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
Loser: David Clarkson’s elbow
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
The legendary games between Kessel and Phaneuf were given proper tribute during the show.
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!”
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.
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.”