June 22, 2009
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Now that we've all had a week to sit back and digest all the crazy stuff that happened over the course of these playoffs and, indeed, the entire season, I think it's safe to conclude that this was a pretty fun season for most teams to watch.
Really, no one could have reasonably been disappointed in their team's 2008-09 campaign, at least if they were being honest with themselves. Almost every team in the League either finished pretty much where it should have, or even outperformed expectations. Maybe the only truly disappointing team was the Colorado Avalanche, which finished 28th in the league and 15th in the West, but the wheels had to fall off that wagon at some point; and all the injuries through which they suffered are going to do that for you. And having Tony freaking Granato as your coach doesn't help matters.
Over the last few months, I've caught a lot of flak for being a little too hard on a lot of teams (of course, I don't see it). And so, as a means of mending fences, I've decided to use this column as a review of everything that went right with (your favorite team) this year; to draw smiling sun in yellow crayon on the otherwise dark, upsetting tableau that every team in the NHL, save for one, has painted for its adoring fans.
But before I continue, I'll give you my philosophy on being a sports fan.
(Coming up: Why your favorite team just had its best season ever; Le Draft Liasons Ducheneuses; the one cloud without a silver lining is Senatorocumulus; a bucketful of news from around the league; and Ice Cream Kid makes his international debut for South Africa.)
Ultimately, we find ourselves disappointed in the things we love. I'm just trying to help people deal with that fact. Hope may spring eternal for some (read: the certifiably insane), but being a sports fan, like life, is all about low expectations, which by definition cannot lead to disappointment. And besides, if you go around thinking the glass is half empty, then having it end up only 40 percent empty is a marked and welcome improvement. It certainly makes a first-round flameout (hi Sharks fans!) that much easier to swallow.
What I'm saying is you should all believe what I believe: That (your favorite team's) situation is not going to improve for at least the rest of the summer. (Your favorite team's GM) will screw up the draft and miss out on every free agent worth signing, instead resignedly ink Jassen Cullimore(notes) to a three-year deal while you shake your head in bewilderment and horror.
But that, as I have learned from the many unprintable e-mails I receive every week, is not what people want. So please, enjoy this week's dose of lollipops and puppy dog kisses. It's on me.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: A somewhat disappointing regular season for the Ducks gave way to a wonderful little playoff run jumpstarted by Ryan Getzlaf(notes) goin' off on everybody. He finished sixth in the playoffs with 18 points from just 13 games, and played in fewer games than everyone ahead of him. And hey, Bobby Ryan(notes) was pretty awesome too, right? But perhaps the biggest highlight of all was that Chris Pronger(notes) didn't put anyone in the hospital this year or get traded to the Kings (yet). But then, it's only June, so we've got time, ya know?
Atlanta Thrashers: I thought they'd be the worst team in the NHL this year. Boy was I wrong. Only fourth-worst! Hey now! The good news is they're going to have a future reliable center in either Evander Kane(notes) or Brayden Schenn(notes) fall to them at No. 4 once the Isles, Bolts and Avs get done shoving each other to get the Tavares/Hedman/Duchene thing squared away. The bad news is Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) will be a faint memory by the time either is a regular NHLer.
Oh, right, baby smiles: Evander Kane is gonna be great!
Boston Bruins: I think second in the NHL was better than they could have hoped to finish in early October, don't you? Tim Thomas(notes) wins the Vezina, Zdeno Chara(notes) wins the Norris, Claude Julien wins the Jack Adams. Pretty solid. Never mind that salary cup issue behind the curtain!
Buffalo Sabres: Well they missed the playoffs almost-narrowly, but the good news is that while the core is young and pretty good, things are a bit ugly around the edges. But don't fear, Sabres fans: Darcy Regier is going to shake everything up and has cap money to burn! Out with the old (except the coaches and incompetent management that got them into this mess), in with the new!
Calgary Flames: The bad news first -- this is still a badly flawed team. The good news second: It will probably have a competent coach, and will be Bertuzzi-less. It's interesting that the one bit of good news feeds on the other. Without Todd Bertuzzi(notes), it's tough to figure to which worthless pet player Mike Keenan would have given 18 minutes a night while not working on the team's dreadful power play? Without Keenan giving him mountains of ice time, would Bert have looked almost-serviceable, as he occasionally did?
Maybe the three Sutter Brothers working for the team -- and boy doesn't that sound like a CBS sitcom waiting to happen? -- will get this figured out.
Carolina Hurricanes: Who saw that playoff run coming? Oh right, the group of hopeless optimists that are Hurricanes fans, who can see nothing but shades of black and white. The black, of course, would be "the refs" that are constantly trying to screw over the Canes. The white would be the sheer number of goals Eric Staal(notes) will score next year to justify his absurd contract thanks to three more years of coaching from Paul Maurice. More than any six Ovechkins. Book it.
Chicago Blackhawks: Well, you have a hell of a team there, and I'm pretty sure everyone on it is, like, 14 years old. So that's good. Plus you're out from under the weight of the Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) contract. Whenever you can check "No" under "Are you paying your goalies more than $12 million," that's also good. I will, for the sake of having a birds-singing-flowers-blooming outlook, neglect to mention that when your assistant GM quits a Western Conference finalist take the same job with the Thrashers, that's bad.
Colorado Avalanche: Must be nice to be an Avs fan right now. Despite a really, really, really bad season. Like, an absolutely terrible one. Injuries played a big part, sure. But look at where it got you: the team is drafting high, isn't terrible (no, I actually do believe that) and has a new coach. How could things get any better? You guessed it: Cody McLeod(notes) went and got himself paaaaaid. See? A silver lining!
Columbus Blue Jackets: So, you've got a team that made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. You've got a Rookie-of-the-Year goalie coming back. You've got Rick Nash(notes). You've got Nikita Filatov(notes) (if management gets it together, at least). And, well, you don't have Jiri Novotny(notes). These all seem like good things. This team is going places, I bet.
Dallas Stars: Was the season disappointing in Dallas? Probably. But on the other hand, everyone was hurt all the time and Sean Avery(notes), not a well-liked figure in case you hadn't heard, is gone. So things could be worse! Plus the eighth pick is nothing to sneeze at, and the Stars will take the best available player, which is often the smarter strategy. Look at the near-disappointing season this way, folks: it probably can't get any worse.
Detroit Red Wings: Ooooh, so close. Settling for second-best -- in the playoffs, in the Western Conference, and so on -- isn't so bad, all things considered, especially when you got so much practice this season. And if Marian Hossa(notes) does come back, he's gonna have to come cheap (and seriously, Hossa's situation as socioeconomic sob story is, without hyperbole, maybe the funniest thing I've ever read in my life).
Edmonton Oilers: There's always two downsides to being the Oilers, and those, of course, is that a) you are the Oilers and b) you live in Edmonton. Unenviable positions, both. But the Oilers were a young, improving club this year and so there is, unfortunately, plenty of reason for optimism going forward, especially if they do end up trading for Dany Heatley(notes). Also, no more MacTavish!
Florida Panthers: As far as asset management goes, not trading Jay Bouwmeester(notes) was a bad idea in hindsight. Where you might have gotten something considerable for him prior to the deadline, you'll likely get very little, if anything, for him now. But hey, David Booth(notes), Stephen Weiss(notes) and Nathan Horton(notes) rule, and they've got a little under $20 million in cash to splash on some lucky free agents that want to tough it out in Miami.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings have a nice little group of young defensemen and some very good forwards as well. And while they just might trade the No. 5 pick (presumably for a scoring left wing if they can wrangle one), there were several stretches this year where they looked like they could start to bully some teams next season.
Minnesota Wild: It's gotta be exciting that most of this season was probably a protracted dress rehearsal for the next one. The Wild played a whole heck of a lot of hockey without Marian Gaborik(notes), which is what they'll (probably) be doing next year as well. Awesome! Plus their new coach actually might want to play some manner of offense, which will likely make for more exciting games than the ones to which Minnesota fans have become accustomed
Montreal Canadiens: George Gillett is gone, and in an otherwise regrettable "centennial season," that's probably all the good news you need. But wait, there could be more! In a perfect world, you've also got the following to hope for. 1) Alex Kovalev(notes): gone. 2) Patrice Brisebois(notes): gone. 3) The power play: fixed? New everything! Good times are here again!
Nashville Predators: Last year was a bit of a roller coaster ride with more ups, I'd think, than downs, and the whole Steve Sullivan(notes) thing is an endearing story. There are a decent number of good players on this team after all (whether or not all of them can be re-signed? Well...). And Alex Radulov wasn't even that missed.
New Jersey Devils: Even without Martin Brodeur(notes), the Devs looked like quite the threat to win the East for a good portion of the season, and Zach Parise(notes) had an insane breakout season. Whether or not that can be replicated is an unanswerable question right now, I suppose (not having a coach, or even "a timetable" for getting one, will do that), but I don't think it could ever be said that more Brodeur was a bad thing.
New York Islanders: Okay so your top scoring forward had 39 points and was a rookie. Big deal. You have Tavares now! Or Duchene! (Or Hedman!) One of those guys for sure though. Doesn't that seem like enough? What do you people want? BLOOD?
New York Rangers: Thanks to a remarkably (and inexplicably) strong start, the Blueshirts finished way higher than they should have, which is probably a positive thing, except it doesn't help the team improve very much through the draft in the long-term. But who will stick up for all their soft forwards now? Another positive: they're one year closer to the expiration of the Gomez and Drury albatrosses.
Ottawa Senators: Uhhh.. wow this is tough. You've got everybody talking about you? I dunno. Being a Senators fan might be the worst gig in the NHL right now. Worse than the equipment manager that has to wash Zach Stortini's underwear.
Philadelphia Flyers: No shame in losing to the eventual Cup winners, I guess, and the rest of the season seemed to have been pretty fun as well. There's also a certain amount of satisfaction in everyone pretty much hating you. I should know. But please, this "Bouwmeester to the Flyers" crap has to stop.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Okay so you've won a Stanley Cup and you've got two of the three best players in the world. How could things get any better?
San Jose Sharks: First-round flameout got you down? Sure, I understand. But hey, you don't fall ass backwards into a President's Trophy, right? Right? The good news is right here: the Sharks have a good core and some money to throw around.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues lost more man-games to injury than just about anyone (I'm sure the Islanders were in the running) but still somehow made the playoffs. It was a testament to Andy Murray's ability to hold the team together, the veteran leadership (Big Walt!) and some really good young players (The Oshie!). And now that Tkachuk is back for next year and Erik Johnson(notes) probably won't destroy his knee again, things are looking good for 2009-10.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Forget about that second awful season in a row. The No. 2 pick will yield Hedman. Or Tavares. Or Duchene. But trading Lecavalier? That'll yield even more! Also, Adam Oates might come aboard to coach the power play. For whatever that's worth.
Toronto Maple Leafs: If Leafs bloggers weren't so, I dunno, realistic, they might be sad to see themselves finish so low. However, they're very realistic, so they don't care and, in fact, probably would have liked their boys to finish even lower. So, mission accomplished, I guess? Further, the best offseason move they make with regards to an NHL rookie might be signing Jonas Gustavsson, who apparently is very good. If the Leafs can enter July with a kid like Brayden Schenn (or someone like that) and Gustavsson, that'll be just fine, I'm sure.
Vancouver Canucks: If this was indeed the last Sedinful season in Vancouver, then at least it was a pretty decent one by Canucks standards; they won the division and a playoff round, at least. And if the Sedins do come back, then hey, all the better. It puts Vancouver in a good position for next year (at least until Luongo leaves).
Washington Capitals: Everyone likes Ovie. A lot of people like Semin (waaaaay-ohhhhh) and some people even like Mike Green(notes). This is an improving team, for sure. I'd make some sort of attempt at a joke about Simeon Varmalov here, but apparently some people (you're welcome again) believe that words hurt and will complain loudly about it on Twitter, and thus I will refrain.
(Author's note: I'm fairly certain that my not slagging on anybody here today has taken years off my life.)
Play of the Weekend
Okay, so there's no more hockey for a while, eh? That means I had to look elsewhere for my big-time play, player, and loser and I think, at least as far as the play itself is concerned, you'll all agree this one works wonderfully.
During yesterday's Italy-Brazil match in the FIFA Confederations Cup (more on that in a second), the cameras cut to a young red-headed boy in the crowd eating an ice cream bar. This is what happened next:
I've been laughing at this for four hours now. What a confluence of circumstances that allowed this to take place.
Gold Star Award
While I am awful tempted to give it to the ice cream kid (and who wouldn't be?), I will instead give this award to my dad because he's awesome and yesterday was Father's Day. Enjoy this belated, non-substantial Internet gift that you likely will never see!
Minus of the Weekend
Oh Italy. Hahaha.
game thing I'm totally going to watch on Center Ice if I'm home
Hey the NHL Draft is Friday! Sounds good to me.
Event that should replace the shootout and would be just as relevant to hockey skill
Thing of the Week
The fact that the US scored three goals against a team that just held Italy without a goal a few days prior is pretty funny, but then the Italians losing 3-nil to Brazil and allowing the US to go through to the semifinals (and get beaten by Spain)? That's hilarious and it made for some real drama in the closing minutes of a 3-nil match.
P.S. I will not apologize for liking soccer.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
Have you ever wondered what the least noteworthy perfect trade proposal in the history of HFBoards would look like? Well, user "Hawksfan12" has your answer.
There you have it. Give the guy a hand. That's unreal.