Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Senators defenceman Eric Gryba returns to the lineup tonight. He had been suspended after nailing Lars Eller with an open-ice hit.
In the aftermath, there was a lot of opinion out there right now. Was it a clean hit? Did Gryba make contact made with Eller's head? Should Gryba be suspended? Should the blame in fact lie with Eller, or with Raphael Diaz, the Canadiens defenceman who made the pass that put Eller in a vulnerable position? And of course: We All Hope Lars Eller's Okay.(TM)
Here's some analysis from the TSN panel.
Part of me wonders if we're losing sight of the big picture. Yes, it's a good development to pay more attention to hits to the head... but Gryba only kinda made contact with Eller's head. In any case, scientifically dissecting the hit, frame-by-frame on instant replay, isn't the point. The point is that these types of hits are effective ways to win a hockey game, or keep your job in the NHL - safety be damned.
It's easy to forget, so let's consider some of the ways the game has changed over the past few decades.
Players are far bigger now. As of 2010, the average NHLer is 6'1, 204 pounds. In 1970, the average NHLer was 5'10, 180 pounds - quite small by today's standards. Plus when you consider that all NHLers now have planned diets and insane fitness regimens (except Byfuglien) based on explosiveness and speed, players must be far more powerful and thus impacts more severe.
Yep. Things have changed. Players in the 70's and 80's used to go out drinking the night before a game. For example, Dale Hawerchuk I'm told would be out at the bar getting drunk and working his way through a pack of cigarettes the night before a game (and score 2 goals, 1 assist to boot). Now NHL players don't mess around - they play NHL 2K12 and pop ephedrine.
The last one that I can think of is care of Ken Dryden. He notes that shift length used to be much longer - often close to a couple minutes. Today's game is played at such high speed that shifts need to be 35-45 second sprints in most cases (particularly for forwards). The only place you'll find 2-minute shifts now is in the beer leagues (or, again: Byfuglien... and sometimes Kane).
And there doesn't seem to be much of a culture of "letting up" or "not wanting to kill my opponent"; I'm not saying that players in the past were more gentle... as I think there is no shortage of stories of shocking acts of violence in the past. It's just... hasn't the overall situation changed a bit? Players are far bigger, far stronger, and they're playing a far faster game. I'm pretty sure we're we want to stop concussions but, hey, the money.
The tragedy for me is that it's not making the game more beautiful. Case in point: the Kings / Blues series, which is the ugliest series I've seen.
Hockey is a balance between skill and toughness. But increasingly these playoffs, it's just ugly, and too often dangerous. What's the point of that?
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Fuck Washington, fuck Carolina, fuck Ottawa, fuck the refs, fuck the "war room" in Toronto, and hell, while we're at it, fuck the Leafs. Why you ask? I offer "why not" in response.
On elimination night the only real winner was the bar I was at, due to the fact that I had to drown my sorrows in something, and since most of the water in Manitoba is still frozen, beer and whiskey were seemingly my best options. My soul bolstered by spirits and fermented grains, I was still rather heartbroken by the lacklustre fashion in which the Jets' season found its end. Not with a bang, but like the raspy voice of a recent high school graduate on a 2 week festival party circuit binge1 and having smoked 2 cartons of cigarettes, a weak, nearly asthmatic whimper. Glued to the giant screen (I don't know where you come from, but 60 inches is rather enormous. Weird Al might disagree), the room of well rung-out revellers jumped from their seats like a bomb had gone off when Blake "I-Rode-a-Badass-Tricked-Out-Big-Wheel-When-I-was-a-Kid. Yeah-Rode-it-like-a-Boss" Wheeler managed to jam home the go ahead goal with 5 minutes left in the second. We were overjoyed, it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to anyone while hanging out at ANAF 60. Then in between periods, while waiting for our tastalicious/ really greasy (they made the chips themselves. So I guess that's a decent excuse) nachos to arrive, through the magic of technology we were informed that Carolina sucks and had failed in their task to keep the Rangers2 from taking the 2 points they needed to lock up a playoff spot. This was followed shortly after by watching Ottawa score a power-play goal 1 minute into overtime, thus eliminating the Jets from playoff contention. The air went out of the room like it had been consumed by a roaring pyre of disappointment. But rather than burning through the room like a stream of dragon's breath (I've been reading a lot of A Song of Ice and Fire lately...), it instead sucked it out subtly, as if at one moment we had all the hope (oxygen) in the world (albeit somewhat misplaced), only to open our hearts and lungs the next second to find nothing but a lifeless vacuum. A year that started with disbelief when we, the fans, were met with instead of an arena filled with roaring fans and a bunch of burly guys chasing around a little rubber thingy on a bunch of frozen H2OOOHHHH YEAH, we watched coverage on who was being a bigger asshole on that particular day (Hint, it was always Gary Bettman). Then when hockey finally made it's glorious return, the Jets couldn't buy a victory on home-ice. Finally things started falling into place for our boys in blue (and sometimes white), and we maintained a hold on third place in the conference for a substantial amount of time. Then the wheels fell off. What began as a blowout loss to Washington at home was followed by (the very next day) another blowout loss to Washington. And quickly on those dirty unWashed heels followed 3 more losses. Straight up losses, no loser points, no losing after 307 rounds of a gruelling shootout, but miserable, humbling losses that set the Jets back so far in the standing that not even an unlikely 6-2-1 finish to the season could make up for those 10 lost points. To place a wee bit o' perspective on that, that's basically a 10 game slide in a regular 82 game season. And teams with 10 game losing streaks are generally really shitty teams, like the Florida Panthers, or the Calgary Flames. The playoff-bound boat sunk, and while we might have seen the iceberg off in the distance, we just couldn't believe that it could do THAT much damage, or that we couldn't right the ship after hitting it. Probably because hockey players are not notorious for being math whizzes.
Now, I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories, and I admit that my somewhat biased opinion is not as informed as it could be, but the "facts" as I'm about to recount for you aren't well documented either. That's
The Jets were railroaded. That's old west slang for "got-fucked-over." I don't watch any hockey games that aren't Jets-centric, or if I do, I'm definitely not paying attention3 so I can't recall whether the officiating is just terrible wall to wall, or if it's considerably worse where the Jets are concerned, but I'm pretty sure it's the latter. Goals called off, horrible penalties called against, worse penalty calls missed (just ask Nic Antropov's face last night, it would certainly have something to tell you), goals scored on plays that had blatant penalties that went "unnoticed" and some great phantom goaltender interference calls that resulted in goals being disallowed. Sure, shouting "REF YOU SUCK" from the rafters of the MTS Centre isn't the classiest thing one could do, but it's certainly more tasteful than tossing banana peels onto the ice...The important component of that action is that it shows that even a bunch of drunk, knuckle-dragging hockey fans can tell when there is
This year was a great one, and even though the Jets got eliminated from the playoffs on the last day of their season (which came before everyone else's for some inexplicable reason), I'd still say that it was a success in many respects. Sure, the wound is a little fresh right now, but lingering over failed potential is a sure way to drop into a depressed cycle of "what ifs..." and we should be focusing on the positives. Like being able to join Leafs fans in a week or so in a chorus of "There's always next year."
1 Country Fest to Folk Fest. There are more trucks at Country fest. And more shitheads, but I'd say in 3 years it'll be getting pretty close. But probably still fewer trucks.
2 What kind of redneck team wants to be called the Rangers anyway? Naming your team after some roving group of horse mounted warmongers? Military affiliations for professional sports are not cool, they're douchey...shit.<---Hey remember when that was a big deal? Maybe it still should be...
3For the obvious reason that the 29 other teams in the league suck. Especially the sucky sucky Leafs. Suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
|"You'd trade me? Ron Hainsey?"|
While voter turnout continues to trend downward, the spirit of civic responsibility is not disappearing; it is merely changing. Case in point: we, the rabid, psychotic fans of the Winnipeg Jets. While we likely don't vote in real elections, many of us will spend hours debating and questioning the Jets' play or personnel decisions on twitter, comment boards, or call-in show phone lines.
So I will take this opportunity to cast my vote in favor of NOT trading Ron Hainsey.1
NOT trading Ron Hainsey is by no means a no-brainer. Admittedly, the Jets have played consistently inconsistent, have played 2-3 more games than their closest divisional competition and their "3rd" place is really more like 8th place:
Friday, March 22, 2013
Remember that feeling? Good, because some crazy shit (i.e getting our asses handed to us in our own building by the Caps) has happened since then. Not least of which was Claude Noel's incredible post game interview in which I'm pretty sure he threatened to get medieval on our asses. But that was yesterday, and this is about, uh, a couple days before that.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
|You want me to reverse the Ponikarovsky trade?!?!|
What should the Jets do as we near the NHL's trade deadline? Our best and brightest sports reporters, bloggers, and Gary Lawlesses are busy answering this most important of questions. Which is good because nothing makes for better toilet reading than local sports trade intrigue.
Are the Jets buyers or sellers? Who on our roster is untouchable? Should the Jets trade a surplus defenceman? Do we really have a surplus of defencemen? Is it better to build for the future by acquiring draft picks or giving our current core playoff experience? Should we trade our pending unrestricted free agents now or risk losing them for nothing? If our newspapers, radios and conversations contained such breadth of sincere, thoughtful questions of political issues, we might actually live in a functioning democracy.
But of course who cares about democracy when you see an image like this amiright? Some of us probably want this engraved on our tombstones:
Sunday, March 17, 2013
|Burmistrov, pissed off and silently cursing Noel's name.|
If you've ever wondered what would happen if a pretty good 21-year-old Russian 1st rounder playing for the Winnipeg Jets who allegedly had a threesome1 after The Green Room one night last year got benched... well today, you got your answer - on your very own computer screen.
Even more satisfying would be if you wanted to know what it would be like to bench that same player for four straight games - AND COUNTING *GASP*.
Alex Burmistrov has been benched and people are freaking out. Why? Because unlike Chris Thorburn (who is playing), Alex Burmistrov is a pretty good player. Not only that, but tonight the Jets were coming off a hard-fought shootout win in Toronto less than 24 hours before the puck dropped in Ottawa - against a team in the thick of the playoff chase as well. Hockey teams historically look tired and generally suck in the second game of back-to-back games. The logical choice would be to choose this as the mutually beneficial time to end Burmistrov's "suspension", right?
Apparently not. The Jets played a lousy first period, then showed some resolve and nearly tied the game but ultimately lost 4-1. Fuck, I don't know. I'm 27 and I get tired after playing in the beer leagues. Makes sense to me.
As I sit here watching the Jets lose to the most evil, demonic, sold-their-collective-souls-to-the-Devil-for-a-failed-Stanley-Cup-run team in the NHL1, observing some pretty sloppy play on our part (and theirs, obviously. They're the worst) and noticing the considerable number of players who have been healthy scratches lately, I felt the need for a motivational speech for the boys in blue (and lighter blue, and some white, and red. But mostly white, since they're playing in Ottawa) - YOU CAN BE REPLACED.
Pavelec, this is mostly aimed at your ass. Granted you've been playing pretty well lately2, but a quick trip to a Chubby Czech-er nightclub could change that pretty quick. So let me introduce you to our very own fresh-off-the-boat, recently landed Mexican amigo, Al Montoya. You know how our fellow North American honkies from down South (Americans) try to keep the Rio Grande free of immigrants because they, uh, "pollute their highly developed and rich culture?" Yeah, well Al Montoya swam up the Rio Grande where to where it meets the Mississippi, then swam up the Mississippi to where it meets up with the Red all the way to the Forks. In the winter. In 45 minutes. Those rivers don't meet up you say? They do for Al Montoya. Because Al Montoya has some badass Brujería magic, and he can make that shit happen. And you'd better believe he can keep that puck out of the net. And
use his mad stacks of Pesos to pay off the
Policia use special Jedi mind tricks to keep some dumb cop from
writing his ass a ticket for a DUI. Want proof? He and Buff are hella-tight.
Did you see Byfuglien taking the fall for getting loaded and ripping around
some shitty little Lake in Minnesota? Didn't think so.
Fuck. Ottawa just scored on a bullshit powerplay. Perhaps we need Al Montoya's dark Mexicano magic tonight to counteract the evil Satanic mysticism of the Sens. And they just scored again.
The Jets have been playing great lately, but they've obviously got some holes that pop up from time to time. We've got to deal with those. Just like Mike pointed out in his article previous to this one, we're fast approaching the trade deadline and the Jets are definitely in the "buyers" category. We've got the potential to be a playoff team, but when we have a hell of a time winning when not everything is clicking "just-so," is it realistic to see this current run as being sustainable? I'm not trying to take away anything from the Jets success this season, but we do play in the worst division in the league, that's a pretty important fact to keep in mind. Claude Noel can only say "We need our best guys to produce more" so many times before one begins to believe that peak production is perhaps a little lower than once believed. Olli, Burmistrov, Wellwood, (and others): Pick it up. I'd hate to see any of you go, but playoffs are the playoffs. I'd hate much more to have to watch another year's playoffs go by with nothing but a bunch of shitty teams3 stumbling around the ice, masquerading as the cream of the Gary Bettman's ill-governed crop.
1The Senators. Why the most evil team you ask? 1 - They play in Stephen Harper's backyard, and 2 - The Canadian Senate seems to consist solely of members of Satan's entourage)
2In the course of writing this article, this ceased being the case.
3Anyone but the Jets. Especially Toronto. But ESPECIALLY Ottawa.