First overall draft pick Auston Matthews (Photo via John Buccigross)
I don’t actually know who John Buccigross is. I know he does hockey coverage for ESPN, which sounds like a silly thing, but your boy Rob Vollman does it and he’s great. Maybe Bucci is great too, that’s what I thought when I clicked on today’s article about Maple Leafs prize prospect Auston Matthews.
When a hockey player like Matthews is compared to Toews (who was taken third in the 2006 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks), what the person doing the comparing is basically saying is that he is someone you can win with.
This is a single sentence, but if you tried to diagram it you would lose your sanity, turn into a fish monster, and walk into the sea via Innsmouth harbor. The word is is in there four times, and I’m not sure what it means anymore.
There are talented, skillful players and then there are players with whom you can win.
This sentence, rather ostentatiously and unlike its prior, does not end with a proposition. It does, however, make zero sense. To believe that you cannot win merely with good players is an unjustifiable logical leap. You pull that move in your debate and rhetoric class and you’ll get flunked and you’ll deserve it.
But they are also well-rounded and physically hockey-strong players who come to understand how the wiring of sports and of being an athlete works. You need more than one of them to win, but the man in the middle of it all needs to be that kind of smooth operator, someone with a presence and respect.
The following phrases are empty euphemisms used by the hockey orthodoxy and those who ape them: well-rounded, hockey-strong, smooth operator, presence and respect. Perhaps Buccigross is grasping towards “this player helps his team outscore their opponent,” but he betrays that he doesn’t know how that happens. For the record, it does not happen because of respect.
The Los Angeles Kings have that in Anze Kopitar. The Boston Bruins have it in Patrice Bergeron. It’s not a surprise that since 2010 these three teams — the Blackhawks, Kings and Bruins — have been your Stanley Cup champs.
This is called the sharpshooter fallacy. The debate teacher must’ve taught his class about it after Bucci flunked out.
Toews is lucky in that he has always had Patrick Kane to help carry the water with the Blackhawks. Kane carries the offense and does much of the Chicago Showtime heavy lifting. Kane, however, is lucky that he has Toews, because Kane’s off-ice resume only is tolerable when you have a pillar.
For the record, battery and sexual assault (*allegedly) are not tolerable under any conditions, even if your team captain is hockey’s version of Data from ST:TNG. I’m not sure how a sentence like that gets published unless there’s no review process in place.
Note: This is the first of five “pillar” references.
Toews is the CEO whose on-ice grit and leadership (he’ll pick his spots with an occasional fight) provides the Hawks with that pillar.
Fighting is not actually a marker of leadership, traditionally. It’s usually done by marginal players desperate to hold onto an NHL roster spot. And “occasional” for Toews means six fights in 769 games. Sidney Crosby fights more. Is Crosby gritty too?
He has lottery hair, stoicism and calm that will serve him well as an American in Toronto.
Lottery hair. I’ve got nothing. I actually like that phrase. I wish I had lottery hair.
Kessel always looked like the grumpy neighbor/villain in a “Christmas Vacation” movie.
Pictured: David Duchovny (left) and Phil Kessel (right)
But, like Toews, like Wayne Gretzky, like Gordie Howe, or like everyone who has won a Stanley Cup, Matthews will need help breaking the Maple Leafs’ 48-year Stanley Cup drought.
Toews, Gretzky, or Howe did not break the Maple Leafs’ 48-year Stanley Cup drought– with or without help. Bucci probably knows this, but his sentence structure does not.
He is not a showhorse, he is a workhorse. He will go to the dirty areas, hang around the net, make his linemates better and make them money.
These words do not mean anything, but pre-draft qualitative analysis seldom does. For example, at the 2004 NHL Draft, Pierre McGuire said Alex Ovechkin was “fundamentally so sound defensively. . .a lot of players his age don’t have that defensive awareness.” Somebody else on that broadcast picked up what McGuire was throwing down and said, “he’s got a 200-foot game. He plays on every part of the ice surface. He’s reliable defensively.” Then that guy said something about truculence and I closed the tab.
We will have to wait and see what the Leafs do in free agency and/or trades this summer to get a sense of whether they are going to be patient with young players and wait another year or two — John Tavares will be a free agent in two years — to really go for it.
If you attempt to diagram this sentence, you will go mad and join a death cult. Your mortal mind cannot fathom its non-euclidian geometry. Your mind is forfeit and you will become a fish-gilled editor for ESPN.com.
Okay, here’s the conclusion.
The kid from the the dessert will likely soon head to the Great White North, hoping to make the Leafs great again. This is serious stuff.
Pictured: dessert (left) and desert (right)
Though, to be fair, the kid from the dessert is probably Phil Kessel.
Looking forward to ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup of Hockey!
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