Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This I Believe: Winter 2010
Johnson wouldn't even acknowledge that ten consecutive losses constituted a slump. Trying to keep his poise as everybody around him lost theirs, Johnson commented: "You say to yourself, let's go back to the time when we were successful. What did we do differently? For the six weeks when we lost only two games, we were getting some breaks, we were getting some timely goals, and our goaltending was outstanding. Now, all of a sudden, we're not getting many goals, our defense is too tentative, and we're not getting good goaltending. We're in a slump because people keep telling us we're in a slump. People tell you you're playing badly and after a while, you start to believe it. People tell you you're playing great and you believe that, too. What do we need? We need to recapture the winning feeling. And the only way to do that is to win a game."
The wisdom of the late Badger Bob Johnson, coming just before rock bottom: the 85-86 Flames 11th straight loss, to the Hartford Whalers(!) at home (!!) by a score of 9-1(!!!).
The Flames have problems, and they're not a great team, but, they aren't this bad. They just aren't. Their best game of the season was the game before this losing streak started, a shootout win over the Canucks in which they led 33-11 on the shot clock late in the 3rd. Their 2nd best game of the season was probably the game after that -- Loss #1 of this streak -- where Craig Anderson robbed them blind, over and over.
I think GlenX needs a couple of skill plays to go right for him, to get the Scoreface back. Hopefully David Moss -- playoff bubble be damned -- will take the time to heal properly, so that he can be the dominant-looking player he was last season and right up until he left the lineup in October. Because since he came back, he's been a shadow of himself. But also, they need another good hockey player up front.
**Which reminds me: the #1 Google result for 'Trade Phaneuf' is this post from November. Not much to apologize for there, although time seems to be indicating that JBo is not actually in the same league offensively as Phaneuf.
**Kovalchuk: it really seems to me like the Blackhawks are the sensible place for him to go, for all parties. The conventional wisdom seems to be that teams who are interested in him for the long term will be willing to part with more than teams who are 'merely' interested in a rental, but I'm not sure of this at all.
Chicago has a cap problem for next season. If we make the reasonable assumptions that (A) Brian Campbell is untradeable, and (B) cutting Brent Sopel isn't gonna get it done, cap-wise, then we are stuck with the reality that, at some point, the Hawks are going to have to get rid of a good player who is worth his contract -- a guy they don't want to get rid of. So think of it this way:
- they can't afford Kovalchuk next season
- they can't afford Kris Versteeg next season
- they have a better chance winning the 2010 Stanley Cup with Kovalchuk than Versteeg
That's it. Maybe it's Versteeg, Buff-lynn and a pick; maybe Barker, Skille, and a pick; maybe a veteran D comes along with Ilya; who knows. From the Thrashers side, they get an young yet established quality NHL player on a reasonable deal, in addition to the usual 'popcorn in the pot'. Which really is not a very likely return from any other suitors.
As for Kovalchuk himself, it's a great situation. He's auditioning for a mega-contract on a good team with good teammates, and he doesn't have to deal with serious* questions about whether he'd like to stay or get out there as a UFA. (*Of course they'll come up anyway, especially if he and the Hawks have success, but his rental-ness under this scenario could not be more clear.)
**Steve Tambellini Likes Assessing is my favourite post I've read in a while. T-Bone, then Willis:
"The first step is getting through this period as far as the assessment of people who truly want to be an Oiler and get to the next level. That involves an evaluation of character, skill, talent, courage, everything.[...]"
...when Steve Tambellini talks about assessing the players he has, it’s either a null statement or the mark of a fool; he’s been assessing what is essentially the same roster for a season and a half now. If he doesn’t know what he has after more than 130 games of failure by his organization, it’s just one more indication that he’s woefully unequipped to be the man in charge of an NHL franchise.
A related thought: expressions of confidence (extreme confidence!) are intended as reassurance, but do they ever, in fact, serve to reassure? "Oh, they're extremely confident, well then, I'll relax now. Nothing to do but sit back and wait for the multiple Stanleys."
**I was going to write something a bit lengthier about Blair, Laraque, et al, but there's really just the one point I wanted to make.
Georges Laraque's biggest problem, when being considered by the likes of Jeff Blair, is that he enjoys the celebrity and notoriety that comes with his job. He doesn't begrudgingly put up with it; he doesn't quietly accept it as "part of the package". He is a genuinely nice, generous person who, for his own reasons, finds the reality of people bugging him for his time, money, and autograph to be a feature, not a bug, of being a recognizable pro athlete. He likes the attention... he must be a phony! Sure, he does a lot of charitable work, but he thrives on the recognition... so it doesn't really count.
I think that's what's going on with Blair's critique. He's like the self-styled environmentalist who worries more about your take on catastrophic global climate change and the bags you take to Safeway than your actual impact on the planet. Or the zealot who's more interested in having you accept Jesus as your personal saviour than in influencing your behaviour or choices in any way. There's a proper way to behave, you know.
**I think that tonight Calgary beats Phoenix, the Oilers beat St. Loo, and both teams roll into Saturday's final BoA of the season on winning streaks. Go Flames.