Thursday, December 22, 2011

learning!

From Puck Daddy:

Earlier this week, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins explained that his team likes to get stronger as the game goes on: "Stronger 'til dawn, like Lancelot. …You know Lancelot, the knight? The real duels they had, some of them would go all night, because they had so much armor and they were so heavy, they could hardly move. Legend is that he just kept getting stronger the longer it went, so that's what I mean by that."

And now we know what Tim Thomas calls his penis.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

keeping it up

Game 27 vs. Detroit Red Wings 4-2
IF THERE BE A THING BETTER
THAN A SHORT-HANDED GWG AGAINST THE ILLITCH TECHOLOGIES OF DETROIT
MAY I NEVER OF THEM LEARN
GALLIARDI & LANDESKOG RAMPANT, LORD VARLAMOV TOTIPOTENT
BEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR SINCE THAT EARLY STREAK?
MAYBE

Saturday, December 3, 2011

goin' in circles

HEAVY TUNES brought to us today from the ineffably righteous Ted Leo and the surpassingly cool Valient Thorr.

Game 22 vs. Vancouver Canucks 0-3
ONE THING ABOUT THE AVALANCHE: THEY REGARD BACKUP GOALTENDERS WITH DISTRUST AND FEAR--LIKE THEY REGARD FIRE AND DANGEROUS THINGS--AND SO THEY ARE EXCEEDINGLY RELUCTANT EVEN TO ATTEMPT TO GAIN THE ZONE AGAINST THEM
60 SLIPPERY MINUTES OF DUMP-AND-DON'T-CHASE LATER, THE AVS GIVE UP AN EMPTY-NETTER TO RYAN 'DISLIKED' KESLER

Game 23 vs. Edmonton Oilers 5-2
WANNA HEAR SOMETHING FUNNY?
AVS GOT A NEW D-MAN!
HE SCORED A GOAL HIS VERY FIRST GAME! YAY!
WANNA HEAR SOMETHING FUNNY?
AVS NEEDED A NEW D-MAN!
WANNA KNOW WHY?
THEIR FRANCHISE D-MAN, THE GUY THE LEGACY OF THEIR GM WILL PERMANENTLY DEPEND UPON...GOT HIS GROIN ALL FUCKERED UP...BEING BAG SKATED AFTER THE SHITSHOW AGAINST THE CANUCKS
HAW HAW HAW
(DON'T GET ME STARTED ON "ENTERED GAME DOWN 1-2 AGAINST EDMONTON AT HOME ON EDMONTON'S 4TH GAME IN 6 NIGHTS"
JUST LET ME ENJOY THIS ONE)

Game 24 vs. Dallas "Stars" 1-3
OH GOD, FORMER AVS GOALTENDER LOOKS LIKE JACQUES FUCKING PLANTE AGAINST THE AVS:
Stars' Raycroft earns 1st win in over a year
ONLY--AND I MEAN ONLY--GOOD THING ABOUT THIS GAME IS THAT IT GOT JIBBLESCRIBBITS ALL FIRED UP AND SHOWING THAT STASTNY SPENT THE BULK OF HIS NIGHT IN FRONT OF ANDREW RAYCROFT
(can't remember who then asked "is that where he's actually going to be most useful?" but I wish I could, and I would like to answer that question: NO, NO IT IS NOT WHERE HE IS MOST USEFUL)

Game 25 vs. New Jersey Devils 6-1
LAST YEAR, CODY MCLEOD SCORED ON MARTY BRODEUR
THAT IS NOT A JOKE
5 GOALS LAST YEAR, AND ONE WAS AGAINST THE REDOUBTABLE FAT MAN
I DO LOVE WATCHING THE GUY LOSE

Game 26 vs. St. Louis Blues 3-2 (SO)
THIS ONE WAS A CORKER, LADS!
LONG, STRESS-FILLED, HIGHLIGHTED BY LORD VARLAMOV, RYAN O'MY HE IS GOOD AT HOCKEY'REILLY AND JAROSLAV HALAK DOING HIS BEST ARTURS IRBE SPINNING-HOLY-SHIT SAVE ROUTINE

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

thrashing rage: Avs slump, blogger dies inside

Game 15 vs. Calgary Flames 1-2
OH I JUST QUIT; I CAN'T RECAP A GAME AGAINST THE CALGARY FLAMES ANY MORE THAN THE AVS CAN PLAY ONE

Game 16 @ Detroit Red Wings 2-5
WHAT A SHOCK: FRANZEN HAT-TRICKS US, LIDSTROM NETS ONE, AVS LIMP THROUGH A LIMP GAME, LIMPLY, WITH ALL THE FIRE AND VIM OF A SQUAD ALREADY PLANNING THEIR NEXT GAMES OF WORDS WITH FRIENDS

Game 17 vs. New York Islanders 4-3 (OT)
DIG A HOLE, DIG OUT OF HOLE, GIVE UP LOTSA GOALS, GO DOWN THREE, THEN ROAR BACK
GOOD POLICY AGAINST THE ISLES
NOT SO GOOD AGAINST PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY PLAYERS

Game 18 vs Calgary Flames 3-4
DO I EVEN HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS?
THIS TEAM OVER HERE *points at Avs* can't beat this team over here *points at Flames

Game 19 @ Pittsburgh Penguins 3-6
WELL, IT WAS FUN FOR A MINUTE, ANYWAY, WITH MATT DUCHENE LOOKING LIKE A WORLD-BEATER OFF OF A BEAUTIFUL PUCK-BATTLE-WIN + PASS FROM MY MAN STASTNY
AND THEN IT ALL JUST HOPPED THE OL' ROCKET TRAIN TO SHITTOWN

Game 20 @ Minnesota "Wild" 0-1
HALF-ASSED ADEQUATE PACE TO THIS GAME, DESPITE THE SCORE, FUN TO WATCH A "PHYSICAL" WILD TEAM GET ELBOWS & STICKS UP & CAPITALIZE ON A LATE NEUTRAL-ZONE LAPSE
IN OTHER NEWS, I AM APPARENTLY A WHINY IDIOT HOMER

I CAN LIVE WITH THAT

Game 21 vs. Dallas "Stars" 3-0
STATS, DUTCHY WITH GOALS IN A GAME THAT WAS TIGHT WELL INTO THE THIRD
NICE, NICE WIN
A BRIEF MOMENT OF RELIEF IN A LONG SEASON OF ABUSE AND DANK

Game 22 vs. San Jose Sharks 1-4
MANY UNHAPPINESSES ATTEND THIS LOSS
SACCO RESPONDS WITH DAY-AFTER BAG SKATE
BUT HONESTLY: THE AVS TRIED HARD; THEY'RE SIMPLY NOT EQUIPPED TO COMPETE WITH A TEAM OF THE SHARKS' CALIBER
TOP FORWARDS FOR SHARKS: JOE THORNTON
JOE PAVELSKI
PATRICK MARLEAU
HAVLAT/COUTURE
TOP FORWARDS FOR AVS: PAUL STASTNY
MATT DUCHENE
LANDESKOG/HEJDUK
ANY FUCKING QUESTIONS?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

really justified in having nothing to say

I remain resolute: I really will be recapping and reacting to every Avalanche game this season--it's just that this is going to be released in probably weekly or bi-weekly clumps (like pooping!) for the time being.

For now, I will say only that I have a strong, strong sense that every player on this Avalanche team is or has been exactly as good as they'll ever be: there aren't any point-a-game seasons waiting for Matt Duchene, no 40-goal seasons for David "nickname" Jones, no 40-win years for LORD Varlamov he-who-must-not-be-scored-upon.

Minor note: if you are in the national media, and you spend more time fawning over Jeff Skinner ('s undeniable excellence) than Matt Duchene ('s undeniable excellence), you are part of the problem. Major note: I am in a horrible mood. Enjoy the Rudimentary Peni, everybody.

--Collision, who desperately needs a maintenance day

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Darren Rovell thinks rape victims should move on so PSU/Sandusky can be saved

Darren Rovell:
Sandusky/PSU could be saved if '02 alleged victim doesn't come forward. Some rape victims prefer to move on instead of go back.

Everything about this is wretched.

The possiblility of "saving" Penn State or Sandusky is not one I think is worth meditating on.

A minor thing, possibly unique to me, but I also don't like the eternal sportscaster's present "if the victim doesn't" when used about something that actually matters. "If Hitler doesn't invade Poland, the Reich could have been saved."

Another phrasing gaffe is the informality of "move on" as applied to the experience of having been sodomized as a child, or any rape whatsoever. But the content is far, far worse than the packaging, of course: whatever it is that Darren Rovell does or does not know about what "some rape victims" do or do not prefer to do is of less interest to me than you can possibly imagine. Especially hateful and wretched to suggest is that this "'02 alleged victim" should have elected to "move on instead of go back". That this toss-off of dismissive, snotty judgment still sullies the Web a day or so after it was posted speaks ill of Darren Rovell, his employers, and the general community of people who pay attention to them.

--Collision, sick to his guts over the awful things people say

The only thing that works is thinking about Flux of Pink Indians. Darren Rovell, reminding people "The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks" since 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Milan Hejduk: still awesome, now captain

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2011/11/14/mendes_anderson/

Nice piece on how the whilom Saint Mayor, current History's Greatest Monster, future Ex Who I Vaguely Hope Is Doing Well and Who I Will Never Have to Talk to Again used to be not Craig Anderson but Craig Andersson. S/t to Puck Daddy.

But today, nothing may distract us from our sacred obligation to honor long-time second-tier star Milan Hejduk, as he finally--finally--gets his due and is anointed the Colorado Avalanche's captain, joining longtime stalwarts Joe Sakic and Adam Foote as the only captains the franchise has ever known. Hejduk has long been a favorite of mine for his professionalism, his not-bad-for-a-hockey-player sense of humor and his deadly shot.

Hejduk's comment on the new gig?

It's pretty cool.

He also looks exactly like Doug from The State, which doesn't hurt.


(Doug from The State, preparing to utter his catchphrase, "I'm leaving now.")


(Milan Hejduk posing for a photograph the day he was drafted.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

poetry corner (not a joke)

To keep things interesting, occasionally the broken men of Clear the Crease have been known to craft a behind-the-scenes wager or thousand. I'm tired of taking their money, though, and my liver won't stand up under too many more bottle-matching bets, so we've been roaming afield. A couple of Flames-roughly-dispatch-the-Avalanche ago, Bogdan von Pylon & I set up some kind of idiot bullshit whereby if his team won, I'd have to craft a sonnet for each of the goal-scorers.

And now I have. Because his team won. His team always wins. His team has beaten mine 7 times in a dog-killing row now. I hate Bogdan von Pylon, I hate the Calgary Flames, I hate the challenge of coming up with rhymes, and I hate you.

What we've got here, then is a failure to communicate probably the worst idea Clear the Crease has ever had. Sonnets devoted to Roman Horak, Lee Stempniak, and Rene Bourque. Enjoy. Sorry, everybody--we'll return to our normal strident agonizing without any rhyming real soon here.

Roman Horak, rookie, plenipotent
at least against the Avalanche
at least that night, his rodent's
face and stick on the power play spanked
our Darkish Lord (sorta), hard shot shanked
past our Goalie Varlamov, a backhand
in more ways than one. A shaky team blanched
in the face of this Calgary stand
and, as we shall see, apparently planned
to give up a few more goals,
letting the Flames' lead expand
before letting the third line roll,
rumble, score, and achieve. Too little
too late, Avs: you skate by night through Roman Horak's spittle.


The next hand of man to light the lamp
belonged of course to another Flame.
These men disappoint and fade, their names
never rating or resounding. They cannot set up camp,
Calgary Flames, in the Hockey Hall of Fame,
because by and large they suck. Iron grips clamp
the former team from Atlanta and they wank
endlessly now in Alberta, piling up mediocrities without shame.
Unless they play the Avalanche. Then the Flames burn
with frank excellence. Exuberant scores
meet stern defensive stops, and Calgary spurns
their normal slouching tendency toward loss.
Lee Stempniak absorbs a rebound, pours
a puck past Varly, and my stomach turns.


There once was a man by the name of Rene Bourque.
When he played the Avalanche, he really knew
how to play the game. Against the rest of the league he blew.
But 29 games (so far) against the Avs he has dined on pork
forking himself 13 fat-crackling goals
and another 12 helpings of assists for his mates.
Great. Terrif. Nice job. Your role
I guess is to stick it to my team, plate
up piles of production, use your Calgary Flames to roast
a tasty dish of my dashed dreams and serve
it to me cold, iced in fact. Curb
your appetite, Mr. Bourque. You boast
an enviable menu of skills--some nights, anyway, you disturb
my sense that you should suck. Tonight, though: please coast.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Clear the Crease hearts Milan Hejduk

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
And this is (part of) why (the day after he became the 111th all-time leading scorer in the history of the NHL). Clear the Crease also hearts air hockey.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

time wounds all heels

Today's batch of insanity comes--surprisingly--from Lou Lam:

Lou Lamoriello, the team's president and general manager, said in a phone interview that there are "no signs" that Brodeur's workload has had any adverse effect on his performance. "He's still the player he's always been," he said.

Massive hero of mine Franz Boas once said of someone's position, "the only things this position argues against are history and science." In this instance, Lou Lam seems to be denying a little of both: hitting up the redoubtable Hockey DB indicates that Martin Brodeur last year put up:

  • his first losing season
  • his worst save percentage as a pro
  • his second-worst GAA as a pro
and finished it all off by playing fewer than 67 games for the second time in 15 seasons--or for the second time in three seasons, if you want to look at it that way.

By no measure imaginable is he "the player he's always been". Even if his numbers were where they once were, it's preposterous to consider a 39-year-old the same way you'd consider a 27-year-old. And woe betide the general manager who doesn't understand that time passes and rarely improves any of us.

--Collision, considering himself as a 36-year-old

Sunday, November 6, 2011

too much non-fun (5 games of pain)


(The team is a little--WAIT FOR IT--cold right now.)

Game 9 @ Calgary Flames 2-4
DESPAIR FLOODS ALL THIS IS THE SAME TEAM AS LAST YEAR ('S SLAUGHTER OF THE SOUL OF A SECOND HALF)
I HAVE BEEN A FAN OF THIS TEAM SINCE IT HAS BEEN A TEAM & I CAN HONESTLY NOT RECALL A SINGLE DECENT TRIP TO LEFTERN CANADA; CALGARY, THOU ART KRYPTONITE AND I DO LOATHE THEE FROM HELL'S HEART I SPIT AT THEE FROM THE DEPTHS OF RAGE I CONSIGN YOU THUS TO BURN

Game 10 vs. Edmonton Oilers 1-3
LIKE I SAID: 1996-2011 = ZERO DECENT TRIPS TO LEFTERN CANADA
TEAMS WITH SPEED, THE AVS HAVE TROUBLE WITH
CAN I SAY THIS? I THINK TOM RENNEY IS A GENIUS

Game 11 vs. Los Angeles Kings 3-2
BACK ON TRACK BOYS PLAYOFFS AND SUCCESS GUARANTEED
PERFECT WINS FOREVER
SKATING, SCORING, SAVES AND WINS

Game 12 vs. Phoenix Coyotes 1-4
THIS REALLY IS THE SAME TEAM AS LAST YEAR
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME THE AVS PLAYED HALF-DECENTLY AGAINST THE ETERNALLY CURSE-BEARING STUDENT DOANS?
OCCUPY DAVE TIPPETT (LIKE WITH A HOBBY OR SOME SHIT DISTRACTING HIM FROM COACHING HOCKEY AGAINST THE AVALANCHE, MAYBE BRIDGE, BRIDGE SEEMS FUN AND LIKE SOMETHING THAT DAVE TIPPETT MIGHT ENJOY)
CRUSHING LOSS, DON'T TALK TO ME ABOUT TEAM PLAYED WELL, GOALIE STOOD ON HEAD, EVERYTHING'S FINE EVERYTHING'S NOT FINE AND LOSING TO NO-NAME SQUADS SLASH FRANCHISES IN TROUBLE WILL NEVER BE OKAY
WHY DOES THIS TEAM SUCK AT HOME?

Game 13 @ Dallas Stars 6-7 (OT)
TWO WAYS YOU CAN TELL YOU'RE KIND OF OVERCOMMITTED TO A TEAM (THAT IS NOT PARTICULARLY GOOD): 1) YOU GIVE UP 7 GOALS BUT SCORE 6 AND SHRUG AND SAY "WELL, GOOD FOR THE FANTASY NUMBERS, ANYWAYS"
2) YOU SEE AN ARTICLE PITCHED AS examining the 2009 Jordan Leopold trade AND THERE'S NO WAY IN THE WORLD YOU'RE NOT CLICKING ON THAT BAD BOY

Thursday, November 3, 2011

too dumb to play with themselves 12: Adam Proteau (or IS it?)

In his most recent column, Adam Proteau solidifies the chance he'll land the lead role in Simple Jack II.

Which is a good job by him. I mean, if Joe Thornton has taught us anything besides John Tortorella is funny as fuck, it's that trading great forwards works really really well: I mean trade centerpiece Marco Sturm is tearing shit up for the Bruins to this very day, and Wayne Primeau & Brad Stuart's contributions to the Big Bad Bears surely need no gilding from the likes of me.

What's particularly amazing is the last line:
And the hockey chiropractors charged with straightening out the organization’s spine need to accept the time has come to cut the cord.


I mean, this is...this is Thomas Friedman level ineptitude. The second you've accepted "hockey chiropractor" as something better than word salad, you're confronted with "cut the cord" which inevitably is going to make a non-weenie think of the spinal cord.

Personally, I'm completely behind the idea that says that somebody should cut the spinal cord of the Calgary Flames franchise. It's just surprising seeing it appear in the Hockey News.

--Collision, cleared for off-ice workouts

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sean Avery thrusts his way roughly back into

the Rangers' roster, per the New York Post's Larry Brooks.

This is essentially guaranteed to end really, really well.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the wagers of sin

Got literally murdered today at work, so I don't have a huge amount of time for this, but it bears thinking about: last year, Brian Elliott was, in very, very few games for the Avs, like world-historically bad. Like .891 Sv%, 2 wins vs. 8 losses, 3.83 goals allowed a game bad. Bad enough that if I could write for shit, I would have taken him to Vesa Toskala's woodshed.


File photo of the only goaltending performance worse than Brian Elliott's 2010-11.

And this year, Brian Elliott is starting and winning who-should-start-in-goal arguments. What this makes me wonder is how incredibly bad must the Avs defense have been last year?

In other news, another thrilling Clear the Crease Challenge has begun, as Bogdan von Pylon's Calgary "poor hockey players" Flames host the "unsustainably hot" Colorado Avalanche to-night. If the Flames win, I will post a sonnet about every goal-scorer tonight; if the Avs prevail, von Pylon will sigh, shrug and get on with his life.

--Collison, who knows how to keep things interesting


Not as interesting as Modano, though. S/t to Puck Daddy, duh, for this image.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I still remember hearing the shoe hit the floor

Home-&-home vs. the foetid Blackhawks, & what I thought would be a clarificatory exercise proved only a further muddle.

Ten percent of the season down, a couple of this team's best players (Johnson, Duchene) have yet to be their best players, with Johnson coming in for more than a bit of beaking from Anyone But Detroit and Dutchy actually banished to the fourth line the last game. The first and second lines have been inconsistent in production and personnel, as Coach Sacco tries--somewhat in vain, given the roster's tremendous weakness at right wing--to find combinations reasonably without weakness. The team seems, like two years ago, to be getting outshot every single night, and yet is 6-2; they're undefeated on the road, winless at home. A conundrum. But the goalies have performed well, the third line has been strong beyond all expectations--Ryan O'Reilly's gym-rat obsessiveness driving him to nearly a point-a-game pace at this early stage, rookie Gabriel Landeskog playing with aggression & aplomb--and the team's nigh-impeccable when it comes to the skills contest that ends far too many games, 14-1 in their last 15.

Unable to pierce to the root of the Avs, I'll just dump the puck in & go for a line change: the Blackhawks will always be a bad measuring stick for the Avs, because they've got the speed & skill to keep up with the Burgandy & Blue, while also having superior size and experience. (I also think Chicago's Quenneville is a notch better than Sacco. That's no knock on Sacco, who is thoroughly competent, and, based on his goalie handling thru 8 games, still improving.) Another bad comparison will be the Sharks, whose forward size is going to give the Avs problems eternal.

Game 7 1-3 vs Chicago Blackhawks
LIKE SOUNDGARDEN I'VE GOT NOTHING TO SAY
LORD VARLAMOV HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-SCORED-ON HOWEVER WOULD LIKE TO POINT SOMETHING OUT IT IS FUCK YOU
Game 8 5-4 (SO) @ Chicago Blackhawks
HARD TO PLAY AGAINST A FLAWLESS TEAM INCAPABLE OF EVEN A SINGLE PENALTY IN 65 MINUTES STOP STOP STOP GIVING UP THE GODDAMNED LEADS AVS STASTNY OVER TOEWS LORD VARLAMOV HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-SCORED-ON OVER SCOREY CHUMPFORD

--Collision, suiting up at right wing pretty soon, if Yip doesn't get healthy with a quickness

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

power metal and power forwards

Reading 'round, I found this power forward index, another attempt, it seems, to quantify this commodity. (Longtime readers will remember that an otherwise well-regarded blogger came up with a number that showed that Jarome Iginla wasn't a power forward, a metric we may dismiss with the contempt it deserves.) The first approximation is:
PFI = (points/game * 10) + (hits/game * 1.5)


Doesn't suck, but power forwards tend to be goal producers, and I think the "points" metric used in the original favors assist machines like Spezza. I think I'd prioritize goals, not points. And the writer noted wanting to reward people who are physical but still manage to play in a lot of games, so perhaps something like:
PFI = (goals/game * 10) + (hits/game * 1.5) * (games played/possible games played)

Have to play with this a little bit, see what kind of names fall out.

--Collision, worse at spreadsheets than any man alive

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

100s of Avs fans just like you & me

Missed the Canadiens barn-burner, b/c I was busy being a bougy Californian with Noodles, visiting a charming little bed & breakfast, hanging out on a beach, watching three hermit crabs eat and kill--in that order--a larger crab, eating my first, vast bowl of cioppino, smelling goats and eating their cheese, just generally doing very nicely for myself thank you very much, bros an' sis.


Game 5 6-5 @ Montreal Canadiens
DISTURBING TO GIVE UP 2 GOALS IN 21 SECONDS
DISTURBING TO GIVE UP 43 SHOTS
BUT DUCHENE + HEJDUK + SHOOTOUT = I LIKE OUR CHANCES

I'd been getting kind of worried about Stastny, too: while I think he's all-'round our best player, he's a sensitive guy prone to funks when things aren't going well, and he'd had a raft of bad breaks those first few games. So it's an excellent sign that Anyone but Detroit notes that his line rolled against Montreal.

Maybe this is a little too video game player of me, but the lines the first game or two worried me: we had
Mueller - Duchene - Hejduk
which is a little too skilled, not quite physical enough. Duchene between Lindstrom & Hejduk is a little tougher--and a lot more productive. I always like a scoring line with (1) some finish, either with the wrist or a big slapper, (2) at least one guy with real speed, (3) at least one grind type/physical player. The original Duchene line didn't have that third element, and I think Lindstrom is bringing that a little bit more, which frees up Duchene to make plays, and carves out room for Hejduk to snipe.

Dater followed up the Montreal game with another classic rumination about being on the road--easily my favorite post of his so far this year.

Game 6 3-2 @ Toronto Maple Leafs
J-S GIGUERE PROVES HIMSELF A RELIABLE BACKUP TO LORD VARLAMOV HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-SCORED-ON
OUTSHOT AGAIN IN A WIN AND THE ADVANCED STAT WEENIES CAN EAT IT
CONTINUING TO CRUSH ALL OPPOSITION FACEOFFWISE
OT GAMEWINNER FROM DAVID 'NICKNAME' JONES
AVS STEALING GAMES, BANKING POINTS, THRILLING ME

It's a nervous-making kind of winning streak, this five in a row on the road. Getting outshot every night, going to OT & shootouts all over the place, it smells a lot like the other shoe's just gotta start dropping any time now. But the best players have been the best players--no surprises on the scoring list, & nothing but relief when it comes to the goaltending. Giguere's been solid in his two starts, Lord Varlmamov He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Scored-On has alternated between reliable and spectacular, and Coach Sacco has pleasantly surprised us by trotting out his backup twice in the first six games. I think the Sacco of the past two years would have started Giguere only in the second night of the back-to-back: he may be figuring out a workable goalie rotation that keeps both as fresh and as sharp as possible. 'Tis, anyways, a consummation devoutly to be desired.

--Collision, flat-out caught up in the excitement (and, yes, I know it's not going to be like this all year--but 10 points in October count the same as any other 10 points you can get, and the losses the other teams have won't come off the books until the season ends, so!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

foot, meet ass

Game 4 7-1 @ Ottawa Senators
ENJOY YOUR $12.75, SAINT MAYOR HISTORY'S GREATEST MONSTER CRAIG ANDERSON
ENJOY YOUR 4 YEARS, OTTAWA
ENJOY THIS WIN, AVS/AVS FANS

--Collision, not worrying out loud that this was the season's peak already

from Columbus to Ottawa (Sisyphus on the road to Gehenna)

When it comes to a road game against a reasonably tough team, early in the season, it's maybe not the smartest idea to overreact, but

Game 1 3-2 @ Columbus Blue Jackets
GODDAMNIT, TURNOVERS, LONG STRETCHES GETTING OUTSHOT, HAD TO BE BAILED OUT BY A COUPLE MAGIC PLAYS BY LORD VARLAMOV HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-SCORED-ON THIS IS FLAT-OUT A TERRIFYING HARBINGER OF A WIN

As for more recent developments, DiPietro very nearly made it a week into the season before getting hurt, Saint Mayor History's Greatest Monster Craig Anderson would probably give up a kidney to shut out the Avalanche, and Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean had this completely incomprehensible assessment:

[The win is] going to loosen us up. I think we were a little bit like a teepee in a wigwam in the first period, in the first three games, as far as having a little bit too much tension in our sticks. I’m hoping (tonight), we’ll be a little bit looser.

--Collision, a little bit like a teepee in a wigwam

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tomas Vokoun is elderly & infirm

Unsupported and likely unjustified supposition time!

Assumption: Bruce Boudreau is not stupid.

Observation: Bruce Boudreau did not start free agent acquisition Tomas Vokoun in the first regular-season game.

Observation: Tomas Vokoun got lit the fuck up the first game he did play. Vokoun, after giving up 5 goals on 28 shots:

I should have lost, hands down.

Conclusion: There is something wrong with Vokoun or his game, up to & including he's just done.

(Tomas Vokoun, shown here preparing for his next start.)

You heard it here first. (Actually, Jibblescribbits heard it first, b/c I started thinking about this a couple days ago).

--Collision, just getting started

Monday, October 10, 2011

Semyon Varlamov: he who must not be scored upon

Two quick data points from the first two games:

Game 1: 0-3 vs. Detroit Red Wings
OH GAWD SHUT OUT IN THE HOME OPENER THIS TEAM IS A NIGHTMARE OF INCOMPETENCE THEY'LL NEVER WIN A GAME THE SKY ISN'T FALLING IT FELT

Game 2: 1-0 @ Boston Bruins
ALL HAIL LORD VARLAMOV HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-SCORED-UPON
WE HAVE BEATEN THE CHAMPIONS ON THEIR ICE AND TURCO'D THEIR VALIANT RASK ARE WE NOT NOW THE CHAMPIONS? AND SURELY WE SHALL BE A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH ALL YEAR LONG

A little bit of sanity should perhaps insert itself, said Ryan Lambert this morning on Puck Daddy but seriously, fuck that. Lord Varlamov and his Puck Eaters are gathering strength, and soon they will burst forth from their lair and reclaim the throne that is rightfully theirs.

--Collision, who probably should reread a little bit before going hard w/ a Harry Potter metaphor

Friday, October 7, 2011

how others want you to prepare

Can you spot the missing "storylines" from this mostly excellent, straight-from-the-pages-of-Puck-Daddy1 season preview for you clueless weenie whistlers who don't know anything about the NHL?

Why are all the Russians extra "enigmatic" this year?

Well, there was a plane crash. A whole team died. Shit-ton of former NHL players. Lots of tributes all year.

Seems like the bruiser ass-kicky guys are a little glum this year, too...

Yeah, about that...uhm. Well, this isn't all that easy. But a couple guys...a couple guys went into the offseason...and didn't...they didn't make it. Belak, Boogaard, Rypien.

Not a huge surprise Grantland isn't covering this more, after the beatdown they got the last time they tried to go down this road. But it's a striking omission in what bills itself as "some things to think about". I guess Milan Lucic's girlfriend's shoes are a bigger kick than 47 people who kicked off.

--Collision, thinking about stuff

1By my rough count, 11 links to YouTube, 5 to Puck Daddy, 5 to ESPN, 3 each to the LA & NY Times, 3 to twitter/twitpic, 2 to Grantland, Bodog, and TSN, 1 each to sportsclubstats.com, Globe & Mail, Sporting News, National Post, Dispatch.com, Wikipedia, Slam, USA Today, zoomoda, CBC, nhlwheelofjustice, The Coaches Site, Men's Fitness, Deadspin, The Score, post-gazette, Philly Sports Daily, NBC, Philadelphia Eagles.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

what YOUR team needs to win the Stanley Cup

History and science teach us a lot.

Clear the Crease knows that the thousands of readers...reading...and the millions of bloggers ripping us off around the world are highly partisan obsessives who boil everything hockey-related down to exactly one factor:

what exactly will it take for my team to win a Cup this year?

With our matchless database of hockey history--incorporating literally every play ever recorded in an official NHL game--and infinite reserves of sagacity, Clear the Crease is happy to spell out that factor for whatever your team might be. Later this week, we'll go ahead and assess your squad in light of their likely access to the identified factor.

Calgary Flames (1989): an epic Moustache and a butthurt midget

Montreal Canadiens (1916, 1924, 1930, 1944, 1946, 1953, 1956-1960, 1965-66, 1968-69, 1971, 1973, 1976-79, 1986, 1993): a radically unbalanced league and a territorial draft

Toronto Maple Leafs (1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947-49, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967): Prohibition and a nascent civil rights movement

Detroit Red Wangs (1997-98, 2002, 2008): Republican control of the White House, Congress, and Supreme Court

Boston Bruins (1970, 1972, 2011): the world's best defenceman + Montreal forgetting to curb-stomp them

New York Islanders (1980-83): a defeated, humiliated nation in a recession & without the energy to worry about keeping good hockey in actual major metropolitan areas

Edmonton Oilers (1984-85, 1987-88, 1990): a defeated, humiliated nation to the south that's in a recession & without the energy to worry about keeping good hockey in actual major metropolitan areas + all the cocaine in the whole world

New York Rangers (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994): sunshine; dog's ass

Colorado Avalanche (1996, 2001): Philadelphia + a world-historically stupid family

Philadelphia Flyers (1974-75): a league allowing the "neck-punch" defensive alignment

Pittsburgh Penguins (1991-92, 2009): everybody forgetting to worry about tanking for a couple years to get the world's best players

New Jersey Devils (1995, 2000, 2003): see Philadelphia + a competent goalie under the age of 212 + that goalie forgetting to choke

Anaheim Ducks (2007): Pronger

Chicago Black Hawks (1934, 1938, 1961, 2010): Pronger

Edmonton: Pronger

Philly: Pronger

Dallas Stars (1999): world-historically inept officiating

Carolina Hurricanes (2006): no one knows spooky music

Tampa Bay Lightning (2004): ... playing the Flames? I guess? No one knows how these southern teams managed to win their Cups.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

stay clean

Four score and seven years ago, our primary culture hero put forth an indisputable notion:

sometimes it's about being ferociously stoned.
In more recent times, all heroes have fallen, myths bled of use, our tongues are rotten, no hope nor art can stand under the weight of an American moral and sensual vacuum, no voice penetrates the echo-shield, and all connected conversation withers, dies, is replaced by infinite varieties of infinitely monotonous masturbation. Stoned, numb, isolate, I find ferocious ambivalence now more my speed.

With respect to the Avs, no knowledge whatever is possible. At this moment, no known theory of hockey can predict the squad's performance:

  • in goal:
    two brand-new twineminders, one over the hill, one gamble turned absolutely terrifying*.
  • on the blueline:
    a wholly revamped roster, no proven offensive defenseman, and a wholesale change in style, from speed kills to the bigger they are, the harder they hit. No way to tell how long this will take to work, if indeed it can work.
  • up front:

    A couple known quantities--Dutchy, Stats, Hejduk--supplemented by a full raft of the underwhelming (Lindstrom, McClement), the unlikely (Mauldin, McLeod), & the unreliable (Mueller).
It's a cardboard-flat roster coached by a cipher, a year-long symphony of bottles smashed in the parking lot, a season of shaky-handed morning-after head-shaving parties (to punish where all the bad thoughts live, banish their efflorescences with Oster buzz and jackhammer drums), a grind of searching for moral victories, nine months of nights of sullen drinking and dread-suffused daylight hours leading up to another dull-eyed witnessing of a savage beating received in some another shitty city***.

Everything in the back end smells to me like a competent but slow D in front of goaltending that's below the league average.

This is a step up from last year, mind you, which "boasted" an unending goaltending nightmare of frankly Turcovian proportions behind a non-mighty mite-sized defensive corps. This year's forwards look to have some difficulty with scoring, in the way that this year's first-graders look to have some difficulty with specifying a decision procedure to determine the truth of arbitrary propositions in the theory of Peano arithmetic.

It's a likeable enough bunch--Erik Johnson, Stastny, Matt Duchene, Giguere, Hejduk, David Jones** are all figures earning respect and affection through performance and demeanor--but I note all of these are, charitably, players of the second tier.

We're fucked.

--Chris Collision, who
has eyes that see
who has a brain that thinks
who has a mouth that speaks
and goddamn it will
because he's tired of hearing all this shit
about making do playing ball the way things are and dealing with it

*This offseason, Semyon Varlamov nearly went to the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team that died in a plane crash. He spent 8 years in their program. I suspect strongly the Avalanche gave up two good draft picks to acquire a man who has just had the permanent whammy put on him.

**On David Jones: I am reminded of a crack someone once made about Eddie Johnson--who scored more points in the NBA than any other player who never made an All-Star team--"he's the perfect player to be the star of this (Sacramento Kings) team (that nobody cares about and that is going nowhere)". If I remember aright, the comment actually ran "the perfect player to be the star of a team that plays in a city most Californians can't find on the map". This is what it feels like to be led in scoring by a man named "David Jones" (who didn't manage to attain 30 goals...).

***Probably Columbus.

Monday, October 3, 2011

hacky NHL season preview

Pierre Idiot Trudeau's Vancouver Canucks:

(Sure hope you enjoyed your trip to the peak, lads, because that was as good as it gets. Never again will you enjoy such heights.)

Bogdan von Pylon's Calgary Flames:

Jew Grimson's Chicago Brian Campbells:

(Song for Duncan Keith to Sing)

Chris Collision's Colorado Avalanche:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

made another dream last night: Pierre Idiot Trudeau Wins This One

Not entirely sure why I'm once again dreaming about hockey, but this morning had the entire Clear the Crease brigade flung around a round table in a not-quite-dark-enough dive bar somewhere in San Jose. The cocktail waitress had approached us and in the course of soliciting our orders had expressed her deep enthusiasm over the Sharks' extending invitations to Owen Nolan, Jed Ortmeyer, and Darren Haydar: "I mean, physical, experienced, scoring touch. That's gonna be such a dope fourth line for us this--

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: I really don't think those guys are going to make the team.

Waitress: Well, but--

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: I really don't think they're going to make the team.

Waitress: They could really be a good fourth--

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: They're not going to make the team.

Waitress: ...

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: Seriously. There's no reason to tinker with the lower lines on that team. Those guys were just invited to camp. They're really not going to make the team.

Bogdan von Pylon: Uh, can we get our drinks now?

Waitress begins to leave.

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: I really don't think they're going to make the team.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Canadian Density

Further to my prediction the other day, that the fetid garbage-pile in dad jeans who threw a banana at a black man would defend his actions as "not racist at all how could you even suggest such a thing I am shocked that this could possibly be construed as somehow racist", I would like to highlight the following statement from that man's lawyer (italics and parentheticals mine):
The lawyer for a man accused of throwing a banana at a black NHL player says his client deeply regrets what he did and had no idea his actions could be seen as racist.

Lawyer Faisal Joseph says Chris Moorhouse was caught up in the drama of a tense (preseason exhibition) game featuring his favorite hockey team and threw the banana at the Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds in hopes of preventing the winning (shootout)goal (in a preseason exhibition game). The Detroit Red Wings won in a shootout.

The lawyer says Moorhouse is “mortified” and deeply remorseful. Moorhouse fears the reputation of his family and hometown have been clouded.

Well, there are I think two take-homes from this:

  • I fucking nailed it.
  • If you don't want to cloud the reputation of your family and hometown, don't pull racist stunts and then defend yourself with mealy-mouthed pretenses. Try this: "yes, I did a racist thing, because I stupidly thought it was funny. I was wrong. I did a stupid and racist thing and I will try never to do a stupid racist thing again."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Canadian Racism

With apologies to the Simpsons, I'm 36 years old and I only really know three things about this world.

  1. People who like English-language haiku too much are dunces.
  2. It is best never to think about your parents when giving/receiving oral sex.
  3. There is a backlash coming about this Canadian crap-stroker who threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds (who happens to be black).

Currently, this superb representative of London, Ontario, Canada, is absorbing a lot of abuse: in my Twitter feed alone, Chris Stewart, Greg Mauldin & Kevin Weekes all had strong words to say in defense of Simmonds' right to be free of awful garbage like this. (It's perhaps worth noting that Stewart and Weekes are both from Ontario and had no hesitation in calling this out as a racist act.) Down Goes Brown hit the obvious joke by quipping:

(I would probably buy tickets to this, honestly.)

Naturally, the grand doyennes of the field--Larry Brooks & Bob MacKenzie--have declared themselves above the fray, arguing that the dog-slurping swine who threw the banana was probably just looking for attention, which they shall nobly refrain from bestowing. Which I suppose I am willing to grant as their perogative: when you have the biggest platform, you have to be careful who you let stand on it, otherwise you run the risk of allowing reprehensible know-nothings to govern your country for a couple decades.

But the actual backlash that is coming will take a different form. Probably it will come when some intrepid stalker finds the rabbit-strangling spit cup of a human who threw the banana, and allows him to defend himself. The defense will take the typically Canadian form of stubborn insistence on willful ignorance, and will probably include language like:

I don't know what you're talking about. I threw the banana because I wanted Simmonds to slip on it and take a spill, so he wouldn't score. It's a classic bit! The idea that it was racist never crossed my mind--I'm Canadian, and we don't have racial tension here, so I don't understand the black man=monkey/monkeys-like-bananas slur. You in fact are the racists, not me.

Just you wait. I guarantee it's coming.

Oh, and I know one more thing. Wojtek Wolski may want a spot on the Rangers' top line, but he won't have it for long. I wish him the best: he's a likeable guy, and intermittently an excellent player. But he'll never be a full-time top-6 forward in the NHL.

Addendum: As I finished this, Brooks rolled back some of his reluctance to address the issue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jesus holds out

So if Drew Doughty, the King of the Kings, is holding out--JESUS FUCK DREW DOUGHTY LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE MARK RUFFALO

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

today's reminder

that you can't spell "Canada" without "duh".


Or, more gently: today's reminder that you can't spell, Canada.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

blasphemy

Spotted by von Pylon, this little atrocity is atrocious.

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus: just not much to say about the Avs that hasn't already been said: the team is bigger & slower on the blue line, unreliable in goal, and inconsistent on offense.

At least the Hot Snakes are playing a reunion show.

/reads more carefully

Oh, they're not playing the West Coast.

/hangs self with belt

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

why everyone will be traded forever amen

0. Introduction: Confusion Is Sex

So it's been some baffling months for the Avalanche faithful. The organEYEzation seems locked into a give-with-one-hand, take-with-the-other paradigm, everybody agrees that the team refuses to advertise for shit and is faceless except for Burnaby Joe Sakic (hallowed be his name) in the front office, and it's just not clear at all that there's any kind of actual plan in place.

That last point bears some elaboration. Early last season, when the team was half-ass good, the plan seemed to be: be the fastest team in the NHL (especially on defense). Moose of a Dman Colby Cohen was traded for sprite Matt Hunwick, strong defensive Dman Scott Hannan was booted to the curb in favor of feathery-but-clutch-as-fuck Fleishmann, and by the All-Star break, the Avs had ended up with a well-deserved and accurate reputation for having a tiny, mobile, fast (and useless) defensive corps. This stopped working after a while.

At that point, it appeared that the brain trust shit the fucking bed with panic: they banished Kevin Shattenkirk, who'd months before been the future of their blue line, along with Chris Stewart, one of the two or three best young power forwards in the game and a marketer's absolute wet dream, for behemoth all-rounder of a Dman Erik Johnson, best known for (a) being a disappointment of a highest-pick-in-the-draft and (b) losing a season to a ripped-up knee earned in a golf cart accident. They strode forth and acquired 6-5 Ryan O'Bryne, who's who Colby Cohen wants to grow up and turn into.

In other words, the team seemed to be in full retreat from what it had established as its identity, jettisoning two young players who had proved themselves to be at worst competent NHL contributors,* and making multiple moves designed to slow down and beef up the defensive side of the roster.

*And it's still bullshit of the highest water that Chris Stewart wasn't an All-Star last year.

1. The Deepening: Wallow in That Muddied Water

Since then, the following:

  1. drafting a physical, dickish young Dman who won't sniff the NHL for a half-decade or so
  2. drafting a canonical man-among-boys player who is huge for his age and probably not coincidentally has dominated players his age
  3. signing a solid, stolid defensively-minded Dman with excellent size--except he's 33 and signed to a four-year deal
  4. picking up a depth forward who looks like he's been a decent power play contributor
  5. replacing last year's worst-in-class goaltending tandem* with one young guy and one old guy, both worrisomely injury-prone--and the young guy cost a first-round draft pick, suggesting strongly that:
  6. the rebuild is over


*Check it:

a league-worst 3.45 goals-against average and .890 save percentage

But if the rebuild's over? Why in the holy hell did the squad also:

  • ditch their best offensive defenseman, receiving only a future second-round pick, in what has generally been interpreted as a straight salary dump?

None of it hangs together, none of it makes any sense. Or anyway, that's what I thought until the afternoon of 3jul2011, when I had either a stroke or a flash of insight.

2. Taste My Deep Strokes Insights

The Avalanche are trying to run a MoneyPuck organEYEzation.

To elaborate on that will require a digression into two of America's dullest pastimes: baseball and misinterpreting clearly-written texts.

Moneyball has been misportrayed wildly since it came out. I'm not going to bother playing Whack-a-Mole with the wrong versions that've proliferated, I'm just going to explain what the book actually describes and its application to the Avs. The misperception is that the book concerns the Oakland As, who used advanced statistical analysis and a deep distrust for conventional wisdom to win lots of regular season games but not playoff games. This is essentially incorrect.

There was exactly one "advanced statistic" the As front office was actually interested in: the ratio of wins to dollars spent. Every other statistic the front office used to build a squad was an epiphenomenon. The As asked how a team could win the most games on the lowest payroll and reached the obvious conclusion: find something that (a) contributes to wins and (b) that other teams undervalue and (c) acquire as much of that thing as possible as cheaply as possible. At the time, that meant non-conventional pitchers (Barry Zito, Chad Bradford) and players with bad bodies and good on-base percentage. Why? Respectively, because (1) non-conventional pitchers could (a) be effective and (b) be gotten cheaply. And because (2) their analyses suggested that on-base percentage contributed more to winning games than other statistics did. (And those bad-body players could, again, be gotten on the cheap.)

A subtle corrolary of the As approach was this: personnel moves were not about one player and another; they were--always--about the core "statistic": wins gained per dollars spent. The crucial move illustrating this corrolary was losing all-world hitter Jason Giambi and getting better as a team. The guy was great: he kicked ass; he cost a lot of money; he left for nothing; the team won more games the next year.

This, I suggest, is the lens through which the Avalanche personnel moves in the Greg Sherman era must be judged.*,**

*Review the bulk of these moves in the indispensible and insightful Anyone But Detroit post.
**The other key here is this: Jibblescribbits is wrong--there wasn't a rebuild phase and now it's over; this is SOP going forward, Just The Way It Is like Bruce Hornsby said. They're not "building from within", they're just flipping assets over & over again.

3. Explaining the Past

My anguish over losing productive John-Michael Liles is, given this perspective, completely beside the point: Sherman, I argue, is calculating that the contributions to winning Liles made simply weren't worth his 4+million wing-wangs/year. Sherman's not wagering that he can score a player superior to Liles with the draft pick he got for him: he's wagering that he can replace Liles' effectiveness and save money doing it.

This perspective offers some insight into the roster changes made on defense beyond Liles, too: I suspect that Sherman decided (a) defensive speed was undervalued and that (b) it was about to become overvalued. So he stockpiled it. Then he started trying to acquire assets he thought were more useful for winning (non-fast Dmen O'Byrne, Johnson, Lilja) while moving/losing assets he thought were overvalued in the marketplace (Fleishmann/Shattenkirk/Stewart). (Also just possible that he decided speed was undervalued but not that important for the winning of hockey games: for this latter point, he had some ample motherfucking evidence in the Avs' performance last year.)

One crucial piece of evidence supporting my theory about what Sherman is up to is this: he traded Chris Stewart. I claim that nothing is as attractive to Team B as Team A's young power forward. Check the trades: GMs love picking up a young power forward and they will pay a real premium to do it. --Don't get me wrong: I would never, ever have traded Chris Stewart. But I might have traded Kevin Shattenkirk, because it's not clear to me that "puck-moving defensemen" are very rare. Useful on the ice? To be sure. Hard to find? I'm not so sure. Whereas a defenseman like Erik Johnson, who can play in all situations and has size, skating ability and a high degree of hockey skill is exceedingly rare* and arguably extremely valuable for win-producing.

*The San Jose Sharks, who are an absolutely superb hockey team in every respect, don't have one. The closest Tampa Bay can come is Eric Brewer, who is exceedingly comparable to Erik Johnson + 8 years. The Canucks don't have a Dman like that and they should have won the Cup last year!

I'm not going to go through every single move of Sherman's career to convince anybody that my idea about what he's up to is right. Instead, I'm going to extrapolate and make a couple predictions.

4. Your Future (If You Have One)

If Sherman wants to maximize the wins he can get per dollar he spends--take a big breath, Avs fans--don't expect a big raise for Matt Duchene. Expect him to get traded for a top-five draft pick before he comes due for his second contract. In general, expect all good young players to be traded before their raises come due.*

*This ties in with the otherwise-baffling reluctance of the Avs to advertise their actual players. The As found that fans would come support a team that won, regardless of the marketing/marketability of their players. The Avs are likely to be banking on the same.

Expect other roster churn: the Avs will be one of the most active players on the trade market, always. Moves will tend to be central/tangible assets (Liles...and this fucking kills me Stastny) for peripheral/cheap/intangible ones: good players for draft picks, All-Stars for depth forwards, and the moves will always, always save money instead of costing it.

Finally, if I'm right and if this what's going on, don't expect the Avs to contend for a championship: that's not Sherman's goal. Sherman's goal is to get as far as possible without spending money. His Grail is to be the most efficient team in the league, not the champion of it. This means first and second-round playoff exits around the salary floor year after year, and a steady stream of new players replacing proven ones...

5. Wrap It Up (dunno if I'll take it)

I'm not judging this strategy (yet): I'm just trying to describe what I'm now sure is going on. Nor am I saying that Sherman is good at the strategy he's trying to implement--one of the crucial components of the As success is that the undervalued commodity they were interested in was well-established and well-understood, and easy to identify and verify. So far as I know, there is nothing even close in hockey to the statistical precision and accuracy available to baseball. This (so sadly fucked) fact introduces considerable capacity for error as Sherman marches forth. If he's wrong about what contributes to wins, Avs fans are in for some deep hurting: because he's going to be getting as much of that as he can as cheap as he can. Brad Richards isn't great, but a team with him is sure as hell likelier to win than the same team without him, and Sherman's not even in the conversation about adding him.

6. For the record, the team that scores more goals is by definition the one that wins the game (good to think)

One final note: one thing Sherman seems convinced he can replace on the cheap is goals for. The intensely productive and indisputably offensively gifted Fleishmann cost a valuable (but expensive) shutdown defenseman; Fleishmann was allowed to walk away for no return after playing a scant 21 games. Assist machine Shattenkirk and team-best goal-scorer Chris Stewart were flicked away for a number-one Dman who might match in a career Stewart's last two years of goal production.

What I fervently hope this means is that Sherman is all like "shit, with playmakers like Matt Duchene & Paul Stastny around, goals are gonna happen: we're going to build around these exquisite setup men--who both have more than adequate finish, by the way--and let them improve whoever they play with."

But I kind of doubt it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Joey Hishon is surprisingly awesome

Now rooting for him to make the team this year.

--Collision, who hates Colorado

delaying greatification

Further to last week's notes on Avs fuck me please let him be a savior Gabriel Landeskog I would like to note that the best-case projections for the man boy are that he'll be a big, strong, power forward, somebody who fights, hits, scores, and has an engaging personality.

Of course, Chris Stewart was all of those things, and had proven himself to be so at the NHL level. And now he's being all those things for the loathsome St. Louis Blues.

I just hope it works, is all.

Okay...also I want Chris Stewart to come back. Damnit, Avs.

--Collision, skipping his off-season workouts

Monday, July 4, 2011

what google thinks of Clear the Crease

It may not surprise you to find out that Clear the Crease is the visible Web iceberg floating atop a mammoth set of email threads tying the site contributors together like Gulliver was tied to Lilliputian soil.

In one such thread, gmail saw fit to advertise the following things:
NHL »
NHL 2010 2011 »
Boston Bruins NHL »
NHL Hockey Players »
I Love You »
Romantic Love Messages »
Cute Love Notes »
Free Love Pictures »

The sad thing, for this purveyor of a hockey blog, is that I'm significantly more interested in Cute Love Notes than I am the Boston Bruins.

--Collision, aging softy

Friday, July 1, 2011

goalie fireballin'

Brian Elliott ain't coming back. Now what? Well, I've been texting with Avs coach Joe Sacco, and I was asking him about how Alain Vignault choked and mishandled Roberto Luongo, trying to get Sacco to (a) give me a juicy quote to stir up some shit and raise my profile as a blogger and (b) give me some insight into his own thought processes, and I think I hit the fucking jackpot:
Nah, I think goalies play best when they're sharp & engaged, & I think the best way to keep a goalie sharp & engaged is to show them that the slightest mistake will result in punishment and public shaming. Also sometimes the team just needs a lift. If you can't handle being the scapegoat, try skating well enough to be a forward.
So, uh...Tomas Vokoun? Welcome to the Avs.

goalie freeballin': why I am not sorry Ilya Bryzgalov is not on the Colorado Avalanche

On account of this:
Roman Cechmanek
Season Age Record GAA Sv%
2000-01 29 35-15-6 2.01 .921 (All-Star, 2nd in voting for Vezina) 29
2001-02 30 24-13-6 2.05 .921
2002-03 31 33-15-10 1.83 .925 (Jennings) (31)
2003-04 32 18-21-6 2.51 .906

Playoffs Record GAA Sv%
2002-03 6-7 2.14 .909
traded to LA for a second-round draft pick

Ilya Bryzgalov
Season Age Record GAA Sv%
2007-08 27 28-25-6 2.44 .920
2008-09 28 26-31-6 2.98 .906 (offseason: Dave Tippet hired)
2009-10 29 42-20-6 2.29 .920
2010-11 30 36-20-10 2.48 .921

Playoffs Age Record Sv% GAA
2005-06 25 6 4 .944 1.46
2006-07 26 3 1 .922 2.25
2009-10 29 3 4 .906 3.44
2010-11 30 0 4 .879 4.36

Thursday, June 30, 2011

the ballad of John-Michael Liles (part 2)

the ballad of John-Michael Liles, Avs GM Greg Sherman and General Life Asshole Chris Collision duet

Years ago, when I was playing a lot of NHL/NBA games, I thought it was a little silly that a player could customize in-game players, but not in-game coaches: after all, the (video)game itself casts the controller-holder as essentially a GM/coach figure, controlling all the players. It just seemed like a weird misplacement of identification.

Which is to say: everybody who likes pro sports is probably pretty clear that they absolutely cannot compete in any meaningful way with the players*, but they mostly tend to believe that they could coach or run a team adequately, and certainly better than whichever gang of idiots seems to be in charge of their favored squad.

*(Ignoring here professional idiots like Bill Simmons, who seems to believe he could beat WNBA players at basketball.
Confidential to professional idiot Bill Simmons on this point: no way, no day, chump.)

Taking myself as a case study, I believe I understand two things better than the people who make personnel decisions in professional sports.
  1. Time passes and the passage of time almost never makes a player better.
  2. Never fall in love with the most productive players on a bad team.
The first rule there has some somewhat subtle applications. A given player A is likely to be worse in year N+1 than they were in year N, so if you can trade player A for slightly-worse player B and gain any advantage in so doing, that trade is likely to be to your advantage. Another view of this rule is that if you can trade a player A for a player B who is (i) 85% as good and (ii) 3+ years younger, you should do so (modulo financial considerations: for the purpose of that example, I assumed A & B made about the same; for the purpose of the first, I assumed player B was significantly cheaper than player A.)

The second rule is much easier. It says simply "if the guy's so fucking good, how come his team sucked?".

The answer is usually "Well, it's a team game. He's good, but needed support. On our (better) team, he'll be even better and he'll help us win even more.". But--this is my central claim--that's fucking bullshit.

I'm writing this in my normal conditions of privation. Therefore, I'm not going to do the actual research. I'm just going to posit this as an axiom:
Guys who put up big numbers on bad teams almost never go on to put up big numbers on good teams.

Kovalchuk. Ballard. Probably Vokoun next year. Every Toronto Maple Leaf ever.

That means not only do you not trade for a guy who was a big wheel on a shit team, if you're that shit team, you don't want to commit to building around the guy. What's to build around? --If he were any good, you'd be good already, not building!

This brings us to J-M Liles, who was just traded to Toronto for essentially absolutely fucking nothing. A second-round pick. Well--let's assess: is a second-round pick likely to be an NHL player? Sure. Not a safe bet, but a good bet. Is that second-round pick likely to be a 40-point defenseman? Don't bet on it.

And rumours swirl around Paul Stastny: current stooge face of management Joe Sakic (hallowed be his name) declined to name him as a major building block for the future; he's definitely overpaid; he's incredibly competent but far from a marketing dreamboat; his dad's a fucking clown; he's had two bad years in a row.

But he's also a top-10 NHL center. He was an All-Star last year, and that was not a mistake. If 40-point NHL D-men are worth a second-round pick, what's an All-Star center worth? Apparently not much: he's likely to be moved, and the return is likely to be a first-round draft pick of the 10-to-15 variety and maybe a depth forward.

Not to be too strident, but not all that many 10-to-15 first-round picks turn into All-Star centers.

Savvy readers will have noted a subtle change in orientation over the course of this post: early on, I was all like "don't double down on good players on bad teams" and now I'm all "trading our most productive D-man for a second-round pick was bad business and trading our best all-around center is likely to be bad business too, dawg".

I don't have a super-strong defense for this apparent inconsistency. I understand if a reader* might say "your position is apparently the good player on another guy's team sucks eggs; the good player on your team must never be sold off for unproven commodities.".

*(Forgive me this assy affectation. I know full fucking well even the other contributors to this blog don't read this, much less anybody else. Sometimes, I have to pretend otherwise to (a) justify the time I spend on this crap to myself and supplementarily (b) keep myself from slinging my belt over the shower curtain rod.)

Maybe it's consistent in that like a mediocre goalie, I'm just playing the odds: most guys don't get significantly better over time; young guys are all things being equal better at playing and cheaper than old guys; rare commodities like All-Star centers and D-men who put up 40 points are rare and not to be traded for common commodities like second-round picks (30 per year)...

Enough. I am no GM, I know this. It's a fool who falls in love with big numbers on shit teams, and I know this too. But if I can't fall in love with somebody on a bad team, then who am I supposed to root for?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

the ballad of John-Michael Liles (part i)


The Avs are a nightmare. They are a team committed to nonsense. The most recent nonsense that has come to light involves the way they are interested in negotiating contracts: as is well-known, they alienated and insulted 2009-10's singular hero Craig Anderson by making one offer and refusing to negotiate. This ended well: they traded him for Brian Elliott, who has shown zero signs that he is an NHL-caliber goaltender, and watched Anderson go on to play outstanding hockey for a team not much better than the Avs. More recently, they have been playing a rousing game of "dangle in the wind, asshole" with a free agent who was intensely productive for the Avs before he got hurt. Their announced reason for this "oh, we're dealing with the draft right now."

The core problem with going about things in this way is reasonably transparent: it's a category error.

By that I mean simply that while professional sports is a Real Big Deal, with unfathomable quantities of money moving around, any given franchise is actually no more than a medium-sized business; furthermore, the actual labor force for an NHL squad is well under three dozen men.*

*(Sure, there's lots more putative revenue-generators: merch guys, ticket sellers, parking lot builders, TV-right-negotiation law-talkers, blah blah woof woof, but--all of these revenue-generators are meaningless without the people who play the games. If you don't believe me, start your own shadow franchise and see how many of your beautifully-designed jerseys you sell.)

In essence, then, professional hockey is a collection of medium-sized businesses. The Avs have mistaken themselves: they believe that they are an actual institution, something like say a governmental or military bureaucracy, with top-down rules that apply to everybody equally, rules like

  1. we don't negotiate contracts: we make offers that are fair and if you mislike our offer, you are free to pl(a)y your trade elsewhere
  2. we only negotiate contracts at specific times of the year

These aren't unreasonable rules per se. Contextually, however, they are intended to apply to a small and psychically (emotionally/mentally) group of people about whom few generalizations can be made, save for

  • Any of them you want on your team are gonna be competitive like motherfuckers
  • This competitive drive:
    (a) is more emotional than rational
    (b) manifests itself crucially in what Thorstein Veblen identified as invidious comparisons
    describing a comparison of persons with a view to rating and grading them in respect of relative worth or value ... and so defining the relative degrees of complacency with which they may legitimately be contemplated by themselves and by others. An invidious comparison is a process of valuation of persons in respect of worth.

Not to belabor the point, but comparing the bulleted list with the numbered list yields the following scenario: a small group of incredibly competitive men staring at the way each of them is treated and knowing--absolutely knowing--that they deserve to be treated better than any of those other guys; a smaller group of men saying "we are going to treat you all exactly the same because...well...them's the rules.".

In a pride-based business like being a hockey player, it's hard to see why anybody would want to deal with a self-defined institution so deeply devoted to ignoring and denying precisely the things most important to identity and importance (an institution like the goddamned fucking idiot Colorado Avalanche). To issue a pointless and likely inadequate rule:

the only guy in hockey management who can pull off treating everybody the exact same is the coach, because that's how the sport (nominally) works: the rules of the game apply to everybody exactly the same; everybody practices or they don't play; everybody backchecks; hit the open man; blah fucking blah.
All other members of management must devote themselves to the proposition that everybody in labor be made to feel that they are special, specially unique, better and more important in their own way than anybody else anywhere. Because the rules of life are bent and broken for such special men.

All of which is a long and dull way of advancing the argument that if your business depends on people then you'd do well to understand them and do everything you can to put them in a position to succeed.

I claim that the Colorado Avalanche as an organEYEzation does not understand this argument.

On Twitter, the redoubtable radio voice of the Avs has of late been doing yeoman duty defending the franchise, beating the rebuild drum, saying again and again that the team is run by smart men, that the process is going well, in specific that the next big priority is finding a goaltender.

But that's a mix of exactly wrong and simply missing the point.

Even if smart people are in charge, and I surely do hope they are, they're in charge of a small demesne: their smartness has little bearing on matters like

  • Whether or not the resources they crave exist in the marketplace
  • Whether or not the resources that do exist are accessible to them

Which means: no matter how fucking smart Sacco + Sakic + Sherman + Whoever McGillicuddy may combine to be, (a) that doesn't mean there's a good goalie on the market or (b) that a good goalie who might be on the market will have any interest in negotiating with a team that (1) explicitly doesn't negotiate except on their terms (for which, see above) and (2) has hockey personnel who are fucking terrible at playing hockey (for which, scoreboard).

They don't negotiate contracts, so they alienated a guy who is, when his head is right, a Vezina candidate, capable of playing as well as any goalie in hockey. They're desperately weak on the wings, but they were focused on the draft, so they refuse to negotiate with a winger who put up 20 points in 21 games with them last year: All-Star numbers on a team short on All-Stars like Wall Street is short of ethicists.

Now they're ready to play the game of negotiation. But they've at least arguably fucked over two proud men in a very small community of proud men. Who's to say anybody wants to negotiate with them? Who's to say anybody wants to work for the Avs? There's one goalie on the open market who's worth a fuck, and that's Tomas Vokoun. He's a Czech, like Fleishmann, who just got fucked; he's a goalie, like Anderson, who just got fucked. Somebody explain to me why he's supposed to want to take a job with that company.


Tommorow: love ain't nothing but a score in tennis OR the ballad of John-Michael Liles (as sung by Avs GM Greg Sherman)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Needless to say, Landeskog is a highly impressive guy for his age. He’s well spoken, funny and looks like a Ken doll.

It just seems like this kid has it. I mean, what’s not to like? He has a great resume, his junior coach absolutely raves about him, scouts love him, he looks like a model, he’s well spoken, polite...he seems too good to be true.

Anybody who's read (any of) Moneyball is likely to be terrified: this guy Gabriel Landeskog sure looks like a great hockey player, but nobody's talking about how he's good at hockey. And while the numbers certainly say he's been good at playing hockey so far, it's obvious that he's much more physically developed than the guys he's playing against: a 6-2 207 guy playing against 18-year-olds should dominate them. Promoting him to play against seasoned and huge specimens like oh say every single NHL player is asking him to do a qualitatively different job.

The Avs brain trust does not have my trust. I think they're short-sighted. I think they're playing a game they don't understand. I think they just used the second pick in the draft to select a guy whose ceiling is being Ethan Moreau.

In case that reference isn't clear, Ethan Moreau is a bulky (6-2, 220) winger who "oozed leadership" to the tune of being captain of the Houston Edmonton Oilers--one of the most up-their-own-ass franchises with respect to captaincy the league has ever seen...and has never scored so many as 21 goals nor 33 points in any season of his 16-year NHL career. He was just cut by the juggernaut that is the Columbus Blue Jackets (34-35-13 last year, last in their division).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lindros for the Hall of Fame

Well, he gets my vote, but apparently Bogdan von Pylon disagrees.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

get your goddamned band off of my goddamned wagon

The moral of the Stanley Cup story, to me, was the Canucks were vastly overrated.
Oh boy. Here it comes. (Regular Peter King readers will be glad that at least this time he didn't bury the lede...)

Vancouver was 12-10 in its last 22 playoff gamesHe gets, right, that if they'd gone 13-9 over their last 22...they would have won the Stanley Fucking Cup?
.... Outscored 64-49 in those 22 games.
Those 22 games, the majority of which they won.
Outscored 17-7 in the final four games of the first round against Chicago. The Bruins outscored them by 15 goals in a seven-game series. How does a team with the league's highest-paid goalie, Luongo, allow 21 goals in the Bruins' four wins in the series?
Uhm...their defensive corps gets riddled by injury? Their second-best defensive center plays injured and their best defensive center comes back from a seriously terrifying eye injury? That goalie puts up two goddamed shutouts in 7 games?
After the first 10 minutes of the first game of the finals, I just never saw the free-skating, fast, crisp-passing team I'd been hearing about throughout the playoffs. And the Sedins. I'm not going to call them names, but they came up smaller than LeBron when it counted in this series. In the final five games of the finals, when the game was on the line (the score within a two-goal margin), here was the Sedin twins' stat line: zero goals, zero assists, zero points.
Okay, sure, they sucked in this bizarrely baroque and byzantine scenario. But the Sedins, Luongo, and the rest of the Canucks were one goddamned game away from winning it all. (For two consecutive games, actually.) Describing their goalie as bad or their best forwards as underwhelming seems somehow to fail to capture that essential fact.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ryan Smyth: I'd rather lose in the cold than win in L.A.

Apparently winning lots of games and living in SoCal doesn't work for Ryan Smyth. He'd rather blow up the Oilers' salary structure and trawl the bottom of the standings for a while longer. Lunatic.

biting satire

All hail Bogdan von Pylon. Source material from Down Goes Brown.

Monday, June 20, 2011

as heard on Puck Daddy Radio

(Whenever I can, I spend an hour a day listening to Puck Daddy Radio. Sometimes, I even answer their Question of the Day. Today, host Rob Pizzo read the following and followed it up with "and Chris Collision can kiss my ass".)

Today's question, the not-leading-at-all "What aspect of Nicklas Lidstrom (stats, intangibles, etc.) impresses you the most?".

By far the most impressive thing about Nick Lidstrom's game is his incredible aura of saintliness. He's completely immune to criticism or accusations that his game isn't what it once was, unlike every other 40-year-old defenceman in the history of the game. Reagan was the Teflon president, because no criticism ever stuck to him: Lidstrom is the Teflon Dman, the only player of my lifetime who is a more obvious candidate for canonization than for the Hall of Fame.

I bet Lidstrom could skate on water that *wasn't even frozen*. His slap shot heals the sick and his outlet passes sometimes take flight as Lidstrom's angelic brethren descend from the heavens to honor their glorious leader. We are all literally blessed to receive another year-long reason for guys like Pizzo & Wysh to explain over and over again that plus/minus is a poor way to judge a defenceman's skill.

Unless he actually posts a decent plus/minus this year. In which case they won't say a word about how misleading it is.*

All Hail Saint Lidstrom!

--Collision, who thinks Lidstrom is simultaneously great and overrated

*Note: this was written before Pizzo & Wysh opened the show with gushing about how Lidstrom's career plus/minus was like plus a million. Which apparently matters, even though 10 minutes later his minus rating for last year didn't matter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

le sigh: Grantland on hockey is garbage

Oh, and I'd had such high hopes for Grantland. I mean, the rambly, insight-free Katie Baker writing about hockey--how could that possibly go wrong?

Well, it starts going wrong with calling the explicitly-identified audience for your writing "idiot".

Dear Hockey Idiot: Here Are Answers to All Your Questions About Game 7. You're Welcome.

While that's a half-okay blog move--hey, idiots, thanks for reading--from the classed-up joint named after El Deano de NorteAmericano DesportesEscribo, I would have expected (and as a reader, I'm going ahead and demanding) something really hard to think of and difficult to pull off, something like:

Since there's nothing as wonderful as playoff hockey, and nothing as agonizing as a playoff elimination game, and since a game 7 being played for the Stanley Cup is nearly painfully intense, we here at Grantland want to prepare you for a terrific experience.

But no. Katie Baker, standing here metonymically for Grantland, needs to establish that she's smart, we're dumb, she knows, we don't, she's big, we're little.

Then we get nearly an entire paragraph into her piece, we get our first jarring formatting glitch:

On a darker note, both teams have seen a player go down in terrifying fashion & # 8 2 1 2 ; Boston's Nathan Horton was concussed in Game 3,

Good to see this prestige project is getting the same shitty proofreading and quality control the mothership is known for.

The rest is standard Baker-mush. A couple canny links establish her bona fides (again), and she basks in the reflected glow of Down Goes Brown and Greg Wyshynski, while stirring in a not-exhausted-at-all question/answer format and worthless comments like "keep an eye out for Marchand and Seguin". Uhm. How is the supposed audience supposed to keep an eye out for players they're identified as having never seen? Throw a jersey number out if you actually want to be helpful--otherwise, delete this section, because all it does is waste my fucking time.

Then we've got some Grantlandian lexical play that's undercut in the very same sentence by an infelicitous usage:

it's a toss-up whether skilled and despised (skilledespised?) agitators such as Alexandre Burrows and Maxim Lapierre will be featured or swept under the rug, though their valuable play is likely to earn them some mentions.

Valuable play?

D+, Baker. People seem to like your work, so I am going to assume you're capable of more.

--Collision, still waiting to get hired