NHL + Media: The Washington Capitals Day Care Center

Barry Melrose has this fantastic ability to say something logical, well-reasoned and intelligent, and then just a few seconds later, completely shatter all of that goodwill by saying something stupid. I wanted to transcribe his explanation of the Boudreau/Ovechkin (non)controversy on SportsCenter, but this kind of elegant soliloquy needs to be watched and heard, not read. Take a look.

You guys still alive? Okay, good. Let’s see if I can break it down for you without pushing my head into a furnace.

First and foremost, I agree with Melrose’s sentiment that sometimes a coach can make a controversial decision or gamble, and see it pay off in the best possible way. That’s the nature of sports and life in general—when you leave something up to chance, there will eventually be a point where things just happen to work out. Bruce saw the flow of the game, had a decision to make, and went with his gut. And because we’re only in November, the scales still favor Boudreau and the Caps. So it all worked out. Fantastic.

Except for the fact that the Washington Capitals, or 25 grown men, apparently still need to have their hands held and be told who is in charge of the team. And also—and this is more alarming for the sheer absurdity of what Melrose is implying—the Caps had no idea that they were competent enough on the ice without their fearless Russian leader showing them how to do really difficult things like skate, pass and—the toughest one of them all—shoot the puck. In a way, it’s good that the Capitals have finally come to that realization. Not knowing how to execute the basic concepts of the sport of hockey is no way to go through life as a professional hockey player.

Just pencil them in for the Cup. Never thought about it before now, but if the Capitals had been told last spring who the boss was, and how to get that silly black mini-cake-like looking thing past the overdressed baseball catcher on skates and into the net, who knows, they might have finally made it out of the second round.

And while we’re here I have to ask: in what way has Bruce Boudreau’s mother wronged Barry Melrose? Does anyone know? There has to be something in the Freedom of Information Act to help us get to the bottom of this, right?


This Week in… John Tortorella Will Be Just Fine on HBO

Personally speaking, there are two things at play with John Tortorella’s strong response to Joe Thornton calling the Rangers “soft.”

Taking my biases into account, it was a wonderful and brilliant thing to hear. Considering I spent a good portion of the evening after Thornton’s comments made the rounds and the next morning trying to work in every possible joke in the “dude in glass house shouldn’t throw stones” angle, I was more than ecstatic to hear the Rangers head coach say plainly that Thornton hasn’t won a g—damn thing in this league. It was akin to the famous Roy/Roenick spat over a decade and a half ago when St. Patrick invoked the now-famous “rings” comeback.

And that brings us to the second issue. Most of the coverage from the legitimate media (you know, the ones who aren’t stupid) has revolved around the almost childish use of the “rings” comeback by Tortorella—and in a way, I do agree with them. It is equally as childish to call out someone for not having won a title as labeling someone as soft. Both are stupid declarative arguments to make in the context of sports. Unless there is a clear, almost incontrovertible example that shows the Rangers are without a doubt “soft” and Thornton is the sole reason none of his teams have won the Cup, it’s not a valid argument. It’s a fun argument, for sure, because it gets everyone riled up as only the best character slights can; but it is not a sound argument. To put it simply, it’s like if Thornton called the Rangers stupid, and Tortorella responded by saying he’s fat.

I think it speaks to this larger issue in sports—the fallacy of “being a winner.” It’s this desire to judge any and every great player not on his individual merits, but by accolades that are almost entirely out of his control. It is almost impossible to singlehandedly win a Stanley Cup. It’s the nature of team sports; hence the designation, team sports. It’s not like Crosby scored every goal and stopped every puck on the way to the Penguins’ title several years ago. It’s not like Lidstrom played 1-on-6 to bring in his four Stanley Cup rings. And while there is a legitimate criticism to be made that Joe Thornton has disappeared in previous playoff appearances, he’s not the (sole) reason they are title-less.

Joe Thornton has won some things in the league. But because none of them are the one thing that great players are defined by, he isn’t a winner, and therefore he hasn’t won anything, and therefore he should be viewed in a lesser light. That logic is awesome and wonderful to me as a Rangers fan. But as someone who tries to think critically from time to time, it just sounds like another fat joke. Yeah, it can be funny, but how much thought really went into it?


This Week in… Dear The Hockey News,

The “Hate Issue”? Really? Not that I don’t think that’s a cool idea (because it is), but are you really the publication that should put something like that out? Not saying that you’re some sort of high-end, premium hockey site or mag (because you’re not), but why not leave such an idea to those who can actually do it well?

Love, Sahil


This Week in… The Best Thing You’ll Read This Week

And it came on the newswire just a few minutes before I was going to post this. If you have the time (and I know you do stop pretending you don’t I can see you get your hand out of there), please check out Rory MacGregor’s piece in The Globe and Mail on the current state of sports journalism. It is definitely worth your time.


Tweet of the Week


Please follow Sahil Patel [@sahilness] on Twitter. He’s getting desperate. Like Joe Thornton in May desperate.