Hello from sunny Irvine, CA, which is about as far from Johnstown, PA as possible, both physically (if you are staying in the contiguous 48 states) and metaphorically. How can you not follow that sentence with the words “but I digress.” And so I do.
– As far as I could tell, NBC and the NHL (and the NHLPA, because they were plastered all over the marketing as well) pulled off the Kraft Hockeyville USA game well. I say as far as I can tell because I was watching at the not-really sports bar Buffalo Wild Wings, and they didn’t have the sound of the game on. I couldn’t hear the conversation with the Hanson Brothers, or the bit on “Goldie” Oglethorpe, but I got the gist. Some of the stunts and “reproductions” of the moment’s from Slap Shot were a little ridiculous, but maybe it played better with audio. The War Memorial is tiny, the angles are funny, and there are plenty of logistical issues to play even a minor league or junior game there.
Let me show you an example. Did you know the center of the roof is off center from the ice?
Big deal, right? Who cares? Actually, this is a big deal for any crew working on shows, productions and yes, broadcasts. Nothing hangs properly. Nothing lines up right. The thirty-foot cable you run on the left side has to be forty feet long on the right. Symmetry matters when you work on events. Ask me about playing the theater in Hershey with a Broadway musical and I’ll tell you a tale of woe.
– Jeremy Roenick took us in to the Slap Shot gallery to show off the memorabilia. That’s great, but I did the same thing last year.
That is only tooting my horn a little bit, but more importantly:
Support your independent hockey media.
As hockey blogs have gotten more commercial and some of the best bloggers have gone away, the independents (including myself) need more support than ever. Indies go places no one else is going. Be discerning, don’t support garbage (mainstream or indie), but actively support the good stuff. Retweet and share the things you enjoy. Every bit helps.
– Last week, I talked about the Avalanche’s young stars avoiding time in the minors, with five players (this includes former Av Ryan O’Reilly) never stepping foot in the AHL, Erik Johnson being the sole exception spending ONE GAME there.
You know who else that sounds like? The Edmonton Oilers. Avalanche fans will not want to hear that comparison. The Oilers are the franchise everyone likes to point and laugh at for their wealth of riches they’ve accumulated over the years. To have that many first overall draft picks and not even sniff the playoffs for so long is a shame.
And yet, the numbers that tell you why. Prior to the lockout of 2012-13 (that just hurts to write), their three number one overalls in a row didn’t spend any time in the minors. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins spent the lockout in the AHL, but that was after they were already installed on the team. There were more, so for scale:
- Taylor Hall – 0 games
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – 0 games
- Nail Yakupov – 0 games
- Justin Schultz – 0 games
- David Perron – 0 games (but he spent his early career with the St. Louis Blues, so that isn’t his fault)
- Leon Draisaitl – 0 games
There were a few players that had a cup of coffee in the AHL, like Jordan Eberle, who spent 20 games in the A, 9 of which in the middle of his junior career. Darnell Nurse took a few laps there, playing 11 games (and the stats on that are kind of hinky (technical term) so I may have gotten something wrong), which is almost nothing. Most of them were in the playoffs, after any time to gel with the team has passed.
Is it really any wonder the Oilers had issues with their top draft picks? So many of them made the leap from juniors to the NHL, they didn’t have any adjustment period. And there is a big leap to make. A number one overall pick is the star of their junior team. They might be playing with guys who can’t catch a pass on the go, or just get them the puck and hope for an assist. Their opposition most likely can’t keep up, and the hits aren’t the same. Crashing into other kids is different from being checked by a full-sized man.
I’ll go one step further here. I doubt Tyler Seguin, who was drafted number two overall behind Tayler Hall, would have had nearly the issues he had (like the maturity issues that the Bruins cited in trading him away).
Most teams that take a number one overall pick need them right away. They want to protect their asset and not see the player injured in the minors. They want complete control of their career. But the minors are there for a reason. The hockey system gets more difficult as players age, but it’s gradual. The leap from juniors to NHL steps over at least one stepping stone.
Take the minor leagues lightly at your own peril.
– At first glance, the kerfuffle over the Toronto Maple Leafs radio crew not traveling to away games seemed like much ado about nothing. Instead, it could be a preview of conflict between ownership and the new regime tasked with turning the franchise around. The issue seems to be Lou Lamoriello’s travel policy that the broadcasters do not travel with the team on their chartered flights.
One one hand, this makes sense. The media do not need to be around the team all the time, and the team needs its space. Travel time should be owned by the team and the players.
On the other hand, if you have an asset like a chartered flight, why would you want to spend the money on more flights when you have the seats already available? Add to that how much flying commercial sucks these days and you are making an already burdensome travel schedule more so for your broadcasters. Business-wise, it makes no sense, and the Leafs are all about business.
This conflict shouldn’t come as a surprise to Leafs ownership. It’s not like Lamoriello is an unknown entity. He’s been running the Devils with an iron fist since 1987. If they didn’t know what was coming, they were fooling themselves. As testy as the relationship between Mike Babcock and his underperforming veterans might be, this could be the real battle to watch. I expect Lou will not be given the power he had with the Devils.
– Quick bit of business: The hockey season is getting underway, which means the hockey travel season is getting underway. I’m debating putting those posts on a new blog. I’m torn, because I love Jerseys and Hockey Love (and I like the new look and layout), and keeping everything in one place has its merits, but I like being able to put my thoughts here and keeping the travel stuff consolidated. If you have any thoughts on this, I’m listening. Comments are open, let me know what you think. I’m conflicted about this.