Thursday, May 15, 2014

Trouble Bruin

I have loved hockey for a long time, which is a bit unusual when you were raised in a place where ice mostly congregates in tea glasses.

My team was the Chicago Black Hawks, because its Central Hockey League-affiliated club was the Dallas Black Hawks.

Before the games, they would play this cheesy (written in 1968) song, "Here Come The Hawks!" (Listen to 2:25 of glorious lameness here.)

Hockey's a great game, and it should be a lot more popular in the States than it is. It will never approach the level its got in Canada, however.

Boston has a big hockey fan base. People here are really into it. When I was at Hometown Rag in Gawd's Country, I had to fight to get even NHL standings in the paper. "Nobody here cares about hockey!" But I guess they cared about ski reports, bass fishing tournaments, JV football, etc.

So it's nice to be around a place where hockey matters.

Unfortunately, most of the people here are fans of the Boston Bruins.

I love Original Six teams. When they're successful, it seems to make the playoffs mean more. This is true in other sports as well: baseball needs the Yankees to be contenders. The NFL is better when Dallas, Green Bay, Pittsburgh are competitive. The NBA is better when the Lakers and Celtics are powerhouses.

Sports seem to be a little more interesting when there are villains.

As a Showtime-era Lakers fan, I hated the Larry Legend Celtics. As an NBA fan, I really hated the Laimbeer Pistons.

In hockey, there haven't been that many truly hate-worthy teams for a while. The league has missed some chances. It has too many teams. It hasn't done a good job fostering rivalries.

Enter the Bruins.

Simply put, these guys are asshats. In some ways they represent the worst entitlement mindset of this area. A lot of people here seem to think that they "deserve" things simply by existing. They "deserve" to not have to wait in traffic and cut in on people, they "deserve" the right to throw ciggy butts anywhere and everywhere, they "deserve" this or that.

I asked a longtimer here about why that was. He theorized that since a lot of the locals have had family here for centuries, they felt like they owned the place. And then there are the trust-fund types who come here for an upper-crust education. Those people already think they are special snowflakes.

This place is supposed to be the liberal paradise, but if it is, it's not very pretty.

But I digress...

The Bruins are populated with players who think they're entitled to different standards than those that apply to the "commoners." They think they can violate the rules, show shitty sportsmanship, bully opponents, showboat... and they do all those things. They're goons, but some of them are talented goons, and much of the rest of the roster is filled with strong players who make for a complete team that won a Stanley Cup in 2011, lost in 6 games last year, and posted the best regular season mark this year.

But the poor sports and jerks on the team draw attention and overwhelm the artistry of the team as a whole.

  • Patrice Bergeron is a 28-year-old center who Bruins fans think is a superstar. However, in 10 NHL seasons, he's scored 165 goals, with 31 of those coming eight years ago. He's overrated.
  • Gregory Campbell is a fourth-line scrub the likes of which can be found on any NHL team.
  • David Krejci is another alleged star who in seven seasons has only had more than 19 goals in a season twice, and never more than 23. He makes $4 million a year. Fans here think he should be a dominating scorer. Why? Totally overrated.
  • Carl Soderberg is just a guy.
  • Jordan Caron is a young guy with 12 career NHL goals.
  • Loui Eriksson is an electric scorer who potted 118 goals in a four-year stretch with my beloved Stars before coming here in the Tyler Seguin trade (whoops!). Eriksson is a silky scorer, but very soft. He had five points in 12 playoff games.
  • Milan Lucic is a hulking, humpbacked goon. He's had some on-ice success, largely through strength of will, planting in the crease and mucking about. But he's been involved in cheap shot after cheap shot, such as in these playoffs alone hitting a guy in the crotch from behind with his stick, mocking other players, and best of all, reportedly telling a couple of Montreal players he was going to "kill them" next year. He's a punk. Boston fans love him. Cheech's big mouth was the only thing that worked for him against Montreal: He had an empty net goal and two whole assists. Boston pays this monkey $4.25 million a year.
  • Brad Marchand. Lucic's Mini-Me racked up a whole five points (no goals) in the playoffs and is known for being a cheap shot. He's like Pat Verbeek, only without the talent. His antics cost Boston big in the deciding game 7 last night as he got penalties for pushing a guy into the goalie, and snowing Carey Price. He's a terrible person.
  • Daniel Paille once scored more than 12 goals in a season. Among his one point this postseason was a goal.
  • Jarome Iginla is a legend who signed with the Bruins as a free agent to chase a cup. He's starting to have that Karl Malone look to him.
  • Reilly Smith is the guy I wished the Stars could have kept in the Seguin deal. In his first full NHL season he had 20 goals and 51 points. He's a keeper.
  • Shawn Thornton is a 36-year-old child, whose sole impact on the series was looking like a laughing dick when he squirted P.K. Subban as he passed the Bruins bench. Teams looking to employ a guy with no skills and no future will likely be hot on his trail this offseason. Which for Boston, is about 16 hours old.
  • Boston's defense crew is not even worthy of note, other than Zdeno Chara. He's already made NHL history (but, only by being its tallest player ever at 6-9). He's a lummox and looked a very old 37 in this playoffs. Maybe now that his season is over, he can get some rest.
  • Tuukka Rask is a solid goalie. I think he's quality and seems to "get it." But the way this team operates, he's probably going to be the one fans criticize, even though he's a strong Vezina candidate who posted a 2.04 GAA this season.
I don't like the Bruins. I don't like the way they play. I don't like their attitude and their thinking that winning erases being obnoxious turds.

And since they aren't winning anymore this year, all that's left is that they're obnoxious turds.

Lucic's final threat last night took one of the greatest traditions in sports and shat all over it. Has he been the only guy who was angry at the end of his season? Unlikely. But he's the only one I can think of in more than 100 years of hockey to take that beautiful show of sportsmanship and use it as an opportunity to continue his selfish ways. It's ugly. He's ugly. But like a lot of the Bruins, he thinks it's about him.

Bruins fans are a sour, front-running bunch (kind of like Rangers fans). They have a lot to say when things are going well, not much otherwise. This offseason will be interesting. They run off scapegoats (see Thornton, Joe; and Seguin, Tyler). But the reality is they really don't have enough talent to be parting with anything this year. I think they are done, and won't see a legitimate Cup contender any time soon. These guys now will be like the Flyers: good enough to make the playoffs, not good enough for anything else.