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      Down Goes Brown Grab Bag: Playoff Formats, Lost Rivalries, and Bye Weeks
      Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
      February 17, 2017

      Down Goes Brown Grab Bag: Playoff Formats, Lost Rivalries, and Bye Weeks

      (Editor's note: Welcome to Sean McIndoe's weekly grab bag, where he writes on a variety of NHL topics. You can follow him on Twitter. Check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave Lozo as they discuss the events of the week.)

      Three stars of comedy

      The third star: The Stars and Predators play nice—This week, word leaked of a new NBA social media policy meant to crack down on teams being mean to each other. Those teams dutifully complied. The Stars and Predators apparently decided they didn't need to.

      The second star: This Sylvain Turgeon hockey card—OK, we're actually over two decades late on this. But I'd never seen it until this week, so I'll allow it. Here's Patrick Kane's first appearance on a hockey card, which doubles as the only known instance of anyone ever smiling at a Buffalo Sabres games.

      The first star: Wes McCauley—Longtime readers know where we stand on McCauley; the league should make him teach every other NHL official how to make announcements. This week, the league's most intense ref was at it again.

      Never change, Wes. FIGHTING.

      Trivial annoyance of the week

      This week's annoyance is that the Metro Division is seriously screwing up the NHL's playoff format.

      The new system, introduced in 2013, has always been a little wobbly. But this year, we may see all sorts of weirdness thanks to the Metro being so much better than the Atlantic. Scenarios that are realistically in play include:

      • The Eastern Conference's second and third best teams facing each other in a first-round series.
      • The Eastern Conference's sixth and seventh best teams facing each other in another first-round series.
      • The Atlantic winner having first-round home ice against a Metro crossover even though the Metro team has a better record.
      • Maybe most importantly, a situation where finishing fourth in the Metro is far better than finishing third, and finishing second in the Atlantic is far better than finishing first, both of which could lead to the perception of late-season tanking, if not the real thing.

      That's not good. And more and more people are saying so.

      And yet.... [Biscuits podcast listeners can go ahead and insert that defeated sigh I use a dozen times per episode] ... I don't know. I still see why the league does it this way.

      I'm not arguing that the NHL's system is perfect; you'll notice we didn't dust off the old "The NHL got something right" section for this one. I stood up for the system last season, but even I can admit that this year's Metro is making it harder to defend.

      But let's remember that the NHL has this system for one reason: Rivalries.

      Does anyone remember rivalries? The Battle of Quebec? The St. Patrick's Day Massacre? The Red Wings and Avalanche? Hockey rivalries are the best. They're what make the league fun.

      So what's the best rivalry right now? Is there one? Can you even think of any rivalries at all?

      There are old ones from years ago, like Oilers/Flames or Leafs/Habs. Pens/Caps is still OK. A week ago we would have said Bruins/Habs, but when you're giving another team your coach just to be nice, you're not much of a rival. And sure, the NHL tries to invent new ones every week with its weird Wednesday Night Rivalry thing with NBC.

      But are there any matchups right now that make you think "Oh man, these two teams hate each other, this is going to be good?" I'm not sure there are.

      And we know why that is—it's because hitting and fighting and bad blood and on-ice payback are all on the decline, if not gone altogether. To be clear, that's a good thing for the league as a whole. But it's terrible for rivalries.

      So they're trying to force it, with the only other thing that fosters hockey rivalries: Repeated playoff clashes. That's why they went with a system that gave us two rounds of divisional matchups. Then, because they're the NHL, they immediately broke that system with wildcards and crossovers. But you could at least see what they were going for.

      Maybe it's pointless. The NHL just isn't the same league it was 20 years ago, and we're probably fooling ourselves if we thinking we'll ever see anything close to Avs/Wings ever again. Maybe we should scrap the whole thing and go back to seeding 1 through 8. If this whole Metro apocalypse ends up happening, the league may not have a choice.

      But for the record, I see what they were trying to do, and I think it made sense. This is going to be a league without rivalries soon, if it's not already. If you've been a fan for long enough, that realization is more than a minor annoyance.

      Obscure former player of the week

      This week's obscure player is a longtime NHL backup goalie whose career included one pretty cool claim to fame. You probably haven't heard his name in a while, unless you're a fan of one particular NHL team, in which case you may have spent some time cursing it. We'll get to that in a minute. This week's player is Wade Flaherty.

      Flaherty was a ninth-round pick by the Sabres in the 1988 draft, going a few picks after obscure player alumni Tony Twist. He never made it to Buffalo, but eventually signed with the expansion Sharks in 1991. After playing parts of five seasons for San Jose, he signed with the Islanders in 1997. He served as the Isles backup until 2001, then played a total of seven games between the Lightning, Panthers and Predators before finishing his career with several years in the minors and one in China. In all, he played 10 NHL seasons and finished with 27 wins in 120 games.

      It was during that stint with the Islanders that Flaherty made a bit of history, although we didn't know it at the time. On March 29, 1999, Flaherty was in net against the Rangers and surrendered a late goal to Wayne Gretzky. While Gretzky would go on to play eight more games that year, he didn't score again, making the goal against Flaherty the final one of his legendary career.

      As for that one fan base that isn't too fond of Flaherty these days, that has to do with his post-playing career. Flaherty went into coaching, and was the Blackhawks developmental goaltending coach when they won the Cup in 2010. But since 2011 he's been the goalie coach for the Winnipeg Jets, which in terms of a challenge is a little like being the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns.

      Fans in Winnipeg aren't happy with how the season is going, and the goaltending has been a big part of that. Fair or not, Flaherty is taking some of the blame for that. But luckily for him, it's the Jets, where nothing ever changes and being vaguely in the playoff mix is always good enough.

      Debating the issues

      This week's debate: At one point this week, the NHL had eight different teams on their bye. Is this new wrinkle in the schedule, introduced this season, a good idea?

      In favor: Yes, it is. The NHL season is a grueling one, and anything that gives the players a chance to rest up and recuperate a bit is a good thing.

      Opposed: Sure, but does the bye week really help? It's not like they reduced the number of games or made the season longer to create extra time off. Those bye-week days have to be made up somewhere, and that means more back-to-backs and five-in-seven situations. The bye might do more harm than good.

      In favor: It might. But the players asked for this, and negotiated with the league. I'll trust their judgment on what's best for them.

      Opposed: They thought it was best last year, but now that they've seen it, some of them don't seem so sure. Not to mention coaches, who hate it.

      In favor: Well, that's too bad for the coaches. The bye isn't meant to make them happy.

      Opposed: True. But the bye is also messing with the standings. You have teams chasing each other for playoff spots where one has five games in hand on the other. That's ridiculous.

      In favor: True, but it all evens out over the course of the season, so we can deal with that. As a fan, I'll take healthier, rested players over a more balanced standings page any day.

      Opposed: ...

      In favor: Um...

      Opposed: ...

      In favor: You there, bud?

      Opposed: ...

      In favor: This is where you're supposed to talk.

      Opposed: ...

      In favor: OK, I guess I'll just keep going. Um... so yeah, byes are good. I like them. Good job, whoever came up with the idea.

      Opposed: ...

      In favor: Sorry, this is just weird. We're supposed to back-and-forth, and now I've had way more turns than he has and it's going be really...

      Opposed: I'm back!

      In favor: Dude, what was that all about it?

      Opposed: Not sure what you mean. Anyway, another problem with bye weeks is that the league grouped them in a weird way. You had one or two teams a week having them in January, then suddenly this week a quarter of the league is gone. What's the deal with that?

      In favor: ...

      Opposed: Oh no.

      In favor: ...

      Opposed: And... uh... like, the whole rhythm of the schedule gets thrown off.

      In favor: ...

      Opposed: This is so stupid.

      In favor: ...

      Opposed: OK, we get it.

      In favor: ...

      Opposed: Point made, really. Is there any chance we can get back to the debate or are you going to just keep on...

      In favor: Hey, what did I miss.

      Opposed: Oh, hi. Actually, you didn't miss much. I made a few points about the schedule and that was pretty much it.

      In favor: Cool, cool.

      Opposed: So yeah. Bye weeks are bad. Get rid of them.

      In favor: No, they're good. Let's keep them.

      Opposed: OK. Well, now I guess we just find out who won the debate.

      The final verdict: ...

      In favor & Opposed: OH COME ON!

      Classic YouTube clip breakdown

      Earlier this week, Harvard beat Boston University 6-3 to capture the Beanpot. That's the annual tournament between the four college programs in the Boston area, one that dates back to 1952. It's kind of a thing.

      Also kind of a thing: Mid-80s sports teams making terrible rap songs about themselves. Yes, that's right – this is the week we finally do the Beanpot Trot.

      • Look, I'll just say this up front: This whole thing is going to get really, really white. You may need to adjust the brightness on your screen to avoid retina damage. You've been warned.
      • So it's 1986, and the hottest song in the land is the Chicago Bear's immortal Super Bowl Shuffle. Let's be honest: The Super Bowl Shuffle video was tacky, but the actual song wasn't bad at all. A few of those guys could really rap. Not everyone has that ability. No, really, not everyone does. We're about to see that firsthand.
      • At some point, players from the Boston College hockey team decided it would be a good idea to rip off the Bears with a rap video of their own. Well, nine of them did. Ten, if you count the five-year-old they hired to write the lyrics.
      • Nice tracksuits.
      • "My name is Howie, you can call me Slick... I'm not supposed to tell you, my real name is Scott." You know what? You have too many names, Howie-Slick-Scott. Pick one.
      • You have to give him credit, though; Howie-Slick-Scott at least stuck to the beat. That's more than our next performer can handle, as "Emma" just wanders over, stands in the general vicinity of the microphone, and spills out his lyrics like an excited toddler telling you about a movie they just saw. I think this might be future Hobey Baker winner and New Jersey Devils winger David Emma, by the way.
      • Note the way Emma's spot ends with everyone else clapping and two guys high-fiving. This is what passed as choreography when white people rapped in 1986.
      • Next up is Doug Brown, looking vaguely like Eli Manning but without the natural sense of rhythm.
      • "We sometimes stumble, but never in defeat." They lost 13 games that year, by the way.
      • I don't know who "Swoop" here is, but he's kind of intense. I've heard guys cut Wrestlemania promos with less threats of violence. Settle down, Swoop, I think you just invented the gangster rap genre.
      • Notice that there's quick edit after Swoop is done threatening us. Given the quality of the rest of this performance, I really want to know what went wrong that they felt was so bad it had to be cut out.
      • Next up is Sweens, "the one with the 'stache". And yes, that's future Bruins forward Bob Sweeney. He was claimed on waivers twice in his NHL career, but never once traded for cash, so he didn't get excited.
      • Now comes the undisputed highlight of the clip, as we meet Gordon, aka "the Flash". He knocks his lines out of the park, and even drops the splits at the end. This would be Scott Gordon, future head coach of the New York Islanders. The team finished last in the division all three years he coached them, in case you were wondering.
      • We also meet Neil, who is not shy, and Mike, the one with the looks. Mike has a line about being dirty but rarely getting caught, only he screws up the "rarely" and goes with "really" instead. First take, Mike makes mistakes, just keep it.
      • "My name is Matt, and I like to diddle." Uh, good to know, Matt.
      • Also, Matt basically rips off Emma's second stanza. Less diddling, more original thought, Matthew.
      • We close with a special guest appearance by Gracie, the play-by-play guy. He's spitting fire. He's also like a foot taller than everyone else on the team, which is kind of weird.
      • "We're not trying to say there's a lesson to be taught." Oh, I don't know guys, don't sell yourself short. I think you've taught us all a valuable lesson today.
      • Sadly, that's it – we don't get appearances from other notable mid-80s BC alumni like Craig Janney, Kevin Stevens or Brian Leetch. If you'd like to see the full lyrics transcribed, you can find them here.
      • By the way, Boston College didn't win the Beanpot in 1986, losing 4-1 to Boston University in the final. It's a good thing they weren't cocky.

      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.

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