I tried so hard not to care. I swear.
After all, it’s just the NHL All-Star Game. Who cares, right? Players barely care, so why should I? I won’t waste my time thinking about players who were “snubbed” by the NHL’s Hockey Operations department, the group that selects those who will participate in All-Star festivities in Columbus next weekend.
I will not care.
Nope, I won’t do it.
It’s not going to happen.
I have no interest in WHY ISN’T P.K. SUBBAN AN ALL-STAR???
Before I shout into the empty cavern of the Internet about why the exclusion of Subban is patently ridiculous, indulge me in one quick thing—snubs.
When All-Stars are announced, the news falls to every beat and national writer in North America. They are all simply doing their jobs by asking players about attending or not attending, a job I have done in the past. I get it. But here’s the thing…
…not everyone is a snub.
There are six players voted into the game by fans and 36 more chosen by Hockey Ops. That’s 42 hockey players. That’s a lot. Not everyone can go. Once you get beyond the top 10 or 15 guys, it’s a mishmash of very good players, some of whom quietly opt out of attending and some of whom lose out in the numbers game caused by the NHL’s ridiculous unwritten rule that each team needs one representative.
Here are some players deemed a “snub” by someone who watches hockey for a living.
The players included there: John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, Jamie Benn, James van Riemsdyk, Pavel Datsyuk and Max Pacioretty.
That story smacks of indifference but wonders why Nikita Kucherov and Jiri Hudler were left out.
With Backstrom already mentioned, that's seven more snubs to add to the list.
Henrik Lundqvist was 17th in save percentage at the time I typed these words and then this period.
Marc-Andre Fleury is eighth in save percentage, so he has the right to be angrier than say, Lundqvist, but seriously we can't fit everyone in the All-Star Mobile.
There's a poll with this story that lists 30 players as snubs. THIRTY!
The word snub loses all meaning, especially in this case, when a snub isn't a snub when one player from each team must go.
But in the case of Subban, it's a snub, and a highly unintelligent one at that.
All-Star weekend is the showcase weekend for the NHL. It falls between the NFL's Championship Game Weekend and the Super Bowl, although the Pro Bowl now fills that gap. There's no baseball, no college football. The NBA has its usual schedule, but that's it. This is the time for the NHL to shine the spotlight on its biggest, brightest, most fun players and essentially say to the sports world, "Hey, check out this guy! And maybe watch him in his other games, too!"
And make no mistake about it—this weekend is nothing more than a promotional tool for the league. It's all about #brand and #engagement and #immersions and #activating #casuals across all #platforms for #synergized #upward #dynamics and whatever else marketing people do with famous people.
Next Friday, the NHL holds its fantasy draft. On Saturday, it's the skills competition. On Sunday, the least important part of the All-Star Game weekend happens—the game.
That's what makes snubbing Subban so weird. He's tailor-made for all three days.
The draft is this two-hour television show that is only as interesting as the players doing the drafting. One of the captains will always be someone from the home team (Ryan Johansen), with the other being a superstar type (maybe Steven Stamkos?). But there are also two guys for each team at the podium doing the drafting, cracking jokes, having fun, being asked to carry the show.
So imagine a draft with Johansen and maybe teammate Nick Foligno delighting the home fans simply by existing and Stamkos and Subban, two lifelong buddies, drafting for the other team.
The NHL is severely lacking in the personality department, but Subban has no shortage of charm and comedic chops. Did you see his Christmas video? The last thing you want are four stiffs on camera for two hours (no offense, after all, these guys are hockey players, not cast members of Parks and Recreation). Subban is young, good looking and funny, and you'd have to think he and Stamkos could have a Tina Fey/Amy Poehler thing happening during the draft.
Subban seems like a no-brainer for the Friday event.
The same can be said for Saturday's skills competition. Very few defensemen have the type of offensive gifts that translate to a skills competition, but Subban does (as does Erik Karlsson, but that's someone else's column). He has a cannon of a shot and he can fake the pants off anyone in a breakaway challenge.
And in an All-Star Game with no defense, Subban would be right at home.
The argument against Subban is statistics, but, really, he's 10th in points among defensemen. Seven points separate fourth in scoring from 21st and Subban is right in the meaty part of that list. His numbers don't demand he be chosen, but they are plenty good enough. Subban's snub is rooted entirely in the NHL's goofy notion that each team needs a rep—of the 10 defensemen chosen by Hockey Ops, a whopping seven are the only representative in the game for that particular team.
In an effort to offer a solution and not just criticize, because truly this is no easy task for the NHL, here are two ways of getting Subban in the game:
1. Drop Ryan Suter, add Subban, drop Tyler Johnson, add Zach Parise: Suter has one goal this season and while I understand his value defensively, nobody watches All-Star Games for shutdown defensemen. This would also be a nice gesture for Parise (14 goals in 30 games) after the passing of his father, J.P. Parise, but if Zach wanted to take the weekend to clear his mind and mourn, that's understandable, too. In that case, Jason Pominville has 32 points in 41 games. Take him instead of Suter.
2. Drop Brent Burns, add Subban, drop Tyler Johnson, add Joe Pavelski: Burns has the third-most points among defensemen, but he's not a good defensemen. I'd still take Subban in a "I'd rather watch this guy for three days" kind of way. Pavelski is fifth in the NHL with 21 goals, so it's not as though he doesn't have a case to be there.
You're probably wondering, "Dave, what did Tyler Johnson ever do to anger you this much?" I know. I'm bending things for Subban and tossing out the league's sixth-leading scorer for Subban's #brand recognition. But that's how important I think Subban is from a promotional aspect for the league. I'm willing to take a punch from Johnson to get Subban to Columbus.
The All-Star Game is about fun, first and foremost, and no player in the NHL is as fun as Subban on and off the ice. It's a shame the NHL couldn't get him to Columbus.
Quote of the Week: Jon Cooper vs. Darryl Sutter
Jon Cooper has slumped the past two weeks but came up big when asked about his team's penalty killing against Montreal on Tuesday.
Some of us would kill for what you have left on your head, Jon.
And of course, Darryl Sutter brings the laughs one more time, via LA Kings Insider.
On what the Maple Leafs have done in the “last couple of meetings”:
I haven’t been in any of their meetings.
When you give answers like that, you're being a jerk. When Sutter gives answers like that, he's hilarious and dry. Life isn't fair sometimes.
KHL Thing of the Week
There is some quality hockey that is played overseas that we rarely hear about in North America. This section will highlight that or something else from our friends playing hockey in the KHL.
There wasn't much in the way of off-the-beaten-path stuff the past week, so let's go to the beaten path and enjoy watching a KHL player get stuck in glass (this is not like Superman II).
I question the wisdom of using your phone to free the player from the clutches of the glass, but I'm sure Tomi Maki appreciated the effort.
Who Is Connor McDavid-ing This Week?
The tank battle for Connor McDavid will be quite the scene this season as teams stumble over each other to finish last in the standings, thus guaranteeing either McDavid or future American hero Jack Eichel.
30. Edmonton Oilers (10-24-9, 29 pts): When history looks back on this epic chase for last, will nine post-regulation losses be the thing we say prevented the Oilers from Jack or McEichel? Even worse—the Oilers have been playing better for about two weeks and their once-commanding lead is dwindling fast.
The Oilers are 3-2-2 in their past seven games and Ben Scrivens has been in net for six of those games. The key to any tank is bad goaltending and if Scrivens continues to play well in the second half, he may play the Oilers right out of a bottom-two spot, which would be a very Oilers thing to happen.
29. Buffalo Sabres (14-26-3, 31 pts): Are the Sabres a worse team than the Oilers? Maybe. Probably. A league-worst minus-66 goal differential speaks to their talent level and tank dedication.
But the Sabres play in an easier conference, so points may be easier to earn down the stretch. This is going to come down to who wants it less.
28. Carolina Hurricanes (13-24-5, 31 pts): The tank-fest in Raleigh seems to be ending, as the Hurricanes are 3-1-1 in January and slowly sinking to the top. As they get healthier, the Hurricanes will likely get better. That's a scary proposition, being this bad but not quite bad enough to land a game-changing talent.
If Carolina wants Connack Eichvid, it may come down to management making tank trades. If Cam Ward (.913) continues to stop pucks at a nearly average level, maybe the team trades him (hello, Minnesota) in an effort to get the tank back on track.
Goal of the Week
The Anaheim Ducks retired Teemu Selanne's No. 8 on Sunday, so allow me to cheat a little on "goal of the week" and show everyone Selanne's rookie record-breaking goal with the Winnipeg Jets, complete with skeet shooting celebration.
Hockey sure was fun back then. Imagine a rookie (a non-Canadian one at that) doing that today after setting a personal record? The backlash would be enormous. "A rookie? Having fun? And being selfish? How dare he!" Joe Columnist would pound into his keyboard in an effort defend the sacredness of a game that should never be fun.
The thing about that goal though—you can tell Selanne was on another level when a goaltender probably plays that the same way every single time against every single player, only this time he doesn't get close to the puck before Selanne taps it home. Certain players can change the game and Selanne was certainly one of them.
Questions and Answers
Got a question? Tweet me @davelozo or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but please don't call before 9 a.m. I will answer any of your questions about hockey or whatever if it's a good question.
Would you rather fight one grizzly-bear sized black mamba, or fifty black mamba sized grizzly bears?
It's to the death, so you must (a) go hand to hand; and (b) win. And you have no weapons.
No weapons? Have you seen my biceps? One day, I'll introduce you to Paolo and Dr. McGillicuddy and then you can tell me I have no weapons.
And of course, I choose the 50 black mamba-sized grizzly bears. Based on a quick search, mambas are around 8 feet in length. The key word there—length. If I had to fight 50 of anything that was 8-feet tall, even with Paolo barking hot fire, I'd never make it. But 50 grizzly bears that are 8 feet in length rolling on the ground? Piece of cake.
I'd simply kick through the 50 grizzlies with my legs—Morten Andersen and Ali Haji-Sheikh. Maybe I'd suffer minor injuries, but once again I am right in my grizzly/mamba-based analysis.
I was admittedly skeptical of the Rangers' 10 wins in 11 games, only because they beat almost entirely terrible teams. Yeah, yeah, I know—beating the Sabres 10 of 11 is impressive, so I should have been more impressed. I wasn't. Get off me.
But sweeping the California teams on the road with three wins in four nights makes me have way more trust in them as a playoff team.
That's perhaps a little silly to say with half a season remaining, and things will go sideways at some point for the Rangers like they do for all teams, but that trip tells me they are a legit contender. Although, with the way the Metropolitan is taking shape, the fourth-place team may have 100 points and have to settle for a wild-card spot.
I don't know if I'd buy it outright. I'd definitely put a hefty down payment on it, though. Perhaps look into a lease agreement with an option to buy at the end, although that's always a rip-off (I've done it).
The Panthers are outside the top eight now but technically they are eighth in the East based on points percentage, slightly ahead of the Bruins. My issue is when I look at the standings as they sit now, I can't imagine one of those teams slipping out of the playoff picture. The Panthers are very good (it's amazing what a goaltender can do you for you), but I don't know if they are better than those other eight teams.
If I had to identify a soft target in that group, a team for you to root against during the second half, I'd pick the Red Wings. They're without Jimmy Howard for a while here and if history tells us anything, the injuries will pile up on them. Perhaps other teams will fade and it's not as though the Panthers are miles behind anyone, but I think that's their best shot, chasing down Detroit.
Good team, though.
Long time reader, first time emailer.
I've been a Ranger fan since I was 5, and I am currently in film school aspiring to work in comedy. Therefore, your #brand of hockey comedy is weirdly perfect for me.
I've enjoyed following you on twitter, but today I decided I finally had a question I wanted you to answer.
I would like your Top 5 Comedy list. However, there's a catch. My favorite movie is Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers most famous film which I can't recommend enough if you haven't seen. This Top 5 Comedy list must consist only of films made before 1950.
While I worry you may potentially hate all old movies, something tells me you would want to make this. While the people of Bleacher Report may not care, I'd love to get that list from you. This was less a mailbag question and more of a you tweeted your e-mail kind of thing.
Keep up the good work, and start believing in this Ranger team.
I almost didn't include this because I don't know if I have a top-five list of comedies that predate 1950. I have like two that predate 1970. I think there's something about the era in which I live that makes me not enjoy alleged classics like The Blues Brothers and Slap Shot. I can imagine them being hilarious when they were first released but I've had my tastes shaped by different things since then and for whatever reason they don't appeal to me.
That paragraph was me stalling as I looked through movies before 1950. I have no answers. So instead I will list my five favorite comedies pre-1980 for the kids out there that need their horizons expanded.
• Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)—This will help you get your dad's joke references.
• Blazing Saddles (1974)—The ending is downright weird and dumb, but Gene Wilder's shooting hand makes it all worth it.
• Animal House (1978)—No explanation needed, although "no explanation needed" is technically an explanation.
• Bad News Bears (1976)—Never watch a remake of this.
• Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)—Never watch a remake of this.
I take this to mean the 2014-15 New York Islanders and not them in recent years, because then I'd have to pick a bad Dave Matthews song and, spoiler alert: A bad Dave Matthews song does not exist.
I define this season's Islanders as a fast, fun team that doesn't really sit back. They come at you for 60 minutes most nights. They are aggressive. And while I thought they were a playoff team before the season (even pre-Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk), they've caught some people by surprise.
With that in mind, I'm going to pick "Warehouse" and will share the live version from the Central Park show in 2003. Based on this fancy stats website, "Warehouse" has been played only 674 times at around 1,800 concerts since 1991. Since it wasn't released until 1994, the number is a little lower, but you've got about a 1-in-3 shot of hearing it at a show, and in general, the Islanders have about a 33 percent chance of being good in a given year.
Assuming the Islanders make the playoffs this season, it will be their seventh trip to the postseason in 21 years, which is, that's right, a 33 percent efficiency.
So, they are Warehouse.
Previously, they were "Gravedigger."
This is the most difficult question of the 2014-15 season. Has anyone noticed what's happening at the top of the Metro? It's not the best division in the league but, based on points, it's the best top four in the league. The Central top four has four more points, but they've played four more games.
Entering Tuesday's play, it's Islanders (57), Penguins (56), Capitals (54) and Rangers (52). The Rangers have the best goal differential and most games remaining. Based on points percentage, they are third in the Metro. They've won 13 of 14 and are the hottest team in the NHL.
So for all those reasons, I'm taking the Penguins. When in doubt, go with the team that has the two best players in the world. That's what my grandmother always said. She loved sports.
All statistics via NHL.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.