Dead Last: Congressional Lawmakers
(I know I know: "Grumble grumble who brings up politics in hockey blog posts apart from lefty liberal commies?" Shut up.)
The federal shutdown is now eight days old and no progress is even on the horizon as Republicans pointlessly dig in their heels about something that's already a law. Hundreds of thousands of government workers nationwide going without pay, women and children on welfare not getting fed. No one thinks this is good (except the truly ghoulish who have a "It doesn't affect me so it's not my problem" attitude about it).
But did you know the shutdown is even affecting hockey?
It's true. Army and Air Force's Division 1 NCAA hockey teams were both slated to begin play this coming weekend, but that is very much up in the air as a result of the government impasse.
Army's game at Penn State is either on or off, depending on who you ask and when you ask it. First it was going to happen and then it wasn't but now it apparently is again. That's starting to look pretty finalized, which is good news.
Air Force is expected to play this weekend, according to the latest news.
The Falcons were supposed to play an exhibition game on Monday night but that got canceled, as did all other athletic competitions, for all sports, until the shutdown is resolved.
And you thought Gary Bettman and Jeremy Jacobs were bad.
As the above-linked College Hockey News report says, the reason Army seems to be able to play is only because most of its athletic department is made up of civilians, rather than actual military employees, who are of course "non-essential" government workers. Air Force's is made up mostly of military men and women, some of whom seem to have been furloughed.
This is a real bummer, and if literal starving children won't budge elected officials from a certain you-know-which party, unfortunately college hockey's not going to either.
Figure it out nitwits. I'm looking at you Ted Cruz; as a born Canadian you know how important this is.
6. Real Geeky Stuff for Total Creepazoids
Never let it be said that the statistical movement in hockey isn't working hard to be as innovative as possible.
Witness, in this first week of the season, the unveiling of the sites Extra Skater (ultra-in-depth box scores available soon after games end, with corsi and fenwick numbers) and Shift Chart (animated charts of shifts and TOI for every player in any game), which are just amazing resources for anyone living or dead. Even Randy Carlyle who thinks shot attempts are dumb.
Bookmark 'em and get smarter about hockey.5. Shrinkage?
If you've watched a decent enough amount of games so far this season you've seen a few goals go five-hole that otherwise might not have gone five-hole thanks, the announcers tell you, to the decision by the League to shrink goaltenders' pads to more reasonable levels.
In addition, the footprint of an NHL goal was also reduced as a means of setting up more scoring plays from below the goal line.
So the real question is: How successful have these efforts been?
Anecdotally, I assumed that the answer would be that goalscoring increased dramatically in the first week of the season. I mean, watch a Flames game. Watch an Avs game. Watch a Blues game. Hell, watch a Leafs game. There's so much damn scoring. I would have guessed with a gun to my head that goals per game went up roughly a jiliion percent. The NHL's plan was a success! Wow!
Then I looked at the real numbers and I was very sad and scared and disappointed. Granted it's an excruciatingly small sample size, but from Oct. 1-7, there were 36 games played, and in these games, teams scored 202 goals, not including those in the shootout. That's 5.61 goals per game, up a little less than 6 percent from last season's average of 5.31.
But here's the thing, early-season hockey tends — again, anecdotally — to be a little disorganized and that in turn lends itself to a lot of goals. In fact, through the first 36 games on the schedule last season, teams scored a combined 201 goals, one fewer than this year's number.
The difference between 5.61 goals per game and 5.58 so extremely low as to be negligible. Both, however, were up from the 178 (4.94 per game) in the first 36 of 2011-12. So that's something, right?
Remember all the crap Roberto Luongo got because he didn't start in Boston the season after the Bruins beat him and the Canucks for the Stanley Cup and therefore was a big ol' sissy-wissy? The Devils were having none of that last night in Cory Schneider's first trip back to Vancouver since the big trade.
Schneider got the nod against his not-so-old team last night and denied everyone the "He's afraid to play the Canucks!" narrative the hockey world was hoping for. Instead, the Vancouver media had to go into the closet to find the "The return for Cory Schneider was insufficient!" narrative. Both are fun in their own way.
The problem when you fire your coach, but everyone in the universe doesn't think he was in any way the reason the team is a failure, is that people tend to ask you uncomfortable questions about your decision-making process, and then you have to answer them in a way that doesn't make you seem like an out-of-touch old kook.
Ed Snider didn't quite get there.
"We don't need a fresh perspective!" is not the thing a person whose team is 0-3, just fired their coach, and failed to make the playoffs last season should be saying. Especially when someone says maybe their shot-callin' big-spendin' GM who hasn't made a good player acquisition in a million years might not be making the right decisions and he would be a remarkably convenient (and wise) scapegoat.
Peter Laviolette ate a bullet because Paul Holmgren is awful at putting together a hockey team (insofar as most newborn giraffes are more mobile on skates than more than half the Flyers' defensemen, and their goaltender is Steve Mason and no I'll never stop bringing that up derisively), but the fact is that Holmgren only gets to put teams together because Snider hasn't said, "Hey buddy you're pretty awful at this huh?" and told him to pack up his office.
Fresh perspective? How 'bout any damn perspective at all? That'd be a good jumping-off point.
The Flyers are a disaster. Craig Berube doesn't help that.2. Going to the Mattresses
This week has seen a continuation of the fighting debate and that's all well and good. But boy are the people who think fighting should remain in the game getting a little desperate.
In the wake of a number of NHL general managers — some of whom Played The Game — saying they'd prefer to see this kind of garbage out of the sport, people have taken two tacks: 1) Arguing that if the players want fighting in the game it belongs, it therefore belongs, and 2) resorting to personal attacks.
You can make a reasonable argument for No. 1, but then hockey players have never been the brightest bunch and they've also really not ever gotten much of an opportunity to see the forest for the trees. They probably won't until those trees come all the way to the walls of Dunsinane, and by then it'll all have been too late.
Point No. 2 is pathetic. Georges Laraque outright saying that Steve Yzerman is "spitting" on Bob Probert and Joey Kocur by advocating that fighting leave the game is remarkably a) stupid, and b) crummy. Did he "benefit" from those guys being on the Red Wings? Maybe he did and maybe he didn't. It's impossible to prove those two had any impact on his safety. He certainly didn't sit on their shoulders like Master Blaster while scoring 1,755 career points. Whether saying guys who play their type of game have no place in the modern NHL is also not disrespectful, because Yzerman played another 11 seasons in Detroit after both were out of the Red Wings roster.
You'll recall, also, who gave the eulogy at Probert's funeral a few years back: It was Yzerman. So maybe Yzerman is saying fighting should be out of the game because, in addition to its arguable impact on the game, he doesn't want to see anyone else go down the road of his departed friend, who suffered from CTE but died of heart failure, rather than because he thinks fighting is gross and inherently bad (which p.s. it definitely is).
This a wonderful way for fighting advocates to play both sides of it, though.
"Ask the players!"
Well hey this ex-player who is a freakin' living legend says it should be out of the game.
"He has no respect!"
Cool, thanks. This has all been very constructive and you are in no way disgusting.1. Disproportionate Reactions to Early Performances
Man, I already miss all the "(Crap player) is on pace for 164 points this season" tweets.
Set your watch to it every year. It's always so fun and great. Guy got a shutout in his first game? He'll do it all year. That's the joke!
See ya next October.
(Not ranked this week: Penalty box glass; The Flames' ability to tank properly; Toronto offseason acquisitions not working out; Tim Thomas; Giving out suspensions for charges that cause concussions just kidding; Holding a lead in the Pacific; Good saves by Jonathan Quick; Colton Orr's diary; For real though see Gravity; Conference III game previews about Russian military strategy circa the 15th century; People whose jobs involve spotting Olympic jerseys worn by extras in Inglourious Basterds; People who thought they'd retired their "universe" jokes forever; Wiffle ball)
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