Friday, July 22, 2016

Grab Bag:

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- The NHL should celebrate it's 100th birthday by bring back celebrity captains
- One key point to remember when fighting the analytics war, which will never end.
- An obscure player who was creatively nicknamed Bussey, and the weird story of why.
- No, signing bonuses won't cause the next lockout. Nothing will.
- And a classic youtube breakdown of the Moog video. You know the one.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Five expected offseason moves we're still waiting for

The dog days of the NHL offseason got a nice jolt on Monday when the Senators and Rangers hooked up on a decent-sized trade. The deal sends Derick Brassard and a seventh to Ottawa in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and a second, improving the Senators’ top six while adding some youth to the Rangers and giving them some additional cap room to work with.

The trade also answered one of the offseason’s lingering questions, which was: When are the Rangers going to get around to doing something? We were all told to expect a busy offseason in New York, as GM Jeff Gorton would look to shake up his aging and expensive core. But until this week, not much had happened aside from a few minor free agency signings. Trading Brassard isn’t exactly a blockbuster, but at least now the Rangers are on the board.

But that still leaves a few more stories lingering in the “still waiting” file. Here are five moves everyone went into the offseason expecting to see that still haven’t happened yet.

The move: The Kevin Shattenkirk trade.

Heading into the offseason, it seemed as if Shattenkirk was the most likely blueliner to be on the move. With UFA status a year away, it just didn’t seem as if he was part of the Blues long-term plans. And with holes in the lineup created by other departures and several teams on the market in the hunt for defensive help, trading Shattenkirk seemed like the most obvious move for Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong.

Why hasn’t it happened yet?: The short answer is that Armstrong hasn’t found the right deal yet. But that just leads to the next question: Why not? It’s not like the market for defensemen suddenly dried up this summer; between P.K. Subban, Shea Weber and Adam Larsson, there’s been as much talent on the move as ever, and maybe more. But in Shattenkirk’s case, the move might get complicated. He’s one year away from free agency, so teams may be reluctant to acquire him without a firm sense of how much they’ll have to pay to keep him.

Odds that it still will: High. It just seems like this one has gone too far down the road to be pulled back now, with Shattenkirk’s agent going as far as calling a deal “inevitable” a few weeks ago. Maybe Armstrong has to lower his asking price, and maybe that brings teams like Edmonton back into the mix.

What if it doesn’t?: It’s going to seem awkward if training camp arrives and Shattenkirk is still a Blue. Still, having him in the lineup wouldn’t be the worst thing in the word for a legitimate Cup contender. Conventional wisdom says that you just can’t let a player like that reach free agency without trading him first, but as the Lightning showed with Steven Stamkos last year, sometimes it’s better to stay the course. Still, that’s risky territory for the Blues, and it’s hard to see how this gets that far.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ranking the NHL's weird celebrity captains of 1991

The next year will be a big one for NHL milestones. For starters, we’ll see the 100th anniversary of the league itself, dating back to its official formation in 1917. The coming season is also the Maple Leafs’ centennial — one the franchise is celebrating with new uniforms, an outdoor game and a special Hall of Fame exhibit.

If that wasn’t enough, the 1967 expansions teams, including the Kings, Penguins, Flyers and Blues, will all mark their 50th anniversaries. We’ll no doubt see plenty of marketing initiatives in the coming months as the league marks the various occasions.

Here’s hoping they’ve got something good in mind, because the bar has been set high. Twenty-five years ago this summer, in advance of what would be its 75th season, the NHL decided to celebrate the occasion in the very best way it knew how: With a parade of B-list celebrities.

During the 1991 off-season, the league asked all 22 of its teams to name one celebrity captain for the coming season. Some teams rose to the challenge and found a candidate who captured just the right blend of local ties and hockey fandom. Other teams… well, not so much. So today, let’s look back on all 22 of those celebrity captains, as we count them down from worst to best.

No. 22: Montreal Canadiens – Maurice “Rocket” Richard

No. Just… no.

Let’s be clear: Rocket Richard is a legend, one of the greatest wingers of all time, and a defining player of a generation. He inspired children’s books, songs and even the occasional riot. In the world of pro sports, there are superstars, there are Hall-of-Famers, and then there’s that very small group of players who transcend it all to become something even more. Richard is in the group, no question. Rocket Richard ruled.

But asking a franchise to pick a celebrity captain from the entire world of arts, sports and pop culture and then having them come back with one of their own players is the most Montreal Canadiens thing ever. This franchise is so obsessed with its own history that they literally couldn’t think of any other options here. Sorry, Montreal, but that’s too much. Pick a marginally famous folk singer like all the other teams in the country ended up doing.

No. 21: New York Rangers – Marv Albert

This was six years before Albert’s assault trial, so we won’t penalize the Rangers for failing to see into the future. But we will penalize them for a lack of creativity in selecting a “celebrity” from within the sports media world. Albert was best known for his work on NBA games, but he’d worked Rangers games over the years, so this all felt a little too insider-y.

This is New York, after all, home of the world’s biggest stars. With all due respect to Albert, there were probably more famous people wandering by on the street at any given moment. But that would have required the Rangers to actually make it to the street, instead of just wandering down the pressbox hallway and grabbing the first person they recognized.

No. 20: Philadelphia Flyers – Bobby Rydell

Of all 22 captains, this was the toughest one to track down. Most teams were proud of their choices; some had press releases or formal announcements, and everyone else would at least show up in a newspaper article or two. But not the Flyers. Most news coverage just made vague reference to them not getting around to making a pick yet.

As best I can tell, that pick ended up being Rydell, the teen idol pop singer best known for the 1960 hit, Wild One. At least, that’s according to the one line slipped into the end of this article on the Flyers’ opening-night loss to the Capitals. That’s pretty much all the evidence I could find of the Flyers participating in this campaign at all. They just didn’t seem all that in to the whole celebrity captain thing. Which is weird, considering the franchise’s proud history with pop music.

No. 19: Hartford Whalers – Susan Saint James

Saint James might seem like an odd pick, but she was chosen because she’d once attended college in Connecticut. That’s it. The fact that she was married to the president of the NHL’s TV partner was no doubt purely a coincidence.

As a side note, the Whalers appear to have been the only team to name a co-captain, as they snuck in an additional mention of Gordie Howe. Normally, that would fall under the same category as the Habs choosing Richard. But I’m going to give the Whalers a pass, on the assumption that they picked Howe just to troll the Red Wings in hopes of getting them to lose their minds when it came time for their pick.

Spoiler alert: It worked.

No. 18: Calgary Flames – Ian Tyson

When the NHL said “celebrity captain,” half the league’s Canadian teams immediately went “local folk rock singer” and called it a day. Maybe the biggest upset of all here was that, somehow, Stompin’ Tom Connors didn’t get picked by anyone. How is that even possible? I’m assuming he was removed from consideration to make it fair for everyone else, like when you were in a hockey pool in 1984 and nobody was allowed to draft Wayne Gretzky.

Anyway, Calgary’s honour went to Tyson. Personally, I would have gone with then-current WWF intercontinental champion Bret Hart, but let’s be honest, it was the early 90s. The Flames weren’t exactly making great personnel decisions.

No. 17: Toronto Maple Leafs – Gordon Lightfoot

Have I mentioned that the Canadian teams liked singers? They liked singers.

Side note: How much do you think it killed Mike Myers not to get the nod here? He was already a big star on Saturday Night Live by this point, but the Wayne’s World movie hadn’t come out yet so he didn’t quite have that crossover appeal. Then again, given how things turned out when he finally did get to work with the Leafs, that’s probably a good thing.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

Friday, July 15, 2016

Grab Bag: Pointless secrecy, Vegas puns, and defending Marc Bergevin

In this week's Friday Grab Bag:
- Enough with the Vegas puns
- More pointless NHL secrecy
- An obscure player who scored a very famous goal without being on the ice
- Defending Marc Bergevin
- Making fun of Marc Bergevin

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The five types of goalie-for-goalie trades

The Maple Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to the Ducks last week. Toronto moving on from Bernier wasn’t a surprise, but the timing and destination was odd, coming just days after the Leafs and Ducks had hooked up on the Frederik Andersen deal. That’s led to speculation that Bernier was part of the original trade all along, but remained on the Leafs roster long enough for MLSE to pay his signing bonus on July 1.

If so, that would kind of make Bernier-for-Andersen the latest in a long line of goalie-for-goalie trades, albeit it one with some valuable draft picks heading Anaheim’s way. The NHL has a deep history of this sort of deal, and that makes sense; there are only so many goaltenders out there, so it’s understandable that a team trading one away would want to acquire one in return. And as it turns out, those goalie-for-goalie trades often end up falling into some familiar categories.

Today, let’s look back at some of those moves. Note that we’re not looking for trades that simply featured goalies on either side, which will come as a relief to Habs fans dreading another rehashing of the Patrick Roy trade. Instead, we’ll focus on trades in which the goaltenders were either traded for each other straight up, or at least were clearly the primary pieces in the deal.

Here are some of history’s best goalie-for-goalie trades, and the categories they fell into.

The category: The change-of-scenery trade that comes back to haunt one of the teams.

Recent example: Five years ago, the Avalanche and Senators hooked up on a trade that saw Ottawa acquire Craig Anderson in exchange for Brian Elliott. Anderson was just one year removed from a great season, but was struggling badly and seemed headed to unrestricted free agency. So the Avs flipped him for Elliott, who’d yet to impress in limited duty as Ottawa’s starter.

The deal worked out wonderfully for the Senators; Anderson regained his form, signed a new contract, and is still the team’s starter to this day. The Avalanche didn’t fare quite as well; Elliott didn’t do much in Colorado, and was allowed to hit free agency that summer. He signed with the Blues, won the Jennings the very next year, and has been one of the league’s most dependable goaltenders ever since.

(A near-miss in this category: The Capitals trading Michal Neuvirth for Jaroslav Halak in 2014, then almost seeing Neuvirth lead the Flyers to a miracle comeback against them in this year’s playoffs.)

Other examples: Sometimes, a team has no choice but to move on from a goaltender. That was the case in 1988, when Edmonton goalie Andy Moog held out from the team all season. The Oilers finally moved him at the deadline, sending the veteran to Boston for youngster Bill Ranford.

Months later, the two teams faced each other in the Stanley Cup final, with Moog seeing part-time duty while Ranford watched from the bench in an Oilers win. Two years later the teams met again, and this time it was Ranford and Moog going head-to-head. Ranford won the matchup and the Conn Smythe, avenging what he’d seen as poor treatment at the hands of the Bruins.

The lesson: If you’re going to make a goalie-for-goalie trade, make sure it’s with a team that isn’t going to show up in the Cup final any time soon. So, good work there, Ducks.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News