Penguins’ pitiful pairing of Hextall & Burke shows NHL old useless boys network is alive as ever


Brian Burke (left) and Ron Hextall are teaming up to wring whatever they can out of what’s left of Sidney Crosby’s (inset) career.Illustration: Getty ImagesHiring practices in the major sports leagues have been under the microscope of late. Especially in the NFL, where overqualified Black candidates can’t seem to get jobs ahead of white ones that seemingly come from nowhere, or are retreads, or if you’re the Lions you find a guy who had spent the previous decade batting his head into a door like Goldberg. But it’s not germane to football.Anything race-related in the NHL is a huge problem. Everyone knows that. The league only has one Black assistant coach, and one Black assistant GM. But maybe before the league can get to a point where it can push teams to hire more minorities, it might have to push teams to first hire non-morons. And based on today’s evidence, they’re miles from that. The Pittsburgh Penguins had been in the market for a new GM since Jim Rutherford stepped down right at this season’s dawn. Today, not only did they find one giblet to fill that position who has done pretty much nothing to deserve it, but then they found the king of the giblets to oversee him. First, they hired Ron Hextall as GM. Hextall’s previous stint as a GM came with the cross-state rivals Flyers, and there’s not much about it that would make anyone get up out of their chair and scream, “I gotta have this guy!” His drafting record is passable, maybe even OK. Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Carter Hart, and Nolan Patrick were added by Hextall. None are the finished article yet, and two of them have been waylaid by physical ailments, but still a lot of promise, but more promise than production. But none of that made a difference to the Flyers, who never finished above third in the division in Hextall’s term. And some of his other decisions were baffling. The trade of Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for someone who claimed to be named Jori Lehtera and claimed to be a hockey player stands out. G/O Media may get a commissionHe did manage to fire Craig Berube after one season as coach, and then watch Berube and Schenn go on to win a Cup with the Blues two years ago..That was in service of hiring Dave Hakstol, whose best claim to the job was his name sounded like Hextall’s. It could be argued that the base of this current Flyers team that’s currently leading whatever teams are still standing in the East division has his fingerprints all over it, so maybe we can let that go for now. The Penguins are clearly going to need some hits in the draft given the age of their key players and cap situation, and maybe they think Hextall’s record is enough to project he’s the man for that. Debatable, but not a crime. The real coup-de-stupid is that the Penguins are also hiring Brian Burke as President of Hockey Ops. While we should all rejoice that the move will get Burke and his flustered-and-more-confused Don Cherry act off our TVs, but how he’s landed another job in the league is mystifying. Burke might be the biggest blowhard fraud around, somehow camouflaged by the hockey media’s love of him because he challenged a guy to a fight once in a barn. If it involves a barn, or you just say “barn,” hockey writers will lap it up. Burke’s gloss comes from being GM of the Anaheim Ducks when they won their only Stanley Cup, almost entirely with players that were there when Burke arrived. The only thing he added to that team was cashing in assets he didn’t acquire or draft for Chris Pronger, who had asked out of Edmonton. That’s it. And that’s as good as it ever got for the Ducks since. Burke was able to take that one accomplishment, and his gruff nature, and con the Toronto Maple Leafs into hiring him as GM, where his opening press conference gave Don Cherry the last erection he ever had (enjoy the rest of your day). And that’s it. He used “truculence” in a sentence correctly. Hang a banner! The Leafs didn’t come within a $50 cab ride of a playoff spot, and included giving up those two first-rounders for Phil Kessel, trading for Dion Phaneuf’s dead ass, and drafting exactly two useful NHLers in four attempts, Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly. Oh, and then he was essentially an advisor for Calgary for five years, where they won exactly one playoff series. Fucking Midas touch, this guy. And just for kicks, Burke was a major voice in constructing the 2014 U.S. Olympic team and 2016 World Cup one that won exactly dick. This guy has been trading on looking pissed off all the time into a reputation he’s done next to nothing to earn. There is a distinct lack of innovation in the NHL, and it’s because teams just keep hiring the same 40 guys in either the GM sphere or the coaching sphere. Everyone’s a “good hockey guy,” despite what they’ve done, or more likely haven’t done. As a reward for mediocrity, Hextall and Burke get to try to get Sidney Crosby another Cup.In the NHL, if you get one job, you get 17. .

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Well at least MLB and MLBPA can agree on something


It appears the players, like Mike Trout, and the owners are headed in same directionIllustration: Getty ImagesGonna be a bit of a smorgasbord today. That’s ok, not all of them are gross or a petri dish of foodborne illness. There’s a Polish buffet around here that would change your life. Anyway, to it…MLB and the MLBPA were able to stop throwing beer cans at each other long enough to agree to updated safety and health protocols for the 2021 season. The silliness will also be back, in that there will be seven-inning double-headers again and the extra-innings rule of every half-inning starting with a runner on second.The double-header rule is a nod to the growing reality that there will still be a lot of games to make up. In a normal season, double-headers are a rarity. Your favorite team might play two or three all season, choosing to rather gobble up shared off-days to make up games. Of which there will be more this time around than the 60-game sprint last year. But if postponements pile up, and there’s no reason to think they won’t, at least through the first half of the season, it’s probably just a matter of sanity to keep this change. With nearly a quarter of the NHL currently waylaid and the NBA having gone through their halts, it’s hard to see how MLB will get through without having to do something similar. The extra-inning rule…it’s stupid but we might be stuck with it. It’s kind of fun to see how yet another league is just utterly terrified of ties. Even more scared than they are of 17-inning games that happen maybe three times in a season total. G/O Media may get a commissionApparently, we’ll all go into locked-in syndrome if a baseball game ends without a winner, to the point we’ll be happier with a carnival game to settle things almost randomly, just like the NHL’s kindergarten recess of 3-on-3 OT and shootouts. It’s also pretty curious the lengths MLB will go to protect relievers, by far the most interchangeable and replaceable parts of any team. 17-inning games don’t make life any harder on any starter, who are under the real injury threat from the changes the past two seasons. No one wants to see relievers get hurt either, but there’s a reason clubs go through about 20 of them a season. They’re everywhere. But they can’t throw more than one inning (though now no less than three batters). They can’t throw three days in a row. And god help you if a manager has to use the entire pen in a game twice per season. And even when they did, back in the olden days of 2019, they would just call up two more guys the next day. Whatever. It was all happening in Columbus in the NHL last night. Top of the list was this goal from Jack Roslovic to give the Jackets a 3-2 win and send Brett Pesce’s tail to a multi-night residence between his legs.It’s a good thing for the Jackets, too, because they already might have to start hoping Roslovic becomes a bigger part of the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade. That’s because it took King of The Redasses John Tortorella all of four games to tire of Patrik Laine’s jester act and nail his goofy ass to the bench. Laine played all of 11 minutes, none in the 3rd. Torts wasn’t talking after the game about the benching, leaving the world to guess. Laine has had a decent start in Ohio, and was coming off a two-goal game. But if Torts is waiting for Laine to become a 200-foot dynamo, then he’s going to end up a very disappointed man. This is what Laine is. He waits around for chances to score like you wait around for a bus. Or maybe Torts is getting a head-start on chasing yet another star out of town. After all, Tortorella is getting older, and might not have time for the multi-year turning of a player’s soul cold this time around. Like an aging tennis player, he’s trying to end points earlier. MLS was able to veer before going over the cliff, as it looks set to agree to a new CBA that will see training camps and the season start on-time. The deal extends the CBA to 2027, which is what the owners wanted, to get more time to assess the lay of the land after the North American-hosted World Cup of 2026. This really means they’ll get to bank added revenue from sponsorships and tickets thanks to rising interest after that tournament for a season and a half before having to share with the players.The players will see no salary cuts in 2021, and lowering of free agency thresholds later in the deal, along with some other trinkets. It’s not a great deal for the players, but owners don’t lose lockouts, and whether the better landscape for the players comes in 2026 or 2027 doesn’t really matter to a lot of these guys, who either won’t be playing anymore or will have hoped to have moved on to Europe anyway. But it’s always good when two sides decide to not go all Thelma and Louise together. .

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If you miss NFL refs not knowing the rules, the NHL has you covered


All eyes may have been on the refs screwing Kansas City in last night’s Super Bowl, but this one was an under-the-radar gem.Photo: Getty ImagesThe day after the Super Bowl is a comedown for everyone, and probably more so in the midst of a pandemic where (if you’re logical) you’re stuck inside your house. The NHL and NBA seasons are in their dull bridge section, even in this shortened and changed schedule. Spring training is about to begin, but the only reason anyone tunes into spring training is to just watch sunshine. But hey, you don’t have to go without watching people you’re positive are worse at their jobs than you are at yours. I know the NFL refs provide that on a weekly basis so that you never have withdrawal for five months, and you fear what comes next. The NHL referees are here to save the day. Yesterday, in the far superior Super Bowl pregame show, the refs and linesmen for the Hurricanes-Blue Jackets game, along with the video replay officials in both Columbus and Toronto, put on the abstract, absurdist theater you always talked about doing in college but never actually got around to doing, telling yourself that it would be too “real” for the audience. It all started with this Vincent Trocheck goal that gave the Canes a 4-3 lead:G/O Media may get a commissionLooks pretty innocuous at first, right? Except a few seconds before that goal, this happened:The Jackets saw that. They challenged the goal for offsides. And they were right. Except they weren’t told they were right. In fact, the linesmen and the personnel in the arena and back at the war room decided they were wrong, which not only meant the goal stood, but the Jackets would be assessed a two-minute delay of game penalty. With 1:15 left in the period at the time, they finished out the second on the kill. Of course, what people inside the arena noticed as odd is that during the intermission, all the officials sprinted across the ice from their locker room down the Jackets tunnel. And when the third period started, suddenly the Jackets were at full-strength, even though only 1:15 of the delay-of-game penalty had been served and the Canes hadn’t scored on the power play. The Canes power play…c’est disparu. Turns out, the officials discovered that in fact the Canes were offsides before the Trocheck goal shouldn’t have counted. But they’d called the penalty, let the 2nd period run out, so…here’s your gift card?The NHL released this statement:Only in the NHL would they try a half-measure to fix things when they’ve fucked up. The NBA always releases its Two-Minute report, and the NFL always says stuff on Tuesdays. But what’s amazing is how this could have happened in the first place. Did they not have this angle during the review? Did someone’s connection cut out? Did someone just not listen? Whatever the answers are, you can be sure they’re hilarious. It’s hockey, after all. It probably requires a clown-nose. “Miscommunication” gives anyone a bigger shelter for whatever cock-up they’ve committed. Would it have made a difference? Impossible to know. But there’s a big difference between starting the third trailing by a goal and tied. Max Domi did tie the game in the third before the Canes scored twice more to win it. Still, you have to love the NHL and its refs acting like a flustered, overmatched floor manager desperately trying to not get the health department called on the place. .

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