Thin Air: Panic in Panictown

Thin Air is just a collection of hockey thoughts. Short, to the point, and out there. Comments are open for discussion.

– The Colorado Avalanche are terrible right now, losing to San Jose, Edmonton and Vancouver with a combined total of one goal for and eleven goals against. The penalty kill is awful, the power play is ineffective, and their five on five play is a wreck. I don’t think this is a team that has any chemistry, and it’s a top down problem. I hate to agree with Adrian Dater, but in a blog post that was as populist as pro-air rally, he is correct that the shiny happy attitude of the organization is not helping matters. The team is burying it’s head in the sand, and keeps it’s one sterling example of hope locked away in a closet: Joe Sakic. They are more interested in presenting a good corporate image than actually being honest with the fans.

If the Avalanche were to say that they have been in a rebuilding mode, it would probably have the opposite effect from the mass exodus of fans that has been happening in recent years. It would give the fans hope that something was going to happen. It would tell the fans that there is a reason to stick around. The head-buried-in-the-sand approach has been played out. The same message over and over, year after year – that these hard working boys are victims of circumstance – only reveals itself to be less true as those words are presented every game, much like the in arena presentation that hasn’t changed since Jose Theodore stole back his starting goalie position. Folks, that’s been a while. If there was a single phrase that Avalanche fans are tired of, it has to be “good hard work down low,” the Peter McNab-ism that finds its way into every broadcast. Spare me. Hard work isn’t everything. You have to point that work in the right direction, in the right way. And the fans see that it isn’t happening.

– You may notice that I linked to Dater’s blog post. It feel a little dirty. I don’t think I should have to link to a site that routinely leaves out source links and plays games with attribution. But you have to do the right thing, even if the big boys don’t. Give credit and links. It only makes the internet better.

– At what point, in a 48 game season, do you push the panic button? Where is the line? We are only 6-8 games into the season, and it feels like there should already be coaches fired, players traded, and Brian Burke denying anything and everything (kind of miss that, to be honest). If you fail in a 48 game season, does it matter? It certainly matters if you succeed. Just ask the New Jersey Devils. Their Cup win in 1995 was the start of something big for them. What kind of sacrifices do you make in a season that almost halves your gate revenue potential?

– O’Reilly: Trade him or sign him. This is tantamount to when the Avs started the season without a Captain. It’s more important to the fans that he is there, especially as the Avs continue to lose games. The quiet determination of management to be in absolute control, to make offers that aren’t negotiable, and to treat the salary cap era as though it were the pre-NHLPA, pre-Alan Eagleson era is ridiculous. Times are changing, so change with the times, you can’t move forward if you’re looking behind. ( < ---- Possibly misquoted Warlock Pinchers lyric) - If you read the name Alan Eagleson, and you don’t know who that is, look him up. It’s fascinating.

– In fact, if you want to see the how the current NHL business model and it’s silly dealing with money (which seems to be a drug that turns the league into a bunch of meth addicts) haven’t changed much over the years, I recommend reading Road Games by Roy MacGregor and Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey by Russ Conway. These are interesting reads in light of the recent lockout, and the disfunction of the NHL and NHLPA that led to it. All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again (correctly quoted Battlestar Galactica reference).

– So the Blackhawks finally lost a game. In the ultimate game-of-inches allegory, Patrick Sharp hit the crossbar as the last shooter in the shootout, which could have kept their hope alive for perfection. An inch or two lower, that’s all it would have taken. That said, perfection in hockey, and in life, is overrated. It leads to disappointment when it inevitably falls short. So the Blackhawks are human. Imagine that. Now they can go back to being hockey players.

– Don’t get me wrong. Winning hockey games is awesome. I love winning hockey games as much as the next person. But if a major winning streak is so important, tell me who, since the Canadiens of yore, has that made a major difference to in the regular season? If the last Stanley Cup winner was an eight seed in the West, anything can happen.

– Have you been to an NHL game this season? How did you feel about it? Did you feel like you got your money’s worth? Comments are open.

– The Avalanche broadcast team was talking about how the media was all over Alain Vigneault about whether or not Roberto Luongo was his number one goalie or not. AV was not going to say yes or no, and he is right to do so. The media wants a nice tidy story, but a nice tidy story isn’t going to win you hockey games. Every other coach in the league gets to pick his starters based on what wins hockey games, or potentially wins them. Not AV. Not that I have any real sympathy for his position. It might even be his fault that Luongo wants to leave the Canucks, but that isn’t the point. That he has to manage a team, and the expectations of the media can’t make things any easier. It’s time for the media to drop it. If he isn’t biting, they should stop fishing.

– Nail Yakupov is getting way too much scrutiny for having a personality and showing it. It doesn’t fit into the strict narratives the media and fans expect from their hockey players. Not only is Yakupov expected to fit the mold of the quiet humble hockey player, he is also breaking the stereotype of the cold Russian enigma. It’s asinine to expect every player to behave the way we want them to. It’s leading to a more dull NHL, and the last thing an over-coached, over-priced sport that’s trying to make itself less violent needs is spiral even further down the drain pipe of boring rhetoric. Players with personalities can save this league more than another lockout. You can’t make the fans care about a beige wall.

– Kari Lehtonen: who knew?


  1. HockeyPhool says:

    As I watched last night’s Altitude broadcast, one thing struck me as the game progressed (dismally, for Avs fans): the broadcast crew spent more time talking about the talented players on the opposing team than they did discussing *any* aspect of Avalanche play. That made me very angry; I can appreciate talent for talent’s sake, but I care about *my* team and I want to hear an honest evaluation of individual players and the team as a whole. Usually we can look forward to hearing that from Mark Rycroft, but last night all we got was Top-10 highlights delivered by studio “talent” that seems unfamiliar with hockey, at best.

    To answer one of your questions: No, I haven’t spent any money on an NHL game so far this season. As much as like most of the individual Avalanche players, I don’t feel the Avalanche organization values me as a fan. I don’t see myself spending any money on the Avalanche this season. If things keep going the way they’re headed, I’ll probably find other things to do when the games are on TV as well.

    Cutthroats game, anyone?

  2. I am not sure if I will go to an NHL game this year. I usually jump at the chance if my schedule allows, but I feel like the owners and the NHL take my fandom (if that’s a word?) and my money for granted. But I also feel bad for the collateral victims, the arena staff, concession folk and the like. Thinking about them might be the only thing that pulls me into a game. But I will NOT be using this season. I will get my hockey news from NBC or ESPN or Jerseysandhockeylove. An arena might get my money, but the NHL will not get my click.

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