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Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Updated: December 29, 10:43 AM ET
Let's open up the e-mail bag

By John Buccigross
Special to ESPN.com

'Tis the season of large sacks.

Here's a large sack of e-mails for the holiday season. There are usually about 10 e-mails per Zamboni ride, but here are 29 for you. Enjoy your holiday gifts, enjoy the World Junior Championships (check USAHockey.com for television listings) and enjoy Santa's overflowing e-mail sack.

John,

The question shouldn't be why Craig Patrick still has a job. It should be why YOU still have a job. Seriously.

Ian Franco
Rolla, Missouri

I still have a job because I have naked pictures of Mickey Mouse holding a hacksaw.

SHOT OF THE WEEK
Every week, we will present an NHL photo and I'll provide a caption. E-mail me your suggestions (include your name and hometown/state) and next week we will use the best ones and provide a new photo.

LAST WEEK:
Captain Cavvvvvvvemannnnnnn!

Your submissions:
"So, uh, this one time, in band camp ... "
-- Patrick Gallagher, Los Angeles

"No way dude, she's out of your league. Section 10, Row 5. She's looking at me."
-- Andrew Horgan, K-Town, Ariz.

Cameraman: "Hey guys, stop me if you heard this one ... A guy walks into a bar with the Stanley Cup under one arm and a poodle under the other."
-- Chris Z., Boulder, Colo.

"See, even Gretzky thinks I'm better than that Crosby kid."
-- Jeff Yot, Pittsburgh

"I'm too sexy for my helmet, too sexy for my helmet."
-- Carol Sheldon, Gilbert, Ariz.

Naslund: "Hey, Big Bert, check it out, we scored!"
Bertuzzi: "Uhhhhh huh huh huh. You said score ... uhhhhh huh huh huh."
-- Brian Limeburner, Philadelphia

"Really, Santa! I've been good for a whole year and a half!"
-- Kevin K., St. Clair Shores, Mich.

Another E-Harmony match!
-- Footie, Portland, Ore.

THIS WEEK:
"This HAS to be a violation!"


Hi,

Huge music and Habs fan here. This year, the Habs have changed their goal song to "Vertigo" by U2. I like U2, but "Vertigo" is not a goal song.

André Trahan
Montréal

I agree, Andre with the eyebrow over the e. "Elevation" is probably the best U2 goal song. The crowd could sing the Bono falsetto "oooh" sounds for 10 seconds, and then chime in at the same time -- E-LE-VA-TION. I'd make another edit there and then play the first 30 seconds of "Until The End Of The World." Then, I would partake in an ice cold bowl of apple sauce as Don VanMassenhoven drops the puck to resume play. That's how I would celebrate every goal from now on.


John,

I am a Mighty Ducks fan. Do you think our season is lost already?

Josh Wilson
Riverside, Calif.

As I type this, the Ducks are one point out of the final playoff spot in the West. However, they played 22 of their first 36 at home, and on the road, they have played like the Columbus Blue Jackets. Anaheim has 21 games left until the Olympic break and 14 are on the road. We will see what kind of character its young players have and what kind of spine its veterans have in this span. Had I known the Ducks were going to trade Sergei Fedorov, I probably would not have picked them to make the playoffs. They are a little weak up the middle. They try hard every night and grind like their coach does, but they have some goal scoring issues, and if you have goal scoring issues, you absolutely need GREAT goaltending. I haven't seen a lot of GREAT goaltending in Anaheim this season.


Mr. Buccigross,

Any idea how they calculate the player rankings? I'm an undergrad studying economics and am attempting to build an empirical model to forecast hockey wins (much like Bill James did in baseball). The academic research into baseball, football and even basketball are all really extensive, but no one has done ANYTHING with my favorite sport. Any insight into the actual mathematical process of calculating the rankings would help me immensely.

Cheers,
John Peter

The book "Moneyball" and Bill James (and the growing list of baseball GMs who follow both) have brought baseball number-crunching into the mainstream. But baseball is a series of one-on-one encounters and is the one team sport in which numbers can tell a lot. Even in football and basketball, where much of the action is scripted, grading players is effective. However, there is nothing like hockey. A large part of hockey's drama, tension and excitement stems from its uncertainty. Yes, face-off percentage, penalty minutes and blocked shots can tell a story, but hockey is simple and complex at the same time. The complexities come in the form of the immense skill and courage it takes to play the game and all the battles of will and tests of skill it demands from one end of the ice to the other. The simplicity, especially when talking about statistics, lies in the fact that you cannot win a hockey game unless you score a goal. In a vacuum, that will always make goal scoring the most important facet of the game. But we all know defense wins championships. Goals for, goals against and wins. It all comes down to that. Additionally, anyone who coaches or plays knows the most important hockey assets are, in order: 1) Courage 2) Toughness 3) Speed 4) Vision 5) Hands. Cam Neely's attributes sequentially from No. 1 to No. 5. Radek Bonk's go from No. 5 to No. 1 and therein lies the difference. Stats can't measure that stuff. And I LOVE stats.


Booch,
My wife's having our first child next summer. I want to give him or her every advantage in becoming a great two-way center. Two things you need to know about the situation:

1) I'm a B's diehard since the late '70s. The favorite players of my youth were Stan Jonathan and Terry O'Reilly. The name has to reflect all that implies.

2) There will be no "cutesy" names like Chandler, Peyton, Cooper, Parker, Ryan, Kaylee, Fantasia, or anything else that did not exist 30 years ago. Give me something that will still be relevant when he or she is an adult.

Many thanks,
John Kyranos
Washington D.C.

Ajax Terence Kyranos -- that name rocks! Or Terri Alethea Kyranos. Hockey fact: The NHL record for most consecutive games played is 964 by Doug Jarvis.

You Can Quote Me
"Our style is kind of to keep five guys back and try to frustrate teams. Sometimes it works, most times not. But it keeps us close. That's what we try to do against teams like Canada or the Slovaks, we try to frustrate them and maybe steal a win once in a while."

-- Bruins winger and Team Germany member Marco Sturm on Germany's chances at the 2006 Olympics


Hi John!
I just wanted to write a short mail and thank you for your great song about Hakan Loob. I laughed until I cried! Merry Christmas to you from Sweden!

Mattias Kreku


John,

Here's my all time "adult beverage" all-star team:

G Ryan Miller
D Barry Beck
D Eric Brewer
F Peter Schaefer
F Kurtis Foster ( I know he plays D)
F Bob Beers

Honorable Mention:
Kevyn "Sam" Adams

Happy Holidays! Thanks for the look.

Otto Boehm
Kings Park, N.Y.

"Women! Can't live with 'em ? pass the beer nuts." -- Norm Peterson, Cheers


John,

If Erik Cole and Chris Drury were considered for the Olympic team, then why not Tim Connolly?

Regards,
Karthi Natarajan

Tim Connolly is center who can really only play center. Cole is a wing; Drury can play center and wing. Craig Conroy, Mike Modano, Doug Weight and Scott Gomez are excellent centers. Gomez and Connolly perhaps will one day be viewed as comparables, but for now, Gomez, with his playoff experience, is the right pick.


John,

You actually wrote an article about crappy GMs and abominable trades and never once mentioned Mike Milbury. Astonishing.

Scott Bennett

Mike Milbury obviously has connections into the deepest levels of government. There is no use to even talk about him any more. It would be dangerous and short-sighted.


John,

I'm not even a 'Canes fan, but holy smokes! Is Rod Brind'Amour having one impressive season? He's the reason (along with Eric Staal's scoring prowess and Martin Gerber's excellent net minding) why the 'Canes are the biggest surprise of the new season. Start talking this guy up. He's one of the class guys who deserve this award to cap what has been a brilliant albeit unnoticed career. What do you say?

Derek Ibsch
Washington, D.C.

Brind'Amour is a courageous leader who has obviously benefited from a year off. He probably needed a full year to heal from the assortment of injuries he has played through. I think he has been noticed for what he is -- a strong, committed, courageous player.


John,

Personally, I don't really care (as my last name is not Crosby, nor am I Canadian). However, the NHL powers-that-be must be a little miffed as their marketing strategy certainly did not envision Todd Bertuzzi (and his shameful hit on Steve Moore) to continue to be a story in Turin, especially at the expense of Crosby. So much for the Olympics being an opportunity for the NHL to distance itself from that side of the game in favor of promoting the youngsters (like Crosby, Staal and Jason Spezza).

Alex Fiske
Fairfax, Va.

I was surprised, with all the wingers who could have been chosen, that Team Canada went with Bertuzzi. I'm sure there is some, "we'll show people how Bertuzzi should be handled" attitude in the pick. Not only because of his clubbing of Steve Moore, but also his inconsistent play and inconsistent manners to media and fans. There is nothing feel-good about it, and there were plenty of options out there.


Hey John,

I just read that you consider Phillips Arena in Atlanta one of the better places to watch a game. Was wondering what you think are the top-five arenas are in the league to catch a game live? I am trying to attend a Ranger game in every NHL arena. So far, Air Canada Centre on a Saturday Night has been tough to beat. Thanks and Happy Holidays.

Mike Rea
Marlboro, N.J.

Air Canada and Atlanta are certainly in my top five. The other three would be Columbus, Minnesota and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Islanders' Nassau Coliseum is old, grimy, sticky and has narrow concourses. But when you are sitting in the lower level, halfway up, you are on top of the action and can really feel the players' size and speed.


John,

I am writing to express my outrage at the exclusion of Mike Richter, Phil Housley, Joey Mullen and Pat LaFontaine from Team USA! Oh yeah, and Jeremy Roenick, too. To demonstrate my commitment to this protest, I will now drink only Canadian beers.

FIRE MILLEN!
Frank Grills
Michigan

Brilliant!


John,

With the new NHL returning to a more freewheeling style from the '80s, can we also start a campaign to get the old-time division names returned? I long for the Campbell, Wales, Smythe, Patrick, Norris and Adams.

Jason Lamb
Irvine, Calif.

The first year the NHL used those division names was 1974-75. The last year was 1992-93. Fewer than 20 years, yet it's talked about as though it was around forever. I do the same thing.


John,

Please, please tell me the NHL has some plan for a commercial campaign during the Olympics. The players and the game speaking for themselves is one thing, but it would be a huge opportunity blown if they didn't drive the point home with some well-placed marketing.

Rob
Syracuse, N.Y.

The fact that NBC is broadcasting the Olympics and is now an NHL partner, I imagine they will do the best they can to promote the NHL without ticking off the Olympic Committee.


John,

I couldn't agree more with last week's comments on Henrik Lundqvist leading the Calder Trophy race. Before the season began, all attention was directed towards Sid "the Kid" Crosby being the next "great one."

However, so far in this rookie campaign, Lundqvist has turned heads in New York and the rest of the NHL, coming up with amazing saves and wins while providing energy to the crowds that keep MSG as loud as ever. Just one other note. Keep an eye on the recent goal-scoring tear of Rangers rookie Petr Prucha. Prucha has earned a look at the Calder Trophy, as well, in my opinion.

Arron
Hillsdale, N.Y.

Prucha is in that class of rookie, but don't forget Alexander Ovechkin and Crosby see the best defenders every night. That has to be considered.


Hi John,

From across the pond, I've been looking at the recent announcement of Canada's Olympic roster and there's one person there who surprises me. Simon Gagne seems to be a revitalized player this season, but how much of this should be attributed to the excellent play of Peter Forsberg? How many of Gagne's goals have been assisted by Forsberg? Without Forsberg to provide him with defense-splitting and goalie-beating passes, would he have posted the numbers he has this season? Without Forsberg to help him at the Olympics, will he struggle? I think so, and that his roster spot should have gone to a more natural scorer.

Have a good Christmas,
Mike MacDowell
Portsmouth, England

Simon Gagne is an excellent player. Speed, hands and skill. He is also an excellent penalty killer. He played in the 2002 Olympics and had four points in six games. And like we said last week, the committee was going to go with as many people from 2002 that still had game.


John,

If you were professor and chairman of the Department of Hockey Knowledge at Heidelberg College, what courses would be mandatory and what would be tested in the final exams?

Billy G
St. Thomas, V.I.
(P.S. -- Would you take off points for spelling?)

Mandatory reading: "The Game" by Ken Dryden; "Home Ice" by Jack Falla
Movies: "Slap Shot," "Miracle," "Anchorman"
USA Hockey coaching clinics, levels 1-5.
Identifying who shoots right-handed or left-handed in the NHL in rapid-fire format.


John,

I understand the transition (i.e. youth movement USA Hockey is taking, and I'm all for it, trust me), but to exclude Brian Leetch and include the likes of Chris Chelios and Derian Hatcher is absurd.

Brian Sannicandro


John,

So, I understand wanting to put veteran leadership on the team, but veteran leadership doesn't do much if there is a lack of talent. Doesn't Don Waddell realize that on the big ice, Chelios, Hatcher and Keith Tkachuk are going to be like giant orange cones? They are slow and immobile. If Waddell wanted veteran leadership, then doesn't Brian Leetch make perfect sense? He not only captained the 1996 World Cup championship team, but he still possess the quick puck-moving capability that is well suited to the big ice.

Thanks,
Adam,
Washington D.C.

Brian Leetch probably deserved the respect of making the call for his inclusion on the U.S. Olympic team like Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux in Canada.


John,
How long is the NHL contract with OLN and do you think ESPN will make a bid when the contract expires and can I contribute to ESPN's offer? I have a change jar that I would be more than willing to offer into the deal. I think I have about $4.78 U.S. in there and about 4 Euros. This would be a very small price to pay to get "NHL 2Night" back and have semi-regular viewings of the Melrose Mullet. (That's got to be the name of a drink somewhere in Canada. Thunder Bay maybe?)

Sean Foote
Portland, Ore.

Reports have the OLN deal at three years. Sources told me that OLN/Comcast is the favorite to get a new package of NFL games starting next year, and starting in 2007, will pick up some PGA golf tournaments. If OLN were to get those two entities, they would continue to grow their brand and thus would be more likely to keep the NHL. Whatever happens, it's good news for the NHL and its players. There could be a minor bidding battle for the NHL next time around and that would drive the price up.


Dear Johnny B,
I doubt anyone can answer this perplexing question, but I thought maybe you could come up with a logical response. Why does the NHL advertise itself during its televised games? It seems it might be a smarter move to purchase some advertising time during an NFL game or NASCAR perhaps? Also, those commercials couldn't be dumber.

Cheers,
Rob Stefaniak
Minneapolis, Minn.

I've been clamoring for a Super Bowl commercial with real NHL players in this space for some time. A logo on a NASCAR car would be cool. A PGA Tour hat or bag? An NHL tattoo on Angelina Jolie's lower back? Peace out, boo-yah.


Hey John,
Here's another name combo for you.

Alexander Auld ? 7
Old Number 7, Jack Daniels Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey

Dennis,
Boston


John,

Will there ever again be NHL hockey in Hartford, Conn.?

Matthew Greene
Boston

When Ilya Kovalchuk starts back checking.


Hey there Bucci,

This is my first e-mail to you, so you better post this. What do you think of players with no helmets during shoot-outs?

Peace home slice,
Faisal Jamaluddin
(P.S. -- If you take the first two letters from my first and last name, you get FaJa, like "Austin Powers" FaJa.)

I think it would be more exciting if goalies had to take their masks off.


John,

Team Canada should go with Roberto Luongo in the crease. Martin Brodeur isn't having a stellar year. They could always have Brodeur to fall back on. And wouldn't it be nice to see what Luongo could do with a real team? It would be like adding Eric Clapton to the Traveling Wilburys.

Brent Stahl
Cloquet, Minn.

I wonder how many huge Traveling Wilburys fans there are. I am one. "Dirty World," best TW song.


John,

I've been reading your baby name advice week in and week out, and now it's my turn for some assistance. My wife and I cannot agree on any names (boy or girl) or whether we should watch Blues games or not, but that's a whole different subject. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Could you also include a positive hockey fact about the Blues (we are desperate for some good news in these parts)? P.S. -- Not Patrick. I'm sure you can figure out why!

Thanks,
Brett Fredrick, St. Louis

Phillip Kyle Fredrick
Katherine Ann Fredrick
Blues Fact: Phil Kessel will be St. Louis Blues property this time next year.


Dear John,

I always wondered who decides the three stars of a game. Is it a hometown thing? Does the league decide? Does anybody record that as a statistic?

Thanks,
Alexander H. Loyd

The first game in Columbus Blue Jackets history was Oct. 7, 2000, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Having gone to high school and college in Ohio, I wanted to be there for Columbus hockey history. Michael Arace, who has been the Columbus Dispatch beat writer for the Blue Jackets since Day One, granted me the honor choosing the three stars. So, apparently, he and other beat writers do a lot of the choosing. The Blackhawks won 5-3 (Columbus led 3-0 after one) and, of course, I can still remember my three stars to this day. Third star -- Bruce Gardiner, Columbus. He scored the first goal in Blue Jackets history. Second star -- Tony Amonte. This would be his last NHL season as a 30-goal scorer (35). I remember Amonte was everywhere that night, playing well in all situations and finishing with three points. The season prior, Amonte had 27 even-strength goals, 11 power-play goals and five shorthanded goals. First star -- Reto Von Arx. That's right, Reto Von "frickin'" Arx of the Egerkingen, Switzerland, Von Arxs. Reto played a grand total of 19 NHL games. Three goals in 19 NHL games. Two of them came in this game. I knew greatness when I saw it.


John,
You picked the Carolina Hurricanes to finish 29th, and very possibly 30th, in the NHL this year. You also left Eric Staal off your selections for the Canadian hockey team. Are you one of the ESPN guys that hates the Hurricanes because they left Hartford and therefore can never say anything positive about them, or do you just have a lack of hockey knowledge?

Rick Orlemanski
Cary, N.C.

ESPN.com told me this was going to be a soccer column. I've been trying to fake it for four years.

John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.