What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. With my hours at my job piling up, the NFL season in full swing and preseason puck drop this Monday, life is already busier than it was this summer.
While the con-artists at M$G try to bleed more money out of their fans with their new & convenient “tier-pricing” system, I have been lucky enough to secure tickets for several home games that pop out to me. It’s good to know regular season ticket holders who have “just had it” and are more than willing to sell their tickets for face value.
As talked about previously, I plan on doing more road games than home games this season. It’s just gotten too expensive at M$G and I prefer to make mini-vacations, out of a game, for nearly the same money, by seeing the team on the road.
I’m also not enamored with the way the Rangers are going and with the crap they are pulling with their fans. You all know my thoughts on Henrik Lundswiss. The idea that the Rangers still think they can win a Cup with this guy is mind-boggling. They still don’t have a number 1 center. The Rangers, who held their media day on Thursday, September 14th, saw Alain Vigneault say that Marc Staal has to earn his spot/playing time with this team. If AV & NYR are so down on Marc Staal, why not move him this summer when they had the chance? Why buy out Dan Girardi? I don’t care what anyone says, Girardi has more life to him & is a better player than Marc Staal.
I mean, I know Marc Staal has a no-move clause in his contract, but did the Rangers even explore trying to move Staal, instead of Stepan, in the trade that gave Arizona a number 1 center and a starting goalie? Unless Lias Andersson becomes the Swedish Connor McDavid, this is another terrible trade in Rangers history. The trade also goes against the crap the Rangers have been feeding their fans.
If the Rangers are in “win now mode”, as AV says, then why do they keep Lundqvist & Staal here? Why trade your number 1 center? Why trade a goalie, who had better stats than Lundswiss, and for way less money? Is Pavelec going to win you as many games as Talbot & Raanta did? If NYR are trying to focus on a new core & get younger, why keep Nash, Lundswiss and Staal? Why not move on and completely rebuild? At least then, the draft pick trade with Arizona makes sense. I just feel the Rangers are talking on both sides of their mouth.
Listen, I’ve been on the Alain Vigneault band-wagon ever since he got here. Many of you guys bury AV to me and despise him in the same way that I can not stand the overrated, overpaid, egotistical product of playing in NY himself, a one Henrik Lundswiss. However, after today, I’m questioning my faith here. During today’s media day, AV said the following:
“We believe we can compete for the Stanley Cup. We’ve made some real good changes, and I’m excited. We’re in a good place.”
This does not exactly sound like a man dripping with confidence. I want my coach to say, “We WILL compete for the Stanley Cup.” Not, “maybe we can get there, you never know, eh?” What good changes did the Rangers make? They got an offensive defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk and a headcase from Arizona. They lost the best goalie they had last season. They lost their number 1 center. They lost their warrior, in Dan Girardi. Unless AV gets a cut out of the Rangers tier pricing, I don’t see why he’s excited and how he’s in a good place.
I originally was going to save all the Rangers media day for a separate blog, but I decided to include some things here for two reasons. First, my time is limited and I just wanted to get something up. The other reason? I just finished a brand new book, titled “Behind The Bench”, which was written by NHL reporter, Craig Custance.
When I finished the book today, I went to go catch up on all the Rangers media day shenanigans. The stuff AV was spewing made me wonder – “will this guy ever win a Stanley Cup?” In my opinion, the only way he wins one in NY, is if he can outlast the terrible contract of Henrik Lundswiss. When you read about how other coaches handled critical times, I wondered to myself – “Does AV have it in him to win?” When I saw his press conference today, I felt a pit in my stomach. Let me explain why, as I review “Behind the Bench.”
Before getting into the review, here are a few plugs of my last few blogs, in case you’ve awoken from your summer hibernation:
Frank Boucher Update: The Boucher Family Shares Exclusive Pictures/Heirlooms From Frank Boucher’s Career, The Latest Update on Trying To Get The Rangers To Notice The Greatest Ranger Of Them All, The Frank Boucher Award & More
George Grimm’s “We Did Everything But Win: Former New York Rangers Remember the Emile Francis Era (1964-1976)” In-Depth Book Review. Tons of Famous NYR Alumni Speak All Things Rangers, Many “Close, But No Cigar” Seasons, Comparison With Today’s Era & Much More
The Latest Rangers & NHL Rumblings: Time for Zucc & McDonagh To Step Up, Pets & Vets, NYR Whack Tanner Glass Like He’s Tommy In “Goodfellas”, Frank Boucher’s Family Reaches Out, Cam Connor, Arizona Rangers, Jagr Watch, Who Gets the “A” on the Jersey, Traverse Tourney, Kelly Talbot’s Efforts in Houston & Much More
The Sixth Delorean Blog: May 12th, 1995, as the Rangers take on the Quebec Nordiques in Game 4! My First Ever Playoff Game, Steve Larmer = the OT Hero, Mike Richter Adds Another Moment to His Legacy After Healy Struggles, Brian Leetch, Matteau Fights, The Lockout, Tons of Free Video, Collective Soul, The Jerky Boys & Much More From a Memorable Playoff Victory
“Losing The Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers” Book Review. A Look At The Greatest Time in the Modern Era for NYR & What Could’ve Been, In This In-Depth Book Review w/A Ton of Pictures. Plus: “The Legion of Doom & Mohles”
The Fifth Delorean Trip: The New York Rangers vs The Toronto Maple Leafs from 4/15/1971 in a Playoff Series Ending Game 6! NYR History in Photos, Irving Felt Builds MSG, Captain Bob Nevin Carries the Team to Victory, The GAG Line Brings The Heat, One of Eddie Giacomin’s Best Games Ever, Senile Sather Throws Dukes, The Stemmer, Teddy Irvine, Tons of Videos, Programs & The Ads In Them, Frank Boucher Talk & Much More From 1971
As talked about in past blogs, I’m an avid reader. Luckily for me, I can speed read and retain. I’ve had this talk on this site before, but we have the highest literacy rate, in America, ever, yet people don’t read books. They read 140 character messages, comments on a WorldStarHipHop video or reply to text messages with a simple “K”. Don’t you hate that?
I know reading books takes time, and maybe I’m old school, but I always enjoy being immersed in a book, hearing other people’s stories and getting information. However, when I first heard about “Behind The Bench”, with so many new hockey books coming out for the 2017-2018 season, this was a book I wasn’t going to order. In fact, I probably would’ve got it next summer or the summer after that, when the book is pennies on the dollar on Amazon.com. I would’ve read it when things were slow.
What changed my mind was a brief conversation with the author, Craig Custance. I already had a blah feeling about this book, because I made the cardinal mistake of judging a book by its cover. As a die-hard & self-loathing Rangers fan, when I see the words “Sidney Crosby” on anything, I am already tuned out.
When I saw this book was about Hockey’s Greatest Coaches, I wondered who made the cut? On an aside, after reading this book, the words “OF TODAY”, should be added after “Inside the Minds of Hockey’s Greatest Coaches”. After all, this is a book about Hockey’s Greatest Coaches and there is no Scotty Bowman? Toe Blake? Dick Irvin? Al Arbour? Art Ross? Jack Adams? Lester Patrick? Granted, everyone I just named, outside of Scotty Bowman is dead, but you get the point.
Finding out that this book was about coaches from this current era, there was one person I wanted to see in this book. That was John Tortorella. Why Torts? Just as I said in my numerous Mike Keenan book reviews & other past blogs, I’m fascinated by the take no-shit coaches. Like Keenan, Torts is one of those guys that can turn a team a round real quick, but can also wear out his welcome just as fast.
When you hear the name John Tortorella, you always get the same stories about him. He’s close to the vest, loud and loves his shot-blocking. However, when they do the “human pieces” on Torts, you always hear how he’s a great guy off the ice. That’s the stuff that isn’t publicized as much. I was hoping this book would shed some light on that particular side of Torts.
When Craig Custance told me that Torts was indeed in the book, I said what the hell? I’ve spent $15 on worse. I mean really, that’s the cost of an imported beer at M$G these days. I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but when I finally reached the back cover, I was left fulfilled & entertained.
Going into this book, I figured this would be Craig interviewing different coaches, getting the X’s & O’s, finding out what makes each coach tick and the way they approach the game. I wasn’t expecting a dry book full of interviews, as I expected Craig to illustrate the interviews with the written word. However, this book wasn’t that. This book & its format, was better than I expected. This is how the book is laid out:
This book features author Craig Custance interviewing 10 prestigious coaches, in the NHL, over the course of an 18 month period. I don’t know how other readers may feel, but while the stuff on the coaches was great, I really enjoyed Craig’s road trip stories. As someone who likes traveling myself & seeing new things, it was fun to hear how Craig set up each individual interview, the circumstances behind each one, how each coach lived and Craig’s personal time with each coach.
If you’re a regular reader here, you know I do “DELOREAN” blogs, which essentially is finding old Ranger games and reviewing them, as if I was a 35 year old man in the year the game was played. I have fun doing those blogs and based on site traffic, you guys enjoy reading them. While this hockey blog is not a job, just a hobby, I related with Craig a bit, during the course of the book.
This is what spoke to me the loudest:
Seriously – the NHL does such a terrible job of showcasing their history. There are people out there, that would love to watch old NHL games. Like everything else the NHL does under the ass-backwards leadership of Gary Bettman, the NHL makes it impossible to find classic games. Just another example of the NHL failing to monetize another potential revenue stream. They would rather put ads on jerseys before they promote their game & history.
This book saw Craig sitting down with 10 coaches all over and in two different countries. From Western Canada (McLellan) to the East Coast of the US (Wilson), plus thousands of miles in-between, Craig logged a ton of miles when writing this book.
The book is broken up into 9 chapters, (Torts & Sullivan are interviewed together, before the 2016 World Cup of Hockey tournament) with each chapter written the same way. Craig tells you everything about his journey to the interview, how he got a copy of the nearly impossible to find game footage, his individual time with each coach and more. After that Craig & the coach watch one of the coach’s biggest victories together. The coach would point out little things during the game and Craig soaked it up like a sponge. I would love to do this idea myself, with ex-Rangers, but the only problem is, there is only one year you can talk about!
While all of Craig’s interviews were held in a professional setting, this would be a great idea to do at a bar. With all these Ranger bars in NYC, I’m surprised no one has done this yet. Find a Rangers legend, roll tape of one of their better games, have a bunch of belts and let the Rangers legend tell you what was going through his mind during that day of his life.
While this book felt like bar talk, which means it felt natural & loose, most of these interviews were conducted in offices. I’m sure if you pumped some booze into these guys (One of these coaches does not drink, read the book to find out who & why) you would get wilder stories. Then again, you could’ve just had a guy in a fog, like Fred Shero!
What may have hurt this book, was that all the coaches in this book are current or looking to work in the NHL. What I mean by that, is that they aren’t telling war stories and romanticizing about the past. They have a current job today and have other focuses going on. If they were retired, you might get more “real talk”. Not to say that any of these interviews were phoned in, far from it, but a coach of today isn’t going to tell you everything, like a retired coach or player would.
While there is no picture section in the middle of this book, like most sports books, Custance includes pictures of all his interviewees. One photo is the coach from the game they are watching on tape. The other photo is a current photo of the coach, watching the game with Craig. I enjoyed the rawness and candidness of this. Maybe this goes further with me than it will with other people. I just thought it was a real nice touch.
Every chapter in this book, except for the Wilson chapter, is the coach watching one of the biggest victories of their career. Stanley Cup wins, Olympic wins and IIHF World wins are included in this book. While I don’t know if it was intentional or not, Custance interviewed Babcock & Wilson about the same game, the 2010 Olympic Gold medal game between US and Canada. I thought that was cool, to get views from both teams from the same game.
What also came out of this book, was the fandom these coaches and Custance have for the game. For example you have this:
Mike Babcock went out of his way to make himself a shrine of three of the greatest Detroit Redwings in Redwing history. If coaching is just a job, you don’t do something like this. Furthermore, I’m sure Steiner Sports charges $6786879675454679786 and one kidney for the same item!
While not all interviews were conducted in the house of the coach being interviewed, from the ones that were, they all had special mementos/memorabilia that was important to them. Custance’s fanhood comes out and I really found his Epilogue interesting. I kinda got the feeling that Custance wishes he tried his hand at coaching. However, for that to ever happen, Custance would have to do what Ken Hitchcock was told – “quit your day job!”
I just want to share a few sample pages from the book that really stood out to me. For more pictures, visit my twitter @NYCTHEMIC. All photo credit goes to “Behind The Bench” and Triumph Books.
While I know a book can’t be 1000 pages, there are some glaring omissions. Whether these people didn’t want to do this project or just couldn’t find the time, I don’t know. That said, I was surprised not to see Peter Laviolette or Darryl Sutter. I can understand why Lindy Ruff was left out, because just like his new boss Alain Vigneault, he never won the big one. Of course, Ranger fans, after the first losing streak of the season, will be calling for AV’s head and demanding Ruff. Only a matter of time!
I really enjoyed this book. The format wasn’t one that I was expecting and it was for the best. The book really connected at a human level and as a fan, I took a lot out of this book. It wasn’t the black and white, X’s & O’s and how coaches employ some crazy Zen ideas, like say a Phil Jackson. It was just head coaches talking about how to win, what goes into it, the emotion and seeing all the hard work pay off.
Custance did a good job in his first crack at a book. To me, as someone who is obsessed with wanting to see the Rangers win the Stanley Cup, the Tortorella & Quenneville chapters really stood out to me.
All in all, for $15, you can’t go wrong.
You can pick up this book on Amazon.com or by clicking this link directly: https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Bench-Hockeys-Greatest-Coaches/dp/1629372447
If there is still such a thing as a bookstore, I’m sure you can find the book there. But who has time for that? It’s so much easier to scratch your crotch and buy this book at the same time. Just don’t be scratching your crotch when the mailman delivers it to you!
Final words: Stick taps all around for “Behind the Bench.”
As you may know, these blogs aren’t my full-time job, it’s just a hobby. However, real-life is taking up a lot of my free time right now. I plan on eventually getting to a Rangers 2017-2018 preview blog, a prediction blog and I wanted to sneak in one last Delorean blog before the season starts. After all, preseason is this Monday. I should be there Wednesday night, as I gave up the free tickets I had for Monday, because I’m an idiot who will stay home and watch the Giants let me down again. The strife of the NY sports fan!
The Rangers had their annual media day/first day of camp today, as I talked about above. I just want to hit a few quick things here, because I’ll go deeper about some topics when I get to the preview blog next week. You can watch many videos recorded from media day on the Rangers Facebook page, which you can visit at https://www.facebook.com/nyrangers/
Alain Vigneault had the most to say. He revealed JT Miller will start the season as a center. I mean why not? Why not keep jumping a young kid all over the place, so he can’t get truly comfortable? Maybe AV can bench JT Miller in the preseason, so JT can get used to the regular season too!
AV had me crying laughing when he said that “Henrik Lundqvist is still an elite and top 5 goalie in this league.” Does the NHL drug test their coaches? The way AV was providing Lundswiss with verbal fellatio today was hysterical. I couldn’t tell if AV believed the crap he was slinging around like a Bronx Zoo monkey, or if he was just trying to convince himself. Did AV look at the Vezina voting last season? You know who was number 4? Cam Fucking Talbot, the guy I told you guys years ago that should’ve never been traded.
I told you then and I say it again, NYR should’ve moved on from Lundswiss & kept Talbot. Tampa did it with Vasilevskiy/Bishop. The Pens just did it with a 3 time Cup winner in Fleury in favor of Murray. Here are the asshole Rangers, winners of jack shit, still clinging to the hope that this imaginary Swedish Superman can win a Cup. You can spit to me your Corsi, your Fenwick and all the other stupid charts, but here is one that’s always ignored – NOT ONE TOP 5 PAID GOALIE HAS EVER WON A CUP IN THE SALARY CAP ERA. If this team can trade and move on from nearly every other legend, sans Gilbert & Richter, you can move on from a Cupless primadonna woman hitting egomaniac too. ESPECIALLY in the Cap Era.
Then again maybe Lundswiss impressed AV with his medal. That medal and $1 won’t even get you a coffee from a NY bodega. However, a Stanley Cup? You can wine and dine on steak & lobster, on the house, for the rest of your career. Talk to Mark Messier if you don’t believe me.
On the other goalie, AV said this was a perfect time to bring Ondrej Pavelec to the fold & how the Rangers are getting him at the right stage. AV must be doing drugs with Charlie Sheen. I understand you gotta provide lip service and be positive as the coach, but don’t treat me like I’m an idiot. Tell me one team that was creaming their pants in the extremely hot Pavelec market this off-season. There are now 62 goalie jobs in the NHL. Only the Rangers wanted to make Pavelec one of the 62. That’s a fact.
AV talked about other moves the teams made. He expects Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes to have big seasons. For the Rangers, with no real center depth, they better have career years. I wonder if anyone in the NYR organization realizes that Cups are being won with strong players down the middle? I assume not.
AV also talked about needing more leadership and thinking that NYR has great leaders. As I talked about before, I hope McDonagh and Zucc step up.
Rick Nash, who looked younger and lighter, also talked about needing a big year. Am I to assume he didn’t need big years during the course of his NYR tenure? He’s also in a contract year, so it’s in his best interest to play like the guy who’s making nearly $8M a season.
AV feels that Shattenkirk will make this team better defensively. I don’t know about that. Sure, the argument is that Shatty is a great puck handling and offensive defensiveman, so his time on the ice should limit scoring chances the other way, but is he a guy who will be eating rubber like Dan Girardi? Jury is out on that. At the very least, the NYR PP should improve. If it doesn’t, then there is a problem.
As talked about at the top, AV said that Marc Staal will have to earn his time/roster spot. Yea right. Are you telling me Staal is going to sit in the press box for Anthony DeAngelo or Nick Holden? I still don’t understand why Girardi was jettisoned out of here over Marc Staal. I know many of you don’t read hockey stuff in the summer, but as I said at the time, Marc Staal was just never the same player after his injuries.
Listen, I hate to sound so negative. I just don’t see how this team is better than the team that choked against Ottawa. I really don’t. What I see right now, is the Rangers play in the toughest and best division in hockey. You know the road to the Cup lies in Pittsburgh. While I can see the Capitals falling off after going all in and crapping out last season, I do see the Blue Jackets as a real threat. I see the Flyers, Devils and Hurricanes improving.
In the Atlantic, Montreal, Tampa, Ottawa, Toronto and Boston will all be in the mix. Maybe the Rangers can slide in again as a wild card team. However, is this team a team built to win 16 games in the Spring? Call me jaded after four cups in 90 years, but I can’t envision it.
It’s amazing how many people refuse to learn from history. 2014 was it. It didn’t happen. Just like the Cat era, the Rangers blew their one kick at the can with this core. With the salary cap promoting parity, if you miss your chance, you probably have to start thinking rebuild. By the time the playoffs get here, 2014 will be four years ago and really, it feels like so long ago.
As I write these words to you in September of 2017, who knows what will be going on, come the trade deadline at the end of the winter in 2018. Just look at the NFL. David Johnson, the number 1 pick in every fantasy football league, is out for several weeks after an injury. Does a concussion stop Crosby again? Who knows what kind of moves are made at the deadline?
Make no bones about it – the NHL playoffs are the best playoffs in sports. It’s the unpredictability and intensity that makes it that way. Anything can happen in the playoffs, but as a betting man, as I said during last year’s SCF’s, I see the Oilers being the team to prevent a Pittsburgh three-peat, and not the New York Rangers. Time will tell.
Thank you everyone for all your kind words about the recent Frank Boucher update blog. Trust me, there is more of that to come. I’m in contact with members of the Boucher family, and I made a promise. I will not stop pestering and blowing up Ranger pages & emails until Boucher gets his long overdue day. It might not be today, this season or the season after that, but as long as I’m able to run my mouth (I’m very good at that) and slap the keyboard, I will keep the name Frank Boucher in everyone’s minds.
I know this blog isn’t as long as usual, but real life beckons. Plus, I need a full night’s rest. NHL 18 comes out tomorrow! And as I’ve done the last two seasons, I can’t wait to trade Henrik Lundswiss to the Oilers (Sorry Oiler fans) for Cam Talbot. Sure the computer won’t let me make that trade unless I overrule it, because no team is dumb enough to pay Lundswiss the money he makes, but that’s the good thing about video games!
Check out “Behind the Bench”. As far as the next update, I want to get the preview blog, a predictions blog, one more Delorean blog and I’m going to the game Wednesday night. I don’t really review preseason games, because there is no point. Each team is trying out new things and nothing done in these games has any bearing on the Stanley Cup.
See you next time. As always…
“Let’s Go Rangers”
@NYCTHEMIC on twitter