Whisky has been poured. Fantasy team drafted. Grown men are skating around the ice, swatting at a disc of vulcanized rubber with sticks — and starting last night, that swatting counted in the standings.
The NHL season is upon us, and all is well.
Ryan Johansen is finally signed and suited up, every team is somehow under the salary cap, and Gorilla Salad is back in Chicago?
Gods. Damn. It.
Goodbye Leddy, Hello Gorilla Salad
Everybody knew that the Blackhawks were over the salary cap. Everybody figured that we’d have to trade someone, probably someone we’d prefer to keep. Thus, it was no surprise when Stan Bowman traded defenseman Nick Leddy to the Islanders last week in exchange for a trio of prospects. This trade freed up just enough money for Chicago to maybe sign a replacement-level player… if they hadn’t already signed up Gorilla Salad.
For those unaware, Gorilla Salad is the a.k.a. of shitstarter Dan Carcillo. He’s a journeyman forward — using both terms lightly — who bounced around teams the last couple years. After winning the Cup with Chicago in 2013, he was sent to the Kings (who were somehow convinced to give us something in return), and then to the Rangers, where he played in the Cup Finals. This preseason, he failed to make the Penguins’ roster. You may remember his playoff work with the Rangers, when he was suspended 10 games for shoving a ref.
Yeah, that’s the calibre of player the ‘Hawks just had to have for their lineup.
Chicago fans remember Carcillo for a similar reason: after trying to line up an opponent for a hit, Gorilla Salad injured himself. Desperate, Coach Q was “forced” to utilize skilled rookie Brandon Saad more often, and he turned to be an honest-to-gods really good hockey player. I’d daresay Saad was one of the big reasons Chicago won the Cup in 2013, and almost made it there again in 2014.
This season, another skilled young player (Jeremy Morin) will be fighting for ice time with Carcillo — or be forced to work on a line with the dead weight of Gorilla Salad. Chicago is one of the pre-season favorites to win the Cup, but Carcillo’s contract is the kind of knife’s-edge decision that could leave us looking back and wondering why we missed out again this year.
Going Down in Flames
On the opposite end of the pre-season ranks are the Calgary Flames. Their lineup is so bad, Chicago traded them Brandon Bollig, that black-hole of hockey usefulness… and the Flames’ lineup improved.
LRT: Can I pick the Flames to finish any laster than last this season?
— Harrison Mooney (@HarrisonMooney) October 8, 2014
Calgary is one of the teams competing in a race to the bottom of the NHL for the opportunity to draft the next goal-scoring wunderkind, Connor McDavid. It’s a bona fide race, too, since the second-place finisher in the draft lottery won’t get the once-in-a-decade player (McDavid), but will still get a once-in-every-7.5-years-or-so player in Jack Eichel.
Florida, Carolina, and Buffalo are all running this race alongside Calgary, but none of those teams currently has enough stuff going against them. The Flames have a mixed back of crap, a couple decent names, and a bunch of kids. Hell, their top line is anchored by a guy who doesn’t turn 20 until this Sunday. And that kid had a great rookie year last season, but his line won’t be one the ice for 2/3 of a game.
Do Toews & Kane Give a Flying Fenwick?
I’m glad that the NHL is starting to realize that stats are a fluid thing. All sports stats evolve as clever people find numbers that are more descriptive of what’s happening on the ice, and better at being predictive for what might happen in upcoming games. I’m glad to see stubborn and truculent teams hire smart and incisive “fancy stats” bloggers. I’m glad to see more writers using advanced hockey stats to provide detailed insight into the game we love.
Ok, can we stop asking players what they think about advanced stats? Because why should they give a shit? It's not their job.
— FaxesFromUncleDale (@RealFansProgram) October 8, 2014
PLEASE. Not only is it not players’ jobs to think about advanced stats, doing so is potentially detrimental to their performance. An athlete’s job is to perform at the highest level and make an insane amount of split-second decisions over 60 minutes. The best athletes are not necessarily the ones who can think faster, but tend to be those whose practice regimen and muscle memory prepare them to make the right decision without having to pause & think.
It’s the job of the analysts to think about stats. It’s the coaches’ jobs to take that analysis and translate it into drills and meetings which prepare the players. It’s the players’ job to take the drills & game plans and ingrain them into their play on the ice. It’s great if a player knows how his Corsi Relative fluctuates with different centers, but I’d prefer he knows to not pinch when nobody’s covering his ass.
This Close to Seattle
Last time, I mentioned that Seattle was at the top of the list for the NHL to expand or relocate a team. A lot of us NHL fans even surmised that if the
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes hadn’t stabilized their stadium funding or ownership, they were ripe to be moved to Seattle.
We had no idea how right we were.
According to a report from the Seattle Times, the Emerald City was literally one possibly-corrupt vote away from being the new home of the Coyotes. The movers were on call to relocate the team one night in July 2013, and buyers were secured who wanted the team in Seattle… unless the Glendale City Council voted to approve a new lease for the team’s arena in Arizona.
That vote barely passed, 4-3. Investigators are now looking into whether or not there was anything illegal behind the swing vote. Whatever they find, though, that single vote was the only thing that kept the Coyotes from playing in Seattle for the 2013-14 season. One possibly-corrupt vote.
As a proud member of The Fifth Line, I’m glad that it’s hockey season again.
Amen, Ryan. And congrats on getting Johansen back in time for the season, even if the rest of his line is out with injuries. The Metro looks like it got tougher this season, but I think the Jackets are still a good shot to return to the playoffs.