7. The No Hfun League
Here’s a scenario for ya: Taylor Hall is back in Edmonton and it’s a chippy affair with a bit of controversy, but ends with the Oilers somehow winning by a goal and an empty netter.
Then a few Devils try to get into the Oilers dressing room to confront Kris Russell about a borderline hit, while Hall leads a few other Devils into the room through a back entrance. The Edmonton police get called. Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick are crying laughing about the whole thing on the NBCSN broadcast after the game.
Then, the next day, a rumor emerges that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is trying to back-channel a trade to the Devils.
What is the hockey world’s reaction?
This is an inconceivable thing that could never and would never happen in the NHL, a boring league no one really cares about except for its diehard fans. I’ve long said there are no casual hockey fans unless a team gets good, at which point the bandwagon fills up. That is, no one except the small population of hockey addicts is just kinda idly keeping track of the entire league.
All that stuff in the above hypothetical situation? If you weren’t paying attention, that happened on Monday night as the Houston Rockets went to LA to play the Clippers, and lost, then tried to get into the Clippers’ room. It was a wild game, and it was Shaq and Charles Barkley scream-laughing that anyone called the cops to be protected from Chris Paul. Truly, a joy for all involved, and now DeAndre Jordan (exactly the kind of player the Rockets need to be meaningfully competitive with Golden State in the West) wants to go to the Rockets? Man oh man.
And in the NBA, everyone thinks this is great stuff. Chris Paul and Co. were never trying to beat up Austin Rivers, they were just acting out and being idiots. Some guys will get fined, everyone will continue to think Paul’s a soft loser, and that’ll be the end of it. All that bluster, turned into a few dozen punchlines the rest of the year.
If that happened in the NHL, everyone would be in a full-on, week-long meltdown about What This Means, and it of course would mean nothing.
It’s no wonder the NBA is getting close to being the most popular single sports league in the world thanks to the fact that the NBA is fun as hell. Steph Curry is posting videos on his Twitter making fun of both himself and the Cavs for him dunking off a no-look from Kevin Durant. Meanwhile, Tyler Seguin embarrasses half the Bruins’ roster to win it in overtime and has another snoozer of a media scrum despite the fact that he almost assuredly loves jamming every goal he scores against Boston — and he has five in nine career games, including two game-winners — right down the local media’s throat.
But you’re not allowed to be fun in the NHL.
6. Keeping your guys
You must remember in WWL this week when I was saying smart stuff like, “Doesn’t make a lot of sense for teams that are six miles out of the playoffs to keep all the players that have any sort of value.”
Well here are the dead-last-in-the-league-again Coyotes doubling down on that:
Per recent reports the Coyotes have made D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson & Jason Demers available, or they've set the market on those players, my understanding is the reports are baseless. I wouldn't call Demers untouchable, but I don't think there's anything to this.
— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) January 16, 2018
Okay I get you don’t want to trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson because he’s so good and you need to keep some good players so you don’t get humiliated every night, and also because there’s a salary floor you gotta hit. But if you’re at minus-55 in goal difference and you’re like “Well, look, we might make Jason Demers available,” it’s like c’mon man. Like, your strategy if most of your team is bad can’t be “Maybe we’ll keep EVERYONE,” right?
And maybe that’s a negotiating ploy; run it through the local media (such as there is in Arizona, anyway) that you’re not looking to move anyone so you get a little more out of the other teams. But isn’t the rumored return on guys like freakin’ Erik Gudbranson, who everyone agrees isn’t that good, supposed to be pretty high? So how much more can you get, realistically?
Just trade someone, please, for the love of god. Anyone. Please.
5. Drouin to the wing???
This is for-sure what’s going to fix the Habs. Only insofar as it’s probably what gets Marc Bergevin fired.
Like, maybe Drouin was never supposed to be a center, and it’s not on him that the experiment hasn’t worked out. But here’s the thing: It’s on Bergevin because he acquired the guy specifically to be a center.
And the guy he’s on a line with? Alex Galchenyuk, who’s also playing the wing despite the fact that he’s Supposed To Be A Center as well. What a joy.
4. Olympic rosters
Every one of these non-NHLer Olympic rosters that comes out and you’re like “Hmm yes this is going to be a miserable experience.” Have you even heard of half the guys on the Canadian team?
Well hey, at least all the games are at 3 a.m. on the east coast. Where are you going? Come back.
3. Being an iron man
“Has the league lost its mind? Can’t it see he should have only been fined?”
That was the outcry this week from Good Hockey People after Andrew Cogliano delivered a headshot hit on Adrian Kempe that, if it happened any later, would have just taken place. Cogliano got suspended for two games (rightly) and you would have thought the league was gonna cane him like an opponent in a 1996 Sandman match.
Like, it’s that whole thing of “You’re not a cat murderer until you strangle a cat,” right? Cogliano never did anything to draw the league’s ire, but then he did with a late hit that clipped a guy’s head. Doesn’t matter that he played 800-something games in a row, and it really shouldn’t. A suspendable hit is a suspendable hit and your attendance record shouldn’t matter.
Plus, it’s not like the guy was five games away from setting Doug Jarvis’s league record. He would have needed to play the entire rest of this season, all of next season, and then part of the one after that.
2. The rookie class
Fun to think about how good Mat Barzal and Brock Boeser have been. At 5-on-5 so far this season, among players with at least 500 minutes in such situations, they entered Tuesday’s games ranked second and 16th in the NHL in points per 60.
One of the better Calder races in recent memory, though it’s starting to look like Barzal is running away with it. All those multi-point games (he’s got five with at least three, and five more of two apiece) kinda help.
But know who we’re not talking about in all this, even if it’s for a good reason? Nico Hischier.
Yeah, Barzal and Boeser are playing great as rookies, but they’re both pushing 21 years old, which explain things a little bit. Hischier just turned 19 like two weeks ago, and he’s currently 28th in the league in 5-on-5 points per 60.
Which, hey, that ain’t bad for a teenager. Especially one on the younger side. That’s quite rare. What a player!
1. Rasmus Dahlin
Okay that thing I said about the non-Olympic NHL rosters being not-very-good is literally only being saved by this big child whomst I love as my own.
(Not ranked this week: Nothing.
You’re all being so good lately. My homework to you is to watch an NBA game. Pick one. Doesn’t matter to me. I just want you to have fun and fill your life with many-splendored joys.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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