Kukla's Korner

Paper plates are underrated

On the heels of last night’s 2-0 victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto, David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail provides some background behind the injury which kept Steve Sullivan out of the lineup for nearly two years:

It was almost 10 years ago, as his father Kenn tells it, when Steve Sullivan bent over to put a few things in the dishwasher and felt something give in his back.

“People think he got hurt playing hockey,” Kenn said yesterday. “He got hurt when he was playing for the Leafs and was putting dishes in the dishwasher in ‘99.”

So does this mean we can blame women’s liberation for all that lost playing time? (j/k)

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Making my radio debut… in Calgary!

Over the last few days I’ve noticed a huge spike in traffic from the Calgary area, focused on my NHL Super Schedule. This comes in light of recent discussions about all the extra travel that Western Conference teams face compared to the East.  As a result, I’ve been invited to join Mark Stephen on Calgary’s CHQR Sportstalk (770 AM) this evening to discuss various aspects of the NHL schedule.

Look for my segment somewhere around 9:15 Mountain Time tonight!

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Nashville Predators Mid-Season Report: The Defense

After the weekend home-and-home with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators have now played 42 games, which means it’s time for a (slightly tardy) 1st half review of the team.  First, let’s discuss the defense (first-quarter reports found here).

As a group, the Nashville defenders got off to a rocky start in their own end.  Opponents took advantage of rebound opportunities and blown coverage with impunity in the opening weeks of the season, and those problems have generally abated since then.  The following chart presents a simple picture of Goals Against by game over the course of the campaign, along with a black line that denotes the 5-game Moving Average…

Continue Reading »

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Arnott out, Rinne starts tonight in Toronto

John Glennon’s afternoon update at the Tennessean includes some big points heading into tonight’s game in Toronto, the biggest two being that captain Jason Arnott will not play, and Pekka Rinne will get the start in goal.  There is also some clarification behind the continued absence from the lineup of Greg de Vries, who hasn’t played since January 6:

Defenseman Greg de Vries will miss his third game and he remains back in Nashville dealing with illness. Doctors are hoping some blood tests will indicate exactly what’s wrong with de Vries, whose symptoms include a lack of energy.

It also looks like the press box rotation has finally gotten rolling (thank goodness), and the under-performing Jordin Tootoo (7 points in 40 games) might be the victim tonight. 

UPDATE: With Rinne getting the start despite a solid effort by Dan Ellis in Chicago on Sunday, it’s worth asking whether Barry Trotz is messing with his goalie’s heads.  Paul Nicholson digs into the question, touching on the surprising goaltender switch that Trotz made during last Thursday’s comeback win over Pittsburgh.

 

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A special look at special teams

Power Play and Penalty Killing percentages are the standard measuring stick for NHL special teams performance, but mathematically they miss an important aspect of the game.  When a team is successful (the PP scores or the PK doesn’t get scored on) they get a “1”, and when unsuccessful (the PP fails to score, or the PK gives one up) they get a “0”.  Sum those values up, divide by the number of opportunities, and you get the appropriate percentage.  But what about the situations that truly deserve a “-1”, like when your slow-footed power play quarterback gets caught by a speedy opponent and gives up a breakaway the other way, resulting in a goal?  Under traditional measurements, those scenarios are ignored.

Over at Pension Plan Puppets, a Toronto Maple Leafs blog, Chemmy digs into this issue and derives Adjusted PP and PK rates, by penalizing power play units that give up goals (the New York Rangers have 13 goals against on the PP!), and rewarding penalty killers who score shorthanded (Philadelphia leads in that category, also with 13).

It provides a more thorough picture of special teams performance, and taking the Rangers as an example, if you thought their 27th-ranked 14% power play was bad, wait until you see how those goals against impact that figure!

Filed in: NHL Statistical Analysis, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

Dallas newspapers cutting back on hockey coverage

Thanks to a pointer from Ms. Conduct, we have news that the daily newspapers in the Dallas area are cutting and consolidating their sports coverage.  The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram will divide up the sports duties between their staffs and share content with each other.  DallasBasketball.com jumped on this story a few months ago, but yesterday the Dallas Morning News came forward with the details:

Beginning Feb. 1, The News will provide its beat coverage of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars to the Star-Telegram.

In exchange, the Star-Telegram will share its Texas Rangers coverage with The News. The two will continue to cover the Dallas Cowboys separately.

The deal will allow the two largest North Texas newspapers to cut costs at a time of unprecedented business challenges. The troubled newspaper industry faces falling revenue, rising costs and the mass migration of readers and advertisers to online information sources…

The papers do not plan to share each others’ sports columnists, and columnists at both papers are expected to continue commenting on all local sports teams.

Mike Heika does a great job covering the Stars for the Morning News, so presumably his job is safe, but nothing specific regarding personnel has been made available yet. So far the ongoing crisis in the newspaper business has largely spared NHL coverage, but eventually, deep cuts affect all areas.

 

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Catching up with the Thang

As part of their recurring series “Hi, my name is…”, which features up-and-coming NHL prospects, Bruce Ciskie over at AOL’s NHL Fanhouse shines the spotlight on Nashville Predators prospect Ryan Thang, who is currently a junior at Notre Dame:

Thang was third on the team in scoring a year ago, and he’s slipped to eight goals and 14 points so far this year. That doesn’t mean he’s any less of a prospect, as he has played well for the Irish…

Read on for more on Thang and the Fighting Irish as a team, as they sit atop the CCHA standings.

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A history lesson on NHL relocation

Some corners of the hockey world are all a-twitter over the news that Phoenix reportedly missed out on 25% of their NHL revenue sharing last season, and the cries for relocation (or even, laughably, contraction) are making the rounds.  Most of these screeds start off with the presumption that the NHL’s Sun Belt movement was directed by Commissioner Gary Bettman in a bid to establish a stronger national TV presence in the US, but the story is much more complicated than that, and local considerations played a key role in each individual case.

For some historical background on the conditions under which the NHL expanded or relocated teams to the southern US, check out today’s piece by Stu Hackel of the New York Times’ Slap Shot blog, which should be required reading for anyone about to sound off on the Coyotes’ situation.  He traces a sea change in the NHL’s business climate to the transition from Alan Eagleson to Bob Goodenow as head of the NHLPA:

When the Eagle was replaced by Bob Goodenow, the union’s accommodations to ownership were gone too. One brief strike later (in 1992), and salaries began to skyrocket. That was followed by one half-season lockout (in 1994), and the rocket’s booster kicked in. The N.H.L.’s trajectory completely changed.

To cover those escalating salaries, owners needed new revenue. Since hockey was an arena-based gate-receipts business — as it always has been and continues to be — the owners found that they needed more seats, more amenities, more luxury boxes and, yes, even better parking revenue. Many owners got those things. Not all did.

It’s a fine recap of the factors involved in the Jets/Coyotes move, as well as the various missteps locally which have led the Coyotes to their current state.

 

 

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From Selke winner to cellar dweller

Over at The Hockey News, Ken Campbell dissects the Plus/Minus standings, and while in general the stat is about as good as astrology at informing a comparative analysis of NHL players, it does help point out individuals having extremely positive or negative seasons, such as Carolina Hurricanes center Rod Brind’Amour, and his NHL-worst -27 rating:

If you could chalk Brind’Amour’s plus-minus to bad luck or playing for a bad team or the vagaries of the stat, that would be one thing. But the fact of the matter is only one player in the league, Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, has been on the ice for more than Brind’Amour’s 45 even strength goals against. On the other hand, Brind’Amour has been on the ice for just 18 of his team’s own even-strength goals this season.

Read on for some detail behind some of the leaders as well, such as Boston’s Marc Savard (+29).

Filed in: NHL Statistical Analysis, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

The Gnomes are leading the way

Over at From the Rink, James Mirtle provides an update on the Hockey Blogger Invitational fantasy league...

There’s been some shifting in the standings lately as we head into Week 15 of the Hockey Blogger Invitational, but no one can catch Tha Gnomes of Five Hole Fanatics fame…

My squad, the Fab Forecheckers, is plugging away admirably in 2nd place among the 18 teams.  With this many teams and players, the waiver wire is extremely thin, so my roster is pretty much the same today as what was drafted.  After a slow start Alex Ovechkin is proving worthy of my #1 overall pick, and Robert Lang has contributed nicely in Montreal, but J.P. Dumont seems to have fallen off the pace lately.

Filed in: Fantasy Hockey, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

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