Kukla's Korner

The deep blue line

The Nashville Predators’ penchant for developing good young defensemen continues with word that Roman Josi, their 2nd-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, has been selected for the Swiss national team.  This from SwissHockey.net:

The 18-year old, who plays his club hockey for SC Bern, was named the best defender at the recent Under-20 Division I World Championships (whose Web site, for whatever reason, was never translated into English and does not appear to have been updated much in German either). Hockeysfuture.com has Josi as the 11th-best prospect in the Preds system and fifth-best defenseman. This season, he has 22 points (seven goals) in 35 National League A games for SCB and one goal and three assists in four Champions Hockey League games.

It will be interesting to watch Josi’s progress this spring, and see if he comes over to play for Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee next fall.

Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

The 2009 Bizarro All-Star Team

As the NHL’s best and brightest flock to Montreal to participate in the 2009 NHL All-Star festivities (at least the ones who aren’t faking injury to stay at home), most fans will look forward to events like the Hardest Shot competition, and of course the game itself on Sunday.  One complaint often heard about the ASG, however, is the lack of grit and toughness that make hockey so enjoyable for the fans.

With that in mind, I thought I’d leverage the detailed penalty information that I keep track of to nominate the 2009 NHL “Bizarro” All-Star Teams, a collection of villains and miscreants that would make life hard on any opponent who dares take the ice against them…

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Filed in: NHL Commentary, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

Wild owner Leipold living large

Former Nashville Predators and current Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold is certainly living the high life these days.  This profile comes from CityPages.com:

...when Leipold isn’t behind the 12 x 5 slab of Berlin Wall artifact (really) that graces the entrance to his Wisconsin estate, he’s instead housed atop the historic brick makeup of the Saint Paul Hotel.  Last year, Leipold signed a 10-year, exclusive lease to reside in the 2,400-square foot penthouse of the perennial 4-Diamond destination.

There’s even a video tour of this swanky penthouse, for any of you who might be wondering how hard the current recession is hitting the NHL’s ownership ranks…

 

 

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Predators likely to hit magic attendance mark

Much has been made of yesterday’s article in the Tennessean which noted that the Predators ownership group is considering purchasing tickets in order to help the team achieve goals which are required for 100% participation in the NHL’s revenue sharing program.  Today in a blog on the paper’s site, Preds beat writer John Glennon adds some clarification and perspective for those crying out that this has become “a farce”:

...when he [David Freeman] said the owners would consider buying up seats to reach the 14,000 paid attendance mark – the mark necessary to receive the NHL’s full revenue-sharing package – he probably should have included a much larger IF NECESSARY after his comments.

  Frankly, it doesn’t look like it will have to come to that.

  The Predators are averaging 13,744 paid fans per game right now, which is actually about a six percent increase over this point last season. They’ve got their best drawing months of the season ahead of them, they’ve got two home games against Detroit in February, and they’ve got a host of promotions during the month that should bring more fans into the building.

The “big story” here should be that attendance has risen significantly in Nashville despite the economic situation and a team that is sputtering of late.  They’ve added new corporate sponsorships in the last few months and appear likely to hit the targets required for revenue sharing.  Good News, unfortunately, just doesn’t make a catchy headline like the negative stuff.  On a related note, as observed by Chuq over at Two for Elbowing, team owners purchasing their own tickets is a common sight in the NFL.

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Nashville’s Dynamic Duo

CBC Sports takes a look at two of the best young defensemen in the NHL, who just happen to be paired up on the Nashville Predators blue line:

One is being touted as a Norris Trophy candidate, the other as a possible future team captain.

Where would the struggling Nashville Predators be this season without Shea Weber and Ryan Suter?

Read on for the whole piece, which gives Suter some much-needed attention as his game has taken just as big a step forward this season as Weber’s has.  Thanks to @DonaldWillis of the @PredFans Twitter group for tipping me off to this article!

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Sports Illustrated’s NHL All-Star Selections

Fan balloting for All-Star roster spots is always a hot topic, and this year’s controversy has probably been the most heated, between the dominance of the Montreal Canadiens in the starting lineup, and the absence of Alex Ovechkin or any of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.  The natural result of this has been a variety of calls to eliminate fan balloting or restrict it in some fashion.

Until that day comes, we can at least consider the selections as they would have been made by relatively neutral observers.  For that, let’s take a look at Sports Illustrated’s choices for the All-Star starting lineups, as presented in the issue currently on newsstands…

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Filed in: NHL Commentary, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

Americans taking the college route to the NHL

American collegiate hockey has had a long history of producing the occasional NHL talent, reaching back to the days of Red Berenson, but in recent years it has developed into a premier training ground for top-level prospects preparing to take their game to the highest level.  Dave O’Onofrio of the Concord Monitor brings us a profile of Colin Wilson (7th overall 2008 pick by Nashville) and James van Riemsdyk (2nd overall 2007 pick by Philadelphia), two elite talents who are honing their craft on campus:

“It played out great for me, and I think it’s playing out the same way for Riemer,” said Wilson, whose 26 points tie him with vanRiemsdyk for the most among Hockey East players. “We’re both developing now, and I think it shows, not just in our numbers but by the way we play the game. In the new season both of us have gotten better than the previous season.”

“That Riemer, especially, is back in college this year is a real tribute to UNH. It’s a tribute to college hockey,” [USA Hockey assistant executive director Jim] Johannson added. “And it’s a tribute to his belief that ‘I’m going to become a better player here, and I’m going to be more ready to play in the National Hockey League whenever I decide to do that.’ “

Read on for the rest of the story.  For further reading on the impact of American talent on the NHL, check out James Mirtle’s series “Where NHLers come from.”

Filed in: Nashville Predators, NHL Commentary, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

Making sense of the NHL standings

The Numbers Guy at the Wall Street Journal (Carl Bialik) gets on board with what should be a no-brainer of an idea to make the game more accessible to the general public.  His “Modest Proposal for NHL Standings” (gotta love a guy who gives a nod to Jonathan Swift) strikes a blow for common sense:

At any given time in any sports league’s season, some teams will have played more games than others. But other leagues take that into account in the standings. The NBA’s New Orleans Hornets are listed as one game behind the San Antonio Spurs, who have played two more games and won two more games. Similarly, last May 31, the Philadelphia Phillies had one more win than the Florida Marlins but stood in second place in the National League East because they had two more losses.

It’s a little more complicated in the NHL, where the winning team always gets two points but the losing team also gets a point if the game goes to overtime, and in soccer, for that matter, where winners get three points and teams that draw get one apiece. Here’s a fix to that problem: Rank teams by points per game played, rather than total points. That system would have shown Rangers fans that their team really ranked fourth in the East a month ago.

Yes, regular NHL fans can sort this stuff out, but for the casual sports fan flipping through and looking at standings, ranking teams by Points Percentage would make the picture much clearer. Of course, if we got rid of the ridiculous OT/SO “loser point”, the NHL could just use Winning Percentage, a crystal-clear measure of team success that everyone can relate to.

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

Penalty Plus/Minus at the All-Star Break

The latest update on the NHL Penalty Plus/Minus figures has something old and something new for those tracking which players are creating the most power plays for their team over the course of the season.

The old? It’s Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown, who continues in his position at the top.  Browin is leaving the competition in his rear-view mirror with a +31, far ahead of Jarome Iginla (+22), Niklas Hagman (+20), and Patrick O’Sullivan (+20), who head a more tightly-bunched set of secondary leaders.

Then there’s the very old; Rob Blake’s injury troubles have kept him (-19) from keeping pace with Mike Commodore and Shane O’Brien (each with -22) at the bottom of the standings, although fellow codger Mathieu Schnedier (-19) is keeping him company down there.

The complete spreadsheet and some “fresh” news follows…

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Preds ownership focused on revenue sharing

I’m sure this story will get the Nashville haters howling!  The Tennessean this morning reports that the local ownership group is considering putting their own money to work to purchase enough tickets to make sure the Predators reach the NHL’s revenue sharing targets:

David Freeman stressed that he and the other owners haven’t made that decision, but with millions of dollars on the line, they’ve been discussing the possibility and they can’t wait too long to pull the trigger.

“We’ve consistently said that we’re here to give everything we’ve got to make this work,” Freeman said.

The first point to address here is that it this is allowed within NHL guidelines, as the owners are talking about using their own personal funds to hit the magic mark of 14,000 average paid attendance (the figure normally reported for NHL attendance includes giveaways and doesn’t impact revenue sharing).  While many are sure to focus on this as a gimmick that only delays the demise of the NHL in Middle Tennessee, there is an unexpected bit of good news in here that is likely to get overlooked…

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