Here at Clear the Crease, we believe our numberless fans look forward to this time of year like a drowning man looks forward to his lungs finally rupturing against the relentless onslaught of river water, the way a Bruins fan looks forward to next year's Toronto first-rounder. Like Kansas City waiting to get the Isles, then not renaming them. Like a Blackhead fan looking forward to the Canucks in the second round--that's how our fans look forward to this time of year, because they know our Limitless Hockey Acumen invariably gets harnessed to the the service of channeling Insights You Won't Get Anywhere Else.
Consider this a taster, a tiny introduction to the Clear the Crease Month of Season Previews. Over the month, we'll break down every player on every team in the NHL; we'll supplement that fact-flood with special analytic breakdowns on the teams we most crave and devour, the ones we wallow in and adore. Below, you will find excerpts pried angrily from our fever'd scribes. We throw them to you, the reader, like we throw babies out 'pon the frigid steppes. Please to treating them rightly!
jefcanuk on the Vancouver Canucks
The Sedins finally broke through! No longer the pedestrian point-a-game men--scarcely better than a Stastny--they'd been for some years, Henrik surged forth and deposited his pucks in every net he could find. When Daniel could bring himself to strap on the skates, he actually performed similarly to his newly-anointed HoF bro, on a point-per-game basis.
Best way to look at this team is all like The Fantastic Four. Not only do they have the amazing Sedin brothers, who are absolutely guaranteed not to revert to the mean and end up next year as point-per-game men, scarcely better than a Stastny, they have Ryan Kesler, who's practically as good as an American Gary Roberts! Except without the playoff heroics.
And the mother-krunker cuts a mean fucking rug!
I would totally get a Kesler Rules My Universe tattoo on my neck if he signed with the Avs. Just sayin.3 Just sayin that until he does that, he's history's greatest monster.]
Rounding out the Canucks' Fantastic Four is Sweet Bobby Lou--as he is universally known in Gastown's better bars. Last year, he was his usual self--exceptional three games, then abysmal the fourth. Luckily, Vancouver Genius Manager Mike Gillis has the league's best backup goaltender, meaning Luongo is absolutely positively not going to get overworked this year either.
So with four good players and an unprecedentedly enormous collection of second-pairing D-men--or anyway, the largest such collection west of Toronto--the Canucks are well equipped to run roughshod over the Northwest Division and just in general look like world-beaters.
Until they end up in the playoffs and have to play against a squad with actual number-one defensemen and some team speed and maybe a goalie with a little bit higher panic point than the Sweet Bobby Lou Cavalcade of Whimsey.
So while they may be The Fantastic Four, it's impossible to believe that they'll be going four rounds deep in the playoffs. I do suspect they'll snare exactly four road wins in the playoffs, however.
Oh yeah, and they fired their franchise goalie's goalie coach without talking to him and are gonna strip him of his captaincy and he absolutely positively won't get off to a slow start because of the disses and distractions.
Bogdan Von Pylon as the prize--Calgary Flames and Atlanta Thrashers as the combatants!
Two Awful Teams Beg for One Man's Loyalties: A Play in One Act
Calgary: You know you don't wanna root for the Thrash this year.
Atlanta: But Waddell's not doing his The Wadd shit this year! He's making shrewd moves, completely out of character. It's like Face/Off all over again.
Calgary: Shrewd moves? Like stocking up on depth forwards? Depth forwards who're overrated by virtue of a single Cup run?
Calgary: Or did you mean trading Kovalchuk for a musty puck bag?
Atlanta: Johnny Oduya is not musty. He ... does tend toward the moist, however. We are going to be a lot better this year.
Calgary: Yes, losing all your scoring and not replacing it is usually considered a sure-fire recipe for success.
Atlanta: At least we didn't identify two locker-room cancers, trade them each away for pennies on the dollar, and then bring one of them back.
Calgary: At least we have a goalie.
Atlanta: You sure do. And there's a man you can pencil in for 40 wins ... as long as you start him 75 times. When are you gonna trade Iginla and start rebuilding?
Atlanta: When are you going to get him a center?
Calgary: Also never.
Bogdan Von Pylon: May I pick a new team to follow?
YHWH: You may pick either the Dallas Stars or the
Kansas City CzarsNew York Islanders.
Bogdan Von Pylon: Fuck me.
YHWH: Just did, thanks.
Bob Macajew on the Chicago Blackhawks
Okay, sorry: I got so excited learning how easy it was to screencap Guns N' Roses videos that I crashed my computer and lost Macajew's season preview excerpt. What follows is my attempt to reconstruct same, using a blend of the memories of his work stored in my giant human brain and some text messages he sent me this summer. First the one; then the other.]
Blah blah blah bad joke bad joke defensiveness ill-chosen image bad joke bandwagon bliss blah panic over losing Fatty McCampsinthecrease bad joke actually claiming trading Neimi for Turco was a good and deliberate move Kool-Aid drinking blah blah hoist the Cup
I'd put a pint on Lebron [sic] wearin #6 for Chicago & I'd put 6 beers on Bears winning the NFC North this year and doing at least 2nd round, either by victory or 1st round bye.
Cubs are things that die
I don't know what team we're putting on the ice and beginning the season 0-1 is a real fear. Some sane people are saying Byfuglien may be gone in a "sell high" move [Editor's Note: fuckin' A]
& his crease presence isn't something that's easily replaced. Hossa is a much better player. No Hossa, there's still a Cup in Chicago; without Byfuglien, no Cup.4
I don't mind losing Sopel, but Buffy the Shark Slayer5 and Ben fuckin' Eager? We just went from Stanley Cup champs to the Chicago Tinkerbells.
Want Probert to un-retire6--as it stands, this team is Kleenex. Need size and toughness or Keith ain't gonna be the only one missing teeth.
The head tells me this is a smart move, but the heart is involved. Eager & Byfuglien were easy guys to root for & my favorite players next to Toews.
Sopel is also a great human being, if sometimes an absent-minded defenseman: adopted four kids after their parents died, is marching with the Cup in the Gay Pride parade.
Fuckin' A. Speaking for everybody at Clear the Crease, good on ya, Sopel. We applaud your stand and will applaud every player who stands with you on this one.]
Still not sold on the Byfuglien disappearing act post-Cup, though I've seen him disappear in the regular season.7
Chris Collision on the Colorado Avalanche
I already told you how it's gonna go for the Avs in 2010-11. But I'll save you having to click the link:
[N]ext year, the team is almost certain to revert to the mean. What does that mean? 38 wins is what that means. You know how Cody McLeod went from 15 goals to 7 over the last 2 seasons? Well, it says here that:
Odds are that David Koci will have two beatings-received-of-the-year candidates again this year, just like last year, however.
- Saint Mayor Craig Anderson isn't playing 71 games next year
- Duchene and Stewart are gonna score 15 apiece, not 20 and 28
- Stastny will continue to be the world's greatest third-line center
- Our defense will continue to look horrifyingly inept against teams that are strong, fast, or skilled, because they are, as a group, weak/small, slow, and not great at moving the puck
- David Jones will be mediocre for a full, injury-free season, instead of a world-beater for a quarter of one
- Peter Mueller will play like a Coyote instead of a number-eight draft choice.8
But at least we won't be the parade-planning second-round specialists of Vancouver, the one-good-line (well, except at center) Calgary brain surgeons, a bunch of people in Edmonton who couldn't outfight or outskate Pat Quinn even if he put his cigar down, or the forgettable scrubs in St. Paul. Or whereever they put their dozens of remaining fans to sleep 41 nights a year. (I do applaud their decision not to bore them in the playoffs anymore, however.)
The simple fact is this: it's gonna be a long, hard season for the Avs next year. If you don't think so, you're arguing not so much with me as with history and science. Damn' near every forward overachieved last year, and Andy was absolutely revelatory. Don't bet on it happening again.
I basically stand by that. Thinking now maybe not so many as 38 wins, maybe fewer than 35. Look: what I wanted last year was a likeable squad who fought hard and with dignity on their way to a nice lottery pick. What I got was a likeable squad who fought hard and with dignity on their way to a perfectly honorable first-round loss to a much better team. This year, so long as I get the L.T.W.F.W.D., I'll take what comes. That said, another lottery pick or two will do us no harm in the long run.
-Collision, holding out for that guaranteed money
1The other weekend, killing it and chilling it on the beach, I told The Best Girlfriend Ever "the Sedins're twins. they married twins. they had a twin wedding." and she actually snapped her head on around toward me and was all like "WHAT. THAT'S CREEPY."2
2When she's worked up, she speaks in all caps. I dig it. Like, a lot.