Friday, March 28, 2008

And Your MVP Is...

This season the winners of the major NHL awards are pretty clear cut, as in Ovechkin- MVP, Lidstrom-Norris, and most likely, Brodeur-Vezina. Yay. So after reading a couple weeks worth of people touting who should win what and how much, I've decided to come up with my own awards.

I know, I know, thrilling! Personally I can't wait for the ESPY's, or as I like to call it, "the most awkward awards show this side of Mississippi Teacher of the Year"

Why only a couple of years ago Lance Armstrong sent a chill through the likes of Lebron James and Ben Stiller when he pointed out mid-show that 70% of all people will get cancer by the age of 70. Lebron's reaction after hearing that was enough to put a hop in my step for weeks, as he sort of clapped while looking around with a confused glare as if to say "um, that was a joke right? RIGHT?!"

So here we go with the First Annual Dog and Pony Show Fake Awards!

The Roberto Duran "NO MAS" Award For Pugilism

Daniel Carcillo- Phoenix

-If you told me before the season that by the end of the year the Phoenix youngster would miss nearly a third of the season because of leg injuries and being sent down for disciplinary reasons, yet still crack the 300 penalty minute mark I would have hit you right in the babymaker.

Look out Sean Avery.

Here we are nearly all wrapped up and Danny C could, with a couple more game misconducts, crack the 350 barrier. I know, I know, this is a horrible reflection of society and, AND, who is going to think of the children?!

But really, without starting yet another pro/anti- fighting argument, I am actually surprised that a season flew by without Tucker Carlson and Bill O'Reilly pointing out how horrible and terrible Danny C is for fighting in hockey...just before they flipped over to the subject of the Iraq war and how we should be sending more poor people to fight there.

Seriously, I'm shocked. Let's move on.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Award For Excellence!
(Awarded to the player who didn't leave for the money, or any other reason. For some reason.)

-Mats Sundin- Toronto

If anything I'm awarding this to reactionary Maple Leafs fans, and especially Don Cherry for their total and utter abuse of Mats for having a heart and actually sticking with the Maple Leafs. Good job gang. You guys are awesome.

Seriously though, before Mats didn't leave I actually didn't like him so much because he always seemed to be a bit arrogant. Now, I love the guy. Thank you Mats for showing the rest of the league that having more millions on top of your millions means nothing if you screw over your team and fans while trying to avoid screwing them over.

Sometimes it isn't about the money, or listening to Leafs management.

It is about doing confusing things.

The Trevor Linden "He's still playing?!" Award

-Bobby Holik- Atlanta

I had completely forgotten about the guy until about mid-season when I happened to watch more than 45 seconds of an Atlanta game. And there he was nailing a player into the boards face first at about 4 miles per hour. Poor Bobby, so slow. So very, very slow...

2007-08 Participation Award

-Jordan Leopold- Colorado

43 games, 5g-8a-13p +5

Injured Oct 12, 2007- Hip
(Missed 2 games)
Injured Oct 25, 2007- Wrist Surgery
(Missed 21 games)
Injured Dec 19, 2007- Lacerated Thigh
(Missed 4 games)
Out Jan 18, 2008- Illness
(Missed 2 games)
Injured Mar 10, 2008- Concussion
(Missed at least 5 games)

Thanks for playing Jordan. You are awarded a box of gauze, a lifetime supply of aspirin, and a priest.

The Kitchen Sink
(Awarded to the team that traded for a Cup run a year too early)

-The Philadelphia Flyers-

Going into the season I was certain that the Flyers would ice a decent young team. And they did...Mike Richards and Jeff Carter showed that they are progressing nicely. Yet when it came down to playing the kind of consistent hockey needed to contend for a Cup, Philly just couldn't keep up because they needed to grow up a bit. What made matters worse, aside from debilitating concussions to Simon Gagne and Joffrey Lupul was GM Paul Holmgren's insistence on bringing back Peter Forsberg.

Up until Holmgren began chasing Forsberg around the globe in a series of visits and phone conversations that could only be deemed "stalker worthy", the Flyers looked like they might be able to play smart defense in front of Marty Biron. But after the incredible distraction of Forsberg the team seemed to come apart in mere weeks.

Note to Paul Holmgren, the trick to being a good GM is to lead your team to believe that they don't suck, and they don't need help, causing them to come together as a unit right before you get rid of half of them in trades. It's the nature of business- compliment someone just before firing them.

Also, bang up job getting Vinny Prospal at the deadline, next year he's due for 50 points.


The Just Shut Up Award

-The Red Wings loving media-

Thank you ESPN and the rest of you cow-towing ninnies for once again throwing all your eggs into the Red Wing's basket for yet another season of geriatric infused overrated hockey.

There are better teams than the Wings at this point in the season. Namely Dallas, San Jose, and Anaheim. And at least this year the rest of Central Division has played the Wings hard causing Wingnuts all over the web to point out how good and fantastic the Wings are because they aren't winning easy divisional games...they are winning moderately difficult divisional games. Good job.

Yet you wouldn't know it by reading the likes of George Johnson, E.J. Hradek, or listening to Barry Melrose, who puts up the most thinly veiled pro-Wings front of any hockey expert.

Do us a favor ESPN management, and at least make it seem like you like hockey enough to get more diverse reporters to do more diverse and in-depth reporting on other contending teams for a majority of a season, rather than rolling over and rehashing the same Red Wings related stories from last season because the marketers thought it would be a good idea.

Oh and bring back NHL Tonight before you look even dumber for dropping hockey in the first place.

Honorable mention for the Just Shut Up Award:

Bill Simmons-

For years Bill has provided the same pop culture infused blather on a weekly basis in regards to the worlds of Basketball, the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Red Sox all while living in Los Angeles...which you wouldn't know if he wasn't mentioning it 45 times per column.

This was all well and good because his columns make for easy reading should I end up drunk and surfing the web. But where he gets me is when he takes shots at hockey. The basketball writer craps on hockey. Mmmkkay. Good job finding the easy target there Bill. Here's some old Jay Leno crafted Judge Ito jokes for you puke out the next time you are stuck for something to write about that isn't related to a Real World/Road Rules challenge.

Oh for a world without Boston sports fans...that and his wife is a better writer.

And finally,

The 2007-08 DNP MVP

Mike Keenan- Calgary Flames

Has there been a coach who has created more pre-season speculation and discussion than Keenan?

I thought by now he'd be pumping gas somewhere, but surpisingly he did all his familiar stuff and came out with a team that could be a dark horse in the playoffs.

He lit a fire under Jarome Iginla. He crushed Kipper's spirit for the better part of the season. He made Alex Tanguay look even smaller. Everyone probably despises him.

But somehow it's kinda working!

He is Iron Mike. Captain Hook. The guy who keeps getting coaching and GM positions besides destroying every team with whom he has been involved.

The man traded Robbie Luongo for Todd Bertuzzi and change, only to then take a coaching job in the same division where Luongo plays!

That takes guts, and more than enough insanity laced arrogance.

That is why, come hell or high water Mike Keenan is the DNP's 2007-08 MVP.

I can only hope that when he eventually gets fired from Calgary the street fight between he and Brian Sutter spills out of the Saddledome for all the world to see.

OH, and my actual MVP?

It isn't Ovechkin. Or Malkin. Or Iginla. Or Brodeur.

In my book the MVP each year doesn't need to come from a top flight team. He doesn't need to post the best stats. He just needs to be absolutely indispensable. That is why this season I'm giving the award to Roberto Luongo of Vancouver.

Tell me, where would the Canucks be without Robbie? Last in the Northwest? Last in hockey?

No team relies more on a single player than Vancouver (except maybe the Wings with Lidstrom), and would certainly be down and out without Luongo. What with their total and utter inability to draft and start skilled players, score goals or play defense in general. Yet there they are vying for a playoff spot where they will most certainly reintroduce the world to 4 line trapping hockey. Giddyup!

Kudos for not flipping out on your team this year Robbie.

I wouldn't have blamed you if you did.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is Chris Drury Coming Back?

After the Avalanche shutout last night, for the first time ever I was actually a bit pissed.

Here's the problem:

The Avalanche have the potential to be a "trouble" team in the playoffs while at the same time playing completely erratic hockey. Basically, they are moving towards total unpredictability. This is because after three games on the road after which I was certain they were finished for the year (see yesterday's post), they came out and dominated the Flames.

Go figure.

This to me is far more terrifying than the prospect of the Avs limping into the playoffs and losing to the likes of San Jose in a first round series that ends something like 4 games to 1. Now, if the Avs find cohesiveness and land something like a 7 or 6 seed I'm looking at the potential for them making the second round. To me this would be bad, because seriously I don't think they are winning the Cup barring a miracle, meaning they may end up embarrassing everyone.

The worst part about the above scenario is that after the Avs are mercilessly drubbed by say, Anaheim in the second, I would then be expected to explain to all of my fringe Avs fan friends exactly why they didn't win a it was a long year...and more than a few guys were hurt...and that no, Chris Drury isn't coming back.

Has anyone ever mentioned that a vast majority of Avs fans are fringe Avs fans, and that a vast majority of those people think it is 2001 all over again every time the Avs make the playoffs? Ahhh, the joys of living in a tourism state...

Let's get something straight, the next person that comes up to me during the playoffs and says something like "Chris Drury would have scored that goal" is getting an earful.

Please you Fringettes, should the Avs make the playoffs do us all a favor and leave your Theo Fleury and Dave Andreychuk jersies, which you bought because you thought they would make you seem cool, in the drawer and shut yer yaps. Playoff time is a reward for us die hards who were paying attention when the Broncos were setting a new standard for crapulence during the Shannahan era. Hockey isn't something you throw on once the NCAA tournament is over. It is something you live. So please, at least do me the favor of say, learning any applicable rules changes that have been made since the last time you watched the Avs...two years ago.

Anyways, now that the Avs have "miraculously" found enough cohesiveness to shut down a steaming Calagary squad, I'm worried that they won't be able to sustain the kind of team game that got them the win last night. It is simply too hard to keep winning streaks going when top players like Forsberg are taking every other game off.

So again I go back to my fear that they will bag a couple of important wins, but I'm hesitant to trumpet their cause because I'm getting that ol' Colorado feelin' that I get just before a sports team gets hot only to get stomped when everything is on the line.

The boys have a tough week ahead...hell all of them will be tough weeks. If the Avs get on a roll they could do some damage, but in the end I'm going to take the cynical path until they prove me wrong. Out of self preservation of course..and no, Chris Drury isn't coming back.

But thanks for asking.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Here we go again...

After the last three non-winning contests I'm once again left to wonder just what I'm looking at when it comes to the Avalanche. Is this a team that can come together before the end of the regular season, or are we looking at yet another management derived grand experiment, doomed to crash in the first round of the playoffs?

For the entire season before the arrivals of Foote, Salei, and Forsberg the Avalanche found a way to win despite major, simultaneous injuries to their star players. They came together as a team, and were fighting for one another. But as the story goes with this club, it is a new year, and yet another set of players are being shoehorned into the lineup just as the team should be fine tuning for the postseason.

At this point I have no question that long term injuries and the arrival of new (old) blood, has killed whatever chemistry the Avs had that kept them battling earlier. This is evidenced easily in their pathetic power play output, and with a bit more complication, in their lack of a consistent backcheck.

As we all know, if a team has any problems with cohesiveness, the tight nature of the playoffs and even the playoff chase can and will expose all weaknesses. This is not baseball, or football people. The NHL playoffs go beyond a historic silver trophy.

The Stanley Cup is a symbol of the sacrifices that are made by each and every man involved in the most physically and mentally taxing tournament of any sport. Soldiers don't go into war without knowing every man around him is battling with him, and neither should a team going into the playoffs.

So what is wrong? Is the significant lack of star power fueled ice time hindering the Av's production? Is it finally time for Joel Quenneville to stop rotating players on different lines? Does he even know how to stop meddling?

Two weeks ago the sky was the limit for the Colorado Avalanche. Now this is a team that looks lost at a time when everything should be certain.

I'm done trying to predict what will happen with the Avs this year. The job has become too taxing. All I know is that for far too long, dating back to last year this is a team that is lacking in all flash and dash. A team that is content to circulate the puck around on power plays rather than shooting it. A team that takes chances at the wrong times. And finally, lamentably, a team in which I have little confidence.

I am reminded of a phrase my Mom would use whenever she took a carload of unruly children to the mall every fall for school clothes. At this point I have to say it.

Dear Colorado Avalanche, in the event that you somehow land in the postseason, lacking in all spirit and cohesiveness, please do me a favor and...

"Don't embarass me!"