Posted tagged ‘NHL’

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

April 19, 2010

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 (more…)

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Thoughts on the Blackhawks and the Devil’s Trapezoid

March 14, 2010

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?

February 28, 2010

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….

New Hockey Point Proposal and AHL Goal Video Review

December 1, 2009

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?

Cheli Coming to the Wolves?

October 8, 2009

My 8 year old called me a little over an hour ago.

“Hey, Uncle Mikey, did you hear the Chris Chelios is going to play with the Wolves?”

I was stunned, “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.  This should help them and maybe help them go all the way this year!”

Still stunned and clutching the phone to my head I got on the internet and found this article.

I can’t say it’s a bad move.  Having Cheli around will give some stabilization and toughness to the defense and supply some defensive leadership. 

I know, I know, he’s 47 years old.  But if he’s been staying in shape, and if he wants a crack at the NHL then why not?

The more I think about it – the more I like it.  But, don’t just take my opinion – ask my nephew…

Will Wolves be Affiliated with the Blackhawks Next Year?

April 9, 2009
A New Affiliation?

A New Affiliation?

Tonight, while watching the Wolves in an entertaining but meaningless win (in the standings anyway), a friend came over between periods and said,

“He’ll be gone next year.”

“Who? Granato?” I asked excitedly.

“Yes, um no, Yes.”

“What do you mean.”

“Atlanta won’t be here next year.  The Blackhawks and Wolves will be together.”

“How do you know?”

“They’re talking about it…”

I couldn’t get a direct confirmation of who “They” is, but it’s intriguing and in some ways it makes sense.

The new Wolves President Mike Poliskyand Blackhawks President John McDonough seem to have similar approaches to marketing their products and both organizations are 100% committed to winning.

Beyond the obvious advantage of having the Wolves closer to the Blackhawks, the other positives are:

  • Common fan base energizes both clubs
  • Newly energized Hawk fanbase provides cashflow to help Wolves (and then vice-versa)
  • Unites those fans (which I think are in a minority) who claim that one can’t be a Hawks fan and Wolves fan because the Wolves support Atlanta(?! – Yes I’ve heard that argument)
  • Good AHL players who are unaffiliated will prefer coming to (or staying with) the Wolves as they now have a crack at being called up by a contending team and have a shot at a Stanley Cup and Calder Cup.  No offense to the Thrashers. (Though I think next season the Thrashers will make the playoffs.) 

Downsides?

  • Still don’t think Hawks GM Dale Tallon really knows what he’s doing, but then, maybe he could learn something from Wolves GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

A few years back I would think such a move would be stupid as the Hawks were dragging down everything they touched. 

Now, I kinda like the idea.

Remember, you heard it here first!

Chicago Hockey Playoffs Approaching – One Message: WIN!

March 28, 2009
The Last Cups

The Last Time

Here in Chicago we’re approaching the end of the regular season and that means the playoffs!

By this time, the Blackhawks are usually already out of playoff contentions and the Wolves are rolling towards another successful Cup run.

Instead, the Blackhawks are fighting for Home Ice Advantage and the Wolves are fighting for the last playoff spot.

After a lull, the Blackhawks are showing signs of life again, knocking off two of the better teams in post-regulation play.  I still am not high on their chances to get past the second round, but at least they’re going to be there, which unfortunately I’m not sure I can say about…

the Wolves….

I’m shocked I’m actually saying it.

The Wolves might not make the playoffs.

In fact, if they don’t put a string of wins together starting tonight against Quad City and tomorrow against Milwaukee, their chances do not look good.

Some latest front office moves are baffling to say the least.  They sign Justin Taylor on the 25th and today they release him (probably to make room for Josh Soares).  Then they bring up Dan Turple so that Atlanta can call him up?? 

The Wolves wouldn’t be in this mess if they didn’t swoon so much mid-season, a swoon that I still believe is largely the responsibility of Head Coach Don Granato.  This team has no trouble slipping into funks but alot of difficulty building and keeping winning streaks going.  

That’s bad.

The fact that the team shows glimmers of great play and then collapses is indicative of coaching  (primarily) and personnel problems (secondarily). 

What else can be said?

This is the time of the year when, more than ever, it’s about winning.

It’s simple really…