Only One Solution to More Goals in the NHL

A crazy night in Philadelphia was overshadowed by an even crazier one in St. Louis. A 9-8 hockey game that I can imagine got like received little to no press in the United States wasn’t even the headline story in Canada.

Insane, I know.

As amazing as the Jets-Flyers 9-8 shootout was, it highlighted an even greater issue plaguing the NHL — Goal Scoring. Long gone are the days of barn burners while the ever-present goaltender duels have become front and center over the past 10 years.

The hockey “purists” won’t agree but it’s an epidemic of small pox proportions.

Goals = entertainment. The formula isn’t a difficult one. Although the NHL is gaining a bit more prominence recently thanks to some great playoff battles and charismatic stars, it is still having trouble keeping up with the high-scoring forces of the NFL and NBA.

The reduction of head shots, quarterback hits and general contact all together have produced one of the NFL’s highest scoring seasons in history so far through 7 weeks. Needless to say, but the NFL is thriving.

Despite being stuck in a lockout, the NBA is fresh off a season where the hype reached the heights of the old Magic-Bird days. It hasn’t hurt that the skill positions have benefited from rules limiting what defensive players can do to stop them.

Scoring doesn’t just equal entertainment. Scoring = ratings.

The NFL and NBA understand that. They have adapted accordingly.

The NHL doesn’t and have been suffering from a scoring drought for the past 15 years.

The die-hard Canadian fans will stick around through thick and thin but the casual North American audience needs a reason to sit on their couch for 2.5 hours. Scoring would do that. It’s pretty clear why Soccer isn’t more popular in North America.

As each day goes along, hockey is starting to look more like soccer. A lot of back and forth neutral zone play and decreased amount of scoring opportunities. Nothing much happens a lot of times in hockey especially with the likes of the Minnesota Wild playing trap hockey, a strategy seemingly taken straight out of the playbook of a relegation threatened EPL team.

In the decade prior to the lockout, there was more hooking in the NHL than in the Amsterdam Red Light District. The skill players weren’t allowed to be skill players. It didn’t help that the increasing size of goalie pads caused a brick wall effect on pucks attempting to reach the netting. How else could Jose Theodore win a Vezina Trophy?

In 2003-04, the final season before the lockout, the NHL’s scoring numbers were at its lowest total since the Korean War according to this graph from dropyourgloves.com.

It’s no surprise that following the lockout, scoring increased by more than a goal a game when the NHL decided to crack down on all the hooking and holding while also slightly limiting the size of goalie pads.

But the numbers have fallen again from 6.17 in 2005-06 to 5.43 goals per game through the first month of the 2011-12 season. Fortunately, the continued enforcement of the post-lockout rules has kept the numbers a bit higher than pre-lockout years.

Okay, so where am I going with this?

The NHL has been playing around with subtle changes that predictably will only make a subtle difference.

Players and goalies are as big as they have ever been. There is less room on the ice and less room to shoot at.

Owners don’t want to decrease their seating capacity in their respective arenas so bigger, international-sized ice surfaces are not plausible. Neither are bigger nets, with the inevitable asterisk that would sit in front of possible broken records.

There’s only one solution that would unquestionably turn the game around for the better: Make the goalie pads small again.

Watch old highlights from the early 90’s and you will see the degree of ease with which players are scoring comparatively to modern times. Goalies couldn’t go into their butterfly stance and take up ¾ of the net or make highlight reel saves ordinary by simply placing their massive glove hand in the right spot.

Goaltenders had to rely on athletics instead of technique back in the good old days. In 2011, it’s improbable to score from behind the ringette line if the goalie isn’t screened or the puck isn’t deflected. Napoleon Dynamite has an easier time scoring blonde bombshells.

It’s not about protection anymore. Guys may shoot harder but you don’t need a novelty-sized glove or pads that would cover up a Sumo Wrestlers legs to protect your body. It sure helps to stop the puck though.

Make the goalie pads significantly smaller and goal scoring will increase significantly.

Guaranteed.

The NHL wants to make the game appealing to a broader audience yet, since the lockout, they haven’t even experimented with a 1990’s style pad size.

They have tried bigger nets. That is and can never be the answer. At the very least, the NHL has to test out and research the idea of smaller pads.

9-8 games is not the type of hockey we should be striving towards but a step or two in that direction would not only make the game more entertaining for current fans but it would engage a much wider, casual audience.

It shouldn’t take another 15 years for us to see 17 goals in a single game again.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Don’t Suck For Me…Or Else

Andrew Luck is worried.

Well, at least he should be.

“Suck for Luck” is sweeping the nation. According to Luck, this doesn’t concern him too much. He is just going to go out each week, play his game and continue striving for a national championship.

In theory, the Heisman candidate shouldn’t be wasting his time and energy on which city could be his new zip code for the next 15 years. In theory, he is going to be drafted onto an awful team. Too bad for Andrew Luck the Indianapolis Colts are screwing with the nature of the NFL draft.

Luck is saying all the right things but we know all too well that the Colts would be a devastating landing spot for the Stanford product. To Luck, going to Indianapolis would make him feel like he was kicked in the groin by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robinson. He can ask T.J. Lang how that feels.

With 6 teams – the Dolphins, Jaguars, Vikings, Rams, Cardinals and Colts – still firmly entrenched in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes, you would have to put Colts as one of the frontrunners after 7 weeks.

The Dolphins and Colts are the two favourite heavyweights in the ‘suckiest be luckiest’ division. But after the thorough beat down the Colts took at the hand of the New Orleans Saints, 62-7 on Sunday night, the Colts might have Vegas giving them the best imaginary odds to take it all.

I don’t think I can remember an instance in my lifetime where Peyton Manning and quarterback controversy was used in the same sentence.

Andrew Luck got into Stanford. He’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t want to be part of one of those. He can ask Aaron Rodgers how that feels.

However, it would be ironic if the first player touted a once-in-a-decade talent since Peyton Manning ended up fighting it out with him for the starting job.

Nevertheless, an ironic situation isn’t topping Andrew Luck’s NFL aspirations bucket list. For his own sake, Luck must make sure he doesn’t ever have to face that ironic situation. He has the power to prevent it but his personality might stop him from doing so.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, there is no doubt that Andrew Luck will be ready to start week 1 of the 2012 season. Heck, he would have been ready to start week 1 of the 2011 season. I still believe he should have come out last year. Maybe he didn’t want to go to Carolina but it has got to hurt a little bit to see Cam Newton have such a successful first half of the season.

The thing is, Cam Newton is exactly the reason that Andrew Luck can’t let himself end up in Indianapolis. Consider this, 4 quarterbacks drafted in 2011 and 8 quarterbacks drafted since 2010 are currently starting in the NFL. It would be crazy if Luck wasn’t starting week 1 of 2012.

No one knows how many years Peyton Manning has left, especially following 3 neck surgeries. Although, if we have learned anything about Peyton we know that he wants Brett Favre longevity, which doesn’t bode well for Andrew Luck.

Luck foolishly proved that he is a selfless individual by returning to Stanford for another unnecessary year. He doesn’t need to prove it again.

Related: Make the Right Decision Andrew Luck

At some point, but not yet, he is going to have to speak up and tell the world that he will not sign with the Indianapolis Colts if Peyton Manning is there. A selfish ultimatum from a selfless individual. Yeah, he might be criticized by some for a move like that but it would be worth it in the long run.

The other Manning wouldn’t sign with the Chargers. His reputation wasn’t tarnished by his refusal to sign. He won a Super Bowl.

Even if the Colts ended up taking Luck, fully intending to trade him, is there really a guarantee that some team is willing to pay the inevitably mammoth price to get him? The 2012 draft is projected to be one saturated with quarterback talent. Well known prospects Matt Barkley out of USC and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones round out the top 3 quarterbacks.

Is the price for Luck really worth it when other potential stars are available in Jones and Barkley?

What about the possibility of stepping into Peyton Manning’s shoes following a trade of the Colts legend?

If Peyton Manning were traded to allow Andrew Luck to start in his rookie year, the expectations and animosity surrounding Luck among Colts fans would be tremendous. While I’m sure Luck would be able to handle the increased stress, the conditions are certainly not ideal for a quarterback with so much already on his shoulders.

Playing in a Miami or Jacksonville type city would allow for a certain degree of patience that wouldn’t be accepted in Indianapolis.

It could be argued that learning behind one of the great minds in NFL history would be beneficial to Andrew Luck. Much like playing behind Brett Favre seems to have been most helpful to Aaron Rodgers.

Despite the possible advantage sitting out 2-4 years could have for Andrew Luck, his situation is far from similar to Rodgers. People tend to forget that Aaron Rodgers slipped all the way down to 24th overall in the year he was drafted. For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I don’t see Luck slipping to 24th overall. Rodgers was not touted as a once-in-a-generation talent, he didn’t have the power to demand better circumstances and are we seriously supposed to believe Rodgers wouldn’t be the quarterback he is today if not for those years riding the pine.

If Luck is as great as they say he is, he can, should and will be able to learn on the job.

Andrew Luck doesn’t have to cost himself precious years of a football career that could potentially be one of the best in history.

All he has to do is speak up.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Luongo’s Struggles are Incomprehensible for World

No one gets it.

Sportsnet columnist Mark Spector recently wrote his open letter to the Canuck fans. Berating them for jeering Luongo after his latest struggles.

He thinks he knows Luongo. He thinks he understands why Canuck fans are angry. He thinks he gets it.

Boy, is he off.

Let’s get this straight. What the fans have done at Canuck games to Luongo isn’t fair. The sarcastic cheering and outright booing is pathetic. It may be a fans right to boo these multi-million dollar athletes but you would think as a fan you would understand that players are humans as well and that they could use your support. But it isn’t everyone. The boos and sarcastic cheers didn’t come from 18,000 strong.

Anyways, Mark Spector presents an issue that many NHL fans seem to be on board with. A hate for Canuck fans. Apparently, we look like cry babies for constantly complaining about Luongo’s fluctuating play. Spector asks does “the baby need a new goaltender?”

Yeah, in fact we do.

He points out irrelevant evidence that a high school law student would be embarrassed to see. Following his question to the Vancouver babies he writes “we thought you already had a Canadian Olympic team starter, complete with the Vezina and Jennings dress-up bundle. Can’t we just send along the camper? Or the puppy waterpark set? Oh, that’s not good enough for the Vancouver baby? They want more than that? We see.”

The worst evidence he gives has to be his mention of Luongo’s Olympic appearance. Luongo was mediocre at best during the 2010 tournament and was the beneficiary of a stacked Canadian team featuring a fourth line almost any other country would have been happy having as their first.

Besides, Luongo’s past is completely unrelated to what he is doing now. He played unbelievably in his first two seasons as a Canuck but since then he has regressed. He had a good stretch last year but came up short when the Canucks needed him most.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

What’s worse though is that Spector’s narrow-minded approach ignores so many other important factors that make Vancouver fans irate towards Luongo’s play.

He fails to bring up Luongo’s utter failure as a leader and a captain. Luongo hasn’t been shy in the past to throw his own teammates under the bus in public. He comes across as a baby. Jealous of the praise Tim Thomas was receiving, Luongo decided to speak up and disrespect him. He followed his trash talk up by letting in 6 goals.

Luongo is a jerk. He isn’t endearing to most fans anymore. Canuck fans used to love him before they started to truly understand the man behind the mask. He has lost their respect.

People adore Kesler because he is a warrior. Luongo is the opposite. No one wants to go to battle for or with him.

You obviously can’t blame Luongo for assuring financial security to his great-grandchildren but it is frustrating for a fan base to see their highest paid player struggle so mightily.

Contrary to what Spector implies, Luongo is not one of the best goalies in the NHL. His Lebron-esque choking, general lack of ability to come up with a big save and uncanny aptitude at giving out freebies at the worst time don’t show up on the stat sheet.

It wasn’t Luongo’s fault against the Blackhawks or the Bruins last year. However, he didn’t steal anything. He is paid to steal games. The failure of the Canuck squad to come up with goals while dominating doesn’t excuse Luongo’s personal failure to dominate on a consistent basis.

You would hope that your franchise goaltender can be the best goalie out there on a regular basis. The goal is to expect reliability out of someone who is paid to be a difference maker. Too often he is the difference maker in the wrong way.

The Luongo apologists are everywhere north of the border. Virtually every commentator you see feels the need to defend the man. I don’t get it.

Mike Gillis came on the Team 1040, a local Vancouver radio station, to defend his goaltender. Well, of course he did. What else is he going to do for the person who he so foolishly signed to that ridiculous 12 year contract?

Gillis says that the fan reaction is a hangover from last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. No, the Stanley Cup was just a few more bullet points on a list stretches as long as the Amazon River.

Mark Spector tries to separate Vancouver from other “normal, everyday” Canadian hockey towns. Apparently, the fans in Vancouver are worse than the same Montreal fans who booed Carey Price in the first preseason game last year following the departure of temporary folk hero Jaroslav Halak.

Preseason? Come on man!

Maybe Mark Spector should imagine if those Montreal fans were stuck with Luongo for the past few years.

There is a cultural divide between the world of hockey fans and the Vancouverites. It’s like we are from different worlds and unless you are from that world you can never fully understand the reasoning behind some things. It’s why I’ll never fully understand the why Philadelphia Eagle fans were so hard on Donovan Mcnabb.

It’s the same with Luongo. The rest of the world knows why Vancouver fans are angry with Luongo but they will never actually understand it.

Vancouver fans are no different from the rest. Despite Donovan Mcnabb’s success, his relationship with Eagle fans was very hot and cold. The Canuck faithful would kill to have Luongo playing up to a young Mcnabb’s level.

It has been 40 long years without a championship in Vancouver and Mark Spector finishes by saying “[We] want it all, and [we] want it now.”

Yeah, how impatient are we?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Al Davis Managing from the Grave?

So, Al Davis is at it again. That’s my only explanation. Who else could have orchestrated this sorry excuse for a trade?

Even from the grave a continually senile Al Davis is still finding ways to derail his Oakland Raiders who have finally started to get things back on track. Giving up a 2012 first round and a 2013 conditional pick, which could end up as high as a first rounder depending on Carson Palmer’s play, sums up everything we have been taught at the Oakland Raider school of General Managing for the past decade.

Just win baby!

With Jason Campbell on the shelf for at least several weeks, the Oakland Raiders obviously felt they had to make a move to stay in the playoff race. Jason Campbell has been about as good as his ol’ game managing self can be. It has been enough to put his Raiders at 4-2 after 7 weeks of the season.

Related: Jason Campbell the Solution? Don’t Think So.

However, the goal in any professional sports league is to build a perennial winner. The Oakland Raiders haven’t been able to build a once in a decade winner. This trade sure isn’t putting them in the right direction.

It is 1 step forward and 2 steps back playing on repeat.

The Raiders have now spent 3 picks (1st, 3rd and 4th rounder) in 2011 on three separate quarterbacks. Yes, 3.

This trade was not necessary and vital for a team that, at best, was bound for a first round playoff exit. This was not their final shot at glory à la Brett Favre. This was a team at last giving their faithful fan base a legitimate reason to get rowdy every Sunday.

The draft, on the other hand, is necessary and vital for a team attempting to build a competitive team on a yearly basis in the NFL. In no other league is the draft more vital than the NFL. With so much talent from around the country and so many roster spots to go around, talent can be found anywhere from round 1 through 7.

It’s a travesty when teams fail to understand the value of the draft and the Raiders have excelled at this. Think Richard Seymour.

I would have expected a trade like this from a 14-year-old fantasy football player reminiscing back to his elementary school days when Carson Palmer was his favourite player. I wouldn’t have expected the Bengals to get this sort of value for a pseudo-retired past his prime pro bowler. Not even from the Oakland Raiders.

But give credit where credit is due. Owner Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals refused to give in to Carson Palmer’s ridiculous demands and he was rewarded for it. With a little luck from Jason Campbell’s injury, Brown was able to receive tremendous value for his former franchise quarterback.

What can you say though about a man who went all Chad Ochocinco eccentric on us? Carson Palmer is going to be 32 in December and hasn’t given any reason for us to believe that he will play anywhere close to his former self. He also hasn’t played a down of football for quite a while now.

What do the Oakland Raiders expect?

They would be lucky if Carson Palmer could put up some vintage Trent Dilfer numbers.

The Raiders are set to pay the full amount of Carson Palmer’s $11.5 million 2011 contract. In addition, Palmer’s contract runs through 2014 season so it is quite possible, as SI’s Chris Burke points out, that Jason Campbell has “played his last down in Oakland.”

In an attempt to salvage a season that was inevitably lost after Jason Campbell’s injury, the Raiders have compromised the future of their franchise…yet again.

I guess “just win baby” is still at all costs necessary for this much maligned franchise.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Brett Favre is Still the Best Torso

Oh, how the green-eyed monster rears its ugly, ugly head.

Brett Favre, clearly jealous of the praise his successor Aaron Rodgers is receiving, came out recently and said that he was “really kind of surprised it took [Aaron Rodgers] so long” to win a Super Bowl. Understandably, Favre is getting a lot of backlash for this. He sounds like the big brother who can’t stand the newborn baby receiving all the attention.

Yesterday, FoxSports columnist Bill Reiter wrote an article explicitly telling Favre to “shut the hell up.” I think I can assume without making an ass out of myself that he isn’t the only one thinking that. I get it, you’re all tired of Favre’s “destructive need for attention and adulation,” as Mr. Reiter so callously puts it.

Yeah, that’s probably right. Favre is a publicity hogging, insecure, selfish, egomaniacal, son of a bitch in many ways.

What bothers me about Reiter’s story isn’t his hatred for Favre (although that does bother me a lot) so much as it is his absolute adoration for Aaron Rodgers. He says that “Right now, Rodgers is as fun a competitor to watch and cheer for as you can find in sports.” He kills two birds with one stone in that statement, implying that cheering for Rodgers is better than cheering for Favre.

Please. Stop.

Sure, Aaron Rodgers is a good dude. Sure, Aaron Rodgers is a first class, maybe even the best, quarterback in the NFL right now. Sure, Aaron Rodgers is a great competitor.

But there is no way that Aaron Rodgers is as fun a competitor to watch and cheer for in sports at this point in time. Aaron Rodgers is boring. He isn’t and will never be close to the legend that Brett Favre was.

Aaron Rodgers plays the game. That’s it.

He isn’t an exciting guy. That’s the bottom line. He’s a relaxed guy and that’s why he wasn’t bothered by the whole Brett Favre saga in Green Bay. He has that surfer, “chill out dude” kind of attitude. It’s why he, predictably, took the high road to Brett Favre’s most recent jealousy induced comments. He doesn’t rub people the wrong way, largely because he doesn’t have a big personality.

Brett Favre was worshipped by most everyone up until Ted Thompson began to screw him over. In hindsight, it’s clear that Ted Thompson made the right decision to start building around Aaron Rodgers when he did. However, it’s also clear with hindsight that he wasn’t fair to Brett Favre. Brett Favre wanted to play but Ted Thompson wanted to make him a backup. He should have just let him go play elsewhere. Instead, Favre becomes the bad guy.

Unbelievably, I’m reading the comments section of Mr. Reiter’s article and people are questioning if Brett Favre should go into the Hall of Fame as a Packer?

Does America have the memory of a 4th grade classroom’s gerbil?

Simply because a man wants to keep playing doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care for your franchise anymore.

Brett Favre’s insecure, egomaniacal, and selfish personality may have transformed him into one of the most loathed sports figures in all of North America but it also made him one of the most loved sports figures in North America.

Brett Favre’s infectious child-like passion for the game, gun-slinging carelessness and Hollywood charisma would not be possible without those other less attractive characteristics.

His ego allowed him to take risks that no other human being could fathom. His immaturity allowed him to play like a 12-year-old. His selfish nature allowed him to insist on giving us those extra years of greatness.

Who else could make fun of himself the way Favre did in this Hyundai commercial?

Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, has about as much character as the keys on my laptop computer. Aaron Rodgers may be liked by most everyone except Brett Favre, but he will never be adored for more than his playing ability contrary to what Mr. Reiter seems to so naively believe.

I just wish Favre would stop giving everyone a reason to hate on him because he doesn’t deserve the degree of hatred that he receives every instance his name seeps its way into the headlines. I mean, it’s not fair, that’s my favourite quarterback.

When it is all said and done, Aaron Rodgers may end up being the better quarterback but he will never be able to measure up to the magnificence that is Brett Favre.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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