Ten Reasons Canucks Fans dislike the Blackhawks

As I watched the Blackhawks extend their points streak to thirteen games against my Canucks, I realized I was happy there was no lockout so I could watch the best rivalry in the NHL again. 

Then I remembered how much I hate the Blackhawks.  Here are reasons 1 through 10 (of 2.7 million total):

1. Patrick Kane – Kane has all three of my least favorite hockey player qualities (one of the very, very few).  Firstly, he is American.  Secondly, he is one of the few players I would really, really like to punch (before he soundly thumped me of course).  Thirdly, he is really, really good.  Does that take away from his douchebaggery or add to it?  It may be too early in his career to tell.

2. I love Jonathan Toews – This pains me a lot because every time I watch his play I wish the Canucks had someone on his level and then realize again that we do not.  Toews in a player who can carry a franchise to a title, someone who steps up big when the moment demands it and someone who can do every single thing on the ice.  He is pretty good at the hockey.  When the Canucks and Hawks played in Game 7 of the First Round in 2011, I knew, without a doubt that Toews was going to score in the third period to tie the game.  He powered through three Canucks defenders, fought off another checker and scored to send the game to overtime.  Name me one other player in the league as good as Toews (aside of course, from Sidney Crosby).  I would trade both Sedins for Toews and still come out ahead in the deal.

3. They won a Cup – The young guns of the Hawks led the team to a Stanley Cup, defeating none other than the Vancouver Canucks on their way. 

4. All the (dirty) hits – Take a few things within context: yes, I understand Raffi Torres hit a couple of years ago was dirty.  I accept that.  Everything that has spiraled out afterwards however requires some attention: Seabrook’s hit on Daniel Sedin (dirty), Hansen’s hit on Hossa?  Clean.  He just did not stop himself, and did not intentionally hurt Hossa.  Wait?  Why am I defending myself?  Chicago sucks and the hit on Daniel Sedin was easily worse than the one on Hossa.

5. I actually have to think about it when asked which team I hate most in the NHL – It should be the Bruins right?  They brutally ended our chance at the Stanley Cup when our shoddy goaltending fell apart.  However, as explained in the reasons above and below I really dislike the Blackhawks.  Freaking Blackhawks even ruin what should be the simplest of sports rivalries.

6. They are really, really good – With their core or Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp as well as their two young defensemen Keith and Seabrook, Chicago has one of the best young cores in the NHL.  They are deep, and have won a Cup already.  Pencil them in as a contender for the next five to seven years.  Hopefully they are already peaking too early this year.

10. For some reason the Canucks are hated league wide! – I blame the Blackhawks rivallry, at least partly for the league’s hatred of the Nucks.  The Torres hit was blatent and dirty, but does not excuse the fact that everyone just hates Vancouver because it is the best city in the world. 

Yet another reason to dislike Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Association – Slow down there Indy

In the past few weeks the Indiana Pacers have put on a heck of a run to get into the second spot in the Eastern Conference.  Now, with their star, Paul George playing well, and their leader, Danny Granger returning they seem to be on top of the world.  The Pacers are playing very, very well. 

They are not, however, better than the Miami Heat.

I will wait a moment for all of Indiana to calm themselves down; but the essential bottom line remains an absolute truth. 

Miami is the team to beat.

There are three reasons why this fact remains true despite Indy’s great charge:

1) Any series vs. LeBron James – As good as the Pacers are playing (and their defense has been absolutely ridiculous) and as good as Paul George is playing right now, I ask the simple question: would you bet against the Heat in any 7 game series?  Put more simply – can anyone beat the Heat four times?  I would argue LeBron, in the playoffs can win 2-3 games by himself.  Against anyone.  Keep in mind he just finished a streak where he scored more than 30 points while shooting above 60% from the field in six straight games (and narrowly missed a seventh because he shot a late, and deep three).  You’re going to bet against this guy?  Additionally, the Heat are in the midst of a ten game winning streak, so there is that too.

2) Miami also has the third and fourth best players when the teams match up – We can even argue that Wade is the 2nd best player when the teams meet, but for the benefit of the doubt I am putting George ahead of him (at my own peril).  Miami however, has Wade and Bosh, both of whom are better than Granger and West.  Again – would you wager against a team with three of the top four players in the series?

3.  How does Granger fit in? – The team has done all of their incredible work without the player many have labelled as their best player (of course he is not that guy anymore) but he has not coexisted with his team for some time.  How will he take the backseat?  Will he be able to fit in?  Who does he guard?  Does he come off the bench?  There are simply too many questions surrounding this team going forward, least of all – is the winning sustainable?

Miami remains the team atop the East, and the team to beat in the NBA. 

 

 

The Association – It’s Over!

Over the past few weeks, and past few games the NBA season has essentially ended due to the fact that LeBron James has decided to reach his ceiling.  For years and years we have waited and waited and waited for him to stretch to the limits of his ridiculous talents and now it seems like we are starting to see it for the first time.

Spoiler alert: it is awesome to behold.

Here are the breakdowns from his most recent 11 games:

17-25 shooting / 39 points vs. LA Lakers

12-23 shooting / 31 points vs Toronto

9-14 shooting / 23 points vs Detroit

14-31 shooting / 34 points vs Boston

10-18 shooting / 24 points vs Brooklyn

9-17 shooting / 28 points vs Indiana

10-16 shooting / 30 points vs Toronto

13-14 shooting / 31 points vs Charlotte

11-18 shooting / 32 points vs Houston

9-11 shooting / 30 points vs LA Clips

12-18 shooting / 32 points vs LA Lakers

So since January 17th LeBron has the following averages: 205 shots / 126 makes or 61.4%.  Since January. 

During this stretch he has scored 30.36 ppg – I have specifically not factored in his assist or rebound numbers (also incredible) simply because on scoring average and shooting percentage alone he has already won the MVP award.  Unreal.  This is the best basketball player in the world putting it all together and playing with the confidence of having won a title behind him. 

So good day to you KD and Cliff Paul (or is it Chris?)  but this thing is over.  There is no question who the best player in the world is and this season has more than backed it up.  If someone else wins the award it is simply a “this guy deserves it…but maybe we should give it to someone new…” even though everyone will know LBJ is the real MVP (shades of Barkley in ’93 or Malone in ’97). 

LeBron should be celebrated for reaching his towering ceiling for the first time though, and we should finally admit that for those who never saw Jordan, he is the best player we will ever see.  The major reason?  His ceiling is so much (at times frighteningly so) higher than any player in history other than Jordan (or Wilt).  It is much higher than Kobe’s; I would argue he has already reached heights Kobe never has – and higher than Durant ever will.  The time for hating is over and the time for appreciating and soaking in greatness is here.  LeBron is an all time great who is submitting a Pantheon season.  Let’s make sure we enjoy it while we can. 

Jagr, Lately

Now that he has “fully” returned to the NHL, it seems time to take a look back at the career of Jaromir Jagr – one of the most talented players to ever take the ice.  But has he ultimately lived up to his potential? 

Jaromir Jagr “The Vince Carter One” (9 time All-Star…8 time All-NHL Team – 7 times 1st…5 Art Ross Trophies…1 Hart Trophy…646 goals…953 assists…1599 points – 9th All-Time…1.26ppg…2 Stanley Cups)

            Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved[1], Keith Primeau, Mike Ricci – none of these players can touch the above resume, and yet all four were drafted ahead of Jaromir Jagr.  Granted at the time there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether Jagr could escape the Iron Curtain – before the draft it looked like he would be there for another couple of years – yet, what followed might be the closest thing the NHL has to Sam Bowie being drafted before Michael Jordan.  On the speculation of his talent alone Jagr should have been number one.  He was the best player in a deep, deep draft.  He was the best player to come out post-Lemieux.  One thing is absolutely certain: Jagr should have had a chance to carry his own franchise from day one.

He never could.   

Jagr was a once in a lifetime talent, easily the most talented European[2] and winger in the history of the NHL.   It is impossible though, to take full stock of his career without mentioning that he was never the NHL’s Alpha Dog and never really had a fair shake at it.  By the time he had the opportunity to carry a team of his own, Jagr’s mindset and desire to win had radically shifted[3].  He became, for lack of a truer comparison, the Vince Carter of the NHL. 

Jagr exhibited a ridiculous combination of skills: he was big (listed at 6’3 240), fast and skilled with the puck.  His finish was absolutely exceptional.  He was playing with an “in his prime” Mario Lemieux.  Together they combined for two Stanley Cups and one of the most incredible sequences I have ever witnessed on the ice. 

            Keep in mind please that I was a kid during the following sequence: The Penguins were down 4-3 in a Game 6[4] of the Stanley Cup Finals with around four minutes to go.  It looked bleak for them and yet, without a doubt I knew that they were going to score multiple times and win the game.  Within ten seconds, there was a Lemieux to Jagr goal and then they scored again (the same combo?) and again.  The passes were perfect and the chemistry staggering; it was like pairing Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin[5] – two surefire Hall of Fame talents at the outsets of their careers. Putting Lemieux and Jagr on the same team was an almost mystical convergence that created one of the best teams in NHL history.  Neither Lemieux nor Jagr was ever the same player after they parted: Mario because of an incredibly bad run of injuries, Jagr because he lost “it” and without “it” he was a ridiculously talented but completely listless star. 

When you had Super Mario and Jagr playing together fans felt like they were re-watching the birth of the 80’s Oilers and quickly became convinced they were watching the next dynasty take shape.  After the 1992 4-0 sweep in the Cup Finals it appeared that nothing short of the worst possible scenario could derail the mighty Pens[6].

            What happened in the aftermath?  Jagr became a high scoring mercenary who never again attained anywhere near the level of success.  He won an MVP Award during a year in which Lemieux was injured but could never again climb the mountain; in all honesty he never came close. The Penguins made the playoffs in twelve of thirteen seasons but were never again the threat to take the Stanley Cup[7] until Sid the Kid came to town.  Despite great numbers one thing has always been in evidence against Jaromir (and not just the fact that he had what is, without any doubt, the worst hair in NHL history – it was a curly mullet, so horrendous it certainly deserves its own chapter in this tome), quite simply he has never made teammates better.  No one has ever played with Jagr and raised their game to match his.  As the Whisper wrote, “Jagr (like Lemieux) had one of the best phone booth stickhandling abilities I’ve ever seen, ability to score from seemingly in the crease and the underrated ability to take slashes and crosschecks and retain the puck due to his strength”. 

No one can argue that Jagr did not put up astounding numbers but he never enticed his teammates or helped them to do the same.  At the end of the day it is was all about him and once he left Pittsburgh that became increasingly clear during his stops with Washington (2 seasons, significantly worse), New York Rangers (never met exceptions despite ridiculous amount of talent) and various Eastern European teams (since 2008).  Jagr took an extended NHL break because, to put it simply, things were not as he wanted.  The money was not as much as it once was because people had finally come to the realization: he was not a franchise guy. 

            Should we fault Jagr for this?  For the fact that by the time he had to carry a team he had no idea how?  For his bumbling leadership?  Over the years Jagr became little more than a glorified brat in NHL circles, someone who left the Rangers in a deep hole they have yet to recover from and ran away because he could not take any more abuse from fans.  No one ever failed expectations time and again like Jagr.  He was given everything but the ability to carry the weight of a franchise on his shoulders.  All he played for was money. 

            In the end that may be enough for Jagr: he won two Stanley Cups as a great number two[8] and never needed more.  All he needed was cash which he got in abundance time and again.  In 2011/2012 he rejoined the NHL on a retooled contender, the Philadelphia Flyers.  Will he redeem himself?  Does he have what it takes to lead a team?

Did he ever? 

In my opinion, this is the only way to leave Jagr’s electric career – with questions.  In all his years, answers have been few and far between[9]

And I would still take Teemu Selanne over him, nearly any day of the week. 


[1] To the Canucks!  Could have f-ing had Jagr!  AND BURE!  Instead we get saddled with arguably the worst pick the Canucks made in any draft, ever. 

[2] Beats out Selanne, Kurri and Forsburg…by a wide margin.

[3] At this juncture I should point out he is not Canadian. 

[4] I know this happened because I was watching it, but looking back on it the details are completely fuzzy.  How I felt is totally without any lie however.

[5] Or Crosby and Malkin…and Stahl…

[6] Exactly what happened: as we have covered before, Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and the team was never quite the same afterwords.

[7] I am slightly over-exaggerating: in 1993 the Penguins captured their only President’s Trophy for attaining the best regular seasons record (56 wins) but they did not play in the Stanley Cup Finals.  This was the one year a Gretzky – Lemieux Finals was realistically in the cards.  Gretzky was finally settled in with the Kings and Lemieux was a back to back Champ.  Only Gretzky kept his end of the bargain. 

[8] NHL’s greatest #2’s: Ted Lindsey, Mark Messier, Phil Esposito, Evgeni Malkin, Brett Hull. 

[9] I tried to watch him on the Flyers and could not stop laughing.  He was way behind the pace of the game, looked horrendously out of shape and could not match the speed of the game.

Power Failure

At the conclusion of one of the more bizarre Super Bowls in the history of the NFL, San Fran continued to display bizarre decision making.  Instead of Ted Ginn Jr. making a fair catch and the team taking a shot at the endzone with Colin Kaepernick’s laser arm, he attempted to run back the punt and was tackled as if it were a routine punt return.  For the second straight season a terrible special teams play ends the Niners season. 

Yet, this one felt over at halftime.  I had mentally accepted the fact that my team had lost and they had lost absolutely brutally.  And yet…

Kaepernick is one of the most dynamic players in the league.  In a game of halves, he was stronger in the second.  He did whatever it took to win.  He threw the ball ridiculously well (except for the pick) and they should have pulled this one out.  They did not.  At the key times the team could not get it done.  Again though, I had already mentally accepted they had lost.

And then:

Kaepernick proved he is a game changer.  They scored a ton of points incredibly quickly, it was staggering how fast the momentum swung.  All of a sudden he was unstoppable; he fired up the defense and made big plays with his arms and legs.  He was inspiring and it was stunning to behold.  Even though he made some rookie mistakes, the Niners will be back.  The future in San Fran is incredibly bright for some time to come.  Again Jim Harbaugh is validated for making the swap from Alex Smith to Kaepernick.  He needed a guy who could take the franchise to another level and he found him. 

So even though I am heartbroken, my team is in the best place they have been since 1994 – the Niners are relevant again.  So congrats to Anquan Boldin (who deserved one) and Ed Reed (a classy vet) and Ray Lewis (who didn’t and is not) and Joe Flacco (who should have simply screamed “I’m getting paid!” when he accepted his MVP trophy.  You have to figure he gets at least a few million more than Matt Ryan who has never been in the big game). 

The Niners though, they are back.