Brandon Dubinsky does not like segways.

Personalities aren’t welcome in hockey. At all times we must maintain the tradition of robotic locker room “banter,” and conform to clichés describing how well a puck has bounced, and how great the chances were that didn’t lead to goals.

The establishment will not stand for charisma, flash, and flare, and the almighty hockey Big Brother in the sky frowns on any expression of individuality.

But don’t fear, my fun loving friends. A prophet has been sent to guide us from the shackles of conformity, and free us from these enforced stale nightly rituals.

The old guard of traditionalists wants you to surrender, and wants you to talk about how you played for a full 6o minutes, or need to play for a full 60 minutes, or how you’re going to play for a full 6o minutes in some other game. They would like you to buy in, take everything one shift at a time, and capitalize on momentum. They would like you to be just like everyone else.

Our leader will have none of this. Along with his long-held ally P.K Subban, he will rebel against those who shun the fun.

His name is Linus Omark. Repeat this name, for one day his story will be told to your children, and your children’s children. This week, his legacy was born with a single spin.

Headlines and Storylines

As the Omark spins…

Before we begin the frame-by-frame dissection of the spinning sensation that is Linus Omark and the havoc he caused this week, let’s refresh our memories.

Omark’s shootout winner against Tampa Bay on Friday night is still lingering three days later. It has created the need to put Subban and Omark in the same debate as Sidney Crosby, and prompted Ron MacLean to speak of “consequences.”

It was mildly shocking to hear Don Cherry, the flamboyant talking Canadian flag who sits beside MacLean, have the most accurate opinion on the matter. Cherry called Omark’s spin move at centre ice a “gimmick within a gimmick.” Say what you will about Cherry’s relationship with pinkos, but for the first time in a long time he hit the bulls-eye.

Gary Bettman will give you the company line when he opines about the shootout. He’ll say it was introduced after the 2004 strike to end the NHL’s reign as the only North American-based league outside of the MLS to still allow ties (I know, I know, football as ties too, but they’re quite rare). Of course he’ll say this. Bettman is a walking, talking, smiling, and often scary looking company line.

Here’s the not so shocking truth: the shootout was introduced to bring a jolt of excitement to a game that’s withering away in many of the lucrative markets south of the border. In our age of social media, the NHL needs face time on your computer, and the extension of your hand otherwise known as the Blackberry or iphone. Highlights need to go viral, and to do that they need to entertain. This makes Omark the perfect shootout participant.

I was out at a local establishment Friday night when I happened to glance at my phone and check Twitter. Omark was breaking the internet, apparently, and I was excited to see what the fuss was about when I came home later that evening. When I did, it was very disappointing.

The shootout winner was a great way for a highly touted rookie to start his career, and there’s no denying Omark’s skill. But there’s nothing remarkable about spinning at centre ice before faking a slapshot and going five-hole.

There I was though, watching. Omark and the NHL had reeled in another set of eyeballs.

Calamity in the capital

There are much simpler ways for the NHL to go viral, and Alex Ovechkin finally being forced to drop the gloves will do the trick.

While we’re all fixated on Ovie’s first foray into fisticuffs, the Capitals have loudly become one of the most charismatic and compelling teams in the league. The Caps are not just exciting to watch, they’re addicting.

The wide-open brand of hockey played in Washington is exciting on its own. Then add the Capitals’ star power and easily combustible coach, and it’s hard to turn away. The Caps will seemingly be forever plagued by a highly potent offence that’s given little support by the goaltender of choice, or the blueline. We saw this last spring in Washington’s first round collapse against Montreal after winning the President’s Trophy, and we saw it Sunday in a 7-0 embarrassment against the Rangers.

With youth and arrogance comes poor decisions and a sense of entitlement. Alex Ovechkin keeps taking every body shot he’s given, and he was finally forced to act like a mere mortal in the NHL and answer the bell. That’s hockey, and while we’ll engage in the classic schoolyard debate of who won or lost a fight, often it doesn’t matter. Brandon Dubinsky sent Ovie the message that his recklessness isn’t appreciated and won’t be taken lightly. And for that alone, he succeeded.

Then we have Alex Semin, who’s reactionary jousting needs to be curbed and deserves more than a petty fine. Like his other superstar Russian teammate, Semin is slowly becoming brash and unpredictable.

All the Caps are missing is Linus Omark, and then they’d have Bettman as a fanboy because of their sheer entertainment value. Wait…

Viva Les Nordiques

To see the primary difference between hockey in Canada and stick-puck in the United States, just look at the seats around the NHL on any given night. More specifically, the empty ones.

The owners and general managers still haven’t removed their blinders, but there’s a growing attendance problem in markets like Atlanta, Long Island, and Colorado.  It’s no secret that any Canadian team could lose 15 straight games, and the attendance meter would barely budge (see: the Oilers last year). Even when Canadian fans probably shouldn’t show up in an effort send a message to management, they do anyway and resort to waffle throwing.

In the great land of the American Dream, even winning teams don’t draw sufficient interest. Last year the Coyotes had a highly successful season that led to a surprise playoff berth. Yet they were still in the attendance basement, drawing a league worst average of 11,989. This is why fans of the old Quebec Nordiques deserve praise for their creative approach to draw attention to hockey’s nagging attendance problem.

The result was the same old refrain: executives praising invisible fans.

Quick Hits

  • You want parity? There are currently three points separating the fifth and 12th place teams in the Western Conference.
  • Jody Shelley showed us once again why it’s never a good idea to push a player in the back while he’s going into the boards. The two-game suspension he received for a boarding incident against the Bruins is well deserved.
  • Milan Lucic has returned to form this season after struggling with injuries a year ago. In 50 games he had only 20 points last year, and a mark he’s already easily sailed past (26 points over 28 games).
  • There are some acts that cross the line separating belligerent and disgusting. Matt Carkner’s blood flicking against the Rangers following a fight with Derek Boogaard not only crossed the line, he sprinted past and kept running.
  • Daniel Aflredsson’s blunt response to a reporter after Tuesday’s loss to Montreal was so incredibly refreshing. When asked if he can put the Senators’ disastrous offence and scoring problems into words, Alfie simple said “no.”

Trending Teams

Penthouse

Edmonton Oilers: Yeah, we probably should have seen this one coming. Forgive us, Edmonton, because everyone outside of the province of Alberta was just so used to seeing the Oilers lose, and we forgot about the youth, talent, and explosiveness of this team.

The Oilers have won four of their last six games, largely on the strength of Taylor Hall’s, well, strength. Hall has always possessed soft hands, but over the past few weeks he’s shown far more strength and muscle while moving the puck and cycling in the corners.

Maybe it’s confidence, or just gaining experience. But whatever it is, it’s exciting.

Outhouse

New York Islanders: This is like telling the kid who was just cut from the football team that there are gymnastics tryouts tomorrow. All options involve failure, and a swift kick to a spirit that’s already hit rock bottom.

But here we are a week before Christmas, staring at an Islanders team that’s lost five straight games, and is one of only two teams with less than 20 points. The Islanders’ leading scorer has 10 goals (Matt Moulson), and you can accuse plus/minus of being a devil statistic all you want, but when 25 players on a roster are in the red, that’s pretty tragic.

Three Stars

  1. Ryane Clowe: My fantasy team enjoyed his eight points over four games this week, and the Sharks did too.
  2. Corey Perry: A five point night Sunday against Minnesota included Perry’s first career hat trick.
  3. Anders Lindback: The young Nashville netminder earned his first career shutout Saturday night, and allowed five goals in his three starts this week.

Plays of the Week(end)