October 29, 2006

Science: What Goes Around Comes To Me!

The Skeptics' Circle is coming crashing back to Earth on the 9th of November: that's when I'll be serving as it's *cough* humble host. So if you are interested in submitting a post you think would fit in or stand out, send me a link (through my profile to the right, there) and it will be considered. Anyone is welcome to try!

The guidelines for submissions are here, as well as a full schedule of past and future editions. As a general rule, while I personally consider all things political, politics and theology are more appropriate to other places than to the circle. Here, we're looking for: bad science; revisionism (historical, not political); paranormal "woo"; unfortunate (and inaccurate) medical claims; hoaxes of any sort that rely on failures in critical thought; or even essays on the philosophy of critical thought.

There is some overlap to some stories, of course. For instance, this is a story about science with political overtones, but I think would fit. And there are frequent uses of religion (established and, er, otherwise) in quackery and woo, so no surprise when the two cross paths in a story about skepticism.

I do want to limit people to one successful submission each, so pick well and link to other of your posts that you think are appropriate from there (this sort of thing).

I'd like to read them before hand, too, so if your post could be submitted by November 7th (Tuesday night), that would be cool.

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posted by Thursday at 8:19 pm 0 comments

Other: Coffee Cups

It's the day after our yearly hallowe'en party (photos later: we'll see who pays what), so naturally I'm thinking of coffee.

I'm thinking specifically of something I was told by two different people in the service sector this week: "it's not the drink the customer is paying for, it's the cup." It's a phrase that only seems to apply to coffee, tea or pop so far as I've found. It came up when I was at a gas station, trying to buy a small coffee. They were out of small cups, so I put a few ounces in a medium cup, and wanted to buy that, and was told I would be charged for a medium. Here's the reasoning:

The coffee, tea or pop is sold by the store/restaurant/gas station in such large quantities that the amount one individual buys is nearly irrelevant: it's essentially just more or less water added to the beans, leaves or syrup already purchased. (Movie chains, being cheap bastards, seem immune to this thought and charge you more for everything, all the time.) The cups, however, are much more noticably different in unit price, so the charge is greater for larger sizes.

Makes sense.

Except if I walk into a store with my own cup, what do you think the odds are of my getting the coffee for free? Or even for a discount? I'm sure there would be protests if the mugs handed to me when I dine in started vanishing from the tables and showing up in my truck. The thought of keeping take away cups is even stranger! Trust me, I have NO interest in acquiring a selection of piss-poor waxed paper cups for my home; and even if I did, I wouldn't buy them one at a time and pre-used, thank you very much. No, I'm actually there to buy coffee not cups, and that's what I purchase whatever the sales staff might think. Cups are what the store buys, and excuses, it seems, are what some of them sell.

I ain't buying.

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posted by Thursday at 7:26 pm 0 comments

October 27, 2006

Other: Heaven for the Atmosphere...

...And Hell for the company, right?

Tell you what: the Skeptics' Circle is taking place Up Above this week, but we're bringing our own crowd with us!

Enjoy, and don't forget to return your halo on the way out!

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posted by Thursday at 2:00 am 0 comments

October 24, 2006

Other: Okay, I Was Wrong About Psychics

Got a phone call an hour or so ago.

Caller: Have some good news and some bad news.
Me: Oh? What's up?
Caller: Bad news is, we can't make your party this weekend.
Me: What? Drag! (Hallowe'en is our one-a-year party. It's big.)
Caller: Well, the good news is because [name] is working for the week.
Me: Yeah? Well, that's a plus, I guess. So what's she doing?
Caller: Yeah, she's really happy with it. It's only one week a month, but she's making good money.
Me: So what's she doing?
Caller: I'm so glad she's not back to waiting on tables. Tough to avoid that old fall-back job, you know?
Me: Yeah. So what's she doing that's only happening one week each month?
Caller: She's at the psychic fair.
(pause)
Me: So... What's she do?
Caller: Have you ever seen that TV series "Medium"?
Me: No.

So that's apparently her new job: being a psychic. I was ready to hear that she was selling crystals, or tarot cards, or even maybe reading palms. I was NOT ready to hear that she had joined the legion of professional liars that never give their audience a chance. Actors, you see, come off the stage now and again, and have that minimal honesty required in polite society to tell us their profession at the outset.

Not having much else to say after that, I didn't find out how exactly she was recruited for the job or who decided she was suddenly psychic, but I will tell you one thing: she's not a scam artist.

I know, I know; I don't care for psychics and their ilk, and have long considered them frauds and utterly unscrupulous fast talkers ready to take advantage of the hordes of willing fools itching to throw money at them.

I have now changed my mind.

I can now accept, after much searching in my heart, that the people who are sitting at the tables taking the cash just might be, instead of a scam artist and fraud, merely deluded.

Up until now, I had only considered that quack medicines and psychotic religious movements ("Earth Prime"? Oy.) had True Believers, and that psychics left belief for the people shelling out the cash. But I suppose if you want to franchise your service, the best salesmen are the ones who think the product works. Want to tell people Santa Claus is real? Hire Elves.

I don't think this makes what they are doing any better. The effect is the same whether the lies are told by John Edward or Jim Jones or Kevin Trudeau: just pick your poison, and if you're lucky, you won't get killed by it right away.

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posted by Thursday at 7:54 pm 2 comments

October 21, 2006

Politics: Advice For the Tanks

...And worth a damn sight more than what THEY provided!

Okay, I'm copping out a little on this, using a repost and all, but it's very much worth watching.

Bill Maher New Rule:

"You can't call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid."

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posted by Thursday at 9:10 pm 0 comments

October 18, 2006

Politics: With a Whimper... And Then a *Smack*, Then Another Whimper

In today's newspaper, in a few paragraphs on page A9, was the story of 300 million people committing suicide.

You'd think it would make a bigger noise, but apparently not.

Whatever image the United States held of itself;
Whatever ideals its people thought they had;
Whatever dream they thought the rest of the world wanted;

It's gone.

There is no ten gallon hat white enough to make the little child playing cowboy be the good guy.

Let's wander through the playing field, shall we? This is the Associated Press story as it appeared in Yahoo today (with, perhaps, a note or two of my own):

WASHINGTON - Some of the most notorious names in the war on terror are headed toward prosecution after President Bush signed a law Tuesday authorizing military trials of terrorism suspects.

Plus, of course, mystery numbers of people you've never heard of, we've never heard of, and now we hope to God we never have to.

The legislation also eliminates some of the rights defendants are usually guaranteed under U.S. law, and it authorizes continued harsh interrogations of terror suspects.

Nice little "Oh, BTW..." Note the word after "authorizes" and before "harsh".

Imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and awaiting trial are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be 9/11 hijacker, and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells.

Um... "was believed to be a link"? The hell do you mean "was"? Here's "was": Zubaydah is considered "insane", as in multiple personalities, by Dan Coleman, then (until 2004) the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, and was only a "link" because that's what the president Bush wanted to hear. Anyways: Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003; Binalshibh was captured in Pakistan in 2002; and Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan (ignore the pattern, please) in 2002.

"With the bill I'm about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice," Bush said in a White House ceremony.

So torture is "justice", is it? Sorry, no: torture is revenge, nothing else.


The Pentagon expects to begin pre-trial motions early next year and to begin the actual trials in the summer.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that trying detainees in military tribunals violated U.S. and international law...

What can I say? What was going on was illegal, and even with torture-loving VO5 as the Attorney General (hot oil treatment, indeed) the Supreme Court knew it.

...so Bush urged Congress to change the law during a speech on Sept. 6 in the White House East Room attended by families of the Sept. 11, 2001, victims.

Not that he'd ever, EVER politicise the event, of course!

He also insisted that the law authorize CIA agents to use tough — yet unspecified — methods to interrogate suspected terrorists.

Like the kind Syria used to get Maher Arar to confess that he took part in military combat training at an alQuaida camp in Afghanistan, despite never having been to that country? And has tried to do the same from Canadian citizens Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin? Gosh, I feel safer already! Here, by the way, is the Arar Commission's findings: guess what they say?

Six weeks later, after a highly publicized dispute with key Republicans over the terms of the bill, Bush signed the new law "in memory of the victims of September the 11th."

Heck, signing this law is the least he could do, after how useful the "victims of September 11th" have been to him!

"It is a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill he knows will save American lives," Bush said. "I have that privilege this morning."

Presidents could sign bills that will save American lives at any time - one that actually produces a cleaner enviroment, for instance - it's just a matter of whether he bothers to or not. Which I suppose makes it a rare thing indeed.

Civil libertarians and leading Democrats decried the law as a violation of American values. The American Civil Liberties Union said it was "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history." Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin said, "We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history."

"It allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court," Feingold said. "And the new law would permit an individual to be convicted on the basis of coerced testimony and even allow someone convicted under these rules to be put to death."

So can you please tell me why the Hell twelve of your fellow Democrats in the Senate and thirty-four Democrats in the House voted in favour of this horrible, insane bill?

The legislation, which sets the rules for court proceedings, applies to those selected by the military for prosecution and leaves mostly unaffected the majority of the 14,000 prisoners in U.S. custody, most of whom are in Iraq. It does apply to 14 suspects who were secretly questioned by the CIA overseas and recently moved to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

For now, anyways. After them, who knows? Oh, of course: the president does!


The swift implementation of the law is a rare bit of good news for Bush as casualties mount in Iraq in daily violence. Lawmakers are increasingly calling for a change of strategy, and political anxieties are jeopardizing Republican chances of hanging onto control of Congress.

Ah, right then: tossing away habeas corpus is good news. How foolish of me to think otherwise. Well, why not? After all, North Korea having nuclear weapons is
good news to some...

Bush has been criticizing Democrats who voted against the law, called the Military Commissions Act of 2006, during campaign appearances around the country. He has suggested that votes against the law show that Democrats would not protect the country from another terrorist attack.

When asked to prove his assertion, the president grew surly and demanded candy before he would take any more questions.

Republican House leaders, in a tough battle to maintain their majority, echoed those criticisms Tuesday in an attempt to get some political points out of the legislation they supported. "The Democratic plan would gingerly pamper the terrorists who plan to destroy innocent Americans' lives," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said.

Wow! The Republicans "echoed criticisms"? What a surprise! Why, it's almost as if they had one warped, lightly used brain between them!

Bush noted that the law came amid dispute.

File under: "No shit." Moving on.

"Over the past few months, the debate over this bill has been heated, and the questions raised can seem complex," he said. "Yet, with the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously? And did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?"

And, in sixty years, the questions may be: "Why do they hate us?" and "Why are we still at war?" and "What comes after red again?"

A coalition of religious groups staged a protest against the bill outside the White House, shouting "Bush is the terrorist" and "Torture is a crime." About 15 of the protesters, standing in a light rain, refused orders to move. Police arrested them one by one.

Arrested one by one, eh? Get used to it. Fifteen people protesting this abomination. Fifteen.

The legislation says the president can "interpret the meaning and application" of international standards for prisoner treatment, a provision intended to allow him to authorize aggressive interrogation methods that might otherwise be seen as illegal by international courts.

Yeah, they just might - kind of like the Supreme Court of the United States did. Damn foreigners anyways.

Bush said such measures have helped the CIA gain vital information from terror suspects and have saved American lives.

Of course, they can't say what was said, or who said it, or what was stopped (national secrets, don'cha know?), but you have to wonder when this is one bust they brag about.

After Bush signed the law, CIA Director Mike Hayden sent a note to employees saying it gives them "the legal clarity and legislative support necessary to continue a program that has been one of our country's most effective tools in the fight against terrorism."

Yeah, thanks Radar. This is the same man who installed the NSA wiretapping database, citing that the executive branch of government allowed it, even if the judicial branch did not, ie. "What checks and balances? I don't see any checks and balances!" Can't imagine why Bush thought he was right for the job...

"We can be confident that our program remains — as it always has been — fully compliant with U.S. law, the Constitution and our international treaty obligations," Hayden wrote.

Uh, huh. This must be why you felt the law had to change, right? Since what you were doing was always "fully compliant" with U.S. law?

The White House has said that disclosing the techniques that are used would give the enemy information to resist those techniques. White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush would probably eventually issue an executive order that would describe his interpretation of the standards, but those documents are not usually made public.

Snow Job in action - "If we tell people we're going to waterboard them, they might grow gills!" Bush will "probably eventually" decide what the standards for interrogation should be? Tony, stop! You're killing me!


Snow rejected the idea that Americans should be able to see and judge the standards for themselves, particularly in the aftermath of illegal abuses at the Abu Ghriab prison.

"The only way accountability doesn't exist is if you believe that the military is not committed to it," Snow said.

Okay, read that last sentence again. That's right, it's up to you and you and you my darling media to believe in the military really really hard, and only then will there be accountability.

Man, that's enough. At this point, I want to thank Gazetteer for posting about this guy on his site: plug in your headphones before you go. Depending on how depressed you are after wading through this shit, maybe keep a couple tissues close by.

Yeah, I'm a softie. Fukin' deal with it.

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posted by Thursday at 9:56 pm 1 comments

October 17, 2006

Hockey: That Didn't Take Long

So I predicted that it would be three games before the Canucks fans were disappointed with Goalie Roberto Luongo, and I was wrong; it was five. After one bad game and four brilliant ones, I've now had three seperate conversations with Canucks fans about how lousy Luongo (considered by most to be in the top five goaltenders in the world) is at breakaways.

One gem:
"It would take $20 for a 6'x4' sheet of plywood to fix the holes in his game."

Of course, if they did draft a chunk of plywood, the fans would be saying "Yeah, his numbers are okay, but his rebound control sucks."

Vancouver: where goalies go to die.

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posted by Thursday at 6:50 pm 0 comments

Religion: DOES the Pope Shit in the Woods?

I don't know, but apparently bears would rather not if they can help it. For the past month, we've had great piles of bear scat left on the walking trails, driveways and on the sidewalk in front of my house. Once they come out of the woods, anywhere is open season for excrement, so to speak.

Now, where's the Pope come into all this? Well, more like the twitching, fanatically religious folks who have wandered out of the cozy, self-limiting woods that everyone else was more comfortable with them staying in. And they are leaving great piles of shit for all to see and walk around.

So the folks who are opposed to abortion are all about the "kids being murdered" thing, right?
Of course.

Then when they say they oppose the so-called "morning after pill", it's because it's a variant of abortion, right?
Um. It's not, but that's what they say they believe, so let's give them the benifit of the doubt.

Then when they oppose contraception, it's because they think it might lead to an abortion... or... something...

Then when they oppose gay marriage, it's, uh... To support domestic violence?

Let's face it, they just don't like the idea of sex. Specifically, of sex being fun, and happening "just" for fun. How the hell are these folks getting power in any country, never mind one as sex-obsessed as the United States?

Maybe a member of the Supreme Court has the answer...

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posted by Thursday at 5:57 pm 3 comments

October 15, 2006

Science: And the Government Learns a Lesson!

Circle the calendar: one week ago Monday, the Canadian government stopped putting bogus "fuel saving devices" in the tanks of their vehicles. The "Econopro" (good luck finding them now) was sold to the government, who spent thousands installing them then bragging that they were doing something about the enviroment. These little babies were going to reduce emissions by 50%; increase efficiency by at least 10%, and possibly cure cancer, too! All for the low, low price of $750 a pop!

Don't believe it? Well, they shouldn't have, either.

To actually improve efficiency, try asking a transportation economist and regional planner. You know, someone who has to deal with facts.

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posted by Thursday at 10:46 pm 2 comments

October 12, 2006

Other: Audio Delight

The... the... VOICES! The Voices in my HEAD!

They're... They're... driving...

THEY'RE DRIVING ME SANE!!!!

***

It's Skeptics' Circle time again. Enjoy!

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posted by Thursday at 9:59 pm 0 comments

October 11, 2006

Politics: Body? What Body?

Funny story:

I applied recently to a local manufacturing company that I had heard was desperate for employees: it was so successful, that they were adding a second shift to their assembly line. Now, I'm too damn lazy for that sort of thing, but one job they did have to fill was the management of their stores, a job I had done before for a different employer. Since this mostly involves counting, it certainly fit my physical criteria, and as the job was quite well paid, it fit the criteria of my Significant Other as well.

I had two interviews, which I thought went quite well, and then heard nothing for a week. So I called to follow up. Ends up I didn't get the job, and they hadn't bothered to tell me.

Bummer, right?

Then I asked why I didn't get the job, and was told, after much heming and hawing, that they were afraid that I might be offered a job writing full-time and would leave them. If that were to happen, they would have been left without an employee that they had worked so hard to train.

No time frame was given for when this miracle was to happen.

So I wasn't hired for a position they needed to fill because of something I was interested in doing; I had, in fact, included "writing" in the application blank named "hobbies", so perhaps it was in some way my own fault. Perhaps instead I should have stated that I so looked forward to a life where I could come home from work, eat, stare at the wall for six hours then go to bed. All for the Glory of the Great Company!

Truth be told, I was not hired because they didn't want to hire me, and that was fine. No actual excuse was needed, but as I was live and on the phone with the human resources guy, he felt embarrassed enough to give me one, screwy as it was. But that was only about not being hired for a job - could you imagine the same excuse being used for being fired from a job you already have? Well, no, of course not. We have laws about wrongful dismissal here in modern times and civilized nations.

Now, imagine if it suddenly became legal for you to be fired because the owner of the company simply didn't like you, no matter how well you did your job, or how much the rest of the staff liked you, or even if the manager wanted to keep you on.

Now, imagine that you could be fired and not know why.

Now, imagine you could be fired and not hired by any other business for four years.

Now, imagine this could happen without any legal recourse in any way, shape or form.

Got it? Okay, last one:

Imagine instead of being unemployed for four years, you were kept in a 9' by 7' isolated cell with no windows and no sounds other than being fed between bouts of being forced into "stress positions" for hours on end, having the temperature manipulated, trying to sleep on a steel bunk, having your sleep continuously disrupted, breathing noxious gasses, being force fed lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and phencyclidine (PCP) and browbeaten by professional interrogators in an attempt to get a false confession from you?

Welcome to U.S. citizen Jose Padilla's world.

This was illegal behaviour when it was happening four years ago, and it will continue to be illegal right up until president (I'll capitalize that when it's worth doing again) Bush gets around to actually signing the Millitary Comissions Act of 2006.

A quick version by NPR.
A "fun" version by Keith Olberman.

Habeas corpus = "Produce the body" = If there is no proof of a crime, there can be no punishment.

One police officer's opinion, also from Glenn Greenwald's site.

The SO and I have our 10th anniversary next year; we want to renew our vows in Las Vegas. I'm having serious doubts about ever crossing that border again.

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posted by Thursday at 8:15 pm 2 comments

October 10, 2006

Politics: Quick Question

So, you've got a minority government with a $13 billion budget surplus, a surplus that has happened for nine consecutive years. (U.S. readers may have to go back a few years to remember what a "budget surplus" is.) So, do you:

A) Look for new programs to fund;
B) Maintain spending levels, continuing to pare down the $481 billion debt; or
C) Cut funding to tourism, education, women's programs, technological research, and medical research?

The answer, of course, is "C". Here's the reasoning, acording to Treasury Board president John Baird:

The savings result from cuts in four categories:
  • Programs that are not delivering value for money.
  • Programs that didn't spend all the money allocated.
  • Work that could be done more efficiently outside the government.
  • Programs that don't meet the needs of Canadians.
According to whom, they won't say. But since the terms are nice and ambiguous, anyone who uses them as a guide can cut any program in existence.

Take, for instance, the Museum Assistance Program, whose $9 million annual budget hasn't been increased since 1972. That's right, over thirty years have passed since the last increase in funding. This, apparently, is reason enough to reduce it by $4.6 million over the next two years.

Or Project Literacy Victoria, a group that teaches the most marginalized members of society what is considered a staple in any modern country. Without the ability to read, it's incredibly hard to improve your situation in any way. They've had their budget cut by $17.7 million.

Or the Court Challenge Program, who help provide funding for legal cases that support equal rights, a system that the poor rely heavily upon, being unable to hire (or receive advice from) lawyers who are familiar with the intricacies of the legal system. Over $5.5 million is gone from that.

The Status of Women agency loses $5 million, reducing its ability to compile statistics on women's issues in Canada. Without information action becomes, at best, vague; at worst, useless.

Medical marijuana research has been dropped by $4 million. No surprise there, as the Conservatives have long hated the idea of anything that might imply that we're soft on, you know, that crazy hippie stuff. Besides, the Americans didn't like it.

Speaking of which, the Americans which come up to visit won't be able to get the Goods and Services Tax rebate any more. That was a program that would return the GST to any tourist who spent more than $200 while visiting. Now don't get me wrong, no one actually visited Canada for the first time because of this plan, but getting a cheque from the country they just visited made for an excellent impression. It was also in Canadian funds, of course, so the encouragement was there for a return trip... This program is now gone.

The stupidest note to ring sour from this orchestra of idiocy is that $350 million of the $2 billion was cut from various collective budgets because the programs didn't spend all the money allocated to them.

Is there any way, shape or form in which that makes sense? Imagine your employer checking to see if you have a savings account, then cutting your pay with the excuse of: "well, you weren't spending it anyway".

These are the cuts of not just accountants, as accountants can usually see farther than the next fiscal year, but of the Ottawa Moles, bunkered in under the parliment buildings and avoiding any contact with what could be considered "actual people".

It's just easier that way.

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posted by Thursday at 4:57 pm 2 comments

October 05, 2006

Other: Now Entering An Irony-Free Zone

As the Significant Other and I were driving home last night, she pointed out a flashing sign that was over the highway. It read:

PAY ATTENTION TO ROAD

A flashing neon sign.

Up a notch would perhaps be the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children being a paedophile.

And higher, we have an art teacher being fired for taking her students to a museum.

More? Okay, how about an historic display of banned books... being banned?

A step higher than that was this gentleman, noted at Shakespeare's Sister, who made this comment during this year's Banned Books Week:

"I want to get the book taken out of the class."

The book in question? Fahrenheit 451.

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posted by Thursday at 12:56 am 2 comments

October 04, 2006

Hockey: Wagons East!

Eastern Conference Preview


ATLANTA


Biggest hello: Rucchin. A better defensive player than Savard, and by all reports a better team player, too.
Biggest goodbye: Savard. That being said, he was 3 points away from 100 last season.
Watch for: Lehtonen (again). He caught hell from the team for his conditioning, and has improved it enough to play more than the 38 he managed last season.
Watch out: This is not a scoring defense. What can you say about a team that had three 90-point players, yet their highest scoring defenseman only managed 38?
Note: Should Lehtonen go down this year, the team now has two capable veteran back-ups in Hedberg and Brathwaite, instead of just one.

BOSTON

Biggest hello: Chara. Literally.
Biggest goodbye: Gill. Literally.
Watch for: Far faster and more mobile defense. Mara, Stewart and sophomore Jurcina are all offensively minded.
Watch out: All of the three are an adventure in their own zone. With two relatively new-to-the-NHL goaltenders, this could be a bad choice.
Note: Chara is a very good defeneman, no doubt, but I don’t see him as captain material.

BUFFALO

Biggest hello: Confidence. Four defensemen out, and they still came within 20 minutes of the finals.
Biggest goodbye: McKee. Blocked 241 shots – if that’s not leading by example, I don’t know what is.
Watch for: Perhaps the best goaltending tandem in the league with Miller and Biron.
Watch out: The “Slugs on Ice!” jerseys.
Note: Biron is going to start this year as the backup, and he’s not liking that at all, but Miller may be the best goalie the United States has ever produced, including Mike Richter.

CAROLINA

Biggest hello: Walker. Provides the grit in the season that Recchi did in the playoffs. Now if only he can last more than 60 games…
Biggest goodbye: Gerber. A much better goaltender than Ward throughout the season.
Watch for: Gleason is a solid pick up, and will cover for the injured Kaberle for the first half of the season.
Watch out: Ward is not a very durable goalie, so Grahame is going to get plenty of ice time.
Note: I gave Cole, Staal and Vasicek one year’s grace before they had to start carrying this team: I was wrong. With the coming out of Williams last year, Vasicek became expendable before he became expensive.

FLORIDA

Biggest hello: Bertuzzi. Amazing talent – when he’s happy.
Biggest goodbye: Luongo. The only sure thing the Panthers have had these long five years.
Watch for: Roberts to discuss retirement at some point in the season, a la Andreychuk from Tampa Bay last year.
Watch out: Belfour is not the easiest person to get along with, especially if he feels threatened by his nominal back up, and Auld is ready to start full time.
Note: Depth has improved, and some youth has been added, but whether it all works or not is a mystery.

LONG ISLAND (New York)

Biggest hello: Witt. A legitimate crease-clearer. He doesn’t get points, but that isn’t what this team needs.
Biggest goodbye: Milbury. Finally, the madness ends – what?
Watch for: An improved goals-against. Sillinger is a very good all around player, and can win a lot of faceoffs.
Watch out: If DiPietro falters at all, the fans are going to let him and his 15 year contract hear about it.
Note: Owner Charles Wang has often bragged about his “management by committee”, but how many members of that committee do you think wanted to fire six week old GM Smith and replaced him with last year’s back up goaltender?

MANHATTAN (New York)

Biggest hello: Shanahan. In theory, 37-year olds aren’t supposed to score their age.
Biggest goodbye: Rucchin. Solid two-way player on a team full of either/or types, excepting Nylander.
Watch for: If Cullen and Shanahan click, then the Rangers get far more dangerous.
Watch out: If Cullen doesn’t develop into the second line centre they hope for, then this ends up a one line team – again. As he only has one season out of eight with more than 20 goals, it’s a question mark.
Note: Not much offence from the D here, except for those rare instances when Ozolinsh is healthy. Staal isn’t anywhere near ready yet.

MONTREAL

Biggest hello: Coach Carbonneau. Think slacking off will impress this guy?
Biggest goodbye: Riberio. Young, flashy, and 50 points in each of the last two seasons.
Watch for: If Latendresse sticks, he’s on a top two line.
Watch out: Koivu has played 70 or more games three times in ten seasons.
Note: So now they have two francophone goaltenders, and neither is from Quebec?

NEW JERSEY

Biggest hello: Cap room.
Biggest goodbye: Malakhov’s contract.
Watch for: Clemmensen to have the easiest job in the sport, as Brodeur plays 75 games.
Watch out: Astounding numbers from Gionta, Gomez and Elias, but who else?
Note: This is a small team, and it showed in the number of penalties they got last year: 948 minutes, lowest in the league. That’s over 600 fewer than top-ranked Pittsburgh.

OTTAWA

Biggest hello: Gerber. Solid in goal, and far less breakable than Hasek.
Biggest goodbye: Chara. Had to choose who to let go, and they chose right, but it would have been nice to keep him.
Watch for: Another 100+ point season. The young talent is developing according to plan.
Watch out: Can they get enough ice time for all their offensive defensemen?
Note: I just want to say, I totally called it for these guys last year.

PHILIDELPHIA

Biggest hello: Sanderson. Depth in scoring never hurts.
Biggest goodbye: Johnsson. Deciding the blue line wasn’t old and slow enough, after much dedication the Flyers are (finally!) down to a single defenseman who can skate.
Watch for: Pitkanen to break the 25 minutes/game mark, then simply break.
Watch out: Nittymaki is a fantastic goalie – who is trying to get through the season with cortisone shots so he can avoid surgery.
Note: Still a strange dichotomy – killer speed and skill up front, and lumbering thugs in back. Doomed to repeat their history (great season, failed playoffs) since they don’t seem to be learning from it.

PITTSBURGH

Biggest hello: Malkin. Malkin Malkin Malkin Malkin. Oh, and Recchi (again).
Biggest goodbye: Hilbert. Not actually a point-a-game player, but will be a top six.
Watch for: Lots of enthusiasm, if not consistency. Gonchar should get off to a better start this year.
Watch out: With Staal, Letang, and Malkin making the team out of this training camp, and as many as seven sophomores getting ice time, this could be the youngest team ever. Expect mistakes.
Note: Despite losing two goaltenders with Vancouver plucking Sabourin off waivers, Thibault and Fluery will be as good as you can expect the abandoned to be.

TAMPA BAY

Biggest hello: Denis. Better than Grahame? Maybe. A lateral move.
Biggest goodbye: Modin. Centres were the top three scorers last year. As talented as they are, SOMEone has to play wing.
Watch for: If Craig can play wing, he’s in full time.
Watch out: Eggs, meet basket: Denis is the only experienced goaltender the team is carrying after sending Burke to Springfield. Expect a call.
Note: The best defence is… They are going to try winning by outscoring the opponent, period.

TORONTO

Biggest hello: Raycroft, if he regains his form. He’s certainly better than last year’s numbers, but by how much?
Biggest goodbye: Coach Quinn. Imagine letting youth play!
Watch for: That youth getting a more prominent role this year.
Watch out: If Raycroft loses confidence, they’re doomed.
Note: Is this going to be the year that the astoundingly consistent Sundin finally breaks down? There’s not a lot Toronto can do without him.

WASHINGTON

Biggest hello: Semin. Finally getting his name on a contract after two years in Russia.
Biggest goodbye: Willsie. Defensively responsible and can chip in 15 – 20 goals.
Watch for: Ovechkin has proven himself captain material this past season.
Watch out: Another tough season ahead for this bunch.
Note: The prospects are still on the way: Hershey, Washington’s farm team, won the Calder Cup last season, and that’s always a good sign. In four or five years, anyways.


So who's getting into the playoffs? Hedging frantically, it is:

In easy: New Jersey; Ottawa; Buffalo; Philadelphia
Into it: Carolina; Atlanta; Montreal; Manhattan
In tough: Boston; Toronto; Tampa Bay
Out: Pittsburgh; Washington; Florida; Long Island

And away we go!

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posted by Thursday at 11:56 pm 5 comments

October 02, 2006

Hockey: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Right! The season is ready to go, and I'm ready to watch it. What's in the West, first:


ANAHEIM

Biggest hello: Pronger. Either he or Niedermayer can be on the ice the entire game.
Biggest goodbye: In ten years, Smid; right now, Lupul. Highest number of shot on a team that has Selanne.
Watch for: Stanislav Chistov. Could be a sleeper pick, he’s back from Russia and joining a startlingly talented team as young as he is.
Watch out: A goalie trade. This isn’t Minnesota, where one goalie was noticeably older than the other, or making much more money. Bryzgalov carried the team through the playoffs, but Giguere is a #1…
Note: Brilliant young forwards, rock solid goaltending, two recent Norris winning defensemen. Wasn’t last year supposed to be a rebuilding season?

CALGARY

Biggest hello: Tanguay. Amonte was supposed to provide extra scoring last year and busted (14 goals). The nine years younger Tanguay will do a better job.
Biggest goodbye: Leopold. Has a good offensive upside, but the current D will get along without him.
Watch for: Anyone trying to cross the blue line. Even the “small” Andrew Ference (5’10”, 195lbs) hits like a truck.
Watch out: The mantra repeats: this team needs finishers. And someone named “L” will centre the first line: that person will have a career year.
Note: A longshot: Goalie Brent Krahn may take McLennan’s spot as Kiprusoff’s backup.

CHICAGO

Biggest hello: Havlat. Not “the Man”, but wants to be.
Biggest goodbye: Bell. Anyone getting 25 goals on last year’s team was in the running for MVP.
Watch for: Khabibulin to cut at least half a goal a game off last year’s numbers.
Watch out: Havlat is a point-a-game player, but how many games will he play? Very fragile.
Note: A good young defense here – now if Aucoin can stay healthy they’ll do okay. Not the playoffs, but okay.

COLORADO

Biggest hello: Last year Turgeon, this year (ulp) Arnason? Off seasons aren’t what they used to be for the Avalanche.
Biggest goodbye: Blake. Not just his offence, but his leadership and bodychecks, too.
Watch for: Wojtek Wolski is going to get every chance he needs to make the club this year. He’ll only need one.
Watch out: Leopold and Liles can man the point fine, but Skrastins and the oft-injured Vaananen are the only players that take the body.
Note: Colorado keeps bleeding talent, and the high finishes are finally taking their toll at the draft. Hejduk’s 50-goal season looks like an aberration, not an expectation.

COLUMBUS

Biggest hello: Carter and/or Modin. One of the few players on the team who has both size and finish, he’ll be in front of the net on power plays.
Biggest goodbye: The Zherdev headache. No more scampering off to Russia every pre-season for the next three years.
Watch for: Brule (again). I know, I said that last year, but if he stays healthy past ten games, he stays in the bigs and makes an impact.
Watch out: Columbus already has a loaded right wing (Vyborny, Zherdev), so who Carter lines up with and how much ice he’ll see is a question.
Note: If everyone can stay healthy, last season’s second half push (26-18-3 after Christmas) will continue into this season.

DALLAS

Biggest hello: Lindros… for about 50 games.
Biggest goodbye: Mitchell. A shut-down man.
Watch for: Management to wonder why the hell they traded for Stefan.
Watch out: Going with a rookie as a back up has to happen some time, but there’s no insurance policy waiting should Turco get injured, and Smith’s AHL record has been good, but not great.
Note: There are seven natural centers on this team, so face-offs should be a strength.

DETROIT

Biggest hello: Markov. Big hitter, looking to replace Chelios when he finally snaps (if ever).
Biggest goodbye: Their 20-year captain.
Watch for: The oft-injured Markov is their youngest defensman besides Kronwall, who missed 50 games in his rookie season.
Watch out: Hasek will have great numbers, right until his groin goes. But more than that, last year’s first round loss to Edmonton showed an aging defense that can be beat by speed.
Note: In 2002, when Lidstrom won the Conn Smythe award, the Canucks took the first two games from Detroit in the first round. It was a demoralized Detroit team coming to Vancouver, losers of their last six playoff games, and a charged Canucks squad smelling blood. Then Yzerman happened: I watched as he became Detroit’s most physical player, leading the team in hits and adding a goal and an assist for their first win, which turned into four straight as the rest of the team took his lead to heart. This with what was essentially a broken leg. In 2002, no Yzerman, no cup: it’s that simple.

EDMONTON

Biggest hello: Lupul. Another fast, young forward – just what the team needed!
Biggest goodbye: Pronger. Good return for him, but the man is a horse. Conn Smythe winner if Edmonton won the cup.
Watch for: Bergeron is the only scoring defenseman the Oilers have, so he’ll get all the ice time he can handle.
Watch out: Pisani is naturally closer to his regular season numbers (18 goals in 80 games) than his playoff ones (14 in 24).
Note: Roloson and Markkanen are going to share regular season duties despite the discrepancy in salaries.

LOS ANGELES

Biggest hello: Welcome back, Rob Blake!
Biggest goodbye: So long Pavol Demitra!
Watch for: It’s not often you hear a goaltender being called an energy player, but that’s what Cloutier is. The team plays batter after he pops someone.
Watch out: Last season was the healthiest they’ve been in four years, and they still lost Bure for the season, Demitra for 24 games, Armstrong for 20, Belanger for 17, Frolov for 13… And the newly acquired Tverdovsky isn’t that durable, either.
Note: The odd Sean Avery drama is bound to happen at some point, but it’s LA, so relax.


MINNESOTA

Biggest hello: Demitra. Point a game guy who used to be reasonably durable. If he is, good deal; if not…
Biggest goodbye: O’Sullivan. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s because he hasn’t played an NHL game yet, and probably won’t this year either. But when he reaches the NHL, you’ll know.
Watch for: A happy Gaborik to continue fighting with a happy Lemaire for more ice time. If they’re arguing, why are they happy? Because he’ll get it.
Watch out: Rolston’s great numbers last year may drop a little if he moves to the second line to spread scoring.
Note: Still a fast team, Lemaire is letting the reins loosen a little. With Johnsson coming over from Philadelphia, he has the Wild’s first offensive defenseman.

NASHVILLE

Biggest hello: Arnott. But which one will show up: the bruising 30-goal, 100-penalty minute attacker or the 20-goal pushover?
Biggest goodbye: Witt. This team is plenty tough, but Witt could also clear the net as well as anyone in the league.
Watch for: Shea Webber should make the team this year, but he’s another offensive defenseman, and they already have two in Timonen and Zidlicky. If he can play a more physical game, that will help a relatively soft defense.
Watch out: Penalties – again. Good penalty kill, but when you’re shorthanded more than 530 times…
Note: The Predators have always had a long term plan, and they’ve stuck with it. With 106 points last year, it’s paying off.

PHOENIX

Biggest hello: Jovonovski, if he plays more than 60 games.
Biggest goodbye: Mara. Yes, Jovonovski puts a fear into opponents, but 15 goals from the blue line isn’t a common sight.
Watch for: Morrison is more likely to back up Joseph than LeNeveu is. To start, anyways.
Watch out: Comrie and Doan are the only real offensive threats, unless somehow Nagy stays healthy and/or Nolan and Roenick can turn back the clock five years.
Note: Joseph means they’re in every game, but he can’t score.

ST. LOUIS

Biggest hello: Oh, so much! Weight regained at centre and lost by Tkachuk (he’s entered training camp in shape this year), a proven veteran goaltender in Legace, Guerin with something to prove, a new owner and an actual #1 draft choice.
Biggest goodbye: Raycroft. The bleeding has officially stopped.
Watch for: As mentioned, this is a team with forwards who are out to prove themselves.
Watch out: Legace had a lousy preseason, so the Blues might start Sanford, but he’s not very durable (think Thibault – very good, but only for so long) and they’re also hot on the 6’4” Bacashihua.
Note: New owner Checketts says he’s committed to long-term winning, so the pressure is off to make the playoffs immediately. Which means they could well make the playoffs.

SAN JOSE

Biggest hello: Bell. The move from Chicago to line up with Cheechoo and Joe Thornton must have him pinching himself.
Biggest goodbye: Scott Thornton. Heart and soul player.
Watch for: I predicted lots of 20-goal men last year, but I was wrong. Instead, a number one line appeared and won the Richard and Ross trophies. Bell is going to be the third man on that line, possibly doubling his points.
Watch out: Bell will take some goals from Cheechoo, and Carle will take some time on the power play point from Marleau.
Note: Nabokov and Grier are the oldest players, at 31 years old.

VANCOUVER

Biggest hello: Luongo. For about three games, then the fans will complain about him.
Biggest goodbye: Depth. Anywhere.
Watch for: Ohlund, Vancouver’s most complete player, is now going to have to carry more of an offensive load.
Watch out: Not only is Jan Bulis not Bertuzzi, he’s not Carter either. Lots of goals left town, and not much is coming.
Note: They’re hoping for offensive surprises, because other wise Luongo is going to shave half a goal per game off of last year’s mark of 2.97 to reach his first playoffs.

So who’s coming out of the West? Four “givens”: San Jose, Anaheim, Detroit, and Nashville. Then there are the “shoulds”: Calgary, Edmonton, Columbus, and Dallas. Then “with a bit of luck”: Minnesota, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Colorado. Then the “others”: Vancouver, Phoenix, and Chicago.



Off to the East next time.

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posted by Thursday at 10:14 pm 0 comments