(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
How dare this guy score the goals when it would have been really funny to see a guy go 0-fer on 100-plus shots?
The fact that he scored twice perhaps makes up for a season’s worth of ridicule but still, it would have been cool to see history made once again. While 141 players in league history have gone an entire season (playing at least 70 games) without scoring, the vast, vast majority of them are defensemen.
Only nine of them were forwards. The most recent was Craig Adams, who went 0-10-10 in 82 games in 2009-10. It would have been hard not to score even by accident on a team with Malkin and Crosby, but here we are I guess. Didn’t get the Kunitz bump.
But let’s pour one out for Dave Brown, who played 729 NHL games over 14 seasons, and somehow scored just 45 goals. He went a full season without scoring twice! Once in ’88-89 (0-5-5 in 72 games) and again in ’92-93 (0-2-2 in 70). That’s amazing. Even more amazing? One time he also scored 12 in 47.
7. Keeping the same geniuses in charge
Like, okay, shakeups aren’t something teams like to go through. We understand this. It’s why guys stay in the jobs they have longer than they should.
But things are getting goddamn ridiculous in Winnipeg. How many seasons can this team fail to live up to its promise in a row while Kevin Cheveldayoff (understandable-ish) and Paul Maurice (baffling) keep their jobs? This team has one playoff appearance in the five years since they moved to Winnipeg. They have zero playoff wins.
There are plenty of mitigating factors but it’s hard to imagine anyone lasts five years without a playoff win and keeps their jobs for a sixth, right? Especially in Canada. Especially as the fervent love of the Jets wane and they can’t even sell out a 15,000-seat building in Manitoba! There’s nothing going on in Winnipeg! People are actively staying away! These people used to scream the name of the friggin’ ownership group during “O Canada,” that’s how in-the-tank they were for the damn Jets. And now they don’t even want to show up.
It takes a lot of work to burn that much goodwill in three or four years, but Maurice did it. Truly an amazing accomplishment.
6. Certain Canadian teams making the playoffs
Tough to decide who was more obnoxious about their teams barely making the playoffs, Toronto or Edmonton fans.
We get it, you went a long time without making the playoffs. But damn, dudes, they let 16 teams in every year. A lot of them suck! Maybe you’re not one of them this year — I think both Edmonton and Toronto are decent clubs, especially relative to expectations — but c’mon. They’ve let the Blue Jackets in more than once. They let the Jets in two years ago. Hell, the Red Wings made it the last few years and they’ve been terrible!
Making the playoffs is barely an accomplishment. Playing well in them, not getting rolled by a better team, that’s what you should be doing with your “happy to be here”-ass attitudes.
No one is “trolling you” by saying this. It’s simple statement of fact.
5. A new coach and GM in Los Angeles
Well listen, hey, firing Darryl Sutter is not going to go well. I guess you can argue that the lack of goals over the past several years were his fault, to a certain extent. It’s long been theorized in the stats community that while the Kings are dominant in terms of shot attempts, the way they do it also results in a shocking low shooting percentage. And if that plus injuries plus an older roster plus bad luck combined to cost them a playoff spot, you can see where the coach gets canned.
But like, who do you hire that coaxes a better performance out of this particular group of players without a major overhaul (buyouts, hoping Vegas inexplicably takes Dustin Brown off your hands, etc.)? Hmm, probably you don’t. That’s my guess.
As for Dean Lombardi, you gotta say that a lot of his problems were his own doing. The Brown contract. The Quick contract. The Gaborik contract. The Martinez contract.
But here’s why I don’t feel even a little bad for Lombardi getting canned: The Slava Voynov situation. Sure, there’s no way he could have predicted Voynov would beat the hell out of his wife and get suspended forever. Losing a very bad person who’s also a very good No. 2 defenseman overnight is going to hurt your club. A lot of Lombardi’s problems arose from trying to react properly to that situation.
His handling of the Voynov thing? Letting him practice with the team even when he was suspended, being wishy-washy about the allegations? Gross. Unforgivable, frankly. People chalked it up to his capital-L Loyalty. He’s so loyal. Those guys are like his family. Oh it burned him here but don’t we love that about him?
Where was the loyalty with Mike Richards? Dude had a scrips problem, but also a bad contract and a declining ability to play in the NHL. “Loyal Dean” Lombardi acted so fast to file contract termination papers that his keyboard exploded.
So Lombardi’s loyalty — which did indeed hurt his team’s long-term cap flexibility and is indeed what got him fired in the end — only went so far. If you could help the team, even if you hit your significant other, well, that’s a family thing. If you have a substance abuse problem that stems from playing a brutal sport? Tough luck. We have a cap to consider. Thanks for the out, hope you get the help you need.
You hesitate to say “Lombardi’s a bad person,” of course. But I ain’t sheddin’ a tear for him like I am for Sutter.
4. A new coach in Florida
Not bringing Tom Rowe back as coach is a good idea. Maybe you see what Darryl Sutter can do with a very good young two-way No. 1 center (Barkov), elite young No. 1 defenseman (Ekblad), and above-average goaltender (Reimer).
Seems to me the last time he had all those things and a solid supporting cast, he had some pretty good success. Just floating that idea.
3. A new coach in Dallas
I have never at any point really felt like Lindy Ruff was a particualrly good coach, so the decision to turf him and bring in Ken Hitchcock is understandable, and I think something that’s going to help the team in the short-term.
With that said, though, what was he supposed to do with this roster, and particularly those goalies? Again, the move overall is good, but unless you can get someone who bumps your team save percentage up by 15-20 points, there are bigger issues that Jim Nill hasn’t addressed — and probably can’t.
2. A new coach in Vancouver
Well, it’s a good start. Now you only need to can the GM and the team president and you’re really getting somewhere in the neighborhood of “fixing the Canucks.”
It’s a horrible team that legitimately thought as recently as three months ago, “We’re a piece or two away from making the playoffs.” Technically true, if those pieces are Carey Price and Connor McDavid.
But none of these guys have a real clue how to get closer to winning. They traded for Brandon Sutter and Erik Gudbranson, to be part of The Young Core. Well, great. It’s going great.
Firing Desjardins? Yeah good move. You should have made it two years ago. Should have never hired him, quite frankly. Hindsight’s 20/20 but come on.
This team has been a mess forever. Firing the coach should only be the beginning.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh yeah baby.
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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