Ah, the end of an old year, with a new one about to dawn. It gives us time to reflect upon achievements of the past year, and allows us to suggest areas of growth in the new year. The hockey community has had successes and failures over the past year, but we can hardly expect such an anarchistic collective to self-reflect. So I've done some reflecting on behalf of the hockey community, and compiled a top ten list of things I would like to see changed for 2015:
10. Get rid of John Scott
Seriously, why does this guy still have an NHL job? He can't skate, he can hardly shoot, and he isn't really a fighter. He' just big and a cheap-shot artist. I think we could all agree the NHL would be better off if the GMs conspired to keep from ever getting hired again. I know he's not as dirty as Patrick Kaleta, but Kaleta has played nine seasons, all for the Sabres. In the past seven seasons, Scott has played for five different teams. In the case of Kaleta, we can say it's just Buffalo being dumb. But somehow five different teams have thought Scott brought them something good. I hope there isn't a sixth GM to make that same mistake.
9. Drop the Ugly NHL Christmas Sweater gag
I don't know when ugly Christmas sweater parties became a thing, but I'm pretty sure the theory was to dust off some classic swag that's been sitting untouched in an attic for years. Plan B involved making your own. Of course, like anything hipster, it's been commercialized, and now you can buy an "ugly" "historical" Christmas sweater. Maybe it's just that Christmas has run its course, but I think this joke has run its course. Besides, that person with the Buffaslug jersey will always win.
8. End the mump puns
"Light a mump mump mump..." This is a serious disease! Isn't it a little bit disrespectful to get people to laugh about it with corny jokes? Mocking people for their sickness isn't nice. Like they taught you in kindergarten - if you can't say mumpthing nice, don't say anything at all. Let's just stay quiet - mump's the word.
7. No more scrutinizing the Maple Leafs' every move
Toronto is the biggest hockey market in the world, so this may be hard to do. But seriously, is it really a crisis when the team doesn't salute after a game? Is it the end of the world when they lost two games by a combined score of 15-4? We all knew Randy Carlyle was a terrible choice for coach, you don't have to act like suddenly it's a big deal. It almost makes you wish for the good old days, when Rob Ford gave Toronto media something else to worry about.
6. Stop referring to the McDavid Sweepstakes
We all know this year is a deep draft. We all know the top two picks are projected to be franchise players. It's not insightful to say the last place teams have the best chance of drafting Connor. If you're using it as a euphemism to avoid calling these teams terrible, stop. The Sabres set themselves up to tank, sure, but the Oilers, Coyotes, and Blue Jackets were not planning on being this low in the standings. Being in the McDavid Sweepstakes is in fact a failure for these franchises. So don't paint it as something positive, call them out on failing.
5. Ditch sexism
Puck Daddy had a poll about which hockey word to ban for 2015, and the winner was "celly". In a close second came "puck bunny". I still think this term should disappear. Lots of women like hockey, just like lots of men don't. Hockey has historically been a sport by rich, white men for rich, white men. I want to see 2015 be the biggest year of progress yet towards an inclusive NHL.
(If you take one of these resolutions seriously, make it this one.)
4. No more 'debating' the use of analytics vs. watching the games
It's pretty clear that 'advanced stats' like Corsi and PDO are here to stay. Hockey teams have started hiring analytics specialists. Media coverage has started referring to these stats. Analytics people love watching hockey, otherwise they never would've got into analytics. On the other side, lots of people love watching hockey, but don't want to delve deep into the stats. That doesn't mean they think stats are garbage. Let's stop treating this like a dichotomy. It's a narrative that's run its course, and the few who still argue will never be swayed.
3. Lose the buzzwords
Let's face it: terms like 'grit', 'character', and especially 'compete level' mean almost nothing. They're words you use to describe a veteran player who isn't very good anymore, or a badly out-shot team who wins a few games in a row. With a few notable exceptions (looking at you, Alex Kovalev) everyone in the NHL competes. Only in very rare circumstances can you will yourself to victory. Let's stop kidding ourselves.
2. Stop the unfair criticism of Erik Karlsson
Karlsson is a very good hockey player, a very good defencemen, and one with a unique set of skills. His ability to read the play, to make the incredible pass, and to avoid forecheckers is nearly unrivalled. He's also been put on a mediocre team, and has been forced to play mostly with Chris Phillips and Mark Borowiecki as partners. His possession stats are right around 50%, but he's still one of the best on the team most nights. Whatever Ottawa's problems this year, they are not their newly-minted captain. He's not perfect, but he doesn't deserve the share of the blame he's been taking so far this year.
1. The death of the enforcer articles need to end
The idea that the role of the pure enforcer in hockey is decreasing, especially as fighting becomes rarer, has been true for years now. We've been bombarded with news about the decline in the role of the enforcer since way before the 2012 lockout. But somehow, we've kept getting articles saying that we've just reached the beginning of the end. This season started particularly badly, when the Leafs cut both Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. Because Toronto is the centre of the hockey universe, and because they've employed two useless plugs on their bottom line for a long time, hockey media went out of control. Everyone said this was definitely the sign that enforcers were disappearing. To be fair, this year we saw guys like Paul Bissonnette, George Parros, and beloved ex-Senator Matt Kassian fail to secure NHL jobs. But this has been years in the making. It's hardly a new narrative. If next off-season, Brian McGrattan and (hopefully) John Scott are not signed, it's not some new story. Let's not write articles pretending it is.
I hope this holiday season has been restful for all of you. Here's wishing you all the best in 2015. Go Sens Go!