There almost certainly is a sordid side to Immaculate Grid, just as there is to Wordle, or Numble, or Framed. In just the week I’ve been playing the Grid, I’ve probably given away my birth certificate, passport, and most of my DNA. And yet I’m not going to stop, and neither are you.
For the uninitiated, Immaculate Grid is the baseball nerd’s Sudoku, with nine squares and each row or column being headed by a team or statistical achievement. And you have to fill in each square with a player that matches both row and column label, whether that means a player who played for both teams or played for that stated team and accomplished said statistical benchmark. If you want to see for yourself.
It’s certainly sobering that for all the time I’ve spent simply daydreaming about random baseball players (like the entire ‘93 Phillies), put me on the spot and I’ll never figure out who played for the A’s and Twins even though there’s one staring all of us right in the face (no spoilers here!). We’ve all dreamed of the day that the mountains of useless baseball knowledge we’ve piled up would actually come in handy, and now that it’s here suddenly the drawer to that file cabinet won’t happen. I’ve actually sworn out loud a few times at being unable to think of some Angel I need. I should never think about the Angels in any fashion, even here at work, and yet here they are causing my blood pressure to rise.
There is an NBA version, apparently, but this seems perfectly tailored to the baseball fan (though I’m sure there is as much hilarious basketball minutiae to be enjoyed). It’s baseball and its most dedicated fans that are characterized, mostly rightly, as reserving the most brain space for stats and history, given that there’s so much of it. It’s a personal experience for all, but it feels like it’s baseball fans who have spent the most time shooting the shit over randos that suited up for your team and hit .260, something that should be lost in the wind and yet registered. Or all the shitty trades that hamstrung them, or the free agent signings that went bust. Maybe true basketball fans remembered who was their 8th man and averaged six points in 1997, but it’s the hallmark of baseball fans to remember far too many Mike Remlinger appearances.
Perhaps Immaculate Grid should be the wake-up call all of us doofuses need to realize how much we’ve lost and how deep into the abyss we’ve fallen, and is a final call to come back when we see it laid out in visual form in front of us. And yet from what I can tell most of us see it as a reward for all the mental storage space taken up, a justification for the way we’ve chosen to live. Carney Lansford took up a certain amount of bytes in my personal hard drive, and I never knew why before. I just knew that it would come in handy one day, it had to, otherwise, would something so irrelevant to every other part of my life remain there? And now it has.
The Los Angeles Kings yesterday swung big and traded for center Pierre-Luc Dubois, sending Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iaffalo, Rasmus Kupari, and a 2024 2nd-round pick to Winnipeg to pry PLD loose, and the Kings then signed him to an eight-year extension at an $8.5 million clip.
If you’re wondering why the Kings were so excited to fork over two useful forwards and then $68 million for a center you probably haven’t heard of unless you listen to at least two hockey podcasts per week, you’re not alone. Dubois has had a big reputation for a while, mostly due to going 3rd overall in the 2016 draft to Columbus. It’s a status hockey players can’t seem to shake.
It’s not that Dubois has been a bad player, but he’s been advertised as a team-turning No. 1 center, which he hasn’t proven to be in seven seasons yet. He’s never been a point-per-game, and while his metrics look pretty enticing, he’s a player that’s gotten to start nearly 70 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. His shot and chance-share should be good considering. He’s had 27 and 28 goals the past two seasons, which is solid second-line production, but that’s not what the Jets were counting on when they rescued him from Ohio nor what the Kings are counting on now.
Maybe it’s that old hockey axiom, “Small guys have to prove they can play, and big guys have to prove they can’t.” Dubois running at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds has the size that most NHL GMs put the Viagra away at the center position, and Dubois can play. Just not in all that impressive of a fashion.
Mostly what it is, if one had to guess, is that there just aren’t that many bonafide No. 1 centers around, and they so rarely ever become available to anyone other than the team that drafted them. So a lot of teams will convince themselves they see one where there isn’t one, especially if you’re the Kings and are watching their franchise linchpin Anze Kopitar age out of the role. The Kings haven’t had to think about securing one of the most important positions in hockey for some 15 years, and they’re clearly panicking at the thought of having to do so again. So they did this.
Dubois can slot behind Kopitar for at least a year before being asked to take over, which is maybe when the Kings feel they can strike. But this certainly feels like the Kings trying to talk themselves into a solution that isn’t there.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate.