“Bettman has only a marginal interest in the weaker teams. He only wants the NHL to make a bigger profit as a whole.” -- Dominik Hasek

May 31, 2007

Conn Smythe Winner?

His name is Samuel Pahlsson. His name is Samuel Pahlsson.
His name is Samuel Pahlsson. His name is Samuel Pahlsson.
His name is Samuel Pahlsson. His name is Samuel Pahlsson.
His name is Samuel Pahlsson. His name is Samuel Pahlsson.
His name is Samuel Pahlsson. His name is Samuel Pahlsson.
His name is Samuel Pahlsson. His name is Samuel Pahlsson.

(Thanks to With Leather and Teebz for the inspiration.)


Sid The Stud

photo courtesy Gene J Puskar/AP

Sidney Crosby, NHL scoring champion and known by some as the possible second-coming of Hockey Jesus, was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins today, their first since the retirement of Mario Lemieux in 2006. Crosby's still only 19 years old, by the way.

When I was 19, I spent my time as a college sophomore just trying to make it to class on time and the only scoring I did was with my first long-term girlfriend. I eventually graduated from college but the girlfriend didn't work out.

But I digress.

Crosby has proven himself as a scoring phenomenon, having already become the youngest-ever NHL scoring champion, as well as the youngest to score two consecutive 100+ point seasons and 200 career points. He's an offensive machine. Apparently, the Penguins also see him as a leadership machine. Despite their round one departure at the hands of the Eastern Conference champion Senators early in this season's playoffs, Crosby led the team in scoring and showed a constant drive to win---even if it didn't work out. Oh, and he played the whole series on a broken foot.

I think the Penguins are doing the right thing by slapping a big "C" on Crosby's chest, even if he is still very young. Pittsburgh has only just begun their rise as an NHL powerhouse, and in a couple of years when they win their first Cup since 1992, it will be good to see Sid The Captain raise the hardware above his head first.


Checking Line To The Rescue

One of the most well-known assumptions in playoff hockey is that defense wins games, not offense. The Anaheim Ducks are certainly proving that in this year's Stanley Cup Finals against Ottawa. Not only has their checking line scored the game-winner in the first two games of the series, but they have also totally neutralized the Senators' biggest scoring threats.

Arguably the best offensive line in all of the NHL, the Senators' Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson, have been completely shut down so far in this series. Even worse, instead of scoring goals, they're now turning over the puck under pressure, creating the few scoring chances that the Ducks need to eek out close wins.

In Game 2
, it was Heatley's mistake that led to Samuel Pahlsson's game-winner, a quick wrister past turned-around defensman Joe Corvo and into the net behind goalie Ray Emery. Emery had a solid night, making 30 saves. With no goal support from the boys in front of him, though, the lone goal he allowed was enough to decide the game. Thems the breaks.

Back to the point about turnovers: the "HAS" line became the "has not" line, responsible for eleven of Ottawa's 21 turnovers in the game. Alfredsson alone gave up the puck six times. His line was also held to just six shots on goal, two each by him, Heatley and Spezza.

Speaking of shots, Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere only faced 16 of them total, some of them point-blank and through traffic, and recorded his first postseason shutout of this year. Rumor has it that he also called Alfredsson's mother a hamster and said his father smelled of elderberries.

Game 3 is in Ottawa, which is probably good news for the Senators. California knows how to party, but the Sens don't look like they were invited.


May 29, 2007

Avalanche Stuff Watch™

In my unending effort to help everyone buy extremely expensive Avalanche-related hockey memorabilia that you really don't need, I bring you the end-all, be-all of Stuff Watch entries: the Avalanche's actual equipment, now on sale!

On June 1st and 2nd, Altitude Authentics at the Pepsi Center will be selling a multitude of game-worn and game-used equipment ranging from sticks and helmets to socks and pants. If the Avalanche used it and now don't want it, it can be yours! This sale only happens once a year, so don't miss out.

I can't wait to put on a pair of sweaty hockey pants worn only 15 times by Jordan Leopold. Or maybe I can score some goalie pads that belonged to Jose Theodore. Never been used!


May 28, 2007

The Cup Awaits

Finally, after what seems like the longest delay ever, the Stanley Cup Finals get underway tonight between the Senators of Ottawa and the Ducks of Anaheim. In general, the winner is a toss-up, with predictions ranging from Ducks in 5 to Senators in 5. It's anybody's series, at least according to the "experts".

I'm not dumb enough to make a prediction, because I honestly have no idea how it's going to go. I'd like to see the Senators win it, and send Brian Burke back to California without the hardware, but I'm not going to predict a Sens win.

The series previews:

ESPN, TSN, Yahoo Sports, CBS Sportsline, The Hockey News, and NHL.com.


May 24, 2007

Hradek On Free Agents

I love the few weeks between the end of the NHL season and the free agency signing period. Speculation runs wild and everybody says they know where the best players are going. And, almost always, the predictions are worthless.

Would Ryan Smyth pass on a 10-year deal with the Islanders in favor of Detroit?

Would Chris Drury say no to the Western Conference and join the Rangers?

Would Scott Gomez be a good fit in Atlanta?

Yes, says EJ Hradek on ESPN's hockey podcast today. And is he going to be proven right? Who the hell knows? Who cares? All I know is trying to predict this stuff is both fun and absolutely meaningless in the end.


So Long Predators, We Hardly Knew Ye

Jim Balsillie wanted to buy the Penguins. When that didn't work out, he just scrolled down the list of NHL teams alphabetically organized on his Blackberry and decided to go for the Predators next. This time, he had a little more luck.

Not so lucky are the 15,000 or so Nashville residents who attended the Predators games (on average) last season. Despite being a dominant team during the regular season, the Preds haven't been able to generate the kind of local corporate interest so critical to the survival of modern professional sports teams. There was plenty of talk during this past season that of all the teams in the NHL other than the Florida Panthers, the Nashville Predators were the most likely to move in the coming years.

It's likely that it won't take more than two. Balsillie won't move the Predators next season, but there is no doubt that his plans involve taking the team back to Canada with him, probably to somewhere in Quebec or Ontario---or so the rumors go.

Can't say that I blame him, since Canada could use another team (or four) and the fine residents of Tennessee just aren't going to appreciate hockey like people farther north.

I've actually been to two games at the Gaylord Entertainment Center where the Predators play. They were both Avs games, of course. I saw the Avs lose to Nashville during the 2000-01 season (the last year they won the Cup) and again I saw the Avs play an awesome but unfortunate OT loss to the Preds during the 2005-06 season. Both times I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the Nashville atmosphere. It will be a shame to lose it as a hockey town.

But such is life. One more year and the Predators will be somewhere in Canada, probably with a new name and a new look. Whatever pans out should be interesting, at least.


May 23, 2007

Lookin' Out For Grandpa

I think I'm going to go with a larger font size from now on, as it finally dawned on me how hard it can be to read undersized arial font on a white background. So from now on, no need to break out the bifocals just to enjoy your daily dose of DLS.


Representative Government Faces Water Fowl In Finals

So finally the Dead Wings have been defeated, and the horrible abomination that is their post-season success has come to an end. The Ducks, often despite themselves, managed to win in six games. Dominik Hasek, whose atomic half-life appeared to be in the neighborhood of 300 years, suddenly seemed a little too old. Todd Bertuzzi looked like an idiot for the most part, and that always makes me happy. Pavel Datsyuk, on the other hand, finally escaped the stigma of being a playoff choker, just as a certain Swede on another team has done. Henrik Zetterberg somehow managed to draw comparisons to actual superstars in the league, despite scoring no points in 11 of the Wings' 18 playoff games. And finally, a guy named Pronger, who is apparently more hated these days for his wife than his dominant defensive play, annoyed and offended everyone not on his team to the point of tears and now gets his second chance in two seasons to win the Stanley Cup.

His Ducks will face a finally-dominant Ottawa Senators team that hasn't had a series go longer than five games, and beat powerhouse Cup favorites Buffalo like they were a redheaded stepchild. Their once-maligned Swedish captain has scored at least a point in 12 of 15 playoff games, including the series-clinching goal against the Sabres despite being on the short end of a 3-on-1 defensive ambush. Their goalie has proven himself to be as solid and consistent as they need him to be, and has a goals against average of 1.95 and a save percentage of .919. The Senators' other stars are just as consistent in the playoffs as they were all season. They are clearly the favorites to win the Cup.

So, who to root for? The Senators are a great team with some really amazing star players and at least 5.1 percent of their province behind them. Finally the Cup could return to Canada. On the other hand, the Ducks boast an unbelievable defense and an up-and-coming superstar. And they beat the Dead Wings. The decision is a tough one. Who to favor?

The answer: WHO CARES? The Avs didn't make the playoffs and the Wings are now out, so what difference does it make to me who wins? None at all! I'll just blissfully watch what I'm sure will be an awesome series and bask in the glory that is playoff hockey. Regardless of who wins, a team (and a lot of players) that have never won the Cup will finally get to hoist that baby up---that's always a sweet sight.


Wings: Finally Dead


May 22, 2007

Stocking The Blue Line

The Avalanche management appears to be working hard on contract renewals and prospect development as their off-season continues. Yesterday they re-signed all of their restricted free agent defensemen.

Jordan Leopold signed a two-year contract at $1.5M a year. Kurt Sauer signed a one-year deal for $719K and Jeff Finger, coming off of strong play during the last 22 games of the season, agreed to a one-year, two-way contract valued at $475K. As InTheCheapSeats pointed out, these are extremely cap-friendly numbers and could prove to be major values for Colorado.

Another player signed was David Jones, a forward prospect from Dartmouth who had a strong season, including being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and earning the title Ivy League Player of the Year by unanimous vote. Just add him to the ranks of the truly gifted young forwards currently working their way up through the Avalanche development system.

So far so good.


The Sport Of Rebels

This has never been true in Canada, but in the US, hockey has always been an "alternative" sport. The NHL has enjoyed impressive popularity (early- to mid-1990s) and also media whipping-boy status (the lockout of 2004-05 to the present). Despite the wide range of attention and coverage over the years, hockey never reached true mainstream status in the US.

I first discovered hockey when I was 12 years old, sometime during 1991. The Penguins would win their first Stanley Cup that year, and my first favorite player ever was Brett Hull. He scored 86 goals that season as part of the "Hull And Oates Line". Wayne Gretzky was still a dominant offensive force and tallied 163 points in his third year with the Kings.

Where I grew up, hockey didn't exist, except at a couple of local sports cards stores, and even then, the hockey edition of the Beckett price guide magazine was way back in the back with strange cards bearing names like "Pro Set" and "O-Pee-Chee", not the Topps and Donruss we were used to. All of my friends were sports junkies like me, but I was the only one into hockey. The other kids didn't understand the sport and didn't really care.

A couple of years later the sport was growing. Popularity was on the rise. The Rangers won the Cup in an amazing series that cemented Mark Messier's place in hockey lore and boosted hockey's profile---America's biggest city won sports' biggest trophy. I had more friends that liked hockey. In fact, hockey was popping up everywhere in the mid-1990s. Even Snoop Dogg was sporting a Penguins jersey (and another one I can't identify) in the video for "Gin And Juice":

Hockey was in the newspapers, on ESPN and even in rap videos. My friends that normally only cared about football and basketball were buying Devils jerseys and the awesome early hockey games for the Sega Genesis. All of my sports buddies knew who Pavel Bure was and how weird it was for Gretzky to be wearing a Blues uniform.

But hockey never lost its niche appeal. It remained a sport not everyone knew about, and those who followed it felt a little like rebels. We few hockey fans, young as we were, felt like we belonged to a secret society of people who understood what a real sport was all about. We could talk about baseball all day with our dads, but hockey was ours. Just ours.

Fast forward to today. Hockey is definitely still a niche, but not a niche people are willing to embrace anymore. Instead, it's a niche that gets no respect or appreciation---and hardly any publicity in the US at all, unless it's negative. The fans themselves obsess over inconsequential rule changes and penalty calls and the minutia of neutral zone defensive strategies. Instead of embracing the sport as it is, boosting the stars and embracing the teams, they clamor for some kind of magic formula that will instantly turn the NHL into the NFL.

Shut up already. The niche appeal of hockey is what made it cool enough for Snoop Dogg (of all people) to embrace in the mid-90s, even when he and his fellow gangstas were pioneering new forms of cool all by themselves. In fact, Snoop seems like the only one who still gets it today:

We could all learn a thing or two from Snoop.


Winner By A Neck

Jes Golbez of Hockey Rants and NHL Fanhouse fame expressed interest in creating a series of "separated at birth" comparison photo montages featuring NHL players and their lookalikes in the celebrity and entertainment world. Thinking it was a good idea, and wanting an excuse to point out something I noticed a long time ago, I submit to you the following (highly accurate, I think) comparison:

Andy McDonald of the Anaheim Ducks and Jeffrey Sebelia of the third season of Bravo's reality show Project Runway.

Seriously, look at their necks! They're huge! And they have the same haircuts! OMG WTF

I'm man enough to admit that Project Runway is one of my favorite TV shows. Reality show contests that actually require the contestants to have skill and talent are few and far between, and what better way to scope a bunch of hot runway models---not to mention Heidi Klum---every single episode?

Anyway, McDonald and Sebelia. Drink it in.


May 21, 2007

Hey Hockey Fans, Why The Long Face?

Great is the furor over NBC's decision to dump Saturday's matchup between the Senators and Sabres to Versus once the game went to overtime, in favor of their extended Preakness Stakes horse race coverage. While fans in Buffalo weren't effected, everyone else in the US was, including me. I didn't care too much since I have Versus and watch hockey on that channel all the time. Others, however, don't have it or can't remember what number it is on their TV menu and are understandably grumpy about it.

Why did NBC do it? Some smell a conspiracy between the NHL (specifically Fuhrer Bettman) and NBC, but I'm not buying it. What I am buying is what advertisers are buying---namely, time during a major horse race with at least some national appeal. NBC charged an arm and a leg for commercial space during their multi-hour coverage of a two-minute horse race, and they deferred to those advertisers when deciding which sports event to air. Simply put: there is more money in the Triple Crown of horse racing than there is the Eastern Conference Finals of the NHL playoffs. And I'm not the only one who realizes this.

Now, this isn't always the case for horses, because I remember several weeks ago when an OT game was shown in its entirety on NBC and a scheduled special ridiculously called "Barbaro: A Nation's Horse" (where are our royalty checks?) was dumped over to CNBC to make way. So it's not always the case that NBC has deferred to other programming when hockey games go long.

I don't believe that Gary Bettman specifically worked with NBC to dump the Sens/Sabres game as soon as it went to OT as a premeditated way to encourage shootouts in the post-season. After all, a shootout would have taken at least a half hour to complete, and NBC switched over to their Preakness coverage the second the game went to overtime. They wouldn't have covered a shootout either.

I do believe, however, that this incident will be used by pro-shootout factions to justify a switch in future playoffs. "See, if there were shootouts in the playoffs, networks like NBC wouldn't dump their coverage because OT takes too long." That's garbage, but I'm sure someone will say it.

At any rate, I got to see the game-winning goal by Alfredsson and the dejected look on the faces of all the Sabres, so it was worth it, even if it was on Versus...


Waddling Closer

The Ducks are now one win away from eliminating the Dead Wings from the playoffs. It's long overdue. I won't say much more than that, as keeping my chatter about this series to a minimum seems to be working better than actively rooting for the Ducks. So, that's all I'll say about it.


May 20, 2007

Avalanche Stuff Watch™

The latest and greatest Avalanche-related junk from around the internets (it's not a dump truck!).

Item #1:

Available from the MeiGray Group, a Paul Kariya game-worn jersey from the 2003-04 season for the completely reasonable price of $2995. Hopefully the buyer scores more wearing the jersey than Kariya did that year.

Item #2:

On eBay, a CCM helmet (complete with Avs logo on the side) autographed by Joe Sakic. So far no bids, but you can skip the troublesome auction process and just drop $299 right now. There's no word on the size, though, so your dreams of streaking the next local pee-wee hockey game wearing only a Sakic-signed brain bucket may be thwarted by an undersized...helmet.

Item #3:

Also on ebay, a certified mint Patrick Roy rookie card from the O-Pee-Chee set of 1986. You can own this extremely valuable piece of cardboard and ink right now for just $399. And you better hurry, because the offer ends tomorrow, and then your chance to throw your children's college money away---one hockey card at a time---will slip through your fingers.

Item #4:

Speaking of kiddies, you can distract them from the financial demolition of their educational future by getting them a Colorado Avalanche Die Cast Tractor Trailer from (oddly enough) MLB.com. With a price of only $12.99, you'll barely even notice that you fell for a cheap marketing ploy and bought something with absolutely no relation to hockey whatsoever. Go for it!


Partisan Epilogues

Senators fan photos courtesy of Flickr user JamesMcLennan

The final words on the death of the Sabres and the birth of the now-Cup-favorite Senators from the hockey blogoverse:

Sabres: Dead, but valiantly dead.

Senators: Onward Swedish soldier.

Senators: Something about dingo monkey crank...


May 18, 2007

Hockey References Gone Bad

I was watching SportsCenter on ESPN this morning, and as the show was ending, the anchors bantered about interleague play in baseball and the coming series between the Blue Jays and the Phillies.

One anchor said, "What about Toronto and Philly?" as in, why the heck are those two teams playing each other?

The other responded to the effect of, "It must be an Original Six matchup."

Hey, genius, Philadelphia was not one of the Original Six. Thanks for the hockey reference though. Luckily only the people who know you're wrong will pick up on it...


Show Some Spine!

Don't wimp out on us, Giguere. Cut Jose Theodore, take the cap hit over two seasons, sign a decent backup at around $1 million and get this party started.

I believe in you, you can do it.

Addendum: There are many who think that money is somehow an issue in the whole Jose Theodore clusterf-ck. It's not. Let me tell you why. If the Avs cut Theodore and buy out his contract, they take an immediate $4 million hit against the salary cap this season. They have the option of spreading that total across two seasons, $2 million this year and $2 million the next. Now, your average decent NHL backup goaltender on the free agent market is going to run you no less than about $1 million a year. Even if a complete buyout of Theodore and the signing of a new backup costs the same overall as keeping Theodore, the Avs still come out on top because they have a different backup than Theodore. If you're stuck paying way too much for a backup goalie, it might as well be for a good one, right?


Avalanche On The Couch

The Avalanche have a lot going for them as the true NHL off-season nears. They've got young, cheap talent up front and in goal, they've got a well-developing blueliner that scores and a returning captain that refuses to age.

Sure, it finally occurred to them to actually start playing good hockey sometime around game 65 of the season, but they proved to themselves and their detractors that they could hang with the best. 15-2-2 over the last 19 games of the season. That's
a little above mediocre.

So, with a crap-load of cap space and the will to improve, the Avalanche prepare to chase some hot free agent tail. Could a displaced Oiler return to the Northwest with a giant A on his chest? Could a couple of former Avalanche heroes make triumphant returns? Could a defensive whiz finally escape the swamps and make a run for the mountains?

To answer these questions, TSN.ca posted their "Off-Season Game Plan" for the Avalanche, and for the most part, it doesn't completely suck. But before I get to the insightful tidbits, I have to take issue with the following sentence:

The Avalanche could easily dip into their past as Chris Drury and Peter Forsberg are both unrestricted free agents that would be able to provide the kind of offensive boost that the Avs need.

The Avalanche don't need an offensive boost. Well sure, every team could use a boost in general, but the Avs don't
need a boost. For some reason, nobody seemed to notice that Colorado scored 272 goals this past season, which was fifth overall in the league. They outscored 12 of the 16 playoff teams. So, the Avs could use one, but they don't need an offensive boost.

Now that that's out of the way, let's examine TSN's suggestions for potential forward signings. In addition to the former Avs Drury and Forsberg, Mike Comrie and Ryan Smyth are named as potential free agent pickups. Drury would be crazy expensive, Forsberg is half-dead and should be avoided like the plague and Smyth would probably hate playing against his precious Oilers eight times a season. Mike Comrie would likely fit in well, and he's young. And he might win a Cup this year. But he's not a big scorer (45 points in 65 games) whereas guys like Drury and Smyth can really light the lamp and pass the biscuit. If you're going to blow a huge wad of cash on a hot stud, at least get some bang for your buck.

TSN's defensive analysis of the Avalanche is about as obvious as it could be: the Avs need to get bigger and tougher on the blue line. Duh. They've got scoring (and a trendy hyphenate) in John-Michael Liles, they've got some versatility in Brett Clark and some future potential in healthy-as-a-horse-named-Barbaro Jordan Leopold. What they lack is grit and hitting. TSN's suggestions? Scott Hannan, Craig Rivet or Andy Sutton. I'm pro-Sutton, in that his huge, physical presence would really help add punch to the Avs' defensive team. As in punching dudes in the face.

Finally, while TSN doesn't come right out and say it, they suggest that Jose Theodore, the Most Expensive Backup Goalie Ever, would probably be better off somewhere other than Colorado. Or Colorado would be better off without him. Probably more the latter than the former. Anyway, they compliment Peter Budaj and consider him a true starting goalie. Like that wasn't obvious by now.

All-in-all, not a bad report card for the Avalanche. I'm glad I'm not the only one that sees a ton of potential success in their future.


May 17, 2007

Duck Redemption

The Ducks redeemed themselves after losing to Detroit 5-0 the other night by tying the series at two games a piece with an impressive 5-3 victory. And they did it without Chris Pronger. Not too shabby.

Speaking of not too shabby, Doug Weight has done a really great job as a guest analyst for Versus tonight. He's likable, well-spoken and calm in front of the camera. His commentary on the game was full of clever insights and personal anecdotes, just what you'd want from a player-turned-analyst---unlike Brett Hull and Chicken Parm on NBC, who haven't had a decent thing to say about hockey in a long time, and come across like jerks more often than not. Too self-assured and cocky, too much the know-it-alls that nobody likes.

Doug Weight, along with one of my favorite players of all time, Keith Jones, make a great on-air team and I hope Versus (if, god help us, they're still carrying hockey then) hires Weight as a full-time studio guy once he retires. They could do a lot worse.


Sabres Show Up

After being missing for several days, the Buffalo Sabres were finally found, alive, in Ottawa. They even managed to beat the Senators and delay their inevitable elimination from the Eastern Conference finals.

I feel sorry for Ryan Miller. Despite his best efforts to carry his team, he's going to end up just like Roberto Luongo---home early and all alone in the photo. Poor guy.


May 16, 2007

King Of Suck

Adrian Dater, Avalanche beat reporter for the Denver Post, takes the time today to remind us all why Todd Bertuzzi still sucks. And not just because he's a rotten person, but because he's now a terrible hockey player:

Todd Bertuzzi moved swiftly and with purpose, a look of fierce determination on his bearded face. He sped past the people in front of him, weaving through traffic with grace and ease.

Unfortunately for the Detroit Red Wings, that described Bertuzzi negotiating through reporters after a practice at Joe Louis Arena. His quickness on the ice these days is another story.

Dater follows up his article with
a blog entry expressing his shock and amazement that Dead Wings fans didn't pepper him with insults and invectives after daring to criticize one of their players.

I still can't quite comprehend the irony of Bertuzzi being a Dead Wing. Or the fact that a back injury will ultimately prove to be his downfall. But until he finally gives it all up and joins Steve Moore in the exclusive group of unwillingly retired NHL players, he's still going to annoy me to no end.

And if Detroit wins the Cup and Bertuzzi gets to hoist it above his fat head, I think I'll lose my mind.


How He Really Feels

Earl Sleek over at the Battle Of California is understandably upset about the Dead Wings' 5-0 crushing of the Ducks last night. So angry, in fact, that he launches a salvo of hatred at Detroit fans that only an Avalanche blog (like this one) can really appreciate:

I’ll tell you what was the biggest realization of the night: I might not really hate the Red Wings as much as I hate the fucking Red Wing fans. You want to know why “Hockeytown” is being harassed for its attendance (pricing) issues? Look no further than your asshole fans, who’ve been citing attendance numbers to discredit our franchise for years!

In all seriousness, you might be the best, most polite, quaintest Red Wing fan in the universe, but know this. You come from easily the worst fanbase in the western conference, from a tolerability standpoint. I won’t go into specifics about tonight, but know that at the end of the game I shook a guy’s hand for being a Wings fan and not an asshole.

And I had to go two sections over to find him.

Wow. It reads almost as if it was written in Denver ten years ago. I highly approve.

I don't approve, however, of the Ducks completely forgetting how to play hockey last night and letting Detroit get the lead (again) in the Western Conference finals. Not cool. Really not cool.


May 15, 2007

Avalanche Beat Blog

For anyone not already aware, Denver Post hockey columnists Adrian Dater and Terry Frei have created a blog called "All Things Avs" on the paper's website. It's not exactly ground-breaking, but it's not a terrible read.


Crybaby Watch™: Bucci Wants More Room To Score

I generally like John Buccigross. If there is anyone who genuinely tries to promote the sport of hockey on ESPN.com, it's him. He used to anchor the show NHL2Night on the same network before they axed it permanently during the lockout, and he's still trying to get it back on the air. His articles about outdoor rinks, teaching his son the joy of the game and his believable support of all 30 NHL teams are truly a gift to hockey.

But he insists on widening the goals.

In nearly every column he writes, he mentions his obsession with changing the spread of the posts, which he believes will instantly transform the NHL into a league where scoring a goal is no longer a relatively rare event. In his column today, he waited to mention this until the letters section, but mention it he did. A reader asked if GPS tracking devices should be implanted in the pucks in order to accurately determine when a goal has been scored. His response:

With the NHL destined to be a tight-checking, close-scoring, low-scoring league until the net dimensions are increased, an improvement in puck tracking should be No. 1 on the offseason agenda.

What? How would the NHL cease to be tight-checking if the net dimensions are increased? Does the size of the rink change too? How would a couple of additional inches in the goals make the NHL any less defensive-minded?

This mindset kills me. Does the NBA ever consider shrinking the size of the baskets (or raising them another foot or two) because scoring is too easy? Does the NFL periodically consider making the field 80 yards long instead of 100 because there are too few touchdowns? No, of course not. Why on earth should the NHL alter the size of the goals? Just to get one or two more goals per game? So what?

The idea that hockey would somehow be more exciting if more goals were scored has been a running theme among many columnists for a while now, and it still doesn't make any sense. Hockey is exciting to watch
because it's so damn hard to score, not despite it. Every goal is an event, a celebration, a spectacle. Every goal means something.

Goals should be hard to score. With the exception of soccer, no other professional sport in North America boasts scoring celebrations like this:


Have You Seen Me?


Hero Watch?

Well, it's no secret that I'm not a big fan of ESPN.com hockey columnist Scott Burnside. We've had our differences in the past.

I know my scorn and distaste for him weighs heavy on Mr. Burnside's soul. I know he lies awake at night. I know he cries.

In what can only be considered a desperate plea for my forgiveness, Burnside posted something actually worth reading on Monday, and it's nothing less than a bold defense of low-scoring playoff hockey. Whodathunkit?

Now, hands up for those who saw the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres play three straight 2-1 games, two of which went to overtime in the second round. Drama? Oh yeah -- Chris Drury's tying goal with 7.7 seconds left in Game 5, and the overtime power plays and chances. Think anyone in Madison Square Garden or in HSBC Center cared there were nine goals scored over the course of those three games? No. Only writers, it appears, who unfortunately perpetuate the myth that more goals mean more excitement and fewer goals mean an inferior product.

Um, one thing, Mr. Burnside. It seems that one of those writers that has "perpetuated the myth" that more goals should be scored in order to improve the game is you.

Even in his best effort to get on my good side, Burnside blows it. Such is life.


May 13, 2007

Bummed in Buffalo

Once again, it doesn't look like it's going to be Buffalo's year. The Sabres haven't yet reached the level of the Bills, but their inability to seal the deal is likely almost as frustrating at this point.

The Sabres dropped game two of the Eastern Conference finals to the Senators, their second straight home loss in this series. They played strong and managed to come from behind in the third period to force overtime, but couldn't get the job done. Joe Corvo of Ottawa scored in second overtime to send the Senators back home with a tremendous 2-0 advantage.

Can the Sabres rally and overcome this serious setback? Or will another great Buffalo team be resigned to an early end and go home empty-handed?

All I know is it must suck to be a Sabres fan right now.


May 11, 2007

Ducks Get Blown Over

The Ducks couldn't withstand the force generated by the Dead Wings tonight, and lost game one of the Western Conference finals 2-1. To make matters worse, both Detroit goals were the result of an even mixture of pressure and ugliness. That's more or less what the Wings are anyway---pressure and ugliness. Funny how things work out.

At any rate, Anaheim had better get their rears in gear if they're going to get back in this thing, and they better do it quick. The Wings are finding clever ways to win every single game they play this postseason. It's hard to imagine, the way they've been playing, that they won't make it to the Stanley Cup finals. And we just can't have that.


Avalanche Drafting

It's no secret that the Avalanche will be looking for a solid defenseman in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in a couple of months. The team drew the 14th pick in the lottery and are poised to claim a talented player in a relatively talented field. While this year's draft isn't quite as stacked with phenoms as the past few have been (think Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Stastny, Kopitar, Phaneuf, etc.), it's not terrible, either.

As far as defensemen go, however, the field is limited. Only three blueliners can be found in the final top 15 of the ISS prospect rankings.

One of them, coincidentally ranked 14th and therefore likely still available when the Avalanche get their pick in the first round, is Nick Petrecki. A 6-3, 213-pounder from New York, Petrecki plays with the USHL junior team Omaha Lancers. He plays a big, physical game and throws his weight around. His scoring is in the 20-30 point range, but his real strengths are his super-hard slap shot and his super-hard body checks. Considering the Avalanche have one of the least-physical defensive pools in the NHL, a prospect like Petrecki could really prove useful in a few years.

According to a glowing profile at SI.com:

"He intimidates. He creates a lot of time and space for other players," (his coach Mike) Hastings says. "[Opposing] players have a tendency to look to see where he's at and not because they want to stand next to him. He sometimes looks like that kid in peewees who had that growth spurt that nobody else had yet -- a man among boys."

Petrecki will attend Boston College next year, where their elite program will no doubt benefit his development into an NHL-caliber defenseman.

All that aside, the Avalanche will pick the most talented player still available when their draft number comes up---as they always have---whether it's a defenseman or forward. Though the team suffers from a glut of forwards at the moment, a talented center or winger taken now could easily be used to pad a trade for some other talented defenseman later on. Any skilled player can be used as a bargaining chip, so they don't have to grab the best d-man still available in the draft when it's their turn to pick.

Petrecki could be an asset to the team if he is indeed chosen by the Avs. It will be interesting, regardless, to see who the Avs pick.


Duck Bait

They're getting nervous in Hockeytown. Understandable, but always good to see.

Good preview of the series here.


Game On!

The Ottawa Senators didn't waste any time. They were pretty sen-sational in their 5-2 rout of the Sabres in game one of the Eastern Conference finals. Sen-ding a message early, they scored two quick goals in the first period and managed to thwart a Buffalo comeback to win by three in the end. The Sabres defense seemed ab-sen-t for most of the game and were likely di-sen-chanted by the outcome. Not to be in-sen-sitive, but the Sabres defense pretty much sucked. Hopefully their initial poor showing isn't repre-sen-tative of more sen-seless failure to come.

Sorry, couldn't help it.


May 10, 2007

Hero Watch

Tom Jones of the St. Petersburg Times is my latest hockey media hero. He begins as such:

Right now, you have a choice most nights of watching either the NHL playoffs or the NBA playoffs. To us, it's no contest. The NHL playoffs are way better than the NBA playoffs.

And it gets better from there as he counts down the top ten reasons why the hockey postseason is way better than a bunch of freakishly tall guys throwing balls at a peach basket just barely above their freakishly large heads.

His number one reason: it rhymes with "schmovertime."


The Predictions

I could link to all of the latest predictions, but that would take forever and I'm low on attention today, so I'll just sum up what everybody and their mother seems to be predicting for the two Conference Finals. With very little variation, the general consensus is:

Sabres in 7 games
Ducks in 6 games

Can't wait for the games to start!


Pre-Finals Chatter

As the Conference Finals begin tonight, I did a quick scouring of the Internets (there are rumors on it!) for the best series previews from bloggers who still have their dogs in the fight. What good is a preview from me when my team is off somewhere basking in the glow of the late-spring sun on some beach or golf course? Really, what do I care if Buffalo wins or if Detroit (please God, no) somehow takes home another Cup?

The bloggers below do really care, and their insights, while of course heavily biased, are worth more than mine.


Sherry at Scarlett Ice outdoes herself with a great preview of what will obviously be the best series of this year's playoffs. She sums up each teams' offensive lines, their defensive pairings, their goalies, their performances so far, their grit, their experience---you name it, she covers it. And to top things off, she gives us this choice paragraph:

That being said, playing with emotion and passion, with a little bit of resentment never hurt anybody. I've never been involved in any form of smack talk, and trust me, being a Senators fan among Leafs Nation, I've heard my fair share of it. However, in a series like this where the teams are so head-to-head even, most of it just resorts to fanwanking anyways. I mean don't get me wrong, I could probably wank with the best of them but it's just far too much work. I admit it, I still have a bitter taste in my mouth after what happened last season but the Senators weren't bringing their 'A'-game to that series and wouldn't have had any business winning it.

Wanking? Bitter taste in her mouth? As an American, maybe I just don't get the subtle differences between Canadian English and the unique dialect we speak down here in the States, so I won't jump to any conclusions. But by the sound of it I need to take another vacation in Toronto.


While Sherry tries to be diplomatic, Tom at Sabre Rattling has decided not to hold back. The Sens suck and are going to lose, according to his eight point list. Reason number one:

1) Continually telling everyone who will listen… “I’m different. Believe me, dammit.” How many times have I heard this in the past decade? If seems every post-season the same thing gets said. They’re more committed to team defense than in the past. More committed than under Jacques Martin? Murray was brought in to open up the Sens, not close them down. More schizoid behaviour from an immature bunch of pretenders.

Stop holding back, Tom. Really tell them how you feel.


Finny over at Girl With A Puck is a bit wary of the Dead Wings because of their long, storied history of beating the crap out of Anaheim in the playoffs. But she's not ready to give up on her team just yet:

As predictions go, I'm about ready to do a coin toss on this one. I never like seeing Detroit in the playoffs. Ducks in 6. Why? Because I pit my two-Norris-trophy-candidates to Detroits one. Ha!

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that each team's defensemen will play a major role in the outcome of this series. I'm quite a genius.

And finally, the Dead Wings:


Really, who cares what Detroit bloggers have to say about anything? Go Ducks!


May 9, 2007

Moments of Truth

The conference finals are now upon us. The field of sixteen playoff teams has been reduced to the final four, and there isn't an underdog among them. Each of them is a division winner. Each of them has a potent offense and a solid defense, and a talented, overachieving goalie.

So who's going to win and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals? As you know, I don't do predictions, I just pick favorites, like my dad did with his kids. I prefer not to make myself look bad when it turns out I have absolutely no ability to see the future, so I just root for one team over another and hope for the best.

So, without further ado, I present to you my new official favorites, and why:


This series should be amazing. The Sabres, in case anyone has been completely asleep for the entire NHL season and somehow didn't notice, are by far the favorites to win the Cup. They have the deepest offense, a surprisingly solid defense, and a goalie who's probably been playing above his actual ability for months now. On their backs are riding an entire Rust Belt city of perennial losers desperate for one professional sports championship after years and years and years of disappointment.

Against the Sabres is an Ottawa team that is also trying to shake some post-season demons of their own, desperate to finally make it past the conference finals and into the championship series. Speaking of potent offenses, they have one of their own, along with strong defense, a ton of speed, and another overachieving goaltender---who probably has a little too much speed for his own good.

This should be THE matchup of the playoffs, and the winner, whoever it is, will be the favorite to win the Cup in the finals. As for who I prefer? To be honest, it's a tough call. It would be good to see the Senators finally take the Cup back to Canada, and shut up their Montreal and Toronto rivals for a while. But for the sake of 300,000 Buffalo residents---who will likely pull a Jonestown if they don't win it all---I guess I'll root for the Sabres. We'll just say it's because I used to be a huge Pat Lafontaine fan.


I probably don't have to write too much about this matchup. Though I absolutely abhore the Calgary Flames and rooted for the Red Wings to dispatch them in the first round, I can't, with good conscience, encourage Detroit to do anything but lose badly to the Ducks.

Let's be honest, the rivalry between Colorado and Detroit that began in the late 1990s and carried over into the early years of this decade is probably over. All the old players have moved on (only Joe Sakic is left from the original Avalanche squad from 1995-96 and 1996-97) and the rise of divisional overkill in regular season scheduling has lessened the importance of the matchup. Sure, here in the world of hockey blogging, we still ruthlessly attack each other, but the glory days of Avalanche/Red Wings hatred are gone. Also the fact that Detroit is in the conference finals and the Avalanche are playing golf may have something to do with it. The point is, however, that we should all probably move on with our lives.

But I just can't, and I know they can't either.

So, regardless of how strong the Ducks are and how amazing their goaltending has been, and the fact that Detroit will be without their number two defenseman and their goalie is completely insane and ready to physically explode at any second, I'm going to ignore the facts (even if they're favorable) and root from my gut. The Ducks will win. They MUST win this series and advance to the finals. Please. For me.


May 8, 2007

The Colorado Avalanche will have a brand-spankin' new AHL affiliate next season, and they don't even have to share this time! The Lake Erie Monsters, who play in Cleveland (sorry about their luck), are already gearing up for their first hockey campaign.

The Avs named Joe Sacco as Monsters head coach and Sylvain Lefebvre* as assistant coach. Sacco was an assistant at the last two Colorado AHL affiliates---Lowell and Albany.

With a strong lineup that will likely include young standouts like TJ Hensick, Ray Macias, Codey Burki and Michael Wall, the Monsters should have a strong first season. And hopefully, Sacco's proven development efforts provide even more talented young players for the Avs.

And now, to think of a clever nickname for the team mascot. How about "Boggy" or "Steamer"?

*The photo of Lefebvre shows him wearing the team captain's C for the Avalanche during a game in the 1997-98 season while filling in for an injured Joe Sakic. In case anyone noticed.


Hero Watch

I just started a little series called "Crybaby Watch" in an effort to identify (and ridicule) prominent hockey columnists who needlessly whine and complain about insignificant incidents or aspects within the game of professional hockey. A bonus if they also call for sweeping rule changes as well. If they needlessly bitch about something NHL-related, I'll bitch about them.

But, sometimes, that rare columnist breaks the mold and and actually compliments the National Hockey League and the magnificent sport of ice hockey. It's rare, but it happens.

Case in point, Washington Post sports columnist John Feinstein:

One thing people should understand about overtime playoff hockey: There's nothing like it in sports. Only in hockey does the game end -- BOOM! -- in an instant. One rush, one mistake, one slip by the goalie -- and it's over. It doesn't happen that way in basketball or in football or in baseball. Oh sure, those games can end on a single play, but frequently they don't. In hockey, they ALWAYS do and you sit on the edge of your seat not knowing when that moment may come.

He even praises overtime! Oh the horror! Oh the humanity!!

So, just as I've used the title "Crybaby Watch" to label any negative hockey-related sports writing I happen to find on the Internets (it's not a dump truck!), I will use the alternative "Hero Watch" to document those who rise above the pity party and point out why hockey is in fact awesome and why the haters are full of crap.

Good work, John Feinstein. You're my very first hero.

(Thanks to Off Wing Opinion and Jibblescribbits for pointing out the article)


Suck It Up


May 7, 2007

Help Wanted: Hockey Columnist

I swear I have no idea how these guys get jobs as hockey columnists. Whining about tiny, insignificant aspects of the game and calling for endless rule changes are bad enough, but sometimes they can't even get their basic facts straight.

The latest offender is Scott Burnside for ESPN.com:

The Devils have significantly more questions to answer before next fall rolls around, not the least of which will be deciding what to do about the possible loss of key components -- defensive anchor Brian Rafalski and NHL playoff scoring leader Scott Gomez , both of whom are set to become unrestricted free agents July 1. Both will command top dollar on the open market and the Devils rarely, if ever, pay top dollar.

Mr. Burnside, the Devils led the league this past season in total salary obligations with a total over $53 million. Patrik Elias made $7.5 million this year, one of the highest individual salaries in the entire league. Scott Gomez made $5 million. Brian Rafalski, Brian Gionta and John Madden each made $4 million or just below. Goalie Martin Brodeur made $5.2 million. That's nearly $30 million for six players. For comparison sake, the Colorado Avalanche paid only two players more than $4 million---Joe Sakic and Jose Theodore---and spent under $40 million total on 26 players.

So, please explain to me how it's even possible to write "the Devils rarely, if ever, pay top dollar."

Where do they find these guys?


The Real MVPs

Last week, Canadian Business Online released their Hockey's Most And Least Valuable Players list, in which they ranked 449 NHL players according to their salaries divided by their overall performance in various offensive aspects of the game. CBO chose six players as Most Valuable and six players as Least Valuable.

Of the six Most Valuable players in the entire NHL, three were Avalanche teammates:

Best Value: Center = Paul Stastny
Best Value: Left Wing = Andrew Brunette
Best Value: Goaltender = Peter Budaj

Of the six Least Valuable players, only one was an Avalanche team member, and guess who it was...

Worst Value: Goaltender = Jose Theodore

Big surprise there, right? After being paid over five million dollars just to ride the bench, it's not hard to imagine how ridiculously worthless Theodore proved to be, from a financial perspective, of course. I'm sure he's a nice guy.

But back to the Best Value players. Paul Stastny, with a salary $741 thousand, scored 78 points, which means his "price per point" was only $9,509. That ranks him fourth overall in the league, just behind Milan Michalek, Team USA teammate Lee Stempniak and Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf---none of whom made over $500 thousand this past season. Andrew Brunette ranked sixth overall with a comparable "price per point" total of $9,639. Compared to Joe Sakic, who scored 100 points at a price of $57,000 per point, these guys were a total bargain.

The list also ranks according to "price per minute on ice", in which salary is divided by total ice time for the season. Stastny was paid only $498 per minute and Brunette only $557 while Sakic earned a whopping $3,474 per minute of ice time---his overall salary was $5.75 million. To be honest, I'd be perfectly happy to settle for "just" $500 per minute of work.

Below is the ranking of all Avalanche players that made the list:

The cheapest NHL player per minute of ice time overall was Dion Phaneuf, who made only $232. The most expensive was Patrik Elias at $5,372 per minute.

As for goalies, Avalanche starter Peter Budaj was by far the best value in the league. At $600 thousand total salary for the season, Budaj had a price per minute of $188---a total bargain for a netminder who won over 30 games. In fact, Budaj led in all categories (price per save, price per shot against, price per minute and save percentage value) except one, which was price per goal against, won by Cam Ward.

Jose Theodore wasn't just the worst value in one or two categories. Among 40 NHL netminders, he finished dead last in every category. His price per minute of ice time was $3,146 and his price per save was $7,097, far and above all others. Not one aspect of his performance justified his outrageous salary of $5.5 million.

In sum, this all bodes very well for the Avalanche. Stastny and Brunette's contracts have not yet expired, and their salaries won't increase significantly for a little while longer. Peter Budaj is also not yet an unrestricted free agent, so he won't be making any more next year either. Assuming they all perform similarly to this past season, the Avalanche should still be getting a lot of bang for their buck. Moreso if they buy out what remains of Jose Theodore's bloated contract and send him packing. There's a short-term salary cap loss, but it's much better for the team (financially and otherwise) in the long run. The team has a lot of cap space at any rate, and a lot of extremely valuable current players who make less than what they're probably worth. That's bad for them, but really good if the team uses the saved money to improve and make a serious playoff run next year. Everyone's bargaining position improves when that happens.


May 6, 2007

Crybaby Watch

I present to you the latest columnist to jump on the whine wagon during the 2007 NHL playoffs.

Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Hockey is a tough sell on television. But try selling network execs on tight-checking games that might last 2 1/2 hours, might last all night. They'd rather show "Gunsmoke" reruns. The NHL should not try to tailor its game for television — this isn't the NFL. But if a change makes the game more accessible and more dynamic to the casual audience, the tail wags the dog.

How many times can a columnist contradict himself in one paragraph? O'Neill's going for the record, it seems.

Dude, shut up.


Son Of Peter, National Hero

Paul Stastny, Avalanche star rookie, scored the game winning goal, one other goal and an assist for Team USA in the IIHF World Championships in a 3-0 defeat of Germany. Team USA has now clinched a spot in the next round. Tyler Arnason, another Avs player, assisted on Stastny's first goal, which proved to be decisive.

Stastny now has six points in five games with Team USA, tied for second on the team behind Lee Stempniak.

Team USA now plays Canada in the final first round game, but regardless of the result, they will advance to the next round.


One So Far

Well, so far at least one of my "favorite" playoff teams has advanced to their respective conference final series. The Senators finished off the Devils four games to one, and Ray Emery, despite his nap-induced-tardiness-resulting-in-a-car-accident-and-team-fine antics, proved himself the temporary superior of Martin Brodeur.

No such luck for the Sharks, who are well on their way to blowing a series they have no excuse to lose. The Dead Wings scored a major victory in game five, winning 4-1, and taking the series lead three games to two. Now the teams return to the Shark Tank for what could be the last San Jose game of the season. Jerks.

As for the Sabres, the team with absolutely no excuse for losing, they're now up three games to two against the Rangers. If they do blow it and head home early, Chris Drury will have more time to consider his next home after the Sabres opt to re-sign Daniel Briere instead. May I suggest a return home to Colorado? May I?


May 4, 2007

Civility? During the Playoffs?!

The hockey "blogosphere" (I hate that term) is a funny place. Like any subculture dominated by diehard devotees, hockey has a knack for producing foul-mouthed jerks bent on insulting anyone who disagrees with any opinion to which they adhere. The playoffs compound this infinitely.

I tend to spend too much time perusing blogs from all over the league, and at a lot of those with teams still in the playoffs, the comments sections have gotten pretty nasty. Name-calling, personal insults, even homophobia and some veiled racism here and there. Fans from one team will torment the blog of another for days, especially after their team wins a game. It's pretty sad.

Sometimes, cooler heads prevail. In one case, the blogger himself pulled the plug. In another, those who commented policed themselves and actually DISCUSSED the merits and weaknesses of each playoff team without petty attacks and cheap-shots.

Can more hockey fans keep their heads about them and act like adults, instead of like children free to lash out from behind the protective anonymity of the Internet? I'm not holding my breath...


I Should Shut My Mouth

I really need to quit rooting for teams other than the Avalanche, since I seem to doom them all to early playoff exits. Come to think of it, maybe my support is what doomed the Avs, too. Damn.

I was originally rooting for Pittsburgh and Nashville, and they both lost in the first round. Then I picked the Canucks as one of my favorites. Now they're gone.

With all other series being up in the air at this point, I want to extend a preemptive apology to Ottawa, Buffalo and San Jose, who are all now going to lose because of me. Sorry guys. I meant well.


May 3, 2007

Future Stars, Current Lefties

I was bored, and there's hardly any Avalanche-related news to report these days (except maybe that Sakic shot a +5 on a Denver golf course the other day) , so I was browsing through the final NHL rankings of prospects for the upcoming entry draft.

Kyle Turris moved up to first place among North American skaters, in case anyone cares, beating out Patrick Kane who had led the rankings most of the year. But really, only the Blackhawks care about that.

Anyway, I was skimming the list of European prospects and noticed something really weird (at least to me). They all, with three exceptions, shoot left-handed. Out of 30 kids, only THREE shoot right. How is this possible? Is this typical in Europe?

So I did some checking of current NHL players from Europe, mostly high-profile ones to see if they all shoot left-handed too. This is what I found:

Dany Heatly, Germany, shoots left
Marian Hossa, Slovakia, shoots left
Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic, shoots left
Olli Jokinen, Finland, shoots left
Pavel Datsyuk, Ukraine, shoots left
Evgeni Malkin, Russia, shoots left
Daniel Sedin, Sweden, shoots left
Henrik Sedin, Sweden, shoots left
Slava Kozlov, Russia, shoots left
Saku Koivu, Finland, shoots left
Alexander Semin, Russia, shoots left

And the only notable standouts:

Teemu Selanne, Finland, shoots right
Alex Ovechkin, Russia, shoots right
Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia, shoots right

So the question is, why do most European players shoot left-handed? I'm sure a lot of them are naturally right-handed, but they are obviously trained (or for some reason just feel more comfortable) to shoot left. Anybody know the real reason?


Now Or Never

It's now or never for the Canucks, who face elimination tonight in Game 5 of their series against the Anaheim Ducks. They found a little bit of offense in the last game, but managed to blow a two goal lead and lose in overtime, falling three games to one.

Roberto Luongo has to tighten his game, which showed a little bit of weakness, and the Canucks have to remember that scoring goals doesn't mean you can quit playing defense, which they generally do very well. On most nights.

I'm rooting for the Bad Luck 'Nucks, but they're definitely not in a happy place right now. I wonder if Pavel Bure is looking for some part-time work.


May 2, 2007

It Never Ends

Just two days ago I wrote an entry about the growing tendency of hockey columnists to complain endlessly about fairly insignificant annoyances in how NHL games are played. Don't like something that happened in one game? Change the rules for everyone!

Well, the soul-searching continues. It seems that goal-scoring has dropped considerably in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, to an average of 4.9 goals per game compared to 5.9 in the regular season. Is this a sign that teams are tightening their defensive lines, shooting their goalies full of steroids or otherwise just upping their games? I mean, it IS the playoffs.

NO! It's a sign that the NHL is broken again and will probably need another sweeping rule change. Duh!

Damien Cox is the latest whiny baby to lament the apparently sorry state of pro hockey. Teams just aren't scoring enough goals for him, and he can't foresee many solutions, just a bunch of reasons to complain. Players are faster, he says, so defense is more efficient. The refs aren't calling all the penalties they should, he says, so pucks are easier to clear. Everybody and their mom blocks shots nowadays, he says, when almost nobody used to. The goalie pads are still too big, he says, and the goalies have an annoying habit of staying fit and athletic. Bastards. And finally, the coaches all learned their craft in the 1990s, when the puck was dead and the scoring was non-existent, he says.

He's not entirely wrong, but really, who cares? If the game is still exciting to watch (and it is, with the exception of anything involving Vancouver), then what difference does it make if the teams score 4.9 goals a game or 7.9?

I do agree that the officials have been lax on calling some penalties. You want to open the ice for offense? Start calling too-early and too-late hits as roughing penalties. If the player being hit does not have the puck, and didn't have it when the hitter started in his direction, call a roughing penalty. Those late hits will end pretty quickly. Do I support this idea? Not necessarily, but it's an option. That's not a rule change, it's a tightening of existing rules, which is always better than some kind of revolving-door rule change orgy which everyone seems to support these days.

Next thing you know the goaliphiles will try to ban the offsides call and make the goal eight feet by twenty-four. When does it end?


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