It’s overwhelming, the Central Division. The rivalries are everywhere.
First, there’s Chicago. There’s plenty of reason to not like the Blackhawks. Andrew Shaw, the great punchable one, is gone, but Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith are still donning that hideous jersey, plus as long as Blackhawks Twitter exists, we will have plenty of rivalry fuel. KanerBoy88 isn’t going anywhere.
Minnesota grates on the eyes, in more ways than one. The style of hockey is an absolute mess, plus there’s an albatross of the old Nashville roster staring us in the face every game. We love to beat Ryan Suter, and we still don’t understand why. (Some of us think we do.) Then there’s, oh I don’t know, Chris Stewart, doing his thing... plus also, oh, I don’t know, Eric Staal doing his thing. It’s a rivalry in the sense that a drunken brawl on Printer’s Alley probably features two guys that don’t like each other but who really have nothing to hate about each other.
St. Louis has its own je ne sais quoi. The Blues Way, an obviously less successful imitation of the Predator Way, electrifies the Nashville fan base in ways we don’t quite understand. We know it’s not good hockey (this can be proven true, mathematically) but Nashville fans still can’t get enough of beating St. Louis.
Then recently, Colorado. Boy, did that series heat things up. The nuance of this rivalry has yet to take full shape within the current rosters of these teams (the Duchene offside call was five years ago) but that series win over the Avs will give it plenty to build on. I can’t wait for “Subban Sucks!” chants to emanate from “The Can” next season.
Then there’s the Winnipeg Jets. I think we are on the verge of something truly special with Winnipeg.
Before we even get to this upcoming series—which is sure to be epic—we have so many incredible moments already. Like this one:
Mattias Ekholm just said “scoreboard” to Mark Schieffle: pic.twitter.com/dHMaOIbCio— Mark Harris (@TweetsByHarris) November 15, 2015
That was almost three years ago when Mattias Ekholm dropped a “it’s 5-0 bro” on Mark Scheifele and it led to this:
Fast forward the rivalry a bit and you’ve got plenty of entertainment: crucial playoff deciding games, last second wins, questionable non-suspensions, and, of course, that sweet double-shorthanded goal goodness.
A lot of the rivalry has been built upon actual hockey moments: exciting back-and-forth play, incredible individual talent, timely goaltending. But make no mistake: these Jets have a prodigious number of very hate-worthy hockey players that make this rivalry tick.
Talent aside, the Jets are an infuriating team to play against. They are excellent at hockey, but they destroy the game with mindless penalties and undisciplined athleticism. There is no “sportsmanship” when it comes to the Winnipeg Jets. There is no standard of conduct. They practice hockey hedonism.
WE HAVE A BOX FULL OF JETS— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) March 14, 2018
The Jets lead the league in penalties taken since the 2014-15 season. They are also 1st in minor penalties (by quite a large margin), 2nd in penalty minutes, 6th in misconduct penalties, and 12th in major penalties in that time span. One frequent flyer over the last few years was Evander Kane, who is no longer in Winnipeg (can you even imagine?), plus it appears that young guns Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine have a rapidly maturing grasp of the NHL rule-book. But the point remains that most of the Jets’ current roster has been around for the last four years, building a reputation of degradation and defiance.
You know what the Jets are? The Jets are that insufferable, numb-skull guitar player you find at every Guitar Center in the continental U.S.
You know the one, blaring mindless guitar solos through six different distortion pedals and hitting all the notes to “Crazy Train” on every color Washburn guitar on the sales rack.
Yes, he is quite skilled. Yes, he’s clearly excellent at guitar. But that doesn’t stop him from stepping into that big box guitar store every Saturday morning, crowd-sourcing a new thrash metal riff he’s been working on, and then casually mentioning to his buddies that he’s “totally buying one of these things one day.”
Here, this is him:
Yeahhh, that guy. Ok, let’s do this properly.
Dustin Byfuglien - the amp
We get it. He plays loud.
Doesn’t the name “Big Buff” sound like a low-end Fender amplifier anyway? One that is pushing through way too many watts for a 10” speaker to handle? And really doesn’t have the punch to match whatever nu-metal lick is being forced through its wiring? How have they not capitalized on this obvious marketing ploy?
Yes, we know Byfuglien is the physical presence for the Jets (one of several) and that he makes his presence undoubtedly heard throughout the arena. No, he won’t turn down the volume.
Mark Scheifele - the guitar
“Oh, what a beautifully designed, carefully calibrated, very cost effective BC Rich Warlock with a flamed maple finish. Let me pick you up and force you to play the most undesirable of songs! Hey, sir, can you lower this action even further? I really need to get down on that mahogany to feel out this Mudvayne solo.”
Scheifele doesn’t lay down cheap or late hits like his fellow teammates (at least not yet) but his chirping and post-whistle shenanigans suggest a rather inharmonious, if not arrogant, playing style on the ice.
Blake Wheeler - the hands
You know this guy has the hands to play a flawless Andres Segovia-inspired Bach piece or to crank out a B.B. King solo with a deep bluesy ache, so why is he running cascading pentatonic scales through a Boss Metal Zone pedal? You’ve got talent, dude, stop being such an annoying wonk.
Tyler Myers - the muddied pool of guitar pedals
Tyler Myers really doesn’t know what he wants. Does he want to be a ruffian of the blueline, sorting out opposing forwards with elbows and late hits? Or does he want to actually play the puck, which he can maybe do effectively? Is he a power play specialist? Does he even belong on the power play? Does he even belong on the ice?
Watch as this 6’8” mutant attempts an offensive breakout with no knowledge of what an interference penalty is:
Just try a little bit of everything, Tyler.
Start with some digital delay, add some fuzz, patch in a chorus or two, then layer all of that with three distortion pedals, all of which constrict the signal to a signal strand of atoms with no significant meaning.
Jacob Trouba - the jean jacket
I can almost guarantee you that Jacob Trouba both A) doesn’t know where you would even buy a jean jacket and B) definitely has one. He probably has a couple.
It’s a look that only someone who tweets like this can truly be proud of:
Has anyone else tried these cotton candy grapes? They are fantastic. Can we make cotton candy wine??— Jacob Trouba (@JacobTrouba) August 28, 2017
Trouba strikes me as the guy who, right after “wow-ing the store” with his chops on “Do You Feel Like We Do?” goes to the classical guitar section, grabs a bandanna and shouts “I’m Willie Nelson guys!! I just can’t wait to get on the road again!!”
Paul Stastny - the overplayed riff
OF COURSE the Jets traded for the Blues and OF COURSE it’s paying off. He’s just a guy that can play center and can do some passy-shooty stuff. The Blues don’t need all that. The Jets needed a reliable center, just like our bro in the guitar store needs a simple melody that works reliably on any crowd.
Stastny is “Seven Nation Army” and “Back in Black” and “Come As You Are” all rolled into one.
Ben Chiarot - no guitar pick
Look, this guy doesn’t need a guitar pick. I mean, he can play any song you can name with or without a pick,. And right now he doesn’t need a pick. He prefers to use his favorite pick, one with a skull on it, but anyways he left it at home and he doesn’t need a pick because he’s out here to destroy everyone’s eardrums.
[this analogy for Chiarot works best if you replace the word “pick” with “puck”]
Toby Enstrom - the plaid shirt/graphic tee
I realize the guy in this photo has a plaid shirt, but it could just as easily be a Misfits t-shirt. Enstrom has been “practicing his craft” for the Jets for years now. Late hits, post-whistle scrums, face-washes, etc. He’s old school. He remembers when the Pixies got back together in 2004. He went to CBGB one time. He was at Bonnaroo when it was nothing but jam bands and he’ll tell you all about it.
Adam Lowry - the annoying grimace on that high note
Sorry, Adam, but no one is impressed with your mediocre, replacement-level scoring ability, no matter how tightly you squint your eyes.
Andrew Copp - [not available]
Andrew Copp doesn’t deserve a place in this analogy because he sucks and is terrible because he hurt Calle.
Hurting Calle is no joking matter.
Josh Morrissey - the 6 string bass
Please, just stop Josh Morrissey. We know you aren’t here to buy a bass, let alone one with 6 strings, and we can’t allow you access to more weapons.
No, seriously, put it down. Put it down and leave the store.
The last time you were here, you grabbed that wine red Epiphone Sheraton II and nearly killed that old man shopping for an acoustic guitar.
You could have killed him, Josh. I realize he’s probably already found a nice used Ovation on eBay, but he didn’t do anything to you.
Patrik Laine - the guy himself
This dude-bro at Guitar Center definitely has the skills to play guitar. He’s no hack, he can chop. It’s part of what makes his whole shtick insufferable, really.
We know he’s good, because we can hear it at 120 decibels. We also know he would be so much better with a little humility and a little more self-doubt.
In any good rivalry, there’s going to be an insanely talented player on the other side that transcends the rivalry. No one hates Patrik Laine and no one should. He’s just too damn good. Laine isn’t being that guy he’s just.. the guy. He’s just a great hockey player, with no frills. It’s his very regrettable environment that is unbearable.
And anyway, he’s not the one primarily responsible for this situation.
Paul Maurice - the store manager who allows this to happen
This massively unfortunate situation—when Mr. Too Cool shows up to impress the teenagers by soloing on an Ibanez—could be remedied with a change in management. Or at least a change in store policy. There’s a reason the smaller “mom and pop” stores don’t just leave quarter-inch instrument cables laying around the store. They know it invites trouble.
Paul Maurice, since arriving in Winnipeg in 2014, has governed this troupe of no-gooders with the austerity of an elementary gym teacher. The team is consistently among the top most penalized teams in the league and the general response from Maurice appears to be “Who’s ready for DODGEBALL!?”
Nothing will change this, of course. Maurice’s status quo has seen the Jets reach a franchise record for points in a season, shortly followed by their first ever playoff series win. The upcoming series between the Preds and Jets will be full of penalties to be certain (Nashville has the 12th most penalties since 2014-15, by the way) but I’ll be shocked if the Jets aren’t the ones initializing the ugliness we are sure to see on the ice.