Mythbusters: The Feather Edition

The following ran in Saturday’s edition of ‘The Committed Indian’:

During our daily visits through the interwebs, we’ll occasionally come across an item that gets us thinking.  When one-third of Second City Hockey’s three-headed monster, Mr. Killion, posted his piece earlier this week about the possible correlation between a goalie’s save percentage and the amount of shots he faces, we were intrigued.  (For the record, he thought it “plausible” that those goalies who faced the fewest shots also had the highest save percentages, but it’s a discussion for another day.)

In turn, it got us thinking about other myths we may hear on a given night at the United Center; which are fact and which are based on Dominic from Oak Lawn ordering one too many $9 Jager Bombs seemed a worthy inquiry. 

So with that, we offer our tribute to Mr. Killion for his fine work (because a 1200 word prose about which cast of Star Trek was the best may not be what you’re interested in reading) and bring to you a more extended version of Mythbusters: The Feather Edition.

Joel Quenneville isn’t the right coach for the Blackhawks right now, because he’s never won a Stanley Cup; let alone a conference championship.  At first glance, this statement seems perpetually ridiculous.  Maybe because it sounds similar to the buffoonish argument from a couple years ago when people tried to claim Joe Crede was a better player than A-Rod because of his propensity to perform in the clutch. (How’s that looking these days?)  Logic would tell you it’s usually not the coach who decides the players’ fate, but vice versa.

A closer look at history reveals something very telling, though.  Since 1980, there have been exactly two coaches at the head of a Stanley Cup Champion who didn’t win at least a conference championship by their fifth year of coaching. 

In the 1979-80 campaign and in his tenth year of coaching, Al Arbour was at the helm for the New York Islanders, having not won either a Conference Championship or Stanley Cup prior to that point.

In 1992-93, Jacques Demers won a Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in his ninth year of coaching, not having reached the Stanley Cup Finals before.  (What still boggles the mind is that he was illiterate at the time.  Good thing there was nothing wrong with his eyes, though, because if he didn’t ask for a measurement of Marty McSorely’s stick in Game 2, maybe Los Angeles ends up hoisting the Cup.  Ok, now we’re getting off track.)

Every other Cup winner’s head coach during the past 29 seasons has at least appeared in a Cup Final by his fifth year as an NHL head coach.  We can go right down the list: Mike Keenan had a conference championship in his first year with the Flyers; Pat Burns won a conference championship in his first year with Montreal; Ken Hitchcock was a Stanley Cup winner in his fourth season.  You get the idea.

In his 13th year of coaching, Joel Quenneville has yet to advance past the Conference Finals.  If he ever does win it all, he would comfortably hold the modern-day record for most seasons coached before his first conference championship and Cup win.   

Verdict – If recent history is any guide, it’s surprisingly fact with a small percentage of myth mixed in.       

The Blackhawks need a legitimate tough guy to compete.  Expect a whole lot more of this nonsense in the coming days, especially after a game like the one on Wednesday night.  Hell, it only took the Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone a mere hour after the game to sound the clarion call for meatballs everywhere by asking if the Hawks need a legitimate tough guy.

Unfortunately, the argument always goes down the wrong direction.  The Hawks have plenty of physical toughness to play with the big boys.  Calgary and Vancouver can attest to that after trying to push around the Hawks in the playoffs last year.

Instead, for some reason, people seem to think the presence of someone like Matt Walker is going to deter opponents from putting clean checks on their players.  As if Willie Mitchell would have thought twice about sending Jonathan Toews back to Fargo if someone like Rockford’s Danny Bois was sitting on the Hawks bench.

It seems like some members of the Hawks’ staff believe in this fallacy only because they’re grizzled old hockey dopes who still believe in ancient rituals of the game that died off years ago.

Verdict – Busted, but someone in the Hawks’ organization must think it’s a fact.  How else does one explain Matt Walker playing in 65 games last year?

Antti Niemi is the goaltender more likely to guide the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.  Note the following season stat lines: 

Games Wins Goals Against Avg. Save Percentage
42 25 2.33 .919
52 32 2.32 .920

The former, much celebrated, line is that of the Blackhawks’ Nikolai Khabibulin last season; the latter is Cristobal Huet’s combined stat line (for Montreal and Washington) during 2007-2008, the campaign before he joined the Hawks.

While we admit that one season, doesn’t a goalie make, we’re also not ready to support the euthanasia of the embattled Hawks’ starter before Halloween.  (We only support putting poorly performing NHL’ers to sleep after Thanksgiving.)  For now, we’ll let history be our indicator, and we’ll continue to wonder why back-up and NHL rookie Antti Niemi was greeted on Wednesday by the United Center faithful like he had captured Osama Bin Laden with his bare hands and a CB radio on Tuesday.

Barring any unforeseen events, Huet will find himself – and, hopefully, the puck – in the near future, and we’ll all be able to forget about our October of despair soon.

Finally, for good measure, take note of Niemi’s stat line from last year – in the AHL

Games Wins Goals Against Avg. Save Percentage
38 18 2.43 .910

Verdict – Busted … unless you’re absolutely sure you want to pin your Stanley Cup dreams on a Finlander with five NHL games to his credit before last week.

It’s ok for the local media to talk hockey.  This is an interesting one.  Nothing ruffles the feathers of hockey fans quite like listening to someone like Dave Kaplan discussing the Blackhawks goaltender situation.  “Stop talking hockey!!! You don’t know what you’re talking about!!!” fans will shout. 

What they should really stop to ask themselves before they have an aneurysm is – How many rational sports media members are there in this town anyways?  Mondays after Bears games are a congregation of stupid.  The Cubs and Sox are considered lost causes after their first 3 game losing streak of the season.  Why should it be any different when the media turns its collective attention towards the Hawks?

If anything, we should feel honored they would even bother to take the time to share their thoughtless opinions with us.  Getting the attention of the media is the only way back on to ESPN.  So if you’re truly tired of the NHL sharing its home network with bull riding and fishing, while a channel boasting a guy flipping pancakes gets better ratings, then just see this as a means to an end.

Verdict–  Fact.  But we won’t blame you if you broke your television because you accidentally turned on ‘Monsters in the Morning’ during an impromptu hockey chat.

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20 Responses to Mythbusters: The Feather Edition

  1. Dave Morris says:

    Rudy Pilous. Last coach to lead the Hawks to the Stanley Cup. On his first time in the Finals.

    Myth busted.

    I remember those days, before these furshtunkiner statistical prestidigitations, by crackey.

    PS Reggie Fleming=Jake Dowell. Same physique, same warrior spirit.

    Myth confirmed.

    Fer all yew young’uns out thar.

  2. Lou says:

    Dave, you have just topped kerfuffle. I didn’t think that was possible. I am impressed, we might have to start calling you Obi-Wan

  3. AC says:

    Dave, was furshtunkiner the word of the day in the elevator? Good stuff.

    You guys are spot on about the media in this town, it blows hard. When your job description is incite the ignorant masses about a non-factor and make them believe that a small sample is fact, or a rumor is fact, or anything that is factless is fact, then that must be a pretty sweet gig. Factchecker, not needed. Conscious, optional (preferably not). Intelligence, not a chance. All you have to look at is how long Rosenbloom and Mariotti and North and the idiots on the Score in the afternoon have worked in this town to truly understand that journalism is not only dead in this town, the corpse has rolled over and rotted away.

  4. AMW says:

    “When your job description is incite the ignorant masses about a non-factor and make them believe that a small sample is fact, or a rumor is fact, or anything that is factless is fact, then that must be a pretty sweet gig. ”

    Wait isn’t that the job of all news media these days?

    Chicago’s not alone. Hockey coverage in the US blows in just about every market. Take my current resident city Detroit for instance. It’s supposedly ‘Hockeytown’ yet sports radio and the newspapers devote maybe 10% of their time to Hockey. The majority of time is spent talking about the Lions & Tigers instead of talking about one of the most dominate franchises in recent sports history. (I threw up a little writing that, still hate the wings) And don’t even get me started on ESPN.

    Honestly, this Site and SCH are easily the best places to find solid Blackhawks coverage.

  5. Dave L. says:

    Dan Bylsma was hired midseason but won the Cup just last year with no previous NHL experience.

  6. Dave Morris says:

    @AC> I say ‘furshtunkiner’ in tribute to the great Irving Furshtunkiner, an unjustly forgotten chronicler of the NHL back when televisions were still wood-burning or, for those who could afford them, coal-fired.

    How I remember those treks while a wee lad, out to the forest with my Dad, as we chopped and gathered fuel to power our RCA Victor, so we could see the games on Saturday nights.

    You kids have it so easy.

    Ah, for the days when Bobby Hull had his own front teeth, and Maurice Richard did endorsements for Vitalis.

    😀

  7. Lou says:

    AC, I hope you bring some of that energy to the seats on Friday night!!!

  8. John says:

    Dave L.- That’s precisely my point…If a coach reaches five years of experience without having won any kind of hardware, 95% of the time, they’re a lost cause. Kind of weird when you think about it.

  9. CT says:

    The good news is, Troy Murray still has a chance.

  10. Lee says:

    Lou and John I know you will be all over me for what I am going to say next but when asking if the Hawks need a “Tough” guy I am saying if they don’t get one other teams will constantly take advantage of the Toews and Kane’s and we will have more injuries like we have with Towes now. Almost every team we have played has that “Tough” guy so there must be a reason for it. It is very obvious that the Bowman’s because of their Detroit backgrounds do not believe in it but it’s very funny that now that they are gone Detroit signs Brad may and have more “Tough” guys in the AHL. We have none! By the way I said “Tough” guy’s not Goons.

    OK Guy’s take your shots at me now!!!

  11. John says:

    Again, show me tangible evidence where this tough guy is going to prevent big open ice hits. Where was Florida’s “tough” guy when Mike Richards scrambled David Booth’s brains?

    Did that threat prevent Richards from making the hit? No.

    So please, show me where everyone is going to constantly take advantage of the Hawks because of their lack of a tough guy and where his precense alone would deter teams from putting clean checks on their team.

  12. John says:

    Mind you, in the three years Toews and Kane have been here, they’ve yet to have played with a guy you would consider a “tough” guy and I still haven’t seen teams take unnecessary liberties with them.

  13. Lee says:

    I would consider Walker a “Tough” guy not a great D man!

  14. John says:

    At this point last year, Walker was running around in Rockford, so don’t worry, there’s still time.

  15. Lou says:

    @ Lee, we can continue to agree to disagree. Thanks for sticking to your guns.

    John sums it up well. If Walker was our tough guy, then you need to stop referring to Brad May. Two completely different players not even a remotely close comparison. Walker actually played a shift or two and was in the line-up majority of the time. May is not (see next paragraph). Walker dropped the gloves so did Burish, Buff, Keith, Barker, Eager, Brouwer, Seabrook, Fraser, Johnson, etc. So we got guys that will do that.

    Detroit indeed has tough guy Brad May. He has played in 5 of 10 games averaging 7:00 mins/gm. He is -2, with 3 SOG and 15 PIMs. Not a lot of positive contributions and just the kind of guy we need on our roster. So with the logic being his presence is the deterrant, we only are deterred half of the time. At least Eager scored 10 goals last year. May might not get 10 shots by Christmas.

    For the record, Detroit also has the king of the cheap shot in Todd Bertuzzi he’s another “tough guy” especially if your not looking. And they have Turtle Kronwall too. Tough guys don’t really influence Detroit’s game. And Didn’t Franzen get hit against the Hawks and hurt his ACL??? Didn’t May play that game too. So improving toughness with a guy that can play is a lot different than getting a tough guy on the roster.

    As John clearly articulates again and I said last time it was brought up. The tough guy would not deter the Richards hit it would not have detered the Mitchell Hit or the Ruutu hit either. Detroit has tough guys in the AHL. The AHL, that means that they are not in the NHL and with their injuries they didn’t call them up. Must be saying the tough guy is not what they need.

    You can have the same number of injuries from big hits if you had a line of Lumley, Semenko, and Van Dorp (gooniest of the goons, from the goon day). Calgary has Iginla, he is one of the toughest in the league and they still check when he is in the game or on the ice. And they still check him and will hit him the same as Toews. So, if they can’t play a regular shift and contribute in the current make-up of this team. You can keep the tough guy. With our current penchant for third period penalties we don’t need someone else in the box.

    Last game Dowell dropped the gloves. No one seemed to target Kane b/c we don’t have a tough guy on the ice/bench. He scored a wicked goal. Stupid penalties cost your team and fines/suspensions are a big deterrant for that now. Ask Scuderi and Ott and Richards (Richards was pretty clean, heck Ham left his feet Monday).

    We need some more team toughness and defensive presence. Funny thing, I don’t see too many people messing with Toews when he is on the ice because he is tough too. When Eager/Burish comes back, whenever that will be, that ought to put an end to this. But it won’t end good checking in Hockey.

  16. Lee says:

    John

    Can you tell me why when I check the box that asks if I want to be notified of replys, I now dont get them. I must have a setting that is off on all of my computers

  17. Wanker751 says:

    The Hawks don’t lack tough guys… they lack enforcers. Someone already mentioned there are people will to drop them when necessary.

    Enforcers in the true sense are dead in the NHL. With the Cap and the rule changes they aren’t necessary and hard to fill out a roster spot. Every spot is important and players with skill are needed.

    Gone are the days where two people fight so they can justify their roster spot…. fighting isn’t done… but enforcers on rosters just to fight is done.

  18. Dave Morris says:

    Well, gentlemen, all this ‘tough guy’ talk is making me thirsty.

    Bartender, a double please.

    Now…where was I?

    Oh yes…when the Law Firm of Burish, Brouwer, Eager, Byfuglien and Ladd was dispensing Chicago justice from the front lines last year, no one pushed the Hawks around.

    Mr. Dowell seems to be ready to join The Firm.

    In the absence of Affable Adam and Gentle Ben, the rest simply need to mash opponents into various unyielding surfaces with intelligence, timing and ruthlessness.

    The Willie Mitchell hit on Toews was an example of what happens when the Hawks play like bobbleheads.

    Hopefully, Da Boyz have learned their lesson.

  19. John says:

    Lee, I’m not sure why it doesn’t notify you. Sometimes wordpress acts a little funny.

  20. Lee says:

    Wanker 751:

    Boogard-Brashear-DJ King-McGratton-Macintyre-Scott-Orr-Parros-Koci-Shelly-Stortini-Boulton-Hordichuk-etc-etc

    If these guys are not enforcers, than what are they, definetly not scorers or team leaders

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