Thursday, May 29, 2008

Luc Bourdon: We Hardly Knew Ye

By now vast amounts of electricity and trees will be sacrificed eulogizing on the Web and in print over the death of the Canuck prospect Luc Bourdon as well as plenty of handwringing over athletes riding motorcycles.

Let's just move on and honor a young man whose life was cut short far too soon. The best way to do that might be to rename the QMJHL's Best Defenceman Trophy after Bourdon? This may sound premature but there is a precedent for it in the Q. That league's MVP trophy was renamed in 1972 after Q grad Michel Briere, who had just completed a very successful rookie season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, died at the age of 21 in 1971 from a brain injury received in a car crash during the NHL's off-season. (If the camera pans up to the rafters on Saturday night during Game 4 at the Igloo see if you can spot number 21 among the Pens' retired number banners. That was Michel Briere's number.)

Currently, the Q's Best Defenceman trophy is named after Habs' great tough guy Émile "Butch" Bouchard. Pierre Bouchard's dad actually did not even play in the QMJHL as it did not technically exist back in Butchy Boy's day. He played in the old QJHL which was the former moniker for the Q.

That's another thought. Although Bourdon only played 36 games all tolled in the NHL, why not retire either his number 4 or 28 (since he wore both over bits of two seasons as well as number 40 at his first camp for you statheads) here? It would make up also for the bad publicity of quietly unretiring Wayne Maki's number 11 so the Messiah could wear it well as he cashed all those nice cheques here in Vancouver. Admittedly Maki was no angel as Ted Green can attest, but to unretire any player's number is bad karma.

Time to reverse that bad karma and retire Bourdon's number, too.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Penguins Don't Take Flight

So, time to haul out the record books with the Wings and Chris Osgood's second shutout in two games in this so-called "dream" matchup in the Stanley Cup Final.

In 2003, a Final (noted mainly by the Scott Stevens hit on Paul Kariya) one saw the deadly dull Devils and Martin Brodeur shut out Anaheim two games in a row but it still went seven thanks to the Michelin Man Giguere in the Ducks' net. Satan's minions still won the Cup though, of course, with a shutout in Game 7.

Have faith Pens fans, the 1945 Final had the Leafs and Frank McCool shutting out Detroit in the first three games before the Almost Dead Things stormed back to tie the series with two of their three wins being shutouts also...then losing Game 7 to the Leafs.

We have to go back to the 1926 Final to find that the Montreal (in the words of Bugs Bunny: "What a Bunch of") Maroons shut out the Victoria Cougars of the old pro Western Hockey League in Games 1 and 2 of a sweep to win the Cup. The Maroons even threw a shutout in game 4 making it a hat trick of whitewashing for Hannibal Lechter lookalike Clint Benedict in the Final.

So, there is hope of making this a series, if the Pens can get the puck off the Wings for enough time to actually pressure Ozzie.

Monday, May 19, 2008

BC Place to Go Topless

So our fine Metrodome copy stadium is not going to get the right field Baggie but is going to go topless thanks to German Frankfurter technology (and The News of the World for this aerial shot of Frankfurt's Commerzbank Arena )! Break out the beer steins and lederhosen!

So besides now being able to enjoy the fights and drunks at BC Lions games out in the fresh air, the Vancouver "yeah we're still around" Whitecaps of the immortal USL (Useless Soccer League) are moving back into BC Place. Could this mean the glory days of the NASL are not far behind? So the $200 million earmarked is to be spent on said roof and for a new Vancouver Art Gallery at the Plaza of Nations location. Why not get that whole soccer/art crossover really rockin' and construct a Willie Johnston statue by the corner flag with Wee Willie quaffing a pint as he takes the corner kick (although that actually happened in an away game in San Jose but...artistic license, eh)? Och aye, Willie'd be intae it given his love of Vancouver and fashion/art.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Definitely Not the Boring Old...

The hiring of Scott Mellanby to Mike Gillis's staff is at least not more of the same old, same old. Plus check out Mellanby's innovative idea on how to increase scoring in the NHL.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Brunnstrom: the Next Alfredsson?

With the Dallas Stars scooping up Fabian Brunnstrom, what exactly are they getting for their entry-level money? He's 23, 6' 1", 203 lbs and coming off a season where he got a grand total of 37 pts in 54 GP for Farjestads in the top Swedish Elite League.

The best comparison is probably Daniel Alfredsson who came over to the NHL in a similar fashion arriving as a 23-year-old. Alfredsson prior to joining the Ottawa Senators had just 18 pts in 22 GP in Sweden with Vastra Frolunda. In 82 Swedish Elite League games over three seasons, Alfie had 28G and 54 pts. In 82 GP that first season with Ottawa, the Swedish winger got 26G and 61 pts.

Brunnstrom is a late bloomer and this past season was his only one in the Swedish top division. In 06/07, he was playing in the Second Division (think AHL to the NHL) and lit it up with 37G 73 pts and a monster +51 in 41 GP.

Extrapolate at will then, but best guess is the Stars are getting a less polished Alfredsson. They just have to hope he's no Jiri Dopita (remember him?). The much hyped Dopita was the "best player not in the NHL" for a few years and his rights were actually traded twice before he even joined the NHL moving from Boston to Florida to Philadelphia. The Flyers finally got him to come over as a 31-year-old after over a decade playing mainly in his home nation of the Czech Republic. He managed all of 11 G 27 pts in 52 GP with the Philadelphia Flyers. Hooked up with Edmonton the folllowing season and lasted 21 GP before heading back to Europe.

So, as the Dave Nonis Experience heads cross-country in his job search, the Canucks will probably be hoping Brunnstrom turns out to be more Dopita and less Alfredsson in the coming season.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Soothing Sounds of The Mike Gillis Experience

If you missed it, download the Pratt and Taylor podcast from May 5 for an hour-long "discussion" with Mike Gillis. Here's the edited version:

Mikey likeys the Sandy Alderson (updated translation: Billy Beane of the Oakland A's) way of approaching the evaluation of players (meaning maybe the Nux will start to draft actual talent and not off the NHL's Central Scouting list). He can't really tell you much about anything he's really going to do because you media guys keep really bugging me...really. His dulcet tones can even put those donkey-braying yahoos who par-tay on Granville Street to sleep. And, oh yeah, he likes the hockey that is being played in this year's playoffs.

Other than that, at least apparently Luongo wants to stay and the Gillman hinted he "likes" an uptempo style of play.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Marathon OT Win = Ultimate Victory?

Given the Dallas Stars' OT marathon to take their series over the San Jose Sharks, you might want to place a wager on the Detroit Red Wings to take Game 1 and, possibly, the series.

Since the 67/8 Expansion, only five series have ended with a triple (or better) OT game. With a short turnaround to the next series, that dog-tired hockey team was dragging and quite naturally lost Game 1 of the next series.

The NY Islanders beat the Caps in the memorable 4-OT Easter Sunday marathon Game 7. Two days later they lost to the Flyers and fell behind 3-1 in the series before getting their legs and pushing that series to seven before losing.

The Lightning beat the (snakebit again!) Caps in the 3rd OT. That left the 'Ning with little left in the tank after a four-day break and the Devils shut them down and out 4-0 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final. Worse was to come as the 'Ning would have the tables turned on them as NJ beat TB in Game 5 in triple OT.

Of course, NJ after a triple OT win would lose Game 1 to their next opponent, the back then underachieving Sens. This happened despite an eight-day layoff so rest did them no good other than the fact the Devils did win end up beating Ottawa in seven before going on to take the Cup.

The only two success stories as far as these series ending post-OT marathons have been the '96 Blackhawks and the '99 Stars. Both had a full nine days off between series as their triple-OT series clinchers were in Game 4s vs. the Flames and the Oilers respectively.

Overall, in games following marathon OT (3 OTs or more) wins since the '67/68 playoffs, the winning teams are 11-10. In the actual series results, there is a clearer winner by 15 series taken to 6 lost to the marathon OT game winning team.

Draw your own conclusions, but if there's an early marathon OT game in any series, you're odds on (at a nice 2 1/2 to 1) that that team will take the series in question.


Let them play! How often have we heard this refrain? Don't call the chintzy penalties. Well, what you end up with is overtime after overtime of tired players, who even though they make mistakes due to that lack of energy, they can't get anything on their shots...or they're too punchdrunk to hit the net.

Last night's Sharks-Stars Game 6 was not exactly an NHL classic. Sure, there was enough action but when the announcers were going on about Turco and Nabokov making 50+ saves, this was no Dan Ellis performance over 60 minutes vs. the high-powered Red Wings in rd. 1.

Overtime is exciting...maybe at best through two periods but after that it's a war of attrition, and let's face facts, more tension- than action-filled. I'm not saying the NHL, or any hockey league, should change it, but stop going on and on about how "great" long OTs are. Just end it already!

Which brings us to the officiating. If the refs would call a penalty, a penalty and not revert back to the dead puck days, then games would end quicker. But, noooooo, we can't let the refs decide the games so let's let the players get away with tackle football.

This is why no matter how hard the NHL tries, it always ends up looking like the league that has no clue. A penalty is a penalty is a penalty...oh, yeah, except in overtime in the new, old and whatever NHL playoffs.