Next year’s Washington Capitals

While the Caps did a lot better than I thought they would in the playoffs, the regular season was a disaster. wildly inconsistent players and results. They would go from looking unbeatable to looking like they were the worst team in the league game to game. They just manage to sneak into the playoffs and found a system that made them competitive. It did look a bit like a square peg into a round hole situation though. So many of the players were brought in to suit Boudreaux’s run and gun style, it took time to get the guys to buy into the block shots, defense first mentality. There are a lot of free agents on this team, and there are some people that I’d like to see go.

I think we should let Semen, Green, Voukun, and Shultz walk away as free agents. Yes, Semin has amazing skills but he is going to be expensive and he is way too inconsistent to pay the kind of money he is going to be asking for. While Green has gotten a little more physical in his defensive play, he never got his most valuable part of his game going this year, his offense. Plus, he can’t stay healthy. I can’t imagine tying him down to a longer contract. Schultz is just slow and he doesn’t use his size the way a defenseman should.

I think that Backstrom is the best player on the team and he’s worth building around. I’m mostly OK with most of the other guys like Johannson, Aucoin, Knuble, Laich, etc. SOme are getting paid more than they should be, but still, good NHL players. I don’t think that Brower or Ward are pulling their weight, but they can still be valuable pieces. Chimera and Hendricks have been revelations this year, I had no idea they could perform that well. We’re in good shape in the net. Both Neuvirth and Holtby are the real deal, and they’re cheap.

I would entertain offers on Ovetchkin. I know, I know, but hear me out. His offensive contributions continue to go down, and the rest of his game hasn’t really improved enough to offset that decline. I think that it’s telling that OV spent so much time on the bench during the playoffs. It’s even more telling that it worked. Semin is far better all around player, his defensive work can be really good and he was even a good guy to have out there short handed. OV continues to be a defensive liability. I’m not saying we should dump him, he’s still a good player, but he has always been an offensive player. If the offense keeps going down and his defense doesn’t get markedly better, he will be a net negative on the team, especially with his salary. I feel that if we can’t find a good fit for him on the team, we should trade him and get some good players in return. 

So yeah, I’m more or less advocating breaking up “the young guns.” This season has shown that they simply do not gel well enough to be successful. At the very least, this season has shown us that we don’t have the right kinds of players for whatever systems that were tried. I thought that the moves made by GM last offseason were good, but they never did gel. Let’s see what he can do this time around.

A gender role/culture question

When did women start liking professional sports? I distinctly remember high school and earlier when it was strictly a guy thing. There’s no question that there is a lot more female fans than ever before, and it seems to be across most sports. I also know that the various leagues marketed sports to women, but did anyone notice the cultural shift? I know that there are still fewer female sports fans then male, but the ranks have grown considerably over the years. Ladies, any observations about you or your friends becoming sports fans?

Baseball

My step father treated me to a baseball game this last weekend. It was great. The weather was wonderful, the park (a newish boondoggle for the DC residents) is really nice, and we had great seats. If I was up there and working, I think I’d spend a lot of time at the park…

At one point, when the Nationals had loaded the bases and were threatening to catch up and take the lead, I heard a fan behind me say, “This would be exciting except we know our track record in situations like this…” Sure enough, they grounded into a force play to end the inning. Those poor Nationals.

The game itself was exactly the way baseball should be. It was tight, there were lead changes, and there was offensive and defensive brilliance on display. At it’s best, baseball is able to build tension like nothing else. Yes, it can get boring, but when it’s a good game, you end up being on the edge of your seat. Even better, baseball has the ability to relive that pressure in an explosive way. A critical home run or strikeout causes waves of emotions from the fans of the home and visiting teams. Even better is when a ball is put in play and the pressure is allowed to build even further.

Anyway, it was a good time. Thanks Rick!

ESPN is no longer necessary

There was a time in my life when ESPN was God’s gift to TV. I watched it every day. They had the best sports news shows, great coverage of hockey, and had really interesting on air personalities. Now, the barely mention hockey let alone show any, and with the possible exception of Linda Cohen, the on air personalities are pretty uninteresting. Strike that, they are mostly annoying. These days, they are the all football, basketball, poker, and college sports station, none of which interest me in the slightest.

Now that there is both the NHL network and MLB network, I have very little reason to tune into ESPN. Sure, I’ll watch the occasional baseball game on there, but I will switch over to MLB network for news. I’m sick of ESPN’s all Yankees and Red Sox coverage. I watch the cubs on WGN, the Capitals on CSN, and other games on other networks.

Sorry ESPN, you’re irrelevant these days.

No hockey for a week!

I effing hate the all star break. Both of my favorite sports have them, and they drive me nuts. I think that I’d actually be happier if they would just drop the pretense of the game and just say that all the people involved need a week off.

At least the game itself can be interesting in baseball. Double play combinations notwithstanding, there really isn’t a lot of teamwork involved so guys can play their normal game. More importantly, there isn’t that much physical impact in baseball, so they can play all out in the all star game without much downside (although Ray fosse might disagree). They have also put a small stake in the outcome of the game, whichever league wins gets the home field advantage in the world series.

It’s very different in hockey. Hockey requires lots of contact, sometimes violent contact to be what it can be. Any given play into the boards can result in an injury of a varying degree. Since there is nothing at stake during the all star game, there really isn’t any reason to risk injury by playing normally. In other words, there is every possibility of getting hurt and no reason for it. The result is a game that resembles hockey, but without a lot of defense or teamwork. In other words, it isn’t much of a game…

I do watch at least some of the baseball all star games, but I never bother with the hockey one. All it does is remind me that I can’t watch the real thing for 3 or 4 more days…

Sports Jerseys

There is something evocative about classic sports jerseys. Baseball has the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Dodgers. Classic and iconic. Basketball jerseys have never been anything special, and football uniforms have always been dominated by the helmets. The Actual football jerseys are either no big deal or silly looking… Don’t get me started on soccer jerseys, they look like race cars with all of their ads…

The one sport that doesn’t get enough credit for classic looks is hockey. My team, the capitals, have a pretty tacky jersey IMO, always have… But there are some classics. The number one, the most iconic perhaps in any sport (certainly in Canada) is the jersey (or sweater as they call it in hockey) of the Montreal Canadiens. Check it out…

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The current version dates from the 1950’s. In the hockey world, this team is the king. They have more championships than any other professional sports team in North America. To me, it is a graphic masterpiece steeped in history. Another from that era is from Chicago…

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This one also dates from the 50’s and was recently worn in the “Winter Classic” today. This one has the same iconic look, but it also, as my dad noted, looks tough. There is also a newer jersey with the classic look, this one is from the Minnesota Wild.

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After looking at these a little more, I wonder if my impression of “toughness” comes from their similarity to some rugby jerseys I’ve seen.

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In any case, I would wear any of these even though I’m not a fan of any of those teams. There is something very graphic about them and they are tied to a feel from the sport that I like. So why is my team’s jersey so bad in comparison?

Hockey as you’ve never heard it before…

Quick! Can you name the third and fourth most commonly spoken languages in Canada? The first two are easy enough, English and French. The language in third is Chinese (including all sorts of dialects) and the fourth is… Punjabi! That’s pretty amazing really… But being Canadiens, the generations of Punjabis born in Canada are hockey freaks. So the CBC is now broadcasting Hockey Night in Canada (HNC) in Punjabi!

Listening to the few clips I can find, it reminds me a bit of listening to other sports in Spanish. The broadcasters don’t seem to be as reserved. They defiantly add a level of excitement that the English ones seem to lack.

Anyway, it’s great to see more cultures embrace Hockey. It’s a great sport and this shows it can have universal appeal…

Baseball and outrage

People are twittering over the Yankees signing C.C. Sabathia to a $160 million dollar contract over 7 years. “How could they be so caviler when the economy is so bad? How can they spend that kind of money when there are people out of jobs and losing their houses?” It’s pretty simple, signing him will make them money. If a company purchased a piece of machinery for that much money, who would complain? The Yankees aren’t “showing off” or spending money for the hell of it. They aren’t some spoiled rich kid spending like an idiot, they are a business and they think they are going to make money by spending this money. What’s so hard to understand?

Hockey and values

In case you missed it, a hockey player in the NHL (Sean Avery) said a rather crude thing about his ex on TV and now has been suspended for 6 games because of it. Keep in mind that this sort of thing wouldn’t have made people bat an eyelash in any of the other sports. Sure, it would have gotten some press and people would have been pissed, but nothing would really happen to them. To me, this shows what a difference there is between hockey players and all of the other players of sports in the US. A football player is in big legal trouble over an illegal gun, basketball players are constantly getting in trouble, baseball had its drug issues, etc. In the NHL, if you say something nasty on TV, you’re in trouble.

“Yeah, but c’mon, those guys beat each other up all the time! The NHL thinks it’s Ok for a guy to give a beat down to someone, something that would be considered assault anywhere else, but you nail him for saying something about his ex? That’s insane!” Well, yeah, it is a little odd, but there is an explanation. You see, when guys fight in the NHL, it is almost always about a character issue. If you go after a smaller, talented player, the big boys will come back and beat the crap out of you. If you hit the goalie, whoever is closest to you from the other team is honor bound to start pounding on you. Occasionally, the bruiser from one team will start a fight with the thug on the other side just to get people fired up, but usually, there is a sense of justice involved in the fights. You are expected to be a stand up guy and play clean. If you’re not, you’re going to lose teeth…

And really, if you are going to do things like hit a goalie, make cheap shots, spear someone, or even crosscheck someone, maybe you need some sense beaten into you. The violence is almost (almost) always in response to other violence. I don’t know if it is a result of the justice system in hockey or not, but hockey players are angels off the ice as compared to other sports. They are held to a very high standard by the league. So when someone does something really objectionable on the ice, the “correction” is usually pretty swift in coming. But what to do about a guy that does something nasty off the ice? You can’t go jump the guy, so you suspend him and fine him to within an inch of his life.

Say what you want about the sport, but the NHL has its act together. I just wish the other leagues would learn something from them…

Professional wrestling

I watched a pair of documentaries the other day. One was on the history of professional wrestling and the other was on heavy metal music. I think I’ll post something about what I saw as the link between them on my music blog… I’ve been thinking about what I saw with the wrestling one, and I think it may be a bit deeper than you may think.

Well, let me rephrase that, there is nothing about wrestling that is deep. I mean c’mon, what a bunch of tawdry, tacky, rowdy yahoos… No, there is nothing deep about wrestling, but maybe the link between it and what is considered “serious” TV might be.

When I was growing up, the big rap against professional wrestling (at least to a kid) was that it was “fake.” It had the veneer of a sports competition, but it was ridiculous. The punches, throws, locks, etc. were obviously fake, even for an 8 year old. The current organizers (the WWF and WCW) make no pretense of the event being a sporting competition. In their minds, it is pure entertainment, a show. The excitement is all in the struggle of good versus evil, or at least of favorites going up against hated opponents. In the eyes of fans and of promoters, it is nothing short of high drama.

Of course that drama takes the form of an incredibly violent struggle. They punch, throw, elbow, crush, and land on each other. Then there are the props. They hit each other with folding chairs, they throw each other out of the ring (often times crashing through a table for good effect), they throw each other into, onto, and out of chain link cages. Blood is not uncommon.

“Yeah, but what they do is difficult! Those moves are incredible!” It’s true, those guys are BIG. Hulk Hogan was something like 6’6″ and built. All those guys are enormous, but they fly through the air and execute complex choreography. They really are a combination of stuntman and acrobat. But they’re still using all of that physical prowess to make it look like two guys smacking each other around. It’s all about violence.

Don’t look down on pro wrestling just yet. After all, how different is that “fake” display of violence any different than any of the run of the mill “dramas” based around law enforcement/hit men/drug culture/terrorist fighting FBI agent? Seriously, why do the programs that blow stuff up, shoot people, find corpses, etc. get a free pass, hell, be acclaimed, while the guys pretending to punch each other get sneered at? “But the acting is more subtle, the characters are more developed, the plot is more realistic!” Please see my critique of wrestling above… All of that is done just to lead up to the shoot out or yelling/screaming bit. In other words, violence is usually the the prime reason for all of that acting and dialogue. Everything leads up to violence, everything is solved by violence, everything is caused by violence, it’s all the same to me.

When I was living with Rick, I would often come home and find him watching TV. It was usually “Law and Order” or some other crime drama. Seems like 3/4 of all of the dramas revolve around crime… I would take a look and then exclaim, “Oh, you’re watching ‘Good Guys/Bad Guys’ again…” No matter which show he was watching, it was just “Good Guys/Bad Guys” to me. The more I think about it, the more I see most dramas as just glorified wrestling matches. No wonder I dislike watching TV so much… Can you imagine everything reminding you of professional wrestling?:-)