The Phlegm Files: ESPN is right, Crosby and Malkin's legacies are on the line

The Phlegm Files: ESPN is right, Crosby and Malkin's legacies are on the line


The Phlegm Files: ESPN is right, Crosby and Malkin's legacies are on the line


ESPN recently laid off most of their staff in exchange for having Stephen A. Smith write almost all of their stories from pseudonyms. It’s an incredible business plan, if you think about it. Nothing gets the people talking like a scorching hot take that hits you harder than the Ryan brothers trying to steal your girlfriend because she has nice feet.

So when Stephen A. tried his hand at covering the NHL the other day under the name of David Fleming, some of the blue-collar, hard working, nose-to-the-ground capital J’s who cover the sport 365 days a year — you know, the same guys who are not at all secretly rooting at all for Nashville to extend this series as long as possible so they can hang out on Broadway another night — took him to task for his lack of professionalism in criticizing two of the game’s best players.

One tweet in particular tipped us off to the story…

Josh is surrounded by bad articles every day where he works so we knew right away we had to check this out.

Let’s break it down some of the more important paragraphs in this masterpiece:

Trying to make Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena seem just a little more hospitable, the Pittsburgh Penguins decorated the walls of their small, gray locker room with dozens of motivational posters. Scotch-taped over every inch of available wall space above lockers, on the bathroom walls and even in the hallway leading to the ice, was a greatest-hits collection of every sports motivational platitude known to man. What must have seemed like a terrific idea at the time unfortunately ended up transforming the dressing room of the once-fierce defending Stanley Cup champions into something resembling a junior high camp counselor’s office.

What junior high did Stephen A. go to where they have camp counselors?

Or this: Most of the time in this series the Penguins offense has resembled a typical Nashville bar fight between portly patrons: slow, sad and completely lacking any punch whatsoever.

Woahhhh. Big-time shot and the Ryan brothers here. Makes you question who this article is really about.

The goal tied the series at two games apiece and clarified things in Sid’s mind, at least. “It’s simple,” said Crosby, who, come to think of it, usually talks in poster-speak as well. “Go home and win a game.” Ah, but this time I’m afraid the Pens’ situation can’t be reduced to a single simple sentiment. It’s much more complicated than that.

Spot on. Nailed it. There is a lot that needs to be done before they can just “win a game.” First and foremost, there’s the morning skate. Then players go home and take a nap. Then they come back to get dressed and stuff. Somewhere in there they probably eat a meal or two. Pregame warmups. Then the game against Nashville, who is easily a top-two team in the league right now. As you can see, it’s way more complicated than Crosby made it sound.

(Here’s a fun exercise: Let’s all try to imagine how the sports world would react if LeBron James was held without a shot in an NBA Finals game and then gestured afterward, even jokingly, like he was going to hit some Golden State fans. Trust me, there would be fines, suspensions, possible banishment and a series of town hall meetings on the need for safe spaces in sports arenas.)

LeBron reference — basically how you know Stephen A. wrote this. Surprised he didn’t offer input directly from LeBron on what the Penguins need to do to win. It’s really the only gaffe in this entire article. Stunning omission from Stephen, but he is new to this hockey writing thing. We’ll give it a pass.

Clearly, Sid has grown tired of being posterized by the Nashville defense and constantly trolled by Subban, who showed up to the game carrying mouthwash after claiming that Crosby had chirped at him for having skunk breath — even though the real stench is coming from the Pens’ bench.

Second basketball reference. Stephen A. is treading dangerously close to letting people in on ESPN’s secret. But anyone who has been around the Penguins knows that stench is coming from jock strap he refuses to wash. Really nothing to see here. Again, the more Stephen A. learns the sport, the more these things will become obvious. It’s the little things.

For reference, Gretzky’s 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers team was recently voted the greatest team in NHL history as part of the league’s centennial celebration. Crosby has one goal in his past 13 Stanley Cup Final games. In the 1985 Final alone, Gretzky had seven goals in five games. 

Very observant of Stephen A. to point out that hockey is still exactly the same sport it was 32 years ago and nothing at all has changed. I think we can finally put the Gretzky-Crosby greatest ever debate to rest.

Indeed, with the quest for the Cup now boiled down to a three-game sprint, the “journey” actually begins with a legacy-defining Game 5 on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. And for Crosby and Malkin, it will either end with another Cup — or just more questions.

Big time closing statement here that sums things up beautifully. Crosby and Malkin’s legacies are definitely on the line here, and to illustrate this point we had staff member Pat draw a picture to bring Stephen A.’s words to life…

First, we have Crosby-Malkin current state:

Two guys, each with a Cup. Really not that impressive. Look how easy it is for them to lift it over their heads, too. They barely have arms. Clearly, lifting a Cup is easy and absolutely nothing to write home about, let alone consider a legacy.

Next, we pulled our award winning illustrator, Stephen S., from leading the charge on Season 9 of Archer to photoshop in what a third Stanley Cup would look like:

Just take a look ya’all. Clearly, a third Stanley Cup is much, much more legacy defining that just two. Never mind all of the other awards and accolades these two have won in their careers (the World Cups, gold medals, scoring titles, Harts, Conn Smythes) because this is what matters.

So, yeah. ESPN and David Phlegm (we see you, Stephen A.) are right. These legacies are on the line and if they don’t win a third, there’s a pretty good chance nobody will even remember who Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin 140 years when their names aren’t even on the Cup anymore.


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