Tomorrow night the longest lockout shortened season in the history of sports is coming to an end. Seriously, it’s only been three months; I have the schedule in front of me and everything. If you want highlights only, this will be a quick read for you: season opener, three Boston wins, comeback against Montreal, snapping Pittsburgh’s win streak. There, you can go back to whatever it was you were doing before you got here; I’m only writing this because the Wild Card is some sort of wunderkind and I’m feeling inadequate. Actually I’ll give you one more highlight: waking up at the gate in JFK at 7:30am after Occupy Newark, surrounded by dozens of people with only hazy recollection of how I got there. Probably should have just taken Scizz’s couch invite instead of taking a cab to the airport at 4am, but I am thankful for whatever TSA agent kindly let me through security.
That still-intoxicated confusion amongst the chaos of a crowded airport terminal is indicative of the season we just watched. What happened? Why was everything so terrible? Why am I still wearing this Vanek jersey? Well, I watched nearly every game and I don’t have the slightest goddamn clue. All I know is this is the first season I didn’t see a win in person since 2003-2004 and I’ve spent nearly all of those seasons in between living hours away. Well that, and that there were many specific things that came together like some sort of horrifying, malevolent Captain Planet to ruin our evenings three times a week.
To the seedings:
9 (Honorable Mention): John Scott - I definitely bitched about his presence on the ice more than some of the things found below, but when compiling this list I felt he may have gotten a bad rap from me. First, we all knew coming in he wasn't skilled at hockey. Two, it wasn't his decision to put him in the lineup constantly, leaving talented- err, less awful players scratched. However, he would have cracked my top 8 if it wasn't for his photobombing post-game interviews late in the season. So, thanks to some stellar off-ice moves, Scott does not make the most hated tournament. But seriously, get the fuck off my team now.
8) Jochen Hecht: I’m not sure what I hate more, his complete ineptitude on offense, the rare moments when that ineptitude disappears, or the fact that everyone involved in making organizational decisions loves this guy for reasons beyond understanding. Ruff, Regier and Rolston have raved about this statue and I haven’t the slightest fucking clue. Giving Hecht top line minutes was effectively hoping for a 1-0 win or a 2-1 overtime loss, and despite this I STILL don’t trust them to cut ties after this season. He’s a fucking 80’s horror villain. Go away.
7) Drew Stafford: Fuck Drew Stafford. Thanks for those two shootout goals I guess, dickface.
6) The Buffalo News: This is primarily a credit to their belief that all the teams ills would have been solved if the owner had commented about Regier or the Pominville trade. Watching them slowly melt down during the season into petulant children was pretty funny when I wasn’t annoyed by the pettiness and lack of professionalism by people who actually do get paid to write for a living. Plus they’re fucking creepy. Solid dark horse as a six seed
4) Power Play: You know what’s terrible? Allowing lots of goals when you have more players than the other team, something I thought only happened in NHL 2001 on the original Playstation console. Carry the puck in, shooting it in, it hasn't mattered because this was a fucking train wreck.
3) Tyler Myers/Jordan Leopold: If you want to think of this category as simply Myers, I won’t stop you. Myers' absence has actually made the games infinitely less frustrating to watch, as well as making the team better on the ice, which is exactly the effect you want the absence of your Calder winning defenseman to have. Out of position, getting outmuscled, standing around, these two oafs combined gave more nightmares to children than anything else this winter. At least Myers doesn’t cost eight figures…
(goes to capgeek, head explodes)
2) Southeast Division: You know what’s not a secret about me? Well, most things, but especially my hatred for the Southeast division. Three of these teams are well deserving of relocation or contraction, one is full of bandwagon fans that couldn’t be bothered to attend games until they started winning President’s trophy’s and the other…well the other I don’t hate since the league smartened up and sent them to Winnipeg. I suppose now I just hate them because like the rest of their divisional brethren, the Sabres were wholly incapable of beating them. This division is going to have one representative in the playoffs while three teams draft ahead of the Sabres, and yet they were swept by Carolina, Winnipeg and Washington and could only grab three wins from the two teams located in America’s own penal colony of Florida. Fuck.
1) Twitter: My god. A heavy favorite to win, considering this encompasses the booing arguments, the tanking arguments, the anti-Miller weasels, the Ruff defenders and everything else terrible about all of you. Well not you specifically because you’re reading this and are a well-valued consumer of my written words, with nuanced views. But everyone else? Yeah fuck those folks. During the 2011 playoff push twitter was a way to share in the optimism and excitement while I was marooned in a in a Vermont town referred to as “Scary Barre.” This year it offered a outlet to deflect our hate from the team to each other and to asinine discussions about what it means to be a fan. Granted, I got roped into most of these discussions because, well, I’m not very good at resistance, but that doesn't mean I liked any of it.
(1) Twitter v. (8) Jochen Hecht: Ironically when these two entities combine, you get a thoroughly enjoyable experience trashing Hecht on twitter. Kind of like with John Scott, half my problem with Hecht is that everyone in charge likes him so much. Look, I know nice people too, that doesn’t mean I don’t want them doing anything important, like fixing my car, shopping for my beer, or skating on the second line for my favorite hockey team. Plus I can’t hate a guy too much who went through the concussion issues Jochen did. That said, if he’s back next season he gets a 2 seed. This time though, twitter wins in a walk as the boos drown out Hecht.
(2) Southeast Division v. (7) Drew Stafford: The next time Stafford says something interesting, it’ll be the first time. He’s been on the team for the better part of a decade and my best memories of him consist of a couple overtime goals and a hat trick in a losing effort in 2011. That’s it. Oh, and his penchant for scoring meaningless goals in blowouts and missing open nets when it matters. Whenever I see someone at games in a Stafford jersey, I just feel sad for them. That said, they got swept by fucking Carolina. Early in the season or not, the bullshit of the Southeast trumps one of many underachieving douches.
Winner: SOUTHEAST DIVISION
(3) Myers/Leopold v. (6) The Buffalo News: What an epic matchup. This is that 5-12 game in the NCAA tournament that does to double overtime. This is difficult for me to quantify seeing as I only follow Vogl on twitter and refuse to read anything by Sullivan or Harrington unless it’s making the rounds, whereas I’ve seen plenty of Myers skating around like Clifford the Big Red Dog, chasing the puck without the slightest fucking clue of what to do when he got it. Pass across the zone? Picked off! Flip puck out of the zone? Kept in! Hit the guy down low? Leave guy wide open in the slot! Lost behind the play? Slide across the ice after the goal to make it seem like you tried! In the opposing corner we have Sully using the owner’s daughters for fodder and Harrington creeping on female bloggers. It comes down to professionalism and what Myers has done this season more closely reflects hockey than Sully/Harrington reflects journalism. Our first upset.
Winner: THE BUFFALO NEWS
Winner: POWER PLAY
(1) Twitter v. (4) Power Play: The fact that “Hecht on 2nd power play line” is currently on my twitter feed is a solid statement about both of these terrible things. It got to the point where a power play is usually when I would get up and grab a beer, or make a sandwich. The power play was so terrible I wished we could decline them not because I feared a shorthanded goal (though there is that), but because I knew the power play would just make me more pissed off and negative about the game than I would be without watching them haplessly enter the zone only to be sent chasing back into their own end for two minutes. Power plays were rarely more than the death knell of any enthusiasm one could muster for these games. But twitter was the reason there was rarely any enthusiasm before the game in the first place. Twitter made me download an app so I could mute some of you fucktards. First the Sabres twitter feed wasn't funny, then it was trying too hard to be funny. And my god, the crowd’s too quiet, and the music sucks. No, you suck. I was watching the Drury goal against the Rangers last weekend as I usually do after several cocktails, and you know what was playing before the faceoff? Fucking Smashmouth! Their music sucked then too, along with the jerseys and probably half a million other little things that no one gave a shit about because the team was good! And that rant alone is enough to blow the impotent PP away.
(2) Southeast Division v. (6) The Buffalo News: What was your favorite blown lead to Florida? Was it the two-goal lead on Super Bowl Sunday, or was it the one Easter weekend when points were at a premium? I tend to believe the former because I had least had wings, dips, and chili coming afterwards. You know what’s really fucking stupid? The first three sentences in this paragraph. However, the Southeast shall be no more come next season and besides, we will have plenty of time to put Tampa and Florida back in their rightful places as the bitches of our division. At least until Florida moves to Kansas City or Seattle and then we have to do realignment all over again because the league is run by morons. However, we’re stuck with our newspaper. The petty snipes, the lazy narratives, the hard-hitting “reporting” on what Pegula daughter is tweeting what or what former Sabre scored a goal despite not playing for the team in half a decade. Better yet, what former Sabres should be coaching and how this franchise would just get over the hump if the owner could tell us WHERE HIS PENN STATE SLUSH FUND IS KEPT!!!! Hacks beat hicks.
Winner: THE BUFFALO NEWS
(1) Twitter v. (6) The Buffalo News: Hmm. Do I hate the people who read our blog for enjoyment, or the people who read our blog for evidence of libel? This is really a “chicken or the egg” argument. What made the booing crap so annoying? The fans (including myself) that went back and forth about it, or the men who insisted on asking the players about it every single night? Together these two forces laid waste to all coherence and enjoyment, like a black blizzard from the dust bowl seeping into every crevice of discourse even though you unfollowed these idiots long ago and MY GOD LINDY MIGHT COACH THE LIGHTNING EVEN THOUGH WE HELPED RUN HIM OUT OF TOWN EVERYONE MUST KNOW!!!! As for the pettiness over Pegula rightfully snubbing them, I’ve stated before that I don’t think the News’ problem is as much the fact that the owner doesn't talk to them, as it is that the fans really don’t care. I know the problems with the franchise, we all do. I know that there’s nothing I can do but hope those problems are fixed, starting with trades, free agency and the draft this offseason. Do I like the general manager? Of course not. But listening to the owner answer asinine questions about fracking and Penn State isn't going to get any of that done faster. As a matter of fact, it won’t get any of it done at all.
And that’s why Twitter, while it certainly amplified the disgust of this season and sent the fan base fracturing over a bunch of meaningless garbage in lieu of debates over lineups and strategy - you know, stuff that matters when your team wins enough games - we all at least could agree that all we wanted in the end was for the team to succeed. I don’t expect the same from reporters, but I do expect that they show the neutrality they like to hold up like some sort of fucking award. I don’t see neutrality. I see a desire to assign blame and if there isn't something to assign blame about, then I see an entity that simply makes something up for the fans to blame. You don’t like the power play? Pegula won’t comment! You wondering why Myers has regressed so much? Steve Ott hates your booing! Curious about the coaching situation for next season? It’s your fault for supporting them! No, in the end the worst thing about this season has been the continuing erosion of respectable journalism in this town and the unwarranted hostility towards the owner, the players, and the fans (except for us, I’d like to think we've earned that hostility). I didn't expect this result when I assigned the seeds, but in the end it was pretty obvious.
And besides, I want you all to follow me on Twitter.
Winner: THE BUFFALO NEWS