Ryan Lambert

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  • Getty ImagesWhen a coach gets fired, all the mean things people say about the job he did in the weeks before he got his walking papers are couched with, “You never want to see a guy get fired, but...”

    Which is strange. There aren't too many other professions for which this kind of thing is said.

    “You never want to see a guy get fired, but that crane operator has shown up to work drunk and on sleeping pills every day for the last two weeks.”

    “You never want to see a guy get fired, but that lawyer keeps taking naps when he's supposed to be cross-examining a witness.”

    “You never want to see a guy get fired, but that janitor has been holding his broom upside down for a month.”

    And in the case of Habs coach Michel Therrien, the thing you now have to say is, “You never want to see a guy fired, but that coach gave Douglas Murray at least 18 and a half minutes in each of the last three games.”

    And that's as scathing an indictment as one could level against an NHL coach, on the level with a janitorial worker who doesn't know the bristly side is the one you're supposed to put on the floor. At some point, you have to just say, “Here's a guy who doesn't deserve to have his job any more.”

    Read More »from What We Learned: Montreal Canadiens are an unmitigated disaster and Michel Therrien is to blame
  • Streaks tell us nothing about a team’s quality (Trending Topics)

    Getty ImagesThe movie version of “Moneyball” was very interesting in that it was built around something that was more or less the opposite of what it should have been.

    The premise of the book (and the principles behind how the Oakland Athletics built baseball teams before anyone else) was that over a long enough period, the things that are most conducive to winning end up resulting in a large number of wins. The premise of the movie is that winning 20 games in a row was cool, and that their eventual loss to the Twins in the playoffs was in some way unfair.

    The reason for this is that, in general, sports fans like to keep things as simple as possible, but ride a roller coaster of emotion throughout the course of the season. Take, for example, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who started out the season as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference with a 10-4 start. At that time, all those who defended their offseason moves were strutting around like Mick Jagger, telling all the nerds who kept looking up from their calculators to say, “Umm, actually,” where they could put their spreadsheets. This was a validation of Leafs Hockey as it is now constituted to the nth degree.

    Then they started losing. A lot. From Game 15 to Game 46, they went 11-16-5, with only four regulation wins in that stretch. This, we were told, was regression that any idiot could have seen coming and boy didn't it just serve all those dumb jocks right for ever believing in this awful team. Those dumb jocks, by the way, had skulked off to the darker corners of the hockey universe because it appeared as though all the dorks with their math were going to end up being right, and so the less said about any of it, the better.

    Then the Leafs started winning again, culminating in a six-game winning streak during which the team won four times in regulation, and twice more in the shootout. Suddenly the mob looking to shove people into lockers were back out in full force, crowing about how the team had righted the ship by finding their compete level, or whatever other mysticism had escaped them from November through the end of the first week of January.

    Read More »from Streaks tell us nothing about a team’s quality (Trending Topics)
  • Getty Images[Author's note: Power rankings in general is that they are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    7. Blaming the defense

    Any time you criticize the goaltending ability of bad goaltenders, prepare to hear about how terrible the team in front of them plays every time they're between the pipes.
    This has long been the case with Ondrej Pavelec, and while it's true that the Jets defense isn't as good as it probably should be going by the on-paper lineup, it's also true that Pavelec is the worst starting goaltender in the NHL by a fairly wide margin. All that talk about “free pizzas” or whatever that Claude Noel used to throw around seems to have had a major impact on fanbase and reporters alike, because no matter how close to .900 (or below) Pavelec's save percentage gets, it's always someone else's fault.

    The same is true, now, for Steve Mason in Philadelphia.

    Publish an article full of facts about how awful he's been apart from a pair of two-month periods five years apart over the course of his career, and all you'll get back is excuse-making. If this guy's name was Stefan Masonov, he'd be getting destroyed for giving up this many goals of late, but hey it's all the defense's fault this time around. What about when his save percentage was through the roof to start the year? No talk about how great the defense was, hey? Nah, that was all Mason, and he'd be doing so great now if only the defense which has always been bad had stayed at the same level of badness to which he had grown accustomed. He could outperform his career save percentage by at least 25 or 30 points behind a passably bad defense, yes sir.

    The world was given 205 games of evidence between Mason's .936 efforts to start his tenures in both Columbus and Philadelphia, and during that time his save percentage was .899. This is, somehow, not the true indicator of his talents. I'll never get how fans can choose to be this blind. It's okay to criticize your own team for giving out bad contracts. I promise.

    6. Dion Phaneuf's hat

    Did you hear what Dion did? He made Dave Feschuk cry when he wouldn't say how much Red Bull pays him, so Feschuk told on him. What a bad boy Dion is! Don't let him be the captain!

    Read More »from Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Tortorella, CSI Ottawa, Oilers owner and awesome college goal
  • What We Learned: It’s like the Flyers actively seek out bad goaltending

    Getty ImagesWith the passage of time comes wisdom, or at least it should.

    The rumors that the Philadelphia Flyers would extend goaltender Steve Mason for a number of years have been swirling for a while now, culminating in Saturday's announcement of a three-year deal that would carry a cap hit of $4.1 million per. These rumors were all but confirmed long ago by Flyers owner Ed Snider, who couldn't stop using superlatives when talking about Mason's play. In addition, he was asked if he thought the organization had any hesitance about a big-money deal for a goaltender following the Ilya Bryzgalov disaster.

    "No," he said facetiously. "We never learn from our mistakes."

    Snider only thought he was joking.

    The interview in which he said that took place on Dec. 10, at which time Mason had played 29 games for the Flyers over last season and this one. In those 29 games, he had a save percentage of .931, despite having conceded 11 goals in his previous three games. This was a goaltender compared in the Philadelphia press as soon as seven games into his tenure as a Flyer to Bernie Parent, which is a ludicrous and almost blasphemous thing to do. You couldn't, though, argue that .931 wasn't the best Flyers save percentage in a long, long time.

    Of course, what that ignored — or painted over several times, at the very least — is that Mason had been an horrifically bad goaltender for pretty much his entire career, save for the first 27 games of his rookie season. Of the 33 goaltenders with at least 150 games played between 2008-09 and the end of last season, Mason's save percentage is 31st at .905, ahead of only Marty Turco (by that point a greybeard playing out the string) and Mathieu Garon (a career backup who is terrible).

    While it's one thing to think a change of scenery might do any player a little bit of good, since it's happened before, it's another to simply ignore the history screaming out that this kind of success wouldn't last. Especially in a place like Philadelphia, who goalies go to have their careers euthanized and ground up into sausage to be laughed over league-wide.

    That thing Snider laughed over, about never learning from mistakes, is the equivalent of having your car stolen 12 times because you park it in a bad neighborhood, with the doors open, the keys in the ignition, and a sign that says “Please steal me” in the window. Oops, it happened again!

    Read More »from What We Learned: It’s like the Flyers actively seek out bad goaltending
  • How NHL trade became a referendum on intangibles (Trending Topics)

    Getty ImagesThe 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks will swear on a stack of bibles that the reason they won the Stanley Cup is that the team acquired Brad May at the end of February. The evidence in support of their claims is that the team went from a winning percentage of .756 in their first 41 games from October to January (28-7-6), then dropped to .586 in January and February (15-10-4). Following the trade, the team romped to the playoffs winning .735 of the points they had available to them (11-3-3).

    Did correlation, in this case, equal causation? There's probably always going to be that argument about whether “intangibles” exist in sports, and how much they mean.

    So the question becomes does winning and losing affect intangibles like chemistry, or does it work the other way around? This is, of course, an impossible question to answer. Do those “heart and soul” guys engender winning more so than, say, the elitest of elite athletes in their sport in the world? That's a bit easier to answer: “Probably not.”

    Read More »from How NHL trade became a referendum on intangibles (Trending Topics)
  • Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Mild concussions and Maple Leafs headaches

    Getty Images[Author's note: Power rankings in general are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    6. Ahem, “mild” concussions

    Dougie Hamilton has one, according to Claude Julien, and given the things we know now about the ways in which brain injuries work, maybe it's time to stop downplaying things.

    Here's a fun fact: This isn't salsa and there's no such thing as mild.

    Every concussion is a big deal. Even if this particular one hasn't kept Hamilton home in a dark room with his eyes closed, the next one might, or maybe the one after that. Medical professionals, who have a little bit more training in the area than an NHL coach, currently have no system in place for grading the severity of a concussion, which can manifest itself symptomatically in all kinds of different ways. Because no one can pinpoint the exact play on which Hamilton was concussed, and because he's not actively throwing up every time he tries to walk, it seems as if this is no big deal.

    Now, of course, one assumes that the team's medical personnel are the ones who briefed Julien on Hamilton's status and they would know better than him what does and does not constitute a more serious concussion.

    Calling it “mild” sets perhaps unreasonable expectations for recovery time, that could be days or weeks. We all know how much Boston fans want to see guys get over concussions nice and quickly; they were bitching about Max Pacioretty and Brooks Orpik for weeks.

    NHL, via LA Times5. Distraction

    The NHL is now full-on promoting the Los Angeles Stadium Series game, with the memories of how awful the Winter Classic was now safely buried under a foot of Ann Arbor snow because of how nice it looked in a picture-postcard kind of way.

    More of the same is apparently slated for Dodger Stadium, as there will be the following things on the field to distract you from how bad and awful hockey played outside in 70-degree weather is: A beach volleyball pit, a pool, a street hockey rink, a big spinny thing that shoots off fireworks or something.

    “Whatever you do,” they all scream in unison, “do not look at the two inches of water in which Ryan Getzlaf is currently trying to skate.”

    The good news is that the game will move very quickly indeed, as the standing water will successfully slow any clearing attempts to a stop well before they reach the goal line. Very appropriate. If there's barely going to be ice, there might as well not be icing either.

    Read More »from Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Mild concussions and Maple Leafs headaches
  • What We Learned: Brian Burke’s catastrophes across Canada

    Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

    Perhaps the only good thing the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing for anyone besides the advanced stats community these days is providing a distraction for their old boss.

    Brian Burke may be gone, but the cronyism he put into place at Air Canada Center is the reason the Leafs are awful. For all the good he did in rebuilding that roster — and let's be fair, there's a lot of it, from trading for Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner and the drafting of Nazem Kadri, among other things — he is also the reason Randy Carlyle is behind the bench, and Dave Nonis is in the front office, and there's so many awful players on the roster.

    The Leafs are cratering in a way that is very fun and exciting for everyone who is not a Leafs fan and this is directly due to their insistence on being “hard to play against,” and all that kind of thing.

    The number of guys on their roster who get less than 10 minutes a night but have played 20 or more games is at three (Carter Ashton, Frazer McLaren, and Colton Orr at 20, 21, and 34, respectively), indicating that Carlyle has little to no faith in their ability to be good contributors to the team itself, but nonetheless slots them into the lineup regularly. It seems a curious way to run a hockey team, and no one on earth who's looking at things rationally can at this point defend the way in which Carlyle composes his roster or runs his bench. He plays favorites and allows some guys — typically those who are bad but tough — free reign to do more or less anything they want while skill guys make one inconsequential turnover and get benched. This is all well-known stuff at this point. It doesn't need a lot of rehashing, and is further self-evident every time the Leafs take the ice and get creamed; they have two regulation wins since Nov. 20 for a reason.

    But while the rest of Canada watches helpless as the Leafs burn to the ground after their summer of inexplicably expensive signings, the team Brian Burke runs now is playing some historically futile hockey.

    The Calgary Flames may not be the worst team in the league this season, but they're certainly trending that way, and Burke is being given the opportunity to craft the team in whatever image he likes. One suspects it will resemble the Maple Leafs before too long.

    The Flames scored a goal against the Penguins in a 2-1 loss on Saturday, which is only notable because of how often they had been not-scoring in the previous several games. In the seven contests leading up to that (predictable) loss, Calgary had scored but five goals, four of which came in one win over the Colorado Avalanche. Put another way:

    Read More »from What We Learned: Brian Burke’s catastrophes across Canada
  • A list of things actually wrong with the Winnipeg Jets (Trending Topics)

    Getty ImagesThe Winnipeg Jets are unequivocally awful. They were awful last year when they couldn't make the playoffs out of the Southeast Division playing exclusively against Eastern Conference teams, and predictably, upon having moved to the West, they are even more awful than they were before. Last year they finished with 53 points in 48 games. As of right now, they're 10 back of that mark in just two fewer games.

    This is easily explained: The Southeast is the worst division in North American sports history, and Conference III, despite the number of mediocre-or-worse teams in its ranks, is a tough out for just about any team if only because of the quality of the Blackhawks and Blues. If the Jets were ill-equipped to deal with the Hurricanes and Panthers of the world, and made few substantial personnel changes in any part of the organization over the summer, then their current 8-14-4 record against the Western Conference, including 5-11-3 in their own division, is something to which you could have set your watch on Oct. 1.

    Of course, there's not a human alive who could have looked themselves in the face coming into this season and expected anything that even resembled success; that the Jets were 24th in the league entering last night's games seems just about right. You might have even been able to make a reasonable argument that they could have been worse than that.

    But all the problems experienced this season — and there have been many — have nonetheless spawned a lot of speculation as to the reasons why they exist, particularly in the last few weeks, as the Jets have gone 3-6-0 in their last nine even as they swing through the East and should, in theory, be in a better position to pick up points.

    These reasons have ultimately boiled down to the same kind of thing that partisan observers always blame when they don't care to actually see the real and obvious answers right in front of them: Nebulous nonsense. The Winnipeg Free Press has argued in the last few weeks that the team is now just being defeatist, they're leaving Ondrej Pavelec overly exposed, the team's “leaders” are as much a reason for this as the coach, and Dustin Byfuglien turns the puck over too often. The Winnipeg Sun, meanwhile, posits that the core stinks, they're not doing “the little things,” and they need to play with a more “blue collar” organizational philosophy, like the Bruins.

    Refutations of the above points, respectively, should include: “that doesn't matter;” “that also doesn't matter;” “that's not true;” “the positives in Byfuglien's game significantly outweigh the negatives, and I'm sorry about saying 'outweigh' and 'Byfuglien' in the same sentence;” “that also isn't true;” “they're not even doing the big things;” and “the Bruins aren't a blue collar team.

    (Actually, that Bruins thing is just mind boggling. They don't have any superstars? Do “the best two-way center alive,” “the best defenseman of his generation,” and “the best goalie in the league” not count?)

    And so now, let's take a look at the ways in which the Jets are actually making big old laughingstocks of themselves on the ice.

    1) Their goaltending is among the worst in the league.

    This is well-trodden territory, obviously, but Ondrej Pavelec is the one of worst starting goalies in the NHL. Among those with 30-plus appearances, his .901 is second only to Devan Dubnyk's .895 in terms of sheer hopelessness.

    That they've limited his appearances significantly this season (34 in 46 games, compared with 44 in 48 last season) is wise, because he only continues to get worse; after posting back-to-back subpar seasons of .906 and .905 in 2011-12 and 2013, respectively, he's down below that this year, which is amazing.

    The league average save percentage is .913, meaning that Pavelec is 12 points behind where he'd need to be to even be the definition of middle-of-the-road. He's allowed an even 100 goals on 1,011 shots, and a goalie with a league-average save percentage would have stopped an extra 12 of those shots. Given the old standard in “advanced” stats that every six goals' worth of goal differential is worth two points (one win), then we can safely assume that Pavelec has cost the Jets two full wins, or four points in the standings.

    With that having been said, the difference between 43 and a theoretical 47 points is obviously not that significant in the grand scheme of things, but 12 additional goals is a big swing. Especially considering the team's goal differential right now is minus-14.

    It's worth noting, too, that the Jets are 11th in team offense, but 27th in defense, more or less for this reason.

    The thing is, though, that the argument you hear from the many inexplicably remaining Pavelec defenders is that the team plays worse in front of him than they do Al Montoya, and that's why the save percentage is as bad as it is. Which brings us to...

    2) They're not improving their possession numbers.

    The results in the standings over the last three seasons, all of them spent in Winnipeg, have

    Read More »from A list of things actually wrong with the Winnipeg Jets (Trending Topics)
  • Getty Images[Author's note: Every sports website on earth dedicated to covering just one league publishes a weekly power ranking, and we here at Puck Daddy have finally decided to do the same. But we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    7. Washington's Goaltending

    And now a list of goaltenders who have allowed five goals on 11 shots since the NHL began keeping SOG data four decades ago:

    Braden Holtby.

    That's it.

    Saturday's performance against the Wild was, in point of fact, inarguably the worst NHL goaltending performance in 40 years. It's not often that you see any goalie post a .545 save percentage in any amount of time, and as far as we can tell it has literally never happened in a full 60-minute game. That this game against the Wild, whose scoring woes these last every-year-they've-existed have been exceedingly well publicized.

    But perhaps that's what happens when you go against pure snipers like Ryan Suter, who had a hat trick in the game.

    Fortunately, though, the Caps are all set in the goaltending department even despite the recent failings of Holtby, whose GAA and save percentage are growing farther apart at a speed rivaling that of the universe's expansion. They, after all, have Michal Neuvirth to lean on.

    What's that? Neuvirth wants a trade? Yeah, that makes sense.

    There is, after all, Philipp Grubauer. He's 22 and has appeared in 11 games this season -- nearly all against garbage teams -- and has a .932 save percentage. It's not like Washington has ever had a young goalie start really hot and then flame out or anything. You can just take my word for it on that and not look at Holtby or Neuvirth's stats from when they were rookies.

    6. Misplaced Anger

    The thing that people don't seem to get about the Brian Burke thing is that neither he nor anyone else owes Bobby Ryan an apology for the quotes that "got out" (i.e. "were said in front of a reporter on the record") about how he isn't intense enough.

    The player evaluation process is a no-fun one and if you heard the things that are said about just about anyone's job performance -- like, say, yours -- behind closed doors, you'd probably be a little bit appalled. If not embarrassed. If not upset. That's how it goes.

    The problem wasn't what was said about Ryan, or even that it was said at all. It was the illogic behind it; the favoring of virtues which have a nebulous or non-existent or even negative effect on winning over the one thing to which hockey boils down, which is to say "scoring goals." The US does not deserve to win gold because of this selection process because it was idiotic, and if it does so anyway, it does little to validate the process or roster that resulted from it.

    This is a knockout tournament and strange things happen. Finland just won gold at World Juniors despite entering the tournament at something like 25 to 1 long shots. Hockey's weird to begin with, so a team with as many legitimate NHL talents as the US is probably going to do well even with a few snubs.

    But when you're counting on the GMs of the Flames, Predators, and Flyers -- who seem to have spent most of their time during the process making fun of the heavily-researched recommendations of the GM of the Kings, a recent Cup winner among the best teams in hockey -- to get things right, you're really hoping they don't screw it up too horribly.

    No, I won't stop screaming and crying about this.

    Read More »from Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Washington’s goalies, outdoor games and Olympic snubs
  • What We Learned: Why the U.S., Canada failed at World Juniors

    Getty ImagesThe 2014 World Junior Championship wrapped up yesterday with dark horse long shot underdog Finland winning the whole thing in overtime against heavily favored host and archrivals Sweden, which was a hell of a thing.

    The thing about that result, though, was that it came just hours after the truly surprising result out of the tournament: Neither the U.S. or Canada won a medal for the first time since 1998.

    In fact, it was the second time in six tournaments the U.S. won nothing, and the second in a row for Canada, supposedly the world's greatest hockey power, which now hasn't won gold in five tournaments after doing it every year from 2005-09.

    And so now those of us in North America who pay attention to this kind of thing are left to sort through the ashes and try to figure out where it all went wrong. What did these two countries, and bronze-winning Russia, do differently than the hard-luck losers who should have run this tournament on paper like a sword through an enemy's hot guts?

    You can say it comes down to player development or letting these horrible foreigners come to this side of the Atlantic to ply their trade and steal all our really good ideas that have worked so well before, but that doesn't look like it's the case any more.

    The issue for these more successful “emerging”

    Read More »from What We Learned: Why the U.S., Canada failed at World Juniors

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