Thursday, February 23, 2012

Give the kid his due.

The Hockey Writers in the NHL are the ones who vote on many of the most important individual awards in the NHL.  They are now starting to compile their lists of candidates for each award.  The good writers are starting to talk to players, coaches and managers around the league to get their opinions to help form their own opinions.

I am not an expert, but only a play-by-play guy,  but I have a hard time believing Erik Karlsson wont get real consideration for the Norris Trophy.  Reputation is a huge part of the selection process and Karlsson hasn't been in the league long enough to have one,  but his numbers have to get him some true consideration.

Karlsson is the best offensive defenceman in the NHL and it isn't a close race.  On this day (Feb 23) he is 20 points ahead of Brian Campbell who is 2nd in the defenceman's points race.  Its a huge margin against the best blue liners in the world.  He is 22 points ahead of Shea Weber, 26 points ahead of Duncan Keith, 28 points ahead of Chara, and 29 points ahead of Nick Lidstrom.  These are the players most often mentioned as Norris candidates. 

Plus/Minus is also a major stat used in the selection process I am told.  Karlsson isn't close to the +26 of Lidstrom,  but now in the ballpark with his +15 after being a -33 last season.  Clearly Karlsson has become a much better defender.  He is close to Chara's +21 or Weber's +18.  My counter point is,  that if Karlsson played on one of the more mature teams with more experience and a better grasp of team defence,  what would Karlsson's plus/minus be?

In a league where there is constant importance put on generating offence Karlsson's numbers should be given added weight especially considering how far ahead of his peers he is.

I don't know if the writers will vote a 21 year old into the winners position, but if Karlsson continues on his current pace and isn't in the top 3 after the final votes are tallied,  then there is something wrong with this process.

See you at the rink.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A fathers pride is a wonderful thing.

The Ottawa Senators are on the road for a 2 game trip to Florida.  The player's fathers are along for the trip.  This is not the first fathers trip for Ottawa and in fact almost every team now does this each year.  It never gets old. 

When you watch the fathers in the stands watching practice it still seems like they are watching their boys the same way they did when they were 10.  Little groups of different fathers together, sipping coffee, and talking about drills, games, the league and life.

Hockey rinks are meeting places as the kids grow up.  They are still meeting places when they are all grown up and playing in the NHL.  The only difference is the coffee is better and you need a pass to get into practice.

How proud these men must be to continue to watch their sons.  They spent so much time in cold rinks watching them chase their dreams and now they sit in warmer rinks watching them live their dreams.

The feeling is the same for every father.  Watching the pursuit is what draws the pride not the capturing of it.  Could Daniel Alfredsson's father be any prouder of his son than Matt Carkner's father be of his?  Not a chance.  Both chased it and caught it.  In very different ways and from very different paths but both have made their fathers very proud because of the pursuit.

When I watch my son play I feel the same way.  I don't care if he ever earns a paycheck playing hockey.  I love watching him pursue it.  He plays on a minor midget team of 15 and 16 year olds even though my son has just turned 13.  Watching him compete and fit in with young men older than he is makes me very proud on many levels.  It makes me thankful for the parenting done with all of his team mates who have welcomed him and made him part of their team.  He has learned lessons about life which can only make him a better man as he grows.

The Senators fathers trip is a gushing of pride you can't help but feel and it reminds us that the pursuit is the most important lesson for all of us.

See you at the rink.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No Power Plays, Impossible.

There has been a great deal of conversation about the recent Senators/Boston game in which the Bruins were awarded 4 power plays in the game and the Senators received none.  Since there has never been an NHL game played in the history of hockey where one team didn't commit at least one foul, there can be only 3 reasons for this. 

The officials had or have a personal axe to grind with the Senators or its GM or its coach or one, some or all of its players.  The officials are not competent enough to call a game correctly or fairly.  The third possibility is that the Boston Bruins are the cleanest team in the history of hockey and actually did not commit a single foul in that game.  That seems completely unlikely since they do average more penalty minutes per game than any other team in the NHL.  It also seems completely unlikely since there are TV cameras at the game.  Those cameras caught Lucic hitting Condra from behind, Marchand chopping the stick out of Kuba's hand,  Kelly hitting Neil in the neutral zone 40 feet away from the puck and Alfredsson being tripped 15 feet away from an official.  Any one of the four were easy calls for any official to make.

Debating the reasons is a waste of time.  What should be automatic from the NHL standpoint is, an automatic review of the officials performance on any night when one or both teams do not receive a penalty.  As we all know there is no chance any team has or will ever play a foul free NHL game,  so when no penalties are called, the officials should have to answer why they either did not see the infractions or chose not to call the infractions.

Ottawa fans are all churned up right now about this,  but they are not alone.  The New York Islanders have far more reason to be angry.  In back to back games with the Leafs,  the Islanders didn't receive a power play in either game.  That's right,  the Leafs played over 120 consecutive minutes of NHL hockey (one game went to overtime) without giving up a single power play.  How is that possible?  Its possible because of one of the 3 reasons stated at the top of the blog.

Recently former NHL ref Kerry Fraser wrote in his column on the TSN website that after reviewing the game he thought Boston in fact should be more upset than Ottawa since he spotted many more Senator's fouls which went uncalled.  I am sure that is absolutely true, but that is a debate about quantity.  My debate is about absence.  The complete absence of the officials ability to see or willingness to call penalties on one team over another.  I will not challenge Kerry on matters of officiating since his resume is long and mine is non-existent in this area,  but I contend we have different arguments.

Refs are human and not robots.  The are subject to anger, empathy, bias, contempt and vengeance just like any other human.  I believe if you look at the way the Ottawa games have been officiated since coach Paul McLean publicly called out Dan O'Rourke after he called Erik Karlsson a "diver",  you will see a pattern.  Insult and dis-respect one ref, you disrespect and insult all of them and the brotherhood will make you pay for that.  The NHL and every single ref will tell you they carry complete neutrality into every game.  That is not possible nor reasonable to expect from any human.

The NHL should be very concerned each and every time any team in any game does not receive a single minor penalty.  That is a clear indication there is something seriously wrong with the officiating job done that night.

See you at the rink.

(Note-before I get all the nit-picking comments, yes I am aware the Bruins did receive 2 fighting majors in the game.  Neither produced a power play for either team.)