Thin Air: Welcome Back, NHL

Some hockey notes after the first day of the NHL regular season:

– Well, that was fun.

– Tommy Wingels got two goals last night, and nary a mention of his efforts.  His second goal was quite nice.  But he’s Tommy Wingels, so he won’t get the credit he deserves.  Still, the Sharks got their “revenge” last night, if you can call one game, even if it is a shutout, revenge.

– If you watched NBC Sports Net for both games last night, the Bruins – Flyers game was crisp and tight compared to the Kings – Sharks game.  Neither west coast team could complete a pass to save their life.  I’m sure this will clean up soon enough.

– During a commercial break, NBCSN ran an ad for (insert forgotten sponsor here) that was 30 seconds of explaining hockey.  It was hockey 101, and as awful as it was for those of us who get what icing and offsides are, it must have been soul-crushing for Mike Milbury.  I’m not a fan of his blustering, but even he doesn’t deserve that kind of punishment.  Explaining hockey to the masses isn’t his job, and yes, I know he is a media guy explaining hockey to the masses.  We, as fans, don’t deserve this either.  Please, turn it off. Frog. Fraud.

– Milbury also said there needs to be an end to fighting.  Of all the things you wouldn’t have expected from opening night, this was maybe top of the list.  He said the injuries are too much, that too many guys are getting concussions.  I wonder, given his previous comments, if this opinion sticks.  I think it’s great that he has changed his mind.  It shows he’s thinking about things.  Malcolm Gladwell would be proud.

Greg Wyshynski wrote a post addressing what is seen as a conflict of interest in the “Chris Pronger to the NHL Player Safety Department” rumor.  According to Greg, it’s not a conflict of interest because Pronger isn’t really a player, even though he is still paid as a player.  He doesn’t play, so no problem.  Also, this:

Q. OK, so let me proffer this: What if I don’t want Chris Pronger in Player Safety because I think he’s an insufferable [expletive]?

Now you’re making sense.

OK, that might be a wee bit of a factor shaping opinions on this.  Wysh make a few arguments that make sense and one involving Marc Savard that makes no sense.  There is some other stuff thrown in as well of little consequence.

All of this is cheap window dressing to state my own opinion.  Simply put, taking a paycheck from a team and the league simultaneously is wrong.  It is a conflict of interest to take a paycheck from both sides of a collective bargaining agreement.  Pick a side of the table.  Change sides of the table.  But you can’t sit on both sides.  No matter how I feel about Pronger, this is a situation that shouldn’t happen.  There are other people who could do the job.  If he wants to when he is off the Flyer’s payroll, great. Until then, no.

– I’m off to Wheeling, WV for a Wheeling Nailers game.  The Nailers just surpassed the Johnstown Chiefs, who moved out of Johnstown a few years ago, as the longest operating ECHL franchise with 23 years.  In the business of minor league hockey, that’s a good run.  Also on the docket this month, Dayton, OH, Toledo, OH, and maybe some Ft. Wayne Comets.  If you are in the area, let me know.

Thin Air: MacKinAgain

Some hockey thoughts from the Southwest of America:

– I haven’t watched an ounce of Olympic hockey.  Let’s get this out of the way now: I’ve been busy.  No, really.  I probably could have, but I truly have another thing that is keeping me full time busy, and hockey is just going to have to take a back seat for the moment.  I don’t even know who plays or played today.  Seriously.

– Last Olympics, I watched the final game with my buddy Jay Kumar, then we recorded some podcasts after (his and mine).  It’s going to be hard to trump that experience.  Jay is awesome, and a treat to watch a game with.  In fact, I seem to have luck with people named Jay.

– Should the NHL participate in the Olympics?  I have mixed feelings on it.  I would like to see the amateur players get back in the game, and if there are going to be so many restrictions on other Olympians, they should apply to the hockey players as well.  But the cat is out of the bag, and the only way to remain relevant and not wind up with an asterisk on the Olympic records is to keep the NHL in.  No one cared about the World Cup of Hockey (except me), and few care about the World Juniors and World Championships.  Everything else is also ran.  I think they stay, and the IOC makes a few more concessions to the NHL, which is not their usual MO.

– I took a few skills classes in Tempe, AZ these past two weeks.  Our coach was great.  At 9:00PM, he holds a rookie class, where people who can sort of propel themselves while skating on their ankles do a few things with a puck, then slam into the end boards because they can’t stop.  The entire time they are doing drills, the coach is yelling at them.  “Butt on the boards! BUTT ON THE BOARDS!!!”  I watched this before my first class and thought, I hope this guy is our coach.  This is awesome.

Sure enough, he was, but the yelling was not there.  We had a neutral zone passing drill, and he was encouraging and firm.  After a few drills, he explained the point of what we were doing, then told us to have a good scrimmage.  What an absolute blast.  I got home at close to three in the morning (scrimmage until just past midnight, change, gas up the car, drive to Tucson), and was pumped to do it again the next week.  Hockey is alive in the desert.

– Adrian Dater says, via twitter, that Ryan O’Reilly will not be traded from the Avs (stick tap to Lyle Richardson for the pointer).  Proof there is a new attitude in Colorado?  In the old regime, money and being butt-hurt would have trumped any stats.  In the old regime, O’Reilly would be gone this month, or the end of the season, and we would never see the GM poke out from his hole, see his shadow, and blow six more weeks of BS up our backsides.  Let’s get this straight: something considered a ‘cancer to the locker room,’ or a ‘business issue’ can be worked out.  And winning, just like it brings back the fans, brings the players together.  A lot more than losing will.

– Next trip, Vegas, baby.  Or more specifically, I finally get to see my first Las Vegas Wranglers home game, at Orleans Arena.  And this is going to be their last season there (unless they work out a lease deal, which it sounds like they won’t), so I have to get there while the getting is good.  But also, this is their annual Midnight Circus, which means they will play the game at midnight, and they will have circus performers. I’m not kidding.  The Wranglers have the best promotions.  It also helps that the opposing team is the Colorado Eagles, and I just so happen to have an Eagles jersey with me.  Want more Vegas?  Check out this great oral history of the movie Swingers.  If you’ve ever dreamed big and thought there was no way you could do it, read this and remember that this is the guy who directed Iron Man.

– We play this little game on Twitter every Avalanche game called #AvsTwitterPsychic.  All you do is guess who scores the first goal for the Avs, and you get a retweet.  So far, Nathan MacKinnon has a team-leading 9 first goals.  He has a team leading 22 goals.  He’s fourth on assists and third in points.  The kid is good, and playing like an NHLer much earlier than a lot of rookies.  Matt Duchene took several years to break out of his junior habits.  As much as I would love to see Kevin Shattenkirk still playing for the Avs, he took some time to break out of his college style (but he has, and it didn’t take that long).  MacKinnon doesn’t stand out as a rookie, and I mean that in the best possible way.

– Quick survey time. Do you skate?

Thin Air: Tort Reform

- Elliotte Friedman called Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec a below average goalie. He’s right, but let us get something clear here. This is real life, not Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average. Everyone can not be above average. That said, he still is under-performing for a starting goaltender, and needs to up his game. If he can.  Any holdover from the days of the Thrashers should be subject to change, just like a terms of service.

– If Semyon Varlamov is proving anything, it’s that working with a goaltending coach (or at least, the right goaltending coach) can pay off. Development and improvement doesn’t end when the training wheels come off.  But how is that trade with the Capitals working out?  Would the Avs fans take that first round pick back now?  And keep in mind who was available at the time.

– In Justin Bourne’s column commenting on Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column (did you catch all that?), Bourne talks a bit about Paul Stastny:

I swear if you have 25 smart players you’ll be damn near impossible to beat. Some guys believe in just drafting the most skill and/or size available – “Look at that monster, he can fly!” – then leaning back in their chair and hoping those players figure it out. I’ll take your turnover-prone brain-dead team against my group of Paul Stastny-level thinkers any day (think about the things Stastny does well. He’s kinda small. Doesn’t skate great. Doesn’t have a great shot. 432 points in 510 NHL games. Dats brains, my friend.)

When I was taking a hockey skills class for beginning adults (aka I suck at beer league hockey and I want to suck less at beer league hockey), one of the instructors was talking about handling pucks that come at your feet or behind you. If you can imagine, passes in rec hockey, if they happen at all, are rarely tape-to-tape. He pointed out how Stastny can just dig a puck out of anywhere if you put it near him. Sure enough, the next game I watched, players were dropping bombs at his feet and he was scooping them up without letting them slow him down. Part of what makes him so good is how he can make something happen with the puck quickly and when it’s not the perfect situation. Do not discount that ability.

– I think we need a plus/minus scale for fighting incidents in hockey. Not just plus one or minus two, but something that looks like those betting odds I don’t understand. For instance, out of ten, the opening play of the Canucks / Flames game might have been +2 / -4. So that’s two points for fighting (if one team puts out goons, you should too), and four points against (staged fights don’t get much bigger, the game went on, lots of ejections, Torts in the hallway). This way, there can be some grey area in the discussion, which is where debate should be. It’s rare to have a nuanced conversation about fighting in hockey, and yet, I don’t know anyone who is 100% for or against it. We’ve heard the extremes of the conversation, let’s get to the real discussion of it.

– Still waiting to hear how long John Tortorella is suspended for trying to get to the Flames locker room at the first intermission. I would like to think the league really calls him on the carpet for his overall behavior. As much as the hockey fan base may like the Tortorella presser (and I am not among those), I doubt the league liked them very much. The NHL can only suspend him for this incident, but Torts doesn’t do himself any favors with his previous behavior.

– I don’t think Tortorella will change his stripes, but I bet he doesn’t do this again. I can see him blaming the NHL for being overzealous with it’s fine and suspension (whatever it may be), but at some point, he has to look at his own bottom line. Before whatever the league does this time, he has already lost $60,000. How much more until he gets it? (source on those figures)

– ESPN also posted the longest suspensions of coaches over the last 40 years. I had no idea about this one:

January 2000 Herb Brooks, Penguins: suspended 2 games for going after Avalanche TV play-by-play announcer John Kelly after a game.

Who knew? Not me.

– Side note: My laptop does not recognize Tortorella as a word. It’s suggestion for correcting it? Turtler. No, really. My laptop is smart.

Thin Air: Opening Night Thoughts

Time to fire up the old bloggy blog machine and talk a little hockey. 

- I am ready for this season.  Last season was short and compact.  It seemed like every night was a game to care about.  I was not pleased with the lockout, was a little burned out from the compact schedule, and my favorite team was horrible.  Also, I was finally playing rec hockey, so I didn’t have much time in watching hockey.  Right now, I’m excited.  Let’s go, hockey.

- A commercial on the CBC just said 1 in 3 kids can’t afford organized sports.  Yeah, no kidding.  I just bought new shin guards (my old ones, which I loved, cracked), and the lower end ones I got were $75.  A few years ago, the same pair would have been $40.  Skates are amazingly expensive, and sticks are ridiculous.  My hockey season is costing me $500 for 20 games and two playoff games.  Just about every sport if cheaper than hockey to play.  Just horsing around with a puck is expensive – ice time, gear, etc.  You can play catch for cheap, basketball takes a ball and a park.  It’s out of control.  

- George Parros hit his face on the ice during a scrap with Colton Orr.  Orr had a grip on his jersey a he went down, pulling Parros with him.  It was a scary sight, as you can see in the replay below.  Good luck to him.  The CBC crew noted the NHL implemented the new rule about fighters removing their helmets.  It goes to show that you never know what is going to happen.  Bigger guys, faster game. (update – Parros has a concussion and is being evaluated at the hospital)

 

- The entire reason Parros and Orr fought in the first place was because PK Subban grabbed Orr by the head and wouldn’t let go.  It was a move that could have been avoided.  Parros did what he was hired to do and stepped in.  It makes me wonder if Subban would chose the same action again.  Sometimes messages are sent, and that’s what Subban was trying to do.  Sometimes, the message comes back: cut the $#!+.

- Toronto’s power play looked pretty bad.  Lots of desperation, lots of confusion.  It’s too early to tell what they will look like down the stretch, but they have to clean this up.

- The Blackhawks raised their Stanley Cup banner tonight.  The video leading up to the ceremony was awesome.  I loved the hockey cards at the end with the players as kids.  The rest of the ceremony was drawn out and dull.  I’m sure it was special for the fans, but it could have been about five minutes shorter.  Thank goodness Coaches Corner was on.  And I don’t say that very often. 

- The Canadiens had their player introductions and opening night ceremony, and while passing the torch from a former player to a current one was nice.  Passing it from player to player through the lineup took way too long.  Again, special if you are a fan of the Habs, but not so special if you are waiting for the game to start. 

- The excitement of the Blackhawks / Capitals game and the Leafs / Habs game was a stark contrast to the Jets / Oilers game.  It’s like a wine and cheese party in Edmonton.  Perhaps it’s the audio mix and where the microphones are in the arena, but the tone sure was muted. 

- The Wednesday Night Rivalry commercial on NBCSN sure is violent. Know what’s missing?  Goals.  Skill.  You know, hockey. 

 

- The new Canadian olympic jerseys are out in public, and everyone is screaming about the black one. 

I think it’s fine.  Aside from the trend to make every jersey look like a practice jersey, this isn’t the worst thing that could have happened.  I’ve had mixed results with Team Canada jerseys, and if there is major printing on the logos, you can be sure I won’t be buying one.  But if you think this is bad, don’t forget what they wore for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.  It’s not as cool as the old black Team Canada jersey.  Not by a long shot.

- Most people seem to think the Colorado Avalanche didn’t address their defensive issues from last season.  I would say it was simply addition by subtraction.  I don’t take much stock in plus/minus ratings, but Greg Zanon, last season’s +/- “leader” with -16 was bought out, Ryan O’Byrne (-8) was shipped off to Toronto at the trade deadline, and Shane O’Brien (shockingly even, but I think we can call it -0) was traded to Calgary.  Even though O’Brien was in the doghouse for part of the season, that’s still three regular blue liners gone (check out the photo TSN used for his player page).  It paves the path for some younger guys, giving Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott (who was sent down to Lake Erie) a better shot at steady ice time.  They brought in a few guys, like Cory Sarich and Andre Benoit, so it isn’t that they didn’t do anything, it’s that they didn’t do anything big.  And big may not be the answer right now.  

But if you want to know what my podcasting partner and myself think about the upcoming Avalanche season, listen to the newest edition of the Avs Hockey Podcast.  Find the latest episode here, and subscribe in iTunes by clicking here

Thin Air: Commitment to Winning-ish

- Interesting article from Mark Masters of TSN (which I found via Kukla’s Korner) about Alex Semin. The basics are that Semin isn’t acting like the stoic coach-killer enigma he was widely reported to be. He’s contributing and seems to be… happy. Is that possible? Sure it is. Could it be that, considering the steady decline of Alex Ovechkin, that the real problem wasn’t Semin at all? It could.

Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy wrote that he feels refs should be called publicly on the carpet for the mistakes they make in the game, that any discipline they receive should be made public. I couldn’t disagree more. I can’t see any good reason for this, other than for fans to feel some sort of retribution to a ref and to shame the ref into calling the game “better.” I have news for you, and this might not be news if you have been in a work situation where shame was used to try to motivate or change a person into working differently: it doesn’t work. Much like the way that discipline is already handed out, knowing the outcome won’t make the fans as a whole any happier. They will only complain that a certain punishment was too much or too little.

– I am an unapologetic ref apologist. Sue me, I don’t care. I have read the USA Hockey officiating guides, taken the course, gotten my officiating card (once), and learned a lot more about what refs do. Have you? I’ve put the challenge out there to read up on the subject, and I don’t know a single person to have taken it up. I can’t imagine what people are afraid of. They will read the worst online dreck day after day, but not something that would make them better and more educated hockey fans? Trust me, it will change how you see the game and how you see refs. There is nothing wrong with that.

– You know who I feel bad for? Matt Cooke. No, really. Anything the guy is near that turns out bad is suspect in the eyes of the fans. If he walked near a puppy, people would be surprised he didn’t kick it. If a man in Boca Raton falls off a boat, Matt Cooke must have, all the way from Pittsburgh, found a way to push him. So when Cooke’s skate comes down on the back of Erik Karlsson’s leg, the initial thought from Johnny Fan was he must have done it on purpose. I would guess Johnny Fan doesn’t skate. But it’s carried over to the owner of the Senators, who wants Cooke run out of the league. It’s probably emotions getting the best of him, but Eugene Melnyk will hopefully think better of what he said. He hasn’t exactly stopped the paychecks of some of the less savory players he has employed over the years. Chris Neil ring any bells? I’ve been working with a few performers lately who are trying to move on from the past they have been pigeon-holed in. Matt Cooke seems to be trying to do the same thing. No one else wants to let him.

– Speaking of refs and skates, how about the overtime loss for the Colorado Avalanche against the Phoenix Coyotes? What a loss that was. Greg Zanon tries to hard around the puck from behind his own net, the puck bounces off the skate of the ref in the corner straight to Kyle Chipchura who passes the puck to an uncovered Shane Doan, and the rest is history. The initial reaction from fans was to kill the ref, but not I. No, like I said, I’m a ref apologist. So I can see that he was in the right position, and as he doesn’t have the powers of levitation, he couldn’t raise both skates from the ice at the same time. The ref, it turns out, is part of the playing surface. So yes, these things happen, and the ref probably was embarrassed by the whole thing. But as skaters know, floating is never an option.

– Speaking of Greg Zanon, he should shave off that beard until he is useful again. I’m not impressed with his play. And speaking of unimpressive defensemen, he was paired with Matt Hunwick in the Avalanche’s 4-3 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild. Both were -2 on the game. I hope they have eyes in the backs of their heads, because that was the only way they could see the play at times (you see, they were facing the wrong way and… oh, nevermind). Think that pairing will happen again?

– Doesn’t it suck to be a first overall pick in the NHL? No, really. You are expected to turn around a franchise on your own (and that’s often the expectation of the fans), or you are going to be mired in suck for a long time. Rick Nash is out of that situation finally, and how long until we see John Tavares leave the Islanders for the same reason? Does he have a no-trade? Because I would be waiving that as soon as possible. When your team brings in a Stanley Cup winning goaltender with the hope that he never plays so they don’t have to pay him but get the cap hit, you should be questioning the team and management’s commitment to winning. Is this the kind of team you would ever want to trade Rick DiPietro from? I doubt it.

– It looks like I will be breaking my rule of not going to the Pepsi Center this Monday afternoon. I wouldn’t be going if the ticket weren’t free, and I wouldn’t be sitting with my podcast partner Jay Vean. I expect to hate every minute of it. :-)

Thin Air: Panic in Panictown

Thin Air is just a collection of hockey thoughts. Short, to the point, and out there. Comments are open for discussion.

– The Colorado Avalanche are terrible right now, losing to San Jose, Edmonton and Vancouver with a combined total of one goal for and eleven goals against. The penalty kill is awful, the power play is ineffective, and their five on five play is a wreck. I don’t think this is a team that has any chemistry, and it’s a top down problem. I hate to agree with Adrian Dater, but in a blog post that was as populist as pro-air rally, he is correct that the shiny happy attitude of the organization is not helping matters. The team is burying it’s head in the sand, and keeps it’s one sterling example of hope locked away in a closet: Joe Sakic. They are more interested in presenting a good corporate image than actually being honest with the fans.

If the Avalanche were to say that they have been in a rebuilding mode, it would probably have the opposite effect from the mass exodus of fans that has been happening in recent years. It would give the fans hope that something was going to happen. It would tell the fans that there is a reason to stick around. The head-buried-in-the-sand approach has been played out. The same message over and over, year after year – that these hard working boys are victims of circumstance – only reveals itself to be less true as those words are presented every game, much like the in arena presentation that hasn’t changed since Jose Theodore stole back his starting goalie position. Folks, that’s been a while. If there was a single phrase that Avalanche fans are tired of, it has to be “good hard work down low,” the Peter McNab-ism that finds its way into every broadcast. Spare me. Hard work isn’t everything. You have to point that work in the right direction, in the right way. And the fans see that it isn’t happening.

– You may notice that I linked to Dater’s blog post. It feel a little dirty. I don’t think I should have to link to a site that routinely leaves out source links and plays games with attribution. But you have to do the right thing, even if the big boys don’t. Give credit and links. It only makes the internet better.

– At what point, in a 48 game season, do you push the panic button? Where is the line? We are only 6-8 games into the season, and it feels like there should already be coaches fired, players traded, and Brian Burke denying anything and everything (kind of miss that, to be honest). If you fail in a 48 game season, does it matter? It certainly matters if you succeed. Just ask the New Jersey Devils. Their Cup win in 1995 was the start of something big for them. What kind of sacrifices do you make in a season that almost halves your gate revenue potential?

– O’Reilly: Trade him or sign him. This is tantamount to when the Avs started the season without a Captain. It’s more important to the fans that he is there, especially as the Avs continue to lose games. The quiet determination of management to be in absolute control, to make offers that aren’t negotiable, and to treat the salary cap era as though it were the pre-NHLPA, pre-Alan Eagleson era is ridiculous. Times are changing, so change with the times, you can’t move forward if you’re looking behind. ( < ---- Possibly misquoted Warlock Pinchers lyric)

- If you read the name Alan Eagleson, and you don’t know who that is, look him up. It’s fascinating.

– In fact, if you want to see the how the current NHL business model and it’s silly dealing with money (which seems to be a drug that turns the league into a bunch of meth addicts) haven’t changed much over the years, I recommend reading Road Games by Roy MacGregor and Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey by Russ Conway. These are interesting reads in light of the recent lockout, and the disfunction of the NHL and NHLPA that led to it. All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again (correctly quoted Battlestar Galactica reference).

– So the Blackhawks finally lost a game. In the ultimate game-of-inches allegory, Patrick Sharp hit the crossbar as the last shooter in the shootout, which could have kept their hope alive for perfection. An inch or two lower, that’s all it would have taken. That said, perfection in hockey, and in life, is overrated. It leads to disappointment when it inevitably falls short. So the Blackhawks are human. Imagine that. Now they can go back to being hockey players.

– Don’t get me wrong. Winning hockey games is awesome. I love winning hockey games as much as the next person. But if a major winning streak is so important, tell me who, since the Canadiens of yore, has that made a major difference to in the regular season? If the last Stanley Cup winner was an eight seed in the West, anything can happen.

– Have you been to an NHL game this season? How did you feel about it? Did you feel like you got your money’s worth? Comments are open.

– The Avalanche broadcast team was talking about how the media was all over Alain Vigneault about whether or not Roberto Luongo was his number one goalie or not. AV was not going to say yes or no, and he is right to do so. The media wants a nice tidy story, but a nice tidy story isn’t going to win you hockey games. Every other coach in the league gets to pick his starters based on what wins hockey games, or potentially wins them. Not AV. Not that I have any real sympathy for his position. It might even be his fault that Luongo wants to leave the Canucks, but that isn’t the point. That he has to manage a team, and the expectations of the media can’t make things any easier. It’s time for the media to drop it. If he isn’t biting, they should stop fishing.

– Nail Yakupov is getting way too much scrutiny for having a personality and showing it. It doesn’t fit into the strict narratives the media and fans expect from their hockey players. Not only is Yakupov expected to fit the mold of the quiet humble hockey player, he is also breaking the stereotype of the cold Russian enigma. It’s asinine to expect every player to behave the way we want them to. It’s leading to a more dull NHL, and the last thing an over-coached, over-priced sport that’s trying to make itself less violent needs is spiral even further down the drain pipe of boring rhetoric. Players with personalities can save this league more than another lockout. You can’t make the fans care about a beige wall.

– Kari Lehtonen: who knew?

Thin Air: Sunday Morning Hockey Thoughts

Some hockey thoughts for you on a Sunday morning:

- I don’t think I need to watch NHL Tonight with the sound on.  The highlights from the previous seasons on the NHL Network were simple: use the local broadcaster audio, and roll the tape back a bit more than your average ESPN highlight.  The best part was that we got not only the goal, but also what led to the goal, something hockey fans want to see.

Instead, we get short clips that the talking heads don’t have enough time to banter over, which they have to yell to be heard over the squealing guitars that every sports highlight producer seems to think enhance the sports highlight watching experience.  All in an effort to quickly get back to the talking heads.  And the talking heads are doing a decent job when they aren’t trying to get a word in over a highlight, but I don’t tune in for them.  I’m here for the hockey.

Were I able to take a screen shot of my TV, I would show you what GameCenter Live looks like on my Apple TV.  I get the games, but I also get about five minutes of game recap for every game.  Perfect for someone who isn’t making a living off being a hockey person, and has a job to attend to.  Local broadcasters, more than just the goals, and a little extra time to digest the action.  What more could I want?  So NHL Network, take it down a notch.  Until then, I’ll keep the mute on.

- Cam Fowler: I can’t decide if he is any good.  Opinions?

- The Brad Stuart hit on Gabriel Landeskog.  I didn’t like it.  His elbow came up to the head and he wound up leaving his feet.  Give Stuart a game or two and call it done.

- The Blackhawks are scary good.  Their creativity shines though night after night.  And to think Joel Quenneville was on the hot seat a week ago, whispers of a possible firing if the Blackhawks didn’t produce.  Are they ever producing.  This is what you get when good players are allowed to do what they do best in the offensive zone.  OK, the Blue Jackets goal waved off in their 3-2 defeat by the Blackhawks was a load of crap, but it was the creativity when Chicago skated to the net that made the real difference.  They have a lot of tools, and show no fear in using them.

- Alex Ovechkin has made a lot of threats.  He might stay in Russia, he will go to the Olympics no matter what the NHL decides it’s participation is going to be.  How about becoming a scoring threat again?  No goals and one assist on the season, his steady decline is remarkable.  You can’t blame three coaches in a row for this, it’s all on him.  There is no reason he should be this far behind at this point.  He played in Russia during the lockout, so his legs should be ready for this season.  I wonder what is holding him back.

- PK Subban and Ryan O’Reilly: sign a contract already.  Your stock is going down quickly.  How much more time are you going to miss out there?  I ask them directly because, of course, they read this blog. 

- Rec League hockey is going well, when I can get there.  I’ve missed a few games lately, thanks to work.  I hate missing games so much, it makes me see paisley.  That’s pretty mad.  I have one goal, one assist, and one penalty on the season, which is more points than Alex Ovechkin.  Just saying. 

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.

Thin Air – July 11, 2012

New Nash-ville: Breaking!!!11OMG1!!1ONE!!! – Rick Nash has six teams he is willing to be traded to.  The 2011-12 LA Kings, the 2010-11 Bruins, and the 2010 Canadian Olympic team are the top three.  If those don’t work, he is willing to go to the NY Giants.  He has dropped the Lakers, as they already have a guy named Nash on their team.  He had the Predators on his list, but he saw their mascot’s name and got confused.

That said, if Nash wants out of Columbus, then get the hell out of Columbus.  Don’t tie the hands of your GM, who is asking for everything in the world, and will not get it.  If you go to that Puck Daddy post, you will see that Nash wants to go to teams with a good center to set him up.  Or, you know, Columbus could try to get a solid center, which they could use anyways.  Just saying.

Better Dead than Red: The Winter Classic Alumni Game rosters were partially unveiled today.  My guess is they did it this early in advance so they could get a count of walkers and wheelchairs needed for the players.  If I wanted to watch a bunch of old guys skating around in Red Wings jerseys, I would go to a regular season game.

Shane Doan Doobie Do Doan Doan, Comma Comma: What is with Shane Doan?  Thanks for showing loyalty or some strange version of it, but either get out of town or resign with the Coyotes.  He has to know what he wants by now, and should be willing to act on it.  If he doens’t, sign a one year deal (because he can dictate terms with the Phoenix at this point) and see what happens with ownership.  

Ownership issues didn’t derail the team going into the playoffs.  They lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, after a solid run that turned into a loss of composure.  If you blame the ownership situation for that, you need to rethink what accountability is. 

But Doan’s value has to be going down with every passing day.  The big spending period of free agency is over.  Now it’s about making salary fit into a budget, and making chemistry work.  And if you still need to plug holes, doing it cheaply.  Doan, sign with Phoenix for a year.  Get it over with.

URLs Gone Wild: Ever since Parise and Suter signed with the Wild, I wanted to use that headline.  After seeing what the Wild spent on two players, I haven’t seen much anger or frustration from fans that their teams didn’t make similar offers.  Spending Kovalbucks on two players isn’t any kind of guarantee you will win a Cup, and handing out CBA protected bonuses like this isn’t the smartest spending.  Even Avs fans, who thought getting Parise would be the end-all, be-all solution to the team’s woes have been fairly quiet.  Perhaps going into the next season, less is more. 

The Ongoing Break: I’ve been taking a break from Twitter and Facebook lately, and I won’t lie, it’s been nice.  I feel like there is less drama in my life, and I don’t get invested in the silly arguments that used to waste my time.  Now I waste my time in other ways.  Social media can be great, but it can also get out of hand, and I would spend way too much time seeing what other people said.  And twitter kills my blogging.  It really does.  

Still, I’m happy to pop on and reply to @s and DMs, or messages on facebook.  I just have given up on the timeline for a while.  Try it, you might like it.

Housekeeping: A few things I wanted to mention here.  I know I’ve mentioned it on twitter, but I have officially moved back to Denver, after being on tour for the last several years.  I even got an apartment in Capitol Hill with a one year lease.  That means I will get to watch more Avalanche hockey, and might even write about them more often.  It’s been a weird transition, and I’m not sure how life will look by the time the season starts.

It also means that Jay and I will be able to do a few more episodes of the Avs Hockey Podcast next season, and most of them will be face to face, which is always a better podcast.  It’s one of the bright spots for me, and I’m honored that Jay wants me around for the show.  I don’t post about it here often, but that will change.

You probably didn’t notice, but I changed my byline here from Tapeleg to James.  Because that is my name.  Which isn’t really a secret or anything.  When I started hockey blogging, I was anonymous for reasons.  But when I started The Rink (which has languished to the point that I need to make a decision on it), I felt it was silly not to use my real name.  That was almost four years ago, and for some reason, I never got around to changing it here.  I still like the Tapeleg moniker (and if you ever wanted to know what the deal was with that, you can listen here), and will still be using it, but I did want to make the change, and so there you go.  Hi, I’m James.  I hope you like it here.

Thin Air: Sunday Hockey Thoughts

The draft is over, the bloggers are back home, nursing their hangovers, and the draftees are admiring their new swag from their new team.  I hope everyone had a good time.  The draft is mayhem on the first day, but then things settle down on the second, despite the much faster pace.

So here are a few things I’ve been thinking about, with only five more days until free agency, and four more left on this challenge.

 

- Ryan Smyth: Real Denver Sport has a good roundup of what Smyth left in his wake after each team he served time with (and served time is fairly accurate, considering how bad a few of those teams have been).  I don’t think it’s quite the contrail of disaster that happens when Pronger leaves a team, but it’s pretty interesting.

I remember getting caught up in the excitement when Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan were signed in free agency to the Avalanche.  I thought it was a bold move, when a bold move needed to be taken.  Unfortunately, neither player are still with the Avalanche, and neither are the players who came in after Smyth and Hannan were traded away.  Tomas Fleischmann is set to become a UFA on July 1st, and as usual, all is quiet from the Avalanche camp with their desire to sign him.  He’s worth the money if he’s healthy.

- Realignment is going to be the topic of the season, and I don’t think any scheme will make anyone 100% happy.  I’m ready for it to happen, and would be perfectly happy to see the Canadian teams in the Western Conference split up. Keeping Vancouver out of the Pacific and Dallas in has always been a bit of a stretch.  After that, the eastern-most Western teams (get all that?) get screwed over for about half the season.  Aligning closer to time zones makes much more sense. But if this plan involves four divisions, I expect the league will do everything they can to shoehorn the Canadian teams together.  It makes business sense, even if it doesn’t make much hockey sense.

- Hand Paul Stastny the captain’s “C” and be done with it.  The guy is staying around, and he is the closest thing to leadership the Avalanche have right now.  Much like any goalie that has to play in the shadow of Patrick Roy, the captain will always be judged by how they perform in comparison to Joe Sakic.  It isn’t fair, but that’s how it goes.  Stastny is the most deserving, and no one else is ready to take up the job.  As good as Matt Duchene is on the ice, he isn’t ready to be captain yet.  He’s still growing, and needs the time to grow into the hockey player he has the potential to be.

- The Canucks are going to be interesting this offseason.  How do you blow up a team that came within one win of the Cup (I think of it as two games, since they had two opportunities to win it all)?  I don’t think you can, but you need to figure out what went wrong with the Sedin line quickly.  If you can’t, history is doomed to repeat itself.  There can’t be that many changes needed.  Perhaps they just need to avoid Boston next season.

- In the next CBA, the league needs to either create a wider gap between the cap floor and the cap ceiling, or increase revenue sharing, and how that sharing can be used.  Too many teams are being forced into salary structures they simply can not afford.  And the ceiling is too high anyways.  How many smaller market teams are losing money, while the bigger markets are getting richer and richer?  The revenues the league proudly states as growing aren’t coming from the smaller markets, but the smaller markets are just as important to the league as the larger ones.  It isn’t about the GMs saving themselves from themselves, it’s about the league saving itself from the first iteration of the cap era.  This thing needs to be refined.

- Also for the next CBA, I would love to see a limit to the number of no-trade clauses that a team can hand out.  Maybe five per team.  Maybe even shorten the term of a no-trade, perhaps to 2/3 of the contract length (if a player signs a 3 year contract with a no-trade, the first two years are covered by the clause, but not the third).  I don’t like seeing players treated like property, but the amount of no-trade clauses out there are staggering and barely managable.  Teams need options, and no-trades take away those options.

- Brad Richards is going to be the most watched UFA on July 1st, but I’m more interested in what will happen with goaltenders.  There are a few holes out there needing to be filled, and only so many people out there to fill them.

 

That’s about it for now.  To borrow a phrase from Buddy Oakes, more later….