Archive for July, 2006


Blogroll additions

July 31, 2006

Recently added to the side bar are the following:

  • American Hockey Fan – A look at hockey through laugh-colored glasses.
  • Sabre Rattling – One of the blogs I’ve been meaning to add for a while now. In my opinion, Tom has some very well thought-out posts and is a great read.
  • Spector – The place to be for breaking hockey rumors. If it’s happened, it’s at Spector’s.
  • Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed – Alanah just completed her 24-hour blogathon and raised over $700 for charity. A blogger who likes to pick on the Red Wings, and donates to good causes. That equals “must-read” in my book.

If you’ve got a few seconds, give these folks a read. My project for the next few nights is to organize the links over there a little better. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Hopefully in the very near future I’ll be bringing good tidings in the form of a Zherdev signing. Until then, thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.


Random musings

July 31, 2006

Who said that?

Great post over at Abel to Yzerman on the differences between the mainstream media and bloggers. Citing a post on True Hoop, A2Y primarily discusses the reluctance of the MSM to credit or reference competing media sources.

As the casual internet-using sports fans (those who stick to the ESPN, SI, CBS Sportsline, etc. sites) begin to access the good writing that can be found, I think that the bloggers who stick it out (and don’t produce swill) will slowly be legitimatized, not in the least for the things mentioned at A2Y and True Hoop.

Forum madness

I’ve recently joined the forum community over at Kukla’s Korner. I’ve lurked on many forums (from topics ranging from music, home repair, hockey, and poker to name a few) for years, but never posted at any of them. The primary reason is the number of complete morons who exist solely to berate the decent (or otherwise) posts of the civil minority.

Thus far, there does not seem to be any of this behavior in the Kukla Kommunity. I know it’s a relatively new forum, but the discussion does seem to be intelligent, reasonably thoughtful, and devoid of aforementioned morons.

Congratulations and thanks to Paul for putting this up here for us to use.


Unloveable pariah

July 28, 2006

It’s been a slow news week for us Blue Jacket fans. Sergei Fedorov went for a ride with the Blue Angels, but there’s not much in the hockey sense to report.

In the past week:

The Reds have gone 4-2 and still lead the National League Wild Card race by 2 ½ games.

The Browns have lost their newly acquired starting center, LeCharles Bentley, to a knee injury on the second day of training camp. At least we can temper our expectations before the season starts.

Floyd Landis has failed a drug test and may be stripped of his Tour de France victory. I’m not sure which surprises me more; that the instantly loveable Mennonite might be a druggie, or that I don’t really care.

Hockey bloggers everywhere have struggled to maintain focus. In the aftermath of the beginning of free agency, so many are experiencing their first truly slow period since starting their blog. Many hockey bloggers seemed to start their current sites either during the lockout or during the beginning of last season (not me, I’m always behind the curve).

Last summer, there was the lockout to write about and plenty to fuel the stream of words. As the labor dispute was settled (however long it lasts), the community was giddy with anticipation for the return of the game. The season progressed (breaking only for more hockey during the Olympics), and the Cup finals went the limit. Scarcely had the Caniacs started partying when the entry draft took place, soon to be followed by the opening of free agency. Now, with over two months before the regular season starts up, things are a little quiet.

I, for one, think this is a good thing. Before we know it, the season will be upon us and we’ll all have more to write about than time in which to do so. Abel to Yzerman and Behind the Jersey will write about the Red Wings and their quest to maintain Central Division dominance. Cason and The Penalty Killer will chronicle the Canes’ victory tour. James and Eric will keep us updated on things everywhere. Jes will have the Balastik Monitor rocking to keep everyone apprised of the best shootout artist this side of Jussi Jokinen. And here at home, Army of the Ohio (with a newly redesigned site) and Death Cab for Woody will dutifully track the CBJ and their quest to crack the second season. There will be plenty of great writing. But everybody needs a vacation, and I think we’re seeing a little of that right now.

Keeping in spirit, today I’ll address a topic from a different sport (one that never gets a rest here in Columbus), Ohio State football.

I got to thinking today (with a little help by eavesdropping on a lunch room conversation) about everyone’s favorite athlete here in central Ohio, Maurice Clarett. In the last four years, Buckeye football fans have seen the best and worst of Clarett, and the best and worst of ourselves. I’ll condense the story for those of you who’ve heard it before.

In 2002, Clarett was a star in the making. The starting running back from Day One, Maurice helped lead the Buckeyes to a 14-0 record and a National Championship. His brash style and me-first attitude may have been disconcerting to those outside the Buckeye family, but those of us in the circle didn’t care because we were winning. Clarett helped lead the Bucks over the rival Wolverines, and in the title game he made a brilliant play when he stripped the ball from a defensive player who was returning an interception thus negating a potentially costly turnover. He scored twice against Miami, including the winning touchdown in double overtime. Many in Columbus were already working the bronze for his bust in the hall of great Buckeyes.

So often in sports (and in life), we see extraordinary feats by otherwise ordinary people. Surely this wasn’t the case in Columbus. Clarett was not merely ordinary, but surely superhuman. Carrying a team to victory as a freshman was surely only the start. Unfortunately for all involved this was not only the peak of his involvement with the OSU football program, it was also the end.

It’s been (all to) well chronicled, the downfall of number thirteen. Falsification of police reports, suspension from the football team, failed attempt to enter the NFL early, ESPN articles laying out the wrong-doings of the OSU Athletic Department, pitiful training camp showing with the Denver Broncos, aggravated robbery charges, and so on. In the span of less than two years, Clarett went from being the king of Ohio to being a pariah. Pilloried in the media, at the water cooler, and in the minds of many fans across the country; Maurice is the story we still can’t escape from. But it’s not his fault.

Don’t get me wrong based on that last sentence. Maurice Clarett is responsible for all the legal trouble (falsifying reports, burglary) he has lived through. His challenge of the NFL to lower/abolish the minimum age for entry into the draft was a valiant effort. However misguided it may seem in retrospect, it takes courage to single-handedly step out against a billion dollar corporation. What is not Clarett’s fault is that he’s still the lead story all too often. For eight months or so, he had the good fortune to play for one of the great college football programs in the country. In the years that have followed, he’s had the misfortune to suffer the wrath of the fans of said program. To paraphrase William Congreve, hell hath no fury like a Buckeye fan scorned.

If Clarett had been a backup and still made the same mistakes, it wouldn’t be a story at all. But because he had led the team to greatness, things were expected of him. Athletes, especially stars, live by a higher set of expectation in the eyes of the public. How some fans are able to reconcile their self-imposed conflict is beyond me. The same people who were dancing in the streets celebrating the Buckeyes on top of college football, were later joining the mob with torches in hand when Clarett spiraled out of control.

Athletes are human, and personalities in a clubhouse will be as diverse as they are in your family, office, or social group. Some you’d invite into your home and let them watch your children. Others you’d just as soon meet through inch-thick glass and a telephone. It is an interesting exercise to observe fans cheer for both types of people at the same time, something that seems somewhat unique in my experience as this doesn’t seem to happen all that often in “real” life. I do not know Clarett personally, but he helped a team I follow to a title. For this I am grateful. I did (and do) not expect more from him. Maurice Clarett does not owe me anything. I feel disappointment for him, but I do not vilify him for the choices he made. Each time his face appears on television, or his name in print I don’t wrinkle my nose in disgust like so many do. Maurice made decisions that have affected his life, not mine. The sooner the people in Columbus can allow the circus that he has become fade away, the better for everyone involved.

Is Maurice Clarett an extraordinary talent who squandered his gift, or just another ordinary soul suffering from the same problems as the rest of us? Ask a thousand Buckeye fans, and you’ll get a thousand different answers.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.


Waking from hibernation

July 24, 2006

For the last few days, I’ve been lamenting the fact that I have not been updating regularly during the off-season. So many others are doing well at keeping up on the current events, but I just couldn’t find the topic that encouraged my brain to write something that all three of you would care to read. Now, I’ve got it. Before we get to the main course, here are the appetizers that have been simmering for days.

Pascal Leclaire is signed by CBJ to two-year deal. EOB brief reaction: The team has put up the money, now it’s up to Pazzy to put up the numbers.

Jason Chimera and the Blue Jackets avoided arbitration and agreed to a two-year term. EOB brief reaction: The third line gets to keep its offense.

Nikolai Zherdev and the Blue Jackets are having difficulty coming to terms on contract length. As an “insurance measure,” Zherdev has signed with a Russian hockey club in case a deal cannot be worked out prior to the season starting. EOB brief reaction: The team needs to get this deal done. We have no replacements available to fit on one of the top two lines at this time. Bite the bullet, and give the Puck Wizherd his three years. The team cannot afford to lose any offense.

– The Islanders are battling for the title of “Worst Run Franchise in the New York City Metropolitan Area (and thus all of sports).” Just a month past hiring Neil Smith to be his GM and Pat Lafontaine to be a high level advisor, owner Charles Wang fired Smith and hired backup goalie Garth Snow to be the new GM (Jaw-Dropping Personnel Move of the Year nominee), which prompted Lafontaine to come to the realization that maybe this wasn’t the place for him. Islanders fans and new coach Ted Nolan have to be crying themselves to sleep at night. EOB brief reaction: I’m utterly fascinated to see how Wang’s “business model” works out. Also, as bad as MacLean may be, I’m glad I don’t pull for the Islanders.

And now the issue that woke me up from my more-than-week-long slumber. Forward Daniel Briere was awarded a one year contract worth $5 million in arbitration. The EOB offices have run the complete range of opinions on this one.

The first reaction was disbelief. EOB staffers do not follow the Eastern Conference as much as they should (lack of NHL’s Center Ice package, hint hint Mrs. EOB!). I saw him perform admirably in this year’s playoffs, but haven’t heard much on Briere outside of that. For him to be making $5M seemed a little outrageous to me.

Curiosity followed disbelief. I remember reading a while back that Martin Havlat’s $6M deal with Chicago was going to be a benchmark for some other contracts this summer. So I decided to do a little research. It’s been reported that the contracts signed by Havlat, Marion Gaborik, and Alex Tanguay were used as benchmarks for Briere’s arbitration case. I crunched some basic numbers, and the arbitration award made a little more sense.

All four players have comparable career point per game numbers (AT-0.89, MH-0.79, MG-0.76, DB-0.70) and three of the four outpaced their career point per game averages in the 2005-06 season (Havlat did as well, but only played 18 games for a fairly insignificant sample size). Translated into GM speak, this means that all four are due a healthy raise. Since GM’s continue to pay for past performance instead of future expectations, Havlat, Tanguay, and Gaborik were all able to secure nice contracts.

The funny thing about the UFA/RFA market is that many GM’s trip over their own feet to give huge sums of money to players. Yet when one of their own players (whom they would be aggressively pursuing on the UFA market) is eligible for arbitration, they will sit on the other side of the fence and come up with any and every reason why they should not give that player their market value (a market value which they likely helped create by overpaying for other talent).

I’m likely to believe that most cases that go to arbitration involve players who probably won’t be on their original team when the next season starts. I wonder if I have the energy and time to track this (or if anyone knows anything more than anecdotal evidence)? If I were a GM and I really wanted to make sure I continued a healthy relationship with my players, I’d probably secure contracts prior to arbitration. But that’s just me. These cases will be messy for at least one, if not both sides.

In conclusion, I think Briere got a fair deal considering what had already transpired with the benchmark cases. I think the most likely scenario involves a sign and trade type deal, with Briere being shipped out of the division. I wonder if the Red Wings could take Briere and Biron, and what they’d have to give up? Any thoughts from the A2Y corner?

Who knows if I’m back to writing on a more regular basis. I’ve been toying with the idea of incorporating more statistical analysis into my posts, but I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what I want to examine. In any event, thanks for stopping by. See you soon at the End of the Bench.


Thoughts for the end of the week

July 14, 2006

Summertime in Columbus is usually defined as the last bit of time a Buckeye fan has to wait before the football season begins and the earth can resume it’s rotation around Ohio Stadium. I love Buckeye football, but I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t share the same 24/7/365 intensity for all things gridiron.

So far this summer, I’ve watched the NHL moves from the sideline (as Columbus has been a bit player at most), casually enjoyed occasional innings of baseball (usually to watch the Reds blow a lead past the 6th inning), and tried to stay healthy to keep up with my athletic pursuits.

Since my last post, not much has happened on the CBJ front. Apparently GM Doug MacLean has signed a three-year extension (I’ll continue to reserve judgement for a bit longer), former assistant coach Dean Blais has been reassigned to a scouting role, and Syracuse Crunch head coach Gary Agnew is moving up to the big leagues to fill Blais’ spot. Ron Hainsey signed a two-year contract, and Jason Chimera has filed for arbitration. Hockey bloggers across the landscape are in tune, singing the chorus of “Columbus is the only team in the Central not improving the squad this summer.” On the surface I’ll not deny that this does look to be the case, but I happen to believe that the team will be improved next season appearances be damned. Perhaps that will be a topic for an upcoming post. I don’t feel like hashing it out right now.

The Reds stumbled into the All-Star break barely above .500, and yesterday executed a trade with the Washington Nationals sending Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Wagner to the Nats in exchange for relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray, infielders Royce Clayton and Brendan Harris, and prospect Daryl Thompson. Until this move puts the Reds in the playoffs, I’ll be skeptical. While I’m sad to see Lopez go from an offensive standpoint, I’m not surprised. I thought for sure that Adam Dunn would be the young outfielder to go, but apparently GM Wayne Krivsky thought otherwise as Kearns is the man in the new uniform.

This surprises me a bit, as I think Kearns is a more complete player than Dunn. Dunn has tremendous power at the plate, but it seems that this is all he brings to the table. Kearns has some pop in the bat, can hit for better average, has a cannon arm, and has decent enough speed and glove to not be a liability in the field. I have to think that Dunn’s walk-off grand slam a few weeks ago against Cleveland may have saved him from being traded. He’s still on my crap-list, but I don’t sign the checks so who cares.

To those of you who have stopped by in the last week to ten days, sorry there hasn’t been more content. As the NHL season gears up (or if the CBJ do anything note-worthy), I’ll be posting some more thoughts. As for now, get out and enjoy your summer.

Have a great Friday.


Time for a new computer

July 6, 2006

My computer, personal on-ramp to the information superhighway, must be broken. It’s telling me (via Spector) that the Blue Jackets have signed Ty Conklin to a two way contract.

Maybe they signed him to be a two-way forward so his goals will actually count for us. That must be what it means. I have to wonder what Michael over at Army of the Ohio thinks about Dougie jumping into the free agent pool now? Pour me a glass of that Kool-Aid, Mike!


Independence Day Shorts

July 4, 2006

Not what you had in mind?

Thanks to Abel to Yzerman for the link to yesterday’s post. I think today I may crack the five visitor barrier!!

Also, I added the Acid Queen to the blogroll. Her blog is one of the first that I started reading when I started doing EOB (though I don’t comment much, because it seems like there’s a pretty tight knit group of Canes fans there… and I don’t want to get blasted by AQ 😉 ). She has a passion for her team that speaks to me, as I often find myself thinking about the CBJ when other things are more pressing. If you don’t already, check it out.

Happy Fourth of July, Yanks.


End of an era?

July 3, 2006 – After 22 seasons, Detroit Red Wings’ captain Steve Yzerman is calling it a career, Sportsnet has learned.

The Red Wings have called a press conference for 1 pm ET on Monday where the announcement is expected to be made official.

(Via Abel to Yzerman)

I had planned to review the free agency rush of the weekend in this post, but I think that can wait a little while. Despite the fact that he plays for a team I’ve grown to loathe (what with the regional “rivalry” and all), Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman has always been one of my favorite hockey players. Assuming the article is correct, today will be a bittersweet day for hockey fans across the spectrum. While it was uplifting to see Stevie Y return from his knee problems this year, it will be hard to watch one of the great leaders in sports turn his back from the spotlight of playing and walk down the tunnel toward the rest of his life.

With 692 goals and 1,063 assists in 1,514 regular season games, Yzerman will hang up his skates holding the sixth best scoring output in NHL history. But more important than scoring records is his skill as a leader. I have no doubt that Red Wing fans will be able to get more in-depth in describing what their captain meant to the team, the city, and the fans; but it’s not hard for an outsider to see the impact that Yzerman had on the sport as a whole. As a sports fan nearing my 30’s, I’ve grown up seeing sports change from games to businesses. Despite this fact, I’ve always been more interested in players who are leaders than those who are good businessmen or showmen.

In Major League Baseball, I had to look no farther than the Cincinnati Reds to find an example of a great leader in Barry Larkin. In the National Football League, Brett Favre has been a source of inspiration for his team by playing remarkably well through thick and thin. The National Hockey League has Steve Yzerman.

All of these players have had careers in which they outperformed their peers for many years, but it’s safe to assume that none of the players will be remembered best for their statistical accomplishments. Players like this never go out of style, but are always in extremely short supply as there may only be a handful in each sport at any given time. As a fan, I have to be aware of the fact that just because Yzerman (and the other aforementioned greats) is on his way out does mean that someone else will not be there to rise to the challenge. On the other side of that coin, it is tough for anyone when the true sports heroes of their formative years hang up their equipment for the last time. Things are never as good as they were “back in my day”.

Hockey fans, say goodbye to the good old days.

EOB congratulates Steve Yzerman on a fantastic career, and for being an individual worthy of the admiration of man and child alike. Best of luck.