Friday, May 2, 2008

Sweeps Week

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now

For any recent transplants living in Colorado who may be wondering what it is like to truly become a Denver sports fan, welcome to the fraternity.

And I thought the Broncos losing to the 49ers 55-10 in the Superbowl was embarrassing. Silly me. As it turns out the end of the worst week in Colorado sports history couldn’t have been more, well, sickly poetic?

This post-season of futility began with the Nuggets going down to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers without much of a fight, and ended with the Avalanche getting run out of their building by a team that nearly everyone living at altitude loves to hate.

Over the last year the Rockies, Nuggets and Avalanche have all been broomed from the playoffs in unceremonious fashion. Thanks for playing, guys.

To be a Denver sports fan one must realize a simple tenet: our teams lose important games more often than they win them…and much of the losing happens during times when our teams are thrust into the limelight by previous successes, which seem to be designed by Satan specifically to get our hopes up.

In a state where most people come to escape, there is no escaping an inferiority complex honed by years of "almost-getting-there-and-getting-blown-out-in-the-process."

Joe Sakic can’t go out like this, and something tells me he won’t. Even if our last memories of Peter Forsberg may be of him again kicking back in a lawn chair in Örnsköldsvik. It was nice having you tour with the band again, Pedro.

Fortunately the youngsters on the Avalanche now have experienced both the playoffs and massive playoff humiliation. With the right attitude this experience can become a tool for future success, as the Avalanche (barring a two-month long dip into their past) should continue to build in the right direction, a direction in which Jose Theodore is hopefully shown the door.

So let the construction on a new season begin! The future is still bright in Colorado, even if it may take some time for this most recent loss to fade into distant memory.

(Thanks to all who have read the page during the season. Barring a few comments and blurbs during the summer the DNP will return just in time for training camp, even if the recent economy is forcing its writer to relocate to Phoenix. Yes, Phoenix. No I’m not going to become a Yotes fan, even though a close proximity to The Great One and Daniel Carcillo should yield a number of high quality “desert hockey” jokes.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

O Captain! My Captain!

There is a quote from the 1996 film “Basquiat” that I have never been able to remove from my mind. It emerges in a scene where Benicio Del Toro, playing Jean-Michel Basquiat’s friend Benny, is describing to the young artist the effort required to become famous.

To paraphrase, “to get recognized you have to paint the same way every day, even if you don’t want to…”

The message behind the statement reveals a sort of practical profundity. That simple repetition, rather than complicated measures will lead to success. When embellished it is nearly a treatise on the effectiveness of passive resistance.

In this world there seem to be two types of leaders. There are those in the mold of Mark Messier. Magnetic Churchill types branded at birth to lead through action and powerful vocal inspiration. More often than not these are the leaders who are trumpeted and placed upon pillars as examples to all of what can be achieved when one possesses a strong personality.

Then there are the quiet leaders; those modest personas that gain respect through steadfast example. They paint the same way every day, even if they don’t want to…

In a career that suddenly seems too short, Joe Sakic has achieved everything that a hockey player can achieve. He has accomplished every task with which he has been charged, and in exchange he has quietly demanded reciprocation from his compatriots.

Joe Sakic is the personification of leadership by example.

Tonight may very well be Joe’s last professional game. His body has shown the effects of what is most easily rationalized as “old age” in hockey. Nobody would blame him if he walked away at age 38, his final accomplishment being that of scoring nearly a point per game during the playoffs.

If tonight is the last time we see Joe Sakic on the ice, then let us relish the moment as an example of what any of us with our God given talents can achieve if we simply apply effort to knowledge.

All you have to do is paint the same way every day.

Even if you don’t want to…

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guitar Hero

Sometimes life provides little distractions to redirect our minds from painful experiences. This time, facing an insurmountable deficit against the Red Wings the universe provided my house with a PS3 and Guitar Hero. Yes folks, the de-evolution of music hit soon after the Avalanche comeback fell short, and lasted until the wee hours of this morning.

The revolution will not be televised; it will be clicked into a miniature plastic guitar.

You’ll pardon me if my rockin’ prevents me from typing fast today. I think I may have carpal tunnel syndrome and a surprising respect for the works of Slayer.

Oh what to do…what to do about these Avalanche. The best team in the state can’t beat the best team from another country (Sweden).

This Red Wings dominance was not unexpected. They were the best team in the regular season, and they are the best team in the playoffs. Detroit never had a post-lockout swoon like the Avalanche did, and by the looks of it they may never have any kind of swoon any time soon.

Meanwhile the Avalanche are stuck in neutral.

In a series in which the Avs are hurt and penalized Detroit has made hockey look surprisingly easy. Analysts said that the European game would never play well on the small ice of North America…yet Team Sweden just keeps on rolling.

Does Detroit have a transfer agreement with Henrik Lundqvist set up for when the Rangers are finally eliminated?

At least T.J. Hensick got to play. The little engine that could…he needs to play more, and will.

I guess we can forget about re-igniting the rivalry. How unfortunate. Few events have drawn the common fan to hockey quite like a punch-up between the Wings and the Avs. These days the only punch-ups seem to come from the message board on Abel to Yzerman on Kukla’s Korner. That is the truly sad part. That two cities and states that despise one another won’t be going toe to toe on the front page of the ESPN’s of the world, relegated instead to idiotic faceless banter in the backwaters of the internet.

What to do…what to do…

At this point there is little to say about what the Avalanche are doing, and more about where they might be going. Is it possible for this mobile intensive care unit from Colorado to exit this series without losing even more of their future in the process? Can we just have that?

Oh for the days when this team was up and coming and the future was looking bright…and Paul Stastny still had both knees intact.

Maybe a sweep by the Red Wings might not be a bad thing after all. It would save the rest of us emotion that could be wasted elsewhere. Like impressing friends by ripping out “My Name is Jonas” on the plastic guitar:

“The building's not going as he planned.
The foreman has injured his hand.
The dozer will not clear a path.
The driver swears he learned his math.

The workers are going home…”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thoughts on a Game Day

-Sometimes you have to chop things up in order to gain some perspective on your team’s standing. In my case, at least the Avalanche aren’t the Nuggets, (far from them actually) who were swept out of the playoffs by a beatable Lakers team in the first round.

And observers wonder why few people take the Nuggets seriously in Denver. You think Avs fans are fair weather, Detroit? HA! Just try living with a basketball team that has never even been in the NBA finals, despite featuring an owner who will spend at will to acquire talent and coaching for a team which features two of the top five scorers in the league.

The Nuggets may be the only team in history to have a fan base strictly composed of bandwagon fans…of their own creation of course.

-You ever get through a fantasy season in which there was a controversial trade only to discover in the playoffs, after the fantasy season is over, that the trade was actually quite fair? Let’s just say that my “fleecing” of Joe Thornton from one of my league’s rookies this season is looking like an actual win for the rookie.

Tell me what you think of a trade The Rook offered me that I accepted:

Joe Thornton (who at the time had potted all of four goals in the previous month and a half, was the 9th ranked center on yahoo, and is currently being dominated by the Dallas Stars)
Brad Boyes (who did lead the Blues in goals, only to basically do nothing after the trade until the final week of the season)


Marty Biron (who may make the conference finals)
Cory Stillman (who ended up on Ottawa’s top line before they were mercifully shot down by the Penguins in the first round)

I’m sure many of you will bust on me for fleecing a rookie, but in a season in which I fell literally ONE GOAL short of making the finals I’m sure Karma took care of what ever discrepancy existed from the trade. The lesson here is that it is of the utmost importance to fleece the rookies in your fantasy hockey league early and often, despite the objections other “protectionist” managers.

How else are the kids gonna learn?

-Speaking of Marty Biron, this caught my eye over at Dobber Hockey today:
“You know... I said this two years ago the moment the trade happened, but I would just like to say it again - If the Leafs were going to trade Tuukka Rask for a starting goaltender, they should have done it for Martin Biron not Andrew Raycroft. What were they thinking? It was no secret that Biron was available and the Sabres definitely would have jumped on the offer. Am I really that much superior in the pro scouting department as the entire Maple Leaf organization? Hmmm, I think I just answered my own question there.”

My reaction to this was to smack (in my mind) every dissenting manager in my fantasy league right in the baby maker for being so stupid. And yes I’m quite bitter.

-Finally, one of my hobbies is to go on to Red Wings fan sites and read the comments. I do this in local papers as well, because few things angry up the blood quite like an uninformed opinion.

An ongoing theme on Abel to Yzerman at Kukla’s Korner has been for Wings fans to make fun of the phrase “old time hockey” as it relates to the Avalanche. I actually owned an Avalanche shirt with this phrase on it at one point, and even I thought it was kind of silly, which is why I bought the shirt. If anything it proved to me that marketers will do anything if it means a sale. Like changing the home colors of the jerseys from white to dark. And yes, Bill Hicks is break dancing in his grave right now.

True, Colorado may not have as deep a professional hockey tradition as those cities that were granted an original six team, but here are a few facts and figures that should bring the Wingnuts back to earth a bit…as I flip through this month’s edition of Scientific American and wonder where this world would be if reading that mag were a required activity, instead of endless hours of Hannah Montana reruns…

Stanley Cup Championships
Red Wings- 10

The Wings were founded in 1926 and have existed for 82 years.
The Avalanche came to Colorado in 1995 and have existed for 13 years.

The Red Wings have averaged .12 Stanley Cups per year of existence.
The Avalanche have averaged .15 Stanley Cups per year of existence.

Major Relevant College Hockey teams (NCAA Titles)

University of Michigan (9)
Michigan State (2)
Michigan Tech (3)
Lake Superior State (3)
Northern Michigan (1)

University of Denver (7)
Colorado College (2)

Michigan NCAA titles-19 spread between 5 teams
Colorado NCAA titles- 9 spread between 2 teams

I’d like to point out that Colorado ranks #2 behind Michigan in total NCAA hockey titles, besting other “hockey states” like Massachusetts, Maine, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In fact, DU (tied with North Dakota) is second only to Michigan in total titles (9 to 7), and was the last college to win back-to-back championships.

So tell me again how Colorado is lacking a hockey tradition, Wingnuts. If anything information like this should make the rivalry run deeper.

I’ve got the Avs squeaking out a close one tonight, assuming the Wings are allowed entry into the Can from DIA. I expect the “barn” to be noisy and raucous…and to my peeps in the upper deck, try not to literally kill anyone wearing red.

We are Americans after all…

For my next act I'll attempt to pinpoint exactly why Coloradans hate the color red beginning with the inbred Nebraska Cornhuskers and ending with the arrogantly stupid Boston Red Sox.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fixing the Avlalanche

Over the last couple of days I’ve had a number of friends confront me with their distress and disdain over the condition of the Avalanche. Mostly everyone is in shock, and angry about the 2-0 series deficit. Here are some theories on how to fix the Avs on the first day after what may have been the worst weekend in Colorado sports history.

By my estimation Jose Theodore is sick. And I don’t mean “wicked” or “badass” I mean the man seems like he has some kind of bubonic flu at this point. I’ve played with the flu before and I’ve got to tell you, no position in any sport is more difficult to play while battling headaches, nausea, muscle stiffness and the inherent lack of timing brought on by massive amounts of NyQuil.

The question here is whether or not Joel Quenneville starts Peter Budaj in Theo’s spot for game three. For all intents and purposes Budaj has played the Wings well, and not allowed any crap to go into the net that hasn’t come off the stick of Johan Franzen.

If I were a betting man I would expect to see Theo back in net. If he struggles early he’ll get pulled. In this case “struggling early” should constitute anything in the area of pre-game sweating, a ghost-white complexion, glassy eyes or the potential presence of one Paris Hilton.

Because seriously, nothing on Earth sucks quite as bad as having to strap on damp, disease ridden pads while trying not to puke.

(Side note here: if Theo is as sick as I think he is, then half the team is sick at this point. Disease in a hockey locker room has a tendency to spread like wildfire, considering almost nothing in a locker room ever seems to dry out, and pretty much smells like a dumpster.)

On the other end of things, Peter Forsberg must play. Period. For the Avalanche to have any shot at a comeback they have to take pressure off of the top line and drop Ryan Smyth back into position on the third line, where his presence has fueled the likes of Tyler Arnason and Ben Guite.

I for one was tired of Forsberg’s constant injuries during his first run with the Avalanche. This time around his bad groin is making my groin hurt and I’d like it to end. Enough is enough Peter. Suck. It. Up.

Lastly, the Avalanche checkers need to do something more than kick the puck to Detroit forwards in their own end. Players like Guite and Ian Laperriere need to play without regard for their own safety. The Avs were able to succeed against the Wild because they took the body. Maybe the time has come when they must devolve into a trapping team. I hate that I just wrote that, but as long as the top teams in the West continue to cling to the notion of trapping hockey, then the Avalanche must adapt and attack.

The bottom line is that there is very little hope for the Avalanche in this series. Detroit is the deeper team that has stuck to its program of puck possession hockey all season. Add in the above par play of Chris Osgood and the Wings are a strong team that is staring at the potential for dominance.

Even still, this doesn’t mean the only existing team of relevance in Colorado sports can’t put up a fight. And on the edge of defeat, at least battle hard until the end.

If anything it would be nice to see the Avs come back and put a lid on obnoxious Wings fans, who really seem to have nothing better to do in their lives outside of posting insanity-laced comments on Red Wings blogs.

Maybe some day I too can turn into an alcoholic, semi-employed, uneducated, 1985 Buick Skylark driving, Merit smoking pipe fitter, who is more than willing to educate anyone who will listen on weekday evenings about the worlds of hockey and workman's compensation whilst sitting shirtless atop a lawn chair set up in my buddy's garage...yay Upper Midwest!