Photo: Mark Nolan

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how to improve the game of hockey– bigger nets, smaller goalie gear, smaller goalies, more teams, and so on. But I would ask a different question: What’s so wrong with it right now?

It’s true that it’s getting harder out there for goal scorers. Last season saw the lowest league-leading scoring total since Stan Mikita could only muster up 87 points in 1967-68 (in a 74 game season). The days of Gretzky scoring more than 200 points per season are long gone.

But so are the days when only a few teams in a given year had a real chance to win it all. During the high-scoring days of 1969-1993, eight different teams won the Stanley Cup. In those 25 years, Montreal won it nine times. Edmonton won it five times. In the 20 years since, 11 different teams have won the Cup, and only Detroit has won it more than three times.

The scoring hay-day created some historic moments and essentially shaped the brand of hockey that fans expect from the stars of our game today, but I think many of those championship teams would be hard pressed to be in the top four or five in today’s NHL. The way the game is played today hardly resembles that of the ’80s Oilers, but that’s not to say that today’s NHL is worse. Far from it.

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Photo: Peter Holgersson

Success can be defined in a million different ways. It’s something we all desire, but there is no one way to measure it. To me, it’s all a feeling of satisfaction in what you are doing. Plain and simple. Are you happy doing what you are doing? If yes, welcome to success.

Shortly after Ian asked me to put together a few words on my move overseas, I stumbled upon an article written by former New Jersey Devils forward and long time AHLer Brad Mills. The article is called “The Bubble,” and it really got me thinking about the various directions we all end up taking to get to our final destinations as hockey players. I call it “the other side.”

Although I hate to think about the R-word, retirement is always just an eye injury away. The threat of being forced into the real world is at the tip of an opponent’s errant stick. In the article, Mills talks about his life on the proverbial NHL “bubble” where players take up residence when they are on the cusp of making it to the NHL full- time, or being a career minor leaguer. The term “yo-yo” is often used for players who spend year after year going up, then coming down, then going up, then coming down…get it? It’s often viewed as a negative thing, the bubble, but I happily lived there for the majority of my first 6-7 years as a pro. To me the bubble was a privileged place where somebody in a front office somewhere thought I was good enough to play in the NHL. And better yet, they felt that way frequently enough to call be back again and again and again. Sure, there were some tough days when I got sent down, and as a competitor you always want more, but I truly believed every time that I would go back up to the NHL one day. That made all my send downs a little easier. Looking back on those days now, do my mere 55 games played make my NHL career a failure?

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Photo: Marianne Helm

Hey, everyone! It’s good to be back. As if there isn’t enough exciting hockey to write about in DC, Ian Oland and the RMNB team have hired me to be their Swedish correspondent so I can give a player’s perspective on what’s going on in the wonderful world of hockey.

I want to begin the second tour of my blogging career with a tribute to a guy who, from a young age, inspired me to become a hockey player and to work on my game — despite us not crossing paths until I was 25 years old. That man is Teemu Selanne. He’s the NHL player we all love to love. That in and of itself is a strange phenomenon in any sport. For hockey fans to (almost) unanimously appreciate a player is rare. People love Ovi, but there are people who hate Ovi. People love Carey Price, but there are people who hate Carey Price. In all my years of hockey I don’t think I have ever heard a person on either side of the glass say that they don’t like Teemu Selanne. You either like him or love him. Not a bad way to go through your career.

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I got a text from an unknown number on Tuesday. My phone said it was from Sweden.

“Hey, Ian,” the mysterious message read. “I saw this picture and instantly thought of you!”

Then my iPhone downloaded the photo above, which is amazing.

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Andrew Gordon Bruce Boudreau

Boudreau and Gordon look on from the bench. (Photo credit: Debora Robinson)

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill

You couldn’t write a better script. After 24 games under head coach Randy Carlyle, Andrew Gordon had not scored a goal and the Ducks were among the worst teams in the NHL. Enter Bruce Boudreau. In the second period of Gabby’s coaching debut with the Ducks, Gordo netted his second career NHL goal — his first since December 21, 2010, which he celebrated by kissing Marcus Johansson — knocking in a rebound off of a Ben Maxwell shot past Ilya Bryzgalov. As’s Dave Lozo observed, Gordon is probably the first player in NHL history to get his first career goals on two different teams with the same coach.

If you follow me past the jump, you can check out video of his goal.

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Anaheim Ducks Name Bruce Boudreau New Head Coach

Bruce Boudreau Anaheim Ducks

Well, that didn’t take long. Three days after being fired by the Washington Capitals, Bruce Boudreau has landed in Anaheim to be the new head coach of the Ducks. He replaces Randy Carylye, who helped guide Anaheim to a Stanley Cup in 2007.

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Catching Up With Former Capital Andrew Gordon

Photo credit: Kyle Mace

Andrew Gordon won two Calder Cups with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears in four seasons.  He played nine games with Washington last season, scoring his first career NHL goal on future hall of famer Martin Brodeur, a feat he celebrated by kissing assister Marcus Johansson on the bench. But Andrew left the organization over the summer to hazard the free market. After a promising performance at Anaheim’s training camp, Gordon was added to the team’s roster (and then cheated on us in Finland with another blog).

I caught up with the notoriously well-spoken Andrew Gordon after the Ducks’ painful 5-4 overtime loss to the Capitals on Tuesday. We talked about California weather, competing against his former teammates, and the enduring adoration of Washington’s fans.

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Caps beats Ducks 5-4 (OT), Nick Backstrom is Crazy Good

by Mitchell Layton

Pot roast. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

The Washington Capitals had only one date with the Anaheim Ducks on the calendar this year, so they played it like two totally different teams. The Caps of the first half hour were disorganized and besieged. The Caps of the second half hour were focused and buzzing. A hole was dug by the former and filled in by the latter.

Saku Koivu siezed on bad communication between Wideman and Hamrlik to score the game’s first goal. Teemu Selanne took a pass from Koivu for a lay up goal to make it 2-0. Selanne notched another one in the second period, thanks for some more bad defense and a weak-side pass. Joel Ward got the Caps on board with a close wrister that went five-hole. Dennis Wideman capitalized (puns!) on a scrambling Hiller, slapping home a goal making it 3-2. Corey Perry took a couple swats at a loose puck in the paint to make it 4-2. Troy Brouwer’s shot gave Hiller trouble and kept the game interesting.  With six attackers and less than a minute remaining, Nick Backstrom made the net quiver. Tie game. 4-on-4 overtime, where Backstrom struck again by slapping a bouncing puck into a gaping net. Game over! Caps beat Ducks 5-4 (OT).

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Book Review: Hockey Prospectus 2011-12

Hockey Prospectus 2011-12

Before Moneyball (the book, not the movie), there was Bill James.

For those of you who may not know, James is the grandfather of Sabermetrics (baseball #fancystats) and is currently a senior advisor on baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox.

Part of my personal #fancystats book collection

He began writing The Bill James Baseball Abstract in 1977 which was “the first of its kind to scientifically analyze and study baseball, often through the use of statistical data, in an attempt to determine why teams win and lose.”

Luckily, Hockey Prospectus is there to carry the torch into the Moneypuck era.

Since I got their inaugural copy last year I have been waiting for Hockey Prospectus to make their 2011-12 annual available. Finally, I got to download it last week.

For those not familiar, the book is, for the most part, an in-depth analysis of each NHL team. It certainly has a #fancystats element to it, so those who love stats will enjoy it. But make no mistake: this is for anyone interested increasing their knowledge of hockey, sounding smarter on Twitter or just as a guideline for expectations for the 2011-12 season.

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Alex Ovechkin takes a shot against the Panthers

Just another ho-hum night for Ovechkin: 1 goal, 2 assists. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

In a matchup between the Eastern Conference’s best and worst teams, Bruce Boudreau opted to scratch three of his regulars — Jason Arnott, Scott Hannan and Alexander Semin — in the Capitals final home game of the regular season. After seeing his team play a tough 65 minutes in Toronto, Boudreau saw no compelling reason to field his best roster, especially considering the Capitals had already clinched their fourth straight Southeast division title.

Despite there being some signs pointing to Mike Green returning to the line-up tonight, Boudreau opted to sit the two-time Norris Trophy finalist as well. Boudreau told the Washington Post’s Greg Schimmel after today’s morning skate that, “No [Green won’t play tonight], but you know what, he’s ready to play and, I mean, he’s been symptom-free for three weeks plus. It’s just we’re trying to be as cautious as we can with things, just as other people are with guys that they have as concussions and could probably play, but they want to make 100 percent sure. We feel he’ll be good to go on Saturday.”

The Capitals “B” team, however, didn’t miss a beat. Before the game was a minute old, Marcus Johansson — he of the ever-burgeoning confidence — inside outted Mike Weaver with an extra-crispy move. Helpless and out of position, Weaver took a tripping penalty, sending the Capitals power play immediately onto the ice. Mike Knuble, the beneficiary of a Brooks Laich power move to the net, scored 23 seconds into the man-advantage. Jason Chimera, brilliantly set-up by Nicklas Backstrom, then scored via a tap-in on Washington’s second powerplay of the night to close the opening stanza.

The Capitals would never look back. Sean Collins would score his second career NHL goal on a rarely-seen four-on-two odd man break during the second period, Matt Hendricks would pot a goal in front of the net after some hard forechecking in the corners and Alex Ovechkin would add an empty-net goal, his 32nd of the season. Caps maul Panthers, 5-2.

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