Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: NBC Sports Boston – Their twitter account decided to make a joke about the Blackhawks playing at Notre Dame. It ended up being the equivalent of cutting across the blueline with your head down and getting smoked.
Get the stretcher, I don't think they're walking this one off.
The second star: The NHL store – This image from the official league site, found by a Reddit user, is ice cold.
The first star: Alexander Ovechkin is celebrating again – Remember when you were a kid and summer vacation would be almost over and you'd start to get really sad about it? That's how I feel about Ovechkin's month-long Cup celebration right now. Ah well, at least we'll always have this extremely NSFW video of his very favorite song to remember the good times.
Also, here's Dmitri Orlov singing the same song to Ovechkin's mom, which isn't weird at all.
Be It Resolved
The Montreal Canadiens made some headlines recently. No, they didn't trade Max Pacioretty. No, they didn't finally acquire the first-line center they've been chasing for years. No, they didn’t find an invitation to the John Tavares sweepstakes at the bottom of their backpack and realize they hadn't been excluded after all. Look, I didn't say they made good headlines.
No, the Habs made news by announcing that Shea Weber will miss six months after having knee surgery. The strange part is that the team had known about this for weeks, and just decided not to tell anyone. GM Marc Bergevin went through his entire end-of-season press conference without mentioning it, then had the team slip it into a press release after everyone had left town. Not surprisingly, this has raised a few questions.
Clearly, Habs fans can be annoyed by this, since it suggests that they can't really trust what team management is telling them. And it plays into the larger pattern of teams around the league not wanting to tell their fans anything. That's been getting better lately, with most teams being more transparent around contracts and trade details, but it still happens.
But while the move opened the Canadiens up to some well-deserved criticism, it at least gave us something to talk about right around the time the NHL offseason gets boring. That's worth something. And maybe we can build on it.
So be it resolved: From now on, every NHL team should keep one semi-important story secret during the offseason.
The Habs have already shown us how it's done. Let's have everyone else follow their lead. Every team picks one thing—an injury, a signing, a trade, a buyout—and just doesn't tell us about it. Then we have to try to figure it out on our own. The only rule is that if someone guesses right, the GM has to fess up and tell us.
It would be fun. And it would give us all something to think about during those six or seven summer weeks when nothing is happening. Sometimes, we'd figure it out quickly. Other times it would take some work to piece everything together. Maybe there'd be a breakthrough, where some fan captures grainy footage of a star player limping around, or a "for sale" sign going up in front of a fourth-liner's house. Sometimes we'd make it to September without an answer, at which point we could have a fun press conference where the GM comes out and admits that the starting goalie retired two months ago and they don't have a replacement.
We already don't have any insiders around to break the news, since they're all at their cottage compounds trying to remember what their spouse looks like and how sleep works. So let's do the polite thing and wait until they're back before we wrap up all the loose ends.
Let's make this happen. Just like the next half-dozen draft lotteries, it isn't fair that Habs fans get all the fun.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
It's been a rough summer for Canucks fans. Their team's offseason strategy seems to be "sign all the fourth-liners you can to multi-year contracts," and even then they're getting out-hustled by the Islanders in that department. So today, let's help Vancouver fans celebrate the anniversary of one of the happiest moments in franchise history: The day that Mark Messier officially went the hell back where he came from.
That would be July 13, 2000, the day that Messier re-signed with the Rangers after three disastrous years in Vancouver. His divorce from the Canucks was already a done deal by then, but seeing him pull another team's jersey on helped give Vancouver fans some closure on what to this day stands as the biggest debacle in franchise history.
So today, let's mark the occasion by bestowing Obscure Player honors on a former Canucks captain that the entire fan base doesn't hate: Chris Oddleifson.
Oddleifson was a big center who was originally picked by the Oakland Seals in the 1970 draft, two picks behind Darryl Sittler and eight picks after the Canucks made Dale Tallon their first ever pick after the whole roulette wheel debacle. But the Oddleifson pick is probably more famous for another reason—it was the one the Seals acquired from Montreal as part of the classic Sam Pollock fleecing that saw them give up their 1971 first, which turned into Guy Lafleur.
Oddleifson never made it to California, as he was traded to the Bruins in 1971 and made his NHL debut in Boston during the 1972-73 season. In February 1974, the Bruins dealt him to the Canucks as part of a trade for the wonderfully named Bobby Schmautz. Oddleifson originally wore No. 11 in Vancouver, which was fine because he didn't force the team to take it out of retirement, unlike some players we could mention.
He broke through with the Canucks beginning in 1974-75, putting up 51 points and following that with a career-high 62 the following season. He did most of that damage on a line with Gerry O'Flaherty and Garry Monahan (who you might remember as the first overall pick in the league's first ever draft). For a franchise still finding its footing, Oddleifson's contributions were enough to earn him the honor of serving as the team's third ever captain, following in the footsteps of Orland Kurtenbach and Andre Boudrias. He did not force a beloved franchise icon like Trevor Linden to relinquish his "C," unlike some players we could mention.
Oddleifson's stint as captain lasted only that 1976-77 season, as he gave way to the combo of Don Lever and Kevin McCarthy. But he remained on the team until he was sent to the minors in 1980. He'd play a few years in Europe before retiring and going on to a career in real estate.
He occasionally showed up at Canucks alumni events and old-timer games, because the fans in Vancouver still like him and don't desperately want to pretend that his captaincy never happened. Unlike some players we could mention.
Trivial Annoyance of the Week
It's the NHL offseason, which means we've just had several weeks of constant speculation over various transactions that could happen. Many involve trades, and some of those involve players whose contracts have either expired or will soon. And inevitably, that speculation can only mean one thing: Somebody somewhere is going to suggest that we might see a sign-and-trade.
Everyone, please stop doing this.
A sign-and-trade isn't really a thing. At least, not in the NHL. It's something you occasionally see in the NBA, where the CBA carves out a special kind of transaction in which a signing and a trade are combined together to allow a player to reap certain contractual benefits he couldn't get on a new team. Years ago, that might mean getting a full max salary, although the rules have since been changed to narrow that loophole. Today, NBA sign-and-trades are relatively rare, although they still happen occasionally.
But that's the NBA. In the NHL, there really isn't any situation in which it makes sense for a team to sign a player before trading him, except for one—a star player who is about to leave as a UFA, and wants to get the maximum eight-year deal on his new team. If John Tavares had insisted on an eight-year contract with the Leafs, the only way to get it would have been for him to sign that deal with the Islanders, who would then immediately trade him to Toronto for players or picks. But while that scenario is at least plausible, it wouldn't make much sense for anyone involved. The Leafs wouldn't want to give up assets to sign an unrestricted free agent, and the Islanders wouldn't want to surrender their extra-year advantage in negotiations, or to help Tavares get more money after he'd already decided to abandon them.
Beyond that very limited and probably unrealistic scenario, there's really no reason for the sign-and-trade concept to ever come up in the NHL. If some team wants to trade for Erik Karlsson or Artemi Panarin or Max Pacioretty and sign them to a long-term extension, they'd just do that. There'd be no need for the Senators or Blue Jackets or Canadiens to be involved in the contract. The teams would just agree on the trade, and the player would immediately sign an extension with his new team. That's it. Boring, maybe, but it's how NHL trades work.
The one NHL sign-and-trade you hear mentioned from time to time is Marian Hossa going from Ottawa to Atlanta within hours of signing a contract extension back in 2005. The fact that you have to go back 13 years to find an example should tell you something, but even that move doesn't fit because Hossa wasn't in on it. He thought he was signing to stay in Ottawa, and then the team swerved him by immediately trading him. Reportedly, he wasn't very happy about it, and rightly so. That's not how the whole concept is supposed to work.
And yet you still hear about NHL sign-and-trades at this time of year. Why? I have no idea, although my theory is that it just sounds cool. It's a term we hear thrown around in another sport, we don't fully understand what it means, so we start tossing it into hockey rumors to see if it fits.
But it doesn't. NHL sign-and-trades basically don't exist. So let's stop bringing the idea up.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
It can't be all that fun to be Bobby Ryan these days. Not only is he stuck on the worst-run franchise in the league, but that team has made it very clear that they desperately want to get rid of him. Normally, a pending escape from Ottawa would be good news. But the Senators have been so aggressive in trying to attach Ryan and his ridiculous contract to any Erik Karlsson, trade that it's got to be tough not to take it personally. And if he does get moved as part of a Karlsson deal, Ottawa fans will forever blame him for watering down the return. That can't be fun.
So today, let's look back on a Bobby Ryan trade that actually worked out pretty well. We only have to go back seven years to find it.
- It's December 12, 2010, and Ryan and the Ducks are hosting the Minnesota Wild. It's a pretty typical and frankly not all that interesting regular season game that the Ducks will eventually win 6-2. But something strange is about to happen. If you've never seen the clip before, see if you can spot it before the announcers do.
- The puck bounces around in the corner for a bit, and the first thing we notice is Ryan gesturing at the referee about something. He doesn't have a stick at this point, and there's one lying nearby, so it's not hard to put two and two together about what happened. Or is it?
- Check out No. 20 on the Wild. That's Antti Miettinen, and he seems very confused about something. He's got the missing stick in front of him on the ice, and is half-heartedly pushing it back in the direction of Ryan. As the announcers point out, that's kind of a weird thing to do, since Ryan plays for the other team. Hmm….
- Ryan does indeed pick up the stick, and just in time. A deflected shot bounces over to him, and he buries it into an open net. He immediately holds the stick up and waving it in Mikko Koivu's face, which seems like an odd way to celebrate a goal. Trust me, this is all going somewhere.
- Also, and Senator fans can back me up on this, I'm pretty sure this is the most recent footage of Bobby Ryan scoring a goal.
- Our announcers are still trying to figure out what happened, and why Miettinen was so worried about an opponent's stick. "That was absolutely bizarre," says one. He's right, but not for the reason he thinks.
- We get a pair of replays, which don't shed much light on the situation but do highlight the celebration. Seriously, if you've never seen this clip before and you're just following along, go back to the beginning and see if you can catch what actually happened. It's one of those great "When you see it" moments.
- Our clip skips ahead to later in the game, as our announcers have finally clued into what just happened. We got to a slow motion replay, complete with a Howie Meeker-style "stop it right there." This time, we can see that it's actually Koivu who doesn't have a stick… right up until he collides with Ryan and just blatantly rips his stick out of his hand.
- That explains Ryan's reaction, and his complaint to the referee, since I'm pretty sure stealing somebody's stick and playing the rest of the shift with it should fall under the "holding the stick" section of the rulebook. It also explains Miettinen's confusion, since it was teammate's stick he was trying to retrieve, even though all his teammates still had one.
- Also, the game is still going on at this point and the announcers don't care. That's my favorite part of the whole sequence. We get another replay, and with that our clip ends and all charges against Miettinen are dropped.
- You can see another version of the play, in which the announcers realize what's happening right away, right here. Koivu actually tried to go to the officials and get the goal overturned, which is pretty rich. "Hey ref, he has an illegal stick. No, don't worry about which stick I'm using, we're talking about that guy."
- And that's it. An underrated part of this whole scenario is that Ryan is a right-handed and Koivu is a lefty. You can see Koivu kind of fumble with Ryan's stick when he realizes that. More importantly, it means Ryan scored the goal with his curve facing the wrong way, which is pretty impressive.
- Wait, are we absolutely sure he gave the stick back? Has Ryan's slump over the last few seasons been because he's still using a backwards curve? The Senators may want to look into that.
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.