Three stars of comedy
The third star: Joe Thornton and Brent Burns – When they're not challenging WWE tag teams, they're mastering the weirdly specific sub-genre of commercials that involved them just randomly yelling at people.
The second star: Jonathan Ericsson – Just be a nice guy and toss a puck to a fan, what's the worst that could happen?
The first star: Phil Kessel's hockey card – It was tempting to give this week's obligatory Phil Kessel spot to this or maybe this, but instead we'll go with his new hockey card featuring his day with the Cup. Yes, that one:
At some point, we're going to have to disqualify Kessel from future appearances in the three stars. That moment is currently scheduled for one day after I write my last column. Besides, he had to be first star because everyone in his family is winning stuff this week. Hey, speaking of which...
Debating the Issues
This week’s debate: Wednesday's women's gold medal game between Team Canada and Team USA was an all-time classic. But should Olympic gold medal games end with shootouts?
In favor: No, of course not.
Opposed: No, of course not.
The final verdict: No, of course not.
The NHL Actually Got Something Right
The NHL does not award the Stanley Cup based on the results of a shootout.
Trivial Annoyance of the Week
The women's gold medal game ended in a freaking shootout.
OK, I think the point has been made. But we all agree on this, right?
Actually, it seems like we do. In the moments before and after Wednesday's shootout, the reaction was pretty close to unanimous. Just about everyone was dreading the way that game ended. American media. Canadian media. Analytics guys. Legendary American players. Canadian Olympians from entirely different sports. Me. You, assuming you're a decent person.
So why did the game have to end in a shootout?
That's not a rhetorical question; I'd really love to know why you'd ever use a shootout in a gold medal game. In the round robin or earlier playoff rounds, sure—maybe you don't want one team to get trapped in a six-period marathon that hurts them for the rest of the tournament. But the gold medal game? Why?
It's not about keeping the rules consistent, since they already make overtime longer in the final game. It's not about needing the ice for the next game, since there isn't one. It's not about fatigue, you'd think, since it's the last game. Or is it? That's the only option that makes sense. But not much.
Sure, players are going to get tired in long games. We saw that on Wednesday, when Team Canada looked absolutely gassed as overtime went on. But that's hockey. Conditioning is part of the sport. So is bench management. The shootout probably didn't change the result of the game, since a Team USA win was looking inevitable the longer it went.
But that's the problem—they deserved that win, a real win, not a gimmicked one that gives Canadians an out. Wednesday's shootout was just about as good as a shootout can possibly be, with some dramatic stops and truly great goals. Jocelyne Lamoureux's winner will become an iconic goal in international hockey history. But it was still a shootout. Shootouts suck. Sometimes they're a necessary evil, maybe. But gold medal games are never one of those times.
The men will play for gold this weekend, and while there's no chance they can match the drama and intensity of the women's final, here's hoping they at least get to settle the biggest hockey game of their lives by playing hockey.
And if at some point in the future, somebody tries to invoke Wednesday's classic as a reason to consider using the shootout in the NHL playoffs, load them into a bobsled and slide them into a lake.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
It's been an interesting week for Montreal Canadiens fans. Their current captain, Max Pacioretty, is expected to be traded before Monday's deadline. And the guy who held the job before him, Brian Gionta, was the captain of Team USA at the Winter Olympics.
Not many players can say they've worn the "C" for the Canadiens; it's a list that includes legends like Rocket Richard, Doug Harvey, Jean Beliveau and Newsy Lalonde. In recent times, the honor hasn't been quite as prestigious, with names like Mike Keane, Vincent Damphousse and Pierre Turgeon taking their turns. But the Canadiens are so enamored with their own history that just holding the job confers a certain type of fame on a player. You wouldn't think it would be possible for there to be any obscure former Habs captains.
But then you'd be forgetting this week's player: Walter Buswell.
Buswell was a solid defensive defenseman who started his NHL career with the Red Wings in 1932. He spent three seasons in Detroit, racking up 13 points in 140 games, before being traded to the Bruins as part of a deal for future Hall-of-Famer Marty Barry. Boston flipped him to the Canadiens two days later for Roger Jenkins, and Buswell spent the next five seasons in Montreal.
Those seasons weren't very good. The Habs missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade in Buswell's first year, then lost in the opening round in each of the next three. It was a tumultuous time, with Montreal burning through five coaches and three GMs. By the 1939-40 season, Buswell was one of the oldest players left on the team, and was given the captaincy after Babe Siebert retired to become the team's latest coach.
It ended up being a forgettable year; Siebert never coached a game because he drowned in Lake Huroan during the offseason, the team had a stretch where they won one game out of 20, and the Canadiens finished dead last, a feat they haven't repeated in the almost eight decades since. It was also Buswell's last as captain, and as an NHL player. Toe Blake took over the honor and held it for most of the next decade, while Buswell headed to the QPHL and was out of hockey entirely by 1941.
Be It Resolved
The trade deadline is now just three days away, and while the market is picking up, it's still been fairly slow. That's a bit of a surprise, given that there are a decent number of sellers this year. And you'd think there would be more draft picks in play, since this year's crop is considered to be a relatively weak one. But so far, GMs don't seem to want to move their 2018 picks.
But maybe there's a way around that. And the key may be hidden in this week's least interesting deal: The one that sent Eric Fehr from the Maple Leafs to the Sharks for a seventh-round pick.
Most Leafs fans' reaction to the trade was something along the lines of "Wait, we still have Eric Fehr?" And they only kind of did—he'd been loaned to Anaheim's AHL team, so he wasn't even playing for the organization. But the Leafs wanted to free up a roster spot and a bit of cap space. The Sharks needed some fourth-line veteran depth, so they coughed up a late pick.
And it really was a late pick, because the Leafs don't get the choice until 2020.
It's relatively rare in the NHL these days to see a draft pick traded more than two years in advance. But maybe it shouldn't be. Maybe that's the way to loosen up the market a little bit. If NHL GMs are going to be tightwads with their next bushel of draft picks, then let's start trading ones for future drafts.
Like, way in the future. Forget 2020. Who wants a 2024 first rounder?
There's actually plenty of precedent for hockey trades involving far-off future picks. It happens in junior hockey all the time. Check out this year's biggest CHL deadline trades; they're full of future picks. Here's a team trading nine draft picks that stretch all the way to 2023. Here's a team giving up three picks, none earlier than 2021. Here's a team trading their second-round pick in 2026. That's eight years in the future. That's so long that the Sabres might even be good by then.
How much fun would it be to see NHL teams trading picks from 2026? Do you know how to properly value a draft pick that far down the line? I don't! I bet NHL GMs don't either, which would lead to all sorts of unpredictable results when they sat down to work deals. Plus imagine tracking the ups and downs of a rival team, knowing your team owned their first rounder a half-decade from now. It would be great.
Granted, junior hockey isn't the NHL. Draft picks aren't as valuable, and teams go through cyclical and relatively predictable stages of contending that make trading away future picks a little easier. But it's not like an NHL GM has never thought of acquiring future picks. In fact, it was pretty much the trademark of the best GM ever, Montreal Canadiens' legend Sam Pollock. He built a dynasty out of ripping off dumb teams, stockpiling their future picks and then turning them into guys like Guy Lafleur and Larry Robinson.
If Pollock could do it, couldn't the GM of your favorite team? Well, no, because they're not as smart as Sam Pollock. But you think they'd be willing to try. And even a dumbed-down version of the Pollock strategy could probably break a few logjams.
So be it resolved, let's stretch out the event horizon for NHL trades. You can't give up your precious third-round pick this year? Fine, give us your second from 2021. You probably won't even be the GM by then, so let's get this done and hit the bar.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
With the trade deadline looming, GMs all across the league are sitting in conference rooms with their front office staff, plotting out the moves that will impact their teams for years to come.
But what do those highly private conversations sound like? As it turns out, we have at least some idea, thanks to one team that figured it would be a good idea to film a crucial decision and put it on the internet. Spoiler alert: It would not be the only bad decision they made that week.
- It's June 29, 2013, with the draft and free agency just days away. These fine folks you see here are the assembled brain trust of the Boston Bruins, who've just finished up their second Stanley Cup final appearance in three years. Everything is going well. Let's see if we can pinpoint the moment that changes.
- The star of our clip is, of course, then Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. He also looks really miserable throughout this entire clip, which makes me wonder what he must look like today with the Oilers. Has anyone seen him lately? Are we completely sure he hasn't gone goth on us?
- Things start off with what seems like a reasonably straightforward problem: The team wants to re-sign Nathan Horton, but as Chiarelli puts it, "we're having difficulty." That was true; Horton was basically stringing the Bruins along, waiting out the clock to get to free agency. We eventually found out he wasn't happy with the Bruins waiting to negotiate, but at the time, the whole thing was a bit of a mystery.
- Still, it's Nathan Horton. Good player, but he's not going to make or break your team. No need to panic, right?
- Yeah, not so much. As Chiarelli explains, signing either Horton or a reasonable replacement will mean they'll have to move a player, and the guy he's focused on is Tyler Seguin. At this time, Seguin is 21 years old, three years removed from being the second overall pick, and has already led the Bruins in scoring. But he's coming off a disappointing playoff run, and now he might be on the block. Chiarelli opens the floor to feedback.
- First up is Keith Gretzky, making his second ever YouTube section appearance. He apparently isn't much a Seguin fan, accusing him of not wanting to pay the price. He's followed by director of player personnel Scott Bradley, who suggests Seguin isn't physical enough and relies on his skill.
- "Sound familiar?" Chiarelli asks, in a pretty transparent reference to Phil Kessel. "Yeah, it does," Bradley replies, and then there's a weird jump cut where something is clearly edited out. I'm assuming it was somebody else going "It sounds like Keith's older brother, somebody remind me if he turned out to be any good?" and then being dragged out of the room and thrown down an elevator shaft.
- We see a shot of Chiarelli talking to Don Sweeney, which ends up being a bit of ironic foreshadowing given how this all plays out. Meanwhile, we get a voiceover by Denis Leary, which is weird, because I don't even remember Bill Hicks doing this bit.
- Chiarelli calls "Paul," which is Horton's agent Paul Krepelka. We only hear one side of the conversation, but we can tell from Chiarelli's reaction that he's not hearing good news. "Done," he tells the group. We then cut to a shot of Jim Benning making the exact same face that every Canucks fan made last week when they found out about Jim Benning's extension.
- We skip ahead a day, and now Chiarelli wants everyone to weigh in one a potential Seguin trade. Bradley's up first, and this time he's done being subtle; he just buries Seguin. So does Bruins legend and team president Cam Neely. If there's a dissenting voice in the room, we don't get to hear it—these guys clearly don't like Seguin, and they want him gone.
- I mean, can we just take a moment to appreciate how insane it is that this was all filmed and released? As a fan I love behind-the-scenes stuff and as media I want as much information as possible, but it's crazy that the Bruins would let this see the light of day in a league that obsesses over bulletin board material. The only saving grace is that surely everyone involved learned their lesson and never let themselves be filmed talking trade ever again.
- All that said, now I kind of want to know what the Kessel trade conversation was like in 2009. I'm guessing it was just Chiarelli taking off his jacket Ric Flair-style and elbow-dropping a photo of Kessel over and over.
- Chiarelli goes to work the phone, talking to an unnamed GM about first round picks and prospects. That's where our clip ends, although you can watch the rest of the episode here. That clip doesn't give us any additional insight into the eventual trade, which saw the Bruins send Seguin to Dallas as part of a seven-player deal for Loui Eriksson and prospects. We just skip ahead to Eriksson meeting Cam Neely, touring the rink, and waving a watch in front of Benning while repeating "You will sign me to a terrible free agency contract in three years."
- The epilogue: Seguin immediately blossomed into a point-a-game star, and is the sixth-leading scorer in the league since the trade went down. Eriksson, who's never been anyone's idea of a physical player, lasted three years in Boston. All in all, not good.
- So what happened to the brain trust in the meritocracy-based NHL? Well, three (Chiarelli, Benning and Sweeney) are currently running teams, and two more (Gretzky and Bradley) have since been promoted to assistant GM. But at least they all learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of trading a top pick from the 2010 draft.
Due to an editing error, this article originally said the Canadian men would be playing this weekend and, uh, rough week for Canada. We regret the error. Go USA.
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.