Trending Topics is a new column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear Internet instead?
You may not remember it as being the biggest story in hockey at the time, but it was a giant-sized deal in Boston; and thus I remember it vividly.
It was the late '90s and Jaromir Jagr(notes) was still, y'know, The Jaromir Jagr. He was doing an interview with the Hockey News or something like that and, when asked who the toughest defenseman in the league he had to face was, he replied -- rather hilariously -- that it was Hal Gill(notes).
You can imagine the amount of jokes that Boston Bruins fans shared about it, but damn if that Toughest Defenseman In the League To Play Against moniker didn't stick with him. Hell, people still bring it up occasionally in a non-ironic manner.
And I remember later learning that Jagr's impression of Gill, who has pretty much always underwhelmed his opponents, was based on one game in particular where he just got physically punished every time he came across the blue line. But that memory stuck, and we had to deal with years of people trying to legitimize Gill's contributions to the team.
If Jagr thinks so, who are we to argue?
Now we have this Mike Peca/Jay Bouwmeester situation that's got everyone from the player himself to Flames president Ken King battening down the hatches; and despite what the former NHLer would tell you, the two didn't have too many easy go-rounds.
The problem with making assertions like the one Peca did (a reminder: "I don't see it. I've never seen it. Playing against this guy a lot of years, I've just seen a very casual player with tremendous speed"), is that they are easily verifiable these days. We have game logs and shift charts and hell, even play-by-play stats.
And pretty much everything available shows that Peca is basing his opinions off five games played 6-8 years ago.
(Coming Up: The NHL is full of homers; the Force is with hockey "Stars Wars" references; and your pearl from BizNasty for the week.)
The games against Peca -- for which the NHL doesn't provide full box scores -- include all of Jay Bouwmeester's(notes) rookie year and two of his sophomore outings, and the results aren't pretty: The defenseman, who let's keep in mind was just 19 and 20 years old at the time, was a minus-3 with two assists, while Peca had the same offensive output and was even.
That's not pretty, and, one suspects, they're the entire basis for Peca's lack of seeing "it." Because after those games, his argument falls apart.
There are full boxes for the next five games (like here) which were played between the second half of 2003-04 and Peca's retirement at the end of 2008-09. The only game in which you could say that Peca, perhaps, did appreciably better was in the last one before the lockout, in which his team still lost 6-4.
But hey, we have five-on-five shift charts for every season since the lockout thanks to the wonderful site timeonice.com (now sadly no longer operating), and the results don't flatter Peca's memory -- though I'm sure he felt like he was just gobbling up Bouwmeester at every turn.
They only played each other four times since the lockout, given Peca's penchant for being on Western Conference teams at the time; and, despite just 18.3 even-strength shifts head-to-head, it looks a bit like J-Bo in his early days. In those games, Peca had one assist and was minus-1, while Bouwmeester had no points and was plus-3.
Taking into account all 10 games they ever played, Peca, who never got the hype surrounding Bouwmeester, had a goal and three assists, and was a minus-1-- almost all of which came against a kid who wasn't yet 21.
Bouwmeester had the same stat line, minus the goal.
The point of this exercise, as hundreds have now pointed out, is that Peca is being paid to state his opinion. And he did that well enough and that's awesome, despite what Ken King thinks.
But just because he's a former NHL player doesn't mean his opinion is somehow unassailable. He has what everyone else has: confirmation bias. He saw a handful of games early in Bouwmeester's career, when he was still learning the NHL game and Florida was hot garbage, and said, "Wow this kid doesn't live up to the hype." And he held onto that.
So every time Bouwmeester gets beat one-on-one, Peca can go "See? I knew he was awful all along."
It just happened to come up now because Darryl Sutter has painted the Calgary Flames into a corner, given its eight defensemen on one-way deals. That's all. I don't see the big deal.
He's entitled to his opinion. In this case, it just happens to be wrong.
This just in: Homers think way too highly of players on their team
The NHL has its own Twitter feed, of course, and has spent most of the last week asking fans who they think are likely candidates for all the big awards this season.
The results have been uniformly and predictably comical.
When the NHL asked who would win the Norris, most answers wouldn't surprise anyone. Pronger, Weber, Keith, Doughty. You know the drill. Then one Caps fan tipped it into lunatic country by suggesting John Carlson(notes). Soon after came suggestions of Brian Rafalski(notes) and Tyler Myers(notes), but the worst one was for Niklas Kronwall(notes), which led the person behind the NHL feed to comment, "3rd Wing suggested, deep D!" That's one way to put it.
Fans also tabbed guys like Jonathan Bernier(notes), PK Subban(notes), Taylor Hall(notes) and Tyler Seguin(notes) for the Calder Trophy, before the insane talk started again with suggestions like Jordan Caron(notes), Jeff Skinner(notes), Derek Stepan(notes) and, most laughably, Mikael Backlund(notes).
And believe me, you don't want to know what these rocket scientists picked for their in-rink music. Let's just say the discussion led off with Trapt and Nelly.
See? You're much smarter than the average hockey fan.
The other night, the terrifically named Twitter user WhatNoJagr noted that one trending topic #NHLMatrix, would not be anywhere near as good as #NHLStarWars. And thus was born a hashtag in which people tried to cast the famous trilogies using NHL players.
Our man got the ball rolling: "Chris Chelios = The Emperor?"
Byronic pointed out, "Crosby's gotta be Luke. Starts off whiny douche ends up winning it all."
Passittobulis said, "Mikael Samuelsson is Han Solo, because he shoots first."
Nettrashcan noted, "Hitchcock has gotta be the Death Star. 'That's no moon...'"
Lukecourtright with one for the nerds, "Jacques Lemaire is Admiral Ackbar. Too obvious?"
Ashli28 added, "Vesa Toskala as Jar Jar Binks. "Mesa try and stop pucks. Mesa no catch them, but mesa try!"
You all get pizza rolls.
Pearls of Biz-dom
BizNasty on friendship: "I want a sidekick midget like (Kenny Powers)! Dos BizNastos senoritos."
If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via email. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.
- Jaromir Jagr