Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Spectacular 1st Annual PiTB Free Agency Day Meta-LiveBlog Spectacular!

It has officially come to this. Birthed from the twin brains of Skeeter and Harrison, two guys with a knack for the written word and an unhealthy obsession with the Vancouver Canucks, Pass it to Bulis! was born. But it wasn't simply enough to write about the Canucks. Essaying is so far removed from the pulse of drama-heavy days such as free agency. It has to be a live blog. It has to. Don't try to change our minds. We can't be tamed.

But what sets our LiveBlog apart from all the others you could read today? Well, first, nobody's reading this one. So there's that. But here's the real prize: this is a Meta-LiveBlog. What does that mean? Well, it means we're not actually LiveBlogging free agency. We're actually LiveBlogging ourselves, watching TSN's Free Agent Frenzy. Sure, we'll report the news, but you can find that anywhere. Don't worry, you won't miss any news (unless the Canucks Message Boards' Trades & Rumours subforum crashes for the afternoon, which it always does). What you'll get here are updates about when Pierre McGuire stands too close to Darren Dutchyshen; when Duthie cuts away to a panel that has nothing to say, and isn't aware they're on; when Darren Dreger tweets the news, live on television, from his blackberry, without telling us until he's done. You'll also hear our immediate reactions to Canucks moves and non-moves; when Skeeter and I are hungry; when our wives begin asking us to stop this nonsense.

Bookmark this page. Refresh it often. Join the conversation. Argue with us--we're dumb and stubborn. The newest updates will appear at the top. The LiveBlog begins at 8:45am.

Byfuglien Trade Has Glorious Karmic Factor

Short post, but I had to get something off my chest. I detest Dustin Byfuglien. As hockey players go, he's the scum of the earth. Is this a rivalry thing? Not really. Here's the thing: I believe it is beyond disrespectful to taunt the fans of your opponent when you score. And don't get me wrong. I'm no Don Cherry. Celebrate with your teammates--celebrate flamboyantly, even--but celebrate with your teammates. Don't celebrate as a show for the fans who, with that goal, you deflated and devastated. Don't revel in breaking their hearts. Revel in your success with the others that helped make it possible. I lost any respect I had for Dustin Byfuglien, even as the frustratingly talented nemesis of my team, when he taunted the fans of Vancouver. I was further incensed when he did the same to the fans in Buffalo. I wished all manner of harm upon him.

So it was, with unbridled glee, that I celebrated the news last week that he had been traded, in a massive deal, to the armpit of the hockey world, Atlanta. First of all, being traded apparently sucks, and I always sympathize for the players. But, in this case, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. where he will be expected to replace Ilya Kovalchuk and fail hilariously, be called out for having an albatross of a contract, forced to play with players that are not Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and deal with terrible management. All of these things, in themselves, are wonderful.

But the most wonderful is the karmic factor. Look at these attendance numbers: nobody goes to games in Atlanta. They were third-worst in attendance last year. This year, without Kovalchuk, they are likely to drop a space or two. Byfuglien will be playing in an empty arena. What better justice for a player who systematically disrespects fans who pay to watch him play than to take those fans away. I am giddy.

Here is What Will Happen Tomorrow

So tomorrow is free agency day in the NBA and the NHL, and we're about to witness two of the most disparate free agent frenzies in the history of the world.

First, the NHL free agent frenzy. Have you seen this bumper crop? I mean, Sheldon Brookbank! Wowie zowie! Yeah, that's sarcasm. The big names tomorrow are Anton Volchenkov and Dan Hamhuis, two defenseman who will probably make between four and five million dollars to be the headline guy on a second pairing. If you want to go big, there's also Ilya Kovalchuk, who has received 6 Hart trophy votes since the lockout, to Henrik Sedin's 894, and he's asking for about 7 million a season. Any team that signs him is foolish. Indications are that he will succeed in a vacuum wherein the rest of your team will not succeed for lack of discipline, cohesion, and cap space.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that, while there will be fireworks, they will be at your local park, because it's Canada Day. They will not be in the NHL.

The Canucks are supposed to be busy tomorrow. I hope so. Mike Gillis has promised that they are not done, and he'd better come through on that. The Canucks need at least one proven forward for their third line, be he a center or a winger. I suspect one of Cody Hodgson, Sergei Shirokov, or Jordan Schroeder are expected to make the team and have already been penciled in on the line. Maybe Oreskovich or Hansen could take another spot. Maybe. But there's no third line at all unless Gillis gets a guy that guarantees Tanner Glass spends 100% less of his time with the team playing there. I'd love to see a big-name forward with some size and grit join the team tomorrow. So would Mike Gillis. But, in two years with Gillis, we've seen that it's easier said than done. And Gillis has a tendency to scoop up guys in early July that nobody gives a rip about. Sometimes they pan out. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they almost do. Expect more Ryan Johnsons than Ilya Kovalchuks tomorrow.

Basically, what I'm saying is that if you're counting on NHL free agency to blow your mind, you're looking at the wrong league that utilizes a three-letter acronym beginning with N. The NBA is where it's at.

Tomorrow is going to be insane. Have you seen their list of free agents? Here's Ball Don't Lie's top 25. Basically, everybody is. Lebron James. Chris Bosh. This afternoon alone, all the guys with option years opted out. Dirk Nowitki. Paul Pierce. Amar'e Stoudemire. It's going to be like when you edit rosters in NHL 2001, and you just move guys around to wank about. More guys switching teams than a class of freshman theater majors.

I'll be following both. I'm expecting the NHL to fizzle. I'm expecting the NBA to sizzle. Combined together, it's going to be an awesome day.

Arbitration May Be Good to Mason Raymond, Bad for Shane O'Brien

You might have already heard that the Canucks have qualified eight restricted free agents. Maybe you don't know exactly what that means. If so, you're not alone. But, as far as I understand, the qualifying offer is an 105% increase on what players made the previous year which, when tendered, retains their private negotiation rights. From there, the player and the team can bicker over what the actual contract will be.

And bicker they will. Few people care, I would imagine, what Tanner Glass will be paid. A lot more people care what Mason Raymond will make, because the arguments vary from between 2 million and 4 million. That is a massive disparity in dollars, especially considering that it's exactly the amount we just cleared off the books by jettisoning Steve Bernier. Wojtek Wolksi's recent signing, at 3.8 million per season, a possible comparable, does not bode well for the penny-pinchers among us like, say, Mike Gillis. So it's no surprise that this one's likely going to arbitration.

Arbitration is a scary word. Our friends on the radio often like to cite the Brendan Morrison arbitration hearing, in which he was compared to a mouse riding on the back of an elephant. Like a trip to the dentist, sensitive areas get poked all too often, and enemies for life can be made. In more recent history, however, Kyle Wellwood's arbitration hearing went pretty decently last year, so maybe it will be nice. I would imagine somebody will hit up Costco for a fruit platter, and everybody will, at the very least, get to share some fresh pineapple. Raymond will likely be told about his common tendency to overlook his linemates, or that his go-to move of squeaking past the defenseman along the boards, cycling the zone and giving it to the defenseman with nowhere to go is not impressive. But if he can handle those criticisms, he'll probably have a nice time.

It does not sound like a good time for Shane O'Brien, who, reports say, is much more hesitant to go to arbitration. In his own words:

“Hopefully I don’t have to go to arb and, from what I heard, it’s not a pleasant process [...] They’ve probably got a lot of material they can use against me so it probably wouldn’t work too well.”

Yes, they do. Notice here that Shane O'Brien is so scared of the word arbitration that he doesn't even say it. Arb could be anything from arboriculture to Arby's, both of which are intimidating, unpleasant institutions.

He's right to assume it will be unpleasant for him. Probably because he's better known for busting out the guns than toning and trimming fat from them. The case to be made against SOB in arbitration might be too true, too sobering. And sometimes SOB prefers not to be sober. That he's aware of this is a good thing, and he's likely to sign a favorable contract rather than be forced to confront the man in the mirror. If he can improve his play at all, he'll be a stellar sixth defenseman on a nice, low, short contract. I hope he does, because I like Shane O'Brien, and his intensity and emotion during playoff time will be missed if he goes elsewhere.

The Dreaded Two-Goal Lead, Vol. 1: NHL Awards Review

This feature is titled "The Dreaded Two-Goal Lead" because everybody knows that having a two-goal lead at any point in a hockey game is a guaranteed loss. Two-goal leads are impossibly easy to come back from. In this case, I haven't written much on PiTB since the Canucks were ousted from the playoffs, and there's a lot to catch up on. Much like an ice hockey team coming from two goals down, I'm going to catch up effortlessly, starting right now.

This feature is numbered Volume 1 because I imagine this won't be the last time I fall a bit behind in my coverage. I'm a writer who loves the Vancouver Canucks, and my urge to give away my writing for free wanes when my team isn't winning. But enough is enough. Things have been happening, and my opinion on these things must be known, even if I have to... self-motivate.

Henrik Sedin won the Hart

Did you hear about this? Yeah. It was pretty big news. Faced with some pretty stiff competition in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin went all HenKik on them, dispatching the NHL's two best players like they were twin Blankas. The most interesting thing about his speech, I think, was when he thanked every player that had mentored he and Daniel over the years. It was neat hearing him name Trent Klatt alongside Trevor Linden, Matthias Ohlund, Markus Naslund, and it's a validation of media reports that these guys really went out of their way to acclimatize, educate and develop Daniel and Henrik. Hats off to the entire Canucks organization for this trophy win, as growing a player, over a decade, from the draft to the Hart is no easy feat and it's not done alone. Henrik's speech hinted at this beautifully and it was a great moment for Canucks fans everywhere. I'm still not convinced he deserved to win, but why gripe now that we have the league's most valuable player for 4 million less per year than Ilya Kovalchuk (allegedly) wants?

I'll gripe briefly. The Ted Lindsay Award and the Hart trophy rarely sync up. Is that not strange? Is the disparity between "league's best player" and "team's most valuable player" really that large? Apparently, yes. Let's be honest. The vague wording of the Hart trophy means that I could argue for anybody from Henrik Sedin to Miikka Kiprusoff as its winner. In relative terms, Kiprusoff could have more individual impact on the Flames than Henrik had on the Canucks. Obviously, the Canucks were the better team, and Henrik's impact is far more statisically measurable, but still, the wording for the award leaves this wide open. That the argument for Henrik rested primarily on this phrasing proves that the phrasing isn't the greatest, not that Henrik is. Semantics aside, I am over the moon for Hank. And speaking of wording, will somebody please tell Jacques Lemaire that Sedin doesn't rhyme with redden?

Ryan Kesler did not win the Selke

Let's be honest: in some sense, this was the best season of Ryan Kesler's career, but in another sense, 2010 has probably been the worst year of his life, what with all the heartbreaking losses he's suffered after coming so frigging close. The Selke, the playoffs, the Olympic gold medal game... this is a guy that hates to lose, and did nothing but losing, humiliatingly, all season long. And nobody wanted it more. As an avid Settlers of Catan player, I understand this all too well. It's like having no wheat, or having the thief on your only source of wheat, when all you need to win the game is one effing wheat. Could Keith Ballard be that wheat?

I might be more unhappy about the Selke voting than I am about the Hart. I don't know that Kesler deserved this award, but I do think that Pavel Datsyuk won this award on reputation. Granted, his takeaway numbers are the highest, but that's because he's a shifty bugger, not because he's the best defensive forward in the NHL. I'd give this more explanation, but why don't you read this post at Kukla's Korner instead.

Also, this Video Was Pretty Funny

Yes, yes it was. Ryan Getzlaf's deadpan delivery was hilarious. Bobby Ryan's petulance was also quite amusing. I think my favourite moment was when Getzlaf uses Ryan's medal as a coaster, and then says to him, "Sorry, I didn't' recognize it, it wasn't gold." Good on these two to agree to do this, as it was the highlight of an NHL awards show that should have been hosted by Aziz Ansari and not Jay Mohr. Just saying.

Here's hoping that this isn't the last awards show to prominently feature some Canucks. Next year, I'd like to see Luongo return to Vezina form, Hodgson or Schroeder get some Calder consideration, and Shane O'Brien tone up so much he gets a nod for the Masterton. And come on, if he's back wearing the Orca, it's about time that Welly got some love for the Lady Byng. He;s so soft, when he goes into the corners, he serves his opponents glasses of water fresh from a mountain stream, like in that Van Morrison song.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Canucks Acquire Keith Ballard, Confuse Fanbase

Ladies and gentlemen, Keith Ballard.

There is a definite possibility that you have not yet heard the news that Keith Ballard now plays for the Vancouver Canucks. It happened last Friday, just before the NHL entry draft, but I'm sure you don't care about when--you care about what went the other way. Well, let's fill you in: in exchange for the right to move Keith Ballard's couch to Yaletown as well as some dude named Victor Oreskovich, the Canucks parted ways with Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier, and their 1st round pick in the draft.

I know what you're feeling right now: confusion. You're confused. Like Fox Mulder, you want to believe. Mike Gillis has earned our love and respect these past few years by making some pretty decent moves. The Mikael Samuelsson signing? Great move. The Christian Ehrhoff trade? Stellar move. Even many of his recent draftees appear to be laden with promise. In many respects, Mike Gillis has been good to us. But there is a dark side to Mike Gillis. It was likely his inner Sith Lord that traded a third-round pick for Andrew Alberts. Heck, perhaps it was that same evil force that thought Steve Bernier would be a force to be reckoned with. And let's be frank: the debate over whether or not the Mats Sundin signing was a good thing or a hilarious fiasco is about as tight as the Florida Recount. When you really think about it, Mike Gillis's track record is not going to help you determine whether or not you like this trade. Reputation is out, so let's do it the old-fashioned way. Let's do it how Ross chose between Julie and Rachel. Let's make a list of pros and cons.

The Canucks get a top-four defenseman they desperately need.

The Canucks gave up their first-round draft pick to get him, meaning they didn't have a pick for the first three rounds of the draft.

It was, by Mike Gillis's assertion, a weak draft, and the Canucks' prospect pool is strong enough that he's comfortable being the first GM in Canucks' history to wait to draft anybody until round four. He was so cool with it that he drafted Patrick McNally in the fourth-round, a high-school student who's planning to go to Harvard after his senior year next year.

The Canucks gave up Michael Grabner, who showed flashes of brilliance during his time with the Canucks this year. Though he seemed destined to spend his time scoring 30 goals a season in the AHL, he finally cracked the big lineup in 2009, scoring 11 points in 20 games. At times looked dangerous, especially skating with Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler on what fans called the speed line. He also managed a pretty impressive hat trick in only his seventeenth NHL game. Now he looks like he might be a 30-goal-scorer in the NHL.

Grabner was deemed superfluous when Anton Rodin and Jordan Schroeder headed to Manitoba. Schroeder especially showed that he might be ready to surpass Grabner on the depth chart, especially considering what he did in Manitoba at the end of last season. Furthermore, the top-six appears fairly set, with Burrows and Samuelsson as the interchangeable right wings to complement the Sedins, and the speedy, tight-checking Raymond and Kesler unit. Where was Grabner supposed to go? He showed, in the playoffs last year, that he didn't have the nose for the net or the grit necessary to be a third-line guy. He was going back to Manitoba, where he would swiftly find himself battling other prospects to be the first call-up. There was a likelihood he would lose, and if he suffered any sort of setback, he'd never be worth what he was on Friday. Not only was Michael Grabner expendable, but he may have peaked in value to the Vancouver Canucks. Such is their sudden, supposed prospect depth at forward. Grabner may very well turn into a consistent top-six guy in Florida, but it wasn't going to happen here.

The Canucks gave up Steve Bernier! He had the potential to be the next great power forward. As the former rights-holders of a guy named Cam Neely, Vancouver should be extra careful when trading away players with this sort of potential.

The Canucks got rid of Steve Bernier! Let's be honest. Bernier was perhaps the biggest bust Mike Gillis has made thus far. He was terrible. He missed more tap-ins than anyone, ever, and he was being paid 2 million a year to do exactly what Victor Oreskovich will do for $575,000. Don't get lost by his draft position or former pedigree: Bernier was a failure being paid for potential he had proven he couldn't fulfill. Rather than wait for this inevitability to be plain to everyone, Gillis shipped him out for much-needed capspace without losing any of the positives he would have brought: grit, size, and what I will heretofore refer to as fourthlinerness.

Speaking of capspace, have you seen Keith Ballard's cap hit? He's making 4.2 million a season until 2015. This is a very long time considering we nobody seems to know exactly what he's going to bring us. In the best case scenario, he turns out like another Christian Ehrhoff, surprising everyone and making the Canucks the out-and-out winners in a foolish trade, but in the worst case scenario, he turns out like another Jay Bouwmeester and fizzles out after leaving Florida, the city that apparently ruins hockey players (see also: Jokinen, Olli). In this scenario, he sucks it up and makes life Hell for the Canucks when Christian Ehrhoff argues, during contract talks, that he's clearly worth more than Keith "Lame Duck" Mallard.

If Ballard works out, he should bring more to the table than Christian Ehrhoff. He is said to possess similar offensive abilities to Ehrhoff, along with Ehrhoff's missing element: grit. He should help the Canucks D-corps by adding some toughness and increasing the point-getting ability of one of the highest-scoring bluelines in the NHL last season. Ballard, it's said, is mean, perhaps teetering on batcrap insane. Well, maybe he isn't, but this Youtube video sure is. The long and the short of it is this: if Ballard pans out the way Gillis thinks he will, he'll be about a two/three defenseman, he'll cap what Ehrhoff asks for in negotiations, he'll give us some of the grit we were missing against the Chicago Blackhawks, he'll improve one of our greatest strengths, and he'll make us harder to play against. That's a lot to ask for, but that package of goodness is why this trade might make sense after all.

This was clearly a cap dump by GM Dale Tallon, and speaking of general managers with enough credibility to assume that they won deals just because of who they are, a team that this guy assembled recently won the Stanley Cup. I heard this argument recently on a Kurtenblog podcast and I agree. From where I'm sitting, Dale Tallon dumping salary is unlike Doug Wilson dumping salary.

Actually, Dale Tallon did, like, forget to qualify a bunch of restricted free agents this one time, costing him team millions. Remember that? That's got to count for something.

The Canucks now have five defenseman on the roster making over three million.

It appears Kevin Bieksa, who does some very good things, is expendable. He'd fetch, at worst, a forward skilled enough to play alongside our third-line center, be it Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, or our beloved Kyle Wellwood, back for a third tour. I've been sticking up for Kevin Bieska for two seasons now, but even I can't explain what in the Hell he's doing on this play. Juice is great, but he has a tendency to be a bonehead. I heard somewhere that Ballard is a faster, more reliable, equally mean version of Kevin Bieksa. If that's true, I'd be happy to see Bieksa go.

Keith Ballard once threw a puck into his own net (video at the top), and, you've likely already seen the video of the time he accidentally Canseocoed his Tomas Vokoun in the face. Ballard might not be done with the helmet fires.

I'm a huge Canucks fan and everything is sunny until we get eliminated from the playoffs.

Final analysis: No idea, and though the radio, the newspapers, and the Internet have been abuzz with people weighing in, the truth is that they have no idea either. I don't think anybody's ever watched this guy play. Playing in Florida is a little like farting outdoors, in that it goes largely unnoticed. Now, Ballard appears to have generated a lot of interest, before the Canucks emerged as the highest bidder, so he's clearly got something teams want. If Ballard can be all the things people say he could be, he's a great acquisition. But that's a big if. It's a risky if, and nobody can give any reliable insight into its probability. That's scary, but considering the bullish, overinformed nature of Vancouver hockey punditry, it's downright bewildering. It's also frustrating for Canucks fans, who have grown used to a media spoonfeeding them every tidbit they've ever wanted. This time around it's not happening.

Anyway. I can see why you're confused.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Some of my 10 Unlikely Playoff Predictions (Almost) Came True!

Two whole months ago, way back in the middle of April, as Harrison and I were getting PiTB! rolling, we made some playoff predictions. As a spoof, I made mine a series of thoroughly unlikely predictions, none of which I expected to come true.

But some of them (almost) did.

So, now that the playoffs are over and the (hated, loathed, and generally disliked) Chicago Blackhawks are the Stanley Cup Champions, here's a review of my 10 Increasingly Unlikely Playoff Predictions. I will be rating each prediction on a scale of 1 to atrocious.

Prediction #1: Steve Bernier will lead the Canucks in goal-scoring, specifically with 13 goals (7 gamewinners). What's more, the Canucks would reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994.

Result: Ha! Told you these were unlikely. Not a single part of this prediction came true, though, to Bernier's credit, he did score 4 goals in 12 games to finish 3rd on the Canucks. All of the goals came against the LA Kings, so it almost looked like this prediction could have come true. Then along came the 'Hawks and Bernier couldn't pull a Byfuglien. None of his goals were gamewinners.

Verdict: Hopeful, but awful prediction.

Prediction #2: Pierre McGuire will use the word "monster" only once per game.

Result: I'm pretty sure I heard him say "monster" three times in one sentence, with a "monstrous" thrown in for good measure.

Verdict: In retrospect, this was the least likely of my predictions. Appalling.

Prediction #3: Chris Pronger will carry the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals with a brilliant postseason, only to lose the Conn Smythe to Brian "The Mighty Boosh" Boucher.

Result: So close to being true. Instead, Pronger lost the Conn Smythe by being not very good in the final two games of the Stanley Cup Finals. He lost it to Jonathan Toews, who didn't even score a goal in the finals and finished behind Danny Briere for the scoring lead. The Mighty Boosh didn't start a single game against the Blackhawks.

Verdict: While still horrible, this was easily my best prediction. Did anyone else on the entire internet predict the Flyers reaching the Finals?

Prediction #4: Pavel Datsyuk won't score a goal against the Coyotes; Adrian Aucoin will score the series-winner on the powerplay in the second overtime of game 7.

Result: The series did reach game 7, but Datsyuk scored 5 goals against the Coyotes, including the game and series-winning goal in a game 7 that didn't even get close to overtime. So, essentially the exact opposite of what I predicted.

Verdict: While Datsyuk wasn't his usual wizardly self in these playoffs, he scored plenty of goals on Bryzgalov. Terrible prediction.

Prediction #5: Jose "Alvin Simon" Theodore will be outstanding in net for the Capitals, recording three shutouts enroute to the Eastern Conference Finals. He will make 44 saves in a game 6 loss that knocks Washington out of the playoffs.

Result: Theodore was fantastic in game 1 against the Canadiens, making 35 saves on 38 shots in a tough overtime loss. He then gave up 2 goals on the first 2 shots of game 2. He didn't play again. After game 7, neither did the Capitals.

Verdict: Brutal prediction.

Prediction #6: The Nashville Predators will sweep the Chicago Blackhawks. None of the games will be decided by one goal.

Result: The Predators pushed the series to 6 games but couldn't knock out the eventual cup-winners. Game 5 was the only game decided by one goal.

Verdict: 5 of the 6 games being decided by more than one goal makes this prediction look better than it is. The 'Hawks won the Cup, so this was a catastrophic prediction.

Prediction #7: Barack Obama will appear at the first game of the playoffs for the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday to drop the ceremonial first puck. Because of this, Washington Capitals fans will refuse to vote for him in the next election, leading to a narrow victory for Republican Mitt Romney.

Results: Nope. Ol' Mitt might still have a shot, though.

Verdict: Putrid prediction.

Prediction #8: The Ottawa Senators will light up Marc-André Fleury, causing him to be pulled in two of the first three games of the series. Despite this, the Penguins will rally back, with Fleury posting a shutout in game 7. They will subsequently be knocked out in the second round.

Results: Specificity did this one in. The Senators did indeed light up Fleury in game 1, scoring 5 goals on 26 shots, but he bounced back with a solid outing in game 2. The Penguins won in 6 without Fleury posting a single shutout. The Penguins did get knocked out in the second round.

Verdict: This prediction gets a participation ribbon. Thanks for coming out, execrable prediction.

Prediction #9: Joe Thornton will dominate, leading the postseason in points. Evgeni Nabakov will be fantastic, with the best save percentage of the postseason. Despite this, the Sharks will lose in the Western Conference Final. The media will blame Thornton and Nabakov for choking.

Results: While not dominant, Thornton did somewhat excise his playoff demons with a half-decent, inconsistent performance. He was, quite frankly, lukewarm, which may cause some deities to spit him out. And, since he had only one point in the 4-game sweep by the Blackhawks, the choking accusations still don't seem unwarranted. Nabokov had the third worst save percentage of the postseason, ahead of only (sigh) Luongo and Fleury.

Verdict: Loathsome prediction.

Prediction #10: The Stanley Cup winning goal will be scored by Rick Rypien.

Result: Did anyone see that puck go in the net other than Patrick Kane? Maybe it was scored by Rypien...who knows?

Verdict: Unknown.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Offseason Blues: Why I'm Watching the NBA Finals

Here's the thing. Annually, when the Canucks are eliminated, I turn my attention to basketball. Why? Because they know how to market their sport. I will admit that the NHL's advertising has improved (read: drastically) over the years, the NBA has been feeding me great ads and great drama. For example, check out their NBA Finals ad, which features lots of Kobe, iconic moments from NBA history, and Andre 3000 covering the Beatles.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tuesday Night is Merely Okay for Fighting

Jake Bogoch's article on the Puckmasters Fight School is a must read. As an inside look at the controversial fight school, it's intriguing; as a look at why fighting is a part of the game of hockey, it's invaluable.

As a borderline pacifist who was raised Mennonite, I've always had trouble defending the presence of fighting in my favorite spectator sport. It's not just the fact that it's there, it's the fact that I enjoy it. There's nothing quite like Rick Rypien looking up at a player eight inches taller and sixty pounds heavier and taking him to task.

When I introduced my wife, an American raised watching baseball and football, to the great game of hockey, fighting was one of the initial barriers. It was something that just didn't make sense. I tried to explain the benefits of protecting star players, pumping up your teammates (and the fans), and even intimidating opponents. All of it rang hollow. While all of those are legitimate reasons for fighting to remain a part of the fabric of hockey, the real reason I don't want fighting out of the NHL is because I enjoy it so much.

As Professor Farnsworth might say: "Oh my, yes."

Let's face it, every hockey fan in North America cheered when Evander Kane knocked out Matt Cooke (perhaps he should have attended the Puckmasters Fight School), though some purists may have attached an asterisk to the moment, noting Kane's visored helmet still securely attached to his head. Every Canucks fan perks up when they see a clueless goon size up Rick Rypien, thinking he's an easy target. Even my wife has taken to the Rypper. Hockey fans love fighting.

The odd thing is, as much as hockey fans love it, fighting continues to be wrapped up in arguments against the violence of hockey. Appeals are made to the wider sports audience, that hockey is too violent for the casual sports fan. Meanwhile, UFC 114 Prelims on Spike TV captured 1.6 million viewers. The moments of violence collated by CBC post-Bertuzzi-incident? Only one involved actual fighting, the legendary night the Lights Went Out, wherein essentially every player involved in the junior Canada-Soviet game squared off, the Cold War taking to the ice. That's a bit of an isolated incident.

But the sidebar to Bogoch's blog about fighting is "A History of Violence," with less electric-drill-based torture and more recapping of the deep-roots violence has in hockey. Every incident mentioned involves swinging a stick at a player's head; none of them involve a hockey fight. To what purpose was that sidebar attached to Bogoch's article about the Fight School? It's an odd editorial decision: the logical sidebar for such an article would be a history of hockey fights. Obviously, someone at Deadspin disagrees.

Not pictured: Hockey.

To finish things off, here's Nucks Misconduct's Top 10 Rick Rypien Fights. Good gravy, I love Rick Rypien. And Darcy Hordichuk had some interesting thoughts on fighting in this old blog post. Worth a read. As is A History of Violence. Very different from the movie.
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