With an actual mini-gap in the otherwise methodical (non-holiday) march of Islanders games, there's a chance for the obsessed fan to drop fiery fourth-line debates for a moment and take a look around the league. From the persistent stream of suspensions to all of the Ducks up for sale, there's a lot going on.
But there's some Islanders news first. Whatever he will become when fully operational, Calvin de Haan is indeed taking steps, and the latest was his getting the nod for the AHL All-Star Game.
He's the only Sound Tiger to be named (David Ullstrom is both in the NHL and concussed), and it's not the biggest of deals -- he follows in the recent footsteps of Andrew MacDonald, Dustin Kohn and lifetime achievement Mark Wotton -- but it's surely not bad news.
Sound Tigers video of de Haan discussing the honor is below, along with a whole host of other topics:
I know I do not possess the urgency that many fans share for De-Apocalypse Now, but I confess cases like de Haan and Nino Niederreiter and the rest of the Restore the Cupboard for the Rebuild gang fascinate me.
Some things you do by accident end up looking genius. Some things you do with the best intentions blow up in your face. I don't think CDH or Nino should fall into either of those categories (though some of their later round contemporaries will), but they are big, interesting pieces to how the post-2008 direction of this franchise will one day be judged.
John Tavares' Breakout: An Okposo Effect?
I am among many who have observed John Tavares hitting another level in skating, stability and control of play all season long. So I don't share the same view of how much Kyle Okposo moving to his line has been responsible for the recent surge. I do, however, subscribe to the general theory behind the move, which Arthur Staple describes and credits like so:
Tavares has become much more bullish below the hash marks during the last week, making a strong play with the puck around and behind the net on just about every shift. Okposo and Moulson have been reading Tavares' moves and helping create space for their playmaker.
It's a fun, timeless hockey discussion topic. I know one of the reasons I've been open to seeing P.A. Parenteau elsewhere is not because he's not "true top six" or some such nonsense, but because his puck carrying is something Tavares has increasingly shown the ability to do. I've seen Tavares get and generate chances all season long though, so I'm not ready to credit the past week or so to Okposo -- and yet I liked the move, if that makes sense.
On that note, I've seen Parenteau the same way Capuano professes to in the same Newsday article (emphasis mine):
"It's not a knock against P.A. -- he's like a utility guy for me, I can put him anywhere and he'll play his game," Capuano said. "Kyle just gave those guys a big body to work with."
Indeed, Parenteau can play with Tavares and lead the team in points, or play on another line and provide a little more balance and puck possession to proceedings. That's the theory anyway.
Kevin Poulin, 2012's Early Mr. Zero
The Sound Tigers recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time in six years, Michael Fornabaio reports in his live blog of last night's game. Against two pretty good teams, too. His game article is here. Brent Thompson praised Micheal Haley and Dylan Reese, among others.
Here's Fornabaio's 2011 trivia answers.
Speaking of Poulin, Bridgeport, and Benn Olsen, I'm not sure what to make of this.
NHL Suspension Brigade
Brendan Shanahan's performance has generally been a refreshing 180 to the stealth, self-assured surrealism that "Heckuva Job, Colie" Campbell put us through for far too long. That said, the last week has puzzled me.
Repeat headhunter Raffi Torres got two games for what was essentially a successive accumulation of dumb acts in three consecutive games (why was the repeat offender merely fined after incident two?). Yet first-time offender Ian Cole got three games for a blueline shoulder check to the head where Shanahan's explanation all but absolved him of ill intent and poor form, and there was no lasting injury on the play. Then Rene Bourque gets five games as a repeat offender with an elbow to the head, while constant offender Daniel Carcillo got seven games for a grotesquely careless hit that could have injured Tom Gilbert in four different ways (neck, head, shoulder, ankle) but fortunately only took one.
Seven games is pretty severe by Shanahan standards, but given Carcillo's history of treachery, I think bigger statements are called for. Obviously some Oilers followers share that view.
The celebration for Lars Eller's hat trick (he would score a fourth) featured an interesting non-hat. Keep an eye on the Dane Eller, who Canadiens fans once cried over when he was the chief return for Jaroslav Halak.
If You're An Idiot, Please Be An Idiot on Facebook Too
Suppose you are an idiot Flyers fan with violent tendencies who jumped Rangers fans at the Winter Classic. And suppose you brag about it, then backtrack. Either way, you're a disgrace.
While we joke about "kick a Ranger" around here, I hope readers know it is in the most sports-don't-matter absurd jesting spirit, like a South Park "don't kick the baby" routine. If it's not clear, the official LHH policy does not advocate violence for the specific reason that someone else roots for a team that wears different laundry than yours.
World Junior Championship
The medal games are today, with Russia facing Sweden (and Johan Sundstrom) for the gold while Canada is left to fight Finland for bronze. People are still ticked about Yevgeni Kuznetsov, the Capitals prospect. Japers' Rink takes it here.
John Tortorella Fined
Torts was fined a whopping $30,000 for his pretty silly (if sarcastic) Winter Classic post-game remarks. He didn't leave the NHL much choice, although his apology was good and well-founded. You can see his whole post-game presser here (for context...it wasn't exactly a rant). His apology:
"I tainted the Classic with my mouth. It was wrong with my sarcasm and frustration and I apologize to everyone involved….Not for a second, in no way, time, shape or form did I think anything like that goes on with our league, or ever will. For me to question the integrity of the league, the integrity of NBC, the integrity of Denny and Ian, the Flyers, the Rangers, go right on through all the people here – there’s not a chance I am thinking that way."
It might look so in print, but the apology did not sound at all canned -- quite sincere, in fact.
The Oilers on Ales Hemsky
I just find this pretty wild, a coach almost paving the way for a pending UFA and popular player to be run out:
"I have to play him with the manpower situation what it is and his skill level being what it is. He’s got the ability to turn a game around in a moment’s notice. I’ll continue to play him until somebody tells me not to or I get to the point where I think there has to be a change of scenery and I’m not to that point," said Renney.
Ducks for Sale, Ducks for Sale
"I still believe we have some core players. Now whether we have to change a few core players, so be it. They're deciding who's staying and who's not staying at this point. They're the ones deciding."
The scary thing is by possession the Ducks really are awful -- and not suffering from poor luck or percentages that would make you think they're due for a significant turn. Worse, they were bad last year and the year before, too, and pretty much overperformed in previous seasons. The Ducks are the Isles' next opponent (Friday), so it should be fun to face a team embroiled in the CLUB IN CRISIS meme. (Sorry, English soccer media joke.)
Speaking of luck and percentages though, this very simple chart helps illustrate why it is quite worthwhile to pay attention to PDO [even strength shooting percentage plus save percentage] as a metric. Or, to put it in a "would you bet money on this continuing?" context:
If your team is posting a 12% shooting percentage or a 1040 PDO through 10 or 20 or 30 games, you need to ask yourself if it's illusory, or if your team is the best team we've seen in half a decade.
The other end of that question is why some of us argued the Islanders' early season funk was bound to change, although not enough to vault them into the middle third of the league.
Moment of Zen
I'm not in the Fail for Nail brigade, but I have to admit his interviews when he makes the NHL should be awesome:
(Sorry, this is way too much for one post, but have fun with any of these topics.)