Thin Air: Hockey Thoughts

Thin Air is a collection of hockey thoughts from a mile above sea level. Things get a little weird up here. Send oxygen when you can.

– I woke up Sunday morning (OK, late Sunday morning) to several texts asking me if I was going to training camp. Until that point, I really hadn’t even thought about it, and was only vaguely aware that training camp was happening. Perhaps it’s my evolving as a hockey fan, perhaps it’s my disappointment in the lockout, or perhaps it was that I’ve just been that damn busy. I think this short season will say a lot about how I am as a hockey fan. Or maybe it will be next season that really says so. But for a guy with a (dwindling) hockey blog, and a hockey podcast (two if I decide to bring back The Rink), that says a lot about the apathy I feel for the NHL right now.

– Ryan O’Reilly is still unsigned. No one knows what’s going on, but the fans want to see the deal get done. Nothing else really matters to Avs fans right now, as every other piece seems to be in place for the Avalanche. O’Reilly is the missing link on a team that is largely intact from last season, and a difference maker for a squad that didn’t have enough of those last year.

– Brian Burke won’t stay out of a job for long, but the question is if he will be willing to tone down his style enough to me more friendly to a front office or not. He is a smart and successful hockey guy. Had the Kessel trade worked out in his tenure, would have been heralded a genius. The real question is if he can look past the win – loss record of the Leafs for other reasons he may have been let go. Can he be as honest with himself as he expects everyone else to be?

– Everyone is waiting to see if the money the Minnesota Wild spent on two free agents will be worth it in the short term. No one is looking at five – or even two – years from now. They want success now, or else the money spent on Parise and Suter will have been wasted. Absolute silliness, of course. After years with only on truly successful postseason campaign, the Wild should be looking for the long term, even if the fans want results now. It’s going to be the critics, the ones who were there before, who are going to have the highest expectation. Those are usually the ones who want to see the team flop in the first place. Time will tell if this pans out, a few years rather than a few weeks.

– Adrian Dater put the Edmonton Oilers in the third slot for his SI Power Rankings. His reasoning was that their core young players have been playing in the AHL together this season, while much of the rest of the league’s talent has been spread out over the globe, playing overseas with random teammates or sitting on their couches. I agree with his reasoning, but not his placement. If this lockout had lasted the entire season, we would be looking at another Carolina Hurricanes after the 2004-05 lockout, where Eric Staal, Mike Commodore and Cam Ward played before their Stanley Cup season. The factor here is if stepping from the AHL directly into the NHL is going to be a big help. I think it will, but will it be enough to overcome the issues they had last season? It couldn’t hurt.

– Who cares about how Tyler Seguin left his apartment when he departed Switzerland? This is TMZ garbage. Enough already. Make sure your house is in order before commenting on other people’s. If the hockey blogosphere spent a little more time writing like they could, emulating the good hockey writers in the mainstream, rather than racing to the bottom for pageviews, they would be a lot better off. As Seth Godin says, the problem with the race to the bottom is you might just win.

– I am not looking forward to having to learn another CBA. In fact, I may just skip it. Last time it was capology (one letter away from apology) and waivers. What is it going to be this time? Trying to understand the waiver system made my head spin, and I don’t think I have to patience or tolerance for it. My general interest in the business side was tested during the lockout. It did not fare well.

– The NHL is back, but is the NHL Network back? I’ve had my fill of the World Junior tournament, even as USA skated to the gold medal. I’m ready for highlights, games and news, not just rehashes of old games. I bought a nice TV and paid for the DVR package when I came home to Denver. Time to put it to good use.

– It’s odd to feel sorry for Scott Gomez, but I do. I’m sure this isn’t how he thought his NHL career would end. He might take a massive pay cut (don’t worry, he can afford it) to join an NHL team after being bought out next summer, but to sit for the entire NHL season in anticipation of that happening is a sad way to end a career. The other New York Rangers mistake is harder to feel bad for. Wade Redden has been toiling in the AHL for a while now, waiting for a buyout, and he might finally get one. The Rangers have always amazed me how they can make their mistakes vanish, but now they might get stuck with a real concern with Redden’s money actually counting against the Rangers cap space.

– Is it time to actually feel bad for Gary Bettman? I don’t think most fans will (I don’t), as he set himself up as the face and voice of the owners as well as gathering as much power as possible. But he has to be tired of apologizing for the way negotiations turned out. It isn’t entirely his fault the lockout lasted as long as it did. The stall tactics of Donal Fehr were widely reported. He doesn’t deserve any real sympathy, but I’m sure this is wearing on him. If he leaves his post or is tossed out, I don’t think it will be until at least the end of the 2013-14 season. Otherwise, it looks bad for the owners.

– Yes, fans came back for training camp. They came back for free events. Wait to see what happens when fans are asked to put their cash on the barrelhead. That might tell a different story. And it might not. What the overall fans will do will doubtfully follow a pattern. This will be an individually fueled outcome. One things I will put my money on: fans might be quick to forgive, but I guarantee they will not forget.


  1. Hey James: Nice post. FYI, NHL Network ran a two-hour season preview last night that they’re re-running throughout the day today. But yeah, they definitely overdid it with the WJC reruns.

  2. This: “…fans might be quick to forgive, but I guarantee they will not forget..” Well said there podcast partner. Couldn’t agree more.

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