Thursday, June 30, 2005
CHL Import Draft: Mihalik, Bliznak, Bartanus
I want to bring up some points that I talked about last year, because they are still very much relevant this time around.
What to look for when selecting a European prospect for your CHL franchise?
1. Age - If you are a team thinking long-term, then you want to draft a 17 year-old player who will be draft eligible in 2006 (So you have them for a few years, hopefully). If you are thinking 'win now', then you would draft an 18 or 19 year old as they are more developed. Teams picking near the top of the heap tend to think long-term, so they would be slanted to pick younger.
2. Committment - Before drafting an import player, the team's GM typically (or should) reach an agreement with that particular prospect. If they cannot receive a commitment from a particular prospect, then they may pass and take someone more willing to come over. I will add to this by adding a CHL teams relationship with an agency stable is also very important. The Giants used their good relationships to help get Marek Schwarz and Andrej Meszaros to come to the CHL. It's important for a CHL team to have the agent working with them to get interested players to commit.
- The NHL Factor - Teams who drafted European players often want them to come over and get adapted to North American hockey as quickly as possible. The kid may have not considered moving to the CHL, but the NHL team will put pressure on the kid or entice them into coming over. (Case in point: Marek Schwarz - He came to the CHL more for his NHL team than for himself)
- The Eliteness Factor - Elite prospects such as Ilya Kovalchuk were taken in the CHL Import Draft, but they would have no reason to come over to the CHL, when they can either make the NHL right off of the bat, or stay home and make good money playing against higher competition in the pro leagues. Elite pro prospects such as Kovalchuk don't get selected with high picks, as it's basically wasting the pick in the first place.
- The Eagerness Factor - Some prospects who have been passed over in the NHL draft want to come to the CHL to prove themselves and then get drafted (Tomas Malec and Lukas Pulpan are perfect examples), while some 2006 eligible prospects, usually the ones lower on the charts, want to come over and prove themselves. Many prospects, and their agents, see the CHL as a land of opportunity to get themselves into the good books of NHL scouts.
3. $MONEY$ - This is a factor that rarely surfaces publicly, but certainly plays a role in determining which imports a CHL team can afford.
When the Giants traded for the rights to Senators prospect Jakub Klepis, his club team, Slavia Prague, wanted $100,000 to release him from his pro contract with the club. Klepis, too, also didn't want to lose out on the pro salary that he was making with Slavia, and wanted his cut as well. For some of the higher-end prospects, their club teams want to be financially compensated for losing their assets. More and more, European club teams are nticing their top prospects with pro contract offers.
Some of the smaller market CHL teams (like Swift Current) would have a lot more trouble paying these fees than a team like the Giants.
Now, with that said, there is a big difference in this year's draft as the NHL has not yet held their entry draft. We do not know where many of these kids will end up in the NHL scheme of things, and the newly-drafted players will have to wait awhile until their NHL teams talk to their agents regarding their future plans.
Now, I want to mention a few of the selections.
1. Marek Bartanus LW/C, 10th to Owen Sound - The big 6'3" forward finds himself squeezed out of Kosice as his club team went out and signed a lot of good veteran forwards this spring. Bartanus all but admitted that he was on the outs and was open to coming to the CHL. Bartanus is a big guy who was good in league games and disappointing in International competition. There is a lot of upside in this kid, and he was looked at to be the top European-based prospect for Slovakia.
2. Vladimir Mihalik D, 36th to Red Deer - It won't be hard to miss this kid since he's a whopping 6'7" 220+lbs. Last summer, he looked like a big slug who couldn't skate well and wouldn't hit people. One year later, his good WJC18 performance showed us that he improved his conditioning, footwork, and mean streak. Mihalik should benefit from the smaller ice surface (ala Valabik) and he's the big 'home-run' swing type prospect. Unlike Boris Valabik and Kristian Kudroc, Mihalik won't be a first rounder. I'd expect Mihalik to go around the 4th or 5th round.
3. Mario Bliznak C, 27th to the Vancouver Giants - Frequent readers of this site will remember how Spartak Dubnica was the laughing stock of the Slovak Extraleague. They won less than the Washington Generals versus the Harlem Globetrotters. Since Zvolen's 'farm' team won the First Division, Dubnica managed to keep their Extraleague spot. So, what does Dubnica do? They sell their spot to MHC Martin and then disband their senior team's operations altogether.
Bliznak tore up the Slovak junior league, and fortunately only played 13 games (with a -9 rating) for the awful senior squad. All of these factors, combined with Vancouver's sparking track record with agents, leads me to believe Bliznak is a lock to be here next season. I'll talk about him more in the future, obviously.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The CHL Import Draft is taking place and you can view the results live.
Jakub Vojta , a defensemen from Sparta was taken first overall.
Interesting that Trinec had 2 of the top 7 picks in Tomas Pospisil and Marek Polak.
With Marek Schwarz gone home, the Giants used their pick (21st) to select Michal Repik, another Sparta Prague product.
Of course, I'll have a lot more to tell you all later in the week.
"How dare you sign those autographs!"
Jones rink fined for signing autographs
The Canadian Curling Association has fined two-time world champion Colleen Jones and her rink $300 for what amounts to spending too much time with the fans.
The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports Jones received written notification of the fine on Monday. The CCA says she and her foursome lingered just a little too long following a game at the Scott Tournament of Hearts last February and continued to sign autographs for fans while failing to take direction from a CCA official.
If I were Coleen, I'd do what any person would do with such a fine - Throw it in the trash! Is Gary Bettman's son running the CCA?
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Jason Strudwick's Hungarian Holiday
One interesting quote from Strudwick, who is known more for penalty minutes than points, about the Hungarian refs:
"To be honest, the referees let a lot more go during a game," said the Alberta native, who signed as a free agent with Chicago on July 15,Unlike most IIHF refs, the Hungarian league refs aren't exceptionally trained and whipped and, due to the Hungarian history of 'physicality', could be prone to let a little more of the physical destruction go on.
2002. "There are a lot of smaller guys nipping at your heels, so you
have to kind of keep your emotions in check.
Jason also enjoyed the heavy Hungarian cuisine (Rice AND Potatos and Pork), as did Rob Niedermayer (as noted before, Niedermayer really let himself go). While Jason seemed to take his hockey vacation a little more seriously, Niedermayer preferred the Hungarian wine, women, and goulash.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Given the NHL's poor record of management and marketing, what can they do to reach out and grab some of the fan support they have always craved from an apathetic American public?
I'm not a marketing major, nor do I play one on TV, but I do have a few thoughts...and so does ESPN's Scott Burnside.
First, the NHL has to say "We're Sorry, please don't leave!"
Most teams are expected to offer significant incentives to season-ticket holders and reductions in ticket prices across the board.
'Most' is the operative word here, because you won't get any ticket price reduction from strong markets like Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal. Ticket prices are purely a supply-and-demand price structure, and the demand will obviously be less in many markets. You can expect ticket prices to rise once teams get to their target level of attendance. This isn't really a marketing tool, but part of the overall business plan.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, for instance, are planning a series of promotions for season-ticket holders who did not withdraw their money during the lockout. The team plans to reward those fans with replicas of the Stanley Cup rings presented to Lightning players.Now, this is creative and a nice gesture from a team to its fans. The rings will probably be 'junk' jewelery, but this type of creative thinking has been lacking in many NHL markets. The fans of Tbay missed out on a year of having their team as the defending Stanley Cup Champs, so this is a nice way to feel like they are enjoying the success along with the team.
So, what about measures to market the product beyond simple apologies and one-time offers?
Although the exact details of the NHL's marketing plan aren't yet known, some of the strategies include attempts to market its star players in a more aggressive way. Better access and a more friendly relationship with the media have been promised in the hopes of promoting players and their stories.As I've said before, the first and most important thing for the NHL to do is to improve the on-ice product. NHL hockey was enjoying major gains in the early-to-mid 90s, and they didn't need High Definition TV, microphones on players, or pucks with glowing red tails (oh, wait...)...people tuned in because the product was exciting (more flow, more scoring chances, more fights).
The league is looking to expand access to players and coaches during games, beyond the traditional between-period interviews.
The NHL, which claims that hockey fans are the most technologically savvy of all pro sports fans, will focus a portion of its marketing energies on the cyber world. It will also work to improve the at-home experience for an ever-waning television audience, employing new camera angles, microphones on players and coaches and the use of high definition television production.
I can't remember which blogger talked about it, but the NHL could do very well to follow the model of other sports (NFL) and tell more 'stories' about the players and the teams. Instead of the boring and extremely cliched intermission interviews ("Yeah, we gave it 105%...we need to establish the forecheck, yabba dabba do"), why not use the intermission segments to stories about the players...make up some drama!
Why doesn’t the NHL hire the people who work in the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) to do some in-game promos? If there is anything the WWE is great at, it's their storytelling montages and event hyping.
We could even have Jim Ross doing commentary: "My God! Brashear just hit Sandy McCarthy in the head with a hockey stick! The man is possessed!"
As for the 'Cyber World', the problem for the NHL is that there isn't nearly the demand for on-line services like the MLB, which has the most successful internet venture in all of pro sports. The NHL used to be a pioneer in this regard, but they've fallen way behind everyone else.
As a cybergeek, myself, I'd like to see the in-game reporting beefed up (Go to mlb.com and check out their GameTrak. We should have to-the-second updating of every shot, check, save, and penalty call. They could have a diagram of the ice and show where each incident occurred...so we could listen to the game through one of their radio feeds (something the NHL does a great job of) and then keep visual track with the GameTrak. Better yet, the NHL could do what the MLB does and offer live games online for $2.95 or something. Not only does the MLB let you watch the game live, but you can download any of the games on their archive. Perhaps a Lightning fan would pay $2.95 to download the Cup winning game?
Another thing I notice is the statistics for the NHL are poorly done. Each individual player page has only the basic stats, and the more detail stat pages don't go back many years. The NHL needs to become a much better keeper of its own records.
Is any publicity 'good' for the NHL?
Most marketing types would say 'Yes', but I'll say 'Maybe'
I love the fact that Jeremy Roenick speaks his mind - I wish more players did that! On the other hand, JR isn't endearing casual fans to the sport or even the hardcore fans by spouting off like a pouty millionaire.
Talking about signing a CBA now as supposed to earlier
"If we would have signed that deal in February, in terms of what we're getting now, we would have looked like heroes," he added.Heroes? Would the players come out as heroes? In any event, JR should know that the NHL will never, EVER, be able to idiot-proof any CBA system. As long as 'hockey men' run NHL teams and lawyers and agents run the NHLPA, the NHLPA will always have a leg up on the NHL. While the PA can't take advantage of a Brian Burke, they can take advantage of guys like Bob Clarke, who wouldn't know a debit from a credit.
"Right now we look like a bunch of idiots...The deal in February beats the (expletive) out of the deal we're gonna sign in July."
...and there are teams that will try to circumvent the cap for their own greedy reasons...
It's unfortunate we had to go through a whole year to realize the (expletive) that was going on," said Roenick. "We've hurt our league, we've hurt the reputation of our league and the integrity of our league by sticking up for something that might not have been the right thing to do."Jeremy won't make any friends (if he had any) within the player ranks with these comments. As much as I may not agree fully with the PA's stance, why should the PA have to apologize for standing up for what they believe in, while the NHL comes off as the heroes? Both sides lost a lot on this dispute and both made the same mistakes.
"If people are going to sit and chastise pro athletes for being cocky - for being suck asses - they need to look at one thing and that's the deal we're going to be signing in about three weeks," he said.Thanks, but I'll pass on the posterior smooching.
"Pro athletes are not cocky. Pro athletes care about the game. Everybody out there who calls us spoiled because we play a game - they can kiss my ass."
I don't think JR realizes the irony in his statement about cocky athletes...hmmm... part of being a professional athlete is having a great deal of confidence and cockiness, though I don't know many who label hockey players are 'cocky'. Soccer, Football, and Basketball players are called 'cocky' quite often, but rarely hockey players. 'Greedy' would be a more apt description.
"I will say personally, personally, to everybody who calls us spoiled - you guys are just jealous... We're trying to get this thing back on the ice and make it better for the fans. If you don't realize that, then don't come. We don't want you in the rink, we don't want you in the stadium, we don't want you to watch hockey."Now, this is the type of publicity that the NHL could live without. JR is trying to make the players look like 'heroes' for signing a deal that is so bad for them (which remains to be seen), yet he insults those same fans for not worshipping greedy players and greedy owners who fight over millions and billions of dollars.
JR, maybe you need a glass of Sugar-Free Reality Cola.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Sometimes, it pays to be beaten
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Canadian hockey team's costumed mascot has been awarded C$35,000 (US$28,500) for injuries he suffered when he was attacked in the stands by the trainer of an opposing team.
Kristen Reddemann, who dresses up as "Chief Wannawin" for a Chilliwack, British Columbia, junior hockey team, was punched and knocked to the ground in the incident over a loud drum he was beating during a 2002 playoff game.
A British Columbia Supreme Court judge rejected Trevor McEachnie's claim that he was acting in self defense when he climbed over the glass wall around his team's bench and hit Reddemann, according to a ruling released this week.
Reddemann said he still suffers headaches because of the incident, but the attack has not prompted him to change his costumed character's boisterous performance.
"I don't think it hurt my confidence. I was just doing my job, and that's what I'm still doing," he told the Vancouver Province newspaper.
Self-Defense? Ajajaj. Well, Chilliwack fans are known to be loud and 'enthusiastic', and I just wonder if we can expect the same behaviour from their fans when they get their WHL team.
Assist to the hockey fanatic.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
A Hockey Rants Study: 2003/04 NHL Pythagorean Standings
Let's start off with something very easy to understand concept in what we call Pythagorean Standings aka Expected Win %.
Developed by baseball writer and pioneer Bill James, Pythagorean Winning Percentage is an estimate of a team's winning percentage given their goals scored and goals allowed.
You would expect a team that scored 200 goals for and let in 200 goals against within a single season to be a .500 team, right?
Real life, of course, doesn't always quite work out that way. A team could end up 10 games over .500 with an even goal differential. When looking at Pythagorean standings, we tend to attribute this to 'luck'. Over a long season, what factors contribute to teams doing better or worse than their record 'should' be?
In terms of practical use, we do know (from many baseball evaluations) that teams will tend to 'regress to the mean' in follow seasons. Say you have a very 'lucky' team that won 10 games more than they should have. All things being equal (minimal roster changes and other factors), you would expect that team to do worse next season based on the natural Plexiglass Principle. This works as well for teams that were 'unlucky'.
So, when you evaluate how your team did during one individual season, and look to what may happen next season, it could be a good idea to see if the team will likely get better or worse simply by the Plexiglass Principle.
There were a few problems/difference to sort out between the baseball method and the hockey method
1. Hockey games end in ties. A team could never win and never lose a game (All ties) and end up as a .500 team (0-0-82). This doesn't skew the overall numbers much (since such a team gets as many points as a team tht goes 41-41-0), but certain teams can be very good at tying up games while others either win/lose...which leads to...
2. Not all games are created equal. With the advent of the Overtime Loss bonus point, not every NHL game is equal. A 1-1 tie is worth 2 points, a 3-0 win is worth 2 points, but a 2-1 OT win is worth 3 points! I calculated the average NHL game to be worth 2.12 points last year, and this had to be accounted for in my calculations.
Now, I present the 2003/04 NHL Overall Pythagorean Standings.
You can see the team's Actual Points, 'Expected' points, goal differentials, and how unlucky/lucky they were (In other words, how did they do against their expected Win %)
The Lucky Ones:
+9 Pittsburgh -> Very poor teams will tend to have big deviations from their expected Win%. Why? Well, the Penguins were likely down 3-0 or 4-0 after 2 periods in many of their games. You can imagine that when you are down by a large score, and play on a crappy team that loses many games, you are not going to play with a lot of confidence and will likely be involved in many lopsided losses. While the Penguinos won their share of games, most of them were probably by close scores...while many of their losses would have been lopsided.
+8 Boston -> Boston was an amazing story in 2003/04 as they were the only NHL team to lose less than 20 games! Boston did this with a very young goaltender, a rather shaky defence corps, and a heavy reliance on one line to do the scoring (Thornton-Knuble-Murray). Boston 'should' have finished 12 with their goal differential, but managed to place 5th overall! You wouldn't expect them to have the same great performance given their defence and I know most people were surprised that Boston finished so well.
+7 St. Louis -> The Blues top-heavy roster (a massive drop-off after Demitra, Weight, Tkachuk, Pronger, Jackman, and Mellanby), injuries (MacInnis) and goaltending woes led them to a season where they actually had a negative goal differential. Despite this, the Blues managed to squeak into the playoffs and finished with a .528 Win%. The Blues can certainly thank their lucky stars (but not the Dallas Stars) that they made the playoffs when they really didn't deserve to, based on their play. With an aging roster, and the departures of MacInnis and Demitra, the Blues are poised for a big fall.
+6 Carolina -> The most unlucky lucky team. Carolina actually placed better than expected, which is no prize in itself. If the Canes did as poorly as they should have, then they would have been lined up for a better draft position! Everything turns to crap for this franchise, doesn't it?
+5 Nashville -> Similar to St. Louis in that the Preds had a lackluster GF/GA and still made the playoffs over Minnesota (more on them in a second). If the young Preds can keep improving, they will likely match the 91 points they earned in 2003/04 and not suffer a setback to their established mean.
The Unlucky Ones
-12 Ottawa Senators -> The Senators have a deep and talented roster, and many writers and fans considered their 2003/04 performance to be a dissappointment. According to expected Win%, the Senators played like a much better team than the real standings would indicate. If the Senators can get a goalie 'upgrade' from Dominik Hasek, the Senators would expected to do monstrous things next season.
-9 New Jersey Devils -> Martin Brodeur and the boring Devils keep the GA total down with their amazing defensive play and murder of offensive hockey. I haven't looked at previous seasons' Pythag win% yet, but I would guess that an ultra-defensive team like the Devils would tend to deviate a lot based on their nature to play in tight defensive hockey games, even when they are leading 1-0 just 3 minutes into the first period.
-6 Minnesota -> These are truly the 'unlucky' ones, although I doubt many people will feel sorry for one of the NHL's other anti-hockey teams. According to Expected Win%, Minnesota should have made the playoffs over both St. Louis AND Nashville. Again, a tight defensive team deviates greatly from the expected %'s
-6 New York Islanders -> I'm not sure how to explain their deviation, other than the fact that their goaltending is quite poor with the inexperienced DiPietro and the sluggish Garth Snow tending the twine (especially Snow and his .899 SV%).
-3 Edmonton Oilers -> Finally, we finish with the Oilers. Like the Wild, the Oilers were 'expected' to make the playoffs based on their performance, but their unluckyness, combined with the Preds and Blues luck, caused them to watch the NHL Playoffs at home. The Oilers didn't really deviate much from their expected record, but there was enough deviation on both sides for the Oilers to miss the playoffs by 2 measly points!!
The remaining teams tend to fall within a 2-3 point range of their expected standings. These small deviations represent a win or two, and really don't mean much since these teams performance quite closely to their expected records. When evaluating Pythag Win%, it's the major deviations which merit attention. If we had an NHL season the past few months, we could have expected the Blues to fall on rough times and perhaps end their playoffs-made record, the Senators to rule the NHL with 120 points, and Boston to fall on rougher times.
'Expected' is always the key word, and we know that only the REAL standings count. Despite this, I feel Pythag Win% can be a useful tool when analysing how certain teams would be expected to do next season when doing predictions, and when projecting the future performance of your favourite team. If I were a GM of any of the very unlucky/lucky teams I talked about above, I would definitely account for the Plexiglass Principle when making my offseason moves and signings.
This was a very simple exercise, and I hope it helps increase your knowledge and interest in some basic statisical metrics when it comes to the game of hockey. We still have a long way to go, but I suggest you go and visit Daryl Shilling's The Hockey Project if you want to look at many other fine studies.
Don Cherry does Baseball
Now, imagine if Don Cherry had a Coach's Corner segment on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball?
Well, 'Yard Work' Blog did, and had a spiffy spoof of Don Cherry and his imaginary take on the world of baseball.
Big league scouts used to drive up from the States to watch our games. Word spread fast about our team of hard-nosed Kingston boys. We hit the ball hard and opposing infielders harder. In their game notes, the scouts used to call it the "Canadian style" of play but you never hear that term used anymore because the game has become so diluted by foreigners who don't know how to take a hit. Next time you're watching a game, look at how those Venezuelans and Dominicans play. They take one hit -- one hard slide -- and they're down on the field for five minutes. Give me a break.If you read this spoof with Don Cherry's voice talking in your head, it seems quite plausible that 'Grapes' would say something like this...
R.I.P. Charlie Tuttle
Some sad news from Jason Kirk at the Predators Den as he announced the passing of blogger Charlie Tuttle.
Charlie's fiestyness and candor will be missed in blogdom.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Now, I think we've officially crossed that imaginary line where such a promotion just becomes dumb beyond belief.
From the Kansas City Star:
The first two innings of the July 16th game between the Kansas City T-Bones and the Schaumburg Flyers will be played virtually.
Equipped with Microsoft Xbox game controllers instead of baseball gloves and bats, two video gamers will climb into recliner chairs around home plate at CommunityAmerica Ballpark and slug it out on the park?s 16- by 24-foot video screen.
Their scores from playing two innings of MVP Baseball 2005 on an Xbox will stand when the T-Bones and Flyers take the field to finish the last seven innings of the game.
No, this is not April 1st and this is not a joke.
Now that the NHL will surely need to be more fan-friendly, could you imagine such a promotion taking place in Gary Bettman's new league?
Say the Detroit Red Wings come to town to play the Vancouver Canucks. I get to control the Red Wings for a period while Tom Benjamin can control the Canucks. What would stop me from playing really poorly and somehow the Canucks end up with an 8-0 leading after the first period, when the 'real' players take over?
"Honestly, I just really suck at this game, Gary!"
Truth - Stranger than fiction for over 3,000,000 years!
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Brian Burke - Hidden Agenda?
With good hockey news in short supply, leave it up to the hockey writers, such as the Province's (our local version of birdcage liner) Ben Kuzma, to make some stew out of some innocent (and some not-so-innocent) comments than *perhaps* is warranted.
On the other hand, I know Burke knows he's gone into a rather lukewarm hockey market and inherited a rather mediocre roster overall. There are plenty of changes to be made in Anaheim as Burke sets the course for his vision, so the media will be working overtime to drum up some animosity and gossip.
Let's analyze, shall we?
"The players are highly compensated and famous but they're employees," blurted Burke. "They're going to do things my way or we'll find them somewhere else to play."
We've heard this credo from managers before, and it's pretty much status quo to thump your chest a little and declare that changes will be made. The Ducks wouldn't have hired Burke if they didn't want some whips to be cracked.
On current Head Coach Mike Babcock:
"There's no reason why we can't arrive at a common ground or I would have made an announcement today that we're making a coaching change," said Burke. "He's going to get a fair shot."
Since Babcock's contract expires on June 30, why would Burke make an announcement either way? He can simply wait out the contract and then hire a new coach, or he can wait until the CBA to start making organizational moves.
...aaaaaaaand.... we know Brian Burke is going to want 'his' man to be coaching 'his' team. Mike Keenan didn't last long in Vancouver (and for other reasons) when Burke arrived, and Burke showed that he was willing to pay a high price (a 2nd or 3rd round pick to the Avalanche) to hire Marc Crawford. Burke isn't happy with just a pedestian defensive coach, and will want to hire a coach that can open it up a little.
Don't be surprised if Mike Babcock's contract is not renewed. I hope he's polishing that resume right about now.
Now, how about Sergei Federov and his albatross contract?
In Sergei Fedorov, Burke has a ticking time bomb. Not only does the enigmatic Russian hold the option on three more years at $8 million per season -- minus the expected 24 per-cent rollback in a new collective bargaining agreement -- there could be a fence to mend.
Fedorov's younger brother, Fedor, was a flop as Burke's 2001 leap of draft-day faith. Talented yet unteachable, the winger was once told to buy a house in Winnipeg because Burke doubted he'd ever stick with the parent club.
And when the elder Fedorov was on the free-agent market, Burke offered this response when asked if the Canucks were interested in the centre: "I've got one Fedorov already and that's too many."
Burke doesn't think that comment will come back to haunt him.
"I don't know if it's a problem for Sergei or not and I don't know why it would be because it's not a comment about him," he said.
Sergei is going to be a key player and he's going to get paid no matter what happens. I know Burke and the Ducks will be counting on Federov to 'lead' the Ducks on the ice, and I doubt that Burke's comments will really have a big impact on how Sergei plays. I'd worry more about the coach/player relationship than what Burke said about Fedor.
Then again, Sergei is tight with his bro', so who knows if Federov can put the Fedor/Burke relationship in the back seat with the groceries.
It's fun to speculate and drum up controversy where little or none may exist, so it's easy to see why the media has to resort to producing such material. Why report real news when you can become a rumour mouthpiece like Al Strachan? Yeehaw!
Monday, June 20, 2005
St. Louis Blues Up for Sale: What's the Dealio?
There is so little news to report or comment on these days, and 'my' MLB team, the Chicago White Sox, keep on winning (45-22!) and taking up most of my sporting interest.
Still, the Blues (until I know what Pavol Demitra is up to) are still my #2 NHL team, and it is noteworthy to me that Wal-Mart heir (Nice to marry into money, eh?) Bill Laurie is putting the St. Louis Blues up for sale.
Marketing 101 - If you have a good product, and want to get a good price for it, don't go telling people what faults lie beneath the shiny surface.
Case in Point, Blues President Mark Sauer:
"...Substantial future losses are projected even if you take into account what we believe will be a very successful resolution to NHL collective bargaining," Sauer continued. "Those projected losses result from the current high sales and amusement taxes and the absence of city, county and state financial support of the debt service and operations of Savvis Center."If I ever have a sleek Porsche Spider to sell, why would I go around telling people about the rust that is covered by the new paint job, or the fact that the motor tends to break down every 3 weeks? Why would anyone buy an NHL team if they couldn't make money under the 'new' NHL (We know why, but you'd think Sauer would be smart enough not to say such stupid things).
Anyway, I decided to get some of the facts and scuttlebutt from our resident Blues expert, "Childhood Trauma".
Here is his take on the many angles involved in this transaction-to-be (Excuse the grammar and weird writing kinks...that's just his style)
Would the Blues be moved to a different market?
"Laurie has a long term lease that he is bundling with the team in the sale so that alone would make it hard to get the team moved, and buttman has shown every inclination to strip Canada of its teams but allow the states to keep teams that are faultering (and the Blues fan base, pre lock out at least, was NOT faltering, nor is the Saavis Center a bad arena)."
Corporate Welfare: "The blues have a "high" off the top ticket tax on the Blues, the Cardinals new ball park agreement supposedly eliminated theirs, and speculation is (although i can not confirm) that the Rams never had one due to wooing them to move here in the first place, so the blues would be the only major sports team to be losing 12 % plus off the top of revenues to the city."
(Jes: This seems to be noted as one of the biggest reasons that Laurie would want to dump the team. Why should the Blues have to pay such a rediculous tax when the other pro franchises get perks?)
The Basketball Angle:
"Laurie is a basketball guy as we have ALWAYS made fun of. doesn't know hockey. STILL. the nba wouldn't put up with him, had he an nba team, he would still be the blues owner"
"the laurie family has had disasterous dealing with his beloved Mizzou basketball. his naming right and buying a second rate big ten team a new stadium and pushing for the "q" (Joel Quenneville) to coach have ALL backfired, monetarially and publically with his daughter's school, um, incidence."
(Jes: I remember when Laurie tried to purchase the NBA Vancouver Grizzlies and move them to St. Louis. The NBA would let him in their club then, and they will likely never let him in now. Laurie always dreamed of having the NBA in St. Louis, so it's not a surprise that he might bail now that he realizes he has no chance at the NBA in St. Louis)
The NHL lockout angle: "nothing about the lockout is settled yet., it is unclear just how bad off the Blues will be. that mostly depends on options, incentives, how fast the wage roll back is implimented, how much the lost year contract is worth/ cost etc.
How much $ can Laurie get?: "The stanley cup visiting Ducks took 75 million (below market value) Forbes has the blues organization at 145 million (bahahahaa) i'd be suprised if the team sells within the year laurie gets 80 million (less than he paid). most people feel the basic structure can be saved and if laurie had a brain he would once again let pleau build via the draft, put a week team ont he ice but with cut ticket prices and get his team on the upswing and THEN sell, but laurie has wanted out for a while now apparently"
The Future: "The blues have been going down this road for a while (which I have continously pointed out) but the greatest set of clues to lauries lack of concern at all started last season wehn the leagues worse goalie coach (based on his long term result with blues starters and prospects in net) was PROMOTED to bench coach (yowza!) and before this move was announce a former scout that had recently been promoted to head of scouting/drafting 2 seasons ago, is suddenly repromoted to assistant gm. The organization has been skeletoning itself for season in on ice talent, but it has been just as much going on with administration as well. there is NO concern, money, intent, or desire by laurie to do anythign at any level with this team. and jim woodcock, advertising, marketing, sales guru and one of the most respected sports figures in ANY sport in this city (by people who know anything at least) recently quit the organization. that passing, let me tell you, was a far more bemoaned and felt tremour (even in the local media) than Demitra being shown the curb!"
My final take: The Blues have done a poor job of budgeting and it could hurt them in the future. The Blues have/had a very top-heavy salary structure. Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk, and Pavol Demitra all had significant contracts while the rest of the roster had to be filled with very cheap and/or young options. The Blues left themselves no roster flexibility when they locked in their elite players for billions for dollars (especially Tkachuk). Under the new era of Gary Bettman (shall it come to pass), the Blues could find themselves stuck right at the cap number with no room to improve the roster. I haven't crunched the numbers yet, so perhaps that's something I can think about when I'm in the mood.
As for Bill Laurie, I have no love for him (especially since he tried to steal our crappy NBA team away with such malice) and he's done a poor job of managing the Blues...basically, he's an absentee owner who married into money and used the Blues and the Savvis Center primarily for his basketball goals.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Pop open another Jaegermeister!
Jags was instrumental in leading the Czechs to golden glory with his 'heroic' effort of 2 goals and 7 assists in 8 games. Jagr sustained a broken pinky finger in a game against Germany, but didn't let that stop him from being the force that we were used to him being in his Pittsburgh days.
Personally, I would have given the award to Tomas Vokoun and his lovely 7-1 record with a sparking 1.08 GAA and 95.26 Save Percentage.
Just another reason why democracy doesn't work ;)
Jagr adds this award to the millions of other little trophies he's piled up over the years...including the infamous triple crown (Stanley Cup, World Championships Gold, Olympic Gold):
"There are not many players who have it and you have to be lucky to play on great teams to accomplish that. Erich Kuhnhackl was a great forward, but he was never able to reach this while playing for Germany. Marcel Dionne was a superstar for 19 years in the NHL, but he was never on a team that won the Stanley Cup. For most Canadians and Americans, the Olympic gold was something they could start dreaming about just recently. As I said, you have to be lucky," Jagr told IIHF after the final game.
Also team mate Jiri Slegr joined the Triple Gold Club.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Canada on their 'Wayne' to the Olympics?
While "Spector" is seeing signs in the stars that the NHL could be back up and running soon, I'm also quite excited to see that it appears that NHL players will be a GO in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
Team Canada made news by naming Wayne Gretzky (as he accepted after some pondering) as Executive Director of Canada's entry into the Olympics.
I know some of the 'purists' out there don't like having professionals in the Olympics, but these are the same people who cry every time a tree is cut in a BC forest. Damn hippies!
When the world's biggest sporting gala is on, I want to see the very best in the world compete. Would you rather see Rick Nash and Mats Sundin or some non-descript NCAA players and ECHL All-Stars?
Don't give me none of that BS that the NHLers don't care about the Olympic games. While American NBAers and some Canadian hockey players may give that impression, it is a well known fact that the Olympic games are much more important to the European players than the Stanley Cup and World Championships. When Pavel Bure was growing up under the Communist USSR regime, his big goal in life wasn't to have his name etched in the Stanley Cup...it was all about the gold, baby!
As for Gretzky himself, Tom Benjamin wonders if Gretzky is really all that competant as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes braintrust.
I realize Wayne is a living legend and all that, but it seems to me that Hockey Canada and the hockey media make way more out of the appointment than the story deserves. Somehow Wayne has been anointed the Wayne Gretzky of hockey executives with hardly a murmur of media protest despite the fact that he really doesn't have any qualifications and despite the fact he hasn't exactly set the world on fire in Phoenix.
There is no real evidence to support the idea that Wayne Gretzky is an able hockey executive. He's been the managing partner in Phoenix for five years now and while the team he took over was far from a success, it wasn't bad. The team stayed in about the same place for Gretzky's first two years and then it went south with two awful seasons in a row.
Let's just sum up my thoughts (again and again)
1. Gretzky has shown himself to be absolutely over his head when it comes to off-ice business decisions (and his dad seems to be partially to blame). Failed investments in the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, a roller rink, and a very shaky business plan in Phoenix show that Gretzky is good at being taken advantage of because of his name, and isn't as smart in the boardroom as he is on the ice.
Remember when Gretzky signed a 20-year personal services contract with Nelson Skalbania (back in the WHA days)??
I wouldn't be surprised if he sold his soul for a Klondike Bar.
2. Gretzky is a great 'NAME' to have around anything related to hockey. In the Olympic games, all you need to do is select the best 25 player roster that will bring home the gold. There are no contracts or business plans to worry about. Gretzky gives Team Canada more prestige and marketability. So, unless Gretzky is wringing arms to have Matt Cooke center the first line, his addition to Team Canada is a plus.
The Canadians have been doing a fine job at International events and are still the #1 country in hockey. I'd like to revel in the positive news that is being generated and hope that the lack of insults and the amount of quiet meetings between the warring factions will lead to some high-level hockey being played by NHL players in a few months.
Buffalo's Vision Collapses
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Martin Vagner's Last Symphony
Those with the best knowledge, resources, foresight, and research will generally come out on top of those who trade with fewer resources, less information, and a lack of acumen in identifying 'good' prospects.
As a prospect 'follower', I always get excited around draft time. So many prospects get taken in the 9-round draft, and we tend to think many of them will achieve the heights that we project for their talent levels...especially those draft picks taken in the first round. Unless it's an obviously questionable pick like Nathan Smith or Adrian Foster, we tend to imagine that a first round pick will develop on a steadily rising curve and become an NHL regular and/or a star.
Well, as Tom Benjamin aptly notes, things don't always work out as well as the initial forecasts would indicate:
The NHL draft is mostly hype. Fewer than half the 300 players drafted are even signed and only 30-40 of the players signed will get into more than 200 NHL games. About half those successful players will come out of the first round and the rest will be scattered more or less randomly throughout subsequent rounds.
A great illustration of the draft stock market is Czech defenseman Martin Vagner, who was first taken by the Dallas Stars 26th overall in the 2002 Entry Draft.
Vagner wasn't a typical first round pick (he seemed more like a mid second-rounder to many), but he was a smooth-skating defenseman with decent size (now 6'1" and 210) and those typical Czech puck skills. Vagner wasn't going to lead any NHL team to the Stanley Cup, but he was expected to be a solid 2-way defenseman in the mould of Sami Salo (without the monster shot).
After coming to North America, Vagner floundered badly and just couldn’t adapt well to our style of game. The offence never showed it's head, and he was not adapting to having 6'3 200" forwards knocking him on his ass. Instead, his body was breaking apart like satellite debris re-entering the atmosphere and he was coughing up the puck like Jyrki Lumme in his later years.
The Dallas Stars decided Vagner was a sunk cost, and decided not to sign him after their 2-year window expired.
With his star fallen (excuse the pun), the Carolina Hurricanes came along at the 2004 Entry Draft and decided to take a very low-risk move in selected Vagner in the 9th round. I made this observation at the time:
When Vagner was selected by the Dallas Stars 26th overall in 2002, I thought he was selected a bit too high. Still, he was a pretty solid prospect and certainly one of the more skilled prospects at the time.
2 years later, and Vagner has regressed badly and been faced with many injuries. His play at the 2004 Memorial Cup was actually fairly good, but not enough to make up for a poor season. Vagner, for all of his natural talents, was as dependable as 10 year-old Yugo.
Vagner and Dallas couldn't come to turns, and now he's been picked in the 9th round by the Hurricanes. Vagner will have to beg for peanuts, rather than the lucrative 1st rounder money he was expecting. If the Canes are willing to be patient and develop him in the ECHL (Because he's not ready for the AHL), and if Vagner is willing to continue his career in North America, then the Canes might have come out with something decent.
After yet another pedestrian season in the QMJHL as a 20 year-old with Acadie-Bathurst, it was obvious that Vagner would not make the jump right to the AHL. Rather than suffer with long bus rides in the ECHL, Vagner has decided to return home to Pardubice. If I was a betting man, I'd bet money that he'll never come back.
Scouting is not an easy profession, and it's even harder to predict how a European trained player will adapt to the North American style of play. Will your first rounder turn out to be a solid stud like Anton Babchuk, or will he turn out to be another Martin Vagner? We always hope for Babchuk, but we'll often get a Vagner.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The Kitchen Unit
Here is The Kitchen Unit.
C: Adam Oates
LW: Fred "Bun" Cook
RW: Jari Kurri
D: Paul Coffey
D: Garth Butcher
G: Kari Takko
This unit would be coached by none other than Donald S. Cherry, and the team would be sponsored by Tim Horton's donuts.
Cheering for Charlie
Fortunately, Jason Kirk reports a bit of positive news today:
...they want to let Charlie go home to Clarksville, an hour from Nashville, because the hospital there can do the radiation treatments he needs. This all hinges on whether his body can take a lower oxygen concentration than he’s been on in ICU - the home equipment can’t keep up the same levels as that at the hospital - but things were looking good today.I certainly hope Charlie can fight through this like Vladimir Orszagh (one of his favourites) battles for the pick in the corner. My thoughts, and those of the other hockey bloggers, are certainly with Charlie.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Ducks future looks brighter with Brian Burke
The sale of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from the Walt Disney Co. to Henry Samueli is expected to be finalized and made official this week, paving the way for the NHL club to announce Brian Burke as the team's new general manager at a news conference next week.Brian Burke is one of the rare NHL executives who is both adept at the hockey and financial aspects of running a hockey team (He had a perfect 4.0GPA at Harvard Law). If there a GM that I'd want on my team's side after a complicated CBA comes to fruition, Brian Burke is certainly of my top choices.
While Burkie has his faults (A rather spotty drafting record, inability to evaluate goaltenders, and a lack of PR skills), he did take a Canucks team that was left in shambles (Thanks to Herr Keenan) and turned it into a success on and off the ice.
1. Trades - While Burke doesn't have Glen Sather's reputation for robbing cradles, Burke has shown that he's not afraid of making the big deal as well as an ability to get the better end of such deals.
- a. Pavel Bure, Bret Hedican, Brad Ference and a second-round draft pick were sent to Florida for G Kevin Weekes, D Ed Jovanovski, RW Dave Gagner, C Mike Brown, and a first-round draft pick.
While Dave Gagner was washed up and didn't provide the help he was expected do for the Canucks stretch run, the Canucks got a lynchpin young defenseman for an offensive forward who was highly paid and didn't want to be here. This trade helped both squads, but gave the Canucks the best long term value.
- b. Jan Hlavac and Harold Druken for Marek Malik and Darren Langdon.
While Harold Druken showed flashes of amazing offensive talent, his utter laziness and love for the drink made sure he never made the Canucks pay for trading him in a move that wasn't expected to do much except rid the Canucks of two bad apples. Canucks fans never expected the awkward Marek Malik to develop into a solid defensive defenseman and give the Canucks a useful part for two rather useless clods.
- c. Peter Schaefer for Sami Salo
Schaefer was a decent 3rd line forward who thought he was an offensive star and deserves to be paid that way. He went to play over in Europe while the Canucks did just fine without him. After a year of fruitless waiting, Burke found a taker in the Senators. Salo came to the Canucks with an 'injury-prone' tag, but quickly became a dependable 2-way defenseman that gave the Canucks a more positive-impact player than they had lost in the dime-a-dozen Peter Schaefer. While the Sens didn't need Salo so much, Burke got a better play for a malcontent holdout.
- d. Vancouver Canucks traded Bryan McCabe and 1st round selection (Pavel Vorobiev) in 2000 to the Chicago Blackhawks for 1st round selection (later traded to the New York Rangers - Pavel Brendl) in 1999.
Burke then parlayed that pick (which became Brendl) the Rangers to draft the Sedin twins together. While McCabe has become a pretty productive offensive defenseman for the Leafs, he was shaky with the Canucks and shaky with the Chickenhawks. His departure from Vancouver was no real loss, and the Canucks got a set of robotic twins that have been, while disappointing in some respects, a big part of the young nucleus that has powered the Canucks the past few seasons.
2. Free Agents - While Brian Burke didn't land any big free agent splashes (mainly because Ownership and the budget wouldn't allow it), he did a good job of signing some 2nd-tier free agents such as Andrew Cassels, Magnus Arvedson, and Murray Baron. Burke got a couple of seasons of solid production from such players, and then knew when to cut bait and let other teams overpay for them (hello, Columbus)
3. Inside contracts - While current GM Dave Nonis gets credit for the dirty contract work, Burke did an exceptional job of keeping guys like Ed Jovanovski, Dan Cloutier, Todd Bertuzzi, and Markus Naslund signed to deals with kept their services firmly rooted in Vancouver without breaking the bank. The deals the Canucks have signed have been both beneficial to the players (they get their nice security blanket) and the organization (no albatrosses floating around GM Place).
Since the Ducks already have 2 very strong goalies in JS Giguere and Martin Gerber, they don't have to worry about Burke acquiring Brian Boucher and watching him bumble around.
Burke should be able to improve upon the Ducks core of young players and build the team under their new ownership.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Sometimes, it's just better to let go!
Canada's hockey team at the 1964 Winter Olympics has been denied a bronze medal for a second time.I'm sure the Canucks could make a good case of being screwed out of a medal. The Olympics 'became' the World Championships of that year, and it seems the rules that overlapped were never made quite clear. The IIHF rules can sometimes be strange and exotic to Canadians and they are prone to change like today's fashions.
The CBC reported Thursday that the International Ice Hockey Federation has ruled against reversing the 1964 decision that awarded the bronze medal for the world championship to the former Czechoslovakia instead of Canada.
Under Olympic tiebreaking rules, which took goal differential for the entire tournament, Czechoslovakia placed third and got bronze medals.
But under world championship rules, only goals from the medal round counted, which should have given Canada the bronze. But a dispute over rules erupted and the Canadian team never got their medals.
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said he is not through trying to get the medal he feels rightfully belongs to Canada's 1964 team.Now, guys, it's only a bronze medal...and it's been 41 years!! LET IT GO!!
"We'll do everything we can in Hockey Canada's power to get this medal for the players," he said.
Is it really going to make you feel like you accomplished something if they interpret a tiebreaking rule differently after 41 years? Really, just let it go...
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Hockey Hall of Fame gets more Worldly
The Hockey Hall of Fame today officially opened its newly expanded Royal Canadian Mint World of Hockey Zone, proudly recognizing the globalization of the game of hockey. Developed in partnership with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the World of Hockey Zone, originally opened in 1998 at a cost of over $2.5 million, features $750,000 in recently completed renovations and an additional 1,000 square feet of floor space expansion, including a new IIHF Honour Roll.This is great timing given the lack of NHL hockey and the soon-to-be induction of the deceased Valeri Kharlamov.
The newly expanded World of Hockey Zone features histories and exhibit materials from all IIHF member countries. Prominence is given to World and Olympic championships, including a display paying tribute to the contributions of the Czech Republic, the reigning World Men's Champions.
I just wish this expanded section was open when I was at the HHOF 2 years ago. I know I would have spent a good hour or more perusing over every item of this expanded shrine. It's hard to get great access to International hockey information in English and also view some of this history face to face. One of the topics that some pundits bring up is that the HHOF should not be exclusively for the NHL's history, and players such as Kharlamov, who have done great things in the WORLD of hockey, should also be included somehow in the hallowed halls.
While I was at the HHOF, I was impressed with the collection of International sweaters in the World Hockey Zone. It was quite a sight to see Ireland's 'Harp' uniforms and other hockey uniforms from countries such as Thailand and South Africa.
I also got to see one of Vladimir Ruzicka's old Slavia Prague sweaters (in the above picture). I was almost tempted to break the glass and steal it for myself :)
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Cam Neely is headed for the Hockey Hall of Fame!
"After six years of waiting, the former Boston Bruins forward has finally been chosen for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame."
At this time last year, I noted that Cam Neely had been shut out from the HHOF and made a case that he belonged in the hall.
My argument was more emotional than analytical in comparing Cam Neely to HOFer Mike Gartner.
Gartner finished his long career with not a single post-season award, and just one top-10 finish in league scoring (10th in 1984-85). For a 19-year career, you would expect a "top" player to finish at least 10th in league scoring more than just once.After my post, I read up some more about Neely and found Daryl Shilling's argument against Neely's induction.
Neely, on the other hand, played only 726 games played in his shortened-career, just finishing shy of the 400 goal plateau (694 total points). In his peak/best seasons (Ages 24-30, 7 seasons), Neely averaged 0.74 goals per game, while in Gartner's peak/best seasons (Ages 25-32, 7 seasons), Mike only averaged 0.56 goals per game.
On top of that, Gartner had only ONE 50-goal season in his 19 year career, while Cam Neely had THREE in 10 seasons, including 50 goals in just 49 games in 1993-94.
Neely’s HOFS score is 287, which is well below the cut-off of 600, where likely players are likely to become Hall of Famers. Is the point of this study to prove that Neely isn’t HOF calibre? No. I raise the Neely point because it is currently the most hotly debated HOF topic.
What I’m wondering is, if there’s a large push for Cam Neely, then why isn’t there one for Rick Martin or Tim Kerr? They produced at a similar level, and were better goal producers than Neely was. Pavel Bure, who looks like he’s retired as of today, is a similar (but better) offensive player that makes a better case for the HOF. Six of these players end up with better HOFS scores.
Cam Neely always SEEMED like a Hall of Fame calibre player to me, but injuries and a lack of big career numbers left him short in comparison to other members in the hall. Neely was a dominant player for a very short time...much like fireworks - Burn brightly, but not for too long.
It's no matter now, because Neely will be inducted into the HHOF along with former Hockey Canada head Murry Costello and the Russian great Valeri Kharlamov, a player many international hockey fans have been clamouring about for years.
I have not commented much at all about the NHL talks for various reasons. Why report on non-news and speculation?
Now, it looks like there is something real to talk about...
The Globe and Mail reports that the NHL and NHL Players' Association have agreed on a formula for a salary-cap system based on team-by-team revenue.
According to the Globe's league and player sources, a team-by-team salary floor and cap will based on a percentage of each NHL team's revenue. The paper adds that in the first year - based on revenue projections by both sides - the salary cap will range from $34 million to $36 million US, with the floor from $22 million to $24 million US.
The Globe also reports that the formula calls for a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax to kick in at the halfway mark between the floor and the cap. If the floor of the lowest team is $22 million US and the cap on the highest team is $36 million US, then the 'tax level' will be $29 million US.
The formula would allow wealthier teams to spend a bit more money, but would also bridge the large gaps in spending between higher payroll teams and lower payroll teams.
I am amazed that a luxury tax would come in at such a low rate. To have a $50 mil payroll, a team would need to spend $71 mil at that rate.
Now, presuming that this isn't just another baseless rumour, we must ask if this was really worth it from the PA's standpoint?
The NHL's resolve was much stronger than the NHLPA anticipated and the PA seemed to have much better offers before the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.
While pundits such as Tom Benjamin(Canucks Corner) and Lyle Richardson(Spector) seem to think the PA will make up such losses as teams hire 'Capologists', these figures, at first glance, look to be a huge victory for Gary Bettman's wreteched vision of the game.
More to come...
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The New WHA: A Third Reincarnation
My stepfather, David, pointed out this news release from the WHA today, in which the WHA is re-launching itself after two aborted attempts.
WHA version 3.0?
Park Hill Capital II, Inc. a US public company soon to be publicly trading on a US exchange, announced today that after several months of confidential negotiations, it will acquire the World Hockey Association and the US Pro Golf Tour to create a complete professional sports marketing and management company to be renamed Major League Sports Corporation.$60 million ?? That is some serious coin!
Under the terms of the acquisition agreement the company will issue fourteen million common shares to acquire both companies and will complete an initial private placement and public financing of up to $60,000,000 USD with the services of Finkelstein Capital Inc. of Montreal and Westminster Securities Corporation, a New York Stock Exchange Member.
Of course, like the boy who cried, 'Wolf', not many pundits are going to take the New WHA seriously until some actual lease contracts are signed and some actual players sign some actual contracts.
Still, you got to hand it to the people who run the WHA: They dream big; they never let their dreams die; and they are tenacious.
This new corporate and financing structure will enable the WHA to launch its operation and effectively revive the sport of professional hockey, with a minimum of six teams in cities yet to be announced, in time for the 2005 and 2006 season*shakes head* Not to bring back an old argument, but we've been over the topic of pro teams in Europe before. Fans aren't going to support the Frankfurt Hamburgers playing the Hartford Whalers when they can watch the Frankfurt DEL team play in a real rivalry against Kolner Haie.
The business model of the WHA includes plans to expand over the next 5 years with up to 16 franchises in North America and 16 in Europe. Revenue sharing between home and away teams will be implemented and corporate sponsorship will play a significant role in bringing professional hockey back to the fans.
Will we wait another 3 months to see the 4th business plan for the WHA or will this plan hold some water?
Drastic Changes in Store for Czech Hockey?
Czech Federation and Team executives met in the beer town of Ceske Budejovice to discuss the future of the league and propose some rule changes - Probably after about 100 bottles of Budvar.
As per this Eurohockey.net report, the rumoured changes would drastically change Czech hockey far more than the time Jaromir Jagr cut his long hair.
1. Reinstate touch icing. The Czech Extraleague has not had touch icing since 1990, and it is common for Europeans leagues to use the IIHF's 'no-touch' rule.
2. Reinstate the Red Line for offsides. This is the *BIG* one, and would drastically shift Czech hockey from the European game that we know and love into an North American-style clone.
These proposed changes are very much under wraps within the Federation, and already people are starting to wonder 'Why??'
Touch Icing - As Don Cherry, Pat Peake, Al MacInnis, and countless others can tell you, touch icing leads to many needless injuries for the small chance the the 'shooting' team may recover the puck.
As the article above describes, Ludek Cajka of HC Zlin died shortly after one of these failed puck pursuits. The stadium in Zlin is named after Cajka, and this incident finally led the Czechs to adopt the 'no-touch' rule. Why would they feel the need to increase injuries?
Red Line Rule - This is even more of a head-scratcher. Why would the Czechs want to adopt a style out of line with their European counterparts? Imagine the difficulty that Czech Leaguers will have when they have to switch systems to play in IIHF tournaments? The Czech game is very much based on finesse and such a change would definitely take some of the pure skill out of the Czech game.
There have been no reasons given as to why the Czech Federation and the clubs would even consider these rules changes. I don't recall any fans, players, or even coaches clamouring for changes to make the Czech game mirror the NHL's style. Is the Czech Extraleague trying to make itself another NHL farm league? Do the clubs think that this will somehow increase scoring? (While not recognizing that lower scoring levels are due to good players playing in other leagues).
I was hoping that this was a big hoax, but Joeri Loonen would not post anything like this based on pure hearsay and speculation like 'Pelle Eklund' would.
Monday, June 06, 2005
AHL: Oilers Farm Squad Suspends Operations
According to a TSN news release, the Edmonton Oilers will be suspending operations for their AHL affiliate, the Edmonton Road Runners, for the 2005-2006 season.
The Road Runners were third overall in total and average attendance, attracting 354,151 fans for 40 home dates at an average of 8,853 per game. But the Oilers' ongoing pursuit of a Western Hockey League franchise - seen as a better fit when the NHL lockout ends - has been well-documented.
If the Oilers were expecting the NHL to return next season, this move *could* make sense since Edmonton is not likely to support an AHL club when the NHL is back in action.
Still, it's a puzzling move given the strong attendance and the need to develop prospects on their own terms. (Rather than farming them out to other AHL teams). The WHL is not going to give Edmonton a CHL team to start the 2005-06 season, either, so I'm hoping someone from Edmonton may be able to fill me in better on this puzzling situation
Is this purely financially motivated? The Oilers AHL franchise in Toronto couldn't make their lease payments to the RICOH Centre. Perhaps the AHL arm of the Oilers is in the financial red once again?
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Scouting THN's Top Draft Prospects Issue
As it is well known, The Hockey News was forced to scale down operations drastically due to the lockout. In addition to publishing just twice a month, the content of the magazine has been reduced and the coverage isn't as extensive as it normally is.
The Top Draft Prospects issue suffers greatly this year. Only the Top 50 prospcts are listed (no 51-100), and the scouting reports are limited to a simple paragraph. THN has put 8-10 prospects on each page and given less than 100 words on each one. On top of this, the scouting reports on the Czechs and Slovaks, from the friends and sources I've talked to, aren't terribly accurate.
There were also some notable and glaring errors:
1. THN lists Tomas Pospisil as playing for Slovakian club Trencin when he actually
played for Czech club Trinec. How can they screw that up?
2. THN lists Marek Zagrapan as hailing from Poprad, Czech Republic. Umm, guys...Poprad is very much in Slovakia. Just because Marek played for a Czech club once upon a time doesn't mean he was born there.
Quite disappointing given THN's professed stance of being the 'Bible of Hockey'. They could have easily sent me an email and I could have done some free editing for them. Of course, I bet most xenophobic Canadian fans wouldn't even notice these type of errors.
Anyway, let's have a look at what IS in this issue.
Top 10 & Czech/Slovak prospects
1. Sidney Crosby
2. Benoit Pouliot
3. Jack Johnson
4. Gilbert Brule
5. Bobby Ryan
6. Anze Kopitar
7. Corey Price
8. Jack Skille
9. Marc Staal
10. Alex Bourret
15. Ondrej Pavelec, G
19. Marek Zagrapan, C
21. Jakub Kindl, D
27. Radek Smolenak, LW
30. Tomas Pospisil, RW
35. Jakub Vojta, D
45. Tomas Kudelka, D
Brule 4th?? *shakes head*. I will predict and say it now: Gilbert Brule will be a better pro than the overrated Benoit Pouliot. If any other blogger wants to disagree, than why don't we make a wager?
The breakdown of the Top 50 by country
Canada - 23
USA - 8
Czechia - 7
Russia - 6
Finland - 3
Sweden - 1
Slovakia - 1
Slovenia - 1
If these rankings are to be trusted, then it is a terrible year for Sweden (again) and now for Russia (their top guy, Ilya Zubov, is ranked 33rd)
This issue also has a very short article on Crosby (because we never hear enough about this kid). The first concert Sir Sid attended? Sharon, Lois, and Bram. Yep.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
The 'Other' Face of Evil
"Yeah? Well, you can tell Gary that he's a big fat poopyhead!"
"When you've got 'em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow."
"Hey! It's unfair to label our members a bloodsucking parasites. How is
Bob: "Gary, I'm just not ready for that type of commitment right now!"
"Yes, it was I that used demonic hypotic powers to convince the
"Look, Larry, don't make me come over there and smack yo' bitch ass!"
Bob and his Swedish boytoy, Daniel, try to avoid the paparazzi as they
"You'd be a pissy old grump if you had a hairpiece this bad!"
Trevor: "I could really use a good pizza right now"
"See, I'm this tall and Gary is this short. Heeheehee1"
"Does it look like I care about the fans?"
"Young fool. Only now, at the end, do you understand. Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the dark side! You will pay the price for your lack of vision!"
Bob Goodenow before his extensive plastic surgery in 1985.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
A Real Tragedy for Pavol Demitra
"God, why?! Demitra's son dies" reads the headline from the Czech tabloid BLESK.
Unfortunately for all involved, Tobias did not survive long due to a congenital defect in his lung/airways. This defect was not detectable while Maja was pregnant, and was not discovered until Tobias was born.
Tobias will be survived by Zara and older brother Lucas.
(assists to joolzie and Daniel)