Christmas advice for players, fans, coaches…even writers

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle could use a little Christmas cheer. (Tara Walton/Getty)
December 20, 2013, 2:53 PM

‘Tis four nights before Christmas—time to hand out some gifts. Of course, we @SportsnetSpec are noted for our generosity in building, boxing and delivering sack-fulls of advice at this time of year.

The elves have been working all year on this column. Enjoy.

To hockey fans everywhere: Enough genuine concern to push the game in the right direction, but with the knowledge that hockey has never been played at a faster or higher level. It’s not always a mistake. Sometimes it’s just a darned good play.

To Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle: A roster that can live up to the attention it receives. The NHL playoffs are a better place when the Leafs are in them. Toronto will go apoplectic if they’re not.

To my friends in the Advanced Stats world: Patience on twitter. There is room for all of us, value in everyone’s opinion. Statistical analysis and eyeballing a player can both be accurate and misleading at the same time. No system of evaluation is right every time.

To , er, “experienced” columnists like @rcamcole, @MichaelFarber3, @GeorgejohnsonCH, @simmonssteve (and myself): Patience on twitter, and the literary skills to make 30-ish years of hanging around NHL dressing rooms and press boxes an asset, not an anchor.

To twitter readers everywhere: The ability to spot sarcasm and subtlety, and the decency to remember that no matter how strongly you disagree, there is an actual person on the other end of that reply.

To NHL referees and linesmen: Selective hearing. Players who make the right play at a 95 percent clip get canonized. With you guys, all we ever talk about is the five percent.

To Brendan Shanahan: See above. Player Safety has progressed miles in the right direction in the past five years. It will just never be fast enough for some.

To the NHLPA: The savvy, with a new, long-term CBA in place, to take a leading role in player safety. It’s not always about the guy being suspended.

To Martin St. Louis: A spot on the Olympic team. For little, old guys everywhere.

To Ottawa Senators fans: A new straw, with Alfie now stirring the drink in Detroit.

To the Ottawa RedBlacks: Six wins, and a genuine feeling that Ottawa’s new CFL team can beat any opponent on a given night.

To George Parros: Some time away, and the 20/20 perspective to look at your role long-term. Few in your skates have been gifted with the many career options that you have. Consider them.

To the rest of the NHL’s heavyweights: Savings.

To “big ice” advocates: A KHL Centre Ice package.

To all hockey parents: A money tree, with the latest new concept in hockey equipment being released this week. Don’t worry, they’re working on new sticks next.

To Brian Burke: A barber who charges by the acre. And the patience required to rebuild from scratch in the cap system.

To Washington’s Tom Wilson: Brakes. Tap them, once in a while.

To Philly’s Brayden Schenn: A teammate to yell, “Heads’ up!” now and again.

To the voices in the Comments below this column: Enough respect to actually read the column through before tearing it apart. And to those who do read, continued, reasonable conversation. We’re paid to have an opinion, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be swayed.

To the Sedin twins: A home run deal by your GM, Mike Gillis, that resets your Canucks as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

To my colleagues at TSN and HNIC: Thanks, for setting the bar as high as you have on the national broadcast front. Half the challenge in getting our shot will be living up to your standard.

To my colleagues at Sportsnet: A pub that will hold last call for you, and a good deli near the Rogers campus that delivers. Long hours lie ahead mates, and it’s going to be awesome.

To Craig MacTavish: Another NHL GM who shares your vision of what “a bold move” consists of. And soon.

To Kevin Cheveldayoff: The penchant to take the next step with your franchise. Some wheeling and dealing in your near future.

To the Winnipeg Blue Bombers: An answer to the question, “And you chose the West Division why…?”

To @NHLtoSeattle: A new rink, and an owner willing to take a chance on hockey.

And to all readers of this column: A Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Festive Festivus. Take time away from the computer over the next couple of weeks, and invest it in family and friends.

Mark Spector is a senior columnist for Sportsnet.ca. Follow me on Twitter.com @SportsnetSpec.

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