Yeah, this is a holiday synonymous with American football, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thankful for hockey. After all, when U.S. citizens run rampant over hapless retail employees on Black Friday, you have an excuse to stay home (or hit the bar) — there are almost a dozen NHL games tomorrow, and sixteen NCAA games.
Hockey gives us plenty to be thankful for this season. For example, the Toledo Walleyes of the ECHL channeled Batman on the ice last week:
What else? Well, I am thankful…
…that I am not Milan Lucic
The drawback to writing a weekly column is that sometimes, when you think you have a clever idea, someone with a daily blog gets to that idea first. After Boston power forward Milan Lucic got into a heated disagreement with Columbus Blue Jacket d-man Dalton Prout, hilarity ensued:
“Hilarity” may be not be the exact word choice for a Bruins fan or anyone named “Milan Lucic,” but for the rest of hockey, a one-punch fight inspired many a chuckle. The idea I had for this week was to compare Lucic to a heel in professional wrestling, but Puck Daddy beat me to that comparison.
Still, I almost feel bad for Lucic. He’s only a few years removed from winning a Stanley Cup, but nobody sees him in the same light as they did then. Boston already has a well-earned reputation for hypocrisy, whining, and embellishment, and Lucic has outpaced his teammates. It’s one thing to be a fight-loving, goal-scoring asshole. But when you add nut-sack-spearing on the ice, murder-threatening in the handshake, and sucker-punch-whining after a lost tussle… well, the only thing you have left is scoring. Which Lucic has struggled with so far.
…that I trust my parents
Last week, stand-in Captain America and full-time Columbus Blue Jacket defenseman Jack Johnson declared bankruptcy. Rather than another tale of a young athlete being feckless with his money, it’s a story about his parents abusing his trust (and finances). This depresses me. If anyone ever decided to pay me a bunch of money to write words, I could easily see myself taking the same tack of letting someone else manage the money.
As someone lucky enough to be in a position where my parents never abused my trust, this story makes me angry. So I’ll move onto the next bit of thankfulness.
…for the Blackhawks’ depth (I think)
Despite injuries, unlucky shooting percentages, and Coach Q putting his lines into a blender every game, the ‘Hawks are still doing okay in a tough division. Part of this is due to the fact that Chicago has a depth that is utterly ridiculous. Even when they traded away Nick Leddy for cap space, Trevor van Riemsdyk filled in admirably on defense (until his injury). Thanks the gods we have this roster depth, right?
I ask, because it seems Chicago might be setting itself up with a future dilemma. We’ve got so many good (expensive) veterans, generational (expensive) young players, and a lot of (soon-to-be-expensive) 1st- or 3rd-year guys. At some point, will our prospects turn into great players for other teams because we will only be able to keep them for a couple years?
Even before then becomes now, there’s still roster issues, like the fact that we have a mixed bag of centers behind Toews. Brad Richards has been okay, but he’s well into his twilight. Andrew Shaw is a better pest than center, and Marcus Kruger is great… as a bottom-six center. Yet Chicago traded away Brandon Pirri, who’s averaging 0.67 PPG for the Panthers at the center position. Chicago has Teuvo fuming and frustrated in the minor leagues, so who knows what’ll happen to him — assuming he doesn’t get moved to the wing. And then there’s Kevin Hayes.
Hayes was a first-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2010, who decided to stay in college all four years so that he could avoid signing with Chicago. Instead, he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent this year. The ‘Hawks likely wouldn’t have tried Hayes at center, but it still was a shock that a first-round draft pick wouldn’t want to sign with a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
A shock until you realize that the Blackhawks are the kind of team that would rather give minutes to mediocre “grit” players than to high-risk/reward players like Hayes, Pirri, or Jeremy Morin (or Brandon Saad, until injury forced their hand). Morin is a perfect example of why prospects might run away with utmost haste. Despite being a high-energy player who’s the darling of the analytics crowd, and despite paying his dues, Morin averages far less time on ice for the ‘Hawks that Hayes does in his bottom-six role for New York.
At some point, one worries that Chicago will be forced to part with young talent due to the salary cap. And when they look to their minor league teams, they’ll find the cupboard a lot more barren than they thought.
…for Filip Forsberg
Sticking on the topic of dynamic young players, I’ve been really excited to watch Forsberg help turn the Predators into an offensive threat. He’s not the only reason for this threat (Coach Laviolette and his perfect hair deserve some credit, as does the offensive prowess of Nashville’s defensemen), but that top line for Nashville is a big reason the Predators are fighting for the top spot in the Central.
Also, I took a flyer on Forsberg in my fantasy hockey league, and he’s been a bright spot in a frustrating return to fantasy sports for me. He’s also likely going to be an ignominious part of the legacy of former Capitals’ GM George McPhee, who traded Forsberg to the Predators for the underwhelming diva that is Martin Erat. It’s okay, Mr. McPhee, I still like you, but that’s probably because I have a soft spot for alumni from my alma mater. And because my wife’s grandpa used to tell funny stories about you.
…for Liquor, Beer, and Wine
This doesn’t have anything to do with hockey, per se, aside from the fact that I usually imbibe while watching hockey. But it gives me the chance to do two things: one is to mention my favorite Thanksgiving cocktail, the Sweet Sol Sour. The other is to have an excuse to end a column with a song from the Reverend Horton Heat. Happy Thanksgiving, and shut up, Pierre.