Thursday, October 13, 2011

Buncha Stuff

by NiNY

I read a great hockey book before the season started, that I haven't had the time to review on here. It's called Gretzky to Lemieux, by Ed Willes. It tells the story of the 1987 Canada Cup, in particular the final series between the host Canada and the intrepid Russians.

Mr. Willes has a casual narrative style that is easy to read, humorous and appropriate for his sharp eye for the game. He incorporates interesting side bars, for example on Team Canada coach Mike Keenan, that greatly aid the reader in setting the proper context for the action.

I was unaware of the amount of awesome on both the Canada and the Russian teams in that tournament. Willes illustrates the confluence of dynasties that made up Team Canada, between the outgoing Islanders early 80s dynasty and the then-current Oilers dynasty, pitting the differences in style - on and off the ice - in sharp relief and to great effect.

The hockey sounds like it was sublime, and Willes' description of it pays appropriate homage.

The denouement is set up well before the actual end of the book as Willes points out the distinct relationship that Gretzky forged with the Russians in general. This sets up the last part of the book, after the tournament is completed, as Soviet Russia's grasp on both the country and the hockey team starts to crumble.

It's a great read, and I recommend it to any hockey fan.

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The realignment argument got a boost in the arm this week when the inimitable Bob McKenzie of TSN dashed off a tweet mentioning that the Red Wings are lobbying hard for relocation to the Eastern Conference under any realignment scheme. That opened a can of twitter worms that got, among other people, many of us Wild fans up in arms. Bob then followed up with a lengthy article on TSN outlining the various different plans in his typical thorough and brilliant manner.

My main takeaway from that article was that there is simply no easy option here. Whether the prevailing consideration is geographic proximity for divisional or conference play, or maintaining or improving the current playoff format, this is one tricky issue.

Obviously, for the Wild's sake, I would prefer that they get to play fewer games one and two time zones behind Central time. But there are several teams with the same gripe.

One thing though, if Detroit's beef is that they have to travel more than other teams, I have to think Dallas and even Minnesota have a bigger claim to that problem than Detroit does. At most, Detroit's playing one time zone behind them in a road division game. Dallas plays two time zones behind them for ALL road division games, and Minnesota plays one or two times zones behind them for road division games. Detroit may 'deserve' a relocation back to the East for other reasons, but division travel is a weak argument in my opinion.

It will be very interesting to see how this gets resolved.

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Rick DiPietro and his ridiculous contract has to go down as one of the biggest NHL flops of all time. He's a backup on the Islanders right now. That is, when he's not hurt. Whenever I think of DiPietro, I think of the line in the Hockey News "Rick DiPietro is the best goalie in the NHL...just ask him."

Obviously it's common for players to play their best in a contract year. So why Wang thought it would be a good idea to give a relatively unproven (at the time) goalie a 15 year deal is absolutely beyond me. A $4.5M backup, under contract until 2021. I mean...

From 2005-2006 to 2007-2008, Rick averaged 62.66 games per year, 29.33 wins, 2.80 GAA and .907 SPCT. In the three seasons since then he's averaged 13 games per year, 3.66 wins, 3.18 GAA and .893 SPCT.

He's won 127 games in 8 NHL seasons. That's an average of 15.8 per season. On a per 82 game season basis, his wins/games played (127/207) works out to 33.92 - which really isn't bad. He's not a bad goalie. He simply can't stay in the lineup.

And now he's a backup.

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I'm going to undertake a project wherein I will watch at least one broadcast from each team's home announcers this season. I got this idea arguing on Twitter with a Red Wings fan who took issue with my position that the Wings announcers are horrendous. I state up front: the Wild announcing team is not up to my standard of broadcasting excellence, either. And the FSNorth productions are of an unacceptably low standard. Anyway, should be fun.

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Speaking of the Wild, I'll be very interested to see how they respond after the ugly two-game east coast swing. They have this huge winning streak against the Oilers on the line, but if they're figuring out Yeo's system, they're not showing it lately. Either that or the thing don't work (which I think is the less-likely possibility.)

Interestingly, defense, as measured by goals-against anyway, hasn't been too bad. But you can't blow a two-goal third period lead against a team like Ottawa.

Consistency for 60 minutes has been something the Wild has lacked since before Richards, even. If Yeo can get that out of this team it will be a major accomplishment in and of itself.

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