Top 10 Lessons Learned In 2006

01Jan07

(Cue David Letterman’s Top 10 List intro graphics and music)

From the Home Office (as in my home office where my fax machine and filing cabinet are, along with my 2-foot tall Gretzky MacFarlane figure) in Palo Alto, California, here are the Top 10 NHL Lessons Learned in 2006:

#10 JR is Employee of the Month: When Jeremy Roenick says he has rededicated himself to the game of hockey, he means it. That is, if rededicating himself means finding the best place in Vancouver to have a beer and eat dinner while your teammates are working hard doing, you know, what they’re getting paid to do.

#9 Dan Cloutier really does suck: Vancouver Canucks fans, rejoice. It’s not a mirage — Dan Cloutier really does suck. Letting up soft goals at inopportune times made Cloutier the bane of many Canucks fans’ existance. Now that Cloutier has the league’s worst goalie stats for Marc Crawford‘s Kings team, Vancouver fans can finally laugh and say, “See, we told you so!”

#8 Jose Theodore‘s goaltending abilities match his taste in women: So, um, everyone remember the famous French-Canadien goalie who decided to put his long-term relationship in jeopardy to make out with Paris “Walking Venereal Disease” Hilton? How about the famous French-Canadien goalie who was booed out of Montreal several years after winning the Hart Trophy? How about the famous French-Canadien goalie who lost the starting job on his new team to Peter Budaj? Oh, it’s one and the same person? And it happened all in 2006? Dang, talk about a bad year!

#7 GMs are still stupid: The most exciting day in the NHL isn’t the last day of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s the first day of free agency. The number of bad signings and ridiculous dollars was a telltale sign that many GMs still didn’t understand the long-term consequences of bad contracts. Hal Gill? Apparently, $2 million is the new standard for slow-footed mistake-prone defensemen. Pavel Kubina? Surely he deserves to make way more than Dan Boyle, Brian Rafalski, and Mattias Ohlund, right? It’s not as if GMs were signing players to reasonable contracts and they underperformed; instead, some GMs got fix-it happy and outbid themselves on players whose track record showed that there was no logical way that they should earn what they got. Hey, I’m not blaming the players — I wouldn’t turn down the money if someone offered me 20-30% more than I deserved!

#6 Bobby Clarke will never, ever leave: “Resigning” from his GM post on October 22nd (coincidentally the same day as Ken Hitchcock gets fired), Bobby Clarke is back in a position of power within the Flyers organization as Senior Vice President just about six weeks later. Don’t worry Flyers fans, Clarke’s hold on the organization will be influencing decisions for a long, long time.

#5 Lou isn’t perfect: It’s true — Lou Lamoriello can actually make mistakes. Stuck with a number of really bad contracts tied to even worse players (or in some cases, injured), the once-infallible Lou had to resort to praying for debilitating injuries (see: Alexander Mogilny) that offered cap relief or bribing other teams to take contracts off his hands (see: Vladimir Malakhov/1st round pick to San Jose for a Russian league player and a borderline NHLer). Devils fans, do you feel like someone just told you Santa isn’t real?

#4 You can blame the cap: John Muckler sure wishes he could have kept Zdeno Chara and Martin Havlat, but the big bad ol’ salary cap destroyed the Ottawa Senators, punishing the Sens for great drafting. Darcy Regier would have loved to keep JP Dumont, but the evil salary cap made Dumont’s arbitration award simply impossible. Suddenly, everyone blames the salary cap — what happened to the good ol’ days of just blaming the Red Wings? The Sens had a self-imposed budget prior to the new CBA, as did the Sabres, meaning that their respective GMs would have probably made similar decisions regardless of a cap or no cap. Having a salary cap just makes it easier to have a scapegoat, even for so-called small market teams giving up big name players.

#3 How NOT to have a clean break-up: Fear the wrath of a hockey fan scorned. Chris Pronger‘s betrayal of Edmonton Oiler fans was probably the best thing that could ever happen to the Anaheim Ducks, but it made him a villain to most of western Canada. What was even more infuriating for most fans was how Pronger bottled up about the move, merely citing personal reasons in a maddening Bartleby the Scrivener-esque mantra. Perhaps if he opened up just a tad, fans might have been a little more understanding, but by taking the theoretical high road, he just managed to piss off an entire country. From a hockey sense, it doesn’t make a difference, but it certainly teaches us the wrong way to break up and stay friends.

#2 Evgeni Malkin was worth the wait: We saw hints of it at the World Junior Championships. There was even more hype from an outstanding Olympic performance. Then after a series of cloak-and-dagger escapades and an IMF-style escape from Europe, Malkin arrived with a ton of hype. With the emotional toll of leaving his family and country, many observers thought that Malkin couldn’t live up to they hype and withstand top-level NHL competition. They were wrong. Starting off a month later than other rookies, Malkin has rocketed to the rookie scoring lead, and barring a disaster, he’s got the Calder Trophy locked up even before the All-Star break.

#1 Sidney Crosby is the real deal: In the calendar year of 2006, Sidney Crosby had 118 points (60 from the 2005-2006 season, 58 from the 2006-2007 season). Just to compare, Joe Thornton had 117 points, Jaromir Jagr had 114 points, and Alexander Ovechkin had 112 points. What’s even more amazing is that Crosby’s league-leading total so far this season has come on the heels of a groin injury, giving Crosby the lowest games-played compared to any player in the top 10. Crosby may not ever break Wayne Gretzky’s ridiculous records, but there’s no denying that Sid the Kid has lived up to the hype — and the scary thing is that he’s only getting better. We’ve got something special here, and barring any Lindros-like injuries, Sidney Crosby’s special talent will be something to watch for the next 15 or so years, so be sure to appreciate it.

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4 Responses to “Top 10 Lessons Learned In 2006”

  1. 1 Anonymous

    my favorite end-of-the-year-top-10 list, and also the best bartleby the scrivener reference yet used in hockey blogging.

    you know, for a while i really thought that ethan hunt was working for the international monetary fund, which actually made the whole concept much more entertaining.

  2. 2 Anonymous

    Thank You, Thank You for recognizing our pain and heartache! I can hear the laughs from the far away great white north on our pickup of Dan Cloutier. The worst part, is the extension before ever seeing him play! As my kids used to say, “smooth move Exlax!” Someone finally heard our cries and moans….thanks for making it legit!

  3. 3 Anonymous

    Lou got into a bind because Stevens and Neidermayer waited until the last minute to make their decisions (retirement and playing for the Ducks) and because of uncertainty with Elias’ recovery from hepatitis. By that time there weren’t a lot of quality free agents left to sign. Plus, he had had a lot of success in the past bringing back ex-Devils, like Claude Lemieux.

    Yet he was still able to extricate himself from cap hell without having to let go of any of the Devils’ top players. Lou is still the best.

  4. 4 Anonymous

    Too bad those of us on the West Coast won’t get to see Sid the Kid for 3 years.

    Sigh.


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