The FUNHL

5/15/2015

Your 2015 FUNBA CHAMPIONS the Calgary SHARPSHOOTERS!

Ok, so here is my long promised, poorly delivered FUNBA recap.

- First off, I wanted to note that if we were using the same format for determining a champion as we do in the FUNHL, it would be the Thunderbay Murderball's title as they scored the highest total number of points, whereas Brian won a series of HTH competitions to take it all.

Which isn't to detract from the fantastic season the Sharpshooters had at all, they were full marks in defeating two excellent teams in the playoffs (the Skywalkers and the Goodfellas). What's more, they didn't just beat these two teams in the last two rounds they crushed them in a pair of week+ long matchups that each ended in lopsided Sharpshooter victories.

Congrats to Brian, the third champion crowned in the FUNBA!

Other notes:

- So far, half the league has gone to their team page and indicated their 'keepers' (Brian, me, Darrell, and Bob). If the rest of you could please go in and input your keepers we can avoid some of the issues we struggled with this year.

- As of yet it won't let me set the date for the next draft. I will however be more dilligent in pre-warning everyone that it is coming up. Note, the NBA season roughly correllates to the NHL season. If you are prepping your draft list for hockey, take two minutes to check your FUNBA stuff as well.

- Bob made a staggering 47 changes (waiver drops/adds) to his roster over the season. Some things, never change.

- There were exactly zero trades this season. I have to believe that is going to be as bad as it gets, because mathematically it couldn't be any worse.

- As I expected, the changes I made to scoring for blocks was all but invisible over the course of the season. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary though was super sophmore Anthony Davis who would seemingly threaten to hit double digits in blocks nearly every game.

- Here are my favourite 8 players of the year, and why;

#8 Blake Griffin - PF LAC / Murderball



What you don't see is that Griffin has evolved into much more than just a one-dimmensional dunk machine (that would be DeAndre Jordan, his front-court partner in crime), and added some veteran moves to defense, footwork, passing, and shooting from deep. When Paul was out, Griffin carried the mail.

Fun fact, the Thunderbay Murderball had the highest scoring team in the league, but had exactly zero players in the top 10 in scoring. Griffin was the closest.

#7 Anthony Davis - C NO / Flatlanders




Make no mistake, Davis is much, much, much more than a big dunking machine. He has the superior size, length (his arms are seemingly 5x as long as the comparatively short-limbed Griffin), he's an elite defensive player at his position, a bona-fide rim-protector, and shot-blocking dynamo.

He's a true 'C' in a league with fewer and fewer of them. At some point he's going to start destroying the league offensively as much as he already does with his rebounds and blocks. Future MVP.

#6 LeBron James SF Cle / Skywalkers


IMO, still easily the best basketball player alive. He can not only play all five positions at an All-Star level, what is more, he can GUARD all five positions at an All-Star level. He has point guard skills in a power forwards body. The love child of Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley, he has the best combination of size, speed, efficiency, defensce, and...well everything. If not for a two week 'rest' in the beginning of the season, and a ton of chemistry issues with hs new team mates, LeBron would be league MVP. Again. He'll be the playoffs MVP though, so he's got that going for him.

Take note in the highlights of how many of them are thread-the-needle-no-look assists, or chase down blocks. He can do whatever wants.

#5 John Wall - PG Wsh / Goodfellas


The former 1st overall pick has matured into the all-round offensive force he was envisioned to be on draft day. Big (for a PG), strong, fast, and posssessing an arsenal of offensive skills, Wall is the quick strike PG all teams crave to have to run their offense.

#4 Russell Westbrook - PG OKC / Pirates


Westbrook has long been the poster child for a kind of warp-speed point guard who is even better at scoring than at creating assists. Always considered to be the 'second banana' to Kevin Durant, an injury to Durant put Westbrook in the spotlight as he tried to will his team to remain in playoff contention despite missing a league MVP caliber running mate. All he did was EXPLODE and for a month and a half put up numbers that were simply staggering, averaging over 30pts, 10rebs, and 10assists to single-handedly keep his team with the best in the loaded Western conference.

Above are the highlights from his 54pt game, but it is worth noting that Indiana has one of the best rim protectors in the league in the giant 7'2" Roy Hibbert, but Westbrook simply gets to the rim at will against him (and everyone else).

#3 Chris Paul - PG LAC / BallBearings

I love Chris Paul. He's not the best offensive PG (Westbrook), nor the best passing PG (Rondo), but he is without a doubt the most complete PG in the league.

One way that his greatness can be assessed outside of his 'counting' stats, is to look at the work Kirk Goldsberry has done on assessing how players perform defensively

The chart on Paul is mind-blowing (especially when you compare him to James 'the Matador' Harden). Injuries and bad teams have allowed Paul's greatness to go overlooked but the facts are the facts, he was the 2nd highest scoring player in the FUNBA.

#2 Steph Curry - PG/SG GS / Chumfeeders



Here's the thing, if a Golden State game is on TV, watch it. You'll be viewing the greatest shooter in NBA history (by a wide margin) in his prime. He's utterly unique, and watching him is watching sports history get written.

#1 James Harden - SG Hou / Sharpshooters


Fear. The. Beard.

Harden's game is tailor made for the modern NBA. He has two fantastic skills, he can reliably gun from anywhere - but especially for 3, and he gets to the rim at will where he draws a ton of fouls whenever he doesn't outright score. In the 'real world' Harden wouldn't be in my top 5 (see the chart comparing his defense to Chris Paul again), because guys who are that casual on defense (bordering on comatose) don't make for the greatest champions.

But man, can Harden ever score.

*******************

Thanks to everyone for participating again this year, I hope to have everything ironed out for the league's mechanics in the next few days. If you have adjustments you would like me to consider, just drop me a line and let me know.

And somebody buy Brian a drink. Dude sweated out this season like a sunbaked wolly mammoth with malaria. He should get some alcoholic love from the rest of us.


Standings after round 2


4/30/2015

Standings after Round 1




RankTeam NameTTLPLN
1Doug's Lowlanders651
2Rob's Wolfpups630
3Dan's Lesserlights610
4Brian's Bladewalkers570
5Bob's Shadyguys430
Legend:       TTL - Points To Date       PLN - Points Last Night


Doug (8 left) is still powered by the powerful ANA TB combination
Rob (9) is CHI MTL and Parise
Dan (10) is ANA, TB, CAL
Brian (7) is WAS, CAL
Bob (10) has NYR (8) Ovechkin and Keith


Go Flames Go

4/23/2015

NHL Expansion and Reallignment Plan - Revised

Expansion is Coming

The NHL has expanded multiple times since the original six swelled to the original twelve in 1967.  There are good reasons, from the economic health of some (sun belt) franchises to the quality of the on-ice product, not to expand ever again but there are about a billion reasons, by which I mean two $500 million expansion fees, why I am convinced that the NHL will be expanding again and soon.

Nothing will be official but shortly after the NHL Awards are handed out this June in Vegas the NHL will give a nod and a wink to Bill Foley's group to apply for a franchise even if the formal announcement is still a year away.  The only question for the NHL Governors is do they want to go with a single team or with two?  Please refer to the $500 million expansion fee, money that does not need to be shared with the NHLPA by the way, should you be curious as to why the answer will be two teams and not one. 

Las Vegas and... Quebec City

The unstated hope had been to put two teams into the current Western Conference, Las Vegas and Seattle, so you can proceed to play with two now equal 16 team Conferences (ending the unbalanced 16-14 East/West split).  One reason to hold off making any formal announcement this summer is the faint hope that Seattle politicians will approve a hockey-usable arena in the Emerald City but absent an NBA franchise shaking loose in the next few months, which could prompt the public funding of a Seattle arena, hockey fans in Washington State will continue to wait for the NHL.

Kansas City has a nice arena, but no prospective owner (or hockey fans), so it will continue to be a plan B for any team that needs to go look at a shiny new arena in the hopes of one being built at taxpayer expense in their home town.  Alternatively, it may be the next stop for the Coyotes when the people losing money in Arizona decide they will lose less money in Kansas.

No, if there are to be two expansion teams the NHL will need to go north of the border for one of them.  The Leafs have made it very clear that they will exercise the territorial veto, that the NHL denies they have, ensuring that no NHL hockey is played anywhere near (or within) the ACC for years to come so Gary and his Governors will need to find another hotbed of pent-up hockey demand with an NHL ready arena set to come online.  Enter the return of the Nordiques and the new Centre Videotron and the legal tender of Quebecor CEO Pierre Peladeau, spelled Pela-dough by Bettman and friends. 

How to Square the East-West Circle

The "problem" with Quebec is that it is most clearly NOT in the Western Conference.  The NHL has been prepared, in the past, to make geographic sacrifices with respect to divisional and conference alignment if it means that underserved hockey fans get to experience NHL hockey (read, if the NHL can cash expansion and relocation checks).  Recall that the Winnipeg Jets were in the same division as the Florida Panthers only two years ago.  Still, the competitive balance question is real as are the desires of certain franchises, most notably Detroit and Columbus, to remain in an "Eastern" conference after so many years being "trapped" in a conference where many games are two to three time zones away.  My proposed solution is to move beyond an East-West Conference model to one with eight divisions and four conferences. 

Eight Divisions of Four Teams, 6 Games Against Division Rivals (18 Games)

The eight divisions are geographically tight and will enhance the regional rivalries that fuel the passion of hockey fans.  For example the Pacific Division would have the three California teams and the new expansion Las Vegas (insert your preferred name here, I went with Posse).  The New York area teams are joined by historic rival, Boston, in a revamped Metro Division.  Nashville moves into a new South East division and can regularly compete with boarder state rival Carolina.  Teams would play divisional rivals 6 times over a season, enough to develop a good hate but not so often that you get sick of seeing the same teams over and over again.  For example Ranger fans would only need to out shout/out drink Devil or Islander fans three times per year at MSG.

Travel within divisions is quite manageable.  The longest trip within these new divisions is the Arizona to St. Louis trip (2051km), dwarfing even the Vancouver to Winnipeg distance (1887km).  That said, right now Montreal and Florida are in the same division (2302km) as are Anaheim and Edmonton (2251km).  Also, with the exception of Vancouver and Winnipeg in the newly proposed Can West division, every divisional rival is no more than one time-zone away.


Four Conferences of Eight Teams, 4 Games Against Conference Rivals (16 Games)

For years the Detroit Red Wings fought to escape the travel and time-shifting necessitated by being, along with Columbus, an eastern team in the NHL's Western Conference.  Quebec expansion money, even at $500 million US, is not going to make them any more eager to move back.  The new set up creates three American conferences (West, Central and East) and one Canadian conference.  With four games against each of the non-divisional rivals within each conference still builds on familiar rivalries developed through the current divisional set-up while still keeping travel and time-zone shifts, at least for the American teams, quite manageable.  So Nashville and Chicago can continue their recent playoff tilt over four games in the new American Central Conference just as Flyer fans can continue to torment Ranger and Bruin fans in the new American East Conference.

Travel within the American conferences is better than the current set up.  The longest trip in the America West Conference would be from San Jose to St. Louis (2784km); in the America Central it would be from Minnesota to Florida (2421km).  While they are more than double the distance from Boston to Columbus (1062km), the longest trip within the America East Conference it still compares favourably to the distance from Chicago to Vancouver (2898km) in the current Western Conference.  While St. Louis is still two time zones from California, that has been the case since the Blues were granted a franchise in 1967.  Detroit, one of the teams who would be most opposed to any re-relocation into the current Western Conference, will actually play more Conference games against the Eastern time-zoned Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers then they do within their own Great Lakes Division.

The Canadian Conference, admittedly, will get hit hard by travel and time zones.  Vancouver to Quebec City is an incredibly long haul (3835km) over 4 time zones.  Still, tell me that Canadian hockey fans won't relish the chance to see the Habs (or even the Leafs) come to town twice during a season.  It can be done and the rivalries are already established, they will simply get a chance to flourish under the new set up.


Everyone Sees Crosby, 2 Games Against Non-Conference Teams (48 Games)

One of the changes that was enshrined in the NHL's most recent re-structuring of the schedule was an assurance that every team visits every NHL city at least once.  The NHL deserves some credit for this, even if it is simply smart marketing, but knowing that Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin will be visiting Edmonton or Glendale is important to fans.  That the Blue, Blanc et Rouge will be headed to Hollywood, if only once a year, does matter and my proposal maintains that set up from the current NHL schedule.

Playoff Set-up To Produce A Final Four

Playoff races, even in an NHL with both two point and three point (read: loser point) games, are fun and regardless of the system chosen to set up the NHL's playoff brackets, the races will be intense.  While once the NHL playoffs consisted of 16 of 21 teams making the post-season, essentially reducing the regular season to an 8-month long seeding tournament, a 32 team NHL with half the league absent from spring hockey makes regular season contests and playoff positioning important from puck drop in October.

With the small, 4 team Divisions, rivalries as a result of Divisional play will, in my view, become even more intense.  Battles of Ontario, New York, California, (and hopefully Alberta and Quebec) become amplified with less teams to "get in the way".  Given the importance TV seems to place on such regional rivalries, I would presume focus on Divisional play would continue into the post-season.  Option one would simply be to have the top two teams from each Division play in the first round.  The second round would pit the Divisional winners against each other for the Conference crown.  This takes us down to one team from each of the four Conference.  Teams are ranked from 1 to 4 to establish the semi-final series with the winners off to compete for Lord Stanley.  Based on this season's standings, the set up would look like this:


Option two would still ensure that regular season Division leaders make the playoffs but, especially with the addition of two expansion teams, some Divisions may be seen as markedly weaker than others.  This problem addressed by simply adding a play-in game for those situations where the third-place team in the Conference's other division would play the second place team in if they had more points.  Who doesn't love a play-in game?  If, for example, San Jose finished with more points than Dallas (they didn't this year, but play along) the two would have a play-in game for the right to challenge St. Louis in the opening round.  The effect of this undermines Divisional rivalries somewhat but not as much as simply taking the top four teams in each Conference - presumably still seeding Division leaders 1 and 2, which would be a third option.

Advantages and Disadvantages, Ratings and Nationalism

The good people at Rogers just spent a mint on NHL rights in Canada. While they have not found the ratings bonanza they might have hoped for during the regular season, I suspect that their first round numbers will be (already are) fantastic - even with the "Center Of The Hockey Universe" (Leafs) on the outside looking in.  Why wouldn't they be?  Fully 5 of the 7 Canadian teams made the dance.  The record is 7 of 7 (before Ottawa) in 1982-83.  One of the downsides of my proposal is that 5 or 6 or even 8 Canadian teams will NOT make the post-season.  While the NHL Offices in New York might like the idea of selling their NBC and FoxSports partners less Canadian content, the fact remains that a quarter of the league is Canadian and even a larger number of its fans are.  My proposal ensures that there will always be a Canadian based semi-finalist, there will be no Calgary-Montreal Cup finals.  Last season, only Montreal played post-season hockey.  CBC and TSN did a fine job selling an almost exclusively American based NHL playoff product but what does the money want?

If you are Rogers, having spent more cash than God on a decade plus of NHL rights, do you want a guarantee that every Canadian team will get 34 all-Canadian regular season games each and every year; a guarantee of two opening round all-Canadian first round match-ups, each and every year; a guarantee of an all-Canadian second round all-Canadian match-up, each and every year; and one guaranteed Canadian semi-finalist each and every year?

Now NBC and the American Regional networks do not pay as much as Rogers, but if you were told that American teams would play only 16 regular season games against Canadian teams.  That no American team would play a Canadian team until, at the earliest, the semi-finals.  Would that be a selling point?  I think so, and selling - and the money involved - is going to guide this discussion as the NHL expansion train moves forward.  Just remember, adding Quebec doesn't have to force Detroit (or anyone else) into a Western Conference.  There is an alternative option.

Doug McLachlan

4/22/2015

Playoff pool standings



RankTeam NameTTLPLN
1Rob's Wolfpups434
2Doug's Lowlanders371
3Brian's Bladewalkers327
4Dan's Lesserlights314
5Bob's Shadyguys244
Legend: TTL - Points To Date PLN - Points Last Night