Monday, January 14, 2013

Poison Pen Preview: Eastern Conference


Yeah, despite the best efforts of NHL owners and Little Gary Bettman, we have NHL hockey back. Lots of people are still pissed, and rightfully so; after all, we lost an entire season eight years ago so we'd never have to deal with labor strife again, at least as the story goes. Obviously, that wasn't the case, as greedy ownership looking to strangle nickels out of the necks of their on-ice product locked the players and fans out yet again. Part of the reason ownership vultures know they can keep pulling this stunt is because they know we simply can't quit them. Fans will fill the same buildings that were full for the past 8 seasons, Twitter will still explode at the sight of a goddam podium, and the San Jose Sharks will still tickle your dick for 90% of the season and then shit themselves in cinematic fashion. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm back too, and because I really hate your teams almost as much as I love mine, I'm gonna write stuff about them. Eastern Conference preview is today, Western Conference preview is tomorrow or Wednesday or Thursday or something. Namaste.

Atlantic Division
New Jersey Devils
Best Player: If he feels like showing up to play in North America this season, it's Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk should be a real draw that all 24 Devils fans in the entire world can get halfheartedly excited for since they all kinda hate him.
Worst Player: Meatbag Cam Janssen, who sucks dick in the most figurative sense. It's nice to know there's still a place in the NHL for a no-talent punching bag like Janssen so Don Cherry can sleep at night.
Wait, they're counting on who? The Devils are considering Bryce Salvador to take up the captaincy in Zach Parise's wake. Roll that one around on your tongue for a second. Now spit. Tastes awful, doesn't it?
Gimmick to win back the fans: On opening night, the Devils will be allowing the first 10,000 fans in the arena a chance to put on a number 9 jersey and maybe take a shift and hey, wanna do this every night for $20 and all the Gatorade you can drink?
Prediction: 5th place

New York Islanders
Best Player: John Tavares is legit. The Islanders need to start surrounding this kid with guys who can help him to keep him from Nash-ing himself. The Islanders may be a sneaky good team.
Worst Player: Eric Boulton is on this roster. Really. No, I'm not kidding, go look, I'll wait.
See? Haha, me too! No, it's not a different Eric Boulton than the doorknob that played for Buffalo.
Wait, they're counting on who? The Islanders are like Pepe LePew, chasing after pretty little polecats that want absolutely nothing to do with them. This time, it's Lubomir Visnovsky, a good player that apparently would rather slam his nuts in a car door than play for them.
Gimmick to win back the fans: The Isles are raffling off the opportunity to be one of 300 lucky fans they can fit into a bunch of equipment bags and stuff into a box truck headed for Brooklyn.
Prediction: 4th place
New York Rangers
Best Player: The King, Henrik Lundqvist. I like this guy, because I can identify with him. As an avowed summer-hater, I always disappear around the beginning of May too.
Worst Player: I didn't realize the Rangers brought Matt Gilroy back. Do they realize they brought Matt Gilroy back?
Wait, they're counting on who? That'd be sexy offseason acquisition Rick Nash, who scored the same number of points Pascal Dupuis did last season.
Gimmick to win back the fans: The Rangers are offering select season ticket holders the opportunity to stand behind a podium and call Larry Brooks an asshole after every weekend home game.
Prediction: 2nd place
Philadelphia Flyers
Best Player: The best player in the world for two weeks one warm spring, Claude Giroux. Flyers fans believe Giroux is the heir apparent to Bobby Clarke, the 14th different player that's held that title since Clarke retired to a life of GM trolling in 1984.
Worst Player: Defenseman Oliver Lauridsen, which sounds like handbag designer. He's probably the Flyers' #2 or #3 defenseman, because the other 18 defensemen they have on the roster are all guys I played with in a beer league last summer.
Wait, they're counting on who? WELCOME BACK, BRYZ!!! PLEASE DON'T LEAVE US EVER AGAIN
Gimmick to win back the fans: Prior to the home opener, Flyers players will throw batteries at the fans. They'll love it.
Prediction: 3rd place
Pittsburgh Penguins
Best Player: Cry all you want about it (I know I do), but it's still Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin is better than Crosby when he's at his best, but he isn't always at his best. Crosby is ridiculously consistent at his level, so he gets the nod.
Worst Player: What the hell is a Jayson Megna? Because there's one on the Penguins' roster right now. Honorable mention to Matt Cooke, who could donate all his money to orphaned kids and still be a colossal asshole. People don't forget, fucker.
Wait, they're counting on who? Domesticated swine Tyler Kennedy will get to play fantasy camper alongside Malkin and James Neal yet again, since the Penguins Still Haven't Gotten A Winger For Sid or something like that.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Penguins fans will threaten to revolt as coach Dan Bylsma holds Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury out of the lineup until the organization reveals it is *wink wink* REBUILDING prior to drafting Nathan MacKinnon in June's entry draft.
Prediction: 1st place
Northeast Division
Boston Bruins
Best Player: Tyler Seguin is getting there, but no player separates the Bruins from the rest of the division like Zdeno Chara does. Also, he's like standing RIGHT BEHIND ME right now so yeah, you're handsome too Zdeno.
Worst Player: Bad form for me to say so, but if Chris Bourque's name was Chris Smith, he'd be playing for some team in Uzbekistan.
Wait, they're counting on who? Milan Lucic is about 500 pounds right now. Seeya in September, big fella, and cut back on the DiGiornos.
Gimmick to win back the fans: "Fine, if it's REALLY what you want, go ahead and call Joel Ward whatever you want. Hear no evil. But ONLY the first time the Caps visit, and that's it. Deal?"
Prediction: 1st place
Buffalo Sabres
Best Player: Ryan Miller in both of his forms: upright, and flat with a Milan Lucic-shaped footprint on his chest.
Worst Player: Jesus Christ, John Scott got someone to sign him? Did he tell Terry Pegula he has Leino blood in him?
Wait, they're counting on who? The Sabres wanted to trade Derek Roy for a guy who would make the team tougher to play against, but all they got was Steve Ott.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Terry Pegula is offering every fan the opportunity to play "owner for a day", where you will have the chance to, among other things, set giant piles of your own money on fire while you weep and mark off one more day until Ville Leino's contract runs out.
Prediction: 2nd place
Montreal Canadiens
Best Player: Nobody likes him, but PK Subban is great. I'd watch a Habs game just to watch Subban play. PAY THE MAN, BERGEVIN.
Worst Player: The Habs send Scott Gomez home during a season that promises to be more wide-open and feature less obstruction and more power plays, and they sign Brandon Prust. Alrighty then!
Wait, they're counting on who? I wouldn't trust Rene Bourque to gas up my car, much less provide consistent scoring depth for my hockey team.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Habs management will be retiring a different number during every home game, and by the end of the season will feature the first players in NHL history to wear three-digit uniform numbers.
Prediction: 3rd place
Ottawa Senators
Best Player: I know we just spent an entire offseason treating Erik Karlsson as though he was the second coming of Bobby Orr, but I need to see him do it again. Until then, the Sens best player is still human cartoon Jason Spezza.
Worst Player: Chris Neil can blow me. He's probably not the worst player on the team, but he's close enough for me.
Wait, they're counting on who? Hey, it's Craig Anderson's second season with a team after a stellar first season! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Gimmick to win back the fans: They're going to build a SECOND road to the arena! And maybe even put a stop sign or something somewhere on it!
Prediction: 5th place
Toronto Maple Leafs
Best Player: Some guy that Brian Burke traded for and everybody was like "Wow, great move, Burke!"
Worst Player: Some guy that Brian Burke signed and everybody was like "WTF, they gotta fire Burke!"
Wait, they're counting on who? I don't know, but I can tell you who they're NOT counting on: Brian Burke, because they just fired him.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Wendel Clark, GM-for-life. Brian Burke Brian Burke.
Prediction: 4th place
Southeast Division

Carolina Hurricanes
Best Player: Whichever one of the Masked Staal Brothers is the legal man in the ring at the time. Seriously, they need to wear luchador masks.
Worst Player: I was gonna say Joe Corvo without really thinking twice until I noticed they have Bobby Sanguinetti on the roster. "Sanguinetti" sounds like it'd be delicious if it was an entree menu at Lucianos.
Wait, they're counting on who? Alex Semin, that's who. And you know what? I think he's gonna be pretty good.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Two lucky fans will be drawn at the home opener, and they will get to marry Bill Cowher's other two daughters during a ceremony between the 2nd and 3rd periods.
Prediction: 1st place

Florida Panthers
Best Player: Stephen Weiss. As far as I'm concerned, there's absolutely no excuse for why "Miami Weiss" didn't catch on as this guy's nickname. WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU, CHRIS BERMAN
Worst Player: I know he was a high pick, I know he was in a high profile trade. I also know it feels like he's played for about 12 teams in the past 3 years. Scottie Upshall, you do suck.
Wait, they're counting on who? Yeah, just because Ed Jovanovski is your second-best defenseman doesn't mean he's a #2 defenseman.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Panthers owner Michael Yormark has enlisted a team of supervillains to blot out the sun and cover the beaches in ash. Going to the hockey game suddenly sounds GREAT now, doesn't it?
Prediction: 4th place
Tampa Bay Lightning
Best Player: Well, I was talking to Barry Melrose the other day, and he knows way more about hockey than I do, and he said it's Ryan Malone. Who am I to argue with a former coach?
Worst Player: I had wondered which team drew the "Benoit Pouliot" card this season. Apparently Tampa did.
Wait, they're counting on who? If Sami Salo and Mattias Ohlund play 48 games COMBINED I'll eat my hat. Eric Brewer is going to look like Doug Jarvis next to those two.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Throughout the arena concourses, the Lightning have set up 8 "Guy Boucher Kissing Booths", featuring guest kissers during every game. Guest kissers will include an angry dog, a barracuda, a food processor, and a helicopter.
Prediction: 3rd place
Washington Capitals
Best Player: As much as Caps fans want you to believe that Nick Backstrom or Karl Alzner or Braden Holtby or John Carlson or Mike Green is the REAL best player on the Caps, it's still that fat guy that everybody picks on, Alex Ovechkin.
Worst Player: One of my favorite things about the Caps over the past few years has been the fact that they consider themselves legitimate Stanley Cup contenders yet still dress John Erskine in a team jersey and let him play ice hockey for them.
Wait, they're counting on who? So, like, if Braden Holtby is legitimately good, they're gonna trade him because Michal Neuvirth is better, right? They're gonna talk themselves and their fans into it, and it's gonna make PERFECT SENSE, right?
Gimmick to win back the fans: Caps owner Ted Leonsis has commissioned banners to be hung around the arena with each season ticket holder's name on it, as well as banners for every season ticket holder the Caps have ever had, as well as banners for fans who bought single game tickets once or twice, or even just had a passing thought about the Caps at some point during their lives. All the banners are red.
Prediction: 2nd place
Winnipeg Jets
Best Player: Haha hey everybody, let's play a trick on the Jets fans and media and not tell them Evander Kane is their best player and they can keep being a crazy girlfriend and eventually he's gonna snap and demand a trade and maybe one of our teams will get him for next to nothing, sound good?
Worst Player: Wow, hey, Derek Meech is still in the NHL. Sorta.
Wait, they're counting on who? I just looked at the Jets roster, and I swear to god some of these guys were invented by the NHL13 name generator they use to make up player names for future drafts. Maxime Macenauer? Spencer Machacek? Paul Postma? Ben-Jarvus Green-Clitsome?
Gimmick to win back the fans: Jets owner Mark Chipman will announce that this will be the final season in Winnipeg, as he's sold the team to a group from Seattle. He will then announce that 2015 will be the inaugural season of the NEW New Jets, as he has purchased the Florida Panthers and plans to move them to Winnipeg.
Prediction: 5th place
Western Conference preview between now and Saturday, not sure when. When it's up, I'll be pushing it all over Twitter, so you won't miss it, promise!

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