Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Tampa Bay Lightning? Y not?

This morning I woke up and checked, "Yzerman, Red Wings icon, named Lightning GM". "Damn!", I thought to myself, "it wasn't a dream". Shortly, thereafter I logged onto Facebook, pulled up the Tampa Bay Lightning fan page and clicked "Become a Fan" (or Like). Within minutes my wife posted on my wall "You like the Tampa Bay Lightning?! Come on now..." I thought to myself, Y not?

When the news broke yesterday that my favorite player and legendary Red Wing Steve Yzerman left Detroit to take over as GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning, I couldn't believe what I was reading. Is this a joke? I thought what probably every Wing fan thought at that time they heard the news... "F$%&*$!" While none of us thought this was possible, deep down, we all knew that this was bound to happen. He was going to have to wait a long time to become the GM in Detroit and fresh off his success as the GM for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics, now was the time. What a great situation to go into too. The Lightning have some really good, young, talented players to build around. Guys like Steven Stamkos (age 19), Victor Hedman (age 18), and Vinny Lecavalier (age 29). The Bolts have a new owner, Jeff Vinik, who has deep pockets and a commitment to winning. Plus, you get to live in sunny beautiful Florida year round! What more could you ask for? While it hurts us Red Wings fans to see him leave our franchise, most of us will continue to cheer on The Captain as GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning. A good number of Wings fans have already said that Tampa Bay will be their second favorite behind the Wings. So get ready Lightning, your fan base is about to get very big, very fast.

A few Wings fans that didn't take the news so well said things like, "I hope the Lightning do terrible, so they'll fire him (Yzerman) and he'll come back here" and "I hope he doesn't tarnish his name trying to save this cheesy Mickey Mouse franchise". First, hoping that a guy that spent 27 years of his life turning your team in a winner fails is ignorant. Plain and simple. Second, no team starts off as the Detroit Red Wings. Everybody starts off as a "cheesy Mickey Mouse" franchise. Who took the NY Yankees seriously before Babe Ruth? Who took the 49ers seriously before Joe Montana? Who took the Penguins seriously before Mario Lemieux? Everybody starts off as this franchise that everybody points and laughs at. Then that one guy shows up, leads you to greatness and changes everyone's perception forever. Yzerman can do that with the Lightning. He can take them from being this unpopular Florida based hockey team and turn them into the Red Wings of the Eastern Conference. He has the smarts, he has the support and he has the young stars to build around.

I also think its very ironic that Yzerman went to Tampa Bay. The Wings colors are red and white. The Lightning's colors are blue and black. The exact opposite. Detroit is so far north, its almost in Canada. The Lightning couldn't be farther south. The best player on the Lightning is a 19 year old, right handed shooting, first round pick named Steve that was given the task to not only perform, but to renew interest in this hockey club. Wasn't Yzerman given that exact same assignment 27 years ago? Steven Stamkos also wears the numbers 1 and 9 on his back, except in the reverse order (91). The Bolts also have a young 18 year old Swedish defenseman named Victor Hedman that is supposed to be one of the next great defensemen in the game. Its like Yzerman went to the bizarro Red Wings. Everything is so similar yet different.

Its a very exciting time for Steve Yzerman and it should be an exciting time for his loyal fans. Yzerman and the Lightning have a lot of work to do, but they are on the cusp of something great. O CAPTAIN! my Captain! Good luck with your new team and us Wings fans will be there to cheer you on every step of the way!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ovechkin vs Crosby: Part 1

Every great sport has its rivalries. Sometimes its between teams, players, colleges, coaches, fans. The NHL is blessed with a great rivalry right now between Washington Capitals franchise winger, Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins crown jewel, Sidney Crosby. Two great players, but only one can be called "the best". Its fine to say you like one more than the other, but don't go saying one is BETTER than the other because of that liking. I think its just amazing how Crosby fans will ignore the numbers and just say, "Crosby's the best". It seems like everyday now I get into an argument with someone about "Who's better? Crosby or Ovechkin?". Its funny because last year Crosby wasn't even mentioned in the "Who's the best?" discussion. It was "Malkin or Ovechkin?". Crosby wasn't even a consideration. But now, I get some Pens fan trying to justify his or her position with lame arguments that Crosby is the best. Take off your black and gold glasses for a few minutes and look at these facts:

FACT: Ovechkin and Crosby were both rookies in 05-06. Crosby had Lemieux, Palffy, LeClair, Recchi, and Gonchar. Ovechkin had Dainius Zubrus and Jeff Halpern. Ovie did better and beat out Crosby for the Calder Trophy which goes to the league's top rookie.

FACT: Ovechkin and Crosby finished with the same number of points this year (109), while Sid had just one more goal. Crosby also played in 9 more games than Ovechkin. I'm quite certain that if Ovie had played in those 9 games, he would not only have more goals and points than Crosby, but he would've won the Art Ross for a second time.

FACT: Both have one Art Ross trophy

FACT: Ovechkin has 2 Hart Trophies as the league MVP, Crosby has just 1.

FACT: Ovechkin has 2 Lester B. Pearson Awards (which goes to the league MVP voted by the NHLPA). Crosby has just 1.

FACT: Ovechkin also owns 2 Rocket Richard Trophies as the top goal scorer in the league. He wasn't a co-champion either like Crosby is this year with Steven Stamkos.

FACT: 2 is a greater number than 1

I do expect the Hart Trophy numbers to be evened up this year when the awards are given out though. The winner of the Hart Trophy is determined by a panel of hockey writers aka the hockey media. The same media that is ramming Sidney Crosby down our throats every chance they get. A good portion of that media is from Canada. Who do you think they'll vote for? Their fellow Canadian that scored the "Golden Goal" in the Olympics or the "dirty Russian"? They're already saying "this is going to the player that's most valuable to their team" which is what they say whenever their opinion doesn't match the stats. This wouldn't be the first time this happened though. In 88-89, Wayne Gretzky won the Hart over Mario Lemieux, despite the fact that Mario had 31 more goals, was a +15 better and played in 2 less games than the "Great One". What did exactly did Wayne do that year? He got traded to the LA Kings and got married. The Hart is more of a media popularity contest than it is an actual award based on talent.

Despite all of these FACTS, people persist that Crosby is a better player:

"Sid's a more complete player. He plays defense." - First off, let me just say that in today's game, you don't rack up over 100 points AND play defense. Coming from someone who's watched a lot of Wings games with players like Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Yzerman, Fedorov... neither of these guys play defense. I don't recall either of them laying down to block a shot or back check on every shift. However, between the two of them, Ovechkin is better defensively. No, that's just not my opinion either. Let's consult the numbers shall we... This year, Crosby is a +15. Ovechkin is a +45. Both have the same number of points and both have about the same number of power play points. So it seems to me that opponents are scoring a heck of a lot more when Crosby's on the ice than when Ovie is. Sooo, how is it Crosby is better defensively? Isn't defense about keeping the puck out of your own net?

"Ovechkin plays in the weak Southeast, while Crosby plays in the tough Atlantic" - The same "weak" Southeast division that produced 2 of the last 5 Stanley Cup champions? Don't get me wrong, the Southeast has its flaws, but people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The Devils are no where near as good as they were since their last championship in 2003. They've been knocked out of the playoffs in first round in each of the last 3 years. The Rangers haven't been good since '97 when they re-united Gretzky and Messier and even that team was iffy. The Islanders have been in rebuilding mode since 1985. The Flyers are the closest thing to a good team and they have lousy goaltending, inconsistent players and bad coaching.

Here's the 09-10 breakdown:
Crosby vs Atlantic - 1.83 points per game, +14
Ovechkin vs Atlantic - 1.75 points per game, +17
Crosby vs Southeast - 1.10 points per game, -7
Ovechkin vs Southeast - 1.52 points per game, +10

It seems to me that both got big numbers in that "tough" Atlantic division and didn't do quite as well in the "weak" Southeast division.

"(After Canada beats Russia in the Olympics) Once again Crosby proves he's better than Ovechkin" - Huh?? First off, neither of them scored a point in that game. Second, Team Canada is MUCH stronger than Team Russia. Canada has a Hall of Fame goalie, one of the best coaches in the NHL and all-stars on their 4th line. Russia had players from the KHL. You really can't compare two individual players based on the outcome of a game between two teams, especially when those two teams are not equal.

"Crosby beat Ovechkin in the '09 playoffs, so he's better" - Crosby's team did beat Ovechkin's team in a 7 game series where it all boiled down to one game. A game in which Caps rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was playing in just his 19th career NHL game, came unglued and gave up 4 goals on 18 shots. While playoff battle tested Marc-Andre Fleury just gave up 2 goals on 21 shots. What exactly did Ovechkin have to do with Varlamov's meltdown? The Penguins team was better that day. It had nothing to do with Ovechkin vs Crosby. Its not like Crosby out produced Ovechkin. In fact, Ovechkin slightly outproduced Crosby in the series. Crosby finished with 8 goals and 5 assists, Ovie with 8 goals and 6 assists. Crosby's team was better than Ovechkin's so that makes him a better player? Ovie's great, but he can't score, play goalie and coach. The Caps have the same problem the Red Wings did prior to 1997. They're not built for playoff hockey. The Penguins on the other hand, are built for playoff hockey. This doesn't make Crosby better than Ovechkin, it makes him lucky to be with a franchise that knows what it takes to win in the playoffs.

"Crosby has a Cup and Ovechkin doesn't" - This is like when people said Gretzky was better than Lemieux because he had 4 Cups and Lemieux had zero. It was ridiculous then and its ridiculous now. Gretzky played on a team that was stacked with talent, while Lemieux had to pretty much do everything himself. The same can be said here. Crosby's team is loaded with high end talent. Malkin (2nd overall pick), Fleury (1st overall pick), Staal (2nd overall pick), all high draft picks. Ovechkin has Semin (13th overall), Varlamov (23rd overall) and Backstrom (4th overall). If Crosby and Ovechkin switched places, Ovie would have a Cup (maybe more) and Crosby would have zero. This is the weakest argument a Crosby supporter can make. Kris Draper has 4 Cups, does that make him better than Crosby?

"Ovechkin always chokes in the playoffs" - Oh really? In 28 career playoff games, Ovie has 20 goals, 20 assists, and a +14. He owns a 1.43 points per game average in the playoffs which is actually better than his regular season average of 1.34 points per game. So if anything, he's actually BETTER in the playoffs. Crosby averages 1.36 points per game in the regular season and 1.32 in the playoffs.

"Crosby always beats Ovechkin everytime they meet up" - That was true in the beginning. Back when both were non-playoff rebuilding teams, the Pens beat the Caps many times. Something like 10 out of 11 times. However, since both became elite teams, those numbers have really changed. The Penguins and the Capitals have played each other 15 times (including the playoffs) in the last two years. The Caps have won 10 of those games.

"(After the Capitals lost Game 7 to the Canadiens) Who's the best player in hockey?? Crosby!!" - Wait... what? How does the Capitals losing to the Canadiens make Crosby better than Ovechkin? I'm confused. Is it because Penguins won their series and the Caps lost theirs? The Capitals ran into white hot goalie, Jaroslav Halak. A guy that took Team Slovakia to new heights just a few months ago in the Olympics. The Pens played against shooter tutor Brian Elliot. However, Pens fans spoke too early though because the Pens played against the same Montreal Canadiens team that knocked Ovie out of the playoffs and also lost. Well almost the same. The worn out Canadiens, who had one day off in between the two series, lost the services of their best defenseman Andrei Markov in Game 1 against the Penguins. Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?

Ovechkin vs the Canadiens
5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, +5 in 7 games

Crosby vs the Canadiens (minus Andrei Markov)
1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, -1 in 7 games

Crosby and Malkin vs the Canadiens
2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, -3 in 7 games

Ovechkin not only did better than Crosby, but he did better than both Crosby and Malkin combined! It should also be noted that Crosby's lone goal came in Game 6, which also just happened to be the game Hal Gill didn't play in. Ovechkin also had a goal disallowed on a bogus goaltender interference call.

"You just don't like Crosby because he beat your Red Wings!" - My dislike for Crosby, a player that used to be one of my favorites, actually started at the end of Game 4 of the 2008 Finals. After the Wings had taken a 3-1 lead in the series, Crosby skated over to the Wings as they were heading into the locker room, got into Henrik Zetterberg's face and started talking trash. About 10 minutes prior to this disgraceful act, Zetterberg had stopped Crosby on the doorstep of the goal on a 5-3 powerplay. Apparently being shutdown at a critical point in the game (and series) offended the Sid the Kid. That was the first of many classes moves by Crosby and he lost me as a fan. The result of the '09 Finals was irrelevant. Regardless of the outcome of that series, I would not like Crosby today. As it relates to this blog post, I have always said that Ovechkin is a better player than Crosby. Even before the Pens and Wings played against one another and I was a Crosby fan...

"..Ovechkin in my opinion is the best player in hockey (sorry Sid). Ovechkin is the Mario Lemieux of the NHL right now, while Sid is the Gretzky. I always said Lemieux was better so I have to stick with my guns here. "
- Fantasy Friday chat transcript
Friday, January 25, 2008
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A lot of people will say that Ovechkin is classes or dirty for some of his big hard hits. Ovie plays a physical game and there's a fine line between being physical and being dirty. When you play physical style, sometimes you are going to cross that line. Its unavoidable. Its funny though, Pens fans didn't have a problem with Ulf Samuelsson being physical and sometimes crossing that fine line into "dirty" when he was matched up with Cam Neely in '91 and '92. Nor did they have a problem with Francois Leroux when he knocked out Pat LaFontaine and pretty much ended his career.

I believe the root of the problem here is that most Pens fans don't know an era in which they didn't have the best player in hockey. Let's face it, how many Pens fans today, were fans before 1985? Whether it was Lemieux or Jagr, the Penguins were considered to have the best player in the league for close to 20 years. Today, they have two great players in Malkin and Crosby and cannot accept the fact that there's someone out there that's better and that they don't have the best player in the league. Ovechkin is better than Crosby. Its an air tight case. You can argue this point all you want, but you'll be wrong. Who knows, maybe 5 years from now, things will be different. Maybe Crosby will have more goals, points, wins, Cups, trophies, whatever, but as of right now, it is undeniable that Alexander Ovechkin, the Great Eight, is better than Sid the Kid.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Factoring In: NHL Playoffs 5/6/2010

- How lucky can one team be? Last year, the Penguins played their beat down toys, the Flyers, the Capitals who had a goalie with 11 games of NHL experience entering the series, a worn down Hurricanes team and then a worn down and injured Red Wings. Fluky events (Brodeur's meltdown, Boston blowing it at home against Carolina) had the Penguins miss playing Penguin killers, New Jersey and Boston. This year, the top three seeds in the East fall in the first round, the Penguins get a Senators team that is a shadow of its former self, a worn down Habs team that is missing its best defenseman and then will either play their beat down toys again or a Bruins team that just lost one of its best scorers. Yet again, the teams the owned the Pens during the regular season (Devils and Caps) are out. All three teams the Penguins will play in the Eastern Conference playoffs, wouldn't have even qualified for the playoffs in the West. This is as easy as it gets.

- I really liked the guts the Ottawa Senators showed in the first round. They were over matched, but it didn't stop them. They layed down and blocked every shot, fought for every inch of ice. If they had ANY talent at all, they would've knock off the Pens.

- Has the "greatest goalie in the history of the NHL" Martin Brodeur, lost a step? The Devils have been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round in each of the last 3 years.

- I said this about the Pens when Therrien was in town and I'm saying it about the Caps now too. They'll never win the Cup with Bruce Boudreau behind the bench. His unwillingness to make any changes while his team struggles to put away an 8th seed is all the reason you need. They also need to give up on Semin. Great shot, great hands, but is way too soft. If the Caps setup Ovechkin with as many opportunities as Semin, we would be talking about a Ovechkin vs Crosby Conference Finals.

- With the season on the line in a shootout, how do you not put in your 42 goal scorer Marian Gaborik? Instead they went with... Olli Jokinen? Dumb. You didn't deserve to go to the playoffs.

- Same old sad story for the Flyers. "We're tough, we're physical, we're built for the playoffs, but we have no goaltending." I hate this team and even I'm getting annoyed by the fact that they refuse to go out and get a competent goaltender.

- You know, I really don't hate Marian Hossa anymore. I haven't for sometime now. I was mad when he left the Wings to sign with the Blackhawks, but I'm over it. He's a good guy and a great player and while I would still like to see him in a Wings jersey, I wouldn't burn my Hossa t-shirt like some idiots might.

- I've never seen a 3-0 series as closely matched as the Sharks and Red Wings. It could easily be 3-0 Wings, but the bounces aren't going their way and they're losing by one instead of winning by one. Meh, it happens.

- I bet everyone knows who Craig Anderson is now.

- Roberto Luongo must be a Britney Spears fan. Ooops, he's doing it again!

- The Nashville Predators had a 3-2 lead in Game 5 on the road, were on the powerplay with less than a minute left in the game and found a way to lose. No wonder they don't have any fans. I got sick to my stomach watching that and I didn't care who won.

- Great performance by the Coyotes in their first playoff appearance in years. Great system, great coach, now if they could get a few snipers so they don't have to rely so much on Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Wojtek Wolski to score goals. They're $13 million under the cap and Illya Kovalchuk would do wonders for them.