Thursday, 21 August 2014

Joe Thornton Continues to Hold San Jose Sharks Hostage

The standoff between the San Jose Sharks and Joe Thornton remains at a standstill. The only recent development has been the team's decision to strip Thornton of his captaincy, which may backfire as no one should use the word "strip" when barking orders at a guy who once threatened to masturbate on ice.

Thornton has essentially held the Sharks hostage since early June when he refused any prospect of being traded. He hasn't budged from that position despite rumours that the Leafs showed interest and the Stars discussed in acquiring him. Thornton won't have to budge; his no-movement clause enables him to hole up in the SAP Center until the deal expires in 2017..

Stripping the "C" might be a prelude to hiring a hostage negotiator to join the SJ's front office.

So what can the Sharks do with a problem like Thornton? If they're determined to rid themselves of "Jumbo Joe," they might consider implementing one of these surefire strategies to evict him from their roster. (If you need me, I'll be sitting by my mailbox waiting for a huge cheque from Hasso Plattner to arrive.)

1. Give him what he wants

According to an earlier report from The Mercury News, Joe's agent/brother John Thornton claims that his client will not waive his NMC unless "he felt fans didn't want him in San Jose.

Earlier, my blog claimed that this was a gif of John Thorton, rocking out with some ice cream next to his unamused father. In fact, the gif shows Joe's other brother, Al. I would like to sincerely apologize to Joe, John, Al, and the good people who make McFlurry's so that this gif could happen. (Correction thanks to @DLeddy)

So the ball's squarely in the court of SJ fans. If there were only some way to unite them against Joe Thornton. How about hosting a "Free Joe Thornton Concert"?

Experience has taught me that people attending festive events will likely sign anything you put in front of them. For instance, when I was an undergrad, there was a campus event once where various student groups pooled their resources to have a midterm bash in the University Centre. Groups were allowed to set up booths to promote themselves while encouraging students to enjoy giveaways and complementary music.

One unofficial group showed up with a petition to end women's suffrage--and people were signing it! Apparently, some feel that signing whatever's put in their faces is the least they can due while they're enjoying free stuff. If a jerk with a clipboard can dupe supposedly intelligent people into signing away half the population's right to vote, surely thousands of drunk residents in the Bay Area can be tricked into putting their signatures toward ousting Thornton.

The Sharks could stage a free concert outside of SAP Center;the festivities will begin with a solemn announcement of the franchise's decision to retire Joe's number. Then, they can bust out a going-away party headlined by Drake, who is the most popular contract tampering rapper around today.

So, Joe will get proof that fans want him to leave; he gets his number retired; and he gets the biggest and therefore best going-away party in hockey history. This option is by far the best because it makes the Sharks organization look good.

2. Take away all of his "perks"

Of course, the Sharks might not care about looking good. In fact, after Joe refused to go when they made it clear that they wanted to rebuild the team, ownership might want to be huge jerks to him.

In that case, the Sharks could easily rid themselves of Thornton by making his life a living hell. They can do little things like charge rent for his locker-room stall and seat on the bench, bill him for hot water used during showers, and name gross things after him (e.g. Raffi, did you clog the Thornton again?").

Management could nitpick Thornton's sanity apart by finding fault with everything he does. "Put that smelling salt down," Todd McLellan might say. "Smelling salt is for champions, and you are not a champion Mr. Two-Time Former Captain."

They can also get on Joe's case for thinking too visibly, hearing too loudly, and breathing too much air in the room.

If teammates start to feel bad for Joe, it'll be easy to turn them against him by using classic drill sergeant strategies. For example, McLellan might call everyone back onto the ice after practice to perform an unplanned bag skate because Thornton didn't say "thank you" when fined for looking in the mirror that morning.

I'd be surprised if Thornton could go a month playing on these conditions before he asked for a trade or went insane. The latter outcome leads me to the last suggestion.

3. Have Thornton put on the LTIR forever

Joe Thornton haunts the SAP Center, making young players feel oppressed by his unwanted presence. His icy stare causes some teammates to experience cold spots in the dressing room, and members of management feel threatening vibes in the room. To the owners, he's a relic of a time that has long gone, and yet Thornton refuses to accept his passing and move on to embrace his afterlife as a former Shark.

In other words, Thornton fits the profile of a poltergeist perfectly. And so, the Sharks should seize the commonalities between him and unwanted spirits and have him put him on the LTIR as a ghost. Failing that, they should try to break his contract via exorcism. Instead of having a conventional behind-the-scenes documentary about the team the Sharks could hire ghost hunters to follow them and document the "Thornton Haunting."

They can also make him feel like he's outlived his time in SJ by putting this up as his roster pic on

What do you think the Sharks should do with Thornton moving forward?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

2014-15 NHL Predictions Part 1

It's that time of year to start assessing the next NHL season, sight unseen. Here's how I think the 2015 post-season picture will look.

Playoff Teams

Western Conference 
Anaheim Ducks
LA Kings
Vancouver Canucks
Dallas Stars
St. Louis Blues
Chicago Blackhawks
Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins
Montreal Canadiens
New York Rangers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Islanders
Columbus Blue Jackets
Toronto Maple Leafs (I WILL NEVER LEARN!!!)

President's Trophy Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins

Stanley Cup Finalists: LA Kings and Montreal Canadiens

Stanley Cup Champions: LA Kings

If I could have two back-up guesses, I'd pick the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks. One thing I feel confident about is that the East will not beat the West, no matter how battered and bruised the western teams render each other on the way to the Final, the West will remain superior.

I base all of my predictions on avian augury, which is the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather of advanced stats.

Now that I've outlined what I think will happen, I'd like to predict the other end of the spectrum (e.g. the non-playoff contenders, the non-champions, the losingest team, and the draft lottery champ). Next spring, I'll write a recap post that assess whether my yea-saying or nay-saying was more accurate.

Non-Playoff Teams

Western Conference

Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Nashville Predators
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes
Winnipeg Jets

Eastern Conference
Buffalo Sabres
Carolina Hurricanes
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
New Jersey Devils
Ottawa Senators
Philadelphia Flyers
Washington Capitals

Most Improbably Stanley Cup Finalists: Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes

30th Overall in NHL Standings: Phoenix Coyotes

Draft Lottery Winners: Florida Panthers (call them the Edmonton Oilers of the EC)

Least Likely to Win Stanley Cup: Toronto Maple Leafs (Hey, I'm not a totally unrealistic fan)

Ryan Malone's Shock is Shocking

Will current UFA Ryan Malone spend preseason games on the ice or in the courtroom? 

Last April, Ryan Malone (formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning before they bought him out in June) was arrested and charged for allegedly driving under the influence and possessing cocaine.

According to a report by Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Malone claimed that he does not know how cocaine ended up in his pants. When the arresting officer asked him where the cocaine came from, he responded that he “was shocked.”

Shocked? Can you elaborate on that statement somewhat, Malone? Sure, I get that you may have been too disoriented by the police lights blazing and the arresting officer pressing you for information on the night of the arrest, but time has passed now. You need to qualify that statement.

Are you shocked that friends would prank you by slipping cocaine in your pocket and calling the police? If so, you need to meet people with a more law-abiding sense of humour or less access to cocaine. 

Are you shocked that there’s a cocaine infestation in your pockets? Are you shocked that the little packages that you’ve been putting in your pockets to prevent excess moisture from deteriorating your garments has actually been cocaine?

Are you shocked that the police didn't arrest the cocaine for allegedly kidnapping a respectable NHL player?

Obviously, these aren’t serious explanations, but they do serve the purpose of highlighting the fact that Malone’s account of himself has left a lot to the imagination.

Based on reviewing public records, Smith's report indicates that Malone did try to elaborate somewhat on the situation at the time. Malone allegedly told the arresting officer that he was “baffled” that cocaine was found in his pants because he had been wearing those same jeans for three days.* If that report is true, then Malone utterly failed to explain himself, but he did succeed in making himself fit drunken-cokehead stereotypes.  

Malone might as well have referred to everyone on the scene as “little cock-a-roaches” and then tweeted “The World Is Yours #winning” a bunch of times.  

“Een de NHL, first you get da points. Den you get da money. Den you get da Cup. Den you get da power." 

According to the Times article, Malone also allegedly refused a sobriety test when pulled over, but he did later submit to a blood-alcohol test, which he allegedly failed. The defendant hasn’t offered an explanation for the DUI, but we can probably assume that he was shocked to find out that someone had hacked into his bloodstream and uploaded a whole lot of alcohol into it.

Personally, I’m shocked that he doesn’t have a better account for himself.

As a UFA, Malone has a lot of time on his hands right now. He might want to spend it working on a better explanation of his situation because, right now, his “not guilty” plead sounds more like, “I have a lot of money, so let’s make a bargain that prevents me from facing ‘regular people’ justice.”

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Stop the Subbanity, Montreal!

On Thursday, we learned that meth dealers in the Montreal area are huge Habs fans. On Friday, we learned that the Montreal Canadiens' management are huge fans of crack.

How else can we explain their decision to go the distance with disgruntled defenceman P.K. Subban--having a showdown in what must have been an ugly arbitration hearing.

How do we know it was ugly? Subban's sound-bytes afterward seemed chastened, which means that he--a player considered by some to be more of a hot dog than the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile--was uncharacteristically subdued.

I assume that this picture adorns the walls of all true Boston Bruins fans.

How did things ever come to this? Of the 23 players who were scheduled for arbitration, Subban--undoubtedly the most talented of the group--was the only one to face the nastiness of the player-on-club hate-fest. I have no idea what exactly goes on in arbitration, from what I've read, the experience sounds worse than being trapped in a bunker and berated by a delusional Hitler as in Downfall.

That isn't a great analogy because enduring the demise of the Third Reich through Downfall lasts just over 2-1/2 hours, whereas Subban's grueling defense of himself went on for 4.

Somehow, despite taking numerous dirty hits during his so-called "off-season," Subban still managed to talk to reporters amicably afterward. Meanwhile, Marc Bergevin stole away without offering any comment, leaving his franchise defender to block shots on himself just as he did for the team all year.

I get why Bergevin ducked questions; it'd be hard for anyone to defend offering Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, a one-year contract worth $5.25 million. That's Andrei-Markov money. Are the Habs trying to imply that they value Subban as much as they value Markov? Of course not, because it's actually Markov's annual cap hit that is in the same ballpark ice rink as what Subban's been offered. Markov's actual salary next season will be $7 million.

The Habs want to sign Subban for a marginally lower cap hit than Markov's even though Subban is demonstrably superior to Markov in every way except the unenviable "cumulative seasons spent on LTIR" stat.

In fairness, the Habs didn't likely expect Subban to accept the $5.25 million deal. Part of the negotiation process involves teams suggesting a number lower (and agents recommending a number higher) than what the RFA in question deserves. However, when a team insults a player by proposing substantially less than market value, they need to resolve the issue before it goes to arbitration. Otherwise, they're stuck with defending their offensive offer.

Subban probably didn't feel too insulted by the initial offer as he knows that such tactics are part of the business of hockey. However, there's no way that he can't be offended after hearing Bergevin et al. anatomize every wart on his record in order to justify paying him far beneath his worth.

What evidence could they possibly have provided to argue that Subban was a sub-$6 million player? In this 4-hour fiasco about nothing, Bergevin probably appeared Seinfeld-esque as he let minor issues ruin his relationship with a budding star. Perhaps he alleged that Subban is a notorious close-talker, or that he double dips at team banquets. Still, unless Subban absentmindedly urinated on the team's expensive couch, I can't see how management planned to nitpick their way into getting a cornerstone player at an obscenely discounted rate.

We could use advanced stats to prove why Subban deserves more than the Habs are offering, but those metrics have received far too much press since the Leafs hired Kyle Dubas. Instead, let's use some good ole unpretentious, salt-of-the-earth intangibles.

Here are three reasons why Subban is indispensable to the Habs.

1. The Face of the Franchise

Subban is the face of the current Habs. That's no exaggeration. When you go onto the Habs website, you will see his face everywhere.

The team is basically saying, "Price play Subban = Canadiens."

If Subban is not the face of the franchise, he definitely shares the position of "alternate face" with Price. How did Bergevin account for this explicit indication of #76's importance to the club? Maybe he claimed that they put him next to promotional materials because his name is synonymous with giveaways. If so, the NHL should hire me to attend arbitrations just to punctuate bad jokes with rim-shots. 

2. He's a lifer

Prior to the arbitration hearing, Subban proclaimed that he wants to be a "lifer" in Montreal. That aspiration does not extend just to his playing days. 

That's young Subban and young Steven Stamkos. While the latter seems as happy as any other kid, the former looks absolutely thrilled. Could that be because he grew up as a Habs fan and longed to play in a Montreal jersey? Unfortunately for him, Bergevin isn't going to let his best player's boyhood fantasy get in the way of abusing his RFA status to cut costs.

This arbitration hearing will guarantee one or two more years of Subban's services at the possible expense of losing him in 2016, when he may gladly sign elsewhere to end a nightmare that started as a dream come true.

3. He goes to the dirty areas--on and off the ice

Wow, point number 2 sounds bitter, eh? Let's lighten things up by talking about Subban's commitment to hard-nosed play. His on-ice tenacity and organ-rupturing hits are well documented on youtube. 

However, Subban's just as fearless off the ice. For instance, check out this gif of him going into the dirty areas of post-game interviews (namely, Pierre McGuire's head--a.k.a. "the pleasure dome").  

This kind of commitment to forechecking (or foreplaying?) cannot be quantified using charts and graphs.

Next season and beyond

Hopefully this blog post will soon become moot (after reaching 12 trillion hits!) because Subban will sign a long-term contract with the Habs. Since Subban's agent doesn't expect to work out an extension before the arbiter decides the case, it's on the Habs' management to win him back.

So, Marc Bergevin, if you're reading this, stop the Subbanity and pay your most valuable RFA what he deserves. You might be able to win him back if you grab a ghettoblaster and head to Subban's hotel right now. You'll probably need to play something more potent than Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." At this point, I'm not sure if blasting Air Supply or Lionel Richie will work, but it's worth a shot.

I'm not making this plea for Bergevin's benefit, but for the sake of Subban, who has always struck me as an outstanding athlete. Also, I'm worried about what will happen to Canada if Subban signs elsewhere. Undoubtedly, the backlash in Cleveland following Lebron's defection in 2010 will look like a Victorian garden party compared to the conflagration that Habs' fans will set upon their memorabilia. Any fanbase that expresses its joy and dejection through arson should be placated.