Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: November 2008
The San Jose Sharks have been the best team in the NHL so far this year. Their 20-4 record (with one regulation tie point) gives them 41 points and first place in the NHL. However, all is not perfect in San Jose. Their number one goalie Evgeni Nabokov has yet to play particularly well. He is sporting a .896 saves percentage, which has a lot to be desired. His other numbers do not look so bad. He has a 2.57 GAA and a 13-2 record. This is a testament to how well the Sharks have played in front of him. Nevertheless, his goaltending will become an issue if he continues to play at that level. It is impossible to have prolonged success in the NHL without better goaltending.
No, it won’t. Unless, of course, they stop winning. Which is doubtful, the way they’re playing.
I have to say this: it’s rather silly to look at a goalie that’s 13-2 and a goals against of around 2.50 and say “hey, maybe we should play the other guy”. Are we that bored that we have to go create a goalie controversy? No offense, but I just don’t buy it. Sometimes we get too enamoured with stats — pick the one stat that looks bad so we can talk about it, but forget to put it in the larger context.
Here’s the larger context. Well, “Nabokov is 13-2 and the team has only had one game in the last five weeks where it didn’t get at least one point (and Boucher was in net for that loss)”. Nabokov’s last loss was October 24th. Since then, he’s merely 8-0, giving up 17 goals for a GAA of 2.12. His save percentage since coming back from the injury is 917.
To me, that ends any question on this, but let’s dig a bit deeper. One aspect of the Sharks playing style this year is they have a very aggressive defense and a very aggressive offensive style. That means that many fewer EASY shots make it to the net (the sharks have allowed < 20 shots for a game three times, and < 25 shots eleven times) -- but the aggressive play of the defenseman lends towards some turnovers and odd-man rushes. In other words, a goalie's goal's against is likely to suffer, because fewer shots happen, but a higher percentage of good scoring chances. That was especially true early in the season while the team was trying to figure out this new system and mistakes were being made. Lately? Not so.
But also look at it this way. If you take three games out of the stats:
Anaheim 4-0 Loss
Philly 5-4 OT Win
Philly 7-6 SO Win
then Nabby’s numbers change significantly. His save percentage for the other 12 games he’s played becomes .919, good enough for 14th in the league (he’s currently 34th counting all goalies with 1 or more games played) — 9th if you only count goalies with 10 or more games. His GAA would drop to 2.08, good enough for 6th in the league, 3rd if you only count goalies with 10 or more games played.
And those three games were all six weeks ago, at the tail end of a sequence where the team played six games in 10 days and included back to backs twice and three plane trips (LA, Anaheim and Philly). Oh — and the team won 2 of those three games, and it was arguably the worst play for both the team and Nabokov all year.
The solution is obvious. When Nabokov was injured, backup goaltender Brian Boucher played extremely well. Boucher has a .928 saves percentage and a 1.89 GAA. Since Boucher was the temporary number one goalie, his better numbers are not a function of playing against weaker competition.
San Jose would probably benefit by using a two goalie system right now. Boucher is the hot hand and has not played in a little over a week since Nabokov returned from injury. His last game was November 22nd vs. Washington.
If you watch the Sharks every game, it’d be clear that Boucher’s a good goalie, but Nabokov’s a great goalie. it really isn’t close. It isn’t even that Nabokov’s playing badly, or even so-so. Even looking into the stats a little bit ought to make it clear that Nabokov’s “bad stats” were a small abberation early in the season. And despite that, the team took four of the six points.
The solution’s obvious: we really shouldn’t be having this discussion. So why are we? Nabby is 13-2. Have we hit that point where people aren’t happy unless the team is beating everyone 5-0? Is a one game losing streak unacceptable?
San Jose has a very good team this year. They have put up a first place record despite mediocre goaltending from their starter Evgeni Nabokov. When Brian Boucher is playing well, it would make more sense to use a two goalie system in San Jose than to go back to Nabokov exclusively. If Nabokov continues his lackluster play, I expect San Jose will not continue their winning ways. They can be overtaken by other top teams.
Sorry, his play is far from mediocre. His numbers are far from mediocre, too; they’re pretty darn good. Unless you look for something to complain about, and take it out of context. Of the goalie stats, save percentage has to be the plus-minus of goalie stats; so much really depends on team play. Honestly, as long as he’s winning, and when you look at his goals against, that’s all you really need to see to know Nabby’s doing what they team is asking of him.
Case in point, we are talking about taking a family vacation to San Diego early next year (look out Kedrosky!) and decided that renting a minivan and driving down would be cheaper than flying and less hassle to boot. Itâ€™s a lot of time behind the wheel but no worse than trudging through an airport pissed off about having to pay $150 to check bags.
Whenever Laurie and I do our driving vacations — which we’ve done since before they made airports so damn painful — friends and co-workers have always wondered if we were insane. Now that airports have become so insane, people are starting to realize that plopping on a plane isn’t the only option, and in many cases, not the best.
We almost always drive vacations (and we never, ever fly to SoCal) for a few reasons: first, we tend to carry a lot of gear, including the computer stuff and cameras and etc. So under most circumstances, flying generates compromises we can avoid by driving. Second, driving is almost invariably cheaper. Third, in many cases, especially these days of three hour waits for connections and flight delays, TSA delays, baggage delays and rental car delays, it’s not significantly slower to drive. And finally, not only does it give us a chance to just sit and talk and be with each other, there’s a whole bunch of stuff between here and there worth seeing and looking at you won’t see at 30,000 feet. The journey CAN be the reward; hell, sometimes the destination is the excuse, not the reason.
When we did our Yellowstone trip this fall, I kept notes on costs and timing. Yellowstone is about the limit of what I’d consider reasonable for a “normal” vacation. Two days driving each way, with rational driving times each way. Silicon Valley is about 16 hours driving from Silicon valley; I prefer to keep each leg about 8-10 hours. That takes you through a lot of territory, though: from silicon valley, it’ll get you to Vancouver, Yellowstone, Salt Lake, Denver, Taos, and all points east. By limiting driving to 8-10 hours, you don’t have to play the “crack of dawn” patrol, you can stop and explore places of interest, eat without a drive-through window, and get into a hotel at a rational hour for a rational sleep. You’re not stressed or harried or exhausted when you get there.
(hint: it’s even MORE interesting to find spots along the way and make the entire journey part of the trip, but we wanted to maximize our time in the park, so we hustled out way each way; I did, however, flag four or five places as future photography locales… But for us, a typical trip to Victoria or Vancouver would involve a day or two in Portland and a couple of stops up and down the Oregon Coast, rather than putting all of our time into one place. Once you get into this “along the way” type of travel, lots of things open up, especially areas you’d have real issues getting to via an airport…)
Here’s a comparison of what it’d take to drive to Yellowstone, versus flying. In many ways, this is the extreme case: Yellowstone is about as far as I’d want to drive on a ten day trip (week off plus two weekends), so you’re spending the maximum amount of time in the car, which you’d think would benefit the airplane. Not necessarily.
For the driving, we left Saturday mid-morning, and arrived in Yellowstone around dinner time on Sunday, stopping overnight in Winnemucca, roughly half way. At the time, gas was headed down but we still paid an average right around $3.70 a gallon. The drive to Yellowstone is almost exactly 1,000 miles.
We drove 1,000 miles getting there, 1,000 miles around the park in the days there, and 1,000 miles coming back, spending a total of $400 for 107 gallons of gas. 2/3 of that gas was used in transit, so the fuel cost for travelling was around $250. Factor in car maintenance to be fair: $70 for the 3,000 mile lube, and some percentage of the 60,000 mile service and tire costs; practically speaking, that’s probably another $70, and I’m probably being generous (my last major service plus 2 new tires ran a grand. factor that cost into 30,000 miles, and you get about $70 for 2,000 miles).
So, the total cost of driving to and from Yellowstone is about $400.
Flying? I did some checks on flight costs at the same time we travelled. For Yellowstone, that’s either West Yellowstone or Bozeman. A typical flight to Bozeman at the same time would have cost you about $500 per person round trip and take 8 hours, flying through Denver or Salt Lake. I just checked, and today it’s about $400ish in December, but next June, we’re back at $450-$500 for a time when a rational person would take that trip. West Yellowstone is slower and more expensive, with only a couple of flights (totalling 90 seats) a day, and it’s seasonal. Then add in a rental car, which when I checked in September was averaging $130/week out of those cities.
So your travel costs end up running you at best about $1,000-$1,100. And if you fly to Yellowstone, you’ll arrive just in time for dinner Saturday — in Bozeman. It’s late enough you won’t actually get into the park until Sunday morning. Leaving? you either get the crack of dawn patrol for a flight out around 7AM, or a late flight out and get home at midnight on Sunday.
Net result? If you fly, you get a Sunday in the park coming in, and a Saturday in the park going out that you don’t get driving. And for the privilege, your cost goes from about $400 to $1,100, over 2X. I’m not counting hotel or food costs here because the same meals get eaten (only in different places) and hotel rooms get used — although most likely, the room on the road while driving will likely be cheaper (ours were about half the cost or more).
As to the hassle factor of driving? you can’t tell me that the joys of the TSA, of flight delays, of 3 hour connecting flight waits, of checking and retrieving luggage and renting cars — and airport food — is any great shakes. It’s all in the attitude; getting into the mindset that the trip is part of the journey and not just a way to the destination opens up many options. And, well, having time to unplug and just talk to the people you’re with? Or heading off a side road and exploring? (well, laurie calls it “getting lost again”, but I prefer to see it as adventuring into the unknown). Massive fun.
Flying options options; I wouldn’t want to drive to chicago or tampa, not unless it was part of a longer, extended trip. OTOH, a two day drive from where you live opens up many places — from silicon valley, pretty much everything west of and into the rockies.
And if you stop and think about it a bit, there is basically no way you can do an airport run from northern california to southern california faster than driving these days, not once you factor in the time getting to and from airports, TSA lines, renting cars, etc. etc. At best, it’s a wash. and driving’s much cheaper. I can’t see why anyone flies back and forth on that shuttle, honestly.
so for me, it’s car first. We’ve done flying trips to Vancouver and Victoria in the past (flying into Victoria directly, into Vancouver, and into Seattle and crossing the border), and you know what? Have fun in the plane (hah). I’ll just hop in the car. You may get there a bit sooner, but I’ll be relaxed and happy when I get there, and I’ll have all of my stuff. What did you decide not to bring to fit into the overhead and checkin restrictions, anyway?
What I don’t understand is why when airlines decided on what business model they were going to follow, they chose “greyhound bus” as what they wanted to be when they grew up….
Update: One of the commenters made an important comment:
It’s hard to argue with most of what you wrote, but flying does allow me to take do a trip like a 4-day weekend in Vancouver from time to time.
And that’s an important thing to keep in mind: the trade-off between time and money. If your time is short, then spending money to minimize travel time, but when you do, it’s knowing that you’re taking a more expensive option for speed. That’s fine; I certainly wouldn’t drive a 4-5 day trip to Vancouver.
Ditto a day trip to SoCal; if I had to go to SoCal and return same day for a meeting (first, I’d try NOT to, but that’s a different issue), then I might fly, because otherwise it’d be a really long day; in that case, sitting in a plane or airport might be preferable to driving. But if I could schedule it to drive down, take in the meeting, overnight, and drive back while stopping at, say, Morro Beach on a Saturday, well, sign me up…
So ultimately, NONE of this is absolute. And if your idea of a perfect vacation is to sit on a beach in Cancun drinking margaritas — that’s great, too. But heck, you could sit on a beach near San Diego and drink for a lot less, I bet, and have pretty darn good weather, too. Or Phoenix, for that matter.
When they announced the Winter Classic was going to Wrigley, I knew I had to give this a shot. Laurie grew up in the Chicago area, is a huge Cubs fan, played goalie (footnote 1) in the boys leagues there before there were girls leagues to play in, and was (and is) a huge Hawks fan. I thought it would be just perfect to get her to Chicago for the Winter Classic if I could swing it.
So I started exploring contacts, and thankfully, I found some folks (who shall remain nameless) who agreed, and we now have a ticket, and Laurie’s headed to Chicago for New Years! She promises to blog and post photos.
Nope, I’m not going. This one’s for her. If they ever do a winter classic in Southern Callifornia and the Kings, I’m right on it (with sunscreen) — and I figured two tickets would be asking for more favors than I felt comfortable asking (in reality, I could have gotten a 2nd ticket, but with the cats and birds and holidays and etc, the logistics are just much easier if I stay home and pet-sit) — fortunately, this is only going to cost me six months of washing cars and mowing lawns.
So we now have the plane ticket settled, and the hotel, and I’m jazzed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Laurie quite so — speechless — as when I told her, since I hadn’t said that I was scheming until I got confirmation it’d actually happened.
And to the nice people (the ones with the really large lawns!) — thanks from both of us. I can’t say just how much this has made us happy; Laurie because she gets to go, me because I was able to send her and work this out without her catching on…
Laurie’s first comment on hearing about this: I am going to freeze my butt off.
My response: and you’ll love ever minute of it.
And she will.
YEAH! I love it when a plan comes together.
(footnote 1: Laurie’s commentary on her growing up: all the girls I grew up with wanted to sleep with Tony Esposito. I wanted to be Tony Esposito — in all honesty, one of the best goalie scouts I’ve seen, I really nag her to start doing her scouting reports again. One of these days I need to tell the Ian Boyce story from our days working with the Spiders…)
In my new role as the Globeâ€™s â€œcommunities editorâ€ (you can find more details on that in this post), Iâ€™ve been spending a lot of time thinking about comments â€” that is, reader comments on news stories, columns, blog posts, etc. The Globe and Mail was the first major newspaper in North America to allow comments on every news story when it launched the feature in 2005, and judging by the ever-increasing numbers of people who use them, they are hugely popular. On some major news stories, we can sometimes get as many as 500 comments.
Comments arenâ€™t popular with everyone, however. Some readers (and even some Globe and Mail staffers, to be honest) complain that too often our comment threads are filled with what might charitably be called â€œnoiseâ€ â€” everything from bad spelling and grammar all the way up to partisan political in-fighting, ad hominem attacks and all-around rude and boorish behaviour. Some say they donâ€™t really care what most people think about a topic, and donâ€™t see the value in having public comments on stories at all.
The big problem is that comments are currently unfiltered; ultimately it’s still part of the wild-wild-west of the internet, and so the people who get filtered out in other areas of the net still show up in comments. Ultimately, reputations seem to be taming the trolls and the flamers, but haven’t really migrated to comments yet. It’s a reason why I’ve been watching things like Disqus — but I keep wondering if distributed reputations for comments is really a positive. We’ll find out.
Think about a typical comment: a site may require some ID/registration, but in many cases, it’s faux-authentication, where you can more or less make it up as you go along. That kills accountability, so users can play whatever games they want without much worry about policing or future impact to their ability to comment; at best, a post gets deleted. Bans are, well, pretty trivial to circumvent if you’re motivated and don’t mouth-breathe.
So where this is all headed, and to some degree has to go, is reputation.
A while back I started a project (which I ended up abandoning unbuilt) that had a lot of the same feel as what Yelp now does. A big part of the design was how to create a reputation system that is:
- Primarily or completely automated (or it doesn’t scale)
- Limits users ability to “game” the ratings
- Doesn’t turn the reputation system into something to be gamed
- Actually helps someone decide whether or not to read (or trust) a piece of content
Easier said than done. A first approximation are the karma systems of places like Slashdot, but it fails for me on (2) and (3), and is really of limited utility for the key issue, which is (4). It’s more of a chainsaw to help a user hide the worst.
So back to the yelp-like example. You look up a restaurant. There are four reviews of the restaurant, two good, one so-so, one hate. there are a few comments on some of the reviews, mostly people disagreeing with various points.
How the hell is a reader supposed to figure out what this all means? That’s the crux of the comment problem; how to put a COMMENTER in context. First, there has to be a context — and that’s missing in commenting systems today. this kind of harps back to my belief that anonymity on the net is bad, but the net mixes up anonymity with pseudonymity – i.e., I don’t need to know who you are, but I sure need to know that you are you (but I digress; see, if you care, identity proxies, 2004, anonymity destroys transparency, 2007, A group is its own worst enemy, 2008, SezWho, 2007, (who seem to have disappeared behind Disqus), A history lesson from usenet, 2007. That’s a hell of a digression…)
The idea is the basis of reputation systems — that over time, the “real you” comes out, and other users can use that information to judge whether or not to value your contribution — or perhaps tell the system to not even show it to you.
In the Yelp-like system, here’s what I came up with as a first cut. If I’m a J Random User looking at those reviews, what information would be useful for the user to determine what reviews and comments are useful? Try this:
First review: five stars. Best Restaurant Ever. the submitter created his account 2 hours before posting the review, hasn’t posted any content since. Easy guess: it’s the owner, or his spouse, astroturfing. Even if it’s not, you ought to assume it is.
Second Review: 1.5 stars. hate the service. rant. rave. grump. Again, account created an hour before posting, never used since. Obviously someone with an axe to grind. or maybe the waitress broke up with him.
Third Review: 3.5 stars. good food, uneven service, dirty fork. yada. The poster’s been a member for seven months, posted 25 items, average rating 3.8.
Fourth Review: 4 stars. Great food, good service, owner came out and talked. Went back and enjoyed it. Member for 3 months, posted 5 items, average rating 2.8.
Suddenly, with just a few bits of information, things clear up significantly. Astroturfing issues become visible quickly if you simply make it easy to see how active a member is in the larger community — if they’re a hit-and-run commenter, you can bet there’s some ulterior motive (positive or negative). This actually creates a fairly complex web of interactions, it encourages users to contribute to the site to build a reputation, for instance, and that’s good for the community.
Once users have been on the site for a while, they’ll get rated by other users. In my system, I used the rating of the user doing the rating to weight how strongly to count a rating, something I haven’t seen sites try yet, but that is a way to discount the idiots and encourage the strong contributors in a quiet but important way — the less others think of what you say, the less power it’ll have to affect other users on the site. In theory, below a certain number we’d likely just throw your opinion on the trash. Quietly, of course.
Quiet is a big aspect of this; to me, the second you start publishing these “reputation” numbers, it becomes a game of trying to “win” the reputation game. So simply don’t go there. I planned on sticking to the more general five star rating as part of the user profile, but no comparative public stats. Instead, users would be honored with “senior member” type labels based on longevity, activity and rating. Make up half a dozen titles, and allow them to be earned over time as a way to reward your best members. Just make sure that how you determine “best member” actually causes them to contribute and improve the community”. Bad metrics kill.
the final piece, of course, is making this information easy for someone browsing the site to find and use; something like showing the posting account name and rating (chuqui: 1.7 stars), and popping up more detailed info if they mouse over it (3 postings, member for 8 months, this was their 2nd posting and they were a member for a month at the time, last activity a month ago….); for users who want them, you could create slashdot-like filters that would automatically exclude, say, material posted by people with ratings < some number, or with fewer than N postings, or whatever.
The system is still open to gaming — but it’s a lot harder to hide from it, I think. Never got around to implementing it, but maybe one of these days. I’m still mulling bringing it back to life, but not i the original form.
Similar things could be done on a news site, or pretty much any community site. It’s a combination of
- making people create an identity
- tracking that identity’s actions
- allowing other identities to rank those actions
- allowing access to those rankings in rational ways
The combination of an identity, ranking/tracking and weighting things to discourage the one-post wonders can really put a dent into the sock puppets and trolls. sock puppets get marginalized by not building a track record to base a reputation on, trolls get marginalized because, well, as soon as you start building a reputation on a troll, it becomes self-evident. And if all of this encourages more contributions to a site and more community activity as a way to build that reputation, so that people will want to hear what you say, how is that bad for the community?
And done right, it’d be 99% self-policing and automated. I think.
This view isnâ€™t confined to Globe readers, by any means: in a column in the National Post, author George Jonas said that the Web is like â€œan elegant restaurant with garbage on the menu,â€ and that â€œa huge blackboard on which anyone can write anything doesnâ€™t mean much for those with nothing to say, i.e., most people.â€ Similar feelings have been expressed by various writers about comments on blogs, and some prominent Web writers have turned theirs off completely. Even the director of BBC News said in a recent speech that while she values comments, they are the work of a â€œvocal minorityâ€ and therefore shouldnâ€™t carry too much weight.
It’s not an elegant restaurant with garbage on the menu; it’s a large, vibrant city where you aren’t even noticing that you’ve self-selected into that elegant restaurant. but otherwise, they’re all right. And the way to fix that?
Build accountability into the system. How do you do that? well, what’s worked so far online are reputation systems. Simply requiring a name and email isn’t going to be enough. And yet, that’s basically what we do today in comments. We focus on identifying someone, but forget that it doesn’t matter if we know WHO you are — it matters that we know whether you are worth reading. A simple identify doesn’t do that. A reputation does.
So the future for “fixing” comments has to be a reputation system of some sort. It’s not (just) about better identification systems, or about giving up. This is an area we’ve just started to explore and innovate.
Bob McKeown was on McCown yesterday promoting tonightâ€™s episode of the EOWN Fifth Estate. He had news that Gary Bettman and Paul Kelly would be well advised to consider:
Recent research by neuroscientists now shows the link between on-the-field concussions and brain damage; a permanent injury that can lead to depression, suicide and severe aberrant behaviour. The damage is so profound, the researchers say, that post-mortem examinations of the brain tissue of five former professional football players can be compared only to the tissue found in the brain tissue of advanced Alzheimers cases.
Apparently professional football players have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter than the average man. Iâ€™d like to know whether weâ€™d see the the same kind of shocking result if someone ran the actuarial tables for hockey players.
Would the league eliminate head shots if someone was killed by one in a game? For sure. Does it really matter if the death is delayed by a few years? Should it? What kind of risks can we expect players to take to entertain us?
Its past time to take action.
Tom’s is dead right here on the need for action. Of course, the league IS taking action; note the memo circulated that intentional blows to the head aren’t going to be tolerated. A number of bloggers and media have pooh-poohed that, but ignore the underlying realities here: if you’re changing the standards of suspension, you have to formally notify the players and the player’s union so they can challenge and force negotiation if they want. Under a CBA environment, things like this are complicated by the legal logistics.
I know some want all blows outlaws; I could live with that, no argument. At the same time, I tend to think this is a good compromise point between taking too much physicality out of the game and tolerating the brutality. We’ll see what happens when the players don’t take the hint (they won’t) and the suspensions start ramping up, but I’m encouraged. I think a lot here needs to be done within equipment modification on elbow pads and shoulder pads, and the league is working with the players on that, too — hard caps and plastics on elbow pads need to go, folks.
As to life expectancy issues; just think about the number of old timers running around hockey games, the all-star game, heroes games, etc. Lots of them. Now, football? how many hang around? Not so. Football is a massively physical game, in a very different way than Hockey’s physicality. Hockey players have a lot more to worry about orthopedic issues (check out the number of artificial hips and knees at any heroes game); football has that TOO, but hockey’s a lot less brutal on a body over time. I’d expect hockey player’s life expectancies to much closer track “real” people. The Player’s association would actually have the data to figure this out from pension and membership info if they wanted.
Would the league eliminate head shots if someone was killed by one in a game? For sure. Does it really matter if the death is delayed by a few years? Should it? What kind of risks can we expect players to take to entertain us?
Yes, it really does matter if the death is delayed by a few years, if only because it becomes very difficult to pin the death on a single factor — and that’s a huge issue here. I mean, seriously; the data on smoking and lung cancer is pretty damn damning, and look how long it’s taken to get this far on solving that. Concussions vs. life expectancy is a lot less cut and dried, and even the football data is taking a few things and stringing them together; I happen to think they’re right — I don’t think the point is proven scientifically by any means.
As to Tom’s final point? He’s got it wrong. It’s what risk the players are willing to take to play the game. Our decision as fans is whether the game is too dangerous or risky for us to appreciate and enjoy it. If you think a game is too dangerous, you need to stop being a fan of it, because ultimately, the league will listen to people voting with their pocketbooks.
Down this road lies the slippery path of becoming TOO risk averse, folks. You can’t play a physical game without physicality. And that’s why I like the path the NHL is taking. They’re not over-reacting, and looking for that middle path that minimizes the risks without screwing up the game. And of course, in some corners they’re getting ripped for not being “serious” about fixing the problem, and in others, getting ripped for screwing up the game by even considering changing anything. Which mostly reminds us how easy it is to criticize, and how tough it is to actually do something useful…
My bottom line: the league needs to get more serious about kicking the butt of players that attempt to injure other players, and that includes hitting the head intentionally. But to take that the next step and presume you have to take hitting out of the game — I gotta problem with that. Now, if you remove the intentional hits to the head from the game and too many players are still being injured, then look at what else to do, but I don’t think that’s going to be necessary. And you can’t take the physical play out of hockey and still have hockey.
I just have to get this out while I’m thinking about it:
MY GOD, THIS IS A FUN TEAM TO WATCH.
Even when they lost to Nashville, it was an interesting game. Grump-inducing at times, but still fun to watch. That is never a bad thing.
And last night?
Well, if the Mike Keenan death watch wasn’t operating before, it is now. Iron Mike always has a short “use by” date on his lapel at the best of times and Calgary doesn’t look to be different.
The reality is, though, that because Calgary tends to put on a bit of a show in the playoffs, we tend to think they’re better than they really are. This is a team that always seems to BARELY make the playoffs, fights hard in the first round, and loses. Memorable, but that’s not a dominant team by any means.
And this year? As Laurie nicely put it last night, they aren’t getting better, they’re getting older. It’s the Kiprusoff, Phaneuff and Iginla show, featuring a cast of dozens. Replacing Owen Nolan with Todd Bertuzzi is, well, not an upgrade. And the rest of the team pretty much seems to be guys who never quite met their potential somewhere else and ended up here.
Last night, they came up against one of the top teams in the league, and it wasn’t really close. How dominant were the Sharks?
Jody Shelley — on the power play.
Jody Shelley played almost 11 minutes last night. He was getting regular shifts on the power play in the third, between Marleau and Thornton, while Brad Staubitz played between Michalek and Pavelski. A bit of that was the loss of Mike Grier in the first to an injury (unspecified, rumor has it he’s pregnant. hey, if the team won’t tell us, let’s just make up weird stuff and make fun of them). It was also partly giving the fourth line some “have fun” time to recognize the hard work they do. And nobody could remotely accuse the Sharks of trying to pile on the poor flames (which is still “against the code”, whatever that means, even though 3 and four goal leads are far from safe this season)
But it’s also an indication of what the Sharks think of a Sutter/Keenan team; a typical keenan team gets behind — and starts trying to beat people up. “Sending a message”, whatever that means, as if that somehow minimizes the fact that in the first period I thought the Flames missed their flight and the Sharks subbed in the San Jose State club team until the real players got there. No, wait, that is Iginla skating…
So the Sharks put out their policemen, and the Flames took notice and didn’t get stupid. Whether Keenan saw that as a good or bad thing, I dunno. I can guess, and “good” probably isn’t it; the Flames looked pretty “oh, let’s get on the damn plane and get out of here”.
In many ways, the game was the poster child for a big (positive) change going on in the NHL: the Sharks are at the forefront of this new “high talent, high speed, run and gun” NHL, while the Flames are still playing more of a gritty, “old school” game. They’re not a fast team, they’re not a big offense team, and in today’s NHL, they’re once again struggling to be playoff team. (quick quiz: compare the flames record under Jim Playfair, and then under Mike Keenan. Then ask yourself why Playfair was canned and whether Sutter really improved the team by bringing in Iron Mike. Then start wondering just how much longer Keenan will be coaching that team…)
(for the lazy ones out there, Playfair: 96 points, 3rd in division, first round out. Keenan, 94 points, 3rd in division, first round out. This year, on pace for… 86 points, third in conference, and….)
Even the media is recognizing that the NHL has changed and it’s increasingly fun to watch:
If you think youâ€™ve seen an unusually high number of late-game comebacks already in this NHL season, this morningâ€™s Tennessean validates your hunch:
A nice piece by John Glennon that also attempts to identify potential causes for this wild & wacky action.
Why? One reason is the change in faceoff location after a penalty. It’s a small thing, but it really helps offense generation.
Another? There were some seemingly minor changes to the goaltending gear this off-season, mostly in removal of a little padding here and there. Nothing drastic enough for most media types to pay attention to (it’s more fun to write articles bitching at the league about changing the size of the goal), but the changes are actually non-trivial — because goalies no longer can flop down and depend on the pads to completely block the five hole. It changes both the dynamics of the goaltending AND the mental aspects, because there are now places were pucks can squeeze through, so goalies have to protect the five hole, not just get into the butterfly.
Another? teams are figuring out how to take advantage of the rules and the changes since the lockout. Last year, you really saw team defense switch into “everyone blocks shots” mode, where something like 50% of shots attempted get stopped by players before it reaches the goalie. This year, teams have adapted to the “drop, sprawl and pray for your face” mode of defense by making the defense more mobile. If someone tries to go down to block a shot, teams are actively moving around them and turning them into boulders. That negates some of the strengths of the shotblocking defense, forcing them to stay on their feet more or causing them to fall out of the play and allowing for odd man attacks.
Also, instead of getting the puck down low and trying to go cross-crease to get the goalie moving (and hopefully open up a hole), teams have shifted to taking the puck to the D, letting the D find a lane and blast it, and simply crash for rebounds. That causes the defense to spread out, limiting the “collapse to the crease and let’s all stack up like firewood around our goalie” defense.
This is to some degree the end of the adaptions that have started since the red line came out. That change gave teams the ability to break the trap (if they’re good, and fast); now teams are figuring out how to break the crease clogging. Combine that with more offensive zone faceoffs and a small change that keeps goalies from feeling invincible and puts more of an onus on them STOPPING pucks instead of being hit by them, and suddenly, you see….
Well, you see some pretty interesting hockey. And yes, scoring is up, which is rarely bad — something like 3/4 of a goal a game or so. But what makes for interesting hockey isn’t JUST scoring, it’s offensive chances, and those are way up this year. Up and down action, lead changes, scoring chances, goals. Pick two, and you probably have fun hockey.
Today is Hall of Fame induction time for hockey, and it’s a great group being inducted.
But it makes me think back a bit and ponder the history of the game, and that leads to a few thoughts.
First: some players I’d like to see in the Hall of Fame that currently aren’t:
Sergei Makarov — As worthy as Larionov, but without quite the NHL chops.
Pavel Bure — In his time, as dominant as anyone. but injuries cut it shore.
Adam Oates — look at his stats. Look at who he’s helped in already.
Doug Wilson — a falling out with the Hawks seems to have kept him out; maybe with Rocky in charge now? Between his play, his time at the NHLPA and now his time with the Sharks, sooner or later he’ll probably go in as a builder if not as a player, but he ought to go in as both eventually.
Rogie Vachon — best goalie not in the HOF.
Hayley Wickenheiser and Cammie Granato — the HHOF (not the NHL HOF!) needs to get over it; it’s a shame the women who helped turn the sport from a sport for the guys to a sport for everyone got inducted internationally before they got inducted by the HHOF. If you can’t handle the concept of inducting them for their hockey skills, name them as builders.
Dave Taylor — Okay, my Kings heritage is showing a bit, but before Gretzky put LA on the map, Taylor was there keeping the franchise competitive and interesting enough that it survived in LA to succeed.
* * *
Igor Larionov is the first Shark to be inducted into the Hall, and well-deserved. He’s not remembered primarily as a Shark, but he does need to be remembered as someone who helped turn San Jose from a fairly mediocre expansion team into a decent and competitive hockey team. His impact on the success of San Jose ought to be recognized. And so I do.
* * *
Some folks think too many are let into the Hall. Others think too few. Me? I think both sides are thinking too much. There is no right answer; I think on balance if both sides are complaining then the rules are probably balanced pretty well — I definitely prefer the hockey induction over how baseball does it.
But I DO think the league and teams are retiring too many jerseys right now; it’s a fine tradition and all that, but with some franchises (Toronto, Montreal) it’s basically impossible to do it right and not end up with current players in three digits.
The problem is there’s really little middle ground between “Hockey Hall of Famer” and “Franchise retired jersey”. I remember when Tie Domi retired listening to a talk show where someone called up and asked; in all seriousness, if he should go into the Hall of Fame. A Toronto fan, obviously, and the answer was equally obvious.
But the fan had a point: in Toronto, Tie is close to a god in some eyes; does he deserve recognition by the Leafs? Hell, yes. Does that mean HHOF? No. Retire his number? I wouldn’t. And there’s the rub.
So what I’d like to see is the league work with the teams to create a Hall of Fame roster for each team. Let each team recognize their key players; create a place in the HHOF where those players can be recognized and information/jerseys/etc displayed. Let teams do the same in their arenas, and raise the NAMES to the rafters if they want without having to retire numbers as well.
Make retiring a NUMBER something special again, something reserved for the very few, very special players in the franchise history — but also recognize the other key contributors to a team.
In San Jose, there isn’t a player yet that I feel deserves HHOF induction as a Shark. I think we may see that change with the current crop, but they need to prove out (I expect Joe Thornton is a hall of famer some day; I think the Patrick Marleau that arrived late last season could well be if this continues). I certainly don’t see any player to date that deserves a number retirement, either, although if Doug Wilson as GM wins a cup, I’d retire his number when he retires from the team for his contributions on and off ice.
But a Sharks Hall of Fame?
Definitely. And here’s my short list:
And when they retire:
And off ice honorees:
* * *
Congratulations to all of the inductees!
I honestly don’t know how Nabby made the save in that final shootout try. I really don’t.
It happened right in front of us, of course, since our seats are in the zone Nabby defends twice. Ross McKeon speculates it may be his knee:
Evgeni Nabokov appeared to sustain a left knee injury on the final play of Thursday nightâ€™s shootout, a 5-4 win over the very game St. Louis Blues. After remaining face down on the ice as teammates started to celebrate around him, the goalie eventually got to his feet with assistance and hobbled off the ice, finally walking alone down the narrow hallway to the locker room with a noticeable limp.
but from my view and a look at the replay it seems he pushed off and his right skate may have caught a rut or something, because it kicked out and he more or less somehow still flung himself at the net and twisted while falling to the ice (hard). From my view, it looks like the hip hyperextended (or at least bent in a direction it’s not supposed to bend), sort of like doing the splits with the help of a couple of angry horses running in opposite directions.
So it could be the hip, it could be the flexor (aka “groin”. And because it was so bloody awkward and the landing so ugly, for all I know he could have tweaked his back. it seemed to me when he was being helped off he was holding the hip, not the knee.
We’ll see. With some luck, he’s stiff and sort and wrapped in ice. With some bad luck…
Oh, hey, Boucher has two shutouts this season. I won’t worry yet. But I’m hoping Nabby just tweaked things.
A few notes on the game last night. It was one of those games I had on my list as a worry game. The blues are an intriguing and hard working team, but they’re also the kind of team that the Sharks “ought to beat” handily. They’re also a team that plays a really slow, grinding, dink it in and chase it, dink it out and forecheck kinda game, and I was wondering how the Sharks would handle that.
Handle it they did, although to be honest, the final score is representative of the game and the Blues effort. The Blues did a good job of dictating game tempo, something the Sharks need to look at, because grinding isn’t their forte — but no big surprise Clowe and his linemates had the big game, because that’s really their game.
The Blake goal was a thing of beau — oh, hell. no it wasn’t.
Blake wound up and unleashed a slapshot. Bishop put up his glove and caught it, and the puck kept going and came close to taking the glove with it into the net. Rob Blake got that “WTF, that went in?” look on his face, a big smile, and went back to the bench smiling and trying his damnedest not to show up Bishop. Bishop did that “huh?” look at his glove, and went off into the corner to focus. I turned to Laurie and said “NHL slapshot. AHL glove hand”. Bishop GOT the shot, and the strength of Blake’s shot just overpowered the goalie.
Overall, though, Bishop impressed me. So did the Blues, not the most talented team, but their work ethic is solid, and they were motivated and fought the Sharks all game. Early on the Sharks spotted them two goals by getting into penalty problems (good calls; Blake isn’t as spry as he used to be, and he WILL take hooking and holding penalties when pressured enough — and he did); the second goal was even strength, but came at the end of the penalty with tired players and good play by the Blues. Once the Sharks stopped taking penalties, it got a lot harder for the Blues, but they did a good job of minimizing the sharks good chances.
And then late, both teams for reasons I don’t understand — maybe just damn tired and frustrated — started taking that long string of penalties. Some of the calls were iffy, but overall the reffing was decent. Give them a B-, maybe. The last few minutes of the game I kinda felt like the refs decided rather than swallow the whistle (an act I hate) that they weren’t going to let a marginal play decide the game, where early in the game they were more or less letting the boys play. I think they made a couple of calls that were somewhat marginal, and once that started, they felt obligated to stick to that standard into overtime. I can live with that, actually kinda like it, but it confused the players a bit after 50 minutes of the refs mostly staying out of the way.
And so the Sharks are unbeaten at home — still. Barely. But it’s two points. And they proved to me they aren’t last year’s team — they didn’t take a “lesser” team lightly, they rose to the occasion and played the gritty game when the other team forced them to, they hung in, ground out the game and came away with two points. All good signs that this team is willing to do what it needs to do to win and can play pretty much any style of hockey if it needs to. and even going down 2-0 early, all that did was wake them up and cause them to push back harder.
So in some ways, this was more of a litmus test than the Detroit game — and the Sharks passed. Maybe not pretty, but pretty doesn’t earn more than 2 points. I’m happy to see the Sharks can and will play ugly, too, and win.
And here’s hoping Nabby’s not seriously hurt.