August 30, 2010

Red Wings Blogger Roundtable


It is our turn to host the blogger roundtable, which I am thrilled about because it provides another opportunity to post something that I didn't write at all. Hooray summer vacation.

My questions are in italics, and the answers aren't. Most of you can figure that out on your own, while the remainder of you are Jason Williams. That guy is really dumb.

________________________________


1) Malik had a tremendous piece at Puck Daddy with his Mt. Puckmore of Red Wings. My question is, if you were to go around back of this mountain -- you know, the side covered in bird shit and dead Communists -- what would the Bizarro Mt. Puckmore look like? I'm talking about the 4 Red Wing players of your lifetime who contributed so little that the very thought of a gigantic mountain with their faces on it makes you want to punch a pregnant dinosaur. Like right in the uterus, I'm talking a really angry blow. The only qualification is that these players had to play at least one season in Detroit (trade deadline busts acceptable), so leave out the quick call ups and scrubs we don't remember.

MATT SALER: Boyd "Devoid" Devereaux. The guy technically contributed on the original Two Kids and an Old Goat Line, but was there ever a heavier dead weight? Sure there are guys who contributed less, probably, but none of them stand out in my mind like good old Boyd.

GEORGE MALIK: In my lifetime? Sergei Bautin, Bob Essensa, Uwe Krupp and Jason Williams.

The Tim Cheveldae-and-Dallas Drake for Bautin/Essensa trade as the worst one during my tenure as a Wings fan; while Cheveldae didn't play particularly well or particularly poorly for the Jets, Drake had a very, very solid career and was repeatedly pursued by the Wings as a missing element that they never quite replaced until he returned (I feel the same way about Bob Rouse, whose Swiss Army Knife of defensemen versatility has only met its equal in Brad Stuart), while Essensa was just terrible in the net--when he wasn't hurt--and Sergei Bautin only played in one game for the Wings because he was hurt, too, and was a 6'3," 200-lb. pylon. The man smoked more cigarettes in a week than he played games in the NHL, and unlike Maxim Kuznetsov, he had no redeeming qualities as an international player. Kuznetsov may have stank for the Wings, but he actually played very well and won championships in Europe; Bautin went nowhere.

The fact that Essensa forced the Wings to go with Ozzie in the 94 playoffs against San Jose and was a "Wing killer" when he moved on to Edmonton, Phoenix and Vancouver--because he was peeved at the Wings for banishing him to the IHL for the 94-95 and 95-96 seasons--didn't help, either.

As for Krupp, everybody knows about that disaster. The Wings tossed millions and millions of dollars at a player that wrecked his back, possibly attempted to dogsled race while he rehabbed it, got into a nasty legal battle with the team and then skated out of Detroit with a Cup ring for his trouble and played as at least a marginally effective defenseman for the Thrashers for a couple of seasons...And I hate to say this, but he's a genuinely nice guy, so nobody won in the Krupp imbroglio. He didn't deserve to be followed around by private investigators and the Wings didn't deserve to have to deal with Krupp screwing around with them, either. I really hope that he took the Cup ring out of the situation and looked on the bright side because he's represented Germany with class and poise as their national team's coach at various levels, so...I mean, I feel guilty about giving the guy ill will. Nobody won. Everybody lost, Cup ring aside.

I don't mean to bag on Jason Williams as a person, either, but his second stint with Detroit was like watching somebody go back to their old flame only to realize why they broke up with each other in the first place. He waited a month to take the Wings' offer during the summer of 2009, openly admitting that he would have preferred to stay with Columbus or go to the KHL instead, and after a fantastic exhibition season alongside Ville Leino and Valtteri Filppula, he seemed to cop Leino's attitude when things went south, he got hurt, and when he came back, he was nothing more than a liability, especially in the playoffs. He didn't want to be here and it showed in his play, and I honestly think he's played himself out of an NHL job--the free agent "leftover class of 2010" remains very deep, the KHL's tapped out $-wise, and European leagues are underway, so it's entirely possible that he'll have to settle for either an AHL deal or latch on to a team in Europe as an injury replacement to simply skate for a living this season. To some extent his cap hit played a larger role in Leino's departure than Maltby or Lilja's did, and he just offered the Wings nothing in return.

MICHAEL PETRELLA: I fucking love this question. It's the most well-written and hilarious question I've ever had the honor answering. So I better not screw it up. Since I assume I can't select Todd Bertuzzi's head four times, I'll try to come up with four guys MORE useless than he is (good luck, right?). My lifetime stretches a little further back than some of the other bloggers, so I'll let them do the whole "LOL Jason Woolley / Yuri Butsayev" thing and go a tiny bit older:

Greg Stefan. This story is no bullshit: when I was about seven (and playing at Chuck E. Cheeses, I shit you not), someone's father told my mom the following: "Hey, did you hear Greg Stefan attempted suicide? Yeah... he jumped in front of a bus. But he missed." I may have been a second grader, but I laughed my ass of because even prepubescent me knew that he probably didn't belong in the league.

Robert Picard. It's kind of cheating, because he didn't play a full season in Detroit -- and it was at the end of a very solid NHL career, but when the Wings received Picard from the Quebec Nordiques (for Tony McKegney. Yup. THAT Tony McKegney), you'd think it was a huge deadline acquisition. He went on to score a grand total of zero goals in a Red Wings sweater and was largely invisible before retiring that summer.

Dave Lewis. The coach. And maybe the player. But definitely the coach. If that little shit couldn't win with the 2002-03 Detroit Red Wings, he officially couldn't beat his daughter at HORSE. Note: I have no idea if he has a daughter.

Dmitry Bykov. What was that about?

CASEY RICHEY: Brett Lebda, Jason Williams, Sean Avery and Uwe Krupp. I don't know if I need to do much explaining for Lebda or Avery but Williams was just so freaking plain and unnoticeable (I would keep forgetting him on the list of injured players last year). Krupp I don't exactly hate but he was just the ultimate waste of money.

KRIS FROM SNIPE DANGLE: Can Uwe Krupp take up three spots? I've spent a lot of time thinking about it and I can't come up with any situation in which I'd need to go dog sledding so badly that I'd do it while rehabbing a bad back barring a relocation to Alaska. Derian Hatcher and Ville Leino both earned spots for being gigantic disappointments. I'm going to put Stacey Roest up there in the final spot mostly for being named Stacey. His name did earn him a mention on Burn Notice last summer, though, so I guess that's something. I'm having a pretty good time imagining the Wings faithful flocking to the back of Mt. Puckmore to throw rocks and beer bottles at the faces carved there.

CHRIS HOLLIS: Krupp can go dog-sled his injured back off a cliff for all I care, Stefan never met a GAA over 3.50 that he didn't like, Leino's lacksadasical appraoch to hockey in Detroit only to get traded and blow up in the playoffs will drive me crazy forever and Lebda's inate ability to backhand the game winning goal around the boards and onto the other team's stick will live with me until the day I die. Danny Markov narrowly missed the cut.

Can Dave Lewis carve the mountain?

NOHS STAFF: I kind of already did a piece on something similar:
But if I had to pick my least favorite 4 from that list...it would go like this-
1. Marian Hossa - scored 40 goals in the 08-09 regular season...zero in seven games against his former team in the SCF. The jumped ship to Chicago. F**k you.
2. Uwe Krupp - came from the then hated Colorado Avalanche - you know, back when they were good. Signed a giant four year deal with Detroit and played in a total of 30 games of that contract. Sat out due to "back problems" and then was found in Alaska dog-sledding.
3. Wendel Clark - played most of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs when that rivalry was at his peak. Acquired by Detroit at the '98-'99 trade deadline...never clicked and not re-signed in the off-season.
4. Bob Essensa - played in a total of 13 regular season games for Detroit going 4-7-2. For some reason, we let him play in the play-offs in two games...he lost both of them.

*****


2) Who's going to be the most positive surprise, and who's going to be the biggest disappointment? Last year's champions: Todd Bertuzzi and Ville Leino respectively. Bert narrowly edged Jimmy last season because, frankly, I was convinced that Todd was going to commandeer the team and relocate them from Detroit to his basement.

SALER: Franzen's the biggest surprise because knock on wood everybody he's healthy all season and tears it up for a full year for once. Modano's the biggest disappointment, just to stay consistent on that position. Though I hope I'm wrong on that. My alternate big disappointment is Jimmy. As high as he set the bar last year, I feel like there's going to be a come down in the 'base.

MALIK: I expect Jonathan Ericsson to regain his form and then some. I really do believe that he has the hockey chops to put his difficult season behind him and I think that he and Valtteri Filppula understand that their futures with Detroit depend on their respective performances this year, so I expect both to step it up, but especially given Ericsson's incredibly difficult 09-10 season, I think his resurgence will surprise people, whereas Filppula's simply going to fulfill expectations. I'm not going to try to guess about the disappointments. I would imagine that Kindl could bomb if the Wings rely on him too heavily too early but I also believe in Kindl's potential, big time, if he's broken in slowly and brought up to speed in terms of the NHL's pace of play and fitness levels.

PETRELLA: Most pleasant surprise candidate: Ruslan Salei. He may not be uber-flashy, but he should fill some gaps that people don't know he's able of filling.

Biggest disappointment candidate: Jimmy Howard, just because of where the expectations are right now.

RICHEY: Most positive surprise: Valtteri Filppula. I think this has been a long time coming as Red Wings fans have watched him mature and grow as a player. I think he's still off the radar for some folks so I think he could be a surprise by having a 60 or 70 point season. Biggest disapointment: I actually think this one could go to Mike Modano. He's had a lot of hype and talk regarding his coming to Detroit and although I'm not expecting his 80 point season of old he could just end up being a non-factor. I hope I'm wrong but I wouldn't be surprised, it's a new system for him and a big spotlight as he comes back home.

KRIS: I think the biggest positive surprise will be Ruslan Salei. Assuming he stays healthy, he should have a pretty good year down on the third pairing. He should bring a solid veteran presence to hopefully steady Jonathan Ericsson and I expect him to be a little more physical than Andreas Lilja was. for the biggest disappointment, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Mike Modano. I was in the Pro-dano camp from the beginning, but I feel like a lot of people (Mike Ilitch included) are looking at him as the final piece to the puzzle that's going to guarantee the Wings a Cup this season. I don't think he's going to have a bad year; I expect him to provide a steady presence on the third line and chip in some secondary scoring. I just envision a lot of these people disappointed at the end of the year when they realize the Wings didn't sign the 2000 edition of Mike Modano.

HOLLIS: I think Jimmy Howard will be the biggest surprise this season, because nobody knows if he can replicate his play from last year over an entire season. he's got alot to prove and I think he will. As for biggest disappointment, I'll go with Niklas Kronwall. I still don't think the man is completely healed from his injury last year and I get the feeling he may spend a bunch of time on the IR this season. I hope I'm wrong, but we'll see.

NOHS STAFF: Going off of my gut - I'm saying that Johnny Ericsson is the biggest surprise of the season. After a horrible (by our standards) first full season in Detroit, I'm hoping the kid gets his footing in the league and re-establishes himself as that "future NHL All-Star" as he was being touted in the 2009 Play-offs. Biggest dissapointment is a toss-up between Jiri Hudler and Mike Modano. I doubt Modano will be able to live up to a lot of people's hype unless he goes out and has 60 points next season while playing in all 82 games. But Hudler has a lot of expectations too. Babbles says he gets 70 points...I want nothing less than the 57 points he got before he jumped ship to make his tax free dollars in Russia.

*****


3) Simply put: Are the Detroit Red Wings the #1 team in the NHL right now?

SALER: Right now, yes. But only because they're healthy now. If they stay healthy, I see them as juggernauts again.

MALIK: No, because they didn't win the Cup. You only start the season as the best team in the league if you win the Cup, and after that, you've got to re-earn your reputation. I do think that the Wings are one of the best teams in the league, definitely among the best in the West alongside the Sharks, Hawks and Canucks, more than on par with the Pens, Caps and Bruins, and I do believe that the Wings will at least win the Central Division this year, but the Hawks, cap casualties and all, start the year as the league's best team because they finished first where it counts most.

PETRELLA: In my eyes, the Red Wings are ALWAYS the #1 team in the league, but without being over-confident I'd say that the Wings are certainly near the top of the food chain again heading into 10-11. But -- they don't play games on paper, and the very solid lineup will have to gel, stay healthy, and prove that they can improve upon the tumultuous season from a year ago.

Adding Hudler, Modano, Salei, and -- tangentially -- Kindl and losing only Jason Williams and Brett Lebda? Sold.

RICHEY: At first I wanted to answer this question as no but then I thought about it more. I think the Red Wings have gotten better by virtually staying the same. The amount the Blackhawks have lost is ridiculous, the Sharks lost a high-quality (regular season) goalie, the Pens lost Sergei Gonchar and Bill Guerin while playing in a very tough division and although Washington is loaded with talent, let's face it they play in the Southeast division, the Oilers would have a 100 point season in that division. I think the Wings have gotten better by adding Jiri Hudler and eliminating some problem areas (Williams, Lebda) and are returning an already incredible line-up. So, yes.

KRIS: That's a silly question. The Wings have been the #1 team in the NHL since 1926. In all seriousness, though, I can't think of another team that can roll four lines like the Wings can. I don't think they'll place first in the league this season--Washington is going to run away with the Least again because there's nobody to compete with them--but they should be challenging San Jose for first in the West. Chicago might give them a run for their money, but their roster has too many mountain-sized question marks to look horribly threatening at this point.

HOLLIS: Not until they win the Cup.

NOHS STAFF: Simply put - yes. Line up our first line with anyone's first line. How about our second line? Third line? Fourth? Goaltending? Yeah - I'd put these team in a seven game series with anyone when they're healthy.

August 28, 2010

Stick Tap


Selfishly, (very, very selfishly), the both of us agreed that it sucked to hear that Kyle at Babcock's Death Stare was stepping away from the keyboard and moving on to the real world. If I was stranded on a desert island and for some reason I only had internet access to one Wings blog, I'd probably think to myself, "this would make for a very unrealistic hypothetical situation given the general lack of electricity found on desert islands." And then after a long struggle, I'd probably choose Babcock's Death Stare. Always loaded with content, subtly hilarious, and best of all (worst of all if you're a Pens fan), it makes you think. Every post on that site gives you something to think about in a way you didn't before you read it, and that's what I liked the most.

Of course, we are thrilled for Kyle and hope all the best for him. Why, I even said "This guy should be working for a hockey team" after the first time I read his old site. I was like an indie rock superfan after one read. To see that actually happen is very cool.

You hear that, Grand Rapids Griffins? I DISCOVERED HIM FIRST. Treat him well or I swear I will cut a bitch. I will do it.

Kudos to you Kyle on the mark you've left on the blogging community, and good luck with all that other jazz. Farewell, sir.

August 24, 2010

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Baroque's Top Ten Dinosaurs

(Photo credit to @Lolabythebay. Pictured: Manny Legasaurus Rex.)


You may have heard whispers about this post surfacing over the last few weeks. If so, you're likely on the Twittertubes. If you're not, you really should stop calling it gay and hop aboard. Aside from getting wide ranging hockey news at lightning speed, it's a good way to promote your website. Did I say your website? I meant my website, The Triple Deke. Tell your mom about it. And while you're at it, remind her that the back seat of my car isn't her laundry basket. (Perhaps you're wondering, "is he really that pig-headed? Does he realize how old 'mom' jokes are? And the answer of course is "42".)

How great is this Twitter? It allowed Brent to play video games with NFL Pro-Bowler Chad Ocho Cinco. Swear to God, this happened. Ocho Cinco, apparently bored as hell, challenged random people to play him in FIFA World Cup on Xbox, then ended up losing a 1-0 game to Brent, and -- my favorite part -- played a preseason football game only a few hours later. Reportedly, Chad yelled wildly throughout the soccer game over the most mundane of accomplishments, all while playing responsible defense and having a surprisingly good grasp of soccer fundamentals. Because of Twitter this shit happened. Honestly.

And now that we're completely off the track, I introduce to you the ten greatest dinosaurs of prehistoric time. Writing it is our resident dino expert, Baroque, who we've all wondered at one point or another 'why doesn't she have her own site'? We're providing the halfway house for wherever her eventual writing home is, as she unleashes this mammoth of a post. Now that cereals and dinosaurs have made their appearance on TTD, I can officially pull the plug. Good night everyone! Baroque has the floor.



******


DINOSAURS

Dinosaurs are fascinating animals. The challenging aspect of paleontology is not just that the animals being studied are all dead, and the scientists have to depend on fossil bones to try to figure out their anatomy, physiology, and behavior – but also that there are in many cases so few fossils of any one species.

Imagine if you had never seen any kind of cat before, and found five mostly complete lion skeletons, three domestic cat skulls, and a partial skeleton and a handful of teeth from a lynx. From JUST THAT, along with the knowledge of the environment in which the bones were found, you try to figure out how many different animals you have, what they looked like when they were alive, what they might have eaten, how they hunted, if they lived in groups or not, how they raised their young, how long they lived, what kind of environment they lived in, how many there were, etc. etc. etc. Not an easy task – and yet this is what paleontologists have to do. I would find it maddening, as it’s quite hard enough to figure out how the hell LIVE animals work – ones that haven’t existed for millions of years? – I’ll content myself with movies, thank you very much.

Like so many kids, I went through a paleontology phase, and although I never wanted to devote my career to studying prehistoric animals, my interest in them has never vanished. Hence, it isn’t all that difficult for me to put together a list of my Top Ten Dinosaurs (except for choosing the order).

Disclaimers:

(By dinosaurs, I am speaking specifically of the non-avian dinosaurs, as birds are actually the only surviving dinosaurs after the vast majority were wiped out 65 million years ago. I didn’t include any non-dinosaur animals from the same period, such as mosasaurs (swimming reptiles), crocodiles, or pterosaurs (flying reptiles). Maybe no one else would notice, but I would. I also stuck with species that are pretty recognizable to anyone who went through a dinosaur phase, even though they might not remember the names of the animals. And I used genus names only, even though there may be several known species, which isn’t correct, but is sufficient for the purpose of this list.) J

*********************************************************

10. Ankylosaurus

The name of this dinosaur means “fused lizard” or “stiffened lizard” and is given from the fact that its bones in the skull and other parts of its body are fused together for strength. It had a wide, squat body, small head, walked on all fours, and was a plant-eater (although with such a tiny little brain, it would have eaten crayons too, if they existed at the time). The most obvious characteristic of this dinosaur is the armor made of knobs and plates of bone embedded in the skin called osteoderms or scutes, as well as the club-shaped tail. This dinosaur was about 20 to 30 feet long, 5 feet wide and 5.5 feet high at the hip.

illustrations: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Ankylosaurus_dinosaur.png
http://www.acad.carleton.edu/curricular/BIOL/classes/bio302/pages/ankylosaurus.jpg

Why it makes my list:
It reminds me of a turtle, despite the fact dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago and turtles still survive to the present, and they don’t have a very close relative recently. Ankylosaurus is the quintessential armored dinosaur and this tank-like animal lasted right until the end of the Cretaceous Period and the final dinosaur extinction (except for birds).

For some reason Ankylosaurus reminds me of Vesa Toskala, probably because both are chubby, round, and well protected. I think the dinosaur might have better lateral movement, although Toskala has a better glove hand (if only because the dinosaur has no thumbs).


9. Pachycephalosaurus

This dinosaur walked on its hind legs (was bipedal), and had large eyes, a small brain, and a very thick skull with funny lumpy knobs around the edge of the dome. The bone on top of its skull was up to 10 inches thick, which got this dinosaur the name “thick headed lizard.” It reached an adult size of about 15 feet long, and these plant-eaters likely lived in herds.

illustrations: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/Sketch_pachycephalosaurus.jpg
http://www.search4dinosaurs.com/ms_pachycephalosaurus.jpg

Why it makes my list:
This animal shows the importance of looking at the actual anatomy of the beast before making assumptions about lifestyle. For a long time it was thought that they acted like bighorn sheep, and the males rammed each other head-to-head in competition for females; now paleontologists know that the bone on top of the domed skull, although thick, was too porous and fragile to withstand such an impact, so they tried to impress females by squealing their tires drinking lots of beer driving fancy cars hitting each other on the flanks with their heads instead. No accounting for tastes, I suppose. Considering the extinction and whatnot, in retrospect maybe they should have chosen another option because the females weren’t really that impressed after all, and wandered off bored while the punch-drunk males tried to mate with nearby shrubbery.

Pachycephalosaurus reminds of new Toronto Maple Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf, probably for its obvious leadership abilities. Not for the thick lumpy skull covered with blunt boney bumps to protect its tiny brain from impact. Honest.


8. Styracosaurus

This is one of the ceratopsians, or “horn-headed” dinosaurs, characterized by various skull adornments such as neck frills, spikes, and nose horns. Styracosaurus had some of everything and thus is very distinctive, and often depicted in popular culture. It was about 18 feet long, 6 feet high and the horn on its beak-like snout was about two feet long. This dinosaur was herbivorous (plant eating) and quadrupedal (walked on all four legs). It may have been a herding animal. The name Styracosaurus means “spiked lizard.” Clearly no paleontologists stayed up late coming up with a name for this fossil.

illustrations:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d9/Styracosaurus_dinosaur.png
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Styracosaurus_BW.jpg

Why it makes my list:
The ceratopsians have always been my favorite group of dinosaurs, so I had to include at least one of them. I find it interesting that there is so much debate over what the heck the horns and spikes and frills were actually for. Ideas have included a place for muscle attachment for chewing tough plants, increasing surface area for thermoregulation, using the horns and spikes as defensive weapons against dangerous predators, using them against each other in combat for status or mates, or using them as display in rituals of herd dominance or courtship and mating.

This species reminds me of anyone with a distinctive and odd-looking hairstyle. Although while the horns and frill of the dinosaur might have been used for sexual display, it’s hard to see Mike Commodore or Steve Hartnell getting the same attractive power out of their chosen head adornments. Maybe they are good conversationalists? It is a puzzle indeed.


7. Iguanodon

This creature was a plant-eating dinosaur with a horny beak and tightly-packed cheek teeth for grinding vegetation and was about 30 feet long and nine feet high at the hips. The back legs were longer than the forelimbs, but it probably was mostly bipedal at high speeds and dropped to all fours when walking and foraging on plants lower to the ground. These animals had their “thumbs” replaced with odd spikes, from two to six inches long. At first it was thought that the spikes were on the snouts of the living animals, which seems laughable now because we know so much more about them than when they were first discovered in 1822 and described in 1825 by Gideon Mantell. His wife Mary had found its teeth and a few bones, and the resemblance of the teeth to the modern iguana led him to name it Iguanodon, or “iguana tooth.”

illustrations:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/Goodrich_Iguanodon.jpg (first attempt, now known to be incorrect)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Iguanodon_feeding.jpg (later attempt, now also known to be incorrect)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Iguanodon_BW.jpg (based on most current information)
http://www.search4dinosaurs.com/rm_iguanodon.jpg

Why it makes my list:
Although not especially large, and a fairly widespread and common dinosaur at the time, or distinctive in any way except for its odd thumb spikes, this dinosaur deserves a spot because it was one of the first of these extinct creatures to be discovered by human beings. Dinosaurs, despite 65 million years of absence, are so much a part of popular culture purely through the power of human imagination that it seems very strange to me to imagine a world where there was no idea, in anyone’s mind, that such animals had ever lived. The incredible richness and biodiversity of an entire planet was completely unknown before Iguanodon and a couple of other dinosaurs were unearthed. Because it has been known for so long, it is also interesting to follow its artistic representation as a gauge for how dinosaurs were seen at the time, from enormous slow-moving (and presumably also slow-witted) lizards, to bipedal but still slow and ponderous animals that clearly became extinct because they were too primitive to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions, to the more agile and dynamic current construct as a lively and well-adapted animal.

As the changing reconstructions of Iguanodon reflect growing scientific knowledge as much as cultural ideas of what a dinosaur is, the hockey equivalent is more nebulous than a single particular player. This creature reminds me of the hockey player who first engages a fan’s interest and wins them over to the sport for good. It might be the first player they saw live, the first one they heard on the radio while listening late at night, the first one a parent told them about, or one they read about from an earlier era. Each fan has a different hook into the game of hockey, and as the representation of Iguanodon has evolved, each fan’s perception of the game evolves as they become more aware of the sport.


6. Tyrannosaurus

If you don’t recognize this dinosaur by name, know that the name means “tyrant lizard,” and can picture it in your mind’s eye, you must have been spending your life in a cave. On Mars. With your fingers in your ears. Maybe you were also in a coma. THIS is the lawyer-munching true star of “Jurassic Park,” one of the largest carnivores ever to live on earth, and possibly the top predator in North America at the time, as well as a scavenger. It had an enormous head counterbalanced by a massive tail, walked on its powerful hind limbs only as it had tiny forelimbs, and the largest complete skeleton found was 42 feet long and 13 feet high at the hip. Fortunately for paleontologists more than 30 specimens of this animal have been found, many of them nearly complete skeletons, so it enables both more information on the possible ecology and biomechanics, but also a lot more debate over issues such as how fast it could have run and if it was a predator or scavenger. Without debates there are fewer papers and conferences and it makes looking for fossils much less enticing.

illustrations:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Tyrannosaurus_BW.jpg
http://www.raul-martin.net/raulmartin/cuatrogaleria/Tyrannosaurus.jpg

Why it makes my list:
One of the largest land predators in history HAS to be on the list. Despite the fact that some researchers think it might be primarily a scavenger, like an enormous buzzard, in popular culture it is usually portrayed as a deadly and extremely dangerous predator. What is indisputable is that it had a skull that could be five feet long, many huge teeth, and enough bite strength to slice a person in half. A modern human with a high-powered rifle would stand about as much chance against Tyrannosaurus as one of our ancestors with a stone-tipped spear against a sabre-toothed cat. Possibly even less. (And contrary to “Jurassic Park,” they likely had excellent smell and eyesight judging by the shape of the brain cavity. Paleontologist and kids would have been goners and the movie would have been much shorter and more boring.)

The hockey equivalent of a T. rex doesn’t exist yet. We’ll know it has emerged when a hockey player lunges at Gary Bettman from behind a potted plant in the vestibule of the NHL offices and with a loud roar of potent rage tears him bloody limb from dismembered limb, because Tyrannosaurs and lawyers are natural enemies. That part of the movie was 100% correct.


5. Velociraptor

First, forget “Jurassic Park” on this one, even more than the other dinosaurs portrayed. I love the movie, but this is probably the dinosaur that was subject to the most artistic license, particularly in terms of exaggerating the size a lot. (Oddly enough, raptors have been found since the movie came out that are comparable in size, so this may be a case of art imitating life, but the discovery of the life not preceding the art.) The name is accurate; the sharp hind claw is accurate, but otherwise…

The name Velociraptor means “swift seizer” and was very appropriate for this animal. It was about six feet long from upturned snout to the end of its long tail, about a foot and a half high at the hip, and had a jaw full of sharp teeth. It was bipedal and a very swift runner, moderately intelligent for a dinosaur, a meat-eater, and had feathers. There is some thought that they may have hunted in packs, but this is poorly supported by most fossil evidence. Smaller animals are less likely to fossilize than larger animals because their bones are generally much more delicate and likely to be destroyed, but since these creatures lived in a dry dune-filled environment they actually have left a pretty good fossil record, with over a dozen well-preserved individuals known.

illustrations:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Velociraptor_BW.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Fightingdinosamnh2.jpg (fossil of a Velociraptor in combat with a Protoceratops, likely buried by a collapsing sand dune. The raptor is on its back with a hindlimb claw in the neck of the presumed prey, and the beak of the Protoceratops is clamped on a raptor forelimb.)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cd/Velociraptor_dinoguy2.jpg

Why it makes my list:
This little guy was a quite fearsome predator, despite its small size for a dinosaur. It was quick, intelligent, and had well developed hands with sharp claws. The confirmation of feathers in the fossils also really clinched the connection between dinosaurs and birds, which as a science nerd I find incredibly exciting. Dinosaurs are these exotic, extinct creatures and birds are common everyday animals … yet if both groups were around today, we would think that birds were just the group of dinosaur species that were smaller than average and had feathers. Or perhaps that dinosaurs were just large, funny looking birds. Yet this small creature is a major reason why humans would never have evolved if the dinosaurs weren’t wiped out. Our small mammalian relatives were prey species, and the only way they managed to live in the shadows of comparative giants was to shift their lifestyle and their habits (think about how many mammals are nocturnal, and consider the roots of the behavior may have been avoiding predation by dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and it makes sense that their hold on our imagination is so strong).

Velociraptor was small, quick, maneuverable, good hands, intelligent, and dangerous. Put feathers on Martin St. Louis and they could be brothers (well, at least extremely distant cousins).


4. Allosaurus

The name Allosaurus means “different lizard” which referred to the structure of the vertebrae, different from other dinosaurs. Allosaurus was a large carnivore with a large skull, short and strong S-shaped neck, long tail, and strong rear legs. The forelimbs were much shorter than the hind limbs, but were still quite strong with sharp claws and capable of holding prey. It had small bony projections over the eyes that may have been for shading its eyes from the sun, protection from damage, or for display. Also, although it could not unhinge its jaw in the same way a snake can, there was enough flexibility to bow its jaws out and increase the gape size to take even more meat in one bite. From nose to tail the most common species was approximately 30 feet long, and it stood about nine feet high at the hip. It wasn’t the largest carnivorous dinosaur or even largest theropod that existed, but it was the largest predator in its environment at the time and at the top of the food chain. There is debate over whether or not it was a solitary hunter and showed aggression toward other members of its species, or if it hunted in packs. If it was a pack hunter it would have likely been able to successfully take down even large sauropods or other predators of the time. This is a well known dinosaur in both paleontology and popular culture because of the large number of excellent fossil finds, from all ages of individuals.

illustrations:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/51/Allosaurus_BW.jpg
http://home.online.no/~sastrom/Ungdomsskolen/8_kap8/Dino_images/allosaurus.jpg

Why it makes my list:
Large, fairly quick, and more intelligent than most dinosaurs, this was the most common predator in a large tract of what is now Western North America and probably the adults had very little to fear from other dinosaurs. Illness and injury would have been issues, as is true even with large modern predators, but once the young Allosaurus had reached a larger size they would be unconcerned with predators. Unlike Tyrannosaurus there isn’t any debate over whether this dinosaur was a predator or a scavenger. It was a predator, and the most dangerous one of its time, and my favorite carnivorous dinosaur. Since it is a species found in North America, when I was young I imagined finding Allosaurus bones while I was on vacation, because it seemed a lot more likely I would be vacationing in Montana or Colorado than in Mongolia.

Consider Alexander Ovechkin. Definitely different, and definitely possessing a certain speed and ferocity in the way he plays hockey that very few other players have. Not having hair Allosaurus was spared the unfrozen caveman look of the Russian skater, for which the species should have been extremely thankful, as Ovechkin is many things, but physically attractive is not really one of them.


3. Brachiosaurus

I am not generally a big fan of the sauropods (the long-necked, long-tailed, four-legged plant-eaters) but I do like Brachiosaurus a lot. The sauropods most closely resemble giraffes in the modern mammalian-dominated world, with long necks, long legs, and long tails to counterbalance the weight of the neck. These animals were most likely browsers on the tops of tall trees, instead of (as depicted in so many of the earliest drawings) living in the water to support their huge bulk. They lived on the prairies and moved through forests of giant conifers, which they likely ate. The name Brachiosaurus means “arm lizard” which was given to these animals because their forelimbs (arms) were longer than their hindlimbs. These animals were mind-staggeringly large, reaching an estimated length of around 80 feet and a head that was about 40 feet above the ground. For comparison, the largest giraffe on record was about 19 feet tall – only half the height and far, FAR lighter. This is one of the largest land animals ever known, and a widely recognized animal both in paleontology and popular culture.

Oddball fact: There is a mounted skeleton of a Brachiosaurus in O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

illustrations:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d9/Brachiosaurus_DB.jpg
http://www.search4dinosaurs.com/ms_brachiosaurus.jpg

Why it makes my list:
Are you kidding? It’s HUGE. The very idea of an animal that is that enormous and is not a whale boggles the mind. And these things likely lived in groups, so just imagine the way the ground must have shuddered as a herd of these creatures moved majestically across the plain. It would have been like the buffalo stampede in “Dances With Wolves” but even more so. And without Kevin Costner anywhere around. Or if he was around, he would have been squooshed into a small mammalian smear under one of their gigantic feet.

If Brachiosaurus was a hockey player, with the long arms and huge size it reminds me of skaters like Zdeno Chara and Tyler Myers. But even TALLER. Every team would need to have an outdoor rink for those special occasions of hosting such an incredibly tall visiting player. Retractable domes on hockey rinks? Perhaps.


2. Parasaurolophus

Parasaurolophus was one of the hadrosaurs, or “duck-billed dinosaurs” so called because of the shape of their skulls, with a flat wide duck-bill-like snout. The name of this dinosaur means “near crested lizard” because it was thought to be related to Saurolophus or “crested lizard.” This is one of the rarest of the duckbills, known only from a few fossil remains. As best can be judged, this animal was about 30 feet long, with a skull five to six and a half feet long, including the prominent crest. This animal probably foraged for plants to eat while on all fours but rose up only on its hind limbs when it wanted to move quickly. The mouth had banks of teeth that it could move in a grinding motion to chew vegetation, useful as fossilized stomach contents have included pine needles, leaves, and twigs. The most prominent feature was the long cranial crest which has had many potential functions ascribed to it over the years as more research has been done. Currently the functions include display, thermoregulation to keep the animal’s brain cool, and use as a resonating chamber for sound production.

illustrations:
http://www.lakepowell.net/sciencecenter/Parasaurolophus.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Parasaurolophuspic_steveoc.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Sketch_parasaurolophus.jpg

Why it makes my list:
The cranial crest. This one feature has been such an object of speculation it’s amazing how many ideas scientists have come up with. When it was thought that hadrosaurs were aquatic, it was supposed to be a snorkel or the attachment for an elephant-like proboscis for breathing, then maybe it was for salt glands, or for increasing its sense of smell so it could know when predators were approaching, or it was for combat between males for females, or it was used to bull its way through the brush. All of these functions have been discredited. Now it is believed that the crest was used for display (it may even have been brightly colored or had a skin-flap “flag” attached to increase the signal), thermoregulation, and as a resonating chamber for calling to other animals. This function interests me the most because modern day depictions of dinosaurs have a lot of roaring and hissing, and the idea of a creature with a call like a foghorn is something I find appealing.

Characterized perhaps by both a louder and more unusual voice than other dinosaurs, this might be the well-spoken, accessible player on every team who is so often interviewed by reporters. Or the loud obnoxious guy on the team with the booming voice that everyone else hates. I guess it depends on if you believe the calls were used more frequently for courtship behavior to attract mates, or some type of territorial signal to warn off other males from his territory, females, or his beer fridge.


1. Triceratops

Triceratops is my favorite dinosaur, ever since I was a kid. If I could have had any dinosaur as a pet, this was the one I always wanted. I adore the large predators, but I knew they would just eat neighborhood cats and I would get in trouble. An herbivore would be easier to control, easier to feed because I could just take him out in the woods, and since he walked on four legs I could ride him to school. I even had the name "Darwin" all picked out. Triceratops means "three-horned face" and is given to this animal for the three large horns on its skull (a skull that may have been longer than swven feet), one on the top of the beaked snout similar to a rhinoceros, and the other two above the eyes. Triceratops also had a large neck frill, a bulky body with four sturdy legs, and a short tail. This dinosaur was likely a browser on low vegetation such as cycads and brush, and was perhaps a solitary animal for the most part, with no real fossil evidence of herding behavior. This is the best known of the ceratopsians (horn-headed dinosaurs), with skeletal remains from many individuals and many life stages recovered. It was about 30 feet long and 10 feet high at adult size...or at least what we always THOUGHT was adult size, until just a few years ago.

A contemporary, similar sized, closely related dinosaur found in the same area is Torosaurus. It was very similar to Triceratops, roughly the same size, also a four-legged herbivore, with the most obvious difference being a neck frill that was much longer and had two large holes to lighten the weight. As more and more work was done, it was clear that as Triceratops aged, their neck frills became larger, and there was thinning in the same areas of bone that in Torosaurus were gone completely and the only stuff remaining was skin and associated connective tissue in those areas. It now appears that there is no such thing as Torosaurus at all, but it was just a name given to the fully adult form of Triceratops! (Fortunately for all of us who love Triceratops, that was the species that was discovered and named first, it is better researched and better known, so its name takes precedence.)

It is clear that Triceratops was preyed upon by Tyrannosaurus, although there is a lot of doubt about if there were ever the titanic battles that have been portrayed in television or film or books. Paleontologists aren’t even sure if the animal could have actually used its horns as weapons for charging an attacker, or if they were used in combat with other Triceratops. Likely they were used for display, more as moose show off their large antlers to each other when posturing, or rhinoceros beetles. The neck frill might have been used to protect the neck from injury from an attacking predator, or it too might have been used for display. Whatever the actual purpose, these were very impressive animals.

illustrations:
http://www.therugbyblog.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/triceratops.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/Triceratops_BW.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/Torosaurus_BW.jpg

Torosaurus, now thought to be the mature form of Triceratops
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/Torosaurus_BW.jpg

Why it makes my list:
This has always been my favorite dinosaur, and it fascinates me that despite the clear similarities to a modern animal in the rhinoceros, and despite a fairly extensive fossil record in comparison to other dinosaurs, there is not only so much debate over how it lived and how it functioned as a living, breathing animal within its environment, but science keeps figuring out ways to get more information out of the fossils and the surrounding rocks and computer simulations to get a better idea of how Triceratops lived. The work that goes into figuring out this stuff gives me a lot of respect for the patience and the creativity of paleontologists.

If Triceratops were a hockey player, it would be the big lug who wasn’t especially fast, wasn’t especially nimble, wasn’t especially aggressive, but would stick up for himself and teammates against all threats. Not aggressive and goonish, but willing to fight if no one else would (even if he wasn’t very good at it).


Despite being gone for 65 million years, through human research and imagination dinosaurs as a group are as much dynamic living creatures now as they ever were, and that is the root of the fascination with dinosaurs that so many people have. Via our own efforts, we have brought them back to life almost as fully as a real-world “Jurassic Park” ever could, at the same time avoiding the risk of getting ourselves eaten. (But I still want a pet Triceratops to ride to work.) With each new fossil discovery our understanding of the world they lived in grows and evolves and becomes more vivid and richly detailed, and that is the fun of biology right there – figuring out how the heck all these crazy organisms actually WORK because some creatures are just plain strange.


Well, that’s more than enough rambling on my part. Thanks to Tyler for letting me throw so many multi-syllabic words around and talk about some of my favorite extinct animals.



August 23, 2010

Acknowledging Justin Abdelkader

(left to right: Justin Abdelkader, Chris Osgood)


A measly $787,000 is going to keep Abdelkader in Detroit for at least two more years.

I wish I could have Ken Holland on retainer to negotiate and barter for me in real life. For instance, I just spend $4.20 on a small chocolate coffee thing at one of those trendy cafe places where you're required to be carrying a New York Times and at least five pounds in hemp-related clothing. It can't truly be worth more than $1.50. It tastes good, even if drinking it makes me feel like I should be eating a tofu bar and wearing a wool cap while I pretend like it's not 85 degrees out. I'm really no better than Brian Burke. The value of what I just paid for is obviously not $4.20, yet I paid it anyway. In a dream world, Holland would just stand behind me and shake his head 'no' whenever I turned around to ask for his approval on something.

Just as he does 99 percent of the time, Holland inks up another great contract. Now we get to do this, which is always fun:

Datsyuk - Zetterberg - Holmstrom
#44 - Filppula - Franzen
Hudler - Modano - Cleary
Abdelkader - Helm - Draper/Eaves/Miller/Ritola

Lidstrom - Rafalski
Kronwall - Stuart
Salei - Ericsson

Yes I know about Ruslan Salei signing with the Wings, I just hadn't acknowledged him. I do like the signing though. I was merely having an experiment with the site, which was to see if my prolonged absence would prompt a death threat. I succeeded, as you can see in the comments of the Modano post. It was all the better that it was an anonymous comment too. That wasn't startling at all. Nope.



My apologies that the posts haven't been very frequent this summer. To those that have emailed to gently nudge me awake to write more, I am mostly flattered and somewhat frightened at how much you care. If I didn't answer your email, it's because I'm awkward and didn't know how to respond, not because I'm ignoring you. I cherish your readership like Patrick Kane cherishes a Jell-o shot between a bartender's boobs.

Stay tuned later this week for the next round of the Red Wings Blogger Roundtable, which stops by TTD next.


August 5, 2010

Acknowledging Mike Modano



You may have noticed that the words "Mike Modano" haven't made their way to this blog yet this summer. In fact I know that you've noticed because I have received multiple emails asking if I'm exclusively writing out of a time machine now. That is not entirely true. I do have a time machine that I typically spend the month of August in because I'm a nostalgic old sap who would rather re-live the 90's than read about Brett Favre's dick or give myself an ulcer arguing over old 3rd liners ("But what about all of your Bertuzzi hate from last year?" Easily justified: it's acceptable to be a hypocrite if I am the one being hypocritical. It's only a negative characteristic when others are hypocritical by nature. This self-profiting sense of one's own hypocrisy is hypocritical unto itself, thus canceling out the hypocrisy and forming an opinion that is exemplary of genuine logic because it's done intentionally in the name of irony. The only downside is that nobody takes me seriously and I just fucked my own brain into the 5th dimension.)

But I can't avoid this forever. Modano has become such a divisive force that Chris Hollis retired, "Prodano / Nodano" has enough groundswell to form its own T-shirt line, and some of our favorite writers are re-enacting the Civil War -- except now Hollis won't be there to resolve it. He usually plays Abe Lincoln when we bloggers get together and put on history musicals for Michigan youths. I usually play Dauber from the TV show Coach.

I'm getting sidetracked here, and I need to make up for lost time. I haven't taken one stance on Mike Modano the Red Wing since news first broke that he might be coming home, so let's lay them all out at once. The following issues are all fairly black and white; 99.9% of you not only feel strongly about them one way or the other, but odds are you have a lunchbox or a bumper sticker to show your approval or disdain either way.



MODANO IS WASHED UP

No he isn't. "Washed up" is entirely useless. Just now I ran a quick Sega projection of what his 2010-11 season will look like, and it's telling me 62 points and at least 20 TTD jokes relating him to Napoleon Dynamite. Translated to real life equates to roughly 45 points and 130 TTD jokes relating him to Napoleon Dynamite. Good gravy, look at that picture. You might be thinking that that's sort of the same production as #44 put up last season, but I don't pay you to think. I pay you to read what I write and show your co-workers because I'm more egocentric than you think Mike Modano is. By a LOT. Plus, he doesn't smell like 3-week-old tuna casserole fart like Bertuzzi does, and he's at least five times smarter. Then again, so is a tuna casserole.


MODANO AS A ROAD BLOCK TO THE RE-SIGNING OF YOUNG PLAYERS

Well, Darren Helm has now been booked for two years and will be a restricted free agent after that, so there goes his end of the argument. Abdelkader will re-sign for a similar amount, and then the five guys at the bottom of the lineup of forwards can claw at each other's necks for 82+ games. It'll be great.

Are you bummed out that they won't get long term deals? Okay funny guy .... why, exactly? I love Justin Abdelkader. I l-o-v-e him. In a totally, mentally disturbing and frighteningly gay way. When he and I were at Michigan State, I would follow him to classes that I wasn't enrolled in and sit behind him in hopes that I would catch a whiff of Pert Plus off of his curly golden locks. Are you still reading this? Why in the fuck are you reading this? I've probably been arrested since you opened this page. But, uh .... yeah, I'm not dying for him to sign a 13 year deal yet. He's not ready for it, and neither is Darren Helm. Yeah I said it, Herm.


MODANO AS A ROAD BLOCK IN YOUNG PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

You may have a point. Mike Modano playing 3rd line center is going to give Abdelkader and Helm less space to move up. If everyone stays healthy for the whole year, those two aren't going to see as much ice as they would have without this signing. But the only way that everyone stays healthy for the whole year is if you do more PCP than Scott Hartnell's mom and see it in a wild dream while you're passed out under the porch swing. Todd Bertuzzi is going to tear something in the first month of the season, I'm calling it right now. I will not shut any whore mouths because he's a fragile, older power forward who miraculously - MIRACULOUSLY - made it through 2009-10 relatively unscathed. Maybe Modano himself will get injured again, who knows. Dude looks half asleep anyway, he might miss ten games from excessive napping alone.


MODANO AS A PRIMA DONNA

He's got a hot wife who does Hollywood things, so naturally, he's full of himself. He's got it made and you don't. That dick.

I'm giving this an honest thought: I might just be oblivious to this. Maybe he just loves people looking at him and hanging out with Mark Cuban a whole lot and I haven't taken note. I just don't recall hearing negative things about him. He's never said anything or done anything that has really rubbed me the wrong way. He wants a few weeks to decide his future? That's fine. I take 20 minutes to decide on what to eat for breakfast, who am I to judge.


"MODANO, OR A 3RD PAIRING DEFENSEMAN"

We won a Stanley Cup in 2008, pretty convincingly I might add, with the same core defenders, only now Brett Lebda is swimming in money in Toronto like Donald Duck. I think a relatively healthy year cures all of that nonsense. But if I'm wrong and there's a quandary of defensive issues even with a healthy squad, my money is on the whole "team needs to be shaken up a bit" thing, which wouldn't be fixed with a 5th d-man anyhow. Only time and the expiration of no-trade clauses would fix that if you know what I'm getting at.


WILLA FORD OR Z'S WIFE



Honestly, I've just always wanted to have a picture on here where Bombay's head was used to censor nipples.


MODANO AS A LIAR

As in, "He said he'd make up his mind soon..... that's, like, a total lie." This one is my absolute favorite. I could not possibly, conceivably, imaginably give less of a fuck about this. He said the words "It's Detroit or retirement", and then proceeded to be linked with 3 or 4 other teams. Didn't care, and can't see why others did so much. Maybe he said that and a few other teams came calling. I can't remember the order of events, nor do I care to double check them. He said, "The sooner, the better," and then took a couple of weeks. Didn't care, and couldn't see why others did in the slightest.

Some of my dearest of fake friends, many of whom went off in this thread, decided they had enough...... as of July 20th. I have heard people and read people who have said that he's not worth the trouble if he's going to act like this. So he could be a valuable member to the team, could bolster that whiskey dick power play and could provide some forward depth to a team that really needed it last year, but it wouldn't be worth it because he was a little off in some newspaper quotes in fucking July. Yeah I can see that.


This is a good move for the Wings, and that scares me because I am almost always wrong. Luckily for us, Kenny is almost always right. We shall see.