Contender or Pretender?

Time to move on to the second round, at least for some. Jersey and the Rangers both found out that late game 7 collapses can end your season. And we got a nice view of how to tell a contender from a pretender. Here's the scenario - on the same night, two teams go into the opposition's barn, and start off giving up three goals to the home team.

Here's the result for a playoff pretender, and a playoff contender

'Nuff said.


Flames Post-Mortem

Matchsticks and Gasoline have a nice work up on what befell the Flames in the first round this year, but I have some differences of opinion as to the severity of the failure.

1. Injuries. The Flames literally limped into the playoffs over the last four weeks, and it only got worse as the playoffs went on. How bad was it? This was your starting top 6 defensemen;

Aucoin - Leopold
Sarich - Negrin
Pardy - Ericksson

In other words, 'ugh'. Leopold and Sarich are two useful defenders, but Aucoin's best days are long behind him, Negrin and Pardy are raw rookies and Ericksson spent the entire year in the AHL for a very good reason - he isn't an NHL caliber defenseman. If Calgary had Phaneuf, Regher, and Warrener instead of Pardy/Ericksson/Negrin things might have been much, much different.

The Flames are widely considered to be built around four pillars; Iginla, Kipper, Regehr, and Phaneuf, and two of those four pillars were MIA for most of the first round. As one commenter on the M+G post noted its a miracle we weren't swept.

2. Coaching. Aside from the devestating injuries the Flames were playing through the biggest factor working against Calgary was Keenan. How did he fail? Let me count the ways;

- A powerplay that never practices despite being 0-5465 over the last half of the season (I exagerrate slightly). The truth is they were awful.

- When bottom six guys were out playing the top six, he never fed them more ice-time. Nystrom was Calgary's best forward in Game 5, but his ice-time barely shifted for Game 6.

- Strange fixation with Todd Bertuzzi. Listen, I dig Bertuzzi more than most, and all things considered he had a pretty good year, but he wasn't bringing much offense to the table at even strenght, and he turned into a give-away machine and penalty risk over the latter half of the series. You'd think that would mean 3rd and 4th line ice-time for the big fella, but no - Keenan had Bert playing with Iginla come hell or high-water, and his elbowing penalty two-minutes into Game 6 convinced me he doesn't belong. I'd have swapped Glen-X, Moss, Nystrom, Bourque or even Boyd onto Iggy's line the minute Bertuzzi started to struggle.

- Refusal to line-match with Quenville. Chicago managed to get the Keith-Seabrook pairing out whenever Iginla was out - and they did this whether Keenan had the last change or not.

3. Iggy's supporting cast. Langkow was playing with both hands busted. Jokinen was still trying to find chemistry with any winger on the club. Cammalleri vanished after game one never to appear again. Bourque gamely played through his recovery from a high-ankle sprain. In short, the forwards lacked both health and scoring touch, and that meant a lot of rough nights in the offensive zone.

4. Kiprusoff. The Flames outshot Chicago 44-16 in the final game and lost 4-1. That is normally a pretty clear indication that your goaltender was outplayed by the other guy. Kipper's been on a steady statistical slide since his boffo 2004 season, and is signed for big $ for several more years. Despite that, he was still one of the winningest goaltenders in the regular season - in part because he played an obscene number of games.

So...what to do?

The following players will likely not return;

Cammalleri - too expensive
Aucoin - expensive+old+slow
Bertuzzi - simply isn't the physical terror he was in the past, and his offense is now mediocre at best.

And you can pencil in the following as call-ups;

Backlund - he's been tearing it up for the Kelowna Rockets in the playoffs (including a hat-trick to elimenate the Vcr Giants on the same night Calgary went down in flames), and should replace some or most of the offense lost with Cammalleri's departure.

Negrin/Pelech - both impressed for short stretches, with Negrin having the higher offensive upside, and Pelech the better all-round physical game. Both got their feet wet this year and both have a shot at cracking the top 7.

- Replace Keenan. IMO he's done as a coach and the Flames would benefit from a new hire (with the Hitmen's Dave Lowry my top target). Injuries are the main issue with Calgary's playoff performance, but the fact is Keenan is a whip cracker and isn't a chess-master anymore (if he ever was) and Calgary needs someone who can do more than just roll his favourites over the board and tear the paint off the walls between periods.

- Get a backup goaltender who can spell Kiprusoff and win some games doing so. Kipper's best year came in the season he played the fewest games, and while he can be a workhorse, the load this year was clearly way too heavy for one guy to carry on his own. Even 15 fewer games would be awesome.


In Praise of Tie Games?

One of my favourite columnists is Andrew Potter at Macleans, and he offers this review of philosophy professor Daniel Weinstock's essay in favour of returning to tie games.

Andrew Potter + Philosophy + Hockey? I'm in bliss.

That said, I have some serious issues with the conclusions drawn;

- The shootout simply is exciting to watch, and arguing that ties are somehow superior strikes me as a mugs game. The NHL is primarily about providing a service of entertainment with the act of providing practical moral philosophy a benefit far down the list of priorities for either the league or the fan (at least the fans who don't also happen to be professional moral philosophers).

- From a purely pragmatic and historic standpoint, allowing tie games lead to more boring games. Teams tied closing in on the end of regulation stop looking for the win and start playing for the tie. Ditto for OT. Was their anything more excruciating to watch than two teams trying not to lose by not playing for the win?

- The penalty shot simply is a part of the game, and is widely considered the most exciting play in hockey. Not only does settling ties with a shootout give the teams a reason to play for the win, in the event that they are tied after OT we get treated to a spectacle of entertainment that can't otherwise be purchased. I find the notion that shootouts are 'not part of the game' to be weak.

- The 'loser point' preserves some of the 'moral victory' a tie game would otherwise have provided. It ain't much, and it ain't pretty, but its still there.

- Ties in the playoffs are simply noxious. Playing till there is a winner is the only way to go. We learn more about the values of endurance, perseverance, etc. by watching an OT struggle on and on than by having it stop short after the first OT is played and calling it a draw.

- This isn't to say that tie games weren't good games. One of the commenters mentioned the Montreal v Red Army 3-3 tie as one of the best games ever. Would it have been worse if it had been settled in OT, or by a shootout after OT? Would a single fan have left because they didn't want to see Guy Lafleur take the shootout vs Tretiak?


The Next Daigle?

Lowetide talks about the latest scouting report on Tavares - and ain't pretty.

In a nutshell - he's a one dimensional gunner who doesn't help his team 5v5, and who apparently possesses an attitude of 'entitlement'. Gosh I wonder why with everyone salivating over him since he was 15 he might develop something like that.

For me the decision to deal him was reached after the WJC when I'd had a chance to see him play extensively ('seen him good' - so to speak) and to decide for myself whether I thought there were flaws in his game.

And I think there are. He just isn't an elite skater. No question about it - and that is frankly a scary thing. Rob Schremp went from highlight reel junior ace to AHL bum all because his balance and compete level weren't up to snuff. What works at mid-speed against junior D-men won't work against elite NHL defenders. Ever. So that was alarm bell one - and it was enough to convince me I could move him to try and win a cup - and not regret it for the rest of my life.

Alarm bell two is his playoff performance this year. Instead of stepping it up a notch against the best competition (see Hall, Taylor of the Windsor Spitfires) he has been decidedly average. Tighter checking, increased tempo, or just burnout - whatever the reason, it should be a klaxon going off to NHL Gms that Tavares playoff stats are so underwhelming.

That all said, I still project him as a potential Bret Hull type (especially if he converts to the wing where his lack of elite footspeed won't be as great a hindrance), who can light the lamp with ridiculous ease given a playmaker who get him the puck in position. The thing is I just don't think that is a sure thing anymore.

I'm also convinced now that if I'm Garth Snow, I take Hedman.


Great Whites Heads Roll...

Calgary (AP) - In a move that would seem more fitting for the rival Severed Heads organization, Great Whites ownership did some severing of their own. Posting what could well be a franchise (if not League) record minus-163 Omnivore rating, changes had to be made. In a year that was for fans a hopeful Cup-run, the Great Whites were coached to near Turkey winners from a draft baseline second from best, topped only by the Highlanders. After firing their coach, Great Whites ownership announced that the GM's tenure will be probationary for the coming year. Presumably, only the rising of acquired prospects like (John) Tavares, (Zach) Bogosian and (Paul) Stastny, and anticipated (but still awaited) blossoming of future FP (Carey) Price will keep the GM's head attached. Many expect current FP (Brad) Richards to also pay his share of the price for the team nearly sleeping with the fishes this year. The future still holds promise, but the franchise has to prove that they can take the tools they have and do something they haven't done in far too many years - take a legitimate run at the Predator Cup.

FUNHL News and Notes

- The Blog Banner. If you are reading this you have probably already noticed the change to include the PV FPs. If you haven't noticed yet, one wonders what organs you are using to read this post (does the FUNHL blog come in braille? The mind reels).

I anticipate the blog returning to the more aesthetically pleasing Malkin/Heatley format next year.

- The Pensblog has itself in high dudgeon over the man-love that Pierre Mcguire lavishes on Mike Richards during the telecasts.

"Richards is taking this game over. He made one play. What a leader."

"Doc and Edzo, I'm touching my penis right now.During that commercial break, Richards sat on the bench drinking water. That leadership doesn't grow on trees."

"Doc and Edzo, I can't comment right now. Richard's genitals are in my vicinity."

"Okay, I'm back. Did you see Richards congratulate his teammate after that goal? I have such an erection right now."

"Doc and Edzo, Richards calmed down his bench after that penalty. I swear, if I had to acquire AIDS, I'd want it from Mike Richards."

All class those guys at Pensblog, but they do bring the funny. And Mcguire does bring the unecessary man-love, so call it poor-taste if you will but don't be afraid to laugh when you say it.

- The Minnesota Wild in an effort to find legitimacy have canned both Lemaire and Risebrough. Rumours abound that the dressing room was a fractious mess, that the players loathed the coach, that Risebrough encouraged Backstrom to play through a bad-hip (that now requires surgery) and that the hyped Norris candidacy of Brent Burns was derailed because the team didn't treat his concussion properly. Is it a coincidence that Burns shares an agent with Gaborik, and that there may be some gamesmanship going on? Probably not. But the Wild's drafting has been almost uniformly terrible (AJ Thelen? Benoit Pouliot? - where are you?), in particular the decline is noticeable witht he 2004 draft which produced exactly zero NHL players for them, not to mention the offense has always been a mess, and the whole thing could take them some time to clean it up.

If Wild ownership reads this they should know I'm available.

- The Severed Heads post-mortem wasn't as ugly as some previous years, but there were a number of stink-0 decisions that cost the team;

Drafting Lecavalier instead of Datsyuk in the 1st.
Colin White as +/- down the stretch
Trading Tavares to get back the Mono-ridden zombie corpse of Phil Kessel.
Trading Luongo for Kiprusoff and St Louis
Failing to promote the red-hot Bobby Ryan over the suddenly pacifistic Chris Neil

None of which were solely responsible for the teams failed stretch drive, but all of them contributed in their own small way to falling short, especially over the last three weeks when the hardware was on the line.

...and so it goes.

- Now that the season is over with and the playoffs are rolling, ones attention naturally turns to next years FUNHL ED (at least mine does when it is not focused like a laser beam on the upcoming NHL ED) .

In my conversations with two other GMs, here are 12 names we are fairly confident will go in the 1st rnd;

Getzlaf-C Ana, Parise-L NJ, Datsyuk-C Det, Semin-L Wsh, Nabokov-G SJ, Backstrom-G Min, Rafalski-D Det, Boyle-D SJ, Gonchar-D Pit, Alfreddson-R Ott, Phaneuf-Cgy (FP), Malkin-C Pit (FP)

The first four guys on the list could all be new FPs, and the last two guys definitely will be as they are both RFAs simply begging to be long-term contracts. As usual though, these predictions are always wrong in that someone goes off the board to take a guy nobody expected.

- All of which begs the question; which FPs might get cut? St Louis-R TBay (Heads), and Gaborik-R Min (Wolves) appear to be obvious candidates based on the quality of internal candidates, but what about; Hejduk-R Col? Sure he had a 5pt game, but that accounted for roughly 85% of his offense this year. Or what about Marty Turco? After years of stability in net, Marty looked more than a little past his prime - leading all active goaltenders for lowest GAA for much of the season. Or how about the oft-injured Brad Richards-C Dal? He went from indestructible point per game center in TBay to brittle third line center in Dallas faster than you can say 'Martin Straka'.

Look for some off-season jockeying by teams looking to patch holes till help can arrive from the farm (Patrick Kane), or in the form of an early first round pick that would let them take an obvious FP caliber guy.

- Here are two thought experiments for you;

A 37-38 Jagr returns from a year of exile in the KHL and signs with Pittsburgh for a $1M. Does he automatically become the first overall pick? (I say Yes). Do you feel the same way if he signs in Edmonton? (uh..No)

Gaborik is dropped by the Wolves, and we discover that Marc Crawford is the new coach in Minnesota and he is preaching from the bible of offensive hockey. Is Gaborik still a legit first round pick (or even an FP? - marginally Yes) or do his repeated trips to the hospital make a better bet for the later rounds? (I think he's due for a healthy season - isn't he?)

- Ten reasons Malkin is better than Crosby;

10. Malkin makes better commercials than Crosby does.

9. Pierre McGuire doesn't gush obscenely about the size of Malkin's thighs.

8. Malkin doesn't get hurt. Crosby does (high ankle sprain anyone?)

7. When Crosby gets hurt, Malkin's ppg actually goes up.

6. Crosby who was clearly too adolescent and untrustworthy to be allowed to live on his own, moved into Lemieux's basement. Malkin not only lives on his own but when he wants home cooking he just flies his parents over from Russia.

5. Mike Richards is the 'Crosby-stopper'. With 7 points in 3 games, there is no 'Malkin-stopper'

4. Crosby looks like the spitting image of Andy Sandberg from SNL, whereas Malkin most closely resembles Boris Karloff. One is a super cool iconic legend adored by millions, while the other is known mostly for 'dick in a box'.

3. Nobody goes to a Capitals vs Penguins game wearing a 'Malkin is a douche' shirt.

2. Malkin is 6'3" and just shy of 200lbs, has 'fear my wingspan' and resembles elegant swift skating pivots of the past like Belliveau and Lemieux. Crosby in contrast is like Martin St Louis on growth hormones, he's hobbit with muscles.

1. Malkin lead the league in scoring, and lead the Pens in; goals, assists and points. N'uff said.


Leafs to attempt a trade for shot at Tavares

You can read about Brian Burke's blustering here.

What is Burke's next major announcement? That he is going to move heaven and earth to trade for Crosby?

Is their even a glimmer of hope something could come to pass where Tavares becomes a Leaf?

If you were Garth Snow would you consider; the Leafs 1st this year (7th), Luke Schenn-D (essentially an Adam Foote clone), and a 1st from next year for Tavares? I don't think that passes muster, and I can't see Burke having enough sugar to sweeten the deal anymore than that.

The truth is that the Islanders need Tavares - badly. They need him to sell tickets. They need him to score goals. They need him to land a new arena deal. They need him to play on a cheap rookie contract.

Even if they decide internally that Hedman is the slightly better hockey option in the long run, Tavares brings too much else to the table for them to ignore.

And way too much to be interested in anything Burke has to offer.

Tavares V Hall

I took a quick peek at the OHL playoff scoring leaders and noticed something interesting (at least to Severedheads mgt...)

John Tavares - 10Gp, 6g, 8a = 14pts, 1.4ppg, and currently 17th in playoff scoring.

Taylor Hall - 11Gp, 9g, 13a = 22pts, 2.0ppg and 1st overall in playoff scoring.

And believe me, seeing this definitely put a smile on my face.


Vendetta Win Predator Cup and Challenge Cup; Bladerunners Run Away With Omnivore; Edge Stuck With Herbivore

I'm not going to bother doing up "official stats" with manually calculated goaltending numbers - no two teams are close enough that it warrants doing that. Here's hoping that I can figure out how to use the Yahoo! stats next season to avoid this problem in the future.

Congrats again to Darrell on their impressive double. This is their third Predator Cup (2001-02, 2003-04 were the previous two) and fourth Challenge Cup (1999-00, 2001-02, 2003-04 were the previous three).

The Bladerunners win the Omnivore running away, the franchise's third Omnivore plaque. I don't think I can stress enough what a phenomenal win this is. Look at the Bladerunner's baseline - 808pts! Only the Lost Boys started as far behind as the Bladerunners did and he finishes in the top four, that is impressive.

Great season everyone! I always look forward to the draft in September and love that I am still hanging with the gang almost twenty years later. Next year can't start soon enough...must find 10 more pts...:-)


The argument for cheerleaders...

...at least, its the argument for frisky ex-Bluebomber cheerleaders with digital cameras and too much free time.

Also probably NOT safe for work. I'm just saying.

Florida Fans - best in the NHL?

She gets my vote (Note: NOT Safe For Work)

Hockey Game Boobs - video powered by Metacafe

Quote of the Day

"Rob Schremp has been stepped over by so many prospects he has athlete's scalp." - Lowetide


I wanted to extend my thanks to everyone for participating in this years pool. It was once again a marvelous adventure and I am thrilled to have shared it with you all.

I'd like to extend special thanks to;

Brian - for the upkeep on our roster listings, spreadsheets for the drafts etc. It is meaningful and often thankless work like this that helps keep the pool running efficiently.

The DC (Bob, Dan, Rob - ? I hope I have that correct) - Adjudicating disputes is never fun or pretty, and you deserve our admiration for willingly placing yourselves in the line of fire.

A special thanks to;

Doug - statskeeper is a thoroughly miserable position, and you deserve our warmest kudos for the excellent work done to keep us all informed as the year wore on.



One Day Left

An alternate title for this could be "Who is that big lady and where is she going with that microphone?". Can I see a way to build a different ending? Sure, but I think it would need a carpenter...



Friday Night Stats: Vendetta Parade Route Edition

With almost a 10pt lead going into the final Saturday of the season, the Personal Vendetta are sitting pretty. While the tradition is that the winning GM gets an FP jersey, I think Darrell might want to consider a deadline-day pick-up in Ryan Getzlaf as his option (easier to do now that the Disney Corp is no longer doing the team logo). Last week's 13pt performance by Getzlaf (9pts, 16pim - 14 of which he got at the 60:00min mark of last Sunday's game to move back into 1st place) is the difference right now between 1st and 2nd. He, from my eyes, is the reason the Vendetta are poised to hoist their 3rd Predator Cup.

Here's hoping that this is premature but it feels, sadly, a lot like Cam's 2nd Cup where he held me off on the final weekend to get a narrow win. Two more nights - game on.


Ovechkin PSA

Cam, I can't seem to properly post this but as it played on the big screen the last time Washington played in Atlanta - we should have it posted.

(fixed: ch)

GOY Candidate

What can be said, except that it is quite possibly the most ridiculous shoot-out move ever recorded.

Is it a true GOY candidate though? There are two serious problems;

- its a shootout goal (which admittedly bugs me)
- it occurred in the minors (instant disqualification)

The shooter is a 28 year old career minor leaguer from Sweden named Nick Lindberg. Way to make yourself famous kid!

Obliterating Hits + Hockey Tats

Sweet Hockey Goodness.

Here are some (less than inspiring) hockey tats as collected by THN

After gagging on that mess, here are some much better looking Hockey Canada Tats


Official Week 27 Stats (now with updated Omnivore Numbers!)

Getzlaf Vaults Ventetta To Top; 4th Challenge Cup Crown - Week 26 (unofficial) Stats

Vendetta forward Ryan Getzlaf capped a two pt game with 14 PIM to give the Vendetta an 11+pt Sunday and the lead in the Predator Cup race going into the final week.

The 47+pt week was also enough to give the Personal Vendetta their 4th Challenge Cup Trophy as they dispatched the Severed Heads two games to none.

One week to go and the Vendetta have the momentum, a narrow lead, and a much healthier line-up than the Highlanders. At the bottom of the table, the Edge need to make up 10pts after essentially making up no ground on the Great Whites in week 26.

7 days gentlemen, game on.


Week 27 Line-ups (Final Week)

You all know what to do and, if I may, I really wanted to say thank-you to everyone who posts their line-ups or those of their fellow GMs up on the blog. You can't appreciated how much easier it is to enter the line-ups into my spreadsheet when they are all in one place and in one font. They practically enter themselves (which may explain the occasional mistype.

Best of luck to everyone (save Darrell :-) of course) over the next seven days.

Goal Scoring Is Up (or my prefered title: Darrell's players can stop now)


James Mirtle breaks down the numbers but if every game was a shutout from here on in, there would still be more goals scored this year than last. Not enough to up the GAA standard (please for the love of all that is sacred, let's not start that debate anew) but a welcome trend nonetheless.

Saturday Night Stats - Highlanders Make Small Gains, Edge Lose Momentum

The Highlanders extended their narrow lead over the Vendetta on Saturday night but only by the barest of margins. Sunday will be a potentially big day for the Vendetta who have a big man-games advantage and hope to potentially retake the Predator Cup lead.

The Edge, who had shaved the Great Whites' lead over them to under 10 pts gave back a week's work and then some on Saturday. They now trail by a dozen with 8 days left.


Hitler Vs Oilers

Week 26 - Thursday Night's Games (Backes Saves Highlanders Bacon? Edition)

GOY Candidate

Here's another GOY candidate, this time from 'The Mule' Johan Franzen...

A cut through the crease, have your legs taken out from under you, full-windmill slapshot while doing a legs kicking, almost completely horizontal 'Superman'.

Make sure you check out the super-super slow-motion replay. Ultra-ridiculous.

GOY Candidate

Linus Omark again...

IMO this is simply the sickest goal of the year - unfortunately, he's scoring on the shootout against a Swiss goaltender in a non-NHL game - so I can't see it as fully qualifying.

That said, the Oilers draftee is definitely moving up my prospect list.


Week 26 - Wednesday Night (Highlanders Waste Opportunity)

There were only 6 NHL games on the schedule last night but the Highlanders had 10 players, including both FPs (and FP to be Mike Green) plus both tgs, while the Vendetta had only 3 players. A big opportunity for the Highlanders to exploit a man-games advantage and put some distance between themselves and their main competition. They gained less than 5pts, which is simply not good enough. A wasted opportunity by the Highlanders that they hope they don't look back on and regret.

The Severed Heads gained a few points on the Vendetta themselves as they try and right the ship in time to pull even in the Challenge Cup final. They are still down in the series and down in the second game but the gap is one that can still be made up. They did pull back ahead of the Bladerunners into 3rd place in the Predator Cup standings which has to be some encouragement (despite the Prospect Draft impact).

The Edge are beginning to fear that the Herbivore is coming back to Sabrina Road with the Great Whites and the Wolves having solid weeks - sights can still be set on the Lost Boys but they need to make up more than 20pts in less than two weeks.


Virtual Tie In Predator Cup Race

Less than two weeks to go and, well, it is stupid close.

Full credit to the Vendetta GM who came forward to point out that I had him playing the wrong d-man last week (it should have been Keith CHI - 1pt - instead of the Zidlicky MIN - 5pts - I had him down for). Don't feel too bad for Darrell, his Ducks got him those 5pts back for last night in essentially eliminating the Oilers from post-season consideration.

The Severed Heads get passed by the Bladerunners, which of course will be spun by the Heads' managment as an effor to improve their prospect-draft position, while the Bladerunners can be sure of one piece of hardware at the end of it all with almost a 100pt lead in the Omnivore. Seriously people, how can you not give Brian props for coach/GM of the year to pull that much out of such an injury plagued roster.