Five Thoughts for a Friday
Hockey culture, Tommy Wingels, and some Sens stuff
On the toxicity of hockey culture
For those of you still undecided about the need to overhaul organized hockey programs in Canada, I sincerely hope yesterday’s revelations make you reconsider. Whether you considered Don Cherry’s incoherent babbling innocuous or wrote off the experiences of players like Akim Aliu and Brock McGillis as isolated incidents, Daniel Carcillo’s formal filing of a class-action lawsuit against the CHL has the potential to set a legal precedent in terms of defining and punishing toxicity in Canadian hockey programs and thus legitimize the claims from former players that for years have fallen on deaf ears. The men who oversee developmental hockey in Canada have had ample time and warning to acknowledge and rectify the systemic issues plaguing the game and those at the top have no one to blame but themselves for this evolving legal matter.
Twelve months ago if you had asked me if I had any faith in the hockey community and its capacity to evolve beyond its seemingly permanent state mired in misogyny, homophobia, and racism, I would have said ‘probably not.’ And then last November, the impossible happened. As a blogger who only had a couple of weeks of experience at that point, the CBC’s dismissal of Don Cherry completely changed my perception of the possibilities for growth, diversity, and inclusion in hockey culture, and really things haven’t slowed down since. I can’t emphasize enough how much I admire the tireless work of former players, investigative journalists, and regular fans who keep this discourse going.
Don’t Forget Me Tommy
Former Senator Tommy Wingels announced his retirement from the NHL last week and looking back on his career I’m hard pressed to think of many Senators who had such perfectly short tenures in Ottawa. After parts of seven seasons in San Jose, the former Miami Redhawk came to Ottawa in an extremely reasonable deal that saw the Sharks retain salary and the Sens part with just a seventh-round pick and two non-roster players. Tommy only scored two goals for Ottawa but added some welcome depth down the right side and he was, most memorably, on the ice for one of the Senator’s all-time highlight reel goals. Then he left in free agency and the Senators probably subsequently fell apart because of it. Wingels has also been a long-time voice for LGBTQ+ inclusion in hockey and seems like an all-around cool guy. So for all that, we at S7S wish Tommy a happy retirement.
On the Logan Brown problem that really isn’t a problem at all
Friend of the blog, Sens Prospects, is at it again, this time with a highlight pack featuring centre Logan Brown. The video simultaneously displays Brown’s strongest trait in his play-making ability and his biggest knock in his apparent lack of interest away from the puck. Brown doesn’t move his feet as much as some may expect from a young player trying to crack the NHL roster and he isn’t the strongest skater but I kind of—don’t care. He looks like Zdeno Chara playing against middle-schoolers in a lot of those clips and his size and range allow him to close in on other players even when he falls a step behind, and the opposition just seem so helpless trying to separate Brown from the puck. I remember thinking the exact same things about Brady Tkachuk’s apparent lack of hustle when I was still skeptical about #7 and before I saw the light of Dorion’s fourth-overall selection. Brown has a solid 70 points in 81 AHL games and through 29 NHL games, he sits between Tkachuk and Derrick Brassard in five-on-five expected-goals-for percentage relative to teammates per natural stat trick so I feel pretty confident when I say the eye test fails us when we look at Brown and see a disengaged player. Brown also no longer bears the burden of becoming a first-line centre messiah for this team through the emergence of Josh Norris and Shane Pinto and the possibility of Ottawa drafting one of Quinton Byfield or Tim Stutzle this year. With those centres and the added threat of Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Colin White, Rudolfs Balcers, and Alex Formenton among others on the wings, we can scale back our expectations of Brown as the next Jason Spezza and simply appreciate him as a member of an increasingly formidable and deep forward corps.
On life after Craig
As if the looming departure of franchise goalie Craig Anderson didn’t sting enough, our fanbase also bid farewell to digital media genius Craig Medaglia this month. I can’t emphasize enough that no one will ever replace Craig or his work. I feel inspired, however because of how many everyday Sens fans create brilliant Senators media online on a regular basis and I think we should all appreciate how creative and resourceful this fanbase can be. If you haven’t checked out the art of Matty Go Sens, Gatineau Greg, or the videos of Benito Sports then you’re missing out. And those are just a few of many Sens fans creating cool online content. For a fanbase that has endured so much ridicule from the rest of the league, we have more quality blogs, podcasts, and artists than I could ever list here. So while I don’t think we’ll ever see another official Sens media duo quite like Craig Medaglia and Adam Wood, we can find solace knowing that there’s enough creative talent in this fanbase to keep us entertained even when play on the ice ceases for months at a time.
On Alfie’s Hall of Fame case
While I doubt many of the folks who visit this site doubt Daniel Alfredsson’s belonging in the hall, the PHWA operates in—inexplicable ways and our lord and saviour is anything but a lock on the ballot. And after everything illogical Sens fans have witnessed at the hands of the PWHA and in the era of big data, I keep asking myself why we care. We can conclusively determine that Mark Stone got ripped off of a Calder and Erik Karlsson should definitely have a couple more Norrises on his mantle so why do we still wring our hands over this stuff? More than anything I want Alfie to get into the hall for Alfie but at the end of the day he’s still an Olympic gold-medalist and I doubt he has any trouble sleeping at night. For active players with individual accolades tied to contract bonuses, sports writers have historically had entirely too much power and as a proponent of nerd stats I can only hope that we move towards more objective player valuation. The game has changed and the current iteration of the HHOF just feels anachronistic.