Thursday, April 12, 2018

It's the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Yes, the NHL playoffs are finally here and time once again for the experts to forget the past and continue picking teams to go deep based on regular season analysis and no sense of history.

I saw TSN's panel pretty almost all go across the board and pick not only the Nashville Predators to get to the Final again but win it all this time.

Do these "Insiders" just erase all memories of playoffs past as they relate to regular season play?

Do they not realize since 1995 only ONE team (the '09 Pittsburgh Penguins) has gotten back to the Final after losing in the Final the year previous?

Since '95 the previous season's losing Finalist have this "outstanding" record:
Missed the playoffs altogether - 6 teams
Lost in the 1st rd. - 8 teams
Lost in the 2nd rd.- 5 teams
Lost in the Conference Finals - 2 teams
Got back to the Final...and won it--the '09 Penguins

We're Number One!

Even if you go, well, the Preds finished first overall. They're so much better than last season. OK, so were the '15 New York Rangers who won the Presidents' Trophy the year after they went to the Final as the 11th overall team in the league. That 2015 Rangers team fell one round short losing to the Tampa Bay Lighting in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.

So let's have a look at those teams that improved their records or at least matched their previous season's record the year after they got to the Final:

'96 Detroit Red Wings finished 1st overall again, and Draper gets his face rearranged in the Western Conference Final thanks to the Avs (2nd overall) and that Claude.

'97 Florida Panthers finished 7th again, lost to the Rangers (8th) in the 1st rd.

'01 Dallas Stars stepped up from 6th to 5th overall, beat the Oilers (12th) and lost to the Blues (6th) 4-donut.

'06 Calgary Flames leaped from 12th to 7th, lost to the then Mighty Ducks (12th) in the 1st rd.

'11 Philadelphia Flyers catapulted from 18th to 3rd, beat the Sabres (15th), swept by the Bruins (7th) in the 2nd rd.

'12 Vancouver Canucks finished 1st overall again, couldn't get out of rd. 1 vs. the Kings (13th).

'14 Boston Bruins 5th to 1st overall, beat the Red Wings (15th) and, of course, lose to the Habs (9th) in the 2nd rd.

Again? Didn't Cam Neely stop all this suffering?

'15 New York Rangers 11th to 1st, beat the Pens (15th), Caps (9th) and lose in seven to the Ning (5th).

'17 San Jose Sharks stay in 11th place overall, lose to the McDonut Oilers (8th) in the 1st rd.

Why are the Nashville Predators going to be any different? Maybe they are and it'd be great for hockey to see a Cup won for one of the best fan bases in hockey as well as once of the most underrated coaches in Peter Laviolette who has taken three different teams to the Final ('17 Preds, '10 Flyers and '06 Canes) and won it all with those '06 Canes. Who wouldn't want to see P.K. Subban stick it to Marc Bergevin and lift a Cup? I know most hockey fans do. Even so and with an in-form Pekka Rinne, history tells us otherwise.

Back to the Preds "won the Presidents' Trophy so they're really good" thought, but from this list above we can see four Presidents' Trophy winners who failed to get back to the Final.

In fact, overall the Presidents' Trophy winning teams period don't have much success in getting to Finals period.  Since '95 only seven Presidents' Trophy teams even gotten to the Final. Somebody needs to ask the Detroit Red Wings what the formula is because they've done it three times ('95, '02 and '08). The others are the '99 Hitchcock Stars, the '01 Avs, the '11 Choke Job Canucks and the '13 Lockout Season Blackhawks. The rest, thanks for playing. Better luck as a lower seed some other season.

Volek Or Halak--Pick Your Poison, Penguins

Hm, yes, they can but again it'll have to be by bucking history.

Of the teams to get to two Finals in a row, getting to that third one consecutively has been impossible since the Isles' 1980s' dynasty.

Here's the sad list:

'86 Oilers (1st overall)--a Steve Smith own goal and boom goes the dynamite! The Flames triumph in Game 7.

'89 Oilers trade Gretzky in the off-season and end up losing to him and the LA Kings in rd. 1. They win a Cup a year later so can't complain too much. 

'93 Pens (1st overall and winners of an NHL record 18 games in a row)--hello, Isles' David Volek in a Game 7 OT.

'99 Red Wings meet your annual blood feud rival Avs and out in rd. 2.

'01 Stars inexplicably get swept by the Blues in rd. 2.

'02 Devils (who precipitously dropped from 3rd to 10th overall) lost to the Canes (16th) who Paul Maurice (hey, Jets' fans!) coached  to the Final.

'10 Red Wings (also fell to 10th overall from 3rd) fell to the Sharks in rd. 2.

'10 Penguins got Halaked in rd. 2 by the 19th-placed Habs.

So, yeah, enjoy that Penguins' 7-0 whitewash in Game 1 and inevitable  series win over a Flyers' team that has not beaten the Pens all season long. Those betting might want to place a small wager that the Pens' run gets Voleked or Halaked in rd. 2.

Hey, nice pass, Ferraro!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dear Daniel and Henrik,

Now as much as I think it's great for you both to address Vancouver Canucks fans with an open letter in The Players Tribune, I'm sorry I've always found it very hard to be a fan of your style of play. Hey, nothing against you as people. You do the whole Trevor "good in the community" Linden thing so kudos to you both. Then again it's not like I need my fave athletes to be saints off the ice. That's just a bonus, if they are nice guys.

Look, my idea of a hockey player is a bit more like this:

 Now THAT'S a hockey player. 

Given that Cam Neely to me is the prototype of what a forward should be in the NHL, I don't need ALL my forwards to play the same style. That would just be as dumb as thinking Jonathan Toews is a better player than John Tavares because Toews has been on three Stanley Cup winning teams and Tavares none so far.

I truly do love all types of players even ones who are not super physical but have those slick moves. Be it the super underrated Jean Ratelle in the '70s 
to the recent stylings of Pavel Datsyuk, it's great to see silky hands in action. No, my issue with both of you is slowness in various forms.

I get you were never going to be Swedish Rockets a la the Russian one--Pavel Bure.  

I want excitement though. I want to be lifted out of my seat. To put it in terms maybe you can both relate to, I'm not European, and I don't understand how watching the Tour de France on TV is entertaining at all. I appreciate the athleticism it takes to cycle up mountains, but it's not something I particularly want to watch for hours on end. So I'm hardly going to fall in love with two players cycling the puck down low no matter what the results are. 

It's simply aesthetics. I want Guy Lafleur flying down the wing. I want Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane doing this:

Getting started early

It's not like I don't enjoy Swedish hockey players either. Give me a Henrik Zetterberg or a Peter Forsberg and I'm onboard. Your buddy, Markus Naslund and you two--not so much. Again, it's a style-of-play choice. 

The other main problem related to slowness is your development into "stars." Who knows why but both of you took far too long to get really good. By the time you got to that "elite" level any chance of actually doing consistent damage and leading the Canucks deep into the playoffs on a yearly basis was gone. You may ask, "Well, what about the 2011 Final?"

We'll get to that later, but here's a comparison of what I was talking about as far as your career arcs. Let's have a look at some contemporaries that overlap your era and seeing how long it took them to break the arbitrary 82-pt. mark in an 82-game season and, as well, go on a deep playoff run to at least a Conference Final.

Joe Sakic age 20, 102 pts.; age 26, Stanley Cup champion
Peter Forsberg age 22, 116 pts. and Stanley Cup champion

Mike Modano age 22, 93 pts; age 21, Stanley Cup Final

Jarome Iginla age 24, 96 pts; age 26, Stanley Cup Final

Brendan Shanahan age 24, 94 pts; age 28, Stanley Cup champion
Sergei Fedorov age 22, 86 pts; age 25, Stanley Cup Final

Eric Lindros age 20, 97 pts; age 23, Stanley Cup Final
Claude Giroux age 24, 93 pts; age 22, Stanley Cup Final

Paul Kariya age 21, 108 pts; age 28, Stanley Cup Final
Teemu Selanne age 22, 132 pts; age 35, Conference Final

Marian Hossa age 24, 80 pts; age 24, Conference Final

Vincent Lecavlier age 26, 108 pts; age 23, Stanley Cup champion
Brad Richards age 25, 91 pts; age 23, Stanley Cup champion
Martin St. Louis age 28, 94 pts and Stanley Cup champion

Ilya Kovalchuk age 20, 87 pts; age 28 Stanley Cup Final 

Sidney Crosby age 18, 102 pts; age 20, Conference Final

Eric Staal age 21, 100 pts and Stanley Cup champion

Jason Spezza age 22, 90 pts; age 23, Stanley Cup Final

Pavel Datsyuk age 27, 87 pts; age 23, Stanley Cup champion
Henrik Zetterberg age 25, 85 pts; age 26, Conference Final

Patrick Kane age 21, 88 pts; age 20, Conference Final

Sure this is a subjective group (I mean, Datsyuk, for example, was a rookie on his first Cup not the leader he became by age 29 of his second Cup), but these are all mainly guys who at least started to do SOMETHING at an elite level by their mid-20s at the latest. 

Yes, Alexander Ovechkin (106 pts as a 20 y/o) has yet to get to a Conference Final let alone a Cup Final. Sure, a Sedin by another name due to his slow skating, Adam Oates (102 pts as a 27 y/o), took until age 35 to get to a Stanley Cup Final (with the Washington Capitals). Joe Pavelski or Toews have yet to record 82-pt seasons, but again these are two players I would rather watch because of HOW they play.

Hey, it's not like I'm asking for much, if you are future Hall Of Famers. If Steve Yzerman can go from a player had 87 pts as a 20 y/o and six 100+-pt seasons including a whopping 155 pts in the Air Hockey era and transform his game as he aged, you could have by now as well. Even if you consider the '80s Snorris Division made it easier for every team in that weak division to get into a Conference Final (Stevie Y at age 21), Yzerman from ages 29 to 32 captained the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup Final, Conference Final and then two straight Stanley Cups in those four seasons! 

Then there's your career arcs:

Henrik Sedin age 28, 82 pts; age 30, Stanley Cup Final
Daniel Sedin age 26, 84 pts; age 30, Stanley Cup Final

And at age 30, that is the ONLY deep playoff run your teams have ever had in 17 seasons in the NHL. 

So, I'm sorry, if I'm not onboard the Sedin Train. Then again I'm still trying to figure out how Linden went from looking like the next Cam Neely to virtually losing his scoring touch at age 26. Would someone please explain how he never cracked 30 goals again after six 30-goal seasons in his first eight years in the NHL?

You both do represent what I think the less delusional Canucks fans see in this franchise--year-upon-year frustration. Other than the Pavel Bure years when have the Vancouver Canucks not been as frustrating a franchise in any sport?

To me, this incident every Canuck fan knows pretty much sums up why neither of you will ever win my heart and, if that makes me heartless, . . . so be it: 

Definitely a TKO for Canucks' Cup hopes

Where was the fight back? Look, I get you're tough but just are not fighters and maybe some other Canuck should have jumped in, but how many punches to the face does it take to wake the ____ up?

You guys had been playing in the NHL up to that point for 11 seasons and what that showed me was not "discipline" and not taking stupid penalties. It showed me the Boston Bruins were going to clean your clocks.

Even gentlemanly Jean Beliveau would not take that abuse...or at least John Ferguson would have stepped in and clocked Brad Marchand. Sadly, Gino Odjick was not on the 2011 team. You win some; you lose a Stanley Cup.

As it was, we all know the story. The now obviously soft Canucks came back home after that Game 6 loss and did not score a single goal (Tim Thomas again outplays Roberto Luongo) in Game 7. Done . . . like . . . dinner.

To be honest, yes, you two could have won me over if you had led the Canucks to the Cup in 2011 (although having lost Games 3 & 4 by  a combined 12-1 score, I could not see a Stanley Cup materializing after Aaron Rome decided to wake up the Bruins with that dumb hit on Nathan Horton), but you were already on as thin ice thanks to the previous nine seasons of no deep playoff runs starting even back in the Markus Naslund era (yet another Swedish forward the Canucks "lucked out" with not named Zetterberg or Forsberg).

I could go on but be that as it may, you guys, to borrow from John McEnroe, cannot be serious if you think the Vancouver Canucks' signings of Dave Gagner, Thomas Vanek, Michael Del Zotto and the NHL's 2016/17 83rd leading scorer (Bo Horvat) to a six-year (six years!?) deal is going to result in a deep playoff run UNLESS Thatcher Demko makes the team and turns into 1986 rookie Patrick Roy . . .  or that other guy in the '80s. 

Don't you forget about me

Monday, May 15, 2017

Oh No, Canada!

Dear Justin Trudeau,

I hear you wanted all Canadians to cheer for the Ottawa Senators in the NHL playoffs because, well, I'm not sure why really. With all due respect, I do cheer for Canadian national teams in hockey at all levels. I always want Team Canada to do well internationally from the Olympics to Miss Universe. 

Always a bridesmaid

What I don't understand is how the leader of our nation can fall for this media-induced annual push to cheer on a so-called "Canada's team" when there is one Canadian-based NHL team left in the Stanley Cup chase. If you are this gullible to fall for this ruse, I worry about what the Orange Man down south may try to put past you. 

Hey, Justin, how'd like them oranges?

In 2017, for this Canadian based in your former teaching grounds my cheering order among the Final Four goes Penguins, then Ducks, and Predators if they end up vs. the Sens (sorry, I like the fans in Honkytonk Central over Boucher 1-3-1 hockey). So "all" Canadians minus at least this one will not be heeding your call to cheer for the team who seem to think a Roman Centurion is a Senator. 

Stronger and sexier than a Trojan

The border has never really played into what team I want to win. In fact, it probably does the opposite given the Canadian-based teams tend to be super annoying to the rest of us outside the Centre Of The Universe (i.e., the Maple Leafs), have smug fans who live on past Cup glory (i.e., Habs fans), have been rivals in playoffs past (i.e., the Flames), have had horseshoes in lucking into superstars (i.e., the Oilers) or been as non-descript a boring franchise as the NHL has had (i.e., the Senators especially in the Jacques Martin era). 

Probably the only other Canadian-based team I'd ever cheer for other than the hometown Canucks (which, trust me, is harder than you think given the GMs employed here over the decades) are the Winnipeg Jets because that team usually has had similar hard luck and its fans are truly the best in Canada (sorry, Habs fans). Plus who doesn't love the team of Hull, Nilsson and Hedberg, Hawerchuk and Selanne, Pokey and the Bandit!

Fleury and Murray Lite

No, Mr. Trudeau Version 2.0, I choose the teams I cheer for as the playoffs move on based on how they play and if they have interesting players. Also, although upsets are fun and exciting, when it comes to the eventual Stanley Cup champion, I prefer my championship teams to be, ya know, actually good. 

Enough with the "low seed, treat the regular season like it means nothing" teams sneaking in a Cup. Yes, I'm talking to you the 2012 Los Angeles Kings who won less than half of their games in the '11/12 regular season. THAT'S championship pedigree? Grabbing the eighth seed thanks to overtime and shootout loser points then riding a hot Quick goalie to glory?

If that's the criteria to "building" a championship team, sign the rest of us up, will ya? Change the name of the sport to GOALIE then!

So, I honestly do not want the 12th overall Ottawa Senators nor 16th overall Nashville Predators stumbling into a Cup. Isn't the Canadian way about fairness? You taught school. You know floundering in mediocrity the whole school year and then acing the final exam really is not what it should be about. 

Nothing against Erik Karlsson or Bobby Ryan nor P.K. Subban or Pekka Rinne but c'mon now!

I want to see greatness. I grew up in an era of dynasties. Call me crazy but seeing the Carolina Hurricanes win a Cup in 2006 and then proceed to miss the playoffs ten times in the next 11 seasons just doesn't seem right to me.

I mean, if it's Canadian glory you seek, do not shun the Canadians who do great ambassadorial work for our nation such as Marc-Andre Fleury or Ryan Getzlaf just because they ply their Canadian-trained skills outside our borders.

If anything, you should dial it back on "Canada's team" all together as you might actually be seeing the Edmonton McDonuts vs. the Taranna Mike Babcocks in a Stanley Cup Final sooner than you can book another vacation on a government jet.

So, my advice is stick to politics, Captain Canada, and let us hockey fans choose whatever team gets us out of our seats with excitement in the next few weeks.  

 Hey, I'm Captain Canada!