Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL 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: David Perron, stealer of sticks
Well, you have to give him credit for trying.
The second star: Dustin Byfuglien, destroyer of worlds
When he hits you, you get launched into orbit. When you try to hit him, well, nice try, chump.
The first star: This lady, maker of babies
I have no words.
What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. Each week we’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if it’s justified.
The issue: Today, the NHL will launch a redesigned website featuring more emphasis on modern stats.
The outrage: The league will be renaming common stats like Corsi, Fenwick, and PDO.
Is it justified? In one sense, this feels like yet another round of the history vs. marketing debate, much like renaming the divisions back in the ’90s or the proposals to rename various awards that crop up these days. The league’s insistence on tinkering with names is annoying for many old-school fans, who wish it would just back off and leave things alone.
But it’s not quite the same, for a couple of reasons. For one, we’re talking about a few years of history being lost here, not several decades. And more important, some of the “history” here isn’t really history at all. “PDO” doesn’t actually stand for anything, because it was a forum poster’s username (and before that it was the name he used while playing Counter-Strike). And “Corsi” was named after a guy’s mustache. So it’s not quite the renaming of the divisions, even if there’s a sense of familiarity, as Matt Fenwick — yes, that Fenwick — has pointed out.
That still leaves the question of whether renaming the stats into something more descriptive would actually help anything. That debate has been going on for years, and stat guys often come down on the side of saying no. That makes sense; the diehards are already used to the names. But try explaining this stuff to a novice and you realize that the names really can be an issue. Heck, I’d bet that even some of the fans who feel comfortable with this stuff still aren’t quite sure which one is Corsi and which is Fenwick.
Renaming the stats won’t help a lot, and with the great advanced stats war already over, small gains are really all that’s left. The guys who pioneered these numbers shouldn’t be forgotten, and they won’t be. But if we really want this stuff to leave the online clubhouse and find true mainstream acceptance, coming up with more descriptive terms is probably a necessary step.
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.
As you might imagine, readers send in plenty of suggestions for this section. And since the category is so broad, they’re almost always unique. One guy seems to come up often, though, and I’m not really sure why. But he’s this week’s obscure player: Bruce Shoebottom.
Shoebottom didn’t have all that much of a big league career. After being drafted by the Kings in the third round in 1983, he finally made his NHL debut in 1988 with the Bruins. He’d spend parts of four seasons in Boston, but only one in which he played more than three regular-season games. That was in 1988-89, when he appeared in 29 games for the Bruins. He played his last NHL game in 1990, kicked around the minors for most of the next decade, and then retired.
So why do so many fans remember him? The cool name is obviously part of it — when he scored his only career playoff goal, Boston fans celebrated by throwing shoes on the ice. He was also an enforcer, and old-time fans love those guys. And he probably has a special place in the memories of Sabres fans, since the Bruins used to dress him for playoff matchups against Buffalo and he’d basically spend the series fighting everyone he saw.
Oh, and then there was the time he was stretchered out of a minor league game after police had to choke and pepper-spray him to get him to stop fighting. I’m guessing nobody threw any shoes that night, although I can’t be sure.
Hockey Term That Doesn’t Exist But Needs To
In which we attempt to enter a new word or phrase into the hockey lexicon.
Plickspect (noun) — A combination of “a player, a pick, and a prospect,” the package that has somehow become the standard asking price in every trade negotiation leading up to the deadline.
Believe it or not, there was a time long ago when GMs used to consider multiple scenarios before trading a player, mulling various options in an attempt to craft the best possible outcome for their team. Not anymore. Now, they all just say they want a player, a pick, and a prospect. Done. What’s for lunch?
But while we may have to hear the same answer for every single rumor, at least we can save ourselves from having to type it out each time. That’s where “plickspect” comes in. It would go something like this.
“Are the Leafs trading Phil Kessel?”
“Maybe, but only if they can get a plickspect.”
“Oh, I heard the Panthers aren’t willing to give up a plickspect.”
“Yeah, Toronto may have to wait until the offseason to get a plickspect.”
Make it happen, hockey world. And may your favorite team acquire all the plickspects.
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. In this section, we find one and break it down in way too much detail.
Tomorrow night, the Sharks host the Kings outdoors at Levi’s Stadium. It should be a great game between two fierce rivals who’ve both had plenty of success over the last decade.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Back in October 1991, the Sharks were a brand-new expansion team getting ready to play their very first regular-season game. And back then, things weren’t quite so exciting. Let’s roll the clip.
• It’s October 4, 1991, and the Sharks are in Vancouver to face the Canucks because it’s their first-ever game, and the NHL’s crack marketing staff has decided it should take place on the road.
• After their team bus almost runs over the camera guy, the Sharks exit to the sound of delicate piano music. This is either a historic moment in franchise history or the opening credits to the lost season of Cheers. Also, there is zero chance these autograph seekers have any idea who that one player is.
• Hey, it’s then-captain and current-day Sharks GM Doug Wilson, relaxing before the game. Nothing screams “this clip is from more than 20 years ago” louder than a shot of somebody actually reading a newspaper.
• The next two minutes are filled with pregame dressing-room shots. If you’re a fan of blue undershirts and bad haircuts, enjoy. If not, feel free to skip ahead.1
I would read a hockey blog called Blue Undershirts and Bad Haircuts.
• Blowtorches, sanders, hacksaws … wait, did the Sharks have to build all their own equipment two hours before the game? Apparently they did. It seems like somebody should have taken care of that earlier.
• This interview with Brian Hayward is fantastic. He talks about his new goalie mask with all the enthusiasm of a guy who’s just realized he’s about to spend the final years of his career as the goalie on one of the worst teams of all time.
• Now we look in on the Sharks coaches. Drew Remenda, of course, became the team’s color guy, a role he held until last summer, when he was let go under the Sharks’ strict 2014 offseason policy of “do everything wrong.”
• “A sellout crowd files in, many already in Sharks colors.” (Camera focuses on a kid in a Trevor Linden Canucks jersey.) Did we mention this is a road game?
• Yeah, yeah, these kids are already Sharks fans. Can we talk about background snowflake sweater guy? No? OK, that’s probably for the best.
• Fun hockey fact: If you’re in a dressing room before a game and you go three seconds without saying “come on now, boys,” you are automatically cut from the team.
• “Defenseman Neil Wilkinson’s no. 5 sweater is missing. He’ll wear uniform no. 45 instead.” Wait, what? First, why are you even mentioning that? And more important, how can his regular number be missing, but there’s somehow an alternate number available that already has his name on it? Hold on, I’m going to go spend four hours obsessively Googling for more information on this, finding nothing, and then regretting all of my life choices.
• And here’s Sharks GM Jack Ferreira. “In this business, you try not to get too high or too low.” Spoiler alert, Jack, you’re about to get too low.
• We finally get to the highlights, starting with the first Sharks save. It comes against former Obscure Player of the Week Greg Adams. The second save in Sharks franchise history came in February.
• Is anyone else annoyed by the inconsistent capitalization on these title cards? No? OK, just checking.
• Wait, Craig Coxe scored the first goal in Sharks history? I did not know that. To be honest, I didn’t know that Craig Coxe did anything in the NHL besides this fight with Bob Probert, which was more than enough because holy crap that was insane.
• And right after the Coxe goal, we get another San Jose tally that prominently features Link Gaetz. The Sharks also had Bob McGill, Perry Anderson, and Jeff Odgers. The 1991-92 Sharks were not a team you wanted to run into in a dark alley. Luckily, thanks to their neon teal uniforms, you never would have.
• Our last highlight is the winner with just seconds left, “a controversial goal” from Sergio Momesso, which is controversial because … uh … because Sergio Momesso scored it, I guess.
• The clip ends with the announcer promising a hopeful future, while the entire Sharks team walks by and gives their sticks to an equipment manager in what is quite literally the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. It just goes on forever. Those poor guys. Being on an NHL expansion team in the ’90s was like being sent to prison camp.
• This is “the most historic game they would ever play,” says the announcer guy. They presumably cut out the part where he added “because these are the 1991-92 Sharks and none of them will play pro hockey ever again.”
The Sharks finished the season 17-58-5. The next year they were even worse, coming in at 11-71-2. But since then they’ve made the playoffs 17 out of 20 seasons, including each of the last 10. Extending that streak this year may need to come at the expense of the Kings, who are chasing San Jose for the last wild-card spot.
The Levi’s Stadium showdown is set for tomorrow night at 7 PT, or whenever the 1991-92 Sharks alumni finish building the rink.
Have a question for Sean? Want to suggest an obscure player or a classic YouTube clip? Send all your grab-bag-related emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.