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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Morning Cupcheck - An Open Letter to the Pittsburgh Penguins

Would you guys cut that out? We can see the blinding glare of your smugness from here.

Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we got a little spring to our step, then viciously killed it, in listing the 10 worst losses in Stars history. This week, we take a step back and look at the momentous trade that rocked the World of the Stars. Even as cases of champagne are pre-ordered and parade routes planned, we at the Cupcheck are a little concerned for the hockey health of our trading brethren up in sunny Pittsburgh, where it seems that all that lead in the city's playgrounds has finally started taking its toll. Here is our Open Letter to the Pittsburgh Penguins from a Concerned Stars Fan.

"Hello sir and/or ma'am, you look like a woman in need of a few promising young prospects. I'm Ray Shero, nice to meet you. If you would just give me a moment of your time..."

Dear Sirs,

Can I call you Pitt? Great, great. Say, how've things been at the fume-huffing plant? Ah. Closed down, you say? But at least the fumes haven't relocated to North Korea, right? Good, good.

Listen, we in the Western Conference need to talk to you. Just about some stuff, you know, stuff you were going to hear about someday anyway, so before you tried it for yourself, it's probably best you hear about our experiences with it first. I'm sure you're rolling your eyes right now. "Man, here it comes," you're saying. Right? I know, I know, but this is pretty important, so please, grab a chair --or, ok, a burning tire, we're not here to judge-- and let's rap.

What? Was that not the right thing to say? Did I just accidentally say something uncool? Well, so be it. We're not "cool." We haven't exactly "been to the playoffs" in "four and a half years." No, not like you guys. You guys have been on top of the world during that time! What with two of the five greatest players of our generation playing on the same team at the same time, you guys must have, like, all the Stanley Cups, amirite? Huh?

Wait, what? Really? Just one series win in three years? Hmm. Did not know that. Food for thought.

Anyways, back to the matter we're talking about. I know, I know, I won't be long. But this needs to be said. You've gotta open your ears when I say it, too. After that, you can go back to doing whatever it is that you cool kids do when you're not winning Stanley Cups or even being competitive in the first round. I think we both know what we're talking about, right?

It's the Trading.

Now hold up a second --I know you think you don't need to hear this, that you've seen some poo, that you know what you're doing. But take it from us... we've been there, too. We've, uh, made some of these things in the past. We're not ashamed to admit it, not anymore. Not if it means kids like you can learn from our mistakes, maybe make the hockey world a brighter place. We've been right where you are, right now, impatiently looking at our digital watches and listening to Smashmouth in the background while some old guy lectured us on not making the same mistakes they did, not taking the wisdom of their elders for granted. We've seen some poo, too, is what I'm trying to get at.

"Listen, I like you, so I'll give you a deal. I'll even throw in a 3rd to sweeten the pot. Whaddya say?"

What's that? "Wrap it up, old man?" Well I-- listen, yes, you're right, let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? Let's roll up our sleeves and have this conversation. But first, let me tell you a stor--what? It's not that long. But it's a lot like yours, and frankly, that has us a little worried. More than a little worried.

You see, once, not all that long ago, maybe, when you really think about it, we won a Stanley Cup. It felt great! No one expected us to win. We had fast scorers, playmakers, gritty heroes, hulking guys on defense, great coaches, loud fans. It was a non-stop party, I'll tell you that. The next season, we got there again. Didn't win it, now, but we came pretty close. Maybe not all that close. But closer than 28 other teams.

Unfortunately, we were still coasting on the Cup high, but, lacking a real, tangible Stanley Cup with our names on it, we started looking elsewhere. Getting desperate. Trading our #1A center and a good young winger and watching them win the Cup without us hurt. Caused us to do even more reckless things. Like a 1st for Ladislav Nagy. I know, right!? What were we thinking? But it made sense to us, at the time, to start Trading. Picking up Willie Mitchell. A 1st, a 2nd and a 3rd for Mattias Norstrom. We even threw in some prospects, too! Hey, it was a different time, we were winning division titles! We were never going to use those high draft picks anyway. Established talent, "grit" and "leadership" is what we were craving. We had to do it, you see. We had no choice. We had to make it back to the Cup Finals. If we could, wow, everything would be so worth it!

But we kept getting bounced in the first round. Oh, early on, we beat the stuffing out of the Oilers in the first round, like we always did, but even then we flamed out in the next round to whatever underdog team awaited us. Year after year, we traded our first round picks for guys who played 15, 20, maybe even 25 games for us, if you count the playoffs. All five games of playoffs. And every year, the high, that great feeling from winning the Cup, became more and more of a distant memory. It started to feel, I don't know, completely unattainable.

So we fired our coaches, dumped veterans, and started drafting in the first round again. Sure, at first, it felt a little weird. Had to remember how to walk up to a podium again. Accidentally drafted some guy we didn't even really want the first time: hey, baby steps, right? Since then, we've been livin' clean, drafting well, stockpiling youth, and sticking with 'em, through thick and thin. Mostly thin right now, but you know how it goes. You don't? Oh, that's right. You will, tho.

Well, long story short, since I see you yawning and openly scoffing at our message, is that you need to, well... you need to stop with all the Trading. It may feel good... feel great, even... but it gets you nowhere in the short run, and hurts your long-term prospects of ever coming close to a Cup again. Take James Neal for Goligoski. Yeah, yeah, you "won" that trade. Because Goligoski's only got, like, 17 points in 31 games this season.. a 45 point pace, when, before the trade, we had no one on the blueline with that kind of offensive production. But yeah, Neal has 17 goals in that span, and scored 40 last season. Feels good, right? He's also got three goals in 12 playoff games. Not too shabby. Should be more --games that is-- but ya gotta start somewhere. Of course, three goals in 33 games without Malkin as his center makes him an 8-goal-a-year guy, doesn't it? So it's either 8 goals, or 40 goals... y'know, we suspect that if Neal's last name were something a little different, maybe something like, heck I don't know, Nealinsky or Nealizin or Nealakhov, you might not be as happy with the trade as you are now. Or maybe you would be, regardless. Hard to tell this early.

Pens fans are thrilled about landing this season's biggest fish. Maybe a little too thrilled.

Hopefully Malkin signs up with you guys, you know, taking the hometown discount and all, next year. I'm sure he will. If not, you can always cut half your roster to make space. Maybe have to cut some dead weight like, uh, Letang and Kunitz and Sutter and Orpik. Although, frankly, it might make more sense to cut Neal...

No, you're right, you're right. Won't go there. But then let's look at this Brenden Morrow trade, shall we? This is the one that really concerns us. First off, thanks for the offensive defenseman. Again. Those guys are really hard to find, and you keep giving 'em away like they were fistfuls of candy thrown from a Stanley Cup parade float. Joe Morrow looked good in his first pro game over here--real good. We won't soon forget that, you know. Really appreciate it.

But it bothers us that you did it at all. That you felt you needed to do it. You realize Morrow, the Brenden one, is a fourth liner, right? Like, he would be a healthy scratch if he weren't the team captain? That he can't move his neck, or skate, or clear space in the crease anymore?

I know, I know. You'll "fix" him. He'll "change" for you. His broken down body will magically repair itself once it comes in contact with the healing fibers of a Penguins jersey. We all know you guys have no injury histories to speak of. No argument here.

And yes, we know the familiar narrative. 2008 Stanley Cup playoff hero. 2010 Olympic Gold medalist. Warrior. Grit. Determination. Leadership. Cajones Mas Grande.

We already know that, because we're the ones that have been fooling ourselves with it for half a decade.

Trading your future for temporary rental superstars always seems to work out in the end.

Listen, no knock on Morrow. He's one of the three greatest players in Dallas Stars history, right up there with Sergei Zubov and Jere Lehtinen. Stars fans will never forget his contributions to our team. He was a Total. Bad. Ass. He flattened our rivals, scored game-winning goals in the playoffs, did the hard work in the corners and in the crease, fought and bled and then bled some more for this team, even when the rest of the team took the night off.

But here's what he's not: able to play hockey at a high level. His record as a leader is stunning....ly bad. He's the slowest guy on a team with Aaron Rome, can't set up in front of the net like he used to, can't kill penalties, can't play defense, gets stuck in his own zone for most of his shifts, commits tons of terrible turnovers in all three zones. No, no, you're right: all of that will magically disappear once he becomes a Penguin. In fact, his first game in a Pittsburgh jersey was so impressive, that you guys went out and dropped two prospects and a 1st for 14 games of Morrow's fellow Olympic fourth-liner Jarome Iginla. Oh, right, sorry: 19 games of Jarome Iginla, since we're counting playoff games too.

So I guess that means Morrow is off the Malkin line? Actually, I guess that means Neal is off the Malkin line? Either that, or Iginla is on the checking line. I'm sure he's cool with that.

And don't get us started on two 2nds for Doug Murray.

Man, I hope you're listening to the mad wisdom I'm putting down. That's a thing kids say nowadays, right? I know you're not, but I can still hope. It's not going to sink in yet, not for a while. Not until the Senators bounce you in six in the first round. Again. Not as long as you continue to give up the absolute easiest playoff goals in recorded human history. Not until you see Joe Morrow skating with Goligoski on the powerplay. Not until you see that the Sharks had no problem turning those two 2nd rounders into two serviceable defensemen under the age of 35. Not until the average age of your team approaches Red Wing-esque levels, and you can't afford to surround your two oft-injured megastars with any real talent anymore, and nothing's coming up the pipeline because your brilliant GM traded it all away for guys who contributed one or two goals and then left. Take it from us. We've seen some poop. And it's not pretty. Make sure that this Iginla thing, which you're getting patted on the back for now, these last 14 games, make sure it's the last time you Trade. Just go cold turkey after this. The damage has been done, but it's never too late to stop the bleeding.

What's that? Go what myself? Ah, yes... well, if you ever need to "rap" again, don--hey, where are you going? Don't you want to hear how awesome it was winning the Cup 13 years ago?

Ahhh, screw that kid. Hopeless.


A Concerned Dallas Stars Fan

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rkohnfelder, anonymous:

Geezus! How many times can one person be wrong in one article? Check back in a month or two and we'll know exactly how many times. All these "idiot" GM's like Ray Shero with jobs and yet Mr. Maternowski is available? I just don't get it!


2 months, 3 weeks ago
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carpecreativity, anonymous:

I'm surprised you linked to this story in your 2013 report card, given that it has been so spectacularly incorrect. Morrow, Murray and Iggy have been quite successful and important and functional given that Pittsburgh is apparently the North American epicenter of head trauma to top-6 players, with some shoulder tweaks and sunburns thrown in.

It's pretty clear from his play in Pittsburgh that Brenden Morrow wasn't unable to "make basic hockey plays," he was just unable to deal with this team for one more goddamn minute. Who could blame him -- this mess should have been taken off his shoulders after he came back to life at the Olympics, or when BFF Turco left, or Ribs, or Ott... can't scrap his team and then say "it's still your team... just with new people!" and expect it to work. Glad he's out of this, playing well on a great team, and the Stars have a new generation taking shape.

1 month, 3 weeks ago
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