Sunday, January 18, 2004

"There's a problem with your" TPS (and other sticks) reports 

Hugh Adami has written an in-depth and interesting piece about the shatter-prone composite sticks in the Citizen today, including an impression of Dean Brown and Gord Wilson that's a mere "Oh Franco" short of being bang on. Unfortunately the Citizen has locked it up in their Alcatraz-esque website (that's a rant for another day). However you can find the article here. The composite sticks have provided their share of horror and comedy this year (those links may be reversed depending on your rooting preferences).

Composite sticks have a couple of benefits. According to Martin Brodeur, they can increase a shot's velocity by up to 12 km/h (the guy's so good he's got is own internal radar). They also retain their flexibility:

"It's like a good golf club," says Mr. Alfredsson, who uses the top-selling Easton Synergy composites. "If you have a good one, it stays true all through the game. With a wooden stick, the flex goes away by the end of the game."

They're also feather light, weighing between 440 and 460 grams. TPS plans to release a 395 gram model, with a stronger shaft next year. Maybe that explains why players are having trouble controlling their sticks.

On the flipside, as we all know, the composite sticks, for all their virtues, are becoming notorious for snapping like toothpicks. The day before 'the incident', Alfredsson broke 3 sticks during practice. And unlike wood sticks, there are no warning signs that the stick has been structurally compromised. This can lead to more situations where sticks snap in crucial situations. Players can also contribute to the problems when they shave down their blades or make other modifications to their sticks.
Finally, the sticks are also expensive enough to have teams grumbling about the increase to their budgets. The Senators' stick budget has gone up 250 percent since the sticks were introduced.

I was surprised to learn just how popular the sticks are. While I realized that they were very popular, I hadn't realized the extent to which they had taken over. Only two Senators use wood sticks: Jason Spezza and Shaun Van Allen (talk about opposite ends of the spectrum). Two others, Zdeno Chara and Bryan Smolinski, use two piece composites, while Todd White and Peter Schaeffer use composites with wood blades. Everyone else uses one-piece composites.

It's interesting to learn more about the sticks that we see shattering so frequently. Adami, and some of the quoted make an interesting point about the worry of a stick breaking in a crucial situation. Conversely though, in that situation I'd rather the player have a stick that allows him to shoot harder and more accurately. Since it's obvious that the players are not going back to wood sticks. We can only hope that future composite stick designs will be a heartier and more reliable breed.