Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Staggered Start Times

Center Ice commercials boast “you will see up to 40 games each week”, but anyone who actually follows the NHL, and not just one or two teams knows that isn’t the case.  Tonight is a perfect example:

9 games overall
6 games start at 7:00pm
2 games start at 7:30pm
1 game starts at 8:00pm
All times EST, but that’s not the point…

Even with a DVR (digital video recorder; “Tivo” being a brand name for it) that can record two things at once, you’re stuck with two games, and maybe a snippet of two others.

I’m in New York and the Rangers have been showing shortened replays late at night, so there’s that option, and one other NY area game will be replayed in full later on as well.  The latest game is on OLN, and OLN replays games an hour or so later.  So I can catch more games, but none of that has anything to do with Center Ice and outside of the NY area, few have as many replays.

In short: there’s no way you can watch close 40 NHL games a week due to scheduling.  Some of this is the league’s fault, some not.

The NHL by time zones:
Eastern - 17 teams
Central - 5 teams
Mountain - 4 teams
Pacific - 4 teams

Note: Phoenix does not follow daylight savings time, but is included in the Mountain time zone.  Here’s a US time zone map for fun; and here’s Canada’s time zones, so I don’t leave any team out.

Obviously, it’s not easy to stagger starting times when the majority of teams play in the same time zone.  However, the new unbalanced scheduled see even less time-zone crossing than before.  So Pacific time zone teams play Pacific time zone teams more, meaning you will almost never see 4 games start at 10:00/7:00 ET/PT.  I just heard a “my team starts at 10:30” from the crowd.  Thank you.  Most games used to start at 7:30, but many teams in sports, including the NHL (MLB, NBA), moved up start times to have earlier ending times.  You can thank the “family friendly” kick sports have been on for a while for that one.

It’d be nice if the NHL would attempt to push some Eastern teams to have 8:00 start times on heavy game nights, maybe more 7:30s from Central teams.  Give the fans at home another hour or so of hockey.

While “too much hockey” seems like a great problem for some of us fans, it also leaves us feeling a little short-changed when it comes to seeing commercials saying one thing and leaving us with another.  I won’t say they’re lying in the commercials.  You can certainly watch up to 40 games per week.  You just need 4 DVRs to do it.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/13 at 06:40 PM
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Signs Players Are Bitter About Saskin

ESPN, courtesy of the Hockey News, has a Player Poll: Should visors be mandatory?

Most players polled say visors should not be made mandatory.  I have little doubt Jes will have something to say about that.

The Hockey News asked 29 NHLers: Should visors be made mandatory for players entering the NHL?

They were given three options:

• Yes—10 players (34.5 percent)
• No—15 players (51.7 percent)
• Indifferent—Four players (13.8 percent)

If you’re wondering, there were three anonymous votes - two yes, one no.

The anonymous no brings us the fun part:

New York Rangers
No: “Why don’t you ask Ted [Saskin] how the vote came out on this one, too?”—Anonymous

Wow.  Think the vote that took place on Nov 25th settled anything within the PA?  Talk about lingering animosity.

Via Kukla’s Korner

Posted by David M Singer on 12/07 at 04:27 PM
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Big Walt

Everyone seemed to have a blast making fun of Keith Tkachuk for being suspended because he came to camp out of shape (i.e. fat), but after coming back off the IR because cracked ribs, he’s been very productive.  He has 6 points in his last 2 games, and 8 points in 6 games overall.

The Islanders-Blues game was on OLN last night and Mike Sillinger was mic’d up.  He yelled “Walt” to get Keith Tkachuk’s attention and the announcing crew mentioned it was Tkachuk’s nickname.  A few people asked me why, so here it is: Supposedly it’s as simple as Tkachuk’s last name looking like the last name of NY Rangers former player Walt Tkaczuk. When he got to the NHL no one felt like attempting to pronounce “Tkachuk” when looking at it, so they just called him Walt.  That’s it.

Edit 1116pm: Mirtle wasn’t blasting Tkachuk.  Mirtle wouldn’t blast, he’s a softy, probably wears a shield and I heard Sean Avery called him French.  j/k, but as Mirtle commented, I just thought I’d clarify wording.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/07 at 12:37 PM
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Downward Spiral

If you feel like you’ve seen less scoring lately, it’s because you have.

It was a casual observation of mine I thought I’d check out after reading Darren Eliot’s article about the Ducks still trapping.

I almost forgot about it until Costa wrote about it sparking me to check some numbers.

So here they are:

October
Games 174
Shootouts 15
Goals 1112
Average goals* 6.30
November
Games 199
Shootouts 21
Goals 1228
Average goals* 6.07
December
Games 29
Shootouts 4
Goals 174
Average goals* 5.86
Totals
Games 402
Shootouts 40
Goals 2514
Average goals* 6.15

* Average goals are adjusted not to included the goal given for shootout wins

Just to double-check my stats I compared the numbers to the standings on USA Today, everything matched up.

While we're only five days into December, there's little reason to think the trend won't continue. NHL games are averaging almost half a goal less per game within two months. I doubt the NHL will be issuing any press releases about that.

However, this isn't to say the game isn't still as open or as exciting as some want it to be, just that goals have decreased. Personally, goals alone don't do it for me anyway. A 2-1 game with few penalties (not just called, but actually committed) and lots of hits is fine by me (and a fight or two wouldn't hurt either), but we're not seeing that yet. I don't have the penalty numbers, but there are still a lot being called, some for good reason, some not.

The flow that's there now is soft and it seems like the players are starting to lay off of legal checks because of a potential whistle. This is what the NHL needs to work on now. So while I post these numbers, I hope the NHL ignores them and just focuses on getting the penalty calls right and assures its players that legal hits will remain... well, legal.

Yes, the potential to trap is still there. Keep calling the clutching and grabbing and skilled teams will break free.

I'll take the open game, with some real flow and action, and if it's low-scoring, so be it.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/06 at 01:10 PM
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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Chara Suspended

Zdeno Chara will be suspended for instigating a fight late in the game last night.  Senators Coach Bryan Murray will be fined $10,000 because of Chara’s actions.

It will be interesting to see how these rulings play out the rest of the season.

As much as I don’t like the rule, if it’s there, it should be called, and it was done so in this case.

Update Dec 04 11pm: Chara has no regrets.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/03 at 01:17 PM
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Friday, December 02, 2005

Call It Now or Never Do

Here comes the instigator rule again.

Zdeno Chara received one with 3:21 to go in the Ottawa’s 5-1 win over Los Angeles tonight.  Chara grabbed Tim Gleason shortly after Chris Kelly ate some punches from Jeff Cowan.

Chara gets into a few fights a year, as you can see from his hockeyfights.com player page linked above, but few would consider him a goon or a tough guy.

So what now?

The rule, within 56a:

(NEW for 2005-06) A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime, shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major for fighting, a ten minute misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension. The length of suspension will double for each subsequent offense. In addition, the player’s coach shall be fined $10,000—a fine that will double for each subsequent incident.

(NEW for 2005-06) (NOTE 1) No team appeals will be permitted either verbally or in writing regarding the assessment of this automatic suspension.

However, we found out the automatic suspension is not automatic.

So what will NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell do now?

Chara is not a “two-shift guy”, nor is he a “tough guy doing his thing and leaving his calling card” - or is he?

Over the summer I wasn’t impressed by this rule, while it was still in the proposed stage.  I gave a list of all instances where this rule would have applied during the 2003-04 season.

There were 16 times the rule would have applied.  Chara is 1 of the 16 players who received an instigator within the last five minutes of regulation in 2003-04.

You can’t be a repeat offender if there was no extra rule to break in the first place, but it certainly shows that this isn’t a one-time thing with Chara.  Oh, and it’s not a two-time thing either.  During the 2001-02 season Chara picked up an instigator with 2 seconds left of a Montreal-Ottawa game.  Gino Odjick was his dance partner that night.

Quick - name another player besides Chara who has received an instigator with less than five minutes left in regulation time three times since 2001-02.

Can’t think of one?

That’s because there isn’t one.

There are three sitting at two instances who are still in the NHL: Tie Domi, Jeremy Stevenson and Brendan Shanahan.  Add a fourth if you want to include Dale Purinton, who has spent this entire season sitting out a suspension or playing in the AHL.

So what will Campbell do?  Chara’s no goon, but he’s certainly no saint - he’s shown he’s just as capable of starting a fight at the end of a game than anyone is.

We’ll soon find out if this rule is actually a rule for the league, or only a select few dubbed “goon”.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/02 at 10:12 PM
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Quit Refreshing

I don’t really visit the front of Yahoo Sports much, but they do have one of the cleaner NHL scoreboards, and the boxscore pages are nice too.  It’s not that the information is any different, it’s just nice and neat.

If you visit either of these pages and if you have javascript turned on you’ll notice both pages auto-refresh.  It’s not nearly as nice as Sportsline‘s Gamecenter non-refresh-auto-updates, but it works.

Yahoo’s scoreboard has the option to turn the auto-refresh off.  The boxscores do not.  What I don’t understand is why these pages continue to refresh after the games are over.  There’s simply no need, and if you really want to read a boxscore, you’ll probably get irritated if you take more than 30 seconds and the page reloads for no reason.

These pages are obviously very dynamic.  My suggestion: If all games are final (or if it’s hours away from the first one starting), default to no refresh on the scoreboard.  If a game is over, don’t refresh the boxscore page.  Read one variable, add one if/else statement, and you’ll have a more pleasant user experience.  Please.

Update Dec 02 11pm: The boxscore pages do seem to have refresh options, and when a game is over, the boxscore will not refresh.  I have zero idea when it was implemented, could have been there the whole time - so if I missed it, my apologies.  The scoreboard should have that same functionality.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/02 at 12:01 AM
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nothing Shocking

Joe Thornton was traded.  You didn’t know?  Uh huh, sure. Somehow everyone is acting like they’re shocked, as though Thornton and Boston have been comfortable with each other all these years.

Quickie columnist roundup:
Thornton didn’t live up to Bruins’ expectations
Shipping out captain Thornton makes little sense
Thornton trade pretty unbelievable

Quickie Bos-SJ blogs roundup:
so very obsessed - Heather isn’t too surprised for the most part
Sharkspage - PJ has multiple posts about the trade

I’m not shocked by the trade at all.

Why?

Bumpy contract negotiations, he didn’t lead the Bruins in the playoffs and he isn’t Cam Neely.

Remember that, young stars, when trying to make it in Boston.  If you don’t do one of the above and you’re not named Orr (prefixed with Bobby, as Colton‘s popularity couldn’t keep him in Boston either), don’t expect to be popular, and don’t think your job is secure.

Update: You may want to circle Jan 10, 2006 on your calendar.  The Sharks will play the Bruins in Boston, could should be a circus.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/01 at 02:12 PM
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Wrong Names Not Funny Anymore

Ok, ok, maybe it’s still a little funny.

Last night espn.com has Ulf Samuelsson assisting on Patrick Sharp’s goal.  Ben Eager should actually be credited with the assist.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen errant boxscores (or summary, as many in hockey still like to call them).  Cliff Ronning made a mini-comeback according to this boxscoreBill Huard is apparently playing with Ilya Kovalchuk.  Sabres prospect Daniel Paille had an assist on Dany Heatley’s goal here.

There could be earlier gaffes, but this has obviously been going on for weeks.  I doubt there’s any manual entry going on for boxscores, so it’s probably a database flub related to player IDs.  Either way, a couple of mess ups are fine, but weeks have gone by and this is still going on - and there’s not one note of correction on any of these boxscores.

How many casual fans are reading these boxscores?  How many hardcore fans still think Zarley Zalapski is playing in the NHL?

espn.com should address this or expect their hockey audience to move on.

Posted by David M Singer on 12/01 at 11:33 AM
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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Rangers-Caps Set Shootout Record

The Rangers and Capitals set the record for shootout rounds tonight by going all the way to 15.  Marek Malik scored the winning goal with a ridiculous Jagr-esque between the legs shot.

From the 6th round it was save after save until the 14th when Bryan Muir and Jason Strudwick each scored (seriously).

The previous record was nine by the Islanders and Penguins.

Posted by David M Singer on 11/26 at 10:48 PM
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