Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: The Marleau family– Ever since Patrick Marleau arrived in Toronto, we've seen references to the veteran "adopting" Leafs youngsters Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. It's turned into a running joke on Christina Marleau's social media, and this week we got the inevitable (and adorable) family Christmas portrait.
The second star: Erik Karlsson gets weird – Don't make fun of him, it was -30 Kelvin out there and his brain had frozen two periods ago.
I can't decide if this makes it better or worse. (Better.)
The first star: The San Jose Sharks annual Christmas video – It never disappoints.
I hope the Sharks keep randomly inserting shirtless Joe Thornton into everything they do.
Outrage of the Week
The issue: The Islanders announced a new arena deal this week, ending years of speculation over the team's eventual home. But the agreement would call for the entire project to be funded privately by the team and its partners, which is impossible, so now they have to move to Houston. The outrage: We're going to miss them now that they're leaving. Is it justified: Absolutely. The Islanders have been part of the New York sports scene for four decades now. They produced one of the sport's greatest dynasties, with four straight Stanley Cups. Even though the franchise has fallen on hard times over recent years, it just won't be the same without them.
Then there's the John Tavares factor; we don't know if he's going to want to follow the team to Houston or whether he'll hit free agency instead. And of course, all those diehard Islanders fans who've supported the team over the years will now have to watch form afar, or find a new team.
It's such a tragedy. If only they'd been able to convince the city to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize the new arena, we could have avoided…
Wait, I'm being handed an update.
[squints at piece of paper]
It says here that the Islanders are in fact not moving to Houston. Apparently they're fine with funding the arena project on their own. And despite the lack of local funds (at least directly), the deal is being called "a massive, massive victory" for the team.
Well, readers, this is all very confusing. Like you, I'd recently been under the impression that teams that don't get a handout have to move. The NHL has implied as much, and they wouldn't lie to us about something like this. Surely, the Islanders will be the only team to have to pay their own way.
No? Not even close? Weird.
The only conclusion I can draw is that this week's reports were incorrect, and that the Islanders are indeed moving to Houston, or maybe Quebec or Seattle or Calgary (in a few months once the market becomes available). My condolences, Islanders fans. But you knew this was coming. No private arena funds, no team. We can't say the league didn't warn us all in advance.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
It was the NHL's 100th anniversary on Tuesday, which led me to wonder: Who's the best player to share a birthday with the league?
That turns out to be an easy one: legendary defenseman Doug Harvey was born on December 19, 1924. And you could built a pretty decent team around him using modern-day December 19 birthdays, including a goalie (Carter Hutton), a decent forward line (Robert Lang, Matt Stajan and Scott Pearson), a stay-at-home blue-liner (Eric Weinrich) and a tough guy (Behn Wilson).
But none of those guys are all that obscure, so let's dig a little deeper for this week's player: journeyman forward Ron Schock.
Schock was a center who debuted with the Bruins during the 1963-64 season, playing parts of four seasons in Boston before expansion came calling in 1967. He was picked by the Blues, where he spent two seasons and scored a double-overtime breakaway goal against the North Stars in Game 7 in the West Division series to send the team to the 1968 Stanley Cup Final.
He was dealt to the Penguins in 1969, allegedly two days after telling a minor hockey dinner it was one of the last places he'd ever want to be traded. He spent eight seasons in Pittsburgh, and had a career high 23 goals and 86 points in 1974-75. He was traded to the Sabres in 1977 in a straight up deal for future tragic story Brian "Spinner" Spencer. Schock played one season in Buffalo, and that was it for his NHL career. All told he played 909 games, recording 166 goals and 517 points.
Happy belated birthday, Ron. Your card from the NHL probably arrived on the wrong day.
The NHL (Network) Actually Got Something Right
The NHL Network released another one of its ranked lists on Monday, and I'm not exaggerating when I say it was the highlight of my entire week.
We've covered the network lists before, and the way they always inspire outrage for not being quite right. That's always the way these things go—I've been known to dabble in the occasional ranked list from time to time, so I'm speaking from experience—and there are really only two ways you can handle the criticism. The first is to just shrug, accept it, and keep doing your best work.
This week, the NHL Network chose the second option: Intentionally create a list designed for no other purpose than to piss off as many people as you can.
I give you the rankings of best captain in NHL history:
Oh man, where to begin.
Well, let's start at the top, where Mark Messier takes the one spot. That's no surprise, since we all apparently agreed that Messier was the greatest leader in history even though he walked out to force a trade from the Oilers and bolted the Rangers as a free agent. But the highlight here is the list just outright pretending that he was never the captain in Vancouver. Apparently this list was written by a Canucks fan.
The next few aren't especially controversial, assuming we can ignore that #5 pick Ray Bourque bailed on the Bruins to chase his Cup somewhere else. But then we inevitably get to the "way too high Blackhawk" ranking, as Jonathan Toews is apparently already a better captain than Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby. He's also better than Mario Lemieux, who only came back from cancer and later bought his team to keep it from moving.
Other top 25 picks include Joe Sakic (who once signed an offer sheet with the Rangers), Ron Francis (who was once stripped of the captaincy in Hartford), and Daniel Alfredsson (whose tenure ended with him admitting his team couldn't win a playoff series that was still happening and then bolting in free agency).
Be sure to stick around into the 20s, so you can get to them including Pierre Pilote as an obvious makeup call for inexcusably leaving him off their Top 100 list and then enjoy the moment where they clearly went "Oh crap, we don't have any Americans" and then had to squeeze in Derian Hatcher, presumably after being shocked to find out the Stars' Cup-winning captain wasn't Mike Modano.
Do all of these guys belong on a list of the 25 best captains ever? Sure. Maybe? I have no idea, and neither do you. That's the beauty of choosing captains as a topic. It's something that every fan a.) feels strongly about and b.) has no objective way to measure. So you're basically guaranteed to make everyone really mad. It's genius.
I hope the NHL Network keeps it up, and continues to steer into the ranking-based outrage skid. Do "most handsome players" and leave Henrik Lundqvist off the list. Maybe "history's toughest fighters" and put Bob Probert one spot behind Claude Lemieux. Do "the 25 best theme songs" and then list Brass Bonanza in 23 of the spots instead of all 25.
Keep it up for a few years, then release a list of your 25 best lists and watch the world burn. I'm here for you, NHL Network. Let's make this happen.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
It's been a rough few weeks for the Senators. They lost a bunch of games, falling out of the playoff hunt. Then when they snapped that streak and were all set to bask in the glory of hosting the franchise's first ever outdoor game, their owner decided it would be a good time to rant about moving the team. That was, let's just say, not ideal.
But look on the bright side, Ottawa. As bad as things get, at least you don't have to worry about legendary sportswriter Earl McRae going on television and absolutely ethering you in front of a national audience.
- So we're midway through 1993-94, the second season for the reborn Senators. Their debut was a disaster, and this year isn't going much better. Now seems like a good time to deliver a few solid kicks to the ribs, no?
- Our host is Dave Hodge, one of the great Canadian broadcasters ever, not to mention a guy who once got himself fired from Hockey Night in Canada by flipping a pen. Today he welcomes Ottawa Sun columnist Earl McRae, who spent his career trying to get fired by flipping off pretty much everyone.
- McRae was the sort of guy who could be an acquired taste, so let's be clear: He was awesome and if you didn't like him then there was something wrong with you. He's basically Dick Beddoes with more edge, slightly updated material, and a smaller wardrobe budget. I enjoyed him thoroughly.
- Also, I want McRae's condescending laugh as my ringtone.
- It takes McRae roughly four seconds to get to his first Elvis reference, which is slow by his standards. Elvis was kind of a thing with Earl, who was a founding member of the Elvis Sighting Society and once went on the Jerry Springer Show to talk about having met The King in Tweed, Ontario. I swear to you I did not make any of that up.
- If there was any thought of McRae going easy on the second-year Sens, he puts that to rest by calling them "the worst team in creation" before ripping them for trading leading scorer Bob Kudelski to Florida. That was a weird deal, since the Panthers were even newer than the Senators and shouldn't have been giving up future assets for a scorer. Luckily, the assets the Senators got back didn't turn out to have much of a future at all, so I guess it all worked out.
- Random fun fact: The midseason trade came when the Panthers had several games in hand over Ottawa, which allowed Kudelski to end up playing in a never-to-be-broken NHL record 86 games in a single season.
- The two rookies McRae mentions are Alexei Yashin and Alexandre Daigle, who will both go on to leave Ottawa with an angry mob chasing them. It's basically our trademark finishing move up here.
- Hodge agrees the trade is an odd one, but offers up a half-hearted defense to give McRae an opening to ease up on his criticism. Let's see if he takes it.
- "This is a bad trade by a rookie GM who's blown it here." I'm going to mark that down as a "no."
- The rookie GM is Randy Sexton, by the way. He really was a rookie—not only was this his first NHL season as a GM, but he'd been a real estate executive just a few years earlier. He went on to a long career in various NHL roles, though, including a stint as the Panthers GM in 2009. He's currently the GM of the Sabres' AHL team.
- "Sexton says, well he's big, he's physical. Who cares, if he can't put the puck in the net?" Earl McRae was leading the charge on analytics before analytics was a thing.
- They move on to Senators coach Rick Bowness, rumored to be on the hot seat. McRae likes him but doesn't have much confidence in the front office keeping him around because only John Ferguson "knows a hockey puck from a coconut." I'm assuming it goes without saying that he's referring to John Ferguson Sr.
- McRae calls Sexton "constipated," works in a dig at Mike Milbury, and calls the Senators "a bunch of clowns." This is the positive section of the video.
- He then throws Daigle under the bus by breaking the news that his father is telling people that he's upset over the lack of talent surrounding him. He then thoroughly psychoanalyzes Daigle, which almost never works out well for sportswriters except he basically ends up being 100 percent right about how his career played out.
- Hodge works in a joke about the way Daigle dresses, which is a reference to the infamous nurse outfit ad. Note to future NHL prospects: You don't have to say yes to every endorsement idea.
- Hodge tries to close, but McRae interrupts to make one last point. He takes a moment to apologize if he's coming across as too critical, acknowledges that the Senators are still an expansion team, and thanks everyone in the organization for doing their best.
- No, of course he doesn't. What he actually does is point out that the Senators are closer to the defunct Montreal Maroons than to first place in their division. We then cut away before McRae can spray paint his initials on the unconscious Senators organization's back. Seriously, he was the absolute best. I miss him so much.
- McRae left us several years ago, after suffering a heart attack in the newsroom. He will no doubt have a great time swapping hockey stories with Elvis in the afterlife, in the event that Elvis eventually dies.