Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: Jonathan Drouin – The Canadiens may still be on the outside of the playoff race, but at least their best players always remember to make sure they have blades in their skates. Well, almost always.
The second star: Ryan Hartman being a jerk – Remember when you were in grade school and you'd fake-punch other kids and then laugh if they flinched? Hartman still does that. But this time he did it to Corey Perry, so it's OK.
The first star: Dave Elston – You may not know the name, but you should. Elston is the legendary cartoonist whose NHL work was some of the only reliable hockey humor produced for much of the 80s, 90s, and beyond. He recently joined Twitter, where's he's been releasing old cartoons from his archives. He's must-follow for hockey fans, even new ones who may not get all the references.
Outrage of the Week
The issue: Former Oiler Jordan Eberle told reporters that criticism from the "brutal" Edmonton media had affected his confidence and his play there.
The outrage: He's right, the media are insensitive jerks. Or he's wrong, and a big wimp for even bringing it up.
Is it justified: It can't be fun to be an NHL player when things aren't going well.
It really can't. We all have our good and bad days, and we all get criticized at some point by somebody. But for most of us, it doesn't happen on the front page of a newspaper or leading off the nightly newscast. It's easy enough to say that players should toughen up and have thicker skin, and some of them do. But not everyone is going to handle negativity in the same way, and basic human nature tells us that occasionally, it's going to get to you. Or as Eberle put it, "When you read articles every day about how much you suck, it’s tough."
So yes, Eberle's got a point here, and what he's saying about his experience as an Oiler is undoubtedly true.
But it's also true that Eberle deserved some criticism for his play in Edmonton, especially last year. By his own admission, he "definitely didn’t play up to my standards, especially in the playoffs." If you're in the media, and it's your job to give an honest opinion about how a player is performing, you don't really have many options. You can either pull your punches to spare someone's feelings, or you can call it like you see it.
So where does that leave us? I thought the best take I saw on the whole issue came from Elliotte Friedman, who wrote about the impact the media's coverage can have on players like Eberle. Friedman sounds like a guy who puts some real thought into the balance between doing his job and knowing the impact his work can have. Most of us in this business do think about that, although maybe not as much as we could. Believe it or not, it's rarely much fun to dump all over somebody. But it can be part of the job.
And of course, they key here is that the criticism has to be fair. Some of it isn't, and when you see the media inventing controversies or settling scores, you're right to take the player's side. And it goes without saying that the media members who spend their days criticizing players, coaches and GMs need to have thick skin about criticism of their own work. Most of us don't.
But the bigger point remains: This is just part of the job, for media and players alike. For those in the press box, the key is to make it fair, make it honest, and to remember (as Friedman points out) that your words may be affecting a player's friends and family too. For those on the ice, the criticism is one downside of a job that still often ranks as one of the best in the world.
As for Eberle, he deserves points for being honest. That's what the media is supposed to want out of players, so we can't fault him for not playing make-believe and telling us that none of this ever gets to him.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
Earlier this week on the Biscuits hockey podcast, Dave and I were asked which active players would pair off for the best goalie fight. And I'll admit it—we kind of blew the answer. Dave mentioned Jonathan Quick, which was a solid choice, and we kicked a few other options around. But we missed several names that were obvious picks. We'll follow up on next week's show and make it right.
In the meantime, let me try to make it up to you with this week's obscure player pick: goaltender Mark Laforest.
Laforest, who was creatively nicknamed "Trees," went undrafted but was signed by Detroit as organizational depth in 1983. He made his NHL debut two years later, going 4-21-0 for a terrible Red Wings team because that's the only kind there was back then.
He was traded to the Flyers in 1987, and then to the Maple Leafs in 1989. He spent one year in Toronto, winning a career-high nine games, before being shipped to the Rangers as part of the deal that sent a young Tie Domi to New York. He never played for the Rangers, and didn't make it back to the NHL until a brief appearance with the Senators in 1993-94.
Laforest wasn't exactly known as a hothead, but in Philadelphia he did serve as the backup to Ron Hextall. Some of that may have rubbed off, because in 1989 he decided it would be a good idea to fight Sean Burke. It was not.
- This is what happens when you let two redheads coach in the same NHL game.
- This is actually one of the first (for lack of a better term) modern goalie fights I can remember. In the old days, goalie would pair off during bench-clearing brawls, but those had recently become extinct. This was one of the first times that a goalie got to do the full length-of-the-ice skate. Twice, as it turns out.
- Most importantly, Sean Burke was legitimately one of the best fighting goalies ever. People remember Hextall or Patrick Roy or Billy Smith, and rightfully so, but Burke belongs right up there with them. Laforest actually does OK here; others were not as lucky.
As for Laforest, that Ottawa stint was it for his big-league career, which saw him appear in 103 games, posting 25 wins along with two shutouts and 65 penalty minutes. He played in the minors until 1996 and later went into coaching.
Be It Resolved
It was an interesting week for NHL interviews. A few days after Eberle's quotes hit the public, an even bigger star had even more interesting things to say. Lots more.
I know, right? I was shocked too. But there it was, in this Craig Custance piece in The Athletic. Somehow, he got Kings' defenseman Drew Doughty to open up about his contract status. And when he did, he started dropping bombs.
The article is behind a paywall so I won't cut-and-paste all the good bits here, but among other things it includes Doughty admitting that:
- He's already thinking ahead to free agency in 2019.
- He thinks money is important, and apparently doesn't feel the need to pretend otherwise.
- He plans to talk with fellow UFA Erik Karlsson to maximize their potential payout.
- He thinks he should make more than P.K. Subban.
- This all might end with him playing somewhere else, and he sure sounds interested in the Maple Leafs (including him describing their coaching situation by saying, and I swear to you that this is a real quote, "Oh fuck, yeah. Babs.")
None of that should be especially shocking, but it kind of is when you hear it actually said by an NHL player. We know the drill by now. Doughty is supposed to say "Gosh, hadn't even thought about it, I'm just focused on playing, all I want to do is win and the rest of it will take care of itself." But he didn't. He told the truth. And it was kind of fascinating.
So this week, we have a Be It Resolved two-fer. First of all, be it resolved that nobody get all cranky with Doughty about actually saying something. That includes you, Kings fans, even though I'm sure the Maple Leafs stuff isn't playing well. We're all constantly complaining about how boring hockey players are, so we can't go filling our diapers the second somebody gets interesting.
And second of all, be it resolved that Custance has to take whatever magic pocket watch he dangled in front of Doughty's eyes to get him to talk like this and share it with the rest of us. No fair hogging, Craig. Spread the joy.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
With the NHL officially hitting the century mark last weekend—Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the league's founding—it's tempting to look towards the future and try to figure out what the league will look like over the next 100 years. Luckily, we don't have to work too hard, because this decades-old Red Wings broadcast already covered it for us.
- This clip seems to be from Detroit's PASS sports station, and would have aired in the early 90s. They're going to take a shot at what the next few decades hold. Let's see how they do.
- We start off with a look back at the days when hockey was played outdoors, which is crazy because I'm pretty sure neither of those teams is even the Blackhawks. We also hear about how goalie pads are much bigger than ever before. If you consider that a good thing then boy, do I have exciting news for you, early 90s hockey fans.
- We also hear about all of the "space age" equipment that modern players have, including "custom-fitted skates." Yeah, I bet it was rough back in the day when you just had to wear whatever size they had lying around.
- We finally get to the predictions for 2050, and I just want to point out that the last clip before we jump into the future is of Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Does that count as an accurate prediction? I think it might have to.
- So our first prediction of life in 2050 is…uh, Alaska looking like a beach due to global warming. Wow, this got dark in a hurry. I'm kind of depressed now. I sure hope future scientists are focused on preserving the climate so we don't all die.
- Nope, they're making fake ice and bladeless jet skates. But "the air jets are non-polluting," so cool, close enough.
- After way too many shots of some dude's toes, we move onto our next prediction: Hockey's expansion to the sun belt. That ended up happening, of course, although not quite as far south as Central America, as predicted here. We also get a look at the uniforms of 2050, which is clearly wrong since there aren't any ads plastered all over them.
- I'm completely on board with the Lazer Stik, though. It's not so much the warp setting or $14,999 price tag, I just like the idea of a stick that doesn't break every third shift.
- Side note: I wish I was as enthusiastic about anything in my life as announcer Marty Adler is about literally every sentence in this clip. Or, as he would put it: I wish I was as enthusiastic about anything in my life as this announcer is about LITERALL EVERY SENTENCE in this clip.
- Next up is the helmet of the future, which includes a microphone, tiny TV screens, and even brain probes to foil opposition attempts at frequency jamming. Weird, I guess the Patriots are an NHL team in 2050.
- Also, the helmets will have cameras in them, which is just ridiculous.
- Coaches will apparently live in little rooms packed with screens, a bubble hockey game, and a button that's labelled DO NOT PUSH in giant letters. I'm kind of intrigued by that last one. I'm assuming Ken Holland has one in his office right now that starts the Red Wings rebuild.
- We get a section about the puck being embedded with sensors that makes reviewing goals and offsides foolproof. That's pretty much guaranteed to happen at some point soon, and I'd give them credit for getting another one right if I weren't distracted by trying to figure out why the goalie of the future wears a blocker all the way up his entire arm.
- There's a break halfway through, during which the future player stares at us for an uncomfortably long time. I have a lot of questions, like: Do everyone's eyebrows look that in 2050 or just hockey players? Does he wear the helmet all the time, or do the brain probes come off? And most importantly, can you please make him go away before I have nightmares?
- The second half is focused on the fans, who will of course have flying cars because it's the future. Arenas will have retractable roofs, force fields and laser walls. And there will be two classes of fans, the elites who matter and the poors who don't. That sounds about right, nods Kevin Lowe.
- I'm all in on the food chute—or, as Marty calls it, the FOOD CHUTE. But the rest of those luxury features sound awful. Can you imagine having a phone and a screen right in your face at all times? Sounds like an awful way to go through life.
- No joke, the spinning section of the stands is a good idea and we should do that. Build that into your next arena proposal, Calgary.
- We also hear about 3D holographic broadcast, which also seem pretty cool. You know, the future of hockey sounds like a lot of fun. I've almost forgotten that 2050 will feature uncontrolled global warming that will render the planet a dystopian nightmare and oh good they're here to remind me.
- Yes, we're back to the warm weather thing, as we learn that the NHL will expand to Egypt and Guam on its way to becoming a 128-team league. Sorry, Hamilton, you were #129 on the list, we swear.
- Just as we're trying to figure out why there are future divisions named after Rick Zombo and Walt Poddubny, our clip ends. Overall, they did reasonably well—they pretty much nailed outdoor games, puck sensors and helmet-cams, and they still have 33 years to get the rest of it. (You know, before we all die in the great flood.)