Archive for April, 2010

Every October we pop a bottle of champagne and toast NHL Opening Night with this passage from Halldor Laxness’s Independent People:

And when later in life he thought of those days of the face that reigned over them, then he felt that he too, no less than the blue mountains, had been fortunate enough to experience the holiness of religious contemplation. His being had rested full of adoration for the glory which unifies all distances in such beauty and sorrow that one no longer wishes for anything — in unconquerable adversity, in unquenchable longing, he felt that life had nevertheless been worth while living.

It might not have come from the Devils, it might not have come from the Sabres, it might not have come from the Stars, but yes. Once again, life has nevertheless been worth while living.



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Things were getting a bit stale around here, what with that days-old post, so here’s an open thread for tonight’s exciting Detroit/Phoenix Game 7! (We thought the Washington/Montreal one was tonight, too. What gives?)

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After a day of wallowing in the predictable failure — yet again — of the Devils, we find ourselves thinking, horrifyingly, of numbers. You know how much we hate statbits on the whole, Gentle Reader, but the fact is that there is one statbit we do consider worthy of significant regard. And that statbit is wins. No, no, not, like, wins in a granular sense; wins in a big-picture way. When we break down our experience with the Devils, the statbits tell a dispiriting tale.

This was our 13th postseason as Devils fans. In those 13 postseasons, we’ve seen a grand total of three trips past the second round. Yes, all three of those good playoff runs ended in the SCF, and we’re immeasurably thankful for that (even though the one that didn’t result in a Cup win should have, by all counts), but seriously, that is an extremely weak track record. That’s 10 playoff seasons, eight of them with a top-four seed, that involved not just coming up short, but coming up hugely short. Because only three of those 10 years saw the Devils even get out of the first round. And when they did manage the herculean task of beating a lower-seeded opponent in the opening round, the Devils never even managed to be competitive in the next round, losing in six games once, and five games twice. For all that the Devils have one of the best regular-season records over the last 13 seasons, and for all that they’re on an historically impressive streak of playoff appearances, and for all that they, for at least part of that time, were legitimately considered a modern-day sports dynasty, when you look at the big picture, the successful years were the anomalous ones.

There’s a reason we’re always such negative nellies about our favorite team — it’s because, 10 times out the 13 we’ve seen them in the playoffs, they’ve come up small. So what do we make of the latest collapse? Not much. ::Shrug:: That’s just the Devils, right? How does an observer even lay blame for this loss to the Flyers?

The first place a seasoned Devils fan should be looking to point the finger is the coaching. Lemaire said pretty clearly (in the extremely few postgame quotes we bothered reading) that the players weren’t listening to him when it came to how the power play was being run during this series. So… should we take that to mean they were tuning him out? Or that he’s not able to communicate effectively? Or that he’s too much of a hardass? Fuck that. The Devils have tuned everyone out since we’ve been fans, and the bad-cop coaches get run out of town, while the good-cop coaches have nervous breakdowns. Did Lemaire juggle the lines too much? Fuck that. Claude Julien had the top three lines set indelibly in stone, and look how that turned out. It has become pretty clear to us that changing the coach is not going to solve this team’s problems.

So let’s look next at the goaltending. Marty is, someday, going to retire, and we will proceed to think of him the way we do now of Scott Stevens — to remember his playing days as a time when the sun always shone, birds always sang, and only good things happened to the Devils. Until that day, though, we’re watching him with an ever more critical eye. He was a huge reason the Devils lost last year, and probably an even huger reason the year before, but this time around, he’s shockingly not really to blame. Sure, he wasn’t great most of the time, and he was pretty consistent about giving up bad goals at terrible times, but based on the way the team played in front of him, it didn’t matter what Marty was doing. The Devils were not going to win this series.

Which leads to the skaters. Zubrus, if you’re reading this, you can leave the room — this isn’t on you at all. Kovalchuk, we know that a lot of Devils fans aren’t all that enamored of you right now, but we kind of absolve you as well. All of the rest of the Devils? Should be ashamed of themselves. It is almost as if they realized the season was over and thought that meant the preseason was starting right up. Only we would expect them to play better than that even in the preseason. They were, as they have been 10 of the 13 years we’ve been watching this team, inexplicably and excruciatingly shitty. We’d name names (hint: one of them rhymes with “blangenbrunner” and another rhymes with “blarise” and another rhymes with “blajac”), but that would suggest that we felt this was the failing of just one or two individual players. And there have been a lot of individual players who’ve sucked over those 10-of-13 years, so that kind of brings us to…

…the organization. Look, we love the regular season winning. We really do. But we’re willing now to trade in the current Devils culture for something new. Yes, the current culture is steeped with pride and winning, but it seems to be hidebound. It’s a pride only in what has already been accomplished, not in what’s happening in the here and now. It’s like the players all just figure the fact that they are Devils is enough, and that the organization’s mystique, or its “system”, or whatever will take care of the rest. The only time this past season that the team played hungrily was during the extended stretch of injuries, when the roster was studded with minor-leaguers trying to make the most of their chance in the NHL. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence, too, that the Devils were at their hungriest last year when they were trying to prove that they could win without Marty. But when the roster is healthy, and the team is locked into its annual trip to the post-season, it looks as though all those veteran guys don’t feel like there is anything to prove. They’re the Devils, they seem to think. They go to the playoffs every year. They’ve won Cups. Isn’t that enough?

We have no idea how to make changes to this team. Among the core players, there are a lot of contracts that can’t be moved and a lot of past-their-prime veterans it’s hard to imagine any other team would want. Plenty of the peripheral guys are UFAs and likely won’t be back, but we can’t say we’re hopeful the roster is going to look wildly, significantly different next season. We’re ambivalent about Lemaire staying or going, because clearly it doesn’t matter who’s behind the bench with this franchise. It would be great if there were big personnel shake-ups, but the truth is that it won’t change the big picture if there aren’t big cultural shake-ups too. If the way this team thinks doesn’t improve, nothing about them will.

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We had grand plans to go out for a fancy dinner tonight to avoid this game, but inertia settled in so here we are, in front of the television for the puck drop on what should be the final game of the season. Join us for an open thread and a rousing game of “Pin The Jelly Jar On The Donkey”.

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Our absolute favorite sporting-world insult that we’ve read about in the last calendar year comes from our favorite Olympic sport, cross-country skiing. At some indeterminate time in the last few years (we don’t really have much of a grasp of the timeline of the world of cross-country skiing, needless to say), Norway’s Petter Northug apparently said of an opponent, after beating him out in a sprint, that the guy was “too big to go around, almost half-fat”. AAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Almost half-fat! It’s genius! Since stumbling across that story on the interwebs, we’ve found countless opportunities to apply it to our lives.

Can you see where this is going?

Our official assessment of Game 3 in this series is that the Devils’ offense was almost half-fat, their defense was almost half-fat, their special teams were almost half-fat, their coaching was almost half-fat. They were almost half-fat. And we’ve come to expect nothing less. Oh, they’re playing again tonight? Faaaaantastic. Or, should we say, almost half-fat-tastic?

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We’re breaking them out preemptively. We’re hoping not to have to use them in the game.

F@*# Hell Kitten Mittens

Devils, don’t make us use the fuck hell kitten mittens on you!

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We may have mentioned in this space that we have concocted consolation prizes for the inevitable moment when the Devils are no longer contending in this year’s playoffs. In the last few years, we’ve been plunged into periods of alternating rage and depression after the eliminating loss, so this year we’re prepared. We’ve both selected quilting projects that we really, really, really, really want to get started on, but have vowed that we won’t put a stitch in until the final buzzer of the Devils’ final game.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Here is just a hint of the fabrics — that’s Schnookie’s “Meadowsweet” on the bottom, and a square of Pookie’s “Frolic” on the top. They will definitely soften the blow.

So today we were doing some infrastructure work on our end-of-the-playoffs projects, because you can’t start sewing pieces of quilts together until the pieces are cut out. (We’re not being negative nellies, we promise. All the little pieces that were cut out today got locked away safely where we hope to not have to use them for weeks and weeks to come.) While cutting out the square of “Frolic” seen in that photo above, Pookie suddenly gasped, “It’s a sign! Look!

Now, when we first visited Katebits in Buffalo, one of the tourist stops we made was to take a stroll in the neighborhood Crunchy lives in. We had a reasonable notion of where he lived, and had narrowed down our options to two houses that could have been his. One had a “back off, strangers” cranky-pantsy security system that even the most untrained eye could spot from 50 paces, and the other had a cute little cat statue at the front door. We assumed Crunchy’s house was the latter, because that cute little cat statue was totally a decoy. It looked like a sweet little old lady lived there, but in reality that statue shoots poison gas at trespassers.

So imagine our surprise when a closer inspection of Pookie’s fabric revealed this:

Cat Poison Statue

We’re not sure what it’s a sign of, but it’s clearly telling us something. Maybe that the Sabres are in the playoffs. Which… well, thanks, fabric, but we already knew that.

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