Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: Artemi Panarin. I don't fully understand what's going on here, but I'm pretty sure he's making fun of the Edmonton Oilers so I'm in.
The second star: Brody Marleau. That would be Patrick Marleau's nine-year-old son. He got to spend his birthday with the Maple Leafs, which was adorable. He's also apparently working on stealing Mitch Marner's girlfriend, which is somehow more adorable.
The first star: Guy Boucher's face. Fun fact: He's not even reacting to anything in particular here, he's just been making this face constantly since mid-November.
Outrage of the Week
The issue: Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov tried to score with the behind-the-net lacrosse move this week.
A few nights later, Filip Forsberg tried it, too.
The outrage: That move is disrespectful and anyone who tries it should eat an elbow for their troubles.
Is it justified: OK, I'm overselling the outrage here a bit—it's not like anybody went nuclear on Kuznetsov or Forsberg. But that's mainly because their moves didn't work. If either guy had scored, you can bet that plenty of old-school hockey types would have pulled out their soapboxes and pontificated about hot-shot glory boys disrespecting the game and showing up the other side.
And here's the thing: It's going to happen. It's kind of amazing that it hasn't happened already.
The move has been around for a while; most of us saw it for the first time when Mike Legg scored with it in college back in 1996. But as best we can remember, nobody's ever scored with it in a meaningful NHL game. Kuznetsov may even have been the first player to try it all. That's kind of weird, because it's not like today's players can't do it. Many of them weren't even born yet when Legg pulled it off, and they've grown up trying it; Sidney Crosby did it all the way back in junior. Every NHL team has a few guys who can pull the move off reasonably well in practice. Heck, your beer-league team probably has a few guys who claim they can.
But nobody ever does, at least not in the NHL, because it's one of those things you're just not supposed to do. When Crosby did it in 2003, he was ripped by Don Cherry and others for showboating, and he hasn't broken it out since. Plenty of fans still feel like there's something wrong with the move.
If you're one of those fans, I've got bad news for you: We're probably a few years away from players doing this all the time. It's going to be like the between-the-legs shot that nobody ever tried until the 90s. At first, you couldn't believe what you'd just seen. Within a few years, Marek Malik was doing it in the shootout, and now it's just a standard play that everyone tries.
The same thing is going to happen with the lacrosse move. (My personal prediction: One of the many guys who can already do it is going to wait for playoff overtime to break it out for real.) When it does, the old school will complain the first few times, but then we'll get used to it, and the next generation of fans will wonder why there was ever a time when players weren't supposed to score with moves they knew would work.
If that bothers you, get your complaining in now. In five years, we'll look back and wonder what the problem was.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
Happy Easter weekend. Today's obscure player is Bunny Larocque.
Larocque, who's given name was Michel, was a junior star with the Ottawa 67s in the late 60s and early 70s. He was drafted with the sixth overall pick by the Canadiens in 1972—yes, yet another case of the team using a high pick on a goalie they didn't really need. Unlike poor Ray Martynuik, Larocque at least got to play in Montreal, where he served as Ken Dryden's backup during the late-70s Habs dynasty and took over as the part-time starter after Dryden retired. He even won the Vezina four times. Granted, that was back when it was awarded automatically to the goalies on the team with the fewest goals against, like the Jennings is today, but saying "four-time Vezina winner" sounds impressive so we'll go with that.
His run in Montreal came to an end in 1981, when he was traded to Toronto. The Leafs were terrible, but it gave Larocque a chance to finally be the full-time starter, playing a career-high 50 games in 1981-82. He was traded to the Flyers in 1983 and later had a short stint with the Blues. In all, his NHL career lasted 11 seasons and 312 starts. He began a front-office career in junior hockey, but died in 1992 at the age of 40 after a battle with brain cancer.
Although all those Stanley Cups and Vezinas in Montreal were nice, it goes without saying that his true career highlight came as a Maple Leaf. On January 16, 1982, he got to face down Wayne Gretzky on a penalty shot.
Larocque stood on his head that whole night, and the Leafs won 7-1. Meanwhile, the great 1976-79 Habs "dynasty" never beat the Oilers, not even once. You tell me which team was better.
Be It Resolved
Be it resolved that it's OK to just say the Golden Knights are the best expansion team ever, in any sport.
Really. It's fine. Honestly, it's probably not even up for debate. It's also a great story, one the NHL should be singing it from the rooftops.
And to their credit, the league is trying. But it has run into a problem: The whole concept of an "expansion" team turns out to be a lot murkier than you might think, and that makes comparing the Knights to what's come before tricky. Sure, teams like the 1998-99 Predators and the 1974-75 Capitals were expansion teams. But what about the 1979 WHA merger? Or the new teams that showed up in the 1920s and 30s? Do the 1991 Sharks even count, since they got to start with half the North Stars roster?
And so the league has had to go through contortions in order to recognize the Golden Knights without leaving anybody out. For a while they kept using the phrase "inaugural season." More recently, it's just "first NHL season."
That clears up the semantics, but it doesn't really do the Knights justice. It also leads to weird stuff like that tweet having to include teams from the league's very first season, which hardly makes sense.
And if you try to expand the argument to other pro sports, it goes even more off the rails:
You can see what they're trying to do, but I'm pretty sure I wrote essays in college that were shorter than that tweet. And let's be honest, the NBA can say whatever it wants, but the 2002-03 Hornets aren't an expansion team. Nor are teams that join from other leagues, or that show up in 1923 because some railroad tycoon got together six friends and $100 in cash and was granted an NHL team to play out of his backyard.
The Golden Knights are an expansion team. And they're the best one ever, in any major sport. It's fine to just say that.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
Sunday is April Fool's day. The hockey world isn't much for pranks these days, beyond the beaten-into-the-ground "make the rookie call-up skate a lap by himself" joke and the occasional trying-a-bit-too-hard social-media bit. There was a time when hockey folks were allowed to have a sense of humor, though. We saw it last year when we unearthed an old Buffalo Sabres clip. This year, let's hear from Dave Taylor and the Los Angeles Kings.
- We start off with MSG throwing it to a clip from LA. Our host is longtime Kings play-by-play man Nick Nickson, and he's sitting with veteran winger Taylor. They're reminiscing about the very first interview they ever did together, way back in 1977, and Nickson has the clip. This should be fun!
- Hey, wait a minute…
- Yes, our trip back to 1977 has been accomplished via some special effects, a terrible fake mustache, and a fantastic mullet wig. It's actually a pretty decent setup, and I'd be willing to bet that at least a few viewers took a minute to catch on to what was happening.
- In his first answer, Taylor suggests that the Kings should someday switch over the black-and-silver uniforms like the Raiders. Get it? He's predicting what happens in the future. I hope you enjoyed that joke, because it's basically the only one they have for the next four minutes.
- They also trip over which city the Raiders are supposed to be playing in, but they just keep rolling. The bit is good, but not "worth trying more than one take" good.
- Taylor's next answer "predicts" that he should play on a line with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer. That would of course be the Triple Crown Line, which turned out to be one of the best of the 1980s. It was also one of the last great lines to get a decent nickname, instead of today's lazy treatment of taking the first letter of each guy's name and being done with it. We're lucky this line didn't come along today—I'm not sure I could have handled cheering on the STD Line.
- Taylor's next prediction is that the Islanders will be good, at which point Nickson jumps in to wonder if they'll make an important trade someday. That's a reference to the infamous Butch Goring deadline deal with the Kings, but to Nickson and Taylor's credit they don't come right out and hit you over the head with the punchline. Mainly because they're saving that for the next question.
- Yes, we arrive at the inevitable Wayne Gretzky bit. You knew it was coming. Taylor manages to predict all of Gretzky's scoring records, at which point Nickson wonders what would happen if Gretzky ever wound up in a big market like Los Angeles. Taylor responds, "We probably still wouldn't win anything and then end up trading him for Roman Vopat," but I think that part accidentally got cut.
- We mercifully make it to the last question. Nickson wants to know what players do in their spare time. Taylor answers that he likes reading comic books, and as luck would have it happens to be holding one in his hand right then. It's a Batman comic, and Taylor predicts that someday it could make for a good movie, which is funny because… You know what, I think you get the idea.
- I think we can agree that this whole bit isn't exactly the most subtle premise, but there is a neat moment at the very beginning that's easy to miss. Go back to Taylor's first answer at the one-minute mark, and note how he stutters through the first few words. As a real rookie back in 1977, Taylor had a speech impediment, and often avoided doing interviews. He worked on it over the years to the point where it was rarely noticeable, but he sure seems to slip in an intentional reference to it here. I thought that was cool.
- We close with Nickson pointing out the few things "rookie" Taylor failed to predict, and Taylor responding that he wasn't asked about those. They then pull off the "fake laugh and look at the camera" moment that ended each episode of every 1980s sitcom, and we're done.
- In case you're wondering, this YouTube clip doesn't mention the date that it originally aired, but I think we can piece it together. We know it was during Taylor's career but after the Gretzky trade, that it was a game against the Rangers in New York, and that the two teams were tied 1-1 after one period. That leaves two possibilities, one from 1993 and the other from 1990. I think we can safely go with the latter, since the Batman movie came out in 1989. So that means this aired on March 12, 1990, which isn't quite April Fools territory but is close enough. Don’t say you never get any investigative journalism out of this column.
- By the way, Taylor ended up scoring a goal in a Kings' win that night. Who could have predicted 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.