Friday, October 28, 2011

The NHL's application form for disgruntled NBA fans

He couldn't quite place it, but David
Stern felt somehow different moments
after shaking hands with Shea Weber.
The NBA's lockout continues to drag along. With two weeks of games already cancelled and some experts suggesting the stoppage could wipe out much of the season, basketball fans are understandably getting nervous.

How nervous? My sources at the NHL's main office tell me that the switchboard is lighting up with calls from NBA fans who are thinking of jumping ship, at least temporarily. The volume of inquiries is so high that the league has had to create an application form for potential new fans. My spies were able to obtain a copy.

Greetings (soon-to-be former) NBA fans.

It's come to our attention that your league is currently undergoing a work stoppage. And while there has been some encouraging progress in negotiations this week, it's probably best that you don't get your hopes up. These things can tend to drag on. Like for a completely unreasonable amount of time. Um, so we've heard.

Anyways, it's probably a good idea to keep your options open, and to consider becoming an NHL fan. However, before you can become officially certified as a hockey diehard, there is the small matter of some paperwork. Please fill out the form below, and we'll contact you with our decision.

First name:

Last name:

Your last name with "sie" added to the end of it so that we have a creative hockey nickname ready to go for you:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Getting to know the NHL's new coaches

"Coach, if you took every puck Craig Anderson
will stop this season and stacked them on top
of each other, how high would that pile be?"
The 2011-12 season has seen six teams introduce new coaches. And instead of going back to the various familiar faces who were available, this year teams chose to go with relative newcomers. Not one of the new coaches has ever won a playoff game, and five have never been a head coach in the NHL at all.

All of which is to say that hockey fans could be forgiven if they aren't familiar with the league's newest bench bosses. So here's a handy guide to the half dozen men who are making their debut behind a bench this year.

Glen Gulutzan, Dallas Stars

Previous experience: Won the John Brophy Award for his work as coach of the Las Vegas Wranglers in 2006, so presumably rocks a mean fedora.
Early-season adjustment: Was recently able to get the media to finally start questioning him about strategy and roster decisions, instead of spending every press conference repeatedly asking "No, but seriously, who are you?"
Possible cause for concern: Reports of a possible sale of the team to a businessman from Vancouver could lead to the team's budget being slashed, or at least pretending to be slashed in an attempt to draw a penalty.

Kevin Dineen, Florida Panthers

Previous experience: His 20-year NHL playing career included a stint as Flyers captain that was interrupted when he was traded, which is really odd because that never happens says Mike Richards sarcastically.
Early-season adjustment: Has repeatedly had to politely ask Brian Campbell to stop coming back to the bench and saying "Hey, I just made more money on that shift than guys like you did during the entire 1980s!"
Possible cause for concern: Told reporters during training camp that he was looking forward to coaching emerging star David Booth, or the package of excellent young players the team would inevitably get in return if they ever traded him.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Upcoming NHL records and milestones

Every Hab, photographed from five feet high.
"History will be made" has been the NHL's playoff slogan for the past few years, but it could also be applied to the upcoming season. That's because while it's still early, this year is shaping up to be one that could rewrite a few pages of the NHL's history book.

With several hockey legends winding down their careers and a new generation of stars just hitting their prime, some of the game's most cherished records and milestones are within reach. So if you've ever wanted a chance to see history be made, now may be a good time to tune in.

Here are a few of the upcoming records and milestones that fans may have a chance to witness during the 2011-12 season.

Marc Savard - Is just one assist away from 500 for his career, which he should get this season if you're willing to count him assisting Matt Cooke in becoming known as "that jerk who ended Marc Savard's career".

Craig Anderson - Is currently 2,100 goals away from breaking the all-time record for goals allowed in a career, so given how the Senators' season is going so far let's just go ahead and pencil him in for next Friday.

Ray Whitney - Has a chance to join the 1,000 point club this year, which would be a memorable moment for him since it would be guaranteed to happen against a team he once played for.

Adam Oates - Out of all current Hall Of Fame-eligible players, his 1,420 career points will once again make him by far the all-time leader among those angrily standing in line to purchase admission.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A hockey fan's guide to the World Series

This was an important sports moment from
1993, so it's safe to say Kerry Fraser didn't see it.
The World Series opens tomorrow night in St. Louis, with the Cardinals playing host to the Texas Rangers. And while some hockey fans wouldn't dream of switching over to a baseball game after waiting all summer for the NHL season to start, many will no doubt be tempted to tune in knowing that a championship is on the line.

So if you're a hockey fan who's thinking about checking out some of the World Series action, here's a handy guide to some of the subtle differences between the two sports to help you follow the action.

World Series: By late October, 28 teams have already been eliminated from championship contention.
NHL: By late October, no teams have been eliminated from championship contention with the exception of Winnipeg.

World Series: If you see the defence standing around helplessly while a player circles the bases before scoring, you'll know that batter has hit a home run.
NHL: If you see the defence standing around helplessly while a player circles the rink before scoring, you'll know that Phil Kessel has decided to try this year.

World Series: It took the sport a generation to recover from the cancellation of the 1994 World Series due to a player's strike led by hardline union head Donald Fehr.
NHL: I'm sure whoever's heading up the NHLPA these days would never do something like that.

World Series: For the second straight year, the Texas Rangers have won their first two playoff rounds under the leadership of popular manager Ron Washington.
NHL: Nobody with "Washington" on their jersey ever wins two playoff rounds in the same season.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Other complaints about Brendan Shanahan

Despite an entertaining first week of action on the ice, it seems like all anyone wants to talk about these days is Brendan Shanahan. After an initial honeymoon period that faded quickly, the NHL's senior vice-president of player safety and hockey operations has come under heavy fire over his recent rulings on player discipline.

Don Cherry has been the highest profile critic of Shanahan's harsher approach to suspensions, but he's certainly not alone. Media reports have indicated that at least some general managers are uncomfortable with Shanahan's rulings, and plenty of fans have voiced their concerns as well.

At the very least, you might assume that his discipline decisions are the only area where Shanahan is feeling the heat. But you'd be wrong. According to my top secret sources, there's a long list of issues and grievances with Shanahan that date back to the early days of his career.

Here's a sample of some of the hockey world's other complaints about Brendan Shanahan.

  • In a cruel practical joke, spent his entire rookie year with the Devils whispering moronic coaching strategies into the ear of sleeping roommate John MacLean.

  • Completely screwed up his shootout attempt at the Nagano Olympics when he failed to be Wayne Gretzky.

  • Has been an NHL VP for almost two years now and has spent lots of time with Gary Bettman, yet has apparently still not taken him aside and convinced him to stop doing that "get overly defensive and make the whole press conference uncomfortable" thing.

  • Whenever I get a penalty I don't agree with and then do the secret signal where I tug on my ear three times in the penalty box, the referee still has a job the next day. (Submitted by Gregory Campbell.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brendan Shanahan's video message to NHL players

After weeks of near-unanimous praise, the hockey world seems to have turned on Brendan Shanahan. He's been criticized by various media, anonymous GMs and Don Cherry, and many fans are starting to wonder whether he's really an improvement over Colin Campbell.

To his credit, Shanahan doesn't seem to be letting the negativity get to him. From all accounts, he's shrugged off the criticism as an unpleasant but inevitable part of the job. And he's standing by his rulings, pointing out more than once that they're consistent with the introductory video he sent to all NHL players before the season began.

But while we've all heard about this infamous video, nobody outside the league had seen it... until now. DGB spies were able to get their hands on a copy, and let's just say it's not quite what we were expecting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking outside the box: Strategic shifts from the NHL's opening weekend

At first they thought the coach was crazy,
but eventually they had to admit that the
defensive zone did look like a surprised bear.
The NHL regular season has arrived, withal 30 teams having seen action by the weekend. And if you settled in to watch your favourite team's opening games and felt like something seemed different, you may be right.

After a long off-season of planning and an exhibition schedule for fine-tuning, the opening of the regular season is the time for teams to unveil the new systems and strategies that they hope will translate into improved results. Whether it's a change in coaching, new personnel or just a different approach to certain game situations, most teams have tweaked something.

These changes are often subtle and can be difficult for the casual fan to notice. To help, I've spoken to several scouts and front office executives and they outlined some of the most important strategic shifts to watch for early in the season.

Philadelphia Flyers - Are trying a bold new strategy where the on-the-fly line changes executed by the team every minute or so will no longer include the goaltender.

Los Angeles - Are working hard in practice on improving Drew Doughty's accuracy from the point, since this year every single one of his slap shots seems to be heading directly for the front office's private suite for some reason.

Montreal Canadiens - Are apparently playing under the new slogan "Let's go on out there and be part of a moment that thousands of people have been waiting 15 years for and completely ruin it".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011-12 Season Preview - Western Conference

The 2011-12 season preview continues today with the Western Conference. (You can find yesterday's Eastern Conference preview here.)

Pacific Division

San Jose Sharks: The team is expecting strong seasons from the various players who were recently called up from their farm team in Minnesota.

Anaheim Ducks: Of all the top lines in the Western Conference, experts agree that the Ducks' trio of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan is without question the best one to feature three different DNA sequences.

Phoenix Coyotes: Not sure if it's a bad sign, but Paul Bissionnette's most recent 140-character tweet included the full name of every one of the team's season ticket holders.

Monday, October 3, 2011

2011-12 Season Preview - Eastern Conference

With the NHL's season opener just days away, it's time for an in-depth season preview of all 30 teams. Today we'll look at the Eastern Conference, with the Western Conference coming up tomorrow. (The Western Conference preview is here.)

Atlantic Division

Philadelphia Flyers: Finally solved their goaltending problem once and for all, in the sense that their problem was that fans weren't sure which goaltender to blame for destroying their salary cap.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Matt Cooke says he understands that his attempt to reform his game will have ups and downs, but still admits he could do without Brendan Shanahan randomly jumping out of the shadows, hitting him in the nose with a rolled up newspaper, and yelling "NO to whatever you were thinking just now."

New York Islanders: Signed John Tavares to a six-year contract that will guarantee he stays in Long Island for another year or two.