11/22/18 – A year ago Alexander Radulov ate a banana whole on the bench

“I’ve studied bananas for close to 15 years and traveled to every continent where bananas are grown and I have never seen anyone eat a peel,” says Koeppel, author of “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.”

If banana expert Dan Koeppel watched the 2018 Dallas Stars, he would’ve seen it.  A year ago today Alexander Radulov did the seemingly unthinkable on the bench. The eccentric Russian (not enigmatic!) sat down for a snack on the bench. His item of choice was a banana. a sensible request. Unlike most of us, Radulov did not have time to peel this ftuit before attacking it. Little buddy devoured it whole.

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This astonished many people, myself included. Honestly if Sean Shapiro ever writes a sequel to his book this should be chapter 101. The man ate a whole damn banana on the bench on purpose.

Is it a coincidence that he was -2 in this game with only two shots in 21 minutes? Probably, but you at least have to wonder.

Is there any nutritional benefit to eating a whole banana?

Nutrition experts say that while there are many interesting nutrients in the banana peel, the amounts are small and, more importantly, there aren’t any studies showing that our bodies can actually absorb them.

“Just because a nutrient is in there doesn’t mean you can use it,” Levtisky explains.

If there are no nutrients, does it at least taste good?

Banana peels just don’t taste good, says Leslie Bonci, a nutrition consultant and owner of Active Eating Advice. “They’re bitter and they’re very chewy.” Beyond that, there is the problem of the toughness of the peel. You’re not going to be able to puree them for a smoothie unless you have a super high-powered blender, Bonci says.

It tastes like shit. You can’t even make a smoothie from it. It’s bitter. It’s chewy. There is no nutritional benefit. There was literally no reason for Radulov to do this, and he did. It”s one of those events that don’t matter that I’ll never forget. Athletes can get legends attached to their name that often are complete fabrications that overshadow actual feats they accomplished. In 15 years when we look back at Radulov, this would be one of those we wouldn’t believe without photographic evidence.

Radulov is the best. He may never win a scoring title or a Stanley Cup, who knows, but I know for a fact that I will never forget that he allowed me to see a grown man eat a banana whole on the bench. I’ve seen something a banana expert has never witnessed.

“Go ahead and google ‘monkey eating a banana,’ and you’ll see that even most monkeys are peeling the banana before eating it. If monkeys are smart enough to figure this out, we should be, too,” says Koeppel.

That may be the case Mr. Koeppel, but if you Google “Alexander Radulov eating a banana” you will get some hits.

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11/20/18 -Developing, or not, Julius Honka

Developing any skill is hard. I don’t care if we’re talking about hockey, making a pizza, or learning to write. Skill development is challenging because of the inordinate amount of factors that go into it that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the skill.

School this year has been a unique challenge for me. Our kids came to us out of control behaviorally with learning gaps, un-diagnosed learning disorders, and an extreme lack of confidence due to the aforementioned issues. Regardless of how they come to me I’m charged with putting them in a position where they can be successful on the STAAR exam at a 40% clip for them personally and 60% clip to meet grade level expectations for the state.

What matters is results. Full stop. The extenuating circumstances don’t matter. 75% of my students being served by special education. ESL, or 504 doesn’t matter. The regular gaps of the students not served by a special title doesn’t matter. What matters is how prepared these kids are to succeed on an exam that the school, district, and state can point to as an indicator of success or failure.

Such is life for anyone in a position where they are asked to develop talent in any walk of life. Each different scenario presents unique challenges that people on the outside will not be able to comprehend without being there. When people criticize teachers for a lack of success I tend to laugh because few know what goes into the process of dragging a kid kicking and screaming to learn a subject they don’t care to learn. It isn’t possible to know all of the inputs to the situation from the outside.

Hell, it isn’t possible from the inside. Prior to break I found out a student of mine has a two year old child. How am I supposed to continue to be upset about this student being sleepy at 6:50 in the morning on a daily basis? I can’t in good conscience be mad at this kid, but knowing this information gives me an opportunity.

I can now point out how much better off his child’s life can be if he completes high school. I can work with him to make sure he gets the information he needs while understanding he has significant responsibilities at home. I can build a relationship that shows I care which allows me to feed him negative feedback in an environment where he understands I’m saying it because I care and want him to be successful.

Sports development has one significant difference from teaching kids: the personal responsibility falls on the athlete to use the coaching and tools at his disposal to meet the goals set by the development staff. All of the other extenuating circumstances don’t have to matter to the development staff because in a professional environment the professional is expected to meet the standards of his profession despite any noise on the outside.

Inevitably I would guess most coaches care, but the nature of professional sports is such that if a player isn’t meeting a coach’s expectations they turn to the next man up if he gives the team a better chance of success. There exists a delicate balance between development and success on the ice that organizations have to maintain. The question they have to answer is can a player develop his game while maintaining a level of play superior than enough of his contemporaries in the organization to demand a roster spot?

Julius Honka is not a top four defenseman in the 2019 NHL season. There is a fair debate to be had about whether or not he can ever reach that goal on a championship caliber team, a ceiling set for him with the pedigree of being a mid first round pick. What there can be little debate over is that in the minutes he has been given overall this season he has produced capably.

I pulled a bunch of info from Corsica on the Stars most common five defensemen. I then changed the numbers to their ranks among the five of them. Honka is one or two in most, and goes no lower than third on any of them except ice time. One of the lower ranked ones is individual expected goals per hour, but he, like John Klingberg, isn’t an even strength goal scorer. You wouldn’t expect him to excel there.

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There are a number of inputs to this situation that need to be considered before anointing Honka as being on his way to greatness. Honka gets the easiest zone starts, the easiest competition, and consistently the worst linemates of the five players. Given the first two he should be producing. The last nugget should, theoretically, bring his offensive totals down. It probably does drag his secondary assists down, but he’s tops among these five in primary points per hour. The signal here is that he is doing something right.

The emphasis here should be on something. As in, not everything. The sum total of what Honka has brought to his role this year is positive by almost every statistic you can find. An overwhelming consensus of the available information suggests he has done something right.

Jim Montgomery has pointed out that he wants players taking chances to make offense happen. The idea has been that he can live with mistakes, if the mistakes come from a player trying to make a play. Many of the mistakes Honka does make come from trying to make a play, but the mental calculus any professional has to work to figure out if he can make a play is off for him right now.

It isn’t so far off to make him a liability in the role Montgomery and his staff have given him however. If you look at the sum total of his skills with the assumption that all are equally valuable, or look at the events which transpire with him on the ice without proper context, or disregard the statistical information generated by his play the conversation becomes disingenuous and unfair to the player.

If you watch Honka play you see good flashes and bad flashes. You see the inconsistency in his game that holds him back. We’ve seen Honka do magical things with the puck that make him believe he can do anything with it, but we’ve then seen those same situations bite him in the ass enough that it is going to naturally make him question his ability as a hockey player while minimizing the amount of skill he puts on display.

Honka, at his best, skates the puck out of the zone and springs the offense with crisp outlet passes. He gets into the offensive zone and sets up goals with quality vision. At his worst Honka is passive defensively for fear of making a mistake, gets pushed around physically, and turns the puck over because in his mind he feels like he can make plays that to this point sometimes lead to turnovers.

And in the end, the statistical indicators show that this year Honka has done quite a bit more good than bad in the role given him by the coaching staff. Having a discussion about Honka without the context statistics provide is not going to provide the proper nuance necessary to fairly look at the overall game he has played making any discussion that begins with that premise pointless.

The injury to Klingberg has provided an opportunity for Honka to show that he can be the type of top four defenseman the Stars thought he could be when they drafted him. I pulled data from Corsica again for the last five games for the four regular defensemen still playing.

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Honka, largely, has been the worst of the four. He has the points, but other than that statistically he has been the worst of the regular four. Added responsibilities and being forced into the situation of being “the guy” on a pair more frequently have exposed Honka is pretty clearly not a top four defenseman right now, or, at least, not a play driver for a defensive pair.

On the other hand, Miro Heiskanen is proving that he is already a top pairing defenseman in the league at 19. With Klingberg out of the lineup he has a 72% xGF rate to go with a 53% Corsi and almost 90 minutes of even strength ice time. The kid is an absolute horse who, with Klingberg out, has stepped up to show he is the future of the franchise defensively.

Honka hasn’t, and that’s ok. When the roster is in less flux he will slide back to his role ideally with more positive experience that will allow him to fine tune that rough mental calculus that leads to turnovers and mistakes. He may not develop into the guy many hoped he would, but as a bottom six guy who can put points on the board he still has value.

And, using the data tracked by Corey Sznajder from 2014-2018 this image shows why it’s too early to just toss Honka out.

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The kid has something. It’s just a matter of him finding the right balance between risk and reward so he can unlock it consistently.

11/14/18 – Devin Nystrom

Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, and Devin Shore lead the Dallas Stars with four goals at even strength.

This is a sentence that accurately describes hockey in the year of our Lord 2018, a year that makes zero sense in most contexts.

Shore’s career high in goals is 13 which should immediately raise some alarms. The five he has in 18 games this season have him on pace for 23. 23 goals from an unexpected source would be a major boost for a Stars team that needs offensive production.

It isn’t going to happen. Shore is shooting damn near 30%. He’s a a career 10% shooter prior to this season. Prior to the injury he was on pace to take 78 shots over the course of the entire season. He took 115 and 123 shots in each of the last two seasons. He’s 3rd from the bottom on the Stars in individual Corsi attempts per hour and 3rd from the bottom in individual expected goals per hour per Corsica. Like last season, he is still not consistently doing the things necessary to create offensive production.

I’m sure Shore is a wonderful teammate and a great guy. He does some things that do help the team. What I’m saying isn’t about that. He just isn’t very productive offensively, and these numbers are a mirage. I would say his shooting percentage will come down over time, but he takes so few shots it may linger up there for a while when he gets back in the lineup.

The point is this: many players before him have done this. Eric Nystrom notably did it after the Stars picked him up off waivers. Absurdly high shooting percentages will come back down to Earth, and players need to have the secondary areas of their game together to the point that they can still contribute when the goal scoring hot hand ends.

I like Devin Shore. I have a picture of him on my digital picture frame on the wall, which sounds infinitely creepier typed out than it did in my head. It pays to be honest though, and the reality is this isn’t sustainable offense.

Please do not send anyone to attempt to beat me up this time.

11/13/2018 – Sean Shapiro writes the definitive history of the Mooterus

Sean Shapiro has written the definitive two page history of the Mooterus. He wrote some other stuff in 100 Things Stars Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die so you should pick it up.

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But let’s stay Aggressively On Brand here. There have been literally dozens of us screaming for this for many years. Sean deserves credit for giving The People what they need.

Through meticulous research Sean points out that the Stars went 13-7-3 wearing the Mooterus, almost certainly their best winning percentage with any jersey. He quotes Jim Lites as saying the jersey is “a fusion of Texas icons and the spirit of the Dallas Stars” which is a simply amazing quote in retrospect.

What are these icons? Space? A bull? Women’s reproductive rights? It’s simply a fascinating observation on his part given the niche the jersey would take as an out of scale model of a woman’sMar body detailed enough to be used in OBGYN schools across the land.

Marty Turco, pictured below from the Stars recent Mooterus video, is quoted as being a fan.

Turco
“It’s styish. It has a western feel,” said Turco. Indeed. He may regret that quote now, but Tom Hicks, the former owner who drove both the Stars and Texas Rangers into bankruptcy displayed his marketing acumen when he stated “good riddance” that the jersey was gone. The Stars, as it turns out, made $400,000 dollars on jersey sales.

What makes the book worth your money is this level of detail about things which might otherwise not matter outside of the context of a book specifically about the Stars. There are many of us who do want those details and are amused by facts like the fact that no one will claim to be the designer of the Mooterus.

There are chapters about Mike Modano’s stretcher being dropped, Fabian Brunnstrom, Patrik Stefan missing the empty netter, and, of course, Pantera. A chapter dedicated to a three to five day party at Vinnie Paul’s house where players got so drunk that they showed up to the parade attempting to sober up after damaging the Stanley Cup is very much written to my interests.

Which is part of the beauty of how Sean put the book together. There are sections anyone will find interesting if they are very familiar with the team. The book overall is a wonderful introduction to the history of the franchise for anyone who doesn’t have the knowledge base in place already. Even the “well educated”, for lack of a better term, will find many piece of information they never knew.

Go buy it. Learn about the Mooterus. It’s good.