The Good: The World Cup of Hockey
When the World Cup was announced I thought that it was a silly, gimmicky tournament and I expected to hate it. I was wrong. It was a silly, gimmicky tournament and I enjoyed it. There is no way that a Canada/Europe final was what the organizers were dreaming of when they crafted this tournament, but in those two games the European leftovers pushed Canada harder than any other team in the tournament did. Who saw that coming? Throw in the unbelievably fun North American squad and there was a lot to like about this tournament.
The World Cup isn’t the Olympics and it’s never going to be the Olympics. Since we already have the Olympics that’s fine with me (whether or not the NHL should be competing in the Olympics is a topic for another day). And it’s also fine to enjoy the World Cup for what it is, some damn good hockey. Looking back on it now, I know that a big part of why I wasn’t excited for it, and I assume a few other as well, is that the idea came from Gary Bettman, and a lot of hockey fans are conditioned to dislike whatever comes out of Gary Bettman’s mouth. If you’re the public face of multiple lockouts that’s bound to happen.
This was a good idea though. It gave us an early season reminder of how much fun hockey can be and it kept some of us from obsessing over line combinations on the first day of training camp. My only suggestion would be to continue to tweak the format. Take the North American team and make it a World under-24 team. You could do the same with Team Europe, making it a true “Team Leftover” and including players left of the Canadian and American rosters. Or include two Canada teams - they’ll be less likely to win that way - and have the teams picked live on national TV. And see if the USA can’t ice a team in the next tournament.
The Bad: Reliving the Oilers Coaching Carousel
Ralph Krueger received a lot of attention this past week for coaching Team Europe to the finals of the World Cup of Hockey. There’s been a lot of commentary on his coaching history, including his success with the Swiss hockey program and his consulting role with Team Canada at the Olympics. In there, we also got plenty of discussion around his coaching tenure with Edmonton as he served for two seasons as an associate coach under Tom Renney and one season as head coach.
And because he was let go by then GM Craig MacTavish, a rookie GM who had just replaced Steve Tambellini, and replaced by first time NHL coach Dallas Eakins, there’s been a lot of vitriol spewed towards the Oilers for their decisions around coaching personnel. Six coaches in seven seasons since 2009, none of which have been able to turn it around.
You can make a good case for or against any of the Oilers coaches that have come and gone since 2009 by pointing to team stats, individual performances or from the comments made by the players. But at the end of the day, not one of these coaches had a NHL-caliber roster to deploy with depth at multiple positions. Krueger is a good coach and his career speaks for itself. But reliving the Oilers coaching history, and poor decisions making by management, because Krueger is getting a lot of ink has been a bit much.
The Ugly: Las Vegas Golden Silver Desert Red Sand Night Knights
I've never had a kid, but I imagine it would be quite tough to decide on a name for him/her. If I took the approach the Las Vegas NHL team has to naming, I would first think of a name I like, and then embellish it with a bunch of different colours and qualifiers I won't be able to decide between, resulting in potential names like "Golden Steve," "Silver Steve," and "Desert Steve," along with discarded favourites "Red Steve," "Sand Steve," and "Nightsteve."
One moment I get a message from a friend saying the team is called the "Nighthawks," and then I read that apparently it's Sand Knights, along with a bunch of other random rumours. So far, the team has officially filed federal trademarks for "Golden Knights," "Silver Knights," and "Desert Knights," as well as purchased the domain for sandknights.com. First of all, what the hell is a Sand Knight? At this point, "Las Vegas Terra Cotta Warriors" may even be a cooler and more sensical team name (with more global appeal).
I have gotten to the point where I really don't care what they are called anymore, but would just like to stop hearing about what they could be called every other week. The truly annoying thing about this is really that it's been dragged on for so long-- they could have easily just decided on a name and announced it (Las Vegas Celine Dions would have been perfectly fine), instead of producing more variations on the word knight than anyone would care to hear. As we've seen with other teams who've produced overly long names, only to reduce them a few years later and still leave behind residual confusion (see:
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Tampa Bay DevilRays), being super fancy doesn't really work in the sports world. Whichever word they choose to put before the word "Knight" will likely be dropped colloquially before long, and the team name "Knights" cannot be used by itself because of the glaring presence of a major OHL team with the same name. You'd think the owners would have known this; instead, they have attached their body and soul to the word "knight," determined to use it no matter how much conflict and confusion it may cause.
When Atlanta and Nashville got expansion teams, they decided on team names through a fan poll, clean and simple. The whole naming ordeal for this new NHL team has been unnecessarily drawn out, messy, and confusing, kind of like a drunken, bleary night in Vegas. Please just make it stop.