NHL Grab Bag: Farewell, Old Friend

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Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.

The Three Stars of Comedy

Recognizing the NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.

The third star: Darryl Sutter’s face
With an assist from John Tortorella’s face, in this week’s GIF you can’t stop watching:

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The second star: Brandon Sutter’s junk
Hey, guys, we’re doing an interview out here on live television so if you could just keep that door closed while you’re having your naked pizza party, that would be … dammit.

The first star: Braden Nienaber’s thumb
Meet 8-year-old Braden Nienaber. Thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation, Braden was the guest of honor at a Washington Capitals game and got to drop the puck at the ceremonial faceoff between Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin and universally hated Sabres pest Steve Ott.

But first, little Braden got to live the dream:

Yes, he threw Steve Ott out of the ceremonial faceoff. I can’t even. Braden Nienaber, you are the greatest.

This Week’s Touching Montage of Those We’ve Recently Lost From the World of Hockey Comedy

[Lights dim.]

[Sad music plays.]

[Everyone clicks over to the Royal Half’s top-10 GIFs from Ben Scrivens’s career as an L.A. King post.]

We’ll miss you, L.A. Kings version of Ben Scrivens. You were the best. I wish I could say that you’ve gone to a better place, but … well … you know.

What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?

Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. We’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if it’s justified.

The Issue: Some old-school media guy made fun of advanced stats.

The Outrage: What he said was dumb, so stand back because it’s time to rip him a new one!

Is It Justified: No. Shut up.

The Outrage: But what he said was really stupid.

Is It Justified: Of course it was. Now shut up.

The Outrage: But I have to defend my …

Is It Justified: No, you really don’t. Shut up.

The Outrage: But … but … THIS CANNOT STAND.

Is It Justified: Yes it can, you thin-skinned little baby.

Listen, advanced stats people, you’re not going to like this but you need to hear it: For a group that prides themselves on always being the smartest guys in the room, you are way too easy to troll. You can’t keep getting suckered into these little dramas several times a week. Preteens on Facebook think you may be taking yourselves too seriously.

It’s the same script every time: Some old-school media guy who hasn’t had an original thought since the Ziegler administration finds himself with 10 minutes to kill in his dentist’s waiting room, so he fires off some hackish tweet about spreadsheets or slide rules, probably slaps a condescending “folks” in there somewhere, and hits Send. Then he sits back and laughs hysterically while you all spend the rest of the day losing your collective minds.

Which, of course, is the whole point. It’s exactly the reaction they’re looking for, and they get it from you. Every … single … time.

So here’s my suggestion: The next time somebody plays this card (i.e., later today), try acting like you’ve actually been on the Internet before and are capable of recognizing when you’re being trolled. Ignore them, and eventually they’ll have to find some other tired shtick to get the brief jolt of quasi-relevance that they seem to need so badly.

Learn to let it go. It will be good for your movement. Not to mention your blood pressure.

Obscure Former Player of the Week

NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of them.

This week’s obscure player is a hardworking defenseman from the 1980s who just happens to own one of my favorite hockey names of all time: Larry Playfair.

I distinctly remember watching a Sabres game as a little kid and being thrilled when I heard they had a guy named “Playfair” on the team. That was so nice. Here you had this violent, sometimes brutal sport, and there was a guy named Playfair skating around in the middle of it. I pictured him admonishing the other players to be gentlemen, probably while wearing a monocle and sipping a cup of tea.

And then I watched a few more minutes of the game, and he started doing stuff like this:

Yeah, it turns out “Playfair” wasn’t the most accurate name an NHL player has ever had, as the 1,812 career PIM would attest. In hindsight, maybe he should have switched names with teammate Lindy Ruff.

By the way, Playfair’s younger brother Jim had a much shorter NHL career, went on to a coaching career, and eventually achieved YouTube infamy for doing this.

Trivial NHL-Related Annoyance of the Week

In which I complain about things that matter probably only to me.

Before we get to this week’s annoyance, I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming show of support for last week’s rant against the pervasive use of the annoyingly redundant “good goal.” I was worried I might be alone on that one, but it turns out there are more of us than you’d ever imagine. Stay strong, guys. We can win this fight. Everyone touch fists.

Anyway, this week’s topic is also related to goal reviews. Specifically, any review of a goal that may have been deflected by a high stick. As every hockey fan knows, these reviews are inevitably useless because there’s never a conclusive angle. The referee phones up to the booth, everyone stands around for five minutes, and then they eventually just shrug their shoulders and stick with the call on the ice.

Hockey fans long ago came to accept that. But you know who hasn’t? TV broadcast directors. They insist on feeding us a steady stream of replays, each from increasingly useless angles.

Announcer: Let’s go to the replay and see if we can get a good angle on this one.

Director: [Shows a shot from the rafters.]

Announcer: Well, that was useless, but I’m now told we have a different view that may help us.

Director: [Shows a shot from the net cam at the other end of the ice.]

Announcer: Not even remotely helping here, guys.

Director: [Shows a shot of the outside of an arena taken from a helicopter.]

Announcer: I quit.

It’s almost adorably optimistic, but it’s all futile. Give up, TV directors. There is no angle. There has never been an angle. There never will be an angle. The angle is a lie.

The Week’s Most Depressing CapGeek Page

In which we select one page on CapGeek.com and stare at it while a single tear rolls down our cheek.

This week’s most depressing CapGeek page is the site’s new career earnings feature, which allows you to search for the league’s top-paid players for every season back to 1990. It’s depressing, because now that you know about it you’re going to spend the rest of the day messing with it and end up getting fired.

Start with the total earnings leaderboard — that should be enough to kill your morning. Backhand Shelf took a look at some of the most surprising names on the list, including guys like Shawn Horcoff and Roman Hamrlik. I’d also like to throw out a few honorable mentions to guys like Eric Brewer and Cory Sarich.

But the real fun comes in drilling down to individual years and asking yourself questions like: How did Eric Lindros make more than Wayne Gretzky as a rookie? Why was defensive forward Kelly Miller one of the 20 highest paid players in 1993? The top of the 1997-98 leaderboard can’t possibly be right, can it? (It actually is, which probably needs a section of its own some week.)

And then you get to 2003-04, the last year before the whole league shut down for a lockout. Bobby Holik made $8.9 million. Alexei Yashin banked $8.4 million. Ziggy Palffy took home an even $7 million. Jason Allison is listed at $8 million, even though he didn’t even play that season and had barely suited up the year before. You know, maybe that whole “rollback” thing wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week

In addition to being a great source of adorable pet videos and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. In this section we find one and break it down in way too much detail.

This week, the Florida Panthers made news by announcing that they’re losing tens of millions of dollars per year and need more public funds to survive. Meanwhile, the Ducks made news by steamrolling the entire league on their way to first place overall.

That may seem like two extreme sides of the “successful NHL team” coin, but it’s worth remembering that the Panthers and Ducks share some common history. So it seems fitting that this week we go back to December 9, 1992, and watch as the two franchises are welcomed into the world with this painfully awkward birth announcement.

• So we’re doing a clip about the Ducks and Panthers this week. Are you happy, people who constantly accuse me of always finding a way to work a clip of some random early-’90s Toronto Maple Leafs fight into this section? Feel free to post your apologies for your hurtful and unfair attacks in the comments section.

• Anyway, so this is the nightly news on CTV, a Canadian television channel, and they’ve got some breaking news: The NHL is expanding! Guiding us through this complex and nuanced business story will be dapper sports anchor Lance Brown.

• “Boy, we sure didn’t see this coming,” Brown tells us. Wait, we didn’t? How is that possible? A major sports league just added two teams on a whim? Oh wait, it’s the early-’90s NHL. Sounds about right. Nothing to see here.

• We’re introduced to Miami owner Wayne Huizenga (or “Hunzinga,” as CTV’s spelling-challenged graphics guy calls him), and his stellar résumé:

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• Honestly, look at that thing. The Florida Marlins and Blockbuster Video? What a visionary! I feel like we need a group discussion over which of these accomplishments he should be most proud of.

• (Everyone came up with “waste disposal,” right? Good, I’m glad we could all agree on this. Moving on.)

• Oh, and he “needs rink.” I like how they slipped that in at the very end. This new hockey team has nowhere to play. I’m sure that will only be a temporary problem.

• And now we’re introduced to the Ducks owner, “Michael Eisen,” who may or may not be related to well-known Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Buckle down, CTV news. If you keep screwing up, some drunk guy in his pajamas will make fun of you for this two decades from now.

• The faceoff dots in the background of these graphics make it look kind of like Homer Simpson is creepily staring at you. You didn’t realize that before, and now you can’t unsee it.

• Here’s a 1992 article about the announcement. My favorite part is that Eisner “wore a Coach Goofy hat to the press conference.” I’ll pause to let everyone come up with their own Bruce Boudreau jokes.

• We then cut immediately to news of a Lightning-Rangers exhibition game in Miami, which is introduced by … a shot of some San Jose Sharks fan, and a small child learning to play hockey? WTF, random Canadian news station? Are you even trying right now?

• Nice work by the Tampa Bay goalie on that goal at 1:15. The old “ignore the puck and execute a spinning face plant into your own net” move usually works so well.

• Now we get an interview with an NHL spokesman, which I’m having trouble paying attention to because the bright purple “EXPANSION” graphic is making my eyes die.

• The spokesman tells us that this whole thing “developed very quickly over the last several days.” Oh. OK, then. As long as you guys have done your due diligence on all this.

• Anyway, that’s the end of the Ducks/Panthers stuff, so there’s really no reason to keep watching. Join us next week when we … wait, there appears to be more hockey news at the end of the clip. I wonder what that could be.

• Oh hey, it’s some Leafs highlights! Huh, apparently Wendel Clark is going to be beating up Bob Probert. I had no idea that would happen.

• We get pre-fight comments from Clark, highlights from the fight itself, and then a post-fight breakdown. And then everything freezes. I think it’s because the CTV guy paused the footage, but I like to imagine it’s because Wendel needed a moment to quietly think about what he’d just done.

• And now we’re on to game highlights, led off by Mike Foligno. Hm. So that’s what a guy scoring a big goal while wearing a no. 71 Leafs uniform looks like.

• We see a few more Leafs goals, and then … ah, what the hell, here’s that fight again even though you just saw it 30 seconds ago. Clark vs. Probert was kind of a big deal in Toronto. You’ll just have to trust me.

And with that, our clip comes to a close. If anyone needs me, I’ll be searching for Wendel Clark and/or Bob Probert fights on YouTube for the next 17 hours.

Filed Under: NHL, Hockey, Ben Scrivens, Edmonton Oilers, L.A. Kings, sean mcindoe, NHL Grab Bag

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Sean McIndoe ’s work can be found at Down Goes Brown. When he's not writing, he makes hockey jokes on Twitter at @downgoesbrown.

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