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Saturday, August 30, 2008

7 Habits of Highly Effective NHL Forecasting: Part IV

To open the Western Conference, I honour the champions from last season: The CENTRAL DIVISION. ---------------------------------

Detroit Red Wings:

What is there to say? They have been lauded endlessly since destroying the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final, lost no one of significance and gained Marion Hossa: they took a great thing and made it better (like undressing the Mona Lisa, or loading beer and strippers onto Noahs Ark). The only reasonable assumption is that they will be on par with their achievements last year -- a championship standard that is difficult to live up to. With a target squarely on their already-battled-worn backs I would not be surprised to see the injury bug sweep through the team. The subjective nature of that aside, Zetterberg, Datsuk, Hossa, Holmstrom, Frazen, Lidstrom, Rafalski and insert All Star here will make others look stupid on-the-regular throughout the season and well into the playoffs. Repeat? Ask me when they get to the dance.

2008 Record: 54-21-7, 1st Central
'09 Projection: 49-25-8, 1st Central

Chicago Blackhawks:

-- are the sweet heart team in the Western Conference this year. Look for them to sweep hockey fans off of their feet (straight onto the band wagon) much the same way Washington did last season, minus the AO-like dominance from their young snipers. Kane, Toews and Sharp carried the offense last year on a Blackhawks team that missed the playoffs by a slim margin (which may be accounted for by exuberant rookies playing too hungover on the road, something veteran piss-tank Robert Lang surely advised them on in the off-season). They added free-agent Brian Campbell to an already stacked offensively-adept blue line (Keith, Seabrook). Apparently trending upwards and due for a playoff appearance there remains some problems capable of grounding their expectations: Will Pat Sharp back up his shockingly productive season of '08 similarly in '09? How will they get rid of Knabiboulin and his 6.75mil contract so that newly-signed free-agent Christobal Huet can call the team his own? Whether or not they materialize into a threat this season is debatable, but their future is very positive as indicated by the willingness of Scotty Bowman to leave Detriot for Chi Town. This is a playoff team, but they need to iron out a few things before they can win it all.

2008 Record: 40-34-8, 2nd Central
'09 Projection: 42-30-10, 2nd Central

Nashville Predators
-- should prepare themselves to be usurped by Chicago as the 2nd-best team in the Detriot-dominated division. While they're at it, might as well err on the side of caution and be ready for numerous Western conference teams to fly past them having made zero notable moves in the off-season. Naturally I know headlines are not correlated to performance, but an offense with the punch of a Jaleel White circa 1995 is. With 2/3's of their second line doubtful (Alex Radulov set to play in Russia, Steve Sullivan's back doesn't work anymore) the Pred's need Arnott, Dumont, Erat and Legwand to produce over what most reasonable prognosticators will expect. Their saving grace will be their strong defense (Suter, Hamhuis, Weber) which will regrettably be without offensively-gifted Martin Zidlicky (gone to Minnesota). In support of their admirable cast of blue-liners is emerging goaltending star Dan Ellis (fantasy alert?). He was stellar during both the regular season (23-10-3, 6SO, 2.34GAA, .924%) and the playoffs (.938% over 6 games). Should he continue to demonstrate this type of consistency and reliability Nashville will be sniffing around the bottom of the playoff rankings in lieu of spiralling down the shit can.

2008 Record: 41-32-9, 2nd Central
'09 Projection: 39-34-9 3rd Central

Columbus Blue Jackets
-- are not only competing for their first-ever playoff appearance in '09, but are also in contention for the most numerous roster changes. They finally said goodbye to frustrating forward Nik Zherdev (who as an aside is still held in high regard by Doug MacLean. It's hard for your draft picks to live up to Gretzky when they play like Valari Bure, Dougie. Welcome to radio). Also wearing other threads are Hainsey, Brule and Dan Fritsche all of whom will contribute on their new clubs, albeit to varying degrees with Hainsey purportedly the most promising for the otherwise burning-tires-and-skunks-awful Atlanta Thrashers. Their top line is respectable (Nash - Umberger - Huselius), but everything between them and goaltender Pascal Leclaire is unimpressive. With Raffi Torres on the second line, Mike Commodore playing top 2 minutes its looks like the Battle of Fallen Timbers all over again.

2008 Record: 34-36-12, 4th Central
'09 Projection: 36-34-12, 4th Central

St. Louis Blues
-- John Davidson is viewed as a miracle worker by some given the resurgence of the team during his tenure (est. June 2006). However, their on-ice successes have much more to do with the brilliance of Brad Boyes and his 43-gino career-year. His partner-in-crime is sneaky point-producer Andy MacDonald who shares his habit of making plays and setting up tap-ins with their aging linemate (Paul 'if only prime wasn't so far away' Kariya). This will be another rung up the rebuilding latter for the hockey team in Mizzou, so we might get to see a lot of promising young talent, but only for 82 games or less.

2008 Record: 33-36-13, 5th Central
'09 Projection: 35-35-12, 5th Central

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An Open Letter to MLB Video Replay: Welcome!

Dear MLB Video Replay:

Welcome to 2008. I'm sure catching up with the times was extraordinarily exhausting but you need to know how worthwhile your efforts are to baseball. You have the support of every human being having witnessed a Major League Baseball game since the Negro Leagues, in addition to anyone excluded above with the capacity to wipe their own ass.

Your presence is so valuable that we are willing to tolerate your shortcomings. You're late, but we forgave you just as soon as you showed up. You're a job-threatening robot, but your consistency and reliability are far too valuable to go without any longer.

What I like most is your drive to succeed. You persevered in the face of such strong resistance from the purists (see fans sired before World War I, pseudo-geriatrics and the Crypt Keeper). You have the heartwarming capacity to humiliate 4 -- and sometimes as many as 6 -- fat egomaniacal stooges, a consortium whom are ironically your most dubious foes.

Thank you for coming and enlightening those previously blinded. Thank you for fighting the good fight and standing up for what you believe in.


Derek from Cloud9.

PS -- I told'da so, I friggin' tolda so. In October of 2007, I told the world why MLB should adpot instant replay.
PSS - Subscribe here for the win.

Monday, August 25, 2008

NHL Eastern Conference Wrap Up

You can check out Part I- Atlantic, Part II- Northeast, and Part III- Southeast at their respective locations, all of which are offering full explanations.

According to the information contained therein, here is a tally representing how the NHL playoff picture will take shape. Any beefs?

1. Philadelphia Flyers
...........47-25-10, 1th Atlantic.................104pts
2. Washington Capitals ........45-27-10, 1st Southeast.............100pts
3. Montreal Canadians .......44-27-11, 1st Northeast..............99pts
4. Pittsburgh Penguins ........42-28-12, 2rd Atlantic................96pts
5. Ottawa Senators ...................42-29-11, 2nd Northeast............95pts
6. Boston Bruins ........................40-27-13, 3rd Northeast............93pts
7. Carolina Hurricanes .......42-31-9, 2nd Southeast..............93pts
8. New York Rangers ............40-30-12, 3nd Atlantic...............92pts

9. New Jersey Devils
41-33-8, 4th Atlantic.90pts
10. Tampa Bay Lightning 37-33-12, 3rd Southeast, 86pts
11. Buffalo Sabres
37-36-9, 4th Northeast 83pts
12. Florida Panthers 34-37-11, 4th Southeast, 79pts
13. Toronto Maple Leafs 32-37-13, 5th Northeast 77pts
14. Atlanta Thrashers 33-39-10, 5th Southeast, 73pts
15. New York Islanders 32-41-9, 5th Atlantic, 71pts

Stay tuned for the Western Conference break downs in the coming days. Cheers, Derek.

Friday, August 22, 2008

7 Habits of Highly Effective NHL Forecasting: Part III

You can check out Part I, and Part II at their respective locations.

The Dirty South East:

This division is full of teams that I would like to see out of the NHL entirely, as I've documented previously. Their shitty revenue kills their operating budget erasing any chance of being competitive on a consistent basis (see Cups to the can for Tampa (2004) and Carolina (2006)). Hope is limited to those teams fortunate enough to draft Alex Ovechkin:

Washington Capitals
-- We'd all be more excited if Christobal Huet hadn't bolted for Chicago. This move opened the door for Jose Theodore, whose decent career numbers mask his failure to live up to the standards he sat 4-6 years ago (which assuredly erodes his confidence and fosters his inconsistency). I'm not holding my breath for a return to form, but the AO-led '08 Caps showed their offensive abilities are strong enough to compensate for average netminding. Defenseman Karl Alzner will get a sniff of the big dance potentially alongside the surprisingly-productive Tom Poti. They are joined on the blue line by a formidable contingent of young potential All Stars (Green, Morrisonn). Playing with Ovechkin will help stud-'08-rookie Nik Backstrom avoid a sophomore slump in the same way another years' experience should facilitate improvement in their secondary scoring (courtesy of Semin, Kozlov and Fleishmann). They were narrowly clipped by the Flyers ending their Cinderella playoff run in '08 adding fuel to the competitive fire that should keep them climbing the rankings in the East.

2008 Record: 43-31-8, 1st Southeast
'09 Projection: 45-27-10, 1st Southeast

Tampa Bay Lightning
-- had a massive off-season. Their completely over-hauled roster was the mandate of new ownership (Oren Koules and Len Barrie). Accordingly, the Bolts' new coach (ex-WWL analyst 10-years removed from his last coaching stint, Barry 'The Mullet' Melrose) will put together the jigsaw of a line-up stocked with players also well removed from their old glory. Tampas' opening day lines will display some permutation of the following: forwards (Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, Radim Vrbata and the reacquired Vinny Prospal -- Jesus himself is reportedly at training camp with a shot a 4th line role), and defensive addition (Matt Carle) who'll have the impossible task of replicating the puck-moving ability of departed PP QB Dan Boyle (to San Jose). True to their reinvented form, the goaltenders (deadline acquisition Mike Smith, and free agent Olly Kolzig) are unaware of their place on the team. I expect 50 starts for the much younger Smith, and the Lightning hope he'll outplay Kolzig keeping him humble in the back-up role. Lofty contributions are also expected from seenstamkos.com star Steven, riding his 1st Overall selection to a shot at centering the second line behind venerable offensive contributors Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecav, who will lead this motley cast in concert with shoot-out machine Jussi Jokinen. If they find the chemistry and stay healthy I'd anticipate a last-minute scrap for a playoff position. Otherwise, lets chalk their frantic roster shuffling and continued stagnation up to growing pains.

2008 Record: 31-42-9, 5th Southeast
'09 Projection: 37-33-12, 3rd Southeast

Carolina Hurricanes
-- With a dearth of offensive D-men GM Jim Rutherford wisely exchanged fan-favourite Eric Cole for Joni Pitkanen; a deal that met the ire of fans whose love for the name and his story obstructed their managerial-assessment capabilities. Carolina is stocked with talented forwards (Staal, Whitney, Brind'Amour, Walker, LaRose) who put up tallies on a per-game basis at elite levels on balance. With the mobile Pitkanen anchoring their PP, I like Carlina to sneak into the tournament as a 6-8 seed in the East. Cam Ward is older, more mature and has steadily posted better numbers. Contingent on Wards progression, the 'Canes success will hinge on their health (which has shattered Carolinas' potential in recent years) and the consistency of Eric Staal (whose ability to take over games and provide a compliment to the fine leadership of the ageless Rod-the-Bod Brind'Amour will be vital).

2008 Record: 43-33-6, 2nd Southeast
'09 Projection: 42-31-9, 2nd Southeast

Florida Panthers
-- This franchise is a joke. They gave away Robbie Luongo a few seasons ago, swapped their best skater (Olli Jokinen) for two non-impact players (Nick Boyton and Keith Ballard), and have their best defensemen desperately seeking employment elsewhere (see Bouwmeesters' arbitration issue and subsequent 1-year deal). Corey Stillman is in, but too old to be a saviour and goaltender Tomas Vokoun can only make so many saves. They miss the playoffs -- again -- and hopefully re-locate to Southern Ontario.

2008 Record: 38-35-9, 3rd Southeast
'09 Projection: 34-37-11, 4th Southeast

Atlanta Thrashers
-- I'd like to avoid an entry for them altogether, but since the development of these OCD-like symptoms that make incompletion more annoying than a hockey team in Atlanta, I'll highlight the one reason you might care about the Thrashers: Ilya Kovalchuk. Teams know that ATL couldn't compete in the AHL, let alone the 'N', so they slack off and beat them 6-3, 5-4, 7-4, etc. But who's racking up all those snipes in a losing cause? Mr. Kovalchuk. If the impending captaincy motivates him sufficiently he could make another legit run at the Rocket Richard. There: some hope for Thrashers fans...

2008 Record: 34-40-8, 4th Southeast
'09 Projection: 33-39-10, 5th Southeast

Thanks for reading. Also, subscribing is a great idea as the NFL/NHL seasons are fast approaching. Cheers, Derek.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

7 Habits of Highly Effective NHL Forecasting: Part II

Part II of VI in the on-going NHL 2008-2009 season predictions. For Part I, click here. If this image at-all resembles Kovalevs' season this year, the Habs are in trouble. --------------------------------------------------

Northeast Division
There exists some formidable competition in this division, which could match the 3 playoff teams it generated last year. Find out whats good with the Leafs, Habs, Bruins, Sabres and Sens below.

Boston Bruins

-- A long shot for the Cup, this years Bruins squad is nonetheless trending upwards after putting a legitimate scare into the heavily-favoured Habs this past post-season. Their offensive forwards are young and skilled (Savard, Lucic, Kessel) and have some new tools to work (free agent signing, Michael Ryder, who will get a chance to replace Glen Murray on the top line). Returning from injury after getting shameless obliterated from behind is a fully-recovered Patrice Bergeron who's presence will aid the drowsy offense under Claude Guillien. Defensively Zdeno Chara will continue to be the most under-rated defensman in the league (+102 in his last 6 seasons and managed a career high 51pts last year) alongside newly re-signed Denis Wideman (who shockingly averaged 25:09mins per game last year). Another notable something-for-nothing is goaltender Manny Fernandez. I know we all the the quirky aggressiveness and agility of Tim Thomas, but does anyone think he can win a Stanley Cup? I don't and Manny Fernandez is Bostons solution; he thrived in the similarly uber-defensive system in Minni, but has been unremarkable during his tenure in Boston. All things considered the success of the '09 Bruins is reduced to one question: Can the team-defense concept forcibly nullify the inconsistency of a youthful offense and uncertain goal keeping? Probably not.

2008 Record: 41-29-12, 3rd Northeast
09 Projection: 40-27-13, 3rd Northeast

Montreal Canadians
-- Going into last season the Habs were treated with absolutely no respect. They were too young, had too many vets along for the ride and a lack of grit. They proved everyone wrong and excelled to the top seed in the East, thanks largely to major contributions from the Kostitsyn Brother and career-years from two defenseman, Mark Streit (who chased the free-agent money offered from the dreadful NY Islanders) and Andrei Markov, who Montreal brass hopes will uphold the standard set. They are stacked in goal with Price, Halak and Denis, the former two being the likely 1-2 respectively, but not without significant controversy in broadsheets of La Belle Province. Losing Streit will dent the previously impenetrable power play that supplied more offense for their club than any other last year, whereas the another year of maturity should improve their even-strength play. The Stanley Cups odds are very generous for a team that over-achieved last year, but I feel their chances to take the division are justifiably high.

2008 Record: 47-25-10, 1st Northeast
09 Projection: 44-27-11, 1st Northeast

Ottawa Senators
-- Two lackluster off-seasons have followed their run to the 2007 Cup Final meaning Ottawa enters the 08-09 campaign with the same unimpressive group that turned the best start in the NHL into Chernobyl. The exit of aging liabilities up front (Corey Stillman and Martin Lapointe) and at the rear (Redden and Commadore; contract pending for RFA Mezaros) has done little to boost my expectations of this team. These departures were countered by signing down-trending warrior Jason Smith, and gritty pest Jarko Ruutu. These two should improve the club defensively, much the same way buying out Ray Emery will boost their internal prospectus. However, if you think the aforementioned Ray Emery was the sole proprietor of their dressing-room dysfunction you probably rode the short bus to grade school. Complacency and stagnation has messed with the confidence levels of a team who has demonstrated its fragile make up regularly. With a new coach behind the bench (Craig Hartsburg) I anticipate tension and infighting to continue, problems that can be buoyed by their talent level which is admittedly upper-class. The likelihood of a playoff birth is high, but I feel the stars need to align for them to get out of the East. Oh, and is anyone convinced about Martin Gerber now that Emery is gone?

2008 Record: 43-31-8, 2nd Northeast
09 Projection: 42-27-11, 2nd Northeast

Toronto Maple Leafs
-- Leafs Nation is prepared for a well-overdue rebuilding program, but didn't anticipate doing so under the guidance of GM Cliff Fletcher. Having botched their last 40 seasons on-ice, the Leafs have unsurprisingly fumbled the GM search and delayed the maturation of the new vision. They will finish last in this division, receive less HNIC coverage and still make more money than the entire South East division combined: most Torontonians also rode the short bus, by the way. New coach Ron Wilson, and his increasing frustration with the media bombardment will provide the majority of the entertainment from this years abysmal squad (unless you are inexplicable fond of Joe Bowen and Harry Neale).

2008 Record: 36-35-11, 5th Northeast
09 Projection: 32-37-13, 5th Northeast

Buffalo Sabres
-- All indications suggest a Groundhog Day-like 08-09 for the blue-collar Sabres. Narrowly missing the playoffs last season left a bad taste in the mouth of Buffalo fans who have watched three All Stars leave town in a period on one-half season (Briere, Drury and subsequently Brian Campbell). That the challenging Buffalo market has impedes the Sabres annually surprises no one, however locking up their franchise goaltender (Ryan Miller) and signing a steady veteran D (Craig Rivet) may breed some optimism among their youthful core (Pominville, Roy, Hecht, Gaustad, Paille). This brief gaiety notwithstanding, I expect the Sabres to struggle mightily until they get an explosive offensive contributor (/huge annoying cough: Tomas freaking Vanek). Having dealt their return for Campbell (Bernier; to Vancouver) the message is clear: we need picks because this team isn't ready to win. They might surprise beyond in 2010 and beyond, but until then...

2008 Record: 39-31-12, 4th Northeast
09 Projection: 37-36-9, 4th Northeast

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out the future installments in a few days. Cheers, Derek.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective NHL Forecasting

Thanks for checking out the site. You can also find me on the radio tonight (Tuesdays, 6-9pm) 101.5Fm or streaming online here. Cheers, Derek.
Predicting the future is a challenging business. It is governed by many of the same factors that determine the outcome of our own life: hard work and dedication (collecting data and information on every team), confidence and trust (avoiding over-thinking and believing your gut), ability and aptitude (how well do you actually know the game?) and pure luck (see: rectally-lodged horseshoes, leprechauns, David Spade and Heather Locklear). With that in mind, I submit to the public record my projections for the 2008-2009 NHL season, starting with (arguably) the best division in hockey: East Atlantic.

New York Rangers
-- Gone from the roster are Straka, Avery and Jagr (and with passing days, it looks like Shanny as well). Signed to fill the holes are the vapid and diminishing talents of free agents Wade Redden and Marcus Naslund. That pretty much puts their off-season in the loss column, but Glen Sather would tell you otherwise. He moved two former early round picks (Backman and Tyutin) to acquire enigmatic Nikolai Zherdev, and Dan Fritsche. The latter will learn from and play much like stalwart Chris Drury, whereas Zherdev will try and fill the flashy neon shoes of Jagr. Returning contributors will keep the Rangers competitive in the East: Lunqvist and Gomez are both All Star and near the peak of their career, while Dubinsky and Marc Staal continue to mature into solid top-line players.

2008 Record: 42-27-13, 3rd Atlantic
Projected '09: 40-30-12, 3nd Atlantic

Pittsburgh Penguins

-- At short odds to win it all, most will put them in the Cup Final again -- not me. Pittsburgh brilliantly executed their plan to build a team capable of winning the Cup last year, but Detroit proved they did a better job. The Pens revealed their urgency by surprisingly acquiring Marion Hossa, who ironically left a cloud of smoke when he bolted to the aforementioned Red Wings. Unfortunately their taste of success was succeeded by changes on mass. Lost are Hossa, Malone, Roberts, Ruutu and Laraque (and now Ryan Whitney to injury for 5month) meaning their 2009 opening day roster could have 7-10 new names on it. If goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury can back up his excellent performance last year, Crosby and Malkin will make sure enough pucks get buried on the other side to keep them in the playoff hunt, quite possibly with home-ice advantage based on their savage level of raw talent.

2008 Record: 47-27-8, 1st Atlantic
Projected '09: 42-29-11, 2rd Atlantic

New Jersey Devils
-- They can be summed up perfectly by a quote from GM Lou Lamoriello:
" People forget—we had 99 points and were in first place 60, 70 percent of the year. We've added two players in Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston, and certainly we're looking for a defenseman or two to come in and play—or push somebody—and we'll see what happens from there."

Who would have thought the brilliant architect of the Devils near-dynasty would have such a good sound bite in him? Thanks Lou, if only you were smart enough to create a winner that was also exciting to watch, we'd care more about your club and less about you (hmm, maybe its deliberate...). Any how, I've been waiting for Marty Brodeur to slide, and he's proven me wrong two years running. Call me stubborn, but age catches everyone and Brodeur is human, right? They'll ride him all year and I wouldn't be surprised if an injury was to blame for their below average performance. That notwithstanding Parise, Elias, Rolston, and the same crew of role players that seemingly over-achieve annually means this division will ice yet another playoff contender.

2008 Record: 46-29-7, 2nd Atlantic
Projected '09: 41-33-8, 4th Atlantic

New York Islanders
-- Brutal. This is a definite re-build year for the Islanders and I have little interest detailing their inevitable ass-raping courtesy of their divisional rivals. On the flip side, they could be celebrating the first-overall pick at the draft lottery in the summer!

2008 Record: 35-38-9, 5th Atlantic
Projected '09: 32-41-9, 5th Atlantic

Philadelphia Flyers
-- Lost Umberger, but gained Simon Gagne back from a year of concussion rehab and an off-season of strength and conditioning. Having scored 40+ twice, the Flyers fans are desperate to keep him healthy and productive on a strong team that has all the tools to make some noise in the Eastern conference. They are extremely deep up the middle (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Daniel Briere) and compliment it well with defenders (Timonen, Coburn, Jones) that can move the puck and contribute at both ends of the rink. Marty Biron was in his prime last season (30-20-9, .918SV%, 2.59GGA, 5SO) which means this young team has a lethal make-up: confidence, talent, motivation. I think they surprise a lot of people and win this division, and maybe get to the Finals if they're healthy.

2008 Record: 42-29-11, 4th Atlantic
Projected '09: 47-25-10, 1th Atlantic

For the next installment check back in a few days, or toss my site into your RSS catalog and let the computer do the work for you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

24's on Ice: A Guide to Watching the NHL in 2009

I don't get Versus and I know Americans try hard to hate hockey, so my efforts to help out with this piece are likely in vain.

Nevertheless, Versus has released their TV Schedule for the 08-09 NHL Season and I wanted to offer a viewing guide for those interested in setting their TVO's months in advance. To further my assistance in the matter the games will be judged on a scale we are all familiar with: intoxication.

I'd Watch it Sober:
Oct. 14* 7:30 pm Philadelphia at Pittsburgh
-- Division rivals that battled all season last year. This won't be the only Pens game worth seeing with your wits about you.

Jan. 12* 8:00 pm Detroit at Dallas
-- A very probable preview to the Western Conference Final, this one will turn your crank all on its own.

Mar. 17 7:30 pm Philadelphia at Detroit
-- While we're on potential previews, here is a late-season bout between the two clubs who could very well battle for the right to Lord Stanley's mug (Philly offering the best value for '09).

Might Need a Sixer:

Oct. 5 2:30 pm Ottawa at Pittsburgh
-- Two of last years' favorites clash nice and early in '08-'09. The playoff history between these two teams means we might get a rare regular-season game with intensity.

Nov. 10 7:00 pm Tampa Bay at Washington
-- give me AO and a vastly improved Lightning squad any day. This one will be good enough to enjoy sober as a judge, which is exactly why I'll take it up a notch with the suds.

Mar. 31 7:30 pm Chicago at Montreal
-- One of these teams could over-achieve and make a lengthy playoffs run so the idea of them facing off late in the season stokes me up. Have one for each Toews, Kane and Sharp while they battle the Brothers Kostitsyn and Carey Price (maybe a few for the latter as well).

You bring a case, I'll bring a bag:
Nov. 11* 7:00 pm Pittsburgh at Detroit
-- Stanley Cup re-match. Pittsburgh got worse and Detroit got better, but revenge is well nigh.

Jan. 5* 7:00 pm Pittsburgh at NY Rangers
-- I can't frigging believe I'm all over the Penguins again, but this scheduale is deficient in match up's worth getting excited about.

Take 4 Deux
Deux Deux's for a little pop:
Nov. 25* 7:00 pm St. Louis at Nashville
-- Chris Berman has been dreading this one. Have you ever heard of Canadian Asprin?

Jan. 24/25 All-Star Weekend

-- I don't want to be another guy crushing the All Star festivities, but they are more disappointing than the Canadian Summer Olympic team. It might look good on paper, but rarely delivers...

[Hat Tip to Greg from Puck Daddy who inspired this article and broke it down nicely here.]

Thanks for reading, and by all means
subscribe and come back real soon. Cheers, Derek.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NFL Holdouts: When Cashing in Costs...

Summer time has given me ample opportunities to neglect not only this site, but a host of important responsibilities that have taken a back seat to watching the Olympics, drinking beer and planning for my radio show (tonight, 6-9pm click here to listen).
Sports is a business of calculated performances and intricate interpersonal dynamics. There's no 'I' in team, but there are two in winning (and one in paid). This is an apt prelude to the paradox of sport and the NFL in particular: Where the team rides shotgun to the personal interests of its constituents.

More frequently we see displays from players that affirm the notion that commitment to the team is as superficial as the numbers on their chests. Fans deserve to be cognizant of the tactics numerous NFL players have used to quell the impact of their selfish demands. Inexplicably players have tried defending their position by biting the hand that feeds, ostensibly denouncing the role they play in their own contractual decisions (be it un-retiring, demanding re-negotiation, holding out, whining in the media, etc).

When a player like Brett Favre spins out the claims of being cold shouldered from the employer that he screwed over you can't help but laugh at the irony. He'll pine repeatedly about the level of disrespect which he felt was at odds with the Packers Family ideals. But it was never about the family, it was all about the individual.

Many others feel so entitled to more money that they shaft their family/team and skip training camp to make their point. The use of this shameful tactic has been employed by several hold-outs (Bills LT Jason Peters, Rams Steven Jackson, Eagles Brian Westbrook to name just a few). They argue (rather, their agents and GM's argue) about comparative market value over time, current marginal value, clauses for financial incentives, performance benchmarks and any number of variables that convolute the situation. Their stance is strictly business, but as soon as the athletes name is on the bottom line, it was never about money. Back to family time with barefoot sprints after practice and tender jaunts with your QB.

Allegiances in NFL are eroding faster than the credibility of the Tour de France. Most rationalize the decline by highlighting the fickle nature of NFL contracts and the troubling lack of guaranteed money. Whatever the reason the purpose is clear: in spite of previously agreed upon terms and legally binding contractual commitment, some players still hold their personal demands above that of the team.

Is that the kind of player you want to go into battle with? Does an entire unit deserve to be held hostage by a single player who has essentially changed their mind? No, because being a team player and gaining respect from your peers is all about what you give, not get. Its about sacrificeing yourself for the betterment of the team. What part of holding out suggests they are willing to sacrifice anything other than a 5th Jaguar or a 3rd home?

If you're under contract, show up and be a team member instead of a player. Perhaps your willingness to conduct yourself as a professional and act appropriately under the terms of your contract will reflect positively when you are schedualed to re-negotiate a deal.

Thanks for stopping by and subscribe or die. Cheers, Derek.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sports-Celebnalism: Morphing from ESPN to TMZ.

Fans are thrilled by walk-off jacks, pick-6's in OT and end-to-end game-winning ginos. It's only understandable that they become intrigued by the people who are responsible for eliciting these powerful emotions. However, dramatic changes in our relationship with athletes has altered the way we interact, and fulfill our desire to be associated with greatness. Physical restrictions fostered through the growth of populations, personalties, and pocket-books has created unconventional demands on increasingly-brazen media outlets.

When I recently touched on athletes in new media I facetiously argued that TMZ-Style Sports Blogs are Journalism. I was inspired then -- as I am now -- by the commentary from an MSM source. Here the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ethan Skolnick talks with Brooks from SbB about the direction of sports journalism. When pressed for specific changes that could incite celeb-like coverage of athletes Brooks offered:

“If sports journalists at major newspapers and magazines feel compelled to change their standards, because of the proliferation of gossip and pressure from superiors, and start reporting more off-the-field gossip.”

We are clearly witnessing this already: the value in providing consumable goods for the bottom-feeding illiterates who browse celeb rags, and the success of numerous publications who frequently post 'edgier' content has been observed and noted well. The steady increase in the E!-ish coverage of athletes is an unavoidable consequence of the demand for celebrity personalities. While relatively new to some, this phenomena is many generations in the making.

The ravenous commercialism of sport has irreparably skewed a variety of guidelines. While writers and athletes respectively wrote about and enjoyed the marked divergence in their annual income, communications evolved from radio to moving pictures to 1080p with surround. Meanwhile, assorted press outlets have exploded unto multiple platforms and information vehicles to meet the demands of the growing population.

We've come a long way from the days of getting pissed and playing bridge with Babe Ruth on the now-ancient North-East commuter trains. Extinct are the days of equal privileges for athletes and the masses, a factor paramount to our shifting media ideals and creation of the profitable genre of sport-celebnalism.

The impressive sums paid to todays athletes are increasingly jeopardizing the status of the formerly ubiquitous 'humble athlete'. Wealth and entitlement has spawned a new attitude towards the media responsible for their stardom. Slowly players' behaviour has morphed from amicable to dubious -- hows that for a cause-effect relationship? Partially shunned and wholly prideful, the delectatio morosa from certain media members is a palpable by-product of the maltreatment received from players and their organizations. Bitterness and envy surely play their role alongside the boyish motivations of those fortunate enough to make a living from kids games, but the debate rages on whether this is sufficient justification to publish scandalous off-field material.

Athletes and reporters aside, what about the impact of a third party? Ultimately the consumers decide what is to be published in both the MSM and blogosphere since their patronage guides the direction of the platform. This can be described as the inmates running the asylum, but I prefer to liken the consumer-producer relationship in the media to digging up a corpse: the purpose is to uncover the truth behind the human condition, but the outcome is generally deleterious.

Every skeleton raises the expectations for the next, leaving the limits up to the imagination of those in the business of raw and controversial. This new content is packaged to sell and there is an overwhelming amount of momentum behind it, so whatever the cause we know the effect: sport-celebnalism is here for good, and has room to grow.

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