The View From Wisconsin
Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Tomorrow is the opening day of "Free Agent Season" in the NHL. There are already some rumblings that the Nashville Predators, instead of living up to their namesake, will instead wait for other teams to throw out huge paychecks and wait for the scraps. This would be a huge mistake, especially with some game-changing players like Jason Arnott out there. Time will tell, though.
When you have the flu or a flu-like virus, usually the body aches and pains happen before onset of the rest of the symptoms. With me this past week, it was the reverse - I had incredible back and muscular pain for most of the last 36 hours. It has finally subsided (thanks to some Aleve and rest), but I just find it unusual.
The Milwaukee Admirals have announced that they will be revealing their new logo and uniforms on August 1 at the Summerfest grounds. As that happens to be the last day of my vacation, I may wander over to see the new duds.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
You, however, unable to breathe with a hunk of phlegm in your throat, want to just yell at them to shut the bleep up. If, of course, you could actually talk.
Anyways... I'm somewhat back to normal (if you can call my life "normal"). So, on with the countdown and some late observations:
- It was no surprise that Phil Kessel was not drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. Jack Skille would have beat his brains in during training camp. I know, Kessel's a Wisconsin boy, but he burned his bridges when he decided to head to Minnesota instead of staying in Wisconsin. If he had, he'd be a National Champion player by now. Pity.
- Tristar Productions, a memorabilia company based out of Texas, has been putting together its own "Hidden Treasures" sports card packs in recent years. Last year, their baseball packs had you trying to find the Honus Wagner card - which, if you read the fine print, was just a certificate that let you in to a final "card opening" at the All-Star Game to see who got the actual Wagner card. This year, they're doing the same for hockey cards. Only one problem: I drew a card that I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what set or year it is from. I know the manufacturer: In The Game (ITG for short), and I know the release year (2003). But the set number? No clue. An Owen Nolan card, listed as F-11. I've actually e-mailed them with a scan of the card, and asked if they could tell me what set it's from.
- You know you are a net.geek when you spend an entire evening going through the archives of a webcomic, for the sole purpose of just trying to figure out the storyline behind the whole thing.
- In a way, I'm happy that the USA didn't get out of group play at the World Cup. If they had, that would have meant soccer enthusiasts in this country would have demanded more attention. And heaven help us if team USA would have actually won the tournament. I think there are some countries where a US World Cup victory would have meant an exchange of tactical nuclear weaponry.
- I'm slowly getting used to McAfee's Security Suite of programs, but I just have one bone to pick with it: the SpamKiller module slows Outlook 2K3 down to the speed of orca scat. I keep it disabled so I don't have to wait about 10 minutes for my e-mail to be readable. Keep in mind I'm on a puter with a 2.2 Ghz chip and running with 1.37 Gb of RAM. Can you imagine what it'd be like on a slower machine?
Friday, June 16, 2006
That happened last night at the Bradley Center.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Game five of the Stanley Cup finals is slated for tonight at Raleigh's RBC Center, with the home team leading the series three games to one.
A win by the Hurricanes ends the "relaunch" season of the NHL that began on October 5, 2005 - with the hopes of every team dashed except for the Caniacs in the Carolinas.
The hockey season won't be fully over, though, until tomorrow at the earliest - something I hope I don't personally have to witness.
Game six of the Calder Cup playoffs is slated for Thursday night in Milwaukee, with the visiting Hershey Bears up three games to two in the series.
It's not impossible that the Admirals could win both Thursday and Saturday to win the Cup, but it's a daunting task, based on their play over the first five games of the series.
Either way, after Saturday night it will likely be all over.
I miss it already.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
This doesn't distract from the coolness of the comic, though. (As if it ever did.)
Time for the Admirals to step it up tonight. The twits in Hershey are annoying. We need to put them down and get on with our summer.
If the Hurricanes blow the next three games (yes, it's a pun), they don't deserve the Cup.
Good to see the Brewers finally got a win for one of our pitchers not named Chris Capuano last night. Now we need to put about eight of those types of games together so we can challenge the Cards and Reds for the top of the heap in the Central.
Annoyance of the day: MySpace's biggest problem is the "add friends" feature. Some porn spammers have found out how they can manipulate this so all it takes is a peek at a supposed MySpace profile and BAM - you just got diverted to a porn site. Sigh.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
If you want to catch up with who's who, I'd suggest buying a copy of Pure Ducky Goodness and read through from the beginning. The fun part, though, is that the writer (Dave Kellett) has made the comic easy enough to follow without having to know everything about every character.
The other thing that reading Sheldon has done is open myself up to other webcomics, like:
- Evil Inc. by Brad Guigar - the story of a group of supervillans that have decided "you can do more Evil if you do it legally".
- Antiseptic Poetry - I haven't quite figured it out yet, but Kate's yummy. I believe the writer is based in Australia, but I can't confirm.
- PvP - Ever wonder what life would be like at a Role-playing magazine? Me neither, but it's funny enough that I can get around the crude jokes.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
In 1982, when Wayne Gretzky set the NHL mark for goal scoring in a season, little did we know that the league had reached a turning point in the goal scoring department.
Since 1953, the NHL had gradually increased its goals-per-game totals on a league-wide basis, slowly working up to the point where the lamp was being lit over 67 percent more in the era of Gretzky, Messier and company.
Over a six year period from 1980-86, goals were being scored at a rate that hadn't been seen since the days of Joe Malone and Cy Denney. The NHL averaged well over 7.5 goals per game during that time – something that had never happened before in league history.
The build-up to that point took a lot of stops and starts. In 1953, the NHL posted its lowest goal scoring total since the beginning of the "Original Six" era. An average of only 4.79 goals were being scored per game – by both teams. The following season, in 1954, the league improved by only the slightest of margins to 4.80 goals per game.
Goal scoring had dropped dramatically after Canadian hockey players finally returned home from the war in Europe, after a spike in scoring (thanks to Maurice "Rocket" Richard's 50 goals in 50 games) in 1943-44.
Prior to World War II, goal scoring had fluctuated wildly with the addition (and subtraction) of teams due to the Great Depression. In 1928-29, the NHL posted its worst ever league goals-per-game total of 2.92 – the only sub-three GPG total in the league's existence. Goals shot up the following year to 5.91 per game after the league made a simple rule change – allowing players to pass the puck within any of the three zones. Prior to 1929, goalies knew who was taking the shot because the player who held the puck wasn't allowed to pass it to a teammate in the attacking zone.
Goal scoring would continue its up-and-down roller coaster ride until 1939. After six seasons of six-plus goals per game, the ride would crash when the war ended, with goal totals dropping every year except 1949-50 until the changes in 1954.
What started the upward trend for goal scoring? The introduction of a new rule: minor penalties would end when the penalized team allowed a goal to be scored. And, the beginning of the careers of three players who would change the game: Bernie Geoffrion, Bobby Hull and (later) Bobby Orr.
Geoffrion was the father of the "slap shot" – the hard shot from the point that would make a booming sound when stick hit the puck, and an even louder booming sound when it hit the backboards – or the back of the net. His nickname of "Boom-Boom" was very appropriate, in that sense.
Hull was known for his banana-blade stick, with which he could whistle pucks on a straight line into the net. The heavily-bent blade allowed him to set all sorts of scoring records, including the NHL single-season goal scoring mark. His success actually caused the NHL to legislate away blade curvature, which caused scoring to drop slightly for a few years.
Then came Orr. Bobby Orr revolutionized the game as the league finally expanded in 1967, by doing something defensemen had never dreamed of doing: joining the play in progress and setting up scoring opportunities in the attacking zone. With Orr, players like Phil Esposito could rack up tons of goals with his well-timed passes. Along with the reduced quality of goaltending as each new team expanded into the league, goal scoring shot up to the 7-per-game level when the NHL and WHA merged – and a young teenager named Wayne Gretzky made his NHL debut.
In Wayne's first 11 seasons in the NHL, league goals-per-game totals never dipped below 7. It wasn't until his second full season in Los Angeles in 1990-91 that goal scoring league-wide hit 6.91.
There were reasons for this, too: first of all, glasnost and the tearing down of the Iron Curtain had an effect, as players from the former Soviet Bloc countries came to the NHL and showed the league how to play defense against the wide-open European style of hockey that had been predominant in the NHL to that point.
Secondly, the success of the New Jersey Devils in the abbreviated 1995 season added to the decline. The Devils employed the most frustrating European import of all – the neutral-zone trap. Years later, the NHL franchise with the most European style of play, the Detroit Red Wings, employed a variation of the trap, called the left-wing lock, to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Thirdly, goaltenders from Eastern Europe began to show North American "butterfly" goalies different ways of stopping – and playing – the puck. The likes of Hasek, Irbe, Khabibulin and Salo changed the way netminders participated in games. On dump-ins, goalies used to just let their defensemen or wingers go behind them and gather up the puck to take it up ice. Now, goalies went behind the net to grab the puck, stopping it and passing it forward to speed up the game. With the goalie playing the puck, teams couldn't change players wholesale as they did before; instead, they had to change in stages to avoid getting caught by the goaltender passing the puck up ice.
The NHL moved to change the rules about the center red line for 2005, which resulted in a predictable increase in goal scoring. The goals-per-game total of 6.051 was in the top 40 all-time in NHL history. That may not sound like much, considering the 88 seasons the NHL has played since 1917. However, the 2003-04 season average of 5.137 was the 20th lowest in league history in GPG.
The difference between the two seasons was of the top five increases in goal scoring per game in league history. The other four major increases happened when either a major rule change occurred or when the league finally consolidated. After the 1929-30 increase due to the removal of passing restrictions, there was the first year of the center red-line in 1943-44 (and Maurice Richard's 50-in-50), and the first two consolidations of the league: in 1919-20, when the NHL set on four teams (and Joe Malone returned to play), and in 1942-43, when the weak Brooklyn Americans franchise finally bowed out and the NHL became set at six teams for the next 25 years.
There's no way to tell if the NHL's rule change will result in a long-term increase in goal scoring. History suggests that goal scoring tends to trend downward in the years immediately after a large increase. In the 10 seasons after the four largest increases in goals per game, the average GPG dropped by at least one goal – and dropped by as many as four goals after 1921.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The AHL ain't any different. With the number of days the Admirals have had off this post-season, they could have gone on a Jamaican cruise and come back tanned, rested and ready. And right now, they've essentially turned the Calder Cup finals into a best-of-five series, with Hershey not only getting the home-ice advantage, but also getting a whole week to recover from that grueling back-to-back set in Milwaukee. All because the Admirals couldn't host a game six next Sunday (due to Stars on Ice), and Hershey couldn't/didn't want to host games three through five this week.
Speaking of the Admirals: anyone realize that there will be a LOT of changes to this team for 2007? Claude might not be there, either by choice or by hiring; Ray Shero won't be there anymore (since he's now in Pittsburgh); at least five guys on the roster right now will most likely be playing in Nashville full-time next year; and at least five more guys will likely be elsewhere - be it Europe or another NHL club. Maybe it's not a bad thing the playoffs are being extended, after all - we might not want this ride to end.
Speaking of rides: I happened to be thumbing through an old copy of Life magazine at work when I came across an advertisement for the "brand new" 1982 Cadillac Cimarron. My dad bought a 1983 version of this car - just in time for his only son to learn how to drive on it. Unfortunately, he had an accident with it that put it out of commission for a few months. A year later as I was on my way home from a youth group meeting at my church, a GMC Jimmy slid through an intersection and I ended up smacking it on the side. That next winter, a T-bird rear-ended me as I was trying to slow down to turn into my church parking lot. My dad got rid of that car shortly thereafter.
The Brewers finally, finally got off the schneid, snapping their eight-game skid with a 5-2 win over the Padres at PETCO. They did it without Geoff Jenkins, who got hit by a Mack Truck named Prince Fielder while trying to flag down a fly ball. That play, by the way, was the oddest I have ever seen - it was almost slow motion after the ball dropped and bounced into the stands. You see the two of them coming together, then trying to avoid each other, then Prince barrelling into Geoff. I don't know, but it just didn't look right. Of course, nothing about this losing streak looked right.
"Mr. Baseball" has had some issues of his own recently. Bob Uecker had to file a restraining order against a lady who he says has been harassing him. While it does sound like she's gone over the line, she does have some points about Ueck's behavior towards the common fan. Bob isn't exactly a "man of the people" when it comes right down to brass tacks. However, this lady apparently went a bit too far after getting the brush-off from Bob. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out - though I wouldn't anticipate any "fair reporting" from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about this. (Remember who owns the radio station Uecker works for.)
Friday, June 02, 2006
The Calder Cup finals are finally here.
Time to go out and get it - again.