Monday, June 30, 2008

Why the owners didn't make me Commish.

I have ideas. Big ideas. Unpopular but powerful ideas. I'd wield my Commish powers with Mjolnir like brutality. Secretly (most) of the fans would love me, but the owners would loathe me. But they would never outyell me. I promise. I can yell. And this is what I want to yell about right now- 30 teams. Yeah 30 fucking teams. Why? Why are there that many teams in the NHL? Seriously. Name a star player on a team other than your favorite. Now name 2 more from the SAME team. I'm talkng stars and super stars on the current roster. Did we give up competition for league parity so we can have 30 mediocre teams with a few superstars, a few stars, a few fan favorites, and a handful of underachieving role players?
I've seen the dregs of the minor leagues. There is nothing nearly entertaining about seeing IHL or ECHL games live as compared to watching true professionals in the NHL on TV. And even then, why am I watching 5-10 guys per team that have no business wearing a professional team's crest on their sweater? It's ridiculous.
To begin with the NHL-caliber talent pool is depleted. Now that Russia is starting their Soopre Leeg, or whatever the hell they're calling it, we're going to be getting less Russians in our league. But they aren't happy with just having their own countrymen on those teams. They're going after top players and prospects from all across the hockey world. The talent pool for the NHL is already thin. It's going to get worse considering the bags of cash Russia's throwing at these players. We're going to be watching some sad hockey if we continue to keep 30 teams in the NHL without a better system for replenishing these rosters with high quality players.
So this is what I think NEEDS to happen: Pare the league down. I understand the idea of spreading the "Gospel according to Gordie" across the United States and Canada for that big National television contract. So don't get me wrong. But what I am saying is, something has got to be done and soon.
So far the NHL has bounced back from the devastating adversity that was the Lockout (*shudder*), but bringing up cement headed minor leaguers to fill in missing international players' slots won't be doing anyone any favors.

So the way I see it, we pare the league back and keep a high level of play across the board. 24 teams is my prescription which means 6 teams are getting the boot. But I have greater plans than that. This is how it works:

Original 6 immunity:
Red Wings, Habs, Blackhawks, Rangers
Leafs-Team stays put, but the Teacher's Association is forced out of ownership.
Bruins-Sinden gets the boot. Let's the door hit him where the Good Lord split him

Class of 1967,1970, and 1972 Immunity:
Kings, Flyers, Penguins, Canucks, Flames
Blues: Owner is put "on notice". He has a few years to get things righted or he gets a Sinden like send off.
Sabres: Owner gets the royal ass booting. Real ownership is brought in like their fans deserve.
Islanders: Say good bye to Wang. This team needs real front office help

The Royal boot:
Lightning-Why there are TWO teams in Florida. I will never understand. Between the two of them this is the worst attended. Nevermind their Stanley Cup run.
Ducks- C'mon! It was a Disney movie! 1 Cup and a handful of playoff appearances don't a franchise make
Blue Jackets-I have never understood why there is a team in Columbus, Ohio.
Predators- Despite giving it all they have in Nashville this team is as much a late night soap opera as anything else. I'm just pulling the plug early to save the family's feelings.
Wild- Cheapness at the fans from "The State of Hockey"'s expense does nothing to impress me.

The barely made its:
Panthers-Having one of the more loyal fan bases. This team from Florida has got the right stuff going for it more or less. They might need some m ore exposure. But not fighting the Lightning for a fan base in Florida will help.
Thrashers-It was hard for me to not scratch them, but my heart is not quite black enough to swipe two franchises from the city
Caps-Having a full Arena pushes them over the hump. Of course having Alexander Ovechkin doesn't hurt.
Sens-Hey. It's Canada. They already have fans.
Oilers-The owner is on notice. Stop screwing around with the players. OR ELSE!
Sharks-Filling the Shark Tank with loud enthusiastic fans is good enough for me.
Avs-This team has filled the Pepsi Ice Center pretty much from day one. Hockey has a home in the Rocky mountains.
Devils-With all of the success they've had, the Devils aren't going anywhere.

The Not So Fasts!:
Stars:No point pretending that Dallas has been hockey mad. Why this team ever left Minnesota would boggle my mind if it weren't for the fact that I suspect a massive payoff was offered to move the team to Texas. In my world the Stars return triumphantly to Minnesota and regain the "North" to their title.
Hurricanes: Remember this is my fabntasy world. Ergo the 'Canes are forced back to Hartford by gunpoint and regain their beautiful Whalers colors and title. The Whale returns to New England.
Coyotes: Hockey in the desert? I think not. While Wayne Gretzky behind the bench is nice publicity, this is the NHL not some bush league in Peterborough. But the guy has had 3 seasons and an overall losing record. The boot should be extended. And what better place to give the "Overated one" the boot then in Canada? Specifically Winnipeg. All hail the Jets! But then again I'm a jerk like that.

So then what happens? Well you see 6 teams just got the boot, right? That means their rosters and prospects are floating in space. So what teams do is take those 6 teams' rosters and prospects and do a special draft. The talent suddenly is a bit thicker on each team already. Not to mention that teams show back up in hockey mad markets. The NHL stays on top as they were. A better product=better ratings. Better ratings=more money.
Yeah that's the way I see it. You can take your shots whenever you want. I like a good open conversation. Even a hostile one. But then again that's why I call it "Game Misconduct". I'm hitting the showers. I don't need 10 minutes in the box.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Fantasy.

This happens every year. Seriously every year, every sport, every city. Some team that's been down the crap hole in every last possible way signs some big name free agent or trades for one or whatever. Anyway they end up with this giant star on their roster of malcontents, underachievers, and life long losers. And the minute. I mean the very exact second that they ink the giant contract, "IT" starts.
Every fan of that team starts to whisper. "Player X is here to fix the whole shebang." The "Messiah" has been signed. He's going to fix everything, he's going to drive invalid elderly war vets to the arena to fill the seats. He's going to have a little star-to-grinder talk with that guy that's always effing up everything and turn him around. He can fly, he can shoot goals out of his eyes, he can use mental telepathy from the bench to save goals, he'll get all of his international friends and former team mates to come here, he'll save the orphanage, he can literally crap out a win, and sneeze a puck into the crease. And most importantly he can win a championship surrounded by the rest of the under skilled team that the GM signed.
But then the season starts. Then new whispering starts. "He's a waste of money." He can't do anything right, he punched a quadriplegic orphan in the crotch, he's a jerk, he's a loser. Why did we sign him?
Then after 2 or 3 or 4 years of slugging it out in an under developed team and decides he can't take it anymore. He leaves town and everyone hates his guts. Despite the fact he got hung out to dry and never got any real help on the wing, it's all his fault. He's Public Enemy #1. And then to make things worse he signs on with a good team and "re-finds" his touch and has a comeback. Which makes the whining even worse. He threw games, he mailed it in, he did that to us on purpose!
I find this all ridiculous.
There is no single player that can fix every problem on a franchise. Cases in point: Gretzky in LA, Gretzky in STL, Gretzky in NYR, Marcel Dionne in LA, Marcel Dionne in NYR, Guy Lafleur in NYR, Phil Esposito in NYR, Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Havlat in CHI, Paul Kariya in STL, Peter Forsberg in Nashville, Peter Forsberg in Philly, etc. etc. etc. And there is only so much a player can take no matter how good he is or how much of a man he is.
I guess all I'm saying is this, "If your team wins the Ollie Jokinen fire sale Lottery, but doesn't have any other talent on the team; don't go nuts talking STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!". And when he doesn't bring it to you, don't smash his face in with your bitter words.
I think that is a fair request. Anyone else?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Shit Sandwich

Next year we're all going to see a disarrayed NHL or at least half of the NHL in disarray. As it seems like all of the cool kids are firing their their coaches or GMs, or just sitting there and watching as their assets slip through their fingers. All of this means that the stable and growing are going to remain stable and get stronger. There's 30 teams in the NHL, I'd like a shot at them all. Wrote a blog about it. Like to read it? Here it go:

Anaheim-Who knows if Doug Weight will retire, he should really think about it. But he's small pickings compared to the rolling drama that is the Selanne/Niedermayer soap opera. Are they coming back? Are they leaving? Who knows? The point is they're old and getting rustier everyday. What they used to be able to shoulder is more than they can handle. They're still veteran presence, but they are no longer the super star presence that could take over a game like before. The league is also on to Chris Pronger. He's a dirt bag. I'll admit it even if Don Cherry won't. I expect him to spend another couple of games sitting out a suspension. But J.S. Gigguere is possibly the most important piece of the puzzle. He's not going anywhere. The Ducks will probably still be a good team, but who knows how good. With their coach coming back and their GM not going anywhere, it might be enough stability to get them to the playoffs.

Atlanta-Once a mess. Always a mess. Other than their strong prospect pool in the AHL with the Wolves, there is nothing bright and beautiful to talk about here. Marian Hossa is GONE. And though they're getting a 1st round pick and Colby Armstrong for him, it's the the booby prize. Congrats, Thrashers. You're doomed!

Boston- If anything sinks this ship it will be their owner. Ask a Bruins fan, I mean one of the few that are left, and they'll tell you that the owner is an assclown. It's like Bill Wirtz faked his own death and changed his name to Jacobs. But what the team needs is to re-sign Glen Metropolit for starters. They could also use a bit more scoring touch. But letting Chuck Kobasew walk away would be another crime against humanity or at the very least Bruins Nation. But Boston is not screwed. They actually might pick up a bit, if Sinden undoes his man purse strings a bit and Peter Chiarelli spends his allowance wisely.

Buffalo- Ah, the Sabres. Or should it be AWWWW the Sabres? After being a red hot muscle car in 06-07 they took a giant crap as they lost Drury, Briere, and rental player Dainus Zubrus. Not only did their playoff chances buy the farm they also tried to burn it down for the insurance money. Brian Campbell was dealt this year leaving their blueline short a top pairing defenseman. Ouch. I've never understood why a team in hockey-crazy Buffalo isn't being handled properly. Or maybe the Buffaslug/Slugalo offended the Hockey gods' senses so bad they decided to curse the team. It's less painful to think about that way then the actuallity that the head office has their heads so far up their own asses that they can watch the digestion process. While I pray for the best, my recomendation is to their fans is to build a bomb shelter and hunker down for a nuclear assault. But things might not be horrendous. Ryan Miller is a fucking A student in the crease, their GM and coach are staying put (as of this moment) and the fans will be back in seats next season; allowing the franchise the chance to snag some big names off of the Free Agent Heap and throw them out on the ice. Things have a chance, just not a giganticore one like in 06-07.

Calgary- Calgary isn't in half as bad of shape as some of their counterparts. What they could use is some youthfulness on their roster and a prayer that Phaneuf doesn't run off and join the Circus. Daymond Langkow is a MUST sign UFA no doubt. And while CuJo may or may not be coming back, at 41 I don't know how much of the load he can shoulder. Otherwise Calgary will come out and play the same punishing uninspired hockey we've all dozed off watching the last couple of years.

Carolina- two years removed from a Stanley Cup Championship and bogged down even in the weaker SouthEastern Conference, they're still a mess. You may want to avert your eyes as they take on other forms.

Chicago- With no bias (yeah, right!) I tell you hands down they are the 08-09 Stanley Cup Champions. (uh huh). Only this next season will tell if last year was only a dreamy respite from the Minor League Call-Up show they've been running the last few years. They have some $ to spend on free agents, they have some prospects really banging, and a fan base again. Who knew? The real questions are- Can Khabibulin play a decent amount of games without ripping out his thigh muscles like a leg off a rotisserrie chicken? Is Savvy for real? Will the team "Commit to the Indian"? And what will anybody give us for a broken Czech sports car? I suspect Chicago will nose it's way into the playoffs this next year, but who knows how far they will make it.

Colorado- Apparently the front office thinks it's still 1998 when the Avs last won the Cup. Or at least that's the impression I get. I just keep waiting for them to announce Patrick Roy and Claude Lemieux's return. But the Retirement Home all star AVs team is coming into a new head coach and an apparently clueless GM situation. I don't their future looks bright. I suggest Sakic take the money and run. But that's just my two cents.

Columbus- I wish I could tell you Columbus is gonna suck next year, but I just don't think that will be the case. They have too much going for them. Ken Hitchcock has done a good job selling his system to the team and despite their record last year, they played a hell of a game almost every night. Rick Nash just doesn't stop getting better and he's slowly positioned himself to put the C on his sweater in the proper time unlike some young stars who are just given it because. With pretty much a full roster of 2-way players with some offensive talent, the CBJs will push hard for a playoff slot next year. Mark my words. I hope their dead wrong.

Dallas- This team doesn't stop climbing the food chain. Say what you want about their losing series to Detroit, but they made it further in the Playoffs than the year before. Turco has officially shaken the Playoff choke tag he had a few years ago. With no lynch-pin all-star free agents, Dallas has the money and the space for both young prospects and free agents to do whatever the hell they want.The Pacific Division better be scared if they know what's good for them. And the Western Conference had better take note. That's all I'm saying. Expect another big Playoff push from Dallas.

Detroit- Everyone is high on this team. Or is that everyone on this team is high? I'm not sure. I have my suspicions that both Hasek and Osgood are gone for different reasons. Osgood to end his career on a high note, and Hasek because who wants a damaged goods Prima Donna in their locker room? I have a gut feeling Chelios will not be tendered an offer and will float in the UFA zone for a bit, before someone snags him up. But he will play next year. I can almost guarentee it. If the Red Wings don't make an offer to Lidstrom they're smoking crack, but I suspect the Captain will return next year. I think they will be a good team, but not the same amount of good as they were this year. Expect goal tending woes. Just a hunch. What do I care? I'm a Blackhawks fan and know damn well that "Dee-Troit Sucks!'

Edmonton- Don't hold your breath. Somehow Edmonton wins games through a little bit of skill and a whole lot of dumb luck. This is most definately not the dynasty of the 80's team. While they may feast on division rivals Colorado and Vancouver they won't stand up to Calgary or the other half of the Western Conference that's not embroiled in a deep sludge pit. This is the part where Edmonton fans chime in together "Thanks, Pocklington." with deep sarcasm, anger, and bitterness. Yeah I know Pete don't own the team anymore, but you have to lay the blame somewhere, and I don't think the Ryan Smyth pain is numb enough to lay it there.

Florida- Almost a punchline to every bad trade joke in the world, they'll be laughing all the way to a winning season in their division with Vokoun in net. Don't get me wrong they're still a mess, but they luck out by not being in a tougher division. Maybe their GM finally wisened up after that Bert for Luongo trade enough to re-think his trades on more than just a flashiness level. I'd expect only a mildly enjoyable or mildly depressing season for the Panthers.

LA Kings- I have two words for the Kings- GOAL TENDING! Yeah maybe fill that whole up a bit? Hmmm? Maybe just a tad? Just a thought.

Minnesota- If the rumors are true and Demitra wants to make a run for it, You could drill a hole in the bottom of this boat and sink it all the way to the bottom of any one of the 10,000 lakes. Their RFA and UFA lists read like a night's line up and you can be sure that the GM is going to be super damned busy this summer. It might take some begging, crying, and pleading to get some of these deals done. But for the State of Hockey I hope the players don't sneak out in the middle of the night like they were the North Stars.

Montreal- Signing Andrei Kostitsyn should be a #1 priority this off season (uh, DUH!). They have several pieces in place already and Carey Price in net is a giant one. I'd expect them to finish top of their division no problem and possibly lead the Eastern Conference as the #1 seed, assuming their GM doesn't decide to go on vacation, turn off his cell phone, and ignore the obvious.

Nashville- Having sold the farm before the trade deadline for a broken down Volvo they thought would be a sports car, they followed that up with a fire sale. Somehow they squeaked out a quietly winning season and snuck into the Playoffs. I'm pretty sure this team keeps winning at a ghastly average rate just to ensure enough people show up to annul any ideas of moving the team. Who knows what this off season will hold for the late night cable drama that is the Nashville Predators.

New Jersey- Lou may be hitting the Kool Aid and trying to pass it off as non-Jonestown stuff, but he better wake up and smell the sulfur and brimstone. It's time to realize Pando and Clarkson need to be in the red, white, and black if the Devils are going to have any kind of team next year. Salvador might need some GM attention also. I have another red hot tip-sign some scorers! Yeah, crazy. I know. But it just might work. We all love Marty (minus Philly fans), but you can't expect him to stop every shot in every game and score the goals too. That's ridiculous.
I've heard speculation that maybe the C should switch from Langenbrunner's chest to right over Madden's heart. From the Playoff catastrophe against the Rangers that I saw, I'd have to agree. He might be the spark plug this team needs to find some of the old fire. Just a thought.

New York (Islanders)- Before the post season action really started every NHL fan was dumbfounded by the Islanders letting Wade Dubielewicz walk. The one thing I felt the Islanders really had going for them other than Poti walking was their goaltending tandem. But let's not forget this is the same team that signed their favorite son to a 15 year deal. Yeah I said 15 year deal. Let's face it. Mike Bossy, Billy Smith, Pat LaFontaine. None of them are coming back. Playing "popularity" games with the line up isn't gaining any ground. It might be time for someone with some hockey sense to buy the team or at least GM it.

New York (Rangers)- Henrik Lundquvist, Chris Drury, and Scottie Gomez. I'm done talking about the positives. Expect a new slew of faces to be wearing the sweater in the MSG. It'll be like those years before 94 when people forgot there were 3 teams in the State of New York. Okay probably not. New York has more money than God himself and if Shanahan, Jagr, and Avery all walk; the Rangers might have a shot at building a real team in the next few years. Right now their future really rests in the hands of their GM and what he feels the future faces of the club will look like. They could either be a dark horse or a dark blotch on the face of the NHL. Only time will tell. The one thing I can tell you is that King Henry will keep them in every game especially if he has some defensive help.

Ottawa- It starts with goal tending. Or does it start with finding a new coach. Or do they fire the GM and bring in somebody new? Does Sundin really go there? I doubt it. I'd expect their free agent signings to be few and far between while they answer some very big questions. Now if they get a head coach in there right away, and he sees eye to eye with the GM; they have a shot at blitzing the free agent market and putting something worth watching back out on the ice. Or they could be Alexander Daigle awesome. Who knows? The one thing everyone knows is that Redden and Emery are currently homeless and begging for contracts out on the street.

Philladelphia- A lot of fans hate the Flyers, and I can see why. They punish other teams, they don't give up, they don't lay down, and they never stop coming at you. I like their chances for a big fat playoff berth next year. They have only a few key Free Agents to sign, and some money to snag another mid level player. The coach and GM are returning and Bobby Clarke is nowhere to be seen. There is a fairly high chance we will see this team battling Montreal for the Eastern Conference Championship banner before going on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Phoenix- I'd love to pretend like I really have an idea what's going on in Phoenix, but I don't. The only thing I know is they stole a real goaltender from Anaheim, and snagged a Rookie of the Year Candidate. They may have something going, and maybe not. But the coach isn't going anywhere. He's been given free reign to eff things up as much as he wants for as long as he wants. Maybe in 20 years he'll take them to the Playoffs, if the team hasn't relocated due to lack of care.

Pittsburgh- Congratulations Michele Theirrien you've lost the Cup. Now what are you going to do? I'll tell you what he's gonna do. Watch and cry. And then cry some more. The salary cap won't cover all of his teams free agent needs. Not to mention there may be some dissension in the locker room. You can expect energy player Orpik to be wearing someone else's sweater next year. And who knows who else will follow him. I'm not saying the Pens will suck next year, but I am saying they'll be a shadow of the team they were this year. The real question is- When the quality players hit the free agent market, how much of the team is going to get eaten up by the sharks in the frenzy? They can't all stay in the black and yellow and they won't. So what will the team look like next year? Will they still be the team on the lips of every ass kissing analyst? Doubtful.

San Jose- Jeremy Roenick already re-signed. But did he jump the gun? Not 2 weeks after he re-signed the coach got the boot. Now the search is on for a new head coach. Can the new coach kick Lazy Joe Thornton in the ass or not? Who knows if Campbell will stay or leave? The Sharks will still be a tough team, but who knows how the coaching change will affect them for the next season. Put a big black question mark over the team as they pray Anaheim takes a crap, and the Kings don't get any better. They might even be able to dazzle Phoenix away into a never ending pit of losses. But I recommend the Sharks fans hold on in their bunkers with a box of hankies and a bottle of whiskey just in case.

St Louis- Where do you start with this team? They did get better this last year, but fell quite short of expectations. Something is going wrong somewhere. The one thing that Blues fans can take solace in is the fact that the new ownership is attempting to build a team the right way through drafting and rational free agent signings. Next year should be better than this year was, but keep your expectations low. That way if the team falls it won't hurt as bad. The Upside is they should only be 2 or 3 seasons away from a solid playoff berth.

Tampa Bay- It starts with warm fuzzy feelings about a Cup win a scant 4 years ago and then gets summarily flushed down the crapper from there. Goal tending has been a major issue ever since Khabibulin left. The feud between LeCavellier and Torts has been more public than the Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson fights. But it's over now. Or is it? Has Vinny learned that he can flex his star power and run a coach out of town? Or is it that Torts was such an a-hole that any change will be positive. The team regardless is a mess. I'm sure Phil Esposito would like to punch some teeth out in the head office for what they've done to "his" team. Being in the weaker South Eastern Conference Tampa has a chance to bring in some players to fill their much needed roster. With Brad Richards and Torts gone it's pretty obvious that the team is going "In another direction". I assume that direction would be up as they can't fall that much lower. Just saying is all.

Toronto- It's hard to believe this team once won 4 consecutive Cups. Mismanagement through the years and a string of poor free agent signings have left this once proud franchise in the toilet. With no coach as of yet and only an interim GM, the team is teetering towards a 1st overall pick in the 09 draft. And that goes double if perrennial star and Captain Mats Sundin runs off. The drama doesn't stop there as the Leafs wait on good coach that "Can't win the Big one" Ron Wilson to decide if he wants to join the Leafs as head coach or not. To be honest the team is a giant mess. It's going to take at least 3 years before they get any of the turmoil figured out and tied down correctly unless they get a few people with real hockey sense to come in and clean house. Their only other choice is to rebuild and nothing in the world is truly worse than watching seasons of "Rebuilding". To be honest seeing an Original 6 team this far down is depressing. Not to mention that the team from "The center of the hockey world" should be much better than they have been. The constant ass kicking the head office gives the fans year in and year out is a tragedy and a crime against hockey.

Vancouver- The third hockey crime against Canada's population. The Vancouver franchise is pretty obviously completely clueless. After a decent Finals run in 06-07 that ended when they couldn't score. They followed it up with a season with less scoring then the year before. No one doubts that Roberto Luongo is an excellent goal tender, but like Jersey the offense isn't doing him enough favors. The dumbest move so far in the post season and possibly dumber than the one that allowed Luongo to move to Vancouver for problem child Bertuzzi was when the franchise allowed an agent to become the GM. Can you say retarded? Vancouver will be better when they get either the #1 or #2 overall draft pick in the 09 draft and the President of operations opens his eyes and fires the GM in favor of someone that has a clue. Just saying is all.

Washington- What can I say? They have Ovechkin, they brought in a new goaltender, they put some talent around the most exciting player in the NHL, and they have a coach with a clue. That might be all it takes to make them #1 in the South Eastern Conference. They'll get their shot this year assuming they keep key pieces and bring in other key Free Agent signings. They actually have a pretty easy road ahead of them compared to some of their more clueless franchise counterparts. Expect good and exciting things for the team, unless their GM drops the ball and signs Avery and Belfour.