The NHL Mailbag is here and with hockey season creeping closer, people have more hockey thoughts than Harambe thoughts — for a change. Does Jimmy Vesey to the Rangers make any sense? Who is the best remaining free agent? What’s the best World Cup jersey? And some questions about The Night Of, an incredibly bad show people want so badly to be great.

1. Veni, Vidi, Vesey

Firstly: I stared at General Fanager for two full minutes before I figured out “Z” was Mika Zibanejad. It’s the offseason. I’ll be better in October.

The Rangers materially are no different than they were a year ago, when they weren’t very good over the final 60 games. Zibanejad for Derick Brassard is a wash, like swapping a mushroom slice for a pepperoni slice. Jimmy Vesey is fine because he’s on an entry-level contract and will produce at a level that provides great value on the dollar but won’t make a huge difference.

The season will come down to how well Henrik Lundqvist can play in the face of a very deficient defense and whether Marc Staal bounces back to his previous form. The forwards are fine, which leads me to the question I’ve had since Friday.

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Jimmy Vesey of Harvard University and Hobey Baker Award winner poses with the trophy after the 2016 Hobey Baker Memorial Award ceremony at Tampa Theatre on April 8, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The Hobey Baker Award is given to college hockey's best player. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA – APRIL 08: Jimmy Vesey of Harvard University and Hobey Baker Award winner poses with the trophy after the 2016 Hobey Baker Memorial Award ceremony at Tampa Theatre on April 8, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The Hobey Baker Award is given to college hockey’s best player. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Why did Vesey pick the Rangers?

He had the freedom to go almost anywhere. It’s literally a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have control over the beginning of your career. He could have chosen Nashville, Buffalo, Chicago and who knows how many other suitors. And he chose the Rangers, a team that’s exuding all the signs of one that’s done contending for a championship for a long time and has a glut of forwards. Lundqvist turns 35 next season.

Meanwhile, the Predators were one win from a conference final and they improved by trading Shea Weber for PK Subban. They have a back end that’s the best in the league, an elite goaltender and a crop of forwards that are very dangerous. Nashville looks like they are entering some flush years and there appeared to be room for Vesey to get regular playing time.

The Sabres are pointed in the right direction too, although they are still in the midst of the climb. Plus, and I know no one who lives in Buffalo wants to hear it, but most people do not want to live in Buffalo. You live there and probably don’t want to live there. But would I pick the Sabres over the Rangers? In a heartbeat.

And the Blackhawks are a better version of the Rangers and play in a better city.

Beyond the confounding decision based on overall team health in the near future, what makes Vesey think he’s such a sure thing for regular playing time with the Rangers? Did the team promise him something? Is his agent giving him bad information?

Let’s ballpark the Rangers’ forward lineup to start 2016-17.





That top six is pretty clear-cut, but the rest is open for discussion. This group doesn’t include Oscar Lindberg, who will miss the first month of the season because of hip surgery, and Pavel Buchnevich, a talented prospect who could win a job on the third line in the preseason. Throw in Vesey, and that’s potentially 15 NHL-caliber forwards.

Your immediate issues are Glass and Jooris. Well, you know Glass is terrible and I know Glass is terrible, but coach Alain Vigneault does not seem to understand that. But even if Glass is waived or scratched, there are three players champing at the bit to take that spot. And Jooris, I think, is a virtual lock for the lineup because he kills penalties, same as Fast.

In terms of shorthanded ice time per game last season, the Rangers lost five of their eight forwards in that regard, which leaves Stepan and probably Zibanejad as the centers with Fast and Jooris as the regular wingers. Nash will be in that mix but it’s likely that Fast and/or Jooris will be staples in the lineup because they can score 10 goals and kill penalties. Vesey was part of Harvard’s penalty kill, but will that be the case in New York? It almost has to be if he is to get a spot out of camp.

So you’re probably asking Vesey to displace Grabner, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to expect, despite the latter signing a two-year deal in the summer the Rangers have to regret now. Heck, even if Vesey is the fourth-line left wing instead of Glass, there’s nothing wrong with that as a rookie. But that’s a lot of ifs and contingencies for a player that could have picked a better team with less forward traffic.

What made Vesey do this? The New York pizza and bagels? Because that’s fine. Pizza and bagels here are very good. Some players come to New York for off-ice opportunities, but there ain’t many of those for bottom-six forwards on the local hockey team. You’re not going to see a Jimmy Vesey Bulova billboard as you drive into the Holland Tunnel.

My conspiracy theory: Vesey knows the Rangers are going to trade Nash for Kevin Shattenkirk, thus thinning the forward group and bolstering the defense. Vesey will get more playing time in the middle-six and the prospects of a team with Ryan McDonagh and Shattenkirk are far better than what exists now.

Otherwise, I don’t get this for either side.

Speaking of things people think are great that baffle me…

2. The Bad Night Of!

Wonder Boys is a very good movie. Michael Douglas plays a professor who has been trying to write a book for seven years. He’s written a lot. Too much. Katie Holmes plays a student. They are having sex. I think. It’s a very good movie, but it’s 15 years old and it’s never on cable. Anyway, as a mediocre writer, there’s a scene where she critiques his manuscript that has always stuck with me:

Hannah: Grady, you know how in class you’re always telling us that writers make choices?

Grady: Yeah.

Hannah: And even though your book is really beautiful, I mean, amazingly beautiful, it’s… it’s at times… it’s very detailed. You know, with the genealogies of everyone’s horses, and the dental records, and so on. And I could be wrong, but it sort of reads in places like you didn’t make any choices. At all. And I was just wondering if it might not be different if when you wrote you weren’t always… under the influence.

That’s how I feel about The Night Of. The writers had eight hours of story to create and they didn’t make any choices. The first hour is incredible TV, even if you can’t get over how stupid Naz is. After that, how many hours of the show are dedicated to the minutiae of the arrest process? Four? Five? Game of Thrones doesn’t move this slowly. What is the point of all this screen time to John Turturro’s feet? Does his eczema say anything about his character? If it does, do we need the feet thing to be this prominent? We need to see every trip to every doctor? We need to see every step Naz goes through when he’s arrested? It’s really like no choices were made other than, “This Duane Reade joke is going to kill people that live in New York! Keep it in!”


What makes all that doubly annoying is Naz goes from unassuming dork to prison badass in about 19 minutes of screen time. He shaves his head, gets multiple tattoos and partakes in crack at light speed compared to the flow of the rest of the story. Why isn’t more of the story dedicated to Ol’ Itchy Feet looking into the guys he saw arguing at the funeral? And what in the world was the decision to have Naz and Chandra make out in his freaking holding cell? Where did that come from in the narrative of the story? Jesus!

But the show is shot beautifully and has all the characteristics of a quality TV show based on the visuals. And finally, when things begin to pick up in episode 7, the show has one more episode to go and it’s over. The pacing has been awful, as has been the storytelling. It’s a bad show, but it’s HBO in August, when all you get are things to hate-watch on Sundays.

As for the other questions — I’m hoping the cat had Kevin Spacey’s soul inside it and is the actual murderer, and Freddy giving Naz crap over his shirt choice for his trial but saying nothing about knuckle tats is like exhibit 2,000 why this show sucks.

3. Wrap It Up

Whole wheat wrap, white rice, black beans, steak, queso, hot salsa, corn and guac.

4. Radulov Answers

I think he should finish with somewhere around 50 points. He had 58 points in 81 games in his last full NHL season in 2007-08 and 65 points in 53 games in the KHL last season. At 30 years old, Radulov will have exactly 22 goals and 28 assists this season. That prediction is airtight and there’s no way it can go wrong.

5. Great Idea

Let’s get rid of Ice Girls, Ice Boys, Ice People and replace them with Ice Puppies. Actually, we’d need humans to pull them on sleds around the ice, so let’s have the people that shovel snow off the ice during TV timeouts do so with a puppy dragging behind them on a sled. There will be times when the puppy will jump off and run around and that’s adorable. They will also poop on the ice too, and that opens the door for Mike Ribeiro jokes.


6. What do you think of the Lake Erie Monsters changing their name to the Cleveland Monsters fresh off a Calder Cup Championship? Being the Land of Champions, please expand on what your ideal weekend would consist of in the greatest city on Earth (which is indeed Cleveland). Also, should the World Series parade just happen now?


The name change is bandwagon jumping at its finest. The team wanted so little to do with the name Cleveland that it named itself after a lake. Then the Monsters and Cavaliers win titles two weeks part, and suddenly it’s acceptable for Lake Erie to call itself Cleveland. Get bent!

And the Indians aren’t winning the World Series. That would mean three Cleveland pro sports teams won championships in the same year, which signals the end of days. That’s not scheduled to happen until the Sabres and Bills win titles in the same year in 2020.

7. Outhouse

If you had to pick one only in 2016, which is worth watching: NHL Heritage Classic, NHL Winter Classic, or NHL Centennial Classic?


I literally would rather watch any other hockey game on the schedule than those three games, especially live. But I’d go see Penguins-Flyers at Heinz Field, even though they should have played it at Penn State. That would have been a wild environment and tailgate scene. The NHL’s been doing this for less than a decade and we are already in stadium reruns.

8. Say Cheese

It’s the most underrated meal. It doesn’t even need bacon or tomato; it’s perfect as it is. However, if you’re one of these sick people making grilled cheese with mayo, report yourself to Homeland Security because you are a danger to America and our way of life. Thank you.

9. Jersey Foul

Team North America. Harambe. 69.

Wear it loud and wear it proud. It’s what he would’ve wanted.