Zolltan Playoff Prediction Special 2014

Ah, the playoffs, and the Canucks are … wait, it’s actually great they’re not there, because (a) they had no chance if they’d made it, anyway. Who would enjoy watching them get slaughtered (I mean, everyone who’s not a Canucks fan is the answer, but still)? (b) I can bandwagon with abandon. I got on the Seahawks fan bandwagon this season, and it was so fun – all the joy of sports fandom, none of the misery! – that I am now firmly on the bandwagoning bandwagon. With the Canucks gone from the playoffs, I finally don’t have to cheer for some team that’s gonna lose!

(1) Boston / (8) Detroit I’m stoked the Red Wings managed to keep their playoff streak alive. I don’t know how they did it without any defencemen to begin with and with nearly their entire team that they did have injured. Oh wait, I do: they just had to do better than the Maple Leafs! Now the task gets harder. Boston is following the”Boston model” of having the NHL’s most consistently good goaltender, along with Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, who may be older, but is still awesome at hockey, and about 30 years away from not being 6’9″ anymore. Against that the Red Wings have… the awesomeness of Gus Nyqvist! Oh how I wish that were enough – it actually seems to have been when they met in the regular season as Detroit has the edge. But in a series, it’s not enough. Not enough at all. Bruins in 6.

(2) Pittsburgh / (7) Columbus Here’s a little factoid for you: the teams met 5 times in the regular season, with Pittsburgh winning all five of those times. Here’s another factoid: I applied for a job in Ohio this week, and had a phrase in my cover letter that could be interpreted as enthusiasm for living in Ohio. That enthusiasm was a lie. Ohio sucks. Their flag sucks. This band I saw once which seemed to be proud of being from Ohio sucked. Skyline chili is worse than being hit by a car. The Columbus Bluejackets are built on a premise of Ohio pride, and that premise can only end in ignominous failure. What, you were expecting trenchant analysis? OK: Pittsburgh is not that good, actually, as their bottom 6 is a mess, and their defensive corps is far from impressive, and Marc Andre Fleury is average at best. Look for them to look shaky, and to collapse in the next round. But for now, Pens in 4.

Flortheast Grudgematch: Tampa Bay / Montreal Somehow Montreal, despite not being that great, is now getting the “why the hell is this team here at all?” team as a matchup for the second year in a row. They will fuck it up just as badly. For starters, the Bolts, with Stamkos returning and Ben Bishop having a good season are better than the Mika Zibanejad-or-whoever led Senators were. For second, for all the good players Montreal has, Michel Therrien’s coaching style is to almost actively sabotage his own team: play Doug Murray over Subban in key situations, bury Lars Eller on the fourth line, put all his defensive trust in Francis “Cube” Bouillon. The upshot is that talented Montreal frequently gets outplayed and has to depend on Carey Price to save them. I think that in a series, coaching becomes more important than in a regular season, and having a proven incompetent at the helm is a recipe for losing. T-Bay in 5.

The Metro Still Sucks Grudgematch: New York / Philadelphia Is it weird that I heard nothing at all about Philadelphia this year? Somehow a nearly decent team in a supposedly hockey-loving city managed Panthers-like levels of nobody-gives-a-rat’s-ass. How did this happen? I don’t actually care about the answer to my own question, that’s how irrelevant the Flyers have become. Against them though, we have the Rangers, who don’t even have the decency to put their own goddamn logo on the front of their sweaters. They should lose for that alone. But they won’t, because they’re the better team. Or, what passes for “better” in the Metro, anyway. Rags in 7.

(1) Anaheim / (8) Dallas Did you know this matchup features 3 of the top 5 pointgetters in the NHL? Bizarre. Fancystats people have always claimed Anaheim is over-valued, but here’s the thing: if Anaheim is all luck, then they’ve been lucky for 2 straight years. I mean, that happens, but it’s damn unlikely. watching them absolutely destroy the Canucks several times this year, I have a hard time buying that they’re not genuinely good. And yet… I’d rather have Jamie Benn on my team than Corey Perry, and I’d rather have Lehtonen than Hiller. Dallas can do this. #FUCKTHEDUCKS Dallas in 7.

(2) Colorado / (7) Minnesota Ah, the force of nature derby. You have to be kind of an idealistic fuckup to go “Into the Wild” but you have to be even more fucked up to be into the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota is never good. How do they continue to make it into the playoffs all the time even though they’re not good and everyone knows it? Is it their boring style of play that lulls other teams into giving them points? Meanwhile, you have to be completely insane to go into an avalanche, but to be into the young, speedy, fun Avalanche is easy. Yeah, whatever, Colorado isn’t as dominant as their record suggests – they have indeed been very lucky. But they’ve been lucky once again by drawing the rare opponent that they’re genuinely better than  Avs in 5.

Conference III Grudgematch: St. Louis / Chicago This is gonna be a fun series to watch, since basically watching Chicago is always fun. St. Louis is in a tailspin right now, having lost 6 in a row – and shut out in 3 of them. And in fact their possession numbers started to drop from near the top of the league to mediocre long before this. And while Chicago hasn’t exactly been tearing it up lately either, they’re about to get Toews back, which will give them a boost. Also they are coached by the Stranger from Big Lebowski, who is good. St. Louis is coached by Baron Harkonnen, who is evil. And evil does not pay. Chicago in 6.

Californian (other parts of the division being irrelevant) Grudgematch: San Jose / Los Angeles I used to dislike the Sharks, but I met some Sharks fans, read this post, and watched them play non-Canuck teams. Like the Kings, they dominate. Unlike the Kings, do it in a fun-to-watch, unstultifying manner. I used to dislike the Kings. I still do, but I used to, too. Down with the monarchy! Up with the karchariocracy! Sharks in 7.

Posted in hockey, The future | 1 Comment

Democracy: Worst Form of Government Except..

So, Quebeckers have massively rejected  Le Tea Parti Quebecois, in an election result that will send shock waves across the country (and in true Canadian fashion, no one outside the country realizes). Although I might seem a little too happy with that result… well, your parents weren’t actually banned in Quebec.

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Let’s hope they confine that odious Secularism Charter to the dustbins of history. Almost three years ago to the day, we talked about this worrying direction Quebec was going in and how no one seemed to be interested in or could stop the van from driving off a very divisive and xenophobic cliff.

Interesting to me is, regarding the issue of reasonable accommodation, his statement that multiculturalism doesn’t work for Quebec (an outcome apparently of the Taylor-Bouchard Commission). I don’t understand this new-found xenophobia sweeping Quebec. If we’ve learned anything from Canada’s 144 year history, which involved the sometime tumultuous balancing of the English-speaking majority vs. the French-speaking minority, its the ultimate evolution of Canada into its present-day state of a culture of acceptance and tolerance was driven by the desire that minority rights be respected; a desire that was fought for by many Quebeckers. Is the shoe now on the proverbial other foot? Theoretically, what does this mean for the kind of country he views a separate Quebec should be, given that the majority will be French-speaking? Are Quebeckers on board with that? Is he?”

Worthwhile Canadian Debate (Apr 12, 2011)

Quebeckers weren’t on board and jumped off that bandwagon. Hurrah.

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For some pundit analysis, no one beats the CBC At Issue Panel, anywhere in the world. No hyperbole. Just sweet, sweet pundit goodiness.

http://www.cbc.ca/thenational/content/analysis/atissue/quebec_election_results.html

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Millard Fillmore: Spam Magnet

My post on how Millard Fillmore is the dumbest President of the US has been, for over a month now, like a bare 100 W lightbulb to moths of spammers. For some reason spam comments that the WordPress Akismet filter doesn’t recognize and block only happen to that post, but they happen to that post incessantly (or, at least, as incessantly as something can happen to a blog with about 10 readers). But why? The Millard Fillmore post is not this blog’s oldest, newest, best, most popular, most commented, most visited randomly via search engine, longest, smartest, or anything like that. It is, however, it’s Millard Fillmore-iest. But even that makes no sense: of all US presidents, the one most associated with SPAM should be Obama: Fillmore doesn’t even have any connection to Hawaii at all. Further proof, if any was needed, that Millard Fillmore is stupid: two centuries later, his legacy continues to be stupid occurences with no rational explanation.

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Baby’s First AgitProp

Zuuko will hopefully forgive me for having this post in Russian. People who can read Russian will hopefully forgive me, too.

Итак, 1е марта славный день, когда Россия вошла наконец в состав главных игроков планеты. Как заметила ведущий, кто главный игрок, а кто нет, не зависит от количества боеголовок, например. Судя по тому, что Россия входит в состав главных, то не зависит это также от размера или боеспособности профессиональных вооруженных сил, ни от наличия передовой боевой техники. Ни там от каких нибудь экономических показателей, от науки, технологии, систем обучения, культуры. А зависит причастие к великим державам от умения отстаивать свои интересы, которое в данном случае состоит из того, чтобы уметь ловко переодеть своих военных и послать их инкогнито к соседям устраивать беспорядки. Однако ведущий ошибается, если думает, что в остальном мире только там какие нибудь США готовы на столь смелый и дерзкий шаг. Хочу осведомить вас, что правительство Руанды, например, оказывает помощь и тренировку повстанческим группировкам в бывшем Заире – нынешнем ДР Конго – и посылает отряды рвандских военных сил воевать на стороне повстанцев на территории ДР Конго. Еще можно привести в пример войска Венесуэлы, на протяжении последних 15и лет неоднократно входивших в колумбийскую территорию под прикрытием джунглей, и, как Колумбия утверждает, открыто сотрудничающих с народной армией FARCа. Наконец есть Пакистан, который посылает подстрекателей устраивать беспорядки в индийском Кашмире, и т.д. и т.п. Так вот, от имени президента Мамнуна Хусейна, президента Поля Кагаме, президента Николаса Мадуро и проч., позвольте мне приветствовать вступление России в клуб великих держав. Добро пожаловать, дорогие!

Posted in politics, whimsy | 1 Comment

BREAKING: Ukraine Not Yet Dead (as of Mar 13)

Unfortunately I don’t have anything smart to say about Ukraine, it’s all so sad. But since the last three posts on this blog could be construed as russophilic, let me disavow that viewpoint immediately. Although, as mentioned in comments, Zuuko was ahead of the curve in making a Hitler-Putin comparison in the last post. Now everyone from Hilary Clinton to MGIMO Professors are making the comparison – he should demand royalties.

For the last week or so, I have been incessantly refreshing the Ukraine news, and I’ve never yet really been happy about something that happened. For where to get information, I have found the reporting done by Varlamov (in Russian) in Crimea e.g. here and here, to be the most useful. The Guardian used to have a very good liveblog, but they stopped doing it recently. Still, I think their coverage is better than others. The New Republic is unrepentantly hawkish, but was very good right in the aftermath at gettting Russian and Ukrainian views on the situation published, e.g. Tikhon Dzyadko. Lenta was the go-to site for information in Russian, but now due to the replacement of the editor with a pro-Kremlin figure and the subsequent apparent resignation letter from staff, they probably will not be a good source anymore.

In terms of what brought us here from the West’s point of view, I am inclined, for all that Stephen Walt seems to be really unpleasant on a personal level, to more or less agree with his viewpoint. It is of course a little too fatalist to say Russia has interests here, so this is how it plays out no matter what – but it’s true that Russia has to care about what happens in the Ukraine and is threatened by a Western-allied Ukraine right on its borders, while it’s totally irrelevant to the US, and that explains the dynamic really well.

From Russia’s point of view, the justification for the particular actions is that this is what “Great Powers” do. The U.S. may not consider Russia to be a world power anymore, but Russians want to be one, and one way to show that they are is by breaking international law. Laws are for the weak. Did the U.S. ask Russia before invading Iraq? Before its intervention in Kosovo? So why should Russia, world power, care what the U.S. thinks? Hell, the U.S. didn’t even offer Kosovo statehood, so Russia is being way more magnanimous. It feels good to be a world power, so it’s this game of one-upmanship, and this dynamic of “Poetic Justice as Fairness” as described in a different context by John Holbo that’s both an a posteriori justification for Russian actions, and a motivating factor for them. It’s really dumb, but it explains moves like this one, where in response to a dumb move by two US senators where they asked FIFA to exclude Team Russia from the World Cup, in an even dumber move, a Uniross official asked FIFA to exclude the US team. What’s more, I don’t think this is just for show, for the “commoners to swallow”. I think it goes to the root of Russian thinking on the matter, even in Government, and even for Putin.

As to what comes next and who “wins” – I have no idea what comes next, other than that probably Russia will take more than just Crimea. But I do want to share this quote of George Orwell’s on predictions from James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution:

It will be seen that at each point Burnham is predicting A CONTINUATION OF THE THING THAT IS HAPPENING. Now the tendency to do this is not simply a bad habit, like inaccuracy or exaggeration, which one can correct by taking thought. It is a major mental disease, and its roots lie partly in cowardice and partly in the worship of power, which is not fully separable from cowardice.

so let’s hold off on saying Putin is this unstoppable force that will get his way everywhere. And for “winninig” which a lot of people, East and West, talk about, well, in part, this isn’t a zero-sum thing. I think basically a large portion of analytic mistakes made by people come from a failure to recognize what’s zero-sum and what’s not. It looks to me like Russia lost (it used to have a pliant Ukraine government, at maximum it will now have a piece of Ukraine and a piece with a government that is reliably pro-Western, and economic trouble), the West lost (talked and couldn’t back it up, ending up looking silly), and Ukraine lost (loses part of its territory). As The Descendents once said, Everything Sux.

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Russia! Hockey! Angry!

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There’s a throwaway sentence in Churchill’s auto-biographies on when he witnessed the remnants of the French army after their disaster behind the Maginot Line. It’s along the lines of “it was sad to see a such a proud, warlike and martial race reduced to that…” after observing the shell-shocked French soldiers returning without shoes or clothes. The sentence made it seem like Churchill mourned the loss and gave a sense that the martial vigor wouldn’t necessarily return to France. For the life of me, Google can’t find the sentence, otherwise I would quote it.

That’s how I feel after Russia lost. I want to console a Russian. Zolltan, where are you? Do you want a hug?

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When you hear stories of the political interference with Russia’s team – from forcing KHL players into the line-up, incompetent coaches, etc. – it’s clear that Russia didn’t ice the best line-up they could. Prior the fall of the Wall, Canadians would be pissed when our pros couldn’t play in the Olympics but Russia kept sending their “amateurs-in-name-only.” The rules conspired to keep Canada from icing the best line-up.

Russia today shot itself in the foot, or so it seems. Or is that backwards… in Soviet Russia, foot shoots you.

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What a game for the women’s hockey gold medal game!

Posted in hockey | 3 Comments

Cheat Sheet: Meet Team Russia’s Defence, Goalies

We continue our unexpectedly popular rip-off of Pass it to Bulis’ bandwagoners’ cheat sheets, with a look at Team Russia’s blueliners and goalies (see here for the forwards). Defence is projected to be Team Russia’s weakness, whereas goaltending, conversely, is a strength. After reading this handy guide, you’ll complete your knowledge of Team Russia, and can go out and yell shai-BOO! shai-BOO! with the best of them. (Sorry this is late, but I was failing to find the Markov picture for too long).

ILYA NIKULIN
About: A veteran offensive-minded defenceman who plays for Kazan of the KHL. He is expected to bring leadership, having previously captained Team Russia at the world stage. He is known for his friendship with Alex Ovechkin and also has a really cute kid, a fact the automaker Skoda has shamelessly but adorably exploited for profit.
Nickname(s): Ilya “famous Nikulin who isn’t a clown” Nikulin, I could tellya but then I’d have to k-Ilya, Don Nickles
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Chris Martin
Expect to hear: “Nikulin, at the point…”
Don’t expect to hear: Action Bronson’s “Hookers at the Point” – unless you click that youtube link, I guess.

VYACHESLAV VOYNOV
About: Vyacheslav Voynov is the youngest member of Team Russia’s blueline corps, and plays for the LA Kings. Although his basic possession numbers are excellent, it’s hard to tell whether that might be mostly due to playing with very good players on the Kings team. Nevertheless, he has good offensive ability and is pretty reliable defensively, as well.
Nickname(s): Slava, Voynovsy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Kevin from the Backstreet Boys. I had to look through the backstreet boys image search to verify this for you. I hope you appreciate the lengths I go to to maintain journalistic integrity.
Expect to hear: “Voynov is among the better players on this shallow defensive corps”
Don’t expect to hear: “Vyacheslav is set to be the most popular boys name in 2014″

FYODOR TYUTIN
About: One of Russia’s few defensive defencemen, Tyutin plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets. A generally steady presence, it’s okay to know little to nothing about him because nobody watches the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Nickname(s): Darn Tyootin, Tyoodles, Tsar Fyodor I Ivanovich
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Ощыузр Пщквщт-Дуфмшее (that’s Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, but written with a cyrillic keyboard layout)
Expect to hear: “Tyutin is one of the few stay-at-home defencemen on the roster”
Don’t expect to hear: “Tyutin is one of the few stay-at-home moms on the roster”

NIKITA NIKITIN
About: Nikita Nikitin also plays for the Blue Jackets. He has a big body and can occasionally shine offensively (especially if that occasion is the 2011-12 NHL season). He is a third-pairing defenceman for Columbus, so he’s not exactly an all-star.
Nickname(s): Nikita Nikitievich Nikitin from Nikitaville, Stan Mikita, Nikki-Tikki-Tavvi, Nikita Uncreativeovich
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Ilya Nikulin
Expect to hear: people making fun of Nikitin’s name
Don’t expect to hear: people making fun of Nikitin’s name within earshot of Nikitin

ALEXEI YEMELIN
About: Alexei Yemelin plays defence for the Montreal Canadiens, where he is occasionally Andrei Markov’s defence partner. A physical presence and one of the NHL’s few remaining aficionados of the hip check, he can also get under the skin of opponents, which might be a plus, although his team often gets outplayed when he is on the ice.
Nickname(s): Boom, The People’s Democratic Republic of South-East Yemelin
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Ben Affleck
Expect to hear: “What a crushing hit by Yemelin”
Don’t expect to hear: “what a soul-crushing exposition of existential angst by Yemelin”

ANTON BELOV
About: Anton Belov is a marginal third pairing defenceman on NHL’s most defensively hapless team – the Edmonton Oilers. And yet, he might be on team Russia’s first defensive pairing. And that’s kind of hilarious, unless you want Russia to do well, in which case it is sad.
Nickname(s): Anton “marginally better than Jeff Petry” Belov
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Boris Becker
Expect to hear: “Anton Belov has a higher calibre of players in front of him on Team Russia than he’s used to”
Don’t expect to hear: “Team Russia has a higher calibre of player behind them in Anton Belov, than they’re used to”

Markov_OANDREI MARKOV
About: A defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens. Andrei Markov used to be really good, then was injured for a long time, and, since his return has been merely pretty good. Despite being in his mid-thirties, Markov can still put up big minutes, and is a force to be reckoned with on the powerplay. Especially if that powerplay also has Malkin and Ovechkin on it. My coaching strategy against Russia would be not to take penalties.
Nickname(s): Marksy, The Marksman, Ears, Injured-for-the-season-sy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Mr. Bean
Expect to hear: “Markov might be Russia’s best powerplay pointman”
Don’t expect to hear: “Markov should give acting a try”

YEVGENY MEDVEDEV
About: Yevgeny Medvedev is another veteran offensive-minded defenseman playing for Kazan in the KHL.  Medvedev knows Nikulin well from years of playing with him at Ak Bars. Medvedev has an imposing shot, and hands soft enough that he often gets used in the shootout (though something tells me he’ll defer to Datsyuk and co. here). No, seriously, he’s got skills. One large criticism from the public is that he seems to just be a puppet of nefarious hockey mastermind Yevgeny Putin, and have no hockey will of his own.
Nickname(s): I don’t know, but I’m assuming like all people named Medvedev, his nickname is Bear, sort of like all people named Campbell are nicknamed Soupy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Bieber
Expect to hear: “Medvedev, or is it Nikulin, I keep mixing them up”
Don’t expect to hear: “Medvedev, or is it Hal Gill, I keep mixing them up”

SEMYON VARLAMOV
About: Semyon Varlamov is the starting goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche. After several undistinguished seasons in the NHL, Varlamov has been having an incredible season this year with the resurgent Avalanche and is expected to get #1 goalie duty for Russia. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however:  Varlamov was arrested and investigated earlier in the season for domestic abuse against his wife. And then a Russian official suggested it was all a nefarious Western plot to ruin Russia’s chances at the Olympics. Oh, yeah, that’s another thing you want to know: him playing well is important to Russia’s chances at the Olympics.
Nickname(s): Varly, Innocent-until-proven-guilt-sy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: I don’t want him having anything to do with my wife, just in case
Expect to hear: “Varlamov should get the start in goal”
Don’t expect to hear: “Varlamov should get the start as couples counsellor. Which makes a lot of sense, because there are couples counselling teams and they have starting lineups”

ALEXANDER YERYOMENKO
About: Yeryomenko is the starter for currently KHL-leading Dynamo Moscow, and three-time defending Gagarin Cup champion (side note: the Gagarin cup looks amazing). He has been a consistently good performer in the KHL, and winning all those cups has given him extensive playoff experience, something both of the other goalies lack, if you believe that’s important. I’m not sure Russia does either – Bilyaletdinov admitted that it was pre-determined that one goalie to be invited would be from the KHL (presumably similar quotas applied to skaters). Which seems to me a poorly considered precondition. But then, if Russia wasn’t into doing poorly considered shit on the basis of nationalism/patriotism, would any of us be here talking about these Olympics at all?
Nickname(s): The Yeryominator, Johnny Token-KHL-Guy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Tin Tin
Expect to hear: “I wish Bryzgalov was here instead, he’s a much better quote”
Don’t expect to hear: “I wish Bryzgalov was here instead, he’s a much better goalie”

SERGEI BOBROVSKY
About: Borbrovsky is the starting goaltender for the Columbus Bluejackets and defending (spoiler: he probably won’t defend) Vezina trophy winner for best goaltender in the NHL. Even more than his prowess, he is beloved for the shtick where Jay Onrait pretends he (Jay) is the DA and Bobrovsky is a beat cop, and he chews him out (“you’re a loose cannon, Bobrovsky!”) or praises him during highlights. Hockey fans think that’s pretty funny. Judging by his halloween costume, Sergei thinks it’s pretty funny, too.
Nickname(s): Bob, #1 cop
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Dave Foley
Expect to hear: “You’re back on the force, Bobrovsky!”
Don’t expect to hear: “Use the Force, Bobrovsky!”

Posted in hockey | 2 Comments