7. Blaming the defense
Any time you criticize the goaltending ability of bad goaltenders, prepare to hear about how terrible the team in front of them plays every time they're between the pipes.
This has long been the case with Ondrej Pavelec, and while it's true that the Jets defense isn't as good as it probably should be going by the on-paper lineup, it's also true that Pavelec is the worst starting goaltender in the NHL by a fairly wide margin. All that talk about “free pizzas” or whatever that Claude Noel used to throw around seems to have had a major impact on fanbase and reporters alike, because no matter how close to .900 (or below) Pavelec's save percentage gets, it's always someone else's fault.
The same is true, now, for Steve Mason in Philadelphia.
Publish an article full of facts about how awful he's been apart from a pair of two-month periods five years apart over the course of his career, and all you'll get back is excuse-making. If this guy's name was Stefan Masonov, he'd be getting destroyed for giving up this many goals of late, but hey it's all the defense's fault this time around. What about when his save percentage was through the roof to start the year? No talk about how great the defense was, hey? Nah, that was all Mason, and he'd be doing so great now if only the defense which has always been bad had stayed at the same level of badness to which he had grown accustomed. He could outperform his career save percentage by at least 25 or 30 points behind a passably bad defense, yes sir.
The world was given 205 games of evidence between Mason's .936 efforts to start his tenures in both Columbus and Philadelphia, and during that time his save percentage was .899. This is, somehow, not the true indicator of his talents. I'll never get how fans can choose to be this blind. It's okay to criticize your own team for giving out bad contracts. I promise.
6. Dion Phaneuf's hat
Did you hear what Dion did? He made Dave Feschuk cry when he wouldn't say how much Red Bull pays him, so Feschuk told on him. What a bad boy Dion is! Don't let him be the captain!
Remember all that wink-wink, nudge-nudge talk about how the Bruins might trade Brad Marchand when his season shooting percentage was like 7.5 or something? And then he scored that goal and ripped a fake monkey off his back as a celebration? Well now he's shredding everyone he plays AS IF BY MAGIC.
It seems that bumping a struggling scorer down to the third line, as Claude Julien did when Marchand couldn't buy a goal at the start of the season, isn't necessarily the best way to get a guy to break out of a slump. Giving him lots of minutes and time to figure it out, however, is usually a good idea.
Marchand's average TOI in the first two months of the season was around 15:15, and during that time he had four goals and eight assists in 27 games. Then he “got the monkey off his back” and all of a sudden he was getting nearly 17 minutes overall for December and January. How's that gone? How about 12 goals and four assists over 22 games? Wow, that's a lot better. What happened, exactly? Was it confidence or luck?
Someone who believes in magic and the tooth fairy would tell you it's confidence, but in reality it's just the way hockey works. He shot 7.1 percent in October, 11.1 percent in November, 20.8 percent in December, and 26.9 percent so far in January. That includes six goals in his last four games.
He's been phenomenal and it's all because he's being given a chance to work his way out of a prolonged slump. One wonders how things might be going in Boston this season if they'd let a certain other player stick around and get that chance. Probably not well. I heard that guy's bad in the room.
One of the most amazing things that's come out of the NHL in some time is that a little while before John Tortorella's suspension hearing ended, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray visited league offices to discuss the findings of that idiotic forensic investigation into whether Matt Cooke intentionally stepped on Erik Karlsson's Achilles tendon.
You would think the answer, at this point, would be “Who really cares, Gene?” But no, they probably had spreadsheets and charts and laser pointers and all the kind of thing to prove definitively that Crazy Old Man Cooke really did it on purpose and is evil and bad. So dumb, and such a waste of time and resources for a team that's allegedly bleeding money and also kind of sucks this season.
I would, however, pay a lot of money to get audio of that meeting. It would sound like when a toddler is trying to tell you about a movie he saw. “And then there were werewolves and they were SO scary!” “Uh huh.” “And the one werewolf stepped Erik Karlsson's heel like crsshhhhh!” “Really?” “Yeah and he was hurt all season and a scientist said it was on purpose!”
Grow up, Melnyk.
3. Sticking to your guns
Darryl Katz is one of the more tone-deaf owners in the NHL, which is saying something in and of itself. This was supposed to be the year in which his Oilers finally made a playoff push for the first time in almost a decade. Some idiots I could mention (like me) even had them squeezing into the postseason.
Instead, they cratered hard to start the season and never recovered, but got kind of decent in there for a little while, then re-cratered. In the last five weeks, the Oilers have won four games, and lost 15. Only three of those losses came after regulation.
So they're just bad this year, and they're looking for answers. Darryl Katz tried to assuage concerns that this is never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever going to get better, by sending an open letter to “Oilers Fans Everywhere.” It was not well-received.
The reason for the lack of restored faith is the final clause of the sentence at the end of the second paragraph: “[W]e have to stay the course.” Nope. Not the right answer, bud. When you're holding “signing free agents like … Boyd Gordon... Andrew Ference, and Ilya Bryzgalov, and trading for players like … Matt Hendricks” up on the same level as signing Justin Schultz, or trading for David Perron, that shows you do not fundamentally understand what it takes to help teams win at hockey.
“I hear a lot from fans about accountability, so let’s be clear. We are all accountable. That includes me, Kevin [Lowe], Craig [MacTavish], Dallas [Eakins], every player who wears our jersey, and every member of our staff.”
Yeah Kevin Lowe is accountable as hell. Ran the team into the ground as GM, got a promotion, oversaw the continuing crash-and-burn of the franchise, and is defended, while MacTavish is thrown under the bus less than a year into his tenure. Great stuff.
Derek Zona at Copper and Blue just eviscerated Katz for this nonsense. That's the general temperature among Oiler fans these days.
2. Being a jerk
The ultimate fallout from the Vancouver/Calgary brawl and its resultant Tough Guy-Off is that you can get John Tortorella to act like a baby just about any time you want and give your team a pretty good chance of beating them. Hell, Calgary got all the way to a shootout before it ultimately lost, and they're maybe the worst team in the league this year (with all due respect to Edmonton and Buffalo).
The blue print for beating the Canucks is now pretty clear: Fight them early, play physical hockey. They're banged up right now, especially, and they can't handle it, either emotionally or physically. You might end up getting the coach suspended too. It's a can't-lose and proven way to win. The Kings did it a few weeks ago, and when the Ducks blew them out last week, the game got all punchy and the Canucks settled for “moral victory.”
Last I checked, they don't give you two points for those. But at least Torts said the F-word to someone again.
1. This goal
Sam Anas, an undrafted free agent college freshman playing for Quinnipiac this season, scored an almost-impossible goal at Merrimack on Saturday night. There was a point shot that was tipped into the air by linemate Jordan Samuels-Thomas, an Edmonton pick.
Anas then played the puck himself on the backhand, while it was still in mid-air, chipping it toward the middle of the ice and then tapping it past Rasmus Tirronen. Just incredible.
(Not ranked this week: The Caps' fenwick rating, The Caps' won-lost record, The Caps in general, Saying a good fight is what helped your team win when you were already leading and dominating the game, Russia needing an injury to some KHL nobody to figure out that Alex Semin should be on their Olympic team because he's really good, Jim Rutherford not realizing same, Henrik Sedin's “Iron Man” streak during which he's occasionally played injured and therefore actually hurt his team's chance of winning, Another Jimmy Howard Injury, The start of the insipid Stadium Series.)
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Ondrej Pavelec
- Dion Phaneuf
- Brad Marchand
- Steve Mason
- John Tortorella