NHL Snark Rankings: Belated New Year's Edition
Happy New Year, hockey fans!
Hope you all enjoyed the Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings where 105,491 people packed the Big House. Not even a Michigan-Ohio State game has ever drawn a crowd that big. Toronto won the snowy game, 3-2, on a game-winning shootout goal by Tyler Bozak. To say it was difficult to pass the puck through six inches of snow is an understatement. Perhaps next year, the Winter Classic could be played in Phoenix, where there is hardly ever a threat of snow.
Oh, that's right. It's in Washington DC. In that case, here's our tip: boda bags filled with lemon-lime and bourbon. It's a classic for internal insulation.
We kick off 2014 with a return to the Snark Rankings, albeit slightly belated. Since there was a full slate of games over the weekend, it’s time to kick back and reflect on the level of hockey we witnessed.
Boy, were there some doozies…
- Buffalo Sabres – When your team has the lowest point total (28) in the league, one could easily surmise you are also the worst team. In the Sabres' case, that's a safe assumption. Their problems can be whittled down to one iota of fact: they rank last in the league in goals per game at 1.6 pucks. There's a real simple fundamental in sports. Outscore your opponents, and you win. Score less than your opponents, and you lose. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Buffalo beat New Jersey 2-1 last night for their fifth straight home win. Unfortunately, the Sabres play road games, too, where they’ve scored six goals in their past five rsojourns. Where's Alexander Mogilny when you need him?
- Edmonton Oilers – The Oil are the antithesis of the Sabres, as they rank dead last in pucks allowed in the net per game at 3.4. Evidence supports this statistic, as the Ducks won, 5-2, on Friday night. Granted that game was at the Pond; however they lost 5-1 at San Jose the night before. They don’t succeed particularly well at lighting the lamp, either, as they rank 21st overall in that department, which puts them in the bottom third of the league in scoring. So if there are any goaltenders they can sign off the scrap heap to prevent pucks from touching twine, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish would be wise to offer a contract to anybody who knows how to properly adorn themselves with goalie equipment. Where is Grant Fuhr when you need him?
- New York Islanders – See above. The Isles rank second to last in pucks allowed in the net at 3.3 per game. Didn’t they sign Rick DiPietro to a 15 year, lifetime contract to be the franchise goalie a few years back? At the time, the contract was characterized as ridiculous, or desperate, or extremely overpaying for a marginal player. Well, now all three adjectives apply, as DiPietro doesn’t even play for the Islanders and is a free agent. You could say this is a financial disaster hat trick of sorts, something only wacky owner Charles Wang would do. And he did. Hey, MacTavish, are you paying attention? The Islanders also suck at penalty killing at an astonishing 73.6% rate, good for 30th overall. There are only 30 teams in the NHL, in case you’re wondering where they stand. Where is Mike Bossy when you need him?
- Calgary Flames – There are so many issues in southern Alberta, I don’t even know where to begin. The Flames rank 29th in scoring, 27th in goals against per game, 27th in power play, and 13th in penalty killing. Congratulations, Flickers! You’re in the top half of the league in killing penalties! But when you don’t score and can’t stop teams from scoring, you may have noticed it’s a récipe for disaster. How they’ve managed to accumulate 34 points to date is astounding. They play the Avalanche in Denver tomorrow night, and the Coyotes in Phoenix Tuesday night. Yeah, good luck with that. Where are Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Al MacInnis, and Theo Fleury when you need them?
- Florida Panthers – Hockey and South Beach go together like oil and water, yin and yang, or Don Cherry and Mr Blackwell, as evidenced by the Panthers ranking 26th in the league in attendance. Winning does not necessarily guarantee strong fan support -- as the Ducks and Avalanche -- are just ahead of the Panthers, but let’s be honest, Miami is a basketball town as long as their team is winning. There's good reason why the Panthers don’t draw well, as they probably have the worst averages in league stats out of any team from the Snark Rankings: Goals per game = 28th, Goals allowed per game = 26th, Power Play Percentage =30th, Penalty Kill Percentage = 29th. Just blow it up and start over. Oh that's right; they just did that. Better yet, move them to Seattle, where there's true fan support and money to bring in top free agents. I’d reference an all-time great player here in summary, but I can’t recall anybody (Scott Mellanby?) from Florida’s past that was particularly memorable. Perhaps that's their problem.
Meanwhile, let's toss out a special Snark Ranking to the NHL's national televisioin broadcasters as a whole for totally butchering foreign players' names. Good reporters check with the source or refer to a team's media guide, but that's apparently not as fun as guessing. For example, Teemu Selänne was and still is TAY-moo SAY-luh-nuh in Finland until the North American media got hold of him.
The skater shaking his head these days is Blackhawks blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson. Dudes, it's YULL-murs-soon! What must his parents think! Have a little pinache, media types!
And now, for our much more literate Daily Player readers, look for another week of hard-hitting action around the rink ,especially today with the Sharks at Blackhawks and Canucks at Ducks. Hey, that almost rhymed!
What, you’re going to watch NFL playoff games all day?