NHL Grab Bag: P.K. Subban’s Hall of Fame WeekBarry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of hockey.
This Week’s Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.
The Third Star: Team Finland
OK, technically this isn’t the NHL, but it does involve Chicago rookie Teuvo Teravainen, so we’ll allow it.
The Second Star: Corey Perry
This is some Bugs Bunny–level trolling. Evil Corey Perry is the best.
The First Star: None
Sorry. I was in the middle of writing this section when the Randy Carlyle news broke, and I immediately lost all ability to feel humor, joy, or anything positive about the world. The doctors tell me it’s probably temporary.
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: P.K. Subban scored an overtime goal against the Bruins, at which point some Boston fans tweeted racist comments about him.
The Outrage: That’s awful!
Is It Justified? Yes, of course, it was completely inexcusable, though it’s worth remembering that only a very small percentage of Bruins fans actually …
The Issue: P.K. Subban ducked away from a hit thrown by Shawn Thornton, who ended up getting hurt on the play.
The Outrage: What a coward!
Is It Justified? Well, no, I think there’s a good case to be made that this sort of thing is …
The Issue: P.K. Subban sure seemed like he pushed the net off in the dying seconds of Game 3.
The Outrage: That’s a penalty shot!
Is It Justified? Well, maybe technically, but there’s no chance they’ll ever call that so there’s really no point in …
The Issue: P.K. Subban’s respiratory system converts oxygen into carbon dioxide.
The Outrage: In high enough concentrations, carbon dioxide can become harmful, causing dizziness and headaches!
Is it Justified? Wait, is anybody mad about anything this week that didn’t involve P.K. Subban?
The Issue: The Rangers had to play five games in seven nights during the playoffs!
Is it Justified? Much better.
The Outrage: The Rangers’ schedule is P.K. Subban’s fault!
Is it Justified? OK, we’ve all lost our minds. We’ve officially reached Peak P.K.
And so, effective today, I’m waiving the customary waiting period, inducting Subban into the Grab Bag Outrage Hall of Fame, and banning him from any future appearances. It’s only fair. We have to let the rest of the hockey world have a chance.
Sorry, P.K. No more dominating the Outrage section. You’ll just have to stick to the Bruins instead.
Great Hockey Debates
In which we employ the Socratic method in an attempt to settle the issues that have long plagued hockey fans.
This Week’s Debate: Wait, did the Outrage section just steal our bit?
In Favor: I think they did.
Opposed: I’m kind of outraged about this.
In Favor: But is it justified?
The Final Verdict: Let’s just get to the obscure player.
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.
The first round of the NFL draft was Thursday night, with 32 players living out their life’s dream by hearing their names called by a pro team. We don’t know which ones will go on to Hall of Fame careers, but we know some of them will turn out to be terrible, since I’m pretty sure the New York Jets had a pick, and Jets picks always end up doing stuff like this.
So since we’re on the topics of memorable Jets draft busts, let’s put a hockey spin on the topic by awarding this week’s Obscure Player honors to a former Winnipeg first-round disappointment: Jimmy Mann.
Mann was the Winnipeg Jets’ first-ever NHL draft pick upon joining the league in 1979, taken with the 19th selection of the first round. He’d been known as a tough guy in junior, but had also scored at a decent clip. One of those traits carried over to the NHL.
Mann made his NHL debut as a 20-year-old rookie during the 1979-80 and had an immediate impact, so to speak, leading the league in PIM with 287. That would be a career high, and pretty much his only significant contribution to the Jets; in parts of five seasons in Winnipeg, he scored just nine goals. He also spent time in Quebec and Pittsburgh, and played his last NHL game in 1987.
If that’s not bad enough, the two players taken immediately after Mann in the 1979 draft: Hall of Famer Michel Goulet, and six-time Cup winner Kevin Lowe. Ouch.
So is Mann one of the biggest draft busts in (Winnipeg) Jets history? Maybe. But I dare you say it to his face.
Trivial NHL-Related Annoyance of the Week
In which I complain about things that probably matter only to me.
Game 1 of the Rangers/Penguins series ended on a bizarre sequence in overtime that saw Derick Brassard appear to hit the crossbar, followed seconds later by Benoit Pouliot scoring the apparent winner. Replays showed that Brassard’s shot had actually gone in, so he was awarded the goal and Pouliot’s was wiped out.
It was an interesting turn of events that ultimately didn’t matter, since the Rangers won either way. But I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, because I’ve always been strangely fascinated with what happens whenever play continues after a missed goal. Standard procedure is for the game to keep going until the next whistle, at which point the play will be reviewed and the goal will be awarded. And league rules state that anything that happens during that time doesn’t count. The players keep going, but the game basically enters a weird twilight zone of nonexistence. Anything that happens next becomes the NHL equivalent of “it was all a dream.”
Usually that just means a few seconds get erased from the game sheet, which is what we saw in the Rangers’ win. But that’s not enough for me; I always root for maximum chaos.
I want to see the game keep going without a whistle for the rest of the period, which the exhausted players then have to replay. I want to see a goal scored at the other end. I want to see that goal also get missed, and have the whole process repeat a half-dozen times until the players descend into existential madness. I want to see a player set some sort of cherished NHL record, have their family brought onto the ice to celebrate with them, and be presented with an expensive gift in recognition of the achievement, only to have it ripped out of his hands seconds later because none of it ever happened.
But I’m always disappointed. The best we get is the same player scoring again. Come on, hockey gods. You’re wasting a prime opportunity to mess with us. The next time play continues after a missed goal, bring the chaos.
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 isn’t an especially tough call: It’s the one that belongs to Rick Nash.
Just under $60 million in career earnings. A $7.8 million cap hit this year. Another four seasons left to go on his eight-year, $62.4 million deal.
And, for all that: a grand total of zero goals in the 2014 playoffs. Just two goals in 26 career playoff games.
That’s not to say Nash is afflicted with some sort of playoff choker DNA — we’ve already covered how arbitrary those types of narratives often are. And despite the goose egg in the goals column, Nash has actually been playing pretty well.
The page isn’t depressing because Rick Nash is terrible. It’s depressing because it’s proof that Rick Nash is really good, and has been pretty much his whole career. But he’s a good player who picked the wrong time to get stuck in a slump, and it might end up costing a very good Rangers team its season.
Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week
In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. Each week we find one and break it down in way too much detail.
The Philadelphia Flyers promoted Ron Hextall to general manager on Wednesday, so let’s cut to the chase because you all know what’s coming.
• It’s November 10, 1996. The Flyers are hosting the Maple Leafs. Both teams are hovering around .500 and they play in different conferences, so you wouldn’t expect the game to be especially memorable. You would be wrong.
• There had been some bad blood late in the game, and with the seconds ticking down at the end of a 3-1 Flyers win, a few players decided they weren’t quite done. Daniel Lacroix takes a run at Larry Murphy, and off we go.
• The camera cuts away so we don’t see it, but Lacroix takes a halfhearted slash from Leafs goalie Felix Potvin before squaring off with Wendel Clark. Two seconds later, we see that Lacroix is curled up in a ball on his back, getting repeatedly punched in the face. This actually makes him one of the most successful Wendel Clark fight opponents of all time, by the way.
• “And here comes Hextall!” says color guy Harry Neale, and a moment later, Hextall is already fighting Potvin. I’m going to assume Neale just didn’t realize Hextall was on the way until the last second, but it’s kind of fun to think that he starts all his fights like this guy.
• “I know Felix doesn’t think this is a good idea,” says Neale, speaking for every Maple Leafs fan who was utterly convinced we were about to see Felix Potvin die.
• Check out the couple right behind the fight who are so excited they are literally hugging each other with joy. I can’t decide whom I like more, those two or the small child in a Leafs jersey who starts pounding the glass like a veteran fan.
• The fight actually turns out to be really good, with both players throwing haymakers. The Hockey News named it the best goalie fight of all time. I bet that still bothers Patrick Roy to this day.
• Because I know you expect me to know these things: The “heavyweight fight last night” that Neale makes reference to was the first Tyson/Holyfield fight. Not the ear-biting one, the other one.
• At the 50-second mark, we get a classic shot of Clark debuting his “WTF, is it me or is that Felix Potvin fighting Ron Hextall?” face.
• We cut back to Hextall and Potvin, who are completely exhausted but refuse to let go of each other. Seriously, this part gets a little awkward. Feel free to skip ahead.
• Once they’re finally separated, it becomes apparent that Hextall is bleeding profusely. The Leafs bench reacts like this is the highlight of their season. In hindsight, they’d be right.
• As Potvin heads off, a half-dressed Tie Domi (who’d been kicked out of the game earlier) emerges from the dressing room to personally inform Hextall he’s been cut. That was nice of him. Professional courtesy, I’m going to call it.
• Hextall responds by pointing up in the air, either because that’s where the scoreboard is or because he’s telling Domi that a fat Flyers fan is going to fall on him someday.
• Doug Gilmour, auditioning for the Sarcastic Clapping Family of Southhampton.
• Now we get a heated discussion between the two coaches. As per NHL rules, whenever two coaches are yelling at each other, one of them must be a Murray brother. In this case, that would be Flyers coach Terry. The Leafs coach is Mike Kitchen, which is fine, but I can’t help but wish this game had happened a few months earlier, when it would have been Pat Burns. He probably would have offered Hextall a towel.
• A Pat Falloon sighting!
• The game is over, but neither team will leave its bench, which leads to my favorite moment from the entire clip at 2:45 — Wendel Clark casually wandering back down the hallway, minus his jersey and apparently wearing suspenders, while picking something out of his teeth (quite possibly Dan Lacroix’s skull fragments). You can practically see him muttering, “Is there a problem here, boys?” Needless to say, the entire crowd disperses within seconds.
• This was the Toronto feed of the game; you can also watch the Flyers’ feed here. If you can get past the homer announcers who are convinced Hextall is winning the fight, it has a great shot of Hextall’s mad sprint down the ice. The stick flip is especially fantastic.
This is one of those fights that was a big deal at the time and has just grown in stature ever since. That’s especially true among Leafs fans, since the team was terrible that year and this game was pretty much all we had. You can find a full breakdown of the bout, including total punches thrown and landed, on the Internet, because of course you can.
The Flyers were just 9-9-0 at the end of this game, but they went on to lose just three of their next 24. They finished with 103 points, and went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the Red Wings. So did Ron Hextall single-handedly turn them into Cup contenders by punching a fellow goaltender? Maybe. Steve Mason might want to keep his distance, just in case.