Canucks Cult Classic: Rick Rypien is your champion

Back in March I started up a Canucks Cult Classic tournament (only players who played in the last 20 years were in it) to try and give Canucks fans a fond look back at some of the players who might not have achieved the heights of fame of superstars, but still enjoyed a period of time in the fans heart. To let us look back at some old hockey clips, and have a good laugh at times gone by.

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To no one’s surprise, Rick Rypien won the entire tournament (You can check out the tournament bracket HERE). The outpouring of love and affection for Rick from Canucks Nation continues to this day, a testament to the popularity of the kid from Alberta. As hard as Rick fought for the Canucks on the ice, Canucks Nation will continue to match that effort by fighting on his behalf off the ice, keeping his memory strong.

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Eddie “Bedroom Eyes” Lack took second place, which again, was not much of a surprise. Eddie’s popularity on Twitter combined with the voting process taking place on Twitter, solidified a strong voter base for him to ride all the way to the finals. It’s hard not to vote for the guy who lives the taco life so hard that he has an actual tattoo of a taco on his body now.

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Third place was taking by The Hoff, or as we fondly remember him, “The last defenseman who looked good on the Canucks powerplay.” He took out a surprisingly popular Mason Raymond with a close 55% to 45% victory.

Other fun notes from the tourney:

  • The biggest margin of victory was the absolute beating Rick Rypien gave Darren Langdon in Round 1, with a 97% to 3% victory, with at least one of those 3% admitting the voted Langdon by mistake
  • Recency bias and the popularity of the 2011 run powered all 2011 representatives through round one, with none of them losing their match ups
  • As much as people ragged on Mason Raymond, there is a lot of love for the guy who set the standard for “skates really fast and falls down a lot”. He got 74% of the vote or higher for the first four rounds until he got KO’d by the champ Rick Rypien in round 5.
  • Round One match up between Andrew Alberts and Rory Fitzpatrick ended in a tie, which had to be decided upon by Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy. He went with Alberts, leaving Fitzpatrick once again on the outside in a voting situation.
  • Lee Sweatt proved he was the superior Sweatt brother, taking out brother Billy 72% to 28% in the first round.
  • Anson Carter shockingly made it to the third round, taking out Trent “Drive him to the airport” Klatt, Aaron “5 FPS late” Rome, and Cody “The Chosen One” Hodgson before Eddie Lack dropped him with a taco.
  • Jayson Megna did not get out of the first round, sadly. Tanner Glass of all people smacked him 90% to 10%. Coach Willie voted as hard as he could on all the devices he owned, but it was to no avail.
  • Rypien tore through some of the big favorites and had arguably the toughest path to the finals. His list of opponents included Maxim Lapierre, Kyle Wellwood, Jarko Ruutu, Mason Raymond, and Eddie Lack.

To everyone who partook in this fun little exercise, I thank you for your comments, memories, and talks we had along the way. It was a lot of fun, and I will be doing another tournament of sorts like this next March (but with a different theme)! Until then…

The Tryamkin Saga

If Tryamkin was just a buddy of yours who moved west to try his hand at working for a construction company in Vancouver before deciding it wasn’t for him, this situation would be rather bland. It would be a story of someone trying out a job in a new country, deciding he didn’t quite understand what the hell the foreman with the twitching mustache was always talking about, and heading back home to a more comfortable, happier situation.

You’d give him a bro hug, give him a bro hand shake, and tell him “You do you bro, text me when you have your Xbox set up and we’ll play some Fifa.”, and you’d take a selfie together to commemorate the moment. That would be the end of it.

Except this story took place in the world of pro sports, where nothing is as simple as that. Instead we have two camps starting to form. Camp Happy and Camp Give Your Balls a Tug.

Camp Happy wants Tryamkin to just live life, and enjoy it, you know? Whatever makes him happy. In his interview given after he decided to sign back in Russia, Google Translate painted a picture of a man who had a hard time understanding why hockey decisions were made. He didn’t know why his ice time fluctuated the way it did. He didn’t know why he didn’t start the season with the Canucks. Hell, he almost went home to the KHL in November, after the Canucks tried to convince him to go to the AHL, despite having a clause in his contract that prevented such a thing. Going back to the KHL makes life much easier for Tryamkin, who also suggested, via our favorite translator Google, that ice time wouldn’t be an issue back home.

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And it’s also probably safe to say culture shock played a part in the decision. Vancouver has had an interesting history with Russian players (Bure, we’re talking about Bure, you all knew that), and not very many Russians have played on the team as of late (shout out to Shirokov). It’s easy to wonder how prepared the Canucks were to help acclimate Tryamkin to North America. Do you bring Pedan up even to be a healthy scratch just so there is someone who can speak Russian with Tryamkin? Maybe Pedan can help talk Tryamkin through the transition into North American life. Of course, we don’t know what the Canucks did behind closed curtains, but the speculation will be there that “more could have been done” to help ease Tryamkin into Vancouver.

Then there is the hockey itself. Nikita found himself in the NHL, where “HACK THE BONE!!!” is more likely to be screamed then “nice job on that poke check”. This was put clearly on display when he was surprised as to why Jamie Benn would want to fight him after a clean hit:

Doug Lidster talked about how Tryamkin would apologize after taking a penalty, and you could see it on his face any time he was in the penalty box. Nobody looked more ashamed of himself than Tryamkin when he put his team down a man. While we pretend to celebrate that mindset with the Lady Byng trophy (“I’ll take what trophy does Alex Mogilny hate the most for $500, please”), if you’re a big defenseman, the NHL wants you to play mean. We’ve seen it with Marek Malik in Vancouver. When you’re a tall dude, people get confused why you aren’t crushing skulls out on the ice. “But dude, you’re tall. You were lucky enough to be tall. Use that size to your advantage, damn it!”

Even worse, Nikita was SO good at it when he did get physical. He was smart about when he laid out his hits, he wouldn’t often put his team in a bad position chasing a hit (hey Gudbranson). His super human strength rag dolled people left and right without him even trying. It was like watching Andre the Giant on ice, you just want to see him body slam people into the ice. Except Nikita probably just wanted to know if anybody wanted a peanut, instead. It was hard not to get caught up in the thought process of “But what if Nikita was mean every game?” It was easy to day dream of having an angry giant on your team.

Yes, the team sat Tryamkin down and tried to make him emulate Chris Pronger. Which was done I am sure with good intentions, but you know when the video showed Pronger stomping on Kesler’s leg or ending Dean McAmmond’s career, he was probably weeping asking “why would you wish that on anyone?” That’s also ignoring the absurdity of showing someone a unique generational talent on defense and telling them “be more like that”. It would be like showing a local indie wrestler a picture of Brock Lesnar and telling them “be more like that.”

Especially when juxtaposed to the helpful caring Tryamkin we saw most of the season. He was the first to lend a helping hand to a fallen teammate. This is a guy who hit Horvat with a shot and was the first on the scene to apologize. Or was on the bench patting Edler’s knee after Alex was bent over in pain. Or was helping slide an injured Sutter to the bench. It truly felt like “being mean” wasn’t really a huge part of Nikita’s makeup.

Then there is the infamous “step up” quote Coach Willie dropped on Nikita.

I know in media we can overreact to things, but that does seem particularly over the top from the coach to lay a loss at the feet of Tryamkin. Needless to say, you can envision a season of a team hammering away at him to play a style he just wasn’t comfortable with wearing down on Tryamkin.

Then you add in family concerns (his wife is from Russia), and you can easily see how Nikita found the KHL a more appetizing place to ply his trade.

On the other side, you have Team Give Your Balls a Tug (Sutter is a full time member I’m pretty sure, Goldobin’s membership is pending).

This is the side that will put the onus on Nikita to gut it out. To get over the hardships of adjusting to life in the NHL. To put the team first and do what they ask of him. To make it his life goal to be the best teammate he can be, and that includes doing whatever they ask of him (like, in sports. If they ask him to kill someone off the ice, he can say no.) “Team first!” is a big issue people have with the Tryamkin situation because hockey is a team sport, and again, hockey has historically been very very very punishing to people who stand out and do things that are seen as “bigger than the team”. It’s a culture that shut down PK Subban for doing triple handshakes with Carey Price. Hockey can be weird sometimes.

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Then there is the Cup. The Stanley Cup is the best trophy in sports, don’t @ me. Winning that Cup and getting to hoist it over your head is the ultimate dream for many a hockey fan. It’s ingrained in our North American hockey culture that you do everything in your god damn power to achieve that goal. You’ll play on crutches, you’ll play on broken legs, you’ll play with a missing face, you’ll do whatever it takes to win that Cup. There is nothing quite as fun as getting swept up in the wartime metaphors used to describe a team willing themselves to a Cup win. It’s the most romantic aspect of hockey and one I admittedly quite enjoy. There is a reason one of the most famous pictures in Canucks history is a beaten down Trevor Linden and Kirk McLean.

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You get a hockey boner just looking at that.

So when a player isn’t actively doing everything in his power to win the Cup, it can be hard to take. “But I don’t understand, why wouldn’t you want to win the Cup. Because it’s the Cup. That’s the god damn slogan man. ‘Why’d you murder that dude? Because it’s the Cup’ is probably a viable legal defense in Canada. Many people would give their left nut (or half their….labia?) to play for the Stanley Cup, so when you perceive someone not going all in for that dream it’s almost an affront to you as a person.

There is also the Russian factor. Again, we are diving deep into “hockey culture”, and I am not trying to bag on it too hard, because I grew up in it and participated in a lot of it so I understand it, but there is some shortsightedness to it. I mean, Don Cherry as a kid? That guy was the best. Rock Em Sock Em videos? Amazing. Those videos were YouTube before there was YouTube for hockey fans. When you got older though, you began to realize he had a very xenophobic approach to things, and you can see a lot of that in hockey culture in regards to Russian players.

From not bothering to learn how to pronounce European names (and to be fair, Bieska), to disliking “Euros” for not playing physical (it took the most illegal elbow of all time from Pavel Bure before Don Cherry gave him the time of day), it all resulted in talk of Russian’s being these mysterious enigmas. “They dance in the shadows, they eat babies at night, they cover themselves in blood, what else do these enigmatic Russians do???” Anytime Crosby has a scoring slump he’s “gripping the stick too hard”, anytime Ovechkin struggles, “he’s an enigmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” sort of deal.

An easy example of this bias is Shane Doan. Shane Doan plays in the NHL’s version of the KHL. It’s a different lifestyle in Arizona. You go to the rink in shorts year round. Nobody really cares about your career when you’re over there. And you’re never going to win a Cup there. Yet year after year, Shane Doan refuses to leave there, because he’s….happy there. You’ll see a bit of pushback from some fans questioning his desire to win, but for the most part Shane Doan is seen as this noble creature, a guy who puts family life before hockey, and god damn, what a hero for sticking it out in the desert even if we witness his soul actually collapsing in on itself when Hanzal gets traded.

But because there is the slightest (tiniest) chance he can win the Cup, and probably because he’s Canadian and thus not legally allowed to be labelled an enigma, nobody really questions his choices on choosing life happiness over career aspirations. There is also the romanticism of playing for one team his entire career to drizzle over top of it as well, and he’s the Captain, so “team first!” is easy to apply to him. Yet realistically, both Doan and Tryamkin chose situations they were most comfortable in, with family being a driving force, both of which significantly reduced their chances of winning a Cup.

What’s the end point, you ask? There is no real person or thing to blame in the Tryamkin situation. There is truth to be had from both camps. Honestly, Tryamkin has leverage a lot of players don’t have; an alternative to the NHL that they are happy with accepting. It would be foolhardy to think more players wouldn’t choose an option over the NHL if they felt it was on par or better than what they currently get. One only has to look back at the WHA entering the hockey world to see that players are, at the end of the day, independent contractors who will chase down the best path for them (Frankie Corrado would kill for a WHA league).

The NHL has a history of being the big dog in the yard (“This is my yard now” exclaimed Gary Roman Reigns Bettman amidst a shower of boos), and will do anything they can to flex their muscle. Look at the lockouts, look at the NHL emails that get released during court cases, or simply look at that absurd “reserve clause” which basically stated “fuck you for trying to have options”. I mean, think about that clause. It’s insane to think that existed. “When your contract runs out, it doesn’t really run out? Like, when the contract dies it kind turns into a ghost, and that ghost keeps you for a year, then the next year, that ghost has a ghost, and it keeps you for a year, and it keeps doing this until you die. UNTIL YOU DIE.”

The NHL has done a very good job of not only indoctrinating the idea of “Cup or nothing” but also “NHL or nothing”. Make no mistake about it, Gary Bettman probably pulls out lotion and kleenex at night when he reads the “reserve clause”. The NHL would go back to that time in an instant.

So yes, at the end of the day, Russian players will always be risky acquisitions. They have the KHL option that many other players don’t have. There is a legitimate concern over investing time and money in them. But it’s not because they’re enigmas, it’s because they have options.

Tryamkin simply chose to exercise that option.

So I say to Tryamkin, “You do you bro, text me when you have your Xbox set up and we’ll play some Fifa.”

The curious history of Kevin Weekes

While doing my Canucks Cult Classic tournament, Kevin Weekes’ name came up when he faced off against Raffi Torres in the vote off. Some people wondered why Kevin Weekes made the Cult Classic list. Well, children, gather round and let me tell you a tale…

Kevin “Goalie of the Future” Weekes arrived in Vancouver via the infamous Pavel Bure trade. Dave “Not a throw in” Gagner, Ed Jovanovski, and Mike “Which one” Brown.

There were high hopes for Kevin Weekes, as the team had been in a constant state of “please dear god we need a number one goalie” ever since Kirk McLean’s career began to spiral downwards after 1994. Dubbed “The goalie of the future” by Brian Burke, Weekes’ play in Vancouver was highly anticipated. People were desperate for a high return on Bure (Jovo was the big piece in the trade, but nobody was quite sure he’d turn into the player he eventually did for Vancouver), so a lot of eyes were on Kevin.

Alas, Weekes only lasted two seasons in Vancouver. He went 0-8-1 in his first season, and 6-7-4 in his second. He had brief flashes of potential but he never lived up to the large label Brian Burke had thrust upon him.

Now, goalies that don’t last long in Vancouver are nothing new. “The Goalie Graveyard” moniker wasn’t awarded to the city for no reason. What was interesting about Weekes was the turn of events that led to him being traded. Events that culminated in a debate over an injured knee, and a rather bizarre car jacking story.

On his way to the game, he’d gone into a dry cleaner in downtown
Vancouver to pick up some items he’d dropped off earlier. When he walked out of the shop, he was approached by a man.

“Are you Kevin Weekes?” the man allegedly asked.

“Yes.”

“Follow me,” he said.

At this point, Weekes told coaches and team security, the robber hopped in his car and started driving.

It’s worth a read, the article also goes over Marc Crawford absolutely losing his shit at Kevin Weekes over his knee injury, as well as the rest of the details of the alleged carjacking incident.

I often think of time periods in Canucks history as Before Social Media and After Social Media and can’t help but think that Kevin Weekes is lucky this occurred before Twitter had reached it’s height. Think of the piles of car pictures people would be tweeting at Weekes…

So yes, while Kevin Weekes might not have had a long storied career in Vancouver, he certainly earned his spot in the Canucks Cult Classic tournament. A story that will live in Canucks history infamy.

 

 

Canucks Cult Classic Tournament!

In the proud tradition of “oh shit it’s March Madness time, I better hop on that sweet sweet bracket madness goodness and do something for my brand”, here comes my entry into all things tournament related…

The Canucks Cult Classic Tournament!

So, the premise is simple. I didn’t want to do a “Best Caunck of all time!!!” tournament because that would just boil down to the same 6 guys, and eventually Henrik Sedin would be given the crown, with someone complaining about Pavel Bure getting shafted.

Rather than do that, I thought it would be fun to do a tournament to crown the lesser known guys. Maybe a guy who didn’t have quite the career of the top guys, but had an impact in Vancouver nonetheless (negative or positive).

This means it could be a guy who had a solid period of hockey in Vancouver but was always kind of lost in the shadows to other superstars. Maybe it’s a guy who had one magical moment on the ice that stands out in your mind. Maybe it’s a guy who was notorious for something. Maybe it’s just a guy, standing front of a girl, asking you to love them. For whatever reason, maybe you found someone on this list that you just became a huge fan of, and you want to see them win.

I set the parameters to plays within the last 20 years to make this as accessible to people as possible, so the younger folks didn’t have to pretend to know who Jiri Bubla was. I also tried to avoid the recency effect by not taking anyone from the last year or two, mostly because I fear everyone voting Jayson Megna out of spite.

As with all tournament choices, there will probably be some names on here you think should have made the cut. I asked a panel of hockey experts to vet this list, and we agreed upon these names. Experts ok? So back off. I SAID BACK OFF.

Also the seeding in this tournament is random, so don’t jump all over me for Mason Raymond being ranked number 1.

I will tweet out the match ups on the ol’ Twitter box, and you can check out the list of names and tournament progress here:

http://challonge.com/CanucksCultClassic

OK, let’s keep this clean, and have fun out there, you know? Let’s just have some fun. Stick to the systems. Give it 110%.

More stories from Lee Chin’s time with the Canucks

If you haven’t heard by now, an athlete from the Gaelic Games was sent over to spend some time with the Canucks this season, to see how things compared between the two endeavors. It’s like Wife Swap, but with sports.

Enter Lee Chin, a hurler from the Gaelic Games. If you’re like me, and curious what “hurling” is, one person described it as “a cross between field hockey and murder.”

Which is why it was a bit surprising to find out that Lee Chin was taken aback by his time spent with hockey.

Highlights of the article include Lee’s shock that the Canucks drink beer the day before a game, and the Canucks usage of the age old “slump buster”, here called a “change up”, where a player gets wasted and tries to get laid, in order to break a scoring slump.

Now, being the investigative journalist I am, I knew there was more to this story. This felt like it was just the tip of the ice berg. So I reached out to my contacts, and I got more of Lee Chin’s stories. You thought “change ups” were the most salacious thing to come out of his time here? Wait until you see the rest.

1.) “They had this thing where coach would blow a whistle and each guy would ditch his gear, lather up in oil and start barking like a dog. They called this “moon shining”. Once they oiled up they’d pair off and put on a helmet and charge straight at each other, trying to knock the other guy out with their head.

They had this little guy, looked a bit like an elf ain’t he, Tony Stretcher I think. He was small, but he was knocking guys out left and right. Ended up winning the whole bloody thing. They presented him with a crown after he won, and then them creepy Twins recited Swedish limericks in his honor. But like, deeply personal ones. You could tell they did their research and put a lot of effort into them. At one point this one bloke, Jason Megaman I think, just starts bawling his eyes out. It was quite moving now that I think about it.

Then Stretcher was allowed to pick the warmup music. “Moon shining” was just so they could pick the music for warm up. Bit of a shocker, ain’t it. We usually just hit random play on our ipod.”

2.) “After each practice was over, their coach would line up each player and tell them the good things they’d done, and the bad. It seemed pretty normal, if a bit excessive. Then when coach gets to this Megaman guy, he just looks at him and hugs him. Starts crying. Coach won’t let go of him. At one point it gets hard to tell who is hugging harder, Megaman or the Coach. And this goes on for 11 minutes and 14 seconds, give or take the minute it took me to realize something weird was going down.

So they just hug and the rest of the team just watches. Nobody tells them to move it along. We all just watch. Coach is whispering “never leave me!” and Megaman is all “I’ll never leave you.” and this goes on for near 12 minutes.

Finally they stop hugging and coach and Megaman high five each other, and coach moves to the next guy. I’m wondering what’s going to happen next, like, is this escalating to new heights, what else will we see. Next guy, Coach just straight up rears his foot back and punts the guy right in the tallywacker. Guy goes down like he’s been shot, he’s puking left and right. Coach stands over him and tells him he needs to “earn his ice time” and then screams at him “where’s your car now, bitch!”. Poor fella ruined his nice hair with puke. Golden Robin I think his name was.”

3.) “I met their President, real chipper fella, name of Trevor Linden. He seemed normal enough, but he wouldn’t stop eating granola bars. I mean, not just “oh he had 2 or 3 a day” I mean, he had 2 or 3 every 5 minutes. Bloke wouldn’t stop eating them. Double fisted them left and right. You’d talk to him, and you’d want to keep eye contact, but you couldn’t help but stare at all that granola that he was eating. He’d offer you a bar, but you could tell from the tone of his voice, he wasn’t actually offering.”

4.) “We were all at lunch when their Managing Officer Jim Benning comes to join us. We’re at some fancy steak place named after Batman’s home city, and Jim looks at the menu and just announces “Do they have steak here?” and everyone laughs and laughs. And I mean laughs. And this goes on for a couple of minutes, people laughing at this joke. Except their eyes, they ain’t smiling. Eventually one player stands up and begins applauding. Soon everyone is standing up, applauding, and whistling and clapping. I’m like “What the hell is going on here” but I just keep clapping because maybe this is some weird Canadian tradition and I don’t want to offend anyone.

Jim is sitting back looking right pleased with his self, when suddenly his face gets real angry. I look around, wondering what could cause it, and I can’t figure it out. Then I see him glaring at some bloke who sat down and stopped clapping. People gasp, and I mean it’s an audible gasp, right out of some sort of sitcom, and everyone looks over at this guy who sat down. This guy is taking a selfie of himself for Instagram.

Wouldn’t you know it, it’s that Golden Robin fella. Coach Willie comes charging out of nowhere, like, he wasn’t even at dinner with us so I still have no idea how he was there so fast, and punts this guy right in the ball sack yet again. Guy falls over, pukes left and right. Coach orders a “Knuckleball” and all of a sudden everyone starts punching and kicking this Golden kid, chanting in unison “Kill the pig! Bash him in! Earn your ice time”.

Then the Sedins read a really morose limerick to him. But again, it was really really good, assuming you could ignore the puking, bleeding guy on the ground.”

5.) “On my last day there, I was saying goodbye to the lads, and I was going to swap jerseys with Bo Horvat, a young kid who seemed to be quite good at his job. I got along quite well with him. So I’m trading jerseys with him when Coach comes in the room. Coach yells out “Give me a curveball” and Bo just walks away from me, stops our conversation dead in its tracks. Found it a bit rude, yeah, but he walks over to the middle of the room. All the players are standing in a circle now. They all take out beers and shotgun them in the room and I’m thinking “they have a game in an hour, this seems crazy” but they’re shotgunning beers left and right. Then someone puts on the soundtrack to Grease, and these guys are singing along to Grease. Hutton is singing Summer Nights with Tryamkin, and this giant man is nailing the falsetto parts. Blew me away.

Then they finish up the song and head back to their stalls. Keep getting geared up. Horvat talks to me like nothing happened.

That was probably the most normal thing that happened during my time with them.

Then when I left, the Sedins read a really nice limerick to me.

Good lads, the bunch of them, but I don’t think they know the science behind a lot of things.”

The era of Alex Burrows is over

By now you surely know Alex Burrows has been traded.

A quick glance at your social media timeline will confirm it. Sandwiched amongst the Trump tweets and Oscar memes, you will find hundreds of gifs of Burrows slaying the dragon against Chicago.

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“The Canucks are trading Burrows tomorrow.”

If you read enough of the tweets, you might even think that Alex Burrows recently died. The way people glowingly talk of Burrows and his career here certainly borders on over the top reverence.

After all, if you’re not from Vancouver and you simply check Burrows’ career stats, you might walk away confused.

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“Sure, 384 points and 822 games played is a solid career, but it’s nothing special. If it wasn’t for my bum knee I could have gotten that!” you tell your beer league buddies after a solid 12-9 win at 8 Rinks.

But that’s the thing about Burrows. He kind of excelled under the shroud of “nothing special”. It was kind of his thing. It’s how he worked his way all the way from being a Canadian ball hockey God to being a key figure for the Vancouver Canucks in their infamous 2011 Stanley Cup run. After all, if Kesler was the legs of the 2011 core, and the Sedins were the brains, Alex Burrows? He was the heart.

Which again, just underscores how bananas it was that Alex Burrows was out there, scoring goals, biting fingers, and being a pest, in hockey’s biggest game. This from a guy who went un-drafted in the NHL.

But if you look back at his career, you can see the same pattern repeat itself. Burrows, tossed to the bottom of the pile and forgotten about, grinding his way up the lineup. With the Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL, he was a fourth liner, watching future team-mate Radim Vrbata pile up the points while he grinded out his 30 points on the fourth line.

The next year? He watched as Pominville exploded for 121 points. Except this time? Well Alex Burrows doubled his output to 70 points, tied for third in team scoring.

The NHL though? They didn’t care. They had no time for a young kid from the QMJHL with a plucky spirit and elite ball hockey skills. He wasn’t a sure enough bet for them. So in a scene straight out of Rudy, Burrows had to make a choice. Give up on hockey, or fight for his dream.

Well, fight he did. And so began several years of Burrows trying to prove his worth. He played for a variety of teams that sounded more like Batman villains than actual teams.

The Greenville Grrowl.

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Yes, that’s right, they have three ‘r”s in their name. Get it? Grrrrr. Grrrrrowl.

Their logo looks like a puppy that wants to play fetch.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to dry heave.

Up next? The Baton Rouge Kingfish.

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Tell me you can’t picture Batman fighting someone named after that team.

“Well I say, I say, if it isn’t Mister Batman. Can I interest you in some of this here cornbread?”

Yes, I picture Foghorn Leghorn as the voice for this character.

Now, do I have questions about how a fish can hold a hockey stick? Sure, we all do. But we should probably move on.

Burrows’ first year in the ECHL? He got 32 points.

His second year? He once again doubled down and got 73 points.

Alex Burrows, working away, proving everyone wrong, yet again.

Next on the career docket? The Columbia Inferno. Which fair enough, is a pretty sweet name.

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Still sounds like a mid 90’s roller hockey team name, but cool nonetheless.

Once again we run into a weird dog based logo, however. This one looks like a dog with a bone you’re trying to take away.

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If you’re a child, do you want to hug that angry looking dog? Probably not.

Still, Burrows made it to the Inferno, and used his play there to once again move up the ladder. This time to the AHL Manitoba Moose (which sounds downright boring at this point).

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One step away from the NHL.

Now to many people, making it to the AHL is a giant accomplishment in and of itself. A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to work their way up to that level of hockey.

And in fact, Burrows bounced around a couple of times between the ECHL Inferno and the Manitoba Moose. There was plenty of time in there to think to yourself “maybe I should look for a normal job and forget about this hockey thing.” Except Burrows kept working away. And he kept working. And he eventually got called up to the Vancouver Canucks in 2005.

Alex Burrows, NHL hockey player.

And AGAIN, that was also a point in which many people would have been damn proud to obtain. Having a cup of tea in The Show? That’s the sort of thing you can use as a pick up line in bars for the rest of your life. Burrows, though, kept plugging away.

And initially we all saw him as a fourth line agitator. The dime a dozen guy who can play a couple of seasons for your team, maybe provide a few laughs annoying the shit out of the other team, then see ya later. 12 points in 43 games and 9 points in 81 games in his first two seasons seemed to confirm that.

Except Burrows did what he always does. He put his head down. He did what the team wanted from him. And he still managed to find a way to raise his game.

He puts out a 31 point season in 2008. He gets voted the most exciting player on the team. He gets voted the unsung hero of the team. He in fact gets voted the most exciting player three years in a row, proving he wasn’t a horrifying Zack Kassian anomaly.

All of a sudden Vancouver is loving them some Alex Burrows. Even better, they are loving how Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are turning into some buddy cop film. One guy a french Canadian, the other a guy from Michigan. Except they’re both bad cops, there is no good cop. Suddenly visions of the Canucks having Frick and Frack out on the ice, being an elite top level 3rd line duo float through Canucks Nation’s head. Tell Kelly we said hi.

But of course, it gets better. Suddenly one day, during an extended losing streak, Alain Vigneault comes up with a plan. The ol “I’ll just toss someone new with the Sedins and see what happens” plan.

The first thing that stood out? That move. The infamous breakaway move Burrows would use for many years to terrorize goalies.

Secondly? That goal celebration. Snapping the stick over the leg. Iconic.

The goal that turned around the season.

The goal that led to Burrows playing with the Sedins for many many seasons.

The goal that led to slaying a dragon.

The goal that led to a Burraparound.

The goal that led to Alex Burrows being a key figure in so many emotional situations. If there was a big moment, Alex Burrows wouldn’t be too far away from it. It didn’t even have to be a hockey situation. When Luc Bourdon passed away, there was Alex Burrows celebrating a goal in his honor.

It was moments like these that made Alex Burrows such a special player for so many people.

It’s also why when the media and other fans would go after Burrows, or when Ron MacLean went on his vindictive war path and used mind reading technology to try and bury Burrows for having the audacity to call out a bad referee, it just made people in Vancouver rally around Burrows even stronger.

Ron MacLean continued his war with Burrows for several seasons, even talking about how Burrows might have opened a gate up intentionally to hurt an opponent.

Which led to the world’s worst apology in which Ron name drops once again how he’s a referee, so you know, calm down.

“I’m sorry you guys got offended. We just like to have fun! Grapes? GRAPES IS THAT YOU? I’m a ref you know. Mike Gillis doesn’t know what the hell you’re talking about. GRAPES IS THAT YOU??”

But I digress.

The point is, there was, and still is, a reputation of Burrows being a trashy player. His reputation of being an agitator? Well deserved early on in his career. Burrows did what he had to do to make the team, and he has to own the fact he was pretty lippy during that time. I think Burrows would agree he regrets some of the things he said during that time.

The biting of the fingers, the hair pulling, again, not something he is going to be proud of. It’s not a great look in the macho world of hockey.

But what confuses people is how Brad Marchand was getting celebrated in 2011 (even to this day some people gun after Burrows more than Marchand), while Burrows’ was being buried. And Burrows, once again at the heart of an emotional conflict, became a kind of center piece of the “us vs them” mentality that was such a key part of that 2011 core. For some reason, that team was pretty much hated by everyone else.

Maybe it was because they won so much. Maybe it was because they had some cocky players.

Whatever the reason is, people outside Vancouver just really learned to hate them. Which yes, isn’t that shocking. Good teams get hated all the time. What WAS shocking was the level of hate Vancouver got.

Mark Recchi calling the 2011 Canucks the most hated team he’s ever played against? Really?

It’s weird. It really is. This isn’t a team that stood head and shoulder above other teams with dirty hits. This wasn’t a team that had a lot of players who actively tried to hurt people with illegal hits. Oddly enough Raffi Torres was probably their dirtiest player in 2011 yet Burrows got more hate than him.

There was just this big wave of “**** you Vancouver” that made people circle their wagons in BC. It’s what made 2011 such a big deal. Any Stanley Cup Finals is big, but there was something extra involved in that one. It truly felt like Vancouver vs The World. We actually watched as a Bruins team physically beat up, and broke, the Canucks, and somehow the Canucks were made out to be the dirty villains in all of it.

It still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Burrows was a central figure in all of it, though, so you’re god damn straight we defended our boy. Alex Burrows was one of us, so screw you for talking shit about him. Damn straight he bit someone’s finger, why you putting finger in his mouth anyways?? Sure, he could be a jerk on the ice, but what team doesn’t have those guys? Hate him on other teams, love him on yours, we all know those players. We had your back, Alex.

In the years that followed the Cup run, Burrows career continued. He scored fewer points. He began getting less time with the Sedins. Eventually he was relegated to the bottom lines, to the point where people wondered if he should be bought out of his contract.

But this is Alex Burrows we’re talking about. Just when you think he’s out, he finds a way back in.

All of a sudden in 2017, there’s Alex Burrows on the Canucks best line with Baertschi and Horvat. All of a sudden, there’s Alex Burrows chipping in goals again. All of a sudden, there’s Alex Burrows helping Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi up their game.

And then even at the trade deadline, there’s Alex Burrows. Agreeing to go to Ottawa. Getting a contract extension with Ottawa, helping the Canucks get the most value from him.

Even until the end, Alex Burrows remained the ultimate team player. There is a reason Ottawa wanted to trade for him, even if mostly for his impact on the room.

Every once in a while a player comes along to a city that people just connect to. And yes, the Sedins are the best players in Canucks history. People love them, no one doubts that. When they retire, there will be speeches for days.

But not in the same way people love Burrows. Maybe it’s because we can relate to Burrows and his never ending fight to live out the ultimate Canadian dream. Maybe it’s because Burrows wore his emotions on his sleeve. As good as the Sedins are, they are very muted with their emotions. Coldly efficient, like a step father who loves you but can’t quite figure out how to show it.

Kesler could have been loved, but he was like a shallow, hot girlfriend/boyfriend. Great in bed (playoffs), but you knew it wouldn’t last, so you just tried to enjoy it while you could. Now you stalk his Facebook timeline while drinking at night.

Alex Burrows was special, though. And this might seem overly dramatic. Maybe it’s coming across too strong. But take a look in a coffee shop on game day. Go look in your grandma’s closet. Gaze around the stands at a Canucks game. You’ll see a name on a lot of those jerseys.

Burrows.

Alex Burrows, a guy who started at the bottom, and worked his way to the top.

A guy who became a fan favorite.

A guy who became a leader on the best team in Canucks history.

A guy who was part of one of the greatest Cup runs in Canucks history.

A guy who just wanted to win da turd, you know?

He will be missed in Vancouver.

He will forever be a Canuck.

The 100 year analytics war continues in Florida

House Analytics Valois and House Old School Plantagenet seem destined to battle forever, in their war to control the NHL.

Today’s latest battle? The firing of a Florida Panther’s coach.

Yes, the Florida Panthers have oddly enough become the scene of a great fight between those who love their intangibles vs those who love their numbers.

I feel like I swing back and forth with agreeing with both sides on certain things. I tend to lean slightly more towards the numbered side of things, mostly because with the old school approach you get dismissed in arguments with “have you even played the game, bro” and :

I mean, as a writer, I should love this approach, writing yourself towards a conclusion that just seems to fit. You see a situation unfold in front of you, you don’t quite know why it’s happening, but hey, bad leaders have screwed things up before, right? And that group of guys seem soft spoken, right? Shouldn’t leaders be Mark Messier Alpha Males? Grabbing people by the scruff of the neck, chopping off their own arm so they can beat the opponent to death with it, and then shotgunning a beer after the game? That’s a real leader.

Yep, “soft leadership” it is!

Don’t get me wrong, I think players who have played at the NHL level can add insight we regular Joes don’t have. I also think there are some intangibles we can’t rate through a pure number based system. The analytics response is “we account for that in our models” but I personally don’t think the models can account for everything yet. Even if you look at today’s advanced stats, they have evolved a lot from where they were even five years ago, so things are always changing. Human nature is a hard thing to figure out, which is always a wrench in the engine of many a statistical model.

And both sides get their victories in the war. Sometimes a player advanced stats won’t stop talking about as being this hidden gem for years, ends up a bust. Sometimes a guy who is tough and “good in the room” plays for a couple of seasons before his career halts and he ends up as an analyst on TSN.

Sometimes a team wins a Stanley Cup and it’s randomly decided by Don Cherry that Shawn Thornton turned things around.

Maybe in a perfect world, both sides work hand in hand to see if they can combine their approaches to become the ultimate team.

But today is not that time. And now we watch as the Florida Panthers fire a coach, and outrage hits the media twitter world.

Now, to be fair, the Panthers situation is an interesting one. From most accounts it looks like the owner wants his guys to be running the show, and they are still in the midst of re-arranging the old regime. Gallant? He was from the old regime. And it’s been stated by some that the way he coached the team wasn’t in line with the new regimes thought process.

It’s also not crazy to suggest that an owner can have a negative impact on a franchise. That has been the soup of the day in Vancouver for years now. Unorganized teams exist. They can also be run very poorly. So yes, you could see the Panthers firing Gallant and simply shrug your shoulders and toss it on the dumpster fire you think the Panthers team is becoming.

It could also be just what Bob McKenzie states, though, a philosophical divide between management and coaching. And maybe this was always the inevitable conclusion of an old school coach not getting on board with a new approach. In a perfect world the new regime would have come in, made all their changes on day one, and started anew. But that is rarely how the NHL works. Look at Brian Burke when he took over the Canucks. Even he gave Keenan a token “old college try” before firing him.

And in the end, it almost doesn’t even matter which side is right. The way I look at this, is it’s a great experiment. If you’re one of those old school guys, a guy so angry they fired one of your buddies who always gave you a great quote, or a guy who gets so angry when “computer nerds” influence a decision, why not just sit back and watch?

Seriously, this is one of the greatest experiments of the Analytics War we’ve had yet. Why not applaud the Panthers going all in on numbers. Hell, cheer them on, lend them your calculators, and watch them burn if you’re so sure they’re clueless. See what happens.

For most people, this promises to be an exciting time for people wanting to see if different approaches can work in the NHL.

Showing a high level of vitriol over this move comes across as “Old man mad at the kids playing on his lawn” more than anything else. Disagree with it? Sure. Calling out the “geeks and their numbers?”

In the words of a great man…

ilya

Player types in Overwatch

OK, so if you’re anything like me, you’ve caught the Overwatch flu, and you’ve caught it bad. If you’re not staying up way too late playing it, you’re reading about it and watching POTG on Reddit the next day. You’re sleep deprived, have made questionable decisions about playing more Overwatch versus showering, and you’ve possibly started using Overwatch lines during work meetings.

“How should we approach this project Wyatt?”

“Build em up, break them down!”

“…what?”

“Don’t worry my friends, I’ll be your shield!”

“What’s going on?”

“DIE DIE DIE DIE!”

“Someone call HR.”

Now, while the game itself is incredibly fun and addicting, it is also extremely popular. To the point where it’s actually making a dent in Korea’s League of Legends player base, which is insanity to say the least.

With that popularity, however, comes a variety of people that are most likely going to drive you nuts when you play online. So I feel it’s my duty to give you a heads up about what kind of player you might run into when Overwatching.

The Coach

This is the guy who uses voice chat in a public group when nobody else is. He’ll be in a group of people who are level 50+ and start handing out friendly advice that would have been more applicable at level 1.

“Hey guys, group up here, this is a really good choke point. OK, so I’m going to put a trap behind you, so if anyone sneaks up on you, they’ll get caught. Ok, healer, you should avoid open areas. Remember, it’s never a bad idea to back off and re-group.”

They will talk. And talk. And talk some more. The entire match. They will tell you when to use your Ultimates. They’ll tell you what characters you should use. He will give you a heads up on when you should use your secondary abilities. Hell, he might even break down how your character works for you.

“Junk Rat is really good for spamming areas of high traffic. So just start shooting grenades there. Solider? He shoots small round hard things called ‘bullets’.”

While well meaning, nothing is more maddening than listening to somebody explain to you how to play the game at such a basic level. It gets to the point where you expect them to call you up and explain how pooping works.

The Critic

Sitting back, waiting from afar, the critic exists purely to line up her/his shot when you least expect it. They sit patiently, waiting for you to make a character change they don’t agree with, and then they pounce.

“Hey don’t use that character”.

If you change characters and your team wins? All will be well. The Critic will move on. Should you keep the character they didn’t approve of and your team loses? Unleash the gates of hell.

“HEY FUCK FACE, LEARN TO PLAY.”

“STUPID CHARACTER TO USE MORON.”

“We had some idiot using [character], f-ing noobs”

You see, the Critic doesn’t care about learning, or trying new things. To the critic, there is only one game plan each round, a strictly enforced code of conduct to be followed. Should you dare stray outside those boundaries, they will lay into you, dumping all of their unresolved self esteem and parental issues upon you.

They play like someone has kidnapped their family and their survival depends 100% on if they win this round of Overwatch or not.

You are allowed to be Lucio. That’s it.

The POTG Play by Play Guy

You get a slick POTG by using your Ultimate? Get ready for “that guy” to show up.

“Are you kidding me? For that?”

It doesn’t matter if you timed your special well. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t even ask for the POTG, it just happened because your turret was designed to kill mass people. All that matters is you got POTG, Play By Play guy felt the time he/she killed two people, one of which was a spinning backwards shot, took far more skill, and should have been rewarded for it.

It doesn’t matter that the POTG system does not take “leet skills” into account. They will make it their life duty to let you know you didn’t earn that POTG, and that you should take no pride in it.

The EZ Guys

Saying “ez” after matches is the new “gg”. They will say it’s said in good fun, but it’s really a dick move. There is no joke behind it. Just dicks. And poo. If you say “ez” after a game you are in fact a bad person.

If you have said “ez” and are reading this now, don’t get defensive. Just embrace the poo that you are. Own it.

The Russian Roulette Guy

You will invariably run across someone who switches almost every death when playing. They’ll run out with Winston, get torn down, and think they should be Zarya. Then Plan: Zarya will fail and they’ll try Soldier. Then that will fail, and hell, why not try Junk Rat?

They will somehow be level 75 and be good with none of the characters. The only conclusion you will come to is that they are letting a friend play the game for the first time, or their pet dog took control at some point.

It will be hard to prevent yourself from turning into The Coach while watching this. Resist that urge. Simply leave the lobby after the game is over. Don’t become The Coach. Never become The Coach.

The Jacker

First come, first serve, that should be the rule for characters in Overwatch.

While most people follow this, you will run into times where you’re the first person in a game, and you choose your player. You’ll sit there for 30 seconds while the room fills up, content with your choice. You’ll start imagining your future with that character. Oh the kills you’ll get together!

Then the Jacker joins and just grabs your character. And there will be two of you with the same person. And you’ll both look like fools.

The Jacker won’t change off. So you’ll have to pick someone else. Then you will watch The Jacker proceed to be awful with the character they stole, before they swap out to somebody else. At that point you’ll be 2/3 of the way to your Ultimate, so you won’t want to switch back to your original character. So you sit there, in your own personal hell, tossing orbs from afar, wondering why you couldn’t be reaping people.

Mei Bae

Some people actually use this character. They will at times put ice walls up in front of you. Your own team mate. They will put up ice walls, whether maliciously or in the hopes of being helpful, that get in the way of your god damn Ultimates going off. Like, the point is about to be taken, but you’re going to be a god damn hero and ride in there with your Reaper ultimate, but WHOMP, there’s a piece of shit ice wall in your way. Why is that wall there? What possible reason could there be for blocking you out and keeping the enemy on the point? You’ll never know. YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHY THIS HAPPENED.

There is nothing worse than Mei. Nothing. If you’ve used Mei, you’re a very bad person and should feel bad.

Mei is garbage. She is poo.

The Committed

You will run into someone who wants to be Hanzo and Widowmaker. They will not be good at Hanzo or Widowmaker.

They will miss 95% of their shots.

There will come a point where you’re convinced they’re doing it for a laugh, that they can’t possibly miss that many shots. Surely the law of average states they kill someone, even by accident.

But miss they shall.

You will be attacking the point, in overtime, and you’ll simply hear the gentle “whisssh” of an arrow flying overhead, missing its target.

And change they never will.

Because they are committed.

Just wait until you have two Hanzo’s on your team, missing every shot. That’s some high level rage right there.

Teleporters of Grief

Some Symmetra’s find it amusing to put teleporters that exit right over a cliff. So you will go through it and fall to your doom. I have a variety of theories as to why people would enjoy doing this to others, but most of them can be summed up by poo.

You are poo if you do this. Almost as bad as Mei poo.

Lookie Lous

Some people hate touching the point or payload, even in a game that in fact is won by doing such things. So while you’re doing what can only be described as the most heroic on screen version of Saving Private Ryan made in years, trying to push that god damn Payload in overtime, buddy in the back is firing arrows at nothing in particular. Birds? Stop signs? Traffic lights?

Whatever it is, they’re having the time of their life, while you’re dodging bullets and trying to dive forward to get a pinky on that Payload to keep things moving.

Even worse is when it’s a god damn Roadhog, firing from three blocks away, pausing to suck down health every 5 seconds, instead of going for the point.

Why Roadhog? Why you gotta be like that?

Usually the Lookie Lou will get the POTG for something they did way earlier in the game to add further insult, thus re-confirming their belief they did the right thing. Resist the urge to become the Play By Play guy at this point.

The Genius

This is a combination of The Critic and The Coach.

What happens is they’ll show up and tell everyone what characters to be, and will be super vocal about what they’re doing. “GOT A TELEPORTER UP. ATTACK FROM THE WEST SIDE.”

If you win, things will usually be ok. The Genius might give you a heads up on things to improve upon (it’s like getting a job review while playing a video game, what’s better than that??”), like telling you to tighten up on the flank attacks, or not to chase Tracers so much.

If you lose? Then the Armageddon of hatred spews out. “You guys are such clueless idiots. What a waste of my time. F-ing noobs.”

Them dying by charging off the cliff? That was your stupid ass fault because they had to try and save you.

They’ll often lament the PUG lifestyle, as if you forced their hand into playing with the unwashed masses of the public, as if it’s your fault they had no friends to play with. The Genius has all the answers, and just know you failed them at every single turn. You are the stupid idiot. Not them. They are never wrong.

 

Playoff Beards

jiggy

Gaze into the dead eyes of a man whose dreams were just slaughtered in front of him

OK, grab a chair, it’s real talk time.

Playoff beards. That glorious tradition that sets the men apart from the boys. The tradition that lets you know if a team has made it deep into the playoffs. The tradition that lets you know who can pull off a kick ass beard, or those who merely Crosby it up.

beard3

It’s one of the best parts of hockey. Nothing is more primal and rewarding than seeing your team of choice, deep in the playoffs, looking like a bunch of cavemen out on the ice. Cavemen who figured out how to skate. And organize rules about hockey. And turn it into a big business operation. Cavemen, ok??

Here’s the thing though. That tradition? It needs some ground rules. Mostly because of this guy:

USP NHL: ALL STAR GAME-MEDIA DAY S HKN USA TN

And this guy:

beard2

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with these beards on their own. In fact, they’re god damn glorious. They SHOULD be talking points for people. They SHOULD be talking points for a beat writer with a deadline hammering down his/her door.

“Getting lost in Burns’ beard!” he whispered excitedly to himself. “You’ve done it again Johnston, you’re a god damn genius!” he giggled as he began typing furiously about facial hair.

But they shouldn’t be used for playoff talk. Sorry. Not cool. You need to shave it all off before the playoffs start for it to be a valid playoff beard.

And here’s why. The Stanley Cup? Best trophy in sports. If you’re trying to debate that right now, you’re A) not Canadian B) lying to yourself C) really trying to pump up the value of that trophy you won in high school track.

As such, trying to capture the Cup? Pretty big deal. Look, I get it, Canada values the Stanley Cup higher than any other country. When a baby is born in Canada it’s taken to a cave and shown several helpful videos letting the child know it’s their duty to protect and capture the Stanley Cup, before being doused in holy maple syrup and blessed by the Beaver Pope (it’s a real thing).

But other countries? They have people who want it just as bad. They know the power that Cup gives you (Free Tim Hortons for life). So they will do anything to get it.

Which is why the playoff beard is perhaps the greatest playoff tradition we have. When trying to win the Cup, you put aside everything else. To the point teams stay in god damn hotels while in their home city so they don’t get distracted from their end goal. That’s right, families get tossed aside in pursuit of the Cup. If that isn’t savage as ****, I don’t know what else is.

“Sorry honey, you know you’re not supposed to be calling me tonight, I have more important things to do.”

Which is why tossing hygiene and personal grooming aside is an essential part of the Stanley Cup journey. What, you’re going to miss your kids second birthday but you have time to make sure you’re face is smooth and hairless? Get the hell out of here.

When you go for the Cup, all you should be doing is sitting in a dark room and thinking of all the failures in your life, and realizing that even if you add all of them up, that wouldn’t even come close to losing the Stanley Cup in a game seven situation. Using that fear to fuel you to victory.

Losing a Cup in game seven? It breaks people.

kesler

See that guy? Losing the Cup in game seven turned him into a god damn Duck. A DUCK! That shit’s crazy.

So when players start growing a beard, it’s a symbol of the heavy burden they are undertaking.

This is why when a player like Burns or Thornton pre-grows a beard, it spits in the face of everything the playoffs stand for. Lord of the Rings didn’t start with Gandalf pulling up in a flying tank shouting “where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” and fly straight to the damn mountain. That’s garbage. That’s skipping vital steps. That’s making a mockery of the process.

This is why Thornton and Burns beard talk, save that for the regular season. Have a boring match up between two tanking teams? Sure, dip into the archives and talk about what things might get lost in a beard that big. But the playoffs? Save any beard talk for those that shaved the day the playoffs started. Only those beards are pure playoff beards.

Fact: Sidney Crosby has a better playoff beard than either Thornton or Burns.

I am, however, willing to accept pre-grown beards in one situation. I want a team to commit to the Stanley Cup dream so hard that when they win the Cup, they don’t shave until they lose it.

Think about it, it would be like the Dothraki in Game of Thrones, where they only cut their hair when they’re defeated. Imagine a two time defending Cup team walking around in the regular season, beards down to their chest, showcasing the power of their reign. Then when they finally lose, part of them is happy to cut off that beard, because all beardists know big beards are two parts cool, one part “**** this, I need to shave this off”. The other part of them though? Devastated.

Sure, they look in the mirror and can see their face again. Yes, they can finally eat food and not have it smell in their beard until they shower next. But the beard being gone means they’ve lost the ultimate prize. When they look into the mirror they’ll see themselves again, but they’ll also see the loss of their glory.

They’ll see a loser.

If that doesn’t drive them to want to win again, nothing will.

Savage? You’re god damn right it is. It’s the Stanley ****ing Cup.

Respect the Beard.

Respect the Cup.

 

 

 

Hunter Shinkaruk trade

BENNING

Let’s start this off with one caveat: Anything can happen in the NHL.

Yes, that might seem like a “get out of jail free card” used by GMs and fans alike who stumble into success (or manage to avoid it, as it were).

But it’s true. Good luck, bad luck, the ever infamous “intangibles”, however you want to define it, things happen in the NHL that we can’t account for. It’s why people have made jobs out of trying to tell people they know what can happen in the future. If you are able to show a talent for recognizing future trends, that’s a huge commodity. It’s why “old school scouts” got jobs (“I played the game, I can recognize the signs of great talent!”) and why advanced stats guys are starting to get hired now (“I wrote an excel sheet formula, it can recognize the signs of great talent!”).

At the end of the day, though, we are still far removed from a future when we all get scanned with a barcode and get tossed into the NHL reject or accept pile before we ever even hit the ice with skates strapped to our feet.

So yes, Markus Granlund could end up being a better player than Hunter Shinkaruk. Yes, Hunter Shinkaruk could still end up being a flop, 100%.

The reason people are getting a bit upset about the trade, is about what it represents. Here is a break down of why people are a bit on edge about the trade:

  • The Canucks are a team that struggles to score, yet they traded away one of their better scoring young players. Many people would rather roll the dice on a high risk high reward type of offensive player over a player that on the surface, looks like his ceiling is limited to a bottom six role.
  • The idea that Shinkaruk couldn’t be here anymore because Baertschi is here feels like a) they’ve already decided Baertschi will forever be better, and b) makes it seem like there is only room for so much skill on a team, which seems quite limiting in scope.
  • Shinkaruk never got a real good look in the NHL. One game, under 10 minutes? Hard to see that as a “fair shot.”
  • Granlund is waiver eligible next year, Shinkaruk is still on his ELC, which means he would not be waiver eligible the next two seasons. If anything, this forces a much tighter timeline on an asset to see if they can make the team.
  • It also means the team has a variety of low end assets who are open to waivers (Vey, Etem). Now, not a lot of people get poached on waivers, but it still seems like adding a problem you didn’t need in the first place.
  • It goes against the idea of a longer rebuild. Getting a player who can “play now” treads dangerously close to the idea that the Canucks feel they can turn things around really quickly, instead of taking their time with younger assets. Not saying this is right or wrong, but just pointing out that people who are fine waiting on a patient rebuild won’t enjoy today’s trade.
  • The Canucks center depth for next season is Henrik, Horvat, Sutter, McCann, Vey, Granlund…Yes, you can plop some of these guys on the wings, which is what they’ll have to do if they want them all to play.
  • If assets are going to be traded, people would rather see defenseman coming back in return. Of course that is easier said than done, and Benning apparently tried looking for d-men. It’s just, living right beside the Edmonton Nightmare rebuild for so many years is a constant reminder of what a rebuild without defense can end up looking like.
  • You have a similar deal that took place with Forsling and Clendening (selling high on Forsling after his World Jr performance) that ended up with an older asset who did nothing of value for the organization. Not every trade is the same (and again, the caveat “anything can happen” applies), but the situation is close enough to bring up memories of a previous trade that seems like a bit of a bust.
  • It’s a team that didn’t manage Corrado as an asset very well, so it does make one lose trust in the team being fully aware of all of the factors surrounding players age, contract status, etc. It basically makes you question if they fully understand all of the options available to them, fair or not.
  • Never underestimate the emotional side of things. You spend two or three years following a draft pick rise through the ranks, only to see him being dealt away during a hot stretch for an unknown? That can be hard to take. It would be like if your Dad finally figured out how to put on the perfect birthday for you, except halfway through the night your mom told you she was divorcing him and then asked you to take a picture with “Uncle Ted” instead.

There are some silver linings if you want to look for them, though. Granlund did have an equivalent season to Shinkaruk during his AHL career at one point (46 points in 52 games in front of all 10 fans during the Abbotsford Heat days). Corey Pronman feels the Canucks came out with a slight win on the trade due to Granlund’s higher defensive awareness.

A lot of it comes down to “would you roll the dice on a higher skill set, riskier chance of making NHL” prospect in Shinkaruk, and “Would you rather have higher roster maneuverability with an ELC player” in Shinkaruk. On my end, I still feel like this is a trade that in no way needed to happen this season. The only reason you do this deal now is if you REALLY wanted Granlund (which doesn’t sound like it from the Canucks end) or if you REALLY think Shinkaruk is just a turd of a player.

I think today’s reaction, if anything, mostly shows a lack of faith in management from many Canucks fans. In a day and age where stats are being recognized more and more, Benning’s “meat and potato” approach is met with many an arched eyebrow.

You have a management squad who claims they “looked at the WAY” Shinkaruk was scoring goals, and came away wondering if that would translate into the NHL, and are looking at underlying factors.

Which at face value, is great. They aren’t just looking at raw numbers, they are digging deeper to make sure this isn’t a Tom Sestito 42 goal situation. But this is also the same team that keeps playing Bartkwoski, who has awful underlying numbers, and is only kind of good if you go based off of raw numbers. So it’s hard to tell what’s spin and what’s actual team philosophy. We end up hearing a lot more about “compete” and “scrum ability” then “great goal scorer” and “high end skill”, which is worrisome for people wanting a skilled team being iced.

Add in a losing season, with rumors of ownership being overly meddlesome, and a team whose direction is really hard to gauge, all taking place in a Canadian market?

You’re going to have some heated discussions about pretty much every decision made.

Again, Benning might be the smartest man in the room. Maybe his vaunted scouting background will pay off. Maybe he was dead on about about Shinkaruk being a flop and Granlund will end up being a player. Maybe it’s just over-reactions from people heavily invested in the team.

It’s just going to take several years before we can figure that out. And in hockey mad Vancouver? That’s a lifetime.