Saturday, May 31, 2008

Melrose Place

I don't say things like this very often, but...

The fact that the incoming Tampa Bay ownership — an underfunded group that is relying on cobbled together funds and financing from the ones getting out of Dodge — is going to fire the coach that led the team to the Stanley Cup and put in a media personality who hasn't coached in 13 years is, quite possibly, the most asinine thing I've ever heard.

The Lightning is set to become the very expensive new play thing of Hollywood producer Oren Koules and real estate developer/former NHLer Len Barrie, and it appears it's going to be treated as such. Financing, as I mentioned, is an issue, which makes it curious that this group's first decision will be to flush John Tortorella's $1.3-million salary down the drain and serve up a ridiculous new contract for talking head Barry Melrose.

Tortorella, of course, will be snapped up right away by the Sharks, Senators, Maple Leafs, Thrashers or Panthers, while Melrose will have a steep learning curve given the advancements in NHL coaching the past decade-plus. Being Koules's buddy is apparently the main qualification.

The most troubling part of all this is the fact that ownership plans to pull all of the strings, leaving current GM Jay Feaster as little more than a well-paid puppet and Tortorella a lame duck of the worst kind, simply waiting for an NHL board meeting to rubber stamp the purchase so the yahoos can throw him out.

This is a franchise that already finished in dead last in the NHL in 2007-08, and with an over-anxious ownership group taking over, a real rebuild is going to be difficult to undertake. There aren't the funds available to overcome major losses or spend to the cap, an inexperienced coach is taking the helm, and Steve Stamkos is about to be thrown to the wolves.

If I'm Vinny Lecavalier, there's no way I sign long term after this season.

Eric Duhatschek doesn't use the phrase "gong show" regularly, but that's what he called the Tampa situation earlier this week and it's tough to disagree.

I'm afraid all of the goodwill that the 2004 Stanley Cup bought the market is about to be for naught.

Fans of the Lightning are in for a bumpy ride.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

The article everyone's talking about

The six Canadian teams account for 31 per cent of the $1.1 billion (U.S.) in league ticket revenue, and have gone through league-leading double-digit increases over last season, according to the internal NHL report.

Overall, the league has seen its ticket revenue rise almost 10 per cent, but 11 of the 24 U.S.-based clubs were either revenue-flat or lost ticket income.
The fact Canadian teams generate close to one-third of NHL revenues isn't new news; that's a figure we've been batting around here ever since the end of the 2005-06 season.

What's new is that we have some updated ticket revenue figures for all 30 NHL teams. And the picture isn't particularly pretty in some areas.

Ticket revenue is the No. 1 source of income for this league, making up close to 50 per cent of total revenues, and it's here where the majority of the league's growth from a $2.1-billion to $2.56-billion industry has taken place.

Blogger Tyler Dellow says, by his math, the Canadian teams have accounted for about 52 per cent of that growth.

Let's make the numbers do a few things here. First, along with the per game revenue figures provided by Westhead, let's add the total figures and bring up the Canada-U.S. split:


2006-07 Tot. 2007-08 Tot. Growth Change
Canada 6.95 284.95 8.70 356.70 71.75 25.18%
U.S. 17.50 717.50 18.65 764.65 47.15 6.57%

In essence, ticket revenues, in total, went from $1-billion to $1.12-billion over the past year, an increase of $119-million (11.9%).

And Canadian teams provided $71.75-million of that growth, increasing ticket revenues 25.2% compared to a 6.6% increase for American teams. The $71.75-million figure represents 60.3% of the league's growth, which came from just six teams.

And while the Canadian dollar's rise has slowed recently, over the period in question, it swung considerably. The exchange rate's average from Oct. 1, 2006, to April 10, 2007, was 0.866. This season, over that same time period, the loonie has been above par (1.007).

If league ticket revenue growth trends continue at this same pace next season, the Canadian teams' take would jump to 35.4%. If it continued for another year, into 2009-10, that figure would near 40 per cent.

Of course, that bubble's going to burst at some point; Canadian teams are not going to be able to keep up 25 per cent increases forever.

Even still, the movement we've seen postlockout has really changed the structure of the league, to the point that adding another Canadian team has become a real possibility. The average Canadian franchise generated $59.45-million from the gate this season. American teams generated just $31.86-million.

The average Canadian team made $41-million more than Phoenix in ticket revenue alone in 2007-08.

No wonder Balsillie's already given them a call.

As much as some want to rail against "self-important Canadian fans," those figures speak volumes. And they're saying much the same as what NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly told Westhead in his piece.

"I think it would be a huge error not to relocate one of the existing franchises to Hamilton or Winnipeg," Kelly said.



A note that I'll be on the radio in Edmonton (The Team 1260) tonight at 5:45 ET and on Sunday morning in Pittsburgh (KDKA) between 11 and noon.
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A word on TV ratings

In general, I don't get in a snit over low television ratings in the U.S. If more people want to watch According to Jim than Red Wings-Penguins, that's fine by me (and indicative of a problem with the audience rather than the sport).

In any event, here's a very quick comparison of the Game 3 ratings for the Stanley Cup finals. First, the numbers in hockey's homeland:
In Canada, the CBC drew 2.042 million. RDS's audience was 684,000.
Let's call that 2.7 even. Not bad, but then again, nowhere near the figures Canadian television was pulling in when the Canadiens were still involved (some games there had more than three million viewers in Quebec alone).

Here's Game 3's American figures:
NBC was barely on the map with game three of the NHL Stanley Cups Finals at an estimated (and fourth place) 4.46 million viewers and a 1.9/5 among adults 18-49 from 8-11 p.m.
It's certainly possible that I'm a cretin when it comes to this stuff, but is it not fair to say that there are actually, in fact, a great deal more people watching the finals on NBC in the U.S. than Canadians on CBC and RDS?

4.46 > 2.7

Yes, the U.S. is a far larger country (304 million to 33 million, more than nine times bigger), but there are huge swaths of the nation that have zero interest in the sport. The numbers so far are a home run in Pittsburgh and the NHL is beating out the NBA's own title chase in Detroit, where the Pistons have won six division titles in seven years.

Ten million people watch So You Think You Can Dance a week in the United States. These are "potential viewers" I believe hockey can live without.
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Shippagan loses its star


"I don't know if you know Shippagan," Guysma Hache said on the phone from there. "It's a very small city — only 2,500 people. We are a French community. The kids around here, they dreamed to have a chance to see Luc Bourdon bring the Stanley Cup here. He was a hero. That was the dream of a lot of kids."
There are a zillion stories like Luc Bourdon's across this country, a local boy made good in the game everyone knows and follows.

In Shippagan, Bourdon wasn't just a celebrity — he was a virtual head of state, a 21-year-old hockey prince who had ascended to the join the stars of the faraway NHL. Years from now, street signs, arenas and schools were to have his name, as the quiet kid from up the street helped shine a light on his sleepy hometown.

Yesterday afternoon, on a lonely highway between Lamenque and the quiet francophone community where he spent his first 16 years, the dream ended.

Some stations here in Toronto ran footage of the accident scene, something that wouldn't have made the press everywhere, and it was difficult to watch. A yellow semi-trailer truck with its hood in tatters down the middle, a slick black motorcycle in pieces on the pavement underneath, and blue tarps masking the rest.

To hockey fans in Vancouver, Bourdon was still an enigma, a high draft pick who had yet to round into form, but a player that had starred in his adopted homeland as a junior on the world stage. Still just 21, there was potential there, and being he could have simply been a slow-developing blueliner, who's to say what heights, exactly, he would have reached.

Bourdon was an Acadian, through and through, and that explained, in part, his shyness. Shippagan is a world away from the bright lights of Vancouver.

His uncle was a crab fisherman, and every summer until he signed his NHL contract, Bourdon was on the boats with his family, earning a living the way countless others in the area do.

There have been outpourings of support in the hours after his death, including groups on Facebook and tributes around the 'net. His family, understandably, has remained quiet, but one friend left a message on a blog explaining the incident, saying that Bourdon's girlfriend watched the accident unfold in a car trailing his newly purchased bike.

Unthinkable.

We've seen small-town Newfoundland rejoice this week as one hero chases the Stanley Cup, but a neighbour is now mourning its boy wonder.

Luc Bourdon Country is down a star.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Coyotes lose Wheeler

Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney announced today that Blake Wheeler, selected by the Coyotes in the 2004 Entry Draft, has rejected the Coyotes contract offer and will become an unrestricted free agent.

“We offered Blake a contract which was both commensurate with his draft position and far exceeded any guaranteed contract he can receive, under the current CBA, with any other team,” said Maloney. “He has decided, however, that becoming a free agent is in his best interest.

“We are very happy with the compensatory pick we will receive for Blake not signing, which will be the fifth pick in the second round. This is a very deep draft and we now have five picks in the first two rounds, which is very exciting.”

Under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, any player who does not remain a college player through the graduation of his applicable class (in this case 2009), must submit a letter stating his intention to turn professional. Upon submission of that letter, the drafting club shall have 30 days to sign the player. If the player and team cannot reach an agreement within that 30 day period, the player becomes a free agent. Wheeler submitted his letter of intention to turn professional on May 8.
To the surprise of many, Phoenix drafted Wheeler fifth overall four years ago out of high school, and he's had a little bit of a rocky ride in the NCAA.

It's expected, however, that he'll have plenty of suitors in the NHL given his size and skill package.

UPDATE The Arizona Republic has more.
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NHL heads to Kansas City

The Los Angeles Kings will play the St. Louis Blues in a pre-season game at the new Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, on Monday, September 22, at 7:05 p.m. (CT) as part of the club’s 2008 preseason schedule. The announcement was made today by Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille at a press conference in Kansas City.
>> team release
The Kansas City connection remains strong. All indications are the city is next in line for an expansion franchise, mainly because of the new building there.

The Blues are in this game because of geography, but the Kings' connection has to do with ownership, as the AEG empire also operates the Sprint Center. Kings owner Philip Anschutz is seen as the driving force behind putting an NHL tenant in the building.

UPDATE Just a quick note that I'll be on The Team 1260 in Edmonton at 5:50 p.m. ET on Friday night.
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Luc Bourdon killed in accident

Top Canucks prospect Luc Bourdon has been killed in a motorcycle accident, several sources in the French press are reporting. [Corus Sports: Luc Bourdon se tue en moto]

The accident occurred just outside of Shippagan, N.B., where Bourdon was from. He was 21.

A first-round pick, 10th overall in 2005, Bourdon played 27 games in Vancouver this season on the blueline and spent another 41 with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL. He played for Team Canada at the world junior championship in 2006 and 2007.

There really are not a lot of details available now, and no English-language media reports, but I'll update when more information is out there.

UPDATE The Canadian Press is reporting this now as of 2:12 p.m. It has been confirmed by his family.

He was apparently killed at 12:30 p.m. today, and some posters on messages boards have indicated he was hit by a semi-truck.

UPDATE Bourdon was one of two active NHLers from New Brunswick (the other is the Flyers' Randy Jones). He's also the only player to ever hail from Shippagan, a French town of under 3,000 people.

UPDATE I haven't been able to track down any information as to Bourdon having a history with motorcycles, but there are many, many professional athletes who have been injured riding the things, most recently Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger.

It's a dangerous hobby.

UPDATE Just a bit more background on Bourdon: He was raised by a single mother, and had juvenile arthritis and was in a wheelchair at age 9. He took medication for six years for the condition, which improved and went away as he got older.

UPDATE “We are deeply saddened by today’s news and on behalf of the entire Vancouver Canucks organization, I would like to extend my sincere sympathies to Luc’s family,” said Canucks General Manager, Mike Gillis. “Luc was an extremely talented player with a bright future. He brought great passion to the game and was a valued team member on and off the ice. He will be greatly missed.”

UPDATE TSN fills in some of the details, including the fact that Bourdon had apparently bought the bike two days ago.

UPDATE There will be a moment of silence for Bourdon prior to Saturday's Game 4 in Pittsburgh.



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Who faced who in Game 3

Using Vic Ferrari's Time on Ice tool, here's a look at who some of the key cogs squared off against at even strength in Wednesday's Game 3.

The figures are a percentage of minutes played against players on the other team (i.e. we see below that Crosby played 46 per cent of his 5-on-5 ice time against Lidstrom, down from 73.5 per cent in Game 1):


S. CROSBY
1 N. KRONVALL 49.7%
2 B. STUART 47.2%
3 N. LIDSTROM 46.0%
4 D. DRAKE 42.3%
5 K. DRAPER 39.9%
6 B. RAFALSKI 38.7%
7 H. ZETTERBERG 35.0%
8 P. DATSYUK 33.7%
9 J. FRANZEN 31.3%
10 V. FILPPULA 30.1%
11 M. SAMUELSSON 28.8%
12 D. CLEARY 27.0%
13 T. HOLMSTROM 17.8%
14 B. LEBDA 9.8%
15 A. LILJA 9.8%
16 K. MALTBY 6.1%
17 D. HELM 4.9%
18 J. HUDLER 3.7%

As you can see, Zetterberg and Datsyuk, the Red Wings's top checkers up front, are a ways down the list, out there for less than half as much of Crosby's ice time as they were back in Detroit.

Here's similar figures for Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin, which will show us the matchups Michel Therrien was looking for:



S. GONCHAR


E. MALKIN
1 B. STUART 43.4%
1 B. STUART 68.5%
2 N. KRONVALL 42.3%
2 N. KRONVALL 66.4%
3 J. FRANZEN 40.7%
3 V. FILPPULA 42.0%
4 N. LIDSTROM 39.6%
4 M. SAMUELSSON 42.0%
5 B. RAFALSKI 36.8%
5 J. FRANZEN 35.7%
6 P. DATSYUK 36.8%
6 D. DRAKE 35.0%
7 H. ZETTERBERG 35.2%
7 K. DRAPER 26.6%
8 M. SAMUELSSON 35.2%
8 H. ZETTERBERG 23.8%
9 V. FILPPULA 32.4%
9 N. LIDSTROM 22.4%
10 D. CLEARY 24.2%
10 B. RAFALSKI 21.0%
11 T. HOLMSTROM 21.4%
11 P. DATSYUK 20.3%
12 A. LILJA 19.2%
12 D. CLEARY 20.3%
13 B. LEBDA 18.7%
13 T. HOLMSTROM 16.1%
14 D. DRAKE 17.0%
14 B. LEBDA 15.4%
15 D. HELM 17.0%
15 K. MALTBY 14.7%
16 K. DRAPER 15.9%
16 J. HUDLER 11.9%
17 J. HUDLER 13.2%
17 D. HELM 11.2%
18 K. MALTBY 11.0%
18 A. LILJA 7.0%

As for the Red Wings, here are the matchups they ended up with. Coach Mike Babcock admitted that, on the road, he "let his guys go" given the fact he didn't have last change, and that's why we see such a wide range of opponents for players like Lidstrom and Zetterberg.



N. LIDSTROM


H. ZETTERBERG
1 S. CROSBY 42.9%
1 R. SCUDERI 55.9%
2 H. GILL 42.3%
2 H. GILL 53.6%
3 S. GONCHAR 41.1%
3 J. STAAL 42.5%
4 B. ORPIK 41.1%
4 M. TALBOT 36.3%
5 M. HOSSA 40.6%
5 S. GONCHAR 35.8%
6 R. SCUDERI 40.6%
6 A. HALL 35.8%
7 A. HALL 33.1%
7 B. ORPIK 34.6%
8 J. STAAL 31.4%
8 S. CROSBY 31.8%
9 P. DUPUIS 31.4%
9 M. HOSSA 26.3%
10 M. TALBOT 30.9%
10 P. DUPUIS 25.7%
11 R. WHITNEY 24.0%
11 T. KENNEDY 24.0%
12 G. ROBERTS 19.4%
12 J. RUUTU 21.2%
13 E. MALKIN 18.3%
13 E. MALKIN 19.0%
14 R. MALONE 17.1%
14 R. WHITNEY 15.6%
15 D. SYDOR 14.9%
15 R. MALONE 13.4%
16 T. KENNEDY 12.6%
16 G. ROBERTS 10.6%
17 P. SYKORA 9.7%
17 P. SYKORA 10.6%
18 J. RUUTU 8.6%
18 D. SYDOR 8.9%

Note the Penguins checkers showing up far more often here against the top guns, and specifically Jordan Staal, who was a nonentity against Detroit's top line earlier in the series.

That makes a difference.
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Pens win

Stanley Cup final
(1) Detroit v. (2) Pittsburgh
Red Wings lead series 2-1
In the end, though, it was Crosby who answered the call when the Penguins needed him the most. With their playoff lives hanging by a thread, Crosby scored twice in a 3-2 win over the visiting Red Wings. It was a game that started slowly and then shifted into overdrive in a wild and entertaining third period.

"There's no doubt you're looking for your best player to bring his 'A' game," Therrien said. "Sid certainly did that tonight."
We've got a series. And Saturday should be pretty interesting.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pregame thoughts

Stanley Cup final
(1) Detroit v. (2) Pittsburgh
Red Wings lead series 2-0

Here are a few musings that came out of today's chat over at FanHouse:

On Sydor coming in: He's been sitting nearly two months and there's a reason for that. I think it reeks of desperation. Sydor hasn't played, and he had a terrible season when he did.

Still, Letang was only playing 11 minutes a game — how big of an impact can his replacement have?

Pittsburgh's been great at home, no doubt, but if they don't score first tonight? It could get ugly if it's an eighth straight goal for Detroit.

On how a sweep would affect U.S. interest: That good press would go for two weeks instead of one if this series is a seven-gamer instead of a sweep. Part of the reason the U.S. markets are interested is the talent of the Penguins, which so far hasn't really been on display.

On whether or not the East is really this much weaker than the West: Keep in mind that Pittsburgh faced the 5, 6 and 7 seeds so far in these playoffs in the weaker conference. That 12-2 romp through the first three rounds was a bit of a mirage.

How line matching could help the Penguins: Get a shutdown line against Zetterberg and Datsyuk, get Crosby away from Lidstrom, and keep your weak defenders away from big guns.

Pittsburgh can get Staal out against them, along with their top defensive pairing, and hopefully negate what Zetterberg and Datsyuk do. Then Detroit's top checkers are wasted on a non-offensive line.

Just a few tidbits. There'll be a live chat at FanHouse again tonight run by a few of the crew.
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Daley re-signs with Stars

The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has signed defenseman Trevor Daley to a three-year contract worth $6.9 million (average of $2.3 million per year) through the 2010-2011 season.

“At just 24 years of age, Trevor continues to grow as a hockey player and we are looking for his game to improve over the next three years,” said Co-General Manager Les Jackson. “He is a valuable member of our hockey club and is a key part to our strong nucleus of younger players.”
A good contract for a player who quietly logged 20 minutes a night over 82 games this season.
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Bloggers at the finals

...though daily newspapers are far from ubiquitous at the finals, other media are picking up the slack. Close to 700 are credentialed by the NHL to cover the Stanley Cup – including two dozen bloggers – compared to 550 last year. And journalists are stumbling over one another to praise the NHL rather than bury it.
Other than Mr. Kukla, I haven't the foggiest who the blogging crew are. Any guesses?
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Live blog reminder

Just a short reminder that I'll be doing a live blog with Seth Rorabaugh from Empty Netters over at FanHouse later today beginning at 1 p.m. This is my first go at one of these things, so I'm hoping for at least a little company from the blogosphere and beyond.

I'll be there chatting up a storm well into the afternoon, so if you're keen on discussing Game 3, by all means, come on by.


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Tracking shots on goal

One of the big stories of the postseason when it comes to the Red Wings has been their dominance on shots on goal, something that's carried over to the finals.

Here's a quick comparison, game-by-game, of Detroit's shots for and against:

And here's what things look like for the Penguins, who have played two fewer games to this point:

Detroit's been well clear of its opponents in the category, while the Penguins, for the most part, have been very close in shots on goal since the Ottawa series.

The past two games have been an anomaly for Pittsburgh, but this is par for the course for the Red Wings.



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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pronger, Arnott offer finals commentary

Two team captains, Anaheim's Chris Pronger and Nashville's Jason Arnott, are moonlighting a bit in these playoffs, putting their thoughts together for the Los Angeles Times and The Tennessean.

Here's Pronger:
...Pittsburgh doesn't want to do the little things. They don't want to dump the puck in. They want to be a puck-possession team as they have been in the first three rounds, but it's tough to do that in Detroit.
Both know the Red Wings well, so it makes for interesting copy.
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The Rock's drought may end

Versus told us last night that if (when) Detroit wins the Cup this year, Dan Cleary will be the first Newfoundlander to ever have his name etched on it. Can this be true?

As a US citizen who car-camped his way through the Maritimes in 2000, I have a special place for the Rock in my heart.
Thanks,
Peter
Sad but true.

Newfoundland and Labrador haven't exactly been hockey hotbeds, producing 25 NHLers, seven of whom played at least one game in the NHL this season. The province's all-time games played leader is Keith Brown at 876, followed by Cleary (540), Darren Langdon (521), Brad Brown (330), Dave Pichette (322) and Mike Ryder (314).

No other Newfoundlanders have played in 300 NHL games.

John Niyo from The Detroit News had a great piece on Cleary's Cup chase on Monday:
"I have thought about it, yeah," he said. "I honestly don't know what to expect, but it's certainly something that I burn for, you know? I want it so bad. Not only for that reason, obviously. But it would be so cool to be the first Newfoundlander to have their name on the Cup, and to be able to bring it home and share it with everybody."

"And, you know, I just think were due," he added with a smile. "We're due."
No kidding.

And The Globe and Mail had a look at the Cleary-related celebration taking place, which includes a "uniquely Newfoundland tradition":
... known as the shed party - where fans retreat to sheds decked out with television sets and barbecues, drink beer, eat moose and caribou and watch the game.

I imagine the party in Cleary's hometown of Harbour Grace will be legendary.

UPDATE Mitch Albom also had a really nice piece today on Cleary's life on The Rock.


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Osgood's Conn job

The longer this shutout streak goes — and it reached minute 137 last night in Detroit — the more and more it becomes likely Chris Osgood wins the 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy.

His numbers, after all, are incredible.

Fourteen netminders have won the playoff MVP since it was first handed out 43 years ago to Jean Beliveau, with only five of those winners posting a goals-against average under 2.00. Bernie Parent did it in 1975 (1.89), followed by Patrick Roy in 1986 (1.92), Mike Vernon in 1997 (1.76), Roy again in 2001 (1.70) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere five years ago (1.62).

Chris Osgood's GAA, after last night's shutout, is 1.38.

No netminder, in NHL history, has won eight playoffs games or more and posted a GAA under the 1.61 Martin Brodeur had in 2000.

Osgood's save percentage, too, is way up there at .939, better than all but three netminders have managed in postseason history among those with eight or more wins. (Giguere's .945 is the gold standard here.)

Now, there's no question Osgood's had a terrific season, the best of his career I would argue (which is interesting given he's making just $800,000 at age 35), but there's no question he's benefited in these playoffs from the fact he sees so little rubber.

Osgood has averaged just 21.3 saves per 60 minutes played in these playoffs, more than five fewer than the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury.

Of the 82 goaltenders who have won eight games in a single playoff season over the past 25 years, only six have had to make fewer than 21.3 saves to do so. Three times, that was Brodeur, benefiting from a super-stingy defence in front of him in 1995, 2000 and 2001 and making between 18.1 and 21.1 saves. Mike Vernon made just 18.6 in 1995 in that finals loss to the Devils, while Ed Belfour won a Cup with Dallas making 21.2.

Osgood himself, in 1996, lost in Round 3 as a starter despite having to make only 18.5 saves per game.

None of the six won the Conn Smythe.

What I'm getting at here is that there's a sort of "minimum workload" factor that plays a role in the MVP award. I've only got saves and save percentage figures as far back as the 1984 postseason, but since then, here are the eight Conn Smythe winners and their workloads:

Patrick Roy, 1986, 23.0 sv/60
Ron Hextall, 1987, 27.2 sv/60
Bill Ranford, 1990, 26.3 sv/60
Patrick Roy, 1993, 27.9 sv/60
Mike Vernon, 1997, 22.4 sv/60
Patrick Roy, 2001, 24.0 sv/60
J-S Giguere, 2003, 28.1 sv/60
Cam Ward, 2006, 24.4 sv/60

Vernon's certainly the comparable here, in more ways than one.

What the question really comes down to is, on a team dominated by defence, puck possession and strong special teams, one that allows as few shots as the Red Wings do, can the goaltender be the MVP?

Obviously Osgood can only stop what's thrown his way, but at what point are low save totals high enough to warrant the postseason's top individual honour?

At some point, you have to reward players who are putting up twice as many shots for as against, even as the man in the crease reaps the benefits.

That's this team's real strength — not goaltending.



5-on-5 shots for minus shots against per 60 mins
(Min. 12 games and prior to finals)


NAME POS TM SF/60 SA/60
1 JIRI HUDLER C DET 39.4 19.2 20.2
2 BRETT LEBDA D DET 36.5 18.1 18.4
3 PAVEL DATSYUK C DET 33.2 17.4 15.8
4 TOMAS HOLMSTROM LW DET 33 17.6 15.4
5 HENRIK ZETTERBERG LW DET 32.7 17.4 15.3
6 CHRIS CHELIOS D DET 35.1 20 15.1
7 TOMAS PLEKANEC LW MTL 31.5 16.8 14.7
8 MIKAEL SAMUELSSON RW DET 35 22.2 12.8
9 ANDREI KOSTITSYN RW MTL 28.9 16.3 12.6
10 MICHAEL KOMISAREK D MTL 34.6 22.8 11.8
11 BRIAN RAFALSKI D DET 32.7 21.3 11.4
12 PATRICK MARLEAU C S.J 26.7 15.6 11.1
13 NICKLAS LIDSTROM D DET 31.3 20.7 10.6
14 BRYAN SMOLINSKI C MTL 31.8 21.6 10.2
15 ALEX KOVALEV RW MTL 29.6 20.3 9.3
16 TOM KOSTOPOULOS RW MTL 32.2 23 9.2
17 STEVE BEGIN LW MTL 31.8 22.9 8.9
18 JOE PAVELSKI LW S.J 24.6 15.8 8.8
19 ANDREI MARKOV D MTL 31.8 23 8.8
20 DOUGLAS MURRAY D S.J 29.5 21.2 8.3

Tyler Dellow did a great analysis earlier this postseason that showed that teams that out shoot opponents win more often than not, but it was far from a slam dunk. Still, the Red Wings have outshot everyone in these playoffs and you can't argue with the results.

Detroit's averaged a 36.2-23.3 edge in shots on goal and has only been outshot once in 18 games in these playoffs.

If there were records kept for such things, they'd have shattered it.


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Detroit dominates again

Stanley Cup final
(1) Detroit v. (2) Pittsburgh
Red Wings lead series 2-0
Stuart's goal, at 6:55 of the first period, gave the Wings a lead they never relinquished.

A stingy defence took care of the rest as the Red Wings registered a 3-0 win over the visiting Penguins and opened a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven final. The venue switches to Pittsburgh for the third game tomorrow night. The Penguins will put a 16-game, home winning streak on the line.
If there's going to be a Pittsburgh trip, I'm going to have to bump it from Game 6 to Game 4, I think.

There were all kinds of late-game shenanigans in this one, and accusations of diving lobbed against Chris Osgood, but none of that nonsense matters come Wednesday night, when they have to win.

Pittsburgh's been out shot 70-41, outscored 7-0 and downright dominated through six periods so far. Home better be where the heart is because we haven't seen it from the Penguins yet.

"We play a different team than we played in the first three rounds," Sykora said. "It's like there's nothing out there."

He's right — at least on one side of the ice.

In any event, I'll put it this way: 43 times in Stanley Cup final history, a team has gone down 0-2 to start a series and that team's record is 3-40 (7%). When a team that starts the series on the road has gone down 0-2 in the final, its record is 1-31 (3.1%).

If Pittsburgh wins this series at this point, it'll be one of the greatest comebacks in finals history — and they'll have to pull it off against one of the best teams we've seen in the last decade.
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Monday, May 26, 2008

Game 2 open thread

I'm sitting in the Toronto newsroom for tonight's matchup, but courtesy of Seth Rorabaugh, I'm also in Detroit at the game. Sort of:

Seth's live blogging the festivities from Motown, so check out Empty Netters during the game. As an early FYI, Mr. Rorabaugh, myself and hopefully The Pensblog crew will be doing a FanHouse live chat on Wednesday afternoon to set up Game 3.

Tonight, I'll be around at FanHouse as things get going.
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Meet Sidney Crosby, the turtle

Though there are ways to challenge domain name squatting now, what sort of options would you have if someone had grabbed your name before you got famous?

If you're wondering what the heck I'm babbling about, take a quick look at sidneycrosby.com. Instead of finding the centerpiece of what should be a massive branding campaign for one of the world's greatest athletes, what you'll see more or less amounts to an online diary of a turtle.
The internet's a strange, strange place.

The real Sid Crosby's website is over at Crosby87.com, but that's not by choice. SidneyCrosby.com, along with a host of similar addresses, are all registered to a Gordon Thomas of St. John's, Newfoundland, and the sites were picked up long before Crosby became a star.

sidneycrosby.com Created on: 01-16-2002
sidney-crosby.com Created on: 16-Aug-03
sidneycrosby.net Created on: 23-Jun-03
sidney-crosby.net Created on: 16-Aug-03
sidneycrosby.org Created on: 17-Aug-2003
sidney-crosby.org Created on: 17-Aug-2003

And there may be more that I haven't tracked down. Thomas's name is also attached to onboardsigns.com and dogpatch.org, however.

The main site, where our turtle friend resides, was registered when Crosby the hockey player was just 14 years old. At that point, however, he was nearly a household name in the Maritimes after scoring 44 goals in 31 games playing with 17-year-olds in Midget AAA, and attempting to play major junior at 15 in 2002-03. (Like Mario Lemieux, he was denied and Crosby played at an American prep school.)

The content on SidneyCrosby.com is truly bizarre, including a recent update on the turtle's new banjo-playing girlfriend. There's a large disclaimer on the site stating the domain is not for sale, indicating the owner's likely had a few offers.

What follows is an email conversation I had with someone purporting to be Sidney Crosby — presumably Thomas (likely), the turtle (not as much so) or the real Crosby (he's a little tied up at the moment):

Mirtle: Hi - would you mind answering a few questions about your turtle website?

Sidney Crosby: That depends; who are you?

Mirtle: I'm a writer in Toronto. I'm curious if you get a lot of offers to purchase your site, and I'm wondering why you haven't sold it?

Sidney Crosby: I receive e-mails from writers with the same questions as you. If you want to write a story, go ahead. But I'm not answering the questions you sent.
Its pretty obvious why it hasn't been sold. Its not for sale. Period.

Mirtle: Interesting. I'm afraid I can't understand why you wouldn't talk about the site, but that's certainly your choice.

Sidney Crosby: The lawyers that represent Sidney Crosby (you know who) have been in touch with the owner of the site via e-mail and phone. Lets just say the conversation wasn't of a friendly nature.

Therefore any questions you may have will remain unanswered.

Please leave it at this.



And so I did.
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Chara's climb for charity

What a great idea.

The Hockey News' Brian Costello has more on the trek and what climbing Kilimanjaro is like.

Zdeno Chara's well-known as a fitness fanatic, so I don't know that he'll have a problem.

THN has a close connection to Right to Play, the organization putting together the fundraiser, as former senior writer Mark Brender works for the group.
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Dismantling the Penguins

Regardless of what happens in Game 2 tonight and the rest of the finals, things are going to be mighty interesting for the Pittsburgh Penguins going forward. The team's glut of young talent has peaked incredibly quickly, an unexpected rise given where they've come from and a boon for the team and its fans, but a problem, too, for GM Ray Shero.

With more wins, and more goals, come bigger paychecks — and he won't have room for them all.

Twenty players have suited up in these playoffs for the Penguins — 21 if you add in a backup netminder — and altogether this group has a cap hit of just under $43-million this season, comfortably under the cap. (We'll ignore press box popcorn-muncher Darryl Sydor's $2.5-million deal.)

But that's not sustainable, not by a long shot. Here's a look at the Penguins current depth chart, with pending UFAs in red and pending RFAs in green.

Malone Crosby Hossa
Talbot Malkin Sykora
Dupuis Staal Kennedy
Roberts Hall Ruutu
Laraque




Gonchar Orpik
Scuderi Gill
Whitney Letang



Fleury

Conklin


The defence looks to remain intact, sure, but how about those forward lines? How many of those seven will return, keeping in mind the big pay raises on the way for Fleury, Malkin and Staal?

It's more of a question of who you keep, given the economics. Let's assume Shero moves to lock up all three of his centrepiece RFAs, and all sign on with the massive long-term deals that have become customary for similar players.

Fleury's cap hit would balloon from $1.295-million to at least $5-million. Malkin will earn more than $9-million a season, while Staal figures to earn at least $4.5-million per season come 2009-10.

In addition to those three, the Penguins already have four others signed for two years from now: Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney and Kris Letang — who together will combine to earn nearly $20-million in 2009-10. Add in the projected Malkin, Fleury and Staal figures, and we're at $38- to $40-million with just seven players under contract.

Factoring in cap hikes similar to what we've seen, that leaves roughly $20-million to fill out the roster, which will be spread amongst 10 forwards, three defencemen and a backup netminder.

Back to the UFAs. The only way Hossa stays is on a discounted one-year deal, and given the money that will be thrown his way this off-season (upwards of $50-million over seven-plus years), that's likely a non-starter.

He's gone.

Brooks Orpik will command in the $4-million range annually over a lengthy term and can't be kept without moving another blueliner. Ryan Malone's next contract will be bigger than that. And support players like Pascal Dupuis and Ty Conklin will at least double their salaries after strong seasons.

Next season, Pittsburgh's in decent shape, with Malkin and Staal staying on their entry-level deals, but is it possible to keep the "core seven" together and ice a winning team in 2009-10? And if the answer's "no," who do you deal?

Perhaps these young Penguins' time really is now.



Players Pos GP Pts
2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
1 Sidney Crosby C 15 21
3.700 8.700 8.700
2 Evgeni Malkin C 15 19
3.834 3.834 RFA
3 Marian Hossa RW 15 19
6.000 UFA
4 Ryan Malone LW 15 15
1.375 UFA
5 Sergei Gonchar D 15 11
5.000 5.000 5.000
6 Petr Sykora RW 15 8
2.625 2.625 UFA
7 Max Talbot C 12 7
0.675 0.675 RFA
8 Jordan Staal C 15 7
2.200 2.200 RFA
9 Ryan Whitney D 15 6
4.000 4.000 4.000
10 Pascal Dupuis LW 15 6
0.880 UFA
11 Tyler Kennedy C 15 4
0.542 0.542 RFA
12 Robert Scuderi D 15 3
0.713 0.713 UFA
13 Georges Laraque RW 15 3
1.200 UFA
14 Jarkko Ruutu LW 15 3
1.150 UFA
15 Gary Roberts LW 6 3
2.500 UFA
16 Kris Letang D 15 2
0.835 0.835 0.835
17 Brooks Orpik D 15 2
1.038 UFA
18 Adam Hall RW 12 2
0.525 UFA
19 Hal Gill D 15 1
2.075 2.075 UFA
20 Marc-Andre Fleury G 15 0
1.295 RFA
21 Ty Conklin G 0 0
0.500 UFA






$42.66 $31.20 $18.54
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