Ronnie Shuker is an associate editor with The Hockey News. He brought his philosophy and journalism graduate degrees to THN in 2011 and has been living the dream since. By day he mans his desk, crushing copy and weaving yarns for the magazine. By night he’s either at home or in the press box watching dump-truck loads of hockey.
The beauty of the Los Angeles Kings is that they bring together two opposing parts of the hockey world. These two factions have spent the better part of the past three years bantering back and forth, mostly via Twitter, about the merit and demerit of advanced statistics. Now they have a case study they can agree upon.
The dyed-in-the-wool geriatrics embrace the Kings for their throwback, defense-first, physical style of play backed by brilliant goaltending. They’re big, mean, nasty, iron-willed and brass-cojoned, and the old guard loves them for it.
The four-eyed number-needling geeks adore them, too, and rightfully so. After all, the Kings are the poster boys for the advanced stats revolution, particularly Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams who, along with Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, are the only players to be top 10 in Corsi close each of the past three seasons.
Boxing and hockey are No. 1 and 2, respectively, on my list of favorite sports. What I love most about both is the honor among competitors. They beat the heck out of each other for 12 rounds or a seven-game series and then shake hands or embrace afterward. Boxers and hockey players win with honor and lose with dignity.
Well, most of the time anyway.
Strange. In one part of the hockey world, the cries are deafening. In another, the silence is soothing. And yet both are in similar situations.
The Penguins and Bruins won their divisions going away during the regular season. In the playoffs, both got through the first round without going the distance and had their second-round series in hand before ultimately blowing them to teams they were favored to beat.
So why are the calls for radical change to the Penguins so loud and to the Bruins so silent? Before they get any louder in Pittsburgh, the Penguins brass best learn a lesson from Boston’s big mistake last summer (see Seguin, Tyler) before they do the same and trade a superstar center (see Malkin, Evgeni).
Notice any players missing in the playoffs? Don’t sweat it if you don’t, because no one else has either. They disappear around this time every year, and few fans seem to care because they’re too busy watching the real season when only the real players are left playing.
Heck, even the barbarian blowhards have hardly made a headline about the absence of the sledgehammered, stone-handed, slower-than-sludge fighters that (regrettably) make their appearance in the regular season, only to disappear (thankfully) in the playoffs.
It’s understandable if Garth Snow, GM of the New York Islanders, hasn’t been following these playoffs. Not only would he have to watch Thomas Vanek star with the Montreal Canadiens, he’d also have see Nino Niederreiter shine for the Minnesota Wild.
Each used to be an Islander. Both were traded by Snow. Neither brought much in return.
In a recent interview for an article on even-up calls, former NHL referee Kerry Fraser reminisced about his legion of run-ins with players and coaches – from Jarome Iginla to Scotty Bowman to even Wayne Gretzky.
During our conversation, Fraser recalled a colorful encounter with The Great One, when Gretzky decided to try to dive his way to a much-needed Oilers power play.
Right above the urinal in the washroom of the Norfolk Admirals dressing room. That’s where coach Jon Cooper placed The Hockey News’ American League predictions from our Oct. 17, 2011, issue before the start of 2011-12. We had Norfolk finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference. They ended up finishing first overall and cruising to the Calder Cup championship in a record-shattering season thanks to a remarkable run of 28 conescutive victories.
“Everybody had to stand and stare at it every day, so you can thank yourselves for being part of the motivation for our streak,” Cooper joked. “As soon as I saw it, I brought it in and said, ‘Look at where the biggest hockey magazine has put you guys.’ ”
They’re the last-minute Larrys of the Stanley Cup playoffs year after year – the college kids with PhDs in procrastination yet so whip-smart that they can cram study before the final exam and pull out an ‘A.’
Problem is, though, they’re supposed to be the NHL’s professors, the grizzled veterans of the league – post-season shrewd and crunch-time wise from their vast playoff experience the past three years. In short, the Boston Bruins should know better than to play around with “procrastination.”