King Jeremy The Wicked Needs His Chalice

The NHL Closer is written by Greg Wyshynski, of FanHouse and The Fourth Period. He is also the author of Glow Pucks And 10-Cent Beer.

Nearly every postseason there's some old fart that the media rallies around, hoping to see him raise the Stanley Cup in his arthritic hands for the first time before riding off into a sunset of golf tournaments, alumni games and post-professional waistline expansion (evidently, the buffets in Texas are treating Mr. Hull quite well). These players range from Hall of Famers without a ring like Ray Bourque to blue-collar fan favorites like Dave Andreychuk. I'm not sure Jeremy Roenick fits either category for a lot of fans, but the hockey media's already in the bag for him to win his first Cup with San Jose this year. And, honestly, I'm right there with them.

He's a bit of a dick, no doubt: We're talking about a guy who was once suspended by his team after refusing to watch the game from the press box as a healthy scratch, opting for a steak and a beer at a nearby bar instead. A guy who announced his retirement via a text message. A guy who told fans to kiss his ass during the lockout. A guy who once told a beer aficionado magazine that his favorite brew was Bud Light. (All of these are subjective, but in my eyes that last one is practically a mortal sin.)

But he's also something quite rare in the NHL these days: Compelling. There's always been a certain cool about Roenick; it started because he was a brash American swimming in Wayne and Mario's pool; one who nearly led the Blackhawks to their first Cup since before Maris hit his 61st. It continued through the video game era and, of course, the "Swingers" love. It's in his remarkable ability to place his foot in his mouth as he speaks his mind, but without getting pigeonholed as a churlish douche like Sean Avery in the process.

There are a lot of reasons to get excited about the San Jose Sharks — like the fact that they were my pick to win the Stanley Cup; which makes me, in the words of the late thespian Anna Nicole Smith, a "freeeeakin' geeenius." Roenick is one of them, because of games like last night's 4-3 win over Minnesota: 14 minutes of ice time, and he gets a goal and an assist and then the game-winner in the skills competition. And when Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster broke his leg in a collision with the Sharks' Torrey Mitchell (another argument for no-touch icing), Roenick shook Foster's hand as left the ice on a stretcher. There's always been a modicum of class to Roenick, even is his most seemingly classless moments. Here's hoping he gets to finally raise the Cup this year ... before finally fulfilling his real destiny and beginning his long career as the Charles Barkley of the NHL on American television.

Vanek! At the Disco. So Buffalo fans booed their Sabres after they trailed Tampa Bay 4-1 after two periods. Thomas Vanek does not like to be booed. He scored a natural hat-trick in less than eight minutes during the third, leading the Sabres to a 7-4 win and sounding positively schizophrenic after the game: "We didn't make it easy for us, but it's good to know we can come back." Maybe he's just adopted the Leitchian royal "we"...

I know it's my job to analyze and break down the National Hockey League, but I'm really done trying to figure this fucking shit out in the Wales Conference. The Rangers beat New Jersey in the skills competition last night, 2-1, to pull even with fifth-place Ottawa in points (87). David Clarkson knocked off Sean Avery's helmet in a fight, but otherwise this was a pretty lousy birthday present from my Devils. (Rests chin in hands, sadly blows into noisemaker like a 31-year-old martyr.) And the Capitals, the team everyone assumes will make the postseason cut, get bitch-slapped by Chicago, 5-0, giving up four goals in the first period. So Buffalo — the team that lost Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell and, for most of the season, Teppo Numminen — is now one win out of a playoff spot again. I've scoured the 'tubes to find a physical representation of the conference's chaotic clusterfuck of confusion, and here it is: The Eastern Conference playoff picture is as conflicted as a sexy Mayor McCheese.

King Jeremy The Wicked Needs His ChaliceS

If the Playoffs Started Today. The Ducks solidified their lead over Dallas for home ice in the No. 4/No. 5 series with their 2-1 win last night over the Stars. Bertuzzi scored with 27 seconds left in the game, reminding everyone that the Ducks will actually have Chris Pronger and Todd Bertuzzi on the same playoff roster. You can begin booing now. Brad Richards has nine points in eight games since joining the Stars but evidently couldn't wash the suck off of him after Tampa Bay, because Dallas is 2-6 in those games. Meanwhile, Carolina keeps on winning while Zetterberg's natural hat-trick sent Columbus searching for their 9-irons.

Puck Headlines

* It is getting late early again for the Florida Panthers. [Barry Melrose Rocks]

* Hockey returning to San Diego? Better question: Would disenfranchised Hartford fans root for a team called the San Diego Whalers Vaginas? Stay classy... [Union-Tribune]

* Scott Burnside of ESPN deconstructs the sins of Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell. I say just give control of the team to John Schuerholz ... maybe Glavine can finally get that hockey career off the ground now that he's done working as a saboteur in New York. [WWL]

* The Hart Trophy has come down to Ovechkin vs. Malkin. My money's on the Russian guy (because, you see, they're both...fuck it). [TSN]

* Hockey fights and Carvel Ice Cream. I bet Cookie Puss could take Boogaard. [Future or Otherwise]

* Finally, if you aren't aware of Fat Flyers Dancing Guy, my buddy Kevin at BMR will educate you. But if the prospect of Philly sneaking into the playoffs doesn't already disturb you, perhaps the fact that they've cloned his cheesesteak-lovin' ass will. "I shall call him...Mini-Meat."