Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Video Of The Week: Zwan

Billy Corgan (who these days goes by his full name, William Patrick Corgan, because he's super-serious as a solo performer, playing piano accompanied by strings and stuff) once said of his Zwan bandmates:
I'll never go anywhere near those people again. Ever. I mean, I detest them. You can put that in capital letters. Bad people. (Original Smashing Pumpkins members) James (Iha) and D'arcy (Wretzky) are good people. They might be misguided people, but they're good people.
There's also this blog post of his. Oh, and this Chicago Tribune quote about the band's demise:
The music wasn't the big problem, it was more their attitude... Sex acts between band members in public. People carrying drugs across borders. (Guitarist David) Pajo sleeping with the producer's girlfriend while we were making the record.
Followed by this Entertainment Weekly quote just four weeks later:
Sex and drugs and junk. Tick off the list: heroin, band members having relationships... You don't trust the person next to you. I'm on the bus. I send an email to somebody and I throw my BlackBerry in my little day bag. The next day, my ex-girlfriend calls me screaming. Somebody in the group went into my BlackBerry and forwarded her an email that another girl sends me. I mean, that's the kind of stuff we were dealing with.
But taking away the psychodrama, Zwan's Mary Star Of The Sea may very well be Corgan's last very good album. It's certainly his most consistent output in the past 15 years (it came  out in January 2003).

The video for the lead single Honestly was directed by Bruce Dickson, featuring some nice harmonies and apparent chemistry between Corgan and bassist Paz Lenchantin, former Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's classic jazz-inspired drum rolls and a bit too much flanger effect on the guitar:

It's colourful and seems more joyous than the tumultuous end(s) of the Pumpkins. Which is the beauty and magic of film, i.e. "make-believe".

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Eminem (& The World) Vs Trump

By now, you've probably heard Eminem's cypher (freestyle rap devoid of music or even straight beats), but in case you haven't, here it is:

That was first released during the BET Awards, which have made a tradition of releasing some throughout the years. This was Eminem's third or fourth such cypher for the event in the past decade.

What I mostly came to post about was the amount of support Em received by doing so:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

NHL Predictions 2017-18: Hardware

After going team-for-team with my predictions on the NHL 2017-18 season standings, here are my predictions for all the award winners for the upcoming season:

(First, though, let me toot my own horn for having accurately predicted the Art Ross (Connor McDavid), Hart (McDavid), Vezina (Sergei Bobrovsky), Lady Byng (Johnny Gaudreau), and Jack Adams (John Tortorella) last year...)

President's Cup (regular season champs): Minnesota Wild
Prince Of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference Cup finalists): Tampa Bay Lightning
Clarence-Campbell Trophy (Western Conference Cup finalists): Dallas Stars
Stanley Cup Champions: Dallas Stars
Conn Smythe (playoff MVP): Jamie Benn

Art Ross (points scoring leader): Connor McDavid
Rocket Richard (leading goal scorer): Alex Ovechkin
Hart (MVP voted by the press): Connor McDavid
Ted Lindsay (MVP voted by players): Alex Ovechkin
Vezina (top goalie): Ben Bishop
Calder (best rookie): Clayton Keller
Lady Byng (most sportsmanlike): Johnny Gaudreau
Norris (best defenseman): Erik Karlsson
Bill Masterton (perseverance/comeback): Brian Boyle
Frank Selke (best defensive forward): Jonathan Toews
Jack Adams (top coach): Mike Sullivan
King Clancy (humanitarian): P.K. Subban
Mark Messier (best leader): Jamie Benn
GM: Jim Nill

In terms of holdovers from my previous predictions, I'm staying put for the Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Hart, Lady Byng and King Clancy.

And, yes, I'm predicting Ovie shuts his critics up with a comeback season, perhaps as the lone 50-goal scorer once more (last year's leader was Sidney Crosby, with just 44 goals).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Video Of The Week: Tom Petty

Tom Petty died last night, but because we live in a 24-hour news cycle where tweets count as "breaking news", the story was ahead of itself, reports of his demise making the rounds on social media while he was still technically alive, angering his family, friends and bandmates:
from Instagram
How sad a world are we living in? TMZ were once again the only ones to get the news right, but instead of leaving it at that, they actually released the audio of the 911 call his wife made when she found his body. For fuck's sake.

This does, as AnnaKim Violette Petty mentioned, overshadow and disrespect the man and the artist's oeuvre. We're talking about a Rock And Roll Hall of Famer (class of 2002), yet another lost member of The Traveling Wilburys (Roy Orbison and George Harrison had passed away before him, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lyne of Electric Light Orchestra fame remain), and a very successful songwriter whose career spanned five decades.

Some of the songs you may know him from include Refugee, Learning To Fly, Free Fallin', It's Good To Be King, Into The Great Wide Open, Don't Do Me Like That, Runnin' Down A Dream, All Of Nothin', Mary Jane's Last Dance, You Wreck Me, and a terrific and perfect cover of Patti Smith's So You Wanna Be A Rock'N'Roll Star.

Oh, and this tremendous piece of 1980s music called I Won't Back Down that I've sung in concert over a dozen times:

Yes, there are a few cameos in the video directed by David Leland, including Lynne (co-songwriter on most of 1989's Full Moon Fever, Petty's first official solo album), Harrison (who played guitar on it), Mike Campbell (lead guitarist of both Petty's band The Heartbreakers and on this record) and former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who does not play on the actual recording (those are actually Phil Jones' beats). Also missing in the video is Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein doing backing vocals.

Notable covers of this song include Pearl Jam's rendition from the Live At The Gorge set, but young'uns will know it best by Sam Smith stealing it for his Grammy-winning Stay With Me...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Dallas Stars

GM: Jim Nill (since 2013). 8/10
Coach: Ken Hitchcock (second stint, since 2017). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 34-37-11, 79 points, 24th overall, out of playoffs.

Departures: Antti Niemi (G), Ales Hemsky (RW), Patrick Sharp (LW), Cody Eakin (C).

Arrivals: Ben Bishop (G), Alexander Radulov (RW), Marc Methot (D), Martin Hanzal (C), Tyler Pitlick (LW), Brian Flynn (C).

Top forwards: Jamie Benn (75-85 points), Tyler Seguin (75-85 points), Jason Spezza (60-70 points), Radulov (50-60 points), Radek Faksa (35-45 points), Devin Shore (35-40 points), Hanzal (30-35 points), Mattias Janmark (30-35 points), Antoine Roussel (35-45 points).

Must-improve forwards: Roussel was gaining traction when he fell to injury; look for him to take another step up this season. Alternatively, Hanzal was an anchor for the Minnesota Wild, and he likely will be for the Stars as well, possibly forcing Hitchcock to play him alongside Radulov to get some kind of production out of the slow, aging Czech.

Top defensemen: John Klingberg (50-60 points), Esa Lindell (25-30 points), Methot (15-20 points), Stephen Johns (20-25 points), Julius Honka (15-25 points).

Goalies: Bishop (90/100), Kari Lehtonen (77/100).

Top rookies: Honka (21 years old, D, 2014 first-round pick), Miro Heiskanen (18, D, 3rd-overall pick at the 2017 draft), Denis Gurianov (20, D, 2015 first-round pick), Jason Dickinson (22, C, 2013 first-round pick), Riley Tufte (19, LW, 2016 first-round pick).

Analysis:
Like last year's Nashville Predators and the 2013-14 New York Rangers, it will take a few months for this Dallas Stars team to gel and start being consistent, but when they do, it'll be a straight road to the Stanley Cup Final for them.

After dressing the worst goaltending tandem in the league last year, the Stars bought Niemi out and added the best goalie on the market, two-time Vezina finalist Bishop. They also added the best forward on the market in Radulov, but also the most overrated one, Hanzal.

The entire team will be better just for knowing that Bishop will be behind them, adding a layer of confidence and fearlessness unseen in Dallas since the days of Ed Belfour.

Ken Hitchcock - who was also at the helm of the 1999 Cup-winning Stars team and has added two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada since then - will ensure everyone plays up to their usual standards.

I smell another Cup for Dallas.

Prediction: 4th in the Central Division. Top Wild Card spot in the West. Stanley Cup winners.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Ottawa Senators

GM: Pierre Dorion (since 2016). 8/10
Coach: Guy Boucher (since 2016). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 44-28-10, 98 points, 12th overall, Eastern Conference finalists.

Departures: Marc Methot (D), Chris Neil (RW), Viktor Stalberg (LW), Tommy Wingels (LW).

Arrivals: Johnny Oduya (D), Erik Bergdoerfer (D), Nate Thompson (C).

Top forwards: Mark Stone (60-65 points), Mike Hoffman (60-65 points), Kyle Turris (55-65 points), Derick Brassard (50-60 points), Bobby Ryan (40-55 points), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (35-45 points), Alexandre Burrows (30-40 points), Ryan Dzingel (30-35 points), Zack Smith (30-35 points).

Must-improve forwards: Burrows' production took off when he joined the Sens, so hopefully he keeps that going and puts the last few seasons in Vancouver behind him. Ryan and Pageau both had terrific playoffs that bode well for the upcoming season.

Top defensemen: Erik Karlsson (70-85 points), Dion Phaneuf (30-35 points), Cody Ceci (20-25 points), Fredrik Claesson (20-25 points), Chris Wideman (15-20 points).

Goalies: Craig Anderson (86/100), Mike Condon (79/100).

Top rookies: Thomas Chabot (20 years old, D, 2015 first-round pick), Colin White (20, C, 2015 first-round pick), Andreas Englund (21, D), Filip Chlapik (20, C), Logan Brown (19, C, 2016 first-round pick).

Analysis:
The Hockey News didn't just invent that Karlsson should be in the same conversation as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby for the title of World's Best Player - he proved it by being the best player in the postseason last year despite playing on a broken foot. Any roster with Karlsson leading the play has a chance to win the game on any given night.

Add to that last season's Cinderella story, Anderson in net, who has been rock-solid since coming over to the Sens during the 2010-11 season.

Then add three potential (and past) 30-goal scorers on the wing in Stone, Hoffman and Ryan (Clarke MacArthur would have been a fourth, but post-concussion syndrome will probably keep him out of hockey for the time being) and two 60-point centers in Turris and Brassard, and you've got yourself one of the most balanced top-six units in the league, let alone the East.

And that's not factoring in Pageau's development, he of the 4-goal night in the second round last Spring. And Dzingel and Smith by his side. And an effective shut-down unit comprised of Thompson and Tom Pyatt. And a head coach (Boucher) who specializes in defensive systems and has a degree in psychology to tear his opponents apart. Oh, and his assistant, Marc Crawford, is a former Stanley Cup-winning head coach (1996, Colorado Avalanche).

Yeah, these Sens are for real. (At least until Anderson's retirement).

Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic Division.

Friday, September 29, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Florida Panthers

GM: Dale Talon (second stint, since 2017). 8.5/10
Coach: Bob Boughner (since 2017). 7/10

2016-17 record: 35-36-11, 81 points, 23rd overall, out of playoffs after finishing first in the Atlantic the year before.

Departures: Tom Rowe (GM and interim head coach), Jonathan Marchessault (C), Jaromir Jagr (RW), Jason Demers (D), Reilly Smith (RW), Jussi Jokinen (LW), Shawn Thornton (RW) Reto Berra (G), Michael Sgarbossa (C).

Arrivals: Radim Vrbata (RW), Evgeny Dadonov (RW), Michael Haley (C), Jamie McGinn (LW).

Top forwards: Aleksander Barkov (65-75 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (65-75 points), Vincent Trocheck (55-65 points), Dadonov (50-55 points), Nick Bjugstad (40-50 points), Denis Malgin (20-30 points), Vrbata (25-30 points), Colton Sceviour (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Bjugstad lost the 2C spot to Trocheck, but perhaps he can play as a winger on the top-six and get going again.

Top defensemen: Aaron Ekblad (30-40 points), Keith Yandle (35-40 points), Michael Matheson (20-25 points), Alex Petrovic (20-25 points).

Goalies: Roberto Luongo (87/100), James Reimer (76/100).

Top rookies: Owen Tippett (18 years old, RW, 10th overall pick in 2017), Ian McCoshen (22, D), Henrik Borgstrom (20, C), Michael Downing (22, D), Jayce Hawryluk (21, RW).

Analysis:
Two years ago, the Panthers finished first in the Atlantic on the strength of a roster that GM Dale Tallon took five years to build (technically less, because he won the 2012 GM Of The Year award after a strong finish). But the Cats' new owners were convinced they could do even better with the help of analytics, so they "promoted" Tallon to President and named his assistant Rowe the GM. Rowe proceeded to tear the team down, starting with the defense, as Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov were sent away and Yandle, Dylan McIlrath, and Mark Pysyk were acquired.

It'll likely take Tallon a couple of years to rid his roster of Rowe's acquisitions and insert some talent and grit around or instead of guys who can barely "move the puck forward". Case in point: the Vrbata acquisition seems like simple "hole-plugging" to me, as almost everyone in the hockey world knows he is unable to produce outside of the Arizona Coyotes organization. But you need players to fill jerseys and reach the cap floor, and trade deadline bait to stock up on draft picks, right?

It pains me to say this, but they're wasting prime years from the Huberdeau, Barkov, Ekblad, Trocheck, and Bujgstad core, years during which future Hall of Fame goalie Luongo will only get older.

Heck, now that I think of it, perhaps this team should be down in the basement with the Detroit Red Wings. Oh well, I'll maintain my initial gut feeling:

Prediction: 5th in the Metropolitan Division.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Pittsburgh Penguins

GM: Jim Rutherford (since 2015). 8/10
Coach: Mike Sullivan (since 2015). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 50-21-11, 111 points, 2nd overall, repeat Stanley Cup champions.

Departures: Chris Kunitz (LW), Marc-André Fleury (G), Nick Bonino (C), Trevor Daley (D), Ron Hainsey (D), Mark Streit (D), David Warsofsky (D).

Arrivals: Antti Niemi (G), Greg McKegg (C), Matt Hunwick (D), Ryan Reaves (RW).

Top forwards: Sidney Crosby (80-95 points), Evgeni Malkin (75-95 points), Phil Kessel (60-70 points), Jake Guentzel (50-60 points), Conor Sheary (50-60 points), Patric Hornqvist (40-50 points), Bryan Rust (25-30 points), Carl Hagelin (25-30 points), Scott Wilson (25-30 points).

Must-improve forwards: Yeah, uh, no.

Top defensemen: None. Just kidding: Kristopher Letang (60-65 points; he could almost be a point-per-game d-man, but gets injured so often you must take points away), Justin Schultz (45-55 points), Ian Cole (20-25 points), Brian Dumoulin (15-20 points).

Goalies: Matt Murray (92/100), Niemi (71/100), Tristan Jarry (75/100).

Top rookies: Daniel Sprong (20 years old, RW), Jarry (22, G), Dominik Simon (23, C), Filip Gustavsson (19, G), Kasper Bjorkqvist (20, RW).

Analysis:
Mike Sullivan is either a magician or a genius, because he took the joke of the 2015-16 playoffs ("How can the Pens win the Cup with just ONE NHL defenseman in Letang?") and doubled down on no-names when Letang couldn't even dress for a single playoff game. And won a second-consecutive Cup, getting outplayed and boxed in their own zone in 90% of the games.

How "no-name" were they? Four of them left this summer, and Pittsburgh is still likely the top team in the East, ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All of that is also a testament to GM Rutherford, whom you may remember as the guy who took the Hartford Whalers from near-obscurity and turned them into the even-more obscure Carolina Hurricanes, lucking out on a Stanley Cup in 2006 and failing to make the playoffs in just about every other season. He then inherited a cap-strapped, underachieving Penguins roster consisting of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Letang and 19 nobodies and made them the team to beat again by having each one of his acquisitions and call-ups become important cogs in the machine. Oh, and cash-strapped? Yeah, about that: he managed to add the $64M, eight-year Kessel contract to that roster. Magician or genius or lucky, or all of the above?

There is seemingly no end in sight for those two, who have defied expectations (and logic, and reason). Except for the fact that Letang and Malkin tend to miss a lot of games due to injuries, and that the next time Crosby gets hit hard anywhere or just softly on the head might spell the end of his career. And Murphy's Law being what it is, these things will all happen in the same season. But not before the Pens have a chance to three-peat, right?

Prediction: 1st in the Metropolitan Division.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Chicago Blackhawks

GM: Stan Bowman (since 2009). 9/10
Coach: Joel Quenneville (since 2008). 9/10

2016-17 record: 50-23-9, 109 points, 3rd overall. First-round playoff exit (sweep).

Departures: Niklas Hjalmarsson (D), Scott Darling (G), Artemi Panarin (LW), Marian Hossa (RW), Marcus Kruger (C), Tyler Motte (LW), Brian Campbell (D), Trevor Van Riemsdyk (D), Dennis Rasmussen (C), Michal Rozsival (D).

Arrivals: Brandon Saad (LW), Patrick Sharp (RW), Laurent Dauphin (C), Connor Murphy (D), Anton Forsberg (G), Jean-François Bérubé (G), Lance Bouma (LW), Tommy Wingels (LW), Jordan Oesterle (D).

Top forwards: Patrick Kane (80-85 points), Jonathan Toews (60-65 points), Saad (55-60 points), Artem Anisimov (40-45 points), Alex DeBrincat (30-40 points), Nick Schmaltz (30-40 points), Richard Panik (35-40 points), Ryan Hartman (30-35 points), Tanner Kero (30-35 points), Sharp (30-35 points), Dauphin (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: After years of producing in the high-60s in terms of point production while winning Selke trophies as the league's best defensive forward, Captain Serious (Toews) has stagnated at 58 for the last two seasons. Granted, his partner Hossa had a so-so season in 2015-16 and Toews himself missed ten games last year, but he's 29, his decline should not happen for another good three or four years. This time, Hossa's gone for the year (and "retirement" is actually a possibility in his case) and Saad only half-replaces the future Hall of Famer, but that means Toews needs to step up and make his teammates better himself. Perhaps playing in between Saad and Schmaltz might be a solution.

Top defensemen: Duncan Keith (45-55 points), Brent Seabrook (35-40 points), Murphy (20-25 points), Michal Kempny (15 points), Gustav Forsling (10 points).

Goalies: Corey Crawford (91/100), Forsberg (74/100).

Top rookies: DeBrincat (19 years old, LW, over two points per game, 127 in 63, in the OHL), John Hayden (22, C, point-per-game player at Yale), Ville Ponka (23, D), Chad Krys (19, D), Radovan Bondra (20, LW).

Analysis:
A small step backwards for Chicago is still a tremendous season by any other measure.

In true Hawks fashion, they will not rebuild by tearing the roster apart and finishing at the bottom of the standings - they did that a decade ago, ensuring they not have to do it again until Toews, Kane, Keith and Crawford all retire.

Instead, Coach Quenneville will be hard on the young guys and have them learn twice as fast as they would on an awful team. A year or two from now, though, they'll be ready to challenge for first-place in the division again, all while not missing the playoffs in the meantime.

Prediction: 3rd in the Central Division.