Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nazem Kadri is your saviour, Toronto

-Earlier this week, Toronto Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets went to town on potential first-round flop Nazem Kadri. The Puppets explain how poorly Kadri is playing compared to the average developmental curve of prospects and completely ignore the reasonable approach taken by the Toronto Sun.

Or something completely opposite of that.

Kadri scored twice and had an assist in the Leafs' 4-3 exhibition win against the Ottawa Seators last night. Kadri still probably won't make the team and may be better off playing a full season in the American League, but his three-point night set up for one of the stupider ledes of the preseason.
It most surely was a slump at the most inopportune time of his young career.

Oh, sure, that makes sense. God forbid Kadri ever goes a couple of games without a point in the preseason ever again.

-Meanwhile, in Calgary, Flames president Ken King has called out TSN panelist Michael Peca for calling out Flames designated problem contract Jay Bouwmeester.
The whole drama erupted Tuesday night when TSN panelist Michael Peca said he used to look forward to playing against Jay Bouwmeester, because he coughed the puck up so much.

Strong words, to be sure. And it didn't die there.

On Wednesday afternoon, in a radio interview with Rob Kerr and Dean Molberg on the Fan 960, Flames president Ken King lashed out at the audacity of Peca, a former player, saying such things.

“I think it was out of line,” King said in an interview with The Fan 960. “It was a guy talking about his peer. His colleague. Someone who he has played with.....To diss and take such a low-brow approach to laughing at or ridiculing one of the premier defencemen in the league, I just think is completely inappropriate.”

In fairness to Peca, King has probably never skated against Bouwmeester.

-In Montreal, Brian Gionta was named the 2nd ever American captain in Franchise history leading to more concerns that the captain of the Habs can't speak French. The only reasonable solution is to move to Tampa, commence covering the Lightning, drag Vinny Lecavalier down and force Steve Yzerman to trade him to Montreal.

Here's an old link on a Vincent Lecavalier to Montreal for Louis Leblanc RDS story.

This is a tall order for Gionta.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who is this mysterious woman, and why is Henry Burris wearing a bra?

So... this is Calgary quarterback Henry Burris and a woman who is certainly not Mrs. Henry Burris.

"It was a birthday prank my friends ran on me," says Burris about the photos, which popped up online this week.

Burris was a little more exposed going 11 for 26 against the pitiful Lions this week. While I'm sure that there's nothing indecent going on here, it's the distraction the Stampeders need to get them back on the winning track, after losing their past two games.

Hey, at least it was Hank, and not 326-pound lineman Rob Lazeo, who may be a D-Cup.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Pat Burns and the breaking of news stories in the online age

As we all know, Pat Burns died, and then didn't die last Friday in a classic instance of the media, both traditional and social, jumping the shark based on the word of former Toronto Maple Leafs stiff Cliff Fletcher.

Just before 11:30 AM Friday morning, two messages popped up Twitter exaggerating the condition of cancer-ridden former NHL coach Pat Burns. One was from @ctvottawa, the other from @FAN590. It was sad and depressing, for the 58-year old man who the Internet had once tried to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame at some point during his life, to see go too soon.

Oh, Carey...

If the preseason is a somewhat worthwhile indicator of the regular season, then Montreal General Manager Pierre Gauthier made out even worse than expected by choosing Carey Price over Jaroslav Halak this summer.

Carey Price, known for giving Pierre McGuire a telepathic handjob with this save in the 2008 preseason...

...made out not so good last night, allowing four goals on nine shots, being booed off the ice, and refusing to talk to the media afterwards.

Oh, Carey, at least you're in midseason form in one regard.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Toronto Star starts 'A Leafs Fan Blogs'

Rejoice, faire fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Star has heard your pain, and have given you an outlet to talk about the team online.

With 'The Spin' by Damien Cox and now our generically-named first-stop online ressource for cutting-edge Leafs opinions by a guy named Vinay Menon, the Toronto Star have managed to pull themselves out of what I call the 'Google Obscurity' and no longer just be for blue-collar lunchrooms across Southern Ontario.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Windsor Star predicts Toronto/Detroit in 2137 Stanley Cup Final

In today's Windsor Star, print media continued its slow demise announcing a Detroit/Toronto Stanley Cup Finals game in 2137, before repeating a news brief eight or nine times.

The joke here is that CBC won't exist the next time the Leafs make the finals, right?

Monday, September 20, 2010

'Into The Wind' - A modest review

Steve Nash and Ezra Holland's 30-for-30 documentary about Terry Fox, Into The Wind, begins with an old, grainy shot from 1980 of a baby-faced man with curly hair dipping a prosthetic right leg into the Atlantic Ocean.

When the trumpets sound and the judge looks back at my life, as a 22-year old, they'll see me in my couch and sweatpants on a Sunday night watching sports highlights. At 22, Port Coquitlam's Terry Fox, a cancer victim and an amputee, ran a marathon a day across the country, raising more than $1.7 million for cancer research before being forced to abandon his run more than halfway across the country.

Nash and Holland do a fantastic job of sorting through pictures, news footage, radio interviews, and Fox's own diary entries to chronicle the conception and denouement of the Marathon of Hope, an impossible, near superhuman, run across Canada with friend Doug Alward, later joined by brother Darrell Fox and Bill Vigars of the Canadian Cancer Society.

The 30-for-30 franchise is produced by ESPN, thus with a major American audience in mind. They won't see this documentary on their screens until next Tuesday. Nash does a terrific job at capturing just how vast and sparse Canada is, and how impressive Fox's unfinished accomplishment truly was. The narrative never explicitly lets the audience know that Fox didn't complete the journey and died just a month before his 23rd birthday, but anybody would be able to notice the tears in the eyes of Leslie Scrivener of the Toronto Star, and Alward and Vigars and realize how the story ends, as well as the absence of Fox interviews, instead with his diary entries read by narrator Taylor Kitsch.

"He's in Toronto, and he's going to make it to the coast," Betty Fox, Terry's mother, says at one point during a happy 1980 interview as the scene cut to a commercial. Nash is a tearjerking son of a bitch.

The film did everything it could do. It gave greater focus to the athletic accomplishment and resiliency of Fox over the cancer aspect of his story. ESPN is primarily a sports network, after all, and the Fox story from a pure athletic standpoint is amazing, and one that any American even, should surely appreciate. He ran 26 miles a day fighting unwanted publicity, conflicts with his teammates and false media reports as his celebrity faded towards the end of his run.

This documentary is not about who we lose to cancer, but rather about the potential that every human being has. Fox's tale is inspiring, and Nash is a terrific storyteller. Canadians tend to love seeing stories about Canada appear in American and world medias, and Into The Wind is an excellent film which will show the world a Canadian folk hero who has unfortunately been overlooked by the rest of the world.

Friday, September 17, 2010

This week in the CFL...

For what the CFL has lacked on on-field drama this season, the off-field business was certainly worthy of an Oscar bid and a starring role in M Night Shyamalan's next picture.

Twitter kills off former NHL coach at 58

Earlier today, CTV Ottawa reported the death of cancer-stricken former hockey coach Pat Burns. It was no doubt a sad story that touched us all. Burns has dedicated his life to hockey, was a fantastic coach, and was the centre of a large Internet campaign to have him inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame when he was still alive.

Except somebody at the CTV Ottawa bureau failed to check their facts. Pat Burns is still alive, and "shocked to learn that he's dead," according to a member of the Burns family speaking to Bob MacKenzie. "Tell I'm alive--set them straight," Pat says to Bob.

How did this all play out? Twitter, of course. As soon as CTV Ottawa posted their since-removed message, it was taken up by high-profile bloggers, as well as radio stations such as the FAN 590 in Toronto and apparently the TEAM 1040 in Vancouver. The news caught on like a bug, and Pat Burns was dead before anybody with access decided it was a good idea to fact-check.

So CTV Ottawa apologized for the mistake, those morbid, morbid people at the station.

Burns now joins Gordon Lightfoot and Jeff Goldblum as celebrities killed off by Twitter. The 58-year old Burns is still sick, still not in the Hall of Fame, but still alive at home.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chael Sonnen does not like your accent, GSP sir

Let's take a hypothetical situation. Let's say that Shane Doan, for instance, for some reason sounds off against some French Canadien player in the National Hockey League, say, Martin St. Louis.

Let's pretend that Doan says something like "God dangit that guy sounds like a French Canadien Minnie Mouse," or something as equally ridiculous.

We'd think 'wow, that is horribly, horribly wrong,' and a national crisis would likely ensue.

Skip to reality. For some reason, Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight contender Chael Sonnen's words about French Canadien and welterweight champion and Montreal native Georges St.-Pierre went completely unnoticed by the Canadian media.

It's curious, because the anti-mixed-martial-arts crowd in Canada never skip a chance to portray its fighters and its fans as violent or bloodthirsty or what have you.

"If GSP said he wanted to fight me, the first thing I would say is the same thing I say every time I hear GSP talk, 'God dangit that guy sounds like a French-Canadian Minnie Mouse.' That's the first thing I'd say," Sonnen quipped.

"Then I'd say 'hey GSP, let me ask you a serious question. Do you have a designated driver? Do you have someone to get you home safely? Cause clearly you're intoxicated.’ I would say, ‘GSP, do you have a hankering for pain? GSP, did you lose a bet with God? GSP, bring your $3,000 suit, bring your $3 date, and get that 3 cent tan beat off your socialist back.’ That's what I would tell GSP."

Thank you, Chael, for reinforcing the stereotype. St.-Pierre, known as GSP, is ranked by Yahoo! as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world and number two by Sherdog. Sonnen is best known as a middleweight underdog who came close to one of the biggest upsets in fighting history before being caught in a triangle choke with three minutes to go in his fight for the middleweight belt against Anderson Silva at UFC 117 in August. Sonnen has more to worry about than GSP, or light-heavyweight title holder Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, with his own rematch against Silva coming up early next year.

GSP's next distraction is a title defense against the equally-repugnant Josh Koscheck, the Pittsburgh-native who slammed Montreal Canadiens fans after his win at the Bell Centre during the Eastern Conference semi-finals last year. Tonight, GSP's coaching debut on 'The Ultimate Fighter' debuts opposite Koscheck, in what will surely become one of the most-watched seasons of TUF. GSP is the sports' hero, not just in Canada, and the frosted-tipped Koscheck is its perfect villain and outlaw, and at least he keeps his trash-talking with other fighters within his own weight class with guys who he will actually face.

MMA Weekly also found this nugget online, which is a nod to GSP not being impressed by Matt Hughes's win against B.J. Penn at UFC 63, and saying so in post-fight interviews.

After Silva, Sonnen wants GSP or Shogun [MMA Weekly]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

News and notes this Tuesday

-There are two big hockey stories to look at today. The fallout has evened out from yesterday's shocking, absolutely shocking revelation that Roberto Luongo would step down as Captain of the Vancouver Canucks. Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun does a nice job of arguing that Henrik Sedin should replace him. Over at The Hockey Writers, I argue the same point with the grace and maturity of the comments of the MacIntyre column.

-Then there is Sheldon Souray. His orange highness Steve Tambellini told the media that Sheldon Souray would not come to training camp. Souray's only fault, it seemed, was criticizing team management. And going minus-19 in just 37 games played.

-Speaking of Edmonton baggage, Eric Tillman has officially been named General Manager of the Eskimos. The TSN story does not skimp out on the details in the fourth paragraph of that story. Tillman is generally credited with building the current version of the Roughriders and winning that team's first Grey Cup since 1989, restoring the glory that team never had. He scouted and signed Darian Durant, Weston Dressler and Rob Bagg.

Even though he tried to hump the babysitter, Tillman and the Eskimos have drawn pretty well zero criticism through this union of geeky-faced football experts and football teams with names coming from derogatory Inuit slang.

-BC signed Ricky Foley last night. Then they didn't finalize it, but then they did today. BC has won two straight. Saskatchewan have lost 2 of 3 and Rider fans are scared. Will there be a home playoff game in pouring, pouring, despicable rain in November at Empire Stadium? Oh God I hope so.

*UPDATE* It appears that Ricky Foley has actually signed with Toronto, the rat bastard, or as Cam Cole put it on Twitter, owner David Braley "successfully outbidding himself for services of prized pass rusher."

-Defensive Player of the Week:

-Some MLS team somewhere in Canada fired their coach/manager. Never trust a guy with one first name.

-From the "Darryl Sutter is still insane" files, James Mirtle reports that Calgary tried to sign Vesa Toskala this summer. No word on whether Toskala turned the contract down because he could not in good conscience work for somebody dumb enough to sign him.


I'll return to a full-day of posting on Friday, where I will get some CFL previews running.

Friday, September 10, 2010

This week in the CFL...

Calgary Stampeders (8-1) (-10) @ Edmonton Eskimos (2-7) O/U 55.5
Today at 9:00
Weather report: Light showers - 14/7

One of my favourite things about sports is that, on any given day, on any given field of play, any team has the chance to win. Unless they're the Edmonton Eskimos playing against somebody other than their scout team. In their last two meetings, the Stampeders have beaten the Eskimos by a combined score of 108-20.

Take the Stampeders and the over.

Montreal Alouettes (6-3) @ Hamilton TIger-Cats (5-4) (-3.5) O/U 53.5
Saturday at 1:00
Weather report: Mostly sunny - 22/13

So Montreal has lost 2 of 3 and are already showing signs of rotting. Hamilton has won four straight. Anthony Calvillo will not dress for the game, which sounds dirtier than it actually is. Rodnei Santos/Chris Leak will not necessarily be a boon to Hamilton's fifth ranked pass defense, but certainly help a team that is still vulnerable through the air.

Take the Tiger-Cats to cover, and the under. According to the official rankings, this should be the game of the week. Since no game has two legitimate starting quarterbacks, I guess we'll have to take their word for it.

Toronto Argonauts (5-4) @ BC Lions (2-7) (-6) O/U 49
Saturday at 4:05
Weather report: Light rain - 18/12

Light rain in Vancouver typically involves a storm that would be given a name on the East Coast, so there's a high chance that Toronto's passing game could be worse. Oddly enough, Cleo Lemon's passer rating has been pretty average, even in the past couple of weeks where he's thrown no touchdowns and zero interceptions. Cory Boyd will probably see his touches increase in bad weather, and BC has the second worst run defense in the league. What's worse? BC has not won at Empire Field since beating the Montreal Concordes back on November 6th in 1982.

Take the Argos plus six and the under.

Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-3) (-4.5) @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-7) O/U 57
Sunday at 1:05
Weather report: Partly cloudy - 16/7

Oobleck is also in the forecast for Sunday. If you don't know your Oobleck, you'd better learn your Dr. Seuss. Oobleck is a mysterious green substance that descends upon your city and doesn't leave, much like Rider fans. This game sold out faster than Stevie Baggs looking for an NFL career. Fun fact: Winnipeg has not won since team officials banned the beer snake.

Take Saskatchewan minus the points, as well as the under.


Related: Last night the NFL kicked off with two high scoring offenses playing to a dramatic 14-9 win. All we need is UFL season to start and football season will be officially on!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sidney Crosby hits a homerun at PNC Park and other wacky news

-In what is the easiest joke to make in the history of lazy sports blogging, Sidney Crosby hit a homerun in batting practice at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and will be slotted into the three hole for the 47-91 Pirates' game tonight against the Atlanta Braves.

-Who has two thumbs and is from a country whose national men's soccer team won an International Friendly? This guy! Canada defeated Honduras 2-1 last night at Saputo Stadium in Montreal last night.

-So a Waterloo football player pisses into a cup... and becomes the first ever North American athlete to test positive for HGH. Friend of the 'Eh' Factor and newest Yahoo! Sports blogger Andrew Bucholtz writes on the implications this has for Waterloo, the CIS, the CFL, and sports in general. I had a joke on this, but I used it up earlier in the day.

-If the rumour of Jamie Langenbrunner being traded for Tomas Kaberle sounds ridiculous to you, it probably is. This was an Eklund rumour (which is capitalized) that has gained steam today because, well, it involves the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it involves draft picks. Forwarded to me by a friend, the rumour is "The trade would involve Tomas Kaberle and a 4th rounder ending up in NJ, With Rolston, Langenbrunner, a first in 2011, and a second in 2012." [sic]

In other related news, the negotiations between myself and the student union building for the last roasted chicken sandwich hit an impasse when I realized it cost $5.

-Oh yeah. Buck Pierce fell hard and dislocated his elbow against the Riders and his season may be in jeopardy. It may work out for him, since "not playing for the Blue Bombers during the 2010 season" looks way better on the resume than "Blue Bombers starting quarterback- 2010". Also on TSN are reports that former Olympic bobsledder Jesse Lumsden may return to football. Which is appropriate, because nothing emphasizes the Bombers' season like... ah, you know.

-Here's a rumour that might have legs, about Eric Tillman possibly locking up the Edmonton Eskimo General Manager position. Tillman likely won't make a decision until he's found a suitable babysitter in Edmonton. Also on Rod Pedersen's blog can be found excerpts from a Stevie Bagg radio interview earlier today, where it seems like he won't be coming up to Canada this year.

On Dan Ellis' financial problems

Making $1.5 million this year, Dan Ellis stands to lose a fair chunk of that. Ten per cent goes to his agent, 35 per cent of that will go to Uncle Sam, and 25 per cent of that will go into the player's escrow account.

I have a hard enough time calculating my own paycheque, but subtract those basic numbers from his base $1.5 million, he has $450,000 in net pay, or 4091 per cent more than I make as a part-time student, part-time warehouse worker and full-time rabblerouser.

Week 10 CFL Excitement Rankings

Websites and other news organizations often compile statistics to determine how good a team is and call them 'Power Rankings'. These rankings are completely meaningless since the only true indicator of how good a team is is by its win-loss record, which is the same way that the league determines it.

These rankings are not totally useless, however, since they've given the 'Eh' Factor an idea into compiling statistics to determine how exciting the team is in played games. While close defensive battles may be a signature of the game of football, we all know that long bombs and high scores put butts in the seats and close games keep you tuned in on the couch.

Call these what you will. 'Excitement Rankings' suffice for us.

There was such little change in the rankings in the Labour Day games, except for the fact that in every statistic I use, the average excitement level dropped. Hamilton won with stringent defense and an inept quarterback on the other side. Calgary was Calgary and Edmonton was Edmonton. Earlier in the weekend, BC won with a road blowout and the only game that offered any sort of drama was the Saskatchewan/Winnipeg game.

Friday, September 3, 2010

CFL Labour Day Weekend preview

August sucks.

August really sucks as a sports month, and it sucks as a month in general. Temperatures are abnormally hot and the sports world is abnormally cool. Compare it to October, say, where we have hockey, three football leagues, basketball training camps and baseball playoffs, as well as collegiate sports across the country. In August, we have a few baseball games, 3rd quarters in the NFL preseason and the WNBA.

BUT! August is over. This is perhaps why I love Labour Day weekend so much. My team, the Lions, don't even have a rivalry and I love it. I love how the Battle of Ontario actually means something this year. I love the name 'Banjo Bowl'. This is the end of summer. That long, hot, egregiously annoying summer is over. Bring on winter. This is Canada.

BC Lions (1-7) @ Montreal Alouettes (6-2) (-10) O/U 50
Tonight at 7:35
Gameday weather: Sunny, high of 31, low of 16.

Montreal beat British Columbia back at Empire Stadium back in Week 3 without scoring a touchdown, so at least they're ready for the Chris Leak era, however short it may be. How bad are the Lions? So bad that the Alouettes are playing their backup quarterback, who has as much sway in a football game as the long snapper's rottweiler, and are still favoured by 10 points.

Basic numbers through eight weeks:

Montreal, 269 points. BC, 135. Montreal, 322 passing yards per game. BC, 244. Montreal, 18 passing touchdowns. BC, 5, spread across just two different games.

If Anthony Calvillo were playing, this game would be such a mismatch that the United Nations would get involved. Luckily, he isn't, and BC may have a chance to win this game if they effectively blitz and get that mobile secondary creating Interceptions. Yonus Davis, the CFL's Special Teams player of August, is also where the Lions hold a slight advantage, which is big in a league where one or two big returns can change the course of the game. BC has yet to allow a return touchdown, but that could also mean the team hasn't kicked the ball off enough to allow the other team the chance.

I'm going to say BC covers and the teams play to the under.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-6) @ Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-3) (-10.5) O/U 57
Sunday at 4:05
Gameday weather: Thundershowers, high of 21, low of 7

The other good thing about August coming to an end is all the thunderstorm threats that pop up around Mosaic Field on any given week. For the longest time before the Roughriders started winning playoff games, this was the most important day on the football calendar, and it has a very anti-climatic feel to it.

Saskatchewan still has a shot at landing the first place bye in the West Division despite being two games back after that ridiculous loss to Edmonton last week. Darian Durant, though, is lucky that the Bombers don't have any ballhawks in the secondary, because he's been throwing picks at an impressive rate lately. In a league of eight starting quarterbacks, Durant has the seventh best passer rating.

Ten and a half looks like a lot to cover, but the Riders offense is good enough, and have blown out opponents by more than that in three of their five wins. I may as well take the over as well and look for a 40-20 or so score, in honour of college football returning.

Toronto Argonauts (5-3) @ Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-4) (-4.5) O/U 51
Monday at 2:35
Gameday weather: Partly cloudy, high of 24, low of 15

This game is, for once, important, and not just in a "fighting for pride" sort of way that it has been in God knows how many years past. But it would mean so much more if the CFL had four playoff teams rather than six.

Digressing, this game is so even its ridiculous. Did you know that Toronto actually give up more yards and first downs than any other team? Most of that goes through the air. As the league's worst passing defense, Toronto allow 68.8 per cent of passes to be completed, and give up 324.5 passing yards a game.

Meanwhile, Hamilton is the league's second best passing game, but are third worst in rushing defense, where Toronto continues to shine despite their drop off in defensive play from the start of the year. Cory Boyd continues to lead the league in rushing and total yards from scrimmage. His receiver/return-man counterpart Chad Owens leads the league in total yards, over 200 more than the great rookie Marcus Thigpen on the Hamilton sideline.

We have yet to have a game in the CFL this year where both teams' strengths match up well against the other team's weaknesses like this. Keep in mind the two teams are numbers one and two in the Excitement Rankings this blog maintains. Get up early and set your PVRs, because this one may yet be worth keeping.

I'm going to give the edge to Hamilton. Ivor Wynne is sold out, and four and a half points is a very reasonable number. Take the over, as well.

Edmonton Eskimos (2-6) @ Calgary Stampeders (7-1) (-12.5) O/U 54
Monday at 6:00
Gameday weather: Partly cloudy, high of 11, low of 4

So Edmonton eked out a win against Saskatchewan last week by grinding out a game during which the football gods were drunk and simply wanted to toy with both teams and their offenses.

In case you haven't noticed, Henry Burris actually does lead the league in interceptions, and Edmonton actually are tied for the lead league in interception returns. It's about there that Edmonton's advantages end, because Calgary has the tightest, most efficient defense in the league, which leads the following categories:

-First downs
-Rushing first downs
-Passing first downs
-Yards allowed
-Net yards rushing
-Average gain per rush
-Passes allowed
-Lowest completion percentage
-Points per game
-Quarterback sacks
-Passing TDs
-TDs allowed
-Fewest points

While Toronto has the league's best running back, Calgary has the league's best rushing team. Joffrey Reynolds, Jon Cornish and Henry Burris have each more than 200 yards on the ground. Reynolds has yet to fumble the football, in 101 attempts. Conversely, the Eskimos have the league's worst rushing defense.

This is such a mismatch on paper that I'm willing to completely forget last week's upset, and determine that this is going to be a total blowout and such a catastrophic end to the summer from which we will not recover.

Give Calgary the 12.5 points, plus a little extra, but take the under, because I don't think Calgary will score more than 50 points.

Now that I have sufficiently jinxed the Stampeders, we have a chance to watch a good football game. Have a good weekend. The 'Eh' factor will return on Tuesday after the long weekend, unless something big happens.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The NHL's hypothetical ultimatum would hypothetically benefit players

Before we get into anything, here's a solution for calculating a salary cap hit for long term deals: Instead of averaging out the salary over the course of the deal, simply rank the years in salary by descending order and apply that salary to the cap hit, so it drops throughout the deal.

By now, you're probably aware of the New York Post's Larry Brooks' report which offers that the NHL has given an ultimatum to the NHLPA over long contracts.

Brooks writes:

The Post has learned that Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly informed the still-leaderless and obviously rudderless NHLPA by e-mail late last night that the league would grandfather the recently re-submitted Kovalchuk 15-year, $100 million contract into the collective bargaining agreement, as well as Luongo's year-old, 12-year, $64 million contract and Hossa's year-old 12-year, $63.3 million contract, under the following conditions:

1. That the cap hit on future multiyear contracts will not count any season that ends with the player over 40 years of age. The cap hit would be based on the average salary of the seasons in the contract up to age 40.

2. That the cap hit on future contracts longer than five years would be calculated by granting additional weight -- perhaps the average -- to the five consecutive years with the largest average salary.

How much of a different do those years after age 40 make? If Roberto Luongo's contract were held to that standard, his $5.33 million cap hit would become a $6.71 million cap hit. Marian Hossa's contract with Chicago would jump from a $5.23 million hit to $6.7.

However, this is the New York Post, so there may never have been an ultimatum. Eklund killjoy Darren Dreger has already done the legwork to discredit Brooks. As much as long-term contracts are completely cheating and against the intent of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the solution to the front-loaded contract mess lies behind a simple solution that NHL executives craft up to strongarm the Players Association. I just don't buy that the PA is as adamant as the Brooks report makes them out to be over front-loaded contracts.

Front-loaded contracts are a way for teams to spend way more money on superstar players than they have to spend on your average blue collar NHL player. For every Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, Roberto Luongo, Daniel Briere or Chris Pronger, there are fifty Daniel Pailles or Zenon Konopkas, who already stand to lose a significant chunk of their paycheques due to escrow, so that their teams have the money to pay the longer-term contracts.

If this is the battle that new NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr wants to take on, then he's already lost the mostly apathetic player crowd. An NHL "win" in this case means that teams will have to dig harder to sign their biggest stars. Steven Stamkos is a free agent this summer, as is Zach Parise. And Shea Weber. Those three guys are so important for their hockey teams, particularly considering their markets. If anything, wouldn't the NHL *want* franchise players to stick with their teams? How is making long-term deals less workable at all beneficial to the National Hockey League?

From where I stand, the NHL may as well be asking that members of the NHLPA all play hockey or breathe oxygen. I get a sense that, if this strongarming is actually going down, that they look like the commander of the Imperial Star Fleet and Bettman is in charge of the weapons systems on the first Death Star. The entire scene is a useless argument, which is a plot device to let the filmmakers show us that Darth Vadar can choke people with his mind:

Hell, because of all this, the NHL may lose Ilya Kovalchuk to the Kontinental Hockey League.

We all love you, Brooksie, you make for great Youtube exchanges with John Tortorella, but I'm going to have to believe Darren Dreger on this one.

UPDATE: The Post is now reporting that the union are choosing to defer their vote to bring in Don Fehr anyway.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Canadiens goalie situation goes haywire

Remember Carey Price? He was the former fifth overall draft pick who was promoted to starter, relegated to backup and spent a lot of time in the Habs' latest playoff run riding the pine.

Price, now pencilled in as the Habs' starter, is still unsigned. He wants $3 million this year.

If you go to nhlnumbers and do a player comparison it's not as weird of a request as it sounds. $3 million is quite reasonable for a starting goalie in the NHL. Money-wise, it gets you Dwayne Roloson, and is $750,000 cheaper than Nikolai Khabi-boozin. A $3 million cap number would be the 21st highest in the league.

So the question here... is Carey Price a top 20 goalie? Last season he was 29th in goals against average with 2.77 and 19th in save percentage at .912%. If we use save percentage as the most reliable metric to calculate a goalie's worth, he's equal with the equally contract-troubled Antti Niemi. Niemi also had 7 shutouts and won 16 playoff games and that whole thing.

I invented a totally arbitrary goaltender statistic which sets a metric for how good each goaltender stacks up against the rest of his team's goaltender performance, somewhat eliminating the bias of having a player play behind a good team or a bad team. By using this metric, Carey Price was the 40th best goalie in the league. Niemi was 21st. The metric calculates, among other things, saves per 28.72 shots against (the median number of shots for playoff teams) and true winning percentage, which is wins per 60 minutes played versus the wins per 60 stat of the entire team's goalies.

I like Carey Price and I think he definitely has a future, though he wasn't helped after he was given a massive rookie deal and told to live alone on Rue St.-Catharines when he was young and immature, but if the Canadiens are going to spend $3 million on a starting goalie, the better option is Antti Niemi. He has just as much talent, though is older, more mature and more experienced, and will likely cost you the same.

Headlines to begin your September

-Canadian Interuniversity Sport football season kicked off last night, and we begin with an upset. Number 10 McMaster beat defending Vanier Cup champ Queen's 23-18 in what was, by all accounts, a thrilling game that featured one of the craziest plays we'll see all year, a 101-yard kick return by McMaster's Michael DiCore. Meanwhile, in a less publicized game, the GeeGees beat Windsor 23-14.

-The Canadian Journalism Project, jsource, drops a mention on the Toronto Sun/Pension Plan Puppets issue, which has miraculously made it two weeks without anybody ever having given it the suffix 'gate'. They linked back to a story where they criticized the Toronto Star for avoiding accreditation as well.

-Jose Bautista closes in on George Bell's 47 with his 43rd home run as the Blue Jays crushed the Devil Rays 13-5. The Jays put up a 10-spot in the sixth, but you probably didn't see that, because you probably didn't have Sportsnet One. You probably won't watch the Blue Jays today either, because you probably don't have Sportsnet One.

-In Cincinnati Red-land, Cuban Aroldis Chapman hit 103 mph on the radar gun in his Major League Debut. This somehow affects Toronto native, Joey Votto, who still leads the Major Leagues in OPS. The Reds are seven games up on the Cardinals and look to be a shoo-in for the playoffs.

-BC Lions defensive back and all-around CFL good guy Davis Sanchez will donate his game cheque from this week to the Tony Proudfoot foundation for ALS reserach. For a primer on the former Alouette diagnosed with ALS, here's a Bruce Arthur column from two weeks ago on the subject.

-Finally, the Canadian basketball team dropped their fourth straight at the FIBA World Championship with a 71-61 loss to New Zealand. You may have missed my ivory tower hemming and hawing from last night, which chronicled Canada's struggles in the fourth quarter. At least in this morning's game, they looked

Canada virtually eliminated from contention at worlds

It came down to a split-second, head-scratching decision by guard Denham Brown, but after a third consecutive game with a poor finish, the Canadian team at the FIBA World Championships find themselves at 0-3 and an almost inescapable hole after a 68-63 loss to the French.

The Canadian team has been bad in the fourth quarter this tournament. We can sugarcoat it as much as we like; 'It's a young team,' 'It's all a learning experience' and 'Heck--we weren't even supposed to be here anyway!'

Those are all valid points against Lebanon or Lithuania, where Canada fell into either foul trouble or poor shooting, but against France, with just seconds to go and down by three, Brown drove to the hoop for a layup instead of kicking the ball outside for a three-point play that would have tied the game. Perhaps Brown was thinking he could draw the foul, hence his awkward delivery.

It did not help that Canada was just 6 for 20 from beyond the arc in the game, including 0 for 6 in the fourth quarter, or that the team failed to make a field goal in the last 2:45 of the game, where Brown threw down a layup to give the Canadians a 60-59 lead.

An, err, out of shape Boris Diaw made a clutch three pointer for the French, and they held it together with better shooting from the line as the seconds ticked away.

For the geeks, here are the boxscores from Canada's first three games:

[Canada 63 - France 68]
[Canada 68 - Lithuania 70]
[Canada 71 - Lebanon 81]

By the time you're reading this, Canada will probably be playing against New Zealand. That will be on TSN2, and is Canada's best chance for a win down the stretch.