This week, I write about the controversy hovering over Dallas, my trip to the Great Lakes Invitational, and tomorrow’s Winter Classic!
1. The Dallas Stars’ Turmoil
I’m sure you have all heard about the comments Dallas Stars CEO, Jim Lites, made on Friday. If you haven’t, let me give you a refresher. Lites ripped his two superstars, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, calling them, “fucking horseshit.”
He also said, “We are getting terrible play from our top two players…We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done…These guys are not good enough. They’re not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for the owner.”
Before I get into my take on Lites’ comments, I will say that he isn’t wrong, Benn and Seguin have not been performing up to expectations, considering how much money they make. Benn is in the third year of an 8-year/$76 million contract and Seguin is in the first year of his freshly minted 8-year/$78.8 million contract. That’s a lot of money. Not to mention that both players are on pace to finish with their lowest point total in a while; Benn is on pace to finish with his lowest tally since his rookie year, and Seguin since his last year in Boston. The Stars are also in eighth place in the west and are barely holding on to the second wildcard spot. There is no question if they should be performing better.
As for Lites’ comments, he is an idiot. Players have down years all the time, even expensive ones. Sure, it’s okay to be upset that your two biggest investments are not performing as you would have hoped, but these are also your employees. Ripping them in the media for everyone to see is not wise. We have seen many times in sports that the athletes almost always last longer than the management. This is almost guaranteed to fracture the organization as well. Lites decided that he wanted to name drop the team owner who he claimed shared in his disappointment. If I were the owner of the Stars, I would force Lites to issue a public apology immediately. His comments brought unnecessary negative attention to the Stars and damaged their reputation. That being said, if these comments do end up lighting a fire under the team and they go on to win the Stanley Cup, Lites will look like a genius. But that’s the only way he can come out on top.
2. More Mac and Cheese at LCA
Yesterday I attended the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI. The GLI is an annual tournament between Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Michigan, and one additional team each year, similar to Boston’s Beanpot tournament. I’ll talk more about the hockey aspect later.
Right now, I want to focus on the mac and cheese I had at the arena. If you remember the last time I visited LCA, I had the BBQ mac and cheese from a typical vendor. This time, I went to Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit Restaurant, which is one of the few sit-down options inside the arena. This was my first time eating at Kid Rock’s so I was excited (PSA: I like nothing about Kid Rock except for that he is from Detroit). I saw the mac and cheese on the menu and thought I would give it a try. I ordered it with bacon because why would I not? It was SEVERELY overrated. It was $14 (bacon was extra) and wasn’t worth any more than one case of Kraft mac and cheese. It wasn’t a bad meal but was definitely something I feel I wasted my money on. The regular BBQ mac inside the arena was exponentially better. I’ll make sure to continue to update everyone on all of my hockey-related mac and cheese excursions.
3. The Great Lakes Invitational …is Great!
As I mentioned, I went to the GLI yesterday and saw two great games, both that ended in OT or a shootout. The day began with Michigan vs Michigan Tech. For those that don’t know, Michigan Tech is a small tech school in Michigan’s upper peninsula, but they love their hockey.
It was a close game throughout and Tech won in a shootout. If I learned anything from this game, it was that the kids on both teams love to celebrate. Each time a player scored, they would grab the front of their jersey and wave it to the crowd, clutching their school’s logo. I’m used to seeing players point to the back of their jersey, not the front. I personally don’t care what they decide to do, but the team spirit was refreshing. Their celebrations themselves were also something else. They were also ready to lose it when they celebrated. You would think they had scored the game winner in the Stanley Cup finals rather than one goal in a small Michigan tournament. Regardless, it was entertaining.
Michigan State played Lake Superior State in the second game of the doubleheader. This game mostly consisted of me screaming obscenities from the upper bowl when LSSU scored on MSU. MSU lost in overtime 4-3. You can’t win them all. I still recommend that anyone who enjoys college hockey to spend a day at the GLI.
4. Unloved Team: The St. Louis Blues
Another week, another unloved team. This week I am focusing on the Stanley Cup-less St. Louis Blues. Like most of our other unloved teams, the Blues are bad. They currently sit in second to last place in the Western Conference and are tied for the second-worst record in the NHL. They share many similarities to last week’s unloved team, the Flyers, as they had a real shot at a Stanley Cup run a few years ago, but have now slipped into mediocrity. Their defense used to be their calling card as they had three elite d-men on their roster: Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, and Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is gone and the other two might as well be. Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo have a combined 18 points this season. It’s hard to win games when your top blueliners aren’t contributing much offensively, or defensively for that matter.
But it’s still rare to see the Blues so far down in the standings. They just missed the playoffs last year, finishing one point behind Colorado for the eighth spot. What is more surprising is that they added Ryan O’Reilly in the offseason and he’s having a career year offensively. Other than O’Reilly, the Blues also have little secondary scoring. Guys like Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz have typically been great goal scorers for St. Louis, but have only scored a combined nine goals this year! That’s far below expectations. Their best scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko, has also played below expectations with a paltry 11 goals so far this season. Overall, the Blues’ best players are having down years. It’s impossible to win in the NHL without star power, and the Blues have none.
5. The NHL’s Fruitless Promotion of the Winter Classic
The Winter Classic is one of the many things I am passionate about hating. I wasn’t thinking too much about it until I read an article with the following headline on the NHL’s website, “Winter Classic Between Bruins, Blackhawks promises to be spectacle.” I thought it had to be a load of shit the second I saw it, but I read the article anyway. The story lists the moments that will make the Winter Classic a spectacle. I’ll list those “moments” so you all can see what the NHL hopes will make attending the Winter Classic worthwhile.
- South Bend is close to Chicago so the fans will travel
- Chicago and Boston have strong Irish communities so they will travel to Notre Dame
- The Shamrock logo will appeal to Irish fans
- Notre Dame is (was) playing in the College Football Playoffs
- The Blackhawks will walk through the library
- Touchdown Jesus
- The Leprechaun Mascot
Now maybe it’s because I already hate Notre Dame, but if someone can find me a reason among those listed above that I should watch the game tomorrow, please let me know. Now as a sports fan, I do acknowledge that it would be worth traveling to South Bend to attend a game at Notre Dame Stadium. Let me amend that statement, I do acknowledge that it would be worth traveling to South Bend to attend a FOOTBALL game at Notre Dame Stadium. As much as I despise everything Notre Dame, they draw fans and have many traditions, and those are things I would be interested in experiencing if I wanted to attend a football game at Notre Dame. But without the fans, atmosphere, and football team present, those reasons are all moot.
So what the NHL is really saying is that Irish fans from Boston and Chicago will want to attend because the game will have an Irish flair. The NHL is selling an Irish hockey festival, not history, and certainly not hockey. If this list the NHL created doesn’t prove that the Winter Classic is nothing more than a marketing ploy, I don’t know what can. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.