3-4-1 Good, Bad, And Ugly Thoughts

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

At the time I write this, the Leafs sit at a 3-4-1 record. While much of Leafs twitter has descended into Crisis Mode™, I can only say this enough times: it’s one game. Remember how good we all felt after the Leafs manhandled the Islanders 5-2? Remember how the first line was clicking, Bernier looked great, and we all thought to ourselves that maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be okay? Then the Leafs lose one game most people expected them to lose anyway, and the narrative descends to madness.

Leaf fans get mockery for being bipolar, short-term thinkers, but it’s a hard fact to argue when one game seems to swing the pendulum from “PLAYOFFS!!!1″ to “McDAVID!!!!1.” A loss to the Sabres tonight might actually convince people the Leafs are the worst team in the NHL by a country mile. Part of me actually kind of hopes we lose to Buffalo but beat Chicago, because I just happen to enjoy watching the world burn.

So, here is my scorching hot take on the Leafs eight games in: they are still a mediocre bubble team that has lost to teams better than them, and beat teams they probably deserved to beat.

The Boston game was ugly, but have we not seen that before? Even without Chara, the Bruins are a substantially better team. I don’t think this is a very controversial statement that anyone would disagree with.

Having said that, I also get why people are freaking out: it’s not just the results, but the process. The Leafs didn’t just lose to Boston; they completely laid an egg. Failed to show up for the game. And it isn’t the first time it’s happened this season.

I was going to write a post before the 4-1 Bruins beatdown, but ran out of time. Even after the loss, my thoughts on the team haven’t substantially changed since one collectively awful effort isn’t enough to judge a team or a season thus far.

So, at 3-4-1, here are eight thoughts: three good, four bad, one big fat “I don’t know”.

THREE GOOD:

1) The Leafs are a mediocre possession team so far:

*record scratch*…wait; that’s a good thing?

For most teams, no. But for the Leafs, it’s a definite yes. Remember, we are talking about a team that last season finished with the second-lowest CF% in the history of the stat being tracked. They allowed the most shots against per game of any post-lockout team; the only one that came close were the 2005-06 Washington Capitals, who finished second last that season with 70 points. They once allowed 50 shots against in consecutive games. How their goaltenders didn’t die of exhaustion is simply beyond me.

Put simply, the Leafs stunk. If stats aren’t your thing and you prefer the eye test, they still stunk. I don’t profess to be a hockey wizard, but being hemmed in your own zone 90% of the game while getting ten seconds in the attacking zone at a time is not very good hockey.

This year? Not great. But certainly better. They sit at a 49.3% CF, good for 21st in the NHL. To many teams that wouldn’t be great. But many teams weren’t a historically bad possession team last season. Seven Leafs have a CF% above 50, which is exactly seven more than they had last season. Surprisingly, that list doesn’t include the Komarov-Santorelli-Clarkson line, who have been the best puck possession line most nights, and may only get better with Corsi God Daniel Winnik™ in for Clarkson.

This is a Leaf team almost outplayed the percentages until there were 14 games left in the season in a HISTORICALLY BAD year. They still have two 30-goal scorers, two good goalies, and a top-tier PP. You should be downright salivating at the possibilities at what it could do as a mediocre possession team, should that trend hold.

2) The Leafs have two good goaltenders, and the best may be yet to come:

I’ll just come out and say it: I don’t get this Bernier/Reimer goaltending controversy that forces Leaf fans to pick sides as if we were a bunch of teenage girls fawning over Twilight characters. I just don’t. It’s stupid, and it should make you feel stupid.

Why is it stupid? Here’s a long list of reasons why: Ed Belfour (past his prime), J.S. Aubin, Mikael Tellqvist, Andrew FUCKING Raycroft, Vesa MOTHERFUCKING GODDAMMIT I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HAAAAATE YOU Toskala, Curtis Joseph (way past his prime), Justin “The Future LOL Maybe Not” Pogge, Martin Gerber, Jonas Gustavsson, J.S. Giguere (broken groin edition!).

This is every goalie that played for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2005 to 2012. Only three of these goalies put up a SV% over .900 in a season. Only one exceeded .905, and it was Giguere in not even a half season in 2009-10.

Long story short: the Leafs goaltending fucking sucked pretty much forever until the Magic Angel Robot From Winnipeg™ (h/t Steve Dangle) came in and led us all to salvation. And then Bernier came in also played pretty fan-frickin-tastic as well.

People have said both Reimer and Bernier “suck” this year. These people should be strapped to a chair like that kid in LOST who got kidnapped by the Others and forced to watch endless clips of Vesa Toskala giving up a goal to his own goddamn glove hand.

Reimer has put up a .914 this year, which is decent. But for one game against Detroit where the whole team sucked and it isn’t really his fault Zetterberg is so gosh darned good at hockey, he’s been great. Bernier sits at .904, but worth noting he had an AWFUL start to the season and played a game against Boston where the team decided not to show up. His SV% will only go up.

The fact is the Leafs goaltending through 8 games hasn’t been as good as it could be. Why is this a cause for optimism? Because I can’t see it going anywhere but up. Because, y’know, our goalies are actually good and don’t suck anymore.

The cliche, but true, principle is good goaltending can keep you in any game, on any night. The Leafs have good goaltending. Whether you start Reimer or Bernier on any given night, Leaf fans don’t have to worry that the goaltending is going to suck.

3) DEEEEEEEEPTH! DEPTH! DEPTH! DEPTH!

Perhaps the two biggest positives on the Leafs so far aren’t their best players, but their second and third lines. Lupul and Kadri look just great, with Lupul playing what has in my books been some of his best hockey in a Maple Leafs uniform. Winnik has stone hands, but drives possession. Komarov is tied for the team lead in assists, and he has looked great possession-wise with Santorelli. Clarkson is…..still the worst contract in the NHL, but better. I mean, it’s not humanly possible for him to be worse, but he at least looks like he’s kinda calmed the fuck down and stopped trying to do everything while succeeding at nothing. Baby steps.

Results-wise, this hasn’t resulted in more offensive output- the pre-jigging first line still has more points combined (21) than the second and third lines combined (19). But, this is more process and results. The way these players are playing, there’s at least optimism the results will come.

However, this last point segues me perfectly into the bad…..

FOUR BAD:

1) The team is still living and dying on the first line:

Here’s a not so fancy stat for you: the Leafs are 3-0-0 when Phil Kessel finds the scoresheet, and 0-4-1 when he does not. The three wins by the Leafs so far featured the top line front and centre. Kessel and JVR ran over the Islanders and Rangers. Kessel scored an unbelievable OT winner on Varlamov that [awful domestic violence joke that would be tempting to go here omitted because it isn't funny]. Not many teams can say their first line boasted two 30-goal scorers, but that’s exactly what the Leafs had last season.

But, here’s the problem: what happens when the offense isn’t there for them? The results haven’t been good. Note that in the 2-12-0 collapse to finish last season, the first line scored at a wayyyy lower rate than it had all season. The early returns on this season seem to show a similar pattern. First line doesn’t click offensively, team loses.

Look at, say, the Blackhawks as an example. If the Toews line has an off-night, the Kane line can still burn you. Ditto Crosby/Malkin on Pittsburgh, or even Bergeron/Krejci in Boston. The Leafs, despite some improvements on depth, just don’t have the ability to split up talent of that calibre. They simply don’t.

I could remind you that this was the same team that took what was an excellent second line under Ron Wilson, broke it up, and shipped it out of town for absofreakinglutely nothing in return, but who thought that’d be a bad idea? I mean, aside from everyone and their dog.

The worst part is while the first line hasn’t seemed itself this year offensively, the other side of the coin is they have been terrible defensively. First line competition has run them over entirely. All of them are between 42-44% CF. JVR is their best player at 44%. Not. Good. Enough.

Will splitting up JVR and Kessel work? I’m not certain that it will. But trying Lupul-Kadri-Kessel together, perhaps against easier competition while letting the Corsi God line handle tougher minutes might work. Offensively, though, the Leafs need to do something to ensure this team isn’t a one-trick pony, but that’s easier said than done when the team may just be bereft of high-end offensive talent beyond four or five players.

2) Randy Carlyle is still the coach, and still doing Randy Carlyle things.

After a 2-12-0, I thought Carlyle would be done. Sure, water carriers in the media still bellowed “BUT WHO WILL REPLACE HIM?” but the facts don’t lie and every single coach in recent history got the axe for far less heinous crimes. A similar collapse felled Ron Wilson in 2012. Paul Maurice wasn’t so much fired as given an indefinite time out for never calling one. Hell, Pat Burns was fired for less in 1996! Also, Burns was indisputably the best coach this team had in years and was replaced by a guy who called his players “nimrods” and never coached in the NHL again. Let’s not even start on Pat Quinn, fired for missing the playoffs once in seven seasons. Hey, remember when a first round exit was a disappointment and not the best case scenario? Anyway, moving on.

Who will replace Carlyle? Well, putting aside the fact Dan Bylsma is sitting at home and waiting for his phone to ring, how about- I don’t know- ANYONE? Any living, breathing human being?! I’d venture to say the Leafs have two guys on their own bench that would probably make better head coaches than Carlyle! “BUT WHO WILL REPLACE HIM?” is just BS-speak for “I don’t want him replaced because he gives reporters belly rubs and makes us feel like special snowflakes after Ron Wilson was such a meanie to us.” Just say what you mean.

Now, the writing is on the wall for Carlyle. Shanahan has brought in a whole new group of people to answer the tough questions that Carlyle cannot, such as “What is puck possession?,” “There are four lines on an NHL team?,” and “Toast goes where?” Carlyle’s days as the Leafs coach are clearly numbered. That’s good. But, Carlyle is still currently the head coach, and still doing things that are damaging to the team. That’s bad.

Perhaps the most damning indictment has been the lack of a fourth line. Despite promises from Shanahan that the team would roll four lines, and finally exiling Carlyle’s beloved rock ‘em sock ‘em robots to the AHL, Carlyle continues to barely play a fourth line. None of the four players that have played on the fourth line have cracked 7:30 of ES TOI per game. Holland has the highest of the group at exactly 7:30, which is 4:22 less than the next highest forward (Leo Komarov). Brandon Kozun has 7:25, somewhat buoyed by playing two games on the second line. Richard Panik has 6:25. Matt Frattin has 5:59. If you know anything about Carter Ashton’s whereabouts, please call 1-800-555-LOST immediately.

Things have taken a turn for the crazier in recent games, where Carlyle refused to ice a fourth line at all, instead playing 7D and double-shifting one of the RWs with Holland and Panik. This is a team that has blown countless third period leads, and collapsed in ways that I will only be describing to a therapist someday. You don’t think fatigue factors into that at all? I’m not saying rolling three lines is the cause, but it certainly does not help.

This brings us to the curious case of Jake Gardiner. I will admit that Gardiner could be better. I will also admit that I don’t know how Gardiner is going to get better by riding the pine and eating a $10 hot dog in the press box. The Carlyle-Gardiner relationship is reminiscent to me of Stand and Deliver, with Carlyle giving the exasperated Edward James Olmos line of “HOW DO I REACH THESE KEEEEEEDS?” Except, y’know, the part where Carlyle actually reaches these kids.

Gardiner is a curious case. He does make those mistakes that just make you shake your head. The blown coverage against Boston and bad clearing attempt against the Penguins are decent examples. He’s also money offensively, and one of the better puck possession defensemen on the team. The positives he brings to the table far outweigh the negatives, yet there appears to be a lot of emphasis on the latter given the high profile caliber of what few mistakes are made. It’s been proven time and time again that scratching him serves no benefit to him or to the team in the long run, so it’s curious why Carlyle would continue to hang his hat on that hook.

The bottom line is that Carlyle has better personnel. Mike Santorelli is far superior to Jay McClement. Peter Holland and Richard Panik are better than Orr and McLaren, both of whom would probably be on this team if Carlyle completely had his way. But even with better players, he will not change. He has spent years trying to recreate the 2007 Anaheim Ducks system minus having two Hall of Fame blueliners to pull it off, and I don’t think he knows how to do anything else. A leopard cannot change his spots.

Carlyle isn’t the only problem with the team that requires change (and nor does anyone sane argue that), but it’s hard to argue that replacing him wouldn’t be an improvement on the status quo.

That said, it isn’t entirely on Randy because…

3) The fourth line still stinks.

Okay, bear with me a little bit here, because it may sound like I’m contradicting myself.

Is the fourth line better without Orr and/or McLaren? Unequivocally yes. Neither are hockey players. Both are healthy scratches in the AHL. A fourth line should be replacement level, and those guys are not even replacement level by AHL standards.

Should the fourth line be trusted with more ice time? Yes. All successful teams can roll four lines, and in the interest of tiring out the top nine, the Leafs need to follow suit.

But, here’s the Catch-22: the fourth line has looked horrific for the most part. No good. Very bad. Like, better than if they iced two goons, but still awful all the same. In terms of the eye test, and stats both of the fancy and non-fancy variety.

The fourth line has put up two points all season. TWO. One Richard Panik garbage time goal (assisted by not fourth liner Tyler Bozak) and one Peter Holland assist (on a goal by maybe-not-a-fourth-liner-but-definitely-not-paid-by-one David Clarkson). Bottom line? As a unit, the fourth line itself has contributed for zero. Zilch. Nada. Niente.

The fancystats tell an even sadder tale. The highest CF% player to play on that line is Peter Holland, at 42.9%. Richard Panik has 36.3%. Brandon Kozun has 35%. That’s WORSE than the aforementioned first line that’s been getting run the fuck over. But, the first line at least has the excuse of playing against really, really good players. The fourth line plays against….well, fourth liners! Also, they’ve been given cushier deployment. Holland is second in offensive zone starts to only Kadri. It’s not as if this line is being completely buried. They’ve just been bad.

As much as I’d like to criticize the 7D decision, there’s a counterpoint that, well, it worked. The fourth line did look better, at least against the Islanders. Probably because there was a Not Fourth Liner playing on it. That still isn’t a sustainable solution going forward. I’m not sure what is.

Basically, points 2 and 3 are a bit of an endless cycle: Carlyle won’t play the fourth line because he’s Carlyle, but the fourth line also won’t earn ice time because it’s kinda sorta sucked all year.

4) The D is still in shambles.

While I will give the D credit for being improved possession-wise (4/7 D actually have positive CF%!), there’s still a major problem with the blueline: who the fuck do we even play with whom?

Gardiner/Rielly seemed like a great idea on paper, until it didn’t look so hot in practice. Phaneuf has had his ice time scaled back by about a minute per game, but still lacks an optimal partner. Robidas has been absolutely run over all season. Polak has been okay, but has the speed of a drunk Jason Allison. No matter how you shake out the D pairings, there’s going to be one awful pair with no chemistry that just gets annihilated, especially with Stuart Percy in the AHL. It’s like a really morbid LSAT logic game.

Then there’s Cody Franson. I’m not sure what to make of him. There seem to be, as with EVERYTHING Leafs, two distinctly polarized camps: those who like him because of his puck possession, and those who absolutely detest him because of his defensive miscues. I personally don’t get why it has to be one or the other, and admit to having my foot in both camps. I think Franson contributes positively by ensuring the Leafs top pair spends less time in its own zone, but contributes quite negatively by handling the puck like a live grenade in the defensive zone. That he’s dead last on the team in offensive zone starts should probably scare you shitless for that reason.

But, this is how badly in shambles the Leafs D situation is: I don’t see a better option than to pair Phaneuf with Franson. For one thing, Phaneuf has looked better with Franson. More importantly, I have no idea who else you can put up there. I’m not confident Rielly is ready for those minutes yet. Gardiner would be just about the same story. Robidas looked downright awful on the first pair, did the polar opposite of driving possession, and Phaneuf looked downright terrible with him. Polak would be a terrible, terrible idea. What other choice do you really have?

If I’m picking the D pairings, I have to keep Phaneuf and Franson together. That will lead to some very bad plays converted into goals against by some very good players, but there really isn’t a better option. The fact that there isn’t a better option should tell you exactly what’s wrong with this defense.

THE WILD CARD:

1) I have no idea at all what to make of this team anymore:

This much should have been made clear from the very beginning, and further solidifed by the fact I constantly contradict myself in this post. That’s because this team is just rife with contradictions. The Leafs have more depth, but they’re a one line team. They need to play the fourth line more, but it sucks. The D is better with possession, but is still a landmine.

I have no idea what to believe this team is or isn’t. I can offer two certainties: this team will not be winning the Stanley Cup, and it will not be drafting McDavid or Eichel. There are a finite number of teams in the NHL that are that good or that bad, and the Leafs don’t have a foot in either camp. The Leafs are not the Blackhawks, but they’re also not the Sabres. That said, this is true of many NHL teams, so there’s a lot of real estate to cover between these two extremes.

So, what are the Leafs? That’s a tricky question. We know they have some top-heavy offensive talent, two good goaltenders, an excellent PP with no shortage of solid point shots. They also have no tangible depth, no bottom six production, a D in shambles, and are mediocre at best when it comes to possession. Trying to predict anything about this team is impossible. You’d have an easier time doing PR work for Roger Goodell.

On paper, this looks like a 4-5 team in the Atlantic primed to probably miss the playoffs, but maybe just scrape enough points on offense and goaltending to grab a wild card seed. Maybe if all goes right for them and wrong for another team, they’re even 3rd in the division (but probably not). If all went completely to hell in a handbasket, maybe they hit 6th or 7th (more likely than 3rd, but also probably not).

It’s not just the team. I don’t know what to make of the players. Franson is a great example for reasons outlined above. Roman Polak is a guy I’m still not convinced one way or the other on. I’m not sure what David Clarkson is. Or Daniel Winnik. And while Santorelli and Komarov have been money together possession-wise, do the percentages say the offense will come, or is that line just destined to be one big Lee Stempniak 2.0? This team is beyond coin flip. It’s shaking an 8 ball and consistently having it come up “Outlook hazy; please ask again.”

But that’s not all. The biggest mystery of this team by far is why it not only has completely laid eggs in three games, but done so while playing relatively decent until the first goal against. The games against Pittsburgh, Detroit (at home), and Boston were complete mail-ins. They were also games the Leafs started strong at 0-0, but the opposing team got the first goal. Then the Leafs just lay down and died.

Why?

I’m not one to waste my time thinking intangibles are the be-all and end-all, but this may very well have an intangible answer. How does a team start strong, allow a goal, and then just completely give up? How does a team just completely not show up for games as it did against the Bruins? What is going on? Is it systems? Confidence? Something else between the ears? I think it’s an intangible thing simply because I can’t figure out what’s going on, and I doubt anyone else can.

So really, there’s good, there’s bad, and a lot in between. But, the recurring theme about your 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs is I have no fucking clue what’s really going on or going to happen.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Rabbit Hole Runs Deep (Or: Why Your NFL Boycott Is Stupid)

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m not one to write serious commentary so bear with me here.

I’ve seen a lot of different pieces, opinions, viewpoints on the Ray Rice incident this week. Many I’ve agreed with. Some I haven’t. I can’t try to debate every single one of them; I can only try to present my perspective. I wanted to write something about it because I seemed to have a lot of opinions about both the good and misguided. Luckily, Katie Nolan managed to put most of my thoughts together in an amazingly eloquent way. So, for starters, watch this video:

This is amazing, for two reasons: first, because she is a woman who works in sports, while I am neither of those things. Also because it touches on the one thing I wanted to put in words all week:

A NFL boycott would mean shit all, in large part because this isn’t a football issue. It’s a societal issue.

This piece was in large part meant to be a rebuttal to an article earlier this week from Jezebel. I have a policy of trying not to link stupidity, so you can go find it on your own time. In any event, the general crux was this: by watching and enjoying NFL football, you are complicit in awful acts such as domestic abuse. You condone it. Proponents of that viewpoint can dress it up however they want, but that’s what the words on the virtual paper inferred.

Let’s be honest here: the NFL won’t be hurt by losing your money, but it needs fans with a conscience. Pragmatically speaking, if fans who care about issues like domestic violence leave, that won’t bankrupt the NFL. It will only leave the fans who don’t care about these issues. Then what?

Nolan killed it on this point. If the critical voices of the NFL leave, who’s left? Drunk rednecks and frat dudebros? Do you really think that’s the kind of NFL that will suddenly become warm and fuzzy towards domestic abuse? Hell, if you buy into that, I’ve got some lovely beachfront property to sell you in Nebraska. By leaving football to the lowest common denominator of sports fans, you’re basically just setting yourself up for even more failure.

Quite simply, you will never change the NFL by leaving. You will only remove the critical voices and leave it in the hands of people whose opinions on Ray Rice or domestic violence or just about anything else you probably do not want to know.

Here’s the second point: liking a sport doesn’t make you complicit in domestic violence, or whatever other crime or Bad Thing your not-so-friendly neighbourhood athlete has involved themselves in recently.

I’ve watched the NFL for 13 years. I’ve followed an NFL team for 12. Me watching football doesn’t make me an accessory to his abuse any more than it did to Aaron Hernandez’s murders or Michael Vick’s dogfighting. Since I’m a hockey guy, what then of Semyon Varlamov, Patrick Roy, or all the coach-player sexual abuse that occurs in junior hockey? Basketball guy? Jason Kidd is a noted multiple offending domestic abuser; he’s not only not in jail, but played 19 seasons in the NBA and now coaches a team. Baseball guy? Josh Lueke still exists. But let me make this clear: none of this is why you watch the games.

You watch sports because at some point in time, you grew interested in one team winning various games involving sending some random object towards some random goalpoint. Your interest in the game had nothing to do with the fact that some person being paid millions to do something with said random object and said goalpoint happened to be a terrible person. Nor will it ever. You cannot be asked to change what you enjoy and do not enjoy because people involved in said hobby are awful. Nor does it make you bad to enjoy something because you enjoy it. It’s simply patronizing to say otherwise.

The sad reality of life is that awful people exist in every facet of humanity. If the “BOYCOTT NFL” crowd were to take a closer look, they’d see domestic abusers not just in sports, but entertainment, music, movies….probably some things that those who take the pulpit of holier-than-thou speak enjoy. To live in a world where you don’t somehow support a morally reprehensible person with your wallet is, quite simply, a world where you’re not using your wallet at all. Period.

The harsh reality that some will never understand is that people will choose to support something because of the product its puts out rather than the values it holds. Chik-Fil-A hasn’t seen a dent in its sales since its 2012 stand against gay marriage. That’s by no means support for its homophobic position; people just like the chicken sandwiches. Such is the same with the NFL. A chicken sandwich is a chicken sandwich. Football is football.

Many will choose to vote positively with their wallets not because of extraneous messages, but because of the product being sold. These aren’t bad people condoning bad behaviour. They’ve made a conscious choice only because they like the product. If you choose to boycott, you’ve made a different conscious choice. Know, however, that your choice doesn’t automatically make you better or more moral than anyone who has deigned to make the different choice.

Let’s make this crystal clear: unless you live in a bubble and do not engage with humanity whatsoever, you are complicit in domestic abuse by this “BOYCOTT NFL BECAUSE” standard. Because the problem is just so much bigger than football. It’s bigger than sports as a whole, but I will keep the focus on sports.

That’s the next point here. Ray Rice isn’t a football problem. It’s not an NFL problem. It’s a societal problem. It is so much bigger than one league, one sport, or one person.

There are so many things that need to change, but there is one problem so big and systemic within sports that no meaningful change can happen until this problem is resolved.

I don’t want to try and speak for women, so this is entirely based on my own observations. To be frank: women are treated like second class citizens when it comes to sports.

Women in the sports world are shoved to the sidelines reading tweets, or into skimpy outfits either cheering or picking up ice shavings. The women of the sports world are essentially asked to sit down, shut up, look pretty, and tell us what men think about sports rather than actually dare to have their own opinion.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting many amazing female sports fans, but goddamn, they get a rough ride. Even the most rational, intelligent female sports fan faces an uphill battle. Just the mere act of expressing an opinion can vault them onto a quiz show where they’re forced to defend their knowledge of all things sports. The only difference with this quiz show is that the points don’t count double, nor is there an all-inclusive trip to Hawaii to play for. The only prize for them is that they might know as much arbitrary knowledge as the insecure guy who decided to call them out in the first place. Big win.

The truth is that many, many, MANY guys out there are dumb as a sack of bricks when it comes to sports. Listen to talk radio and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The problem is that society seems to not bother acting like these dumb guys exist. Or, when they’re dumb, it’s just that they’re dumb. When a girl is dumb, she’s a silly puck bunny who doesn’t get sports. Don’t believe me? Let’s see what major video games think.

This may seem totally unrelated to Ray Rice, but it’s the first problem of many in dealing with these issues in sports. We could better understand issues like domestic violence if we had more female voices. But for there to be more female voices in the sports discussion, we’d need to actually start listening to them and, y’know, treating them like equal participants in sports media and fandom. It’s simple logic, really.

Why do things like the Ray Rice/NFL incident happen? They can only happen in front of an audience that won’t demand accountability. If that audience has vocal women in it, these incidents don’t just neatly get swept in front of the rug. But before that can become a reality, we need to look at sports culture as a whole and realize it just isn’t equal.

You’re an idiot if you think boycotting the NFL- or any sport- is the answer. What sports need are more people who demand accountability; otherwise, the Roger Goodells and Ray Rices of the world will only continue to skate by unscathed. But the problem is that the people most primed to say “hey guys; domestic violence is bad and you should really do something” are not treated as equal participants in the sports discourse. And that’s a problem, but a fixable problem.

That doesn’t start with Ray Rice or the Baltimore Ravens or the NFL or Roger Goodell. That starts with us.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Hockey Fan Guide to the NFL

September 4, 2014 2 comments

The NFL starts today! Are you a hockey fan who doesn’t really know football? Don’t worry! With this handy guide, I can tell you which team is most like your favourite team, so you know who to cheer for during football season!

(Click on screencaps to enlarge)

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Categories: Uncategorized

Glengarry Glen Rogers

August 26, 2014 2 comments

The Toronto Blue Jays, having posted a 6-15 record in August, are 66-65. They have dropped to 6 games back of the final wildcard spot. This has prompted Jays management to have a team meeting with a motivational speaker sent by ownership.

[Several Blue Jays players sit in a room in front of an Alec Baldwin-esque character in a suit]

BALDWIN: So you’re talking about what? Bitching about that game you lost, some son of a bitch strikes you out, somebody hits what you’re throwing, some ump trying to screw you over. Let’s talk about something important. Are they all here?

ANTHOPOULOS: All but one.

BALDWIN: Well, I’m going anyway.

[Casey Janssen goes to the back to pour a cup of coffee]

BALDWIN: PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN! Coffee is for closers only!

JANSSEN: But I am a closer.

BALDWIN: Your blown saves against Detroit and Tampa say otherwise. You think I’m fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. I’m here from downtown. I’m here from Rogers. And I’m here on a mission of mercy. Your name’s Janssen?

JANSSEN: Yeah.

BALDWIN: You call yourself a pitcher, you son of a bitch?

BAUTISTA: I don’t have to listen to this shit.

BALDWIN: You certainly don’t, pal, because the good news is: you’re all fired. The bad news is, you’ve got- all you’ve got- is 31 games to regain your jobs, starting with tonight’s sit!

Oh, have I got your attention now? Good! Because this is a wildcard race. As you all know, first prize is a ticket to the ALDS. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize is a playoff game. Third prize is you’re fired.

You get the picture? You’re laughing now? You got leads. The Jays paid good money and prospects for these leads. Get those big names to win them! You can’t close with the leads you’re given, you can’t close shit, you are shit, hit the bricks pal and beat it because you are going OUT!

JANSSEN: Big names? We finished last in the AL East after we got all these “leads.” The leads are weak.

BALDWIN: The leads are weak? Fucking leads are weak? YOU’RE WEAK. I’ve been in this business for 15 years.

[Baldwin flips over a blackboard]

BALDWIN: A-B-C. A- always B- be C- closing. Always be closing! A-I-D-A. Attention, interest, dingers, action. Do I have your attention? Are you interested? I know you are, because it’s fuck or walk. You close, you win, or you hit the bricks. Dingers- are you going to hit some dingers FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, Jose? Action- get out there and win!

BAUTISTA: You’re such a hero, you’re so rich. How come you can’t get us any help at the trade deadline?

BALDWIN: You see this watch? It cost more than your salary. How much you make again? You see, pal, that’s who I am. And you’re nothing.

BAUTISTA: I’m the best player on this te-

BALDWIN: Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good with fans? Fuck you- go play catch with some kids at Booster Juice. Hit home runs? Maybe don’t fucking get yourself ejected. You wanna work here? CLOSE.

You think this is abuse? YOU THINK THIS IS ABUSE? If you can’t take this, how can you take the abuse pretty much every other team gives you on a nightly basis?! You don’t like it- leave. I could go out there with the team that’s built and get it to win a World Series. Can you? Can you?! A-I-D-A! Get mad! Hit dingers!

You know what it takes to win baseball games? It takes brass balls to win baseball games.

[Baldwin pulls out a set of brass balls and holds them in front of his groin]

Go and do likewise gents. The wins are there- pick ‘em up and it’s yours. You don’t, I have no sympathy for you. You wanna get some wins and close, it’s yours. If not, you’ll be shining my shoes. Bunch of losers sitting in a bar with Marty York. “Oh, I used to be a Blue Jay. It’s a tough racket.”

[Baldwin pulls out a list of names on pieces of paper tied together with a shiny red bow]

These are the new leads. These are the waiver trade leads. To your team, they’re gold. And you don’t get them. Because to give them to you would be throwing them away; they’re for closers.

I’d wish you good luck, but if June was any indication, you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you got it. And to answer your question, Jose: why didn’t I get you help at the deadline? Because the Rogers family asked me not to. They asked me for a favour. I said the real favour, follow my advice and nuke the entire team because a loser is a loser.

[Baldwin packs up and leaves]

END SCENE

Categories: Uncategorized

WYTS 2014: Pacific Division

August 20, 2014 Leave a comment

ANAHEIM DUCKS:

Your 2013-14 season: Second round exit. Actually thought they had a chance to beat the Kings, which was really just adorable. They even took the series to seven games, like a real team might! Of course, once they hit Game 7, this happened:

 

That isn’t just losing; that is complete and utter annihilation. There hasn’t been a train wreck that bad in that part of Southern California since The OC was on TV.

Your coach: Bruce FUCKIN’ Boudreau. Probably among the best head coaches if you only count up to April 15 or so. Dude has a career 258-123-52 record in the regular season. In the playoffs? 23-28, and never better than a second round exit. The only Cup he’s won to date was a 7-11 Big Gulp. To be fair, summer barbecue season ramps up around then, and he isn’t fuckin’ gonna waste his fuckin’ time on hockey when there’s some fuckin’ ribs to be manhandled out there, fuckin’ right?

Your starting goalie: John Gibson. Or, wait, maybe it’s Frederik Andersen? Either way, the Ducks are going into this season with 31 games of NHL experience between two goalies. For a team that’s relied on insane shooting percentages that are just begging to regress for the last two years, that level of goaltending can’t instill too much confidence.

Your shittiest player: Clayton Stoner. What kind of team decides to make a four-year commitment on Clayton Stoner?! I suppose it is fitting when you consider that has to be the most Southern California name ever. Anyone named Clayton just sounds like a guy who will spend his off days on the boardwalk in a “SUNS OUT GUNS OUT” tank top hitting on teenage girls and throwing beer cans at rollerbladers. I’m pretty sure this is the reason both he and Dany Heatley signed here.

Why you suck in five sentences: Can anyone tell me what purpose the Ducks serve in this league? They’re the ugly redheaded stepchild of California. They started out as a Disney marketing ploy, and have always been the second-most popular team in Southern California EVEN WHEN THEY WON A CUP.

The Ducks also lost Teemu and Saku Koivu, then added Ryan Kesler and Dany Heatley, presumably because the best way to get attention is to make everyone hate you. Imagine them on a line with Corey Perry; no one in the league offices would suspend opposing players for triple-concussing that!

Why you might not suck: They play hockey in the state of California, which pretty much guarantees you a top 3 spot in this division.

ARIZONA COYOTES:

Your 2013-14 season: No playoffs, but they made a name change! Now, instead of representing a city of people who couldn’t care less about hockey, they’re representing AN ENTIRE STATE of people who couldn’t care less about hockey! This is what we would call a real game changer.

Your coach: Dave Tippett. The best boring coach in all of hockey. I’m struggling to think of anything interesting to say about him. He just exists.

Your starting goalie: Former third-string Olympian and five-time Oscar winner Mike Smith. One good season aside, his goaltending has been mediocre at best, but his diving game has been on point! Here is Smith’s best technique at preventing goals at work:

 

By the way, the Coyotes backup is Devan Dubnyk, who managed to be the worst goalie on an Oilers roster that briefly featured Ilya Bryzgalov. So there’s that.

Your shittiest player: Shane Doan. It’s amazing to hear the ongoing narrative of TRUE CANADIAN CAPTAIN, EH BOY WHAT A LEADER THAT SHANE DOAN IS. He’s made roughly 6,000 cheap shots in his career, but never gets caught. Then because he never gets caught, the leadership narrative flares up. Then because the leadership narrative flares up, he can basically murder opposing players as if he has diplomatic immunity. It is the weirdest cycle of narratives I’ve ever seen.

Also, Doan is 37, and is making $5.3M to put up his worst numbers since the days of that Coyotes jersey that looked like it came for free with purchase of any Old El Paso product.

Why you suck in five sentences: New ownership, new name, same shitty stadium in an Arizona exurb that no one will visit! The Coyotes have rightly recognized that no one in Phoenix will commute to watch their games, but expect Glendale residents to go visit the Thing That Is Throwing Their Tax Dollars Into A Giant Hole. Beyond the dozen actual Coyotes fans out there, the only people at any given home game are: (1) expat fans of whatever team is playing the Coyotes; and, (2) people who want to escape the desert and sit in A/C for three hours.

This team also lost two of its top six players, and replaced them with Sam Gagner and BJ Crombeen. Should go well for a roster that wasn’t exactly world-beating to begin with.

Why you might not suck: Calgary and Edmonton are hopeless. Vancouver is still a clusterfuck. If the Coyotes get hot, they can bank wins against some truly awful teams and sneak into the playoffs.

CALGARY FLAMES:

Your 2013-14 season: Actually tried rebuilding the right way for once! Got the 4th overall pick and managed to not completely blow it with their draft choice. Other highlights included: making John Tortorella go insane; Sean Monahan being boring; and Brian Burke refusing to cut his hair. Say what you will about the Flames, but it was probably the most productive, relevant season they’ve had in over a decade.

Oh, you meant on the ice? Yeah, they still sucked. Real bad.

Your coach: Bob Hartley. I don’t really *get* Bob Hartley. He’s a not very good coach that basically lucked into a stacked team many years ago, and relies on that for coaching pedigree. Quick! Name one successful thing Hartley has done since the 2001 Avalanche! Literally just one…..*time passes*….BZZT! You can’t. Nobody can. That one Cup ring is all he has. Bob Hartley was the Randy Carlyle of this league before anyone even knew who Randy Carlyle was.

Your starting goalie: Jonas Hiller. Was pretty much average behind a much better team in Anaheim, so this should totally go well. $4.5 million is quite the overpayment until you realize he’s being paid to be better than Karri Ramo. That’s all he has to do, which is basically the easiest job ever. The rest of the team will still suck, but Hiller will earn his inflated paycheque by not sucking as badly as the last few years of goaltending have sucked.

Your shittiest player: Deryk Engelland. Best known for punching lots of people and scoring 47 points in 243 career NHL games! His career high in one season is 17 points. AND he’s making just under $3M a year to do that! The Flames have stockpiled one-dimensional goons like Soviet nuclear warheads (also not relevant since the mid-80s!), but at least Brandon Bollig and Brian McGrattan get paid around the league minimum to suck. Engelland is basically making premium dollar to give someone CTE. You also forgot he was a defenseman because nothing he has literally ever done in the NHL would remind you of playing defense.

Why you suck in five sentences: If you’ve never met a Calgarian, they’re the worst. They’re convinced their mediocre city is somehow world class, presumably because they’ve never actually travelled outside of Alberta. I’ve been to Calgary many times, and they have an okay downtown core you could find in any big city and a river; the rest is just a giant big box suburbia. BUT WE GOT STAMPEDE AND A DOME SHAPED LIKE A HORSEY SADDLE AND OUR STREETS ARE DIVIDED INTO QUADRANTS; WOOOOOOOO!

On that note, of course it took Calgary three years to figure out the Flames needed rebuilding after literally everyone else did.

Why you might not suck: They have decent young players and better goaltending, which might be just enough to narrowly miss the playoffs despite not actually really being in contention. I’d like that. The Flames are funnier when they think they have a chance.

EDMONTON OILERS:

Your 2013-14 season: So, you get on a roller coaster. The roller coaster remains level for a little while, maybe with a slight upward incline. Then, with almost no notice, the roller coaster just nosedives right into the ground and breaks in half. As you’re left writhing on the ground in pain, a billionaire drugstore magnate approaches you, kicks you square in the balls, and takes all the money in your wallet. On the bright side, he promises that in a few years, he’ll build the roller coaster in a nicer part of town and have someone less incompetent running the switches.

I call this roller coaster: “#HereComeTheOilers: The Ride.” COMING IN FALL 20-EVERY YEAR OF EXISTENCE.

Your coach: Dallas Eakins. Career highlights include: being considered the most competent hockey coach in Toronto when his basis of comparison was Randy Carlyle. To be fair though, you or I could win that title just by making a perfectly good piece of toast. Career lowlights include: pretty much everything that’s happened since leaving the more successful Toronto team. Eakins looks like an AHL coach in the NHL, although having AHL personnel doesn’t help. Dude’s just in over his head. Eakins’ career ceiling is going to be the equivalent of trying to win Masterchef with ramen noodles on a hot plate.

Your starting goalie: Ben Scrivens. I can’t say a single disparaging thing about The Professor. He’s what I wish more pro athletes were like. That said, the thing he’s most notable for in Edmonton is a 59 SAVE SHUTOUT?! Christ; the Oilers are going to kill this guy, aren’t they?

Your shittiest player: Matt Hendricks. I remember back in Fall 2011 when I walked into an Edmonton sporting goods store. The clerk was a die hard Oilers fan, and was convinced the Oilers could actually make the playoffs. One of the reasons cited for this was Ryan Jones. The clerk then waxed poetic about how Ryan Jones was “good at Twitter” and “loved by fans.”

The Oilers finished second last that season. Ryan Jones sucked, and is now gone. By the way, Hendricks is the prime contender to be the new Ryan Jones. And he’s got three years and $1.85M in which to pull it off!

Why you suck in five sentences: The Oilers have managed to draft every young phenom possible because that’s what sucking enough to land three No. 1 draft picks will do. Before the Hall/Eberle era, the Oilers were an awful 62 points, but with Hall/Eberle/Nugent-Hopkins/Yakupov/Schultz, managed to improve on that by FIVE WHOLE POINTS this year! The Oilers are trapped in a time paradox of continuous nonlinear suckage (/Doctor Who theme music).

By the way, this fanbase manages to convince itself EVERY YEAR that this is going to be the breakthrough season, what with these two three five six shiny young players here for the future! The fans are Charlie Brown, the Oilers are Lucy, and they always keep running right at that football.

Why you might not suck: The Oilers might have decent goaltending and depth players for the first time in roughly a century. They might even crack the 75 point mark this year!

LOS ANGELES KINGS:

Your 2013-14 season: Stanley Cup champions! Only required the Sharks choking (complete with a goalie interference goal in Game 6!), almost blowing their second round series to THE DUCKS, and then almost blowing it again to the Blackhawks before Alec Martinez dislodged a horseshoe from his arse in the OT of Game 7. Then they played whatever crud bucket the East churned out in what was basically a formality and still required three OT wins to make it happen. SUCH RESILIENCE. VERY DOMINATE. WOW.

TL;DR: unlike in 2012, the Kings’ win was basically like getting a hole-in-one by bouncing the ball of two trees, skipping it off a water hazard, onto the green, and in the hole.

Your coach: Darryl Sutter. If you see one video of Darryl Sutter’s career highlights, make it this one!

 

Your starting goalie: Jonathan Quick, who, with two Cup rings, continues to hold the title belt of Most Overrated Goaltender Of All Time™. Your reminder the Kings traded away two goalies in two years that finished last season with a higher SV% than Quick ON WORSE TEAMS.  He had a .911 SV% in the playoffs, which made him the seventh best starting goalie. He plays average behind the best possession team and one of the deepest bluelines in the league, yet the narratives wax poetic about Jonathan Quick as an elite goaltender. BUT HE HAS TWO RINGS. People who think Jonathan Quick are great also probably think Big Bang Theory is funny.

Your shittiest player: Captain Dustin Brown. He put up 27 points last year, is 29 years old, and is signed through 2022. How can this possibly go wrong?! But seriously, 27 points? I’m pretty sure Brown threw more elbows to the head than that last season.

Why you suck in five sentences: Being a Kings fan isn’t even about hockey as much as it’s a symbol of Hollywood social stature. At least half the fanbase is made up of trendy celebrities that have nothing to do because the Lakers suck. In spite of this, local media still can’t pronounce anyone’s name and still think the team plays basketball in Sacramento. Admit it, you all were happy when Vince Vaughn made Gretzky’s head bleed. LA KINGS HOCKEY: CATCH THE STREAMERS FEVER.

Why you might not suck: Technically *did* still win the Cup last year. Also, the East sucks, and there’s about two other teams that are legitimately as good as they are. One of those is the Sharks, so LOL. They have a decent chance to repeat and shove Quick down our throat for another year, all things considered.

SAN JOSE SHARKS:

Your 2013-14 season: First round exit to the Kings in seven games, which I guess isn’t so bad considering they won the Cup and….*whispers*….hold on. What? WHAT?! They were WHAT?!?!?! THREE TO WHAT?! HOW DO YOU EVEN?! HOW?!?!

The Sharks had a 3-0 series lead and needed to win ONE GAME OUT OF FOUR to win a bye to the conference final. I mean, sure, they’d have been eaten alive as their 1-8 conference final record suggests, but it’s the principle of the thing. How do you blow that? That’s like burning a microwaved burrito; you pretty much have to try to screw that up. The Sharks have had some pretty Shork losses, but this was by far the Shorkest.

Your coach: Todd McLellan. He was hired by the Sharks to be Not Ron Wilson. Consequently, the only reason he’s probably kept his job is that he’s basically a less scowly Ron Wilson. Recall that Wilson was considered the guy who couldn’t get this team over that last hurdle, but here are Todd’s Greatest Hits:

2008-09: Win Presidents’ Trophy; lose in first round to THE DUCKS, then coached by a guy who doesn’t know how puck possession or household appliances work.

2009-10: Make it to conference finals; get annihilated 4-0 by Blackhawks.

2010-11: Make it to conference finals after almost blowing a 3-0 lead to Detroit; get annihilated 4-1 by the Canucks.

2011-12: Lose in first round in 5 games to….St. Louis? LOLOLOLOL.

2012-13: Lose in second round.

2013-14: #ItWasThreeZero

I’ll give McLellan this much: when the Sharks failed under Wilson, it was boring. This is just year after year of flaming train wrecks. I applaud Todd for finding new and innovative ways to Shork everything.

Your starting goalie: Antti Niemi. Pretty much the Pacific Division’s answer to Kari Lehtonen!

Your shittiest player: John Scott. This is a useless plug that even the Buffalo Sabres wanted nothing to do with anymore. He is literally the worst player in the entire NHL. This makes no sense whatsoever. I bet Doug Wilson was just sitting in his office one day, thinking WELL LAST YEAR WAS BAD, BUT ALL OUR PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED NOW FOR WE HAVE JOHN SCOTT! *dusts hands together as house behind him crumbles to bits*

John Scott is below “below replacement level.” He’s basically a moving cinderblock that assaults people.

Why you suck in five sentences: The Sharks are in all honesty the third best team in the league behind LA and Chicago, so it’s hilarious to watch management go hilariously insane over a playoff meltdown. They signed Scott, extended Mike Brown, and may consider trading Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. ENOUGH OF THESE GUYS NOT WINNING IN THE PLAYOFFS WE NEED HEART N SOUL N GRIT HURR DURR. To be fair to Sharks management, a foolproof way to not choke in the postseason is to try and make your team bad enough to ensure they don’t make the postseason.

Also, their jerseys now look like teal pajamas, but they just breathe better, y’know?

Why you might not suck: Their roster, as is, is still top 3 in the entire league. I mean, they’re always great on paper, so it doesn’t much matter, but at least they tried to keep the hope alive!

VANCOUVER CANUCKS:

Your 2013-14 season: Missed the playoffs. Well, not just missed the playoffs; missed them in a spectacular blaze of dwindling glory. This team was the unbelievable train wreck version of the Canucks that 29 other fanbases waited so long for! Highlights included: losing roughly 100 straight games in January; their coach actually trying to kill a guy between periods; giving up a third-period touchdown to the ISLANDERS; and, finally succeeding in alienating Roberto Luongo not even a year after committing to him as a long-term starter. Miley Cyrus had a better year.

John Tortorella is now gone. As is Mike “Meat Sweats” Gillis, much to the applause of the same Canucks fans that were totally trying to convince you that he was the best GM ever three years ago. That was only ever true if the role of a GM is to look real drunk and whine about tampering and conspiracies.

Your coach: Willie Desjardins. I mean, he looks more like a leader of the provincial NDP than a hockey coach, but sure I guess. His resume includes being good in the AHL. I find it funny when teams hire successful AHL coaches thinking they’ve caught lightning in a bottle when it rarely pans out. Here is a list of recently great coaches hired directly from the AHL: Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma. That’s it. The Canucks being the Canucks, they could have actually hired Bylsma but chose Bylsma Lite instead. SAME GREAT AHL TASTE; ONLY ONE-THIRD THE CALORIES.

Your starting goalie: Ryan Miller, who signed with the Canucks this year. Let’s take this opportunity to relive Ryan Miller’s highlight reel in Vancouver, shall we?

 

Your shittiest player: Alex Burrows. Here is a list of all the things that Alex Burrows is good at:

  • Scoring goals deflected off him by the Sedins.
  • Biting.
  • Diving.
  • Hair-pulling.
  • Yapping in sometimes incomprehensible Franglais.
  • Losing fights to Phil Kessel.

Canucks fans continue to insist Alex Burrows is a SUPER PEST. No, he’s just an embarrassment. Also inexplicably on the Canucks first line because the team has just given up on ever actually finding a talented winger for the Sedins. Remember Taylor Pyatt, you guys? Anson Carter?! Alex Burrows is the worst.

Why you suck in five sentences: This is the only fanbase where people brag about losing the Stanley Cup Final because it’s literally all they have. I live in BC; despite insisting they’re the Best Fans™, when April rolls around in a year the Canucks actually suck, NO ONE PAYS ATTENTION TO HOCKEY ANYMORE. Oilers fans may suck too, but at least they continue to care after their team is eliminated in mid-December.

Hockey-wise, the Sedins are only getting older while their offense slowly dies, and the Canucks no longer have any depth because Ryan Kesler is gone and their entire third line now plays for Toronto. Just look at the names in that bottom six; you don’t even see names that obscure at any of BC’s 800 yearly hipster summer music festivals.

Why you might not suck: With stable goaltending, new coaching, and a potential recovery year for some players, they could take advantage of a weak division and clinch a wildcard spot. Then they’d get thumped by a team from California JUST LIKE THE OLDEN DAYS OF OUGHT TWELVE THIRTEEN, YOU GUYS.

Categories: Uncategorized

WYTS 2014: Central Division

August 14, 2014 2 comments

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS:

Your 2013-14 season: Lost in the Conference Final, despite having roughly 73.8 chances to win that Game 7. The Blackhawks are now responsible for us having to endure another postseason of people in LA pretending to care about hockey. Thanks for nothing.

Your coach: Joel Quenneville, king of the angry officiating outburst. Here is a GIF of Joel Quenneville grabbing his balls.

Your starting goalie: Corey Crawford. Last year, we got “Average Crow,” who was just okay. This was different from “Insane Vezina Crow” in 2012-13, or “Catastrophic Train Wreck Crow” in 2011-12. I have no idea what Crow we’re going to get this year. He’s wildly and unpredictably all over the map. He’s the Eli Manning of hockey, less one ring and any facial expression whatsoever.

Your shittiest player: Hey, remember Kris Versteeg? Well now he’s back, in Pog form! Versteeg is not 2010 Versteeg anymore. He had his worst career year in Chicago. He contributed less in 15 playoffs games with the Blackhawks than he did in seven with the Florida goddamn Panthers. He’s basically being paid for two more years to be a healthy scratch, which is fine because he strikes me as someone who likes the stature of being a Blackhawk more than actually playing hockey. Still leads the league in mouthguard dangling and Macklemore resemblance, however.

Why you suck in five sentences: Deep down, while you respect Chicago for their skill, it’s hard to actually like the team. Their best defenseman leads the league in borderline assault. Their captain makes Jay Cutler seem comparably personable and capable of emotion. Their best player is working on being more boring after spending every summer on a huge bender. Also, literally everyone stopped caring about “Chelsea Dagger” once it was no longer used to troll Canucks fans.

Why you might not suck: Signed Brad Richards to a not awful deal. Probably a favourite to win the Stanley Cup, which inevitably means Andrew Shaw will be a Toronto Maple Leaf by this time next season.

COLORADO AVALANCHE:

Your 2013-14 season: First round exit after an insane 112-point season. This suddenly after three seasons of being all kinds of terrible. Thank you Based PDO Gods!

Your coach: Patrick Roy. The coaching GENIUS for deciding to pull his goalie down a goal with roughly half the third period remaining. I don’t think he deserved the Jack Adams, but I’m all for feeding into the illusion that he is a good NHL coach because goddammit, he is entertaining. Under a year of Roy, Colorado will be guaranteed at least three bench clearing, coach-instigated brawls. I think he may actually shove his Stanley Cup rings in his ears when opposing coaches yell at him. Wouldn’t that be fun? You want that kind of crazy in the NHL for a long time. The NHL doesn’t have enough crazy.

Your starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov. Nominated for a Vezina in the same year he beat his wife; or as it’s better known, the “Chris Brown Special.” If he keeps on this career trajectory, we’re 3-4 years away from him getting into a barfight with a rival goalie. Which goalie do you think that’ll be? Is it gonna be Tuukka Rask? OH PLEASE LET IT BE TUUKKA RASK! There might be a flamethrower involved. Someone would get pummelled with a stop sign. It would be insanity.

Your shittiest player: Danny Briere. Why pay a 36-year old $4M to put up awful (and rapidly declining) third line numbers when you could just pester Old Man Hejduk to unretire for half the price? Worst of all, the Avs actually traded a living, breathing NHL hockey player to acquire Briere. This is a guy that was too pricey for the Flyers! That’s like being the dumbest Kardashian, or the drunkest Ford brother.

Why you suck in five sentences: Not only did Colorado make the playoffs on some insane shooting luck and goaltending from Varlamov, but they lost a number of good players. Paul Stastny, P.A. Parenteau, J.S. Giguere- gone, and replaced by Jarome Iginla, Briere, and Reto Berra. Note that none of these players are centres, which means that the Avs will be counting on a 1-2 punch of Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, until they run him out of town as they’ve actively been trying to do. They entrust all personnel decisions to former players because “HEY GUYS, REMEMBER 1996?!” while continuing to pretend Greg Sherman does something at his desk other than lose at Tetris all day.

Also, their new motto is #AvsAllOver, because their social media is presumably run by Jenna Jameson.

Why you might not suck: They did put up 112 points last year. I’m not saying it’s at all repeatable, but hey, if they pulled it off once….

DALLAS STARS:

Your 2013-14 season: Lost in the first round to the Ducks. THE DUCKS. That’s just sad. Other teams in the West lost way more embarrassingly in the first round, like the Sharks and Blues. But they at least blew it to GOOD teams. Dallas came minutes from forcing a Game 7 and blew it to THE DUCKS. That’s like your grandma beating you at Mario Kart because she’s just mashing buttons through her cataracts and hits you with the red shell. There’s no dignity left in this team.

Your coach: Lindy Ruff. I was actually shocked to hear that Ruff relies on technology and data to help with his coaching. The thought of Lindy Ruff even using a computer doesn’t process in my mind. I feel like he spent the first half hour wondering why it wasn’t turned on because it was unplugged.

Your starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen. By the way, Lehtonen’s career playoff SV%? .874. Against the 2007 Rangers and THE DUCKS. Even though he can be good during the season, it can’t fill you with too much confidence that his playoff alter ego is Vesa Toskala.

Your shittiest player: Anders Lindback. Speaking of all-time disappointment playoff goalies, here’s the guy who went 0-for-4 in the playoffs last year! It still eludes me how someone as big as Lindback can be such an awful goalie. YOU’RE A GIANT. Surely you could deflect a puck off one of your sequoia tree limbs just by pure dumb luck…..and, nope. It’s in the net again.

Why you suck in five sentences: I think we already covered the part where they lost to THE DUCKS?

Dallas is the ultimate “thing you do when nothing else is on” team. Despite their first playoff appearance in six years, they’re still last in attendance. Literally every time you watch a Stars home game, all you see are: (a) empty seats; and, (b) well-endowed cheerleaders in skin-tight green dresses. Their arena is the Hooters of the NHL, in that the mediocre product it’s actually trying to sell is a completely secondary focus because no one in Dallas really cares about anything other than high school football and getting morbidly obese.

Why you might not suck: Their centres for the 2014-15 season: Tyler Seguin; Jason Spezza; Shawn Horcoff; Cody Eakin. For all its faults, that team is more stacked down the middle than a triple stuf Oreo.

MINNESOTA WILD:

Your 2013-14 season: Second round exit, which is actually kinda fitting. The second round of the playoffs is usually the most boring round. It lacks the meaningful intrigue of the Cup Final or conference finals, while also lacking the 12 hours straight per day of playoff hockey that the first round has to offer. The second round is completely uninteresting. It’s the Minnesota Wild of the playoffs.

Your coach: Bond supervillain extraordinaire Mike Yeo. When Yeo isn’t at the rink, he’s stockpiling nuclear warheads in his basement to spearhead his treacherous plan for world domination. MILQUETOAST HOCKEY BY DAY, CREATING GLOBAL ANARCHY BY NIGHT! I can’t really blame the guy for having a time-consuming hobby, though. The most interesting things in Minnesota are a giant mall, lutefisk, and incest. Not necessarily in that order, either.

Your starting goalie: Does this team really have a “starting” goalie? Technically it’s Niklas Backstrom, but that shouldn’t last long unless the Wild can secure a couple layers of regulation-sized bubble wrap. Beyond that, you’ve got Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper. Shit. Reminder: this team was so desperate, they traded actual things for Ilya Bryzgalov last year. Minnesota’s goaltending is Russian Roulette, only every chamber has a bullet.

Your shittiest player: Matt Cooke.

*Matt Cooke stands on pulpit*

“OH FORGIVE ME, FOR I SINNED, BUT OH LORD, I HAVE REFORMED MY WAYS! I AM A CHANGED MAN! I SHALL NOT CHEAPSHOT NO MORE, LORD IN HEAVEN!”

*chorus in Wild jerseys sing in the background*

“FOR HE HAS CHANGED, HE HAS CHANGED, HE HAS CHAAAAANGED”

“AMEN! CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH, MINNESOTA?!”

“HALLELUJAH!”

*violently knees Tyson Barrie; Wild chorus fall silent*

“Uh…..oops? Hockey play?”

*walks off pulpit deep into the pits of hell*

Why you suck in five sentences: Aside from Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, the rest of that blueline is basically a bunch of sock puppets and Jared Spurgeon, who I think used to be in Creed. Their goaltending blows and their top six boasts two ex-Sabres, which really screams “winning tradition.”

The only time anyone pays attention to the Wild is when their fanbase throws a temper tantrum about not getting an outdoor game because their second NHL team represents the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey”: “WE GOT 1,000 LAKES OF ICE UP HERE! WE SELL OUT EVERY EDINA DIV I U/16 GAME!” Wild fans haven’t figured out the reason they get zero national exposure is because only Wild fans can watch this team for longer than 10 seconds. I’ve seen enough Wild games to honestly say I’d rather my TV was irreversibly stuck on Two Broke Girls for an entire week.

Why you might not suck: They have made the postseason two straight years, and won a series last year. That ties the longest playoff streak in Wild history! If they keep it up, maybe Chicago will let them sit at the Central Division adult table next Thanksgiving!

NASHVILLE PREDATORS:

Your 2013-14 season: Missed the playoffs while scoring 7 goals all season, all of which were scored by Shea Weber’s beard.

Your coach: Peter Laviolette. You can expect a major systems change ahead in Nashville now that the Preds are being coached by someone capable of lateral head movement.

Your starting goalie: Pekka Rinne. At least this is assuming that Rinne can stay healthy for an entire season. Otherwise, y’all are stuck with Carter Hutton again, most notable for having what is probably the most Amish name in pro sports.

Your shittiest player: At $4.2M to sit in a cast for most of the season, iiiiiiit’s…..Mr. Carrie Underwood himself! Holy shit; that’s Tyler Bozak money to put up….well, Tyler Bozak points, I guess. At least Fisher should have plenty of time this season to devote to his new side hobby: hobbling around downtown Nashville wearing a sandwich board of Biblical quotes, telling young women they’ll go to hell if they don’t give their reproductive organs to Christ.

Why you suck in five sentences: The Predators have no first line talent, which they attempted to solve by acquiring a bunch of second line players. They acquired Mike Ribeiro, who managed to get into trouble in Phoenix, the big box store and retirement home of the United States. They also signed Olli Jokinen, which is a great move if it’s 2007. Finally, they traded for James Neal, because if you can’t beat all the teams in the Central that are better than you, you might as well just knee all their star players in the head. Neal, by the way, spent the last three seasons playing with with Evgeni Malkin, which is totally the same thing as playing with Jokinen, Ribeiro, Derek Roy, or Craig Smith.

Why you might not suck: If Rinne manages to stay healthy, they’ve pretty much got the best goaltending in the division. They could feasibly just rely on Weber to score 300 point shots because no one on the opposing team has a death wish.

ST. LOUIS BLUES:

Your 2013-14 season: First round exit. And not just any first round exit. After spending roughly 99.9% of the year at the top of the division, the Blues managed to choke their way out of the lead and into a playoff series with Chicago. Then, they choked their way out of a 2-0 series lead to lose in six games. In the process, they also managed to make Ryan Miller find a city he hated more than Buffalo, which is just no easy task.

Your coach: Ken Hitchcock. But he’s only, like, 60% of the dick he used to be. The last time he was fired, he went on a magical spirit quest where he spoke to Jesus and BECAME REBORN AS A TRUE PLAYERS’ COACH! HAIL BYLSMA!

Your starting goalie: Brian Elliott…..again. This after the Blues showing a true vote of confidence in Elliott by trading for Ryan Miller. Man, talk about your all-time awkward moments. That’s like dumping your ex for another girl, then crawling back to her after the new relationship fails catastrophically. It’s okay though, Brian. The Blues didn’t mean to say all those awful things about you. They just want you to know that they loved you all along and that they’ve changed and are totally hitting the gym and eating right and stuff.

Just kidding; you’re totally getting dumped again for Jake Allen by midseason.

Your shittiest player: Steve Ott. Holy shit! Not only did the Blues trade for Ott, they went out and gave him a two-year extension! Thankfully, Ott brings multiple intangibles, such as: (1) being terrible; (2) licking visors; (3) showing LEADERSHIP in being captain of one of the worst teams to ever exist; and, (4) “accidental” dirty hits. None of these things actually contribute to winning anything, which makes St. Louis a prime Ott destination.

Why you suck in five sentences: The Blues are a perfect symbol of St. Louis, in that people stop there on their way to somewhere better. They tend to be a fertile training ground for good hockey players to eventually go win a Cup elsewhere. Their most notable moment in franchise history was making the playoffs 26 straight seasons, despite not being anything close to an actual contender in about 27 of those years.

People in St. Louis pretend to care about the Blues, but they really don’t. The Blues are St. Louis’ fourth favourite thing to root for, well behind the Cardinals, meth, and institutionalized racism.

Why you might not suck: If the NHL were to adopt an EPL-style format and just give the Cup to the regular season champion, the Blues might actually have a shot at winning something.

WINNIPEG JETS:

Your 2013-14 season: Missed the playoffs. This team couldn’t even get a playoff spot the two years it played in the worst division in NHL history. Did anyone honestly expect they’d have a chance while being forced to play actual hockey teams? They went from falling off their training wheel bike and scraping their knee to competing in the Tour de France.

Your coach: Paul Maurice. The sad thing is that by Winnipeg standards, hiring Maurice was an upgrade simply because Claude Noel couldn’t coach an ECHL team out of a paper bag. By Winnipeg standards, their mosquitoes aren’t “that big,” either. Winnipeg standards suck. Paul Maurice sucks. Here is a list of every accomplishment on Paul Maurice’s coaching resume:

-Made the Stanley Cup Final (and lost badly) in 2002 because Fuck Arturs Irbe (yes, I’m still bitter about that Conference Final; go fuck yourself).

-Did literally nothing else in two stints in Carolina.

-Stood behind Leafs bench with clipboard, looking super important and stuff, 2006-2008.

-Wins the “Least Timeouts Taken Even Though It Looks Like Your Team Kinda Needs One; Holy Shit Dude” Award every year.

-56 games of Andy “Cement Legs” Wozniewski because shut up; that’s why!

Your starting goalie: Ondrej Pavelec. In 2012, the Jets decided to commit five years to Pavelec despite his career best season being .914 in 2011. Spoiler alert: he’s been nowhere near that close since. Last year, he put up a .901, which I’m certain is lower than his blood alcohol level on any given offseason. Nonetheless, Jets management still decides that he’s the franchise goaltender. Pavelec is the worst goaltender by a lot in a division not exactly renowned for goaltending, but the Jets continue to be trapped in a loveless marriage with him until 2017. The Winnipeg Jets are bringing a broken plastic spork to a knife fight.

Your shittiest player: ALSO Ondrej Pavelec! Boy, this was an easy line to write!

Why you suck in five sentences: Jets fans are like the guy who steadfastly drinks Labatt Blue; deep down, he knows as well as anyone else that it’s awful pisswater. Not only does he keep drinking it, he will loyally defend to the death that is the BEST BEER EVER and you are some asshole to think otherwise. Labatt Man has pretty much been the Jets business model since their 2012 reincarnation.

This fanbase boos every opposing star player because they have none, while actively trying to run its most skilled player out of town because of vague “character issues” that they promise have nothing to do with him being black. Meanwhile, their aforementioned terrible white goalie gets convicted of a DUI, and no one cares, presumably because: (a) he’s white; and, (b) he would need some actual hockey skill to have character issues to detract from.

Why you might not suck: Beyond the top 3 teams in this division, it’s kind of a car crash. If- BIG IF- Winnipeg got itself an actual goaltender, it might be able to luck its way into a wildcard spot. It won’t happen, but it would be fun to imagine because what is there to do in Winnipeg except imagine?

Categories: Uncategorized

WYTS 2014: The Metropolitan Division

August 6, 2014 1 comment

CAROLINA HURRICANES:

Your 2013-14 season: Missed the playoffs. Since 2002, they’ve had three playoff appearances, each ending up in at least the Conference Finals. It’s almost as if they just give up on themselves unless they’re convinced they could luck their way into winning a minimum of two playoff series.

Your coach: Bill Peters. Leave it to the goddamn Canes to choose a coach that nobody has ever heard of before. Wikipedia tells me he was an assistant coach in Detroit which makes perfect sense. Assistant coaches in Detroit no longer actually need to be good or relevant. They basically just get hired on the title alone. “You worked under Mike Babcock? WOW! SUCH LEADERSHIP! MANY HISTORY! SO CUPS! VERY RED WINGS!”

Your starting goalie: Cam Ward. At least when he’s healthy, which isn’t often because he’s made of some sort of fiberglass compound. In any event, Ward being their best goaltender means they’re fucked. Cam Ward is pretty much the dictionary definition of “average goalie.” And don’t give me that shit about him winning a Conn Smythe in a postseason we all just agreed to kinda forget ever happened. His crowning achievement that year was being Not Martin Gerber, which is a relatively low bar for MVP status. That’s like bragging about graduating with distinction from DeVry.

Your shittiest player: This roster has a lot of weird stuff happening on it, but paying Jordan Staal $6M through 2023 makes next to no sense. They basically gave him a whole fuck ton of money and term in the hopes he could be a second line centre, but his numbers have gotten even more third liney since leaving Pittsburgh. That’s about as financially sound a play as betting your life savings at the track on a three-legged horse.

Why you suck in five sentences: They signed Jay McClement and Tim Gleason, because signing awful players that even the Leafs didn’t want has been a super effective strategy in the past. Of course, bringing back Gleason from his brief exile in Toronto also maintains the team strategy of “bring back every mediocre retread from the past we can possibly think of.” All things considered, I’m half surprised they haven’t signed Bates Battaglia to be captain. It’s amazing how they keep trying the same strategies repeatedly despite being pretty bad for well over a decade. I wonder why that would be.

Why you might not suck: Once every few years, they do somehow make the playoffs and go deep. Basic math suggests that maybe it could even happen this year!

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS:

Your 2013-14 season: First round exit. They even won a couple of games this year! WOOHOO FIRE THE CANNON! *cannon fires through rows of empty seats; hits Jackets fan in the beer gut*

Your coach: Todd Richards. As an aside, look at the list of coaches in this division; I don’t think you could come up with a more bland, forgettable group of people. Todd Richards sounds like the name of a guy who works at Nationwide, not in Nationwide Arena. “Yes, Mr. Dubinsky, you are good at shutting down Crosby, but the real question here is: do you have a life insurance policy that meets your needs?”

Your starting goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky. I have nothing to contribute, so here’s a compilation of Jay Onrait yelling “BOBROVSKY.”

YOU’RE A LOOSE CANNON BOBROVSKY! (Get it? Because they have a cannon in Columbus? Okay, I’ll stop now.)

Your shittiest player: In terms of quality, probably Boone Jenner. I’d be convinced he’s related to the Kardashians if the word “cheap” didn’t refer to so many of his alleged hockey plays. In terms of contract, Nathan Horton. He’s a decent player and all, but you really shouldn’t commit to that kind of term with such an injury-prone guy. Horton could get a Grade III concussion from a pillow fight.

Why you suck in five sentences: Everyone just thinks that #LUMBUS is just the most likeable team in the NHL, when in reality they are just too insignificant to hate. Sure, the Kings said they were cool, but to them, Columbus is that nerdy kid they pretend to befriend so he can do all of his homework. His “homework”, by the way, is consistently giving the Kings good players for nothing so they can go win a bunch of Cups.

By the way, despite the rare postseason appearance, Columbus was third last in average arena capacity; the PANTHERS filled more seats than that. The Blue Jackets are that thing people in Central Ohio only pay attention to between Buckeye-related benders.

Why you might not suck: They’ve basically accumulated two good second lines worth of talent, plus Ryan Johansen is pretty good. Plus, the fact they don’t play defense doesn’t really matter much anymore now that they’re in the Eastern Conference.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS:

Your 2013-14 season: Another year of missing the playoffs, despite being a darling of the stats community for such INSANE Corsis and Fenwicks. Problem is that, with all the shot attempts they get, they are not very good at having any offensive prowess to convert this into actual goals. The Devils are that guy at the bar who knows all the right things to say to a girl, then vomits all over himself before he can seal the deal.

Your coach: Peter DeBoer. I wouldn’t trust that to be the case for too long, because Lou Lamiorello. This is the man that once fired Claude Julien with three games left in the season because 2nd in the East wasn’t good enough. You have no idea what he’s going to do to a guy like DeBoer. Lou would probably fire a sick orphan for coughing in his presence.

Your starting goalie: Cory Schneider. It may shock you to discover that Cory Schneider has actually never been an outright starting goalie in the NHL yet. Is he a good starting goalie? Well he damn well better be, because ol’ Lou has given him a 7 year, $6M commitment to be one. Cory Schneider is basically getting pre-2009 Brodeur money because he isn’t post-2009 Brodeur.

Your shittiest player: Travis Zajac, who is making $5.75M until 2021 to put up numbers like a second/third line tweener. The Devils went and gave money and term to a guy who hasn’t even cracked 20 goals or 50 points since 2009-10 because they literally have no other options. After losing Parise and Kovalchuk, this is all they have left for “first line” talent. Every other alternative is old and broken, overpaid, or both.

Also, they’re paying almost $5 million to Ryane Clowe to basically just be a Newfie David Clarkson. So, y’know, there’s that.

Why you suck in five sentences: This roster reads like a “Who’s Who” of players you forgot were even still in the NHL.  They have way too much money tied up in geezers and spare parts to acquire anything that can actually help them score goals, which is probably why they lose roughly eleventy million shootouts per year. Case in point: today I learned that Dainius Zubrus still exists!

They did sign Mike Cammalleri until he’s 37 to, I dunno, bounce the puck off other people and into the net? He played for Calgary, so I guess he has unbeatable experience with having marble statues for wingers.

Why you might not suck: Now that the Devils have finally decided to permanently end the “Martin Brodeur Past-His-Prime Legend Tour” to the tune of 40 godawful guaranteed starts per year, they may actually be able to get competent goaltending year round. That goes a long way in the Metro; have you seen the other goalies in this division?! Beyond Lundqvist and Bobrovsky, goalie graveyard would be a generous term. I would trust a corpse to put up better stats than the entire Flyers depth chart.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS:

Your 2013-14 season: Missed the playoffs right after their first playoff appearance in six years that you totally forgot even happened. The Islanders will make the first round as the 8 seed every few years and you’re still skeptical that it actually occurred. I stay up some nights wondering whether that last postseason appearance was just some crazy fever dream I had. What is reality, even?

Your coach: Jack Capuano. I’m convinced he still has a job only because that’s the most Long Island name that ever Long Islanded. In fact, it’s not just the name. Have you seen the guy? He looks like every New York police chief in every 80s movie ever. “YA BETTER NOT FUCK THIS UP OR IT’LL BE YER HEAD, TAVARES!”

Your starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak. He should put up decent numbers, but isn’t it kind of alarming that no team has ever committed to him as a starting goalie? Every team he’s played for has platooned him as a 1/1A guy at best. His goaltending career is the equivalent of a girl being used by a guy as a booty call that will hum and haw over actually making any definitive commitment. “Yeah, Jaro, I mean…we like you, but we’re not sure if we like like you yet. You know? Now call a cab and get the fuck out of here.”

Your shittiest player: Matt Carkner. Like, geez, that guy is still in the NHL? What does he even do around here? He’s basically paid to punch people in the face, and remembering virtually every fight against Colton Orr ever, he can’t even do that very well.

Why you suck in five sentences: It’s pretty sad when your franchise was once run by a fraud who could not afford to run the team, and he may still be the best owner you’ve ever had. Meanwhile, the current owner is picking up the team and moving it 20 minutes away from where most of its fans are congregated, to an arena that’s terribly configured for hockey in an area of New York that has next to no actual hockey fans. This is the ownership that was convinced a 15-year megadeal for a goalie fresh off a .900 season was a great idea; hell, they’re still paying Alexei Yashin to not play for them. Overall, the team has done nothing of real relevance since the early 1980s. They’re basically the NHL equivalent of Alf, or Reaganomics.

Why you might not suck: The Isles have the makings of a very good second line now, which is actually quite a helpful improvement to their previous offensive strategy of “Guys, just give the puck to John Tavares and let him figure this shit out.”

NEW YORK RANGERS:

Your 2013-14 season: Eastern Conference sacrificial lamb. Technically, the correct title of that is “champion,” but they don’t really seem like a champion of anything. It’s hard to call a team that lost the most lopsided Cup Final in seven years a champion, especially with how it got there. The Rangers struggled to beat a bad Flyers team and an underwhelming, top-heavy Penguins team in seven games. Then they beat the Habs in six, while still making a goaltender with 10 NHL games under his belt look like Patrick Roy. That’s the most underwhelming road to getting your dick kicked in by a much superior team in the Final I’ve seen, and there have been a lot of those kinds of teams in the East.

Your coach: Alain Vigneault. The Rangers probably won the Great Coach Swap of 2013, if only because AV didn’t try to assault an opposing coach. Still, that lingering Canuck stench of failure really came in handy when it was time to lose where it mattered the most. His ROLL FOUR LINES strategy should go great now that he’s reunited with Tanner Glass.

Your starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist. Not half bad; only among the league leaders in SV%, shutouts, and general handsomeness. Can we just all be honest and admit King Henrik is the only reason this team made the Final last season? It was just embarrassing to watch him put up video game numbers while people in the Department of Hot Takes™ said “WELL I THINK THIS HERE RANGERS TEAM HAS REALLY RALLIED AROUND MARTY ST. LOUIS’ DEAD MOTHER TO WIN SOME HOCKEY GAMES.” Thankfully the Rangers didn’t win, because I was worried it’d be the first time a Conn Smythe was awarded posthumously to someone who never actually played in the NHL.

Your shittiest player: Tanner Glass is being paid $1.45M for the next three years to be Brian Boyle. Tanner Glass is not Brian Boyle. Tanner Glass is a Coke machine with a career high of 16 points, which is two less than Boyle had in a down year last season. Sather might as well have just paid a hooker $1M to punch him in the face and steal his wallet; it’d probably have close to the same result.

Why you suck in five sentences: Even when the Rangers have a good year, they continue to do dumb things. They lost Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, and bought out Brad Richards, replacing all three with things you would pick out of the bargain bin at your local car wash. Players they acquired this summer: Glass; Lee Stempniak; Matthew Lombardi; Dan Boyle; Mike Kostka; Matt Hunwick. That is the saddest cast of retreads since Grown Ups 2. Why pay Matt Lombardi $800,000 when you can get something close to that at Value Village for $7.50?

Why you might not suck: According to the NHL rules, somebody technically has to win this division. I mean, if it were up to me, I’d just make this division go sit in a corner and think about what it’s done, but NBC wouldn’t like that very much.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS:

Your 2013-14 season: First round exit. Quite honestly, I still don’t know how this team even made the playoffs last year. Hmm….*looks at rest of Eastern Conference*……oh; that’s how.

Your coach: Craig Berube. I keep forgetting that this guy is even a coach. I only really know two things about him: (1) he was involved in the Doug Gilmour trade; (2) he yelled a racist epithet at a black player. I just assumed he died two years after his career ended by headbutting a hotel mirror in a cocaine-fuelled rage. Honest mistake, really.

Your starting goalie: Steve Mason. Steve “you’re paying this guy $4.1M for the next three years” Mason. He’s been godawful in four of his six seasons as an NHL goaltender. He had a career season of .917 last year. He has good flashes, but deep down, every Flyers fan knows that he will return to his natural state of  “tire fire.” He’s the Ryan Fitzpatrick of goaltenders, minus the Harvard education.

Your shittiest player: You might think I’m going to say Mason. You might think I’ll go with Mark Streit, RJ Umberger, or Vinny Lecavalier. All good guesses, but all wrong. Those would be horrendous contracts for a lot of teams, but this is the Flyers we’re talking about. The Philadelphia Flyers are basically a “CASH 4 GOLD” dispensary of awful, awful NHL contracts.

By the way, the correct answer was Andrew MacDonald. He’s making $5M a year for….well, I’m not sure what, exactly.

Why you suck in five sentences: The Flyers net has the stability of Italian government. It’s amusing to watch their fans talk themselves into Steve Mason after one good season, just like they did with Ilya Bryzgalov in 2011, or Michael Leighton in 2010, or Robert Esche in 2004, or Roman Cechmanek in 2001, or Brian Boucher in 2000. I hope for Mason to totally collapse this year, if only because I think we’re one bust away from Ron Hextall activating himself to the roster.

Kimmo Timonen, notable for being their only defenseman capable of playing actual defense, may be hurt, but at least they now have Michael Del Zotto! Resorting to MDZ is the hockey equivalent of riding a scooter to work because you have too many DUIs, a feeling that many people in Philly probably know all too well.

Why you might not suck: Their captain is one of the better hockey players in the NHL when he isn’t busy trying to pull an invisible Gummy Venus DeMilo off a police officer’s backside.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS:

Your 2013-14 season: An embarrassing second round exit. Slightly in between their embarrassing first round exits and embarrassing conference final exits. The recurring constant here is that the Pens can only be eliminated from the playoffs with their dignity as intact as Rob Ford after an all-night crack-a-thon.

Your coach: Mike Johnston. Hey, here’s a good idea! You keep losing, so turf the guy with a Jack Adams and Cup ring to his name! At least they hired a guy who was a Proven Winner™ in junior. And like all proven winners, he spent a year being suspended from his job for his team receiving illicit perks. By the way, here is a recent list of championship junior coaches that have gone on to NHL jobs: Bill Peters and Gerald Gallant. That’s some….esteemed….company.

Your starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins are committed to their franchise goaltender, whose goaltending style is eerily reminiscent of Miley Cyrus’ life. Also, the words “can’t stop” and “won’t stop” could pretty much be written about Fleury’s five hole. Most notable last year for managing to go an entire postseason without doing anything stupid, though six games against Columbus sure can’t hurt.

Your shittiest player: Robert Bortuzzo. Plays defense, if “defense” means hitting people with the puck in the head. Also, that name, man. MY SON IS ALSO NAMED BORTUZZO.

Why you suck in five sentences: The Penguins have apparently tied up so much money in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang that it literally can’t afford actual hockey players to fill out its bottom six. This team is so desperate for that depth, it traded a top six player in James Neal for third liners in Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. You could shut this team down by having five guys swarm Crosby or Malkin, then watch as an unmanned Pascal Dupuis whiffs it into the goalie’s chest.

Also, Penguins fans are convinced their team is some sort of god-given centre of the hockey universe because they lucked into the best player of this generation, which is only slightly better than the time in the 1980s that they tanked to do the same. In any event, when this team doesn’t boast a Top 2 player in the NHL, it declares bankruptcy like a bodily function and considers voluntarily moving to Kansas City.

Why you might not suck: You might have heard of these Crosby and Malkin guys they have….

WASHINGTON CAPITALS:

Your 2013-14 season: Missed the playoffs. There are people who will blame this on Alex Ovechkin having roughly one zillion points last year, but being a minus-trillion. These people are the hockey equivalent of that relative who forwards you racist Obama jokes.

Your coach: Barry Trotz, who is coming to coach Ovechkin after 15 years in Nashville. That’s something like dating a porn star after being in a long-term relationship with a devout evangelical Christian. Of course, he should be worried that Ovechkin is an ABSOLUTE COACH KILLER that got the last coach fired, which has nothing at all to do with Adam Oates and George McPhee being not very good at their jobs.

Your starting goalie: Braden Holtby. Has anyone in the world actually remembered that Holtby is even a goalie since about 2012? I haven’t heard his name come up much lately. I just assumed he went to Australia on a walkabout or something.

Your shittiest player: Brooks Orpik. Man, the Caps really went for it and signed Orpik to a $5.5M, five-year deal?! But Orpik is a defensive defenseman….in theory. In theory, communism works, the Middle East crisis is solvable, and the Sharks could win a Stanley Cup. Orpik is “defensive” in that he doesn’t score. Or ever even get the puck. But he SKATES BACKWARD AND HITS AND STUFF. Well, I guess that probably passes for defense in Washington.

Why you suck in five sentences: It’d be safe to say the window has closed on the Washington Capitals being a contender, but that presupposes “perennial second round exit” was ever a window to begin with. Washington was more like a picture of a window that someone drew on the wall with a crayon. It’s like a guy who lives in a nice house and drives a fancy car, and you think “man, this guy is LOADED.” Then you go in his house and realize it is completely empty and he is sleeping on an air mattress, which is pretty much the Mike Green of furniture.

Anywaysthat will now be looked on fondly by Caps fans as the “good ol’ days” now.

Why you might not suck: If Ovechkin scores about 600 goals and Holtby stands on his head, they might- might- be the third best team in this division.

Categories: Uncategorized
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