So much hockey to discuss! What’s your preferred goal song? What will John Tortorella’s next non-hockey job be? Why is Valeri Nichushkin returning to Russia? The mailbag is here and Team USA stinks! NHL Mailbag!

1. Sing Along

For someone who peaked athletically at the age of 12, I think way too much about the various songs that would play after my professional sports achievements. You know how when your girlfriend asks, “What are you thinking about right now?” and you’re figuring out the flex spot for your fantasy football game the next day? Me? I’m cycling through the music I’d use if I were an MLB closer, even though I topped out at 58 mph when drunkenly whipping a baseball at a Rays game a couple years ago.

I’m like John Cusack in High Fidelity when it comes to sports music; it says a lot about you as a person. For instance, Wilmer Flores of the New York Mets uses the theme song from Friends as his at-bat music. Keith Foulke used some heavy-metal Danzig crap when he was closing for the Boston Red Sox.

This tells me I could discuss how silly Ross got when Mark entered the picture, but also how stupid Rachel was about a strange guy in a diner offering her a job out of the blue. Of course, Mark was trying to get in Rachel’s pants. Although, shouldn’t have Ross trusted Rachel more? Wilmer and I could banter about this for hours.

Meanwhile, I imagine Foulke would want to tell me about the cargo room on his pickup truck and why pit bulls only make the best pets after you “show them who’s boss.” No thanks.

Here are the songs I’d use in various sports song situations.

A. MLB Closer Song — “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

It’s just a good song. Karen O’s got a haunting voice, the guitar riff at the beginning lets you know I’m about to smoke some 58 mph heat past you and the song says I’m a tough guy but I don’t need AC/DC to get the point across.

B. MLB At-Bat Song — “Hunger Strike” by Temple Of The Dog

If I’m closing, I only need to hear a song 60-70 times per year; as a leadoff hitter for the Seattle Mariners, I need to enjoy a song enough to hear part of it 600-plus times. “Hunger Strike” is how I’d like to announce my presence before mashing one of my 50 taters off that stupid train in the outfield.

C. Goal Song — “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne

“He’s just a skater boy, he said see ya later boy.” Get it? I’m on skates and I’m like, see ya later. Can I make it any more obvious?

D. Team Just Lost Song — “Closing Time” by Semisonic

No need to overthink this. I’m actually surprised 20 NHL teams don’t use this after losses.

E. Team Just Won Song — “Gimme Some Lovin” by Spencer Davis Group

How can you listen to this song and not love it? It’s a great song to hear while you’re walking out of a building, post-victory. The song kicks ass.

2. I’m Dave Lozo, ESPN

It’s been good. The intermission reports are fine. And trust me, “fine” is a massive compliment over the leaky plastic bag filled with barf that is the NBCSN intermission shows. Brett Hull and Chris Chelios ain’t exactly going to break down zone starts, but they’re fine. NBC should hire them before the season starts. It’s all fine.

John Buccigross continues to be the “How do you do, fellow teens?” of broadcasting and that doesn’t help when he’s very clearly not a play-by-play guy. The last part isn’t his fault, but part of me dies every time he excitedly says “yo ding dong” or “cawlidge hockey.”

Barry Melrose brings nothing to the table. Just let Darren Pang, who gets talked over a lot, do the talking.

Steve Levy is really good, and I don’t think I realized how much I missed him until he started calling World Cup games. Kevin Weekes is fine, although it seems like he’s reading off a sheet of nice things to say about every player on every team that was fed to him by that player’s agent, but whatever. I also assume he gets paid every time he says “VH” during a game.

All in all, it’s better than what NBC offers. There’s no Pierre McGuire (although Buccigross is teetering on Pierre-esque levels with his CAWLIDGE hockey references), but the games look good and once we get to the later rounds and it’s just Levy/Weekes/Pang, we’ll be good. Hockey moves at such a fast pace that three-person booths are one person too many, but that’s not really an ESPN problem as it is a hockey broadcasting problem.

3. Job Placement

Torts is a blowhard, wannabe tough guy that had the game pass him by a while back. He’s unlikable and wants to bully you with his words.

He should fit in nicely on NBCSN. Or maybe he can take Colin Campbell’s job with the NHL.

4. You’re In My Way

I don’t understand half the questions I get most weeks.

5. The G Spot

If we didn’t know for sure already, this confirms it: Tom Brady is simply a system quarterback.

Yes, that system is “cheating,” but Jimmy Garoppolo has shown that anyone can learn to cheat in the Patriots system. Look at what the he did to the Cardinals two weeks ago and look at what the Cardinals did to the Bucs this past week. It’s as if the Patriots have some sort of unknown edge that other teams lack. Clearly, you can slip Matt Damon under center and the Patriots are still going 14-2. (Free idea, The Ringer.)

Remember when Andy Pettitte got caught HGHing? His defense was like, “This is the only time I did that, I swear.” Did anyone believe him?

So if someone says Spygate and Deflategate were the only two times the Patriots cheated, why would you believe that? It’s my very smart opinion that the NFL discovered so much Patriots cheating over the past 15 years that they knew if they made it public, it would destroy the league. In a salary cap league, it’s absurd how dominant the Patriots have been under Bill Belichick, who was a very bad coach that mysteriously became a genius when he came to New England and had great assistants that were all mysteriously terrible when they left New England.

Since 2009, the Patriots are 51-5 at home. FIFTY-ONE AND FIVE. If an elite college football program had that home record, you’d think, “Hmmm, that seems ridiculously dominant.” In a pro league with a salary cap and free agency, it’s suspect as hell.

Anyway, the Giants are 2-0 and Eli Manning beat Brady in the Super Bowl twice.

6. Winging It

Radko Gudas, Roman Polak, Dalton Prout, Mark Borowiecki, Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland.

Sorry, I want to build the next Team USA, so I’m using the Tortorella/Lombardi strategy to get noticed.

7. Weather Or Not

People that go outside when it rains are suckers.

8. Read Up

The Internet. Books are a scam. Unless it’s my book.

9. What are your thoughts on Valeri Nichushkin returning to Russia?


Since no one asked the one thing I wanted to talk about, I’m asking myself the question.

It’s sad. It feels like the Dallas Stars screwed up a bit here. To get him to come to the United States after they drafted him, they needed to get him to the NHL right away. As an 18-year-old rookie, he showed all sorts of promise. I wrote a big story on him! Jaromir Jagr said he had potential to be the best player ever! All signs pointed to him being very good for a very long time!

Nichushkin had 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games as a rookie but played only eight games the following year because of hip problems. Then last year, Lindy Ruff limited his ice time because he wasn’t playing well and had just 29 points in 79 games. That’s “just” 29 points, but there was still a lot to be excited about.

DALLAS, TX - MAY 11: Valeri Nichushkin #43 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the St. Louis Blues in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the American Airlines Center on May 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX – MAY 11: Valeri Nichushkin #43 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the St. Louis Blues in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the American Airlines Center on May 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

So now he’s reportedly signing a two-year deal with a KHL team? Why?

First off, everyone always finds it funny when a report says a Russian NHL player could sign in the KHL until it actually happens. I can’t figure out why everyone laughs these rumors off all the time, but here we are.

Second off, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to live in a country where you don’t speak the language (at least not fluently, as Nichushkin has been learning it), you don’t have anyone on the team from your home country (he was the only Russian on the 2015-16 roster and that was going to be the case this year too) and you’re not doing well at your job. Loneliness can be a real problem that affects on-ice performance and it’s hard to think that wasn’t an issue to some extent here.

I don’t know Nichushkin well, but I got to know Artem Anisimov a little bit during his time in New York. I see some parallels between the two Russians. It also gives me an excuse to link to the sausage story.

Anisimov came to the United States as a 19-year-old and played in Hartford for two years. Then he came to the Rangers in 2009 as a young guy that wasn’t all that strong with English. Even in 2012, when he was plenty capable of having a conversation, he didn’t like doing TV. He wasn’t comfortable. So this is a guy who had been working on assimilation for nearly five years and still didn’t like a camera in his face.

After an OK rookie year (32 points), he jumped to 44 points in 2010-11 and had 36 points the following season. In those two seasons, he had a locker next to Ruslan Fedotenko, a Russian who had a sort of a mentor/mentee relationship with Anisimov. If Fedotenko talked to the media, Anisimov would stare intently and seemed to be taking mental notes. There’s a huge age difference, of course, but Anismov clearly drew comfort from having Fedotenko around.

Nichushkin had Sergei Gonchar his first season, but last year, there was no one around like that. Teams with a young Russian shouldn’t sign an old Russian just to have one, but for someone still getting acclimated to life in the United States, it may not have been a bad idea to get someone like that.

Finally, and this may seem like an odd one, but living in a sprawling city like Dallas could not have been a smooth transition. Admittedly, I’ve spent a total of 24 hours in Dallas during my life, but things are spread way the hell out. You need a car to get everywhere. It’s like a suburb on steroids. As someone that basically lives in Manhattan, driving a car at any point SUCKS, so having to get in a car every day and go places where you can’t communicate as easily as you want must be anywhere from annoying to terrifying.

That’s how Anisimov spoke of his time in Hartford. He was mostly alone, not having fun, so coming to a “scary” place like New York was great, because it’s a walking around city. It’s more diverse. It felt more like home. He had Fedotenko in his second and third seasons.

So maybe when Nichushkin sized up this year’s roster and saw he’d be the only Russian again, maybe that was it for him. He missed home, didn’t like playing for a coach that didn’t give him a lot of ice time, so return to Russia for a couple years and see what’s happening in Dallas then. It’s hard to blame him.