Tomorrow is Labor Day (or Labour Day to those of you with Canadian/European tendencies).
It's not generally that big of a deal unless you manage a retail outfit and plan to SELL! SELL! SELL!
It's a big deal over here in hockey fandom, however.
Training camp awaits and with it, just merely another month behind it, a new season.
Being that this is the start of Season 2 under the watchful eye of Gross Misconduct (nèe Violating the Trapezoid) and being that I keep an extensive watchful eye on teams that are out to ruin hockey, it's about high time that I crank out a list of my Five Most Wanted for Offenses Against Offense.
I'm not going to rank them in order of sleep inducing to least likely to be boring, that's just foolish. If you're not actively trying to score at will in the game of hockey, you're spitting in my face while trying to hit on my mother all at once. It's straight up wrong and I want to punch you in the face for trying.
That said, let's warm up the boredom train and pull into the station to wait it out, these teams are going to suck the fun out of a theme park.
1. New Jersey Devils
Surprised? No, you shouldn't be and I just want to get them out of the way right now because Lord knows that they were going to pop up here now. Truth be told, every team not named "Pittsburgh" out of this division could go on this list but the Devils were the founders of hockey hell and they continue to hold the fort down. The way I see it, they're dragging the rest of the division down with them. But I digress.
Games between the Devils and just about any team end up being ones with a small handful of scoring opportunities, dump and chasing akin to what you'd see from a person with a nasty case of Montezuma's Revenge and lots of analysts talking about how they'd love to be Martin Brodeur's next mistress, Chico Resch excluded since that's a nightly event for him to wish that upon his star.
The Devils haven't changed their philosophy at all since Jacques Lemaire was manning the bench and now it's become clear that the mastermind behind hockey boredom was Lou Lamoriello. There are nice offensive pieces on this team (Elias, Gionta, Rolston, Parise) but everyone else is a defensive forward stiff out there to make sure no one takes any shots at all.
Some call this brilliant, I call it awful - and it's been awful for nearly 15 years now. Devils fans are tired of hearing about it and the ones that do exist on the Internet are more than happy to chime in and say, "AWFUL TO THE TOON OF 3 CUPZ!11! LOL!11!" Just because you were the best at playing the worst brand of hockey ever imagined doesn't give you something to hang your hat on.
Then again, folks in New Jersey have been proud of being mired in filth for a long time now. Par for the course I guess.
2. Vancouver Canucks
You're going to notice similarities between the Devils and Canucks here. Both teams have all-universe goaltenders. Roberto Luongo can't do a whole lot more to help Vancouver than he has. Both have some nice offensive parts. The Sedin twins have become a pretty solid scoring duo the last couple of years. Both teams don't offer much of anything else once you get past those big scorers.
Go ahead, have fun and tell me who on the current Canucks roster could be called a big scorer.
What aides in making Vancouver dreadfully boring is that they play in the Western Conference - the place where you'll find most of the harbingers of boredom in the NHL and Vancouver, if I were to actually slot out where they belong, would be a Top 5 offender.
This team plays everything close to the vest and their style of play has not deviated since the NHL came back after the lockout. Their series with the Dallas Stars in the playoffs two years ago was made of the stuff that cures Insomnia and the Canucks are happy playing it that way for a million reasons. Luongo can stand on his head to face 25 shots a night just fine. In fact their goal differential last year wasn't bad at all considering they finished last in their division (-2, 213 GF 215 GA). It's the point that they scored a mere 213 goals that's the problem.
Things will not get better in Vancouver unless they allow Mason Raymond to go hog wild and skate around everyone.
3. Dallas Stars
This team was a dreadful bore already. They play in a building that doubles as a hothouse for two-thirds of the year so the ice stinks year round even when its not 90 degrees outside. Come playoff time, forget it - you're better off throwing a boat out on the rink and dragging guys around behind it on waterskis.
I mention this because it has everything to do with their style of play. They like to slow it down, they don't exactly have the high-skill type of skaters and they're really big on hitting guys in the mouth and thensome. This season, add in the Sean Avery factor they'll at least have a little bit more "excitement" to them, but this is a team that is an affront to how hockey ought to be played. Steve Ott, Sean Avery, Krys Barch... these are not actually talented hockey players. Avery I enjoy for his antics and in being everything that NHL players generally are not. He's not humble, he doesn't give the same post-game interview and he frankly has no respect for anyone else - I'm OK with that in small doses in the NHL.
Goofs like Ott and Barch, however, are not enjoyable unless they're on your team. Considering that Dallas will now have one of these clowns polluting three out of four lines, potentially, makes me fear the road the Western Conference is headed down. It was bad enough to have a team like Anaheim and their Circus of Unabashed Goonery polluting the hockey landscape but now it appears that Dallas wants to join them.
Stars captain Brendan Morrow was a guy whose play I enjoyed for a while, but now he's gone the Jarome Iginla route of being a crying little girl come playoff time all while digging in with a cheap shot now and again - something we saw a few times just last season.
Consider me not a fan of that.
They've got a highly talented scorer in Brad Richards now and guys who at one time were talented scorers are aging and oft-injured (Modano and Lehtinen please stand up with the help of an assistant) while other guys have the lovely background of being a diving Nancy (please, get up Mike Ribeiro).
This is a loathsome team and they're going to make sure to bother everyone and unfortunately, their style of play fits in ideally with what most of the rest of the Western Conference wants to do. They'll fly under the radar until they end up at or near the top of the Conference and then once the playoff coverage begins, people will say, "Jeez, these guys are real assholes!"
4. Boston Bruins
It's all Claude Julien's fault here folks. The Boston Bruins in their eminent wisdom after years of either not making the playoffs or getting bounced out too early for their liking while trying to cut corners financially finally caught up to the mid-1990s and got on the Dump-And-Bore train started by Jacques Lemaire and Lou Lamoriello. These financial skinflints headed up by Jeremy Jacobs finally got the master plan to skimp out on spending stupidly and hire a coach who would slow things down to the point of frustration for everyone on and off the ice all while improving the standing of the team and try to capitalize on how every other Boston-area franchise was trying to win it all.
After all, winning it all means you can sell more merchandise, gain more fans and find new ways to steal money from a fanbase more than eager to throw away their money on everything with the word "BOSTON" written on it.
Of course, what helps to do this is a team with superstars who wins in an entertaining way. Jacobs will settle for games that continually end up 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 will somehow find a way to be exciting just by the game itself being close in score. Enter Claude Julien and his "Defense first, second and third priority" style of coaching. This is especially heartbreaking because there are really talented scorers on this team who have been already brutally mismanaged by Julien and his boring style.
Phil Kessel and Patrice Bergeron should be the one-two scoring punch answer in the Eastern Conference to guys like Crosby and Malkin - instead, Kessel gets continually chided by Julien for not doing things his way and Bergeron is finally going to be recovered from a massive concussion he suffered last season.
Kessel is an electric player who under Julien's watch won't be given free reign to do just that. Bergeron will be fascinating to watch to see what, if any, ill-effects he has from getting blasted in the head from behind against the Flyers.
Julien's answer, no doubt, will be to have him play better positional defense rather than try to track down a puck in the offensive zone - God forbid anyone bust their ass trying to retain possession and score goals.
At the very least, we're assured that the games between Boston and Philadelphia will have a little fire to them, but outside of that and games with Montreal... who would I look forward to seeing Boston play? No one. Julien's style doesn't allow for teams to take advantage of them nor does it allow for his team to have the freedom to attack at will. It's a counter-attack kind of team that relies on turnovers and power plays to do all the scoring. Five-on-five hockey is the time spent between opportunities to get a power play or to fight off on the kill. Julien's favorite game is one that ends 0-0.
The worst part of this is that Julien's style works. Somehow, horribly so, it works. Boston was the lowest scoring team in their division last year. They scored 19 fewer goals (212) than last place Toronto but allowed the same number of goals as first place Montreal (222). It's a goal differential of -10 yet up until the final few months of the season, they were one of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Gross.
Their 212 goals were the third fewest in the playoffs behind New Jersey and Anaheim and they were one goal worse than the New York Rangers who scored 213. Thoroughly abysmal offense and stifling, boring defense-only style of hockey makes me want to stab my eyes out with icepicks and right now, the Bruins are the team I look forward to watching the least. For as exciting as their playoff series was with the Canadiens last year, I found myself wishing for Montreal to score eight goals on Boston just to see what Boston would do when they were forced to open up their game even a little bit. I pray that an emerging Kessel and Bergeron returning to form will get Julien to open things up a little, but I don't see that happening as long as he's coach.
5. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are another long-time offender to hockey, and their fate was sealed in 2003 when they teamed up with the Devils to play The Worst Stanley Cup Final I've Ever Seen. Their 2003 team, like a lot of the teams who at some point adopted the Dump-And-Bore style was low on talent, had one line that could really actually score and three others that were great at grabbing attackers.
In 2007, the NHL saw fit to look the other way as the Ducks gooned and thugged their way to the Finals and won the Stanley Cup. After all, plenty of Cup winners have had teams that saw a guy get suspended multiple times during the same playoffs for cheap hits.
What hides the fact that they play a ridiculously boring style of hockey is their goonery. The fights, the cheap hits, the mouthy douchebag players all hide the fact that this team relies heavily on the power play to score at all. Jean-Sebastian Giguere has been their be-all, do-all goaltender since that 2003 Cup Finals season and the Ducks, out of all the teams on this list, have taken the lessons taught by the Devils of the mid-90s and extrapolated on them in a big way.
Giguere has proven he's more than capable of stopping the same crappy 25 shots per game while his team chips and pokes and gums up the ice in front of him. If the opponent gets a little too excited and zips in behind the defense? Grab them. Cross-check them. Punch them in the face. Whatever it takes, just do it. More often than not, it'll work and you'll get them to retaliate which then turns the game into exactly what the Ducks want: A parade to the penalty box that allows them to put out the Brad May's and George Parros' of the world more to actually mix things up. Throw in an actually talented scorer who does nothing but run his mouth like Corey Perry and you've got the West Coast version of the Philadelphia Flyers... except that the Ducks actually win big games now and again.
All this yammering on from me and I haven't even really gone into why Chris Pronger is, perhaps, the most loathsome puke in the NHL. The record speaks for itself in regards to him and enough people have wasted bandwidth on him and I'm not about to pile on. In short, screw Chris Pronger.
Some folks might argue that this teams penchant for fighting doesn't make them boring. Fights and cheap shots, however, are false excitement that has nothing to do with teams putting the puck in the net. Fights are another category unto themselves, which, if I was to rank out teams I most enjoy watching when I have an urge to punch someone in the face, Anaheim might be at the top of the list because I know they'll fulfill that urge.
Whether that's thanks to them playing an abhorrent style of hockey that makes me wish for death or because they're busy skating around the ice like the Hanson Brothers is irrelevant at that point.
Fact is, the Ducks scored the least number of goals of the playoff teams last year (205) and allowed the second fewest (191; Detroit was first with 184). They're a dreadfully boring team to watch five-on-five as long as they're not being goons. I'm glad this team plays on the West Coast so I'm not subjected to more of their garbage brand of hockey, unfortunately, as my hit list shows you and the Versus TV schedule backs up, we'll all get more than our fair share of teams looking to ruin your NHL fandom.
Wondering why there's nothing new? That's because you can find me at: WWW.GROSSMISCONDUCTHOCKEY.COM