Monthly Archives: May 2006

The US Auto Industry

My love affair with Saabs began when I was a little kid. When I was in 5th grade, a Vietnamese friend of mine got driven to our magnet school from across town in this hideously ugly grasshopper looking burgundy car. From the outside it was ugly. Inside, it was leathery, cushy, soft, and it went FAST. The ignition was between the seats–how cool! This was an old school Saab 900.

When I was in high school my first serious girlfriend’s dad was an air force pilot who flew F-4s. While stationed in Europe, he had bought himself a true pilot’s car, the Saab 9000. It had a real cockpit feel and jet like acceleration, true to Saab’s (which stands for Swedish Aeroplane Corporation) aviation heritage.

A buddy of mine in college (wink) had parents who were Saab people. That exposure to the newer models sold me. When I went to law school, I promised myself I would buy one when I could. For graduation, my wife bought me a 2000 9-3 with low mileage on it and no features–just the stock model.

That car was cursed with some bad luck, but it wasn’t the car’s fault. It was an excellent ride. I got my first personalized plates for it–HONU ELE, Hawaiian for “black turtle” (close enough), which is what I thought it looked like. I loved it.

Then I started earning some money and I replaced it with a shiny new 2005 Saab 9-3 with almost all of the features.

It sucked.

You see, between 2000 and 2005 Saabs stopped being made mostly in Trollhattan, Sweden. GM bought Saab and consolidated some operations with their Opel factory in Germany.

Now, I’m not anti-GM. I’ve had GM cars since I started driving. I put 270,000 miles on my 1994 Saturn, drove it all over the country and made it through Chicago winters, Colorado snow storms and Hawaiian corrossion with it. I had a GMC Sonoma pickup that was super. Then I got this Saab. Gone was the hatchback. Gone was almost every Saabish feature except for the ignition between the seats.

It was an OK car, but I sure felt like I was getting a generic one.

So yesterday, I traded it in after only 10 months for a VW Passat. (I could write a whole post on how VW needs to retrain their dealerships if they want to compete with luxury brands–too many ‘no’s and too many things were my problem for a car that expensive…) VW still has the Saab spirit of impressive gizmos and “why didn’ they think of that before” features.

I haven’t seen a post-Ford Volvo or Jaguar, but I can only imagine. Ford is running the most unauthentic marketing campaign I’ve ever seen: Ford. Bold. Right. Fords are for generic people who live in generic suburbs who have generic jobs. Henry Ford even wanted it thus. They are a middle-American car, not an adrenaline/testosterone fix. Even the Mustang is something out of a John Mellancamp song, not a thumping techno or thrash metal tune.

Chrystler has also turned Mercedes generic according to many. Their Dodge brand which sells straight to the no-brain all balls NASCAR crowd is doing nothing but chruning out gas guzzling art deco plastic mobiles. . .

All of this goes against the times. Modern business focuses on niche. There are 10 kinds of Coke. There are hundreds of TV channels. You can stump a supercomputer calculating all of the permutations of a Starbucks order.

For better or worse (worse methinks) America expresses itself through its cars. I am a left coast doctorate-having liberal latte drinking macintosh user. The car for me used to be a Saab. If I was a red state construction working coors light swilling trailer park dweller, I would want a Dodge ram. I’m not. People want choices here.

So, what gives? I don’t know. They used to say what’s good for GM is good for America. If this is GM, America is fucked.

From Hotties to Horses

Goes the gaze of America’s obsession with charismatic but meaningless stories. From comely kidnapped teens we traverse to the breathless prayers and gallons of spilled ink awaiting the surgery given to a race horse. I wish no ill on any beast of burden, but it’s just a fucking horse!

Perhaps if some of the innocent human eggs we have broken to make the oily omelette of faux-democracy in Iraq we’re forced to gallop in circles by being straddled by bulimic munchkins that lash them in the ass then we would give a shit about them too.

NHL Conference Finals Predictions

Better late than never.

East: Buffalo vs. Carolina
This one is almost a coin flip. The Canes can turn it on almost at will like few teams I have ever seen and can flat out dominate 8 to 20 minute stretches of games. When under pressure though, their seven-headed defensive monster and goalie can be had. The Canes will have lots of moments, but the Sabres have the offense to match them. Buffalo in 7.

West: Anahiem vs. Edmonton
Edmonton has impressed, Pronger and Peca are finally turning out to be the players everyone thought they would be. But the magic will run out. Anahiem in Six.

Update: Well, I seem to have gotten the west all wrong. The east is unfolding much like I anticipated, but Buffalo could be in trouble if their d-men keep on dropping liek flies.

Duck Post Mortem; NHL Notes

What do you say about the Ducks? Here’s a team that traded away almost all of its bona fide stars, benched another one, and kept the one that was apparently over the hill (Selanne). This team was falling apart at the middle of the season. It went on a run, then dumped even more players at the trade deadline.

The only thing that’s sad about this season is the way it ended. If the Ducks had lost in 7 to Calgary, the refrain would have been–this team is a year ahead. If the Ducks had lost to Colorado, the refrain would have been–wow, they won a round and lost to a very experienced team. But to lose in a humiliating fashion to the 8 seed Oilers after it seemed like every piece had fallen into place is heartwrenching. Especially when a return to the Cup Finals was in sight.

But the future is bright indeed for this team. Bobby Ryan will probably be on board next year to add even more firepower to the front end. If the Ducks can get a player in return for Giguere, and use their expected $15M or so of cap room wisely, there’s no reason why this team can’t do better next year.

The Canadian press says that Joe Sakic might have an interest in signing with the Ducks. I’m not sure I understand why. Rob Blake, on the other hand, if he doesn’t return to LA, still has a house in LA and might be a decent addition.

Here’s my formula for next year:
Resign: Selanne, Salei, Konopka, Friesen, all Group II.
Trade: Giguere, ideally for a player
Acquire: Veteran backup (CuJo?) , Top 2 defenseman.

Not a big change–and all of that can easily be done with the cap room available.

Good Article on NHL Ratings; Fuck Politics

Here. It makes the point that the ratings have never been that great, that Messier, Gretzky and the Rangers never made the ratings that great, and that hockey should focus on where it lives. Yup.

It’s really all I can care about right now. I still follow the news, sort of. But I’m burnt out to the point of being done. I don’t think the Democrats are growing balls enough to win back Congress this fall, and I think 2008 will be a lot like 1968 in that the party is about to rip itself apart, leaving it vulnerable. Meanwhile, people are going to continue to not care about what’s happening, the media will continue to suck Bush’s dick, and even things like Iraq, Katrina, and the possible indictment of Karl Rove only seem to be causing–if you can believe it–further reactionary tendencies in the public, this time with Mexicans as the scapegoat. That’s worth considering… will a serious incident that all us lefties are predicting cause nothing more than a further right-wing backlash? It’s possible, and it appears to be even likely given what’s going on right now.

Even if they do win the next two elections, they’ll be playing constant defense against the smear machine. I figure they have about 6 months to govern, assuming both of those wins. Some kind of real realignment needs to occur, or else fughedaboudid.

Quacked Up.

That’s it.

The Ducks are getting a dose of their own medicine from the Oilers. Roloson is playing like Giguere did in 2003–and will win the Conn Smythe if the Oil bring the Cup back to Northern Alberta. The Oilers are being dominated by the Ducks, but not giving up goals, then skating down the other end of the ice and getting scored on. They just don’t play well as favorites, I guess.

Does Giguere start in game 3?

Round 3

Buffalo versus Carolina:

I’d love to be able to guarantee this isn’t a spite pick. I agree with Stan Fischler that Cam Ward hasn’t been as good as advertised, especially when more than one line pressures him. Ryan Miller has. For that reason, I think Buffalo has the advantage. What’s odd is that Carolina reminds me of the kind of veteran, mercinary trade-deadline stocked team that has won the Cup in the last 15 years. They don’t fit the mold anymore. I’m taking Buffalo in 7.

Anaheim versus Edmonton:

Anaheim has three scoring lines. Selanne/McDonald, Perry/Getzlaf, and Penner/Lupul. They also have an excellent shut down line with Niedermeyer and Pahlsson. Niedermayer is the best defenseman in the NHL, and the rest of Anaheim’s blue line has been playing solidly. This series also features a matchup of the playoff’s two best goalies in Roloson and Bryzgalov. Edmonton can’t match the Ducks’ depth, but they can make up a lot of the difference with the heart they’ve played with. The problem is, the Ducks aren’t short in that department, either. The clock is about to strike midnight and Rexall will turn into a pumpkin. The Ducks have had a week to rest and get healthy, and they won’t be caught flat-footed after witnessing what that did to Colorado. Ducks in 6.

We’re both 7-5 after going 2-2 in Round 2.

NHL: Napoleon-complex Hockey League

Now even the Toronto Star’s Al Strachan is saying that the new NHL is a marketing flop. Columnists all over are pointing to the horrible ratings, and the fact that the NHL is not really a top 4 sport anymore.

Well, as much as I think the league deserves criticism for things, I think it’s simply too early to judge. This is the end of the first year after a lockout. Even baseball didn’t recover, really, until the Steroid & Juiced-Ball Home-Run Wars of the late 1990s.

If hockey is failing, it’s because it positioned itself in places where fickle fans would support it, then it had a lockout, and those fans left. But unlike women’s basketball, which is still at least 10 years away from the social movement needed to accept it, hockey is something that interest in only needs to be rekindled. The potential is there. The product is good.

It needs time. Maybe another 5 years. And, I believe, it needs new leadership, but that’s neither here nor there.

Readically realigning the league isn’t realistic, even though it would improve things dramatically. Here’s another idea I’ve had. Playoff hockey is best product. It makes October hockey look stupid. How about this:

An October mini-tournament to determine the “Division Champion.” There are five teams. The reigning champ gets a bye, and the teams play home and home soccer-stlye agrregate goals matches, or best of 5s. The winner gets the same home ice the top 3 seeds do now, and gets to play all or more than normal of their intra-division home games at home.

Shorten the regular season to 70 games, and there you have it. Playoff hockey in October.

This is basically stolen from Latin-American soccer that has an Opening (apertura) and Closing (clausura) championship.

New Duck Colors

Rumor has it next year the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim will no longer play in the Arrowhead Pond in purple, green, and black. . . but the Anaheim Ducks will play in the Napa Auto Center in orange and black.

Obviously, I’ve been lamenting the fact for 13 years that the hockey team that plays within eye-shot of the place of my birth was named after a movie (and it sucked that they made a movie about the Angels too, by the way), but I hoped that they would just drop the “Mighty” and leave it at that.

In hockey, there are several team names more ridiculous than just “Ducks.” How about Canucks (usually an epithet for Canadians), Penguins, the Wild (huh), the Avalanche, the Blue Jackets, the Thrashers–and when they came into the league, it was hard not to add the Whalers to that list.

Oh well, at least they aren’t the Los Angeles Ducks of Anaheim.

"The Confederate States of America" – Review

The “Confederate States of America” is a fake Ken Burns-like documentary of the post-bellum history of an America where the South won the Civil War. The break in the space-time continuum occurs when Judah Benjamin actually manages to enlist the Western European powers on the side of the South. With their help the South routs the North. Abraham Lincoln is caught fleeing with Harriet Tubman disguised as a blackfaced performer and dies in obscurity and disgrace in Canada. The North is reconstructed by the reintroduction of slavery. The CSA conquers the American west and eventually develops a pax Americana over Latin America and institutes an apartheid system over its Latino subjects. The CSA restarts the slave trade to beat the Great Depression, deports its Jews (while allowing those on Long Island to remain in honor of Benjamin), becomes allies with Hitler’s Germany and stays neutral in the European theatre of WW II while fighting Japan. It enters into a Cold War with free Canada and erects the “Cotton Curtain” between the two countries. Slavery nearly ends in the 1960s and 70s following President Kennedy’s call for emancipation and the violence that follows his assassination, but the CSA maintains its slave-owning tradition throughout the 80s and 90s even as it grows isolated from the free world; its only ally being apartheid South Africa.

The film is meant to be a TV show produced in Britain that is being put on the CSA airwaves, despite its controversial view of slavery, by popular demand. It is interspersed with commercials for shows like “Runaway,” a parody of “Cops” in which police officers hunt down fleeing slaves, and another show featuring an avuncular white man dealing with the antics of a dumb black boy, which is a play on the reactionary Reagan era hooey “Diff’rent Strokes”. In addition, slaves are sold by chirpy blonde women on the Slave Shopping Network, and there are spots for “Coon Chicken” and “Black’s Toothpaste,” which promises a sparkling jigaboo smile.

CSA serves as a brilliant antidote to the popular “equal opportunity offender” humor prevalent in South Park and the smug antics of Carlos Mencia and Colin Quinn. Where these humorists attack the superficial stereotypical differences between peoples for cheap laughs CSA serves as an anti-joke. It removes the comforting Freudian purpose of racial humor and instead uses farce to force a conscientious viewer to confront the throbbing history of violence and subjugation that still breathes in contemporary America and defined racial slurs long before pseudo-intellectuals like Quinn used them as a foil for being a BS self-righteous anti-PC rebel.

CSA makes its explicit point on the continued prevalence of racism and slave imagery in the USA when it ends with the Twilight Zone-esque twist that many of the racist products in its ads were in fact real. Its implicit point is even more powerful. By focusing on representation – how historical events are communicated through art – it begs the viewer to consider the stories that every society must tell itself to make its own brutal history palatable. Despite the hokey low-budget acting it uses to supplement its stock footage CSA is a work of artistic genius on the highest level: it forces you to reconsider aspects of your existence that are ordinary and certain.

Pine Barren Post Mortem

For the second time since their first cup the Devils were beaten in the playoffs rather than losing to an inferior team (the other was sans Stevens against Philly in 2004). When the Devils first put it together when Elias returned I felt that the Devils were a standard deviation below the elite in the league. That showed against Carolina. The Canes were quicker, more tenacious and more talented.

Still, given that this was a rebuilding year without the Scotts, and with the venal trapezoid rule that was directed almost solely towards Brodeur, the Devils accomplished plenty. Gomez and Elias stepped into the leadership role vacated by the Scotts, Hale became a regular defensemen, their 15 game winning streak proved that Devils hockey can succeed in the “new” NHL, and they swept the Rag$ forever obliterating the lone talking point Manhattan’s club had on their betters to the south.

As constituted this team is only about three players/changes away from making up the standard deviation to regain champion status. Here they are in reverse order of difficulty.

1. Have a Real Backup Goalie: Brodeur still has at least five elite years left, but he is no longer un poulet de printemps (chicken of the spring) and with the evil trapezoid rule and weaker defense he is seeing many more shots per night. He should be playing about 65 games a year instead of 72. Of course Brodeur should always face the Rag$ and Philly, he just shouldn’t go up against the Islanders and Capitals so much. Either Clemmensen or Ahonen should be given first crack at playing ther other fifteen or so games.

2. Second Line Center: Elias needs someone of similar skill to compliment him. Doug Weight has always been one of my favorite players and would be ideal, but there are surely other options available.

3. Superstar Defenseman: If the Devils will continue to play a defense first game then they need to have a top defenseman, be it a skater like Nidermeyer of a monster like Stevens. They need someone who will bring a personality to the unit. Rob Blake is technically available.

I doubt either of the last two will happen as stated, but a version of them will suffice.

For now, jettison Klee, Kozlov, and Langdon. It would be nice to keep Albelin as a 7th D, but he appears to be retiring. Either Rasmussen or Weimer could probably also go if there is a similar player in the system.

Ducks & Salary Cap

The Ducks payroll is currently about $32M. Give everyone that deserves it and trade away Giguere, and you’re back at $32M. Canoe says Joe Sakic to Anaheim or Vancouver. Maybe not, but with $10-$15M to build on a team that’s in the third round, it has to be an appetizing destination.

Not to mention the fact that they won’t be the “Mighty” Ducks anymore next year.

Update: Of the remaining teams, Edmonton is near the cap (!), the Sharks and Carolina are at about $37M, and Buffalo, like Anaheim, is near $32M

Sent to hell: NJD Post-Mortem 2006

It was easy to dismiss game 1 of this series for a lot of reasons. It was a blowout. The Devils were rusty coming off the high of sweeping the Rangers. Fine, but you could see already in the game that Carolina was better, and it only got more apparent through the rest of the series.

The Devils have turned over almost completely several times (except for Brodeur and Brylin) in the last 10 years, people have come and gone and come back, but the essential philosophy of the team has stayed the same, and that will always put the team in position to contend, so I have no doubt that Lou will rebuild his D-corps (corpse) this summer. It was the Philosophy that produced the 15 game win streak, that snatched the Atlantic Division crown and sweeped the Rangers. It wasn’t star power. But the Philosophy didn’t rebuild the blueline.

Because that’s what the problem was this season. Brodeur did not have his best year, and was far streakier than usual, but that probably is more of a cause of the defense situation more than anything else. It wasn’t just that Stevens, Daneyko, and Niedermayer are gone. It was that the slots were filled in with guys more suited for play 10 years ago (either due to rule changes, age, or both) like Matvichuk, Albelin, Klee, Malakhov, et al. (I personally think Lukowich would have been fine as a #5 or 6.) This forced Rafalski and White to step up, and they did ok, just not good enough.

The Devils were wonderful on the attack this year, and Patrik Elias only improved that situation when he returned. If resigning him means that they don’t rebuild the backline, however, I’d be against it. Hopefully, he’ll stay put, though.

I’d rather see them open the wallet for Zdeno Chara, personally. He would give Rafalski the cover he needed, and White too. That would change the responsibilities downstream too, leaving White to slot in as a grinding #3, Martin as a second puck mover, and Hale to only be called on for a few solid minutes as #5.

Here’s my recipe for next year:

Let go: Albelin, Klee, Kozlov, Langdon, Oliwa, Rasmussen, Wiemer, Clemmenson.
Re-sign: (UFA) Elias, Pandolfo, Ahonen (RFA) Gionta, Gomez, Hale, Martin, White
Trade/waive: Klee, Lukowich, Matvichuk.

Assuming reasonable raises, that brings the payroll to around $40M (inlcuding 2-way contracts) with Elias or about $34M without. Assuming next years’ cap is $45M, there’s little room left for a #1 defenseman signing. $5M might be enough to land Jovonovski, but not Chara.

Better hope the draft is working.

Update: Just for the record, Nik Lidstrom is UFA. I’m assuming he either re-ups with Detroit or goes back to Sweden. If not, I would send Elias packing and spend the max on Lidstrom.

Are Swedes the New Russians?

After gutting it out for the gold medal in Turin Lunqvist, Lidstrom, Kromberg, Holstrom and Alfreddson were short a ventricle in the playoffs. The only Swedes that distinguished themselves were Zetterberg and ol’ Floppa Forsberg (kinda’).

Meanwhile, Silver Medal Finns like Selanne, Niiemene and Numminen continue the charge.

Do You Believe in Miracles?

No. That said, it’s not for nothing that sportsbook.com has the Devils winning the series at a whopping +800 (Carolina -1300), but they still have it (they didn’t for Ottawa going into their game 4, now Ottawa is at +280). Is Brodeur capable of getting hot and winning four straight? Yes. Recall that in the 3-1 comeback against Philly he only gave up one goal in each of the last three games. The Devils have played well enough to be in the series, and they could play better. If the hockey gods were smiling on the Devils they would be up 2-1. If the gods were neutral it would be 2-1 Carolina. With the hockey gods frowning it is 3-0 Carolina. Luck could turn. Of course, the Canes have a vote in this too and I think that their leadership core is amongst the most under-rated in the sport, “lucky” things happen to them a lot because they are a team that clearly always believes in itself.

This game could create a lot of momentum into next year for the Devils. Recall that the Canes went to the Finals a year after they won two games after being down 3-0 to the Devils. The ‘Ning Flukesty was launched with a hard to kill triple OT defeat to the Devils in ’03. It’s hard to fathom the Devils winning four straight against this Carolina team, but IF they win today they have a strong chance of carrying the momentum into tomorrow and winning that one too. That said, I’ll be satisfied with today’s game if they play hard, allow no soft goals, and take no bad penalties.

Update: Devils now +450 in the series price. That said, I’ll be satisfied with today’s game if they play hard, allow no soft goals, and take no bad penalties.

NJ's Last Gut Check

Before the Devils/Canes series started I felt that Elias and Gomez would have to rise to the leadership bar and make big plays. They did just that–Elias created a highlight reel goal and Gomez got the crucial go ahead deflection–and they still lost in the worst way possible. Moreover, Carolina has dominated play in this series the Devils counter-attacks have been sporadic and far between (unlike in ’02 when I felt the Devils were truly the better team through two games despite losing them). This team won’t fold like the ’02 team did in a somewhat similar circumstances; after losing a tough one in OT in game 5 they didn’t even create a scoring chance in game 6. The Canes will have to earn this one and maybe getting White back and having the last line change will allow the Devils to establish some better offensive rhythym. If the Devils pull this one out then we have something. Devils are running out of if they though…

Update: The above post is the delusional rationalization of a fan. I came within a whisker of betting $10 at +170 that the Devils would win the series today. Glad I didn’t. With a few bounces the Devils could have made a series of it, but credit where credit is due – the Canes have clearly been the better team.

HT, OT, 3-0

Teams don’t win in the playoffs when only one player dominates, even if that player is the goalie. Ask Hasek in 1999 and Giguere in 2003. It takes more. It takes other players. So when your one dominant player draws all the focus, someone else stands up. Tonight, it was Lupul, a player long identified by co-author DJS as having skill.

Predictions…

Check out this silly post from last August.

Final Four

Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Anaheim, Edmonton

Imagine how many times the perspective on those predictions has changed, even in the last few days? Anaheim and Edmonton are still possible, though it’s looking like only one of these will make it. And that was before I even saw a single pre-season game.

Look at it this way: every series is 2-0. Do you really think that all of those teams are going to win? At least one won’t.

Stick a Pitch-fork In 'Em

Just a few days ago, I saw a clear path to the finals for the Devils. Now that I’ve seen them lose in both ways–a blowout and a crushing defeat from the jaws of victory–I’d say the series is effectively over. I’ll add the caveat that if they can overcome this, they will win the Cup.

…Or as one blogger put it “Devils Respond to Hurricanes Worse than FEMA”

Hedstrom leaves Ducks…

Hedstrom hasn’t played in a lot of playoff games. He was benched after one of the losses against Calgary that really didn’t have anything to do with him. It’s possible he really is leaving for “personal” reasons, but whatever the real reason, this is an important depth player for the Ducks, who could fill in with some quality checking minutes and time on the PK, which is one of the keys to the Ducks’ success.

If anyone gets injured, and they have to slot in Zenon Konopka or Aaron Gavey, the PK could suffer.

NHL Teams

The NHL is coming to Kansas City? It’s not final yet, but it might come to pass. It shouldn’t. The league should have 25 teams, and they should be in the following places:

1. Toronto
2. Toronto/Hamilton
3. Vancouver
4. Montreal
5. Ottawa
6. Edmonton
7. Calgary
8. Quebec-Levis
9. Winnipeg
10. Windsor/London
11. New York
12. New York/New Jersey
13. Los Angeles
14. Chicago
15. Philadelphia
16. Boston
17. Detroit
18. Seattle
19. Minneapolis
20. Cleveland
21. Hartford
22. Milwaukee
23. Grand Rapids
24. Buffalo
25. Kitchener

These are all top 50 US and top 10 Canadian markets

Youch

Devils were overdue for a loss and a bad game like that. Canes got some good bounces early, but full credit to them: They were quicker to the puck, made faster and better decisions and one every zone of the game. Gomez and Elias have to show that they are the leaders now, their gut check for this series has come already. My prediction still stands.

Ducks

If the Ducks keep playing like they have for the first half of this game (including in the last half of this game) they are back in the finals. Big “if” I know, but they are rinsing Colorado so far. But it’s the playoffs. They could easily lose this game if they let up–still they are playing dominant hockey so far.

UPDATE: I thought the FIRST half was good? Jeeezzus. That was unfuckingbelievable.

Worst Playoff Game Ever

It would have been one thing if the offensive acumen of both teams simply overwhelmed the D and the goalies. The offensive players were good, but both squads put forth the overall effort of beer league slobs. The Sens’ D pinching on a PP with a one goal lead and less than two minutes to go leading to a successful two on one against! The Sabres’ lazy attempt to kill the rest of the PP with three players playing the puck on the rebound and no one blocking out Smolinski! Emery’s inability to cover a puck with no pressure and then pushing it into traffic for the tying goal with ten tics left! Volvhenkov’s unforced turnover for the GWG 12 seconds into OT! Atrocious. As a fan of the sport I’m embarrassed and not particularly entertained. That wasn’t hockey. It was Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Conference Semis

Devils vs. Carolina
The popular opinion here seems to be that Cam Ward has proven his mettle after four and a half playoff games and that the Devils only swept the Rag$ because of Jagr’s self-inflicted injury. Please. The loss of Koivu, who is ten times the winner that Jagr is, was equally bad for the Habs and the road to hell is paved with goalies that got hot for one series and never did anything again (Damian Rhodes anyone?).

The Habs were able to take the Canes off of their game. To their credit, the Canes prevailed (by hook or by crook), but the Devils play a similar game as the Habs and should be able to force Carolina into the 2-1 or 3-2 type games. The difference this time: the Devils are better than the Habs. Brodeur > Huet. Madden-Pandolfo > Bulis-Zednick. Elias > Kovalev. Langenbrunner > Ryder. Parise > Higgins. And even Gomez > Koivu. And I haven’t even mentioned Gionta.

One thing that the Canes do have going for them is intestinal fortitude. Brind’amour is a formidable Captain; Wesley and the rest of their core are solid. I think it is this leadership that pushed Ward today and Weekes in ’02 to play over their heads. That can only last for so long. To win the series Baby Food (Gerber) will have to return to nets like Irbe did in ’02, because I seem to be almost the only one who does not think that Ward is the second-coming of Patrick Roy. The test for the Devils will be if Gomez and Elias can truly step into the leadership void left by the Scotts. The Devils are much more likely to pass their test, and they will have to. The Canes will not go easy, but they will go: Devils in 6.

By the way, has any team, in any sport, on a streak like the Devils ever gotten less credit?

Buffalo vs. Ottawa
This one has started already, but I put my $10 on Buffalo (+220) to win two days ago. Sabres match up well with the Sens and can match them offense for offense. It will come down to Miller for the Sabres and Havlat for the Sens. Emery did not got a real test versus the ‘Ning Flukesty and Miller was by far the better goalie in the regular season, this advantage should be the equalizer. The x-factor is Havlat, we didn’t see how good he is in the new NHL in the regular season and he has been scary in the playoffs.
Buffalo in 7.

Ducks vs. Avs
This is a tough one as I know little about the Avs this season yet will always maintain a deep loathing of them and their Nebraska-with-Mountains-state and the meaningless twerps that inhabit it. Rich Chere makes a good point in guessing that the Ducks may have shot their load in gutting it out against the Flames, but I think he is biased by not knowing enough about the Ducks’ rookies. This team was built by a Lou disciple and the whole is greater than the parts. Ducks in 6.

Edmonton vs. San Jose
I wrote before that the Wings were ripe for the picking. Edmonton proved that they have more vim than I gave them credit for. No one has been able to stop Thornton since he came to SJ. The Pronger-Thornton match up should be classic. But then who stops Marleau? SJ is strong in goal, Edmonton will not have that advantage this time. SJ in 5.

Update: The Sabres are now +105 on Sportbook.com, down from +220 before the series started.

Revised Picks for NHL Awards

So they left out some of who I would have nominated. Who am I? I’m a guy who actually watches western time zone games, so, despite a thin resume, that makes me vastly more qualified to comment than most of the ignoramus scribes who do get to vote. (That and I can skate on ice, something most of the voters can’t.)

These are regular season awards, so keep that in mind. Many of these would change just after the first round otherwise.

Calder: Phaneuf. (I would have changed to Ovechkin based on round 1)
Vezina: Kiprusoff. (Brodeur if based on round 1)
Selke: Brind’Amour (did Alfredsson score too many goals for this one or something?)
Hart: Thorton
Norris: Niedermayer (He would win if it was based on round 1–zubov and lidstrom did dick)

Round 2 West

(5) San Jose versus (8) Edmonton
Every advantage except “magic” has to go to San Jose in this series. I don’t think Detroit was a David/Goliath story unless David shot Goliath with tranq darts.
San Jose in 6.

(6) Anaheim versus (7) Colorado
Surviving the first round showed that Anaheim has been underrated. Bryzgalov pulled through in a way that Theodore probably isn’t capable of. I like the Ducks in this one. Here’s to an all California conference final!
Ducks in 6.

Round 1: DJS Rick Result
DET/EDM Det5 Det7 Edm6
DAL/COL Dal5 Dal6 Col5
CGY/ANA Ana6 Ana6
SJ/NAS SJ4 SJ4 SJ5

2-2 here for each of us. +/8 precision for me, +/- 11 for DJS.
Overall, I’m 5-3 for each of us. -/+ 13 for me overall, +/- 15 for DJS. Not bad, not great.

Round 2 East

(1) Ottawa versus (4) Buffalo

On paper, these teams are quite similar. A lot of talented young forwards who can play with speed and skill, but also with grit. In net, we have two untested goalies seeing their first post-season action. In that category, I have to give the advantage to Buffalo. Ryan Miller seems like the real deal, where Ray Emery is a stopgap measure who was not significantly tested against Tampa Bay (who were overrated because of their Cup win 2 years ago with different players…). Ottawa has more experience in the post-season, and a much better defense. Coaching is more or less a wash. I’m surprising myself with this pick, because I’ve thought Ottawa was at least a final four team since the pre-season, but, without Hasek, I’m going with…
Buffalo in 7.

(2) Carolina versus (3) New Jersey
The Carolina spin is that the change to Cam Ward in net made the difference in the series. The reality is, the Hooks McCracken job on Saku Koivu was the turning point in the series. Take away *any* team’s number one center and things are going to be bad. Cam Ward was good, sure, but he’s no Martin Brodeur. None of Carolina’s big trade moves have done much but add dead weight. The Canes are just finding their game, but the Devils are perfecting theirs. Sorry, Carolina.
Devils in 5.

Assuming I’m right about this last series, the Devils have to be the favorite to win the Cup. People are still high on Ottawa, but they’re forgetting how much goaltending really matters in the postseason.
—-
Round 1: DJS Rick Result
OTT/TB Ott5 Ott4 Ott5
Car/Mtl Mtl6 Car6 Car6
NJ/NY NJ5 NJ5 NJ4
Buf/Phi Buf6 Phi6 Buf6

Both of us are 3-1 in the East. both with a precision of +/- 4 games.

Careful, Detroit.

You don’t want to become another city that infamously eats goaltenders up. Just think of Philadelphia–where goal tenders go to become a failure, when they are trying instead to go to the next level. Consider that Brian Boucher, who is now a journeyman backup, has gotten the Flyers farther than anyone since 1997, and you’ll see what I mean. Detroit is becoming the same way. The figure, these guys win 3 cups, so any time they don’t it must be the new coach/goalie/whoever.

So tell me, if you’re a goalie looking to take that next step, do you sign with Detroit?

No, not now. Not to a team that’s this old and still blames its losses on the goalie. Rebuild, Wings, rebuild. You got that extra cup 4 years ago by hanging on for one more, but you’re fooling yourself if you think you still have a Cup capable core.

Top Two Western Seeds Defeated

One meme I haven’t heard much of lately is the “West is Best” meme.

This time, Dallas and Detroit are both out. Detroit simply didn’t compete as hard as Edmonton and I think they probably lost because their core group is too damn old, their supporting cast lacks the quality it did in the past, and Legace stole them no games. This is probably the last gasp of this particular group.