The Golden State Warriors have just won the 2017 NBA Championship. Congrats to them. They pulled it off in just five games against a very good Cavs team led by superstar LeBron James. This is the Warriors second trophy in just three seasons (three straight finals trips) and from the looks of the roster, they should be highly competitive for years to come.
Just days before that, the Pittsburgh Penguins became back-to-back Stanley Cup champs after beating the Nashville Predators in six games. It was a hard fought series but the experience and leadership of Sidney Crosby was too much for a young Preds crew to overcome. That now makes five Stanley Cups for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Three since 2009. That’s dominance.
The 2016 sports season is finally over. All the hardware has been handed out and now we can finally look back and spot the trends. The data tells a simple story. The same jerks who always win, won again. In the four major professional sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB), only the Chicago Cubs were not a recent champion of the 2016 winners (Patriots, Warriors, Penguins). What’s the deal? Why do we only ever see the same few organizations on the podium? It’s a drag to always see the same guys celebrating.
In football, the 2016 season ended with yet another New England Patriots Super Bowl victory. Yawn. Don’t get me wrong, the actual game was great and historic. Seeing the Pats climb back was a sports memory no one will soon forget but the overall outcome was boring. Brady wins his fifth ring in fifteen years. Give someone else a turn.
Thank God for the Chicago Cubs. If it wasn’t for them then we would be stuck watching sports re-runs of the same victory parades over and over again. The Cubbies made history and ended one hell of a drought. That’s a good story. That’s what we need. Redemption, the under dog, the cinderella story. Something new!
But baseball isn’t always the outlier. The San Francisco Giants have three World Series wins since 2010. Overall, the MLB seems more wide open than the other sports but maybe that’s just the perception. So what now? It’s clear that across sports there is an upper class of franchises and these teams are the ones that win the big games. What’s the lesson? Steal the model. Copy what’s working. Steal away their coaches and personnel. Change your culture. Whatever it takes.
As we enter the summer months where we only have MLB action to hold us over or as many call it, the dark days, we can only hope that this year will see some new faces on the Wheaties box.
It’s almost time for another group of warriors to drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup of destiny. The defending champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are annoyingly back in the trophy round. Their opponent, the Nashville Predators, are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. And I for one, am rooting for the new guys. All across sports, we see the same major market teams always hoisting the championship hardware. Let someone else have a turn for once.
I really wanted the Ottawa Senators to make the Final. They pushed the Penguins to the brink. Double overtime in game 7 but alas, Pittsburgh proved yet again they are one of the best outfits on ice. That final score bummed me out. No Canadian team has made the Stanley Cup Final since Vancouver in 2011 and the last Canadian team to win it was Montreal all the way back in 1993. That’s sad. They invented the sport but are relegated to watching the Stanley Cup instead of competing for it. And our northern brothers will have to wait at least another year before recapturing hockey’s top prize.
If you aren’t from Pennsylvania, then the Penguins should be the obvious villains in this series. They have been dominant in the sport for the last few years, they are defending champs, have a roster full of stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray. Plus those black jerseys with that menacing mascot of theirs. I just hate them. Crosby especially. He is so good but he has a face that you just want to smash. Phil Kessel is cool though. Like a goal-scoring teddy bear but will buy you a beer. But seriously, Penguins please don’t win again. That would be great. Thanks.
Now, let’s meet the good guys. The unlikely crew from Nashville taking the playoffs by storm. In the net, is Pekka Rinne the Finish goaltender who is absolutely crushing it right now. He leads the postseason in every major goaltending stat (GAA, Save %, Wins, Shutouts). Rinne is the number one reason the Preds have made it to the Finals. But Nashville is a sneaky deep squad featuring ballers like PK Subban, Mike Fisher, James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen and Mattias Ekholm. All the tools are here. Let’s hope they can put it together.
In terms of the matchup, you have to give the advantage to the Penguins just based on experience. They’ve been here before and they know how to win a Cup. But that may not be an issue if Rinne keeps up his level of play. Part of me wants to see Pittsburgh get swept but that won’t happen. The series will probably need 6 or 7 games to determine a winner. Which is fine because that sounds like a great Stanley Cup. Let’s just hope we get the right ending. F the Penguins.
For those of you that live under a rock, this past Sunday was the Super Bowl. Now, obviously the Super Bowl is the biggest sports game of the year. Millions of people across the country get together, drink beer, eat wings and enjoy the game with friends. It’s just unfortunate that the winners of biggest sports game of the year are rewarded with such a mediocre trophy.
I’m not going to sit here and take anything away from Sunday night’s game (except that the commercials were TRASH). In all honesty, it might have been one of the greatest football games I’ve ever watched. Between the insane comeback, the Julio catch immediately followed by that Edelman catch, even that Gaga performance, Super Bowl LI was everything any of us could’ve asked for. Now, with that being said, the lack of a proper hardware to reward such a great game is a travesty.
The 1964 Maple Leafs sip victory from the greatest trophy in sports.
I like to think that the first Lombardi Trophy was a last minute thing. They probably forgot to buy a decent trophy and someone just decided to take a football, glue it on top of traffic cone and then spray paint the whole thing chrome. If that was the true story I might even be okay with it, but its not. Aside from holding it, touching it and kissing it there’s literally nothing you can do with it. Maybe use it as a paper weight when you have as many as the Pats do but that’s about it. You can’t drink a beer out of it, you can’t eat your morning cereal out of it, you can’t put a baby inside of it. There’s a new one every year so you don’t get your name etched into it for all of eternity, There is no Keeper of the Lombardi Trophy, whose sole job is to transport and protect the trophy. Guys on the winning team have no interest in spending a day with the Lombardi Trophy once they’ve won it. It’s just a lame football (fully inflated, mind you) perched up on a traffic cone and spray painted chrome. Nothing more, nothing less.
Lucky for us, the greatest trophy in all of sports isn’t awarded until June so we still have something to look forward to this summer.
You may not have noticed, but the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup and no one (outside of Pennsylvania) seems to care. I dig hockey and I only saw a few games of finals. As stated before, I don’t like either the Penguins or the San Jose Sharks very much but still, something was off here and it wasn’t just me. Most of my hockey loving friends were equally checked out. What was going on? Why wasn’t there more excitement for the biggest stage of NHL competition? I asked a few buddies and tried to figure it out.
First stop, SBS’s resident hockey expert, Antoine Poutine. I was certain he would have something super thoughtful and revealing to say. I was kind of surprised by his answer:
“The Stanley Cup was a classic matchup between one of hockey’s all-time great bitches, Sidney Crosby, and hall-of-fame caliber bitch Joe Thornton. I watched it a little bit until it started burning when I peed, which is usually how I react to Crosby. Turning it off was soothing.”
Next, I talked to Steven, our Pittsburgh fan. At least he must be into it, right? I mean it’s a hometown championship. His words were few but spoke volumes to the phenomenon we are experiencing:
“Well, now I know what it’s like to be a Patriots fan.”
Maybe it’s because the Pittsburgh Penguins are so good that it’s boring. Both the outcome and the gameplay seem old hat. Look, I’ll give Phil Kessel his props, but I’m just not that interested. Maybe everyone just really hates the Sharks and Pens. I continued polling the staff and most seemed to agree with the frustration felt by Antoine.
“I could only dislike this more if it was the Blackhawks winning a Stanley Cup.”
“As soon as Pittsburgh clinched a berth to the Stanley Cup Finals we knew it was over. Props to SJ for making it interesting but overall I think people cared more about Warriors vs Cavs.”
“It’s baseball season.”
“I’d be more inclined to keep up with the Stanley Cup if ESPN showed any interest. They’ve got two analysts that cover the entire sport.”
“I’m just glad the Sharks and Warriors both lost so the Silicon Valley engineers could stop pretending they like sports and get back to work on the next social media app to look at boobies.”
Damn. that’s a lot of shade being thrown around. But all these different voices are pointing at something. A flaw. The NHL would be wise to closely monitor this situation. Looking beyond the ScoreBoredSports staff, we find proof backing up our claim. 2016 saw a steep drop off in TV rating for the Stanley Cup finals. SportsMediaWatch states a 29% drop in viewership since last year. That’s massive. I’m not sure what the league can do beyond pulling strings to keep Pittsburgh out, but it must do something or hockey will be headed for ruin.
Leave your thoughts about the Cup, the Pens, the Sharks or how you think we can fix this problem in the comments below.
Well, it’s that time of year again. After months of grueling playoff action, it’s time for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, pitting the San Jose Sharks against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s been a long time coming for San Jose players and fans alike. This will be the first time in franchise history that the Sharks will play in a Stanley Cup Final.
It will be a thrilling time for the Sharks, particularly veteran forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Marleau has been in San Jose since he was the second player selected at the 1997 NHL Draft; he has played 1,411 regular-season games with the Sharks and another 165 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thornton arrived in 2005 in a trade with the Boston Bruins. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns has emerged as one of the better defensemen in the NHL and was recognized last month when he was named a Norris Trophy finalist. Burns had 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in the regular season. So let’s take a look at both teams and talk about how either one of them could be hoisting the greatest trophy in sports.
I hate to say it, but the Pens have a pretty good chance at hoisting the Cup.
The Penguins have been a different team since Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach 28 games into the season. Sullivan has allowed the Penguins to use their speed to their advantage, and top players like centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, right wing Phil Kessel, and defenseman Kris Letang have thrived. Crosby scored 36 goals and had 85 points during the regular season, and he and Malkin each have 15 points in the playoffs. Letang has 10 points and a plus-4 rating.
Matt Murray has supplanted Marc-Andre Fleury as the No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh after the latter sustained a concussion March 31. Fleury had a chance to grab his job back in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he allowed four goals on 25 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss. Murray turned 22 on May 25 and has 28 games of experience between the regular season and postseason on his resume, but he has shown the poise of a veteran and his teammates have full confidence in him.
Crosby will always be the first name mentioned when it comes to Pittsburgh’s offense, but the Penguins are loaded up front. The acquisition of Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer has paid dividends; Kessel enters the Final as Pittsburgh’s leading scorer this postseason with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in as many games. Monday, he’ll play his first game in the Final.
Kessel is part of what has been dubbed the “HBK Line,” consisting of left wing Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. Bonino has 12 assists in 18 games, and Hagelin, one of the League’s fastest skaters, has five goals and seven assists.
Bryan Rust is going through the playoffs for the first time, but he sure doesn’t look rattled. Game 7 against Tampa Bay arguably was his best of the postseason; he scored each of Pittsburgh’s goals in a 2-1 win. Rust likely will skate with Malkin and Chris Kunitz, who has 10 points in 18 games.
It’s no secret Pittsburgh’s defense begins with Letang, who is one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL. Letang is averaging 28:46 of ice time in the playoffs and has two goals and eight assists in 17 games. But he had two points in the Eastern Conference Final, and the Penguins may need more from Letang on the score sheet against the Sharks if they hope to finish this off.
Letang’s main defense partner, Brian Dumoulin, who scored his second goal in 116 career NHL regular-season and playoff games in Game 5 against the Lightning, is steady defensively and plays more than 20 minutes per game.
San Jose Sharks:
Marleau and Thornton will dominate the early storylines in this series, but center Joe Pavelski was born for this time of year. Pavelski has 13 goals in 18 games this postseason, including four game-winners. The first-year captain’s leadership on and off ice undoubtedly is one of the biggest reasons San Jose has gotten over the hump and reached the Final.
Center Logan Couture and Thornton are first and second in the NHL in assists this postseason, with 16 and 15, respectively. Each is extremely creative and a weapon on the power play. Couture’s 24 points lead the NHL.
Right wing Joel Ward is doing everything Sharks general manager Doug Wilson hoped he would when he signed him as a free agent on July 3. Ward has brought grit to San Jose and has 11 points in 18 playoff games. He is very familiar with Pittsburgh going back to his days with the Washington Capitals, so Ward should know what to expect in this series.
Ward’s line is centered by Chris Tierney, a 21-year-old who had seven goals in 79 regular-season games and has five in the playoffs. Swedish left wing Melker Karlsson continues to be a solid third-line left wing who is responsible in each end.
Burns is the star of San Jose’s defense and is capable of getting on the score sheet every time he’s on the ice. He enters the Final as the Sharks’ third leading scorer with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) and is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time.
Burns isn’t the only elite player on San Jose’s back end. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been spectacular this postseason, shutting down the opposition’s top forwards one series after another. Vlasic blanketed the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, who had 13 points in his first 14 games this postseason in the Western Conference Final, helping to hold him off the score sheet until Game 6. Vlasic is paired with Justin Braun, who was plus-3 in Game 5 against St. Louis and played 22:23 in the series-clincher.
San Jose’s power play has improved since the regular season, when it was third in the League at 22.5 percent, and is ranked second in the NHL this postseason at 27.0 percent. If the Sharks can keep the puck in the Penguins’ zone and Thornton can continue to find players like Pavelski and Marleau in the slot, their chances of winning the Cup increase dramatically.
Then there were four. Only four bands of bearded warriors left in this epic quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. In case you just woke up from a hundred year slumber, here is the situation. First, out of the West we have St Louis Blues battling the San Jose Sharks and out of the East we have the Tampa Bay Lightning clashing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Winners of these series will meet for a chance at historic greatness. Let’s meet each team and get caught up as we speed toward the Stanley Cup Finals.
St Louis Blues
If the Blues do finally capture their first Stanley Cup, the opening chapter of that story is how they overcame the Blackhawks in the first round. That was a herculean feat. Seems like every solid Blues team in the past is always bounced out of the playoffs by Chicago, Detroit (before the conference shift) or whoever had the hot hand. Not this team. Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes and Troy Brouwer are scoring. Plus goaltender, Brian Elliott, looked excellent against Dallas. St Louis will be singing at the end of the year, but it might not be the usual blues. Look out.
San Jose Sharks
I really don’t like these guys. They are loaded with firepower and seem to score goals at will. The tv tells me this is Joe Pavelski’s team now and it’s different. Maybe that’s true. But I still don’t like him, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton. Though, I do like Joe Thornton’s beard. This offense is scary. If you play them, you better play clean because you don’t want to give them an extra skater. Their power play is killer.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Those uniforms make them look very superhero-esque and they have been playing like it. GM Steve Yzerman has built a wicked team that is young and talented. Last season, the Lightning lost to the Blackhawks in the finals. Now they are looking to rebound and take that next step. If Tampa Bay does win its second Stanley Cup (first was 2004) it will be on the back of goalie Ben Bishop and the stick of Nikita Kucherov.
Pittsburgh is the only franchise of the four that has won a championship (2009) in the last decade, so they seem like the de facto favorites. It’s Crosby, Kessel, and Malkin doing work as usual. They only needed six games to get past a very complete Washington Capitals crew that looked primed for a deep playoff run. Tampa Bay will have their hands full. Sounds dumb, but stop sleeping on the Pittsburgh Penguins. I feel like most hockey fans outside of Pennsylvania aren’t ready to see Sid the Kid lift another Cup. Yuck.
So which crew will be drinking champagne out of Stanley’s Mug? It’s a tough call. I don’t want the Penguins to win again. I hate the Sharks. Tampa Bay has Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman running the team but they’ve knocked the Wings out of the playoffs the last two years and I don’t want a hockey trophy to live anywhere in Florida. So, by process of elimination, the St Louis Blues will hoist the Cup. It’s cosmic sports retribution for the Rams leaving (too soon?). The city loses a football team but gains a Stanley Cup to help cushion the blow. Makes sense to me.
Hockey is my favorite. I played it as a kid and was fortunate enough to be a young fan in the 90’s when the Red Wings were a dynasty. As much as I love football, a big part of me knows that the Stanley Cup playoffs are way more satisfying and epic than the short post-season lead up to the Superbowl.
But over the past decade, I’ve noticed my enjoyment diminish a little in watching the NHL. I’m not as wild about the way the game is played these days, and I know I’m not alone in a vacuum, as I find myself agreeing completely with crotchety old Mickey Redmond as he complains incessantly about this or that.
I love hockey. I love Mickey Redmond. I want to love the NHL like I used to. The problem doesn’t lie within the great sport of hockey by any means; it lies within the current gestalt of the NHL, which makes change for the better possible.
Therefore, I humbly present two realistic and one completely absurd ways to make NHL hockey better:
1.) Move from the North American to International Rink Dimensions. Totally Reasonable.
Hear me out on this one. In the junior leagues they call the NHL “the big show” for a reason. Not only are the players tops in terms of skill level, they are now also enormous human beings (sorry Theoren Fleury), and all those huge bodies on the ice means that players are running out of room. My biggest pet peeve with the league today is the emphasis put on shot blocking by players other than the goalie. And why wouldn’t you try to block every shot headed towards the net if you’ve got tons of beef on the ice and narrow real estate?
But even if you love the selfless bravery and tactical wisdom of shot blocking, I argue that giving these amazing athletes more space gives them more skating room to create even better plays. A larger ice would reward individual player speed and creative passing on a team level. Think about how much more exciting four-on-four hockey is, and how amazing the new three-on-three overtime is. I don’t want to get rid of a player position; I just want to let those guys have enough space to do their thing. This one’s provable.
2.) Less Offsetting Penalties. Send the Guy Who Instigates for Two Minutes. Also No More Slashing Calls For Hitting a Guy’s Stick With Yours. Totally Reasonable.
I’ve already mentioned that I like four-on-four hockey, but it feels like it’s become de rigueur for the refs to just send both guys to the box at the outbreak of any sort of monkey business. If a guy takes a glove to the chops he’s going to react, and it’s not like the refs are likely to make a roughing call if he shows restraint and does nothing, so there’s no incentive to not smack the guy back. In some ways this one’s a little more philosophical, but penalties should mean something instead of just helping the referees tamp down rising tensions or corral chippy play. Besides, giving out a real penalty to the instigator is going to make a bigger statement to both teams in a game anyway.
Now I don’t necessarily agree with this sentiment, but the NHL says they’ve been rejiggering their rules to create more goal scoring. By that measure, a more decisive policy in regards to what should be offsetting minors, and what should be a single penalty would create more power-play opportunities, which means more goal scoring.
As far as the slashing is concerned it’s not expressly stated in the NHL rulebook that a broken stick as a result of another guy whacking it with his is an automatic penalty, but that’s certainly how it’s treated these days. The reason this needs to change is based on how these composite sticks are built (and it’s not to last). Watch fifteen minutes of hockey and you’re guaranteed to see at least one guy’s stick splinter into kindling, usually from an attempted slapshot from the point. So of course there’s going to be plenty of needless penalties from when one guy’s stick turns into spaghetti after some minor contact with another, which brings us to my final suggestion…
3.) No More Composite Sticks (or at Least Use Sticks that Don’t Explode on Contact). Totally Absurd.
I know the technology’s not going to move backwards and there are obvious benefits to today’s composite sticks. When they don’t fall apart they’re capable of some truly blistering shots. But I’m also completely sick of all the stick breaking one sees in any and every NHL game. Whether a broken stick aborts an awesome slapshot, puts a defenseman at a disadvantage during a penalty kill, or causes one of the unnecessary penalties mentioned earlier, I think the players and companies need to come up with something sturdier and more stable for the good of the game.
When I was a kid I played a couple years with a “Bending Branches” stick. It was solid wood, weighed a ton, and had a rhinoceros as a logo. It never broke, and I’m now left curious to think of what the game would look like today if, like in baseball, NHL players were required to use wood-only sticks. It’s never going to happen, but it’s a fun thought.
It’s not like I’m going to stop watching NHL hockey anytime soon. It might not be the game I watched in the 90’s, but it’s close enough. It’s also worth mentioning some of the things that the NHL has done right since those days: the aforementioned three-on-three overtime is the best change I’ve seen in all my years, and eliminating the two-line pass was a great move as well. Still, part of the fun of being a fan is the belief that the game can always be better.
There’s a reason why people say there’s nothing like playoff hockey…because there really isn’t. From the mind-blowing plays to the incredible saves and everything in between, playoff hockey is a very special time of the year.
So, in honor of this special time of year, and the incredible moments that come with it, I present to you Must-See Moments from the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs (so far):
1) Henrik Lundqvist takes a stick to the eye
2) Jonathan Drouin gets double-teamed by Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader
3) Crosby scores on a breakaway
4) Scottie Upshall gets tossed
5) Tavares sets up Nielsen
6) Kyle Clifford lays out Tommy Wingels
7) Dangle, Snipe & Celly by Trevor Lewis
8)Pavel Datsyuk gets his tooth knocked out, Henrik Zetterberg picks it up
9) Shawn Thornton chirps Cal Clutterbuck
10) Ovechkin checks Schenn into the Flyers bench
11) Mason lets up a goal from center ice
12) Tyler Johnson gets tossed
13) Callahan lays out Datsyuk
14) Rick Nash snipes the right corner
15) Corey Crawford goes after Robby Fabbri
16) Andrew Shaw flips off the ref
There you have it. The best moments from the 2016 playoffs thus far.
“The men of the New York Rangers, and we their fans, know that there are no easy victories. That’s how we play the game, that’s how we live our lives, that’s how we like it.”
Detective Steven McDonald said it best during his speech at MSG last week. Nothing was easy for New York this season and with the Rangers set to face the Pens in first round for the third straight year, this theme will certainly carry over to the playoffs. Facing the high-flying Penguins will be no easy task for the Blueshirts, especially with their top blueliner, Ryan McDonagh, out for the foreseeable future.
And while many people (myself included) may have wanted the Rangers to take the easy way out (like the Islanders did) and take a loss to the Red Wings in their season finale, that’s not how the Rangers, and New Yorkers for that matter, do things. It’s the hard way, but that’s how we like it. When Marc Staal was asked about the Rangers 3-2 win on Saturday, this is what he had to say:
“You don’t lose to play somebody else. If you do that, bad things happen. You play to win. We’re not scared of anybody.”
Hell yeah, Marc Staal. The Rangers knew EXACTLY what they were doing. They knew that the hottest team in the NHL was waiting for them on the other side of that win, but they didn’t care. Instead of running away like the Fishsticks, they came out ready to face their challenge head on. If that doesn’t speak to the type of team the Rangers are, then I don’t know what does.
I can go on and on about numbers and statistics but, to be honest, I don’t think it matters. The playoffs are a whole new season and anything can happen. The Rangers are ready to do things the hard way and every New York Rangers fan is right there behind them.
So here’s to the greatest time of the year and another shot at the greatest trophy in all of sports. We Want The Cup!
LETS GO RANGERS!!!!
P.S. Check out Keith Yandle’s article for the Player’s Tribune
According to noted scholar Erwin Tillinghast’s Wikipedia page, the Observer’s Paradox is described thusly:
In the social sciences, (and physics and experimental physics,) the observer’s paradox refers to a situation in which the phenomenon being observed is unwittingly influenced by the presence of the observer/investigator
The implication, then, is that the mere act of observation itself has the power to affect that which is being observed, including its outcome. So it’s not unreasonable for me to assume that when I watch a game, I have a certain and unique influence on the score. As a fan, knowing this inarguable fact is validating and, perhaps, delusional. Surely, ritualistically kissing my Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnastakanov “Believe” patch, yet to be sewn onto my Darren McCarty Jersey, had a singular sway on the ’98 Detroit Red Wings-Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Final!
But taken to its logical extreme, this reality can also have terrible consequences. For instance: that yellowish (not maize) Block-M shirt I wear? A definite bad luck charm for the University of Michigan Football team, but good for the Men’s Basketball team. Skip watching a Wings home game? Whoops, turns out Larkin scored four hat-tricks. Watch the next game, and it’s another third period meltdown. What happens when the Sports-Observer’s Paradox goes wrong?
This Sports-Observer’s Paradox covers the unfortunate experience of your viewership befouling the entire existence of a high-level athlete. Every time you watch this supposed all-star, it’s anything but an all-star experience. They can’t hit a shot! You also know the feeling too well, when your friends are talking about Athlete X and glowing about that one goal or that clutch shot; you’re confused, because you know that this player is hyped and popular, but you thought at least your buds would get it. Each time you watch Athlete X, they’re stumbling over themselves, dribbling in circles, or shooting the puck / ball / whatever out of bounds to the benefit of nobody. Are you somehow ruining these fools?
Hockey: Rick Nash
(stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com)
The story to tell here is not so complicated. Every time I watch this guy, he becomes a sluggy vortex of avarice, happier to shoot the puck in the general direction of the goal than to pass it to a teammate. I guess it’s okay to be a big goal-scorer if you’re a prolific beast who hits and pelters the goal with a hailstorm of galvanized fury; Rick Nash is a marshmallow. He’s a gummy, semi-hardened marshmallow that’s been through the ringer, but still a marshmallow. He’s a goal scorer that doesn’t score enough to be such a terrible creator and provider. He needs to give up the rock. Shit or get off the pot, as they say.
Nash is likely to plop a goal in when I’m not watching, but since he joined New York, he’s played dozens of nationally televised games. Many of these came during the last two years, during which time Nash’s Rangers played 44 playoff games. That’s two deep Stanley Cup runs, which can be a drain both physically and mentally when a player is locked in. But when a player is Rick Nash, they only score EIGHT TIMES IN FORTY-FOUR GAMES. That’s $8 Million a year well-spent! Gotta love an all-star that excels when it doesn’t matter, and makes no one around him better. Rick Nash: deadly once every six games.
To be fair, many, many other people have also seen this version of Rick Nash.
Soccer: Arjen Robben
It’s not even a secret, but rather a defining trait: Arjen Robben has a signature move. He cuts left. He has a very, very deadly left foot. He loves his left foot.
He loves it for a reason. One would think that this predictability would be a tremendous Achilles’ heel, and every time I watch him, that looks to be true. He’s maddeningly predictable, but not just in that move; his featherlight, dainty paws are vulnerable to tackles, grass, wind, and strong emotions. If an opponent feels a powerful sense of ennuí, Robben is likely to fall over and draw an unwarranted card. Yet…
…It works! But still, fuck this guy, right? What a flamboyantly aggressive display of spinelessness. I actually saw this moment, which was technically a very positive outcome for the Dutch national team. But what’s good for the Oranje is not always good for the sport. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the unbecoming flair of this floppery is directly caused by the incompetence of all soccer refereeing, but still — it’s not a good look. Whenever I watch Robben, this is the best he can do. I always miss the incredible moments that are apparently happening.
You look at that, and it’s easy to say that these lousy Barcelona defenders are fools to have put themselves in such a vulnerable position only to fall prey to a guy who can’t even use his right foot! He ALWAYS CUTS LEFT.
HE GOES… to his right foot
…Except when he doesn’t. But of course, I’m always at work at that time, and I never see those moments, or any of the other brilliant, shameless antics. So he remains a craven chump to me.
The examples go on and on, such as the excellent quarterback mirage of Carson Palmer 2014-15; Kyrie Irving, the best player on the planet that I’ve never seen do anything on the court when there are any sort of stakes; ditto for NHL goalkeeper Roberto Luongo. Is this the result of some faulty alignment of all the parallel universes in existence? A tear in the space-time continuum? String theory?
The ScoreBoredSports Science Division is currently hard at work researching this phenomenon in our secret hydroponic laboratory. While we wait for the answers, you, the reader, can help by asking yourselves: which athlete is your paradox?
Did you know that the Stanley Cup has a bodyguard? That’s right. The oldest trophy in North American sports travels with its own muscle because it, uh… needs to.
The Cup was first awarded back in 1892 by Lord Stanley of Preston, current Governor General of Canada, to the winners of an amateur hockey league. Today every player of the winning NHL team gets one day to personally celebrate with Lord Stanley’s Mug. So basically this thing has been to more parties than LMFAO. Filling it with champagne is usually just the icebreaker. This thing has been taken to strip clubs, tossed into swimming pools, fed a Kentucky Derby winner and even accidentally set on fire.
My favorite story comes from 1962, during a playoff game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Edmonton Oilers. A proud Canuck named Kenneth Kilander was apparently so upset that this team of Americans might hang onto The Cup of Cups for another season that he took matters into his own hands. He went to the lobby of Chicago Stadium where the cup was on display, smashed the glass and stole it.
When he was stopped by a cop outside, he said something like “I’m taking the cup back where it belongs. To Montreal!”
Growing up in Chicago, I’ve seen passionate sports fandom manifest itself in a lot of different ways: cursing, binge drinking, threats of violence. But grand larceny? That’s new to me. Bravo, Mr. Kilander, bravo. Slow clap.
Welcome to ScoreBoredSports.com’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview for the Central Division. Early last year, people wondered whether or not the Central was a division that featured seven playoff-caliber teams. The defensive profligacy of the Stars, continued stagnation in Winnipeg, and a dismal Wild season only saved by the heroics of a castaway goaltender, destabilized that dream. This year, the division’s outlook is not as rosy, with the customary dismantling of the Championship Blackhawks underway, questions surrounding uneven rosters in Colorado, Winnipeg, and Dallas, and the all-important question of when Patrick Roy will finally kill a man on the ice by the sheer venom of his hubris.
Quenneville and Toews will need to do a lot to keep the Blackhawks contending this year.
Well, might as well get this out of the way: the Blackhawks will not be as good this year. As salary cap issues forced Stan Bowman and co. to dismantle this fantastic roster, so, too, did their Stanley Cup aspirations crumble. They’ve shed key championship pieces like Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya, Antoine Vermette, and Brandon Saad. Gone, too, are Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp, each of whom played valuable minutes in a spectrum of roles. More pressing is the cloud that looms over the season in the form of a sexual assault allegation against Patrick Kane. No matter the outcome, nor the increasingly troublesome nature of the case, this inexorably will affect the team’s ability to concentrate and focus on the games at hand, whether Kane is present or not. But if any team has the structure to withstand such turmoil, the stalwart Hawks are the squad to do it. When a team is a dynasty on the level of these Hawks, every player tends to ooze leadership. The overall fall from surefire contender to a low playoff seed is an easy fall to predict, but make no mistake: this team still features the game’s best defenseman in Duncan Keith, the game’s best leader in Jonathan Toews, and the game’s best coach in Joel Quenneville. They added players on the cheap that have good potential to be productive, such as Ryan Garbutt and Artem Anisimov, and Trevor Daley might slot into a second-pair defensive role quite nicely. They are likely to make the playoffs, but fight for every inch along the way. It’s an ever-crowding West, but the Hawks still have too much on their roster to be silent come playoff time.
There’ll be a lot more of this from Pavelec and the Jets this year.
I’m mainly concerned that this team is what it is, which is not a contender — and stagnation kills in the NHL. Trading Evander Kane for Tyler Myers may have shielded the tender fans in Winnipeg from whatever hangups they had about Kane, but Myers looked uneven in the playoffs. I’m just not convinced he’s Chara 2.0, or ever will be. I can see the appeal of a towering defense featuring Dustin Byfuglien and Myers, with massive slap shots and punishing hits aplenty; but I can also see, just beyond the hulking giants, a terrible goalie in net. Ondrej Pavelec is not an NHL starter, but boy has he started a lot of NHL games. I know you might be thinking “but look at his numbers last year, they’re quite good!” Maybe, but he’s not. He will be bad this year, don’t trust this false hope of a 50-game blip. Pavelec will be bad again; Michael Hutchinson has offered tepid promise, but remains far from a proven commodity. The team’s above-average PDO (tied for 8th in the league) also suggests that the returns their forward crop offer may too be diminishing. This is a team that performed above average and is unlikely to shoot or stop the puck that well again, plain and simple. Their off-season of doing essentially nothing but reintegrating 23 year-old KHL refugee, Alex Burmistrov and re-signing the aging but adequate, Drew Stafford is a paltry re-load for a team that didn’t look like much in the playoffs. They’ll need continued development from young Mark Scheifele after a promising first full NHL season last year, but even so, I don’t see it this year in Winnipeg.
Colin Wilson and the team celebrate the fact that I know who he is now.
Here’s an interesting fact: Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher, and Craig Smith are different people. Who knew? In researching the Nashville Predators roster, I must have done at least three major spit-takes, ruining my wife’s computer (twice). Contrary to my initial impression, those aren’t randomly-generated white guy names; they are, apparently, all unique individuals that each score between 30-50 points a year, are usually good for around 20 goals, and can play multiple positions. That’s so incredibly useful now that Nashville has a first line of players to reliably score in Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, and breakout All-Star candidate, Filip Forsberg. This marks a potentially powerful triumvirate if Ribeiro can continue to provide steady distribution, Neal re-ignites his potent shot, and Forsberg continues to develop on his current track. Throw in useful players like Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom to provide spine and leadership, and a reclamation project in Cody Hodgson, and this team is balanced and versatile. Most importantly, take a look at that loaded defense. Remember top draft pick Seth Jones? Yeah, he’s still that good. Shea Weber trudges along mercilessly firing 20 goals in a year while bludgeoning everyone in his path. There’s all kinds of depth and skill in Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and newly-inbound veteran Barret Jackman, siphoned from a division rival, no less. Most importantly, Pekka Rinne is back and, barring another serious health condition like the one that robbed him of his 2014 season, should continue to be one of the game’s elite keepers. It says a lot that he was able to bounce back from that scary bacterial infection following hip surgery, and put up one of the best seasons of his career. Watch out for Stanley Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette to harangue his way to some serious contention for home ice in the West.
St. Louis Blues:
Tarasenko re-signed to win some Stanley Cups and drink some beers…. And he’s all out of beer.
Will this be the year that Ken Hitchcock finally finds the right X’s and the perfect O’s for the perennially-underachieving Blues? Since he assumed the head coaching position in St. Louis, they have been consistently excellent in the regular season, finding enough firepower to accent a stalwart defense. Yet they’ve never been past the first round, and have foolishly ridden an ever-rotating goalie carousel toward soft playoff exits. Last year, they looked to be a powerful force against an inexperienced Wild team, yet squandered home ice in game five against a still-scorching Devan Dubnyk. Vladimir Tarasenko was about the only player who came out of the series looking good for the Blues. This past summer didn’t spell doom, but rather, an ultimatum: last chance.
Looking at this year’s squad, there’s some potential for addition by subtraction in losing Barrett Jackman, as his off-season departure opens up space for younger players like Petteri Lindbohm and Robert Bortuzzo to step in and add a bit of pace in the back end. Other than that, they mainly added depth in Kyle Brodziak, and secured Vladimir Tarasenko for eight years.
This is a team that tended heavily toward defensive play last year, with a 49.5% ratio of offensive to defensive zone starts (essentially a composite of how and where each player on the team is deployed and used). This indicates that King Kenny’s attention to defense hasn’t fallen away like his career as a world-renowned breeder of exotic birds. And though it may not be true that Ken Hitchcock was ever a decorated breeder of tropical birds, doesn’t it feel like he should develop a passion outside of hockey? I just worry.
Anyway, in spite of the Blues’ craven history of disintegrating at crucial moments, the future looks just as bright as last year’s Division-winning team’s could have been. The aforementioned Tarasenko is the crown jewel in an offense laden with high-level two-way players like David Backes, and the newly-acquired Troy Brouwer, but it seems like they’ll need more pure offensive value out of Paul Stastny, who, on balance, had the worst season of his career in 2015. The Blues continue to have questions in their goalie rotation, with Brian Elliott losing favor to Jake Allen in the last third of the year and into the playoffs (until Allen turned in some poor performances of his own). Yet the answer doesn’t appear to be on the horizon, so the hope is that Elliott can regain his peak form and Allen can use his time as a backup to learn what it means to be a true NHL starter. With a loaded roster and a championship-winning coach, the sky isn’t even the limit; only the Blues can hold themselves back at this point.
As much as I’d like to offer some insight into the Wild’s season, I feel like Devan Dubnyk’s incredible run in net last year disrupts my ability to really figure out what kind of team this is. Unfortunately, my highly sophisticated intuition tells me that it will be nearly impossible for Dubnyk to reproduce such a run. However, late-career goaltending surges are not out of the question. Dwayne Roloson, somehow, took a 2011 Lightning team to within a game of the Cup final at age 41; this came after an up-and-down career in which, excepting another strange run to the Cup final with Edmonton five years earlier, he never really established himself as a top-tier keeper. Probable Ted Nugent disciple, Tim Thomas, burst out at age 33 from being a spotty starter to a four-time all-star, Stanley Cup, Vezina, and Conn Smythe winner. So there’s some hope that Dubnyk, now 29, will take that seemingly random leap into excellence. Smart money says that won’t be the case, and the Wild might re-discover some of their early-season malaise from 2014-15. One thing I do know: Jason Zucker needs to pass the fucking rock. Dude had 21 goals and 5 assists last year. That’s like, Rick Nash-level selfish, bro. I’M OPEN ON THE POINT, ASSHOLE.
Once again, Colorado boasted high puck luck with one of the NHL’s best PDO numbers, yet still managed to be a big mess. A clue: the Avalanche had the league’s second-worst Corsi percentage, also known as Shot Attempts on NHL.com (the stat combines shots, shot attempts, and blocked shots, the idea is to measure how a player impacts the team’s ability to direct the puck at the other net). But beyond any of the numbers, the Avs just sucked last year, so we can’t really say they’re falling. Picking up veteran blueliner Francois Beauchemin should strengthen the hapless defense, and the addition of Blake Comeau, who had excellent possession numbers last year with a high personal Corsi percentage, should hopefully help in that department. Ultimately, Patrick Roy is a an inflamed gonad and he will always be lesser than a Red Wing; never forget 12/02/95, you Stanley Cup-winning chump!
Did you know that, according to the Weather Channel, it will be 86 degrees and partly cloudy in Dallas, Texas, on the opening night of hockey season?? I’m deeply tempted to leave my comments at that for the Stars, but they’ve done enough to at least intrigue me over the summer. I don’t think they’re due for a significant push forward, nor a slump, but there’s potential for some impact with the summer acquisitions of skilled Cup-winners Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, and former Cup-winner Antii Niemi in goal. But each of those players is on the wrong side of thirty, and who knows how much is left in the tank. The Stars again play it cavalier with a thin defense, especially after losing one of their few NHL-ready defenders in Trevor Daley in the trade for Patrick Sharp. Under the guidance of their General Manager, former Detroit Red Wing head of scouting and all-around hockey savant, Jim Nill, the Stars strengthened their team through the middle last off-season, acquiring Jason Spezza as a formidable second-line pillar. The problem is that they neglected to carry six viable NHL defenders, and the team looked ghastly out of the back last year, allowing 257 goals, good for 4th-worst in the NHL. I don’t really see enough movement on this front to shift the terrain in any significant direction; the goaltending situation continues to compound the team’s defensive woes, now with two potentially over-the-hill Finnish keepers bringing great experience, but diminishing skills. Even the strong development of promising rookie D-man John Klingberg would be insufficient cover for such a porous defense. Yet, with the likes of Tyler Seguin and unlikely Art-Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn, the team have an elite duo of firebrand offensive talent atop solid cast of top-six forwards. The questions persist: can this Dallas team mature and take care of the puck in their own end? Does the combination of Kari Lehtonen and Niemi have enough in the tank to turn out wins with a shaky defense in front? Does the influx of former Chicago Blackhawk championship teammates create some sort of old-man spark? Can you see the ice around my enormous cowboy hat made of beef jerky?
Stay tuned to your favorite internet tube for part 3, coming soon!