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.)

Canucks’ Brock Boeser suffers foot injury after blocking shot (Video)

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As the Vancouver Canucks transition their roster and let the kids take over, Brock Boeser has been a real bright spot this season. Well, right now fans are holding their collective breaths hoping that the Calder Trophy candidate isn’t too seriously hurt after blocking a Mark Giordano shot early in the second period Sunday night.

Did you catch that Jim Benning reaction?

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Yup, us too, Jim.

Boeser, who leads the Canucks and all NHL rookies in scoring with 17 goals and 30 points, was ruled out for the rest of the night a short while later with a foot injury.

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s all three members of the Canucks’ BBB line that are currently injured. Bo Horvat is out until January with a foot injury and Sven Baertschi has a similar timeline after fracturing his jaw.

Depending on the severity of the injury could also impact some of Boeser’s potential bonuses in his rookie season. Ryan Biech of The Athletic had a great breakdown on Friday about how much the Vancouver stands to earn this season should he hit certain totals in specific categories. Hopefully this doesn’t keep him out long. The Calder race is better with him a part of it.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Johnson to sit two games for Avalanche after suspension

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It was pretty clear that after receving a slashing minor, boarding major and game misconduct all in the span of about three seconds, Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche still had some punishment coming to him.

And so on Sunday night the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a two-game ban for the veteran defenseman after he boarded Vladislav Namestnikov Saturday night in Colorado.

As detailed in the video, Johnson knows that Namestnikov has already fired his shot on goal and the Tampa Bay Lightning forward isn’t expecting to be shoved like that after his scoring attempt. That, and how far he was from the boards make it all especially dangerous. Fortunately, Namestnikov was able to remain in the game.

“Dangerous play. You just hold your breath on those. Got a little fortunate with Vladdy, obviously didn’t get as fortunate with Callahan,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, referring to Ryan Callahan‘s injury after an awkward collision with Oliver Ekman-Larsson last week.

Johnson will lose out on $64,516.12, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Is Alex Ovechkin clutch?

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If you get into a bar argument with a sports fan about Alex Ovechkin, there’s a strong chance that at least one person will argue that the Washington Capitals superstar is “not clutch.”

It’s easy to compile such an argument, whether it’s fair or not. The Capitals won three Presidents’ Trophies in the Ovechkin era, yet they’ve never gotten to a third round with him on their roster. His Olympic struggles are both dramatic and well-documented.

That said, if you extract team successes and failures from the picture – which is difficult for many to do, that’s true – it gets tougher to deny that there’s some “clutchness” there, unless you just start to wrestle with whether “clutch” is even a real thing or not.

(Allow me to not open that pandora’s box.)

Last night, Alex Ovechkin scored his 21st overtime goal, adding to an NHL record he already owned. In the process, he came that much closer to 100 career game-winners in the regular season.

Here’s the goal itself:

As you can see, Ovechkin is one GWG away from joining a club of players who’ve scored at least 100; he’d be the eighth person to do so. It might not take him long to pass Jarome Iginla, and depending upon how his twilight years go, Patrick Marleau.

It’s plausible that Ovechkin may finish his career on the top of that list, though he might fall short of passing kindred spirit/guy he once clobbered in initial play Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr is a kindred spirit because, while he’s currently in the Teemu Selanne phase of his career as an ageless wonder loved by just about any fan interested in the game, number 68 was once a frequent scapegoat in his own right. Plenty of people questioned his character and work ethic, at times to the point of things getting cartoonish. Sometimes stars like these need to go through that period before people embrace them like they always should have.

And the more you look into things, it’s clear that a lot of fans should drop the disdain and enjoy just how special Ovechkin is.

Consider this: Ovechkin is just 32, yet Hockey Reference’s listings show that he’s been in the top-10 in game-winning goals in 10 seasons. Ovechkin led the league in that category three times and was in the top five on seven occasions.

For a guy who takes a beating for not lifting the Stanley Cup (yet?), Ovechkin shows up in the playoffs, too.

During his career, Ovechkin has scored 46 goals and 90 points in 97 career postseason games, close to a point-per-contest. Just about every player sees a dip in regular season versus playoff numbers – it’s the nature of the beast with checking tighter and every goal mattering much more – so being able to generate offense that often sure indicates some “clutchness” to me.

At some point, you just have to tip your cap to a great player, and maybe stop frowning and enjoy his boisterous celebrations and once-in-a-lifetime scoring skills. You might get a chance to do that again soon, as Ovechkin sits at 581 goals. He might just hit the 600 mark in 2017-18, joining 19 other NHL players to cross that barrier.

This post isn’t meant to imply that Ovechkin is totally flawless and it’s unlikely that a mountain of milestones will move his harshest critics.

Then again, if listing some of these resounding accomplishments helps even a few extra hockey fans enjoy a rare talent, it’s well worth it. At 32, Ovechkin could really rack up numbers for a long time, but his window could close as a true goal-scoring phenom.

It wouldn’t be very clutch to come around to Ovechkin once his best days are all behind him, now would it?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Panthers face ghosts of past mistakes in Golden Knights

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The Vegas Golden Knights are one of the great success stories of the 2017-18 season in the NHL so far. The Florida Panthers are not.

Such notions would already make Sunday’s game feel a touch awkward, but in seeing the Golden Knights tonight, many Panthers fans might feel like they’re opening the door to an alternate reality in which the team didn’t revert back to the Dale Tallon era.

As TSN’s John Shannon notes, the Golden Knights feature eight former Panthers employees in some form, including head coach Gerard Gallant plus key scorers Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault.

Now, if you’re expecting the players or coach to stir the pot when it comes to revenge, you’re out of luck. All three gave boilerplate answers about just wanting to get two standings points tonight. No bulletin board material there, folks.

Instead, Panthers executives are providing some drama for us.

In seeing one of the Golden Knights’ many cheeky tweets, in this case trumpeting Smith’s presence on the team, Panthers executive Doug Cifu provided an interesting reply that was eventually deleted. Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt was among those who got a screen grab of it, and it’s a chin-scratcher:

Again, Cifu deleted the physical tweet, and he explained that he was attempting to be nice and that his tweet was “totally misconstrued.”

Even in Twitter form, the Panthers seem like they’re operating under the motto of “One step forward, two steps backward,” and today serves as a cruel example of how things don’t need to work this way.

Now, look, the Golden Knights enjoyed an expansion process that the NHL engineered to generate a more respectable early product than anything we saw in Florida’s era. Beyond that, even Gallant would probably acknowledge that there have been some positive bounces (although you could easily counter with a mention of Vegas’ many goalie injuries).

Still, it’s tough for this not to shine a light on the Golden Knights’ stellar start and the Panthers cellar dwelling.

[Golden Knights get to 20 wins faster than any other expansion team.]

The Panthers chose to fire Gallant during their short-lived “analytics-friendly” period. Then, in reaction to that time, Tallon almost seemed to recklessly expel elements of that regime by handing the Golden Knights two useful forwards in Marchessault and Smith when only one really needed to go (and Florida could have tried to sway Vegas into taking someone less valuable, too).

It all echoes back to Tallon’s much-mocked comment about being back in control, especially since the Panthers’ situation hasn’t dramatically improved since then:

Now, it’s likely that Tallon is merely glad to be running things again, yet it’s tough to avoid a snicker or two considering context.

Ultimately, the Golden Knights have profited off of Florida’s frenzied ways. Win or lose, Vegas is gaining from unforced errors on the Panthers’ part.

No doubt about it, these narratives will only sting more if the Golden Knights add another L to the Panthers’ largely miserable season, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.