Archive for the ‘debates’ Category

The relative impossibility of judging Brodeur’s greatness relative to the greats

March 14, 2009

Martin Brodeur is not a Fraud.

That, ultimately, might not be the true point of Brodeur is a Fraud, but it is something that must be said nonetheless. You don’t threaten all-time records in wins and shutouts just because you have a good team in front of you.

The tricky part, though, is assessing any player in any sport compared to other players of similar greatness in different eras. Hockey is one of the truest team sports and is also a very diverse game from generation to generation.

For years, goalies could not even go down to the ice to stop a puck. The Bobby Orr era brought about a difficult time for tenders, but the Wayne Gretzky just about nuked GAA and save percentage stats.

Then, of course, there was the Dead Puck Era. A time in which the 100-point fire hydrants of the Eighties were replaced by goalies being outfitted like tanks producing once-unthinkable sub-2.00 GAA seasons.

Patrick Roy won a Cup in both eras. Martin Brodeur enjoyed his prime years in the no-score years. Some say Roy was better; some say Dominik Hasek was better than both.

But beyond his peers, how do you really compare Brodeur to … Jacques Plante? To Georges Vezina? To Ken Dryden?

The John Hollingers of the world think that you can adjust stats to tell you anything, but the problem is that these players weren’t worried about micro managing save percentages. Is it fair to say that (throwing out the steroid talk for a moment) Barry Bonds was, cleanly or not, a better home run hitter than Babe Ruth? Bonds hit more homers, but Ruth out-homered opposing teams in his day. Relatively speaking, Ruth was Gretzky-like. Incomparable. But can you say he’s a better dinger-man than Bonds? It’s futile.

Brodeur’s career, to me, is quite a lot like Emmitt Smith‘s. Both players were among the best in their position in their primes. Both were seemingly indestructible compared to their peers, allowing them to amass staggering numbers. And both were, at least slightly, damned by the fact that they played along with Hall of Fame teammates and lacked the artfulness of their best counterparts. They even share the similar quality of owning three championship rings.

Brodeur is to Smith as Dominik Hasek is to Barry Sanders.

(Although Brodeur probably butchers English less often than Smith, even if it might be his second language.)

Right now, people are trotting out “but he got his stats beefed up by SO wins!” and that’s fine. It’s relevant. But he’s 36 years old. If he plays 4-6 years, he could add 100 to 150 wins to his totals. Will that make him the best goalie of all-time?

Some will probably say yes, others will turn red faced and scream “No!”; there is simply no way to truly know. Ultimately, it’s subjective: once the stats melt away it’s all about nostalgia, rooting interest, what games you get to see and stylistic preferences.

How about, instead of grinding your teeth fighting for or against Brodeur, you just enjoy being alive to see records being broken? After all, it may take a few generations to break Marty’s records. Might as well make THE BEST of it.

The All-Goose Egg Team or The Robert Parrish Decade Squad

January 13, 2009

Is anyone sort of dumbfounded that it’s already 2009? Seriously, has it been about 10 years since we thought that Y2K would destroy the internet and everyone would eat soup for three months? Crazy.

Even though there’s two-half seasons left before 2010 hits, I thought it would be fun to get a head start by beginning the process of determining who would be on an All-Decade team. To still keep it somewhat resembling a decade, we’ll start from the 1999-2000 season up to today (January 13). Since it would be greedy to leave the voting to me, I will look to the masses for support, opinions and votes. In fact, the first poll is of considerable importance (vote below).

Don’t hold me to this, but the plan is to have a post per category.

All-Decade Center

Two All-Decade Wingers (because these guys tend to switch around)

Two All-Decade Defensemen

All-Decade Goalie

and maybe some fun categories:

All-Decade Loudmouth

All-Decade Goat

All-Decade Pugilist

Any other categories you’d like to see?

How should the CLS All-Decade team be determined
( polls)

Outing the Shootout

November 14, 2008
Sometimes Google Image Searches now better than I

In an attempt to be persuasive, some people go a little bit overboard. Maybe they’ll distort facts or use statistics selectively. Perhaps, instead, it will lead to an attack on a person’s credibility. Or simply an attack.

But in most situations of debate (heated or otherwise), there’s usually a kernel of wisdom that can be found with either side – as hard as that is to imagine when you’re pointing your finger and flinging yell-spit in your opponent’s face.

Such a scenario comes to mind when normally rational hockey fans discuss the shootout. On one side, there’s the hockey purist who cannot stop his or her blood from boiling when a team earns a win from a skills competition. In the other corner: the devil-may-care, shootout loving iconoclasts. Their battle is mostly full of snark but occasionally a little venom slips into the water supply.

One hockey blogger went as far as to disavow the palpable, obvious buzz that takes place before a shootout. Unfortunately, the memory of the precise puckhead escapes me, which is probably for the best. But basically the author claimed that the aforementioned buzz was a coincidence. That it was happening just because of the shared realization that the game was near an end.

Or some incomprehensible load of drivel shit.

Say what you want about shootouts, you’re just an unflinching douche if this goal didn’t make you smile.

Look, most hockey fans agree on two things: Gary Bettman sucks and a shootout win proves nothing. Facts like those don’t, however, change the fact that a lot of the ticket buying public enjoys seeing shootouts. Every time I’ve been at a hockey game with a shootout the audience was enraptured, engaged and delighted. All eyes were on that nervous forward and that beleaguered goalie.

Honestly, there’s only two GUARANTEED times when people will stop what they are doing and watch a hockey game: a fight and the shootout. Plenty of hockey fans/purists/stat heads struggle with this fact but the evidence is undeniable.

There are times in life when you simply need to make the best of a situation. We may not like that a winner is crowned by an arbitrary event, but at least that event can bring about the occasional moment of transcendence (and give players like Marek Malik and Jussi Jokinen a brief moment in the spotlight). Sure, it sucks balls that a true winner isn’t crowned and it sucks even hairier balls that some teams might make or miss the playoffs due to their shootout prowess or lack thereof. If given the choice, I’d abolish the shootout but there are worse injustices in the sport.

Like the great prophet Sean Connery would say, “Buck up, Chap.” And rub some dirt on it. Maybe you should let that frozen pond once known as your heart melt a little and learn to squeeze some enjoyment out of shootouts. Just this week we got the treat of watching Mike Ribeiro bamboozle a goalie with a one-handed deke and subsequently enrage literally hundreds of Kings fans in the process.

Honestly, is this THAT much worse than kissing your sister?

Don’t forget the ‘fame’ in Hall of Fame

November 12, 2008
Bure was one of the most dynamic players the NHL’s ever seen

Pavel Bure was a Dominique Wilkins on ice. He had highlight reel goals, locomotive speed and an excellent sense of The Moment. Maybe he didn’t persist with Recchi-like longevity, but he dazzled like few others.

Eric Lindros was supposed to be The Next One. Few will forget – and many will never forgive – Lindros for holding out as the #1 pick of the Quebec Nordiques only to be traded for a bunch of players, including the superior Peter Forsberg. His parental over involvement and squabbles with Bobby Clarke certainly did not impress.

But for a brief period of time, Lindros was an irresistible force. Even Cam Neely didn’t provide a more unreal combination of brutality and deft artistry. With fellow power forward John LeClair and hockey trivia filler Mikael Renberg, Lindros lead the feared Legion of Doom line (which, by the way, is the last hockey line to have an awesome nickname) to dominance. My hockey youth was spent hating Lindros and reveling in Darius Kasparitis taking advantage of Lindros keeping his head down, but there might not be a player in sports who scared me more.

Bure and Lindros couldn’t be more different – everything from their playing styles and national origin are complete opposites. They do, however, share at least three traits: they both fell a round short of a Stanley Cup, had injury ravaged careers and most importantly … they both deserve to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Sports pundits get wrapped up in numbers, whether they are Stanley Cups, point totals or Vezina trophies. But they lose track of the fact that they’re voting to decide who makes it into the Hall of Fame.

These two players transcended their sport in the ways that only super stars can and that’s what they were: super stars. There’s only a handful of players every generation who can change the course of a game or playoff series by sheer force of will. Bure and Lindros were two of those players, even if they didn’t do it for 15 years.

Evil, but effective: the “Legion of Doom” line

Still, if you really need it, there are some numbers that help their cases for a HoF induction.

Both Bure and Lindros fell well short of 1,000 career points, but they both averaged more than a point per game in the regular season (Bure: 779 in 702 GP; Lindros: 865 in 760 GP) AND in the playoffs (Bure: 70 in 64 GP; Lindros: 57 in 53 GP). At their best, both players were near unstoppable in clutch situations.

In the trap-ravaged, obstruction era of the NHL Bure still managed two 60 goal seasons (92-93 and 93-94), as well as 59, 58 and 51-goal seasons. Keep in mind, two of those 50-goal seasons came as the only real offensive threat on profoundly awful Florida Panthers teams. And Bure also managed one of the greatest scores a Russian athlete can hope for: Anna Kournikova. If that’s not HoF worthy, then what is?

Few hockey people would question Peter Forsberg‘s rightful place in the HoF (whenever he realizes that his seemingly young but eternally injured body is no longer capable of NHL work), but Lindros fails to garner that same level of respect. Even though, as Joe Pelletier points out, their career numbers are surprisingly similar.

In the old tale, the tortoise beats the hare. But the HoF should smile upon that hard charging hare, not promote a “slow, but steady wins the race” type mentality. Besides, if you were playing a hockey pickup game, who would you rather have: Recchi or a healthy Bure/Lindros?

If you answered Recchi, go away. Just get the fuck out of here.

Muy interesante

October 29, 2008


An absolutely fascinating idea featured in Bucci’s column this week:

Also, I like the idea of how once a team gains the offensive zone, the red line becomes the line in play for the defensive team to clear. In other words, the red line becomes the blue line, expanding the offensive zone to half the rink like a basketball court. That could help lubricate the game by creating a larger offensive zone. I’d like to see how that looks in action. It has popped in my mind a couple of times while watching games recently. It might give the game more time and space. Players are so fast and agile today that the game is sometimes clogged. But make no mistake, I love watching nearly every game, and I watch the game with a positive eye.

Since the lockout, the NHL generally has seen an increase in offense and scoring. One of the biggest proponents of that change is the increased emphasis on calling obstruction (hooking, holding, interference etc.) type penalties.

But even so, the league should always look for ways to improve the game.

The key is to do so organically, though. Making goalie pads smaller than couch cushions is more than reasonable. Looking at a comparison between a modern, Roy-inspired goalie and their almost Napoleonic brethren is like studying the difference between the size of Barry Bonds‘ skull before and after BALCO.

Perhaps Battlin’ Billy Smith was always so pissed off because he realized how much easier goalies would have it in a couple decades. Nah, he was just a crusty sonovabitch, small pads or big.

Countless, brave couches lost their lives to help J.S. Giguere win a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe during his career.

ANYWAY, I’ve always wavered on making the net bigger – sure, it would help cure the league of some Giguere-itis but it definitely would be on the verge of tampering. (Plus it would really piss off Roberto Luongo).

For a long time, it seemed like converting to International Ice was the elephant in the room – an obvious solution the league ignores because its teams depends so much on gate earnings.

But the idea proposed in Bucci’s column could be the best possible compromise to inject a European flair into a game that can always use more highlight reel and Youtube-worthy moments. Or, if nothing else, an even greater amount of flow and high-level hockey artistry.

Goals per game is the easiest way to measure offense, but for me and I would guess most hockey fans, the most important element of a good hockey game is quality scoring chances. Give me a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat 2-1 game over a sloppy, penalty ravaged 6-5 game any day of the week. For my money, the idea of “half court hockey” could really allow for the truly skilled players and Poor Man’s Orrs to push the Derian Hatcher dinosaurs out the door that much faster.

And who would be against that, aside from Mrs. Hatcher?