December 31, 2010
Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?
"Well that's stupid," I thought.
But is it?
It seems we pay shockingly little heed to this game-ending gimmick, introduced to eliminate ties and ingratiate new and casual fans with dazzling displays of individual skill. And yet, how often do you see one of those Pavel Datsyuk(notes) highlight reel shootout goals? There's some deking, sure, but no one's going out there and trying to make a TSN highlight reel every time they're in a shootout.
But no matter how much we, or the people that play and coach the game hate them, shootouts are here to stay, and they make up a surprisingly large part of the hockey landscape. Since the stunt was officially added to the league's rules, 12.9 percent of all games (prior to Thursday night) have been decided with it, according to nhlshootouts.com. Teams have played in about 5.25 shootouts a season since the lockout, on average.
And yet surprisingly little strategy seems to be put into it. Coaches play hunches far more than they should, and lean too heavily on their top guys whether or not they've had much shootout success in the past.
It's kind of interesting that people seem to know who the good shootout guys are, like Jussi Jokinen(notes) (49.12 percent all-time) and Datsyuk (47.16). But no one knows who the bad ones are if they're even passable scorers in non-gimmick competitions.
Patrice Bergeron(notes) is an ugly 25.58 percent, and yet he's participated in 47 of the Bruins' 69 shootouts, and that's with having missed significant time to injury. Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), too, is rather poor at shootouts, scoring just 25 percent of the time, despite participating in 40. The list goes on: Jaromir Jagr(notes), Steven Stamkos(notes), Marc Savard(notes), Marty St. Louis. Highly skilled guys all, and all with terrible shootout stats despite being given a large number of chances.
The league-wide average for players' shooting percentage has been in the low 30s every single year, and yet guys like that will continually hop over the boards with a point on the line, and will be sub-average to the seeming surprise of everyone.
Meanwhile, Jarkko Ruutu(notes) get very little love at all. He's been in the league longer than the lockout has, never missed much time, and is well above average in the shootout (44.44 percent). Yet, his coaches have only tapped him 18 times in five and a half seasons or so.
Evidence of this was seen later in the night, when HBO's 24/7 caught Danny Bylsma asking his son if he thought the decisions he made in selecting Pittsburgh's shootout lineup was to his liking. The kid questioned why he chose Evgeni Malkin(notes) to go third, and one of the best coaches in the league replied, "He wanted to go."
That's not a great reason, in this case. Malkin's career shootout percentage was 22.2 at the time, and the son's suggestions of Pascal Dupuis(notes) and, after some prodding, Mark Letestu(notes) (66.67 and 100 percent, respectively, though with much smaller sample sizes) were good ones.
Of course, it doesn't always work that way, as hindsight's 20/20. In fact, just before the HBO show aired, Pittsburgh had just played in a shootout against the Islanders. Malkin, who went third again was one of two Pens who converted on their shots (the other was Kris Letang(notes), a shootout wiz in the class of Datsyuk and Jokinen). And after PA Parenteau(notes) scored in the next round, Bylsma took the kid's advice and turned to Letestu.
Who missed. Dupuis wasn't used at all.
Maybe that's why coaches constantly give their best players a chance to prove their hunches right, rather than work with the odds. You'd much prefer to go down with Evgeni Malkin missing the last shot of the game - hey, you tried, right? - than a guy with 18 career points.
The latter just makes you look like an idiot, no matter how right you were to do it.
Emerson Etem bemoans Buffalo
Yet another cautionary tale of how an athlete saying what he thinks on Twitter turning into a giant poutfest from the people he offended, leading him to delete the tweet in question and never post again.
Ducks prospect and Good American Boy Emerson Etem - whose tweets display a blithe attitude toward things profile reads "the only black hockey player from LoNg BeAcHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh!!!!!" - hopped on Twitter around 4:45 p.m. local time to say what we all know to be true and joke about constantly: Buffalo is a dingy, decaying city long past its prime. He even got in a shot at the crummy city where he plays his junior hockey. It's very likely that this was all in good fun.
But then Buffalo residents raised a stink in what I'm assuming is a nobody-hits-my-brother-but-me fit of,humorlessness and he had a full-blown PR nightmare on his hands, providing one of those Off-Ice Distractions sportswriters like to make such a big to-do over just before the U.S. was set to cream Slovakia.
Etem apologized, saying that he only meant the weather was terrible and communicated his rather correct belief poorly. And whether or not that is what he meant, he learned a valuable lesson: Don't say anything on Twitter that even has the slightest chance of offending people, or they're going to kill you for it.
Etem hasn't tweeted since. It'd be pretty shocking if he ever did again.
After their careers end, many famous sports personalities
And your winner:
JordanOrtillan: "$#*! My Coach Says" by Bruce Boudreau
Pearls of Biz-dom
"Getting some tweets about the Blackhawks ice girls. In my opinion they are in the AHL of ice girls. Stars and Dallas ice girls are superior. If I had to pick 1 group I'd pick Dallas on the overall. The have the ice girls as well as the dance crew. They cover all angles."
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