Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mailbag: If each team was a WWE wrestler and other important topics

It’s been four weeks since our last dip into the mailbag. In that time, Alex Pietrangelo became a Golden Knight, Taylor Hall became a Sabre, Joe Thornton became a Maple Leaf, Mike Hoffman tried to shake the weird feeling that there was something he was supposed to be doing, and literally every team in the entire league got a new goalie. We had a draft, the second day of which is still going on, and started to get just a little bit of clarity over when (or if) next season will start.

It’s been a busy month. Let’s see what weird stuff you folks managed to come up.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and style.

Hockey players have notoriously boring, head-down, pucks-in-deep personalities. In the interest of finding the good and praising it, what is your all-time All-Personality team? Fun, funny, crazy, self-absorbed, and zany players qualify. Not necessarily the people you’d want to grab a beer with but the ones that might spice up a press conference or make a splash in the Twittersphere.

Let’s say this all-star team is a starting six (so you’ll have to find five skaters and can only pick one wacky goalie). Also, we are only counting what players did during their careers, so people like Don Cherry probably won’t make the cut. – Josh B.

You did say it’s an all-star team, so I’m going to try to find guys who were legitimate stars at some point. That rules out some true characters, like Eddie Shack, Gilles Gratton, Tiger Williams and Ron Duguay. Here’s my starting six:

Goalie: I mean, just about every goaltender is deeply weird, and it’s really just a question of how much of that they let out. Ron Hextall, Billy Smith and Patrick Roy all check the ‘crazy’ box you were looking for, and we could make a case for Dominik Hasek or Ilya Bryzgalov, not to mention the dozen guys who played the position before going on to successful broadcasting careers. But at the risk of being too predictable, I think we have to go with the obvious choice here and pencil in Roberto Louongo as our starter.

Defense: I’ll start with another obvious pick in P.K. Subban. He’s dialed the personality down a bit in the last year or two, partly because he took so much crap for it and partly because he hasn’t been as good on the ice, but he’s still an easy call here. The other spot should probably go to Brent Burns, and I could make a case for Chris Chelios, Rod Langway or even Chris Pronger. But instead, I’m going to sneak in a homer pick here and go with Al Iafrate, a four-time all-star who was also one of the craziest personalities ever. Fire up a dart, grab a leather jacket, hook up a mullet/bald spot combo, trim those sweet jean shorts, and give me a guy who was somehow the fastest skater and the hardest shot in the league at the same time while also being interesting.

Forwards: I’ll take Phil Esposito as my center. I can’t pass up a legendary player who was making terrible novelty pop albums in his spare time. I want Jaromir Jagr too; when you think of his personality, people remember him being the self-aware veteran in his later years, and that was great, but don’t sleep on his younger days when he was rubbing peanut butter on his groin and redefining the concept of hockey hair.

The last spot is tough. I’d love to find room for Alexander Ovechkin, and might have to if we do this again in a few years. Brendan Shanahan was occasionally hilarious, in addition to being a secret super-villain. Wayne Gretzky at least tried every now and then, even though he seemed to hate every second of it. Jeremy Roenick has a case, and you did say it’s playing career only so we’d ignore his recent transformation into a certified idiot. But I’ll go with a Team USA alumni in Brett Hull, a better player who never seemed to take himself or the league too seriously, whether that was cracking a joke or feuding with a coach. Even his son is funny.

If you could retroactively apply an NHL rule change to any other era in the game, what would you go with? (e.g. putting in the trapezoid in the 1980s, goalie pad sizes in the 70s, etc.) I feel like an easy one would be implementing Rule 48 several decades ago, but if you’ve got any else that stand out, I’d definitely be curious to see. – Rob R.

I think we have to exclude any safety-based rules here, otherwise we look like monsters. Obviously we’d want to go back and make helmets mandatory for the Bill Masterton game, or put in the breakaway goal pots for Mark Howe. Stuff like that and Rule 48 are the right answers, but they’re too easy.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

31 teams, 31 picks to build the ultimate draft round

Today’s post is another cool idea from a reader. Take it away, Neil:

Love it. The Ultimate First Round. Let’s do this. But first, a few ground rules:

  • As Neil says, we’re going to put together one round, lasting 31 picks, from all of NHL Draft history. Every player we take has to have been drafted in that exact slot, and we have to use one pick from all 31 existing teams.
  • To up the difficulty even further, I’m going to add another wrinkle: We want to come away with something resembling a realistic extended roster, so I’m going to say we need to use our 31 picks to draft four goalies, nine defensemen and 18 forwards.
  • We’re picking guys based on their entire NHL career, not just what they did for the team that actually drafted them.
  • While we’re presenting this as the ultimate first round, we’ll allow players who weren’t actually first-round picks as long as their draft slot matches the one we’re on. For example, in the 1980s the 22nd overall pick would have been a second-round choice, but that’s still OK for our team.
  • Finally, we’re only looking at players who were drafted by one of the 31 current teams. No picks by the Nordiques, Whalers, Golden Seals, etc. But the Winnipeg Jets count as both the old version and the new. If you’d like to head into the comments or my Twitter mentions to argue technicalities about franchise lineage, let me assure you that I do not care. Go find a Winnipeg hockey fan and tell them they think about hockey wrong. The Jets are the Jets.

Sound good? I think this will be fun...

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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Looking for mailbag questions

Hey folks...

It's getting close to mailbag times again. Please send over some questions we can have some fun with, via email at Feel free to get creative. What-ifs, would-you-rathers and all-time bests (and worsts) work well.

To give you an idea of what works, some of the better questions so far have included:
- Could you win a Stanley Cup will a full roster of Connor McDavids, including in net?
- Could 20 Dominik Haseks beat 20 Ron Hextalls?
- Which Cup final changes history the most if you flip the results?
- Who's better, a guy who can't skate but scores on every shot or a guy who skates like the wind and can't score?
- Should the HHOF announce a mystery inductee?


Friday, October 23, 2020

Puck Soup: Building the perfect booth

In this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- Greg died so it's just me and Ryan
- Doc Emrick's retirement leads us to our ideal broadcast booths
- The Blackhawks are rebuilding... we think? Can they pull it off?
- Joe Thornton to the Leafs, and some thoughts on OGWACs
- A roundup of where we're at and who's still left in free agency - An interview with comedian John Cullen
- A new game that's a lot harder than it sounds, and more...

>> Stream it now:

>> Or, listen on The Athletic or subscribe on iTunes.

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

This is all your team’s fault: One part of the modern NHL to blame on every team (Western edition)

Welcome to the conclusion of a two-part series in which I try to find a rule, tradition or other piece of the hockey world that each team can take the credit (or blame) for introducing.

On Tuesday, we looked at the 16 Eastern Conference teams, and thank them for giving us icing, the draft lottery, trade calls and the all-star game, among other things. Today, it’s on to the West. As before, we’ll be looking at changes that were big and small, good and bad, important and trivial, and everything in between. We just want to make sure all 15 Western teams – sorry, Seattle, maybe next year – have some small piece of today’s NHL that they can claim as their own.

Chicago Blackhawks

Thank them for: The limit on how curved a stick blade can be

For the first century or so of hockey, stick blades were flat. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the curve blade fell into wide use, making it easier to lift the puck and occasionally producing unpredictable shots that were harder for goalies to stop.

There’s some dispute over who actually came up with the curved stick; most versions of the story mention Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita of the Hawks, although New York’s Andy Bathgate had claimed that they got the idea from him and some sources credit the initial innovation 1920s star Cy Denneny. But either way, it was Hull and Mikita who took the idea to the next level, taking to the ice with ridiculous curves that became known as banana blades. The NHL eventually put a limit on how much curve was too much, a fact that still makes Kings fans cry.

Edmonton Oilers

Thank them for: The post-Cup group photo

The 1980s Oilers had plenty of chances to innovate when it came to winning Cups, since they did it kind of a lot. They’re often given credit for starting the tradition of the first handoff by giving it to Steve Smith in 1987, the year after his infamous own-goal. But I’ve always loved the story behind the 1988 win, when Wayne Gretzky made the apparently impromptu decision to gather everyone for a team photo.

We hadn’t seen that before, and it was an undeniably cool moment – especially since it became Gretzky’s last moment in an Oiler jersey.

Los Angeles Kings

Thank them for: Your current coach not being able to take a job with another team

Not your current coach in the sense of a guy you fired but who remains under contract. I mean the guy who’s behind your bench, right now, for tonight’s game. Other teams can’t just show up and hire that guy for a different job.

Yeah, that doesn’t seem like the sort of thing we should need a rule about. There’s a story here.

It comes from December 1986, as the legendary Pat Quinn was halfway through his third season as Kings’ coach. He stunned the league, and his employer, by announcing that he’d accepted a job as the new GM of the Canucks, with the intention of starting after the season ended.

Quinn, a former lawyer, argued that he was within his legal rights to negotiate with another team, even as he was still working for the Kings. The NHL didn’t necessarily dispute that, but considered Quinn’s attempt to coach one team while signing a contract with another a conflict of interest. They hammered everyone involved with heavy fines, and suspended Quinn from working anywhere for the rest of the season, and from coaching a team until 1990. Not surprisingly, various appeals, threats and lawsuits followed. It was kind of a mess.

So the next time you about a team needing to ask permission to talk to a coach that some other team already fired, you can trace it back to the Kings, the Canucks, and the lawyer/coach who knew an upgrade when he saw it.

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