Feb 232014
 
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune.

Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune.

I’m overflowing with emotion.  This simple game with two sticks, a net, a round rubber disc and some ice can fill my heart with joy or break it so easily it’s breathtaking. And today it filled my heart with joy – and gold.

  • I kept calling them the “Soft Swedes” because in my opinion most of these guys aren’t incredibly physical on their NHL teams. But apparently playing for your country brings out the hip check in you. According to NBC before the game Babcock showed Team Canada a picture of Alfredsson hitting a player and said, “When does he do that? Never. I’m his coach.” And in my opinion the Swedes were more physical than us. But we didn’t need to be physical. We needed to be smart and in control – and we were. I feel bad for Lundqvist because he was doing his best possible and his team did nothing to help him out.
  • Apparently, Nicklas Backstrom was banned for using an illegal allergy medication. If that’s true, it’s really sad. How hard is it to make sure these guys know what they can and can’t take? I don’t think he would have made a big enough difference for the Swedish team  to change the outcome but still, it’s unfortunate.
  • If you’re whining that a player from your favorite NHL team didn’t get ice time in the final game, you’re missing the point. It’s not about your local team. It’s about your NATIONAL team. PK Subban, Dan Hamhuis, Roberto Luongo, all did something to help get us this far. They earned their medals and it shouldn’t matter at what point they touched the ice. Now shut up and enjoy the gold and respect the choices that got us here.
  • Is anyone else sad that now these guys are going to have to go back to being ‘enemies’? I’m sad that I’m going to have to go back to hating Patrice Bergeron and cursing Jonathan Toews. But how great is it to see them all together, arms around each other, singing the national anthem? Just last season, Duncan Keith knocked out Jeff Carter’s teeth and today they’re hugging on the ice. All for the love of our great country. I’m tearing up, you guys…
  • I’m not going to lie; it’s not easy being a Canadian in America during the Olympics. I miss CBC coverage and even Don Cherry. I was cheering in my apartment at 4 a.m. and not hearing a bunch of other people in the neighbourhood cheering too. I can’t go dance in the street… well, I can but they might call the cops or immigration. But the victory is still sweet my friends. No matter where you live hold your head up high and wave that Maple Leaf. I’ll be at the beach in Malibu today and I’ll be wearing my Team Canada T-shirt. I hope you are rocking the red, white and GOLD no matter where you are too!

Where are you going to celebrate? What was your favorite moment of the tournament? Tell us!

Feb 192014
 
Jean Levac/PostMedia News

Jean Levac/PostMedia News

I’m still shaking as I write this. Dear Hockey Gods we almost lost to Latvia. LATVIA?!

  • Major props goes to the Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis. Insane play. Insane effort. Insane heart.
  • @MaltbyMVP tweeted “This isn’t Canada sucking. This is Latvia playing their heart out. You’re an idiot if you think otherwise.” And he’s 100% right. 57 shots on goal is Canada playing well. 54 blocked shots and saves is Latvia and their goalie doing everything possible to pull off a miracle. And 1 shot attempt not hitting the net was just Latvia cheating and the Refs missing it. No other way to look at one of their players, not the goalie, swiping the puck out of the crease as it starts to trickle past the line. But that just put Karma in a Team Canada jersey so in the end, it worked in our favor.
  • Hey Luongo Homers, are you finally going to give Carey Price some credit? I am not a Price fan. I am not a Luongo fan. To be honest, I thought that after game 2 Luongo should have been the one to keep getting the starts. But Babcock thought otherwise and Babcock knows what he’s doing. Today proved it. Price kept us in this. If you can’t give him that then you’re truly letting emotion (for Luongo) override hockey smarts and common sense. Now should Price start against America? I guess so if only because the US’s strongest weapon right now might be Phil Kessel and Price has faced him more. But that said, Lu beat the US team once… barely, but it was an important win.  To be honest I don’t have 100% confidence in either Lu or Price in against the USA. Do you? If so, which one and why?
  • Paging the Top Forwards in the World! Please proceed to the net – and put the puck in it!  We absolutely have to start finding a way to score more. Like I said, this almost-loss wasn’t that we weren’t trying. But I personally feel we haven’t scored enough in any of our wins except Austria. We need to see goals from Perry, Toews, St. Louis and Crosby. And more from Getzlaf and Carter. And have Weber and Doughty keep doing what they’re doing. Then and probably only then are we going to be able to beat the USA in regulation. It seems like a lot of “If Onlys” but hello, these are truly the best forwards in the world. If they can’t do it (all at once) who can? And it’s now or never Team Canada. Truly. No exaggeration. It is now or never.

So do you have a prediction for USA-Canada? What do you think the score will be? Tell us!

And where are you watching? This Canadian has taken Friday off work and will be screaming/cheering her lungs out from her West Hollywood apartment. How about you?

Feb 162014
 

Drew Doughty scored 3 goals in his last 28 games for the Los Angeles Kings. He’s had 3 goals in 3 games for Team Canada. Clearly he was conserving his abilities for the Olympics and as a Canadian, I’m okay with that. But I’m pretty sure the popping sound I’m hearing around LA today is Kings’ fans heads exploding.

Subban should be dropped in and Vlasic pulled out. Or Bouwmeester. I am not a PK Subban fan. I wasn’t even sure I wanted him on Team Canada because his attitude and his preference to play a bit dirty and arrogant isn’t an Olympic asset. But he was tight and controlled in his one game and played smart. He was noticeable in a good way unlike Bouwmeester and Vlasic today. Bouwmeester was unnoticeable and Vlasic was noticed for ridiculousness and sloppiness.

So now it’s the Swiss, who we had to beat in a shootout last time so no one better think this is an easy ride. The easier ride would have been if we won in regulation. However maybe we’ll face Latvia. I count no one out because it’s the Olympic and crazy things can happen.

Also, since we’re on the topic of the Swiss, you know who won that shootout in 2010? Sidney Crosby. For those who forgot, he did do more than that very last goal of the games. I feel the need to bring this up because the “Sid sucks’ tweets have already begun. There is no Country in the world that doesn’t know he’s the best in the world so, as Finland did so well, they are all going to make a point of shutting him down. And we should be ok with that because while they’re concentrating on Sid we have Toews, Doughty, Carter, Tavares and every other second and third and fourth best player in the world to score instead of Crosby. Remember that.

I heard on twitter (so it must be true and I’m too lazy to Google it) no undefeated team has ever won gold. Every men’s hockey gold medal has been won by a team that has lost a game along the way. Does that worry you? The way I see it is, That said, if a Country is going to buck a hockey trend, what better Country to do it than Canada?

Who sits the next one? I say it’s got be Vlasic and Kunitz.

Who is in net? I don’t care either way because Price and Luongo are both playing solid but I will say this. I think we need to start solidifying stuff and the goalie is where we should start.

Tell us your thoughts on who gets the net, who gets scratched and what we need to do to be the first team to go undefeated and win gold?

Feb 142014
 
Getty images

Getty images

A shutout and the first Team Canada natural hat trick since 1956. And a Nation breathes a sigh of relief. This is more like it.

  • Roberto Luongo saw as much action in the first 5 minutes as Carey Price saw in his whole game. And he handled it better. I have nothing against Price. I know he’s a great goalie.  I’d even be okay with the argument Price is a better NHL goalie. But Luongo is an amazing Olympic goalie. 2010 proved it and this shutout game keeps proving it.  So if the Canucks ever make it to another serious Stanley Cup playoff run can we put the Olympic decorations back up in Rogers and pretend it’s an Olympic run? Maybe he’ll do better that way.
  • I don’t know if this ‘Bring a Buddy’ selection process was worth it. At this point it doesn’t seem to be. Patrick Sharp was sitting this one out and Jonathan Toews did just fine without him. Chris Kunitz hasn’t made much of an impact.  He’s not scoring off The Kid and Crosby is making plays without him just fine. So far it hasn’t hurt us but it hasn’t helped us either. So much for that established chemistry people said these guys would have.
  • I am a HUGE Jeff Carter fan. I make no apologies for that. I’ve been going to Kings games consistently for a year now. Carter’s got great defensive skills and can find the net from any angle. He’s also one of the best skaters I’ve seen. Really good especially considering his size (6’4, 198 pounds in case you don’t know). I was shocked so many people thought he was the wrong choice for this team. Today he proved me right. If you’re still on the fence about him being on this team you legit suck.  End of story.
  • Did you notice Subban much? Me neither. That’s a good thing. In the NHL he gets a little too much attention for bad plays and ego trips. Glad to see he can reign it in and be a team player.
  • My heart-melting moment: Carter getting the puck for Luongo and Lu telling him to keep it for himself. God, I love a good Bromance moment, especially on Valentine’s Day!
  • So who starts in net against Finland? Do you think Carter and Marleau have earned their spots now? Do you put Sharp back in? Do you keep Kunitz in? Subban?

Tell us your thoughts!

Feb 132014
 
Getty Images

Getty Images

We came, we conquered! Well… maybe that’s an overstatement. ‘We came, we won’ is more fitting.

  • We had a rough first period. Canada had 7 off-side calls. Clearly the boys hadn’t gelled yet. More concerning was the abysmal first powerplay. It was so bad I thought I was watching the Canucks for a second. You had to be a bit concerned, even if it was almost expected. After all these guys haven’t had a lot of time together yet. Babcock’s furrowed brow on the bench wasn’t helping my nerves either. That said, although we beat Norway in 2010 by a score of 8-0, Canada did not score in that first period either.
  • There was some good in the first period. Jeff Carter kept Norway from their best scoring chance with some awesome stick work. I have to make note of this because so many people didn’t want him on Team Canada. I like to rub noses in stuff, sue me.
  • The second period felt a little more cohesive. And we got to see the deadly weapon we forgot we had – Shea Weber’s slapshot. No, it didn’t rip through the net this time but it wasn’t from lack of effort. Weber’s shot is so fast you can’t even see the puck.
  • Not only did we get on the board in the second, but we had one of those HOW DID THAT NOT GO IN moments in front of Norway’s net and the much hated post shot. There’s something comforting in seeing that kind of effort from Team Canada even if it didn’t result in more goals. They were getting their legs and starting to gel. Always a good thing.
  • Jamie Benn’s goal, putting Team Canada up 2-0, felt like the flood gates opening, but yet they never fully opened.
  • And there were Norway chances, their best coming with 27 seconds left in the period. Luckily, it also resulted in Carey Price’s best save of the game. The score remained at 2-0 as the second period ended.
  • The third period had a shaky start with Price misplaying the puck and resulting in a Norway goal. The Olympics like to create new and different hockey rules, like the one where if your helmet comes off you have to go directly to the bench or take a penalty. They should implement the rule where the goalie can’t play to puck. Why? Because Canadian goalies are horrible at playing the puck. Price and Luongo both suck at it. But it’s not just about us, I’ve watched Quick (as an LA King) cost himself a goal too. So come on IOC, if you won’t do it for us, do it for America.
  • It was a little weird but mostly sad to see the Norway player get injured and then, while trying to leave the ice, get slammed by the referee. What an NHL thing to do, Ref. After the player literally crawled to the bench, the ref did go over and apologize to the team. What an un-NHL thing to do, Ref.
  • Doughty’s goal, the final nail in Norway’s proverbial coffin, was, in my opinion, a much owed apology goal because Doughty had made some mistakes throughout this game.
  • Is it just me or was the game a little rougher than anticipated? Sidney Crosby got shoved around and Chris Kuntiz got into it. For such a match-up with a non-traditional rival, it seemed a bit much.
  • In the end, although I think the game should have been easier, it was still a win and I’ll take that any way I can get it. Also I have to remind myself that maybe not repeating the ride and road we took to the 2010 Gold isnt a bad thing. Yeah it ended with the right color medal but the path was rocky in huge, over-dramatic ways that cause Ativan addictions. Kind of slow, mostly steady and relatively drama-free wouldn’t a bad way to win Gold either.
  • Looking ahead, I’m glad Roberto Luongo is going to get a chance in net. Price’s performance wasn’t strong enough (like Quick’s for the US earlier) to make trying another goalie a crazy idea. Also, I think Weber needs as much ice time as possible and so does Carter. I wouldn’t mind seeing Kunitz sit a little more. So who stood out for you on Team Canada? Who should get more ice time and who should get less? Let us hear it!
Jan 062014
 

Vancouver Olympics Ice Hockey

Photo credit: Sportsnet

Tomorrow, Hockey Canada will unveil their roster for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. In advance of their announcement, scheduled for 8:00 AM PST, we at CHB got together and put together our own version of Team Canada.

Goaltenders

Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks), Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens) and Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes)

Our thought process: Because Luongo backstopped the gold medal-winning team in 2010 and Price is among the NHL’s leaders in most goaltending categories, we agreed pretty quickly on these two guys.

However, there was considerable debate on who should be the third goalie. Josh Harding, who wasn’t invited to the Team Canada orientation camp in the summer, currently leads the league in GAA (1.65) and is 4th in save percentage (0.933), and received some consideration. Ditto Marc-Andre Fleury, who not only currently leads the league in wins (24) but has also won a Stanley Cup and was a member of the 2010 team, and Corey Crawford, who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. In the end though, we decided on Mike Smith, who has performed consistently well, especially in the last 3 seasons, and whose puck-handling ability may come in handy on the larger international ice surface.

Defensemen

Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis Blues), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks), Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks), Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues), Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks), PK Subban (Montreal Canadiens) and Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)

Our thought process: We quickly locked in Keith, Weber, Doughty and Pietrangelo. (Thanks, Bob Mckenzie.) Shortly after that, we locked in Jay Bouwmeester, who’s on pace for a career year with 27 points in 41 games so far, and P.K. Subban, who ranks 3rd among all NHL defensemen in points (33 points).

Like most other armchair Team Canada GMs, we had far more difficulty determining the last couple of spots in the back end. We considered Kris Letang, but ultimately thought he’s been injured too often recently, and plus, we didn’t think Hockey Canada would take both Subban and Letang.

Next, we considered the composition of the group so far. With only 2 lefties and 4 righties, we thought at least one of the remaining two spots should go to a left-handed defenseman; we could see HC going with 3 lefties and 5 righties, but not 2 lefties and 6 righties. That in mind, we looked at Dan Hamhuis and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic has had a good season, but then again, so has Hamhuis. Homers that we are, we chose Hamhuis.

For the last spot on d, we looked at Vlasic and Brent Seabrook. Like Subban, Seabrook is on pace towards a career year. Including the lockout-shortened season last season, he’s averaged around 30 points a season; this season, he already has 31 points in 44 games. Plus, we factored in his obvious familiarity with Keith.

Forwards

Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Jeff Carter (Los Angeles Kings), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers), Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins), Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks), Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), John Tavares (New York Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)

Our thought process: With the composition of the 2006 team still in mind, we looked for speed (lots of speed) and youth up front. (Remember that Team Canada, following up on their gold medal win in 2002, fielded a bigger, slower and older veteran-laden team in 2006 – a formula that didn’t translate well to the larger ice surface in Torino.) Unsurprisingly, there was immediate consensus on the four guys lining up the middle: Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf and Bergeron. Perry, Tavares and Stamkos (assuming he’ll be fully-recovered from his injury) were no-brainers as well. To this group, we decided to include 22-year old Matt Duchene, who has 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 38 games, and 26-year old Claude Giroux, who has 12 goals in his last 27 games. And to complement Crosby, we added Chris Kunitz, who, thanks to Crosby, ranks 4th among Canadian forwards so far in scoring this season (47 points in 44 games) and was ranked 5th last season (52 points in 48 games).

With the top 10 forwards already locked in, we then looked for flexible, multi-purpose players for the next couple of spots. This meant eliminating guys like Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand (for reasons other than being Bruins), and Rick Nash (who’s had a subpar year anyway), Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle from consideration. We talked about Patrick Sharp (5th among Canadian forwards in scoring) and Jeff Carter, both of whom can play multiple forward positions and can play on the PP and PK. Ditto 2010 veteran, Eric Staal, but is currently on the shelf with a lower body injury. Mike Richards probably should’ve been a bigger part of this discussion, but he’s slowed down considerably recently (1 point in last 11 games). Same with Andrew Ladd, who’s having a solid year, but is well off his pace last season. In the end, we settled with Sharp and Carter.

For the last couple of forward spots, we amazingly reached a quick consensus to add Martin St. Louis (who doesn’t love this guy?), but with a lot of good players still on the board, agonized over the last player. We put Staal back on the board, and looked at him, Joe Thornton, Jamie Benn and Logan Couture. Thornton is tied for 3rd in NHL scoring, but we’re not certain he unseats Toews or Getzlaf for the second or third line center spot. He perhaps could play on the 4th line with Bergeron on the wing, but Jumbo Joe’s game isn’t suited for that role. One of Benn and Couture seemed like a better fit here – Benn has 36 points in 41 games, while Couture 35 points in 43 games – and in the end, we decided to add Couture.

Mar 062012
 

It seems these days not a day goes by that there isn’t something about the mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs that’s making the headlines. 

At first blush, the signing of Mikhail Grabovski to a five year, $27.5 million contract seems rather ludicrous. We’re talking about high-end salary for a streaky scorer that’s never put up 30-goals or 60 points.

 But is the contract really that far out of whack? Let’s do this arbitration-style, and look at some comparables.

Comparable #1: The 2004 NHL Entry Draft – Part 1

Grabovski was drafted 150th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. There were 30 centres selected prior to that, although only 19 have made the NHL, and only nine have played 240+ games (the rough equivalent of three NHL seasons):

PlayerDraftedSalary Cap HitGPPPPG+/-PIM
Evgeni Malkin2nd$8.7 M4104991.2237406
David Krejci63rd$5.25 M3592600.7258128
Mikhail Grabovski150th$5.5 M3041950.6410188
Travis Zajac20th$3.89 M4162520.6137126
Brandon Dubinsky60th$4.2 M3772050.5422446
Dave Bolland32nd$3.375 M2841480.5232181
Tyler Kennedy99th$2 M3091460.4730162
Rostislav Olesz7th$3.125 M3551320.37-10118
Torrey Mitchell126th$1.367 M263700.2713137

Clearly Malkin remains the best centre taken in the draft. Grabovski though is in the running for second-best (with Krejci, Zajac and Dubinsky).

Comparable #2: The 2004 NHL Entry Draft – Part 2

When you take all players from this entry draft into consideration, there are a group of players who have played a similar number of games to Grabovski: 

PlayerDraftedSalary Cap HitGPPPPG+/-PIM
Blake Wheeler5th$2.55 M3091810.5954188
Blake Comeau47th$2.5 M3061320.43-49159
Tyler Kennedy99th$2 M3091460.4730162
Kris Versteeg134th$3.083 M3091960.6315185
Mikhail Grabovski150th$5.5 M3041950.6410188
Troy Brouwer214th$2.35 M3031320.44-1214

Clearly from the above table Kris Versteeg’s career production is the most similar to Grabovski’s. Furthermore, just like Grabovski, Versteeg’s career-to-date is without a 30-goal or 60-point season.

Comparable #3: What Does Cap Geek Say?

A search function on Cap Geek  gives the user the chance to find comparable salary cap hits for any player. These are the centres Cap Geek selects as Mikhail Grabovski’s salary comparables:

PlayerAgeSalary Cap HitGPPPPG+/-PIM
Ryan Getzlaf26$5.325 M4974600.9364481
John Tavares21$5.5 M2271840.81-3397
Jason Pominville29$5.3 M5254170.7941155
Mike Richards26$5.75 M5103830.7543458
Jeff Carter27$5.27 M5043700.7341302
Patrick Sharp30$5.9 M5523710.6759375
Tomas Plekanec29$5 M5353530.6613322
Mikhail Grabovski28$5.5 M3041950.6410188
Ryan Kesler27$5 M5453320.6152487
Shawn Horcoff33$5.5 M7494330.58-43479

It’s an interesting list. The Horcoff contract is widely regarded as a huge albatross for the Oilers. He’s also the oldest centre on this list, with the most experience (and least production).  Kesler has fewer points per game than Grabovski, although he plays a far more well-rounded style (physical, defensive-minded, good on faceoffs) than the Leafs player. In fact, many of the players on this list bring “more to the table” than Grabovski does on a nightly basis.

With his new contract, Grabovski is effectively being paid to produce the type of offense consistent with a first-line player. Yet most of the comparable centres on this list produce more offense than he does.

The majority of players on this list have also played around 500 games, or roughly two more seasons than Grabovski has. While it seems logical to pay a player like Tavares this kind of salary early in his career (he’s an elite talent that the Islanders have locked-up long term), Grabovski is 28-years old. The player he will be is the player he is right now.

And the player he is right now looks like a player who doesn’t necessarily fit in with this group.

Looking at all these lists, it’s clear Grabovski will be overpaid at $5.5 million per season.

Toronto’s desperate for a number one centre. Now they’ve got a player who can’t play like one, but certainly gets paid like one.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Speaking of the Leafs, Grabovski’s now paid more than Phil Kessel, the Leafs top scorer. That can’t sit well with Kessel, who’s carried the team’s offense this season. It also gets the Spidey-senses tingling – maybe there could be a Rick Nash for Phil Kessel trade in the off-season after all.
  • From a few weeks ago, here’s the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle on what Grabovski is worth.
  • Final Leafs note – Randy Carlyle will bring necessary structure to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But let’s not forget Ducks players grew to hate their coach, and dressing room issues were a large part of the last two years in Anaheim. It would not be a surprise to see, at the end of the day, that Ron Wilson will have coached more Leaf games than Randy Carlyle.
  • I lied about it being the final Leafs note. This happened today on Toronto radio. Must bring back warm memories for Vancouver sports radio listeners.
  • Rumoured complaints by the Senators, Canucks and Maple Leafs about Ron Maclean and Don Cherry are just another reason why it’s easy to believe the CBC is getting out of the hockey business after their contract runs out.
  • So Sidney Crosby’s head is clear and it looks like he might be ready to go for the playoffs. Except that the playoffs are played at a faster, more physical pace than the regular season. In everyone’s rush to get Crosby back on the ice, isn’t it in his best interests to take as much time off as possible and start fresh for the 2012-13 season?
  • The Globe and Mail selects the 2014 Men’s Olympic Hockey Team so Steve Yzerman doesn’t have to.
  • Interesting news that Canada currently sits fourth in the world hockey rankings. Here are the top-10 rankings in descending order: Russia; Finland; Sweden; Canada; Czech Republic; United States; Switzerland; Germany; Norway; Slovakia.
  • Dobber writes a personal note to George McPhee and Ted Leonsis that sounds similar to what was said in this space a few weeks ago.
  • Not making too big a deal about this, but Tim Thomas’s numbers in 2012 aren’t at their usual level of excellence (11-9, 2.66 goals against, .909 save percentage). With Tuukka Rask out and Marty Turco signed, the Bruins have to hope that Thomas finds his old form in time for the playoffs.
  • Grant Clitsome on playing in Winnipeg: “The hardest thing to adjust to was having to shout at your teammates as you can’t hear them with how loud the crowd is.”
  • In case you missed it, a breakdown of each team’s height, weight and age post-trade deadline.
  • A nice analysis on Fear the Fin about the San Jose Sharks recent slide.
  • Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts.
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