What a wild week in the NHL. They did the “everyone plays in one night” thing, and that went well except for the whole “one of the games had to get moved due to a power outage” thing, which is no one’s fault.
One player suspended for half a season, a major injury to the biggest star on earth, a good chunk of the marquee teams in the league in absolute crisis, but also some absolutely shocking early-season performances from other marquee teams, and also an outrageous amount of high-scoring games (13 of 46 games since October 21 featured at least eight goals; that’s more than a quarter).
Can’t say they didn’t give you something to talk about.
3. People who waited to buy Heritage Classic tickets
The quotes coming out of Edmonton and Calgary after their combined 3-10-2 start with a total goal difference of minus-25? They are not good.
Here are some absolutely wild quotes from just last night:
Huska on Huberdeau and Kadri: “…If you’re expecting those two guys to win games for us it’s not going to happen, we’re going to be waiting for that for a long period of time.”
— Ian Holmes (@reporterholmes) October 27, 2023
darnell nurse: “it’s easy to point fingers. everyone’s got to look in the mirror and do a whole lot fucking better.”
— zach (@zjlaing) October 27, 2023
#Flames D Nikita Zadorov: “I just want to apologize to our fans. We’re playing like shit right now. It’s tough to watch.”
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) October 27, 2023
But great news everyone: These two teams are playing in one of the league’s premier events this weekend. Tickets were really expensive.
Leaving aside the fact that there were big hopes placed on these two clubs — one to win the Cup, the other to return to prominence — and that pointedly hasn’t happened, the real problem for this weekend is that they are miserable to watch. Neither of them can score (they both have just 17 goals), and neither of them can defend (the Oilers’ 30 goals conceded is one more than the Flames’ in one fewer game played).
I think the league usually gets it right in terms of the matchups for these games and obviously “We’re doing the Battle of Alberta outside” is great on paper. But in actual practice, these clubs could get into a brutal slog, potentially without the promise of a currently injured Connor McDavid doing something crazy.
I bet the get-in price drops a lot between now and puck drop. Great opportunity to see an outdoor game (if not necessarily a good one) at a reasonable price. You won’t get many like it.
2. Going off
Okay, I know it’s early, and I know this isn’t gonna last. But how about Jack Hughes starting the season with 4-13—17 in six games? I’m gonna crunch the numbers here but looks like that’s almost three a game.
He has a point on all but seven goals the New Jersey Devils have scored this season. He has a point on as many goals as the Flames and Oilers have scored, and more than what the Washington Capitals, Chicago, and of course San Jose Sharks have produced. That’s outrageous.
I don’t really have a lot more to say about it. When he’s on the ice, the Devils are scoring 70 percent of the goals, and generating 67 percent of the expected goals. The puck won’t keep going in the net on almost 1 in 5 shots all season, obviously, but what’s gonna slow this kid down? At what point do we start thinking he can outscore McDavid this season?
1. Noticing two things
This is going to make me sound like I’m a gambling advocate or something and I promise you I am not. Don’t gamble on sports, mostly because it’s probably not a good idea financially but also partly because it makes you extremely annoying to talk about sports with. I swear to god if one more person talks about hitting the money line in a Buffalo Sabres/Dallas Stars game I’m gonna go ballistic. This is honestly worse than talking about your fantasy team.
That said, another extremely annoying group of people are the ones who, for the last 24 hours, have been saying, “Oh, Shane Pinto got in trouble for gambling when there are, in fact, ads for gambling on his helmet? Aha, how interesting!”
Dog I gotta tell ya, I don’t remember hearing too much about the evils of having a Miller Lite ad on the boards when a player gets popped for DUI. Damn, vices can have a human cost?
What’s really strange about this situation is that the details have been few and far between. It seems like Pinto had a perfectly legal gambling account, and he very stupidly let someone else use it, which is illegal. It also seems like the league and the NHLPA didn’t want to make a whole circus out of this, so they may have negotiated a full-season suspension down to a half-season suspension as long as there was no appeal.
But also, the Senators’ statement made it kinda sound like Pinto may or may not have a gambling problem (“While saddened to learn of this issue, the entire organization remains committed to Shane and will work together to do what is necessary to help provide the support to allow him to address his issues and become a strong contributor to our community.”) — and while that may or may not be true, it doesn’t seem to be addressed anywhere else and you’d think this would be something that would come up elsewhere. And hey, maybe it was addressed. The fact that details on this seem few and far between isn’t doing anyone any favours, at least in terms of public perception.
Ultimately it seems like the problem is that the rules on this stuff weren’t made clear enough to the players, other than the obvious “don’t bet on hockey” edicts you would expect. There has to be very, very, very clear rules set up about this kind of thing now that it’s legal in certain places, but not others.
Because, yeah, given the ubiquity of sports-gambling messaging, you can’t just expect common sense to prevail for every player in the league, and all the people they know. However, it should also be said that it’s a plainly bad idea to give your friend your gambling password like it’s a Netflix account. What bets were actually placed remains unknown, as do a lot of other details about this.
All we can say for sure is that Pinto made a real dumb mistake, got caught red-handed, and got off lighter than you might expect if betting on hockey was involved, which we still don’t know one way or the other. In either case, all involved seem to agree that, to one extent or another, he got what he deserved.
But trying to bust the NHL on hypocrisy or something like that? I dunno. I think the simplest answer is that in the rush to shake as much VC money out of these gambling companies as possible, everyone’s gotten a little too far ahead of themselves, and done a pretty bad job on messaging. It’s not hypocrisy, I guess. It’s more like, “We didn’t think that one all the way through,” and you see that a lot.