Monday, April 16, 2012

They've Come Undone

Less than a week ago we completed our hockey pool, one of two I am involved in, the one I won last year, going four Canucks, three Bruins and Ryan Malone. I picked first this year, took Crosby, waited two dozen picks until my name came up again and went with Letang and another Pen.

In my under fifty pool (select six forwards and four D from all players with under fifty points, Crosby exempt) I went Canucks, Pens, Blues mostly. In my regular pool I went Pens and would have gone Canucks but they were snapped up so I went Blues instead.

One of the fellows was teased without mercy. He went Giroux first and then Briere and as players got snapped up he ended up with seven Flyers in his eight picks. All in. He has six of the Flyers top nine forwards and Timmonen and has thirty points already, sixteen more than the nearest guy. Only bad thing for him is the series may be over in four. Doesn't matter, if Philly makes the conference final he wins going away.

As for me I'm five days in and probably done in both. Fack.

What did I say last week, anything can happen? True enough and while a few folks picked LA and Philly there weren't many and certainly nobody who foretold three cob leads in those series. The first round is always wild and wooly but this one has been the wildest in years, never mind the garbage. We're talking 2006 all over again when the top four western seeds were eliminated in the first round.

Of course quality usually does tell so while Boston and New York are in battles, as are St Louis, there is still a good chance that the favourites will advance. If not though ....

Some quick thoughts:

Philly is one of the biggest surprises this round. Was on twitter and asked if they were going to be one round and out with their goaltending. Reaction was mixed but I think they really could be much like Chicago in 2010. So much talent everywhere that they can survive goaltending that is pretty average (actually Niemi had a lot of great moments in that run, I seem to remember he'd follow a poor game with a couple of good ones). A lot of folks said well they won't get to see goaltending as abysmal as Fleury and this is true but they're not going to face a team with the talent the Pens have in Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Letang either. Certainly not in the east. And the Pens are a decent defensive team too. Flyers have just torn them apart. It stands to reason that while the Pens can score three or four on them, its probable that a club like Boston or New York doesn't have that firepower.

One other thing. I actually like these Flyers. Hard to believe. But they have some great pros like Timmonen and Briere and some real characters like Hartnell and Bryzgalov and Jagr and then there is Claude Giroux who is just a joy to watch. Can this be the team I cheer on after the Hawks invariably go out, done in by Oduya and Crawford? May be. If the Oilers aren't in it (LOLOLOLOLOL) I invariably pull for the teams with some history. Long droughts help too.

And never mind the douchey fans. If there's one thing that the Internet has taught me its that every fanbase has its crew (and yes some are larger than others - I'm looking at you Vancouver) of fans who are stupid, ignorant, ridiculous, thinskinned and disgusting.

When I was a young man I moved to Toronto and for years after I loathed the Leafs. They were horrible but it was the fans - Vito from Woodbridge - who intensified how I felt. Of course because I was young most Leaf fans I met were the same and if you know how young men are, well, many are wonderful, many, erm, well I would support the draft if it were an option.

The Tucker/Corson/Green/Domi years didn't help but with the coming of the Internet and blogs and chatroom and Twitter I discovered that all fanbases had their morons, including my own (a fairly high quotient unfortunately) and so while I don't like the Leafs that much I don't feel the same as I once did.

So yeah Go, erm, Flyers. Maybe. We'll see.

The Pens have fallen to pieces and nobody saw that coming and the same goes with Vancouver. The Carter deal was a masterstroke. It gave the Kings a topnotch line and then a pair of Richards and Carter that Sutter could toss me out on and they'd still do damage. Throw in old pros Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner and suddenly the top nine doesn't look so bad. The D is solid and of course Quick is excellent and maybe the Kings have something here. As for the Canucks well Gillis has done a tremendous job there, he has, and its obvious that they miss Daniel Sedin terribly. But the antics of Kesler and Burrows have picked up again and that sort of shit, well that hurts the team, it does. Refs don't like being made fools of and its never ending with these two and if they get swept well I think we'll see big changes this summer, same as we saw in Philly last year. Maybe they'll move some guys to get younger and prolong the window like Philly or maybe they will do the same but bring in guys who fit the cluster. The window isn't closing but at some point they risk becoming Ottawa or San Jose. Kesler is a tremendous player and Burrows is very good as well but I think Gillis may think enough is enough and move some core guys.

And the calls for Luongo to be moved or Vigneault to be fired? lol Now I think Schneider is quite good and moving Luongo, if they can, is not a horrible move but blaming him for their failure to score isn't too bright. And Vigneault is a tremendous coach. Fire him. If I were the Oilers I'd snap him up in a minute.

One last thing. The NHL has always been bush and that was understandable back in the day but revenues were over three billion dollars this past season, right, and yet its still run the same as when the Norris family owned half the league. Its a garbage league, always has been. The Phoenix fiasco, the entire southern strategy, the lockouts, the endless tweaking of the rules, the Bettman smarm, the awful officiating (I don't think I've seen so many terrible calls/non calls as I have in the Chicago/Phoenix series), it just goes on and on. The hijinks of the past week though, well, it just goes to underline what a joke the league is. Now hockey has always been vicious and playoff hockey even more so and I for on, don't mind tough hard hitting hockey. For example the Brown hit on Sedin, even Neal's hit on Couturier I had no issue with. Nor did I take issue with Shaw's collision with Smith, especially considering the latter's dramatics.

You know what else I didn't mind? Carkner assaulting Boyle. Seriously. Boyle is one tough guy, punching some kid finesse player in the head over and over again. You want to play that way then stand up for yourself. Because what he did was pure rat stuff, Burrows, Cooke, J Ruutu stuff.

Just want to get that out of the way so folks don't think I'm some kind of pantywaist ;)

But here's the thing. The league has let this get out of control. If you're Bitz or Craig Adams or Hagelin or Asham then you'll get the book thrown at you because you are a scrub or you are fairly anonymous. But Weber deserved a suspension and Neal does too. So for that matter does Burns. It comes back to the NHL - it always does, after all this is a league that just fined Konopka and the Sens five times what Weber got because he got picked up cursing by a mic.

So cursing gets punished more than an attempt to injure.

Typical NHL garbage.

I have no problem with the hitting, the scrums, even the fights. I don't jump out of my seat when they fight but spare me the handwringing when Crosby and Giroux go at it because they have had concussions. Who fucking cares? They're grown men. Its hockey.

But the idea that a dirty play, outside of the rules, is somehow ok, well no its not. Sure Howe and Messier and nearly every great of old played outside of the rules at times.

But if Neal knocks Giroux out of the playoffs or Weber does the same to Zetterberg then they should pay in a big way, just as Keith should have paid for what he did to Sedin. Give them X amount of games for intent. Three, four, five. Whatever. And then tie the rest of the suspension to the result of the action. Zetterberg and Giroux ok? Give them the base suspension. Even a game if that's your thought on it. Buddy is out with a concussion? You're out too. He misses ten games? So do you.

But this is the thing with the NHL that makes everybody crazy. Its like the games. Taylor Hall gets pulled down time and time again, no call because he's a kid. What the fuck? Its a penalty. Call it. A scrub knocks out a guy with a headshot? Suspend him. A star does the same? Suspend him. Why? Because he's cheated.

Don't take out the hitting. Use your discretion. Keep the game hardnosed and tough. It can be done. Just don't tell me that Neal going after Giroux's head or Weber driving Zetterberg's head into the glass or Keith elbowing Sedin is part of the game. (And I like all three of these players btw). Because its not.


One last sad note. The death of Randy Starkman deserves a mention. I have very little time for mainstream media because, ironically, most of them are unprofessional. Petty biases, ignorance, stupidity, awful writing ... the sins they commit daily make up a long list of bullshit. There are good ones out there of course but they are the minority.

Starkman's passing has shaken me up, mostly because he is not much older than me and one week he was fine and the next week he was gone, leaving his wife a widow and his daughter to live the rest of her life without a father. Its awfully close that sort of thing.

Here's the thing. Starkman was a pro. He was a good writer. He obviously had passion for what he was covering. I followed him on Twitter and have read him for years and he loved amateur sports and knew it inside and out. He struck me as a man of integrity and as a guy with a good sense of humour and he was excellent at what he did. Its a very sad day.

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