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The Best of PPP in 2017

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We pick our favourite stories we wrote in the past year.

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Washington Capitals v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Most of us here at PPP are nerdy, self-deprecating types, and we aren’t very good at tooting our own horns. Nonetheless, we found a dented old horn, passed it around, and tried our best. This posts lists our favourite stories — our own and our fellow writers’ contributions to PPP.

First though, I want to talk about the single best story posted at this blog. It is one of a kind, borne of love and smarts in equal measure. You can’t write like this without first thinking about the game, the world, and how it all fits. It exists because this space exists to publish it, and it went viral because it is just so damn good. This is our top story by hit count, but it’s also the best thing I’ve ever even touched the edge of. (I think I added a comma.)

Auston Matthews vs. Makenna Newkirk: The case against USA Hockey
By Baseball Annie and nafio

Two hockey players from Scottsdale, two very different paths.

Of course, from the beginning Matthews and Newkirk had different career trajectories to anticipate. Back in 2000, when five-year-old Newkirk put on skates for the first time, women’s hockey was only two years out of its first Olympic appearance at Nagano. The first National Women’s Hockey League was only a season old, and seven years away from giving birth to the CWHL. When Matthews’ mother worked two jobs to fund his hockey, it was because there was the possibility of an NHL career ahead of him. It seems to be the way development is justified by USA Hockey; boys receive money and time spent on their development because someday, they will grow up to be professional hockey players. Girls, largely, are expected to figure their careers out for themselves, before allowing USA Hockey to take advantage of and credit for their success on the international stage


Acting the Fulemin

Favourite thing I wrote: Trust Le Process

Favourite things other people wrote:

Nafio and Annie’s Auston Matthews vs. Makenna Newkirk—see above. I may be an ex-lawyer at this point, but seeing an argument laid out thoroughly, clearly, with all the angles brings me joy.

Arvind’s All Connor Brown Does Is Score—I think the best thing PPP does is that sometimes we say things people don’t want to hear if that’s where the evidence leads. This is what that looks like.

Kevin’s The Potential Steal of the 2017 Draft: Eeli Tolvanen—Kevin is a psychic. Go look at what Tolvanen has done since being picked 30th overall.

Katya’s Prospect Pessimism Is My Approach To Rankings—It’s mine too! But Katya said it way better.

Janik’s 3 Ways To Beat The Ottawa Senators’ 1-3-1 Forecheck—I love anyone who can do an intelligible job explaining tactical adjustments in hockey. All the more so because most hockey broadcasts fail to do that.

Arvind

Favourite thing I wrote: How many Leafs Players Have Yeezy’s

Favourite things other people wrote:

How to Make Your Trade Ideas Make Sense (Fulemin) - I thought this was a really humorous read that also deftly pointed out a lot of the common flaws that arise in fan-proposed trades.

Calvin Pickard: my un-objective view (Katya) - I’m glad Katya’s torturous experience watching the Avs intently resulted in something so thorough and comprehensive.

2017 NHL Draft Target: Is Erik Brannstrom the defenceman the Leafs need? (Kevin) - Seriously, TSN. Use Kevin’s list instead of Craig Button’s. This guy has a gift.

A quick fix to increase Connor Carrick's offensive production (Janik) - I’m always a fan of pieces that dig into video and the technical aspects of the game, backing that up with the numbers. Janik is great at that, and this is no exception.

It also goes without saying, but the Newkirk/Matthews article is absolutely phenomenal, and the best thing done on this blog in years. And another stick-tap should go to Nafio and Annie for all the Women’s Hockey coverage on the site.

Katya

Favourite thing I’ve written: Calvin Pickard: my un-objective view

This was so easy to write. I even got to stick in a (fairly) ironic weepy song. This is what fan writing is for me, what you feel and what you think in equal measure. My second place goes to what was at first called LTIR sucks, the CBA is worse, and the NHL is stoopid. This was so much work to write. Horrible CBA reading and thinking about financial relationships and structures, two or three spreadsheets (blech), it was hell. And I was really surprised how many people read it! So, worth it in the end, and rewarding in its own way.

Favourites from not me:

I love things like seldo’s Matthews is better than McDavid because I can’t write that kind of humour that leaves you asking: Was he really kidding?

Species does massive amounts of work here writing FTBs, GDTs, recaps and he also covers the Marlies in his spare time. When he brought his trained Marlies-watching eye to the rookie camp, he told it like he saw it, and that’s what makes PPP special, the informed opinion: Timothy Liljegren had an unfortunate debut with the Maple Leafs’ rookies last night but that’s fine

Janik did 3 Ways to beat the Ottawa Senators' 1-3-1 forecheck which is also something I can’t do, but I learned from. I had a hard time picking from his video tactics pieces, they’re all good.

Brigstew fulfilled a bet with 5 Reasons Why The Leafs Should Trade For Kris Russell which was really funny and not mean.

Hardev does recaps in a fun, breezy style that leaves you in no doubt who wrote it, and they’re informative along the way: Matt Martin, Roman Polak, and the fourth line lead Maple Leafs to win over Drew Doughty’s Kings

Omar is way more upbeat than most of us dour nerds. His timely reminder that the Leafs can play some hockey was very good: The Leafs have their own set of killers

Gunnar did the hard work on the salary cap on this one: Salary cap projections: Can the Leafs afford Kevin Shattenkirk?

From Arvind and Fulemin, I really like the podcast Back to Excited. I don’t listen to much audio, I always get distracted, but they hold my attention. (This is sort of me ducking out on picking a favourite text piece. The podcast is how they think, and everything they write is interesting because of that.)

Kevin has written a lot of draft and prospect scouting pieces, and some of his draft porfiles look very smart right now, but my favourites are his recent Marlies work: Scouting Jeremy Bracco, Timothy Liljegren, and the Toronto Marlies

Nafio curates and writes Women’s Hockey Wednesday, and it’s part archivist skill, part deep love and knowledge of the game, part media criticism, and all great. I can’t pick just one of these! She also does a tonne of other work — recaps of Furies and the Leafs, news of all sorts, but sometimes she’ll tackle a topic the rest of us just can’t put together coherently: So you want to be a Leafs fan? This was just so “us”, and it captured the mood of the fans last season as playoffs approached.

Achariya hasn’t written a lot here lately, but did you notice that comma that shouldn’t have been there or the missing apostrophe? If you didn’t, likely that’s because she did the editing on one of our pieces. If you did, then we should have asked her to.

Nafio

I don’t write a lot that isn’t straight up recapping or reporting, but of the few that are not that, the fact that I got to write this at all was pretty neat: What’s in a year? Factoring 10 seasons of history into a CWHL base salary

Favourites written by not me:

Working as editor to Annie’s Newkirk vs Matthews piece was a joy. But I also like her Actual Hockey Analysis in stuff like One For, One Against: Clarkson Cup Final Edition.

I agree with Katya that Gunnar’s work on the salary cap piece was impressive but I know The history of the Brampton Thunder was a bit of a passion piece for her and my bias will always run to the CWHL coverage.

Brigstew’s 5 Reasons Why The Leafs Should Trade For Kris Russell was great, at least in part because he was forced to write it for a good cause (it’s also hilarious).

Species brought his usual insightful analysis to the new Scotiabank deal in Maple Leafs owners give ACC even more boring name.

I have a soft spot for Connor Carrick so Omar’s Coach Carrick piece was right up my alley.

Again with the Actual Hockey Analysis, 3 Ways to beat the Ottawa Senators' 1-3-1 forecheck by Janik is always worth a look. It has tactical breakdowns, it proposes a solution, and it mocks the Senators without going too far.

Seldo’s humour is great and he had some winners this year, but if I’m permitted some recency bias, Toronto Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower passes at age 93 still has me in tears.

I always learn stuff when I read things by Arvind but How the Leafs leapfrogged the Sabres has the added value of pissing off Buffalo while also being educational.

When we’re not talking about women’s hockey, Fulemin is probably the PPP writer whose stuff I read the most (look, there is a LOT written on this site). His Optimist/Pessimist Take on the Leafs’ 2017 Draft was not only entertaining, it ended up being a good What Do We Know summary following the 2017 draft.

Bonus: Arvind and Fulemin make a great team and it was really about time someone wrote about The Problem With Those Shiny New Sportsnet Stats. Blogging: where you can write about some of the stuff the MSM isn’t allowed to point out.

Katya writes a lot. Many things. The continual conflating of Chemmy or Julian or whoever else Twitter likes to think is still PPP with this site is such a massive insult to the quality and volume of the work Katya has put out since she joined that it’s almost funny. Picking a favourite is tough. I liked her un-objective Calvin Pickard piece a lot, but perhaps a better summary of the things she brings to this site is something like I don’t care about the fourth line where she takes on the popular BS and deflates it with style, facts and common sense.

Brigstew

Favourite thing I wrote: So I write even less that’s not FTBs or GDTs or recaps. In fact, looking through my published articles I have a grand total of one that was a joke article about Why the Leafs should trade for Kris Russell as part of Bell Let’s Talk. Jokes on me, Lou and Shanny apparently realized the best value they could get out of Russell was to leave him on Edmonton as a sleeper agent.

Favourite thing other people wrote:

Katya—okay, as a joke I am going to at least attempt to count how much featured articles Katya wrote this year. It is now 5:05 pm when I began. It is now 5:18 and I have counted 539 articles. 489 of those are not FTBs, GDTs, previews, or recaps. It does have a lot of little news releases and updates, but still... that’s almost 1.5 published articles a day, and that ALSO doesn’t count any roundtable contributions she made that someone else launched. Anyways, that’s my long way of saying that my favourite article of hers was whether or not the Leafs should trade Komarov that she wrote during LAST season that was pretty damn prescient given his storyline THIS season.

Annie—the obvious answer is so obviously her and nafio’s fantastic Newkirk vs Matthews article that everyone else has already included because come on.

Nafio—co-credit to her for her work on the above mentioned Newkirk vs Matthews article, but she also had a great primer for bandwagon new Leafs fans that must have taken a literal mountain of pictures, gifs, tweets and videos to complete.

Fulemin—A bit of a cop-out maybe but I have to give Fulemin mad props for all of his Mailbag articles. They’re tons of fun, from when he solicits the questions in the FTBs and the discussions and jokes they cause there, to his actual answers. Also, having just participated in the PPP Mailbag I have to give him mad props for how long it takes to answer each question. I will link to the first one he wrote in 2017, both because it’s the first one and because it has many important pictures of adorable Leafs with their adorable pets.

Arvind—if there is one thing that comes to mind when I think of Arvind, it is his trolling of the Buffalo Sabres. The best part is, this wasn’t even really trolling... he was 100% right. Honorary mention to his documenting of all the Leafs that own Yeezys.

Annie

Everyone else has already discussed the Newkirk/Matthews piece (which, to be clear, I am extremely proud of—it was retweeted by Angela Ruggiero, who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, which means it’s all downhill from there for me in this lifetime), but I want to highlight something else that I would never, ever, in a million years be able to write at a normal blog full of normal people: an article reviewing the suit Auston Matthews wore to accept the Calder. Writing this was pure fun, and I never dreamed my hobbies of fashion and hockey would intersect, but bless you, Auston Matthews.

As for the rest of the blog:

Some other people mentioned Trust Le Process, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also toss in Fulemin’s cordial note to the city of Boston, A Letter To Our Friends the Bruins. The Rita Repulsa joke kills me. Mock more division rivals in 2018, Fulemin, the people demand it.

If you haven’t read Gunnar’s History of the Brampton Thunder piece, you should go do that, like, right now. It’s a fascinating piece, focusing on an era of women’s hockey that isn’t talked about a lot, and digs into the history of women’s hockey in Brampton, from the mid-60s to the CWHL. I learned a ton.

Janik’s article on how to beat Ottawa’s 1-3-1 is a fantastic piece of analysis, and I love his method of using gifs to illustrate the problem and then talking through potential solutions. It’s clear, refreshingly jargon-free, and great writing.

Seldo’s Matthews is better than McDavid article is just the God’s honest truth, and what is more admirable than a man saying his truth? I’m still waiting for the exposé mentioned in the final line.

Thanks to Arvind, I can now identify Yeezys out in the wild, in multiple colorways! I also want to shout out the article we wrote together predicting the Leafs’ playoff beard growth, because a) it was super fun to do, and b) his predictions were spot-on.

After the CWHL announced that they would be paying salaries this year, Nafio wrote up this piece on what needed to be factored into any potential salary schemes. While I was still busy yelling excitedly, she sat down and thought through the practical implications, and I loved being able to read a clear-cut analysis of a lot of nebulous information.

Katya has written what I would conservatively estimate as eleventy billion pieces this year, so singling out only one is difficult, but I especially enjoy her perspective on the European leagues. Her KHL 101 primer was really informative and evenhanded.

Janik

I joined PPP what feels like two weeks ago and haven't contributed a whole lot, so I'm feeling slightly uncomfortable about picking my best of 2017. If I have to choose, though, it's my quick fix to increase Connor Carrick's offensive production. Carrick's season hasn't been what I'd hoped for, but this is the kind of article I really enjoy writing — using stats and video to evaluate a player. If it wasn't so time-consuming, I'd be pumping these out daily.

Everyone else at PPP has been pumping out content like crazy, and it's been a terrific mix of news, analysis, and humour. Here are just some of the pieces I personally enjoyed the most.

I'll make this short because it's been mentioned a bunch already, but Annie's Auston Matthews vs. Makenna Newkirk piece was nothing short of fantastic. Simply outstanding.

I was also a big fan of Katya's KHL 101. Despite living in Europe, I know just about nothing about the KHL, so this was a great read.

Seldo’s Matthews is better than McDavid article is what I meant when I pointed out humorous pieces on PPP. I laughed out loud when I read it, and that doesn't happen often. This is something I could never write.

Similarly, Trust Le Process was hilarious. Great work by Fulemin.

Lastly, and this isn't technically a post, but I must include it here, I love Back to Excited, Arvind's and Fulemin's awesome podcast. If you're a Leafs fan — and you must be a crazy one if you've actually read all the way down to my part in this post — it's a must-listen.

Seldo

My year was highlighted by my trip to the Memorial Cup in Windsor this May. Ten days spent from late morning to, well, very early morning in the basement of the WFCU Centre in Windsor, and it was probably the best vacation I’ve ever had. Hockey everyday, free food in the media room and at the OHL Fanboys tailgate where I met the overly friendly Brian and Steve who helped feed this poor unemployed blogger. I also got to ask Taylor Hall if he ever got his boating license and learned to hide in a fern to get into the popular Dylan Strome scrums. You can find everything I wrote for PPP here, and if I may slip in a post from another site, my eulogy for the Erie Otters at Raw Charge was my favourite thing I did for them.

Enough talking about me, I suppose.

I have to credit Annie and nafio for Women’s Hockey Wednesday, something I don’t share enough I admit. I’ve learned more about the women’s game from them Wednesday mornings than I have anywhere else. I tried collecting news for a weekly CHL round up but quit because link curating sounds easy but it isn’t. Having to read all that stuff? I don’t even do that for the FTB. They both are great for CWHL game recaps and breaking women’s news and taking such good care of their part fo the hockey world. Also they do recaps and I hate doing them, so thank you for doing those so people aren’t stuck with me.

Achariya was off running Raw Charge with an iron fist but managed to keep us in news about the Solar Bears, and editing things and telling me to get my prospects posts done and actually follow the schedule. Anyway, the news that a line brawl killed the Solar Bears goalie was excellent and fun.

Fulemin does mailbags, and after reading and thinking about answering the questions for the holiday mailbag I have come to the conclusion he hates himself, so here’s to a more cheerful 2018 for AtF.

Arvind and Fulemin both gets props for bringing consistent podcasts back to PPP. Arvind also likes numbers and stuff I can’t write, like quality analysis. We need to know our strengths, so when he does something like Swapping Soshnikov and Hyman from last season, I read it and nod along, and am jealous I can’t do that.

Brigstew is here to do the FTB’s and for that, we thank you.

Gunnar Carlsson is trying to be a lawyer so she can rescue us all from blogging jail when people actually realize what we’ve been saying about them this whole time. When she’s here writing it’s quality stuff, like when she looked at the Leafs and Kevin Shattenkirk, and is always available to explain what the hell the words in the CBA actually mean.

Hardev is young and reminds me that I’m getting old.

Janik is in Germany partying all the time in the internet industry, or that’s what he’ll have us believe. When he takes some time away from punishing himself with the Canucks, he’ll come up with more stuff I can’t do, like point out Auston Matthews tricking the Canadiens out of a goal.

Kevin is...wait who’s Kevin? And Omar? Man, I’m not online all day anymore and I don't even know who’s writing where now. I’m kidding, these are good guys, Omar and his love of Connor Brown, and Kevin for grabbing recaps when I’m not in the mood for it.

Species is one of the most dedicated folks here, always trying to push the site to be bigger than it currently is and has taken over the Marlies beat so well it’s almost like he’s living at the Ricoh, I mean, he almost moved in one night when the game just wouldn’t end. Heck he even went on the road during the Marlies playoff run last year. This isn’t to mention all his FTB’s, and GDT’s and other things I’m constantly forgetting to do.

Katya is out glue, our boss, and our contrarian [editor’s note: I’m not a contrarian, what is he talking about?]. Always there to point out when you’ve signed up for a thing and when you sleep through it, she’ll do it anyways and not grumble too much, as long as there’s a drink at the end of the day waiting. The Six in Five series is a great way to keep Leafs expectations in check.

I know it was supposed to be a favourite articles, but these are just my favourite people, and everything they do is great, and if not great, at worst it’s just okay.