Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: These two Leafs fans – Anyone can wear the home team's gear. It might take some guts to represent the other team. But these two guys took it to the galaxy brain level: wearing referee uniforms. And, well, you can't say they're not dedicated to the bit. They even have props.
The second star: Nikolaj Ehlers isn't sure what you mean – It's fun to learn new words.
The first star: Brian Dumoulin's leg has betrayed him – "Not you, Lefty! You were supposed to be the trustworthy one!"
Outrage of the Week
The issue: The draft lottery is tomorrow, and this year the NHL isn't going to release all the results at once. Instead, they'll reveal the 12 teams that didn't win the lottery in the usual pregame countdown, but save the order of the three winning teams for the second intermission.
The outrage: Everyone seems to hate the idea.
Is it justified: No. What is wrong with you people?
Look, I realize that it's fun to complain about the NHL. I may have done it myself two or three times over the course of the season. But you also have to give credit where it's due: This is a good idea.
Basically, the NHL is going to tell us which three teams "won" the lottery, but make us wait to find out who gets the first overall pick. Some years, that wouldn't matter much. This year, with Rasmus Dahlin and then a steep drop off, the first pick is everything. It's a franchise-altering opportunity, especially with so many teams desperately needing an elite blueliner.
And that's what makes this so good. The suspense will be unbearable for those three teams. Imagine you're a fan in Buffalo, or Vancouver, or Arizona, and you see your team crack the top three. You've got a solid two hours to wonder if your team is about to get the kind of break you've been waiting a generation for. Maybe they will, and this is where it all turns around. Or maybe you're about to get your hopes crushed yet again. And instead of stewing over it during a commercial break, you have to sit through two periods.
Is that borderline cruel? Yes. Is it going to make for fantastic entertainment for the rest of us? Absolutely.
Just imagine some of the scenarios we could see. What if Chicago or New York cracks the final three, and everyone gets to shout conspiracy theories out their window for two hours? What if two division rivals both slip into the top three, and we're left waiting to see how the balance of power shifts? What if the Islanders are one of the final three using the Flames' pick, and we get to debate where the Travis Hamonic trade would rank among the worst of all-time if it ends up keeping Dahlin out of Calgary?
And best of all: What if the Oilers make the top three? The possibility of the Oilers winning the lottery has always been a tricky one. On the one hand, it would clearly be terrible. On the other, everyone would lose their minds, and the "root for maximum chaos" theory says we should want that. Now we can get the best of both worlds—a few hours of league-wide meltdown when the Oilers make the final round, followed by relief when they end up picking second instead.
All of that, in exchange for waiting a few extra hours for something we've already waited a month for? Honestly, I don't see a downside here.
It's a good idea. Is it a great one? No, because the league should take it even further. As long-time readers know, when I'm in charge we're going to draw the winning ping pong balls one at a time, revealing one before the game, one at each intermission, and the last one after the game. Imagine we'd done that in 2015, when the Leafs had the best odds of landing Connor McDavid on the final ball before the Oilers' number came up instead. You think Toronto fans were cranky on Wednesday night? They'd still be rioting if the league had taken the opportunity to torture them for an entire evening over the McDavid lottery.
But still, let's not let perfect be the enemy of pretty good. The league is trying something creative here, and it's an improvement over what we had before. Stop complaining and enjoy the chaos.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
The Bruins eliminated the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, marking the fourth time in history that the two franchises had met in a game seven. For today's obscure player, let's look back at the first player to get on the scoresheet the first time it happened, way back in 1941: Wilfred "Bucko" McDonald. Mainly, if we're being honest, because "Bucko" is just a cool name.
McDonald was a big defenseman who broke into the NHL in 1934 with the Red Wings, playing 15 games before settling into regular duty for the next three years. He didn't score much, just 11 goals in parts of five seasons in Detroit, but he was a solid presence in his own end. He was traded to the Maple Leafs midway through the 1938-39 season and remained with the team until he was sold to the Rangers in 1943. In all, he played 11 seasons, scoring 35 goals in 446 regular season games.
McDonald also added six playoff goals, including the opening marker in that Leafs/Bruins game seven showdown on April 3, 1941. That gave the Leafs an early lead, but the Bruins tied the game a minute later and went on to win 2-1. McDonald and the Leafs would rebound to win the Stanley Cup the following season, the third championship of his career.
While he had a long and successful NHL stint, McDonald is actually best known for two other contributions to the sports world. He was an excellent lacrosse player; McDonald was inducted into the Canadian lacrosse hall of fame in 1971, and the Ontario Lacrosse Association named its trophy for the highest-scoring player in his honor. And he also coached minor hockey in his later years, and used his NHL experience to help one particular 11-year-old convert to the blueline. That switch worked out pretty well, for both the kid and the Boston Bruins.
Debating the Issues
This week’s debate: The NHL has spent the last few weeks revealing all of the nominees for the various league awards. But are they getting them right?
In favor: I think they are. I mean, obviously I don't agree with each and every selection, and neither do you. But generally speaking, I haven't seen anything really outrageous.
Opposed: I don't know. I really thought Seth Jones deserved to be one of the Norris Trophy nominees, and instead P.K. Subban got the honor.
In favor: That's fair. But the Norris was always going to come down to Victor Hedman and Drew Doughty, so I'm not going to get too worked up over who should have ended up third.
Opposed: Yeah, I guess that makes sense. But what about the Vezina? The three nominees were basically just the guys with the most wins. Is that really the best way to judge a goaltender?
In favor: No, but remember, the Vezina is voted on by the GMs, so they're going to be focused on guys who play a lot of games. That helps explains why it always seems so weighted towards wins.
Opposed: True. How about Charlie McAvoy not being one of the Calder nominees?
In favor: Defensemen never seem to get enough credit when it comes to…. Wait, did you see that? Up there, in the sky. Why it's … it's …
Opposed: A bird! A plane!
In favor: No, it's…
(A man wearing a mask and a cape and a costume with a red pen as its logo lands with a thud.)
Hockey Pedant Man: IT IS I, HOCKEY PEDANT MAN!
Opposed: Oh lord.
In favor: Not this guy.
Hockey Pedant Man: Defender of terminology! Corrector of the incorrect! Interrupter of conversations!
Opposed: Bloody hell. What have we done to summon you today, Hockey Pedant Man?
Hockey Pedant Man: You keep referring to award nominees. But they're not nominees. They are (poses dramatically) finalists!
In favor: Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's basically the same thing.
Hockey Pedant Man: It most certainly is not. "Nominees" implies that there's an additional round of voting, when in fact all ballots for the awards you're discussing have already been received and counted. The original list of 31 names for the Masterton consisted of nominees, but for the other awards the league has simply revealed the three players who received the most votes.
Hockey Pedant Man: So you see, they're finalists. This is important.
In favor: I don't think it is. I mean, everyone knew what we meant.
Hockey Pedant Man: WORDS MATTER, PEON!
In favor: Do you want to just leave? This guy ruins everything.
Hockey Pedant Man: Would you like to hear about how it's "alternate" captain, not assistant?
Opposed: Yeah, let's go. I don't even remember what we were initially talking about.
In favor: Want to find somewhere to watch the NHL playoffs?
Hockey Pedant Man: It's actually the "Stanley Cup Playoffs."
Opposed: Stop it! Enough! Yes, maybe you're technically right, but literally nobody was confused by any of those terms. You're correcting people just for the sake of it while adding nothing to the conversation. It doesn't make you look smart. You just look like an insecure scold.
In favor: Yeah man, knock it off.
Hockey Pedant Man: Knock it… off?
In favor: Yes.
Hockey Pedant Man: You mean off as in… offside? Which is what the term is. Anyone who says "offsides" is wrong.
In favor: That's it. You're going down.
(Opposed and In Favor both drop their gloves and pummel Hockey Pedant Man to the ground, yanking his jersey over his head as they go.)
Hockey Pedant Man: (with last remaining ounce of strength) It's… it's actually a hockey sweater.
The final verdict: Please never be this guy.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
The Sabres hold the best odds in tomorrow's lottery. As history has shown, that means they're going to lose, and yet another last-place season will end with some other team drafting a future franchise player. And in that moment, despondent Buffalo fans may be tempted to seek out a way to alter the miserable reality of cheering for the Sabres. For example, drugs.
Don't do it, Sabres fans—drugs are bad. And we have some friends here to remind you of that.
(Thanks to reader Marty for suggesting this video.)
- Yes, it's 1986, and the playoff-missing Buffalo Sabres have an important message for you kids out there. Our old pal Ed Kilgore is here, and he's making a very serious face as he introduces our clip.
- OK, I know what you're thinking: Haven't we done this clip before? I thought so too, but no, that was a Buffalo Sabres anti-drug message from 1985, which we broke down a few years ago. Apparently this was kind of a thing for the mid-80s Sabres.
- That 1985 video was, well, awkward. It featured the players actually singing, and one of them tried to dance. We've got a few of the same cast of characters back for round two, so let's see if they've learned anything.
- Two things become clear immediately: First of all, this is going to be the perkiest, most up-tempo anti-drug ballad in history. And second, the players have mercifully decided to let a pro do most of the singing. That's a good call. Not so good: Starting the clip with various shots of the Sabres playing the Vancouver Canucks in their old bright yellow uniforms, which would encourage just about anyone to do drugs.
- "He was in front of the net so I gave him the pass, but he never got the shot off, he was high on grass." I already love this song so much.
- "When he broke in on the wing and he took the shot, he shot much straighter when he didn't smoke pot." Yep, this is my new favorite song. Sorry, whatever was played at my wedding, you've been replaced.
- Our piano-playing singer is John Valby, a local musician. According to his Wikipedia page, he produced two albums with Sabres defenseman (and future donut-based insult comic) Jim Schoenfeld in the 1970s. Schoenfeld was also the coach of the 1985-86 Sabres until he was fired midway through the season. Was it because of this song? I don't know for sure, but yes it definitely was.
- Meanwhile, that's team captain Gilbert Perreault sitting next to Valby and desperately trying to will this entire thing out of existence.
- I'm not sure, but I think that may have been Perreault actually singing his line. I can't tell, because his attempt to lip sync is one of the worst I've ever seen. It's not even close. Are there any lip readers out there? Because I'm pretty sure Perreault is actually saying something like "Let me know when you start filming."
- Also, he looks like he wants to cry. Other than that, nailed it.
- We hit the chorus, which is accompanied by a highlight of the Sabres losing a faceoff and letting the Bruins clear the zone. The 1985-86 Sabres: Feel the excitement!
- Mike Ramsey and his mustache are enjoying this.
- Next up comes my favorite part of the entire video, as the Sabres break into two sides and start sing-chanting anti-drug slogans at each other. It's like the world's saddest community theater version of West Side Story.
- We shift over to a few words about alcohol, and everyone seems to be enjoying the "Waste away if you do a lot" portion of the song just a little too much. How many of them do you think are drunk as they film this? I'm guessing "not zero."
- For some reason, Lindy Ruff gets his own verse. Even for him, drugs are too tough. Also too tough: the NHL's skate-in-crease rules, although we wouldn't find that part out for another decade or so.
- We get some strong work by a pair of returnees from the 1985 video, Mike Foligno and Dave Andreychuk. They would later reunite to help Glenn Anderson and the 1993 Maple Leafs record "The Leafs Are The Best," which is ironic because that's something that people only ever say when they're high.
- Find someone who looks at you like Bill Hajt looks at Mike Ramsey.
- Everyone seems to really enjoy the big "Oh Barrasso" crescendo but Tom Barrasso doesn't seem to actually be there, because he hated fun. Also, I realize he was the starter and I'm not trying to tell Valby how to write a song, but not working in a line with the word "Puppa" seems like a missed opportunity.
- A closeup of Valby's disgustingly filthy keyboard gives way to a few more shots of Phil Housley's shades. Singing a song about winning the Stanley Cup while showing footage of another team is pretty much the most Buffalo Sabres thing ever.
- Also, singing "All you losers can snort cocaine" and then almost immediately cutting to a shot of the Edmonton Oilers winning a championship is an, um, interesting choice.
- And with that, we're done. I hope everyone learned something today. In case you're wondering, Valby is still touring to this day. According to Wikipedia, "(h)is songs and shows focus mainly on sex and racial slurs," so I'm sure they're a hot ticket. But if you happen to attend one, you know what to request.
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org .