After almost four years of writing for Puck Junk, I’m officially announcing that I’ll be taking some time away. This will be my last column. It could be my last one forever. I’m not sure.
That doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out with a bang. In this week’s column, I’ll dig into one of my favorite fan moments, an intriguing contract extension, and a few other takes.
I’ll close with some thoughts about my last few years writing for Puck Junk. It’s been a ride. Let’s get down to it.
1. Avalanche Fans Love blink-182
Last week the Colorado Avalanche took on the Detroit Red Wings. The matchup doesn’t have the same hype as it did 25-years-ago but it’s still one of my favorites. This year’s game delivered one of my favorite moments of the season.
When I saw this video on YouTube, I knew it would find a slot in this week’s column. “All The Small Things” is one of the classic pop-punk songs of the late 1990s and early 2000s so it’s no surprise that the fans kept it going. My favorite part of this clip is that the DJ picked up the song in the correct spot during the next whistle.
I’m a huge blink-182 fan and I’ve seen them live twice. I would have loved to be at this game to take part in the singalong and to watch my Detroit Red Wings. I’d most likely embarrass myself getting way too into the song and screaming every word. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never sung this song while doing karaoke with my friends.
2. Red Wings Ink Fabbri to an Extension
View this post on Instagram
The Red Wings and Robby Fabbri agreed to a three-year extension worth $12 million, a $4 million AAV. Fabbri was in the last year of a three-year deal he signed with the Wings back in August 2020. Fabbri has raised his level of play since joining the Red Wings via trade from St. Louis in 2019. This season, Fabbri has 14 points in 29 games for Detroit.
This is a great deal for both sides. I know I’ve said that a lot, but for a $4 million AAV, it’s tough to hate the deal. For Fabbri, he’s continued to rebuild his career after his great rookie season and an ACL injury. He’s looked good since joining the Wings, averaging 0.57 PPG. The 25-year-old is on pace for 22 goals and 16 assists this season. If he reaches those projections, he’ll set a new career-high in goals and points. That’s worth $4 million a year.
For the Red Wings, they get to keep one of the top five to seven players on their team for only $4 million with only a three-year commitment. The Red Wings are successfully navigating through a rebuild and are finally looking like they’re on the cusp of contending. Fabbri is a good player, but it’s doubtful he’ll be a contributing member of a team that’s aiming to contend for a Stanley Cup. A three-year pact gives the team the production they need now and the flexibility they’ll need later.
This deal is a win-win for both sides.
3. Maurice Resigns in Winnipeg
View this post on Instagram
After parts of nine seasons in Winnipeg, Paul Maurice resigned as the head coach. Dave Lowry will take over as the interim coach. The Jets are 13-10-5 this season and currently sit fifth in the Central Division.
The Jets have made the playoffs each of the last four seasons under Maurice. Making it all the way to the Conference Finals in 2018, losing to the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
According to this article on NHL.com, Maurice was quoted as saying the team needs a new voice.
“They need a new voice,” Maurice said. “They need somebody to help them get to that next place. … It’s the right time for it, and I know that.
It’s disappointing to see Maurice’s tenure in Winnipeg end like this. This team seemed to be trending up for a long time with a great group of players energizing a dreary, cold city.
If Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele don’t return to form, it’s unlikely Winnipeg returns to contention with this core. If Lowry can’t energize this team, they might have to tear it down.
I like the Jets. I’m rooting for them to regroup and compete in a tough Central Division. That doesn’t look likely considering Nathan MacKinnon and Kirill Kaprizov play in the same division.
4. NHL Beefs Up COVID Testing
With the massive uptick in COVID-19 numbers and the viruses infiltration into the NHL, the league has decided to resume daily testing. The new protocols will be implemented immediately.
The Flames, Avalanche, and Panthers have all been bitten by the virus and are shut down through next week. Ten percent of NHL players are in COVID protocol. Every player in the NHL is vaccinated except Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings.
This is a necessary step but an unfortunate one. Most probably thought that the worst of the pandemic was behind us. Hopefully, that’s still true, but this certainly isn’t a step in the right direction. The Delta and Omicron variants have wreaked havoc over North America over the last few months and show no signs of stopping. Hopefully, the NHL can go about business as usual in the next few months and provide a necessary distraction from the fact that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic.
Please get vaccinated everyone.
5. Why I’m Stepping Away From Writing
As I mentioned in the intro, this will be the last edition of “Blake’s Takes.” I’m grateful that I’ve been able to explore my creative side through writing for this long. I met Sal through LinkedIn when I was looking for a writing job in the spring of 2018. I was laid off and had about 60 days to find a new job. I was sleuthing through LinkedIn and found Sal. The first story I wrote was “50 in ’07: Dany Heatley’s Online Legacy” about Dany Heatley’s career and the impact @DanyAllstar15 had on my perception of Dany Heatley the hockey player. To this day it’s my favorite story that I’ve ever written.
Over time, I was also fortunate to be featured on “PHT Morning Skate” on NBC’s website three times either solo or a part of a Puck Junk group story. The fact that I was featured on a national publication, even if it was just some other blogger sharing a link to my blog, is pretty cool.
Here are the links if you’re interested.
- PHT Morning Skate: Futures of Panarin, Bobrovsky; Kovalchuk’s expectations
- PHT Morning Skate: No friends in the bubble; Kraken reaction
- PHT Morning Skate: Hall to Sabres reaction; why Armstrong couldn’t wait
From there, Sal came up with the idea of having me write a weekly column. It was a way for me to write more consistently and improve my skills. Sal says they’ve improved; I’m not sure if my boss at The Black Sheep would agree, but I’ve tried!
I’ve written this column in every place imaginable. I remember writing about Sergei Bobrovsky signing with the Florida Panthers as I sat on the floor of Toronto’s Pearson airport at 4:30 am after arriving from Reykjavík, Iceland, waiting for a 6:30 am flight back to Chicago. My sister was passed out next to me but I wrote because I couldn’t sleep. I’ve written this column on almost every Amtrak train I’ve been on from Chicago to Detroit and back, as I am at this moment.
I’ve written about t-shirts I’ve bought, honey butter chicken at the United Center, shitty emo music I love, and everything else. I used this column to combine my interest in hockey with other things I enjoy.
I wrote about how I wish the NHL was more like the NBA. Not because of the sport itself, but because the NBA allows its players to express themselves, making the culture of the sport more interesting.
I’m very grateful I was able to use the sliver of a platform I had to promote Black Lives Matter as well as getting vaccinated. The world has changed a ton since I started writing this and so have I. I’ve moved five times, gotten two tattoos, traveled to different states and countries, broken up with two girlfriends, and worked my ass off at every job I’ve had. This column has been one of the few constants other than my friends, family, and The Black Sheep.
I’m deciding to step away from writing for a few reasons. First, at 26-years-old, I’m trying to focus more of my energy on fewer things. As much as I’ve enjoyed writing this column, it’s difficult to find the same energy to write as before. Sometimes it’s a chore. Too often I put it off to late Sunday night. I’m even less inclined to want to write on a Sunday because there is football on and I need to watch my fantasy teams break my heart. I did win my fantasy football league back in 2019, something I’ll never forget.
Second, I’m trying to focus more on my mental health. I’m fine, but I’ve realized how terrible social media is and its negative effect on my life. I get most of my content from social media so it would be difficult to write this column without it and that’s not something I want to deal with.
I’d like to thank everyone who read my column over the years. From my friends and family to everyone that I’ve never met. I want to give a special shoutout to my close friend Aaron. We don’t talk very often but he always made a point to tell me that he gets all of his hockey news from me, which made me smile.
I’d even like to thank both of my ex-girlfriends. They were both very supportive of my writing, even when I had to stay up late to finish a column.
Lastly, I’d like to thank Sal. He gave me the opportunity to express myself in a way I hadn’t before. He never tried to change me; only provide me with guidance. He never told me to not curse, to not write about shitty emo music, or to not make political statements that some readers may not have supported. He always encouraged me to be me, and I can’t thank him enough for that.
With that, I’ll wrap things up. Thank you all again. It’s been a great ride. Stay positive and get vaccinated. ■