In this installment of ‘Why Your Team Sucks’, we fly from the east coast, over all the shit that doesn’t matter (otherwise known as Conference III) to the west coast. The faraway lands of BC, Alberta, California, Arizona, and Washington State (coming in 2015, probably!). And the best part about realignment is how there aren’t any CST teams in the Pacific Division anymore. Yeah, Dallas, I’m looking at you; that just really annoyed me for some reason.
Here’s why your Pacific Division team sucks:
Yeah, I’ll get the double cheeseburger, large fries…uh, better make that a Diet Coke….
WHY THEY SUCK: They’re a luck-driven fraud. The Anaheim Ducks were the surprise story in the West in 2012-13. After a terrible year where they ended up firing their coach, noted idiot Randy Carlyle, midseason (that’s good) and missing the playoffs by a lot (that’s bad), the Ducks vaulted all the way to 2nd in the Western Conference. They went from the consensus last place pick in the Pacific Division to actually winning the whole damn thing. Man, this must really bode well for the Ducks going forward, right?
WRONG. The Ducks are what happens when dumb trailer trash wins the lottery and moves to an affluent suburb. Sure, they may have struck it rich, but it was by pure luck, and they’re almost certain to squander their fortune on beef jerky and Busch Light. It’s worth noting in the last four seasons, the Ducks have made two playoff appearances. Both were total flukes. In 2011, the Ducks basically rode Corey Perry getting 57 bajillion points from March onward to a pretty weak first round exit. In 2013, they won their division by shooting roughly 10% at even strength. Hell, it was higher than that for most of the season, and that got them a 22-3-4 start out the gate. That’s fucking nuts. That’s a winning percentage you’d expect from the ’86 Oilers; do you really think the Anaheim Ducks are capable of that? Of course not, because once their shooting tailed off, they finished the season a pretty unremarkable 7-9-2. I’d wager ‘unremarkable bubble team’ is roughly a more accurate depiction of the Ducks than the best team that ever lived.
Which is fine, since they did what literally everyone expected them to do and bowed out of the first round to a real team. In fact, that the worst thing the Ducks did last year; because of their stupid second place finish, we were subjected to TWO WEEKS of fucking Red Wings fans being all ‘WE ARE THE GLORIOUS UNDERDOGS.’ Bullshit. Everyone and their grandma picked the Wings to win that series; the Ducks have to have been the most unspectacular second seed to have ever existed, and this is a team that shared a division with the ’06 Dallas Stars.
But they can’t rely on lucky shooting to vault them to the top again. Nope; not this time. For one thing, they finally proved they were TOTALLY SERIOUS about trading Bobby Ryan and sent him to Ottawa. Don’t worry, though. They replaced with Dustin Penner, which is more or less like thinking silly putty is an effective food substitute. I give it about 6 weeks into the season before he’s sidelined a month with an Aunt Jemima-related infliction. It seems like Teemu Selanne, who kicks 20-something ass at 42, probably won’t be back this season. They managed to lock up Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to long-term extensions, which should bode well when they can’t even afford to sign the half of their forwards that are free agents in 2014. By then, their bottom three lines will literally just be nine Glad bags of sand. Their main lynchpins on D are Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin, and neither are getting any younger. Cam Fowler is probably one of the more unremarkable $4 million players in the league, and will likely still be the only redeeming quality of this defense in a year or two.
The Ducks turned luck into an unsustainably good record and a pretty lame duck playoff appearance. There’s just no way it happens again. Their fans (what few they have) should probably just go back to watching USC football and reruns of The OC. This’ll probably get ugly.
Your first star for the night….
WHY THEY SUCK: Ahahahaha. The good news is that with the trade of franchise hero Jarome Iginla, Flames fans can finally let go of the last lingering shred of hope they had for their team to be competent. Any sane franchise, of course, would’ve realized this fact three years ago once the team finally stopped making the postseason after an endless succession of first-round exits. The Flames’ window ostensibly shut in 2004, and it took nine years for literally anybody in the city of Calgary to figure this out. Anything closely resembling reality was just too much for the Calgarian superiority complex to fathom. If you’re from Calgary, everything in the city is perfect and can do no wrong, including (perhaps especially) the Flames. Calgary is probably the only city more uniroincally arrogant than Toronto, which can probably be explained by the fact most of Calgary is just displaced Ontarians looking for a payday in the energy sector. You could scrape a dead possum off the highway, put it in a Flames jersey, pose it in a photograph next to Naheed Nenshi, and Calgarians would declare it the best possum ever, and dedicate a whole POSSUM DAY to a piece of roadkill. Which is cool, because the Calgary Flames are basically just roadkill on ice.
If your team finished three points out of last in the conference, it’s pretty hard to make it much worse, and yet the Flames did just that. Miikka Kiprusoff, who played like hot garbage last year, will be replaced at starter by Karri Ramo, who has a career .895 in 48 games and hasn’t played in the NHL since 2009. They also managed to unload their most defensively responsible blueliner for Shane O’Brien, who will likely play about 10 games then be a healthy scratch until he drinks himself half to death at the Roxy on their first trip to Vancouver and misses the rest of the season. They also traded Alex Tanguay for the even worse but somehow more overpaid David Jones. They have $11.5 million tied up in Jones, Jiri Hudler, and Matt Stajan, which might actually be their first line if Mike Cammalleri gets injured. Their third line will probably consist of Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross, both of whom you forgot existed, and Blair Jones, who you probably didn’t know existed. With this roster, you would think this team is trying to tank for the first overall pick, and then you remember Jay Feaster is running this team and he really is just that stupid. This is what happens when you hire a guy who can’t even figure out how the fuck offer sheets work.
I’ve barely talked about their defense, because there isn’t much to talk about. Their first pair is Dennis Wideman and Mark Giordano, which is a sentence no self-respecting team should ever have to utter. Two of T.J. Brodie, Kris Russell, Chris Butler, and O’Brien will be second-pairing defensemen. Their defense that allowed 29 shots a game last season has somehow probably gotten worse. There’s really no way that this team won’t allow about 4 goals a game next year. They could probably use a real 1D, but ask them about the one they traded away three years ago- the only remaining piece of which Calgary still has being Matt Stajan- and they’ll vehemently deny it. At least they’ll kinda sorta admit they got hosed now, but only with the addendum the guy they shipped away wasn’t ‘good in the room’ or something. That Dennis Wideman, though. GREAT GUY IN THE ROOM AND WORKS HARD N’ STUFF, I’m sure.
The sad thing is, in spite of how awful this team is on paper, and that all roads seem to lead to the Flames being the consensus choice to tank for the No. 1 draft pick, you just know in the back of your head they will somehow fuck that up, too. They’ll be basically eliminated from the postseason by Christmas, but you just know at some point in March, Cammalleri will start scoring lots of goals, one of Ramo and MacDonald will get hot, and they have an easy enough schedule to start stringing together some wins. In the end, they’ll do just enough to finish something like fourth or fifth-last. Of course, if you’ve looked at the Flames draft choices lately, you know they’ll probably just blow the pick on some no-name three rounds early because GRIT, so maybe it’s better they don’t get first overall. It’s like taking away scissors from the kid who sniffs paste; it’s just the right thing to do.
At this rate, the Flames should probably just be thankful there isn’t relegation, because I’d say there’s probably two or three AHL rosters that could beat them. Hell, if they played their WHL arena co-tenants, I’d take the Hitmen in that game 11 times out of 10. As a Leafs fan, I would feel their pain having been through a lot of this myself, but after seeing Calgary spend years thumbing their noses at us, it’s just hilarious to see them hit rock bottom in an eerily similar way. If you like schaudenfraude, you’ll love the 2013-14 Calgary Flames!
It also looks like the face of a pitching wedge, which is equally fitting.
WHY YOUR TEAM SUCKS: Next year is always a year away, guys. Every team’s fans have a different way of dealing with perpetual failure. Habs fans burn their city down, Leafs fans drink themselves into a stupor and yell at each other, Canucks fans pretend their team doesn’t exist, Jets fans give themselves five more years of Ondrej Pavelec. Oilers fans, however, are a different breed. Never has a team so awful have fans act so blindly optimistic for a distant future we’re not entirely sure exists. We’re talking about a team that lived its last glory day in 1990. Good in the 1980s, pretty terrible since; the Oilers are basically the Kansas City Royals of hockey, and yet people actually get hopeful about them.
ALL THOSE NO. 1 PICKS YOU GUYS! Well yes, it takes a special kind of suck to be bad enough to be given a first overall pick three years in a row. I don’t really know how that’s a good thing; it’s pretty much like being given a two-minute head start for a 100m dash. To be fair, they have some pretty good players in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In fact, those are the only players on the Oilers roster remotely decent at puck possession on what was the worst possession team last year, but they also all play on the same line. They do have Nail Yakupov, who can reasonably be expected to take a sophomore slump, especially since you can’t really expect a 19-year old kid to shoot 21% again. The Oilers are going to be a one-line team, which is totally great because it’s not like any half-decent team doesn’t have the tools necessary to shut down one line.
NEW COACH YOU GUYS! Yeah, Dallas Eakins has a pretty spectacular track record in the AHL. But getting optimistic about a guy before he’s even coached an NHL game? AHL success doesn’t instantly equal NHL success. For every Bruce Boudreau or Dan Bylsma out there, there’s a Guy Boucher, Glen Gulutzan, or Davis Payne. Of course, you can’t blame Oilers fans for being excited about a new coach since it’s become a yearly tradition in Edmonton. This is their fifth head coach in six years, and precisely none of the predecessors have gone on to a head coaching job in the NHL afterwards. Holy shit, the Oilers go through coaches like a teenage boy with unrestricted internet access goes through tube socks. If anyone’s gonna fuck up what seems like good coaching, you know it’ll be Edmonton. On the bright side, Eakins has a penchant for fitness, which makes it good news that Theo Peckham is gone. I’d have expected him to slap a ‘FAT’ sticker on Peckham’s ass in training camp after he couldn’t even do a push-up.
MOAR D YOU GUYS! Fans seem pumped on Andrew Ference providing some of that VETERAN LEADERSHIP because apparently intangibles are a solid substitute for never watching him play. He could easily slot in as first pair D on the Oilers, which is hilarious because most Bruins fans would tell you he doesn’t even belong on the second pair. They have four more years of Ladislav Smid, and…wait, Denis Grebeshkov is back? When the hell did that happen? Oilers fans can be reasonably assured all of their D is better than Ryan Whitney, but that really isn’t much of an accomplishment at all. They’re lucky Devan Dubnyk is a pretty good goalie, but no one will ever notice since he’s effectively standing behind a group of subway turnstiles in net.
MOAR DEPTH! What? Acquiring David Perron for another 40-something points? He’d be a decent second-liner, but hasn’t even played more than 57 games a season in the last three years. He is quite possibly Quebec’s answer to Tim Connolly. Signing Boyd Gordon for $3M? Are the Oilers that desperate for a fourth-line centre who can actually hold on to the fucking puck? The guy’s career season is 29 points and that was six years ago. Ryan Smyth is old as balls; Mike Brown is another Ben Eager minus the part about being a terrible human being; Ryan Jones wouldn’t crack another NHL roster, but Oilers fans love him because he works hard and tweets funny stuff or something.
NEW ARENA! Yeah, enjoy dropping half your paycheques into a hole to pay for that for the next two decades, Edmonton! Your owner played you like a fiddle by bluffing to move the team, and your city council totally fell for it. I understand the need for a downtown arena, since the neighbourhood Rexall Place is in is only really a nice location if you want to get stabbed or buy meth. But it’s hilarious that a billionaire drugstore owner is making everyone pay for it, and acted like a petulant child threatening to take his ball and leave if he didn’t get his way.
Edmonton gets an ‘A’ for unbridled optimism, but an ‘F’ for on-ice effort. This fanbase effectively keeps itself alive by a combination of reminding itself of nostalgia for its past relevance and a future that might not happen. There are currently Edmontonians graduating from university that weren’t even born the last time the Oilers won a Cup, but that won’t stop them from lording their five rings over your head. Meanwhile, every year there is some reason we should expect a breakout year; guess you need something to believe in when you’re stuck with six months of winter and a shitty hockey team.
LOS ANGELES KINGS:
Long live the Burger King!
WHY THEY SUCK: It isn’t 2012 anymore. Congratulations again to the Los Angeles Kings for their one moment of shining success in 46 years of existence, and inspiring people in LA to once again care about hockey for the first time since the early 90s. I mean, sure, most of the city’s reaction a day after winning the Cup was like “Oh, that’s cool I guess. Who’d the Lakers get this year?,” but it was inspiring well it lasted. Yes indeed, America’s second-biggest city and most traffic-congested butthole and its vapid, soulless residents could truly rally behind such stars as Brad Doty and their beloved purple-and-black, which is why the Maloofs shouldn’t relocate them to Seattle. It was the best thing to happen to the Kings since Kerry Fraser contracted temporary blindness in a 1993 postseason game, at which point Gretzky getting away with murder enabled God Mode in a way that would make OJ Simpson jealous. That, however, didn’t end as well, since they lost the Cup in 5, losing 4 games as straight as Marty McSorley’s stick wasn’t.
The 2013 season was a more forgettable relative of 2012- the Brent Gretzky of LA Kings history, if you will. They stumbled out of the gate during their Stanley Cup hangover, which is usually metaphorical unless your team has Jeff Carter and Mike Richards on it. They ultimately made the playoffs, but it was a pretty underwhelming run. They nearly lost to St. Louis in the first round before beating them in a Barret Jackman staring contest. Sure, they beat San Jose in the second round, but: (a) it took seven games, and; (b) literally anyone can beat the San Jose Sharks in May. That’s like bragging about hooking up with the drunkest girl at a party, which Drew Doughty might actually do, I’m not sure. Once they faced a real team in the Chicago Blackhawks, they were quickly embarrassed and sent packing.
Sure, you can expect the Kings to be good again, but look at their division. They’ve been gifted two Alberta teams and a declining Canucks squad to beat up on. The Ducks are going to regress from a lucky year, the Sharks are just getting older and collecting cobwebs, and the Coyotes are just kinda there. That alone can just get them through the first two rounds of the playoffs again. Once they face Chicago again, or any number of beasts in the East, they’re effectively done for.
For one thing, fuck Jonathan Quick. Is there a more overrated goaltender in the NHL right now? He was able to ride the laurels of being immortal in 2012 that everyone quickly seemed to forget he put up a .902 in 2013. Seriously, a .902. For starting goalie SV%, he was nestled comfortably between Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Bryzgalov. Seriously, Ondrej fucking Pavelec had a better year. Sure, he put up better than .930 in the postseason, but so did five other goalies. But, everyone is still going to peg him as the consensus starter for the US team and perennial Vezina goaltender for life regardless of how good or shitty he does. He can ride that one remarkable playoffs to never having to play well again. He’s the ’85 Chicago Bears of goaltenders.
Not much has changed with the Kings roster. Dustin Penner has been replaced by Matt Frattin for a fraction of the cost because the Leafs GM is an idiot. And Ben Scrivens will go from wearing a ballcap and riding the pine behind a pretty underappreciated goalie to doing so for the exact opposite. That’s really about it. They lost Rob Scuderi, but can probably replace him with Willie Mitchell provided he doesn’t sneeze and break every bone in his body since there is probably no one else in the NHL being held together by more duct tape. This will probably yield a predictable result in Tinseltown: no Cup, no one cares.
Mike Smith, in his usual form.
WHY THEY SUCK: I can’t decide if they’re worse on or off the ice. A lot of teams can be great on the ice but poorly managed; the Devils won three Stanley Cups despite being broke as fuck most of the time. Other teams can be huge draws, but offer an absolutely terrible on-ice product; look no further than the Leafs. The sad thing about the Phoenix Coyotes is they really offer neither. They’re a generally terrible team that play in a market where they bleed money and nobody wants to watch them. They basically have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The Coyotes are a curious case. They do big boy things like extend Oliver Ekman-Larsson until well after the franchise inevitably relocates for $5.5M per, or sign UFA Mike Ribeiro (!!) for the same price. Yet, they needed to be owned by the NHL for four years because literally nobody wanted to buy them. They are a sinkhole of money that never does better than third-last in overall attendance, and averaging 14,000 fans a game is a good year. Meanwhile, the City of Glendale actually keeps paying for this shit because apparently having a hockey team around that nobody watches is more important than properly funding things like a police force or road maintenance. The lone redeeming quality is that tickets, a beer, and a hotdog cost roughly about as much as a house in Detroit. The Coyotes are the ugly redheaded stepchild of the NHL, and only exist because Glendale elected people who could somehow fuck up at Sim City without trying.
On the ice, they’re even more of a nightmare. In seventeen years in Arizona, they’ve managed to make the playoffs less than half of that. They’ve had just four playoff appearances in the last thirteen seasons. They’ve only won a playoff series twice in their existence, both in 2012. That, by the way, was only because Mike Smith played unsustainably well for an entire year. Notice that, with an almost identical roster, the team bellyflopped when Smith was merely average. When your team being good is entirely contingent on Mike Smith of all people being a .930 or better, that basically means you have no hope whatsoever.
Since the Coyotes can afford to only pay so much salary, and hilariously blew money on Ribeiro, they’re a pretty top heavy team. The rest of their roster is essentially made up of bit parts their former teams didn’t really want anymore: Antoine Vermette, Radim Vrbata, David Moss, Kyle Chipchura, Brandon Yip, Rusty Klesla, Derek Morris. The Coyotes are basically a Value Village for third-liner retreads.
The good news is that Phoenix won’t be totally hopeless this year. Moving into a division with three Canadian teams means more revenue when all their fans show up for games, as opposed to the usual crowd of 7,000 just there for $2 beer and free A/C. Moreover, the very existence of the Flames and Oilers means Phoenix has a fighting chance at putting together a respectable record. That said, they’re still in for a forgettable season of no real success, wasting away another year. You know those loveless marriages where the person really doesn’t even like their spouse, but is afraid of what might go wrong if they were to leave? That’s basically the Coyotes’ existence in Glendale. They’re fucked.
SAN JOSE SHARKS:
I think this is a Raffi Torres headshot we can all get behind.
WHY THEY SUCK: Different year, same shit. The San Jose Sharks really are the Groundhog Day of the NHL. Every year, they put together a respectable regular season, maybe win a playoff series or two, usually against pretty underwhelming teams, then get walloped before even having the chance to really compete for the Cup. They have two Conference Final appearances to their name, of which they sport a solid 1-8 record. Fans of Western contenders should probably root for the Sharks to make the Conference Final, since it would ensure their team a bye to the Cup Final should they get there.
This year will be the end of an era for the Sharks. Their old-as-balls core of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle are all up for UFA in 2014. Now that Detroit has packed their tinfoil hats and moved east, they are the oldest team in the West, and it’s likely two or more of those guys won’t be back next season. No worry, though! They have some promising younger guys….like Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns, who by next season will be 30 and 29, respectively. Sure, that’s not ‘tying an onion to your belt’ old like the Sharks have now, but the Sharks do have two guys likely past their peaks signed to pretty long-term deals. That’s like being a chubby guy pointing to the morbidly obese man on a scooter at Walmart , and saying “SEE? I’M NOT FAT!” They do have a solid future franchise player in Logan Couture, a decent young blueliner in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and…..uh, well, I’m not quite sure what else.
The worst part is the one thing the Sharks had going for them was at least being likeable, and now they’re trying to piss that away, too! This is the plucky underdog team that won all our hearts by making Canuck fans cry last spring, and pissed off Red Wings fans twice before that; what’s not to love? Well, a lot when you sign players who are pieces of shit. It was bad enough when they signed Adam Burish in 2012. It got even worse when they picked up noted shitbag Raffi Torres at the deadline. Their biggest offseason acquisition is Tyler Kennedy, who may actually be ManBearPig. Also, I’m pretty sure Kennedy has just been a ghost since Luke Schenn ended him in 2009. Deep down, when you root for the Sharks to do anything good, you know you’ll be rooting for those guys and….it just feels so, so wrong. They may as well just bring back Dany Heatley and Ben Eager while they’re at it.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sharks will have a decent year. Their division got a lot easier, and the Ducks will crash to earth. They’re basically fighting with LA for the division title. Also, having a bunch of old guys in a contract year means one of them is bound to have a crazy good season that will hilariously fetch them too much money and term in free agency. In the end, you know the result will be the same; being a good, but not great team, that will eventually get its ass beat up in the postseason.
The linesman was not all that appreciative of Kesler’s Shakespeare performance.
WHY YOUR TEAM SUCKS: Same whiny losers, just one year older. You may say the Canucks’ window is still open, but there’s two glaring inaccuracies there. First, I wouldn’t call it a window, because windows can be pretty big. I’d like to think of it more like a mail slot, since nothing substantive could possibly fit through it. Second, and more importantly, the Canucks’ mail slot was only really open in 2011, and was shut promptly by Tim Thomas before he rode off into the night in a minuteman uniform among the post-apocalyptic wreckage of what used to be downtown Vancouver. Basically, it was kinda like Mad Max, but really douchey and not at all cool. Sparknotes version: the Canucks had one shot at glory, blew it hysterically, and have since been relegated to playoff also-ran status, which will surely be their ceiling this season.
The Canucks are basically the Red Wings of a few years ago, minus being able to win anything. They thrived by beating up on a completely incompetent division which was adequately hiding just how old as balls they are. Their prize ponies, the Sedin twins, are 32 this season and their regular season offense is in the beginning stages of falling off a cliff. I’d calculate the same for the postseason, but dividing by 0 is impossible. Their starting goalie is 34 and really doesn’t want to be here after fans and management tried to run him out of town until realizing no one would take his contract. Their youngest core player is 27. They actually have nobody even remotely promising under the age of 25, which should probably bode well for the future.
Even worse for them, Vancouver no longer gets to beat up on an easy division. Realignment shipped out Minnesota and Colorado for three California teams that are all probably better than the Canucks. Los Angeles and San Jose have feasted on the corpse of the post-2011 Canucks like buzzards, while Anaheim played the Canucks pretty hard last season, too. The rest of the division isn’t much of a joke, either; Edmonton, while still shitty, is young and trending upward. Phoenix could play stiflingly boring hockey en route to another playoff appearance, as it did 2009-2011. The Canucks days as a contender are over; they’ll likely either finish fourth and 4-and-out to a California team, or get the 5th place crossover and do the same to the Blackhawks.
Of course, most teams’ fanbases would accept this with a modicum of personal responsibility. But no, not the Canucks! Canucks fans are like that obese guy who sues McDonald’s for making him fat because all he does is sit around and eat Big Macs. Everything is someone else’s fault. Lose 4-0 to the Sharks? Well, the refs wanted the Sharks to win! They, of course, have little evidence to back this up aside from the Sharks getting more powerplays in a small four-game sample. But that isn’t really surprising since the culture of whining about officiating is totally engrained in Canucks culture. 2011 saw their GM, coach, and PR team all simultaneously whine about reffing despite the fact they dove their way through three rounds. If you don’t think Canucks fans are perpetual whiners, ask yourself this: what other team has ERECTED A STATUE of a coach bitching about reffing?! Exactly.
The irony in all this is that the 2011 Canucks were pretty similar to the current Washington Capitals: take a dive, get a call, score on the PP. Pretty much their entire gameplan was to set it up to have the Sedins score on the fucking powerplay because god forbid they have to enter the defensive zone ever. Once their reputation was solidified by embarrassing themselves with incessant diving, the calls dried up. And so did their ability to ever score goals. But hey, that totally must be the fault of the refs, YOU GUYZ!
Under normal circumstances, the Canucks would be totally pointless and boring to watch this year in this division. The Kings are better, the Sharks the more loveable playoff losers, the Oilers more young and exciting, the Flames more hilariously awful. They would be, that is, were it not for their coach. That’s right, guys; John Tortorella is here to right the ship! The defensive-mindingest, shot-blockingest, net-collapsingest coach is here to save a team that has trouble scoring goals, because that worked so well in New York. Honestly, Vancouver and New York switched coaches despite having the exact same problems! It’s like an episode of Wife Swap where the two husbands married identical twins. Torts’ main difference is he wants to encourage the Sedins to block shots and kill penalties, which should go about as well as you would expect it to. By December, we’ll see Daniel on the fourth line, while Henrik gets press box duty. That said, he’ll be comedic relief resulting in endless tinfoil hat and feigned outrage columns from the Vancouver media. I mean, not that they wouldn’t happen anyways, they’ll just be funnier.
The Vancouver Canucks are older, worse, but still whinier, and with an even more hilarious coach who won’t actually fix anything. Hold on to your towels, guys; dis gon’ get goooooood.
I could honestly make a ‘Why Your Division Sucks’ piece for this division, because the NHL made it so goddamn easy. Metropolitan Division? METROPOLITAN?! Come on. Are we honestly to believe the only THRIVING CITIES are in one division, and include the wonderful venues of Newark, Raleigh, and Columbus? Those are three places that I am definitely aware have airports and probably a Chili’s or two, but I wouldn’t quite call them real life grown up cities. Nobody wants to go to Newark, not even people from Newark. Just be honest with yourselves and call it ‘Gets Handjibbers from NBC’ Division while you’re at it. Also, it reminds me of the ‘Metropolis Zone’ from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 which was the MOST ANNOYING FUCKING LEVEL ever, although the music was pretty good for early 90s video game standards.
In a throwback to the divisional structure of the pre-Bettman era, why not name the division after one of the great legends of the game? Jagr Division is an homage to the Devils’ newest acquisition, who will now be playing for his record fifth team in this division. Okay, so technically, he’s tied with Arron Asham, but who the fuck would ever name anything after Arron Asham? We’re all in agreement, then: JAGR DIVISION IT IS!
Now, here’s why your Jagr Division team sucks:
This would be the new Canadian jersey if Canadians had poor taste in national emblems.
WHY THEY SUCK: Carolina Hurricanes: Irrelevant Since 2006. Last season, it almost seemed like the Hurricanes were poised to make a breakthrough. By mid-March, with the season half done, the Hurricanes looked poised to win the Southeast Division, an achievement which is roughly as illustrious as sleeping with Amanda Bynes or eating an entire wheel of cheese in one sitting. It’s not so much something that people will be impressed with as they look at you with a cocked eyebrow and say, “Uhh….that’s…..nice?”Anyways, with the postseason in sight for the first time in four seasons, they fell short but gave it a lot of heart, dedication, and……ehhhhh, I’m just fucking with you. They brutally collapsed and finished the season 4-16-3.
People blame an injury to Cam Ward for the fact the Hurricanes went completely down the shitter last season. These people are idiots. Cam Ward put up a .908, which hardly screams Vezina-level performance. Hell, Dan Ellis- one of his replacements- wasn’t much worse at .906. The caliber of goaltending hardly changed before or after Ward. The fact of the matter is the Hurricanes were just a not very good team that benefitted from a weak division, then ultimately collapsed.
If you think it gets better this year, you haven’t been paying attention. The Canes are easily the eighth-best team in this division. They no longer have the likes of Tampa Bay, Florida, and Winnipeg to beat up on anymore, though their 4-8-1 record against those teams last season indicates they couldn’t even do that right. Now, they have to play 4-5 games a season against the likes of the Penguins and Rangers, as well as bad teams in the Flyers and Devils that are still probably better than them. They also get stuck still playing in the same division as the Capitals, the only Southeast team worth a damn. Carolina couldn’t win a kiddie jog with a head start; not a chance they can win a marathon this year.
It really doesn’t help their offseason was pretty disastrous. With the core of their offense effectively settled in the Staal brothers, Alex Semin, Jeff Skinner, and Jiri Tlusty (who should totally be able to shoot 20% again this season), you’d think they would make a splash on D. Well, they did, if you count signing Andrej Sekera and Mike Komisarek as a ‘splash.’ Also, they signed Nathan Gerbe for depth. When your marquee moves in free agency are to sign two guys Buffalo didn’t want anymore and Mike Komisarek, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
The worst part about the Hurricanes is they’re as shitty as their predecessor team, minus any trace of redeeming qualities. The Hartford Whalers were at least a likeable team. They played in a mall, had Brass Bonanza and cool green jerseys. They were the little guy trapped between the Boston and New York behemoths that you couldn’t help but pull for, regardless of how bad they were. Carolina doesn’t even have that going for them. Their fanbase is largely made up of fat redneck tailgaters looking for something to do with their time between ACC basketball games and NASCAR races. Their logo either looks like a failed energy drink logo or a clam eating a tampon. Their city, while big, is somewhere most people drive on the way to somewhere better. And, yes, the Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006, by which I mean they sat back, watched Buffalo and Edmonton lose the Hunger Games, and just happened to be in the right place in the right time. Their one playoff appearance in the last seven years in the weakest division in NHL history is really pretty impressive, though. You know that mom-and-pop store that got bulldozed for a big box retail giant, except its really mediocre, hires shitty staff at minimum wage, has things missing off the shelves, and sells shit that breaks too easily? The Carolina Hurricanes are that store. They’re the worst kind of suck.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS:
This is the most Ohio thing that’s ever Ohio-ed.
WHY THEY SUCK: It’s all on BOBROVSKY! If there’s one thing that’s a permanent fixture in the Columbus Blue Jackets identity, it’s having one player stand out among a collective pile of shit. Prior to his trade, that was Rick Nash. Last season, more conveniently, it was Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky put up a .932, won 21 games (perhaps singlehandedly for Columbus), and was only the best goalie the Jackets have had in franchise history. That’s the good news.
The bad news, however, is that you just know there’s no way that BOBROVSKY is pulling it off again. Look at that SV% again: .932. That’s not even just excellent, that’s stratospheric! The best starting goaltender in 2011-12 was a .930, and that was Henrik Lundqvist, who isn’t exactly a comparable standard in either goaltending or handsomeness. Lundqvist was tied with Mike Smith, who should be able to tell you just how sustainable that kind of performance is on a year-to-year basis. Columbus being in a division with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Tavares, and Giroux- none of whom they faced last season- definitely can’t help either. The other problem is even with Bob putting up those numbers, Columbus still finished ninth. They got the best goaltending they could’ve possibly asked for and still missed the playoffs. Honestly, how bad does a team have to be for that to happen? That’s like getting liposuction but still somehow being fat afterwards.
Things are at least looking up offensively! Er…maybe. They acquired Marian Gaborik who should likely EXPLODE because it’s a contract year, though they may lack the resources to keep him around after this year. They’ve signed Nathan Horton until 2020, which is great, because it’s not like he has a pretty bad history missing big chunks of time with concussions or anything. He looked great in Boston alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic, though; I’m sure playing with the likes of R.J. Umberger and Artem Anisimov will totally be a comparable experience. I probably shouldn’t remind you that this team has so much depth at centre and left wing that Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky are probably first-liners here. But hey, they also added pieces in….uh…Blake Comeau, and….ummm…..uh….Jack Skille. So there’s that?
As for the D, well they have six defensemen under contract, and I’m honestly being generous when I use the term ‘defensemen.’ Jack Johnson is stuck here until 2018, which is great because I could have just written that phrase over and over and called it a day with this section. They have Tim Erixon and Dalton Prout, neither of whom I’m actually sure you’ve ever heard of. James Wisniewski is still being paid way too much money to take on way too much responsibility as a 1D because Columbus really doesn’t have anyone else. You ever go to a McDonald’s and the manager looks stressed and hurried because he wasn’t really management material but three people above him quit so the franchise had no choice? That’s James Wisniewski’s existence.
The Blue Jackets took a great leap forward to relevance, but it was largely thanks to Bobrovsky. It’ll be a long one next season when the division lights him up as his SV% drops, while getting no help from D and paying wheelbarrows of money for Horton to sit in a quiet room. Some teams have windows to win a Cup; Columbus has windows to make the playoffs. Their first was in 2009, which they capitalized on by making it and not winning a game. Their second window was last year, and they couldn’t even make it. Make no mistake, their next window won’t be open for a while.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS:
Ed Belfour says ‘You’re doing it wrong!’ while polishing off a quart of moonshine.
WHY THEY SUCK: LOLvalchuk. Hey, remember that Russian superstar the Devils had? Ilya Kovalchuk? Yeah, you know that guy Devils ownership put a gun to Lou Lamiorello’s head to sign only to nearly break the salary cap in the process? The guy on their books for fifteen years who hamstrung the Devils cap so badly that guys like Zach Parise and David Clarkson were left with little choice but to leave the team? Well, he decided he’d rather go earn buttloads of money tax-free in Russia, but of course waited until after those two guys who were about 90% of their non-Kovalchuk offense were gone to do it.
How do the Devils look without Kovalchuk? Well, they were shooting less than 7% at even strength even with him in the lineup last season. Without him, their general game plan was to rack up about 45 shots a game- roughly three of which were maybe legitimate scoring chances- and maybe get one goal out of it. The Devils offensive system is basically Jason Blake minus the speed. Even with a shiny new goaltender in Cory Schneider, they’re probably boned if he allows even 2 goals a game. And let’s not even talk about if New Jersey decides to go with Brodeur over him since their beloved Marty is a lot like expired milk: well past his best before date and getting chunkier by the day.
This shouldn’t be surprising given a cursory look at the Devils roster. Their offense consists of Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique (who had a season that’d prorate to 30 points in 2013), and…nobody. Their grand acquisition was to replace Kovalchuk with the aging corpse of Jaromir Jagr. If nothing else, Jagr’s postseason in Boston should fit in well with the Devils’ ‘shoot a lot but don’t actually score goals’ system. Meanwhile, they comically gave almost $5 million to Ryane Clowe, who took almost three months last year to even score a goal. Michael Ryder is respectable depth; the problem is on this Devils team, he’s hardly depth. New Jersey is a pit of nothingness that apparently can only get Newfies and old people to work there. They’re the fucking Fort McMurray of the NHL.
That’s also only their top six; their depth players are…well, let’s just be honest. They have no depth players. Rostislav Olesz is being paid $1 million, and is so terrible, the Hawks didn’t even want anything to do with him after losing half their bottom six in June. Steve Bernier’s only noteworthy accomplishment since 2007 was taking a comically stupid penalty that handed the Stanley Cup to the LA Kings. Stephen Gionta is totally the Sean Pronger of his family. Krystofer Barch is a useless goon who is more productive drunkenly ranting on Twitter than he is doing anything hockey-related.
The one hilarious thing that will come out of all this is that Lou Lamiorello will look less like the BRILLIANT HOCKEY MIND the world makes him out to be and more like a crazy old man. He fancies himself to be hockey’s George Steinbrenner, except for the part where his team is broke as fuck. He creates dumb rules against things like facial hair, third jerseys, and jersey numbers over 40 because OLD TIME TRADITIONAL HOCKEY is important to a franchise that’s had three different homes and didn’t exist in its current incarnation until 1982. Sure, he’s won three Cups thanks to Martin Brodeur and the most painstakingly boring style of hockey ever. Brodeur’s old, the trap is gone, and what has he done lately? That Kovalchuk contract sure turned out well, and just about everything he’s done since has been an unmitigated disaster. Sure, he fleeced Vancouver for Schneider, but Mike Gillis is a whiny, drooly baby who couldn’t deal with his goaltending problem, so that really isn’t much of an achievement. There may not be any executive who has flew under the radar by resting on the laurels of the past for an entire decade the way Lou has; he’s made an art of looking good amidst the bunch of shit he shoveled onto this roster.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS:
Um, Tavares? Shouldn’t you be taking warmups.
WHY THEY SUCK: Yawn. I’ll say one thing Islanders fans will agree with me about: John Tavares was robbed. He deserved the Hart Trophy last season. Unlike Crosby or Ovechkin, Tavares has absolutely nothing to work with on his roster. The Islanders actually made one of their 2-3 playoff appearances a decade last season basically because John Tavares willed them to. You may disagree, but who else is there? Matt Moulson? Do you think it’s a coincidence Matt Moulson went from an AHLer with 29 career NHL games to a consistent 30-goal scorer once he was stapled to Tavares’ side? It should be pretty hilarious when Moulson gets a massive payday in 2014 from a team that can afford to pay him only to realize, uhhhh wait, this guy isn’t really that great at all. Hell, Brad Boyes got 12 more points last year than in a full 2011-12 season and had almost as many assists as Tavares did goals. Hmm, interesting. I mean Tavares’ line was only responsible for 40% of the Islanders goals last season, but go ahead and tell me how deep they are.
What else is there on this team? This team is paying Cal Clutterbuck $2.75M a season despite barely being able to pay their own bills. It’s also worth noting their eighth-highest paid forward is Alexei Yashin, who hasn’t actually played for the team since 2007 but is on their payroll until 2015. Their D is hilariously top-heavy; I’m not sure many opposing offenses are really going to fear the wrath of Brian Strait and Matt ‘Colton Orr’s punching bag’ Carkner. Any success the Islanders have is also completely in spite of their goaltender. Their starting goalie is a disgruntled 38-year old who put up a fairly average 2013 season, only to be the worse goalie in a playoff series involving Marc-Andre Fleury. Seriously, it’s a bit pathetic when the opposition is nice enough to play Fleury against you for four games, and the best you can manage is a 2-2 draw.
It also bears mentioning the best Tavares can do by himself is get this team into 8th. Because the best anyone can do is get this team into 8th. Seriously; in the last twenty years, they’ve finished higher than 8th once, all while not winning a single playoff series. They’ve only even won four playoff games in the last ten years. Making the playoffs and losing in six games that weren’t all *that* close will honestly be a high point for the franchise’s recent history. That said, most of their fanbase is also made up of sad-sack Mets and Jets fans, so the Islanders are still colloquially known in JIM circles as ‘the team that actually has hope.’
Of course, their financial problems should all be over once they move to Brooklyn two years from now, right? Yeah, moving to an area with a bunch of hipsters and inner-city folks, both of whom are totally known for their appreciation of hockey. And while they’re busy playing the role of the Brooklyn Nets’ less popular little brother, it’s worth noting almost half the arena won’t even have adequate seating while the scoreboard will be positioned way off-centre. And you thought getting people to support the New York metro area’s third favourite team in their fourth favourite sport was gonna be tricky in a rich, white suburb!
The Islanders are basically the forgotten child of New York. They lack the mass appeal and popularity of the Rangers, but also the recent success of the Devils. They’re a throwback to an era in which you could host 10,000 fans in a shinny rink and still make bank, and similarly have not been relevant since the days of the Reagan administration. Their shitty lot in life makes their fans some of the most thin-skinned, insecure people in the world because cheering for depressingly shitty teams is a powerful thing when mixed with New York attitude. EVERYTHING is a conspiracy. The problem with the tinfoil hat attitude of Islanders fans is that it presupposes one simple thing: that anyone actually bothers to think about their team at all. I’m pretty sure by June, everyone had totally forgotten the Islanders even made the playoffs last season.
On ice, they’re a one-man show. Off ice, they’re a disaster. They’re that forty-something guy who peaked in high school but now smokes pot in his mom’s basement thinking about how great things were back in the day and how everything is rigged against them, maaaaan. They’re also broke as fuck and have to rely on their much more successful brothers to subsidize their life. They get laid once every few years, but it’s short and unfulfilling. In a couple years, they’ll even move out and go find a roach-infested closet of an apartment with a creepy Russian roommate to call their own! What else could you say about a team that can’t even afford to make the cap floor and has two ex-owners (including one con artist) that are currently rotting in prison? Not much at all.
NEW YORK RANGERS:
Fuck this shit; I want a trade to Columbus, too.
WHY THEY SUCK: They can’t score worth a shit. Ever since the lockout, the Rangers identity has had three basic components: (a) barely being able to score goals; (b) overpaying for marquee free agents; (c) a franchise goaltender that is good enough to temporarily make you forget about A or B until stuff matters. Last season was the biggest exposure of such weakness, as new acquisition Rick Nash was literally the only non-Lundqvist player on the team that didn’t totally suck. Hell, I know Nash was used to carrying an entire offense on his back in his Columbus days, but I figured he wanted a trade to get away from that. Of course, Glen Sather responded to this by trading away a guy in Marian Gaborik who can score goals for reasons that are quite unclear. He then went on to chew on an unlit cigar and throw more money at Brad Richards.
Of course, their greatest offseason fix to this problem was to fire coach John Tortorella. No, the Rangers could not score because the room had tuned him out! Surely the Rangers will score more under new coach Alain Vigneault, a man with a proven track record of getting the most out of his offense as evidenced by the 1.5 goals/game his Canucks scored in the postseason since the 2011 Cup Final. At least AV will be nice to the media, by which I mean he’ll communicate in 2+ syllables and only fantasize about decapitating Larry Brooks with a chainsaw in private, like the rest of us upstanding citizens.
What else did the Rangers do to improve scoring this past year? Well, they’re still paying Richards north of $6 million to put up 60 points a season until 2020, so there’s that. They also signed such prominent offensive juggernauts as Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore. That line of Carl Hagelin-Derrick Brassard-Derek Dorsett rounding out their top six sure looks intimidating!
The fact is that the Rangers will still be a half-decent team in the regular season because: (a) Vigneault is infamous for blowing his team’s scant offensive load in 82 games or less, and; (b) their competition in the division save for Pittsburgh is hilariously bad. The fact they have four terrible teams in their division means, and its unlikely anyone would beat them out for second place. So they’re a playoff lock. But once they get there, they can expect a usual weak-willed offensive effort with Lundqvist stealing them a few games en route to an utterly forgettable first or second-round exit.
The worst part of all about the Rangers is, despite NBC shoving them down our throats because it’s the No. 1 team in the No. 1 US market, they’re horrendously boring to watch. Their identity largely consists of mediocre offensive production, collapsing in the defensive zone, and letting their all-star goalie do 99% of the work. I’ve seen more enthralling things from paint drying. They’re so boring, they actually made me root for the Bruins in the second round just because I didn’t want to watch any more Rangers hockey. At least the other big market US teams have high-flying offense, great franchise players, an interesting identity, comically bad goaltending, or any combo of the above. The Rangers are neither good nor bad enough to be remotely interesting in spite of their exposure. They’re the equivalent of someone trying to sell you vanilla ice cream in Baskin Robbins.
The funniest part? The Rangers are going to be in a world of cap hurt come 2014. Just six of their players are under contract beyond this season; they have 12 UFAs, including Henrik Lundqvist. And since he’s gonna get paaaaaaid, it is easy to see quite a good chunk of their team leaving. The question is then what will they replace it with. Knowing Sather, he’ll hilariously overpay for some unworthy UFA until 2025, and the Rangers will continue the cycle of ineptitude being so bailed out by Lundqvist, you’d think they were Bear Sterns.
Philadelphia Flyers goaltending, 1985-present
WHY THEY SUCK: Paul Holmgren is still a thing. It takes a special kind of GM to trade away your two franchise players to have cap room to sign a goaltender to a long-term deal, trade away your other goalie for peanuts, then watch that goalie win a Vezina with his new team while that same team trades you their broken goalie they could finally replace with said goalie you gave them. Finally, you buy out your starter, pay him until 2027 to stay as far away from the team as possible, and hand the starting reins to said broken goalie. Remember that scene in South Park where Scott Tenorman agrees to give Cartman his money back after being swindled for pubes, but then Cartman just ends up with the pubes again after complex negotiations? That scene ultimately sums up EVERY DAY OF PAUL HOLMGREN’S LIFE.
You’d think the first warning sign of a GM would be that he’s the only person in the entire NHL to have ever given Pierre McGuire a head coaching job. That’s just awful. That’s like being the only restaurant in town to give customers E. Coli. NOBODY WOULD HIRE THAT CHEF. Fortunately, when your owner is a decrepit old man who is a stakeholder in Comcast, he may just be that stupid.
You would think when your D has been falling apart since the retirement of Chris Pronger, you’d go ahead and do something about that. Instead, Holmgren actually seems to believe the perfect complement to the rapidly aging Kimmo Timonen is the…..also rapidly aging Mark Streit! Streit is being paid $5.25M until he’s 40 to do…..I’m not sure what exactly. They also seem to be under the impression that their future Chris Pronger is in Luke Schenn. When you are billing Luke Schenn as the next ANYTHING, you’re in trouble; just ask the 2009 Leafs.
Of course, Holmgren thought there were bigger priorities out there. Priorities like signing Vincent Lecavalier to be their third-highest paid player for the next five years to basically be a glorified second liner. Then they decided to find a backup goalie in Ray Emery, who will totally be just as good behind their old and mediocre D as he was behind Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The Flyers were top 10 in scoring last season, but allowed the 8th most goals in the NHL. Clearly overpaying for 20 goals and getting a backup goalie are gonna be what turns the corner for the Flyers!
The sad thing is after a disastrous season, there was speculation of the Flyers axing coach Peter Laviolette, which would be comically bad if it happened. All Laviolette has done in his lifetime is make the Islanders briefly relevant and get the Hurricanes the only Stanley Cup they’ll ever win. He can’t help the fact his GM is giving him a roster with Steve Mason, Luke Schenn, and Bruno Gervais among others and expecting pucks to stay out of the net. He’s a coach, not a miracle worker. That said, Philadelphia sports fans need a coach to antagonize now that Andy Reid is gone, so it wouldn’t shock me if they end up booing him louder than Santa Claus or anti-cancer PSAs.
Even more hilarious is with all this money being spent on absolutely nothing relevant, the Flyers find themselves $2M over the cap, which means something will have to give before training camp starts. I’m sure we can all trust Homer to do the right thing, if by ‘right thing,’ you mean ‘hilariously bad move that will give every other fan carte blanche to laugh at the Flyers for years.’ I’d honestly put more trust in Randy Carlyle to design helmets. As Alfred said in The Dark Knight, “some men just want to watch the world burn.” Those men work in Flyers management.
Your 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins playoff review!
WHY THEY SUCK: They’re consistently good, but never good enough. Last year was the year we really thought the Pittsburgh Penguins would build a Cup dynasty for the ages. At the deadline, the Pens picked up Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray, and were really supposed to make a run for it. This, of course, seemed to disregard the fact that Morrow is well past his best days, Murray has been hot garbage since about 2009, and Iginla hadn’t been in the playoffs since the NHL postseason was apparently prohibited by the Alberta government in 2010.
Of course, the end result was obvious; after a first round bye where I’m told the New York Islanders were nice enough to help them practice, the Penguins throttled the Ottawa Senators in the second round to make everyone think this was the year. Then, they completely laid an egg against the Boston Bruins. They didn’t just lose the series, they lost every game. They didn’t just lose every game; they scored as many goals on the Bruins in four games as Cody Franson did in one. I guess that’s the longhand way of saying it didn’t go so well.
Of course, this is the same result of the hype machine drummed out by TSN and NBC every season since their 2009 Cup win. Some MONUMENTAL CHANGE is coming and the Pens are going ALL THE WAY FOR REAL THIS TIME! In 2011, James Neal and Matt Niskanen where the final pieces of the puzzle…..and then they lost in the first round to Tampa Bay and noted supervillain Guy Boucher, who had a coaching system that was publicly humiliated by the Philadelphia Flyers on national TV. This, of course, was a step up from 2012, the year of Healthy Crosby™, where the Pens were themselves publicly humiliated by the Philadelphia Flyers on national TV. It’ll inevitably happen again this year, when the Penguins go 40-15 through the trade deadline, pick up all the significant pieces, and lose in the first round to that hockey-playing chimp from the Disney movies.
You see, championship teams have depth; the Penguins have shit. All of their money is so invariably tied up in their core that their bottom six reads like a list of Delta Theta Tau pledges. Tanner Glass? Dustin Jeffrey? Beau Bennett? These are honest-to-god pieces of what is supposed to be an actual championship team?! You know you’re seriously fucked when your depth looks bad when they got rid of Matt Cooke.
This hasn’t even touched the most serious problem plaguing the Penguins: management’s stubborn insistence that Marc-Andre Fleury is actually worthy of being a franchise goaltender. The Penguins have one more season of a 37-year old Tomas Vokoun, who they’ll likely play about 20 games next year and let walk to free agency. Then, they’ll be stuck with a $5M goalie who can do…..well, not much of anything. The list of ways that Marc-Andre Fleury sucks is endless. I could lob jokes about his poor play at him all day, but they’d be likely to bounce off his pad, go through his five hole and into the back of the net. Long story short: the Pittsburgh Penguins have significant amounts of money tied up in awful, awful goaltending and somehow expect results from it.
This, of course, doesn’t matter, because they have a fanbase that believes it’s capable of winning a championship every year. That would be because most of their fans didn’t care about the Penguins until they lucked their way into two generational talents and thus do not understand this whole adversity thing. All of a sudden, Sidney Crosby made the terrible team that fans in Pittsburgh almost let walk to Kansas City for nothing become the NEXT NEW HOT SPORTS THING. If you know a Pens fan, you should show them Sudden Death, and watch them wonder if their beloved Penguins were based on the team in the movie. Of course, their media has the gall to unironically call them the ‘hockey mecca’ because apparently only paying attention when you have superstars on your team makes you oh so important. Pittsburgh fans are frontrunners that need something to do once the Steelers are out; they’re the Indianapolis Colts fans of hockey, with about the same track record of team success and municipal squalor.
I could go on about other things, such as how Evgeni Malkin has the temper of a five-year old who spilled his ice cream and takes comically dumb penalties for it. Or how they benefit from getting chintzy penalty calls if someone even so much as sneezes near Crosby. Or how their defense is the most hilariously overrated in the league since the 1980s Oilers, because apparently allowing less goals than your opponent when you’re capable of netting 5 goals a game is somehow a brilliant defensive scheme. The bottom line is you’re deluding yourself if you think the Penguins are a championship team. Sure, they’ll have a good season, and everyone will convince themselves this is the YEAR OF REDEMPTION for the Penguins. And they’ll blow it. Again. In a fashion even more cruel and hilarious than the last one.
Still the best GIF of 2013.
WHY THEY SUCK: They can’t hide behind a shitty division anymore. Ah yes, the Washington Capitals. What a story they were last season, right? A slow start looked to be the end of the road for the team, only to come ROARING back to win the Southeast Division crown and their rightful spot as 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. It was quite the storyline; Alex Ovechkin got a shiny Hart Trophy for it and everything!
I mean, sure, 27-18-3 seems impressive and all, until you remember the Capitals were actually 7-13-1 against playoff teams last year. They also played in a division where the second best team finished 9th in the conference. This was, after all, the Southeast Division, where no more than two teams ever made the playoffs in any given season. They basically punched their ticket to the postseason by beating up on the inferior. The Capitals playoff berth was the equivalent of winning a bar fight against an 85-year old man with one arm; there’s really nothing to be happy about. Once they actually got to the postseason, they did their usual disappearing act and blew 2-0 and 3-2 series leads to the Rangers before getting spanked 5-0 in Game 7. THE RANGERS. How awful do you have to be in the postseason to lose a series to the Rangers AND let them score 5 goals on you?!
Now, the Capitals no longer have the weak to prey on. They’re forced to play in a real division that includes some teams that are actually good. Their window- if they ever had one- to make it past the second round has completely shut. It’s now almost guaranteed any such road would have to go through the Penguins and Rangers, who only happen to be responsible for three of their last five playoff demises. Of course, that’s if they make it at all, since their horrendous record against playoff teams should bode well in a division with three teams who made it that far last year versus, y’know, zero.
The Capitals have their 1-2 punch of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom- collectively good in the postseason for 2 goals, 5 points, 1 hilarious GIF (above) and 2 awkwardly bad Geico commercials- but not a whole lot beyond that. The rest of their roster wouldn’t crack the top six on a championship team. They traded their best prospect for 2.5 years of Martin Erat. A staggering lack of depth, of course, shouldn’t matter much when you have a coach that plays an all-star like Ovechkin with such respectable talent as Jay Beagle. I’m excitedly awaiting Oates’ next winning combo of Backstrom with Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr. They’re the only team that could possibly look worse off for getting rid of Mike Ribeiro.
You’d think a team that can just never get it done in the postseason would take some personal responsibility for their actions. Or, y’know, their star player can just go cry to the media about how mean and biased the refs were acting. Huh, that’s funny; says here Washington had far and away the best powerplay in the NHL in the 2013 regular season, but were only 9th in scoring at even strength. Also funny: Ovechkin’s lone playoff goal was on the powerplay. OH NO THE REFS DIDN’T CALL ENOUGH PENALTIES SO WE COULD WIN GAMES ON POWERPLAY GOALS BECAUSE THAT’S THE ONLY WAY I SCORE IN THE PLAYOFFS BLOO BLOO. Better make sure the Waaaambulance is on speed dial if Ovi is stuck with Beagle at evens again this year.
People compare the Capitals’ dismal playoff performance to the Sharks, but that just isn’t accurate. The Sharks underachieve in the postseason, but everyone expects it to the point that they’ve gone full circle to a plucky underdog. You WANT the Sharks to pull it off this time against all odds. Also, the Sharks have actually made it past the second round recently, but that’s neither here nor there. The Capitals, on the other hand, are continually overhyped and overrated to the point where nobody in their right mind would want to pull for them. Their fanbase are….well, I can’t call them frontrunners since that implies they’ve hitched their wagon to someone at the front, but they’re pretty fair weather. All and all, should be pretty fun to see how the acclimatize to sitting at the adult table of NHL divisions for a change (spoiler: probably not so good).
There is nothing that I enjoy more than discussing hockey in a completely objective, level-headed manner.
Haha, just kidding. There’s nothing I really enjoy more than being a complete asshole to every fanbase possible. That’s why I liked writing the Why Your Team Sucks previews. I intend to come into this season armed with even better material because, well, it feels as though every team has provided me with it.
Also, I don’t care what the NHL is going to name its divisions. I’m naming them what I want to, starting with the aptly-nicknamed Flortheast Division.
This will never not be funny.
WHY THEY SUCK: ’
Patriots Bruins Way’: Question: when your top player at a position is leaving the team to get a fresh start, and another quality player at that position also will not be returning, what do you do?
If your answer is ‘give the next best player left on your roster a chance on the top line,’ you are most people. If your answer is ‘trade him because he acts like a 21-year old,’ congratulations on being Peter Chiarelli. Of course, this omits the fact that Tyler Seguin actually is 21 years old, and makes an obscene amount of money that would put him on the right side of the bell curve for earnings of people his age. Hell, at that time in my life, I lived at home and had about $200 in my chequing account; I would’ve wanted to go to bars and make it rain, but that could only be a dream.
But, of course, Seguin wasn’t acting like a True Professional™, so that wouldn’t cut it. Reporters- after the trade, of course- stated that he was under heavier guard during the playoffs than most political prisoners, and that he wore the same outfit three days in a row as if that’s unusual for someone who probably doesn’t know how a washing machine works. And with that, they trade one of their youngest players and crumble their depth at right wing in a way that would make Tim Thomas cry if he wasn’t still locked away in a bunker.
This notion of professionalism, of course, is pretty hilarious when you think about it. Is it professional to treat March, April, and right up to Minute 58 of Game 7 of your first round playoff series the way a high school senior with a Harvard acceptance treats their dwindling months of secondary education? Is it professional to kick and scream because a player rightly exercised his NTC to take a trade to the place he wanted to go and not your team (only to sign him four months later)? Is it professional to lose the Stanley Cup by blowing it on two goals in 17 seconds? Is it professional to do…..well, whatever it is that Brad Marchand does around here? Apparently this is the ‘professionalism’ they wanted to see more of in a 21-year old kid.
Now, they will depend on Loui Eriksson to carry most of the load at RW. Also, they have Jarome Iginla. In a matter of weeks, they go from Horton-Seguin-Jagr to Eriksson-Iginla-random homeless man taken off the street. All because Chiarelli fancies himself to be some sort of Belicheck-lite with dat dere ‘BRUINS WAY,’ folks.
On the defensive side, getting rid of Andrew Ference will be helpful if Dougie Hamilton can manage to not be a total fuckup. Given that the kid looks scared of his own shadow, I don’t see it. I guess Boston is ready to anoint Torey Krug the next big defensive MONSTER, because a five-game sample size against a hapless Rangers team should be a solid indicator. Chara also ain’t getting any younger at 36, and it’s entirely possible an 82-game season will take its toll on him. At least they have eight more years of Tuukka Rask, but you better hope he stays awesome the whole time at $7M per.
Overall, the Bruins will enter this season older and slower than they were last season. But, at least they sure handled that Seguin kid properly. There’s no place on a championship team for a player like th-……oh. Um, never mind, then.
Buffalo Fried Chickenshit: visor-lickin’ good!
WHY THEY SUCK: Darcy Regier still has a job? Darcy Regier still has a job. The ineptitude of Buffalo Sabres management was well-documented in past years. The Sabres rich new owner threw bags of money at the front office to spend in free agency. Remember in Jack and the Beanstalk how Jack was told to get money for a cow, and instead sold it for magic beans because he’s a stupid little dipshit? Well, Darcy Regier’s management of Terry Pegula’s money is arguably one step below ‘magic beans’ stupid. At least the beans produced something tangible; Ville Leino at $4.5M and locking in Christian Ehrhoff until he’s nearly 40? Not so much. Also, if given the chance, Regier would probably have the giant from that beanstalk world play on the fourth line with John Scott.
Speaking of magic beans, I’m pretty sure that’s what Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller- i.e. the only Sabres with any redeeming qualities- will be traded for once Buffalo crashes and burns out of the gate. Sure, they have somewhat promising prospect Mikhail Grigorenko, but Regier hilariously burned a year of his ELC while he was shuttled between the fourth line and press box, then sent him to junior two months too late anyhow. While Grigorenko won’t have Lindy Ruff around to stunt his development anymore, that was only because Regier had to fire his longtime buddy to save his own undeserved job.
Coming back to Leino for a second, anyone with half a brain would assume he’d be the person deserving of a compliance buyout. Of course, guess who doesn’t have half a brain and bought out a guy who had the same stat line as Leino in 2011-12, but made only $1.42M? This is the part where Darcy Regier points at himself and says ‘THIS GUY!’ while trying oh so hard not to drool too much or shit his pants.
The saddest part of all, however- sadder than the fact they have inept management, a cruddy market, and will therefore never attract or draft proper talent- is that they employ noted shitbag Patrick Kaleta. Seriously; in a division with Brad Marchand, Brendan Gallagher, and Chris Neil, Kaleta somehow manages to be the worst human being of all. For a team that was so up in arms about Ryan Miller being run, they sure didn’t seem to mind when Kaleta went all Michael Strahan on divisional goalies. Of course, it’s not like he’ll ever hold himself accountable for his actions either. He’s the hockey equivalent of a hit-and-run, just with 200% more run. Fuck Patrick Kaleta.
In conclusion, the Sabres and Regier will derp their way to last place in February, only to have their annual untimely winning streak kick in long after they’re out of it to ensure a solid 11th-12th place finish, where they can have a mid-range pick of the next young kid’s dreams to crush and ruin. Because it’s Buffalo.
DETROIT RED WINGS:
Detroit: our auto industry is dead, but the calamari industry is THRIVING!
WHY THEY SUCK: They can’t escape the inevitable forever. Finally, the Detroit Red Wings are in the Eastern Conference! Funny that their fans seem to believe the league is conspiring against them, and the NHL responds in kind by giving them exactly what they had been whining about for fifteen years. Never mind moving Toronto east in the last alignment in 1998 made more sense since Toronto is farther east than Detroit. Detroit’s unjust imprisonment in the West was a great oppression akin to South African apartheid or segregation in 1960s America, and should not have been stood for! How awful it must have been to have to travel to faraway time zones like ‘Pacific’ and ‘Mountain,’ and be brought down by it so much that you only made the postseason every single year. Oh, the humanity!
Of course, Detroit has that magical run of twenty-two straight seasons with a playoff appearance. In case you forgot about it, here’s a dozen Red Wings fans to remind you how their team is a Modern Dynasty™ and The Best Franchise in History™. They’ll tell you about how Detroit has won roughly one Cup per 25,000 vacant homes in their lifetime. They’ll tell you how Pavel Datsyuk is the greatest player in hockey; should you disagree, you are worse than Hitler. They’ll tell you how, with the chips stacked against them, they so amazingly made the postseason. Never mind they had to fight Columbus for said spot and barely won; never mind they played an Anaheim Ducks team in the first round that was more lucky than skilled; never mind that they had a 3-1 chokehold on the hated Blackhawks and that the officials (which are part of that league conspiracy, YOU GUYZ!) gave them a free mulligan in Game 7, only to blow the game and series. Never mind, because if you tell a Red Wings fan about this, they will remind you that they’ve made the playoffs every year since Vanilla Ice was a thing.
Here’s the problem, though; not all good things last forever. The last playoff record-holder, the St. Louis Blues, went into the 2005 lockout having made the postseason every year since those things Randy Carlyle calls ‘brain incubators’ were made mandatory; their demise was swift and comical. Ditto the Boston Bruins, who went 30 years straight before crashing and burning with a 61-point campaign in 1996-97. It will happen to Detroit, and boy will it be hilarious when it does.
More importantly, the conditions are pretty much ripe for such a thing to happen. Their core is of the age where they’re all past their best before dates. Datsyuk is 35, Zetterberg 32, Franzen 33. They have three more players in their forward corps over the age of 35, presumably signed to hand out butterscotch candies to the rest of the team. Comparatively, new acquisition Stephen Weiss seems like quite the spring chicken at the age of 30. They also signed Daniel Alfredsson for a victory lap season at 40, since Mike Modano and Borje Salming should be able to tell you how well that works out for you.
Their ‘next generation’ of players is also sorely lacking; who will take the reins? Darren Helm is a third-liner at best. Justin Abdelkader’s biggest assets to the team are blatant headshots and dumb penalties. Is it Drew ‘Wayne Primeau of his family’ Miller? Patrick Eaves? Cory Emmerton? I guess Red Wings fans will probably answer Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist since both our being shoved down our collective throats as the next ‘Datsyuk/Zetterberg’ pairing.
Defensively, the team still looks like a mess with Lidstrom gone. Niklas Kronwall’s version of defense is thunderous hits that are borderline assault. Danny DeKeyser is supposed to be the next Lidstrom (since in great Detroit lore, every prospect is always the next someone!), but it’s hard to tell based on 13 career NHL games. Jimmy Howard really has his work cut out for him, though you better hope he stays healthy, since Jonas Gustavsson managed to look worse than he did in Toronto, which I didn’t realize was a thing that is possible.
The Grim Reaper is staring at the back of the Red Wings, and biding his time until the inevitable happens. The sooner it can happen, the better, since until then, we’re forced listening to this ‘US AGAINST ALL ODDS’ tripe. It’s as if fans are blissfully unaware the world doesn’t just collectively put the Red Wings in the playoffs in preseason rankings the way people put milk and eggs on a grocery list. Of course, even if they do make it, they’ll be a second round exit at best, and come out of it a year older with nothing to show for it.
You stay cool, Florida.
WHY THEY SUCK: Worst at everything. It’s rare that a team could go from the postseason to managing to score the least number of goals while allowing the most in an NHL season, but when it comes to being terrible, damn if the Florida Panthers don’t have some sort of god-given monopoly on it!
For starters, the Panthers are the most irrelevant team in the NHL. Their sole purpose is to effectively breed talent (if you could call it that) for other teams while silently collecting their revenue-sharing cheques and going about their day. This would, of course, be why they’re giving out season tickets for $7/game, plus a free jersey! At this rate of value deflation, 2014 season tickets can be expected to go for about $4.50 a game, plus a free beer and 10-minute handjob from ownership.
Small wonder they’re effectively catering ticket packages to snowbird fans who are now their new intradivisional overlords. Not to mention the fact you can live as far away from Florida as possible to get season tickets, but you’d have an easier time selling a $5,000 beachball on Kijiji than a $5 Panthers ticket. Hockey as a whole forgets about the Florida Panthers unless they happen to be playing your team that night, yet they continue to exist somehow; they’re basically the Two And A Half Men of the NHL.
You can point out most of the people in Florida are racist, toothless hicks or vapid, soulless billionaires. What you can’t do, however, is blame them for not caring in the least about the lowly Panthers. This year, the reigns of starting goaltender go to a guy who has played 32 career NHL games and posted a lowly .901 last season. Their D is basically a car crash; they have $7M tied up in Brian Campbell, while paying over $4M to Ed Jovanovski until he’s 40 because the NHL forced them to spend money they didn’t have to reach the cap floor. Beyond that, their best player in Stephen Weiss got the fuck out of Dodge because he was sick of playing for a broke team in a nice city and thought he’d rather do the opposite. Even though they suffered scores of injuries last season, their line combos will still probably look like Stevie Wonder picked them out of a hat.
And so, another season will go down in the books to complement the ones that preceded it- a sea of bad seasons, but for one playoff appearance where they won a shitty division that no longer exists because they waited until after 60 minutes to lose enough games. And so, they will lose, and waste money they don’t have while leeching from richer and/or more successful teams. Their new motto very well should be: “Florida, Come See The Panthers: They’re Just Like Your Drunk Uncle.”
Apparently biting the guy choking you is a bad thing.
WHY THEY SUCK: Two words: whiny midgets. I guess it’s no surprise that in a fanbase that called 9-1-1 over a Zdeno Chara hit, that the Canadiens players and fanbase alike are made up of a bunch of babies. No, not those Brazilian superbabies, either; just the whiny, crappy kind.
Take a look for a moment at the above photo. You can see that Max Pacioretty basically has Mikhail Grabovski in some kind of bastardized headlock. This incident, of course, is not famous for that, but for speculation that Grabovski bit him (which Grabovski later admitted because, y’know, he couldn’t breathe and shit). Most fanbases would just call it a wash and move on; but not Montreal! No; after Pacioretty was more than eager to shove the bitemarks into the ref’s face multiple times. Habs fans followed suit onto the outrage-o-meter, again carefully omitting the fact that their beloved Patches was tryna choke-a-bitch.
Of course, this isn’t something just reserved to the hated Leafs; in fact, the whining comes out every time the other team is, above all else, beating them up on the scoreboard. This phenomenon repeated itself in a Habs-Senators first round series that was roughly as even as a matchup between a fat kid and a personal pizza. Between a pair of 6-1 blowouts and a blown two-goal lead, the Habs and their fans conducted themselves exactly like you’d expect them to. Despite Lars Eller’s Game 1 injury being the result of a suicide pass from his own teammate, Habs fans went apeshit on Eric Gryba for being too in position, I guess? Perhaps the icing on the cake of the Montreal Way™ was Therrien’s comment that Gionta ‘cried in his arms.’ Yup, sounds about right.
Of course, it should be no surprise Montreal houses the whiniest hockey fans east of Vancouver; they’re fucking spoiled. The team has won 24 Cups in its existence, a fact that no Canadiens fan will ever let you forget despite the fact many of them were either not born or far too young to actually remember the last one. They have so many half-hour home pre-game ceremonies that next year’s headliners are likely to include the guy who cleaned jockstraps during the 1986 Cup run, and the 1957 Montreal Forum concessions staff. When you bring a kid into a rich family and give him everything he ever wants, he’ll throw a tantrum when the world doesn’t cater hand and foot to him. Montreal is basically the spoiled tantrum-throwing kid of the NHL.
As for the team? Some decent pieces like PK Subban and Carey Price, but godawful depth, and they rode a decently high S% and goaltending to the division title. Well, that and the far superior Bruins deciding to take the months of March and April off because lulz. Their D is pretty top-heavy, and they’re as strong on the wings as a penguin. No, not the Penguins; a penguin. They’re paying Daniel Briere $4M a season, which is hilarious because he’s 35 and in decline. It’s even more hilarious because, in typical Habs fashion, they’ve spent seven years being angry at Briere for not deigning to sign with Montreal in 2007. Hometown star doesn’t sign with team, then signs with them when he’s too old? Ohhhh man, does this ever have ‘Lindros-to-Toronto’ written all over it! Oh, they also traded actual warm-bodied hockey players for George Parros, because apparently the Randy Carlyle Way is just that infectious. To dumb teams, anyways.
Boston shook up their roster, but is pretty strong. Ottawa and Detroit improved. Toronto self-immolated but might be able to ride strong goaltending and Phil Kessel existing. Montreal just kinda shuffled off awkwardly into the corner; that is, until the next pregame ceremony in the fall.
This is literally the most noteworthy moment in Sens history. That isn’t even a joke.
WHY THEY SUCK: You can’t win a championship on crazy alone. On the surface, it wouldn’t seem like there’s much to write about the Ottawa Senators. Their team made the playoffs twice in a row, against pretty much all odds. They did so last year with half their roster injured at one time or another. Their
resident Wilford Brimley impersonator coach seems like a likeable guy, and pretty good at his job what with his Jack Adams title and all. They also seemed to make all the right offseason moves, trading for a solid young winger in his prime in Bobby Ryan and acquiring depth winger Clarke MacArthur, all costing them relatively little.
And yet, in spite of this, they manage to still be a bunch of whiny sucks.
Yes, while most fans would be appreciative of the fact that they’ve got an improving roster and a coach who can still do a lot with just a little talent, Sens fans largely spent the offseason mourning the loss of their beloved patron saint Daniel Alfredsson. See, rather than return to the Sens for one more regressing season, he decided to sign up for a forgettable year with the Red Wings that’s apparently a mandatory pre-retirement protocol in the NHL now. And this, of course, is all that Sens fans can focus on.
This shouldn’t be a surprise considering this fanbase churns their insecurities into an obsessive personality. They treat their favourite players like cult leaders, although instead of drinking cyanide-infused Kool Aid, they tweet shit like #lalala without even having a clue what the fuck it means. They shove things down your throat like ‘HEY BRO LOOK AT THIS KASPARS DAUGAVINS SHOOTOUT ATTEMPT 400 MORE TIMES’ because it’s the only way the folks at the NHL’s grown ups table will notice them. They not only stole that whole #Pesky[Team] meme from the Dallas Stars, but they beat it into the ground in a way that’d make a dead horse jealous.
And the butthurt; you can’t forget the butthurt. Any time it becomes abundantly clear that many people in Ottawa deign to cheer for the (obsessively) hated Leafs over them, they kick and scream like a child who didn’t get the toy they wanted in their Happy Meal until someone magically makes those mean ol’ Leafs jerseys pretend to go away forever. They’re so butthurt, they actually wrote their own eulogy to counter their Puck Daddy eulogy because ‘it wasn’t funny.’ Generally, pointing out how butthurt someone is to their face isn’t funny, because butthurt people don’t laugh about a whole lot.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone how crazy these people are; look at who runs their team! Apparently Eugene Melnyk earmarked so much of his money for losing investments and forensic investigations that he forgot to keep some left over to pay his franchise leader. Be mad at this wingnut, not Daniel Alfredsson for deciding to leave. Seriously, when a player looks at your team’s finances and says ‘fuck this, I’m going to Detroit!’ you’re fucked. That’s a lot like someone saying that Paul Bernardo would make a better babysitter than you. At least he should make some money from forking the arena naming rights over to Canadian Tire. It’s a perfect partnership; like Canadian Tire, the Senators are located in the middle of nowhere, have a parking lot three sizes too big, and their money is worth jack shit.
The sad thing is, looking at this first paragraph again, this team could be oh so likeable. They have some likeable players, a likeable coach, a competent
Daffy Duck impersonator GM. Yet, due to crazy, borderline insolvent ownership and a fanbase that just can’t help but overcompensate for some serious insecurities, they’ll always be that Canadian team that’s kinda sorta there. They’re annoying and Canadians only know they exist because their fans won’t shut up and we’re legally obligated to talk about them. The Ottawa Senators: the Hedley of the NHL.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING:
Meanwhile, the Shamwow guy pretends to have heard of the Florida Panthers…
WHY THEY SUCK: Tampa Bay Stamkoses. You wouldn’t think that a team that has what is probably the second-best player in all of hockey could be mired in a Florida-esque swamp of perpetual sucktitude; you wouldn’t, but that’s what’s happening. It doesn’t help that Tampa Bay is probably playing the wrong sport to be a one-trick pony; LeBron James and his two rings could probably tell you just how well that shtick works in basketball.
What do you do when your team gives up the fifth-most goals per game? Simple; you build yourself a goaltending tandem that’s predominant skill isn’t so much ‘being good’ as it is ‘being big enough to ensure some pucks kinda sorta have a difficult time getting through, maybe.’ This team traded for a goalie of the future, only to have him suck enough that they had to overpay a legitimately decent prospect in Cory Conacher to acquire Ottawa’s goalie overflow in Ben Bishop. Bishop, their new new goalie of the future has played 45 games with a career .913, which should totally instill some confidence in net going forward, right? He also continued to play with the Senators logo on his mask even after being traded to the Lightning, which is totally irrelevant, but was still pretty annoying.
That their broken goaltending tandem that actually cost them players and draft picks might not totally suck, of course, is presupposed on the silly notion that their defense is capable of doing anything useful. Aside from Victor Hedman, the Lightning D only comes in three different models: overpaid ($5.5 million of Matt Carle); old as balls (Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo); and, obscure replacement level (at best) players (Keith Aulie, Radko Gudas). We would also have accepted a fourth category for Gudas under ‘players that shouldn’t have quit their day job as a Bond villain.’
Sure, their offense has Stamkos, and an up-and-coming rookie in Jonathan Drouin. Sure, Martin St. Louis may not completely act like he’s 35 just yet. That said, every forward aside from those three reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of forgettable disappointments. BJ Crombeen is a one-dimensional goon, minus the part where you’re actually supposed to be good at fighting; he’s basically Ryan Hollweg with a cooler name. They have $9.5 million tied up in Valteri Filppula and Ryan Malone. Look at the rest of their forwards; good chance you’ve barely heard of any of these guys in your life. I won’t say it’s an obscure list of losers, but Major League manager Lou Brown thinks there’s probably ‘three or four potential all-stars’ in that crop.
The existence of Stamkos (and, perhaps, Drouin) mask a lot of the fatal flaws of the team. Steve Yzerman is effectively proving why Detroit wouldn’t let him near their front office. Hell, the fact their uniform looks like a Korean knockoff Leafs jersey with the Flash logo superimposed on it is pretty much the least of their problems right now.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS:
He’s that sad looking man in the press box, Randy.
WHY THEY SUCK: Comically inept management, comically idiotic fans. The good news: the Toronto Maple Leafs actually made the playoffs! The bad news: they managed to do it while being run by the most idiotic GM-Coach tandem fathomable. In all reality, you could get a better result from Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ characters in Dumb and Dumber than these guys. Oh, and look, Dave Nonis got a 5-year extension from ownership, so it may well be Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest from Tim ‘Plan the Parade’ Leiweke.
After a season where your defense gives up the most shots in the league, and you make the postseason based on great goaltending and a fairly high shooting percentage, what should your offseason priority be? Defense? Nah, just pick up some nobody named TJ Brennan; you’re cool, bro! First, you gotta re-sign both your useless goons so you have someone to play those tough fourth line minutes, all three-and-a-half of them! Clearly your plan should be to trade assets for ‘insurance’ on your starting goaltender who had the best statistical season in recent Leafs history. Then, instead of buying out a third-pairing defensemen making $3.875M, you should get rid of your best two-way centre for nothing, and use the proceeds to sign a third-line winger who was marginally better at best than the one you let walk for $2M more.
Oh, and sign Tyler Bozak. Fuck Tyler Bozak. Tyler Bozak is the goddamn Jonas Hoglund of this generation’s Leafs team. He is a first-line black hole where dreams go to die, and he makes me long for Kyle Wellwood as far as perennially disappointing top six centres who wear #42 go. But hey, teenage girls love him; teenage girls also love Justin Bieber, so maybe the Leafs should sign him, too! But at least they kept Kessel happy with his bestest buddy on the team because he’s totally not a professional, and the NHL is clearly a league where every game ends in a tie and you all get orange slices after the game.
Of course, all this signing of useless players totally won’t create a giant cap crunch when it comes time to re-sign the players who actually contributed to your team. Now the Leafs are apparently contemplating a trade for Cody Franson. Since, y’know, getting rid of our highest-scoring blueliner who can comfortably play top 4 minutes and fits well on the powerplay is just the ticket to improving our defense! That should go over well, considering his replacement options are a legitimately overpaid 6D with concussion problems (John-Michael Liles), a guy who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2009 (Paul Ranger), a prospect clearly not yet ready for a full-time gig in the NHL (Morgan Rielly), or someone who just flat out sucks (Korbinian Holzer). Yeah, this should probably fix everything and totally not make it worse; GET ‘ER DONE, NONIS! HASHTAG TML TALK HASHTAG LOVE THIS TEAM!
Basically, this team made the playoffs with unsustainably bad defensive play and puck possession. It had the opportunity to address this, but instead doubled down on the stupidity and somehow will probably make its D worse in the process. The worst part is that long-suffering Leaf fans should be outraged this idiocy happened, but most are instead creaming their collective pants because David Clarkson liked Wendel Clark as a kid or some shit like that. The team’s fanbase seems to pride itself on being the second incarnation of the Charlestown Chiefs than actually winning hockey games. Luckily, such morons will probably get their wish if this team finishes seventh in the division, only because a team made up entirely of garbage bags of wet leaves could probably do better than Buffalo. You get what you overpay for, I guess.
This is a GIF of his actual skating speed, by the way.
#5: Andy Wozniewski
TENURE ON CBA-ERA LEAFS: 2006-08.
STAT LINE: 63 GP, 2G, 9A, 11P, +4 (i.e. proof that +/- is a terrible stat)
REASON FOR RANKING:
Andy Wozniewski was a favourite third-pairing defensemen of then-coach Paul Maurice for reasons that never quite made sense to anyone. No one’s really sure how he ended up on the Leafs without being left in the woods by the team bus on a road trip. Theories on why this might be include that he either was Maurice’s lawyer’s brother’s son’s former roommate, or that he had compromising photos of the coach either with a live boy or dead girl. The debate on this matter still rages on.
One thing that remains certain, however, is that he was unfit to be a defenseman in the NHL. To call Wozniewski a pylon would be an insult to pylons everywhere. In their defense, you have to drive around them, so they do a good job of stopping you. I’d refer to Wozniewski as ‘glacial,’ but even then, I’m doing a major disservice to just how fast glaciers are. So I’ll leave it at this: Ryan O’Byrne could beat him in a footrace wearing lead skates. Yeah. That slow.
As a completely slow, useless defensemen, Woz had two patented defensive moves: (1) skate consistently 3-5 strides behind even the slowest NHL forwards; (2) take a stupid penalty hooking the guy with the puck because #1 is a thing that is happening. No, really; in 2007-08, he had 54 PIM in 48 games. That’s 27 minor penalties, at least 25 of which were just from hooking a guy’s leg because he was that slow. You remember how wonderful the Leafs penalty kill was during this era, so I don’t need to tell you what happens next.
Also, in researching this piece, I realize he was so terrible, he made a Score analyst say this on the air. Andy Wozniewski: that shitty.
WHERE IS HE NOW?
In a move reminiscent to Randy Carlyle with Korbinian Holzer, Maurice finally realized Wozniewski was too shitty to play at the NHL level after only giving him 48 games to figure it out in 2007-08. He finished the season with the Marlies, where he played 33 games (plus 19 in the AHL playoffs) before the Leafs organization cut ties. He bounced around the AHL for two more seasons, getting brief cups of coffee with the Blues in 2008-09 and Bruins in 2009-10. Still an active player, having spent the last three years with the Swiss club EV Zug.
This is how we all feel watching you be GM, you ugly, fat imbecile.
Dear Toronto Maple Leafs,
I know most of your front office probably isn’t at the forefront of literacy, so if you’d rather stop reading now and go about your day of being idiotic meatheads, I’ll give you the executive summary: I fucking quit.
If you’re still reading, you may want to know why. As a Leaf fan, I have been through a fair amount of pain and suffering. I watched this team prepare for a post-lockout game stressing speed and youth by assembling the slowest, oldest teams possible, and make dumb trades that were largely responsible for this team missing the playoffs for nine years. NINE YEARS. For most of my formative life, I didn’t have a team in the postseason to cheer for. But, at every turn, I took it.
When the Leafs traded a promising prospect in Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, I sucked it up.
When the Leafs then doubled down on their goaltending situation by trading much-needed draft picks for Vesa Toskala, the only goaltender in NHL history to probably have worse stats than an empty net, I sucked it up.
When the Leafs traded two of their promising homegrown players in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak, perhaps the worst trade the club has made in one of the worst seasons it’s had in my lifetime, I sucked it up.
When the Leafs went 0-7-1 to start the 2009-10, with no promise or hope for the present or the future, I sucked it up.
When the Leafs gave us all the hope and promise of the playoffs, only to collapse in the worst way possible and take it right out from under us, I sucked it up.
When the Leafs hired a coach who benched one of the best defensemen on the team for most of the season, paired the No. 1 defenseman with two AHL-level plugs for half the year, and gave two-thirds of their 4th line spots to useless goons, I sucked it up.
When the Leafs decided to re-sign a useless player in Colton Orr because apparently goons matter, I sucked it up.
When the Leafs decided to show a complete lack of faith in James Reimer despite him being the sole reason they made the postseason, I sucked it up.
In sports fandom, your team will shit the bed on occasion, so you have to turn the other cheek. That’s a part of sports. The problem is that this team is such a colossal fuckup that I am out of cheeks to turn.
This was supposed to be a time of optimism and hope. On paper, not since the 2004-05 lockout had the Leafs put together such a great roster. Sure, minor adjustments needed to be made, but this looked like a team that could compete with the best in the league on a nightly basis. Of course, that was before I realized just how badly Randy Carlyle was going to fuck up at his one basic job and not play the best roster nightly.
I said during the Bernier trade that I lost faith in Nonis to understand the needs of this team, and had no confidence in him to understand what the Leafs needed going forward. The buyout of Mikhail Grabovski makes it clear to me that Nonis not only has his priorities wrong, but that he has no idea what he’s doing whatsoever. It appears he would rather spend his days pandering to the HFBoards crowd than actually do his job in a professional manner.
So, it’s become clear to me: either this buffoon gets fired yesterday, or I’m done with this team. Since I know the former won’t happen, I’ll just save you the trouble and say ‘fuck you, I quit.’ Every day that Nonis holds the GM position of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a day that I am no longer a fan of this team. When the glorious day comes that ownership comes to its senses, maybe I will come back. 4:00 PM PT start times are quite the commitment, and you’ve managed to make it not worth it for me. I’ve been through hell and back with this team, and yet I want no more.
Over the last year, even in the shadow of the Leafs doing well, I’ve noticed a divide in the Leafs fanbase. One side prioritized working on the problems that actually persisted in the organization, while the other seemed to fetishize grit and toughness while claiming the statistically-best goaltending we’ve had in 20 years was ‘weak’. One prioritized winning hockey games, stressing both the process and results, while the other stressed intangibles by relying on the results without looking at the process. In this time, it has become abundantly clear to me that this town ain’t big enough for the both of us. A fanbase divided against itself cannot stand.
Nonis has sent his message loud and clear. This team belongs to the latter; as such, I feel there is no place for me in this fanbase going forward. The dumbasses can have their team, and I will take my ball and go home. I will be sure to rub the salt in the wound further, however, when this team inevitably finishes out of the playoffs because, hey, apparently standing pat on D while buying out your best two-way centre isn’t a very good idea.
In conclusion: eat shit.
A Leafs Fan, 1998-2013
So, as I’m sure you’re all aware, there was a trade yesterday. The Leafs acquired Jonathan Bernier.
“Not bad; seems like a goalie with solid potential that never got much of a shot in LA. What’d the Leafs give up for him?”
Well, Ben Scrivens….
“Well, Bernier has put up somewhat better number than Scrivens, and is younger, so it doesn’t seem that bad…”
You didn’t let me finish. Scrivens and Frattin….
“Wait, what? That just seems a bit extensive. I mean, Frattin may only be a third-liner, but the Leafs aren’t exactly the deepest team in the NHL by any stretch of the imagination.”
Again, you didn’t let me finish.
A second-rounder in 2014 or 2015…..
And $500K in cap space goes to LA, so half of one of their contracts will still be on the Leafs’ books.
“What the actual fuck is wrong with this team?”
Where I should start with this trade is that, in isolation, broken down to its core components, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal. Jonathan Bernier has shown some promise as an NHL goaltender, and his presence on the Leafs roster could be an asset to the team. Ben Scrivens, on the other hand, is an able No. 2 goalie but will never reach starter potential; his ceiling is probably being league average with sheltered starts against easier teams. Matt Frattin has great speed and stickhandling abilities, but is unlikely to amount to more than a third liner. As for the second rounder, that’s a crapshoot in itself. In a vacuum, none of the pieces that have gone to Los Angeles can be deemed irreplaceable.
The problem is that trades aren’t made in a vacuum. There is a world of context out there that dictates the intelligence of a trade, and this one certainly doesn’t pass the smell test. The Leafs, despite great scoring prowess, are a top-heavy team offensively. They desperately need more depth, and having already lost Komarov to the KHL and being likely to lose MacArthur to free agency, they needed to lose another bottom six player about as badly as Montreal needs more corruption in municipal politics. What’s the plan to replace him? All signs seem to point to David Clarkson; if that’s the case, he is better than Frattin, but will also cost roughly $5 million to Frattin’s $925,000. When you have the core of your team up for free agency and looking for big extensions within the next two seasons, you can’t exactly afford that kind of thing. So, in the world of context, it’d make sense to keep the depth players you have rather than trade and replace them with UFAs.
The world of context also dictates the Leafs really don’t need a goalie right now. James Reimer only provided the best statistical season among Leafs goalies in twenty years, basically led a middling team into the playoffs, and took them to Game 7 of OT against what may very well be this year’s Stanley Cup champions. As his backup, and in relief of a 2.5 week absence due to knee injury, Scrivens performed ably enough to keep the Leafs afloat. Considering the Leafs tenuous history of bad backup goaltending even with good starters- Glenn Healy and Trevor Kidd come to mind- that should be enough. You can wrap yourself up in panic about Reimer’s injury history or having not played 82 games before, but that’s all it is. There is no evidence that says Reimer will miss significant time in a full season, nor any evidence that Scrivens can’t even be league average if he were to play 30 games instead of 15. Hell, we all panicked in 2002 when Cujo got injured and the Leafs were left with Corey Schwab, but he performed ably enough nonetheless. Had Cujo stayed the next year, no one would’ve advocated trading for another goalie just in case.
This trade, then, is reminiscent of that scene in Season 4 of Arrested Development where Tobias and Lindsay are conned into buying a McMansion with ridiculous add-ons. They rationalize every additional purpose with the notion of “but then we’ll *have* it.” This seems to be the thinking behind this trade; there’s no real need for Bernier on the Leafs, but they’ll have it….for additional cost.
I know we don’t need Colton Orr, but it’s only $925,000 extra!
At best, Nonis has been making deals that, as a standalone, don’t seem major or a cause for worry. Colton Orr for $925,000, Korbinian Holzer for $787,500, retained salary to LA for $500,000; sure, they don’t seem like problematic deals, but it adds up. If you’ve ever lived on a budget, you’ll understand this. For example, the $2.50 you pay for that grande at Starbucks every day before work may not seem like a lot, but if you’re saving up for a big purchase on top of all your other life expenses, that’s $50 a month that could be better spent. This is also true in the salary cap context: Kessel, Kulemin, and Phaneuf will be UFAs in 2014; Reimer and Gardiner will be RFAs in 2014; Kadri, Colborne, Gunnarsson, Franson, Fraser, and now Bernier are RFAs this season. Almost all those players will be paid increased salary in the next two seasons, some significantly so. When you look at $2,212,500 of cap hit in that context ($1,612,500 next season), it may make the difference between any of those players signing a new contract with the Leafs or walking. Maybe it won’t, but wasting cap space in any fashion is playing with fire.
At worst, Nonis has the priorities for this team all wrong. Goaltending was the least of the Leafs problems last season, and there is nothing that should indicate to any reasonable person that James Reimer is not capable of being a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. Furthermore, if his plan to replace Frattin and address the issue by signing Clarkson (or any other UFA), that only makes the cap crunch for Extensionpalooza 2014 worse rather than better. Right now, the Leafs chief points of concern should be to add defensive depth as cost-consciously as possible through the UFA or trade market, and retain all the free agent talent it has now. I don’t know where goaltending and re-signing your goon who can barely skate rank on this same list, but I’d venture to say it’s somewhere near the bottom.
In any event, the trade itself isn’t that bad. It’s just painfully unnecessary, creates more problems than it solves, and instills a complete lack of confidence in management to address the real priorities that this team needs. When Brian Burke made a trade, you might have wondered if he was insane, but you saw the point. You understood where he was coming from, what he was trying to acquire, and even if the price seemed steep at the time, you thought it might make sense. Kessel, Phaneuf, Lupul, and Gardiner all became Leafs because of those trades. Other deals of his (Stalberg-for-Versteeg, for example) ended up bombing, but only because hindsight is 20-20.
Nonis, on the other hand, just seems straight up insane. There’s no rhyme or reason to making this trade at this time. Last year, maybe; perhaps the season before. I can understand his desire to negotiate this trade back in January, before Reimer played a single game. But as the old Keynes saying goes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Even at his craziest moments, Burke struck me as having some cursory idea of what he was doing. I have zero faith in Nonis to do the same, and can only hope he proves me wrong.
Wait, wrong columnist; this is my Damien Cox file photo.
The Toronto Star is quite the storied publication. It has a long tradition of objective journalism as espoused by their Atkinson Principles, which basically say ‘ just be a bunch of left-wing asshats.’ The journalists at the paper have a proud tradition of crack reporting (no pun intended), by which I mean they call things Gawker reports first their ‘exclusives,’ then pump their own tires about the importance of print media afterwards. Oh, and of course, they’ve provided Rosie DiManno with a steady paycheque for years, which is wonderful; I, for one, don’t know where we’d be without such insightful musings as ‘she lost a womb, but gained a penis.’
This proud, storied history is certainly one Torontonians do not deserve to be covering their hockey team. No, a paper that likes to perpetually self-congratulate while resting on its laurels of history despite offering nothing of substance in present is something that just happens to scream ‘Montreal Canadiens’ to me. Having said that, Toronto is fortunate to have such pure journalistic excellence among its ranks of Leafs reporters. Perhaps no one summarizes this best than one David Feschuk, a reporter so dedicated to his job that he once tracked down James Reimer’s mother to ask about his injury. Indeed, Feschuk has built a promising career in the sports industry, answering all the tough questions that absolutely nobody asked.
Feschuk’s delightful column on Phil Kessel’s future serves as another example of how he is a shining beacon of the truth upon which we, the collective souls of Leaf Nation, can hang our hats. Let us look at it, bit by bit, shall we?
“I will bring more enthusiasm and more passion,” Leiweke said. “What you can be assured of is we’re going to work even harder.”
Somewhere, Leafs forward Phil Kessel is on a golf course saying: “Harder? That’s a joke, right?”
Top drawer, I say! You see, these hockey-playing athletes apparently enjoy a spot of golf in the offseason. So the joke then follows that Phil Kessel is currently on a golf course somewhere. He is trying to point out the Leafs are currently not playing hockey, in case you missed that whole point.
Of course, the second part of sentence is that obviously, Phil Kessel is incapable of working hard. Nah, he’s a lazy bum with no heart because that’s what Star columnists have been telling us since 2009. I mean, sure, when all these things like facts, evidence, and reason fly in the face of your story, usually you evolve with the facts, but that’s just not journalism, man! No, journalism means never having to say you’re sorry! It means you double down on tired narratives for reasons I can’t explain because I’m but a lowly blogger who can’t understand journalism. Guess I’m just too busy spending time in my parents’ basement, which is an awkward arrangement considering they live in a condo. That is, I am when I’m not out on the streets with my ‘will write something with GIFs for food’ sandwich board, clearly too busy to understand how this ‘narrative’ thing works.
But I digress: the point is that Phil Kessel doesn’t work hard. Sure, his Twitter may say he ‘trys [sic] hard and loves the game,’ but he couldn’t even spell the plural of ‘try’ right. That’s not trying very hard to me!
And somewhere else, GM Dave Nonis and his management team are pounding the phones to bolster a flawed team in need of improvement in nearly every area. It’s exactly what they should be doing. With a little more than three weeks until the June 30 draft, now’s when off-season trade talks traditionally begin their slow build. As Leiweke has made clear, Nonis should talk a lot, since the status quo won’t cut it.
Yeah you tell ‘em, Fez! The Leafs should aim higher than to be a first round exit! I mean, what a disgrace being a first round exit this season! How terrible that a team that hasn’t made the postseason in nine years take a team that could likely win the Stanley Cup this year to overtime of Game 7 to win the series! Why can’t this team be more like, I dunno, the Rangers, or the Penguins? They certainly have looked like far superior challengers to that Boston Bruins team.
Though I agree; any team that doesn’t win the Stanley Cup shouldn’t simply stand pat. The Leafs have some serious holes. They’re not deep down the middle, they need a top 4 defenseman, and could probably use some more depth for their bottom six forwards and third-pairing D. So I’m sure when you’re talking about improvements that need to be made, that’s what you’re referring to; right, Davey?
There’d be no better time to trade Kessel,
Oh. Well……..this is awkward.
……But, I’m sure you have some good reason for that, right? Okay, let’s hear this out.
Why would Kessel be a smart chip to cash in? He’s a perimeter-hugging winger in a net-front league playing for a team that will need to give up something of value to land its long-sought No. 1 centre.
This team really does need a No. 1 centre! Man, I remember back in the day when we had Mats Sundin; that was great! Sundin was a true Leafs hero, did all the right things….but there was something *off* about him. Yeah, like he was a good player himself, but it was almost like he had no support with him for most of his career. Kinda like he could’ve used- and I’m totally just spitballing here- a scoring, playmaking winger that was, oh I don’t know, like top 10-ish in NHL scoring. Yeah, I think that would have made Sundin, a bona fide number 1 centre, a much better player, and the Leafs a much more dangerous team. I guess it’s almost as if no. 1 centres in the NHL could benefit from an elite scorer on the wing.
Wait, sorry, I got sidetracked. What were we talking about again?
That isn’t all, though; what else does Feschuk want here?
The dominant post-season work of Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask is a reminder the Leafs, who got credible if spotty work from No. 1 James Reimer this season, should be on the lookout for an upgrade between the pipes. Mike Smith is a free agent worth considering. Roberto Luongo will again be discussed. Tim Thomas’s comeback has got to start somewhere.
Great point! The Leafs just can’t be satisfied with the work of James Reimer. His mediocre play, yielding a playoff SV% of .923- 8th among postseason goaltenders, and the best of starting goalies for 1st round exit teams- just simply will not cut it going forward. No, Toronto has to do much better in net than the goalie who had the seventh-best SV% (.924) in the regular season.
The Leafs would do well for themselves to be price-conscious and take on Luongo’s totally reasonable contract, or throw UFA money at Mike Smith or Tim Thomas. Never mind that Luongo and Smith both had inferior stats to Reimer, while Thomas hasn’t played an NHL game since 2012; they are better goalies because that’s what EA Sports tells me with their NHL player ratings. Toronto is just simply overpaying for a mediocre product, as evidenced by Reimer’s exorbitant salary of $1.2 million, giving them the third-lowest cap hit for goalies in the NHL. Third-lowest? WHY IS THAT NOT THE LOWEST?! OVERPAID BUNCH OF BUMS!
The Leafs are also certain to be among the suitors of David Clarkson, the impending unrestricted free agent with the New Jersey Devils. That Clarkson is Toronto-born and media-savvy doesn’t matter as much that he plays the wing with a Bruins-worthy heaviness and has scored 30 goals in a season.
Ah yes, David Clarkson. Because when I think of pressing needs, much like if I’m at a party full of Young Republicans, I think to myself: “You know what we need here? More right-wingers!” Indeed, I mean, when it comes to RWs who have potted 30 goals before, the Leafs only have two! And, I mean, Clarkson- he’s from Toronto and newspapers like to write down stuff he says. Don’t listen to things like stats, or the fact both Kessel and Kulemin can play with a sandpaper element to their game; one is Russian and the other doesn’t like the media, so they don’t count.
After all, remember what we discussed above? We want to trade Kessel, a No. 1 winger without a No. 1 centre, so we can…get a No. 1 centre who doesn’t have a winger! I, for one, know that if I’m eating a salad without dressing, the first thing I do is trade in the salad for some dressing. Sure, chugging an entire bowl of Zesty Italian by itself makes me a little thirsty, but you gotta sell high, right?
But, at least Feschuk can sum up the realities of the team quite nicely:
Falling in love with a team that was a first-round out would be a mistake. The Leafs, by a lot of measures, weren’t a particularly good squad during the 48-game regular season. They were grossly outshot.
Wait, the Leafs were badly outshot for the most part of the season, but they won games? How does that work? I mean, you could get a bit lucky, but what else? The only way you could do that is if you have elite players who can do more with less shots, and/or if you have a goaltender who can play exceptionally well facing a high volume of shots against. I’ve written out a myriad of formulas on a whiteboard in a Good Will Hunting-esque way to figure out how this is possible, and that’s all I can come up with! But, you were just telling me that our elite offensive talent isn’t good enough, and our goaltending needs an upgrade. I’m confused.
My brain is starting to hurt from that confusing contradiction above, so I’ll finish with Feschuk’s parting thought here:
Working hard and being competitive is suddenly not enough.
Nice motto, and I agree completely. They should definitely consider hanging it on the wall near where the Star Sports columnists work.