Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hockey Fanatic Awards 2015

The Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic invented it's own Awards system on the hopes that it could be seen as an alternative to the NHL Awards since they always seem to get things wrong. The NHL Awards Show were on tonight with comedian Bob Riggle as the host. Critics of the show through social media suggested that it wasn't a carefully thought out show as the bigger news actually happened before the show began. So, without hacky Vegas stand-up jokes, here are who COHF wants honored this year.

Note: Despite the NHL not regarding playoff performances in their awards, the COHF blog does.

Most Valuable Rookie: Johnny Gaudreau

He was the most stand-out Rookie this year and even got the nickname "Johnny Hockey". His meteoric rise to the top of his class and seemingly a fixture into the hockey highlights on just about ANY network should have earned himself an award for becoming what the Flames needed to turn around the franchise for the future.

Most Valuable Player: Jonathan Towes

With another Stanley Cup held over his head, he was truly a force the entire year as the BlackHawks Captain. He didn't get within the top three in scoring, but his team consistently won all the way though the whole season. I think the choice is obvious here.

Most Valuable Coach: Jon Cooper

He "shocked" the world (no pun intended) with bringing the Cinderella team Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup finals. With a few unforeseen injuries, the Lightning are a young team trying to build around Stamkos.

Most Valuable Defenseman: Erik Karlsson

Despite some up and down inconsistent play as a team this year, the Ottawa Senators captain had the most points and was second in goals this season. As long as he continues to put up the scoring stats, he could have another long career as a blueliner in Canada's capital.

Most Valuable Goalie: Carey Price

This is the one instance that the NHL and COHF agree that Price was the best choice for this award. He not only dominated on the stats column, but he also scored very well in the CORSI type new age statistics. You can also look up a lot of highlights from him this year as he's made plenty of key saves that people still talk about even after the season is over.

Most Valuable NHL Slovak player: Tomas Tatar

This Slovak had the most goals in the NHL season most often paired with fellow Slovak Tomas Jurco.

Most Valuable Teammate Tandem: Kyle Okposo and Jon Tavares

These two NY Islanders were really in the grove all season long and got themselves back into the playoffs. They were a dangerous tandem to start the year, but I would have to project the stats due to Okposo getting injured.

Most Valuable General Manager: David Poile

The Nashville Predators have turned a corner and in their history went for a more balanced attack. Poile is re-designing the team away from what they've always known to be. He hired their franchise's second head coach and acquired a lot of talent through the draft an found some way to keep Weber as captain of the team.

Most Valuable Ice Girls: Colorado Avalanche Ice Girls

Mainly because they look like they worked very hard this year scraping the ice and still looking good doing it. Since the NHL no longer allowed for the Zamboni in OT, every crew hand was more valuable.

Most Valuable Fanbase: Chicago BlackHawks

This wasn't easy to pick. There were several other teams that could have been mentioned here. However, witnessing the pandemonium and the amount of fervor that is surrounding the team all through the season as well as the championship parade, the Hawks are back to being a real force driving interests to one of the biggest hockey markets in the US.

Can-Am Award (presented in recognition to a blogger or fan who have contributed positively to Canadian and American fan relations): TBA.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Predictions - Round 4

The only thing consistent about these playoffs for me is the unpredictability of these series. I went O-2 last round which I guess CHI/TB fans can thank me later. I don't think I have a prediction jinx like other bloggers and broadcasters do, but it's still good enough to notice that the President's Trophy curse still holds up. The New York Rangers have folded up while blogs are already talking about tearing down and trading players. NHL Radio's "Boomer" Jim Gordon is already speculating that they will have some trouble having given up a lot of draft picks in recent years to build for today.

So, Tampa Bay and Chicago are two hockey franchises that are strong and passionate about their teams. The bigger cities have already tossed around the typical stale taunt of low-ratings turnout, but I'm not concerned how this will play out nationally. The biggest ratings will be at the Cup-clinching games, but they'll still be great now that they're off basic cable and directly on NBC.

Stanley Cup Championship Final

Chicago v. Tampa Bay

I'm not going to bog people down with advance stats or "CORSI", but rather use my own intuition in my final attempt to predict something well enough this season.
The main focal point of this contest rests within the Lightning "win at all costs" offense with the Hawks "domination" of a defense. Keith and Seabrook have things locked down on defense.

Also, the other key matchup is the Corey Crawford vs Ben Bishop goalie comparison. Corey struggled in the first series but rebounded to a 9-4-1 record. Bishop was steadier with a 12-8 record, but gave up 15 goals in the last series.

Look for Brad Richards to make a story for himself on the ice and North American media to talk about him once raising the Cup over his head. He was once a member of the TB Lightning and now he's playing against them as a member of the BlackHawks.
Prediction: BlackHawks in 6

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic 13th Anniversary

Well, we've made it again for another great year for our 13th anniversary blog post. I want to thank each and every one of my readers who have stopped by to read my blogs and to comment on my work. But it is certainly no time to get nostalgic - but a time to continue to be the first hockey blog and the most innovative content. Yes, not only was I the first of my kind, but I was also the first to integrate audio, video and live-streaming podcasts as complimentary content.

I've had plenty of new things around here recently with the addition of the sponsors, the Insticator trivia app, and the live look at my NHL 15 games via Twitch. Be sure to stop by more frequently and play around with the new social media installed on the website.

I've also planned some new content with the youtube vlog where I'll be doing some live video game streaming, kind of like a "game of the week" thing. If you'd like to sponsor it on upcoming videos, please check with me in the regular social media channels.

But here is my newest video that I've made and debuting here for the 13th anniversary. I've had seen these chips around in the grocery stores locally and wanted to let you all know about them. I've seen some other taste testing videos and wanted to try doing something like that on my channel. On the back, I noticed that the Penguins were merely looking for more income for their main charity Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, but it's not the first time that the Penguins have put their logo on food going all the way back to Fleury Flakes or City of Champions (with Max Talbot). If you also look around, you'll find the other endorsements of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Co-advertising Snapple/Sheetz. For the Penguins, it's boldly entering a new era of revenue. I don't remember when the last time the Penguins had done this. (The Mario bun bar and the Jagr Peanut Butter were straight up player endorsements.) Is this sort of thing common among other teams in NHL markets?

(Special thanks to Cheeky Tam for the inspiration to try a video like this one!)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 3

Well, at this point, my bracket is busted. I was counting on the Montreal Canadians to go to the Cup finals and finally silence the Canuckleheads who want to see the Stanley Cup be awarded to a Canadian team. It seems as if the NHL has gone unpredictable, well, at least for blog series like this one! Not sure if this is going to have a ripple effect on my credibility on future matters, but as far as predicting this year, it's not going according to [my] the script.

Could this be another year of an New York/LA-ish series were both coastal US cities will watch and reach the two biggest hockey markets? Is this the plan of the NHL to grow hockey in the United States for their NBC contract?

Put your thoughts below if your playoff bracket is busted all to heck or did you expect this conference finals round? Is this good for hockey or will the Canadians complain once again that they are also left out of rooting interest since 2011.

Western Conference

Anaheim v. Chicago

This series could go either way. It's as if the irresistible force (Ducks) are meeting up with the immovable object (BlackHawks). If you look at the league playoffs individual player standings, it's mostly all Ducks and Hawks players. I expect to see the Ducks wear down the Hawks with their defensive style attack. Perry/Getzlaf is still going strong.
Prediction: Ducks in 6

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers v. Tampa Bay

In a rematch of last year's Martin/Ryan trade drama, the Rangers aren't going to have to try as hard this year to keep the Lightning off the scoreboard. The Rangers have a playoff record for most consecutive 1 goal game wins. But if you ride the Lightning while the reverse sweep of the Montreal series, they find a way to win.
Prediction: Rangers in 6

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 2

So, already, my bracket is busted considering I thought that this was going to be St. Louis' year. I don't know what the Blues have to do with their roster to get over the hump and finally be in Cup contention. I had them going to the finals. Perhaps, they need to find an elite goaltender.

And for my hometown Penguins, it's quite an additional frustration to a team that had high expectations given that they have some of the best talent in the NHL. There is no excuses, but the consensus was that the injuries and lack of depth at the wing positions really hurt them.

So let's look at who's left in the NHL in their quest for hockey's greatest prize.

Western Conference

Anaheim v. Calgary

Calgary is an amazing Cinderella story - in Canada. I don't think anyone else quite cares about the Flames who've been flaming out for the past 7 years. But with the right match up, they can sure surprise people. "Johnny Hockey" Gaudreau needs to step up and grow to the next level of development. Anaheim Ducks are on a tear and looking like they are the biggest team in the West. They've swept the Jets. Now look for them to do the same to the Flames. But they could drop a game if the Flames get lucky. Look for the Getzlaf/Perry tandem to score goals.
Prediction: Ducks in 6

Chicago v. Minnesota

Chicago's veterans have to be getting tired eventually, right? The amount of games they play in one year is phenomenal. But it took a goalie controversy to find them back on track. Who goes for the second series? Crawford may have to be reaching his limits. But the Wild's Devan Dubnyk is the man their team has confidence in. They'll go as far in the tourney as he'll take them. But they also have a fantastic powerplay scoring at near 30%.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 5

Eastern Conference

Montreal v. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is the team that just doesn't say "die". They are the plucky team in the East conference that are fighting as underdogs to move on to round 2. Look for Tyler Johnson to take over the scoring for the bigger stars that seem to be slumping. Everyone is asking why Stamkos isn't scoring and shut out points wise. Perhaps the speculation would lean towards an injury? Montreal is looking really strong and got away with a few controversial moments. I was really appalled at the Subban ax chop that resulted in a game misconduct. Look for Price to be right again.
Prediction: Habs in 7

NY Rangers v. Washington

The Rangers are quietly struggling as the top NHL team from the regular season. Scoring is down or seemingly at a premium. Rick Nash has 1 assist coming out of the Pens series. Ovechkin for the Capitals is really soaring and enjoying a resurgence in his playoff career. Look for him to put a few more in past King Henrik. But eventually, I think the Rangers should wake up and expose the inexperience of the Capitals' goaltenders.
Prediction: Rangers in 6

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Why Is Darnell Nurse Still In the OHL?

Courtsey: Erie Times News
Darnell Nurse is a strong prospect for the Edmonton Oilers and currently plays defense in the OHL for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. I recently had an opportunity to take in a critical playoff game between them and the Erie Otters. If you talked to some experts and scouts, they'd probably tell you that Nurse had a few years to develop into the kind of player that they need. I've even heard a few hockey podcasts that suggest the Oilers should've called up Nurse for critical NHL experience and help them on the blueline. But the Greyhounds have also got the #1 offense in the league and I can understand if he either chose not to get called up to the majors or felt that he had a chance to do something special with his junior team. But it wasn't until a little bid later that I got clear evidence of just why Darnell Nurse isn't in the NHL.

While he was a dominant player out on the ice and a very vocal leader, Darnell Nurse seemed to have control of his emotions. His team was ahead early in the 3rd period with a 4-3 lead. Things had become really temperamental and many players were taking big hits. One Otters player had taken matters into his own hands and found an opportunity to submarine a Soo player in such a unique (and probably embarrassing) way that the Greyhounds teammate had been flipped into the air and rolled onto the ice a-la a pro wrestling maneuver "the back body drop".

It came upon team captain Darnell Nurse to render his own brand of justice. While the Otters player had been warned by the officials and other Soo teammates, Nurse bolted from his blueliner position and cross-checked the unsuspecting Otter player. It was clearly done in clear view of the referees. Nurse was then given a 2 minute penalty to which the Otters capitalized making the score 4-4. It was a huge momentum shift in the game. The Otters had found a surge goal-scoring run and even found a 5-4 lead.

Now, I had been sitting right behind the Soo bench. It had become apparent that Nurse had made a critical error and gave game four to the Otters. They could have had the series tied up to take game 5 back in Ontario, but instead the Otters were given the eventual 3-1 series lead. There was one more choice moment in time where Nurse wasn't as effective as he should have been. During a TV timeout, Nurse had chosen that moment to rally his fellow players. I watched his face yell and tried to read his lips. He threw out a few expletives. However, I doubted that his teammates even heard him. He was barely audible and no one on the bench even looked in his direction during that tirade. I couldn't tell you exactly what was said, but even if the players could hear him over the noisy EIA, they chose not to pay attention.

The Otters YouTube channel had captured all of the highlights if you'd like to watch them.
Now, I am not sure if this game could be keyed in to have exposed a character flaw or a moment. Nurse could have used more discretion on his part, but I would only wonder if things like this would eventually lead to criticisms of him not being mature enough for the NHL level.

What do you think? Will Nurse be an impact player for the Oilers in the future?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 1

This season the NHL has shown that the league is creeping even closer to their competitive balance goals - which can be a podcast or vlog topic for another day. There were 3 open playoff berths still available on the last day (day 82) of the regular season. I was reading on twitter that there were a little "hater" grumblings that suggested that certain teams squeaked in for ratings and popularity. But regardless of how or when they got in, hopefully each team appreciates their chance for hockey's greatest prize. Lets take a look at round one and hope that the quality of hockey continues to ramp up.

Western Conference

Anaheim v.Winnipeg
Winnipeg makes their return to the NHL playoffs for the first time since leaving. And that was 20 years ago. The keys to this matchup is weather the Jets acquired enough players with playoff experience. Dustin "Buff" and Andrew Ladd are the Jets with the most achievements, but eyes will also be on Myers and Stafford to see if their acquisitions were worth it. Anaheim, despite their goaltending lack of depth, have made it to the top spot on the Western conference. Look for Kestler, Perry, and Getzlaf to have the deeper pool of playoff experience.
Prediction: Ducks in 6

St. Louis v. Minnesota
Minnesota's struggles throughout the middle of the season may have made them a better team now. They went on a really incredible run with the trade deadline acquisition of Devan Dubnyk. But this might be the year that St. Louis gets it together and makes a deep run through the west. They are the gateway after all! Look for Tarasenko to be the big hero and supporting with Oshie.
Prediction: Blues in 5

Vancouver v. Calgary
Calgary Flames have been this anomalous team that went from being one of the worst (statistically) to one of the more respectable and competitive teams in playoff contention. They were a quiet team, but notably they have "Johnny Hockey" Gaudreau to continue on his young career. Vancouver's window from their Finals success is quickly closing as the roster is turning. Ryan Miller may not be strong enough to carry them past the first round having been injured most of the season.
Prediction: Flames in 6

Nashville vs Chicago
The Predators have the worst luck in the history of the NHL to always get ousted by stronger teams in the first round. It took them the realization to move on and find a more balanced scoring attack with an offensive minded coach. Laviolette has his name on the Cup and will know how to take the Predators over the hump. Chicago is just a juggernaut encased in a powerhouse wrapped in a barrage. But this might be the year that the core players will start to show some serious wear and tear having played so many more games than the rest of the league.
Prediction: Predators in7

Eastern Conference

Montreal v. Ottawa
The Canadians have the most to prove to their fans and the biggest disappointment to their fans if they fail. Carey Price is playing like he wants to be the first Hart and Vezina trophy winner in the same year since Jose Theodore in 02. There could be a lot of hardware handed out to other players at the end of the season. But Ottawa is the fighting chippy never say die teams that could surprise people.
Prediction: Habs in 5

Detroit v. Tampa Bay
The story here is having one of the most revered players in Detroit's recent history as the GM for the opposing team. Has Stevey Y's Tampa Bay team developed into a deep playoff contender? Ben Bishop is a giant among men in goal and may stand tall for the entire series. But as you know that the Red Wings have been built to be in the playoffs for 24 straight years.
Prediction: Bolts in 6

NY Islanders v. Washington
The Islanders are celebrating their last year on the Island with a playoff appearance that marks the first payoff for the rebuilding years. Captain John Tavares has a great crew built around him and they've played with each other and developed next to one another in the minors. Look for Isles goalie Halak to be motivated for revenge against his former teammates. The Capitals have Ovechkin and his scoring skills to carry them through the next round. They've finally figured out the balance between forwards and defensemen on their roster. Orpik and Niskanen were great pick-ups in Free Agency. And Joel Ward will somehow be a game hero once more during the playoffs.
Prediction: Capitals in 5

Pittsburgh v. NY Rangers
The New York Rangers are this year's Presidents trophy winners and carry with them that curse. Could they be too overconfident? Crosby and Malkin know how to get to the promised land but have been playing hurt the past few years. They can't get any scoring consistency or linemates. It took them several tries to get into the post season. But this year, they might go out ready to heal up for a better run in next season. Every Pens fan I talk to have no hope for them.
Prediction: Rangers in 4