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Maple Leafs, Penguins bias and World Cup ads (Puck Daddy Countdown)

(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

7. Bob Hartley

As the Flames stumbled out of the gate, going 3-8-1 in October. Around the end of that month it became obvious (to me) that Hartley had a very good chance of being the fastest coach in NHL history to go from “Jack Adams Winner” to “Extremely Fired.”

The previous winner was Philadelphia's Bill Barber, who won in 2001 and was turfed the next summer, just 320 days. Hartley did the same this year, but did indeed break the record: He lasted another 313 days.

This was always coming. Because over the four years he coached the Flames, this admittedly bad-but-ever-improving team they were never better than a 48 percent possession team. And moreover, during the entire period they were tied for 28th in the league in score-adjusted CF%, with Edmonton. The difference between what Hartley and the revolving door of coaches in Edmonton did was, to quote Brad Treliving, “make 18 40-foot putts.”

Now, the media spent most of Tuesday morning out here playing a sad violin solo for Hartley, who's apparently a very nice guy. Of course, he was also a very bad NHL coach who got very lucky once and won an award for it.

Here's what I don't understand about the PDO-driven coaches being hailed as geniuses even after the PDO bender comes to an end: If “Coach X” was the reason the team shot 10.5 percent for one season, why was he not the reason they only shot 9.5 percent the next? Why does he get credit when a goalie who's plainly trending downward surges back to league average, but not when the goalie regresses?

Is it because broadcasters, who vote on these awards, and other media members don't understand how the math here works? That seems like it.

George Johnson, a very good Flames beat writer for a very long time, asked me yesterday why Hartley was “Einstein” last season but “Jethro Bodine” this time around. The answer, of course, is that he was never Einstein. He was never even a particularly mediocre theoretical physicist. He was a sub-replacement level bench boss who couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag left out in the rain.

I mean, the list of missteps here is considerable, but let's just go with the most obvious: Kris Russell playing about four minutes a night more than Dougie Hamilton. That's just flat-out inexplicable.

The Flames didn't have a great roster, but Hartley made its problems worse on a regular basis.

Fortunately, the Flames clearly do understand math. Add in the fact that Hartley was already hired when Treliving arrived (though the GM did give the coach a two-year extension last season), plus Bruce Boudreau being available, and this was a slam dunk decision.

But hey, at least Hartley made history.

6. Conspiracy theories

You expect fans to be dumb about things. Like when the Penguins get more power plays in x number of games than your team, you go, “Well yeah I mean Sidney Crosby bluh bluh bluh NHL bluh bluh rigged.”

You do not, however, generally expect coaches as well-traveled in this league as Barry Trotz, to make those kinds of comments. This is because the comments are childish. “Look who we're playing” and all that garbage.

Grow up.

Once again this returns to the idea that the league, as a sort of shadowy and nefarious überfigure that oversees all proceedings so that it gets the most favorable outcomes, favors anyone over anyone else. And once again you have to ask the simple question that logically follows that supposition: “What in the league's history indicates it is competent enough to carry out this kind of plan?”

Colin Campbell, when he was in charge of important decisions, couldn't even get refs to more effectively protect his son or his son's team.

Meanwhile, that boo-hooing started Caps fans looking at penalty data since Crosby came into the league, because in their meetings the Capitals are minus-35 in power play opportunities against the Penguins. Wow! A clear bias! It's right there in the data!

And it's not like the Penguins draw more penalties than almost anyone else in the league over that time, either! It's.... what's that? Tied for third, you say? With Detroit, you say? And Washington is..... 25th over the same period?

Huh.

Well still, probably because of Bias. Think about it, folks. We're through the looking glass.

Fortunately, all the whining maybe got Kris Letang a game, so: Worth it!

5. Devil's advocate

On the other hand, doesn't it seem like the Caps got off light in this series already, what with Tom Wilson kneeing Conor Sheary and only getting fined for it? Does anyone remember that happening and how gross it was?

Yeah, Wilson should barely be in the league and clearly tried to injure a player long-term with a late and low and unnecessary hit. But he didn't get suspended.

Man, the NHL must really hate Conor Sheary!

4. The World Cup of Hockey ads

Maybe it's one of those things with prolonged exposure, and maybe it's because they're mixing it up a lot more now, but I might not hate these ads any more?

I mean, the Patrick Kane one is still both simultaneously disgusting and not funny, but the other ones.... I might think they're passable? I don't know.

3. The nice folks at Hockee Night

You were a good blog and you did the right thing and so long and I will miss you.

2. A good little kitty

This is just one of those fun things that is fun in the league, like Kevin Spacey being all about the Spacey In Space thing. Hopefully the Sharks use this as an opportunity to sell stuffed cats and cat T-shirts and things of this nature, and then donate all the money to local animal charities. That would be very cool. Free idea if you want it.

And also let's hope the cat keeps them winning for the rest of the postseason and Joe Thornton wins a Cup.

1. The Leafs

I think maybe the funniest thing about the playoffs is the fact that the biggest postseason ratings seen in Canada yet were for the draft lottery. A bunch of fans of bad teams were like “Well I have to tune in for this,” and then said to themselves, “Oh right, the playoffs.” But the number did drop off by about 50,000 people. Hilarious.

But anyway, the Leafs won the draft lottery and in a worst-case scenario has a top-two of Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri down the middle for the next six years or so. Add in Steven Stamkos (it's happening, folks) and things start to look pretty impressive. Still don't have a goalie or much in the way of a difference-making D, but given that they're carrying about 81 draft picks in the next two years, those can be acquired easily enough.

And then, oh my god, we might actually see a good Toronto team? No, I can't accept that reality. It doesn't seem right.

(Not ranked this week: The media.

Brooks Orpik, knowing the three-game suspension he received for concussion Olli Maatta was probably him getting off a little easy, didn't try to defend himself. Mainly because there was no defending a hit like that.

“OH! HOW BRAVE!” the big names in the hockey media collectively gushed. “Really takes a good guy to own up to his 20th mistake of this type.”

This is what we call the “Shane Doan Treatment.” Sure, the guy runs around trying to concuss people on a regular basis but he's a good quote and gee whiz he said he was sorry, so actually it's good that all this happened.

And it's not ridiculous of the media to act like this at all. Nope. No way.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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