Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
He has only missed 4 games so far and their record is 1-1-2-0 during that period. The games have all been close and three games were won in overtime. Except for last night's game in which the Leafs returned to wide-open, sloppy hockey, the games have been defensive battles. McCabe's ice time has largely been eaten up by Anton Stralman (8 minutes), Pavel Kubina (6 minutes more ice time) and the rest of the time has eaten up by the other defensemen. The defense has faired rather well and so has the goaltending.
The problem has been scoring. The checking line of Steen, Stajan and Devereaux has been doing most of the scoring. Sundin's line has hit their first slump of the season and the most overpaid line in hockey - Tucker, Blake and Wellwood has not only failed to score but has been weak defensively. What's a coach to do?
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Vincent Lecavalier 26%
Daniel Alfredsson 2%
Sidney Crosby 29%
Mats Sundin 26%
Henrik Zetterberg 5%
Pascal Leclaire 5%
Ilya Kovalchuk 11%
Henrik Lundqvist 0%
No one player has stood out above the crowd so its a tough choice. Though I think the poll reflects a large number of Leafs fans based on the number of votes going to Sundin. Although Sundin is having a terrific year, he clearly is not the best player this season.
Also I have certain biases when it comes to MVP. I give less weight to players on non-playoff contenders. So Lacavalier, Kovalchuk and Sundin could make a stronger case if they were carrying their respective teams into a playoff spot. Sill Lecavalier is leading the league in points and on pace to score 120 points. Kovalchuk leads in goals scored and on pace to score 66.
Crosby would be leading the league in points but he is playing with two mediocre players. Ryan Malone has only 14 points so far this season and Colby Armstrong has 13. I've never seen a superstar play with such weak linemates. Otherwise Crosby would easily have 60 points my now.
For me the strongest cases for MVP are Alfredsson and Zetterberg. Both Detroit and Ottawa lead their conferences and Alfredsson and Zetterberg are big reasons for their teams success. As good as Sundin has been for Toronto, Alfredsson has played that much better for Ottawa. He is having a career year and without him I'm not so sure how well Ottawa would be doing.
After the break the Storm will have 6 very busy weeks of hockey with 13 remaining regular season games and two tournaments to be played.
Happy holiday to all!!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
So how do the Leafs compare to back in November? Blue is where they are today and red is how they stood in November 1st. It is obvious they have tightened up defensively because they are giving up for fewer shots and their penalty killing is much better. Goaltending has also improved based on their team goals against average. But they have not made any significant move in the standings.
Standing in East: tied for 8th; 6th (November)
Standing in East (based on winning %): tied for 11th; 11th
Goals For: 2nd; 4th
Goals Against: 30th; 25th
Shots For: 3rd; 7th
Shots Against: 30th; 19th
Powerplay: 26th; 29th
Penalty Killing: 24th; 15th
Penalty Minutes: 27th; 11th
Goals Against Average: 3.84 (29th); 3.03 (26th)
Save Percentage: .885 (25th); .897 (21st)
Every year since 2000, the Thornhill family has dressed up their home with a bigger and better light show. The lawn lights are buried under snow right now because of last week's storm, but in total there are 80,000 lights (mostly LEDs) blinking away. If you drive up to their house and tune your radio to 104.9 FM, you can hear the music to which the elaborate light show is synchronized.
This year there are two routines, one synced to music from Pirates of the Caribbean and the other to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
The Linday Lights website even has all the tech information laid out in the unlikely event you have the time and skill to do your own production. The show runs from 5 to 9 p.m. (11 p.m. on weekends) until January 5. Be warned 416-lovers: You will have to cross Steeles into the 905 to see the house, so have your papers in order and make sure to declare any goods at the border.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Simon has been banished for 30 games which is the longest suspension in NHL history. A very clever move because the NHL must be serious about violence based on this suspension. But how many times do you need to discipline a guy before you tell him that he has lost the privilege to play in the league. Obviously 7 times isn't the number.
His return will be so close to the end of the season that it will be difficult for Simon to rehabilitate his image. So obviously the league is hoping he will just go away. They have no desire to take away a player's livelihood.
But Chris Simon is a marginal player so they have no problem making an example of him and other goons. But there are some very good players who are just as dirty as Simon. Chris Pronger immediately comes to mind. His suspensions are only a game or two for things far worse. He would have to kill someone to get a 30 game suspension. Todd Bertuzzi ended a player's career and didn't get 30 games. The NHL wants to maintain an image that it is opposed to violence but it really isn't.
Because violence helps fill seats. It's just like drugs in baseball. It seems no trainer, coach, or manager has ever noticed a dramatic change in a player's physique. No one ever bothered to ask Bonds or Clemens how they got so big. Because homerun and strikeout champions fill seats in stadiums and that's what matters.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
In my mind nothing about Bryan has changed since he broke into the NHL with the Islanders in 1995. A lot of good hockey skills but he still makes mistakes that a coach would never tolerate from a rookie. Bryan has benefited from great timing. He had a very good year offensively (not defensively though) in 2005 as he was about to jump into the free agent market, which he was able to work into a huge contract. No one forced the Leafs to sign him and in fact some executives there thought it was a great move.
Since that time, his offense has returned to traditional levels as teams adjusted to his one weapon, a big shot. But his defensive skills have never improved. The one thing that McCabe does provide the Leafs is the ability to eat up minutes. He plays about 26 minutes per game which is in the top 5 in the NHL. The reason he plays that much is that the Leafs lack depth at that position and not because he is a star player. So his injury exposes how thin they are at defense because the coach must now give more ice time to players he was reluctant to play in the first place.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
1. Anaheim 26152
2. Los Angeles 24966
3. Edmonton 21926
4. Vancouver 20626
5. San Jose 19938
6. Colorado 19922
7. Columbus 16985
8. Phoenix 16915
9. Florida 16910
10. Calgary 16576
11. Atlanta 16303
12. Dallas 15610
13. Tampa Bay 15486
14. Philadelphia 14573
15. Minnesota 14542
16. Boston 13574
17. Nashville 13573
18. Detroit 13570
19. St Louis 13106
20. Pittsburgh 12294
21. Buffalo 12176
22. Chicago 11818
23. Toronto 11252
24. Washington 10990
25. Carolina 10855
26. Ottawa 10377
27. NY Rangers 9426
28. New Jersey 9214
29. Montreal 8071
30. NY Islanders 5667
Monday, December 17, 2007
Just compare the New Jersey Devils’ traveling since Dec. 1 to the kilometres racked up by the Canucks. Tht will explain why western based teams will never win the Cup. The travel schedules are brutal. They went with an unbalanced schedule to cut back on travel but everyone complaned about it;
- Canucks: Vancouver, St. Paul, Chicago, Nashville, Vancouver, Los Angeles/Anaheim, San Jose, Edmonton, Vancouver—13,705 kilometres;
- Devils: Newark, Manhattan, Washington, Boston, Newark—1,440 kilometres.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
more pictures: Storm Flickr site
Again, the Storm gave up a goal while on the powerplay. The next time the Storm get a powerplay opportunity, the coaching staff is considering sitting one person out and playing 4 on 4. At least we may not get scored on. However, as was the case in all previous games, it was a close battle but 9 goals in 10 games isn't going to get you too many wins.
Well back to shovelling snow!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Well obviously teams will need to be very selective with who they back huge commitments. It will have to be players that they see being core to their teams for years to come. There isn't much risk for players, they get paid more early on but risk being underpaid later in the contract. The risk is mostly with the teams. Many blue chip studs become spent forces before reaching age 30. Eric Lindros, Owen Nolan, Sergei Samsonov and Todd Bertuzzi come to mind as a result of injuries or/and diminished intensity. Jose Theodore at one time looked like the next Patrick Roy and Andrew Raycroft won the Calder and both can't stop a beach ball today. If you locked any of these guys for 10 years you would be stuck because the collective agreement does not allow you to buy them out. It's all guaranteed money.
For suffering Toronto Maple Leaf fans, the prospects are so good. The Leafs trade away draft picks and prospects with great frequency. In the past Ferguson has mused about grabbing a big name free agent which the team can build around after Sundin is gone. Well it looks like there aren't going to be those types of players available. The free agent lists will be populated with mostly underachievers, injury prone players and senior citizens.
I'm developing a real hate for the salary cap. I can't see how it has helped the NHL. It has only created some practices that may further damage the league and the viability of weaker franchises.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Thermablades use a rechargeable battery and microprocessor to maintain a blade temperature of 5 C. The slight heat is enough to increase the thickness of the water layer between the blade and the ice surface, and the company says its tests have shown this reduces gliding friction and starting resistance for skaters. The batteries last for about two games. And the blades retail for about $400.
The secret testing is atypical for the NHL Normally new rules and equipment are tested in the AHL. If you are showcasing the NHL as an elite league then you don't want to be using it as a testing lab. Also new technologies that give players an advantage is unfair if access is limited to only a select few.
Just another example how the NHL damages the integrity of their game - like the new jersey fiasco, 3 points awarded games that end in ties, shootouts during regular season but not playoffs. But don't get me started.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Strong skating continues to characterize this year's Storm team as another top tier team had to hang as the buzzer went. The North Simcoe head coach was overhead commenting that the early buzzer helped them salvage a point.
The lone Storm goal was scored by Amanda but the game could easily have been won by either Marley or Maryssa who both had excellent scoring chances. Rushed shots continue to plague this team and the girls are better shooters than they exhibit in games. We expect the team to break out sooner or later.
Next game is December 15 in Orillia.
Judges in Spain have ruled that a 36-year-old man who insulted his mother's cooking and physically pushed her must move out of her home and find his own place to live.
José Luis Ortiz's 71-year-old mother grew so desperate about her abusive son's presence in her home, in the northern region of Cantabria, that she filed a suit against him.
Mr Ortiz admitted to regularly insulting his mother, Carmen, pulling her by the arm and threatening to beat her. He also conceded that he repeatedly called his mother's cooking “s***”. In his defence, Mr Ortiz said that his comments were a mere statement of fact; “an observation on the culinary ability” of his mother.
For those who never go to see him play, look at this highlight reel of Bobby Orr rushing the puck.
In the excitement of that game what was lost was how bad the Bruin goalie was. It was Dave Reece's last game in the NHL.
As the Toronto Maple Leafs faced the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7, 1976, the Leafs had only won once in the previous seven games. The Bruins, coached by Don Cherry, were hot. They had won their last seven games and lost only once in their last 17 games.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
Three things are contributing to the current win streak. They are finally getting good goaltending. No one wins in the NHL without it. When Lundquist, Luongo and Brodeur play poorly, their respective team lose.
The Leafs are playing better in their own end. Defensive coverage is better but not great but combined with better goaltending means they have a chance to win every game. It also means they can hold a lead. There have no 3rd period collapses lately. Keeping the number of shots down on their own goalies has certainly paid off. And playing better defense does not necessarily hurt your offense. There was too much focus on Tucker and Blake not scoring although the team was near the top of the league in scoring.
Finally, JFJ's excuse about injuries have some validity. It's not that Tucker, Wellwood and Bell have played well or can carry the team. Rather, it's the players they have pushed out of the lineup that makes the difference. The minor leaguers or marginal players who fill in have not played very well. So by taking Battaglia, Newbury, Stahlman, and Gamache out of the lineup and reducing the ice time of Wozniewski, Pohl and Kilger, you improve your team. At one point, Chad Kilger was the number two centre.
The Leafs' success will last as long as they continue to get good goaltending, play team defense and avoid injuries. The Leaf defense is still porous and error-prone Bryan McCabe plays almost half the game. They will have to battle to the final weekend for a playoff spot because they will need a minimum of 92 to 94 points to make the playoffs which means a winning percentage of 59-60% for the rest of the season.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The Storm again finished the game without a penalty and continues to be the least penalized team in Midget B tier. In fact, they are one of the least penalized in the entire league. The lack of penalties is not a reflection of a lack of aggressive or physical play but the speed of the team. Most fouls occur when players can't keep up with their opponents but this team doesn't have that problem.
So the next game is Sunday against another top team, North Simcoe who have only lost one game this season.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
This guy is a goon, nothing more. He has played in 18 games averaging less than 4 minutes per game. So in 70 minutes of ice time, he has managed 61 penalty minutes. Oh yes, I forgot. He also has 1 assist.
Still Flyers coach John Stevens keeps playing these guys. I'm just not impressed. The Flyers have receiving a suspension for every 5 games played. At this rate they will have accumulated 16 suspensions by the end of the season.
For all this mayhem the five suspensions only add up to 52 games. Hardly a deterrence. The NHL keeps saying they want to eliminate head shots but do they really?
The Flyers' other suspensions:
– Hartnell got two games for checking Bruins defenceman Andrew Alberts in the head in a game last Monday.
– Jones was given a two-game suspension after he sent Boston's Patrice Bergeron face-first into the boards on Oct. 27. Bergeron hasn't returned to action since he broke his nose and sustained a concussion as a result of the hit.
– Boulerice was handed a 25-game suspension for his cross-check to the face of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler in an Oct. 10 game.
– Downie got 20 games after flying down the ice, jumping through the air and delivering a hit to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond during a pre-season game.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and league disciplinarian Colin Campbell held a conference call with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren on Monday. They read him the riot act. I bet he is shaking in his boots.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Best scoring chance in the game was by Genevieve who floated a shot on net during a powerplay that the Aurora goalie had some problems handling. The close call led to a turnover and a short handed goal which pretty much turned the game around. The Panthers later added another goal and held on for the shutout win.
Next game is December 4 against Barrie.