I’ve been really busy this season, so I still haven’t finished my Christmas shopping. I have no idea to get folks on my list. I started looking yesterday afternoon, and it is an utterly daunting task. Totally unrelated, I’ve been making a list of things I could get various NHL teams, if I had unlimited resources. As I run around looking for last-minute gifts for real people, I’d like to share with you the fake gifts I would give to these teams.
Gift: A whole lot of various and sundry gift cards.
Look, I know that gift certificates are usually the kind of present that is seen as lacking in creativity and personal connection. But look at yourself, Chicago: you’re team is clicking, you’re at the top of the list of Stanley Cup contenders, and you’ve got so much depth you’re exporting prospects. Well done. But I’m thinking of next season, when the salary cap doesn’t go up that much, but the salaries of Toews and Kane do. You’re going to need all the cap assistance you can get, and that’s where the gift cards come in.
Maybe you sign a player for a slightly reduced salary, and give him $1M in gift certificates. Problem solved, right? I bet we could get a bunch of cards from Citgo and Target and a bunch of local businesses. The city’s economy gets a boost, players get their rewards, and you stay under the cap. Totally works, right? I’m asking, since I have no public accounting background and I haven’t read the CBA too closely. Sounds like a great idea, though.
Gift: A hockey participation trophy from Rutherford B. Hayes Junior High.
Take this trophy with all the splendor due to a team that isn’t quite halfway to winning this season’s Presidents’ Trophy. Nobody expects you to finish the year with the most points in the standings, and if you do, everybody expects you to continue the tradition of the Presidents’ Trophy winner of not raising the Cup. That said, you still have the best record in the NHL at the holidays, even though you’ve been ravaged by the plague (i.e., mumps).
While I’m thinking about it, you might want to wipe down this trophy. No idea where it’s been.
St. Louis Blues
Gift: A semi-trailer full of surgical masks.
Look, we all know the mumps started with you. Next time, use these when your team succumbs to a mystery virus that might directly precedes a league-wide mumps outbreak.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Gift: A beat-up copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on VHS.
You started out the year as a farce, Columbus, with broken bodies lying all around, and yet… you’re the very embodiment of being not yet dead. You’ve avoided the plague, rebounded from the basement of the NHL, and somehow keep going despite taking a figurative arrow to the chest, you could pull through. You’re still five spots away from a wild card, but this absurd season has seen stranger things happen.
And now for something completely different:
Gift: A necktie. A really nice necktie.
Okay, I know it looks more in the style of Dan Bylsma than Mike Johnson, but it really is a nice tie. It may seem generic, but I figured you could use something solid, reliable, and useful. You’re going to coast into the playoffs this season again, probably at the head of the division (again). Either Crosby or Malkin will be in the running for the Hart, and Fleury looks like he’ll be solid during the regular season. Heck, you even have another full slate of injuries that are barely slowing you down.
What’s that face for? I know it’s not flashy, but I don’t think you need anything flashy. You’ve got the Islanders threatening your divisional dominance, you tossed your coaches to the curb despite years of success, and you have a track record of being the Keystone (State) Cops in the playoffs. Maybe boring but consistent is what you need.
Carolina Hurricanes / Edmonton Oilers
Gift: Team sweaters with removable “McDavid” and “Eichel” nameplates.
Congratulations! Or maybe it’s a bit early for that, but y’all are on pace to draft one of the two generational talents in this year’s draft. It’s also a bit presumptuous, since the NHL also played with the odds so they weren’t skewed as much in favor of the worst two teams, but still — McDavid and Eichel. Just focus on them as they prepare for World Juniors.
While we’re at it, let’s also not focus on the rumors of Carolina being a potential relocation candidate (see the NHL’s gift, above). And let’s definitely not focus on Edmonton still losing after picking in the top 7 for five straight years, including the number one overall pick each year from 2010-12. Just look at the names on these replica jerseys.
Gift: The key to the city of Riga.
Expectations were exceedingly low for you coming into this season; everybody expected Buffalo to be playing for a top-two draft pick. And let’s not get ahead of ourselves — you’re still currently the fourth-worst team in the standings and possess the worst goal differential of all NHL teams (-46). But you’ve separated yourselves from the Carolinas and Edmontons by being a team that’s occasionally good and fun to watch, especially with dynamic young forwards like Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons.
The latter is what inspired this gift, since Girgensons leads all players in the NHL All-Star Game fan voting. He isn’t a bad player — only 20 years old, yet takes more defensive zone starts than any Sabres forward and somehow still has a positive +/- on a team that bleeds goals — but he’s nowhere near the level of Toews, Malkin, Seguin, and company. He is, however, a hot young player from Latvia, and his native country has stuffed the ballot box to get him onto All-Star ice. The whole thing is a bit silly (the other starting five, based on fan votes, are all Blackhawks), but it’s also a lot of fun.
Speaking of the Blackhawks, this gift is not to be confused with “Keys to the City,” which was a gift to Chicago from Ministry back in 2008.
It’s not that I don’t want to you a gift, Bruins. It’s just that when someone really works hard to get you something nice, y’know, the kind of player who might lead the league in goals or points, you go and re-gift him. You apologize, say it wasn’t the right fit, and then address any concerns to your 2011 Stanley Cup. Here. Here’s some beef tips I found at a convenience store. They were behind the day-old sushi wraps. I’m sure you can turn it into a gritty power forward who can finish his checks, draw penalties, and get the tough goals.
New York Islanders
Gift: A bunch of Long Island rail tickets.
Well done, Islanders. By all accounts, you appear to be finally climbing out of the impact crater borne of Mike Milbury’s tenure as GM. You have a decent chance to dethrone the Penguins atop the Metro division. Hell, you’re probably the best sports team currently residing in the New York metro area. Next year you’ll be moving from Nassau County to Jay-Z’s kingdom of Brooklyn, so you might want to hand these out to the Long Island fans who’re going to follow you into the west.
Gift: A lightly-used secondhand graphing calculator.
Now that you’ve realized the importance of math, charts, and analytics, I got you something for Patrick Roy to use so he can keep apprised of the latest equations. It’s been passed around, but it still seems to work okay. Although I should probably take of this sticker. “Property of R. Carlyle.” No worries, he probably doesn’t need this thing anymore.
Gift: The desiccated corpse of former AHL mascot, Scorch.
I was going to get you a graphing calculator, but there was only one I could find, so I kind of ran out of ideas. After Scorch was de-commissioned as your AHL team’s mascot, he shriveled up without his access to the souls of hockey fans and volunteers. I’m thinking you can re-fashion it into a kind of placeholder Norris trophy for Mark Giordano, something to scare him into keeping up his impressive play. Once he does win the Norris, you can re-gift it as a horrifying totem bolted onto the wall of Coach Hartley’s office. It might also make a decent ventriloquist dummy to distract the team from any nosedives in the standings. What I’m saying is that I’ve given you a versatile gift. Just don’t let it near your fans or volunteers, or their souls.
Gift: One of those “Open Heart” necklaces Jane Seymour is always pitching.
I was trying to think of the perfect gift for a team who has two potential Hart (and Art Ross) Trophy candidates, yet a defense so porous that it has a negative goal differential. (This could also be leveled against the Dallas Stars, but they only have one potential Hart/Art Ross/Rocket Richard winner. Plus, it’s Dallas. I’m not getting them any gifts. They know what they did.)
Then I remembered all those damned jewelry commercials with Jane Seymour. You know the ones. They have that sappy tagline, “If your defense is open, pucks will always find their way in.” Maybe I’m mis-remembering it, but the general sentiment and the wordplay of Hart/heart was too much to pass up. Thankfully for your fans, you’ve only lost one of your last ten games in regulation, and you play in the weakest division. But if y’all can’t stop a few more shots from going in, what are the odds that Voracek or Giroux win a Hart on a team with a losing record?
Okay, fine, I got something for the Stars:
Perfect for roasting chestnuts. Happy holidays!