Monday, November 29, 2010

Special teams? Just how much do they matter?

I was reading Jonathan Willis' excellent piece on Steve Montador Monday night, and it got me thinking about why Buffalo was having such a bad season. They have a pretty progressive front office, and I fully expect the front office checked Behind The Net in scouting Steve Montador.

Maybe statistics don't matter as much as we thought? The success of Montador this season shows that, from player to player at even strength, player contribution can be predicted. Special teams, however, are hard to break down.

How much of a role do special teams play in a teams' success? I broke down the numbers based on stats before Monday night's games:

Leron Mitchell: "Ouch"

From the gruesome injury file...

Montreal beats Saskatchewan by a field-goal... again

When Anthony Calvillo went down in August with a sternum injury, doctors found something a little more serious--a lesion on his throat, possibly cancerous--but Calvillo pled to be allowed to finish out the season. The season would end in Edmonton with a 21-18 Grey Cup Championship victory for Calvillo, his third, his Alouette team's seventh and second in a row, becoming the first repeating team since the 1997 Toronto Argonauts.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

98 Reasons, and a look at the Grey Cup

98 Reasons I love the CFL

98 - Seats on the 55-yard line.
97 - $8 beer in hand.
96 - The fact that Pilsners were sold out before kickoff at last year's Grey Cup.
95 - The Legend of Doug Flutie.
94 - Lui Passaglia's kick to beat the Baltimore Stallions.
93 - Nik Lewis' hurdle earlier this season.
92 - "Frito Ray with Pringle in the backfield" - The old Eskimo chips!
91 - Watching ESPN Classic and counting the number of different uniforms you'll see on Damon Allen.
90 - Fireworks in the uprights that go off after touchdowns.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A brief look at Hockey Night in Canada

In a move up there with the Edmonton Oilers firing their training staff, the butthurt guys at the Ottawa Citizen suggested last week that the team ban Toronto Maple Leaf fans from Senators' home games.

Why is this relevant? Because the Leafs and Sens game is the early game on Hockey Night tonight; neither team is really good this year at a combined 18-26 and both team has found a way to manage a loss to the other!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Maybe they should have brought in some star power

An actual caption for an action photo for an actual National newspaper.

32-team NFL wheel really cool, can it be done for CFL?

Check out this NFL circle of life, which shows that, at some point this season, every team is "better than" any other team due to the law of common opponents.

But can it be applied to an 8-team CFL league...?

BC beat Calgary 36-31
Edmonton beat BC 28-25
Winnipeg beat Edmonton 47-21
Hamilton beat Winnipeg 29-22
Saskatchewan beat Winnipeg 27-23
Montreal beat Saskatchewan 30-26
Toronto beat Montreal 30-4
Calgary beat Toronto 30-16

So, yeah. We only have eight teams, and no fancy graphics, and 18 games per team to work with instead of 11... perhaps this is possible to do four times?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Joey Votto wins NL MVP with 31 of 32 first-place votes

The Etobicoke, ON native was given all but one first-place vote on the ballot as the Most Valuable Player for the National League Monday afternoon. Albert Pujols from the rival St. Louis Cardinals, once seen as the dominant first baseman in Major League Baseball for years upon years to come, finished 31 votes short.

They should be thawed out in time for the Grey Cup

In front of a chilly, bi-partisan audience, the Saskatchewan Roughriders punched their ticket to a rematch with the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup, though it was almost not to be. Another critical special teams disaster was nearly in the cards for a second straight year at McMahon when Ryan Grice-Mullen muffed a punt late in the game, but Wes Lysack failed to fall on the ball for Calgary. The Riders hung on for a pretty exciting, albeit low-scoring, 20-16 win.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This is what Canadian football looks like

In the Mitchell Bowl at McMahon Stadium Saturday afternoon, we saw at least one prolific offense sputter out because football was never intended to be played in sub-absolute zero temperatures, which are being recorded throughout Western Canada.

The Sunday forecast for the Western Final in Calgary calls for meat-locker temperatures with a chance of ice age. The play clock should be extended to 25 seconds in the interest of giving teams more time to huddle-up.

This isn't a sport, this is an insane spectacle of human stupidity that we all love to watch. There's something about Henry Burris in a thick coat on the sidelines with icy sweat on his brow, hands in a fanny pack and breathing volcanic steam that screams playoffs in the local Canadian tongue.

Unless you live in Quebec, like those fruity Alouettes. It's not even freezing temperature in Montreal and they're still playing indoors inside Olympic Stadium.

The early game is Toronto and Montreal. That's the blue collar game you watch to cure your hangover. The Argos aren't explicitly talented, but they've made it this far this season thanks to dedicated trenchwork, a running attack and special teams, those underrated aspects of a game that the dedicated fans and local scribes love.

The late game is Saskatchewan and Calgary, and even though it begins at 2 p.m. local time it will end in darkness, under the lights as the league's most popular team faces off against its most prolific offense filled with starpower. This game represents the casual fan's love of the game, there's something about watching a steady stream of 30-yard-plus plays in a snowstorm that keeps people from changing the channel.

A few NHL fanbases will have the chance to watch hockey, but why would you? Your team will probably get blown out anyway. The MLS Cup is also allegedly being played in Toronto tomorrow night, but that's lined up right alongside the Eagles/Giants game, so I can forgive you for forgetting its on.

From the CIS Blog: your Mitchell Bowl recap. From Facebook: some positively frigid-looking pictures from the Uteck Bowl.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My follow-up with Bill Daly on the Colin Campbell e-mails

Or, how to get involved in the 'access' debate

A lot has happened this week. Tyler Dellow kicked it off Sunday night with his post about the public Colin Campbell e-mails and connected the dots. There were three major points to take away from this:

A) Colin Campbell has a foul mouth.

B) Colin Campbell gets pissed off when calls go against his son.

C) Colin Campbell has harsh words for players who complain about calls.

Mike Richards sounds off on PK Subban

I'm no expert on unwritten rules, but I'm pretty sure Mike Richards is breaking one right about here.
“He’s a guy that’s come in the league and hasn’t earned respect,” Richards told Team 990 after the game.

“It’s just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he’s better than a lot of people. You have to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot. You can’t just come in here as a rookie and play like that. It’s not the way to get respect from other players around the league.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Colin Campbell's time-bomb explodes

Here, friends, is the importance of the follow-up question.

When NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly came out today to talk about Tyler Dellow's now legendary take-down of NHL Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, he said the following:
"Any suggestion that Colin Campbell performs his job with any less than 100% integrity at all times and in every decision he makes is way off base and just factually wrong. Because of the potential for a conflict of interest, or more importantly a perceived conflict of interest, the League has implemented various structural protections that prohibit Colie from having any oversight or disciplinary authority relating to any game in which his son, Gregory, plays. Its always fair to question and criticize League decisions as being wrong, but not on the basis that they aren't justly and fairly arrived at."

3 things we learned this weekend:

Courtesy of CFL digital media guru Jaime Stein comes this picture proving that the Riders didn't really learn anything this football season. After failing math one year ago, they look to fail at grammar, too.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Here is what a Leafs General Manager looks like

No, Brian Burke is not looking at Mason Raymond's winning goal for the Canucks against the Toronto Maple Leafs through a pair of binoculars. For one, Raymond was so far away that there is no way that the two would fit into the same frame, and for two, the gap in JS Giguere's legs was large enough to be easily seen from the press box.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Here's a post on the CFL playoffs and award finalists

Well, would you look at that? Playoffs have already come around. While the CIS are midway through their playoff run (and we'll get to that, just as soon as we have a little bit of free time on the weekend) the CFL starts its second season Sunday with a pair of games in the East and West Semifinals.

For a bit of a primer, here is each teams' record since Labour Day:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Canadian women win Gold Cup! Stamkos to Maple Leafs!

Sometime last night after Conan came on and before his act got too stale to put you asleep, you may have done some channel surfing and stumbled across a tape-delay of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup Final match between Canada and Mexico.

Sometime between the time after you stopped channel surfing long enough to watch women's soccer and before Craig Ferguson came on, you may have seen Christine Sinclair's second-half penalty that gave Canada a 1-0 win.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday statgeek: In defense of Mikael Grabovski

Volatility measures the number of total goals per 60 minutes a player was on the ice for. The idea is that goals are more likely to occur when certain players are on the ice.

It took a couple of weeks, but it appears that Tom Renney has officially nixed the dreaded 10 - 14 - 6 - 77 penalty killing unit that was responsible for ten powerplay goals against. Last night against Chicago his top unit on the first powerplay of the game for the Hawks was Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner, Jim Vandermeer and Ryan Whitney. Shawn Horcoff saw just 25 shorthanded seconds and the defensively inept Tom Gilbert has been placed on a unit with Theo Peckham.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Anachronistic Skyline Footage Night in Canada

Word to your mothers; mine pointed out this slight factual innaccurary during a phone call Saturday night. This is CBC's skyline view of downtown Vancouver, purpotedly taken live around gametime before the Vancouver Canucks took on the Detroit Red Wings.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some CFL thoughts headed into final week

The last few weeks of the CFL season are usually 'playing for nothing but pride' time, but this year has actually had one of the more compelling playoff races in recent years.

Maybe it's just because both teams started off so bad. Maybe it's because the talent pool is pretty lousy this year. But both the Edmonton Eskimos and BC Lions have been hot lately--the Esks have won 5 of 6 and the Lions 4 of 6, with both of their losses coming in overtime.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sidney Crosby fights, Jarome Iginla doesn't

Kaboom, Niskanen. I don't particularly like fighting, and when you're losing the game, it's certainly a bad idea to have your star player off the ice for 5+ minutes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dion Phaneuf: The Shakespearean Tragedy

Dion Phaneuf may go down in history as that guy who made a career out of being really really good in junior and playing on the strongest World Junior team we'll ever see. Everything after the lockout, and, well, Phaneufs career has really gone to shits.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How Sportsnet One succeeded last night

There were three sporting events that Rogers Sportsnet had the exclusive Canadian rights to that would interest viewers in the Pacific timezone last night: the clinching World Series game, the Canucks game, and the Toronto Raptors/Sacramento Kings tilt.

Two thoughts involving Leafs and Canucks

It's already Tuesday and I only just watched the crazy end to the Montreal/Toronto CFL game this week, so I may as well just do what I do best and draw unsuspecting Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks fans to this blog by having them type their favourite teams into Google and having this post pop up.