Three stars of comedy
The third star: Kris Letang vs. Terrell Owens. I wonder how this hockey player can do on turf against an NFL great? Yeah, it goes about as well as you might expect.
(It didn't go any better for Lars Eller, either.)
The second star: Darnell Nurse vs. Eric Gryba. Look, neither one of these are especially good roasts. I just like the idea that even NHL players fall back on the whole "your vs. you're" thing when they don't have a good comeback on Twitter.
Now I want to see Nurse move on to the next round to face Owens, just for the moment when his uncle shows up with a folding chair.
The first star: Kris Letang vs. Montreal. Hey, look at Letang grabbing two spots on this week's list. This time, he comes away with a clear win.
Normally we'd subtract points for sucker-punching a fan base that's already down, but… it's Montreal.
Outrage of the week
The issue: Once again, we're headed to an off-season where nobody signs an offer sheet, even though there appear to be obvious cases where one would make sense.
The outrage: This is stupid. If NHL teams were really trying to win, they'd be using this tool to improve instead of worrying about hurt feelings or whatever other excuses they come up with.
Is it justified: Yes, but only for Leon Draisaitl.
Settle down, Oiler fans. I'll explain.
It's true that the lack of offer sheets sure feels like a case of collusion, with everyone agreeing to leave one another's players alone. That doesn't actually do anything to keep salaries low—players get 50 percent of hockey revenues no matter what, remember—but it does make life marginally easier for GMs around the league who have to deal with unsigned players.
On the flip side, signing a player to an offer sheet is almost always futile, because they're basically always matched. In the last 20 off-seasons, there's been one unmatched offer sheet (Dustin Penner in 2007). That's it. Matching offer sheets is so automatic these days that teams make a public promise to do so in advance.
So even if you can get a player to agree to sign one—people seem to forget that part—you're basically going to make an enemy of another GM, temporarily tie up your own cap space, and create the small but non-zero possibility that your own RFAs become a target for retaliation. And all for a player that you won't end up getting, because again, the other team is going to match every time. You lose something, and gain nothing.
So what's the point?
Well, as many have argued, teams do benefit by creating cap headaches for each other. This is supposed to be a competition, after all, and making things tougher on an opponent should be fair game. But that's more of a theoretical gain than anything. Sure, the team you target might end up with a cap crunch that forces them to part with some other player at a discount, but who's going to get that player? Probably not you, and maybe a team you're fighting for a playoff spot.
So in a world where matching is automatic, signing an offer sheet is basically a waste of time. There's no point.
Except for Draisaistl and the Oilers. They're the one case where using an offer sheet to screw over another team really would make sense, and the reason is simple. The Oilers are really good.
They have the best player in the league in Connor McDavid. History tells us that means they're probably going to win a Cup, and probably soon. They already made big strides last year. Their championship window is open right now, and it's going to stay that way for at least a decade.
This was a rare chance for other teams to throw a wrench into the title-winning machine the Oilers are steadily building. Throw a $9 million offer at Draisaitl, force the Oilers to match it, and then let Peter Chiarelli deal with the roughly $3 million salary cap headache you've just given him.
I don't want to sound defeatist here, Western Conference teams, but there's a good chance that the salary cap is pretty much all that's going to keep the Oilers from running over you for years to come. The Draisaitl contract is a rare chance for you to step in and tighten its grip on them. Some Western team with cap space and hopes of winning a Cup themselves someday—like, say, the Flames or the Sharks or the Wild—should be looking for any opportunity to derail the inevitable. (Nashville, too, but David Poile has the other top RFA in Ryan Johansen to worry about, so we'll give him a pass.)
We've seen this before. Do you think anyone wishes they'd made life harder on the Crosby/Malkin Penguins back in 2007 or so? Think anyone would like to go back and launch a preemptive strike at the Kane/Toews Blackhawks in 2009?
It won't happen—again, these GMs are all pals and don't want to make life difficult for one another—but for once, it should. When the Oilers are skating around with the Cup in a year or two, don't say you weren't warned, or that you didn't have a chance to make it harder for them.
Obscure former player of the week
It now seems all but official: NHL players won't be going to the 2018 Olympics. Even though the league made that announcement months ago, many fans were still holding out hope, especially after it emerged that the 2017-18 schedule seemed to have been designed with some wiggle room in mind.
That means we'll be back to the old way of filling out a national roster: with a mix of amateurs, minor leaguers, and NHL players who aren't in the NHL that year for whatever reason. ( Cough, Iggy.) So today, let's bestow Obscure Player honors on a guy who didn't have much of an NHL career, but got to represent Canada at the Olympics three times: Wally Schreiber.
Schreiber, a winger, had a big year in the WHL in 1981-82. The Caps took him in the eighth round of that year's draft, a few picks ahead of Obscure Player alumni Todd Okerlund. Schreiber never made it to the Capitals, but had some success (including a 50-goal season) in the IHL. He joined the Canadian national team in 1986, and in 1987 he signed as a free agent with the North Stars.
Schreiber played in his first Olympics in 1988, scoring once in eight games. Canada had home ice that year but failed to medal, instead finishing fourth. Schreiber would make his NHL debut a month later, scoring in his first game for the North Stars and going on to score six goals in 16 games. He'd get part-time duty the next season, but managed just two goals in 25 games. That would turn out to be the last action of his NHL career.
He headed to Germany in 1989, where he'd play professionally for another decade, but he returned to the Canadian national team for the 1992 Olympics, scoring twice to help Canada win silver. And he was back again in 1994, earning silver again as Team Canada lost to Sweden in the infamous Peter Forsberg shootout.
All in all, Schreiber played 24 Olympic games for Team Canada—still among the nation's all-time leaders—scoring four times and earning two medals in the process. At press time, there was no word on whether a 55-year-old Schreiber was prepping for a comeback in 2018.
Trivial annoyance of the week
This week's trivial annoyance has been bugging me for years. It's going to bug you, too, so consider this fair warning: Feel free to skip this section. Seriously, I need to get this off my chest but you'll be happier if you go through life without having this question shoved into your brain. No hard feelings. Just head down and meet the rest of us in the YouTube section.
No? Fine, you had your chance. Here we go.
Why do we have two separate penalties for "holding" and "holding the stick", but slashing and slashing the stick are both just "slashing"?
Look, I warned you.
It's weird, right? There's no good reason I can come up with to have separate categories for one type of foul but not the other. You can't hold. You can't slash. You can't do either to an opponent's stick. So why treat them differently?
For what it's worth, the two types of holding are technically violations of the same rule, 54.2, but that rules specifies that holding the stick should be announced as such, and gives it a separate hand signal (it's actually the only penalty in the rulebook that has a two-part signal.) So this isn't just something that referees started doing on their own. Somebody felt the need to write it down.
Meanwhile, the rulebook just defines slashing as hitting an opponent's body or stick. That's it. One call, one signal, and we're done with it. The way the rule is actually called is kind of dumb, but that's beside the point. It's one call, end of story.
Anyway, this is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night when it's almost August, and now it can do the same for you. Enjoy eventually forgetting all about it, having it nestle into your subconscious for a few months, and then suddenly having it burst out the first time you see a "holding the stick" penalty get called in October and it makes you irrationally angry.
Classic YouTube clip breakdown
Much like pop music, the NHL sounded a lot better in 1990 than it does today. For proof, let's blow the dust off of the old VHS collection.
This segment comes to us from the immortal Super Dooper Hockey Bloopers, which every kid got for Christmas in 1990 if your parents loved you. We've featured it in this space before, including its John Davidson-hosted musical interlude.
Look, I don't say this lightly: Super Dooper Hockey Bloopers is one of the five best hockey films of all time. I don't even think that's up for debate. I have the rankings as:
2. Super Dooper Hockey Bloopers on VHS
4. Hockey: The Lighter Side on VHS
5. Any footage of copies of The Love Guru being fed into a bonfire.
This bit is fairly simple. They're going to take a handful of highlights and slap some funny sound effects on them. But it was made with footage from the late 80s, so you can pretty much guess what we're going to get: dirty hits, ridiculous clutch-and-grab, and somebody getting a concussion that we all make fun of. Roll the tape.
We get a quick intro, highlighted by an "Oh yeah, Scott Stevens used to play for the Capitals" moment in which he sends Ken Daneyko airborne with a hip check. I'm going to go ahead and assume that this moment was extremely conflicting for this guy.
Next, we get an extended look at the Bruins doing, well, something. I'm not actually sure what's going on here, but Bob Sweeney is cranking his stick into something or other. Our funny sound effect is wood cracking and… wait, is that a baby crying? What are they implying here? This is disturbing, let's keep moving.
By the way, nine-year-old me will never stop thinking that having a guy named Asselstine is hilarious.
Hey, it's an Allan Bester sighting! Bester was fantastic. He was listed as 5'7" and 155 pounds, and I think that was overselling it. He also played for the terrible Ballard-era Maple Leafs, which led to Don Cherry's immortal line: "Allan Bester sees more rubber than a dead skunk on the Trans-Canada Highway."
Next comes my favorite moment of the entire clip: somebody playing "defense" against Wayne Gretzky. This being the late 80s, defense means just grabbing him and hanging on while he drags you around the ice, in this case accompanied by horsey sounds. We all laughed and then forgot about it, because that's just how teams like the Nordiques played defense in those days.
Seriously, that may not have even been a penalty back then. This is your periodic reminder that anyone who tries to tell you there's too much clutching and grabbing in today's NHL has only been watching hockey for a few years.
We get the requisite car crash effect for a pileup, a shot of Lou Franceschetti hitting himself in the head for some reason, and Derek King playing with his stick. Then comes what looks like it's going to be a standard Cam Neely body check, until—wait for it—yep, solid work by the rink crew in Buffalo as always. Bonus points to the cameraman for immediately panning down for the closeup of Neely's remains.
We get another hit, this one sending Benoit Hogue airborne, and I'm honestly not sure if the sound effect at 0:58 is supposed to be what I think it is. If it's a commentary on the late-80s Sabres playoff record, it might be a little too on the nose.
Huh, guess I was wrong. With only a few seconds left, we made it all the way through the clip without making fun of anyone suffering a head injury and… Nope, there it is. Pete Peeters take a shot right on the button, and he's down for the count. It goes without saying that we get some cuckoo-clock sound effects to accompany the moment, because we were all terrible people back then.
And that does it for our clip. Again, the entire production is a masterpiece, from the truly weird opening sequence to the various bits like the Dubious Distinction Awards. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at