Hockey

So after a weekend where the Hawks did a little better than expected with a surprise win against the Caps in Washington for the first time in the smartphone era, they’ll return home tonight for a quick stop off before heading back east again into Canada for the Habs and Leafs over the weekend. And all the problems that the Hawks have had still remain, such as not being able to score like AT ALL, and as a result they can’t win in regulation, but at this point they’ll take the victories any way they can get them. Five of the Hawks 9 total wins have come in OT or the shootout, but after the way things started, going to extra time against eastern conference opponents on the road isn’t the worst thing by a LONG shot.

What’s been the story and has been emphasized on this road trip is the Hawks newfound commitment to shot suppression under Derek King, or more than likely, Marc Crawford’s shadow regime. In the month since they have taken over, the Hawks are allowing the third fewest high danger chances in the league, and are solidly in the middle of the pack with regard to overall chances and shots allowed per 60 minutes of 5v5 hockey. Combining that with Fleury’s .956 at evens during that time, and they’re at least giving themselves a chance. In the first month of the season, Fleury allowed 13 high danger goals, since he’s allowed 3. All of these numbers paint a picture of a team that is playing with a lot more structure in its own end. It truly is the goddamnedest thing isn’t it?

Of course, they still can’t score a damn goal to save their lives, and if DeBrincat or Garbage Dick don’t do it, no one else is going to. Toews and Dach are complete non entities on the score sheet at the moment, which was never part of any plan either regime may have had. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s statistical anomaly, whether it’s Toews still fighting through rust or Dach fundamentally being a different player than he was drafted do be and/or boned by inept coaching, but they can’t be counted on for anything until they show differently, so it’s likely these close, counterattacking games are here to stay. What purpose that serves with regard to the long-term trajectory of the team still remains to be seen

12/7 vs Rangers

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, Various SportsNets, WGN-AM 720
Yauch Forever – Blueshirt Banter

Well, the Hawks get a look at the Blueshirts for the second time in less than a week, this time on home ice where hopefully they can keep track of the guy wearing 10 in white a little better. He should look pretty familiar, he’s kind of good. With Shesterkin having some form of crotch detatchment the night before they played the Hawks last time, Gerard Gallant now turns his jowly gaze to Alexandar Georgiev and his .856 save percentage in the meantime. The Rangers haven’t played since the two teams’ date at MSG on Saturday so they’re still riding a six game winning streak, and have won 10 of their last 11, their only loss coming to the equally hot Maple Leafs, whom the Hawks face on Saturday. Shesterkin isn’t slated to be out long term, so they should be able to keep solid footing in the turbo competitive Metro division.

12/9 at Montreal

Game Time – 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Mont Tremblant Seems Lovely – Eyes On The Prize

Finally, a matchup of the two biggest fuckup franchises so far this season. The problems locally are pretty well covered and lead in grotesqueness by a wide margin, but a quick rundown of the Habs’ misery – After a fluke run to the Cup Final in a made up playoff format in an abbreviated season, they promptly took any good will they had and flushed it down the toilet by drafting a known sex criminal in the first round, and then shat all over themselves justifying it. Then, franchise goalie Carey Price checked himself into a substance abuse clinic on the eve of the season starting where he can hopefully get the help he’s seeking, but leaving the team dangling with Jay Gallon now in a #1 role he’s already shown he’s never been cut out for. Add a predictably shitty start where no one is scoring because they never really had any top end finish to begin with, and that FINALLY cost Marc Bergevin his job. His replacement is the recently discussed former GM of the Rangers Jeff Gorton, who isn’t a Francophone, so at least they might be done with that stupid rule. Anyway, the Habs have played 2 more games than the Hawks and are 6 points behind them, just to give an indication of how things are going there.

12/11 at Tronna

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, CBC, NHL Network, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Arrest Drake. Arrest Rivers Dubas. – Pension Plan

It’s that time of year again where the hockey cognoscenti declare the Leafs an unstoppable juggernaut with about a third of the season played. And the thing is, they’re not wrong inasmuch as the Leafs are a very good team loaded with offensive firepower and are playing very well at the moment. It’s just a race to trip over their own dicks to coronate a team with nearly the longest cup drought in the history of the sport, and they haven’t learned to hedge their bets even a little bit yet. And it’s not fair to pin it on one guy just because their sex-crime-apologist/victim-blaming GM has in the person of Jack Campbell in net, but that’s eventually what it’s going to come down to, whether or not he can stand up to anything in the playoffs. And given the way the aforementioned Metro looks, as well as with Tampa still lurking in Toronto’s on FlorTheast having not lost a playoff series in a very long time, it’s probably a little early to start with this shit, if only because it just adds to the amount of time the general public has to listen to Leafs fans, and hear about what it’s like to be a Leafs fan. Anyway, Jason Spezza is probably getting an unpaid vacation for a while after the to-do with Neil Pionk, and Mitch Marner is ouchy, and they’ll probably still boat race the Hawks on home ice. And that’s fine.

Everything Else Hockey

Last week, as everyone saw coming and now everyone is aware of, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally whacked Mike Babcock after a tepid start to the season, as well as because his mostly younger players absolutely hated his guts. Since then, in true after-the-fact bus tossing fashion, plenty of stories have come out about how Babcock ruled with an iron fist and was out of touch with the modern generation of players. And while all of those stories are absolutely to be believed, it’s burying the lede on what should be the real story here, and that’s the rapid ascension of Babs’ successor, Sheldon Keefe.

Please be advised, that while the specifics remain vague, the rest of this article will discuss sexual abuse and all applicable warnings may apply.

If the name Sheldon Keefe sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Keefe was a notorious delinquent even in junior, when as captain of the OHL champion Barrie Colts in 2000, he famously refused to shake the hand of then-commissioner David Branch, as well as staged a walkout during an awards banquet, and threatened future Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards. All of this was under the manipulation of Coach David Frost, who had several run ins with the OHL himself, and even had an assistant smuggle a player into the country and was ultimately fined $25,000. Frost’s name should ring a bell too, as he was the target of a murder for hire plot from one of his former players Mike Danton/Mike Jefferson, who had accused Frost of sexual assault as a motive for his actions. Danton and Keefe were teammates and friends, having played hockey together from an early age. And at Frost’s trial, Keefe provided testimony as Frost’s alibi witness.

After only 125 NHL games, Keefe’s NHL playing career ended, and began coaching the Pembroke Lumber Kings, a Junior A team he’d purchased, which is a level below the Canadian Major Junior leagues of the CHL (Ontario, Quebec, Western leagues) that most are familiar with. Keefe allowed Frost to even lurk around the periphery of his junior team even in the midst of all of the accusations. But, given his success at that level, it led him to a job with a major junior club, the Soo Greyhounds, hired by their child GM, Kyle Dubas. And it was there, and under Keefe’s watch, that three of his players were charged with sexual assault, Andrew Fritsch, Mark Petaccio, and current NHL-er Nick Cousins. As many, but not enough people have noted, that in the aftermath of the investigation (which was dropped by Canadian investigators given the unliklihood of a conviction, which is what oddly enough always seems to happen in cases like this), Dubas was famously flippant in his comments, and even went so far as to claim that his players were victims too:

“But as the manager of a junior hockey club, you’re entrusted with the lives of 16-20-year-olds,” said Dubas, who’s now completed two seasons in his present position. “We don’t judge how we went about things. We would never look back and say that we’re pleased or not. We just wanted to handle things the best we could. We supported the players as best we could with what they needed off the ice.”

“From the beginning, our team supported the legal process and law enforcement as they performed their investigation,” he added. “The scars remain for all of the people involved. But unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about that.”

That language flatly shows zero concern for the victim in this case, and even goes so far as to paint his already shitty, entitled players as victims themselves in this scenario. It’s an all too familiar refrain within the self perpetuating rape culture of the Athletic Industrial Complex, and is particularly rampant in junior hockey, which puts children as young as 14 at center stage even more than high school football in Texas does with its frequently maladjusted young athletes. It preaches entitlement and it breeds behavior like this.

And now that Keefe has ascended to the Leafs’ head coach after a stint (and a championship) in the AHL with Toronto’s affiliate Marlies, it’s behavior like this that deserves much closer scrutiny. While many were praising Dubas’ hire of Hayley Wickenhiser last summer in a player development role as a progressive and forward thinking move for a hockey organization, in the face of Keefe’s promotion it simply feels like window dressing, a bone to be thrown to the masses to chew on while all of this seedy behavior gets ignored and enabled. Dubas may look the part of the boy genius, right down to glinting smile and faux-nerd glasses, but make no mistake, he absolutely does not give a shit about any kind of actual progressivism as evidenced by his words and actions when pressed, and also by bringing on Sheldon Keefe and all his baggage at any point possible. He clearly only needs the appearance of it, and if the league or sport as a whole actually gave a shit about any of this, they’d call him on it repeatedly. But they’re too concerned if Mike Babcock made his rookies make ranked lists of the most hard working teammates, and if Keefe actually wins with this talented group on the ice, all of this will be shouted down from everyone in Canada anyway.

Everything Else

vs.

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, SportsNet, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Kyle Dubas Is An Enabler Of Sexual Assault: Pension Plan, Leafs Nation, Literally Any Hockey Publication

And now the Blackhawks’ season can officially gets under way tonight, as all hockey is invariably pulled toward the quasar star that is the Toronto Maple Leafs; a pulsating, sucking vortex of psychosis and entitlement from which no light ever escapes.

Everything Else

evil empire at toronto leafs headupass

Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN-US, WGN-AM 720
Self-Appointed Experts: Leafs Nation, Pension Plan Puppets

The Hawks mini-Canadian swing makes its second and final and most important stop tonight, and that’s at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. And those who do not believe any of the above statements need to only spend about thirty seconds scanning the internet to understand just how important the Leafs and their fans consider themselves to be despite nearly a decade and a half of laughable ineptitude.