Sports

DGB Grab Bag: More Price Is Right, the Sedins, and Kovalev's Shift

Let's remember that time Alexei Kovalev was on the ice for almost ten minutes.

by Sean McIndoe
Jul 14 2017, 1:15pm

Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Sean McIndoe's weekly grab bag, where he writes on a variety of NHL topics. You can follow him on Twitter. Check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave Lozo as they discuss the events of the week.

Three stars of comedy

The third star: Evgeni Malkin and Roberto Luongo. Forget about MMA star Connor McGregor crossing over to fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring. What happens when Instagram legend Malkin crosses over to take on reigning NHL Twitter champ Luongo? Well, not much. They basically trade highlight clips.

That was kind of disappointing. They're probably just building to the rematch.

The second star: Erik Johnson. The veteran defenseman dropped in on some golf talk with a nice call back.

The first star: Alexander Ovechkin. The Capitals star celebrated his wedding reception in the traditional way: by getting up on stage and belting out a few shirtless bars of Rasputin.

I know, I know, people are going to say he looks like he's had a few too many. But remember, this is Ovechkin. We know he always heads home after two rounds.

Outrage of the week

The issue: Last week in this column, we suggested that all new contracts should be announced using the little mountain climber guy from The Price Is Right.

The outrage: That's a brilliant idea and it's an outrage that the NHL didn't immediately implement it.

Is it justified: OK, maybe nobody came out and said that specifically, but I think I'm capturing the gist of it. People seemed to like the idea, so here's hoping somebody in the NHL sees fit to steal it. I won't even be mad—they can consider it a gift.

Plenty of you had a follow-up question: If the NHL is going to steal the Cliff Hanger game to unveil contracts, then surely there are more Price Is Right games that could be used for other announcements. But which ones?

The whole idea is bizarre and kind of pointless, which is to say that it's pretty much the perfect off-season discussion topic. I don't claim to have come up with a definitive list, and I'm open to any ideas you may have, but I think I've got a solid start with the games below.

Department of Player Safety suspension decisions: This one is Plinko. I mean, it's almost too obvious, right? You decide what kind of suspension the play actually warrants, then put that in the middle of the board and invite the offending player to come drop a chip. Then we all watch as it bounces down and winds up on "one game," "small fine," or "nothing at all" instead.
Wait, come to think of it, they may be using this system already.

Arbitration hearings: The game where the player has to punch out holes in a wall to reveal dollar amounts, which I always thought was called "Punch Out" but is apparently called "Punch-a-Bunch". Either way, it would be an improvement on the current system, in which every young player in the league files for arbitration, only one or two cases actually make it to a hearing, and the arbitrator just splits the difference because that's what they do every time.

Trade negotiations: We'll use Three Strikes. The GM pushing to make a trade will have to draw discs out of a bag, hoping to come up with a combination that gets a deal done before they pull three strikes and the other GM hangs up. For a bit of added realism, all the discs in Kevin Chevaldayoff's bag are strikes.

Award voting: In a modified version of the Race Game, members of the PHWA will rush around a stage trying to match the names of players with where they place on a ballot. Once all the names are in place, the contestant races back and pulls a level to find out how many of the players' positions they managed to get right.

The next CBA talks: Following in the footsteps of the infamous Clock Game, the NHLPA will shout out guesses for their next share of hockey-related revenue while Gary Bettman responds "higher" or "lower." It will be essentially the same as the TV version, with two key changes: Bettman says "lower" every time, and instead of 30 seconds the whole process takes half a season.

The Washington Capitals in the playoffs: Too easy.

Obscure former player of the week

Rick Tocchet left his assistant's job in Pittsburgh this week to take over as the head coach in Arizona. The Penguins replaced him with Mark Recchi, which is kind of neat, because the two were once traded for each other in a 1992 blockbuster. So for this week's obscure player, let's go with another forward who was once dealt for Recchi: big center Krys Kolanos.

Kolanos was the Coyotes' first-round pick in the 2000 draft, going one pick after Brooks Orpik. The next year, he scored the national championship-winning goal in overtime for Boston College on a beautiful solo effort. He made the Coyotes for the 2001-02 season, playing 57 games and scoring 11 goals.

By far the most memorable of those goals came against Patrick Roy on a penalty shot, after which Roy had an epic meltdown and got himself kicked out of the game. That goal was named the fourth greatest moment in franchise history earlier this year, which probably tells you all you need to know about how the first two decades in Arizona have gone for the Coyotes.

Kolanos suffered through concussion problems during that rookie year, and missed most of the 2002-03 season. He returned to the NHL for half a season in 2003-04, scoring four goals. When the NHL resumed after the lockout, Kolanos endured a bizarre season that saw him switch teams five times in less than a year. The Coyotes lost him on waivers to Edmonton in November, claimed him back a month later, and then dealt him to Carolina for legendary draft bust (and one-time Eric Lindros trade chip) Pavel Brendl. Three months later, the Hurricanes sent him to the Penguins along with Niklas Nordgren and a pick for Recchi. And then in the off-season he signed with Detroit.

After all of that, he never suited up for the Red Wings, and vanished from the NHL entirely until 2008-09, when he played 21 games for the Wild. That was it for two more years, before he had one last run with the Flames in 2011-12.

All in all, Kolanos's NHL career spanned over a decade but included just 149 games. He scored 20 goals, only three of which came after he left the Coyotes. Injuries, including those concussion troubles as a rookie, largely derailed what had been a promising career. At the very least, he can say that he was traded for one Hall of Famer, and made another one flip out and throw his stick at a referee. That's not a bad NHL run.

Trivial annoyance of the week

This week's trivial annoyance is that the Sedins keep screwing up top-ten lists.

Look, stay with me, I said it was trivial.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece about active players who'd spent their entire career with one team but might not finish that way. I thought it made for an interesting topic, and I figured the easiest way to approach it would be to start with a list of the ten active players with the most games played for one franchise. That's pretty standard stuff on the web these days—everyone likes a nice, easy-to-digest top-ten list.

But then I ran into a problem that pops up on a lot of these lists: the Sedins. Do they count as one entry or two?

On the one hand, they're clearly two different people. On the other, everything you're saying about one almost always applies to the other, so you have to list them together or it just looks weird. You're basically left with three options:

  1. Count them as one entry, in which case angry commenters will snottily point out that your top-ten list has eleven players on it.
  2. Count them as two entries, in which case angry commenters will snottily point out that your top-ten list has only nine entries.
  3. "Accidentally" forget to include them in the list altogether, in which case angry commenters will complain about some minor typo you made three months ago because nobody hugged them when they were a child.

I've tended to lean toward Option No. 1, although I'll be honest, No. 3 is looking better and better as we go. We're another year or two away from the Sedins announcing their retirement, at which point they'll walk off to a standing ovation marred only by one voice angrily yelling, "Boo, you occasionally made my job slightly more difficult" in a heavy Canadian accent.

Classic YouTube clip breakdown

Tomorrow marks the 23rd anniversary of one of the stranger coaching transactions in NHL history: Mike Keenan using a contract loophole to bolt the Cup-champion Rangers and join the St. Louis Blues. The resulting ordeal included lawsuits, fines, suspensions, and eventually a forced trade to sort it all out.

So today let's recognize the anniversary by looking back on Keenan's greatest moment as Rangers coach. No, not winning the Stanley Cup—that comes a distant second. No, today we need to look back at The Shift.

  • It's February 23, 1994, and the Rangers are hosting the Bruins. It's not going well; we're midway through the second period, and Boston is up 5-1. More important, Keenan is angry at Alexei Kovalev for taking long shifts. He's about to teach him a lesson. Or so he thinks.
  • Fun fact about Alexie Kovalev that I learned from this video: He would periodically glow. Those enigmatic Russians, man, they just can't help showing off.
  • As our clip starts, the announcers are talking about the Bruins' new defensive system of occasionally clogging up the neutral zone. Other teams, most notably the Devils, were using the same strategy, and it was making it a lot tougher to generate offense. I'm not sure if it ever caught on, but if it did I'm sure the NHL worked something out before scoring plunged for two decades.
  • After an icing, the Bruins get some extended pressure in the Rangers' end. Kovalev takes care of that with one of the great zone exits of all-time, as he picks up the puck at the top of the circle, heads back behind his own net for some reason, dekes out two Bruins who then slam into each other, and then fights through a hook to get it out. Every now and then, Kovalev was the best.
  • This all ends with Kovalev drawing a penalty, although in hindsight he just kind of falls over once the puck is gone. But cut him some slack, he'd been out for over two minutes by this point and was probably tired.
  • We find out that the Rangers power play is 1-for-2 on the night, and are also reminded that this was back when ESPN thought using all-lowercase fonts was cool.
  • The Rangers can't get much going, as the puck goes up and down the ice without much in the way of action. Hey, is the fact that both goalies are under 5'10" throwing you off as much as it is for me? It wasn't remotely unusual back then, but compared to today's goalies, Glenn Healy and Jon Casey both look like someone rolled a party of halfling clerics. Pekka Rinne could eat both of these guys during a stoppage and then rehinge his jaw in time for the next face-off.
  • Kovalev is still out there, and his exhaustion shows when he falls over twice in the span of a few seconds. The second one gets called, giving the Rangers a two-man advantage with Kovalev drawing both penalties. And with that, Kovalev finally heads to the bench for a well-deserved… nope, wait, I'm being told that Keenan is sending him back out.
  • According to Keenan, he didn't just keep ordering Kovalev to stay on the ice—he actually had his players physically shoving him back onto the ice whenever he got near the bench. Why is Keenan not in the Hall of Fame? OK, other than "Coaches apparently have to be dead to make it in"? I can't wait for the "Mike Keenan faked his own death to get in the Hall of Fame and then showed up at the ceremony" story in a few more years.
  • The Rangers still can't score, but we do get a minor collision between Ray Bourque and Mark Messier that our bored announcers try to turn into a controversial hit. By the way, it's an underrated highlight of this video that the announcers never actually notice what's going on with Kovalev. That's something I would do, except instead of a long shift it would be wasp-infested tool shed and instead of Alexei Kovalev it would be one of my children.
  • After an extended discussion of a Brian Leetch slump, we arrive at the punchline I think we all knew was coming: Kovalev getting a scoring chance and immediately hammering a slapshot past Casey for a goal, because of course he does. This is just how this story had to end. The lesson, as always, is there are no lessons, and trying to teach one is a waste of time.
  • Kovalev, of course, is sent right back out for the next shift, and when Messier takes a minor hit to put the Rangers down a man with 15 seconds left in the period, Kovalev even stays out to kill the penalty. We get a replay of Casey getting beat on the perfectly placed slapshot, at which point every Blues fan has a sudden urge to start punching their screen.
  • The period ends, and with it Kovalev's shift. There's some dispute as to just how long he was out there; this clip from the NHL has it at five minutes, but that starts after the original too-long shift. Most retellings have it topping seven minutes, with some stretching as high as ten. And despite all that, I still can't decide if this was the highlight of Kovalev's entire career, or this was.
  • The best part of the entire story: According to one version which may not be true but which I choose to believe because it's so perfect, Kovalev never even realized he was being punished. He figured he'd done something right, and Keenan was rewarding him by letting him stay out for as long as he wanted.

Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at nhlgrabbag@gmail.com .