Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Open Ice Fantasy: 08-09

I'll be hosting another Yahoo Fantasy Hockey season this year, and I'd like to invite everyone to join. Fun times, low maintenance (unless you want to do a lot of research...), and free. Newbies welcome.

I'll just keep the same settings as last year, unless people would like to discuss some changes:

Type will be Rotisserie.

Positions: C, C, LW, LW, RW, RW, D, D, D, D, Util, G, G, BN, BN, BN, BN, IR
Stat categories: G, A, +/-, PPG, PPA, SHG, GWG, W, GA, SHO

Those are all up for negotiation until the draft starts. Speaking of the draft...last year I was blessed with lots of free time by the nature of my work schedule. This year, I've got anything but free time. So I won't be able to do the email-chain draft...I'm thinking a live draft is the best approach. For the uninitiated, a live draft on Yahoo involves a Java applet where everyone meets at a given time and drafts players. The applet keeps track of available players and even ranks them quasi-intelligently (you can also pre-rank your own wanted players before the draft). This usually takes an hour or so...

If you're interested, please reply to this post. Once Yahoo actually decides to permit registrations, I'll set us up. Please also indicate if there's any time periods where you'll absolutely be unavailable for a draft (vacation times, surgeries, Iditarod, NHL training camps, etc) so we can block that out when generating a list of proposed times.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Closing Ceremonies

Well...looks like I missed a day due to a flaky internet connection (that'smystoryandi'mstickingtoit).

Overall, not bad. We had a decent combination of low humour mixed with some attempts at raw analysis.

I'm all worn out. It'll take a couple of weeks before I start watching sports seriously again.

Can't wait until it's time to do this for every game.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Javelin

I've obtained the above video of Anders Eriksson's off-season training coach. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: BMX

All year we focus on figuring out which teams will be contenders, will lead in their division, will clamber out on top.

Readers of this blog will know we're not necessarily all about that.

Tonight I'm interested in the train wrecks, the crashes, the potential gong shows.

Calgary: I'm not going to dwell on this. We're going to have a great year, what with key additions to the roster like Todd Bertuzzi, Brandon Prust, and Andre Roy!

Toronto: I'm just going to laugh. Is that ok?

Vancouver: The one team in the NW that makes me feel better. Their frenzied pursuit of Mats Sundin kept a quiet summer from becoming completely dull.

Florida: Does anybody understand what the hell is happening down there? Of course, they'll be a powerhouse and the most fearsome team in the SE after Bryan McCabe gets shipped down there, as is rumoured to happen. I'm... sure.

Nashville: I suspect the Radulov drama is the tip of the iceberg. They'll need to have somebody who can replace the scoring potential of Radulov (dammit! I was going to pick him up this year for various fantasy leagues...), and to do that, well, they'll have to figure out what part of their team to swap out. I suggest a young, hot D-man, they seem to be awash in those.

Buffalo: I'm sure matching that offer sheet for Vanek seemed like a good idea at the time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Weightlifting

The 2004 run (yes, I'm a bit fixated by it) was spectacular for all the things that came together, not in the least, the timing for one Jarome Iginla.

Four years later, it's less certain whether all the stars will align once again. Iginla is no longer a fire-breathing youngster; he is a veteran, a leader. The Guy.

Yes, he's locked in long-term. But he's on the other side of 30 now.

How long is he going to wait?

Our condolences also to Ron MacLean... terrible loss, terrible timing....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Triathalon

So the triathalon last night was one hell of a race. Fantastic finish, though I was more bemused by the comedic value of having Simon Whitfield chased to the finish line by a huge German guy. It was just... funny. Even if said German guy passed him and won.

Gutsy performance, however, and it really was the kind of inspiring action that I think we all watch the Olympics (and sports in general) hoping to glimpse.

After Matt Fenwick linked to Simon Whitfield's blog, I couldn't help but spend a while procrastinating by perusing it for a while.

And! Found gold. Turns out that Andrew Ference is a pretty good friend of Simon Whitfield (see his brief cameo in the vid here).

Trawling through the site even more, it seems that Ference has started to use triathalon as some of his summer training, with the encouragement of Whitfield.

All our readers will know that we're big fans of the A-fence here. Has his head screwed on right, does cool things with his free time, isn't terrible on the ice anymore, and oh, has a contract that comes with a steal of a cap hit.

Really tellingly, his buddy Whitfield quotes this about him:

On TSN's Off The Record Michael Landsberg asked the GM of the Bruins what was one of the most important moves he'd made in the last couple years and he answered "bringing in Andrew Ference because he brought so much character to our team".

Sigh, I miss the guy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Shooting

Just a quick post today...

... to commemorate ad spokesthings which have fortunately been ended. Well after their time. Yet another set of veterans never to see the light of another hockey season.

So farewell, Frank and Gordon, you fat, annoying, indolent stalker-rodents.
Goodbye, Mr. Lame Kokanee Ranger.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Synchronized Diving

I've kind of had a vague idea about what I wanted to do in terms of a post for this sport for a while.

Let's take a look at the total points accumulated by teams in the NW Division since the lockout:

2005-6: 469
2006-7: 471
2007-8: 463

Now, why am I looking at this? The consensus amongst many media sources and hockey experts is that the NW (qualitatively, at least) is no longer as hard to play against than it used to be.

From this, there is a distinct dropoff last year, though it's hardly so big that it's really statistically significant.

What is interesting is that the gap between the lowest number of points earned in the division and the highest has narrowed noticeably. Significantly, even.

2005-6: Calgary, 103 pts; Minnesota, 84 pts
2006-7: Vancouver, 104 pts; Edmonton, 71 pts
2007-8: Minnesota, 98 pts; Edmonton/Vancouver; 88 pts

Why do I find this interesting? What the pundits have termed the "fall of the NW" seems to be caused not by the weaker teams in the divison getting weaker; if anything, Edmonton drastically improved over the offseason last year (they could hardly have been worse than how they finished the season in 2007).

What we saw was that play in the division became more even. While arguably, the best teams in the division weren't quite as stellar as they had been in the past; the worst teams were not nearly so bad as they had been in years previous.

I am willing to accept Edmonton's performance in 2006-7 as a bit of an outlier, given their performance after the trade deadline. Without that, the next-lowest placing team would have been Colorado with 95 points, which puts the four teams in the NW (besides Edmonton) within 10 points of each other.

Perhaps last season, it is possible to say that the NW wasn't as tough as the year before, but it certainly (from numbers only, at least) isn't possibly to confidently state that it wasn't as tough as it usually was.

And looking ahead? I don't expect the NW division to produce as many points as it once did; quite simply the other two division in the conference have changed, and particularly in the case of the Central Division, have become better balanced. I don't believe that it's a case that we've gotten worse; merely that other divisions will be more signifcantly improved.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Field Hockey

Playing hockey on a field has always been strangely intuitive. However, Field Hockey itself is, without a doubt, a dull sport and completely not for me. But playing ice hockey on a field? That's just fun. Be it a backyard rink or an NHL Winter Classic, it's a pleasantly nostalgic event beloved by Canadians and some intelligent Americans everywhere (with cold weather).

Last year's Winter Classic was essentially picture-perfect. Pittsburgh was one of the teams to watch last year, while Buffalo mimicked its host city by starting a steep decline. Despite this, that game is probably my best memory of last year's hockey season. Admittedly, it's mostly situational. The timing meant I was on vacation and back home in Calgary spending time with friends and family, and having a cup of coffee while watching the snow gently fall over what was a terrific hockey game was pretty fantastic for me.

This year we've got Chicago and Detroit. I'm sure Detroit will be a fantastic team as usual, and even if Chicago is not a fantastic team in terms of results they will undoubtedly be a good team to watch with a roster that includes Kane, Toews, Havlat, Campbell, and the ever-electric Duncan Sheik Keith (I am barely breathing...). Here's hoping for a white New Years Day.

Which teams should have a go the year after? It'll have to be a Canadian team, of course. It shouldn't be Vancouver, because those bastards already have the Olympics to get off with. Edmonton's already had one at one point. Toronto sucks. Montreal participated in one recently. That leaves Ottawa and Calgary. Ottawa has lots of politicians, which means that the game would be crappier since the fans would be disproportionately scumbags. Thus, we can scientifically and unequivocally say that Calgary is the only team worth considering hosting the next Winter Classic. They could do it in McMahon Stadium, which is optimal proximity to my house as well (an important consideration).

Back to Field Hockey -- I think I have an idea to make the game more exciting and would improve its ratings. Have they considered playing it on ice? Maybe upgrade the sticks to something befitting a grown adult rather than a child in the process. I'd also be willing to lend the International Field Hockey Federation Gary Bettman to help fix 'er right up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Cycling

Anybody know how on earth I can get statistics on cycling the puck?

Just trying to patch together some hockey-related thoughts. One of the big flaws with Calgary's game last year was with puck possession. Most of our readers will realize I'm much better at intuiting things than sitting down with numbers and figuring out what the deal is.

A big part of it was being a team not well suited to dump-and-chase well, dumping and chasing all the time. We were just too big and old and slow really for this to be a successful strategy.

The other problem which plagued us with puck possession was of course, MG's much hated STONEHANDS, who really did abound on the Flames roster.

This might be one of the vaunted improvements which the "new NHL" has brought us. In 2004, the game was slower, and our guys were faster, which meant that we could well dump the puck in the other team's zone and expect to retreive it, by outhitting and outmuscling the other team. Now, of course, everyone else is just too damn fast.

Dump and chase against Chicago?
Dump and chase against Edmonton?
Dump and chase again...

You get the idea. Bad idea!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Beach Volleyball

AKA: The Olympic sport I've ended up watching the most

Awwww, so many ways I could take this one. Where I wanted to go with this, however, was to not talk about skimpy swimsuits (Dear the Netherlands: You've FAILED!!), or predictable plays, or blasting Nickelback in the background.

I wanted to talk about the lovely, lovely sand.

It slows you down like no one's business: Ever wonder what it felt like to be Rhett Warrener, or Eriksson? (And very likely, Roy, and Chucko?) Go run around in an oversized sandbox all summer long.

It hurts less when you dive: Kind of makes me wonder why they haven't tried playing soccer on sand.

You can stick your head in it and hide: I've been doing this a bit with respect to Canada's current medal count. Go follow the excellent coverage Matt Fenwick has been providing over at Battle of Alberta. It's a finely honed skill, I admit, which I've worked on over the last couple of years of blogging. It's damn hard saying again and again that if they play a full 60 minutes, and if they show up, and if Kipper doesn't decide to leave partway for popcorn and nachos, that we'll be ok.

It gets you dirty: Heh. Next!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Open Ice hits Olympcs: Wrestling

So since the beginning of July, we have been embroiled in a big blogosphere showdown over at the NHL Arena. I believe the first round is continuing; there are some real heavyweights amongst the competitors.

(I have no idea how they picked competitors or how they matched us up; I presume there is method to their madness...)

We are currently battling the folks at Get High on Hockey. Go check it out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympcs: Fencing

Today's post is going to address the Sundins and Sakics of the world; those players who are fence-sitting with regards to the future of their careers.

These are gentlemen who've paid their dues. In the case of aging elite players such as Mats Sundin or Joe Sakic, they've more than earned the time to consider their future. Of course, they've also earned (to a certain extent) the intense interest in the outcome of their meditations.

I can't help but contrast the difference between the coverage Sundin has gotten with the somewhat scanty attention Sakic has received. To be sure, Sundin is the captain of a team in the centre of hockey's universe (so they'd like to believe), and had made it clear that he would consider another team. He's articulate, and much like our own captain, has often carried his team on his shoulders when no one else was wiilling to do it. Too, this is a man who is weighing how to best have a shot at the Cup he hasn't yet won against his desires to (I suppose) stay right where he is, and dunno, eat sushi.

Sakic, on the other hand, has very little left to prove. He has won the Cup multiple times, has enjoyed success in international play in whatever tournament he's chosen to participate in, has seen his franchise go from struggling in Quebec into the Western powerhouse of the late 90s. Most importantly, in a role and city befitting his quiet, nonflashy nature, he's risen to the pinnacle of hockey success quietly, without the dazzle of playing in a Canadian or in the big lights of the Eastern Seaboard.

Perhaps that's what's the most telling about the Sundin drama. Unlike other fence-sitters, like Sakic, Selanne or Niedermayer, there is definitely the sense of unfinished business.

That said... I think I'd rather be watching fencing now than worrying about where he's going.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Swimming

Ahhh....! You thought these were going to be in alphabetical order, or something, right? Nope, it's just whatever sport I think I can use to frame some broad generalizations about whatever's floating through my head...

Dave and I have had several discussions over the summer, about the Flames, and swimming, and the big sea of mediocrity which we are now cannonballing into (they don't do cannonballs during the Olympics? I knew something about them was bogus).

I don't think the Flames will be contenders this year. Not serious ones. We won't sink to the bottom of the conference or the division, but we won't be great either. Basically, we'll be in the same position that we've all been in denial about for oh, the last two seasons now. Good enough to make the playoffs; not quite good enough to go deep.

I look at the moves we've made over the summer, and for the most part, they've been intelligent, rational moves. They are not, however, moves that inspire any particular excitement. They're moves designed to keep us where we are; but not moves designed to move us forward.

But you might wonder, didn't we have the same kind of lineup when we did go deep? I have the sense that Sutter believes he has a template from that year, and that if only he can find all the right spare parts, we'll get that magic team again. But the guys he's spent the last four years building around aren't getting any younger - there's no guarantee that even if he can assemble the correct elements, that the core will still work the way he expects it to.

So I hope we have our new hi-tech uniforms on... I'm all ready to go swimming in the sea of mediocrity... who's with me?



Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Boxing

Today I'm taking a look at other places in the league, and generating musings of no importantance whatsoever.

Was anybody else bemused as I was to see all the ex-Flames land assistant coaching positions this summer? Especially Gilmour and Berube, on the same day... remember they changed teams in the same trade.

Doug Gilmour as assistant coach for the Marlies.
Tim Hunter as assistant coach for the Leafs.
Craig Berube as assistant coach for the Flyers.

How weird is it that Gilmour and Hunter both ended up in the Leafs organization in the same summer?

Now, million dollar question to me is, if the Leafs and the Flyers should get into an extreme on-ice dispute in the forthcoming season? Which assistant coach wins this?

Ah, well, at least if Cliff Fletcher wants to gull Riseborough again, he'll have to phone the Wild instead of us now.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Baseball

If you happen to be stuck on a gorgeous August weekend with nothing to do, don't forget to check out the Vipers game... perhaps you'll get to see their newest signing...

Am I taking this seriously? Well, neither should you. Still, if it manages to fill seats, well, more power to them.

I have a soft spot for Theo Fleury - he was my absolute favourite player in my formative years as a hockey fan. I'm glad he seems to have got his shit together, and has time to do publicity stunts like these.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Opening Ceremonies

While the Olympics are on, I'm going to attempt to get our posting chops back into game shape by posting something marginally related to what this blog is about and which is also thematically related to the games. Most days this won't be deep, and probably won't even make much sense, but that's....not really what we do anyways, right?

Unfortunately, I can't blow up nearly quite that amount of fireworks as the real Olympics can. But! I would be amiss without pointing out all the good work that is going on in the blogosphere.

MG and Cynical Joe have been putting us to absolute shame this summer. They're pumping out a ridiculous amount of analysis, and it's good stuff. Go check it out.
WI had a fantastic series on the prospect camp.
Duncan is alive again! And he's kicking off his resurrection with a look at the depth of other teams, I presume in the NW. Go enjoy!

Now, back to waiting for like, sports to start playing over in Beijing.