Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wow, an Awards Statute! Aw, it's a Lady Byng

With apologies to the Simpsons, I've decided to do a little preview of the NHL Awards coming up tomorrow night. We'll be doing this in conjunction with The Disabled List, so check it out over there as well. I'll be honest - I probably won't watch the awards show. One, I'm not a big fan of Jay Mohr. I've just never found him to be that funny, and we all remember that old "hockey sucks" comment from a few years ago. Two, I don't like the Goo Goo Dolls. Never have and never will. Maybe I will put some money down on who I think will win; I can guarantee I would care then.

Hart Trophy:

The Finalists:
Sidney Crosby: 51 goals, 58 assists, 109 points, +25
Alexander Ovechkin: 50 goals, 59 assists, 109 points, +45
Henrik Sedin: 29 goals, 83 assists, 112 points, +35

Who Will Win: Sedin
Who Should Win: Sedin

For me, this is about some new blood in this race. Let's face facts: this award is probably going to be between Crosby, Ovechkin, and someone else for a while, much like the Hart used to come down to Gretzky and Lemieux. I want Sedin to win. I'm sick of Crosby and Ovechkin. But, looking at this logically, I can't pick Oveckin because he was suspended twice, and when he was out he hurt his team. So he's out. Basically it comes down to Crosby vs. Sedin, and ask yourself this: who was more valuable to their team? Crosby is surrounded by a ton of talent, and while he is the alpha dog on the team, he's still got guys like Malkin, Guerin, Staal, and Gonchar around him. In Vancouver, it's Henrik and Daniel, then.....Alex Burrows? If you took Crosby off the Pens this year, they still would have been decent. The Canucks without Sedin would have been mediocre at best. I judge this award for what it is: the most valuable player to their team. Sedin wins.

Vezina Trophy:

The Finalists:
Martin Brodeur: 45-25-6, 2.24 GAA, .916 SV%
Ilya Bryzgalov: 42-20-6, 2.29 GAA, .920 SV%
Ryan Miller: 41-18-8, 2.22 GAA, .929 SV%

Who Will Win: Miller
Who Should Win: Miller

This was a close pick for me. I was torn between Miller and Bryzgalov. If you look at their numbers, they are pretty similar, However, closer inspection reveals that Miller's numbers are better, as he finished 2nd in the NHL in both GAA and SV%. Breezy looked good, but let's face it: his entire team over-achieved this year, and he was the biggest one. Miller was the sole reason why the Sabres got to 100 points and won the Northeast, and while this technically won't count for him, his performance in the Olympics will be in the minds of the GMs when they are picking this award. I personally believe that Miller made Tyler Myers look better (see below for details), and he's my choice for the Vezina.

Norris Trophy

The Finalists:
Drew Doughty: 16 goals, 43 assists, 59 points, +20

Mike Green: 19 goals, 57 assists, 76 points, +39
Duncan Keith: 14 goals, 55 assists, 69 points, +21

Who Will Win: Keith
Who Should Win: Keith

There's no question in my mind that Duncan Keith was probably the best defenseman over the course of the entire season. He does everything: he plays against the other team's top players every night, he is one of the best shutdown defensemen in the game, and he can score. Doughty really came on towards the end of the season, but what sets Keith apart from both of these guys is his all around play. Green being included is a travesty to me. I get that he can score; there's no question he's probably the best offensive defenseman in the NHL right now. But does he even bother to check his own end at all? I think Green has a better chance at winning the Selke than he does the Norris. Where was Lidstrom?

Calder Memorial Trophy

The Finalists:
Jimmy Howard: 37-15-10, 2.26 GAA, .924 SV%
Matt Duchene: 24 goals, 31 assists, 55 points, +1
Tyler Myers: 11 goals, 37 assists, 48 points, +13

Who Will Win: Myers
Who Should Win: Howard

There's no question this is a two-horse race between Myers and Howard. Duchene had a very good year, but it was not extraordinary in comparison to past ROYs, and Myers and Howard were both extremely good, not just kind of good. Now, from what I have seen, many people believe that Myers will win because he excelled at a position that is hard at a young age. But, couldn't the same be said of Howard? His numbers as a rookie were better than Mason's were last year when he won, minus the number of shutouts. He was THE reason why the Wings not only made the playoffs, but finished as high as they did. His age will work against him, although to me, a rookie is a rookie. Myers will probably win because he's a 19 year old defenseman who led his team in ice time, played in all situations, and was very good. But, he also happened to have a Vezina-winning goalie playing behind him to bail him out of a lot of rookie mistakes that he undoubtedly made. If Howard goofed up, it usually cost his team a goal.

Lady Byng Trophy

The Finalists:
Pavel Datsyuk: 27 goals, 43 assists, 70 points, +17
Brad Richards: 24 goals, 67 assists, 91 points, -12
Martin St Louis: 29 goals, 65 assists, 94 points, -8

Who Will Win: St Louis
Who Should Win: Datsyuk?

I'll be honest: I don't care about this award. I do not watch hockey to see how "gentlemanly" everyone is out there. I don't want to see guys skating around with their pinkies in the air apologizing for touching someone on the other team. I want to see hitting, trash talking, and fighting. I like seeing guys muck for pucks in the corners, throwing an elbow to get away from a defender, and getting slashed and cross checked to gain 1" of space in front of the net. That being said, I think the award goes to St. Louis because he put up 94 points while not taking a lot of penalties, and since he played on the Lightning, that's a pretty big accomplishment, because if I played for the Lightning, I'd probably take penalties too. I picked Datsyuk because he's a Red Wing, but if I do end up watching, this will probably be my bathroom break.

Frank J Selke Trophy

The Finalists:
Pavel Datsyuk: 27 goals, 43 assists, 70 points, +17

Ryan Kesler: 25 goals, 50 assists, 75 points, +1
Jordan Staal: 21 goals, 28 assists, 49 points, +19

Who Will Win: Kesler
Who Should Win: Datsyuk

This award is very misunderstood. It's not for the best two-way forward: it's for the best defensive forward. A guy does not have to be good offensively to get this; hence the inclusion of Staal. But in my mind, if I'm protecting a lead with a minute to go, the forward I want out there is Datsyuk. Kesler is very good at what he does. But I believe that +/-, while somewhat overrated as a stat, is an indicator of your defensive prowess. Keep in mind that Kesler was on a very good offensive team, and he was only +1, whereas Datsyuk was on an ok scoring team, scored 5 less points than Kesler, and finished +17. With my Red Wing bias shining like a beacon on a foggy night, Datsyuk is my pick.

Jack Adams Award

The Finalists:
Joe Sacco: 43-30-9
Dave Tippett: 50-25-7
Barry Trotz: 47-29-6

Who Will Win: Tippett
Who Should Win: Tippett

This is the easiest award to pick. I would be surprised if this were not a unanimous selection. The Coyotes' issues this season were well documented: the bankruptcy of the previous owners caused the NHL to step in and "own" the team for this season, preventing them from moving. Gretzky resigned as coach just before training camp. Their team had been gutted and was full of kids and cast-offs. Enter Tippett, who turned around the rag-tag group of players and made them a very tough team to play against. The Coyotes have been one of the perennial sad-sack franchises in hockey for a while, but they catapulted up to the 4th best record in the NHL this season, including 50 wins. This one's a no-brainer.

Bill Masterton Award

The Finalists:
Kurtis Foster: 8 goals, 34 assists, 42 points, -5

Jose Theodore: 30-7-7, 2.81 GAA, .911 SV%
Jed Ortmeyer: 8 goals, 11 assists, 19 points

Who Will Win: Theodore/Foster
Who Should Win: Theodore

This award is for perseverence and dedication to hockey, and a case could be made for all 3 guys. Ortmeyer has had to endure a pulmonary embolism and blood clots, and there was talk he may never play again after surgery a couple of years ago. Foster had to overcome a shattered leg that cost him his entire season last year. Foster also has had to deal with the unspeakable tragedy of losing his infant daughter 5 days after she was born. However, as brutal as something like that is to deal with, it happened after the season. For Theodore, he had to spend the entire season coping with the same tragedy, as his young son died a couple of months after being born in the summer. As a father, I can't imagine doing your job under those circumstances, particularly a job that is played at such a high level of physicality, where a lapse in concentration can lead to serious injury. That he was able to play this season is one thing, but he played very well when in the lineup, and for that, he's my winner.

Ted Lindsay Award

The Finalists:

Sidney Crosby: 51 goals, 58 assists, 109 points, +25
Alexander Ovechkin: 50 goals, 59 assists, 109 points, +45
Henrik Sedin: 29 goals, 83 assists, 112 points, +35

Who Will Win: Sedin
Who Should Win: Sedin

This is basically the Hart Trophy, but voted on by the NHLPA, not by the GMs or writers. However, it's rare that the Lindsay (formerly the Pearson) winner didn't win the Hart in the same year. I think the players are going to do what they always do, and pick Sedin as the most outstanding player in the NHL this season.

Well, that's about it. I want to say that I think Sedin was a good choice for the Art Ross, and I have no real problems about Stamkos and Crosby splitting the Rocket Richard Trophy. I am just waiting for the day they create the Bobby Orr Trophy so that Mike Green can finally win something that isn't "Worst Defenseman to be Nominated for the Norris".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just Because I Don't Care Doesn't Mean I Don't Understand

In case you are wondering, the title of this post is a Homer Simpson quote from Lisa's Substitute, when Mr Bergstrom is her teacher for a little while. It also sums up my feelings on Todd Bertuzzi and the news that he's going to be a Red Wing for 2 more years.

I want to feel something about this signing. I really do. It seems like this contract has polarized Red Wing Nation more than any other (more on that in a minute). But I just can't muster up either the hate that some people have, nor the good feelings others do. For me, I just don't care that much one way or the other.

So what do I do when I don't have any real emotions tied up in something: look at it objectively. I'm not sure what to make of this signing. I'm a little disappointed that his salary went up, but I think a large part of that is due to the cuts we just saw Lidstrom and Holmstrom take. Drew over at NOHS argues that Bertuzzi does not owe the Wings any hometown discount, and I actually agree with that statement. The Wings brought in Bertuzzi last year as a cheap forward to play some PP and get around 10-20 goals and 40-50 points. He accomplished that, and at times was the Wings' best forward last year. When you take a look at other players with a similar cap hit around the same age as Bertuzzi, the names that stand out are striking: Robert Lang, Mike Knuble, Andrew Brunette, Todd Marchant, Bill Guerin, Brendan Morrison, and Mark Recchi. I can say that out of those players, there isn't one I would take immediately over Bertuzzi. Bert may be inconsistent, but this past year he demonstrated a willingness to play solid defense, and while he was a very streaky scorer at times, when he was on, he was blisteringly-hot. Plus, if you look at the players I just mentioned, most of them make more than Bertuzzi, so we would actually be getting a discount on a player of the same caliber.

I realize that Bertuzzi has his shortcomings. His scoring, as noted, is wildly inconsistent. He sometimes believes that the puck is his own personal property, and we've all seen the Bertuzzi spin-o-rama. I hate it, you hate it, we all hate it together; it's what makes us a family. He's prone to lazy penalties at times. He doesn't play very physical considering his size. But what he brought last year makes up for most of that. Sure, I'd love to see him be consistent and bring solid, smart play every night; but that's not his game. If there were a way to turn him around, I'm pretty sure it would have been done by now.

Now, as I said before, this signing, and Bertuzzi in general, has created a fissure in Red Wing Nation. Personally, I can't think of another player that has divided the fans like Bertuzzi has; maybe Chelios when he was traded to the Wings, but no one else I can think of comes to mind (if you have any ideas, let me know). It sure seems like there is a love/hate relationship with him, and rarely are you going to find someone in the middle. The "love" camp is smaller than the "hate" side, but those people who love him are vocal. I wonder what the reason for the hate is. I figure it's one of two things: leftover resentment/anger from the Steve Moore incident, or disgust over his abilities and style of play.

The Steve Moore thing was so long ago now, I really hope that Red Wing fans don't continue to hold that against him. I'm not condoning what he did, and I was really disappointed at Bertuzzi for giving hockey a black eye, the same way I was pissed at McSorely for his incident. But, he's paid his league-mandated price, he had to deal with criminal charges, and it was just announced that the lawsuit against him will continue, with Bertuzzi being personally responsible for any damages awarded to Moore. Regardless of anything that Bertuzzi did prior to the Moore thing or after it, he will forever be stigmatized as a goon and thug because of one very stupid, ill-advised decision. But let's face it: he wasn't a Red Wing at the time, he didn't do it to a Red Wing, and he has been squeaky clean since then. So why should we continue to resent him for something he did a number of years ago? It's not like the Red Wings have always been angels themselves; Dallas Drake was a guy known for playing on the edge and may have crossed it at times; Niklas Kronwall has often left his feet to lay a guy out; and Chris Chelios was never nominated for a Lady Byng. I realize that none of these guys did anything near what Bertuzzi did, but the Wings employ "tough guys" that make a living bending or even breaking the rules.

Does his style of play bother you? Well, that's a different story, and one I can appreciate. Some people point out his inconsistency as an issue: Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula were both up and down all year last year, and in fact Flip only really came on after being put on a line with Bertuzzi and Zetterberg. Last year, not one single forward on the Wings was consistently good all season. Don't like his style of play with all of the puck-handling and lack of physicality? He did the same thing as Mikael Samuelsson, and had Hudler made his intentions known about going to the KHL earlier, I can guarantee you the Wings would have brought Sammy back and most fans would have been happy about it. I know he's got a history of being injured: Henrik Zetterberg has never played more than 77 games in one year over 7 seasons, Tomas Holmstrom hasn't played more than 70 games in season for the last 3 years, and Niklas Kronwall has played more than 70 games once in his career. I don't point out these things to disparage the players they have; it's more to point out the double standard under which Bertuzzi has to operate as a Red Wing. Truth be told, the only players on the Wings that have no issues similar to Bertuzzi are Datsyuk and Lidstrom; everyone else on the team, Zetterberg included, has a "black mark" so to speak on their resume.

Look, I'm no Bertuzzi-lover. I'll admit I was not crazy about the signing last year, but after the season he had, I've changed my tune a little. I still don't think he's a great player, but it's pretty clear he fits in the system the Wings have in place, and while he's making more than I would like, he's still a bargain. If he gets hurt, well, we'll have to deal with it; I don't recall anyone saying "boo" last year when Niklas Kronwall got hurt, and he's got just as much of an injury history as Bertuzzi while making more money. Given the injury issues last year, if Bertuzzi is the only one that gets injured, I'll be singing gospel songs and dancing around in my underwear on my front lawn (there's a mental image for you). Remember that if he does get hurt and goes on IR, his salary comes off the cap. I think the reason that a lot of fans don't like Bertuzzi is because they don't consider him to be a "Red Wing"; the roster is full of guys that were either drafted by the Wings or have been with them so long that no one even remembers who else they played for. Bertuzzi doesn't fit that mold, so we nitpick everything he does and say that it was a bad signing. We as fans don't have to agree with every single move the organ-i-zation makes; but we have to understand why it was made. Bertuzzi is a Red Wing for 2 more years; accept it and let's move on.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stupid Sexy Flanders

Well, maybe replace "Flanders" with "Blackhawks", and "Sexy" with "Fucking". That pretty much sums up how I feel today. Mercifully, with 20 Cent's goal, the 2009-2010 NHL season comes to a close. I forced myself to watch that game last night, and although the team I dreaded winning did, at least I didn't have to hear that fucking "Chelsea Dagger" song. So ends the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs, come on down!

So let's see: the Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup Champions. Oy. Since I live here, that means a whole summer of brand new "Champions" shirts and hats to replace the brand new Hawks shirts most of these brand new fans purchased in April when they realized they were Hawk fans. My Facebook page exploded, and I've received 4 emails this morning (it's about 7:30) confirming what I thought was a bad dream.

What a weird series. I think someone said this was the worst series ever for goaltending. Well, I thought about that, and here are the stats for each goalie, courtesy of NHL.COM:
Michael Leighton - 2-4, 20 GA (in 6 games), .876 SV%, 3.96 GAA
Antti Niemi - 4-2, 21 GA (again, in 6 games), .882 SV%, 3.41 GAA.

Folks, those are your Stanley Cup goaltenders. Just awful, eh? You know who is the happiest about these numbers? Stan Bowman. Niemi is an RFA, and usually Stanley Cup-winning goalies get a bit of a raise in the off-season. However, goalies that actually hinder their team's chances of winning tend to have that raise reduced significantly. Niemi didn't exactly play himself into huge money just yet. I think the torch was just passed for "Worst Goalie to Win A Cup". Oh, and to any Red Wing fan who isn't mad enough yet, consider this: Tomas Kopecky now has his name on the Cup more times than Henrik Zetterberg. And to make matters worse, no longer can we make jokes about Marian Hossa not winning. This is the world we live in, folks.

Before OT started, on Twitter, I posted a message to the Hockey Gods. The message was that if the Blackhawks were going to win, I wanted anyone except Kane or Byfuglien to score the winner. Obviously, I have done something to piss off the Gods, because not 2 minutes later, Kane head faked enough times that I thought he was having a seizure, went down the wing and scored a goal that (surprise, surprise) Leighton should have had. What made this moment magical for me is that it touched off the worst Stanley Cup celebration in history. No one knew where the puck was, Kane is racing down the ice (did you see Niemi? He must have thought he was a cab driver that owed Kane some money the way Kane was coming after him), and the announcers were all probably saying "What the fuck is going on?" Then, there's a review, but one replay was all it took to confim it went in. It was like Jason Biggs in American Pie when Shannon Elizabeth is in his room and he blows his wad too early. I really stopped watching after that, because I had better things to do, like scoop the dog poo out of the backyard.

Speaking of 20 Cent, why oh why did it have to be him? Let me get this straight; in the same year that Sidney Crosby scores the GWG in OT in the Olympics, Patrick Kane scores the GWG in OT in the Stanley Cup Finals. I think I am going to start punching babies in the face and kicking puppies, because being a douchebag is obviously paying off. He scored the worst Stanley Cup winning goal ever (and that includes Zetterberg's off-Fleury's-butt goal in Game 6 in 2008), and then after the game, when talking with ESPN, he says something like "I hope the girls like me more now". You know what Kane? Fuck you, you fucking cocky twat-bag. He is the kind of dipshit that starts a band because he wants to get laid, but his music sucks and he doesn't care (for JJ from Kansas, if you read this: his band name is "Pronger's Beard Elbows"). And we've seen the kind of chicks you hang out with. There is no justice in the world. Basically, every fuck-stick in the NHL (Pronger, Perry, Crosby, Kane) has now won a Cup. I don't want to live in a world where Patrick Kane is anyone's hero.

There are some people for whom this Cup win doesn't make me seethe with rage. I'm on record as saying I like Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, and if the team had more players like those two on there, I might not hate the Hawks with the fervour that I do. I see Toews as an Yzerman-type leader, and he has won everything there is to win so far. I wonder if there is any way we could trade for him? I'm happy for fans like my old boss and my current boss; both of these women were fans before it was cool to be fans. I'm somewhat happy for the 12-13000 people who actually went to the games 5 years ago and can tell me that Jocelyn Thibault was the Hawks' goalie before the lockout. I am not happy with the 2 million new "fans" that are going to use the parade on Friday as an excuse to get out of work and will buy lots of new merchandise proclaiming the Hawks as champs, but will be using those same shirts as dust rags in 5 years when the Hawks suck again.

Well, if there's anything that makes me happy about this, it's knowing that this is not a dynasty in the making. This isn't the Penguins winning next year with most of their team locked up, creating what could have been a big run. This is a team that is in salary cap hell, and will very likely have to blow up their roster just to sign enough players to ice a whole team next year. So, Hawks, fans, say bye bye to guys like Patrick Sharp, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Adam Burish and Antti Niemi. I hope you enjoyed seeing Cristobal Huet sit on the bench and get his name on the Cup for doing nothing except take up about 10% of your cap space, because that albatross you call his contract is not going anywhere. It must have been nice to see Hossa score 3 whole goals all post-season - good thing he's locked up for the next millenium. I didn't bother to check to see how Rockford did this year, but if I'm a Hawks fan, I hope it's good, because half of the roster are going to be AHL-ers. The Wings came within a whisker of winning the division last year with all of their injuries and call-ups; it will be interesting to see how the Hawks do without half of their depth players in the lineup (or as I call them, the Reason the Hawks won the Cup). Plus, as was pointed out on Twitter last night, the Hawks have won as many Cups in 84 years as the Wings have won in the last 13. So congrats on that.

To the Blackhawks, congratulations. You have shown that you are probably going to go down as the best One-And-Done Stanley Cup winning team in NHL history. I hope you enjoy being relegated to your rightful place of 2nd-best in the division next year. You see, that shiny silver trophy you have right now actually belongs to us; we're just lending it out to the rest of the league so they can get a taste for what it feels like to win before we take back what's ours. I'm looking forward to next year when the Hawks are the prey and the Wings their predator. It should make for a very interesting season. The only person happy last night in my house last night was my wife; no doors were punched or harmed in any way this year. At least that's something, right?

Monday, June 7, 2010


With the Stanley Cup Finals winding down, there's been a lot of talk about "bandwagon" fans and how much we hate them. Obviously, the focus for my disdain has been the Blackhawks, because for me, their fans are perfect examples of jumping on the bandwagon and riding it. It got me thinking about why I dislike them so much.

The main issue I have with any bandwagon fans is that inevitably, these are the idiots that are the loudest about their team being so "awesome" and "amazing". Typically, these are the beer-drinking morons out at a bar or on the street wearing their team's memorabilia, which is just like them in one important respect: both are brand new. Now, I understand that we all became fans for some reason. For the locals, you're born into it. For us out-of-towners, there's another reason why we are drawn to an organization that is not the home team. Sometimes it's a specific player (Steve Yzerman for me), sometimes it's a family thing (maybe your parents cheered for that team but moved, and passed that down to you). Sometimes, it's because that particular team was really good as you were just starting to pay attention. Either way, your reasons are your own, and I certainly will not question why you start cheering for a team.

You know what I can't stand, though? Excuses. A perfect example of this are Blackhawk fans. Their lack of support is grounded in their pitiful attendance just 3 and 4 short years ago. Now, they are #1 in attendance, and believe me when I tell you that the fans here don't let you forget it. I've seen stuff like people claiming that Chicago is "Hawkeytown" and that they have the best fans because of the attendance. But, point out their half-empty stadium from a few years ago - it was all Bill Wirtz' fault. It wasn't the fact the team on the ice was awful, or that they had no legitimate superstars until Toews and Kane showed up. Nope, Dollar Bill went to every single season-ticket holder and anyone else that called asking about tickets, tied them up and made them stay home. Not only were they not allowed to go to the games, he even called every TV station executive in the city and threatened to show those pictures of them canoodling with Tommy Tomahawk if they dared show any games on TV. What a bastard. But, thankfully he died, and good old Rocky came to the rescue, putting the games on TV. Thanks to trusty Rocky, the bandwagon had another tool to recruit members.

Does the fact that the Hawks played to 12,000 people make their fanbase "bad"? Not necessarily. I've always argued that home attendance should not be the sole arbiter as to the passion of a fanbase. Unfortunately, it's one of the few objective criteria we can use, so we tend to base a lot of our opinions off of how many tickets a team sells. As a Red Wing fan, I've heard that we are not "good" fans because the Joe is not sold out every night. Now, I'm not from Detroit, nor have I lived in the area. I don't know what the motivation is for people to stay home and not go to the games. From what I've heard from some people, it's a case of going to the game or paying their rent; in that situation, the choice is very easy. I grew up in Toronto, and I can say with experience that it is damn hard to get tickets to a Leaf game. If the Leafs went 0-82, they would still sell out 95% of their games. Does that make them "good" fans? Maybe, maybe not. But it makes them loyal, which is important.

For me, one of the things that really bugs me about all these new Hawk fans (and to a lesser extent, Penguin and Capital fans) is that they have not had to see their teams suffer for any great length of time before they achieved success. I say this with a tinge of envy, because I became a Wing fan at the age of 8 (in 1986) and watched them lose to the Oilers in the late 80s. Then, through the early '90s, it seemed like they were never going to win the Cup; getting swept by the Hawks in '92, losing to the Leafs in '93 (or as I call it, the Worst Hockey Year Ever), losing to the Sharks in '94 on a goal by Jamie-Fucking-Baker (I remember Chris Osgood as a rookie crying after that loss), getting to the Finals in '95 and getting destroyed by the Devils, and obliterating the entire league in '96 only to lose to Roy and the Avs. To me, it seemed like we as fans went through those disappointments with the team, so when they finally won in '97, we (fans and team) were unified in our happiness that we had persevered through all the down times to emerge victorious at the top of the mountain. But, what have Hawk fans and Penguin fans had to suffer through? The Hawks were supposed to be good last year, but not as good as they were, and this year they were a top contender. The Pens had a similar meteoric rise to the Cup. Now, I don't believe that a fanbase needs to go through tough times to show that they are "good" fans; I only point out what I experienced because I wish that the Wings had won the Cup earlier in my time as a fan. I also don't believe that the amount of time one has been a fan dictates how good a fan they are; there are fans who have been following their team for 50 years but don't exhibit the level of passion that some of the rest of us do. However, what really chaps my ass about these new fans is that they have not shown that they will support their team when they are losing. Look at the attendance. The Penguins also had extremely difficult times drawing fans to the rink, and there were rumours that the team was going to move to Kansas City (but to hear the fans tell it, this was all a brilliant negotiating ploy by Lemieux to get a better lease from the city and get a new arena). However, there are lots of teams that have been traditionally bad, yet there are no worries about them moving; teams like the Wild and Kings have not experienced any on-ice success, but you never hear anything negative about their attendance or stability in their cities. 5 years ago, Chicago could barely get 13,000 people in the building. The 8-year old in me just wants to scream "it's not fair!" over and over.

Now, the rational part of my brain understands that as teams get better, more people will be drawn to them and become fans. Part of the reason the Red Wings have the extensive support they do is because of the success they have had over the last 15-20 years. I get that. My problem is with these newbie fans who talk their shit like they have been following their team (or to a lesser extent, hockey in general) for their entire lives, when they couldn't name a player on their own team from 5 years ago, and would be hard-pressed to name 5 players from every team in the league (quick, try and do that now - name at least 5 players from every single NHL team - you'll be surprised to see how much you follow hockey). Now, don't get me wrong - I enjoy trash talk as the next guy. What I can't stand are fans who don't know what the hell they are talking about, but will defend their team to the death, even if the factual basis for their argument is proved to be wrong. Yes, Blackhawk fans, we all know that Chris Pronger is a douche. I can get on board with that argument. But don't tell he "sucks" because he plays physical. I hate him as much as you can hate someone you've never met and who has never done any harm to you or your family; but I understand that he is a very good hockey player.

Here's my point: if you are a new fan, take the time to learn the history of your team. Figure out how they got to the point they are at. Because inevitably, you are going to be labeled as a bandwagon fan, especially by people like me, and if you can debate and discuss your team with intelligence and knowledge, then you will earn my respect. Be warned, though: I will still hate your team. If you can't take that, and can't take the shit-talking about the crappy attendance and lack of support from the locals, then I don't know what I can do to help you out. If you just hopped on the bandwagon and plan to stay there while your team is winning, admit it; otherwise, don't allow yourself to be labeled so negatively. Together, we can destroy the bandwagon, one fan at a time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ken Holland is onto something....

So, Ken Holland has said that he wants to do something about the shootout. As reported first by the Free Press and then echoed and expanded upon by Puck Daddy, Holland is going to suggest that the overtime format currently in place be tweaked so that more games are decided by the teams, rather than by a skills-competition involving less than a third of a teams' roster. His suggestions are to expand OT to 8 or 10 minutes, and maybe get a little three-on-three action going (or as I call it, the "late-'70s-porn-option").

I like this idea. I think Holland is really on to something. I say that not just as a Red Wing fan, because it has been well-documented how terrible Jimmy Howard was in shootouts last year. Did you get the feeling that I did? That the other team was just biding their time until 5 minutes was over so they could get a free shot at Jimmah? I always cringed whenever the game went beyond OT, mostly due to Jimmy, but also because I witnessed this. However, as a hockey fan, it really bugs me that teams get in the playoffs because 3 of their players were better at breakaways than 3 players on the other team *cough* Flyers *cough*. However, people are afraid that prolonged OT will make the games too long, or that 3-on-3 is just a gimmick that should never be touched in a hockey game (but these same people say an OT is ok - ah, the hypocrisy of people). That got me thinking; what else could the NHL do to decide games besides the SO? Here's a couple of suggestions:

  • Instead of regular OT, every player throws their stick on the ice at center. The ref will then throw a random stick to each side of the ice and voila! New teams. Imagine facing a line of Pavel Datsyuk and Sidney Crosby with Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Gonchar on defense?
  • In a move that makes Kyle Wellwood the hottest commodity in the NHL, it is announced that instead of a shootout, a hot dog-eating contest will decide the winner.
  • Rumour has it that Brian Burke is going to suggest that the NHL institute a WWE-style Royal Rumble so that he can finally get his money's worth out of Mike Komisarek.
  • The games are already being broadcast on Versus, so I am thinking anything involving either bullriding or cycling - or both.
  • 2 words: beer pong.
  • We could.....never mind. Chris Pronger just stole the game puck muttering something about "his precious" under his breath.

So those are my ideas. Do you have any? Let me know.

Oh, wait....nevermind. Gary Bettman just held a press conference to announce that shooutouts are staying. Apparently Sidney Crosby called him up to say that since he isso good at shootouts (career 41% shooter), he wants them to say. Gary was heard to say "whatever Sidney wants, Sidney gets". In fact, look for the "Sid Exception" - anyone who's initials are SC gets to shoot more than once in a game. In completely, absolutely un-related news, the Penguins have traded for Sean Collins for a player to be named later.

Good luck Kenny. You're going to need it.

One More Year

Wait, did you feel that? I did. It was a blast of air coming from the east, right around noon Central time. I could be crazy, but I’m pretty sure it was all of Red Wing nation exhaling now that it was official that Nicklas Lidstrom was coming back for one more season. Now that I’ve had 24 hours to celebrate and the last of the revelers have gone home, I thought I would share my thoughts on the signing.

Words can not express how important it was for Lids to come back. The Wings are not ready to deal with life without him, as we saw last year. Far too often the Wings defensemen played anywhere from mediocre to bad, and there never seemed to be any consistency as a unit. Lidstrom himself had a slow start to last year, and that left some wondering (including myself) whether the time had finally come that he was on the decline. Then, he scorched the league in the second half, and I realized that I should never question Lidstrom, because this would be like questioning whether the sun is going to rise tomorrow. I just don’t see anyone on the defense currently that is ready to step up and assume the role of “leader” just yet. Kronwall would have been my next guess as to who would do that, but he never looked right after his knee injury in November (thanks, George Laraque. BTW, how’s that career of yours going?) Brad Stuart really impressed me this year, but even though he’s gotten better, when he has a bad game (Game 7 vs Pens, Game 6 vs Coyotes), watch out, because he can fuck an entire team himself. Ericsson? HA HA HA HA HA. Sorry, he still might be a year or two away from getting on to one of the top 2 pairs, let alone leading the defense. No, we needed Lidstrom to come back.

I like the money involved. $6.2M. He’s still the highest paid player on the defense, although no longer on the team (behind Pavel Datsyuk). Clearly he took a hometown discount, and for that, I get down on my knees and…..thank him. Now, I admit my man-crush on Lidstrom is almost as big as my man-crush was on Stevie. But, I did not agree with some people on Twitter yesterday that the Wings should have just thrown whatever money Lidstrom wants at him to get him to stay. Unfortunately, in a cap world, teams have to be extremely careful about how they allot their given funds, and Lidstrom is now on the wrong side of 40 coming off essentially half a season. What if the Wings had given Lids $7.5M and “First-Half Lidstrom” showed up? I don’t think that will happen, but I’m not the one who has to make these decisions. I also did not agree with the people who said that he should only sign for $4-5M. Lidstrom is still by far the best defenseman on the team, not to mention the league. He is the anchor of this defense, and if he had left, I shudder to think how many 2 goal leads the Wings would blow next year. This isn’t like giving Kirk Maltby a league-minimum salary because of what he did in the past; this is about paying a player who is still vitally important to the future of the Wings. Ask yourself this: would you take a 17% pay cut doing the same job for the same company because doing so would ensure that they could bring in more talented people to help the company succeed? I was perfectly happy about the money, because the $1.3M they are saving on Lidstrom can be used to sign 2 of the RFAs they have.

So what does this mean going forward? Well, the Wings still have to get Homer re-signed, but now that Lidstrom’s deal is done, I do not anticipate a problem. Given the cut that Lids took, I expect Homer to sign for somewhere in the $1.5M range. Again, I love the guy, but there’s no way he gets over $2M at this point in his career. I guess they are going to go after Bertuzzi, but he should get exactly what he made last year. That would take the Wings to around $53M, and if the cap does go up to $58M like they keep saying, $5M will be more than adequate to sign their remaining RFAs and ice a competitive team. I’m excited that the Wings are still going for it, not that I would ever expect them to give up. For Lidstrom personally, I think this may be the first of potentially many offseasons where we wonder if he’s coming back. I could see him doing a Chelios-type thing where he keeps signing 1-year deals until he’s ready to retire. But, at the same time, I will probably spend most of this season trying to prepare myself that this could be Lids’ last season, which will make me appreciate what he does even more. I will state something I believe to be an absolute truth, like death and taxes: if the Wings do end up winning the Cup in 2011, Lidstrom will retire. Book it.