Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alfie's Lady Byng Curse... Habs Drop Sens ... Guy Lafleur Disco... Yer Game Notes

Did Mocking Sundin With Fake Stick-Toss Forever Curse Alfredsson's Lady Byng Quest?

There’s no doubt Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has had a comeback year worthy of any in recent memory. After shutting down his 2010-11 season in early February due to a bad back which eventually required surgery, not many predicted he would be as productive as he’s been this year, let alone actually play. From interviews he’s done, it sounds like Alfredsson was sceptical himself.

Now with the Senators likely headed to the playoffs and Alfredsson with 49 points in 64 games, the long time franchise player may be in the running for a couple of NHL awards. He’s a longshot for both, but he should get some consideration for both the Lady Byng and the Masterton trophies.

The Professional Hockey Writer’s Association votes for both trophies. In the case of the Masterton, awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey”, each team nominates one player, and usually it’s someone who has overcome some kind of injury to play at a high level. That sums up Alfredsson’s year pretty well and he’s a lock to be the Senators candidate. Ian Laperriere of the Philadelphia Flyers won it last season with ex-Senator goalie Ray Emery a runner-up.

The Lady Byng, officially, is awarded to the "player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability". Unofficially, they just give it to either Pavel Datsyuk or Martin St. Louis depending on who had the better year. That duo has locked up the award since the lockout, and deservedly so. Yes, a lot of it has to do with how low your penalty minutes are and how high your point total is, but there’s also the likability factor involved, and both Datsyuk and St. Louis are darlings of the press.

So where does Alfredsson come into this story? Firstly, he’s never convinced the PHWA that he deserves the trophy, probably because in his best years points-wise, he was always in between 30 and 50 penalty minutes, a number that probably disqualified him from the running. For instance, in 2006, Alfredsson had 103 points and 50 PIMs. That year, Datsyuk won the award with 87 points and 22 PIMs. In 2008, Alfredsson had 89 points and only 34 PIMs but Datsyuk took it with 97 points and 20 PIMs. Alfredsson’s best chance at the Byng was probably in 2004 when he had 80 points and 24 PIMs. Alas, Brad Richards took it with just 79 points and 12 PIMs. You can’t win when you look like a goon compared to these angels.

But forget the stats for a moment. Let’s go back in time to that night in 2004 when Alfredsson mocked his good pal but bitter foe Mats Sundin by pretending to toss a broken stick into the stands in imitation of the act that got Sundin suspended for a game that same January.

Coincidentally enough, that was the year Alfredsson had his best chance of winning the Byng, statistically at least. The Leaf fans howled in outrage and Alfredsson still gets booed to this day, partly because of that incident (and partly because he ran over Darcy Tucker in the 2002 playoffs before scoring the winning goal.) But did he ultimately disqualify himself for the Lady Byng by doing the cheeky stick-toss act in a city that’s home to a lot of voting members of the PWHA? Or was it the crushing Tucker hit that many thought should have negated the goal?

This is not some kid of conspiracy theory I’m advancing, but let’s just say this is my own version of the Alfie stick-toss - just a little harmless fun at the expense of Hog Town. So did Toronto area writers like Steve Simmons, Damien Cox, Mike Zeisberger, Bob Mackenzie, James Mirtle and others get an indelible impression of Alfredsson’s “sportsmanship” that night (or in seeing the endless replays over the years), an impression that was not altogether favourable?

Hey, it’s possible. That’s life. Alfredsson can play the game a number of different ways and he’s not always a gentleman about it. It also goes to show that some people’s sense of humour is like flashing a red cape to a half-crazed bull.

But, realistically, what are Alfredsson’s chances this season of getting his paws on the Byng? Let’s take a quick look at the some of the contenders and the appropriate stats as a start:

Claude Giroux: 80 Pts 27 PIMs
Phil Kessel: 72 Pts 20 PIMs
Marian Hossa: 69 Pts 16 PIMs
Patrik Elias: 67 Pts 16 PIMs
St. Louis: 63 Pts 16 PIMs
Datsyuk: 59 Pts 14 PIMs

Those are probably the top guys right there. You can make a good argument for others but let’s go with this list for argument’s sake. You can go ahead and eliminate Kessel because not only are the Leafs collapsing, the writers have never taken to the kid. Alfredsson, with his 49 points (64th overall in the league going into Wednesday’s games) and 12 PIMs doesn’t seem to be in the running, but there’s always the nostalgia effect. Seems like every other night this season, Alfredsson is being feted in one ceremony or another and the All-Star game in Ottawa gave him his highest profile in the NHL yet. They gave Wayne Gretzky the Lady Byng in his last season as a sort of going away gift and Ron Francis one when he was starting to wind down his Hall of Fame career in 2002.

If it was a popularity contest, Alfie might have a solid chance this season, unless a few Toronto area writers have a longer memory than their bar tabs (ok, one last harmless shot of the Alexei Kovalev variety).


Montreal 3 Ottawa 2 (SO)

The Senators did Montreal in style by taking the train into town with old-school getups but dropped their second straight game in a shootout with Ben Bishop in net for both.

Bishop wasn't particularly good in the Sabres shootout, looking a little stiff and immobile but he looked fine against Montreal, making two good saves against Max Pacioretty and the resurrected Andrei Markov. Unfortunately for the Senators, Carey Price was perfect at the other end and that was all she wrote after another grinding, playoff style game, similar to the Sabres tilt last Saturday.

If those two games were a test to see if Ottawa could play that tight style, I'd say they passed. There's no shootouts in the playoffs and the Senators were dominating the overtime period and still got a point after going down by a goal early in the third period. It's those little signs that tell you this team is ready.

They also inched a point closer to the suddenly miserable Bruins. All those baby steps are starting to add up.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Erik Karlsson
2. Ben Bishop
3. Colin Greening

Honourable Mentions: Jim O'Brien, Filip Kuba, Daniel Alfredsson and Kyle Turris.


Strangely enough, the acronym for the Professional Hockey Writers Association is shared by the "Professional Hypnotists of Western Australia". Don't believe me? Check it out here…  Just trying to find out who is a voting member of the PHWA (the hockey version) is a major task. Their website is a website in name only. It basically doesn't function anymore.... Did anyone catch ex-NHL player agent, ex-Tampa GM Brian Lawton on Sportsnet late Tuesday night saying that if he was Sidney Crosby’s agent, he would advise his client to sit the rest of the year because of possible contract extension talks this coming summer? Essentially, Lawton is saying that even though Crosby is healthy enough to play (and lord knows they’ve been more careful with Sid than any athlete in history), he should still shut it down for both contractual and health reasons. Completely ludicrous. Why would someone not play the games when he’s healthy enough to do so? To avoid being hurt so they don’t endanger their next contract? Sid’s deal doesn’t even run out until after next season. Maybe all UFA’s should shut it down just in case. A whole industry of self-congratulating punditry has sprung up on the back of Sid’s injury woes and when he starts playing games, they’ve lost their big stick to repeatedly bash the NHL with. We get it guys. The NHL is a “garbage league”. Some journalists have been feasting on Sid’s brain for so long that they seem uncomfortable with the idea of him actually playing hockey games. What a novel concept.....

.... A nice lad by the name of Paul Swaney emailed me a few links from his site Stadium Journey, which basically reviews most major stadiums across North America and they've now reviewed both Scotiabank Place in Kanata and the B-Sens classic rink, the Broome County Veterans Memoria Arena. A pretty good read, especially when you get into the NFL stadium reviews. These boys like their concession stand foods..…. Have to say it’s nice to see the GM’s are acting as the NHL’s version of the Canadian Senate – the “sober second thought” – at least at the Boca Raton meetings. There was a lot of hype about the red-line being instituted on the recommendation of the GM’s but they soundly shot it down, and rightfully so. In fact, they are only recommending a few minor tweaks and hoping to see how some other changes, such as the “ringette line” or “Bowman line” works in the AHL before instituting it in the big leagues. That’s how it should be. Let the fans and press scream for drastic changes as they do year after year, but let the hockey people take it as slowly and carefully as it needs to be done. Nobody will ever be happy with what they do, so they might as well do what’s best for the game. Slowing it down and potentially bringing hockey back to where it was in the 90’s shouldn’t be an option, and it looks like it won’t be..... It's official. The Sens have another college kid, this time a high-scoring left-winger named Cole Schneider (good hockey name) out of the University of Connecticut. He's headed to Bingo for his pro debut but if he ever makes the Senators, he'll be the second Schneider to play for the Senators. The first? Andy Schneider, also a high-scoring left-winger, but from the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. Schneider didn't make much of an impression with the Sens, only playing 10 games for them in the 93-94 season but he went on to a very successful career in Germany with teams like the Schwenninger Wild Wings and the Hamburg Freezers....

.....Tweet of the night has to go to Senators play-by-play man Dean Brown @PxPOttawa with "Habs honoured Harry Weiner tonight....longtime season ticket holder since 1968. not kidding." .... Alfredsson’s first ever regular season game in Montreal was on November 18, 1995 at the old Montreal Forum, but it wasn’t much of a performance. The future captain went -1 with 2 shots on Patrick Roy. The Habs won the game 5-1and somehow Lyle Odelein, the tough but low-scoring defenseman, who Matthew Barnaby famously nicknamed “Cornelius” after a character in Planet Of The Apes, managed to get a goal and an assist. Defenseman Sean Hill got the lone marker for Ottawa. Alfredsson eventually learned to play against Montreal, and going into tonight he had 102 points in 82 career games against the Habs, the most damage he’s done to any team in the NHL and the only club he’s racked up over 100 points against. His next most preferable opponent is the Sabres with 82 points in 85 games....

.... Here's the vintage moment I try to squeeze into every post. Yes, sports fans, it's Guy Lafleur's disco instructional album. Eat your heart out Barry Gibb.

1 comment:

Jeremy Balliston said...

Eberle has 8 PIM in 68 games and has 70 points. The guy is a saint it seems.