Everything Else Hockey

In a move that should surprise no one, Andrew Shaw called it a career at the age of 29 earlier this morning, in a move that sadly is probably a couple years overdue. After having suffeded his third major concussion in 4 years, the message of doctors finally sunk into that thick cocker spaniel skull of his, and it’s the right move for his long term health and for his young family.

Shaw arrived on the scene in the first half of the 2011-12 season as a Rockford callup who had put his time in as a fifth round pick, and immediately endeared himself to the large swath of meatball Hawk fans with a goal and a fight right away in Game 1. And while his cement head antics would keep him front and center and often detract from the team – he was always an overzealous offensive zone penalty waiting to happen – the fact of the matter is that he could contribute on all four lines, and was instrumental as a depth piece on two different cup runs, playing the style of playoff hockey that every team needs to get 16 wins, with his two famous OT contributions of the I Love Shinpads goal, and the headbutt goal that was disallowed. Of course, that same rambunctiousness led to suspensions for plowing into Mike Smith (which really, who hasn’t wanted to do?), and having a Heated Gaming Moment in throwing out a homophobic slur in 2016, which is truly a black mark on his and hockey’s reputation. To his credit, however, Shaw seemed to be truly regretful of using it, and sought to make amends by speaking with then-Hawks reporter and openly gay man Chris Hine as well as putting plenty of effort into the league’s You Can Play Initiative.

Shaw was traded to Montreal in the off season following the latter incident, and in return the Hawks received the pick they’d use to select Alex DeBrincat, so that was truly a case of the Hawks winning a trade, even if they did what they always do which is trade back for and/or re-sign players that have been here before. In his second stint over the past two years, Shaw has only played 40 total games over two interrupted seasons, and he’ll end his career having played 544 games with 247 points. It’s just unfortunate that the same style of face-first play that was the only way for him to make it to the league and stick here will ultimately be what ends his career before 30. But this is the right move for everyone involved, regardless of whether this is an actual retirement with paperwork submitted, or another LTIRetirement, which remains to be seen.

In other news today, according to many reputable sources such as Elliotte Friedman and Uncle Bob Mackenzie, NBC is pulling out of negotiations for the rights to the other half of the NHL’s American national TV package after ESPN rejoined the party a couple months ago. With NBC folding their national sports outlet NBCSN likely in an effort to push more people towards their subscription streaming service Peacock, and with ESPN paying what NBC did in the last contract negotiations for half the games, it likely seems like NBC did some cost/benefit analysis here and cut bait. And while Fox and its national network Fox Sports 1 were thought to be the other frontrunner involved, it appears to be Turner sports, whose NBA coverage on TNT is the industry standard for sports coverage both in their studio show and gameday production, and whose MLB coverage on TBS is lukewarm at best. There’s nothing concrete about anything yet with no official announcements being made, but it would stand to reason that plenty of NBC’s analysts are now going to be looking for new homes, and it would go a long way for Turner to endear itself to the hockey consuming public to bring on some of the youngish and diverse faces at NBC like our gorgeous boy Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter, but also by telling Regis “Pierre” McGuire to finally go do one, as there is literally no one (the audience, the players, his co-workers) who can stand his bullshit, but time will tell. Or just Ernie, Kenny, Chuck, and Shaq do the NHL show too.

Everything Else

Box Score: Game 40 | Game 41
Game Log: Game 40 | Game 41
Natural Stat Trick: Game 40 | Game 41

The Hawks certainly showed them last night. It always astounds me how this team can always be counted on to do the exact bare minimum necessary to kind of stay in the playoff race. Now things are a bit more difficult for them as their loss last night put the Hawks at a .500 record, 4 points behind 4th-place Nashville, who can’t stop winning, and only 3 points ahead of Dallas, with Dallas having three games in hand.

I’ve had about enough and I honestly don’t have a lot of hope left for the playoffs. We keep seeing the same issues over and over not being addressed. Here they are, some of them for the umpteenth time, in bullet form, with some good things mixed in there too.

  • At least Kirby Dach looks back in business, with three points in five games. He looks great playing with Kane. His first goal on Tuesday was called off for offside, but he set up Kane for the first real goal of the game to give Kane a nice breakaway chance. He also had another goal of his own halfway through the first. If you had told me he was still having pain in his wrist I wouldn’t believe you.
  • Vinnie Hinostroza reminded Hawks fans that he exists with a great pass to assist Kubalik on the 2nd goal on Tuesday. He also passed it right to Kubalik for the Hawks’ lone goal last night. The two seem to play well with each other so let’s see more of this.
  • Nikita Zadorov is solely responsible for a solid 11% of the team’s total penalty minutes. He leads the entire team with 31 minutes and has nearly double what the second-most guy has. The Hawks have been getting better of staying out of the box except for this clown. He also sucks on the ice at defense when it really matters, being solely responsible for Dallas’s second goal last night by once again passing the puck right to a Dallas Star to set up the scoring chance instead of dumping it out. Why do people like this guy so much? If they re-sign this doofus I’m really going to lose my mind.
  • I did just mention the Hawks were getting better at staying out of the box, but last night’s game they gave the Stars three powerplay opportunities, the most they’ve given an opponent since March 25 against the Panthers. The Stars were able to capitalize twice on their powerplay opportunities also, which was obviously pivotal for the Stars’ win. The Hawks need to stay out of the box, especially when you’re 30th in the league with your penalty kill.
  • The Hawks’ powerplay has also gone cold, with 1 goal in the last 20 powerplay opportunities; 1 goal in 7 games. We are 21st in the league with even-strength goals, so our powerplay cannot be sputtering the way it is now.
  • I’m not sure why the Hawks get domed possession-wise when they win and are winning the possession metrics when they lose. It doesn’t make any sense at all. HOCKEY.
  • Congrats on the Cat for 20 goals. Here’s to 20 more, we’ll need them.

Since the last writing, the Hawks traded away two Lucases – Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark – to the Panthers for Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, Henrik Borgstrom and a 7th-round pick, cementing the Blackhawks as the team to offload all your cap issues to because we have the space.

Connolly only has 4 points on the season but had 33 points last season and a career-high 46 points the season before. He also won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals. Riley Stillman is not a points-getting defenseman, but Bowman says he is AGGRESSIVE and COMPETITIVE, so take that with whatever grain of salt you’d please. This is the last year of his contract so he may become a free agent after this season. Borgstrom is still more of a prospect, but he did play 50 games with the Panthers in the 2018-19 season and had 18 points. This year he was playing in Finland and has 19 points so far.

The Blackhawks start a 5-game road trip this weekend against Columbus, who just hilariously split a series with the Lightning this week. The Blue Jackets are now tied points-wise with the Stars, so the Blackhawks (once again) need TWO – not ONE – TWO huge wins here to put distance between them and other playoff contenders in the Central, I guess.

Onward.

Everything Else

It started out a complete disaster, but the Cubs were able to figure it out against the Pirates to start 2-1 on the year. The bullpen went from looking atrocious to making me feel cautiously optimistic. The hitting went from non-existent to being shouldered by the World Series champions who couldn’t be found offensively last season. We were able to rebound, so I’ll take it for now. Let’s look at each of the games:

April 1, 2021
Cubs 2, Pirates 3
WP: Howard (1-0) LP: Hendricks (0-1)

There is truly nothing better than starting the season off the Cubbie Way—playing like inexcusable garbage. Kyle Hendricks allowing a 2-run homer in the top of the 1st inning just for laughs. Throwing only three strikeouts in four innings. All Cubs fans were given a grim reminder of how bad our pitching could look like without Yu Darvish at the helm.

Joc Pederson had a great chance to show all Cubs fans what he could do with a bases loaded situation in the 1st, whacking the ball to left, but unfortunately the wind was not with him and he only ended with a sacrifice fly. Additionally, Willson Contreras had a very nice double steal play, and Anthony Rizzo was able to sac fly him home. Rizzo was responsible for one of two (2) total hits today for the Cubs, BUT WHATEVER YOU DO, RICKETTS FAMILY, DON’T RE-SIGN HIM.

By the 4th inning Hendricks was pulled, meaning we got to see a whole plethora of bullpen pitchers, which was a horrible experience. Brandon Workman started us off for the first time this season, where he was throwing 91-93 mph fastballs. And balls that hit the ground in front of the plate. And wild pitches. Eventually he got switched out for Rex Brothers because he couldn’t throw any strikes, but Brothers certainly didn’t look any better.

Jason Adam was next up in our bullpen as he attempted to fastball the ball past any Pirate up to bat. Even with that pitch hitting 95 mph, Jacob Stallings was able to figure Adam out as he was able to rope the ball to left, extending the Pirates’ lead to 4-2. Winkler had some time at the plate as well, surviving the longest out of everyone in the bullpen – a whole 1.2 innings! Chafin, Tepera and Mills also pitched, but at that point the game was literally at the 3-and-a-half-hour mark and you guys are telling me that you weren’t turning the channel to watch Yu Darvish and the Padres?

The Cubs did score another run thanks to the second of two (2) total hits from the Cubs—a Contreras sacrifice fly to send Bote substiution Eric Sogard home, but by that point it was too little, too late.

April 3, 2021
Cubs 5, Pirates 1
WP: Arrieta (1-0) LP: Anderson (0-1)

The Cubs offense looked a lot better Saturday, even without leadoff hitter Ian Happ out of the lineup because apparently, it’s better to shelter Happ from lefty pitchers than give him experience to help him improve against lefty pitchers. Love it.

Javier Baez was legitimately not pulling our leg about his need for crowds cheering and in-game video to help with his play. He had a huge game tonight unlike any we’ve seen from him for at least a year, with two hits, a run, an RBI, and 2 stolen bases.

Jake Merisnick, Happ’s substitute at center field, also had a great game offensively. He had a run, a hit, and a Baez sacrifice fly RBI, ending the day with a .250 batting average.

Heyward made me look like an idiot saying he wasn’t the player he once was, because he had a great game as well: 2 hits (one a home run), an RBI, and a .875 OPS. Finally, let’s even give Kris Bryant a hand because he was our other home run hitter of the game, also responsible for an RBI and leading the team with a 1.042 OPS.

To the pitching! Even though Arrieta was looking a little shaky at first, he was quickly able to bounce back and survived through 6 innings, twice as far into the game as Hendricks stayed in on Thursday. He struck out five batters and ended the game with a 1.50 ERA. He also allowed 6 hits, and though the Pirates would make contact off of him pretty regularly throughout the game, the Cubs defense behind him was solid and kept the Pirates to only one run.

Although Arrieta had a good pitching game, good Lord he is awful at the plate. Watching his first at-bat was an atrocity to my eyes. He was just so behind each swing and both times he put himself in a three up, three down situation. His second at bat he at least took a ball, but he was still so slow to swing, just going through the motions. Both of his strikeouts ended innings and it made me understand why people advocate for a DH.

We saw Workman again out of the bullpen, and he looked much better Saturday than he did on Thursday. He ended the top of the 7th with a wild pitch in the dirt again which bounced away from Contreras, but luckily the throw to first base made it in time, showing once again the Cubs’ defensive prowess against what is essentially a minor league team. Take the wins as they come, I guess.

Andrew Chafin looked better, too. In the 8th, he had 3 strikeouts to end the inning. Additionally, we saw the first appearance of Craig Kimbrel this season, who also had 3 strikeouts to finish the game. Even though the Pirates are projected to be the worst team in the entire MLB, hopefully both pitchers can continue to build off of these good outings.

April 3, 2021
Cubs 3, Pirates 2
WP: Davies (1-0) LP: Keller (0-1)

This game was Zach Davies’ Cubs debut since getting traded to us in exchange for Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini. He survived 5.2 innings and had 5 strikeouts, 3 walks and one home run allowed late in the 6th inning.

The Cubs’ offense continued to be good today, although that doesn’t really mean a ton when you’re playing the Pirates; it’s more like the bare minimum required of you as an MLB team. Kris Bryant RBI’d Ian Happ to score early in the first. Happ also had a nice solo homer in the 3rd. Joc Pederson, now the king of sacrifice hits, RBI’d Anthony Rizzo in the first as well when he grounded out to first base.

Ex-Cub Duane Underwood Jr., who embarrassed us completely on Thursday, collapsed completely by the bottom of the 6th, letting Bryant and Baez hit off of him. The Pirates’ fielders didn’t really help much either. Just like we remember the Pirates being.

Rex Brothers was a bit terrifying out of the bullpen, allowing three hits and a run, but luckily a Bote/Baez/Rizzo double play kept the Cubs in the lead by one run. The other bullpen pitchers, however, were actually fine. Winkler only played a third of an inning after Davies was pulled thanks to looking a little shaky his third time through the batting order. Winkler was able to get the final out of the 6th inning and gave up no hits or walks. Tepera played 1.1 innings and only allowed a walk; although hitters were getting contact on his pitches, the Cubs defense was able to bail him out.

Finally, Craig Kimbrel had another solid outing closing out the game with another three-up, three-down inning and two strikeouts. It gives him something to build on after his tough performance last season.

To wrap it up, I’m not sure what’s going on with David Bote. They made a huge deal about how it was DAVID BOTE’S TURN to play full-time at second base, but he’s only played one of the first three games to completion. Would like to see what happens when he’s in there a full game, honestly. Is Eric Sogard really any better?

With the season in full swing, the Cubs will continue their homestand with a 3-game series against the Brewers Monday-Wednesday. The Brewers just finished opening their season against the Twins, who beat them 2-0 yesterday and stomped them 8-2 today.

Everything Else Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have set a franchise record for futility to open a season, dropping two games this past week to fall to 0-4-1 on the 2020-21 campaign.

The piglets have been in most of these games. However, the discrepancy in talent is pretty evident.

The IceHogs began a four-game home stand by losing to the Wolves on Tuesday. Thursday night, Grand Rapids came to the BMO and stifled Rockford.

As expected, the IceHogs are struggling to put pucks in the net. The passing and puck skill aren’t up to AHL speed as of yet. For the time being, Rockford is going to have to work hard, put back rebounds, and create traffic in front of nets to create offense.

 

Roster Activity

Rockford jettisoned goalie Scott Darling on Wednesday, releasing the veteran from his PTO. Darling played in one game for the Hogs, giving up five goals in Rockford’s 5-2 loss to the Wolves on February 9.

Defenseman Michael Krutil, who was on an amateur tryout, was released from his ATO, then signed to an AHL contract. Krutil, 18, has appeared in three games for Rockford this season.

The IceHogs also announced on Wednesday that defenseman Anton Lindholm, recently sent to Rockford from the Hawks taxi squad, would be out for four to six weeks with a broken thumb. The IceHogs currently have just seven healthy defenseman on the roster; there may be a real need to sign a couple of players in the coming weeks.

Back on Tuesday, Rockford skated without captain Garrett Mitchell. Mitchell was serving a one-game suspension for a cross-check to the head of Iowa’s Ryan O’Rourke on Saturday.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 16-Chicago 3, Rockford 2

The IceHogs dug a three-goal hole in the first forty minutes of action. Despite rallying for a pair of goals in the final stanza, the IceHogs fell to the Chicago Wolves for the third time this season. Rockford drops to 0-3-1 after a 3-2 defeat at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The Wolves quickly went up 1-0 on Anthony Richard‘s quick strike past Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins 1:22 into the game. The scoring play was started by Jeremy Davies hauling in a wayward shot attempt by Rockford’s Cole Moberg. The puck rapidly made its way to Tom Novak, who hit Richard coming into the Hogs zone. Richard finished off a 2-on-1 rush by finding the top right corner of the net.

The IceHogs were nailed with a too many men on the ice infraction midway through the first period. Chicago converted late in the man advantage. Ryan Suzuki did the honors, taking a pass from Richard in the near right circle and one-timing into the open net. The Wolves led 2-0 at the 12:55 mark and took that lead into the first intermission.

Tomkins denied several high-percentage shots from the Wolves in the second period. However, Philip Tomasino got himself open in the slot, taking a pass from David Cotton and driving a shot over the Rockford goalie at 13:32 mark. Rockford came up empty on three power play chances in the second stanza and began the final period down 3-0.

Two goals in the span of 19 seconds midway through the final frame brought the Hogs roaring back into contention. Brad Morrison brought the puck out of the Rockford zone, up the left side, and into the high slot. There, he floated a backhand shot toward net. Just before Wolves goalie Beck Warm could glove the attempt, Chris Wilkie batted it into the net at 7:01 of the third.

On the ensuing faceoff, Wilkie found himself with the puck on his stick just outside the Chicago blueline. He passed to a pinching Issak Phillips, who drove to the net and sent a shot that Warm stopped with his left pad. Phillips, who continued to drive to the net behind his shot, scooped up the rebound and cut the Wolves lead to 3-2 at the 7:20 mark.

The IceHogs kept the pressure on Warm, firing 15 shots on the Chicago rookie in the third period. Despite a frantic push in the final minutes, Rockford was unable to complete the comeback.

Warm stopped 37 of 39 shots on the evening to pick up the win. Tomkins kept the Hogs in the contest with several point-blank saves, finished with 33 saves on 36 shots.

Three Stars: Richard (First), Wilkie (Second), Tomasino (Third).

Lines (Starters in italics)

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Matej Chalupa-John Quenneville (A)-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Mitchell Fossier-Evan Barratt-Gabriel Gagne

Riley McKay-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Chad Krys-Cody Franson

Alec Regula-Michal Krutil

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Matt Tomkins

Scott Darling

Power Play ( 0-5)

Quenneville-Barratt-Yetman-Regula-Franson

Soderlund-Gagne-Altybarmakyan-Moberg-Krys

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-4)

Forwards-Soderlund-Chalupa-Quenneville-McLaughlin

Defensemen-Krys-Franson-Phillips-Moberg

 

Thursday, February 18-Grand Rapids 3, Rockford 1

The IceHogs offense was as ferocious as a box of kittens on Thursday, mustering just 13 shots in Rockford’s fifth-straight loss to open the season. Rockford falls to 0-4-1 with the defeat. Grand Rapids improves to 2-2 in the first of eight meetings between the Central Division rivals.

The Griffins came out firing, out-shooting Rockford 8-2 in the opening minutes on the way to a 12-5 shot advantage in the first period. Grand Rapids had several chances in two power plays in the first, only to be nullified by some off-target passing.

The two Central Division rivals traded goals in the second stanza. The Griffins Michael Rasmussen got his blade on a Dennis Cholowski shot just over a minute into a Grand Rapids power play. Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins could only watch as the puck entered the net. The Griffins led 1-0 at the 4:33 mark.

Rockford drew even just after a man advantage of their own expired. Rookie Alec Regula pounced on a rebound of a shot by a Chad Krys shot from the point. Gathering in the puck, Regula beat Grand Rapids goalie Kevin Boyle to the left side of the Griffins net. The score was even at a goal apiece at 13:34 of the second period.

The game remained tied until the Griffins Riley Barber worked his way into an open look from the slot. Taking a pass from Taro Hirose, Barber sent a wrister over the blocker of Tomkins for a 2-1 advantage at 7:13 of the final period.

Rockford had a huge chance for an equalizer midway though the third. However, the IceHogs came up empty on a power play that included almost a minute of a five-on-three advantage.

Tomkins, who stopped 26 of 28 shots in the game, was pulled with 2:12 remaining during Rockford’s timeout. The Hogs lost an offensive zone draw, leading to an empty-net goal by Chase Pearson that made it 3-1 Griffins with 2:01 left.

Three Stars-Hirose (First, 2 assists), Cholowski (Second, 2 assists), Barber (Third, game-winning goal)

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Chris Wilkie

John Quenneville (A)-Garrett Mitchell (C)-MacKenzie Entwistle

Riley McKay-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Issak Phillips-Dimitry Osipov

Chad Krys-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

Power Play (0-5)

Quenneville-Barratt-Wilkie-Entwistle-Franson

Chalupa-Altybarmakyan-Mitchell-Krys-Regula

Penalty Kill (Grand Rapids was 1-4)

Forwards-Mitchell-Chalupa-Quenneville-Wilkie-Hakkarainen-Soderlund

Defensemen-Osipov-Regula-Phillips-Krutil-Franson-Krys

 

Coming Up

Rockford is idle this weekend, but have four games with the Cleveland Monsters next week. The Hogs play host to Cleveland Monday and Tuesday, then visit the Monsters on Saturday and Sunday.

I’ll be back with a preview of the Monsters on Monday as the Hogs attempt to pick up that elusive first victory. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for reports on Rockford throughout the season.

 

Everything Else Hockey

There are people and outlets out there that will demure and deflect in situations like this, where a disaster could be spotted a mile away and was called out at the time, and still failed to be avoided. This is not such an outlet, never has been and never will be.

I fucking told you so.

Exhibit A on October 29th :

 

Exhibit B on December 23rd:

https://twitter.com/CRoumeliotis/status/1341912157433245696

So Kirby Dach had his hand hanging onto the rest of his body by the gristle, and for what? This was AN EXHIBITION game in an exhibition tournament that is unpaid, and Dach has literally nothing to prove in, and that the Hawks cannot reasonably glean any scouting information from as he’s playing against other (unpaid) children. There are simply no reasonable arguments to be made towards the fact that Dach wanted to play and he wanted to win a championship for his country. And that the Hawks front office allowed this at any level is patently ludicrous. There is enough of an adjustment to go from a junior hockey slate of games to the NHL even aside from the level of competition, and that was prior to the whole of society (including the NHL schedule) thrown into the blender with covid. It was readily apparent that as the season last year approached the 50 game mark Dach hit a lull, so why put extra miles on him in games that are of lesser competition? None of it makes sense, and now the Hawks are in an even deeper pile of shit as far as their roster construction is concerned than they were before.

This Dach injury, along with Dylan Strome still yet to be signed and languishing in RFA purgatory led the Hawks to go out and sign whatever is left of Carl Soderberg for a mildo to put a band aid over the shotgun wound that is now their center depth. At one point Soderberg could have been considered depth scoring who will give you 15 goals whether they’re needed or not, but he has been upside down in possession both in straight numbers and relative to his team his entire career, and now at 35, it’s unlikely there is going to be a radical shift in that trend. It also begs the question why the Hawks are signing all of the exact same type of guy with Soderberg now being added to Lucas Wallmark and Matthias Janmark, quote-unquote two-way players who offer next to nothing offensively and generally get domed in possession, when David Kampf has been on this roster for years and has generally flipped the ice when given the opportunity, but that feeds into the next problem here. Anyone who has seen Coach Kelvin Gemstone’s usage and deployment, particularly in the playoffs against Vegas, knows that there is no way in hell that he is going to maximize whatever it is this rabble can produce by giving them the zone starts and matchups they’ll need. And of course, the added insult to this is perennial 30 goal scorer Mike Hoffman, pain in the ass as he and that wife of his might be, just signed on for a PTO in St. Louis. But again, that’s what Magic Training camp is for (again).


The entire league’s schedule was announced right before the holiday, and in order to simplify logistics and limit exposure, for this abbreviated 56 game intradivisional-only campaign, teams will play mini two and three game series, similar to NCAA and sometimes AHL scheduling. Again, it’s a rare occasion that the NHL actually gets something right, but if they’re not going to bubble up, this is probably the best route, and that also leads into some practical matters here.

Given how life has intruded in many different ways for everyone over the past nine months (and counting), that’s left things with basically a skeleton crew still here at FFUDHQ. It’ll basically be just me and AJ covering things the vast majority of the time, with Pullega and Hess still only pinch hitting occasionally and Rose and Sam moving on. As a result, we will only be doing a preview and wrap once per “series”, before and after, and covering anything major that happens in between should it become necessary.

We also, at some point will be returning to an ad-based model here, as the subscription model made much more sense when Sam was churning out the content here that replaced the print program. As always, we’ll make every effort to keep the ads as unobtrusive as possible, and if you’re getting ads for hentai and mail order spouses on here, that’s just what google is gathering from your search history, not us putting gross ads here.

Given both of those factors, we’re now taking submissions for contributors to any who are interested. The compensation a few extra bucks in your pocket a month depending on the traffic-based revenue, so there isn’t any misunderstanding on that front. And since all we have left are straight white dudes as regular contributors, more diverse voices are encouraged to inquire. You can email McClure@FaxesFromUncleDale.com or send a DM to the @RealFansProgram account.

Everything Else Hockey

There is no way to dance around how the breaking story from respected and long-time Panthers reporter George Richards impacts us here. In short, Dale Tallon is reported to have used racist language while representing the Panthers as recently as their appearance during the preliminary round of the playoffs in Toronto. And while nothing is confirmed, and all the information I’ve received is third-hand, it’s from people I trust when they say that it’s bad. And that this happened recently in the current state of things in American society speaks to the degree of Tallon’s ignorance, defiance, or both.

This raises many questions on the professional side- like if it led to his ouster in Florida, or here. Or if the environment that John McDonough fostered here during his tenure with all of the enabling of rape culture and differing accountability based on a player’s value to a team, and to what degree these two mentalities fueled one another during their brief overlap in the front office here. Not to mention all of the larger questions of hockey culture at large that this asks among the already numerous ones that need to be addressed in the current momemnt.

But on a much smaller scale, this impacts the very existence of this site, as obviously our namesake is poking fun at Tallon and his infamous boning of the qualifying offers over a decade ago now. The previous incarnation of this publication and site had its own issues which were clung to for far too long out of stubborness, and the inability to learn the “Impact Versus Intent” lesson, which is an incredibly valuable one. And now that this issue has come up again, it raises the question of just where to go.

Obviously with Sam no longer steering this ship, the subscription model has been scrapped because the rest of us are doing this in our spare time, and it’s not the primary source of income for anyone. We were going to go back to ads to help compensate everyone for their time if the world ever got back to normal, but that may never happen. It becomes a matter of energy and resources to rebrand the entire site and start all over again, and that costs money to web developers. Not to mention the feeling of defeat that once again comes with this, that even if we overhaul everything, no matter what joke name we give it going forward will eventually get Milkshake Ducked and we’ll have to repeat the cycle all over again.

As of right now, I’ve instructed everyone else that we’re going to need to go dark for a bit and hash this out as a group with what we want to do. Hopefully something can be agreed upon that’s acceptable for everyone going forward, but I simply cannot promise anything right now. This won’t be the last you hear from us, even from here. If nothing else, there’d need to be a big Irish wake.

Be Excellent To Each Other.

Everything Else

Let’s be honestit feels a little ridiculous to be writing about sports right now. We’re in the midst of a long-overdue reckoning with this country’s toxic legacy of racism and police brutality; the economy is a mess and we all know someone, maybe ourselves, affected by un- or under-employment; and oh yeah, a poorly understood and frequently deadly disease is still ravaging the planet. So yes, sports as a diversion or as something to expend energy on seems downright frivolous. To tell you the truth, I haven’t found myself ready or able to write much about them, even though there have still been plenty of things to say even with leagues closed down. I’ve not seen much reason to put my voice out there when there are so many more that deserve to be heard.

And yet here I am writing about soccer. I guess I’m grasping at some sense of normalcy, and while Serie A’s return can’t really be described as “normal” for a soccer season, I’m unabashedly excited to have this little piece of my life back. So I’m going to share it with you, whether you’re interested or not (and Sam’s not here to shut down my Serie A content so BUCKLE UP).

The German Bundesliga has been back for a few weeks now, and La Liga from Spain and England’s Premier League will all be back in action soon too. But, lots of Serie A games will be on the various ESPN channels because, well, they got a lot of time to fill. So what the hell is going on when this league re-starts? The title race is actually interesting for one thing, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Beginning with the End

They’re starting with the semi-finals and final of the Coppa Italia (which I’m sure is clear that it’s an Italian national tournament). It may seem odd to start with the end of a competition when everyone is rusty, but I think it’s actually a good thinglet the few teams still in it get this out of the way and then everyone can focus on the scudetto (league title) and whatever the hell the rest of Champion’s League and Europa League end up being. So this Friday, Serie A’s version of the Patriots, Juventus, plays AC Milan, who have been terrible. To be honest though, Juve wasn’t playing all that well before the world fell apart, and given that everyone is starting from such a weird place, I guess it’s possible Milan pulls off the upset. But it sure isn’t likely. Juve has too much depth and Milan is woefully short on that. Although, running into the suspension of the season, Maurizio Sarri was using Paolo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain as the attacking trio, and since that time Dybala got sick with COVID-19 for months on end, and Higuain showed up to training overweight and out of shape, so that front three that had been working so well may not be anymore. Still, I think they have enough talent to turn it on well enough to get past hapless Milan, but it will be interesting to see how their increasing age and slowness plays out now.

Saturday is Napoli-Inter, and as a Napoli fan I’m a bit terrified but also trying to be positive (and I’m just happy to see my fucking team again). Inter had been playing like shit right before the pandemic hit, losing to both Juve and Lazio in league play which basically ended their realistic chances at the scudetto. Napoli, on the other hand, after miserably underperforming for the first two-thirds of the season, were finally pulling their heads out of their collective asses. Our best center back, Kalidou Koulibaly, was hurt but should be back now, which would be a huge boost to our suspect (at best) defense. Thing is, Inter’s coach Antonio Conte loves to play the soccer version of the prevent defense. If Inter scores once (and they need two because Napoli is already leading in aggregate), they’re going to drop back and let Napoli dominate in possession. And Napoli excels at dominating possession but not finishing. They make one dumb mistake that leads to a goal when they’ve had 70% possessionit’s their specialty. So if Inter plays to their strengths they can probably take this, but it’s equally possible that the prevent defense blows up in their face if anyone on Napoli can finish.

Regardless of what happens, these are four powerhouses of the league all in various stages of growth, decline, and rebuilding-on-the-fly, so it’ll make for interesting viewing. And Juventus just might lose, so there’s that.

Ripresa

Now, what of the actual league play that kicks off (HAHA GET IT) on June 20th? The title race is the most interesting it’s been in a few years, and the current wackiness is just another element to that. Juve has won the last eight years and currently is top of the table with 63 points, but Lazio is right there with them with 62. It’s unfortunate because Lazio is the team of, by and for fascists, so you can’t actually root for these fuckers, even though they have the league’s top scorer in Ciro Immobile, who is entertaining as hell to watch. Anyway, it’s at least competitive and Inter is still making some noise in third. Atalanta, hands down the most fun team to watch and the league’s best Cinderella story, is fourth and it would be fantastic to see them pass Inter and make the latter sweat for the last Champion’s League spot next year (year? Season? Whatever length of time…what is time anyway?).

From there it’s a multi-car pileup in the middle of the table, but it means on paper the last Champion’s League spot is in play, plus the Europa League spots are up for grabs. Roma and Napoli are both in the running, as long as there’s no dramatic collapse on either side. Roma had also lost one of their best players to injury, Niccolo Zaniolo, who should be back before this whatever-end-of-a-season is over. In short, this season was already exciting and more unpredictable than usual, so seeing how it all sorts itself out should be a fun time in an already sports-starved summer.

Italy took a serious curb-stomping from the coronavirus, and their hardest-hit areas were the northern regions where most of these Serie A teams hail from. Atalanta in particular is the home team of Bergamo, the northern city that was the epicenter of the pandemic for a long time, as if we needed another element added to their story (and it’s another reason why you absolutely have to root for them in Champion’s League, outside of them playing against your team of course). No matter what happens, it’s a huge emotional lift for the country to have its calcio back. Remember, when Hank Scorpio asked Homer his least-favorite country, France or Italy, he followed up Homer’s answer with an astute observationnobody ever says Italy.

Everything Else Hockey Live From The Five Hole

We’re back once again in the midst of the lockdown with a very special Director’s Cut episode featuring friend Ashok Selvam (@Shokdiesel) of Eater Chicago to join us to discuss the talk of the sports universe right now in The Last Dance, as well as share his expertise in the brave new world that the restaurant industry and how best everyone can keep their favorite spots afloat. It’s a fun one, give a listen on any of the several hundred platforms we’re on. What the hell else are you doing anyway?