As I sat watching the Calgary Flames home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, I kept asking myself what the hell Jay Feaster was talking about. Context: Earlier this summer Feaster was quoted saying his Flames will make the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Several. Times.
“We’ll make the playoffs this year”
Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames General Manager | Source
Yeah, for realz.
Look, no one’s putting a gun to the man’s head. Maybe Feaster is trying to light a fire under the asses of the entire Flames roster. Or maybe he truly believes what he’s saying. Frankly it doesn’t matter. He’s wrong.
As we get ready for the start of game one of the Stanley Cup finals, I thought it’d be wise to drop in my predictions. I know I haven’t done any predictions for the 2011 playoffs like I have for previous years, mostly because it’s been a crapshoot this year, but I’m weighing in now. Here we go.
While these two teams are closer than a lot of people are willing to admit, I think there are two key areas (that everyone else hasn’t already mentioned) that separate the Vancouver Canucks from the Boston Bruins.
There’s no doubt that the Bruins have some terrific offensive depth. It’s a large reason why they are in the Stanley Cup finals. However, their top line of Lucic – Krejci – Horton isn’t quite a top line. It’s more of a strong second line and it pales in comparison to the D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Burrows line of Vancouver. It’s not even a debate. When you break down the Bruins second line of Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi, it’s solid, but no better than the Canucks second line of Raymond – Kesler – Higgins. Boston are rocking a 2a and 2b type set up for lines. Sure, it’s good enough to get you through the East, but not the Western Conference champs in Vancouver.
It wasn’t pretty, but none of that matters. Kevin Bieksa’s overtime goal on Tuesday night put the Vancouver Canucks into the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. It’s an incredible achievement for the NHL’s top regular season team, although Bieksa was quick to point out the goal was a bit of a “duck.”
For anyone who missed it, the puck took a crazy bounce off a glass partition known as a stanchion. No player on the ice knew where the puck had bounced to, except Bieksa, who took the quickest shot possible to beat San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. Although the shot beat Niemi, the “duck” comment came from Bieksa in a post-game interview admitting he fanned on the slapshot.
What makes the unique goal even more incredible, however, is the accuracy of NHL.com’s game stats. In fact, I was so blown away how precise the stats were, I had to take a screenshot. Check it out:
OK. These playoffs have been great. The first round was absolutely killer. Easily the best first round I can recall. For me, some highlights included watching game seven of the Blackhawks-Canucks series in a downtown Chicago bar. You could hear a pin drop in that packed bar for the majority of the third period. That is, until Jonathan Toews did something amazing. Then things got nuts. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Chris Campoli made the biggest error of his career by assisting on Alex Burrows series winning goal.
I’m not very good at remembering to post links to my other (less ridiculous) work. So instead I’m going to post several links below with the hope that you read them, as well as the promise that I’ll try to update these links daily on Stayclassy. Anyways…
I’d like to bring your attention to some random hockey thoughts I recently wrote. The thoughts concern Carey Price’s strong play this year and how I think it’s masking how badly the Montreal Candiens screwed up the Jaroslav Halak trade, in addition to whether Steve Stamkos can hit the 70 goal plateau this year (for the record, I put this up before everyone else started the 50-50 club talk… followers!) and the sweet, sweet irony of Marc Savard’s eventual return to Boston (hint: it’s going to affect both Greg and Colin Campbell).
As well, I wrote about the former 2007 2nd overall pick James van Riemsdyk and why I think he could be the odd man out in Philadelphia sooner than later. There doesn’t seem to be room for him, considering the strong group of forwards the Flyers have (in addition to the emergence of Claude Giroux). If (and that’s a big if) the Flyers traded JVR, I believe they could get some salary cap relief, in addition to a mid-late 1st round draft pick.
Lastly, when you think of teams who sign their core players to long-term contracts, you think of the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Obviously the Penguins and Blackhawks are recent Stanley Cup Champions, while the Flyers came pretty close too. And then you have the Vancouver Canucks who have locked up their core players, minus the same kind of results as the teams I mentioned. Interesting. And then you see “buzz teams” like the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings doing the same thing, with even less results than the Canucks. NHL General Managers are in a tough place these days.
Sometimes when I get bored I look up stats of NHL stars or young up-and-comers to see how they progressed through their minor league careers and into the NHL. In some cases NHL.com has stats going as far back as Bantam and Midget for some players. For example, take a look at Taylor Hall’s minor hockey stats:
Taylor Hall's minor league stats. How hilarious is that top year in Kingston? 85 points in 29 games? Bahaha!
I find it amusing to see how dominant players like this were in very good AA and AAA leagues, prior to hitting Juniors. And that’s when it hit me. Looking at stats like this, it doesn’t give you the full picture of a player. It doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s almost like there’s a need for advanced information… or better yet, advanced stats!!! (Dun-dun-dunnnn).
And thus, here’s some examples of things NHL.com stats didn’t tell me:
Nazem Kadri – As you would expect, Kadri’s stats are impressive. While it’s hard to be critical of a guy who regularly scores more points than games played, I’m not seeing any numerical figures for how many times Kadri will say he believes he’s ready for the NHL after no visible change in attitude, demeanor or play.
Taylor Hall – Looking at Hall’s stats (see the image above), you’ll see this kid is a star. He’s been a star at every level he’s ever played at. What the stats don’t say is how good of an impersonator he is. Taylor’s stats this season show a damn good Shawn Horcoff impression, but I’m ready to see Hall play himself.
Garth Snow – Everything about Snow’s stats reveal he’s an independent thinker who comes to conclusions and decisions on his own. However, the stats don’t say that the Islanders are being run any differently with him “managing the club” then before he was part of the organization…
Drew Doughty – I think Doughty’s stats are great, but to be honest, I can’t be certain. Every time I try to view his stats, this annoying pop up comes on my screen and says “You are limited to 2 views of this player per year because of local blackout restrictions.”
Brett Sutter – The weirdest thing happened when I looked at Brett Sutter’s stats. I actually thought GP stood for “glasses purchased,” A for “assaultings,” P for “pints” and PIM for “punching incidents (while) messed up.”
Marc Savard – According to his stats, Marc Savard has been a point-per-game player at virtually every level he’s ever played at. Unfortunately, there appears to be no evidence that he was ever “not a pussy.” **
** Quote from the NHL’s Wheel of Justice guy.
Andrei Markov – OK. I looked pretty hard in Markov’s stats for any kind of injury warnings, but I didn’t find anything beyond “skates very well for a guy who’s right knee is made of glass and silly putty.”
Gregory Campbell – While stats tell me Campbell is a secondary/checking scorer who takes the odd penalty here and there, there was no count on how many times his father complained and sent nasty emails about minor stick infractions on Greg’s behalf.
And there you have it! Perhaps there is a need for advanced stats in hockey. Hmmmm. Even after I just finished saying otherwise. Damn me!
Stay classy, advanced hockey stats.
P.S – To read a serious blog I wrote earlier today (I’m on a tear, I know), check out “Long-Term Faith” on The Score. It’s an article about locking up core players far earlier than teams want to and the differences between teams like the Blackhawks and Penguins, and the Vancouver Canucks. It’s probably the best thing you’ll read today. Well, maybe. Thanks!
Recently I was asked to write an article about the Vancouver Canucks. I figured “why not,” I’m always up for a challenge. Trouble is, I really didn’t (and still don’t) know much about the Canucks, beyond the fact they are easily Canada’s best shot at a Stanley Cup.
Obviously that doesn’t say much since everyone knows Canada’s next best hockey team might not make the playoffs. Despite my embarrassingly poor knowledge of the Canucks, I’m reasonably comfortable stating the Canucks are the best team in the Western Conference with identical twins.
I’m a bit of an optimist (well not really, but still), so maybe this will be one of those “fun” posts where I do research and learn something new about the team. OK, I’m totally in for doing a Canucks article. I’ve convinced myself! *Begins research*
Researching and learning about Vancouver’s hockey team started out well, too. For example, I just read the team cut Brendan Morrison from his pro tryout. Instantly, I’ve learned the difference between the Canucks and the Calgary Flames. But that was the only “easy” information to learn. I started reading more about the on-ice tendencies of all Canucks players and got really confused. The article described how hockey goalies often dive and flop around on the ice. I found this weird and confusing because I didn’t think Alex Burrows was a goalie. What the hell???
Then I discovered there’s a small controversy over who the new team captain will be. I even talked to several Canucks fans about the issue. It seems the consensus choice is either Ryan Kesler or Henrik Sedin. Both seem like great choices to me, especially since neither of them will require a bilingual stepping stool in order to jump over the boards for each shift.
Throughout my research, it was clear the Vancouver Canucks are considered a top contending team for this year’s Stanley Cup. No one has declared this an “all or nothing” season (although typically that’s something you do to justify signing a checking center to a $7.5 Million contract, or something like that…), but this year probably stands as the year the Canucks Stanley Cup window begins to close. I’m told this window will shut far quicker since it doesn’t have to close over top of Shane O’Brien and Kyle Wellwood. Wellwood is apparently going to the KHL. O’Brien, well, I’m guessing he’ll just hibernate over the winter months after being placed on waviers.
Perhaps the biggest reason many see this year as Vancouver’s chance to win the Stanley Cup is because the arch-rival Chicago Blackhawks lost some of their depth and skilled players during the off-season. Of course, Dustin Byfuglien’s trade to the Eastern Conference means Roberto Luongo will only have to worry about his own teammates trying to kill him.
It also means Luongo has one less person to blame during the four or five times he fakes an injury each game…
After doing all this research, I’ve concluded this will be an interesting year for the Vancouver Canucks. The pressure is on to win, but the players and management should be used to that since Canucks fans have expected a Stanley Cup win for the better part of the last decade. Even if they don’t win, the Canucks can take comfort knowing they still have their first round pick in 2011′s Entry Draft.
Recently the NHL issued a press release for the 2010-2011 Center Ice TV package. The actual news release seems pretty normal but it’s definitely a polished and more refined version.
Like any other press release, several drafts were probably written before any such polishing could happen. Somehow I’ve managed to get my hands on a draft version of this press release… check it out below. It’s probably a good thing they changed it.
If you would like to download a hi-res/totally awesome version of the image above, click here.
What do you think? Did the NHL do the right thing by changing it? Were they onto something with the draft? Who knows…
Finally the LeBron James fiasco is over. James, Dwyane Wade and some other “star” have all signed with the Miami Heat. I guess that’s the NHL equivalent of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Manny Malholtra all signing with Washington (or some other team). Man, what a disaster for sports. Anyways I’m sure hockey fans around the world were wondering the same as me on Thursday night: “What if LeBron James played in the NHL?” Luckily, you have your answers:
TSN would air a day-long broadcast complete with instant analysis from Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and two former NHLers named Mike who no one remembers.
The Ottawa Senators wouldn’t show interest in a non-Russian born star who isn’t far removed from his prime.
If Darryl Sutter hasn’t signed him before, he’s not going to now!
The Vancouver Canucks would offer to retire his jersey with a nice ceremony set for next season. Even if his career ends up being just OK.
Simon Gagne would still be asked to waive his no trade clause for completely unrelated reasons.
The Los Angeles Kings wouldn’t have interest in him. But then they would. And then they wouldn’t. And then they would… Oh god! Make it stop already!
LeBron James is definitely the solution to get the Lighthouse Project afloat.
The Montreal Canadiens bid for James would inevitably come up short.
Strangely, Philadelphia-based “insiders” would rate the odds of James ending up a Flyer a solid e4 or higher.
The Toronto Maple Leafs would have little to no interest in James. Not because he’s an excellent player or financial commitments to other players but because he’s not a defenseman.
Gary Bettman would declare the intense coverage of LeBron-gate a successful part of the NHL’s expansion strategy.
Close to 1 million search results come up when you Google “Worst NHL contracts“. I know – ouch.
Upon clicking through the first few links (Puck Daddy has a good one, as does NHL Snipers… and so does a little site named Stayclassy.net), it’s apparent a fair chunk of these so called “worst contracts, ever” were signed on July 1st. I know – ouch, again.
I’m not all that surprised, and I’m guessing you aren’t either. For all the crappy (and I mean really crappy) contracts July 1st seems to breed, there are some good ones, too (I stress some). Today, I want to look at two UFA signings from last summer that are fair in length and dollars that have made a very big impact on their respective teams.
Mikael Samuelsson - one of the good UFA signings in 2009!
Mikael Samuelsson – Vancouver Canucks
For whatever reason, Mike Gillis seems to have a knack for getting Swedish born players to put on a Canucks jersey (Sedins, Mats Sundin, Samuelsson and others). Gillis has signed some great deals for Vancouver, but perhaps none better than Mikael Samuelsson’s 3-year $7.5 Million contract last summer. That’s a cap hit of $2.5 Million per season for a player who scored 30 goals and registered 53 points in 74 games this year. $2.5 Million for a top 6 forward who brings leadership, a Stanley Cup ring and the ability to score clutch goals is an absolute steal. Money and contract aside, this was a great signing because Samuelsson gives the Canucks different options on line combo’s and is very responsible defensively – a nice trait many Canuck forwards have. He’s a great fit with the team and an excellent UFA signing by the Vancouver Canucks.
Mike Cammalleri - one of the good UFA signings 2009!
Mike Cammalleri – Montreal Canadiens
In my opinion, the biggest reason the Calgary Flames missed the 2010 Playoffs was due to a lack of goal scoring from an underrated forward named Mike Cammalleri. Essentially, the Flames chose Jay Bouwmeester over Cammalleri last summer and are now paying the price. Meanwhile, Cammalleri has been one of the Canadien’s top goal scorers, hitting the back of the net 26 times in a shortened 65 game season. Cammalleri is more than capable of being a consistent 40 goal scorer in the NHL if healthy. People have said a lot about Bob Gainey this year, but this was one the better signings he’s made in years. Cammalleri will be a Montreal Canadien for at least 4 seasons and carries a cap hit of $6 Million (the same cap hit Alex Sem0n carries…). Cammalleri is helping lead the Canadiens on and off the ice in a somewhat surprising Playoff run this year. Cammalleri is a dynamic forward, very versatile and doesn’t give up on plays. It’s also worth noting Cammalleri’s willingness and availability for interviews (good ones – not crusty Scott Gomez interviews) and the way he’s embraced the city of Montreal by tweeting everything in French and English. A solid signing last summer by the Montreal Canadiens.
Aside from Cammalleri and Samuelsson, players like Brian Gionta, Taylor Pyatt, Todd Bertuzzi and Craig Anderson have been key signings from last summer as well. Who are your top UFA signings from 2009?
Stay classy, Mikael Samuelsson and Mike Cammalleri. There are such things as good UFA signings… sometimes.