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Showing posts from May, 2007

Endorsements

Got any good books to recommend?

Greatest Hits from Working the Net:

Harlow Salon - one of the very best hair salons in Nashville TN.

NHLPA spying details come out

Details are coming out behind the NHLPA leadership's email spying scandal, which has resulted in the dismissal of executive director Ted Saskin. Over the course of fifteen months, NHLPA email accounts, outside email accounts, and other private information were accessed by Saskin and senior business director Ken Kim in an effort to monitor a group of player reps and NHLPA employees who had questioned the circumstances of Saskin's hiring in the wake of the 2004-5 NHL lockout.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this report isn't just the length of time and deliberate intent by Saskin and Kim, but apparently the cooperation in their activities by some who should know better. I'll get to that in a minute, but first, a few of the major details as outlined over at sportsbusinessjournal.com (heads-up from Kukla's Korner):

Saskin and Kim began monitoring e-mails in September 2005, soon after Saskin was appointed executive director and Trent Klatt, then an executive board …

The Final Battle Begins...

After each playoff round I've provided summaries for how well the predictive tool I'm using is performing, but in order to get my Stanley Cup prediction out here in time for the puck to drop in Game One, I'm going to save my conference final summary for later. Suffice it to say I had picked Buffalo in what was basically a pick 'em type of series (one that the Senators surprisingly dominated), and the Red Wings to skate past the Ducks in seven, so obviously both of those went awry. Overall in these playoffs I'm 9-5 in picking series winners (or as Earl Sleek enjoys pointing out, 9-2 when the Ducks aren't involved).

While the mainstream US media is basically ignoring this championship series, any hockey fan should be looking forward to it - we have two very strong squads that were among the dominant teams in their conference throughout the season. The Ducks got off to a roaring start before a bizarre injury stretch brought them back to the pack, and the Senators g…

Introducing the Balsilliemeter

With the emotional rush of the past couple days having passed, it's time to take a bit of a sober view towards the future of hockey here in Nashville. While our good friends north of the border are already in full-gloat over the prospect of luring the Predators to southern Ontario, I'd like to put aside the speculation and consider how Jim Balsillie might actually work out as an NHL owner, particularly in respect to the fans in Nashville.

On the one hand, he seems to be exactly the kind of owner the NHL would desire - young, loaded with cash generated as a captain of modern industry, a recreational hockey player who has long wanted to own a team, Balsillie has the potential to help move the league forward in a manner completely opposite to the dead weight that is Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz.

On the other hand, Balsillie clearly desires to move a team to either Hamilton or the Kitchener-Waterloo region, as was the case with his aborted takeover of the Pittsburgh Pengui…

I turn my back for just a few days...

Well, I'm back at the helm after a few days at a conference in Las Vegas, but don't even know where to begin. Obviously I need to recap my picks from the conference finals (both duds) and look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals, but when I flipped the radio on during my drive to work and heard about the impending sale of the Nashville Predators to Jim Balsillie, well, that was quite a kick in the nuts. This guy has no intention of keeping the team in Nashville, and money to burn through buyout fees or costly lawsuits to get his way.

This just underscores how disappointing the Preds first-round playoff exit was. A couple more home games, and they would have surpassed the 14,000 average paid attendance mark, and kept the lease buyout option off the table. Now, we're left with a deathwatch as a new owner takes the reins, undoubtedly makes some personnel changes that leave a diminished product on the ice, and loads up the moving trucks next summer for whatever market he can cl…

Heading off the grid

Mrs. Forechecker & I are getting out of town for a few days (Vegas, baby!), so don't expect any updates until later in the week.

Buffalo fans, before you do it...

My heart goes out to those rabid Buffalo Sabres fans whose hearts have been broken yet again - the President's Trophy was a nice prize, but all of you expected another couple weeks of hockey. Now, I'm sure many Sabres fans are going through a range of emotions in reaction to Daniel Alfredsson's OT winner that lifted the Senators into their first modern Stanley Cup Final, but before you take that ultimate step, please watch this:

Welcome to the Sommet Center

There's encouraging news out of Nashville this morning, as the Sommet Group has agreed to a long-term arena naming rights deal with the Nashville Predators. The erstwhile Gaylord Entertainment Center/Nashville Arena will now be called the "Sommet Center".


This spring, the Sommet Group participated as a title sponsor of the Predators (brief) playoff run, and this commitment should help the Predators build their long term base in the Music City. All along, owner Craig Liepold has discussed the need to build stronger ties in the business community, and this deal represents two significant steps forward in that regard. First, he's landed a local firm for the naming rights (the Sommet Group is based in nearby Franklin), as opposed to a large national firm that's just looking for a billboard to put their name on.

Secondly, however, the Sommet Group represents a good partner for the Predators - they are in the business of outsourcing back-office processes (i.e. Human Reso…

Blogroll notes

Thanks to a suggestion from loyal reader Rajeev, I've started looking around for some good hockey strategy and tactics sites to add to the blogroll, under the "Hockey Links" section roughly halfway down the sidebar. Today I've got two links debuting, with more to follow over the coming weeks:

HockeyPlayer.com is geared towards developing players, and boasts articles on topics like driving the offensive attack from behind the net, and the details of a left-wing lock. It can be a nice resource for those looking for some further information behind some of the common terms heard during NHL broadcasts.

The other site is one I definitely plan on digging into quite a bit - Lifetime Hockey is focused on the adult recreational player (being a 15-year beer leaguer, that's me), and has some nice articles on shooting, equipment selection, and an animated guide to the Basic Plays of Hockey.

As I find more sites of this kind I'll add them to the blogroll. If you have any s…

Those wacky media types...

This has got to be one of the funniest things I've seen all season. Tonight, the Red Wings burst out with a huge 5-0 win in Anaheim to take a 2-1 series lead. Dominik Hasek turned aside 29 shots (some very dangerous) for the shutout, and Tomas Holmstrom scored twice and added an assist after a nasty double-team hit from behind that should bring at least one suspension from the NHL office. Nick Lidstrom played half the game spectacularly and added two assists, and multiple other players chipped in for a landslide Detroit victory.

But the three stars of the game, as chosen by the media?
1. Tomas Holmstrom, DET
2. Valterri Filppula (1goal, 1 assist), DET
3. Todd Marchant???, ANA

Let's see, Marchant was a -1, and posted no shots in 16:36 of ice time. Maybe the fact that he didn't take a penalty made him stand out relative to his teammates. How anybody can look at that game and give the 3rd star to any Duck, especially one who had no impact on the game, is an absolute joke.

Quick Draw Artists

There's nothing like the pivotal moments late in an NHL game, where each rush up ice is met with hope and dread, depending on the rooting interest of the fans watching. Sometimes, the deciding strike comes swiftly after a faceoff win, and what I'd like to look at today is which players help produce or prevent such chances.

Buffalo's second goal in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals was a perfect example - a clean win in the offensive zone by Jason Pominville allowed Toni Lydman to pick up the puck and skate right in for a wrister that scored to tie the game. The winning goal in Game Two for the Senators also showed what can happen. Jason Spezza drew a puck right back to Joseph Corvo, whose quick shot put the Buffalo Sabres into an imposing 2-0 hole as the series heads to Ottawa. On average, a quick shot after the faceoff occured 10.2% of the time during the regular season (see criteria at bottom).



Check out Joe Corvo's double-OT winner from Game Two of the ECF

With…

So who plays Claude Lemieux and Kris Draper?

Looking at these Eastern Conference Finals as an interested outsider, I'm left wondering if we're seeing the genesis of the greatest NHL rivalry since the Red Wings/Avalanche glory days of the 1990's. The recipe breaks down as follows:

1. You've got a playoff rematch, featuring teams with loads of young talent and great expectations.
2. There's bad blood aplenty, after the Chris Neil hit on Chris Drury, and the subsequent brawl.
3. Each team has a veteran coach who's not shy about using their public forum to badger the other team.
4. Rabid hockey fans in each city who want the Stanley Cup, but for the next two weeks only want to see their team defeat their hated rival.
5. The games themselves are a joy to watch, with plenty of up-and-down action, hitting, individual skill and tremendous goaltending.

If only the NHL could get this on as many TV sets as possible - this series looks to be a classic.

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Red Wings vs. Ducks, WCF Preview

The battle for the Clarence Campbell Bowl has come down to the top two seeds in the West, Detroit and Anaheim. I've cranked out the numbers, so let's see who will make it to the Stanley Cup Finals...

How the Red Wings can score: The story with Detroit, as always, is a reliable shooting advantage - the projection is for them to outshoot the Ducks by roughly seven shots per game. Unlike many other matchups, however, these extra shots are coming from close range, medium range, and long range; they're not just taking harmless tosses at the net and hoping for the best. They'll need every shot they get, as J.S. Giguere has been his usual solid self during these playoffs, with a .952 save percentage entering the series, alongside his net-mate Ilja Bryzgalov's .929 mark.

How the Ducks can score: The projections here show that Anaheim's shooting percentage from various ranges is very close to Detroit's, and unless that changes, overcoming the gap in total number of sh…

Sabres vs. Senators, ECF Preview

The Buffalo vs. Ottawa pairing for the Eastern Conference Finals should result in a spectacular display of "new NHL" hockey, pitting two talented, offensively-oriented teams in a battle for the Prince of Wales Trophy. My predictive method of matching offense against defense and focusing on recent performance has proven pretty useful so far - so what does it say about this series?

How the Sabres can score: Buffalo appears to be all about the execution - their shooting percentage from the prime scoring ranges (10-19 and 20-29 feet) is the best among the four remaining teams, and that ability to hit your spot under pressure (recall Chris Drury's 0:07 game-tying goal against the Rangers) will be critical to the Sabre's success in this series. They'll need that composure to beat Ray Emery in goal, who has been outstanding for Ottawa so far in the playoffs.

How the Senators can score: Ottawa can be expected to pop off about four more shots per game than Buffalo, but almo…

Round Two Review For The West

With Detroit and Anaheim pushing their way into the Western Conference Final, it's time to recap the predictions made here a couple weeks back, to see how well they performed:

Detroit/San Jose: I picked Detroit (albeit in 7 games), based on an expected advantage of 6-7 shots per game, and strong goaltending from Dominik Hasek. That's pretty close to how things actually turned out, as the Red Wings outshot the Sharks by 7.7 shots per contest and Hasek (despite an exciting trip or two behind the net) generally outplayed Nabokov.


All the highlights from Detroit's series clinching win Monday night.Anaheim/Vancouver: This was my lone miss of the second round, as I had called for a Canucks victory, since the Ducks weren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard as of late and faced the outstanding Roberto Luongo in net. While Luongo held up his end of the bargain, the Vancouver defense (ravaged by injury) gave up too many shots, particularly close-range shots, to consistently keep …

Eastern Conference Finals are set...

Now that Buffalo and Ottawa have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, I wanted to check in how my predictive modeling performed compared to actual results. Obviously, it wasn't too far off the mark, as I did pick both the Sabres and Senators to make it through.

Just to recap, the basic idea behind this model is that I try to map out each team's offense against the opposing defense, projecting shots/game from various distances, shooting percentages, and thereby goals per game. The two key concepts are, first, an interaction between one team's offense and the other's defense (both in terms of shots allowed and goaltending), and secondly, trying to reflect recent performance by the use of exponential moving averages to represent the per-game values*.

Bufallo/New York: I was hardly alone in picking the Sabres here, as they were the top team in the regular season, although the Rangers did put up a good fight, and if they had successfully handled the final minute of Game …

Trotz hangs on in Nashville

It looks like Nashville Predators GM David Poile has exercised his option to keep the current coaching staff in place, despite a disappointing first-round playoff exit:



All in all, this is in keeping with the steady, long-term thinking that has led to incremental progress in each of the Predators' seasons under Poile and Trotz. The mandate for next season should be quite clear - playoff success, and a Central Division title. There will no doubt be significant roster changes for next year, but Trotz has shown an ability to build a competitive team with middling talent before - and he still has plenty of talent to work with, whether or not star free agents like Paul Kariya and Kimmo Timonen move on.

While many local fans wanted Trotz's head for this latest playoff stumble, in reality, there are very few tenable options out there in the coaching ranks if a change was made. While Terry Crisp (who provides color commentary on Preds broadcasts) would be a popular choice, it's b…

Saving Little Johnny Edmonton

When it comes to the economic costs and benefits of subsidizing new arenas for essentially private operations run by billionaires, for a bunch of millionaires, the common tax-paying citizen gets bombarded with data that is incomplete at best, dishonest at worst, and almost always skewed towards one conlusion or the other.

Perhaps the best summation of the issue I've seen yet is to be found at Black Dog Hates Skunks*, regarding the proposal for a new downtown stadium for the Edmonton Oilers. It's also the funniest read you'll have all week...

*Found via Battle of Alberta

Entering the Arena

Many thanks to Leafer over at the NHL Arena, for featuring an interview with me in their blog section this morning. Just be warned, if I get enough of my morning coffee, it might be a dangerous read for you...

Who said the refs are blind?

Normally I wouldn't stray into NBA waters within this forum, but there's been quite a controversy this week regarding a study that alleges a trend where white referees call fouls at a greater rate on black players than on white players. The clamoring across sports radio has been loud and (predictably) ill-informed, and the fact that the NBA came out with their own study refuting the claims only serves to muddy the waters further. I wanted to point out a couple of points here that I heard several times, in an effort to stem the tide of statistical ignorance.




1. Yesterday on Dan Patrick's ESPN show Charles Barkley chimed in with the stunning insight that there are more black players than white in the NBA, so of course there will be more fouls called on them. This argument in particular I heard repeated on two different local sports radio talk shows as well, so it's worth stating - the researchers looked at the rate at which fouls were called in terms of minutes played, so…

Prepping the Rangers for Game Four

It's not reasonable to expect that the Rangers have much hope of topping the President's Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres tonight, let alone in the course of their seven-game series. Perhaps then, coach Tom Renney had better make sure that he's ultimately unreasonable in his pregame speech tonight...

(more goofing around with News Room feeds)