Jack Edwards is the best in the business

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For a donation of $50 or more, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Asmae.)

The fans want what they want, and what they want is reasonable coverage of their teams on local television.

“Reasonable” can of course mean all kinds of things, but the biggest thing it means is “very locally focused.” You know that thing where, like, fans of teams — particularly teams which are good — think that the guys in the national media have it out for them? “So-and-so hates theCaps/Pens/Wings/Flyers/Bruins/Rangers/Leafs/Habs/Canucks/Avs/etc.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” gets shouted a lot.

Likewise, so does, “Of course (so-and-so) would say that, he loves the Caps/Pens/Wings/Flyers/Bruins/Rangers/Leafs/Habs/Canucks/Avs/etc.!!!!!!!!”

Fans want to see guys who will root, root, root for the home team no matter what, which is why people who don’t watch a lot of Avalanche games, for example, think the guys on Altitude are so painful to listen to, while those in the greater Denver area generally love them.They’re jokes to outsiders, because of how baldfaced their homerism is, and beloved by the locals, for precisely the same reason. This is also true in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, Montreal, and especially Boston.

Jack Edwards, the play-by-play man for the Bruins, is the shining example of a fanboy announcer who can’t believe that Boston would ever do anything but win handily and leave their opponents as simpering, bloody pulps to be scraped out of the corners by the hard-workin’ ice crew at TD Garden. No one does this schtick better, and I’d really doubt that anyone ever has.

I mean, just look at that reaction to the Game 7 win against Toronto a few years ago.

The fist pumps! The stabbing analogy! The stabbing motion! It literally doesn’t get any better than that. People eat that stuff up, and that’s why Edwards has remained gainfully employed despite embarrassing himself on air many times in the last few years. It’s the Bruins who pay his salary and make decisions on who to hire and fire, after all, so this is really just the ultimate in sucking up to the bosses, especially if you also happen to be a huge fan of seeing your company do well.

This is the level of homerism to which all other local broadcasters in the sport really ought to aspire, because you’re basically guaranteed job security for decades. And hey, let’s not act as though it’s not entertaining. Because it 100 percent is. Among people who aren’t Bruins fans, it’s maybe not for the reasons people might aim overall, but you can’t argue with the effectiveness. Nobody’s better at this than Jack Edwards. And probably no one’s even close.

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!

 

Milan Lucic is very worth it

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For a donation of $50 or more, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Scott McLaughlin.)

The Boston Bruins are at a crossroads. No mystery there. Do they push all-in with this eighth-place team that really hasn’t been very good this year? Do they stand pat? Do they start selling off some of the older and more expensive pieces on the roster?

It’s a tough time to be Peter Chiarelli. All those contracts are his contracts, all those guys are ones he acquired via trade, free agency, or the draft (well, not so much the draft). So basically any changes he makes are, in some ways, an indictment of the job he’s done. One supposes he should feel lucky, though, to have built a team that went to two Cup Finals in three years with this roster, but his clubs always seemed to be right on the line of “This could go sour in a hurry.”

So the question is who gets traded. Not “if,” but “when.” Some of Chiarelli’s guys will be shipped out either ahead of the deadline (not super-likely) or this summer (super-likely).

One person who should definitely not be included in the people being thrown overboard is Milan Lucic.

Sure, you look at Lucic’s contract and you say, “Six million dollars?” And you look at his production and you say, “Half a point a game?” And you look at his advanced stats and say, “He’s not driving play?” And you circle back to his contract and you can’t figure it out.

But let me tell you, buddy, I live in Boston, and you have to understand that Lucic is more than just a third-line player with a first-line contract. He is The Boston Bruins. Everything that fans of this team like — hitting, fighting, saying mean stuff to the Canadiens, occasionally scoring goals, having Shawn Thornton’s phone number, and so on — is right in Milan Lucic’s job description. He’s basically Cam Neely without the goalscoring, or Bobby Orr without the being great, or Terry O’Reilly without the mythologizing yet.

Sorry, stats nerds, but you need guys like that on the team. You need guys that stand up in the room and say, “Hey, we’re playing like garbage,” but without saying, “And I’m obviously a big part of that because I have as many goals as Dennis Wideman this year.” It’s about accountability and identity. Lucic brings both to everyone around him, and unselfishly saves none for himself. You need guys like that around when you’re going through a tough stretch, which the Bruins have all year.

He’s a marquee player in this league who has often been described as “the fourth-best forward on the team,” and “the ninth-best player on the team” for a reason. You don’t just extend players like that for $18 million because they scored 30 goals and put Mike Komisarek through the glass the same number of times. You have to keep him around.

He’s definitely not a guy who has to walk around saying, “Do you know who I am?” to people. You know who he is: A guy who definitely shouldn’t have been traded years ago.

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!

Is Sidney Crosby really a vampire?

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For a donation of $50 or more, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by TJ.)

A few years ago, as part of an attempt to blow up an idiotic and fallacious argument advanced by a moron (specifically, that Alex Ovechkin’s drop-off in goal production was the result of discontinued steroid use, and there was no way to disprove this so it must be true), I said that there’s likewise no way to disprove an assertion that Sidney Crosby is a vampire.

This, for some reason, caught on big-time with people. They really wanted to believe that it was possible. A weirdly large amount, really. Think about it: Crosby has a superhuman and preternatural talent for the game, played mostly indoors, mostly at night, and mostly in the cold (I’m assuming vampires don’t care if it’s cold. Is that part of the thing with vampires? It must be).

But if the burden of proof is on Crosby to provide evidence that he is in fact not a vampire, then those who believe him to be so would also do well to mount additional evidence to disprove. Here is some interesting information that I have come up with:

Consideration No. 1:
Crosby came into the league at a time when composite sticks were really starting to rule the day. No chance of getting a broken wood stick through the heart.

Consideration No. 2:
It is a widely held belief that the NHL draft lottery in 2005 was rigged so that Crosby would go to Pittsburgh. They had a lockout that canceled the whole season, and then a team that had the selection criteria crafted to favor them heavily not-surprisingly won it. The Penguins backed into the best talent of a generation for the second time in their history.

(Addendum: A draft lottery essentially invites Crosby into the league. He could not have entered without invitation, as stated by vampiric myth.)

Consideration No. 3:
The second-place team, who settled for Bobby Ryan (decidedly not a vampire as far as I know), was the Anaheim Ducks. Carolina was No. 3.

Consideration No. 4:
Pittsburgh was the closest of these three cities to Crosby’s hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. If he were a vampire, he would have to sleep in a coffin full of dirt from his homeland, and this geographical proximity saves on shipping costs.

Consideration No. 5:
Even for the most powerful vampires, I have to assume that it is sometimes difficult to avoid being outside in the daytime. And given that direct exposure to sunlight would mean his instant and horrible death. So is it any surprise at all that Pittsburgh is the fourth-cloudiest city in the U.S., with 203 days of heavy clouds per year? Among NHL cities, only Buffalo, which picked 13th, is cloudier (208 days).

In fact, Pittsburgh is also third in the number of days with cloudy skies of any kind, at 306. That’s 84 percent of the year.

Consideration No. 6:
Meanwhile, Anaheim has 280 sunny days per year. And it’s 217 in Raleigh. Crosby would, of course, not want to go there.

Consideration No. 7:
Crosby has played in two outdoor games. For one, it snowed heavily in Buffalo (again, that’s the third-cloudiest city in America, folks!). For the other, it was rather conveniently rained out, and then held at night.

We’re through the looking glass on this one, people.

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!

 

Another comic

Recently, there was a comic by my friend Matt Lubchansky (drawing) and I (words), posted over at Flames Nation. You can look at it here. I promise it’s good.

Well, we did another one. This one is about the hockey media’s view of Russians.

Okay have fun and please like and share and all that stuff. If you do it enough, we might be able to justify the effort of making more and getting them published somewhere.

DAS SLEEPY

Sports fans and complicity

[one of only two sports i currently watch is hockey, and it also happens to be the one about which i write professionally. as such, i am posting this, which is only a little bit about hockey and mostly about the nfl (which i do not watch) here because i don’t have anywhere else to post it. i just felt like i had to type it all out or scream myself to death. read it if you want. whatever.]

Continue reading

Big jerk banned from rink for not wanting to be robbed there

(This post is not technically part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. But for $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here, then providing proof of your contribution. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Frank Wisniewski.)

You might have seen this earlier in the week but a hockey player was banned from playing at the Chicago Blackhawks’ practice facility for being a no-good-nik.

Did he get drunk on the bench? Remorselessly board an opponent? Start a line brawl? Take a whiz at center ice?

No. What Tim O’Shea did was far, far worse. He expressed concern about the fact that three men had been robbed at gunpoint in the rink’s parking garage. When he sent the lily-livered email to the guy who runs the rink, he was told the issue was being taken seriously, but that:

“As far as your concerns with safety it is the city of Chicago and these things happen all over the place. It is unfortunate but true. If you or your friends are questioning your association with the league due to safety concerns, then I would suggest perhaps the city is not for you and you should look into playing in the suburbs.”

Well, first of all, yes. Look into playing in the suburbs because I bet people don’t get robbed at gunpoint quite so often there as they do in the middle of Chicago, and if that’s what you’re worried about you might as well have a big yellow streak down your back. Also, maybe look into it because I bet the rink managers there aren’t brave men like Johnny’s Ice House general manager Kevin Rosenquist, who is brave.

Also a tough customer? Johnny’s Ice House owner Tom Moro, who apparently instituted the ban himself, then emailed O’Shea the following:

“I informed both of your captains that you are no longer welcome in our buildings. You are a coward Mr. O’Shea, do not ever contact us again or we will inform the police that you are harassing our employees. I hope you enjoyed your 5 minutes of fame.”

First of all, love the use of the word coward to describe O’Shea’s cowardly move. Emailing? Telling the media? No one likes a tattletale, Mr. O’Shea and you should be glad you’re not allowed back there because hockey is not your sport. Stick to basketball because that is the ultimate sport for wusses like you. That’s something Moro feels too, because that email to O’Shea’s captains included the line, “Clearly he is not a hockey player or a man who understands our collegial friendships.”

That’s right. Collegial friendships. If O’Shea were any kind of man, he would be more than happy to face far worse crimes than this to play men’s league with a bunch of super-important and very macho adult gentlemen such as those Moro and Rosenquist, wise arbiters of true masculinity, deem worthy.

Frankly, O’Shea is lucky to have only gotten off with a ban. Before whining to the local media, he clearly forgot the old Confuscian adage, “Snitches get stitches.”

One thing they do not get, however, is robbed at gunpoint.

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!

Andrew MacDonald is having quite a season

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Cameron.)

I know for sure that Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald is and should be a candidate for the Norris Trophy this season. You just have to look at the stats.

We all know that things were a horror show on Long Island. No one is disputing that. That’s why his corsi was 43.4 percent with them. But we all also know that the Islanders are terrible and always will be, so it’s no surprise at all that his numbers with them were garbage (so garbage, in fact, that they were below the team’s average by a decent margin). But since going to Philadelphia, he’s been great, posting a corsi of 50.4 percent. You can’t argue with the numbers.

And all they had to do to get him there was significantly increase the number of offensive zone starts he received (by about 10 percent), scale back his even-strength time on ice, and give him slightly softer competition. No problems with that.

Look, this all makes sense if you’re paying attention. He’s been out there for as many goals for as goals against (six) over his 12 games in Philadelphia, and if he was such a bad defenseman, would his on-ice save percentage be 94.2? I don’t think so. At all.

But it goes beyond that: MacDonald has been with the team for 12 games, and do you know how many of those games they got points out of? That’s right: Nine. 7-3-2. Can’t mess with that. That’s a pace for 146 points. Such is the calming influence of MacDonald, whose new team went just 23-24-6 without him, a pace for just 80.

Now, maybe you’d say it’s not reasonable to attribute all of Philadelphia’s recent success to the MacDonald acquisition, which by the way cost the team just a second- and third-round pick. Because look at it this way: If he wasn’t so good, why would the Leafs want to sign him for $33 million? That’s only a 1000 percent raise!

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!

Beer league hockey is great

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Simon.)

Do you know what’s better than beer league hockey? Not anything, that’s what. Not that I’ve ever technically played beer league or anything, but I played intramurals in college and a decent enough amount of mid-afternoon pickup games that I assume it’s more or less the same thing, only with substantially less drinking on the bench.

So from my experience, if you add drinking to that you can probably start to feel pretty good about the experience overall.

For example, who wouldn’t love adding an alcohol infusion to watching the worst guy on your team go up and down the ice being totally ineffective for about a five-and-a-half minute shift? He’s some account executive down at the local paper-pushing concern and he’s just trying to stay the hell away from the wife and kids who he thinks have ruined his life so he doesn’t get yelled at for the third time this week about buying that sports car, so who can begrudge him a shift as long as those taken by Ilya Kovalchuk in his prime. That dude’s got problems he’s working out. The alcohol helps.

And if you think about it, what bad could come from letting a guy like that have a few pops before you accidentally make the slightest bit of contact with him as you’re both going for a 50-50 puck in the corner? It’s not like he’s so tightly wound he would start screaming at you and maybe take a couple two-handed whacks at you with his stick in, say, the back of the knee while you skate away. He probably wouldn’t try to run you through the boards next time you turned your back to him either. He’s just a good normal guy who was really great at sports in high school (just ask him!) and never got to the next level, but still keeps up with them. He plays the game with a lot of passion. You need guys like that at every level. That’s why he’s killing it with the Anderson account: He’s competitive.

Plus, and this is maybe the best part, if you add alcohol to your own performance against the 55-year-old former AHLer who still plays in all his old Rochester Americans gear to remind you that he was once “thisclose” to The Show, you might not notice that he’s still a better skater and stickhandler and shooter and passer and faceoff man than you, or care that he blew your doors off in transition because you weren’t all that good at skating backwards to begin with. The good news is you might only need to ice your knees for about three-quarters of the time he does after the game.

And that doesn’t even get into all those hilarious sex and alcohol puns in the team names. Yeah man I love beer league hockey. Great stuff.

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!

If the Devils are so bad, why are they good? (And vice versa)

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Joey Kolatch.)

So the New Jersey Devils present their fans, and hockey observers at large, with a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, the numbers say they should be really, really good. They’re currently fifth in the league in corsi close at 53.3 percent, after all. That follows a season in which they finished third at 55.3 percent.

But at the same time, they are currently 21st in the league with just 75 points from 72 games, after they grabbed 48 from 48 and finished 22nd a year ago.

So what, in short, is wrong with these guys? The simplest answer is the most obvious one: Martin Brodeur. He had a .901 save percentage last year and followed that up with a .902 this time around. Hockey-Reference says he cost the team a little more than seven goals in the lockout-shortened season (which amounts to more than four points in the standings), and more than 10 goals this time around (about six points). He’s been awful, and it’s the direct result of Lou Lamoriello not being able to say no to him.

But Cory Schneider hasn’t been his usual self behind the Devils this season in Brodeur’s stead, and that’s when he’s been able to stay healthy. Obviously his .914 is slightly above league average, but at the same time, it’s below his career norm.

It also doesn’t help that this team doesn’t score a lot of goals to support their mediocre goaltending, while other squads have certainly done so and made the playoffs doing it. The Devils’ shooting percentage the last two years were ranked 27th and 22nd, respectively, meaning that even though they’re dominating possession they’re not getting the puck into the back of the net. One would have to imagine that Ilya Kovalchuk needed a bit more help than he got last season, and the Devils have certainly not spent money as wisely as they could have (see: The Zajac contract) in trying to help fill the void left by Zach Parise’s departure for Minnesota.

One wonders how, with new owners and maybe a new take on things — thanks to the team seemingly poised to bring aboard an analytics guy against Lamoriello’s apparent wishes — whether the team will be able to spend actual money, and do it more judiciously, going forward.

If so, and if they spend on actual top-six forward talent, the problems that have plagued them the last two years might become a thing of the past.

As long as they get goaltending.

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!

In appreciation of Matt Read

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Devon McIntyre.)

The thing about the Flyers and how they’re really not very good is that their fate has really risen and fallen on the ability of one player — Claude Giroux — to make things happen for them. When he was awful to start the year, and boy was he ever, so too were the Flyers. When he started playing well, as if by magic, the entire team followed suit.

Obviously there is more to it than that, but if you’re looking for a storyline, that’s what it is. Now, you can say a lot of bad stuff about the way that team is run, and almost all of it would be deserved, but the one thing you have to say for sure in Paul Holmgren’s defense is that there are some pretty damn good players on that team.

Giroux is clearly in a class by himself, as perhaps the fourth- or fifth-best forward currently alive. There’s Kimmo Timonen who is being used a little more judiciously these days but still mostly very good. There’s Jake Voracek, who’s been very solid since coming over from Columbus. Braydon Coburn is pretty damn good in his role as shutdown defenseman, and one of the Flyers D few that actually starts the majority of his shifts in his own zone against top competition. Wayne Simmonds has his uses, as does Scott Hartnell.

But for money perhaps the most underrated Flyer, and certainly the team’s second-best forward overall is Matt Read.

He is, for one thing, tied for third on the team in goals behind Giroux and Simmonds (24) and with Voracek (20). This despite playing a basically all of his time in a shutdown role alongside guys like Sean Coutuier and Steve Downie and Vinny Lecavalier, who aren’t exactly known for their offensive prowess here in 2014. He also has positive possession numbers (okay, barely) despite facing the toughest competition available, and starting more shifts in his own zone than every other player on the team besides Couturier and Adam Hall, both of whom are getting buried by the players they face.

Which really isn’t bad at all for a college free agent out of Bemidji State, playing for a team that has been drowning in possession literally all season long. The thing is, too, that chart up above. No one who’s more left or up on that graphic from Extra Skater (the former indicating more zone starts in players’ own end, the latter a greater quality of competition) also happens to be colored in not-red, which kind of tells you something about how dependable Read is and likely will continue to be for years to come.

If the Flyers were better, he’d be in pretty good shape to be in the “Most Underrated Two-Way Forward” discussion. But they’re not so he isn’t. Maybe he should be anyway.

Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!