About That Gretzky/McDavid Thing

GQ’s Sports department did a thing where they have a “One on One” segment where they usually have a current player from a certain league and an entertainer that roots for that team or grew up in the area. Recently, they bucked that trend and had Connor McDavid and Wayne Gretzky on there to talk about Edmonton, being a hockey phenom, and Gretzky reassuring McDavid that he’s going to win a Stanley Cup.

It was probably the most…cringe, but interesting thing I’ve seen in a bit, but far from an “epic conversation” that GQ would have you believe.

A couple things here. Thing the first– this is the Gretzky we kind of need. Sure, the Great One was currying favor to McDavid– especially reassuring McDavid he’s going to win a Cup in Edmonton and all of that– but he was actually very talkative. Gretzky was lively, he was more than the corporate figurehead that the NHL trots out in special events, and he showed some kind of personality. So much so, it made McDavid look much more milquetoast than usual.

Now, thing the second– McDavid looked like he did want to be there. Not in an uninterested way, but in a way that he was too nervous and not comfortable with the limelight (much less being there with Gretzky) and didn’t know what he was supposed to do in a situation like this when they’re talking about the greatness and the link between Edmonton and the two superstars. It came off as McDavid sitting there anxiously waiting for it to be over while Gretzky was trying to reassure him that he’ll get the Oilers to a way like they were in the ’80s.

The premise of this is solid, but it’s also the first time that they’ve seemingly done an old star and new star. The other were more athlete and musician with Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers talking with Justin Vernon, lead singer from the band Bon Iver; RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks and Spike Lee; and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat talking with Rick Ross. Those connections have more to do with the location of the team and a person growing up there. This kind of bucks that trend, which makes for…I don’t know what it made for.

If they did this format with Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby and Gretzky, it would have maybe been little less awkward and more conversational…maybe. However, the cliche machines of today’s hockey players seem to kill any kind of starting point with this.

Also, I hate this kind of format with an off-screen moderator doling out a subject and almost forcing these two to try and relate. It just seemed so forced. Not only that, but of what I’ve seen— this is the only one where they needed questions or subject matters thrown at them from off camera. No wonder this was shorter by about 15 minutes compared to the other ones; it was all around too forced.

Should be so inclined and have nothing better to do….maybe give it a watch and make your own opinion. This just seemed like it was very unnatural when there’s so many other options that you could have presented to make the hockey connection be better than just trotting out Gretzky and the next “Great One” in Edmonton.

Quickly Thrown Together 2019-20 NHL Preview

You’ve seen the best– now it’s time for the rest. Let’s go:

THIRD TIME FOR FIRST TIME??: There’s 11 teams who haven’t won a Stanley Cup yet: Arizona, Buffalo, Columbus, Florida, Ottawa, Minnesota, Nashville, San Jose, Vancouver, Vegas, Winnipeg. Of those 11, you’d have to say that maybe four have a chance in Nashville, San Jose, Vegas, and Winnipeg; but the window is closing if it’s not already shut. Of course, they said that about the Caps two years back and they lifted the Stanley Cup.

HUNT FOR 50: Will Alex Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark for the ninth time?? Odds are pretty good given he has four of the last five 50-goal season, including last year. And let’s be completely honest– Wayne Gretzky’s goal-record is out of reach for Ovechkin. Even as a Caps fan, it’s not something I think is attainable. However, tying the mark for most 50-goal campaigns in a career with Gretzky and Mike Bossy?? Much more than attainable.

YOUNG GUNS ON THE HUDSON: You could argue that with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko; the Devils and Rangers could be the best rivalry coming back– akin to Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby pumping new life in to a Caps-Pens rivalry that was fading into obscurity. Two young talents, ready to take over the New York Market in a big way, which the media there will undoubtedly eat up, overanalyze, and do their best to be like Toronto sports media figures.

McPLAYOFFS: Depending on what you believe, there’s frustration with Connor McDavid and the Oilers not making it to the playoffs but once in his tenure there. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you have one of the best players in the league not being on the biggest stage for the biggest trophy every year. Will that help with Mike Smith and James Neal coming from Calgary while Milan Lucic went south on the QE2?? The Neal part may help a little, but I’m not a believer in the defense and goaltending for Edmonton one bit.

RETOOLING EARLIER DYNASTIES: Both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks had less than desirable finishes, with both teams looking to retool heading into this season. With both playing in divisions that may be tougher than they look, it might be an uphill battle. I wouldn’t put too much money down on either of them making it too far if they do make the playoffs.

WORTH THE WAIT??: A lot of restricted free agents waiting until the 11th hour to sign, but is it something that their teams will be happy about or upset about should they not perform to the contract they were dealt?? Let’s be honest, I’m shocked Patrik Laine didn’t burn the bridges in the locker room already with what he said and it’s probably awkward as hell right now. The Mitch Marner deal looks like an overpayment when you look at other RFAs signing for a bit less than retail, but in the market space. That said, regardless of the price– Marner and Laine will be on the hot seat regardless of what their contracts were since they’re on teams that are supposed to be contenders.

SUNBELT RISING??: We all know what the Tampa Bay Lightning are– but do we really know what the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers are outside of their team financials?? I would venture to guess that both teams are on the upswing, with Arizona getting Phil Kessel, Nick Schmaltz being healthy, and the possibility for solid defense. All the while, the Panthers have their goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, young guns primed to really break out and put teams on notice, all while maybe trying to snatch a wild card spot away from others in the strong Atlantic Division.

Hockey Blowhard Creates Fake Controversy of Hockey Star in Major Market

Leave it to Brian Burke angling for Don Cherry’s seat to create a controversy no one knew they needed.

Burke said on Toronto’s Fan590 that he’s confident that Auston Matthews will leave the Maple Leafs FIVE YEARS FROM NOW WHEN HIS CONTRACT IS UP. The fact that Burke is talking about this situation is peak Toronto sports fear mongering. Hell, the Leafs should be more worried about trying to get Mitch Marner signed than having to deal with these kinds of questions and “what-if” scenarios that a former executive has to say.

Yet, so it goes for this hockey media culture at this time. Clickbait titles, super-hot takes, wild future state scenarios all in vain to get eyes and ears onto their product. It’s a fast-paced world with a lot of content and something like this gets people to stop scrolling and read– which helps ad revenue, creates totally level-headed discussion about it on social media, and gets writers/hosts/whomever high praise from some and cyberbullying from others.

(For the record– I enjoy this kind of chaos, especially with a fan-base like the Leafs. This is second only to the whole Connor McDavid wanting to leave the Edmonton Oilers trope that has been out there in the past– which always triggers the Oilers fan-base. Also, in both cases I could see it being plausible– with Matthews and the Leafs going to need to a lot of more cap space to fit Matthews, Tavares, and maybe Marner or whatever other wunderkind they have signed to a huge deal. That could mean Matthews would get a better offer in the better spot elsewhere. When it comes to McDavid– it’s really all about the team around him that could make him want to stay or leave Edmonton, which maybe Ken Holland can fix in the short time he has to work with. That said, McDavid still has seven years on his deal and has no modifiers on his contract– which could be fun and interesting though nothing will happen and he’ll play it out because he’s a good Canadian boy.)

Back to the matter at hand– the way the Burke presented this and how people picked up on it is why hockey fans get aggravated about how the media puts things out there. It creates a buzz at first, but then they realize it’s just bullshit. Plus, a lot of these click-bait titles provide no detail in the meat of the story– TSN’s Bardown is very notorious for that whole thing where they put a click-baity title and there’s nothing in the actual article pertaining to the title; but it gets views and revenue so why not, huh??

At the end of the day, this is the way hockey (and really most of the) media goes these days– buzzworthy titles of articles with no real substance in said article, talking heads just saying anything to get people to listen to them and create fake debate, all the while– fans are going to believe what fits to their own personal beliefs about the players or teams regardless of what anyone is logically saying in the reality of the situation.

On the Topic Of Jersey Sales

The bane of existence for the sports merchandising industry– Fanatics— put out the highest selling jerseys for the 2018-19 season. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise when you look at who’s at the top of the list, but there are a couple of interesting trends when you look deeper into the whole thing.

Compared to last season, there’s some shuffling: Sidney Crosby went from second to first, Alex Ovechkin vaulted from sixth to second, while Auston Matthews fell from first to third. M-A Fleury held steady at fourth, while Henrik Lundqvist left the top-15 altogether. Connor McDavid went from fourth to 10th with playoff darling Jordan Binnington jumping up to the seventh spot on the year.

Now, Fanatics doesn’t break things down– which I’m shocked at since their apparel breaks down very quickly. There’s not a date range for it all if it’s the actual season or if it includes playoffs. One can assume that people rebought jerseys because the Fanatics stitching is horrific at best. Plus, it doesn’t mention if this is just Fanatics brand or if it includes Adidas authentic. Nor does it mention the sale of alternate jerseys at all– just the players.

The alternates are something to really put the Crosby clan over the top with the alternate yellow and Stadium Series black the Pens had this season, on top of the ASG jerseys that probably should have boosted more players on this list.

In any case, it’s always odd to me that the same players keep ending up on the top players list for jerseys. You’d think that it’d be a little more interchangeable with the amount of hot rookies that come through. The hype on them alone should drive sales. But, again, if Fanatics is only going on their personal sales– arena sales won’t count, nor will local shops. We’ll have to see if the Jack Hughes Effect will put a Devils’ jersey on the list next season.

Wright, Savoie, and Exceptional Status

In Canadian major junior hockey, the exceptional status is given to a 15-year-old player who the league deems good enough to play an entire season at the major junior level. Otherwise, the player would only be able to play five games at age 15 in major junior until they turned 16. Before this season, the only players who were granted exceptional status in the Canadian Hockey League were Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Sean Day, and Joe Veleno. Of all of them, only Veleno wasn’t playing in the Ontario Hockey League; he was a Quebec League player.

This season, two players applied and only one was granted the status. Shockingly enough, it was a player from the OHL that was given the status in Shane Wright. The other– Matthew Savoie– was not given status, despite him having been compared to Sidney Crosby at age 14. It also continues the Western Hockey League not granting players exceptional status. Due to this, Savoie said that he committed to the University of Denver for the 2021-22 season. It should be noted that Jack Hughes also applied for exceptional status two years ago, but was denied and is now on his way to University of Michigan next fall….maybe…if he doesn’t get to the NHL before that, as he is projected to be one of the top two picks in this Draft.

There’s two way to think about this whole situation. The first is that it’s a travesty that the WHL isn’t letting this kid, who has 31 goals and 71 points in 31 games playing a year older than he should be. The second is that it’s good that the WHL isn’t rushing a kid who may not be able to deal with the grind of travel and physicality that the WHL often presents, not to mention the mental and maturity factor of it all.

It’s easy to see both sides of the coin. You don’t want to have a kid who’s obviously head and shoulders above his peers in bantam or midget hockey, risk him getting bored or even seriously injured, or embarrass the competition. In most of the exceptional cases– the players were able to succeed with three of the five of them being 1st overall picks in the NHL Draft and four of five being in the first round. Sean Day was the player who didn’t get pick in the first round, though he was also the only defenseman of the group who was given that status.

Some believe that Day’s performance was the reason why Hughes wasn’t given the status, but that’s subjective as hell and you could counter that by saying it takes defensemen longer to develop than forwards.

On the flip side, it’s almost good for the younger players not getting bigger than they should be if they aren’t ready for it. Again another subjective aspect of the judging process, but at the same time– to hold off on a player who the committee may have the slightest doubt of it is erring on the side of caution. You may lose a player or two– like with Savoie and Hughes– but it might be better than burning them out at a young age or having them flame out when such high expectations were placed onto them. Plus, when I mentioned maturity– these kids at 15 may or may not be ready to take on a pro-like schedule, away from home all the time, and growing up before they may be ready to.

While it could be the CHL’s loss, the NCAA does have the ability in something great. Of course, Hughes may not make it to the college level, while Savoie could be using his as a bluff or doing the same thing as Jack Eichel in playing the year before his draft year and then leaving after a season. Many claim that the major junior route is the quickest route to the NHL– and it’s probably true– but at the same time, if Savoie and Hughes can play in the NCAA, even for a year, and dominate before going to the NHL; it may change some opinions…but probably not.

The Best NHL is the First Two Weeks of Chaos

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We’re two weeks into the season, which next to the playoff run– could be the best part of the season. The wacky bullshit that goes on in the first month or so of the season is the best. Crazy stats, firewagon scores, improbable heroes– it’s the best time of the year to get overly emotional– rightly or wrongly– about what your team really is. There’s no lack of craziness this year, either.

First, let’s start with Keith Kinkaid, who is the really champions of goaltending right now. He’s 4-0-0 with two shutouts and has the New Jersey Devils at a still undefeated record….through four games. He’s making the most of his chances with the Devils, as he is building off his 26-win season from last year and really showing that Cory Schneider may have heavy competition and could even be expendable when he gets healthy again. While he may not lead the goalie stats for much longer, the story he’s creating for himself is one that the Devils faithful need to build off of last year’s turnaround with Taylor Hall at the front and center.

Staying in the East, the Ottawa Senators are above .500 after their purge this off-season and it’s confusing the hell out of me. Granted, I’m sure that’ll take a plunge with Brady Tkachuk’s injury; but still…this is a team who wasn’t expected to win three games in this month (maybe, I didn’t read previews) much less be at seven points after six games. Craig Anderson has already seen the most shots in the league (tied with Devan Dubnyk) through six games at 199, which probably won’t let up any time soon as the time goes on and teams wear down the already inexperienced defense. However, the return from Erik Karlsson was great, as Chris Tierney leads the team in points and Dylan DeMelo is leading the all-important plus/minus stat. Young guns like Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, and Maxime LaJoie have grabbed the brass ring for the greater roles on the team, while Craig Anderson is playing great in October, as Craig Anderson is wont to do, as he has 42 wins in October over his career (currently second-best, but that’ll change once he gets through the months). Maybe the Sens can fool us all…..but maybe not.

Out West, Connor McDavid is good. In fact, if he can keep up the pace he has in factoring in every goal the Oilers have this season; he’ll have anywhere from 198 to 247 points this year based on the Oilers’ goal output over the last five years. This could happen, McDavid is that good and is able to make the best plays out there for his team– but it shows that maybe the Oilers need some support for their superstar. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl are pulling their weight, but it could be a very uphill climb for the Oilers if they keep packing things on McDavid’s shoulders. Granted, they have McDavid for seven more years after this one…but do you want to wear him out in year four of his career like this??

The one constant is the Arizona Coyotes. As the sun will set in the West, the Coyotes will have one of the most promising outlooks, but stumble out of the gates. They’ve scored four goals in five games and have been shutout three times this season. That’s not great, boss. Sure, they’re only giving up 2.2 goals a game, but that doesn’t help when you’re putting up 0.6 a game. It doesn’t help that Alex Galchenyuk is sidelined, but they have their goalie for the first month of the season, as Antti Raanta was solid when he came back from injury last year, but he couldn’t dig the Coyotes out of the doldrums at that point. It is a young team, sure– Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome will need time to work things out…but man, it’s hard to watch for a team that’s already been beaten down for as long as they have. You’d hope for some good for once.

This is just the scratching of the surface– you got the hot takes of Auston Matthews’ torrid pace, I think Sebastian Aho (and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes) are getting slept on in the league, and even as a Caps fan– I’m tired of watching them play on NBCSN all the time.

This is just two weeks in. Let’s hope for more chaos as the season round out the first month of action.

How Not to Panic When Panicking

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The one thing that got me starting loathing that Eric Francis has a writing job with the Calgary Sun, even though he was a morning zoo DJ, was at the end of October of 2005, he had already declared the Flames’ playoff hopes dead. Remember, this is the season removed (since 2004-05 didn’t happen) from their amazing Stanley Cup run. However, since they started the first month of the new season 4-7-2, it was already over months before the playoffs actually began.

The Flames finished 46-25-10 and won the Northwest Division.

Eric Francis is a dumbass. Don’t be like Eric Francis.

Yet, in the “what have you done for me lately”/”hot take” world of sports journalism we live in, everyone is ready to kill their team off after the first month of the season. Sure, some of the people are panicking in jest, but there are far too many who are serious in their assessment.

There’s a highly unlikely chance that a team like the Edmonton Oilers are going to be sitting in the cellar all season, especially with the firepower they have in their line-up and Connor McDavid still healthy. Teams like the Capitals, Ducks, and Sharks are not going to be the middling teams they have been to start this season. The Coyotes…..well, on paper, they seem like a better team than they should be– but the game isn’t played on paper and maybe Antti Raanta isn’t the savior people thought he was going to be.

My point is that only one team has hit the ten game mark (the Rangers) and even then, you shouldn’t start to really worry until about 25 games into the season. With the lack of pre-season play like the World Cup of Hockey last year, players didn’t come into the season with “high-level” competitive play under their belt. It might take some guys more time to heat up and really show their true worth.

Conversely, the teams that are hot to start the season aren’t necessarily going to be that way through the entire season. The Golden Knights may start to look like an expansion team come December, injuries could rack up for the Devils (or any team for that matter) come next month, and other teams could regress to the mean sooner rather than later.

So take a deep breath people. New players in new places need time to gel. New contracts need time to have their ink dry. Older players need time to get warmed up and rolling. It’s a matter of time where the true teams will come out firing and actually succeed, lest the management who made these teams who were supposed to be good this season be fired.

What I’m Looking Out For This Year

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With the pre-season over, what more is there to say that hasn’t been said by talking and typing heads around TV and the internet?? Well….probably not a lot, but that’s fine, it’s fine. I’ll just pile onto some topics because what else would I do?? It’s not like original content can get much hits…but not bitter….not at all.

In any case, here we are– another year older, another team bigger, and all the ish is happening. So, here’s what worth looking forward to this season:

-The Golden Knights are obviously going to be one of the main topics of work. Now, I won’t go with the “Swingers” line because everyone is going with that and I’m not that hacky….yet. However, the thing that I have said is that I’ll get sick of the First that will come from this year, but it’s something understandable. One thing I will be interested in towards the end of the season is how they’re keeping pace with past expansion franchises. Shouldn’t take long (hopefully) for them to past the 1974-75 Washington Capitals– so they’ll have that going for them.

-Goalies being in new places will definitely be a talking point, especially since so many faces switched places. Ben Bishop being Dallas, Mike Smith in Calgary, Brian Elliott in Philadelphia, Steve Mason in Winnipeg– all of them are being touted as the true goalie to stop their woes. In Elliott’s case, he’s #17 in the long line of Flyers goalies to have this title, though he’ll fight Michal Neuvirth for the starting position. While none of them may be the franchise changing goalie, they could be a vast improvement on what the teams had…until they aren’t because goalies are totally replaceable.

-Is there any stopping Connor McDavid?? Sure, it seems like we’ve heard the whole “next one” conversation a lot, but McDavid really has been as good as advertised since coming in. There’s plenty to be happy about in Edmonton, especially since he’s not going to have those World Cup of Hockey games under his belt. If he can command the scoring pace for the league again, the buzzing of this team bringing back the glory days in Edmonton will be hard to block out.

-While it’s great Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick are out there, there’s plenty of Calder candidates out there for this season. Arizona has Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller, the Isles have Josh Ho-Sang and Matt Barzal, former UND players in Brock Boeser (Vancouver) and Tyson Jost (Colorado) could be in consideration. It’s a wide open field and this new wave of young talent is going to be a fun time to watch…only until your team losing becomes unbearable and even this silver lining can help you get over their horrid play.

-It’s the 100th year– not season because the NHL lost one, but it’s the 100th year and it’ll be interesting to see how deep the league goes for this. Of course, they’ll have the outdoor game between Ottawa and Montreal to commemorate the first NHL game, but outside of that– they announced the top 100 players, they’ve been going around with the Centennial Museum on wheels, but you’d have to think there’s got to be more to this year than what we’re seeing…I hope there is. If that’s all there is, then it’s been a bit of a letdown.

There’s some other out there– like the Penguins possible three-peat, what’s going to happen to Alex Ovechkin, who will care about the Olympics when they’re on– but I think those topics will come a bit more to light as the season goes on.

Puck drops tomorrow– strap it and enjoy the ride.