Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hoserdome: Picking the Olympic hockey team, while chewing on a Fellate of Fish

Mike Fisher is to Canada in 2010 as Ron Paul was to American politics in 2008. A few people really, really like him. Most people don't know who he is, let alone his qualifications.

Like a kid who swigged down a large Coke before a long car trip, it's impossible to hold this in any longer. The Fisher-for-Canada campaign has bordered on being a maple syrup-drenched Canadiana porn. The weak argument, which has had the most sway in Ottawa, won't die despite being stuck in Hockey Clichés 101 (Senators winger Chris Neil on The FAN 590 today: "Every game, he shows up, he plays hard. He does it at both ends of the ice. He'd be on my team."). It almost makes you wonder where we are as a sporting nation when people gleefully go along with such shallow jockism.

Fisher is a solid two-way player on an Ottawa Senators club which is getting on decentlypost-Dany Heatley (as prognosticated last June). He is the nice down-to-earth hockey player, truer to his roots than his VBF is on her visits to the salon. Even guys with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality will note he is totally man-pretty.

With all that, it is understandable why some fans want to see Fisher in Vancouver. What harm could he do as the 13th forward? It is understandable why some members of the hockey writers' tribe and CBC Sports clown Don Cherry, have played to the crowd, treating Fisher the way a public relations person treats a client.

This is not quite on a shame-on-them. You have seen Cherry's suits. You know he has no shame.

It's more of a comment on the divide between the Fish mongerers and those who would like to see sports debate in Canada -- i.e., hockey debate -- dragged out of some bygone era. It's just amusing when you have Fisher getting serious consideration in some circles, while other outside-of-Ottawa sources such as Tim Wharnsby at CBC Sports, Puck Daddy, the Kurtenblog guys don't even take the idea of Fisher seriously.

Three of five Globe & Mail writers had Fisher on their team. Two of four Hockey Night in Canada personalities, Cherry and Glenn Healy, also picked the Senator last Saturday. Oddly enough, in a Canwest News Service poll where editors, columnists and reporters made their picks anonymously, only 7% selected Fisher.

That is as it should be, since there are probably 18-20 Canadian forwards who are more eminently qualified. A cursory scan of Behind The Net shows Fisher has not exactly dominated opponents. He's benefited from playing with strong wingers, Nick Foligno, Alex Kovalev (yes, really) and the aforementioned Neil. He has averaged only 50 points per season in the post-lockout NHL. He doesn't offer much as a faceoff man, unlike other bubble players such as the Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron and the Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews.

Fisher being in the mix just attests to the paralysis by analysis that has gripped Canada every four years since the NHL began shutting down for the Olympics in 1998. People believe Canada needs a few role players -- cue Chris Neil, he does it at both ends of the ice! -- to play on the fourth line. Talk about a march to folly, where smart people pursue an end contrary to their self-interest (assist: Barbara Tuchman). Canada believes it can't match the offensive creativity and firepower of Russia, so its solution is to take fewer players with some serious snipe. As William Houston notes with the 2010 squad:
"Canada? An excellent team led by Sidney Crosby, but, like virtually every Canadian entry in an elite international competition, it will struggle to put the puck in the net. That's why Canadian general manager Steve Yzerman should be putting a priority on offensive talent rather than checkers. You have to assume the scorers will care enough to back check and pay attention in their own end. If it’s a choice between Martin St. Louis and Mike Richards, you go with St. Louis."
That hints at why Canada's only men's hockey medal since 1998 was aided by an all-time fluke goal, thanks again, Tommy Salo.

Who knows. Perhaps Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman will nail this and avoid the same pitfalls his predecessors did in '98 and 2006. Meantime, God only knows what is says when smart people wish to believe the No. 2 centre on a mid-pack Senators team should be one of Team Canada's 13 forwards. Ron Paul was a more legit candidate.

Enjoy the selection show on Wednesday at noon ET, presuming you can figure out which of 13 channels to watch it on.

In the interest of trying to be constructive, here is a potential 23-man roster:
  • Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Rick Nash, Jonathan Toews, Eric Staal, Brenden Morrow, Martin St-Louis.

    (Or Brad Richards, or Mike Richards, or Patrice Bergeron, or Shane Doan, or Patrick Sharp ... well, you get the point.)

  • Defencemen: Dan Boyle, Jay Bouwmeester, Duncan Keith, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber. (Niedermayer and/or Pronger should be left off in favour of Drew Doughty, but this is Canada. It won't happen. Whatever happened to Mike Green?)

  • Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Marc-André Fleury
Honestly, writing this called to mind the old This Hour Has 22 Minutes bit, "The Right Answer." Rick Mercer (funny in small doses) and Greg Thomey (the actually funny one) played two wingnut talking heads who would start off arguing but were really in agreement. They would shake hands and says, "And that's the right answer."

So, if Steve Yzerman actually selected Mike Fisher, and if Canada did not win gold, and if you take smug glee in that like you did when Canada with Todd Bertuzzi lost in Turin in 2006, what would that make me? An asshole. And that's the right answer.


eyebleaf said...

I get what you're saying. Personally, I don't mind if Fisher makes the team, or doesn't. Team Canada is an embarrassment of riches. One guy making or not making this team will not win or lose this tournament for us. That being said, I'd take Brad Richards over Toews, St. Louis or Staal. The Brad is clutch, and has experience playing the wing.

sager said...

I wouldn't care either. And if Brad Richards is a bubble player, then how can Fisher be in serious consideration?

Staal has size, Toews has wheels, St. Louis is gifted offensively. They're possibilities, but maybe the smartest move is Richards.

Anonymous said...

Mike Hunt-Fisher Queen must surely have naked pictures of those so-called experts who see him as an Olympian, even though they likely haven't seen more than a handful of Sens games over the years.

Well put Mr. Sager.

Duane Rollins said...

You touched on something important in there...the Canadian ability to get too cute by half when it comes to picking a hockey team.

My mother could pick the Canadian Olympic team. In fact, I bet she'd do a better job than those that do because she'd just pick the best players.

Seriously. Pick the best players.

sager said...

Thanks, Duane.

My mother's reaction when I said Fisher was in Olympic consideration: "Can he play for another country?"

rob said...

Great post regarding Fisher, and good picks in general. You should have used the same logic that you used with Fisher to rule out Morrow though. There is no way that he should be taken over his more skilled teammate, Richards.

Greg said...

Christ, I actually hear Neil saying those hakneyed bromides on air.

For every Ken Dryden there seems to be a thousand Chris Neils in the NHL when it comes to eloquence and originality of thought.

Of course, if you watch the World Juniors, their vocabulary consists of "we play hard" and "Gatorade tastes good" so I guess I can't complain too much.

eyebleaf said...

Duane makes a good point. Take a look at the stats sheet. All the highest scoring Canadians go. Done and done.

Anonymous said...

We here at the Old and Crazy Lodge have a name for The Fish. It's called MUFF, as in "Mike Un Finisher Fisher" NUFF said.

sager said...

Fine, Brad Richards in, Brenden Morrow out. There are two ends to a rink, though, just not to the extent some would imagine.

I just wanted to show off that I could get the spelling of Morrow's first name right. It makes me feel like a big man.

Jason Cormier said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I am a Sens fan but I'm a bigger fan of Canada winning gold in Vancouver. That isn't going to happen with a roster that tries to be all things to all people. It didn't work very well in 1998 and it was even worse when repeated in 2006.

Why do so many Canadians suffer collective, partial amnesia about the 202 team? They all remember the gold medal but they forget that this was a classic case of picking the most skilled offensive players up front and let the cards fall where they may. There were many questions about the heart, grit, and two-way play of this team but those tired cliches were quickly forgotten as the team beat the US.