Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Thursday, February 15, 2021

facing the music
It’s a rumored deal that sounded more and more sensible over the past few days, and now it’s done. Peter Forsberg has been traded to the Nashville Predators for youngsters Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, and a first- and a third-round pick in this year’s draft.

I think they can start engraving the Nashville roster names onto the Stanley Cup right about now.

Okay, maybe not. But Forsberg is a huge pickup, for a team that was already stacked. If he stays healthy the rest of the way and into the playoffs, the Preds should have enough power to get to the Cup finals. That health “if” is significant, of course, and the biggest risk factor. Then again, we’re talking about a guy who once played a postseason game with a busted spleen — when the chips are down, Forsberg will come through.

As for Philly: It was a simple enough equation, with the team way out of the playoff mix. The demand for Forsberg was high, so they couldn’t hold him when plenty of assets were being offered. And of course, they can always re-sign Foppa after his rental period in Nashville ends (whether that’s in the first round or after a Cup sip). However, despite pronouncements from Flyers brass that they want him back… Would that be the best move? Philadelphia needs to retool their defense, which has been their true bugaboo the past two years. Bringing back Forsberg would eat up big salary cap space, with a good group of proficient forwards already on the payroll. In the end, shipping out Forsberg like this might have been the most painless way to revamp the roster going forward.

As for that “Nashvegas” tag, above: It’s what the locals call Tennessee’s capital. I actually picked it up several years ago, when my friend Schmu, who spent time at Vandy, used to use the nickname derisively. Foppa only adds to the town’s glitz!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/15/2007 09:44:53 PM
Category: Hockey
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Sunday, February 11, 2021

isn't that special
What’s the perfect cure for Super Bowl Sunday hangover, one week removed? Why, the National Hockey League Special Teams Index.

Compare the shifts with last week’s rankings, and note that the higher-ranked power play breaks ties in STI Number. And now the rundown:

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 San Jose Sharks 23.4 (1) 84.5 (8) 107.9
2 Montreal Canadiens 22.1 (2) 84.2 (9) 106.3
3 Vancouver Canucks 17.3 (14) 88.7 (1) 106.0
4 Anaheim Ducks 20.7 (3) 84.8 (5) 105.5
5 Nashville Predators 17.1 (17) 86.2 (3) 103.3
6 Dallas Stars 18.2 (11) 84.2 (10) 102.4
7 New Jersey Devils 17.4 (12) 84.7 (7) 102.1
8 Edmonton Oilers 15.3 (27) 86.8 (2) 102.1
9 Minnesota Wild 17.0 (18) 84.8 (6) 101.8
10 Ottawa Senators 17.4 (13) 84.2 (11) 101.6
11 Pittsburgh Penguins 20.6 (4) 80.5 (24) 101.1
12 Florida Panthers 18.6 (9) 82.2 (15) 100.8
13 Boston Bruins 18.9 (8) 81.6 (18) 100.5
14 New York Rangers 18.5 (10) 82.0 (17) 100.5
15 Philadelphia Flyers 15.5 (26) 85.0 (4) 100.5
16 Colorado Avalanche 19.3 (5) 80.3 (25) 99.6
17 Detroit Red Wings 16.6 (21) 83.0 (14) 99.6
18 Carolina Hurricanes 16.0 (23) 83.3 (12) 99.3
19 Buffalo Sabres 17.2 (16) 81.6 (19) 98.8
20 Washington Capitals 17.0 (20) 81.3 (21) 98.3
21 Toronto Maple Leafs 18.9 (7) 79.1 (27) 98.0
22 Calgary Flames 17.3 (15) 80.6 (23) 97.9
23 Columbus Blue Jackets 15.8 (25) 81.5 (20) 97.3
24 Tampa Bay Lightning 19.3 (6) 77.9 (29) 97.2
25 New York Islanders 15.8 (24) 81.1 (22) 96.9
26 St. Louis Blues 13.5 (29) 82.1 (16) 95.6
27 Los Angeles Kings 17.0 (19) 78.5 (28) 95.5
28 Chicago Blackhawks 11.5 (30) 83.3 (13) 94.8
29 Phoenix Coyotes 14.8 (28) 79.7 (26) 94.5
30 Atlanta Thrashers 16.5 (22) 77.9 (30) 94.4
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/11/2021 11:49:28 PM
Category: Hockey
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Friday, February 09, 2021

donut a day
When Karlis Skrastins played his 487th straight game last night, he overtook Tim Horton to set the new NHL defenseman record for consecutive games played.

So how might Tim Horton’s retaliate at having their namesake usurped?

Well, they could always pull any Latvian food items from their menu, in protest to the Riga-born Skrastins. Since there’s likely no such items on there to begin with, it’d be a hollow action.

Maybe Canada’s coffee shop kings could co-opt the milestone: Sign up Skrastins for a couple of TV commercials, saying how “ironman streaks begin at Tim Horton’s”. It’d be good for a couple of laughs.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/09/2021 03:47:57 PM
Category: Hockey
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Thursday, February 08, 2021

out-of-bay experience
Today, I got my ticket for tomorrow night’s tilt between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers.

So should I attend the game wearing my vintage Lightning third jersey, circa 1995? The one whose sleeve design, featuring crackling lightning graphics, was described by team founder Phil Esposito as the result of someone vomiting on it (and he was actually trying to be complimentary)?

Well, I think not. I still have a lot of affection for the Bolts, having seen the franchise start up and go all the way to Cup championship. But I’m not about to make myself a bullseye in the heart of Rangersland. Any fisticuffs ought to remain on the ice, and a safe distance away from me. So my Lightning colors will be limited to the little logo atop this post.

Looking forward to the game. It’s Tampa Bay’s second and final visit to Madison Square Garden this season; I missed out on the first one, so I made sure to hit the return.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/08/2021 10:57:08 PM
Category: Hockey, New Yorkin'
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Tuesday, February 06, 2021

new final two
Even though there’s plenty of hockey left to play in this National Hockey League season, Edmonton and Carolina both are currently out of the playoff picture, and each face a tough climb to get back in.

If both the Oilers and Hurricanes wind up shut out of postseason play, it’ll be the first ever time that both reigning Stanley Cup finalists miss the following year’s playoffs, going back to the 1926-27 season (when the NHL took control of the Cup).

NHL, say hello to salary-capped parity, where the path from the penthouse to the basement — and back again — is a mere season away. It’s worked well enough in spreading that championship glow around the NFL; we’ll see how it works on ice. I’ve contended that it’s one thing to watch your favorite football team plod through a rebuilding season over a mere 16 games; it’s something else to endure 82 games of bottom-feeder hockey.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/06/2021 11:17:37 PM
Category: Hockey
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Sunday, February 04, 2021

super special sunday
Happy Super Sunday! Naturally, thoughts turn to the National Hockey League Special Teams Index. (For me, anyway.)

You should know the drill by now: Last week’s rankings here, and higher-ranked power play breaks ties in STI Number. And here we go:

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 San Jose Sharks 23.2 (1) 84.1 (10) 107.3
2 Montreal Canadiens 21.9 (2) 85.2 (5) 107.1
3 Anaheim Ducks 21.6 (3) 85.3 (4) 106.9
4 Vancouver Canucks 17.2 (16) 88.7 (1) 105.9
5 Nashville Predators 17.6 (13) 86.2 (3) 103.8
6 Edmonton Oilers 15.2 (26) 87.5 (2) 102.7
7 New Jersey Devils 18.0 (10) 84.6 (8) 102.6
8 Florida Panthers 19.1 (8) 83.1 (13) 102.2
9 Ottawa Senators 17.5 (14) 84.4 (9) 101.9
10 Dallas Stars 17.8 (11) 83.8 (11) 101.6
11 Minnesota Wild 16.4 (21) 85.2 (6) 101.6
12 Pittsburgh Penguins 20.1 (4) 80.9 (22) 101.0
13 Boston Bruins 19.1 (7) 81.4 (20) 100.5
14 Detroit Red Wings 17.0 (17) 83.1 (14) 100.1
15 New York Rangers 17.8 (12) 82.2 (17) 100.0
16 Philadelphia Flyers 14.7 (28) 85.0 (7) 99.7
17 Washington Capitals 17.2 (15) 81.6 (19) 98.8
18 Colorado Avalanche 18.5 (9) 80.2 (25) 98.7
19 Buffalo Sabres 16.5 (20) 82.2 (18) 98.7
20 Carolina Hurricanes 15.4 (25) 83.1 (15) 98.5
21 Toronto Maple Leafs 19.5 (5) 78.8 (28) 98.3
22 Columbus Blue Jackets 16.3 (24) 81.3 (21) 97.6
23 New York Islanders 16.4 (22) 80.6 (23) 97.0
24 Tampa Bay Lightning 19.3 (6) 77.6 (30) 96.9
25 Calgary Flames 16.6 (19) 80.3 (24) 96.9
26 St. Louis Blues 13.7 (29) 82.4 (16) 96.1
27 Atlanta Thrashers 16.3 (23) 79.0 (27) 95.3
28 Los Angeles Kings 16.8 (18) 78.1 (29) 94.9
29 Chicago Blackhawks 10.9 (30) 83.3 (12) 94.2
30 Phoenix Coyotes 14.9 (27) 79.1 (26) 94.0
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/04/2021 01:46:32 PM
Category: Hockey
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Friday, February 02, 2021

native land
It’ll be worth looking up the post-game highlights from tomorrow night’s Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames game — regardless of what the players do on the ice. Because before the game starts, Saddle Lake First Nation’s own 13-year-old Akina Shirt will sing a Cree-language rendition of the Canadian national anthem, a first for an NHL game.

So in addition to the customary English and French versions, “O Canada” will get a third vocalization in the Saddledome. On “Hockey Night in Canada”, yet. And Akina’s performance of “Ka-Kanatahk” is supposed to be a memorable experience:

Jean Cardinal, Akina’s mom, said that when her daughter sings the Cree version of O Canada to the elders, they feel goose bumps.

“It really feels like you just said a prayer to the creator. That’s why it’s so moving. It’s such a powerful rendition of it.”

Even though the song is transformed in translation, I imagine a Native American/Indian take on it gives imbued meaning to the lyrics, “our home and native land”…

Akina’s sung before amateur hockey games before, and each time she has, the home team’s won. So if the Flames get a win Saturday night, I’m sure the other five National Hockey League squads north of the border will come calling.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/02/2021 08:41:02 AM
Category: Creative, Hockey
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Sunday, January 28, 2021

odd-man jobs
Sunday means National Hockey League special-teams scrutiny again!

Due to the limited number of games since last time — All Star Game week resulted in contests only on Friday and Saturday, and not every team played those days — overall team numbers are fairly static. As a result, not too much change in the standings. But as usual, comparisons with previous week’s leaderboard can be made here.

And as always, higher-ranked power play breaks ties in STI Number; only one such tie this week (Pittsburgh-Detroit at Nos. 16-17).

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 San Jose Sharks 25.4 (1) 84.1 (9) 109.5
2 Montreal Canadiens 22.8 (2) 86.0 (4) 108.8
3 Anaheim Ducks 22.0 (3) 85.6 (5) 107.6
4 Vancouver Canucks 17.3 (16) 88.6 (1) 105.9
5 New Jersey Devils 17.9 (11) 86.4 (3) 104.3
6 Nashville Predators 17.6 (12) 85.6 (6) 103.2
7 Florida Panthers 19.0 (7) 83.3 (12) 102.3
8 Edmonton Oilers 14.9 (27) 87.2 (2) 102.1
9 Minnesota Wild 16.4 (20) 85.5 (7) 101.9
10 Ottawa Senators 17.6 (14) 84.1 (10) 101.7
11 Dallas Stars 18.0 (10) 83.1 (13) 101.1
12 Boston Bruins 19.3 (6) 81.3 (20) 100.6
13 New York Rangers 17.4 (15) 82.5 (17) 99.9
14 Washington Capitals 17.6 (13) 82.2 (19) 99.8
15 Carolina Hurricanes 15.9 (24) 83.8 (11) 99.7
16 Pittsburgh Penguins 19.7 (5) 79.9 (23) 99.6
17 Detroit Red Wings 16.8 (18) 82.8 (16) 99.6
18 Columbus Blue Jackets 16.2 (22) 83.0 (15) 99.2
19 Philadelphia Flyers 14.2 (28) 84.9 (8) 99.1
20 Toronto Maple Leafs 20.0 (4) 78.9 (27) 98.9
21 Colorado Avalanche 18.7 (8) 79.6 (25) 98.3
22 Buffalo Sabres 16.3 (21) 81.2 (21) 97.5
23 New York Islanders 16.2 (23) 80.1 (22) 96.3
24 Atlanta Thrashers 16.5 (19) 79.7 (24) 96.2
25 St. Louis Blues 13.6 (29) 82.4 (18) 96.0
26 Tampa Bay Lightning 18.2 (9) 76.6 (30) 94.8
27 Calgary Flames 15.4 (25) 79.3 (26) 94.7
28 Phoenix Coyotes 15.4 (26) 78.9 (28) 94.3
29 Los Angeles Kings 17.0 (17) 77.1 (29) 94.1
30 Chicago Blackhawks 10.9 (30) 83.1 (14) 94.0
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/28/2007 07:01:54 PM
Category: Hockey
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Friday, January 26, 2021

the pittsburgh question
Now that it’s looking more likely that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be staying put in the Steel City, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell probably won’t have to resort to calling in the United Nations keep the team from moving.

“The U.N. has standing,” Rendell insisted to bewildered reporters at a news conference. “The Penguins are in the NHL, and the NHL plays some of its games outside of the United States, clearly making this an international issue. Let anyone try to deny it.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman did just that in denouncing Rendell’s action.

“This is not a matter for the U.N.,” Bettman said. “We are a self-governing sport of limited popularity, and we intend to remain that way.”

Yes, it’s just a funny fantasy scenario. But what a sight it would be to see Mario Lemieux brought up before an international tribunal…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/26/2007 08:51:35 PM
Category: Comedy, Hockey
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Wednesday, January 24, 2021

stars are out
Just finished watching this year’s NHL All-Star Game, a typical scorefest resulting in the West winning 12-9.

I enjoyed all the dipsy-doodle offense that was on display; that’s the point of this showcase, after all. And I’m sure the AP’s Jim Litke will be glad to know that I had no trouble at all finding Versus on my cable lineup.

Even though Litke’s stale diatribe is mostly crapola (his chief beef is that the game was somehow mis-scheduled opposite “American Idol” — as apples and oranges as it gets when talking about any sporting event versus mass-appeal programming), there’s no denying that hockey could use an overhaul in its marketing basics, from the inside out.

Attendance is down, TV ratings are abysmal and the league still can’t seem to figure out how to market its assets to non-core fans. And it’s not only the owners. The players, too, have paid scant attention to the sport’s marketing woes.

“It’s a bit like pulling teeth during the season,” said Calgary defenseman Andrew Ference, one of half-a-dozen player business representatives who are in Dallas to kick around some marketing ideas. “We have to convince guys that it’s worth doing.”

But really, the NHL isn’t unique in this. Plenty of companies don’t understand the importance of marketing in keeping the machine humming and thriving. The idea that hard work that’s focused on the core mission is enough to garner attention makes sense, but doesn’t come off in practical appplication.

Still, I’ve trashed the league before about its inept marketing. Between continual preaching to the choir and adherence to stale creative themes, the NHL desperately needs an infusion of fresh promotional ideas.

Not to worry, because everyone’s favorite blogging sports owner has some pointers:

“One of the biggest challenges the NHL has is that there isn’t one player that we all know is going to be quotable, and the media is going to run with and pay too much attention to,” [Mark Cuban] wrote in his blog. Cuban would love to see Crosby or one of the sport’s other young guns show some flare and self-promotion on the ice.

Among his off-the-cuff suggestions: pull out a cap after scoring a hat trick and put it on in front of the opposing goalie. “Yeah, there would be some gloves dropped, but if it happened a second time, it would be all over the national news and sports fans across the country just might be curious enough to turn on the TV to see what would happen next.”

Cuban acknowledges that the “purists” would argue that the game is enough to sell the product. His reply: “Yeah, right.”

Trash-talking is the answer, then. But who to deliver it? Heading into the start of this season, there was some speculation/hope that Boston Bruins rookie Phil Kessel would be that guy, a hockey version of Terrell Owens. Kessel’s general lack of production, plus his unfortunate cancer diagnosis, put the kibosh on that. The nice-guy league still awaits its resident bad boy…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/24/2007 11:48:46 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Hockey, TV
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Tuesday, January 23, 2021

player relations
It ain’t often that the hoops guys can take a lesson from the professional puckheads, but the development of new, streamlined hockey uniforms is a prime example:

The uniform shift is bound to spark controversy among players and hockey traditionalists. To stave off the kind of player revolt that derailed the NBA’s composite ball from Spalding, the NHL and Reebok incorporated feedback from the NHL Players Association, general managers, retired stars and even draft picks. Nearly all 750 NHL players, from superstars to enforcers, have been personally fitted by Reebok, Jennings says. More than half the teams have practiced in the uniforms, O’Toole says.

NHLPA director of hockey affairs Mike Gartner says the union got involved later in the process. He believes the player input pushed full rollout back to next season from this season. But Gartner gives credit to Reebok for listening to complaints and making modifications. “By doing that, they avoided the NBA ball,” he says.

Take notes, David Stern. It didn’t have to get to the point of league-wide paper cuts for you to start listening to your own players/employees. Talk with them instead of to them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/23/2007 02:43:29 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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Sunday, January 21, 2021

special return
Among the loose ends that came about due to this blog going kaput last month was the continuation of this weekly look at National Hockey League special teams performance. Now that I’m back, it’s back. And since this is All-Star Game week, the leaguewide break in gameplay is an ideal time to gawk at where all the teams stand in odd-man performance.

This doesn’t have anything directly to do with the Index, but a look at the archived editions of this series reveals something significant: The first solid evidence that the technical difficulties on this site actually removed some data. I’ve been trackbacking each new week’s post to the previous week’s, as a way to link them all together. But now, none of those trackback links are still in place. I know I sent them the first times around; compare this current edition from November with the Google-cached version. I can alway solve this particular problem by making a subcategory for STI. But this is stil disquieting, because now I wonder what else might be erased around this blog…

Anyway, on to the puck action! Here’s the leaderboard through last night’s games. As you can imagine, quite a bit has shifted since the last lineup, although the Habs remain on top of the heap. What stands out for me: Rampant examples of imbalance, ala rosters with a strong power-play but weak penalty-kills, and vice-versa. We’ll see if this persists into the second half of the season.

As usual, higher-ranked power play breaks ties in STI Number.

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 Montreal Canadiens 23.1 (2) 86.9 (3) 110.0
2 San Jose Sharks 25.8 (1) 83.9 (10) 109.7
3 Anaheim Ducks 22.0 (3) 85.6 (6) 107.6
4 Vancouver Canucks 17.4 (15) 88.4 (1) 105.8
5 New Jersey Devils 18.4 (10) 86.7 (4) 105.1
6 Nashville Predators 17.6 (14) 85.2 (7) 102.8
7 Minnesota Wild 16.4 (22) 86.2 (5) 102.6
8 Edmonton Oilers 15.1 (27) 87.3 (2) 102.4
9 Florida Panthers 18.6 (8) 83.2 (13) 101.8
10 Ottawa Senators 17.9 (11) 83.8 (11) 101.7
11 Dallas Stars 17.8 (13) 83.3 (12) 101.1
12 Boston Bruins 19.7 (4) 81.0 (20) 100.7
13 Carolina Hurricanes 16.4 (21) 84.0 (9) 100.4
14 New York Rangers 17.8 (12) 82.3 (17) 100.1
15 Detroit Red Wings 16.9 (18) 82.4 (16) 99.3
16 Pittsburgh Penguins 18.9 (7) 80.1 (22) 99.0
17 Columbus Blue Jackets 15.8 (24) 83.2 (14) 99.0
18 Washington Capitals 17.4 (16) 81.5 (19) 98.9
19 Philadelphia Flyers 14.3 (28) 84.5 (8) 98.8
20 Colorado Avalanche 19.0 (6) 79.5 (24) 98.5
21 Toronto Maple Leafs 19.2 (5) 78.8 (28) 98.0
22 New York Islanders 16.7 (20) 79.9 (23) 96.6
23 Buffalo Sabres 15.8 (23) 80.8 (21) 96.6
24 Atlanta Thrashers 16.8 (19) 79.5 (25) 96.3
25 St. Louis Blues 14.0 (29) 82.3 (18) 96.3
26 Phoenix Coyotes 15.4 (25) 79.3 (27) 94.7
27 Calgary Flames 15.2 (26) 79.4 (26) 94.6
28 Tampa Bay Lightning 18.4 (9) 76.1 (30) 94.5
29 Chicago Blackhawks 11.1 (30) 83.0 (15) 94.1
30 Los Angeles Kings 17.2 (17) 76.7 (29) 93.9
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/21/2007 09:11:20 PM
Category: Hockey
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Tuesday, December 12, 2021

building on
The disintegration of Theoren Fleury, who seemed all but enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame until alcoholism brought his career to an abrupt end, was gut-wrenching.

Still, despite the commendable job he’s done in overcoming his demons and getting his life back together — albiet without hockey — his repudiation of today’s NHL is hard to take:

“I do wish my career ended better but for the people who support me, they’d want to know I’m doing well — that’s the most important thing to me,” said Fleury, who scored 455 goals in 1,084 games.

“I know I was a great player, probably one of the top-10 guys that ever played the game. Creative. Electrifying. All that stuff. Yeah, I could have worked harder but I was extremely talented. If I had taken care of myself, I probably could have been better.

“All I know is that I got to play 15 years, I’ve got six rings, I played on championship teams and I played with the greatest players in the game who all respect me.

I don’t deny he was a great player; but all-time? Having it come from the horse’s mouth, as it were, is a bit off-putting. And call me crazy, but it brings to mind a Jose Canseco moment:

Canseco is so shamelessly megalomaniacal that he ends up sounding honest and likable… He writes, “And when I became the first player ever to hit forty homers and forty stolen bases in one season, I was hands down the best player in the world. No one even came close.”

You can bow out any way you choose. One just hopes it’s with a modicum of humbleness. I guess that’s not possible for some.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/12/2021 11:14:03 PM
Category: Baseball, Hockey
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Sunday, December 10, 2021

isn't that special
The only statistical measure based on two-minute increments (with occasional four- and five-minute situationals): National Hockey League Special Teams Index rankings, based on the season’s action through yesterday. Last week’s leaderboard here, for comparative purposes. As always, higher-ranked power play breaks ties in STI Number.

Since I highlighted Detroit last week as an example of a bottom-dwelling STIer that’s still winning games, I should point out what the Red Wings did yesterday: Five power-play goals against Toronto, while allowing the Maple Leafs only one. Although neither tally was remarkable percentage-wise — the Wings had 14 PP situations in which to get those five scores — it was enough to move their special teams rankings up several slots, resulting in an STI jump of six spots. It doesn’t take much for a trend to start.

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 Montreal Canadiens 21.8 (3) 89.6 (2) 111.4
2 Minnesota Wild 20.3 (5) 88.7 (3) 109.0
3 Anaheim Ducks 22.5 (1) 86.4 (6) 108.9
4 San Jose Sharks 22.4 (2) 86.2 (7) 108.6
5 Edmonton Oilers 15.8 (20) 90.0 (1) 105.8
6 New Jersey Devils 17.4 (13) 87.9 (4) 105.3
7 New York Rangers 20.1 (6) 83.8 (14) 103.9
8 Dallas Stars 15.9 (19) 87.6 (5) 103.5
9 Florida Panthers 21.3 (4) 81.9 (20) 103.2
10 Nashville Predators 17.8 (10) 84.3 (12) 102.1
11 Ottawa Senators 16.8 (15) 84.5 (11) 101.3
12 Buffalo Sabres 17.7 (11) 83.3 (15) 101.0
13 Vancouver Canucks 14.6 (26) 85.9 (8) 100.5
14 Toronto Maple Leafs 18.3 (8) 82.1 (18) 100.4
15 Philadelphia Flyers 14.8 (24) 85.4 (9) 100.2
16 Columbus Blue Jackets 15.2 (21) 84.9 (10) 100.1
17 Atlanta Thrashers 18.4 (7) 80.7 (22) 99.1
18 Washington Capitals 16.4 (17) 82.7 (17) 99.1
19 Carolina Hurricanes 14.3 (27) 84.3 (13) 98.6
20 Pittsburgh Penguins 17.3 (14) 80.7 (23) 98.0
21 Colorado Avalanche 16.7 (16) 80.1 (24) 96.8
22 Detroit Red Wings 14.7 (25) 82.1 (19) 96.8
23 Los Angeles Kings 17.9 (9) 78.8 (27) 96.7
24 Boston Bruins 17.6 (12) 78.8 (28) 96.4
25 New York Islanders 15.9 (18) 79.3 (25) 95.2
26 Chicago Blackhawks 11.9 (28) 82.9 (16) 94.8
27 Calgary Flames 15.1 (22) 79.0 (26) 94.1
28 St. Louis Blues 10.9 (30) 81.3 (21) 92.2
29 Tampa Bay Lightning 15.1 (23) 76.2 (30) 91.3
30 Phoenix Coyotes 11.7 (29) 76.9 (29) 88.6
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/10/2021 05:47:34 PM
Category: Hockey
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Friday, December 08, 2021

early and often
Yes, I certainly see the humor in the whole Vote for Rory online write-in campaign, which is perilously close to sending Vancouver Canucks defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick to this year’s NHL All-Star Game, much to the amusement of all involved.

But me, I just can’t bring myself to cast a vote for any guy named “Rory”. Not just on an All-Star ballot, mind you — for anything, up to and including President of the U.S.

I certainly don’t have concerns about this violating any imagined sanctity of the All-Star Game. The game should be a playground for the fans’ whims. The very idea that you should determine “elite” players starting at the quarter-pole of the season — instead of, y’know, at the end of the year, when meaningful full-season performances give the designation some teeth — already undermines the concept. And when you put this sort of thing up for popular vote, you should expect all levels of silliness.

I idly wondered what the fallout would be if Fitzpatrick made it in as a starter, pushing out someone who had bonus money in his contract at stake over getting on the roster. I’m sure that would only spur on the effort… But that’s not too likely to happen — All-Star bonuses are fairly meager, and I can’t believe any agent would forge a contract that makes starter status in the Game a contingency (given that you can still be selected to by coaches and other league brass, after fan voting has concluded).

As funny as all this is, I don’t think the NHL needs to go overboard in reaction to it, as Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir strains to argue:

That’s why the NHL needs to take ownership of the Fitzpatrick hype. NBC is broadcasting the game. The league should be on the phone today working the cross-promotional angle. Let’s get Everyman Rory on Jay Leno to tell his story. Have him exchange healthy cooking tips with Meredith Vieira on the Today Show. Let him reveal to Barbara Walters what kind of tree he’d like to be. Arrange a photo-op date to a Hollywood premiere with Jessica Simpson. (Hey, it’s for the good of the game. Surely his wife can’t object to that!)

Um, no. Blowing this out of its proper proportion — and seeing Fitzpatrick skate in Dallas, by itself, would constitute that proper proportion — isn’t what the league needs. Make note of it and run it as a nice little sidebar, but that’s it. Trumpeting the gaming of All-Star voting is asking for a backfire reaction, along the lines of yet another media line about how much of a joke the National Hockey League is. Even a league in sore need of more astute marketing doesn’t need to grasp at the straw that this phenomenon represents. (And Muir’s invocation of this past summer’s overhyped Snakes on a Plane nonsense tells me he’s just fishing for some Chuck Klosterman-like notoriety.)

Anyway, roll out those “Vote for Rory” t-shirts. Don’t expect them to outsell the “Vote for Pedro” variety, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/08/2021 08:23:30 AM
Category: Comedy, Hockey, Internet
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Tuesday, December 05, 2021

unbalanced, alas
That fool unbalanced NHL season schedule, which sacrifices full inter-conference play in favor of rivalry by rote, looks to be around for a while yet.

But there’s hope, because the just-completed Board of Governors meeting came thisclose to 86ing it for next year, and may still at their next meeting during the All-Star break.

There were differing views on which schedule matrix got the most support Tuesday. One GM, requesting anonimity, said the idea that garnered the most interest was one that featured six divisional games instead of eight, and a home-and-home with teams in the other conference. But another GM said the matrix that got the most votes featured six divisional games, 18 games against the other conference, and the same four games against the rest of your conference.

However it works out. I look forward to the possibility of watching both the Kings and the Avalanche take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden next season.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/05/2021 07:47:13 PM
Category: Hockey
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Sunday, December 03, 2021

special look
Because the fun starts when the penalty box fills up: National Hockey League Special Teams Index rankings, based on completed game action through yesterday. Check the week-to-week movement here. Higher-ranked power play breaks ties in STI Number.

Now that the NHL season is about a third of the way through, can we see correlation between a team’s STI and its place in the standings? The Index isn’t intended to give a complete picture — it measures a limited component of team strength. So a team like Detroit, which is near the bottom of the STI chart, is actually doing a respectable job in the win-loss columns. But odd-man play tends to have a cumulative effect — eventually, poor play by both units will be regularly exploited by opponents. Conversely, strong play by special teams can be the difference-maker. We’ll see how that manifests itself, especially as playoff jockeying begins later in the season.

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 San Jose Sharks 23.7 (1) 86.2 (8) 109.9
2 Montreal Canadiens 19.5 (6) 89.7 (1) 109.2
3 Minnesota Wild 19.8 (5) 88.7 (3) 108.5
4 Anaheim Ducks 21.9 (2) 85.3 (9) 107.2
5 New York Rangers 20.4 (3) 84.8 (12) 105.2
6 Edmonton Oilers 15.4 (20) 88.9 (2) 104.3
7 Nashville Predators 18.3 (12) 84.9 (11) 103.2
8 Buffalo Sabres 18.5 (9) 84.2 (15) 102.7
9 New Jersey Devils 16.0 (15) 86.7 (6) 102.7
10 Dallas Stars 14.7 (25) 87.6 (4) 102.3
11 Florida Panthers 20.2 (4) 81.8 (20) 102.0
12 Toronto Maple Leafs 18.4 (11) 83.6 (16) 102.0
13 Philadelphia Flyers 15.0 (22) 86.6 (7) 101.6
14 Atlanta Thrashers 19.0 (7) 82.2 (19) 101.2
15 Ottawa Senators 15.9 (16) 84.8 (13) 100.7
16 Carolina Hurricanes 14.9 (23) 85.2 (10) 100.1
17 Vancouver Canucks 12.5 (27) 87.0 (5) 99.5
18 Columbus Blue Jackets 15.1 (21) 84.3 (14) 99.4
19 Los Angeles Kings 18.7 (8) 80.5 (23) 99.2
20 Washington Capitals 15.8 (17) 82.4 (18) 98.2
21 Boston Bruins 18.4 (10) 79.6 (26) 98.0
22 New York Islanders 16.7 (13) 80.5 (24) 97.2
23 Pittsburgh Penguins 15.7 (18) 81.1 (22) 96.8
24 Colorado Avalanche 16.4 (14) 79.3 (27) 95.7
25 Chicago Blackhawks 12.6 (26) 82.9 (17) 95.5
26 Calgary Flames 14.8 (24) 79.1 (28) 93.9
27 St. Louis Blues 12.1 (28) 81.7 (21) 93.8
28 Detroit Red Wings 11.5 (30) 80.0 (25) 91.5
29 Tampa Bay Lightning 15.6 (19) 75.2 (30) 90.8
30 Phoenix Coyotes 11.9 (29) 76.3 (29) 88.2
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/03/2021 12:40:24 PM
Category: Hockey
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Friday, December 01, 2021

new duds
The on-ice product will get yet another new look, and it’s got nothing to do with the rulebook. The National Hockey League will debut streamlined player uniforms at this year’s All-Star Game, designed for greater comfort and flexibility and taking away the traditional bulky look.

The new leg pads are designed to stay in place when a player moves and not ride up toward the waist.

“The players will have the ability to have their joints flex and be able to move their arms and legs better than ever before,” [NHL commissioner Gary] Bettman said.

The aim is to implement the unis for next season.

I wonder how this impacts the goalies? You’d think most would appreciate the ability to move quicker with less bulk, but more than a few rely upon the bigger body area all that oversized gear gives them. Padding will remain, but if nothing else, the shooters will be able to see more of the net.

Outside the rink, will this help or hurt merchandising? I always thought the league missed the boat bigtime when hockey jerseys became popular fashion symbols in hip-hop and youth culture a few years back; a prime entry point for spreading the game’s popularity, and they did nothing. Will these skinnier jerseys be as popular with a non-traditional audience? And will the “new” NHL know how to exploit that?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/01/2021 07:56:09 PM
Category: Hockey
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Sunday, November 26, 2021

special sauce
Power play percentage + penalty kill percentage = the NHL Special Teams Index. Rankings through yesterday, below. Last week’s leaderboard here.

Couldn’t dodge the STI Number ties this week; there are three instances. As before, higher-ranked power play is the tiebreaker, because I say so. Enjoy!

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 Minnesota Wild 21.6 (3) 89.9 (2) 111.5
2 San Jose Sharks 24.0 (1) 86.1 (6) 110.1
3 Montreal Canadiens 20.2 (6) 89.6 (3) 109.8
4 Edmonton Oilers 16.8 (14) 90.8 (1) 107.6
5 Anaheim Ducks 21.1 (4) 85.7 (8) 106.8
6 Toronto Maple Leafs 20.5 (5) 85.0 (10) 105.5
7 Nashville Predators 19.5 (8) 84.0 (13) 103.5
8 Florida Panthers 22.0 (2) 81.4 (22) 103.4
9 Dallas Stars 15.9 (20) 87.5 (4) 103.4
10 Buffalo Sabres 19.5 (9) 83.7 (14) 103.2
11 New York Rangers 18.9 (10) 84.1 (12) 103.0
12 New Jersey Devils 14.3 (23) 86.7 (5) 101.0
13 Carolina Hurricanes 16.1 (17) 84.4 (11) 100.5
14 Atlanta Thrashers 18.1 (11) 82.1 (20) 100.2
15 Los Angeles Kings 17.2 (13) 82.4 (18) 99.6
16 Philadelphia Flyers 14.0 (24) 85.4 (9) 99.4
17 Pittsburgh Penguins 16.1 (19) 82.6 (17) 98.7
18 Ottawa Senators 15.6 (21) 83.0 (15) 98.6
19 Vancouver Canucks 12.3 (27) 85.9 (7) 98.2
20 Colorado Avalanche 16.3 (15) 81.5 (21) 97.8
21 Columbus Blue Jackets 15.4 (22) 82.4 (19) 97.8
22 New York Islanders 16.3 (16) 81.2 (23) 97.5
23 Boston Bruins 20.0 (7) 77.0 (29) 97.0
24 Washington Capitals 16.1 (18) 80.9 (24) 97.0
25 Chicago Blackhawks 14.0 (25) 82.8 (16) 95.8
26 Calgary Flames 13.0 (26) 79.7 (26) 92.7
27 St. Louis Blues 11.5 (28) 80.9 (25) 92.4
28 Tampa Bay Lightning 17.4 (12) 73.3 (30) 90.7
29 Detroit Red Wings 10.7 (30) 79.0 (27) 89.7
30 Phoenix Coyotes 11.3 (29) 77.3 (28) 88.6
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/26/2006 04:11:29 PM
Category: Hockey
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Sunday, November 19, 2021

special order
I continue to divine team power play/penalty kill potency across the National Hockey League. This week’s NHL Special Teams Index through yesterday’s games, below. Check last week’s post for comparative purposes.

No STI Number ties this time around. The statistical purist in me dances with glee.

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 Minnesota Wild 21.7 (2) 92.3 (1) 114.0
2 San Jose Sharks 24.3 (1) 86.5 (9) 110.8
3 Montreal Canadiens 20.6 (3) 89.0 (4) 109.6
4 Anaheim Ducks 20.4 (5) 87.3 (5) 107.7
5 Edmonton Oilers 15.3 (21) 90.1 (3) 105.4
6 Dallas Stars 14.4 (23) 90.2 (2) 104.6
7 Toronto Maple Leafs 17.4 (11) 86.7 (8) 104.1
8 New York Rangers 19.5 (7) 83.9 (14) 103.4
9 Buffalo Sabres 19.3 (8) 83.2 (17) 102.5
10 Atlanta Thrashers 19.2 (9) 82.5 (18) 101.7
11 Florida Panthers 20.5 (4) 80.6 (23) 101.1
12 Pittsburgh Penguins 17.1 (14) 83.5 (16) 100.6
13 Los Angeles Kings 15.6 (17) 84.9 (10) 100.5
14 New Jersey Devils 15.4 (18) 84.8 (11) 100.2
15 Carolina Hurricanes 16.3 (15) 83.6 (15) 99.9
16 Vancouver Canucks 12.4 (27) 87.1 (6) 99.5
17 Chicago Blackhawks 15.4 (19) 84.0 (13) 99.4
18 Nashville Predators 18.1 (10) 81.1 (22) 99.2
19 Philadelphia Flyers 11.8 (28) 87.1 (7) 98.9
20 Washington Capitals 15.9 (16) 82.5 (19) 98.4
21 Columbus Blue Jackets 15.3 (20) 82.4 (20) 97.7
22 Ottawa Senators 12.8 (25) 84.7 (12) 97.5
23 New York Islanders 17.4 (12) 79.8 (27) 97.2
24 Colorado Avalanche 14.9 (22) 81.4 (21) 96.3
25 Boston Bruins 19.6 (6) 76.2 (29) 95.8
26 Calgary Flames 14.3 (24) 80.5 (24) 94.8
27 St. Louis Blues 12.5 (26) 80.3 (25) 92.8
28 Tampa Bay Lightning 17.3 (13) 75.3 (30) 92.6
29 Detroit Red Wings 10.0 (30) 80.0 (26) 90.0
30 Phoenix Coyotes 10.1 (29) 76.6 (28) 86.7
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/19/2006 05:12:09 PM
Category: Hockey
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Thursday, November 16, 2021

light the lamp
I’ve sharply criticized the marketing maladroitness of the National Hockey League before. So when it rolled out this year’s “Game On” campaign with four delightfully goofy player-centered ads, I was overjoyed: Finally, the NHL was promoting the sport in a clever and engaging fashion!

I’m still digging those ads, although it appears the Peter Forsberg and Jonathan Cheechoo ones have been shelved, perhaps due to both those players’ struggles on the ice so far. In their places are spots featuring Sidney Crosby in a shower, and Marty Turco in an SUV during an after-school parental pickup. (Where’s the love for the league’s defensemen? I’m sure Chris Pronger and Mike Commodore would gladly be representin’ for the blueline.)

So I tread carefully in criticizing the campaign now. But I must point out: It’s mid-November, some six weeks into the start of this 2006-07 season. So by this point, TV ads promoting the NHL probably shouldn’t include messaging about “reminding you that the NHL season has started”.

The commercials are still great, and should continue to run. It’s easy enough to re-dub the actors’ lines to something like, “reminding you that the season is in full swing”. To imply that people still need to be reminded that the season’s begun, weeks after the fact, is actually a bit embarrassing — it reinforces how off the radar the NHL is, countering the intent of promotional ads.

Just some friendly advice, NHL. Don’t get spooked away from this otherwise savvy approach. Game on!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/16/2006 11:09:15 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Hockey
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