Introducing … The Five Hole. The five bits of hockey news you need to know if you don’t need to know all the hockey news.
Hockey starts Wednesday. I’m as excited as a little girl who rushes downstairs on Christmas morning to find a pony under the tree, Justin Bieber on top of the pony and a second pony on top of Justin Bieber. In other words: pretty excited!
1. Ryan Johansen agreed to a three-year, US$12-million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is devastating news for those of us who were enjoying the wildly theatrical nature of the negotiations. I’m not saying the two sides started out far apart, but as recently as a week ago Johansen was asking for eleventy squillion dollars per season for 300 years and the Blue Jackets were offering, and I quote, “a bagful of nickels, some of them Canadian.”
And hostile! John Davidson, the team’s director of hockey operations, went so far as to loudly and publicly accuse Johansen’s agent of “extortion.” Throughout the negotiations, pretty much all of Davidson’s remarks read as though they were uttered while shaking a raised fist.
What a shame it had to end. There was so much bad blood that I’d wager Davidson had to be forcibly restrained from doctoring Johansen’s happy-to-be-back quote in the team’s press release.
Here is the actual quote as it appeared: “I’m really excited to have this deal done,” Johansen said.
Here is what Davidson probably submitted: “I’m a huge poopy pants who is a spoiled baby who goes WAAAAAHHHHH!!” said Johansen, who did I mention is a spoiled baby? The wittle baby added: “WAAAAHHHHHH!!!”
2a. That said, the Blue Jackets could definitely use Johansen’s scoring punch, considering the following: Boone Jenner (broken hand, out five weeks); Nathan Horton (bad back, out indefinitely); Scott Hartnell (can’t skate, still looks weird with short hair).
2b. It’s obviously pretty early to start thinking about all-stars for 2014-15, but screw it. I’m calling it: Boone Jenner is going to be, at minimum, a second-team Guy Whose Name Doesn’t Sound Like a Hockey Player’s Name all-star. He should be hosting a fishing show or wrestling an alligator for money.
3. The New York Rangers have acquired forward Joey Crabb from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Steven Kampfer and Andrew Yogan in a trade that, for all I know, could be a Punk’d prank because I’ve honestly never heard of any of these guys. In fact, I’m pretty sure Joey Crabb is a seafood restaurant in Orlando. Nice try, Ashton.
This is an important thing to know about the Five Hole. The Five Hole does not purport to be a hockey insider. The Five Hole enjoys hockey, and watches hockey, and coaches a little hockey, and can talk in the third person like everyone in hockey – but the Five Hole does not know who Steven Kampfer is and never will, not even if Steven Kampfer becomes the single greatest hockey player ever to live. The Five Hole is stubborn that way.
4a. It was a big week for the Ottawa Senators as Erik Karlsson was named the ninth captain in team history. Happily, it shouldn’t be hard for the defenceman to improve on the performance of his predecessor, Jason Spezza, who went only four minutes before turning over his “C” to an opposing player at the blue line.
4b. The team also signed Bobby Ryan to a seven-year contract worth in excess of $50 million. Now Bobby can pay someone to spell “intense” for him. In fact, I’ll do it. I’ll spell all kinds of words for him. Intense. Yacht. Lend. Lend me the yacht, Bobby. These are just examples.
5. Most forecasters have the Maple Leafs finishing in the middle of the pack this season and fighting for a playoff position.
Vegas has them at 20-1 to win the Eastern Conference, 45-1 to win the Cup and even money to make Don Cherry go on a half-hour rant about how super dumb they were to cut both of their enforcers. (Only seven minutes of this rant will be broadcast. The rest will be delivered to a series of startled passersby and several people waiting for the bus.)
To me, a middle-of-the-road Leafs squad is the worst possible outcome. I’d much rather they turn out to be an elite team, in which case the city of Toronto will become so obnoxious and unbearable that the rest of us will quietly pack up in the middle of the night and finally make the move to Greenland.
Or they’ll be a terrible team, in which case we can all look forward to one of Randy Carlyle’s eyes exploding right out of his face by December. And the thing is, he won’t even bother to retrieve it. He’ll be like, “I don’t need that eyeball because if I had that eyeball then I’d just have to see TWICE AS MUCH OF YOU GUYS SUCKING.”
That’ll be followed by a dressing-room rant that consists of 15 minutes of Disappointed Old Man sounds and anywhere between one and three spankings.
The Five Hole appears Tuesdays and Fridays.