Saturday, November 16, 2002

Bol dons blades!
Manute Bol has traded in his basketball sneakers and boxing trunks and now is in a shocking search for a pair of ice skates.

Manute Bol figures to stand out in the hockey crowd, just as he did in his flirtation with boxing.

Seriously.

The 7-foot-7 former NBA shot-blocker agreed to terms Tuesday to play with the Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League.

Bol is expected to be in uniform for an appearance with the Ice on Saturday night, but it is unlikely he will play in the game against the Amarillo Gorillas.

Link via Hockeyblog.com
Soviet Canuckistan’s Comrade Cosh blithely continues the Party line,
I may tackle the Howe-Gretzky thing statistically at some point, but as it stands I would cite the old sceptical maxim "The burden of proof is on the maker of an extraordinary claim." The claim that anyone who ever lived rivals Gretzky is certainly asking a lot, of me at least. Your workup actually had the sheer nerve to *penalize* Gretzky for playing longer regular seasons and four rounds of playoffs every year (and once logging 300+ consecutive games too, I might add). Surely, Howe's shorter seasons cut both ways. You don't think playing short years against guys three, four inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter might have had something to do with Howe hanging around until he was 50-plus?

What is so extraordinary about the claim that Howe is the best ever? He stood 6’1” and weighed 205. His nickname was “Power” and he ruled the rinks with a combination, since unsurpassed, of talent, strength, and intimidation. He scored both left and right-handed. His elbows were legendary and if that didn’t work he had no compunction about shooting the puck at your face. He didn’t cower behind the 6’3” formidable frame of Dave Semenko, but met each physical challenge with devastating determination. His one blow demolition of tough-guy Lou Fontinato’s face graced the front cover of Life magazine. Opponents overplayed to his side because never before or since did a player control the game from the right wing like Howe did. Sure, some players were smaller but others like Butch Bouchard [6’2”, 210], Jean Beliveau [6’3” 205], Bob Goldham [6’2” 195], Elmer, “Moose”, Vasko [6’2” 200], Eddie Litzenberger [6’3” 195],Leonard,“Red”, Kelly [6’ 195],and Frank Mahovolich [6’1” 205]all were prominent physical forces. Four inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter, is, [shall we be kind] an exaggeration. 50-plus? The post doesn’t even mentioned this fact which really is indicative of how weak the league was in the late seventies and early eighties. And even more evidence of the intrinsic weakness of this era is the fact that the Oilers compiled these hugely inflated point totals while playing shorthanded for on average, a period per game. The 1982-83 Oilers compiled 1,771 minutes in penalties compared the the 1952-53 Red Wings who only averaged 9 minutes per game in penalties.

As for the shorter season cutting both ways, I’ll digress. When I challenged our great Alberta artificer (?) regarding his contention that Gale Sayers was the greatest running back of all time, he responded thusly,
Brown is the other serious candidate besides Sayers, I guess. But, if I'm a coach trying to choose between those two guys, do I want the violent egomaniac or the Jackie Robinson of football? If I take Sayers he'll run back kicks for my special teams; Brown won't even participate in my blocking scheme. And if I lean on him he'll convince Art Modell to fire my ass.
And here I thought football was a violent game.

In college, in the regular-season finale, a 61-7 rout of Colgate, Jim Brown rushed for 197 yards, scored six touchdowns, and kicked seven extra points for 43 points. Then in the Cotton Bowl, he rushed for 132 yards, scored three touchdowns, and kicked three extra points. Arguably, the greatest Lacrosse player of all time you gotta admit this guy did it all.

In '58 he compiles 1,527 yards and 18 touchdowns, but in the playoffs the Giants beat then 10-0 and he gets eight yards on seven carries. Seven carries for the greatest running back in the game!!!

"When you have a thoroughbred," coach Paul Brown said, "you run him."
Sure Paul!

Brown's 1,329 and 1,257 yards in 12-game seasons led NFL rushers the next two seasons. In 1961, in the first 14-game season, Brown led the league for the fifth straight season, with 1,408 yards. [And you doubt Gordie would have popped more goals in a longer season!] But again no playoffs for the Browns. In 1962, for the only time in his career, Brown failed to win the rushing title, gaining just 996 yards. Cleveland fell to 7-6-1. After the season, he tells owner Art Modell "either Paul Brown goes or I quit."

So Modell dumps Paul Brown and in his first season under new coach Blanton Collier, Brown became the first back to run for more than a mile with his 1,863-yard total. He led the league with 1,446 yards in 1963 as the Browns won the NFL championship, routing Baltimore 27-0 in the title game with Brown rushing for a game-high 114 yards.

Yet, Mr. Cosh dismisses him outright because he’s an uppity nigger. Now that’s serious statistical analysis!

However, in Brown’s case, he averaged 107 yards per game in a twelve game season and 102 yards per game in a 14 game season.

Mr. Cosh admonishes my straight up bonus to Gordie -
Oh, I don't doubt Gordie Howe would have scored more goals in a longer regular season--that's pretty much true in principle. But you gave him a straight-up per-game bonus in your calculations--assuming that the last ten are as productive as the first seventy. The extra ten, as I see it, are the hard ones. What I said was, the factor *cuts both ways*, and it does. It's *tougher*, not easier, to play a longer schedule. Especially if you account for the extra-super-duper-long playoff that comes after it.
However, if we look at Brown’s numbers this unsupported notion doesn’t cut it.

And still more,
And that European thing--*honestly* now. Anyone who thinks the European presence in the NHL began in 1990 must have been asleep for several thousand games involving Borje Salming, a whole boatload of Statsny brothers, Matti Hagman, Hakan Loob, Jaroslav Pouzar, Kjell Dahlin, Petri Skriko, Risto Siltanen, Rexi Ruotsalainen, Kent Nilsson, Thomas Gradin, Markus Mattsson, Bengt Gustafsson, Pelle Lindbergh, Mats Naslund, Thomas Steen, a couple of Sundstroms and a Sandstrom, Ulf Samuelsson... Not that too many of these guys would have held up Howe, although Pouzar could no doubt have bench-pressed him one-handed; but the fact remains that NHL hockey did much of the heavy lifting on globalization after Howe left and while Gretzky was still a kid.


No one is saying that the European influx started in the 1990’s, only that the trickle that began in the mid-seventies did not become significant until the nineties. Mr. Cosh’s list, and generously we’ll add Jari Kurri, Inge Hammarstrom, Willy Lindstrom, Anders Hedbergh, and Ulf Nilsson for a total of 26 only accounts for approximately five percent of a 21 team league. The Oilers had Kurri, Pouzar and Lindstrom on the ’82-83 team and the 1980 Stanley Cup-winning New York Islanders had 21 North Americans and two Swedes on their roster. Pouzar may have been able to bench-press Gordie with one hand but he wasn’t good enough to carry his skates with the other by anyone’s measure. This was a assemblage of Swedes and Finns with a couple of Slovak defectors.The European tsunami came after the collapse of communism.

Last year NHL teams drafted a record number of 142 European players. It marked the sixth consecutive year that the number of European players has increased in the Entry Draft.

1996: 58 European players selected
1997: 63
1998: 75
1999: 94
2000: 123
2001: 142

Last season marked the first time when the amount of drafted Europeans (142) virtually equalled the number of selected North Americans (147). Since the modern draft system was introduced in 1969, a total of 1350 Europeans have been selected. Four Europeans have had the distinction of being picked first overall:

1989 Mats Sundin, SWE, by Quebec
1992 Roman Hamrlik, CZE, by Tampa Bay
1999 Patrik Stefan, CZE, by Atlanta
2001 Ilia Kovalchuk, RUS, by Atlanta

The first player ever drafted from Europe was Finnish left wing Tommi Salmelainen (from IFK Helsinki). Salmelainen, who never played an NHL-game, was picked 66th overall by St. Louis in 1969. The first European trained player in the NHL was Swedish centre Ulf Sterner (from V. Frolunda, Goteborg) who played four games for the NY Rangers in 1965.

Last season (2001-2002) a record number of 293 (30.3 percent) Europeans played in the NHL.

During the Howe era, the Europeans had barely emerged from the hockey hinterland. Undermining Howe’s dominance because he did not compete against Europeans is nonsense. Questioning axiomatic norms, whether it is Marc Herrold’s death total of innocent Afghanis or Gretzky’s inflated point totals in the weakest decade of NHL history will always be of value. It is the myopic denial by fat-ass fops that poses the greatest danger.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Frankly, I expected more than sanctimonious tripe from Mr. Cosh, but the guy’s from Edmonton, so I guess it figures. Substituting slander for substance is simply slothful and intellectually dishonest. For this Fox the grapes will always be sour.
"He shoots! He sues!" The New York Times has noticed the Canadian hockey lawsuit.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

I asked Rick Charlton about his numbers:
Mr. Charlton,

You did an interesting piece in 2000 regarding how goals per game averages had changed in the NHL over the decades because of WW2 and expansion. Do you have any stats on assists per game during the same period. Comparing Howe's and Gretzky's goal totals, and allowing for the longer season and inflated averages, by my tally, Gordie would have outscored Wayne by an average of seven goals per year if he had played in the Eighties. But what of assists? Gordie tallied 418 and 468 in the Fifties and Sixties respectively and Wayne garnered 1200 and 710 in the Eighties and Nineties. My guess would be much inflated assist averages as well.

Can you help?

And he replied:
Thanks Charles.

Any stats I have are pure grunt work just like those compiled by yourself.

I remember there were occasional rumblings that it was easier for Gretzky to get the second assist on a goal at Northlands than any other building in the league. A homer statistician helps as well.

But I won't cheapen his accomplishments. He was a great player, maybe the greatest ever, Mario, Bobby Orr and Howe standing right there with him in a group that fans will be debating forever.

While I've done broad comparisions of statistical scoring trends and I think that has great value I would be the first to concede that comparing a single player from one era to another 20 or 30 years later has some dangers.

The league Gordie Howe played in was an older (average age) league for one thing versus the relatively young league that Wayne Gretzky played in. That would have been a benefit to Gretzky.

The players were smaller in the era of Gordie Howe. That would have benefited Howe, one of the bigger players of his time.

The league - my opinion - was more diluted in the Gretzky era. That would have benefited Gretzky and made it more difficult for Howe.

I think its possible to compare era's statistically and demographically and make judgements. Narrowing it down to one player versus another, however, is pretty tough.

Its even tough to examine the career of a guy like Steve Yzerman who has played in two distinct eras. Yzerman was a high point producer in the 80's and early 90's but most would concede his best years as an all-around player were in the late 1990's when he had fewer points.

Its fun though. Its an endless debate. And I know this note wasn't much help!!!

On the contrary Rick, your input is much appreciated. Being an oldtimer, naturally, I've given the nod to Gordie and feel during the much diluted Eighties that Gordie would have been unstoppable.

A Spoof?

Mr. Colby Cosh comments on my characterization of Gordie and Wayne -
That stuff about Gretzky and Howe on the Puck Hog site is an elaborate joke, right? Throwing out Gretzky's assist total and saying the European influx magically started in 1990--hilarious stuff, man. The lengths some people will go to stretch a lame argument, eh? Wonderful, wonderful parody. -C.


Mr. Cosh may have a point, but where's the beef? We know that Gretzky's assist total in the 80's was 1200 compared to Gordie's 418 over his first decade. Wayne then piled up 710 assists in the 90's with Gordie garnering another 468 over his second decade. One thing is missing, numbers which I haven't found yet and Mr. Cosh has not supplied. What are the assist per game averages in the Fifties and Sixties versus the Eighties and Nineties?

Clearly the European influx didn't start in the Nineties but certainly the wave of players from across the North Atlantic pond crested in the mid-Nineties.

So Mr. Cosh, if you want this bird to fly, show us the numbers! Otherwise people will think you've been spending too much time at Father Duffy's Well.

It is hard work sucking this badly: Last night, the Washington Capitals got smoked, 6-1, by the Dallas Stars. "The loss ranked right down there with the club's 11-shot performance against Philadelphia on Nov.2 and its comatose showing in a 7-2 drubbing administered by Boston on Oct.30." Goalie Olaf Kolzig, the master of understatement, told the Washington Times, "It was a stinker."

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

THE TWO-HALFBACKS, TWO FULLBACKS, STOPPER SYSTEM

Freddy Shero has never really gotten his due as one of the most innovative and thought provoking coaches in the NHL. I always liked to read Freddy's stuff because he isn't subsumed in traditional, pedantic NHL dogma. Other than the Stanley Cups [74-75], his crowning triumph with the Flyers, not the most talented team in NHL history, was dominating the Soviet Red Army team in 1976, victorious over all NHL adversaries except one, gaining a draw in Montreal. Some say the victory will forever be flawed by images of Ed Van Impe cutting down Valerie Kharlamov followed by the Soviets' 20-minute protest strike, while Bob Cole, one of Newfoundland’s finest, regaled us with the immortal words, “They’re going home, the Soviets are going home”.

Joe Watson, who played defence on both Cup winners, tells the story. "Freddy (Coach Shero) said `Boys, here's what we're going to do: We're going to shut them down at centre ice,' " he recalled. “ When they got the opening face-off, they made 20 passes; we stood there and looked at them... We just took over the game. We out shot them 49-13.

"In the second period, I scored a short-handed goal, and it took the Russians 20 years to recover."

Coach Shero also tells great hockey stories and he entertains us with another here –
Since I’m a lot older than most of you, it is well worth mentioning I was on the first team to use the Box Formation to kill a penalty. It occurred in 1945 and I was playing for, in my opinion, the greatest hockey coach of the time, Fred Metcalf of Regina, Saskatchewan. We were playing the Montreal Royals, the best senior team in Canada for the Allen Cup, in the days when the Allen Cup really meant something. Eddie Moran, who played for the Canadiens, carried the puck around us for a solid two minutes, and when he got off the ice, he got the biggest ovation in hockey history. The fans in Montreal thought that the four of us couldn’t check one man, and they were right. But we killed four penalties that day without mishap. A situation like that makes me wonder how knowledgeable we really are about our game.

One more thing about Freddie Metcalf, I must of read it a thousand times that the Russians have a new idea they call ‘The Two Half-backs, Two Full-backs, Stopper System’. We [Metcalf and the Regina Rangers] were the first to use it. We used it in 1945 and again in 1948 with the Rangers. It was a must game in Chicago and we only had three defensemen. We had 25 shots to their 8 and won 4-1.


Too bad the Swedes didn’t have Freddy around when the Germans sunk their torpedo and ruined their chances for a hockey gold at Salt Lake City.

Ex-Michigan star Mike Cammalleri is back with the Kings after a hot hand with the Monarchs.
El Segundo, CA – The Los Angeles Kings have recalled rookie centerman Mike Cammalleri. Kings Senior Vice President/General Manager Dave Taylor made the announcement on Thursday. To make room on the roster for Cammalleri, center Steve Kelly was assigned to Manchester.

Cammalleri, 20, joins the Kings on the road. The Monarchs parent club began an eight-game road trip on Tuesday, November 5 at San Jose’s Compaq Center with a 5-2 setback at the hands of the Sharks. The road trip continues on Friday, November 8 when the Kings visit the Corel Centre in Ottawa and meet the Ottawa Senators.

Cammalleri, listed at 5-foot-9, 188-pounds, leads the Monarchs in scoring with four goals, 10 assists and 14 points after nine games. He’s also the owner of a five-game scoring streak with the Monarchs with three goals, eight assists and 11 points during the streak. The second round selection (49th overall) of the Kings during the 2001 NHL Entry Draft also has four multi-point games, and three three-point games this season.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Election update: While most of us were distracted last week by the U.S. elections, LCS Hockey put out its own eletion night guide...