Once again, it’s time for this space’s year-end tradition of selecting a real-life movie title and critic’s review (from www.RottenTomatoes.com) that aptly summarizes each NHL team’s season. We covered the Western Conference franchises last week, meaning it’s the East’s turn.
Movie:The Ugly Truth
Plot Summary: Many Thrashers supporters and GM Don Waddell believed Ilya Kovalchuk would consider remaining in non-Soviet Georgia. Some people knew better.
Real Review: “(B)ogs down in relentless predictability and the puzzling overuse of naughty words.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Movie:Edge of Darkness
Summary: A year after the Bruins finished with the Eastern Conference’s best regular-season record, the team needed a late run to finish just four points – and one win – ahead of the East’s ninth-place team.
Real Review: “Disappointingly neutered in its own right, but considering the talent and material involved it's almost heartbreaking.” – Garth Franklin, DarkHorizons.com
Summary: Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers throw the rest of the Sabres over their shoulder and carry them through the regular season. Then, once again, the team’s playoff performance pales in comparison.
Real Review: “In spite of its strong performances, (it) plays a tune you’ve heard too many times.” – Sean Means, New York Daily News
Movie:The Hurt Locker
Summary: Injuries to Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Tuomo Ruutu, Erik Cole and Tim Gleason make the Carolina infirmary a crowded place to be. And not even a white-hot late season run can qualify the Hurricanes for post-season play.
Real Review: “(S)ettles into a somewhat comforting pattern of danger and mild relief, which can diffuse the knots in your stomach.” – Ben McEachen, Australia Sunday Mail
Movie:The Blind Side
Summary: David Booth and the Panthers get decimated by the game’s “grey area”/envelope-pushed elements. But there’s a happy ending, at least, when the organization’s new majority owners publicly vow to tear down the team’s core – and hire former Hawks GM Dale Tallon to do it.
Real Review: “A sports drama that's more about the melodrama and less about the sport.” – Mark Sells, Oregon Herald
Movie:The Back-up Plan
Summary: At the start of the year, Carey Price was the Canadiens’ No. 1 goalie and Bob Gainey their GM. By the time the Habs went on a stunning post-season run, neither Price nor Gainey had retained their role. And even after new No. 1 netminder Jaroslav Halak dominated during a stunning playoff run, new GM Pierre Gauthier and his team made clear their intent to make Halak’s backup the starter again.
Real Review: “(H)as a shiny look and a breezy feel – the breeze being generated by the plot reversals that come at 10-minute intervals.” – Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
Summary: In his final year before retiring as an NHL coach, Jacques Lemaire uses text messaging to inform Devils players of their game status. No emoticon discovered yet to encapsulate how players felt about that.
Real Review: “Enjoyably fast-paced…with some inventive directorial touches.” –Matthew Turner, ViewLondon
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Summary: The Isles fail to gain meaningful ground in their race for a playoff spot, so owner Charles Wang focuses his energies on plans for a new arena – and a 16-team tournament at the end of the regular season to decide the final playoff spot in each conference. Neither looks likely.
Real Review: “It sounds like a faint recommendation, but trust me when I say that calling it ‘not terrible’ is high praise indeed.” – Marshall Fine, HollywoodAndFine.com
NEW YORK RANGERS
Movie:Confessions of a Shopaholic
Summary: Perennial summertime spender Glen Sather reminds us he hasn’t lost his sense of humor by stating that the Rangers are “not going to overpay for free agents” this off-season. That’s an odd statement to make, given that overpaying may be the only way to get free agents to join the Blueshirts.
Real Review: “Audiences are expected to forget everything they know about the media, shopping, writing, the economy and human behavior in general for the plot to work.” – Alonso Duralde, MSNBC.com
Summary: Few Senators players – maybe only Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips – have shown themselves able to cope with the effects of Ottawa’s intense focus on its NHL team. Jason Spezza isn’t in that small group, which is why he’s on the trade block.
Real Review: “(M)akes an inadvertent argument for the monastery.” – Scott Tobias, AVClub.com
Movie: Not Easily Broken
Summary: The Flyers continue their tradition of average goaltenders, yet thanks to a peerless top-four defense corps and the leadership of captain Mike Richards, they roll with a Tyson-like flurry of punches all the way to a Cup final appearance.
Real Review: “Like some marriages, it has its flaws, but perhaps it's the good stuff that's worth focusing on.” – Justin Berton, San Francisco Chronicle
Movie:It Might Get Loud
Summary: A successful defense of their 2008-09 NHL championship isn’t in the cards, but between Sidney Crosby’s first Olympic gold medal and Rocket Richard Trophy and the last season in the decrepit Mellon Arena, Pens fans have a lot to holler about.
Real Review: “A few bits of brilliance shine through the messier moments.” – Jeff Vice,
Movie: The Limits of Control
Summary: As the relationship between now-former Lightning co-owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules completely disintegrated, so did the connection between now-former GM Brian Lawton and now-former coach Rick Tocchet – and the Bolts failed to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season. However, now that new owner Jeffrey Vinik and new GM Steve Yzerman are in town, identifying the boss won’t be an issue anymore.
Real Review: “(A)t once a dull thriller and a humorless comedy.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Summary: A start-of-season disaster ostensibly shuts Toronto out of the playoff race before December begins, leaving many members of Leafs Nation wondering if it’s finally time to emigrate.
Real Review: “The lack of bloodshed, again something clearly ordered by the focus group obsessed front office, flattens everything, turning the violence into something vague and unfocused.” – Bill Gibron, FilmCritic.com
Movie:A Serious Man
Summary: Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin encounters a few bumps – including public relations and on-ice nightmares at the 2010 Olympics and a first round playoff elimination with his Caps teammates – and finishes the season looking nothing like the NHL’s gregarious golden child he’s been the past five years.
Real Review: “If there is a moral to this story, it is that trying to make sense of life is a foolish endeavor doomed to failure.” – Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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