WARNING: Extremely long self-indulgent pre-amble forthcoming before actual relevant hockey thoughts. May want to consider some serious down-scrolling.
So my attempts to attract Guinness' attention as The World's Most Infrequent Columnist continue valiantly.
Many columnists file daily. Others weekly. Those worldly in-depth magazine guys get to write monthly (you know, "In Search of The Rare Mexican Cyclops Albino Shark", that kind of thing*). Me, I prefer annually. And am seriously pondering once a quadrennial (the only way I will ever be factually correct when I refer to myself as an "Olympian among writers").
Actually, the Olympics are partially to blame for this year's general writing futility. I'm spending most of my non-hockey time prepping for London, memorizing facts that will so intrigue you, you will forget about your summer - your pool, your camping weekend with the kids, your trip to Peru with the hot girl in the yoga pants you met at Booster Juice - and you will stay glued to your couch with your mouth hanging open, saying "Whoa!"
Example: Canadian rower Malcolm Howard, a potential gold medalist with the men's eight crew, went to Harvard and rowed with the Winklevoss twins, who famously sued Mark Zuckerberg, saying he stole their idea for Facebook. The Winklevoss' (Winkelvi?) were both played by Armie Hammer in The Social Network. His head was digitally added to another actor's body in post-production.
See?!? You're pumped for London now, aren't you! Doesn't that make you want to belt out the "I Believe" song right now in your cubicle?!? (Seriously, if you did that, how long would it take before a colleague, say Phil from payroll, stapled your tongue to your ear?)
The Olympics are a lame excuse for not writing, I know. Trust me, I have plenty more. Like Twitter. Why spend four hours on a 1,200-word manifesto about the need for video review on goalie interference calls when all people really have time for now is stuff like:
"Ever notice @DarrenDreger looks like Buzz Lightyear? #freakishPixardimples"
I wrote columns semi-regularly for about ten years on TSN.ca, then wrote a couple of books, and burned out. (Okay, truth is, like Stephen King, I wanted to see if my writing would be popular under a pseudonym, so for the last several years I've been writing under the random alias "Stieg Larsson".)
Anyway, here's my plan. No one has time for my essays on why Kournikova is the still the most underappreciated athlete of her generation anymore. Thus I plan on writing random point-form thoughts on a variety of subjects, sports and otherwise, whenever I can. (So, see you next March!)
I'd try to do something regular and substantial like Elliotte Friedman's terrific hockey column "30 Thoughts", but I'm not sure I even have 30 thoughts in a week. My 30 Thoughts column would include things like:
1. My dog snores a lot.
13. Hey, that cloud kinda looks like James Gandolfini.
29. I like ribs.
I guess we're back to calling the column "The Good, The Bad, and the Duthie", which has had about 17 different incarnations. It started as the name of the Marv Albert-on-Letterman-type sports blooper segment I used to do on the old Mike Bullard Show. It died when Bullard died. He is dead, right?
Currently, I do the G, B and D (and no, I'm not going to say "as the kids call it" because they don't, and anyone who still uses the term "as the kids call it" is immediately called a geriatric idiot...by the kids) every Thursday with Cybulski and Company on TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto. So we'll call the column that, because no one can think of any other cute gimmicky names. Duthie is like orange, nothing rhymes with it.
So here's the first Edition of The... HOT NEW! BETTER THAN EVER! PROBABLY LAST ONE THIS SEASON! ...Good, Bad, and The Duthie:
- I figured I'd start by doing something that has never been done by a columnist before, except maybe by... every columnist everrrrrr. NHL Award choices! Wait, that is lame, even by my standards. So I'll give quick predictions on winners and finalists, but I'll focus on a fourth guy, not necessarily the next runner-up, just a player no one will vote for, but who should get a hug, or fist bump, or something for his work this season.
THE HART - Evgeni Malkin (Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux)
Guy who should get a lovely parting gift: Jason Spezza. Has there been a more criticized offensive star this generation? It's time to just appreciate Spezza for what he is; a ridiculously skilled points machine who has been clutch all season, and has matured into a terrific leader for the surprise team of the East.
THE NORRIS - Erik Karlsson (Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara)
Guy who should get a ribbon: Alex Pietrangelo. Ottawa boy Darren Pang got his hometown all riled up recently when he suggested Pietrangelo might deserve the Norris over Karlsson. I'd vote Karlsson with Weber second, but Panger is right that the Blues' emerging superstar hasn't gotten nearly enough recognition. He's worthy of being a finalist, but likely won't be.
THE VEZINA - Henrik Lundqvist (Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick)
Guy who should get a sticker: Brioslav Halakiott (Reader 1: "I don't know what that means." Reader 2: "No one knows what it means but it's provocative!") No, two guys can't win the Vezina, that's what the Jennings is for, but Halak and Elliot's numbers are ludicrous. Sure, Ken Hitchcock's system is a big part of it, but you still have to stop the puck occasionally. And the two-headed Halakiott Monster has more than 2,000 saves in an epic season.
THE ADAMS - Ken Hitchcock (John Tortorella, Paul MacLean)
Guy who should get a t-shirt: Peter Laviolette. Yes, the Flyers have a ton of talent, but by season's end, they will have around 400 man-games lost to injury, and 400 games played by rookies. With no Pronger and a goalie who was "lost in the woods" for much of the season, Laviolette deserves credit for keeping the Flyers steady, and in the thick of it from start to finish.
THE CALDER - Gabriel Landeskog ( Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Read)
Guy who should get a cupcake with sprinkles: Justin Faulk. It's rare for defenceman to win the Calder - Tyler Myers and Barret Jackman are the only two in the last 15 years - and Faulk won't even crack the top five. But he's played a steady 22 minutes a night (tops among rookies) and is one of several reasons Carolina isn't that far away from contending again.
THE SELKE - David Backes (Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Callahan)
Guy who should get a loot bag: Ryan O'Reilly. I'm still not sure I understand the exact criteria for this award (best defensive forward...but you better score lots too or you don't count?) so really I have no idea who will win, but coaches and scouts in the West rave about O'Reilly. And it seems he does something great every time I watch Colorado.
THE LADY BYNG - Jordan Eberle (Matt Moulson, Loui Eriksson)
Guy who should get a...cookie? Matt Cooke. Yeah, I know, you just spit your Dr. Pepper all over your iPad. Look, I've never been a fan, and when he said he was going to change this year, I thought it was a funnyordie.com skit. But he did. When you go from 129 penalty minutes to 36 (at time of writing), don't make one Shanny video, and finally become more asset than ass, you deserve a little credit.
- Note: I know there are a half-dozen players in every category that you can make a case for. And you will angrily Tweet me your player and his case en masse. So just to take care of it all at once, here's my reply: "Great points. You are bang on. Can't believe @aaronward_nhl convinced me not to pick him."
- Ron Wilson has vanished. I spoke to him briefly after he was let go by the Leafs. He sounded... relieved. (Ya think?) He has not been heard from since. I'm not sure that has ever happened when a coach has left a major-market team. Though watching Toronto play the last few weeks, I might need seven years in Tibet after coaching them too. (Truth is, Wilson is surely playing 36 holes-a-day somewhere. He almost qualified for the US Senior Open a few years back.)
- I tweeted this week that I spent 10 minutes walking around the house looking for my phone. While talking on my phone. The fact hundreds of you told me you had done something similar made me feel better about myself. And worse about the future of humanity.
- This is hardly a fresh take, but I rarely find anyone anymore who likes the NHL's division winners being guaranteed a top 3 playoff seed (outside of Florida and the several cities in the Pacific). Divisions have never been more irrelevant to fans. When you go to TSN.ca or NHL.com to check standings, does anyone use the "by division" option? Ever?
Division winners should be guaranteed playoff spots, but then just seeded according to points. It's silly that the 6th seed in the East is more valuable than, say, the 4th, because teams like their odds against Florida much better than Philadelphia. Flyers/Penguins and Wings/Predators will be terrific first-round matchups, but it's a shame they can't happen a round or two later.
-I'm equal parts thrilled and concerned about the just announced Anchorman sequel. Ferrell is messing with his Sistine Chapel here. It's like doing a sequel to The Godfather. Wait.
- Steven Stamkos could get 60 goals this year, remarkable when you consider a third of the league's teams will have goal-scoring leaders with 30 or less. Stamkos was just born to score. In his first year of hockey at age four, he scored pretty much every time he had the puck in a league of six year-olds. At a Bantam Silver Stick tournament a decade later, his team was down 5-1 with seven minutes left when his coach (Paul Titanic) called timeout. Stamkos scored three, set up another, then scored the winner in overtime.
- Brian Burke's son Patrick deserves major props for his "If You Can Play, You Can Play" initiative to fight homophobia in sports. It is a wonderful tribute to his late brother Brendan. Another amazing thing about Patrick is just how much he sounds like his father, Brian. Talk to him on the phone, and you can't tell the difference, except he swears at me less.
Patrick is very funny. After I tweeted him to get his father to do up his ties for interviews, he answered: "4 daughters, a lovely wife, a gay son, and he still has absolutely no style."
Holy crap, what just happened. This is by far the longest column I have ever written. I'm a 500-word-tops guy. So I'm counting this as three columns, making me good to the Fall...
That is all.
*Oh, that reference to the Mexican Cyclops Albino Shark at the top of the column? You thought I made that up... http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/10/pictures/111013-shark-albino-one-eyed-fetus/
You can follow James on Twitter @tsnjamesduthie