Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Sidney Crosby Conspiracy Theory

In the last 24 hours the hockey world has been set abuzz, not because of the All-Star game, but rather breaking news on the health of Sidney Crosby. A recent trip to a spine specialist found that he had cracked vertebrae in his neck, but that they had healed abnormally. Concussions and cracked vertebrae both produce similar symptoms, and the neck injuries can lead to false positives in concussion tests. The treatment of minor (compression) fractures of the neck vertebrae is most often a cervical collar or brace worn for six to eight weeks until the bone heals on its own. I don't recall ever seeing Sidney Crosby wearing a neck brace, and after the Steckle hit the only thing Sid complained about was a sore neck. He had not shown any concussion symptoms, hence why he was allowed to continue playing, leading to the Headman hit.

So what if Sidney Crosby never had a serious concussion? What if he has been failing concussion tests because of a neck injury that was never properly treated? I'm sure that based on the amount of healing they can approximate when the neck injury happened, and either they did the proper test and treatment or they didn't. My conspiracy theory is purely speculation about a possible scenario, and we will surely find out more information on this story in the coming days. Was Crosby misdiagnosed this entire time? At this point it is plausible. Had they wrapped him in a cervical collar for two months, would he have been good to go in the playoffs last year and fully healthy this year?

Last season when Chara smashed Pacioretty into the wall, he was diagnosed with both a concussion and cracked vertebrae. Diagnosed and treated properly, Max still missed the rest of the season, but returned full strength in October and has been having a strong season without incident (unless you count his vicious head shot on Kris Letang, but those games he missed due to suspension). Pacioretty has been playing even better than he had been before the injury. It is possible that the Penguins doctors dropped the ball on this one and Sid has unnecessarily missed most of the 2011/12 season. Possible, if not probable.

This is my conspiracy theory. I'll find out if I'm right soon enough. The next question is what are the long term health implications to abnormally healed neck bones?

UPDATE (Jan 31/2012): Word today is that there is no vertebrae crack, only a soft tissue injury to the neck. This seems like good news because the soft tissue injury can still lead to false positives on concussion tests. All's well right? It doesn't make sense to Bob MacKenzie, who says that treatment for soft tissue injury is standard protocol in regular concussion treatments, ergo Sid should have been receiving treatment for this the entire time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Corey Perry Heading For Vancouver?

Today the Vancouver Province is reporting speculation that a major deal could be in the works to send Corey Perry to the Canucks for a package including Cory Schneider, Keith Ballard, Mason Raymond and a draft pick. I'm not sure that the Ducks, or any NHL team for that matter, is interested in Keith Ballard at $4.2M for 3 more seasons. A player who is that turnover and mistake prone is a risk for any team, even if he shows flashes of quality play. If the Ducks are even willing to ship Perry to Vancouver (which they might not be), they would almost certainly demand Cody Hodgson be included in the deal. Clearly Schneider and Raymond are being shopped, but they are not good enough to acquire the league MVP. Both of them are restricted free agents at the end of the season and need to be re-signed.

Cody Hodgson has been playing great as of late, leading the team in scoring for the month of January. Mason Raymond has been average at best. Schneider has value, as he is ready to be a starter and it looks like he's going to be a solid goaltender in this league for many years to come. There are likely negotiations taking place between Vancouver and Anaheim for a trade. They have a history of making deals and I'm sure Canucks GM Gillis is talking to every team that's selling before the deadline. Whether or not Corey Perry is included in a potential deal is just speculation at this point, but rest assured it will cost more than the rumoured deal in today's newspaper.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Datsyuk 1st Pick In NHL All-Star Team Draft

It was fantastic to see Pavel Datsyuk drafted first overall in the NHL All-Star draft by Zdeno Chara, as the Bruins captain chose one of the league's most valuable players. In last year's draft, Eric Staal used the 1st pick to select teammate Cam Ward. It felt cheap and against the spirit of competition to draft a teammate first, so good on Chara for selecting a rival player. While I'm not fan of the All-Star game itself, I do find this draft format to be compelling. Last year it was outstanding to see Phil Kessel drafted dead last, and this year the honour went to Logan Couture.

I haven't watched an All-Star game in 10-15 years. The players tend to give a half assed effort and don't play defense. It is fun to watch when you are a kid, but as an adult the appeal plummets considerably. It may be nice to see one of my favourite players drafted 1st, but generally my position is that I'd prefer no Red Wings play in the All-Star game. The worst part about this whole 5.5 day layoff is that there is no regular season hockey. I'm more pissed off about missing NHL action than I am excited about a skills competition and glorified game of pond hockey. Great, Datsyuk went #1, but the game itself means nothing to me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prince Fielder Signs With Tigers

His father was probably my favourite baseball player of all-time, as a poster of Cecil Fielder "the long distance operator" long adorned the wall of my bedroom. Now Prince Fielder has signed a monster contract to play for the franchise where his father crushed the most baseballs, the Detroit Tigers. This is outstanding news, and possibly enough to make me a Tigers fan once again. $214 Million dollars over 9 years is a hefty price tag, one the Blue Jays were never going to match. The 9 years was probably the deal breaker for most teams, as it is a long commitment to make to an overweight player who could see his skills diminish rapidly and suddenly without warning. There certainly is risk involved, even if it feels warm and fuzzy from a Tigers fan nostalgia perspective.

It begs the question how many teams were in the bidding? Prince remained a free agent for roughly 3 months, and the biggest spending teams like New York, Boston, and Anaheim are already stocked with high price players at 1st base and DH. It's difficult to imagine the secondary market valuing Fielder in the $24M per year range without bidding from the Yankees or Red Sox. Either way, the money isn't coming out of my pocket and I'm happy to see a Fielder back in Detroit. If I owned that team, I'd never approve that contract, but as a fan, BRING IT ON!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tim Thomas Snubs Obama

Boston Bruins goalie and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas declined to accompany his team to the White House today to meet President Barak Obama (as is customary with the champions of major North American sports). His stated reason "I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People." On one hand I respect his rights to have his political beliefs, boycotting a team bonding event for personal reasons feels petty and childish. Go there to be with your teammates, even if you disagree with the politics of the day. Feel free to post on your Facebook page that you lament doing so, but that you are still going to go to be with the team. The only reason not to go is if you were not on the team when they won the championship, like offseason acquisitions. That's when you stay home and tell your teammates that you want to meet the President next year.

George Bush was President for 8 years, and I can't recall any NHLers declining the invitation for political reasons. I'm sure there were plenty of hockey players who did not like him, but went to the White House anyway because it is a team event. This is not about Tim Thomas and it is not about Obama, it is about the Boston Bruins 2010/11 Stanley Cup Champions.

Go and meet the damned President Tim!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NHL Top 50 Goalies Of 2011/12

Sure we might be a week or two past the official half way point, but none the less here are my goaltender rankings for the first half of the 2011/12 NHL season. This is mostly on a per game basis with a minimum of 10 GPs, with categories including winning percentage, goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts. There are some back-up goalies ranked quite high, which might be partially attributable to the strength of the opponent the back-up tends to face. There is no question that in the 16 games he's played, Tuukka Rask has been the best goalie in the NHL, though Tim Thomas tends to get the starts against the very best teams. I suppose that I could adjust rankings for strength of schedule, but I'd have to build that database from scratch and don't have the time today. Maybe next time.

1.Tuukka RaskBOS16111.610.946
2.Brian ElliottSTL22151.680.937
3.Tim ThomasBOS29182.060.935
4.Henrik LundqvistNYR33201.900.937
5.Jimmy HowardDET38271.980.926
6.Jonathan QuickLA39201.950.934
7.Martin BironNYR1291.870.927
8.Cory SchneiderVAN19102.300.927
9.Jaroslav HalakSTL24122.080.918
10.Jean-Sebastien GiguereCOL20112.120.923
11.Antti NiemiSJ34202.270.920
12.Pekka RinneNSH41242.500.922
13.Marc-Andre FleuryPIT38222.230.914
14.Tomas VokounWSH33192.530.917
15.Thomas GreissSJ1062.090.926
16.Kari LehtonenDAL27162.470.919
17.Roberto LuongoVAN32182.390.918
18.Miikka KiprusoffCGY40202.390.918
19.Sergei BobrovskyPHI17102.420.921
20.Niklas BackstromMIN28122.390.923
21.Chris MasonWPG1362.300.913
22.Richard BachmanDAL1162.480.919
23.Johan HedbergNJ21122.450.909
24.Mike SmithPHX35172.430.923
25.Jose TheodoreFLA30142.480.918
26.Nikolai KhabibulinEDM28112.410.919
27.Josh HardingMIN2082.440.925
28.Ray EmeryCHI16102.670.907
29.Jonas GustavssonTOR23132.920.906
30.Craig AndersonOTT43242.910.910
31.Carey PriceMTL40152.450.912
32.Al MontoyaNYI1762.450.917
33.Jhonas EnrothBUF2382.590.919
34.Corey CrawfordCHI34182.810.904
35.Evgeni NabokovNYI2182.500.912
36.Curtis SanfordCBJ2382.540.912
37.Martin BrodeurNJ28142.820.895
38.Ondrej PavelecWPG38152.880.909
39.Ilya BryzgalovPHI31173.000.893
40.Michal NeuvirthWSH1863.020.894
41.Semyon VarlamovCOL30143.000.899
42.Scott ClemmensenFLA1352.800.908
43.Jason LaBarberaPHX1432.820.907
44.Jonas HillerANA39132.930.903
45.Cam WardCAR41163.010.905
46.Devan DubnykEDM2063.050.903
47.James ReimerTOR1873.010.899
48.Mathieu GaronTB31123.020.899
49.Ryan MillerBUF27113.120.898
50.Andrew RaycroftDAL1023.510.898

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NHL 2012 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

Who are the players that you can acquire for fair value in your fantasy hockey league for the remainder of the 2011/12 season? As a disclaimer, I only compete in very deep fantasy leagues (16-20 teams), and all these players are owned in my "experts" league. These sleepers might not all help a whole lot in 10 team leagues. I'm defining "sleeper" in this case as a player available in 15% of leagues or less.

** Kyle Turris F, Ottawa - Starting to show his upside since being acquired by the Ottawa Senators. He's been going at a point per game clip thus far in January and is still available in 88% of Yahoo fantasy leagues. Pick him up.

** Marcus Johansson F, Washington - 26 PTS on the season and still available in 92% of leagues. He sees a lot of ice time with Ovechkin and should be owned in substantially more leagues than he is (unless 90% of leagues are 10 teamers). Pick him up.

** Andrew Shaw F, Chicago - Certainly a must add in deep leagues, as the 20 year old rookie has 5 goals in 8 games and has been seeing a lot of ice with Toews and/or Hossa. Available in 98% of leagues. In the last week I've heard both Ray Ferraro and Bob MacKenzie speak very highly about this kid. Pick him up.

** Sean Couturier F, Philly - He should be owned in a lot more than 5% of Yahoo fantasy leagues. He's been outplaying Claude Giroux over the past few weeks and even has a 4 game point streak. Pick him up.

** Cody Hodgson F, Vancouver - Only owned in 15% of leagues, and should be owned in all but the most shallow. He's finally getting a chance in the NHL, he's healthy, and he has scored some big points for Vancouver. Pick him up.

** Justin Faulk D, Carolina - Owned in 3% of leagues (including mine), this young defenseman is putting up numbers as his team is slowly starting to climb out of the abyss.

** Saku Koivu F, Anaheim - Available in 15% of leagues, the savvy veteran has been playing well as of late, along with teammate Jason Blake (2% owned). Not exciting players to own at this stage of their careers, but if you need a steady presence in a deep league, both are worthy of consideration.

** Mike Fisher F, Nashville - Surprisingly available in 89% of leagues, and he has been playing very well over the last few weeks. Like Koivu he's not an exciting addition, but if you need a guy, he's a guy with a smokin' hot wife.

** Evgeni Nabokov G, NY Islanders - Owned in 28% of leagues, he's currently the #1 guy on the island and doing surprisingly well. Can it continue? Tough to say, but if you need a guy to get starts, he's getting starts.

** Scott Clemmensen G, Florida - Available in 89% of leagues, he's getting starts on a playoff calibre team with Theodore and Markstrom hurt. Again, if you need a guy, he's getting starts.

Will Ryan Miller Be Traded?

The big question this week as the trade deadline approaches, will Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller be traded? He has lashed out in the media and has been having a terrible season at a price tag of over $6M. Back-up Jhonas Enroth has been the better goalie this season, and I'm sure the Sabres would love to sell Miller at the right price. I do need to correct one Sportsnet pundit who said "Miller hasn't been the same since the Lucic hit". Look it up, Ryan Miller's season had already taken a turn for the worse before that Boston game. In the 5 games prior he was 1-4 with a 3.40 GAA and a .881 SVPCT. The regression had begun before that collision. In fact it has been happening since the Olympics. Miller had a great 2009/10 and has been slowly eroding ever since.

Now he's 31 years old, has a crisis of confidence and declining skills, with an expensive salary. I don't doubt that he's got some good hockey left in him, but I wouldn't give up much to acquire that contract. Yesterday my friend was watching Sportsnet and two clowns speculated that Derek Roy and Ryan Miller would (or could) be traded to Detroit for Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard. This proposed deal was e-mailed to me. As a Red Wings fan, I scoffed at the idea, said it was bullshit and had to ask if I was being punked. I was ready to punch someone in the face if this trade actually happened, though in all fairness, there are some teams who really need a goaltender. Detroit just is not one of them. Howard is 4 years younger at more than half the price, and is having a terrific season. 27-10 with a 1.98 GAA and .926 SVPCT, even better than his his rookie season as a Calder finalist.

Most of the teams who really need a goalie are out of the playoff picture and not likely to want a rental player. However, Miller has 2 more years left on his deal after this one, so he's not a rental. If Tampa picks him up, they'd retain his services beyond just 2011/12. The Lightning goaltending has been a disaster this seaon, showing what a fluke their playoff run was last spring. They have a power house forward line-up but still flounder near the bottom of the league. All they need is a guy to stop pucks and they instantly become a contender. I'm sure Yzerman would love to dump Ryan Malone if he can find someone who wants the 3 years at $4.5M remaining for the 32 year old. Buffalo could use the big body. They have a very small team.