Down Goes Brown Grab Bag: Good Kingston Boys, Expansion Draft, and Debating the Offside Challenge

An expansion draft in the Twitter era would be loads of fun, so would a Rangers-Islanders playoff series if it was anything like the one in 1984.

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Mar 11 2016, 4:45pm

Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor's note: Welcome to Sean McIndoe's Friday grab bag, where he writes on a variety of NHL topics. You can follow him on Twitter.)

Three stars of comedy

The third star: This little girl—Via Mashable, apparently everyone loves watching this little girl eats a slice of pizza bigger than her head.

I mean, sure, she's cute. But why is that when I do the exact same thing, it's suddenly some kind of problem? Why the double standard? Because she's a little kid, and I'm a "grown up?" Because she's "adorable" and I'm "supposed to be on cholesterol medication?" Because she's at a hockey game, and I'm "alone in a dark room crying?"

Now I'm depressed. Who's with me?

The second star: This little boy—Yep. We've all been there, kid.

And sure, that clip was from January, but I only saw it this week. It was also kind of sad. Can we get back to kids eating and being happy?

The first star: This other little boy—Much better.

Obscure former player of the week

Earlier this week, Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour did one of those "letter to my younger self" things at the Players' Tribune, which is to say he told a few stories to a ghost writer and we all pretended that he actually wrote the finished product.

Gilmour was the original "Good Kingston Boy"—a group of players christened by Don Cherry who shared a playing style, work ethic and birth place (that being Kingston, Ontario). Kirk Muller was another, and sometimes Wayne Cashman or Kenny Linseman depending on what era Cherry was telling a story about.

So for this week's obscure player, let's go with another former player who was born and raised in Kingston. That would be Kingston, Jamaica, birthplace of the country's first and so far only NHLer: winger Graeme Townshend.

Townshend was born in Kingston in 1965, and moved to Toronto four years later. After a four-year college career at RPI, he signed with the Bruins and made his NHL debut in 1990. A grinding winger, he played 22 NHL games over two seasons in Boston, scoring twice. He joined the Islanders in 1991, where he played nine games and scored what would be the third and final goal of his career. He played one last season in Ottawa in 1993-94, then went on to spend several more years in the IHL before retiring.

Doug Gilmour. Now that's a good Kingston Boy. —Photo by Moe Doiron/The Canadian Press

After his playing career ended, Townshend turned to coaching, including a stint as head coach of the CHL's Macon Whoopee, which is a name I swear I am not making up. His NHL work included a role as player development coordinator with the Sharks, and he later followed Ron Wilson to Toronto to become the skating coach with the Maple Leafs. In 2011, he became the first head coach of Jamaica's fledgling national hockey program.

He has not yet done a Players' Tribune article, but when he does it will be written in the exact same voice as Doug Gilmour's and we will all pretend not to notice.

Debating the issues

This week's debate: The NHL's new coach's challenge for offside calls continues to come under fire, with the Minnesota Wild the latest team to criticize it. Should the NHL keep the rule?

In favor: Absolutely. While nobody would argue that the league's implementation has been perfect, its accomplishing what it was meant to do, and that's getting the call right. Offside isn't a grey area, but rather a black-and-white call that can almost always be confirmed with the use of replay. A single goal could decide a game, a playoff series, or even an entire season. We should always want to get the call right, and a handful of controversies aside, that's exactly what this rule is doing.

Opposed: But is it getting the calls right? More than a few teams, including the Wild, have argued that officials still blew the call.

In favor: There have been a small handful of plays that really were too close to call, and the rule says you leave those as called on the ice, which is fair. But most of the complaining from teams is sour grapes, or players not knowing the specifics of the rulebook. That's to be expected, but it's no reason to do away with the rule itself.

Opposed: OK, sure. But isn't the rule a little bit broad? It allows for a review on any zone entry, even if the goal doesn't come until well after. Shouldn't it only apply to plays that lead directly to a goal?

In favor: Well, define "directly." Gaining the zone is pretty important. If it was done illegally, that's going to influence whatever happens next, no matter how long that takes.

Opposed: Huh. Yeah, that makes sense. But still, these reviews can take an awfully long time, and that disrupts the flow of the game.

In favor: It's not ideal, but again, the key here is to get the call right. A blown call that decides a game is a lot more disruptive than a few minutes of review.

Opposed: Well, when you put it like that...

In favor: Glad I could help you see the light.

The final verdict: The system may not be perfect, but the review is an addition that ultimately improves the game and the league should keep it. In Favor wins the debate.

Opposed: Hold on... I'd like to challenge.

In favor: Wait, what?

Opposed: I'm challenging your argument. You had a typo.

In favor: I did? Where?

Opposed: You used an "its" instead of "it's" in your first paragraph.

The final verdict: [squints at a screen the size of a postage stamp]

In favor: Even if I did, how would that even matter?

Opposed: Sorry. Rules are rules.

In favor: Look, can we at least speed this up?

The final verdict: [holds phone to his ear while staring stoically into the middle distance]

In favor: OK, I think we all get it. Very clever. Let's move this along without grinding the whole column to a halt.

The final verdict: [seems to have a long white beard he didn't have when this review started]

In favor: I hate you all.

The final verdict: Upon further review, the typo was [mic cuts out] so we have [vague gesture].

Crowd: [confused murmuring]

Opposed: Boy, don't you just love it when the league gets it right?

The final verdict: While the spirit of the rule is laudable, the NHL could vastly improve the implementation of the rule by [mic cuts out].

Be It Resolved

The expansion process continues to drag on, with reports this week that Quebec City may be on hold and nothing newsworthy coming out of Las Vegas. It now appears that if expansion is happening at all, it won't be any time soon.

And that's fine. This has the potential to be a billion-dollar decision, so the league should get it right. We've seen the NHL rush into markets without doing its due diligence in the past, and it never goes well. So seeing the league take its time here, even if the whole process is pushed back by years, is just fine.

But what's not fine is that all this means we won't get an expansion draft any time soon. And that's a problem, because expansion drafts are the best. Seeing one play out in the Twitter era would be amazing, as every pick was analyzed, debated and torn to shreds in real time. Plus, your team has a lot of really bad contracts that it needs to dump, and an expansion draft has always been the only hope of doing it.

So here's what we do: We just go ahead and hold an expansion draft this year anyway. We'll do it in August, when nothing's going on. Every team will submit their lists, we'll create a made-for-TV event in prime time, and then we'll get a couple of out-of-work GMs to do the draft. Mike Gillis, save the date.

Will we have actual expansion teams? No. But that's fine, because nobody wants any of these players, anyway. We just hold the draft, argue over who got picked where, and call it a night. Then we tell Florida Panthers fans that Dave Bolland had to go live on a nice farm upstate, then load him onto an ice floe with David Clarkson and Bryan Bickell and everyone else. If they're still floating around when the Vegas Black Aces are finally ready, they can have them.

Classic YouTube clip breakdown

The whole "if the playoffs started today" game is a dangerous one—remember how we were locked into a Leafs/Habs series in 2013 only to lose it on the season's final day? But it's hard to resist at this time of year. So let's just go ahead and say it: We all want to see the first Rangers/Islanders matchup since 1994. The two teams have been holding down the second and third spots in the Metro all year, and last weekend they met in a what turned out to be great game, a 6-4 Islanders win.

The Rangers/Islanders rivalry was once the best in the NHL, although that may come as news to younger fans who don't remember how great it was. So let's remedy that today by heading back to what may be the rivalry's greatest moment: Game 5 of the 1984 Patrick Division semifinal.

  • It's April 10, 1984, and the Islanders are hosting the Rangers in the deciding game of their five-game series. It's the fourth year in a row that the two teams have met in the playoffs, and there's a lot at stake. The Islanders are a dynasty, having won four straight Cups and 16 consecutive playoff series. But the Rangers have them on the ropes, facing elimination as we head to sudden-death overtime.
  • We start off with the Islanders breaking out of their own zone, and why yes, that is Bob Cole on the call. This is one of those classic Cole games where he had his fastball and was painting the corners all night. Again, a reminder for anyone who's new to all this: If you don't love Bob Cole, you are a monster and should be sent to live out your monstrous days in a monster dungeon for horrible monsters.
  • You know, modern society has spent the last few decades regressing and devolving in basically every way possible, but at least we don't bring air horns to sporting events anymore, so I'd say it all evens out.
  • The Islanders turn it over, and the Rangers head down the ice for what will turn out to be the game's iconic moment. Don Maloney works a give-and-go with Bob Brooke, who gets a partial break and a great chance to end it. But Billy Smith slides out to deny him, and we play on.
  • Oh well, Brooke probably thought, at least that's the worst thing that will ever happen to me in an NHL game. Nope.
  • "Robbed him! I tell ya! Robbed him!" Seriously, not even a nice, well-lit dungeon. One with rats and giant spiders.
  • We head back down the ice, and here comes some controversy. Maloney gets tangled with John Tonelli, who basically tackles him. That's fine—the open field tackle was a standard hockey play until 2006. But then Rangers' defenceman Reijo Ruotsalainen tries to skate by with the puck, and Tonelli basically head-butts him in the legs as he goes by, sending him flying. Ranger fans will say that should have been two minutes for tripping, but I've always thought that if you're willing to trip a guy with your face, it should be legal.
  • The pucks comes loose to Brent Sutter, who fires a shot that Glen Hanlon kicks aside. But the puck comes over to a pinching Ken Morrow, whose off-balance shot sneaks by Hanlon for the winner.
  • "The Islanders! Have done it! The Islanders! Goal!" The giant spiders are poisonous, by the way.
  • That kicks off one of the great overtime celebrations ever, as the Islanders pile onto Morrow. They don't seem happy so much as relieved; amazingly, this series was only the second time in their dynasty that the Isles faced an elimination game.
  • Uh, we're all just going to pretend we didn't notice Al Arbour almost slip and wipe out there, right?
  • We get another look at the celebration pile, where we spot teenaged rookie Pat LaFontaine. He'd been the third overall pick of that year's draft, and ended up with the Islanders after they pulled the Sam Pollock "trade veterans to a dumb team for a future first rounder" trick on the Rockies. I really feel like the Islanders used up all their "smart hockey move" karma in a five-year period and are still paying for that today.
  • Dick Irvin declares that "that's the greatest overtime I've ever seen," and plenty of people agree. We've only used a minute or so, but you can watch the whole thing here. It's just ten minutes of adrenaline, with the teams going end-to-end while the crowd loses its mind. Regulation was pretty crazy, too, including the Rangers tying the game in the dying seconds. The whole game was just an absolute classic.
  • We get a fun look at Billy Smith heading down the hallway, getting hugs from smiling women and f-bomb dropping dudes. TV producers, please bring back the hallway camera live feed.
  • Next is a great shot of Herb Brooks and various scowling Rangers staffers waiting to either congratulate the Islanders or jump them. The guy in the sling is Barry Beck, the Rangers captain who'd been hurt in the previous game on a hit from Pat Flatley that served as the series turning point. I'm not saying his presence would have made a difference in Game 5, but I will say that if you tried to face-trip Barry Beck in overtime, your face was splitting the uprights in the third deck.
  • A few Islanders go over to shake Brooks' hand, although weirdly not Morrow, who played for him at the 1980 Olympics. Was that a snub? I feel like that was a bit of a snub. Can we blame the three decades and counting of Islanders misery that followed this moment on Ken Morrow snubbing Herb Brooks? I think we should.
  • We get one last shot of the jubilant Islanders pouring into their dressing room. They'd go on to beat the Capitals and the Canadiens, making it 19 straight series wins before finally losing to the Oilers in the final. The Islanders dynasty was ridiculous.
  • This was the last great Islanders/Rangers series; the two teams met twice more, in 1990 and 1994, with the Rangers winning both series fairly easily. It's been tough times for the Islanders ever since—the fishsticks, Mike Milbury, Rick DiPietro, etc. Here's hoping we get a rebirth of the Rangers rivalry this year. And hell, let's even let Bob Cole have the call.

Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at nhlgrabbag@gmail.com.