Thursday, January 24, 2013
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - NHL Week One Massive Overreactions
The early season's most important question: should the Blackhawks' victory parade run down 78th Street, or stick to 35th?
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we said farewell to one of the league's most lethal defenders. This week, rather than resurrect our infamous NHL 2013 On-Pace Awards, we're going to take a deep breath, step back from the chaotic first week of the shortened season and start issuing baseless generalizations based on a tiny sample size.
Massive Overreaction #1: Cody Eakin Is Better Than Mike Ribeiro: A lot of Stars fans scratched their proverbial heads when this trade was made last summer. Ribeiro was a known quantity: nearly a point-a-game player when he was a first-line center, slowed down the game pace to a crawl, most exciting shootout player in the league. But his downsides were becoming even more obvious: he needed to be on the first line to produce absolutely anything, he was absolutely atrocious at faceoffs and had to have a faceoff specialist on his line at all times, and his powerplay quarterbacking skills --he of ten shots on goal over 74 games' worth of powerplays-- was directly responsible for the worst PP unit in the NHL since the mid-70s. Eakin is fast, tenacious, fast, defensively responsible, fast, and that rare breed of north-south possession player the Stars have needed for the past decade. His first game as a top-six forward produced two assists (one primary) on two nifty goals, and a ton of prime scoring chances against a tired Detroit team. Eakin's only two weaknesses are his somehow-even-worse-than-Ribeiro faceoff percentage and the fact that's he's a ginger.
Massive Overreaction #2: The New York Rangers Lost the Rick Nash Trade: Even just three games in, you can see the difference. The Rangers built a first-seed team from their goalie out, starting with solid, unspectacular defending and twelve forwards (well... ok, just ten) who were both aggressive on the forecheck and defensively responsible. It's a formula for success that's worked for tons of Cup winners since the league outlawed 80s style goalscoring. And Nash will have no part of that. Losing two highly effective defensive forwards (with skill, mind you) and replacing them with some guy who's cracked the 70-point barrier just once in his life is Reason #1 why Henrik Lundqvist is currently sporting a 4.03 GAA and a save percentage south of .880. Get used to those numbers, Rangers fans. They're not going away.
Massive Overreaction #3: The Detroit Red Wings Are Now a Lottery Team: Well, that was quick, wasn't it? The single most obnoxious fan base in hockey now must root for a team that can't score, has no presence in the center of the ice, can't defend, can't block shots and is godawful on special teams. It's almost as if losing the best player in NHL history might have been a prelude to a total team meltdown. Sure, ZetterbergDatysukZetterbergDatysuk all you want, but with arguably an even worse defensive top six than Columbus or Anaheim, you're not going to be lifting the Cup anytime in the next three or four decades.
Massive Overreaction #4: Shea Weber Is Not Worth $26 Million a Season: Three games in and Weber has yet to show up on the scoreboard. Considering he's getting $540,000 a game nowadays, that's already matched the entire cost of 82 games of Vladimir Tarasenko, and all for one fight, a couple of penalties and a pair of overtime losses at home. On the plus side, at least the Flyers, who forced Nashville into this contractual clustercuss, are currently the single most pathetic team in all of hockey. So, take it where you can get it, I guess.
Massive Overreaction #5: The Los Angeles Kings Are Done: Anyone who watched last year's painful Stanley Cup playoffs could see that the backbone of that ridiculously dominant Kings team was Matt Greene. While Dustin Brown may have been the symbolic captain and Drew Doughty collected the secondary assists on the powerplay, Greene was the one killing off crucial penalties at critical moments, going up against the Sedins and Parises and whoever the hell is on the Blues' first lineses and shutting them down. Hell, he even scored a backbreaking shorthanded goal to turn an entire series. Losing Greene will hurt even more, considering how the Kings have come out this season looking like they know they can coast to another sub-.500 record and still "turn it on" when the postseason starts. More likely, they'll play .500 hockey and wonder why they failed to make the cut when the dust settles. And it couldn't have happened to a less likeable bunch of diving cheaters.
That's it for this week's Cupcheck. Tune in next week when we sit down with Roberto Luongo and ask him what his reception in Philly has been like. His ladylike weeping may surprise you.