December 16, 2011
Trending Topics is a 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?
Terry Murray was fired this week with no immediate replacement readily at hand. A curious move by the Los Angeles Kings to be sure.
The norm in the new NHL is to quietly explore your options for a week or so, decide on a candidate, then fire the guy you've got who's stinking up your team. But the Kings didn't have anyone to replace Terry Murray on a full-time basis, and the reason why is because, as it eventually turned out, the team had needed permission to talk to the Calgary Flames about hiring on Darryl Sutter.
Everyone shared a laugh over that. Darryl Sutter, indeed. What a laugh. Dean Lombardi has lost his mind.
The reason for this, it seems, is that he was a spectacularly terrible general manager for the last several years and managed a resurgent franchise into the ground.
What people don't remember, or at least don't care to, is that he is also the guy solely responsible for bringing the Flames to any sort of relevance in the first place.
He spent two full seasons prowling behind the Flames bench every night, barking at anyone on what was a largely veteran roster who dared deviate from his system, which trended toward slowing the game down to an ugly crawl that better suited its strengths.
But, those who would poo-poo Sutter's return to the NHL coaching ranks argue, that was in The Old NHL. The Dead Puck Era. The time when defensemen were free to mug anyone who came across their blue line without fear of spending two minutes in the box.
And that's true. In 2003-04, the year Sutter rode Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla to within a goal of a Stanley Cup (a goal they actually scored, by the way), his Flames took 94 points and the sixth seed in the West.
But what people seem to forget — because it has become admittedly very easy to lose it in the shuffle of horrible personnel decisions and avalanche of no-movement clauses — is that when the lockout ended, Sutter and the Flames got better. They were a little more dynamic offensively thanks to the acquisition of Daymond Langkow and the monstrous rookie season of Dion Phaneuf and as defensively staunch as ever.
In this New NHL, which was designed to be the antithesis of the signature Sutter style, the Flames earned 103 points from 82 games and won their division by eight points, despite scoring just 218 goals. Then he went upstairs, letting Jim Playfair take over behind the bench, and began slowly chiseling away at his own legacy as the architect of what was, for two years at least, a fairly successful team.
In a lot of ways, the current Kings are more or less like those mid-2000s Flames teams in the way they are currently playing (talent-wise there is a obviously considerable gap in favor of LA). The Kings don't score a lot, as they're currently tied for 30th in goals for, but they also don't give up a lot of goals, since they're tied for sixth. The issue is that they're mostly even in shots for and against on a nightly basis (30.3 for, 29.7 against), and certainly have the personnel to suppress the latter number.
People have said that it's not exactly clear what this team needs from its coach. Obviously Murray's approach wasn't working, and Lombardi obviously feels going sterner, not softer, is what these guys will respond to. That could very well be it.
But consider also the roster makeup of this Kings team.
They're youngish but they're experienced. They're not going to blow anyone's doors off with their team speed. They have a star player who is spectacular in every part of the ice and a strongish supporting cast. They have a workhorse defenseman who's supposed to be great in all three zones supported by a 'D' corps of talented veterans. They have one of the best goaltenders in the league. Sutter knows how to work with a team like that.
Yeah, the game has changed a lot since Sutter was last an NHL coach but the way players respond to despotic authoritarians likely has not. Watching a Kings game, there is no real organization to their approach, no buildup through the rush. And Lombardi thinks that Sutter has the stronger hand than Murray ever could have to make them conform to a style.
Could Sutter shape Anze Kopitar into a latter-day Jarome Iginla? Could he make Drew Doughty play with the offensive menace of a 20-year-old Dion Phaneuf? Maybe. But if ever a team, collectively, needed the stick instead of the carrot in the NHL this season, it's the Los Angeles Kings.
Darryl Sutter has never given anyone a carrot in his entire life.
No big deal if Dave Bolland says dumb things
I don't know what, exactly, prompted Dave Bolland to say all that hacky stuff about the "Sedin sisters" and all that, given that the Blackhawks and Canucks don't play for another month and a half. But boy did I enjoy it.
Again, not because the "Sedin sisters" crap is in any way funny or anything besides embarrassingly misogynist, but because of the reaction it got from the Canucks. Any time you get an NHL coach to call you names like a fourth grader, you are doing great work as a pest. Get in their heads, live there. Good stuff, even if you had another dozen games or so to go before you saw them again. Let 'em stew in it and think about you, not Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane or Marian Hossa, for weeks on end.
And that's why it's so unfortunate that he later backed off those comments. "I respect the Sedins and stuff but I was just tryin' to be entertaining on the radio, gee heck."
That's weak, and you can more or less assume that's the result of someone, be it a PR guy or coach, pulling him aside and saying cut the crap.
What happened to the league? Can hockey players really not chirp each other through the press these days without having to apologize? Look, Bolland said some ridiculous stuff (i.e. The Sedins wouldn't be welcome on the Blackhawks), but he should be allowed to say it and, if he's that dumb, believe it too.
Teams have a history of shutting up outspoken players (Exhibit A: the Alex Semin "I prefer Kane to Crosby" dustup), and not allowing guys to say anything leads to a lot of, "Y'know, I was just going hard to the net and they got me the puck and I was just happy I could get it by the goalie."
(Somehow, though, no one chided Vigneault because calling a player on another team stupid and ugly — while misunderstanding what IQ is —is apparently not in any way out of line.)
If nothing else, 24/7 has shown us that the league's always going to be more fun with guys being uncensored.
So let them say what they want.
BizNasty on toiletries: "Just found glow in the dark [toilet paper] online. Christmas present to myself. Twooping in the dark."
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.