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Winners and losers from ‘HBO 24/7 Red Wings-Maple Leafs: Road To The NHL Winter Classic’

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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By now, if you’ve watched “HBO 24/7 Red Wings-Maple Leafs: Road To The NHL Winter Classic” this season, you’ve had time to consume the season finale.

Overall, it wasn’t the best of the three seasons. If you’re looking for a postmortem on it, check out our interview with HBO exec Bentley Weiner. Also, our reviews for Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4.

Here are some winners and losers from the third season of “HBO 24/7”, and hopefully we get many more of this still-remarkable show.

WARNING: SOME VIDEOS AND LINKS CONTAIN ADULT LANGUAGE

Winner: Randy Carlyle

One minute he was the folksy grandpa, cracking goofy jokes and disliking like all that techno music, and the next he’s a foul-mouthed coach asking for his players to take accountability for their lack of competitive fire. Granted, the man will never live down his inability to work a toaster, but at least that now supersedes his inability to coach a defense that doesn’t allow 40 shots per game.

Loser: Mike Babcock

This is one of the funniest, insightful and intelligent coaches in the NHL. But what we saw on “24/7” was a frustrated, distracted guy who spent more time wiping numbers at the whiteboard than connecting with viewers. Seriously, he was more personable in a 5-minute Winter Classic presser than he was in four episodes.

Winner: Natural Rivals

What was clear in these episodes is that the show is exponentially better when there’s some actual rivalry between the teams (or players) rather than … well, whatever the Wings and Leafs were to each other. The internal struggles for success within a team only carry you so far; that there are stakes or bragging rights involved in the two meetings between the teams elevates the show’s latter two episodes in ways this season’s did not.

Loser: Forced Banter

Hey, remember the worst scene in the history of “24/7”:

Winner: Dion Phaneuf

Seriously, who had the Leafs captain pegged for the star of “24/7”? From the wardrobe to the Elisha time to the suspension to the trash talk to the ping-pong to the new contract, no player had the airtime or plot lines of Dion Phaneuf.

Loser: Every Other Toronto Defenseman

Meanwhile, the only other time we got to know a Leafs defenseman was when John-Michael Liles was traded on the day of the Classic.

Winner: The Florida Panthers

Featured in nearly every episode, the Panther inexplicably became the Washington Generals to the Leafs' and Wings' Globetrotters ... only they kept winning.

Loser: The Western Conference

Once again, it’s an all-East “24/7”, as the lockout postponed the Winter Classic for a season and the Detroit Red Wings were realigned for the 2014 edition.

Winner: Sidney Crosby

Sid The Kid became the Loki of “24/7”, popping into Episode 2 of the Wings/Leafs series and walking away with the thing thanks to his mockery of Phaneuf and Nazem Kadri.

Loser: Pavel Datsyuk

Boy … maybe it was the language barrier or the injury rehab or the losing streak. Whatever it was, the incredibly insightful Datsyuk never became a less-clownish Ilya Bryzgalov as many of us hoped he’d become, as he was barely on the show.

Winner: David Clarkson’s abs

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Loser: David Clarkson’s elbow

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Winner: Brendan Smith’s Parents

A hockey mom and hockey dad that kept a warm house for their boy in Ontario, including his childhood room painted in Leafs colors (his brother’s favorite team).

Loser: The Lonely Existence Of The Maple Leafs Bachelors

Kadri lives in a condo that’s about as inviting as Michael Fassbender’s in “Shame”, while Bozak and Kessel just sit around and play video games all day in their glass cage of bachelorhood.

Winner: Places We Haven't Gone Before

The Leafs giving us Dion Phaneuf contract news and then signing him on the show was pretty amazing.

Loser: Places We Couldn't Go

Besides the time the coaches kicked out the cameras, the NHL denied a bid from HBO to capture footage in supplemental discipline hearings.

Winner: Gray toques

Every. Single. Player. Wears. One. Even indoors.

Loser: Gray hair

Poor Drew Miller.

Winner: Ping-Pong

The legendary games between Kessel and Phaneuf were given proper tribute during the show.

Loser: Soccer

Seriously, what happened to those epic kick-arounds from the Red Wings? They have, like, 40 Swedish guys and no footie?

Winner: Water Bottles

The battle between David Clarkson and Todd Bertuzzi over Jonathan Bernier’s water bottle remains one of the greatest moments of the season. “I’ll buy you a new one!”

Loser: Toasters

At least when they’re being operated by Randy Carlyle.

Winner: Tyler Bozak

Episode 4’s arc with Bozak – returning from injury and then becoming the hero of the Winter Classic for Toronto – was one of the most satisfying self-contained stories of the season.

Loser: Jimmy Howard

They spent so much time setting up Howard and his injury, to not focus on him after the he lost the Winter Classic in a shootout seemed rather incomplete.

Winner: The Winter Classic

It lived up the hype, as the game itself was thrilling and the job the HBO crew did in turning around footage in a 48-hour period for the finale was remarkable.

Loser: The Olympics

Making or missing the chance to represent your nation on the Sochi Games would seem like a thing that’s dramatic and important but that’s just us.

Winner: Snow

There was plenty of it in Detroit and Toronto, and then it created the perfect setting during the Winter Classic as it fell on the Big House.

Loser: Kids On The Pond

The single most tiresome cliché about outdoor hockey becomes our bookends on the Red Wings-Maple Leafs season. As our radio buddy Jeff Marek put it: “You know why so many Canadian kids skate on the pond? Because all the arena ice time is already booked.”

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