Well it’s getting on in the 2014 NHL playoffs, and it’s about time to dust of the old Double Championship Challenge for it’s second quadrennial go-round. If this seems Greek to you, click here to catch up on what the 1st Quadrennial Double Championship Challenge was all about. You may recall Rich Abney walked away with a championship t-shirt and four years of bragging rights in 2010 after picking the Chicago Blackhawks’ Canadian Olympic team members to win gold and the Stanley Cup in the same season.
So let’s have at it — cast your votes on who will win this quadrennial’s crown as outright best in the world.
Here’s who’s left:
Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp — Chicago Blackhawks [note: Keith & Toews can repeat as back-to-back DCC champs]
Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter — Los Angeles Kings
Martin St-Louis, Rick Nash — New York Rangers
Carey Price, P.K. Subban — Montreal Canadiens
Here’s who’s eliminated:
Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Patrick Marleau — San Jose Sharks
Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz — Pittsburgh Penguins
Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo — St. Louis Blues
Ryan Getzlaf , Corey Perry — Anaheim Ducks
Matt Duchene — Colorado Avalanche
Jamie Benn — Dallas Stars
Patrice Bergeron — Boston Bruins
Here’s who did not qualify:
Roberto Luongo — Vancouver Canucks
Mike Smith — Phoenix Coyotes
Shea Weber — Nashville Predators
John Tavares — New York Islanders
And unlike 2010 when Corey Perry joined Canada’s World Championship roster after winning Olympic gold in Vancouver, there are no players or staff that are representing Canada twice in the same season this time around.
Who’s your pick? Leave a comment to let us know! Choose correctly and you’ll be eligible to win an exclusive prize from Serenity Now…The SDC Blogs.
Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this post with your name, your pick, and where you’re from. One vote only — no do-overs. Those who select correctly will be entered into a draw for the grand prize. Good luck!
In episode 12 of XP PSP, Justin Bourne from The Score dropped by to debrief the Sochi 2014 Olympic hockey tournament with me, and discuss it’s implications on the NHL moving forward. We talked about Canada’s route to gold, USA’s fall from grace, Backstrom’s Olympic suspension, how it affected Sweden’s outcome and why team doctors weren’t regulating his intake better, whether Canada’s win justifies all the heavily critcised roster adjustments the coaching staff made, who steps into Steve Yzerman’s role next Olympics, who Canada would send if the NHL chose not to participate in the 2018 Olympics, what the alternative to the Olympics as a best-on-best tournament would be, how John Tavares’ Olympic injury affects the decision for the NHL to return or not, how it affects the Islanders going forward this season, how Olympic performances affect NHL players finishing their NHL season, and more.
Canadians Should Cheer For The LA Kings, and Who American and European Fans Should Pull For in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final Four.
With the elimination of the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs — and every year Canadian city based NHL teams are either eliminated from the playoffs or do not qualify — there is a certain level of Canadian fan disengagement from the NHL as Canada’s best hopes of bringing the Stanley Cup back north are snuffed out. But with nationalistic pride in mind, there are still plenty of – predominantly, in fact – Canadian born players to cheer for on the remaining four American based teams. Here are the numbers to show you which teams are in fact the most Canadian, American, and European, and to whom your drifting allegiances would be best to land upon:
Canadians: Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Gregory Campbell, Johnny Boychuk, Daniel Paille, Tyler Seguin, Shawn Thornton, Dougie Hamilton, Adam McQuaid, Wade Redden, Rich Peverley, Andrew Ference, Chris Kelly.
Americans: Matt Bartkowski.
Europeans: Dennis Seidenberg (Germany), Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic), Zdeno Chara (Slovakia), David Krejci (Czech Republic), Kaspars Daugavins (Latvia), Tuukka Rask (Finland).
22 total active players
Canadians: Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland, Daniel Carcillo, Corey Crawford.
Americans: Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, Brandon Bollig.
Europeans: Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic), Marian Hossa (Slovakia), Michal Handzus (Slovakia), Michael Frolik (Czech Republic), Johnny Oduya (Sweden), Marcus Kruger (Sweden), Niklas Hjalmarsson (Sweden), Viktor Stalberg (Sweden).
21 total active players
Los Angeles Kings:
Canadians: Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty, Tyler Toffoli, Dustin Penner, Dwight King, Jake Muzzin, Robyn Regehr, Jarret Stoll, Colin Fraser, Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson, Keaton Ellerby, Jordan Nolan, Tanner Pearson, Jonathan Bernier.
Americans: Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez.
Europeans: Slava Voynov (Russia), Anze Kopitar (Slovenia).
25 total active players
Canadians: Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, Brenden Morrow, Matt Cooke, Tanner Glass, Craig Adams, Deryk Engelland, Simon Despres, Marc-Andre Fleury.
Americans: Joe Vitale, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Beau Bennett, Brandon Sutter, Mark Eaton, Paul Martin.
Europeans: Evgeni Malkin (Russia), Tomas Vokoun (Czech Republic), Douglas Murray (Sweden), Jussi Jokinen (Finland).
25 active players
So, with all that being said, if your favorite/regional team has been eliminated, and you are in the market for a new team to temporarily align with and would prefer to cheer for a new team and/or players based on nationality, you now should have all the information necessary to appropriately select your new allegiance.
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 22/11]
No games since January. First game back: 4 points on the Penguins’ 5 total goals scored. First goal of the game. Last goal of the game. Game winner. My. Mind. Blown. In the lip-read words of Sid Crosby himself after scoring his first goal in over 10 months, “F*** YA!!!”
In one game, he catapulted himself by hundreds of statistical spots at a time by each backhander that went in, and every pass that his teammates converted into goals. From 711th, to 605th, to 523rd, to 464th, and finally to 373rd in the NHL’s total points standings for this season, after one single game. Todd Bertuzzi, Scottie Upshall, Jordin Tootoo, Dustin Penner, Paul Bissonnette, George Parros, Blake Comeau, and 330 other established NHL players got leapfrogged in points in one hour of play. And there’s now even talk of whether Crosby can beat league leader Phil Kessel in points this season, who has a 25 points and 20 games advantage. Bets are being taken on whether Crosby will win the Hart Trophy this season. And no one’s kidding or balking when they ask or hear about either possibility.
It reminded me a lot of Brett Bulmer, a former Minnesota Wild player who played 8 games with them this season, before being sent back to his major junior club, the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. In his first game back, Bulmer dominated the game, and dictated the pace, also scoring 2 goals and 2 assists by the conclusion. Only difference was what Bulmer did was against junior hockey talent; what Crosby did was against NHL talent, aka the best hockey players in the world (clearly not the 29th place New York Islanders, but you get the point. By the way, Crosby annihilates the Islanders statistically nearly every time the Penguins play them). If you’re still calling Sidney Crosby overrated at this point, you’re, well, an idiot.
In a night where nothing else that happened that evening in the league really mattered or was even worth televising, it became pretty apparent that the NHL needs Sidney Crosby and the attention he brings to the game. While millions were tuning in to see a sold-out Pittsburgh audience chant Crosby’s name and shake signs emblazoned with his first name, other headlines from the night’s NHL action included “Red Balloon Gets Attention During Coyotes-Capitals Game” (seriously, here’s the link from NHL.com : http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=602620), as a low-flying helium-filled balloon apparently caused quite a scene during the epic clash for 14th place in the league. Yes, the same Washington Capitals that Crosby’s nemesis, Alex Ovechkin still plays for. Ovie managed to contribute a secondary assist in the game.
Some question whether Crosby’s return is the antidote to awaken Ovechkin from his offensive amnesia, which currently has the former Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophy winner sitting at 57th overall in points. The two have seemingly been the yin to each other’s yang since they both entered the league – at this point though, I’d have to wager that Ovechkin needs Crosby a lot more than Crosby needs Ovechkin.
All in all, a successful return for Sidney Crosby. Keep in mind though, it was only one game, against a not very good team. I don’t question his ability to continue to perform at this level, but there are many more games to be played, and a lot more hits to be taken (let’s hope the Penguins are more akin than the Buffalo Sabres are to standing up for their superstar if someone takes a cheapshot on him). I’m excited to see what unfolds.
[update: at the time of this re-post, Crosby now has 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 total points, and sits at 176th in NHL overall points, having passed another 197 players in offensive production]
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 8, 2011]
Is it possible that Alex Ovechkin’s best and most productive days of hockey are behind him?
Probably not, but let’s speculate some evidence of why they might be, if indeed they are.
Last year, in the first ever fantasy hockey pool that I paid money to take part in, I somehow lucked out and drew the first overall pick. At the time, it was a no-brainer and generally assumed that your first pick would be either Ovechkin or Crosby. I picked Ovie. Mainly because in his past 4 of 5 seasons, he had 100 or more points, and seemed like he could score whenever he wanted to. He was just always dangerous if he had the puck. The guy scored a goal sliding on his back on the ice while doing a barrel-roll for crying out loud. Now, you may argue that I did get the better choice of the two considering Crosby’s season-ending injury, and that Alex finished ahead of Crosby in points. But, for the guy that was supposed to finish first overall in scoring, instead he placed seventh, and scored 24 fewer points than he did the season before. I made an early exit out of the fantasy pool and lost all my money. **Screams in my best Captain Kirk/George Costanza Wrath of Khan reference impression** OOOOOOVVVVVVIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
We’ve since learned that he was injured – as he took 10 games off before the playoffs, and has eluded in interviews to rehabbing over the summer during his training. Whatever was bothering him then, may continue to linger. When an injury site is vaguely referred to as an upper or lower body injury, it’s hard to speculate the possible extent and long term effects on the injury. BUT, from experience, between a torn ACL in my knee, broken collar-bones, pulled groins, and minor neck, back, and shoulder issues, they all had range-of-motion limiting effects on me, though I eventually healed and played through them all. Wayne Gretzky’s back injury in 1991 was one that had lasting effects on his career and offensive productivity until he retired. As of this post, Ovechkin’s sitting at #39 in league scoring, averaging less than a point a game, and sitting at -1. For him, that’s unheard of. Since 2008, his point totals have been slowly diminishing, and so have his shots on goal (you know, scoring chances). In 2008, he took 528 shots. The following years, he only took 368, then 367 shots. And with those lowered totals have also come less wild, pre-meditated stick-burning goal celebrations. While he’s still excited when he scores, his reactions are noticeably subdued, for him anyways.
He’s changed his gear this year too, switching from CCM to Bauer. Hockey players are very particular with their gear, and once a player finds a setup they like and seems help put pucks in the net for them, they’ll quite often remain loyal to that brand forever. This move may be purely monetary, but it may also indicate that Ovechkin’s lost confidence in his previous equipment to help him score goals. And further, it may have damaged his confidence in himself to score goals. You could always tell in Ovie’s goals, skating speed, interviews, and off-ice antics, that confidence has never been an issue for him. When you’re a player of Alex Ovechkin’s caliber, you can’t afford to have anything get you “in the head” if you hope to score torrentially like you once did.
And further on confidence, even his coach, Bruce Boudreau has shown lower confidence in him; benching him on November 1st, in favour of other players. Boudreau was quoted as saying, “I thought other guys were better than him …I’ve got to put out the guys that I think are going to score … I just didn’t think Alex was going to score.” Moments after Boudreau cold-shouldered him, Ovechkin was cussing like a sailor at the snubbing. Ovechkin’s used to being the go-to guy when the team needs a goal, and in these key situations, he’s starting to not be the guy Boudreau taps on the shoulder first anymore. That can’t be good for the ol’ ego.
And further still, Ovechkin’s the Capitals captain. What are other players supposed to think of their leader when they see him not chosen to lead them? The C may simply be too much responsibility for him, ala Mike Modano, Brett Hull, or any other former NHL captains that have either surrendered their C, or had it taken away by their coach/team management.
Boudreau’s not exactly innocent of blame here either. He’s spent so much time trying to change Ovechkin and the Capitals’ overly offensive playing style over the last couple of seasons that Ovie couldn’t even be his old-self if he tried. His most effective style – the kamikaze-bull-in-a-china-shop-shoot-and-score-from-anywhere-blow-guys-up-and-there’s-no-need-for-defence- style – has been rendered obsolete. Bruce, you seriously want an offensive juggernaut to turn in his guns and become a 2-way, defence-first, responsible, playmaker instead? Has anyone told you who plays for your team, and what they do best? Sure, balance out weaknesses, but come on, no other team has the scoring personnel that Washington does. Last I checked, you still have to score more goals than the other team to win a hockey game, right?
Ovie could be just plain distracted too. He’s doing endorsements and/or commercials for Bauer, Nike, Mr. Big, Eastern Motors, ESPN, and probably forty companies based in Russia. Maybe making money’s beginning to take mental precedence over being a dominant hockey player every year?
Some speculative conspiracy: George Laraque recently wrote in his book regarding steroids in the NHL, saying that,
“I can give you some clues here that will help you identify the ones using steroids, if you really feel like it. First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones where the Winter Olympics are held. In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”
I’m not going to say Ovechkin was/is on PED’s, but his production did begin to decline post 2010 Olympics. Heck, even during the Olympics. Ovie’s former other-worldly talent, speed, and scoring ability suddenly turned suspiciously average. Like Tiger Woods, but without the TMZ scandal.
And finally, the guy just can’t seem to win the big one. Besides the 2008 World Championship tournament that’s attended by a fraction of the best players in the world, the Stanley Cup, and the Olympic gold medal (the real world championship in my view) continue to elude him. Could frustration over continual early playoff exits, and Crosby’s ongoing trumping of him be wearing him down too? Is it possible he’s become complacent with just being really good and making a lot of money? Is it feasible that with Sidney Crosby sidelined, Alex doesn’t have the competitive drive to try and be better than Sid, his arch-nemesis, the player he’s most often compared to?
I love watching Alexander Ovechkin, and I truly hope he gets back to form and proves all of this wrong. He’s been the face of the league since he’s been around, and if he can get his act together, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to be. But the question is, will he?
Well Georgey Boy, you really did it this time.
He got the sport and some of the statistics wrong, but the general prediction from 1992 finally came true on September 7, 2011, as the entire roster of the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was tragically wiped out (not to mention the airplane crew — only 3 people survived in total). So sad. [note: please don’t interpret the Seinfeld clip as me making light of this tragedy, as I’m not]
I’ve heard some horror stories about players’ bad experiences in the KHL (mostly mob related), but this is the absolute worst case scenario. Apparently the aircraft wasn’t exactly “up to date“, technology-wise. KHL games have been postponed. So in a league with shady contracts, inadequate medical supplies, and unsafe travel vehicles, why are players accepting offers from this “alternative” league, again?
Lump this mouthful on top of three previous deaths of current NHL players Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak this summer, and you have, unquestionably, the darkest hockey summer of all-time.
In relation to Sidney Crosby’s announcement of continuing to be sidelined “indefinitely”, it’s interesting to make the concussion connection between (arguably) hockey’s greatest current star getting one, and the three afore mentioned toughguys who each probably racked up more than that (perhaps some undiagnosed).
I did some very rough math the other day, and see if you follow me — say you’re an NHL fighter. There’s 82 games in the season. Let’s be generous and say you fight in around 1/4 of the games that year (lets round that to 20 for easy math’s sake). Now in those 20 fights, out of the storm of total punches usually thrown, let’s say your opponent lands 5 good ones on you each time. So by this very broad equation, we have you taking 100 punches directly to the head each year. And if you play ten years in the NHL (Rypien -6; Boogaard -6; Belak – 14), that works out to 1000 blows directly to the head, from a very strong and angry person, who is very intent on harming you. And that’s not counting any fights in the minors, junior, or college hockey; nor any head-rattling bodychecks you took over that span. Now, if Crosby’s brain has been scrambled enough from 1 to 2 hits to put him out of action for more than 9 months, imagine where you would be at having taken the generously low statistics I fired straight at your head, and trying to tough out a season and not lose your spot on the team roster. And imagine the toll this amount of repeated impact would take on your very fragile human brain, and what kind of mental damage/illness could very likely occur. How could a guy described by their friends and family as the happiest, nicest guy they knew, suddenly take his own life? Or carelessly overdose? Whatever contention you want to throw at it, I think it’s safe to say that those guys’ brains just weren’t right anymore.
Back to Crosby: I love his assertion that headshots should be taken right out of the game. They should.
Beyond that, I feel like Crosby may be in danger getting far too “babied”, if I can be so bold. I get he’s the most valuable asset in the game and all, but think about it for a second. Name another NHL player who could get a concussion, be given all the time he needs to rehab, and come back to the lineup anytime they (and the doctors) feel they’re ready. I mean, his doctors are describing him as a human Ferrari. It’s just not typical. If you’re a fringe player/human Ford Taurus fighting for a spot and you get a concussion, guaranteed there’s a player who’ll have your spot by next game. So one of two things is going to happen: either 1) every player is going to get this kind of treatment from their team and the league from now on, or 2) Crosby’s going to get a lot of heat for getting all this preferential treatment.
Hockey Talkie: Bobrovsky, Skinner, Worlds, Chi-Van for Winter Classic, Quiet Room Exploit, Coyotes, and Thornton in Flip Flops.
I love TSN analyst Jay Onrait’s comparisons of Sergei Bobrovsky’s pulls and starts to a cop being pulled off a case, surrendering his gun and badge/getting them back & being reinstated on the case. The frequency of his being “hired” and “fired” from the “force” is comparable to George Steinbrenner’s yo-yo’ing of Billy Martin. It’s a classic tale of guy who’s dug himself a hole with a shot at redemption; but instead of realizing that potential, blows it and finds further condemnation, constantly restarting the cycle. For all we know, he could be living out a real-life hockey player/fictional cop version of Groundhog Day; having to get it right to proceed in life. The vids will clutter the blog up, but below are some links if you ‘re totally lost on what I’m talking about:
Also, why do Philadelphia and Washington refuse to spend money on a dependable goaltender?
Some perspective food-for thought…. With 63 pts this season, Jeff Skinner entered himself into the all-time-leading-scorer-as –an-18-yr-old conversation. As remarkable as it was for him (while simultaneously nullifying the Taylor/Tyler debate), that total still put him behind Sidney Crosby’s mark as an 18 year old…trailing him by 39 points (102); and also behind Wayne Gretzky (110 in WHA, 137 in NHL). As good as Skinner’s numbers were, they’re barely halfway to the best ever.
BUT consider this too: Skinner and Ilya Kovalchuk both had 31 goals this year, and Skinner ended up with 3 more total points than Kovy. The fiscal difference between them? $97.3 million in salary. So there’s that side of the coin as well.
Now Skinner’s competing for Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championships, and doing just fine for himself. I may have touched on this before, but this tournament just isn’t a fair portrayal of the world’s talent in the game; and I maintain that the Olympic tournament should be the measuring stick in world rankings. Currently, Canada is ranked #2 behind Russia. But why? Because Russia does better in tournaments where the world’s best talent is still competing for NHL teams? In a tournament where rosters are seemingly allowed to change as frequently as teams desire? Canada destroyed Russia in the Olympic tournament where the world’s best players were ALL playing for their respective country. A true world championship should be contested by the world’s best players; the IIHF Tournament does not offer this. Why do they refuse to hold the tournament at a time where all players are available? The potential for credibility is right there, but it seems more like pride that is holding the IIHF back from changing more than anything else. In the meantime, Canada will continue to send the best they have available at the time and on short notice to top up their roster as best they can.
And a little further on Worlds rosters…. Toronto Maple Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf, James Reimer, and Luke Schenn were all good to go for Canada at the Worlds, but Phil Kessel said he was too tired to play for the US. Feel free to insert your own American joke. On the one hand, I think Kessel deserves the lambaste for this, but on the other, I think it speaks at least a little to how unimportant some players view this tournament. Playing for your country is an absolute privilege; it’s too bad that the IIHF refuses to present a tournament that all players wouldn’t waste a second thought on whether they would join their country’s roster or not.
Can the NHL go ahead and book the Chicago Blackhawks/Vancouver Canucks for next year’s Winter Classic? Great rivalry that has developed there; would make an entertaining HBO 24/7 special too. They’d need to do it in Chi-town though, unless they’re prepared to deal with hockey’s first ever rain delay.
Glen Healy is approaching Pierre McGuire-level ridiculousness in some of his HNIC on-air commentary. Though I hate the Vancouver Canucks, and a high-percentage of their fans, I do at least respect the Green Men. Healy has, for whatever reason, decided to make it his mission to slag these guys at every on-air opportunity he gets. Truth is, as annoying as they are, the Greenies are just fans who have paid their ticket money, are excited about and supportive of their team, and aren’t hurting anyone around them. If Glen Healy has a problem with fans, he might want to remind himself of who paid him his 14 years worth of NHL salary.
I thought about this when Brent Seabrook got concussed by Raffi Torres in the first round….The NHL’s new “quiet room” rule (a player that receives a headshot has to sit in a quiet room for 15 minutes and be evaluated by a doctor, good idea) seems easy for a team to exploit to get an opposing team’s good player off the ice for 15 solid minutes. I don’t know that any player/team would stoop that low, but when you think about it, if you can get a dangerous scoring threat or an impossible to beat defenceman off the ice for nearly an entire period, that doesn’t hurt your chances of winning the game.
It’d be too bad if the Phoenix Coyotes ceased to exist; I do like their red and white howling coyote jerseys. It’d be a shame to have to ditch them. Also, how unfair was it to the Coyotes that the media decided to talk about their pending relocation the entire time they were in the playoffs? They never had a chance this year. Oh, Glendale’s going to bail them out again next season now? Wow, glad we had to go through that unnecessary hype and conversation a few weeks ago.
Everytime the San Jose Sharks lose a game in the playoffs, I’m pretty sure Joe Thornton thinks to himself about how much more comfortable his flip-flops and boardshorts are than his hockey equipment at that moment.