(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.)
Many thoughts, ideas and actions underachieved in the year 2014.
Whether it was a free agent signing, a leadership experiment, or a country’s dominance over another in international competition – we all enter the new year upset and frustrated at various events that occurred the year before.
Here are the Top-10 events/situations/teams/people/viruses that were the biggest busts of 2014.
10. The flu
Whatever happened to the virus that used to afflict and quarantine NHL players? It has been bumped … by the mumps as the NHL’s ‘it’ problem in 2014. Both have vaccines, and both aren’t usually life threatening to young, healthy males. But a coach used to just say, “he has the flu” or “he’s sick.” Now we need clarifications on every illness to make sure the CDC hasn’t been called in. Adios flu … you’re donezo.
9. United States v. Canada in the Olympics
When the chips are down and you need to bet on a win in a big international game, don’t go for the United States in hockey over Canada in the Olympics. Ever. While #merica may have World Junior heroes like John Carlson and Seth Jones, the country’s Olympic teams just seem to cave against their Canadian brethren, as happened in Sochi when the US men and women lost to their friendly Tim Hortons drinkin’ neighbors to the North in important games.
8. Dallas Eakins
The Edmonton Oilers coach was considered one of the hottest names on the market. He even had the support of superstar Taylor Hall. And he only lasted 113 games, being fired 31 games into the 2014-15 season. Eakins accrued a woeful 36-63-14 record in Edmonton. And you’re not hearing the ‘he’s going to find another job soon’ from anyone about him. His own hubris in some way, added to the calamity that is the Oilers.
7. The dry scrape
Oh dry scrape, we hardly knew ye. We were told you would make overtime more skating friendly with a better sheet of ice, but you only lasted until mid-November, before the NHL decided you were lame. Good call. The added time between regulation and overtime killed in-game momentum and slowed down the action.
6. Thomas Vanek and Paul Stastny
The two ‘goes home’ or ‘goes back to where he played college’ quasi-feel good stories of the summer have been bust during the 2014-15 season. Stastny has just 12 points in 23 games for the St. Louis Blues. Vanek has just 18 points in 29 games for the Minnesota Wild and has made more headlines off ice than on ice. But hey, both have a combined $47.5 million coming to them, so they’ll be OK regardless of mediocre stats.
5. San Jose Sharks ‘massive’ overhaul
In the 2014 offseason, the San Jose Sharks decided to go without a guy with a ‘C’ on his jersey for the upcoming year. But instead of just stripping it from Joe Thornton, giving it to Joe Pavelski and simply saying “we’re giving it to a younger player because he’s younger” they decided to take it from Thornton and go with all alternate captains … until further notice. This all ended up being pomp and circumstance and caused an unnecessary distraction. Nothing much has changed. The Sharks are still firmly in the playoff hunt, and probably an outside Stanley Cup threat – like they are every year.
4. Russian Olympic men’s hockey
There’s always tons of pressure on the hosting country for an Olympics. Russia was no different, especially when your team’s biggest fan is its unquestioned leader. Regardless, Russia didn’t medal, losing to Finland in the quarterfinal. Maybe they should have called in said leader as a ringer.
3. Connor McDavid tanking in Buffalo
Before the season, it seemed like a slam-dunk that Buffalo was going to get hockey’s boy wonder. But stop the presses. The Sabres have a comfortable nine-point cushion over the league-worst team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Also, Arizona has just 26 points. Bring Connor to the Sun Belt to save hockey in Glendale!
2. Forensic investigations
Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish has looked more like Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes after he launched his search into finding out the problems behind the constantly underachieving bunch. He has fired coaches, and shopped star players. But ultimately the fault falls on management and ownership. They’re all thick as thieves, so basically nobody is going to be held accountable. And the Oilers will continue to suck. Either way, this ‘investigation’ has come up wrong.
1. A mega-market Stanley Cup Final
The dream seemed so real in Game 1, when New York held a 2-0 advantage. Maybe the underdog Rangers indeed had some punch in them. Then Los Angeles did what it always does – win big games. The Kings came from behind to take Game 1 and never looked back. The Los Angeles/New York big market glory final that we’ve all been waiting for turned into a dud – a five-game win by the Kings and their second Cup in three years.