Archive: Posts about Sports
April 10th, 2012, Comments Off
For the average hockey fan, the days between the regular season and the playoffs are torture. There’s very little news, as teams are more secretive than ever about line-ups, injuries and the like. All the media can do is sit around and make predictions. All fans can do is read and ruminate on those predictions.
I started a spreadsheet that shows all the media and hockey blogger predictions I could find. I’ve made it editable by anybody, so that should others discover predictions, they can add them to the document.
I’m currently up to around 450 individual picks from nearly 60 pundits. I don’t claim to be exhaustive, but it’s hopefully representative. Here are some early impressions:
- The longest series is predicted to be NSH/DET, with the shortest being NJD/FLO.
- There’s great consensus in the east, with at least 90% of the media agreeing on the outcome of all four series.
- There’s the most disagreement on the CHI/PHO series, with the media currently going 60%-40% in favour of the Blackhawks.
- Almost nobody picks 4-game series sweeps, which is odd because there’s usually at least one in the quarter-finals each year.
- Confidence in the Canucks is reasonably high, with more than 83% of the media picking them to pick the Kings, in an average of roughly 6 games.
- Hockey writers are almost all Caucasian men.
In completing this little exercise, I couldn’t help but think fondly of Maggie the macaque, who routinely outpicked the TSN staff in years past. This year, I’ll have to settle for a sea lion from Niagara Falls.
In a related note, I’ll be going on something of a social media cleanse in the coming weeks (and months, hopefully). As I’m living in France, I’ll be watching playoff games about 12 to 18 hours after they finish. So, I’ll need to avoid the likes of Twitter and Facebook in order to enjoy the games in a prelapsarian state, if you will.
UPDATE: I thought I’d better store my first round picks here, which I tweeted the other day: NYR in 4, BOS in 7, NJD in 5, PIT in 7, VAN in 6, SJS in 7, CHI in 5, NSH in 7
June 16th, 2011, 5 Comments »
The Canucks’ failure to win the Stanley Cup yesterday feels very familiar to this long time Canucks fan. They’re a team that rarely fails to disappoint.
I’m sorry to say that my affection for the team significantly declined during the playoffs. It’s easy to see, among the team’s floppers, passengers and drama queens, why the Canucks were vilified around the league.
That said, one of the great things about supporting a sports team is that hope springs eternal. Every failure or shortfall is temporary, for the new season is only a few months away. This also holds true for the World Cup and Olympics, though the downtime is longer.
But the season is over, and NHL draft day is seven
eight days away. This seems like an excellent time to assess the team’s performance, and think about what the roster might look like in October.
I’d expect the team to bid farewell to Raffi Torres and Maxim LaPierre. Assuming that Malhotra and Hodgson are the team’s third and fourth-line centres next season, there’s no room for LaPierre, though he did exceed expectations in the playoffs.
I hope that Vancouver can re-sign Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins, both of whom acquitted themselves well as speedy, versatile forwards. I also liked the energy and size that Oreskovich brought to the roster as a fourth-liner.
The Canucks are a team built on speed and skill. As was desperately evident in the Boston series, they lack grit. The Sedins can be intimidated into impotence, and didn’t have much protection from the other forwards. The team could benefit from one or two hulking forwards that strike fear into the opposition. When they’re not scoring goals, the team’s top nine forwards just aren’t scary enough.
After Hodgson, the team’s top forward prospects seem to be Jordan Schroeder (at 5’9″ and 175 lbs, also not scary) and Billy Sweatt. They seem like long shots to make the team this fall.
The Canucks’ defense was stellar all season, and through most of the playoffs. The group’s performance declined after losing Dan Hamhuis, and to a lesser degree Aaron Rome.
Financially, the team is likely going to have to rid themselves of one of Bieksa, Erhoff and Ballard. The first two are unrestricted free agents, and the third is very unpopular with the head coach. NHL teams have historically overpaid for free agent offensive defensemen, so I hope they keep Bieksa and Ballard, and let Erhoff go to somebody with deep pockets.
It’s time for Sami Salo to go on permanent injured reserve. He’s had an admirable career, but he looked old and slow in these playoffs.
Chris Tanev was a revelation through the regular season and the playoffs, and deserves a regular roster spot next year. I hope that Ballard will be given a solid shot next season, either to showcase him for a trade or to solidify his role on the team. Rome is a Vigneault favourite, so I’d expect that he’ll be back.
There are a number of promising defensive prospects in the Canucks’ system–Kevin Connauton, Billy’s brother Lee Sweatt, Peter Andersson and so forth. None, as I understand it, are sure-things, but there will be some spirited competition in training camp for the final roster spot among them.
The current NHL thinking is that you only need an average goalie to win a Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, you can still lose to an extraordinary one. In terms of comparing the play of various players on Boston and Vancouver, Luongo was outplayed by the largest margin. He simply wasn’t good enough. The rest of the team is also culpable, but they were let down again and again by their goaltender.
Luongo’s emotional fragility really worries me. I don’t see him getting over that any time soon.
It’d never happen, but I’d like to see the team trade Luongo and take a chance on young Cory Schneider. I doubt they could actually find a team willing to take on Luongo’s albatross of a contract.
Instead, the team’s really obligated to move Schneider and let him be the starting goalie that he seems ready to become. I wouldn’t be surprised if that deal happened at the draft next week.
I like Alain Vigneault a lot. Until the playoffs, I thought he’d done an excellent job of the tactical details of his work, and apparently managed the egos in the dressing room. However, particularly during the Boston series, he was out-coached by his opposite number. For example, he failed to address the team’s floundering powerplay.
More importantly, the team’s intensity routinely flagged. This, I think, is a symptom of them not listening to their coaching staff. NHL coaches have a shelf life, and Vigneault may be reaching the end of his.
Until Luongo’s playoff implosion, General Manager Mike Gillis looked like a genius. All those goals took the shine off his decision to give Luongo a 12-year contract. Other than that, though, Gillis’s work has been excellent. I quite enjoyed this long profile of Gillis in The Globe and Mail last month.
This year’s playoff run must have been an absurd windfall for the team. They hosted 14 of a potential 16 home games. In game one, it’s estimated the team made $6.9 million in revenue for the four home games. The figure rises to $3.69 million per game in ticket revenue alone in the Stanley Cup finals. And remember, they don’t pay the players in the post-season.
Next Fall’s Roster
The team will no doubt make some moves in the off-season, but what might their roster look like in early October?
Somebody gritty like Joel Ward-Malhotra-Hansen
A cheap backup goalie
UPDATE: I was looking at the wrong column in Cap Geek, so it turns out that Samuelsson, Raymond and Rome are under contract for another year. I’ve adjusted this post accordingly.
5 Comments »
May 25th, 2011, 6 Comments »
In 1994, I remember watching the Canucks’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the basement of my parents’ house. My recently-blended family was arrayed on couches, and I sat on the floor, my back against the coffee table. I wanted to be as close to the television as possible.
It was a thrilling run. I remember how my girlfriend was dismayed by how Felix Potvin collapsed into his net after Greg Adams’ series-ending goal against Toronto. I remember how Trevor Linden put the team on his back in the final game against New York, scoring two goals and hitting everything on the ice, despite having cracked ribs. I remember Nathan LaFayette, a fringe player who only had 187 games in the NHL, hitting the post late in game 7 against the Rangers. So close.
I was in Vancouver for the 1982 run, and I probably witnessed some of it. I don’t remember it, though, as I was only eight years old. Cut me some slack.
At the start of the year, I said that, on paper, this is the best team the city has ever had. They played the regular season like that, and, despite some confidence problems, have looked good in the playoffs.
For the past week weeks, I’ve also been saying that the Canucks deserved a few lucky breaks. Their opponents seem to have fortune on their side, with dubious goals scored from behind the net or when Luongo is out of position. But Vancouver didn’t seem to be getting the easy goals. Until last night.
Last night, the break came when Alex Edler’s dump-in took a bizarre carom off a stanchion and bounced at a 90-degree angle toward Kevin Bieksa. Bieksa, apparently the only person in the building who saw the puck, fired a worm-burner of a shot that beat the perplexed San Jose goaltender.
And so, with that lucky break, they’re off to the Finals. I’m hardly an objective observer, but I like their chances. And so does
Sky.Net, I mean, NHL 2011.
Do you remember where you were during the 1994 playoff run?
6 Comments »
May 17th, 2011, 1 Comment »
Have I mentioned that I bought season tickets for the Vancouver Whitecaps inaugural season in Major League Soccer? Somebody also kindly bought me a membership in the Whitecap’s fan club, the Southsiders, for my birthday.
Because I’ve been traveling a lot this spring, I’ve only been able to get to one of the first six home games. And, unfortunately, I’ll be in Toronto tomorrow night when the Whitecaps play Toronto FC as part of, ahem, the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, a mid-season tournament featuring four Canadian teams. I am Fail Fan.
I have two tickets available for tomorrow night’s game, which starts at 7:00pm at Empire Field. They’re row Z, section 224. That’s about midway up, roughly parallel to the 18-yard line on the stadium’s west side. The seats are under cover, should it be raining. I’ve added their location to this too-small map of the stadium:
The seats are directly above a walkway, which means there’s nobody in front of you. That’s great, though there is a railing in front of you. This isn’t a problem for adults who can enjoy a good view over it, but may present an obstruction to little people. My nephews apparently didn’t mind, because they were free to stand up and weren’t intimidated by people standing all around them.
Also, the seats are on the aisle, so if you put the shorter person in the aisle seat, they have a decent view around the railing. Here’s a view from this seat. The railing is out of frame, to the viewer’s right. Cliquer pour agrandir:
I’m selling them for what I paid, $100, or (considering the Canucks are playing tomorrow night and it’s short notice) the best offer I receive in the next, say, eight hours.
1 Comment »
March 20th, 2011, 1 Comment »
A couple of friends are running worthy projects at the moment, and I wanted to share them:
The BC Generations Project is a cancer-prevention project sponsored by the BC Cancer Agency, dedicated to understanding how environment, lifestyle and genes impact cancer rates and other chronic diseases. They’re trying to recruit 40,000 British Columbians (as part of a goal of 300,000 Canadians) between the ages of 35 and 69 (I, ahem, just barely qualify). There are no needles or test tubes involved. They just send you a questionnaire about your health, diet and lifestyle. You fill it out, feel guilty about your answers, and send it back to them.
In light of the hullabaloo about the long-form census, this seems like a small, low-effort way we can contribute to important research.
Sudden, sudden, sudden, sudden death overtime
Beth is going to have a very unusual Labour Day weekend. She’s participating in a rather lengthy fundraiser. I’ll let her explain:
The fundraiser will involved 40 women – myself included – attempting to break the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest hockey game ever played – 10 days of non-stop hockey. We’ll probably be playing in 4 and 6 hour shifts, with 4 hour breaks in between for sleeping/eating
So Beth might be playing 150 hours of hockey over 10 days? That’ll be impressive. It’s all in support of cystic fibrosis research. I encourage you to donate to the cause, and apparently the team is also looking for sponsors for the event.
1 Comment »
March 10th, 2011, Comments Off
UPDATE: These tickets are now spoken for.
I’ve got seasons tickets to the Whitecaps. As fate would have it, for various reasons, I’m going to miss the first five games of the season. As such, I’m interested in parting with some tickets.
I’m selling the games on April 6 and April 16. There are two tickets, in section 224, row Z, seats 1 and 2. Games this summer are played at Empire Field, while
Mordor BC Place gets refurbished.
I haven’t sat in them yet, but judging by the Whitecaps seating map (that animated favicon is not helping anybody) they’re between the 18-yard-box and the midfield line (closer to the former, I’d guess), about 25 rows off the pitch.
I’m selling them for slightly under face value, at $100 a pair. If you’re interested, email me.
If those dates don’t interest, I may have other games to sell for later in the year.
January 6th, 2011, 1 Comment »
Last night was an mix of emotions for this sports fan. First, there was the collapse of the Canadian World Junior team in Buffalo, New York. It was dismaying, but it’s probably good for the Canadian hockey psyche to remind ourselves that, you know, other nations are pretty good at the frozen game, too.
As the game ended, we rushed out to get to the Canucks-Flames game. It followed the (refreshingly typical) pattern of the Canucks doing just enough to win, beating the Flames 3-1 while being outshot 44-21. Roberto Luongo was, to use the colloquial, seriously pissed to lose his much-deserved shutout with about 10 seconds in the game.
The icing on the Canucks victory was that I won a signed Henrik Sedin jersey. During the game, the Canucks displayed a call to action on the big screen–tweet your section, row and seat to @VanCanucks, and one lucky winner gets a jersey. I did so, and huzzah!
As with most celebrities, Sedin’s signature is not more than an abstract scrawl. Sort of “hd sd”.
I took a professional interest in what my odds of winning were. I did a quick count on Twitter, and based on my very quick calculation, it looked like about 250 people entered the contest. The attendance to the game was 18,860, so that means about 1.2% of fans tweeted. That seems like a good result, in light of the fact that the message was displayed only once on the big screen.
In any case, thanks to the Canucks organization for the jersey!
1 Comment »
December 20th, 2010, 3 Comments »
The other night I was chatting with a friend of mine who’s been a long-term Canucks fan. He reminded me of how lucky recently-converted Canucks fans are.
If you became a fan of the Canucks in the 21st century, you’ve had an excellent run. The team has made the playoffs 8 out of 10 times (I’m projecting a playoff berth for this season), and been over .500 for every season.
Previous decades, however, haven’t been quite so excellent. The important line is the 0.5 one. When the blue line is above that one, it indicates that the team won more games than they lost (click to embiggen):
I often get grief from fans who want to know why I’m routinely skeptical about the team’s performance. This is why.
As you can see, excepting a brief bright period in the early nineties (culminating in the fabled 1993-94 playoff run), the Canucks have been historically lousy.
In fact, the team’s recent performance makes me a little uncomfortable. I’m accustomed to cheering for a sad-sack bunch of upstarts.
Liverpool and Blackpool
When I moved to Ireland, I rather randomly asked my coworkers which Premier League soccer team I should support. Someone recommended Liverpool, which, at the time, was one of the top performers in English football. I took their advice, but always felt a little uncomfortable cheering for the high-flying Reds.
In fact, lately I’ve been paying more attention to another ‘Pool–Blackpool. They are, in fact, a group of sad-sack upstarts just promoted to the Premier League and they’re playing quite well this season. Plus, their nickname is ‘The Tangerines’. For obvious reasons.
In any case, I do think this Canucks team is the best one we’ve ever watched. I’m optimistic that they’ll go deep into the playoffs. And that’s saying something.
3 Comments »