I Don't Like Mondays — January 18, 2016
The NHL is a curious beast. For example, the league changes the rules of its All Star Game the way Lady Gaga changes costumes. Understandably. Once a prime property of the league, the All Star Game has fallen into disrepair the last couple of decades.
There are good reasons. A blurring number of formats: East vs West, Wales vs Campbell, North America vs the World, a pickup game and now a 3-on-3 pickup game with teams chosen by the players themselves (making who would be chosen last the most interesting part of the weekend).
Various voting systems for fans devolved into cynical voting campaigns promoted by hipster hockey fans. Games played by hungover players reluctant to put out much effort in the midst of a punishing regular season. In short, a mixed blessing that’s outlived its usefulness except as a corporate schmooze for clients who aren’t fussy about good hockey.
So what should the NHL do when, against all the odds, fans conspire to elect lifetime goon John Scott as the captain of the Pacific Division? That would be the same John Scott who’s been playing in the AHL when he wasn’t riding the pine in the press box of the Arizona Coyotes.
If you’re the same league that’s allowed this to happen — with an election process that would make them blush even in Venezuela — you’ve got an opportunity to laugh along and give the fans what thy voted for. Maybe if you satisfy the John Scott urge you’ll stop this happening again.
Or else you could pretend that the All Star Game is a sacred ritual handed down by the hockey gods and pretend that Scott would be an irredeemable stain on the game’s lofty reputation. Which is precisely what the NHL has done, trying to intimidate Scott into withdrawing his candidacy. To his credit Scott told them to go fish.
So he was demoted to the AHL and then traded to another division where he can’t represent the Pacific Division. As of this moment, Scott likely won’t be at the Game. Not that many will notice. The ASG TV ratings are minimal at best. Any chance for a bump from the Scott storyline have gone poof.
But the sterling reputation of the All Star Game survives. Somewhere in heaven Rocket Richard is shaking his head in sorrow.
The villagers have their pitch forks and bonfires ready to go in Montreal. The beloved tricoleur have plummeted from the NHL’s best record — at the time goalie Carey Price was injured a second time this season — to eighth in the Eastern Conference. They’re a hapless 4-15–1 min the past 20 as their top opponents have passed them in the standings.
The call for the scalp of coach Michel Therrien is heard everywhere in Habs land from Rigaud to Rimouski to Riviera de Loup. After all there are still 32 games to go. But how can you fire a guy now whose best player has been out this whole time? A knee-jerk firing may help in the short run, but firing is not fair to a coach who was doing well till injuries wrecked the club.
Common sense says give Therrien a chance until Price is back in the Habs net. But since when has common sense had anything to do with Habs Nation?
The next time someone tries to tell you how brilliant NFL coaches are, show them the final three minutes of the Green Bay / Arizona NFC Divisional playoff game. If these are the game’s finest strategists it would be appalling to see who is worse.
With under three minutes remaining, a timeout left and the 2:00 warning to go, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy decided to risk it all on fourth down deep in his own end. The pass from Aaron Rodgers bounced short of the receiver with 2:43 left. That should have sealed the Packers’ fate.
Given a chance to kill the clock and put the Packers away, Arizona coach Bruce Arians instead elected to try a pass play — which went incomplete, stopping the clock. So after the Cards got a field goal, Rodgers got the ball back for the Packers with 35 seconds more on the clock than he might have had.
The Packers proceeded to briskly march down the field in a hurry-up offence. Somehow, the Cards DB's allowed Packers receivers to get deep down the field to set up a Hail Mary pass. As opposed to Detroit’s Jim Caldwell in the same position against Rodgers, Arians used his time outs to discuss the strategy to defend a 47-yard Hail Mary.
Despite the coaching from Arians staff, his DB's allowed Jeff Janis, a player with two completions all season, to snare the catch for a second Hail Mary TD this season — with no time left. Then, with the chance to win the game on a 2-point conversion, McCarthy went safe, taking the conventional one point. He never got the ball again. Arians’ Cards got a great play from Larry Fitzgerald and won the game.
The mad scramble as coaches tried to improvise strategy was made worse by the Packers having burned two timeouts before the final two minutes. The whole episode was capped when referee Clete Blakemore tossed the coin for OT — and it didn’t flip. If this is good coaching then Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Wait… that might not be the right analogy.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).