Tuesday, December 13, 2005

THN picks Team Canada, USA

Are we tired of these lists yet? This week’s issue of The Hockey News picks Team Canada and Team USA, both of which will officially be named early next week.

Canada.
Goal: Brodeur, Joseph, Turco
Defence: Blake, Foote, Niedermayer, Phaneuf, Pronger, Redden, Regehr
Forward: Crosby, Draper, Gagne, Heatley, Iginla, Lecavalier, Richards, Sakic, Smyth, Spezza, Staal, St. Louis, Thornton

Notables left off: Luongo, Jovanovski, McCabe, Bertuzzi, Doan (who isn’t even listed as receiving consideration).



USA.
Goal: DiPietro, Esche, Miller
Defence: Chelios, Hatcher, Leetch, Leopold, Martin, Rafalski, Schneider
Forward: Dustin Brown, Cole, Connolly, Conroy, Drury, Gionta, Guerin, Halpern, Knuble, Langenbrunner, Modano, Rolston, Tkachuk

Notables left off: Grahame, Mara, Liles, Amonte, Roenick, Leclair, Weight, Gomez.



THN doesn’t offer up any explanation for why Jovanovski doesn’t make the cut, and for Gomez, one of the NHL’s best playmakers, the reasoning reads, “...if he’s not scoring, what is he doing?” Gomez in on pace for 23 goals this season, his best total ever.

For the most part, the lists are a good representation of who will be there, but I’d be shocked to not see Jovanovski and Gomez included on their respective teams.

The Hamilton Penguins?

It's an old storyline, to be sure, but here it is again.
Hamilton has been thwarted several times in its bid to land an NHL team, but a process is still in place if an opportunity pops up in the near future.

The city has an ongoing agreement with HHC Acquisition Corp, a firm tasked with finding and buying a team to play in Copps Coliseum.

Proponents, like the city's mayor, Larry Di Ianni, say Hamilton is "ideally situated" for an NHL team.

"We live within a fairly short driving distance of 6 million people. If other markets can support up to three teams, I think this market, given that dynamic, could probably make a go of it as well," Di Ianni said yesterday.
Unfortunately, I don't see the NHL ever coming back to another Canadian city, regardless of how attractively marketed they are.

Credit to The Hockey Page.

Patrick Lalime and the waiver wire Blues

This fellow seems to think recently waived St. Louis goaltender Patrick Lalime is headed for the minors:
St. Louis Blues goaltender Patrick Lalime is expected to clear NHL waivers at 11 a.m. Central time today, after which he'll be sent to the Peoria Rivermen.

The goaltender, an NHL All-Star starter in 2002-03, will easily be the highest-paid player in the American Hockey League - this season, and maybe any season - at $2.43 million.

Perhaps things are a little slow in central Illinois and this columnist is merely hoping a former NHL all-star will pay the minor-league club a visit, but I don't think that's what's going to happen. One needs to only look at the Penguins and Jocelyn Thibault for how this waiver-wire dance works in the new NHL.

Thibault, Todd Marchant, Kristian Huselius — and I'm sure others — were all put on waivers this year as a way of possibly unloading their salaries ($1.5-mil, $2.47-mil and $1.22-mil) without taking a cap hit. With no takers, teams have then been reluctant to send these players to the minors all year, as recalling them at any time would mean they would have to pass through waivers a second time.

Not a problem, you say? Well, on this second waiver move, the team's recalling the players will be on the hook for half of a claimed skater's salary, which will count against the salary cap. Needless to say, teams are a little leery about paying half of someone's salary for them to play for another club and, as such, we haven't seen many — if any — veteran players of note make the trip to the AHL this year (aside from short 'conditioning' stints). And I don't expect we will.

Making a mistake in free agency isn't something that can be written off very easily any more, as teams are now forced to live with the players they've picked up or take a cap hit.

As for Lalime, it's amazing how far he's fallen from when he let those two Joe Nieuwendyk goals squeak through his legs in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.

Credit to Eric McErlain for the original link.

UPDATE Blues GM Larry Pleau says he's to blame for the team's goaltending woes all these years.

UPDATE2 Lalime has reportedly since been assigned to Peoria. (I was wrong.) I wonder what the chances are another NHL team would want to take a chance on him, even at half price, should he be recalled.

What's with Todd Bertuzzi?

It's a question Ed Willes from the Vancouver Province asked this weekend, and one that I think more people in the mainstream media should be paying attention to. It's quite late and I haven't a ton of time, but I did want to pass along the link for those who haven't yet had a read.

The talk is Bertuzzi and Canucks coach Mark Crawford aren't talking. The talk is the big winger requested a trade from the team at one point during his ordeal. The talk, in rumour circles at least, is that Canucks' rookie GM Dave Nonis may deal him for another scorer and/or goaltending help. From Willes:
The Canucks are now 29 games into their season and, clearly, something is wrong with Bertuzzi. It could be the ghosts of March 8. It could be the accumulated baggage from his years in Vancouver. It could be his naturally sunny disposition. Or it could be his relationship with Crawford.

But whatever it is, it's as obvious as an elephant in a wading pool and it raises the question, can the Canucks move forward with Bertuzzi in his current state?
The obvious answer is no, but I'm not sure the solution is so obvious. In any event, this is what everyone in B.C. is talking about at the moment, which makes one wonder if there's anything to the talk.

I wrote of Bertuzzi in the summer of 2004 (for a different on-line publication before I had the blog):
There was word this week that Bertuzzi and his wife, Julie, had put their West Vancouver home up for sale (valued at $2.48-million, in case you are in the market) and it set the Canucks' faithful buzzing. While the Bertuzzi's impending move remains only speculation, I'm prepared to venture out on a limb, cite unnamed sources and claim that if Todd Bertuzzi hasn't played his final game in a Canuck uniform, the end is near.

Long before the fateful night Bertuzzi meted out his own vigilante justice on Colorado Avalanche winger Steve Moore, the bullish power forward had a reputation, and it wasn't that of a saint. Bertuzzi has always had a tenuous relationship with the hockey-mad Vancouver media, and sometimes he has been justified in offering the cold shoulder. There was, if you recall, the incident where one local sports jockey made incendiary comments about the player's wife...

As his doormat emblazoned 'Go Away' suggests, Bertuzzi is a man who enjoys his privacy. He doesn't revel in the limelight, or even wear it with a begrudging respect like Canuck captain and good friend Markus Naslund. As even Bertuzzi himself would attest, he's simply a gifted athlete and not hockey's answer to altruism.

As Bertuzzi sits at his summer home in Ontario and mulls his options, continuing his career in Vancouver may not be his most preferable one. With a criminal trial underway and an impending civil suit looking more likely, there is a definite possibility he may decide to cut his losses. Wouldn't it be easier to get a fresh start in Miami, Dallas or Philadelphia where the scrutiny wouldn't be so fierce? If he's looking to once again fade into the background as a reluctant superstar, it's certainly not going to happen anytime soon in Vancouver.
Despite the fact a year and a half has passed, I think much of that still holds. While the glass-is-half-full crew will be quick to point out the Canucks are on top of the Northwest Division, it's also true Vancouver is 3-4 points from falling into 9th spot in the West. A prolonged slump may be all that's needed for Nonis to act — provided the above scuttlebutt has any truth to it, of course.

I do know this much: Bertuzzi, the way he's played since the end of the 2002-03 regular season, isn't worth the space he's taking up under the cap and isn't worth what Vancouver could likely get back in a trade. If I'm Nonis, I move him in the next few months.

Perhaps more later...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Emery likes his bugs

Off Wing Opinion references an Ottawa Citizen story today that profiles Senators backup goaltender Ray Emery, and Eric picks out a quote that tells us a little bit about the guy. In case you didn't click on the story for a read, however, here's a detail that makes the story:
Emery financed the tattoo with the $500 he collected in a bet with captain Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson had challenged Emery to eat a cockroach that was scampering through the team's dressing room when the Senators were in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a game in late October.

Emery munched away and won.

Hah. And you have to know that when Ken Warren heard that, he was thinking one thing: "Well, there's my lede."

Every hockey team's got at least one guy like that — the crazy guy — and you have to know that when Alfredsson saw the bug, there was only one player he thought to ask to eat the damn thing.

Picking Olympians

Throw out leadership. And who cares who's been there before. What if picking teams for the Olympics in February came down to just who was playing the best when rosters have to be named Dec. 21?

This weekend, I said to a friend of mine, 'What if Team Canada was picked solely based on player's performances this year?' That got me thinking, and I've put together rosters for each of the Top 7 countries based on their players' play this season.

This is strictly statistically based, so defensive defencemen and players on weaker NHL clubs may miss out. Players are sorted by position and are in order of rank for this season (for instance, Spezza is Canada's top ranked forward).

The results are interesting.

Canada
Goal: Joseph, Legace, Turco
Defence: McCabe, Redden, Phaneuf, Boucher, Jovanovski, Boyle, Niedermayer
Forward: Spezza, Heatley, Savard, Thornton, Gagne, Staal, Shanahan, Iginla, Lecavalier, Marleau, Jason Williams, Sakic, Arnott

USA
Goal: Grahame, DiPietro, Mike Morrison
Defence: Schneider, Mara, Liles, Corvo, Hatcher, Preissing, Rafalski
Forward: Cole, Gionta, Knuble, Conroy, Modano, Rolston, Connolly, Guerin, Blake, Amonte, Bates, Weight, Gomez

Finland
Goal: Kiprusoff, Niittymaki, Toivonen
Defence: Pitkanen, Salo, Timonen, Numminen, Niinimaa, Lydman, Vaananen
Forward: O.Jokinen, Selanne, Lehtinen, S.Koivu, J.Jokinen, Laaksonen, Nieminen, N.Kapanen, Miettinen, J.Ruutu, Pirjeta, M.Koivu

Sweden
Goal: Lundqvist, Tellqvist, Hedberg
Defence: Lidstrom, Ohlund, Johnsson, Havelid, Lilja, Backman, Norstrom
Forward: Alfredsson, Forsberg, Naslund, Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Nylander, Samuelsson, Modin, H.Sedin, D.Sedin, Steen, Sundin, Hedstrom

Czech Republic
Goal: Hasek, Vokoun, Prusek
Defence: Zidlicky, T.Kaberle, Slegr, Kubina, Spacek, F.Kaberle, Rozsival
Forward: Jagr, Prospal, Lang, Straka, Hemsky, Rucinsky, Kotalik, Prucha, Vyborny, Dvorak, Havlat, Sykora, Hejduk

Slovakia
Goal: Budaj
Defence: Visnovsky, Chara, Meszaros, Mezei, Suchy
Forward: Demitra, Nagy, Svatos, Marian Hossa, Bondra, Palffy, Satan, Handzus, Gaborik, Zednik, Petrovicky, Radivojevic, Marcel Hossa

Russia
Goal: Bryzgalov,Khabibulin, Nabokov
Defence: Zhitnik, A.Markov, Zubov, Gonchar, Tyutin, Zyuzin, Tverdovsky
Forward: Kovalchuk, Frolov, Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Yashin, S.Kozlov, Samsonov, Mogilny, Afinogenov, Brylin, Kovalev, Fedotenko, V. Kozlov

I'm sure there may be mistakes in here (i.e. I almost put Salei with Russia when he's from Belarus), especially between the Czech/Slovak players (ahem, Mr. Golbez), so let me know and I'll correct the list. I may have also missed someone, so again, let me know.

OK, one more for fun...

Team Canada #2
Goal: Fernandez, Luongo, Emery
Defence: Seabrook, Campbell, DeVries, Pronger, Van Ryn, Blake, Brisebois
Forward: Langkow, Stoll, Morrow, Doan, Hartnell, St.Louis, Tanguay, Crosby, Sullivan, Comrie, Richards, Ryder, Allison


UPDATE First mistake: Toronto-born Knuble moves from Team Canada to the U.S., who lose Parrish as a result. Canada gains Arnott from Team #2, who add Allison.

UPDATE2 Swap Zidlicky to the Czech team, who lose Hamrlik; add Suchy for Slovakia. Any other defencemen that can round out Team Slovak, Jes?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The emergence of The Chara

Matt from The Battle of Alberta brings us this tidbit on Zdeno Chara:
Chara. Wow. What a player. Redden wasn't playing tonight, but I find it impossible to believe that he could be as important to the Sens at Chara. (And I love Harry Neale's interesting and meaningful compliment: "He is the most improved player I've ever seen.")
I was watching the game last night with one of my cohorts (a Leafs fan), and we had an extended discussion about the 6-foot-9 Senators defenceman. More on that in a bit.

Now, I've been watching Chara since when he came over from Slovakia as a horribly gangly 19-year-old to join the WHL's Prince George Cougars for the 1996-97 season.

Playing on their blueline with Eric Brewer, Chara had been drafted that summer by the Islanders in the 3rd round and could best be described as a 'project.' Much much skinnier than he is now (I'd say at least 40 pounds less than the 260 he is listed at now) and part of the reason the NHL club sent him to play junior in the northern B.C. city was to bulk up and learn the grittier parts of the North American game.

He didn't have a problem with either, eating his heart out and fighting some of junior hockey's tougher thugs (including the Kamloops Blazers' Rob Skrlac).

(I can't find a link for this anecdote, but bear with me while I quickly recount the details. As with most junior hockey players, Chara was billeted with a family in PG while he played with the team. The amount of food he consumed at the home was so high that the team had to repay the billet family the equivalent food allowance of two players just to feed Chara. In one case, the billets had prepared a roast for the whole family to enjoy, and Chara ate the entire thing himself. I'll dig through the newspaper library later to find the exact story.)

Now, I don't know if it's because he plays the game the way an extremely tall, lanky guy (like myself) should, but I've always been a fan of Chara. His emergence as one of the NHL's best players has been amazing, especially for those who saw his awkward early days in junior hockey. At that point, one would have thought he would have had a servicable career as a tough-as-nails fourth or fifth defenceman (which was basically the role he filled with the Islanders for the 3.5 seasons he was there).

OK, so I'm a fan (and I'm really surprised to see I've barely written about him the past year). My cohort? Not so much.

Our discussion last night went somewhat like so:

"He's only good because he's big."

Me: "And Iginla's good because of his strength and speed. And Jagr's good because he has a ridiculously powerful lower body." etc. etc.

Anyway, enough of that. The thing is, there are very, very few NHLers over say, 6-foot-3, that can be considered elite players (I may make a list and post it later on). Hockey's a game that simply requires too much speed and agility for someone who isn't truly a gifted athlete, and I think at Chara's size, the fact that he's such a dominating force out there is so much more impressive.

During yesterday's Minnesota-Philadelphia game, one of the play-by-play guys was recounting a conversation he had with the Wild's Derek Boogard, another 'giant' at 6-foot-7. The announcer said he asked the 23-year-old Boogard at what point did he feel he had grown into his massive frame enough to use it at the NHL level. "Last year," Boogard replied.

Chara's 28 now, and without question, has grown into his frame in the past few seasons. Leafs fans may groan when his name is mentioned as a Norris Trophy candidate, but Chara simply does so many things well and makes it so tough for the opposition to play against him that I can't imagine a scenario where he doesn't win at least one in his career.

Score one for hockey giants from PG to Trencin (and elsewhere).

(Speaking of which, the last hockey stick I bought, the salesman called it 'The Chara'. How could I not buy it after that?)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Power plays experience shrinkage

It's perhaps no secret that there are fewer power plays in games now than there were to start the season, but I don't recall any one adding them up as was done in today's Globe and Mail:

Power plays average a game by week

Week 1 - 13.7
Week 2 - 13.0
Week 3 - 12.9
Week 4 - 13.6
Week 5 - 12.4
Week 6 - 12.0
Week 7 - 11.9
Week 8 - 11.0
Week 9 - 12.1

In graphical format, it reads like so:


Hmmm, that looks kinda lame. Well, anyhow, by my projections, power plays will drop to less than three per game by mid-February, and we'll have have the most freeflowing, whistle-free hockey we've ever seen.

Or something.

The average number of power plays for the 2003-04 season was 8.5, so we still have a ways to go yet.

More later.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bens and Benjability

I almost blogged about Tom Benjamin's latest post that ran under the, as usual, clever headline “Sens and Sensibility,” but I really didn’t feel like ragging on TB about it at the time. Better late than never, I guess.

Benjamin is a great hockey blogger, and he has been dominating the competition lately, but I certainly wouldn’t be wondering whether his recent post belongs in a class with Tom’s greatest ever. This is early December, a whole new month with different games being played and new rules.

Historical comparisons don’t work any more. They don’t work any more, not for Tom’s individual posts and not for monthly catalogues of his work. Too much changes to compare things that are different. We can only compare things that are the same. Differences make that hard.

Players are wearing different socks now and tighter fighting jerseys, something that ultimately makes it impossible to compare how Tom is writing about them now and in the past. Is he more critical and/or grumpy than he used to be, or about the same? It’s impossible to say, really. There are so many factors that change from year-to-year; if only every single detail remained the same in eternity, then could we truly compare the quality of his work with that which he’s done in the past.

If his work so far is any indication — and I think it is — Tom is one of the best hockey bloggers writing about this year’s GBHL. Whether he can stay great next season depends on the quality of medication he continues to take.

It isn’t fair to Benjamin to describe his accomplishments this season as tainted, but the Bryan Trottiers, Steve Yzermans and James Mirtles of the world will be putting an asterisk beside everything he does. If he was cantankerous during previous years, and downright inconsolable this year, how are we to judge one body of work against another?

And fans of Benjamin will surely point to Gary Bettman and the mainstream media as the root of all evil.

Bring out the carnies

Carnival of the NHL #15 is up now at Deadspin, and I is a part of it. A sampling:
All right. We’re gonna go in chronological order, because that’s the way time works, and we try to follow the passing of time here. Otherwise you get caught up in one of those wormholes, and that’s just all kinds of trouble.
And we all know you don't want no wormholes. In fact, I think this will be the first carnival without them.

So... many good links you will find. Many good links indeed. Very exciting.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

One year of cheer that
the Mirtle blog has been here

It's time for a good old pat on the back — I almost missed it, but today marks one year since I started this blog.

Let us harken back to that first, fateful day (Dec. 7, 2004):
I'm hoping I can bring something of value to a medium condemned daily as the Internet's resident outhouse. I suppose, however, that not many start a blog intending to add to the wasteland, but that somehow they end up commenting on their cat Winky and the extra features of the Judge Dredd special edition DVD.
Oh, so very, very clever you of a year ago. But, with a solid 500 visitors a day now stopping by, I think I've at least accomplished that much. That said, I can't recommend as a strategy starting a hockey blog when the world's best league is locked out. There were some lean times, friends.

So, one year in the can and many more to come. Thanks.

Super Mario hospitalized

I'd hate to be the first to say it, but I can't see Mario Lemieux suiting up for Canada at the Olympics anymore. Lemieux was taken to a local hospital today in Pittsburgh after he had an irregular heartbeat in this morning's practice.

Some had been calling for him to bow out as Steve Yzerman did earlier, but personally I think the selection committee still had every intention of taking him to the Games.

Mario had been complaining of fatigue and some sort of illness earlier in the week, so let's hope this is more a precautionary visit than anything.

Malkin to join Russia for WJC

This is good news if you'll be cheering for Team Russia come Dec. 26 and the start of the World Junior Championships.

My early prediction? Russia wins this thing.

As veteran Globe and Mail hockey reporter Eric Duhatschek opines, Evgeni Malkin is not only one of the top Russian juniors in the world, but one of their top players overall. All reports indicate he's been the Russian Super Elite league's best player this season, which is saying a lot considering the calibre of talent playing there.

The big decision for Russia was whether to let Malkin play for the junior team for the third time or to have him suit up with the big boys at the Olympics in February. The thinking was that he could only play for one of the teams, but now my guess is that the Russians will see how he does here and go from there. We very well could see him at both tournaments (and I wonder who the last player to accomplish that was).

I'll be sure to talk to him when Russia meets Latvia in Kamloops on Dec. 29.

Something's amiss in Denver

Some interesting goaltending movement in Colorado, with rookie netminder Vitaly 'Mullet-man' Kolesnik being recalled from the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL today:
The Avalanche goalie picture is a mess right so let's explain: Vitaly Kolesnik was recalled despite the fact that neither David Aebischer nor Peter Budaj is injured. Rumors out of Colorado indicate that the Avs are either intending on making a trade — possibly for Roberto Luongo of Florida, or they just want to mentally challenge Aebischer or Budaj.

To that end, when coach Joel Quenneville was asked who was going to start tonight, he avoided answering the question by simply saying that the Avs would announce their goalie plans sometime today. In addition, he was quoted as saying "We're going to announce that (today) just to change things up. We're looking for the goaltending to be better" which could be interpreted as a number of things.

The bottom line is that the Avs aren't happy with their goaltending picture and it's unknown which goalie will even start today.
Very, very interesting. Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix is known for being able to wheel big deals that often benefit his club, and if he can find a way to wheel Aebischer right out of Denver (given the way he's played), I suspect he'll do just that. Depending on what they have to forfeit (likely one of their better defencemen and a scoring winger), Colorado could suddenly become very scary with an excellent goaltender between the pipes.

If I was Lacroix, one player I'd be moving is youngster Wojtek Wolski, whose value is as high as it will ever be after a successful mini-stint in the NHL to star the season. The thing is, I don't think he'll ever be a consistent offensive threat at that level, and with his defensive game as woeful as it is, well, he won't have a lot of value once teams see how good he actually is. That Wolski was left of Team Canada's selection camp for the World Juniors speaks to just how valuable hockey minds think he is.

Credit to HockeyInformer.com for the info (paragraph breaks are my own). More here from the Rocky Mountain News.

Sean Avery: Gives the finger, gets the ladies

For those who didn't see the shot of LA Kings player Sean Avery strolling through Toronto with actress/puck bunny Elisha Cuthbert that was in the Toronto Star earlier this week:


Thanks to Hockey Will Tear Us Apart for the image link, although I'm not quite sure what she's talking about here.
Elisa -- girl, there are other body parts to a man besides his mouth. We all know his extraordinary oral talents. Maybe you could be the key in him to use those gifts for good, once in a while. By ... force if necessary.
Then again, maybe I do know what's being said and I'm averting my mind (as opposed to eyes, you see). I think this is about as risque as we ever get around here — this isn't Golbez's blog o' smut, after all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Professor McCabe

The Star has a good article today about Bryan McCabe not getting to worked up about the Canadian Olympic team, but I'm not so sure about his math skills:
McCabe is philosophical about his odds: "I've got a one in 81 chance just like everyone else. We'll see what happens."
No wonder he thinks he's a longshot — apparently Team Canada is a one-man club.

Thanks to The Hockey Page for the link.

Kings of the faceoff dot

Faceoffs are really an under-rated aspect of hockey. Puck possession is key for any team, as the club that has the puck the most in a game is often the winner. That said, it's interesting to note, after 25 or so games, which teams are the kings of the faceoff dot.

The NHL's top faceoff teams
[top faceoff man and his NHL rank in (brackets); top ten teams in standings in bold, bottom ten in italics]
  1. Edmonton, 56.2 (Stoll, 2)
  2. Boston, 53.7 (Bergeron, 13)
  3. Nashville, 53.4 (Perreault, 5)
  4. Carolina, 52.5 (Brind'Amour, 3)
  5. Detroit, 51.4 (Yzerman, 37)
  6. Anaheim, 51.3 (Pahlsson, 26)
  7. Washington, 51.2 (Halpern, 26)
  8. Tampa Bay, 51.2 (Prospal, 17)
  9. Buffalo, 50.8 (Drury, 9)
  10. Philadelphia, 50.7 (Handzus, 26)
  11. St. Louis, 50.6 (Sillinger, 6)
  12. Los Angeles, 50.5 (Cammalleri, 3)
  13. Minnesota, 50.5 (Chouinard, 17)
  14. Calgary, 50.2 (McCarty, 6)
  15. Ottawa, 50.2 (Vermette, 44)
  16. Toronto, 50.1 (Wellwood, 37)
  17. Florida, 49.2 (Nieuwendyk, 13)
  18. Columbus, 49.2 (Hartigan, 13)
  19. Atlanta, 49.1 (Holik, 9)
  20. Montreal, 48.8 (Koivu & Plekanec, 53)
  21. New Jersey, 48.8 (Gomez, 44)
  22. NY Rangers, 48.5 (Rucchin, 131)
  23. Dallas, 48.4 (Betts, 13)
  24. Colorado, 48.0 (McLean, 37)
  25. San Jose, 48.0 (J. Thornton & Smith, 44)
  26. Phoenix, 48.1 (Lundmark, 1)
  27. Chicago, 47.6 (Lapointe, 6)
  28. Vancouver, 47.3 (H. Sedin, 82)
  29. NY Islanders, 47.2 (Satan, 37)
  30. Pittsburgh, 47.2 (Lemieux, 26)
A couple of these guys don't have a ton of faceoffs taken (the minimum was 40, I think), but there are some interesting names here nonetheless. How about the old men, with Yzerman and Lemieux as still two of the best? Or young, finesse type players like Stoll, Wellwood and Bergeron?

Brind'Amour leads the NHL with 383 wins in just 22 games, more than 17 a game. If you watch a Hurricanes game closely, you'll often see coach Peter Laviolette sub the veteran centreman in to take a draw. Amazingly, he's taken 42.2 per cent of the team's faceoffs, more than six per cent better than the second-place player (Halpern, 36.1).

These are the kind of stats that should really come into play for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, an honour Brind'Amour should be the frontrunner for despite the fact he's been battling a groin problem the past month. He averages 24 minutes a game, 4:18 of which comes while shorthanded, and plays a shutdown role every night, freeing up a guy like Eric Staal to score the pretty goals he's becoming known for.

Plus the guy's an absolute beast. Take that Dick Pound.