The Anaheim Ducks are in the same spot the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks have been over the last few years. Between one of the best frontline pairings in the league with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and a clown car of young defensemen, they’re absolutely capable of winning the Stanley Cup this year. Just like they were last year, and the year before. Unfortunately some uncouth game seven flameouts have been on their reputation. But all that can change with one season! They just need to stop making The Bends and take the next step to OK Computer.
Yes they can still get the job done, but the core of the once-great Canucks has grown old and fat. They’ll probably limp into the playoffs again this year, meandering around as best they can until a much needed full-scale rebuild. They aren’t bad by any means, but like Metallica, you get the feeling that they’d be better off if they just broke up.
The only thing worse than being bad is being bad and irrelevant. The Arizona Coyotes are in a really tough spot in 2015. They have a terrible offense, a terrible defense, a bad, overpaid goalie, and the worst attendance in the league. If you’re in a nontraditional hockey market you want to at least be critically respected, but unfortunately the ‘Yotes feel like a piece of flotsam. Drifting along the southwestern desert, hoping to be good again soon to avoid the seemingly inevitable move up north.
When Iceage first broke out back in 2009 the big story was that their average age was something like 17. A quarter of teenagers making strong, highly auspicious post-punk! It was rough, but they already seemed destined for greatness. This year’s Oilers team is composed of a bunch of children; Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and of course the already transcendent Connor McDavid. Sure they might still be bad, but the Oilers are undoubtedly the team with the highest upside in the entire NHL.
This year marks the first time the Sharks will play without head coach Todd McLellan since 2008. He decided to pack his bags and move on after a particularly middling performance capped by the team’s failure to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003. San Jose then welcomed some new blood in the form of ex-Devils bench boss Peter DeBoer. He inherits a talented, if aging core, and a handful of kids but there’s a chance he can turn it around and make the Sharks contenders again in a season. If it worked for Brian Johnson and AC/DC, it can work for Joe Thornton.
They’re going to be very, very good. There’s also a chance one of their best players did something very, very bad and will force this weird reconciliation of provincial fandom and legitimate off-ice horror stories every single time you see them play. I sure wish it was easier to write about the Blackhawks right now.
I’ve got a friend from Winnipeg who tells me that when the NHL announced the Jets were coming back all the bars in town ran out of beer. That’s the sweetest thing ever, and last season’s unexpected playoff run was super heartwarming (until they ran into the Ducks.) The Jets should be pretty good again. Nobody is penciling them in for the Cup, but they’ve certainly got enough talent to make another playoff appearance. And you know what? That might be enough! At least for a while. Jets fandom sorta reminds me of Mountain Goats fandom, in the sense that Mountain Goats fans are willing to completely lose their mind over some simple three-chord folk songs with an anti-authoritarian edge. As long as the Jets get to the postseason we’re guaranteed more ridiculously exuberant Winnipeg home games. That’s all we’re asking for!
The fourth Strokes album was better than you think. Yes it was disjointed. Yes it was recorded all over the country by email and dropbox. Yes it seemed sorta clear that everyone in the band hated each other, but it still worked. I kind of wonder if everyone on the Blues hates each other yet. Not a visceral hatred! Just a “how did we lose in the first round again? Oh my God are we really just not good enough?” existential hatred. It’s bad for your health. The Blues need to start over. Either that or make another decent Strokes album that’s about as depressing as it is capable.
In case you weren’t on the internet the past couple months, Philly rapper Meek Mill picked a fight with Drake. Drake responded with an O.K. diss track, waited for Mill’s response, and then put out a much better diss track that ended up getting radio play and knifing up the charts. It was not a great time to be Meek Mill. It’s almost like if you were the Minnesota Wild and kept losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs for, like, three seasons straight.
I’m a fan of bands that are centered around one major creative force. LCD Soundsystem was basically just James Murphy. He wrote all the songs, recorded everything. It was basically a solo project. The only thing holding back the Preds in 2013-14 was the lack of Pekka Rinne, the great goaltender who was injured most of the season. Last season he came back and they won the Presidents’ Trophy. Simple as that right? Pekka Rinne is totally James Murphy.
There’s no way to prove this mathematically, but I think the Columbus Blue Jackets might be the most obscure team in American sports. You combine a city nobody knows anything about (Columbus, Ohio,) a weirdly vague name (Blue Jackets,) and as little postseason legacy as possible (two first round one-and-dones), and you’re left with a team with less gravitas than the Coyotes. That being said, the Blue Jackets might be pretty good this season! They traded for Brandon Saad, which is a pretty significant addition! I’m giving them DJ /rupture’s Uproot, which is a great album that nobody remembers.
The Devils probably have the worst situation in the NHL. They are very bad and they work deep in the dark shadow of the glitzy New York Rangers. You can look at the Hurricanes or the Oilers and see the boatload of young prospects coming down the pipeline, but the Devils don’t even have that reassurance. They’re pretty much starting from scratch and it’s a long, long road ahead. Congratulations New Jersey, you get the sadder Joy Division album. Quite a feat.
The New York Giants play in New Jersey, the Atlanta Braves are moving to Cobb County, the San Francisco 49ers have a stadium in San Jose, and now the New York Islanders have taken up residence in Brooklyn. They’re also good again for the first time in forever. It’s funny that the team with Long Island in its logo can finally contend for the Cup as soon as it throws in with Jay-Z. It’s like how Against Me! peaked in popularity when they signed with Warner. Yes you’re achieving your dreams, but at what cost?
The Flyers are past their peak with holes on defense and questions about depth, but they still have Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Those guys are really, really good. Sure the supporting cast isn’t there any more, but much like Raekwon, Ghostface, and GZA, they can still run into a classic every once in a while.
This team is going to be playing Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and Evgeni Malkin. That’s like forming a jazz trio with Max Roach, Hasaan Ibn Ali, and Art Davis!
Honestly, I don’t even know why the Maple Leafs are playing out this season. They’re going to be bad and a huge chunk of their players will be (or should be) traded for future assets as part of their rebuilding process that’s been going on since the Carter administration. Mike Babcock is a good coach, so that’s something I guess. But don’t be fooled. The Maple Leafs are the 2014 Lakers of the North. They remind me of that random Who album that came out a few years ago despite the deaths of founding bassist John Entwhistle and drummer Keith Moon. Just ship ‘em off! Start a new team!
I kind of love this Panthers team. Jaromir Jagr! Roberto Luongo! All these old guys are holding down the squad alongside blue-chip babies like Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad. It’s like that Dr. Dre album from this year where a 50-year-old man plays host to both generational partners like Ice Cube and proteges like Kendrick Lamar.
The good news is that they’re through the worst of it. The Buffalo Sabres played some of the worst professional hockey I have ever seen in my life last season, and they’re definitely going to be not as bad! Not with Jack Eichel in town. Baby steps, right? Things are only going to look up from here on out. Nick Cave had a rough couple of years but he bounced back with one of the greatest mid-’90s runs ever. You can do it too Buffalo!
I’ve made my peace with the fact that Tom Waits will never stop making incredible music. He’s on a shortlist of guys like Scott Walker, Johnny Cash, and Neil Young who will never get complacent in old age. They’re just that hungry. The Red Wings made the playoffs again last spring, for the 24th consecutive year, despite Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and the rest of the core are being ancient in hockey years and with a new coach and some fresh kids coming in they look like they'll continue to put up competitive seasons no matter what. They’ve entered Tim Duncan and Tom Waits territory. Don’t count ‘em out ’til you see it with your own eyes.
Some debut albums take you by surprise. Some are weird, funny curiosities, but there are some that totally put the world on notice and make a guy a star in an hour. From the second we heard Chance the Rapper we knew he was going to be around for a long time, kinda like how the second we saw Ottawa’s rookies (lead by Matt Stone,) we knew that they were going to make this team very good for a long time.