The following quote comes from Iain MacIntyre’s postgame article on the Canucks’ shootout loss to the Red Wings on Saturday night. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it really strange. Let’s examine it.

“It was a good game,” Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard said. “I think everyone who watched it was fairly satisfied. Both teams had good [scoring] opportunities and it was decided by a breakaway contest, which fans like.”

Is Ballard being sarcastic here? I’ve never heard anyone refer to the shootout as a “breakaway contest” without soaking the phrase in ridiculous sarcasm. When he says, “which fans like,” I feel like he’s being exclusionary on purpose. Fans, not hockey players, and not Keith Ballard.

It would make complete sense if Ballard was being sarcastic. He has no interest in the shootout. We both know that he has no place in proceedings. You can’t hip check a goalie, and you definitely can’t bludgeon him. If there’s anybody who recognizes the shootout has no place in real hockey games, it’s a depth guy like Ballard, whose skills are only on display in a team setting.

I know I wasn’t alone in thinking that holding a shootout to decide a sawoff between the best two overall teams in the league was a complete travesty (maybe not a national travesty, but still highly travestous). It has nothing to do with the fact that the Canucks lost, either. It’s the simple matter that the game is over, and a “breakaway contest” is a completely different fish. It’d be like if you forced two Old West gunslingers to settle a dispute shooting tin cans. Or forced Zoolander and Hansel to settle a dispute racewalking. It’s not the same.

With this quote, I’m getting the distinct sense Ballard felt the same way, but his tone was lost when the sentence went to print.

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25 comments

  1. kenny-blankenship
    January 10, 2011

    Perhaps Ballard sees them on a breakaway and wants to come in unexpectedly and hip check the living daylight out of them. Kind of the way a cat knows your playing a game but still wants to kill whatever is dangling in front of it

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  2. FissionError
    January 10, 2011

    given that it involved a canadian team and an american team, i think that game being decided in a shootout constitutes an international travesty.

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  3. Anonymous
    January 10, 2011

    My man is in the dumps these days
    as ‘nucks prolong their winning ways,
    and then New Orleans loses too!
    When past champs lose, it makes him blue.

    I say, “Seattle are ‘hawks as well.”
    He tells me I can, “Go to the place of everlasting fire!
    And change Spinal Tap to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
    So now i know he’s sick as hell.

    “There’s still the Bears,” I say to him.
    “With Hasselback it seems to be
    their chances range from zip to slim,”
    he sulkily retorts to me.
    Desperate I ask him if the Bulls are playing tonight.
    “As with the Cubs and Sox since Jordan the Bulls do nothing right.”
    “We beat the Islanders!” say I.
    “Who doesn’t?” is his droll reply.

    Thus with sadness the Chicken Hen
    has naught else but these words to pen.

    CH
    10/1/11

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  4. Harrison Mooney
    January 10, 2011

    @kenny-blankenship It's cruel to taunt Ballard in this way.

    @FissionError Mind = blown.

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  5. Harrison Mooney
    January 10, 2011

    Holy cow, Chickenhawk, are you going to write a bad poem for every post? And now you're datestamping them for cataloging purposes?

    *sigh*

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  6. kenny-blankenship
    January 10, 2011

    @ Harrison

    Wow I just pissed my pants that the
    "And now you're datestamping them for cataloging purposes? "
    comment. Is there an internet acronym for that? WIJPMP?

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  7. Qris Johnson
    January 10, 2011

    I'm going to name one of my kids Travesty. He'll be called Traves (sounds like Travis) for short. It's part of my plan to name my children after awesome words.

    As to the shootout, yeah, it sucks, but considering more important games (IIHF games for instance) are decided in a shootout, I get over it pretty quickly. The shootout will never make its way into the Stanley Cup playoffs, so I'm okay with things as they are. Watching FIFA, after a 90+ minute game ended in a 0-0 tie, I felt like I'd just lost almost two hours of my life for nothing. I can see why the NHL wants a victor for every game, even if it does come down to essentially flipping a coin.

    Poker analogy coming up: The WSOP's prestige is partly because of marketing and the like, but it also had a reputation for being the tournament that most emphasized skill. Its two-hour blind rounds are crazy compared to the 12-minute-or-so rounds you'll play in a standard online tournament. The idea is to minimize luck, because in two hours, you'll get a hand. Sure, someone can gamble away enough of his stack that the blinds become a big concern, but the structure is such that the increasing blinds are never the driving force behind the action. It lets all playing styles have a chance to succeed.

    Of course, two-hour blind increments would never work for a tournament you want over in less than two hours, which is why, in general, it isn't feasible to do that. That's okay. The other tournaments, while less prestigious, still work well enough, and being the only major tournament with a two-hour blind structure gave the WSOP its name.

    Same thing applies to hockey. Playoff games have 5 on 5 overtime until someone wins. That's one of the things that makes the Stanley Cup the hardest trophy to win in sports. The 7-game playoff rounds and the overtime that goes as long as it has to make the Stanley Cup playoffs the most grueling test of a team's skill, character and resilience there is, where you can be pretty sure the best team usually wins. That makes it a bigger deal than the World Juniors, the Olympics, the World Cup (when it was around), and the regular season.

    If you play 82 games that go on 5 on 5 overtime for as long as they have to, you won't have a team left come playoff time. Ties suck. I would literally prefer if, after a 65-minute standstill, the referee said, "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10," and the captains had to guess. Home ice gets to pick first. Stephan Auger isn't allowed to participate. Even that would be better than packing it up and going home. A shootout isn't hockey, but it's hockey-ish, and that beats the hell out of a coin toss, rock paper scissors, or picking a number. All of those things beat a tie.

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  8. Anonymous
    January 10, 2011

    maybe
    so i can send you the collected works next Christmas in chronological order
    ch
    ps
    you've now upset the chicken hen with your 'bad poetry' comment
    now they're two of us in a bad mood
    maybe watching the canucks lose their next one will cheer us both up
    crappy new year

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  9. Harrison Mooney
    January 10, 2011

    Don't get mad, Chickenhawk. Get better.

    You seem to vacillate between freeverse and metered poetry. Is this an individual flourish or poor technique? It's notoriously hard to differentiate between the two categories in poetry, which is why people still read Sylvia Plath.

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  10. Qris Johnson
    January 10, 2011

    For the record, "chickenhawk" is the word for someone (usually a politician) who vocally supports going to war but avoided duty himself. Bush was a famous chickenhawk, as he went AWOL from his national guard duty (which his dad got him, so he didn't have to go to war).

    I can see using the word "hawk" because you're a blackhawks fan and all, but really, why "chicken?"

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  11. Harrison Mooney
    January 10, 2011

    Not to go all Damien Cox on the situation, but makes because he does his schtick anonymously?

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  12. Qris Johnson
    January 10, 2011

    Chickenhawk never contacts us for comment on his raps/poetry.

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  13. Jacob
    January 10, 2011

    Can someone explain how a goal scored in overtime is considered a win by shootout? I thought this was supposed to be a hockey blog! :)

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  14. Harrison Mooney
    January 10, 2011

    What goal are you talking about, Jacob?

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  15. Anonymous
    January 10, 2011

    qris
    if you were a farm boy, then you'd understand

    harrison
    i vacillated because my man would never advise me to go to hell

    c. hen

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  16. Harrison Mooney
    January 10, 2011

    Wait, I'm confused. Is there a Chicken Hawk AND a Chicken Hen? Are you guys the Bonnie & Clyde of poetic trolling?

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  17. Qris Johnson
    January 10, 2011

    There's a mystery here. Detective Kesler should solve it.

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  18. J21
    January 11, 2011

    Respectfully disagree with Qris' point that the playoffs are designed to ensure that the best team actually wins. I'll take an 82-game sample size over a 4-to-7 game sample size for objective truth any day of the week. The playoffs are disproportionately affected by luck and injuries, and since you're only playing one team at a time, all it takes is a bad matchup (or one bad game irrespective of the matchup) for a great team that may beat almost anyone else, and they're suddenly "one of the first teams to get knocked out."

    Note that it is only in North American sport where the playoff winner is deemed the "Champion". In the rest of the world, it's the team that finishes first in the league, and the various Cup wins are a nice bonus.

    And while I don't see what's wrong with a tie for any reason (better that than an unjust result), I could sooner buy the idea that it is preferable to come up with a winner/loser if analysts were more reasonable or realistic about it. But no, any time the team wins a shootout, it's all smiles and praise as though they played a better game than the losing side. When the team loses a shootout, people analyze "what went wrong" and harp on the team for a poor performance. It is clear that this is stupid, since either result could have been achieved with an identical game played. Even if an extra point is awarded, shootouts should be viewed as what they are — ties.

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  19. Harrison Mooney
    January 11, 2011

    I've long held the opinion that, during the regular season, teams should play 4-on-4 overtime until someone scores. Basketball does it. Baseball does it. Just play.

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  20. Daniel "Skeeter" Wagner
    January 11, 2011

    @J21

    It's a quantitative vs. qualitative argument. Do you want the statistically significant but qualitatively lacking 82-game regular season or the qualitatively exciting but statistically less-significant playoffs? For my money, I'll take the playoffs any day. Part of the appeal is the tough grind, as teams attempt to overcome injuries, make up for bad losses early, and overcome deficits. It's the traditional view of hockey as a tough, hard-fought sport.

    As much as the President's Trophy winner may be the best team (arguable, given the schedule favors teams in weak divisions), it's not compelling to label them the champion.

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  21. J21
    January 11, 2011

    Daniel — I never said anything about excitement of quality of entertainment. I'm just saying that I don't believe that the Cup winner is necessarily (or even usually) the best overall team (nor is the President's Trophy winner necessarily), so much as "the team that successfully won the Stanley Cup."

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  22. Qris Johnson
    January 11, 2011

    I'm going to disagree with you, J21.

    If it were an 87-game schedule and every team played every other team three times, then maybe we could say the top team in the regular season is the best team, but when you consider that Pittsburgh will play the Devils six times this season, and the New York Islanders six times this season, and the Maple Leafs four times this season, whereas the Dallas Stars get to deal with the Sharks, Ducks, Kings, and Coyotes, six games apiece, it's hard to say for sure that the Penguins are better than the Stars, although looking at team points, you'd have no problem saying that.

    Three points separate Nashville, at 4th in the West, from San Jose, at 11th in the West. In the East, 18 points separate Pittsburgh at 4th from Florida at 11th. Worse, the bad teams in the East have been playing each other all season. Every game's worth at least two points, so some of these really bad teams in the East look better than they are because they've been playing really bad teams. The worst Western team is the Oilers, which, while they won't be hoisting any Cups this year, isn't an easy win.

    Sure, a bad matchup might mean a good team gets bounced in the first round, but the seed structure is designed so seeds 1 and 2 can only play each other in the conference final. If the best two teams in the conference weren't seeds 1 and 2, then clearly the regular season wasn't the best indicator of which teams are the best.

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  23. J21
    January 11, 2011

    I want to reiterate that I'm not claiming the regular season is truth and the playoffs are falsehood. They both are imperfect pictures. (For instance, seeding in the regular season is now utterly meaningless, since all playoff teams fall within a very small range, usually only 5 or so points separating 6 or so seeds — i.e. they are basically even). I just believe that the playoffs are more imperfect because they are such tiny sample sizes, so to draw vast conclusions (Team X is [always] better than Team Y, or Coach X was [will always be] outcoached by Coach Y) on what is the logical fallacy of post hoc explanation is a leap.

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  24. Daniel "Skeeter" Wagner
    January 11, 2011

    Clearly making an "always" argument on the basis of the playoffs is fallacious, but I have no issue with saying "Team X is better than Team Y at this moment in time." To me, that is all that the Stanley Cup Champion means, which is why it's kind of silly to see so many people talking about the Blackhawks as being one of the elite teams in the West despite being barely in 8th place halfway through the season. It's also why it bothers me that people complained about Naslund having his number retired because he didn't win a Cup.

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  25. Qris Johnson
    January 12, 2011

    Playoff series are a bigger sample size than the regular season. At most, a team will play 6 games against another team over the course of the regular season. A series in the playoffs lasts seven games. Technically, a playoff season is 28 games.

    Sure, not all series go to seven games, but that doesn't make the sample size any smaller. Winning four games means you won more than the other team in a series of seven games.

    It's a mistake to compare 7 to 82. Really, you're comparing 28 to 82, and 7 to 6, 4, 2 or 1.

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