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HIstory predicts 2014 Stanley Cup winner PDF Print
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Wednesday, 16 April 2014 18:55

By Rob Ficiur
The following statistics from the last 24 years will predict with mathematical certainty who win the championship in June. (The statistics used in this article are based on the playoffs from 1989-2013).  To keep the statistics accurate as possible, numbers from the  lockout shortened 1995 and 2013 seasons were not included in the total points, goals for and goals against ranking. (Teams like Vancouver and Toronto were doing well this year at game 44, but missed the playoffs, so I chose not to use partial numbers.) 
This is the sixth year I have used the statistical data to predict the Stanley Cup winner. (These mathematical calculations have never predicted the champ, but we will try it again. I was never good at predicting by logic or emotion when I tried it that way either).
1. a) Total Points: The team that finished first overall in league standings has won seven Stanley Cups in the last 23 years. First overall has won more Stanley Cups than any spot in overall standings (Mode). Mode: 1st overall is the Boston Bruins (1 vote for them.)
b) Adding up the 22 years, the average (mean) overall ranking is 4.04; meaning the fourth place overall team has the best chance of winning the Cup. This year team that finished fourth overall is the St. Louis Blues, one vote for them.
c) The average number of points of the Stanley Cup champion is 105. The team with the most points to win it all was the 1989 Flames with 117 points. The lowest team to win was the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins with 87 points. This year no team finished with 105 points, but the closest is the Chicago Black Hawks; one vote for Chicago.   
d) The mode (most common number) for Stanley Cup champs is 112 and 103 points. Three champs having earned that 112 and three have earned 103 and won the Stanley Cup. This year the Colorado Avalanche have 112 points; no teams have 103 points. Mode: One vote for the Colorado Avalanche.
2. Goals Against. We have been brainwashed to believe that defence wins championships. That may not be so.
a) The average ranking of the Stanley Cup champs in goals against average is 7.0. The team with the seventh best goals against average this year is the Minnesota Wild; one vote for them. 
b) The 3rd best defensive teams have also won four Stanley Cups. This is the mode (most commonly occurring number). That means that the St. Louis Blues get one more vote. 
3. Goals For. In 2012 the LA Kings were the 29th best offense in the NHL. 
a) The average Stanley Cup champion ranked 5.2 in goals for during the regular season. So which team ranks fifth this year in goal scoring is the San Jose Sharks; one vote for them.
b) The mode in team offense is 2nd overall. Six teams that finished second in overall goals claimed the championship. One vote for the Anaheim Ducks.
Sub Total Conclusions: Total Votes so far: St. Louis 2, while the following teams have one: Boston, Chicago, Anaheim, Colorado, San Jose and Minnesota.
Tie Breaker Round (using only the eight teams from the previous list). 
4. How did the team do the previous playoffs? 
Of the last 24 Stanley Cup winners – ten of them won zero playoff rounds the year before. Of these ten teams who went from winning zero playoff rounds to champs three missed the playoffs and seven lost in the first round of the previous season. Of our eight finalists, only the Colorado Avalanche missed the playoffs last year. However, three of the teams, Minnesota, Anaheim and St. Louis were eliminated in the first round. One point will be added to each of those four teams round one total. 
The Winner Will Be: Added together, the numbers conclusively precisely and positively predict that the St. Louis Blues will win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 44 year history.

 
Can 2014 Blue Jays make the playoffs? PDF Print
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Tuesday, 08 April 2014 16:57

By Rob Ficiur
When the 1994 Major League Baseball season began, who would have predicted that the two time World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays would play an equal number of playoff games as their Canadian cousins the Montreal Expos? Zero playoff games for both teams, and the Expos moved to Washington ten years ago.
Every skeptic / expert has predicted that 2014 will be another non- playoff year for the Blue Jays. Toronto failed to acquire the two starting pitchers they needed to improve on their 2013 failure of a season. When the all-star short stop Jose Reyes began the new season with a hamstring injury on the team’s first at bat, fans looked in the sky for the dark cloud of injury that followed the team all of last year.
However, we can adopt a positive attitude (sometimes called naïve) and show how the Blue Jays could (hopefully) improve enough to make the post season. The 2013 Blue Jays finished with 74 wins; only 18 wins behind the playoff making Tampa Bay Rays. Where can we find 18 more wins for the Blue Jays?
1. Starting Pitchers 10 more wins? In 2013 the Blue Jays top five starting pitchers won 38 games. The World Series champion Boston Red Sox got 48 wins out of their top five pitchers. Can the current Blue Jays starting pitching staff win ten more games? If R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle (the only two pitchers who played all of 2013) can maintain their numbers from last year, that gives the team 27 wins. Can the other three starters earn 21 wins between them? The career best seasons for Morrow, Hutchinson and McGowan would add up to 28 more wins. Injuries kept Morrow and Hutchinson out of baseball in 2013. However, before Hutchinson was injured two years ago, he had a 5-3 record as a rookie. Brandon Morrow has won ten games three times in his career. If four of the five starters win to their career average the Jays would have fifty wins.  Potential is there to win.
2. Better Hitting equals 5 more wins? It is impossible to measure the correlation between hitting and wins, but we will try it here. Melky Cabrera went from a .346 batting average in 2012 to a .279 average in 2013.  If he could hit closer to .300, and not be injured all year he would make a difference. Cabrera lead the all major league batters in the 2014 pre-season with 20 hits; but will that carry over into the regular season? Through six games Milky has nine hits and is on a six game hit streak. Consistent hitting by Milky will make it harder for pitchers to deal with the Jays’ home run hitters in the middle of the batting order. A solid, consistent (healthy) Melky Cabrera could add five more wins to our missing total.
3. Weak Link Fixed (sort of) – While Blue Jays fans are annoyed there were big name acquisitions in the off season, one big holes may have been filled by letting released their starting catcher. When catcher JP Arencibia hit two home runs in his first major league game fans imagined him as future all-star. By the end of the 2013 season with his .194 batting average and 148 strike outs, fans imagined him playing somewhere else. His 148 strikes outs were 15th worst in baseball; but the real numbers are worse than that. Thirteen of the fourteen players with more strike outs than Arencibia had an on base percentage over. 290 (meaning they drew a number of walks). Arencibia lead all major league catchers in strike outs and his on base percentage was the lowest of all starting catchers. His fielding percentage was 95th out of 113 catchers. To sum it all up in 2013 the Blue Jays number one catcher was among the worse at hitting and fielding.  Whatever they have now, will be an improvement – could that add five more wins we were looking for?
3. Quick Start Means more than numbers can count – As of this minute the Blue Jays are 3-3.  A 3-3 starts does not mean Jays fans should be planning a World Series parade yet, but it is important for two reasons:
a) The Blue Jays modest 3-3 record has been against 2013 playoff contending teams. The Yankees were 12 games over .500 and the Tampa Bay Rays were 21 games over .500. 2014 Jays’ fans could understand if they got off to a slow start against two better teams. Better news they are often to a solid start against two good teams.
b) Slow start crippled the 2013 Blue Jays. A year ago the Jays did not get their third win until game eight (3-5). By the end of April the team had a 10-17 record. Recovering from poor starts is more difficult than fans imagine. In June 2013 the Jays became the hottest team in baseball. By June 23, their winning streak took them to a winning record of 38-36. The problem with a winning streak like that is things slow down.   A month later the Jays were 45-55; ten games under .500. Had the Jays been an even record when they hit their winning streak, they could have survived a losing streak that inevitably comes in a 162 game season.  Bottom line, a good start creates positive momentum; and a poor start creates a negative mindset that can spiral down to the type of result the Blue Jays had in 2013.
What are the Blue Jays chances of making the 2014 playoffs? The simple math is that five out of fifteen teams will make the playoffs; so the Blue Jays have a 33% chance to be in the post season. According to sportsclubstats.com the Jays current 3-3 record gives them a 27% chance of making the playoffs.  (Neat website where they make all kinds of predictions) What are the chances of all the potentials and hopefuls (and no injuries) happening that I described in this article? Probably less than 27%; but in 2013 the Jays were the World Series favorites and surprised us in a bad way; could they surprise us in a good way in 2014? We will know for sure in 158 more games.

 
NHL trivia quiz PDF Print
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Tuesday, 01 April 2014 16:47

By Rob Ficiur
As the NHL’s regular season enters its final week here are a few questions (and a hint or two) to test your regular season knowledge - before the second season begins.
1. Who is the only NHL goalie that is the all-time wins leaders for two different teams?
2. When the Calgary Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers 8-1 on March 22; what Battle of Alberta record did the teams set?
3. The NHL regular season has just over a week to go.  Some teams are perennial playoff participants, in other cities the fans can’t remember what a playoff game is.
a) What current NHL team has appeared in the playoffs the most consecutive years?

b) What current NHL team has missed the playoffs the most consecutive years?
4. Which current NHL team has had the longest Stanley Cup drought?  (Most years in a row without winning the Stanley Cup).
Hint: 
1. This goalie is still playing the NHL.  His current team expects him to play many years – so he is not an aging veteran playing a backup roll.
2. No hint will help you on this – the two trivia facts about this are not something you would ever look up. 
3a) This team is currently on the bubble. At this precise moment, they are in a playoff spot; there are four teams fighting for two spots. Their status could change in if they hit a losing streak.  Playoffs are not a guarantee this year.
3b) The last time this team played an NHL playoff game, they were in Game #7 of the Stanley Cup final; one win away from being champions. They did not win that game or series. Even their harshest critics would never have imagined they would be out of the playoffs this many years in a row.
4. One answer to this question could be the Ottawa Senators. They last won the Stanley Cup in 1927. However, from 1935-1990 there were no Ottawa Senators in the NHL. The answer to the question is another team.
Answers (Don’t peek until you try to figure out the questions).
1. Roberto Luongo has the most career wins for the Vancouver Canucks and his new / old team the Florida Panthers. In his Vancouver years Bobby Lou 252 regular season games, 42 more than second place Kirk Maclean and third place “King” Richard Brodeur (126 wins). All three of these goalies led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup final and a few years later they were gone. When Luongo left Florida in 2006 he was the franchise leader in goalie wins with 108. When he returned in 2014 he was still the franchise leader. (Luongo is also Florida’s leader in games played and shutouts). If Roberto Luongo was the best in the two cities he has played in why were the Canucks so anxious to get rid of him?
2. When the Flames beat the Oilers 8-1 in Edmonton, it clinched the season series for the Flames 3-2. (Not a record there.) However, all five games were won by the visiting team. The other record, for the Flames is that it was their highest margin of victory for the Flames against the Oilers in Edmonton. While there is no number to measure it – was the lowest of low points in a very low season for the Oilers.
3a) The Detroit Red Wings have been in the NHL playoffs for 22 consecutive years. Since they last missed the playoffs in 1989-90, Detroit has won four Stanley Cup championships; more than any other team in that time period. The longest consecutive playoff streak in NHL history is 29 years set by the Boston Bruins from 1968-1996.
3b) The Edmonton Oilers last playoff game was Game #7 of the 2006 final. Counting this year, the Oilers will have missed the playoffs eight years in a row. The Winnipeg Jets (Atlanta Thrashers) franchise is close behind with seven non play off years in a row as of 2014. The longest playoff drought in NHL history is ten years set by the Florida Panthers from 1999-2012. 
4. The Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup the year Canada celebrating its centennial; Lester Pearson was the Prime Minister and our Maple Leaf flag was two years old. The Toronto Maple Leafs, 1967 Stanley Cup Champions, have gone 45 (soon to be 46) years in a row without winning the Stanley Cup.

 
Reflections (and ramblings) on basketball provincials PDF Print
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Thursday, 27 March 2014 15:40

By Rob Ficiur
This past weekend across Alberta Basketball Provincials created new champions and entertained fans across the province. Provincial Basketball Fever hit our home Thursday and lasted for three days until the final buzzer rang.
Much has changed: When our daughter went to provincials in 1992, we waited until long after the game was over to find out the results. She phoned and gave us the update. [For those too young to remember twenty years ago very few people had cell phones, and a text was a book that teachers gave us to study from.]
In 2014 we could watch, from the comfort of our computer desk, any game we wanted to; anywhere in the province. The technology was good but not great. One game we watched it was hard to read the score clock. “I think that is a 6 but it could be a 4…” If it was a six we were winning by lots, if it was a four things were looking bad.
As we watched my niece’s Thursday night game, the screen went blank with a minute to go in the game. Now what? In the year 2014 there was a simple solution. During the game, we saw one of our sons in the stands cheering on his cousin.  We texted him for the final score.
Websites are only as good as the person updating them. Did the Gershaw boys win?  Did the Gershaw girls win? How did Foremost do? All this information was available on the Alberta Basketball website…except when it wasn’t. “That game was last night, why hasn’t it been updated?” Through facebook it was easy to find out who won and who lost.
We got home from Lethbridge Provincials, for the last few minutes of the Gershaw boys first place game against Rosemary. Gershaw was behind by one point. They had to foul Rosemary about four times before they somehow got the ball back. Their goal was to have Rosemary go to the foul line – first time I remember not having too few fouls as being a problem. Not sure how it all happened, but with two seconds left; down by one point Gershaw had one chance to win. The inbound pass was perfect…the shot was up there…rolling around the rim…it missed…someone tipped it back up…NO! the ball rolled out of the rim on to the ground. A heart breaking loss – so close. 
Too bad there was no video replay on the website. Even without the sound, I could feel the anguish of those who lost. Not hard to tell the enthusiasm of those who won.
We spent part of Saturday watching our niece in Provincial tournament. Sadly her team lost on Friday, so this was the consolation game, not the pressure and excitement of a provincial championship. Since she is in Grade 12, we all knew it was the last game of her high school career.
As the game went on, I took the chance to ask my two sons that were with us, if they remembered their final Grade 12 basketball game. Both lost out in zones their senior year, but they remembered. “We almost tied it up in the last seconds…” one remembered as her loudly cheered his cousin on.
“Do you remember the nearly flagrant foul you got in the last minute of your last game?” I asked my other son.
“Dad, your memory is fading…Oh…a few years ago I had a university class with that guy; he was cool.” (See old Dad remembers a few things right).
I spent the first half taking pictures with my new camera. I got better pictures of my niece’s basketball games in one day than any of my own children in any of their sports: badminton, volleyball, curling, basketball, soccer and basketball.  Action pictures are much clearer with a new camera. (And I won’t have dozens and dozens of blurring poor colored pictures in a box).
At half time I took about one hundred pictures of my one year old grandson. “Look he is crawling. Look at his cute smile. Look at him play with the rug…What? The ball game has started again… Yes, I guess we could watch that too.” Grandson began to cry when noisy fans screamed. I wanted to tell those fans off, but I realized that was my son, grandson’s papa being so loud.
My world has changed since our first Basketball Provincial Tournament. We had six children who we loved to take hither and yon (and on and on the miles would go).  Graduation may be the end of school sports, but it is the beginning of new chapters in life. Now we have added three fabulous children of the in-law variety; one son in law and two daughters in law. Instead of following our children around for badminton or soccer now we have three grandchildren to entertain us; each in their own way. 
One thing hasn’t changed; no matter how close we were, there is only one team that won the title of Provincial Champion…(until we do it all again next year).

 
2014 Paralympic Games PDF Print
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Tuesday, 18 March 2014 19:12

By Rob Ficiur
The 11th Winter Paralympic games ended this week in Sochi, Russia. The next Summer Paralympic games will take place in 2016 in Brazil and the next Paralympic Winter Games will take place in 2018 in South Korea. Since 1988 the Paralympic games have taken place a few weeks after the Olympics finish in the same site.
The first organized athletic day for disabled athletes that coincided with the Olympic Games took place on the day of the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. German born Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, who had fleed Nazi Germany in 1939, hosted a sports competition for British World War II veteran patients with spinal cord injuries.
The first Paralympic games took place in Rome in 1960. When the Soviet Union held the 1980 Summer Olympics, they were not interested in hosting the Paralympics, since there were no disabled people in the Soviet Union. (Did they really say that?) In the 2014 Paralympic games the Russians earned 80 medals, including 30 of the 72 Gold Medals. Guess now there are a few disabled people in that country.
The 2014 Paralympic games had 550 athletes from 45 countries. (by comparison the 2014 Winter Games included 2873 athletes from 88 nations. Snowboarding made its Paralympic debut at Sochi. The Paralympic games have grown in size each year. The 1988 Paralympics (held in Innsbruck, Austria not Calgary) had 22 countries and 377 athletes. In 2010, the Vancouver Paralympic games hosted 44 countries and 506 athletes.
Canada came in third in the 2014 Paralympic medal count with seven gold and sixteen total medals. This is slightly down from 2010 when we won ten gold and nineteen medals still put Canada in third place. Third place is the highest Canada has ranked in the Paralympic games, beating our previous best of sixth place set in 2006 and 2002. 
Who are the Canadians that won medals? During the three weeks of the Winter Olympics, every day a new hero was born. TV coverage of the Paralympic games was relegated to highlights and broadcasts on secondary sports channels. 
-Brian McKeever, a visually impaired athlete, won gold in 20 km and 10 km free style skiing and 1km sprint. Brian will need a new shelf for all the 12 Paralympic medals he has earned since 2006. His favorite color is Gold, he has nine of those medals.
-Josh Dueck won Gold and Silver in Sit-Skiing. Josh was chosen as Canada’s Flag bearer at the closing ceremonies. Duecks’ silver medal came ten years to the day when he broke his back in a skiing run. 
-Wheelchair curling earned Canada another gold medal. Canada has won all gold in all three years that wheel chair curling has been part of the Paralympic games.
- Christopher Klebl won Gold for 10 km Cross country sit-skiing. In 2005 Klebl broke his back snowboarding and was paralyzed from the waste down. The Canmore resident previously competed for the USA in other Paralympic games.
- Mac Marcoux won gold for downhill skiing for the visually impaired. Sixteen year old Mac was the youngest member of the Canada Paralympic team. The visually impaired Macroux learned to downhill ski using a radio to communicate with his guide up ahead while he blasts down the hill at upwards of 100 kilometres per hour.
-Canadians had to settle for a bronze in sledge hockey. The USA won gold, and the Russians did a get an Olympic hockey medal, silver in sledge hockey. Canada has only won the Gold Medal in Sledge hockey once, back in 2006.
The opening of the Paralympic games was marred when Russian troops threatened to invade the Ukraine. Hopefully the Sochi Olympics will be remembered for all the athletes who overcame life changing disabilities, not for one more mini war between a big country and its little neighbor.

 
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