Wednesday, 31 July 2013

When Is A Blowout Bad?

So this post can relate to practically any sport in existence, and at almost any level.  It's not as much of a problem in professional levels, but its a huge debate-starter in youth sports.

How high should you run up the score?

In sport, generally you play to the best of your skill level, and the opponent does the same.  Typically, the score reflects the effort level, skill level, and execution level of the team on that given day.  A great team who doesn't try will suffer, and a mediocre team that tries hard and does all the right things will have their way eventually.

So essentially, by losing, the losing team knows that it wasn't on par with the winning team, in either one or all of those aspects.  Its a good indicator of the level your team is at.  If you didn't try hard, you don't win.  If you make mistakes, you don't win.  If you tried hard and played flawlessly, and lost, then you're skills weren't enough.  That is what training and practice is for.

It sucks to lose, I know that.  And it really sucks to be on a team that loses more than it wins.  But there's a reason behind it, and its either one or all of those three things mentioned above.

So if we "sugarcoat" the loss, to make it seem less bad, then we "sugarcoat" how much work needs to be done for the team to succeed.  If you don't practice and train to be at the level you want, then you simply wont reach that level.  And if you have a false estimate at where your team is at, and you train as such, then you wont be competitive.

All this blabbering, and I haven't really said the point yet.

I'm just going to go ahead and say it, since anti-sugarcoating is the theme here:  In team sports, its okay to get shit-kicked.

There, I said it.

In sports, there is a winner, and there is a loser.  Generally, the score doesn't mean a whole lot at the end of the day, but there is always a winner and a loser.  If you aren't prepared to lose, then you aren't prepared to win.  Losses will train you to learn and improve, and sometimes the score is an indicator of how much work is needed.  If you can't handle that form of critique, than sports aren't for you.  The governing bodies are not going to change the rules so that both teams are winners.  That would be stupid, and against the whole purpose of sport.

And at any rate, what sounds worse? A) We got our asses kicked.  or B) We had a close game against a team that went easy on us.  Well, its really a toss up of what sounds better or worse, but at least A) is helpful in some way.

Is there a line of sportsmanship? Certainly.  Celebrating goals towards the end of a 14-0 game is over the line (guilty as charged).  Thats bad for the sport, bad for your team because you looking like scumbags, and bad for the other team because it makes them feel worse.  But if you keep playing hard to get that 15th goal, you give them the respect that they're a worthy opponent, to be taken seriously.

 Is it a good time to maybe work on more plays and tweak some skills instead of going right for the goal? Sure.  It helps your team out, and they get practice for other techniques as well.  As long as its still with the goal in mind to get the puck in the net, or equivalent.

Mercy Rules, or coaches with different philosophies than mine, teach players that it's not okay to give it 100% of your effort all of the time.  That teaches terrible habits that will harm the player in not just sports, but other life skills.  Conversely, players who are in the wrong-end of a blowout that is allowed to go on is taught that: if there is a problem, it doesn't just go away, you have to keep fighting to try to make it right, or give it all of your effort to try.

Maybe I'm just hardball, but I agree with the cliche that "losing builds character".  Although, I'd clarify by saying "losing teaches lessons", but that doesn't roll off the tongue as well.  If you win, theres a reason.  If you lose, theres a reason.  If you get an A+, theres a reason.  If you go to jail, theres a reason.  If you can afford a car, theres a reason.  If you get fired, theres a reason.  If you learn the reasons why things happen, you can learn better for next time. If you alter the results of the games for the sake of hurt-feelings, then no one is really going to learn a lesson from what happened, and it will happen again.

And last point, it is just a game.  If you can't handle the score, you can't handle the game.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Here's To Next Year

Alright, I can admit that I'm going through some withdrawals of hockey right about now.  But it's almost August, and soon pre-season and training camps will start.  It's gonna be tough to wait, especially since last season was so exciting, but hopefully I'll manage.

I'm sure I'm not the only one ready to go for next season though.  There are a few players that I think are going to have a big year next season, whether its a breakout player, or someone ready to redeem himself from a bad year, to a veteran looking for his last chance at the Cup.  These players are why I'm excited for next season, because I think they'll have a huge year.

Torey Krug - I definitely bandwagonned this guy after Boston's 2nd round victory over the Rangers.  He was a dynamite player on an already solid Bruins defence.  He was probably one of the biggest factors in the Ranger's demise.  He kind of fizzled out for the rest of the playoffs, and made some huge (if not game-changing) rookie errors, but overall he was huge for the Bruins.  I expect him to have a killer breakout season, and surprise many unsuspecting fans.

Daniel Alfredsson - I made a post about Alfredsson and his change of scenery a few weeks ago (actually it was my first non-introductory post), and I still hold true to what I said: that move was a win-win for all parties involved.  Alfredsson gets (probably) his last chance at the Stanley Cup with an annual contender like Detroit, who is retooled and one of my favourites heading into next year.  Alfredsson may not be the star that he once was, but he can play a solid game, and force opposing defences to spend more time on him and less on Datsyuk/Zetterberg.  That alone is a huge help for Detroit, as opposing teams could kill Detroit's offence by blocking those two.  Alfredsson is also going to be a mentor to a lot of young Griffins who will make the team this season, and get to play with countryman Zetterberg.  Its hard not to get excited for Alfie this season.

Jerome Iginla - Alright, you may have noticed that I like Iginla a bit, if you've read some of my other posts.  Its true, I'm a huge fan.  But all bias aside, I'm really excited for him this year.  He's on a team that fits his playing style, with a coach that will do wonders for him, and with line-mates that really complement him on the lineup.  I said before the original trade, Boston is the best team for Iggy, and (after some deadline-drama and a stint with the Penguins) it finally happened.  Boston took a bit of a hit this offseason, but Iggy paired with possibly Bergeron and Marchand?  I'm liking the Bruins odds already.

Cory Schneider - I don't know if I'm excited for him, as much as I'm excited to see the outcome of the whole Luongo-gate story.  I've said before that Schneider deserves to go somewhere else and earn his own starter role.  Still, I expected Luongo to be gone, and even less Schneider to be traded to a team like the Devils.  It looks odd at first, being backup* to Brodeur, but it makes perfect sense.  Brodeur's time in the league sadly is short, I'd be somewhat surprised if he was the starter at the end of the year, or beyond for that matter.  After him, there's zilch in the goaltending depth for NJ.  Schneider is a starter now.  Although he might not replace Brodeur, he's certainly worthy of a starting job there. At the same time, I'm excited to see if Luongo can rebuild his starting role, and if Bo Horvat was worth giving away Schneider for.  Right now, I'd be more excited to be a Devils fan than a Canucks one.

Teemu Selanne - Okay, so his NHL future hasn't been decided yet.  But judging from the fact he's accepted the invite to Finland's orientation camp for the Olympics, he will be playing, somewhere.  At 43 years old, he can still play with the best of them down in Anaheim.  He's fast, not as fast, but still has great speed and smarts in his game.  His workout ethic is legendary, and the leadership he can bring to any team is an asset all its own.  But Anaheim has almost filled it's cap space, and I have a hard time seeing him anywhere else in the NHL.  So if Anaheim doesn't pan out, then I see him playing for Jokerit in Finland.  For those that don't know, that was the team he played for before dominating the NHL.  I'd be sad if he left Anaheim for Finland, but be even more excited to see him in his 6th Olympics, unheard of for hockey (since NHLers couldn't play until 1998, so the most NHLer's since then could play was 5 Olympics).  Selanne is a lock for the HOF, but I hope he can extend his career just one more season in Anaheim, or get one more chance to win gold with Finland, who are legit contenders as always.

Sidney Crosby - What? Me excited for Sidney Crosby? Never.  Okay, maybe a little bit.

But here's the deal, this will be his 1st full season in how long?  Assuming he stays healthy, this will be his best chance to put Stamkos, Ovechkin and teammate Malkin to shame, and prove that he is the world's best hockey player.  He probably still is now anyway, but it's in doubt, considering the games he's played for the last few seasons.  And with Ovie looking as good as ever by the end of last season, maybe the biggest player rivalry since Iginla-Naslund can be newsworthy and entertaining once again.

Nino Niederreiter - I really like this guy.  The dominant Swiss forward has had some struggles in New York, but I would argue he wasn't given the chance he deserved to prove his worth.  Now he's with an upstart Minnesota team, who I believe are destined for great things this year.  I can see him being a star player in a few years, if given the opportunity too.  You'll also be hearing his name lots in the Olympics, as part of the underrated cast of Swiss players I expect will shock all and contend for a medal this year.  He's an electrifying player and I'm excited to see what a little ice-time can do for him in Minnesota.

Thats about all I got for now, see you (figuratively) tomorrow.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Free, For A Price

With the salary cap going down, teams are starting to fill out their rosters at the cheapest way they can.  Unfortunately for some, that means some of the "core" players of some teams have been bought-out, or just not signed to an extension.  Many teams have made lots of deals and moved lots of players around, and we're seeing the market slowly wind down, which is bad news for the remaining FA's on the market.

So here are a few notable FA's remaining, why they haven't been signed yet, and who (if anyone) will take them, in no particular order:

Teemu Selanne - There isn't really a question on who he will play for if he decides to return next season.  If he wants to play, Anaheim will be his team.  And if Anaheim doesn't want him, he'll probably retire then and there.  But Anaheim isn't exactly stacked at RW, and his leadership could prove to be a good asset for the young players there.  Plus, he can still play, he had a great season last year, with respect to his age, and is a dependable playoff performer.  If he wants to play, he'll play, most likely in Anaheim.

Brendan Morrow - Morrow is a strong leader, capable of pulling 3rd line minutes and being a dependable tool on the power play of most teams.  He's not a top line scorer anymore, but could produce good secondary scoring, and bring lots of playoff experience to a young team.  I could see him signing a 1-year deal for a team like the Senators or Islanders.

Mason Raymond - Raymond is a young veteran player who is adaptable and can fit in almost any team's core group.  He's dependable when healthy, but his durability and injuries are probably the reason he hasn't been locked up by the Canucks.  Still, he's capable of being a high-scoring 3rd-liner, and still has plenty to give to any team that takes him.  He could probably fit well on a team like Buffalo or Carolina, who are weak in LW depth.

Mikhail Grabovski - The drama in Toronto settled with Grabovski being shipped out of town.  He had a rather disappointing season last year, so that will hurt his stock.  If he's willing to take a smaller salary than what he seems to want, then many teams will want his hockey smarts and face-off dominance.  He could fit well as Edmonton's or Washington's 3rd-line center.

Brad Boyes - Boyes has struggled in the few years leading up to this season, but had his best season in the lockout-shortened 2013 year for the Islanders.  Still, his dependability is a big question mark.  His hockey smarts and potential for 40+ points per season are worth the risk for a safe 1-year deal, and his locker-room presence can be a big asset for any team who is willing to sign him.  Younger, skilled teams like Colorado and Nashville could use his services well.

Tim Thomas - Thomas is easily the best goaltender in the market right now.  Unfortunately, thats because there aren't many goaltenders in the market, or teams looking for a starting goaltender.  I like Thomas, not really for his antics and views (but everyone is entitled to their opinion), but I like his playing style.  Taking a year off, hockey-wise, was a bad decision, as his conditioning is a big unknown.  But if he can prove that he's in shape, I think he could find a role somewhere.  I think the Flames could use him the most, to help Ramo and give him a bit more time.  But he could be a good fit in Colorado (his home), Tampa, or for the Islanders if Nabokov doesn't pan out for another season.  But thats IF he's conditioned.

That's all the FA's I'll talk about today.  If you think theres another I should talk about, or have an opinion of your own, feel free to leave a comment.

HJC Concept of the Week

Hey guys, just a quick little update before my main post later this afternoon.

One of my concepts got reviewed on, and as part of the review, the writer nominated it for the weekly Concept Of The Week title.  My first nomination, after only 4 concepts being posted on there, I'm really quite thrilled.

The concept in question was my Buffalo Sabre's 3rd jersey concept, inspired by the Buffalo Bisons IHL team.  I'm really surprised that this concept would be my best reviewed so far, but I'll take it.

While I'm proud to have been nominated, I'm still not actually locked into the COTW poll for this week.  My concept needs to be seconded by someone else, who happens to have a google account (why? I'm not sure).  

So if anyone reads this and wants to view the other concepts for today, and be a cool-cat by second-ing mine, then go to to do so.  

Thanks a lot, and I'll be back later with another post.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

My 10 Favourite Hockey Moments

Alright, so I technically made a post yesterday.  But it was in the wee-hours of the night, and was more of an update to the blog site than anything else.  So thats 2 days where I've left my blog behind, and I'm not about to make it a 3rd.

However, I've been really hitting a creative block today, and I've been feeling a little nostalgic as of late, so this is going to be slightly more personal than usual, but hopefully still relevant.

I am a hockey fan, and have been one for a long time it seems.  There have been some times when I'm not sure why I love hockey so much, but there are moments that I see, hear, or be a part of that make me lose all doubt.  Some of these moments are personal, some I've seen on TV, some made me cheer, some made me tear up a bit, some are recent, some are before I was born.  But whatever the moment is, these are the moments that, for myself, are why I love the game of hockey.

10.  The Birthday Party

The first moment on my list is a personal one, so many readers probably have no idea of what all went down.  Basically, at around 10 years old or so, I invited my entire hockey team and other close friends for my birthday party.  The plan for the day was a massive road hockey game, cooking hotdogs over the fire outside (in March, in 3 feet of snow), then all going down to watch the local Jr. A team's playoff game, then have a sleepover.

We had 20 kids over, so we filled the block with people playing road hockey.  The campfire outside in the snow was a really cool moment, and the sleepover with 20 kids packed in my basement was incredibly fun.

But my favourite part of that was at the Ghostriders game that evening, after it to be exact.  We were missing one of the kids, couldn't find him anywhere. We looked around, and he eventually appeared, with a hockey stick in his hand, with a long strand of stick tape on the side of it, with every signature of the team players.  I've never used the stick (its a righty), but I kept it around to this very day.  That was probably the coolest gift I've ever received.

9.  Skate in the Crease

So this was a moment that I watched on TV, and I didn't remember it fondly, but somehow it sparked my interest into hockey and the rules of the game further.

It was 1999, and I was a huge Sabres fan at the time.  I loved the look of Buffalo's jersey and logo, loved Dominic Hasek, huge Mike Peca fan, liked Zhitnik, Wooley, Barnes, etc etc.  I started hockey liking Vancouver, then later on switched to Calgary, but Buffalo was the first team I really knew all about and became a real fan of.

I spent late nights watching the playoffs, because they were my first real experience with playoff hockey.  They beat the Maple Leafs in the East Final (and I still saw them as a godly team, so that meant a lot), so I was excited to see my team win the Stanley Cup.  But after 6 games against Dallas, it didn't happen, all because of a goal that really shouldn't have counted.  I've seen the replay hundreds of times, but only needed to see it once, as I have the replay planted in my brain.  That was my first real attachment to an NHL team, and I felt just as lost as most of the fans were.  Its sad, and maybe I was over-reacting, but I felt emotion never drawn by much of anything else up to that point, so it was a powerful moment for me.

8.  The '72 Summit Series

Of course, this happened 20 years before I was born, so I never really felt the direct effects of the series on my life.  Still, I was completely fascinated by it, and still am today.  It loses so much meaning when you look at just the hockey aspect of it, and even then, it was one hell of a series.  Hollywood couldn't script a better hockey story than what happened in 1972.  But it meant so much more than just hockey.  It was the Cold War atmosphere, the Soviets showing the world that Canada isn't the superpower it was thought to be, Canadians giving up on our own players, and those players winning back the crowd the way they did, the brutal conditions in Russia at the time, I could go on and on.  This is one moment in hockey history that to this day still gives me a pulse for the game.

7.  The Sea of Red

My next brush with playoff hockey didn't come until 2004, then a Flames fan.  I happened to be in Calgary during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Tampa Bay.  I fondly listened to the car radio with my dad, as they broadcasted the game.  All of a sudden, Calgary scores in OT to win the game, and the cars all over McLeod Trail in Calgary starting honking and going bezerk, and we joined in.  It was so much fun to be part of that for even just a few seconds.

A week or so later, I remember being at my grandma's house watching Game 7.  I'll admit that I ended up in tears watching Calgary lose it's chance at the Stanley Cup, and seeing the look on Iginla's (my hockey idol, then and still) face as he watched Tampa take the Cup.  The rash of emotions from being a fan of the team, riding their wins and feeling their loses, was really moving to me.

6.  Rocky Mountain Hockey School

This is a little different because it was more than one moment, it was actually a yearly thing.  My first hockey camp growing up was in my hometown of Fernie, called Rocky Mountain Hockey School.  It was a week-long bootcamp of hockey skills, outdoor training, and quite a bit of fun.  I was around 5 when I joined, just learning to skate, and being taught by hometown hero, Jason Krog.

I went there almost every year since, until I was too old to go.  I started as a little kid not knowing how to skate, never mind shoot, pass, or anything.  My last year I was older than anyone else there, and although I wasn't the best there, I got to act like a mentor to some of the younger players, and that really meant the world to me.  I made a ton of friends, played hockey with some of the local hockey stars, and did some really cool things, but being able to go full circle like that was the best part.

5.  Anaheim Mighty Ducks 2003 Cup Run

And speaking of Jason Krog, he became more of a hero to me in 2003.  He wasn't a full time NHLer until this point, and really wasn't after this year either, but he was a prominent figure in the Mighty Ducks' cup run in 2003.  I spent many late nights watching the many OTs during that playoff, including an extremely long 5OT game against Dallas.  I became a big fan of Karyia, Giguere, Ruchin, Sykora, and coach Mike Babcock during that run.  Although they lost, it was really cool to see Krog and Karyia, 2 of my big hockey heroes that brought me into the game, play together and go as far as they did.

4.  NHL 99

The computer game, yes.  This was my first real video game I spent lots of time playing, without the aid  and influence of my big brother.  We didn't get to indulge in too many video games when we were young, but this was one that I got to play many times, and still (try) to boot it up for old-times sake.  This was one of the coolest video games I ever played, and helped me further open the door to video games and the world of hockey.

3.  The World Juniors

I'll cheat again on this one too, as there are more than one year that really got me excited to be a hockey fan, but I thought I'd throw them together.

2004 was a cool year because hometown goalie, David Leneveu, was on the Canadian roster as a goalie.  Unfortunately, he lost most of the spotlight to little-known goalie named Marc-Andre Fleury.  Although I understand that he was the better goalie, and the next "big star" in the NHL, I'm still upset how he got dummied against the USA in the gold medal game.

The 2007 Semi-Final against the USA is probably in my top 3 games of all time.  The excitement was through the roof, as it hit the shootout, before Toews and Price led the way to Canada's win.

2009, semi-finals, against Russia, when Eberle scored with 5 seconds left to force the OT which Canada ended up winning.  If you're a hockey fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  I still hear Gord Miller's call of the goal in my head to this day, absolutely unbelievable comeback.

And then in 2012, again in the semi-finals, Canada down 6-1 to Russia in the 3rd, climbing all the way back to 6-5, then hitting the post with seconds left, losing the game. That emotional rollercoaster of a game had me from sad, to pissed, to optimistic, to on my feet cheering, to devastated.

This is why I love the winter break so much.  Christmas is nice, World Juniors are awesome.

2.  Lethbridge Hockey Tournament, 2006

This was around the time I finally started blooming into a better hockey player.  I had the legs and power, I was just missing the confidence.  I was benched so often prior to that year, I felt bad anytime I touched the ice, as weird as that sounds.  2006 was going to be my final year for hockey, as I was finished with the dilemma of being benched 90% of the time for the better of the team, and lacking the time and means to be "committed" to the team.  2006 "WAS" going to be my final year.

The one weekend in Lethbridge in 2006 changed that.  I found my stride, was used very often on the ice, and it turned out to be one hell of a weekend.  I scored the first and only goal in our first game, and against scored the game winner in the 2nd game.  The parents of the team really rallied behind me, and I quickly became a bit of a mini star.  I don't know where it came from, but that made all my years troubling through hockey worth it, and the weekend was only halfway done.

Unfortunately, I fell just as fast as I zoomed up, literally.  I was checked from behind in the 3rd game, about to be put on a stretcher when I refused, got back up and tried to play on.  It was nobel, if not stupid.  I still have back problems from that hit to this day, and I shouldn't have gotten back up, never mind played, but I did.  I had something to prove.  I was much ineffective for the rest of that game, but we made it to the Finals against a very good team from Brooks.  We lost, and I struggled to skate, or stand for that matter.  But all in all, when I was on the verge of losing hope for hockey, that weekend got me back on my feet.

1.  There could have been lots of other moments to be my favourite.  Any of the NHL games I witnessed, meeting Scott and Rob Neidermayer, or Dion Phaneuf, or Wade Redden, or Andy Moog, or all of the different places I've been to for the sake of hockey, or all of the different big moments that happened in my lifetime or beyond.  There could have been my first goal, my first 2 goal game, my first game all-together, my first championship, my first time playing goalie, etc etc.

But something else comes to mind, it was my first real memory of hockey.

I used to ski, until I got into hockey and changed that.  I always wondered where that interest came from, to take away something I grew up and shared with my dad in skiing.  But it was one Sunday when I was very young, I got to watch my first couple of hockey games.

My mother was volunteering at the Midget Provincials held in Fernie, when I was 3 or 4.  She was selling the 50/50 for the games, and the one day that my dad worked and couldn't watch me, she brought me along.  I got to watch the 11/12th placement game (so basically, last place) against Port Moody and Burnaby.  I could have just walked around and followed my mother around, as was the plan.  But when I got there, I was mesmerized. I sat on the fairly empty bleachers and watched.  I had no clue what was happening, but it looked awesome! A man came up to me, he was a scout for the Port Moody team, or a trainer, or something like that.  He talked to my mother and sat by me, asked if I ever watched hockey before.  I told him no, and he watched it with me, explaining the rules as the game went on.  The score was something nasty, like 14-2 for the other team, but he didn't seem to mind.  I loved it, and wanted more.

Well I was in luck, when my dad got home from work, he surprised me by taking me to the Finals, which featured the hometown Elk Valley team vs. Trail.  The arena was totally different from before, not a seat was left empty, and it was so loud I could barely hear my dad explain the rules to me (as it took me more than one game to understand).  When our home team won in OT, it created a furor in the arena never matched by anything I've ever seen or imagined.  My little eyes twinkled with the sight of people in sheer joy.  I didn't exactly understand how OT worked, but I could tell it was good.  My memory goes blurry after that, but I can safely say that that one particular Sunday, my first instance of hockey, was my favourite moment of all time.

This was quite the read, and I know I went fairly crazy long-winded on this post.  It probably isn't interesting to most of you, since many of these are personal memories.  But to anyone who does read this, thank you for letting me vent out my nostalgia at you.  It really does mean something when someone takes the time to read my stories.  If any of you readers have any fond moments or memories you'd like to share, I'd love to hear it, please feel free to post.

Thank you again for reading.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Jersey Concepts Update

Hey everyone, just want to make a quick announcement.  I scrapped the idea of posting all of my concepts in page form on this page, so I made a Flickr page which now will hold my entire hockey design portfolio.  It's cleaner, faster, and holds more images than on here.

I will still be posting new concepts on my regular posts when I feel like.  Like how about now?

Bam! Glad we got that out of our system.  This here concept is for (if you haven't been able to tell) the 2015 All-Star Game, held (hypothetically of course) in Glendale.  I figured they're still due from the last lockout, and since it looks as though they're here to stay for a few years longer, Bettman is going to do his "I Told You So" move by putting the next AS game here.  It's not a bad move, really.  But anyways, just had a creative mindstorm and this happened.

But as I was saying, my concepts, like the one above, are now featured on my Flickr account page.  This can be accessed by clicking on the Hockey Design Concepts button thingy above, or by clicking here if time is of the essence

That's all for now.  Hope you guys check out my designs on my page.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Gold or Bust: Part 4

Hey guys, so here's my last part of my Olympic preview.  Of course, as new stories and developments unfold towards the Olympics, I'll probably revisit these posts.

To recap, here's my projected line-up for Team Canada


Staal---Stamkos---St. Louis

Spares: Giroux, Carter



Spares: Green, Bouwmeester


Starter: Price
Backup: Luongo
Spare: Crawford/Holtby

As far as who gets the 'C' and 'A's, I have my favourites, but it likely wont happen.  Crosby will likely end up with the 'C', but I hope not.  Not to knock his talent or anything he brings to the team, but he's not a leader to this group of players.  I'll give Eric Staal the 'C'.  I'd give it to Iginla in my roster, but he's not even invited to camp, so I wont push my luck.  St. Louis should get an 'A', based on his experience and leadership qualities.  Toews will probably get an 'A' on his jersey too, but I'd rather Seabrook have it, based on what I seen during the Cup run this past year.  And just for sake of naming a spare, I'll give Crosby the final 'A'.  It's against my will, but its almost inevitable, so I might as well call it now.

As far as coaching goes, Canada made all the right moves.  Babcock is the best coach Canada has, by far.  Julien and Ruff will enforce accountability and discipline in the lineup, but will promote a physical style of play that suits Canada's strengths.  Hitchcock is one of the best defensive coaches in league history, and will make sure the "scoring superstars" will play 2-way hockey.  Overall, Canada couldn't ask for a better coaching staff, and their team doesn't have many big weaknesses, so there's no reason to doubt them being gold-medal favourites this time around.

But speaking of, how about I give a quick little prediction on how the teams will end up there?  Please note, this is a game-by-game simulation, following the full format of the games.  However, the game results are determined ... by guess work.  I can't see the future, but I'll predict the games as best I could relative to how well the teams have played in the last few years.  Purely a guess-stimation.

Legend: Win-OTwin-OTloss-Loss

Group A
1. Russia 3-0-0-0
2. Slovakia 1-1-0-1
3. USA 0-1-1-1
4. Slovenia 0-1-0-2

Russia will sweep all 3 games.  Slovakia will beat Slovenia, and beat USA in OT/SO.  USA will crack and beat Slovenia in OT/SO, and lose to Slovakia in OT/SO.

Group B
1. Canada 2-1-0-0
2. Finland 2-0-1-0
3. Norway 1-0-0-2
4. Austria 0-0-0-3

Canada and Finland will sweep through Norway and Austria, with Canada beating Finland in OT/SO to win the group.  Norway will get it's only win against Austria.

Group C
1. Sweden 2-0-1-0
2. Switzerland 1-1-1-0
3. Czech Republic 1-0-0-2
4. Latvia  0-1-0-2

Sweden will take out Czechs and Latvia, and lose to Switzerland in OT/SO.  The Swiss will beat the Czechs, beat Sweden in OT/SO, and in their usual fashion, lose to Latvia in OT/SO. The Czechs' only win will be against Latvia.

Round Robin Standings
1. Russia
2. Canada
3. Sweden
4. Finland
5. Switzerland
6. Slovakia
7. Czech Republic
8. Norway
9. USA
10. Latvia
11. Slovenia
12. Austria

Playoffs Round One

5. Switzerland beats 12. Austria

6. Slovakia beats 11. Slovenia

7. Czech Rep. beats 10. Latvia

9. USA beats 8. Norway


1. Russia beats 9. USA

2. Canada beats 7. Czech Rep. (in OT/SO)

6. Slovakia beats 3. Sweden (in OT/SO)

5. Switzerland beats 4. Finland


1. Russia beats 6. Slovakia

2. Canada beats 5. Switzerland (in OT/SO)

Bronze Medal Game

5. Switzerland beats 6. Slovakia

Gold Medal Game

2. Canada beats 1. Russia

GOLD: Canada
SILVER: Russia
BRONZE: Switzerland

Thats enough crystal ball for me today.  Without pulling the bias card, Canada will easily top their group, play 2 tough games against very slightly inferior opponents, and finally gel as a team at the end to take out Russia.  Russia will dominate until the end, and Switzerland and Slovakia will be the successful underdogs of the tournament.  Sadly, for my American readers, being taken out by Russia twice, Slovakia, and choking against an underdog as per usual like Slovenia, it wont be a tournament to remember.

But that's just my prediction.  Who do you think is going to take gold?  Give me your predictions in the comment section.

Is it February yet?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Gold or Bust: Part 3

Here's my 3rd instalment of my Team Canada Olympic preview.  So far, I've discussed the Defence and Goaltenders invited to camp, and which ones I think will make the final roster.  Today, I'll be going over the forwards invited to camp.

Patrice Bergeron (Boston) (C)
Jeff Carter (Los Angeles)(C/RW)

Logan Couture (San Jose)(C)
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)(C)
Matt Duchene (Colorado)(C)
Jordan Eberle (Edmonton)(RW)
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim)(C)
Claude Giroux (Philadelphia)(RW)
Taylor Hall (Edmonton)(LW)
Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh)(LW)
Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg)(LW)
Milan Lucic (Boston)(LW)
Brad Marchand (Boston)(LW)
Rick Nash (NY Rangers)(LW)
James Neal (Pittsburgh)(LW)
Corey Perry (Anaheim)(RW)
Mike Richards (Los Angeles)(C)
Patrick Sharp (Chicago)(LW)
Eric Staal (Carolina)(C)
Jordan Staal (Carolina)(C)
Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay)(RW)
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay)(C)
John Tavares (NY Islanders)(C)
Joe Thornton (San Jose)(C)
Jonathan Toews (Chicago)(C)

I'm going to assume that they'll pick 14 forwards for the team: 4 full lines and two spares (probably only one, but I'll give myself that extra pick :P), so I will pick my top 14 from this list.

First of all, Crosby is a clincher, if healthy.  I know I'm not the most pro-Crosby fan there is, but realistically he's as much of a sure thing as it gets for this team, as long as he's healthy.

Stamkos is also a clincher.  There isn't more of a skilled player on this lineup than Stamkos, besides maybe Crosby, maybe.  And if Stamkos is on this team, than it's almost a sure thing that St. Louis will be too.  Its probably a good investment to send your top player's favourite playmaker.  Not only that, but he's a skilled, dependable veteran, and he led the league in points last year.  Second was Stamkos, enough said.

Being clutch in the most dire of times is traditionally Canada's strength.  With that in mind, Toews, Eberle, and Bergeron should be on this team.  Toews is a sure thing, he's one of the league's top players consistently since he entered the league, and has led Chicago to 2 Stanley Cups.  While I have questioned his leadership capabilities, theres no questioning his skill-set. Eberle and Bergeron might be overlooked as far as skill goes, because this is a very skilled team, but no one can overlook how clutch these guys are, and they have international experience to back that up.  They should make this team.

Tavares, Nash, and Marchand are players who should make this team based on the scoring threat they bring to the table.  They have plenty of international experience to add to the lineup, and these 3 are probably the most deadly snipers on this list outside of Crosby and Stamkos.  They can play the international game physically, which many NHLers have a hard time of doing, and are fast enough to outskate some of the more speedy European players.

Eric Staal and Giroux should also be on the team.  Big Brother Eric is consitantly a high point getter year in and year out, even on some bad Carolina teams he's been on.  He's is a good leader, dependable, and someone you can rely on to put the puck in the net when it counts.  Giroux might be a bit overshadowed by some of the more skilled players here, but he's a perfect fit.  He's one of the most talented players in the league, and one of the hardest working.  He's a gifted goal scorer who isn't afraid to play the grinder role.  That grind is something Canada was missing in 2006, and look where it got them.

So far that's 11 of the 14 players.  Here's who we have left:

Jeff Carter (Los Angeles)
Logan Couture (San Jose)
Matt Duchene (Colorado)
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim)
Taylor Hall (Edmonton)
Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh)
Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg)
Milan Lucic (Boston)
James Neal (Pittsburgh)
Corey Perry (Anaheim)
Mike Richards (Los Angeles)
Patrick Sharp (Chicago)
Jordan Staal (Carolina)
Joe Thornton (San Jose)

Neal wont make the team unless Malkin is on the team.  That isn't going to happen, so I can't see Neal making this team.  Kunitz put up some really surprising numbers last season, but before this year would he have even been in the conversation to join the team? Probably not.  Crosby and Malkin made players like Neal, Kunitz, and Dupuis look like superstars.

Getzlaf and Lucic will have a tough time making the team, as their rough'n'tumble style of play would probably be a burden on the team in the penalty box more-so than some of the others on this list.  Perry is off of my list for his penalty troubles as well, and this is also why Evander Kane didn't get the invite to camp.

Jordan Staal and Duchene are off of my list for probably the same reason Jamie Benn, Dany Heatley and Danny Briere weren't invited: bad +/-. Sure, there's players are on some fairly weak teams, but for the amount of ice time they recieve, their +/- is that bad that they become a liability on the ice.  While we're at it, I'll throw Richards into the same boat as well.  His +/- wasn't as bad, but it was still bad considering he was on a much better team.

Thorton should make the team.  But here's the problem, there are already way too many Centres on the team, and Thorton is a bit of a liability in the penalty box.  He deserves to be on the team, but they likely wont find a place for him.

So here is who I would round out the roster with:

Since this team is full of players who have more assists than goals, its probably important to have a player who's expertise is putting the puck in the net.  Meet Jeff Carter. He's a talented goal scorer with lots of international experience in his young career, that could benefit from the overload of playmakers on the team.

Next, I had to decide between Hall and Sharp, but I'm choosing Patrick Sharp. He had an off year during the regular season last year due to injuries, but led the playoffs in scoring, and was one of the best players for the Blackhawks' cup run.  He's consistently a high point-getter, and has international experience on his side.  He's always overlooked, but he is very talented and belongs on Team Canada.

I'm going off the board with this next pick.  So far, there are 3 Left Wingers, 8 Centreman  and 3 Right Wingers. Yes, most Centreman are skilled on wing as well, but a short tournament isn't the time to be fiddling with chemistry for players playing out of position, and most Centreman are left-handed shots. Chemistry is usually a problem as it is.  Corey Perry is the only other proper RW named to camp, but I'm concerned about his PIMs being a downfall on the team.  And upon further review, I don't see a strong, experienced leader on this team that seems worthy of donning the "C" based on leadership, and not just on skill.  Crosby or Toews will probably wear the "C", but they aren't the leaders of this team.  The only other options are Nash, St. Louis and Staal.  Nash and St. Louis are two players that flow under the radar on their respective teams; getting the job done, but not necessarily pulling everyone together behind them.  I could see Staal as a captain, but there's one guy I think can do better.

And that is Jarome Iginla.  Yes, I permit you to pull the bias flag out, I am a huge fan of him.  But he's a perfect fit to the lineup, probably the best leader-ready player in the league, and plays the game the way Team Canada should play it.  He's not as strong offensively as he was in the past, but he's physical, and loaded in international experience.  Another big factor for me, as much as he is a physical player, his PIMs in international play are quite low.  This is sometimes the root of Canada's downfall, and having a player that can bring the power game to the Olympics without costing Canada precious penalty minutes is a huge asset.  And he can still play, he had 33 points in 44 games last season, with 12 points in 15 games during playoff hockey.  Those are good, dependable stats, and I think he has a shot to play his way into the lineup this fall.

So without further ado, here is my forward lineup for Team Canada:


Staal---Stamkos---St. Louis

Spares: Giroux, Carter

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

European Expansion?

So, there was a spark from Bill Daly in a Vancouver press conference when he suggested that European expansion of the NHL is a possibility.

From the NHL brass, who never like to speculate on anything, thats huge.

The logistics are the biggest pain to hammer out, but I think it's certainly a serious thought by the NHL, and it has nothing to do with their own league.  The KHL, Russia's pro league, is growing west, and accepting teams from Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Croatia, etc.  That's nice for them.  But next season, they'll get a Finnish team, and one of the more popular teams in Finland, if not Europe.  This alarms the NHL.  If the KHL can take away the players from the bigger European markets like Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic and Slovakia, the NHL is in trouble.

The quality of the game will suffer, as many of today's stars are in fact European.  The talent pool will be diminished, and the on-ice product may become inferior to that of the KHL.

Now, I'm not pressing the panic button yet, as there is many "ifs" there.  But its an issue the NHL should be concerned about.

So there begins the topic of European expansion.  The deal is, there has to be enough teams in Europe, so the teams don't have to play all (or even most) of their games in North America.  And the system has to be fair to the North American teams so they don't have to travel as much.

So here's my take on it.  Have 10 European teams, and assume 30 NHL teams.  We can divide this up into 4 divisions; 3 from NA and 1 European.

West Division: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, Winnipeg, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Colorado

Central Division: Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, Carolina, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida

East Division: Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey

Europe Division: <10 European teams>

Now, with all of these extra teams, a red flag would go up on the extra amount of games being played a year.  But if we have a rotating schedule of teams playing outside their division, travel can be equal in the long run, and games can be minimized.

For example:
Year One:

West teams play 4 games against own division opponents (36 games)
play 1 road game against Central division opponents (10 games)
play 1 home game against East division opponents (10 games)
play home-and-away against Europe division opponents (20 games)
= 76 games 

Central teams play 4 games against own division opponents (36 games)
play 1 road game against Europe division opponents (10 games)
play 1 home game against West division opponents (10 games)
play home-and-away against East division opponents (20 games)
= 76 games

East teams play 4 games against own division opponents (36 games)
play 1 road game against West division opponents (10 games)
play 1 home game against Europe division opponents (10 games)
play home-and-away against Central division opponents (20 games)
= 76 games

Europe teams play 4 games against own division opponents (36 games)
play 1 road game against East division opponents (10 games)
play 1 home game against Central division opponents (10 games)
play home-and-away against West division opponents (20 games)
= 76 games

And the teams can rotate the divisions they play against each year.  

In this format, every team in the league has a chance to play every other team at least once every year, and this will help exposure to the NHL game in Europe.  The total amount of games is less than a full season now, which is something the NHL has been trying to do for a while (and as seen by the lockout, is a good idea).  North American teams will play no more than 10 games in Europe per season (excluding playoffs), while European teams will play 20 of their 76 games in North America.

If the clubs have solid financial backing from the get go, those aren't terrible numbers.  I think this is a fully plausible idea.

Playoffs will be an interesting scenario.  We tend to keep with the 7-game series in hockey here in North America, while Europe likes to go with groups and knock-out games, like in soccer.  So we might be able to have both, while promoting the game further in Europe.

Round 1:

The top 4 teams in each division make the playoffs.  1st in the West plays 4th from the West, 2nd in the West plays 3rd in the West.  This is continued for all divisions.

Round 2:
Naturally, the 2 winners in each division will play for the division championship, leaving 1 team per division remaining.

Round 3:
This is where is gets interesting.  It's not fair to do "conference" finals, since one North American team and the European team would have a ton of travel to do.  

So how about something new, something used in European championships.  The 4 division champions will meet in one location (either predetermined, or the location of the European champion for the sake of promotion), and play a round-robin format to decide who makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  

There are tons of ways this could work, either the top 2 after 3 games each make it to the final, or 1st place meets the winner of a one-game knockout between 2nd and 3rd (Memorial Cup style), or however it would work the best.  This insures that less playoff games are played, but the format is changed to something more European, and all of the top teams have to go through each other to get to the finals, something I think the playoffs are missing as of now.

The only two weaknesses of this are, a) that's a full round of hockey that 3 playoff teams wont get ticket revenue for.  This sounds minor, but big money teams might have a problem with that lost revenue.  And b), the two teams left in the final could be very far apart for the finals.  This is commonly a problem anyway, since a western team always plays an eastern team for the Cup, so this isn't exactly a dramatic downfall.  Still, an L.A.-Stockholm final would be a pain.  

As far as TV revenue goes, there are usually between 8-14 games in the conference final round.  With this format, there will be 6-7 (unless a double round-robin is used, where it would be 12-13), so although there could be less games, its not really too bad.  And again, you'll get to see all 4 champions play one another, which keeps it exciting (why the Memorial Cup does so well).

Round 4: Stanley Cup Finals

This can go back to the 7-game series, with one minor switch:  If it so happens that a European team is in the Final, the order of games will go from 2-2-1-1-1 to 2-3-2.  This is done in basketball to reduce travel, and is a great idea.  Cities still get the chance to hoist the cup twice in their own building.

So when thinking about this concept, I think it is an absolutely plausible idea, if enough European teams with capital are on board to support it.  Travel will be more of a burden, but shared, and not as bad as if a few European teams played in a North American division.  This will give a chance for the NHL to grow, and compete with the ever-growing KHL.  I'd love your comments on this, as it is a very out there idea.

Gold or Bust: Part 2

Back for Part 2 of my Olympic preview of Team Canada.  Yesterday I talked about the invited goalies, and my thoughts on who deserved what spot so far.  Today, I'll be discussing Canada's defence.

The group invited to the Olympic team for defence are:

Karl Alzner (Washington)
Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis)
Dan Boyle (San Jose)
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles)
Mike Green (Washington)
Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver)
Travis Hamonic (NY Islanders)
Duncan Keith (Chicago)
Kris Letang (Pittsburgh)
Marc Methot (Ottawa)
Dion Phaneuf (Toronto)
Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis)
Brent Seabrook (Chicago)
Marc Staal (NY Rangers)
P.K. Subban (Montreal)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose)
Shea Weber (Nashville)

There's a few eyebrow raisers in here, but remembering that Canada is only going to take 8, this is a good set to choose from.

Right away, I can pretty much assume that Subban, Letang, and Keith are going to be on the final roster.  Subban has plenty of international experience, Letang is probably the best playmaking D-man in the NHL, and Keith was probably Canada's best defencemen in the 2010 Olympics.

Shea Weber and Brent Seabrook are two good, veteran presences that can help guide the younger Canadian players, which is most of the team.  Seabrook might not be skillfully in the top 8 here, but his international experience and leadership should be a case to join the team.  I fully believe that Seabrook was the best leader of the Chicago Blackhawks during their cup run last season, settling Toews down and playing very clutch hockey.  Weber's biggest concern is his style of play in the international game, but he has the skill set to belong on the roster.

If scoring was an issue for Canada, Mike Green would be an instant top-line D.  He led Canadian defencemen in scoring last season, and is one of the best offensive defencemen in the league.  However, Canada has plenty of scoring up front, and Green is a bit of a defence liability.  Having said that, I think he might be able to clinch at least a spare spot on the roster.

Phaneuf, like Weber, would have to adjust to the international style of play in order to stay out of trouble (see Canada in 2006).  However, Canada's strength against the world is it's physical play, and Phaneuf is the prime example of that.  He puts up good numbers, has international experience, and can change the game with a single "Double Dion" hit.  He is a bit of a liability defensively, but he should have better defence and goaltending to back him up than he's used to.  I think he makes the team.

That's 7, which is probably how many Canada will take.  But they could take 8, so I'll pick one more for my roster.  We have these guys left:

Karl Alzner (Washington)

Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis)
Dan Boyle (San Jose)
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles)
Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver)
Travis Hamonic (NY Islanders)
Marc Methot (Ottawa)
Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis)
Marc Staal (NY Rangers)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose)

Looking at this, and picking one, I can safely eliminate Alzner, Boyle, Hamhuis, Hamonic, and Vlasic. They have the time to play their way into the roster, but I think they're the biggest longshots right now.

Bouwmeester is probably Canada's best skater.  He is dependable for playing time, and strong defensively.  He gets a lot of bad rap because of the teams he's been on for his entire career.  But he is still a solid defensive defenceman, has tons of international experience, and I think he's a front runner in this group.

Doughty also has a strong chance, with his playing style and experience being beneficial to the team.  He was LA's best player in the Stanley Cup run of 2012.  He's nothing flashy, and he has some cold streaks, but he can be a dependable player for Canada's back end.

Marc Methot probably isn't the top of anyone's list, but he shouldn't be overlooked.  He doesn't bring much scoring into Canada's game, but he's one of the best stay-at-home defencemen in the league.  In a team full of scoring stars with a few defensive liabilities, he could be a valuable asset to the team.

Pietrangelo is one of the best young defencemen in the game, and has some promising international experience.  But I think his skill will be overlooked over some other young defencemen, and his youth will be passed for some needed experience.  

Marc Stall probably could have made a case to be on the team, and would be cool to see 3 Staal brothers on the same team.  However, the eye injury he suffered this year will probably tarnish his skill, and will make him a liability going forward.  I wish him the best, but I don't like his chances.

So after all is said and done, here is my projected line-up for Canada's defence:



Spares: Green, Bouwmeester

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Gold or Bust: Part 1

Hello everyone, been a little while since my last post.  Spent a much needed weekend off with family, friends, and my other half going to a wedding and then visiting my old hometown.  It was fantastic, and I feel more refreshed to continue writing.

Since Hockey Canada announced it's camp roster for the Sochi Olympic games, I figured a good start it to preview the roster, and give my two cents on it.  There is a lot to like on the roster, but there is quite a bit I don't like.  But for the magnitude of the post, I figured it would be best to split the article up by position.

Today, I'm going to start with the goaltending.

The five goaltenders that Canada is bringing to camp are:

Corey Crawford (Chicago)
Braden Holtby (Washington)
Roberto Luongo (Vancouver)
Carey Price (Montreal)
Mike Smith (Phoenix)

From first glance, I'm not overly surprised by this list.  Luongo and Price were guaranteed to at least be invited to camp, and Crawford definitely played his way into the picture during the Stanley Cup run for Chicago this past year.

Smith is somewhat of a shock to be on here.  He is a decently consistent goaltender, who was pretty much unknown until the 2011-12 season, when he put up some monstrous numbers for a mediocre Coyotes team.  This season he levelled off somewhat, posting a 15-12-5 season and a respectable .910 save percentage.  He also had 5 shutouts, more than any other Canadian goalie last season.  The question with Smith is the lack of international and playoff experience.  Is he a good clutch goalie to lean on?  Likely not.

Holtby was a surprise on this lineup for me.  He doesn't strike me as an elite goaltender just yet, and I initially questioned how he got the spot ahead of Fleury, Ward, and Brodeur.  But upon further review, he did have 4 shutouts last season (tied with Reimer, behind only Smith), had a good winning record with the Capitals, and had a very solid .920 save percentage.  He's young, and doesn't have much more than a full season of NHL experience, but he's been good in the backup role for the Capitals before as well.  The lack of playoff and international experience might be a trouble spot, and his age might make some scouts question his consistency.  But I think he's one of Canada's best young goaltenders right now, and he worked his way to the roster spot.

Crawford, as mentioned earlier, earned his way here through his play last season.  Before the season, many thought he wasn't a playoff-capable goalie, but oh how one season can change many things.  Still, despite his clutch cup run and his strong regular season, he hasn't sewn up a starting job in the least.  It's in his reach, but he needs to perform just as good and consistent this season in order to remain on the roster, because he's still a goaltender with many questions surrounding him.

Luongo made the roster because of his Olympic run in 2010, and deserves all the credit he gets for it.  But he has struggled in the last few seasons with his constancy and clutch performances, and will need to fix that if he wants a starting job, or a roster spot for that matter.

Price has had great experience with Team Canada in junior, but has been mostly overlooked on the senior teams up to this point.  But when he is on his game, there isn't a better goalie in the NHL than Carey Price.  Again, consistency can be a bit of an issue, as seen towards the end of last season, but he is calm, cool, collected, and usually a sure thing in net.  Usually.  I still expect him to be the top dog for the starting job, but theres a long way to go before we get on deciding that.

And there is lots of time for goalies to play themselves on or off the roster, which will be especially true for Crawford, Smith and Holtby.  But this is also true for some of the goalies who didn't make the roster.  Things look bleak for them now, but they still have an opportunity to make it.

For one, I'm surprised Brodeur wasn't given an invite, based on all of his playoff and international experience.  And if a goalie like Price or Holtby became the top contenders for the job in Sochi, Brodeur would be a fine addition to the bench, providing a good mentor role for the younger goalies.  He has fallen off a bit the last few years, which is expected given his age.  But as you seen in 2011-12, he still has the skill set to be a contending goaltender.  Maybe he's not the best anymore, but I'm sure he deserved one more chance to prove that he can be.

Marc-Andre Fleury would have been a huge snub if this was two years ago, but the last two playoffs were dreadful for Fleury, last year even losing the starting job during the playoffs.  Thats not good for a resume.  Plus, previous Team Canada experience has indicated that he is not always clutch during clutch time.  So I'm not overly surprised by his omission.

Cam Ward is a goalie that is always brought up in Team Canada conversations, but never seems to be on the winning end of it.  Injuries and some inconsistent play (and somewhat the team in front of him) have led him to be under the radar for Canada.  But he has good numbers in the NHL, with only one losing season so far in his career, and had great numbers in 3 World Championships for Canada.  A healthy, successful season in Carolina is his last chance to be a contender for a roster spot, but unfortunately doesn't look promising right now.

The only other wildcard that comes to mind is a goalie like James Reimer.  He has struggled for most of his career so far, but has also been on the back end of lousy defences and has been mismanaged by coaches.  However, last year he put up some great numbers, and was putting some good numbers at the 2011 World Championships, until he was replaced by Bernier (which was the reason Canada lost to Russia in the Quarters, I still believe Reimer was the better goalie).  As an aside, funny to think how Toronto has both of those goalies now, I hope Reimer has a chance to redeem himself over Bernier.  Anyways, it will be tough for him to make the roster now, but I think with a newly strengthened Toronto team, and some consistent play from Reimer, he has a shot to at least get back into the Team Canada conversation.

So finally, here's my projected depth chart for Team Canada.  Most of this will depend on next season's play, but so far here is how things are looking for Canada.

Starter: Price
Backup: Luongo
Spare: Crawford/Holtby

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Life Beyond 30: Expansion of the NHL

I like that title... seems really poetic in a way.

Anyways, as I alluded to earlier, today's post is going to be about potential expansion for the NHL.  Why would the NHL expand?  Because they like having 4 divisions, and 30 teams doesn't fit into 4 divisions all too well.  Plus, the parity of the NHL is higher than it ever has been, and there is enough talent to spread around into 2 more teams.  This would also help the NHL keep it's salary cap down.

So thats why expansion would work, but where would it work?  Here's a list of places that could see expansion, and my odds (no real statistic, just my guess) that there will be an NHL team there someday.

First, some old NHL cities:

Atlanta has had 2 chances to keep an NHL team there, and managed just around a decade each time.  Both times, fan support was hard to come by, and I don't see how that would change a 3rd time around.  Still, its a large city with lots of travellers going through it on a daily basis, and a strong sports city in general.  It deserves at least a 25%.

Cleveland is another larger city that population-wise could support a hockey team.  They had a very short NHL stint, marred by a terrible arena deal and bad finances.  But their attendance wasn't bad, and there was a strong interest in the team at the time, before they merged with Minnesota.  Still, it's hard seeing a team move into Cleveland before anywhere else.  15%

Hartford was a team that unfortunately couldn't survive in the high budget league era of the 90's, and they had troubles with attendance, mostly because ownership was bad and only gave out single game tickets or full season tickets, and not the popular 6 or 20 game packs that fans would have liked.  They also had bad corporate sponsorship and couldn't finalize an arena deal for a larger centre.  I think many traditionalists would love a team back there, and it wouldn't do as bad as some of the existing teams, but it would be a hard sell.  30%

Kansas City lasted 2 years in the league, and came in with high hopes.  But poor ownership, and a bad talent poor lost fan interest quickly, and left town for Colorado.  Today, there isn't much to be said about hockey in Kansas City, except the Penguins almost landed there a decade ago.  But even then, and the exhibition games after that hosted by their NHL ready facility, shown that fan interest would be a huge problem there.  10%

Quebec City probably has the best odds of a former NHL city to hold a team again.  Financially, they weren't too much worse off than most of the other Canadian teams during the 90's, but they did struggle and found ownership with deep pockets in Denver.  They definitely have the fan support, all they would need is a new arena, and some corporate backing and Quebec could become another hit Canadian market.  75%

And now some other cities:

Hamilton / GTA has roughly the same chance of getting another team.  Toronto has the fan support to give to 2 teams, or a team from Hamilton, but the owners in Toronto, Buffalo, and Detroit probably have other ideas.  Still, I have a tough time seeing another team end up in southern Ontario, but the money and fans is surely there.  40%

Saskatoon has an interesting footnote to it: it has been speculated that the Calgary Flames will play in Saskatoon if the repairs to the Saddledome are not complete by the start of season.  I have no official word that this is true or not, but something interesting to think about.  Saskatoon's arena is just slightly bigger than Winnipeg's, which is easily the smallest in the league (besides the Islander's, but they're moving to Brooklyn, as they should).  Any exhibition game played there has been maxed out, and if they could get that fan support for a full season, it's definitely a viable option.  But it's a really small city for a pro sports team, so it would really be up to the fans and corporate support to keep a team there afloat.  If Winnipeg can survive 5 years in the league and stay strong, than I think you'll see Saskatoon's name come up more often.  45%

Halifax / Atlantic Canada would be a very intriguing place for a hockey team.  There are no pro sports teams in the area, and it's a very passionate fan base in all levels of sport there.  However, you would need support from all of the major cities in the area to make it work, and in some cases that would mean travelling a few hours to watch a home game.  Plus there are no suitable arenas in the area to even temporarily hold a team.  I love the idea, and it's still better than how Phoenix is doing, but an investor wouldn't invest hockey here, yet. 15%

Seattle probably has the best chance of any city to land a hockey team.  It's a high-captial city with lots of investors, it has an insane fan-base in football and soccer, and it's close enough to Canada to attract some Canadian fans.  Their arena now is undesirable but still plausible for pro hockey, and they have plans to build new.  I would love another Canadian team in first, but I think Seattle would be too good of an investment to pass up.  Plus the NHL division alignment already lined this up perfectly.  80%

Houston has a few things going for it to be an underdog pick to put an expansion team in.  It's the largest city to not currently own an NHL team, it has a rich history with the Houston Aeros, it has 2 NHL ready arenas, and a 3rd that is decommissioned for sports, but could be renovated to fix that if the investment is right.  A group tried to by the Oilers in 1998 to bring them to Houston, but the bid was matched by an Edmonton group.  Interest in hockey hasn't been strong there as of late, but I think they have just as good of a chance as some of the other southern NHL teams of making it, which is about half of them.  50%

And finally, Las Vegas has always been a city that I liked to think could hold a pro hockey team.  It has no other sports teams there, and it has sold out hockey exhibitions in the past.  It would be a really hard sell, as constant fan support would be tough to find there, but I actually have a little bit of hope that this city could host an NHL team and be moderately successful (at least, not in the red as much as some other NHL teams).  Overall, I'd have to give this a modest 20%.

Thats all I got for now, if you have any other cities to add, or want to dispute some of my percentages (which, again, are just gues-stimations on my part), feel free to comment below.  I probably wont post anything for the next day or two as I have some family gatherings to take care of, but hopefully I can get back to the blog soon after the weekend.  Goodnight everyone.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Thoughts on NHL Division Alignment

Hey gang, actually going to try to get 2 days in a row for a post this time. :P

Anyways, before I go on my rant, here's another concept I drew today.  It's for the Cincinnati Stingers from the old WHA days.  Not sure why I decided to do this one, but I just liked the logo and thought I'd have some fun with it.  Thoughts?

Anyways, back to today's topic.  I wasn't sure on what to write about today, but yesterday during my predictions post, I was intrigued by all of the new divisional match-ups, and I thought maybe my thoughts on the new alignment.  Of course this was a controversial subject to begin with, so hopefully this will generate some discussion even after it's said and done.

Here, of course, is the division map that was agreed upon by the NHL.  The biggest difference is that the league will be reduced to 4 divisions instead of 6.  Right there is a huge problem, 30 teams doesn't divide into 4 well.  There spewed up the argument of unfair playoff chances between divisions.  The NHL implemented a "wildcard" rule to somewhat counter that, but it's still a bit awkward to have 2 divisions with 7 teams, and 2 divisions with 8 teams.

I would argue that the only sure way to combat this is expansion or contraction of the league.  I like the thought of expansion, the league is par enough throughout that the talent can still spread evenly around 2 more teams, and would probably help keep the salary cap down in the long run.  However, contracting the league by 2 teams isn't a terrible idea either, as there are several teams that aren't exactly helping the league's financial books.

But either way, we had to divide up the divisions somehow for now, and this is what we got.  After all of the bickering between some of the midwest teams, I personally like most aspects of this setup.  Teams wont have to travel past more than 1 timezone for most of their games, and can stay in their own for most of their divisional games.  This helps teams like Colorado, Dallas, and Winnipeg tremendously.

The biggest quirk on the divisional map to me is the Northwest + Florida division.  The other 6 teams surely fit together in the same division, and while we lose the Chicago-Detroit rivalry, Detroit renews 3 of it's Original 6 rivalries, and is now in the Eastern Conference like it wanted.  The Florida teams are a bit awkward, but it wasn't accidental why they're there.  They can play many road games back to back with the closeness of the cities up north, plus many Floridans watching hockey are retirees from Canada watching their old favourite teams, plus traditionally Toronto, Montreal, Boston and Detroit are good draws for road teams, and help boost the attendance.  Its not a well kept secret that these teams (mostly Florida) need help financially, so this was an easy fix.  Plus it would be extremely hard breaking the Atlantic division by more than one team.

Geographically, it could make sense to put Columbus and Pittsburgh in the Northeast and put the Florida teams in the Atlantic, but separating the two Pennsylvania teams would be disastrous for the league.  The Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers, and Capitals are too close together to separate, and since you can't split up Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the Penguins would have to stay too.  That really only leaves Carolina and Columbus to move. Carolina would much prefer to stay in the Atlantic, even though they are closer to the Florida teams, the shorter travel overall and the good draws from every other team in the division would surely help them more.  That leaves only Columbus.  Theoretically, one could put Columbus in with Detroit in the Northeast, and put Boston in the Atlantic.  Columbus would have to travel further, but would keep rival Detroit in the division, as well as constantly getting teams like Toronto and Montreal in your building, which would be a huge profit boost.  Geographically this could make sense for Boston too, they would get out of having to travel to Florida for division games, wouldn't have to cross the border for 3 divisional teams, and would have slightly less travel if they were in the Atlantic, but keeping rivals like Toronto and Montreal in your division is good for the Bruins, and on-ice they would have a better chance of being a playoff team in that division than if they defected to the Atlantic.  If there would be one change to the map, it would be switching Columbus and Boston, but that's a toss-up and I'm sure the traditionalists would prefer keeping Boston in the Northeast.

I'm sure the happiest teams here are the ones in the Midwest division. Winnipeg is a bothersome travel destination for any team, but they belong with Minnesota, who in turn would much rather play Chicago and St. Louis than Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.  Dallas is happy because they don't have to play all of their divisional road games on the west coast (or Arizona), and they can stay mostly in their own time zone.  Colorado probably would have preferred to stay in the Pacific division, as it would be slightly less travel, but there would be no clear way to do that, without a huge shakeup or even more geographical mismatching, so its best that Colorado stays there. Nashville could have possibly snuck into the East conference with a little bit of creative shuffling, but its best that they stick with the central core of Chicago and St. Louis, both who don't have ridiculous travel to worry about for the most part.

There's not much to talk about for the Pacific, because that is really the only way to line up the teams, unless the teams were arranged North to South, which would be dreadful.  This also leaves room for some expansion (wink wink) to Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, San Antonio, or anywhere on the western side of the continent.  Not saying there will be, but for the better of the league, I hope it happens.

Expansion will probably be my next topic of discussion ;)

But final word, the division alignment finally agreed upon is pretty much the best available option at the moment, especially since Phoenix is staying put.  I could move Columbus and Boston, but the rivalries will trump out geography this time.  The only thing I don't like is the uneven-ness of the divisions, something hopefully fixed by expansion sometime soon.  But overall it has my seal of approval, not like it needed mine...