Friday, November 17, 2006

Update on Hockey Intelligence

I am still working on my Hockey IQ stat (HIQ), but have hit a bit of a wall with regards to getting up-to-date, timely statistics. I have a few calls in, but if anyone knows of a source, other than manually copy/pasting them from, please don't hesitate to drop me a line.

On a personal note, I am going on a road trip through the high desert country of the American southwest, and will be back on Wednesday. Obviously, no updates till then, unless I stumble upon an internet terminal and some free-time while peering into the Grand Canyon.

My quick take on the Buds prospects for the weekend:

The struggling Devils visit the ACC on Saturday. They are having trouble scoring goals, and if the Leafs can manage to put a lid on Gionta, they have a decent chance at winning this one.

On Monday, the surprising Islanders come to town. Led by a rejuvenated Yashin and a red-hot Jason Blake, this game will be a real test. Yep, the Islanders are actually playing well. Put the credit where I feel it is due, on coach Nolan. He seems to be working his magic once again. Heck, he should be a coach of the year finalist just for getting Yashin to actually start trying out there.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Game Recap: Bruins 2 - Leafs 1

Aubin deserved better than that finish. He won the team that point, making numerous miraculous saves when they needed them. Good for him for playing so solid.

Looked like the Buds were skating in quicksand tonight. Not the terrible effort that the put out against Florida a few weeks back, but just couldn't seem to get anything going. Give credit where it is due, the Bruins played a really solid defensive game. Virtually no scoring chances for the Leafs, almost every shot from the perimeter.

Is the Bates Battaglia experiment over yet? I give the guy marks for effort, but he has no ability to make or accept a pass, or apparently hit the net with a shot.

I honestly don't think that Kyle Wellwood could could break a pane of glass with his shot. I know using a kid-sized stick gives him better control of the puck, but geez, this guy needs to hit the gym or something.

The Good:

Aubin was spectacular. Maybe the best game a Leaf keeper has played this season.

Pohl looked pretty good, the little time he was out there, but he didn't play enough to give an honest assessment.

Kaberle looks like he woke up a few weeks ago and decided to take the league by storm. He is leading rushes, jumping into odd-man situation, playing down low and was easily the Leafs most potent offensive player tonight.

The Bad:

Kubina looked shaky. Mark this up to the amount of time away from the rink, but he looked to be second-guessing himself all night. One play during the third captured it. Kubina is moving on the right boards out of the Buds zone, and instead of making a break-out pass, or lugging the puck himself, he kind of stops and starts looking around. He then starts to panic, and defers to Ian White to break the play out. Yep, Ian White the rookie. I expect his play will round out once he gets his legs back, so this really isn't a worry.

The Ugly:

Wade Belak. Even typing those words makes me cringe. Belak should not be playing in the NHL, period.

On a more general note, the Leafs face-off men were, collectively, brutal tonight. Honestly, the Leafs get tossed from about a million faceoffs (I was counting), and had no 'Plan B' when they did. had the Leafs winning 30 of the 54 face-offs, but it sure didn't seem like it to be honest.

Saturday, the Devils are in town. The way Aubin played tonight, I give him the start and give Raycroft another weekend to heal-up.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ottawa's REAL Problem - Updated

Go ahead, click on the image above. Notice anything odd about Gerber? Yes folks, his eyes are closed.

EDIT: Egads, I am a moron... I was having this strange feeling of deja vu when posting this item, and now realize that I saw this image on a fellow Leaf blog a few weeks ago... my sincere apologies to the original poster, the great ninja of Raking Leafs ^ (I highly recommend making RL a daily stop-over).

I think I need a breathalizer installed on my keyboard. Posting while drinking doesn't mix. Now, speaking of mix, where's did I leave that tonic water...

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Courtesy the crew over at the Battle of California ^ ("takes and trash talk from both sides of the NHL's most obscure rivalry"):

Classic. I am going to wallpaper my house with this image.

Jeff O'Neill - Faceoff Specialist

Interesting stat... among NHLers who have taken at least 50 faceoffs this season, Jeff is #5 in the league, with an amazing 60.5 winning percentage.

Maurice has really done a nice job of allowing guys to grow into different roles and expand their responsibilities. Great to see O'Neill getting a chance, and great for the Leafs that they have yet another solid face-off performer!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Leafs Hockey IQ, Year to Date

Related to my earlier post, here are the Leaf rankings to date on my 'Hockey IQ' metric (HIQ), including the three components of the measurement; Defensive Intelligence (DI), Offensive Intelligence (OI) and Physical Intelligence (PI).

These numbers are based on pure statistics, with no special weighting or 'tweaking'. The formulas I am using are a work in progress, so I won't post information about them just yet.

























Top Secret: An Improved Hockey Stat

I am hockey stat crazy. As an aficionado, the +/- statistic has always irked me. It just doesn't seem like a very telling stat when it comes to an individual hockey player.

By way of example, look at Meszaros in Ottawa. Last season, when the team is tearing it up, he is an amazing plus 34. This year, with the Sens struggling to a 6-10-1 start, he is now an ugly minus 3. Does this stat really reflect his personal level of play, or is it more reflective of the overall play of the team? I have always felt that it is the latter.

To this end, I am creating my own statistic that should give a better glimpse of the players worth as an individual contributor, using off-the-shelf, readily available stats.

I call this stat the "Hockey Intelligence Quotient" or the HIQ. The HIQ is made up of three major components, "Defensive Intelligence" (DI), "Offensive Intelligence" (OI) and "Physical Intelligence" (PI). In mathematical terms, HIQ = DI + OI + PI. The HIQ will have a range similar to that of +/-, with a higher number obviously being better.

Using the above formula, we try to statistically break hockey down into it's raw components, and the big plus is that because it contains three seperate components, we can then rank players based on defensive, offensive and physical contributions, as well as overall HIQ.

I have started to calculate the physical component for the Leafs players this season, and so far the numbers look to be very representative.

Look for more in this space in the coming days.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Video Clip: Nik the Stick Wins it!

My favorite Leaf memory... my heart still races watching this clip. This, to me, was a turning point for the franchise.

Sens Going After Critics?

It would appear that the Sens are feeling the heat, and apparently lashing out at the fan-base ^ seems to be their recipe for fixing what ails them. This is of course speculation, and I am not implying any of this is true (down Sens lawyers, down!).

For a bemused Leafs fan, this does explain why a fool like Gord Wilson ^ continues to collect a pay cheque. It is true that every organization out there employs their share of homers, but the Sens-sational sycophantic shilling abilities of the neophytes that report on the glorious team from Kanata have always seemed to push the limits.

For the record, I will gladly host the ^ and ^ sites for free on a fast, U.S. based server out of the reaches of Mlakar and his henchmen.

If you run these sites, drop me a line.

Pogge Looking Better by the Day

For those following the Marlies this year, you may have been surprised at Leafs goalie prospect Justin Pogge's 2W-5L record ^. The Sun had a good article ^ on Pogge today; In short, he is slowly but surely adjusting to the pace of the AHL game, and while he hasn't been lighting the world on fire, his numbers are respectable:

The 6-foot-3, 198-pound Pogge has won just two of seven AHL decisions but carried a 2.68 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage into yesterday.

Game Recap: Leafs 5 - Habs 1

Complete domination of the Habs by the Leafs. Out-shot them 42 to 26, with the Leafs missing an amazing 22 shots...

This game was won by hard-work and pure determination. The Leafs won virtually every battle along the boards, and save for a few isolated shifts, were able to keep the Habs on the outside looking in.

Aubin looked a little shaky, but the Habs really didn't generate many great chances. Ponikarovsky is really starting to turn into a legitimate first-line power forward. He is big, strong and quick. He may be the toughest Leaf player to get the puck off of along the boards, and is completely fearless in driving the net.

Crow Time:

I'm not sure what the guy skating around in jersey #80 has done with the real Nik Antropov, but he is a welcome addition. He looks, gulp, dominant? I don't want to overstate his play, but his work with Poni over the past 3 games has been stellar. He also appears to have caught on to the Leafs welcome addiction to shooting the puck, averaging four shots on goal a game, and has four goals. If he can keep up this type of play, I will happily eat my previous words...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Video Clip: Gilmour Tribute

My all-time favourite, although I have to admit, Mr. Sundin is on the verge of supplanting him.

Site News: Hockey Quotes

You may have noticed the quotes box in the left-hand column... only a few quotes now, but we will be adding many more in the coming days/weeks.

If you want to add famous hockey and sports quotes like this to your site/blog/forum, simply cut and paste the javascript code below:

<script type="text/javascript">

var font_family = 'arial, helvetica, sans-serif';
var font_size = 'small';
var quote_align = 'left';
var quote_style = 'italic';
var quote_weight = 'normal';
var author_align = 'center';

<script type="text/javascript"

Simply use the standard CSS attributes in the variables in the code above to customize it, and feel free to wrap the text with your own choices of colors, etc. Enjoy!

Game Day: Leafs vs. Bruins

A couple of interesting story lines to follow for this evening...

  1. The return of Raycroft to Boston. With the Bruins goaltending situation in complete disarray, there has been a little bit of noise made on how and why the Bruins traded Raycroft ^, who has been stellar if you conveniently forget the two games against Ottawa a few weeks ago. I am looking forward to seeing the reception he gets, and just how fired up Raycroft will be to 'stick it to them'.
  2. The absence of Mats. The audition to fill the role of leader, and front-line scorer starts tonight... Overall expect multiple people stepping up to fill in, but don't be surprised if one of the young guys really shows us something.
  3. Kubina is back. Oops, nope, not quite ^. He is flying to the Czech Republic to be with his girlfriend who is giving birth. Expect him back on Saturday.
Should be an interesting game. On a personal note, watching Boyes skate for the Bruins continues to pain me. Talk about the one that got away... how good would he look on a line with Stajan and Steen right about now?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Battle of Ontario Losing Steam?

So the Gm's, busy schmoozing, boozing and taking in some of Toronto's culture ^ (nsfw), decided to stick with their original three-year plan and keep the current un-balanced schedule for next season. Glad you guys all got together to agree to do nothing. Actually, that sounds like every meeting I have ever been a part of, but I digress...

For Leaf fans, this can mean only one thing; 12 more losses to the Senators by at least a touchdown. Personally, besides the fact that I rather feel that the Leafs/Sens games have become a bore (well, after it is 5-0, so about 10 minutes in), I just don't like paying for NHL Center Ice so I can watch the Buds get taken to the woodshed by the laziest team in hockey. Maybe I can convince DirecTV to refund me for these games... and yes, the Sens are the laziest team in hockey simply because they have the laziest player in hockey, one Jason Spezza. He seems to have infected the whole team lately, and this is a point that even the most die-hard Sens fans (yes, both of you) could agree to. It was a struggle, but he somehow managed to wrest that title away from perennial front-runner Alexei Yashin. Kudos Jason.

Of course, in calling the Sens the laziest team in hockey, I open myself to criticisms like, "How can the laziest team in hockey beat the Leafs by 25 goals a game?". Clearly, logic would dictate that either: 1) The Leafs are the laziester team and I am a liar, or 2) my brain checked out long-ago when it comes to the Leafs and 'logic'.

Lets go with a little of both and call it even. I truly believe that the Leaf players are 'over' this rivalry. They are sick of playing the Sens, sick of looking at Neil furrowing his brow at the bench, sick of the whole deal. It's as if they decided, "Look, we beat them in the playoffs four straight seasons, they are dead to us."

I can't say I blame them for the attitude in general, but they are clearly forgetting one important point. They actually NEED to beat the Sens more than once a season if they would like to play hockey when it counts. Heck, I know I am sick of going into work everyday, with their dress-codes and their "don't sleep in your cube" rules, but I still have to do it. How else would I keep myself living the life of luxury, awash with the finer things ^ in life?

They have to suck it up and play like these games matter, because they do. Bitching and moaning about it, something they mastered during the Quinn era, is a cop-out and Leafs fans should rightly demand that they play these games with more passion. If the laziest team in hockey can do it, the 'new' Leafs sure as hell better match them out there inch-for-inch. If they can't man-up and play these BoO games with some passion and self-respect, something the Sens have shown in spades, I will gladly pass the torch of laziest team onto the Buds, because it will be well deserved.

Who Put the Flyer in Filly?

Posting as much as I have about the greatest hockey story of the season (aka the dismissal of Bobby 'cancer sucks, just don't go goofy on us' Clarke), I began to wonder about the origins of the Flyers name. No not Philadelphia, although... no, no, I of course mean 'Flyers'.

I thought, "Self, surely this must refer to some past linkage between Philadelphia and actual flying." Like perhaps Philadelphia had the first passenger airport, or the Wright brothers stopped here and really enjoyed the local 'entertainment'? Surely, a city with the history that Philly has, you would think that their sports team, as the ambassador to the NHL, would have a proud name steeped in tradition.

Uh, not so much ^:

Flyers was the name chosen for the new franchise as it conveyed the motion and excitement that was to be consistent with both hockey in general, as well as the new Philadelphia club.
Wow, Flyers, like, they are totally flying out there yo, like a plane or something! Back-up choices for the team name included:
  • Philadelphia Steamers;
  • Philadelphia Sweat-Breakers;
  • Philadelphia "Whoas!", and of course;
  • Philadelphia Fat Guys in a Little Booth.
I like the last one best...

Mats is Gone ... Time for Sombody to Step Up

Unless you were in a coma today (beer induced does not count), you have likely heard that our captain, Mats Sundin, is out with ligament damage ^ in his elbow. He suffered the injury on Monday during a first period collision with Ben Eager of the Flyers, but stayed around to finish the game, even though in pain.

It is expected that the big Swede will miss up to four weeks, leaving a hole so big in the Leafs lineup that it might be mistaken for Patrick Lalime's five-hole.

The reality is, there simply is no such thing as replacing everything that Mats brings to the table. Timely goals, leadership, dominating forecheck and quarterbacking the powerplay. Yeah, he's kind of important. In fact, from just after the Olympic break last season and continuing into this season, he has 44 points in just 30 games, and has at times been completely dominant.

Time to Step Up

What does all this mean? Should Leaf fans forestall their misery and jump ship, as their team sinks rudderlessly into oblivion? Well, not exactly. There is a glint of hope in all of this. There are a number of players on this Leafs squad that either have something to prove, or have shown flashes of real ability.

Antropov: For better or for worse, when Sundin returns in a month, we will have answered the age-old question: "Can Antropov actually play in the NHL?".

Up until now, that answer is a resounding NO, but in this next fortnight x 2, Antropov will be given ever chance to finally prove his many critics wrong. He has a chance, for the first time in his career, to actually lead the team. I am eagerly awaiting the game in Boston, for many reasons, but this more so than others.

Matt Stajan: In an earlier post, I mentioned that I though Stajan has really stepped it up this year. His numbers are up, and he has become the Leafs most rounded player following Sundin. He is solid in his own end, kills penalties, runs the #2 PP unit, and best of all, makes all of his linemates better. Want proof? His winger, Jeff O'Neill, is currently a +3, and Matt has probably had the primary assist on every single one of his 5 goals to-date. I can't wait to see how this kid reacts to the extra minutes and responsibility. This may be Stajans big coming out party.

Alex Steen: Off to an extremely slow start, and playing uncharacteristically lackadaisical, Alex has played better in recent games. Funny, last season I would have bet a billion dollars (thanks Eddie) that Steen would be the better all-round player between himself and Stajan. How wrong I was. Maybe this will be the kick in the pants he needs to shake the sophomore slump? Maybe he just has a case of the Mondays? (nods towards Michael 'Mike' Bolton).

Talk about an early season test! If the Leafs can remain in the hunt, and a few players can step-up, we may actually be in a better position come April, as odd as that sounds. Or they could be battling the Flyers for last place in the East...

Question; what exactly is a Philadelphia 'Flyer'? Answer in an upcoming entry...

The Sainted Sens: No Laughing Matter

If you were to believe Alex Ovechkin (and we have no reason not to), the Senators were making less than flattering comments ^ about the Capitals on Monday when they strode out to a quick 3-0 lead. Needless to say the highly motivated bunch in Washington ended up winning the game in OT, 4-3.

For those with a long memory for anything Sens-related (I am seeking treatment), this is not the first time they have been accused of mocking another team. Last season, it was the Habs they were deriding during their early season run.

Seriously, how can a team that hasn't won anything, ever, and this season has only five wins, three of them 'gimmes' against the Leafs, laugh at anything or anyone? The Senators are quickly getting a reputation as the laziest bunch in the league, and if Mr. Ovechkin is to be believed, they will also have a reputation as the smuggest. Yes, that is a word.

Here's hoping they get pounded by the Thrashers tonight.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Leafs Ranked a 'Sell'

For those not familiar with hockey coverage south of the border, John Buccigross is one of the more colourful hockey analysts for ESPN. He usually has an interesting take on things, but as per what I can only imagine are ESPN guidelines, makes a habit of drawing lame cultural comparisons between what happens on the ice and, say, Justin Timberlake... bizarre.

Anywho, he has ranked the 30 teams in the league as 'BUY' or 'SELL'. In case you missed the title (in which case I point you to a great website I found ^), John has ranked the Leafs ^ a 'SELL'.

His reason? He has a 'bad vibe' about them. A bad vibe? As in, his arthritic knee acts up when he is watching the Leafs? C'mon John, surely in that mind full of the latest Paris Hilton/Lindsey Lohan intrigues, you must have a reason... shaky goaltending, taking nights off, lack of finish, weak D... see how easy it is?

Maybe I'm wrong though. Heck, Al Strachan makes a good living penning nothing but pure fantasy for the Sun, so maybe all a well-paid sports writer needs these days is a 'funny feeling' about something.

I get funny feelings all the time... like when I look at an attractive woman wearing a Sens jersey ^... pure confusion, of the 'turn-your-head-crooked-like-a-confused-dog' type. Hey, I may yet have a future in sports broadcasting! If Buccigross can rate teams based on his 'vibe', then surely the magic eight ball ^ can be trusted, no?

Here are my Buccigross-esque BUYS, SELLS & HOLDS for the Northeast division, year-to-date (in order of distance from my kitchen, which none of these teams have ever been in):

Buffalo: They look good early, great killer instinct and comeback abilities. Injuries are starting to mount. The magic eight ball says, "Outcome Unclear". I guess it is a HOLD.

Ottawa: Weak start, Redden, Alfredsson, Fischer, Gerber, etc, etc look brutal Spezza is at his defensive worst, and Heatley is looking more and more like a one-trick pony, completely dependant on others to feed him for goals. Magic eight ball says, "Ehhh... Could be". SELL.

Montreal: Problems scoring will emerge, especially with Higgins out for 6-8 weeks, can strong goaltending keep them afloat if they are only scoring two or three goals a game? Magic eight ball says, "If you're lucky". I am lucky, and good looking (at least my Mom tells me so), so the Habs get a BUY.

Boston: Chara and Savard don't appear to be enough to push this lot over the hump, but if Boyes, Bergeron and Sturm return to form, they won't have any problems scoring. The main problem will be keeping the pucks out of their own net, due to their shallow defence corp and league-worst goaltending. Magic eight ball says, "Don't you already kind of know?". Too true my friend, too true. Bruins are a SELL.

Monday, November 06, 2006

OT: Remembering "The Great War"

I won't make a habit of straying from hockey talk, but I was forwarded an email today that is for what I consider a very worthy cause.

Hi all. I am usually the last person to send out mass emails, but I
think this one is important enough to warrant it. I know on-line petitions are usually bunk, but who knows, maybe this can make a difference. I will be writing the Member of Parliament later today.

There is a movement growing in Canada to hold a state funeral when the last veteran of WWI dies, which will unfortunately be in the very near future. Canada sent 600,000 men and women overseas in WWI, which was amazingly almost 8% of the population of Canada at the time. 60,000 Canadians did not return, and the course of Canada was changed forever.

A state funeral is normally only held when a Prime Minister dies, but this funeral would be in honor of the Canadians who died and served in WWI. The last three remaining veterans are 106, 105 and 105. Only three left out of 600,000.

To sign the online petition visit
Sign-up today, and don't forget to contact your Member of Parliament ^!

The Toronto Mediots are at it Again...

If one were to be parachuted into Toronto, and handed a copy of the Toronto Star/Sun in the last week, one could have been forgiven for thinking:

  1. On Friday, following a loss to Florida, the Leafs were the worst team in the NHL;
  2. On Sunday, following a win over Buffalo, they are the best.

Leaf fans have a reputation, much of it deserved, for being irrational when it comes to the team in Blue and White. My contention is that the media in Toronto, the same ones who constantly remind us of 1967 yet in the next sentence call a team with middling talent a contender, are even worse.

The sheer amount of crap that the media spews should require a permit from the Toronto Department of Public Works. One example: "Wellwood may be the best playmaker in the NHL" says Al Strachan... right. Forget Thornton, Hemsky, Straka, and a myriad of other players who will end the season with more assists... Listen, I like Wellwood, but suggesting that he is the best in the league is something that even the most dyed-in-the-wool Leafs fan should recognize is capital B, capital S.

One more note of irritation to the yammering rag-writers... why is it that the Star and Sun file essentially the same stories each day? I have been led to believe that these two papers are competitors, yet almost without fail on any given day, I will find articles in both the Sun and Star covering the exact same topic with the exact same quotes.

People, this is a very unique Leafs team. They lack an identity, but have shown the will and the ability to beat the best teams in the league. They are not contenders, and they are not going to finish last. For once, let's try to actually enjoy the ride, without bloated expectations. A win IN Buffalo is a huge step in the right direction, but they play seven more times this season. The Buds will need to take half of those games to prove that the early season success is not an aberration. Have patience with the Leafs, and revel in the misery (short-lived I believe) of the early season failures in Ottawa and Philly.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Flyers are Imploding...

Wow. Quote the train wreck down in Philly these days. Besides getting spanked by a touchdown almost every other game, the Flyers entire organization from top to bottom appears to be in free-fall: ^

This is really something to see. I had the Flyers picked for 7th this season, but who could have imagined that 10 games into the season, Hitchcock and Clarke would be gone, and Forsberg would be shirking his responsibilities as captain.

This whole situation is Islanderesque in sheer buffoonery. Seriously, is 'Mad' Mike Milbury pulling the strings over there in PHI?

Fearless Prediction: The vultures are circling, and do not be surprised to see a MAJOR shakeup in the form of Hatcher being 'Lamorielloed' to the Phantoms, and even a possible trade of a Gagne/Forsberg (if they can make the numbers work).

Honestly, given the goalie situation, the leagues worst defense pairing in Hatcher and Rathje, and the lack of growth of the young Flyers this season, this team is circling the bowl.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Game Recap: Panthers 4 - Leafs 2

The Leafs had no business being in this game. I actually was hoping that they wouldn't come back to tie it, they were so undeserving of it. What a frickin joke. How much are these guys making again?

I'll say it... I thought Gill was OK. Aubin played well too, considering he faced around 60 shots through two periods.

Other than that, putrid. McCabe? Putrid. Kilger? Putrid. Seriously, I know players can't play 100% full out each and every night, but why is it that every three to four games this team absolutely mails it in? They didn't even try tonight. I'd say they had a case of the Mondays, but then I'd probably have to kill myself.

No hitting, no puck control, lost each and every puck battle.... you name it, they sucked at it.

One thing I have noticed this season with some regularity is a startling lack of in-game 'adjustment' by the Leafs. They either have the right game-plan, come out and throw 50 shots and the kitchen sink at the opposition, or they get stymied, stop skating, and fold.

Very discouraging, especially against teams who can adapt, like Buffalo.

I'll call it now, Sabred 14, Leafs 1 if they play like they did tonight on Saturday. Daniel Briere and company are going to absolutely destroy this lazy bunch.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Video Clip: Wendel Clark Tribute

A great little clip about one of Mad Hockey's favs, Wendel Clark: