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Isles Playoff Hopes “KO’ed”, Stanley Cup Betting Odds

 

We’re postponing today’s scheduled mind-dump for one fun thing and a second not-so-fun thing. 

Fun thing: checking out the NHL’s Stanley Cup Betting Odds

Not-so-fun thing: discussing the Islanders injury problems.  Yes, before the season starts.

Before we get to that though, I had a friend of the blog write me and say he feels like he’s missing a lot of my best stuff because (A) I don’t update the headers at the top of my blog, like, ever, and (B) If I link to my daily article, it’s all the way at the bottom of the blog.  So basically, my (lazy) solution is that from now on, as soon as you open a blog, the first thing you’ll see will be my column from that day.  For today, they’re right here:

The Hockey News: The Isles Need To Buy Tavares Someone On His Offensive Level To Play With

USA Today: Pre-season predictions (and the jinx goes too……)

and later…

Puck Daddy: The Evolution of Coaching

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Let’s get the Islanders tear-fest over with to start….

Fuck.  Are you kidding me?  The Islanders have lost both of their assistant captains to major shoulder surgeries before the puck has even dropped on game one.

Mark Streit is out FOR THE YEAR on this piddly, every day scrimmage bump from 30 goal scorer Matt Moulson:

(It’s at the start of the video)

…and Kyle Okposo is listed as “out indefinitely” with his own shoulder deal.  Not sure what happened to him, but this is extremely bad news - temporary reasons aside, when you start having shoulder problems that young, it can be a lonnngggg career full of recurring injuries.  My buddy (and country music star, buy his album!) Chad Brownlee pretty much hung them up because his shoulders were such a wreck.

Opo wore the stupid bubble in college

Honestly, I’m heart-broken by those two injuries for two reasons:

One, I harboured real hopes that Islanders could be sneaky good this year, like Phoenix last year.  They were looking like a team coming into their own, with some nice pieces in place.  I was even thinking they could sneak into playoffs if they could just get some breaks.  By “breaks,” I didn’t mean limbs.

And two, because the team just isn’t deep enough to lose their only all-star from last year (Streit), as well as a guy (Okposo) who was on the fast track to becoming one of the top all-around effective forwards in the league.  I mean, to be that strong and talented, that young?  He’s my fave guy on Long Island right now, so I’m super bummed about him going on IR.  I seriously thought he was going to have a stat-splosion in 2010-11.

I just don’t see any way the team can maintain playoff hopes if Kyle is out for an extended period of time, unless Snow gets aggressive and tries to patch the holes.

One more thing, before we move on – in quick defense of my Hockey News piece today, about which I got some heat from a couple Islanders fans:  If you read my piece, you’ll see that I asked for an addition (help for Tavares), and made no mention of subtractions (THE REBUILD! THA REEEBBUIILLLLDDDD!).  Nowhere in there do I suggest we trade any of the core guys from The Rebuild (there’s some fat to trim at the bottom of the roster still, I promise).

Pending: face-off play or make-out session?

The Penguins were horrible and “rebuilt,” but if you remember it took some acquisitions to put them over the top.  They didn’t exactly draft Sergei Gonchar.  If Isles fans recall, Matt Moulson wasn’t a draft pick either – they signed him because they thought he could contribute offensively (and boy did he ever).  You need these additions to make your rebuild complete.

Stamkos had studs to work with on his line, and that inflated his stats – Martin St. Louis drew coverage and made plays that created opportunity for Stamkos.  My point is, right now Tavares is making plays and creating opportunities for Moulson and other linemates.  The Isles need someone to do that for him if he hopes to develop into the offensive juggarnaut we all know he can be.

And as for the “but who’s available?” question: There were plenty of players they Isles missed out on this summer by being cheap, which inspired the column.  The help doesn’t have to come immediately (though after the KO thing, it feels more pressing), but whether that means cashing in at the deadline by trading picks (we have enough “potential” already) , or signing players next summer, John Tavares can’t be a one-man show in circus tent of hopefuls for much longer.

*****

The following are the odds in Vegas (courtesy Vegas Insider.com, hat-tip to reader Andrew) on teams to win the 2011 Stanley Cup.  Lets discuss.

ODDS TO WIN THE 2011 NHL STANLEY CUP FINALS
Team Open Current
Pittsburgh 6/1  6/1 
Washington 6/1  6/1 
Chicago 5/1  7/1 
Detroit 8/1  10/1 
Vancouver 12/1  12/1 
San Jose 8/1  12/1 
Philadelphia 12/1  14/1 
New Jersey 15/1  15/1 
Los Angeles 15/1  18/1 
Boston 20/1  18/1 
Montreal 30/1  25/1 
Buffalo 25/1  30/1 
Calgary 30/1  35/1 
Anaheim 30/1  35/1 
Ottawa 40/1  35/1 
Tampa Bay 45/1  35/1 
Phoenix 35/1  40/1 
Colorado 45/1  40/1 
Nashville 40/1  40/1 
St. Louis 40/1  45/1 
Carolina 35/1  50/1 
N.Y. Rangers 45/1  55/1 
Toronto 60/1  60/1 
Dallas 60/1  60/1 
Florida 75/1  80/1 
Minnesota 75/1  80/1 
Columbus 75/1  80/1 
Atlanta 75/1  80/1 
N.Y. Islanders 60/1  80/1 
Edmonton 100/1  100/1 

 

From his email:

“Aren’t the Caps and Pens at 6:1 just a horrible bet? If the Pens didn’t improve greatly over the summer, I’m not sure I like them at 20:1. (Bourne: Yup, anyone at 6:1 just isn’t worth your gamble)
Isn’t any team at 6:1 (save for the Oilers in the 80s and your dad’s teams in the 70s) a horrible bet? (Oops, you were going to say that, I see)
 
I like Boston at 18:1 and Philly at 14:1 and Buffalo in a long-shot at 30:1 .”
(I like Boston more than Philly – better goaltending, better odds.  No reason to believe Buffalo will be better than last year, is there?)

Great email, thanks.

Off the top, I gotta say, I don’t like any of these bets, since I feel like the rewards are too low.  You kiddin’ me?  I NAIL a  $20 pre-season prediction on the Roberto Luongo and the Canucks overcoming the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and 24 other teams, and you give me $240 bucks back, a $220 profit?  Eat me.  You should get 50-1 odds on something like that, minimum.

But for the fun of discussing it, here are my thoughts: The three best and worst bets, as a balance of chance-to-win versus getting-a-worthwhile-payout.

Best Bets: 

New Jersey at 15-1
Tampa Bay at 35-1
St. Louis at 45-1 (but LA is 18-1?)

Worst Bets:

San Jose at 12-1 (fourth best team in their conference)
Montreal at 25-1 (possibly the worst bet you could make)
Florida at 80-1 (dead money)

What do you think?

US International Hockey

The gold medal game of the World Junior Championship that featured Canada and the US was everything fans could hope for.

Watching the respectful applause that spread throughout the Canadian crowd after the overtime loss to the Americans, I could not possibly have been more proud.  Excessive nationalism is part of the reason so many countries resent the US, and is therefore something I need to be careful with, but I just can’t see that happening in very many other places.  Props, Saskatoon. 

Aw, they's just yittle guys...

But anyway…  eff me, was that a good game.

I’m generally not a huge fan of watching hockey with the word “junior” in it, but the quality of the WJC hockey is always pretty insane, and this was no different.  You can’t help but think that if hockey is headed in that direction, we’re in good hands.  Literally.

The Americans undoubtedly deserved to win (much like they did the game on New Years Eve).  That said, that was some of the grossest goaltending I’ve seen in a big game since Luongo projectile vomited on all the fans in Vancouver against the ‘Hawks last year.  The goal the American tender (Lee) got pulled on was such a nauseating unforced error you just got the feeling “you can’t survive giving those up in a big game”.  Apparently, you can.

I’ve had one major thought about “the good of the game” lately – and that’s that the Americans need more international success, if for no other reason that to create a taste of the mania that ensued in Canada in ’02, when we won the Olympics (men and women), World Juniors, Spengler Cup, and I think the Superbowl.

Ironically, the best thing for Canadian hockey fans that love the game would be for the US to win this years Olympics, so maybe they’ll up their coverage or do something more thorough with the sport.  Congrats to the American boys on the win, and congrats to the Canadian kids for silver – disappointing in our home country, but a medal to be proud of nonetheless.

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Less anger, more hockey, David.

I haven’t been very active in my comments section lately, but I thought I’d chime in on the US olympic team:

Choosing Backes over Okposo isn’t a bad call at all – I’d make the same one.  Opo is a bull, sure, but Backes is even bigger and stronger. Careers to date, Backes has put up a 30 goal season, been in the playoffs and works just as hard as Kyle.

What really boggled my mind is Roenick saying the US team should have Oshie over Chris Drury.  I love that he speaks his mind on stuff like that - that’s what an interview should be.  Someone wants to know his thoughts on the makeup of a team, and those are his thoughts.

Still, you don’t have to name players that shouldn’t be on the team.  You can name guys you’d like to see on the club and be vague about who should be off the squad in their favor.  As a general rule, you probably shouldn’t carve the exact guy people relate to your country’s international program.  I mean, he’s probably scored a big goal or two in his career, right?  Not sure though.

*****

This has been on my mind for awhile, so I’ve gotta ask:

Has anyone else noticed how many female readers/commentors I have?  Its certainly not a bad thing, it’s great — thanks for your support.  I was just thinking, what percentage of people reading about hockey on the internet are female?  Ten?  Twenty?

What percentage do you think my commentor base is, 35? 45?  And they aren’t “hey you’re cute” comments, they’re serious analyses of the sport.  So I wanna know – what is it about my site that has earned me such a solid female hockey base? (If you say cat pictures you’re banned, don’t be a cliche.)

*****

As I tweeted yesterday, Monday marked the first 1,000 visitor day for Bourne’s Blog.  We’re on the rise people.  We’re on the rise.

Also, I’m taking votes for a Deadspin-esque sign-off phrase (thanks for your continued support of Deadspin).  I like to have closure at the end of posts.  Y’know, “Stay classy, San Diego” or “And thats the bottom line” or Jon Stewarts “F**k that chicken”.  Okay, it’s not a sign-off, but it’s still a great catchphrase.

For now,  thanks for your continued classy support of our bottom line: F**k that chicken.

{Holy crap, googling for decent, recent pictures of USA international hockey reminds me of this:

WE DON’T PLAY INTERNATIONALLY!  UNTIL THIS YEARS WORLD JUNIORS!  WE JUST STARTED PLAYING!

The Phaneuf Hit on Okposo

 

Ahhh Crap (with a capital C).  Phaneuf destroyed Okposo in an exhibition game last night.

Follow my logic here – I’m not sure if I’m mad at the hit or not:

If I say I’m mad at Phaneuf for crushing him in an exhibition game, I’m going to get responses like “you can’t turn off competitiveness” and “once guys are in a game, it’s become their nature to take advantage of guys with their head down”.

But that’s just not the truth.  As a guy who’s played in plenty of exhibition games, I can tell you those games don’t matter to the guys who already have guaranteed roster spots.  Those guys just aren’t playing with the dial set to “kill”.  The dial is set to “just get through this”.  They need to play to feel the pace, get that game cardio up and get their feet wet.  It’s a joke to them.

So I don’t really get this hit.

It’s not like they’re interdivisional rivals (or even in the same conference), so what was that all about?  Just being awesome?  Teeing up on a guy for kicks?

I know Opo has to have his head up there, please don’t leave that comment, I know.

Guys will still hit guys in preseason play when the opportunity presents itself; it’s hockey.  You have to remember how contact feels after a summer of shinny.  But you don’t need to put a guy in a dangerous situation. 

Here’s the one reason I’m not that upset with him for the hit:    I think he did let up a bit.

He drops his shoulder, sure, but I think this could’ve been worse.  He could’ve put more into it.  So in the end, I’m not sure what to think of the hit.  “Unnecessary” comes to mind though.

*****

Here’s where hockey blogging about ex-teammates gets tough.  I played with Morency (the guy who jumps off the bench to grab Phaneuf).  He’s the nicest guy on the planet.  He works harder than any teammate I’ve ever had.  But he plays like a donkey.

It boggles my mind that the Isles continue to keep this guy in their system.  The fans love him, of course.  And I love him.  Pascal, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

But you play like a donkey.

Pascal is tough for a smaller guy (it helps that he’s jacked).  He’s the definition of agitator.  He runs guys, chirps from the bench during his extended stays there (sometimes entire games), then fights anyone who’ll fight him to justify his spot on the roster.  To his credit, he’s making a hockey career out of what he’s got.

You’d say he’s the consummate team guy, sticking up for every little indiscretion against his linemates, if it wasnt motivated by the complete opposite concept from “team”. 

He’s not skilled enough to play in the AHL without being a fighter and an irritant.  So he has to create opportunities to show that he’s doing something out there.  He’s the guy after the whistle face-washing guys just hoping something will come of it so he can do what he does best.

He takes penalties behind the play, and does stuff like jump off the bench to fight guys that would punch the accent out of his French.

I like Pascal.  He’s a fun, sincere guy to BS with, the nicest guy to the callups in the dressing room, and the first to lend a hand.  But he’s kinda bad at hockey, and plays a role I don’t think is necessary.  Sorry bro.

If you want to watch him in action, there are about 15 of his fights on YouTube.  I’m just running this one cause I was on the ice at the time and bummed cause one of my three shifts that period gets cut short.

Advantages in Hockey

 

In sports, being slightly better has major advantages.

As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in “Outliers”, a huge percentage of NHL hockey players were born in January, February, and March.

The reason for this is as follows: At the age where we start separating kids into the ”elite” and “for fun” groups, we separate the advanced kids from the ones who do stuff like re-tape their stick without peeling off the previous layer (if you’re reading this, and you do that, feel free to feel some shame).  At eight years old, a kid born in January has had a lot more time to develop than the nearly-eight-year-old born in December, yet the kids play the same “year” of hockey.

So, the older, probably bigger kid makes the cut – in turn, he gets more ice times, better coaching, and plays with better kids (I literally summed up 100 pages of Gladwell in four really long sentences).

Its not your kids fault, its yours.

Its not your kids fault, its yours.

He gets better, and next year, the gap between him and that kid born in December is wider (fine, five).  And now the December kid has started wearing yellow laces and taping his stick with multi-colour fun-tape.  It’s not okay.

Thus, that slight advantage snowballs into major gains for the early-year birth (which sports-obsessed fathers have become keenly aware of. There are plenty of Dad’s trying to time the early-year birth these days).

So, in the same spirit, I thought I’d mention how players in the higher professional leagues enjoy an advantage to those players trying to work from the bottom up (and I don’t mean the millions of dollars and groupies).

This is meant to be aside from the smaller advantages, which add up in their own right: unlimited sticks, so they’re always crisp.  Better medical and training staffs.  Flights over buses.  Better meals.

The advantage is that it’s actually easier to think and play in higher leagues.

As you move higher in the ranks, your teammates have better hockey smarts.  They tend to play their position, they tend to stay in their lane.  You know you can trust that they’ll be where they’re supposed to be, and it’s easier to play (no-look a pass to the point in the ECHL and you might be icing the puck into your own zone).

This is why NHL fans see a lot of AHL players come up, play fine, not hurt the team, but never stick – it’s actually easier to think the game when it’s more controlled, as the higher leagues are.

They don’t stick because, any half-decent player can fit into a system and do fine, especially when everyone is doing their part properly.  In the NHL, and AHL, if you aren’t doing something on top of what the teams system is, you’re expendable.

Returning to the ECHL after spending time in the “A” feels like you’ve gone back to play in your high school gym class’s ball hockey game.  The entire pack of people seems to chase the ball.

But the league is extremely talented… don’t get me wrong.

People assume the NHL is comprised of the most talented players – it’s really just the most talented that managed to avoid the idiot gene.

What this means is, there are plenty of players that are just as talented, but sadly, did get beaten with the genetic idiot stick.

God I hope I never have to play with that Bourne kid.

God I hope I never have to play with that Bourne kid.

And what that also means, is that for a lot of ECHL’ers (or CHL’ers, SPHL’ers…) trying to move up the ranks, you’re trying to figure out where Gretzky the Clown on your line is headed to next.

This is a unique problem that a guy like Kyle Okposo will rarely have to deal with (I say rarely, because he did get stuck with me as a linemate for a weekend), whereas some kid playing in “the Coast” trying to prove himself to scouts can end up minus three simply by having brain-dead linemates.

I played with a number of kids who must have had promise in junior, because they had been signed to three-year NHL deals out of junior (sidenote: all these kids get the same contract now – can we not flip Tavares an extra 20 bucks for helping the Isles sell 53,000 jerseys?).

Frankly, a lot of them (most?) weren’t very good.  But by signing that deal, it gave them the time at a high level in a more controlled game to develop their talents – an opportunity not afforded those who weren’t ahead of the game by junior.  The good thing for them is, the organization is invested in them, and doesn’t want those contracts to look like bad decisions. 

Hey, I'm here to help.

Hey, I'm here to help.

So yeah – there’s some Earth-shattering insights about a few advantages some players are afforded over others, take what you want from it.  Maybe not ground-break stuff, but hey.  The More You Know.
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So, pretty soon you’ll start seeing some ads on my site.  I like it pure as much as the next guy, so I hope you can understand that I put a pretty good chunk of daily time into this blog, so it’d be nice to collect six or seven cents on it occasionally.  Apparently, engagment rings don’t pay for themselves.  Thanks for your understanding.

Soda, The Pope, Okposo and Kittens

 

My grandfather made fancy soda.  Only we called it “pop”, cause we were in Canada.  I used to say “soda” as a joke, until I realized I was saying it seriously after almost 6 years in the US.  He worked at a bottling plant in Saskatoon, where we spent our summers when I was younger.  I’m not sure what the policy was (bring home a 6-pack every week?), but this guy had a room in the basement full of the stuff.  Lime, orange, black cherry, all those original flavours, and all in those classic clear bottles.  They were the best.  Since my jaw surgeries, I’ve been on antibiotics more often that not.  I’ve been avoiding drinking to make sure the meds are doing their job, so I rediscovered fancy soda pop (I’m so confused about what to call it it’s earned full name status).  Brands like Stewarts, and Henry Weinharts, this stuff is top drawer.  If you’ve been neglecting your inner child, do it.  Forget diet this or hydration that, enjoy a cold, quality, old fashioned pop.  I had forgotten.

I need more information:

Did the GOP just name a black guy as the head of their party?  Isn’t the party’s foundation built on avoiding black people?  Where did they even find one within their party?  Just cause he’s black, doesn’t mean he’s Obama fellaaa’sss…

Is it okay to like drinking tea and listening to hip hop?  Can I like crushing beer at the bar and reading at home?  Do I have to disclose to people teaching me about mortgages that I still have stuffed animals?  I need a transition team.

In an effort to better get it’s message out to followers, the Vatican has purchased a YouTube channel.  They called it PopeTube.  PopeTube??  The jokes for this range from potty to pious.  Insert your preference here.

What’s Jack Cafferty’s deal on CNN?  Does he have an actual program?  Or does he just chime in with Blitzer once in awhile to read emails?  He seems like the biggest nice/creepy cross since the Adams family.

A few thoughts on Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders.  I played against him in college, and then on his team for a few months in Bridgeport last year (even on his line on occasion, thank God we’re on different teams, I was tired of lugging him around out there).  He has to be one of the nicest teammates I can remember, so young it was painful.  You forget when you see young guys excel how young they really are.  You always assume they’re doing so well because they matured early or something.  Every morning when you go to the rink, out of your 22 or so teammates there’s always a couple who look hurtin’, whether from drinking the night before, injuries, whatever.  When Opo came in looking rough, it was because he had stayed up super-late playing Halo for Xbox.  We were talking about a lottery sign, and he said something along the lines of “Man, it’d be so sick to have that much money!  You know what I’d do with that?”  And all I could think is, wow, you have no idea how rich you’re about to be huh?  That innocent perspective is a 180 from the large majority of kids who’re obviously destined for the NHL.  That 10 million dollar lottery pales in comparison to what Kyle’s career earnings will be.  I saw he scored twice last night, and couldn’t have been happier.  Despite his penchant for verbal viciousness on the ice (as my college roommate can attest), he is a great kid and an all around nice guy who deserves his success.  I wish him the best.

Random sidebar:  If I ever get a cat when I’m older (Bri and I want a kitten and puppy at the same time.  What a waste of money, I know, I know) I want a “Scottish Fold” cat.  Check out how stupid cute the kittens are.

stupid cuteThen again, any cat is better than Mojo, right Uncle?

The Tylers, who live kitty-corner to my apartment, have a stupid cute fully grown bulldog named Frodo.  Bri and I think we’d like something a little more active, but man, it’s tempting.  Check out one of these puppies.  Stop it, dog, just stop it.  I would clean your wrinkles to have you.

 

Maybe I should pick an apartment before a pet, I dunno.  Anyways, rookie party in Idaho tonight, look out Boise! For those of you who don’t know what a rookie party entails, it might be a good night to get out to the bars and have a look at some of our youngest guys dressed like its… um, a stagette, really.  Unfortunately, I won’t be out, but I have a feeling the young guys might have a drink anyways.  Enjoy!

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