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Showing posts from July, 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.

Locals to sign for Preds tomorrow?

The Tennessean is reporting this afternoon that the local group of businessmen seeking to purchase the Nashville Predators plan on signing a Letter of Intent on Wednesday, giving them a window of exclusive negotiating opportunity with current owner Craig Leipold, and is a preliminary step towards them putting hard cash on the table around the middle of August.

This would basically be the same step that Jim Balsillie took with Leipold back in May when this whole drama got rolling, but since the local group plans to make every effort to make this team successful in Nashville, there wouldn't seem to be any extraordinary obstacles to overcome in closing this deal, outside of the usual due diligence that takes place in any such transaction.

Combine this with encouraging reports from the Nashville Post regarding the season-ticket push (over 8,400 and counting two months before the start of the season), and the fact that the "Our Team Nashville" coalition is only just mobilizing …

Let's go to the phones

Now that the bulk of the free agent signings are behind us, and we face a dearth of hockey news leading up to the beginning of training camps, I'm working on formalizing the data that I use into fixed database structures, rather than the ad-hoc spreadsheets I've been using previously. While I'm doing that, I wanted to poll ye dwellers of this vast connection of tubes called the Internet and get your thoughts:

When it comes to statistical analysis, what areas of the game do you think deserve more attention?

My research assistant is standing by!

Remember that I can only deal with the information publicly available, so while it would be neat to know "time on attack" or "successful pass percentage" information, to my knowledge it doesn't exist in any public forum. To jump-start your brain cells, here are a couple things I'm thinking of:

1) Look at team performance in the period of time after individual players take a Fighting major, to see if there i…

A Miracle On The Pitch?

Considering the fact that I was just reminiscing earlier this week about the Miracle On Ice, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on a sporting miracle that may well turn out to be just as significant for the people of Iraq. Even worse than the "malaise" that affected the U.S. in 1980, as recession at home and waning influence abroad sapped American confidence, the tragedy that is modern-day Iraq has brought murder, desolation, and hopelessness to every corner of that war-torn nation.

The Iraqi soccer team defeated three-time champion Saudi Arabia to capture the Asian Cup today, with a team composed of Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish members, defeating heavily-favored opposition all along the way. For one day, at least, the people of Iraq have a public example of successful cooperation to celebrate. Twenty or thirty years from now, will middle-aged Iraqis look back on this team with the same kind of feelings that Americans still hold for the boys of Lake Placid?

I sure hope s…

Another one bites the (gold) dust

The great Arbitration Scoreboard now reads 18 settlements, 1 ruling, and 11 players with hearings yet to occur, after Derek Roy hit the jackpot in a new six-year, $24 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Is it just me, or does that sound like a lot of dough? I guess with Briere and Drury gone, Roy becomes that much more critical to the Buffalo attack. This contract would certainly seem to indicate that he'll be adding to the 18:27 he averaged on the ice last season, most likely picking up some additional power play duty - whether his 5'9" 188# frame can handle that workload will be a critical question come playoff time.

It looks like there will be slim pickings for any GM's hoping to scoop up players whose original team walks away from an arbitration award, as was the case with J.P. Dumont and Vitali Vishnevski last summer. Yeesh, if it wasn't for Krazy Kevin Lowe up in Edmonton, we wouldn't have much to talk about at all this summer!

Might local ownership be close to landing the Predators?

There's an interesting column in this morning's Tennessean by David Climer, who has typically been pessimistic about hockey's chances in Nashville.  According to Climer, "a proposed local ownership group is getting very close to putting a deal together to purchase the Predators from Craig Leipold. An announcement could be forthcoming by early next week."  If indeed true, it marks considerable progress for a group that banded together only after current owner Craig Leipold announced his intent to sell the team to Jim Balsillie just two months ago.
The two most visible members of this local group are David Freeman and Herb Fritch.  Freeman is a venture capitalist after having soldCommodore Medical Services, and Fritch is the CEO of HealthSpring, a health insurance company operating in five states. Another point in the Climer piece says that the local group may well get assistance from an out-of-state party, with an implication that Boots Del Biaggio, or …

The Offer Sheet Wars Continue

The new Madman of Alberta, aka Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, has tried to spice things up once again this summer.  After failing to obtain restricted free agent Tomas Vanek from Buffalo with a $7 million/year deal, he has now extended an offer sheet to Dustin Penner of the Anaheim Ducks for more than $4 million per season for five years!  Yes, he's giving that much to a guy coming off a rookie year on a Stanley Cup championship squad.  Granted, he scored 29 goals (against a Shot Quality-based Expected Goals value of 28.8, so its not like he was just a lucky shooter), but this would appear to be another case of a GM falling in love with a big guy and projecting only the positives going forward, a la Chris Gratton. It will be interesting to see the reaction in Anaheim, where GM Brian Burke has never been shy of showing his feelings in the media.  Buffalo GM Darcy Regeir whined pathetically about retaliation down the road when the Vanek offer came through, but I'm…

Predators Sign Martin Gelinas

The Nashville Predators announced this afternoon that they've signed veteran winger Martin Gelinas to a one-year deal.  While it's been a long time since he was in Edmonton, he does have a Stanley Cup ring and should certainly bring some veteran poise, along with 15-20 goals, to the Preds forward lineup.  Last season he scored 14 goals but Shot Quality would have given an Expected Goals figure of 19.6, so it's possible he could get back to the 20-goal mark in Nashville depending on his linemates and role.  Along with the signings earlier this summer of Radek Bonk and Jed Ortmeyer, it appears the Preds will be a more balanced, convential squad than the run-and-gun offensively oriented team of last year. Up front, then, it looks like the Preds stack up as follows: RW:  Radulov, Dumont, Erat, Ortmeyer LW:  Sullivan, Gelinas, Hordichuk C:  Arnott, Legwand, Bonk, Nichol Spare:  Fiddler, Tootoo & Smithson It looks like there's still going to be some decent offe…

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Arbitration...

This has got to be the most disappointing arbitration season in recent memory. Out of 30 players who were headed to arbitration, 16 have already reached settlements with their clubs prior to the session, including some accomplished young players like Ray Emery and Lee Stempniak. Only Brooks Laich has actually gone through with his hearing so far, but nobody's going to get excited over a depth center snagging $725,000.

So what's going on here? Is it that teams are fearful of what the awards might be and offer settlements to avoid getting burned, or are players looking around and not finding "comparables" inspiring enough to go after the big bucks? Or is it that both sides don't want to hurt each other's feelings, especially when the team has every intention of holding on to the player?

Perhaps Mike Cammalleri will still go through with the process and land the kind of contract that makes his team think twice, but according to NHLNumbers.com, the Kings have p…

Break out the Two Buck Chuck!

On Monday I took a stab at what Brooks Laich's arbitration hearing with the Washington Capitals might look like, and at the risk of dislocating my shoulder patting myself on the back, it pretty much turned out as expected. I guessed he'd get around $700,000 and he ended up with $725K according to TSN.
Considering that his qualifying offer from the Caps was around $660,000, I guess that's a small victory for Laich (you won't catch me frowning at an extra 10% raise), but you have to wonder how his agent feels about this. He just put in the time and effort to file and plead an arbitration case that yielded peanuts for an agent earning a few percentage points of Laich's salary (figure a 5% commision on the increased salary of $65,000 is worth a mighty $3,250). Did they really think there was any large upside here? I guess since Laich was in no danger of exceeding the $1.2 million mark, beyond which the Caps would have had the right to walk away from …

Pure as the ice they play on? Don't bet on it!

Articles are flowing fast and furious proclaiming the great fortune of Gary Bettman to be at the helm of the NHL, rather than one of the pro sports that seem to be wrapped up in talk of steroids, gambling, or abominable cruelty.

Before we hockey fans feel too content about our sport's innate purity, recall that the NHL has had its scandals, too. As always, Joe Pelletier's Legends of Hockey provides historical context for all of us. (Fittingly enough, this was passed along to me while watching High Roller - The Stu Ungar Story). Corrupt officials, players leaking information to gambling interests, etc., all lie in the NHL's past. You have to love the story of Boston Bruin Don Gallinger, however; for in the middle of an illicit operation his competitive instincts still came through:
Investigations found Gallinger betting as much as $1000 on games involving the Bruins. Strangely enough, his $1000 bet was on a game against Chicago where he expected the Blackhawks to win. Bo…

Brooks Laich and the Caps kick off Salary Arbitration

Oh, to be a fly on the wall during Salary Arbitration.  Today we have Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals leading off, with Ray Emery's hearing coming tomorrow. What the Capitals might say:  Eight goals?  You're taking us to arbitration after scoring eight goals on 119 shots?  That's one of the worst shooting percentages in the league for a centerman, and it's not like you just had a down year, as 2005-6 looked pretty much the same.  Using Behind the Net's On/Off-Ice Plus-Minus figures, it looks like the Caps fare only marginally better when Laich is on the ice.  We can't see raising last year's salary of $606,000 by a significant amount. What Brooks Laich might say:  I'm developing into the defensive-minded center that can help hold down a late lead (where the Caps need help) by preventing opposing shots after faceoffs in our own zone.  That is an area I've improved in since last year, and I've emerged as one of the league…

Sour Balls

According to a column by Scott Burnside at ESPN.com now working its way through the news cycle, Jim Balsillie's camp is alleging that Gary Bettman interfered in his negotiations with Craig Leipold to purchase the Nashville Predators.

Excuse me, but is this really news? After having assured Bettman prior to the Stanley Cup Finals that he had no intention of relocating the team, and Bettman communicating to Balsillie that he expected him to make a good-faith go at making it work in Nashville, it became apparent that Balsillie had no intention of living up to either of those points. There was serious potential for a nasty legal battle if Balsillie continued pursuing "Hamilton or Bust" as his ownership philosophy, and in light of that, it makes sense that Bettman would put the brakes on things in order to protect the league (and any other owners who hoped to negotiate such leases in the future) from harm.

All we have here are some smoking emails (presumably leaked by Richard…

Will the gambling referee keep hockey out of Vegas?

Today's news that the FBI is investigating an NBA referee for allegedly betting on basketball games, including ones that he was working, is sure to send shockwaves throughout professional basketball.  What might it mean for potential NHL expansion into Las Vegas, however?  For decades major league sports has avoided all serious talk of setting up shop in America's gambling mecca, and now we have just the sort of story that has kept the big leagues away. Now to be fair, we have to remember that sports gambling goes far beyond Las Vegas.  As Murray Weiss' column in the NY Post today says, "sports betting in Nevada represents a fraction of sports betting worldwide, with 98.5 percent of all action taken outside the state." If anything, at least the modern casinos in Vegas would be better placed to enforce standards and controls to help avoid such activity, as opposed to other, illicit outfits spread around the country.  In other words, even if a team was …

Fiddler's Fortune

For most, the line on the sports tickler regarding Vernon Fiddler's two-year contract with the Nashville Predators would appear to be just another marginal player filling out a roster spot, nothing interesting there.

But when you look at his career, you have to feel good about a guy like Fiddler earning some NHL money. Take a look at his career stats, and you'll see a guy who came out of Junior to toil through four years of ECHL & AHL play before landing a full-time gig with Nashville last year. After that long a time, surely the pressure to give up the NHL dream and "get a real job" must have been tremendous. In the two seasons prior to the lockout he'd been called up for less than 20 NHL games a year, but now at the ripe old age of 27, he's finally arrived as an NHL regular. If a guy like Fiddler can make it, perhaps there's a chance for us beer-leaguers?

OK, maybe not. It's still a nice story, though.

Seven Quick Thoughts from the Predators Rally

Tonight's "Our Team" rally at the Sommet Center was a truly inspiring event. As a born-and-raised Red Wings fan who has lived here in Tennessee for just under two years, I can say that tonight I've drunk the Kool-Aid and am 100% on board with these Nashville Predators. The fan base, the corporate community, and the members of the organization itself have been energized to solidify the future of hockey in Nashville, and rather than go into a detailed blow-by-blow I just wanted to share some of the highlights from tonight's festivities. One fan's pictures can be found over at Flickr, and John Glennon has posted his story this evening over at the Tennessean.

1. Walking into the arena and seeing the floor filled and people sitting throughout the lower bowl, all for just a few short minutes of speeches, cheers, and video highlights.

2. Watching Gov. Bredesen grab this sign from a fan near the front and wave it for the crowd and the assorted news photographers. …

Report from the Our Team rally in Nashville

The "Our Team" rally in Nashville appears well on the way to achieving its goal of demonstrating increased fan support for the Predators and building a foundation to first achieve the magic 14,000 figure, and work towards long-term financial stability as well. The radiothon started at 6 a.m. and runs until 9:00 p.m. this evening, and coordinator George Plaster has talked of a target to sell 300-500 Full Seaason Ticket Equivalents. As of 2:47 p.m., they are over the 315 mark and the 6 p.m. rally has yet to come. I went down to the Sommet Center on my lunch hour and purchased a box lunch for $5, with the proceeds going to the Predators Foundation. The place was abuzz with activity, so to pass some time I picked up a price list, and started walking through the arena to check out the available seats, which were labelled conveniently. The minimum partial ticket plan available today was for 13 home dates, which sounded a little daunting for my personal situatio…

A tough road back to the playoffs for the Flyers?

Will the acquisition of Daniel Briere, Kimmo Timonen, and Scott Hartnell be enough to get the Philadelphia Flyers back into the postseason next spring? The Super Schedule might hold some clues in that regard...

Thanks to feedback from one anonymous reader, I've added Time Zone for the location of each game to the NHL Super Schedule available over at Google. I've also added a H/R (Home/Road) column for easy use in breaking down schedules in that fashion. As to examples of how one might actually use this information, I've included a chart I whipped up in a couple minutes:



This shows the average 5-on-5 Goals For/Against ratio (based on 2006-7 results) for opponents in each game of the Philadelphia Flyers upcoming schedule, with a moving average trendline in black, and the actual numbers in blue/green (game numbers are given along the horizontal axis). Forgive the aesthetic flourishes, but I felt the need to fumble around a bit in Excel 2007 and see what some of the pretty b…

Quick Housekeeping Note

Sorry about the pictures not showing up in the post below about divisions and travel - Blogger Mobile isn't cooperating with me at the moment, so I'll have to fix it this evening. Don't be surprised to see lots of goofiness if you cruise by tonight, as I'll be rearranging the furniture a bit.  Doesn't TLC have a Blog Template Makeover show yet?  I could sure use some help...

A Picture is worth 1000 words, or a spreadsheet

Here's a graphical followup on the issue of travel schedules in the NHL. Over at CalgaryPuck.com, forum users took an image from Sportsline.com and provided some additional insight into divisional setup. First, the overall view: Secondly, there were splits added for division and conference splits: Now, if we add in expansion teams for Kansas City and Las Vegas, what might make sense from a geographic perspective? I took the images and mocked up some lines of my own. Let's try eight divisions with four teams each: The tricky thing here is what do about Detroit and/or Columbus. Both would seem to be good candidates to move to the Eastern Conference, but you know the Western Conference teams like having the Red Wings come to town to guarantee good crowds. This option has Nashville moving to the East to join up with more natural rivals in Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida. But what if we tossed the Blue Jackets over to the East instead? This might appear to be a pr…

Local ownership wins out for the Predators?

So right before heading off to bed (after watching Shooter, which I heartily recommend) I checked in on the Predators message boards, and found an interesting nugget of news. Yes, the source here is a rumor site, but the following was posted at Hockeybuzz late Tuesday night:
I have received word from a good source that Craig Leipold is meeting Gary Bettman on Wednesday morning in New York, along with representatives from the potential local ownership group.

According to the source, Leipold is planning on signing a letter of intent to sell the franchise, either to the local group or to "Boots" Del Biaggio at this meeting. Given that members of the Nashville group will be accompanying Mr. Leipold to New York, one can assume that Kansas City will have to wait a little longer for the team that they quite possibly have been promised.Frankly I'd be a little surprised to see Hockeybuzz scoop the Nashville Post on this, as they've regularly been in the lead on this story. If…

Predators belly up to the bargain bin

The Tennessean reported this morning that the Predators have signed Greg Zanon, Darcy Hordichuk and Kevin Klein to new contracts, along with two of this year's draft picks.

David Poile really loves those "20% off used player" coupons...Zanon stepped in and logged solid playing time as a stay-at-home defenseman last season, killing 4:09 of PK time per game in 66 appearances. He's the type of guy that nobody really notices out there, which for a blueliner, can be a very good thing indeed. Zanon also led the team with 189 Blocked Shots, good for 8th in the league - that kind of commitment to team success could keep Zanon in the NHL for quite a while. His deal is for two years, averaging $725,000.

Klein is one of the Predators' top prospects, and is expected to make the leap to NHL duty this fall. He's one of the reasons the team was able to deal away Ryan Parent to Philadelphia in the Peter Forsberg trade. He signed for one year at $500,000.

Hordichuk is a workmanl…

A deeper look at the NHL schedule

Last season the topic of epic NHL road travels came up, with perhaps the worst being a home-and-home series between St. Louis and Colorado which had the teams playing one night in Denver, then traveling some 850 miles to play again the next night in St. Louis. Rather than dig through the schedule line by line and look for similar instances this season, I thought I'd bring the wonderful power of spreadsheets to bear on the problem.

And then I thought, the heck with just distance traveled, let's toss some other information in there as well, and open it up so any out there who wants to examine different aspects of the upcoming NHL schedule can do so on their own. So I'd like to present to you my "NHL Super Schedule", published online over at Google Spreadsheets and free for anyone to download and utilize how they see fit.

It may choke your browser to work with it on Google, but I believe you can easily save it off into Excel or Open Office as you prefer.

So what's …

New NHL uniforms a revenue source?

Now here's a terrifying thought for hockey fans. In light of the continuing difficulty in generating significant national TV revenue in the US, will the NHL succumb to pressure and permit advertising on uniforms? Before reacting with a quick "never!", consider that there was a time when we didn't have ads plastered around the boards or painted under the ice, either.

Your new Florida Panthers jersey, perhaps?
Photo from The Post-Pessimist Association
The article below discusses the debut of jersey-based advertisement in the US in Major League Soccer, particularly in light of the debut of some Beckham character. I wouldn't expect we'd see such a development anytime soon in the NHL, but these kinds of slopes tend to be pretty slippery...

Game blogging restrictions coming to the NHL?

This story from the Miami Herald mostly discusses the NFL's draconian content usage guidelines, but there is a line in there about the NHL drafting up a policy for the upcoming 2007-8 season, and that along with the NBA and MLB, "the leagues agree that real-time play-by-play blogs should be considered a violation of broadcast rights."

So what could this mean in practical terms? Somebody sitting on press row banging out detailed accounts is probably one thing, while drunken live-blogging by fans at home is presumably something else entirely. I can just imagine the scene...

*knock* *knock* *knock*
The Fuzz: "Mr. Sleek, we have a cease-and-desist order, please open the door."
Sleek: "Go away man, Sammy Pahlsson just came out for the PK and I'm not, err... decent."

*CRASH*
The Fuzz: "That's it Mr. Sleek, put down the mouse and the bottle of bourbon and back away from the computer..."



It will be interesting once all these new policies come ou…

Nashville Post declares Balsillie's bid DOA

Breaking news today at the Nashville Post indicates that Jim Balsillie has basically dropped out of the running to buy the Nashville Predators. According to the Post, the team is continuing discussions with Boots DelBiaggio as well as a group of local investors.

Besides the update that Balsillie is apparently out of the deal, Richard Dawson and Ken Whitehouse discuss an interesting possibility: that of the two competing interests actually joining together in keeping the Preds in Nashville.

Del Biaggio's choice could be to stick it out in Nashville and build on the established base. He still, however, would need support from the corporate community as much as Leipold.

That's where the local group could come in again if it loses the bidding on the team. Clearly, the local group is interested in keeping the team here. It could invest with Del Biaggio, if he's interested, and not spend nearly as much as it would on buying the team. Quite possibly, the group would be interested…

Seven Wonders of the Hockey World

Here's something silly to keep you occupied during this week. As detailed below, there are a new "Seven Wonders of the World", as voted upon in a worldwide internet survey (is there any better way to decide an issue? Of course not, wrote the intrepid blogger).

So here's your challenge - what would be considered the Seven Wonders of the Hockey World? If you had a shortlist of hockey-related trips you could make, which would make the cut? My suggestions are included a little further down, and include either places or specific events. Sound off in the comments, and next week I'll summarize the results.

Update: Greg Wyshynski over at the Fanhouse has chimed in with some hilarious suggestions, including Lanny McDonald's mustache and Don Cherry's closet...





Some items for consideration (some of them obvious, some of them my personal additions):

The Hockey Hall of Fame: duh.
The Stanley Cup Finals: double-duh.
The World Ice Hockey Championships: Held in Europe each…

Three Cheers for Kevin Lowe!

Edmonton Oiler fans haven't had much to celebrate this July, having missed out on the major unrestricted free agents (especially that painful Michael Nylander episode), and it would appear that GM Kevin Lowe's ship is foundering. What's painful for Edmonton might turn into something exciting for fans around the league, however.

The SS Lowe

Perhaps partially in response to his dire situation, Lowe pitched a resounding 7-year, $50 million offer sheet to Buffalo Sabres restricted free agent Tomas Vanek, who was then retained by Buffalo which had the option of matching the contract. While Sabres GM Darcy Regier predictably whined about Lowe's offer, calling it "an exercise in futility," the fact is that it achieved two legitimate goals on Lowe's part.


First, he had the chance to land a promising young winger in case the Sabres were bluffing and not prepared to dole out that $50 million. Secondly, he's forced Buffalo to pay more than they would have otherwis…

Solid defense is no minor issue

When trying to judge the contribution of defensemen towards the success of their team, offensive statistics can be useful for one side of the story, but when it comes to their ability to prevent goals, the primary tool available is the plus/minus stat, which takes a basic stab at measuring the goals for/against ratio when a given player is on the ice in most situations. In particular, if a team is shorthanded and a goal is scored against them, plus/minus isn't affected. Combine that with the fact that plus/minus is largely affected by the other players on the ice, and you have a pretty limited measurement to work with.

One way to shed a little more light on the play of defensemen is to examine how many minor penalties they take relative to their ice time. For example, if two stalwarts play twenty a minutes a game, but one takes twice as many minor penalties (leaving his teammates shorthanded) as the other, surely the player who commits fewer fouls is a greater help to his team, all…

Where, oh where will Nylander land?

Quite the flip-flop today over at TSN, where the morning headline indicated that Michael Nylander was signed by the Edmonton Oilers, but just minutes ago, the latest version now indicates that he's signed with the Washington Capitals instead. A couple screen caps for you:


This morning's story...

This afternoon's update!I guess the guys at TSN should do more than just listen to Edmonton sports radio before posting headlines to their site.All in all, that's quite a nice pickup by the Caps (if this is indeed the final word), as Nylander is coming off two huge seasons in New York and should, I expect, provide for a dynamic pairing with Alex Ovechkin. Along with the Tom Podi and Viktor Kozlov signings, that moves Washington well into the class of serious playoff contenders this offseason.