Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Whoa Canada Woe

It's the annual handwringing time of the playoffs by Canadian (and even American!) media. "Our" (hack! cough!) last Canadian-based NHL team has been knocked out. Another year without the Stanley Cup coming to Canada. Cry me a Fraser River.

I'm confused. I live in Canada. I have a local NHL team that has "Canadian" rivals even within the Vancouver Canucks' own division. Why would any Canuck fan ever cheer on their divisional rivals just because of some border? Would I ever want the Calgary Flames or Edmonton Oilers, let alone any other Canadian team, to win a Cup?

I think I can count on no hands the number of times I wanted the cocky Oilers and Glen Sather's smirk to win a Cup. Every single Final they've been in, I've been cheering for the other team be it the Isles, Flyers, Bruins or even the Canes (sorry, Ryan Smyth).

Calgary, as much as they have frequently knocked the Canucks out, I'd have to say in the '86, '89 and '04 Finals I did pull for the Flames.
Albeit prior to the Final, I sure wasn't hoping to see the Lames anywhere near Cup glory. Let's just say in '86 and '89 it was cheering for the lesser of two evils given the Habs were their opponents. In '04, how could you not pull for  Jarome Iginla over . . . oh, wait, I like Vincent Lecavlier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards. Well, let's just say I was happy either way with that Final as it was a battle to the finish.

Sure beats Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

So which Canadians exactly are these media types writing and talking about who apparently go all apoplectic as another year without a Cup residing in the Great White North slips by?

Let's start with casual fans. Maybe casual fans who only tune into the NHL playoffs are the ones but other than the deluded here who may cheer for the Toronto Blue Jays in baseball, does anyone out here with no Ontario connection at all ever want to see the Maple Leafs ever lift a Cup?

Sure, there are plenty of Hab fans all over the Lower Mainland. Heck, I grew up surrounded by so many at school and some are even some of my best friends. Even so, I still dislike (downgraded from the Mike McPhee loathing hatred of the '80s) the Habs with a passion despite my lapsed Boston Bruins' fandom (sorry, after 35+ years I fired you guys after the Ray Bourque trade and became a free agent fan).

The Sens are just plain boring. Does anyone even remember a single game or goal from the '07 Final where they lost to the Anaheim Ducks? They just exist and barely are given a thought out here. All sympathy for Krusty the Alfredsson's long career spent in our nation's capital but the team with the Trojan condom guy as its logo (or is that a Roman Centurion?) spent too many years dulling us with Jacques Martin hockey, we never even were remotely interested whether Alexandre Daigle liked to dress up as a nurse.

No, that's not Darnell Nurse

The Jets fans at least are wired and fun but their style of play is not exactly WHA Hull-Nilsson-Hedberg-esque let alone Hawerchuk-ish enough to get me revved up especially when the Whiteout...uh, doesn't work. Looks great. Less filling the net as the goalie on the opposing team can now easily pick up a black puck against a snow white backdrop so...maybe go with a Blackout next season, if the Kings and Sharks falter again and your Jets can squeeze in again to the playoffs. It can't hurt to try a Blackout and maybe change that 1st round playoff luck.

Anyway, just once I'd like to see journalists actually get in depth and tell us about the players and teams in ways we've never heard before rather than churning out the same articles every single playoff year on Canada's inability to produce an actual team good enough to win it all.

So maybe that's it. It's Canadian journalists who've created this myth based on talking to other Canadian journalists because please show me where all these so-called hockey fans are that want a Canadian team (other than their own fave team, if it's even based in Canada) to win a Cup.

After all, if the Angels, Giants, Red and White Sox (sorry, Cubs) can win World Series in the new millennium and the Patriots (yes, the Pats) can become a dynasty in the NFL then Saints (hey, New Orleans!) preserve us, eventually odds are a Canadian-based team will win a Cup again in this century.

If that team is entertaining a la this era's Chicago Blackhawks have been, then maybe the vast majority of Canadians will get behind them. So, sorry, but unless you're bringing me a steady diet of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, you're not getting me cheering for your team these days whatever side of the border you put your home rink in.

Well, even if you are as entertaining as the current Blackhawks are, I could never bring myself to cheer for the Taranna Make Beliefs. Should the Leafs win a Cup and break the 1967 kinescope era curse, you may as well just convert all your Canadian dollars to American ones immediately because it'll be sheer hell living in a nation where we're already inundated with Laffs' news 365 days a year.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Let The Real Hockey Begin!

Finally, yet another slog of a regular season is done. The LA Kings and Boston Bruins are out of the playoffs. What more can Canucks fans ask for?

OK, let's get started. We have another season the likes of which we haven't seen since six "new" teams made the playoffs back in 2010. Seven teams this season made it in after not being in the playoffs last year (or in the Calgary Flames' case for six years...or for fans in Winnipeg since 1996 their team has not been thrashed in the playoffs!).

Anyway, it might be sexy to jump on the Alfred E. Hamburglar bandwagon and pick the Sens. Or ride the "it never worked" White-Out in Winnipeg and think the Jets are going deep.

Well, you're fighting history. Sure playoff experience is useful, but who knew that since 2010 of 23 teams that made the playoffs that had missed at least the year previous, only three actually managed to make it past the first round.

The 2011 Tampa Bay Rolosons got all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals riding that Guy Boucher 1-3-1 defensive system. They lucked out in rd. 1 that season as their opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, had a certain Sidney Crosby out with a concussion courtesy of Victor Hedman of the 'Ning with an assist to David Steckel in the Winter Classic. And, oh yeah, Evgeni Malkin tore his ACL and MCL that season.

Then in rd. 2 the 'Ning swept the perennial choker Washington Capitals and pushed the Bruins to seven in the Conference Finals which included that very bizarre Game 7 1-0 win by the B's with all of no penalties called in the game.

One other team to break this odd trend was the 2012 New Jersey Devils. In the first rd. they played the Florida Panthers (who were also newcomers to the playoffs so some "rookie" team was going to finally win a round anyway). The Devils then beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4 games to 1 in a series where the team that scored first lost every game. The Cloven Helmeted Ones then beat the New York Rangers and made it all the way to the Final where in Martin Brodeur's "Final" swansong lost to the LA KIngs in a battle of the two most boring teams in the NHL.

Oh, yeah, and the perennially mediocre St. Louis Blues managed to win their first rd. series vs. the Western Conference version of the Caps, the San Jose Sharks, and then got swept by the El Lay Sutters.

So, buyer beware of going with the Sens, Preds or Jets. For at least two 1st rd. series you can take your pick as the Flames vs. Canucks and Caps vs. Islanders series have all four teams returning to the playoffs after being on the outside last season.

Which brings us back to the good news for Canucks' fans. Just like the 2012 Devils rode that matchup against a Florida team that had not made the playoffs the previous ten seasons, the Canucks are facing a Flames' team that, as stated before, had missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. They're also playing a team without their best defenceman in injured Mark Giordano so are the Sedin stars aligned for a rebound from 2011 disappointment for a 2015 deep playoff run?

Or, if you're a cup half-empty person, the last time the Flames broke a long missing the playoffs drought (seven seasons of no Red Mile at the time) was back in 2004. Now what happened back then? I seemed to have erased that from my Martin Gelinas memory bank.

Ah, the Alex Auld years

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I'm Bored, I'm The Chairman Of The Bored

The Toews and Kane Show 
vs. The Mild

It's all well and good that the Minnesota Wild pulled out a thrilling Game 7 upset on the road of the Colorado Avalanche but with Darcy Kuemper out (as well as Nicklas Backstrom--the goalie! in the words of Bob Cole--and Josh Harding) and the Ilya Bruzgalov Experience in net to entertain us, this series is over. There's no drama. The Mild are not winning this series. Despite changing personnel and coaches over the past few years, the descendents in spirit of the "St. Paul" Fighting Saints are still one of the blandest and most boring teams to watch.

Sorry, I've tuned out, wake me when the Chicago Blackhawks are in round three.

Battle For Kardashianland

In what should be Tong War: The Sequel after the LA Kings disposed of the San Jose Sharks in a wild first round series looks promising but then I remember it's Darryl Sutter hockey once again.

Look, the Kings have tons of excellent offensive players and Anze Kopitar is a total stud as the Olympics proved and these playoffs are proving. The Kings also show good puck possession numbers if you're into the ex-Quebec Nordique backup goalie statmeister known as the Corsi Conundrum, so why are they so so dull to watch? I mean, if you enjoy Dustin Brown and his borderline hits, then this is the series for you.

Obviously, with the Anaheim Ducks now down 0-2 going across county to the Staples Center, it's an uphill climb given Jonathan Quick has found his 2010 playoff mojo.

Again, wake me when the Ducks make this a series as despite arguably carrying the play, Marian Gaborik seems to be a one-man game-winning goal machine. I just pray we see Gabby (the LA King version not the Duck version) does the following:

Come on, Jonas Hiller, channel your inner Hasek