Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hobby Lobby: I Guess I'm A Cruise Fan

By Nick

I grew up landlocked.  In Minnesota.  Surrounded by water - most of which was frozen for long stretches of each year.  I was lucky: my parents loved Hawaii.  So I got to go there a handful of times.  Vacations were typically someplace that was warmer than MN, which was not often difficult to achieve.  But, until three years ago, I had never been on a cruise ship.  I suppose I had a common perception of cruising: old people, shuffleboard, iffy food, Gopher, Isaac, and Doc.  Not my bag.  Plus, you're confined within a ship.  I've never felt really comfortable on a boat.  I've canoed all over the BWCA and the southern Quetico.  But I was like Hoops in One Crazy Summer - just waiting for Demi Moore to come into my life and [EDITED FOR APPROPRIATENESS].

But then I married a Disney fan.  And then we had two daughters, each of whom contracted the Disney disease like their mother.  And we started spending our vacations in... Orlando.  All of them.  It may be called the Happiest Place on Earth, but it's really the Bataan Death March of family vacations.  My wonderful wife, however, was reluctant to give up the Disney ghost altogether.  But I needed a break from the Magic Kingdom.  We had heard about Disney cruises from some other people with our approximate family dynamic.  So we gave it a try.  That was 2014.

We have now been on four cruises, have booked a fifth for next summer, and *may* surprise the kids with a sixth this November.  We've done three Disney cruises and one Royal Caribbean cruise.  We are, in other words, in.

I've been thinking about what it is that I like about cruising.  Because I definitely like it.  I like the efficiency.  On our last cruise, we started in Florida, made stops in Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico, before returning to Florida.  But we didn't have to pack up our shit, much less get in a car, on a train, on a plane, etc, once from embarkation to disembarkation.  Especially with kids, not having to pack all your stuff up every night, or every other night, is huge.  And then traveling is tiring, and stressful, and a pain in the ass.  Getting on and off a cruise ship at a port of call is easy.

I like how much you get for the one price.  Maybe it's not materially cheaper than a land-based vacation, all in, but it's not materially more expensive, either.  And not having to worry about paying for meals and entertainment a la carte also lends itself to a low-stress environment - which is a good thing when you're on vacation, no?

I like that, as opposed to the HPOE, your kids aren't tethered to you the whole time.  As our kids have grown up over the past four years, they've earned more and more independence on board.  We don't look at a cruise ship as a massive floating babysitter.  But when our kids want to go check out the kids club, or a karaoke thing, that allows us to do something that we want to do.  You get that flexibility at a much younger age on a cruise ship than you would at the HPOE.  That's why it feels so much more like a vacation for everyone.

We have only had positive experiences with dining on our four cruises.  Is the food outstanding?  No.  But it's not gross, either.  And we've learned that cruises that embark out of a U.S. port must adhere to USFDA regulations, to the extent that they cannot even take on additional provisions at a non-U.S. port.  We have also found our service teams to be professional, proficient, and charming and engaging.  Look, are there slobs gorging themselves on cruise ships?  Of course there are.  Are there drunken idiots making asses of themselves on cruise ships?  Definitely.  But there are slobs and drunks at every other vacation spot I've been to - including the HPOE.  There is probably a Xanadu of vacation perfection that is free of that kind of Tom Foolery, somewhere on the planet.  But does it have twin FlowRider simulators, 25 places to eat, and a zip line on board?

Royal's Allure of the Seas, on which we sailed this summer.  Staggering number of things to do on board.

I'm not here to sell you on trying a cruise.  The cruise industry is doing fine, and frankly I'd prefer it if you didn't take a cruise because that would make it easier (and cheaper) for me to book one I want.  

But I'm definitely surprised I ended up a cruise fan.  There are limitations, but they don't feel significant to me, and certainly don't diminish the things I do like about cruising.  

And, if you are Cruise-curious, feel free to ask me some questions.  Beyond not being as lame as I imagined, they're actually a heck of a lot of fun.

As always, please drop by our message boards to discuss topic.

The Game: Central Division Stats

By Nick

I'm working on a longer piece that will outline the keys to the season for the Wild.  But, in the process of putting that together, I crunched a bunch of numbers.  It occurred to me that some other people might be as into this kind of data as I am, and if I posted them, it could serve as a reference point for the season keys piece.  I used CapFriendly and hockey-reference as sources.  This means the ages are a snapshot (as of mid-August).  And some data points are missing (Foligno's cap hit, for example).  I used goalies for purposes of salary cap expenditure, but not for GP.  This will be worth updating once opening day rosters are set.

Here's the Wild's profile:

Forwards: Parise, Koivu, Granlund, Niederreiter, Ennis, Staal, Coyle, Zucker, Stewart, Cullen, Kunin, Eriksson Ek, Ferraro, Foligno.

Defense: Suter, Spurgeon, Brodin, Dumba, Quincey, Olofsson, Murphy.

Goalies: Dubnyk, Stalock.

Average Age
All Players: 27.39
Forwards: 27.50
Defense: 26.29
Goalies: 30.50

Salary Cap 
Total Expenditure: $70.36M
% Total Cap Hit to Forwards: 61.48%
% Total Cap Hit to Defense: 31.43%
% Total Cap Hit to Goalies: 7.08%

'16-17 Season 
Total GP: 1,267
Total Points (G+A): 646

5 Highest Salary Cap Hit Players
% of Total Points (G+A): 41.18%
% of Total Salary Cap Expenditure: 46.66%
Average Age: 29.60

5 Oldest Players
% of Total Points (G+A): 47.06%
% of Total Salary Cap Expenditure: 54.03%
Average Age: 34.20

Now, here are the same categories, showing where the Wild ranks within the Central Division:

Average Age (1st = oldest, 7th = youngest)
All Players: 4th
Forwards: 2nd
Defense: 6th
Goalies: 3rd

Salary Cap (1st = greatest, 7th = least)
Total Expenditure: 4th
% Total Cap Hit to Forwards: 3rd
% Total Cap Hit to Defense: 4th
% Total Cap Hit to Goalies: 7th

'16-17 Season (1st = most, 7th = least)
Total GP: 3rd
Total Points (G+A: 1st

5 Highest Salary Cap Hit Players (1st = highest, 7th = least)
% of Total Points (G+A): 6th
% of Total Salary Cap Expenditure: 4th
Average Age: 2nd

5 Oldest Players (1st = highest, 7th = least)
% of Total Points (G+A): 5th
% of Total Salary Cap Expenditure: 2nd
Average Age: 2nd


The Wild is right in the middle of the division in terms of age.  Older than Colorado, Winnipeg, and  Nashville.  Younger than Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas.

The Wild's cap hit expenditure is reasonable, both in general, and at the positional level (and Duby and Stalock are cheap).

The Wild's five highest-paid players accounted for a nearly 20% smaller percentage of the team's overall points than Chicago's 5 highest-paid players did (Chicago's were the highest in the division).  This suggests they're not getting enough scoring from the top of the payroll.

The Wild's five oldest players are not contributing on the scoresheet as much as the five oldest players from other teams in the division.  Yet, they take up a relatively high percentage of the total cap outlay, as compared to the other teams in the division.  And that group is relatively old, vs. the division.  However, we also know they scored a heck of a lot last season.  This suggests they are not as reliant on their top/oldest players.  In other words: they have depth.

As always, please drop by our message boards to discuss topic.