Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dear ESPN: Please Continue To Ignore Hockey. No, Really. You're Just Embarassing Yourselves

Pity the poor ESPN hockey writer, toiling away, as he must, in a windowless room in the basements of Bristol, amidst rusty bike racks and the detritus of Chris Berman ego explosions, charged with the unenviable task of coming up with something, anything, to fill his content quota during one of the most uneventful off-seasons in recent memory. Last summer was sweet. Last summer was happenin'! If it wasn't Rick Tocchet and his rather unusual interpretation of "rehab", it was a marauding gang of Staal brothers terrorizing rural Minnesota, or the Leafs reaching hitherto unheard of heights of incompetence. Last summer rocked! This year? Not so much.

So we really can't blame Scott Burnside, one of tWWL's resident hockey "writers" for seeking refuge in that last resort of columnists desperate to fill space, and quite possibly the most heinous of all sports punditry creations after the Top 10 List...league Power Rankings. But NHl Power Rankings? NHL Power Rankings in July? NHL Power Rankings in July that dismiss our Ottawa Senators and doom them to miss the playoffs in one paltry sentence? Really Scott?
10. Ottawa Senators
The Senators have devolved quickly from a Stanley Cup finalist in 2007 into a one-line team with ordinary goaltending.
Now I don't know Mr. Burnside. I've never met Mr. Burnside. I'm sure he's a very nice fellow. But his "assessment" of our favourites, when taken together with his rather bizarre rationale on giving Pittsburgh the Conference title in the face of their recent pillaging, leaves us with but one logical, inescapable, conclusion: Years of toiling in Disney's underground typing caves has obviously driven Mr. Burnside insane and he should probably be institutionalized as quickly as possible so as to minimize the danger to himself, his loved ones, and most of all, to the innocent hockey loving passers by.

But for this, we can be especially thankful: nobody reads ESPN's hockey coverage anyway.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For A Smart Guy, Ray Emery Is Remarkably Obtuse. And By "Obtuse", I Mean "Stupid"

(Photo: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Like you, I've had just over twenty-four hours to digest Ray-Ray's little tête-à-tête with Michael Landsberg on TSN's longest running soap, The Vapid and The Clueless Off The Record. And, like you, I've tried to take the time to collect myself. To properly arrange my thoughts. To keep my emotions in check. And above all, to weigh the preponderance of evidence on each side of the argument with the clear-headed, dispassionate impartiality la question Emery deserv--Nay! Demands!

And so, with logic to make Socrates weep and wisdom to drive Solomon to such envious heights of madness, he would have just kept the baby himself, I have reached two inescapable conclusions based entirely on what we saw yesterday. 1) Michael Landsberg is constructed primarily of polyurethane and 2) Ray Emery is an irretrievable idiot whose ego has yet to learn the lesson the remnants of whatever common sense he once possessed have been trying so desperately to teach him.

In other words, Ray you still...Don't...Get it.

For every one of these:
"It started off tough and I just didn't uphold my end of the deal," said the former Senators' goalie. "I thought I deserved certain chances and instead of working for them, I pouted a bit."
There was one of these:
"I wasn't trying to make a statement, (January 28th) was after the All-Star break and I went to the game rink and they were at the practice rink," explained Emery. "I apologized for it then, it was my fault but like I said, I'm not the guy who's really nervous about being late."
For every this:
"I just kind of got away from things. I got myself in shape. I just kind of started to rethink some of the ways I went about things. I'm not going to go into detail. I want to say I made myself a better person and better athlete, whatever, family member. It was a thing I felt I needed to do and I'm really glad I've done it."
There was that:
Emery also denied he partied too much. "No. I like to go out and I like to have fun. I wouldn't be out before a game. I wouldn't jeopardize things like that, I don't think. In my eyes, no, but it's been brought to my attention before."
And that:
"It kind of compounded and I did a lot of stupid things to just amplify it and here we are ... Would I change anything about my life right now? No. I did some things, I showed up late, which you shouldn't, and I apologized for that. I'm not losing sleep over it right now."
You see what I'm getting at here, right Ray? For every agent-penned statement of contrition, just enough of the petulance that marks those with an exaggerated sense of entitlement managed to poke through to render the entire episode another meaningless exercise in public relations. (And as an aside while on the subject of meaningless PR exercises, can we please stop lauding Landsberg's "balls" for asking THE DRUG QUESTION? Seriously. What the fuck did you expect Ray to say? "Why yes, Michael. Now that you ask, I am a raging smack head. Want to see my Ewan McGregor tattoo?" Come on. The real balls would have been in the next logical question: "Well then, in that case, would you mind peeing in this commemorative OTR coffee mug?" That would take balls.)

No, what we saw last night wasn't so much a more mature and pensive Ray Emery seeing the error of his ways and vowing to earn back the trust and respect of the NHL, than it was an hour long job interview for the benefit of the other 29 GMs in the League to whom you will be coming cap-in-hand next season.

Look Ray. I'm not even mad at you anymore. Well, not much. But as one man to another, as one human being to another, you gotta get your head out of your ass dude. If you don't, you'll just become another huge talent that disappears in a cloud of self-inflicted hubris, destined to appear only in the odd "Where are they now?" story (in your case? "Prison" if you don't get your shit together).

You said all of the right things, Ray. Hopefully, after your year of wandering the Siberian wilderness with your borscht and vodka loving Kommrades, you'll actually grow to believe them. Only then, will we.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Around The Boards: Mascots, And Russians, And Hotties, Oh My!

If there is one thing I’ve learned (or had pointed out by kind hearted friends) since birthing the squealing infant that is Five For Smiting way back in March of aught seven, it’s that there are many, many, many folks much more talented than I out there in the hockey blogosphere. Hence, I give you Around The Boards*, a weekly (ish) round up of what my betters are talking about:
  • Who's the hottest hottie of hockey playing hotties? As a heterosexual male, I have no idea (all toothless smiles look the same to me, no matter how coquettish). But if you do, and you're looking to express yourself (see what I did there?) this is the place! Vote early, vote often. [Wrap Around Curl]
  • What could a book of hockey themed short stories entitled The Five Hole Stories possibly be about? If you, like so many of us, guessed erotica, you'd be right! [Sens At Land's End]
*It's July. What the hell else am I going to do?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This Is A Forward. This Is A Forward On His Ass. Any Questions?

(Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, this is the greatest thing The Bryan has ever done for us in the history of everything. Ever.
The Ottawa Senators needed a defenceman and they were also looking to add some character. They got both in one signing Tuesday. Veteran defenceman Jason Smith, a captain in both Philadelphia and Edmonton, signed a US$5.2-million, two-year deal with the Senators.
I can't tell you how inappropriately aroused I am about this. Seriously, I can't. If I did, I'd have Chris Henson meeting me in the kitchen wondering why I was carrying a six pack of coolers.

He isn't the fastest defenceman in the league. He won't make the sweet break-out pass to a streaking Vermette. Hell, he may not score a goal for us at all. But by God, if, at the very least, he shows Messrs. Lee, Nycholat, and (especially) Meszaros that weak ass, Redden-esque stick checks around your own crease are no longer acceptable, than he's worth every penny we're paying him.

Smith, Bass, Ruutu, Neil, Donovan...this is not your father's Sens team. Buckle up bitches. You are going to hate playing us. And this makes me very, very happy. In the pants.

Senators Sign Defenceman Free Agent Smith []

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Sunday Soapbox: Quit Yer Bitchin'!

In any given week there are usually one or two stories in hockey, or the sports world in general, that are guaranteed to annoy, confuse, amuse or just plain piss me off enough to talk about.

Rather than continue to inflict these meaningless rants on Beloved during our daily commute (although I will miss the eye rolls), I thought I'd explore them here in a new feature I'm calling The Sunday Soapbox. Like it? Hate it? Think I should just do everybody a favour and get the hell off the internets, leaving them to people who know better? Let me know in the comments.

This week: Stupid contracts, the salary cap, and how it's ALL YOUR FAULT!

Yes, I know. The numbers are ridiculous, even obscene. Five million a year for Brian Rolston. $7.4M for Hossa. Mats Sundin leaving twenty (Twenty!) million dollars on the table while he wanders through whatever passes for a purgatorial Swedish desert trying to find himself. Then of course, there's our own favourite (former) whipping boy, Wade Redden, who gets to underachieve in Manhattan for the identical number of Bahamian pesos he sucked out of Emperor Eugene's wallet last year, and if everything holds true to form this coming season, he'll actually deserve roughly half of it. And even I'm having trouble coming to grips with living in a world where Sean Avery can make four million a year for being, well, Sean Avery. But seriously folks, everybody needs to calm down.

As predictable as a Leaf-less May, the hue and cry has gone up, with the two main arguments seeming to be that a) these crazy contracts are proof that the lockout and resulting salary cap has solved nothing and that b) it means that the poor, innocent fans will just be gouged even more in order to pay for ownership's inability to control their own baser instincts (the third argument, that Gary Bettman is actually the Anti-Christ will be taken as a rhetorical given and will not be argued here). In rebuttal to both of those arguments, I offer a thoughtful and heart-felt "Bullshit! Pull your heads out of your asses!"

The salary cap is working exactly as it should. I ask you, in the pre-lockout world, what would have stopped say, the Rangers from offering Campbell $100 million or maybe $200 million rather than the $56M-and-change he'll be getting in Chicago? Nothing. And not because Campbell, or any other player for that matter, is or is not inherently worth that kind of money (nobody is), but because the Rangers, without the cap, wouldn't have to worry about the rest of their roster.

And that's the beauty of the salary cap. You want to blow ten or eleven million dollars on one player (Vancouver)? Fine. Fill your boots, I say! But that means that your third and fourth lines are going to made up primarily of rookies making the minimum, or washed up has-beens on the downside of their careers. Either way, come April, when the ice gets smaller, the hits get harder and the balls get bigger, I'm probably happier my team spent some cash on the bangers and grinders on the last two lines than on buying Mats Sundin a walk-in humidor for a few extra wins in December.

Then there's the complaint that these salaries will somehow cripple the fan's ability to attend games. Here's a newsflash for you. That ship sailed quite some time ago. And if you're looking for someone to blame, look in the mirror.

I'll be the first to admit, my economics background consists entirely of one semester of Grade 12 Intro to Econ where I spent more time trying to see down the top of the cheerleader sitting next to me than taking notes on Malthus' Theory of Sustainability, but even I managed to grasp the basic premise behind the principle of Supply and Demand.

The salary cap, and resultant player salaries, are tied to league revenues. As the take goes up, so does the cap. Therefore, it logically follows that if the cap has gone up (and it has...about $17 million in a scant four years), then somebody is willing to pay for it. Is it me? Hell no. I haven't been to a live game in three years. Can't afford it. Does that piss me off? Hell no. Why should it? I can watch just about every game on t.v. (and see more than I would if I were there in person). I still shell out for pay-per-view games. I still buy the t-shirts and ball caps, and the car flags will continue to fly from my windows. And if I can hazard a guess, I would assume that most of you do likewise. Yet, when I watch a game from SBP, I don't see too many gaps in the crowd, do you? And it's those butts in the seats that tells me I'll have a team to agonize over, cry over and otherwise obsess about for years to come.

From bread, to milk, to cars, to houses, to hockey tickets, the price a supplier can charge for any given commodity is dictated by the maximum dollar amount a given market will pay for that commodity (well, everywhere but in Toronto...but that's another subject altogether). So if you find yourself bemoaning the fact that those spoiled bastard players are making too much, or that those greedy no-good owners are screwing you, look around and make sure you're not telling them that that's okay. Because until enough people stop doing that, nothing will ever change.

And you don't need a hot cheerleader to tell you that, although it helps.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Er...Ahem...Yes...Well. This Could Get A Little Awkward

No matter how stupendously exciting the signing of a journeyman backup goalie can be, I hadn't planned on posting anything tonight. You see, last evening's festivities went a little longer than usual and I'm now trying to piece together coherent sentences on four hours of sleep (note to self: the next time you hear someone say "Hey, let's break out that bottle of scotch I've been saving!" run the other way as if your ass is on fire. Or call in sick. One of the two).

But then, came this (H/T to DHS, Sherry and Al for the email):

The Ottawa Senators have added some sandpaper to their lineup. Feisty forward Jarkko Ruutu has agreed to a 3-year, $3.9 million dollar deal with the Senators.

Soooo...Jarkko. Buddy. Pal. Jaaaarkky. Jarks. Can I call you Jarks? No? All righty then, Mr. Ruutu it is. yeah, about all that stuff I said... assertion that Jarko Ruutu is a diving chicken shit bastard who lives beneath the rancid piece of meat caught between the pincers of the tick that once embedded itself in my dog's asshole still stands.
You have to understand, it was in the heat of the playoffs after all. You understand, right? Don't you? Understand? I'll assume by your silence and the totally non-threatening manner in which you are holding that nine iron that you do. Hey look over there! Shean's back!

Senators, Ruutu Agree to Three-Year Contract []
And Cooler Heads May Yet Prevail [Five For Smiting]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hour Four: In Which Our Hero Declares "See Ya Suckers! I'm Off To Eat Steak!"

Well, things certainly did pick up somewhat, in honour of my last post of the day...

Of note:
  • Christo-Bal to Chicago
  • Raycroft to the Avs (you won't have that Razor to kick around Laffers. Can we interest you in another?)
  • Ty Conklin to Detroit (and our search for a backup to Pastry continues)
  • Todd Fedoruk joins our own Brian McGratten in the Great One's Army of the Recently Undead
And then there's this little tidbit that popped up just a few moments ago...
Colorado signs UFA forward Darcy Tucker to a 2 year deal worth $4.5-million
Word on the street has it that the War, Famine and Pestilence are also mulling offers from Denver.

Happy Rest of Canada Day Folks! If The Bryan actually does something...I'm sure I'll read about it somewhere. Except Fucking monkeys.

BREAKING NEWS: So Long Cory. We Hardly Knew Ye

According to TSN, we've lost Cory Stillman to the Panthers. Terms weren't disclosed, but you have to figure the number was substantial if it was enough to lure an offensive player to go play for Jacques Martin.

This years Don't Know What You Got 'Till It's Gone, joining the likes of Brian Smolinski, Petr Schaefer and Mike Comry? Yes. Yes it is.

Update: 3 years, $10.6M. And sand. Lots of sand.

Hour Three: In Which Our Hero Hangs A Single Pathetic Thread Of "Excitment" On Jose Theodore

So to wrap up hour three *sob*, the only earth shattering news is...Jose Theodore to the Caps (2yrs/$9M). Whither the Christo-Wall?? TSN (I've given up on trying to get updates from Sportsnet. They may as well be sending smoke signals for all I care) has small notes involving some guys named "Kurt Sauer" (Phoenix), "Mark Eaton" (Pens) and "Andrew Brunette" (Wild), but really...

Curiously, they have yet to acknowledge the Cujo deal on their site. A real deal, or just another tragic case of Cliff Fletcher talking to the office furniture? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Oh...and Bryan? I'd appreciate it if you could hurry it up a little bit. I've got a BBQ to go to in a couple of hours. Thanks.

Salacious Sportsnet Speculation: Swedish Edition

The Canucks have reportedly offered Sundin a 2-year, $20M contract. Of course there is the small matter of the Follicular Wonder actually deciding whether or not he wants to play again, but for now I'm just happy he'll stay out of the division. And by "happy", I mean "laughing my ass off in hysterical fashion".

Hour Two: In Which Our Hero Weeps Silently Over His Wasted Life

So how slow is "The Frenzy"? For the last half hour, has breathlessly informed us that Kyle Wellwood has signed with the Canucks. Shocking. I know. We should all sit down and have another drink. Meanwhile, continues to insist that Cliff's Cujo Crush never actually happened. So the lesson to be drawn from all of this? Our country's pre-eminent sports networks need to take their IT monkeys out behind the smoking lounge and beat them with heavy sticks.

A couple of notes:
  • Sportsnet (the real, t.v. types, not the aforementioned monkeys) is saying that Marian Hossa is "mulling over" an offer from the Brooons. The reported terms? Twelve (12!!) years, $100M+. Yeah, Marian. You should probably hold off on signing a paltry deal like that. You might be able to squeeze the Isles for 18 or 20 years.
  • The Coke Zero commercials featuring disembodied organs (eyeball on legs, tongues and a mafia don Brain) are hilarious. A little creepy, but hilarious nonetheless.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled coma.

Update: The Bruins are now saying that the numbers swirling around the Hossa story aren't quite right, but that "they remain interested" in signing him. Smells like last minute damage control to keep Harry Sinden's pacemaker from blowing up. But that's just me.

Aaaaand...Sportsnet's servers seem to have crashed. Fucking monkeys...

BREAKING NEWS: Cujo Signs With Leafs, Mick McGeough Duly Warned.

Let the youth movement begin! Welcome back the Battle of Ontario Curtis. We've missed you.

Hour One, In Which Our Hero Asks Self How Bad Must An Obsession Be Before It Can Be Called "Unhealthy"

Corey Perry re-signs with the Ducks and the UN-ification of Tampa continues with the signing of Radim Vrbata (um...who?).

That's it. That's all we have for the first hour. Meanwhile, Sportsnet Connected runs on a loop on the t.v. behind me. I do believe Martine Gaillard may be flirting with me. Madam, please. I'm married.

One thing I have learned. I want to be a sports "writer" when I grow up. Sitting in your underwear drinking beer while waiting for the internet to do your job for you rocks! I've finally found the secret to Simmons' continued employment.

Celebrate The Birth Of Our Nation By Blowing Up A Small Part Of It!

Happy Canadia Day, fellow Hosers and Hosettes! In about an hour, old white guys will start throwing obscene amounts of money at virile young men, in the (mostly vain) hopes that one of them will agree to a long term relationship based strictly on love and mutual respect. But enough about Taiwan. It's Free Agent Day people!

I realize I failed to fulfill my promise of finishing off my "top ten" wish list. As I'm sure both of you were devastated and spent the weekend searching for other reasons to live, please allow me to apologize and assure you that such unacceptable laziness on the part of your humble scribe will, in all probability, happen on a fairly regular basis until the puck drops in October. Hey, it's a long weekend, it finally stopped raining and I had a fridge full of beer. That, and trying to find four more ways to describe Degrees of Inappropriate Arousal without the use of pictures and/or flow charts was fucking exhausting.

If you're curious (and I know you are), the rest of my list went as follows:
  • #4) Cory Stillman (solid second liner we so desperately need).
  • #3) Ryan Malone (Tampa? $31.5M?? You are dead to me).
  • #2) Brian Campbell (can't afford him, but it's fun to dream, ain't it?).
  • And the number one Free Agent I Would Love To See In The Condom Logo next year...Mats Sundin. Too bad his rumoured existence is largely fictional (like fairies, leprechauns and eskimos). Don't tell Gainey though. It's fun to watch him go traipsing through the wilds of Sweden hoping for a sighting (OMG!! They...EXCHNGED EMILS!!111!! /Fanhouse'd).
As for viewing the festivities, your best bet is to stay with Sportsnet, who have vowed to "break into regular programming" (which I believe will consist of poker and competitive tongue piercing) to bring us any big deals.

As for the bright lights controlling the Toronto Sports Network, it would appear that they are loathe to repeat last year's experience whence, due to a lack of action, we were treated to four hours of Duthy and Millbury bitching about each other's hair. Add that to the fact that Fletcher pretty much shot his load at the draft (there's a visual for you, kids!), and you won't see or hear a word on TSN until they do a wrap up show at five this afternoon.

Or, you can stay tuned right here! Through the magic of dial up interweb, I fully intend to shirk my domestic duties and wear out the F5 key refreshing, and Sportsnet in order to bring you both the absolute latest in UFA news, while simultaneously surfing for porn. No need to thank me. That's just the way I roll.

Gentlemen, start your chequebooks.