Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Am I the only person who couldn't find any of the recent suspension yielding pre-season hits on youtube? 

Anyway, I finally got to see it on hockeybuzz.com (here it is incase you're having the same problem  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7ncsb4XZk4&feature=player_embedded ), and I am totally disgusted with the leagues ruling.  This is getting ridiculous.  Repeat offender or not how could any level headed person take a look at that hit and think it should cost the perpetrator half a million dollars.

Columbus is finally getting some innertia and the league hands down a ruling that will keep their first big UFA prize out of the line up to start the year?  This is a sad state of affairs.  I thought I was biased when I felt Aaron Rome got made an example of unfairly but this is even worse.

Bring back Colin Campbell...yeesh.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mad props for Datsyuk

While I'm still uncertain he really deserved the Selke every year from 2008-2010 I just got a whole new appreciation for Pavel Datsyuk.

I was you-tubing shoot out goals and under Datsyuk's highlight reel package were a number of high impact hits.  On the west coast we don't see a lot of Datsyuk, and we're all well aware of his puck skills and responsible two way play but it was a revelation to see him flatten the siginificantly fatter, oops, I mean larger Dustin Penner, or skate right through Nick Hjalmarsson. The list goes on and on. 

So, this significantly brings his overall game up in my opinion, far far above where it was at the conclusion of the past injury plagued year.

I'm not an old-time hockey fan, but it's nice to see a skilled player be willing to do that and not just get punched in the face six times without reaction.  Being out here in the Pacific it might have been a much more pleasant offseason if our superstars were willing to do likewise.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

missing the point

It is great that the NHL is actively working to create a safer working environment for its players.  In the NFL helmet to helmet contact or leading with the helmet is illegal and has been for a while.  I was listening to the radio today and the topic of discussion centred around the vague description of a head shot.  It's strange how something so simple could be so difficult to define.  Worse than that it totally misses the point.

Hits that target the head or the head is the primary point of impact are punishable, but what if the head is struck but not targeted or absorbing the most of the blow? 

It's not so much the confusion behind the rule as the inneptitude of the rule as a whole.  What logic dictates that a head injury comes only from a hit directly to the head? Of the  many definitions of the word concussion the one constant theme is "violent shaking or jarring". It's not so much where the hit lands as the whiplash which causes the brain to rock. A punch, elbow or shoulder in the face is probably less likely to cause a concussion then a high-impact hit to the body.

The bigger issue is that hockey is the fastest contact sport and thusly produces injuries that can't be compared to other contact sports like football.  The NHL sees the obvious answer to its media problem as the farce of the head shot, but it's all smoke and mirrors.  Really, where is the common sense?  Even worse is the idea that hard plastic coverings on elbow pads and sholder caps is to blame.  They are only as strong as the force behind them.

This brand of high-octane hockey in confined spaces is causing an increase in concussions.  When hitting and fighting were much more prominent in the league (althought statistics will show increases in fighting just take a look at a fight from 25 years ago and try to tell me todays bear-hugging staged faceoffs are anything close to the same) there were less head injuries.  There aren't any more head shots than there once was there's just more speed and less space.  The real answer is a bigger ice surface and it's a much harder fix than confusing head shot and equipment rules.  As long as the head shot decoy keeps everyone in the grey then the NHL won't feel pressure to force its owners to lose a row or two of high price tickets in revamping their arenas.

This doesn't mean the necessary change will never happen.  We've all seen how fast arenas can be altered when league sponsors threaten the NHL's bottom line after yet another embarassing preventable life-altering injury

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Team of Centres Continued

Kind of an awkward place to stop but I had a call to take...

6: Columbus - When I sat down to compile the list I didn't even have the Jackets in mind but when I started searching stats even with the addition of Jeff Carter, but I kept turning up Blue Coats. Carter was a stunning 54.7%, a leauge best +27 among centres and has fourty goal potential. Derek McKenzie was a surprising +14, chipped in a respectable 23 points (expected to increase this year) and a solid 52% in the circle. Andrew Murray was a +2 and proven vet Samuel Pahlsson is a great fourth liner, add Derek Brassard, the shifty playmaking pivot and this group is deep and dangerous.

This is where you really start splitting hairs, the big 5

5: St.Louis - The Blues made a great late season trade last year to bring in a power winger and a puck mover, and they brought in a couple great vets this offseason to compliment their core of young talent, like Scott Nichol, the underrated fourth line centre is gritty and among the league leaders in face off percentage and Jason Arnott is a great addition.  Patrick Berglund is a budding star and a healthy Andrew McDonald is a gifted PP specialist, deft puck mover and solid 53.4% in the circle. Chris Porter and Vlad Sobtoka are both options down the middle, both with face off percentages well in to the 50s.

4: Los Angeles - It's strange to think they're this far back after adding Mike Richards, but statistically they may just play their way to the top of the heap in the centremen department by seasons end. Anze Kopitar has shockingly good faceoff percentage, is an offensive dynamo and among league leaders in +/-.  Mike Richards is regarded as one of the leagues best and his points totals should rise in a less crowded group. Jarret Stoll is a threat on the PP with his wicked shot and a danger in the circle at 57.1% - he chipped in 43 points last season, pretty good for a third liner. Three youngsters can platoon on the fourth line, all with a bit of sandpaper and defensive responsibility. Kevin Westgarth was 50% in the circle last year with over 100 PIM and Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson can both take draws if Westgarth is taking care of business.

#3: Boston Bruins - The Bruins might have more depth than the next top two teams, and that's why they've edged out LA for a spot in the top three. The points totals of these players have to be taken with a grain of salt --  they'd probably be higher if they played for Nashville even. That said David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are two of the leagues best two way centres. The addition of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverly at last year's trade deadline solidified this group and the emergence of Gregory Campbell gives Boston probably the most depth at the position in the league when you factor in Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand who are natural centres, and oh ya, they've had a 90 point centre on the injured reserve for most of two seasons.

#2: San Jose - It's all about Jumbo Joe.  Thornton morphed in to the full deal this year. He's still one of the top scorers in the league, and one of the best five playmakers but now he's one of the best in take-a-ways and 54.5% in the circle last year. His combo of power and two-way ability are going to keep him among the games elite for years to come. Rookie sensation Logan Couture was publicized for his 30+ goal rookie campaign, but don't forget his +18 and 53.4% face off record. GM Doug Wilson vaulted his team in to the league's best centre-wise signing Michael Handzus to run the third line.  He can still chip in offensively but is known for his great two way play and faceoff pedigree. Joe Pavelski takes a turn at centre but he'll likely move to wing with youngsters Torrie Mitchell, Ben Ferreiro and Andrew Desjardins all getting a shot in the circle.

#1: Vancouver - As a Canucks fan I really didn't want to have to come to this conclusion, it would simply be too suspicious, but luckily for Nux Nation there wasn't any way no to call them the best of the best.  Quite simply they have the league's highest scoring centre, Henrik Sedin, on the first unit, the second highest centre goal scorer and Selke trophy winner Ryan Kesler on the second and the leagues best faceoff man on the third. Max Lapierre showed his true value again this postseason.  He's had a rought patch skating for three teams last season but he is focused for AV's Nux. 

There you have it...debate amongst yourselves.


It's been long said that a team with strength down the middle will go far.  When I attempted to rank the top ten team's for centres it showed to be true as 8 of the teams on this list were in the playoffs last year and the other two were competitive, but then again who wasn't??

One thing that also became obvious is that there was a definite top 5 that were very close but quickly seperated themselves from the pack, not to the discredit of the bottom five who were only marginally behind the big 5

Without further adieu....

10: Buffalo Sabres - A healthy Derek Roy and newly signed Ville Leino returning to his true position are an excellent 1-2 duo in your top six. There's questions as to who will anchor the third line but Paul Gaustad dominated the circle and improved offensively, with Cody McCormick growing in to a likely fourth line role.  This still leaves Nate Gerbe, Jokin Hecht and Co. incase of emergency.

9: Chicago Blackhawks - Oozing with top end talent the Hawks have gotten a little thin after losing John Madden and Ryan Johnson in consecutive years from the fourth line role.  Kruger has big shoes to fill in those two men and Dave Bolland, a thorn in the side of all competitors with more offensive ability than he's shown yet is surprisingly weak in the circle, but Toews and Sharp more than buoy this group.

8: Tampa Bay - No wonder this rag-tag group made a run to the East finals. They had the top goal scoring centre in the league, a rejuvinated Vinny Lecavalier and breakout year from Dominic Moore. Nate Thompson is looking like a future great fourth line centre while Dana Tyrell and Jones are compitent replacements if need be.

7: Washington Capitals - Did you know Nick backstrom was a top ten in +/- and 52.5% in the dot? They paid a premium to keep Brooks Laich. Many questioned his pay given his points totals but everyone on Washington gave up some O this year.  Just look at how well they improved defensively. Marcus Johansen is a question mark in the third line role but he has all the tools to fit the bill and the addition of Jeff Halpern, 56.9% on the draw last year and +6, are a huge improvement, nevermind incumbent Matt Hendricks is a rare combination of gritt and defensive ability with 110 PIM and 53.1% face off record.

6: Columbus Blue Jackets: back later

game changer

Below is an excerpt from a letter I just sent to the Hockey News now that I've finally had time to digest all the tragedy the hockey world has experienced this summer:

It's absurd that people can still deny the link between mental health problems and multiple head injuries. In the wake of the horrible tragedies of this agonizing offseason it's time to fix the problem.
NHL rosters must be trimmed to remove the pure enforcer out of the league permanently. Somehow it became okay to have a full-time pugilist on an NHL roster and the league needs to change so that teams no longer have the flexibility to dress an enforcer every night.
If line-ups went from four lines to three it would be impossible to keep a Wade Belak or Rick Rypien on an NHL roster, it would be too costly to the win/loss column. None of these guys really want to fight each night but the NHL knows fighting equals ratings. The league's sacrifice of these brave and often lovable men is going to cost them when the family of a brain dead or suicidal fighter drags the NHL brand through a nasty law suit.
I'm not saying fighting doesn't belong in hockey but the role of the enforcer is done.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

League Needs Emergency Inquiry

I have to wonder if anybody in the league office is atleast informally questioning the bizarre rash of emergency appendectomies that have been taking place.

Before the lockout I don't think I can recall a single reported case of accute appendicitis or a need for an emergency appendectomy.  A brief google search for 'HOCKEY APPENDECTOMY' yields a multitude of names in recent months: Jordan Eberle, Craig Adams, Patrick Sharp, Mike Morris of North Eastern, Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Chris Mason, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Modano, Nick Shultz, TJ Oshie, Paul Stastny and Ruslan Fedotenko to name a few.  Of the 50 hits on Google nearly 3/4 were for the higher profile Sharp and Eberle.

The reason the NHL should be looking further in to this phenomenon is the huge number of issues surrounding what is a fairly common occurence.  It is reported that 8 out of 100 people in North America may suffer accute appendicitis, with a ratio of 1.4:1 men to women.

As I waded through pages of medical sites and grimmaced at unexpected pictures of both appendectomy surgery and inflamed appendices I found a ton of information that calmed my fears in regards to this bizarre increase in occurence among NHLers, but still more that piqued my interest and unfortunately some that shows a need for a full fledged inquiry.

Appendectomy surgery is more likely to occur in men, most often in the ages of 10 to 30 but predominantly before the age of 20.  The odd link between the winter season and appendectomy (most previlent October to May during the NHL season) seemed like coincidence at first but when I read about diets that lead to appendicitis and linked it with the seasonal, age and gender information it just added up.

Diets low in fibre and rich in refined carbohydrates have been linked to accute appendicitis and emergency appendectomy.

Low fibre is an issue for most people as our diets are starved of it.  If an NHL isn't getting his dietary fibre and is ingesting just one carbohydrate rich beverage per day (and it's safe to say that's below average) during the course of an NHL gameday which could include pregame skate, gym time, warm up, game and cool down bike riding then it wouldn't take long for the appendix to become inflamed, would it?

The apparent reason that a lack of fibre leads to appendix issues is a link between infrequent bowel movements and the onset of accute appendicitis. If fecal matter isn't moved through the system quickly enough then it will back up in a fecal retention reservoir in the colon which can inflame the appendix.

Basically being in the NHL is a cocktail for appendicitis, but why is it becoming more of an issue now? Stay with me here as we connect the dots.

July 13 2005 the NHL lockout ends

June 19, 2006 the NHL and PepsiCo. enter in to an agreement making Gatorade the official sports drink of the NHL.

Present day: Continued rise in appendectomy amongst NHLers

In just 240 Ml serving of Gatorade Peform 02 your body would ingest 14 grams of carbohydrates.  Based on a 2000 calorie/day diet the recomended daily intake is 300 grams of carbohydrates. One 750 ML Gatorade represents over 1/10 of your daily recommended intake. This isn't a sports drink with-hunt by any means.  A cup of cooked pasta, the prefered pre-game meal of most NHLers is listed as having between 37 and 44 grams of carbohydrates.

In general athletes need to replace lost nutrients and have a high carb diet, but is the tradition and availability of carbs  to NHLers a risk to their health?