Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Countdown to free agency

Tomorrow is Free Agency Day. It's also a holiday in Canada, which means two things:

  • I'll be online all day
  • I'll be drinking heavily starting at noon
I'll be updating DGB whenever something interesting happens... which, given Brian Burke's track record, means this is my last post for the week. But check back anyways, just in case.

And don't forget to follow me on twitter. My twitter feed has all the high quality you've come to expect from the blog, except more frequent, shorter, and without the high quality.

(If you're not already following DGB, PPP, Chemmy and the rest of the barilkosphere on twitter, you missed out on an epic afternoon. Once news of the Gomez trade broke, Leaf Nation quickly formed a kick circle around Bob Gainey and didn't let up for a solid hour. Good times. Look for an encore tonight if the Senators trade Dany Heatley for Dustin Penner.)

A few quick thoughts on free agency:
  • I'm solidly pro-Sedin, if and only if Burke can sign them to deal of reasonable length. If Burke can get the twins to signs five or six year deals worth, say, $35M or so each, I'm happy.

    The Leafs need front line talent and only have one elite forward prospect. The Sedins give you two-thirds of a top line and push everyone else down to more suitable roles. Plus, as we all know, Swedish players never let you down.

  • Do not sign Chris Neil. He's broken down, has a grossly over-inflated sense of himself, and is a cruiserweight at best. Yes, it's admirable to see a relatively little guy fight giants like Laraque and Brashear. But he gets fed every time, and we can find cheaper guys to clog up the fourth line and lose fights twice a month.

  • On the other hand, I want Colton Orr's signature on a contract at 12:01. The Leafs need an enforcer -- not a grinder, not a plugger, not a plumber, but an honest-to-god alpha dog. Chris Neil isn't the answer. Andrew "Golf Swing" Peters definitely isn't the answer. Colton Orr is. Sign him tomorrow. Then give him Finger's #4, just to piss off Bruins ans.

  • Seriously, do not sign Chris Neil.

  • Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek and François Beauchemin are all fine players if you can get them at a reasonable price, which you won't. So don't get your hopes up.

  • I will go on a crime spree if they sign Chris Neil.

  • There's a very sick part of me that wants the Leafs to sign Todd Bertuzzi, just for the entertainment value. He would immediately cause Damien Cox's head to explode. He'd instantly become the most hated player in NHL history. And he'd make Dominic Moore cry tears of blood.

A reminder of the three immutable laws of NHL free agency:
  1. Everybody will get way more money than anyone expects them to get. Everyone.
  2. Most of the big names will sign with teams that they've never even been linked to.
  3. Do not sign Chris Neil
Finally, a sincere thanks to DGB readers. Thanks to a late surge, this will be the fifth straight month of record traffic. That's pretty impressive considering how little is going on in Leafland every spring.

So thanks to everyone who visits. Thanks to everyone who subscribes, follows, or bookmarks. And special thanks to everyone who posts DGB content and links on various forums and sites around the world.

(And that includes a special hello to my friends in Finland in the NHL-huumoria thread at Jatkoaika.com. Kiitos! I've almost forgiven your country for Vesa Toskala.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brian Burke mic'd at the draft: What TSN didn't show you

To much fanfare, TSN had Brian Burke mic'd for the first round of this year's draft. And despite considerable hype leading into the broadcast, most agree that Burke's clips didn't reveal much.

Or did they? It turns out Burke gave TSN plenty of good material, but for some reason they chose not to air most of it.

Luckily for you, they forgot to lock up the A/V room overnight, and DGB spies were able to obtain the full transcript of Burke's evening. Here, unedited, are ten conversations you didn't see on TSN.

(At the Leafs draft table.)

Dave Nonis: I saw you talking to Paul Holmgrem at the Flyers table. Did he have any interest in Kaberle?

Burke: Not yet, but give him a few minutes. I used an old psychological trick I learned in law school to plant a subliminal suggestion. The next time he hears the term "all-star defenceman", he won't be able to turn down any trade no matter how ridiculous.

Nonis: Wow.

Burke: It's foolproof. In a few minutes I'll walk back over, mention Kaberle, and he'll grab his ankles.

Nonis: Hey look, he's talking to Bob Murray.

Burke: Uh oh.

Nonis: They're shaking hands.

Burke: Son of a...

(Burke wanders by the Rangers draft table and runs into Glen Sather.)

Burke: Hey Glen, I need to feed the meter. Any chance you have change for a five?

Sather: Sure. How about six loonies?

Burke: That would be... wait, no.

Sather: Fine, fine. Four toonies?

Burke: No, Glen, it's a five, all I need is...

Sather: Nine loonies, five toonies, six quarters and a mint condition Franklin half-dollar. Final offer.

Burke: ...

Sather: Six years, $39 million.

Burke: Deal.

(Dallas draft table.)

Burke: Hey Joe, got a second?

Joe Nieuwendyk: Sure Brian, what's up?

Burke: I need a coffee. Two cream, no sugar.

Nieuwendyk: Um...

Burke: Stat.

Nieuwendyk: I'm not actually your assistant any more.

Burke: ...

Nieuwendyk: Remember, I resigned two weeks ago?

Burke: ...

Nieuwendyk: I'm the GM of the Stars now.

Burke: And an apple fritter.

Nieuwendyk: Right away sir.

(Burke is on his cellphone in a back hallway.)

Burke: So we've got a deal then?

Bob Gainey: Yeah. Done deal.

Burke: Great, I knew we could work this out.

Gainey: Man, the crowd is going to go nuts when I announce we've acquired Lecavlier.

Burke: Yeah. You should totally get right up there and announce it right now.

Gainey: Well, we need to do the paperwork.

Burke: Forget the paperwork. Just grab the mic from Bettman and announce it. Trust me, it will be a moment nobody ever forgets.

Gainey: Umm... hey Lawton, why does your cell phone number have a 416 area code?

Burke: Tee hee.

Gainey: Oh for... Burke, is that you?

Burke: (Hangs up, high-fives a giggling Dave Nonis.)

(Sharks GM Doug Wilson approaches the Leafs draft table.)

Wilson: Brian, I heard you wanted to talk to me?

Burke: Hi Doug. Any truth to the rumor that Joe Thornton is available?

Wilson: What? Who told you that?

Burke: One of your scouts mentioned it.

Wilson: Really? Did he say what the asking price was?

Burke: Yeah, he wrote it down for me, hold on. He said it would cost us... (unfolds a piece of paper) ... "a balloon".

Wilson: Oh lord.

Burke: Yeah.

Wilson: I think I know which one of our scouts you were talking to.

John Ferguson Jr.: Hi guys!

Wilson: John, what did we say about talking to the grownups?

JFJ: But I like balloons.

Burke: So have we got a deal, or...

Wilson: He's not actually authorized to speak to anybody. Ever.

Burke: Oh.

JFJ: Red ones are my favorite.

Wilson: Look, I'm really sorry about all this. He just gets really frightened and confused on draft day.

Entire Leafs draft table: We know.

(Back hallway. Burke is talking to Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, as well as a second reporter wearing a floppy hat, backwards press pass, and lucha libre-style wrestling mask.)

Shoalts: Wait, just so I'm clear, are these real conversations? Or is this some sort of parody joke thing? I'm still having a lot of trouble with this internet stuff.

Burke: You're both idiots.

Mystery reporter: Is that an e5?

Burke: (Shakes head, storms off.)

Mystery reporter: Burkie?

Burke (whispering): You need to listen to me very carefully. There is a bomb hidden under you draft table. It is about to go off. You need to evacuate right away, or else you will die. Do you understand me?

Kevin Lowe: Brian, I know it's you. I have called ID on my phone.

Burke: ...

Lowe: You're not allowed to call me. It's in the restraining order. (Click.)

Burke (still whispering): Dustin Penner sucks!

(Burke's cell phone rings.)

Burke: Hello?

Gary Bettman: Brian, it's Gary. It's about this trade you just faxed in. The one where you get the Wild's first rounder. And Harding. And Zidlicky and Gaborik and Clutterbuck.

Burke: It's a blockbuster.

Bettman: For Jeff Finger.

Burke: Hey, their GM signed off on it.

Bettman: Yeah, about that. I can see that the trade was signed by "C Fletcher". But I just talked to Chuck, and he said he never even spoke to you.

Burke: Do you have a point?

Bettman: Could I please speak to Cliff?

Burke: You may not.

Bettman: Deal's off. (Click.)

Burke: Worth a try.

(Post-draft buffet spread.)

Burke: Not much left at the buffet.

Bryan Murray: Yeah, but there's still one piece of apple pie left. My favorite!

Burke: Apple pie is the one you want?

Murray: Yes.

Burke: Well, that's the one I'm going to take.

Murray: Oh for ...

Burke: (Nom nom nom.)

Murray: Stop doing that!

(Post-draft party.)

Burke: Look, I don't want to get all sappy here, but I just want to say I've admired you for a long time, and it was an honor to share a draft floor with you. You did a fantastic job out there. You're absolutely the best in the business.

Burke's reflection: Hey, you too. I'm a huge fan. Great work as always.

Guy banging on door: Hey buddy, hurry up in there, there are people lined up to use this bathroom!

(Glove tap to DGB reader Lyle for sending in the idea for this post.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Brian Burke: The wait continues

Have you seen this man?
(Note to Puck Daddy readers: The "mic'd up" post is actually here.)

We're now seven months and counting into the Brian Burke Era.

When he didn't make a single significant move in his first four months on the job, everyone said not to worry because the best time to sell was at the deadline.

When he didn't do anything at the deadline other than a few minor deals with UFAs, everyone said not to worry because he was waiting for the draft.

Now the first round has come and gone, and Burke has drafted a solid prospect in Nazem Kadri but came up empty on his vow to move up and couldn't find a deal for Tomas Kaberle.

I guess now we're waiting until free agency.

I know this is a long process. I know it's not easy to trade in today's NHL. I know the best deal is sometimes the one you don't make.

But at some point, doesn't Brian Burke have to actually do something? You know, besides giving good soundbites?

Or am I just being one of those unreasonable Leaf fans?

NHL 2009 Draft Liveblog

Welcome to the 2009 Draft liveblog. I'll be updating here throughout the afternoon and the first round. Refresh the page for the latest updates, and don't forget to follow me at twitter.com/DownGoesBrown.

11:00 - So there you have it. The first round ended up being largely predictable and somewhat dull. The Leafs walk away with one decent prospect and a whole lot of "what if"s.

Thanks to everyone who joined in tonight.

9:40 - I'm always amazed at how many teams apparently base their draft decisions on geography. First Minnesota, now Montreal. You'd think you'd prefer to take the best player, no?

9:25 - The folks at hfboards aren't impressed either.

9:05 - And there goes Zach Kassian. Time to start drinking.

9:00 - Every time a kid is drafted in the first round, they show him having a quick conversation with his girlfriend. How many of them do you think go like this?

Her: Congratulations baby! I love you!
Him: Thanks. By the way, we're no longer together.
Her: But... but... you promised we would always...
Him: Security, have her removed.
Her: (sob)
Him: (Hits on Elisha Cuthbert)

8:40 - According to Wikipedia, it could have been worse.

8:25 - From RobViper13 in the comments:

Good job Boyd Deveraux. That hat trick on the final night of the season cost us Brayden Schenn. Was it worth it?

8:20 - When I expressed disappointment at Burke not doing anything at the deadline, everyone said that Burke would do his work at the draft. Safe to assume that now everyone will tell me to just wait for free agency? Then training camp... then the next deadline...

8:15 - The Leafs have drafted Nazem Kadri with the #7 pick.

He sounds like a great kid, and he's immediately one of the best prospects in the Leafs system.

But the bottom line is that after writing off an entire year, the Leafs didn't wind up with a surefire stud. And that's a little hard to swallow, no?

8:05 - OEL goes to the Coyotes. Leafs are up next. CTRL-V? Grant Jennings? Trade down? Or somebody else?

8:00 - The Kings just took Owen Schenn at #5.

Meanwhile, Dreger is reporting that the Leafs are hoping Bouwmeester is dealt tonight so that they can make a Kaberle deal.

So just to recap: The Ducks go out and find a great deal for Pronger, while the Leafs are waiting around for the Panthers to create a market for them.

7:50 - It's a little tough to listen to all these media folks who spent the last week swearing that the Isles would take Duchene or Hedman now turn around and confirm how predictable the draft has been.

7:40 - After all the uncertainty, the first three picks went as expected.

Now we're at #4, which is Evander Kane territory. Let's all watch as the announcers awkwardly refer to him as "athletic".

7:30 - The Flyers got absolutely robbed on the Pronger deal. Two firsts and two players for one year of an old defenceman? Wow.

Meanwhile, the Lightning take Hedman. Guess we'll never know if there was a deal in place with the Leafs.

I'm not completely sold on Hedman. Despite the once-in-a-generation combination of size and skill, he's still only two letters away from being this guy.

7:15 - The Islanders take Tavares with the #1 pick. That's the right move. And it was nice to have a little suspense for a change.

The moment is diminished somewhat when Brian Burke runs up to the podium, clubs Tavares over the head, loads his body into the trunk of his car and drives off.

6:55 - There's a major thunderstorm getting ready to hit southern Ottawa.

Me + being at home during the draft when everyone else is in Montreal = mild annoyance.

Me + being at home during the draft if there's a power failure = potential psychotic rampage.

6:35 - More on the (apparently dead) Leafs/Bruins deal. It seems the Bruins really did expect to get Tomas Kaberle and the #7 for Phil Kessel.

So I guess the "misunderstanding" is that Burke thought the Bruins were actually serious about making a deal, and not just wasting everyone's time.

6:20 - My annual plea to NHL GMs:

  • We know you want to thank Montreal for hosting.
  • We know you want to congratulate the Penguins for winning the Cup.
  • Therefore, feel free to skip that part and just make your damn pick.
6:00 Now TSN says there was a "major miscommunication" between the Leafs and Bruins, with both teams thinking that the other side was throwing in a high draft pick.

How does that happen? Is this my office fantasy football pool?

5:50 - Bob McKenzie says he'll be "shocked" if Kaberle doesn't wind up in Boston by the end of the night. Meanwhile, Dreger says the deal is off.

In other words, TSN will eventually claim they had a scoop on this.

5:30 - Just a reminder: If you're in Montreal, and especially if you're at the Bell Centre tonight, I hate you.

4:50 - My reaction the reported Bruins offer of Kessel plus a pick for Kaberle is pretty much identical to Brian Burke's: Decent offer, worth considering, now let's see if anyone else out there wants to do better.

4:00 - Finally, draft day is here. For Leaf fans who've been waiting all year for the Brian Burke rebuild to really get going, tonight's draft is the equivalent of Christmas morning.

That makes this afternoon the equivalent of the night before Christmas, which was always the best part. Enjoy it while you can -- it's that wonderful moment of anticipation and hope before crushing reality sets in.

Kid: Socks? Underwear?
Dad: Merry Christmas!
Kid: But dad, didn't you promise to trade up and get me a bike?
Dad: Daddy tried. Didn't work out.
Kid: Maybe Daddy should spend more time working and less time talking to the media.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Leafs draft preview: I have a bad feeling about this...

Various media have reported today that Brian Burke is still hot on the trail of John Tavares. With less than 72 hours left to make a deal, Burke has apparently made no progress but feels he has plenty of time.

I'm glad to hear it. Because for the past few weeks I've been devouring mock drafts and trying to talk myself into three players that the Leafs seem to have the best shot at: Brayden Schenn, Jared Cowen, and Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson.

And it will probably not shock you to learn that it's not going so well.

Yes, each of these three guys sounds like a fantastic player. And each would clearly fill a glaring need on a Leafs roster that has plenty of them. But as you no doubt know by now, it's in my nature to look for the downside as well.

So let's take a look at the three most likely candidates to become your next Maple Leaf savior, and why we may need to downgrade expectations.

I wonder if Tyler Kennedy
has a younger brother
who needs his ass kicked?
Brayden Schenn

The strengths: Is the brother of Luke Schenn.

Seriously, that's really all you need to know. NHL scouts haven't even bothered to watch him. His parents have patiently tried to explain that Brayden doesn't like hockey and has never even been on skates, but he's still Luke's brother so he's a top five pick. End of story.

The concern: I'll be honest, I love the idea of having two brothers form the core of our long-term rebuild. Luke Schenn was such a monster last year that the thought of doubling down on the family gene pool has me giddy.

But let's run down the script here: Luke is older. He's better known. The Leafs traded up to get him, he made the team as a teenager, played on the top pairing for much of the season, was named to the all-rookie team, and earlier today he was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame. When he walks the streets of Toronto, tiny eunuchs scurry in front of him to scatter rose petals.

Now here comes Brayden, the younger brother who may actually be more talented. But he's trapped in his big brother's shadow. And he knows it. Everybody knows it.

If a lifetime of english literature, greek epic poetry and professional wrestling have taught me anything, it's that younger brothers can't be trusted. The potential for an eventual dramatic brotherly backstab is off-the-charts here.

Keep in mind, these two kids are from Western Canada. There's precedent here that should raise all kind of red flags. Don't say you weren't warned if at some point Brayden snaps on Luke, and kicks his leg out of his leg.

Jared Cowen does his
impression of every Leaf
fan the day JFJ was hired.
Jared Cowen

The strengths: Was a consensus top five pick who was even getting some fringe consideration as a potential first overall choice until he blew out his knee this season and slid down the rankings. Has the size and mean streak to be the steal of the draft. If paired with Luke Schenn, would likely play his entire career without ever being on the ice for a goal against.

The concern: None. Drafting a can't-miss defensive stud who dropped in the rankings because he wrecked his knee is always a great idea.

Seriously, this is can't miss. Any time you have a chance to take a top ten pick and turn it into Grant Jennings, you have to go for it.

This man could someday
break Doug Gilmour's team
record for ridiculous hair.
Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson

The strengths: MPS, as the kids call him, is a dynamic playmaking winger with excellent size, speed and creativity. Based on raw skill alone he would immediately become the Leafs' best winger, and probably also their second-line center and perhaps backup goalie.

The concern: His name is, literally, impossible to spell. I know this seems petty, but I'm a blogger. This is important to me.

Seriously, take a good long look at it: Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson. WTF?

I don't know about you, but I don't have a "ä" key on my keyboard, let alone three of them. What kind of person fires off a triple umlaut into one name? Is he a hockey player or an 80s hair metal band?

Here's a little known fact about Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson: his full name has only ever been typed once. Since then, every single person who has ever written about him has been cutting and pasting from that original version, passing it down to future generations like monks transcribing the bible. If the Leafs draft him, they should create a page on their web site that just says "Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson" in 36-point font so that writers can easily grab it whenever they need to mention him.

At the very least, can we all agree to ditch the horribly uncreative "MPS" nickname in favor of something better? I'm suggesting "CTRL-V". Who's with me?

As you can see, I'm struggling here.

So please, Burkie, get a deal done. Draft John Tavares for us long-suffering Leaf fans, so that we'll finally have a prospect with no downside.

(You know, other than the poor defensive play, mediocre skating, questionable work ethic... oh god...)

Draft note: I'll be blogging on Friday night during the first round of the draft. I won't call it a liveblog, but I'll try to update a few times over the course of the night.

And since I'm apparently the only hockey blogger on the planet who won't be in Montreal this weekend, I may also try to hack into Pension Plan Puppets and post there too. Assuming PPP hasn't changed the site's password ("gillsux"), head over when the Leafs make their pick and commiserate with me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

DGB vs. Mark Osborne: And the winner is...

I received some tough news this week. A lawyer informed me that I am being sued for 48 years of back child support.

You see, as we learned over the past few months, I am Mark Osborne's daddy.

Two months ago I publicly called Osborne out as part of the Score's expert playoff pool. And the results are in.

Yes, in the most predictable outcome since Clark vs Fetisov, I can confirm that I beat Mark Osborne.

No, wait, that's not strong enough. Let's try again: I destroyed Mark Osborne.

Wait, one more: I annihilated Mark Osborne. Yes, that sounds about right.

The lopsided score was made worse when Osborne refused to even submit a pick for the finals. This decision could best be compared to a bloodied boxer refusing to answer the bell for the final round, choosing instead to remain slumped and beaten in his corner.

And, like any respectful opponent in that situation, I charged across the ring and kept wailing on him anyways. As the only expert in the entire challenge to successfully nail the final round pick of Pens in seven, I turned an all-but-certain DGB victory into an epic blowout that small children will learn about in school for years to come.

The good news for Osborne: After seeing how he responded to adversity by rolling over and blatantly quitting, the Ottawa Senators have named him assistant captain.

In all seriousness, Osborne competed valiantly and managed to keep the score fairly close right up until the moment that the contest actually started. And he should feel nothing but pride in his performance.

After all, there can be no shame in losing to somebody who is clearly far smarter than you are.

P.S. Mark, don't forget to send me a Father's Day card.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Leafs vs. Islanders - Oh, the humanity

I've made the point before that you can have your Battle of Ontario, with its ridiculous controversies and over-hyped skirmishes. The most vicious playoff series I've ever seen was the one between the Leafs and the New York Islanders in 2002.

This was the series that featured Shane Corson trying to kick Eric Cairns in the head, Tie Domi speedbagging Jim Cummins, and Steve Webb hitting everything in sight in New York (but disappearing completely in Toronto).

But the most memorable battle in this war came in game five, which featured two serious injuries. First up, here's the one everyone remembers:

Now it's an official NHL bylaw that if you weren't a Leaf fan in 2002, you have to think this hit was dirty and hate Darcy Tucker for it.

But it wasn't. Based on the NHL's rules at the time, it was squeaky clean. The NHL would later add a "clipping" penalty (which is never called) to try to prevent hits like this, but at the time there wasn't anything in the rulebook that said hitting low was illegal.

Years later, a theory emerged as to why Tucker went so low. Apparently the Leafs scouting report on Peca said that he would pretend not to see you coming, then launch himself at your head. So if you're going to hit him, the thinking went, go low. Apparently Tucker agreed.

The hit turned Peca's knee into spaghetti and caused him to launch a summer-long PR campaign against Tucker. The two hated each other for years, right up until Peca signed with the Leafs and they started driving each other's kids to kindergarten.

So yes, Tucker's hit was clean. On the other hand...

Now that's a dirty hit.

Look, I love Gary Roberts as much as the next guy, but this hit is charging, boarding and hitting from behind all rolled into one, not to mention a pretty clear attempt to target a guy's head.

In one of the strangest calls in recent memory, the officials handed Roberts a major but didn't eject him because, in their view, there was no injury on the play. I don't know about you, but I think Jonsson looks kind of injured there. Luckily for Roberts, Jonsson didn't end up bleeding -- probably because the part of his brain that controlled his circulatory system had been turned into sawdust.

Jonsson had a history of concussions and was never quite the same player after this hit. The Islanders asked for a suspension, but the league declined. Roberts later admitted that he delivered the hit because he was sick of Damien Cox over-rating Jonsson just so he could bash Cliff Fletcher for the Wendel Clark trade in 1996.

I may have made that last part up.

The Leafs eventually won the series, but were so banged up that it took them a much-longer-than-usual seven games to eliminate the Senators in round two.

Side note: You can hear Leafs fans cheering both hits, yet I don't remember any manufactured outrage about being "classy". If this happened today, we'd have to put up with hysterical blog post lectures from every Islanders fan in the world. Yes, all six of them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A word about those "classless" Red Wing fans

So by now you've no doubt heard about the NHL's latest scandal.

On Friday night, during the most important game in recent league history, Detroit Red Wings fans actually cheered when Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby suffered a knee injury in the second period.

For that sin, Wings fans are taking heat today from the media, blogs, and just about everywhere else.

They stand accused of the one apparently unforgivable sin among hockey fans these days: not being "classy".

Yes, it's time to break out the top hats and monocles. Because while the NHL can forgive fans for being fickle, apathetic, and even just plain non-existent, the one thing we simply can not tolerate is a lack of class.

What happened to us?

Years ago, Ranger fans would throw sugar packets at Bobby Clarke because he was diabetic. But today, fans are expected to treat NHL contest like a peewee house league game: lots of encouragement, hearty cheers for trying hard, and all the players get taken out for ice cream at the end of the game.

Wings fans are only the latest ones to be branded with the scarlet "C". Remember when Leafs fans were classless for cheering when Mark Bell crushed Daniel Alfredsson? Apparently any injury must be met with bowed heads, reverent silence, and perhaps some ceremonial candle lighting.

This should be the rule when it comes to injuries: Unless the player is laying motionless or squirting blood into the stands or otherwise showing sign of a career-threatening injury (i.e. the Michael Irvin Exception), there's nothing wrong with cheering a big hit. Nobody likes to see an injury, but hockey is a contact sport and a few bumps and bruises are part of the deal.

But what about Crosby? "When somebody's injured, I don't think that's something to cheer about," Crosby told reporters. Shouldn't Wings fans have taken his feelings into account?

Please. A 21-year-old multi-millionaire tweaks his knee, and some laid off auto-worker in the stands is supposed to worry about making him feel bad?

The bottom line is that Crosby's injury made it more likely that the Wings would win the game -- which, as you may recall, was game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. Does anybody really expect Wings fans to be upset when Pittsburgh's best player leaves the game?

Of course not. Because after all, this isn't about the fans actually doing anything wrong.

It's about the hockey world's most annoying new trend: fake outrage. And it doesn't take much these days to get hockey fans up on their soap boxes.

Every bad call is a conspiracy. Every bloodied nose should be a suspension. And if any crowd makes the slightest bit of noise in support of someone other than your personal favorite team, go online and start calling them classless.

Mike Milbury made headlines this year when he talked about the "pansification" of hockey. Maybe he should have been talking about the fans.

So enough with talk of being "classy". It's become a cliche. We need a one-year moratorium on the term. If you really feel the need to take aim at another team's fanbase, at least work in the tiniest shred of originality.

And besides, all these fans whimpering about "class" should be careful what they wish for.

After all, do you know which fans are indisputably classy? The ones in the lower bowl of the ACC in Toronto. Those fine folks can always be counted on to applaud politely, never raises their voices, and drink their mineral water with their pinky fingers extended.

Yep, they're classy through and through. They're also the worst fans in the entire league, an absolute embarrassment to real hockey fans everywhere.

And it will be a sad day if Detroit fans ever start taking lessons from them.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hossa and Heatley: the NHL's two biggest losers

Raise your hand if you're
an overpaid goal-suck.

Wow, that guy up there is a dick.
What do Dany Heatley and Marian Hossa have in common?

Four things come to mind:
  • They're both in the news this weekend
  • They were once traded for each other
  • They were both responsible for tragic, careless accidents that we've all apparently agreed to never mention under any circumstances
  • They're both losers.
Let's look at Hossa first. As everyone knows by now, Hossa was part of last year's Cup losing Penguins squad, turned down a big offer so he could jump ship to Detroit because he thought they had a better chance of winning, then lost against last night to the same Pens team he snubbed. In other words, he might want to check if his Magic Eight Ball is still under warranty.

Hossa's failure to win means one of hockey's strangest facts still holds true: the Senators have never drafted a player who has won a Stanley Cup. Anywhere. Ever. (Update: Except for Stan Neckar? See comments.)

They're at 0-for-151 and counting. Even the Leafs, a team known for screwing up all those rare draft picks that they didn't trade away for senior citizens, have managed to pick at least three four Cup winners since the Sens joined the league.

Three is the loneliest number

At the end of game seven, I wondered via Twitter if Hossa was the only player from the game who wouldn't have a Cup ring. A few folks pointed out that Ty Conklin and Jonathan Ericsson would also fall into the category.

So there you have it. Out of forty players from last night's game, three went home without a championship on their resume: a rookie, a backup goalie, and a veteran superstar who chooses his team based on whoever he thinks has the best chance at winning. I'm not sure if that should make Hossa feel better or worse.

One thing you can say in Hossa's defence: at least he's a loser against his will. At least he wants to win. Which is more that we can say about Dany Heatley.

Yes, Heatley. The guy who was perfectly happy playing under coaches like Craig Hartsburg and John Paddock even though the team was awful. After all, he was getting his ice time, racking up the stats, and being coddled by coaches who certainly weren't going to ask him to do anything crazy like play defence or actually work hard.

Then along comes Cory Clouston. Now, Clouston's winning record in the second half of the season is over-hyped (the Sens didn't face an actual starting goalie after November). But he deserves credit for at least trying to demand some accountability from Ottawa's notorious band of primadonnas. Apparently, that was just too much for Heatley to handle.

And while the rift with Clouston has been the big news, apparently there's more to Heatley's unhappiness. According to GM Bryan Murray, Heatley felt that "being questioned by the media wasn't fair, so I was told".

Let's take a second to digest that: Dany Heatley can't handle the Ottawa hockey media. The glee club. The pom-pom brigade. The group that does everything but form a human pyramid in the press box.

Brennan comes clean

Even the Sens' head cheerleader, Don Brennan, admitted as much earlier this week, saying that once Heatley was gone he'd "long for the day he was back in Ottawa, where for various reasons he was an object around which a lot of tip-toeing was done."

If Heatley can't handle Ottawa, how's he going to do in a market where the media is actually allowed to get critical? As Brennan rightly points out, "Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons would make Heatley cry like a schoolgirl".

Since it's virtually impossible to find a team with a more homer-ish media than Ottawa, Heatley will apparently just need to find a city where hockey gets no coverage at all. So that narrows his choices down to just, oh, two-thirds of the western conference.

For once, Sens fans really do have something to cry about

It's almost impossible to feel bad for Senators fans, a notoriously insecure group of front-runners who fundamentally misunderstand their place in the hockey world. But in this case, you have to offer up some sympathy. Dany Heatley stabbed them all in the back, and now they're going to have to watch Murray make a three-quarters-for-a-dollar trade just to get rid of him.

(And just wait until he starts using his NTC to veto potential deals...)

So here's a little tip for Marian Hossa, a soon-to-be-UFA who'll be able to once again pick whichever team he thinks has the best chance of winning next year: Wait until Heatley is traded before you sign.

That way, you'll have at least one team you can definitely cross off your list of contenders.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seven signs that your team is not winning Game Seven

A seasoned hockey fan knows how to look for the subtle signs that a team is headed to victory: The steely look of determination in a captain's eye... the small but crucial lift provided by a raucous home crowd... the calming confidence of a veteran coach...

Then again, sometimes the signs point to a devastating defeat. And as a Leafs fan, that's sort of my specialty.

So Wings and Pens fans, I want to help. After all, if you're team is going to lose the biggest game they'll ever play, you might as well know in advance. So here are seven subtle signs to watch for on Friday night to alert you that your team just might not be winning the Cup.

Penguin fans

Your team is probably not winning Game Seven if you notice that...

  • Sidney Crosby is playing so poorly that Pierre McGuire has stopped blowing him, and is now merely dry-humping him.

  • The announcers repeatedly describe Marc-Andrew Fleury as being in "WJC gold medal game form".

  • Eklund just posted that his inside sources tell him that the Penguins are winning.

  • Detroit is so far ahead that Red Wings fans have actually shut up with their inane Gary Bettman conspiracy theories for five god damned minutes.

  • During pre-game skate, Red Wing players appear extra motivated by moving locker room plea to "Go out there and win one for Nik Lidstrom's testicle".

  • One of your so-called veteran leaders let himself be photographed next to a sign mocking the other team. No, just kidding, nobody would be that dumb.

  • The game turns out to be one of those flukey contests where the winner is decided purely based on which team has better hockey players.

Red Wing fans

Your team is probably not winning Game Seven if you notice that...
  • For some strange reason, tonight Pascal Dupuis is playing on Crosby's line, is having the game of his life, and looks suspiciously like a slightly overweight Mario Lemeiux.

  • Due to tough economic times, traditional "octopus" thrown on the ice appears to actually be two house cats staple-gunned together.

  • As the clock ticks down, excited Penguin teammates can be seen explaining to former Maple Leaf Hal Gill what the "Stanley Cup" is.

  • The official Cup engraver can be seen wandering the hallways asking if anyone knows how to spell "Goligoski".

  • Announcers mention that prior to taking the ice, the Wings received a fiery pre-game motivational speech from Matt Millen.

  • Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski is busy working on a post acknowledging that the Penguins might be almost as good as the Capitals.

  • During the third period, Marion Hossa is sitting in the press box negotiating a new contract with the Penguins.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DGB vs. Hockeenight, round two

Just a quick note that I've been invited back for another appearance on the Hockeeight Puckcast tonight, courtesy our friends at the Chicago Blackhawks blog Hockeeenight.

Last time I was on, we spent three minutes talking about the current season and 57 minutes arguing about Bryan Marchment and the reminisching about the Norris Division days. When the full podcast is available, I'll post a link here.

Update: We ended up talking for almost 90 minutes. Topics covered include:

  • Dany Heatley for Brian Campbell?
  • The Leafs draft plans
  • With Hamilton get a team?
  • Fighting: Why fans like it, why the media doesn't get it, why Cam Russell always lost to anyone wearing a Maple Leaf
  • Are playoff coaches and fans getting whinier?
  • Me re-using the exact same moustache joke that I broke out the first time I was on their show
Here's the recording.

In the meantime, here are some clips of the Leafs beating and/or beating up the Blackhawks.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dumb Moments in Hockey: Players who point at the stands on a delay of game call

Yes, actually I did
know that rule, thanks.
This is the first post in a new series that will celebrate those small moments in any given NHL game that often pass unnoticed, but are nevertheless completely dumb.

There are two problems with the NHL's "puck over the glass" delay of game rule.

The first is that it's a complete farce of a penalty, one invented out of thin air by a league that has no clue how to improve the flow of the five-on-five game and so relies on made-up penalties to artificially inflate scoring through powerplays. The puck-over-the-glass rule doesn't solve an existing problem, utterly fails in it stated goal of speeding up the game, and occasionally determines the outcome of critical contests absent even the slightest illusion of fairness. It's a complete sham, yet another stain on the credibility of a league that has squandered that asset almost completely.

The second, and far more important problem, is that it annoys me.

And here's why: somewhere along the way, this stupid rule managed to become the only infraction in the rulebook that every NHL player thinks the referee needs their personal assistance with.

You've seen the scene unfold a hundred time. A player in his own zone tries to clear a puck, gets under it a little bit, and accidentally flips the puck into the crowd. Immediately, every single player on the other team seeks out the nearest referee and begins madly pointing at the stands.


What do they think they're accomplishing? Has there ever been a case where a referee has looked back with a confused look on his face to ask if anything was the matter, only to smack his forehead V8-style and then thank the players for reminding him about the rule?

No. Not one single time. Nobody forgets this rule. We all know it, because it's burned into our minds, because it's stupid.

Look, an NHL referee is not going to just somehow forget to enforce a rule that's right there in the rulebook, in black and white, crystal clear for all to see. That's Colin Campbell's job.

And yet somehow, players feel the need help the referees make this call. Why?

When one player trips an opponent, do five guys immediately feel the need to point to the offender while seeking out a referee? When a player makes an extra move at the blue line and causes a teammate to skate in ahead of him, does the other team immediately point at him to remind the linesman to call an offside? When a Montreal Canadien forward pursues a defenceman on an icing call, do his teammates immediately start signaling the five-minute boarding major that's just seconds away?

No. It's just this one penalty, in the entirety of the NHL rulebook, that the players feel the need to help out with.

Well, I want the league to put a stop to it. Forget head shots, this is the sort of the thing the rules committee needs to be focusing on. And luckily, there's a simple solution.

I'm proposing a new rule: Unless your team has just scored a goal, it's a two-minute penalty for raising your arms over your shoulders.

Think about. When do we see a player's arm go up? Three situations:
  • Pointing at a puck over the glass.
  • Whining dramatically about some obviously correct call the referee just made against you (a.k.a, "The McCabe").
  • Feigning innocence over a holding or hooking call, as if to say "I couldn't possibly have been holding, because my hands are way up here over my head!" (a.k.a. "The Other McCabe").
Would anyone object if all those things just became automatic penalties? Exactly. Players would just need to learn to instinctively keep their arms down. Maybe they could pretend that they're Kerry Fraser during a crucial overtime.

If anything, it would at least change the idiotic puck-over-glass rule from being a senseless and random game-changing penalty, and into a strategic element. Game not going your way? Flip a puck over the glass, and see how many guys on the other team you can send to the box. If it's a good flip, you may get all five.

Hell, chances are that as soon as one team started pointing, the other team would start pointing at them to remind the referee of the new penalty. With any luck, it could set off a chain reaction that would result in all 18 skaters on either side being sent off.

And you know what that means: one-on-one goalie battles. That's excitement. And not one iota dumber than the current rule.

I'm drunk, by the way.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rating the intros: Five classic Maple Leafs montages

Lots of talk this week about the CBC's opening montage before Game One of the Cup finals. Set to a tune by Coldplay, it featured backwards video clips of various Pens and Wings. Most people liked it. Some didn't.

I thought it was a cool idea, with one major flaw: Not enough Leafs. Then again, I've felt the same way about the last 41 Cup finals.

I'll admit that I'm a huge sucker for pre-game musical montages. And Hockey Night in Canada has consistently done some of the very best.

A great pre-game montage has the following:

  • An inspired musical choice. Any genre will do, but the song has to fit.
  • Some sort of opening shot that sets the tone without actually showing anybody playing hockey
  • Quick cuts of various players, including at least one who looks like their face ran into a grain thresher
  • Enough highlights (goals, hits, fights, etc) to make you think these two teams are part of the greatest rivalry in sports history
  • At least one clip that matches up exactly with the song lyrics
  • Some sort of dramatic closing shot.
Let's take a look at five memorable Maple Leaf montages and see how they stack up.
Leafs vs. Senators, Game Seven, 2002
Music: "Defy You" by The Offspring. Not terrible, but kind of cliched. 5/10. Opening scenes: Each team walking the hallway on the way to the ice. 6/10. Beat-up face: Tie Domi, freshly stiched-up after the infamous Ricard Persson hit. 10/10. Rivalry shots: Plenty, including every possible combination of Leaf and Sen players going nose-to-nose. 8/10. Matching lyrics: "You may throw me down", right as a Leaf gets thrown to the ice. 6/10. Closing shot: Shayne Corson and Marion Hossa leaning into a faceoff. I'm assuming this is from the regular season, because I actually noticed Hossa. 9/10. Intangibles: Fading into the live crowd audio in the second half was a cool touch. 8/10. Bottom line: 7/10. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Leafs vs. Senators, Game Seven, 2004
Music: "Not Ready To Go" by The Trews. Pretty close to a perfect choice. 9/10. Opening scenes: Pretty standard shots, except for a neat one of a rolling puck. 5/10. Beat-up face: Darcy Tucker sporting a smirk and a shiner. Honorable mention to John "Dag-nabbit!" Muckler. 7/10 Rivalry shots: Some good ones here. And check out the badass shot of Roberts at 0:32. 8/10. Matching lyrics: Pretty much every shot in the video (seriously). But bonus points for "I should be leaving" right as Mats Sundin limps out of the series. 9/10. Closing shot: The Senators celebrating wildly while the singer vows "I'm not ready to go". 10/10 (for ironic foreshadowing). Intangibles: What's with the red/blue filter that keeps fading in and out? 2/10. Bottom line: 8/10. I like this one a little better than the 2002 version.
Leafs vs. Sharks, Game Seven, 1994
Music: "No Limits", by whoever it was that did "No Limits". 1/10. Opening scenes: Jaws music, bad shark clipart, and Don Cherry. 3/10. Beat-up face: The giant-headed Doug Gilmour thing dancing next to Cherry. 2/10. Rivalry shots: A surprising number of decent shots, including a scrap. Not bad for two teams that never played each other. 5/10. Matching lyrics: "Won't give up the fight" right as the Leafs score the game six OT winner to extend the series. 8/10. Closing shot: Some Shark scoring a goal. 3/10. Intangibles: This one is only lasts 1:25, which is only about 90 seconds too long. 3/10. Bottom line: 3/10. Let's never speak of this again.
Leafs vs. Hawks, Game One, 1994
Music: "Dreamer", by Supertramp. I know, I know. But watch... somehow, it works. 8/10. Opening scenes: A supercool extended shot of Chris Chelios shooting the puck at a cameraman. 9/10. Beat-up face: Doug Gilmour getting a face wash from a linesman. 5/10. Rivalry shots: They come pretty much non-stop, including Wendel Clark backing down just about every player on the Hawks roster. Not enough fights, though. 8/10. Matching lyrics: "Well you know... you had... it coming to you" as Wendel chases Jeff Shantz around before finally popping him in the mouth. 9/10. Closing shot: Wendel Clark and Chris Chelios fading into the Stanley Cup. 9/10. Intangibles: Seriously, CBC knows the Leafs had more players than Wendel Clark in 1994, right? 10/10. Bottom line: 9/10. Almost perfect.
Leafs vs. Kings, Game Seven, 1993
Music: The theme from the movie "Hoosiers". Genius. 10/10. Opening scenes: Felix Potvin talking to his goalposts. 6/10. Beat-up face: A tie: Doug Gilmour's bleeding face thanks to Wayne Gretzky, and Marty McSorley's crater-sized shiner courtesy Wendel Clark. 10/10. Rivalry shots: Nothing fancy, but most of the main highlights are here. 7/10. Matching lyrics: None, since there are no lyrics. But check out the mini-montage of the Gilmour hit at 1:18 right as the music hits its crescendo. Goosebump time. 9/10. Closing shot: Gretzky doing his little happy dance after this OT goal. Hey, why is his stick blade all red? 8/10. Intangibles: The weird Kings fan with the painted face dancing at 0:25. 8/10. Bottom line: 10/10. A masterpiece. The montage by which all others must be judged.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bob Gainey interviews Jacques Martin: The secret transcript

Second round? Never heard of it.
The Montreal Canadiens have named Jacques Martin as their new head coach. And while this announcement has caught many off guard, it's no surprise to my top-secret DGB sources who tipped me off about it over the weekend.

In fact, I was able to obtain a full recording of Martin's interview with Montreal GM Bob Gainey. I think this explosive transcript will shed a lot of light on how Martin managed to land one of the most coveted jobs in sports.

Bob Gainey: Jacques, I want to thank you for coming in for this interview. Do you have any other commitments on your time today? As you can imagine, the interview process can be quite daunting for a job as prestigious as this one.

Jacques Martin: No problem, I'm willing to spend all day here if I need to.

Gainey: OK, great. First question: do you speak French?

Martin: Yes I do.

Gainey: Great. You're hired!

Martin: ... Um, sorry?

Gainey: You're hired. You nailed pretty much every qualification we have.

Martin: Oh.

Gainey: Is there a problem?

Martin: I just thought we were going to spend some time talking about my experience.

Gainey: Oh. Well, sure, I suppose we could do that. If you really want to.

Martin: Well, my coaching career began with the Blues. Then I spent nine years as the coach of the Ottawa Senators. And for the past five years I've been with the Florida Panthers.

Gainey: I don't remember you coaching the Blues.

Martin: Nobody does.

Gainey: OK, so let's skip that part and move on to Ottawa.

Martin: Well, with the Senators I was best known for accomplishing something that virtually no other active NHL coach has managed to do.

Gainey: Which was?

Martin: Losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs.

Gainey (nodding): Yeah, I think we all saw that one coming.

Martin: We lost to them four times, but the toughest one was in 2004. We made it to game seven, but then Patrick Lalime had an epic meltdown. We really believed that he was the guy who could backstop our team to a championship, but then he just imploded.

Gainey: So you're saying you have experience dealing with over-hyped goalies who choke in the playoffs?

Martin: Extensive experience.

Gainey: (Makes a big checkmark on his notepad)

Martin: Yeah.

Gainey: And what about your playoff experience since 2004?

Martin: You heard the part where I said I worked for the Florida Panthers, right?

Gainey: Sorry. My mistake. What about in St. Louis, what was your playoff record like there?

Martin: No idea. Like I said, nobody remembers me coaching the Blues.

Gainey: Fair enough. As you know, the media here in Montreal can be difficult. What sort of experience do you have dealing with the media?

Martin: Well, in Ottawa they were very difficult to deal with. They were constantly asking me for autographs, bringing me coffee, or just offering me random hugs and back rubs. But they could be nasty, too. Sometimes, when we choked in the playoffs against a team we should have easily beaten, somebody would actually write a negative article. They'd always apologize the next day and print a retraction, but still, it was pretty rough.

Gainey: And what about dealing with all the hockey media in Florida, was that difficult?

Martin: (Laughs)

Gainey: (Laughs)

Martin: So anyways, I'm sure I could handle the Montreal media. I have a well-tested strategy for working with the press.

Gainey: Which is?

Martin: I'm so incredibly boring that they all quit after fifteen minutes of listening to me.

Gainey: Well Jacques, I think you're our man. Do you have any questions for me?

Martin: Just one: Any update on the ownership situation?

Gainey: We're expecting an announcement soon, but I can't really say more than that.

Martin: Understood.

Gainey: You like Celine Dion music, right?

Martin: Um...