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?
Apart from the Stanley Cup Finals kicking off, there were two big stories in the NHL this week, and they were seemingly unconnected. But, at least as far as the narrative being pushed by people on Twitter — and, more insidiously, in the media — is concerned, they were the result of rampant problems that the League needed to correct if it wanted to maintain any semblance of moral decency.
I'm talking, of course, about the NHL's long-expected return to Winnipeg, and Colin Campbell relinquishing his iron grip on the League's justice system as its unilateral and despotic disciplinarian.
Both were apparently endemic evils thrust upon the hockey world by one man: Gary Bettman, head know-nothing puppetmaster who has done little to make people who enjoy hockey happy, and perhaps gone out of his way to punish fans for having the audacity to enjoy the sport.
And hey, what more evidence do we need of this than what Larry Brooks called Bettman's "historically ungracious" appearance at the Manitoba Not-Thrashers press conference at Winnpieg's gorgeous and almost incredibly small MTS Centre?
He very much carried the demeanor of a man with a gun to his head, saying he was happy for hockey to be back in Winnipeg only because he couldn't say anything else, and even then, doing so grudgingly. He was defiant, he was monotone, he was not influenced in any way by the near-delirium that was swelling outside, waiting to burst the second the season ticket infomercial/presser wrapped up.
Winnipeggers partied long into the night, and some, miraculously, into the next morning. All the while, one supposes, Bettman brooded, his hope of building a hockey empire based entirely south of the Mason-Dixon Line a smouldering rubble.
Hockey hadn't worked in Atlanta because they didn't deserve the team in the first place. It's not a part of their blood all the way down there, like it is in the True North, Strong and Free. This was the ultimate vindication for people to whom the ability to like hockey is innate and all-encompassing.
Or, to put it another way, Bettman rode into Manitoba the conquering hero, paying lip service to the market he left not unlike William Tecumseh Sherman. He gave up on a struggling market at the first sign of trouble and what this return to Winnipeg was, in reality, was the NHL taking the several thousand die-hard hockey fans who adopted an expansion team with all their hearts, and breaking up with them via text message after 11 years. How could THAT have been the end? No chance to get their stuff out of the apartment, because they could've sworn they left at least a couple playoff wins around there somewhere ...
But the really good news for everyone came this week when Gary Bettman's fiendish cabal bid a fine mahoke goodbye to Colin Campbell, who stepped down from being the NHL's discipline czar in favor of Brendan Shanahan, whom everyone loves with an undying passion.
Certainly, he couldn't do a worse job than did Campbell, who somehow made a pig's ear of every suspension decision he ever handed down; was biased against everyone that wasn't the team his son happened to play for; and, more specifically, was singlehandedly masterminding a vast conspiracy against whichever team was feeling slighted this week.
Having Brendan Shanahan installed in his stead is, therefore, the perfect solution. He helped come up with new rules to make the game better. He played at an extremely high level for an incredibly long time. And, therefore, he must be both massively qualified for and immediately good at the job.
As a consequence, one can't imagine a scenario in which there is not 1 trillion percent transparency from the league offices on each and every suspension and fine.
Those dozens and dozens of guys he's best buds with in the NHL who might have otherwise swayed his decisions on suspensions? Cut out of his life forever, as he sequesters himself in a blimp high above international waters, with all his supplies being sent to him by specially trained doves who can exert no influence on him in any way.
He will be the world's most unimpressionable man. All of which will be universally met with emotions ranging from grudging acceptance — from those whose teams are affected by the decisions, because how can you not see the categorical logic behind it? — to giddy religious devotion to the league's newfound credibility thanks to its now-ineffible head of supplementary discipline … and not its massively corrupt, cackling mad scientist of a commissioner.
Or maybe, just maybe, these pervasive problems are not the doing of Gary Bettman or anyone else, but rather more benign:
Thing are just the way things are.
Perhaps hockey didn't work in Atlanta, for example, because almost no professional sports team really does and the Thrashers were a remarkably bad team in every year of their existence.
And maybe no one, not even those diehards in Winnipeg, will show up to watch bad teams.
And it might be possible that Colin Campbell has the toughest job in hockey behind Gary Bettman (not that he ever once did himself any favors)?
It might, after all, be impossible to judge intent, or for every hit to be judged by the same criteria. If Matt Cooke tries to take someone's head off for the 500th time and fails, is that more or less deserving of a suspension than Zdeno Chara putting Max Pacioretty in the hospital with a broken neck and a concussion? Perhaps no one can be expected to get that answer right even most of the time.
Could it be conceivable that the decisions made this week will not, under any circumstances, immediately fix what are viewed as the League's major problems?
It may be that the lack of interest in Southern markets will remain as long as the teams are bad, and the waters of the league's suspension culture might never become any less murky until the League gets a mindreader on staff.
Perhaps Winnipeg and Shanahan are entirely unproven commodities in their own right, and not the curealls NHL fans seem to think.
Is it even remotely possible that the only thing we know right now is these are two bandaids on much bigger problems?
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on dental hygiene: "I have fake chicklets. The dentist made them that white. Matt Greene from LA knocked em out. Mans a beast."
If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. 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.