Yesterday, ESPN aired a KHL game online. In much the same spirit as BHS staffer Cam Charron’s popular Don Cherry Confused Me feature, I will attempt to break down what the hell Steve Levy and Barry Melrose were talking about during “the Worldwide Leader’s” coverage of an actual professional hockey game.
You had to know going into this that it would be a bit of a gong show. As far as I know — and I can’t be bothered to look it up for reasons that should be obvious — this was the first professional hockey game played on an ESPN television network since The Worldwide Leader in Sports and NHL parted ways after the last lockout. And indeed, the broadcast team of Steve Levy and Barry Melrose, calling the game from what was assuredly a basement closet in Bristol, made a meal of the whole thing from the opening minutes to after the final horn sounded.
First, I guess it’s important to talk about just how bad KHL hockey wasn’t. I’d seen bits and pieces of KHL games before but never sat down and actually watched the an entire game. So in this regard, I was relatively new to the league. Despite all my preconceptions that it would be fall-down terrible hockey played by bad players washed out of North American systems, this was not the case. The hockey was boring, no doubt, and it had nothing to do with the 1-0 scoreline. It was also not officiated particularly well, which we’ll get to in a minute. Let’s just say that while I didn’t find KHL hockey to be completely abhorrent, I also saw no reason to ever watch it again except for the fact that there are a few handfuls of NHL players in the mix. Read the rest of this entry »
I have long since abandoned hope that this season is going to actually happen.
That whole thing started when I wrote a column for Puck Daddy saying I was somewhat optimistic that, given the frequency with which both sides of the labor battle were meeting prior to the NHLPA’s counterproposal — and that only came after a prolonged period of retiring to their respective corners and staring angrily at each other while firmly not-negotiating anything at all — and like three days later there was some sort of public pissing match. In retrospect I should have thought the league would swat that offer down as being far too logical and therefore unacceptable, like Dikembe Mutombo in his prime.
And the disgust on both sides seemed only to mount in the days leading up to and indeed immediately following the expiration of this past, dearly departed collective bargaining agreement. Now were Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr not only glowering at each other in meeting rooms, they were both throwing up their hands to the media like, “Do you believe I have to deal with this friggin’ guy? He’s being TOTALLY unreasonable!”
And so it was that the sides haven’t met in quite a while. There was kind of no point to it, if you want to be really pragmatic about it. Here’s how that kind of meeting would go:
Read the rest of this entry »
And so it was that Evgeni Malkin’s pronouncement earlier this summer that Sidney Crosby would consider playing overseas if there is a lockout was proven to be prophecy, confirmed by the NHL’s golden boy himself.
Why? He’s finally feeling healthy (“It’s been really good,” he told Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Nothing. I’ve been feeling 100 percent. It feels good to not have to think about that, and to work as hard as you want. It’s been really good.”), and, due to all that time he missed with a goofy brain in the last two seasons — 101 of 164 possible games — he apparently feels it might be best to not just sit around collecting escrow checks and waiting for the owners to remove the chains and padlocks from its teams’ rinks. And apparently, he looked very good indeed in working out with his teammates ahead of a trip to New York. Read the rest of this entry »
No one is sitting here saying the St. Louis Blues weren’t a great story last year. They started out just 6-7-0 under Davis Payne, due to a number of issues, and hired Ken Hitchcock instead. After losing seven of the first 13 games they played, they went on to lose just 15 more over the course of the season, allowing the fewest goals ever in an 82-game campaign, tying for second in the league and winning the division traditionally dominated by the Chicagos and Detroits of the world.
But what you can’t, or at least shouldn’t, then take from all that success — and there was a lot of it, at least until they were gutted by the Kings in the second round — is a belief that because of the team’s previous extraordinary, improbable winning, it will be able to improve to become the best in the West. That is, of course, what the Hockey News thinks is going to happen. The Blues, No. 1 in the Western Conference. Ahead of Vancouver, ahead of Los Angeles. Yes, predictions of pretty much any kind are stupid, but it takes a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to posit that this team will actually go out and win the West given a number of factors. (All this assumes, by the way, that we’ll play an 82-game season in 2012-13, which I know we absolutely will not, so you can go ahead and just hang onto those comments.) Read the rest of this entry »
I admit that I was pretty afraid of what would happen in these CBA negotiations when the Players’ Association revealed some ways back that Donald Fehr would be the guy running it after the various debacles that went down post-lockout.
All I really knew of whatever CBA negotiations were on the horizon were that the league was doing exceedingly well — though as it turned out, few of us would have guessed it would be doing this well in the summer of 2012 — and that Fehr was essentially the hardest of hard-assed union guys. The American sports fan saw the way he got Major League Baseball players to strike in 1994 and eventually won them the most insanely pro-player collective bargaining agreement of any professional sport in North America.
One thing the NHL didn’t need, I figured, was Fehr coming in and hard-lining issues like no salary cap and guaranteed contracts. Hockey is a lot of things, but “as popular as baseball” isn’t one of them. The NHL has a good TV deal, and MLB’s is so much better it’s not funny. Attendance at most NHL rinks is really strong, but the biggest sellout in the league comes about 15,000 people short of a sellout in the smallest ballpark. As such, while the NHL’s revenues are really good for what it is (a gate-driven league), and MLB’s blows them out of the water. Read the rest of this entry »
The Buffalo Sabres are a team with very deep pockets, an owner willing to reach way into them, and obvious roster problems.
For one thing, they only scored 218 goals last season, 16th in the league, and were 18th in the league in terms of goals against at 230. Both are within just six goals of league average. Their power play was 17th at 17.05 percent. Their penalty kill was 19th at 81.71 percent.
So what that says, basically, is that the Sabres are a substandard team in many major aspects of the sport of hockey, which is troubling considering their salary commitments last season (nearly $65.5 million). They need help in all areas.
And this summer they’ve been able to shed a bunch of salary by letting Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht walk, they’ve seen their cap number fall to about $61.55 million, even as they took on a bit of commitment in offloading Derek Roy for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy (a net addition of about $950,000). And that’s after signing Kevin Porter on a two-way deal and John Scott on a one-way despite the fact that neither will necessarily add anything to the team. Read the rest of this entry »
Rick Nash has had his name linked to a lot of teams in the last few months. He’s not quite in Shane Doan territory yet or anything like that, but the list of suitors for the services of Columbus’ disgruntled not-worth-the-trouble winger has ballooned, dipped and grown again several times.
There is one thing all those suitors have largely had in common, however: Very few are Canadian. Apart from Ottawa, which built a complex deal for the Blue Jackets captain only to have it scuttled because he has no interest in going there, it seems exactly zero of the remaining six Canadian teams have even mounted an appeal to Scott Howson or Nash. The reason for this is simple. Rick Nash’s contract a full no-movement clause for the next few years and also because he has a list of teams for which he would find it acceptable to play. That list, predictably, has no Canadian teams on it. Read the rest of this entry »