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Malibag: Curtis McElhinney and Bad Led Zeppelin Imitators

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All that and more in this edition of the mailbag.

GQ Men of The Year Awards - Red Carpet Arrivals Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Is there an actual mailbag or is it a metaphor for how empty our lives were without Auston Matthews?—JaredFromLondon

He’s back. It’s okay everyone. The sun has come back to us.

To what god(s) should I pray to ensure Andersen stays healthy this year?—Arvind

Apparently the Danes have the same basic Norse pantheon as neighbouring cultures, so I’m going with Thor. STRENGTH. BATTLE. INVULNERABILITY. Plus maybe the thunder god can protect us from the greatest threat to any NHL player, which is attempted murder by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jake Dotchin.

I considered Eir, goddess of healing, but we don’t want Andersen to need any healing. We want him to be already healthy forever.

What’s a good thing that happened to you lately?—SuperMaurice

I went to Montreal. You know, we give Montreal a hard time because they spawned the hell franchise of the Habs, who deserve eternal failure, but it’s really a lovely city. Old Montreal is gorgeous, especially the stuff they built in the 1920s.

What’s the best Instagram filter for snowboarding pictures?—JerseyLeaf

After exhaustive (read: 90 seconds) of research, I have concluded that the correct answer is “Hefe”, which I am told is a thing that is good for mountains. This article says “Hefe will make hills, valleys and peaks much more bold and colorful because it ups the contrast and intensifies colors. It’s great when flora and fauna is as prominent as rock and stone...” Neat! So, uh, snowboard in a garden, I guess?

What is your darkest, most shameful hockey opinion? One you are loathe to share with your fellow basement-dwelling, not-game-watching, spread-sheeting co-bloggers.—Goldenhawk99

The obvious answer is that I think Zach Hyman makes sense on the Matthews & Nylander line, but I’ve been telling that to everyone who will listen for a year now.

So, I’ve hinted at this one before, but I’ll make it explicit: I think drafting large defencemen with picks after the third round is acceptable if you think they have some base level of mobility or production. Putting aside Nicolas Mattinen (who I genuinely don’t get as a pick if he was more than a favour to a nice London Knights kid), I don’t really have a problem with picks like Gordeev, Desrocher, or even Middleton. They probably won’t work out, but nor will most picks in that range, and there are quite a few examples of large, low-offence defencemen who have developed effectively as NHL players.

I don’t mean any team should get monomaniacal with this, and by all means pick the little guy who fills the net as well. But I think people go really overboard in criticizing some of these picks. Oh, and also, Gordeev looked good at the rookie tournament, so obviously he’s going to win the Norris.

I’m having trouble thinking of a question. What activities do you recommend to stimulate the mind in order to aid in coming up with mailbag-type questions? Please remember that said activities must be ones that can be completed discreetly in an office environment.—Shield

As people trained in law, we both know the answer to this, deep down. Slam two cups of coffee. Coffee is the only drug that is encouraged for use in an office environment and it will absolutely stimulate your brain. Of course, you will subsequently pay the price in fatigue and/or stomach upset, but you can cross that bridge to the bathroom when you come to it.

1. Is there a rational defense for Babcock’s mantra that "the right players always end up on the team, but not always right away"?

2. If so, does any rational defense of it depend on the trade value of vets blocking the "right players"?

3. Do the vets blocking the "right players" on the Leafs have sufficient trade value to block the "right players"?—The Bag

Potentially, yeah, there’s a rationale. Let’s do a hypothetical here: say Kasperi Kapanen is better than Josh Leivo, and they’re both fighting for a fourth-line winger job. In our dreamland, they’re the only two guys fighting for said job.

If the eventual trade return on Josh Leivo and/or the development bonus to Kasperi Kapanen from playing bigger minutes in the AHL outweighs the difference in quality between the two players, then you’re justified in giving the job to Leivo for now. Obviously this applies somewhat less if you get into the playoffs, where every goal counts; worth noting that, granted it was facilitated by injury, Kapanen played rather memorably in the playoffs last year in real life.

In fairness to Babcock, he may also be nodding to uncertainty in this quote. If you’re sure who’s better than who, that’s one thing. But if each player has different abilities and it’s pretty close, it makes sense err on the side of asset management until the up-and-comer definitively takes the job from the veteran. If Kapanen and Josh Leivo are in a dead heat for a job, you might as well send down the guy who doesn’t have to clear waivers and give him time to become “the right guy.”

Of course, in real life, this question seems to be hinting at Matt Martin. No, I do not think he has enough trade value to justify him blocking a better player. On the other hand, NHL GMs like his style more than I do, so who knows? Maybe we wind up flipping him for a second next summer. Stranger things have happened.

Sum up:

  1. Yes
  2. Not entirely, but that’s a big part of it
  3. Probably not

1. Why is PPP member Wallin Apologist so great?

2. Is it related to the fact that he is cool and smart and handsome?

3. If so, do you think that PPP’s current Junior Vice President brings enough other value to the blog to block Wallin Apologist’s promotion to that role on the basis of his aforementioned coolness/smartness/handsomeness?—Wallin Apologist

I looked at our depth chart and our current Junior VP is brigs. We’re hoping another site will fall in love with brigs’ comment count and trade for his production, which we’ve juiced with soft minutes. That’ll open the way for your ascent.

  1. Because somebody has to defend Rickard Wallin, damn it
  2. Well, let’s not get carried away
  3. The right bloggers end up on the team, but not right away

Which one of Hughson or Simpson do you think asked for the league to crackdown on faceoff violations, so they can talk about faceoffs even more during their HNIC Leafs broadcasts? It’ll now be 45 minutes of them analyzing faceoffs, 10 minutes of them fawning over a player on the Leafs opponent & 5 minutes of them actually doing play by play calling.—Robert610

God this is excruciatingly apt. I actually don’t mind Hughson as much as some people (sacrilege, I know) but the fetish for faceoffs is mind-numbing. I’m this close to wanting the NHL to decide who starts with the puck based on coin flips. It would work out to nearly the same thing and we wouldn’t have to go on and on about how one guy was a particularly good flipper.

Would you rather live through 1000 duck-sized hurricanes or one hurricane-sized duck? A hurricane-sized duck that can be killed as easily as a regular duck, or 1000 duck-sized hurricanes that each contain the power of a full-sized hurricane within their smaller size (so like the neutron star of hurricanes).—ExitSteveLeft

We have to go for the enormous hurricane-sized duck. 1000 duck-sized hurricanes of that force would devastate swathes of countryside and there wouldn’t be anything we could do except wait. Storm Duck is also terrifying, but at least we can stop it before it gets too far out of hand.

Also, I assume we’re going to have to kill Storm Duck in the style of Shadow of the Colossus. That game was awesome.

What overly dramatic and way too early conclusion that can be drawn from the one pre-season game the Leafs have played do you think will actually turn out to be accurate?

Examples:

  1. McElhinney will cause our collective butt cheeks to clench every time the other team gets a shot off
  2. Matthews will attain a power level over 9000
  3. These new faceoff penalties are dumb and will always be dumb and we’ll hate them forever and ever amen—Brigstew

All of these are plausible, but I think #1 is the most likely of anything. Basically all of last year, we kept saying he was a mediocre backup who probably did not get way better at age 33. He’s not going to be the utter tire fire he was in the preseason, but I don’t think we’re going to enjoy having to rely on him.

Luckily, though, we’ll have Patrick O’Sullivan to remind us McElhinney made a save once, so therefore he’s good in both the past and the future.

Who would make up the worst possible NHL broadcast? Not just play-by-play, but interviews, intermission, hotstove panels, everything. If you had to create a Nightmare version of HNIC, who would be on it and what would it look like?—MrSmithy

This is going to get ugly.

Play-by-play: Paul Romanuk. I’m sure Paul’s a very nice guy, but he botches plays and names like a butcher trying to do surgery. He’s just not good at his job.

Colour commentary: Craig Simpson. Simpson isn’t as unbearable as most of this list will be, but the earlier question on faceoffs reminded me how much we’re going to hear about those, and I cringed in my heart.

Between the benches: Glenn Healy. Who else could it be? He’s the worst.

Interviews: Honestly, anybody. Every intermission interview of a player is terrible. One time out of a thousand they say something interesting and the rest of the time it’s “Did you want to get pucks deep that period?” Scott Oake gets a pass from me here, though, because he basically tried to get T.J. Oshie to admit his team totally fucked up a 5-on-3.

Intermission panels: Mike Milbury, Don Cherry, PJ Stock, and Dave Poulin. Milbury has somehow sustained a job by being very loud after having been maybe the worst GM in history. Don Cherry speaks in nonsequitur sentence fragments spiced with racism. PJ Stock just has no discernible talent whatsoever, and yet CBC kept using him for years on end. And finally Dave Poulin, because his being trotted out as an “expert” on the Leafs after he helped FUBAR our franchise is an obscene joke played on us by TSN and the universe.

I recognize I haven’t given this panel a host, but I think I would be sentencing someone to death if I did that.

Hi Fulemin,

I think that due to your typographic coolness, endearing demeanour and unflappable attitude it’s safe to assume that, although I’ve never encountered you in person, you are also a fashionable individual.

With that in mind, how to do you feel about an outfit that includes both a jacket and flip flops?

What other odd combinations of attire do you notice at this time of year where the temperature can change drastically throughout the day?

As always, your tireless endeavour to answer completely inane questions for our entertainment is appreciated. I hope you have a wonderful day.-—NotARealOne

You are very kind, NARO, thank you. I am not really fashionable at all, but goddamnit, I’m not going to let that prevent me having opinions.

Flip flops are for beaches and pools. That’s it. If you’re anywhere else you should not be wearing flip flops. If you are on a beach at night and it’s cool outside, I think flip flops and a jacket are acceptable, because you still don’t want to get sand in your shoes. Beyond that this is a mistake.

On your other question: the signature Canadian outfit, IMHO, is light or showy clothing with a disproportionately thick coat over it. This is someone who has been caught off guard by the change in seasons, or who is dressing for an indoor place and then throwing a goose down jacket over it in order to survive the journey to the indoor place. If you ever went clubbing in any Canadian city between October and March, at least 50% of the girls in line outside the bar were wearing this, while the guys folded their arms and insisted that no, they were not cold, while silently praying for either admission to the club or merciful death. This is the most Canadian young person thing ever.

The other thing you see in seasonal transitions is long sleeves with shorts. This is not excusable. You look like a prep school asshole 100% of the time. I say this to warn. Be safe out there, kids.

In your opinion is there any player currently in the organization, with a chance of someday replacing Hyman as AM’s default LW partner?

Currently my hopes are with Grundstrom.—Zone Entry

Zach Hyman is here forever. Get used to it.

Okay, actually, Zach Hyman may at some point shift to doing what Leo Komarov does. In that case, yes, Carl Grundstrom is your man; he fits the skillset and may even have decent enough hands to cash in quite a few goals playing with AM34. There are other options there but they would all change the operating style of the line. If you’d like a sleeper candidate, Kapanen might be quick enough to fetch pucks even if he’s less gritty than Zach.

At what age are you too old/does it become sad to name your Be A Pro character in the latest edition of NHL after yourself?—SlickWill

Never. You’re a grown man playing a video game, which isn’t cool, and therefore you are released from any strictures that coolness may have on you. It’s fine! Everyone’s a big lame-o at heart. Daydream about time traveling back to age 18 and getting drafted by the Leafs, who cares?

I do recommend naming your player something stupid, though. It’s very rewarding to see the Conn Smythe Trophy getting handed to Commander Plant Butt.

On a less depressing note: starting with NHL 99 which only had "Heroes" by David Bowie, rank the games from worst to best based on the best single song from each game. You WILL be graded and/or mocked if your rankings and/or choice for "best song" are wrong—SlickWill

I’ve standardized the game names, because I can’t be bothered to check which ones are NHL SLAPSHOT MASTERS 06 or whatever they’re called.

NHL 1999: “Heroes” by David Bowie

NHL 2000: “Push It” by Garbage

NHL 2001: “Heavy” by Collective Soul

NHL 2002: “American Psycho” by Treble Charger

NHL 2003: “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age

NHL 2004: “Minerva” by Deftones (Honourable Mention: “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” by Brand New)

NHL 2005: “Take Me Out” By Franz Ferdinand

NHL 2006: “Saturday Night” by Kaiser Chiefs

NHL 2007: “Bring It On Home” by The Hellacopters

NHL 2008: “Fa Fa Fa” by Datarock

NHL 2009: “Do The Panic” by Phantom Planet

NHL 2010: Christ Man I Don’t Even Know by These Songs And Bands Are Bad

NHL 2011: “Blitzkrieg Pop” by The Ramones

NHL 2012: “I Wish I Could Steal A Sunset” by Death Letters

NHL 2013: “Whistleblower” by Arkells

NHL 2014: “The Joker And The Thief” by Wolfmother

NHL 2015: “Trainwreck 1979” by Death From Above 1979

NHL 2016: “It’s Good” by Ethel and the Chordtones

NHL 2017: “Underestimated” by Maestro Fresh Wes*

*I actually hate this song so, so much, and yet it’s the only song I remember from the soundtrack of this game, so I feel obligated to pay it a kind of tribute. You win, Maestro. You win.

First thing: holy shit, popular rock music is dead. I’m sure some of this is bias based on my own age, but I don’t at all think music today is all bad (quite the contrary.) It’s that the NHL games play to the same white dude base by stuffing each of their soundtracks with bands who think music peaked with Led Zeppelin IV, and everything since has been a mistake. The good stuff in that sphere has been done by now, kids. Most of it by Zeppelin, who did it the first time.

Further to that, though, there’s a clear uptick in quality with the rock revival of the early-to-mid 2000s, with genuine bangers like “No One Knows” and others leading pretty decent crops of songs. Decline sets in around 2008 and by 2013-14, it’s just a matter of finding the best second-rate 70s rock knockoff in a pile of fifth-rate ones. EA Sports grudgingly acknowledges genres other than rock, hard rock, and punk in the most recent editions, so I guess that’s something.

Anyway, someone suggested that “1901” by Phoenix was on one of these soundtracks, in which case it would win the contest, but so far as I can tell it isn’t. I don’t have the stomach for a full ranking, but here are the best five songs to appear on NHL game soundtracks from 1999 to 2017.

  1. “No One Knows”
  2. “Blitzkrieg Pop”
  3. “Minerva”
  4. “Saturday Night”
  5. “American Psycho” (fight me IRL I don’t even care)

(“Heroes” is not one of Bowie’s best songs. Sorry.)

You have been appointed as King of Hockey congratulations on your ascension. What is the first ruling you make using your absolute, unquestionable power?—jmsmorris

Larger nets! Larger nets, larger nets, larger nets. It doesn’t have to be by that big an increase, but on the other hand, let’s not half-ass it. Tack on six inches on either side of the goal. I’ve solved your offence problem, NHL.

How are babies made? My last girlfriend insisted on doing something really gross and I think she was lying to me.—emjaymj

She was. For reasons I don’t understand, some people insist on doing perverse and ungodly things with their lower quarters. Rest assured that when you want a baby you’ll get it the right way: delivered to your door by an Amazon drone.

Does PPP have a formal position on the Oasis album What’s the Story Morning Glory?—MikeBrown’s Moustache

Oasis as a whole are overrated, but What’s The Story, Morning Glory is least has some legitimately good songs, and IMO it’s their best album. “Don’t Look Back In Anger” is quality even if it owes even more of a debt to John Lennon than the rest of their stuff, and “Champagne Supernova” is grand. 7.8/10, would generally leave on if it came up on shuffle.

Which finger do you use to "z" through comments? Do you stick with the traditional "homerow" setup and use your left pinky, or do you sit back, introspectively with a cup of coffee, and use an index finger.—TheConstantGardiner

I actually use my left ring finger. I somehow wound up learning a misbegotten variation on correct typing technique, and I make very awkward use of my left hand doing it. I have no idea how I’ve survived with it but I can’t learn anything else.

How do you know?—TheGardinerExpressway

I don’t! But I act like I do and that’s good enough.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!