[Author's note: Every sports website on earth dedicated to covering just one league publishes a weekly power ranking, and we here at Puck Daddy have finally decided to do the same. However, the problem with power rankings in general is that they are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
6. Contracts Signed This Summer
We're now deep enough into the season that it's fair to start evaluating some of the big contracts signed this summer and boy oh boy are there some absolute stinkers. And because no team wants to be the one that signed the worst contract, there's bound to be a lot of discussion about exactly who messed up instead.
You might want to start with the logical choice: The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. It's not because any deal they signed this summer was more egregious than the others in the conversation (which, again, there are many), it's because there were two of them. Corey Crawford and Bryan Bickell both got big raises because they played well in the playoffs, and both have promptly returned to sucking pretty hard once they got their nice, fat raises.
Crawford's — $6 million against the cap for the next six years — hasn't even kicked in yet and he's got a save percentage six points below his already below-mediocre career average. This isn't an accident. Bickell, meanwhile, put up 17 points in the postseason last year, including two game-winners, and got bumped up to four years and $16 million. So far in 22 games this year, he's got five goals and an assist, and that's with having shot 14.3 percent.
Fortunately for Stan Bowman, Dave Nonis isn't about to take this kind of thing lying down, and that David Clarkson deal is looking worse by the day. Yeah, he'll be making $5.25 million against the cap for the next seven (SEVEN!) years, and he might even be able to keep more than two-thirds of that if he can stop being suspended for five minutes. He's already been banned for 12 of the first 35 games of his Leafs career, and even when he's in the lineup, he's been flat out awful. Two goals and four assists in 24 games. Leafs fans are already turning on him.
Not that they're wrong, mind you. Even if he surges in the latter 50 or so games, this is an awful start; does he even get into the double digits?
But not even Nonis was outdone by a guy widely and repeatedly hailed as one of the finest general managers in the league, who gave out a contract so bad Rick DiPietro is spinning in his retirement home. Ken Holland's decision to give Stephen Weiss five years and $24.5 million seemed a curious one even by the usual “well he's one of the better free agent centers on the market” standards. He almost certainly already regrets the decision. In 26 games, the 30-year-old Weiss has just 2-2-4 and is getting less than 15 minutes a night. That deal sucks now. It's going to be a disaster in two years.
At least the cap is going up, though, right?
Remember that time, not so long ago, that you couldn't tell a Jets fan anything negative about their awful team without being branded a hater?
Well, 'round about this week, after a third of a season of watching the Jets play against the Western Conference instead of the cushy and thankfully-dead Southeast Division, you are finally free to say whatever you want with only sad nods of assent.
The Jets dropped their third game in a row, and fourth of their previous five, on Saturday, getting absolutely embarrassed at home by a not-great Dallas side, and everyone is finally starting to realize that despite the assurances made and hefty contract extensions granted by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, this was a poorly-built roster. Sure, the pom-pom boys in the press box think it's because the team is still too Atlanta-y, but the fact remains that the team's top four scorers are in fact holdovers from the Thrasher days.
That includes Blake Wheeler, who went off following the Dallas loss, in basically saying that the teams problems now are the same as they were three years ago, and it's only now that everyone's finally getting around to thinking about it critically.
By the way, after a relatively nice start (.916 in October and November), Ondrej Pavelec crashed back to earth hard, with a save percentage of — get this — .872 in five December appearances.
That reality is colder than a Winnipeg winter. And things are only going to get worse.
4. Dumb Christmas videos
Hockey players can't sing or act. Hahaha. Do you get it? They're only good at hockey. But here we are making them do wacky things. Oh the laughs we share during this holiday season. These sweaters are so ugly, right? Talk about being jolly!
3. Teams In The Hiring Process
While signing the above-mentioned under-performing players were uniformly terrible decisions, at least two teams this season have decided they've had enough of that kind of thing. With Buffalo, which fired its GM so long ago it's almost impossible to believe they haven't picked someone already, and now Calgary in the market for a new GM, that's great news for one very specific demographic: NHL front office types fixin' to be GMs themselves.
Brian Burke specifically mentioned that the reason he had to can Jay Feaster now, only two and a half years after it should have been done, is because Buffalo canned Lindy Ruff Darcy Regier a month ago, only two and a half years after it should have been done, and they're now competing for the same guys. Jim Benning from Boston and Paul Fenton both seem probable to get the big job in both cities, depending on who you ask and when, and therefore they're going to be able to ask for the moon.
“Oh jeez Pat, I'd love to sign with the Sabres but y'know Calgary's giving me a helicopter so...”
“We have a deal. Can't wait to race those helicopters.”
2. The Appeals Process
So Shawn Thornton finally dropped the contrition act when he realized the league really does from on senseless, unprovoked attacks that put players in the hospital, and will become the second player to appeal the length of his suspension, with his ignominious forebear being the great Patrick Kaleta. Exclusive company, to be sure.
The meeting between Thornton, his representatives, and Bettman will apparently go down this Friday, with a decision presumably rendered shortly thereafter. One wonders on what ground the NHLPA will argue that the length of the suspension was egregious, apart from the fact that he's a first-time offender, but it's genuinely exciting to see where this goes.
Bettman dropped an entire sack full of hammers on Kaleta's appeal (and those hammers promptly beat him in an IQ test) with a brutal legal beatdown of his claims that he's anything other than a predatory player who's not good at actual hockey.
One wonders how Bettman will view a brutal attack such as Thornton's, given that it caused a lot of negative publicity for the league and almost led to real-life battle lines being drawn on Twitter, with fighting advocates and Bruins homers on one side and rational people on the other. One assumes Bettman already has a pretty strong opinion on what he saw that night, and countless times on video subsequent to the event, but the actual putting it to words? That could be interesting and brutal.
From a legal language standpoint, let's hope Thornton walks out of there feeling like he got slew-footed and punched in the face. Even Bettman knows there's no place for that in the game.
1. Everyone Getting Suspended
Eight suspensions in the seven-day period from Dec. 9-16. EIGHT. Add in the suspension to Deryk Engelland that should be announced later today, and we're really closing in on the Twelve Suspensions of Christmas. Fiiiiiiive blatant boards.
Can't say Brendan Shanahan isn't putting in the hours, at any rate.
(Not ranked this week: Brian Burke's barber, Vancouver turdboys taking a swing at Milan Lucic, anyone putting money on Canada doing a thing at World Juniors because Canada sucks, your hope of enjoying 24/7, invisible trophies and jewelry, Zack Kassian, Jay Feaster, watching the game)