Wednesday, December 31, 2014

No Singing the Blues This Season

As of now, the St. Louis Blues sit fourth in the Western Conference, but they are a pedestrian .500 team in their last ten games. David Backes is everything you want in a captain, and he can, and should, lead them to a Stanley Cup; he is Barclay Plager, Brian Sutter and Dallas Drake rolled into one. Drafted by the Blues in 2003, he inspires and motivates on and off the ice, plasters opponents to the boards and defends his teammates. Oh yeah, and he will even score on you from time to time. He gives high praise for excellence to others and is critical of poor play, especially his own. Not necessarily having to be the best player on the team, that is what a captain is supposed to do. Consisting of Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen or the occasional Paul Stastny, he forms part of what I like to call the “BOSS” line. Because this is the one against which other opponents justify their paycheck. To be honest, though, my favorite line has to be Maxim Lapierre, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves. Talk about plastering opponents to the boards. This line in its pure form is pure beauty to watch as they lay down crushing checks and bruising hits. Switching out for Steve Ott only brings more experience in the endeavor. And oh yeah, they just might even score on you from time to time.

What can be said about Vladimir “Tank” Tarasenko that has not already been exhausted? He is a breath of fresh air, and perhaps the key element missing in years:  a ridiculously dominating goal scorer that can make defenders and goalies alike reconsider playing professional hockey. Better than Brett Hull? Go ahead, place that bet – and I love the Golden Brett! With Jori Lehtera, or Stastny, and Jaden Schwartz, alongside Tarasenko (as the “STL” line), just sit back and enjoy the combined international cooperation this line can bring that makes the United Nations envious. Then there's Patrik Berglund. Oh, Bergie, Bergie, Bergie. You are either frustrating or exciting. Talk about a nice guy deserving better, most particularly from himself. Something he readily acknowledges. A Blues draft pick in 2006 with a recently renewed three-year contract, he is playing either for an extended stay or for another team to take notice. Whichever the case, it would be nice for his cup to runneth over before reaching that bridge. Paired with the likes of Dmitirij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi (recently placed on waivers) and Joakim Lindstrom, it could be nothing less than Swede…with a little Russian moxie thrown in for good measure.

Despite twelve years, and a Calder Trophy win, spent solely on the Blues' blueline, Barret Jackman gets a lot of grief from disillusioned fans. What does he give in return? Consistency and toughness. Same as Jay Bouwmeester. By all measure, the majority of the defense is still young, but that is no excuse. Alex Pietrangelo has several years under his skates and plays like the veteran he is; yet, he is still learning to be the quarterback of what could be an as-yet-explosive offense and power play a la Al MacInnis or Chris Pronger, while minimizing the miscues. Kevin Shattenkirk is another in that same vein, given to pinching in for the ever-ready offensive spark. Chris Butler is the local boy, while Ian Cole and Carl Gunnarsson are the out-of-towners looking to make an impact. For the most part, they have yet to hit their stride as a potential shutdown defense that would be a relief to the young Jake Allen and the stoic Marty Brodeur. It certainly would give comfort to an ailing Brian Elliot upon his recent return to action.

So, as they approach the new year and second half of the season, is this the team poised for a run at Lord Stanley? With some minor tweaks – rather than the usual mid-season overhaul of years past – and prospects like Ty Rattie, Yannick Veilleux and Petteri Lindbohm, bet on it.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Random Christmas Thoughts

‘Tis the season…for many to hold to religious ideals not necessarily so stridently adhered to the other 364 days (or counting Easter, 363), and belief in a jolly old fat man bearing gifts for the nice but not the naughty passed down to a new generation. Unless, of course, you were able to stomp, trample and fight your way to huge savings on Black Friday deals! Just as Jesus (and Santa) would do, right? [*MATERIALISTIC PROMOTION ALERT* Know an avid reader? Still need a gift or stocking stuffer? Check out my books -]
It’s that time of the year to gather together and enjoy festive foods. Which means holiday trays and platters – the same ones left behind and reused from last year’s party. Don’t deny it; in a manner of speaking, whether holiday or not, we all do this sort of "re-gifting." And probably with the same fruitcake on it…from the same fruitcake who brought it to last year’s party.

What is a wish list other than not-so-subtly polite suggestions of gifts that you prefer others buy, rather than them getting you something crappy. Again. "It’s the thought that counts" doesn’t hold up to modern sensibilities, especially when it comes to getting the correct gift not the appreciated one. Therefore, we rush out to spend money we really don’t have on presents for people really not deserving of them. All because it’s on their wish list.

Is there an extended cut or sequel to It’s A Wonderful Life where Mr. Potter is visited by the ghosts of Christmases? Doesn’t seem fair that George Bailey – mind you, completely innocent of events about to unfold – has to agonize and examine his life because of Potter’s unscrupulousness – mind you, no thanks to Uncle Billy’s forgetfulness – without some sort of Scrooge-esque absolution for Potter as well.

They’re called Christmas cards. Not Christmas pictures, and certainly not Christmas newsletters. Yep, the dreaded seasonal newsletter. Listen, we’re all very impressed with your yearly accomplishments…not to mention making the rest of us look like procrastinators, slackers and non-caring friends who didn’t know about half the things outlined in your newsletter.

Darren McGavin is the dad in A Christmas Story; Gavin MacLeod is Captain Stubing in The Love Boat. When I was younger, this was the Dermot Mulroney/Dylan McDermott name twister mix-up of its day for me.

If you remove all the words from "Deck the Halls," you’re left only with lines of Fa la la la la la la la la. It’s the essay-filler "very, very, very" of Christmas songs.

Although typically only one or (rarely) two verses ever are heard when sung, there actually are four verses in the song "Jingle Bells." Moreover, it was written as a Thanksgiving/winter-themed song titled "One Horse Open Sleigh," attributed to John Pierpont in 1857. The song only became popular thereafter during Christmas due to the chorus’ titular "jingle bells" refrain – ironically, a reference to the type of signal used by sleigh riders at blind intersections (like a modern automobile horn) than any type of holiday bell.

What if instead of traveling around Christmas Eve to deliver presents, Santa Claus never leaves the North Pole by using teleportation/wormhole technology to do the job? Certainly, it would make the task easier, and, even more, would explain how he secretly enters billions of homes in a limited time. Maybe, he simply goes out in the sleigh with all the reindeer for marketing/public relations and for a little festive fun.

Each year, the variously varied variances in the diverse decorations displayed alike throughout the nation’s nascent and niche neighborhoods are amazing, astonishing and astounding. It demonstrates how similar and united we are, and can be, in our differences, and vice versa. 

©2014 Steve Sagarra