Your Stanley Cup Champion Chicago BlackHawks: Where We Were Right And Wrong, and What the Future Holds
Back in March, fellow SportsBlogMovement member Ryan Meehan and I did a Blast-Cast about the Chicago BlackHawks in which the premise was the team which wins the President’s Cup (the team with the best regular season record) rarely wins the Stanley Cup.
Yeah, about that…
That’s the big difference between us and the turd flumes at ESPN. We will actually admit when we gagged on a prediction harder than Jenna Jameson at her first audition.
At the time, Chicago looked like a lock to win the President’s Cup, which they did. But they also took Lord Stanley’s Cup, which we were betting against. So, while Meehan and I are trying to make this month’s house payment pulling double-duty at the plasma center when we aren’t trolling roadsides for recyclable cans, take a look at what we got right, and more importantly, what we got wrong.
What We Got Right:
1) “If the BlackHawks make the Stanley Cup Final, they are going to win, because nobody in the east is really that good.”
What you have to remember is that at the time we did the Blast-Cast back in March, The BlackHawks were leaving the Western Conference in their wake, and the Eastern Conference Standings looked like this:
- New Jersey
Boston wasn’t on anybody’s radar until goalie Tuukka Rask got hotter than Al Roker’s underarm fat in a Greek fisherman’s sweater. Anybody who thought Carolina or Montreal would go deep in this tournament probably had visible spots where their electro-shock patches were attached. This meant the Penguins band wagon was getting more riders than a rush-hour ox in Calcutta. That band wagon got more overloaded than Kim Kardashian’s maternity ass-lifter panties once Pittsburgh acquired Jarome Iginla.
The Penguins then went 15-0 in March, storming to the top of the Eastern heap, and for a time looked like they might wrest the President’s Cup out of Chicago’s clutch. In the playoffs, Pittsburgh struggled with the Islanders and the Senators, then quickly adjourned the Senators. But in the Conference Finals, the Pens got Tuukka-ed.
Really, what Boston accomplished in the post-season was to win $50 off Penn and Teller, who dared the Bruins they couldn’t create the illusion of Toronto as a real play-off team. Then, by getting John Tortorella fired by the Rangers, the Bruins allowed him to get a better job.
To be honest, the Bruins played well against Chicago, especially in the first three games. But then came the last two minutes of Game 6, when their defense disappeared faster than Aaron Hernandez’ alibi.
2) Why The Wild Couldn’t Beat Them
We never trusted the Wild, but especially not a Wild team with such a lackluster offense that it couldn’t score in a women’s prison if it had a fist full of keys. Minnesota also didn’t have a defense good enough to carry that lack of offense, and couldn’t win on the road.
3) Why The Red Wings Couldn’t Beat Them
This one is all Meehan, because he was the only person outside of Detroit who thought the Wings could even make the play-offs, let alone win a series and take the BlackHawks to 7 games. I think he guessed this right because he secretly liked all those old commie bastard Red Wings of the 90s.
4) Why the Kings Couldn’t Beat Them
The fact the Kings made it to the Conference Finals is a minor miracle, considering they had the scoring capacity of an Amish mouth-breather at the Playboy mansion. We knew that lack of offense would be deadlier to the Kings than Henry VII was to his wives.
What We Got Wrong:
1) The Los Angeles Kings
The earlier comments about the Kings should make it pretty obvious we gave the Kings as much chance to advance in the playoffs as a Christian Scientist with a severed artery. As a Kings fan, saying that pained me as much as dropping my balls into a deep-fryer, and being wrong about it felt as dipping them in ice cream afterward…not that I’ve tried that, mind you. However, we still missed on the Kings’ keying off Jonathan Quick to beat Chicago, which also meant the Kings never found an answer to their scoring problems, which made us more wrong about them than the dipshits who changed Coke and the “Cold Fusion” eggheads combined.
2) The Anaheim Ducks
Here’s a team we both thought was going to roll through the Western Conference playoffs like the Red Army rolled through Prague in 1968. The Ducks have one of thickest rosters in hockey, with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and of course veteran winger Teemu Selanne, even though he is older than the Peter, Paul, and Mary special PBS uses when they are conning aging hippies into buying a coffee mug for $150 by calling it a “donation” to the only TV channel that gets $12 bazillion in taxpayer money.
Let’s face it. If you like Peter, Paul, And Mary, and you’ve read this far, you are an anomaly, or you have a blogger-level drinking problem. In other words, even if you don’t follow hockey, you more than likely saw winning Anaheim scores on the ESPN score crawl while you were channel-surfing away from the commercials PBS “doesn’t have,” or while you were rolling another “Puff, The Magic Dragon.”
If you follow hockey, then you know why we thought for sure Anaheim would be the team from the West competing for the Stanley Cup; at times they were first in power play percentage, third in goals per game, and swept the regular season series with Chicago.
In other words, buying into the Ducks was a “How fucking much did I spend on for a PBS tote bag?” level mistake.
3) The BlackHawks Themselves
It’s a legitimate criticism to say a team is vulnerable to beating itself. It was easy to fall in love with the likes of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the star power that shines so bright it hides the ugly facts we thought would keep the BlackHawks from getting out of the West.
The Chicago penalty kill was shakier than Lindsay Lohan on day three at the rehab center, the goaltending had stretches where it was more suspect O.J. Simpson in a slow-moving Bronco, and I kept worrying that the injury bug was going to bite them harder than a hooker with a poorly-repressed gag reflex.
I thought it was a safe bet that one of those things would be the BlackHawks downfall, and while those things certainly reared their ugly heads, they never rose to the heights needed to take this team out of a series.
Where This Leaves Us:
Don’t look now, but not only are the BlackHawks good now, they could be very good for a while. If there’s a team in American professional sports that has the best chance to achieve the “dynasty” status we love to toss about, it sure as shit isn’t LeBron and the South Beach Douchebags. It is the BlackHawks.
This championship, Chicagos’s second in the last four seasons, could very well be the bellweather of a new era. After the last Cup victory in 2010, the salary cap demons forced a “Willie Nelson meets the IRS” style sell-off of that team.
But this time around, Chicago has a far more manageable salary cap situation, which offers the possibility of a future glowing brighter than a firefighter at Chernobyl. Like I said before, the BlackHawks have arguably the best core of talent in the NHL, they have a deep and versatile roster, and a first-rate coaching staff. I’m still not sold on the goaltending situation, but Chicago clearly has a renewed emphasis on team defense, and when you add it all up, the sub-total is that this team appears shows all the signs of being a factor in the NHL for a period of time almost as long as the time people will question your sexual preference if you buy a Prius.
If you doubt that, consider the off-ice factors. the BlackHawks have proven they can scout talent, draft talent, and develop talent better than this commercial can give you the wrong idea.
Not only does the current Chicago club exemplify that, but the pipeline of talent (which includes 2013 Hobey Baker winner Drew LeBlanc) is fuller than Louie Anderson at a Brazilian steakhouse. On top of that, Chicago has become as desirable an address for free-agents as Argentina was in 1946 for goose-stepping guys named Dieter. This was a major factor in Chicago’s landing the highly sought-after Finnish goalie Antti Raanta, which backs up my theory that the BlackHawks are as confident as I am in their goaltending situation. I trust the current Chicago goalies about as much as I would count on a dentist who sells miniature ivory statues.
Boil it all down to gravy, and what you get that the color of dominance in the NHL used to be red worn by a bunch of ex-commies in Detroit. Now it may very well be red worn by a bunch of Canadians in Chicago.
Dr. Jerry Buss, the long-time owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, died this morning at the age of 79. Many people know Buss from his days as the owner of one of the premier sports franchise ion the planet, but those same people never realized what a fascinating guy Buss was.
Gerald Hatten “Jerry” Buss was born on January 27, 1934 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A Depression-era baby, his parents were divorced in his very early childhood. After that, his mother struggled to raise Jerry working as waitress in Evanston, Wyoming; Buss would often tell tales of standing in food lines in the bitter Wyoming cold.
Buss was an intelligent child, and he eventually earned a earned a science scholarship to the University of Wyoming. He majored in chemistry and graduated in 1955 with a B.S. degree after only two and a half years. While at the University of Wyoming, Buss met and married JoAnn Mueller, and they would eventually have four children: John, Jim, Jeanie, and Janie.
After graduating, Buss moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in graduate school at USC, where he earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in physical chemistry by age 24. Buss’ post-academia life began with him as a chemist for the Bureau of Mines. There were several stops along the way to his eventual success; he briefly worked in the aerospace industry, and spent some time on the faculty of USC’s chemistry department.
Buss eventually became a self-made multi-millionaire; his first step in what eventually became a real estate empire came in the 1960s when he purchased a West Los Angeles apartment building for $1,000, after which he and his wife renovated it themselves. By following this model, Buss grew a real estate juggernaut by investing in residential properties, hotels, and office buildings.
Once Buss had amassed a fortune, he became what is known today as a venture capitalist began investing in larger and larger projects. This lead to his involvement in professional sports.
Buss’ first foray into sports ownership came when he purchased the Los Angeles Strings of the World Team Tennis league. Buss came the the “big stage” in sports in 1979 when he purchased the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Lakers, The Forum (the building both team played in), and a 13,000-acre ranch in Central California from Washington Redskins’ owner Jack Kent Cooke for $67 million dollars. Buss eventually sold the Kings and the Forum, but the Lakers are estimated today to be worth somewhere around $900 million.
What gets lost in the talk of all that money is that Jerry Buss really was a savior of the NBA. Without him, it was quite conceivable the NBA was going to die a slow, lingering death. It is hard to imagine in the wake of the popular NBA All-Star weekend that in the late 1970’s, the NBA was the red-headed step-child of professional sports and several of it’s franchises were on the verge of bankruptcy.
But Buss saw an opportunity to make the NBA a great league. By building the “Showtime” Lakers around the league’ s biggest star at the time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Buss paved the way for the NBA’s rise in the 1980’s from obscurity to arguably it’s peak of popularity.
NBA commissioner David Stern probably said it best.
“Jerry Buss helped set the league on the course it is on today. Remember, he showed us it was about ‘Showtime,’ the notion that an arena can become the focal point for not just basketball, but entertainment. He made it the place to see and be seen.” This is why Jerry Buss was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Every current NBA player, coach, and owner owes a debt of gratitude of Jerry Buss. Not only did he save the NBA, he helped shape it into what it is today.
While this is a sad day for the basketball world in terms of what it has just lost, we must never forget all the great things which were given to not just basketball fans, but the sports world in general by Dr. Jerry Buss.
Every January since this blog was created, we here at Dubsism have given an award for achievements during the previous year in some under-recognized categories in the world of sports. In prior years, the nominations for the awards were done exclusively by an internal committee. This was the first year we allowed nominations from the general public.
Between our committee and our valued readers, we had more quality nominations than we could ever possibly use. Thank you so much for that. When we received an outstanding nomination that proved to be a winner, we made sure to recognize those who submitted it. However, we did also receive nominations on multiple ballots that proved to be winners. If you see a winner that you nominated, and you weren’t credited, just know that you weren’t the only one who had the same idea.
With that, and after careful consideration, here are the winners of the 2012 Dubsy awards.
Although you would be hard-pressed to prove this by me, the following sentence does illustrate that hockey fever may indeed be gripping Los Angeles. Dodgers President Stan Kasten said he would like the Los Angeles Kings to host an NHL Winter Classic game at Dodger Stadium. It’s not like Kasten has no idea of the dynamics of hockey, after all he is the former president of the NHL Atlanta Thrashers. But in this case, he’s clearly gone batshit crazy.
I’ll cut to the chase. This is a terrible idea for three reasons.
1) The Weather
The NHL has yet to award its New Year’s Day showcase to a warm-weather city. Kasten believes Dodger Stadium can handle the event from a facility stand-point, and in terms of the temperatures, he could very well be right. Twenty years ago, the Kings played an outdoor exhibition game in Las Vegas., and with some technological hocus-pocus, the ice remained playable despite a game-time temperature of 85 degrees.
It’s rain that is the problem. Look at the problems they had with the Winter Classic last year in Philadelphia. It was the rain that delayed the game, medded up the ice and generally played hell with the game. It just so happens that January is the rainy season in southern California.
2) The Stadium
While it is true Dodger Stadium is the largest in baseball, that is also the problem. Previously, this has been done in small ball parks, such as Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia or Fenway Park in Boston. Depending on where they put a rink in Dodger Stadium, there won’t be very many seats closer than 40 yards to the ice.
3) Nobody Cares About Hockey in Los Angeles
Even with the current band-wagon being towed by the Kings run to the Stanley Cup Finals, even though Southern California boasts two NHL franchises, niether of them are in the top half of the league in terms of attendance. To be even more honest, hockey isn’t a terribly popular sport in the majority of America anyway. To be brutally honest, the Winter Classic has outlived it’s novelty factor.
Last year, the Winter Classic posted a paltry 2.4 TV rating, and that was with the fact the usual glut of college football on New Year’s Day had been moved back a day to let the NFL have that Sunday for its final regular season games. However, the Winter Classic was also moved back so as not to compete with the NFL. The NHL was smart enough to not go head-to-head with the NFL, but they can’t even beat college football in the ratings.
The following bowls had higher ratings than the NHL’s event — the ones in bold would’ve been played on New Year’s Day in any other year:
- BCS Championship, LSU vs. Alabama: 14.01
- Rose, Wisconsin vs. Oregon: 10.17
- Fiesta, Stanford vs. Oklahoma State: 9.6
- Sugar, Michigan vs. Virginia Tech: 6.07
- Outback, Georgia vs. Michigan State: 5.14
- Cotton, Arkansas vs. Kansas State: 4.95
- Orange, Clemson vs. West Virginia: 4.56
- Alamo, Washington vs. Baylor: 4.41
- Chick-fil-A, Auburn vs. Virginia: 3.6
- Champs Sports, Notre Dame vs. Florida State: 3.28
- Insight, Iowa vs. Oklahoma: 3.0
- Capital One, Nebraska vs. South Carolina: 2.86
- Sun, Georgia Tech vs. Utah: 2.71
- Holiday, Texas vs. Cal: 2.69
- Meineke Car Care, Texas A&M vs. Northwestern: 2.69
- Music City, Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest, 2.66
Nobody watches the Music City Bowl, and statistically, even less are watching the Winter Classic. Nobody cares about hockey in Los Angeles. Nobody cares about outdoor hockey, and the fact that Stan Karsten can’t wait to get on an empty band-wagon suggests he’s lost his mind.
I grew up watching the Los Angeles Kings.
I’m old enough to remember those purple and gold uniforms with the giant crown which was more reminiscent of Imperial Margarine than a hockey team. I’m old enough to remember when the Kings were essentially an NHL after-thought, when their line-up consisted of Hall-of-Famer Marcel Dionne and little else; his supporting cast was a collection of the likes of Butch Goring, Steve Jensen, and Mario Lessard.
Obviously, that also means I’m old enough to watch the transition of this franchise which occurred once Wayne Gretzky hit town. In the B.G. (Before Gretzky) era, the Kings would play in front crowds consisting of about 2,000 Canadian expatriates, almost as if the Forum was Southern California’s own “Bob and Doug McKenzie” farm.
Then in the D.G. (During Gretzky) era, Kings games took on a distinctly “Hollywood” feel, the seats near the glass filled with assorted celebrities almost as if we were doing a ice-bound impersonation of a Lakers game. They changed the crowd, they changed the uniforms, and they changed the results. It was during this era the Kings made their only previous Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Then came the A.G. (After Gretzky) era. Until now, the only way to tell the difference between the B.G. era and the A.G. era was the uniforms. If you were watching a team with limited talent and a dismal play-off performance and they were wearing purple and gold, that was the B.G. era Kings. If you were watching a team with limited talent and a dismal play-off performance and they were wearing black, that was the A.G. era.
That was until a few days ago, when something happened that hasn’t happened since the During Gretzky era. Nineteen years after making their first appearance in a Stanley Cup Final, the Kings secured a return trip with their capture of the Western Conference Final.
Even upon entering the playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings garnered little respect. They came in as a #8 seed, but popular opinion had them being swept aside by the President’s trophy winner Vancouver Canucks. The Kings took that series 4-1. Then, many people thought the Kings couldn’t outpace the 109-point powerhouse known as the St. Louis Blues. The Kings swept that series.
After those two series victories, the Kings finally started getting some respect. Now, to be honest, there were a few voices out there who were extolling the virtues of the Los Angeles Kings coming into the playoffs, most notably Bruce Boudreau, Barry Melrose, and Dan Patrick. But now that the Kings have made it to the Stanley Cup Final, I thought it was time for an old Kings fan to offer a primer for the hoard of bandwagons fans who are bound to jump on board. That way, you can be just like Dan Patrick and call this team “Your Los Angeles Kings.”
Your Los Angeles Kings – The Summary:
The following observation of the Kings was penned by Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom.
“The Kings are big and fast. They can score and defend. They devour loose pucks in the middle of the ice and destroy opponents along the boards. They will play any style of game you want — wide-open or defensively obsessed — and they will beat you at it, especially in your barn. They have won an NHL record 10 straight playoff road games.”
But they weren’t always that way. Rosenbloom also points out that after Darryl Sutter was hired as the King’s head coach in December, Los Angeles posted a 25-13-11 record. They were only a #8 because they were a 15-14-4 team prior to Sutter’s arrival.
Your Los Angeles Kings – The Vital Statistics:
- Previous Stanley Cup Final appearances: 1 (Lost in five games in 1993 to the Montreal Canadiens. By the way, this was the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup)
- 2012 regular season record: 40-27-15 (3rd place Pacific Division)
- 2012 post-season record: 12-2
- Goals per-game (regular season): 2.29 (29th in NHL)
- Goals per-game (post-season): 2.93 (3rd in NHL)
- Goals against (regular season): 2.07 (2nd in NHL)
- Goals against (post-season): 1.57 (1st in NHL)
Your Los Angeles Kings – The Long Road To The Stanley Cup Final:
This team was a playoff qualifier in the previous two seasons, and ironically they posted better records in those seasons as well; going 46-27-9 in 2009-2010 and 46-30-6 in 2010-2011. But they couldn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs. At the beginning of this season, when it appeared then-head coach Terry Murray had this team regressing based on its slow start, he was fired and after a four game interim stint behind the Kings bench by John Stevens, Darryl Sutter took over the reins.
The Kings responded to this change; winning four of their first six, but after that they reverted back to the form of a .500 team. Murray had been fired for underperforming with a team that had been years in the making to be a playoff contender. Nine players on the Kings season-ending roster were first-round draft picks, and another four were second-rounders.
Kings’ captain Dustin Brown was selected with the 13th overall pick in 2003. To true puckheads, the 2003 draft may very be considered the best draft class of all time, considering it has produced such talent as Eric Staal, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise (who will be facing Your Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final), Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. In addition to Brown, the construction of Kings also included high draft picks such as Drew Doughty (2nd pick overall in 2008) and Anze Kopitar (11th overall pick in 2005). Brayden Schenn was the fifth overall selection in the 2009 draft, but he was part of a trade to acquire Mike Richards (24th overall pick in the 2003 draft) from Philadelphia.
But Your Los Angeles Kings were not built on the draft alone. They signed unrestricted free agent Willie Mitchell in 2010, and the 35-year-old defenseman has been averaging 25 minutes, 27 seconds of ice time in the playoffs second only, ranking behind only Drew Doughty. Dustin Penner was acquired in a trade with Edmonton last year.
But the trade that proved to be the turning point for Your Los Angeles Kings was the February deal which sent Jack Johnson to Columbus for three-time 30-goal scorer Jeff Carter (11th overall pick in the 2003 draft). Not only did Carter give Your Los Angeles Kings three players from the talent-stocked 2003 draft, it gave them that “one missing piece.” All of a sudden, not only could the Kings shut you down defensively, now they could outskate you on the offensive end as well. This is why Your Los Angeles Kings went 12-5-3 after putting a crown on Carter’s chest.
That eighteen-game run got Your Los Angeles Kings into the playoffs, but the reason they are the first #8 to beat the #1 and #2 two conference seeds in the playoffs and why the Kings have become only the eighth team since 1980 to win 12 of their first 14 playoff games comes in one word…goaltending.
Even though Jonathan Quick was picked in the third round of the 2005 draft (72nd overall), he has been a bigger factor in this playoff run than any of the “big three” from the 2003 draft. Quick is the playoff leader in goals-against average (1.54), in save-percentage (.946), which is why he is 12-2 with two shutouts in the post-season. On top of that, Quick has a .928 save-percentage while short-handed, he is clutch late in games as he has only allowed four goals in the third period in 14 playoff games, and while the Kings have yet to be taken into overtime in the post-season Quick has yet to lose an overtime game this season. To duplicate his performance, just spray-paint “32” on a sheet of plywood and nail it into the goal.
Your Los Angeles Kings: A New Era?
I’ve already mentioned the three eras in the history of the Los Angeles Kings; Before Gretzky, During Gretzky, and After Gretzky. But if the Kings bring Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Southern California, this very easily could become “Your” era for the Kings. This team has all the talent to win, and to emerge from the shadows of the Los Angeles sports world, that’s exactly what they need to do. Even beyond Southern California, this team deserves far more attention than it is getting, but America is a country that loves a winner.
Remember a decade ago when the New England Patriots rose from nowhere in the sports world to become a dynasty? While the Kings are far from a dynasty, their rise to their first shot at a championship is very similar to that of Patriots. The pieces have been being assembled for a while, then one day, it all came together. It’s one thing if you just aren’t a hockey fan, but if you have even a passing interest, be sure to watch the Stanley Cup Finals and discover why this could be “Your” era for you and the Los Angeles Kings.