Thursday, February 15, 2007

. . . like a mob family

The Peerless is bored with all this ice lying around, so we were reading a few hockey blogs. The folks at On Frozen Blog posted an entry that referred to a column authored by Michael Farber on January 30 in the online version of Sports Illustrated. In it, Farber had this to say about the Caps . . .

“Washington is an old-time team -- led by general manager George McPhee, a little guy who was pound-for-pound the NHL's toughest player in the mid-1980s -- that takes no guff and sticks together like a mob family.”

Well, not so fast. I get the “mob family” part, but let’s look at the characters in “The Godfather” and try to match them to personalities on this club . . .

Vito Corleone. The Godfather. The unquestioned head of the family. Ambious character fuels his drive to build an empire. Highly defined code of honor, faithful to his family to the point of indulgence. Caps character: Ted Leonsis

Michael Corleone. The youngest boy. Quiet, intense, disciplined, ruthless. Very intelligent, can be difficult to read. Does not make any moves without meticulous planning. Not to be crossed by anyone outside the family…or inside it. Caps character: George McPhee

Santino “Sonny” Corleone. The oldest son. Emotional, impulsive, quick-tempered. Groomed to be the heir to The Godfather’s reign. But emotion seems to get the better of him when he needs it least. Caps character: Brian Sutherby.

Tom Hagen. Came to the Corleone household from the outside as homeless eleven year-old, grew to become The Godfather’s consigliere. Represents family business faithfully, capable of carrying out The Godfather’s wishes precisely and expeditiously. Not a horse lover. Caps Character: Glen Hanlon.

Federico “Fredo” Corleone. The middle son. A second fiddle, first to Sonny, then to Michael. Not given important responsibilities, given to impulsive, lazy, and even weak actions. Passed by others in the Corleone pecking order. Caps character: Jakub Klepis.

Pete Clemenza. Absolutely devoted to the family. Takes Michael under his wing. As much as can be expected, he is among the friendlier, outgoing, and more jovial members of the family. Perhaps does not have quite the stuff to rise as high in the family hierarchy as others. Caps character: Dainius Zubrus.

Luca Brasi. Personal enforcer for The Godfather. Seen by outsiders as brutish; he is loyal to other members of the family, feared and respected for his enforcer’s skill outside it. Caps Character: Donald Brashear.

Salvatore “Sal” Tessio. Contemporary of Clemenza, but much more talented at thinking ahead and figuring things out (with one notable exception). Savvy, with a sense of how things can and should be done. Caps character: Chris Clark

Vincent Mancini-Corleone. Son of Sonny Corleone. The character is a combination of characters reflected in other Corleone family members – cunning, ruthlessness, intensity, skill in family affairs. Caps character: Alex Ovechkin.

OK, I know, Dainius Zubrus didn’t take George McPhee under his wing, and Alex Ovechkin is not the son of Brian Sutherby, who is not being groomed to take over for Ted Leonsis (but has been mentioned as a "captain-in-waiting”). Sue me. I was bored.

The Peerless will let someone else take a crack at matching Caps to “The Sopranos.”

Warning signs

We'll leave the Caps for a moment to notice something else concerning a club of some (some would say an unusual) interest among Caps fans.

Often the seeds of a winning streak can be found in the way clubs lose games before that streak begins. Conversely, one can see the end of a winning streak in the way clubs win games at the end of that streak.

Such is the case with the NHL's hottest club at the moment, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The club is on a 15-2-3 run. But the seeds of bad habits are creeping into their game that could spell trouble ahead.

The Penguins have won each of their last three games in a more-than-60-minute fashion: a 5-4 shootout win against the Flyers, a 6-5 overtime win against Toronto, and a 5-4 shootout win against the Blackhawks last night after coughing up a 3-1 lead. Shootout wins against also-rans? 13 goals given up in their last three games versus only 38 in the previous 17 games?

Fortunately for Penguin fans, they play in what is arguably the weakest division -- top to bottom -- in the East (the Atlantic has, by far, the worst intra-conference record among the three Eastern Conference divisions). But this might bear watching as the Caps travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday. Unless those emerging bad habits are nipped in the bud by Michel Therrien, the Penguins are could come crashing to earth pretty quick.