Grab a chair, pour a ginger ale, and put some soft jazz on the hifi. We’re about to take a leisurely ride through the world of RMNB 2011. Today we’ll be looking at the good stuff today, and the really awful stuff we’ll see on Friday.
In 2011 we published more than 470 articles that more than doubled (206%) our traffic from 2010. Our readers (i.e. you) stay longer on our site, view more articles (102.5%), leave more comments (119%), and correct our grammar more than ever before. We climbed above 5k followers on Twitter (mostly spam bots), and we are now flirting with 6k. We’ve got around 3600 people liking us on Facebook, most of whom are just trying to win the swag Ian gives away every game. We started a tumblelog, where almost 500 people follow our silly pictures and quotes and other stuff that doesn’t fit on the main site. We’re working on a pinterest page, as soon as we figure out what that is.
We started the Pick ‘Em Contest on Facebook, where someone always predicts an Ovechtrick. We’ve begun grassroots poster campaigns for Dale Hunter, Jaromir Jagr, and Jay Beagle. We sold a bunch t-shirts and then blew all the profit on giveaways and contests. We supported the increasingly fantastic art of Rachel Cohen and wistfully saw stat-meister Neil Greenberg sail off to brighter horizons. We raised more than $2,500 for charity. We learned the difference between “re-sign” and “resign.” We threw two parties at Front Page VA, where much merriment was had. We experimented with video and audio content, and got our game recaps posted right after the buzzer with only a small ton of factual errors and typos.
It’s been a very good year for the Russian Machine. We’re now the go-to place for the search terms “hello neuvy”, “alexander semin unibrow”, “holtbyisms”, and — unfathomably– “justin timberlake mickey mouse club.” We wouldn’t have it any other way.
(in no particular order)
We did not invent the fictional 9-goal game (that was the NHL promoting their Verizon GameCenter app), but we certainly covered the living hell out of it. There’s the original commercial, behind the scenes with CRL, one actor’s diary, the t-shirt, and our most-read article of the year— Neil Greenberg’s “Could an Ovechtrick Really Happen?”
When Bench Boss Bruce Boudreau’s team went three-games down on Tampa Bay Lightning, we could smell the blood in the water. Our “Fire Bruce Boudreau” article from back in April was a spit in the face of the growing mob. As this season fell apart, we ruminated on Boudreau’s bad rap. When the firing became an inevitability after the Buffalo disaster, we commissioned Max Duchaine to create a goodbye video, set to the tune of Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You.”
One of the Puck Buddys’ first contributions to the Machine was this series on the hockey game between the wounded warriors and the congressional team. We got a moving story from side of the Warriors (“Hockey was a life-saver for me”), the maniacal evil laughter of Chicago’s Rep. Quigley, and a somber recap of the game. It’s hard not to finish reading those stories without admiration for the (non-Congress-y) people involved and newfound perspective of our own gifts.
Alex Ovechkin’s non-hockey-related hijinx are a bottomless font of web content. The mindless glee and mischief that Ovi takes with him wherever goes brightens up even the most dour offseason. This year we had the mystifyingly popular Russians-playing-soccer-with-their-shirts-off post, pictures of Ovi wearing what appears to be a suit and hat weaved out of pubic hair, and a the whole thing about wearing sweat pants OVER blue jeans. The entire summer was cataloged exhaustively in this timeline, assembled by Ian Oland.
The whole NHL Guardian project was idiotic, patronizing, and poorly executed. We knew from the start that Stan Lee’s invented superhero for our team would suck big time. So we made our own. Rachel Cohen (pencils) and Ian Oland (colors) did the art, and Peter did the plot. He’s an old guy with a Constitution cape and Washington Monument sword with the power to control traffic. Pure win.
Compared to the team’s current troubles, the spring of 2011 seems kind of quaint. But recall if you will a team that had lost its spark, and the effort it exerted to rekindle it. When Alex Ovechkin beat Buffalo and won the Eastern Conference first seed with an overtime goal, he danced like the exuberant dweeb we all know he is. Rachel captured it in her adorable artwork, and we’ve got gifs.
Ah, yes. No “Best Of” list is complete without Washington’s mercurial man of mystery Alex Semin. RMNB came together to craft the definitive document on Alex Semin, featuring the creation of Neil’s invented stat, The Sasha Index. When Matt Bradley questioned Semin’s commitment, we made up a bar graph of the things Semin actually does care about . Then Rachel designed a t-shirt and sewed the darn thing into existence.
During our “Winter is Coming” campaign (spoiler: it’s the next bullet), we premiered an illustration by Mark Burrier that Knuble’s Knights promptly purloined via eBay. When Knuble fell to the fourth line and had ice time taken away, we put the righteous indignation hat on. Kvetching about Mike’s unfair treatment has become a game recap tradition, but so has going ape-nuts over his in-your-face goals.
Peter went overboard about Game of Thrones this year. It invaded his writing to the amusement of no one, and he demanded that House Stark’s words “Winter is Coming” become our rally cry heading into the season. So Ian created this photoshop wonder, and we each wrote our psyche-up pieces for the season. Chris wrote about the 2009 playoffs ’cause he’s a noob, Peter also wrote about the 2009 playoffs ’cause he’s creepily fixated on Matt Bradley, Rachel wrote about the Winter Classic ’cause she’s a superfan, and Ian wrote about Ovechkin’s first playoff goal ’cause he knows good SEO. Finally, Max capped it off with a superb pump-up video.
Chris Gordon’s profile on 5-year-old William Shannon becoming a Capitals player for a day was– by far– the best thing we published this year. Thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, William got to suit up, skate with the team, school Varlamov on the shootout, ride in a limo, ride the zamboni, hang with the media, and a bunch of other stuff I wish I could do. William’s father Devin Shannon gave us additional scoop first-hand along with a bunch of pictures that melt the heart of even the most cynical fan.
There’s a lot more, but it doesn’t fit into a nice list. Check out our primer for the new season, Chris’ story on Caps fans getting psyched up in the preseason, the emergence of #AvsFailWatch, our eulogy for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Puck Daddy, Joe Beninati’s suits, our coverage of the “We are Louder” thing, and Holtby Night in Canada. Or, if you prefer, just browse around the /best-of/ tag for whatever. We’ll keep it updated as soon as we write something good.
Here’s a smattering of images to document the year. The photoshops are Ian’s, the original art is Rachel’s, the photos are Chris’s.
Our Shepard Fairey-styled Knuble protest poster.
The Caps are soft.
The disaster in Buffalo.
Steckelbombing Carrie Underwood.
Winter is Coming.
Crosby plays golf.
The Jagr protest poster. More on this tomorrow.
The Matt Bradley valentine!
Chris’ photo of Ovechkin getting pie’d on his birthday.
Chris’ photo of my girlfriend, Alex Morgan.
That wraps up our victory lap. And now you know what’s coming. Tomorrow will be the Worst of RMNB, and it will be very long. Carbo-load tonight.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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