The Cup Resides in Chicago – Some Thoughts in The Afterglow

Posted June 12, 2010 by betweenthepipes
Categories: AHL, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Wolves, hockey, John McDonough, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Life, NHL, Personal Reflections, Philadelphia Flyers, Players of Yesteryear, Playoffs, Rocky Wirtz, Stanley Cup

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It finally happened…. 

In my lifetime… 

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup! 

Ahhh, the celebration amidst friends and family was sweet indeed.  I was hoping to have pics by now of us celebrating, and me wearing my Bobby Hull autographed sweatshirt, but will post those when I receive them via email. 

There was a time, right after the Hawks bumped off the Sharks, that I thought the Cup was going to be theirs.  I wasn’t going to make predictions though, or write about their shortcomings, or about how Patrick Kane still rubs me the wrong way a little bit.  I just thought that the worst competition was eliminated and that Philadelphia wouldn’t be that tough – but then I hadn’t really seen much of any of the Flyers’ games.  

I really want to take my hat off to Philly.  I mean, they ground, and crashed, and limped and fought the Hawks all the way.  While all eyes were looking at Anti Niemi to be the weak spot, nobody looked to Michael Leighton.  Sure he was great earlier in the playoffs but he’s still Michael Leighton and against a high firepower team like the Hawks, I wasn’t sure he could handle it.  

In the end, Niemi wasn’t a weak spot, even though he wasn’t great either. 

Michael Leighton was a weak spot.  

Goalies.  This series showed how important they can be in a game.  If either goalie got relatively hot in this series- I don’t mean scalding Patrick Roy hot,  just a notch above Anti Niemi- the series would’ve definitely gone to that team.   

Philly needs to look at their goaltending situation in the off season.  That last goal just shouldn’t happen. Period. 

Speaking of which, that has to be the most bizarre finish to a tournament competition in the history of sports.    We sat there watching, not sure to jump and scream or wait for the next face off or what.  Kane saw it go in , and Leighton knew it was in as well (I just think Leighton was trying to sell it to the ref that he had it in his pads and was hoping for a whistle.)  Everyone else just looked and thought, “What happened?”  (I love how Anti Niemi acted when Kane jumped him.  He acted like someone in an airport getting hugged by a person who mistook him for someone else.) 

Then there’s this song from YouTube that pokes fun at how many people jumped on the Blackhawks Bandwagon.  To be truthful, it got frustrating in how getting tickets for the Blackhawks was like getting tickets for the Chicago Cubs.  I mean, sure you could get tickets, but the tickets from the 300 level and above were the first ones to sell out.  It just cost too darn much and was too hard to get a group of folks together for a game at a reasonable price.   I mean, there can’t be that many people who know hockey in this city, right? 

But, as with the Cubs, when everybody loves a team (incidentally, I’m a Sox fan) everyone left doesn’t want to be left out. (Witness 2 million people at the rally today!)  One thing is for sure: John McDonough and crew know how to market.  

Still, here my brothers and I had a Blackhawk head painted on the floor of our basement when we were kids in the early 70’s!  (It’s still there when we sold the house this May, as this picture will attest.) 

The Hawks Emblem on the Basement Floor from My Childhood - Look Closely, it's There.

 

So yeah, it felt at times that it was Read the rest of this post »

Is Parity Sustainable in a 30 Team NHL? and The NHL NEEDS to Fix the Point System

Posted April 19, 2010 by betweenthepipes
Categories: AHL, hockey, NHL, Playoffs, Stanley Cup, Statistics, The Future of Hockey

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The NHL playoffs are underway and there have been multiple ‘upsets’ and some tight and exciting games in this year’s opening round.   I think it shows just how much parity there is in the league.  Yes, the Eastern Conference had a 33 point spread between the first and last placed playoff teams (an 18 point spread in the West) but the playoffs are showing that when the Cup is on the line, a 33 point spread might not mean all that much.   

In some ways, we should expect this.  With salary caps and a league that holds 30 teams, it makes sense that concentrated talent on a team, like that which was on the Edmonton Oilers of old,  is something that will be hard to build.  Add to that the AHL, from which NHL quality players (NHL quality for a 30 team league) are shuffled back and forth at will and the talent pool that the NHL utilizes is deep and broad.

This means that teams, even if they are injury riddled, can stay competitive and pickup points, until playoff time.  Then if they can stay healthy through the playoffs, expect them to make some noise, even if they don’t have the horses to make it to the Cup finals.

Is this good or bad?  In some ways it’s great for hockey but it also means that the NHL/AHL network, broad as it is, probably isn’t as Elite as we’d like to think it is.  Sure, great athletes are in the mix, but in general, it’s the teamwork that makes the teams, and teamwork doesn’t sign contracts for millions of dollars -dollars that have to be made somewhere, usually in rising ticket prices.

So, in a weird twist, even with salary caps, this huge league network may have the seeds of  becoming unsustainable because the distinguishing element of the league is not tied directly to team income.

Bizarre, isn’t it?

Speaking of bizarre Read the rest of this post »

Thoughts on the Blackhawks and the Devil’s Trapezoid

Posted March 14, 2010 by betweenthepipes
Categories: AHL, Chicago Blackhawks, Current Players, Goalies, hockey, martin brodeur, NHL, Penalties, Rules, The Olympics

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We’re coming into the home stretch of the season and some things are beginning to bug me.

1.  The Blackhawks.  There is something about the way they are playing that is making me feel uncomfortable.  I can’t put my finger on it though.  The last two losses to the Caps and Flyers didn’t help that feeling.  It’s not about goaltending, even though it’s been less than solid.  It’s a team dynamic thing.  It’s about giving up goals in bunches.  It’s about perhaps being too cocky or confident.  It’s about not being able to always put teams away.  It was summed up when Captain Jonathan Toews said today, “We’ve got the most skill in the league, on any team.  There’s no reason, up 3-0, we can’t go out and finish the team off.” 

He’s right that the Hawks should be able to finish of a team when they’re up 3-0, but I don’t buy that the Hawks are the most skilled team in the league – and most teams in the NHL don’t think that either.  So now, when teams are looking for that extra something to make the playoffs, they’ll have Toew’s  little tidbit posted on their locker room walls.  It’s bad enough that teams are gunning for you because you’re a top team but to say you’re the most skilled team will just tick some teams off and make the Blackhawk’s road to the Cup that much more difficult.

I do value that as Captain he’s trying to fire the boys up, and hopefully he knows his team best and they will respond.    But, only time will tell…

2. Please, please PLEEEEEASE get rid of the stupid trapezoid behind the net (It was such a relief and pleasure to watch Olympic hockey without it).  Last night I watched a game where the puck was trickling to the goal line and a player from the other team was bearing down on the goalie but still was a few strides away (a teammate was coming down the opposite boards).  The goalie accidentally touched the puck almost in the corner and was given a delay of game penalty.  I was stunned.  I know that’s what’s given for the infraction but here the goalie clearly kept play moving and prevented a lull where the puck would’ve died just past the goal line and we would’ve waited for someone to catch up to the puck.  A Delay of Game?  Why not call it a ‘Bettman’?  

New Jersey Penalty, Number thirty, Martin Brodeur, 2 minutes for a Bettman at 14:36, Brodeur 2 minutes for a Bettman at 14:36.  Penalty being served by….”

That has a ring to it!

Are NHLer’s Playing in the Olympics Doing What’s Best for Hockey?

Posted February 28, 2010 by betweenthepipes
Categories: character, Fans, hockey, International Competition, NHL, The Future of Hockey, The Olympics

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Olympic hockey has come to a close.  Canada took the Gold thanks to pure adrenalin amidst legs that were quickly tiring of 4 on 4 hockey.

Now that it’s finished I too will join the chorus of people asking: Should NHLer’s be allowed to play in the Olympics?

Short Answer: It depends.

Long Answer:

The Olympics are supposed to highlight the competition of the best; best individuals and best teams.  However, there is a phenomenon well known in sports that the best teams don’t always have the best individuals.

Throughout the various telecasts announcers made reference to how many NHLer’s were on every team, as if that on its own determined whether or not the team would be able to compete.

I don’t think anyone needs reminding that the “Miracle on Ice” team had ZERO NHLer’s on it at the time they won the Gold in Lake Placid.  Oh, sure, many of the players went on to play in the NHL, but if you could time warp this year’s US team to then, there would be no doubt that this year’s team was superior in talent. 

What’s my point?

Hockey is team sport.  If the sport is to be respected and if it’s to truly grow, it needs to continue to be connected to its roots – it needs to be a sport of passion, commitment, skill and teamwork.  What will showcase that is multiple teams competing that have played together for more than 48 hours before the Olympic tourney. Having a two week, round robin, All-Star series, however exciting, is not what hockey is all about. 

But what about the players?  They overwhelmingly want to participate and play for their respective countries. 

Why wouldn’t they?  They get a chance to compete in the Olympics and if they fail they come back to multi-million dollar contracts and a shot at the Stanley Cup. 

Alexander Ovechkin said he would walk out on his team to play in the next Olympics if the NHL didn’t suspend operations and send its players like it did this year.  I would venture that other players might do the same.

This perspective is interesting.

Ovechkin (and others like him) are basically telling their native countries: “You can work for two to four years to pull together a team but in the end, you’ll want me there anyway.”

Maybe….Maybe not.

If players in the NHL really cared about showcasing hockey in its best light, they would leave the NHL for two years and go back to their native countries, tryout for, and if they made it, work to build their respective teams in intra/inter-national competition.  That would make for some really great hockey in Sochi 2014.

Okay, so I’m polling NHLer’s: I know you all bleed to play in your native lands, to go for the Gold in the Olympics.  So I’m asking you,  how many of you will leave your NHL teams in two years, go to your Native lands and go to work to prepare for Sochi? 

Now don’t all raise your hands at the same time…I’ll wait….

Do Patrick Kane and Leif Garrett Look Alike? and Other Random Thoughts

Posted December 29, 2009 by betweenthepipes
Categories: Baseball, Chicago Blackhawks, Current Players, hockey, Hockey Rink Construction, NHL, Outdoor Hockey

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What do you think?

I now figured out what drives me nuts about Patrick Kane.  He looks like Leif Garrett.

What do you think?

On other notes, what is it with the NHL having the Winter Classic in Fenway Park and why don’t fans complain about this blatant lack of concern for their comfort or their pocket books?  Just like in Wrigley Field, the fans will be nowhere near the ice and in fact will be even further away because of the Green Monster in left field.  I’m sure Boston College has an outdoor stadium, or  MIT perhaps?

Thoughts?

New Hockey Point Proposal and AHL Goal Video Review

Posted December 1, 2009 by betweenthepipes
Categories: AHL, Fans, hockey, NHL, Records, Rules, Statistics, The Future of Hockey

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Let me first say, I actually like shootouts.  Yeah, I know, it’s not the best way to end the game, but it’s exciting and I like it- though I actually like the AHL’s version better with 5 shooters vs. 3.

Having said that, I don’t like the fact that losing teams come away with a point in shootout games.  Why?

Because it actually rewards a team’s lack of finishing ability. 

Let me explain.  What do you usually hear when games end regulation in a tie?

“Each team earned a point.”

Fine.  They then play 5 more minutes and each team still comes away with a point.  Therein lies the problem.

The purpose of overtime is for the team with the most guts and gumption to put away the other team.  If a team can’t do it, they don’t deserve to be rewarded with a point, especially if they lose in the pseudo-chaotic arena of the shootout (which, as I said before, I actually like).

So this is my solution: If you make it out of regulation with a tie, fine, you get a point.  But if you don’t win in OT,  both teams lose the point.  The MOST a team can then get for the game is one point.  So the breakdown is as follows:

Win in Regulation- 2 points

Tie at end of regulation – 1 point each team

Win in OT – two points total for winner, one for loser.

Tied at end of OT – Teams lose the one point they earned during regulation. Zero points for either team

Winner of Shootout – One total point for winner, none for loser.

So what do you think?  Would it make OT more exciting and make teams want to win?  Heck, teams might pull goalies in OT to get two points instead of one.

Oh, and the AHL still not video reviewing goals? A college game on tv had video review and the AHL can’t do it?  What gives?

Time to Kick it in to Gear-Don Granato Gone as Coach of the Wolves

Posted October 19, 2009 by betweenthepipes
Categories: AHL, character, Chicago Wolves, Coaching, Don Granato, hockey

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I’m here in Cincinnati checking my email and there is the press release I’d been hoping for.

Don Granato and Jason Christie have finally been let go.

I know they tried but something never quite clicked under them.  I appreciate the effort but this team has seemed like it’s been going through the motions for too long.  The change was needed.

Now it’s on the players and it’s time to kick it in to gear and start playing like they can.

Go Wolves!


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