Sunday, September 29, 2013

season preview: another year of a crappy per diem

It has been a long summer, but the season of heat and pleasure has come to an end, and now we must confront the shortness of day which mirrors the shortness of our own days; yes, it is fall, and every dying leaf failing now and earthbound is like you, withering, dying, eventually to decay and rot.

Also it's hockey season.

At Clear the Crease, hockey season means just one thing: gimmicky listicles Puck Daddy runs as filler during the August doldrums HEAVY TUNES and a hell of a lot of angst. We convened hockey's angriest men to look at the season of decline and death to come.

Pierre Idiot Trudeau:

New Divisions! Yay!

West:

  • Canucks are the Sharks.
  • Sharks are probably still the Sharks, a sad and over team.
  • Ducks are still Selanne'd, so better than I give them credit for.
  • Flames are 5 years away from being a good team, but probably 3 months away from being likable.
  • Oilers are playoffs.
  • Avalanche are middling.
  • Wild still suck.
  • Chicago still owns.
  • L.A. is back to contending.
  • Phoenix is still Phoenix, still some confusing combination of both under- and over-achieving.
  • Jets are sniffs playoffs, crashes, burns.
  • Blues are continuing to exploit the birthright Colorado sold to them for a bowl of lentil soup.

Is there still a team in Dallas?

Bogdan von Pylon:

I'm gonna watch this fucking season—even if it kills me.

Collision:

Avs: The Avs were the second-worst team in the league last year. There are 30 teams in that league: Last year, the Avs had the 27th-worst defense, and it felt like it. What I hadn't realized until I started researching the season1 is that they'd had the 26th-worst offense in the league! This is puzzling, a little, as most observers seem reasonably complimentary about the Avs' forwards, and fairly dismissive of the Avs' defensemen. The assessments given to the Avs' goalies are more complicated:

  • Some observers are enthusiastic about the potential and leadership of the Avs' 'tenders;
  • Other observers are acquainted with the performances and #s put up by the Avs' goalies for the past few years, and are therefore inclined to use language like "bottom of the barrel" and "masked nightmares".
In case you think I perhaps exaggerate a little: There exists a made-up statistic for goaltenders called the "Quality Start". This metric grants a QS to a goaltender who finishes a game with either a save percentage above league average (.917 right now) or fewer than 3 goals given up. (More or less.) Semyon Varlamov last year had a Quality Start percentage of 33.3% (worst among goalies with 30+ appearances). Meaning in 2 of every 3 games he started, he ended up with more than 3 goals against, or a sub-average save percentage... For a team that gave up 31 shots a game, and only scored 2.38 goals a game...either of those outcomes was obviously pretty difficult to overcome.

Oh, and well-respected backup J-S Giguere? 21.4%.

[Editorial Interlude: Say, friend: did you know Chris Collision wrote a short rock opera about J-S Giguere? He did! You Can Read It! Just mosey on over to The Classical! Tell 'em Clear the Crease sent ya! Or don't, and be forever damned.]

Fans were rewarded for sticking with this bottom-feeding franchise for the last half-decade of bad decisions poorly executed, as the Avs put together a huge off-season!

  • Giant new scoreboard.
  • Old players = new front office management types.
  • Goodbye David "Nickname" Jones, you semi-reliable winger coming off a world-historically shitty shooting percentage; hello, Alex Tanguay, best described as: skilled; moderately productive; pillow-soft; deathly dull!
  • First pick in the draft! Hello, doughy-faced young guy exciting new center Nathan MacKinnon! What's that you say, new coach Patrick Roy? You are so enamored of this doughy-faced young guy exciting new center that you are going to take arguably your best young player Ryan O'Reilly and play him out of position so you can play this new kid? Great!

The defense and goaltending, so notably solid last year, needed no attention, and therefore got none.

Wait, that's not quite true. Two veteran defensemen were cut loose: Greg Zanon, who was never good, and Matt Hunwick, who actually saw 21:31 of ice time per game over 43 games... On one hand, this move made sense, because the worst thing a team can do, personnel-wise, is to fall in love with major contributors to bad teams, and Hunwick certainly was that (and so was David "Nickname" Jones). Still, though: I have a feeling that this is a team that could use some professional-grade mediocrity along the blue line, and I have little to no faith that the defense is any less of a glaring weakness than it was last year.2

To sum up, it is not simply my own hackishness and desire for attention that leads me to suggest that this year for the Avs will be like the piece I wrote for The Classical's Being There issue, a piece called "The Old Ways of Defeat". It's gonna be a long year.

—Collision, starting the season in the minors

1Partially to prepare for the year, partially to prepare for the fantasy hockey league I'm in with Mark Black. Is fantasy hockey stupid? Indubitably. Is studying for fantasy hockey a colossal waste of time? But of course! But when I'm socializing with the guy who literally wrote the book on one of the greatest bands of all time, I'm going to do a little homework to avoid embarrassing myself.

2Hunwick cleared waivers, I think, and is thus still with the team, but one suspects the team's brain trust doesn't plan to deploy him particularly robustly.

2 comments:

Holly Wendt said...

Not every NHL season preview comes with a Jacob & Esau gag.

BUT MAYBE THEY SHOULD.

Entertaining and appropriately brutal assessment. I still can't get over how bad Varlamov was after his amazing start in Yaroslavl.

Chris Collision said...

I should be nicer about Varly, prolly--I genuinely love watching the dude play, and Hasek Himself would be hard pressed behind that defense. His numbers were brutal, but honestly, most of the games I watched, he was excellent until being hung out to dry one too many times. Maybe a new scheme + no longer having a part-time goalie coach with the stench of Canuck on him will help!

(Shoulda mentioned that in the piece--thanks for the prompt!)