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Saturday, November 28, 2009

OGA Road Trip III: The Battle of the Birds

After an illness- and Turkey Day-induced delay, here comes Part Two of Blogger Day in Atlanta:

Opening Faceoff - PIT @ ATL, 21 NOV 09

Frozen Pill and I returned to Philips Arena roughly an hour before game time. While we had plenty of time to partake of the $5 media buffet - which looked pretty good, by the way - we were still full from lunch at The Flying Biscuit. Instead, we picked up our "cheat sheets" (Ever wonder how announcers know all those detailed stats and trivia about players on both teams? Cheat sheets.) and headed up to the press box.

Along the way, we passed a group of 4-5 Penguins, led by Bill Guerin, kicking a soccer ball around. Our guide to the elevator, the ever-helpful Thrashers' PR Intern Lee Wilson, told us about the Columbus Blue Jackets' recent visit to Philips Arena, in which the Jackets managed to get their soccer ball stuck in the rafters and had to get building maintainence to get it down. Apparently, though they travel with roughly a dozen sticks per player, not to mention all the extra equipment, the Blue Jackets only bring one soccer ball on the road.

Once inside the press box, we found our assigned seats. We bloggers were in the upper level of the press box, just a few feet removed from the scouts. The presence of the scouts led to much speculation on the part of the Pill and myself. While it's perfectly understandable for teams with upcoming games against either Atlanta or Pittsburgh to send scouts to Philips Arena, we were intrigued by the presence of scouts from two Western Conference clubs, neither of which play either the Thrashers or Penguins in the near future. You have to think they were scouting individuals, rather than teams. Rather than indulging in wild speculation, however, the Pill and I have chosen to keep our thoughts on a certain club in dire need of a puck-moving defenseman, and with left wings to spare, to ourselves. In the category of Cheap Thrills, however, it was quite cool to look to my right and see Detroit Red Wings' Director of Pro Scouting Mark Howe watching the game and taking notes.

Another great experience was getting to talk to Chris Vivlamore, the Thrashers' beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He relayed to us what has become a common theme around the continent: newspapers are cutting staff and struggling to remain viable as more and more people turn to the internet for news. While this increases the audience for (and importance of) bloggers (as evidenced by the Thrashers hosting their third Blogger Day in the past two seasons), we bloggers must find an answer to the same question the newspapers are currently struggling to answer: How do we make money providing the information which consumers are used to obtaining for free on the internet?

The game itself featured a number of firsts: Evander Kane's first Fighting Major, the first penalty shot I'd ever witnessed in person (Max Talbot shot it wide), the first multi-goal game of Martin Skoula's career, and the first time I'd ever seen Ilya Kovalchuk tossed from the game (after accumulating 19 PIMs in one incident early in the 3rd).

Firsts aside, the arena was nice and loud. A major source of annoyance for the Thrashers fans had to be the abundance of Penguins fans in attendance. The cheer that issued forth for each Pittsburgh goal was easily as loud as the cheers for the Atlanta goals. This reminded me very much of the Red Wings' visits to Dallas, which are made worse by Detroit's success against the Stars over the last decade-plus.

While it would've been nice to see the visiting fans leave Philips Arena quickly and quietly after the game, this was not to be. The Thrashers played the first two periods as if they were intimidated by the Defending Stanley Cup Champs. The Thrashers weren't able to accomplish much offensively, despite the Pens' patchwork quilt defensive corps. When they did get past the defense, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was on his game, making several great saves over the course of the evening. In fact, the Thrashers' first sign of life came at 6:52 of the 3rd, when Kovy went after Pittsburgh winger Matt Cooke in apparent retaliation for an uncalled trip ("slewfoot" was the term used by Atlanta Coach John Anderson) in front of the benches.

With their Captain off to the showers, Atlanta finally got their collective game on. A shorthanded goal by Chris Thorburn cut the Pittsburgh lead to 3-1, but the Thrashers didn't score again until Maxim Afinogenov beat Fleury with 17.5 seconds remaining in the game. It was too little, too late, however, and the Penguins left town with a deserved 3-2 win.

As soon as the game was over, we gathered our things and took the elevator down to the basement, with the goal of attending John Anderson's post-game press conference. As we approached the press room, Coach Anderson came out and strode purposefully to the Thrashers' locker room. Apparently, it was the shortest post-game presser of Anderson's tenure in Atlanta. Understandably, he felt that what he needed to say to his team was more important than anything he might say to the media.

Thus, Blogger Day ended a bit more abruptly than planned. Still, it was a great experience, and was capped off quite nicely with an invitation from Laura (aka Hildymac) of the scintillating Blues and Thrashers blog Wazzupwitchu? to join her and a couple of friends for soda pops at an Atlanta institution, Taco Mac. After much good conversation and...soda pop, Blogger Day was finally, officially over.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Texas Stars down Two...

...with only two mins to go.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brett Hull Night in Big D

Just a quick note to say I'll be at the Dallas Stars - St. Louis Blues game tonight, Tweeting from the (not-so) cheap seats. It's Brett Hull Night, so I'll be wearing my trusty Hull #22 sweater (my son says it's "Vintage", but it's not THAT old, right? Right?). Also, James Neal returns from suspension to help the Stars as they try to pin another road loss on Saint Loo. It won't be easy: the Blues are 3-1-3 away from the Scottrade Center.

And with that, I'm out the door...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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JabberHockey - 2 Minutes for Tryptophan

Please join us for another special edition of JabberHockey. This Sunday, Novermber 29th the OGA Boys are all three in the studio, bringing you the First Church of the Faceoff again at the special showtime of 10.00AM EST.

We will discuss the latest developments for teams' chances of post-season play as we monitor the PQC and we'll take advantage of this special holiday edition as the Colonel joins Frozen Pill and Big Tex live in the JabberHockey studio to recap our participation at Blogger Day in Atlanta, our scouting trip to the AHL's Texas Stars and more in our OGA Roundtable, Open Ice Hits.

We may even try to bring a couple of the kids on air for comment after having made the road trip to Cedar Park and sitting on the glass for the game. Out of the mouths of babes, and all.

So set a reminder for a special holiday edition of JabberHockey's First Church of the Faceoff (Sunday, 10.00AM Eastern, Nov. 29th) and we hope you can join us on the phones or in the chat room. Happy Thanksgiving!
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Monday, November 23, 2009

OGA Road Trip III: Blogger Day Morning Skate

Bill Guerin at the Penguins' morning skate in Atlanta 21 NOV 09

Last Saturday morning, Frozen Pill and I showed up at Philips Arena in Atlanta, where we met up with a group of Thrashers bloggers (for a good list, check out the blog roll at Bird Watchers Anonymous). We were all there to attend the Thrashers' second Blogger Day of the season. Shortly before 10:00am, we were given press credentials and escorted into Philips Arena to watch the morning skate.

While watching the morning skate, Thrashers' TV play-by-play guy Matt McConnell came over to say hi. McConnell seemed to be very personable. One question he asked us was our opinion of the 7:00pm start times for weeknight games. The consensus was that the 7:00pm starts made it difficult for fans to get to the games before puck drop. I don't know how Atlanta traffic compares to Dallas traffic, but Frozen Pill and I were in agreement that our 7:30pm start times in Dallas were critical for the fans. I hadn't really considered it until Mr. McConnell asked the question, but WHY is it that the East Coast teams start at 7:00? Seems to me that it's inconvenient for the fans in attendance AND for the fans in other time zones who want to watch the game live. As a Rangers' fan in Dallas, I know that I've got to get home from work by 6:00pm for the opening faceoff. What usually happens, though, is that I get home in time for the 1st intermission. I can see that this could be a blog post unto itself, however, so I'll move on...

Following the Thrashers' skate, we went down to their locker room and stood in the hallway, listening to Coach Anderson's press conference. The most interesting piece of info to come from the coach was his comment that the locker room was "pretty quiet", which seemed a rather stark contrast to the almost playful mood of the players during the morning skate.

We were then given the opportunity to interview Assistant Coach Randy Cunneyworth. Personally, it was a pleasant surprise for me, as it brought on one of those, "Hey - I had his hockey card when I was a kid!" moments. Honestly, as I type this, I can't even recall whether or not I asked him a question. Frozen Pill has the audio, though - I'll have to check with him and get back to you.

Next, we went back up to the rink for the Penguins' skate. I was struck by the range in player size, from 5'8" Chris Bourque to 6'5" Michael Rupp. The NHL isn't like the NFL, where GIANT seems to be the norm these days. Hockey players are getting bigger, but a small man can still be successful in the NHL (see St. Louis, Martin). I was hoping to get a decent shot of either Crosby or Malkin to post, but a good shot never materialized. Instead, I had to snap a picture of Big Billy Guerin (see above), and I'm fine with that. I enjoyed his time with the Stars, and he was a worthy opponent for Dallas while wearing an Edmonton sweater. In fact, I can almost forgive him for his time spent in New Jersey.

We bloggers left the Pens to their devices and walked back down to the Thrashers' locker room, where we again stood outside and interviewed Rich Peverley. He came across as a guy who is genuinely enjoying himself in Atlanta, and who is grateful for the opportunity to play. When asked The Question (which I'm sure he's already sick of answering, and which I was fully prepared to ask but was beaten to the punch by The Falconer), he attributed his success in Atlanta to increased ice time and trust from the coaching staff. To his credit, Peverley said nothing about having Ilya Kovalchuk to pass to, rather than Jordin Tootoo.

I did ask Peverley a couple of questions. One of them was covered by the Pill in a previous post. The other was a follow-up after he was asked his favorite places to play (New York and Montreal): What is Rich Peverley's least favorite place to play? San Jose. Before this intrepid reporter could throw out another such penetrating question, the interview was over. We did, however, get some bonus time with Senior P.R. Director Rob Koch - good background stuff on player personalities, number selection (did you know that Toby Enstrom chose #39 to honor Original Thrasher and MODO teammate Per Svartvadet? Now you do.) and the like.

We then broke for lunch, and Frozen Pill and I accompanied Aaron B and The Falconer from Bird Watchers Anonymous to a funky little joint called The Flying Biscuit Cafe. Great food (try the Southern Scramble with grits!) and great conversation with two very knowledgeable and passionate hockey bloggers.

Tomorrow, Part Two: The Battle of the Birds, as seen from the Press Box.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

OGA Road Trip III: Atlanta Day One - by Big Tex

As I type this, it's a chilly Sunday night in Atlanta. I'm still trying to get my thoughts together regarding OGA's Atlanta Experience, but I wanted to share a few initial thoughts before I have to get a few hours' sleep and catch a plane back to Dallas. By Tuesday morning, I'll have the rest posted. So, without further delay:

1. Philips Arena is unique among NHL barns, in that all luxury boxes are located on one side of the arena. The suites begin just above the lower bowl and extend almost to the ceiling. Not only does it look cool (reminds me of an opera house), but the design actually puts all upper bowl seats closer to the ice, which means the roof is lower, which makes crowd noise more of a factor in the game...big plus.

2. Thrashers' bloggers are very knowledgeable, passionate, a mix of northern transplants and natives, male and female, and an all-around good bunch of people. They are an asset to the Thrashers' organization.

3. The fact that Saturday was Atlanta's third Blogger Day speaks well of the organization. Not every NHL club reaches out to bloggers, despite the obvious decline of the print media. Atlanta is ahead of the curve in this regard, and will only benefit long-term from this program.

I do have much more to say, but my pillow and a plane ride are calling. More tomorrow.

To be continued...
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The Tampa Bample Sample

Tonight, the Thrashers host the Tampa Bay Lightning. While Frozen Pill is catching a plane home (at the airport now), Big Tex will be at the game and tweeting key observations to the masses during this divisional rivalry matchup.

You can follow @OGAs_BigTex on twitter.com.

We will have some roundup posts going up next week, recapping our invite from the Thrashers for Blogger Day regarding the pressers, the interviews, the press box and the games themselves.

In the meantime, if you were unable to join us live on our special edition of JabberHockey this morning (First Church of the Faceoff), you can listen to the archived broadcast on our homepage at www.ongoalanalysis.com.

We were joined this morning by the Falconer from Bird Watchers Anonomyous (the Thrashers blog on SB Nation) and we discussed yesterday's events and the game against the Penguins.

Stay tuned to www.ongoalanalysis.com for our roundup posts on OGA Road Trip II this week as well as our growing list of OGA Calls on the teams' playoff qualifications. Check out the OGA PQC Status Spectrum and where the teams are landing as they hit their respective Game20s.

Also, check out the OGA Store and get your subscription to the Daily Tip-In Report and you can know what OGA Knows.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Atlanta Digging Deep for Third Period

Facing a 3-0 defecit, the Thrashers feel the need for a mid game call-up.
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Moose Gets The Start

JOHAN HEDBERG in net for tonight and gets first save. Going to keep an eye on this tonight as ATL plays again tomorrow at 5PM. So, Moose is the call tonight vs the Pens...tomorrow should see Pavelec vs. the Lightning. But we are going to be interested in shot toals tonight.

And Fleury robbs Kovy, then Moose returns the favor with a solid save of his own.

Shots are close right now, but Bogo is now in the box. AndPens capitalize with the first goal.

Let's see how the Thrashers repond...
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PIT@ATL - Pre-Game

Big Tex and Frozen Pill are at the game early. Having found our way to our seats in the Press Box, we are taking in a little quiet before the storm. The doors to the public have just opened and we can see the early arrival of Thrasher fans making their way to their seats.

On our walk to Philips Arena, we noticed plenty of Penguins sweaters on fans outside the arena. Are they locals who like rooting for the Stanley Cup champs or have plenty of Pens fans descended onto Atlanta for tonight's game?

Obviously, the Thrashers will use tonight's contest as a measuring stick. During our interview with Rich Peverley, Big Tex asked if it's the outsiders who see this as such an opportunity or if the players see this game in such a manner when playing the defending Cup champs.

The answer was, "definitely". So, if the Thrashers want to guage their early season's success by tonight's game, they face a now-not-so-depleted Pittsburgh lineup...and one getting healthier by the day. Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar are back and it looks like Brooks Orpik will rejoin the team tonight as well.

Short posts tonight from the game via the mobile phone. But more to come soon. Follow @ongoalanalysis and @OGAs_BigTex on twitter for running updates throughout the game.

This is going to be a good one and I think the Pens will have their work cut out for them tonight.
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Blogger Day is Here

The OGA Boys are waiting for the post-skate presser...and morning skate for the Thrash was incredible. These guys are ready for this game tonight. Anxious to see how the Pens' mood compares later this morning...
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Good News for the Black- and Blue- and OGA on the Road

First, about last night...

After last night's victories for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets, both teams are now CHASING STANLEY - IN the Stanley Cup Playoffs per OGA's Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) performance model. How do we know what we know? Go read The Tao of OGA to find out. If you're a fan of either team, start saving for playoff tickets now.

Had I the time, I'd discuss such topics as, "Where's Jonathan Toews? After a 34-35-69 season last year, the 'Hawks captain is on pace for 12-40-52 this season. Were he a defenseman, that would be a nice season," or "Columbus looked good last night, but they're not consistently playing at the level they were at during their playoff push last season." Instead of getting into such discussion-worthy items, I've got to get packed and get gone. Where am I going? I believe the answer may be found in this classic tune (is that The OGA Boys singing backup?):

Okay, so Frozen Pill and I are flying, not taking a midnight train...but FP's flight doesn't touch down in Hotlanta until almost midnight tonight, and we'd rather live in Rich Peverley's world than live without him in ours, so it's entirely appropriate. We'll be at "Blogger Day 2" tomorrow, and will be blogging, Tweeting, belching, etc, live from The Battle of the Birds (that's Penguins @ Thrashers, for those of you who don't want to think this morning). Should be fun...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009


A quick post: about this weekend's coming events:

OGA AT THE GAME. Big Tex and Frozen Pill will be spending all day Saturday at Phillips Arena in Atalanta, GA as part of the Atlanta Thrashers' 2nd 'Blogger Day' as the Thrashers host the champion Pittsburgh Penguins on November 21st.

We will be covering the morning skates for both teams, a chance to interview Rich Peverley and view coach John Anderson's pressers after the morning skate and the game. We will keep you posted here on the blog as well as via tweets (@ongoalanalysis) as we make our way east to Atlanta on Friday to cover the game from the press box on Saturday evening.

Obviously, a huge thanks out to the most excellent Thrashers PR department for having us. We are happy to make the trip out for this great weekend of hockey!

Also, we will be spending Blogger Day on Saturday with The Falconer from SB Nation's Bird Watchers Anonymous (also in attendance) who will then join us on a special edition of JabberHockey as we host the First Church of the Faceoff at 10.00AM EST this Sunday. We will discuss all the happenings surrounding Atlanta's Blogger Day and the game itself vs the Penguins on Saturday evening.

Please join us for live blogging from the event and game all day Saturday, November 21st and also for a special, early edition of JabberHockey on Sunday (11/22/09) morning.

More details to come so stay tuned!
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hump Day Hockey Thoughts

Here’s what’s on my mind this morning:

IF THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS EVER RELOCATE, I hope they move to Tombstone, Arizona. I think “The Town too Tough To Die” deserves a hockey team which lives by the same creed. Anyone else notice the Predators are 7-3-0 in their last ten games, after starting the season 3-5-1? In general, all you hear is that David Legwand and Martin Erat aren’t scoring. That duo certainly has struggled to put biscuits in baskets, and top liners Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont have already combined to miss 13 games this season, yet Nashville continues to find ways to win. The Preds are currently just one point out of a playoff spot…On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 3-11-5 and have dropped four in a row. I wonder if Phil Kessel is glad he chose Toronto over Nashville back in September?

GAME-WINNING SAVE UPDATE: Thursday, 12 NOV, ATL@NYR. With the Rangers trailing, 4-3, and 6:45 remaining in the 3rd period, Ales Kotalik rings one off the post on the Power Play (h/t Jim Cerny). ATL adds an empty-netter for the 5-3 win…ALSO, Saturday, 14 NOV, DAL@PHX. Late in the 3rd, Phoenix goes down a man while clinging to a 3-2 lead. On the ensuing Power Play, Dallas’ James Neal tests the post with a shot, and the post proves its’ mettle (or metal) (h/t Frozen Pill). Phoenix wins, 3-2, and the post earns 2nd star honors…That’s two more Game-Winning Saves, for a total of FIVE on the season. The number of times GWS Theory has been disproven so far this season? ZERO. Keep watching, kids…

IT BEGINS TOMORROW NIGHT: Starting Thursday, Yours Truly will be attending five NHL contests over the next ten days. Here’s how it all shakes out:

Game One: Thursday, 19 NOV – CBJ@DAL
Game Two: Saturday, 21 NOV – PIT@ATL
Game Three: Sunday, 22 NOV – TBL@ATL
Game Four: Wednesday, 25 NOV – STL@DAL
Game Five: Saturday, 28 NOV – TBL@DAL

As usual, I’ll be Tweeting from all games (@OGAs_BigTex). In addition, I’ll be blogging from Atlanta, and should have plenty to write about, as I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to the Thrashers’ second “Blogger Day” this Saturday. I’ll be at the morning skate, an interview with Rich “Best Waiver-Wire Pickup Ever” Peverley, Coach John Anderson’s post-skate and post-game pressers, and I’ll be Tweeting from the rarefied air of the Philips Arena press box during the game. Should be interesting…

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bon Voyage, Nikita Filatov - by Big Tex

photo: www.faceoff.com

I'm very disappointed to see Nikita Filatov leaving Columbus for Russia and the KHL. Not surprised, mind you, just disappointed. The Blue Jackets have been grooming the kid for stardom, as evidenced by the controversy they created last season with their decision to bring Filatov up from Syracuse to watch Columbus' final push for a playoff berth, rather than playing on a Syracuse team which was also in the playoff hunt. Conventional Wisdom going into this season was that Filatov was ready for the NHL. Apparently, Jackets' Coach Ken Hitchcock didn't think so, as evidenced by multiple healthy scratches and fourth-line minutes for the young Muscovite.

Youth is undoubtedly a factor here. Clearly, Filatov was unhappy with his limited ice time, and the impatience of youth certainly factored in his decision to go to the KHL, where he'll get top-line minutes. Impatience aside, Filatov (unsourced speculation alert: ...and GM Scott Howson, perhaps?) isn't too far in the wrong here: He can only learn so much from the Press Box, and needs to be on the ice in order to achieve his full potential. In order to get the minutes he felt he deserved, however, Filatov needed to embrace The Hitchcock Way, which can be difficult even for North American-born superstars (just ask Mike Modano or Brett Hull).

Instead, the kid has chosen the easy way out. By going to Russia, Filatov will gain confidence and his offensive game will blossom. By not playing for Hitchcock, though, his defensive game will never fully develop. In essence, Filatov could be shortening his career - NHL or KHL - by going this route. Ask yourself this question: Would Mike Modano still be in the NHL if he couldn't center a checking line? Hitch taught Mo the Art of Two-Way Hockey. He could teach young Nikita Filatov, too...if only the kid wanted to learn.

On a related note, I'll be in the arena for the Blue Jackets' next game. Thursday night, I'll be Tweeting as fast as my fat fingers can fly across the oh-so-tiny keys of my Blackjack, as Columbus visits Dallas to kick off a five-game roadie. Follow along @OGAs_BigTex. Whatever happens, I promise I won't Tweet lines from Anchorman (thanks for that, James Mirtle).

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Maurice Richard and the Myth of 50 in 50 (Part 2) - by Big Tex

In Part One, the two most common arguments used to defend Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s feat of scoring 50 goals in 50 games were exposed as myths. In the process of researching that article, however, I discovered a surprising truth in Richard’s achievement – a truth which makes his 50 in 50 even more unique than previously thought. In order to explain the uniqueness of the Rocket’s 50 in 50, I had to develop a new quantitative concept: Statistical Supremacy.

The name is based on the military concept of Air Supremacy, which is defined as “…the complete dominance in the air power of one side’s air forces over the other side’s during a military campaign.” (h/t Wikipedia). One step below Air Supremacy would be Air Superiority, which is simply one side having an advantage over their opponent.

As applied to hockey, Statistical Supremacy would be “the complete dominance of a given statistical category by an individual or (in the case of team stats) team.” After studying goal-scoring stats over the entire history of the NHL, I determined that “complete dominance” is achieved by scoring a minimum of 50% more goals than the nearest competitor. Statistical Superiority, by comparison, would be achieved by scoring a minimum of one more goal than the nearest competitor. The value of Statistical Supremacy lies in its’ utility: Length of season or high scoring vs. low scoring era are irrelevant. All that is measured is complete dominance of a given statistical category for one particular season.

In the 1944-45 season, Maurice Richard not only became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season (coincidentally, a 50-game season), but he also became the first player in NHL history to achieve Statistical Supremacy (SS) in Goals, as his nearest competition – Boston’s Herb Cain– only scored 32. Despite a league average of 7.35 Goals/Game that season, despite the fact that 22 of 117 players in the NHL that season (18.8%) scored 20 or more goals, the Rocket still managed to set himself apart from the crowd. Until the 44-45 season, no one – not even Joe Malone, with his 44 goals in 20 games back in 1917-18 – had ever finished the goal-scoring race so far ahead of the pack.

Remarkably, Richard duplicated the feat just two seasons later. In the 1946-47 campaign (now a 60-game schedule, in which the Average G/Gm dropped to 6.32), he finished with 45 goals, trailed by Roy Conacher (DET) and Bobby Bauer (BOS), who each tallied 30. Though the Rocket had many good seasons ahead of him and retired with 544 goals to his credit, he never demonstrated SS over his competitors again.

There were a handful of others, however, beginning with Gordie Howe. Howe’s 1951-52 (47 goals) and 1952-53 (49 goals) seasons were SS. Nine years later, in 1961-62, Bobby Hull’s first 50-goal season was SS. The Golden Jet scored 54 in the 1965-66 season to achieve SS for a second (and final) time.

Believe it or not, Wayne Gretzky only achieved SS once, scoring 87 goals in the 1983-84 campaign. The last time an NHL sniper demonstrated Statistical Supremacy was in the 1990-91 season, when recent Hall of Fame inductee Brett Hull scored 86 as Cam Neely, Theo Fleury and Steve Yzerman tied for 2nd with 51 goals apiece.

When will we see another player achieve Statistical Supremacy over his peers? The last occurrence was almost nineteen years ago. Who among this generation’s best can do it – Ovechkin? Malkin? Kovalchuk? Nash? Gaborik? The NHL today is fortunate to have so many top snipers…but in the beginning, there was just one Rocket

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Maurice Richard and the Myth of 50 in 50 (Part 1) - by Big Tex

photo: www.sportshall.ca

A great many words have been written about the legendary Canadien and Hall of Famer, Maurice “Rocket” Richard. The Rocket’s 1944-45 campaign, in which he became the first (and only) NHL player to score 50 goals in a 50-game season, has long been the standard by which all other goal-scoring feats are measured. The 2009-10 season marks the 65th anniversary of “50 in 50” – a time to reflect. Richard’s feat bears scrutiny, that we might better understand and appreciate it for what it was…and wasn’t.

Yes, Maurice Richard was the founding father of the NHL’s 50 in 50 club, but he’s not alone: Mike Bossy (1980-81), Wayne Gretzky (1981-82, 1983-84, 1984-85), Mario Lemieux (1988-89) and Brett Hull (1990-91, 1991-92) are all members. For some fans, the fact that Richard was first is not enough. Often, they feel the need to explain why Richard’s 50 in 50 was somehow a greater achievement than any subsequent 50 in 50. These conversations usually revolve around a few key points, which can be summarized as follows:

MYTH: It was more difficult to score 50 goals in a 50-game season than in an 80-game season because scoring drops in the spring as teams battle for playoff berths.

FACT: The NHL only played four 50-game seasons, from 1942-43 to 1945-46. In three of those four seasons, goal scoring actually increased during the last quarter of the season. In 1944-45, the average number of goals scored per game jumped from 7.12 during the first 112 games of the season to 8.05 over the final 38. Richard’s stats run counter to the NHL as a whole, however: he had 41 goals through Game 37, but only scored 9 in the last 13 games of the campaign.

MYTH: Goals were harder to come by back in the 1940’s. It wasn’t like the “freewheeling 80’s”.

FACT: Here’s a comparison of the Average Goals/Game for the four 50-game seasons and the first four seasons of the 1980’s:

Average G/Gm 1942-43: 7.22. 1943-44: 8.17. 1944-45: 7.35. 1945-46: 6.69.
Average G/Gm 1980-81: 7.69. 1981-82: 8.03. 1982-83: 7.73. 1983-84: 7.89.

While the 1980’s saw a great many goals scored, the average game was quite comparable to the early 1940’s. There can be no doubt that the inflated scoring so long ago was due to the fact that many of the NHL’s top players were serving their countries in World War Two. Scoring began to drop as soon as the war ended and the returning NHLers swapped their tunics for sweaters, as can be seen in the G/G average for 1945-46. Perhaps a more telling statistic, however, is the percentage of 20+ goal scorers during the War Years compared to 32+ goal scorers in the early 80’s (***NOTE – 20 goals in 50 games is .4 G/Gm. .4 G/Gm over an 80-game season is 32 goals, which is why I chose that number): 1942-43 to 1945-46: 73 of 511 players (14.29%). 1980-81 to 1983-84: 200 of 2408 players (8.31%). During WWII, a significantly greater percentage of players scored at a pace of .4 G/Gm or better. After the war – and after Richard’s 50 in 50 – goals were harder to come by.

The facts above do not in any way cheapen Maurice Richard's singular achievement, however. The Rocket was a goal scorer throughout his career, and the War Years - just like the early 1980's - were an era in which goal scorers flourished. In that era, Richard stood tall. And, in the process of becoming the first player ever to score 50 goals in 50 games, he accomplished something else - a feat never before seen in the NHL, and one which has since been achieved by just four other players: Statistical Supremacy. What is "Statistical Supremacy"? Check back tomorrow for Part Two...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are the Hurricanes Done? - Frozen Pill

As Caniacs know, it's a rough ride right now for the Carolina Hurricanes. Without slogging through the list of ailments and woes, I'll make mention mention of one thing:

It's time for the Legace legacy to begin in Carolina.

The Hurricanes, having just signed Manny Legace to a 1-year, two-way deal to replace the lacerated Cam Ward for the next 4- 6 weeks will need to grasp this unshaken shake-up and turn it all into a positive or their season could very well be through.

The Colonel and OGA have been staring at some daunting numbers for Carolina today. And we're not just talking about their 2-11-3 record. Obviously, the Canes are 30th in the NHL with 7 points. 29th are the Leafs with 11. Rough numbers, indeed.

But the numbers concerning OGA right now are the ones we see Carolina tracking against our PQC. (if not familiar with what we do here at OGA, please read the TAO of OGA on our website here).

For the sake of brevity this late in the day, here's what we see:
  • Per OGA projections, for the Hurricanes to make the 2010 playoffs, they would need to finish the season playing .652 hockey whereas they are currently playing .219. Or, more plainly stated, they need to win three times more often than they have been thus far for the rest of the season. Hard to fathom.
  • The Hurricanes may be the next team OGA calls OUT of the 09-10 NHL Playoffs. 'So soon', you say? Well, we say if they don't win more than 2 of their next 4 games, you should watch our website for the TEE TIME color code to show up on Carolina's standings in our PQC Status Spectrum.
(Of course, if you are the type who needs to know before the masses , you can always subscribe to our DTIR. It's cheap, it's informative and makes you the veritable Nostradamus of Hockey.)
  • The Hurricanes need to find talent with a knack for scoring who can be inserted into the lineup NOW. Even if Eric Staal were back in play tonight, he would be another body on the bench at the rate he has been (not) producing. If he were in, he would need to get out of the funk immediately. Otherwise, Carolina needs to find scoring either in their prospects or via a trade, but find it they must and before it's too late. They cannot afford to wait another couple of games or work through a few more drills. Unless there is a catalyst now, change is needed.
  • Starting a newly-acquired veteran goalie like Legace may just be the catalyst this team needs to bring players out of this cycle of drought. If Manny steps in, gives the team some confidence and a fresh voice to listen to, a rally point may be created. If Legace performs well, this team can begin to believe their season can be rescued. But the need for a proven scorer will still exist.
  • Hello, Left-Wing Lock. Time for shutdown hockey. It's gotta be ugly, it's gotta be boring and it's gotta be effective. Until the Canes can find the back of the opposing net, they MUST stop their opponent from driving theirs. Their defense needs to be the new guard of the regime and form a veritable wall in front of Legace. The forwards need to clog up the nuetral zone and back-check with tenacity for sixty minutes each night.
  • Ownership/Management needs to get the lead out and make a big splash to improve this team. The kind of deal they should have done in the summer when they thought the team they had would work just fine after their amazing playoff run last season. They forgot how much of the run was simply amazing and not necessarily indicative of their team-wide talent as compared to the rest of their conference. To not make a deal now that will shake this team from squander so early in the new season, is too pay a very high, albeit different, cost indeed. as The Colonel noted, setting for losing now means settling for both a lost season (developmentally and potential revenue-wise) and perhaps a new GM forced to admit the summer's coaching extension was ye olde biiig meestake.
Exit Question. Is it a coincidence I am currently awaiting a replacement for my Eric Staal short sleeve t-shirt? I recently had to make my first 'return' to shop.NHL.com for a new Staal player-tee because the one they sent me came apart in the wash. Literally, the stitching on the bottom hem just came undone and fell out upon its first run through the washing machine, prior to wearing.

Here's hoping the Carolina Hurricanes organization can see the veritable stitching falling apart at the seams. I also hope they understand, while patient, both the team and the fans cannot afford to wait the standard 4-6 weeks for delivery of our replacement product.
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Sunday's JabberHockey and A Thanks...

If you missed last Sunday's episode of JabberHockey, On Goal Analysis' weekly hockey radio show, you can go to our home page, www.ongoalanalysis.com and scroll down a bit past the standings and scores on the left hand side. There you will find the player. Click 'play' and listen to 'When The Lightning Strike' wherein we discussed all things Tampa Bay Lightning with the excellent Cassie McClellan from SB Nation's Raw Charge.

We dedicated almost the entire show to the interview as we had some quick changes to the agenda and had MANY questions for Cassie regarding lessons learned and a fresh, new season to play in Tampa. With the Lightning currently sitting in 9th in the East, just outside of playoff positioning, this season's squad is remade, refreshed and possibly even beating your team in your barn on any given night.

We asked questions ranging from the absence of the 'sophomore slump' for Steve Stamkos and the growth of the great game in the greater Tampa area. Make a little time for a quick listen. We'll be appreciative and you'll be enlightened. Smacks of a bargain...

Again, thanks to Cassie and also to John for livening up the associated chat. It was a lot of fun and we look forward to our next conversation.

And on another note, we want to send another big 'Thank You' to one of the OGA team members. Our PQC-master, The Colonel has chosen a blog handle that is most relevant considering he still serves in such capacity in the US National Gaurd. He not only serves, but has seen active duty overseas and will often bring his unique insight into battle strategy to his analysis of current play in NHL hockey. For a good example, check out his blog about the Caps last season (March) that was linked by Puck Daddy and others here.

So, on Veteran's Day, OGA sends out a big, hearty 'Thanks' to The Colonel for his service to the country. Remember to thank the veterans in your life today, too since you are free to do so.

And thanks for your support!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The 2010 Playoffs: If We Had To Project It Now – The Colonel

It’s Monday morning, 9 November 2009. If we took the NHL’s current winning percentages, applied them to remaining schedules, and were forced to select the teams that would be in the 2010 Playoffs, what would be the call? (Note I factor in each OT/SOL as one-half of a win for percentage calculation’s sake.)

The Eastern Conference

The current spread of winning percentages times the number of games left back East gives us a top eight seeding as follows:

New Jersey
NY Rangers
Tampa Bay

The winning percentages run from .733 for New Jersey down to .567 for Tampa Bay. The caveat here is, of course, that they will not keep up these percentages throughout the season or all of these teams will have over 100 points come April 11th.

The Western Conference

The current spread of winning percentages times the number of games left out West gives us a top eight seeding as follows:

San Jose
Los Angeles

The winning percentages out West run from .722 for both San Jose and Colorado down to .588 for both Phoenix and Dallas. If all of these teams maintained their winning percentages, it would take a minimum of 109 points for the 8th seed. This will not happen, however. The fact that two each from this group sit at both the top and bottom of the Conference spread indicates that we are due for another, grueling battle of parity out West. (Good for us!)

The Top Eights to The Conference Finalists

A note about the top eights above is the fact that three teams in the East and four in the West were not in the Playoffs the season before. Taken together, those seven ‘newbies’ out-pace the average turnover numbers of 2.667 East, 2.333 West and five NHL-wide. The average is just an average of course, but you could expect from 1-to-3 of the teams above to change before the end of the season, possibly making way for some combination of Atlanta, Boston, NY Islanders, Detroit, Vancouver, Nashville or Edmonton to see the post-season.

Sticking to the winning percentages since the Lockout this season, however, the average 8th seed winning percentage has been .566 in the East and .569 in the West. These percentages imply the East is currently just about on track for their 8th seed average. Said another way, Tampa Bay, playing just like they are now, has as good a shot as anybody of making it into the 2010 Playoffs.

The Western Conference, however, is, on average, inflated. But if .569 Hockey is the minimum requirement, the only other team within very close proximity at the moment is Detroit. That’s right – currently OUT of contention, the Red Wings. (This simply recognizes the delicate balance lost players, be it to trade or injury who otherwise were the core of a team’s winning ways, have on team performance. If you were thinking the opposing team who won a Game 7 in OT was ‘just lucky,’ you would be somewhat correct. It often times is more a surge of adrenaline for one side carrying them past the other’s momentary lapse which produces victory in that case. Either way, it is always a near thing when talking about being IN or OUT of a series.)

There are two spots to be holding in the top eight for each conference – Conference Champion and Runner Up. That’s because it is often said either of the two teams that get to that point could go on to the finals. The average winning percentage for Conference Finalists in the East is .638; in the West, it is .659. Runners Up in the conferences are .633 and .628 respectively. So from our current winning percentage listings above, the groups of teams that could fall into finalist seedings are:

Eastern Conference: New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, Buffalo and Philadelphia

Western Conference: San Jose and Colorado (honorable mention to Chicago who is only a scant .003 beyond the numbers)

It is difficult to argue any of the above mentioned teams would not be plausible contenders for their respective Conference Finals. The only one that may throw some for a loop is Buffalo in the East due to their absence from the Playoffs over the last two seasons. (Just remember: if you are a Sabres’ fan or know your post-Lockout Playoff history, Buffalo WAS in the conference finals the two seasons they made it to the Playoffs.)

The Finals

So who from the whittled down group above makes it to the finals based on where we are today? The average winning percentage for Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Finalists is .638; out West, it is .659. That suggests Finals made up of one each Eastern and Western teams below:

Eastern Conference: New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, Buffalo or Philadelphia

Western Conference: San Jose or Colorado

Who would you then pick from this group of teams to win it all? In the East, there are several considerations.

Post-Lockout, New Jersey has never made it past the 2nd Round of the Playoffs. But writing them off ignores the fact in three of those four seasons they met the eventual Eastern Conference Champion twice and Runner-Up once. Is this their year? Do they have what it takes to go back where they haven’t been since the turn of the century?

Pittsburgh has to be a favorite. They might have fooled you with their abysmal play in pre-season, but that time of year is an anomaly. They have been to the Finals the last two seasons and could very well go again. Which begs the question, how ‘old’ does a team have to be before the Stanley Cup hangover kicks in?

It would make sense that Washington could be seen in the Conference Finals as another progressive step toward The Cup. They are, after all, playing better than last season. And they are currently doing it without their number one scorer.

Buffalo? A lot of us, and by ‘us’ I mean me as well, wrote them off before the season started. No bug acquisitions over the summer, some key losses and a highly suspect blue line all suggested they might not be where they currently are in the standings. It arguably still remains to be seen how they will fare come mid-April as they traditionally start strong and begin to lose ground around the Game 30 mark.

And Philly would not be too far-fetched a choice for the Finalist. A prognosticator or two out there put them in the Finals prior to the season’s start. What the Flyers need to get there is a strong finish and its correspondingly good, winning tempo of play.

In the Western Conference, we have all been waiting for San Jose to come around. After last season’s terribly swift ending, Jeremy Roenick retired with the statement that maybe the reason the Sharks didn’t progress was because nothing really challenged them during the season. Well, something challenged them in their first 10 games because they only played .550 Hockey in that span but have come on strong since. As with past seasons, but with jaundiced eye, we will see how it goes after April 11th.

Hmmm… Colorado? The Avalanche. THOSE Avalanche? From last season’s #30 team with two rookie centers in their top three pivots to Conference Finalist? Because that just does not compute in your head well, it makes more sense to say San Jose will be the Finalist.

So who from this distinguished group raises The Stanley Cup?

If the average winning percentage of the post-Lockout Stanley Cup Champion is .665, the winner could come from any of those same teams above if they continued to win at their current clip and the average remained accurate as a Cup-hoisting fortune teller. The winning percentage is not enough to go on by itself.

Average goals scored for the winner has been 268.25 over the course of the season. Throwing that in the mix, for the above teams, the ones who could project those numbers include:

Eastern Conference: Washington or Philadelphia

Western Conference: San Jose

My hand is forced at this point, so I must make a selection. I would say then using the winning percentage model with the late add-on of average goals scored, the Finals could very well come down to Washington versus San Jose. Both have ample talent. Both are hungry. Does the Cup go East or West this year? There are no prevailing winds of history to hang our hat on here. The East took it in 2006 and 2009 and the West the intervening years.

History be damned, then. I side right now, based on what we know of this season with the “Is Party Now” crowd. Prior to Game 20, I call the Washington Capitals the Stanley Cup Champions.


It is early in the season, so calling the Capitals the Stanley Cup Champs is obviously premature. What will be interesting, however, is to follow the train of thought above from winning percentage analysis throughout the season and see if the calculations still come out the same.

To that end, I will revisit this analysis that leads me to a prognostication of the Washington Capitals winning the Stanley Cup this season at around Game 40 (New Years) and the Olympic Break.

Be back soon….
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Odds, Ends, and FREE TICKETS - by Big Tex

A few odds, ends and random hockey thoughts going into the weekend:

ANOTHER GAME-WINNING SAVE: Tuesday night, NYR @ VAN. With the Canucks leading, 1-0, early in the 3rd, Ales Kotalik rings a slapper from the point off the post during a four minute Rangers power play. Chris Higgins gets his first of the year (FINALLY!) roughly a minute later, but it doesn’t matter: Vancouver wins, 4-1. That makes THREE Game-Winning Saves so far this season. It’ll be interesting to see how long the theory holds up…

DURING THE RANGERS' STINKFEST IN VANCOUVER, rookie call-up Dane Byers racked up 29 Penalty Minutes in the 3rd period. That's a good start for the kid, but he's no Randy Holt.

OFFICIALS 1, STARS 0 (OT): Wednesday night in Dallas…in Overtime…Stars’ d-man Nicklas Grossman is sent to the sin bin for chipping the puck over the glass from OUTside his own blueline. Last time anyone checked, that wasn’t a Delay of Game penalty. Refs win, but donate the “W” to Calgary in recognition of Jerome Iginla’s goal on the ensuing PP.

BIG TEX @ VANCOUVER @ DALLAS: Yes, I’ll be at the game tonight, Tweeting away on all things tweet-worthy. Follow along by following me @OGAs_BigTex

WITH ALL THE INJURIES to big-name players right now, why is it that there are still fantasy hockey leagues in which the likes of Rich Peverley and Ales Kotalik are free agents?

SPEAKING OF RICH PEVERLEY…Though I’d picked Thursday nights’ San Jose @ Detroit tilt as my Game 2 Watch for the week, I found myself caught up in the Blue Jackets – Thrashers game instead. I was left with the following impressions from the exciting, back-and-forth affair: Uppermost in my mind, these two clubs can no longer be dismissed as “expansion teams”, as they’ve both formed (if not fully formed) identities now. Atlanta is FAST and has a power play which is both exciting and lethal, even without Kovalchuk. In Columbus, Ken Hitchcock continues to preach defensive responsibility, but is beginning to embrace the offensive aspects of the game as the Blue Jackets’ skill level increases (among other things, this means that the ‘Jackets PP has improved dramatically since last season). I expect both clubs to challenge for playoff berths this season, and at least one of them to make it in.

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST: FREE TICKETS! It seems I’ve won two tickets to the Detroit @ Columbus game next Wednesday, 11 NOV. Unfortunately, I cannot justify spending over $500 on a plane ticket to attend the game, so I’m offering the tickets to the first BLUE JACKETS fan to Tweet or email me at matt@ongoalanalysis.com (Detroiters need not apply).

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Raw Charge on JabberHockey, Sunday, Nov 8th @ 5.30PM EST

This week, we are joined by Cassie McClellan from the excellent SB Nation Tampa Bay Lightning blog, 'Raw Charge'. As OGA continues its tour around the 'non-traditional market' NHL cities, we will talk to Cassie about the growth of the game in the greater Tampa area, a cold Vinnie, a hot Steven and one certain Agent Smith.

Go to our show page at blogtalkradio.com/jabberhockey and set an email reminder to join us this Sunday, November 8th at 5.30PM EST

We will also discuss the OGA games2watch, what our PQC has revealed this week and our fantasy roundtable, FanFantasy. Please join us with a listen or a phone call!

On Goal Analysis' weekly hockey talk show, JabberHockey is live every Sunday at 5.30PM Eastern. Topics vary each week as we highlight the lamps currently burning up the NHL. Always with a focus on our proprietary Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), we offer unique insight into each teams' chances of making post-season play...and the stories to unfold along the way. OGA Knows. And you can, too. Please join us!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Eric Staal Watching Hockey

Can you imagine what must be running through Staal's head today. Game Day. Usual routines are on hold. That special breakfast or lunch that's been working lately is probably not on the menu.

Well, actually, nothing has been working lately.

The Hurricanes are winless in nine games. They have 7 points in the season thus far (tied with Toronto). To put it in early-season perspective, the struggling Wild have 10 points and the hot birds on ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have 24 points. Lest one forget, this is essentially the same Hurricanes team that battled the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

What a difference a summer makes.

Including what must be one of the strangest days in Eric Staal's life as of the last few years. Tonight, Staal will watch the game from somewhere other than the bench or on the ice for the first time since 2004. Staal has played every game of his NHL career minus one in his rookie season in 03-04. He is currently third on the all-time 'iron man' list for most consecutive games played at 349. Second is Jay Bouwmeester (CGY) at 354 and the leader is current Coyotes' coach, Dave Tippett with 419 consecutive games.

Obviously, Staal has been the heart and soul of this team. And as his early season struggles continued (3 goals, 2 assists in 13 games), his team followed suit. Doubtless, when Staal returns healthy (and presumably rested), he will have had a chance to shake the cobwebs and perhaps find the back of the net again. He has at times comes out slow to start a season and then later hit his stride before the holidays. And while expected to miss at least three games, the team is going to have to play without their leader for the first time in five years.

Yesterday, the conference standings, updated manually each day in the 'Canes' locker room, has been wiped clean. Tabula Rasa? The Hurricanes sure hope so.

What an odd thing it will be for Staal to not lace 'em up tonight but rather watch the game... From a suite? From the press box? From the locker room, while riding a bike?

The injury is listed as 'upper body' and Staal is considered week to week. So what happens if Carolina wins tonight against Florida? And what happens if they keep on winning until Staal's return? I suspect, upon Staal's return, it will require some serious consideration on lineup changes for the holiday stretch. These early season points are too important to let slip by while a team is trying to 'find itself'. But one opportunity has arisen amongst the soul-searching: line combo experimentation.

No better time to try it out and see what works. It looks like Jussi Jokinen will be elevated to the first line and will have a chance to play with Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole. It's a good chance for Jussi to show off his sure hands and the team really needs him to perform. Getting Erik Cole back in the action after missing time with a fractured bone in his leg should help give the team a boost.

But the thing to watch here over the next 3 Staal-less games is experimentation on the line combinations. And if the 'Canes begin winning some games, when Staal is ready to come back, Paul Maurice will need to figure out how to insert the team's top center without interrupting any chemistry that may develop as opposed to going back to how things were.

Because it hasn't been working. And it all depends on how the team responds to the adversity. This 'iron man streak destruction' may be just the break the Hurricanes need to gather strength and find the way to win as a team. The players have nothing to lean on now - other than their own sticks.
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Monday, November 2, 2009

The Octopus: A New Future Of NHL Coverage – The Colonel

“…I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth….”
President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961

In 1965, then President Kennedy’s words stood as a clear and poignant charge for the United States to take the lead in space exploration by placing an astronaut on the Moon. What had been Jules Verne’s science fiction of 1865 was to become science fact a bit more than 100 years later, but only a scant eight years after ordered to put the proper resources to the problem. Such statements, challenges and leadership enacted by future will and yet-to-be-discovered-resources altered many world viewpoints, to include how we even look (back) at ourselves.

In the spirit of throwing down a gauntlet to inspiring action, I offer The Octopus as a future way for us to watch the ‘Coolest Game On Earth.’ While some of what I speak of is possible now, as all forward-thinking ideas do, some other parts are offered as something yet to be.

Defining Another Way To Observe Our Favorite Sport

When we cannot physically get to the game in the arena, we turn on our TV/cable/satellite/radio to bring the game to us. Most often, we crave the visual stimulus but settle for radio, be it A/FM or satellite, when we do not have that other choice. It may be obvious to say it, but the majority of us either watches or listens to a given Hockey game outside of the arena. It is this fact that tells me we should always strive to improve the viewing experience.

I fully admit I do not know the technicalities of how the game is currently brought to us. But I do know the viewing experience we see is most often an angled, semi-overhead view that attempts to take in as much of the ice surface upon which the players skate as can be seen. This semi-vertical view of the game is useful, as it is for any sportscast, as a means of following and analyzing the game from a wide-angled perspective. Sometimes we see a shot from just overhead and behind the goalie when the puck is either leaving or entering the zone, too. And lately, there are times when you get an “OvechkinCam” view that only follows one particular player for the time he is on the ice.

Often times, replays of these recorded images from these vantage points are shown and a ‘they-did-THIS-then-THIS-then-shot-and-scored’ explanation of what we originally saw at 15-20 skating miles per hour (mph), 50-60 passing mph, and up to approximately 100 shooting mph is given. The sheer speed of the game often begs for a replay with some analysis, hence why we have our broadcast crew analyze and narrate the ‘tape.’ These perspectives of the game are all we know.

At the same time we can marvel after the fact at frozen images of a split second of a game’s time which truly relates the speed, struggle and emotion of what happens down at the horizontal, ice-level of the game. Just go to NHL.com, any team’s web page, or the Yahoo!NHL page where they have a photo gallery and every shot gives a glimpse of just how close or far a play was to/from success. It is the horizontal plane in which the players live and observe, orient, decide and act (John Boyd’s ‘OODA Loop’) that makes Hockey what it truly is.

We want that horizontal plane.

Said another way, we want the ability to see our Hockey in seamless 3-D. We want to see the images we are watching able to transition from the ‘normal’ overhead(ish) shot ‘down’ to the horizontal in order to take in a play from the perspective of the players and then back upward again. We want to be in the game, even though we are not. And somewhere in the future, we want to control how we see it as well.

The How Of ‘How Do We Do It?’ – The Octopus

A couple of things would be required were this to take place. If you watch college and NFL football, you often times see what I like to call the ‘flying camera’ – that camera on wires suspended over the field that moves just behind the play in an attempt to show you the players’ perspective. Football analysts often have the ability to review a play from just above and behind the players and/or rotate the picture to show it from different angles and perspectives. This is a great tool for football broadcasts.

For Hockey, however, a good friend who is an NHL analyst told me having a ‘flying camera’ above the rink will get in the way of the fan’s view of the game and that is NOT what the networks want to do. It would run completely contrary to why the networks are there in the first place. Agreed. What we need instead is the ability to get that perspective without the flying camera. We need The Octopus.

The maximum number of players in a game is 46 plus four on-ice officials. There are also 46 players’ sticks and the puck to follow. So the Octopus, or rather, Octopi, would be bubbles of 100 (to ensure a little redundancy) independently moving fiber optic cameras – tentacles, if you will – placed all over the rink at different, fixed points and ‘altitudes.’ Each individual tentacle would be slaved to a single player/official/piece of equipment at all times for a set angle of coverage. As a play went from one end to the other, the tentacles at each altitude would pass off their player/referee/stick/puck as it passed out of the field of view to the next tentacle along the line in the direction of movement. You therefore have an uninterrupted passage of the individual person or item down the ice being continuously recorded from multiple angles as they/it move. There is no flying camera, just several, fixed Octopi heads with waving tentacles inside. Together, they take many separate pictures which form the single, composite picture we see on screen. These kinds of cameras as pure hardware are available now.

As each player/official begins training camp, they would be scanned for their official 3-D image. Their all- around image is called up and put into each game’s database and tagged for a specific tentacle of the Octopus. This image is used to bridge camera rendering if necessary as the Octopus is manipulated by the broadcast team. The 3-D imaging and hard- and software processing capability are in their infancy and need money thrown at them to come to fruition.

A locating chip (or redundant chips) would be embedded in players’ and officials’ skates and sticks, goalie gloves and the puck. This chip would continuously signal where the player/referee, stick, goalie gloves and puck are in relation to the ice, in turn keying each dedicated Octopus tentacle to focus on that person/item from a myriad of different perspectives at one time. In most instances, you would want an image of the puck at all times and to know which player/stick/goalie glove is in contact with it to keep the proper camera perspective. Locating chips are NOT in their infancy – it just requires a chip maker to meet the specs you need for the job.

Because the requirement most of the time is to show where the puck went or is and the sequence of who touched it, the super computer runs a three-color coded, digital order of which player (or referee) touches the puck and when. All players from one team have a color, and the on-ice officials have the third. This color-coded, digital system embeds video ‘markers’ that make it very easy for the broadcast crew to tell where to cut their replay video based on a color-change of the list telling them where and when the puck was turned over. At some future point, if spectators are going to make their own ‘view’ of the game, these markers would be made available to them as well. This computer, and the compression required to port the digital stream efficiently over the airwaves/through the Internet is not yet here. Again, I know the‘ugly American’ answer is required – throw the money at it and the answer will come.

Those Octopus tentacle digital feeds and signals would be processed by a super computer ready to merge them with the player/referee/item’s official 3-D image. With that done, the computer can work with the actual recorded images from the Octopus, the location signals and the stored 3-D images to allow for a shot of the person/item from any perspective on the ice at any point in time they are there. Again, see above reference computer and signal compression requirements.

How The Octopus Would Work

A key goal was just scored in a Playoff series-defining game and the game has gone to commercial. Urgently, but with confidence borne of experience using the Octopus system, the broadcast team and production crew work to put together their slice of the goal. Using the color-coded, digital listing, they dial backwards from the goal scored to the turnover in the defensive end, then go for the standard overhead down to behind the player, ice-level shot for altitude. Once they are at the beginning of the breakout, they quickly review the play from front to back and divide up tracker ball duties for the fly-through commentary that will be set to ‘Follow Puck’ mode.

Back from commercial, the play-by-play analyst has a short lead in as the video shows the camera angle coming down from semi-overhead to just above ice level, timed perfectly to take up the horizontal shot as the puck is turned over. The super computer crunches the request to spin the angle control for the picture with the track ball by referencing several of the Octopus tentacles’ shots of players in the camera’s angle of view. It also references and renders the players with their stored, official 3-D image to make it look to the viewer like you have a complete 3-D view of the game no matter which way the angle rotates. The play-by-play commentator then walks the play through from start to finish at the near-horizontal perspective of the game, just like the players’ OODA Loops fought through it. At the end, he raises up the picture’s altitude, freezes the frame, spins it around to the opposite side of the ice and continues the sequence to show the puck leaving the last attackers’ stick and heading past the goaltender into the net.

Once the play-by-play analyst takes it to the goal scored, the color commentator takes control by picking up the recorded package that backs the play up to the first defending player missing the puck as it passes between two attackers in the neutral zone. This recording of actions by the defending team is at just a bit above the horizontal and pauses briefly from time to time in order to point out each of the defensive mistakes made. His angle seamlessly changes after explaining who missed their checks to the goalie’s perspective where he shows there is no way the netminder saw the shot coming because of the screening players to his front.
Elapsed time is 20 seconds as they transition to the next puck drop.

The Octopus is also used periodically during the game by the color commentator to show individual player’s efforts from their horizontal perspective, explaining the player’s OODA Loop because he/she has the personal experience to decipher the decisions made.

Advertised to be coming in the future is a subscription-based service with a spectator’s own track ball capability to receive an alternate feed that allows them to manipulate their own replays at will in order to better understand the game they are watching. It is a million(s) seller around the world and the NHL is the only sport leading the way on this charge to put their fans into the game.


The Octopus would be a system that neither blocks the viewing experience of the fan paying for a seat in the arena, nor annoys the spectator watching the game at home on their TV. It would also assist the broadcast crew in defining the game from the traditional, overhead shot down to the horizontal plane where players’ OODA Loops are executed. Not only is it used by broadcasters to illustrate their uniquely informed view of the game, but in the future, it would be used by fans as well to provide them with their own perspective of their favorite sport. In the process, the spectator/fan is periodically put into the game even though they cannot physically be there themselves, an innovation no other sport provides.

For these reasons, I advocate The Octopus as a future means of enhancing the game experience for the viewer.