Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Getzlaf’

Please Shut Up, Bob

May 14th, 2011

Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson bitched and moaned on Friday after Canada was eliminated by Russia at the 2011 World Hockey Championships earlier this week. Nicholson’s comments – saying the results are “totally unacceptable” – are fueled by the fact that Canada hasn’t won a single medal in the last two tournaments.

Bob Nicholson, President of Hockey Canada

Nicholson also took a shot at several young Canadian players who declined playing in the tournament for reasons that were a “little lame.” Thanks, Bob. That was very insightful. Here’s another gem of a quote from Nicholson:

“This team was good enough to win, but with one or two more players (it could have been different). You know what, Hockey Canada and Canada have been pretty good to those players through the under-18, the juniors and an Olympics Games. I thought they would have thought about that before refusing to come this year.”

Is this guy freaking kidding me? That has to be the most ridiculous and obnoxious thing I’ve read in weeks. In my opinion, that’s worse than anything Jeremy Roenick said over the last few days. Let’s break down several reasons why Nicholson’s comments are so absurd:

» Read more: Please Shut Up, Bob

Players to Watch in the Olympics

February 17th, 2010

If you haven’t joined an Olympic hockey pool yet or you just want to look smart in front of your hockey buddies, look no further. This is the blog that will lend you instant credibility and will make you look wiser the Shaq in front of lockerroom of reporters. Here’s my look at some of the top and most underrated players to watch during the Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament in Vancouver.

Jaromir Jagr (CZE) – Jaromir Jagr was one of the most dominant hockey players in recent memory – when he wanted to be. He’s the highest scoring European-born player (goals, assists and points) in NHL history and is very highly regarded by his younger teammates. His skill was never in question, but his motivation and desire usually was. At 38, it’s safe to say that this will likely be Jagr’s final shot at Olympic gold, so I’m sure motivation won’t be a problem for the Czech flagbearer over the next two weeks. I’d love to see one last flash of glory for the player whose long, curly hair captured the hearts of so many hockey mom’s in the 90’s.

Aleksey Morozov (RUS) – One of the reasons why I think many Canadian hockey fans are underrating the Russian team is Aleksey Morozov. He didn’t quite pan out as the Pittsburgh Penguins had hoped, where his best season saw him score 50 points in 74 games. Still, since returning to play in Russia, his game has dramatically improved to a point where he’s the best player in the world not playing in the NHL and has been for some time. Last season in the KHL, he scored 32 goals and 74 points in 49 games. I know it’s only the KHL, but Russia’s captain is much better than most give him credit for. Hypothetically, I bet if he were to join the NHL next year, he would easily be the most sought-after player on the free agent market this summer.

Ryan Getzlaf (CAN) – The big focus for Canada over the past 72 hours has been if Ryan Getzlaf will be in or out of the Canadian lineup. Well, he’s definitely in – for now. He stepped up to answer questions about the strength of his injured ankle Sunday night by scoring 4 points and guiding Anaheim to victory in his final tune-up game before the Olympics. If he can stay healthy, he adds a much more physical and dynamic presence to Canada – far moreso than a player like Jeff Carter. He also makes teammate (and probable linemate) Corey Perry immediately more effective, which will be big on that 2nd line.

Tomas Vokoun (CZE) – Tomas Vokoun had a bit of a lackluster season last year with Florida and this year has been so-so at best. But make no mistake about it – Tomas Vokoun is a very good goalie. He lead the Czech’s to a gold medal in the 2005 World Championships and a bronze medal 4 years ago in Turin. Anybody scoffing at that should think back to how Canada did in that same tournament. He could steal a few games for the Czech’s and that definitely makes the Czech Republic a dark horse in this tournament.

Patrice Bergeron (CAN) – Many were surprised to see Bergeron included in the Summer evaluation camp, and even though his name was buzzed about during the season, many more were surprised when Patrice was actually named to the Canadian Olympic team. The reason he made this team is because he’s a very useful and versatile player. If you’re surprised to see him on the top line with Sidney Crosby, don’t be. Think back to the NHL lock out year where he and Crosby played on Canada’s top line at the WJC. In fact, it was Bergeron who lit up the score sheet and won the tournament MVP award. With Crosby and Nash as linemates, Bergeron looks set to pile up the points.

Jonas Hiller (SWI) – Everyone is on the same page when it comes to the Swiss team – they are a dangerous team but they aren’t true medal contenders. It would be the shock of the Games if they finished on the medal podium. But having said that, I think the Anaheim Ducks management team will be watching Switzerland closely to find out if they chose the right goalie for their future. This tournament will really expose Hiller and we’ll find out soon enough just how good he really is. This tournament could be a big breakout party for Hiller and like Ray Ferraro said on Tuesday, I wouldn’t want to face Switzerland in a quarterfinal elimination game.

Evgeni Nabokov (RUS) – Burgundy says Russia’s great up front, but not so good on the defense and goaltending positions. I disagree and it’s time for ‘Nabby’ to put his money where his mouth is. A strong performance in this tournament would do a lot to elevate San Jose’s playoff prospects, as well as his UFA status this summer. So clearly, the motivation is there. But the big thing with Nabokov is that he doesn’t need to necessarily steal games for Russia, he just needs to hold them in the game if Russia’s offense stalls. Think Grant Fuhr in Edmonton’s glory days.

Peter Forsberg (SWE) – We’re all getting a little sick of Peter Forsberg aren’t we? He’s probably the only person in history who’s staged more career comebacks than Brett Favre. We’re constantly hearing about his annual comeback attempt to the NHL yet, he’s still a player to watch because this is only a two week tournament. Anyone who can miss an entire NHL season, return in the playoffs and flat-out dominate the way he did in Colorado in 2001-2002 is worth keeping on eye on.

Here’s to a great tournament. Let the best team win and for the aforementioned players to make me look good!

Your Reporter in the Field,

Fantana

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Has Guillaume Latendresse turned it around in Minnesota?

January 16th, 2010

What were you doing on November 23rd? If you were Guillaume Latendresse, you were probably going through several different emotions like excitement, confusion, fear, and even anger. It was on this day that Montreal apparently gave up on their big francophone player and traded him to Minnesota for another struggling youngster, Benoit Pouliot.

Guillaume Latendresse has had a classy rebound to his career in Minnesota | Stayclassy.net

Guillaume Latendresse has had a classy rebound to his career in Minnesota

Up until the trade, I think it’s fair to say that Latendresse had been, for the most part, a disappointment. I still remember that training camp he had in 2006 where he was awesome and you thought for a second that Montreal had a major power forward on the rise. His first season, he showed good promise, scoring 16 goals and 29 points as a 19 year old. I figured that once he put on some more muscle, could potentially be the next Todd Bertuzzi, when Big Bert was in his prime. I’m sure many Canadians fans felt the same way back then.

However, you know it’s not a good sign when your career season continues to be your rookie season. Latendresse’s point total declined in his sophomore season, where he scored only 27 points, and it dropped again in his third season to just 26 points. Follow that up with his first 23 games this year where he had 2 goals and 1 assist. Ouch. Clearly, the relationship between Montreal and Latendresse was broken and Bob Gainey decided he’d had enough and shipped him out of town. In fact, Latendresse’s season in Montreal was going so badly this year that he failed to register a shot in 10 of his 23 games. By mid-late November, he was playing only 6-7 minutes a game too, which makes sense, seeing as how he didn’t score a single point in his final 8 games as a Montreal Canadian, and only took 3 shots on goal in that span.

Fast forward to January 2010, where he appears to be a completely different player in Minnesota. He’s routinely playing around 17 minutes a game with the Wild, where seems to play a vital role on the team and is having fun again. Here’s the real interesting part. In the 23 games he’s played for the Wild since the trade, he’s scored 10 goals, 6 assists and is +5. He was -4 in Montreal this season. He’s also put together a serious hot streak as of late. As of Saturday, his last 6 games have seen him score 4 goals and 5 assists.

Has Latendresse turned his career around in Minnesota? It’s hard to say. 16 points in his first 23 games is a great start and is far higher than the production he ever generated in Montreal. Yet, the question surrounding Latendresse is whether or not this kind of play can be sustained. Remember back to the training camp in 2006 where he looked dominant? Remember back in junior how he was a star player in the QMJHL but looked lost when playing for Canada at the World Juniors in 2005? According to Brent Sutter, who was the coach of the Canadian squad that year, Latendresse didn’t listen to the coaching staff and always went his own way. If you didn’t realize that Latendresse was on the WJ team that year, don’t feel badly – He was benched for most of the tournament anyway. This was also the WJC team that featured Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Barker, Corey Perry, Mike Richards and Dion Phaneuf, among others. Thank you, NHL lockout. Actually, now I’m wondering how Latendresse even made this team in the first place. Anyway, the point here is that Latendresse is one of those players who so far in his professional career, has only really been able to play well for short periods of time.

Time will tell if he can keep up this kind of play for Minnesota. 23 games is a good quarter of the season and he’s been especially hot lately, so I hope for his sake he can keep his strong play up. It’s worth noting that even though he’s in his fourth year in the NHL, he’s only 22 years old. Some players, especially the power forward types, take a little longer to develop and it does feel a little harsh to write off a 22 year old kid as being washed up. So maybe we should give him a little more time before disregarding him completely. Hopefully, Minnesota can help him develop into the player many of us thought he would have already become by now. If they can do so, they may have found a real diamond in the rough, as Benoit Pouliot wasn’t getting much done for them. For what it’s worth, Pouliot has 5 goals in his first 10 games as a Hab.

In conclusion, I think Guillaume Latendresse has got a great opportunity to become a solid 3rd line player in the NHL, with the ability to play 2nd line minutes if necessary. I think he could potentially be a 40 points per season player with Minnesota. What do you think – will Latendresse turn his career around? Or is his recent hot streak just more of the same from him? You tell us.

Your Reporter in the Field,

Fantana

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Canada’s Olympic team… Finally.

December 30th, 2009

As the title says, Canada announced their men’s hockey Olympic team, finally.

Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock are classy men.

While a country like Canada will always have more amazing players than available positions, I’m pretty happy with the final roster. Many can and will say ‘he should have taken him over him’, but I feel this is a pretty solid set of players. That can’t be improved that much.

I’m also pretty happy that the television coverage has ended – TSN can make a half hour special on anything, so I’ve come to learn this holiday season. Anyways, here’s the final roster, barring any unforeseen injuries.

Goalies
Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury

Defencemen
Dan Boyle, Chris Pronger (assistant captain),
Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Scott Niedermayer (captain), Drew Doughty
Shea Weber

Forwards
Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby (assistant captain), Jarome Iginla,
Brenden Morrow, Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal
Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley
Jonathan Toews

Of course, there will be debate as to who should of made the team and didn’t. Below is a list of notable omissions

Mike Green, Mike Fisher, Shane Doan, Marc Savard, Jeff Carter, Jay Bouwmeester, Stephane Robidas, Vincent Lecavalier, Dion Phaneuf, Patrick Sharp.

Anyone else I’m missing? What are your thoughts on Team Canada? Can Canada capture gold with this squad?

Stay classy, Steve Yzerman and Team Canada.

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Whammy of the Week

December 12th, 2009

Morning sports fans, Champ here with his weekly addition of the WHAMMY of the Week. This week we don’t have a big hit or a good fight as the Whammy… but it’s more of a Whammy in the pants. During the December 6th Anaheim Ducks-Ottawa Senators game, Ryan Getzlaf fires a shot off the glass which rebounds off a stanchion and heads straight into the net.



WHAMMY… Brian Elliot would definitely like to have that one back…

Until next week.

Stay Classy, Stayclassy.net readers.

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Is Tomas Plekanec really that good?

November 26th, 2009

If you take a look at all the players who are currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, big names like Marc Savard, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Patrick Marleau come to mind. However, if you watched TSN’s broadcast between Columbus and Montreal on Tuesday night, you might be wondering if Tomas Plekanec’s name belongs with the ones above.

Is Tomas Plekanec classy enough for $5 Million/season?

Is Tomas Plekanec classy enough for $5 Million/season?

Throughout the game, Plekanec was constantly mentioned as a potential UFA this summer and while he’s guaranteed to get a raise on the $2.75 Million salary he’s making this year, is he really worth $5 Million per year or more? I think I even heard Gord Miller saying that Plekanec could be in line to double his salary next season! Whoa! Let’s take a closer look at this, because something doesn’t sound right

Plekanec has scored 20+ goals in each of the past three seasons and his best season was in 2007-2008 where he scored 29 goals and 69 points. He’s also had a strong start to the season and is on pace for 82 points. All this sounds good and you might be able to make a case that he’s worth $5 Million a year, especially if he continues his strong play this year and can hit 80+ points.

But here’s the catch – when you pay a centre $5 or $5.5 Million per season, he’s going to be your #1 centre. Unless you’re Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Having said that, can you really see Plekanec as a first line centre? I can’t, and that’s not meant to be insulting. I see Plekanec as a solid second line player who can be counted on to score around 50 points a year, maybe 60 or 70 if he gets really hot. Outside of his career year, Plekanec’s next best season was a 47 point effort. Plekanec’s playoff record is mediocre at best too. He’s put up 13 points in 21 games, but is -4 during those games, including being held off the scoresheet in all three of his post-season games last April. That’s not worth $5 Million a year.

In terms of comparables, when you look at other centres who are of similar age to Plekanec, 26, the picture becomes much clearer. Ryan Getzlaf has a current cap hit of $5.3 Million, while Mike Ribeiro has a $5 Million cap hit. Daymond Langkow has a cap hit of $4.5 Million and Brad Boyes salary comes in at a cap hit of $4 Million. All of these players have scored more than 69 points in a season, and I’d take any one of these players at their current salary than Plekanec at $5 Million. In my mind, these players are all a notch above him.

The bottom line is that Plekanec is probably worth $3.5-4 Million per season but I’m sure there’s a team out there willing to pay more than that. The big question now is how much is Bob Gainey willing to shell out to keep his #2 centre. If it were me, I wouldn’t be willing to go above $4 Million per season. If you do, you’re basically setting this guy up to fail because the expectations will be way too high. Plekanec is a good player, but he’s not a $5 Million kind of player. He’s not that good.

Your Reporter in the Field,

Fantana

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Will Steve Yzerman make the hard decisions for Team Canada?

July 29th, 2009

I’m not sure if this is news or not, but earlier this week, it was noted that there would be no long shots for the mens Canadian Olympic hockey team, when the games hit Vancouver in 2010.

Translation: if you weren’t asked to the 46-man orientation camp later this summer, you have better shot at getting on Megan Fox than you do getting on Team Canada.

OK – This isn’t really news.  And I guess its a 45-man roster, now that Joe Sakic has announced his retirement.  And not that it helps much – deep down, I think everyone knows their favorite players not on that list stand little chance of making the squad, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

I’m disappointed.  I’m tired of seeing “seniority placements” in Canadian Olympic teams.  That was the biggest problem with the 2006 Torino team.  Part of the reason Yzerman was brought in to build this hockey team was to add a fresh feel with younger talent who would make the team better for that tournament and that tournament alone.  I always thought one of Yzermans’s underlying mandates was to pick the best team without worrying who’d be offended.  As a proud Canadian, I want Canada to win and I don’t care who has to be on and off the team for that to happen.

So if Robyn Regehr has a slow start to the 2009-2010 NHL season, should he really be on the team?  Should he really take the place of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook even if he has a strong start to the year?  It’s time for change and it’s not like any of the three guys I just mentioned lack international hockey experience.

There will always be guys that are locks to make the team.  But that should be because they have consistently shown they can play at world class levels throughout their careers.  So when I see names like Ryan Smyth and Joe Thornton on the orientation roster, I have to wonder why.  They are great players that I’d love to see on my team any day – but honestly, are they the best players for Team Canada come February 2010?

I’d rather see some of these guys replaced with younger and faster upcoming talent.  These are the guys I’d consider seniority placements.  First thing’s first: replace Smyth with Brendan Morrow – an absolute must if Morrow is healthy.  Next, there are atleast 4 centerman that are more effective than Joe Thornton (Vinny Lecavalier, Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal,  Mike Richards) and I’m assuming the younger guys won’t make the squad and Sidney Crosby will be playing left wing.  And Marc Savard and Jason Spezza are considered ‘long shots’ since being omitted from Yzerman’s orientation list.

As far as defence goes,  Regehr, Chris Pronger and Dion Phaneuf shouldn’t make the team.  Not when you have players like Weber, Scott Neidermayer, Dan Boyle, Duncan Keith, Brent Burns, Jay Bouwmeester and Drew Doughty who right now, are stronger hockey players for the kind of up-tempo/fast moving style Canada wants to play.

For goaltenders, despite Martin Brodeur being the all time most winning goalie in the NHL ever, I’d like to see Roberto Luongo named as the started.  Despite his career achievements, Brodeur’s season last year wasn’t good and ended horribly in the Devils disasterous collapse against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs.  I still think Marc-Andre Fleury should  be the third goaltender on the roster.

Please, Steve Yzerman, don’t just pick the team based on who’s been on it before.  Let’s see the very best of what Canada can offer at that very moment.  Not the best of what once was.

Stay classy, Team Canada.

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2009 Stanley Cup Predictions: Game 7 Conference Semi Finals

May 13th, 2009

Well, well, well.

Another round of the playoffs, and I was wrong for every prediction….so far.

But that’s the beautiful thing about this blog. I get to go back, look at what I said, and chalk up my inaccuracy to some unexplained events, like solar storms or something. I have to say though, this has been quite a second round of the playoffs. Who would have thought that two teams would come back after being down 3-1 to force a Game 7. I know the hockey world, and the NHL is loving the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals matchup, but the Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes series has been no slouch either.

So let’s recap my original thoughts: Pittsburgh in 6 (wrong), Bruins in 6 (wrong), Anaheim in 6 (wrong). Notice a trend. The plus side is that each one of these series could still end in my favour, but it’s time to look at the series knowing everything that we know now.

So here we go. Time for Game 7 predictions.

Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes

I had a funny feeling that Boston was going to win this one last night. They weren’t going to let Carolina “bruin” their season just like that. After watching their complete performance in Game 5, I think we’re seeing the Boston Bruins of the first round. But that knee on knee on Savard last night could be costly for that team. Even if he does play, he will be playing hurt, and that guy plays such an important role dishing the pucks to their scorers (although Lucic set him up for a beauty last night). Even so, they’re going back to the Garden, and if they’re losing at all going into the third, I predict that Cam Neely puts on skates himself and finishes this for them. I’m saying Boston is taking it, 5-2.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

This is the one the hockey world has been waiting for since the end of the lockout, and it promises not to disappoint. Word is that Sergei Gonchar may be able to return to the lineup. That is huge, not only for the Penguins powerplay, but for the psyche of that locker room. But the game is back in Washington, and they are going to be loud tonight. If Washington scores first, that crowd and that team are going to be so excited. So expect Pittsburgh to storm back and win the game. If the Penguins score first, I think Washington will get their act together and take this one. It all depends on that first goal though. But if I had to call the series not knowing who is going to score first, I’d say Washington now. They’re undefeated when facing elimination.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Anaheim Ducks

I knew this series was going to go long, and I’m incredibly pleased that it’s going back to Joe Louis Arena for Game 7. I think Anaheim will take this game though. They’re physicality really showed last night, and they demonstrated that they won’t take it lying down. Here’s how it will play out though: a bad penalty will be taken when an overzealous fan hurls and octupus on the ice at Hiller. Getzlaf sets up Corey Perry for the game winner, and Anaheim faces Chicago next round. I’m calling Anaheim 3-2.

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Being the Ottawa Senators GM is like having a broken knee

February 11th, 2009

I’m driving to work, listening to sports talk radio, errr, I mean Sens-talk radio crunched between ads with that Alarmforce guy s aying “Alarmforce” in a weird way. AL-AR-M-for-ce. Like whats up with that?

And if thats not bad enough, every morning is starting to feel like groundhog day. Seems as though the city of Ottawa has collectively banned against the winter season (fair enough, too cold), OC Transpo (also fair, but glad the strike is over) and Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray (huh?).

Why, I ask the faithful StayClassy nation? I can’t understand this one.

Let’s pretend Bryan Murray didn’t build the Anaheim Ducks into Stanley Cup Champions less than two years ago. And let’s pretend he didn’t guide the Senators to their first modern Stanley Cup final appearance (how ironic is that, anyways?). Let’s pretend he’s an NHL general manager, new to Ottawa weeks before last summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

Hockey fans worldwide and more specifically, Ottawans have short memories and an even shorter tolerance for losing seasons. I understand the Canadian hockey markets demand success and the pressures that revolve around that. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But how can we dismiss Bryan Murray this quickly?

Yes, the Senators haven’t acquired their elusive puck moving defenseman (but neither has any other GM this season) and they still don’t have a franchise goaltender (so… they aren’t available at BulkBarn, across from the Jason Spezza turnover aisle?). But consider the following:

Lack of trades
This isn’t an Ottawa/Bryan Murray thing – this is an NHL thing. There are more OC Transpo busses back to work than trades this year. Translation for those of you who don’t reside in Ottawa: that means trades are few and far between. And when they happen, its no-name prospects going back and forth. People can say Murray isn’t doing anything and while I won’t profess to knowing what exactly he’s doing, you could say the exact same about other GM’s around the NHL.

Ridiculous contracts
We’ve seen some ridiculous contracts being thrown around over the last few summers (my buddy Fantana wrote a good column on this last week). I’m sure you’re already thinking of a few now. And thats good, because no matter who you are thinking of, not one of those inflated contracts belong to the Senators (well, except Mike Fisher… but let’s not go there for now). Think of Scott Gomez’ $32.25 Million/5 years, Wade Redden’s $39 Million/6 years, Mats Sundin’s $10 Million/1 year, Sean Avery’s $15.5 Million/4 years, etc… You get the idea. Murray may not have made the splash we all hoped for (*cough, Brian Campbell cough*), but he certainly didn’t handicap the team with crazy contracts that these teams will be paying for years to come.

Drafting
Part of Ottawa’s slide from Conference favorites to lottery hopefuls reflect some of former GM John Muckler’s poor draft selections. In 2005, Muckler drafted Brian Lee over Marc Staal and Anze Kopitar. And in 2003, Muckler selected Patrick Eaves over Shea Weber and Loui Eriksson. Yes, Muckler’s draft record is good (Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Andreij Meszaros) and I mean real good, but so is Murray’s (Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Joffrey Lupul). Murray drafted Erik Karlsson in the first round last year and that was the best pick they could made. With this summer, the depth of the draft and the number of picks the Senators have, Murray should continue his successful draft record.

Now, if you still want Murray gone, you must explain why. But my point is this: GM’s can’t be judged like players or coaches. I see GM’s in the same vein as various health problems or even injuries. And let’s use an example of a knee injury – Sens Nation should be able to fully grasp (Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and new to the club from Saturday’s Buffalo Sabres game, Chris Neil). Much like knee injuries, its unreasonable to expect overnight improvements with GMs. Teams can’t rebuild overnight (the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t fare too well this year) and neither can knees. Let’s give Murray two full years of drafts and NHL seasons and then review his work. His track record for success with the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings merits at least that.

Let’s be thankful what what Murray has or hasn’t done for us: no ridiculous contracts/over-paying, start of strong drafting last summer and he hasn’t traded our touted draft picks this year to save his job. That would certainly be the Achilles-Neil.

You stay classy, internet.

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Fighting in the NHL – part of the game or revenue?

January 28th, 2009

It’s Friday night. Late. Just got off the ice with the boys after our weekly pickup game. I’m tired, but in a nice way. I’m starting to run out of decent excuses for my embarrassing play: my contact lenses were bugging me, the puck was bouncing too much, the sun and Venus were in the wrong celestial quadrant. I’m playing a game with a bunch of upstart twenty-somethings, whose priorities in life are hockey, beer and girlfriends. Pretty much in that order. I left my twenties almost a decade ago.

Drinking a beer, looking at the TV screen and something caught my attention. TSN was airing the replay of the AHL fight. We all stop what we were doing and watch.

Flashback to almost six years ago. Sitting with a friend who has moved here from England. Cool accent and everything. Why do people with British accents sound more authoritative? George Bush should have gotten a Brit to say that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So my friend tells me he is trying to understand the game of hockey. Grew up watching rugby, and Premier League football (aka soccer). Asks me why there is fighting in hockey.

I don’t have a good answer. Its about a bunch of guys playing in a confined space, I tell him. Frustrations spill over, someone feels wronged, and they have a score to settle, I hear myself saying. Sometimes it is better to have two guys fight it out than to have them spearing each other all night. He looks at me with skepticism and says with his British accent: “Really.” Now I feel like I have to pull his sweater over his head and start the jackhammer action.

Flash forward to now. Philadelphia Phantom’s forward Garret Klotz winds up lying on the ice for 10 minutes after an AHL fight, goes into convulsions and is rushed to the hospital. The game is resumed shortly afterwards to a largely subdued crowd.

Saw an article the other day where NHL commissioner Gary Bettman admits that fighting is entertaining and sells tickets. Like most hockey fans, I’m no fan of Bettman. But he’s right in saying it sells tickets.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t much matter because fighting’s place in hockey is what really matters.

“Fighting is part of the game”

True, we have had fighting in hockey forever. There are specific rules and penalties surrounding fighting. There is a certain etiquette among players as to who fights and who doesn’t, who are the franchise players, who are the goons. Teams routinely set their lines and and fill their rosters to “protect” their key players.

The problem is, it doesn’t make sense. Before you get all excited, honestly ask yourself these questions:

1) If there was a high intensity hockey game where fighting was not permitted, would you not watch it? Think of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships earlier this year.

2) If fighting is such an integral part of hockey, why is it not something we teach in minor hockey? Ooohh…that was a good question, wasn’t it? I have been involved with minor hockey for over 7 years, and I’m pretty sure I never saw a drill called “Pull the guy’s jersey over his head and give him the Inglewood Jack“. We spend our time teaching kids how to give and receive body checks, how to skate, pass, shoot. Call me crazy for not using our practice time effectively.

If there was no fighting in the NHL, what would be the profile of a typical NHL player? I’m thinking of more like Ryan Getzlaf and less like Jason Spezza. More like Edmonton Oiler Jason Smith than Ottawa Senator Jason Smith. More Zdeno Chara than Wade Redden. You know what I mean. Someone with all the skills necessary to make it to The Big League, but can also hit and be hit. The last time I saw Spezza throw a check was when…hold on…wait…ah, forget it.

Are people who go to hockey games to watch fights the kind of fans that Bettman wants to attract? Does he really care about the game or league revenues? If you think you know the answer to this one, then ask yourself why Bettman felt that expanding into Nashville or Florida was a good idea. Is it about the money, or about the game? Don’t kid yourself…

If you went to a game in a non-traditional hockey market, you would know what I mean. I saw a game once in Phoenix about 8 years ago. Yup, good old hockey-mad Phoenix. Not a bad game, lots of scoring, some end-to-end rushes. I was sitting up in the 200 level, hearing the other fans. It went something like this:

“When will a fight break out?”
“This is boring.”
“Who do you have for the Giants-Steelers game on Sunday?”
“C’mon, fight already!!!”
“That hot dog was gross.”
“Why don’t they just fight instead of playing hockey?”
“Why did the whistle go?”
“I can’t see the puck!”
“What quarter is this?”

Yes Bettman, they did pay money for their tickets. Your league revenues are safe.

On the other hand, ever been to a game in Montreal or Toronto? It is like night and day. And those fans paid for their tickets too.

Think about it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t follow hockey, but is, say, a football fan. Players get frustrated. Check. There is physical contact. Yup. Emotions run high. Uh-huh. When things boil over, you can fight, sit for five minutes and then get back into the game. Huh?

MLB – fight and you get tossed
NBA – fight and you get tossed
NFL – fight and you get tossed
MLS – fight and you get tossed
NHL – fight, sit for five minutes, resume playing. Sounds like giving a time-out to a five-year old for throwing a toy at his sister.

If Bettman thinks that having fights sells tickets, are the commissioners of all the other leagues missing out on a great revenue opportunity? Wow, that Gary sure knows how to sell tickets! Maybe we should allow fighting too and then we can attract a whole new fan base! Like, maybe even getting some hockey fans to come watch our soccer games!

“It has been in the game forever”

Yes, but so has goalies with no face masks, two-line offside passes, and a myriad of other rules that have since changed. No-touch icing is another rule that might change the game. Don’t get me started on that one. Too late…watch for another blog soon.

“We could change things to make fighting safer”

We can make fighting safer??!?! WTF??? Wait, I got it. Let’s make sure the players wear boxing gloves instead of bare fists. Let’s make them take off their skates first, roll out a carpet so no one wipes out on the ice, and then let them go at it. Let’s have attendants, like at a boxing match, so that between rounds, the players can sit on a little stool, take in some water, have a doctor look at them and get that nasty cut over the eye closed before we start fighting again.

“You’re just a wuss/pansy/pacifist”

Perhaps, but I’m also a fan of the game. A game that is played well, with skill and precision. With speed and intensity. With hard-body checks and well-timed mid-ice hits. Ask Ottawa hockey fans what it was like to watch the World Juniors. Or the Salt Lake City Olympic Ice Hockey games (men’s and women’s).

Look, I’m not going to lie. A fight is exciting to watch. MMA/WWE have legions of fans. Bettman, instead of going after those fans, let’s go after real HOCKEY fans.

C’mon. Bring on the comments. I’m ready with my helmet off to take you on.

Don’t leave cheese in your fridge…

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