Be It Resolved
In 1991, the NHL celebrated its 75th anniversary by asking every team to name a celebrity captain. It was a neat idea, but ended up going off the rails a bit. One team all but refused to participate. One team picked one of its own players. One team picked the guy from Full House. No, the other guy. The other other guy. It was weird. Earlier this week, I wrote a detailed ranking of all 22 picks from worst to best. I won't give away the top spot, but let's just say it was one of the most badass things to ever happen in the NHL.
But that was 25 years ago. Today, the NHL is on the verge of its 100th anniversary. So why not do it all again? Be it resolved that the NHL dust off the celebrity captains gimmick again this year. Hey, it can't be worse than The Guardians.
The fun, of course, would come from fans debating the picks. Some would be slam dunks. Jon Hamm for the Blues, Kevin Spacey for the Panthers, and Will Arnett for the Leafs (since he seems to be pals with Shanahan). But who gets the nod in Chicago between Vince Vaughn and CM Punk? Bill Burr or Dennis Leary for Boston? How do you narrow the field down in L.A. now that the Kings are popular? And who is "Dr. Cox" and why does virtually every Red Wings fan I've heard from want him as their modern day captain? (Seriously, I don't know who that is, and I'm kind of afraid to google it.)
And maybe just as fun, we could find out if any of the 1991 picks could manage to repeat, which would actually be a pretty impressive accomplishment. Is Larry King still the most famous Caps fan? Could the Islanders' Ralph Macchio manage to hold off Ja Rule and that guy from the Entourage? Who amongst us would have the courage to tell Burton Cummings that he could not represent the Jets anymore? The man dressed up in full uniform for his hockey card.
Let's do it, NHL. Bring back the celebrity captains. Make it a beautiful day in all of our neighborhoods.
Outrage of the week
The issue: Analytics. Again.
The outrage: We learned last week that the Montreal Canadiens parted ways with analytics consultant Matt Pfeffer in the wake of the P.K. Subban trade. This week, Pfeffer gave an ill-advised interview in which he criticized the trade and appeared to refer to Shea Weber as merely "average." While Pfeffer later clarified that the average comment related to one specific stat and not Weber's overall game, it was enough to kick off yet another round of the analytics debate, with former players like Patrick O'Sullivan and Darcy Tucker weighing in.
Is it justified: Does it even matter at this point? I'm not sure it does. We've been down this road so many times, even though the whole issue seemed settled two years ago. At this point the only conclusion is that people just like being mad online about this topic, even as any meaningful debate happens well behind closed doors in NHL front offices.
So today, let's just make one simple point: If your argument against analytics is that some people think that they're all you need to look at, or that its proponents think you can find everything you need to know about hockey in a spreadsheet, or that anyone thinks that you don't have to watch the games anymore, then you are describing exactly nobody. You're staking out an argument against a position that does not exist. You're one step short of standing on your front lawn and yelling at your imaginary friend. And either you know that and don't care because you like being angry, or you haven't bothered to learn the first thing about what analytics is before diving headfirst into the debate. Either way, you look dumb.
As for the proponents of analytics, I don't think there's any doubt that they continue to be a) generally on the right side of this argument and b) the world's biggest online babies about it.
If everyone is OK with all of that, then keep fighting the good never-ending fight. You certainly won't be the only one, as we learned the first few thousand times we've had this exact same argument, and will no doubt confirm over the next thousand. That should take us through to next Tuesday.
Obscure former player of the week
In last week's column, we pointed out how ridiculous it was that one of the league's largest markets could trade its former starting goaltender in a conditional trade without anyone knowing what the conditions were. Thanks to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston, now we know. And it turns out the Leafs basically traded Jonathan Bernier for nothing at all.
That's fine—cap space matters, and the whole trade was almost certainly tied into an earlier one involving Frederik Andersen, so it makes sense that the return would be low. Why the two teams felt the need to jump through so many hoops rather than just say "future considerations" on the original deal remains a mystery, but we can live with that. Instead, let's look back at another NHLer who was once traded for an interesting return: Tom "Bussey" Martin. Yes, that nickname will end up coming into play.
Martin was a tough winger who was a fourth-round pick by the Jets in 1982, and made his NHL debut two years later. He played parts of three seasons in Winnipeg, never really sticking in the lineup, before signing with the Whalers as a free agent in 1987. He was claimed on waivers by the North Stars in 1988, then claimed back by the Whalers two months later, where he went on to his most productive NHL season, scoring eight goals in 42 games while continuing to provide toughness. He played one more year in Hartford and then signed with Los Angeles, but never played a game for the Kings. His NHL career was over by 1990.
But none of that is his claim to fame, and none of it explains that nickname. For that, we have to go back to January 1983, when the WHL's Seattle Breakers traded Martin's rights to Victoria for a bus. And not even a new bus—it was a used one.
The backstory here is that Martin was playing college hockey at the time, and had never suited up for Seattle. Still, it's fun to imagine him being pulled out of practice and told to pack up his gear, then leaving the building while wondering where that broken down bus out front came from.
Unfortunately, the Leafs couldn't even get a bus for Bernier. But don't take it personal, Jonathan—your new coach in Anaheim just likes to have something around to throw his goalies under.
Trivial annoyance of the week
TSN's Travis Yost wrote a piece this week about the growing trend toward players signing contracts that are heavily weighted with signing bonuses. These deals deliver money to the player up front and have the added benefit of being virtually lockout proof. They also guarantee that a player gets most of his money even if the season in interrupted by a work stoppage. Yost correctly points out that this is good for the players, and not so good for the teams.
It's a thoughtful and well-argued post, and you should take the time to read it. But I'll take issue with Yost on one detail that's not really central to the post's overall point, but winds up starring in the headline: The idea that these bonuses "could lead to next lockout." Others have echoed that phrasing, writing that "signing-bonus laden contracts could be the trigger for the next lockout."
No, they can't.
That's because the next lockout doesn't need a trigger. It's already happening. This league hasn't renegotiated a CBA without losing at least half a season since 1992, a span that includes the entire Gary Bettman era. Holding its breath, stamping its feet, and shutting everything down at CBA time is the only way this league knows how to do business. That's just the reality of how the NHL is run.
And maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe you can argue that the NHL's work stoppages, as panful as they were, ultimately resulted in a better landscape for all the teams. That's an argument for another day, but it's not an unreasonable stance.
But what is unreasonable is denying reality. The NHL is going to have a lockout in 2020, because it always has lockouts. When that time comes, the league is going to try really hard to convince you that the lockout is caused by something on the player's side, like signing bonuses, or contract length, or spiraling second contracts, or (if it feels like losing an entire season) even guaranteed contracts themselves. All of those things may or may not be problems. But they're not going to trigger a work stoppage, because the 2020 lockout has been inevitable since the day the new CBA was signed in 2013.
Something can't cause the next NHL lockout any more than something can cause tomorrow's sunrise. Let's just accept it.
Classic YouTube clip breakdown
This week's obscure clip is a Madonna parody song inspired by Bruins goaltender Andy Moog. Because it just is, that's why.
- This is from Hockey Night in Canada, apparently from the second round of the 1991 playoffs. That's all I know. And I'm pretty sure it's all I want to know. Normally this is the part where I'd spend way too much time researching small clues to pin down the exact timing and circumstances of a clip. But that seems inappropriate here. This clip doesn't exist at a specific point in history. It's eternal. It was always inside of each one of us. And it finally emerged because this world needs beautiful things. That's all we need to know.
- After a fraction of a second of Bob Cole's voice to get our hopes up, we cut to Chris Cuthbert introducing the video with a music pun. He seems thrilled to be doing this, by the way.
- "Goalie with an attitude, number one with the Bruins." Wait, did Andy Moog have an attitude? He did hold out for almost the entire 1987-88 season to force a trade out of Edmonton, but half the players in the Hall of Fame did that at least once in their career, so I think we can give him a pass. Who wrote this song, Wayne Presley?
- "Don't just stand there, let's get to it, make a save there's nothing to it." Wait, is this going to be one of those "parody" songs where you just swap out the original lyrics with uninspired references to something else? [fast-forwards ahead] Yep, apparently so. Man, nobody puts any effort into their NHL-themed song parodies anymore.
- Wait, do I have to explain that this is a rip-off of the Madonna song "Vogue"? Are there people reading this who are so young that they'll need to have that explained to them? Please tell me there aren't. I'm not sure I could handle that. "Vogue" only came out a few years ago, right? Please tell me I'm not really as old as I suddenly feel right now.
- The section that fades in and out of dramatic close-ups while the singer whispers "Moog, Moog, Moog" is my favorite part. Not of this clip. Of life in general.
- "He's everywhere that they go." Well, yes, assuming the Canadiens are going to the opposing team's net, Moog probably should be there at all times. That's pretty standard for goaltenders. OK, fine, it's pretty standard for goaltenders who aren't Dominik Hasek.
- I know we're focused on Moog here, but that skate pass that Russ Courtnall pulls off at the 42-second mark is pretty damn cool.
- Pat Burns' annoyed head shake speaks for us all right now.
- It takes us until the 55-second mark to get a reminder that "playing defense" in the early '90s just meant straight-up tackling anyone who got near you. Remember that the next time some kid who's been a hockey fan for ten minutes tries to tell you that there's too much clutching and grabbing in today's game.
- I'd just like to point out that this song appeared two games after Moog had been shelled for five goals in a 6-2 loss. Let's just say that the bar for being considered an unbeatable goalie was a little lower in 1991 than it is today.
- "Come on Moog, let your body move to the music. Come on Moog, let your body go with the flow." Yeah, we're not even changing the lyrics anymore. Just straight up copying the original song and swapping in Moog's name at this point.
- By the way, Moog's name did indeed rhyme with "Vogue." That was a point of contention at various points in his career. My favorite Andy Moog story, possibly apocryphal, was that when he joined the Dallas Stars, the local fans would shower him with cow-like "moo" chants because they assumed that's how his name was pronounced and nobody had the heart to tell them otherwise.
- I'm not sure what it is with Moog inspiring musical parodies, but according to this article, "During the Stanley Cup Finals, a Boston radio station even transformed Def Leppard's popular song 'Animal' into an 'Andy Moog' version." And now I really want to hear that song.
- Anyway, I'm sure you'll all wondering how they're going to handle the quasi-rap part of the song, so let's get to it.
- "Raymond Bourque, Andy Moog." Yup, solid start. Kind of weird that we're reusing Moog here, but we'll let it slide.
- "Neely and Lazario." Yeah, there's nobody named "Lazario" on the Bruins. That would be rookie Jeff Lazaro, and he definitely didn't pronounce his name like that. You've let us all down, weird CBC Madonna impersonator.
- "Chris Nilan, looking mean." Sure, why not.
- "… on the cover of a magazine." No. You're back to just stealing from the original song again.
- "Craig Janney, Christian Dave… " What are you even doing, Madonna-lady? There's no "Christian Dave." It's Dave Christian. You cannot flip somebody's name around just to set up a lame rhyme with "crave."
- "Bob Sweeney, brother Don. Fleeced for Hamilton. Playoffs gone." No wait, I'm sorry, that last part was from the 2016 remake.
- I will give them bonus points for working in "Bruins have grace" right as a Boston player literally breaks his stick cross-checking an opponent. That is a guy who definitely fits in their culture.
- Also, I love the clip of Reggie Lemelin looking exactly as sour as you'd expect from a guy appearing in a video love-fest for the player who took his job.
- This takes us to the end of our clip. Sadly, the Bruins did not get that Stanley Cup that they craved, instead getting knocked out in the next round by the Penguins in a series that featured the infamous Ulf Samuelsson hit. This broke the hearts of Hockey Night in Canada's music producers, who were no doubt hard at work on a Moog-themed softcore erotica called "Justify my Glove."
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at email@example.com.