P.K. Subban’s Departure Is Proof The Montreal Canadiens Are Living In The Past

To say that P.K. Subban was run out of Montreal might be unfair.  That would imply that everyone in bleu, blanc et rouge was placing him on an Air Canada flight to Nashville from Montreal’s Trudeau Airport.  I’m sure, however that Subban wasn’t surprised by the trade on June 29, 2016 that sent him to Nashville for the Predator’s defenseman and captain Shea Weber.  On July 1, 2016 the Montreal Canadien’s Norris Trophy winning defenseman would have had his no trade clause kick in on the remaining  6 years of his contract at $10 million US dollars a season.

Leading up to the National Hockey League entry draft, rumors swirled that Canadien’s General Manager Marc Bergevin was looking to trade Subban because either he “didn’t fit in with the rest of the club” or because of his contract.  Bergevin denied these reports but it seemed clear that something was going on.  Last season there was talk that he wasn’t in tune with some of the other veteran leadership, Subban wore the A on his sweater and Captain Max Pacioretty was thought to be one of main proponents of his dismissal.

Head Coach Michel Therrien was known to rip into Subban during this past season, especially after one loss to the Colorado Avalanche when the creative skater attempted to make a play in the Avalanche zone and lost an edge while possessing the puck.  The Avalanche took the puck the length of the ice and scored the goal that would go on to win the game.  Therrien would go on to throw Subban under the bus the team rode to the Pepsi Center on, “ an individual play that cost us the game tonight.”  Never mind that the Canadiens offense last year ranked 16 in goals for in the entire league even with offensively gifted Subban in the lineup.

I’m sure that Subban could clearly read the writing on the wall when Bergevin did not stand up to Therrien or back the Canadiens star player.  Subban was playing his game, the one that the Canadiens had signed him to play.  He was aggressive on the puck, maybe sometimes to a fault, he was boisterous, but that’s P.K., he was creative, he had flair and most of all, he gave 100 percent on the ice.  At the end of the 82 game season when the Canadiens finished 38-38-6 and missed the playoffs without firing Therrien, Subban had to know that he was going to be on his way out.  The two of them could not exist under the same roof.

It was a reminder of the Patrick Roy situation in 1995 when he fought with head coach Mario Tremblay. Canadiens management decided then as well that Roy was the one who had to leave shipping him off to the Colorado Avalanche, the previous Quebec Nordiques.  How ironic is it that Therrien blew up at P.K.’s play in Colorado?  It all comes full circle I suppose, especially considering that trade brought Montreal one of my favorite hockey players of all-time goalie Jocelyn Thibault.  As the history books have shown us, the long list of goalies that followed in Roy’s crease were never able to replicate Roy’s success as he went on to win a Cup with Colorado.

Subban to his credit, had adopted Montreal as his new hometown.  He donated $10 million dollars to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, a figure that the Children’s Hospital called the “biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history.”  The star athlete set up a fund known as P.K.’s Helping Hand that works with the Montreal Children’s Hospital and helps parents pay bills when their child gets sick. Subban was also seen many times in restaurants around town and posed with fans for pictures and stopped for autographs.  The mood after the trade was described by one person on Twitter in three words: “Torches and pitchforks.”

The Montreal Canadiens are an Original Six team with so much history and mystique.  I know when I took a tour of the Centre Bell, or Centre Molson when I went, the team was so proud of where it had come from.  The legends that you see in the locker room up on the walls from Plante to Bouchard to Savard to Roy and in between.  They even ask you if you know what the “H” stands for in the middle of the “C” in their logo.  (Do you know by the way?)

The NHL awards trophies that are named for Hall of Fame players from the Canadiens.  The “Rocket” Richard Trophy, the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy are all named for men who were Canadiens.  The Canadiens fill the Hockey Hall of Fame with plaques, busts and memorabilia.  There’s no doubt that this is one of the greatest clubs in NHL history.  Not to mention the 24 Stanley Cups.

What the Canadiens have to realize however is the last Cup came on June 9, 1993 and the world is a different place – hockey is a different place.  As much as we can celebrate the past and cherish those men that built the franchise, we can’t let them haunt the building.  Subban’s departure is another example of running a star out just because they may not always “fit the mold.”  Subban isn’t like the rest of the players and that’s okay, not every championship team is built like those old Montreal Canadien teams.  You need guys like P.K.  You need guys like Patrick Roy.  Unfortunately the Montreal Canadiens still haven’t learned the lessons, they still hear the whispers of Richard and Bouchard and Plante.  When the time comes and they realize it, it’s going to be too late.  It may already be too late.

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Looking Forward To The NHL’s Awards

I know it’s early and we are still 12 days away from the end of the regular season but it’s just about the time to look at who should win the NHL’s regular season awards.  There are a few we may not truly be able to know until the end but that’s part of the fun!  We will start with one of the ones I think is pretty much wrapped up.

*stats as of 3/29/16

Vezina Trophy

Braden Holtby      (2.17 Goals Against Average, .923 Save %, 46 wins)
Henrik Lundqvist (2.41 GAA, .922 SV %, 33 wins)
Ben Bishop             (2.02 GAA, .928 SV%, 33 wins)
Honorable mention: Corey Crawford, Cory Schneider

For me, no one has been more impressive between the pipes than Holtby because he has backstopped a team that has ratcheted up the pressure on the rest of the NHL to the tune of an NHL leading 54 wins and a guaranteed President’s Trophy.  Holtby has won 46 of those 54 games and proven to be a workhorse for the Capitals on their run to what they hope is a Cup winning season.  While they are a well built team, I think they are built from the goalie position on.  Last year’s playoff performance by Holtby was his coming out party and I think he is showing what he is made of.  He played in 13 games last year posting a 1.71 GAA and .944 SV%, winning 6 of the 13 games before the Caps bowed out to the New York Rangers in the 7th game.

As for the Rangers, Lundqvist has held them in the playoff race on his back alone. Once again they’ve built a team designed to win around Hank.  The Rangers leading scorer Derek Brassard has 57 points (27 goals -30 assists) and isn’t even in the 20 in points or the top 20 in goals (26).  If the Rangers expect to beat the Capitals in the Eastern Conference they’ll have to rely on defense and Lundqvist.
Quietly Ben Bishop has powered the Tampa Bay Lightning to 93 points and a tie with Florida atop the Atlantic division.  While we’ve heard about Florida’s resurgence, the Lightning have quietly come on thanks in large part to Bishop’s play in net.  As long as he continues to play strong he’ll have a chance to take that top spot in the Atlantic.

The Corey-Cory tandem both have played well and it was hard to keep them off the board but the top three candidates couldn’t be overlooked.  Crawford has kept the Hawks in many games but the offense in front of him has overshadowed his work many times.  I don’t believe he’s the top tier goal like the other three.  Schneider is a top tier goaltender but he’s been hurt by New Jersey’s lack of depth.  Once the Devils get the pieces in place, they have a great goalkeeper in place to get them where they want to be.

Calder Trophy

Artemi Panarin
Jack Eichel
Shayne Gostisbehere
Honorable mention: Max Domi

Some may question the fact that Panarin is 24 and played for 6 years in the Russian KHL before coming over to the NHL.  By the NHL standards however, Panarin is a rookie and stands to win the Calder hands down with 64 points, which is good for 17th in the league, the best by a rookie.  

Eichel is at 50 and Gostisbehere, the Flyers’ D-man, has 42 points for a team that is gunning for the playoffs as best they can.  Eichel has looked good for the Sabres, a good runner-up prize for the team that missed out on “can’t miss” prospect Connor McDavid that Edmonton took with the first overall pick.

Meanwhile Max Domi has shown flashes of brilliance in his time in a Coyotes sweater, even scoring on his father, Tie’s old team Toronto this year as he has amassed 48 points.

Norris Trophy

Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson….

no seriously…..

Erik Karlsson
Drew Doughty
Brent Burns
Honorable mention: P.K. Subban

Erik Karlsson has been a revelation once again in Ottawa.  A defenseman leading the league in assists?  Yup that’s him.  The gold standard of offensive defenseman.  But he’s always on the ice for his team, 30 minutes plus 30 or more times this year.  Karlsson has 62 assists and it is the most by a defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom in the 2007-2008 season when he had 60.  He won the Norris that year.

Doughty has played well on the blueline for the Kings.  He’s been one of the reasons that the Kings have performed so well and are contenders for the Cup.  Burns has been a point producer as well.  But both can’t really come close to what is Karlsson’s best and arguably magical season even though the Sens won’t make the playoffs it is an individual award and he has played the best season for a D-man.

P.K. has had some missed games due to injuries although he has brought his offensive game to the Canadiens this year.  When he’s come to the rink he’s been explosive.  He’s been physical and solid.  The team has struggled because of lack of depth and that has affected his numbers but I still see that Norris trophy D-man on the ice.  Not as good as the other three but he’s up there.

Hart Trophy

Patrick Kane
Sidney Crosby
Johnny Gaudreau
Honorable mention: Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist

Patrick Kane is the guy that checks all the boxes here, leader in points, second in goals, second in assists and plays on one of the NHL’s best teams.  But I’m struggling with this decision.  This is the one that I have a hard time with.  Do I think the Blackhawks would win without him?  No.  But do I think the Penguins win without Crosby?  No way.

In fact the Penguins have been a way different team in 2016 then in 2015.  On January 2, 2016 before facing the New York Islanders, the Penguins sat on 40 points – good for 10th in the Eastern Conference and 5th in the Metropolitan Division.  Now they are at 92 points, 3rd in the Metropolitan and 5th in the Conference, a hell of a swing in three months.

As for Gaudreau, the Flames would have struggled without his 28 goals and 45 assists. Johnny Hockey put the Calgary team on his back this year and even though they won’t make the playoffs, there is no doubt in my mind, this young lad is going to make this team a contender as long they continue to put complementary pieces around him.

As for my honorable mentions, I believe Karlsson will win the Norris and that speaks for itself, as well as Lundqvist’s play in net for the Rangers.

Selke Trophy

Patrice Bergeron

I can’t really throw anyone else in the mix because as long as he’s playing this is pretty much Bergeron’s trophy to lose.  Bergeron does everything you want a forward to do.  He wins faceoffs, kills penalties, back checks and is one of the best all around forwards.  His play is so good he makes everyone around him look good.

But if you are inclined, I’ll give you two names that could be included in the runner up spot:

Anze Kopitar
Sidney Crosby

You happy?  It still should be renamed the Bergeron trophy.  For as long as he’s playing, it will be his.

Adams Trophy

Mike Sullivan
Mike Babcock
Barry Trotz

This one should be a lot easier than it was.  But Mike Sullivan was gifted a talented team, the same that former Penguins coach Mike Johnston couldn’t get to produce.  On December 12, 2015 the Penguins introduced Mike Sullivan as coach and begin to see results.  As I stated above they are now knocking on the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference and this is thanks to Mike Sullivan who produced in Wilkes-Barre Scranton with the “Baby Pens.”  Many of his players there were brought up and have continued to produce in his system.  It’s worked well for him and I think it’s shown what a good coach can do with hard work and players that believe in a system.  You don’t always have to have the Kanes and the Karlssons to win.

Speaking of not having talent, Mike Babcock has done wonders with a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has stripped down the organization’s foundation to the core.  Babcock has worked well with the younger players brought up from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the Leafs have seen a resurgence not only on the ice but with the fan base as well.  It has given a once proud team reason to look to the future again.

Barry Trotz was given the keys to a Ferrari this year.  He was expected to drive the Ferrari as fast and as far as he could.  He has done that.  But he has also exceeded expectations.  Trotz has been able to guide the team through the ups and downs of the regular season without too much drama and changed the culture of the organization in two seasons.  He should have been nominated for this award last season.  Unfortunately I don’t see him winning it this year either.

Who do you think will win?

 

 

 

Why Can’t Hockey Be America’s Game?

Every time I go to Toronto I find myself drawn to the Hockey Hall of Fame and its marvelous displays of greatness.  Not that I make it to the Great White North all that much but it seems like since I’ve gotten older I’ve made it more than when I was younger.  I’ve been to the HHoF at least three times and to Toronto at least five but every single visit to the museum I’m always struck by the wonder of it all.

I know that Canada invented the game (although some may argue that it’s roots are in the Middle Ages – the game as we know now is Canadian in origin) and is celebrated as a religion country-wide.  In fact before it was replaced in 2013, the Canadian five dollar note featured children playing winter sports, including hockey, and wearing a number 9 sweater to honor  Montreal Canadiens great Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.  Included with the picture was a quotation from Canadian novelist Roch Carrier’s short story “The Hockey Sweater”:

The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons.  We lived in three places-the school, the church and the skating rink-but our real life was on the skating rink.

Yeah I get you Roch, the rink is where I’d be too if I lived in Canada.  Cold, brutal winters where you are forced inside, you might as well find something to do right?  Time for some hockey and after your legs are burnt out from skating turn on the television and watch some Hockey Night in Canada?  I mean come on, we don’t have anything like that here in America.  Sure we have Monday Night Football, but Hockey Night in Canada, there’s no chance.  The tradition and the history, plus Canadians have Don Cherry and his outfits.  No contest.

But here’s the thing.  Most places in America don’t have access to a rink.  In the South you are lucky to find a rink.  It’s getting better but when I was growing up I could only tell you where one was.  Even living in New York, where you think there’d be a bunch – it’s cold!, I have to drive an hour and a half on a good day to find a rink to play hockey.  True, I’ve read Derek Boogaard’s biography where it talks about his father driving him all over.  If my daughter is going to play she’s going to have to go at least three hours in multiple directions to play.  All over the Eastern Seaboard.  I can’t imagine doing that as a kid to play a sport.

But what’s funny about hockey, is that for as much as it costs-and trust me it costs, at some point you start to find this itch.  You can’t get enough ice time.  You can’t get even time on your skates.  You want to feel that stick in your hands every chance you get.  Even getting back into it at my age, I’m proud to say that I skated for an hour without falling-finally!  I’m getting better but I’m still pretty terrible.  Watch me skate backwards if you need a laugh.

However I’m bothered though, for all that hockey means to Canada there will probably not be one Canadian NHL team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Yes the teams are loaded with Canadian players, but I want to see Toronto or Calgary or Ottawa or Edmonton or Winnipeg or Vancouver go deep in the playoffs.  It just doesn’t seem right not to see a Canadian team.  I don’t like it at all.  I realize some of it has to do with the direction of the club, some has to do with the value of the dollar and some has to do with the quality of the team but no matter I don’t like it.  I’ll trade a potential Florida team or two for a Canadian team any day.

I know these teams are all because of the Gretzky effect – the same Gretzky who perfected the so-called Gretzky buttonhook.  A move that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl perfected in a game on March 20, 2016 when he assisted on Bryan Rust’s goal.  The Pens took out the league leading Washington Capitals 6-2 that night behind Kuhnhackl and his spin moving self.  I’m not sure Gretzky could have made a better pass, this was text book.  Maybe Chris Becker taught him that at the Revolution Ice Rink in Pittston at skills night while he was playing for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pens?  It’s a possibility.  You never know where he may have picked that one up.  Then he sold him some Ribcore skates?  Just kidding Chris.

Because of Gretzky’s influence on the league we’ve seen more and more Americans jump into hockey.  I was probably exposed to more hockey because of him and I have to thank him for that.  It is one of those sports that gets in your blood.  No matter what other sport you think you love, until you actually get on the ice and strap on the pads, skates and grab a stick, you don’t know what you are missing.  I can understand why it’s Canada’s sport and you know what?  I don’t think we’ll ever be good enough at it to best them.  We’ll never have the access or the commitment to hockey.  Our focus is on baseball, basketball and most importantly football.  There’s no way we’ll take up hockey as our number one sport.  I think Canada should take hockey, mold it and each year make it better and better.  Each visit to Toronto make the HHoF a place that I never want to leave at the end of the day, a place where those that gave everything they had to the game have a chance to pay tribute to their teammates and those they respected.  Hockey deserves a place where it can be worshipped and I think that place will be and should always be Canada…O Canada.

Skating On Thin Ice

The Montreal Canadiens were 19-4-3 through the first 26 games three days earlier star goaltender Carey Price went down injured with what was supposed to be a “week or two” lower body injury.  Since then the Canadiens have gone 8-23-1, Price hasn’t come back, the team traded for All-Star Game MVP John Scott just days prior to his coming out party only to bury him in minor league affiliate St. John’s and now Coach Michel Therrien is openly flaming star defenseman P.K. Subban in the press.

Is there something going on with the bleu blanc et rouge?

From first glance it looks to me like the Canadiens are reeling with the loss of Price.  If the New York Rangers lost Henrik Lundqvist I believe they’d struggle just like the Canadiens.  You can throw in NHL quality backups and hope for the best, but there’s too much parity in the NHL these days that once you lose an elite goaltender that you rely on to push your team over the edge you might as well pack it in.  Especially if you don’t have goal scorers that teams like the Chicago Blackhawks do.

Let’s also keep in mind the fish bowl that this team plays in.  Ask Jocelyn Thibault.  Don’t know Jocelyn Thibault?  Thibault was part of the Patrick Roy trade between the Colorado Avalanche and the Canadiens that sent Roy and Mike Keane to the Avalance for Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko.  Thibault was a young 20 year old when he was thrust into the shadow of Saint Patrick on the Montreal Forum stage. He was put in net to try to replicate what a man 10 years his senior had done for this hockey loving community.

Oh, did I mention Thibault was also French Canadian?  Thibault grew up in Montreal and played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and was called by Canadiens General Manager Rejean Houle “one of the most brilliant young goaltenders in the league?”

Gee.  Pressure?  A 20 year old kid going home to one of the most storied franchises of all time, most Stanley Cups in NHL history (22), one of the oldest North American professional sports franchises in history, over 50 people associated with the club were in the Hockey Hall of Fame, it’s his hometown club, and now the General Manager of this club says that he is the key to this deal and one of the most brilliant young goaltenders in the league.  That’s not much presure

Then there’s the list of goaltenders that’s played at the club, let’s see: Patrick Roy, Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden, Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, Roy Worters, Bill Durnan, George Hainsworth and Georges Vezina!  That’s just the Hall of Fame goaltenders.

But hell, Thibault came over to the Canadiens and through 40 games after being traded he posted a 23-13-3 record with a 2.83 Goals Allowed Average and a .913 Save Percentage.  For a 20 year old playing in the shadow of ghosts, that’s not too bad.

But it was never enough.  Even playing on crappy teams, Thibault always did his best but he got the blame.  Eventually getting traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1998, Thibault would move on.  I can only imagine his growth as a goaltender was scared by his experiences in Montreal.  Unfortunately the ghosts were the same ones that Ken Dryden spoke of in his book “The Game.”  Dryden experienced the pain too.  The must win now mentality.  The mentality that if you don’t win you are going to get shipped out.  There’s no room for any sort of growth.

I hate to see something like that happen.  I think the Canadiens could do well bringing up John Scott and playing him to bring some excitement to the club.  Or even trading him to let him play somewhere in the NHL.  He deserves a shot somewhere.

But the way that they are treating P.K. Subban is the way they treated Thibault.  A solid club servant, who did what was asked of him, gave to the club and hell Subban is there for the community, but now he’s being questioned for his decisions on the ice?  This man gives everything that he has on the ice.

I have to wonder if the long line of Cups are getting in the way of what a franchise should truly be about.  It’s not always about winning.  It should be about people too.  It should be about understanding that you are going to have crap years.  But the players are giving what they have.  I’ve written about coaching changes before, but with Montreal losing an elite goaltender and now you want to criticize your star defenseman?  Someone should fire the coach.  Obviously he has some issues.  Sure he’s feeling the heat too.  But that’s unacceptable.

I feel bad for Subban and Scott and hope that neither of them has their careers ruined like Thibault did.  Here’s hoping.

A 26-Year-Old Hero and A 26-Year-Old Zero

It was big news in the New York Metropolitan area this week when pictures of Jason Pierre Paul’s (26 years old) hand surfaced in New York Daily News. In the infamous right hand was injured in a firework accident during the July 4th holiday. Rumors have circulated as to how bad the injury truly is until the pictures seemed to show JPP missing a right index finger and possibly parts of his right thumb and other middle finger. As to the true severity, he’s not saying. But he did tweet, “I can’t think of the last time my index finger got me a sack.”
What I can think of is, as a right-handed person, it’s going to be hard to sign a contract with no index finger. With no index finger as a right-handed person it’s going to be hard to do a tremendous amount of things. But what is really incredible about it is, you start to wonder about the level of maturity for some of these things. When you are holding fireworks in your hands are you thinking about the repercussions? Knowing that there is a massive contract waiting for you, maybe you would stop and think “fireworks can blow off my hand.”
Or maybe you can get AFLAC. It does help when you get hurt and can’t work. But if you don’t enroll you can’t get the insurance. Although I’m not sure it covers fireworks and missing hands. Maybe Chubbs could have gotten it in Happy Gilmore when that damn alligator stole his hand. It was his right hand too. Maybe JPP didn’t get that memo either. Don’t mess with alligators or fireworks.
But I think what we all missed this week was P.K. Subban. While the NY media salivated over the pictures of missing digits, sick kids in Montreal found a hero in Pernell Karl Subban.
The 26-year-old Montreal Canadien hockey player from Toronto graciously donated 10 million Canadian dollars over 7 years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. They’ve named a portion of the hospital the Atrium P.K. Subban. He’s taking French lessons so that he can speak to the fans and the people in the area. He’s boisterous and brash on the ice, but that’s a persona. Off the ice he seems to care about his community and wants to give back to a place that has given so much to him. Keep in mind 10 million dollars is the most EVER given by a Canadian athlete. This is a 26-year-old. Think about that.
Now think about the other 26-year-old in the picture. Blowing off his hand doing something stupid. One is giving away 10 million to kids the other is just giving away a career. Interesting parallel.
Whether you like either one, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not judging their careers. One has won a Super Bowl, one has won a gold medal, one has a community that loves him, one has a community that makes fun of him. When we talk about heroes, we should be looking at the guy or gal that humbles himself in front of the community for what he/she does off the ice or field not what he/she does on the field. So you have a Super Bowl ring, what message are you showing by playing with fireworks and blowing off a hand?  Great message to kids.

For me, I’ve never been a P.K. Subban fan, but this week, Subban proved to me that he was one of the greatest humans to wear a jersey in the NHL. He’s a hero in the truest sense of the word. To give 10 million dollars over 7 years or roughly 1/7 of your salary to a children’s hospital to help those that can’t help themselves proves that he is a man who has a heart and is willing to step up and should be everyone’s hero. I don’t care what he does on the ice. I just know that those kids and the families of those kids have someone who just saved many lives for years to come. We should all be thankful for that man. I know I am.

Are We Really Happy To Make The Playoffs?

Sirius Xm’s NHL Network Radio was on in my car the day after the Rangers defeated the Pens 2-1 to move 2-1 in the series and Mike Ross was talking on Hockey This Morning from Ottawa.  I had never heard the show (bad me! No donut) but I caught a bit where Ross was talking about the San Jose Sharks and how they talk about a winning culture but they are one of the few teams who have never made the Stanley Cup Finals.  It’s an interesting thought.  In fact there are only 6 teams, SJ, Arizona, Nashville, Minnesota, Winnipeg and Columbus.  One could argue it’s because they are mostly expansion teams (Minnesota and Columbus entered in 2000, Winnipeg 1999, Nashville 1998) but San Jose and Arizona (the original Winnipeg Jets) have been in the league for over 20 years.  I don’t always believe it comes down to when the team was founded; Florida made the Cup Finals in 1995-1996, two years after joining the league.

Maybe it comes down to the mentality of not only the coaching staff but the players as well?  Ross said something about that as well, some teams are happy to make the playoffs.  We’ve gotten to the point where that is everything and winning the Cup is “gravy.”  I think this applies to other sports as well.

I get the sense that sports franchises look at fans and think that they just want to pull them along to get whatever they can out of them.  “Hey we’ll squeeze just enough out of this team to make the playoffs even though we know we won’t be able to get anywhere near a championship but we’ll make tv revenue and ticket sales and merchandise.”  Meanwhile they’ll string fans along thinking that the team MIGHT just have a chance to do something.  They’ll make just enough waves to think of next year they could sign someone to get over a hump and maybe get to a second round or even a third but there’s no development.  It’s just whatever to sustain that business model.

It’s a business model isn’t it?  I mean I’ve talked about this before but no one buys a sports franchise to lose money.  No one buys a team to dump money in and not get anything back.  Yeah teams have loyal fanbases that come to games and buy jerseys and watch on tv and collect stuff and tweet stuff but they want winners.  Or do they?  I guess it depends on the market.  For as many years as Toronto has gone without a Cup and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance you would think the entire organization would have been run out-of-town on the rails.  I still can’t believe it’s been 46 years since they’ve been in the Finals.  How does that work?  One of the most storied franchises in the history of the game.  46 years.  Does it just get to the point where people just don’t expect it anymore?

I can remember in the 90’s when the team had Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk and Felix Potvin but ran into a Los Angeles Kings team headed to a date with destiny.  Of course, Gretzky clipped Gilmour with a high stick that Kerry Fraser missed in Game 6, but I’m not bitter or anything?  Can someone please tell Kerry Fraser that was a high stick?  I know I know, it’s The Great One.  That might have been the greatest Leaf team to never make the Finals.

But is it a winning culture or is it winning players?  Players that want to win one Cup or win many?  Players that want to win one championship or many?  I think you have to fill a team with players that have that mentality that they are going to do anything to win a Cup.  Then after they get that Cup they want another and it also has to be the same for the coach as well.  He can’t rest with one either.  He’s going to have to trade a guy even if he’s the face of the franchise if it means improving the team.  I think that’s what the winners realize and some of the midlevel teams miss.  Some of the others teams hang on too long to a guy who the fans love and try to squeeze something out of him, but end up wasting resources and losing out on winning because of it.  It’s a delicate line.  But that’s the difference between a Cup and Cups.  The salary cap has changed the face of the game, it used to be you never left a team, the days of Mario Lemieux and Jagr on the Pens for years is no more or those Canadiens teams that used to rule the NHL team aren’t going to happen anymore.  Free agency and salary caps have changed pro sports.

The guys in the locker room won’t be the same guys you had two years ago most of the time and many won’t be the same you had last year.  Gone from this year’s President’s Trophy winning New York Rangers who made the Stanley Cup Finals are Brian Boyle, Raphael Diaz, Derek Dorsett, David LeNeveu, John Moore, Benoit Pouliot, Brad Richards and Anton Stralman.  It’s amazing when you think about it.  That’s quite a bit of turnover from a team that went to Finals and is expected to push for another Cup.  But when you have a solid core, you can do things like that.  Plus you have great goaltending and a good coaching staff.  You keep it all together and back to the Cup you start heading.  It’s a mix of everything that you need, and maybe one day these six teams will put it together.