Discussing the potential downsides to winning the Stanley Cup

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One of the key facets to being successful in competitive fields is to remain hungry. It’s an underrated attitude, too, when you consider the fact that many athletes already achieved the dream of making millions by playing the sports they loved (or at least succeeded at) as children.

PHT already took a more black-and-white look at how both the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks might look once the 2011 Stanley Cup finals conclude, but Kevin McGran wonders about the “downside” of winning a championship.

It probably seems like a ludicrous point to discuss on first impact. After all, the Canucks are desperate to win their first Stanley Cup in their 40-year franchise history while the Bruins haven’t sipped from Lord Stanley’s chalice since 1972. That being said, fans don’t want to see the party end after one great run, so each team would need to avoid some legitimate pitfalls to keep the momentum going.

The dangers of complacency

McGran’s point doesn’t focus on the exhilaration of winning it all, though. Instead, he wonders about the negative side of crossing the finish line in first place.

For the business of the team, well in the short term, it’s fantastic — new fans, inflated TV ratings, merchandise sales. If they’re smart, they’ll lock in sponsors at inflated rates to long-term deals.

But in the long term, there’s evidence to suggest winning the championship is bad for business. Ownership can lose interest, or sell. Management can get lazy.

“It’s like collecting,” said Detlev Zwick, associate professor of marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University. “The collector is enthralled with collecting, as long as the collection is not complete. As soon as the collection is complete, the collection loses its magical power.

“A complete collection is the worst thing that can happen.”

The concept reminds me of how people explain the disappointing later careers of great comedians such as Eddie Murphy. Getting fat and happy might be the ultimate goal, but what happens when you cannot relate to your audience any longer? For some comedians, it means collecting paychecks while making lackadaisical family comedies until people aren’t even sad that you aren’t trying anymore.

McGran’s piece focuses on the downfalls that come once the thrill of that first chase is gone, but the article might miss the biggest problem that comes with winning a championship: keeping that team together.

If you can’t beat them, chip away at them …

Just look at the Chicago Blackhawks franchise, whose losses cannot be contributed to the salary cap alone. Obviously some of the biggest blows came from being forced to trade or release players such as Antti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, but other teams scavenged their executives as well. Coaches like Craig Ramsay and decision makers such as Rick Dudley and Kevin Cheveldayoff received better jobs elsewhere when teams hoped to get their own piece of the Blackhawks magic.

Is it a breakthrough or a mirage?

Another difficult aspect is assessing players who put together unexpectedly strong runs in the playoffs. Are these runs a sign of things to come or do they rank as contract year mirages?

Both the Bruins and Canucks have their most crucial pieces wrapped up for next season, so they shouldn’t deal with too many huge losses. That doesn’t mean they won’t have some questions to answer, though. The Bruins were probably more comfortable with the idea of parting with Michael Ryder – and the same could probably be said of the Canucks with Kevin Bieksa – before the two made a difference in the postseason.

Conclusions

Then again, losing in a title round can be even more painful. While the Pittsburgh Penguins rebounded a year after losing a Cup finals series to win it in 2009, most of the teams who got oh-so-close recently haven’t been back since. Just look at how the Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers flopped after coming 1-4 wins short and you’ll see that it might be tougher for the second place teams.

Like we discussed before, both teams are built for solid stability (especially the Bruins, who face only a few tough free agent situations) on paper. That being said, complacency can be a real problem in a sport with such small margins of error. These thoughts won’t creep into the minds of the winning team as they spray each other with victory champagne, but maybe they should make it a point to bask in its sweet flavor as much as possible. After all, there’s no guarantee they’ll be anywhere close to this point again.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?