I’m writing this from a McDonalds in Montreal, as I wait for a friend of mine who’s letting me sleep at his place to get home from work. If I would’ve realized that I could have a meal, an internet-enabled office, and all the coke zero in the world for $4.35 earlier, I would probably be a much more focused writer than usual. I’d also probably still be fat, so I guess the tradeoff is fair. Anyway, we’ll talk more about my trip when I get back. For now, here’s a bunch of scattered thoughts on the hockey world right now.
State of Numbers in the State Of Hockey
Matt Cooke has been a member of the Minnesota Wild for not even 72 hours, and he’s found a way to be a polarizing figure in town. Not just because he was a former Vancouver Canuck, either. Cooke has worn #24 for all 14 years of his career, and it’s no surprise that he would like to continue this on his fifth NHL team. The issue? Derek Boogaard was the last player to wear it for the Wild. The enforcer was a fan favourite in Minnesota, and died of an accidental overdose about a year after leaving the team to play for the New York Rangers.
As much as many won’t like it, Cooke should have no issue with getting the number. Was Boogaard’s death tragic? Absolutely. The man struggled with personal demons over the years, was struggling with recover with hockey-caused head injuries, and was only 29 years old. Fans in Minnesota adored the effort he put out every year. Meanwhile, Matt Cooke has several suspensions and incidents that could be described as gutless rather than fearless in his past.
But the reality is this: Boogaard ended his career on the Rangers, not the Wild. Right off the bat, you lose the comparisons to the likes of Dan Snyder with the Atlanta Thrashers (not recognized by the Winnipeg Jets), and Michel Briere with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even if he did finish there, he would never have his number retired on the merits of his play. Even with “positive personality” mixed in, the only non-goalie to be less productive in his career and get their number retired is.. “Minnesota Wild Fans, #1″.
Okay, maybe it’s possible.
In any event, Cooke’s reputation also plays into this and that’s a problem. He peaked in “dirty play” in Pittsburgh. Don’t believe me? Look at his suspension history. He’s been a player with edgy attributes in his game his whole career, yes, but it’s obvious that the Penguins encouraged him to play dirty. Unless, of course, you believe it’s a coincidence that he went the first ten seasons of his career with just one suspension, signed with Pittsburgh, picked up four suspensions in 27 months (20 hockey months), then went right back to his cautious but still gritty ways after Mario Lemieux publicly said he’d talk to him after league pressure.
That’s not to mention the idea of retired numbers being a silly one (in my opinion). Even if somebody made a name for themselves wearing a number, why block others from trying to surpass them? Honor the players, but numbers are identification devices. At most, they should mean something to the player, who may be stopped from usage because you chose prevention as a means of honoring someone else.
But the main point is simple. Cooke was dirty by design for a while, but Cooke is a very good third liner. Boogaard’s career and life was ended tragically, but Boogaard on the ice was merely a great enforcer with little hockey skill. No team would ever consider retiring his number, even unofficially, without the non-hockey circumstances. 24 should be the property of them both.
In the past few days, the following things have happened with Tyler Seguin:
- He was traded to the Dallas in a deal that sent himself, Rich Peverley, and Ryan Button to the Stars for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser.
- He threw a really big going-away party in Boston that drew parallels to the reason Boston traded him in the first place
- He made his second quickly-deleted tweet that hinted at him being gay in a childish manner in just a few weeks
- He declared that he was taking a break from Twitter, saying that “the hacking has got to stop” before deleting his account
I feel the following ways about all of this:
- Boston is no doubt giving up on a very good young player. Yes, his production dropped off a fair bit this year, but a lot of that has to do with teams being better prepared for him. Besides, he was still on a pace to score 54 points in 82 games (64 points per 1640 minutes), which is still rather good for a 21 year old.
- That said, when the main issues are off ice, with him partying during the season and generally not taking his job very seriously, it’s not hard to see why they’d cut ties so quick. Needing a hotel guard to stop him from leaving while he was having a gigantic cold streak in the playoffs is beyond a simple warning sign. Not even close to the same scenario as they had when they traded Phil Kessel at the same age, which was simply a salary cap and depth issue.
- The trade works out well for both teams. Dallas is in huge need of a long term first line centre, something they were close to accomplishing with Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro but never truly had after Mike Modano began to age. Boston gets a winger in Eriksson who actually prefers to play wing, and has a stellar two way game. Morrow is a solid prospect, Fraser has had AHL success, and Peverley should add to Dallas’ third line.
- Speaking of Modano, anybody who’s wondering if Seguin will go back to his Plymouth #9 is an idiot. Speaking of Eriksson, is somebody really “the most underrated player in hockey” if every single hockey fan has that opinion?
- The going away party? Who cares. Yes, partying and being a dumb 21 year old are the reasons he’s no longer a Boston Bruin, but they were the reasons because it was happening during the hockey season. But his season ended recently enough ago to count in days. Who cares if he puts a massive exclamation point on an era in a time of the year where he has no real responsibilities to his employer? Best case, he gets it out of his system.
As for Twitter, let’s be real about something. Tyler Seguin isn’t getting hacked, nor is he trying to slyly become the first NHL player to come out. These are immature friends/acquaintances grabbing his phone or laptop and putting something stupid on Twitter while he isn’t looking.
The issue still lies on Seguin’s end. He doesn’t even have to get rid of these friends of his, even if their brains operate on another frequency. There’s two easy solutions, that are probably best used together. One, he puts a lock screen on his phone and password on his computer. They can’t say anything stupid if they can’t get in. Two, talk to your friends and remind them that there’s a difference between a private friends list and hundreds of thousands of people including current and potential future employers and business partners, and everybody can turn hundreds of thousands into millions in seconds.
I had a friend grab my phone once and say a pile of racist things. Did he mean it? No. He wanted to cause trouble. I lost 25 followers in a minute or two, deleted the tweet, said my friend was an idiot, and dealt with the fallout. I kept my phone in my pocket from that point on, he wasn’t allowed to borrow it for a solid two years, and now it isn’t an issue.
Basically, Seguin should get a password and tell his friends that they can be idiots sometimes and he prefer that they did it in a way that didn’t get to a population the size of many well known cities. Not go on Twitter and blame “hackers”, the biggest cop-out for stupid statements of the 21st century.
- Ryan McDonagh’s extension with the New York Rangers is a Glen Sather steal. How often can you say that? It certainly makes the 2007 signing of Scott Gomez look even worse than it already was, but pales in comparison to the trading of those two for each other. Getting one of the league’s better defencemen for 4.7 million dollars a year, while buying plenty of UFA years, is incredibly thrifty. Not to mention that Alain Vigneault’s coaching style will allow for him to have legs that haven’t been shattered by shot blocks when all is said and done.
- Apparently, Joe Corvo thinks that listening to music or looking at pictures to feel nostalgic is stupid, and prefers to join his old teams instead. His new contract with Ottawa signifies his second consecutive “return trip”, and probably leads to another run with Carolina before he retires. At 36 years old, he doesn’t have a ton of gas left in the tank, but should be a complimentary piece to Ottawa’s powerplay.
- Alexander Burmistrov is heading to the KHL, and it’s probably for the best for both him and the Winnipeg Jets. Claude Noel wanted him to work on his all around game because his offensive game wasn’t there yet, and ridding yourself of someone who won’t commit to a system is often an addition by subtraction. With that said, Burmistrov will get high offensive minutes with Kazan and likely be a much better top-6 hockey player upon completion, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him return. It doesn’t appear that he has any issues with the city of Winnipeg, so when he can be a first or second line player, it’ll be all their gain. And hey, Noel may not even be there at that point.
- Next year’s Hockey Hall of Fame inductees will be announced tomorrow. If it were up to me, I’d be inducting Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios, Eric Lindros, and Brendan Shanahan. I really want to have Pat Burns in that group and would be okay with one of those four waiting to make it happen, but the mistake was already made by not inducting him before his death, and this is a strong enough class to hold off for another year without too much personal issue.
- If Winnipeg is without Burmistrov next year, would it be worth it for them to take a chance on Mikhail Grabovski? It’s not hard to argue that he their top line centre and with $19.3 million available, the Jets can certainly afford him.
- I’m going to have a post in up due time talking about the mess that was the offseason of Division C, so we’ll skip on Alfredsson, Briere, Ryan, and the rest of those topics for now.
Question of the Day
A lot of people are concerned for good reason that newer southern market teams remain relatively unprofitable, but one has to realize that the long game is played when it comes to southern expansion. You’re trying to establish life-long fans, and you’re trying to make these markets into places that can develop hockey talent.
People start being able to afford season tickets at 25-30 years old. We’ll use 27 in this case, and we’ll be generous and say a lifelong fan starts at 7 years old (I did an informal poll of twitter a while back, and while this wasn’t the average, it was the most frequent response).
Nashville’s “Lifelong fans”, for example, will have just turned 22, barely at an age where dropping money on these tickets begins to be a good idea. Phoenix’s are 23. Anaheim, Dallas, and Florida’s are 25, Tampa Bay’s are 26, San Jose’s are 28. This demographic doesn’t fill full arenas either, so the only ones who have established crowds are the ones who’s teams see consistent success to the point that older fans who didn’t grow up with the team are interested. It’s no surprise that the likes of Phoenix and Florida struggle with this considered, and even the not-really south Columbus Blue Jackets, whose lifer fans would be turning 20.
Then consider player development. NHL quality players tend to start attachment even younger than the average fans, getting into the game at 3-4 years old. The generation after them, however, gets better, as programs get more established. California’s game has grown. Texas’ game is growing. Florida, Tennessee, Arizona and others will see dividends paid over time. This inevitably increases the quality of hockey as players can be scouted from more places, which in terms will increase fans as people follow home grown talent, and gets a cycle going.
Even the NBA has some proof of this, as Canada has gone from irrelevant to possibly producing back to back first overall picks, who got to look to the Toronto Raptors as children (and the Vancouver Grizzlies for some time).
A lot of money is lost, a lot of seats are left empty. But eventually you get cities where hockey never was with arenas filled with die hard, life long fans, watching players that came from their town. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will a pro sport’s league’s final vision be.
Let me know if you like this style of post, and I may do more of them in the future.