Monday, November 23, 2009

The Bizarro Season

And now for something completely different. Not a blog post. Not 400 words about something that happened ten seconds ago and will be yesterdays news tomorrow. No, a nice little essay on the first season back from the lockout and the effects on it's statistics. As you'll see, I've obviously been reading Bill Simmons too much, and the short essay is jammed with footnotes. Sue me, it's a good style and if you're going to steal, steal from the best. Bleacher Report knows what I'm talking about.

Can't really say I've used this format before, so until I figure out a decent way to bring this to the interwebs, it's a PDF. Which is great, because then you can easily print it out and take it to the can to read. Or read it and give it to a friend (really, it's what Al Gore would want you to do, tree killer). You might just want to leave out the part where you took it to the toilet though. George Costanza knows what I'm talking about.

Read the PDF

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It Promises Lots of Words and No Pictures

When not making cheap cracks about Peter Pocklington on Twitter, or watching George Laraque's Octane alcoholic-energy drink commercial, I sometimes actually write about hockey. Usually no one reads those. Understandably, they're longer than 140 characters and they don't have videos of scandalously hot women stretching.

However, if your in the mood and were wondering just what those Providence Bruins of the AHL were up to these days, why not buckle up and take a ride down the information super highway to Hockey's Future. Why, it's as easy as clicking this link. Or this one.

Oh George Laraque, now you have gone too far.

Since you are reading this on a computer, I can safely assume you are sitting down. And that's a good thing, because you'll need to be for what I'm about to tell you. So that means if your one of those weird people with standing or treadmill desks, stop being so damn smug and just take a seat.

Georges Laraque has appeared in an advertisement for an alcoholic beverage that ... (gulp)... exploits women to sell its product.

Yes, it is true, and the powers of Youtube even have the video so we can all watch this senseless exploitation, perhaps multiple times. You know, just to fully understand how distasteful it is.

[go ahead, just stop reading the article and scroll down to end to watch it]

Okay, so it's not exactly the first time a commercial for an alcoholic beverage has flaunted beautiful women as means to make its product appealing. But I myself can tell you through firsthand research that, while cracking open a cool one might be refreshing as you sit down to take in a game at the end of a long day, it does not, as the commercials may hint, make my television room overrun with smoking hot biddies.

I think we can also safely assume that Flo-max is used by guys that aren't always out on white-water rafting or at a ball game with fellow aging brosephs. And I seriously doubt anyone ever has used one of those outside tubs I always see on commercials between innings of a baseball game, for guys whose peeps are on the fritz.

It's commercials people. They lie, but only mostly because they're expected to.

But, okay, yes, I have to agree that this commercial is definitely at the far end of the extreme. It goes further than most that just coyly employ a girl way too hot to be a bartender explaining why this particular brew is superior. But it's the one-minute cut, by the time it actually airs it'll be cut down to 30 seconds.

And lets be honest, your just going to fast-forward through it anyways.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bourque To Open Season in NHL, Just Not For the Caps


Yesterday morning Chris Bourque thought he was going to be a member of an NHL roster for opening day tomorrow. And today, well, he is going to be on an NHL roster, just not the one he had thought.


Bourque, son of hall-of-famer Ray Bourque, was drafted 33rd overall in the 2004 draft by the Washington Capitals and has spent 4 seasons with their AHL affliate, the Hershey Bears. Monday morning Capitals head coach Bruce Boudrea informed Chris he had made the NHL squad by coyly asking him if he wanted to have dinner at his fathers house in Boston, the location of the Capitals season opener on Thursday night. Instead, Bourque will be on the home bench in Pittsburgh as the Penguins raise their 2009 Stanley Cup banner before their opener with the New York Rangers.

With the intent to open up some salary cap space and perhaps pick up some players off the waiver wire themselves, the Capitals placed Bourque on waivers Monday night. The team wasn't planning on demoting him to the AHL roster, they only needed to take his cap hit off the books for a day. Most teams passed on Bourque, but the Penguins, one of the later teams in the waiver order, and Washington's top rival, claimed him for their NHL roster. The transaction is bound to tweak the already cold relationship between the two franchises who meet last May in the second round of the playoffs, going 7 games before the Penguins advanced.

The Penguins and Capitals won't meet until January 21st, the first of 4 eventual regular season match-ups this season.

Bourque's Wait Is Over, as Left Wing Makes Caps Roster - The Washington Post
Penguins Claim Bourque, Lose Bissonnette - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Friday, September 25, 2009

Penguins Fans Refuse to Tone It Down

The Penguins new "Defy Ordinary" ad campaign, apparently brought to you by the same people that make those ridiculous Miracle Whip spots.

Defy Ordinary.


We Are Miracle Whip, And We Will Not Tone It Down


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Setting a Standard

Just like any other sports know-it-all, I play fantasy sports. Fantasy sports of every fashion and sort. Football has just become a given for every male in the 18 to 35 demographic. And despite the Pirates best efforts to ruin professional baseball for me, I've stumbled through a few fantasy baseball seasons. I've participated in a fantasy golf pool, though I honestly can't say I recommend it. I even made a fantasy Electoral College map last November.

So, of course, with my love of all things puck, I'm an avid fantasy hockey fan. However, as I think anyone with some fantasy hockey experience under their belt will admit, it's got its share of problems. So as I prep for my leagues upcoming draft, I can't help but think that these issues can be addressed. Look, I'm not saying I can fix it, but hell, it's worth a shot. Right?

Part of what makes fantasy football so much fun is the community. Sure, maybe there is even a little too much discussion to the point that there becomes too much of a consensus (try not taking Adrian Peterson with the first overall pick), but it's fun. Try having that kind of discussion about fantasy hockey. Obviously your not going to find it on ESPN, but try just having it with other hockey enthusiasts. You can't. Why? Because unlike fantasy football, there is no standard system for fantasy hockey.

A hundred some odd years ago the states faced this same issue with currency. Delaware wants to make it's own dollar bill? Well, isn't that cute. Louisiana wants to make one of it's own? Way to go Louisiana. But at some point we figured if this whole dollar bill thing was ever going to really strike it big, we had to switch to a nationally accepted standard bill. It sounded like a good idea, so they printed some up, stamped George Washington's face on it, and there you go.

So I humbly offer you this, my custom scoring settings, painstakingly researched and developed. Be kind.

It's a ten team league, with weekly head-to-head match-ups. Each roster has 3 starting centers, right wingers, and left wings; 6 starting defensemen; and one starting goaltender. There's one spot on the IR for any injured player, and 6 bench spots, although I've recently become enamored with the idea of knocking it down to 2 spots.

Skaters get points for the standard stats: goals, assists, powerplay and shorthanded goals and assists, and game winning goals. As well, in an effort to bring more value to defensively minded players, they get points for hits and blocked shots. Face-off victories and losses are worth a fraction of a point, and defenders recieve an additional fraction of a point for each goal or assist they tally.

Goaltender scoring is simply. Throw out victories. Not important. Anyone who has played fantasy baseball has learned this the hard way with pitchers. Wins don't accurately give you the value of a tender. Instead they are awarded points for saves, and deducted for goals allowed. And on the rare instance that they steal the game with a shutout, they are rewarded handsomely. That's it. Simple.

Again, I'm not saying everyone in the world should adopt this particular system, but I believe we have to pick one. And I do believe this is better than most. What do you think, did I get something wrong. Should points really be awarded for a GWG? Are shutouts over valued?

RECAP:

10 Teams - Weekly Head to Head Match-ups

3 C  -  3 RW  -  3 LW  -  6 D  -  1 G  -  6 B  -  1 IR

Skaters
Goal - 5
Assist -3
Plus/Minus - +/-1
Powerplay Goal - 2
Powerplay Assis - 1
Shorthanded Goal - 4
Shorthanded Assist - 3
Game Winning Goal - 2
Faceoff - +/-.2
Hit - .5
Blocked Shot - .5
Defensive Pts - .2

Goaltender
Goal Against - -3.5
Save - .5
Shutout - 10

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Five Reasons I Love Hockey

In the hockey world, there is no month more unholy than that of August. September brings us camp and exhibition games. The season runs from October to April. The playoffs carry us through May. The Cup is handed out in June. And the first of July is free agency frenzy. But August? August brings us nothing.

But the good people over at Puck Daddy did something to alleviate that feeling of hockeylessness this August. For the entire month they had a daily list of "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" by everyone from the incomparable James Mirtle to ESPN's Dave Dameshek to The Hockey Show's Carrie Milbank and her hot pants. And while I'm not really "a list guy" (in fact in the hundred odd EFotG posts there has never been "a list") I just couldn't let it get by me. So I thought, honestly, what are the five reasons I love hockey? Amazingly none of The Cutting Edge trilogy made the cut.

Pittsburgh in the Spring of '91
I've been watching professional sports from birth. It's really all I know. It's like breathing. But my earliest sports memories, those are of the Stanley Cup bound Pittsburgh Penguins in the spring of 1991. I remember getting off my school bus and walking into kindergarten, walking past the flag pole flying three flags: an American, a Pennsylvania State flag, and a Penguins flag. Pittsburgh in the spring of 1991 was unreal. It was a holiday-like atmosphere. Everyone was Penguins crazy, and the Penguins were everywhere. Jaromir Jagr and his euro-mullet had the female population swooning. Mario Lemieux had everyone in awe. I didn't quite understand everything that was happening, but I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.

Street Hockey
Like most, my love of watching hockey had a solid foundation in my love of playing hockey. And while unlike so many NHLer's in their youth, my parents weren't flying me 80 miles for a 6AM practice, my brothers and I did have an Mylec plastic hockey net and the street outside my house. It was there that we spent long summer days, knocking around a hockey ball with our plastic blade sticks, avoiding at all costs the dreaded street gutter. From that asphalt I could dream of wearing a Penguins sweater on the wing of Lemieux. To love the game you have to know the game, and you cannot truly know the game without lacing them up every once in a while.

NHL '94 for Sega Genesis
After leaving the suburbs of Pittsburgh for the Flyers territory of Wilmington, Delaware, lost was my ability to watch Penguins games on any sort of a regular basis. And even the Flyers games were only available to those who had a dish, a luxury not available in the Megahan household. So in between the playoff series and those select few nationally televised games, most of what I knew of not just the Penguins, but the rest of the league, came from SportsCenter highlights and the EA Sports NHL Series. And while NHL 94 wasn't my first hockey game, it was the one that cashed in on the promise of Ice Hockey, Blades of Steel, and NHLPA '93. Similar to the way kids growing up in the 1970s learned of the MLB through collecting baseball cards, those of us growing up through the 1990s knew what we did of the league through NHL video games. The game also fortified my already long standing belief that Lemieux was a deity skating among regular men. Cut to the slot, Shoot. Score. The man was always unreal.

NHL Center Ice
Wondrous as it maybe, NHL '94 can only go so far. Towards the latter half of the '90s the game seemed to garner more national television attention, first with Fox and then with ABC and ESPN. But it was not until the 2005-06 hockey season, after I had graduated from high school, got a job, and moved into a beat down apartment in the part of town you could not get a pizza delivered, that I finally landed NHL Center Ice. At long last I had all 82 games to bask in. It was the first year returning from the lockout. It was the first time we saw Crosby on the ice in a Penguins sweater, and it was the last time we saw Lemieux in action. Though rarely was it pretty. While Crosby clearly had the talent that we were promised, the season was a mess. In Ziggy Palffy's first year in Pittsburgh, he was never able to get anything going, and by the All-Star break he announced his retirement from the game. In his first and only coaching job, Eddie Olczyk, who had taken over the bench for the Penguins the seasons before the lockout, didn't last til the New Year. I loved the Penguins before that year, but watching them for 2 1/2 hours, 3 nights a week, for 6 1/2 months on NHL Center Ice to my love of hockey to a whole new level.

June 12th, 2009
With three sofas squashed into my parents living room, I sat (though more often I paced) with my brothers, dad, sisters and mother around the television. It was the 12th of June 2009, and it was the payoff.

I watch hockey because I love hockey. But all that time, everything I went through, that was my investment in the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise. Seeing Barrasso hiding underneath his net as the Florida fans rained plastic rats down on the ice while the Panthers were knocking the Penguins out of the '96 Easter Conference Finals. Losing to the Flyers, who were not only hated, but also the team of choice of all my classmates, in the longest OT game in modern NHL history. Falling in the Conference Finals to the New Jersey Devils in the first and the most successful season of Lemieux's comeback. Suffering through the Milan Krafts and the Konstantin Koltsovs. Impatiently waiting through he lockout. Heating up down the stretch of 2007, only to have the Ottawa Senators end our season in 5 games in the first round. Feeling like we just couldn't lose after going 12-2 through the Eastern Conference, falling down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals, finding life in the absolutely unbelievable game five overtime called shot from Petr Sykora, only to come up short and have the Wings win the 2008 Cup in Pittsburgh on Game Six. And on top of it all, having Hossa spurn the Penguins offers to sign with the Red Wings and get his "best chance at a Cup".

All of this, everything, was an investment. And that night, when the clocks hit zeros on the Game Seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, the gloves flew in the air, and the Cup was raise, that was the payoff.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Fourth Party Wishes to Tender Bid For Coyotes

As the September 10th bankruptcy auction of the Phoenix Coyotes quickly approaches, it appears that another party is preparing a bid for the floundering NHL franchise. A franchise that has lost somewhere in the range of a $100 million in it's last 3 season and has failed to make the postseason in 6 seasons. Currently three bids have been formally proposed to the courts.

Research In Motion, makers of the Blackberry, co-CEO Jim Balsillie has the highest bid for the team, offering $212.5. However, after failed attempts to purchase and move the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006 and the Nashville Predators in 2008, filled with missteps and errors, the league's Board of Governors unanimously rejected Balsillie's ownership. However it remains uncertain whether the bankruptcy judge can supercede the leagues decision as it looks to procure the best deal for the franchises debtors.

Ice Edge Holdings, a group of Canadian and American investors, came late to the table, fielding a more modest $148 million offer. Though despite adamant claims by the group to keep the team in Arizona, they have explored the option of playing select regular season and playoff games in Saskatoon.

Already deeply engrained in the process, the National Hockey League went a step further Tuesday night, entering their own $140 bid for the franchise. The League, who at $37 million, is also one of the franchises largest debtors, has put together a proposal to keep the team in Phoenix for the upcoming season. However, they also allow for the team to be sold and relocated if the team fails to become a finnacially viable option in Arizona.

The late comer to the process, a 22 year old American student has just recently expressed his interest in the franchise. As part of the bid, documentation has been submitted to the public record outlining his capability to transform the struggling Coyotes into a competitive franchise. Included was a 23 page overview of his superior performance in fantasy hockey over the past four seasons, including a league championship in 2007. Specifically, along with his championship he highlights the selection of Mark Streit in the 22nd round of his fantasy draft in 2008. Streit went on to finish the season as a top ten fantasy defensive talent.

However, unlike Balsillie who placed 430th on Forbes list of the wealthiest people on the planet, he admittedly does stand in the most stable financial territory. While he contends his credit "isn't really that bad" and has been "really making some progress on paying down his credit card", it is uncertain whether the league's Board of Governors will find his financial records suitable to enter the exclusive ranks of ownership. Some unsubstantiated rumors making their way through the elite levels of league suggest he may even be carrying some outstanding medical bills. These reports have not been independantly verified at this time.

He has even gone as far as to include numerous personal references in an effort to distinguish himself from Balsillie, who found himself entangled in a stock backdating scandal, and the league deemed "untrustworthy" in their rejection of his ownership. Notably, his own mother contends "he's really a sweet, smart kid". However, when we reached out to his mother, while reiterating how much of a good boy he was, she did admit that she "really wished he'd date more" and "find himself a better job".

Content from the Canadian Press was used in this article

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Again

After Saturday nights disappointing 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins faithful may be quick to recall the many instances in which the team has rebounded from dire straits. It was only a few months ago that the Penguins disappointing regular season performance had them outside the playoff race looking in. They proceeded to go 21-5-4 to finish off the season and hosted their first round match-up against inner-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. They can do it again. Only a couple weeks ago they rallied from a two games to none deficit to eliminating Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals. They can comeback again. The Penguins are nothing if they are not resilient. But one thing the Penguins faithful cannot help but remember that is this time last year when they did not show up for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals against the same Red Wings, and how big of a role it played in the Wings eventually dispatching Pittsburgh in six games and claiming the Cup.

Many might put the game on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, whose gaffes dealing with the active bounces off the Detroit boards directly lend to two of the Wings goals. And surely Fleury's otherwise dominant young career has its share of blemishes from big game blunders, including last nights performance. But by the time the scoreboard had reached 00:00 the Penguins allowed only three goals to a talented roster, albeit absent from the lineup was their top scorer Pavel Datsyuk. But it was all Detroit needed. In a post season where both Fleury and the Red Wing's Chris Osgood have played such an large role in taking their teams to the cusp of claiming, or reclaiming, supremacy, it was the other guys on the ice who decided the first game of the championship series. Across the ice surface Osgood had his own share of errors, allowing rebounds all night long. Including the rebound on a first period Evgeni Malkin shot that Ruslan Fedetenko deposited in the net, tying the game. But the Wings skaters where there to pick up Osgood, shutting down the Penguins dynamic offense, closing down the blue line and forcing the play to the boards. Despite resorting to teaming the top two playoff scorers, Malkin and Sidney Crosby, on a single line, the Penguins were unable to work their cycle in the offensive zone. The Wings stifling defensive effort eliminated dissecting passes and play inside the circles, rendering even the dangerous Penguins power-play ineffective.

Count the Penguins game one loss as an opportunity wasted, particularly with Datsyuk and his 97 regular season points not in the Detroit lineup. But do not count the Penguins out of series, from the moment they landed the first overall pick in the 2005 lottery and drafted then seventeen year old Crosby the Penguins have made beating the odds their calling card. However with the puck dropping on game two tonight, less than 24 hours after the completion of the series opener, the Penguins have to rebound sooner rather than later as to not repeat their costly errors of last seasons Cup finals.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Keeping 'Em Honest

People love to make predictions. And for good reason, there is practically no downside to it. If I tell you the Kansas City Royals are gonna win the pennant this year and they don't, not a soul is going to remember. On the other hand, if the Royals defy the odds I look like a genius. And I will almost certainly bring it up at every possible opportunity for the next three to five years. Every single opportunity. If I ever get that Nobel Peace Prize, during my acceptance speech, I assure you somehow I will work the fact that I drafted Mark Streit in the 22nd round of my 2007-08 fantasy draft and lauded him as the top defenseman he turned out to be. 

See, you just can't lose with predictions. So people make them, constantly. From the Academy Awards to your horoscopes. I'm pretty sure its how weather forecasts started. Lord knows I make them. I'm as guilty as anyone. Your talking to the guy that filled out a Fantasy Electorial College Map this past November.

That being said, just perhaps things have gone a little too far with these NHL playoff predictions. Just maybe. Last year, before my detour at the Pensblog and several months of sitting around doing nothing, I kept a little chart going around these parts to keep track of some of the picks being made out there. You can actually see it as the post directly below (I told you I haven't been doing anything). And there is just no way I don't bring it back this post-season. Not only just to improve on my mediocre 9-6 record, but also to keep everyone a little more honest.

And also, maybe for just a little bit of bragging rights when the Bruins collapse in the first round.

CLICK GRAPH TO VIEW FULL SIZE

And not to house their selections without due credit, your prognosticators are:

Barry Melrose, Pierre LeBrun, EJ Hradek, Scott Burnside, John Buccigross, and Matthew Barnaby (ESPN)

Maggie the Monkey, Bob McKenzie, James Duthie, Darren Pang, and Peter Laviolette (TSN)

Greg Wyshynski and Sean Leahy (Puck Daddy)

James Mirtle (From the Rink)

and Kevin Shultz (Barry Melrose Rocks and Fanhouse)