Playoff Random Thoughts – April 25th




Some thoughts on the post-season thus far as well as continued Flames coverage here on FN.

– How useful is Dave Bolland? Somewhat overlooked during the regular season, Bolland has been instrumental in turning the series around for Chicago against the Canucks. Through three games he has two goals and four assists and that’s despite mostly playing against the Sedins in some of the toughest circumstances possible. Bolland has seen just six (!!) offensive zone draws in the series thus far, but was in the black in terms of possession before last night’s contest. That’s outstanding work against some of the best in the biz.

Plus there’s stuff like this:

– All that said, Chicago is probably a bit lucky to still be in the series after last night. The Canucks had the ice tilted for most of the evening, to the tune of an overall corsi advantage of +32. Every single Hawk player spent more time in his own end at even strength last night, including Bolland and many of them were deep under water. If they want to close out the come back in Vancouver, a better evening at 5-on-5 is in order. game-tying, penalty shots are rare animals. 

– Of course, if the Vancouver choke does come to fruition, feel free to head over to Canucks Army and give them the business. Sure Vancouver has a better team than the Flames and probably will in the forseeable future, but a collapse of thise magnitude deserves mockery nonetheless.

(pic courtesy of Andrew Loudoun)

– Congratulations to the Nashville Predators and especially Barry Trotz for making it out of the first round. The franchise has endured a lot of lean years and spun straw into gold with a combination of good drafting, frugal UFA market pick-ups and, of course, good coaching. The road gets a lot rockier for the Preds from here on out, but they deserve praise even if they fall to whomever in round 2.

– No one should bet terribly surprised the preds made it past the Ducks BTW. As we’ve mentioned around these parts, Anaheim has a very nice top-end but things fall off rapidly after that. The Ducks had some of the worst underlying numbers at ES this regular season and combination of Jonas Hiller, a potent power-play and Corey Perry catching fire down the stretch got them to the dance. When Hiller went down for the count, the long-term fortunes of the Ducks lessened significantly. Excellent teams can get away with average goaltending, but not a middling club like the Ducks.

– Mike Richards hits Tim Connolly into the boards from behind, injuring him for the remainder of the game (and possibly the series). The NHL doesn’t suspend Richards, of course, because…well, the NHL doesn’t care overly much about punishing dangerous hits despite all it’s bluster to the contrary. It cares about seeming to care, but that’s another matter entirely.

What’s really interesting is what the true lack of enforceable standards or consistency in justice causes in response to such acts:


I don’t believe there’s any malicious intent from Richards, and it does sound horrible and you feel bad saying it, but there’s definitely some onus on Connolly to not put himself in that kind of position. The rulebook even says that.  But for the most part, I think the lack of suspension is the right call based solely on the precedent we’ve seen in these playoffs so far.


That’s from the link above and admittedly the thoughts of a Flyers fan. Still, this is a perfect example of the three primary rationalizations for needless or excessive violence we see now and then in the NHL. Let’s count them:

1.) The "no malicious intent" justification. I’ve written about this before for The Score, in that the league should stop worrying about mens rea when doling out discipline. For two reasons – firstly, because it’s pretty much impossible to read intent from most actions in the game, outside of extreme stick-swinging of the Marty McSorly type. We none of us are mind-readers. And secondly, it doesn’t much matter if Richards was planning to kill Connolly or if we has thinking about kittens and unicorns at the time. The result is the same: a dangerous, injurious, illegal hit from behind.

2.) "There’s definitely some onus on Connolly to not put himself in that kind of position" is called blaming the victim and it’s one of the oldest, most enduring cognitive biases around. It comes from psychological need to perceive the universe as essentially just, so people often find ways to suggest victims "deserve" their treatment somehow.

It’s also telling that in discussions and debates around this topic you’ll hear some folks defending the perpetrators of dangerous hits on the basis of hockey being a "fast game" and things "happening quickly". And yet, no one seems to apply that line of thought to the victims of hits.

As anyone who has played hockey can tell you, it’s entirely impossible to "defend yourself" from potentially harmful plays at all times when you’re on the ice. No matter how guarded you are nor how much you keep your head up, there’s going to be a point at which you become vulnerable to one degree or another. Like, for instance skating into the boards to retrieve a puck and some dude shoves you from behind.

3.) The "lack of precedent" or what I call "Jimmy’s parents let him stay up late!" argument. This rationalization is a self-inflicted feedback loop created by the NHL’s inconstant discipline. Imagine, for instance, if Joe Thornton hits Dustin Brown from behind in the next SJS-LAK game. Now Sharks fans can point to the Richards case and declare "no suspension based on precendent!"

This rant wasn’t aimed solely at Travis Hughes, because you see this stuff all the time when a questionable play occurs in the league these days.

– Not a lot happening on the Flames front news-wise, so we’ll continue to dig through the numbers and post our analysis here at FlamesNation. Pat and I will follow-up Robert’s in-depth look at the forwards this week. We will begin to pull the perspective back somewhat after that with a view to look at the club as a whole and particularly what it all means when it comes to the Flames cap situation, the draft and the free agent market. We will also start to share some of the overall scoring chance numbers gleaned from the regular season.

I hasten to add that if any one has any questions about the quantative stuff thrown around here, don’t hesitate to pipe up in the comments or send an email question or two. We’re on the bleeding edge when it comes to some of this stuff, so it’s perfectly natural not to be out in front of it all. Also – if enough readers would like a "glossary of terms" for the site, I could be motivated to put one together.

– Speaking of the draft, there’s a good chance FN will be strongly represented in Minnesota when the event rolls around in late June. Let us know what kind of coverage you’d like to see when we’re down there and we’ll try our best to fulfill all expectations.

    • wattree

      david bolland is what turned this seies around for the hawks. sure the torres hit was a rallying point, but do not overlook the weight bolland carries in the hawks game plan the brothers sedin are now the brothers invisible. that and the chicago mob must have gotten into bobby lous head, the jekyll and hyde act is mind boggling.

  • wattree

    i’m starting to think that headshots should be suspendable regardless of circumstance. if a guy knows he’s getting 5-15 games for delivering a headshot regardless of intent, injury, precedent, or victim position, there would be less headshots full-stop.

    i’m starting to think that 5 games for a headshot is the base, add say 2 games for leaving his feet, 2 for percieved maliciousness, and 1-5 for severity of injury. sumpin like that.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      Anything other than what they currently use for a guideline would be WINNING.

      Why doesn’t the PA do or say anything about headshots? I realize that the number one priority of the PA is collective bargaining, but as an association of players shouldn’t they be saying something about protecting the health and livelihoods of their members?

      • Robert Cleave

        The PA has never really pushed this stuff as part of a more comprehensive occupational safety and health policy, and to be honest I suspect it’s a mix of competitive pressure and a misplaced sense of machismo. Absent a few catastrophic injuries, I can’t see their approach changing. I really have less patience for the PA on this issue than I do for league management. I expect the league to be cravenly ignorant or dismissive about safety, even though they bear some risk financially. The players, though, should have the collective wit to begin looking after themselves, and that includes both pushing for equipment/facility safety as well as modifying their own behavior. I’m not holding my breath.

  • Upkeeper

    Hey Kent,

    I love the advanced stats that are done for this team as well as others. It has really changed the way I watch hockey. With that said I would love to see a glossary option for this website. I still get pretty confused when all the numbers are sitting in front of me.
    Thanks again for all the work that is done.

  • Scott

    I would also love a glossary, I mix up which stats are which all the time!

    I would definately agree though, that getting the stats beyond the standard plus/minus etc, has certainly openned my eyes to what I was watching!

    In terms of the draft, I have quickly fallen in love with this annual event, and have been following it consistently over that past 4-5 years. Any coverage you guys could provide would be awesome!

    I’m quite dissappointed with the Richards non suspension call. This idea of intent governing whether or not a suspension was called is even worse then the old method of ruling based on injury caused! A hit to the head is a hit to the head. He didn’t have to make that hit, but he did, and as such the hit became a dangerous hit, this should be the ruling behind these hits.

    I used to love the big hits, but now I find myself thinking that the hit was excessive or he should have pulled up a bit, rather than enjoying the hit itself. I really wish they could have a better understanding as to what is a suspension and for how long, I think it really affects the media attention and media dollars that the NHL is losing to the other big sports.

  • Re: the Richards hit. This is a case where the hit didn’t cross into the current murky territory of “head hit” vs. “hockey play”. What Richards did has been illegal and frowned upon forever – a cheap shot from behind. And still the response from the league is a limp one.

  • ForeverRed

    It is hilarious that Mike Gillis is whining about the reffing in the series now. Earth to Gillis, the refs dont make you lose 7-2 and 5-0!! If he is so upset about the Bickell hit I wonder what he thought about the Torres hit on Seabrook? Where is Todd the toad when you need him?

  • Emir

    The league isn’t serious about headshots in the game. Bettman is obsessive over growing the game in the USA and he is afraid to have the game branded as a “dangerous” game as it already is down south by the media.

    Specifically Bettman does not want to acknowledge the problem because by acknowledging it the league is admitting it exists, thus confirming years of opinion by a large crowd who does not understand the game.

    Bettman is all about the money, and if a few people become disfigured along the way its just the price of doing business.

    Plus why suspend Richards now? its the playoffs and its a tight series, you don’t want to take a star player out because they put butts in seats and eyes on screens.

    I really dislike the Bettman body of work in the post lock-out era. Like the whole Phoenix thing? Seriously, the guy must have Daz as a consultant because he is stuck on things that cant ever work outside of his own little imagination.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I don’t know about Phoenix being doomed from the start. People likely said the same thing about the Kings/Sharks/Ducks when they were first created, and at least two of those teams are developing some pretty strong fanbases (not sure what the Ducks’ fanbase is like).

      • Emir

        I will agree that any warm weather team has had struggles, but Bettman threw millions of dollars chasing a pipe dream. That team should have been gone 2 seasons ago. Compare it to Nashville, some struggles for profitability but local support keeps the team there with some league support. Its working. Phoenix, well its a gotten so bad public watch dogs like Goldwater had to get involved.

  • T&A4Flames

    Hey Kent. As for draft coverage, I would love to see a run down of who may be available around Calgary’s pick and what they bring to the table and how it could affect the Flames in the future and possibly immediatley. Thanks.


      According to this, Flames have the 13th pick (1st round), we won’t mention what happened to our 2nd and 3rd rounders, 104th pick (round 4), 134th pick (round 5), 164th (round 6), and we don’t have a 7th (how’s life in the press box Modin?).

      Assuming that the draft goes exactly in the order of the rankings, we would sit at the following dude:

      OLEKSIAK, JAMIESON H-EAST 12/21/92 6’7″ 244lbs
      Position: D, 34GP 3-9-12 51PIM

      It won’t go down that exact way. Other possibilities in this area could be:

      STROME, RYAN, C, 65GP 33-73-106 82PIM
      NAMESTNIKOV, VLADISLAV, C, 68GP 30-38-68 49PIM
      MCNEILL, MARK, C, 70GP, 32-49-81 53PIM
      PHILLIPS, ZACK, C, 67GP 38-57-95 16PIM

      Who knows though, the draft is so unpredictable, and our scouting/drafting has been piss poor in previous years. Needless to say, with Feaster at the helm (likely), anything could happen.

      We’ll probably end up taking several left-handed defenceman goons from the WHL and a goalie or two from Finland.

  • MC Hockey

    Hi Kent, For the draft, coverage of possible trades by Flames and their rivals would be nice as well as any insight into Flames plans (e.g. draft big defenseman or improve on finesse). Also you need a glossary of stats in every article that can be at the bottom every time to explain briefly corsi, zonestart, etc, etc

    • Scott

      Your comment seems to be lacking your usual amount of enthusiasm!

      I would agree, the refs are out to get you, after all, like Gillis said, Chicago got a penalty shot, which was a complete conspiracy between the refs…

      If the Canucks were focused on playing hockey, instead of trying give concussions to every hawks player, they would take less penalties, end of story.

      EDIT: And why would a Calgary radio station cheer for a division rival? That would be sad!

      • wattree

        I know, he really makes you want to cheer for Van’s opponents.

        As long as you’re taking requests for site improvements, any chance of getting a mobile version going? I probably access this site 75% of the time on my Blackberry. Would be nice to have something with a little smaller footprint.

        As far as the advanced stats go, it would be great to have some benchmark numbers to compare to. Like a good, bad, ugly ranges. Otherwise they’re just numbers.

        Thanks for all your hard work.

    • wattree

      When you assemble a group of guys known for taking cheap shots and dives, it’s not so much that refs are out to get you, as much as they are just catching what is going on.

      With the refing that went on last night, we’re going to have to listen to McGillis whine before every game the rest of the way. Really sad but it does keep with the identity of the team.