Hockey

This post will pretty much mirror one I wrote years ago on my defunct Liverpool site on SB Nation, now lost to the annals thanks to SB Nation asking me to do a Liverpool blog after they’d already hired The Offside to be their Liverpool blog and leaving me firmly in the lurch…but that’s not why you called. Anyway, then I wrote most of what will follow after Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field at White Hart Lane, though like Jay Bouwmeester, he eventually was ok. But he was very close to very much not being so.

I always struggle with sports as “escape.” I mean, they are, but we’re never totally disconnected from everything else. Sports play a big role in society, and I quarrel with anyone who tries to ignore that. That’s becoming a bigger and bigger aspect of it these days. Still, there are always times when we watch or attend sporting events simply to enjoy ourselves, to enter this sort of alternate reality where our emotions are tied into something we have no control over. Every one of us has used a trip to Wrigley, or The Rate, or the UC as an excuse to forget our problems and just enjoy the day. It’s not always that, and maybe not even often anymore, but it is that at times. And when it’s not fully that, it’s still an element.

Whatever you or I use sports for, it is not to witness death. We are not the Romans. People may say that those who watch racing watch to see accidents and eventually someone die, but there is something of a separation from it with them inside a car. No one knew at the moment that Dale Earnhardt had died. Or Ayrton Senna. It wasn’t on our cameras. And that’s probably a separate discussion. MMA or boxing an enter the discussion too here I suppose, but I’ve never come across anyone who genuinely watches either in the hopes someone dies. If there are we need to find those people and weed them out. Everyone accepts it could happen, but no one reasonable wants that.

Because if you’ve seen someone die, in whatever forum and whatever relationship to you, you know it’s not something you’d ever want to repeat if you don’t have to. It never leaves you. You carry it forever. If it does, maybe I envy you or maybe I fear you, or maybe both. It’s certainly not something we want out of an experience that is meant to be enjoyed.

But it’s more than that. As loathe as I am to quote or reference Heath Ledger’s Joker, he had a point. It’s not part of the plan.

One of the reasons people watch sports is to watch people do things that almost all of us can’t. In hockey, a lot of hockey fans still play hockey, or played a lot of it at a younger age. And almost none of them can dance through three guys at high speed and go top cheese when reaching the goalie (though most around here will tell you they did just that on Al Montoya at some local rink). I still play soccer and tennis, and I can’t kill a ball out of the air dead and then rifle it in the top corner (I can barely keep from falling over when even trying the first part). I can’t rip a forehand on the run through a foot-and-a-half window down the line at 90 MPH (same as before). I enjoy watching the pros because they can do that, and I have a semblance of a feeling of just how hard that is and even more so how easy they make it look. And they do it against others who can do the same. And even better than that is when they do things that I can’t even fathom being able to do.

These guys, and gals, are the top of the top. They’re in a condition none of us could ever reach. As much fun as we’ve made of him over the years, Jay Bouwmeester is among the top 1% of athletes in the world. Actually, he’s in the top 0.01%. He plays hockey at the top level possible, has for over a decade, which means his conditioning, his reflexes, his reaction time, his instincts, are almost immeasurable. They’re certainly not anything most of us could even dream of having even for a day. It’s the rarest of combinations.

Guys like that aren’t supposed to just drop dead in front of us in the peak of their lives, which he nearly did. It doesn’t add up to what we’ve come here for.

It’s hard to think of a more stark reminder of just how fragile and how nonsensical it all is. If that can happen, or almost happen as it was, to Bouwmeester, there’s no protection for the rest of us. And for most of our lives, most of us shut that out most of the time. You have to, otherwise how the fuck would you ever leave the house? Deep down, you know when your number is up it’s up, and some physical condition that you didn’t know about and couldn’t be easily detected or a truck having its brakes shear or whatever it is can pop up any moment. Quite frankly, I don’t know how those of you who have kids do it, because not only do you have yourself to navigate through all that and cognitive dissonance that takes but then adding others’ you’re responsible for on top of that seems utter torture to me.

I feel like that’s why when these things happen, even though Bouwmeester looks like he’ll be ok and Rich Peverly was ok and so was Jiri Fischer (though there are others who weren’t in other sports), games get postponed. Everything is broken at that point.There is no curtain. I mean, seeing Alex Smith’s leg injury wasn’t that much less disturbing, and many others like it, but that’s part of the game. We and he signed on for that, basically. Seeing Martin Havlat’s eyes roll in the back of his head in 2009 thanks to Niklas Kronwall was pretty damn scary. Ditto Marian Hossa three years later. We knew at the time their lives could be very different after that, though thankfully it doesn’t appear that it was for those two. But, in a sick sense, that’s part of the game. We let in that doubt and fear somewhat when those happened, but it doesn’t take over.

It does when something like what happened to Bouwmeester happens. There’s no “part of the game” to hide behind or use as protection to keep our experience together, and separate from the rest of life.

Maybe this will all break down one day when a player isn’t ok, especially in hockey or in the NFL when someone could not get up forever from something that just happens in game. But for now, we can keep up the facade.

 

Everything Else

Brad Lee runs a gameday program, like we used to but then we either grew up or lost the light in our eyes, called St. Louis Gametime. It’s like ours if all the people who wrote ours huffed paint for lunch. Follow him on Twitter @GTBradLee.

So when are the Blues hiring Quenneville? Or can you not go down that road again?
Blues fans decided five seconds after hearing he had been fired that he was a perfect match for the Blues. Granted, it’s a wet dream at this point. Coach Connor McDavid can’t teach the Oilers how to play defense or put kid gloves on dealing with Jake Allen. Both sound like pains in the ass. The dealbreaker might be how much power the Stache wants. GM Doug Armstrong is in the first year of his new contract. A new coach would get no power. Period. And make no mistake, the Blues are one bad loss away from a coaching change…before Craig Berube is promoted from associate coach. Of course I prefer the future HoFer.
The Blues are generating barely any chances at even-strength. Why?
Because the Blues struggle to get the puck out of their own end. Because the Blues defense makes shitty exit passes out of the zone. Because the Blues dump the puck in way too much. Because only one forward line wants to play well at a time. Because Ryan O’Reilly can only do so much. Because the hockey gods hate us. Because it’s a .500 team and that’s how .500 teams play.
If it’s not firing the coach, what’s the big shakeup that clearly is coming? Or is there not one coming?
Yeo is a dead man walking. The Blues went 4-3-0 on a seven-game homestand that just ended. At one point they won three of four and Yeo actually said on the television that it didn’t feel like they had won that often. On Tuesday after practice, Yeo tried to tell the media that Jay Bouwmeester is working his way back to previous playing levels. It’s a lie. Potential shakeups: Yeo gone. Bouwmeester on long term IR. Jake Allen sent packing. Possible captaincy change. Probably only two of those are likely.
The Blues and Hawks fighting it out to stay out of the basement of the division. Honestly, doesn’t this feel like where we belong?
As the late Dennis Green would say, they are who we thought they were. And we let them off the hook. On paper, the Blues are supposed to be better than this. They aren’t. Too many core guys look exactly how they did when they got Hitchcock fired. Pushing the boss overboard has gotten easy. Common. Accepted. And it sucks. Is Yeo a good coach? Hell no. He lost the room early. Ultimately that’s his fault. But the reality is he had a partial season, a full season and this one so far. And the players couldn’t figure out a way to play hard for him in that short timespan. That’s rotten. The roots of the core of this team might be rotten. And I don’t know how they fix it without a blowtorch. As for the Hawks, long-term contracts are fun. It spreads the misery out over several years. Most expensive Blues players aren’t signed past 2020.

 

Game #19 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

There is a modicum of respect you have to pay a veteran, no matter what kind of shit-heep he’s turned into. So when a player like Jay Bouwmeester ends up a healthy scratch, as he’s done a couple times this season, the coach and his teammates have to read from the script from the box marked, “Veteran Scratched Act Sad.” And you hear about how it’s such a shame and we really wish it didn’t have to be like this but he’ll work harder and come out of it better.

Except he won’t. Jabe O’Meester is 35. This is what he is, and what this is sucks. It’s sucked for years. He’s had multiple surgeries and the odometer is about to burst. He makes the Blues worse when he’s out there.

And yet the idea of sunk cost isn’t something that’s come to the NHL. You see it Edmonton with Milan Lucic. Or Calgary with Mike Smith. Hell, you could throw Brent Seabrook on this list, except the Hawks don’t have better options. This list could go on for a while.

The Blues probably have six better d-men than Bouwmeester. Kids like Vince Dunn and Jordan Schmaltz need to play if for no other reason so the Blues can see what they have. Carl Gunnarsson is at least more stable than J-Bow, and has been a better partner for Alex OrangeJello anyway.

The Blues have spent that money on Bouwmeester. It’s gone. They’re not getting it back. So why keep trying to justify it by crowbarring him into the lineup every night? Your fans know he blows. His teammates, though they’ll never say it, know it as well.

Is it the most glorious end to a fine career? No, it isn’t. But not everyone gets that, and certainly no one is owed that. It’s not like Bouwmeester is a Blues legend or anything. Getting paid $5M to watch hockey isn’t the worst job in the world. The Blues still have hopes to make something of this season. Which means putting their best players out there. That’s not Bouwmeester. Time they admit that, no matter what his bank balance is.

Hockey is defined on the margins. A couple of Bouwmeester shifts could honestly be the difference. Might it have been last year when the Blues missed out on a playoff spot by a point? You’d think they’d learn, but we know how St. Louis and learning go together.

 

Game #19 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We’ve made a career out of mocking and hurling insults at the St. Louis Blues. At this point it’s basically batting practice. Luckily for us, we’ll have our bread and butter this year. Again. Because we always will. Nothing is ever going to change in Missouri, as they attempt to roll out essentially the same roster that got domed by the Preds in Round 2 last year, and basically the same one that hasn’t really ever come close to winning anything. Same as it ever was. You can set your watch to it.

St. Louis Blues

’16-’17 Record: 46-29-7  99 points  (3rd in Central, out in Round 2 to NSH)

Team Stats 5v5: 50.1 CF% (15th)  50.4 SF% (15th)  51.0 SCF% (10th)  8.3 SH% (7th)  .923 SV% (17th)

Special Teams: 21.2 PP% (8th)  84.7 PK% (3rd)

Everything Else

Now that I’ve grown up (ha!) and given up the printed program, at least for the year, there’s only one goofball doing it and that’s Brad Lee in St. Louis. You can find his work at StLouisGametime.com and follow him on Twitter @GTBradLee.

Interesting summer for the Blues, let’s try and parse it out one at a time. Is Jay Gallon really ready to be the #1 on this team and take them farther than Elliot could? Because it seems like they’ve tried to give him the job forever and he’s never seized it with both hands. 

If he’s not ready to be the No. 1, the Blues will miss the playoffs by a wide margin. The front office can say whatever they want, but the pedigree of each goaltender was on display at every turn. Brian Elliott arrived in St. Louis signing a league-minimum, two-way contract. He was designated as the backup — if he wasn’t playing in the AHL. And then he pushed Jaroslav Halak for playing time, he won a playoff series, he got picked for the All Star Game twice. Now mixed in were some up and down seasons including one where he sat for a long time and had to go to the minors for a week to get his act together. But he did. When they had to choose between goalies, they always chose not Elliott: Halak over him, Ryan Miller over him and two playoffs ago Allen over him. And then they traded him for a second round pick. But Elliott leaves as the franchise leader in save percentage, goals-against average and shutouts. He’s fourth in wins. And all that was never enough to have the Blues forget that they drafted Allen in the second round of the 2008 draft. They remember how he was the starting goalie for Team Canada at the World Juniors. They know he was an AHL All Star. His resume is awesome. He’s been an elite goaltender at every level. So it’s easy to forget the goals he’s allowed on the faceoff because he wasn’t ready or how one goal in Game 5 against the Wild in the first round made him crumble when the Blues had the momentum. And that’s ignoring the fact that he gets injured. Frequently. Like Saturday night. But I’m sure it will all work out fine. 

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler v. old_school_blue_l

FACEOFF: 11-Goddamn-30 in the AM

TV/RADIO: NBC, And The Loop 97.9FM (What?)

GOOD GOD DON’T GO THERE: St. Louis Gametime

Thanks to NBC and their desire to not have to go against the Masters, both teams get to play a game that starts in the AM that of course in no way effects the play or entertainment value of the product because of course these players are so accustomed to being ready to go full bore when they’d usually either be just finishing or just starting a morning fucking skate. What a pleasure.

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler v. old_school_blue_l

FACEOFF: 11-Goddamn-30 in the AM

TV/RADIO: NBC, And The Loop 97.9FM (What?)

GOOD GOD DON’T GO THERE: St. Louis Gametime

Thanks to NBC and their desire to not have to go against the Masters, both teams get to play a game that starts in the AM that of course in no way effects the play or entertainment value of the product because of course these players are so accustomed to being ready to go full bore when they’d usually either be just finishing or just starting a morning fucking skate. What a pleasure.

Everything Else

bluestrumpet_jersey vs AltLogo

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
I’ll Be Deep In The Cold, Cold Ground Before I Recognize Missourah: SLGT

Now that the trading deadline has passed, the season enters into what is generally regarded as the home stretch. Much to the dismay of many in Blackhawks Nation, GM Stan Bowman by and large maintained the status quo on West Madison. However the same can not be said for tonight’s divisional opponent, the always cantankerous and rarely smart St. Louis Blues.