Five things: The buildup to World Juniors

1. Interesting about this European disquiet

The thing we always heard about guys going over to Europe during the lockout is that while they wouldn’t exactly be able to make the kind of living they were used to in the NHL, they could do well enough, and play hockey at a high level.

And that may very well be true.

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But one thing we’re starting to get a lot better of a feel for is just how much all those players really friggin’ hate playing in Europe. Joffrey Lupul had a really great blog post about how awful playing in the KHL is if you’re not from Russia or another Eastern Bloc country, and other guys coming back from Finland or Sweden (most notably Kyle Turris) haven’t exactly lavished praise upon their brief employment situations overseas.

The amount of guys coming back in the last month or so is pretty staggering, though you can obviously attiribute a lot of that to the impending labor peace in the NHL, or at least the idea that it’s lurking just behind the horizon. What’s more interesting, maybe, is how vocal some guys have been about how miserable it is. Wonder if that makes anyone who’s not from there think twice about jumping to the KHL when they have a choice between that and an AHL assignment.

2. And here’s something about Turris

When did it become okay, exactly, for guys who give a bunch of regrettable quotes to reporters in North America to act like, "Hey I didn’t mean all that stuff I said the way it sounded! I’m being mischaracterized! Inaccurate reporting!"

This was a common practice for the kind of candid interviews Eastern European players typically give in their home country, where rules about journalistic integrity aren’t always, how you say, as strict. If a report about, "Oh this guy says his teammates are kind of bad," filters its way back across the Atlantic, it wasn’t uncommon for players to say, "Well hey something got lost in the translation there," or something to that effect.

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What, then, could Kyle Turris have meant by, "The travel here is horrendous. It’s worse than junior," that would have been lost in translation between two English-speaking people for a newspaper published in English?

The weird part is, no one’s calling Turris or his agent on their hilariously transparent spin. Baffling stuff.

3. A quick Jankowski update

Well I was all set to head down to Providence College on Thursday night to watch the final Hockey East game before Christmas between the Friars and the dreadful Catamounts of UVM. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see Jon Gillies give that he’s currently in Scandinavia, but I figured, "Hey, I’ll at least be to see Mark Jankowski. Finally."

Yeah, not so much. That bum hip that kept him out of the game against BC last week? It kept him out against Vermont as well. I’m starting to think this kid is ducking me.

4. Decent start for Flames picks

Here in the U.S. we don’t get to see Canadian games until the actual tournament starts, even though NHL Network was showing probably skin tag-removal infomercials (or something) during that time. Nonetheless, we did get the good news that Markus Granlund scored the first of Finland’s three goals and generally looked very strong. That’s good news. (The even better news is Canada lost.)

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So too is the fact that Jon Gillies withstood a veritable power play assault from the defending gold medalists of Sweden, coming in halfway through the game in a planned swap for Garret Sparks, who allowed a softie early in the first but was otherwise excellent for the US. Gillies only faced four shots on goal in the final 10 minutes of the second (including the Swedes’ power play goal), but turned aside 15 in the third and generally looked a little better than did his counterpart. That is also good.

Finally, one last thing that’s good is that the U.S. sat what would have been its six best players as it attempted to figure out which of the guys on the bubble made the cut. And that list of healthy "too good for this game" scratches, not surprisingly, included Johnny Gaudreau.

5. The worst thing ever re-happened on Thursday morning

Speaking of the World Juniors on NHL Network, the NHL Network was nice enough to broadcast the US’s warmup game against Sweden on Thursday. But I woke up not knowing what time that game started. So I flipped to the NHL Network before I started getting some work done, just to check the channel guide. And I saw the worst thing.

There was a game in October of 2009 that, as I’m sure you’ll recall, was the worst thing I’ve ever seen Calgary do (and please keep in mind I was in the building for last season’s 9-0 drubbing by the Bruins). They went up 5-0 on Chicago just nine minutes into the game, played at the United Center no less. Then they lost 6-5 in overtime. I wrote something about it that night.

This, in my opinion, is the exact point at which the Flames went from being a franchise worth envying in the Western Conference to one worthy of nothing but scorn and derision, a symbol of everything wrong with the way the team has been run. That was the sixth game of the season, and Calgary entered it having gone 4-0 in the first four, but coming off a 5-2 loss to Edmonton. The rest of the way that year, they went 36-31-9 (two of those wins in the shootout so they barely even count!), finished with 90 points, and haven’t made the playoffs since. They have been deeply, thoroughly, slightly-submediocre to an infuriating extent. They also finished 30th in goals for that season, wiping out what would have otherwise been an extraordinarily impressive year for the defnse, which allowed the sixth-fewest.

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When I actually turned the game on it was 5-2 Calgary, so the comeback was already on. I kind of wanted to watch out of a sort of morbid curiosity, but after a few minutes of Flames players literally falling all over the ice, I decided I couldn’t stomach it. It’s like on that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa gives Ralph Wiggum the Valentine, and eventually breaks his heart. Unlike Bart, I didn’t need a frame-by-frame recap of the point at which this franchise officially went sideways.

I cho-cho-chose to turn my TV off.