2009 NHL Conference Finals: The Great Penguin Conspiracy

This is turning into the playoffs I can’t win. Or lose. So far, I’m 50.50 on my bets. I was one overtime glove save away from being ahead, but alas, you can’t stop them all. I could lament the fantastic breakdown that was Vancouver, but I’ll cut right to the chase.

The East:

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 6. Carolina Hurricanes

I have this theory. Partly based around the fact that I believe Gary Bettman is decidedly Anti-Canadian. Before anyone comes to his defense and cries that he didn’t move Ottawa, Edmonton or Vancouver during their rough times, I’d like to point out that there’s a large difference between being Anti-Canadian and a stupid businessman. Gary is not a stupid businessman. The Canadian hockey market is a lock, we spawned the sport, we love the sport. The six teams we have in the NHL at the moment distribute our NHL exposure evenly enough to ensure that every Canadian is within some decent shot of a franchise. Exceptions being Atlantic Canada and the Territories. Maybe Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He did also move franchises from Winnipeg and Quebec, with what now looks like very little thought – when you compare their relocation against the controversy generated by a possible Coyote relocation.

No Canadian team has won a Stanley Cup while under Gary’s tenure as commissioner. He started his job in February of 1993 – midway through the last season a Canadian team took home lord Stanley. Montreal. Since then, every Canadian team has had a decent crack, exception being Toronto, and has lost to an American team in a weak hockey market. Carolina a team notorious for attendance problems, has had those problems taken care of ever since they beat Edmonton a few years back. The same goes for Tampa and Anaheim when they won their respective cups. All of those teams experienced large jumps in attendance season after they won the cup. Only New York had a solid attendance base when they beat Vancouver in 1994.

Gary Bettman has gone on record stating several times over that the Penguins are the model franchise. They have rebounded from their lowest attendance average 11,877 in ’03-’04 (the year Malkin was drafted) and clawed back from bankruptcy. With the addition of Sid the you-see-him-everywhere Kid and a bunch of other youth, the Penguins were due for the same pop they received when they drafted Jaromir back 1990. A new arena with 2,000+ extra seats to fill due in 2010. It only seems logical that there’s going to be a push in the direction of the Penguins. Penguin merchandise, Penguin commercials, Penguin pride, Penguin hype.

I’ll put it this way, skill alone didn’t push the Penguins past the Capitals. There was something about game six and seven that was a major tell in favour of Pittsburgh. The Capitals star players didn’t play like themselves. Ovie was listless and he’s a guy who rarely takes a shift off. Varlamov let in goals that were completely uncharacteristic for him, even for a bad game. Washington played without the energy of knowing they were potentially one game away from the Conference Finals and anything is possible. Sure it’s crushing for Capitals fans, but a game seven loss was the only way to ensure that the series ended on a win/win. Gary gets to watch his prized franchise march to the conference finals, while still showcasing the grit and flash of a series against the new number 2 franchise in the East. Washington gets to end their season on a positive note, tinker with the roster a little and lose to the Penguins in the conference finals 2010. In the meantime, smart gamblers have a nice lock for the next few seasons.

To paraphrase the late Hunter S. Thompson: “The Kentucky Derby is fixed, Boxing is fixed, The NFL is fixed, why not the NBA?” and I’m positive the same could be said for the NHL.

Penguins in 7.

As depressing as it is to admit, with Boston out, the Penguins are now my logical favourite to win the Cup. If they face the Red Wings in a rematch of last years playoffs, a Penguin win will signal a changing of the guard from the ‘Old NHL’ to the ‘New NHL’ – and a horrible screw job for Marian Hossa. A Blackhawks/Penguins final will be a rematch of 1991-92. Pittsburgh took that one in four. The media probably wouldn’t attack it like that, instead they’ll comment that in the ‘New NHL’ every team has a chance regardless of experience level. Everything has been opened up.

Chicago/Pittsburgh is possibly the best finals match up the NHL can hope for. The Red Wing era can end when they’re beaten by Chicago, leaving two franchises that were dealing with low attendance and possible bankruptcy to battle it out for the Stanley Cup and further the NHL’s march into the USA sports market.

The West:

2. Detroit Red Wings vs. 4. Chicago Blackhawks.

I telegraphed my prediction for this one already. Chicago in six. Osgood will be blamed for the loss, prompting a rebuilding process in Detroit.

This is one of the first times I hope my predictions are wrong. I hope everything that lines up perfectly in my head is nothing more than a mental flash bang; and Gary Bettman doesn’t have his finger on the trigger, telegraphing the playoffs for financial and market gain.

All I’m sure of is that Canadians will have to wait yet another year, while we have this Steel City franchise unfairly shoved down our throats for. In the off season, Sid and Malkin will sign a bunch of sponsorship deals that will ensure we see their faces and the Penguins logo plastered everywhere.

Canadian hockey is going to have to rely on looking forward to the Olympics and International Tournaments, because as far as the NHL is concerned, we have nothing to look forward to for a couple of years.


Advice: When you’ve followed a sport your entire life, spice things up by connecting seemingly invisible dots and coming up with crazy conspiracies.


One Response to 2009 NHL Conference Finals: The Great Penguin Conspiracy

  1. Kate the Great says:

    It is odd, the similarities, hearing your theories and then seeing the correlation with what is actually going on. You definitely have an awareness of the pulse of the nhl and it’s doings that extends beyond being an ordinary fan.

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