Ovechkin not the problem

My favorite composite stat, as usual, is +/- average per game over a career.  That provides a pretty good index of net value.  It doesn’t account for clutch play, but it does account for not making clutch play necessary.  Getting scored on three times and then heroically tying the game or scoring the winner isn’t nearly as useful as not getting scored on in the first place.  The ratio of goals for vs. goals against is also important as somebody that is on for 10 points for and none against is a lot more valuable than somebody who is on for 20 points for and 10 against.   If you win blowouts and lose close games the impact of +/- on the bottom line will be reduced.
Ovechkin is getting criticized for not carrying the Capitals to the next level.   Actually, the problem is that he and Backstrom are carrying the team. 
Some of the support cast did ok this year in terms of +/- but they were probably the defencemen that were on with Ovechkin and Backstrom.
Here’s the +/- per playoff game, career, for some of the players that are listed.  For players beginning earlier than 1987 playoff +/- was not included before then so some of the all time greats won’t be on the list.  But the results are interesting:
Ovechkin          .50
Backstrom        .46
Franzen            .46
Lucic                .43
Crosby             .42
Kronwall           .38
Boughiz            .38
Forsberg          .36
McKee              .34
Ericsson            .34
Zetterberg        .33
Samuellson       .32
Rafalski            .28
Pronger           .26
Talbot              .25
Filipula             .24
Cleary              .24
Jagr                 .22
Fedorov           .21
Datsyuk            .20
Lidstrom          .19
Boyle               .18
Zubov              .17
Shanahan         .16
Did you see any past or present Red Wings on that list?
There are 19 players for whom career playoff +/- is calculated that are +20 or better over their career.  90 are +10 or better over their career.  The rest are worse. 
Most of those 90 are presently retired. 
Of course players’ +/- is affected by who is in their unit. 
Then there is depth.  The Crosby line was burned for 3 goals in the final game against Ottawa and he scored no points.  Was he rescued by Malkin?  No, by the third line.  Although Cooke did the heroics, Crosby is touted as the hero.  Of course everybody has an off game and an on-game isn’t always enough to win.  Other people have to be doing something other than taking up space.
Making a half-goal per game difference works out to 3.5 goals for a 7 game series.   That might be enough to win a few one-goal games if things are tight and the stars are in alignment so to speak.  More likely at least one good effort will end in a loss.  Having a Crosby or Ovechkin in the lineup at full speed is probably worth 2 wins.  The other two have to come from somewhere else.
Then look at one thing in particular from the last Washington-Montreal game, the number of blocked shots.   Washington had 42 shots on goal and scored once.  They also had 41 shots that were blocked by Montreal players. 
Playoffs are about blocked shots, screened goals, rebound goals, deflections from in front of the net, and penalties.  And mistakes under pressure.
If a shot is blocked there will be no close rebound, deflection or screen.  When teams like Montreal go far it is because they keep the opposition away from the net, block shots and make sure that the goalie can see the puck clearly.  They dominate the front of their own net.  If they can limit the opposition to perimeter shots that the goalie sees from the start, only about 2% of those are going to go in if the goalie is any good.   If there is a deflection, screen or rebound those odds go way up, but that means somebody has to be in front of the net.  That is how Washington got its’ one goal in game 7, a rebound.
There is something to the truism that putting the puck on the net is always a good idea, but that implies that there is some follow up or coordination.  If you wait to see everybody on your side it gives time for defence to set up too.  You have to have faith that somebody else on the team is going to do their job and go to the net.  If not, and the other side is clogging the centre, then they pick any rebound and break out fast on a five man rush.    The best I’ve seen of that was when the Kings beat the Canucks the year the Kings went to the finals and lost to Montreal- the Canucks would take perimeter shots, nobody would be at the net to finish, 5 Kings would be in the middle and they would head straight back up the ice with quality chances.
Washington has talent but it isn’t spread around enough, and they need to get through the bruising it takes to stay at the net, block shots etc., all the things that win playoff games. 
Crosby has Malkin’s line behind him, and a third line that would be a second line on a lot of teams.  Washington is a little thin after Ovechkin’s unit for proven playoff performers. 
Look at the formula that gave Colorado it’s first cup.  In the Quebec days, they already had the most talented team in the league at the time, with Sakic and Forsberg, but they still got punted from the playoffs early every year.  Then they got Patrick Roy, Claude Lemieux and Mike Keene, and they got their first cup.  I think that Florida should have had that cup but they sounded way too satisfied to have made it to the final- they were happy and contented to be second place.  When I heard about their coach saying that he was just happy to have made it to the final I knew they were done.  And that is too bad, because Florida until the finals had been the best playoff team that I had ever seen. 
Sakic hadn’t been good enough to go anywhere in the playoffs before on his own, but with the right supporting cast he was good enough for the Conn-Smythe trophy.  And note that he did have Peter Forsberg as the #2 center.   It is very hard to handle a team which has two elite first lines.  Whoever you send your checking line out against, you’re wrong. 
Of course the Colorado model that had success against others didn’t do nearly as well against Detroit which four lines that do checking and offence.  The present management in Detroit have done a good job retaining the Bowman model for success.    All 4 lines are dangerous and can run the other team ragged.  The best third line in the league isn’t the Cooke line in Pittsburgh, it’s the Franzen line in Detroit.   Franzen can score a goal a game if an opponent checks the top 2 lines and leaves him to his own devices. 
There a few recipes for success, the best being four solid lines of playoff performers, next best being the two dominant lines arrangement. 
Of course the Rangers’ "stew" approach doesn’t work well either- get a bunch of strong talents, throw them into the mix and see what happens.   You need a team concept and system, not just a bunch of good ingredients thrown into the pot together.   You may like steak, chocolate cake, beer and diet coke but you wouldn’t throw all of these together into a pot and cook them.  The result would probably be revolting.  And that is the typical Rangers mix. 
The good news is that the decent regular season performance of some of Ovechkin’s support cast makes them reasonable trade-bait for playoff performers. 
Unless of course Washington just wants more President’s trophies.

Somebody finds Noah’s Ark yet again

The historical conflation of Mount Ararat with the Ararat Mountains continues.  The medieval confusion leading to the first identification of Mount Ararat as the landing place of Noah continues unabated.
Early Christians and Muslims always understood the landing place of the Ark to be Mount Judi, for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Judi.  That is roughly at the border of Turkey and Iraq, with the peak being in Turkey.
My guess for the continued strength of the absurd claims about Mount Ararat is that there must be some source of wood there, perhaps long buried ancient fortifications.
I would note that the original flood story as shown by David Rohl had the flood at a completely manageable 7 cubits, about 15 feet, a figure supported by geological evidence of flooding worldwide close to that time.  That would be sufficient to flood the Iraq floodplains as far as the eye could see, as they are and were not too far above sea level.  
The base of Mount Ararat is around 5,000 feet above sea level, and even with a quite significant surge at the start of the flood, to go from 15 feet to 5,000 is not doable.  If Noah did land on a Mountain we can say with absolute certainty that it was not Mount Ararat.
As to whether it was possible for Noah to come to rest towards the base of Mount Judi, I’d have to review a detailed topographical map to assess whether that was realistic.   It is entirely possible that the issue will never be settled, and given the preference of extremists for killing each other over such locations, it is probably better that the issue never is settled.   In any event, you have your instructions, so what do you need the boat for? The flood itself is proven. 
Geology has proven that there was a flood at about the right time, one of three great floods since the last glacial maximum about 21,000 years ago.  The theory, for which there is strong evidence, is that huge lakes of glacial meltwater burst their ice barriers in at least two of these floods, causing enormous increases in sea level worldwide. 
That planks would remain of a ship from thousands of years ago would seem improbable.   If the ship were built of reeds and bitumen as the Sumerian version suggests, the probability of any remaining bits would seem even lower. 
Most of the story has been overcome by anachronism and exaggeration to the point where little is left other than there was a guy with a boat that survived the flood with his family, probably turning to alcoholism thereafter from the tragedy that he had witnessed. 
It is interesting that Plato mentioned that there had been a number of great floods.  One has to wonder how that ancient memory remained uncorrupted over thousands of years, preserved by simple people, while the handling of the issues by supposedly more sophisticated later peoples has been mostly confused by unsubstantiated puffery.
While landing on an inspiring 16,000 foot stratavolcano does have a certain pinache and artistic flourish to it as compared with landing on an unremarkable looking hill, such refinements do little to further either science or religion. 

Goldman-Sachs mishandles an aftermath

Some key persons associated with Goldman-Sachs were involved in important governmental and quasi-governmental functions during the financial crisis and it has a smell about it that the primary benefactor of he economic crisis had former employees in key positions that helped contribute to the crisis. 
It is surprising though that anybody at Goldman-Sachs would have believed that the housing market wasn’t going to crash as late as 2006-7.  At that point the imminence of a crash was basic math and common sense.  If there was a conspiracy there they didn’t do a good job of getting the word out to everyone.
On the narrower scale, the conspiracy to defraud investors by certain members was a fraudulent conspiracy.   I can’t agree with those trying to rationalize this as just betting.  For betting to be fair the house can’t be crooked.   If a gaming house allowed dealers to play texas holdem by allowing professional gamblers to pick the hole cards of other players they’d be busted. 
Goldman Sachs has the potential to go the way of Arthur Anderson on this.  They shafted people that relied on their expertise by selling them crap that their employee middlemen knew was crap. 
The losses to those whom they owed a fiduciary duty are estimated at 1 billion dollars.  Their profit as a company last year was around 14 billion dollars.
Now if they would have trouble scrambling the money I could see some delay through a standard "dog bite" style defence (e.g. The Defendant denies that the Plaintiff was bitten at all and puts him to the strict proof thereof.  In the alternative, if the Plaintiff was bitten by a dog, it wasn’t the Defendant’s dog that bit him.  In the further alternative, if the Plaintiff was bitten by the Defendant’s dog it was because he provoked or attacked the dog.  In the event that the Plaintiff was bitten, the injuries were de minimus, or in the alternative if the Plaintiff suffered any injury or loss, the Plaintiff failed to mitigate that loss and further any losses were due to pre-existing conditions….etc), 
The proper way to handle the situation though when you can pay it if you are clearly liable and public confidence is crucial to your ongoing success is just pay it.  Suck it up, say some people in the organization worked by methods that are inconsistent with Goldman Sachs standards and any Goldman Sachs client that lost out due to misrepresentations by Goldman Sachs employees will be indemnified in full. 
It looks good and restores confidence quickly.  They’ve probably lost more already just from a couple of weeks of bad press than they will just paying out.  Do they want this dragging through the courts for 10 years?   This isn’t something like an IBM or Microsoft trust case, involving things people don’t understand.   This is about activity that is close to if not outright criminal.  If they appear evasive they taint the whole organization. 
Unless this is just the tip of the iceberg their moves don’t make sense and they should fire their PR people.  If it is the tip of the iceberg…

America really needs another #2 party

The Democrats are intending to bring in legislation to legalize certain illegal immigrants.   The Republicans may be attempting to scuttle a climate bill that had some bipartisan support in retailiation.
It is difficult not to hate the Republicans.  They do two or three things a week to remind us that they are completely despicable.  Linking unrelated issues in this way is unethical, immoral and a breach of their duties to their constituents.  But they don’t care.  With few exceptions- such as Ron Paul, whose reasons for being a Republican mystify me- the Republicans never care whether what they do is right or wrong.  If there is a hell the overwhelming majority of them will burn in it. 
Once upon a time the Republicans stood for more than fleecing their constituents on behalf of large corporations and the military-industrial complex while using discreditable diversionary tactics such as raising the abortion issue or promoting ethnic and racial hatred to keep the voters distracted and voting on one issue of high emotive content but little relevance.   I’d add that it is difficult to see how getting large numbers of people killed in imperialist wars is pro-life. 
Once they were the party of Lincoln.  Today he would be a Democrat. 

Hydraulics, volcanoes and action at a distance.

We hear a lot about how various geologial events aren’t related although that has the ring of something said to pacify the public rather than scientific fact.
The facts are that the earth’s mantle acts something like a very viscous fluid, not truly a fluid but not really solid either.  The mantle has convection currents and true solids don’t.  The scientific explanation and description of this are not wholly satisfactory.  There are a variety of problems with the connected theories, not least of which is that while it is assumed that the earth’s core would be iron because the iron is dense and would have settled to the core.  Fair enough, but there are a lot of things that are more dense than iron, one of the more common of which is uranium.  Given the density of uranium and the whole basis for the theory, one would think that uranium would be under-represented towards the surface, and the same might be said of gold, lead and any other dense elements…but I digress.
Toothpaste isn’t quite a liquid either but if you take the cap off and press the other end it still comes out.
Quite apart from that there is at least some material that is actually fluid in the mantle, as we see from volcanoes, and one would expect that to be subject to fluid mechanics. 
As long as there is sufficient fluidity to transfer force, distance isn’t necessarily an issue.  The pressure will be equal everywhere in a container of fluid unless there is an outlet.  That’s the basis on which hydraulic machinery works.
One thing to look at with the Iceland volcanoes is what happens if the mantle speeds up convection.  If the rift begins spreading more quickly it may lead to excess magma getting out.  Iceland seems to have a problem with not just volcanoes but a fissure system lined up with the present problem volcanoes where things open up in a line, sometimes all at once, like a zipper opening. 

The not so exotic mysteries of the NFL draft

The NFL desperately needs a Roger Neilson type.  Roger Neilson was the hockey coach who revolutionized how hockey was played more than any other.  He brought in video review as a teaching tool, something that is now done by all teams and now by most networks in all sports.  Some of his innovations, such as the neutral zone trap, were irritating.  They were, however, effective. 
The right player can be crushing from any position.  However certain positions are always more important.  The big one is obviously the quarterback.  The equivalent on defence is the free safety.   If you have seen a good safety in action you know the impact they can have.  The Steeler’s star safety going down with an injury was one of the major reasons their season went in the toilet. 
Unlike other positions, because the free safety is free, it is also possible for a free safety to be invisible.  Given that the free safety can double team anywhere or blitz, choosing an invisible safety is not recommended.  They can help cover any hole or exploit any weakness. 
Wide receivers and cornerbacks are also important.  It is hard to go very far in football without a deep threat.  
Probably next most important are tight ends and running backs, being mindful that none of the best running backs have ever won a Superbowl.  That goes to show the perils of excess dependence on the short game.  A couple of 80 yard runs through the whole defence each season make great TV but they only add up to so much.  Most important is having a credible short threat to spread the defence and force them to make tough decisions.  
So in light of all that, what is the focus of the draft?
Offensive and defensive lines. 
It’s supposed to be common knowledge that you don’t draft quarterbacks or safeties high.  Everything seems to be upside down. 
The quarterback crop was thought until recently to be one of the best with recent Heismann trophy winners in the mix and the like.  Yet if you look at the the criticisms of the top quarterbacks you will see things about how prospects with 67-70% completion ratings have a reputation for inaccuracy and that the throwing style is different so it must be bad, even if they keep winning and keep hitting receivers.  Then there is the size issue for somebody that is maybe 6 foot 1 inch instead of 6 foot 2 inches, so they say he isn’t big enough.  That didn’t stop Doug Flutie from being good, and I think he was shorter than me.  Heart is important.  Brains are important.  You don’t look for the same qualities in a quarterback that you do in a linebacker. 
Look, if you are going to judge these things for artistic impression then you should be judging figure skating or be an art critic or do something other than professional sports. 
I have to wonder if in some cases maybe a team with a lower pick is getting scouts to sandbag the best picks so they are still around. 
The top 4 quarterbacks ought to all be going in the first round, although they won’t.  Half the teams don’t have a solid starter let alone a solid backup. 
The teams could be colluding so the top prospects don’t get notions of franchise player incomes too early. 
Then there is the issue of NFL teams being prepared to give up good players for draft picks, even if they have decent stats, are fairly healthy and have stayed out of trouble. 
Probably the best strategy in the NFL, unless you have a shot at a franchise player, is to trade away all your draft picks every year for proven players and let the other teams treat the draft like "scratch and win" lottery tickets. 
And if you do stay in the draft, unless there is a Haynesworth or the like available, remember that the offensive and defensive lines are support staff.

Iceland eruption and air disruption- airlines prepared to turn skies into a casino

With airlines losing $200 million or more per day aggregate, and economic loss to other industries, there is going to be enormous pressure to get planes back in the sky in Europe.
The problem is, nobody really knows the particulars of why some planes get badly damaged by ash in some situations while others are fine.
My guess is that the density of ash in the air, particle size and composition are all important.   The composition of the ash would be important in determining the effect on engines and possibly the sand-blasting effect on plane windows.   The hardness and chemical composition of the material would likely affect the type and degree of damage. 
There is also a question of degree of damage.  Going through ash that is thin enough that a plane can survive may still speed up the degeneration of a plane and lead to significant costs later. 
Test flights have had mixed results.  Nato planes doing test flights have reported some with significant damage.  The commercial airliners are claiming that their test flights have all come back negative for ash damage.  Of course there may be a lot more leeway in routing a test flight.  Remember the flight through ash near Alaska where the crew flew through a cloud of ash that looked like an ordinary cloud.  There’s no reason why clouds of ash can’t hide in other clouds of ash, just as they can hide in ordinary clouds.  An aircraft could pass through an area of greater ash density with no prior warning. 
My guess is that it will become politically impossible to keep as many planes on the ground and there will likely be a major incident or two following.  The carriers are sounding too desparate to be objective and there is going to be a problem. 
Under the circumstances it is hard to say that the governments have acted irresponsibly.   Private airline manufacturers if they wanted to address such problems could have been running simulations with artificial ash in order to be in a better position to advise governments in these circumstances. 
The situation does not lend itself to easy experiments in the field.  Unless a drone craft with a truly comparable engine is used to test in real volcano conditions, the experiments of aircraft tolerance are conducted with real risk to pilots and crew- and passengers if there are any.   Volcanoes are not accomodating with respect to erupting in a time and a manner so as to facilitate experimentation and are notoriously unreliable. 
As the scenario is unprecedented it doesn’t make a lot of sense for governments to be criticized over it.  There is something amusing about private enterprises expecting government to have planned for every eventuality, and that they are looking to governments to pick up the losses.  Much like the statement made that there are no atheists in the trenches in wartime (exaggerated, but there is something to it), everybody converts to socialism when taking losses.  But I digress.
When Iceland’s volcanoes go off they often go off in tandem and that can have consequences if the larger volcano goes off.  The present events are useful in that they remind us that once or twice per century a volcano goes off and creates major problems globally.  The present crisis is a couple of orders of magnitude below how bad it will be, sooner or later, possibly as soon as later this year if the major volcano in Iceland has a full scale eruption as well.   Truly major eruptions can blot out the sun and cause worldwide crop failures.
Getting a bite sized disaster, one that is challenging but not unsurmountable, is good practice.