NHL Grab Bag: The Many Faces of Bryan MurrayAP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick
Welcome to a weekly blog post of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.
The third star: Colby Armstrong wants to fight Caillou’s dad
I wanna fight Caillou’s dad. Guys a loser. Seriously. #caillouisabadkid
— Colby Armstrong (@armdog) May 18, 2013
Don’t we all. I’m not sure what’s worse, the guy’s noxious personality or the fact that he looks exactly the same as Caillou’s mother. But either way, get in line, Colby.
The second star: Bryan Murray is not enjoying the game
The Senators beat the Penguins on Sunday in an exciting game that featured a last-minute short-handed goal to force overtime and 28 minutes of sudden-death action. But the clear star of the game was Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, whose pained reactions to what was happening on the ice kept popping up on replays. There are a few examples here, though they don’t really do it justice. I hope the CBC keeps a camera on him for the rest of the series, because Murray is the only man capable of being all 20 types of stressed-out sports fans in one five-second GIF.
I’m pretty sure that’s considered cheating, Damien Brunner. And you know what? Good. These hallway soccer games are out of control. I hope Brunner gets waived around the league next year, and just keeps going from team to team and dropping wannabe Beckhams with flagrant crotch shots. The world needs a hero, Damien. Do what needs to be done.
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: Raffi Torres got suspended again, this time for a head shot on L.A.’s Jarret Stoll during Game 1 of the Sharks series with the Kings.
The Outrage: Rather than hand down a sentence for a specific number of games, the league suspended Torres for the remainder of the L.A.-San Jose series, meaning he could miss anywhere from three to six games.
Is It Justified?: Sort of, even though this isn’t the first time the league has made a suspension’s length variable in the playoffs. (The NHL did it for Tie Domi, for example, and that was more than a decade ago.) On the one hand, it makes a certain kind of sense to just banish the guy for the whole series and be done with it — after all, the Kings are the victims here, so they should be the team that gets whatever benefits comes from Torres being out of the lineup. On the other, any form of justice that includes the phrase “it depends” just seems too wishy-washy.
But all that is largely beside the point, since this was an NHL discipline decision and everyone was going to complain about it anyway (and did they ever). Part of me hopes this was actually a case of Brendan Shanahan just deciding to screw with everyone. Maybe he got tired of every sentence he hands out being criticized for being too high or too low, and decided it would be a nice change of pace to be too high and too low at the same time.
If that’s the case, I look forward to more variable sentencing down the line, until Shanahan is forcing each player to make saving throws on a set of old Dungeons & Dragons dice before every period to see if they’re allowed back into the game. Do it Brendan. Embrace the randomness!
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 those players.
This week’s obscure player is former Red Wing and Ranger blueliner Per Djoos.
The Swedish defenseman played 82 games over parts of three NHL seasons, recording 33 points while playing an offensive style that allowed him to blah blah blah. Look, in all honesty, nobody remembers anything about Per Djoos other than that his name was Per Djoos. And yes, it was pronounced “Pear Juice.”
There was an NHL defenseman named Pear Juice. If that’s not enough to make you love hockey, then I really don’t know what to tell you.
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: The Ottawa Senators are the only one of the seven Canadian NHL teams still (barely) alive in the playoffs. Are they now Canada’s Team?
In Favor: They sure are! Fans from around Canada will be rooting for the Senators to end the country’s 20-year Stanley Cup drought! Here, read my article about this phenomenon in today’s newspaper!
In Favor: From coast to coast, fans will unite behind the nation’s last hope.
Opposed: This has literally never happened.
In Favor: One nation, united! A population coming together behind a common cause! Our differences put aside as we join hands and cheer on our great land’s last remaining team!
Opposed: Look, have you ever actually spoken to Canadian hockey fan?
In Favor: Um … no, actually. Should I?
Opposed: See, this is why these annual articles are so stupid. No hockey fan thinks this way. Other than the Olympics or the World Juniors, no team is “Canada’s Team.”
In Favor: Don’t forget the World Championships.
Opposed: We only pretend to care about that when we win.
In Favor: Oh, right.
Opposed: Honestly, every hockey fan has a favorite team. They watch the games, buy the merchandise, raise their kids to become fans, too. They live and die with that team for months, every season. Why would they ever decide to start cheering for someone else?
In Favor: Because … they want a team from this country to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993?
Opposed: No they don’t. They want their team to win the Stanley Cup. Once that team is out, they want every other team to crash and burn, too. Preferably in as painful and humiliating a way as possible.
In Favor: That doesn’t sound very nice.
Opposed: Of course it isn’t. Hockey fans aren’t nice. We’re bitter, self-absorbed, and angry. And if we’re not happy, nobody else should get to be.
In Favor: You know, I’m kind of glad I’ve never talked to any of you.
Opposed: But it’s the truth. We hate every other team. And we hate the fans of every other team. When some Canadian franchise finally ends the Cup drought, that team’s fans are going to be insufferable. None of the rest of us wants to deal with that.
In Favor: So basically you’re saying that Canadian hockey fans are embittered, insecure jerks who actively root against anything that might briefly cause one of their neighbors to feel happy.
Opposed: Now you’ve got it!
In Favor: Which means that Canada’s Team is actually … whoever is playing against the last of Canada’s teams.
Opposed: Finally, something we can all agree on. Go put that in your article, and maybe somebody will actually read it.
The Final Verdict: Go Penguins.
Trivial NHL-Related Annoyance of the Week
In which I complain about things that probably only matter to me.
This week the NHL announced the three nominees for the Mark Messier Leadership Award (which, they insist on informing you, is presented by Bridgestone). That makes this a good time to remind everyone that this award is unnecessary and generally kind of weird.
For one thing, having a leadership award just seems odd. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to win at a corporate retreat, not as part of a professional sports league. And it’s especially strange that the NHL has an award named after Mark Messier but none named after, say, Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr or anyone else who played in the last half-century.
But on top of all that, nobody seems to understand the criteria for the award. Apparently Messier just picks a winner every year, based on who he assumes is doing a good job of leading an NHL team that Messier himself has no connection with or insight into. In 2008, he memorably gave the award to Mats Sundin, based on a season in which he’d refused to waive his no-trade clause, led the Maple Leafs to a last-place finish, and then eventually left to join a better team in free agency. So, um … leadership!
This year’s nominees are Daniel Alfredsson, Dustin Brown, and Jonathan Toews. And since this has historically been an old man’s trophy that basically serves as a lifetime achievement award (with the exception of Sidney Crosby in 2010), Alfredsson is probably going to win. That would be the same Alfredsson who, when asked if the Senators could come back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Penguins, pulled a reverse-Messier and said “probably not.”
Hopefully Bridgestone at least got to put its name on the tires of the bus that Alfredsson’s leadership just threw his teammates under.
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 Most Popular Buyouts section, which tracks the players that the site’s users are running through the buyout calculator most often during the past seven days. (And is also not technically a “page” but whatever, narc.)
The section generally serves as a Who’s Who of bad contracts, and has become a permanent home for players like Roberto Luongo, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Brad Richards. But this week it welcomed a new tenant: Sidney Crosby.
Yes, for reasons nobody is quite clear on, hockey fans seem to have decided that the best player in the entire league is a buyout candidate worthy of further research. That means that a significant number of hockey fans are either (a) morons; or (b) enjoying some sort of wide-scale inside joke that I’m not in on. Either way, I find that depressing.
And in case you’re wondering: It would cost $34.8 million spread out until the year 2037, when Sidney Crosby will turn 50 years old.
What Has Don Cherry Gone and Done Now?
Whether it’s Coach’s Corner, his regular media appearances, or a Twitter account that’s presumably meant to be performance art, Don Cherry is everywhere. What’s he been up to this week?
Don Cherry didn’t really do anything all that interesting this week other than take a limo ride with a budgie, which sadly is not a metaphor. But he did spend an entire episode of Coach’s Corner with pooh all over his tie.
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.
With the Bruins looking like a good bet to move on to a conference finals matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins, now seems like a good time to spend some time appreciating Jaromir Jagr. Specifically, let’s go back a few decades for this sweet profile piece.
• This appears to be from a Stanley Cup video that came out in 1992, which is appropriate because I’m pretty sure Jagr was the most 1992 professional athlete that ever 1992-ed.
• I love the opening clip, where Jagr and another guy just maul each other all the way down the ice with no puck in sight. This was what pretty much every shift looked like if you were a star player in the 1990s. I’m honestly not sure the NHL even had referees until 2005.
• We cut to footage of Jagr being drafted. Immediately after being selected, we see him stand up and offer a kiss to a person who is maybe his mother or younger brother or some other family member who has the exact same haircut he does. This part was weird. Let’s move on.
• I know, I know, Jagr’s draft-day mullet was disappointing. Don’t worry, we’re going to get a couple of better options before this clip is over.
• The first 30 seconds of this video are basically designed to make you hate Jagr, right? “Hey, here’s a kid who’s 20 years old and was a first-round pick and an All-Star and won a few Cups already, and also just a reminder that you’re also 20 years old and you sleep on a futon and are saving up money for a used Sega Genesis.”
• While being introduced for the 1992 All-Star Game, Jagr shows up with a mullet style we’ll call “wearing a medical neck brace made out of a live mink.” I wanted this haircut so badly in 1992.
• Did you know that “Jaromir” is an anagram for “Mario Jr.”? You did if you ever met a Pittsburgh Penguins fan in the early ’90s, because they couldn’t go more than seven minutes without bringing it up.
• What do you think is the most often cited anagram in hockey history? Is it the Jaromir/Mario Jr. one, or would it be “Tie Domi” = “Me Idiot”? I think I might have to go with Domi here.
• A Jim Paek sighting!
• I love the footage of Lemieux and Jagr, both in their primes, executing a two-on-one against the New York Islanders. Gosh, I wonder how this will turn out!
• If you said “the goalie makes the save,” you were wrong. If you said “two guys from the Islanders tackle each other and then Mario scores without even noticing that a third guy just bounced off him,” you were correct.
• “Call Arnold Slick from Turtle Creek.” Um, OK, Mike Lange, I’ll go ahead and do that.
• Now we get to see Jagr sporting a stringier mullet. When it comes to great hockey debates, stringy Jagr mullet vs. fluffy Jagr mullet is right up there with Gretzky vs. Orr. There really is no right answer. (Yes there is: fluffy.)
• I miss the old Penguins logo, even though it was always kind of creepy that the penguin wore gloves and skates but no pants.
• Nice clip of Jagr scoring a brilliant goal, then completely no-selling Larry Murphy’s attempt to hug him. I guess Gordie Roberts was just more huggable.
• Lemieux takes us home with a glowing review of Jagr’s practice habits, or something. I’m not sure because I was trying to focus on the sax solo in the background. We need to bring back the “sax solo as sports highlight soundtrack” era.
• Also, I’m pretty sure I had that same sweater.
• The last show is of Jagr in a handshake line, which as per NHL bylaws is shot from waist-height to make everyone look gigantic. Does the NHL hire small children as cameramen during the playoffs just so they can get this specific shot? I think I’m going to have to look into this and get back to you.
By the way, Jagr’s mullet wouldn’t peak for a few more years, but when it did it was totally worth it.