Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Annual Publication

The image you see to the left? That's the annual publication of The Hockey News Yearbook sold on the prairies. I buy it every year as it gets me ready for hockey action, but it's a wealth of knowledge when looking back at the older publications as well. The problem? I wasn't aware that Calgary and Edmonton were the only teams on the Canadian prairies. I'm almost certain there was another team that, if I recall, finished higher than both of those teams in the standings that plays its hockey on the frozen prairie tundra. I'll come back to that, but let's break down the latest edition of The Hockey News Yearbook to find the gems inside its covers.

THN goes out on a limb in selecting a number of rookies who should contend for the Calder Trophy early on in the magazine. Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Seth Jones are on the list, but Sasha Barkov of the Panthers is given a "darkhorse" nomination. While I believe that Florida will struggle this season, Barkov could have a season in much the same fashion as Jonathan Huberdeau did in Sunrise. I was impressed with THN giving Jacob Trouba and Filip Forsberg a nod as possibilities to win the Calder, but how the heck did they slot Mark Scheifele in as a darkhorse? Especially when Valeri Nichushkin is a favorite? Ryan Kennedy, the author of this piece, seems to throwing darts at a dartboard with players' faces on it.

There are some interesting milestones that can be achieved this season. Funnily enough, the Jets' Olli Jokinen is the featured player as he sits one goal from 300, two assists from 400, and three points from 700! Other notable achievements that we'll probably see this season barring injuries would be Marian Hossa hitting 1000 points (65 away), Vincent Lecavalier and Alexander Ovechkin hitting 400 goals (17 and 29 goals away, respectively), Henrik Lundqvist recording his 300th win (24 away) and his 50th shutout (five away). Lecavalier can also hit 500 assists for his career as he sits just nine shy of that mark. While there aren't any record-breaking milestones in that pile of numbers, there are some impressive totals.

I was reading through the numbers resulting from fan polling over the summer, and there are some interesting results that came in to THN. For example, regarding icing in the NHL, 41% of fans feel the NHL should go to no-touch icing while 40% would like to see some sort of hybrid icing introduced. Only one-in-five fans would like to see the NHL keep icing as it is. That says a lot about how the fans see the game.

In another question about rules, THN asked if the punishment for putting the puck over the glass is too harsh. I would have thought many people would have said yes after how we saw those penalties play out in the playoffs last season, but 56% of those polled said no! Interesting numbers, to say the least.

According to the fans, 13% of those polled feel the Boston Bruins will win the Stanley Cup this season. 11% feel the Chicago Blackhawks will repeat as champions, Pittsburgh comes in with 10% of the vote, and Detroit sits fourth at 9%. I'm almost certain that a vast number of people from Toronto got their votes counted because the Maple Leafs finished fifth at 7%, ahead of the Los Angeles Kings at sixth with 5%. Seriously, the Leafs? Yeah, keep dreaming.

A heavy Canadian polling population pushed the numbers high as THN asked who will win gold in Sochi. 45% of respondents felt Canada would win gold, 25% felt the Americans would capture their first gold medal since 1980 in Lake Placid, and 12% see the Russians standing tall while listening to their anthem play as the medals are awarded. Clearly, those three countries are the favorites, but it's hard to imagine the Swedes not getting more than 12% of the vote, no?

I won't go through the entire Top 50 Players section, but I will point out a couple of highlights. The first goaltender doesn't appear until #13. There are three Penguins in the top-25. There are three Blackhawks in the top-15 and five in the top-50. There are eight goalies on the list. And just to ignite the fire in Toronto, Phil Kessel was rated lower than Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Jason Spezza, and Logan Couture. Much lower in a couple cases.

Honestly, once I got to the articles written by people paid by THN, I found myself disappointed. I'm not sure why THN writers want to cater to those who have never watched one minute of hockey, but I felt like I reading a remedial textbook about hockey. Adam Proteau's and Rory Boylen's 14 Questions & Answers for Sochi 2014 was one of the least informative pieces I have ever read. Any question that required an informed opinion for an answer was met with a pile of information, but no honest conclusions. Why waste the pages if you're not going to provide ANSWERS in an Questions & Answers piece?

Ryan Kennedy's piece on John Tavares was pretty interesting simply due to the fact that most people never hear about Tavares during the season. Sure, he makes highlight reels, but since being drafted by the Islanders, how much do we really know about him? While he doesn't get into what makes him tick ona day-to-day basis, there's a good overview of Tavares that should provide a few reasons why he's a lock for the Canadian Olympic team.

On the flip side, though, Kennedy's piece on Phil Kessel was anything but informative. He recapped Kessel's day at an NHLPA charity ping pong tournament before talking about stuff that everyone already knows - he played well in the playoffs, he'll be re-united with Tyler Bozak, he doesn't talk hockey with sister Amanda, and he thinks "Toronto's a great city". This article just seemed like filler.

It felt the same when I read Pat Hockey's article on Alex Galchenyuk, Kennedy's piece on Martin St. Louis, and Adam Proteau's report on Logan Couture. While I get that they are required to write these articles and have probably edited them down from their initial filings, it feels like the Coles Notes on each of these players rather than delving into their stories and what drives them to be successful. It's as if we, the hockey fans, don't know about these players in the way these articles are written. Granted some people may not know that Couture spent time in the minors to develop as a player, but the rest of the stuff in that article is stuff that a fan with some knowledge would already know.

I made mention of the cover up top, but would it really be so hard to maybe break down these publications into divisional covers? Edmonton and Calgary are terrible teams who aren't selling hope. They're desperate for wins. I better see some Jets information on the front of the THN Yearbook next year. My wallet speaks volumes when I stop buying something.

Finally, the reason I buy this magazine is for the team reports. I love how they give reports on the top-10 prospects in each system as well as statistics about each team's previous season including shootout success. THN has always been a vast wealth of information regarding stats and players in leagues, and they compile all of last season's final standings for all the major professional and top-tier leagues as well. It's an effective tool in my hockey knowledge, and I can assure you that it will be used a lot this season.

As for who they chose as the Stanley Cup Champion? Let's just say that Chicago won't be repeating, but the Stanley Cup will remain in the US midwest.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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