Monday, March 28, 2011

Live Hockey

So yeah way back on 25 March I went to probably the only game I will see live this year, the Washington game. A friend and I were going to try to see a game and we let things slide a bit, and this looked like the best option to see some "good" hockey at a price we could afford.

I always say, if you are only going to one game a year, spend the bucks to make it a good one. See something that you can't see on TV. For me, that means being in the 100s. And counter to the price-differentiation signals sent by the club, I usually prefer to be in the end or corner.

This time we were in 112, off the visitor goalie's left shoulder. We were a bit higher up than I might otherwise like, but when you buy your tickets at the last minute you can't be too fussy.

For the game I enjoyed what I could see -- but for some reason I had a harder time following what was going on. The on-again off-again high-sticking penalty was a total mystery to those of us in the stands and I had to read about it on the internet.

We did get to see a neat goal scored right in front of us at the beginning of the third, which was nice. The shut-out and win were gravy. All in all a good night out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Anderson Next To Test Goalie Curse

My favorite headline from today's action: Craig Anderson agrees to spend 4 years in Ottawa goalie graveyard:
GM Bryan Murray announced that goalie and ice girls aficionado Craig Anderson(notes) has been signed to a 4-year deal; TSN is reporting Anderson "will earn $12.75 million over the course of his contract, averaging $3.187 million per season. The club takes a cap hit of $3.18 million in the deal."
Now to be fair, I'm sure that "Mister" Anderson will only have to spend a year or two in the graveyard, then he can join previous answers to the curse like Ray Emery in being paid to either play in Bingo or not be here at all.

Personally my objection to this contract is the term because A) not too many goalies remain good over this timeframe, and B) if they did, Ottawa wouldn't end up with one (see also Leclaire, Elliot, Auld, Emery, Gerber...)

I'm just concerned that Anderson is being painted in the blogosphere as some kind of savior -- whereas he will ultimately be blamed for the poor play of the team on the ice in front of him (see also Leclaire, Elliot, Auld, Emery, Gerber...)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Must Laugh, Lest I Cry Instead

The Ottawa Sun claims "Mister" Anderson has been injured, but won't talk about what the problem is.

Indulging in the Internet's favorite pass time of drawing out trends from one or two small datapoints, I'd have to say that "Mister" Anderson is threatening to turn into another Pascal Leclaire: play lights-out at the start of his tenure, then play badly, then cop to an injury... the next step is he vanishes for the rest of the seasons.

Welcome to Ottawa, "Mister" Anderson. You'll fit right in.


Much Nothing About Ado

Gary Bettman's 5-point plan to make the media hurting stop improve player safety:
  • Brendan Shanahan will work with the NHLPA on equipment safety
  • Players will be removed from the ice if they show concussion symptoms after a hit
  • Additional penalties or fines may be handed out to teams and coaches for players who are “repeat offenders”
  • An engineering firm will evaluate all 30 arenas for safety issues
  • A ‘blue-ribbon’ committee of former players will examine topics relevant to the issue
These all sound good, but as with all things political, effectiveness depends more on what gets delivered than what gets announced or who studies what.

The only one with any potential to make even mid-term changes to the game is the engineering study, and that just changes the area in which they play.

Meanwhile, not wanting to be outdone at being seen busy at improving matters, the team GMs today announced this:
The general managers followed commissioner Gary Bettman's lead Tuesday by announcing they'd like to see a tighter enforcement of rules on charging and boarding.
This is nothing more than pandering to the wider world beyond the arena and sports media. If the Prime Minister of Canada is talking about your league, even if it is in a vague passive-aggressive non-descript circular political say-nothing way, you have an image problem. And the way you solve image problems today is you present the image of addressing the issue in a calm, steady, sober manner and hope that the wider world forgets about you before you actually have to produce anything*.

We've talked about the vague bullshit that is the charging rule before**. The question is, how does the "boarding" rule actually stack up?
41.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.


Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious “icing” or “off-side” play which results in that player being knocked into the boards is “boarding” and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as “charging.”
By the rule, any throwing of a player into the boards is boarding, just as any player-on-player check is technically charging. It is more vague regulatory bullshit. The clarification says that the contact has to be "unnecessary", the only purpose of which is to throw the matter back into the hands of the officials to make the instant judgement -- based on whatever directive the league is overtly or covertly giving to officials.

This I think is another example of NHL hypocracy, who insist on the one hand that the officials are given a free hand to enforce the rules -- but at the same time issue directives like this one to "enforce more tightly".

(I also think it is a little amusing to see that technically a goalkeeper can be assessed a boarding penalty, in practice any goalkeeper who is close enough to throw an opposing player into the boards is way hugely out of position.)

The problem, as it is with the headshot issue, is one of determining intent on the part of the checking player. And that, as any good lawyer can tell you, is always doubtful.

One suggestion I found today: On Finishing The Check:
Deeming a player without clear possession of the puck an illegal checking target would most certainly decrease the number of hits in the league [...]
Reducing the situations in which a player can be checked will reduce the opportunity for injury. Of all the noise that has been generated on this issue, this seems like a good place to start.

*= ...a pretty safe bet these days, but that's a wider problem.

**= even to the point of copy/pasting that sentence from last week's post, yeah, I know.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fear Not

...but I think that while the current goalie tandem of "Mister" Anderson and "I need a nickname" McElhinney might notch more wins that would otherwise be expected down the stretch, the end outcome will be one that is most favorable to a good draft position.

Of our two new miracle men, Anderson seems the steadier. It is hard to draw conclusions from just a single outing* about McElhinney's viability as a goalie, but he seemed less calm in net and thrashed around a lot more -- a problem which has plagued Ottawa goalies in the past (hello Pascal Leclaire!).

The recent wins Ottawa has produced over such top-of-the-east teams as Philadelphia and Tampa -- not to mention "hot" teams like New Jersey -- I think is more due both to those teams underestimating Ottawa since they are in the league's basement, and to the AHL callups playing with the nothing-to-lose that they have.

Eventually reality will kick in -- better teams will start taking the Senators more seriously, and the kids will start to make mistakes.

Fear not for thy draft pick, Ottawa.
*= but since this is the Internet, why let that stop anyone?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Knee Jerks

Lessard getting a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his hit in Florida on Thursday is stupid beyond belief. It was a clean hit on the puck carrier. The fact that Timmins got spun around a bit gave the officials the opening they needed to strongly disapprove of that kind of conduct*.

We've talked about the vague bullshit that is the charging rule before. Almost a year ago, as it happens.

The league wants to be seen to be sending a message -- the problem is, the message being sent is "we're a bunch of over-reacting, knee-jerk idiots".

I'm almost a bit sorry that Florida had to eat the bad karma that results in Karlsson firing up his game and leading Ottawa to the 2-1 victory.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Oh! And not to be out done -- the refs in Boston give Chara a boarding penalty for a play where the player hit the ice before the boards! Like the announcer says: how can it be boarding if the player hit the ice first!
*= and lets not get into the total hypocracy that is the playoffs, where this kind of play would be so routine it would not be commented on, let alone cause a stoppage in play. The league can't have it both ways.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Having watched the video (and enjoyed the gory close-up) of Bruins' defense Chara spreading Montreal's Pacioretty into the center stanchion. Pacioretty lost consciousness due to the play and has damaged at least one vertebra.

Personally I agree with the on- and off-ice calls of this play -- it was a late hit on a player who had already chipped on the puck. That's text book interference, and that's what Chara served two minutes for.

The howls from the Montreal fan base can be ignored as partisan ignorance. With the way the random Wheel Of Discipline spins in the NHL, it was quite possible that this might have been seriously punished; the media loves to get out in front of these things so they can fill the moments until the next game with "I told you so" type comments.

The League's result of the Wheel Of Discipline is actually the right call. This was an unfortunate injury from a play, which while being "against the rules", was not worthy of further punishment.

This is not the kind of "violence" that the NHL needs to get rid of. The dangerous hits blindsiding players (such as claimed Spezza earlier this year) and the hits to the head (such as has claimed Crosby's year) have to go.

And the fighting has to go to, but for me that's an old saw.

I'm no fan of violence in hockey, but I don't think this incident is really worthy of the coverage it is getting.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Big Steaming Pile of Meh

So yeah, I should probably do some kind of fare-well post for the dearly departed Chris Campoli, but to be honest I really can't be bothered. Campoli showed flashes of competence without being noticeably worse than his team mates most evening, and all for a relatively affordable amount of money. In other words, the ideal 3rd-pair defense man.

Problem is, this team is drowning in 3rd-pair defense players; so now Campoli is gone in exchange for a draft pick.


In other meh news, Ottawa claims goalie Curtis McElhinney off of waivers, intercepting his move from Anaheim to Tampa. This is clearly a move to ensure that Lehner spends more time working the AHL than riding airplanes between Bingo and wherever Ottawa is playing.

With all the changes that have been happening, I find it rather hard to get excited about the team for the rest of the year. Maybe I am a "frontrunner" or a bandwagon-rider, but I look at this roster and think "so what?"

I did have the Boston game on for a while, and while it was dry, it showed a few flashes of entertainment. But only a few. It did make the perfect cap for the awful day I had at work on Tuesday: slightly painful, with only hints of joy. But maybe that's more of a commentary on me than on the game.