DGB Grab Bag: Halloween Hijinx, The Nuclear Option, and an Ode to Offense
We also remember an obscure player with the coolest mask in the game.
Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: The Nashville Predators enjoyed Halloween – We won't clog this whole section with NHL player Halloween costumes. If that's your thing, you can find a rundown on the league web site, although they seem to have left one out. But we will mention the Predators, who may have been enjoying themselves a little too much, starting with P.K. Subban:
But the real stars were Nick Bonnino and his wife Lauren, who went as the scariest thing a hockey player can imagine.
The second star: Ryan Reaves vs. Phil Kessel – OK, one more Halloween one.
The first star: Chance the mascot – The new Vegas mascot has not had a warm reception, as documented here.
Honestly, the whole thing is reasonably funny, but I'm putting it in the top spot solely for the little girl who goes "GOOD ONE, DEL." That kid kills me. That needs to go right up there with "Way to go, Paul" as a generic hockey putdown.
Be It Resolved
We're a month into the season, and the Golden Knights are still decent. Sure, everyone realizes that they're not as good as their record indicates, but they're far better than most of us expected. It turns out that expansion teams in the salary cap era can be reasonably competitive right away.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes began the year with a record-tying 11 straight losses, and their season is already basically over. Other teams, like the Sabres, Rangers, Canadiens, and Oilers are another bad week or two away from being in the same boat.
All of which leads us to our crazy idea of the month. From the same minds that brought you the Jagr Draft, Cup champs picking their banner night opponent on live TV, and using the Cliffhanger guy to announce player signings, please welcome the league's newest rule: The Nuclear Option.
Yes, the name's kind of dramatic, I know. The idea lives up to it.
It would work like this. Every year, at the end of the regular season, all the non-playoff teams have the option of hitting the reset button on the entire franchise. If a team decides to go nuclear, they get to protect up to three players in the entire organization—not just NHL, but prospects, unsigned picks, etc.—and everyone else instantly becomes a free agent. No cap hits, no buyouts, no re-signing anyone, no compensation. Everything you spent the last decade building is gone.
In return for nuking the entire organization, the team gets two things. First, they move to the front of the line for that year's draft lottery odds, if they're not already there. And second, they get to restock in an expansion draft, under the same rules as the ones the Golden Knights just had.
Three players, an otherwise barren cap situation, top odds in the lottery, and an expansion draft to start all over with. Would you do it? Would you take the Nuclear Option?
It goes without saying that not many teams would. This year's Coyotes wouldn't, for example. They've been rebuilding for years, and have plenty of good young players worth holding onto. I doubt any of this year's bad teams would seriously consider it, unless things go completely off the rails somewhere.
But last year's Avalanche would have had to at least think about it, right? And you can bet that a team like the Sabres would have jumped at the chance a few years ago leading into the McDavid draft. You'd probably see the option used once or twice a decade, just about always after a team had fired its old GM and hired a replacement with a mandate to rebuild. Imagine that new guy having the option to walk in, take one look around, go "NOPE" and just bulldoze the entire thing.
(As an added bonus, the same league full of cry-baby GMs who spent all of last year whining about how the expansion draft made their jobs slightly harder would absolutely lose their minds if they had another one dropped on them with a few weeks' notice. That's not the main point here, but it's a nice side-benefit.)
How much fun would it be to argue over whether your favorite team should use the Nuclear Option? How hard would you have to work before you started to talk yourself into it? How mad would you be when Nuke Day came around and your team chickened out and didn't do it?
Like most great ideas, the NHL would never do it in a million years. But they should. Terrible teams need hope too, and the Golden Knights have proven that it's not as far away as you might think. You just need a way to get there. You need the Nuclear Option.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
Today's obscure player is a guy you probably saw a few photos of this week: former Sabres and Canucks goaltender Gary "Bones" Bromley.
Bromley was never drafted, but was signed by the expansion Sabres in 1971 and made his NHL debut two years later. He played 12 games backing up Dave Dryden for the 1973-74 Sabres, then won the starting job for most of the 1974-75 season after Dryden left. He played well, going 26-11-11 and helping the Sabres to a league-high 113 points. That team went all the way to the Stanley Cup final, but turned to late-season acquisition Gerry Desjardins and Roger Crozier for the entire run; despite appearing in over 50 regular season games, Bromley never even saw the ice in a playoff game that year.
He'd play just one more game for the Sabres the following year before heading to the WHA for two seasons. He returned to the NHL in 1978 after signing with the Canucks, and spent three years pulling part-time duty. After a year in the minors, he retired in 1982, having won 54 games over six NHL seasons.
Today, he's probably best remembered for the fearsome skull mask he wore in Vancouver. It was one of the most unique looks of the era, and to this day often shows up on lists of the greatest masks ever.
Trivial Annoyance of the Week
Have you ever been at a point when things were going well—not awesome, not great, but reasonably well—and then your stupid friends show up to remind you that their lives are way better than yours?
That's what it felt like to be a hockey fan this week.
The big news in the sports world this week was the World Series, a seven-game thriller that drew big ratings. Games six and seven were good, but the real show came earlier in the series, as the league's secret new baseballs resulted in every third batter hitting a home run off the face of the moon and everyone went crazy over how much fun it was. Oh, OK, so now sports fans enjoy games with lots of offense. When did this happen?
I'm being told that everyone has always thought offense was fun. Huh. Well OK, then where were all of you during the NHL playoffs?
Right, I'm told that the deciding game of the Stanley Cup final featured 58 scoreless minutes, a fluke goal that had to be reviewed, and an empty netter. Huh. I'd completely forgotten about that game. I can't imagine why.
Meanwhile, the NFL stole a few headlines with it trade deadline. If you follow football, you know that their deadline is usually a bust. Unlike in the NHL, where GMs just pretend because they like excuses, the salary cap actually does make trading hard in the NFL because signing bonuses get instantly converted to dead money when a player switches teams. So moves are rare, especially midseason ones, and the trade deadline often passes without anyone really even noticing.
But not this year, where everything went insane and trades were happening everywhere. And not just NHL deadline-style veteran rentals, but big names, young stars, potential franchise quarterbacks…everyone. It was madness. Glorious, wonderful madness.
And then you've got the NBA, where the season is only just starting but everyone has a personality and says interesting things and players quit on their teams over Twitter and fired coaches go scorched earth on Instagram.
Look, other leagues, we get it. You're more fun than the NHL. Leave us alone.
I mean, we're trying, OK? The Golden Knights are a genuinely cool story, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are killing it in Tampa, the Kings are kind of back, and the Blues and Devils are surprisingly good. That's something, right? Scoring's up slightly because of extra power plays, there's intrigue in New York, and the Coyotes are terrible, which can be entertaining in its own kind of way.
Sure, we may not have record offense and blockbuster trades and social media wars. We're working on it, OK? You don't need to rub it in our faces all at once. Why don't you go lose half a season to a work stoppage?
I'm told that other sports don't do that anymore. Wonderful. Good for you. Now finish your seasons, pack up and get out of your stadiums. We're going to need them for our outdoor games pretty soon.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
Hey, it's not like the NHL never serves up a ridiculously high-scoring playoff game. For example, today let's travel back to 2006 and see what happens when two rivals decide to play with the goaltending sliders pushed all the way down…
- It's the second round of the 2006 playoffs, and the Senators are hosting the Sabres for game one. It's a great matchup, featuring a 113-point team facing a 110-point team. It also pits the conference's lowest goals-against against its fourth-lowest, so I'm sure there won't be much offense. Hey, defense wins championships, am I right?
- Our clip begins a few seconds after the opening faceoff as we get a look at the Sabres lines and yeah it's already 1-0.
- Mike Grier has tipped in a Derek Roy feed to give the Sabres the lead. Nice start. Now they just have to settle in and play a classic road playoff games, take the crowd out of it and wait until—oops never mind it's 1-1.
- That Ottawa goal was Jason Spezza from Dany Heatley and Wade Redden, as the Senators deploy their famed "guys we love right now but will eventually leave town as villains" line. I guess Daniel Alfredsson missed a shift.
- The Senators make it 2-1 just 15 seconds later. A quick warning here: This game is in Ottawa, which means it features the Senators goal horn guy, which means you're going to be deaf by the end of it. He's a tad excitable. Here's some behind-the-scenes footage of him at work, but it's a preseason game so he's taking it easy.
- On the other hand, we've got Bob Cole. You win some, you lose some.
- Six minutes in, the Sabres tie it at 2-2. (Hello, Numminen.) Amazingly, this will be the last goal of the first period, as everyone's arms are tired and they decide to just skip ahead to the intermission.
- By the way, the goaltending matchup here is Ray Emery against Ryan Miller, which is fine, but we have to point out that this was the year the Senators had Dominik Hasek. But he got hurt at the Olympics, depriving us of one of the great face-the-former-team revenge matchups in league history. Damn you, Olympic injuries, maybe Gary Bettman was right about you all along.
- We're back for the second period, both teams having made their intermission adjustments. In the Sabres case, that was apparently "let's give up easy breakaways." and they go out and execute it beautifully.
- Buffalo gets it back quickly, as they get a 2-on-1 and then do that video games move where you forget which button is the pass one and just end up with everyone skating into the goalie and pushing the puck into the net because you have penalties turned off. It's super effective!
- A few seconds later, the Senators have a 5-on-3 and you can probably guess how this turns out. They do that thing where they park Zdeno Chara directly in front of the net and dare the goalie to do anything about it. It works, because the only goalie crazy enough to ever swing at Chara was Ray Emery.
- We skip ahead to goals by Derek Roy at the end of the second and Mike Fisher at the start of the third, and it's 5-4 Ottawa. Both starting goalies are still in, by the way, and will stay in for the entire game. I always thought that was an underrated aspect of this game's silliness.
- Side note: This is somehow only the second craziest game featuring Ray Emery and the Sabres.
- At this point, things actually settle down and the two teams decide to play NHL playoff hockey, which is to say nobody does anything interesting for almost an entire period. The keyword here is "almost," as things are going to go off the rails as soon as we get to two minutes left. Which is right…now.
- The Senators have a one-goal lead late in regulation, a powerplay, the puck in the Sabres' zone, and still somehow manage to give up a 2-on-1. Derek Roy buries the one-timer and it's 5-5.
- Hey, was I the only one who called him Derek Wah for his whole career, like Patrick Roy? I don't think I was.
- We get a brief glimpse of a dude with an Obscure Player Alumni Maxim Afinogenov jersey, but before our brains can process that we're back to the action. The Senators still have a powerplay, remember. You'll never guess what happens next.
- This may be my favorite moment from the game, as Bryan Smolinksi bangs home the go-ahead goal with a minute left and makes one of the all-time great "whew, did we ever just dodge a bullet there" smug faces. Hold that thought, Bryan.
- We're down to 20 seconds left, and all the Senators have to do now is cram all six guys into the goal frame and call it a day. Instead, there's a mixup behind the net, the puck comes out front, and Tim Connolly buries it to tie the game. The crowd makes that classic "Are you F-ing kidding me?" noise you only get in the NHL playoffs, and we're off to overtime.
- OK, settle in because these two teams are going to smarten up and get conservative. Ha, no, just kidding, the overtime is going to last 18 seconds.
- The end comes when Anton Volchenkov commits what might literally be the worst turnover in modern playoff history. Seriously, let's just admire that thing. Not only does he fan on the pass, he kicks it off both skates and then turns his back to the puck as the Sabres break in. By the time Chris Drury scores the winner, Volchenkov is just sadly sliding off into the corner on his belly. Other than that, I thought the shift went well.
- The Sabres ended up taking the series in five games, three of which came in overtime. But the Senators earned revenge in 2007, knocking out Buffalo on their way to the Stanley Cup final. This time, Emery and the Senators learned from their mistakes and made sure that when the puck was behind their own net at a crucial moment, they never let the other team even touch it.