Monday, 26 January 2015

Deflategate: Would you buy a used car from Roger Goodell, or ask him to investigate where we should have lunch?

Speaking of Roger Goodell, one of the findings of the investigation of his 'investigation' in the Ray Rice spousal assault was that he took very poor notes of their meeting, laughably thin, basically unusable.  To me, it demonstrated that he wasn't 'curious' during this investigation.  Whenever a manager is interviewing an employee for potential discipline/dismissal, it's recommended that you go in with an open mind, eager to get that person's side of things, her story, rather than with pre-conceived notions about what took place and what further actions 'should' result.

During their interview, with NFLPA staff and his agent present, Mr. Rice told the Commissioner that he "hit" his fiancée.  As this story unfolded, I wanted to know more.  What did he mean hit?  Did he mean shove, rough shove, slap, push, fend off?  Did he mean punch?  What kind of punch, a fake "Leave me alone beeatch or I'll..." that turned out horribad, or a full-on punch, with intent?  All these questions should have been asked, if the Commish had been curious.

During these kind of interviews, a subject will sometimes lapse into 'conversational-ese', and use figures of speech like "Well we walk into the store, and one thing leads to another, and..."  At which point the interviewer has to stop and backtrack, and ask, "What specifically led to what?  What do you mean one thing led to another?"  Any time you hear words like "whatever" or "blah blah blah", you have to stop the subject and encourage him to be precise, specific, and give a full account, that this isn't a bar tale that needs to get to the punchline, no pun intended.  You want the full story, the whole picture, not a sketch.

So that when Roger Goodell didn't press Ray Rice on what he meant by "hit", he wasn't doing his job, he wasn't being curious.  He didn't need information to make a decision.  He'd already cut a deal with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to go easy on Ray Rice since he was a fine young man who'd made a stupid mistake.  So he didn't really need the facts, the whole picture.  He didn't need to take any notes.  The decision had already been made.

This was almost a show trial, going through the rigamarole to give the impression of due process and an opportunity to express remorse, to make the slap on the wrist more palatable.

One of the excuses that Roger Goodell has used to explain the poor notes he took, and the botched handling of this case, is that he's "not a lawyer".  Which is a scream.  If you admit that, what the heck were you doing acting as a hanging judge in the Bountygate investigation, and suspending all these coaches and GM's?  If your incompetence is an excuse in the Ray Rice tomfoolery, then how do you stand by the penalties enacted on the Saints?

And now the league is investigating another darling franchise and owner, Robert Kraft's Patriots.  It will be interesting to see how involved Roger Goodell will be, or whether due to potential conflict of interest or bias or his tarred image or all three he'll maintain an arm's length remove.

But it will be difficult for the league to 'get it right'.  Its credibility has been damaged lately, so very few will be satisfied that justice was done in the deflation of footballs case.  Analysts say that the Patriots staff will stay mum, there won't be a 'smoking gun', but again, there didn't need to be one for the Saints, they used the lack of institutional control as reason enough for the harsh suspensions.

On the other hand, how can you suspend coaches and players and staff on the eve of the Super Bowl?  Do you rob your fans of the best game you can offer?  Or do you allow a team of cheaters to prosper, and defer punishment until later, when it won't matter?

He's learned this lesson too late, but Roger Goodell is better off having an investigating arm doing the review of cases like these, and maybe an independent arbitrator doing the final ruling.  We'll see how they handle this football.  Will he be curious, or will he have an idea of what 'should' happen, for the good of the league?

Deflategate: How do I cheat thee? Let me count the ways...

About the NFL letting teams ‘control’ the game balls, that was done with the expectations that the teams would go about this in good faith. As pointed out in numerous reports, some QB’s have different tastes as to how their football should feel, so the League gave teams latitude as to how their QB’s and kickers could prepare the balls, as long as they respected the standards. If it means more offence and a more fan-friendly game, why not, right?

What the Patriots did was to submit legally inflated balls for the pre-game inspection that the referees perform a couple hours before the game, to keep everyone honest. The Pats, and they’ll have to prove to me that this isn’t what happened, then went back into the bag before kickoff and actively deflated the balls. They queered the game, post-inspection. This wasn’t no accident no-how. There was clear intent.

The balls didn't deflate due to climate, as Bill Nye denied.  They didn't all magically settle at the very same deflated level.  Eleven out of twelve balls, with one mysteriously unaffected by the rigorous process Bill Belichick described.

This was done underhandedly. They tampered with the balls before kickoff. This is active cheating, like a race car being prepared in contravention to the standards of the governing body, or players using illegal sticks, or pitchers doctoring the baseball.

The fact that they beat the Colts handily doesn’t diminish their culpability. For me, this plus Spygate plus another episode brought up by a commentator who used to play for the Pats, and recalled a game when they were facing off against the Peyton Manning Colts at the height of their offensive prowess, and somehow accidentally the sprinklers were left on all night so the field was a soggy mess to slow down the Reggie Waynes and Marvin Harrisons, they prove that Bill Belichick will stop at nothing, not dishonesty or legality to win games.

If he got caught with Spygate and now this, there are twenty more incidents that he knowingly bent or broke the rules that he didn’t get caught.

Throw the book at them. Sean Payton took a year suspension in the teeth and never said a word. I want Bill Belichick to get the same treatment.

Once the dust settles, most probably what will happen is a system like in baseball, where the refs rub a certain number of balls prior to every game with a specific proprietary mud, to take the sheen off, and that’s the ball everyone plays with, no exceptions. And if a player is caught doctoring a ball by scuffing it or adding a slick substance to it, that’s outright cheating, it’s not a ‘little tug of the jersey’, it’s a suspendable offence.

But again, the Patriots are caught red-handed, not the Jaguars or the Browns, or the Raiders of old, who as Lisa Simpson said, were likely to win because “they always cheat.” The Pats, not the Raiders, are the new rogue organization, who don’t believe that there is such a thing as dirty pool.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

24 CH, 2014-15 season, Episode 9: Notes

Well, there's nothing to watch during this All-Star weekend, so let's catch up on these episodes.

This episode again looked at how the team dealt with the equipment they have to cargo around with them on road trips, something they highlighted also last season.  It's also the week of the Mothers Trip to Boston and New York.

1:15  The moms, along with a couple daughters and sisters, tour the facilities.  P.K. grabs hold of his mom's elbow before she treads on the logo in the center of the dressing room carpet.  He grouses to the camera that she just about cost him some money, but she gets it, and laughs at her near sacrilege.  "Never walk on the emblem..." she agrees.

2:20  Getting off the plane, Brandon Prust is ambushed TMZ-style by a cameraman about not carrying his mom's bags.  He brushes it off.

"Nah, my mom is stronger than me..."

2:40  Darlene Tokarski and Barbara Weise get a lot of camera time, they are both very well spoken and express the effect this trip has on them, how much they learn about what their sons do when they're at 'work'.

3:15  Bryan Allen joins the team after the trade that brought him from Anaheim.  He introduces himself to his new team members while they are having drinks prior to a banquet in honour of the mothers.  He's glad to see a familiar face in former Panther teammate Mike Weaver.

3:45  General Manager Marc Bergevin brought his older sister Paulette on the trip.  While he introduces her, another mom translates for her benefit, since she doesn't speak English.  It's arguable that Marc himself does so, but he fakes it well and pulls it off by the force of his personality.

Various players introduce their mothers.  Brandon Prust says that when he was younger she'd reward him for scoring goals by giving him Skittles.  "Needless to say," he cracks, "she saves a lot of money on Skittles these days."

Dale Weise: "This is my mom Barbara.  To this day I haven't played a bad game in her eyes."

P.K. to Bryan Allen: "Bryan welcome to the team.  I don't think there's any better day for you to come and see what this team is all about."

06:15  Team photo with the moms on the ice at the New Boston Gahdens, arrayed above the 'spoked B' and a slyly placed Canadiens carpet.

06:45  Segment with team photog Bob Fisher.  Some of the shots he took are breathtaking.  There's the memorable photo of Bob Gainey taking off his shirt, revealing a Canadiens jersey underneath, playing on the Clark Kent turning into Superman imagery.  There's the amazing shot of Craig Ludwig embracing an emotional Larry Robinson after the 1986 Stanley Cup win, with Mr. Fisher explaining that Craig was consoling Larry, who was coming to the realization this would be his last Cup.

And then there's the classic shot of the giants of my youth, taken with a fisheye lens from behind the bench, in 1974.  All these jerseys seen from the back, in the days before nameplates, when you had to memorize your team's numbers, and most of those from the opponents as well.  From left to right is Rick Chartraw, Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard, Peter Mahovlich, Guy Lafleur right smack in the middle, and to his right Bob Gainey, Yvon Lambert, Henri Richard and Murray Wilson.

I've decided I need to get this photo and posterize it.

08:25 Quick shot of a bespectacled Jean-Jacques Daigneault giving a be-gym-shorted Bryan Allen a crash course in the team's system, drawing up diagrams on a dry-erase board on a travel trunk in the corridor before the game.

Then a quick shot of P.K. getting a photo with Bobby Orr.  It's understandable.  I approve.

08:55  We find out from Max Pacioretty's mom that they are sharing rooms with their sons.  Great idea for them to have this time together, but you wonder if that's what threw them off their routine, and played a part in the meltdown in New York.

10:15  Game time, we get Andrei Markov's 100th career goal, then the rematch between Dale Weise and Gregory "Sonny Boy" Campbell.  Barbara Weise can hardly bear to watch, cheers when Dale gets the takedown.

11:15  Nice scene of the moms celebrating and singing the "Olé" song while Bruins fans head to the exits in the third period.

12:00  If Barbara Weise has trouble watching when Dale fights, Darlene Tokarski can't bear to watch the entire game when her son plays.  She finds comfort and support from Carey Price's mom Lynda, who gives her tips on how to endure.

Soon after stating that she'd watch the game, we see Dustin getting scored on, and Mrs. Tokarski pacing in the corridor.

13:40  The Alexei Emelin giveaway to Martin St-Louis.  That one still smarts.  "Oh, no..." says P.K. in disbelief.

An ugly 5-0 loss I had almost forgotten about.  The moms console Darlene Tokarski.  "He played well," she concedes, despite the score.

15:30  The ugliness continues in Buffalo.  This is the game where Brandon Prust took on Chris Stewart, then was tossed from the game for unsportsmanlike comments to the officials.

Canadiens tie it at 1-1 early in the third, and P.A. Parenteau and David Desharnais celebrate and analyse the goal, en français.  Jiri Sekac, seated between them on the bench, bears it with grace like a good little rookie.

Alexei Emelin hits Brian Gionta, catching him on the head.  He gets up in a nasty mood, looking for revenge.  "Where are you going Gio?  Where are you going?" Dale Weise comments from the bench, skeptical that his former teammate should play the tough guy.

The goal off the lucky bounce off a stanchion in the final moments of the game hands the Sabres the victory.  Not even a loser point tonight.

17:15  We follow Pierre Brébart, who's in charge of transporting equipment from the plane to the New Forum and the practice facility in Brossard.  He's been working for the Canadiens for 34 years, and says they used to travel with 2500 lbs of gear, but now it's more like 5000.  He drives a box truck to Dorval and it takes him about two hours to unload all the gear, hang it up to dry, etc.

The guys have two sets of gear, one for practice and one for games, and they travel with both.  Cushy.  No moldy cold wet stinky gear for these guys.

Upon the plane's arrival, there's a lineup of cars waiting on the tarmac.  Is that spouses picking them up, or do they get car service back home too?

18:20  Marc Bergevin announces the contract extension for Brendan Gallagher at a press conference.  We see Brendan come in to the lounge to sign it in his workout gear, then dashes off for more hard work.

19:00  More Buffalo ugliness.  The second half of a back-to-back against the Sabres, this one at home.  P.K. clips Max in the mouth with his stick, goes to the first aid room to find out how he's doing.

The game tied at 3-3, it goes to the shootout.  Brian Gionta misses on his attempt, and gets chirped by Carey as he skates by the Habs bench: "Get some new material Gio."

Sabres win 4-3.  1 point out of a possible four against the weak sister.

21:30  Episode closes with the iconic shot of Jean Béliveau, seen from behind, skating with the Stanley Cup and looking back at us.

Anthony Beauvillier continues to impress, picks up another two points in shootout loss to the Remparts.

Anthony Beauvillier picked up a goal and an assist in a 3-2 loss in a shootout to the Québec Remparts in the Classique Hivernale in St-Tite.  He gets to add these to his four points the previous game against the Tigres de Victoriaville.  So, six points in two very media-hyped games, this can't fail to grab various scouts' and GM's' attention.

When they talked about this kid prior to the Top Prospects game, I dismissed him as a target for the Canadiens due to his size, currently listed at 5'10" and 181 lbs.  We already have a lot of slick or never-quit but undersized forwards in the system, I figure, he doesn't fit in our picture.

Watching him play however, I weakened.  I began to allow that if Trevor Timmins could make him one of his late-round specials like Brendan Gallagher, Charles Hudon or Daniel Audette, I could bear it.  Then as he niftied up my screen, I started to count him as a hatched chicken and feeling mighty good about this steal.  And then as he kept piling up the spectacular plays and points, I began to despair that we'd have to spend a third-rounder on him, maybe even a second if we wanted to be sure to snag him.  If Anthony Duclair went to the Rangers in the third round after a so-so season and whispers about his attitude, how the heck does this squeaky clean can-do super-productive kid last past the second round?  He's at 72 points in 47 games and picking up steam.

Canadiens goaltending prospect Zachary Fucale on the other hand wasn't as impressive.  The Remparts' netminder struggled on a couple of occasions with rebound control, something we've seen during his stint with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.

I know we need to be patient with prospects, but my expectations for the highest-drafted goalie in 2013 would be that he played at another level in Junior this year, that he be a couple notches above everyone else.  That's not what's transpiring.  His save percentage this season prior to puck drop was at a pedestrian .892, while his counterpart Marvin Cüpper, an undrafted German goalie, sported a .910 save percentage.

We can hope that gearing up for a Memorial Cup run with the Remparts will allow Zach to focus and improve on his uneven performance last season and so far this year.  He'll need to bear down for Québec to be successful, since based on what I saw they are far from a powerhouse, compared to some of the Memorial Cup contenders the past few seasons.  Sure there are some big names, Adam Erne, Anthony Duclair, Ryan Graves, but they don't inspire a lot of confidence in this fan's eyes that they'll win the Cup on home ice.

A word on Vladimir Tkachev of the Remparts, made famous this autumn by another Oilers bungle.  They'd invited the undrafted 18-year-old to their rookie camp, and he impressed enough that he stuck around for the main camp, and eventually was offered an NHL contract by the Oilers.  Trouble is, he wasn't eligible for such an offer, due to a technicality.  The fact that he'd played a couple of games in the KHL before coming over to play for Moncton meant that he had to go back in the draft.  Craig MacTavish's lame excuse was that he and the player's agent failed to read the relevant section in the Collective Bargaining Agreement completely.

http://oilers.nhl.com/club/blogpost.htm?id=32106
"There's a subsection in the CBA that defines prior season. When we looked at it, it looked like Vlad fulfilled all the criteria to sign a Standard Player's Contract," MacTavish began. "He went through the draft -- 30 teams had a chance to draft him -- and he played the prior season in North America, which he did in Moncton.
"But when you go down two paragraphs further, in another subsection of article 8, it defines 'prior season' as a complete season. Vlad had played some games in the KHL and that went unnoticed."
And:
 Tkachev's agent also thought that there was an opportunity for Tkachev to sign with an NHL club.
"I spoke with the agent and he read the clause and then stopped reading after it looked like he was eligible."

Well during this game, Steven Finn, the TVA Sports Junior Hockey colour analyst, mentioned a couple of times that Mr. Tkachev had showed frustration toward his teammates, and been undisciplined.  He alleged that it was in keeping with his season so far, that the young man is talented but a bit of a handful and a prima donna.

This is somewhat ironic, in that when it seemed that he would start the season in Edmonton, there was talk about how Nail Yakupov was one of his mentors, who was showing him the ropes and translating the proceedings for him.  Also, at the time, it was argued that having Mr. Tkachev on the team would help Nail Yakupov feel more comfortable, in keeping with Paul Maurice's take on the difficulty Russian players must face adapting to North America, and Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins saying that Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Alex Galchenyuk would play a role in helping Nikita Scherbak eventually integrate into the Canadiens' dressing room.

Based on Steven Finn's comments, it appears that Nail Yakupov and Vladimir Tkachev aren't what the other needs right now.

Anthony Beauvillier of the Shawinigan Cataractes has four-point night, improves his draft stock

Anthony Beauvillier of the Cataractes de Shawinigan had himself quite the game in the outdoor game in St-Tite against the Tigres de Victoriaville. With a goal and two assists in the second period, he led his team to a 4-2 victory. He also assisted on the empty-net goal to clinch the win.

What’s really impressive is that he played in the Top Prospects game on Thursday, captaining the Don Cherry team, and then flew home Friday in time for the game.

He’s going to be drafted this June, and is currently ranked the 49th-best prospect for domestic skaters by NHL Central Scouting. With 32 goals and 70 points so far, that might seem a little low, but scouts are going to worry about his 5’10”, 181 lbs measurables.

One slot above him at #48 is Gabriel Gagné who plays for les Tigres. With 25 goals and 39 points, that may seem odd, he’s not as productive as Mr. Beauvillier, but he does have a 6’5″, 190 lbs frame. He scored a goal tonight, potting a rebound after blocking the goalie’s vision in front of the net.

The NHL lunatically leaves P.K. Subban off its All-Star Game rosters.

There are All-Star snubs, and then there's lunacy.  That the league painted itself into a corner and somehow ended up without P.K. Subban as part of the weekend is not just ill-advised, but outright counterproductive, if not self-injurious.  If you want to sell the game, showcase the best of your organization, how does P.K. get forced to go to Cuba instead of Columbus?

Henrik Lundqvist is another glaring omission, he may be one of the few NHL'ers that the non-initiate American can recognize, and his Q rating is especially high among women, who'll vaguely know him for being that sexycool Manhattan guy who plays guitar, and also who was on Ellen and the cover of GQ.  But as a veteran goalie who's been there before and may benefit from the week's rest instead of a press junket, he may have ducked the proceedings anyway, had he been selected.

P.K. Subban is one of the players who would have unreservedly loved to go, who had a trick or two up his sleeves for some of these comps, would have gladly worn the GoPro, excitedly and all too willingly worn a wire.  He'd have been Pierre McGuire and Scott Oake's best buddy, the slot machine that pays off in quotes on every pull.  He would have palled around with everyone on his 'team', burned every 'rival', it would have been the same level of difficulty to pull the mike away from him as it was for Jim Nantz to do so from Ray Lewis.

Skills contest?  P.K. wouldn't have been aw-shucks sheepish, he would have been dying to show them off.  Everyone would have watched him in the hardest shot contest with bated breath.  How hard does he shoot anyway?  Not as hard as Zdeno or Shea Weber right?  Well we won't know, for now.

Have the fans vote players in, sure, but negate the obvious ballot stuffing like the Rory Fitzpatrick year with league overrule powers.  Have them insert obvious oversights like P.K. and King Henrik and Pavel Datsyuk, etc. into the rosters.  Inflate the roster beyond twenty if needed.  Have every team represented if you must, but in a Young Stars game or four-on-four, three-on-three shinny exhibition.  Don't end up bumping P.K. for Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Faulk because of your own stupid theoretically well-intentioned rule.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Packers had the Seahawks on the ropes, but couldn't finish them.

Watching the Packers-Seahawks game last Sunday was like watching a formulaic horror film, where the gunshot fleshwound-diminished hero has the monster/psycho/terrorist down but not out, and for some reason doesn’t finish him/it with a cinder block on the head or some definitive method like that. Instead he fiddles around with the controls of the time-bomb or straightens out the hair of the heroine, etc., until with a sudden crescendo of music, the baddie is up and out for mayhem again.

There were so many opportunities for the Pack to put them away. I puzzled at why the defensive back grounded himself after the interception with four minutes left, that didn’t make sense at all. He should have run it back as far as he safely could to give his team a field goal attempt at least. I understand that he didn’t want to fumble the football back, but you do that when you can drain the clock with your lead, not with four minutes to go.

And I suffered when the Chargers lost a game to the Pats in 2006, when Marlon McCree intercepted Tom Brady in the final minute of the Conference Championship, only to fumble the ball right back, so I get the general concept, only there’s a big difference between one and four minutes left.

As far as the Pack blowing the play on the two-point convert, again, bad situational awareness. You can’t return a pick or fumble for a touchdown, and a penalty does nothing except replay the down for the offence, and half the distance to the goal. So the plan for the defence is clear, on a pass, do anything you need to do short of getting yourself ejected to bat the ball down. That’s it. What Mr. Clinton-Dix was doing behind the player he was covering was baffling.

Brian Bostic will be the goat for muffing the onside kick reception. At first I thought it was just an error of execution, that he was part of the hands team and had a responsibility to catch it and just missed, but Chris Schultz of TSN broke the video down and showed clearly that his assignment was to block his opposite Seahawk, not attempt the catch. That explain why the Green Bay coach was so irate and vociferous on the sidelines, he wasn’t dressing him down for the flub, but for not doing what he’s been coached to do a hundred times this season.

The Packers could have put this game away, there would have been opportunities where a normally fit Aaron Rogers would have reeled off first-down runs, but couldn’t seize the opportunity, with his gunshot wound/torn calf. There was a play when he had open field and could have run in the second half, but unable to do so, he tried to pitch the ball to Eddie Lacy, but the RB had already turned forward to block for his QB, as he’s done all season, habits die hard.

We’ll think of this game as a memorable one, some will say it was a classic, but it’s more of a case of a team letting another hang around, rope-a-dope and cling to them, and overcome all the turnovers and mistakes until they caught their third and fourth and fifth breath and started rolling.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

24 CH, 2014-15 season, Episode 8: Notes

Trying to catch up on these recaps.

One general point I want to make is that this season's episodes always show the players in the dressing room between periods, which gets a little repetitive.  The first season, we sometimes saw the coaches talking things through, trying to come up with answers and adjustments, scratching their heads, shrugging.  We'd see Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien meeting before and after games, talking things out.

I understand that it may be uncomfortable airing some of their discussions on camera.  I understand that the coaches may be fearful that their discussions may be too frank for public consumption, that even though they have editorial control, even though they can censor anything they don't like, that leaks can occur, unedited files can become public.  That's fair.  But if the players have to work under the microscope, maybe the coaches should also.  What's good for the goose, right?

Personally, I really enjoyed these behind the scenes peeks at what the brain trust was doing while the game unfolded.  It was good to understand that the coaches hash out the same things we do online in social media, they try to figure out line combinations that can work better too, or some way to counter the opposition's best players.  I wish we could see that aspect on 24CH again.

02:30  On a night off against the Wings in Detroit, we see Carey Price being very loose in the dressing room, clowning it up a bit.  All those stories about his calm, about how quick he forgets a bad goal or game, about how much he's a leader on the team, they're all true.

A few seasons ago, when he seemed besieged by the media and the fans, and Jaro Halak was eating his lunch, I wondered if he'd bloom in Montréal, if he'd reach his potential.  He seemed more dour, almost bitter sometimes.  I fretted that Bob Gainey 'ruined' him by bringing him up from Hamilton too soon, by trying to catch lightning in a bottle again, like we have with Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, and Steve Penney to a lesser extent.

He now seems to be at the peak of his physical ability, and has grown to deal with the spotlight quite well.  He seems unfazed by the media attention, to even enjoy it nowadays, and that the media scrum has learned to work with him, and is really eating out of his hand, truthfully.

03:30  After the win, Sergei Gonchar hands over the cape to P.K., for, as he puts it, spending fifty minutes of the game on the ice.  P.K. is overjoyed, and breaks into his Subbie routine.

As eager as Michel Therrien was to be given the cape by his charges before getting faked out by Weisy, so did P.K. seem to be.  The mark of recognition by a teammate means a lot to him, outwardly, more than say Andrei or Carey.  P.K. just wants to be loved.

04:15  Steve Bégin filming a commercial for the team's fan club at the New Forum.  He tours the facilities and notes with wonder at how they've been reno'ed and upgraded, at the staff scurrying around getting ready for the next game.  Again, this will possibly attract free agents who tire of playing for shoestring operations like the Coyotes or Panthers or Islanders.

07:20  One of the weaknesses of the show is how the French subtitles sometimes don't match up very well with what is actually being said by the players.  In English, you hear Assistant Coach Dan Lacroix warn his players: "Heads up when #17 (Pittsburgh forward Blake Comeau) is out there, he's going to run around."  With the footage of him delivering a few hits, the meaning is clear.

Yet en français, the subtitles read "Quand le 17 sera sur la glace, il va essayer de se défiler."  Meaning he's going to try to go around you, to evade.  Which could be strictly accurate, that would be one valid meaning, but based on context is completely, almost diametrically wrong.  He's doing anything but avoiding or evading our boys, he's actually running through them.

This is an area that needs to be looked at by the producers of the show.  I'm not sure if they're using translators who work off a text, without the images for context, or without a hockey background, if they're in a rush to tack these on to the images and there's no editing of the subtitles, but they're not just losing some of the nuances here, they're actually butchering the job.

07:40  Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk confabbing with Tomas Plekanec before a faceoff.  They're all "Yes sir, no sir!", attentive and respectful.  Good leadership by Tomas, but also good professionalism by the kids.  They're always goofing off and cutting up with P.K. and Brandon Prust during practice, off ice, with or against each other, it's great to see the friendship between these two, and their rambunctiousness, like overeager Labrador puppies.  But when appropriate, they cut that out and are all business, and follow the veterans' lead.  They know when to play, and when to shut up and go to work.

We've been comparing our team chemistry, our leader corps this season, since we decided to go wtih four assistants and no captain, and since the Oilers and Leafs have been in the news.  We often talk about the lack of leadership, about the defective organizational culture in Edmonton or Toronto.

Here we see two young players who've been inculcated in the team philosophy, the hierarchy right off the bat, with strong leaders like the departed Francis Bouillon, Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta, and Andrei Markov, and the new young veterans.  And they took to it like ducks to water.  As is often mentioned in various ways by different commentators, hockey players want to be lead, they want to be coached, they thrive in that environment.

One seemingly trivial example was how the kids kibitzed over who would have the 'Gally' nickname when they first joined the team.  This was cut short very quickly by the vets.  Josh Gorges told them curtly that they don't pick their own nickname, the team does.  And it was decreed that Brendan as the older player would be Gally, and Alex would henceforth be Chucky.

It may seem like small potatoes, but these boundaries drawn by the team, the way it polices itself, plays a big role in team identity and cohesion.  We can compare to the Oilers, with numerous stories about how the kids got leadership thrust upon them by virtue of their draft status and hefty contracts, with no vets to act as the greybeards to show them the way and nip them when they got out of line.

One aphorism about managing people is that you spend 90% of your time on 10% of your people, the square pegs and the malcontents.  Well Brendan and Alex are coaches dreams, they're in the 90% that you seldom have to worry about.

09:40  Jiri Sekac and Nathan Beaulieu compete at practice to see who can shoot a puck hard enough and with the right bank so that it travels all the way around the boards and back to the starting point and go the furthest.  What a job.

10:15  Marc Bergevin speaks to the media after the René Bourque for Bryan Allen trade.  "You can never have too many defencemen.  I know you'll say that I collect them...  He's a big guy, he's got character, he can bring something to this team."

"René understood, he was ready to turn the page.  I hope he can go to Anaheim and produce.  He can still play good hockey.  It's just not going to work out for him in Montréal.  I hope for the best for him."

11:00  Another note on subtitles:  P.A. Parenteau and David Desharnais, already speaking a robust joual, and by necessity earning a living while speaking the language of Shakespeare, have evolved like many Québécois players a kind of patois, a franglais larded with English terms.

"Si t'es loin du net, ton premier step, ..."

So much so that this is translated and subtitled for our easy reference.

"Si tu es loin du filet, un bon premier coup de patin va..."

11:35  An anguished Michel Therrien, while P.K. readies a slapshot: "Netfront!  NETFRONT!"  Then, defeatedly, "We got no one netfront!..."

Sure enough, a wide pan view shows five red jerseys about as far from the net as can be while still being in the offensive zone, and a clear line of sight for the Blues goalie.  We better understand the kudos David Desharnais got recently from the coach for blocking the goalie's view on a a P.K. Subban goal from the blue line.

Later, callup Drayson Bowman takes a hellacious crosscheck right in the chops from a Blue.  The coach is literally up in arms, standing on the bench, yelling at the linesman "You saw it!  You saw it!", the reproach being that he has the power to stop play for major infractions like this but is neglecting to do so.

Critics will say that Michel Therrien is losing his cool and antagonizing the refs, which will be counterproductive for the future.  If he'd flegmatically jacquesmartin'ed it, he'd be pilloried for not protecting his young players, for ruining them.  It's like the "'Man Show's You Can't Win Theatre."

And a stunned Drayson Bowman sits on the bench, trying to get a feel for his new and disimproved dentition.

It's ridiculous that these kinds of infractions, because the ref doesn't see them, get swept under the rug.  Again, there should be a video ref at every game, or at least a review of every game after the fact, with penalties for offending players and the teams that employ them.

12:50  David Desharnais passes to Max Pacioretty for a breakaway goal, with his whole body, he does a full, exaggerated follow-through.  I now understand why my passes weren't as precise, I'd just fling them from an arm's length position.  Much more hit-and-miss than Davey's passes.

After the win, Jean-Jacques Daigneault says to Geoff Molson in the tunnel  "Ç'tun bon club ça.  Très bon club."  The team owner also nods his head, assenting.

Max is the first star, and does an interview, talking about making a statement by beating a powerhouse rather than a weak sister.  We've covered how much Carey has grown these last couple of seasons, and we can say the same about Max.  He's fully embraced the increased responsibility and leadership opportunity.

14:00  Long segment on Brendan Gallagher, great background piece.  Former coaches speak glowingly about his talent, effort and competitiveness, how he overcame doubters who fretted about his diminutive size.  He benefited while growing up in Edmonton from a pond in his backyard that used to freeze over and serve as his personal ice sheet.

He and his father treat his small stature not as a hurdle but as an advantage, providing him with a lower centre of gravity, and a source of quickness and agility.

A friend of mine whose son played in many of the same tournaments and leagues as Brendan did in minor hockey had provided me with much the same scouting report a couple days after we drafted him, about an unfailingly polite and cheerful kid who took over games with his drive and hustle.

20:30  Maman Gallagher is in town and travels to the rink with Brendan on the first day of the Moms trip.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Max Pacioretty taking charge, lining up to be the next captain of the Montréal Canadiens.

Great background piece on Max Pacioretty in La Presse, making the case for him to be the next team captain. It goes over various stages of his career.

I like this part:

«À l’été 2009, il pesait alors 90 kg et son taux de gras était de 17 %. L’été après sa blessure, il pesait 99 kg avec 8 % de gras. Bref, c’était un adolescent avec du gras de bébé et il est devenu un homme. En deux ans!»

L’ardeur de Pacioretty au gymnase est maintes fois soulignée par ses proches. On ne s’étonnera d’ailleurs pas de savoir que Martin St-Louis, un exemple de forme physique, fait partie de ses partenaires d’entraînement en été, au Connecticut.

«J’ai assisté au mariage de Max [à l'été 2011], raconte Prentiss. Vers 2 h du matin, il me dit: «Hey, on fait mes jambes demain?» J’ai éclaté de rire. Il dit: «Non, je suis sérieux!» Donc, à 13 h le lendemain du mariage, on était au gymnase, en train de travailler sur ses jambes! Il ne manque jamais un entraînement. Il en comprend la valeur.»

Translated:
“Summer of 2009, he weighed just under 200 lbs and had 17% body fat. The summer of 2011, he was at 218 with 8% body fat. In short, he was a teen with baby fat and he became a man. In two years!” (says Ben Prentiss, his trainer)

Max’s diligence in the gym is often noted by those who know him. It’s therefore no surprise to learn that Martin St-Louis, a model of physical conditioning, is one of his training partners during the summer in Connecticut.

“I went to his wedding the summer of 2011,” recalls Ben Prentiss. “Around 2 AM, he asks me ‘Hey, are we doing legs tomorrow?’ I burst out laughing. He says ‘No, I’m serious!’ So, at 1 PM the day after his wedding, we were in the gym, working on legs! He never misses a workout. He understands how valuable they are.”
Max is hitting his prime this season, he's on pace for a fourty-goal season, and his defensive play is no longer a blemish.  He's strongly in the 'plus' column and being used to kill penalties.

It grated on me recently when people on social media attacked Max as being ‘soft’ and ‘useless’, since he didn’t crash the net and muck and grind in the corners.  After the Two and a Half Men line season in 2011-12, things were great, but the season after he was being derided for not being Scott Hartnell, and this nonsense would crop up regularly.  I wonder where all these posters are now to defend their ludicrous position.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

On Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu's growing pains.

An article in La Presse states that both Maxime Macenauer and Michel Therrien are unconcerned that Jarred Tinordi will not have any lasting psychological after-effects due to losing that fight recently. They both describe him as having great character and attitude.

Another article focuses on Nathan Beaulieu and the positive steps he’s taken since his latest recall from Hamilton. His answers to questions and the frankness with which he addresses some of the issues he faced are arresting. He must have done some work with some sports psychologists or received extra media training, because it takes a big man to own up to mistakes like he does, to face that head on. Compare that to Nail Yakupov for example, another talented youngster who’s had issues with his coaches and under-delivered, who offers up a lot of excuses and explanations.

When in a position of leadership and having a multitude of staff to oversee, it’s great to have people who you can discuss mistakes or misses with, who’ll look you right in the eye and say “Yes sir, won’t happen again,” and they mean it, and excel and the next time you need to take them aside it’s to congratulate them for a job well done. What you don’t want is kids who whine and shirk and avoid and deflect.

I recently had to intercede in a situation where a worker barely out of her teens told me tearfully “My boss doesn’t understand me.” I almost swallowed my tongue. I had to work with her over a few sessions to make her understand that her boss wasn’t ‘being mean to her’ for the heck of it, that he was using discipline to be consistent with everyone else, and to make her understand she was failing the basic expectations. Ultimately, we were successful, she finally understood that the game was simple: show up to work on time, do your job to the minimum standards, then go home and do it again the next day. Seeing her getting along and celebrating with her supervisors and coworkers at the year-end party was one we could chalk up in the ‘Win’ column.

Imagine how great it feels for Marc Bergevin, Sylvain Lefebvre, Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Michel Therrien to hear Nathan say this about why he’s playing so much better now:

“Confidence. The team gave me a great opportunity by giving me more icetime. My first four games back, I approached them thinking I had to play my way. It started going well after that.”

(About a lack of consistency) “I completely agree with what (Michel Therrien) told me last month. I had no excuse. I didn’t always give the best effort, and the lack of consistency is a perfect example; I’d play two good games, then two bad games. It wasn’t good enough. I knew I could do better than that, and when I went back to Hamilton, I concentrated on what would make me a better player.”

Also:

“When the Canadiens drafted me, I thought I could play in the NHL immediately. You live and learn. It took longer than I hoped, but I think I can be a regular player in this league and I think management thinks the same way. That’s why they’re giving me this chance.”

About the Nate the Great nickname and his attitude:

“It was my nickname in junior, and my stick supplier made my sticks with that on them. I used them for one season, I thought it was cool, my teammates and I had a good laugh with those. That’s the kind of person I am, I like having fun, joking around. The sticks, the nickname, I don’t regret it, that was me at the time. That side of my personality, I still have it; confidence is necessary. There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, you just have to stay on the right side.

“The Canadiens never spoke to me about that, but I know that there’s the concept of ‘respect’ in the pros. In Junior, I was a veteran, so I could get away with it. Here, it’s different.”

And:

“I had a bit of luck since I got called up, playing with Sergei Gonchar, that helped me a lot. But the big change is consistency. I know that in this league, you can’t take a break, not even one shift off, that can be enough to get you out of the lineup.”