From the Golden Knights to Pope Francis, here are 10 unsustainable starts less than 20 games in.
Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
We are barely into the second month of the season, so it's far too early to pass judgment on teams and players. An NHL season is a marathon, triathlon, and 10 episodes of The Leftovers rolled into one—it's a never-ending series of pain that provides moments of joy but you just wish it would end already so we could get to the playoffs (or the new season of Game of Thrones).
So to sit here in early November and overreact or jump to conclusions about which players or teams are frauds because they are playing far over their heads when no team has played 20 games yet would be foolish and, possibly, irresponsible.
Here are the players and teams that are frauds because they are playing far over their heads less than 20 games into the season.
1. Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks — You know how something terrible happens out of nowhere, like suddenly you notice that Miles Teller is in a lot of movies, and you're like, "When did this happen? Why didn't I see this coming?" but you should have seen it coming because he was in those teen apocalypse movies a few years back?
Well the Blackhawks and their imminent collapse represent the Miles Teller movies of today, and Crawford's incredible start to the season (1.77 GAA, .945 save percentage) are the millennial wasteland movies you never saw.
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Crawford is about 25 points above his career save percentage, and it's only a matter of time before he spits the bit for a week to return to normal. When that happens, there's no way the already mediocre Blackhawks (7-6-2) survive, much the way the Earth didn't survive in all those Miles Teller movies. If you're not in a playoff spot with Crawford putting up Hall of Fame numbers for six weeks, you may as well give up now, much the way the people of Earth gave up at some point in those aforementioned Miles Teller movies.
Apologies to Miles Teller. He’s fine. This is like in 1996 when we had Matthew Perry in movies but eventually we realized that was a bad idea, only no one has realized this about Miles Teller and never will. Let's get Miles Teller into a CBS sitcom and forget about any of these movies.
2. So many NHL coaches — How have we not fired any of these idiots yet? It seems that every underachieving team avoided letting their coaches go because they were new coaches or coaches that just signed new contracts. Alain Vigneault dodged bullets like Neo on the rooftop until the Rangers turned it around, and maybe he's a four-game skid away from getting canned, but he's safe for now.
Because the NHL gives away points like candy at Halloween, coaches are surviving with teams that are underachieving. You can't fire Bob Boughner in Florida because he just got there and Dale Tallon gutted the team out of spite. Phil Housley is new in Buffalo and Jack Eichel won’t ask for him to be fired for at least another two, maybe three weeks. There are some bad coaches hiding in the NHL but they are cloaked in magic thanks partially to circumstances and a silly points system. Rick Tocchet only still has a job in Arizona because the ink hasn't dried on his contract. You don't go 17 games without a regulation win and survive otherwise.
It may not happen in November, but someone has to go. The Hurricanes were supposed to be good and they are just 5-5-3 with Bill Peters in his fourth season. If anyone gets canned before the calendar year ends, it's him. But if the Hurricanes go on a run, it feels like nobody is getting fired. Eventually, that will change.
3. St. Louis Blues — The Blues' PDO is 8 million and they are 12-3-1. Jaden Schwartz is on pace for 108 points. Jake Allen has a .921 save percentage. When players are playing that far over their heads, it has to correct eventually.
4. Vancouver Canucks — Here's a real conversation between a Canucks fan that's been living in Vancouver the past two months and a Canucks fan that just returned from two months in a remote jungle free from technology.
"Just got back from the jungle, how are the Canucks doing?"
"They have eight wins."
"Oh, so they played all 82 games in five weeks?"
"Oh, so the season started way early and now it's over?"
"No, the season just started."
"Oh, so losses count as wins now?"
"No, they have eight wins in 15 games."
"Oh, so the object of hockey is to get outscored now?"
"No, they've won eight games by outscoring their opponents."
"Oh, so the Canucks play in the AHL now?"
"No, they... you smell, go take a shower."
Winning barely more than half your games is a huge overachievement when you should be contending for the first pick in next year's draft.
5. Vegas Golden Knights — They are 9-5-1 and their goaltenders are Celine Dion and a guy on the Strip that passes out the hooker flyers. No team in NHL history will crash harder. In true Vegas fashion, instead of cashing out while riding the high, the Knights are going to wake up in April in debt to the Bellagio and begging friends for a loan to keep them afloat until their standby ticket home pays off.
6. Zac Rinaldo — He has one point in 12 games. No way he keeps that pace up.
7. Jared Boll — One goal, eight games. Unsustainable!
8. Steve Mason — A 4.84 GAA and .872 save percentage? Yeah he's playing out of his mind now but he'll come back to earth eventually.
9. Detroit Red Wings — I haven't seen 40 seconds of Red Wings hockey this season, but according to the official standings, they are currently tied for a playoff spot. That can't be right. I refreshed the page like four times, and there they are. It also says they are getting .927 goaltending from Jimmy Howard and .924 goaltending from Petr Mrazek. I don't know what the hell is going on there, but I know this isn't for real.
10. Winnipeg Jets — Just kidding. You think they should go here but I'm on board. Go Jets.
10. The Pope — Since giving the NHL a letter praising the league for its Declaration of Principles, something that probably doesn't deserve proper noun treatment, Pope Francis has been reaping the benefits of this unofficial partnership. A few Vatican City-Gates Of Hell matchups on NBCSN's rivalry night, an outdoor game against the Church of Scientology at the Roman Coliseum on New Year's Day 2019, and NHL Network has been running Constantine a lot lately. Everything's coming up The Pope.
But The Pope doesn't have a prayer of keeping this up. Players will begin converting to other religions. Demons (Tom Wilson, Zac Rinaldo, etc.) will be loosed from the depths of Satan's world. The Pope's PDO (Pope Demons Ostracized) is too high to be sustainable. With only two suspensions dished out this regular season by NHL Player Safety—something that is 100 percent attributable to The Pope's letter—more must be on the way.