The following ran in Saturday’s edition of ‘The Committed Indian’:
During our daily visits through the interwebs, we’ll occasionally come across an item that gets us thinking. When one-third of Second City Hockey’s three-headed monster, Mr. Killion, posted his piece earlier this week about the possible correlation between a goalie’s save percentage and the amount of shots he faces, we were intrigued. (For the record, he thought it “plausible” that those goalies who faced the fewest shots also had the highest save percentages, but it’s a discussion for another day.)
In turn, it got us thinking about other myths we may hear on a given night at the United Center; which are fact and which are based on Dominic from Oak Lawn ordering one too many $9 Jager Bombs seemed a worthy inquiry.
So with that, we offer our tribute to Mr. Killion for his fine work (because a 1200 word prose about which cast of Star Trek was the best may not be what you’re interested in reading) and bring to you a more extended version of Mythbusters: The Feather Edition.
Joel Quenneville isn’t the right coach for the Blackhawks right now, because he’s never won a Stanley Cup; let alone a conference championship. At first glance, this statement seems perpetually ridiculous. Maybe because it sounds similar to the buffoonish argument from a couple years ago when people tried to claim Joe Crede was a better player than A-Rod because of his propensity to perform in the clutch. (How’s that looking these days?) Logic would tell you it’s usually not the coach who decides the players’ fate, but vice versa.
A closer look at history reveals something very telling, though. Since 1980, there have been exactly two coaches at the head of a Stanley Cup Champion who didn’t win at least a conference championship by their fifth year of coaching.
In the 1979-80 campaign and in his tenth year of coaching, Al Arbour was at the helm for the New York Islanders, having not won either a Conference Championship or Stanley Cup prior to that point.
In 1992-93, Jacques Demers won a Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in his ninth year of coaching, not having reached the Stanley Cup Finals before. (What still boggles the mind is that he was illiterate at the time. Good thing there was nothing wrong with his eyes, though, because if he didn’t ask for a measurement of Marty McSorely’s stick in Game 2, maybe Los Angeles ends up hoisting the Cup. Ok, now we’re getting off track.)
Every other Cup winner’s head coach during the past 29 seasons has at least appeared in a Cup Final by his fifth year as an NHL head coach. We can go right down the list: Mike Keenan had a conference championship in his first year with the Flyers; Pat Burns won a conference championship in his first year with Montreal; Ken Hitchcock was a Stanley Cup winner in his fourth season. You get the idea.
In his 13th year of coaching, Joel Quenneville has yet to advance past the Conference Finals. If he ever does win it all, he would comfortably hold the modern-day record for most seasons coached before his first conference championship and Cup win.
Verdict – If recent history is any guide, it’s surprisingly fact with a small percentage of myth mixed in.
The Blackhawks need a legitimate tough guy to compete. Expect a whole lot more of this nonsense in the coming days, especially after a game like the one on Wednesday night. Hell, it only took the Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone a mere hour after the game to sound the clarion call for meatballs everywhere by asking if the Hawks need a legitimate tough guy.
Unfortunately, the argument always goes down the wrong direction. The Hawks have plenty of physical toughness to play with the big boys. Calgary and Vancouver can attest to that after trying to push around the Hawks in the playoffs last year.
Instead, for some reason, people seem to think the presence of someone like Matt Walker is going to deter opponents from putting clean checks on their players. As if Willie Mitchell would have thought twice about sending Jonathan Toews back to Fargo if someone like Rockford’s Danny Bois was sitting on the Hawks bench.
It seems like some members of the Hawks’ staff believe in this fallacy only because they’re grizzled old hockey dopes who still believe in ancient rituals of the game that died off years ago.
Verdict – Busted, but someone in the Hawks’ organization must think it’s a fact. How else does one explain Matt Walker playing in 65 games last year?
Antti Niemi is the goaltender more likely to guide the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. Note the following season stat lines:
|Games||Wins||Goals Against Avg.||Save Percentage|
The former, much celebrated, line is that of the Blackhawks’ Nikolai Khabibulin last season; the latter is Cristobal Huet’s combined stat line (for Montreal and Washington) during 2007-2008, the campaign before he joined the Hawks.
While we admit that one season, doesn’t a goalie make, we’re also not ready to support the euthanasia of the embattled Hawks’ starter before Halloween. (We only support putting poorly performing NHL’ers to sleep after Thanksgiving.) For now, we’ll let history be our indicator, and we’ll continue to wonder why back-up and NHL rookie Antti Niemi was greeted on Wednesday by the United Center faithful like he had captured Osama Bin Laden with his bare hands and a CB radio on Tuesday.
Barring any unforeseen events, Huet will find himself – and, hopefully, the puck – in the near future, and we’ll all be able to forget about our October of despair soon.
Finally, for good measure, take note of Niemi’s stat line from last year – in the AHL:
|Games||Wins||Goals Against Avg.||Save Percentage|
Verdict – Busted … unless you’re absolutely sure you want to pin your Stanley Cup dreams on a Finlander with five NHL games to his credit before last week.
It’s ok for the local media to talk hockey. This is an interesting one. Nothing ruffles the feathers of hockey fans quite like listening to someone like Dave Kaplan discussing the Blackhawks goaltender situation. “Stop talking hockey!!! You don’t know what you’re talking about!!!” fans will shout.
What they should really stop to ask themselves before they have an aneurysm is – How many rational sports media members are there in this town anyways? Mondays after Bears games are a congregation of stupid. The Cubs and Sox are considered lost causes after their first 3 game losing streak of the season. Why should it be any different when the media turns its collective attention towards the Hawks?
If anything, we should feel honored they would even bother to take the time to share their thoughtless opinions with us. Getting the attention of the media is the only way back on to ESPN. So if you’re truly tired of the NHL sharing its home network with bull riding and fishing, while a channel boasting a guy flipping pancakes gets better ratings, then just see this as a means to an end.
Verdict– Fact. But we won’t blame you if you broke your television because you accidentally turned on ‘Monsters in the Morning’ during an impromptu hockey chat.