Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elvis Grbac & playing goal in Portland

Elvis Grbac sucks.

I lived in Kansas City when I learned to love the NFL, after moving there in 1999.  Elvis was the quarterback for the Chiefs at that time.  His story is fascinating - being the child of Croatian immigrants.  During his time in KC he lived in a neighborhood with a strong Slavic history.

He was part of a long line of 49'ers backups to play for Kansas City (Bono, Montana, & Alex Smith).   Elvis wasn't all that popular in KC.  They went through a period of quaterback controversy where they had to decide between Grbac and Rich Gannon.  They stuck with Elvis, with little success.  Gannon went on to lead the Raiders to their last few winning seasons including a Super Bowl appearance. 

Grbac was our guy, and I was backing him.  Everywhere you went in that town, someone was on him, "Elvis sucks.....shoulda went with the other guy....."  Didn't really matter, did it?  The Chiefs went with Grbac regardless of what you heard at dinner or over beers.  Sure, he sucked but he was the starter.  He was my guy.

Where this ties into Junior Hockey is this:  there are no shortage of Portland fans who are all over Brendan Burke right now.

Doesn't matter.  He's my guy.  He's struggled, sure.  Could have stopped a few more pucks so far this season.  There's been no shortage of defensive breakdowns, but does every screened shot have to go in?  Deflections from the slot?  Breakaways?  I'd argue the majority of goals against have been plays like these - extremely  difficult on a goaltender - yet plays that do occur in the course of a season.

It seems like I have to bring this up daily, but Team USA feels that Burke is among the top 4 US born goalies with junior eligibility this season.  If your average Winterhawks fan understands the game better than those in charge of building this country's World Junior team, then as Americans we're in trouble come Christmas time.

Allow me to make the same point about the Arizona Coyotes & their belief in Burke - its pretty damn hard to make main camp for an NHL team.  I see over and over again about how they only gave him a shot because his dad works for the team - because that's what folks do: risk throwing away a 24+ year NHL career as a favor to your kid.  Happens all the time.

So yeah, the dude who sits next to you at the games who "wants to see more of Adin Hill" knows the game better than a guy who played goal in 800+ NHL games.  Checks out.

Of course Adin Hill might turn out to be really good, but right now he's an 18 year old goalie with 8 career WHL games.

This is nothing new about this phenomenon amongst Winterhawks fans.  Remember when we fell in love with Cam Lanigan?  He had a good 3 games, in front of a good team, and we thought he was a rookie Ken Dryden.  We were expecting back a guy with 114 wins in the WHL, but this guy HAD to be better: I mean, did you SEE how well Lanigan played in those 3 games?

Speaking of the WHL's playoff winningest goalie of all time, all I heard for 4 years was how he was a bum.  This team won in spite of him, rather than because of his contributions.  Hell, one time I thought I was gonna end up in a fist fight with this asshole who made up a fake twitter for strict purposes of heckling Carruth.  I figured he was just talking shit on the internet and that was it.  Gave him my seat number & told him to swing by.  He did, although he was a game late.  Turns out he was not actually a hockey fan but just wanted to cameraphone a confrontation for youtube for some reason.  I fell right into his trap, before he tried to get at Carruth on the way off the ice after the second period.  Mac wasn't even playing that game.  It was a day game in the Glass Palace, if your wondering.

I suppose that story really drives home the point of backing our guy, doesn't it?

If Brendan Burke goes on to have success in hockey beyond the WHL I'm going to be temped to retweet every win, every award, every positive development in his career.   Shouldn't be much work, since he is terrible and all.

Elvis Grbac?  He sucks.  I'd love to see him in person to tell him so much.  Once we got rid of him in KC I got real busy making up for lost time throwing him under the bus.  When Elvis went to Baltimore - following a Super Bowl win - he said, "This is a great team. I can make it better."  He did, when he left after one year.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fighting, 2014, and what it means to you

In the last week we saw this play:

as well as this one:

It's probably just a coincidence that we saw both incidences 6 days apart, but its worth noting that Portland isn't really icing a "heavyweight" or a "goon" at the moment.  I'm making the argument that those things are related.

The game, like most aspects of our society continues to evolve.  The arc of the Moral Universe Is long, but It bends toward Justice - which applies to hockey as well.  There are some who feel that fighting has ran its course, and shouldn't have a place in the game - and these voices often know what its like when the shoe is on the other foot.

I get the argument that fighting is barbaric.  Concussions are a huge issue in hockey, and need to be dealt with.  Fighting results in less than 10% of the concussions in the game, so even if you eliminated it you'd still have the other 90% to deal with.  There is an argument that having a deterrent on the bench prevents even more concussions, which I believe history has proven.

When Gretzky was traded to L.A., he insisted that he bring his enforcer with him. Arguably the best player the game has ever known couldn't do it without protection.

The decade prior was marked by a team known as the "Broad Street Bullies" - who simply muscled their way to back-to-back Stanley Cups.

In the WHL, the 70's were known for rough stuff - primarily from the New Westminster Bruins.  I've heard stories about the New West players stealing all the pucks in warmups, planting them in their own end, and challenging the other players to come and get them.  They won the Memorial Cup in 1978 & 1979.  It was an effective strategy. I can only hope that there's video of Portland's part in this dance.

Organized hockey emerged in the 1880's, and it's been rough since the beginning:

  Early hockey, however, was also plagued by excessive violence. In two cases, one in 1905 and another in 1907, hockey players were put on trial after blows that killed other hockey players. Both times the players were found innocent, but the press and many in the country (including the juries) called on legislation to be enacted that would curb the violence.
To come back to modern(ish) times, the Bertuzzi incident comes to mind.   Full disclosure:  I am an Avalanche fan.  If you're not familiar with "the code" - you probably should be, and there's a chapter in this book about this incident.  What went down was a series of events starting with Steve Moore laying a borderline check on Canucks' captain Markus Naslund:

Say what you want to about this hit, but the Canucks weren't having it.

Threats were made. “There’s definitely a bounty on his head,” Canucks winger Brad May said, as quoted by The Vancouver Sun. “It’s going to be fun when we get him.”
The next game between the two teams was in Denver, and it quietly ended in a tie.  After that was a matchup in Vancouver:

The "code" says that it should be over, Moore answered the bell.  He fought one of Vancouver's tough guys.  Cooke had the opportunity to exact revenge.  A pound of flesh.  But it wasn't over:

I was watching that game.  I somewhat expected fireworks.  When that broke out, I was into it - I thought we would see a goalie fight, which most of us love.  Once the gravity of the situation settled in, I was sick to my stomach.  As Jim Hughston said in the above clip, "The score settling has gone to far"

The aftermath resulted in one NHL career ended, and another suspended for 20 games.  Everyone loses.

Why would I present the Bertuzzi incident in the context of calling for more muscle on the Portland Winterhawks?  Hockey, like the rest of life, is complicated.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 The idea of enforcers in hockey is not unlike the doctrine of Mutual Ensured Destruction: you don't take liberties with their top guys, as the other team will take cheap shots on your skilled guys.  I've heard stories where the Kypreos' of the world say that star players on their own teams tell guys to knock it off, lest the other teams goons come after them.

Its been that arms race / balance of power for about a hundred years.  We want to think we're beyond that, but we ain't there yet.  There remains a place for enforcers, and I'm of the opinion that Portland needs one, and soon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Austin Carroll elbows Alex Schoenborn in the head

We've seen some ticky-tack shit called majors against Bittner & Texeria so far this young season, each with an accompanying 1 game suspension.  The above play went unpenalized.

Good work, WHL.