Tough Start in Leaf Nation

As Mike Komisarek gets ready to return to Montreal for the first time since he signed with Toronto, now seems as good a time as any to critique his play for the Buds so far.

After signing a five-year deal for $22.5 million in the off-season, he has yet to really live up to the billing through the first 11 games.

Here’s his line: 11 GP, 0 G, 0 A, -6, 27 PIM

Hmm…. The 27 minutes of penalties would imply plenty of “truculence”, but the rest of the numbers seem to be a bit concerning, especially given the fact that he was being considered for the captaincy.

Komisarek has never been known for his goal scoring prowess so its not completely fair to fault him for not having any points so far, but his defensive play (which he was signed for in the first place) has been lacking.

There’s no doubt the -6 is bad, but there’s a hidden stat that might be the most concerning facet of Komisarek’s game, which is: Bad Penalties.

So far, through the first 11 games Komisarek has taken 5 penalties that lead to a goal. If one of your “top” defenceman is indirectly causing a goal in approximately half the games, then there’s something wrong. (Sidebar: Why is the offending player not given a minus rating if a team scores while he’s in the box?)

The List:
Oct. 28 – Dallas – 3rd period penalty, gave Dallas the lead
Oct. 13 – Colorado – 2nd period penalty, Avs’ 3rd goal
Oct. 12 – NY Rangers – 1st period penalty, Rangers’ first goal
Oct. 3 – Washington – 1st period penalty, Caps’ 2nd goal
Oct. 1 – Montreal – 3rd period penalty, Last five minutes, tying goal

Granted the most recent one, which took place in Dallas against Mike Ribeiro, was a phantom call on one of the league’s most pathetic divers, but in general the trend being set is an alarming one.

The advice Komisarek should take from this: Stay out of the fucking penalty box you moron. Your team is bad. Your goaltending is bad. Your team’s penalty kill is ranked 30th in the league. Its hard to tell a player to reign it in, especially when the boss wants you to be truculent and all, but maybe it’s time to play a little smarter hockey, Mike.

Komisarek's play so far might not even be good enough to get him on Poland's national team
Komisarek's play so far might not even be good enough to get him on Poland's national team

The metric cannot be injury

Booth

It is human nature for people to be concerned when others get injured. However, I think that these emotions that prevent people from being objective when evaluating whether a hit is ‘clean’ or not, and frankly I find it extremely frustrating.

It is not entirely the fault of empathetic fans who can’t stomach an injury, the precedent was set by the NHL. Specifically, the structure of the high-sticking penalty, whereby if blood is drawn a minor is upgraded to a double-minor, laid the groundwork for this problem. At the most fundamental level, this rule does not make sense because blood is not necessarily (and in many cases is simply not) correlated with the seriousness of an injury. By upgrading or downgrading a penalty based on ‘visible blood flow’ the NHL has effectively indicated that injury will dictate how illegal a player’s actions are and not necessarily the actions themselves. Importantly, this takes the control away from the player and into the hands of chance, which to any rational human does not make sense.

The chance of an injury occurring can be determined by the the interaction of eight variables (outlined below); consider this a simplified model for the purposes of discussion.

Chance of Injury = [(velocity of player A)*(mass of player A)*(position of player A)*(individual differences in player A anatomy)]*[(velocity of player B)*(mass of player B)*(position of player B)*(individual differences in player B anatomy)]

Assuming normal distribution of each of these variables (as would be anticipated) it is quite plausible that these could combine to create an injurious event. Furthermore, given that athletes are getting faster (due to advances in training and nutrition) and that one-quarter of these variables are velocity related, it is not surprising that we are seeing a rise in the frequency and severity of injuries.

Most importantly however I want to draw attention to the variable ‘individual differences in player anatomy’. This variable reflects how prone a given player (or part of a player) is to injury. For example, lets take Eric Lindros who because of his upbringing (nurture) and genetics (nature) was extremely prone to concussions and Alex Ovechkin who because of those same factors (nature and nurture) is not as injury prone (Ovechkin has only missed 1 game in 4 years due to injury). Assume both players, who are approximately 240 lbs, are skating at the same speed and exposed to the same border-line illegal open-ice hit by Chris Pronger. The result: Eric Lindros gets a concussion and Alex Ovechkin does not (and probably snipes 3 more goals). All variables are the same in this scenario except ‘individual differences in player anatomy’ (Ovechkin vs. Lindros). I can’t help but think that in this scenario two things would happen: (1) Pronger would be suspended for the hit on Lindros and not for the hit on Ovechkin; (2) There would be an outcry resulting from the Lindros injury whereas the Ovechkin hit might not even make the 2 minute game highlights on ESPN.

The problem with this is simple: the NHL (and NHL fans alike) have made the key metric for deciding whether a hit is ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ a variable that an ‘attacking player’ has NO CONTROL over. It is a standard business practice to base pay incentives on factors that people have control over, similarly, it only makes sense to punish a player (or employee) based on something that is in their  control.

To be clear, I am not advocating for injuries in hockey, in fact I would be in favor of  rule changes going forward to ensure that injuries stopped determining whether a hit is legal or not. If injuries are a concern (as evaluated by the NHLPA – those who play the game) then there should be a re-structuring of what makes a hit illegal. For example, making it illegal to hit a player while in a vulnerable position could be an option. One suggestion I would have around this would be that it not be an in-game penalty, but be evaluated after the game with proper footage and vantage point (but NOT medical records) so that an objective decision can be made.

Although the NHL has been better as of late in eliminating the ‘injury’ factor from determining suspensions (e.g. Booth hit) the system is not where it needs to be. At the end of the day It’s either a clean hit or not. If the NHL is uncomfortable with the increased frequency and severity of injuries they should change the rules and stop punishing players for things that they don’t have control over.

Ben Johnson hired as Canada’s sprint coach

McGwire

Though Ben Johnson HAS NOT been hired as Canada’s sprint coach, the Cardinals have done the next best thing and hired Mark McGwire as their hitting coach. Though arguments could be made for the merits of this decision, I believe that in the long-run this will be a poor decision for both publicity and pure baseball reasons.

Given McGwire’s history of dealing with the media and the countless accusations around his drug use, this decision will reflect poorly on the Cardinals – and in fact it already has. McGwire has a knack for making the best decisions when confronted with controversy in the media. For example, during his in court testimony, regarding his alleged drug use, he refused to talk about the ‘past’; unfortunately Mark, it turns out that this is the primary tense used in court – so thanks for your contribution to the investigation. Perhaps revising his previous stance somewhat, McGwire was a no-show for the very press conference that appointed him to his new role; maybe he now also refuses to talk about the future.

McGwire being appointed as a hitting coach quite simply reflects poorly on the league and is another example of steroid issues being swept under the rug. However, I am not even convinced that he is hitting coach material. Lets just review the facts.

  1. While on steroids McGwire can hit home runs. Specifically, during his career he averaged one home run for every 10.61 at bats, which is the best ratio of all time. The second best ratio of all time is held by Ryan Howard at 11.32.
  2. McGwire is a career 0.263 hitter.
  3. McGwire averaged 138 Ks per year.

While Ryan Howard is no doubt a great player, I think that even given his post season success we can all agree that he is probably not hitting coach material, primarily because of his low batting average and high Ks. The very characteristics that prevent Howard from being hitting coach material are shared by McGwire, except that McGwire has the added downside of having a serious steroid stigma. To put some of these numbers into perspective, Steve Henderson (hitting coach for Tampa Bay) posted a career 0.280 average and batted as high as 0.306 while Kevin Seitzer (hitting coach for KC) posted a career 0.295 batting average.

Call me a cynic, but I just don’t see this being a strong decision either from a publicity standpoint or a pure baseball standpoint.

NFL + L.A. = Shitty News for Bills?

Looks like waves are finally being made to bring football back to Los Angeles: NFL in LA

I guess it’s probably about time that a city (read: metropolitan area) whose population is around 12 million, has two baseball, basketball, and hockey teams in its vicinity, gets an NFL team back. I suppose there must have been a reason that the Rams left L.A. in the first place, but it seems unthinkable that there’s currently no NFL team in the City of Angels.

Although… according to Garth Woolsey of The Star, it seems like the Buffalo Bills could be a target for the group seeking a team.

Realistically, it doesn’t make sense to move a team from the east to the west without doing some other kind of changes to correct the disproportion within each conference. So hopefully someone realizes this, before the NFL wades into the territory of the MLB and (stupidly) uses unbalanced divisions (see the MLB’s, NL Central and AL West).

Besides, it would be pretty tragic if the Bills were to lose their team. The fans in Buffalo are so dedicated, even after so many painful years, that they don’t deserve to have this taken away from them.

Bills fans just can't catch a break...
Bills fans just can’t catch a break…

So, here’s hoping that Ralph Wilson hangs on for a while longer and L.A. goes after some other garbage team like the Raiders instead.

Good luck L.A., but long live Ralph and the good fans in Orchard Park.

Put a Jersey on… or Don’t?

Oh, no…

The Kingston Frontenacs do NOT have a good track record as an OHL team.

This will not help improve their status:

ept_sports_nhl_experts-408949265-1256245625

These are the jerseys the Kingston Frontenacs wore on “Don Cherry Military Night”.

I don’t know. Maybe some people like this. It seems pretty stupid to me, but I guess as long as it doesn’t become habit, then who cares.

Bud’s a Dud.

07_alan_bud_selig

Technology makes life much more simple.

Calculators allow us to do complicated mathematics with ease, while mechanized assembly lines package goods well beyond the capabilities of a human.

Last night, after seeing a human’s fairly limited ability to umpire a baseball game (Here), maybe now its time to really install instant replay in baseball.

Now, this is where most baseball purists would jump down my throat and accuse me of destroying the wholesome nature of the game. They’ll reminisce about their days of playing as a kid in the sandlot, or babble on about how legends like Ruth and DiMaggio are real American heroes.

But, you know what? Cokes don’t cost 10 cents and nobody uses Brylcreem anymore.

Times change. Get over it.

Baseball’s commissioner, Bud Selig grudgingly allowed instant replay to be used on home run calls, and the like, but so far has resisted furthering its use in the game.

Well Bud, I hope you watched last night’s debacle. Because I don’t think there’s a better example of how instant replay could easily reverse a badly blown call. Oh wait. Yes there is: (See Bob Davidson’s missed call in the 1992 World Series – Here)

Maybe, just maybe this is a good time for Mr. Selig to do right by the game, add instant replay, and have that serve as his repentance for blindly ignoring years of rampant steroid use.

But for all those purists still stuck in the past, terrified of ruining baseball, just think about it like this… What would Branch Rickey do?

The Hall of Famer is perhaps the most progressive figure in baseball history. He is revered in baseball circles. He created the minor league farm system, introduced batting helmets, and signed Jackie Robinson, effectively breaking the colour barrier.

I’m gonna go out an a limb and say he’d be just fine with instant replay. You should be too.

Phoenix, Bettman, both suck.

The Phoenix Coyotes are an embarrassment to professional hockey. Worse, the commissioner of the NHL is an embarrassment to professional sports, business, and even general logic.

http://tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=295015

This story outlines the fact that hockey has unequivocally failed in the desert. Here are some quick stats for those uninterested in reading the article: All tickets for the home opener were $25 (the only reason it sold well), the second game drew only 6,899 fans, there will be a promotion where if the team wins certain games, then free tickets are given away.

This reeks of failure and desperation, and that is an ugly scent for Gary Bettman to wear. Time to send the Coyotes back to Winnipeg, or Quebec City, or even Hamilton.

If the Coyotes have to give away tickets to attract fans, then they are clearly not a viable business. If the crazy French teams in the LNAH (http://www.lnah.com/) are making more money than you, that’s how you know you’re failing as an NHL team.

It’s obviously embarrassing for Bettman to admit that his pet projects in the southern US are failing, but for the sake of the sport he needs to admit he was wrong to over expand the league into places where nobody cares about hockey, and put teams back in places that will care.

The joke’s over. Time to go watch Bon Cop Bad Cop and dream of what may become of Bettman one day.

Douchebag

The Battle Of Alberta Rages On…

I don’t even know where to start with this.

Last night, in a game between the Flames and Oilers, Jerome Iginla ended up taking Sheldon Souray out with a sketchy looking hit. Dirty Hit on Sheldon Souray by Jerome Iginla

Oilers coach Pat Quinn was none too happy with the hit and made his feeling known after the game. Today, the NHL fined him $10,000 for his comments.

Okay.

I like Pat Quinn, but I think he’s starting to sound a bit like Don Cherry in his old age. After the game, Quinn basically called the hit dirty and said if this were the 60’s, Iginla would have had his head caved with a stick… maybe not the best idea.

Granted, the hit didn’t look all that good, but I think if there’s one thing to be said about the ordeal, it’s that Jerome Iginla is one of the classiest players in the game, and if he says it was an accident (which he did), I’m inclined to believe him.

Although in a related note, Quinn really didn’t say anything that bad. He basically just gave his opinion, however senile it may have been. So for the NHL to fine him $10 grand is pretty God damn outrageous. After all, the government doesn’t fine Don Cherry every time he makes fun of a French Canadian on CBC.

So really, there’s just two losers here. Sheldon Souray, because he was unlucky and got hurt, and Gary Bettman and his cronies who dropped the ball again with another retarded decision.

Odds and Ends

Captainless Leafs

Recently, Leafs GM and all around media whore, Brian Burke gave The Star some insight into what it takes to be a Maple Leafs captain. He said, “First off, a captain’s personal life off the ice and his play on the ice must be beyond reproach.”

Lets see how the leading candidates stack up against that quote so far:

Mike Komisarek – Looks like a “Peewee Defencemen” according to Ron Wilson, has 17 PIM through the first few games. Off the ice? Nothing really. It’s a bit too early in his Toronto stay to have beaten up a hooker, so no problems there.

Francois Beauchemin – 2 points, and a -4. Off the ice? Probably just your standard beer drinking Frenchman.

Tomas Kaberle – 3 points, and -1. Off the ice? He’s so low key that he could be mistaken for an Amish person. But sometimes its guys like this who wind up being involved in a child porn ring, so who knows?

Weak choices so far. Maybe they go with… Matt Stajan?
He has 3 goals, and -1. Off the ice? He’s the team’s union rep, called out the fans for being too quiet, has a comparable tenure to Kaberle.

It’s too early in the season to name one mediocre player better than the other ones though, so I think we should just tell The Star to give it a rest for now.

Jonathon Roy, Superstar!

Patrick Roy’s son pled guilty to an on ice assault which took place in a game in 2008. Here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s92LY161Gww&feature=fvw

Apparently he wanted a specific plea bargain that would still allow him to enter the U.S. – why? To pursue his next career as a singer?

What a pussy.

Fabio Cannavaro’s Bee-S

Cannavaro, who captained team Italy to a World Cup a few years back, has claimed that the reason he tested positive for banned substances was because he was receiving treatments for a bee sting.

However, the former physician for Juventus has been convicted of administering banned substances to players, and Cannavaro was caught on video injecting a substance in 2005.

In Italy, is it standard practice to treat common bee stings with a shot of steroids??? If so, how are so many bees finding their way into Italian locker rooms???

Ah whatever… it’s Italy. Who even cares.