General NHL posts
Here’s your semi-related-to-hockey detour of the day. I haven’t said too much about the Patrick Kane incident so far, but when James Mirtle made this post with the title “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”, well, a certain response popped in my head. I just pictured Patrick Kane tossing cab driver Jan Radecki around—with helmet on, of course—while yelling out, “Jan, don’t you know who I am? I’m Patrick Kane, BIIIIIIIIIITCH!”
Where does that reference come from? If you’re an X-Men fan, you know of the Juggernaut parody cartoon (and its homage in X-Men: The Last Stand). If not, here’s something to pep up your hockey-less off-season day. Earl Sleek, this one’s for you.
Warning: Video after the fold contains, um, colorful NSFW language. And if you’re looking for any sort of high-concept humor, it’s not here. If you ever wanted to see the X-Men and their enemies swearing like rappers, then you’ll be amused.
A few weeks ago, I titled a Joe Sakic retirement post “A Class Act.” Now I’m writing one for Jeremy Roenick—a guy who over my 20 or so years of hockey fandom has pretty much been my favorite player—and I can’t quite say the same thing. It’s not the appropriate description, and it wouldn’t really describe his career best. I’d call him honest, emotional, witty, perhaps impulsive, and passionate, but not always classy. Still, that’s not to knock his character; I think even he’d admit that his journey hasn’t always been a steady one.
I’m guessing there’s a certain segment of readers cringing at the thought of associating “Roenick” and “Favorite.” The guys at LCS Hockey sure gave me grief about it when I appeared on their show, and I’ve had plenty of debate with people over many, many years. To those that can’t stand JR, I ask that you take a step back, look at his stats, think of the way he played in his prime, and see how he changed his entire approach and attitude to become an elder statesman on the Sharks. It’s hard to refute that he was a special talent on the ice.
(Some of those people sent me messages when word of his retirement came out. Perhaps there’s more respect for JR out there than people would like to let on.)
Oh, I know he had his faults. I know why people find him crass, stupid, or annoying. There have been plenty of times when I’ve just had to shake my head at something he did. Still, JR was, in all ways, unique, and he provided me with some of most vivid and favorite memories, both hockey-related and just life in general.
So if you love (or like) JR, here are nine JR memories from a lifelong fan. If you hate him, well, go see my Joe Sakic appreciation post.
At first glance, I have a hard time trying to figure out why an arbitrator awarded Nikolai Zherdev $3.9 million. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for such an enigmatic player, and it feels like it’s paying more for potential than anything else.
Here’s the thing. If I’m a GM, I’d have a difficult time taking Zherdev at even his qualifying number of $3.25 million. The guy can be Pavel Datsyuk-style brilliant with stickhandling on one shift, then be a useless pylon on the next. These days, the salary cap is too restrictive to give up significant space for an unknown quantity.
I think what is more telltale about Zherdev’s grit (or lack thereof) is his coaching history. I can understand if he went nowhere under Doug MacLean; as amusing as MacLean can be when he’s on sports radio, he’s always been a one-hit coaching wonder in my book. But when Ken Hitchcock took over the Blue Jackets, I figured it was make or break time with Zherdev. In Dallas, Hitchcock instilled defensive responsibility in Mike Modano and roped in Sergei Zubov’s freelancing tendencies, eventually transforming him into one the league’s best blueliners. In Columbus, part of his job would be to elevate Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev into complete players.
We can probably all agree that he was successful with Nash. Zherdev? Not so much; he had his spurts but ultimately it was an exercise in futility—despite his upside.
You gotta love the way the NHL’s investigation branch works (here’s s hint—they’re not quite as efficient as the guys on CSI). They’re just catching on to the fact that these ridiculously long contracts with significantly cheaper final years may have been designed as, shockingly, a way to circumvent the cap. First, everyone’s favorite whipping boy Marian Hossa was under the microscope, then word came out today that Chris Pronger’s new deal with the Flyers is under review.
Well, jeez guys, don’t you think you should have done this before actually approving the contract?
If you’ve got some time to kill and want to learn the ins and outs of NHL contractual logistics, you can read the entire 472-page PDF of the NHL CBA. It’s loads of fun and just slightly less dry than an advanced thermodynamics textbook. If that’s not up your alley, then here’s a pertinent section regarding contract approval. By the way, SPC stands for Standard Player Contract.
Super Joe. Burnaby Joe. Quoteless Joe.
Of all the nicknames that stuck with Joe Sakic, perhaps the friendly mockery of “Quoteless” summed up Sakic’s persona the best. He didn’t blurt out thoughts without the brain/mouth filter a la Jeremy Roenick and he certainly never grabbed the attention of Extra or the E! channel a la Sean Avery. Instead, he spoke with his on-ice performance, a mixture of top-level skill and pure class.
I think we all respect (and possibly even like) Joe Sakic. Maybe it’s because of this “Quoteless” nature; with that, there’s not that much bulletin board material so you leave it to his play on the ice. He wasn’t dirty, crass, or obnoxious, and while you’d see him sticking up for his teammates, you’d have to look hard to see any Pronger-like cheap shots in his career.
What type of impact did Sakic make? I like to think that you could tell how highly everyone thought of him by seeing how fans of his hated rivals treated him during the peak of their feud. For me, that rewinds the clock back to college, where my apartment had four hockey nuts living together up in Davis, California (definitely not hockey country). While geography kept us all supporting the Sharks, we each had our other teams, including my one roommate who loved the Red Wings and loved to hate the Avalanche.
Now that we’re a few years into the salary cap, the notion of long-term (5+ years) contracts is the big thing with free agents, yet so many of these teams are hit with buyer’s remorse even one year in the deal.
Scott Gomez. Brian Campbell. Wade Redden. Ryan Smyth. All name players of varying quality, but the anchor of a team? Nope, not by far, but they received contracts like such and have failed to live up to expectations.
(A short aside—if we look at the past decade, including pre-lockout moves, how many of these headache contracts from the desk of Glen Sather? Just sayin’.)
Will this year’s group be any different? A quick review of the available free agents shows a crop of good players but no true elite players. The best players available are great supporting pieces but they’re not the stars of the show, yet you know some impulsive GM will overspend to get their rights. If I could play NHL GM for a day, I’d have a hard time getting into a bidding war with any of the top-tier free agents. In fact, I’m betting that you’re going to get a lot of buyer’s remorse in the near future because each of the top guys comes with at least one significant question mark.
James Mirtle dug up a little thing about Jim Balsillie’s followers being prompted to spam Gary Bettman’s inbox. During this whole process—heck, even going back to when Balsillie tried to buy the Predators—I kept wondering how a guy who’s obviously really freakin’ smart in one way could be so dumb in another.
Or maybe not dumb, but petty, impatient, and childish. This “Spam Bettman” campaign is the virtual equivalent of toilet-papering the NHL offices (or perhaps the good ol’ flaming bag of dog poop). Annoying, attention-getting, but ultimately fruitless.
Jim, listen to me. What you’re doing is a collective waste of time. Bettman and the Board of Governors don’t bend to spam campaigns, online petitions, or public begging and pleading. How many online petitions did we see during the lockout? Heck, even local mayors got involved with letter-writing campaigns to beg and plead their part about how NHL games boost the local economy. What did that get them? Absolutely nothing.
As Bill Guerin found out earlier today, the power of the inter-webs is, well, powerful. And a little tale about an old co-worker who supposedly knew Dany Heatley in college went way farther than I thought it would (or should).
But that’s my fault for being naive (and a testament to the wide reach of KK). While I felt I’d properly framed the post as “I think of something goofy when I hear his name and this is why,” I could understand why it would offend some people. As our old friend The Forechecker put it, stories retelling stories are probably best left for joking about over a pint at the pub. Of course, KK isn’t a random bar that I used to work at, so this sort of thing probably doesn’t belong here. My fault for a lapse in judgment.
So it wasn’t meant to be malicious or hurtful but I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way. I’ll be deleting the post from the archives to protect future generations from stumbling upon it and thinking that tall tales are necessarily fact.
It’s important to note that no one’s asking me to do this or forcing me to do this, it’s just what seemed to be the more reasonable thing to do at this time.
Feel free to call me an idiot in the comments. Turnabout, after all, is fair play.
For longtime readers of my hockey writing, you know that I’ve constantly tried to illustrate the point of what Gary Bettman does and what the Board of Governors does. This whole Phoenix situation is putting a bigger spotlight than usual, so it’s important to note that while people will put up websites like FireBettman.com, the actual act of jettisoning Bettman probably wouldn’t have the effect they wanted.
What are Gary Bettman’s actual responsibilities (besides hosting the NHL Hour to talk about his favorite bands)? He’s a negotiator, advisor, and facilitator all wrapped up into one.
From Gary Bettman’s State of the League presser before Game 1:
We believe that our franchises can all be successful where they’re currently located. And somebody could have asked me the same question that you just asked eight years ago about the Canadian franchises. They could have said; ‘Why do you have any franchises other than Toronto or Montreal?’ eight or ten years ago, because the buildings in all the other places were two-thirds to half empty.
Well, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration…but it’s not totally false. Though perhaps Bettman got his tongue tied and meant that the buildings were 2/3 full to half empty. A 2/3 empty building is pretty freakin’ empty.
Andrew’s Stars Page has attendance numbers dating back to the 1980s, and you can see that Canadian strongholds Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver went through their own lean stretches. As with most attendance woes, a lot of this was based on performance. Even for the most die-hard hockey fan, it’s hard to consistently shell out cash for a crappy product.