Archive

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Much like Peyton Manning winning a Super Bowl or Phil Mickelson taking down a major or four, it had to happen sometime.

No, Alex Ovechkin did not finally play 20 minutes in a hockey game. More importantly, Table favorite Miranda Kerr was finally chosen to headline the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and don the famous “million-dollar bra” in the process.

The bra is actually being touted as worth $2.5 million, but you know what they say about a piece of clothing: after the first million bucks, the rest spends easier. I’m not going to get into specifics, but the bra was blue and Miranda looked great. She seemed excited to finally headline after being in the mix for over four years, but not nearly as excited as her husband, Orlando Bloom.

Aragorn may have been crowned King of Gondor, but who really won?

Other favorites to “wear the title” last night included the Brazilian As, Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio, and South African fast-tracker Candice Swanepoel, who appears to be at least even with all of her older colleagues in terms of ad space. Ambrosio entered the night with Kerr as the most popular angels never to have worn the big one, and closed the night as the clear-cut “best never.” Lima would have become only the second person to sport the big jewels three times (Heidi Klum in 1999, 2001, ’03), but last night she was passed over for a more deserving Kerr.

The reasons I dig Miranda Kerr are many, but you can read her wikipedia page if you’re really that interested. Of note, she is 28 (and a half) years old and hails from the fantastic town of Sydney, Australia. Two things to consider before I close with the image from last night: 1) Kerr gave birth to a child this year; and 2) Orlando Bloom probably owes all of this to J.R.R. Tolkein. The professor!

Miranda Kerr behind-the-scenes with the $2.5 million bra before the 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Since we track this stuff and treat it as a legitimate sport, it is worth noting that Miranda Kerr placed 44th in the 2011 edition of FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World, and came close to the trophy in AskMen.com’s 2011 edition of the Top 99 Most Desirable Women, coming in 5th.

What it looked like on the runway.

Here at the quarter-point of the NHL season, I’d like to take a moment to point out the leaders in the statistical categories that I use for my fantasy league. Everything I don’t use can be explained by the fact that either host sites don’t offer the stats, or the statistic inaccurately weighs on the final score.

Beyond the top three players in each category, I will highlight a player that I feel either should be higher or will end up higher.

Goals
1. Phil Kessel, RW Tor 16
2. Milan Michalek, LW Ott 12
2. James Neal, RW/LW Pit 12
64. Daniel Sedin, LW Van 6

Assists
1. Daniel Sedin, LW Van 18
2. Erik Karlsson, D Ott 17
3. Brian Campbell, D Fla 16
3. Nicklas Backstrom, C Wsh 16
52. Evgeni Malkin, C Pit 10 (in only 14 games)

Plus/Minus
1. Shea Weber, D Nsh +18
2. Tyler Seguin, C Bos +17
3. Stephen Weiss, C Fla +14
3. Chris Kelly, C Bos +14
3. Tomas Fleischmann, RW/LW Fla +14
3. Ryan Suter, D Nsh +14
67. Jonathan Toews, C Chi +5
123. Kris Letang, D Pit +2

Penalty Minutes
1. Zac Rinaldo, C Phi 75
2. Zenon Konopka, C Ott 73
3. Derek Dorsett, RW Cbj 62
58. Scott Hartnell, LW Phi 24 (142+ PIM each of the last 4 seasons)

Game Winning Goals
1. Johan Franzen, C/RW Det 4
1. Vincent Lacavalier, C TBL 4
3. 11 players tied at 3
45. Sidney Crosby, C Pit 1 (I know, duh)
45. Anze Kopitar, C LA 1 (leading goal scorer (10) on a team that should win games)
45. Joe Pavelski, C/RW SJ 1 (leading goal scorer (11) on a team that should win even more games)

Average Time on Ice
1. Dan Girardi, D NYR 27:48
2. Ryan Suter, D Nsh 27:02
3. James Wisniewski, D Cbj 26:55
197. Alex Ovechkin, LW Wsh 18:44
395. Luke Schenn, D Tor 15:03

Hits
1. Matt Martin, LW NYI 86
2. Cal Clutterbuck, LW Min 75
3. Mark Fstric, D Dal 66 (in only 14 games played)
47. Ryan Callahan, RW NYR 43 (3rd in NHL two seasons ago)

Blocks
1. Ladislav Smid, D Edm 60
2. Josh Gorges, D Mtl 54
3. Bryan Allen, D Car 53
3. Jay Harrison, D Car 53
61. Stephane Robidas, D Dal 31

Special Teams Points
1. Daniel Sedin, LW Van 13
2. Nicklas Backstrom, C Wsh 12
3. 5 players tied at 11
33. Alex Ovechkin, LW Wsh 7 (history says more, current form says he’s over it)
73. Patrick Kane, RW/C Chi 5 (has 22 points)

Wins
1. Kari Lehtonen, G Dal 12
2. Marc-Andre Fleury, G Pit 11
3. Jimmy Howard, G Det 10
3. Pekka Rinne, G Nsh 10
44. Curtis Sanford, G Cbj 2 (looks like someone’s finally replaced Steve Mason)
44. Jacob Markstrom, G Fla 2 (why the hell is he not in the NHL?)

Saves
1. Pekka Rinne, G Nsh 543
2. Cam Ward, G Car 513
3. Kari Lehtonen, G Dal 493

Minutes
1. Carey Price, Mtl 1,086
2. Pekka Rinne, Nsh 1,072
3. Jonathan Quick, LA 1,039

Goals Against Average (at least 8 starts to qualify)
1. Brian Elliott, Stl 1.43 (8 starts)
2. Tim Thomas, Bos 1.77 (13 starts)
3. Jimmy Howard, Det 1.85 (16 starts)
35. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi 2.75 (14 starts)
44. Cam Ward, Car 3.12 (18 starts)

Save Percentage (at least 8 starts to qualify)
1. Brian Elliott, Stl .947 (8 starts)
2. Tim Thomas, Bos .938 (13 starts)
3. Mike Smith, Phx .936 (15 starts)
3. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edm .936 (14 starts)
41. Corey Crawford, Chi .901 (16 starts)
47. Semyon Varlamov, Col .890 (14 starts)

Hopefully we learned something today, as sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees when a season is in full swing. Maybe you even gained a few fantasy or betting insights. Thanks for reading.

Recently I tweeted that Sidney Crosby’s return on Monday against the New York Islanders was a strategic move that had very little to do with his NHL readiness as compared with a week before or after that magical date of November 21, 2011.
My assumption all along was that Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed that the star center should only really worry about bringing the Stanley Cup back to the Steel City. Based on this assumption, I figured that Crosby’s return was not going to be rushed, since the Pens are cruising and it doesn’t take five months to get ready for the playoffs.
I also figured that the status quo for players coming off serious concussions was that they would be on-again, off-again for some time. This may still prove to be true, but what I saw last night certainly altered my opinion of what the plan is.













What does Gaga really stand for: Germanotta or Goal Assist Goal Assist?

If in fact the Penguins knew that Sid was likely going to miss another game within the next couple of weeks, then it made perfect sense to set their recent quarrel mates (the Isles) up to be the ones who “re-injure” the league’s maltese falcon. If the Pens were (are) planning to have to sit Crosby soon for a game or two for “precautionary reasons,” then why not add a bullet to their chamber by bringing him back against the team that called up a double-A goon last year specifically to try to hurt Pittsburgh’s star players?
The plan made perfect sense to me, and I watched with great anticipation of the Islanders doing what basement dwellers do — play dirty. It was all set up, and I was ready to preach.
But something was missing from the Consol Energy Center last night: the New York Islanders.
Never mind the fact that their once stashed cupboard of goaltenders is now down to the dust and mold; the Islanders didn’t play professional hockey last night. And maybe it’s just the case that they couldn’t. Pittsburgh looked scary. Crosby elevated the games of his linemates, and factored into four of the team’s five goals with a cool GAGA performance. In fact, Sid the Kid is so accustomed to two-goal, two-assist performances that perhaps his nickname should be Man Gaga. Or Kid Gaga… Baby Gaga? Alright, we’re all allowed a few uninspiring attempts, aren’t we?
One key fallacy in my logic is that the aforementioned semi-pro goon, Trevor Gillies, was not on the ice for New York. Gillies has only skated in three games this year for the Isles, and it probably didn’t make sense for the franchise to call him up given the strict scrutiny that it would receive if Gillies so much as glanced at Crosby. But, Matt Martin was in the lineup (as usual) and notched a whopping nine hits. I’m not comparing Martin’s game ethically to Gillies’, I’m just throwing out a disclaimer that at least New York had some hitter in the game. Table favorite Milan Jurcina also skated in the game, although that’s about all he did in his 18:48 of ice time.
To the Islanders’ credit, they did outhit the Penguins 31-12, which is actually a jarring margin. But the hits weren’t hard, and many of them were not on #87. Faceoffs were even at 34, and shots were only 36-29 in favor of the winning home team, but the difference in quality was so apparent it was at least a little worrying for supporters of any team that thinks it’s contending this season.
The good news for the Penguins is that they look fluid, crisp, awesome in all ends and, most surprisingly given the point of the season we’re at, totally locked in.
The good news for every other team is that this was only one game. It was one home game against a pretty bad team that started a goalie with exactly zero prior NHL starts. And all of that excitement and group love may wear off around game 60 or 65, just in time for a third straight playoff disappointment since winning the Cup in 2009. That early-out scenario looked more like a fanatical delusion last night, and the Penguins are already the second favorite to win it all (behind only Chicago) on sportsbook.com at 6-to-1. I suspect those positions will swap sooner than later.
Well done and fair play to Crosby and the Pens, as my cynical assumption surrounding the date and opponent of his return seems to have been proven incorrect. Good to have such a dynamic player back on the ice.

Debating which NHL team should be the next to relocate has become one of the cool things to do in hockey, and the Thrashers / Jets move from Atlanta to Winnipeg over the summer has only served to ramp up the debate about which franchise will be setting up shop in Quebec City in the near future.
The two teams that are almost exclusively offered as the prime candidates to wear a hockey playing igloo on their chests soon are the Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers. While I think that it is likely that one of them ends up in Eric Lindros’ favorite province soon, I would rather talk about the fact that Phoenix and Florida are sitting in 7th and 11th overall in points percentage, or points gathered per contest.
The reason I want to cite this stat is that it’s impossible to talk about the standings in just a total points construction because there will never be a point in the season in which every team has played the same amount of games. So to be fair to every team, we’ll use points percentage.
I thought about why Phoenix and Florida are so high in the league’s overall standings, and on the same line of thinking, why seemingly none of us saw any success coming for these two. It’s not like everyone was saying that each team should be contending for the eighth playoff spot in its respective conference. Rather, the general idea was that both teams would contend for a top-five overall draft pick.


We could cite the individual players, but that would be missing the point. Sure, Phoenix is led by Shane Doan, a man that has earned the nickname “Captain Canada,” but we already knew that coming in. So why the widespread prediction that a team that has made the playoffs the past two seasons would go into the tank? Some of the disfavor was surely linked with the departure of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadelphia over the summer, but I don’t think that explains all of it.
And for Florida, we all knew of and followed the early-July spending spree that they went on just to try to reach the salary cap floor, but the prevailing comment on the situation was that the Panthers overpaid for players that nobody else would have offered anywhere near that much money to. In other words, they got a lot of players, but they didn’t get much value. And when you have a squad near the bottom in player payroll, and everyone thinks those players have essentially no trade value, then it stands to reason that things should go negatively for that franchise. Maybe we all overlooked how good Brian Campbell really is (and I think we largely have), but again, he’s one player. Stephen Weiss makes two. We all saw the rosters coming in, so why are the Panthers outdoing expectations by so much?
I came up with three reasons that despite very low expectations, the Coyotes and Panthers are sitting pretty through 13% of the season.
1. Predictions are based too much on last season
Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner recently hosted an episode of the podcast of the same name entitled “The Folly of Prediction.” In one of the interviews, he talks to researcher Hayes Davenport, who has looked at NFL predictions made by “experts.” Davenport cites the fact that any untrained animal could look at any of the NFL’s four-team divisions, throw out the worst team, and predict the division champs at a 33% success rate. He then reveals that the league’s pundits have been predicting NFL division winners at just a 36% success rate.
One main reason that he offers for the 64% failure rate is, “They tend to rely much too heavily on the previous year’s standings in making their picks for the following year. They play it very conservatively, but there’s a very high level of parity in the NFL right now, so that’s not exactly how it works.”
I would suggest that today’s NHL sees more parity than at any time in the league’s past. This is probably largely due to the existence of a salary cap (and salary floor), which mandates that all teams spend within $16 million of each other on yearly player salaries.
If we look at most hockey predictions, we see very little in the way of sweeping changes in the makeup of either conference. This is probably because when we go to make predictions, one of the tabs that we have open in our web browser is last year’s standings. I know it played a role in my projecting the Panthers for last in the east. Now, part of it was also the departure of Tomas Vokoun coupled with my expectation that Jacob Markstrom, an undoubted future all-star goaltender, would not be given the chance to play early and often for the big club this year. But, a lot of it also had to do with last year’s standings. And I know I’m not the only one guilty of that blunder.
2. Hockey is played on a sheet of ice, not a balance sheet
It’s easy to see how relying too much on last year’s standings could have led a person to shortchange the Panthers, but what about the Coyotes? They’ve been a playoff team the past two seasons, and play a rough and tough style that would be coveted by any northeastern city. So, the “last year made me do it” excuse couldn’t possibly explain the en masse assumption that Phoenix would suck this year.
Instead, I think many of us have read way too much into the Coyotes’ off-ice financial issues. It was widely assumed that they would be the team to move to Winnipeg (or in the Coyotes’ case, move back to Winnipeg). But, another $25 million set aside by the city of Glendale kept the team in Phoenix for another season, while Winnipeg’s thirst has been quenched.
As the business of sports has become much more covered in all facets of the media, fans have become de facto GMs. Or, at least they think they have. I mean, capgeek.com exists almost solely so that people like me can get on the internet and critique a player’s “value” based on his salary cap hit to his team. It’s fun and intelligent, and I’m not going to stop, but sometimes I think we all overrate how the financial struggles of a franchise’s ownership group will affect the team’s actual on-ice play.
Jokes about the L.A. Dodgers paying their players in ramen noodles have been rampant in the past year, but hockey doesn’t get that kind of coverage on ESPN. If it did, how could everyone not be making fun of the fact that the Phoenix Coyotes have been owned and operated by the NHL for a few years now, and operating at reportedly huge losses?
Well, hockey people are aware of it, and hockey people make predictions. I think there is a huge tendency to assume that bankruptcies and rumors over relocation or contraction will cast a cloud over the franchise, and that the players won’t be able to shine through the fog. But let’s get real: these guys are getting paid a lot of money to play the game they love. They’re going to play it hard and to the best of their abilities. Why would all of this balance sheet stuff enter their minds before laying down to block a shot or going hard into the corner to dig out a puck late in the second period of a game in November? It wouldn’t, and I think that for the most part it doesn’t.
3. It’s still very early
Pointing out the early successes of two franchises that everyone verbally craps on is nice, but it would be ill-advised not to point out that those successes are still just that — early.
We are 11 games into the season, and a lot can still go wrong over the next 71 for either team. The positives are that their styles of play and cohesion seem to be working. Each has a pair of goaltenders that can be relied on to be solid at times, although I’m not sure anyone would vouch for the absolute impossibility that Mike Smith, Jason LaBarbera, Jose Theodore or Jacob Markstrom go sideways at some point this year.
Also, are these teams deep enough if and when the injury bug comes around? Surely the Panthers cannot afford a long-term injury to Campbell or Weiss, but what about the third through seventh-best players? Can Phoenix play the style it wants effectively if Martin Hanzal or Captain Canada go down? Will they create enough goal scoring chances in the absence of Keith Yandle? The answer to all of these questions is probably “no,” and so we must remember that these two teams are only 13% complete in their seasons. Surely their goals should be to make the playoffs and cram all of our predictions down our throats, and they’ve each got 71 more games to try to make that happen.

In another classic case of the pot meeting the kettle, Joe Thornton had some choice words for the New York Rangers following the Blueshirts’ 5-2 home win over San Jose Monday night. Instead of complaining about the Rangers’ physical style or seemingly endless waves of annoying players to play against, Thornton instead tilted his head back and delivered what can surely only be a subliminal message for the mirror.
Big Joe was quoted as saying, “They were probably the softest team we played on the trip. We should have had those two points.”
I checked the newspaper to make sure I hadn’t slipped into a multi-year coma. Nope. It’s November 1, 2011. With the date settled, I questioned my own sanity. Had I concocted a bizarro world in which Joe Thornton was known only to me to be a playoff choke artist and big softie? I quickly consulted the internet to make sure I hadn’t swapped out Joe’s career with Mark Messier’s by mistake. Nope. He’s still Joe Thornton; the same Joe Thornton that captains a team that is perennially picked by many to win the Stanley Cup, despite never having come close to winning even the west.
The idea of Joe Thornton calling another team soft is one that is such a reversal that it should have been the punchline of a bad network TV joke. I can see it now, track laughter and all.
Photo via.
Joe Thornton’s lack of mental toughness was confirmed through his T-shirt.

We’ve all seen those instances where the idiot at work actually comes up with a halfway decent idea that leads to praise from the higher ups. The result is a sick measure of validation to all of the idiot’s future ideas, no matter how absurd or grounded in fantasy they may be.
I feel like the last couple of playoff years were the decent idea for Joe Thornton. His Sharks beat the Red Wings in the playoffs in both years, and many people, including myself, were hailing his newfound playoff grit and toughness. And now it would seem that a couple of conference semifinal victories in consecutive springs is now enough to anoint Thornton a professor of snarl. Never mind the fact that everybody in their right mind sees the absurdity in his mislabeling of the Rangers — the sickest thing is that he believes it. The next thing you know, Big Joe will be rolling into Chicago calling Brent Seabrook a female reproductive organ, and the transformation into total delusion will be complete. We’ll have a regular Dwight Schrute in our league. And just like on The Office, it may be roaring for the onlookers, but is probably just a series of eye rolls for those on the ground level.
Photo via.
The Assistant (to the) Regional Manager… or the Captain of the SJ Sharks?

One of those ground level employees who was not amused was Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella, who summed up the obvious response by essentially saying that if he worked hard and stayed clean, Thornton may have a chance to one day be regarded as one of the Colin Montgomeries of hockey. Check out Torts’ response:
“Joe’s a heck of a player, but here’s a player popping off about our team, and Joe hasn’t won a God damn thing in this league. He could go down as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything. So what he should do is just shut up. It was uncalled for, it was classless, and I’ve never had it happen like that before.”
Well stated, John. As a supporter of the Red Wings, I’ve taken note of Thornton’s new early-round playoff success and calm storm that he’s brought the past two springs. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that in two career conference finals, Thornton’s Sharks have won exactly one hockey game in nine tries. Not exactly on the cusp if you ask me. Not exactly an achievement that seems worthy of a graduation from the school of sissies, especially when we remember that those teams were highly touted coming in.
And with ill-advised, inaccurate statements like the one last night about the Rangers, Joe Thornton is almost ready to have his application reviewed by the school of punks. I know he was really just trying to project his own perceived deficiencies onto others, but at least win one Clarence S. Campbell Bowl before you run your mouth about who works hard and who doesn’t.