Friday, June 14, 2002

I was a dreamer.

Though for the most part Carolina made a good go of it, they were simply overmatched. The bubble may have burst with that heartbreaking triple OT loss in game 3. Howard was dead-on with his prediction and my streak of being wrong is still intact. Fortunately, I'm not a betting man.

So, how many days is it exactly until the 2002-2003 season begins?

Charles A: Media criticism of the US soccer squad might be a bit much considering they barely pay any attention to the sport in the first place, but the team's play has been getting steadily worse since their upset of Portugal. Hopefully, they'll respond by coming out recharged against Mexico on Monday. I'm almost sure the players are following US coverage of the World Cup.

Charles T: In response to the shooting drill you diagrammed, I never minded as long as I could get set for the initial shot. Of course, it sucked when another shooter let loose with a different puck a millisecond after a save. Not so sure about players announcing the shot placement though. That doesn't seem beneficial in improving overall goaltending skills.

World Cup Nonsense

Since hockey season is officially over, I tought I'd take a whack at a pet peeve of mine from the reporting of the World Cup results. The US lost to Poland 3-1 this morning, but still moved on to the elimination round by finishing second in Group D as South Korea beat Portugal 1-0. Almost all news reports today have expressed happiness that the US is moving on but lambasted the team for "backing in" to the elimination round.

I'm sick of hearing that the US "backed in" to the elimination round. The US moved on out of Group D because they beat Portugal and tied South Korea. The US was not awarded any points for losing to Poland, nor were they awarded any points for any game in which they played. Who should have moved on instead of the US since Poland and Portugal each were 1-2-0 in the round robin matches? If the US had lost to Poland in their first game and then tied South Korea and finally upset Portugal to go on, would they still have backed in?

Sure, it would have been nice to win the last game, but it doesn't matter.

Would you rather be a fan of Portugal today?

Thoughts On Playoff Realingnment: A few days ago, Howard took note of this piece by Tony Gallagher about the possibility of eliminating the concept of conference finals, and re-seeding playoff teams by overall record once the playoffs reach the final four in both the NHL and the NBA.

This is a pretty common complaint, and one that certainly isn't limited to the NBA and NHL. During the long dominance of the NFC in the Super Bowl from the early 80's until the John Elway/Terrel Davis Broncos teams, observers of the game regularly suggested mixing the two conferences together for the purpose of the playoffs. I wrote a long analysis about how this might change hockey over at my own site, which you can find here.

Would you believe I missed the game?: I had other priorities. But John J. Miller has a good wrapup on the Corner.
(Sunshine!) you, Detroit

Dominik Hasek
Another one bites the dust: Robert Svehla, defenseman for the Florida Panthers, has retired.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Wings Win Cup, And Bowman Exits Stage Left: And the greatest coach of all time heads into retirement on top. Congratulations Scotty.
Burns to NJ: Pat Burns has been named head coach of the New Jersey Devils.

Most recently Burns has been working as a TV and radio analyst. He was fired by the Boston Bruins in October 2000 during his fourth season at the helm. Burns is the only coach to win the Jack Adams Trophy three times, taking top coaching honours with Montreal in 1998-89, Toronto 1992-93 and Boston 1997-98.
NHL Round-up:
  • The Flyers traded goalie Brian "WaterBoy" Boucher and Nashville's third-round pick in the upcoming draft (which they got previously from Nashville for Andy Delmore) to the Coyotes yesterday in exchange for center Michal Handzus and goalie Robert Esche.

  • John Muckler, former coach of the Rangers and Oilers and former GM of the Buffalo Sabres, was hired to be the GM for the Ottawa Senators. Obviously, the Senators' board of directors wants some more meat-heads on the team, like the Barnaby-May-Ray troika that Muckler put together in Buffalo...

  • Speaking of Buffalo, a Buffalo-based group has expressed in interest in buying the financially troubled team.

  • The Dallas Stars traded down Wednesday in the first round of the June 22-23 NHL entry draft. The Stars sent the 13th pick overall in the draft to Washington for the Capitals' 26th and 42nd picks overall plus a sixth-round pick in 2003. As before, the Stars have two first-round picks in the draft. Instead of the 13th and 20th selections in the first round, they'll have the 20th and 26th picks. They'll also have the 42nd and 43rd overall picks in the second round and single picks in the third through ninth rounds.

  • Those same Stars resigned Kirk Muller for yet ANOTHER season.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002


Cast your ballot.
Realignment? Tony Gallagher suggests realignment of conferences, having watched pathetic Finals games in both the NBA and NHL.
What took 'em so long? Jiri Fischer's cross-check to the mouth on Tommy Westlund was brutal, bloody .. and of course, not called. Finally, the NHL slaps a suspension on Jiri's sorry ass.

It is way too lenient at only one game, but then again, there will only be one more game anyhow...

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Catching Up With The Pucksters. . . First, Charles: like you, I know that renovating NHL rinks to accomodate the Olympic ice surface is most likely impossible. However, how about this alternative: why not give teams the option of installing either an Olympic surface or the standard NHL surface whenever they move into a new building?

For some reason, this works just fine in baseball, where teams have always been designed to take full advantage of the quirks of their stadium (lefty pitchers and power hitters in Yankee Stadium) or playing surface (Whitey Herzog's bunting, base-stealing, run-scratching Cardinals of the 1980's). There's even some precedence for this in the NHL. Remember how everyone in the league knew that Boston Garden's ice surface was smaller? And the Bruins built their teams accordingly.

I'm sure coaches and players might complain, but I don't have any doubt it would make for more interesting hockey.

Next, Howard: Agree with all your calls, especially with Domi. If the Leafs let him go, I can't imagine there wouldn't be a team in the league that wouldn't consider making a run at him, especially with the way he's elevated his game over the past few seasons. As for Darius Kasparaitis, something tells me he's headed back to Long Island, where they could really use his toughness on the back line.

If you were the Maple Leafs president ...:

Do you:
[ ] Re-sign Cujo.
[ ] Force your GM/Coach to hire a coach and stick to being a GM.
[ ] Re-sign Tie Domi.
[ ] Sign a big name free agent like Teemu Selanne.
[ ] Gaze wistfully at the TV screen wondering if Dominik Hasek will win the Conn Smythe trophy like you did, because he decided to switch to a real team run by your old coach.
[ ] Succumb to the Toronto curse and resign.

So many choices.

If you were the Maple Leafs general manager ...:
  1. If he gets the four-year deal he's reported to be seeking, 35-year-old starting goaltender Curtis Joseph could be making US$9-million per season leading up to his 40th birthday. In negotiations with the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, do you:

    1. Give the man what he wants. He's Cujo, for goodness sake!

    2. Give him the money, but stick to your guns about wanting a shorter term on the deal.

    3. Let him test the market when he becomes a free agent on July 1

    4. Offer much more money than he's asking, but only if he agrees to a two-year term -- and hope one of the farmhands, Mikael Tellqvist or S├ębastien Centomo, can mature into a starting role by then

    I pick option 2.

  2. You're turning 60 in January, so you're not getting any younger -- a fact highlighted by a stint in a Toronto hospital with an irregular heartbeat during the playoffs. Can you afford to continue as the only man in the NHL to work as both head coach and general manager?

    1. Sure, just keep avoiding the cigars.

    2. Keep the title, but delegate more managerial responsibility to Bill Watters, contract guru and assistant to president Ken Dryden.

    3. No, pick one or the other.

    4. Wait until Steve Tambellini -- as rumoured -- can be brought in from his job as Vancouver's vice-president, player personnel before moving behind the bench full-time.

    Option 3, for God's sake! Quinn was a horrific bench coach this spring!

  3. Tie Domi becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He made US$1.687-million last season. He'd like to stay in Toronto, but has not publicly declared a willingness to take a pay cut. He is an expensive policeman, but a fan favourite. Do you:

    1. Sign him at the same salary; you need protection.

    2. Offer him a contract for substantially less money at the risk of him walking away.

    3. Let him go, since he's going to turn 33 in November.

    I vacilate between options 1 and 2. Maybe offer him somewhat less rather than "substantially less." Tie is more than just a meat-head and is one of the fastest skaters on the team. He is certainly the most committed (and perhaps should be...)

  4. Some big names could land on the free-agent market this summer. Who should you go after?

    1. A flashy forward like Teemu Selanne.

    2. A solid defenceman like Darius Kasparaitis.

    3. No one, you're happy with the team you have.

    4. A goaltender to replace the dearly departed Cujo.

    Option 2. Alex Mogilny was a mixed bag - scored some huge goals, but also gave away some even huger ones. The team could use a guy like Darius more than another former goal scorer.

  5. What to do about Robert Reichel, the sour centre who became little more than an expensive shadow puppet in the playoffs, finishing with no goals and three points in 18 games? He's slated to make US$2.75-million next season.

    1. Give him a big hug, a pat on the back and say, "There's always next year."

    2. Attempt to trade him, even though the market may not absorb the salary given his woeful production.

    3. Swallow the contract and let him go.

    4. Plan to place him on a line with fiery wingers with hopes of raising his own production.

    Suck it up and take one for the team. Buy him out and discuss plans with other GMs to have his home firebombed in revenge.

  6. Centre Alyn McCauley is set to become a restricted free agent. With five goals and 10 assists in the playoffs, the 25-year-old finished one point shy of his regular-season total -- largely in place of injured captain Mats Sundin. He's a smart two-way player. Do you:

    1. Offer him a raise from his salary of US$865,150 last season because he's well on his way to becoming a marquee name.

    2. Offer him nothing more than he made last year, because the playoffs were a fluke.

    3. Let him test the market, you can always match the offer.

    4. Sign and trade him before he suffers a fifth concussion.

    Option 1. Alyn kicked ass like never before. He's ready to break out all over some unsuspecting NHL goalies.

  7. After much hand-wringing and debate, defenceman Nathan Dempsey was given playing time in the playoffs and showed himself to be a serviceable player. He has been bounced up and down from Toronto to the minors for the greater part of a decade. Do you:

    1. Swallow your pride and attempt to sign him on his terms.

    2. Decide that the bridge has been burned and let him go elsewhere.

    3. Offer a raise, but with no promises of making the big team.

    4. Don't offer him anything more than he has now.

    Option 3. Nathan shmathan, he's just another guy. Keep him around, but make no stinking promises.

  8. What to do with Corey Schwab, the goaltender who filled in admirably while Joseph was sidelined down the regular season's stretch run with a broken bone in his catching hand? He is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next month.

    1. Sign him to a short-term deal worth more than the US$400,000 he made last season.

    2. Lock him up long-term as a possible starter in case Joseph walks.

    3. Let him go and make room for one of the younger goalies.

    4. Leave him be and concentrate on re-signing Tom Barrasso, your other unrestricted free agent goaltender.

    I love Tommy, but he is too fragile. I'd give Corey a raise (despite the fact that I still insist he is a punk) and keep him around while the kids get more time in the minors.

  9. Garry Valk is also set to become an unrestricted free agent. He had some injury problems late in the season, but played in pain when the season was on the line. Do you:

    1. Let him go, his US$700,000 salary being too steep a price tag.

    2. Keep the 34-year-old, but only at a reduced salary.

    3. Give him a raise, since he's still very fast on his skates.

    Option 2. See if you can keep him around, but don't keep overpaying him.

  10. What should take up the bulk of your time this summer?

    1. Getting the Joseph issue settled.

    2. Getting the heart rate settled.

    3. Looking for a solid top-four defenceman

    4. Getting Sundin an established scoring winger for the top line.

    All of the above? Probably number one, followed by number four.
Whalers fans vow never to forget: I'd been wondering when we would hear about the remaining pathetic fans from Hartford, cherishing their memories of a bygone era when the Whalers were perennially awful.

Sure Karmanos harpooned the whale. But the whale was already beached. And now the meat is serving a whole new crowd... quite nicely...

Monday, June 10, 2002

Turn out the lights, the party's over!
Martin: Can't find a diagram but the continuous weave used by Yzerman, Fedorov and Shanahan resulted in one of the prettiest scoring opportunities of the evening. Only a great save by Irbe stopped Yzerman from finishing the play.
Eric, one other thought would be a renovation to accommodate Olympic size venues across the league. Probably not feasible because of the reduction in high priced seats. Agreed, eliminate OT during the regular season. What is the NHLPA 's take on four-on-four? Is there any data to show games are finished sooner in OT with four-on-four? One simple adaptation is to eliminate zone play or traps, and force the players to play man-on-man like the NBA.
Call me a purist: I still love the idea that they play until someone scores a goal. I'm OK with 4 on 4 though. I think it would create enough free ice to hasten the outcome. If that didn't have the desired effect you could still add a shootout later. The reason I don't like the shootout is because it feels like a non-hockey element to me. Of course watching the long overtime games on the West Coast makes it much easier for me to endure.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

The More I Think About It. . . The more I like the idea of a shootout, combined with four-on-four overtime. Even better, why not shorten overtime periods to 10 minutes each? In the NBA, overtime periods are only five minutes long, and that doesn't seem to detract from the excitement. Combined with the shorter bench needed for four-on-four, shorter periods would mean more ice time for the best players in the league -- something the league wants to see anyway.

The television folks would probably like the changes as well. Two sudden death 10-minute OT periods followed by a shootout would make planning easier for broadcasters, and make it far more likely that viewers will still be watching their commercials. Splitting OT into two 10 minute periods (remember, these periods would still be sudden death) would give broadcasters an extra commercial break of shorter duration, again making it more likely that their commercials will be watched.

Since the league went to four-on-four OT three years ago, I've liked the way OT play has developed. If anything, I'd rather see the league eliminate the OTL in the regular season, and award 3 points for a win, and one point for a tie. The way to get teams to gamble is by rewarding success and punishing failure -- not by rewarding carelessness the way the league has for the last four years.

So, Charles, think we can meet halfway on this?

How about adopting the shootout used in the international game? Five of the best shooters on either side decide the games outcome if after one period of overtime the game is still tied.
Thankfully, Most Overtime Games. . . Haven't lasted long during this playoff season, so enduring last night's marathon wasn't so bad. I hate to disagree with Martin, but lengthy overtime games don't do anything for me, and they certainly don't help grow the sport either. If I had my druthers, I'd rather see playoff overtime played four-on-four -- that way, we wouldn't have these endless overtimes that nobody watches, outside of the hockey grognards.

For years, baseball purists have been complaining that World Series games start so late, that young children have little hope of ever seeing a whole game. They're right of course, and just how many kids will ever have a hope of seeing a game that stretches into three overtimes?

As for the fans trapped in the arena, let's just say it's not a whole lot of fun for them either. I was actually at the quadruple overtime game between the Caps and Pens in 1996, and I simply gave up after the second overtime. I drove from the Capital Centre, and made it home to Virginia between the third and fourth overtime. I tried to stay awake, but failed, and only became concious briefly when Petr Nedved scored the game winner in the final minute of the fourth OT.

Needless to say, I think playoff OT needs reform.