Saturday, September 12, 2009

So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish

After ten months and ~125 posts, the outsider is going on hiatus. The Falconer has asked me to join the team he's assembled over at Birdwatchers Anonymous, and posting will continue there. Expect such outsider mainstays as "Open Letters", "LoLThrash", and the newly-minted "Four Reasons" format. And hopefully some things that you may actually want to read. Also joining are the fantabulous Timmyf and the equally stupendous EvilMilkShake. Won't you join us?

Wait. I guess that would make us the BWA-Team, and Falconer would be Hannibal.

Do I want to be Face or BA Baracus? BA drove the van... and was Mr. T.... But Face was Face... AND Lt. Starbuck. Wow.

Wrap your head around that one...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Quick Favor...

Anybody have an extra ticket for Monday night's prospect game in Duluth against Nashville? If so, give me a shout, and I can find it a home. Spread the joys of preseason hockey.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Four Reasons for Concern In Blueland

Yesterday, the outsider gave you Four Reasons The Thrashers Will Do Better This Year. Today, the other side of the coin: Four Reasons for Concern in Blueland. If you're a Thrasher fan, none of these are particularly startling revelations. In fact, some of these have become mantras of sorts for the Blueland faithful.

Four Reasons for Concern In Blueland

We've been down this road before, folks. Remember last year? Jason Williams was supposed to be a talented scorer that was going to center Ilya Kovalchuk to a third round playoff run. Mathieu Schneider was supposed to be not just a mentor to Zach Bogosian, but a quarterback to lead our power play out of sub-mediocrity. Erik Christensen was supposed to anchor our secondary scoring with his little dipsy-do abilities. How many of those guys even came close to fulfilling those expectations (other than Schneider's mentoring of Bogo)?

The Ilya Kovalchuk Three Ring Circus and Big Top. Every arena (but Atlanta's) will have a media mob, frothing at the mouth to disrupt the Thrashers dressing room in any way they can with trade speculation, contract questions, and general stupidity. I don't know if you've noticed, but the rest of the NHL has decided that Atlanta doesn't deserve Ilya Kovalchuk, and would love to see him in any other sweater as soon as fricken possible. If our boys can manage to tune out all of the rampant idiocy, they'll be ok; but, man, those dancing elephants in Montreal can be very distracting...

33 Shots Per Game. That's how many shots against the Thrashers averaged in the 08-09 campaign. -4.6 shots per game. That's the shot differential (per game) for last year's Thrashers (League average? Zero, strangely enough). Of course, these numbers aren't such a worry if you have a solid cut-and-dry number one goalie behind you to... oh wait...

Weasels, Ponies, and Moose, Oh My. The Thrashers goalie carousel continued it's roundabouts last year as Kari Lehtonen was felled by injuries, what, three times? Neither Ondrej Pavelec nor Johan Hedberg could provide consistent relief. Remember that dark night in December when the Bruins lit 'em up for 4 goals in about the first period? Something has to change if the Thrashers are to have any hope of a playoff run. If Atlanta fails in net again this year, it won't be for lack of trying. Check out the list of names invited to camp: Hedberg, Lehtonen, Drew Macintyre, Peter Mannino, Pavelec, and now Manny Legace. Let me say it again: Manny Legace. Some how, some way, one of those FIVE gentlemen must have enough goalkeeping ability to keep the Thrashers in any given game. Right?


Enough pessimism for today. If you'd like to check out some other stuff I've contributed lately, check out these links:

Puck Daddy

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Four Reasons the Thrashers Will Do Better This Year

This being the first preseason for the blueland outsider, I wanted to do some kind of season preview. So, in little bite size chunks, I give you four reasons why I think the Thrashers will be much improved this year. As a bonus, I've included my suggested lines for the upcoming season. So... don't sweat it Coach Johnny, I took care of it for ya, and I won't tell anyone. My man. Tomorrow, we'll have Four Reasons for Concern. I know, limiting it to four is going to be tough, but I'm up to the challenge.

Four Reasons the Thrashers Will Do Better This Year

Addition By Addition. The Thrashers actually went out and picked up not one, but two “name” players this summer. Nik Antropov is a big man not afraid of going into the kitchen to get himself a snack. Whomever he's lined up with (and my preferred lines are at the end of this post) will benefit from this fact. Imagine this, if you will: A Bogo-Kovy-Little-Pevs-Antro power play unit. Or, Kovalchuk on the left, Peverley on the right, and Antropov and his big ole butt planted directly in front of Varlamov or Fleury or anybody, with Antro burying a rebound from his comrade's howitzer of a slap shot. Kubina is a top-four d-man, to be sure, but even the fact that his outlet passes are better than Garnet Exelby's, plants this deal in the upgrade column. Kubina also brings an offensive sensibility that Exelby just didn't have, and solidifies (as well as legitimizes) the Thrashers top four defensemen.

Addition By Subtraction. Jason Williams. Erik Christensen. Eric Perrin. Nic Havelid. All non-believers, all gone. Williams moved on to Columbus, had some on-ice success, but is now with his 4th club in 3 years. Christensen... well, I don't wanna pile on. Eric Perrin was extremely unhappy last year. The only anti-Havelid statement I'll make is this: fantastic player, not the right kind of player for HC Johnny A's system. You could see he wasn't the player he had been – pretty easy to cover up in a conservative system, not so much when you're mongoosing your opponent to death. In a big-picture sense, the article from yesterday seems to confirm what I thought: not everyone was buying the kind of burgers John Anderson was selling. Once again, not to pick on X too much (love ya, baby), Kubina is an upgrade at an historically weak spot for the Thrashers.

Let the Kids Play. A full season of Bogo and Tobes has me very excited. Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that this will become the Thrashers top d-pairing by the end of this year. After a rough start to their partnership last year, they began to coalesce into a pretty tough pair. Having seen a full year of what Brian Little can do, I can easily picture him being a point-per-game player. Tim Stapleton is a big unknown, but just might have the type of game that could earn him some ice time in a complimentary system and a Thrasher lineup that has some space. Anssi Salmella. Nathan Oystrick. Boris Valabik. They're all too young to know they're not supposed to win.

The Last 26 Games. February 15, 2009 thru April 11, 2009. 16-9-1. The leadership of Ilya Kovalchuk. 8 short-handed goals. A 9-4 home record. The comeback shootout victory over the Rangers. Kari's 50 saves against Washington. A whole bunch of very quiet Sabre fans shuffling out of Phillips. No one wants to see the Thrashers succeed more than I do, and even my homerism can't conceal the fact that Atlanta played some incredibly solid hockey last year. If they play this whole year as they played the last third of last year, we WILL see extra hockey in Atlanta this April.

The Offical blueland outsider Line Combos!
(note: I didn't forget Evander Kane. My personal feeling is that he might need just one more year in juniors to bulk up before he can be effective in Atlanta. Sure, he might be able to make the team out of camp, but I just don't see him on the top two lines, and I think it would be a disservice to him to play on the third or fourth lines. I may change my mind between now and opening night, but... I doubt it.)

Kovalchuk – Peverley – Antropov
Swap the Dispenser & Antro as needed.

Kozlov – White – Little
The Kahlua line won't be as strong this year, but will still have some kick.

Stewart/Crabb/Sterling – Reasoner – Armstrong
Imma call this The Business Line. As in, it's Business Time, call the Business Line. And this Business Line brings the Party.

Thorburn – Slater – Boulton
The Return of the Greek Gods.

Hainsey – Kubina
Bogosian – Enstrom

Please allow me to leave you with this nugget of wisdom for you to marinate on:

Being a Thrasher fan – it's kind of like being punk rock in a hick town.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fandom Redefined.

Jumping right back into the fray, as it were.

The other day, a link from Greg Wyshynski’s Twitter feed caught my eye:

New Puck Daddy: The revenge of the best, worst NHL fan base rankings
10:07 AM Aug 26th
from twitterfeed

So I click, and I find some obviously suspect research. If you’re here, you’ve read enough about it already, and I’ll spare you the warming-over (btw, if you haven’t seen the response by Jibblescribbits, you owe it to yourself to take a gander. How that much awesome came forth that quickly, I’ll never know. That’s probably why he’s Jibblescribbits, and I’m the Blueland Outsider. So… there you go.). I will also avoid linking directly to the story. This dude has gotten flamed more than a Whopper since the PD article, and I don’t really want to see that happen to anybody.

Anyway, I wondered what would make a fanbase good? Obviously, home attendance has a lot to do with it. Even here in Atlanta, those games against the Wings and Pens and Rags and other big-draw teams that pull the transplants out of the woodwork like so many pillbugs and grubs from a rotting stump don’t do much to bump our otherwise dismal attendance at Phillips. So there you have criteria one: average attendance against arena max capacity.

Criteria two is a little trickier. Yes, internet fandom is an ingrained fact of life at this point in time, and must be taken VERY seriously. If someone feels strongly enough about something to start a blog and regularly update it (even if the resulting posts may never be The Brothers Karamazov), they must be a passionate fan, right? But what to do about message boards? In my conversing with the guy that spawned this whole controversy, he made the point that message boards wouldn’t be the most accurate way to determine fan activity due to the creation of multiple accounts, other fans cross-posting, etc. Okay, so message boards are out, but to rely on a Google search in the middle of August to determine NHL fan activity? Little bit of a copout, my friend.

So here’s what I did. I hit SBnation – a very well-known, reputable & reliable source of hockey fandom – and I copied the blogroll from each teams’ page. The reasoning here is, if you have a respectable blog, a bigger blog would naturally link to it. I then removed the following:

  • Any blog from a news outlet, mainstream (sorry, Rawhide) or marginal (i.e. Creative Loafing, or other regional equivalent).

  • Any “official” team blogs (sorry, Ben).

  • Any blogs that haven’t been updated this summer (last post = June 1 or later).

  • Any blogs that covered more than one sport.

  • Any links that were solely message boards (see above justification).

  • Any blogs that were just drawings of Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin (I’d like to think we have some semblance of taste here at the Outsider.).

I took the total number of blogs for each team, multiplied that by four (just to make the numbers look pretty), averaged it with the attendance number I mentioned above, and voila, little better fan rankings. I did manage to avoid commentary on every team, realizing that it may make sound... well... like a pompous homer. If you want that, all you have to do is look at just about any other post I've made.

I make no claims to this being a perfect system, only a refinement to what’s been thrown out there, so without further ado…

These are the total scores. Some surprises:

- Players may not want to go to Edmonton, but the fans show up, have a good time, and then post marginally coherent stories on the internet the next day. Good times.

- Toronto fans show up, but most likely live less than fifty miles from the arena, so they can share their Leaf-related exploits face-to-face. Thusly, not as many Leaf blogs readily available.

- Montreal fans are too busy trying to catch their players in compromising positions and lighting things on fire to bother with blogging.

- Ottawa's average attendance dropped .7% from last year - upon hearing this, Danny Heatley expressed a desire to play in a "real hockey town." Just not Edmonton.

- Columbus fans can't show up OR blog... and I even counted Portzline, cause he doesn't really blog about hockey - just some sport he makes up in his head that happens to resemble hockey.

- Atlanta? Well, when it comes to online presence, we're pretty respectable. Up in the top third, according to my research. Attendance? Well, we're working on that.

- Florida swears their blogs will show up soon - right after their kids come down and program that fricken' VCR.

- The Islanders fans are probably pretty jazzed to be near the top of something that doesn't say "Draft Order".

Just for giggles, here are the separate listings for web presence and attendance percentage:

So that's the story, folks. More research than you'll find elsewhere, less than you need for an actual scientific study. Join us next week as we try to decipher the ages-old mystery of the Wings fan: Is obnoxiousness directly proportionate to their distance from Detroit?