_The following is from an email exchange between Dave Lozo and Sean McIndoe (Down Goes Brown). Each month they will talk some nonsense and debate the biggest topics in the NHL in our monthly review. You can _also check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave as they discuss the events of the week.__
Hi Dave… It's time for another edition of our monthly NHL roundup, in which we complain about all the dumb things the league has done over the past month (which is not to be confused with our podcast, in which we complain about all the dumb stuff the league has done in the past week).
Over the weekend we got two outdoor games, one of which was played in the rain. I think we both agree that the NHL has beaten this concept into the ground, taking something that was once cool and novel and turning it into something that doesn't feel special anymore. You can only watch the Blackhawks skate around in a baseball park so many times before the whole thing just isn't worth it anymore.
So all of that said… those two game were fun, right? The Blues/Blackhawks game had its moments, and the Leafs/Red Wings got downright crazy in the third period. Mix in a couple of alumni games that featured dabbing, Wayne Gretzky, and Gary Roberts nearly flipping out and killing a dude, and I feel like I might be back on the outdoor bandwagon. Are you with me?
Lozo: There were outdoor games this weekend? I think I heard about this. Even if I hadn't, I could probably guess the Blackhawks played in one. Or maybe both??? That's the next step in this process. Get the Blackhawks in multiple games. Call it the Blackhawk Classic. Heck, relocate the Blackhawks to Soldier Field. Forty-one games outside! I'm available for hire, NHL!
I didn't watch a second of the Centennial. I watched college football. Watching a Red Wings-Leafs outdoor game in 2017 after having watched the one they played at Michigan Stadium felt like Arrested Development doing a season four. I had great memories of the original and didn't want them spoiled by someone trying to force a newer version I didn't want down my throat.
But as for the Winter Classic… yeah, didn't really watch that, either. I got through the first period, which means I watched a 12-shot period that featured Doc Emrick rambling about a bread factory, Pierre addressing Eddie directly like six times, and one awkward Jeremy Roenick interview with Jon Hamm. The fact that I was able to do that when there was football on makes me a hero. Vladimir Tarasenko's second goal was consumed by me in gif form. I'm very millennial.
This was actually a great weekend for meaningless hockey people take way too seriously because there were two outdoor games and some international teenage hockey tournament, right?
DGB: That would be the World Junior Championships, yes. So you don't care about that, either? I just want to make sure, because Team USA might win and I was worried you'd be insufferable about that on the podcast.
Lozo: The only time I will be insufferable about Team USA winning an international event is when it's the Olympics or World Cup. So you have nothing to worry about.
DGB: Or do I? Not sure if you've heard, but Auston Matthews has turned into the second coming of Wayne Gretzky, and he's American. At least for now. We're working on fixing that. I've said too much.
But yeah, Matthews is rolling, and so are the Leafs. That's led to a wave of thinkpieces covering the long-simmering but rarely-spoken-of "The Leafs Are Actually Good" movement. They look like they have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, or at least stay in the race deep into the season.
I mean, this can't end well, can it? I shouldn't get my hopes up. Talk me out of this, Dave. It will hurt less now than it will when it all comes crashing down in March.
Lozo: Sorry, but I wrote my "The Leafs Can Make The Playoffs" thinkpiece in early December for VICE Sports so the last month is getting me closer to being right in my analysis. That's the only way I can feel happiness, so go Leafs.
The NHL is weird. One player (that's not a goaltender) doesn't make or break a team. Unless that player is Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid… and now Matthews, maybe? The Leafs have the Other Rookies (TM) but it's not like that roster is flooded with talent. McDavid has basically carried the Oilers to a playoff spot to this point and now Matthews is starting to do the same. Once the Leafs add John Tavares in two years they'll be a perennial Cup contender.
In a way, Matthews is like Kevin James. You can just drop him at the center of a TV show or a team and you've got a hit on your hands. It doesn't matter what surrounds him. Auston Can Wait, this winter on TSN (and CBC and NBC and NBCSN, too, I guess).
DGB: "Matthews is like Kevin James" is the saddest string of words I've ever seen. I'm going to start drinking now. You pick the next topic.
Lozo: Next Topic: Should "Kevin James" become a way of describing a franchise player? "In the upcoming draft, there really isn't a Kevin James to build around." I like it.
I want to talk more about world juniors. What's wrong with you people up there? How is it such a big deal? It's in the heart of the NHL season, so it's not like there isn't other hockey to watch. It's not like you don't win gold at all the best-on-best adult tournaments, so why do I have to read panicked tweets from Canadians when a bunch of teenagers are trailing the Czechs by a goal six minutes into a game? People get really mad when teens get cut on live television or whatever, but I get mad at the odd value placed on winning such an inconsequential tournament.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to pick my NFL playoff wild-card round fantasy team and if I don't win this pool I will cry for a month.
DGB: The history of Canada's reaction to the WJC is kind of weird. I'll summarize:
1977-1986: The tournament exists, but Canada doesn't care all that much because it's one of those things that the Soviets always win because our best players are in the NHL.
1987-91: We get the infamous bench-clearing brawl in Piestany in 1987, and now it's on. Canada and the Soviets split the next two golds, then Canada wins back-to-back for the first time, including our first gold medal on home ice thanks to John Slaney's late goal. The tournament officially becomes A Thing up here. It turns into a post-Christmas tradition, not to mention ratings gold for TSN.
1992-1997: The Soviet Union falls apart, and Canada goes on to win five straight gold. This tournament is the best!
1998-2004: Canada doesn't win gold for seven straight years. Combined with us losing the World Cup in '96 and the Olympics in '98, we all panic and think we're bad at hockey now. We forget that we barely cared about this tournament like a decade ago.
2005-2009: Crosby, Toews, Price and everyone shows up and we remember that we're way better than everyone else at this.
2010-present: We collectively decide to treat the tournament like a big deal as long as Canada is still alive or wins, then pretend we don't care as soon as Canada is eliminated.
Shorter version: If you Americans get to be all crazy about college sports, we get this.
Lozo: I won't lie. I tuned out around 1992.
So how about that All-Star voting, huh? I didn't realize the captains were announced Tuesday until I just went to NHL.com now to check the Oilers-Blue Jackets score. I'm interested in seeing the All-Star Game interest this year now that there's no "story" since the captains are Crosby, Subban, McDavid and Price. I'm glad Subban is one because I'm not confident in the other three doing anything interesting with the role.
Also, yes, it feels weird to say I went to NHL.com to check an Oilers-Blue Jackets score.
DGB: This year's game won't pull the same kind of ratings that last year's game did. But hopefully they'll be better than what we would have had if we'd done a cheap John Scott knockoff this year. "Hey look, this time we elected Shawn Thornton!" No thanks.
Subban should be fun, and maybe we'll get to see a bit of McDavid's personality. Here's hoping the NHL doesn't go overboard on the non-existent McDavid/Crosby rivalry, but a little bit of back and forth with the two would make for a good show.
By the way, here's an All-Star story we haven't thought much about: Who makes the Metro team? Remember, there's only ten spots up for grabs, and all the league's best teams are in that division.
Lozo: I say just send 10 Blue Jackets, since they are the best team in the world and everyone on that team is great and always has been and it's something we all should have saw coming.
Sorry. Some guy in a Blue Jackets jersey just jumped on my computer at this Starbucks and started typing. I'm sorry. I'm trying to delete it.
Outside of Crosby, Malkin and Kessel, it's all negotiable for me. Did you know that Zach "Norris" Werenski isn't leading the Metro in points? It's Ryan McDonagh. It's nice to be a defenseman that plays 25 minutes a night on a team that scores a bunch of goals. Points just find you.
Wait. Does this mean John Tortorella is coaching the team? Does he have a say in picking the team? "Sid, I know you want to bring Kessel, but I need some more jam in my lineup. Is Tanner Glass eligible?"
DGB: It's going to be so great when he cancels the Metro All-Star team's morning skate and the media flips out.
By the way, I bet one of Kessel and Malkin don't make it. Remember, they have to take one player from all eight teams. So we get to miss out on a top-ten scorer so we play "Which one of these players is secretly Victor Rask" while watching John Tavares blink "help me" in morse code. The NHL, everyone!
One last topic before we close it out. Joe Sakic has been fired and you're his replacement in Colorado. What's your plan to fix this absolute disaster of a team?
Lozo: I go full Shanahan tank mode. I take three years to blow it up. Literally everyone is available. You want Matt Duchene? Let's talk. Nathan MacKinnon? I remember people saying they liked his contract so I'm sure I can find someone to take it. Semyon Varlamov? Hello, Dallas? Hey, it's Dave, new GM of the Avs. I understand you felt Kris Russell was worth a first-rounder so I'd like five of those, please.
But I'd give Jared Bednar another year. He got there so late in the offseason that this season was doomed before it started. He also took over a team that didn't have what some coaches call a "structure" in place. Imagine becoming the manager at a McDonald's, getting there on your first day, and your employees are peeing in the fry vat and using the buns to clean the bathroom. You can't fix that right away.
Anyway, this segment is sponsored by McDonald's.
DGB: Man, I'm totally stealing that phrase. "The Maple Leafs looked great against the Capitals for two periods but then the third period started and they peed in the fry vat."
I feel like you've got the right plan for Colorado, although that's going to be a tough pill for fans there to swallow. At least Shanahan could arrive in Toronto and be like "Hey, remember high draft picks? You haven't had any since 1985, let's try getting a few" and everyone was on board. Selling it to fan base that just did that a few years ago is an uphill climb.
Speaking of which, the Sabres look like they might still be broken, but I think we're out of time. Let's table that for next month, by which point they'll either be back on track or Buffalo fans will be ready to burn anything down that the Bills fans didn't already get to.