I was watching the Canadiens play... someone... the other night and the announcer mentioned Brendan Gallagher. "Wow, he's a big douche" thought I. Which led me to thinking, "wow, I've said that a lot lately, there must be enough douchebags in this league to fill out a decent starting 20". Ipso facto, here we are. I had a couple of rules when putting the roster together:
You must have played since I actually started watching the NHL circa 2010. So no old-timey racist, sexist, violent douches on this list. I'm looking at you Bobby Hull.
I need to hate you.
That was literally it. Without further ado, I present to you the opening night roster for the the NHL's newest franchise - the Flaming Douchebags, along with my reasoning for each selection.
Brad Marchand Serial pest who plays for the Bruins. That should be enough to warrant selection on its own merit, but the ring-kissing garbage he carried on with after they swiped the cup from Vancouver in 2010-11 was the clincher for this list. Riding Patrice Bergeron's coat-tails for many years, he's actually smartened up in the last little while and turned himself into an elite-level sniper. Because let's be honest - I could put up those numbers if I played on Bergeron's line. Number one Douchebag with a bullet, cheap shots, diving and mouthiness on the ice were the deciding factors here, but I mean just look at the guy:
Ryan Kesler Another serial pest who could've been a star for the Canucks if Alain Vigneault was able slot him in to complement the Sedin twins. I actually liked him for a bit, he was our douchebag after all, like Alex Burrows. He was pretty fragile during his tenure, with injuries sidelining him for most of the 2012-13 campaign. Widely regarded as a tough guy to play against, his cheap shots and borderline play have earned him a reputation as a dirtbag. He also requested out of Vancouver and was traded to the Ducks, which was a tough pill to swallow for the local Canuck fans. Which made it oh-so-satisfying when Max Domi KO'd him with one punch last season. Glorious.
Patrick Kane So, this dude is a borderline sex-offender. Star player and all, but the whole way the Chicago Blackhawks organization dealt with this fiasco was just weird. Greg Wyshynksi, formerly of Puck Daddy, did a very fine job of explaining the whole saga with a series of articles on the topic, throughout the back end of 2015. I suggest you go and read the whole thing here and make up your own mind. At the end of the day, maybe he didn't do it. But it definitely makes you wonder. Best case he's a piece of white-trash who puts himself in compromising situations. Worst case he's a rapist. I'll let you decide, suffice to say it warrants his inclusion on team Douche's first line.
Evander Kane Like his namesake above, also involved in some shady dealings bordering on criminal. There was the whole alleged assault of a woman outside a Buffalo nightclub which brought his string of fairly shitty behaviour into the spotlight. A Sportsnet article outlines the timeline of this behaviour during his tenure with the Jets. It runs the gamut from innocuous to, as we mentioned, borderline-criminal. Various social media gaffes are highlights including the now-infamous money-phone Twitter post, as well as a couple of nasty homophobic tweets which he later apologized for. Then there were allegations of assault in Vancouver, prior to being traded to Buffalo. Once traded to Buffalo there were a string of assault allegations culminating in the allegations of sexual assault alluded to above. Dude seems like a scumbag with a real attitude problem.
Jonathan Drouin Personification of an entitled, whinging child. Never in the history of the NHL has a player on an entry level deal requested a trade - until this kid came along. Say what you will about the NHL's policy on rookies and the indentured servitude it encourages, you can't do this as an entry-level player. I don't care how good you are, and there have been many better rookies than Drouin over the years. Pay your dues and shut your mouth kid. Ended up in Montreal where he belongs a few seasons later. I guess you can admire his balls in trying to pull it off, but you also have to wonder how big a role his manager played in all of this.
Brendan Gallagher Looking back at this list, it's ironic that the player who spawned the idea is actually the least obnoxious one on it. Funny how that works out. Another pest on the ice in the Kesler and Perry mould, has a habit of running his mouth a la Marchand and running goalies a la Chris Kreider (who also gets an honorable mention related to this lineup). Got into a Twitter stoush with an old man who questioned his toughness/honour. Maybe just let it go you clown. Seems like there's a void here where other, better athletes keep their dignity.
Milan Lucic Another Boston-ite on this list which is hardly a surprise. A big, slow, hulking, overpaid forward who seems as disingenuous as they come. He likes to spear guys in the nethers. Repeatedly. There was also this whole thing, where he basically alienated everyone in his home town. Then there was the infamous "I'm gonna fucking kill you next year" line directed at Dale Weise. During the handshake line in the playoffs. Class act all the way this guy. I'm glad he now plays for the Oilers who make him look like the slow, boring, overpaid dinosaur that he is.
Mike Ribeiro Not sure Ribeiro fits the bill for this lineup based on rule 2. I don't so much hate him as pity the guy. Sure, he boned the family babysitter, cheated on his wife and is now separated from her and has limited access to his kids, but this was probably connected to a long-term pattern of substance abuse and mental health issues. Cheating on one's spouse is grounds for hate, sure, but maybe not under these circumstances. His case actually highlights the fact that the league needs to implement better support systems for people who suffer these conditions. That being said, the Douchebags are very light on genuine centers so he makes the cut on the adultery charge, along with the weird Anthony Wiener-esque vibe I get from the guy.
Corey Perry A pest and a diver, plain and simple. Those reasons pale in comparison to some of the blatant criminal behaviour of his linemates, but there's just something icky about this guy. The fact that he's actually very effective at what he does (ie. agitates and draws questionable penalties) makes him even more hate-able.
Raffi Torres I love it when people try to defend the indefensible. As hockey douchebags go, Raffi Torres is just about as indefensible as they come. Built a career out of charging unsuspecting players and delivering rampant, irresponsible headshots. Actively intending to injure your opposition in a manner that shows flagrant disregard for the rules isn't going to win you many friends. Apparently a select few of his teammates in San Jose even hated him, which speaks volumes. The crowning "glory" of his joke of a career came with a half-season suspension as a result of this headshot on Jakob Silfverberg. That was basically curtains for this career goon, and the league is a better place without him anywhere near it.
Shawn Thornton Boston players seem to be a running theme throughout this list, although Thornton has since signed with Florida. Big, dumb enforcer type who I didn't really know or care much about until the Brooks Orpik sucker-punch incident. I don't really care what Orpik did (hit a guy cleanly, if a fraction too late), you just can't do that. Guy ends up in hospital as a result of being blindsided while talking to the refs, slew-footed and punched repeatedly in the head. I love the quote from a few weeks before too, where Thornton oh-so-modestly speaks about his honour and his code, then he turns around and does this. Put a cork in this BS and take some accountability for your actions you immense tool.
Andrew Shaw A big ole homophobe. Heat of the moment and all that, sure, but this shouldn't be the first thing that springs into your head to say. Repeatedly. At least three times. In true NHL fashion the league suspended him a total of 1 game and later on the Canadiens made him their ambassador of the league's "You Can Play" initiative to eradicate homophobia in the sport. This incident actually out-douched our flagship Douchebag Brad Marchand, who tweeted this in response (and waddya know, his grammar is terrible too). Probably as good a sign as any that you done f**ked up.
Duncan Keith This was the first of a couple of the "he laid out our guy with a dirty hit so he's the worst" selections. The hit I'm specifically referring to is this one on Daniel Sedin. The Sedin's are royalty here in Vancouver, so I guess it makes sense to hate the guy for it. It was late and high, with the elbow raised and clear intent to injure. Daniel was out 12 games with concussion symptoms and has arguably never been the same since. Keith got 5 games for the incident. Fans were incensed, this one included. Seems like a bit of a sexist douche as well.
This is a professional athlete. I get that this was during the last lockout, but holy hamburgers, talk about letting yourself go. He was also expected to be a positive influence in the room with the Jets, but failed spectacularly by behaving like this. Sure, it was Evander Kane who was out of line (unsurprisingly), but this ain't what leadership looks like ya big douche.
Dennis Wideman I honestly can't believe this dirtbag wasn't run out of the league in the wake of this incident. He basically cross-checked a linesman in the back of the neck. The same linesman who neglected to call something as Wideman was railed in the corner on the previous play. I don't care what he said afterwards, there was loads of intent there. Had the presence of mind to make it back to the bench, but just so happened to not see the linesman on the way. Highest grade BS there. Wideman got a 20-game suspension as a result. As of this writing, Don Henderson, the linesman in question, hasn't officiated an NHL game since. It's a career-ending injury and quite understandably he's bringing a lawsuit against the league. Wideman wasn't renewed by Calgary, so hopefully he's done, with this being how we will all remember him.
Matt Bartkowski So Bartkowski was the only inclusion in this lineup that was based purely on the fact that he's terrible at what he does. I'm sure he's a nice dude and all, but damn he's a garbage fire of a defenseman. The fact that he still has a job in the NHL is frankly beyond me. I've seen him make errors that result in goals against in 3 consecutive shifts in a single game. Atrocious. Great guy though I'm sure...
Slava Voynov Another actual criminal on this list. He was arrested and suspended indefinitely from the LA Kings and the NHL in 2014 on domestic violence charges. In true tone-deaf fashion, apparently the Kings tried to circumvent the suspension by having him attend team practice sessions and was fined $100,000 for their trouble. Like the Patrick Kane case, this shows incredible ignorance on the part of the Kings organization in dealing with this incident appropriately. Like, the guy plead guilty. There is no grey area here. Despicable.
Deryk Engelland Just look at that y. Sheesh. I've heard this guy is actually a decent human off the ice, but all I've seen is his pugilistic nature on it. As a GM, when you're willing to pay a shitty player $3 million per year to bash rookie's heads in you've really got to step back and take a good hard look at yourself. Apparently he can play forward or defense and is equally bad at both. It's truly amazing how this guy still has a job in the league. Picked up by Vegas during the expansion draft it really tells you how much they opted for a quantity over quality approach when constructing their blue-line.
Tim Thomas Dude's hero is Glen Beck, which should tell you all you need to know about him. A Tea-Party fringe right-wing... person? People have taken issue with his refusal to attend the White House in celebration of the Bruins Stanley Cup win in 2011. That's his right as an individual, so sure, whatever. The problem is that he embodies the one-eyed us-vs-them mentality that is at the root of every political problem we see in this day and age. People unwilling to subscribe to the fact that maybe there are things outside their narrow worldview that are worth considering. So for that, it's Team Douchebag for you Timmy.
Thomas Greiss So... goalies were tough to place on a list like this. Like Tim Thomas, Greiss was a stretch, and based mainly on what has been reported around his political beliefs. Goalies fade right into the background if they're doing their jobs well, with little opportunity for their real personality to shine through (grinning Eddie Lack being a rare exception). So Greiss made this list based purely on some social media activity that seemed to imply he is a Trump supporter. Personally anyone who can throw any sort of non-ironic support behind that racist, rape-y pile of human excrement deserves some scorn. So welcome, Thomas Greiss to Team Douchebag.
John Tortorella This was an absolute no-brainer, possibly the easiest decision behind Marchand. Unbelievable this guy still has a job quite frankly after his blowout with the US team at the world cup last year. He is a massive tool based on any objective measure, and a bad coach by most other measures. Rode a PDO-tastic season last year to somehow win the Jack Adams despite not actually contributing anything meaningful to the team effort. His one year in Vancouver was a disaster, and reportedly he didn't even trouble himself with you know, moving to Canada for the team. The now infamous brain-explosion when he chased Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley into the dressing room following this line brawl basically sums him up.
Analysis Because it's my bag, I wanted to run the numbers on this starting roster to determine how they might stack up against the starting roster of the existing NHL teams, based on the most recent numbers I had for each of the players. My initial suspicion - very poorly given they're pretty thin at center, and most of my D-corps are, shall we say... well let's not beat around the bush - with the dual exceptions of Keith and Byfuglien, they're awful. Unfortunately I totally underestimated how much time it would take to pull all the player-specific numbers together in order to do this effectively. Stay tuned for a part two with a comprehensive analysis of this roster. I also suspect that the salary cap might be an issue with this team. Apparently douchebags don't come cheap.