Monday, December 21, 2009

The NHL Enforcer

The Enforcer is unofficial role in the NHL. Other terms for this role are "tough guy" or "goon." Their job is to protect the star players. Enforcers are expected to respond violently to violence or dirty plays to star players. Typically they are just fourth line forwards that are given limited ice time and don't provide much offensive help. The role of the enforcer has diminished in this post lock-out era. The rules were changed so the game would be faster and allow more scoring. Teams have less of a need for enforcers although they still exist. Instead, the team as a whole is expected to defend each other. No doubt there are guys like Hal Gill and George Laraque hanging around. Vancouver has the secret weapon of Rick Rypien, standing at a mere 5 ft 11 in. He's been in many fights in his short NHL career and has taken on the role of David with a smile on his face. Although he's only recorded 7 pts in 41 career games, fans love him because he pummels guys that are a foot taller and weigh 40 lbs more than him. If you are looking for the new prototypical NHL Enforcer, look no further than Rick Rypien. He'll make you think twice about playing dirty.

Pest Control

Every team in the NHL has a guy or two that plays with grit and really gets into the oppositions head. The pest will do anything and everything to annoy, anger or distract the opposing players in order to bait them into bad penalties and reduce their effectiveness. Some of the tactics that they use are hooking, slashing and good old fashion trash talking. One of the premiere pests in the game, Sean Avery took this to a whole new level during last season's playoffs. Future Hall of Fame inductee Martin Brodeur was harassed by Avery as he stood just outside the crease and continually waved his stick in front of Brodeur's face. In light of this incident, league officials have made that tactic an offense. The NHL pest is an important part of the game. The league might slowly be trimming down the role of The Enforcer, but The Pest will always be there. Just like real life pests, these hockey players learn to adapt to the rules and find ways to annoy and even chip in timely goals. Here's my list of 5 notable NHL Pests:

1. Sean Avery
2. Alexandre Burrows
3. Jarkko Ruutu
4. Matt Cooke
5. Steve Ott

I played with a guy before and he took it to another level, even annoying the opposing team's girlfriends.

I wrote this article as a prelude to something that does not have anything to do with sports. I was getting ready for bed after catching the tail-end of Casino on Showcase when I hear a ruckus on my roof. Was it a would be robber attempting a late night heist? Unlikely, but I had to make sure. I woke up my cousin so we could investigate this matter. He tells me that there are two raccoons fighting on our turret. I grab a basketball and decide that I will throw it to scare them away. He warns me of their rabid nature and I have second thoughts. Looking out the window I see one on the turret, one right in front of me on the ledge and another outside my front door. It's a good thing I didn't go outside. The raccoon on the front steps would have probably attacked me causing me to fight back prompting both raccoons on the roof to come down and ravage me. I hope we don't have a raccoon problem. Damn pests.....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Colin Campbell Campaign

Colin Campbell, the NHL's Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations is most notably known for his role as it's principle disciplinarian. I've been keeping an eye on the suspensions that he's been handing out this season. There is an obvious double standard in this league as far as suspensions go. Goons who commit offenses are punished hard. Superstars who commit the same offenses are let go. I decided to try to figure out how Colin Campbell makes his decisions on suspensions and found this very helpful flowchart.

Last night, I watched a horrific accident in the Florida Panthers vs Atlanta Thrashers game. After the Trashers scored a goal, Panther's defenseman Keith Ballard took out his frustration on the hockey post. In his attempt to baseball swing his stick and break it on the posts, he inadvertently bashes his own goaltender (Vokoun) in the game. He probably won't be getting a suspension for this incident, but he really should. Colin Campbell should make an example of Ballard so no further incidents like this occur again. Well here's a video of it:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raptors Facing Extinction

Steve Nash has a long list of accomplishments in his tenure in the NBA. After today's game against the Raptors, he can add being 12-0 lifetime versus this franchise. That's not the real story though. The Toronto Raptors have lost 7 out of 9 games and seem to be struggling to compete with the best teams in the league. The problem has been brewing since last year, so lets do a little recap.

Last year they ended the regular season with a record of 33-49. Sam Mitchell was fired and Jay Triano was brought in. They traded highly paid Jermaine O'neal for Shawn Marion. The team went into the All-Star break 13 games below 0.500 and ended up missing the playoffs. In the off season they unloaded the talents of Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and Shawn Marion. They picked up Marco Bellini, Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack.

Jarrett Jack and Chris Bosh are best friends since they played basketball together in college, so his acquisition brings some comfort to Bosh. Smart move by management. Toronto is really becoming a team full of international players with the likes of Turkoglu, Bellini, Nesterovic and Bargnani. With the way their team is built right now they are considered one of the better offensive teams in the league. They have a top 10 player in Chris Bosh and bunch of decent shooters. Their problem lies in their atrocious defense. Jay Triano said something today along the lines of "we are just getting used to some defensive schemes." Well here's the problem. The Raps are 17 games into the season and Triano should have addressed the defensive schemes in the preseason. The Raptors have the talent to score 100+ each game, but when they aren't firing on all cylinders their team is in trouble. It seems that every day player is a superstar when playing against them. It's time for Triano to work on some team defense or else this team will be facing extinction. If they miss the postseason this year it will decrease their chance of resigning Chris Bosh. If he leaves the team won't have a chance of making it their in the new future. Continually missing the playoffs spells extinction for the Raptors, just like the Grizzlies in their time in the NBA.

Exciting Football This Weekend

I am impressed by the quality of the Grey Cup and the Vanier Cup this past weekend. Both games were entertaining and were completed with late game victories.

Vanier Cup: Queens University came from behind to beat the Calgary Dinos in the championship game of Canadian university football. Just when it looked like the Dinos would take home the cup, Queens QB Danny Brannigan leads them to a fourth quarter comeback. With seconds left in the game, the Dinos QB Glavic throws a perfect touchdown. On the ensuing two point convert to tie the game, the receiver catches the ball in the end zone but can't hang on. Yeah it was a Canadian football contest and yes it was exciting.

Grey Cup: I watched the Grey Cup today even though the B.C. Lions weren't in it. I went to a game a few years ago versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was shocked at their fan support. It was a game that took place at B.C. Place but I felt like an outsider as a Lions fans. Roughriders fans are nuts! They are always decked out in their green: hats, pilsners box hats, cut out watermelons and other swag. They are the best CFL fans in my opinion. I'm definitely digging their use of the watermelon. Today's Grey Cup featured the Saskatchewan Roughriders vs the Montreal Alouettes. Montreal was heavily favored by football pundits but they didn't play that way in the first half. Many thought that the Roughriders had a shot to win because of their 13th player (their rabid fans). The Roughriders led the contest 17-3 after the first half. This year, Montreal's QB Anthony Calvillo made it his mission not to have a single bad game. He led the team to a 15-3 regular season before whomping the B.C. Lions 56-18 and winning the Most Outstanding Player Award. Today, Calvillo led Montreal to a second half comeback that will be remembered forever. After being down by as much as 17 points, Montreal was only down by 2 points with less than 5 seconds to play. They attempted a game winning field and missed. But wait.... A flag was thrown because the Roughriders had too many men on the field! They had 13 players on the field (ironically not their fans). The flag drew a 10 yard penalty and Montreal had another chance to win the game with 0:00 left on the clock. The kick was good and Calvillo cements his place in CFL Glory.

It was unfortunate for the Roughriders to have lost the Grey Cup like that. However, I think it was fitting that Calvillo and Montreal wins this year.

I never thought that I would write a post about the excitement in CFL/CIS football, but it just goes to show that there is talent north of the border.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NFL Update

Every year there's a team that starts strong and then seemingly fades out of contention. This year that dubious honor goes the New York Giants and maybe the Denver Broncos. After a 5-0 start the Broncos have lost 5-6 and now hold a 6-5 record. They still have a chance to make the playoffs but they need to a lot better. Eli Manning has to stop moping after interceptions and start leading his team to victory. As good of a quarterback as he is; he is the biggest buzz kill when he throws an INT.
The Denver Broncos started 6-0, lost 4 straight and then won their last game against the Giants. The verdict is still out on the Broncos, but lets re-evaluate them after their bout versus Peyton's undefeated Colts on December 13th. Speaking of the Colts, they are yet again amongst the best in the league. In my opinion the top three teams are:

1. Indianapolis Colts (10-0)
2. New Orlean Saints (10-0)
3. Minnesota Vikings (9-1)

1. The Colts have only won their last 4 games by a combined total of 10 points. This shows that they are finding ways to win and that's a tribute to their strong defence, coaching and Peyton Manning. Good teams always find a way to win. Bad teams always find a way to lose.

2. The New Orlean Saints are just firing on all cylinders right now with Drew Brees at their helm. They face the New England Patriots on Nov 30 in a battle that will test their true depth.

3. Favre has been remarkable for the Vikings.

Growing up I never watched the NFL, with the exception of the Superbowl. I am glad to have discovered this marvel. This league is just very strong and the teams seem to succeed. There isn't constant talk about struggling franchises being put in situations where they can't succeed *cough Phoenix *cough. I recently found out about the USFL. It was a professional football league that sprung up in the 1980s. Originally, their season was during the spring not to conflict/compete with the NFL. Donald Trump (Apprentice, money mogul) owned one of the teams, the New Jersey Generals and brashly wanted to challenge the NFL. The league ended up folding after a few successful seasons. ESPN recently released a documentary on the USFL in part with their 30 on 30 series. I recommend you check it out.

The Detroit Lions threw up another turkey on Thanksgiving against the Packers. The NFL and NBC really needs to stop scheduling the Lions to play on Turkey Day. They have become a bad franchise in the last decade and the league needs to stop awarding them for their past achievements. When was the last time they were champions or even remotely decent? Next year lets have the Patriots battle the Colts.

The Wellwood Phenomena

On Thursday November 26th, 2009 the Canucks played against the L.A. Kings and won 4-1. The story of the night wasn't Luongo's superb goaltending or the Canucks strong play but rather an empty net goal that brought the home town crowd to its feet. Earlier on in the game, Tanner Glass scored a goal and was promptly booed by the fans because they wanted the credit to be given to Wellwood. This is not a knock on Glass or anything but that's just how much we seem to adore this underachiever. It's not often that an empty netter is worthy of a standing ovation, but on this night Wellwood received just that. Fans just seem to like him even though his play doesn't justify it. Good job guy, now that you've scored goal #1 it's time to earn your pay cheque.