Posted by: kristagolden | April 9, 2014

Kris Letang’s Return is a Big Mistake

Kris Letang

In the wake of Rich Peverley‘s collapse last month, you would think that teams would want to be careful with the health of their players. This is especially true with those teams who’ll be in the playoffs starting next week. Holding a player back would be a cautious thing to do, right?

That’s not what the Pittsburgh Penguins think. Kris Letang suffered a stroke at the end of January, and he’s going to be playing tonight. On the surface, that would be a real miracle, but I had my doubts from the moment they announced it. See, the stroke was caused by a hole in his heart, a defect that’s always been there. It’s kind of like Peverley’s defect that caused his atrial fibrillation. Unlike Pevs undergoing ablation, the hole in Letang’s heart hasn’t been fixed (and Letang has said he won’t get it fixed).

Then I saw the following passage in this article on the NHL’s website (bolding is mine):

“Hockey did not cause the stroke,” [Penguins GM Ray] Shero said. “Resting is not going to make him better. … To return to play ice hockey, he’s at no further risk to suffer a stroke than he would be going to the grocery store.”

Shero said Letang still experiences dizziness and headaches. He said Letang has dealt with those symptoms throughout his career and called it “the new normal,” which Letang repeated.

“That’s the new normal and I feel 100 percent in it, and that’s why I’ve been skating,” Letang said. “I have the green light, but I’ve been skating a lot just to see if it would happen on the ice but it did not.”

Dizziness and headaches are normal now, and he’s had them for years? NOT COOL. Those are signs of post-concussion syndrome. And for the Pens’ medical team to accept his explanation is putting Letang’s life and career in danger. After the way they handled Sidney Crosby’s concussions, I wouldn’t trust them with a Cabbage Patch Kid. He should’ve been shut down for the season, allowed to recover from the stroke, then had surgery (it’s an invasive procedure now) to repair the hole so he could take the summer to recover from that.

For Shero to be so casual about Letang’s condition is negligent. According to the National Stroke Association, that hole in Letang’s heart is not going to go away, and medication will only keep clots from forming. He’s still at risk for stroke, no matter where he is in his recovery. Also, from the way he described it, Letang had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke. You can’t take those lightly because they put you at greater risk for a major, potentially debiliating stroke.

Shame on the Pens medical staff – they’re connected with UPMC, one of the top medical centers in the country – because this is a terrible way to handle the health of a young man who has a wife and child. I hope Letang does all right, but he and the Penguins need to take this situation, pardon the pun, more to heart.

 

Posted by: kristagolden | April 7, 2014

JT Miller Deserves a Chance (but Maybe Not with the Rangers)

jt miller

The young man in the picture is JT Miller. Normally, I wouldn’t write about the New York Rangers, but JT is special because his hometown of East Palestine, Ohio (pronounced PAL-uh-steen) is about 20 minutes northeast from where I live. He’s a local boy made good, although with all the Penguins love in the papers, the only attention he received was when he was drafted in 2011. Thanks to my Faceoff Violation editor Melissa (who runs the Rangers blog there), I’ve kept up with his comings and goings on the team.

He’s been doing a lot of bouncing between NYC and Hartford this season, but this last time was really frustrating. Chris Kreider is currently injured, so JT was called up. He played one game but was a healthy scratch for the next. His replacement? Daniel Carcillo. Now, I like Danny, but I have to agree that he didn’t belong on a line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. He’d been in that position before on the Blackhawks with no-so-stellar results and was actually better suited on the bottom six. Then I read about Alain Vigneault saying JT really hasn’t earned the right to be in the NHL. After I ranted a bit about that, Melissa told me that it could be a wake up call because of possible off-ice problems, and that it had happened before.

That brought to mind Tyler Seguin‘s situation. JT’s a young guy, just turned 21. Tyler’s a year older. We’ve all heard about what might’ve triggered his trade to the Dallas Stars (in short, a nonchalant attitude and partying behavior). Perhaps this is happening with JT as well. I’m sure the Rangers are handling this in a different way than the Boston Bruins did (or the Chicago Blackhawks did with Patrick Kane). But if their way is to exile him to Hartford for eternity, that’s not really teaching him anything. The constant shuttling is saying that he’s only good enough when someone’s injured. He needs to be sat down and given a real heart-to-heart talk, but I don’t think AV is the person to do that.

I had suggested that he needs a coaching change, and Melissa pointed out that he’s already played under two different NHL coaches. But going from John Tortorella to Alain Vigneault is, in my eyes, going from bad to worse. So perhaps it’s not just the coaching or the player.

What’s the only other option? A trade. He’d be a good prospect for a team with a good farm organization. Train him up, give him the discipline and skills he needs to be that callup that’s used not just when someone’s out. Show him how to be the guy who could make the team out of training camp. If he’s not what that team needs, trade him off to someone who does. It’s worked well for Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri, who’ve found success with the Florida Panthers, and you can trace that back to their time with the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs.

Maybe JT does need a wake up call; we don’t know one way or the other. But I think he needs a change of scenery. Find a strong organization that will help him thrive. If he can, he might have a Seguin-like revival, and that will make me and East Palestine even more proud.

Posted by: kristagolden | March 31, 2014

Fancy Stats: A Crash Course in Basic Corsi and Fenwick

Perfect Patrice

We’re all familiar with the basic hockey stats: points, goals, plus/minus, faceoff percentage and the like. But lately, all you hear about is Corsi and Fenwick in terms of statistics. These new ones make some people’s head spin while others simply ignore them, but they’re important because it tracks a team’s (or a player’s) puck possession – basically, more possession is a good thing because that leads to goals. This is as close as you can get to actually timing a player or team when they have the puck.

With the help of articles from Fear the Fin and my friend Jen (the Marchioness of Hockey Metrics) at Second City Hockey, I’ll try to break this down. Bear with me because it involves math, which makes many people cry.

Here are the basics:

Shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots = Corsi number

Shots on goal + missed shots = Fenwick number

To go along with that, there’s Corsi For (Fenwick For) and Corsi Against (Fenwick Against). Corsi/Fenwick For is the all the shots taken by a particular team in their games, whicle Corsi/Fenwick Against is all the shots made at their net. Because Corsi uses blocked shots, it’s seen as a short-term stat, while Fenwick is a long-term stat. It’s kinda like 3-day and 10-day weather predictions, only a bit more accurate.

Let’s use the top team in the league right now, the Boston Bruins, to illustrate Corsi and Fenwick (with numbers courtesy of extraskater.com).

Through 75 games, the Bruins’ Corsi For (CF) is 3548, while their Corsi Against (CA) is 3061. This means that they’ve made 3548 shots in their opponents’ nets while the other guys have made 3061 in theirs. If you subtract the CA from their CF, they have a +487 Corsi. To convert that into a percentage:

3548 + 3061 = 6609

3548/6609 = 53.7% CF

That’s not bad, as it has them fifth in the league (the top team is the Los Angeles Kings). Their Fenwick is just as good: 2632 FF and 2304 FA for a +328 Fenwick. For that percentage:

2632 + 2304 = 4936

2632/4936 = 53.3% FF

Also fifth in the league (the Kings are tops in Fenwick as well). Not bad at all.

Corsi and Fenwick can also be used to track possession for players. In this case, the CF/FF is all the shots a player’s team makes when he’s on the ice, while CA/FA is all the shots the other team makes when he’s out there. Since we’ve used the Bruins for the team example, let’s go with Patrice Bergeron and his possession game. You do the same calculations as you would for the team.

Patrice’s CF is 1092, while his CA is 698. That’s a +394 Corsi, or an even 61% CF.

His FF is 814, and his FA is 533 for a +281 Fenwick or 60.4% FF. That’s good for first in the league in both.

There are other stats you can check, such as a player’s Corsi/Fenwick For compared to his team’s CF/FF when he’s not on the ice. A quick look at Extra Skater can help you dive into other situations like penalty kill and power play, but to really track a player or team over time, even strength (5v5) is best.

And here are three terms I’ve heard a lot: Score Effects, PDO and Close:

Score Effects – When a team has a lead, it usually goes into defensive mode, which makes the team that’s losing go on the offensive and shoot more. This gets more intense if you’re nearing the end of the game.

PDO – this is basically a player’s shot percentage + save percentage (how many of his shots have been saved)

Close – a Score Close is any scored that’s tied, including a scoreless tie, or within one goal. Once you get to the third period, only ties count.

There’s your dip into the land of Advanced Hockey Statistics. If you have questions, you should follow Jen (a fellow Blackhawks fan, but she’s cool) on Twitter. She tweets team numbers a lot and is good folks in general. And her Twitter handle is pretty awesome.

carlyle_baffled-2

To me, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the Chicago Cubs of hockey. It’s been ages since they last won a Stanley Cup (only 47 years, not over 100 like the Cubs) and no matter how they try and how great they start out, their season always ends in disaster in one way or another. Last year, when it looked like they would actually do something spectacular, the Boston Bruins came back from a 4-1 deficit in Game 7 and beat them in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. And while we’re on the subject of said series, the scarves the Leafs gave out made Air Canada Centre look like a giant synagogue on some kid’s bar mitzvah. Most of us in hockey fandom just pat the Leafs on their collective head and say “bless your heart, you’re trying” when it comes to actually attempting a thing, so no one really expected them to get past the Bruins.

As I write this, the Leafs’ season has pretty much imploded. At this point, they’ll have to give about five other teams mass food poisoning to even attempt to make a wild card berth. They started off strong, and hey, Phil Kessel‘s having an awesome year, but holy cow did they deflate like a balloon that’s been hanging around the house too long after a kid’s birthday party. I don’t know if I could put into words just how bad things are with the Leafs, because I just end up muttering “They’re just bad.”

Leafs fans are screaming for GM Dave Nonis and coach Randy Carlyle to be fired. You know Randy, the guy who said Joffrey Lupul‘s concussion was caused by “thermocranial expansion” (helmets retain heat, making the brain swell, and thus it gets injured when you’re hit hard). He has the “heckuva job, Brownie” seal of approval from Dave. Randy’s not going anywhere, Dave says. Well, let’s get rid of Dave so a new guy can get rid of Randy because he’s awful and doesn’t know how to work a toaster (gotta be smarter than the toaster, Randy).

Oh hey, here’s Steve Dangle after their 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. It’s…yeah.

 

I’ve done my share of cry-barfing before with my guys, but it’s getting ridiculous in Toronto. This is worse than Charlie Brown getting duped by Lucy to kick the football. Oh, good grief.

Posted by: kristagolden | March 15, 2014

Prayer Circle for Raptor Jesus

Rich Peverley

I remember Rich Peverley from his days with the Atlanta Thrashers and most notably when he was traded to the Boston Bruins for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart. Now he’s with the Dallas Stars as part of the Tyler Seguin trade. But I’m not here to talk about all that.

This past Monday, a very scary thing happened. Pevs had just come off the ice when he collapsed on the bench. Thankfully, the Stars medical staff was right there, and they got him from the bench and was treating him in only 14 seconds. They gave him oxygen, performed CPR on him – he had no pulse – and shocked his heart back into rhythm. It shook his teammates and the guys on the Columbus Blue Jackets so badly that the league postponed the game and will reschedule it for another day. Alex Chiasson was so affected that he had a panic attack.

We found out later that he had what’s called atrial fibrillation. Medication and shocking the heart can take care of it short-term, but you need what’s called ablation for a long-term fix (for a really good explanation of what happened, read this article by Dr. Jo Innes). Pevs was diagnosed with afib during training camp and missed preseason and the first game of the season so he could adjust to his medication. He’d been monitored all season and only had one bout where it got to him in the week before his collapse. He was going to have an ablation during the offseason, but now it’ll happen very soon. He’s done for the season.

By the way, there’s been a heated discussion about what Pevs said when he regained consciousness – he wanted to go right back to the bench. Many were trying to hold this up as an example of “hockey players are tougher than other athletes”, but in reality he was most likely disoriented and didn’t realize what had happened. And I really hate that comparison in general.

A lot of fans brought up Jiri Fischer in talking about Pevs. He also collapsed on the bench back in 2005, but his heart condition was bad enough that he had to retire. It scares me to think that Pevs could be forced to retire because of this. He’s a good player, good enough that he helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. Chiasson sees him as a mentor and a friend as well as a teammate. He’s a big part of the Stars.

Here’s to Pevs and a speedy recovery, and hopefully we’ll see Raptor Jesus back on the ice in the fall.

panthers-luongo-hockey

Hello, I’ve survived the trade deadline. If you’re reading this, so have you.

First of all, I want to commend Stan Bowman for sitting back and letting everyone else shred themselves into confetti. Stan’s a clever general manager, and last year’s extensions and signings are evidence of that. He likes the team in place now, which is the one that won the Stanley Cup last year, minus a few people. He only traded for two guys, and he gave draft picks in return. Oh, and he traded away Brandon Pirri, a guy who just couldn’t get his feet off the ground in the NHL. Here’s hoping he’ll thrive with the Florida Panthers.

Speaking of the Panthers, let’s talk about Roberto Luongo. He was miserable in Vancouver, but Mike Gillis is another Scott Howson and let him rot. “Fine,” said Lu, “I’ll be the best goalie you have, but I still want out.” Then they hired John Tortorella as head coach, and let’s face it, no one likes him. But Lu kept a brave face and went on with the season. Then came the Heritage Classic, where he was benched. That was it. Two days later, he was traded to the Panthers. Actually, that benching was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the final insult. Master gave Bobby a trade, Bobby is a free goalie.

Now let’s talk about Martin St. Louis. If the Luongo trade made everyone rejoice, the St. Louis trade with the New York Rangers made everyone scratch their heads. Now, rumors abound as to why he’d ask for a trade in the first place, but here’s what I’ve gathered: St. Louis wasn’t happy about Steve Yzerman being named general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he’d been asking for a trade for some time. The fact that he was left off the Canadian Olympic team was the straw that broke Marty’s back, and he pushed for a trade with only one team on his list. Meanwhile, Ryan Callahan was speculated to be on the block, so the teams swapped captains. People are calling Marty a whiner for being angry over the Olympic snub. I don’t think he’s a whiner, just a frustrated guy.

By the way, thanks for taking away the potential for a great buddy cop movie, Tim Thomas. Texas is the perfect fit for you and your weird goalie masks that look like something little kids and college players wear.

Now that we’ve survived the deadline, it’s time to prepare for playoffs. At least the Stanley Cup Final won’t be in the middle of summer this time.

Posted by: kristagolden | February 22, 2014

Team USA’s Collapse: Who’s to Blame?

bronze loss

I missed the entire first period and most of the second of today’s Bronze Medal Game between the USA and Finland. When I did finally tune in, it was already 2-0 for the Finns and the US team played like they could care less. It was really disappointing to see a bench full of players so collectively dejected to the point of pretty much giving up.

This whole 24 period just shows that the “gold or bust” mentality was bad for the team. They lost to Canada on Friday and were utterly devastated. You could tell in the postgame interviews that they weren’t happy to be playing for bronze. The team went into this game like they didn’t want to be there. It reminded me of the Ottawa Senators during the playoffs last season, when Daniel Alfredsson admitted that they had no will to fight anymore.

There’s a lot of blame being handed out; in fact, it was being awarded before the game even ended. The players were blaming themselves, saying they “collapsed” and basically put no effort into the game. Patrick Kane blamed himself (he has a habit of doing that), and there were snarky people *cough Mike Milbury cough* who were blaming him for the loss. Greg Wyshinski at Puck Daddy makes a great argument that US coach Dan Bylsma is the root of the problem (I would agree, since he led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals only to be swept and have his best player held to 0 points in four games). But I think the brunt of the blame should go to David Poile and the genius group who threw this team together. If you haven’t read Scott Burnside’s great article on the inner workings of the US team selection, do so now. You’ll want to flip tables afterward, especially in the wake of what happened today.

One more thing: I’m upset with all the hate directed toward Kane. Like I said, he put the burden of blame on himself, saying he wasn’t good enough for the game. I know where it’s coming from: he’d just lost his grandfather the week he left for Sochi, and he was still reeling from the loss. He probably feels like he let his Gramps down by not winning. The hatred toward Kane is misplaced because he played his butt off in this tournament, even if the points don’t show it. He tried, really he did, but he had teammates who couldn’t catch up to his passes. Maybe I’m spoiled because I’m used to seeing his passes taken by his Blackhawks lineys, but you’d think Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler would be in tune enough to have that ability.

I hope the NHL allows its players to participate in 2018. That way, USA Hockey can begin keeping an eye on players for Pyeongchang long before the selection process and get better, more qualified people behind the talent on the ice.

Posted by: kristagolden | February 17, 2014

The (non)State of Women’s Hockey

USA women's hockey

It’s 8:30 in the morning. Instead of being snuggled under my warm blankets, I’m watching the US women’s hockey team play Sweden in the semifinals of their tournament. These women are amazing, as I witnessed when I watched them play Finland and Canada last week. But these women and their talent are incredibly disrespected.

This is evident in a statement made by Noora Raty, Finland’s goalie, over the weekend. She’d let it slip that she might retire, and that caused a kerfuffle. Then she issued a longer statement to clear up any confusion about what she’d said.

I was supposed to announce this after the tournament but “accidentally” told this to the Finnish press after today’s disappointing loss. But before the season started, I made a decision that my national team career will end here in Sochi. Also, I will hang up my skates for good if I can’t play professional hockey IN A COMPETITIVE LEAGUE next season. I said a competitive league because I could always go to play in the Russian women’s league, which is currently the only pro league for females. However, after hearing stories about the league and playing a few games there myself in January, I don’t think this league would challenge me enough (yes, sounds cocky and one could easily disagree with me after seeing me play not so well in Sochi). But I play hockey because I love to get challenged as it drives me to get better as an athlete and goalie. Thus, I would love to take on the challenge and try playing with men since I can’t play college hockey anymore and there’s no professional league for females in the North America. But I guess the time will show if some men’s pro team is willing to give me a chance.

In fact, I don’t feel that women’s hockey can grow or get any better in the future if the USA or Canada don’t get a professional league started soon. That is the next critical step that our sport needs to take our our sport will never be respected like it should be. Asking players to work full-time and then training like a pro athlete at the same time is just too much and unfair. For example, even if I absolutely love my job at MEGA Goaltending, working full-time and trying to train like a pro-athlete at the same time was extremely difficult for me prior to the Olympics. My body never got enough rest and I was close to getting burned out several times. And what did I do if it felt like I needed to get some extra rest? Skipped a workout/practice because I can’t skip work…

She’s right. I’ve watched these women play, and they’re every bit as talented as the men. There’s no real outlet for women who play hockey right now. Like Raty, Hilary Knight is going to try to join a men’s team in Sweden because she feels she can play at their level. During the women’s qualifying round, Germany placed lower than sixth place. That means that they won’t get any more funding for their program. Meanwhile, the men’s team didn’t even play in the men’s tournament. yet they’re more favorable in their home country.

It’s been 20 years since Manon Rheaume donned a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey and played in a preseason game, something that a lot of hockey fans have forgotten. It would be awesome if the NHL allowed women to play on a permanent basis. Can you imagine a team with the Lamoureaux twins or Megan Bozek on it? Who wouldn’t want to see Amanda Kessel play alongside (or even against) her brother Phil? Until that happens or we can expand the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, our ladies will have to play in the shadows, only coming into the light every four years, and that’s a shame.

Posted by: kristagolden | February 13, 2014

Thoughts on Olympic Men’s Hockey and the NHL

usa best

I’m on Day Two of watching men’s hockey in Sochi, and the discussion of NHL participation in the Games has come up yet again. There’s talk that this could be the last time NHL stars will be allowed to participate for their countries. I’ve been thinking about this, and you know I have some questions/comments on it.

1. Okay, fine, you don’t want NHL guys in the Olympics. Who do you get to replace them? This is easier for other countries, but the US and Canada have nothing but those guys on their rosters.

2. “Well, we could replace them with college guys.” For the US, maybe. But what about Canada?

3. While were on that subject, let me draw on my experience as a college student. Whereas the NHL can shut down for two weeks, colleges can’t. The rosters are announced during winter break, so guys would have to scramble to contact their professors and try to work out some kind of syllabus especially for them during that time. Now, most professors don’t follow their syllabi to the letter – class cancellations and other interruptions can derail the schedule. This would make it even harder for players to follow along. And it’s not just one class, it’s three or four at the least AND the players won’t come from just one or two schools.

4. Finally…really? You’re whining about a quadrennial two-week shutdown? The league literally shut down for four months. Two weeks out of a season is not going to hurt. It’ll give guys who need a break time to recharge, and others who are injured can have an extra two weeks to heal.

5. Bonus: if the NHL isn’t going to send their best, then the NBA shouldn’t send their best to the Summer Olympics, right?

Okay, time to rest and recover from a full morning and early afternoon of hockey. I need (another) nap.

Posted by: kristagolden | February 12, 2014

Hello, We’re Back!

It’s been a loooong time since either Emma or I have been on here (since September 2012, to be exact). Since then, a lot has happened: the lockout, the Blackhawks breaking records and winning their fifth Stanley Cup, blockbuster trades, retirements, outdoor games and now the Olympics.

To be honest, we’ve both been busy with life, and we forgot about the blog. I was writing for one website and then switched to another (hello, ladies of Faceoff Violation). I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging about hockey, the Blackhawks and other NHL happenings on here for a while, but I always got sidetracked with something else (say, a super compressed season). Now I’ve come back with Emma’s blessing to run things solo. Don’t worry, she’ll be back to give her thoughts occasionally, but it’ll be mostly me on here.

I’ll come one here about 2-3 times a week, maybe more, but rest assured you’ll find something at least once a week. So welcome back, those who’ve stuck with us, and bear with me while I ease back into blogging here.

- Krista

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