dimanche 30 décembre 2012

Rangers at Christmas; High Note before the Break

The Gloucester Rangers are in year two of their rebuild after making their way to the CCHL semi-finals two years ago. This year, expectations were for better results than last year and by looking at the standings now, they certainly have been better with 11 wins already after only 13 last year. But the way this improvement has played out has certainly been a surprise.

The year started with a bang as Gloucester beat Smiths Falls at the Showcase – one of Smiths Falls’ few losses all year. The team looked poised to strike as Alexandre Boivin, the newly minted captain and Corey Durocher, back after a few years in the ‘O’, had great chemistry. Chad Millett laid a crushing hit and it seemed like the team was on track from the get-go.

And over the next few weeks, the team put on strong performances over a long homestand and was comfortably seated in the 8th playoff seat. They improved the team with a trade with Kemptville where they picked up Matt Rosebrook and Stevie Ray Adams. There were essentially four point-per-game players at that point. Durocher’s brief tryout with Peoria of the AHL gave other players the chance to step up such as Patrick White.

The Rangers cast of young players, stepping into the places of Michael McMurtry and Mathieu White, really showed why the team had faith in them. Pat White, a protect from the year before, has been fantastic deserving all the praise he can get and winning a rookie of the month honour to date. Colton Keuhl, drafted a year before he was eligible to play, has been a rock on defense standing beside Daniel Baslyk and forms half of a solid shutdown duo.

In nets, Gunner Rivers certainly expected to get the bulk of the work, but the solid play of Guanmarco DeMeis and later Dylan Brind’Amour meant that he wasn’t able to get as many minutes as he likely wanted. Still, he very rightly was named to the Central Canada Cup Prospects Game.

After the impressive homestand, the Rangers started to slip. Andrew Rossy, powerplay wizard for the Rangers, was injured for an extensive period of time. Millett was also injured. Corey Durocher wasn’t playing up to his potential though that has certainly changed as of late. But a few shake ups happened as well.

Alexandre Boivin, after being named to the Central Canada Cup roster for the Yzerman Division, headed to the Quebec Remparts after being courted for a month. In his place, Matt Rosebrook was a very appropriate choice as his replacement for the all-star festivities.

A new crop of players have risen to the occasion and are providing leadership for the Rangers, helping them win both games during the Holiday Showcase: Melanson, Topf, Ouimet and Giberson.

Winning brings stability. Though the Rangers remain outside of the playoffs for now, they have been doing the right things as of late. Their work ethic means that they should be able to build on the Showcase performances and make some noise in the second half to return to the success they had earlier this year.

jeudi 27 décembre 2012

Grads at Christmas : Putting the Pieces Together

The 2012-2013 CCHL season hasn’t gone as expected for the Cumberland Grads who sit at the bottom of the Yzerman division with 25 points. The Christmas break gives time to review the season so far and determine where they should go during the second half of the season.

The end of last season saw many players finish their Junior A careers for the usual reasons such as age (Bamford, Wild), college (Lough) and the OHL (Beckstead, Walsh). To bolster their lineup, Cumberland was aggressive during the off-season as they held numerous draft picks and made a huge deal with Pembroke to pick up more offense in exchange for Drouin and Harper. The CIH Academy was the favourite source of Grads draftees starting with the 3rd overall pick Martin Lavallée and including Sean Naish and Devan Tremblay. In general, the early stages of the draft seemed to address more pressing concerns for the Grads.

The optimism also came from the high number of players from out of town who made the opening day roster from as far as Labrador (Lavallée) and Utah (David Higgs). This strategy brought the Grads into fairly new territory for a team that usually likes to pick its players from closer to home. When the puck dropped at the start of season showcase, the Grads turned some heads as they almost took the opening game from the Carleton Place Canadians in what would soon become a theme for the year – they end up on the losing side of a tight game.

Yet there were still pieces that needed to come together. Within a few weeks, Silas Neeposh had left the squad for the ‘Q’ leaving the defensive core without much experience. Chris King and Connor Currie had yet to arrive from the Pembroke trade. Injuries to Trevor Packard, Philippe Paquette and Justin Pelock slowed down the team that had rough spells throughout the fall.

However, recent weeks have showed big improvements for the Grads. For one thing, the team has been much better disciplined than last year. It has led to better use of powerplay time and less work shorthanded. A trade with Nepean before the trade freeze gave Andrew DeBrincat to the Grads and he now has 10 points, including three on the powerplay, since joining the team. Mark Golberg’s return from injury has allowed him to prosper and score a bunch of GWGs. That has, in turn, given more openings to the shifty Matt Allan. David Bennett, named with Golberg to the Central Canada Cup’s Prospect Game, has also showed that his physical dominance is accompanied by some offensive skills.

While the Grads weren’t great at the Holiday Showcase, they do finally have their best lineups put together. At the centre of it all are veterans Nick Martin and Eric Clitsome. Martin, who almost didn’t make it back for a final year, eclipsed his previous season point high back in October showing that his excellent penalty killing is only one facet of his game. He’s recently been named captain after Rodier went to Nepean. Clitsome, playing at point-a-game clip, deserves the type of respect that sees him at the Central Canada Cup and should land him a college ride. Finally, Travis Douglas deserves a mention for the progress he’s made – his three goal outburst against Kanata should become more regular in the next few months. With the pieces together, the Grads should see better results in the second half.

mardi 1 mai 2012

Three years after Iceland

Though this post is a few days late, it does indeed mark the third anniversary of my return from Iceland which I celebrated this week. Back in May 2009, I could not have predicted the way things would have turned out three years later and I think I would have thought that my present situation was, if not impossible, then perhaps just a little too well-wishing. I write from the third different room in the same house, but next year it will be different.

In fact, many things are different already. A few hours after writing last year’s post, I started dating a sweet lady by the name of Catie and a full year after that, we have now begun the process of moving in together in Orléans. Soon I’ll join her as I am moving out of my Velvet House at the end of July…again. The difference this time is that I’m not the only one, the whole organization is collapsing, moving in opposite directions.

The other difference, is that I’m no longer a student and don’t intend to be one in September for the first time in about 20 years. I just completed my MA in Political Science at Carleton University and am now set to work – and what chance, I was offered a job as Interim Manager of the Forum for Young Canadians, a program I care deeply about. All of those years of volunteering, trying to share the program with those who might appreciate it like I did, now see me on the other side, greeting volunteers who want to share it in their own ways.

I’ve gained a world of other experiences as well, since last April 29. That week I also began writing for the Orléans Star, where I met amazing people, interviewed spectacular athletes and humble volunteers and gained a better understanding of the community I’m beginning to call home again. It lead to writing for the Gloucester Rangers and colour commentating for the Cumberland Grads, opportunities I might never have imagined otherwise.

In a way, this year was also the freest year I’ve ever had. Knowing it was my last in school, I volunteered as much as possible, but also chose to follow my dream and visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which was everything I could ever have imagined. This year, I plan to go to the World Championship’s as part of Team Canada. Through the course of the past year, I’ve met so many great people and participated in so many great events through ballooning. Hal and Barb took me under their wing, or balloon rather, and let me travel with them to Cornwall, St-Jean, Battle Creek, Gatineau and Albuquerque. They never asked for thanks or wondered why I came. I owe them a great deal of gratitude and will be happy to share summer skies with them this year.

I saw a few friends from Iceland this year when I invited them to my house for our traditional New Year’s event. I’m even hoping of returning there a little bit in the fall. But time is passing and the distance between us is growing. Yet, I still feel the country’s odd magic and majesty and somehow hope that it can be reconnected, if only in a dream.

vendredi 23 mars 2012

NDP Leadership : a Twitter-view

There was something magical that happened to Thomas Mulcair’s Twitter and endorsement campaign at the start of March. When I started following the candidates in late January he was fourth among Tweets and Followers and was lagging behind. Within a few weeks, he was catching up to Nathan Cullen and might pass him before the weekend is up with the party’s top job at stake.

For their parts, strong starters Brian Topp and Paul Dewar were already high up in numbers by late January and weren’t able to add much to their totals adding 35% and 13% of followers in the next two months or so. But Mulcair was impressive here, as he now as more than 4458 followers, up 72% which is 16% more than the next place Cullen.

Cullen tweets a lot. Not as much as his colleague Françoise Boivin, but with about 1600 tweets to his record, he’s only a little ways back of the leader in this category Paul Dewar. Compare that to Martin Singh’s 67 or Mulcair’s 195 and the distance is impressive.

With that miniscule number in mind for Mulcair, it is clearly elsewhere that he has found support. Hundreds of people click his name each week to see what he says, even though he doesn’t say much. And he has been keeping endorsements for more recent times as well. My numbers give half credit for Twitter activity and half for endorsement points as counted by Éric Grenier of threehundredeight.com.

The two ladies in the campaign have fared well online, but not exceptionally. Niki Ashton has used both an English and French account for the run, but lately has been Tweeting in French on the English account, focusing on the more popular one which I have counted here. Ms. Nash outranks Topp but seems to have been losing steam as of late.

At the very least, the candidates have been able to attract a following which will be useful for their long-awaited return to the House of Commons. For those hopefuls who are MPs, their long absence means that they will have to remember where their seat is – and only one will be switching spots with Mme Turmel who has seen her own Twitter following grow into something in the middle of the pack of this group.

While these numbers might not be able to predict the outcome, they do show some general trends in interest and in a convention setting, the person who is hot right now might get the extra votes. In that case, expect a lot of attention towards Thomas Mulcair but don’t give up on Topp or Cullen, one of them might end up as a kingmaker, or even a king.

(P.S. I'm working at improving my graphs!)

lundi 19 mars 2012

Craig Scott wins Toronto--Danforth on Twitter-front

The NDP candidate for the by-election in Toronto--Danforth is poised to keep the seat for his party if the results at the polls mirror the action on Twitter. While he is only slightly ahead of Green Party candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu there, the popularity of his predecessor, the late Jack Layton, should give him the edge.

While the contest has been billed as a change for Liberals to get back into action with candidate Grant Gordon, he hasn’t come close to attracting the attention that Scott has. With 1349 Twitter followers, Scott leads Gordon who only has 1020. Still, Gordon has gained a higher percentage of followers since my tracking began back in February. He has 33% more followers than on February 17 whereas law professor Scott has 24% more. He started further behind and hasn’t come close to catching up.

Quiet throughout the contest has been Andrew Keyes of the Conservatives. As a communications specialist, he must know that there is little to gain in communicating with the constituency unless you are in the race. The Conservatives are seemingly opting to sit this one out just like certain GOP candidates don’t compete in Iowa instead focusing on New Hampshire in the primaries.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu is one of the top operatives of the Green Party’s office and as such, is one of their strongest voices. She has been active in sharing that voice with over 1000 Tweets to her name and with about 110 on average for each week of the campaign. A following has developed but there is still more than a Tweet per follower to her name.

Expect Scott to win as the overall NDP feeling in Toronto--Danforth continues.

lundi 5 mars 2012

Iceland’s Loonie Idea

When Montenegro unilaterally adopted the Euro a few years ago, they might have thought of themselves as clever; adopt another, more stable currency and avoid the hassles associated with money and a Central Bank as the new state came into being after its split from Serbia. The EU wasn’t too pleased and keeps reminding the Balkan nation about that fact. But Iceland’s look into adopting Canada’s dollar, and the general agreement it’s getting from across the Atlantic, is a different story, but one that might still unlikely to play out in the near future as Icelanders consider the implications of the move. Here are some thoughts.

This isn’t a new idea. When the krona collapsed back in 2008, there were cries to try the American dollar, or the Euro, or even the loonie. But after a few months, the loudest of those calls subsided. After the initial flurry of attention, even the support to join the EU went down a little bit. While I haven’t been back to the Island since leaving just after the 2009 election, I don’t suspect that Icelanders core values have changed. As Newfoundland learned when they joined Canada in 1949, taking big decisions has a lasting impact. But Iceland and Newfoundland were heading in different directions at the time and if Baldur Thorhallsson of the University of Iceland is correct, small states will look for a shelter in time of crisis. The question is, do they still really need an economic shelter three years later after reports have constantly indicated they are doing better than thought with their IMF loans?

From the Canadian side of things, it is fairly low-risk. With an educated population the size of Victoria, BC, Iceland will not be a liability despite their current economic woes. Alcan makes a lot of aluminum there and the largest population of people of Icelandic descent is in Canada, concentrated in Manitoba’s Interlake region. Still, the EU might have something to say with the fact that one of its candidate countries is adopting another currency as its own falters – or yet again they are probably too busy dealing with that already.

Finally, Iceland is a country that is simply too proud of its independence after hundreds of years of foreign rule, to simply give up such an integral part of its sovereignty. Unlike certain aspects of sovereignty which might be more obscure and intangible, dealing with cash is a daily activity (though Iceland has a great reliance on debit/credit) and there is a pride with the fish covered kronur coins that pay for Friday night beers on Laugavegur. If this is going to happen, it has to be soon as the Independence Party reorganizes after its last election failing; it’s the first time since the nation’s independence in 1944 that they don’t have the most seats in the Alþing and I doubt that they are too pleased about this.

What Iceland is searching for is stability and a look at the graph shows how far their discredited currency has fallen. During my time there between September 2008 and April 2009, it was even more volatile than the graph suggests as it was suspended from the markets and rates were whatever the banks chose. Despite the fact that it has stabilized lately, it has certainly not improved and greatly hinders thoughts of travel abroad for Icelanders. For Canadians, it could be a welcome addition, but Icelanders also need to think of the last time they gave up such a big part of their sovereignty, in 1262 to Norway, and how long it took before they once again became independent people.

lundi 13 février 2012

Canadian MPs by Twitter handle

Here are all the Twitter handles of Canadian MPs in alphabetical order. I have verified each one and they all seem to be correct, but mistakes might have happened and I might have missed some. Some MPs used a different account during the election and might not have returned to this one or gave up on Twitter for the time being. Though these link to politwitter, that information was for background use only. I appreciate the work politwitter has done and hope to foster collaboration. I will post increasingly on MPs by the numbers, including Twitter.

Voici tous les profils Twitter qu'utilisent les députés canadiens en ordre alphabétique. J'ai vérifié chacun et ils semblent tous être correct, mais ça se peut que j'ai fait des erreurs et j'en ai peut-être manqué. Certains députés utilisent un différent compte qu'ils utilisaient durant la dernière campagne électorale ou bien ils ont abandonné Twitter. Même si plusieurs de ceux-ci comportent un lien à politwitter, l'information que j'ai tiré de ce site n'a servi qu'à fin de recherche. J'apprécie son travail et j'espère développer une plus grand collaboration. Je publierai de plus en plus au sujet des députés et des statistiques tels que Twitter.


dimanche 5 février 2012

Canadian MPs on Twitter

After an extensive search, I think I’ve managed to find all of the current Canadian MPs who have a Twitter account. While Politwitter’s list hasn’t been updated since the 2011 election, this one is more thorough and shows that in fact the vast majority of MPs have agreed to join this particular social media movement.

As far as my research shows, and it is not definitive, there are 75 of the 307 MPs who do not have a Twitter account. A few others have accounts which aren’t active, such as Minister Maxime Bernier who has over 2000 followers but has yet to tweet. Despite the increased use of Twitter (this list shows that 13 more MPs have twitter than previously recorded), some have slowed or stopped their use of the platform and many quit using it after the election campaign. A full 36 MPs have yet to send out a single message this year.

It is difficult to find a strict correlation between MPs popularity and the success of their presence. For PM Harper, many of his followers are likely supporters, though others might be curious onlookers, not necessarily Canadian, who want to see what we do in the great, white North. After Harper, Justin Trudeau is the second most followed with over 100000 followers in Canada and around the world.

Liberal MP and former Cabinet member Denis Coderre blasts everyone out of the water with 21145 tweets to 47822 followers, providing instant analysis about everything, including hockey. The Minister of Heritage, James Moore, has the next most tweets with 4780 at last count. The first graduate of the University of Northern British Columbia to be elected has used the platform to tweet about policy and further his government’s spread of information to his 8607 followers. Next on the list is President of the Treasury Board Tony Clement has 4662 tweets to his name and 21454 who have read then. He also leads in the category of most people followed at 19059. Green Party leader and new member for Saanish- Gulf Islands Elizabeth May places fourth having tweeted 4566 times to 34661 people.

While research shows that communication with constituents has little effect on a member’s chances of reelection, and if it does it might be negative, this new age of politics means that this might change. Though the Twitter community remains small and reflects only a certain segment of the Canadian population, the effects of this method of communication is widespread. Traditional media jumped on Pat Martin’s swearing tweets in the fall and there is a certain expectation that tweets at someone will be answered. It provides a new venue for on-the-spot accountability, akin to sending a letter, but with the whole world able to see the answer.

Only in the next election will the effects be truly widespread. In this past election, the Liberals had a much higher number of tweets, but it did not reflect positively in any way; the effects were null. By the next time around in the fall of 2015, things might be vastly different.

My list will be sent to Politwitter with the hopes that I can share in their information. This is part of a much larger project – more and bigger news to follow including the full list of MPs and their Twitter handle.