Back in February when Thomas Vanek's linemate Maxim Afinogenov was lost for the regular season with a broken wrist, I wondered what kind of affect this would have on Vanek, who was having a breakout season.
In the 17 games since Max's injury, Vanek has 18 points and has been +11 - shooting him up to +41 for the year, which currently leads the league.
I guess he's done alright.
26 March 2007
Back in February when Thomas Vanek's linemate Maxim Afinogenov was lost for the regular season with a broken wrist, I wondered what kind of affect this would have on Vanek, who was having a breakout season.
This is simply a posting to state that i do, in fact, suck.
Caught up in a lot of stuff lately (nothing bad) and haven't had a chance to stay on top of much in the hockey world, other than BC making it to the Frozen Four again. And BU losing.
How about this: last night going into the third period the Oshawa Generals were down 6-2 to the Kingston Frontenacs (on the road) in game 2 of their opening round playoff series.
The Gens won 7-6. John Tavares had 5 points. He, in fact, does not suck.
22 March 2007
among all players who have taken at least four shots in shootouts this year (an arbitrary cutoff to be sure, but the number of players increases drastically at three or less), these are the most deadly:
|shots ||goals||shot %||winners* |
*"winners" are simply goals that decide (win) the game.
(i still hate the shootout. just acknowledging that it is - sadly - an important aspect of the regular season game.)
21 March 2007
to be published at SportsBlurb.com and sportingnews.com
With all the talk this past week about the NCAA basketball tournament and "teams on the bubble" it seems like a good time to take a look at the NHL's top bubble teams and their chances of making the postseason. In the Western Conference it was just one month ago when the playoff hopes for the Colorado Avalanche looked hopeless, which itself is a story: since the franchise move from Quebec in 1995 the team has never missed the playoffs, and has won two Stanley Cups in that time. So on February 15th the Avalanche sat in eleventh place with a middling 27-25-4 record while the Calgary Flames – the same Flames who were a popular pick by many to come out of the west this year, including the staff at SportsBlurb.com (note my omission of the word "experts"...) - were 30-19-8 and in a three-way dogfight for first place in the Northwest division.
Fast-forward to today: after gaining eight wins and a loser-point (overtime loss) in their last nine, suddenly the Avs are only four points behind those same heavily-favoured Flames, with ten games remaining for each team including two head-to-head matchups.
What accounts for the sudden turnaround? For one thing, the Avalanche have shown an offensive depth previously lacking - if we look at statistics for just the last month, the Avalanche have four players in the top 15 of league scoring, with rookie phenom Paul Stastny third with 20 points while putting together a rookie-record 20-game point scoring streak (aside: with the throwback jerseys all the rage this year, why couldn’t the Avalanche just wear the Bleu et Blanc of the Quebec Nordiques for a few games? Just once I’d like to see “Stastny” surrounded by the fleur de lys again…). Andrew Brunette has 18 points in the past month, en route to setting career highs in goals and points. Brunette’s linemate Joe Sakic is continuing to put up numbers as if he were 27 rather than 37 – at this pace he still has an outside shot at hitting 100 points. Milan Hejduk has also regained his scoring touch with 17 points this past month.
Also not to be discounted is the long-awaited commitment to Peter Budaj in goal. In Budaj's past ten games in the
Four points and ten games for the right to make the playoffs.
Over in the East, although the race is making for exciting scoreboard-watching, do any teams seem ready to grab those elusive bottom slots for the playoffs? Only four points separate the sixth-place Tampa Bay Lightning from the eleventh-place Montreal Canadiens. Yet all six teams in the mix (including the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes - currently with tenuous holds on the seventh and eighth spots – along with the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs) seemingly have major flaws, and it has been fashionable (not to mention easy) to point out why each team won't make the playoffs, rather than why they might. With roughly ten games for each team to play and such a fine line between the playoffs and an early vacation, every game counts from here on out. The Carolina Hurricanes are in a dogfight to even be in a position to defend their title, and surprisingly with Cam Ward down with an injury John Grahame of all people has stepped up and held the fort, with a sub-2.00 goals-against average over the past month. Frankly, Grahame is the sole reason the Canes are in the race right now. If you discount the seven-spot they put on New Jersey last weekend, the Hurricanes have only scored four goals in a game once in the past month (a 4-1 win in Atlanta on February 24th). They need to find their offence in a hurry if they want to hold off the teams breathing down their neck.
Surprisingly for a
One acquisition that cannot be discounted was the trade for French Canada’s favourite player: Sean Avery. Although his statistics alone can’t account for the shift in the Rangers’ play, since Avery’s arrival the Rangers have taken on an edge that they previously didn’t have (although 13 points in 20 games is more than respectable for The Agitator). And as loathsome as his act can be at times, there can be no doubt that opposing teams take note of when Avery is on the ice.
On paper the situation still looks dicey - the Rangers signed 31-year old veteran defenceman Jason Strudwick on Monday out of the Swiss-A League, but with injuries piling up signing a steady NHL veteran is a good move for the Rangers. And with the imminent return of such talents as Shanahan, Martin Straka, and Marcel Hossa from injuries the Rangers’ fate is in their own hands as they make a push to not only make the playoffs, but possibly finish as high as sixth.
17 March 2007
Hockey fans (especially Buffalo Sabres fans) are aware of the big dilemma the Sabres front office will have in this off-season, with both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to be unrestricted free agents and in line for big paydays. If a choice has to be made, and it certainly seems like it will be, how do you choose? The electricity of Daniel Briere, or the leadership and intangibles (not to mention a likely 40 goals) of Chris Drury?
With Jason Pominville burying two more even strength goals Friday night in Tampa, giving him a league-leading 27 on the year (tied with Vincent Lecavalier), is it possible that his success this year will help steer the Sabres into leaning more towards Daniel Briere? Without Briere, Pominville would no longer have his main set-up guy. Re-signing Briere might be the equivalent of retaining two players rather than just one.
Just a thought.
16 March 2007
Your even-strength goal leaders as of March 16th. I keep mentioning ESP because I think it really does give a deeper look at true goal-scoring talent in the league. As with any counting stat, you're only going to get good totals by getting more opportunities. I haven't looked at the numbers yet but you'd have to figure that if some of these guys got more time on the power play they'd be closer to the overall league lead in goals. Jason Pominville, for example, is 12th on the Sabres in average PP-time per game at 2:30 per. Contrast that with the 4:58 per that Daniel Briere is getting.
David Legwand is another vastly underrated player having a terrific breakout season - he's only getting an average of 1:53 on the power play each game.
Zach Parise is another personal favourite - he's looking every bit like a future 40 goal scorer in this league.
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14 March 2007
Quick quiz: how many goaltenders have won the NHL’s Hart Trophy?
It doesn’t happen often. Similar to pitchers winning the MVP in baseball, a goalie will seem to have more of an opening to win the Hart if there's no overwhelming favourite in the "normal" pool of players. Over the past decade it has happened a few times, which may mean newer NHL fans may not realize just how infrequently it happens. A likely reason that we’ve seen more goalies as Hart finalists of late is the dearth of scoring over the past ten-plus years. The most recent –
This isn’t meant to take anything away from those seasons by Hasek and Theodore – they were worthy winners – but it’s hard not to think that had the NHL had an era of scoring like the early 80s, where getting 112 points might get you no higher than eighth in the league (Bobby Smith, Minnesota – 1982), that an offensive player wouldn’t have won in at least one of those seasons.
So even if we all remember the last decade, the gap before Hasek to the previous goalie to win the Hart goes way back - 35 years, to be exact - to Montreal's legendary Jacques Plante in 1962. The 1950s saw two goalies win the Hart, with the Chicago Blackhawks’ Al Rollins taking it in 1954 and the New York Rangers’ Chuck Rayner winning in 1950. Before that you have to go back to 1929 and the old New York Americans when
And that's it. Only seven times in 82 years has the award been given to a goaltender. Overall the award winners are highly skewed to forwards, especially centers: 63 times the winner has been a forward, with 42 of them being centers. Only 12 defencemen have brought home the trophy.
With only a few weeks left in the season, we can start to compile a short-list of Hart candidates. I've mentioned it before that I don't put much - if any - stock in who wins end-of-season awards, however it's still fascinating to talk about (that seeming dichotomy can make sense if you believe, as I do, that winning an award obviously doesn't automatically make the player the best). So having said that...who's your MVP?
I’ve created two lists of who I think are worthy candidates, dividing into A and B levels. My A-level candidates have the best chance of walking away with the Hart Trophy in June; in other words I think these will be the finalists. This doesn't necessarily correlate to "best" - as any voted-upon award, it's all subjective, but given the press generated by these players and/or the markets they play in, I'm confident this year's MVP will come from this group:
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. Any and all accolades thrown Crosby's way are in every way deserved. Age shouldn’t be a factor in winning the Hart, but the fact that he's only 19 still has to in some way play into it. He has led the league in scoring for virtually the entire season and catapulted a young and hopeful Penguins team into the upper echelon of the East while still in his teen years. Comparisons to the one and only Wayne Gretzky are apt.
My B-level candidates are players that won't win the award for a host of reasons, but take a backseat to none of the players listed above:
Daniel Briere, Buffalo Sabres. Leading the best team in the East all year, he gets the bulk of his scoring at even-strength off the powerful
Martin St. Louis,
13 March 2007
12 March 2007
I know I've mentioned it before (probably too many times) but I don't put much - if any - stock in who wins end-of-season awards. However, it's still interesting to talk about (that seeming dichotomy can make sense if you believe, as i do, that winning an award doesn't automatically make the player the best *whatever*). So this year...who's your MVP? There's a good chance it's going to a goalie this year, with Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur putting up not just the numbers but almost willing their teams to the top of their divisions (and now New Jersey is pushing Buffalo for tops in the East). I picked Sidney Crosby to win it in the preseason, and I'm sticking with him as the first to 100 points and just dominating games as no 19-year old has since #99 patrolled Northlands back in 1979.
I'll be writing more about these guys later, but here are two quick lists I whipped up.
A-level candidates: the best chance of walking away with the Hart Trophy in June. This doesn't necessarily correlate to "best" - as any voted-upon award, it's all subjective. Given the press generated by these players and/or the markets they play in, I'm confident this year's MVP will come from this group:
B-level candidates: players that won't win it for a host of reasons (competition from teammates, lack of press, etc.), but take a backseat to none of the above players:
Martin St. Louis
I'm probably missing some but these are the first to pop into my head.
Interesting fact: only seven times in 82 years has the award been given to a goaltender. Over half the winners have been centers. The award winners overall belong to a highly exclusive group as you can see by the repeat winners over the years. Here's how the winners break down positionally:
C: 42 (nine by Wayne Gretzky, three each Mario Lemieux, Bobby Clarke, Howie Morenz)
LW: 6 (none since Bobby Hull's back-to-back wins in 1965-1966)
RW: 15 (six by Gordie Howe)
D: 12 (four by Eddie Shore, three by Bobby Orr)
09 March 2007
terribly busy week for me, but a few brief notes:
"Hope grows dim for Connolly’s return" - Many Sabres fans are using this as ammo against Darcy Regier, but Buffalo hasn't exactly missed Tim Connolly this year. While I don't disagree with the idea that signing him to a risky 3-year deal was a bad idea, this setback is due to his leg stress fracture, not any concussion-related symptoms.
Chris Simon's Paul Bunyan impression. You've probably seen it by now, but it truly is unreal. The NHL needs to start throwing guys out of the league. No more of this 3-game suspension garbage, especially for no-talent ass-clowns whose absence would barely be felt (I'll admit Simon has, or had, some skills - but that's completely irrelevant). They need to throw a guy out for a year or more, and not allow the team any re-compensation with regards to the salary cap. Make these offenders essentially blacklisted. And none of this "oh, [Ryan] Hollweg could have gotten up quicker...he wasn't that hurt." Again: irrelevant. If Simon's stick is two inches lower we've got a tracheotomy. Two inches higher and loss of eye/nose whatever. Disgusting.
I also found it amusing/amazing that in looking at NHL.com's stat page there's a picture of 19-year old Sidney Crosby leading the league with 99 points, then 73-year old Dominik Hasek once again leading the league in goals-against. Detroit hasn't gotten enough credit for signing him; a lot of us thought he was done.
07 March 2007
to be published at SportsBlurb.com and SportingNews.com
We’re just over a week past the NHL’s trading deadline, and almost as soon as all the deals were finally reported came the latest wave of complaints about a trend that has become the most watched aspect of deadline week: the acquisition of the so-called "rental player.” A “rental player” refers to an impending unrestricted free agent who is dealt away with the general thinking that it’s better for a team to get some value for him now rather than risk losing the player altogether at the end of the season, and getting nothing. This year’s deadline saw no shortage of this scenario - in the cases of such big names as Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin, Todd Bertuzzi, and Ryan Smyth, their former teams gave up the name player for the final six weeks of the regular season in exchange for a potential future bonanza in the guise of draft picks and/or prospects.
The nature of the complaints isn’t necessarily with the deals themselves, but rather with some general notion that the entire process is unseemly – that some players will inevitably be welcomed back with open arms to their original teams and re-sign with them as early as July 1st, when open season on free agents begins. Two notable cases like this occurred last season with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, who acquired both Doug Weight from the St. Louis Blues and Mark Recchi from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Weight played just 23 regular season games for Carolina (along with four rounds of the playoffs) then re-signed a multi-year contract with the Blues after the season. Recchi (20 regular season games with Carolina) is now back with the Penguins in similar fashion.
There's an argument gaining steam among some fans and media members that the league needs to step in and create some sort of rule to prevent these types of tacit agreements, where Team A might say “we’re trading you to Team B where you have a good chance at winning the Cup, but we’re planning on re-signing you as soon as the season ends.” One specific suggestion that is making the rounds and was even discussed briefly last Saturday on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada was for the league to go so far as to make a rule that would prevent impending unrestricted free agents who are dealt at the deadline from re-signing with their original teams for a period of one year.
The reasons for why this is a bad idea are numerous, but here are a few:
1) The completely arbitrary nature of such an arrangement. Where would the cutoff lie? Deadline day? A week before? What happens if next year the Toronto Maple Leafs feel it's truly in their best interest to deal Mats Sundin on January 1st, well over a month before the trading deadline. Would that qualify as a deadline deal? Who decides?
2) With one of the negative aspects of modern pro sports being the fact that salaries are likely the most important part of constructing a team’s roster, it becomes necessary for teams to feel the need to deal away a hometown hero before he enters unrestricted free agency. So why should the league then take away that team's complimentary ability to take advantage of the situation, thereby improving their long-term future? In fact, it’s not a bad strategy for a lower-echelon team to sign or trade for a big-ticket player with a one-year deal, with every intent of dealing him at the deadline. And conversely, if a contending team makes the decision that giving up a large package of futures for a short-term “rental” gives them a legitimate shot at the playoffs or the Cup, why take that opportunity away from them?
The nebulous nature of such a suggestion makes it completely unworkable. Especially when you know that New Jersey Devils’ GM Lou Lamoriello will find (or create) some loophole to his advantage, perhaps claiming his team follows the Julian Calendar.
If the league really wants to make an improvement that is not nearly as arbitrary, here's a simple solution: move the trading deadline back to the All-Star break. As it stands now, the trading deadline occurs far too late in the year - after roughly 75% of the regular season has been played. Most teams had only 20 games left on their schedule after the deadline. Contrast that with deadlines in Major League Baseball (after 65% of the schedule, at the end of July) or the NFL (38% - after just six games) and it seems even worse. If the deadline were moved back to a time say just after the all-star break in January, teams would be less-apt to sell off talent as with less of the schedule having been played, more teams are by definition still in the playoff hunt.
In the end, though, I don’t mind things the way they are. A smart club that has fallen out of contention will realize that selling off a potentially high-priced asset can give the team far more success in the long run than re-signing the one player that will take up a significant percentage of the team’s salary cap. For example, see the St. Louis Blues trade of Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit and three draft picks. Metropolit was a throw-in, but the picks are the real value. The Blues aren’t going anywhere with Tkachuk, and are likely two to three years from competing. By stockpiling picks, they stand a good chance of developing a number of young players who will hopefully mature together. Now all St. Louis has to do is draft wisely…
Too many times the deadline is seen as powerful clubs taking advantage of the weaker ones and preying on them for talent, but it’s not the powerful clubs that win these deals in the end – it’s the smart ones.
06 March 2007
1) The OHL hosts the 2008 Memorial Cup - presentations are underway right now and it is between the following five teams as to who will host:
All things being equal, London would probably easily defeat the competition, with Oshawa putting up a good fight. I wonder if the fact that London hosted in 2005 will hurt them.
Is Saginaw a real possibility? Would this sell major junior to the good people of Michigan?
2) London's Patrick Kane was named OHL rookie of the month for the second time this season, with this meager stat line for February:
Yes, that's 29 points in 9 games. He's making quite the run for the number one draft pick this June.
no not a prediction. yet. I'm not convinced of Vancouver. Although they are the hottest teams of late in their respective conferences.
The Western Conference's hottest teams have been, for the most part, the best teams - creating a separation that pretty much defines the playoff eight at this point. No team has been more hot than the Vancouver Canucks, and despite fine play by the Sedin brothers, this team is Roberto Luongo. With only 173 goals scored this year (better than only four teams) they have a shockingly small amount of room for error. Each of their last eight wins have been by one goal (including two shootout victories). Another strong MVP case. I think it's time for a quick MVP front-runner column (even though I don't put any stock at all in who wins the end-of-season awards, I don't think it's too hypocritical to engage in debate about who I think the winners should be.)
In the East, the hottest teams are Buffalo and Ottawa - not unexpected due to their talent - but also surprisingly on the list are the Florida Panthers, who has only one regulation loss in their last ten games and suddenly sit only six points out of a playoff spot. The bad part is that they'll have to climb over five teams to get there, but with only the Boston Bruins making any serious noise in that constantly-fluctuating 8-12 range, hope isn't completely lost in Florida.
Back to the Sabres, who are redefining the concept of organizational depth: since the Sabres lost second-leading scorer Maxim Afinogenov and Paul Gaustad for at least the regular season in a game last month against Edmonton, they have gone 6-1-1 (including said Oilers game), while averaging over five goals per game in their last seven.
02 March 2007
This was an interesting statistical look the last time we checked it - the most dangerous players at 5-on-5.
No other way to say it: Martin St. Louis is having a farking monster season and should be heavily involved in MVP talk (if you believe in such awards). Not only leading in even-strength scoring, he's got 9 shorthanded points. Add those two columns together and the best duo in the league resides in Tampa Bay - a frightening combo for any playoff foe.
And how about David Legwand finally arriving this season?
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