Sports

Why the Thrashers and not the Coyotes?

This week news broke that the Atlanta Thrashers could be very close to returning NHL hockey back to Winnipeg. As a Canadian I greet this positively, as I feel hockey should be played in locales that want and understand the sport. Growing the game is great and all, but hemorrhaging money on losing Southern franchises makes little sense to the sport as a whole. Putting franchises in Winnipeg, Hamilton or Quebec may not be glamorous locales, but they are viable places with actual fan bases to draw on instead of markets that were granted expansion franchises with the hope they would find an audience.

Now if the Thrashers do end up sealing the deal and Jetting North, the question I ask is why was Atlanta so easy to move? The NHL has fought tooth and nail to thwart attempts to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, and subsequently Winnipeg, yet seems to be essentially letting the Thrashers fly.

I have long held the belief that Commissioner Gary Bettman is anti-Canadian as far as how he has run the league over the years. He has always been star eyed over more flashy US cities that feature NFL, MLB and NBA franchises, than he ever has about Canadian cities. I’m sure if he could have teams in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, then the rest in the US would probably be his ideal scenario, but since Canadian clubs pull in a huge chunk of the leagues overall revenue there’s no way that could ever happen.

The reason I believe the NHL was entirely unwilling to move the Coyotes is because they didn’t want to chance repeating the scenario of the Quebec Nordiques move to Colorado, where one season removed from moving they were hoisting the Stanley Cup in Denver. Phoenix is a young, hungry team that is poised to compete for years to come. If they actually weren’t restrained by their ownership situation they could make a few aggressive moves that could viably vault them into the upper echelon of teams in the NHL. I don’t believe the league would want to chance having Winnipeg be the centre of the hockey universe over the next couple years by letting the Coyotes move.

During the last 10 years I can point to 2 cases where I believe winning a Stanley Cup saved a Southern market from moving, 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning and 2006 Carolina Hurricanes. In both cases these clubs started the season with the alarm bells sounding with regards to the stability of their franchises. Carolina was a few years removed from a Cinderella Stanley Cup Finals run and had been awful the next 2 seasons. They were having trouble filling their building and I recall the start of rumblings that maybe the team should return back to Hartford where they had moved from in the mid-1990′s. Instead they put together a great season, winning the Southeast division and subsequently the Stanley Cup. This solidified the team in Carolina, rallying the fans around a winner.

This is why the NHL is so adamant about not moving the Coyotes. They think that if that club can win a Stanley Cup in the desert they will be able to anchor long term stability in Phoenix, finally tapping into a loyal following in the region. The reality of the situation is that the Stanley Cup is a powerful pawn and having Canadian clubs win is just a waste from the NHLs perspective. They would much rather see Anaheim, Dallas, Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville or Phoenix win it than to ever see the Winnipeg Jets hoist the Cup. Winning the Cup in Canada is like preaching to the converted. We’re already hardcore followers of the sport, it’s not like they would ever see a massive spike in new interest if the Senators, Flames or Oilers won.

The NHL has barely put up a struggle with moving the Thrashers because they are perennial losers. Moving them to Winnipeg still requires years of rebuilding before that team can even think of contending for a Cup and the league knows it. Chancing moving a potential winner to Canada, with Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa all in rebuild cycles and Vancouver currently the best in the league could be dangerous. You could viably see multiple Stanley Cup champions come out of Canada over the next 5 years if those rebuilds are executed properly. The way to win in the NHL these days is to bottom out and build through the draft, so if that’s the case the NHL doesn’t want to improve those chances by allowing a stacked young squad move North of the border.

Sens/Pens preview – Let the playoffs begin!

The playoffs kick off tonight with my Senators playing the defending champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’m so looking forward to the Sens kicking some Penguin butt. All year watching the standings I was hoping the Sens would get a crack at the champs in the playoffs.

Many of the series previews I’ve read point to the ill fated 2008 playoff matchup where the Senators were skunked 4-0 in their Conference Quarterfinal matchup. The problem with using this as a gauge is that the Senators were a mess at that point. Daniel Alfredsson had received a concussion by Mark Bell of the Maple Leafs in the second to last game of the season. The team had been on a swoon pretty much the whole calendar of 2008 after a torrid start to the season. John Paddock, their coach to start the season had been canned with with less then 20 games to go in the season. The dressing room was mess, with many personal player rifts and rumours of drug issues. The reality is this team was sinking fast and probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs had the season extended another week. Every team in the Eastern Conference wanted to play the Sens in the first round. So much so that the Penguins actually threw the last game of the year to assure themselves a matchup with the Sens.

So luckily for Ottawa much of what ailed the team at that point has been resolved. Bryan Murray shipped out much of the negative dressing room elements and built a much more gritty, hard nosed team for the 2010 edition of the Senators. This also isn’t the same Penguins team that Ottawa faced in 2008. Now this is a still young, but now experienced group of players looking to get the their third consecutive Stanley Cup finals appearance.

It’s going to be an uphill battle, but I think the Senators have it in them to beat the Pens. After watching this team tear off 11 and 6 game winning streaks toward the end of the season I’m inclined to believe this team definitely has another gear to their game. They no longer rely as heavily on their first line as they once did, now getting contributions from their top 3 lines on a regular basis. While on these streaks the team was winning by playing a total team game and doing all the little stuff well. This was exactly the type of hockey the Sens played during their 2007 playoff run. The 2007 Senators were unheralded as well, with many analysts picking the up and coming Penguins to pull the upset in the first round.

What the Sens really need to win this series is solid goaltending. Ottawa is pinning their hopes on rookie Brian Elliott to pull them through. While I think every Sens fan wishes they had a tender with playoff experience, obviously we don’t have that luxury. Looking at Elliott’s stats as compared to Marc-Andre Fleury’s, Elliott actually has a better save percentage and goals against average then Fleury this year.

The Sens have done a good job neutralizing Sidney Crosby over his career. With the shutdown pairing of Phillips and Volchenkov the Sens should be able to contain Sid The Kid. That just means their other pairings have to contain Malkin, who is just back from an injury and the rest of the Pens lineup. This does seem quite possible. The Sens and Pens split their season series, with both teams getting a blowout win and each picking up a 4-1 win along the way. It’ll be an interesting series as neither team has actually played a close scoring game against the other, as it typically the case with playoff hockey.

My Pick
Senators in 6

Begrudgingly rooting for Team Canada

There has been something that hasn’t been sitting with me well for awhile and up until now I hadn’t been able to figure this out.  The Olympics is being hosted in Canada and our Men’s hockey team is the pride and joy of many in this country.  Yet I found I just wasn’t excited about it.  I didn’t even bother to watch Canada play in their first game against Norway.  So tonight I was invited to go watch the Canada vs Switzerland game with friends.  I was kinda begrudging about going, but couldn’t really figure a rational reason why I wouldn’t want to hang out with friends and watch a hockey game.  The game went to a shootout, with Sidney Crosby scoring the winner, then Martin Brodeur stopping final Swiss shot to seal the win.  You’d figure I would be happy, but again I wasn’t jumping out of my skin about it.

On the drive back home I finally put my finger on what was bothering me about Team Canada.  It’s that I fucking hate a lot of the players on the team!  I’m a hockey fan, I follow it quite closely, I play Fantasy Hockey as well and know a fair amount about the game. I just find that the team Steve Yzerman has assembled here is like an all-star team of players I hate.

cindy-crosby-divingSidney Crosby
I’ve disliked Cindy since he was drafted to the Penguins. I disliked the way he flopped all over the ice during his first few years in the league. I’ve long disliked the Penguins, back to the Lemieux/Jagr days and really disliked when they won the Cup last year.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Fleury is guilty by association with Crosby. Also the fact he blew that World Junior gold medal in 2004 to Canada doesn’t help his cause either.

Chris Pronger
I’ve disliked Pronger since his time in Anaheim. He left Edmonton on bad terms, then went to Anaheim and won a Stanley Cup. The fact he won at the expense of my beloved Senators just makes it that much worse. He gooned Dean McAmmond in that series, a play that I’ve long felt turned the momentum of the finals.

Dany Heatley
Here is a guy that I used to really like, up until he weaseled his way out of Ottawa. He signed a big fat contract in Ottawa, only to leverage his no-trade clause into a move to a Cup contender in San Jose. The fact that Ottawa helped him resuscitate his career after the whole vehicular manslaughter thing just seemed like a slap in the face to Senators fans.

Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlav and Corey Perry
Not that I terribly dislike any of these three, but they play for the loathed Anaheim Ducks. Niedermayer also played for the New Jersey Devils, another team I really dislike.

Patrice Bergeron
Plays for divisional rival Bruins. Got the Olympic spot that should have probably gone to Mike Fisher, given Fisher was having a better season in a similar role for the Senators this year.

Martin Brodeur
I will begrudgingly admit that Brodeur is a great goalie, even though I believe much of his success is a bi-product of New Jersey’s defense first system he’s played behind his whole career. Also him beating the Sens in the 2003 Conference Finals didn’t endear himself to me either.

Sure many of the reasons I listed might be petty. Sure I hold grudges and have a long memory. But that’s just the way I feel. I think even if Stevie Y had put Mike Fisher or Jason Spezza on the team I would probably feel different, but I feel I don’t really have anyone to root for on this team. Being a Canadian player doesn’t buy my undying loyalty. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Canada win and want them to win gold in hockey on home soil. Just don’t ask me to be excited to cheer on Cindy Crosby and Dany Heatley while they do it.

MLB are spammers

I’ve noticed in recent weeks many people among those who I follow on Twitter complaining about being signed up to Major League Baseball mailing lists. I can count myself in as one of the people pissed off by this. It seems that MLB has been signing people up, unknown to them, to mailing lists whenever someone orders online tickets for a game. I went to a game back in June, and had ordered tickets online through bluejays.com. Since ordering I then started getting mail from MLB or the Blue Jays all the time. I unsubscribed only to discover that I was still getting mail. I believe I was signed up to at least 4 different mailing lists, all of which needed to be unsubscribed from individually.
MLB spam on twitter
To me this is dirty pool by MLB. I know myself, and I’m sure many others out there that would consider themselves “web savvy”, can pick out a mailing list opt in at 10 paces anywhere on the web. Companies try to be crafty and trick you into joining, but I am always on the lookout for stuff like that when I give out my email when signing up for products and services. Given the fact that many other people are falling for this means MLB must be doing something sneaky, either not divulging that you are being signed up for multiple MLB mailing lists, or obscuring it somewhere on the page. C’mon MLB, I wasn’t born yesterday, I’ve been using the web for almost 14 years now.

The fact MLB would even do this in this day and age seems pretty stupid. Given that people hate being spammed, you would think they would be a little smarter with how they handle that kind of stuff. It creates animosity between your local team and the fans when they are constantly being carpet bombed with email. You would figure they wouldn’t want to alienate their fans like that.

This all just reminds me of this episode of the Simpsons. Maybe Mark McGwire will show up at my house to hit a few dingers.

Yahoo Fantasy Sports on your iPhone

For years I’ve been a fan of playing Fantasy Sports on Yahoo! I typically play in leagues for football, baseball and hockey with mixed success. Since I have an iPhone I’ve always wanted to be able to view and manage my team on the go, but Yahoo hasn’t had a mobile site to use, and their regular website is clumsy and resource intensive to use on the phone. I know I tried picking up a player when I was on the go and it was an exercise in futility.

MyFantasy Teams App for iPhone

MyFantasy Teams App for iPhone

Enter MyFantasy Teams(formerly named Y!Fan), an app that allows you to view and manage your fantasy teams. There is a free version and a paid version available for $3.99. At this point I’ve only installed the free version and been quite impressed. The difference between the versions is that the paid one allows you to edit your rosters on the go, which is pretty handy. In the free version you can view pretty much anything you could see on the site, and in some ways it’s organized better then the way Yahoo handles things.  Everything is neatly organized and the app feels very well thought out.

For those who are big fantasy sports junkies, this app is a can’t miss if you play on Yahoo. The app is also available for Blackberry, though just the paid version.