Welcome back for another edition of End to End. This week saw a shocking development on Long Island that warrants some discussion, and Ill also touch on who I believe is the best goalie in the NHL today, as Ive recently heard a similar debate and Id like to toss my own two cents in there. Lets get it started.
Straight up, to put it bluntly, Isles tough guy Chris Simon should have gotten fifty games for his slash to the face of Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg. Thats coming from a writer who hates the new style of game, misses when tough guys could solve problems themselves on the ice, and wishes that toughness still mattered in hockey. If I was Colin Campbell, it would have been fifty games without pay, and then a secondary hearing to decide if Simon was fit to return to action.
What Chris Simon did was unquestionably the worst thing I have seen in my career watching or covering hockey. Ive never seen such blatant recklessness with a stick, much less such blatant recklessness with such serious intent to injure. He simply drew off and hacked Hollweg in the chops. Theres nothing more to it than that. I dont care how many ways you try and slice it that hes a great team guy or that he just snapped, this was a hundred times worse than anything Steve Moore has even had nightmares about, much less what happened to him. Simon deserves to sit for fifty without pay for his actions, plain and simple.
Now, the NHL will argue that theyve come down hard on Simon with what amounts to roughly a twenty-five gamer. The fact is that they didnt come down nearly as hard as they should have. Simons a repeat offender playing in a league that only gets American press when something goes wrong, and the wrongness of this act is seriously an all-new low in hockey. An all-new low in the game should equate to an all-new high in suspended games, and once again the league has been caught with their shoelaces tied together, falling down and looking stupid.
I like Chris Simon, I like the way he plays the game and I understand that he is actually a great locker room guy. But none of those things should stand to let him off the hook for hacking a guy in the face, as Hollweg literally could be dead today. Unfortunately, in todays NHL, where hooking and holding are often comparable to suspendable offenses, the league has lost priority again and have given the perpetrator of one of the worst on-ice incidents in hockey history little more than a slap on the wrist.
Ive seen a lot of debate recently over who is actually the best netminder in the NHL today. Consensus seems to be that its a three horse race between Miikka Kirpusoff in Calgary, Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, and of course Martin Brodeur in New Jersey, and I cant really argue any of those choices, but theyre all there for a reason.
Each of those three is a great NHL goaltender in his own right. As a guy who can give you the huge save every time you need it and never lets in a bad goal, Ill take Kiprusoff any day of the week. As a workhorse who never seems to tire and has that quiet intensity and leadership, Ill take Luongo. For longevity, for being the best goalie of all-time, and for being a guy who will always win the big game, give me Brodeur. Each one has a lot to offer, but to say one is truly the best is not giving the proper respect to the others. They all offer a particular quality that isnt easy to find, and for that they are all invaluable to their teams.
Other guys who deserve recognition around the league include Cristobal Huet of the Habs, Ryan Miller of the Sabres, Marty Turco in Dallas, and Rick DiPietro on Long Island. Every one of those goalies is very close to becoming a Vezina winner, and while they arent there yet, each name will be talked about for years to come. Not to mention Senators keeper Ray Emery, who can stop pucks every bit as well as he can throw a punch.
Overall, if I had to pick one goalie out of all those names, Id still go with Marty Brodeur though. He might be a bit older, he might not be the same guy he was ten years ago, but at the end of the day he just wins. You know hes going to win forty games for you, you know hes probably going to dress for seventy starts, and hes been there before. His knuckles drag on the floor when he enters the room because his hands are heavy with Cup rings. I like Kipper, I respect Luongo, and all those other guys are the foundation of great future netminding in the NHL, but give me the guy whos done it before every time I need a win. End of story.
Thats it for me this week, thanks for reading. Any questions or comments can be directed to email@example.com. Talk to you all in a week.
With the seasons biggest roster shuffle now almost a week old, its time to reflect on who came out on top and who saw the wheels come off of their season. Hence were here for this weeks edition of End to End, where Ill look at the winners and losers of Deadline 07. Lets get it going.
My first winner of the deadline the Vancouver Canucks, who made subtle additions in Bryan Smolinski and Brent Sopel. Both are solid NHLers, and Sopel in particular is a great addition as he stabilizes the blueline as a good puck-moving defenseman with underrated offensive abilities. Smolinski offers a nice option down the middle, and considering that the Northwest saw little-to-no impact movement, the Canucks didnt do anything to diminish their chances of keeping the division lead to the end of the line.
My second choice as a deadline winner is a no-brainer. The Pittsburgh Penguins, loaded to the gills with young talent but little toughness, went out and added two grizzled veterans to the mix in Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque. Roberts is a born winner and a dressing room influence rivaled by few in hockey, and Laraque is the toughest customer in hockey who has also become a respectable player this year. A quiet, under-the-radar acquisition of goaltender Nolan Schaefer puts the Pens not only in contention for their division down the stretch, but maybe for a lot more in June.
However, for me, the biggest winner of Tuesdays deadline dealings had to be the New York Islanders. They kept their star winger in Jason Blake, cherry-picked another teams star in Ryan Smyth, and added a guy with the potential to score ten times between now and seasons end in Richard Zednik. For everyone, myself included, who figured the only thing Garth Snow could be worse at than stopping pucks was managing a franchise, the crow is being served around the same time the Isles clinch a playoff spot.
Im of the mind that the first loser of the deadline was the Montreal Canadiens. For a team that was so hot early on, they had holes in their lineup and those holes have been exposed more recently, hence their slide. They gave up on a veteran defender in Craig Rivet and got back an okay prospect and a draft pick in return, and only managed to pick up a terrible goaltender off waivers to solve their netminding conundrum. They shouldve looked at Dainius Zubrus as possible size down the middle, or at least made a pitch at bringing Yanic Perreault back into the fold. The Habs did nothing to help their playoff chances, and might not realize it until theyre golfing in early Spring.
The second deadline bust for me is Minnesota, who hardly did anything wild on Tuesday. The addition of Dominic Moore is erroneous, more or less a deal to say they did something, and considering that theyre in the heat of a playoff race they probably should have made a move. Another scoring forward would have been a great fit, possibly making a pitch for Bill Guerin or Bryan Smolinski could have helped things out there. I picked the Wild to win the Cup in 2007, and Ill stand by that in principle, but they disappointed me on Deadline Day.
Still, the biggest disaster of the 2007 NHL trade deadline comes out of Edmonton, where Ryan Smyth was traded to the New York Islanders for prospects and a draft pick. To give away the face of your franchise in a hockey-mad market when there was only a few hundred grand separating the two sides, the team has to swallow its pride and scrape the cash together to keep Smyth in town. The move symbolizes years of what has now been proven to be BS by the Oilers and other small-market teams, who claimed that if there was a salary cap they could afford to keep their stars. I promised Mess I wouldnt do this were the words that echoed the heartbreak of one generation of Oilers fan, and now the day Smitty landed on Long Island has struck a deep wound in the psyche of the modern Oilers fan. It will be a long time before the healing can begin.
Thats it for me this week, hopefully you enjoyed my analysis of the winners and losers of the deadline this Tuesday past. For the record, honorable mention as a winner goes to Toronto, who added veteran depth down the middle in Yanic Perreault, but more importantly locked up Darcy Tucker long-term. A loser who didnt make the official list but deserved recognition in my opinion was Atlanta, who seemed to just randomly jab at the panic button as they overpaid for Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik instead of leaving a pretty good roster alone to work its way out of the mess it created. Unless the Thrashers win the Stanley Cup this year, I think Don Waddell will be fired as GM because hes just not getting results. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments, Ill talk to you all in a week.
Welcome back for another edition of End to End. This week finally saw an NHL game with some spirit when Buffalo and Ottawa threw down, and I cant help but discuss it below despite the fact that the media has beaten it to death. Also, theres a certain plug who has impressed me so far this season, and I think it may be time to come clean on my secret enjoyment of his play. Lets get it going.
You know what was great? As in seriously the best thing Ive seen since the lockout ended? The Buffalo-Ottawa saga of this past week. I really mean that, the NHL hasnt seen something that entertaining in a very long time, and for every dummy who thinks its stuff like that that will kill the game, look no further than your water cooler for proof that thats what people want. For the first time in a long time, an NHL game was front-and-centre for a reason other than the new rules, poor attendance, hated officials, or economic foolishness that no one really gets anyway. And that, folks, was very refreshing.
My opinion on it all is that the Chris Neil hit was 100% clean, but Lindy Ruff had to respond somehow. The way he chose to do so, referring to the immediate retribution of a goon squad matching up against the Sens top line, was probably a bit much, but his heart was in the right place. Bryan Murray was justifiably upset, but when you look at a guy like Dany Heatley, who is six-three and well over two hundred pounds, standing around with his gloves on while his goalie does all the fighting, maybe the Sabres shouldnt receive Murrays entire wrath.
Now, as for that goalie. Ive liked Ray Emery for a while, ever since he proved more valuable than Dominik Hasek last season. I also love that he stuck it in John Mucklers craw by outplaying Martin The $11-million Backup Gerber this season and taking what was rightfully his the starting job in Ottawa. After this past week, I like him that much more. He steps out to the blueline and lays the beating of a lifetime on Marty Biron, then turns around and takes on arguably the biggest goon in the league in Andrew Peters, and fights him to a draw. And laughs at him the whole time. All this with a bad wrist, no less. That is old time hockey, hockey the way it should be, and it was absolutely fantastic.
Furthermore, I love that Saturday night wasnt dictated by the league. I guarantee there were warnings about showing too much life at Scotiabank Place, but the two coaches said to hell with it and let their boys off the leash. Brian McGrattan got retribution on Peters, and Chris Neil defended his own actions with a pasting of Adam Mair. It was great stuff.
All this proves what Ive believed for a long time, and that is that old school hockey will still outsell the new breed any day of the week. Ottawas hot streak a while back drew little more than a collective sigh from the city, however the brawl on Thursday led to a sellout and what amounted to an absolute zoo of fans at the game Saturday. Everyone was talking about the incident and looking forward to Saturday, and maybe, just maybe, they were thinking back fondly on the game the way it used to be, and thinking that it was a lot more fun to be involved in when emotions and physicality didnt take a back seat to man-babies who are afraid of their own shadows but can skate faster than players from two or three years ago.
So thank you Ottawa and Buffalo. Thank you for showing some life, showing some grapes, and showing people how great the game can be when its played with some emotion. I dont want to see this type of thing every week, but Id love to see the passion it produced a bit more frequently. Thats just good entertainment.
Theres a guy who has taken more crap since 1998 than maybe anyone I can think of. To tell you the truth, Im pretty high on the list of people whove crapped on him. But seeing him play this year Ive realized that, when healthy, hes not only a serviceable NHLer, but Id go so far as to say that hes actually pretty good. That guy is Maple Leafs forward Nik Antropov.
Antropov will never be confused with Danny Briere, as the massive Kazak forward lumbers around the ice like a dinosaur and his dangles are about the quality of some bantam houseleaguers playing shinny on a pond. However to be fair, he has improved significantly over time and is starting to arrive as a legitimate contributor on the teams top two lines. He thinks the game well, is strong defensively, works well on the boards, and is virtually unstoppable around the net. In fact, his stats may have been aided by the obstruction crackdown more than any other Maple Leaf.
Dont get me wrong, hell never live up to the billing of a tenth overall draft pick, especially when you consider that impact players like Alex Tanguay, Robyn Regehr, Brad Richards, and even Shawn Horcoff were taken afterwards, but the more time that passes the more appreciative one can be of what he brings to the table.
So Im going on the record in saying that my days of hating Nik Antropov are over. Hes not really that bad, and if he could stay healthy I think he might have a couple of very good seasons in him. Still, Richards or Tanguay would probably look better in blue and white
Thats it for me this week, thanks for reading. If youre looking for me I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Talk to you all in a week.
Welcome back for another week of End to End here at Spectors Hockey, and its actually the first week in a very long time that I can recall having two blockbuster deals to analyze. Given that this column is usually a two-parter, the number of blockbusters this week fits in nicely, so lets get it started.
The first big move of the week came when the Phoenix Coyotes officially bailed on skilled forward Ladislav Nagy, accepting less than market value from the Dallas Stars in order to get something for the impending unrestricted free agent. The end result was Mattias Tjarnqvist becoming a Coyote, and bringing over Dallas first round draft pick with him in exchange for the dynamic Nagy.
For my money, Phoenix dropped the ball here. Had they have waited, they could have gotten something much better than Tjarnqvist, and very likely still would have received a first round pick. As it stands now, theyre stuck with an average-to-bad NHL forward, and a low first rounder in a draft that isnt thought to be overly deep. Not good management.
As far as Dallas is concerned, they basically robbed Phoenix blind here. Nagy is an offensive gem that not many people appreciate given his playing in a non-hockey market, and if theyre serious about winning this year then the exchange of Tjarnqvist for Nagy is something straight out of a dream. If they can manage to retain Nagy after this season, even the cost of the draft pick wont be so profound, as not many people believe the 89 birthyear to be overly strong as far as prospects go.
So right now Im going to say that this trade was a total fleecing of the Phoenix Coyotes by the Dallas Stars. Once again it shows that Mike Barnett is a terrible general manager, and as much as people say Gretzkys not a good coach, Barnett is nothing to write home about in his own right. That said, I guess Mattias Tjarnqvist could become a forty goal man and make me look like an idiot. It could happen...right?
Next up for the week was the end of the ongoing Peter Forsberg saga, as the Flyers traded their captain to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a first rounder, and a third rounder. Another big move, one that made the entire first half of the season almost worth the wait, and one that looks like it could work out for both sides involved.
For Philly, they get great return on a guy who wasnt coming back anyway and probably doesnt have much time left in the NHL as it is. Upshall isnt a bad player, he simply never got a chance to play on a team that has a ridiculous amount of depth up front, and he may perform for the Flyers. Parent is seriously one of the best defensive defense prospects out there today, and his skating ability will allow him to be a punishing player in the NHL for a long time to come. The draft picks are both nice additions for a team trying to rebuild, and when you break it down and include Upshall and Parent, the Flyers actually landed three first-rounders and a third for Forsberg, which is great return.
Concerning Nashville, they immediately get better, and they were already scary good to begin with. They had questionable depth at centre, but now have a one-two punch of Forsberg and Jason Arnott, which is as good as any out there. Forsberg is a warrior, one of the best playoff performers ever, and will make the Preds a serious Cup contender as soon as he laces up the skates. When one looks at the fact that Nashville has added him at no immediate cost, its a great deal for them.
In conclusion, both sides in this deal probably got what they wanted, and both are better for it. Applause to both teams for identifying a need and filling it, and I fully expect the deal to work out for all parties involved.
Alrighty folks, thats it for me this week. If you care to contact me you can do so via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you all in a week.
Greetings folks, welcome back for another week of End to End action. My apologies for last weeks absence, there was an all-day commitment that required my presence, as well as a Superbowl party that I couldnt pass up. Regardless, Im back this week to discuss the disaster that was the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, and also how the enforcer is suddenly back in peoples good graces. Lets get it started.
Man 1999 was a bad year for hockey. Dont believe me? Look no further than the NHL draft to see the proof. After a discussion left me wondering about recent NHL draftees, I stumbled across 1999 and I was absolutely shocked at the results. Some people are saying 2007 is a shallow draft, but 1999 makes it look like the Pacific Ocean in terms of depth. Allow me to break it down for you.
To begin, know that there were 272 players taken that year. Of that 272, only 38 are or were regular NHLers. Out of those 38, only four are impact players. Those players are the Sedins, Martin Havlat, and Henrik Zetterberg. FOUR impact players out of 272! Thats only 1.4% of players taken in that draft! HORRIBLE! To put it in perspective, fifteen guys taken in the first round alone of 2004 have already begun taking regular shifts in the NHL!
Sure there are a few decent guys who were taken who couldnt be considered impact guys, name like Mike Commodore, Barrett Jackman, Frantisek Kaberle, and Martin Erat, but thats still only a total of eight guys worth mentioning. Out of the 28 guys taken in the first round (this was pre-Columbus and Minnesota obviously), twelve have played less than 100 NHL games and eleven have packed it in altogether. That is an atrocious number of busts, especially when you consider that Erat, Kaberle, and Zetterberg werent taken anywhere near the first round, and Commodore was only a second rounder.
Seriously, that was one of the worst drafts in history. Patrik Stefan went first overall, and he is awful. If you want to talk about bad drafts, I suggest you do a little homework on 1999, youll be the toast of the town when you can pull out classic plugs like Scott Kelman to prove how bad things were.
Remember how everyone was hating on enforcers for the past season-and-a-half? Well watch them all backpeddle now folks, because Sidney Crosby got hit a few times so its time to find Peter Worrells phone number. Suddenly the talk is no longer of how goons dont deserve to live, much less play hockey, now its all about finding goons to go to war with one another so Sid the Kid can play the game unscathed. That, in itself, is why this new improved pro hockey game makes me want to puke.
Its time for people to accept that there is a need for tough guys in hockey, there always has been and there always will be. It drives me up the wall that only when Sidney Crosby gets hit is it time to discuss the value of a guy who can rattle a few cages. While Im not a big fan of the Pens, I will state that they are as good as any team in the wide-open Eastern Conference, and the addition of a tough guy might actually put them over the top. Im not saying kids like Crosby or Evgeni Malkin are afraid out there, watching them play Id say thats the furthest thing from the truth, but a tough guy could secure the space those kids need to put that team over the top. Bet they wish they werent so quick to dismiss Andre Roy now, hey?
Again, its the followers mentality of hockey that is just too much to handle though. When one dumbass comes out and says goons are obsolete, every media outlet going takes it and runs with it just so theres something to talk about. Now, when Crosby gets smacked around and one guy suggests maybe the enforcer isnt so bad, the hockey world jumps on board and tough guys become the hot commodity again. How else could you explain Colton Orrs Gretzky-like celebration for a second star performance the other night? Something tells me it had a lot more to do with his violent checking and spirited scrap than it did with his awful backhand that would have been stopped by most Atom-B keepers.
The bottom line is that its time to stop talking about things just to talk about something. Accept that tough guys are as valuable as any other player, and move on. Dont analyze everything so much, just accept it and get over it. The NHLs biggest problem is that too many idiots work for the league and the media following the league, and they condemn parts of the game without thinking. Then when that same part of the game looks important (such as the enforcer in this case), they have to pull their feet out of their mouths and cover it up. No other league does it, no other sport does it, its strictly a hockey thing and its just one more thing thats crippling hockey.
Thats it for me this week folks. I got kind of ranty there at the end, my apologies. If youre looking for me I can be reached at email@example.com. Talk to you all in a week.
Greetings folks, welcome back for another edition of End to End. My thanks to those of you who took the time to email me regarding last weeks column, both to those who respectfully thought I was crazy and to those who agreed with my rant. With that out of the way, Ill get back on track with a regular column this week, in which Ill discuss the NHLs deal with YouTube, and also the NHLs All-Star celebrations. Lets get it started.
I have to admit that, as much as I think the NHL has faltered in most of its business decisions since the lockout, the deal that the league has signed with popular internet video hotspot YouTube is a brilliant move. In becoming the first major sport to officially sign on and allow the site to use its highlights, the NHL has made a forward-thinking, cutting-edge move that has no obvious downside.
To begin, the move instantly gives the league major exposure with a credible company. YouTube has caught on like wildfire over the past year or so, and you can literally get anything from a Chinese guy singing the Backstreet Boys to the newest Dave Chappelle skit to, now, NHL highlights, streamed right to your desktop. NHL highlights are on the main page at www.youtube.com, and you basically cant miss them upon firing up the site. Given the nature of YouTube users to click first and ask what the hell was that? after the clip is over, having hockey highlights available should help to increase incidental exposure significantly.
The other reason that I like the move is that the NHL is the first major (if you still consider it to be so) league to come on board with YouTube, and I dont foresee it to be the last. Upon Googles purchase of YouTube, the once-small company instantly gained credibility and financial clout, which means that it isnt a bad partner to have if youre the NHL. The league has gone into territory where they are alone, but instead of being alone because theyre dealing with a group that no one else wants (refer to the OLN television deal), theyre alone because they smartly jumped on board with a growing phenomenon before other leagues do the same.
So in conclusion, great move by the NHL to partner with YouTube. Expect the move to work out favorably for the league in the near future, and also for other leagues to follow the NHLs lead in getting on the internet highlight trolley as well.
This week past saw the first NHL All-Star game since before the lockout, and to say that it disappointed would not be an understatement at all. Now, for a week straight, the debate has raged on as to whether or not the whole weekend should even take place, or should it simply be scrapped in favor of a mid-season break. Now Im going to weigh in with my own views on the matter.
First off, the only reason that there is an All-Star Weekend is because thats what the NBA does and everyone knows Gary Bettman is a basketball man at heart. The fact is that the YoungStars game in the NHL is pointless, because the NHL does a terrible job of marketing their young stars. The NBA, on the other hand, does an incredible job of marketing its young stars, so their YoungStars game is actually worth watching because people know the names of the players. The NHL could have the Whos That Guy? game, complete with a Jed Ortmeyer-Denis Hamel-Jeff Taffe line, and it would have the same effect as having the YoungStars with Malkin, Kessel, and Staal. Either do a better job of marketing your young stars, or scrap it altogether.
When it comes to the Skills Competition, the biggest problem is that the players arent really showing their skills. I actually cant remember a worthwhile dangle in any of the shootouts I saw in the Skills Challenge, and that made it suck. Like seriously, the most exciting move I saw was Rick Nash missing a one-handed backhand, which is just sad. If youre going to put these guys out there to show off, let them show off. No one wants to see twelve consecutive guys walk in and shoot low blocker side, get some dangling and some other actual skills in there, or scrap that too.
As far as the game itself goes, exhibition games in physical sports are actually awful and theres basically nothing you can do to change that. Look at the Pro Bowl, the NFLs postseason All-Star game. The NFL is the most successful league in the world, and their all-star game is crap because the sport is so physical, which is the same problem the NHL has. If you cant hit guys or play with some degree of sandpaper, its not entertaining. Add to that the fact that everything is being done at half speed and with half a heart, and it makes the game borderline unbearable. Then again, it doesnt help when names like Bouwmeester and Perreault are in the lineup while names like Jagr get to go home and watch on television.
So whats my suggestion to solve this NHL All-Star conundrum? Basically, I would suggest that the league gets rid of the YoungStars game if they arent going to put huge money into marketing the kids that are in the game (which they wont). I would also suggest that the league keeps the Skills Competition, but tells the players to attempt to actually entertain the fans instead of doing everything to win in as conservative a fashion as possible. As far as the game goes, you basically have to take it for what it is: a boring, heartless display of guys going through the motions. Theres nothing you can do to change that, its always going to be that way, so you either have to abolish it or live with it. Those are just my suggestions though, Im sure the league sees it in a very different light.
Thats it for me this week. If youre looking to get in touch you can do so via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, Ill talk to you all in a week.
Welcome back folks for another edition of End to End. Im sure youre all fixing pretty bad after a one month layoff, my apologies for things taking longer to get back on track than originally anticipated, things actually got more hectic over Christmas than usual and the spillover is still being felt. However Im back for the second half, hopefully without delay, so lets get things going here.
By now youre probably used to seeing my two-part column here, and youll see it return to normal next week. However this week, its time for me to take a stand and get some stuff off my chest stuff that couldnt possibly be jammed into a two-part column. The purpose? Frankly, Im mad as hell and Im not going to take it any more. So here we go with my rant of hostility towards the NHL, my apologies if it becomes incoherent or you dont like what I have to say, but I dont think I can keep writing about hockey until I vent. Lets do this.
So much is wrong with hockey right now that I literally dont know where to start. Lots of the things are things Ive been ranting and raving about for years now, others have more recently begun to grind my gears. The first thing that springs to mind are the new, streamlined jerseys that RBK has designed, much to the chagrin of every hockey purist currently out there. The idea of butchering classic NHL threads that have been around for a hundred years just to generate marketing revenue and try to turn hockey into some space-age freakshow is pathetic, disgusting, and completely infuriating. Fans hate it, players hate it, and Id be willing to be most owners and/or governors hate it, but as long as their salary cap keeps making them money they wont say a word about anything, especially not something as unimportant as jerseys.
Which leads me to my next problem. Non-hockey people in non-hockey markets viewing the best game in the world as nothing more than a source of income, and the league itself developing the same attitude under the Great Bettmans watchful eye. Im so tired of the talk of the salary cap, and escrow, and linkage, and every other stupid phrase suits in the NHL have come to rely on so heavily in the modern world of hockey. Businessmen dont make good hockey men unless they knew hockey before they knew business because theyre only concerned about the bottom line, and theyll pull the plug tomorrow if they arent satisfied with the cash flow. Yet places like Atlanta, Florida, and even now possibly Kansas City, are granted a kick at the can to run an NHL franchise because of corporate dollars and big business in the area. The rinks are half empty (on a good night in some cities), but the teams are there because the cities are known as hubs of corporate money. Newsflash: if the corporate money isnt going towards the team, it doesnt matter how much is floating around the town. The team and the money are totally separate entities, so stop relying on US markets that are full of money but dont have an interest in the game. Put teams where hockey sells itself (Winnipeg would be a good start, much like Minnesota and Columbus were good moves) and then let the league build some respect.
Seeing as Im on economics here, I might as well talk salary cap. Long story short, terrible idea that has been poorly executed and that has exposed the lockout for what everyone knew it was from the get-go: an excuse for Gary Bettman to flex his muscles and show that he could stop the hockey world at will. atta boy Gary, you sure showed those greedy players whats what. Now, instead of lots of guys getting fat contracts they dont deserve, you have lots of guys getting fat contracts they dont deserve that handcuff GMs and have an adverse effect on a teams chance to win. Sweet plan, wish Id thought of it. The cap has proven to act as a magnet for spending (as has been documented by countless sports economists along the way), which means that teams are still paying out big dollars and inflating their payrolls, theyre just all on even ground now. The stupid contracts and overpaid players are no longer found in only Toronto, New York, or Detroit, now theyre spread across the league. I think it says it all that upwards of half the league currently pays out more in salary in the new, fiscally responsible NHL, than they did in the old. throw money at every problem you have to make it go away NHL. Wasting money in a regulated fashion is still wasting money, and thats why when the next CBA negotiations come around it will be time to look at serious changes to the salary cap, if not total abolishment. I mean, for all the talk of how the cap would save small market teams and allow them to be competitive, the 2004 final had two small market teams, Carolina made in 2002, and few of the big spenders from the old days (New York, St. Louis, Toronto) have been anywhere near the Stanley Cup in ages. Now its just spreading the financial incompetence around instead of letting a handful of stupid teams overpay, which one could argue actually hurts the league more than it helps.
Attendance. Attendance in the NHL right now is down, and that tells you exactly what people think of the league. No hooking, no holding, no fans. Looks to me like the NHL didnt see that one coming. Rinks around the league are struggling to get to three-quarters full, but there are a whole host of excuses coming from the NHL front office as to why this is an acceptable practice. I think it speaks volumes about what people really think of the way hockey is being played today, no matter how much Bettman and his monkey squad have said that their surveys tell them otherwise. Heres my question: why not make these surveys public so everyone can truly see how much people love the NHL? If the feedback is so resoundingly positive, wheres the harm in letting everyone see them? Id bet my salary for the next ten years that these surveys either a) are telling the NHLs front office that their league is a gongshow or b) dont even exist to begin with. The only unwaveringly positive talk I hear about the NHL today comes from the media, particularly TSN and The Hockey News, who have so much invested in the success of this new game they literally cannot afford to call it anything less than a godsend.
Something else I have to vent on is the physicality of hockey, and in turn what is happening to it. Everyone makes fun of goons now, its become practice in modern hockey coverage for the tough guy to become a whipping boy and the butt of every joke you can come up with. Well Im tired of it. It adds nothing to your game to belittle a certain style of player simply because he isnt flashy or because his name isnt Crosby. You dont turn on NFL coverage and hear the announcers carving up an o-lineman or watch baseball and hear the color guy chirping middle relievers for no reason, so why does hockey feel the need to pick on tough guys? The fact is that its stupid and it mostly comes from people who have never been involved in a hockey fight, thus having no real appreciation for how hard of a job it truly is. Nonetheless, it completely fits the bill for the NHLs seemingly neverending quest to remove physicality from the game. For ages it was fighting, which has been hit hard since the lockout, and theyve now moved on to headchecking and how stars (read: Sidney Crosby) are treated. Heres a concept: if you skate with your head down and get hit, thats your own fault. If you go to the tough spots on the ice, which is an aspect of Crosbys game I both admire and respect, and get hit it doesnt matter what your name is thats your own fault too. Stop bellyaching over fighting and checking, because the alternatives, such as stick fouls and other such dirt, are far worse.
All this brings me to my final point in this rant, and it pertains to changing the game. I dont like change, although I can understand the need for change in some instances, but the NHL takes it too far. Everything you see on the ice is now subject to change without notice, nothing is sacred. Rule changes, equipment changes, changes to markings on the ice, changes to how the refs call a game, all important parts of modern hockey, all of which frustrate me on a nightly basis. But I am going on the record right now in saying that the biggest mistake hockey will ever make, should they choose to go this route, is increasing the size of the nets. The idea is so incomprehensibly stupid, such a hair-brained scheme, that I can hardly believe a professional hockey league is looking at it. Its actually beyond me. All these changes make it look like the NHL is simply scrambling to find a quick-fix solution to its problems, as though its just jamming at buttons on the control panel, desperately hoping that the right combination lights up and people will start caring about the game again. But I will say this right now, and I mean every word of it, if the NHL goes to bigger nets they will lose me for life. I will never take in another NHL game live or on television, and I will stop writing about the game permanently the day they make that announcement. Such a change to the very fiber of hockey is embarrassing, unnecessary, and completely ridiculous, and its one that I refuse to accept.
So folks, thats it for my rant on the NHL and how bad it has become. For those who read my work weekly, you know that I hated the New NHL from day one, but I tried to give it a fair shake coming into this season. I attempted to stay away from overly negative columns and tried not to get too wrapped up in what I dont like about the game and what its become, but after half a season I simply couldnt go on without speaking my mind on things.
My apologies again to those who dont agree with me, or who dont like what I have to say about the NHL, its only my opinion. If you care to contact me with something constructive (that means not regurgitating other columnists views and explaining why theyre better than mine, or writing me four pages of general hate mail), feel free to send me an email at email@example.com. Ill talk to you all in a week.
Welcome back folks for another week of End to End here at spectorshockey.net. This will be my last column until the new year, as Im taking some time off over the holidays to relax and get ready for a long winter that should see my St. Johns Fog Devils fighting for a playoff spot in the QMJHLs Eastern Division. This week Ill be abandoning the regular format to chat about the World Junior Hockey Championships, particularly my medal picks as well as who I think will finish where in the tournament. Lets get it started.
10. Belarus: It seems like Belarus is one of those three or four teams that ends up as the toast of Tier II in international competition, but theyre still so far behind any of the real hockey nations in the world that they end up being smoked when they move to Tier I. Winning a game will be an accomplishment for this squad, but dont expect it to happen.
9. Switzerland: The Swiss are a team on the verge of breaking into hockeys international Elite Eight, but they havent yet developed their junior program enough to be any sort of contender at this level. They play a very systematic game, try to limit their mistakes, and hope to squeak out a low-scoring one-goal win, a plan that will be aided by the talented Reto Berra in goal, but their lack of a true impact player outside of the crease will hinder their success.
8. Germany: A hockey nation that has come a long way in a short time, the Germans are quite similar to the Swiss in that they are a defense-first, team-first club that doesnt have the ability to rely on a single star to get things done. They always manage to pick up a win or two in these tournaments to stave off being relegated, and I can almost guarantee that theyll do it again this time around.
7. Slovakia: They have a solid core of forwards, but the blueline and the blue ice could pose a problem for Slovakia this time around. Without a stud defenseman or a goalie that can steal games, there is the potential to get smoked every night. That said, the potential is also there to win all your games 8-7, which is probably what Slovakia is hoping for, but Ill be surprised if they end up with any more than a seventh place finish.
6. Sweden: Sweden has some talent up front, but they never seem to come together at the World Juniors for whatever reason. The Killer Bs of Bergfors and Backstrom are both all-world talents who have the ability to control a game, but once you get past them its hard to find a consistent secondary scoring threat. The blue and gold will go as far as the Bs will take them, but dont count on them collecting any hardware this time around.
5. USA: USA hockey has produced some good players over the years, but its in this tournament that we get to see their best teams. The WJHC is always a showcase for Americas approach to best-on-best competition, assembling the best players in the country and bringing them together year-round to maximize chemistry when the tournament comes around. This is the last year in a cycle that produced some of the best US junior teams of all time, and a lack of scoring will probably put them out of the medals, but with a strong defense corps and pretty good goaltending this team might surprise.
4. Finland: The Finns have proven over the past few years that they are now officially a force to be reckoned with in international competition. The World Cup, the Olympics, the Worlds, the WJHC, all tournaments that had people hoping they didnt land a date with Finland in a game that mattered. Their passive forecheck frustrates opponents and it seems as though they always capitalize on the mistakes their gameplan has them waiting for. Their attention to detail is matched only by their passion and ruthlessness when it comes to playing the body, and if they can spread the offense around they could very likely sneak into the medal standings.
3. Russia: The enigmatic Russians have no longer got names like Ovechkin and Malkin on their roster, but they always seem to put on a good show in the World Juniors. There is very little available on this years Russian junior team, which is pretty much par for the course when it comes to the Red Army. Nonetheless, I can guarantee you they will be competitive and anything less than a medal will be a disappointment, as they come to the tournament every year with aspirations of winning gold.
2. Czech Republic: Simply put, the Czechs have it all. Great goaltending, a very solid defense, and an explosive group of forwards that includes players like Michael Frolik, Jakub Voracek, and Peter Kalus. I expect the Czech Republic to have a pretty easy time of things in the round robin, as they have the best team in their group by a mile, and they should use that time to grease the wheels for a run at gold. If I was any team in this tournament, I would be very concerned about a date with the Czech Republic, because they have some of the best junior talent in the world on their 2007 WJHC roster and theyre coming to win it all.
1. Canada: The return to junior prominence has been a long time coming for Canada, but it touched down with the 2005 team in North Dakota and it should continue on for at least another year. After winning gold on home ice in 2006 with a group of underage players, they now boast the most experienced team in the tournament and are going to be tough for any team to handle. With a host of kids who played pro at some point this season or last, including captain Kris Letang and defensemen Luc Bourdon and Marc Staal, its not going to be easy for Canadas competition. Balanced scoring up front and great leadership across the board should help to cover up an inexperienced (albeit talented) goaltending tandem and secure WJHC gold for Canada once again.
That does it for me this week, hope you all enjoyed reading. Thanks for a great 2006, its been a good one and I owe a lot of that to those who support End to End and keep reading what I have to say about the game. Have a safe holiday, I look forward to returning in 2007 for another year of hockey talk.
Welcome back for another
week of hockey talk, folks. This week Im going to look
at two players in particular, Leafs captain Mats Sundin
and the increasing trade talk surrounding him, and Vancouver
centre Brendan Morrison, who will be the subject of the question
what happened to this guy? Without further adieu,
lets get it started.
Welcome back folks for another
edition of End to End here at Spectors Hockey.
Im fired up this week about two topics that have to do
with the new, fan friendly approach to broadcasting
hockey games, and what has come of them. So with that said, lets
get it started.
Welcome back folks for another
edition of End to End here at spectorshockey.net.
Hope all my readers to the South enjoyed the Thanksgiving weekend
and are now looking forward to the next big holiday season, which
is shockingly less than a month away. Anyway, this week Im
going to be chatting it up about headshots in the NHL as well
as the leagues coaching carousel. Here we go.
Welcome back for another week of hockey chat here at End to End. With the World Juniors just around the corner, Im going to discuss the likelihood of Jordan Staal joining Team Canada at the event, as well as the beginning of the end of an era in Columbus. Lets get it going.
To tell you the truth, Im of the mind that Jordan Staal shouldnt even be in the NHL this year. Forget that hes had a decent start and doesnt look out of place, those points are erroneous. The fact of the matter is that he wasnt even a dominant junior star before joining Pittsburgh, and was only chosen second overall because of his name and the potential that came with it. Im not saying anything bad about Staal or Pittsburgh in that regard, its not a bad pick at all, Im simply stating that he probably wouldnt have went as high as he did if Eric didnt already have a Cup ring and Marc wasnt one of the most feared defensemen in major junior hockey.
Nonetheless, hes in the NHL, so my opinion on his being there or his draft position is irrelevant. But I pose this question: for the four weeks it would take for Staal to play on Team Canada in the World Junior Hockey Championship, will he play in Pittsburgh or will he play in Sweden?
I think it would be a good step in Staals offensive development to release him for the tournament. Hed get first-line minutes and powerplay time where he would very likely be the quarterback instead of an afterthought. Instead of being the kid thats just happy to be there, hed be expected to lead by example and produce big totals in the tournament. Sure, the competition of the WJHC is no contest for that of the NHL, but more icetime for Staal and a good showing at the tourney could do him a world of good. Look at the difference in Eric upon his return from a lockout-induced AHL stint. He was a different hockey player. Its not on the same scale, but its the same principle.
For what its worth, Id be totally shocked if Pittsburgh let Staal go. Hes shown so far this season that he can play at the NHL level and not look ridiculous doing so. I just think for long-term gain with the kid, the World Juniors might be the best place for him this December. I guess well all just have to wait and see what happens.
Everyone was picking the Columbus Blue Jackets to make the playoffs this season and shake the reputation of also-rans that has haunted them since their inception. Not this guy. I said they were going to have one more year of hardship before they finally clued in, cleaned up the organization, and made it to the postseason. So far, Im ahead of the curve on Blue Jackets predictions for the year, and I dont think Ive ever watched a full game emanating from Columbus.
Columbus dumped head coach Gerard Gallant early last week, the first move of what Im figuring to be many. Gallant was a cross between a players coach and a maniac, which is a paradoxical combination that theoretically should not lead to wins. That theory was proven to be true with the Jackets lack of production so far this season, hence he has been replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach Gary Agnew. So with that in mind, Im going to elaborate on my preseason prediction of the turmoil in Columbus, and try to predict the next move.
Next up, in my estimation, will be the desperation trade for an overrated guy that doesnt help half as much as the hype would indicate. I could see a situation like Brendan Witt going to Nashville last season or Owen Nolan coming to Toronto pre-lockout in Columbus, just an overrated veteran guy that people talk about like hes going to completely change the world for the Blue Jackets. We all know how those stories end, and if you dont just check the last time either the Preds or Leafs hoisted the Cup to get your answer.
Once that fails and rest assured, it will fail Doug MacLean will say all the right things that a guy about to lose his job usually does. Hell say theyre still close, or that injuries were a factor, and then hell focus on the good young talent and how they got another good season of experience. Then hell get the axe, and it will be totally justified, as they probably do have the talent to be a playoff team this season, but they wont because the front office is making poor decisions. Its happened a thousand times in this game, a guy loses his job because the team hes running isnt playing up to snuff. Sports is a results-driven industry, and no results equals no job.
Columbus will be okay in the future, but this season should prove to be the last of the Doug MacLean era. He hired the wrong coach, made the wrong moves, and ultimately will end up on the wrong end of the playoff race. Its an unfortunate reality that men lose their jobs so frequently in the NHL, but a reality nonetheless, and I fully expect that the Columbus front office shuffle will continue over the next several months. I guess MacLean will always have Florida.
Thats it for me this week. Huge shout-out to the new UFC welterweight champion of the world, and Quebec product, Georges St. Pierre for his domination of Matt Hughes Saturday night. Its about time someone stomped Hughes, and its even better that the guy who did brings the belt to Canada in the process. If you care to contact me I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, Ill talk to you all in a week.
Welcome back for another week of End to End folks. I got some good reaction from people regarding my column last week, in particular the segment on Russians in the league, so thank you for your opinions. As I always admit, I like to hear from my readers, so never be shy about dropping me an email. With that said, Ill turn my focus to this weeks topics, which include the no-longer-invincible Ottawa Senators and the fact that the NHL has dropped the ball again, this time regarding their awful schedule. Lets get it started.
The time has come. Ottawa is officially no longer an NHL powerhouse. No matter how much people dont want to hear it, the Senators are a long way from contending for the Stanley Cup, and are actually far closer to a long-overdue organizational overhaul. For those who had them pegged to win it all this season (AGAIN), observe how quickly the wheels have fallen off the Sens bus in 2006-07.
Martin Gerber has been a total bust, which was unexpected but completely deserved considering that Ray Emery should have been given the starting job outright from day one. Teams have figured out how to keep Spezza and Heatley in check, and Daniel Alfredsson is once again proving why he is not captain material at the NHL level. Guys like Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, and Chris Neil were all expected to contribute offensively and none of them really have. The defense is a lot better on paper than its been on the ice, and the result is the worst Ottawa Senators squad in recent memory.
As Ive said all along, Ottawas problems begin in the front office with John Muckler. Hes done a terrible job since coming to town, yet people still praise his work for some unknown reason. You could make the argument that its his pedigree from Edmonton in the eighties that gets him by, but Id also like to point out that its not the eighties anymore and teams need a guy who wins now, not won twenty years ago.
Chemistry is lacking, and the team is beginning to rot. Look at Chris Phillips recent on-ice outbursts, smashing his stick on the ice repeatedly after multiple games in which he took a selfish penalty with very little time left. The Sens just arent the Sens anymore, they arent the same team they once were and they are in bad need of a shakeup.
My suggestion is fire John Muckler as soon as possible and make Bryan Murray the GM. Murray built the majority of the Ducks team that has looked so good so far this season, and has proven he knows how to construct a team full of young talent. Let him hire his own replacement behind the bench and then let the Senators regain their glory.
I said all of this late last season, and I stand by it. I also said then that Alfredsson needs to go, and I still think it today, only now a lot more people believe it too so its more likely. Stay tuned to Ottawa regardless of your feelings though, because Eugene Melnyk is getting antsy and it could be mighty entertaining for people on the outside looking in.
Most people are pretty confident that the NHL has become a more fan-friendly league in its post-lockout form. My own personal opinions on that aside, it is obvious that they have dropped the ball by not immediately changing their moronic schedule after the first round of GM meetings, and they need to reverse that trend at the next set of meetings this season.
The fact is that nobody cares about team travel or how tired a club is, they care about seeing variety. I ranted earlier in the year about how the new schedule was failing to produce rivalries despite the attempts to ram them down fans throats, and Ill further that by saying the schedule is failing on a whole other level. The fact that most teams out west dont ever see the Ovechkins, Crosbys, Staals, or Malkins, while back east fans are deprived of the Thorntons, Iginlas, Phaneufs, and Nashs, is an absolute farce and is the main reason the schedule needs to be changed.
For the record, I dont think the league will change its schedule. I think its a huge mistake, but I think theyll keep things as they are. That wont sit well with fans, but the NHL thinks they have a cushion from fan backlash because the on-ice product has improved from years past so theyll roll the dice. Thus, they wont listen to the people they should, and alter the schedule to allow more of a variety of opponents. However, given that the NHL literally employs professional schedulemakers to MAKE SCHEDULES, I dont buy any excuse about travel or anything else about why this divisional schedule is so fabulous. Those guys should be able to make any trip relatively sensible, given that making schedules is their job.
After years of dropping the ball on key issues, this is a great litmus test for how fantastic the new NHL is both in terms of giving fans what they want and improving the on-ice product. Let the fun begin folks, theyre on the clock now or the calendar.
Alrighty that does it for me this week. Drop me a line at email@example.com if you care to discuss anything, Ill be back in a weeks time.
|The opinions expressed on this page are of the author, and in no way reflect the views of the NHL, it teams or players. All material in End to End copyright (C) 2007 Spector's Hockey. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author or Spector's Hockey is prohibited.|