Posts Tagged ‘NHL’

It took months of negotiations but there’s an agreement in place to permit NHL players to participate in the Olympics.

As expected,  the 2013-14 schedules were released following the announcement. Ducks schedule is available here. And that’s just great for another reason. We get another compressed NHL schedule. Hello yougetwhatyouputin, are you there????

Ottawa Senators visit Anaheim on Sunday, October 13, 2013.

Frankly, I think the quality of play in the Olympic medal round exceeds that in the NHL playoffs, including the SCF.

The Phoenix Coyotes are dead. Long live the Arizona Coyotes.

The story isn’t that the Glendale City Council voted 4-3 to approve a lease agreement with the Coyotes new owners, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE.)  That’s just the denouement as they say in literature.

The real story is that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman found a buyer  for a  business that has never shown a profit and that he got the City of Glendale to underwrite the losses for 15 years. And oh BTW, RSE is only committed to  keeping the team in Glendale for five years. If you happen to hear of some Glendale City Council members misplacing their jock straps, my bet is Gary glommed those too.

While Bettman exudes all the charm of an annoying clerk in the front room, he’s a master manipulator and deal maker in the backrooms. You know the back room. It’s the place where the real work gets done and the real money is made.

Many, including this blogger, have criticized, even mocked Bettman over the years. Fact is though, while NHL revenue growth is counted in the hundreds of millions per year, average team player payroll costs have increased by about $4m per year under the current and previous CBA agreements.

Given the outcome of the CBA negotiation, one might assume Bettman was relieved to finally have a pro on the other side of the table. Don Fehr and the players took the credit for convincing Bettman & Company to increase revenue sharing. A plan that guaranteed the survival of the NHL’s Sunbelt Strategy. At least for another five years anyway.

That Bettman is one sharp putz, no?

Former Duck Andy McDonald told Truehockey.com “I’m fortunate to get out now. I know I could play two or three more years and I love the game of hockey, but healthwise I know I shouldn’t be playing.”

As a Duck, AndyMac  and Teemu Selanne formed one of the NHL’s deadliest twosomes. In 2007 he took Fastest Skater in the NHL Skills Competition. A.K.A. Lil’ Mac, Andy was traded to St. Louis where he played well when he was in the lineup.

Staying in the lineup was always a challenge to hard working McDonald. He picked up five concussions, a broken ankle and knee surgery along the way. AndyMac explained,  “The last few years too much of the focus became worrying about the next hit. I was always thinking about it.”

One by one our Ducks Stanley Cup team is leaving the show. Neidermayer went first. Pronger went to Philly where he’ll likely finish his career on the Long Term Injury List, LTIR. No. 25 still has nausea filled days as a result of his last concussion.

If that’s the hit in the back of Andy’s mind, yeah he’s fortunate to get out now.

 

You don’t need any more evidence than that to know the NHL’s best teams have arrived in the Conference finals. The last time the four most recent Cup winners met in the semi-finals was 1945. Just to give this stat some perspective, the first NHL game ever to be televised occurred on October 11, 1952. Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky’s fave player, would enter the NHL a year after the NHL’s four most recent Cup winners met in the semi-finals.

The Second World War was ending and the Cold War, which ended 24 years ago now, was just beginning. Mankind would not venture into space for another sixteen years. In 1945, a generation of women left the workforce to become homemakers.

And pro hockey, like baseball, was pretty much the same game we enjoy today.

The more things change the more they stay the same. These Conference finals are a very special moment in hockey history. We might even see the quality rival the Olympic medal rounds.

In the West, Chicago and Los Angeles are very evenly matched until you get  between the pipes. Jonathon Quick is the best goaltender of our time. For two consecutive seasons Quick has found a way to keep the Kings competitive until they find a way to win.

In the East it’s all about the match-ups. Crosby/Malkin v. Bergeron/Chara. My guess is that Bergeron will lineup opposite Malkin. Chara will be going over the boards whenever Sidney Crosby steps out onto the ice.

The odds makers are favoring the offensive powerhouses, Pittsburgh and Chicago. I’m not a betting man per se, but defense usually trumps offense.

Regardless of who wins, we are about to be treated to some of the best hockey played in 68 years. Enjoy.

Despite impressive accomplishments in his first full season, Ducks coach Bruce ‘Gabby’ Boudreau faces equally impressive competition for the NHL Jack Adams Trophy, given annually to the coach “adjudged to have contributed most to his team’s success.” The winner is selected by a poll of the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association at the end of the regular season.

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean led his team to a playoff berth despite losing Norris Trophy D-man Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen as well as top forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek for long stretches.

Due largely to injuries, the Senators used a league-high 14 rookies at various times during the season.

It’s the second consecutive nomination for the sophomore NHL head coach.

Less than one year ago, Blackhawks fans were calling for the dismissal of head coach Joel Quenneville following the surprising first round exit in the playoffs. Coach Q is one of only two men to have played in 800 NHL games and coached in 1000. The other is former Hab great and Minnesota and New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire.
Enroute to the President’s Trophy, Quenneville’s Blackhawks began the season setting NHL record for earning at least a point in its first 24 games. The previous record of 16 games had been held by our Stanley Cup winning Ducks of 2007. Quenneville won the Jack Adams in 1999-2000 with St. Louis.

Coach Boudreau, in his first full season behind the Anaheim bench, led the club to its finest regular season in franchise history, capturing the Pacific Division title and No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a club-record points percentage (.688, 30-12-6). The Ducks made dramatic gains over 2011-12 in several categories, climbing from 25th to third in the overall NHL standings; from 23rd to eighth in average goals-per-game
(2.45 to 2.79); from 19th to 11th in average goals-against (2.73 to 2.40); and from 21st to fourth in power-play percentage (16.6% to 21.5%). Boudreau is vying for his second career Jack Adams Award, having captured the trophy in 2007-08 with Washington in his first appearance as a finalist.

Given MacLean’s Senators faced the most adversity and Quenneville’s Blackhawks achieved more, Gabby is a long shot to win the award this year.

The section on Bruce Boudreau was taken directly from the NHL press release.

This blog has taken issue with the quality of officiating in the NHL during the season and in the playoffs. The officiating has been described here as biased and one-sided. We pointed to the official league policy of “opening the game up” as evidence of an institutionalized bias to promote the skill teams at the expense of the more physical teams. Additionally, we included descriptions of specific referee instructions given to teams prior to playoff games.

This blog has always stopped short of accusing the NHL or anyone involved of being part of a criminal conspiracy.

In an interview with a Russian newspaper, Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin took it up another notch.

“I am not saying there was a phone call from (the league), but someone just wanted Game 7,” he told the paper.

“For the ratings. You know, the lockout, escrow, the league needs to make profit. I don’t know whether the refs were predisposed against us or the league. But to not give obvious penalties (against the Capitals), while for us any little thing was immediately penalized.”

The Caps had 16 power plays compared to the Rangers 28 during the seven game series.

Ovechkin will probably receive a hefty fine for the implied accusation.

This blog hopes the NHL takes Ovie’s complaint seriously and works to improve  on ice officiating.

Note: Ovechkin’s quotes were copied and pasted from this story published by tsn.ca.

The Pacific Division is easily the NHL’s best. Three of the last four Western Conference finalists came out of the Pacific. Current Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings play in the Pacific. Two of its teams has won the Cup in the past six seasons. No other division in hockey can boast such accomplishments or anything even close for that matter.

Given the weighted NHL schedule a winning record in this division sets teams up for a deep playoff run.

The L.A. Kings came together in the second half of last season and rolled to the Stanley Cup. GM Dean Lombardi is bringing everyone back for an encore. Given the short season there’s no reason to believe the Kings won’t be heard from before the Cup is raised in June.
Anze Kopitar is the closest thing to a complete and under-rated hockey player. this side of Pavel Datsyuk. Catch a few bounces and Anze could compete for the Hart, Ross, Richard and Selke trophies in the same year. Drew Doughty sacrificed personal accolades to become a team player. A fact seemingly lost on Kings Nation. The only challenge Jamie Quick faces is maintenance so that he’s fresh for the key games and playoffs.
The supporting cast, led by captain Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams and shut down Dman Willie Mitchell provides a nice mix of complimentary.
No reason not to expect the Kings to win the division.

Phoenix Coyotes continue to prove the cliché, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. If this group can find a few more goals they are best positioned to challenge the Kings. It just might happen with defenders Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are two of the hockeys best puck moving Dmen. The ‘Yotes can transition from the backline and arguably the NHL’s toughest to play against team.

Doug Wilson is among the most respected GM’s in hockey but it seems the Sharks window of opportunity may have already shut. The core of Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Philip Marleau is getting long in the teeth. Unless the supporting cast led by Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Martin Havlat and Ryan Clowe take it up a notch, the Sharks will be in trouble. The additions of Brad Stuart and Adam Burrish will help. With only two roster changes the short season should serve them well.

Seems as though Ducks GM Bob Murray retools his blue line annually. This year Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray are added to the top six. Are they enough to help these improve on their 19th best GA? Jonas Hiller returns in net. The big three of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are again supported by Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu and a bunch of unproven youngsters. Recently, Coach Boudreau said that the Ducks are short one winger. Ducks should improve on their last place finish of last but everything must go right for them to advance beyond fourth place in one tough, competitive division.

Dallas Stars will go so far as Kari Lehtonen, Jamie Benn and Louie Eriksson can carry them. Stars have added Ray Whitney, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr to their top six. That’s a lot of change needing to come together quickly in such a shortened season.

 

David Shoalts of Canada’s newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail is reporting AHL affiliates for the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets have told their NHL players to arrange for permanent housing.
Worthwhile to note that the Devils and Blue Jackets are among the NHL’s financially challenged members. If this were Ed Snider owner of the Flyers or Terry Pegula owner of the Sabres it might just so much smoke. In this instant planning for a long strike is coming from among the NHL’s financially challenged members, the Devils and Blue Jackets respectively.

Fact is, nobody knows when the lockout will end.

At the outset of the lockout this blog considered if the NHL/NHLPA is really so stupid as to risk its premiere in-season marketing event, the outdoor games on New Year’s Day. The answer would appear to be yes, they really are that stupid.

 

Update: Various media outlets are reporting that progress was made yesterday. Per former Duck Mathieu Schneider, now an NHLPA rep:

“In general, when you’re dealing with collective bargaining, when you start to have agreements on smaller issues, it can lead to bigger issues.”

Specifically the sides agreed to increase testing for performance enhancing drugs. Big whoop but as suggested finding agreement and dispensing with issues builds momentum to finding agreement on the core economic issues.

Steve Fehr, Counsel to the NHLPA said much the same:

“I don’t want to use the adjective optimistic, but it was a productive discussion. We had a good session and hopefully it will continue and build momentum.”

Even NHL assistant- Commissioner Bill Daly agrees:

“In fairness, we do have to cover these issues if we’re going to reach an agreement. What we’re doing today is important, it’s just not the most important things we can be doing.”

Update end.

The respective major domos from the NHL and NHLPA have scheduled meetings today and through weekend. These are the first formal meetings since the lockout two weeks ago. In and of itself that alone should be reason for hope. This blog sees more.

The purpose of the weekend meetings is to table mostly non-economic issues such as health and safety. In other words, the grand poohbas will consider the less controversial and provocative items. The topics upon which it is easier to reach agreement. The idea is you begin agreeing on this and that and pretty soon you have momentum building toward finding common ground on the more contentious issues.

In practice, I’m not one for tea leaf reading. I’ve always hated those moments outside the courtroom or in the bar waiting on a decision and second guessing the trial or hearing. As with all unanswerable questions, it’s a complete waste of time.

Fact is, while everybody has opinions, nobody knows how long this lockout will last. What we do know is that the negotiators have agreed to meet and deal with issues easier to resolve. Given that they weren’t formally engaged at all and that they’ve agreed on what to talk about it, is evidence of modest progress.

For any policy wonks and employment law practioners out there, Sean Gordon and Elliotte Friedman, each of the Globe and Mail, address the yin and yang of collusion.

Like Friedman, I too considered collusion was the unwritten rule that Devellano referenced. The reaction of the NHL, a $250,000.00 fine, is a STFU if there ever was one.

In hockey the written rule prohibits tripping. The unwritten rule is that you trip to prevent a scoring opportunity. It’s as true on the ice as it is in the boardroom.

 

September 15 came and went with a whimper befitting the lack of leadership that has befallen hockey’s premiere league.

As an honorably withdrawn member of SAG, Teamsters and the UAW, I can tell you that a union is only as strong as its membership. Donald Fehr is a talented and proven union leader but he came to the table as a gamer and tactician. It is understandable that as the NHLPA President, Fehr wasn’t ready to begin negotiations a year ago as the NHL had wanted. Fehr’s first stated priority was to unite the membership.

That shouldn’t have prevented him from appointing a committee of agents and players to at least hear NHL offers and thinking. Except it did. Fehr’s priority upon taking up the cause was to unite the PA in preparation for exactly what has occurred, a lockout. It’s almost as though the back and forth of this summer was merely going through the motions for the hard bargaining to come.

Most of the blame is rightly placed at the door of the owners. For a year the owner’s said the current CBA need only minor tweaking. Forget that regardless of what the CBA ultimately says, teams desiring to win enabled by agents looking to benefit their clients, will FUBAR the next CBA.

The single accomplishment of Don Fehr is to make the owner’s the bad guy. Not that Bettman’s Bobbleheads haven’t assisted.

The real problem preventing timely resolution is the NHL’s contracts with its partners and fans. The NHL won’t pay a significant financial price for its mismanagement. The $200m television contract with NBC is automatically extended in the event of a lockout. Just like those tickets fans are buying. It’s called a make good.

Now you know exactly why the NHL/NHLPA can afford to take their partners and fans for granted. They’ll make it up and most of us will accept it. They’re arrogant because we fans and corporate partners enable them.