People Who Aren't Allowed To Touch Stanley This Year

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.

With just two games last night, we couldn't help but turn our attention to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and, specifically, which hockey folks are worthy enough to take home the chalice this season. It takes someone with character, valor and merit to earn the right to hoist the Cup. Someone like Optimus Prime, had he chosen a different career path.

Someone like Jeremy Roenick, who has been through the battles and backed up his occasional flights of ego. Owen Nolan or Trevor Linden? Absolutely Cup-worthy. But there are other, slightly more douchey NHLers that cannot under any circumstances skate the Cup this season. And here they are...

Chris Simon, Wild: It was safe back in 1996 when he won it with Colorado. That was before he went all wacky time. Giving the NHL's most dangerous prop comedian a giant metal bludgeoning device? Sorry, but we can't take the chance that he'll snap and start using the Cup like a garbage can on "River City Ransom."

Scott Niedermayer, Ducks: If Nieds and his stately, Al Gore-like salt-and-pepper beard capture yet another Cup (his fifth) this season, here's how I hope it plays out: He skates over to receive it from a teammate but it's intercepted by a Hall of Fame Cup wrangler. "I'm sorry, Mr. Niedermayer, but the Cup just isn't sure if it wants you to skate it right now. It's going to need, oh, about seven months to sit on its couch and find its smile before it decides if it's going to do what it's supposed to do. Tough noogies! Enjoy the wait!"

Darcy Tucker, Maple Leafs: Oh wait, I see: It's "people who aren't allowed to touch Stanley this year," not "people who can't touch Stanley this year because their team was a cock-teasing collection of egotists for whom their owner sees no future." My mistake...

Todd Bertuzzi, Ducks: For a while there, I had some sympathy for the guy. He served his time during the NHL's unprecedented and ridiculous open-ended suspension; his career had descended into that of a mercenary lunk-head bouncing to whatever contender needed 245-pound slab of beef to hang in front of an opponent's goal; and much like a certain portly White House intern, his family name had gone from proper noun to improper verb. ("Interfere with out goalie, eh? Someone should Bertuzzi that guy!") But he lost the benefit of the doubt when he decided to file a lawsuit this month against his former coach Marc Crawford for allegedly "ordering the hit" that ended Steve Moore's career. According to the suit, Crawford "urged his players, including Bertuzzi, to make Moore 'pay the price' when Crawford knew or ought to have known this was likely to result in injury to Moore." If Crawford's guilty of anything, it's his oversight in understanding just how dumb his henchman was — had he said "Moore needs to get the point," I'm pretty sure Bertuzzi would have turned him into a Steve kabob. The only possible positive out of this lawsuit is if it establishes a benchmark, leading to future cases like "Oddjob v. Auric Goldfinger" and "Beast Man v. Irving J. Skeletor."

Jaromir Jagr, Rangers: One of the generally loathsome characters in today's NHL; a player who hatches a flock of boo-birds whenever he leaves for a new city. The kind of upstanding team-first guy who plans to take a meeting with the general manager of a Russian Elite League team about his European employment prospects next season just as the Rangers begin what could be his last, best chance at another Cup. But Pippen never won without Jordan, either; I always want to remember Cup champion Jaromir as Mario's well-coiffed sidekick.

People Who Aren't Allowed To Touch Stanley This Year

Oliver Hardy: Loved touching Stanley. But they're both dead now.

Chris Mason, Predators: He was handed a starting goaltender's job and then fumbled it to a journeyman back-up after cracking under pressure. Sorry, but that's not Cup-worthy. (See also: Emery, Ray). Luckily, Mason plays for Nashville, so the threat of him winning the Cup this season is as alarming as the threat of a cranky kitten.

Bryan Murray, Senators: If you have to fire the guy you hired to replace you, and then rehire yourself for the job...disqualified! There's also something comforting about a guy that's been coaching in the NHL for 16 years and has yet to win a Cup. Comforting in the way seeing a homeless guy rummaging through a garbage can for a week-old McNugget makes you feel better about your job.

Sidney Crosby, Penguins: Like Heath Ledger jokes - it's just too soon. I'd rather Crosby grow into the superstar seeking that elusive Stanley Cup than being the 20 year old who suffers through endless pestering about "winning your next three to pass Gretzky's total." We can only hope the Penguins keep Marc Andre-Fleury between the pipes for the next few seasons, so the inevitable is delayed.

If the Playoffs Started Today. As much as we poop on Jagr here, he was the difference last night in the Rangers' 2-1 win over Pittsburgh. Replay confirmed that his backhander to tie the game went off of Brooks Orpik's hand and Fleury's mask; in overtime, he drew a penalty on a drive to the net and assisted on Chris Drury's game-winner. (Drury GWG: 7; Briere GWG: 3). So if the playoffs started today, the Rangers and Devils would play in the 4 vs. 5 series. Hey, look, Draino...I wonder if I can drink this stuff? Basically everything can change tonight, with huge games like Calgary/Edmonton, Colorado/Vancouver, Carolina/Washington and Nashville/St. Louis on the docket. I'll be at that Caps game; come over to the press box and say hey if you're there.

Puck Headlines

* Someone asks Jason Spezza about the Senators' perceived lack of effort. And Spezza responds by telling the press "that's bullshit." Someone needs a nap.[Globe and Mail]

* Everything you need to know about the Mighty Ovechkins' game against the diving pansies from Carolina. Or at least that's how Japers frames it. [Japers Rink]

* Thanking God for the DVR during playoff season. I always assumed anything associated with the cable industry were the Devil's tools. [I Agree With Me]

* Montreal has some serious injury issues heading into the postseason. At least placing their entire championship fortunes in the gloves of a novice goalie isn't their biggest headache anymore. [Habs Loyalist]

* David Amber writes a whole bunch of top 10 lists for ESPN.com. So my buddy Schultz does the logical and hilarious thing, and presents the Top 10 David Amber Top 10 Lists. [The FanHouse]

* Finally, as far as goal celebrations go, this one's pretty enthusiastic...and NRA approved: