Sunday, June 21, 2015

5 Options for the Penguins No. 46 Pick

The Pittsburgh Penguins, as of right now, do not have a pick in the first round of the NHL draft. That doesn’t mean they can’t make the best of picking in the second round, 46th overall. Their glaring need for forward depth should be addressed with this pick and here are some options of players they could take:

1. Jens Looke – RW
Ht: 6’0” Country: Sweden
THN Final Ranking: 52
Looke is a huge forward who projects as a 200-foot player in the NHL. His big long reach and ability to stop on a dime have confounded many a skater. Last season, he played professionally amongst men in the SHL with Brynas alongside Penguins off-season signee Niclas Andersen.
Some scouts worry about his finishing ability but with a great developer in Mike Sullivan behind the bench in WBS this could turn out to be a good fit for the Penguins. He is eager to get the puck and works hard to get and then keep possession of it. Looke could be an answer to playing alongside Evgeni Malkin or even potentially Oskar Sundqvist on a third line.
Looke, due to his height and vision alone, has a great upside as an NHL forward. He has the potential to go straight to the AHL next season and be ready for the NHL in short order as well which is huge.

2. Nikita Korostelev – RW
Ht: 6’1” Country: Russia
THN Final Rankings: 46
No one will ever question Korostelev’s determination and commitment to hockey. The Russian winger came to North America on his own to play hockey in Toronto at 14. He will put it on the line every single night and never disappoint with his efforts.
What they will question is his skating. Scouts vary on every prospect but many wonder if his sublime puck skills will be able to compensate for his skating. His 53 points in 54 games will draw eyes though. Korostelev may actually be the just right project for the Penguins. While he may need two to three years to develop, having Mike Kadar and Gary Roberts to help his skating and conditioning he may just turn this prospect into a steal.

3. Dennis Yan – LW
Ht: 6’1” Country: USA
THN Final Rankings: 45
Yan is ranked just one spot before the Penguins are due to pick in the final THN rankings. This could set the team up for sadness if he goes off the board just before they pick but should he fall even one spot he could be a great pick-up for the team. Yan is American but was raised in Russia and played in the QMJHL for Shawinigan last year. His seven goals in a seven game playoff series and 64 points in 59 games during the regular season are just the kind of eye-popping offensive stats the Penguins should be looking at.
Some scouts worry about his consistency of effort not from game to game but in-game. He can have a great period in the first, a terrible one in the second, and a great one again in the third. This needs to be evened out but the opportunity to play with a highly talented center could help.
His skating is not a question and neither is his finishing, it’s all about how he’ll polish up in the higher leagues against tougher competition with him.

4. Alexander Dergachev – RW
Ht: 6’4” Country: Russia
THN Final Rankings: 58
Dergachev missed last year’s eligibility by a mere twelve days and has size that has scouts salivating. He can close in well and make space. His power and ability to possess make him an analytics darling much like a young Anze Kopitar. His 52 penatly minutes show he isn’t easy to play against.
His skills are there but the finishing touch is what scouts are concerned about. He works hard to get the puck but sometimes his scoring just isn’t there. This could change with high quality centers like fellow countryman, Evgeni Malkin. Dergachev’s best outing was at the World Junior Tournament last season where he had 4 points in 7 games.

5. Erik Foley – LW
Ht: 5’11” Country: USA
THN Final Rankings: 42
Foley is an enigma. Teams who love him love him enough that he could slip into the first round, others weren’t even concerned enough to send higher-level scouts to see him. He is ranked 42 but could go as high as the twenties or as low as the third round. But this left winger led his USHL team, Cedar Rapids, in scoring last year and potted 27 goals as a rookie.
A Providence College commit, Foley also had 80 penalty minutes in 55 games showing his tenacity. Scouts love that he can beat teams in so many different ways and his 200-foot game helps project him to play a strong two-way game.

Of course, the Penguins could go off the board and pick someone completely out of left field but these five players all offer different tools that could help the team greatly in the long run. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"McEichel" Ain't Got Nothin' on This Dynamic Duo

There are 30 cities across North America with an NHL franchise. From the New York Islanders to the Anaheim Ducks with six Canadian franchises serving as a reminder that the NHL is an American-heavy league playing the Great White North's game. 
Unfortunately, historic talent doesn't grow on trees. 
Yes Jonathan Toews will make Chicago history as a stellar leader, and Tavares has awoken the Islanders with his wicked wrister but there are two players who stand out from all the rest for more than just their on ice talent.
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are those two players. 
And with respect to all the great NHL talent out there, it's not even close. 
But now it's time for the new generation to come along. The next generation of hockey's darlings is set to enter the league as early as next October and it's time to reflect. On just how lucky we are right now.   
Wunderkid Connor McDavid and Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel are special hockey players and no one should ever question that. However, neither will ever be what Crosby and Ovechkin were, are and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
This is not a knock on the talent of either youngster or on the skills of similar players like Jonathan Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon, or Hamphus Lindholm.
This has to do with so much more. 
In 2004, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went one-two with an all Russian sucker-punch that was sure to invigorate the nearly-dead NHL. 
Then a season-long lockout came and brought with it hockey's next great white knight. 
Sir Sidney Patrick Crosby was everything the sport hockey was begging for. He was talented, he was smart, he never said the wrong things, he was raised right. He skated alongside the great Mario Lemiuex and revived the dying hockey market and economy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He played the perfect foil to the foreign Oveckin with his blue-collar ways and had the skills to put the other "worlds greatest player" on notice. In short, this duo stood and still stands for more than the simple act of playing hockey. 
Crosby's kindness and love of he game make him a relatable person. He's hard to find flaw in. So much so that when his career was in jeopardy from concussion issues he still commanded All-Star Game headlines. 
His teammate,the man taken right behind Ovechkin in 2004, Evgeni Malkin was setting the NHL on fire but the league still craved it's face. 
Meanwhile, Ovechkin comes from a family of Russian athletes. His mother won a Olympic gold playing basketball for the USSR. He also has a touch of tragic backstory (he had a brother who died when he was a young boy) a broken off engagement, and an imperfect smile that would endear him to anyone. He's Americanized and understands both the western and eastern cultures fluently and steps between them with mastery in many volatile situations.  
That's why Connor McDavid and Jack Eiche will never even come close to being Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. 
Because while the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry was played to the point of over-saturation they're the only two who will ever truly understand each other. 
They came into the league in the same season and were the boys who took the NHL from its awkward teen faze to its manhood. 
Well the NHL is all grown up now complete with massive national TV deals in both the USA and Canada and it's soon-to-be-resurrected World Cup of Hockey. 
Hockey as a sport is growing in Pittsburgh where the first locally trained boy brought home Lord Stanley's chalice just a few years ago.
It's reaching places like war heroes and special needs kids with the help of Ovechkin and his sushi-loving new friend. 
Hockey is grown up and it's all thanks to Crosby and Oveckin. If they had taken another year or two the league would have suffered. If they hadn't racked up points and played so spectacularly head-to-head the game wouldn't have prospered like it has. 
So yes, 'McEichel' is an amazing draft duo and both players will change their future franchises greatly. But Crosby and Ovechkin's entrance into the hockey world didn't just change a handful of cities. 
They rewrote the book of hockey in their own image and no amount of points will ever allow either youngster the chance to touch that. They are first-ballot Hall of Famers for their on-ice mastery, but also as builders. McDavid and Eichel will have to carry their teams but only Crosby and Ovechkin were tasked with carrying the sport and making it relevant again. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Crosby, Malkin, and the IIHF World Championships

      Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both saw the Pittsburgh Penguins season vanish before their eyes. The two high profile centers were, understandably, upset and frustrated by their teams' loss but both soon faced a new challenge in the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championships. 
     But what this tournament means to each cornerstone player is completely different. 
     For Sidney Crosby, who hasn't played for Canada in the World Championships since 2006, this is a breath of fresh air. It's the chance to pull the Maple Leaf sweater over his head and play hockey just for him. 
     He's got two gold medals from the Olympics at home and no one would have been surprised if he had passed but instead be decided to do it and this time the pressure is less intense. This time, he asked Jim Nill, general manager of this year's Canadian men's team, if there was room for him after Nill had all but ruled him out as not wanting to compete. This time he pulled the captains letter on with pride because he's been here and he knows he can do it. 
For Evgeni Malkin it's essentially the opposite. Malkin, who has won two golds and an individual MVP at worlds in the last three years, has clearly been struggling through injury of late. Most suspected the battered forward would pass this year but you don't say no to the Russian Hockey Federation.  
     While the days of the красная машина or Big Red Machine with it's conscription, and coercion are over and no one outwardly forces players to play, you don't say no. Because while the rest of the hockey world considers this competition second-tier to the Olympics and other such contests that's not how it is in Russia. President Putin has been known to attend games and personally welcomes the members of the World Championship squad home with parades and fanfare if they win. This is their big summer sports event. With the Kontinental Hockey League season over, every hockey fan is cheering for Russia in the worlds. 
     What this means, and those who have seen the Penguins high powered stars in the tournament will agree, is that Malkin looks as shackled and exhausted as Crosby looks weightless and energized. 
     Crosby made his debut over Latvia where he collected an assist, helped set-up countless chances and scored a beauty of a penalty-shot goal. He followed that performance up with the opening goal in Canada's routing of Germany and added a power play tally against The Czech's. Malkin made his debut in Russia's 2-4 loss to the USA and managed 0 points. 
Malkin, who penguins General manager Jim Rutherford revealed has an ankle injury, is playing like a man who's body is fighting him while Crosby looks like he suddenly sprouted wings with how fast he's flying around the bigger ice. 
     It's often been said that Americans don't take the World Championships seriously enough. No one wants to go and no one considers winning a big deal but maybe it would help a guy in Malkin's position if a few other countries didn't take the summer tournament so seriously. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Penguins Playoff Preview

What is going to happen in the first round match-up of the Pittsburgh Penguins against the New York Rangers? This is the question on people's mind throughout Pittsburgh right now and most people have come up with similar answers.
Rangers in 4, 5, maybe 6. 

From statements on Facebook like "I'm glad the Penguins made the playoffs but they're going to have their asses handed to them by the Rangers," to tweets that say "this one will be over quick."
But are we so sure that's what's going to happen? 

Sure the Pittsburgh Penguins have managed just one win against the Rangers all season and the Rangers are the President's trophy winners...but if we dig a little deeper there's a lot more to it than that. I honestly can't say that I feel like the Penguins will come out victorious but I can tell you with completed conviction that everyone is underestimating this team, including its fans. So buckle up, readers let's look at five key match-ups that will turn this series for better or worse:
1. Crosby vs. Nash
Last year’s playoffs was a mess for both Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash. Goal scorer Nash didn't find the back of the net for what felt like ages and Crosby hardly fared any better. Both had 0 goals before the Pens-Rangers second round match-up. These are the game breakers. Yes, Malkin and Zuccarello also will pose issues for opposing blue lines but it's 87-61 that will be the true test. Crosby had a career low season for him but came on hot in the last month and a half scoring goals at a rate some forgot he could. Nash almost caught Ovechkin in the Rocket Richard race. These are their respective teams major offensive engines and they're set on a collision course with one another.
2. Hornqvist vs. Lundqvist
The “King” Lundqvist is set to make 11 million dollars this season and is the last line of defense. On the other side of this match-up is going to be Hank’s worst nightmare, fellow Swede and pesky net-rusher Hornqvist. If Hornqvist can park it there and frustrate Lundqvist it will go a long way to helping the Penguins topple the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Hornqvist is the hardest working player on the ice and there are times when it feels like Lundqvist is the only player on the ice for New York. So the key here is to go in, go in close, and maybe throw in a few Swedish jabs for good fun.

3. Fancy Stats vs. The Eye Test
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the darlings of this year’s fancy stats movement over the last pat of the season. They out possessed, out chanced, and in some cases just outworked their opponents. But they hardly got anything for it. The Rangers possession numbers plummeted over the last third of the season but the lights out goaltending they received helped them. Their ridiculous PDO (it’s over 1000 which is what the mean is) is not sustainable. For example, the Penguins had a ridiculous PDO to begin the season but it eventually dropped off and the team struggled mightily because of that even with a majority of the possession. The results would be very tough on the Rangers if the PDO and puck luck rolled the Penguins way at any point in the series.

4. Steve Downie vs. Marc Staal
Marc Staal had his way with Sidney Crosby last year. He repeatedly tomahawk chopped the Penguins captain in the neck with two hands on his stick. Just a few weeks ago supplemental discipline was doled out for the same offense, but rest assured it won’t here. No, the Penguins will have to call upon their own form of retribution in Steve Downie who will in turn make Staal’s life hard if he makes Sidney Crosby’s life hard. Downie will have to be careful to toe the line and draw penalties, not take them but the dynamic of these two will be quite fun to watch.
5. Expectations vs. EXPECTATIONS
Okay this one is kind of a cop out with the head to head thing but it really is important for this particular matchup and this particular timing. Last year, the Penguins had everything to lose. The took a 3-1 lead and squandered it to a Rangers team with nothing to lose. Twelve months later and the script couldn’t be more flipped. The Rangers are supposed to come out of the east or at least make the final with the Habs. The Penguins are supposed to go quietly. Funny thing about expectations in the Stanley Cup playoffs…

So really, do I think the Penguins will win? I honestly can’t say. I have weighed every option multiple times and thought about the outcomes and nothing seems imminent. I don’t want to underestimate either team, so let’s just say its going to be a lot closer than people seem to think. I think this one goes to six or seven no matter what though.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Let's Take it Outside, Philly

There are few rivalries in sports that reach the same level as that of the one between the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens rivalry is the only one I can think of off the top of my head that’s just as good. Over the years these two teams have filled the pages of their head-to-head rivalry with many stories, seemingly, a new part of the story for each decade they’ve faced off.
It’s been dubbed everything from nasty to downright ridiculous and it’s time to take this rivalry that’s led to more than one brawl to the only place a street fight belongs, outside.
In 2017-2018 both the Penguins and the Flyers franchises will celebrate their fiftieth anniversaries'. With this should come throwback sweaters, shoulder patches, and a few stuffy ceremonies with people in ties who look more at home in their hockey skates. The NHL can and should do one better. Give this rivalry the outdoor stage.
Now the Penguins and the Flyers as a potential match-up does pose a few issues. The two teams have played in this sandbox before. Meaning both teams have been in multiple outdoor games. There would be plenty of backlash from other fan bases and teams but really, when the theatre is this good, how can you say no? 
Another caveat deals with something more concrete, the money. At this point, the business model of having the NHL’s Winter Classic or a Stadium Series game has really started to come into focus for everyone with eyes.
Most teams that host these marquee events serve to get a ton of revenue pumped into their local economy from the game itself, the lead-up, the food, the hotels, and a whole host of other similar things. 
Most teams that travel to play in the same match-up get a little bump in gear sales, cool commercials and some extra media attention but otherwise it’s just another game. Because the NHL puts all the fixings out for a feast but at the end of the day it’s really just another two points in the standings for the winner and maybe bragging rights.
Then of course, there’s the biggest issue, where would this massive event take place? 
The Penguins have been in two Winter Classics, the original in Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium (2008) then a second at home in Heinz Field (2011) as well as a Stadium Series game in Chicago (2014). The Flyers have been in two Winter Classics as well, one in Boston, Mass., at Fenway Park (2010) and one at home (2012) in Citizen’s Bank Park. This means both teams have traveled and hosted.  So in picking this match-up, one that NHL fans league-wide are and have been clamoring for, would mean giving one town a second Winter Classic or outdoor game in their own town in five or six years. Now that’s just crazy. So, how about they just meet in the middle?
 No literally, the actual middle of the state of Pennsylvania, or well just about…at Penn State University.
Penn State University’s Beaver Stadium is the state of Pennsylvania’s third largest city when filled to football capacity. Hockey capacity would probably be a little bigger, maybe only by a few dozen but that’s still a lot. As the addition of Division I Hockey, the creation of the Pegula Ice Arena (conveniently located catty-corner from Beaver Stadium) and Penn State’s first alumnus to lace ‘em up in NHL (Casey Bailey, Toronto Maple Leafs) have all proven, State College is a hockey town. Nothing would excite it more than this kind of hosting gig.
The venue would hold the event quite easily size-wise and its surrounding space already has the infrastructure to deal with the impressive influx of people. Plus, if this is the 2018 Winter Classic the nightmare of dealing with 45,000+ students is all but erased as only a handful stay for the holidays.
There would be a more mixed crowd than any game of this caliber has ever seen. The center of Pennsylvania is easily accessible from both Metropolitan areas. So the crowd would essentially be 50-50, no other outdoor game has been able to say that. Plus with the kind of rivalry these two franchises have there would certainly be a quick sell out, perhaps in record time, and an electric atmosphere. The game would be great theatre and Pennsylvania winters in State College are equal parts snowy and beautiful. There would even be a space, in Pegula Ice Arena or the Bryce Jordan Center, if an accompanying indoor piece of fanfare was something the league would be interested in.

Really, it’s time, just do it already. Take the bar fight that is the Pens-Flyers rivalry the only place a brawl belongs, outside. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Open Letter to NHL General Managers on the State of Officiating

'Dear NHL General Managers,
     Hi, my name is Leah and no…we haven’t met, but you do get quite a bit of money from me each year. I subscribe to NHL Game Center Live, own multiple team jerseys and shirts, and try to make it out to a handful of games a season despite being a cash-strapped 20-something. In short, I’m your consumer. I also happen to be one of your biggest fans. I'm one of those people who don't think the NHL is totally messing up the game of hockey. 
     Shootouts? Yea, I like em. 
     An extra point for losing in extra time? Yea, go ahead and do it. 
     But there is something I am sick and tired of. Something you say you're tired of too. That something, is plummeting scoring.  NHL-wide scoring is lower than it was in 2003-2004 before the season-long lockout that brought the biggest rise in scoring in a decade. Obstruction is back with a vengeance and talents-of-the-century like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are being forced to dumb their games down just to get from point A to point B on the ice. This, NHL General Managers and executives, is your real problem.
     There are ways to fix this. Ideas to increase NHL-wide scoring are plentiful and range from doable to downright bizarre. From the 3-on-3 OT before shootouts (yes please!) to a complex re-writing of who has to get into position first to favor the offensive team, not the home, one in face-offs. These are all admirable ideas and they all have the best interest of the game we all love in mind but I have one question, why not just address the elephant in the room instead?
     That elephant of course being the huge black and white striped one that’s sucking on its silver whistle like a peanut instead of blowing it for rule infractions.
Because if we think scoring is down, whoo boy, we ain’t seen nothing until we’ve seen how low the stats for penalties have fallen. The numbers of penalties given, just to my preferred Pittsburgh Penguins, has halved since Captain Sidney Crosby’s rookie season. That year the team averaged 6.05 power plays per-game. This season they’re holding at 3.17. This a number that includes three nights where the team Crosby, one of the most talented players in hockey, plays for has received zero power plays. Does this mean the NHL has suddenly become full of Lady Byng candidates? Hardly.
     In the Penguins most recent power play-free game, an 0-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils multiple “should have been” calls were missed. From the blatant trips on Craig Adams and Kris Letang that ended up in the back of the Penguins’ net to multiple two-hand grabs by Paul Martin on various opponents that didn’t warrant a batted eyelash by the officials. This isn’t okay. This, is why scoring is down.
     You can call more penalties as penalty shots, like last season where Olli Maatta and Chris Kunitz both benefited from the change in directive to NHL officials. You can decide to add 3-on-3 overtime and fine players who embellish. But until you are ready to take the hard road and crack down on the clutching and grabbing that has slowly crept back into the everyday world of the NHL, nothing will change in the long run.
     So I’m just asking, as one of the people who actually do pay for the amazing product you all put out there for the public to consume (and yes, I do think the NHL is truly amazing). Stop making All-Star Games and the Olympics the hill you’ll die on and turn your attention back to getting legendary talents like Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos to the 60 goal mark.

     You get more eyes, more casual fans, more attention with highlight-reel goals. Those kinds of things only happen when you let players be creative and the first step to bringing back that creativity? Is to stop letting unnecessary hacks and whacks go unchecked. Evgeni Malkin shouldn’t have to wear the San Jose Sharks as a jacket just to make it into the offensive zone, and too many teams have adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em mindset.” 
     Beat ‘em NHL, and beat ‘em by calling the game by the rules you've written, consistently.

Update: These are the average of power plays per game in the seasons since the 2004-2005 NHL full-season lockout: 
05-06: 5.9
06-07: 4.9
07-08: 4.3
08-09: 4.2
09-10: 3.7
10-11: 3.5
11-12: 3.3
12-13: 3.3
13-14: 3.3
14-15: 3.1

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Johnston, Penguins Doing it Right With Pouliot

     The Pittsburgh Penguins are a lucky organization. They've got Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. 
     They're also a pressured organization for that same reason. Because two first overall and one second overall pick should translate to more than one Stanley Cup, right? Except, the Stanley Cup isn't the toughest trophy to win for no reason. There's a reason it's 35 pounds. There's a reason people party with it like its a person, because nothing is as good as Lord Stanley's cup. 
     The pressure to win, however, has made life difficult for the Penguins. Former General Manager Ray Shero had to sell a lot of draft picks to get his infamous deadline dealings done. 
     Those deals, along with a few strange choices by Shero and those on his staff, have led to what the team has now. Tons of defensemen just at the cusp of NHL-level play, and few forwards. Tons of defensemen that plenty of people are apt to forget since they've hardly been seen outside of prospect tournaments and training camp for the four seasons prior to this one.
     There are options of course, trade guys like Scott Harrington for forward prospects or, if the right team is found, current NHLers. But is it worth it? And what about inevitable injuries? 
     Well at least some of those questions are being answered and some flexibility has been given to the team by the pick from the first round of the 2012 draft people used to joke about. Derrick Pouliot has been everything this team has needed and in turn the team is doing right by him. 
     No one needs reminded of one of Dan Bylsma's biggest faults as the teams bench boss. He frequently made coaching choices that involved playing 30-year-old career AHL guys when someone like Paul Martin got hurt. Not Mike Johnston. 
     Johnston, who is famous for having sat Pouliot down when he was his junior coach in Portland and showing him videos of now-teammate Kris Letang, has turned in his time of need to his youngsters and none have fared quite as well as Pouliot who probably shouldn't see the AHL again this season. 
     Now let's get one thing straight, that's not to say the rookie has been flawless. Every young player makes mistakes. Even the nearly-perfect Olli Maatta, he who played the top in an umbrella power-play formation for Finland's Olympic squad during its Bronze medal run, had a few uh-oh moments last season and early in this season.
But there is a distinct air that this team and this coaching staff is letting Pouliot work through his mistakes and not, benching him or burying him in the minors. 
     Simon Despres is surely happy for the rookie in that sense. 
     Take for example, this team's most recent match-up. When veteran defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was ready to slot back into the line-up plenty of people made the obvious assumption, Pouliot sits. Mike Johnston however, didn't see it quite that way. Instead, bruising defenseman Robert Bortuzzo got a night off. 
     Now, for a game against a team that loves trying to bother and pester the Penguins like the Capitals have shown of late and illustrated from warm-ups on during this installation of the rivalry, it was a bold choice that said a lot about what the bench boss wanted.
     Pouliot is still young and like Letang his game is one of finesse, not necessarily brute force. So yes, during this particular game and those like it, there were times he looked a little out of sorts. But he worked through it and unlike guys like Bortuzzo who, while solid defensemen aren't necessarily what one would call brilliant, Pouliot is brilliant. 
     Great young defensemen like Maatta, Despres, Letang, and now Pouliot have great qualities. They make mistakes but they can see the game. They are self-aware enough to see past them and spring back like rubber bands. 
     That's why this team keeps playing Pouliot. Because he will make mistakes but he will learn and February/March is the time to learn so that come April and May, the youngster knows what happens when you turn the puck over in this spot and has the knowledge to stay calm and fix what mistakes happen because everyone makes them.