Alex usually has a NCAA football pick ’em column on Thursdays, but this week all we found were the words “Michigan football and grading papers make Bean something something.” Over and over. And over.
In it’s place, we have some bonus early-season coverage of NHL hockey! It’s a bit last-second, so I’m not sure what topics to write about–
Oh dear gods, what have we wrought? Um, maybe we’ll start here at home in Chicago?
Chicago: Five Outta Six Ain’t Bad
The good news is that Chicago claimed five out of a possible six points in the standings to start the season. We didn’t deserve the win against the Stars, but didn’t deserve the OT loss against the Flames. Our experiments in strange contracts are still a mixed bag: Brad Richards looks like a vet with an abundance of skill skill, yet whose decision-making leaves much to be desired. Dan Carcillo has looked surprisingly decent, aside from the two point-blank shots he COMPLETELY BOTCHED last night. Ahem. Our second- and third-year guys look great — Ben Smith and Brandon Saad are playing their asses off. Gods be damned, I love to watch Saad on the ice.
So everything’s been pretty good for the Blackhawks in their first week, except… It wasn’t until last night’s game that they put together a solid game from start to finish. They looked rusty those first two games, like a collection of all-star players who weren’t playing as a team yet. Last night, though, they looked fantastic (if unlucky). If we could get more moments like this interplay between Carcillo and Saad (never thought I’d type that), that would be awesome.
Now if we can just get Coach Q to play Jeremy Morin for more than 6:00 a night.
Colorado, Minnesota, and Shots
The Wild and Avalanche opened their seasons with a home-and-away pair of games against each other, and I was not going to miss them. Not just because a fellow Recorder author is wild for the Wild, and not just because this was a “vengeance” series after Minnesota knocked Colorado from last year’s playoffs. It’s also because I want to see if the Avalanche fall back to earth this season. (Editor’s Note: WILD FOR THE WILD!!! – Travis)
Four games is way too small a sample size to know where the Avs will be at the end of the season, but they haven’t started well. After getting shellacked by Minnesota the first two games, Colorado picked up a (literally) last-second win against Boston and an OT loss against Toronto. That lone win is the only time Colorado managed to outshoot its opponent; over all four games, the Avs have given up 150 shots on their goal while only putting 100 shots on opponents’ goals.
This discrepancy is one reason hockey stat geeks were waiting all last season for Colorado to fall. The Avs allowed the most shots on goal of all playoff teams last year, and took the 4th-fewest shots. After they were edged out of the playoffs in the first round, the stat geeks weren’t surprised. Yet the Avs didn’t seem to do anything to address these numbers: it was a feature in their system, they said, not a bug. They believed they had unlocked the sorcerer’s stone that would let them continue shooting at an absurd percentage, and they could rely on their goalie repeating a season where his save percentage was 11 points above his career number.
Again, they’re only four games in, but nobody should be surprised by them scraping a mere three out of eight possible points in the standings.
As for the Wild, I want to know who made their schedule. After walloping Colorado in those two games, they got a full week off.
New York is Dead, Long Live New York
There are three teams in the New York metropolitan area, and the Rangers are the big boys of the city. An Original Six team, if you care about that thing, and they showed up to play in the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
This season, however, the other NYC metro teams are charging out of the gate to lead the Eastern Conference. While the Rangers have looked okay outside of their goaltending, the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders are both without a loss so far. The Islanders are lead by the young dynamic duo of Tavares and Okposo, but they’ve also accumulated castoffs from other teams. Grabovski, Conacher, Leddy, Boychuk, and Halak are all high-skill players who got pushed out from their previous teams due to trades or the salary cap. Meanwhile, the Devils are rebounding from some bad luck last year while also giving Schneider his first real chance to be a starting goalie. In the weaker conference, these moves may lead to dominance by all three teams from the Big Apple’s metro area.
Nothing to See Here
Chris Pronger was named as the newest hire to the NHL’s Department of Safety, despite that fact that he’s technically still a player under contract with the Flyers. And this is — technically — expressly prohibited by the CBA that cost us half a season of hockey so recently. If you ever wonder why hockey fans have a love/hate relationship with the league sometimes, here’s a shining example of why.
See, Pronger was signed to one of those ridiculous contracts which attempted to circumvent the salary cap of the last CBA. The league and its owners theoretically locked out the players specifically to prevent these kinds of contracts. Not only prevent them, but punish those players and teams currently signed to these contracts. In Pronger’s case, a career-ending injury left him unable to return to the ice. But since he has one of those evil contracts, he can’t retire — if he did, the Flyers would be crippled with financial penalties that could sink their team’s ability to perform for years.
Thus, Pronger is still a player in name only. But the league wanted him to be a part of their Department of Safety. A lot of folks think he’d be great in such a role (in the way that you hire a thief to catch a thief). But he’s still a player, and the league has been hard-liners about these evil contracts, so this can’t work out, right?
Unless, of course, the league waves its hand, and suddenly it somehow works out. Because magic.
Fighting About Fighting
As I was writing this, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones engaged in one of the more unexpected moments of studio commentary I’ve ever witnessed. During the NBC Sports Networks broadcast of the Bruins-Red Wings game, Mike Milbury and Bob McKenzie discussed what place fighting has now that we know more about concussions.
After the game, though, the topic came up again. Milbury is renowned for his stubbornness, and used to be vocal about playing hockey the “right” way (e.g., enforcers are a necessity). Engaging that stubbornness to debate the other side of the topic — that fighting is a relic that needs to go away — was an oddity. But he made salient points: If we agree that head shots are dangerous and have no place in hockey, why do we give a pass to fights, which are nothing more than repeated blows to the head?
Obligatory Alma Mater Mention
This is me shoehorning in a mention about my alma mater, BGSU, whose hockey team split a pair of games with #10 Miami (OH). They’ve finished off stronger than expected after a couple of years that saw the Great NCAA Hockey Realignment as well as the possibility of BGSU losing its hockey team. Going toe-to-toe with a top ten team is a nice start to its season.
Welcome to Your Fiery Nightmare
October started here in the Windy City with the first annual Great Chicago Fire Festival, an event that went over like a soggy cardboard box on a breezy day. But much like the Great Chicago Fire wasn’t the worst fire in its day, the failed festival wasn’t the biggest fire-related debacle this month. That honor goes to the Adirondack Flames of the AHL, and the abomination they visited upon our psyches.
Within the course of this month, the Adirondack Flames:
- Introduced “Scorch,” their new nightmare-masquerading-as-a-mascot,
- Released a video in which Scorch maims a firefighter,
- Apologized for that video,
- And then pulled the plug on their new mascot.
- (Oh, and in the middle of this, one of their players smashed an opponent’s head into the ice because he wouldn’t fight.)
Oh, Scorch, we hardly knew you. You had the potential to be a truly terrifying and mesmerizing mascot, an heir apparent to the abominations that have represented Stanford’s NCAA teams and the NBA’s Pelicans. We’ll miss you Scorch. You’ll always survive as an ember, permanently seared into our befuddled minds.