Archive for May, 2013

May 27, 2013

Shane Churla Hired, Effects to Be Felt a Decade From Now

by Jacob Saltiel

Churla in Action

While it’s hard to know what or how deeply felt the effects of a single scout in an organization may be, no one can say that Shane Churla hasn’t had his brushes with greatness before. One can say emphatically that he’s felt greatness first hand and that it left an impression on him. Here’s footage:

And before anyone protests, Pavel Bure scored 779 points in 702 regular season games, and 70 pts in 64 playoff games. Legend!

What’d He Do?
According to this article from the Dallas Stars’ website, Churla was assigned to work with the USHL (the USA’s answer to the junior Canadian Hockey), the Alberta Junior Hockey League*, and the WCHA, or western US colleges like North Dakota or Minnesota, etc…

Now, Canadiens fans, you can call him yours. What might that mean? Churla’s began his scouting career in 2005. In the ’05 draft, the Stars picked James Neal 33rd, Matt Niskanen 28th, before trading them both away for Alex Goligoski.

In ’06, the Stars drafted Ivan Vishnevsky with their 1st round pick. Vishnevsky sucked, though he was dumped on Atlanta for the solid Kari Lehtonen. Now he plays in Russia for a team whose name is unpronounceable. The other name in that draft of any import to the stars is Richard Bachman, who after maturing in the AHL for a few years, may turn into a decent backup, though he got lit up this year.

The Stars didn’t have a 1st round pick from 2007-2008, but still picked up the brilliant Jamie Benn in the 5th round, and some other players who may yet play a regular shift in the NHL. Colton Sceviour’s (4th round, 112th overall, ’07) been productive in the AHL for the last 2 years, with 105 points in 137 games, while Philip Larsen, a smallish Danish defenceman has threatened to become a full time member of the Stars D’ for the last 2 years.

In ’09, the Stars picked in the 1st round again, taking Scott Glennie, who might suck. Glennie might be a victim of Excellent Linemate Syndrome**, as he played alongside Brayden Schenn. Schenn was picked 3 spots ahead of Glennie and has established himself at the AHL level and shows occasional flashes of becoming a productive NHL’er. Glennie has struggled to score in the AHL for the last two years, so he might be a bust.

After that, the news gets better, with massive Alex Chiasson (2nd round, 38th, ’09) showing signs of productivity following his college career. He’s 6″4, scored 6 times in 7 games in a call up this year, and also put up a respectable 35 points in the first 57 games of his AHL career. Reilly Smith, (3rd round, 69th, ’09) also played for the Stars for the first time this year after scoring 35 points in 45 games at the AHL level. He didn’t score much in his first 37 NHL games with a mere 9 points, but he may have more room to develop.

After that, it gets hard to tell how successful the Stars’ drafting has been, given that the prospects in those post-’09 drafts have had 3 years or less to develop. Jamie Oleksiak, the overgrown 1st round defender they drafted in 2011, has already played for the Stars, and others may be on the way.

That may seem a little thin, but consider also that Brendan Dillon and Jordie Benn were signed as undrafted free agents. Dillon is a Calder contender this year, while Jordie Benn looks like he’ll join his brother as a regular contributor in the major league.

What to Expect?
Of those picks mentioned above, the following played in leagues Churla was scouting: Alex Chiasson (USHL, 2008-2009),  Jamie Oleksiak (USHL, 2008-2010), Richard Bachman (USHL, 2006-2007). Churla’s role wasn’t limited to just those leagues, and it seems like he may have helped with the observation of other western prospects, including the underachieving Glennie and the overachieving Dillon. If it’s the case that Churla was also responsible for players from the BCHL and WHL, then this may be good news for the Canadiens, who haven’t done well in western North America under Trevor Timmins’ tenure. Other than Brendan Gallagher and Ryan White, few players from the west have been drafted by the Habs, and fewer have met expectations (Ryan O’Byrne and David Fischer). As the title indicates, however, it’ll be years before the fans get to see the results of Churla’s powers of observation or not.


* The AJHL is a Junior ‘A’ hockey league, or an alternative to Canadian Major Junior Hockey. Notable picks from this league include: Fernando Pisani, Brent Sutter, Dylan Olsen, Mason Raymond, and Matt Frattin. Hard to think it’s a major pipeline of NHL talent, then. For comparison’s sake, the BCHL (B.C’s equivalent) has produced both Kyle Turris, Jamie Benn, and Travis Zajac in recent years, with Paul Kariya also being an alumni.

**Excellent Linemate Syndrome is when two highly rated draft prospects play on the same line. As scoring totals can be so high in junior, it can occasionally be difficult to determine which of the two prospects is actually of NHL calibre. For an extreme example, Eric Chouinard played with Simon Gagne, and got drafted ahead of him by the Canadiens in 1998. That many probably haven’t heard of Chouinard speaks volumes, moreso that most NHL fans are aware of who Simon Gagne is.

May 10, 2013

Suggestions for 21st Century Broadcasting

by Jacob Saltiel
The announcement that Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole will be leaving TSN for Fox Sports West is a loss for Canada’s Sports Leader and for viewers of sports highlights in Canada. They were goofy. They approached their profession with a healthy dose of self-awareness and detachment. Listening to their recaps of games was like watching hockey with a particularly witty friend in a bar, especially so when they would shout “EVERYONE TAKE A SHOT!” as overtimes progressed to shootouts. Livening up the events of games whose scores are already known is impressive in this era of instant information and omnipresent vigilance by sports fans.

Onrait and O’Toole dealt with the mornings after, the post-party, the afterglow of the main event. While there are exciting play-by-play announcers out there (the excitable Christ Cuthbert comes to mind), the format for live events hasn’t changed much- and no, putting a former player or coach between the benches doesn’t count as a massive change, especially since the restrictions of broadcasting for a family audience prevents the reporting of cusswords, smacktalk, and abominable statements. Which leads nicely into the purpose of this post; several ideas, in no order of importance and with no regard to their practicality for invigorating the broadcasts of sports. Some may argue that sports requires no adornment- the competition is enough- but contemplate these possibilities and ask yourself if you would or could change to another sports feed…

1. An Uncensored HBO-style Channel for Sports
Let’s not pretend that our heroes are all clean-cut, churchgoing types who wouldn’t know the word ‘fuck’ if it happened to them. After all, there’s only one Jonathan Toews. Trashtalk, mindgames, and  frustration are part of sports as anyone who plays or watch knows. There probably isn’t any sociological proof to support this next argument, but it’s highly probable that nothing promotes the use and invention of blasphemy, scatology, and cussing at home like turning on a playoff game with your favourite team. Sure, HBO’s 24/7 series shows us this side of athletes, but only retrospectively. This should be live.

So let’s not just mic up the players to little effect. Who gives a fuck to hear 17 second clips of hockey players saying “let’s go, eh!’ and “I got hit in the arm, yeah, oh yeah, right in the arm”? Let’s find out just how hateful and transgressive our heroes are. There’s quite a bit of hate speech in that link, but these are ultra-competitive athletes- not gender theorists-and the recording of such quotations can only lead to tensions with journalists post-game, which will only lead to more copy about those encounters, and so on. Perhaps a public debate about issues arising from sports cursing and trashtalk could help the public to think critically on such issues. How come only fans standing next to Tiger Woods on the greens are treated to his language while viewers at home were told euphemistically what a competitor he was for all these years?

This will also allow for homer play-by-play and colour commentators to really give it to the home team when they suck. Sometimes a team’s backup goaltender really does play as if he had played right wing in the 2nd period, and the uneducated fans at home have a right to know exactly when, rather than being told that such-and-such player is struggling or fighting the puck. Negativity can dissuade people from sticking with a blow out though.

Which is why it should be paired with raging, hyperbolic optimisim…
2. More Homer Announcers
Some may wince at the headline to this section, but there’s method to this suggestion. Hawk Harrellson and Jack Edwards are obnoxious to viewers from outside of South Side Chicago or Boston, but their fanatical devotion to their team at the expense of their profession can be exploited to a different purpose. For games between hated rivals, let’s pair up the homer announcer of one team with the homer announcer of another. For example, at the next Habs-Bruins game, who turns the television off for a booth team of Jack Edwards on the play-by-play and Murray Wilson on the colour commentary? Or how about Mike “scratch my back with a chainsaw” Lang teaming up with Washington’s colour commentator for the next Caps-Pens showdown?

The tension in commentary could rival that of the tension on the ice. Combined with the 1st suggestion in this post, this could lead to Murray Wilson calling Jack Edwards a flaming sycophant on the air, with Jack Edwards probably responding to Wilson that he’s a jackass and a hack journalist. You’d be right to argue that this might detract from the focus on the game- and that’s exactly the point. Told to keep the bickering of their rival interpretations of what’s happening right in front of them for stoppages of play, this could mean less talk of getting pucks in deep, and more argument about which team is in fact diving more, or sucking harder. This can only make the telecasts more interesting. Besides, Canada’s state-funded channel’s cast of hockey experts includes an old man who hits a single with a Leafs’ player every decade, so let’s just go ahead and stop pretending the talking heads don’t like some teams more than others.

3. Stunt Announcers
With no elaboration necessary, Morgan Freeman needs to do play-by-play for the Penguins.
Will Ferrell is a Lakers fan and has appeared in a movie in which basketball happens. He’s even worked as an usher for evening at the Staples centre. Let’s give him the colour commentary for the Lakers, particularly in a mediocre season such as the one Lakers fans just endured. There are other combinations one can think of, but let’s not get too comfortable with the usual play-calling teams.

4. Abolishing Statistics That Don’t Make Sense
Yes, broadcasting for as many people as possible scares some channels from using complicated measures of performance, but that’s no reason to coddle the kids at home. Using wins and losses to say anything about a goaltender or pitcher is a waste of airtime, so stop wasting airtime when there can be cursing, recriminations, and celebrities freaking out for their teams. Keeping commentary misleadingly simple has the unintended consequence of keeping the viewers actually stupid. Anyone who enjoys talking about sports at the bar, in their living room, or on the street should be spared having to explain why junk stat X doesn’t support false argument Y. No one would be seriously injured if they didn’t have to hear the word clutch again. In relation to sports, what is clutch? Is it a metaphor? Where does it’s meaning come from if not the lemming-like repetition that keeps it alive? Enough!

5. Montages of the After-Party
The CBC already does montages of the playoffs and the actual sporting event, but once the trophies are handed out and final victory has occured, what happens next? Much of it is shaded in rumour and innuendo. In this era of sports media intruding on every aspect of a professional athletes life, how come there’s no access for the Bacchanalian debauchery that must follow glorious victory? Hell, viewers are treated to all kinds of boring minutiae of how rich the players are, or how hard they work out, or how philanthropical they are- why stop there? The CBC can’t detail one camera crew to the Stanley Cup celebration? As a compromise to the players and their agents, networks shouldn’t be able to air an unedited hour-long show, but a 5 minute music video consisting of the party thrown by the owner. Does anyone in our voyeuristic culture consider themselves capable of not watching this?

So, TV Networks, what are you waiting for? By the time you’ve read this, it’s been on the internet for at least 125 seconds. Get to work.

May 8, 2013

A Glossary of NHL Playoff Jargon

by Jacob Saltiel




To help the average fan understand the language used by TV commentators throughout the playoffs, here’s a handy list of terms or phrases and their definitions:

Answer the Bell: In boxing, the beginning of a fight. In hockey, the necessary conclusion to a hockey play. See also hockey play.

Beauty: Missing teeth, violent, bearded. See also Dirty and Winner.

Bulletin Board Material: 2-dimensional diagram of a hockey rink on a WhiteErase board, accompanied by erasable markers and covered in an arcane language consisting of X’s, O’s, arrows, lines, and numbers.

Character: Euphemism to describe teams without talented players that win, teams with talented players lose, but also teams without talented players that lose and teams with talented players that win. As in “This team has a lot of character.”

Clutch: An adjective to describe the individual player who wins without his team, or whose goals count for double, or who is mediocre as a rule with unpredictable and brief flashes of competency.

Dirty: Describes a player who will actually do anything to win. For example, Dale Hunter. See also Winner.

Focus: The ability of an athlete to practice his profession at the appropriate time.

Hockey Play: An illegal play resulting in injury enjoyed by nostalgic TV commentators who wish such plays occurred as often as shots, passes, and skating strides. As in “That’s not suspendable, that’s a hockey play gone wrong.”

In-game Adjustment: Playing a centre with a different winger. Assigning certain players easier minutes against easier opposition, such as the water bottles at the end of the bench.

Injury Update: A tale told by a pundit, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Key Player: Goaltender.

League Review: Marination period before the delivery of a botched decision.

Let’em play: An admission that two referees is worse than one referee, but still not as good as zero referees.

Loss of Composure: Any team playing against a vastly superior opponent.

Mic’ed Up: Over the course of a TV broadcast of a single game, the gradual citation of an entirety of a hockey player’s non-scatological lexicon.

Monster: The imminent recipient of Pierre McGuire’s cellular phone number.

Old-time hockey: The appearance of formerly legal plays in contemporary hockey, such as two handed slashes. Often used by commentators to lament the rules of today’s hockey, which liberally tolerates the forward pass.

Reset Button: Game 1 of next season.

Soft: When applied to a European hockey player, an implication that he does not enjoy being hit. When applied to a North American, the allegation that he is European.

Questionable: When applied to a play, See Dirty. When applied to a call by referee, linesmen, or the NHL’s head office, wrong.

Under the Knife: Stanley Cup Winners aside, the reward for playing with a serious injury.

Veteran: A player who has remained in the league for years without being stained by the brush of hyperbole.

War Room: A room full of men qualified by having watched hockey for years to analyze and decide all plays and calls by officials live. Distinct from a bar due to the sobriety rather than accuracy of the men in the room.

Winner: A player who distinguishes himself from his peers and opposition by actively attempting to win the game. See also, Dirty.

May 6, 2013

Send In the Clowns: Game 3, Habs-Sens Review

by Jacob Saltiel

Over at, there’s the BGS review of Game 3, in which the Canadiens loss of composure and is traced back to their coach’s failure to react to the Senators’ scheming, and how wrath and rage won’t save the Canadiens in this round:

May 3, 2013

Murder, She Wrote: Habs 2 – Sens 4

by Jacob Saltiel

Over at, you can check out the BGS review of last night’s opening game loss and Eller’s injury:

Moving forward, let’s hope Michel Therrien doesn’t turn this into a revenge tragedy…

May 2, 2013

Bon essai, Ottawa: The Senators Radio Anthem is Brutal

by Jacob Saltiel

Unlike the Corel Centre, no cows graze in the wide open plain surrounding the Capitol

[UPDATE, 3:13pm: THE CANADIENS ANTHEM IS EVEN WORSE. Why are these radio stations demeaning their listeners!?]


Today on Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski posted a link to the Ottawa Senators playoff radio anthem.

To belabor the point, it’s putrid.

If this is what gets Senators fans excited to watch some hockey

In a hypothetical universe where the residents of Ottawa don’t cheer for either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens, it’s a cruel joke that some radio announcer would pretend that prospective Senators fans would really get their competitive juices flowing to this.

To borrow a point from Drew Fairservice (@DrewGROF), Macklemore and Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” is a gimmick song not much better than “Who Let the Dogs Out?”. Tricking it out this way only makes it more ridiculous.

To add to Wyshyinski’s comments, those clever radio hosts managed to think up some other disses:

Exhibit A: “hey Carey, the Price is wrong b****!”

Wow! Has anyone ever heard that one before? He made a clever pun on the price- GET IT?!- the price being wrong? I hope they send him a copy of this to hurt his feelings.

Exhibit B: “gonna make them wish they had The Rocket”

Sure, of course all Habs wish they had a modern day Rocket. Sens fans will probably wish they had a healthy Jason Spezza, but they’ll have to do with prolific goal scorer Colin Greening for now. That’s right, the Colin Greening.

Exhibit C: “the Habs are going down, they are a bunch of clowns the Sens will party-up in stripclub town”

Low blow going after Montreal’s strip club appeal! Even if the Senators were playing Columbus in the first round, one assumes that they’d still celebrate their victory in Ohio because… the Senators play in Ottawa. Being from Ottawa, whoever made this song probably did not know that a large enough city can be known for more than one type of entertainment venue. When the Senators win a playoff series in Ottawa, rumour has it that they put on some headsets and listen in on Question Period at the House of Commons. YOLO. God alone knows how they’d spoil themselves if they ever won.

Of course, none of this really matters since there aren’t any actual fans of the Ottawa Senators, so all the Leafs and Habs fans can get together and laugh about this phony attempt to convince the internet that anyone watches Senators hockey. Now, let’s hope Michel Therrien doesn’t attempt to play this tape as motivation for his players. It’d be a shame if someone got a hernia.

May 1, 2013

Today’s Hockey-Literature Crossover: “Nabokov Wins One for the Islanders”

by Jacob Saltiel

Vladimir Nabokov’s Stare

The author of The Secret Life of Vladimir Nabokov, Andrea Pitzer, is aware of that other Nabokov, first name Evgeni. Over at McSweeney’s, you can read Evgeni’s stream of consciousness from the Islanders net in the style of Vladimir. You can also hear her read on the CBC’s As It Happens, here.

For those unaware, Nabokov the author wrote Lolita, published by a French press known for producing erotica, it was the last book to be banned in the United States due to paedophilic content. Nabokov was one of the most notorious, influential and formally daring writers (Pale Fire) of the 20th century. Once told in an interview that his sense of the immorality of relationships between older men and very young women came across quite clearly, Nabokov responded:

“No, it is not my sense of the immorality of the Humbert Humbert [the narrator of Lolita]-Lolita relationship that is strong; it is Humbert’s sense. He cares, I do not. I do not give a damn for public morals, in America or elsewhere. And, anyway, cases of men in their forties marrying girls in their teens or early twenties have no bearing on Lolita whatever. Humbert was fond of “little girls”—not simply “young girls.” Nymphets are girl-children, not starlets and “sex kittens.” Lolita was twelve, not eighteen, when Humbert met her. You may remember that by the time she is fourteen, he refers to her as his ‘aging mistress’.”

from The Paris Review: The Art of Fiction, Number 40.

Nabokov the goaltender has played 646 games in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks and, currently, the New York Islanders. He’s been known to make saves like this. In the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, however, he’ll probably get scored on repeatedly and mercilessly.