Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Ready, set, go!

Tuesday was a big night of firsts on several hockey fronts, including the first NHL goal for Ryan Johansen. It was the game winner to boot, and the Blue Jackets’ win lifted them out of their losing start to the season. Even now, there is still chatter about whether Ryan will stay, will he come back to Portland, will Columbus use all nine games, is he ready for the NHL, blah, blah, blah. I knew Ryan would kick in and start showing why he was drafted 4th overall in 2010 once he got quality ice time and good linemates, and that he did. But all this fuss also got me to thinking about how an NHL team decides whether to keep a prospect or send him back to juniors or to the AHL. What makes a player, no matter how good, ready for the show? And of course, what criteria would I use to determine whether prospects were ready for the big time?

Instead of a score sheet or nine games or whatever, my highly scientific system would use a real-world analysis, in which players’ readiness to play in the NHL would be judged by how good they are at real life skills, like laundry, cooking, showing up for practice on time and the like. For scoring, I would use the plus/minus system. Plus one for being able to perform said real world skill, minus one for not being able to.  It would go like this:

Fluff and fold: I love the story about how Jordan Eberle showed roommate Taylor Hall how to do laundry. It cracks me up that players don’t know how to, because I was made to at their age. My mom’s attitude was the “free ride’s over kids, good luck and don’t overload the washing machine with too much clothing or too much soap.” The end. That being said, I would make it mandatory for players to know how to do their own laundry without shrinking them into Barbie clothes or turning their white towels blue from washing them with their jeans in one load. If not, they would be sent back to junior, where I would require that their billets show them how. Sending a FedEx package home to have your mom do it for you would not qualify as doing it yourself.

Early bird gets the worm: Positively one of the best stories ever was the news that T.J. Oshie had missed a St. Louis Blues practice because he overslept after his cell phone died and the alarm didn’t go off. Now, as a non-morning person, I sympathize. I am the queen of the snooze alarm. But I’m not a multimillion dollar NHL player. If you are making million dollar salaries, surely you can afford an alarm clock from Bed, Bath and Beyond. And you can get your overpaid butt out of bed. My checklist would involve a home inspection in which I would come to the players’ home and test said alarm for its ability to be set and go off well in advance of game day skates, travel days and all practices. Failure to purchase a functioning alarm and use it properly gets a minus one.

The thing underneath the microwave is the stove/oven: I follow Jordan Eberle on Twitter, and one of my favorite Tweets was that he, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent Hopkins were going to attempt to cook some food. Emphasis, one would assume, on attempt. And kudos to them for the effort. At least they put forth the blood, sweat and tears to turn on the stove/oven and cook something that didn’t give them food poisoning. Now, mind, from what I understand, that often involves macaroni and cheese out of a box, but that qualifies as the dairy group, so they would still get a plus one in my system for cooking their own chow. Players who think heating up a frozen pizza in the microwave constitutes “cooking” will be deemed unable to feed themselves a pre-game meal, and therefore are questionable in terms of their readiness for games. To summarize, plus one for cooking your own food, and minus one for ordering takeout more than three days a week because you don’t even know how to turn your oven on.

Put the cliches down and walk away: Now, Ryan Johansen is quite fond of cliches, but he’s also very polite and gracious with reporters and he always takes the time to shake their hand, look them in the eye and answer their questions. So the cliche rule is overridden by his mature, responsible media behavior. And he mostly uses Twitter to tell us how he’s golfing with Jeff Carter and how good he is at X Box. Totally normal for a teenage superstar in the making. I don’t think Ryan would even consider using Twitter to rip someone or make inappropriate remarks. Alas, not all young hockey players see fit to do the same. In my system, if you use nothing but cliches and barely say hello to reporters, and/or use Twiter to make inappropriate remarks about your coach, teammates, the media or the league, minus one. If you shake hands, look the reporter in the eye, answer questions with at least one original answer at some point in the interview and say thanks at the end, plus one. 

P.S.: Being the upstanding hockey citizen that he is, I’d predict Ryan would get a plus 3 or 4 in my system. I’m not sure how he is on the cooking just yet, but I’m sure he’s good on the rest of it.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com