Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grantland: The 10 Commandments of NHL Shootouts

Just when we thought we’d seen it all in NHL shootout action, Alex Burrows proved us wrong. Plenty of players have used the ol’ spinorama in a shootout. But none of them ever came up with that whole “ignore the puck entirely when you do it” angle that Burrows broke out Monday:

Presumably, Burrows was hoping Kings goalie Jonathan Quick would be so mesmerized by his moves that he’d vacate the net entirely. Quick refused to bite, unlike some people we could mention.

So yes, the move was a disaster. (And be sure to check out this fantastic frame-by-frame breakdown of Burrows watching the replay.) But in a sense, you can understand what happened here. During regulation play, a breakaway is almost by definition a surprise play that develops in an instant. There’s a smart breakout pass or a great individual effort or a bad turnover, and suddenly someone’s in all alone. At most, that player gets a few seconds to decide what to do. Instinct takes over.

But when the actual hockey game is over and the convoluted individual skills competition starts, players suddenly have time to think about what they should do. And in some cases, as Burrows showed us, they can use that time to over-think things.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By following just a few simple rules, players could avoid becoming the next Alex Burrows. All they need to do is know their history, learn from the mistakes of others, and observe the 10 Commandments of NHL Shootouts.

>> Read the full post at Grantland

Grantland: NHL Panic Watch

We’re roughly 10 percent of the way through the NHL season, and that means it’s time for some teams to panic.

Not really, of course. Even in this abbreviated season, jumping to conclusions based on four or five games would be downright irrational. So any of you hockey fans who are completely rational when it comes to your team can go ahead and stop reading right now.

The other 98 percent of you still with me? Good. Let’s hit the panic button.

One note: We’re focused here on teams that are struggling relative to expectations. The Blue Jackets may have been iffy so far, but they’re clearly in rebuilding mode, and just about everyone had already picked them for last place. A team like that can’t be considered to be in panic mode by any reasonable definition.

The same can’t be said for many of the early season’s other underachievers. Here’s a look at some of the teams that aren’t living up to expectations right now:

>> Read the full post at Grantland

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

So you've scored a goal: The etiquette of NHL celebrations

He skated as far as he could as fast as he
could and when it was over he was devastated
to realize he was still in Edmonton.

Edmonton Oiler rookie Nail Yakupov managed to make himself the talk of the hockey world last week when he celebrated a last-second goal against the Kings with an extended slide down the length of the rink.

While many chalked the moment up to youthful enthusiasm, others weren't so kind. Don Cherry called him an idiot, and many fans of other teams were even harsher. But was the criticism justified? After all, has anyone ever actually documented what exactly a player is allowed to do when they score?

They have, as it turns out. But apparently Yakupov didn't get the memo. So for the benefit of him and any other rookies who missed it, here's the official NHL etiquette for celebrating.

Do: Celebrate your 50th goal of the season by pretending that your hockey stick has caught on fire.
Do not: Forget to check your insurance company's fire policy first, to make sure they'll eventually replace your stick with one that can still score goals.

Do: Borrow the signature celebration of the Green Bay Packers by leaping into the first few rows of the stands after scoring.
Do not: Try this in Toronto during the opening ten minutes of a period, since you'd prefer to land in an area that actually has fans.

Do: Celebrate enthusiastically when you record a hat trick.
Do not: Use up all of your energy on that celebration, since you'll want to save some for your second shift against the Flyers defense.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grantland weekly grab bag: Was it ever OK to use that breakaway move in NHL 94?

This week we're debuting what we're hoping will become a weekly grab-bag style feature at Grantland.

This time around, I tackle pressing issues like Nail Yakupov’s celebration, Don Cherry’s missing chair, whether it was OK to use that breakaway move in NHL 94, and the Calgary Flames' legendary "Red Hot" video.

>> Read the full post at Grantland

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Grantland: The NHL players nobody hates, and why we should hate them

Here’s a general rule about hockey fans: They hate just about everyone.

If you’re an NHL player, it doesn’t take much for hockey fans to turn against you. Sidney Crosby? Too whiny. The Sedins? The whole twin thing is creepy. Alexander Ovechkin? Once he scored a goal and then looked happy about it, so screw that guy. Basically, if a player has ever signed a big contract or won a fight or expressed an opinion, some large bloc of fans has already added him to their enemies list.

But every once in a while, a player manages to stick-handle through the neutral zone trap of hockey hatred and break in alone on the goaltender of positivity and — holy crap, that was a terrible metaphor, but I’m leaving it in because you get the point.

Anyway, here are a dozen of the NHL’s most universally admired active players, the reasons why we love them, and a suggestion for why we should all just turn against them now and get it over with.

>>Read the full post at Grantland

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Other ways NHL teams are trying to make things up to the fans

She drove all that way and still saw fewer
red lights than Cory Schneider.

The NHL has returned to action after a lengthy work stoppage, and for many teams the first order of business was to get to work on repairing their relationship with angry fans. Whether it was free tickets, discounted merchandise or meet-and-greets with players, just about every team was trying to earn some positive publicity.

Of course, some franchises were more creative than others. Here's a look at how some of the teams around the NHL are trying to make things up to their fans.

Los Angeles Kings: Diehard fans will receive a complimentary DVD titled "The LA Kings from May 2012 to today: A complete history, as far as you know."

New York Rangers: Coach John Tortorella will answer one question from each of the 17,000 fans in attendance during a special pre-game event that's scheduled to last five minutes.

St. Louis Blues: In a special post-game auction, fans will have a chance to bid on the game-worn jerseys and equipment of the various opposing players who have been undressed by Vladimir Tarasenko.

Phoenix Coyotes: The first 10,000 fans get to try to explain the economics of hockey in Phoenix to the remaining 2,400 fans.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Grantland: Ten observations from opening weekend

It’s probably foolish to try to read anything into two days’ worth of games, especially when half the players in the NHL are still trying to get back to pre-lockout form. But that’s no reason not to try, so here are 10 random observations from the NHL’s opening weekend:

>> Read the full post at Grantland

Friday, January 18, 2013

Grantland: The five best games to watch on Saturday

With the NHL season finally getting under way Saturday, one of the most critical early factors will be conditioning. Who’ll be ready to hit the ground running on Day 1, and who’ll need some time to get back to his usual output level?

That doesn’t just apply to players — fans will also have to ease themselves back into regular-season shape. For example, the NHL is serving up 13 games Saturday. That’s just way too many for a typical fan who's still shaking off the lockout rust. Try paying attention to every one of them, and you’re going to tear a groin.

Pace yourselves, hockey fans. Here are five games to focus on during the NHL’s long-awaited opening day:

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This new MLSE movie trailer seems odd somehow

We all know that MLSE stands for “Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment”, and I think we can all agree that they’re pretty incompetent at the whole “sports” part of that equation.

So maybe it's no surprise that they've apparently shifted their focus to the "entertainment" side. And if so, I suppose getting into the movie business is a natural extension of the brand.

But all that said, does anyone else find this trailer for the new MLSE movie a little… odd?

Too soon, MLSE. No, literally… too soon.

Follow @blogesalming. That means you too, @strombone1.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013 NHL Season Preview - Western Conference

"Uh, guys, somebody better call Fehr,
I don't think he's going to let go.

Today we continue our pre-season tour through the NHL's 30 teams. Yesterday we went through the Eastern Conference, so today let's turn out attention to the West.

Calgary Flames - Expect Jarome Iginla's trademark smile and infectious laugh to light up the dressing room, right up until he realizes the reporters were actually serious when they asked about the Flames making the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues - Every contender has to go through adversity at some point, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds in late March when they give up their first goal.

Phoenix Coyotes - Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick earned a $58 million deal in part based on his dominating performance against Phoenix in the conference finals, so it will be interesting to see how the Coyotes react to being owned by somebody with actual money.

Los Angeles Kings - Have lost some momentum in the fickle LA market due to the lockout, but should gain it back by the season's second week when they pass the Lakers in wins.

Grantland: Ten players to watch this season

After an exhaustive six-hour training camp, the NHL makes its long-awaited return Saturday. And while it’s been easy to forget over the past few months of lockout negotiations between grim-faced men in suits, hockey is a sport played on ice by actual hockey players.

Let’s take a look at some of them now. Here are 10 players who’ll be especially interesting to keep an eye on over the next few months, including the selfish and spoiled PK Subban.

>> Read the full post at Grantland

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 NHL Season Preview - Eastern Conference

The last known example of PK Subban
being satisfied with Montreal's price.

NHL training camps have just started, which this year means that NHL training camps are about to end. And that makes it time to take a final look around the league in anticipation of opening night.

Today we'll start with the Eastern Conference before turning to the Western Conference tomorrow.

New Jersey Devils - It turns out Ilya Kovalchuk wasn't serious about remaining in Russia after all and is expected back in camp shortly, Lou Lamoriello said while returning from Russia holding a baseball bat and an Ilya Kovalchuk-shaped duffel bag.

Washington Capitals - Eric Fehr signed a one-year deal that was completed just in time for the start of training camp, making him the first Fehr in four months to show up on time for something.

Winnipeg Jets - Are expected to surprise a lot of people in the Eastern Conference this year, in the sense that whenever they come to town fans will be surprised to remember that for some reason they're still in the Eastern Conference.

New York Rangers - The team will be looking to Rick Nash for leadership during this shortened season, since he's used to being in the playoff race for 48 games every year.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Grantland: What Went Wrong for Brian Burke?

Let’s start with the easy part: Brian Burke failed in Toronto.

There’s really no way to spin it otherwise. Some people will try, because that’s how these things always work, but it’s futile. Brian Burke failed.

He came to the Maple Leafs in 2008 when it seemed that the franchise had hit rock bottom, and, as general manager, he never made it significantly better. He missed the NHL playoffs all four years. He took over a team coming off an 83-point season that everyone agreed was a disaster and managed to top that total only once. He compiled a .490 winning percentage, which, in a league that gives out points for losing, is indisputably awful.

All of that might have been acceptable if Burke, who was fired Wednesday, could point to an organization stocked with can’t-miss prospects. But the Leafs don’t even have that. The farm system is in better shape than it was when he inherited it, because it would've been nearly impossible for it not to be. But not by much, and with the (optimistically) possible exception of defenseman Morgan Rielly, it’s lacking the sort of top-tier young talent that almost all of today’s winning NHL teams are built around.

No playoffs. No blue chips. No progress. And, increasingly, no hope. That’s failure, any way you cut it.

So that’s the easy part. Now the harder question: Why? Why did someone who seemed like such a perfect fit for the job fail so spectacularly?

>> Read the full post at Grantland

Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr and the NHL Lockout's Guilty Conscience

Hey, did you hear that the NHL lockout ended? It totally did! In fact, after four months of hearing about how far apart the two teams were, on Saturday night the deal actually came together kind of quickly.

Almost… too quickly.

Call me crazy, but doesn’t it seem like something must have been going on in the background during all of this that lead to the sudden ending. In fact, I can almost picture it now…

Follow @blogesalming or Dave Nonis will take your job.

Full lyrics after the jump.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Surprises in the new NHL CBA deal

Sci fi nerds had always known that good things would
happen if Gollum ever teamed up with Han Salo.

The NHL and NHLPA finally reached an agreement over the weekend, and the resulting new CBA doesn't sound like it will contain anything unexpected. In fact, it's pretty much the deal everyone had been predicting for months.

Or maybe not. DGB spies got their hands on the entire top secret document, and it turns out that it actually contains a few surprises. Here are some of the more interesting details that haven't made their way into public reports yet.

  • There's a strict confidentiality clause in which both sides agree to never publicly acknowledge that nobody ever actually understood what "make whole" was supposed to mean.

  • The deal sets aside a significant sum of money to donate to charitable organizations helping those most desperately in need of urgent assistance: reporters who are slightly tired and cold.

  • The two sides agree to pay for all travel expenses when federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh eventually returns to fight crime on his home planet.

  • In a message aimed at all the league and team employees who took pay cuts or were laid off entirely, the document includes a photo of Jeremy Jacobs shrugging his shoulders while sitting on a giant pile of money.

  • For reasons nobody seems to be clear on, half the document is made up of knitting patterns for Steve Fehr's sweater collection.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New at Grantland: The 10 Types of Horrible People We Met During the NHL Lockout

The NHL lockout is finally, mercifully over. And the agreement couldn’t have come soon enough for the league, given that losing another full season would have inevitably resulted in a sharply reduced fan base along with drastic drops in attendance, merchandise sales, and TV ratings.

Oh, not because of the decreased enthusiasm from fans worn out by the third lockout in a generation. The NHL’s problem would have actually been much simpler than that: If this lockout had dragged on even a few days longer, NHL fans were all going to murder each other. Whether it’s the guy on the next bar stool, your favorite blogger, the coworker one cubicle down, or just some random guy on Twitter, virtually everyone in the hockey world has been completely insufferable for months.

>> Read the full post at

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 - The NHL year in review

After overtime was prevented by a clutch save,
furious NHL officials insisted that the next
Classic include a team that never makes any.

A new year has arrived, which means that it's time to take one last look back at the one that just passed.

Unfortunately for hockey fans, most of the action in 2012 took place over the first few months thanks to a lockout that made meaningful news hard to come by later in the year. Then again, after 12 months marked by disputes over long-term contracts, maybe it's only fitting that an NHL Year in Review column would end up being heavily front-loaded.

January 2 - The Winter Classic ends with a dramatic game-ending penalty shot save by Henrik Lundqvist that experts describe as a Hollywood-style ending, if Hollywood movie stars were better looking.

January 23 - Tim Thomas attempts to send a political message by refusing to join his teammates in a meeting with President Barack Obama, making him the year's second most famous Massachusetts-based conservative to fail to get anywhere near the White House.

January 26 - The NHL all-star draft wraps up much quicker than usual when team captain Zdeno Chara uses the first overall pick to choose "Every single one of you, does anyone have a problem with that?"