A few random thoughts as we await the Alfie-less Sens:
Coach of the year. Why does it always end up being a guy who's in charge of a stacked team? How hard can it be to coach a team that's got the Sedins scoring crazy amounts of points? Just to put it in perspective, the twins' 192 points are only three less than Plekanec, Wisniewski, Kostitsyn and Cammalleri...the Habs' top four point producers...all together. The Jack Adams should go to a guy who takes an underachieving bunch and turns it into a contender. THAT'S coaching. I know the Canucks had a lot of injuries, but they're basically deeper than Deepak Chopra. Alain Vigneault didn't really have to do much. He even admitted this week's mini tirade at his team was the first time all year he had to yell at them. If I were voting for the Adams, I'd give it to a guy like Jacques Lemaire, who dragged the Devils out of the Pit of Despair, or Dan Bylsma, who has his team challenging for first in the East without Crosby or Malkin. Even Ron Wilson, who got the lowly leafs to within a sniff of the playoffs for the first time in six years, would be acceptable, or Jacques Martin, who's kept an injury riddled Habs squad in the top-eight all season.
Does anyone else hate "trendy" hockey talk? Two months ago, I'd never heard someone call a scrambly goal a "greasy" goal. Now, after one guy came up with that, everyone's using it. Same with fighting for the puck "down low" or using "goal prevention" tactics. We used to say "around the net" and "playing defence."
Speaking of stuff I hate, I can't stand the Habs marketing department. I've hated for years that they pimp the team's past glory to a generation who never got a chance to experience it, while completely ignoring the reality of the modern NHL. The marketers are mostly responsible for the unrealistic expectations of younger fans and the cult-like atmosphere around the team, which I'm sure the players find slightly scary. Also, they're dorky. Youppi, t-shirt cannons and now the dumb "put your game face on" promotion they're pushing for the playoffs are just not cool. Oh, yeah, if you haven't heard, the marketers are telling us we're all supposed to go out and paint tri-coloured stripes on our faces to prove we want the Canadiens to win in the post-season. I'll make a deal with you, marketers. If the Habs get to the Finals, I'll paint my whole damn body red, white and blue. Until then, let's keep the hype to a respectable level.
I know NHL players are pros, but I watched part of the the Devils/leafs game last night and I wondered how on earth they manage to stay motivated. It had to be absolutely crushing for them to give up their heart-filled, dream-inspiring runs to the playoffs and settle into the role of also-rans. Yet, they found some inspiration within themselves...pride, next year's paycheck, holding on to the hockey season just a bit longer...to drum up a good effort. You have to give credit to teams that can do that, even when it obviously doesn't count any more, and even when it's just the leafs and Devils.
I was wrong about the Flames. Yes, they missed the playoffs as I predicted they would before the season began and I advocated for the Habs to trade for their first pick. They didn't, however, suck out loud the way I thought they would. They built a team with a bunch of retread free agents and former leafs to support Iginla, they have very few exciting young prospects in their system, and their star defenceman is a dud. I didn't see much hope for them to stay out of the basement, but it just goes to prove a team is more than the sum of its parts on paper.
It's a shame the NHL has to be all serious about anything that's any fun. What was the harm in Marty Turco making a bet with a fan in Montreal? It was for less than $30, and Turco wasn't even involved directly in the game. He was engaging a fan on a personal level, and they were having a laugh. Now the league is deciding whether it needs to reprimand Turco for betting on hockey. Seriously, it's not like he's Janet Gretzky or anything. Same thing when Ron Wilson put money on the board to encourage his new team to beat his old team. That's been going on forever, but the staid old NHL had to crack down on him for it because it contravened the salary cap. The NHL has no sense of humour, unless it's prepackaged in its shiny promotional campaigns, and even then, someone else is making the jokes for them.
I wonder if anyone at the NHL executive level recognizes the beauty of the game between the Canadiens and the Blackhawks the other night? The rarity of seeing two teams skate their asses off without any fights, stupid post-whistle scrums or retaliatory cheap shots after a clean hit made that game something special. It's the standard to which the league should aspire. It was so good, I was wishing I could watch it all over again. The sad part is that yesterday, after the euphoria wore off, I lost a bit of enthusiasm for the coming playoff round. The probability of playing the Bruins with their cheap-shot players and goon show coach means we won't see any more of the lovely, clean hockey we got from the 'Hawks. It'll be a grind from here on out, so I'm glad the Habs have the memory of that great Chicago game to sustain them through the playoffs.