In the tradition of putting together hockey teams composed entirely of terrible humans (see previous edition here), I figured we were due for an update. Given the last few months have been tumultuous to say the least in terms of hockey culture, I feel like the timing is right. At the very least we're going to have plenty of options at the coach and GM position. As a reminder, here are the updated eligibility rules:
1. You must be a currently contracted NHL player or (recently terminated, probably) coach/GM
2. In my opinion, you must be an awful human based on evidence of on-ice and off-ice behaviour.
3. Bonus criteria! The team must fit under the cap.
Criteria 3 didn't exist for our last round for a couple of reasons. One, I got a bit liberal with rule number 1 (I had some recently retired or overseas players on the list). Two, I wasn't aware of CapFriendly's Armchair GM tool which made current cap calculations insanely easy. Seriously, they are great.
One final thing - the previous version of this exercise placed equal weight on off-ice and on-ice behaviour. This one likely skews more to off-ice behaviour given the current climate we find ourselves in, for better or worse. I've tried to completely overhaul the roster, but there may be some overlap from the 2017 edition, as some players have just continued their shitlord-ery, and in the case of one player in particular, I needed a terrible 4th line centre. First I'll share the lineup I've selected. Then I'll provide rationale for each selection. Next up will be a salary cap analysis via CapFriendly's tool. Finally, we'll take a look at how the team stacks up from an analytics perspective using data and tools from a variety of amazing hockey community contributors.
Let's get to it. Without further ado, your 2019-20 Steaming Shitlords.
First up is that Tkachuk kid who's making waves in Calgary and not always for the right reasons. Anyone who paid attention to the full lineup above will see that we have noted nemeses Tkachuk and Drew Doughty on the same team which should provide some fireworks, as their rivalry is well-documented. Basically made the list for the same reason Brad Marchand did two years ago - dirty on the ice and gets under opponents skins. Googling "Matthew Tkachuk dirty plays" gives you these couple of gems.
Auston Matthews (C)
A bona fide superstar in his own right on the ice and a part of the Leafs' amazing young forward core including the likes of Nylander, Marner, Tavares and Kapanen. It's his off-ice stuff that is the issue for me - I've always gotten a weird vibe from this guy. His interview style comes across as kind of arrogant and he completely missed the point when asked a question around the anthem-kneeling protests that have been ongoing in the sporting world.
While he walked back some of those remarks and preached about the first amendment, makes you wonder about whether he's bought into the false narrative about these protests being about the military or the flag, rather than the actual issue of racially-motivated violence against African-Americans perpetrated by white police officers. Whatever, he's only 22 and it may be too much to expect him to understand the subtleties of racial politics in Trump's America. This is all window-dressing for the incident that cemented his shitlord status however, which was the disorderly conduct charge levelled at him in mid-2019. A group of men drunkenly approaching a single woman in a locked vehicle and attempting to gain access is flat-out not OK. You're the face of the most valuable hockey franchise in the world, maybe just... don't do things like this. The fact that he kept it to himself rather than owning it and learning from it is just icing on the cake.
Tom Wilson (A)
Tom Wilson is a dangerous headhunter and repeat offender who will end someone's career before his own runs its course. The fact that he's accumulated more games suspended than any other active player (due to on-ice actions) should be a warning sign to everyone that this guy is a goon. Unfortunately, he's got decent hands and can skate, which turns him into an elite physical presence on the Capitals' top line, and he is being paid accordingly. In mid-2018, the Washington Post put together a list of his most controversial hits here. Watch and judge for yourself.
I honestly haven't seen much of Mike Hoffman play because... well up until recently he played for the Senators and they've been hot trash for as long as I can remember. He makes this list thanks to the whole Karlsson/Hoffman off-ice feud culminating in Melinda Karlsson filing a protection order against Hoffman's girlfriend, alleging a campaign of online harassment leading up to and during the time that the Karlssons tragically lost their unborn child. While this is horrible enough, this was how totally-normal Mike Hoffman behaved during the first game he played against Karlsson after this whole thing came to a head. Chasing the guy around the ice, trying to fight him. Achievement unlocked: Shitlord.
I don't hate Kadri as much as some on this list, but I needed a decent second line centre, so here we are. His on-ice transgressions are fairly well-documented to this point, for me this hit on fan favourite (at least in my neck of the woods) Daniel Sedin was the moment I soured on the guy. In his defense he immediately knew he'd messed up and took the requisite post-hit beating fairly well, but still, it was late and high. This nasty cross-check to the face of Jake Debrusk also ensured he sat the first round of playoffs last year, before being traded to Colorado in the offseason.
Despite what the NHL will tell you, hockey isn't for everyone. It's actually mostly for entitled rich white boys whose father/uncle/2nd cousin played the game and leveraged their connections to ensure their child the best possible chance to get a shot at the show. Nepotism at it's finest. While I'm sure Max worked very hard to get where he is, the whole family is kinda gross based on some now-deleted social media posts that seem to imply they support MAGA shit. Then there was this, which though likely innocuous, isn't the kind of thing people who don't support the worst kind of conservative agenda would celebrate. To his credit though, he should be congratulated for this fine piece of shitlord-on-shitlord violence.
Big, slow and incredibly overpaid for what he brings to the table, Milan Lucic is currently in possession of arguably the least team-friendly contract in the league right now. As a Canucks fan I'd argue Loui Eriksson is a close second, but at least his expires at the end of next season - the Flames are paying Lucic $6 million per season until 2023! Another repeat selection, famously threatened to "fucking kill" Dale Weise during the handshake line following Boston's elimination from the 2014-15 Stanley Cup race. And of course, Don Cherry defended his actions. Sublime shitlord-ery.
I feel like a lot of these guys who were selected for off-ice behaviour could be simply summed up by "supports MAGA shit" and leave it at that. Various posts all over social media imply Brown's support for Donald Trump, and apparently his favourite "social media site" is Barstool Sports. I personally put Dave Portnoy and Donald Trump in the same tier of awful human, so anyone who publicly supports either automatically makes shitlord status.
In a long tradition of sporting stars doing awful things, Austin Watson was charged with domestic assault in June 2018 when he apparently got drunk and shoved his girlfriend outside a gas station. He was suspended from the league, initially for 27 games which was then cut to 18. He has since owned his actions and entered a substance abuse program to get the help he needs. I included him in this lineup because I assumed, like I suppose many others did, that this was just another entitled athlete who did something reprehensible. Like most things, it's not quite that simple and I'm willing to admit that I may have jumped the gun on this. In my research for this piece I learned that Austin has since opened up about the incident, admitting that both he and his girlfriend were intoxicated at the time and that both have suffered alcoholism for many years. It seems, for the time being at least, that both have gotten the help they need and are on the road to recovery. All you can ask really, although I did just take some perverse pleasure in watching him getting caved in by Nic Deslauriers here.
Famously described as a "useless goon", I honestly had never really heard of the guy until I started researching this article. The most generous description of what he brings to a lineup would be "grit"; he's a career scrapper who makes a habit of hitting guys late, high and dirty. So much so that the Boston Bruins SBNation 2015-16 end of season report card gave him an F, going so far as comparing him to career goon Raffi Torres. He's also notably remorseless here, after nearly killing a guy and getting a game misconduct. There's even a couple of Youtube compilations showcasing him at his worst. Watch them and tell me he's not deserving of shitlord status.
Ah, I remember the days when Ryan Kesler was an elite two way forward who played with a real edge to his game. In his Vancouver days he would routinely place that mediocre roster on his back and carry them to victory. Age, it seems, catches up with us all. He struggled after hip surgery and has really never recovered, to the point where he's actually no longer on the Ducks active roster. Such a shame. One of only two forwards to be selected again from my Flaming Douchebags team of 2017, you can read more about his selection merits here. With his career in the NHL all but over, we say farewell to Ryan Kesler, truly a king among shitlords.
Another headhunter in the mould of Tom Wilson, albeit far less skilful, Ryan Reaves is literally just in the lineup to do on-ice murder. His feud with Evander Kane (dishonourable mention) is actually hilarious and makes every game between the Knights and Sharks more interesting.
Tony DeAngelo (A)
This guy's entire social media presence is disgusting. A MAGA chud of the highest order, he spews bullshit conservative talking points, hateful memes and FOX "news" propaganda. He also trashes hockey analytics, which is typical anti-intellectual bullshit from the conservative MAGA crowd. In 2014, while a member of the OHL's Sarnia Sting, he was suspended for violating the league's harassment policy when he directed racial slurs towards... a teammate! His history of questionable behaviour both on and off the ice are well documented, both in the past and more recently. Honestly, seeing some of this guy's Twitter activity was what prompted me to do another one of these things. Absolute shitlord-ery personified.
I feel like this guy is a throwback to the broad street bullies era of Flyers hockey. Yet another guy who makes the team for his propensity for throwing headshot after headshot after headshot, even on guys who don't have the puck. Then there's whatever this is. Game misconduct for... attempted decapitation? Scumbag and shitlord.
Ooh boy, where to start on this one? Charged and convicted of domestic violence in late 2015 for an incident where it is alleged he choked, punched and kicked his wife, he subsequently spent 2 months in prison. Suspended from the NHL, he voluntarily returned to Russia rather than go through the deportation process. He continued to play professionally in the KHL and somehow was cleared to play for OAR in the winter Olympics of 2016. As article 12,056 submitted in evidence that Mike Milbury has no place on any commentary or analysis team anywhere, he downplayed the entire incident during one of the games, saying the Voynov was a "special player" and calling the assault "an unfortunate incident". As of May 2019 it was determined that he has served his suspension and is eligible to return to the NHL as of next season. Thankfully, the Kings, who hold his rights, have made it clear he won't be playing for their organization. Let's hope the other teams in the league draw some clear boundaries and don't offer this literal criminal a path back into the NHL.
Dirty, dirty, dirty. Been watching this guy for a while, and this latest altercation sealed his fate for me as deserving of shitlord status. Cross-checks a guy from behind into the goal crossbar, gets called for it, then proceeds to cross-check him repeatedly in the kidneys while he's down on the ice. You can see the cogs turning in this neanderthal's head as he realizes that he's already been given a minor, and can probably get away with wailing on a guy in a vulnerable position without further consequences. His suspension of 4 games felt way too short. There was also that time where he fought a teammate at practice which was simultaneously supremely unprofessional and outright hilarious.
Somehow this guy is still in the league despite being as old as I am (!) and having been sub-replacement level for at least a couple of seasons now. The final repeat selection from the 2017 Flaming Douchebags, most of the selection criteria still holds for this guy. Old, bad, bone-headed and still enjoys beating on rookies for no apparent reason. Hey, at least he's cheap I guess?!
For now it's basically just the #TeamLikeThat thing. That's it, that's the rationale. Understandable reaction to being blown out, hilarious consequences. LA is a team in decline and the Canucks are just starting their ascension from the cellar. And Doughty? He's old, overpaid and not used to losing. Sour shitlord.
Lehner's issues with mental illness are well publicized and he deserves a lot of credit for being open with his communication and encouraging others to seek help. On the flipside he is quoted as saying he "admires" Donald Trump and rocked this helmet on a military appreciation night in Buffalo in 2017. Some of the quotes in the article are truly alarming given the state of world politics right now, so he starts in net for team shitlord.
I feel like I have a reasonable tolerance for dirty play on the ice. I can appreciate a good, clean hit as much as the next guy, and I understand why teammates feel the need to challenge those who make a habit of delivering them to star players. One thing I just can't tolerate though - diving. It's this theatrical bullshit that stops me from enjoying a sport like soccer. Mike Smith dives more than Greg Louganis did in his prime and it isn't even close. Absolute case in point from this season. Enough said.
In addition to a complete 20-man roster, I selected a coach and a GM. I don't think either of these selections should prompt too much controversy given the events of the last couple of months.
The first casualty in the cultural reckoning that played out in the hockey world over the final months of 2019, Bill Peters is really a poster-boy shitlord. The firing of Mike Babcock (see 'Dishonourable Mentions' below) appeared to empower many current and former players to speak out about abuses they have endured at the hands of their coaches. From the accusations by Akim Aliu of disgusting racial slurs, to the physical abuse allegations, banishing players to the minors for perceived slights, to the terrible non-apology apology, this is a man who appears to have no moral compass and few redeeming features. With what looks like a pathological refusal to accept what he did was wrong or learn from past mistakes and failings, let's hope we never hear from him again... once he's done coaching the Steaming Shitlords to the trash-town championship.
Canada's favourite old-timey racist douchebag finally got his long-overdue comeuppance this year when he was fired for the latest in a long string of vaguely-coherent racist rants, this one targeting immigrants and their apparent refusal to support the troops by wearing poppies on Remembrance Day. Many better writers than I have published takes on this (you can read some of them here and here as a starting point). Suffice to say that when your prime-time TV personality is alienating a good chunk of you audience through racism and another chunk through incoherent rambling, showing them the door might be considered expedient from the perspective of good business and common sense. What better way for Don Cherry to continue his career than doing something he's historically been catastrophically bad at - running a hockey team?
There were a bunch of players at each position that I considered and dropped for various reasons. Either they didn't work under the new cap constraint, or didn't gel positionally, were in the previous lineup, or were dropped for some other reason. Here they are, by position.
Forward: Brad Marchand, Evander Kane, Patrick Kane, Andrew Shaw, Dustin Brown, Brendan Gallagher
Defense: Duncan Keith, Erik Johnson
Goalie: Thomas Greiss
Coach: Mike Babcock, Jim Montgomery
GM: Bill Foley
With roster rationale out of the way, let's take a look at the cap situation. Using CapFriendly's excellent armchair GM tool I was able to easily construct the roster based on current contract values. The only wrinkle was the selection of Slava Voynov, who is currently suspended until at least the 2020-21 season and hopefully won't ever be back in the NHL. The tool actually lets you create players, which I did for Voynov and assigned him the same contract as he was on prior to suspension ($4.1million AAV over 4 years). Definitely more than he's worth, but it lets us complete the roster. The total cost of the 20-man roster came in a shade above the $81.5 million cap. I'm sure Gary would forgive the additional $100k, given it takes him just three days to earn that amount based on his current compensation. Key takeaway - some of these shitlords ain't cheap, and long-term outlook is buh-leak.
Finally, I wanted to see how this lineup stacks up in terms of analytics. Badly I suspect, but let's find out. Thankfully, Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey on Twitter) has done a fantastic job in putting together a WAR (Wins-Above-Replacement) lineup construction tool that makes it incredibly easy to throw together some lines and see how they project for the 2019-20 season. It even gives a projected value for total standings points based on WAR for the lineup you create. He notes that the tool is an extension of Dom Galamini's previous work, featuring data from the fantastic Evolving Hockey site as well as prospect data from Manny.
Read more about the tool here, or jump straight to the tool itself here. Unfortunately, given that most of the data and sheets in the tool are open to be edited by the general public, it seems that it's kind of broken right now. So I pulled the data manually and attempted to reconstruct it in a spreadsheet of my own. Here are the results.
As you can see, even with weighting TOI for the first line and first D-pairing more heavily than is in any-way realistic, the results are pretty dire. Domi is propping up that second line and poor Kesler needs to be fired into the Sun along with his contract. The third forward line actually projects better than expected given the presence of Lucic. Robin Lehner is driving a lot of goalie WAR, likely due to a stellar 2018-19 season with the Islanders (2018-19 data was used for this lineup). Deryk Engelland is cheap trash, and Drew Doughty is old and provides negative WAR despite putting up huge TOI numbers in 2018-19. One thing to note: I assigned Voynov a WAR value of zero as I had no data for him, implying he's basically a (quite expensive) replacement-level player.
Per Micah's HockeyViz 2019-20 points projection as at time of writing, that puts them ahead of only Detroit, who are having a historically bad season in the midst of a significant rebuild. They are roughly on par with San Jose (no goaltending to speak of), New Jersey (traded away 2018 Hart-trophy-winner Taylor Hall) and Ottawa (Eugene Melnyk doing Eugene Melnyk things). All of this is very unsurprising to me.
And that's it. I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I did putting it together. Some of this was a struggle to be honest, as hockey and the NHL in particular discourages players from showing much personality at all. In the spirit of balance I'll be looking to go through a similar exercise for hockey's good guys over the coming month or so. Hopefully that team will project better performance on the ice as well as exemplify great performance off it. Stay tuned, and please remember that this is all just a bit of fun.