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Showing posts from September, 2007

Nashville Predators 2007-8 Season Preview

Today it's my turn to chip in on our Central Division bloggers roundtable of 2007-8 NHL previews, so let's turn our attention to the Nashville Predators. As some of you may have heard, there's been some turmoil on the ownership front here in Music City, but I'll save that bit another time. For now, let's focus on the team... FORWARDS Who's Out: Scott Hartnell , Paul Kariya , Peter Forsberg (presumably). Who's In: Radek Bonk , Martin Gelinas , Jed Ortmeyer . The Skinny: Depth down the middle should still be quite strong (Arnott/Legwand/Bonk/Nicholl), but scoring depth on the wing has taken a hit with the combined departure of Hartnell & Kariya along with the continued back troubles for Steve Sullivan, who is not expected to play until Thanksgiving at least. Look for a more yeoman-like effort loaded with plenty of 15-30 goal scorers, but no single dynamo that carries the load. The two main scoring lines for now appear to be new captain Jason Arnott ce

Predators Practice Ponderings

Workday commitments usually keep me away, but today I caught most of the Nashville Predators practice session at Centennial Sportsplex downtown.  Here's a few thoughts...   1)  To the extent that lines were put together for certain drills, Vern Fiddler was still alongside Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, and Jed Ortmeyer was teamed with David Legwand and Martin Erat.  For you fantasy hockey geeks, Fiddler may be an early-season depth contributor, at least until Steve Sullivan comes back and takes away that top-line ice time.   2)  When they worked on the power play, you had the following units:  Zidlicky & Suter behind Bonk, Arnott & Dumont, then Weber & Hamhuis behind Legwand, Erat & Radluov.  All four defensemen were playing their off-side (the right-handers were on the left point, etc.).   3)  John Garrett, who does the color commentary for Vancouver games, was in town watching practice from the media area.   4)  Radek Bonk looks like he's

Saving Those Shootout Points

As we enter the third season of the "new NHL", the importance of the shootout is only finally being appreciated. Last year, a shootout victory by the New York Islanders on the last day of the season knocked the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the playoffs, whereas Tampa Bay's 10-2 record in the shootout made the difference in getting them in to the postseason . The average team plays in ten or eleven such contests each year, and those points can make or break a coach's job; John Tortorella comes to mind, after he guaranteed a postseason berth for the Lightning when it was by no means a sure thing. So what can two years of shootout data tell us about what to look for this season? Let's start off with something I noted last winter , but bears repeating up front for emphasis. It appears that there is a lefty/righty matchup advantage that coaches should keep in mind when selecting which players they want participating in the shootout. Much like base

The other side of the Wirtz obit

There's plenty of bile flowing today over the passing of Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz, but proper respect should be observed, and a bit of perspective taken. After all, there was much more to his life than the governance of a hockey team.

The Forechecker's Fantasy Hockey Tips

This year I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to James Mirtle's fantasy hockey league, with the opportunity to knock heads with James, Spector , David Johnson from , Earl Sleek from Battle of California , and many more from around the online hockey world. In all, twenty managers drafted twenty players, making this a deep dive into the ranks of the NHL. Today I thought I'd not only introduce you to the 2007-8 Fab Forecheckers, but share my thoughts on Fantasy Hockey drafting strategy. First of all, my lineup. The starting positions on each team are C (3), LW (2), RW (2), F (2), D (4), G (2), and Utility, and the scoring categories are G, A, +/-, PIM, PPG, PPA, GWG, SOG, W, GAA, SV, SV%, and SHO. Thus, while goalies only take two spots on the active roster (12.5%), they determine five of the thirteen categories (38.5%), making them extremely important. The Fab Forecheckers Round Pick Player Position

Blackhawks owner dead at 77

Bill Wirtz, the notorious owner of the Chicago Blackhawks since 1954, has passed away at the age of 77. I'm not here to pass judgment on him as an individual and family man, but let's be honest, his policies have held back the development of the Blackhawks as a modern NHL franchise for years. His policy of stifling local television coverage and shying away from paying for top talent have left untapped what could be one of the great hockey markets in North America. Chicago's a huge northern city with just the one NHL franchise (unlike the New York area) and they love their sports teams. I have no idea what the succession plan is in the wake of "Dollar Bill's" passing, but the long-term prospects of the NHL in the U.S. look a little more hopeful this morning. Sad to say, but true.

Wrapping up the Red Wings Previews

The Central Division bloggers have wrapped up their previews of the Detroit Red Wings 2007-8 edition, with Able to Yzerman and Gloveside chipping in their $0.02. Finally, we have a bit of confidence expressed over at A-to-Y: "The Central? It’s done. It’s 24 September and the division’s been locked up already. By now you know that has less to do with the talent in Hockeytown than it does with the complete lack of it throughout the rest of The Division That Gary Built. The Central is garbage..." And this... "The West? That’s ours too, thanks. If not for a fluttering puck from hell last May the eleventh Cuppeth would have runneth overith. Zero chance Hasek would have lost to Ottawa. And the Wings have improved..." That's what we want to see, some moxie! Again, I'll chip in with the Nashville Predators preview next Monday.

Central Division bloggers preview the Red Wings

Our Central Division bloggers roundtable of NHL previews continues today with the Detroit Red Wings, covered by the blogs mentioned below. I'll have the Nashville Predators preview in this space next Monday. Behind The Jersey : Christy takes a look at the changes in personnel from last season, with the Wings shedding "deadweights" Robert Lang and Kyle Calder up front, and of course Mathieu Schneider on the blue line. Those three are basically being replaced by Brian Rafalski, Dallas Drake, and a younger player who gets on opportunity, which should keep the Wings typically talented on defense, with a bit more grit up front. The biggest risk to team success is going to be the health of Dominik Hasek, and whether he can sustain Detroit through the long regular season and remain in condition for a playoff drive. Gorilla Crouch : Dave ponders some of the interesting questions heading into the new season, such as whether Johan Franzen can develop into

Thrashers v Predators Postgame Recap

So last night the Atlanta Thrashers came to town, and I took the Littlest Forechecker (age 4) to his first hockey game. Since a good deal of my time was spent making sure he wasn't climbing all over the arena, I wasn't able to bring the usual razor-like focus to bear on the festivities, but I'll share my impressions nonetheless: Little Guy during pre-game warmups, before the M&M's kicked in The Good 1. Getting to meet up with the Falconer from Thrasher's Talons and Southeast Shootout . He made the drive up from Atlanta to watch the game, and we sat together during the 2nd period, talking stats, hockey blogging, and the prospects for our teams. I look forward to meeting up again when the Thrashers come back to Nashville during the season. 2. The top line of Fiddler/Arnott/Dumont looked tremendous. Given the lack of depth on the wing compared to last season, I like the idea of Barry Trotz spreading out the talent a bit (rather than putting someone like R

Go out to eat, support the Predators

With tonight being the (preseason) home opener for the Nashville Predators, I thought it a good time to unveil an updated version of my " Nashville Predators Supporters " map over at Google Maps. Basically, it's a map that shows restaurants and bars that are supporting the Nashville Predators, as derived from two sources: the first being the Predators ' own website listing, and the second being an email communication from the Our Team Nashville group that noted some success stories from earlier this summer. One caveat: I know this list is incomplete, as I had to make each entry manually on this map and some franchises (like Starbucks, Taco Bell, etc.) were simply too numerous to capture every location. If you have a business that should be added to this list, please reply in the comments below and I'll be sure to add it. The bottom line is, you can let these sponsors know that you appreciate their support of the Predators by patronizing the

NHL Player Contribution rankings for 2007

For those of you looking for some serious statistical analysis leading up to fantasy hockey draft time, let me point you over to Hockey Analytics today, where Alan Ryder has posted his recap of the 2006-7 season in terms of Player Contribution , which is his method for translating player performance into wins and losses for a given team.  He also provides a spreadsheet with the detailed results of his analysis.   Granted, it's not a direct tool that will lead you to predict which players will lead the league in goals, assists, penalty minutes, etc. this upcoming season, but Ryder does some yeoman's work to answer the question of which individual achievements actually lead to team success.   As is probably obvious to most of you, goaltenders come out as having the greatest impact on team performance, and in another duh! moment, I'll tip you off that Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur came in 1st and 2nd in the Player Contribution rankings.  But take a lo

Battling for that last seat on the team bus

Thursday night the Nashville Predators open up the home portion of their preseason schedule as the Atlanta Thrashers come to town.  So far, it appears that the main storylines for roster spots in Nashville involve supporting roles; who is going to back up Chris Mason in goal (Pekka Rinne or Dan Ellis), who will be the seventh defenseman (Ville Koistinen or Kevin Klein), and whether there is any room for a brash youngster like Antti Pihlstrom to earn a job among the forwards.   There's been some good discussion over at the Predators' message boards around this topic, which I thought I'd distill over here.  Most of the 23-man roster appears pretty set at this point, looking somewhat like this: Centers:  Jason Arnott, Radek Bonk, David Legwand, Scot t Nichol, Jerred Smithson Left Wing:  Martin Erat, Vern Fiddler, Martin Gelinas, Darcy Hordichuk Right Wing:  J.P. Dumont, Jed Ortmeyer, Alexander Radulov, Jordin Tootoo Defense:  Greg de Vries, Dan Hamhuis

Blue Jackets Preview, Part Two

It's practically Columbus day around here (and for a Michigan grad, that's somewhat awkward); our bloggers roundtable of Central Division previews continues with a look at the 2007-8 Columbus Blue Jackets from the End of the Bench ...   You have to feel for these folks.  They're not asking for much, just the hope that their team can compete with their divisional brethren, and given the improvement taking place in Chicago and St. Louis, that won't be an easy task.  This snippet from the preview sums it up nicely:   "When Barry Melrose gets his two minutes each week towards the end of the season to talk about the playoff picture, I want the CBJ crest to be on the screen fighting for that 8th spot.  I don’t want to be the laughingstock of the NHL.  I don’t want journalists and bloggers in other cities to refer to us as patient fans because we have to put up with the same s**t [ed]  year after year."

Behold the Blue Jackets

The first of the Columbus Blue Jackets 2007-8 previews from our Central Division bloggers roundtable has been posted over at The Neutral Zone Trap (head over there and come back, it's a very good read), and if I'm NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, I'm sending a bouquet to the fans in Columbus. They've been the victims of some horrible mismanagement over the last several years, and it's sad to say that the biggest move for the Blue Jackets this offseason has been the departure of GM Doug MacLean. In spite of all this, Columbus fans like Sarah support their team while taking a pretty realistic view of this season's prospects. In short, if they're still in contention for the playoffs after the All Star break, it will be a solid step forward for this franchise. The one hopeful word I'd chip in on the Blue Jackets is the prospect of what Ken Hitchcock can bring to the table after having a whole summer to prepare. If they can make a couple savvy personnel

NHL Throws Us Nerds A Bone

Thanks to JavaGeek over at Hockey Numbers for pointing out that the NHL is using a new format for its game report files, starting with last night's exhibition game between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings .  For hockey stats analysts, this is a bit like Christmas in September; there are some welcome additions to the detailed information presented online after each game, although it will take some work to reconfigure how we pull that data down and bring it into a structured format.   The Forechecker's in-home data center in action   Some of the new items of interest include:   Each play-by-play event includes the zone in which it occurs; Each play-by-play event also notes which players were on the ice at the time; Penalties include a "Drawn By" designation, that tells which player was on the receiving end of the foul; Blocked Shots now tell us not just who blocked it, but who shot the puck as well;   Now granted, data accuracy appea

An early 2008 NHL playoff preview?

There's an interesting poll going on over at James Mirtle's blog, where you get to predict the eight playoff teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences. In his first look at the early returns , the voters clearly believe the Nashville Predators will be on the outside looking in. I voted them in, but it's not a sure thing, so let's walk through some of the logical choices in the Western Conference as I see it: 1. Anaheim and San Jose are seemingly locks to make the playoffs, and Dallas is likely to finish right alongside them. The Stars weren't far off the pace set by the Sharks and Ducks last year, and missed Brendan Morrow and Mike Modano for significant stretches. Combine that with what I think should be another solid effort by Marty Turco (who in my book at least has shrugged off the "can't perform in the playoffs" label), and the Stars should be major contenders. 2. Detroit is the obvious favorite to win the Central. 3. Vancouver

NHL 08 hits the (virtual) ice

Yes folks, NHL 08 from EA Sports is in stores today (although it took me 5 stops to actually find it, kudos to GameStop).  Check back in a few days for a review - I know there's a terrible temptation to rush out immediate impressions, but what good does that serve?   One thing I've heard about the game from various other sites is that while the AHL teams and rosters aren't included, they aren't actually available when playing in Dynasty mode, which strikes me as a bug which requires correction.  Why else have the minor league teams in the system if you can't develop those players and call them up to your team in Dynasty mode?   In the meantime, Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic has a review worth reading, keeping in mind that he's looking at the Playstation 3 version.  I'm going with the PC-based one, myself.   You've come a long way, baby    

Jason Arnott, your new Nashville Predators Captain

The Nashville Predators are introducing Jason Arnott this afternoon as the team's new captain in light of Kimmo Timonen's departure to Philadelphia earlier this summer.  He becomes the fourth player to hold that honor in the Music City, after Tom Fitzgerald (1998-2002), Greg Johnson (2002-06), and Timonen (2006-07).   The New Captain in Nashville   Personally, I think Arnott makes a fine choice as captain.  He's a consistent, veteran performer with impeccable playoff credentials, having scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime against Dallas in 2000.  Many local fans would have liked to see Steve Sullivan don the "C", and Sully recently gave an interview in which he expressed his hopes to be considered for that honor despite his history of injuries.  I'm sure he'll still wear an "A" and be a strong influence on the team once he returns from back surgery, but Arnott is just the kind of player you hope to build a franchi

Chicago Blackhawks, first in the Central Division (previews)

The Third Man In begins our bloggers' roundtable of Central Division previews with the first part of his assessment of the Chicago Blackhawks. It was supposed to be posted on Monday, but was delayed due to "copious amounts of adult beverage consumption" and a bout of illness. Sadly, this is what Bill Wirtz and Chicago management have driven their dwindling number of loyal fans to - trying to find the lost glory days of Blackhawk hockey in the bottom of a whiskey bottle or the delirium of high fever. Alas, that's about the only solace left in the Windy City, after years of neglect and mismanagement have rendered the team irrelevant to today's NHL. Back in the mid-90's I remember them battling the Red Wings in the Western Conference finals, but after making it to the second round in 1996 they've wallowed in obscurity for the last ten seasons. So what's going to change this time around? Admittedly, there does seem to be some hop