And now for something completely different. For 2016’s final installment of Quick Shifts, we’re handing out a dozen year-end awards.
They’re fake. There’s no trophies or prize money or Will Arnett monologues. It’s just fun moments I liked from the last 365 days of hockey. Slightly less obvious stuff than how awesome Sidney Crosby is, or how the Blue Jackets surprised everybody this fall, or, wow, remember that Subban-Weber trade and John Scott bum-rushing the All-Star Game?
Merry Christmas, everybody.
Sitting on the bench in Tampa Bay (beside Astronaut Guy, for added goofiness), Bernier is munching on sunflower seeds or something. He spits and accidentally hits a member of the Lightning’s ice crew skating by. His reaction is priceless.
2. Twitter Handle of the Year goes to… Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames. The brilliant @TKACHUKycheese_ conjures up fond memories of Skee ball, Pop-A-Shot, ball pits, and marginally edible pizza.
3. Dive of the Year goes to Joseph Blandisi of the New Jersey Devils. The rookie, now shining in the AHL, got caught embellishing twice in 2015-16 and was ultimately slapped with a fine. But this one is so hilarious and over the top, Blandisi was compelled to apologize publicly on Twitter. This clip was also voted Hockey Thing I Watched the Most Times Consecutively While Laughing and Pointing of the Year.
4. Here are a few of my favourite Quotes of the Year:
“I’d like to be a kidnapper right now and kidnap Dylan Larkin. Stick him in a bathroom or something, till at least after the game.” —Paul Holmgren, Flyers president
“Shoot before cute.” —Oilers coach Todd McLellan, on his advice to players
“I don’t know if sitting in a circle and singing songs is going to do the trick.” —Blake Wheeler, on how to fix the Jets’ slump
“Do you know any of the Russian players? Do you? No. I’m in the same boat. I’ve never seen them play before.” —Team USA coach Ron Wilson, before the Americans were eliminated from the world juniors by Team Russia’s unknowns
“Most of us celebrate Tim Horton every day.” —Mike Babcock, on Horton being added to the Maple Leafs’ Legends Row
“We’ve been up and down like a toilet seat.” —head coach John Tortorella, on the inconsistent 2015-16 Blue Jackets
“I know how good I am, and I’m not afraid to say it.” —Patrick Laine
“We actually have guys who are trying to win” —Roman Polak, why the 2015-16 Leafs are different from the 2014-15 Leafs
“They don’t f— around with you. They just teach you how to be a man and how to use a gun.” —Leo Komarov, on mandatory Finnish military service
“We are here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement. Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion.” —President Obama, upon welcoming the Penguins to the White House
5. Junior Goal of the Year goes to… Mitch Marner, for this slab of ridiculousness. (But, y’know, he’s probably too small for the NHL.)
6. Goalie Goal (Followed by Goalie Goal Celebration) of the Year goes to… Lethbridge Hurricanes’ netminder Stuart Skinner for this lofty achievement.
7. Assist of the Year goes to… Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Washington Capitals star sets up Tom Wilson with a no-look, backhanded saucer pass so discrete that it fools everyone on the ice. It’ll take you a couple views to catch it. And look how late Ryan Miller reacts. There are more dramatic passes off the rush but this one is so slick and deceptive and high-difficulty, I love it.
8. Quickest Back-to-Back Penalties of the Year goes to… Patrick Kane. He illegally touches the puck as he’s stepping onto the ice and his second infraction ultimately results in the game-winner the other way.
9. Classiest Subtle Move by a Player of the Year goes to… Jamie Benn. The Dallas Stars captain purposely delays a faceoff, letting the crowd continue to cheer on recently retired Brenden Morrow. Very cool.
10. Flukiest Goal of the Year goes to… Kris Versteeg, whose tipped shot bounces off the end-boards runner, flips up in the air, knocks off the back of Marc-Andre Fleury‘s neck and trickles in, proving the value of missed shot attempts.
12. BCHL Goal of the Year goes to… Jagger Williamson of the Vernon Vipers. The between-the-legs-while-on-one-knee spin is insane.
13. Ah, what the heck. It’s the holidays. Here’s a bonus award.
Save of the Year (Non-Goalie Division) goes to… Bud Holloway. The St. John’s IceCaps forward’s name sounds fictional and the defensive play he makes in front of an empty net is unreal.