Things That Need To Happen: Mascot Royal Rumble

It’s NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, which means that as a part of it– the NHL Mascot Showdown is going on at the FanFest. It’s an annual thing and something for the kids and mascot connoisseurs alike. But it’s also WWE Royal Rumble weekend…and the two seem to intersect all the time.

So…why not combine the two??

My partner-in-crime Jen Conway (aka NHL History Girl) is all for this kind of thing because…well, what’s better than doofy mascots duking it out in an over-the-top winner-takes-all kind of format?? Not much, I can say that. Plus, it’s something that’s a little bit far from the norm when it comes to these kinds of things…which is why the NHL won’t go for it.

Granted, there’s been times where the mascots have taken pratfalls and it came off as cute and endearing. Then, there’s times teams have try to pull this off and then got a little bit of heat from it due to the “violence” factor. Sadly, that last part in this world of knee-jerk reactions will be the reason we can’t have the mascots duel in a over-the-top rope show.

Yet, think about it– who would be the one who could come out on top?? Right off the hop, you have to think in wrestling terms– the bigger they are, the harder they are to get out. Right there– Carlton the Bear, IceBurgh, Stormy, Stinger, Victor E. Green, and Gritty would be the top picks due to their bulk. That said, leaner mascots could have an endurance factor like Howler, Stanley C. Panther, Blades, Bailey, and Tommy Hawk. Then there’s the intimidation factor of Hunter and Gnash just to be tenacious.

The downside would be the mascots will the gimmicks and things to hold onto since it’s no-holds barred. Sparky, Moose, and Slapshot have wings, antlers, and feathers respectively, so they’d have a lot more area to be latched onto and thrown over– though the Moose could use those to ram people with. Then there’s Al, who would be great due to the low center of gravity, but Al doesn’t actually exist in mascot form. And let’s not forget Harvey the Hound’s tongue, which Craig MacTavish defeated many years ago.

Objectively, Youppi! would probably be my pick. Youppi! has the size, is somewhat agile, and has been able to overcome the most dire of situations like the Loria family moving Youppi!’s actual team to DC– leaving the orange furball abandoned until the Canadiens picked him and the rest of the Expos legacy up off the ground.

There’s probably a thousand reasons I’m wrong, but we’ll never know until it actually happens. We’d be able to see who the jobber is, who’s getting a big push from the league, and we’d all question, “Who’s booking this shit??” when it all goes sideways at the end.

ITPST: October 24th, 2019

It’s the second edition of the gimmick that keeps on giving. Hey, we’re almost across the board with teams playing double-digits games– which means we’re getting closer to that sweet, sweet playoff push.

Keeping it in the East to start, the Buffalo Sabres’ hot start (8-1-1) have them at the top of the Atlantic Division. Right behind them are the Boston Bruins (6-1-2) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (5-4-2). Who can’t wait for another round of Bruins/Leafs in the first round?!? Yeah– I could wait for a good long while. In the Metro, the Caps (7-2-2) and John Carlson are on a big streak after a rough start, putting them atop the Metro. Carolina have a little bit of a stall after a torrid start (6-3-0), with the Penguins right after them (6-5-0). The Wild Card spots head to both Florida teams in the Lightning (5-3-1) and the Panthers (4-2-3).

Therefore it’ll be the Sabres vs. the Panthers, the Bruins take on the Leafs, the Caps will take on the Lightning, with the Hurricanes and Penguins going at it to round it out.

Out West, the Colorado Avalanche (7-1-1) are ripping it up and are atop the division, with the Predators (5-3-1) and Blues (4-2-3) rounding out the tough Central Division. Getting rid of Milan Lucic has helped the Edmonton Oilers (7-2-1) put themselves ahead in the Pacific, as the Golden Knights (7-4-0) and Canucks (6-3-0) round out the top three. The Wild Card spots will be headed to Anaheim (6-4-0) and the rejuvenated Coyotes (5-2-1).

And as we see it– the Avalanche will duel with the Coyotes in the relocation bowl, with the Blues and Predators being the other match-up, as the Oilers will take on the Ducks and the Golden Knights battle the Canucks.

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.

Better Known An Affiliate: Florida Panthers

AHL: Springfield Thunderbirds (33-29-9-5, 7th in Atlantic, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Thunderbirds moved to Springfield from Portland, where the Panthers had a one-year affiliation with the Panthers. Prior to that, the Panthers were matches with the San Antonio Rampage for five years, after a six year stint with the Rochester Americans. The Louisville Panthers, Kentucky Thoroughblades, New Haven Beast, Carolina Monarchs, and the IHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones also served as primary sponsor of the Panthers.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: One possible candidate could be a guy who’s coming over for his first North American pro season and that’s Aleksi Heponiemi. After a stellar WHL career with Swift Current, Heponiemi went to Finland to register almost a point-per-game in 50 games, while leading his team in assists with 30. Also look for Anthony Greco and Dryden Hunt to be on the shuttle up and down the east coast as both looked to build on their time with the Panthers from last season, while trying to fit into a tight roster.

ECHL: The Panthers haven’t had a secondary affiliate since 2015 when they left the Cincinnati Cyclones. They had a closer affiliate in the Florida Everblades for four seasons over five years (one year break in the middle), while the Texas Wildcatters, Augusta Lynx, again with Florida, and the Miami Matadors all had one-year stints as the secondary team for the Panthers. The Port Huron Border Cats of the UHL, the Tallahasse Tiger Sharks of the ECHL, the Detroit Falcons of the UHL, and the Birmingham Bulls of the ECHL were at the start of the Panthers franchise.

On the Topic Of Fickle Coaching Decisions

Sunday, both Phil Housley and Bob Boughner were fired from their teams only two years into their tenure behind the benches of the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers respectively. We all know coaches are hired to be fired and often they get fired due to the general manager’s inability to build a good roster for them– but only two years behind the bench seems like a mere blink of the eye when you look at the bigger picture.

These are teams that need stability and to have coaches there for that little of a time doesn’t help their cause for that. For Buffalo, post-Lindy Ruff since November 2013– no head coach has survived more than two years. Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, Dan Bylsma and now Housley have all had short tenures not lasting longer than two seasons. For Florida post-Kevin Dineen after the 2012-13 season the Panthers have gone through Peter Horachek, Gerard Gallant, Tom Rowe, and now Boughner.

Of course, of the two, Housley didn’t have the best of success, only going 58-84-22 in his two years while having a group of young talent at his disposal, but goaltending being a question mark since Dominik Hasek left. Boughner went 80-62-22 while having a talented group that had a top power play, penalty kill, but lacked goaltending. I’m sensing a theme with the goaltending.

Regardless of that, having only a limited time to actually figure out how to coach a team that may not be the top notch squad seems like an impossible task that makes someone destined to fail. Only one year to get situation and then if you can’t get to the playoffs in the second year, it’s done?? I get that there’s a “win now, make money” mentality, but to have this lack of stability– especially for young players on the team– can’t be great from outsiders who teams may be courting in free agency.

It seems to always come to the GMs making bad deals and the owners allowing them to make those bad deals. It hampers any kind of progress most of the times, while giving anyone behind the bench a payday, but a short-term payday. Hell, even college coaches get a full class (four years) to prove their worth. Of course, this isn’t college and some players aren’t willing to adjust and adapt to win. Some players want coaches to fit their styles rather than the other way around. That’s on the GM to get the right chemistry in the room to make them a winner regardless of the coach.

Head coaching is a fickle thing. Most times you’re given a bad roster and tasked to make them into Cup champions. Owners and GM have lofty goals from the onset and these guys aren’t paid enough to have to deal with these lofty goals and deal with some prima donnas that don’t fit the vision they have for the team they want to inherit.

Granted, if they go somewhere else and succeed with the right roster in the right situation, then these GMs and owners will look even more foolish than they have been for letting them go in such a short time.

2018-19 Preview….Kind Of: Eastern Conference Edition

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Okay– time to shake the dust off this thing and get into some NHL previewing. We’ve got 31 teams in four divisions, so the only way to do this right is to do it as half-assed as ever. If you’ve been following me for the last 17 years of writing– you know it’s the only way to go.

First, the Metropolitan Division; the division with the worst name, but boasting the last three Stanley Cup Champions. The Washington Capitals kept the band together, save for Philipp Grubauer. Other than that– the big concern here is the short off-season (which has been seen with the lack of Devante Smith-Pelly), but the hunger to keep the winning going could fuel this team. Alex Ovechkin is back in the best shape of his life part 2, while the rest of the team– despite a subpar preseason– will be looking to keep the good vibes going into this season.

It won’t be easy– the Penguins will want to get some revenge on the Caps since they won the Cup and rekindled a bit of the rivalry. With a longer time to rest, you can bet Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel will be ready– but will Matt Murray be durable or not?? The Columbus Blue Jackets will want revenge on the Caps, but their house is a mess with both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky really not having a great off-season and signalling their tenure in C-bus may be soon over.

The New York/New Jersey area is full of “The hell??” vibes, especially with the Rangers retooling rather than rebuilding, the Islanders losing John Tavares, but gaining Lou Lamoriello, and the Devils being the best team out of the three since they made the playoffs last year. The Rangers will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them, the Devils will have to rely heavily on Taylor Hall to keep his MVP form, while the Islanders will be…something. They at least have Barry Trotz and a whole slew of….oh, right they sent a lot of their prospects back to Bridgeport. Oh boy.

That leaves Philadelphia and Carolina. The biggest thing for the Flyers this offseason was the introduction of Gritty the Mascot. While James van Riemsdyk is back, that’s not really getting the juices flowing when you don’t know who will end up as your goalie by the Thanksgiving break. The Hurricanes have a revamped everything– new owner, GM, coaches…it’s a new team….minus the same Scott Darling, the same lack of depth scoring, the lack of stable defense. Maybe Dougie Hamilton can change that, but maybe not. A near-perfect preseason gives them some momentum…as much as you can with preseason results.


When you think of the Atlantic Division, you think of two tire-fires and a team who is planning the parade route thanks to a single signing of a local player. First, the Maple Leafs, who have already been given the Stanley Cup by their fans and some pundits due to the John Tavares signing….totally forgetting their defense is suspect at best and Freddy Andersen can only do so much with that suspect defense in front of him. But– it’s Toronto, so hype is always around.

The other Canadian teams in the division are just plain garbage. Ottawa is just bad news all around thanks to the Erik Karlsson deal– which sealed the summer of drama for the team– on top of Eugene Melnyk not getting out of his own way. Montreal, however, traded their captain and a young forward while also naming a guy who has been more injured than not during his Canadiens tenure the captain of the team. Wonder if Carey Price is regretting signing long-term or if he’s just getting his money and not caring about the outcome.

Looking around, the Buffalo Sabres are poised for either a break out year or another disappointing season looking towards the lottery. Rasmus Dahlin aside, the attitude of Jack Eichel seems to be about winning now, Carter Hutton could be a breakout start in a starters role, the the Sabres could just decided to say the hell with it and go balls to the wall in order to win. That or they’ll have to deal with a lot of injuries and then get frustrated and fold up into a shell again.

While Tampa Bay didn’t lose too many big names, the loss of Steve Yzerman could very well hurt in the long-run. Though, Julien BriseBois has been under Yzerman’s learning tree, the moves that Yzerman were able to get may just be the respect factor of the man who is revered in the hockey world. Yet, a team that was one win away from the Cup Final shouldn’t have to do much more than they did, especially in a weak division.

People sleep on Boston a little too much, especially when you think they have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on their offensive side. Tuukka Rask is due for a bounce-back year, though the defense will rely heavily on Charlie McAvoy, especially with Torey Krug out for the start of the season. It will be scoring by committee after the first line in Boston, but Bruce Cassidy seems like he can holster all the firepower he can in order to get this team back to the playoffs.

Florida and Detroit are also in this division. The Panthers keep getting closer and closer then further away, while the Red Wings could be in the midst of a long playoff drought in their new building. Of the two, MAYBE the Panthers could come close to being in the Wild Card discussion, but it’s a very long-shot at that.