Friday, May 28, 2010

Not Doing Enough with the Outdoor Games

First of all, I like to go on the record and say that I am a huge fan of the outdoor games the NHL has put on in recent memory.  From the Heritage Classic to the last Winter Classic in Boston, I think they are all great spectacles and are wonderful to watch. 

With the impending news that there is a 2nd outdoor game being added in Calgary for mid-February to the usual New Year's Day game, which will be in Pittsburgh, I did scratch my head and wonder if they were going to go with the same Winter Classsic moniker for the 2nd game before a couple of tweeps put the idea of possibly rehashing the Heritage Classic name, since it's another game between two Canadian clubs.  Okay, sounds fine, moving on.

Here's my concern, as I try not to follow the paths of so many and complain about the novelty of the game wearing thin because of too much exposure, rather if the NHL is so keen to sell hockey to other markets, then why are the sunbelt teams not getting any exposure in this grand hurrah of hockey?

Selling outdoor hockey to Canada and the Northeast portion of the USA is like selling steak to a Texan... they are going to buy it and wish they had more of it, because it tastes so good.  Why isn't the NHL selling this prime rib steak of a game to the vegetarians in California, Florida, Texas and Arizona by putting their teams in the game?  Of course they'll have to visit a cold city to maximize the Winter effect.  All of the players that play for club teams down in the South know what Winter is actually about, so it won't kill them to play in this game, plus you might be able to attract some new viewership by hockey friends inviting non-hockey friends over in Miami to watch the Panthers play the Maple Leafs at BMO Field in Toronto. 

"You mean, THAT is what hockey is?  That's so cool..."

The NHL is doing a good job of making the 2011 Winter Classic into a banner year, pitting their top two superstars together in a battle outside, which in all fairness needs to be done once and a while.  The fireworks and atmosphere will be great for Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin going head to head, while in Calgary, the Canadian tastebuds will be satisfied with a Heritage Classic between West and East with the Flames and Canadiens going head-to-head. 

I really hope that the NHL uses their current argument to keep hockey in the sunbelt to futher make gains with the outdoor specials they have.  I think that's a super idea.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Curious About Kovalchuk

I was actually thinking of doing a quick blurb on how I thought the Ilya Kovalchuk free agency situation may go down this Summer and I was kind of derailed by the word that a KHL club has come down adding fuel to the fire.  If there is any truth to the reports that SKA St. Petersburg has given Kovalchuk a 3-year/$30 million offer, it really blows the socks off a little bit, doesn't it?

SKA St. Petersburg doesn't have to wait until Kovalchuk's contract is officially up to start throwing numbers at him, unlike the rest of the NHL clubs, which gives them a full month of a head start to tempt the Russian superstar back home for the near future.  Of course, I don't think anyone will be putting any pens to paper until the current deal expires, since that would create a bit of a stir, even after a reported memorandum between the NHL and KHL, in regards to transfer agreements.

In the blurb I had half-prepared, I was going to go on about what kind of value Kovalchuk was going to get from clubs, if he makes it to unrestricted free agency and to his own benefit, I think he can really write his own meal ticket with a new deal.  There have been rumours that Kovalchuk was looking for somewhere near the salary cap maximum and there have also been reports that he'd take significantly less money if he can play for a winner, which does make a lot of sense, since a lot of those Cup favourites are already tightly wound to their budgets and pressing up against the cap ceiling.  I, personally, picture the whole situation more like a sliding scale, where you can lump a lot of the rebuilding teams together and call that a cap maximum for his services, while some of the better teams can have him at a reasonable discount of a long-term cap hit of $6.5 or $7 million.  I don't doubt there is something in between those numbers as well, but that's me just being creative.

This offer to Kovalchuk does open the door to all sorts of conclusions we can all jump to and read about over and over and over again.  If Kovalchuk takes the deal, we should be able to conclude that he went for the money, because he couldn't get the right combination of winning and money in the NHL or he's just plain greedy.  If he stays in the NHL and takes less money, we can turn our noses up on the KHL and all believe that we cheer for the best hockey league in the world.  Sure, there is plenty of in between in there, but I wanted to make sure we all know what we were up against, because what we read doesn't believe in the in-between.

Nevertheless, I could really care less about where Kovalchuk wants to play and I couldn't really be bothered either way if he stays or goes.  The NHL, on the other hand, should be greatly concerned with how Kovalchuk decides his own fate, because once the KHL poaches a former number one overall pick like Kovalchuk, despite being Russian and so forth, what's to say that the KHL doesn't start poaching more top end talent for their league... despite most of them also being Russian?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Netcrashing: Are the Lightning a Good Fit for Yzerman?

I thought this question, posted on, was kind of funny: "Are the Tampa Bay Lightning a good fit for new General Manager Steve Yzerman?" I mean, isn't the whole point of hiring a new GM for your professional sports team to have him take his philosophy and try to apply it to the team he is joining to try and achieve the best results possible? Unfortunately, you can't really ask the question, "is Steve Yzerman a good fit for the Tampa Bay Lightning and all the pieces they have in place?" because Yzerman has only put together all-star teams for international competitions and that is not a very good gauge of putting together an NHL club team.

I can take this from another direction though, Steve Yzerman will have the luxury of a good core group of players and salary cap flexibility, which should allow for Yzerman's vision of a good NHL hockey club rise to the top faster than in an organization having all sorts of cap issues and player troubles.  So in that way, yes, the Lightning are a great fit for Yzerman.

I had already laid out how the Lightning were going to look this Summer going into this new job in my Pool Outlook at the end of April and I thought that it would be a pretty good job for any prospective GM to take over, especially if the new ownership lets you work unfettered. 

Now that Yzerman is the big boss man in Tampa Bay, the name alone should have a lot of respect from the players in place, so any hockey decisions will be placed upon the merits of his reputation for the time being and likely taken as a pretty sound idea... until proven otherwise.  I only say this in regards to the situation with all of the seasoned (and expensive) veterans on the team that may or may not fit into the new manager's vision of the Tampa Bay Lightning going forward.  Vincent Lecavalier has been one of those players rumoured to be on the trading block because of his enormous contract and the 10 years still left on it.  But with the cap situation the way that it is going into the Entry Draft in June, I don't suspect that Lecavalier or Martin St. Louis will be heading anywhere anytime soon.

I like this move by the Lightning ownership group, I think it's sound and we finally get Steve Yzerman back in a central role in the NHL, which just adds a little bit more class to the whole league.

Friday, May 7, 2010

HodgeMail: Goalie Protection

This morning, I see there is a new question for the segment of HodgeMail, likely for tonight's broadcast of the Bruins and Flyers game.  The question to ponder over is "Does the NHL need to provide more protection for goalies, and if so, how?"

I did start this blog post with a bit of rant, but I then shook my head and thought, well, let's answer the question before we go all apeshit on the subject.

So, to answer the question, I say no.  The NHL does not need to provide anymore protection on the goaltenders, because there is plenty of protection written into the rules already, but the discretion of the officials on the ice is what seems to be the issue in question.  It may not be a level of protection, more than a level of enforcement or clarity of the rule to be more black and white to the officials on the ice.

I've always been a fan of the subjectivity of how the game is being played in the playoffs and how it relates to how penalties get called.  In the traditional sense, the smaller, chincy calls of tripping, holding and interference were often pushed aside for both teams in order to maintain a hard-fought game and/or series.  It's hard to say whether or not this is being taken into account for goaltender intereference, but I suppose it can be taken into account some times.  I don't think it's a rule that should be subjective, personally, but I'm also not an NHL official.

Possibly, it is just a matter of saying to the officials that it will not be tolerated at any point in the game, much like high-sticking, boarding and other types of major calls.  That's all I could really hope for, but remembering that we will likely never hear about what the actual result is, we'll just have to take what we can get and continue to yell at our televisions as if they can hear us.