Your Graphic Year In Review: Part 1, When Hockey Was Actually A Thing

The Year of the Bettman 

Hmm, now that I think about it, 2013 makes a way better Year of the Bettman.

Anyway, given that January 11 will mark one year since the first #GraphicComment hit Twitter, I thought it appropriate to take a look back at the year that was in graphic terms.

And for you cynics out there, yes, this is like one of those Best Of albums. There is nothing new here, other than the on graphic above. The rest are just repeats. But hey, since I only had about 10 followers on Twitter for most of the year, and I’m pretty sure at least eight of those were my mom, you probably didn’t see these. Plus they have been digitally remastered and colourized. So how could you go wrong? Send your money now.

Er, no don’t. No purchase necessary, just click past the jump…


Hockey-wise, January started off on a high note with the Canucks’ dramatic win over Boston in Game 8 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. But hockey media-wise, things weren’t so cheery. Coming off Jay Feaster’s remarks a month earlier, there was nothing but complete disdain being shown for hockey bloggers by pretty much everyone, except other hockey bloggers. But if you ask me, the stuff put out by across the Nations network of sites, and the hockey blogosphere in general, is just as good, if not better, than the same-old tripe trotted out on the sports pages across the land. And what we lack in pants, we make up for in other ways:

Bloggers vs MSM

In Canucksland, that Boston game truly was the high-point of the 2011-12 season. And boy did it really feel like it in the weeks immediately after that win. The performance of the team was lack-lustre and the fans starting getting outright squirrely. As most astute (by astute, I mean those not lost in the Minnesota wilderness) hockey fans already know, advanced stats like Corsi can give some insight into a teams’ true on-ice performance. What many haven’t grasped quite yet, is that there’s also a pretty strong predictive relationship between those underlying #fancystats and just how crazy a fanbase can get:

The irrational Canucks fan 

From some of the comments on the internet and the callers into to Team 1040, you would have thought the Canucks were getting blown out 7-2 every night for the rest of January after the Boston game. But while their play appeared lacklustre at times, and they did wind up going to overtime and/or the shootout in 5 of the 8 games, the underlying numbers were still good and, more importanly, they finished out the rest of the month 5-2-1.

We serioulsy must be the most fickle fans in the league. More on that in the months ahead.

One of the outcomes of the game between the Bruins and Canucks was the 5-game suspension handed out to Stanley Cup champian, Brad Marchand for low-bridging Sami Salo. Given Marchand’s aversion to paying taxes, we can only assume that this was part of his tax planning strategy for the year:

Brad Marchand's tax planning strategy

Marchand wasn’t the only one complaining about the federal goverment’s activities, as Tim Thomas took to Facebook to excerise his INDIVIDUAL choice to make an ASS of himself:

There's no INDIVIDUAL in team


Things got downright scientific in February, with the LA Kings explaining away a clock malfunction that cost Columbus a win by blaming it on the coulombes. However, we all know that a clock malfunction is only one small potential explanation for why it sometimes feels like time has stopped at the Staples Center:

When time stops at the Staples Center

By the way, this would not be the only time this season that the La Kings stole something from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Speaking of Wayne Gretzky, February also saw Sam Gagner tie Gretzky’s Oiler record for 8 points in a single game. After that game, Gagner went on a bit of a tear racking up 8 goals and 6 assists in a four-game span. Interestingly enough, Scott Gomez was also getting quite a bit of media attention around the same time:

Gagner and Gomez

Gretzky also had a more active influence on events in February, when Olli Jokinen, mired in a nearly two-month scoring slump, remembered how the Great One told him to "go eat a burger" to break out of a slump a few years earlier while they were both in Phoenix. This bit of advice was a bit more practical than some of Gretzky’s previous suggestions on how to succeed in the game of hockey:

Jokinen takes Gretzky's advice

And of course, February concluded with Cody Hodgson’s strategy of demanding more ice time backfiring dramatically:

You don't always get what you want


Most people think the "Fire Wilson" chants raining down from the fans at the ACC led to the ultimate demise of Ron Wilson as coach of the Leafs. But barely two months after getting a contract extension from Santa, Ron Wilson discovered that it was just all part of an elaborate practical joke by the jolly old elf, as this chart of the reasons he was fired clearly shows:

Reasons Ron Wilson got fired

Meanwhile, across Lake Ontario, Cody Hodgson finally got all that ice time he was craving playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Turns out sometimes you can have too much of a good thing:

Be careful what you wish for

And just down the road in Pittsburgh, the Penguins unveiled a bronze statue of Mario Lemiuex splitting a couple of New York Islanders defensemen, which just goes to show, there’s more than one way to sports immortality:

Sports immortality

Seriously, why would you want to be an NHL defenseman with a name like Pilon?

Even farther to the south, the prodigal son returned to Nashville. Although, given some of Radulov’s antics in the KHL, I’m sure Barry Trotz considered donning some protective equipment on the bench:

Radulov returns

Speaking of protective equipment, nothing short of a football helmet was going to protect Daniel Sedin from Duncan Keith’s vicious elbow to the head. So while January gave us the high point in the Canucks’ season, March arguably gaves us the low point. Despite going on to win the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the league, the Canucks never fully recovered from the extended loss of their leading goal scorer.

Of course, nobody outside of Vancouver fans really cares, and I can hear the cries of "WAAAAAAAAA" even as I type this. But that is nothing compared to the inanity spewing out of Chicago fans at the time, just like Bruins’ fans after Marchand’s hit on Salo. It was enough to wonder just who was suffering from head trauma:

Unsympathetic head trauma


Did I mention that the Canucks finished on top of the League for the second year in a row? Well, turns out that for some Canucks’ fans, that doesn’t matter. What does matter, apparently, is a coach’s "shelf life".

The suggestions that Vigneault should be fired just because of time elapsed started even before the playoffs, with some Canucks fans even hoping for an early exit just so there would be justification to dump the head coach. With the 4-1 series loss to the eventual Stanley Cup winner, the talk of Vigeneault’s "expiry date" really picked up.

Now, I didn’t know coaches came with a "best before" date, but all of this did leave a sour taste in my mouth:


Now, don’t get me wrong. The loss to the Kings was definitely a huge disappointment for a team that won a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy and was coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance just one year earlier. It’s safe to say that the loss of Daniel Sedin had a big impact on the team, and when he returned to the line-up, the team did give LA more of a battle. If not for the Duncan Keith cheap shot a month earlier, that first round match-up against the Kings is a much different series.

Of course, the Blackhawks got a little dose of hockey karma with the Raffi Torres hit on Marian Hossa. It was quite a cheap shot, but just one of a rash of questionable hits in the playoffs that had kept Brendan Shanahan busy handing out token fines and suspensions. But with all the publicity and outrage over the Torres hit, the NHL’s discipline system shifted into a new phase:

NHL discipline enters a new phase

Meanwhile, over in the Eastern Conference, the matchup between the Bruins and Capitals generated quite a bit of laughter. First, it was Bruins’ fans giddy over the prospect of facing a goalie with almost no NHL experience in Braden Holtby, but by the end of the series, it was everybody else that was laughing:

Who's laughing now?


As May rolled around, and we got deeper into the playoffs, "informed" hockey talk turned to the performance of some of Russian players with various NHL teams. There was much discussion about enigmatic Russians and how they couldn’t be relied on in the playoffs.

I’m not sure why there was such controversy about this. The evidence is pretty clear that the more Russians you have, the less chance you’ll win the Cup:

Proof that Russians can't win the Cup 

The Nashville Predators certainly had their issues with enigmatic Russians Eastern Europeans, but outside broken curfews and getting suspended, it wasn’t so much the nationality of Predators’ players that did them in as it was their Imperial Storm Trooper level shooting accuracy:

It wasn't the uniforms

Meanwhile, the LA Kings just kept rolling, sweeping aside the second seeded St. Louis Blues as Jonathan Quick easily outduelled Brian Elliott. Back in Vancouver, it was starting to become apparent that maybe the Canucks’ first round loss to the Kings wasn’t Alain Vigneault’s fault after all: 

Alain Vigneault's job security takes a turn

In the Eastern Conference, the hockey media suddenly discovered shot blocking as a thing. The NY Rangers became the poster children for shot blocking and how important this "skill" was to advancing in the NHL playoffs. The few stats nerds out there pointing out that blocking lots of shots means you don’t actually have the puck, and if you don’t have the puck you’re much less likely to win the game, were just shouting into the wilderness. Some might even say the hockey wilderness.

Anyway, the point is that unlike all other pandemics, the more shots there were, the more the shot blocking pandemic of 2012 spread:

There is no cure

Back in the West, after knocking off the one and two seeds, the Kings were making short work of the third-seeded Coyotes. It was becoming quite apparent that despite Ilya Kovalchuk’s claims to the contrary, hockey was, in fact, quite a bit like chess:

Hockey really is like a chess game

See. Told you those Russians didn’t know what it takes to win in the NHL.

Now, you would have thought that the Kings advancing to the Stanley Cup Final would be good news for Vigneault given all the flack he had taken after the first round loss. And perhaps it was, since this coincided with an announcement of a two-year contract extension with the club. However, it didn’t take long for Vigneault to expose yet another off-season hole that the Canucks had to fill:

Canucks have some holes to fill


June brought us to the end of the 2011-12 season and for all those of you out there complaining about the NHL season being too long, I bet you’re not complaining now, are you?

But before the season ended, Don Cherry still managed to drop another verbal bomb on us with his dismissal of the metric system as a ‘that commie stuff." Though when you think about it, there is a much bigger communist plot hiding right under our noses:

It's a commie plot

Anyway, the LA Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup as we all know, but none more so than Steve Bernier:

Goats go to hell

With the end of the playoffs, the administrative stuff began as the NHL prepared for the draft and the free agent silly season. But it wasn’t only teams that were making changes as the off-season began. The League itself announced that referee Stephane Auger was retiring. Now, the fact that this made news is in itself telling, because as Auger can tell you, when it comes to sports officials there actually is such a thing as bad publicity:

Turns out there is such a thing as bad publicity

The last big event in June was the NHL entry draft. If you’ve never been to the draft in person, it’s quite the experience. So if union decertification doesn’t do away with the draft altogether, you should attend one if you ever get the chance. If you do, the one thing that will become readily apparent is that 18-year-old scorers need protection: 

18 year old scorers need protection

Of course, you need the stamina of an 18-year-old to have made it all the way this far down the page. I, however, am long past 18, so Part 2 of the Graphic Review of 2012 is going to take a bit longer than 30 minutes before it’s ready.