year rather than six? How much of an impact is there in those two extra games and does it balance out the impact of some of the league's best players not playing in exactly 1/3rd of NHL cities?

For example, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have Sidney Crosby, the NHL's most-hyped rookie in recent history, in their lineup, won't play in Vancouver this year. They won't play in Phoenix either where the Coyotes are only averaging just over 15,000 fans per game. Neither in Anaheim who are averaging around 13,600 fans per game. You don't think a visit by Sid the Kid can provide a boost at the gate? An average of 16,873 fans have attended the Penguins' first 15 road games, and in those 15 games, the home teams filled, on average, 90% of their building, including eight sellouts.

Of note, the Penguins won't play in LA either - this means that the NHL's most-hyped rookie won't play a game in Hollywood, in one of the league's largest markets.

The NHL needs to revisit their schedule to allow teams - and their marquee players - to appear in as many different NHL cities as possible. The benefits of marketing and ensuring that their best players are the most visible far outweigh what two extra divisional games bring. It seems like common sense to me and certainly makes good business sense, doesn't it? But then again, this is the same league that built their ad campaign around Will whats-his-face.
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Monday, December 12, 2005

Inaccurate Reflection

There has been some discussion regarding some regular season games being worth two points and some being worth three points. If a game is settled during regulation time, the game is worth two points; of course if a game goes to overtime or the shootout, it is worth three points. In both cases, the winning team gets two points for the win; however, if the game goes to overtime or a shootout, then the losing team also gets a point. But should teams get a point for losing a game in overtime or the shootout? It's like saying, "it's not whether or not you lose, it's when you lose".

The result is a points system that may not accurately reflect which teams have performed the best throughout the season, and this inaccurate reflection is something that's been bugging me.

For example: If a team loses all 82 of their games in overtime or the shootout, that team accumulates 82 points. If a team wins 41 games and loses the other 41, all in regulation time, they also accumulate 82 points. Is the team that lost all their games really as good as the one that won half their games? It can obviously be argued that this example is not plausible, but the fact that it is possible tells me that the current system is flawed.

I offer my following, humble solutions:

Solution #1: The "Best Team Standing" Solution

Forget the shootout. Much like in the playoffs, let the teams play until someone scores, then give the winning team the two points and the losing team zero points. The NBA does this; so does Major League Baseball. Old school, hardcore fans will love this solution; however, TV networks will not, and in Gary Bettman's NHL, TV networks will always get what they want. So I offer solutions #2 and #3.

Solution #2: The "Winner-Takes-All" Solution

Regardless of whether a team wins or loses in overtime or the shootout, award them the same number of points. Give the winner two points and the loser zero points. In terms of wins and losses, this is how it's done in the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball. As such, teams that win more games finish higher in the standings - imagine that concept.

The NHL wants to encourage teams to score? Nothing will encourage them more than the thought of not picking up any points if they don't outscore their opponents.

Solution #3: The "Tie-Breaker" Solution

Some fans hate ties, which is the exact reason the NHL implemented the shootout. However, some argue that a team that loses in a shootout - or loses to an individual skill, rather than to the team - shouldn't be awarded zero points for effort. Fair enough and the opposite can also be argued - should a team that wins on an individual skill rather than the team game pick up the extra point?

Now consider this excerpt from the NHL's CBA:

No individual statistics will be awarded from performance in a shootout (e.g. no goals -- or game-winning goals -- credited to scorer; no saves or goals against charged to a goaltender). Also, a goalie will not be charged with a loss to his record should he lose in overtime (this is a change from current practice) or in a shootout. Instead, such a decision would be added to the goalie's OT column (e.g. same as team standings -- GP W L OT).
If, in a shootout, individual statistics don't count towards players' regular season totals, then why do teams accumulate points in the regular season standings?

The simple answer is that they shouldn't. Because the shootout essentially acts as a tie-breaker - it is just that, isn't it? - don't add shootout wins and losses in the team standings. After the overtime, credit both teams with a tie, give them their one point, then add a shootout win column to act as a tie-breaker. If teams are tied in the standings at the end of the season, use their number of shootout wins as a tie-breaker.

Endless overtimes aside, my personal preference is to use a combination of solutions #2 and #3 - teams that win in regulation or overtime gain two points, while the losers gain nothing. If the game requires a shootout, neither team gains or loses in the point standings, though the winner can gain a point in the tie-breaker.

What is your preference?
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 8:57 PM | permalink/comments (2) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Carnival of the NHL #15

Will Leitch at Deadspin is hosting the 15th and latest edition of the Carnival of the NHL, taking us through the latest posts, musings, rants and analysis in the hockey world.

First, an intro:
As mentioned earlier this week, we were cordially invited to host the weekly/bi-weekly Carnival of the NHL, which we were honored to do, mainly because we need to brush up on our hockey, a sport we struggle with sometimes because the Carnidals don't play it.

So here's the edition for this week - with a Carnival Cruise Line-esque photo of Kathie Lee Gifford along for the ride, just for poops and giggles - which hopefully will focus on the best hockey posts of the week while not betraying our relative ignorance on the topic.
As always, the Carnival is an entertaining read - the link is here - and a big thanks to Will for putting it together.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:59 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |