Saturday, March 28, 2009

Samson's Team Canada

With less than 11 months now until the start of the 2010 Olympic Men's Hockey tournament, it won't be too long before Steve Yzerman's selections for the Canadian roster is announced, and it's at this point that I'm going to put together my own roster for the tournament. I can't decide whether or not Yzerman has an enviable position; there's certainly no shortage of talent in the pool for him to draw from, but who goes and who stays is the question.

One certainty about this roster will be experience. Canadian players have no shortage of international play time, whether it be from the Olympics, World Championships, or from their time in the World Juniors, and every player on the roster will have worn the colours at least once. Another is that among the forwards, because of Canada's enormous depth at the centre position, a few of them are going to be playing out of position on the wing. Last, Yzerman will, particularly on the blue line, be looking for players who can play a strong two-way game, and complement their offense with strong defense.

We'll start between the pipes, and two of the picks for goalie are no doubters. As the primary, I'm taking Martin Brodeur. Even though he'll be a few months shy of 38 years old by that point next year, he's said himself that he wants to be the go-to guy, and he's still playing like he can be after a long-term injury layoff this season. Second is Roberto Luongo. Arguably the most talented goalie in the world, he can stop pucks that most goalies wouldn't be able to. He's said that if he goes, he wants to be the number one goalie, and he's good enough, no doubt; it's a coin toss as to who takes the lead between those two. For the third-string keeper, I'm more keen to take someone younger; the third-stringer is more a cheerleader position than anything, and for that I'll name Cam Ward from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now, on to the blue line. As I mentioned before, many of the names here are going to be strong two-way players; guys that can run a power play, have big shots, but can also kill penalties and shut down at the same time. So, here are my seven choices, in list form:

Roster Selections:
  • Chris Pronger (Anaheim Ducks)
  • Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim Ducks)
  • Sheldon Souray (Edmonton Oilers)
  • Dan Boyle (San Jose Sharks)
  • Dion Phaneuf (Calgary Flames)
  • Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
  • Mike Green (Washington Capitals)
All seven of these defencemen are very strong offensive players, either in a playmaking or power-play-leading scenario (Niedermayer and Boyle particularly), or as shooters (especially Souray, Pronger, and Phaneuf). All of these players, however, have strong defensive awareness; Pronger, Phaneuf, and Weber give a tremendous physical presence, and Scott Niedermayer still gets back on defense as quickly as anybody. Also a key bit to note: Mike Green is on this list because of his absurd stat line so far this season; 62 games played (13 missed so far), 28 goals, 67 points, both of which lead all defensemen in scoring, and has an outside shot at scoring 35 goals this year, a number beyond anything I can remember by a defenceman since the heady days of Orr, Bourque, and Coffey. As well, Souray and Weber each have scored 21 goals thus far this season.

Other Possibilities: Brian Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks; Jay Bouwmeester, Florida Panthers; Dennis Wideman, Boston Bruins. All three of these players are certainly capable players, and have qualities that coaches love; Brian Campbell has terrific speed and can get back almost as well as Niedermayer, Bouwmeester is an excellent puck-mover, and Wideman plays a very hard-checking defense, as well as having had a strong offensive year this year with nearly 50 points to date. Working against Wideman, however, is his lack of international experience; he has yet to play for Canada in an IIHF tournament. This may be his year, though.

Notable Exceptions: Rob Blake, San Jose Sharks; Robyn Regehr, Calgary Flames; Wade Redden, New York Rangers. Rob Blake while still an offensive and defensive presence, will be 40 years old by the time the Olympic Tournament starts next year; there's no guarantee he'll even be playing next season, and I don't wish to use a roster spot on him when there are equally deserving players. Regehr, while a strong stay-at-home defenceman, lacks the two-way ability of the other defencemen in the roster; there are simply more offensively gifted and more physically punishing options. Redden, similarly to Regehr, doesn't have the offensive ability that he used to have, and also lacks Regehr's defensive capability.

As for the forwards, the major problem (and it's not a bad problem to have, truth be told) is that there are so many good centres available that if you take the best thirteen forwards, you'll have too many forwards, and you'll have some of those extra centres playing out of position on the wings. That being said, many of these forwards are certainly adaptable enough to do that, and Canada will be able to field one of the most dangerous offenses in the tournament, top to bottom.

Roster Selections:
  • Captain - Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames)
  • Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks)
  • Dany Heatley (Ottawa Senators)
  • Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
  • Rick Nash (Columbus Bluejackets)
  • Jason Spezza (Ottawa Senators)
  • Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay Lightning)
  • Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
  • Jeff Carter (Philadelphia Flyers)
  • Eric Staal (Carolina Hurricanes)
  • Marc Savard (Boston Bruins)
  • Simon Gagne (Philadelphia Flyers)
So here's part of the problem: All of these thirteen forwards, and only five wingers. All of these forwards are fantastically talented, though, and make for a formidable setup. For a big-time, high-speed scoring line, expect to see a setup such as Crosby/Savard/Gagne, or a Heatley/Spezza/Carter combination. Spezza flanked by two gifted scorers, Carter, who has broken 40 goals this year, and his Ottawa teammate Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer. If you're more a fan of a power-forward line, you'll like an Iginla/Getzlaf/Nash line to fill that role, or alternately, Getzlaf/Thornton/Nash. No shortage of dangerous combinations for the Canadian team to put together.

Other Possibilities: Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes; Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers; Brad Richards, Dallas Stars; Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames; Brad Boyes, St. Louis Blues, Ryan Smyth, Colorado Avalanche.

Notable Omissions: Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche; Jonathan Tavares, OHL London Knights; Brendan Shanahan, New Jersey Devils. With all due respect to Sakic and Shanahan, the two will be 40 and 41 years old respectively at the time of the Olympics next year, and while Sakic, when not battling hernia problems, can play with the best of them, I don't think it's likely that he will be playing next year, nor will Shanahan. As to Tavares, as gifted a player as he is, Yzerman has said that he doesn't plan to have any teenagers on the team, and I don't expect Tavares to be named, just as I doubted that Sidney Crosby would be named to the 2006 team. Expect Tavares to be playing for Canada in 2014, if the NHL decides to go.

With a roster like this, and an opportunity to avenge an underwhelming 7th place finish in Italy back in 2006, this edition of Team Canada looks to be more versatile, more balanced, and faster than the 2006 incarnation. Explosive scoring, hard hitting, and fast moving. It should be a good tournament and a good home crowd in Vancouver for this one.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Airplane and the Treadmill

Anybody who is familiar with the xkcd fora is probably aware that bringing up the legendary Airplane-on-a-Treadmill scenario comes with the risk of facing the Banhammer. The reason for it is that the subject has already created two threads and 450 posts of uncut stupid. So at this moment, I'll be discussing the ever-confusing Airplane-on-a-Treadmill problem here, in an effort to elucidate the problem. There are a few typical descriptions of it, but the key points are this:
  1. You have a typical airplane on an infinitely long treadmill.

  2. The treadmill can accelerate to any speed.

  3. Structural integrity will not be considered as a restriction (i.e. No structural failures of the airplane, tires, or treadmill.)

  4. The axles on the airplane's wheels are, for this case, frictionless.

  5. The airplane will start its engine and attempt a takeoff roll as the treadmill begins moving in the opposite direction, matching speeds with the wheels of the plane.

  6. The airplane will either take off as normal, or will be stopped by the treadmill.

Now, the major source of confusion with this problem seems to be in item number 5; many people have differing interpretations of just what this statement about 'the speed of the wheels' means, as follows:

  1. The speed of the wheels as measured by a speedometer connected to the wheel. This is dependent on the rotation rate of the wheel.

  2. The speed of the wheels as measured by a stationary observer off the treadmill as they move through space, i.e. The translation speed of the wheels.

  3. The ground speed of the airplane, which is identical in principle to case b.

So we'll deal with the misconceptions that abound in case a. Many people think that since the treadmill speeds up, it's going to draw the airplane back as it tries to accelerate; this is not the case. The issue here is that a false analogy to a car is being drawn. A car engine delivers its power to the wheels, which rotates them; that rotation then translates into a static friction force between the tires and the ground, which is what propels the car forward. A car on a treadmill would be stopped by the treadmill because it operates with respect to the ground. An airplane, and the wheels thereof, however, behave differently.

What IS the difference, I hear you cry? Well, the difference is an airplane isn't driven by rotating the wheels; it's driven by pushing the entire aircraft through the air via direct, and the wheels simply rotate freely on the axle to allow the plane to move more easily along the ground. A car's driving force goes through the ground it rests on, while an airplane's driving force goes through the air. The airplane operates in a different reference frame than a car, speficially, with respect to the air, not the ground.

Now, time to analyze the forces involved in the plane powering up. Brakes are off, throttle wide open, which means at our initial situation of a stationary plane and a stationary treadmill, we have two forces acting – thrust, and static friction. Thrust acts through the structure of the plane, accelerating it forward, and the friction acts on the tires. That friction, however, translates very little into the structure of the plane, and mostly only serves to rotate the tires along the ground. Additionally, that friction exists whether the treadmill is moving or not; it exists just the same on a paved, static runway, and airplanes take off from those all the time.

Now, what's the biggest problem with case a? This situation fundamentally defines the speed of the airplane as zero for all time; that's the only case where this situation would be true, and the only case where it can be true is if the engine is not running, or if you're picky, at low idle. Since it makes that definition, it's not physically significant, and once the airplane begins moving through space in reality, then you get a situation where the treadmill is constantly accelerating to match the speedometer connected to the wheel, which accelerates the wheel (but fails to decelerate the plane), which accelerates the treadmill. So with this feedback loop happening, you'll eventually get a situation that is eventually going to become physically untenable, but still failing to stop the acceleration of the plane through space.

So, that being said, case a is physically trivial. There's no important physics happening there because we've demanded in the question that the airplane remains stationary, and it has essentially reduced to “Demand that the airplane remains stationary. Does the airplane take off?” It creates a tautology by framing the question poorly or incorrectly.

So now that we've shown why that definition not only runs afoul of sense, but makes no difference to the physics of the problem as well, let's talk about case b, where the treadmill runs at the speed of the wheels through space. So, for a plane traveling at any given speed, v, along the ground, the treadmill will be running at the same speed, v, in the opposite direction. Now, taking into account what I mentioned well above about the friction, the wheels, will be rolling – and freely spinning on the axle, remember – at a relative speed of 2v, so for a plane traveling at 50 knots, the treadmill rolls back at 50 knots, and the wheels rotate at the equivalent of 100 knots. All the treadmill does is speed up the wheels, slow down the plane.

So, after all that, no matter how you rig it up, as long as your axle is frictionless and your wheels don't explode, then you can get moving forward, get lift, keep accelerating, and take off, no matter how you rig it up.

Still don't believe me? Well, here is some experimental verification, with a real plane on a moving tarp acting as a conveyor belt. You don't even need the ideal scenario!

So hopefully after reading this, you'll be able to find the signal for all the noise on this subject. Fare thee well, and hopefully we've learned something interesting!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring Is In The Air

And what does that mean? Baseball. Spring training has begun for Major League Baseball, and this weekend marked the start of the second World Baseball Classic, an international 16-country tournament. Already, there's been an enormous upset in the double-elimination first round with the Netherlands managing to hold onto a 3-2 win over the Dominican Republic, putting the Dominicans on the chopping block.

This afternoon, though, if you were lucky enough to see the Canada vs. USA game, you saw a great one. It was an intense game through and through, and while it's a shame that Canada came out on the wrong end of a 6-5 score, I enjoyed every second of that game. My thoughts on the Canadian team:

On the mound: Canadian starter Mike Johnson pitched a solid four innings, after running up onto his pitch count. He clearly has a great mental makeup, very cool and collected on the mound, and has solid stuff on the mound as well the confidence to throw any pitch at any time (including striking out David Wright on a 3-2 slider).

Another pitcher to make a note of is Seattle Mariners farm hand Philippe Aumont, a 6'7" right-hander. Similar cool manner, brings a hard mid-90s fastball with some nasty inside-out movement, and a hard 82-mph slider, with a seldom-used curve to go with it. Aumont looked a little shaky early on with a couple walks and ended up loading the bases with none out, but buckled down very well and stopped the threat with a pop-up and two strikeouts.

The Canadian pitching staff definitely boasts some great arms; the only knock on them is experience. Few of them have played on a stage quite as big as this, but they've showed themselves to be quite a solid bunch. Almost a pity that four of the starters that were originally going to come out for Canada couldn't (or didn't) do it for some reason or another (Ryan Dempster opted not to compete; Rich Harden, Jeff Francis, and Erik Bedard are all injured).

At the plate: Canada appears to be boasting quite an impressive lineup, featuring both MLB veterans and some minor league prospects in various organizations. Star of the show today proved to be Joey Votto, with a terrific 4-5 performance, with a double, a towering homerun off Jake Peavy, and two RBIs. Votto is a future all-star with the Cincinnati Reds, and with days like today, you can see why.

Russell Martin and Jason Bay showed why they're in the show as well. Martin had a homerun and a double himself today, and Bay, though hitless, had three walks, and demonstrated just how good a hitter he can be, and why he's an all-star. Canada also bears a remarkably dangerous 2-6 stretch in the batting order, with the aforementioned Martin and Votto in the 2 and 3 holes, 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau batting cleanup, Jason Bay batting fifth, and the lightning-fast swing of Matt Stairs in the sixth spot.

With the loss, Canada does face elimination on Monday, against the loser of tonight's game between Italy and Venezuela, but with this lineup, expect Canada to at least survive to contend for a second-round berth, much like they did in 2006, where their only loss in the first round was to Mexico, and even managed to upset the USA team 8-6 with a great pitching performance from Adam Loewen.

This is going to be a great tournament.