Ten Things I Think I Think – December 2010

Ten Things I Think I Think – December 2010

Well, that was quite a year! There is a lot of ground to cover, most of it has been good, but some of it has been not so good as well. On balance, this was a fun, productive year in the NRL. This Ten Things will focus on the more recent, because year-end top ten lists are so 2009….

1. I think that the power structure in the NRL continues to look shaky. Just as Prairie Fire emerged as the dominant power in the west, they drop a game to the Manitoba Jets. Just as Cambridge looked like an undefeated season might be within reach, they drop a game to the Waterloo Wildfire. This season, no game is safe, no lead is safe and any prediction is nothing more than a guess!

2. I think that if you took the scorers from the past calendar year, you would not be surprised by the top four 100+ goal scorers in that time:
Catherine Cartier (162) – Montreal Mission
Julie Blanchette (126) – Montreal Mission
Sharloyn Wouters (122) – Cambridge Turbos
Jacqueline Gaudet (112) – Cambridge Turbos

But I also think the next two might surprise you a bit:
Chantal St-Laurent (109) – Cyclones de Quebec
Julie Primard (103) – Rive Sud Revolution

Primard and St-Laurent seem to consistently fly under the radar, despite scoring at a pace that puts them in very elite company. Maybe 2011 will bring more recognition to these scoring stars.

3. I think that the goals against average leaders in the same period may not be as surprising. The top three in goals against average in the 2010 calendar year:
Tori Goble (3.59) – Ottawa Ice
Meghan Pittaway (3.67) – Cambridge Turbos
Keely Brown (4.01) – Edmonton WAM!

4. I think that the NRL has taken a turn for the offensive so far this season. Games are averaging 10.27 goals so far this season. Last year, games averaged a total of 8.97 goals. So this year, if you go to an NRL game you should expect a full extra goal per game.

5. I think that bucking the more-goals trend this year are the Ottawa Ice and the Calgary RATH. The Ice are allowing a measly 3.23 goals per game, and the RATH are a bit better, averaging 3.21 goals per game against. When you consider that the Ice have Katie Lugg and the RATH have Victoria Russell, each averaging about one goal per game (on their own), you can see how they are winning a lot of games. Average very few goals against and score more than that! The magic formula to success.

6. I think that Rive Sud and Lac St Louis would do well to heed Agnes Jacks’ famous advice, “stay out of the penalty box”. Both teams are averaging over 11 penalty minutes per game. With the league averaging 8.8 minutes per game, Rive Sud and LSL are spotting the other teams a full power play advantage per game. Those add up.

7. I think that goals for and against differential is a telling statistic. This year, there are some teams whose records do not really match their goals differential. Baseball nerds (or sabermatricians if you want to be respectful) consider this a sign that the team is going to make a move in the second half of the season (for better or for worse). The following teams have a goal differential that does not really match with their record so far. These teams should be either ready to continue proving themselves, or be expecting a big turnaround in the second half:
Rive Sud Revolution with a 9-8-1 record but a -13 differential;
Gloucester Devils with a 7-8 record but a -15 differential;
Prairie Fire with a 12-2-1 record but a +18 differential;
Edmonton WAM! with a 9-7 record but a +14 differential.

8. I think that Sidney Crosby’s points streak has nothing on Catherine Cartiers’ streak. Cartier is on a 25-game scoring streak, in which she has scored 117 points. In the last season and a half, Cartier has been held scoreless in only one game.

9. I think that the NRL family took a punch in the gut this December with the folding of the Fraser Valley Avalanche. This stinks. The Avalanche have been a great addition to the league, along with their predecessors, the BC Reign. In the time that the Reign/Avalanche have been with us, they have acquitted themselves well in two National Championship appearances, produced two national team players and have been a good addition to the western conference, despite their incredible geographic challenges (the BC teams flew to all of their road games – zero easy road trips…..ever).

Luckily, so long does not necessarily mean good bye. There is a great pool of athletes in BC who want to compete at the highest levels of our sport. BC will be back, of that we can be sure.

The other thing we have to keep in mind is that sometimes in a league like ours, teams may come and go. Our league has had its share of teams that did not stick around (who remembers “Hix with Stix”?). Other leagues have dealt with this too. In fact, there is a Wikipedia page dedicated only to defunct NFL teams (including the unlikely Rochester Jeffersons, and the Staten Island Stapletons). This can happen from time to time. Now in our 7th season, the NRL has outlived the the National Women’s Hockey League and W-USA Women’s Soccer League, Continental Basketball Association, and the Arena Football League, among others. We have a great deal to be proud of.

Athletes, coaches and management of the teams in our league give all they have. The ownership, coaches, players and managers in BC were no exception. In this case, it did not work out and for that we all are worse off. But the league continues to be strong and the competition on the ice continues to be outstanding. Ringette in the NRL is the best in the world and is well on its way to achieving its goal of being “the Premiere Women’s Sports League in Canada”. Losing the Avalanche is a setback, but there is much more good news in our league than there is bad.

10. I think these are my non-NRL thoughts of the month:

a. I think that the Glee Christmas special was outstanding. The last song, from the Grinch was actually super-good. Combining Glee and a childhood memory is simply outstanding.

b. I think that the UConn Women’s Basketball team did an incredible thing this month, winning their 89th consecutive game. This is an amazing accomplishment and should get even more attention than it does.

c. I think that some cities are catching up on the arena shortage across Canada. The BMO Centre in Halifax will relieve some of the pressure on the east coast, and the new Athletic and Ice Complex coming to Calgary, some of the terrible ice shortages in Calgary will be relieved a bit. Remember, if a politician comes to your door in the coming months, mention that sport matters to you, including updating and building facilities across the country.

d. I think that it always fun to bring this Ten Things to you, thanks for the chance to do that. Have a great holiday season and a wonderful New Year!