Friday, October 10, 2014

Game One: Hockey is Back.

Hockey's back, folks! We're on to day three of the NHL returning, and it's already off to a great start for Detroit Red Wing fans. Last night the Wings faced the Boston Bruins in the season/home opener and squeezed in a 2-1 win in regulation. Johan Franzen finished the night with two assists and the game winner came from Gustav Nyquist, who was supposed to be due for a regression this season. It's obviously too early to say anything about the club, or any individual player, but the Red Wings faced the team that bounced them in five games during last season's playoffs and took them to task.

Early in the game the Red Wings were dominating with a shot advantage of 7-0 when Jonathan Ericsson got lazy and threw a pass up the middle of the ice to not-his-teammate Patrice Bergeron. Being Patrice Bergeron, he buried it behind Jimmy Howard and images of last year's defensively inept team began dancing in my head. You can flip to about 30 seconds into that snazzy highlight reel video to see Riggy's brain cramp leading to the goal.

At first, I was furious at Howard for getting beat on the first shot of the season, but this goal was not a Howard mistake. After this momentary stumble, Howard was golden last night. He stopped the other 16 shots he faced en route to a solid win.

The most impressive element of last night was how quickly the team accepted the goal against and went right back to dominating possession and controlling the flow of the game. Looking at the "War on Ice" report for the game, Detroit had 72% of the offensive zone starts at even strength, and kept the Bruins on their heels.

I'm fairly new at the "advanced stats" world, but for this season I want to incorporate more of it into any post-game discussion I blog this season. That website I linked to is great because it has a glossary of terms for you to learn as you dive into the world of intense statistical analysis. Using one game's data would be too small a sample size to say much about how the Red Wings are faring, so to keep it simple, they did well tonight to limit the Bruins chances and looked like the Red Wings of old, before all the retirements and mediocre defensemen getting re-signed.

For now that's good enough to keep me excited that HOCKEY IS BACK and the Red Wings are two points closer to getting in to the playoffs. It's early in the season but like everyone else I'm thinking about "the streak" and whether this team is going to improve on last year. Are they an also-ran team, or are the kids well seasoned enough to take over and take the team to new (old) heights? Feel free to comment down there in the comments section!

Friday, May 23, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part Five)

Welcome to the fifth post of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal.

Links for Part One, TwoThree, and Four are right here, where I painstakingly checked out Division III, Division II B, Division II A, and Division I B respectively.

Yesterday's post covered the triumph of Poland in Division I B. Congrats to the Poles for moving one step closer to joining the championship tournament. Next year, they'll compete in today's subject, Division I A, and attempt the leap into the top tier. While one team rises, one must fall, so Romania will sink into Division II A and attempt to move back up next year.

Speaking of Division I A, that would be our subject today. The second tier of the IIHF tournament ladder features six teams similarly to the preceding Division II, but there's more at stake than any other tournament. Winning in this tier means a shot at the gold medal in the IIHF World Championship tournament, the ultimate goal of the annual series of tournaments. Even more interesting is how two teams are promoted to the Top Division, while only one moves down. It's a tougher division to try to move up but plenty of the teams in the division now have bobbed up and down the bottom tiers in the last decade. The rising teams must compete against the likes of Canada, Russia, United States, Sweden, Finland, and all the other mainstays in the upper tier, which is quite the tall task. For this year, the Division I A tournament took place in Goyang, South Korea from April 20th to 26. Here are the final standings:

All charts courtesy of Wikipedia

Slovenia and Austria rise from the absolute dogfight that took place in this tier, while host South Korea were throttled in all five of their games and see demotion after being shut out of points. The difference-making games in this tier were Austria's overtime wins over Ukraine (3-2) and Hungary (5-4). Notable players in this tier's roster list were Austria's Michael Grabner (New York Islanders), Michael Raffl (Philadelphia Flyers), former Detroit Red Wing and the world's second most successful Slovenian player Jan Mursak, and his superior Anze Kopitar. Wait a must be asking yourself how Kopitar can be in two places at once. Great question! The NHLers I mentioned didn't actually play a single shift in the tournament. I can't say for sure what Grabner and Raffl were doing but Kopitar is a little busy winning playoff games in the NHL to play for his country. So this all begs the question.

Why the hell were these guys named to the team when there was no G-D way they were going to play?!?

Perhaps they thought the threat of Kopitar and Grabner was enough to have the other teams roll over. Looks like it all worked out anyway.

Here's the tournament's top scorers:

Good job, Thomas Koch, for winning the scoring race without scoring. Austria obviously dominated the scoring in this tournament, but kudos to seeing Kim Ki-sung of lowly South Korea get seven points in five brutal losses.

Here the top goaltenders:

Not exactly a goaltending duel in any of these games. Oh well, here's some actual footage via YouTube:

The Hungarian jerseys are awesome, and at one point a lot of Hungarians were reading this blog so here's a little something for them.

Tournament directorate named goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji of Japan (the first Japanese player to make the NHL), Austrian defenseman Dominique Heinrich, and forward Jan Muršak of Slovenia the best positional players. How does three points in five games get you the tournament's best forward? Maybe he killed every penalty or something. I don't know, I'm running out of steam for this tier.

Starting Monday I dig into the big tournament. You know, the one you all probably thought all these posts was about but I tricked you into reading five other posts first. See you then!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part Four)

Welcome to the fourth post of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal.

Links for Part One, Two, and Three are right here, where I painstakingly checked out Division III, Division II B, and Division II A respectively.

Yesterday's post described Division II A in all its glory. Congratulations to the Estonian national team for clobbering Division II A and moving up into Division I B for next year's tournament. I-B is the subject of today's post, as it is the third tier of the IIHF tournament. This year's iteration took place in beautiful Vilnius, Lithuania from April 20th to 26th and THANK GOD SOME NHLERS ARE IN THIS TOURNAMENT. All due respect to other leagues in Europe, I know nothing about their players unless they played at some point in North America. It's been a struggle reporting on these lower tiers but finally I have a chance to talk about players I am familiar with. Here are the tournament standings:

All standings are courtesy of Wikipedia.
Poland advances in to Division I A and moves one step closer to getting a chance to play in the top tier. Poland's win is all the more impressive because they were able to defeat a Lithuania team led by this man.

Image courtesy of Lisa Gansky via Wikipedia.

That's right, it's New Jersey Devils forward Danius Zubrus! He had a great tournament with 9 points in 5 games, but the Lithuanians fells short of rising to the top in a very competitive division. The top four teams finished within three points of each other and there were several one goal games that were key in setting up sight a tight contest. Great Britain had a great showing this year, winning a 4-2 contest against the eventual champion, Poland.

Here are the tournament's top scorers:

Zubrus and his linemates were the toast of the tournament. Shoutout to Colin Shields of Great Britain, who netted a hatrick against the Poles. Most impressive. I predict next tournament Great Britain pushes up the standings and contends to move up to Division I A.

Here are the tournament goaltenders:

Polish goaltender Przemyslaw Odrobny was arguably the MVP of the Division I B tournament, winning four games and only conceding four goals with a .955 save percentage. This division, more-so than the previous ones, was very tight series of contests that turned into goaltending duels. Those are some impressive stat lines for the goaltenders. The tournament directive selected Zubrus as top forward, Odrobny as goaltender, and Alan Letang from, Croatia for defenseman. Letang had a cup of coffee in the NHL, playing in 14 games with only 2 PIM to show for it. He has been a mainstay in the German and Austrian leagues for the vast majority of his career.

Tomorrow we visit Division I A, the second highest tier on the IIHF tournament. Thanks for taking the time to check out these surveys of the tournaments, it's been a pleasure writing them. See you again tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part Three)

Welcome to the third of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal.

Click here and here for parts one and two, respectively, where we had a look at Division III and Division II B.

As I mentioned in Part Two of the mega-post, Division II is sliced into group A and B. Group A is the upper tier of the division, and represents the fourth tier of the IIHF tournament. This year's edition was hosted in beautiful Belgrade, Serbia, from April 9th to April 15th. Here are the standings:

All charts courtesy of Wikipedia.

Estonia dominated this division, going 5-0 and only giving up 8 goals in five games. They were last year's losing team in Division I B and sank into the lower tier. It's a recurring trend for relegated teams to bounce between divisions until they can improve just enough to hold on to a slot in the division. Host Serbia improved on its fifth place finish last year, finishing 3rd. Israel just misses holding on to a spot in the division, losing a 4-3 decision in overtime to Belgium as well as a 4-3 contest to Iceland in a shootout. The 16-3 thumping to Estonia didn't help matters, and now Israel will have to claw its way back up into a division group that had four teams finish within three points of one another.

Here are the tournament's top scorers:

And the top goaltenders:

Directorate selected all-stars were Estonia's Robert Rooba for forward, Iceland's Ingvar Thor Jönsson for defenseman, and Serbia's Arsenije Ranković for goaltender. Yes, that guy's middle name is Thor. Iceland's players always have the best names. Remember Gunnar Stahl from D2: The Mighty Ducks?

This tournament finally featured players that were possible to find in European leagues across the continent. Rooba's an SM-liiga player for the Espoo Blues, and this season had four points in 36 games. Eliezer Sherbatov is an Israeli hockey player who had notable time with The Montreal Junior Hockey Club from 2009 to 2011, later with with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. He's currently trying out for teams in France. Oren Eizenman is an Israeli-Canadian centre who had two brothers who played hockey as well, but he most recently played in the Asia League with the Nippon Paper Cranes before playing for Israel last year and this year in the IIHF tournament. He had a cup of coffee in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and Connecticut Whale in 2010-11, but never got a whiff of the NHL. The year before hit pit stop in the AHL he scored 19 points in 15 games with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. If you like weird random facts about hockey players, Oren's father, Brett, helped to found the Israel Baseball League. Hey, I thought it was cool.

Next up for this mega-series is Division I A and finally we see some NHLers in the lower tiers of the tournament. Stay tuned for the inevitable Dainius Zubrus love-fest. Go Lithuania!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part Two)

Welcome to the second of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal.

In yesterdays' post I had a look at the tournament's sixth tier and the triumph of Bulgaria. The Bulgarians will compete next year in the 79th annual tournament in today's subject, Division II B. The fourth tier of the IIHF, Division II, is actually split into two sections, A and B. As one could guess, section B is the lower tier and section A is the higher tier.

The Division B tournament was hosted by Spain, a team recently relegated from Division II A, and took place from April 5th to April 11th. It features six teams. Here are the standings:

All graphs and charts courtesy of Wikipedia.

As you can see, the results are somewhat similar to Division III. There's is a massive discrepancy between the top three teams and the bottom three, and it becomes a dogfight to inch out a victory to avoid being relegated. Host Spain dominated every game it played and once again gets promoted back into Division A, while Turkey pays the price of losing a 4-2 game to South Africa and gets relegated to Division III. The majority of the teams in this division are (relative) newcomers to international ice hockey, with Spain being the exception. Not to criticize the success of Spain but one would think a 92 year old hockey system would be able to generate a competitive enough program to avoid being dropped into a low tier. They were as close as Division I A in 2011, but were torched in that tournament and were relegated again two years later in 2013.

Here are the top scorers for the tournament:

And the top goaltenders:

The top honours according to the tournament directorate went to Oriol Boronat for forward, Juan José Palacín for defenseman, and Ander Alcaine for goaltender; all three men hail from Spain. It's interesting to note Andrew Cox of New Zealand scored nine goals in five games for the Kiwis...could he be the Crosby of the land down under? New Zealand has had its own misfortune in the IIHF tournaments, bouncing between being ranked 32nd to 37th in the last five years, going as low as 41st in 2008. A quick glance at their roster shows their team is quite young, so a reversal of poor performances could be in order as the team competes more in the B division tournaments.

Tomorrow, a look at Division II A. It's still pretty difficult to find good information on the players participating, but Division A has a couple of European teams that have professionals who play in some domestic leagues, so here's hoping these reports get more interesting...

Click here for Part One.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part One)

Welcome to the first of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. Not true. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal. It's fascinating to me to see countries you never would have expected to even have an ice hockey team battling in all of the divisions, desperate to climb the ladder and topple the hockey giants like Sweden, Canada, and Russia.

Today I'm going to look at the sixth tier of the tournament, known as "Division III". This tournament took place in Luxembourg from April 6th to April 12th, and featured six teams. Here are the standings:

All graphs and charts for this series are courtesy of Wikipedia. Their graphs are so neat.

As you can see, the tournament has a lot of relatively new programs competing against European countries who have long been participating in the lower tiers of the IIHF. This was Hong Kong's first participation in the tournament since 1987, which led to its first taste of competition against European countries. UAE's team is brand hammer new, with its first international game taking place in 2007. North Korea's team is also only 30 years old. Luxembourg's is only 22 years old.

At first glance, this seems like an unbalanced edition of the tournament, with nearly 12 goals scored a game and the three top teams vying for the chance to be promoted to the next division. Most of the teams' rosters are the country's best teams throwing on a national jersey. Bulgaria's roster being mainly CSKA Sofia, North Korea's a hodgepodge of Pyongyang Choldo and Taesongsan, Luxembourg being Tornado Luxembourg, and Georgia's being Mimino Bakuriani. It's quite the contrast to upper tiers of the IIHF where the best players come from numerous talent pools but often only the upper echelons of domestic leagues.

Here's a list of the top scorers:

And the top goaltenders:

Top honours went to Alexei Yotov, Clement Waltener, and Ho King Chi King for top forward, defenseman, and goaltender respectively. Bulgaria gets promoted up to the fifth tier of the IIHF, Division II B. The rest will have to wait until next year's competition to earn its way out of the IIHF's basement.

Next up, Division II B in this series of posts all about the IIHF mega-tournament. Hopefully as we rise the ladder it will be easier to find information on some of these players...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Where do the Red Wings go from here?

The season's over, folks.

It was a tough pill to swallow, but the Detroit Red Wings were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in five games. The series wasn't very close, if we're being honest with ourselves. Yes, the scores were pretty close, but the Red Wings struggled to find their offense and couldn't beat Tukka Rask for more than two goals in a game. I am not interested in performing a postmortem on the season, the injuries, the disappointments, or the playoffs. There's tonnes of great bloggers out there who can do that better than I can.

Today I'm asking the hard question of where the Red Wings go from here.

Earlier in the week Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy wrote a pretty good piece that was critical of the Red Wings and whatnot. Lambert gets a crazy amount of attention from Red Wing fans, as though he is telling them they are bad people for choosing the Red Wings, but he's on point about one thing: the Detroit Red Wings are going to look differently after this season.

You can go over here to look at the roster before July 1st and free agency begins. To keep things moving, here's a list of UFAs come July 1st, along with their cap hits I've bolded the players most likely/definite to be re-signed, and the possibilities are italicized.

(LW) Danny Cleary, $1.75m
(C) David Legwand, $4.5m
(RW) Daniel Alfredsson, $5.5m
(RW) Mikael Samuelsson, $3m
(RW) Todd Bertuzzi, $2.075m
(D) Kyle Quincey, $3.375m
(G) Jonas Gustavsson, $1.5m

And here are the RFAs that need to be signed or a decision needs to be made:

(LW) Riley Sheahan, $900,000
(LW) Andrej Nestrasil $597,500
(C) Landon Ferraro $870,000
(C) Cory Emmerton $533,333
(RW) Tomas Tatar $840,000
(RW) Mitchell Calahan $565,278
(RW) Trevor Parkes $554,167
(RW) Willie Coetzee $543,611
(D) Danny DeKeyser $1,350,000
(D) Gleason Fournier $890,833
(D) Max Nicastro $887,500
(D) Adam Almquist $694,167

In short, the Red Wings have a lot of options. They can either a) re-sign most of the team under the belief that the injuries were the reason why the team failed, b)sign some of the UFAs and RFAs hoping the majority of the team with small adjustments can improve on getting stomped in the first round, or c) clean house and pursue UFAs aggressively.

Helene St. James wrote a nice piece pondering what might happen next year, and she repeats Ken Holland's stance on Johan Franzen staying in Detroit. That's a whole other blog post but for now we'll stay on point. She mentions a few Grand Rapids Griffin stars like defensemen Ryan Sproul, Xaiver Ouellet, and goaltender Petr Mrazek. It's getting to be that time for the organization to accept that the Griffins have accomplished everything they can in their current iteration and graduation day is coming. The team is currently battling in the first round of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs (up 2-1 in a best-of-five vs. the Abbotsford Heat) with some of their graduates from this year returning to the team, but this is the last ride in a Griffins uniform for many of them.

It's safe to say players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Joakim Andersson are with the Red Wings for good. Mike Babcock has already stated that the youngsters who propped up the team in March and April have earned jobs moving forward. Good news for these former Griffins. Bad news for the pending UFA forwards who want to re-sign. Of all of the UFAs, including defensemen and goaltenders, the only player who could be brought back without the cocking of one's eyebrow is Daniel Alfredsson. He's already stated if he plays another season, the logical choice is to remain in Detroit, especially since he's also said his family loved it there. CBC's Tim Warnsby pumped out this agenda-laden piece about how he was saying similar things about Ottawa before he split on the team. The revelation of persistent back injuries is a caution flag, but Alfredsson's production was impressive (49 points in 68 games) considering the lack of support at times. It seems most likely that Bertuzzi, Cleary, and Samuelsson will be moving on to other teams or retiring. Another Helene St. James piece states Cleary will wind up with a front office job within the organization. One imagines Samuelsson will be jettisoned into space. Kyle Quincey has been a lightning rod of criticism since he was traded back to the Red Wings, and his relatively poor season-long performance isn't worth a second showing. David Legwand may very well boomerang back to Nashville if a reasonable deal cannot be struck with the Red Wings, but it begs the question why a first/second line center would rejoin this team knowing that the team is in transition looking to inject youth into the lineup. Unless one of Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, Stephen Weiss, and Luke Glendening are being dumped, Legwand has no spot in the lineup. Jonas Gustavsson may be the only other UFA sticking around, depending on whether the organization feels Petr Mrazek is ready for prime-time. Spoiler alert: he is definitely ready.

The Red Wings defense was woefully mismatched against the Bruins. Are Sproul and Ouellet the answer? One could argue the lack of Jonathan Ericsson was a major factor in the play of the defense, but just like Ken Holland said when he defended Johan Franzen, one player isn't the difference maker. So is the answer to Detroit's defensive flaws a total flush of the bowl? Obviously Kronwall, Ericsson, and Dekeyser are going to be returning, the latter of whom is going to see both a pay hike and a delicious long term contract that will satisfy both the player, the team, and the fans. There's a lot of questions as to whether Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, and Brian Lashoff are good enough to keep their jobs over younger, possibly better youngsters like Sproul and Ouellet. Quincey's departure leaves one space open, but there's also Adam Almquist in Grand Rapids to consider. Almquist had 53 points in 73 games as a defenseman, 49 of those being assists. Red Wings fans have been pining for a first-pass-out-of-the-zone defensive stud since Nick Lidstrom retired....

The goaltending situation is most intriguing. Jimmy Howard is the man in Detroit, like it or not. Jonas Gustavsson had a hot start to the season but settled down to numbers below Howard. Mrazek was very impressive in his showings with the big club, registering a .927 save percentage in nine showings and a 1.74 GAA. His record of 2-4 is more reflective of how few goals the Red Wings scored during his stay with the team, and it has to be mentioned that both wins were shutouts. Mrazek is ready to shoulder at least 15-20 games as a backup, and typically Jimmy Howard has shouldered at least 50-60 games a season, depending on his own injuries. This may be the ideal time to graduate Mrazek and leave Tom McCollum as the sole returning goaltender in Grand Rapids, with the idea that Saginaw Spirit's Jake Paterson joins the club on the long road to earning a job in Detroit eventually. Straight up, McCollum has no chance of suiting up in Detroit given how Howard, Mrazek, and even the most likely departing Gustavsson would be ranked before him. He's also not signed to Detroit currently and is an asset of the Griffins themselves. There's also Jared Coreau to consider, but he and Paterson will likely be the Mrazek/McCollum tandem of the future.

There's a lot of other possibilities in the realm of free agency. A quick use of the "Armchair GM" mode on Capgeek's website assuming a few signings leaves the team sporting 27 players. Keep in mind this isn't a lineup sheet, it's a list of players and their assumed cap hits.


Henrik Zetterberg ($6.083m) / Pavel Datsyuk ($7.500m) / Justin Abdelkader ($1.800m)
Johan Franzen ($3.955m) / Stephen Weiss ($4.900m) / Tomas Jurco ($0.709m)
Drew Miller ($1.350m) / Darren Helm ($2.125m) / Tomas Tatar ($0.715m)
Gustav Nyquist ($0.950m) / Joakim Andersson ($0.733m) / Daniel Alfredsson ($5.500m)
 Riley Sheahan ($0.715m) / Luke Glendening ($0.628m) / Cory Emmerton ($0.605m) /


Niklas Kronwall ($4.750m) / Jonathan Ericsson ($4.250m)
Jakub Kindl ($2.400m) / Brendan Smith ($1.263m) 
Brian Lashoff ($0.725m) / Xavier Ouellet ($0.670m) 
Ryan Sproul ($0.620m) / Adam Almquist ($0.605m)
Danny DeKeyser ($0.874m)

Jimmy Howard ($5.292m)
Petr Mrazek ($0.595m)
Jonas Gustavsson ($1.500m)


Carlo Colaiacovo ($0.000m)


Jordin Tootoo ($0.975m)

(estimations for 2014-15)
SALARY CAP: $71,100,000
CAP PAYROLL: $62,786,170
BONUSES: $917,500
CAP SPACE (27-man roster): $8,313,830

Even with this illegal, bloated roaster there's over $8 million dollars in salary cap space. It stands to reason resigned players like DeKeyser, Sheahan, and Tatar are going to see pay raises. The Red Wings are also not going to field nine defensemen on opening day so in the end the team will probably have about $10 million in cap space and a full lineup potentially ready for puck drop in October. The big question is whether Ken Holland will dip into that number for a chance at free agency, or will he stick to his team for now and assume injuries will lead to some necessary trades and incoming behemoth sized salaries. At the very least, it needs to be said that the Red Wings should inquire about improving their defense. Whether that means saying adieu to Quincey and one or more of Lashoff/Smith/Kindl is completely unknown, but fielding the same team isn't going to improve the results, even assuming no one gets injured.

So the question is simple. Where do the Red Wings go from here? Leave a comment below and we'll get to the bottom of this.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Retrospective on the 2014 Women's Ice Hockey Olympic Tournament

Congratulations to the teams that had the honour of participating in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games Ice Hockey Tournament. Long considered a cornerstone event in the games, the ice hockey tournament has vastly increased its profile since the arrival of professional hockey players in 1998 with the games in Nagano, Japan, and the introduction of the women's tournament the same year. Sixteen years later, the Sochi games provided a tournament more rich with storylines than a hockey fan could dream of. One almost laments that the journey must end as the closing ceremony ends and all athletes return to their counties across the planet, their lives forever changed.

Today I want to briefly recap the women's tournament. Each team had some great moments and this year's gold medal game was the most exciting hockey game of 2014 so far. Despite Canada defending its gold for the third time and capturing its fourth gold medal, the games showcased some new stars and demonstrated how the rest of the world is starting to find its footing in the otherwise North American dominated hockey tournaments.

Group A Teams

Canada: Of course, Canada defended its gold medal on the backs of elite veterans like Jayna Hefford, Caroline Oullette, and Hayley Wickenheiser. Arguably, goaltender Shannon Szabados was the top keeper of the tournament and MVP of the team, but it's hard to argue who among the well-oiled machine stood out the most. Marie-Phillip Poulin came through again with two goals in the gold medal game. Her legend continues to grow. Maybe Jordan Eberle is the Marie-Phillip Poulin of men's hockey, instead of thinking of it vice versa.

Finland: The Finns entered the tournament as the most likely to compete with the North American powerhouses, but just barely got past the Swiss in overtime in the round robin and were stunned by the Swedes in the qualification round. On the bright side, the Finns played well in the 5th to 8th place bracket, finishing in 5th place overall and seeing Michelle Karvinen emerge as a superstar with five goals in the tournament. From the sounds of it, star goalie Noora Raty wants to call it quits due to a lack of a women's professional league. Jenni Hiirikoski also won the tournament's top defensemen honour.

Switzerland: The big shock in this tournament was the emergence of Switzerland as a legitimate team as they captured the bronze medal in an outstanding comeback, stunning the Swedes 4-3. Swiss keeper Florence Schelling won both media keeper of the tournament as well as directorate and tournament MVP honours.Schelling kept them in the 3-1 loss to Canada that certainly bristled the favourites. The 2-0 shocker versus the Russians helped to build her resume as one of the world's top goaltenders among women, and it gives the Swiss a star to build on. 15 year old Alina Müller became a media darling, not only for scoring goals but showing how far along women's hockey has truly come in 16 years. She was born when women's hockey in the Olympics had just started. She will be a star in tournaments to come.

United States of America: Team USA were so, so close to ending Canada's streak of gold medals. Whether it be nerves, unfavorable penalties, losing to the better team, or whatever reasons anyone want to come up with, the team walks away with silver. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about with their performance as the difference between gold and silver was so slight that a missed empty netter could have sealed their fate as tournament winners. Amanda Kessel will almost surely replaced Hayley Wickenheiser as the world's greatest female hockey player; she might even be the better Kessel! With the right coach, I see the 2018 tournament as their time to topple their rivals.

Group B Teams

Russia: A lot was expected of the Russian ice hockey teams in Sochi, and both fell short of the medals. Even though the women went undefeated in the round robin portion of the tournament, they were ousted by the Swiss in the 2-0 game mentioned earlier in this post. In the meaningless 5th-8th place tournament, Russia stomped Japan 6-3 only to go down 4-0 to the Finns in the 5th place game. On the bright side, Russia proved that they are perhaps the mightiest of the non-Group A teams. The disappointment of Sochi will be a motivator in international tournaments to come.

Sweden: Sweden finished 4th at Sochi after blowing the bronze medal game to the Swiss, ending their Olympic medal streak at two (bronze in Salt Lake City, Silver in Torino). The women's team has been sliding slowly down the tournament brackets since Torino, and hasn't medaled at the IIHF tournaments since 2007. Pernilla Winberg remains the team's best star since her breakout performance in 2006. If they can find the means to protect their two goal leads, they have a chance to recapture the magic of better tournaments gone by and reclaim the title of Europe's best women's team.

Germany: Germany did not fare well in Sochi, winning only against Japan and losing to everyone else. Goaltender Viona Harrer was statistically the second best keeper in the tournament, posting a .935 save percentage in three games and grabbing a single shutout. The best moment of the tournament may have been the most bitter loss of 2-1 to the Finns in the 5th-8th place bracket. It showed they were close (somewhat) to the rest of the pack.

Japan: Undeniably the weakest team at the tournament, Japan was okie-doked by the referees and goal judges when this goal wasn't to be:

That's quite obviously a goal there at :38 seconds into the clip. I wonder why that goal against the host country Russia wasn't counted. They did pot one goal in the round robin tournament, which led to the greatest celebration ever seen on ice for a goal:

The Japanese can walk away from this tournament knowing they are as competitive as Germany, and while not exactly the best team in Asia (watch out Kazakhstan!) they should be consistently showing up at international tournaments and continuously improving. It took them sixteen years to get back to the women's tournament after hosting the '98 Olympics. If they can continue to play the way they did against Germany, they will eventually defeat them and seek out a new team they can strive to replace in the standings.


The real reason I wanted to write this post was immerse myself in the less-viewed women's tournament and look at how some of the non-usual suspects performed. Admittedly, I've only ever paid attention to the gold medal games because that's where Canada resides (and apparently dominates). I took in some more of the round robin games this time around and it's impressive to see how far along women's hockey has come. It's a farce to say it has only progressed as much as the North American teams have. The truth is that beyond the competitors of Team USA and Team Canada, there are some legitimate superstars rising out of the other countries. Are any of the teams as good as their North American counterparts? Hardly. But the point of having these tournaments isn't just to have the two powerhouse teams clobber the lesser teams for sport before their big showdown. The bigger story here is that across Europe and Asia we are seeing countries explore women's hockey and improve as each tournament plays. Arguably, Canada and the United States were four to five steps ahead of all other women's hockey teams from 1998 to 2006. Sweden took one massive leap forward shocking the Americans, but one equally massive step backwards in subsequent tournaments. In the meantime, other European countries like Finland and Switzerland have produced their own all-stars who outshine North American players individually:

Copied from Wikipedia.

I only see one Canadian on this entire list, and just three Americans. This is a step in the right direction for women's hockey. The rest of the world are slowly but surely catching up with North America.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five Jerseys on NHL Shop That Make No Sense

Most hockey fans have team-related gear in their homes. Whether it is t shirts, hats, jerseys, scarves, flags, pucks, or even underwear, everyone who takes fandom (too) seriously has something from the NHL's official shop page. Heck, I have a Detroit Red Wings t-shirt for every day of the week as well as two home jerseys.

Unfortunately, not everything on the shop page is good. Check out this article written by "Puck Daddy" about creepy gnomes that were/are on the site. Yes, those are official NHL gnomes. Is there even a demand for these creepy buggers? I digress because the purpose of this article is to make fun of some of the dumbest jersey concepts that are for sale on the 'Shop. Without any further diatribe about the "sinking Red Wings" or injuries or blah blah blah playoff streak in jeopardy, here's a fun look at some terrible NHL jerseys for sale!

5. Reebok Accelerator Premier Jersey

I don't know what possessed someone to run a Red Wings logo through an old fax machine and then slap it on an all-black jersey, but here we are wishing we could carve our eyeballs out. The Microsoft Office '98 WordArt numbers are the cherry on top of this crap sundae. I wonder how many of these are floating around the real world. If you bought this, you are either colour blind or you already own every other Red Wing jersey ever made and just needed this one to complete the collection. Either way, I feel bad money was spent on this. Does anyone else see weird stripes on the arms and at the bottom occasionally? I feel like sometimes they are there but then they aren't.

4. Super Discounts on Jerseys of Former Team Players

This one hits me a little too close to home, but the fact is that sometimes players leave your favorite team. Like a scorned lover posting Facebook pictures because you forgot to unfriend them, this one burns your eyes in a bittersweet way. On one hand, it's still a good looking jersey that's on sale for a ludicrous price. On the other hand, F*%k that player forever for leaving for greener/bluer pastures. Too soon, NHL Shop. Too soon.

3. Fashion Replica Jerseys

This might be the laziest thing I've ever seen in my life, and I live with myself. It's just a team logo with monochrome old-school Pittsburgh Penguin stripes and numbers high on the shoulder. What is fashionable about this f*%king thing? Don't piss away your cash on this thing, just buy a real jersey. Even if it is fifty bucks cheaper, you can't save money on protecting yourself from every day ridicule from your knowledgeable puck buddies. This is some lazy stuff.

2. Veterans Day Practice V-Neck Jersey with Digital Camo

In the field of "Most Likely to Appear on Duck Dynasty" we have the camo jersey. Again, NHL shop offends us by running off a black and white Detroit RED Wing logo, then slaps it on camo. I don't even want to call this lazy. It's stupid. Even worse is that it's a "Veteran's Day" jersey but there's no other goodwill gesture like perhaps donating proceeds towards funding for retired veterans. It's a cheap cash in on a holiday that I thought was meaningful. Barf.

1. "Authentic Edge Jersey"

This one's bad just for the logo on the front of it, but there's more to this choice. Here we have a jersey whose perks read as follows (courtesy of the jersey's page):

  • 100% Double-knit polyester
  • Authentic tie-down "fight" strap attached inside back of jersey
  • Decorated in the team colors
  • Imported
  • NHL® Shield patch is sewn on the bottom front of the collar fabric insert
  • Officially licensed
  • Reinforced stitching on all seams and hems

Well, if I wasn't sold on "Imported" now I'm hot and bothered under the Lycratalic collar. I'm still trying to figure out why this is over $120 more than a standard jersey at $300+ a pop. I wouldn't wish that robbery on even a Maple Leafs fan. The price and the missing double stripe at the bottom make this feel like an empty, meaningless purchase. Does anyone NEED a fight strap on their jersey? Presumably they would only ever wear this at home among friends or maybe a game at the ACC. Do people get assaulted frequently at NHL games and have their jerseys yanked over their heads?

These are all pretty nonsensical, terrible sweaters. Have a jersey story of your own? Share it in the comment section below!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Detroit Red Wings' Top Ten Goaltenders (1932-2013)

The Detroit Red Wings are one of the oldest franchises in the National Hockey League. Inevitably, when you're talking about the all-time best players per position, there are going to be a few Red Wings that pop up on the list. Now seems like a good time to reflect on over eighty years of players and do one of these Top Ten lists.

Self-deprecation aside, here's my top ten list of Detroit's ten best goaltenders all-time. Please feel free to chime in on the comments section and tell me how wrong I am. Enjoy and destroy!

 10. Tim Cheveldae

Tim Cheveldae served in Detroit from 1988-89 to 1993-94, appearing in 264 games, going 128-93-30 with a 3.40 GAA and an .883 save percentage. Those numbers don't seem very impressive but Cheveldae played during a time where goal scoring came much easier. A true workhorse, he holds the team record for appearances in a single season (72 in 1991-92) as well as career points (15, tied with Chris Osgood and Greg Stefan). During the 91-92 season Cheveldae led the NHL in games played, wins, and appeared in the NHL All-Star Game. That season, the Red Wings squeezed out a game seven victory over the Minnesota North Stars before being knocked out by the Chicago Blackhawks in four games in the Division Finals. During the 1993-94 season Cheveldae was traded to the Winnipeg Jets when Chris Osgood emerged as the starting goaltender, and his career declined quickly in Winnipeg. While his legacy may be a little tarnished by not capitalizing on a very good Red Wings team with Steve Yzerman in his prime, Cheveldae deserves a place on this list for his string of excellent regular seasons.

He looks like how we felt during his playoff games. Photo courtesy of "Maureen Landers" via Wikipedia.

 9. Manny Legace

Manny Legace is a surprise on this list as I believe he doesn't receive much credit for his regular season performances. Legace's time with Detroit saw him rack up a 112-34-19 record in the regular season with a 2.18 GAA and a .918 save percentage. His playoff record is 4-6 with a 2.54 GAA and an .888 save percentage...which is why Legace is often forgotten in any conversations about good Red Wing goaltenders. He's still a Stanley Cup champion thanks to the 2002 team, but the massive caveat is that he stayed far away from the action on the ice. Personally, I thought Legace's performance in the 2005-06 regular season was Vezina calibre, but that just makes his performance in the playoffs against Edmonton even harder to digest. Still, the regular season numbers are enough for me to put Legace on this list.

Jimmy looking very busy. Photo courtesy of "Anna Enriquez" via Flickr and Wikipedia.

 8. Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard is Detroit's current starting goaltender and has already impressed with a 131-67-26 regular season record, boasting a career GAA of 2.29 and a save percentage of .920. His playoff numbers (20-22, 2.57 GAA and .918 sv%) leave a little to be desired but there is still a lot of time for Howard to prove himself as an elite NHL goaltender. It's bizarre to see Howard on this list even though he has played less games than others, but Howard represents a new era for the Red Wings and a new method to signing and developing goaltenders. It took several years in the minors before Howard was given the nod as the starter, and the approach to his development is paying off in dividends thus far.

Photo via

7. Glenn Hall

The sum of Glenn Hall's career might make him the best goaltender on the list, but since we're looking at his time as a Red Wing, Hall squeezes onto the list with a 74-45-29 record with a sparkling 2.12 GAA. Hall won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1956 during a season where he tied team records in ties in a season (16 tied with Terry Sawchuk) and shutouts in a season (12 , also tied with Sawchuk). Hall's time in Detroit was cut short as he was shipped with Ted Lindsay to Chicago in 1957 for a bunch of players who never made the same impact. Hall went on to be an NHL iron man, playing in 502 consecutive games without wearing a helmet. His multiple Stanley Cup championships, Vezina Trophies, and All-Star Games made him one of the game's best goaltenders, but one cannot forget he started off his streak and his impressive play in Detroit.

Lumley accidentally wearing another team's jersey with some random trophy. Photo from Wikipedia.

6. Harry Lumley

Harry Lumley is another goaltender that gets lost in the shuffle when talking about Detroit's best goalies. Lumley sports a regular season record of 163-105-56 with a 2.75 GAA, and a playoff record of 24-30 with a 2.30 GAA. Lumley's best moment might have been winning the Stanley Cup championship in 1950, although he took Detroit as far as they could, losing the Stanley Cup in 1945 by just one goal in the seventh game. Lumley may have been the best goaltender in the NHL from 1947-1950 and certainly pulled through for Detroit during playoff runs. Time is really the only enemy to his case for being one of the best Detroit Red Wings goaltender of all time.

Photo from

5. Norm Smith

Norm Smith is the player on this list who began his career the earliest and thus is furthest removed from the public's historical consciousness. As someone born more than 40 years after his playing career ended, it's impossible for me to comment on anything but his statistics, but it's interesting to see the
accolades he achieved during the Red Wings' earlier year. He helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1936 and 1937, winning the Vezina Trophy once in 1937. Smith's most notable career victory was a 1-0 shutout in the longest game in NHL history, where the Red Wings won on a Mud Bruneteau goal in the sixth overtime. Smith retired in 1938 after refusing to report to Boston after a trade, but was recalled during World War II on an emergency basis only. Smith is a great addition to this list from the early years, and his 76-71-31 record and 2.26 GAA in the early years of the Red Wings deserve recognition nearly eighty years after his start with Hockeytown.

4. Dominik Hasek

Hasek is yet another example of a goaltender whose total career includes many more accolades than he received during his tenure in Detroit, but unlike Glenn Hall, Hasek's later years were spent with the Red Wings. Hasek's record with the Red Wings (114-39-19 regular season, 28-17 playoffs) is very strong, along with his 2.13 GAA and .911 save percentage demonstrate a lack of a decline in his career even on a Detroit team that didn't need superb goal-tending Hasek won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 and 2008, along with a William Jennings Trophy in 2008 that was shared with Chris Osgood. Hasek's time with Detroit is stunted by the mediocre performance in his 4 starts during the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. He was replaced by Chris Osgood, who put up a Conn Smythe calibre performance en route to the Stanley Cup. Hasek is low on this list, but in terms of all time greatest goaltenders, he's undeniably near the top.

Crozier making a save. Without a helmet on, too. Photo from

3. Roger Crozier

Roger Crozier played for the Red Wings from 1963-64 to 1969-70, where he amassed an impressive 131-121-41 record in 313 games played, boasting a 2.93 GAA. Crozier took the Red Wings to the finals during the 1966 Stanley Cup playoffs, becoming the first player in the history of the NHL to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP despite losing, as well as the first goaltender. Crozier battled pancreatic and ulcer problems throughout his career, but still took home the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 1965 and had an NHL trophy named after him, dubbed the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for the NHL's best save percentage. One could argue that Crozier wasn't able to take advantage of a still strong Detroit lineup and win multiple Stanley Cups, but his individual trophies and legacy in the form of a (retired) trophy is impressive enough.

The man, the myth, the legend. Photo from "Dan4th" via Wikipedia.

2. Chris Osgood

While it is true that this blog is named after Chris Osgood, I did try to remain as objective as possible when it came to this list. That being said, Chris Osgood on this list is inevitable as is the discussion about his career. Winner of three Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2008), two William Jennings Memorial
Trophies (1996, 2008), four time NHL All-Star (1996, 1997, 1998, 2008), and holder of most team records for goal-tending in the playoffs, Osgood embodies the mentality of the Detroit Red Wings during their current 23 season playoff streak: just win the game. While Osgood may have a litany of detractors and naysayers who argue he has no place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, few goaltenders have accomplished what he has in his career. Only Terry Sawchuk and Chris Osgood have won Stanley Cups as the starting goaltender a decade apart, and he has top ten all time numbers in wins (10th), goals against average (10th), and winning percentage (4th). As a Red Wing, he boasts 317 career victories in the regular season, and 67 wins in the postseason. Admittedly, there was never a great deal of pressure on Osgood to steal games simply because the Detroit teams he played on were stacked with Hall-of-Fame forwards and defenders. But then the 2008 and 2009 playoffs completely validated his ticket to the Hall-of-Fame, and his status as one of the NHL's best goaltenders of all-time.

No doubt the best Wing ever to tend goal. Photo from via "Cold War by Mike Leonetti"

1. Terry Sawchuk

Terry Sawchuk might be the best goaltender in NHL history. All due respect to Martin Brodeur, who is still increasing his all-time lead in most goal-tending categories, Terry Sawchuk might be his stiffest competition. While his career was cut short with his death in 1970, Sawchuk played in 14 season for Detroit, registering an incredible 351-243-132 record with a 2.44 GAA. The list of accolades is endless for Sawchuk as a Red Wing: three Vezina Trophies (1952, 1953, 1955), three Stanley Cup Championships (1952, 1954, 1955), a Calder Memorial Trophy (1951), Six All-Star games in a row (1950-55), the NHL record for ties (172) and a 39 year streak where his career total in shutouts was unmatched until Brodeur broke it in 2009. Sawchuk, along with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, were central to Detroit's success in the 1950s, and a number of his records remained unmatched until Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur shattered his records decades later. Sawchuk battled personal demons his entire career, but his posthumous election to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970 as well as his awarding of the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1971 were indicative of his impact on the game as well as the shock of losing a tremendous talent.