Monday, March 18, 2013

Grantland: The NHL misery watch

A wise person once told me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. After several years of living in complete silence, I realized that person was an idiot and I became a hockey fan instead.

Let’s face it, hockey fans tend to be a pretty cranky bunch. Whether it’s because the game is so violent, or the rinks are so cold, or the hair is so horrible, we seem to be destined to focus on the negative. And luckily for us, this NHL season has given up plenty of negativity to celebrate.

So let’s take a look around the league, focus on what’s gone wrong, and figure out why you should feel good about it.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

1 comment:

  1. Responding here because I don't have a Facebook account.

    I'll actually make a defence for the Flames, specifically the assertion that the rebuild was something that should have been done "years ago."

    The last three seasons, the Flames missed the playoffs by a whisker. The WC standings were:

    8) LA Kings (95 points)
    9) Calgary Flames (90 points)

    8) Chicago Blackhawks (97 points)
    9) Dallas Stars (95 points)
    10) Calgary Flames (94 points)

    8) Colorado Avalanche (95 points)
    9) St Louis Blues (90 points)
    10) Calgary Flames (90 points - tied with St. Louis in points and wins, had fewer goals for) other words, the Flames were absolutely in the playoff picture in all three seasons. Take three regulation losses and turn them into wins (or two losses against the eigth place team) and the Flames make the cut. Does this mean they were Stanley Cup contenders? No, but it also doesn't mean that a rebuild was as inevitable as the media likes to pretend. In all three seasons there were points where the team was in a playoff spot (at a couple of occasions they were vying for home ice), so the idea that the team should have salted the earth years ago is more than a bit sensationalist. Besides, as the Kings aptly proved last year (and as the Flames themselves proved in '04), so long as you make it to the dance, anything's possible.

    I make no excuse for this year's Flames, who are indisputably terrible, but I also can't fault ownership for choosing not to rebuild in those years. It's not like the Flames were terrible with no hope of getting better - they had plenty of decent talent on their lineup.

    Not to mention, I dislike "blow-it-up-and-start-over" rebuilds to begin with. Yes, if you're the Hawks or the Penguins and you luck out and turn one into a dynasty, you look like a genius. But those are the success stories. The Capitals used that strategy, loaded up on talent, and - despite multiple strong seasons finishing at the top of the East (or the league) - they've never enjoyed much post season success, let alone a serious bid at the Stanley Cup. The Oilers decided to take the tanking route years ago and they're still wandering through the desert with no hope in sight; despite the Edmonton faithful thinking they'd be Stanley Cup contenders by now and that they'd have the pieces of a Blackhawks-style dynasty in the making, the Oilers are still a longshot to even make the playoffs at all. And let's not even get into the Islanders or the Panthers, who have been in rebuild mode for more than a decade.

    And there's plenty of examples of teams who've made contenders of themselves with only small adjustments instead of full-on rebuilds. Vancouver narrowly missed the playoffs in '08 (much like the Flames did for the last three years) and with three years of minor tweaking they assembled one of the most dominant teams in the modern era and came within one win of getting their first cup. Perhaps the more dramatic example is Montreal who went from cellar-dwellers last year to the top of the league this year by just making a handful of roster changes instead of going into rebuild mode.

    So yeah, it just bothers me to see hockey commentators of any stripe talking about how Calgary obviously needed to rebuild years ago.