Workin’ For The Weekend: Griffs, Ads, Wolves, Ugh “The Message”

grandmaster flash
It’s like a jungle sometimes…

Rap music of the 80’s hasn’t aged well. Mainly because it was birthed in the decade where it was a genre that was written off as a trend akin to disco. Most believed it would come, go, be remembered semi-fondly, never to return to our eardrums again. And then something remarkable happened. In the summer of 1982, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five released a track called “The Message”. It had the makings of your typical rap song. Thumping beat, occasional guitar riff, synthesized lumps, and rhythmic rhymes. But it wasn’t necessarily the sound of the track and the subsequent album with the same name, but rather the content of what was being said. A turning point in rap music, “The Message” was an ongoing commentary about life in the American ghetto. Its misconceptions, its misunderstandings, its lows, its lulls. Other rap outfits had dabbled in this area prior to this, but none featured truth in advertising quite as much as Grandmaster and the Five. They had lived the life that they so valiantly spoke of, somewhat as a badge of honor, somewhat as a cautionary tale of how you perceive life in American in the early to mid-80’s.

And so I take a heavy song, with incredible social commentary, and highly important substance, and place it in a game preview for the world to mock, enjoy, trash, and embrace. That’s how I roll, All My Children in the daytime, Dallas at night.

Here’s my favorite lyric from “The Message”:

Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

While I write this post, the NHL lockout appears to be nearing an end. When you read this post, we may still be pining for even a smidgen of a regular season. Either way, the Barons could be going under. And as they get closer to the edge of NOT having their top scoring line, I’m trying not to lose my head. Because it feels as if this team might be goin’ under when/if that happens soon. But I’m hopeful. Hopeful that this team can live in the present, win as many games as possible, and cross the lockout ending bridge when they get there. And that starts this weekend with three away games against three different teams. Let the battle begin.

Here are the details of each team:

Grand Rapids Griffins
Record: 18-10-1-1
Last Ten: 7-3-0-0
1st in Midwest Division; 3rd in Western Conference
The team’s leading scorers –

13 Gustav Nyquist RW 30 10 19 29 +7 16 4 0 0.97 0.53 91
27 Tomas Tatar LW 30 13 13 26 +5 23 6 0 0.87 0.77 97
29 Landon Ferraro C 30 10 12 22 +4 25 2 2 0.73 0.83 65
9 Francis Pare RW 30 11 9 20 -1 2 2 0 0.67 0.07 64
18 Joakim Andersson C 28 8 9 17 -2 49 2 0 0.61 1.75 66

Milwaukee Admirals
Record: 16-13-2-1
Last Ten: 7-3-0-0
3rd in Midwest Division; 11th in Western Conference
The team’s leading scorers –

17 Michael Latta C 31 5 16 21 +4 88 1 0 0.68 2.84 55
41 Taylor Beck RW 25 5 15 20 +2 12 1 0 0.80 0.48 67
18 Chris Mueller C 31 12 6 18 -2 29 3 2 0.58 0.94 81
* 51 Austin Watson C 31 11 7 18 +4 8 0 0 0.58 0.26 60
* 10 Patrick Cehlin RW 29 6 8 14 -1 14 2 0 0.48 0.48 67

Chicago Wolves
Record: 14-12-3-1
Last Ten: 5-4-1-0
4th in Midwest Division; 12th in Western Conference
The team’s leading scorers –

29 Brett Sterling LW 25 9 9 18 +6 24 3 0 0.72 0.96 67
18 Jordan Schroeder C 28 8 10 18 -1 8 0 0 0.64 0.29 53
24 Andrew Ebbett C 27 6 12 18 +5 6 3 0 0.67 0.22 59
32 Zack Kassian RW 27 6 12 18 -1 59 1 0 0.67 2.19 72
20 Darren Haydar RW 24 4 10 14 +5 6 1 0 0.58 0.25 54

With that out of the way, there are a couple of things worth mentioning at least to my eye.

First, and it has gone this way over the last two seasons, the teams in the South Division absolutely beat each other senseless during the regular season. The Oklahoma City Barons are third in the South Division and sixth in the Western Conference. Milwaukee is good enough to be third in the Midwest Division, but only eleventh in the Wesetern Conference. Likewise, Chicago isn’t too far behind them at fourth in the Midwest, but twelfth in the Western Conference. Grand Rapids has identical standing points as OKC and are third in the Conference.

Second, the standings are tight. The Toronto Marlies and the Grand Rapids Griffins are two teams playing really good hockey of late. The only other team with a better “last ten game” record is Oklahoma City. Also, three points separates fourth from first in the South Div and eight points separates fourth from first in the Midwest Div. It’s a tight season three months of play.

Third, all the teams above have balanced scoring. Granted they don’t score as many goals as the Barons, but they don’t let many in either. As a matter of fact, amongst the three teams the Barons will face this week, only one player on one of those teams is in the top 20 in goals scored (Tomas Tartar; Grand Rapids; 13 goals; nearly half on the PP). The Griffins, for argument sake, are the sturdiest of the opponents because they defend well and score throughout the lineup. Neither of these things the Barons do well.

Fourth, special teams are key. The Griffins are really solid on the power play. Not as good as OKC’s near 30% completion rate, but they’re hovering around 20% and that’s near the top in the league. The other two teams, Chicago and Milwaukee, are downright dreadful. Flip the puck over, the penalty kill stats are all over the map. Milwaukee is upper mid-pack, Grand Rapids is lower-mid pack, followed by Chicago, then Oklahoma City whom is only slightly better than last place Texas. Grrrr.

The Barons are riding a decent hot streak despite losing their most recent outing. The plan goes unchanged, at least for now. The team will rely on the big guns to get them through at even strength and on the power play. Of course I’m referring to Eberle, Hall, Schultz, and to a lesser extent Arcobello. It’s been quite some time since the second line of Paajarvi-Lander-Hartikainen has done anything substantial on the scoring end of things as a whole. Me, you, and the world would like for that to change. The road might be the best place to show some of the goods below the top minute snatchers.

The team can’t roll with Yann in three straight, so Todd Nelson will have to plug Olivier Roy in at least once. I think his determined style of play might favor a game against Chicago, where things don’t get too mucky. The Admirals and Griffins play the Barons very well, and very tough. Too much traffic in front of Roy, or some extra curricular activity, and he might get shaky. The only problem with sticking Roy in at Chicago is that it leaves Yann to play back-to-back with an overnight trip from Grand Rapids to Milwaukee. He’s up for it, but having the youngster sandwiched in the middle might not be a bad idea. I still say Yann-Yann-Roy.

Go Barons!