Obviously a different tone to this one than the others. I’m going to get right into it and a couple things I left out on my thoughts late Friday night. First off, thank you so much for the kind words and all the reads. You can’t really ignore how many reads your getting because as soon as the numbers are abnormal my wordpress app sends a notification that says “your stats are booming!” And it honestly made me feel guilty because as I said off the top of it, it wasn’t about getting reads/attention. It was about getting texts regarding the accident and hearing/reading rumours about what the numbers were, being worried, being terrified for the worst, and not being able to get my mind off it nor being able to put my phone down. I got done on my treadmill around 6:30 PM Friday night, and that’s exactly when I saw the tweet from Bob McKenzie, completely unaware that it was already 45 minute or more old news. I didn’t have supper until I think 9:20, because I couldn’t stop refreshing twitter, or Facebook, and couldn’t stop texting my buddies. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that I do appreciate those who took the time to read what I had to say, and the kind feedback from a few of you in particular (hope you know who you are).
One thing however that I wished I had added is that this was much more than a hockey or sports situation, this was a life situation. That could have easily been a normal Greyhound bus with passengers of all walks of life. I was writing about how it hit so close to me and I could imagine myself in the situation, but I’m sure for those who hadn’t played hockey or hadn’t played sports in general could still put themselves there and it likely hit home in a lot of different ways. Another thing I missed on which was said by numerous NHL players the following day, is that you feel completely safe on those buses. The drivers of the bus combined with the size of the bus really cut down the potential for anything serious to happen. But unfortunately as we saw this weekend and had previously seen on December 30th, 1986, as long as you’re on the road then you’ll never be 100% safe.
Can’t speak for everyone, but likely for most when I say that while Friday was rough, Saturday was MUCH worse. I’d rather have that slim bit of hope running through my mind while being terrified to find out the worst than I would be to know the worst. I couldn’t get through anything about it, and if you found me annoying on social media that day I really do apologize for all the tweets, retweets, likes, FB posts, FB shares, etc. But I just couldn’t stop. I wanted to do SOMETHING that in SOMEWAY maybe helped and honoured the memories of all the victims. And then you find out how you’re somewhat connected to so many of them or find them so relatable. Like Tyler Bieber. I felt like he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved. I never met him, but he was from Humboldt and did the play by play for the team. I attempted to be the Lloydminster version of that guy just a few years ago (thanks a lot Trevor….) Everything I could find to read on him made me A) cry…a lot. B) got me a little annoyed I wasn’t seeing his name out there enough. Who is to say if I ended up getting the gig with the Bobcats that it wouldn’t have happened to me? And maybe that’s a selfish way of looking at things, or me trying to make this about me, not my intention at all. But it runs through a persons mind.
First thing I did when I found out the news was I asked my nephews if they knew anyone on the team. Without even looking at my phone I know that Easton said “yeah, Logan Hunter”. And speaking of Easton, and Chase, they played in Whitecourt this season (that’s probably the 94th time I’ve mentioned that on here this season…), where Stephen Wack played for 28 games during the 2016 season. Both Hunter and Wack are from St. Albert, and another kid who was is Jaxon Joseph. When I was 7 years old (for whatever reason) I thought his dad was just awesome and how great it was that the Oilers found this guy (being too young to know he was the 5th overall pick of the 87 draft and a key piece to the Paul Coffey trade). For that reason, I followed Chris Joseph’s career really closely, always hoping he would find a permanent home in the league and really establish himself. Even once he was done I’ll never forget he did an interview with Craig Simpson and Jeff Marek on HNIC radio about having moved back to Edmonton and becoming a fire fighter, and how he believed Edmonton was a great place to raise a family….obviously thinking of Jaxon as he said that. Logan Boulet was from Lethbridge, as are my cousins and they knew him well. One of my cousins is the same age and I’m GUESSING would have played with him at least at some point growing up. My old coach and a guy I’ve known my whole life knew head coach Darcy Haugen. Finally, one of my brother in laws best buddies, his daughter is dating Layne Matechuk who has made it out, but is in pretty rough shape and from the sounds of it not really out of the woods just yet. And I know these aren’t direct connections, but I think you get my point here. There are so many who aren’t far removed at all from your life. I’m sure I’m far from the only one who has found this out the last few days.
It really is just a nightmare. I can’t read up on anything or anyone involved without losing my composure. And if I feel that way, and normally I’d be a little shy to admit that, but I know so many people feel that same way. I can’t imagine what the families, billets, friends, and people in the community of Humboldt are going through. And I know that is such a cliche, but I can’t come up with better words to do any of this justice. During the press conference on Saturday afternoon, SJHL commissioner Bill Chow stepped to the microphone and the first words he said was “our worst nightmare has come true”, and that was just spot on. If you ask yourself “what is the worst thing that can happen to a team?” this is likely it.
I’m adding this part in at the last second because I just came across an article about how the SJHL is suspending the season for now, which is without a doubt the right call. And I seen a quote in the article where Bill Chow said “no matter what we decide, people are going to disagree with it”. And that’s 100% right. Two things crossed my mind as to how to handle it. The first I believe is very unrealistic, but it would be for the league to get together and select a team on behalf of the Broncos made up of players and coaches from the teams who had already been eliminated from the playoffs this season and play out the season for the team. Even if you completely loaded the squad, with only two or three practices being realistic, I doubt they could defeat a Nipawin Hawks team who have been playing together all season. The other solution kind of sucks too, but perhaps you consider the series between the Broncos and the Hawks complete. It goes down in the record books as a best of five which the Hawks won three games to one, not as a forfeit. Then for the league final you play one or maybe even the first two games of the series in Humboldt, the Hawks wearing one set of Broncos jersey’s, the Estevan Bruins wearing another. The second solution is the much more likely of the scenario’s, but they are also two examples of how people are going to have a problem. The first solution is likely going to upset the Nipawin Hawks, and could upset the rest of the CJHL because what if the selected team ended up winning the series, winning the league, and advancing to the Royal Bank Cup? Obviously that’s an amazing story and the one the rest of the country is all rooting for, but that is so very not fair to the kids who have worked their asses off all season to get to this point only to have an all-star team come along and beat them. But on the other hand, the second solution is essentially a forfeit of the series for the Broncos, and while two games paying tribute to the team and the gate money it could provide to the victims would be ok, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. What an awful position the league is in with this. I’m sure they’d love to do something along the lines of the first suggestion, but you have rules you have to follow, you have teams you still have to be fair to.
There is so no way to transition this piece, and I probably should do two pieces today but I don’t want to promote blog after blog, so it’s just one. The NHL playoffs are upon us.
Hot Take….which ironically is rare in these “hot take” pieces I do….the Kings are going to roll Vegas. Roll as in I wouldn’t be anything shocked at a Kings sweep, I believe five games is very possible, and don’t see it going further than six. I’ve said it pretty much all season and I’m sticking to it. I don’t think the Golden Knights are going to have another gear, and I believe in a seven game series with a chance to truly game plan for them that they are going to get picked apart. William Karlsson gets to see Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar every night. Marc-Andre Fleury has had his demons come playoff time, where Jonathan Quick was been incredible at times.
I’ll go into all of it more in depth tomorrow or Wednesday morning when I do my playoff preview piece, but as for the rest I like the Ducks to take out the Sharks. The Preds just may beat the Avs in two…but more likely the Avs take it to a fourth game. If that ends up being the case, that is still such a terrific season for the Avs considering where they were entering the season. Now with no Ryan Suter, I don’t see the Wild giving the Jets much problem either, so I’m expecting the Preds and Jets, and I’m expecting a classic. I’m probably going to take the Jets, so we’ll have Jets and Ducks in the West final and from that point I really don’t know where I’ll go.
In the East, Columbus is taking out Washington, and the Pens will knock off Philly but Philly is going to play them TOUGH I believe, as they always do. Probably going to call that one to go seven. I actually believe there is serious potential for the Devils to upset the Lightning. I don’t know if I want to make that call just yet, but the Devils struggled to get in the playoffs and are playing with house money. Hall is red hot, Schneider is the type of goalie who can steal a series, and they can match the Lightning’s biggest strength which is their speed. Add to this, the Lightning are limping into the playoffs. Who knows how healthy Stamkos is going to be, and Vasilevskiy seemingly ran out of gas in the last quarter of the season. Finally the Leafs and Bruins, my initial reaction is Bruins in six or seven. But remember, the Leafs coming into this season had owned the Bruins, and still handled them well throughout the season. It has the makings to be the best first round series. I think Boston takes it due to more size, more experience, all the while having enough team speed to skate with the Leafs. But last season the Leafs grit was never really tested in the playoffs against a Washington team which is big, but tries to finesse you into submission. The Bruins will test their grit, and while I’m making it sound like a negative, it is just simply an unknown. Maybe the Leafs will thrive off it? It’s going to be a very interesting series.
As for a Cup pick? I’m still not sure of that either. The obvious one for many I believe is Nashville vs Boston or Pittsburgh. I don’t know what I’m going to call, but I will say that in the West (assuming good health) I believe only Nashville, Winnipeg and Anaheim can win, and in the East Boston, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Columbus are the only squads I have faith in. Which probably means that we are headed for a Vegas vs Philadelphia Stanley Cup final.
Finally, the Hart race. This is all I’m going to say on it is that while I agree that if you’re a Hart trophy winner that your team should make the playoffs, if we ever come up with a WAR stat like they have in baseball which shows which players are most valuable to their teams, we are going to look like complete morons for not giving the award hands down to Connor McDavid this season. If your team is going to the playoffs and you can have a draft of not just non playoff players but any players to draft for your team, just for these playoffs, probably 70-80% of you are taking Connor McDavid. If he switches spots with MacKinnon, Hall, Giroux or Kopitar, is he the MVP? Yes, yes he would be. Hands down. He’d likely have 120-130 points if he played on the Avs, Devils, Flyers or Kings. The media gets stupid and FAR too technical with this shit. When people way back when called the award for the best player “the most valuable player”, they were likely just looking for a classy way to say best player. Over the years you’ve have more and more guys in the media looking to dissect the word “valuable” and there for it became the end all be all, not just for the Hart trophy, but for any MVP award in sports. It’s ridiculous to me when I think about it. Nobody in their right mind would want MacKinnon, Hall, Giroux or Kopitar for a game tomorrow over McDavid. Why? Why wouldn’t you want the most “valuable” player instead of McDavid? Because McDavid is the best. He’s the most “valuable” player in the league. And I’m not just criticizing anyone who votes against McDavid, I’d probably have MacKinnon and Kopitar ahead of him too! I’d probably have McDavid third. I’m guessing the final three will be MacKinnon, Hall, and Giroux. But it is stupid when you break it down like this and really think about it. He plays on a very shitty team with a very horribly run organization. He has zero control over that. Let’s quit pretending that one player in hockey can have that kind of impact on an entire organization. A goaltender, maybe. But not a skater.
The reality is though that the media always pushes the whole “valuable” thing not because they believe it. They push it because it then gives them an out to vote for the best story. So you see a guy like Steve Simmons last week go on Twitter and say “What more does Taylor Hall have to do to win the Hart?” or something to that affect. Well, he’s not any more productive than MacKinnon, and I easily made the case for Kopitar in response to him, but Simmons, whether it’s intentionally or subconsciously, wants Hall to win because it’s the best story. Tossed away by the Oilers for next to nothing, only to comeback with a horrible Devils team and carry them on his back to the playoffs. It’s a great story. That’s why Kopitar has got next to no love for the award. His point totals are there, his 200 foot game is worthy of the Selke, he’s carried the Kings back to the playoffs, yet hardly a whisper. It really has become absolutely RIDICULOUS not just in hockey, but in sports as a whole how we view the “MVP” awards. LeBron should win it year in and year out in the NBA. Mike Trout should be on an incredible streak of wins in MLB. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady should be the only debate in the NFL the last few seasons. And while last year all was right in the league as McDavid and Crosby battled it out, this year it really should be McDavid’s award yet again. I’m ok with him not winning it, but more logic and less bias really does need to be shown when it comes to the award in the future.
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