Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

10/29/2009

Armchair GM: Civil War

Last week it was Hockey Wilderness in-fighting as the matchup had me pitted against the head of operations, Nathan.  Instead of it being a spirited Civil War battle, it turned out to be the Fantasy Hockey version of Sherman’s march to the sea.

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Nathan’s squad of Yahoo-drafted fantasy mercenaries did manage to win a few categories and prevent my team from making things really awful (the lead was 11-1 before the weekend) and it also shows that fantasy hockey isn’t completely nerd-proof since categories like game-winning goals are things you just have to hope get you wins.

On the other side of things:  PHEW!

Winning assists and shots on goal by one as well as power play assists by two are tenuous, yet celebrated, victories.  Sure losing goals and power play goals by one is a kick in the teeth, but hey, stuff happens.  The goaltending did the trick for me and new goaltending acquisition Scott Clemmensen did all that he could to try and throw the numbers off completely managing (in his only start of the week) to give up two goals on three shots before being pulled for Tomas Vokoun (who was supposed to have the night off).

As for how the matchup broke down comparatively:

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General Ulysses S. Grant (MVP of the week): How much fantasy hockey love can I heap upon Dallas Stars winger James Neal?  The guy has been a beast and a three goal, two assist week with 4 PIM and 12 shots on goal is pretty awesome.  Now if only I could get some of those goals to be game winners… Oh wait, he did that tonight against Toronto.  Chew on that Second City Hockey.

General William “Tecumseh” Sherman (Supporting the Romp): Give it up for L.A. King Drew Doughty and his five assists and +3 rating, a rating that helped balance out Kimmo Timonen’s -3 for the week.  Sidney Crosby also gets credit for being himself pulling down two goals and two assists as well as 11 shots on goal.

General George Armstrong Custer (Least Valuable Player): It’s tough to be less valuable than Kimmo Timonen is right now, but getting little to nothing of value from defensemen is semi-expected.  A -3 rating, four PIMs and two shots on goal is pretty lame though.  That said, Paul Martin did less than that and that’s why he’s been replaced by Vancouver’s Willie Mitchell.  What do I expect from Mitchell?  PIMs and the occasional point or two as well as not being a +/- nightmare.

hockeywilderness-large VS. secondcity-lg

The Next Battle of Big Horn (As written like a WWE wrestler promo):

I’m looking your way Chicago.  You hear me Second City Hockey? You guys in Blackhawks land might “Commit to the Indian” but I commit to handing your team a whooping.  This very week on this very Internet in this very Yahoo Fantasy Hockey league, all of SBN is going to see what happens when the Frontiersmen run wild on you.

10/19/2009

Armchair GM: Cutting Up Jackets and Feasting on Wings

A Sunday without NHL hockey is getting to be a bit old, two straight weeks without Sunday games makes Joe a dull boy.  Rather it makes me one that has to focus far too much on the NFL and when you’re a Detroit Lions fan there’s better things to do.

So rather than go into hiding and pretend like my efforts to take down the Western Conference elite of Sports Blog Nation are going all for naught, here I am to go and toot my own horn and pick out some MVPs and some players I’m going to put on notice.

Results from Week 1 vs. The Cannon

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While it was just an 8-5 victory, my goaltending chomped on the tailpipe much in thanks to Josh Harding of the Wild getting bombed on and Ray Emery falling from his high horse after earning a shutout in his first start.  Marty Turco was steady but uninspiring from a fantasy standpoint.

Offensively, Drew Doughty was my main man providing tremendous value for a late-round selection tallying a goal and four assists during the first week of play.  James Neal of the Stars carried the goal scoring trophy for the team nailing down three goals.  Brendan Morrow added two goals and three assists and Sidney Crosby showed why it was awesome that he fell into my lap at fourth overall scoring four goals including a game winner.

Who’s on notice after the first week?  Alex Tanguay who scored just one assist (granted it was on the power play) and landing only three shots on goal.  Paul Martin of the Devils finds himself on the hot seat as well tabulating just one shot on goal, an even +/- rating  and one assist (also on the power play).  Josh Harding in his one start for the week managed to earn a 6.01 GAA and a .739 save percentage with only 17 saves.  Ouch babe.

The Cannons were lead by Evgeni Malkin (2g 5a 16 PIM 12 sog) and Alex Burrows (3g 1a 6PIM 23 sog).  Steve Mason and Cam Ward carried the goaltending efforts earning two wins a piece and putting up mostly nice GAA and save percent numbers while seeing a ton of action in the first week.

All in all, a very pleasing effort for the Frontiersmen but that goaltending has to get better.

Results from Week 2 vs. Winging It In Motown

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The trend keeps on keepin’ on.  Another eight victories and only losing out on four against the Red Wings laden squad.  This is when it’s fun to not be a homer.  No, not Tomas Holmstrom.

Since you didn’t get to see how the squads shaped up before, here’s the comparison (click to enlarge).

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As you can see, there was one transaction made by me.  Josh Harding got the boot already in favor of Scott Clemmensen.  Harding has been lit up in two starts for Minnesota and well, if I’m going to have a backup goalie that starts occasionally, I’d prefer it to be a guy who doesn’t have an astronomical goals against average and a minuscule save percentage.  Call me old fashioned.  As it stood, the only thing I struck out on this time were wins.  Turco had a stellar week including a shutout and Emery, while mediocre, wasn’t overly brutal in his one start.

Offensively, the Frontiersmen were beastly although they enjoy the company of the minus rating.  Alfredsson, Knuble and Neal all ponied up the assists and Brendan Morrow did the heavy lifting with the goal scoring.  You really can’t complain when you get consistent offensive work like that each week.  What I can complain about is how miserable Alex Tanguay is.  I know the offense in Tampa Bay is struggling (as will happen when you basically have one scoring line and nothing else) but tallying zero points and a -3 for the week is a good way to end up on a fantasy managers bad side… Especially when you have one of his other teammates setting up at center for you.

Vinny Lecavalier has yet to score a goal and while the three assists this past week were nice, the -4 is a mega kick in the nuts.  Vinny will get his goals eventually, but the pain of his lack of success is being felt in places other than central Florida.  This isn’t to say that Vinny is officially on notice, but it’s just plain old frustrating.

Who is on notice?  Paul Martin of the Devils.   Zeroes across the board and three shots on goal.  At least get kicked out of a game or something man.  Defensemen are thin pickings in the league as it is, but its frustrating to not get anything from a guy that is getting enough playing time to make things happen.

That said, the whining ends there.  +/- is a bit of a crap-shoot category and it can fluctuate from week to week so there’s no real use in trying to plan against that, especially when you can get a lot more out of every single other category possible by playing a guy any given night.  I would like to see the goal scoring pick up though.  You hear me Vinny?

This week I will have my duel with Nathan from Hockey Wilderness, one of a handful of in-house throwdowns.  After reminding Nathan about his team, suffice to say he hates his Yahoo auto-drafted squad.  I’m not about to start counting wins here, but confidence is running high.  Nathan’s “State of Mediocre” pulled a rather Wild-like showing this past week getting shutout by Defending Big D 11-0.

Oh yes, confidence is VERY high.

06/13/2009

Game 7: Epic Series Goes To Pittsburgh – Penguins Win 2-1

Just watching this series, even while watching it with a stray eye from afar in Washington, was exhausting. For fans, for media, for bloggers, for everyone alike.

Just imagine how it is actually playing the games.

The Penguins showed in Game 7 that they did, in fact, want it more. They played harder and more aggressive for the better part of the game. They played smarter for the entire game and didn’t allow for Detroit to wheel and deal the way they like to.

Most importantly, and this was something I made it a point to say both last year and this, their third and fourth lines responded better than Detroit’s did, a point that was made emphatically in Game 7 by Maxime Talbot scoring both Pittsburgh goals. Talbot last year was the lone player on Pittsburgh’s third and fourth lines who proved to be a burr in the side of the Red Wings.

This year, Talbot solidified himself as a folk hero win or loss given how he handled himself against the Capitals and how he played smartly and selflessly throughout the playoffs. I know that the folks in Pittsburgh’s blogging circles will write folk songs and sing the praises of guys like Crosby, Fleury and Malkin but Talbot is the guy for whom much of Pens fans adulation and warm memories from here on out will be saved for.


Evgeni Malkin is the superstar you should get forced down your throat.
(Photo – AP)

In this go-round, Talbot had sustained help from Ruslan Fedotenko – a guy who already has Stanley Cup folk hero status for the last 25 Tampa Bay Lightning fans that haven’t been run off by the new owners there. Adding characters like Craig Adams and Fedotenko helped solidify the other lines for Pittsburgh helping younger players like Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal feel more at home working the grinder lines and realizing that by doing their job checking and defending you can still find a way to pot a goal or two.

Pieces like that are what the team was missing last year and they were able to capitalize best on playing the aggressive forecheck (you know, like I kept saying they ought to do) and put pressure on Detroit’s defense.

No, not Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski – those guys you can’t exactly rattle. Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall however…

To this point in the playoffs, I had been singing the praises of Brad Stuart as his play through the first three rounds had been solid if not spectacular. In the Finals, however, Stuart’s efforts in Game 7 are what folks are going to be paying attention to. Stuart took a bad slashing penalty in the first period and had a brutal turnover and mis-timed moment to pinch in leading to both of Maxime Talbot’s goals.

Having that kind of résumé in an elimination game will often get a guy run out of town. For Stuart, it’s a Finals he’d like to forget as his play suffered. Whether that be from his own mistakes or for having to perpetually look out for Niklas Kronwall who would take himself out of plays looking to deliver a hit elsewhere or do too much on the puck it’s tough to say.

For all the advances that Kronwall seemed to make last season in his play after finally finding a way to remain healthy, I couldn’t help but find myself watching him to see how he would handle himself and his positioning. A lot of the time he’s solid, but there’s enough brain farting going on that teams were finding ways to expose him.

I hammered on a lot of this after Game 3 of this series and his +/- rating didn’t change after Game 3. In Games 4 and 5 he pulled in a +1 rating and in Game 6 he was even.

Yeah, you guessed it, he was a -2 in Game 7 along with Brad Stuart. Game 7 saw plenty of reckless play from the two of them and if anything that -2 was well earned on their part. The poor unfortunate guy that had to deal with all that was Chris Osgood who truly played stellar all throughout this series and the playoffs.

For Pittsburgh though, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin was the story from beginning to end.

Enough about Crosby and him captaining the team to the win – I’m done with that. Good for him for winning but it’s not because of him they were able to beat Detroit. Not in Game 7 and not in the rest of the series. He’s the guy you’re going to get forced down your throats from now until Lord knows when, but it’s got to be eating him up how much more sound the Penguins play when he’s not around. Malkin carried this team last year while Crosby was out with an injury and he carried the team again in Game 7 when Crosby left with an injury in the second period after taking a hit from Johan Franzen.

This was Malkin’s baby from the start of the playoffs and he earned it. Worst of all? Fans in North America aren’t going to hear enough about him because he’s Russian and speaks poor English and the NHL can’t wrap their head around marketing players that don’t come from North America.

Amazing, isn’t it? I’ve got a full-blown man-crush on the Hart Trophy candidates this year (Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Malkin) but the league can’t do anything with them. This is why if you too are a Twitter user you should be following Dmitry Chesnokov, one of the contributors at Yahoo’s Puck Daddy.

He’s Russian and gets all the juicy interviews with the Russian stars and gets the personality out of them that the NHL is too ignorant or lazy to try for and hey, guess what, Russian players aren’t the robots you see elsewhere around the league.

Look at it this way, when your favorite Russian player is giving a poorly-worded interview in English, that guy is a regular Jeremy Roenick or Brett Hull when interviewed in Russian.

It’s so frustrating to see such marketing ability available here and no one putting it to use it’s even managed to derail my Stanley Cup wrap up.

I know a lot is going to get made about how Herr Bettman’s wet dream finally came true here, and it did let’s not think differently, but what we’ve got here is a damn spanking nice little cross-conference rivalry teeming over with superstars. Canadians, Russians, Swedes, Finns and Slovaks all over the place.

Sets the stage pretty nicely for Vancouver in 2010 now, doesn’t it?

Don’t worry, training camps open in three months and the NHL Draft is two weeks away with the Free Agency window opening soon after that.

The off-season begins now.

05/31/2009

Game 1: House of Bounce – Detroit Wins 3-1

Tell me you predicted this would happen.

OK sure, you may have predicted Detroit would win the game. That’s possible.

Did you predict that Sidney Crosby would be held off the scoresheet?

Did you predict that there wouldn’t be a true highlight goal scored?

Did you predict that the one goal that would be the highlight goal would be scored by Justin Abdelkader?

What you can’t see there is Abdelkader smacking the puck out of mid-air and floating it into the upper corner to put Detroit ahead 3-1.

As for the other goals scored in this game, well, the Joe Louis gremlins were in full effect and the Hockey Gods enlisted a Hanna-Barbera least-favorite to lend a hand in scoring tonight:


Don’t know this guy? Yeah, we’re not surprised.

That’s right, it’s Ricochet Rabbit.

You don’t know him? That’s OK, he’s not worth looking up on YouTube or trying to find him on Cartoon Network – he sucks. Given what went down this evening with Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury we’re sure he feels the same way.

Check out the two other goals he allowed this evening:

I know the best way to sum that up is, “Shit happens” but yeah – ouch.


How Marc-Andre Fleury felt in Game 1 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.

That said, as bad as Marc-Andre Fleury had it, Chris Osgood had it going the other way for the Red Wings in stopping 31 of 32 shots and while a bit shaky early on in controlling rebounds, one leading to Ruslan Fedotenko’s seventh goal of the playoffs, Osgood was a rock.

What’s turning out to be one of the crazier phenomenons of the NHL Playoffs is that the more folks seem to discount the work of Chris Osgood, the better he gets. From the second he set foot on the ice in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals as a desperate replacement for the struggling Dominik Hasek, Osgood has been a playoff freakshow.

His efforts in Game 1 brought his playoff goals against average this year to 2.00, second only to Tim Thomas of the Bruins. His save percentage sits at a lofty .928 yet some folks out there more than happy to discount whatever he brings to the table.

But see, now’s the time when I act like a dick and trample all over what I just wrote about him and say: You just never know with Osgood though.

Old memories fade slowly and while you’d like to think the visions of Osgood leading both the 1998 and 2008 Detroit Red Wings to Stanley Cup titles would be the lasting vision of him… The ugly goals and previous poor performances out of both Osgood and some past Red Wings teams tarnish his now incredibly sick and lofty NHL legacy.

Chris Osgood through all this remains the NHL version of Rodney Dangerfield. If he keeps up with the tremendous output and numbers and wins… He’s the benefit of a great defense. If he gives up a few and Detroit loses in rough ways, it’s “typical” Osgood and he has to do better than that for Detroit to win.


No respect I tell ya! No respect at all!

For all that talk about having the great defense in front of him, Chris Osgood sure is facing a good amount of shots. After Game 1, Osgood has faced an average of close to 29 shots per game (28.5+ for those wanting more accuracy). Obviously he’s not having boring games in goal and his 2.00 GAA proves that he’s been on top of his game.

Of course, if he goes the way of Cam Ward and melts down completely all this talk is moot and Osgood will probably never shake off the, “You’re not good enough” demons for the rest of his career and eventual heated debate on whether or not he’s a Hall of Fame goaltender.

After all of that, however, it wouldn’t be an official Penguins game if Sidney Crosby didn’t get involved in some way. This time it came after the final horn:

Ah jeez. Now, honestly, what is the point of doing that? According to Sidney Crosby, well… You figure it out:


“Yeah, Kirk, he was doing what he always does. Giving guys lip service and things like that. I two-handed him I think on top of the foot there as we were skating by. He felt it was necessary for him to keep talking after the game, and I thought I’d whack him.”

Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

Signs of early frustration from Crosby? No, that’s dumb so punch yourself in the yambag if you think that’s the case.

Trying to bait Kirk Maltby and the Red Wings into doing something stupid to go running around after him in Game 2?

Well… Crosby can’t be that naive to think that that would actually work. Detroit has already gone through two teams that are both a lot better at that sort of thing and a lot more nasty about it (Anaheim and Chicago) than Crosby thinks he is being in this case and Kirk Maltby running his mouth and getting that kind of reaction out of Crosby means that he’s doing his job well.

The storylines for Game 2 are going to be about whether or not Maltby and the Red Wings respond to Crosby’s petulance (they certainly won’t go out of their way to do it) and whether or not Crosby can give his team a lift and a split before the series turns to Pittsburgh.

Both teams played this game very well and for all intents and purposes it was a very even game. Some folks will be critical of the officiating both ways and there were certainly a lot of non-calls but the key here is that the flow and pace of the game was not affected by it. It didn’t become a slow, plodding, slug-it-out sort of game with both teams playing dump and chase all night and if that sort of thing can continue throughout the playoffs and matters stay consistent the series will stay entertaining to watch.

With the quick turnaround for Game 2, this will provide a good test for both teams fitness level because neither one is going to want to head to Pittsburgh gasping for air.

05/05/2009

Don’t Make Me Hate You, Sid

I’ll come out and say it and I don’t give a crap what it makes you think of me or my opinions.

Sidney Crosby is a gift to us all.

I know what you’re thinking now…

“OH SHURE HOCKY JOE! U R A BETMAN SUCKUP!! LOLZ!1!”

Right, sure, whatever.

Like it or not, Sidney Crosby is awesome and the NHL is a million times better off having him, his talent and his presence around than without it.

Is he over-exposed? Maybe to NHL fans, but not to the world that’s for damn sure.

Is he a great player? Fuckin’ A right he is.

He’s phenomenal and his talent is a once-in-a-generation kind of talent and we’re blessed as NHL fans to have three other players in the NHL that are on that same kind of unearthly level of talent (Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Lidstrom).

Are NHL fans pissed that three of those four players are playing in the same series in the second round? Maybe the jerk-off fans that are self-loathers are – but me? I’m tickled. Gary Bettman is tickled too, no doubt, because he gets to see the two prizes he cares about most finally have their “Bird vs. Magic” series.

Never mind that it’s taking place in the second round, that’s irrelevant. What matters is that it’s happening and, as of right now, it’s absolutely electric.

Just like most things in the NHL, sometimes things happen that help amp up the story. Sometimes when superstars collide, the best is brought out of them. Case in point, Game 2 of this series. Hat tricks from both of the superstars (their first hat tricks in the playoffs) including this stirring series of bombs from Alex Ovechkin:

As it goes, as it has always gone, when you’re the home team and your home guy nets a hat trick, the hats come out on to the ice. It’s a tradition that’s been around since the dawn of time (give or take an epoch) and it’s awesome. Flat out, it’s awesome.

Unless you’re on the visiting team.

Enter the man in the white uniform and the black hat, Sidney Crosby.

From the DC Sports Bog:


“People kept throwing hats,” Sidney Crosby said tonight. “I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop. I mean, the first wave came and then I think they were all pretty much picked up, and then more started coming. So for us, we just wanted to make sure we kept kind of moving and kept the game going, wanted to try to get back in it. So wasn’t complaining about anything.”

Ah, jeez.

Listen, I get that he’s being the captain of the team. That’s good, that’s fine, that’s the admirable thing to do. He’s also being brutally honest with the press when asked about this.

As a person who has done plenty of sports interviews and gotten nothing but Athlete-speak from them, to get a freaking gold mine of a quote like this is awesome because then jerks like me cite your website, give you more hits and all that fun.


No, they ain’t sippin’ on some sizzurp – that’s straight Haterade.

When your name is Sidney Crosby though… Stuff like this gets a lot more run. Like it or not, Sid’s got the reputation for being a whiner. As a fan of hockey, it sucks more than life itself to see that one of the most marketable guys in the league, the like-it-or-not face of the NHL is labeled a big pansy bitch.

That sucks a lot and it drives me nuts to see Sid continue to do things that feed into this image. I want him to be Captain Cool, I want to see him make people that hate him shut up by delivering every damn time. I want him to be The Terminator and crusher of souls. As an NHL fan I want the biggest name and the league’s icon to be the man.

Simple as that.

In a series that features the two guys that are fighting to be the A #1 icon of the game, some folks might point to this game as the one that separates them for good. They both deliver hat tricks in stunning performances. Ovechkin with his bomb shots and Crosby doing the down and dirty work in front of the net putting home rebounds.

Had the Penguins won this game, Sid would rightfully be getting the praise for throwing a change up at the Capitals and doing things differently. Sure, maybe that quote gets some more run, but at least that can get spun off to make him more of an honest-to-badass villain. Like, say…


“Hey ref, tell these chumps to stop throwing hats – this game is fucking over with because I said so.”

Cutthroat? You better believe it. Cocky? As hell. Bad-ass? Hell fucking yes it is.

Instead, reality deals us a Capitals win with Ovechkin waving his junk at everyone because he’s that damn good. In his case, being a Russian helps add to his allure. The interviews are tougher to do with regular schmoe reporters because his English skills are mostly limited to Athlete-Speak.

The one time he did let loose was in an interview with Maxim Magazine and he was instantly villified for what came out there.

Thanks for nothing mainstream media. Dicks.

So now what’s the fallout from this for Crosby? He unfortunately solidifies a reputation that’s already been made bad enough to handle by a well-paid PR firm.

After all, when you’re playing a rough game like hockey where there’s a delicate balance between being a cocky braggart and cutthroat competitor, being a crying wuss wins you no favor and makes the job of sticking up for your boy even harder.

At least if I was Sid, I’d be happy to have the guys at The Official PensBlog on my side, I’d hate to see how they’d handle having that kind of ammo to use against him. For that alone, I’d hope to never leave Pittsburgh without a Stanley Cup or two if I were him.

What kills me about all this is that I enjoy how Sid plays the game and he makes it so incredibly difficult to love Sidney Crosby the player. Whether it’s the opinion of the other players that he’s a whiner or the consistent cries from fans all over the NHL that he’s a diver on top of all of that… It’s incredibly hard to embrace him as the MAN when there’s a guy doing all of those things that you admire playing against him. It creates an instant divide amongst fans.

You’re either a Sid fan or an Alex fan.

Simple as that.

When you’re put on the spot after a tough game, a tough loss particularly, and you’re getting a thousand different questions about the game and someone mentions the other guy, the other big gun outshining you for a night and you’re frustrated that you couldn’t do more than your own three goals and your answer is to just blurt out that you wanted the officials to make an announcement about the hats being thrown on the ice for the other guy’s hat trick…

The best way for Sid to answer all of this is to flip the script and do it right back and let the fans at The Igloo shower the ice in hats. Then to do it again the next game and not relent.

Sid’s shown us he can wear the Black Hat and be the villain by driving hockey fans nuts with these things like whining and diving, now it’s time to fully embrace the darkside. Be comfortable with being thoroughly hated in places like Philly and Washington and New York.

Score that game-winner in overtime some night and then proclaim afterwards that you knew you’d get it all along. Sid is referred to as “Bing” over at PensBlog, but I’d rather seem him break out something a little more like another cocksure legend:

Is it wrong to want all of our new hockey heroes to be bad-asses? I don’t think so.

Snap out of it already Sid.

Do it.

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