Pre-Frenzy Frenzy

I don’t know what to think of the frenzy before the actual frenzy. Two days from the unofficial start of the 2016-17 season, the hockey world is blowing up with the news that trades went down this afternoon. Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall was first, followed up with PK Subban for Shea Weber. What planet are we living on?

Beginning with the Larsson for Hall trade: This was a one-for-one deal. Edmonton has been a sinking ship for quite some time, so them trading Hall was a complete surprise to me. But on the other hand, shipping someone like a former #1 overall pick was almost as if nobody is safe in the Oilers organization.

But look at this in the perspective of the Oilers, getting Larsson. According to the NHL:

The Oilers have one right-shot defender signed for next season, Mark Fayne. Adam Clendening and Eric Gryba, the other right-shot defensemen who finished 2015-16 with the Oilers, will become unrestricted free agents Friday.

They’re still going to need some help on the blueline, even though they’ve found another right-handed d-man. However: right now, I’m calling this a slight win for the Devils. If Hall can find his place within the top two lines, he’s going to help guide the team and finally get into the postseason. Larsson, on the other hand, won’t be a huge game-changer.25043674321_1d6551a923_n

Then, you had the blockbuster of the day: Subban for Weber: Another one-for-one deal. PK has been, without a shadow of a doubt, one of (if not the only one) the heart and soul players of the Canadiens. So you’re going to trade his huge contract for Shea Weber’s huge contract (who, by the way, I would have penned to be another “I’m staying in this city” player)? It’s a draw right now, with these two. They’re both superior defensemen… I’m just not sure if I can pro and con them right now.

The trade overall, though, seems a little fishy. When I look at their overall starts and break this down further – and watch some of their games – I can figure out a winner. Right now? I can’t.

I’m sorry if this is a ramble and more of a “freaking out” entry. When everyone’s going nuts at the hockey world today, there’s not much you can say. Let me digest everything, go and watch some hockey in October, then give you a better assessment.

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Lake Erie > NBA

It’s not every day that you see a hockey blog reference another sport, such as basketball. But it comes at a time like this, unfortunately.

Spoiler alert for those of you who didn’t watch the NBA finals, for for those who didn’t give a flying anything about it: The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors for the city’s first title since 1964. While that’s a nice headline for casual basketball fans, let me give you a little heads up on Ohio teams and championships – sorry, Cavaliers fans. You missed out on the fun by eight days.

If you’re not a fan of the American Hockey League, then you missed out on a team winning its first Calder Cup in franchise history. 19,665 people packed the Quicken Loans Arena just to watch a minor league hockey team sweep another to sweep the finals. Lake Erie beat the Hershey Bears in front of a packed and pretty much sold-out arena.

What I don’t get is this: Why does the media not do their research? NBA people from ESPN, for example, could have found time during halftime to look up “professional sports titles in Cleveland” and find that an AHL team won before anyone in basketball got their dirty hands on their own trophy. It makes me sick that people are just too naïve to figure this out. If this is what the AHL gets, then it needs better.

I don’t care if you think that the AHL is a minor league or not. It’s just as credible as the NHL or any other professional sports league in America. Players grow and become the next star one level higher. While the NBA has their developmental league, what good is that? Exactly how many times do you hear about call-ups in basketball? Few and far between.

The AHL isn’t like that. Call-ups and sent-downs are common. Players hone their skill in order to stay in the NHL. Franchises may relocate (often), but the goal is still the same.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, folks… But if anyone deserves credit for being the first professional sports team to win a championship in Cleveland since the 60s, it’s the Lake Erie Monsters. Forget you, NBA. You’re nothing but egotists.

Cup Final = Lackluster

As a fan of hockey overall, I should be interested in the Cup final this year. The key word there is should. You have media darling Sidney Crosby against San Jose. (Sorry, Pittsburgh fans. I feel as though NBC does nothing but talk about Crosby, with little coverage on the Sharks. Kind of pathetic, now that you think about it…)

For those of you who are interested in this final, this little piece isn’t for you. Come back later if you decide that you ultimately think that this SCF sucked.

For those of you who decided that, yes, the final has sucked so far, congratulations. I feel your pain. I just haven’t been that emotionally attached to the series as most people should. It has nothing to do with Crosby or any member of the Penguins and how they’re probably going to win on Thursday. It just… I don’t know. I don’t think I can pinpoint my thoughts on the exact reason.

Maybe it’s because San Jose isn’t one of the network’s darling west teams. I could see more of an interest on my part if it was a team like St. Louis or – it pains me to say it – Chicago. Although I’m not sure I could keep my stomach intact if Patrick Kane lifted the Cup after his summer from Hell. No offense to the Blackhawks fans. I’m really not making any kind of friends here, am I?

Or maybe it’s just that all of the horses I had in the race in the playoffs kind of went “poof” and didn’t make it. I was literally in tears the day that the day of straddling happened. You know that day by now. Second round was just starting, but the first round was ending later that night. Read news, will have a good eight-in-the-morning cry. I didn’t exactly care about the rest of the playoffs. Games were on my television for background light/noise. It was just cringeworthy.

But don’t get me wrong: I thought the media was picking the Sharks left and right to win. It just doesn’t feel right when your pre-final pick is nearly dead in the water… Sorry about that. No pun intended. My vision was simple, and completely different from everyone else. My heart was telling me one thing, and my brain was going in another direction altogether. When you don’t want one team to win, it’s going to happen. And you’re not going to like it.

So when Thursday rolls around, I’m going to have TweetDeck up for all news pertaining to Game Five. I might find something else to watch, because there is no chance that I’m going to watch any more boredom. Another apology, folks: This final just isn’t my cup of tea.

Maybe it’s just iced tea that’s a bit too warm.

New Fans are Always Welcome

By now, you might have heard the story of the person who randomly stumbled on Game Seven of the Blackhawks/Blues series and was interested enough to become a fan of the sport. He’s Tony X, who gained popularity throughout the hockey world with tweet after tweet coverage from his house – all after he was trying to find the Cardinals game.

Now, listen. I’m all for new fans. But this is the playoffs. This is when the casual viewer tunes into for the first time and might get hooked to watch the rest of the Cup final and go back to baseball and preparation for football season. But hey… If this means that there’s going to be new fans popping in, that’s fine. It’s better if they get a glimpse of the best of the best: Game Seven. If there was ever a series to get caught up in, it was St. Louis and Chicago.

Putting a specific series aside, this is what makes me happy to be a hockey fan. Seeing the reaction of someone who has never seen a hockey game before and like it is incredible. You might not get the same reaction during a regular season game, which seems completely understandable. But draw them into the heat of the playoffs, and you get Tony’s story.

Fans come in from all directions. I, personally, went to a few Whalers games when I was in grade school, then really started getting into it when I looked in the newspaper and saw an advertisement for an American Hockey League game. Saw the local team win, and sixty minutes of game later, I was ready to go see another game. If it wasn’t for a local team, I wouldn’t be a fan of the sport.

In my opinion, new hockey fans are always welcome. It doesn’t matter how they get into the sport. NHL, AHL, ECHL. College? Fine. Whatever the case may be, really. If the passion is there, then embrace it. Doesn’t matter how old you are or if you just casually flipped to it because there wasn’t anything on and you needed background noise. Just as long as you don’t return your fan card. I’m not a fan of people who are going to “boycott” hockey.

Welcome to the hockey family, Tony X.

And if you’re listening… I’ve been to a few baseball games. I can’t sit still to watch enough of a game. (I’m still a fan, but I don’t tune in as often as I did in the past.)

NHL.com Bracket Challenge – You In?

When I was watching NBCSN on a Sunday night (Penguins/Rangers), I kind of quick glanced at the advertisements on the boards. Where the NHL puts their website ad (in the corner, near the red line), there was “NHL.com/bracket” Curious as I ever am, I decided to check it out.

And when I saw what it was, I almost decided to retreat. Key word there is “almost”.

It’s the NHL’s way of saying “can you pick a perfect bracket” without having to pick from 64 teams. Fill out the entire thing, then sit and watch as the teams fall apart at the seams.

I bombed last year. I had Anaheim in the SCF, I believe. I’m not going to go into specifics, because I’m pretty sure I don’t remember what happened. What I do remember out of the whole thing was that I did an okay job at it, getting picks through as best as I could. And as I’m not a real bracket-filler, I was decent at winging it.

So this year, I ask you: Are we doing a league on NHL.com? Let us know, and we’ll make a league for the writers and readers.

The Officials Have Lost It

Time for a bombshell: For the last few seasons, I’ve taken on an interest in the referees. It’s a long story, and I don’t want to dive into the specifics. All you need to know is what I’ve told you.

But I need to get this “rant” of sorts off my chest: Guys, you’re killing me this season.

Let me list off some of the prime examples of referee insanity in 15-16:

  • Numerous times referees have gotten in the way of plays; mainly Tim Peel. He’s been involved in two cases where a player could have been hurt (and one of those cases actually did cause injury). Let’s not forget the play that resulted in the Nail Yakupov injury as well – remember linesman Matt MacPherson grabbing onto him? Fluke accident, I know. But all of these referee/player injury interactions could have been prevented in one way or another.

 

  • And then, we have coaches and referees. Two coaches were ejected from games this month alone. Gerard Gallant’s ejection from Wes McCauley and Chris Lee was due to a player injury and an uncalled penalty. That was just a quick preview of what was to come four days later. Paul Maurice versus Francois St. Laurent, anyone? The mini-feud took place after… You guessed it. A player injury (or two) and a few uncalled penalties. This was a little crazier, because it resulted in TSN calling St. Laurent “proud” after he was seen smiling and/or laughing on camera. I won’t give you my opinion on this, because I’m just not sure what was going through St. Laurent’s mind at the time. Whatever the reason, it didn’t look good to see him with a grin on his face prior to the puck drop.

And then we have the laundry list of referee/linesman injuries this season…

  • In the “unknown” category, I’m bringing back St. Laurent. He missed time between November and January with a “something”. Dan O’Rourke lost time in November for the same reason. Linesman Brad Lazarowich was also missing in action for a while with a mystery diagnosis. All three are now back.

 

  • Peel (bringing him up again; sorry!) took a puck to the face in what I believe was this season – during the game that had his 1000th celebration – resulting in cheers from the crowd. Ian Walsh missed a game because of a possible concussion from a game in Toronto, getting the worst of a check into the boards. We all know the Don Henderson story. Concussed after Dennis Wideman cross-checked him. He may not work another game in his career.

 

  • And there are the referees and linesmen who haven’t seen ice time this season. Mike Hasenfratz has been missing since he was injured in a Philadelphia/Pittsburgh game two seasons ago. Dennis LaRue has also been absent, although he last worked a game in December of 2014, and he said he was trying to come back. Linesman Thor Nelson hasn’t seen ice time for a few seasons now, and I believe he’s also trying to get back in action in the future.

All of these moments – non-injury – want to make me facepalm. I can’t count all of the Coach’s Challenge moments, because that would be a longer list of chaos than this is right now. Do me a favor, NHL… Control your officials. This can’t go on much longer.

Why Trade Deadline ’16 Will Flop

Okay, listen – I’m just as much of a hockey fan as the next person is. (Except I’m not familiar with the prospects, so don’t ask me about them.) I’ve gotten up early on most trade deadlines to see all of the magic go down. I was once on a school bus getting Twitter updates through TSN’s experts. That’s how crazy I’ve been when it comes to this.

But for 2016, I might make a vow: I’m probably going to say no to the idea of either watching or following along to the trade coverage. This is usually the part of the story where I say that “it’s not you; it’s me”, but in all honesty… It’s not me that’s the problem. It’s everyone else that’s the problem. Because, let’s face it, why bother showing up to the party when it’s been mostly lackluster over the past few years?

Maybe there’ll be this one huge trade around the last hour before time’s up, with Drouin involved (if Yzerman’s decided to get in contact with teams). And if it’s not Drouin, it’s probably going to be this off-the-wall trade that I don’t think anyone expected. But besides that one stick that blew up in the pack of dynamite, expect there to be plenty of fizzles.

What might happen? Let’s see some possible other scenarios:

Perhaps Montreal sells the farm for hitting that brick wall lately.
Washington as buyers? Highly unlikely, unless it’s for someone minor.

(There’s a lot more, but I’m not going into each team’s needs right now.)

But let’s be honest for a minute. After the Phaneuf to Ottawa trade on Tuesday, I see one or two more huge trades happening before the end of the month. I won’t plop any more Nostradamus predictions on you – my idea of Drouin is probably going to be it here – but I have a sinking feeling that it’s going to be kind of quiet. Now watch me be wrong.

So if you see me on social media on deadline day, point me in another direction. Is work calling me for a scheduled shift at all?