Thursday, March 15, 2012
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Why Your Team Won’t Make the Playoffs This Year
Yeah, I'm talkin' to YOU, imaginary Blues fan!
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we got to know the tall, dark, mysterious Mike Ribeiro like the back of our hands. This week, rather than defend the noble actions of our fellow Wisconsin-born brethren, it's time to focus on what makes this time of the year so great for hockey fans: making excuses.
Excuses are a time-honored fan tradition, particularly when explaining away why your favorite team won't make the playoffs, despite being picked to win the next five Stanley Cups by every legitimate hockey expert. For example, last night the Dallas Stars got their tuckuses handed to them by the Jets, breaking their 11-game points streak.
Ah! But they had excuses! They were tired from the night before. The Jets had had four days of rest coming in. Winnipeg is a tough place to play. The Jets only have a handful of home games left to play in front of their fans, and came out amped. Dallas was starting its rookie backup netminder. The Stars were missing their #2 defenseman. The Jets got the luckiest imaginable bounces on their second and fifth goals. And so on and so forth.
Why, when you string together the right excuses, it sounds almost as if the Stars won a moral victory! After all, aren't reason and morality just inventions of a bunch of non-alpha-male whiners? (Short answer: yeah, pretty much.) Well read on, hockey fans, because I'm about to provide you and your favorite team with some ready-made excuses as to why you won't be enjoying a trip to the postseason anytime soon.
1. St. Louis Blues - Since no one on this roster seems capable of putting a puck into a net, it all comes down to goaltending, and putting even half your eggs in the strange-smelling basket labeled FORMER SENATORS GOALIE WASHOUT seems like a recipe for the back nine come early April.
Vancouver Canucks - With their top line of Sedinx2 and Somebody Else scoring goals at a Gomez-like clip and another first-round matchup with the Blackhawks looming in the horizon like the Jun Horde, it looks like Canucks fans will be learning the Swedish word for surrender a little earlier than usual this year.
Dallas Stars - Their current run may be impressive, but let's be honest here: without a bonafide #1 center like Brad Richards --who's so good, only four Stars are outscoring him this season-- the team with the lowest payroll in the league will experience a long and hard "regression to the cash-based mean" and miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Detroit Red Wings - The Wings have led a charmed life for a long time now, lucking into Lidstrom with the third pick in the 1865 draft. Now that Lidstrom is out with osteoporosis and a bad case of trencheye caught in the Spanish-American War, the Wings are showing their true colors as a bunch of softspoken pushovers with no chance at the big dance.
Nashville Predators - The Preds have a long history of playing smashmouth, aggressive hockey on 66% of the ice. Unfortunately, their allergic reaction to scoring attempts will make it all that much easier for their prized free agents to bolt during their annual mass migration to colder climes.
Chicago Blackhawks - Which is worse: not having Toews, or still having Emery? This team has a special gift, and that gift is the middle of the ice for opposing forwards.
Phoenix Coyotes - Take what we said about the Blues and replace "SENATORS" with "TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING" and you've got yourself a team too busy checking out real estate in Seattle/Kansas City/Quebec to notice that the season ended and they missed the cut because 42 shootout losses does not a playoff team make.
Colorado Avalanche - This team has it all, and by "all," I mean "everything except a single above-average defenseman." Unfortunately for Colorado and their bevy of penalty-magnet forwards, defense doesn't just win championships, it wins enough games to get you the chance to win one in the first place.
San Jose Sharks - What's that? You're spending $38 million on a forward group that's almost singlehandedly getting outscored by Jamie McGinn? No worries: you'll have plenty of time to trade your entire roster for a bunch of injured fourth-line healthy scratches come April.
Calgary Flames - The salary cap tends to punish those teams that draft poorly by making them overspend on craptastic free agents. The fact that the Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars have the exact same number of Flames draft picks (two each) is a pretty good indicator of why the Flames annually crash and burn.
Los Angeles Kings - Picked by many preseason powerplay assist fetishists as a Stanley Cup contender, this jumble of high-priced holdouts and party boys are predictably following their captain's lead... straight down.
Anaheim Ducks - They lost every game when it mattered, then won every game when it didn't, then began to lose every game when it mattered again. Perhaps this one preseason pundit was right about them after all: any team led by Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler is good for meaningless individual stats, and bad for your eyeballs.
The Rest - Whether they're Diving for Five or Failing for Nail, you can rest assured that, with the possible exception of the Wild three years from now, we won't have to worry about any of these teams attaining postseason relevance.
New York Rangers - Even if they somehow manage to sneak into the playoffs, it will probably be against their nemesis, the Washington Capitals, who undoubtedly wish that all three rounds could be played against these Madison Square Stiffs.
Boston Bruins - There was a time, earlier this season, when the Bruins looked unstoppable. Fortunately for the rest of the league, since then Tim Thomas has been on a one-man crusade against the Forces of Ever Meeting the President Again, giving up more points per game than the Celtics.
Florida Panthers - Bunch of overpaid mercenaries? Check. Fading fast in a terrible conference? Check. A -22 goal differential for the season? Check and mate.
Pittsburgh Penguins - Sorry, spoiled Pens fans and NHL marketing departments: the dominant Sidney Crosby we've all come to know and love is a distant, hazy memory. No worries though: top-heavy one-line teams are traditionally impossible to stop come playoff time.
Philadelphia Flyers - It's a good thing the Flyers are getting all their shutouts out of the way now, so they can hunker down and get back to what they're really good at in these final games: surrendering 8-9 goals a game to mediocre teams.
New Jersey Devils - Playing Ilya Kovalchuk on the penalty kill may seem like a recipe for disaster, but when you reall—no, wait, it totally is.
Ottawa Senators - Statisticians use "regression to the mean" to describe why teams playing way above their heads sometimes impress for a while, but ultimately bottom out when it matters most. After watching Ottawa's defense over these next eleven or so games, statisticians will have ample research material for their new "regression toholycraptheysuck" postulate.
Washington Capitals - This nearly-unanimous preseason favorite stormed out of the gate like a minotaur made out of tractor parts and machetes, then suffered a relatively short losing streak and immediately fired the most successful coach in franchise history. Nothing screams "playoff-bound hockey team" like panic firings and moping superstars.
Buffalo Sabres - The Sabres are on the very verge of history, as they might well become the first team ever to be ten or more points out of a playoff spot in February to tease their gullible fans before dropping back into last place by the end of March.
Winnipeg Jets - Playoff chances? Awww.... that's adorable!!
Tampa Bay Lightning - Cheer up, Lightning Fan: there have been nine players since 2007 to score 50+ goals, and not one of their teams made it out of the second round. Best not to embarrass yourselves on the national stage.
The Rest - Someone needs to tell these teams that getting a lottery pick every year is not the only way to win championships. You can also, like, build a functioning group of adults concentrated on a single goal at the expense of individualistic accomplishme—you know what, nevermind, you're not going to listen to me anyway. Just keep doing what you're doing. No, really. Should work any day now.