The NHL Off-Season: No Rest for the Wicked

The long, arduous playoff journey has come to an end, and when the final buzzer sounded it was Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins who emerged victorious as the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions.

Make no mistake, congratulations are certainly are in order. After all, the Pens did defeat a very solid Detroit Red Wings team, and did so after falling behind in the series 2-0 after a couple of bad bounces in Joe Louis Arena. They displayed their testicular fortitude (although admittedly not as much as Nicklas Lidstrom) by not backing down and ultimately persevering when they could have simply rolled over and quit against nearly impossible odds.

Yeah, that's nice. Now get back to work, slacker!

Yeah, that's nice. Now get back to work, slacker!

But you know what? All of that is completely and utterly irrelevant. The 2009 NHL season is but a distant memory now, a faint speck of recollection drifting toward the horizon of foggy reminiscence. Indeed, Pens fans, it’s time to stop living in the past — because the 2010 season starts in just over one week’s time!

Football teams get an entire week off between games. Hockey teams get two weeks off between entire seasons.

That’s right. Party’s over. Get the Cup out of Mario’s pool, because with the Draft coming up next weekend and the insanity of Free Agency only two weeks away, there’s a hell of a lot of work to be done.

So many questions to be answered, all with a massive impact on next year …

  • In which city will Dany Heatley continue be a one-dimensional, whiny little bitch? Will Jason Spezza cry himself to sleep once Heatley is finally traded?
  • Who will the Islanders select first overall? John Tavares or Victor Hedman? Or will Garth Snow continue the fine Long Island tradition of trading away can’t-miss prospects for a dozen pucks and a sack of magic beans?
  • Which GM will foolishly overpay for the likes of Mike Cammalleri and the Sedin twins?
  • Will Vincent Lecavalier get traded at the Draft? Even if he doesn’t, he should show up in Montreal wearing a Habs hat, you know, just to mess with the Montreal media. That would be fun.
  • Will Ty Conklin sign with the Boston Bruins, since they are hosting the 2010 Winter Classic? I mean, you can’t have an outdoor game without Conklin, right? It’s in the rulebook, I’m pretty sure.
Ty Conklin loves playing in outdoor games almost as much as he loves losing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Ty Conklin loves playing in outdoor games almost as much as he loves losing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

  • Just what exactly will Brian Burke do during his first summer with the Maple Leafs? Will he move up in the Draft? Will he sign a big name free agent? Will he make Justin Pogge cry?
  • Will any free agents actually want to come to Montreal, knowing full well they’ll have to play for Jacques Martin? Oh, wait … no free agents wanted to play for the Habs before Martin took over, either. My mistake.
  • Will Marian Hossa sign a deal with Pittsburgh, believing that they now offer him the best chance to win the Stanley Cup?
  • Will Marian Gaborik tear his groin simply by answering the phone on July 1?
  • What type of Reebok-sponsored abominations will various teams unveil for this year’s crop of alternate jerseys?
Somebody actually thought this was a good idea. And they got paid for it.

Somebody actually thought this was a good idea. And they got paid for it.

And those are only a handful of the pressing issues that teams across the league have to contend with over the next couple of weeks. Indeed, it seems as though the NHL season truly never ends (well, I suppose there is that dry patch in August when all of the big name free agents have already been scooped up and the only players left are guys like Anson Carter). But really, as a hockey fan, you gotta love it. It sure beats watching MLB highlights on SportsCentre, that’s for damn sure.

The Habs are Choking … And I’m Loving Every Minute of It

Although I currently live in Ottawa, I grew up in Southwestern Ontario. As a result, I bleed the Blue and White of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark being my favourite Leafs players of all-time.

As such, I have a moral and legal obligation to seethe venom in the general direction of the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators (yes, I said legal obligation — it’s in the contract one gets when they join Leafs Nation).

In the case of the Habs, it’s a no brainer. Toronto and Montreal have been and always will be hated rivals. Heck, this very fact is taught to us in grade school as we read Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater. Well, let me tell you something … I never wanted to comb my ‘air like Maurice Richard. I’d rather have a bitchin’ Wendel Clark moustache (except for the fact that I can’t grow a moustache).

Every time Carey Price loses, an angel gets its wings.

Every time Carey Price loses, an angel gets its wings.

Even though the Leafs and Habs haven’t met in the playoffs in a million years, this long-standing historical rivalry is the very reason that I can never bring myself to cheer for the Canadiens. Ever. Not even if they were the only Canadian team left standing in the playoffs, as they were last season. The mere thought of cheering on the Habs is just plain wrong on so many intangible levels.

But Steve, you ask, shouldn’t you be a good Canadian patriot and have a burning desire to see the Cup come back home? Well, yeah, that would be great, and I was actively cheering for Calgary, Edmonton, and yes, even Ottawa to bring home Lord Stanley’s mug (partly because it would have been cool to see a Stanley Cup parade in person. But I actually rather enjoyed seeing Alfie and the Sens get dismantled by Anaheim).

But the Habs? I was hoping they would collapse completely and lose to the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs (and they almost did). I can’t quite fully explain it. It’s almost more a gut instinct, really. All I know is that the Habs must lose.

In fact, I’d rather see the Columbus Blue Jackets win the Cup instead of Montreal … which is why I derive great satisfaction from their current slump. Indeed, nothing would be sweeter than seeing the Habs miss the playoffs entirely during their centennial season. And it would be suitable punishment for the Habs fans that voted that heartless chump Kovalev into the All-Star Game starting line-up over the greatest player in the league today, Alex Ovechkin.

I mean, seriously … did you see that goal he scored the other night against Montreal? As Pierre “Monster” McGuire said, “it was insanity.”

Hey, I may be a Leafs fan, but I’m not stupid. I know they’re not making the playoffs (unlike some delusional Senators fans), so I’m throwing my support behind Ovie and the Caps. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green are an absolute pleasure to watch.