Monday, June 30, 2008

The Centre of The Universe Whines Again

An open letter to the noted hockey expert Theo Caldwell:

Dear Theo Caldwell,

I have no idea why some investment advisor gets to write an op-ed piece in a national newspaper about the merits of some Make Belief player for the HHOF (Doug Gilmour's exclusion from the 2008 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees), but good on ya.

Yes, Adam Oates who helped Cam Neely and Brett Hull to their greatest successes deserves a place in the HHOF even if he's not really all that "famous."

Dino Ciccarelli (by the logic of putting the faceless 600 goal scorer Mike Gartner in) probably deserves a place even though the Red Wings dumped him because he didn't get it done in the playoffs (bar maybe his rookie year with Minny and that 4-goal game he had for the Caps).

Glenn Anderson is deserving but number of Cups is an illogical reason to put him in. Cups or not, he scored enough in both the regular season, playoffs and internationally plus had a signature style as a kamikaze. Cups are a nice bonus but don't tell me Anderson was a better player than Marcel Dionne given his six Cups to none. By that logic, put Rick Chartraw in the HHOF.

Your point that Igor Larionov potted less than half the points of Gilmour and Oates is statistics without context. Larionov was not allowed into your precious NHL until the age of 28 or do I need to enlighten you on the Cold War? Now, if Larionov could have joined the NHL at age 20 like Pavel Bure, then maybe he'd be up there with Oates and Gilmour NHL points-wise. Given the mileage and wear and tear on a 28 y/o who spent years stuck in the militaristic Soviet system, he did pretty good in the NHL, I'd say. We just never got to see him here in his prime other than in Canada Cups.

Considering Larionov was the center on arguably one of the best hockey lines in history (the KLM Line with Sergei Makarov and Vladimir "pre-Canuck Donuts R Me days" Krutov) that destroyed the NHL's best in the 1981 Canada Cup by the score of 8-1 and was also on that fine 1987 team that pushed Canada to the limit, I'd say he's pretty deserving for that alone.

He also is arguably more "famous" worldwide than Doogie has ever been. He was THE player willing to stand up to the Soviet system and fight for players' rights. Add to this his being a pioneer as one of the first "star" Russians to come over, he should be in the Hall and ahead of Gilmour and his ilk for sure.

Hate to say this, too, but prior to Doogie joining the Laffs, I'd say Ed Chynoweth in hockey circles was more well known and Ray Scapinello, too (plus you have to love a guy who despite a life spent of skates still loves road hockey). The average NHL fan probably had little clue but it is the "Hockey" HOF not the "NHL players" HOF after all despite the various marginal NHL talents in there.

When you say in 93/94 that Doogie was touted as the best hockey player in the world, most of that nonsense came out of the Centre of the Universe media. Well, that "best" player choked in the Western Conference Final vs. the Canucks (the Doogie era Leafs were shut out twice in a five-game series so good work, Doogie, setting up that Wendy Clark there in that series).

The most ridiculous "best player in the world" type press was the suggestion that he was getting consideration for the Conn Smythe back in 1993 when his team had been eliminated in the Conference Final. I guess that's why playoff top scorer Peter Forsberg whose Avs were also eliminated in the Conference Final was considered for the Conn Smythe in the 2002 playoffs...NOT!

I would argue there was a time when Larionov would have been touted as the best player in the world but I guess only the T.O. press counts so I'll leave that at that.

Doogie being captain of two Original Six teams is an important selling point? Both teams he was capatin of have not won a Cup since the 1960s so, yeah, that makes about as much sense as the NHL's salary cap.

Yeah, Doogie has an impressive resume but so does Bobby Smith along those lines--a Stanley Cup, a Calder Trophy, a leader (maybe not captain) on both the Habs and North Stars (OK, Expansion Six), went to the Finals four times (each time scoring at least 15 pts per playoff year).

Once upon a time, yes, 400 goals meant something in an era when Rocket Richard got 544 for his regular season career. I think the 500-goal mark is the one that is celebrated from Jean Beliveau's days onwards so Doogie scoring 450 is very good but not NHL great.

Doogie you claim was a playmaking "great" but you have to look at the stats in context. I think the 92/3 and 93/4 seasons where the Leafs finally had a decent team are attributable in large part to the myth that is Doogie. The godlike one had strong competition league-wide in 92/3--Mario Lemieux, Pat Lafontaine and Oates all had over 90 assist that season and all had more goals that Douglas.

In 93/4 he certainly was number two to Gretzky in assists but Sergei Fedorov and Oates outscored Doug and in fewer games, too. Doug was sensational in the playoffs again but bombed out vs. the Canucks, as I said. (Sorry, couldn't help bringing that up again.)

The man also DID NOT "score" a pt/g for 20 seasons unless my division is wrong as 1414 pts into 1474 GP is not a pt/g. In fact in just half of his 20 seasons did he average a pt./g in the regular season.

Compare that to his contemporaries (I'll leave out #99 and #66 for obvious unfair comparison reasons):
Adam Oates 11 regular seasons over a pt/g
Dale Hawerchuk 13
Steve Yzerman 13
Joe Sakic 16
Bernie Federko 11

Onto Clark Gillies. He is not in the HHOF because of his point total, by the way. The guy was the premier power forward on a Cup dynasty. He also was a two-time first team All-Star and last I looked good ole Doogie was not the best center or even second-best center in the NHL even in his glorious Make Belief years or he'd have made the end-of-season NHL all-star teams.

Yes, it is possible to construct an all-star team from guys not in the HHOF. Considering Gilmour, the depised Claude Lemieux (who never even made an All-Star Game!) and Brian Burke's doppleganger Kevin Lowe never made an end-of-season all-star team, I'll stack my non-HHOF (and should be in) all-stars in their prime vs. yours:
G Tom Barrasso (despite not being able to stop a beachball in his lousy seasons--hello, David Volek in Game 7)
D Mark Howe (at forward too as in the WHA he was fantastic w/ dad and his bro')
D Doug Wilson (for cannonading shots on goal or off the glass)
F Ulf Nilsson (for the true "air hockey" innovators w/ Hedberg)
F Anders Hedberg
F Aleksandr Yakushev (even before HOFer Valeri Kharlamov!)

By the way, last I looked the name of what you call this "national" institution is the "Hockey" Hall of Fame not the "NHL" Hall of Fame nor the "Canadian" Hockey Hall of Fame.

I mean we could go on and on about who should be in there--J.C. Tremblay, Pat Stapleton, Bill White, Dave Taylor, Danny Gare, Rick Middleton, John Tonelli, Marian Stastny, Mats Naslund, Bobby Smith, Luc Robitaille, Pavel Bure, Alexander Mogilny, Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov, Aleksandr Maltsev, Milan Novy, etc. We could even go back to the old pro WHL and AHL days when the Original Six was a closed shop and guys were buried in the minors and never given a fair shot. We're not even counting guys who will soon be eligible like Dominik Hasek, Theoren Fleury, John LeClair, Brian Leetch, etc.

I will agree with you about the lameness of so-called Canadian culture esp. the Mr. Dressup CBC so give yourself a point for that.

As far as sending Don Cherry in, the guy may be shocking the fashion world, but listen to his rant about Detroit Red Wings fans not selling out the Joe during the early rounds of the 2008 playoffs saying they prefer Joey Kocur and Bob Probert type hockey...uh, nice 1980s reference there, Don, but "it's the economy, stupid." They sold out when it counted in the Conference Final and Cup Final. Plus if you had Don picking guys for the HHOF forget Gilmour, we'd have Kirk Muller and any other fine broth of a lad born within a stone's throw of Kingston up for consideration. That might be worse than having all these marginal Make Beliefs from the '60s getting in.

Anyway, Theo Not Fleury, you've convinced me never to invest my wealth with Coldwell Asset Management, Inc., if that is the way you research and frame an argument.

Doogie does deserves to be in and he will get in as if average workmanlike Make Beliefs stiffs like Dick Duff, Bob Pulford and Harry Watson can get in, you know the Centre of the Universe will get Doogie in no sweat.

I would like to see more outrage about far more deserving players like Mark Howe and the Swedish Jets who need to be reunited with the Golden Jet in the HHOF.

Highly entertaining article at least, if a bit, as per usual, too Tarrana-centric.

All the best to you in your Doogie "Quest for the Hall"...and a hearty "1967" to you as well!


Johnny Canucklehead

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Retro Canuck Fighting Saints

Ah, the '70s! Here's a blast from the past and the early days of Harry Whaler's broadcasting career (check out the jacket--snazzy, daddy-o!) and look who his first guest is--Cheech Garrett! Hey, a mention of Gilles Villemure--the original Mr. Smiley Face maskman and also a former Canuck (WHL era) and even one of Gary "Suitcase" Smith.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Goooooals Galore!

Wouldn't you watch more soccer if it ended up 9-4? Read about the Steve Nash-a-rama in New York.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is Mo Gone?

So, with the Nux picking up Kyle Wellwood off the Make Beliefs on waivers, you have to figure there will be zero attempts to re-sign 32-year-old UFA Brendan Morrison now? Can you see Mo taking Linden's slot as the fourth line center? It's not going to be Wellwood as why bring in a 25-year-old with little defensive or faceoff skills to be a fourth line center?

You know Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler are locks at center for '08/09. Wellwood is just 25, scored a bunch in junior and in the AHL so give him more than the 12+ minutes he was getting in T.O. and let's see what he can do.

Given he seems fast and has shown signs of being a bit of a Steve Sullivan with the puck, well worth the waiver claim put in. Anyway, Luongo and the Nux D can make most any forward look a better defensively. So goalsuck away, Kyle!

Now if the Canucks snag Darcy Tucker then who knows? Tapping into that Laff talent pool and snagging Jerry Butler and Tiger Williams did not hurt the '82 squad, although Rick Vaive did go on to pot a ton o' goals with the sadsack Laffs of the '80s.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Canuck Draft 2008: Back to the '80s!

Obviously the "payoff" of any draft is further down the line but at least we now have an idea of what sort of team Mike Gillis is trying to build. One Trevor Linden clone, a big slow offensively-challenged defensemen, a skillful Scandinavian, a skillful Lower Mainland marketing dreamboat and a Canuck employee's son--so, yeah, basically your typical Canucks team of the '80s.

The first rounder is Cody Hodgson. He's described as a Trevor Linden clone (i.e., future hunky dreamboat captain material who will lose his scoring touch by his mid-20s?) and, hopefully, is not in any way related to another ex-Canuck Dan Hodgson. Cody can definitely score, but in the words of TSN's Bob McKenzie "the only thing that separates him (Hodgson) from (#1 overall pick) Stamkos is a lack of explosive speed." So, in other words, Mike Modano he's not. Then I guess he is Trevor Linden Version 2.0.

Associate (would someone explain to me how assistant coaches became "associate" coaches, by the way) Rick Bowness's son works as the (wait for it) marketing and communications manager of the St. John Sea Dogs (QMJHL). So, voila, Ocean Canines' D-man Yann Sauve is ours in round two. He says he patterns his game after Dion Phanuef.

Let's see how good a judge of his talent Sauve is:
17-year-old Phaneuf 30 pts in 71 GP, +28 w/ Red Deer (WHL)
17-year-old Sauve 21 pts in 69 GP, +1 w/ St. John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Well, not quite at Phaneuf levels yet. Maybe he meant he patterns his hunky physique more like Phaneuf's in hopes of catching Elisha Cuthbert's eye. Sauve might want to crank it up a bit as by 18, Phaneuf was a serious stud (statistically, that is) and by 19 was averaging over a point per game in the Dub.

Now given Nonehead boneheaded up by trading all of the 2008 draft picks for the Eric Weinrichs and Keith Carneys of the NHL world, Gillis was left with nothing to do for rounds three and four but watch other teams stock up.

Round five and away we go!
The Nux picked up Prab Rai (for all confused world music fans, that's not a new form of Algerian pop music). Described as a Mason Raymond type (so we can look forward to him not making the NHL until age 22?) albeit via Surrey. The Rai on ice has way better stats than Raymond ever had. Last season, the Prabster had 65 pts in 71 GP for the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) and was +31. The marketing potential, too, is Robin Bawa-tastic here locally so here's hoping he blazes his way onto Canuck ice sooner rather than later.

Round six
An Espen Knutsen of a pick in Mats Forsberg...I mean Froshaug. A Norwegian playing in the Swedish junior league, he bagged 36 pts in 35 GP--"hyggelig!" As nice as that is in Norwegian, the fact as a 19-year-old he played in the World Championships held in Canada this past spring is promising news. Then again we're talking a nation of cross-country skiers and ski jumpers. I'm sure the talent level and depth in Fjordland are not exactly up to its Scandinavian neighbors' depth charts.

Round seven
Once again it's time to tap that wide Canuck scouting network. Morgan Clark, son of Nux goaltending consultant Ian Clark, is now Canuck property. He is described as a sound technical goalie. Given his save percentage last season with Red Deer (WHL) was .884, I think he needs to look into being more Gumby Hasek-like unless they meant the way he talks "sounds" technical.

There you have it: No Tanguay, Umberger, Jokinen or anyone else half decent traded for the Sedins on draft day. Meaning another season of Tour de Sweden cycling until maybe one or more of the 2008 crew come onboard the good ship Canuck.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ryan Walter: Stay Hungry. Play Your Best Game.

Ryan Walter is the new assistant to Coach Yogi Bear (artistic rendering of Coach Vigneault by Hanna Barbera). He may not have been a hip TV color analyst despite his almost Kerry Fraser-like 'do, but at least he's hip with the kids with his very own Web site.

Apparently, Mr. Walter is a "leadership expert" (it's a four-year degree course at the University of Mars, according to Dean Otis Sistrunk) so maybe he can give the Nux new captain (we all know Naslund is toast) some tips. He also "synergizes teams" so Canuck fans look for a lot of synergy drinks on the bench in 08/09.

It also looks like his winning strategy involves denying players food before games. Yes, boys, stay hungry and play your best, as Ryan Walter says!

In case you are wondering "Why Ryan?" then wonder no more. His own Web site explains it all:

Why Ryan?

Has exceptional ability to create inspirational, interactive learning
Makes meeting planners SHINE
Customizes Presentations to fit clients' desired outcomes
Has Masters Degree in Leadership/Business
Has Celebrity Status: 15 years in the NHL, 12 years as a TV Broadcaster, actor in the movie MIRACLE
Is a natural communicator using stories in his keynotes and interactive games in his breakout sessions to powerfully connect with people
Was a leader at a young age (the youngest captain in the NHL), and has passion for being on the cutting edge of leadership
Will host a dynamic Q&A with your audience
Understands organization/business problems and leadership solutions
Leverages personal success stories to inspire the HUNGRY SPIRIT and connect the leadership dots
You get to wear his Stanley Cup Ring

*Ring wearing may rotate on a counter-clockwise basis around the dressing room and be available only on game nights. Breakout sessions will hopefully involve tape-to-tape passes and not so much of that "off the boards to no one" play (known locally as the Willie Mitchell Special).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trevor Linden: The Almost Cam Neely

I'm probably a handful of fans who never "got" Trevor Linden. I'm talking about the player not the all-around nice hot Captain Canuck so many fans love and worship. Would someone please explain to me why at the age of 26 he basically began to regress as a goal scorer? That I've never seen explained in print nor ever asked by any media member.

Why is it contemporaries like Wendel Clark (yes, Wendy, the vastly overrated Make Belief) managed four seasons of 30+ goals after age 25 including a whopping 46 at age 27 and a surreal 32 goals in 77 games at age 32 mainly with Tampa (he was a trade deadline pickup for the Wings that 98/99 season)?

Even Kevin Dineen (Mr. Whaler/Hurricane...sorry, Ron Francis) squeezed out two more 30-goal seasons from ages 26 to 30.

Don't even get me started on Rick Tocchet, who lucked out and landed in Mario World where he bagged 48 goals at age 27. Tocchet somehow even managed to squeeze out four 20+ goal season at ages 31 through 34. During this time the closest our Trev got was 19 at age 32.

Think about it. From when he broke in as an 18-year-old through age 25, Linden had seven 30-goal seasons (yes, I'm counting the 18 goals in 48 games played during the 1994/95 strike season as a 30-goal season). At the time, I honestly thought he was headed to be the next Cam Neely and that a 40- or even a 50-goal goal season could be possible. He turned 26 on a team that had Alexander Mogilny, Pavel Bure and a young Markus Naslund in 1996/97 headed into what should have been the prime of his career.

Then something snapped and he was no longer the ironman. After missing just seven games total in those first eight seasons, he played just 49 in that 9-goal 96/7 season. From ages 26 to 30, he averaged a prorated 19 goals over an 82-game schedule. Sad thing was in only his 1998/99 season with the New York Islanders did he manage to play in all 82 games through that span.

His return to Vancouver at the age of 31 seemed to revive his ability to stay healthy and up until last season played in over 96-percent of the Nux games albeit with reduced minutes. His scoring touch was pretty much toast by then lost amidst his travels from the Island to Montreal to DC.

The even more frustrating thing about his career was in the playoffs through his first stint in Vancouver (79 GP, 30G, 80 pts), he was better than all his power forward contemporaries bar Cam Baby. Trev was money in the bank when it counted. Then it suddenly stopped. It's like he went from being Cam Neely, Jr., to an average NHLer from age 26 on.

Well, at least we'll always have New York in the springtime of 1994, but I still wonder what was it that turned Linden from a consistent 30-goal scorer to one who struggled to crack 20 in what should have been any decent hockey player's prime.

We'll always luv ya, Trev, but what did happen to your hands after age 25?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Baseball Season Is Back In Vancouver!

Although the weather is not cooperating, summer is supposedly just around the corner meaning it's baseball season in town. Now fans of the A ball Vancouver Canadians may want to know about some surprising changes and not just the much ballyhooed mascot.

Seems there are no longer general admission tickets. The whole ballpark is reserved seating now. So the cheapest (and let me remind you this is A ball not AAA ball) is now $11.

Here's a quick market comparison with the other teams in the Northwest League as far as cheap seats go:
Boise US$6
Eugene US$5.50 (US$4.50 for kids and seniors)
Everett US$7
Salem-Keizer US$7
Spokane US$6
Tri-City US$5 ((US$4 for kids and seniors)
Yakima US$5.50 (US$4.50 for kids and seniors)

Vancouver C$11

All these teams have their discounted game tickets and this year again Safeway offers that at $7.99 each for the C's, too, but (like last year) these are only vouchers. You have to physically go to the ballpark to exchange these for tickets. This means getting there early to avoid lineups or making a trip to the "used to be the centre of town in the 1920s, but now is located nowhere near anyone works or lives" of Main and 29th Ave. during office hours to the ballpark to snag your ducats through the stadium box office. Not that opening up a visible office downtown would be a good idea, but what do I know? I'm a guy who sees no need to have a Useless Soccer League Whitecaps stadium downtown but would love to spend summers at a downtown ballpark and maybe getting AAA ball back here because of it.

So, despite a claimed 70 percent increase in ticket sales last season, the C's have seen fit to raise the price of their cheapest seat by about the same 70 percent (i.e., last season general admission seats, I believe, were $6.50 at least through Safeway they were).

How Vancouver can they get? Way to go, C's!

Check out the C's site for a look and, oh yeah, try to find any info on Safeway selling vouchers.