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What We Learned: Airing some NHL grievances in the tradition of Festivus

Ryan Lambert
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Festivus Web

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Even if you don't watch Seinfeld religiously, you are probably well aware of the show's made-up holiday Festivus, during which unspoken grievances are aired to those who have wronged you in some way during the course of the entire year.

And as you probably well know by now, there has been a lot about which to feel aggrieved in the NHL in 2012. Like, a stunning amount. And while I understand that today is the 24th, and not the traditional day of Festivus, which falls on the 23rd, there has been so much to complain about that you might as well stretch it to two days.

Here are the five dumbest things to happen in hockey this year ...

5. The Oilers are moving, wink-nudge.

Darryl Katz is, in theory, the kind of owner every team should have. He's a self-made billionaire from the city in which his team plays who grew up cheering for them, and he (ostensibly, anyway) doesn't really want to use the team as a money-making venture so much as he just wants to see it succeed. Evidence to the contrary on the latter point, of course, is that Steve Tambellini still runs the team.

Which makes the whole arena saga bizarre and terrible.

Okay, I get it: Rexall Place is going to collapse at any second and everyone hates it. Lots of teams are in that position with their rink. And hey, you can't even fault Katz for going out and trying to get public money to build a new one. Everyone does it! It works all the time! But when the City Council very wisely told him he was a billionaire so it wouldn't just give him more money than he originally asked for, Katz threw an hilarious hissy fit. Most of the Edmonton media, by the way, openly supported Katz throughout, with David Staples as his most embarrassing enabler.

First there was the post on the Oilers' website that was like, "Hey, this team could move and it wouldn't be our fault sorry though everyone." Then there was the breathlessly-reported trip to Seattle, which had just signed a deal to build a multi-purpose stadium in hopes of luring a basketball team. I don't blame Wayne Gretzky, who was seen with Katz at a Seahawks game that night, for running from the situation like it was on fire (even as I don't believe a word he says about just happening to have been there that night).

But none of that stuff worked, and Katz went back to Edmonton hat in hand to beg for any more money at all. He was once again denied, and now has about five weeks to close the deal, between which the city and team have a $100 million gap in what they're each willing to spend.

4. Tim Thomas: Right-wing nutbar.

Let me start by saying that whatever your politics, you have to see Tim Thomas as a complete lunatic for a whole hell of a lot of reasons.

It all started when he refused to go to the White House with his teammates to meet President Barack Obama on the grounds that The Government Is Bad, and not, as Dave Hodge jokingly suggested, because he is racist. That led to some uncomfortable moments and pretty breathless coverage by the Boston media in particular, which was all too happy to throw the guy under the bus for reasons I'm still not fully clear on. It also left his teammates to answer questions about how much of a jerk they think Tim Thomas, who at the time was widely considered the best goaltender on the planet, really is. That, in turn, caused Thomas to only become MORE of a kook. He started posting insane screeds on his Facebook page, including one particularly indefensible one about the importance of letting Chik-Fil-A continue to discriminate against gay people all it wanted.

Then, with $3 million due to him this locked-out season, he just said, "Screw it," and announced he would take the year off to live with his family in Colorado. He has become so much of a Kaczynskian recluse to the hockey media that his very participation in a union (the irony!) conference call last week made headlines.

He was likely disappointed to find that that world still existed on Dec. 22.

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3. Greg Jamison's continual pursuit of the Coyotes.

The Coyotes' ownership situation has been an hilarious quagmire for years and years at this point, but we might be near the end of the tunnel, ready to emerge the other side into a Lovecraftian hellscape of endless despair (until the team very inevitably moves to Quebec City in like two years).

Greg Jamison is the latest person to lead a charge of the light brigade into the baffling wilderness of trying to buy a dying franchise based in an infertile market, with a cadre of unnamed investors at his back. At one point, early in the year, his group was one of three potential suitors for the team, but the other two eventually faded from the picture. Probably because, unlike with the Atlanta Thrashers, the league is inexplicably committed to keeping this team buried up to its neck in the hot desert sun.

And so began the long slow painful waltz between Jamison's group and the league and the City of Glendale, none of whom seem particularly interested in getting a deal done expediently or, perhaps more important, sanely. In researching this, I found that Jamison has been considered the sole suitor for the team since April or so, and now, eight months later, Jamison still doesn't own the team, though that hasn't stopped him from getting a massive and terrible lease deal from the city despite his preference to work everything cloak-and-dagger style.

Maybe this will all get resolved in 2013!

2. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter's long, strange trip.

It's not so much that their signing with Minnesota is in itself offensive (except to say that this team is not that much closer to competing for a Stanley Cup now than it was prior to their signing), but rather the process by which they did so is the concept behind basically everything that Gary Bettman says is wrong with the current CBA.

Teams were allowed to woo them for days on end while the hockey world sat and waited in anticipation, with executives flying in and out of tiny airports for a quick afternoon lemonade and to deliver some contract numbers to look over. They eventually chose their destination and got exactly the kind of deal for which Bettman fined the Devils so heavily when they signed Ilya Kovalchuk.

Both got $12 million in the first two years of the deal, and another $11 million in the third, most of that paid in bonuses rather than salary. They each will receive $2 million in the third-to-last year of the deal, and $1 million per in each of the final two. Those final two, by the way, constitute the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons, because why wouldn't they? By the end of these contracts, Parise will be 40, and Suter 39.

All this from an owner who, a) openly complained about other teams giving out these kinds of deals just months before doing so, and b) is now driving the lockout, which is essentially a war on these contracts. What a hypocrite. The Wild deserve to continue to fail for years to come.

1. The lockout.

Obviously. But hey, Jeremy Jacobs really wants that extra 12 cents a beer, so can you blame him?

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Emerson Etem did okay in the closing minutes of Saturday's game with the Albany Devils, during which his Norfolk Admirals trailed 1-0 with 60 seconds left in the third period. Etem scored the game-tying goal with 33 seconds left, then struck again just six seconds into overtime to win it.

Boston Bruins: Today is Day No. 21 since Steve Burton of WBZ in Boston said the lockout could be over in two days. But it doesn't seem fair that Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and a whole host of NHL forwards get to play for Canada in the Spengler Cup.

Buffalo Sabres: Sabres prospect Jake McCabe just got the biggest honor of his life: He was named captain for the U.S. World Junior team.

Calgary Flames: If the NHL season is canceled, local sports leagues will lose about $765,000 because the Saddledome Foundation, which typically gives them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, will receive far less funding from the team itself. Cool and great stuff. Don't forget Murray Edwards is helping to drive the lockout too!

Carolina Hurricanes: You know how sometimes you hear guys call for passes from their opponents? The reason they do it is it works sometimes. Ask Brett Sutter, who did it to Jake Allen and got an easy game-winning goal out of it on Saturday.

Chicago Blackhawks: Brandon Pirri had a strong third period for Rockford on Saturday, scoring two goals five minutes apart to ease the IceHogs past the badly slumping Abbotsford Heat.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs are apparently loving Tyson Barrie these days, and why not? He has 20 points in 29 games from the blue line in Lake Erie this season, and already surpassed his goal total from last season.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Prospect Boone Jenner should be suspended for the entirety of the World Juniors for this gross late hit, but he probably won't be.

Dallas Stars: Brenden Morrow says he hasn't really done much skating this offseason, but has done a lot of Pilates work and spin classes. Pretty good idea for a guy who's gonna be 34 soon, I'm sure.

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Mikael Samuelsson is hosting his Swedish teammates for Christmas Eve, and Niklas Kronwall will come in handy if Santa needs any help getting his sleigh up in the air.

Edmonton Oilers: I mentioned the strong forward corps Canada is bringing to the Spengler Cup, but with Devan Dubnyk starting between the pipes, I don't know how good their chances are.

Florida Panthers: Panthers coaches and staffers have been keeping busy during the lockout, coming into the office almost every day. And what do they do there, Craig Ramsay? "There are enough guys where you can come in, grab a coffee, chat with the boys and get a workout in," he said. "I've found ways to stay busy. I've repeated some of the video for sure." Great gig if you can get it.

Los Angeles Kings: Saturday was the one-year anniversary of Darryl Sutter's first game behind the Kings bench. Things went pretty okay, considering the team only lost 17 of 69 games in regulation in the regular season and playoffs combined. And that whole Stanley Cup thing.

Minnesota Wild: Mikko Koivu says he misses the "adrenaline" of games, and also probably being injured.

Montreal Canadiens: I love this headline so much I could cry. Article's good too.

Nashville Predators: Nashville fans are already dreading Shea Weber potentially becoming a free agent again if the union dissolves itself. Man.

New Jersey Devils: Chris Christie knows more than a little bit about mismanaging things, so when he criticizes the league's handling of the lockout, you know it's coming from a place of weighty expertise.

New York Islanders: With JetBlue now the official airline of the Islanders' future home rink, the chances they don't get chartered flights any more seems absurdly high.

New York Rangers: Ryan Callahan went back to his old high school on Friday. He played one season there before jumping to juniors. I'm so bummed I can't find the stats he put up in that one year because he must have scored a million goals.

Ottawa Senators: Mika Zibanejad hasn't had the best start to this AHL season. He had four wisdom teeth removed, then had strep throat, then got a "serious" stomach flu. He could be back next week unless he contracts the hantavirus.

Philadelphia Flyers: The injuries for Flyers prospects Marc-Andre Bourdon and Ben Holmstrom are not very good. Bourdon is out with a mystery ailment related to a concussion (probably) and Holmstrom, Adirondack's captain, is out between four and six months with an ACL injury.

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 136 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. However, across the street, ABC 15 is encouraging fans to go bother locked-out Coyotes by giving out details of their four-days-a-week practice sessions on the local news. Shane Doan seems like a hell of a nice guy though.

Pittsburgh Penguins: I hope upon hope that the Penguins really are super-duper interested in bringing Sergei Gonchar back. Oh man would that be great. Not for the Penguins, mind you. But for me? Great.

San Jose Sharks: Alex Stalock is off to a pretty great start in the AHL this season, winning nine of his first 16 games after suffering debilitating nerve damage in February 2011.

St. Louis Blues: Sure, Alex Pietrangelo didn't win the Norris for some reason, but maybe Louie will win the Cartoon Network Most Awesome Mascot Award. You know Leahy's got his back.

Tampa Bay Lightning: A Bolts fan named Shawn Berger canceled two season tickets and got a $700 refund from the team. I have to believe that math isn't right because there's no way on Earth that's like $8.50 a ticket. And even if it's $700 per seat, that's $17 bucks a seat. Why don't we all live in Tampa, exactly?

Toronto Maple Leafs: Ryan Hamilton is now the Toronto Marlies' all-time leading goalscorer. With 75 goals. That first part is, like, really impressive to read. The second not so much. Granted, the team has only existed since 2005.

Vancouver Canucks: I can't believe Darren Haydar is still playing hockey.

Washington Capitals: The Caps held a scrimmage at their practice rink on Friday and Brooks Laich got the chance to spit hot truth over the damage the lockout is doing. "Hockey was on the up for seven straight years. Record revenues, record attendance, the game was doing so well. And with so many good young talented players, so many superstars. And now it's like we just discarded it all." Pretty frickin' much, buddy.

Winnipeg Jets: Here's maybe the best question anyone asked all week: Why on earth would Evander Kane even want to play in Winnipeg at this point? (And the headline on that post is pretty damn great too.)

Play of the Weekend

Here's Justin Schultz pulling within four goals of the record for an AHL rookie defenseman. He had two in the game, a 6-2 win, and both were beauties. Personally, I think he's gonna break the record, considering he has 16-24-40 in 28 games and that's not even close to fair and I don't understand it.

Pertinent clips start at around 2:00.

Gold Star Award

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Real nice move from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Minus of the Weekend

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Today is the 100th day of the lockout. Each day I pray for death's cold, eternal embrace.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "HockeyFan100" knows that if you're gonna have a decentish top-pairing defenseman, you gotta be giving him $6.8 million against the cap.

To Nashville:

Jay Bouwmeester
2014 2nd pick

To Calgary:

David Legwand
Kevin Klein

Signoff

Your hostility invalidates our contract.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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