Saturday, 30 January 2016

John Scott, after wandering the desert, reaches the All-Star Game.

The NHL has a way of setting itself up for failure that's charmingly all its own.  In general, it dumbs down the sport of hockey, favouring plumbers and defensive play over its spectacular stars and fan-friendly wide-open end-to-end action.  It has as its Commissioner a lawyer who grew up a basketball/NBA fan and has no passion for the sport he should cultivate.  It operates in secrecy and opacity, and can be relied on to make baffling, inexplicable decisions on the short and long term.

All of this is exemplified by the John Scott saga.  Mr. Scott is what's euphemistically known as an 'enforcer' in the NHL, a 'policeman', a strong man who will by his mere presence, by the implicit threat of his size and strength, enjoin opponents to play by the rules, and not cross any lines.  While this should be accomplished by the referees who officiate games, and by the League office if anything extreme occurs, the NHL has evolved a role for a player or players to perform this disciplining of others.

There was a time when this might have made sense.  Before the games were all televised, with a dozen HD cameras trained on the ice surface, it was common for players to wait until the (lone) referee had his back turned to commit acts of violence on an opponent.  While the ref might miss the infraction, the victim's bench wouldn't, and his teammates would make sure to exact a price, and it wasn't a mere two or five minutes spent in a penalty box.

Nowadays though, with video available during and after the game of any and all transgressions alleviating any chance that something will be 'missed' by the two refs, and with inarguable evidence of the health risks associated with head trauma, it's transparently obvious that the 'price' is too great to bear.  To allow a player who commits a slash or crosscheck to be subjected to a pugilistic interlude by an enforcer is no longer tolerable, if it ever was.

So John Scott's role in the League is disappearing.  His breed are dying out.  They ply their trade in the AHL if at all, and even then incidents such as the KO of Brian McGrattan occasion more revulsion in the average fan than used to occur.

John Scott always stuck out like a sore thumb, and not just because of his great stature.  Seeing him play live, he looked completely out of place, a tanker among corvettes, routinely several strides behind the play.  His presence on the ice was a joke, more so than oddities are in other sports.

Kickers and punters play an accepted role on football teams.  The odd one-batter lefty reliever, or the corpulent designated hitter in baseball also raise some eyebrows and catcalls and chuckles, but again their contribution is central to the outcome of the game.  The NBA has had some freakishly tall players who do nothing but block shots and play defence, whose athleticism is questionable, but they affect the final tally on the scoreboard.

NHL enforcers operate on the periphery, in the margins of the game.  Their contribution is at best psychological, motivational.  Studies have shown that the accepted wisdom, that they can give one side a change in momentum, that they can turn a tide with a bout against another, similar enforcer, is at least very difficult to demonstrate, to quantify.  Because that's been what they've been relegated to: sideshow head-to-head tilts against the other team's enforcer.  The policing function has largely disappeared.

To be impolite, enforcers have become a joke, and with the fan voting campaign to put him in the All-Star Game in Nashville, the NHL was punked, with Mr. Scott as the butt of the joke.  Legions of hockey 'fans' ridiculed the league by voting in the worst hockey player they could find on a roster to its showcase event.

Because they could.  Because after the Rory Fitzpatrick 'Vote for Rory' campaign, and the Zemgus Girgensons campaign, the NHL still didn't understand that the voting process was deeply flawed, that more deserving players were being left aside for joke candidates.  Maybe the League reveled in it.  Until the fans doubled down, and showed that it's not always true that any publicity is good publicity.

Gary Bettman could have stepped in and as the Commissioner invoked his powers to protect the interests of the League, nullified these votes and made the clear statement that the All-Star Game was for the Crosbys and the Ovechkins, not a freakshow.  Instead, it tried to work in the shadows, by going against its usual practice and not publicizing fan vote tallies, by appealing to Mr. Scott to withdraw himself from consideration.  Something which once cost Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg one-game suspensions, deciding not to attend an All-Star Game.

But the NHL kept bumbling and stumbling, with the way it kept silent when John Scott was demoted to the AHL by the irked Coyotes, and then traded to the Canadiens and immediately assigned to their AHL team.  Until it, in the face of a social media firestorm, belatedly stepped forward and assured everyone that John Scott was in the All-Star Game all along, there was never any doubt, the fans had spoken.  Why had there been this furor, for days on end, it wondered?

So now we're being fed an all's well that ends well storyline, of John Scott as the underdog and the people's champion, never mind his take on the Players' Tribune.  While we didn't buy his good guy act, after years of seeing him be a bully on the ice, after the Phil Kessel incident, we've been mollified by the charm offensive from the player and the league.

Except we won't be watching.  The saboteurs who spotlighted John Scott have done their job, shown the league and its 'showcase' event to be a farce, and while it was worth a few yuks, it won't be worth hours of our time this weekend.

[Further reading from Bruce Arthur.]

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Game 48: Canadiens 3, Leafs 2 (SO)

The powerhouse Canadiens defeated the milquetoast Leafs by a decisive 3-2 margin, which was never in doubt, and confidently decided in the shootout.

1)  Mike Boone, in his "About Last Night":
That a collapse didn’t happen – and that Lars Eller, one of the team’s few recent bright lights, won the game in a Shootout – may have been a sign that perhaps the Canadiens have turned the corner.
Anyone who accuses The Headmaster of being too negative and critical needs to reconsider.  He can perform Maybelline magic on any old porcine varmint.

2)  More from Mike Boone:
The Leafs had an 8-5 shot advantage in the middle period and got a goal from Nazem Kadri – the most dislikable Toronto player since Darcy Tucker.

He's on target when it comes to Mr. Kadri though.  Although we both failed to hold him accountable for all the dives and pratfalls.  And so did the refs.  And so will Daddy Campbell.
Un Canadien errant    JANUARY 23, 2016 AT 8:45 PM

Loathsome Nazem Kadri. I guess there wasn’t anyone in the vicinity to spear or slewfoot, he wasn’t otherwise engaged, so he found time to score a goal.

All that’s left is to compare it favourably to a John Tavares goal, and his night’s work is done.

3)  "My grandmother, Big Mama, said to me repeatedly 'Tavis, baby, be careful of stoopin' so low that you can't get back up'."--Tavis Smiley

The Canadiens need to heed Tavis Smiley's grandma's advice.

4)  I hope Marc Bergevin folds his hand and waits for the next deal. See what kind of assets he can amass by trading away vets as rentals.

I don’t dislike players like Brian Flynn or Tom Gilbert, I don’t want to ‘get rid’ of them, but if they’re attractive for teams looking to load up at the deadline, then by all means, let them go.

Torrey Mitchell is signed for two more years, so he might not necessarily work as a rental, and again I like the guy, but I have to wonder if Gabriel ‘Pitbull’ Dumont wouldn’t be able to give us the same kind of play. Right-handed shot, can play centre or wing, has some snarl, isn’t malhotrabad on offence. Maybe it’s not an either-or situation, maybe we can use both, Gabriel gets called up after the deadline as a swing-depth forward.

Tomas Fleischmann, Mark Barberio, Paul Byron, any expiring UFA contract, if they net a draft pick, they’re for sale. Come one come all to Marc’s Ka-Razy Rental Sale. Damaged, floor-model RFA’s on hand too, ready to go. We have a like-new Devo demo, barely used, still not broken in, can be had for a song.


The Leafs won where it counted.  It took two draws for them to get the #2.  Three draws for us to get the #3.

The Sens got first overall on the first draw, Oilers third.

6)  More Tavis Smiley: "I was on one of the Sunday morning shows, and within hours (Donald Trump) had tweeted about me, based on his not liking what I'd said about him on this show..."

"So you probably said some facts...", interjects Trevor Noah.

BREAKING NEWS: Milan Lucic says it wasn't his fault.

He tried his best to defend himself.  He didn't do anything wrong, it was just a mean wefewee picking on poor wittle Miwan.

But the League didn't buy it, suspending him for a whopping one games.  Take that, you out-of-control menace.

Not to make excuses for him, heaven forfend, but these kind of incidents result from the pervasive, continual slashing that happens in the NHL.  Everyone's always slashing everyone else, it's meant to replace defence and positioning.  If you're not slashing your guy, you're not covering him.

Playing along the boards, guys don't necessarily try to play the puck, or steal it away from someone else, they just slash and slash and hack at the other guy, the other guy's stick.  You have to make a 'strong play', not stickhandle.

In the scramble in front of the net, there are crosschecks, slashes, a thicket of hockey sticks being used against one another.

So Kevin Connauton, in the process of doing his thing, conducting his business, matriculating the puck away from his goalie, hacked at the King standing there, and got him in a sensitive spot, probably his bony wrist, where the lightweight gloves they wear nowadays offer no protection.

Ape Milan goes apespit, but was the Kevin Connauton slash especially grave, or even noteworthy?

Not according to Daddy Campbell's rules (emphasis mine):
Rule 61 – Slashing

61.1 Slashing - Slashing is the act of a player swinging his stick at an
opponent, whether contact is made or not. Non-aggressive stick
contact to the pant or front of the shin pads, should not be penalized
as slashing. Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an
opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s
hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play
the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.

61.2 Minor Penalty - A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee
based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player
who slashes an opponent.

61.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee
based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player
who slashes an opponent. When injury occurs, a major penalty must
be assessed under this rule (see 61.5).

61.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match
penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately
injured his opponent by slashing.

How are referees supposed to interpret this, control it, when Don Cherry blowhards that they should "let them play"?  That they shouldn't 'inject themselves in the game'?

On the one hand, it wasn't particularly aggressive swinging of the stick.  Certainly didn't seem exceptional, taken in context with all the other slashing.  Was he trying to non-aggressively make contact with Milan's pants or shin pads and miss?

He did swing his stick at an opponent and make contact, but it certainly wasn't a forceful or powerful chop.  Nazem Kadri wouldn't have bothered diving if he'd been slashed that softly, even he would think that wouldn't sell.

The Coyote defender tried to slash the stick of the Bruin so he couldn't control the puck.  That's par for the course in hockey.  We used to do that all the time when I was growing up, you just had to make sure it wasn't too hard, or else it would make too loud a sound and then the ref would penalize the decibels.  Nowadays, guys stare at you murderously if you do that in garage league play, because there's a good chance you could have snapped their $200 stick.  But in the NHL?  Play ball!

No, the only thing that made this play anything but routine is that it gave Milan an ouchy, and he don't like ouchies.  They smart.

Of course, Milan, in his worldview, is allowed to spear opponents in the crotch, willy-nilly, and then rely on the fact that they wear a cup to sleep good at night.  It doesn't hurt since they wear pro'.  But you caught me where my pro' didn't pro'tect me, so here's a right cross to the kisser from behind.  Justice shan't be denied.

Did Milan get a penalty for attempt to injure though?  Because that's definitely in the books.  And that never gets applied.

The NHL is too busy getting 4K cameras mounted on the boards to ensure a player isn't a millimetre offside at the blue line.  That's the big emergency that's plaguing the league.  Ensuring a streaking talented player doesn't get a chance to score too easy.  We have to give those defensive five man teams 'standing up at the blue line' a fair shake.

Gary Bettman is too busy trying to get John Scott out of the All-Star Game as a favour to his Coyote buddies, then backpedaling and covering his tracks and convincing us that there was never an issue, John Scott was an All-Star all along.  He's not mad he and his garbage league got punk'd by the fans, not at all.  And if you'd stop interrupting him and letting him finish, he'd evade and smarmily lecture the subject to something else, please and thank you.

Game 49: Canadiens 2, Blue Jackets 5

I'm Canadiens Expressing it on RDS, since the full broadcast was blacked out for the good of "our game".  Thank you Gary Bettman.  Actually saved me some aggravation, got through this 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets much more expediently, mercifully.

16:30 -- Great play by Andrei Markov, staying at the offensive blue line and derailing a zone exit by the Blue Jackets, intercepting a pass as he so often does, baiting an opponent to try sliding the puck past him, then striking with his stick like a cobra.

It's been tough watching him lately, not sure what's been the matter, but I think too many are writing him off too soon.  Andrei has many gifts, and one of his greatest, his sense of the game, his hockey I.Q., his anticipation, his dekes and feinting, his passing, those won't fade.  His brain is still able to process the game at an elite level.  All we need to do is manage his minutes, the situations he's put in, so that he's 100% when we need him, like on the powerplay.

16:15 -- Great backcheck by Daniel Carr.  David Desharnais had a good one early on too, foiled a 3-on-2, intercepted a pass and put a stop an incipient threat.

11:15--Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly, three righties on one line.  Not more than a couple seasons ago, we didn't have enough righties up front or on the blue line.  Now it's almost the reverse.

10:45--Knee-on-knee by René Bourque on Torrey Mitchell, on a classic attempt at a face-on bodycheck.  Those never work, the intended victim sees the hit coming, veers aside, and then the defender often feels like he can't let his opponent go by him unimpeded, so the knee comes out.

That play should be an automatic major.  And I guess if it was, the refs would never call it, the consequences being too great, likely to attract the wrath of Don Cherry.  I love the NHL.

And René, ease off buddy.  Keep those assaults directed at Torts.

9:21--Brendan Gallagher, on a 5-on-3, banks one in off Gregory 'Sonny Boy' Campbell.  Couldn't happen to a nicer worthless plug.

7:40--Lars Eller rips a shot, pings it off the post.  Someone check it for a dent.

I'll ask again: was he sulking the entire start of the season?  He looks transformed, goes towards the net with the puck.  Awesome.

5:20--On the Blue Jackets' tying goal, you could play the classic circus music, or "Yakkety Sax", with all the Canadiens running around.  #1 line didn't look great, with that puck pinballing around until it was fired in Mike Condon's net.

Second Period

17:15--I have to agree with Pierre Houde and Marc Denis, Torrey Mitchell doesn't look completely recovered from that shot he took off his foot.

11:24--P.K. ties the game with a blast from the red line that fools Columbus' rookie goalie.  And then takes an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a shove at an oncoming Brandon Dubinsky.

And Gally has to be the more mature one here, who tries to calm down P.K., talk him down, get him under control.

I'd be really mad, and go off on a rant about P.K. normally, except that it's frigging Brandon Dubinsky, a player who makes a living elbowing Sidney Crosby in the head.  And getting slurped by play-by-play guys as being "tough to play against".  Unless the refs called the penalties, then he'd be really easy to play against.

I'll say it again: so much of this nonsense occurs because the NHL insists that player benches be on the same side of the ice.  At every stoppage, every line change, a Brad Marchand or Chris Neil or Steve Ott or Brandon Dubinsky gets to 'instigate' with a push or a slash or shove or whatever.  And it's not hockey.  It gives the goons and the rats more of an opportunity to ply their trade.

Every arena that comes on line should separate the benches, have them be on opposite sides of the rink.  

But 'Daddy Campbell' is in the business of selling hate, so...

Third period

10:54--I've seen Jeff Petry shrug and look up at the sky/ceiling in frustration after a goal a little too often for my liking lately.  Blue Jackets, the worst team in the league, with their valiant coach unavailable, along with both of their goalies, take a 3-2 lead.

1:12--Cue up "Yakety Sax" again on that extra-skater goal.  

0:25--Cam Atkinson completes his hat trick to make it 5-2.

Monsieur Bergevin, please fold your hand on this season, monetize some of our expiring contracts/assets, swap them for picks and prospects.

I don't like this team anyway, that is a soft touch and an inviting target for bullies.  It was fun when they raced out to a 9-0 start and were roadrunnering every other team, but it certainly feels like that was the blip, and this anemically-scoring squad is the true identity.

I'd point out that our rookie goalie posted a .833 SV%, while their rookie chipped in a .941, but I'm starting to feel it's no use.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Grammar Minute 4

Grammar rant: The Albany Devils play-by-play dude used the phrase “answer back”, which I loathe, it makes me shudder.

It’s such a redundancy, like ‘free gift’, or ‘good goal’, in hockey parlance. Either it’s a goal or it isn’t a goal, Mr. Referee.

And a team, after being scored on, can be said to need to ‘answer’ with a goal of their own, to reply with a goal, or score right back. But not ‘answer back’. For that usage to be correct, maybe, you’d need one team to score, then the other to answer, at which point you could say the first team now needs to answer back.

It’s like ‘re-aggravate’. It’s such a sportscaster move, to add syllables to a word and assume that makes it more cromulent. A player gets hurt, and then makes the injury worse a while later. He has aggravated the injury, made it more grave, or re-injured it. If he then re-injured it again, maybe you could say he re-aggravated it, but it would be just as correct to say he aggravated it, again made it worse.

There, all done now. Don’t we all feel more better?

Still more Jarred Tinordi recriminations.

(23 January 2016)

I’m still stewing over this.

Let’s say you have a fleet of taxis out on the road, 24-7-365. You’re making good revenue, but there are good and bad days, rainy days where you get a sales spike, Christmas time when you can barely keep up, summertime when everyone’s on vacation. But you keep hitting your numbers, and skillfully making a little extra so that everyone nets a bonus, year after year.

Except that your fleet maintenance manager is ragging you to pull cars off the road for a couple of days apiece, he needs to check and replace some ball joints here and there, he’s noticed a few shocks leaking and sagging, other things are cropping up he wants to stay on top of. He says it’ll save money in the long run.

You reply with a classic P.J. O’Rourke line you use often: “Save money in the long run!? Why don’t you save us some money right now?!” You can’t have cars not cruising around out there, not bringing in revenue, you can’t take the hit, it’ll make it really hard to hit the numbers, to make budget. The best you can do for him is to bring in units when you absolutely have to, to do a quick oil change, and if he can get around to a couple things then, great, but otherwise you direct him to put the cabs back out on the street A.S.A.P.

So you’ll eke out another year or two of marginally better revenue, because every cab will be out there 364 days a year or thereabouts, you’re missing a couple of half days for the necessary maintenance, but otherwise you’re really squeezing that lemon.

Until you start having your cabs blow gaskets and throw rods, and have to redo the whole front end or some you have to junk because the rust got in there, and you now have a fleet of unreliable cabs that are breaking down on you and are regularly out of service and customer aren’t happy and neither are drivers, and you’re now facing an earlier than anticipated requirement to replace your fleet.

My tortured analogy is what I think the Canadiens mishandled with respect to Jarred Tinordi. When push came to shove this year, we didn’t ease him in the rotation. We didn’t accept that by doing so, even if we weren’t icing the very best, most-markoved D-corps possible, and even if we were marginally less likely to bring back two points, we’d be better off in the long run. We kept riding P.K. and Andrei, we avoided taking the small hit to give the big lug games, icetime, and get him going. We were strictly short-term oriented, vs. the more reasonable, successful long-term. We kept putting the cabs out there, squeezing the lemon.

NHL abashes into the only decision it corner-painted itself into.

(January 21, 2016)

That sound you heard just now, that was the NHL backpedaling out of the edifice of lying it was trying to erect.
NEW YORK – John Scott will captain the Pacific Division team at the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in Nashville, the National Hockey League announced today.
Scott, elected to the Pacific Division captaincy in fan voting while a member of the Arizona Coyotes, was traded Friday to the Montreal Canadiens of the Atlantic Division. The resultant change in division, and Scott's subsequent assignment to the American Hockey League, created a unique circumstance that required review – the result of which was a determination to maintain the status quo for the All-Star weekend in order to preserve all parties' pre-existing expectations, including Scott’s desire to participate.

There's lots of blame to go around, everyone and everything got sprayed by a Glendale skunk on this one.

Marc Bergevin made a poor decision by trading Jarred Tinordi for a handful of beans. He shouldn’t have touched John Scott, involved himself in any manner with that clown of a terrible player, with that whole gong show.

That Gary Bettman didn’t have the cojones to come out and invoke his power as a Commissioner to negate the trolling/voting campaign for John Scott, for the good of the game, that’s another instance to add to the sorry legacy he’s left, like the goo a slug tracks on the ground. He chose to go for the underhanded backroom double-dealing approach instance, as is his scurrilous habit.

That Don Maloney wanted to be rid of this embarrassment, wanted his moribund franchise to be represented by someone else than one of his mistakes as a GM at the All Star Game, that was his issue, we didn’t need to get dragged into it. We didn’t have to get involved in his efforts to get Shane Doan off on his farewell tour.

Now for both of these guys to pretend that it was a hockey trade, that there were no other considerations, that the League didn’t have its finger in the air checking which way the wind was blowing before making an arbitrary decision on whether the allow John Scott to appear in the game, it’s a bunch of baloney.

And I don’t buy John Scott as the regular Joe good-guy who’s a victim in all this. He’s a target, a pawn of this Punk’d campaign because he’s a terrible player, a joke that shines a spotlight on how poorly the NHL is run. And contrary to many other enforcers, he has a tinge of nasty, he’s a bully who does pick on players who have no interest in tangling with him. It’s not just the Phil Kessel incident, it’s every time he’s on the ice he’s slashing and crosschecking in a scrum, with an adversary he towers over and who did nothing to attract that attention.

To believe Don Maloney when he says he had no ulterior motive beyond strict hockey reasons for trading John Scott is to be credulous. The Phoenix GM wanted to wash his hands of this mess, fine, but he wears this one, he shouldn’t micturate on my leg and tell me it’s a bracing spring shower.

Marc Bergevin should have held on the Jarred Tinordi instead of giving up on him. And he should have clamped and duct-taped several ten-foot poles together and stayed clear of the John Scott mess.

Should the Canadiens draft a centre over any other position next June?

The Canadiens' precipitous drop in the standings has shone a harsh glare on the shortcomings of the roster.  As always, it highlights the lack of a #1 centre, preferably of a large-ish size.  To the point that some fans are beating the drum for le bleu-blanc-rouge to draft centres, almost exclusively, in the next draft.  Which leads me to ask, do you remember the 1998 draft?

Apparently when our turn came up in the first round of that auction, the choice came down to Simon Gagné or Éric Chouinard, teammates on les Remparts. The deciding factor caused us to go for Mr. Chouinard over the smaller winger, to the fill the need for “un gros joueur de centre”, that elusive beast we’ve been tracking since we traded away Peter Mahovlich. Ever since then, we’ve never not tried to obtain him, despite Doug Wickenheiser and Bobby Smith.

We then compounded our mistake by taking Mike Ribeiro (gag!) in the second round, when Brad Richards was still on the board, if we wanted a local boy centre. The latter was apparently undervalued, everyone thought he was riding the coattails of Vincent Lecavalier, getting easy assignments while other teams keyed on the eventual first overall pick. Apparently, the Tampa scouts who spent a lot of time on Rimouski that year were asking each other “Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Is that Richards kid really that good?”

So anyway, forget about drafting centres, just grab the best player available.

But of course, in 2003, the Canadiens grabbed the best pure talent still available, Andrei Kostitsyn, who we were tickled was still available at #10. And we overlooked centres Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Bryan Boyle, and Patrice Bergeron. So forget what I just said…

Canucks get Emerson Etem for Nicklas Jensen, we get John Scott for Jarred Tinordi.

Ryan Miller stopped 46 of 49 shots last night and earned the Canucks a point they didn’t quite deserve in a 3-2 OT loss to the Rangers. Jacob Markstrom has been playing well (.922 Save % for the season, even better lately), and Ryan Miller has been on fire since he came back from injury, withstanding 50 shot barrages against the Caps and Rangers to get 3 out of 4 points.

I still rue that the Canadiens didn’t snap up Jacob Markstrom when the Canucks waived him out of the 2014 camp, one-way contract and all. I figured all that potential and 6’6″ frame could be run through the stephanewaiteificator and realized.

And while I’m ruing, I still am having indigestion over the Jarred Tinordi trade. The Canucks’ Jim Benning managed to convert one of his first rounders who’s been lagging in his development, Nicklas Jensen, another great Dane, who’s passed through waivers already, plus a seventh-round pick, into Emerson Etem, a big speedy winger who also isn’t setting the world on fire, but has a chance to play bigger minutes and ‘fit’ better on their roster than the Rangers’, replete as it is with Hayeses and Kreiderses.

Emerson Etem is exactly the kind of player who I’d be okay with as a return for Jarred Tinordi. I know the Rangers wouldn’t have made that deal, they already are dealing with Dylan McIlrath on their blueline, but this kind of dealing surplus for a need. Instead of surplus for Wat(ley)?

Last year, there was a lot of angst over the Jiri Sekac trade, and I was sorry to see the guy go, I thought he was exactly the kind of piece we needed on our roster, but I understood the trade. We flipped a LW for a bigger RW, surplus for a need. I was on board.

If we were going to get such pitiful return for Jarred, and be saddled with the joke that John Scott is, we should have kept him, stashed on our roster, and used him when we, um, I don’t know, needed to spell Andrei when he faltered, maybe, or when Nathan was banged up and needed a break.

Think of it this way.

You have a ’63 Corvette, the one with the split rear window, in really good shape all in all, on blocks in your backyard driveway. You purchased it at what you thought was a price you couldn’t pass up. You knew it would take some work, some time, but it would pay off in the end.

Turns out it’s going to take a little more work than you thought, but in the meantime your attention has been on other matters, stuff that always comes up. Best intentions and all. But you know that when you get around to it, it will all have been worthwhile.

Except that the wife has been giving you the look, pushing you to either get down to business, or sell it, clear it off the property. You kind of don’t want to sell, but you get what she’s saying, don’t really resent her for making that case.

So you put it on the market, and get few nibbles, some jokers come around and offer risible amounts. They think they have you over a barrel. You want to chase them out of your yard with an axe handle.

So you sit down with your wife, explain the situation, and come to an agreement, a timetable. You don’t need to get rid of the ‘Vette. You’d have sold to the right buyer. But in the current situation, you’re much better off holding on to it and seeing the project through.

And a year down the road, while riding in style on Sunday drive, after many swear jar incidents, bashed knuckles, and extra little investments, your wife agrees that it was the right decision to not fire-sale it.

I thought when Marc Bergevin took over, and we worked all the Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier mistakes out of the system, that we’d slow and steady our way to perennial contender status.

The way we mishandled Jarred feels a lot like Sisyphus’ boulder rolling over top of us all the way back down the hill, to my estimation.

Fundaments of a losing streak, Part 3.

(January 19, 2016)

Bruce Arthur explained today that the Canadiens really aren’t playing that badly.

Funny thing for Montreal: They won with bad possession numbers last year. Last 25 games this year: ANA, 55.4CF%. LAK, 55.4%. MTL: 54.65%.

Over that 25-game span, Montreal's also 28th in 5 on 5 save percentage, 29th in 5 on 5 shooting percentage, 30th in the ol' PDO.

A lot of their woes can be attributed to the fact that since Carey was re-injured, Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarski went into a prolonged swoon (to be kind), out of which the goalies are just pulling out of. Mike had four or five games recently where he pitched a combined .950 or thereabouts, before another blip the last three games.

At the same time, their shooting percentage during the same interval has been at the bottom of the league too. This is one of the stats that is flaky, tends to be luck-driven, in that it’s not reliable from game to game or year to year. Stats-heads warned us about this after Patrick Roy’s triumphant first season as head coach, or the Leafs in 2013-14, how their high shooting percentage were unsustainable, and that they were poised for a(n 18-wheeler going over a cliff) fall.

So again, if we had had even average goaltending during this losing streak, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Remember how after the hot start people were saying all we needed to do was play .500 hockey for the rest of the season? That’s where we’d be, if we had had a decent, reliable backup goalie.

Now, I don’t “blame” the goalies and rest this streak solely on not having Carey Price. ‘Blame’ is too strong a word.

I don’t think we should blame Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarski, and now Ben Scrivens, since they are trying hard, doing the best they can. I think that’s what Michel Therrien was getting at when he said his goalies lacked experience, he wasn’t so much pointing the finger as much as he was trying to explain, to protect them.

If anyone should be blamed, it would be Marc Bergevin, and I wouldn’t go that far also. I think the GM took a calculated risk, figuring that a young goalie could spell Carey very well for 12-15 games this season, that it would be a waste of cap space to get a more proven, experienced, and expensive backup goalie. He decided to allocated his resources elsewhere, which is defensible. It just didn’t work out for him.

But it’s inarguable that our backup goalies haven’t, on the whole, done the job. I’d be okay with adequate goaltending, and we haven’t gotten that by and large, it’s been well below average.

Michel Therrien, his team mired in a horrid slump, comes under attack. Well, more strident attack.

I came across this gem on social media the other day:
“I do not understand the adulation for Therrien by some here…”
This is where hyperbole meets untruth. I’m not picking on this person in particular, but it’s common to overstate the adversary’s position to make it more untenable.

Overwhelmingly, there are no great fans of Michel Therrien around. The announcement of his hire was met with dismay and unease by most, there was no great cheering from the grandstands.

What did happen though is a significant portion of the fanbase decided to give him a chance, the benefit of the doubt. And by and large he’s done very well, taking a team that was a bottom-feeder under Randy Cunneyworth and taking it to the top of the standings. He changed the atmosphere in the dressing room, installed a team work ethic and a climate of accountability.

We worried that he’d lose his marbles during games, or in post-game scrums, whereas in fact he’s been calm and in control, kept his emotions in check, and has been mostly supportive during difficult times, trotting out his adversity bromide. He’s kept a loose leash on the boys, giving them rest days after losses for example, when some of the more excitable faction wanted bag skates and fire and brimstone.

And now we hit a critical juncture in his tenure, and those members who think he’s as good as gone now want their pound of flesh, want me and my faction members to offer up an apology, that they were right all along.

Except they weren’t right. To constantly, personally attack the coach, despite his very tangibly positive performance, often due to his cultural background, was way offside. Some observers would offer insightful critiques, but unfortunately in my eyes it would get lost in the churn of the “clueless” references, and the ‘inability to adapt’. They all started to blend in.

One critic on a few months back hammered the head coach on the fact that ‘his’ powerplay last season was putrid, yet he refused or was unable to adapt, to adjust. I replied with, off the top of my head, seven or eight adjustments that were made in season to try to break the powerplay out of its funk. Unfortunately, he never replied with a “Well, that’s true, those adjustments were made, and it’s too bad nothing seemed to work. I only wish that…” You know, never continued the conversation, he just went in search of other posts where facts didn’t collide with his opinions.

And speaking of the powerplay, this year, when it did well early, the negative nellies were backslapping each other, how golly, that Mike Ramsay was really having a positive effect on things. I weighed in a couple of times, asking if we were all in agreement that Mike Ramsay was going to receive all the credit, take all the responsibility, in his part-time consultant role, and none of it was going to go to full-time Assistant Coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault, newly installed as in charge of the PP, replacing Dan Lacroix. I received nothing but crickets in response.

Now that the PP is again stuck in the mud, now, finally, the negative nellies are in agreement, the culprit is Michel Therrien. Always was. No one else has his fingerprints on this. Michel Therrien is stifling P.K., and making Andrei old, and Nate’s shot downy soft. No one’s bringing up Mike Ramsay now, no way no how.

So yeah, about your pound of flesh, and about how you were right, that Michel Therrien was going to get fired, that he should get fired, that’s the easiest prediction in the world to make, it’s trite to do so, with that whole ‘coaches are hired to be fired’ mantra.

To call for Michel Therrien’s dismissal, and then crow and bask in the knowledge that you were right all along during this tough losing streak, is like all those who’ve been saying for years that Keith Richards is going to die, he has to. Eventually, you’ll be ‘right’, but in another, more accurate way, you were dead wrong. He outlasted your projections since the 70’s. Keith Richards is going to die, but not before David Bowie and Glenn Frey.

So I’ll see your Michel Therrien, and raise you a Glen Gulutzan and Dallas Eakins and Randy Carlyle and John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault and Kirk Muller and Mike Johnston and …

As I've written before:
The thing is, I don’t even like Michel Therrien. I like Marc Bergevin, and Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price, and Russell Wilson, and D.J. Fluker. I don’t know them, but I like them. And I don’t ‘like’ Michel Therrien.
Michel Therrien is gruff, ill-spoken, doesn’t present well. His laugh annoys me. The way he sticks his tongue out when he chortles at his own witticisms. The way he sometimes blunders when he speaks, overstating things (“My captain was crying in my arms”). His slicked-back hair. His little gut, and the way he wears his warmups a little tight.
I sometimes wonder idly how we can get Guy Boucher back in the fold, as our emergency option, when the wheels come off, inevitably. I want LHJMQ coaches in the system, in Hamilton/St. John’s, in Wheeling. In the revived Canadiens Junior (it will happen, trust me, when the new arena is built in Laval). De la relève, en cas.
When Geoff Molson cleaned house, then hired Marc Bergevin, I campaigned for Patrick Roy, and posted negatively, fearfully about the possibility of Michel Therrien being hired. I don’t remember a single post on HIO advocating that he should be the next head coach.
And yet, grudgingly, he’s won me over, proven himself again and again, making tough decisions, getting the team to respond. It’s not like I’m running around snapping my suspenders about his great results, I actually expected much, much less, and said so, openly.
And I find myself now being a Michel Therrien defender. Not because I like him. I don’t. I wouldn’t want to be paired with him at the golf tournament, I’d rather be with the Dream Weaver, or Michel Lacroix.
I defend him against intolerant, unfair attacks on him personally, his intellect, his lack of fair play. It’s ridiculous the accusations he faces up to on HIO. I shudder to think what it’s like on TSN message boards.

More thoughts on the Jarred Tinordi trade.

(January 19, 2016)

Enormous thanks to Stu Cowan and Jack Todd for their analysis, their critique of the Jarred Tinordi trade. They covered pretty well all the bases. Which saves me having to write a monster convoluted post to try to keep things straight in my head (fat chance).

I need to say this: if Don Maloney did really insist, and it’s hinted that this occurred late in the negotiations, that Marc Bergevin also relieve him of the contract of John Scott and the attached headache, then I don’t understand why Marc Bergevin didn’t say “Fine, then I want (…) added to my side of the ledger.” For us to accept this clown player and his one-way contract, in a time when the profit margin of the Canadiens is being eaten away by the exchange rate, there should have been a sweetener thrown in.

This was Don Maloney’s mess. Like Jerry Seinfeld’s nana, the Coyotes are on a very fixed income. Their GM made a big mistake signing John Scott to a one-way deal, he probably thought he needed an enforcer to protect his young rookies. He quickly realized his mistake, but unlike other ‘rich’ teams, couldn’t bury the mistake in the AHL. The Coyotes are a ‘budget team, not a ‘cap team’, they only have so much allocated to payroll, and it doesn’t matter to them if the real salary dollars are spent on the NHL or AHL team, they’re still counted very closely.

So he needed someone to take that deal off his hands, to get right with ownership, and we did him that favour. Except we didn’t get an upgrade to Laurent Dauphin as the prospect coming back our way, or a second or third-round pick, or an exchange of draft position, etc.

Which leads me to conclude that Marc Bergevin caved, he made a bad move under pressure from the fans and the media. And I thought he was relatively immune to that.

I don’t know why I believed that. We’ve seen him be a little aggressive, a little bitter in his pressers lately, singling out a journalist who was asking whether the Canadiens’ system was defensive. He’s also talked about how trades in real life aren’t the same thing as on Playstation. It’s obvious that he gets all least some of the blowback from the media, from the open-lines, from sites like this one.

But in the vast majority of his moves, there was a logical basis to them, they were easily defensible, even if some of them eventually didn’t work out. I’ll leave the Daniel Brière signing aside as a special, inexcusable or inexplicable or indefensible case, but everything else could be seen as a small move forward, pushing a pawn.

This one though, it reeks of a panic move, where you offer up your stereo to people you know, because your’re trying to make rent, and you keep claiming that it’s worth $2000 and it’s like new, and at first you want $1500 and quickly you start talking about a grand, and then before you know it you’re begging for a neighbour to take it off your hands for $500, and you end up accepting $400 and agreeing to move it in and install it.

Except Marc Bergevin didn’t need to make rent. He didn’t need to unload Jarred. Sure, yeah, did the kid a favour, blah blah blah, but ultimately we’d kept him on the roster without any problems for this long, there was no urgent need to unload him. It’s not like he was a distraction, he’s always been known as a kid with great character, with great leadership skills.

And now I’m despondent, terrified of the next step. L’Antichambre are beating the tom-toms that there must be “une grosse transaction” to put the team back on track. I don’t believe anymore that the brain trust is insulating itself from such talk, that they’re above such matters, that their eyes are kept on the long term, the sainted ‘plan’. I’m more inclined now to believe that Marc Bergevin is acting as if he has a gun to his head, that he believes the hype, that he must do a trade now. When all of his players are devalued by a losing streak, when he’s going to have to sell low.

More fallout from the Jarred Tinordi trade.

I wonder if the way MT has this team play, specifically the relentless forechecking, is not just draining it physically. That could explain why the team and certain individuals did so well early on in the season — when they were not yet tired out — but not so well since Dec.
I believe the CH puts a BIIIG emphasis on aerobic/cardio fitness for that very reason. But maybe that kind of play is not sustainable?
Any thoughts out there…?

It’s an interesting notion, it’s certainly plausible.

Other theories have been floated, one that the other teams weren’t able to deal with the team speed coming out of camp, but now that they have their skating legs they can withstand it.

Another was that when the team is engaged and playing with confidence, with determination, the system works, but when they’re a little shaken, when they’re maybe not as fiery and cohesive, that maybe it’s impossible to have the pedal to the metal and skate all out all through the game. Maybe the Canadiens aren’t as relentless as before, maybe they’re not quite harrying the defencemen and causing as many turnovers, without that fire in the belly.

My postulate is that other teams have plainly reverted to thumping and gooning and facewashing the Canadiens, and it’s having an effect. As gutsy as players like Gally or Daniel Carr are, the boys are only human, they get sick of getting crosschecked or rabbit-punched in the back of the head, only to have the refs and linesmen wade in and do their ‘Break it up’ routine, with no consequence for the guilty, and no benefit for their sore nose. After a while it gets old.

We saw the refs do a halfway decent job last night of trying to pick out the culprits, identifying the Blues as the culprits instead of calling offsetting penalties, if any. Unfortunately, the Canadiens couldn’t make the Blues pay with their powerplay. Or rather, they made them pay somewhat, but were undone by untimely lapses by their young goalie.

This is where Marc Bergevin took a calculated risk, didn’t go down the George Parros-Douglas Murray road the last two seasons, and it’s coming back to haunt us. The Canadiens are soft targets for attempts at intimidation. The smallish fleet team we had looked like a stroke of genius right out of camp, but now it feels like the Bruins of 2011-model is being resurrected when teams play against the Canadiens.

Which is why it's troubling to me that the team has divested itself of Jarred Tinordi and Zack Kassian, without really addressing the decrease in size and toughness in other ways.

But generally:

I thought Marc Bergevin was a patient GM, who would not panic, just patiently develop his chess pieces, slowly amass assets, never mind talk of ‘windows’ and ‘1993’, he’d build up our organization so that we’d be a contender for decades to come.

Jarred Tinordi is traded to the Coyotes for John Scott: chronology of a meltdown.

Cue the meltdown, as memorialized on .

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Bob McKenzie ‏@TSNBobMcKenzie 2m2 minutes ago
ARI-MTL trade call is in works. Tinordi to ARI and return expected to be John Scott and Stefan Elliott.
Then, in a mocking post to those who tend to be unreasonable in their trade scenarios, the give and take that happens in trade talks:

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MB shouldof taken ducliar instead!!!!!!

Someone posits that the Canadiens must have REALLY hated Jarred Tinordi:

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Or, as Chris Nilan said on TSN 690, “Well, it looks like nobody wanted Tinordi…”
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Bob McKenzie ‏@TSNBobMcKenzie 20s20 seconds ago
Doesn’t sound like Stefan Elliott will be in MTL long. Flipped already?
We absolutely must obtain forward help instead of another defenceman, we have to clear up this logjam. I don’t know Stefan Elliott at all, but what can he bring that Mark Barberio doesn’t?

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The TSN 1040 boys are just as bewildered at what this trade means, what it accomplishes. They read a Canuck fan email: “That’s all it cost to land Jarred Tinordi, and we’re playing Taylor Fedun?”

A moment of clarity, hope:

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I’m as disappointed as anyone on the reported poor return for Jarred. I actually wanted draft picks, to stock up for this June.
But let’s not lose our marbles about John Scott. He’s only in this deal to make the deal work, either to get the salary off the penurious Coyotes’ books, or to take a contract off their 50-contract limit total. Or both.
He won’t play here, he’s not someone Marc Bergevin covets.
Bob McKenzie ‏@TSNBobMcKenzie 2m2 minutes ago
Pending trade call, NSH sending Victor Bartley to MTL for Stefan Elliott. But not a done deal yet.

Then, when someone suggests that this trade may be a way of clearing contracts off the books:

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That’s like opening up two stalls in the barn by shooting two of your horses though.
Going from denial to despair:

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I agree. I thought we were brooding him, that we’d trade a guy higher on the depth chart to open up icetime for him, keeping our eyes focused two years in the future, when he’d be the steady stay-at-home tough guy. Now we traded him for a handful of beans, and a car on blocks.
And the beans came with an exhaustive warning sheet that guaranteed they aren’t magic.
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Pierre McGuire on TSN 1040 Vancouver: “I don’t think Jarred Tinordi has been right since he got one-punched last year in the AHL.”
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This can’t be right.
This has to be wrong somehow.
As others have stated, we might as well have waived him, instead of picking up two contracts.
I can’t believe we couldn’t wrangle a conditional 7th out of a Jarred trade and be done with it. Instead of this. Treading water.
More disbelief;

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Agreed. I understand sometimes why a plug is a throw in, you have to eat salary to get the player you really want, but in this case, we’re taking a plug and another plug.
Just take a fifth-rounder for him from the first taker and be done with it.
What’s that you say? You can’t even get a fifth? Okay, we’ll take a sixth. And so on…
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Yeah, that would make sense, except it seems like the trade call has gone through to the league, judging from Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger. So this is a standalone deal, it’s complete.

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This is Danny Kristo for Christian Thomas all over again, but far far worse.

Stéfan Fournier is announced as the Canadiens' throw-in in the deal:

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Great, our only tough guy on the farm, with Connor Crisp semi-permanently injured.
And just as he was beginning to look like an AHL’ er.
To those celebrating this as the kickstart to a 'tank' manoeuvre, to orchestrate a campaign to lose games and eventually draft Auston Matthews:

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Agreed. You play Jarred and live with his mistakes, that’s the long-term move. Trading vets for picks and prospects is the long-term move, not this.
Some think that at least John Scott will make our team tougher, harder to intimidate:

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Didn’t we see this before with Georges Laraque though? He only plays a few shifts a game so he can be avoided, and the Wayne Simmonds and Ryan Malones will just decline to fight him when invited. He’s as useless a player as there is.
Takes refuge in sarcasm:

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Can someone go back a few threads and dig up all the trade scenarios whereby Jarred was a component in a trade for Ryan Johansen or Kerby Rychel or Jordan Eberle (“The Oilers need defencemen!”)? Please? I really need a laugh.
Begins to question the whole 'keep him on the roster, off waivers' strategy:

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I’m beginning to wonder that same question. If he can’t return a 7th round pick, like Jim Benning said was true about Zack Kassian last spring, then you have to wonder if any other team would claim him on waivers, if they had to stash him on their 23-man roster at close to a million in cap hit.

More sarcasm, how trading John Scott absolves the Coyotes/League from playing him in the All-Star Game:

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Gary Bettman will probably goose up our lottery pick a couple of slots as a thank you for getting him out of that All-Star jam. We’ll draft right behind the Bruins and Flyers, probably.

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“Memo To:” segment of TSN 1040 Vancouver
John Scott: See, I told you it was too good to be true. Signed, Rory Fitzpatrick.
John Scott: If you want to go to the All-Star Game, go. Who’s going to stop you? Signed, Sean Penn.
Gary Bettman: No one believes that John Scott was the pivotal piece in that trade. Signed, every fan in the world.
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Crooked, crooked, crooked…
Bob McKenzie ‏@TSNBobMcKenzie 2m2 minutes ago
John Scott was previously asked by both NHL and Arizona Coyotes to bow out of NHL All-Star Game. He refused. Trade likely takes care of that
I really hope that this isn’t true, that Marc Bergevin wouldn’t stoop to this level of deceit.
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It’s more accurate to say that fans trolled the league by voting in John Scott, the worst player they could think of, to make a point about how things are run. And the NHL couldn’t face up to it head-on, they had to go behind the curtains and move the levers.

Contemplating the catastrophe, how much was invested in Jarred:

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We traded up to get the 22nd pick too, gave up our first and second round pick for #22 and a fifth I believe.
June 25, 2010 – 1st round pick #27 (Mark Visentin) in 2010 and a 2nd round pick #57 (Oscar Lindberg) in 2010 traded to Phoenix Coyotes for a 1st round pick #22 (Jarred Tinordi) in 2010 and a 4th Round pick #114 (Mark MacMillan) in 2010
Someone floats the theory that this is about saving cap space:

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It’s a feeble objective, to waste-can a former crown jewel to save a paltry mill on the cap, pro-rated.
Disbelief, more of it:

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To all the haterz, I swear I’m not making this up:
Renaud Lavoie ‏@renlavoietva 1m1 minute ago
#canadiens recall Victor Bartley. They want to see what he can do. Told he’s a D who’s playing like Francis Bouillon. #tvasports

Some tut-tut that most of us have never even seen John Scott play, so how can we judge this trade:

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Honestly, what do we need to see to know more about this player. I saw John Scott live, and like with Derek Boogard, he’s the kind of player who stood out like a sore thumb, so far behind the play, so incredibly slow.
All we need to do is look at his record, his stats, and stand comfortably on that.

More details leaking out:

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Renaud Lavoie ‏@renlavoietva 3m3 minutes ago
John Scott won’t play in MTL at all. It’s really the Coyotes who insisted to include him in a trade. They didn’t want to pay him in the AHL.
More gnashing of teeth:

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I posted a week or two ago that if our team is going to consist of Brendan Gallagher and David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec and Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto, and have Charles Hudon and Martin Reway and Arturri Lehkonen and Daniel Audette in the system, then we need to have the Three Towers of Jarred Tinordi, Zack Kassian and Mike McCarrron to counteract that, to right the balance a little bit.
I’ve kissofdeathed two out of three of those guys already.

Hopscotching in our Stages of Grief, we now hit 'Bargaining':

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Backsies: How about Tinner and a fifth for Anthony Mantha? Did Marc Bergevin call Ken Holland? Maybe make another final, absolutely last call?
I’ll even take Tyler Biggs if the Pens want Tinner.

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5. As for what Montreal might give up: at some point, the Jarred Tinordi situation has to end. Bergevin was asking for two seconds last summer, but it’s probably less now. (…)

And, in closing:

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The silver fly in the ointment is that this makes things even worse for Gary Bettman than he might have thought it was to begin with. He goofed royally on how to handle the All-Star Game, for years on end, and this seasons got punked by knowledgeable fans who knew the mere presence of John Scott on an NHL roster is a farce.
He tried to make the mess go away, like when Marcellus Wallace sent Mr. Wolf to Jimmy’s house, but he evidently put Daddy Campbell on the job. And no one is buying it that this whole mess is on the level.
70’s is begging the positrolls to put a hopeful spin on today’s trade. I’m calling out the Bettman apologists, the guys who reliably squawk that he “grows revenue”, and challenging them to put lipstick on this Gary.