A pledge. Not so much a promise, because there's got to be some reasonable excuse to have to say something. But I wish to say to all of you at Nucks Misconduct: I hereby pledge to stop talking so much about the Boston Bruins. It's not that I wanted to, most of it was entirely necessary, and we pride ourselves on not just giving you what we think is the best damn blog covering the Canucks but one that ensures you keep up to date on the other teams in the NHL. This season however, the Bruins have gone out of their way to ensure people have to talk about them, intentionally or not. I cannot recall any team, let alone a team that was defending champions that continuously looked as bad as the Bruins have this season. The crescendo of it all came yesterday with their visit to the White House. The sporting world, including many who normally couldn't give a squirt about hockey are talking about Tim Thomas and his desire to express himself politically by making a statement that had nothing to do about politics. And as much as this was the kind of gift that writers, columnists and bloggers pray for, for me at least it signals an opportunity to break free. The ring is being tossed into the fires of Mount Doom. They didn't just jump the shark, they retired it's number and sewed a patch on their jerseys.
Tim Thomas is more than able to say what he wants about anything. He lives in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech. He exercised that right yesterday, more or less. He told his team, on a day where they are, as is tradition for all sporting champions honoured by the White House, that he would not join them on their visit. His political beliefs, so strong that he could not put them aside, meant that an occasion not just for the team but their fans was not as important as expressing his disgust with the country's state of affairs. As someone who believes one should stand up for your beliefs, I can empathize with this. I also think that if you believe in something strong enough, when given an opportunity to voice your beliefs, you take it. Now I am not saying that Tim Thomas should have got all up in Barack Obama's face and raged. Far from it. But to people of a similar political inkling, it would have sent a huge message if he would have shook his hand, looked him in the eye and said something, anything even, about his feelings about the President and the job he is doing. What 'Free Citizen' ever gets such an opportunity? Yet Thomas chose not just to waive his right to do this, but also chose to hide from the media on this, offering up a disjointed manifesto on facebook, and then stating he won't answer further questions on the matter.
It reeks of cowardice. It's an utter embarrassment to the NHL and the game, which prides itself on having a better quality of people involved in the sport (let's face it, there are far less incidents in hockey that involve criminal or other embarrassing behavior than baseball, football or basketball). In a season where we've heard from the Bruins management a lot, constantly defending the actions of their players on the ice, we now hear them defend Thomas for his actions off the ice. And while they were quick to state that Thomas' views were not shared by the team or it's ownership group, they also stated that they would not punish him for missing this team function, despite sitting Tyler Seguin earlier in the season for missing a team breakfast. I can't speak for them. And maybe for them, sitting Thomas would send a bad message in the room. At the same time, anyone who thinks that there isn't someone in the Bruins organization who questions Tim Thomas after this, you're kidding yourself. He put himself over the team. There's no other way to look at this. Was he the first player to feel this way? Likely not. Yet they all managed to swallow their contempt, pride or whatever and shake the man's hand. As the only American on their roster, it certainly presented a bizarre image. And with the team playing against the Capitals tonight, one can expect we will hear a lot about this. You think the Bruins will start Thomas tonight? Not a chance. And then we can make a choice, the high road or we can act like the Boston media and spew out things like 'Why is Tim Thomas ducking the Washington Capitals?' Now I get why they do that kind of stuff. It's fun. But I think we haven't begun to hear then end of questions about Thomas and his commitment level to his team, which is apparently not where even his team thinks it should be.
And speaking of the Capitals, they're in the midst of a media shit-storm themselves as they've announced that after being suspended for 3 games yesterday for a hit to the head of Pittsburgh's Zbynek Michalek, Alex Ovechkin has decided he doesn't want to play in this weekend's All Star Game in Ottawa. ''He really doesn't feel like he deserves to be there and doesn't want to be a distraction,'' McPhee told TSN Hockey Insider Pierre Lebrun. ''When he came in this morning, he said, 'I'm a suspended player and I don't deserve to be there.''' The NHL has already announced they will not discipline Ovechkin for this. He's already being punished, and let's face it, his likeability is taking yet another hit. Instead of shrugging it off and looking at the All Star Weekend as an opportunity to do some patch work PR, he's instead gone the prima donna route, and acted like a spoiled child. Mr. Big? More like Mr. Big Baby.
(Inhales deeply) Okay, glad I was able to get that out of my system. On to more important matters. The Canucks play their last game before the All Star break and have a little momentum heading into tonight's matchup against the Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks are coming off a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks Saturday, and the Oilers needed a shootout to defeat the Sharks last night. The good news for the Canucks is that Sami Salo's health has improved faster than originally thought and he is a go tonight, when it was first thought he wouldn't return to the lineup until after the All Star break.
The Canucks seem to be finding their feet once again after struggling through the last days of December and most of January. They face an Oilers squad that has scored a whopping 9 goals in it's last 8 games. Despite their somewhat prolific scoring ability, the seemingly age old Oilers issues are seeing them creeping towards the NHL basement once again. Their defence is poor and their goaltending not nearly good enough to keep them in games. Sure, they get the occasional game out of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk like they did last night, but not on anything resembling a consistent basis. This team needs far more than just their young guns, and may need to part with some of them in order to build an actual team that can win hockey games. It makes the rumours that the Oilers are going to extend the contract of GM Steve Tambellini mind-boggling to say the least. His tenure has seen the Oilers bottom out and stay there, despite grabbing top rated draft pick after top rated draft pick. The patience of Oilers fans is running out, and one can hardly blame them.
As bad as Thomas ends up looking in all of this, the ridiculous tweet from TSN's Dave Hodge yesterday, implying Thomas was a racist because his 3 children's names begin with K threatens to overshadow it all. Hodge is a living legend in the world of hockey broadcasting, from his work with NBC and Hockey Night In Canada to his more recent stint at TSN, and it's pretty sad to see him seemingly toss this away for a comment that at best is an ill-advised joke in extremely poor taste. Thomas' political views are fair game right now, but implications of racism? A step over the line, Dave. An apology can't come fast enough... If you want a couple really good reads on Tim Thomas (and details on how this selfishness is hardly a new thing) here's a couple fine pieces from Kevin Paul Dupont and Stu Hackel of SI... Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers will replace Chicago's Jonathan Toews at the All Star Game, as Toews bows out due to a wrist injury. Toews hopes to return to the lineup when the Blackhawks play the Canucks on the 31st...
CLASSIC METAL SONG OF THE DAY
The fact this band was able to achieve the success it has is remarkable in and of itself. Rising from the slums of Belo Horizonte, Brazil to become one of the biggest metal acts of the 90's and still going strong today (in spite of losing founding members Max and Igor Cavalera), Sepultura combined thrash and death metal with the cultural sensibilities of their homeland, running this music through a filter that gave them a unique sound. Hugely inspirational, they laid down some memorable tracks over the years, few as devastating as this one.