Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All Things Hockey, 2010-2011 Edition 2

For the past couple of months, I have been extremely busy.  Either that, or I have become extremely lazy (fine, lazier).  Maybe both.  Either way, I haven’t found the time to write, and this blog has been underperforming like a Russian drafted in the second half of the first round.  Or Hugh Jessiman. Okay, not as bad as Hough Jessiman.  But close.  Either way, I need to step up my game.  With that in mind, it is time to bring back All-Things-Hockey .
In the words of the one and only Biz-Nasty, ‘BOOM.’ Let’s get at it.

Getting Center Iced
About six weeks ago, I made a life changing decision.  With midseason prices having just gone into effect, I did what I had wanted to do, really since moving into my house in July, and pulled the trigger on NHL Center Ice.  Now, this mostly means that I watch games on my TV rather than my computer, and spend all of my free time watching hockey rather than most of my free time watching hockey, and it probably won’t have any long term ramifications whatsoever.  Still, a change is a change, so that makes it a life changing decision.
Now, first things first.  Facilitating CenterIce is, as far as I’m concerned, the main reason that we harnessed electricity, invented television, and launched a space program.  There are probably things about living in 2011 that are better than being able to flip between 8 or 9 hockey games a night, but I’m not that interested in them.
Hold on, my point isn’t getting across.  I’ll let Bruno Mars take it from here:
You get the idea.  Anyways, I mentioned it last year, but there are certain nuances of having access to every NHL game.  One is that you quickly learn which teams you find interesting and which you don’t based on which games you gravitate towards and which you click past.  I ranked teams based on this last year. (Looking at that reminds me, I have CenterIce IN HD NOW!  DirecTV is the greatest thing ever.  It is pure awesomeness.  Awesomeness in HD, that is.)
(For what it’s worth, in the 2010-2011 version of those rankings, Edmonton goes way up, Carolina goes up a little bit, Montreal is up, Tampa Bay jumps up and Boston goes towards the top.  Atlanta, Buffalo Calgary, Columbus and Toronto were too high anyways, and Ottawa is now right near the bottom.)
One thing that develops not long after starting with the CenterIce package is a taste for certain announcing teams.  Out of the 30 offered by the league, at least 10 to 15 will fade in to the background and not seem important.  5 or 6 will become favorites, another 5 or 6 will seem insufferable, and another 8-10 will inspire weaker emotions. 
For me, the favorites list looks like this:
Randy Hahn, Drew Ramenda (San Jose): It is an interesting phenomenon.  Everyone wants to defend their home guys.  I have friends (Sharks fans) that will insist that Randy and Drew are, without exceptipon the best in the league, simply because they are the Sharks guys.  I guess it makes sense, with them as the voice of the team that you watch night in and night out you become familiar and comfortable with them, and since you are on the same side, you are bound to agree more often than not.  That phenomenon aside, though, Randy and Drew are enjoyable, and make the good list.
Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley (Boston): These guys are, without a doubt, polarizing.  There are plenty of people out there who can’t stand Edwards, but I for one love his antics.  The dude is enthusiastic, and makes the game more interesting to watch.  What more can you ask for?  Of course, he is a giant homer, but it is a local broadcast, so I’m over it.  Brickley also brings a lot to the table, as a knowledgale guy but also with one of the best voices in all of hockey (unless you hahpen tah find Bastuhn accents grating.  Then you probably hate Brickley).  Realistically, these two are my favorites. 
Jim Houghson and Craig Simpson (National Broadcasts, Canada)- Houghson used to be the guy in Vancouver, but has switched over to a role on Hockey Night in Canada.  He probably has the best voice of any play by play guy in the league, and gets bonus points for being the a HOWITZER guy from the NHL video games. 
Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin (Washington)- Another polarizing pair, I personally like Beninati, and also like the fact that whenever I think of the last name of a Caps player, I think it in Beninati’s voice.  That’s cool, because Beninati’s voice is pretty badass.  Like those monster truck rally announcers, except on a human being.
There are other guys that are good (St. Louis’s Darren Pang and Pittsburgh’s Paul Steigerwald among them), but those are the main ones that warrant mentioning.  On the down side, Nashville’s guys are horrible, and I can’t stand Tyson Nash.  Anyways, that’s about 400 words devoted to announcers, which is too many, so I won’t bother with more detail. 
Anyways, CenterIce is awesome.  It is completely overpriced ($120 for half the season?  Are you kidding me) but well worth it. 

John Davidson Makes My Head Explode
This is going to come as a shock to you, but at 1 in the morning, college students across the United States and Canada frequently consume alcoholic beverages.  Shocking, I know.  I’ll give you a moment to recover.
This past Friday night I was actually partaking in this pastime myself, and when I got back to my house well after midnight, I saw something that suggested that I had not only partaken more than I had realized, but I had actually drank significantly more than I ever had in my life.  It was the first time that the consumption of alcohol had caused me to hallucinate while staring at my computer screen.
Because there was no way that the Blues just traded Eric Johnson for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. 
That would never happen.  But then I went to bed, surprised that I didn’t feel more off, and that I could even stand up, you know, because of the hallucinations, to sleep off what was clearly an insane level of intoxication.
And then I woke up.  And it was real. 
The absurdity of the trade aside, most of which comes from how little one could have seen it coming, the funnies thing about this trade is that everyone I talk to agrees that it was 100% a rip off, and completely lopsided.  The funny thing is, people can’t agree on which side it was lopsided towards. 
For my money, I like what St. Louis got.  Both Shattenkirk and Stewart looked like budding stars this year.  Johnson may in fact be the best player in the deal, but the difference between him and Shatty-Ice is much less than that of Stewart and McClement.  Adding Stewart is going to make the Blues, with Stewart, Oshie and Backes banging on the forecheck, a tough team to play against. 

Quick Hits on the NHL Trades Thus Far
- What’s going on? Did they move the deadline up?  It isn’t even the last week of February and the deals keep coming.  I can’t complain, I love trades, but…damn.
- Chris Neal just won the freaking lottery, if people are right in speculating that he will be put on Crosby’s wing.  I’m pretty sure I could pick up at least 20 tucks a year playing with 87.  Also, if I could play on his wing for 5 years, you could cut my right arm off with a rusty jigsaw in year 6 if that was part of the deal.
- Versteeg’s numbers aren’t earthshattering, but he excels at the eyeball test.  Kid just looks like a good player.  Great pickup by Philly.
- Mike Fisher to Nashville.  Of course.  Couldn’t help but laugh at that one.  On the other hand, he can be a star in that town because of the non-hockey related name recognition, and since he is a good player, it makes it a worthwhile deal for the Preds.
- As Peter King and his complete misunderstanding of syntax might say, contenders, Boston, you are one. Kaberle makes that blueline potent.  Picking up Kelly also gives them ridiculous center depth. 
- 2 Goligoski notes: First of all, the dude is clearly a good, young defenseman, but he is getting a lot of love that I don’t remember being there before since this trade.  Also, this means Seto is staying put in San Jose, I would say.  Pittsburgh was the perfect place for that deal, and Goligoski was the target (even if it wasn;t it was definitely a defenseman, and the Pens aren’t about to ship out two). So let’s put the Seto on the move rumors away.  I’m sure they will be back next year but we’re good for now.

My dad thinks that these are way too long.  I want to help him out so that he can actually get through this, but I am on pace for like 8000 words right now.  Since I don’t want to actually have to proofread and cut the fat (besides, this is all PRICELESS INFORMATION that needs to be shared with the world), I am going to compromise, and throw in random hockey related YouTube videos that I enjoyed.  Don’t say I never did anything for you.

Taking it Outside
Is it just me, or has the hockey been a little bit obsessed with this whole outdoor game thing?  Obviously the Winter Classic has become the signature event of the NHL’s regular season, and understandably so.  Even after four editions, it is still a visual wonderland that is worth tuning in for whether you are a hockey fan or not, which is what the NHL is looking for (in general, but especially with this event).  Since the NBC contract dictates that the NHL has to use American teams, and since this is probably good anyways (what, with growing the game and whatnot), it also makes perfect sense to give Canada a shot at the whole outdoor thing. 
For that reason I am completely okay with doubling up with the outdoor NHL game (maybe not every year but certainly every few years at least).  My biggest issue with the Heritage Classic, then, had nothing to do with hockey or the NHL.  In fact, my only problem with it was that Drake did not, as far as I can tell, return home for it, as promised.  In fact, as far as my extensive research (which consisted of Googling ‘Drake’ to confirm that he was in the NBA’s halftime show) has shown, Drake neither returned home to Canada to attend to the game, nor did he return home to Toronto on Sunday to watch the game.
(If those jokes went over your head, listen to the song Fireworks.  The good one.  Not the Katy Perry piece of crap.  In fact, listen to it even if you think you got them.  That shit is pure fire, as the kids say.  Seriously, though.  I really like Drake.  By far my favorite Jewish-Canadian rapper.  Top 5 at worst.)
That utterly irrelevant diversion aside, I was cool with having a Heritage Classic and a Winter Classic.  In fact, I’m cool with having as mamny outdoor games as teams want to schedule, but in addition to those two, the hockey world has seen at least 2 college games outdoors (Michigan-Michigan State, which saw 116,000 people, and Army-AIC), the two NHL games, a CHL game and a Hartford Whalers alumni event in the natural elements.  Since most of these took place under the radar it probably won’t have much of an effect, but the novelty is going to wear off if the world of puck keeps going outside this often.

Calder Cauldron
(Come back, it isn’t about the AHL.  I swear - although I like Hershey, if anyone cares.
Hey, it’s another section that I’m adding because adding new sections is way easier than continuing old ones that don’t really line up with what I have to say!
Anyways, 2011 has been an interesting year for the Calder (Rookie of the Year) race.  You know why?  Because there has been an NHL season.  Every year is an interesting one for the rookie of the year race.  That’s mainly the case due to my severe ADD, which won’t allow me to be interested by the same players each year.  The rookies are new and exciting, so let’s preview that race by-- SHINY OBJECT!
Where were we?  Oh, rookies.  Right. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the race this year is that of what makes a rookie.  In order to be Calder eligible, a player cannot be over 26, have played in more than 25 regular season games in a previous season, or have played in more than 6 games in two previous seasons.  This has become relevant this year, as it is hard to call either of the two ROY frontrunners ‘rookies,’ if the spirit of the term is honored.
Logan Couture, he of the league lead in game winning goals, and the brightest spot this season for a Sharks team who’s ‘big 3’ has been less than intimidating, played exactly 25 games in 2010.  In the regular season.  He then played 15 games for the Sharks in the playoffs, essentially establishing his spot on the team going forward the year before  his rookie season. 
The second of the frontrunners is Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders.  Grabner, too, is hardly a fresh face out of junior hockey.  He is already with his third NHL organization, having played 20 games last year, for Vancouver.  Most tellingly, though, is that Grabner is just 59 days younger than Sidney Crosby, and was taken by Florida in the same 2006 draft, a guy who had, in one man’s opinion, done a fair amount to establish himself as an NHLer prior to this, Grabner’s rookie year.
Still, under the parameters laid out by the NHL, Grabner and Couture are rookies, even if neither of them played junior hockey during the Obama administration., and they have to be considered the favorites for the 2011 Calder.  Couture has stepped up to become the biggest secondary scoring threat for the Sharks (and arguably more than that).  His 24 goals lead the team, and as I said earlier, his 8 game winners have him tied for the league lead.  Just as importaanly, Couture has been an outstanding three zone player for the Sharks.  He has killed penalties, gone above 50% on draws, and logged a +13 playing key minutes all season for San Jose. 
Grabner came on to the scene a bit later, first gaining recognition from most in Carolina where he was a member of the youngstars team, and on the fastest skater competition handily.  Since then, Grabner has been on a tear, catching Couture in the goal scoring race, with a 10 goals in 6 games stretch shortly after the All-Star break, for a surging Islanders team. 
The third favorite is Jeff Skinner.  Skinner looks a little bit more like a typical rookie (actually, in the literal sense,  he looks more like the typical u16 AAA player, but I was referring to his stats page, not his actual looks).  The 92 birth year (hold on, I’m gonna go slit my wrists…aaand we’re back) was the 7th overall pick for Carolina this past year, and has completely forgone the A, jumping strait from the Kitchener Rangers to a prominent role with the Canes, where he is second on the team in scoring.
There are plenty of other guys with claims to the ROY race, too.
Most of them, it turns out, play for the Edmonton Oilers. Taylor Hall (surging lately, and beginning to regain the aura of dominance that he had in juniors- something that it usually takes rookies a while to get back, like they forgot they were more skilled than most guys for the first few months due to the shock of actually being in the NHL), Magnus Paajarvi (my pick after watching him dominate a pre-season game- my logic was flawless there-, he actually hasn’t been that productive), Jordan Eberle (sure he isn’t in the top 5 in rookie scoring but TSN did a totally hilarious piece on his first goal, which was super sick- that has to count for something) and Linus Omark (DID YOU SEE THAT SHOOTOUT GOAL! HE SPUN AT CENTER ICE THAT WAS BADASS! Omark isn’t actually a ROY candidate.  He has 3 goals this year.) are all productive.  It’s a good thing, too, since Tom Gilbert is pretty much their elder statesman at the ripe old age of 28.
Derek Stepan has cooled significantly from his early season pace, which had him scoring 246 goals this season, and breaking Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record for goals in a remarkable 298 games (just under 4 seasons if he can stay healthy), and points in less than 1000 games, making him easily the best player in NHL history despite never registering an assist (THESE ARE NON-ARGUABLE MATHEMATICAL FACTS).  Despite his significant slump, relative to that pace, he remains in the top 5 amongst rookie scorers. 
I’m told that there are other, non-goal scorers, that could be in the running for rookie of the year, but goal scorers are the ones who make SportsCenter, the ones who get paid and the ones who get laid amiright, so they are all that I really care about.  Also, I don’t think that Corey Crawford, Kevin Shattenkirk or John Carlson quite measure up to the forwards in this race.
TFM Hockey
The site is obnoxious, morally questionable and populated mostly with douches.  It is also hilarious, and frankly, I couldn’t enjoy it more.  One of my favorite aspects of the site is the names that people use.  Essentially, they take a name, title or phrase, and add bro, frat or whatever else to it.  Hockey fans, don’t feel left out.  Here are a few names to consider if you plan to post “Had the pledges DDing the Frathoes to the rink so the slampieces and bros could come to the game. TFM.” and are looking for something hockey related name to put it under.
Ilya Brovalchuk
Alexander Brovechkin
Fratrick Marbro
Brogan Broture
Browen Sound Frattack
Bro Thornton
Bro Pavelski
…any other Joe
Pavel Fratsyuk
Medicine Frat Tigers
Kevin Frattenkirk
Mike Brodano
Anze Bropitar
Natural Frat Trick
That was utterly pointless, but then again, so is this blog.  Cheers.

What 2 Random People Would Say If They Cared About the Sharks (and agreed with me)
Drew Magary
(warning, language is Magary consistent)
Did you see that Setoguchi slapshot the other night?  That was INSANE.  It was like he was trying to shoot it THROUGH Jimmy Howard.  Goodness. I’m even preparing to forgive Seto for disappearing for the first half of the fucking season.  I’m not quite there, but it’s good to have him back
Russian Privejet, chromeboy remix, by Basshunter.  This song will make you want to actually commit a homicide.  Not like shooting someone in the back, but like winning a fight to the death against a worthy advasary.  It is badass like that. 
San Jose-Pittsburgh
I used to love watching the Pens.  Like pretty much everyone they may have been my favorite team in the league to watch.  But now, without Crosby and Gino (not to mention Paul Martin, Mark Letestu, Chris Kunitz, Mike Comrie and Eric Tangradi), it is FUCKING DEPRESSING.  I am flipping through CenterIce, see Pittsburgh come up, and then BOOM.  No Crosby.  Dagger.  Injuries suck sometimes.
San Jose-Calgary
Coming back to Calgary means that the Sharks have played their last game in the Eastern Time Zone, at least according to a throw away coment from Randy Hahn, which I will believe because I am too lazy to check and see if it is true.  Thank God for that, because 4:00/4:30 starts FUCKING SUCK.  Sure, it is mainly because I was an idiot and scheduled classes that go until at least 5:30 four days a week, but still.  I have an undue sense of entitlement wherein I have to be able to see every Sharks game start to finish that needs to be nurtured.  So yeah, I’m happy that the Sharks are staying west for the rest of the year.
Pierre McGuire
Look at Douglas Murray out there.  The guy is a monster.  That’s a great hockey body right there.  Reminds me of a bigger version of Marc Staal, only if Staal was more of a powerful, stay at home guy, who was a lot more physical, didn’t have quite as good puck skills. And was Swedish.  Other than those things, Doug Murray and Marc Staal are exactly the same.  I distinctly remember watching Doug with the Cornell fighting Big Red up in beautiful Ithica, New York, and with Apple Core on Long Island (/never saw him play either place, looked that up 15 minutes before).  What a player.  Watch this here: vintage Doug Murray.  Great job by the San Jose scouting staff finding this guy.
Top 8 / bottom eight
On the Up
8. Pittsburgh Penguins- The injury woes have been absurd for this team.  Even with the improvements that the made from the team that was a contender last year, it is hard to take them seriously without Malkin and not knowing when Crosby is coming back.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning- Their record indicates that they should be higher, but I just don’t trust their blueline, which is HUGE in the playoffs.
6. San Jose Sharks- They are absolutely surging, and only caution prevents me from putting them in the top 3. 
5. Washington Capitals- If Neuvirth continues to look like a bonna fide 1, they are as tough as anyone.
4. Detroit Red Wings- I thought I would be able to take them out of here by 2011.  What the hell?
3. Boston Bruins- They have spent the past two years assembling an incredibly deep roster.  They have 3 second lines.
2. Philadelphia Flyers- It is impossible not to love the acquisition of Versteeg for this team.  Goaltending still scares me but it hasn’t been a problem thus far.
1. Vancouver Canucks- They have one of the best bluelines in the league…on the IR (Bieksa, Edler, Hamhius, Ballard, and Alberts…not a bad top 5, all out).  They are managing to win without them though, and when this team gets healthy they have to be the favorite.
bottom eight
23. New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils- I didn’t want to put either of them on here, since they are on a tear, but the fact is they make up the 13 and 14 seeds in the East, so they have to be on the bottom list.
24. Atlanta Thrashers- Realistically should be at 27, but they just called up Patrick Rissmiller, and that gets you a 3 spot bump in my book. No one said these rankings were scientific.
25. Florida Panthers- Fire sale: commence.  Just a hunch.
26. Colorado Avalanche- They should make a trade to switch things up with some young stars.
27. St. Louis Blues- Ditto.
28. Edmonton Oilers- So young.  A couple of years away.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs- Bad times in Ontario…
30. Ottawa Senators- EVERYTHING MUST GO! (slash is gone).

Goal of the…whatever
Grabovski is the next Nik Antripov.  20 goals a year, looks like a 50 goal scorer on all of them. Bonus points on this unreal move for breaking a tie in the last 3 minutes of the game.

Player Montage
3:06 of top glove.  Down.

Shorter Hockey Thoughts
- Corey Perry is budding as a star in the National Hockey League.  He is having an outstanding season as a player and not just a pest.  This makes me UNREASONABLY EFFING ANGRY.  Really, God?  Corey Perry, that leg stomping, chippy little rat gets to be a star?  What the hell?
- On the same note, Stefan Della Rovere is an NHLer.
- 3 Random things that are badass: Goalie fights, knee drops, one timers.  Boom.
- There are two teams that Word thinks are spelled wrong.  The Sabres (wants Sabers), and Canadiens (Canadians).  Bothe are in the Northeast division.  Coincidence? NO WAY!  Actually, yeah, it probably is.  Thought you should know, though.
 - Chris Neal just won the freaking lottery, if people are right in speculating that he will be put on Crosby’s wing.  I’m pretty sure I could pick up at least 20 tucks a year playing with 87.  Also, if I could play on his wing

Award Watch
Just going to run through this quickly.  I like the Ryan Kessler bandwagon for MVP (why not?), Tim Thomas has to be the Vezina favorite, and as much as it kills me not to pick Couture, I think that Skinner gets the Calder right now.  I’m also going to abstain from the Adams (top Coach) debate, because it is obviously Guy Boucher, but he seems like a douche.  So there.

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