Saturday, August 1, 2009

Myth or Fact?


Welcome to the first edition of "Myth or Fact?" brought to you courtesy of Bobby Clarke. And as long as Clarke is around, this might not be the only time he is featured in this ... um, feature.

Recently, Clarke made some disparaging comments about the Penguins organization. We will investigate these comments to determine their veracity.

Myth: The Penguins, Capitals and Blackhawks, some of the last teams in the 2009 playoffs, missed the playoffs six or seven straight years.

Fact: Not entirely sure what time frame Clarke is referring to here. In 2008, the Penguins made the playoffs. In 2007, the Penguins made the playoffs. Their appearance in the 2009 postseason didn't exactly come out of nowhere. Prior to that, Pittsburgh made the playoffs in 2001. Since joining the NHL in 1967, the Penguins have never missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons. There was one span of six, from 1983 through 1988.

The Capitals drafted Alex Ovechkin in 2004. They'd made the playoffs in 2000 and 2001, even winning the division both seasons, and were also in the postseason in 2003, then again in 2008.

Prior to this season, the Hawks last reached the playoffs in 2002. They drafted Jonathan Toews in 2006 and Patrick Kane in 2007. That's less of a playoff history but still less than seven years.

Clarke even said it was "somewhat embarrassing" for those teams to be achieving success. Why is it embarrassing for these young stars to get to show what they can do on the sport's biggest stage? Should they be buried on mediocre teams who will never go anywhere for their entire careers?

Myth: Pittsburgh lost seven years in a row in order to get good.

Fact: In 2001, the Penguins made the conference finals, their last of 11 consecutive playoff appearances until 2007. There were losing seasons in 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04. Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005, after the lockout. Evgeni Malkin the year before. Under the new math, that's less than seven years.

Myth: The Penguins lost seven years in a row in order to get good twice.

Fact: Pittsburgh qualified for the postseason from 1979 through 1982. Mario Lemieux was drafted in 1984. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that's less than seven years.

Myth: Clarke finds the strategy of some teams "appalling."

Fact: Clarke conspired with the father of Eric Lindros to orchestrate a trade out of Quebec and into Philadelphia. This trade helped the Quebec/Colorado Avalanche franchise win two Stanley Cups. The Flyers made one Finals appearance with Lindros and were swept by Detroit in 1997. Clarke and Lindros later feuded, and Lindros was stripped of his captaincy before eventually being traded.

Myth: The Flyers always try to win.

Fact: Ray Emery.

Myth: Philadelphia's philosophy hasn't changed since 1967.

Fact: The Flyers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1975.

Thus concludes "Myth or Fact?" We hope you enjoyed it.

Did the Penguins lose before getting good? Unquestionably. That's how every draft system in major North American sports works. It's how they've all worked for a long time. It's not like it suddenly changed in the last seven years. (I picked that number because that's the one Clarke likes to use.) It's exactly how bad teams get good. That's the whole point of the draft.

So, deal with it. Maybe Mr. Clarke should worry more about improving his team instead of what other teams are doing.

(Here's the article in question where Clarke made these statements.)

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