Saturday, 25 December 2010

Bad Nicknames, The Devils' Chances and Caps in the Final

  • Enough is enough, I've had it with NHL nicknames these days. The Hockey News website has a quote of the day on their page and in the most recent one, Christ Drury refers to Rangers teammate Derek Stepan as "Steps." Read the Getting To Know You features on the THN website and most of the nicknames are God-awful. Brandon Prust's is "Prusty," Chris Campoli's is "Camper," Todd Bertuzzi's is "Bert," Chris Niel's is "Neiler," Kevyn Adams' is "Ads," Adam Oates' is "Oatesy," and the list goes on. I think too many players are getting hit in the head too often for them to come up with anything more complex than adding an "s," "y," or "er" to the end of someone's name or even just shortening it all together and calling it a day. Head injuries must be an even bigger problem than anyone else thought if these are the best players can come up with. What the hell happened to the creativity of the old days? What happened to Walter "Turk" Broda, named after the fact he looked like a turkey egg because of his freckles when he was younger; Georges Vezina the "Chicoutimi Cucumber," named for his hometown and the fact he was cool under pressure; Yvan "The Roadrunner" Cournoyer; Ken Dryden, the "Thieving Giraffe;" Martin "The Eliminator" Gelinas; Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, the inventor of the slap shot named for the sound of his stick hitting the puck and the puck hitting the boards; Pat Verbeek, the "Little Ball of Hate" and don't forget the Rockets, Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Henri "Pocket Rocket" Richard, and Pavel "Russian Rocket" Bure. There are tons of other classic old nicknames, each infinitely better than the ones today. Even the ones that took part of their names showed some creativity. There was "Super Mario" Lemieux, Stu the "Grim Reaper" Grimson, Curtis "Cujo" Joseph, and "Burnaby Joe" Sakic just to name a few. A pretty good list of nicknames can be found here. And as a plea to all NHLers, the next time you're asked if you have a nickname and the best you can come up with is something to the effect of "Kaner" or "Prongs," just say no. 
  • The Devils have finally done the expected and fired John MacLean. He made it 33 games and and led (more like watched) the Devils to a 9-22-2 record, good for last overall in the NHL. Some growing pains should have been expected with the new look roster, but a drop in the standings like this would have been impossible to predict. Jacques Lemaire has re-taken over as head coach and has quite the uphill battle in front of him. The Devils remind me of the Carolina Hurricanes last year who, after 33 games, had a record of 8-19-6 mainly due to injuries, most notably Eric Staal and Cam Ward. They weren't able to turn things around and by game 41, they had a record of 11-23-7. They were able to turn things around and became one of the hottest teams during the second half of the season, but going 24-14-3 was only good enough to get them to 11th place and eight points out of a playoff spot. A survey on The Hockey News website asked if the Devils have a chance at making the playoffs but it appears highly unlikely. At this point the deficit is too great but they can still have a god second half to the season and begin preparing for next year. The search for a coach is going to be critical though, I don't know how long Lemaire will want to stay on as it seems he was enjoying his retirement. There are a lot of qualified coaches out there but I think Ken Hitchcock would be a good fit. He stresses defense which is how the Devils have always won, and is a great motivator. A good kick in the ass may be exactly what the Devils need. 
  • The fact the Capitals are the visiting team in this year's Winter Classic in Pittsburgh is a reason why they are struggling this season. If recent history is any indication, the Capitals are destined to make the Stanley Cup Final, an appearance that will ultimately end in a loss. In the inaugural Classic in 2008, the Pittsburgh Penguins made the trip up to Buffalo to face the Sabres in a snow globe-like atmosphere that saw Sidney Crosby pot the game winner against Ryan Miller (sound familiar?) in the shootout. The Penguins would go on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in that season's Cup Final. The next year, those Red Wings would visit Chicago to take on the Black Hawks at Wrigley Field, a game they would take 6-4. The Wings would then lose in a rematch to the Penguins for the Stanley Cup. Last season's Classic involved the Philadelphia Flyers taking on the Boston Bruins in a physical battle in which the Bruins squeaked out a 2-1 overtime win. The Flyers said fine, take the Winter Classic, we'll take the epic playoff series comeback. They rode that momentum all the way to the Cup Final where the Black Hawks were inevitably too much to handle. This year the Caps will take the trip to Pittsburgh to take on the hated Penguins in hopes of continuing the trend of advancing to the Final. The Caps, while not playing bad, are not playing up to the lofty expectations they have set for themselves the past few years. Fortunately for them, each team goes through highs and lows and the Caps still have plenty of time to go on a hot streak. If things go right for them, it will happen in time for the playoffs. Captain Alex Ovechkin has the ability to go on fire for extended periods of time. Will this be the year that includes an extended run through the playoffs?

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