Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday NHL Thoughts - 10/12/06 Edition

Hey all!

Ready to talk hockey? First, I would like to start off with a few words on the "OTAN" pool. After a week of dwelling in the standings' basement, I have finally started my comeback with a big night yesterday. It's only a matter of time until my players stop sucking. By the way, can someone explain to me why Ilya Kovalchuk has 2 points in 4 games? Still, on the subject of the Pool, I would like to give a big hand to Sweet LP and especially Mat, who after 1 week, are kicking the rest of the Pool's butt. On the other hand, I will give a big thumb's down to Nick The Dick formissing the draft and then having the audacity to lead the Pool for 4 days. Luckily, things have gone back to normal and the Dick seems headed for the basement once more. Pick of the year so far? It could've been Michael Nylander, who came off the board pretty late and now has 5 points in 3 games, but The Dick was absent on draft night and so did not technically "pick" Nylander. So, instead, we wind up with a tie between Mat's Kari Lethonen ( last goaltender taken, 2 shutouts in his first week) and Sweet LP's Martin Havlat (2 games, 6 points, LP's 9th foward). Now, why would I have given the "best pick" tag to Nylander, who doesn't nearly have as many points as the other 2? Because Lethonen and Havlat, as we all know, will get injured at some point, and thus their production will go down. Nylander, playing between jagr and Shanahan, could keep this up all year. Nice "non-pick", The Dick.

On another note, the Canadiens won again last night, giving them a total of 5 points out of a possible 6 in their 3-game season-opening road trip. That's pretty good. In fact, it's very good. But the Canadiens need all the points they need now. As a "small" team, they are bound to get tired, as they do every year, and will probably lose ground as the season goes on. So, yeah, they do need the fast start. One more thing: Aebischer is starting to make Gainey look like an idiot for giving Huet that much money in the off-season.

We are one week into the season, and already there is talk that offense is down in the NHL. Why is it? Well, for one thing, teams have gotten a lot better on the penalty kill. Last year, teams scored on 17.64% of their power plays. This year, as of last night, the league average was down to 15.74%, almost a full 2% below the standards set last year. That being said, the season is still very, very young. Some power plays perhaps haven't really clicked yet. Pittsburgh and Dallas, for instance, still haven't scored with the man advantage. Buffalo, which had the best PP at home last year, are clicking at a rate of 5.0%, and the Senators, with guys like Jason Spezza, Wade Redden, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson on the ice, are a measley 5.3%. So things will get better for these teams, and they will get worse for others. In the meantime, the only thing that matters is the show, not the amount of goals. While I am sure there have been boring games this year, the 2 Edmonton-Calgary games I have seen, as well as the Montreal-Buffalo and Montreal-Toronto games, have all featured a very tight, very back-and-forth, very exciting brand of hockey. And no fan can complain about that.

Next week, I will talk about the eventual transfer of Hockey Night in Canada from CBC to CTV, as well as my thoughts on all 6 of the Canadian teams' seasons so far.

See you tomorrow for my Week 6 NFL Weekend Picks.

Dwarf out.


At 1:38 PM, Anonymous huy said...

je serais plus dans la course si mes goalers jouait pas comme Theo.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger The Dwarf said...

En fait, Theo a 3 points, soit exactement le meme total que tes goalers 1 et 3 combines. Donc, ce que tu voulais dire, je crois, c'est que tu serais plus dans la course si tes goalers joueaient COMME Theo.

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous huy said...

hey jackass, commence pas a faire ton smat......tu va voir, quand malkin revient au jeu, pi kiprussof arrete de jouer comme une serais pas trop loin en arriere de LP pi Mat

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Veillotron said...

je suis encore dans le bas de la cave...
Pas une bonne semaine au bureau - je suis pas mal frustre.
EN passant, pourquoi "OTAN"?

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Veillotron said...

Autre bonne nouvelle - ENGLAND SUCKS!
Leur coach est une joke.
Et meme si Lampard est mon joueur prefere, je dois rester objectif et admettre qu'il est parfois un peu overrated.

At 9:58 PM, Blogger Veillotron said...

Bon - je viens de lire un article qui defonce Lamps. Mais moi, j'ai encore confiance en lui.

Time to be Frank

When separating Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho in the voting for the best player on the planet in 2005, what was Frank Lampard thinking?

That this was more a figment of his imagination than reality, or that this was where he belonged? That he was the world's finest footballer, or that he could barely believe his remarkable ascent himself? That there was an air of permanence about his new-found status, or that he should savour the occasion for its rarity value?

The suspicion is that, rather than being taken aback by the speed of his ascent among the echelon of the outstanding talents, there was a presumption that such accolades could become an annual event for him.

Four years earlier, Frank Lampard would not have rated a mention for a place in the world's top 200; after an almost unprecedented improvement from an established player, he came second only to Barcelona's Brazilian in the polling.

The 2006 award may go to Ronaldinho or Fabio Cannavaro. It is a certainty that it won't be adorning Lampard's mantelpiece.

With his Latin GCSE, the Chelsea midfielder should understand the phrase annus horribilis (though the words 'mea culpa' don't seem to have crossed his lips during an extended slump). It is a fair description of his year. If the World Cup represented the nadir for Lampard, a Wednesday night in Zagreb showed his dominant best is descending into distant memory.

Against Croatia, Steve McClaren configured his England team with Lampard in mind.

With Scott Parker primed to provide the industry and Michael Carrick the ammunition, this was a midfield with Lampard at the apex, given licence to advance and cap his 50th appearance for his country with a goal. He never threatened to.

Given the onus to excel as the senior member of an inexperienced midfield, he was arguably the most ineffective performer. For the fourth successive Euro 2008 qualifier, Lampard played poorly.

By sacrificing David Beckham, McClaren dodged a decision about Lampard, hiding behind Rafael Benitez's frequent use of Steven Gerrard on the right flank as a reason to deploy the Liverpool captain there. When England reconvene - whether for November's friendly against the Netherlands or March's qualifier in Israel - judgment on Lampard cannot be postponed any longer.

For Lampard's apologists, his heavy-legged performances can be explained by three seasons in which he scored 65 goals in 200 games for club and country.

“ Jose Mourinho is credited with convincing the midfielder he could become the world's best. ”

They are astonishing statistics and, given the pace and intensity of the modern game, unlikely to be equalled by a player balancing the needs of international football, the Champions League and a difficult domestic campaign. The facts alone don't reveal that, in that time, Lampard improved almost every facet of his game.

In 2006, seemingly, each has declined. It is easiest to judge Lampard by his goalscoring and a record of five in 15 this season is more than respectable, if inflated by penalties and deflections. But his passing, which had developed far beyond expectations, has lacked both incision and imagination.

While always shot-happy, he seems willing to completely forego beating a defender to take aim at the first possible opportunity. As was illustrated in the World Cup, this has not been a successful policy.

Indeed, in a tournament where many reputations were consolidated or enhanced, few had theirs damaged as much as Lampard. Now, his continued malaise means that, when all are available, McClaren should field an entirely different quartet in midfield to the trio mired in mediocrity in Zagreb with Aaron Lennon and Joe Cole flanking Gerrard and Owen Hargreaves.

There is a decision, too, for the man who has been Lampard's staunchest advocate. Jose Mourinho is credited with convincing the midfielder he could become the world's best. His place in the Chelsea side is unquestioned, not least because Lampard is far from alone in failing to replicate his club form on international duty. Nonetheless, there has been a depreciation in his displays for Chelsea.

It has come at a time of increased competition. Michael Essien, seemingly the most vulnerable, has responded superbly. Michael Ballack's greater flexibility and tactical awareness were apparent in his deeper role for Germany at the World Cup.

Early season injuries to Joe Cole and Arjen Robben, meanwhile, have deprived Chelsea of width and Mourinho of a selection dilemma. So, too, has Ballack's suspension after his dismissal against Liverpool. When that ends, the Portuguese will have a wealth of midfield options; it will be instructive if Lampard maintains his status among the untouchables then.

For England, he should not.

His case is hardly helped by his adherence to the culture of excuses to which recent England teams have subscribed.

There is a sense that, along with several of his international team-mates, he appears to believe he should be exempt from criticism. Closer acquaintance with Lampard - via his autobiography - has hardly endeared the midfielder to a wider audience. The feeling, it appears, is mutual. He is now widely derided as 'fat Frank'; while others think he should shed excess pounds, Lampard is probably keener to rid himself of that unwanted tag

It was his weighty contribution, for both Chelsea and England, that propelled him into contention for the World Player of the Year award last time.

The speed and extent of his advance astonished but, when Lampard was sandwiched by the luminaries from Barcelona, was he wondering if his decline will be as rapid and dramatic?

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Sweet LP said...

Veillotron: es-tu branché ou c'est pour le prochian siècle?


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