If last week’s post didn’t convince you that this is an absurd year in the NHL, the Nashville Predators’ Twitter account is here to help:
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) November 19, 2014
Yes, the Predators tied their franchise record for most goals scored… against the NHL’s version of the Yankees.
Since I already pulled out the big guns of absurdism last week with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, I need something different. Still absurd, but maybe a little more joyful. More Marx-Brothers-y. More totally insane-y…
Good ‘Hawks / Bad ‘Hawks
It was so good to watch the ‘Hawks destroy the Dallas Stars on Sunday, for so many reasons. Watching an unlucky-this-season Chicago team pot six goals in a game felt cathartic. Doing it against Dallas was icing on the cake (we’ll come back to my hatred for Dallas later). Listening to Pat Foley rip into Ales Hemsky was the shot of whiskey after the cake.
Too bad this game came after the Blackhawks forgot to show up to Joe Louis Arena on Friday to play the Red Wings. What an awful game that was. Chicago looked like someone shit in their collective cornflakes that morning, and Detroit took pity by only beating them 4-1.
Back to the good: for all the “4th place in the Central” ennui, Chicago’s abnormal shooting percentage is less an indication we should panic, and more a hopeful sign that their offense should regress upwards. Staying with hockey analytics, take a look at individual 5-0n-5 Corsi% for players with at least 100 minutes of ice time. Four of the top ten players in this stat are Blackhawks: Hossa, Sharp, Morin, and TVR. (Corsi% is kind of like +/- for shot attempts and puck possession — anything over 50% means your team takes more shot attempts while you’re on the ice than it gives up.)
Then there’s the bad: Sharp has been injured. TVR will be out for months. The media only cares about Hossa’s lack of points. Morin was a healthy scratch so that Gorilla Salad could return to the lineup. And nobody really seems to care what Corsi% is, anyway. In an article last week on ESPN, when Coach Q was asked if Morin should get more minutes, his response focused on the idea that Morin should do more with the minutes he’s given.
Oh, sweet mercy of our lady Dot, are you serious? Coach Q’s solution to low shooting percentage has been to repeatedly mash “purée” on the blender that determines his line formations. Despite this, his team is still busting their ass to outshoot most teams most nights. But maybe if he ignores that Morin ingredient, then the blender will spit out something that works. It worked against an awful Stars team, so that means something, right? Right?
Anyway, for sitting through this silly mashup, I present you with a slow jam version of the Animaniacs theme. No reason other than it reminds me to relax, it’ll be okay, and we’ve still got 75% of the season in front of us.
And now for something completely different.
Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame officially inducted four players into its class of 2014 this week: Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek, and Mike Modano. Also joining were an official, Bill McCreary, and a coach, the late Pat Burns (as part of the “Builder” category). It’s a strong Hall of Fame class, but I can really only say that as an observer looking back — this is a timeframe where I relive the hockey I never watched.
As I’ve detailed before, I stopped watching the NHL after the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas. A Milwaukee Admirals game had hooked me as a kid, as did the NHL trading cards I would collect. But watching Mike Modano and the North Stars almost lift the Stanley Cup was what almost made me a diehard fan before I was a teenager.
Almost, because the young me could not countenance a hockey team moving from Minnesota to Dallas. I stopped watching the NHL, and didn’t really pick it back up until a decade later… when there was another lockout, so I didn’t really give the league another chance until a couple seasons after that. I can tell you that Mike Modano was the reason I almost became a diehard NHL fan as a kid, but that I also have never seen him play as a Dallas Star. I understand that he was good, but I can’t tell you that based on all the games I watched growing up. Because I didn’t.
The rest of this year’s class has that same disconnect for me; there’s a gaping hole in my memories of them. Peter Forsberg was a Nordique, part of the insane deal that sent Eric Lindros to the Flyers. I remember how massive the hype for Lindros was (one of the first things I did when I got back into the NHL was to find out what happened to him). After his part in the Lindros deal, I only knew Forsberg from Olympic hockey and from his later career, when the playoff-desperate Predators brought him in. Everything in between — the years that justify his induction — is little more than academic to me.
Same with Dominik Hasek, though I knew more about him because of the ’98 Olympics. And because I had college friends who talked about him. And because he spent the twilight of his career in Detroit, whose fan base extended down into my college town. Hell, Rob Blake was a stand-out at my alma mater (long before I went there), but I only knew him as that guy who played on the same team as Gretzky.
You get the idea. I congratulate the 2014 Hall of Fame class, and I imagine the voters got it right. But it’s really weird to watch the recounting of a sports history that I lived through, but never experienced. I figure I’ll be thinking that for a few more classes.
It does highlight the role of Halls of Fame. For those of us who weren’t paying attention (or weren’t alive) during an era, it’s where we can start digging into the history of the game. For example, in looking up Rob Blake’s career, I’m reminded that Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Blues for a partial season. And I think that’s pretty damn funny.
One More for the Hall
There’s one additional name that will be added the the Hockey Hall of Fame. Chicago broadcaster Pat Foley received their Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for his career in calling Blackhawks games. I don’t have the same connection to Foley’s work as many who have lauded him this week, but his broadcasts are one of the things that drew me to Blackhawks hockey when I moved to Chicago. As a kid who grew up with Bob Uecker as the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, I understand the kind of connection a broadcaster can make over decades of dynamic game-calling.
Congrats to Pat Foley. Feel free to make fun of the Stars on-air as often as you’d like.