Friday, February 1, 2013
NHL Grab Bag: All Hail the Subbanator
By Sean McIndoe
Welcome to a weekly blog post of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.
The third star: P.K. Subban attempts to nickname himself “The Subbanator” It’s hard to describe the crushing disappointment of finding out that a player generally considered one of the coolest and most charismatic in the league is actually a “tries to give himself a nickname” guy. How did it go over with Subban’s teammates? About as well as you might expect.
The second star: Alex Burrows has a unique take on the spinorama
What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. Each week, we’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if the anger is justified.
The issue: Despite fan anger during the lockout, the first few weeks of action have seen excellent TV ratings and sold-out arenas.
The outrage: How stupid are these fans? How could they come back after the way commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners treated them? What a bunch of sheep! Real fans would've only gone to the arenas to burn them down, then they would've salted the owners’ front lawns so that no crops could ever grow there again.
Is it justified? Kind of, but slow down. The boycott efforts were always doomed, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that most of the “I’m not coming back” rhetoric was hot air. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s one thing to pack the house when it’s the home opener, everyone’s tied for first, and tickets are half-price. Let’s see what happens in some of the league’s more tenuous markets in a few weeks, months, or even years before we roll our eyes at hockey fans for liking hockey.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of those players.
This week’s obscure player is journeyman defenseman Nolan Baumgartner.
Baumgartner was a first-round draft pick who never quite lived up to expectations. He played parts of 10 seasons in the NHL, but stayed in the league for an entire year only once. He moved around a lot but was traded only once, in a straight-up deal for a player (Remi Royer) who never saw another NHL game. The rest of his moves consisted of various free-agent signings and waiver-wire claims, including going from Vancouver to Pittsburgh and then back to Vancouver in the course of a few weeks in 2003.
Overall, he had a completely unremarkable career. Which is strange, because before his NHL career began, Nolan Baumgartner was part of one the biggest trades in the history of the NHL twice.
Remember how we mentioned that Baumgartner was a former first-round pick? It was the 10th overall pick of the 1994 draft. That pick had originally belonged to the Flyers, but they’d traded it to Quebec as part of the infamous Eric Lindros blockbuster in 1992. That trade saw the Flyers give up an enormous package of players, picks, and cash, including future Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg.
Almost two years to the day later, the Nordiques traded the pick to the Maple Leafs as part of the Mats Sundin–Wendel Clark trade. While not quite as historic as the Lindros deal, that trade was the only one in NHL history to feature two former first-overall picks being traded for each other. Just for fun, the pick was traded once more (for Mike Ridley) before the Capitals finally used it on Baumgartner.
So Nolan Baumgartner was the answer to a trivia question before he even made it up to the stage to pull on a Caps sweater. It turns out, that was as good as his career was going to get.
Great Hockey Debates
In which we employ the Socratic method in an attempt to settle the issues that have long plagued hockey fans.
This week’s debate: Is it time to put legendary Hockey Night in Canada announcer Bob Cole out to pasture?
In favor: Now look, we all agree that Bob Cole was the voice of a generation for NHL fans. He’s hockey’s Vin Scully. But his best days are clearly behind him, and it’s probably time for the CBC to start phasing him out.
Opposed: This has been an unbelievable turn of events.
In favor: Unbelievable? I don’t think it’s unbelievable at all. Why not acknowledge that maybe it’s time for some new blood?
Opposed: Sticks are flying, gloves are going, and boy we’re going to have a bit of a donnybrook here!
In favor: I don’t even know what a “donnybrook” is.
Opposed: OH MY GOODNESS!
In favor: I don’t understand what you’re Wait, are you conducting your side of the argument entirely by quoting classic Bob Cole calls to me?
Opposed: Yes sir.
American hockey fans: Hey, can we all just point out that we have no idea who you’re talking about?
Opposed and In favor: Shut up.
In favor: Look, it’s not that we don’t enjoy his work. We all like the thing he does where he calls a big goal by just yelling the player’s name.
In favor: Yes, right, but these days he can’t go more than a few minutes without losing track of the action, he gets the players wrong, and half the time he can’t even pronounce their names.
In favor: He once mispronounced the name “Joe”!
Opposed: Juh-YOE SAKIC! [Every Canadian in the surrounding area immediately begins high-fiving and chugging beers mixed with poutine.]
In favor: OK, see, this is why we can’t have this conversation. You Bob Cole fans are completely irrational.
Opposed: Surely that’s gotta be it!
In favor: This is futile.
Opposed: Solo job and he’s won it!
In favor: [Throws up hands in frustration and leaves.]
The final verdict: Bob Cole is the greatest of all time and he should announce every hockey game played between now and when the sun explodes.
Trivial NHL-Related Annoyance of the Week
In which I will complain about things that probably only matter to me.
The NHL introduced a new rule about faceoffs this season, making it a minor penalty for anyone taking a draw to touch the puck with their hand. You might not have heard about this new rule, since even some players didn’t seem to have known it existed. If so, you’re lucky, because it is terrible.
Nobody seems to quite understand why the rule was introduced or what it was meant to accomplish. There’s already a rule about closing your glove on the puck (delay of game), as well as for hand passes (legal in the defensive zone, a stoppage anywhere else). Some have suggested that the league might consider this a safety issue, which would make sense if we weren’t dealing with a league that still lets their young franchise players stay in a game after suffering a head injury.
My best guess is that the puck-over-the-glass rule was getting lonely in the “awful nonsensical rules every fan will hate” section of the rulebook and wanted company.
The Week’s Most Depressing CapGeek Page
In which we select one page on CapGeek.com and stare at it while a single tear rolls down our cheeks.
This week’s depressing CapGeek page belongs to Wade Redden.
The page represents the last five years of Redden’s career, and it reads like a Greek tragedy. Imagine you had no idea who Wade Redden was, and you just stumbled on this page. The first thing you’d notice is that he’s 35 years old and making $1 million on a one-year deal, so you’d probably think Oh, he’s not very good.
Then you’d scroll down further and see that his last contract was a six-year deal that paid him $39 million, and you’d think I guess I was wrong, this guy is amazing! Then you’d see that deal still seems to have two years left, and start getting really confused.
So now you scroll down to the bottom of the page to check his NHL stats, only to realize that there aren’t any for the last two full seasons. And that’s when you scroll back up to the buyout section. And then you cry a little bit. And then you immediately call up Glen Sather and try to negotiate a contract with him.
Redden had goals in consecutive games with the Blues this week, before being sidelined Thursday night, due to illness. Maybe he looked at his own CapGeek page.
What Has Don Cherry Gone and Done Now?
Whether it’s Coach’s Corner, his regular media appearances, or a Twitter account that’s presumably meant to be performance art, Don Cherry is everywhere. What’s he been up to this week?
In last weekend’s Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry made several controversial statements about Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov and his controversial goal celebration against the Kings, including referring to him as an “idiot” and suggesting that other teams would target him.
The comments were clearly outrageous and xenophobic, and sparked a national discussion about blah blah blah
Guy! You guys! Forget the Yakupov stuff! We learned something much more important about Don Cherry this week, thanks to an invite to drop the puck for the Flames home opener. We solved one of hockey’s greatest mysteries, one that’s plagued Don Cherry fans for decades.
Do Don Cherry’s outrageous jackets come with a matching pair of pants?
Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week
In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. Each week, we find one and break it down in excruciating detail.
This week, we look back fondly on that time a Flyers fan fell into the penalty box with Tie Domi.
I guess I really didn’t need to tell you it involved the Philadelphia Flyers. I could have just said “a fan falls into penalty box trying to fight other team’s enforcer” and you would have figured out the city, wouldn’t you?
OK, so Domi causes the whole situation by squirting the front row with his water bottle. That’s a clear violation of the one absolute, set-in-stone rule in all of professional sports: At no point, under any circumstances, should any Flyer fan be expected to enjoy a shower.
That’s linesman Kevin Collins immediately leaping into the fray, because of course it is. Virtually every strange hockey moment will include a wild-eyed Kevin Collins.
In all seriousness, I’ve always felt like Domi didn’t get enough credit for how he handled this once it escalated. Any hockey fan who first heard the words “someone just fell into the penalty box with Tie Domi” probably assumed the Leafs enforcer had pummeled the poor guy, then put his head on a spike and left it as a warning to others. Instead, he barely even works him over.
The real victim in all of this is the guy in the disturbingly tight Flyers jersey in the first row. One minute he’s engaging in some harmless trash talk, the next he has some other dude’s genitals mashed into the back of his head. He looks completely traumatized for the rest of the incident. He might still be in therapy.
Meanwhile, the guy in the blue shirt next to him could not be less fazed by any of this. I don’t think he even spills a drop of his beer.
This whole video is pretty much the greatest Dunkin’ Donuts ad placement ever.
The Maple Leafs scored the game-winning goal 30 seconds after this incident happened, by the way. Remember that the next time the stats geeks try to tell you that winning a fight never inspired a team to victory.