Friday, December 30, 2011

Rule Enforcement

On Cheering For The Refs:
I never knew the rules. I used common sense. It’s really the only way to run a game. If officials called every penalty they saw, there would be no players on the ice and no one in the rink.
- Hall of Fame NHL Referee Bill Chadwick
This highlights the strength of, and the weakness in, the game of hockey as played in the NHL.

The problem is that many of the activities in hockey which are prohibited by the rule book turn out to be not that bad when they happen in moderation. The job of the referee is to then control that moderation and to not permit the game to turn into some kind of uncontrolled brawl. This puts the onus on the referee to use his judgement as to what constitutes an "ok" violation of the rules, and what is over the line. Different refs on different days will have different opinions as to whether a particular play is OK or not.

The problem is this variability, where certain plays are considered by the refs to be OK, but not considered OK by the players themselves. This leads directly to the problem of fighting, where players enforce their own ideas of what is acceptable or not by engaging in fights or after-the-whistle pushing and shoving -- even after perfectly legal plays being made.

The quote at the top of the article is true. If every rule infraction was called, there'd be a lot of games with nobody on the ice or perhaps the goalies playing tennis (at least until one let the puck slide into the trapezoid). But in the long run, if the rules were called, they wouldn't get violated.

The real question is, would the resulting game of hockey be worth watching?

I think it might be.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Life After Death

Remember Brian Elliot? That goalie who was so awful he got run out of town on his ass to Colorado? The one who signed a $600K two-way deal with the St Louis Blues just to stay in the league? Well he's having a pretty good year:
Could Brian Elliot Actually Win The Venzia?
Elliott currently leads all eligible goaltenders in save percentage, goals against average, and win percentage. He’s also tied for the league lead in shutouts while having started 6 and 11 games fewer than the goaltenders he’s tied with, Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick. His save percentage is currently .944, his GAA is 1.52, and his record with the Blues is 13-3-0.
The conclusion of the article is, no, he probably won't win the Venzia, and they don't suggest that maybe his fantastic start will eventually revert to a longer-term average. But it is good to see him enjoying playing behind a team that doesn't suck some success.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Well at some level we all knew this day was going to come. Brian Murray has been stocking up so much on defensive prospects that we were going to end up with a log jam on the blue line, which meant that we would have to trade some of them away at some point (bad!) but hopefully would give us elite defense prospects to offer in exchange for elite offensive prospects (good!).

Saturday that process started up as Murray sent David Runblad and a 2nd round pick to Phoenix for prospect-become-holdout Kyle Turris. Turris is expected to be the second line center that the team needs.

There are a several ways to look at this in a positive light. First, the logjam on the blue line meant that Runblad was going to have sharply reduced minutes when Kuba and Gonchar return. With Karlsson, Cowen, Gonchar and Kuba controlling the first two pairings, and don't forget Phillips is still around too. That left Runblad, Carkner and Lee all scrambling to be the sixth defenseman. And with Lee (of all people!) making a solid case for being a reliable role-player on the third pairing, Runblad ended up being the odd man out.

Even if he had stuck, in the long run there'd be salary issues. Nobody doubts right now that Karlsson will be paid elite money for the elite plays he can make. Cowen too makes the case for being paid solid money. Even if Runblad developed as we'd hoped, eventually one of the three would have to go -- and it wouldn't be Karlsson.

Secondly, there's looking at the upside of a potential second-line center, something the team sorely needs these days. Regin isn't healthy, and frankly he wasn't filling those shoes very well when he was healthy. If Spezza gets hurt again this year, the team would be in a world of hurt.

Thirdly there's the tack taken by Silver Seven Sens: that Runblad's accomplishments in the SEL, while impressive on their face, have historically not panned out in the long run. While interesting, to me it sort of smacks of well-we-didn't-really-want-him-in-the-first-place revisionist history.

So yeah, lots of positive ways to look ait.

But of course I don't do that.

Runblad is in his first season in the NHL. If there was a logjam on the blue line, and Runblad wasn't good enough to stick, he should have been sent down to Bingo where he'd be useful as an injury call-up and generally continue to learn the North American game. Next year if he didn't stick, then its time to trade. Of course you risk making another Brian Lee, and we already have one of those.

But Runblad's value is nowhere near its peak. He has lots of development to do, and a couple more years to do it in. If he was going to be an elite defenseman, his value would only go up.

So even straight up, Runblad for Turris, I don't like the trade. But throwing in a 2nd round pick, weighted lottery ticket that that is... I think we got robbed.

But in the long run things could turn out differently. Injuries aside, the Heatley deal has turned out in Ottawa's favor. I have even said so in the past -- that Heatley's defection likely accelerated the realization that a rebuild was going to be necessary. So maybe in the long run we'll think this was a good move.

Just looks expensive to me right at teh moment.

Monday, December 12, 2011

To Russia, With Lunch

And with that, the Filatov experiment comes to an end -- at least for 2011-2012.

This is one of those situations where there is clearly some information missing from the public record. On paper, Filatov did everything that could be reasonably expected of a prospect: work hard, tear things up in the minors, and wait for the call-up opportunity.

The only thing he didn't do, on paper, was tear up the NHL, and frankly playing twice on the 4th line and then being scratched five times in a row isn't likely to give him the platform to do that.

Frankly, when other players like Butler and DaCosta are getting a ton of ice time -- even if DaCosta ended up getting sent back down, you can't say that he didn't in any way not get a fair shake at playing -- while Filatov sits, there has to be something else going on.

Whether or not that something else will prevent Filatov from having a future with the Ottawa Senators, or indeed anywhere in the NHL, remains to be seen.

Even if Filatov never provides any further value to the Senators I say this was a gamble worth trying. If it had paid off, the team would have a top-six forward where it desperately needs one. If it fails, the team is out a third-rounder -- a gamble in and of itself.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Bother?

Shanahan is showing absolutely no interest in consistency or rationale.

Ryan Lambert:
Tootoo got a five minute major for charging, a game misconduct and a two-game suspension, which is placating to the Sabres to a laughable extent. It’s also a sign that the frustrating inconsistency which has long plagued the NHL’s supplementary discipline system is alive and well. It’s difficult to say exactly what Tootoo did so terribly wrong that he lost two games of his season that Lucic didn’t do worse.
Step right up and spin the Random Wheel Of Justice. With your host, Mr. Shanaha-ha-han.