In case you were busy really thinking about Michael Jordan's trademark celebration; he was just sticking his tongue out, right? How did he make that cool? That's kinda just gross, yes? Yeah, anyway, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Despite being held to three second-half points, the New Orleans Saints did enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 17-13, to keep in pace in the race for the top seed in the NFC. "I almost wish we'd let them win that, but the damn Seahawks " Saints quarterback Drew Brees said while shaking his head. When asked why he would possibly want to lose a divisional battle in the heat of the playoff race, Brees suddenly clammed up, but the wind whispered, "Clowney," as a shudder ran down his spine.
A late 3-point barrage from guard Nate Robinson and forward Jordan Hamilton was the difference as the Denver Nuggets pulled away from the Chicago Bulls in a 97-87 home victory. "Hamilton and Nate, you say?" said Robinson after the game, as he arched an eyebrow. "That sounds like a great idea for a buddy cop drama starring me, Nate Robinson. I call it Nate and Hamilton. I'm a young bad boy, and Hamilton's a grizzled veteran. And he's all like, 'Gimme your badge, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'Gimme one more chance, Hamilton,' and he's all like, 'You're a loose cannon, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'This whole city's a loose cannon, Hamilton.'" Hamilton then piped up to ask who would play Hamilton, because it sounded like a juicy part, and he wondered if Robinson had anyone in mind. Robinson considered for a second, before pointing at Hamilton and saying, "Carl Weathers."
In case you were busy playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a Sunday-night battle of division leaders, the New Orleans Saints ran roughshod over the Dallas Cowboys in a 49-17 win. "It was always a tough matchup for us," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said with a deep sigh. "We lost Sean Lee, Austin is still out, Ware's at half speed, our GM and owner are the same crazy old man, and that's a good team we played." Garrett then paused, stared straight ahead unblinking, and added, "metaphorically speaking um, all of that was a metaphor."
A reader suggested a natural follow-up: the anti-Riveras, superstars who spent their career bouncing around multiple teams. So this week we’re going to take a look at the 10 greatest players in NHL history who played for at least five franchises. And yes, it goes without saying, we’ll be ranking them.
Fair warning: This list is almost by definition going to be heavily slanted to the last two or three decades, since it was almost impossible to play for five or more teams in the Original Six era. So any octogenarians who are still furious that Milt Schmidt didn’t make the cut last week may want to just skip this one altogether.
One other caveat: We’re looking at the total number of franchises played for, meaning multiple stints with the same team do not count. That technicality ends up disqualifying a surprising number of decent candidates, like Luc Robitaille, Alexander Mogilny, and Teemu Selanne.
I’ll pause here while everyone assembles their own, vastly superior lists.
Daniel Alfredsson’s decision to spurn the Ottawa Senators and sign with the Detroit Red Wings was a lot of things. A reminder that anything can happen in pro sports. A shift in the balance of power of one of the league’s toughest divisions. A cautionary tale of the dangers in a fan base placing too much faith in one player.
It had all the elements. There was the subtle shift in personality that turned out to be ironic foreshadowing. Then came the sudden, devastating blindside that his adoring fans never saw coming. And he followed it up with a classic post-turn explanation, twisting the knife even further with quotes like “It pretty much came down to a selfish decision” and “I’m not worried about my legacy in Ottawa.”
He hasn’t even bothered to take out the now-obligatory good-bye/thank you ad in local papers. Alfredsson couldn’t have turned heel any more brilliantly if he’d paused to spray-paint “DRW” on Spartacat’s back.
NHL history is filled with villains who are hated across the league but loved (or at least tolerated) by the home crowd. But Alfredsson was a reminder that every now and then, we get treated to something far more entertaining — the hometown hero who dramatically turns his back on the fans.
Let’s take a look back at a half-dozen of the greatest heel turns in NHL history.
6. Mike Keenan finds a loophole
In June of 1994, Keenan was quite possibly the most popular coach in New York Rangers history. In his first season in New York, Keenan had led the team to 112 points and the franchise’s first Stanley Cup win in 54 years. With an All-Star roster and a fiery personality that was a perfect fit for Broadway, Keenan seemed set for long-term success in New York.
By July of 1994, Keenan was an ex-Ranger.
In one of the most infamous debacles in league history, Keenan engineered his own exit from New York by claiming that the Rangers had missed a deadline for a bonus payment. They had (by one day, in what GM Neil Smith called a clerical error), and Keenan decided that was good enough to declare himself a free agent. Within hours, he’d signed a five-year deal with St. Louis to become coach and general manager.
The NHL playoffs can define a player’s career. It’s when some elevate their games while others crumble, when legacies are made and lost, and when we separate the clutch performers from the choke artists.
There are two schools of thought on all this, and one of them is that everything in that last paragraph is complete nonsense. The playoffs are far too small a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions, and because there’s little evidence that “clutch” even exists in sports, all we're really doing is just crafting lazy and often unfair narratives out of statistical blips that should actually be credited to random chance.
The other school of thought is that while all of that might be true, we don’t care because overreacting to the playoffs is part of the fun of being a sports fan.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going with option no. 2. So here are 10 players that have seen their stock move significantly up or down during the first two rounds.
Over the course of its history, the NHL has developed a long list of playoff traditions that hockey fans now hold dear: the playoff beard, the post-series handshake, the color-coordinated fans, and most important of all, booing Gary Bettman.
Recent years have seen another playoff staple emerge: the sympathetic old guy who hasn’t yet won a Cup.
That’s a veteran player who’s had a long and well-respected career, but is nearing the end of the road without ever having won a ring. As the playoffs drag on and the player gets closer to finally achieving his ultimate goal, it becomes almost impossible not to root for him. (Unless he's playing against your favorite team, in which case you’re still allowed to hope he breaks his hip.)
As an added bonus, when one of these guys is on the roster of the eventual champion, he immediately becomes the favorite to earn one of hockey’s greatest honors — being the first guy the captain hands the Cup to.
The most famous example of this was in 2001, when 40-year-old Ray Bourque finally won his first Stanley Cup in his 22nd season. That led to this scene, which still ranks as one of the best feel-good moments in sports history:
More recently, an emotional Teemu Selanne earned his first Cup in his 15th season in the league, which in hindsight, we will apparently refer to as the halfway point of his career. But this isn’t just a club for the superstars; grinders can earn the honor, too — like veteran fourth-liner Dallas Drake, who won his first Cup in his final NHL game at age 39.
Who’ll get to play the role this year? There’s no shortage of candidates. Here are 10 veteran players vying to be this year’s sympathetic old guy who finally gets a ring.
It feels like just a few weeks ago that we were watching the NHL’s opening night. And it was. Thanks, Bettman!
But in this lockout-shortened season, we’re already in the home stretch. In fact, today is one of just 18 days left on the NHL schedule. In a perfect world, you’d watch them all. But in this imperfect world, there’s a good chance you’re stuck with things like “a job” or “family” or “friends,” so you have to pick your spots.
I’m here for you. I went through each of the remaining 18 days on the NHL regular-season calendar to figure out which were likely to be worth watching, and which could safely be skipped.
In case you were busy learning how boring Nevada is outside of Las Vegas, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Texas's Yu Darvish was one out away from a perfect game, but he was forced to settle for a near shutout as Marwin Gonzalez singled late in the Rangers' 7-0 win over the Houston Astros. "He sure did mar my win tonight, didn't he?" Darvish asked rhetorically after the game, before adding, "see, you can make puns out of anyone's name. Not just mine, Yu guys."
Kobe Bryant got his 19th career triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks, 101-81, in a critical Western Conference showdown. The Lakers also retired star center Shaquille O'Neal's no. 34 at the game. Bryant showed great respect for his former teammate, saying, "He's the best player I've ever suited up next to. I mean, even Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal." Bryant's eyes narrowed, as a flood of memories came back to him before he added, "But, of course, Shaquille O'Neal is no Dwight Howard." Bryant's eyes narrowed yet further as he felt compelled to add, "But Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal," before Bryant's eyes became somehow even narrower as he said, "But Shaquille O'Neal is no Dwight Howard." Then Bryant, his eyes now impossibly narrow, added, "But, of course, Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O'Neal," before he closed his eyes completely, swallowed hard, and said, "and neither of those guys could hold Elden Campbell's jock."
We’re still two weeks away from the NHL’s April 3 trade deadline, but there’s a good chance action could pick up over the next few days. Recent history has shown a trend toward a quieter deadline day, with most of the bigger dealsgoing downin advance. And because of this season’s modified post-lockout schedule, this week’s annual GM meetings are taking place before the deadline instead of after.
So now seems like a good time to get an early jump on the speculation with a look at 10 of the players who are showing up in trade chatter. Not all of them will be traded (let’s face it, there’s a decent chance none of the top players will), and we all may have moved on to 10 different guys by next week, but right now, these are some of the bigger names driving the rumor mill.
It’s easy to forget that last summer featured some major player transactions in the NHL. Between free agency and an unusually active trade market, plenty of players found new homes. Some of those moves have worked out well. Others not so much. Here are a dozen of the biggest names who switched teams before this season, and an update on the impact they’ve had so far.
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: Ryan O'Reilly’s dad
It’s always entertaining when a young player’s parents decide to get involved in his contract dispute. For some reason, it’s even better when they decide to do so via Twitter. I’m just disappointed we didn’t have social media when Carl and Bonnie Lindros were in their prime.
It’s probably foolish to try to read anything into two days’ worth of games, especially when half the players in the NHL are still trying to get back to pre-lockout form. But that’s no reason not to try, so here are 10 random observations from the NHL’s opening weekend:
The Blues made a statement
The St. Louis Blues entered the season as a trendy pick to win the Western Conference. They looked the part Saturday, pummeling the Detroit Red Wings, 6-0, and outshooting them, 17-2, in a first-period display that played out as a near-perfect depiction of Ken Hitchcock hockey.
The game also featured the breakout performance of opening weekend, with Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko scoring a pair of goals, including a filthy individual effort in his NHL debut. The 21-year-old 2010 first-round pick has spent the last few seasons in the KHL, and could make a major impact if he can bring consistent production to a Blues offense that wasn’t exactly intimidating last year.
But while Tarasenko could be the league’s next big star, let’s hold off on the hype until we see him do it against an NHL-caliber defense.