Thursday, March 31, 2005

Playing Hockey Away From Your Homeland

A good human interest story was written a few days ago about Vincent LeCavalier's time in Russia. It tells how hard he found it to adjust to life in a foreign land he had travelled to to play hockey. It is nice that this story is being written. It is a common story in the NHL. Many players have come to North America from Europe and had some real trouble adjusting to life here. Many people have been traded from one market to another in the NHL and found that adjustment very hard as well. In many of those cases, the results of this adjustment have been seen negatively on the ice.

In a salary capped NHL, it is likely that more and more talented European players won't bother making that adjustment. The financial gain to make it worthwhile will not be there anymore. If the conclusion to this lockout leads to top NHL talents like Peter Forsberg or Markus Naslund leaving to Europe and never coming back, then fans as a whole lose. And I think that is the direction the NHL will be moving.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

How come all the NHL news makes me cringe?

I'm not only talking about the labor news and the lockout. I'm not only talking about the loss of one season and the likely waste of next season if the NHL brings out replacement players. I'm talking about the changes the NHL wants to make to the game when it does come back.

Blue ice? Larger nets? Form fitting uniforms? Shootouts? Why?

In part to try once again to market the game of hockey to the people in the markets that have thus far rejected it - thus leading the NHL braintrust to institute this lockout and cost us the season, and also because in order to sell the lockout, the people running the NHL have been running a propoganda campaign about how the game is broken and needs to be fixed.

Hockey is a great game. It sells very well on a regional level. In many NHL markets, tickets have been very hard to come by and TV ratings for games are good. Its not a national game in the US. So what? It never has been. Many people have made lots of money without trying to force hockey to be a national sport. It has stood for generations as a great game.

The future looks dim. Who knows how long it will be until the labor situation is solved. By then how much talent will be lost to Europe or possibly othe North American leagues? The NHL will no longer be the league with all the best talent in the world. And its new gimmicks (like larger nets) will turn off a lot of the traditional fans that have been taken foregranted (and in some cases lost) during this lockout. Its the glow puck and the Fox robots all over again.

I don't think it is hyperbole to say that Gary Bettman's vision of the NHL is literally the worst thing that has happened in the history of hockey. It has the potential to ruin the game that has been built for generations. Even if he gets his way with the NHL and completely wins the rest of the labor dispute (whatever win means at this point), the league he wants to build sounds more and more stupid everytime a new proposed rule change comes out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Congratulations Golden Bears

Yesterday the number one seeded University of Alberta Golden Bears won the 2005 Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship defeating the fifth seed University of Saskatchewan Huskies 4-3 in overtime, in front of more than 10,000 fans in Edmonton's Rexall Place. This is a record eleventh title for the University of Alberta and their third title in the last seven years.

To get to the finals, Alberta defeated Manitoba and Quebec-Trois Rivieres in early playoff contests. Saskatchewan defeated Western Ontario and Moncton to reach the finals.

This is good hockey, but its no substitute for the elite players in the world playing against each other in meaningful competition. How long until we get that again?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Replacement Players and Fantasy Hockey

I am in a keeper fantasy hockey league. Its website is here. We have started to discuss what we will do next year if the NHL has replacement players.

The first option is to not play as long as the NHL uses replacement players. Biggest con is that we are not playing. It is possible that it might put us in an awkward position, if it becomes clear that this situation is going to stay for a long period of time (such as the entire season) we may decide to try to play during the season.

The second option is to play under our current rules. If a GM wishes to release NHL players on his roster and sign replacement players this is his option. Presumably, one would only release borderline players or retiring players and sign the better of the replacements who might have NHL possibilities, but there is no guarantee that all GMs will be intelligent. This replacement time would count in our standings the same way it does in the NHL standings, so it would lead to unpredictable results where very good NHL teams with no replacement players get top draft picks.

The third option is to temporarily expand our rosters with replacement players in a large draft. When replacement players end, we would release the number of players from our rosters that we added (teams need to release their replacement players - they can keep the good ones). The major con is that it will be a lot of work to do this. GMs will have to do a lot of work to figure out who the replacement players are. Some of them will come from "off the beaten path" in leagues we have never watched and never viewed as places that might produce future NHLers.

Do any other keeper fantasy hockey leagues have better solutions?

Any time I talk about my fantasy hockey league, I like to add that anyone reading this post who thinks this might be a fun league to join should leave a message telling us how they can be reached.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Random Bill James Quote

One of the things that the general public least understands about major league athletes is how hard they work. The notion that being a professional baseball player is a fun job has strongest appeal to those who know least about it

That is a baseball quote but it could just as easily apply to hockey and it helps to explain the reaction of the general public to this lockout.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bring on the Lawyers

The NHL has filed an unfair labor practise complaint with the US National Labor Relations Board. Information can be found here.

The complaint is an "apparant NHLPA policy" (legally what is an apparant policy?) that players who recieved stipends from the NHLPA during the lockout who appear as replacement players in the NHL will be asked to pay them back. This seems to me to be a nuisance lawsuit filed mostly to threaten the NHLPA and to gage whether or not the Labor Relations board will be friendly to them in their more important impasse cases.

At any rate, any pretence of civility on the NHL's part in this lockout is now gone.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Draft Postponed

Today it was announced that the NHL draft scheduled for three months from now on June 25th and 26th has been postponed. You can read about that here.

This opens up some big questions about what happens to the players (particularly Sidney Crosby) who would have been chosen in this draft should it not occur at all. It will be an interesting story. I can make predictions, but lately the truth has been stranger than my fiction, so for now, I will refrain.

The NHL waited until February was almost over before cancelling the NHL season, when it had been obvious to many for the last month or so, that there was no time for a season. Now they cancel the draft 3 months in advance. Why?

Although I think it is unlikely that there will be a CBA agreement by draft time, there is still plenty of time to string along the draft before actually postponing it. I think this is a sign that the NHL is completely aware that there is little to no chance of a CBA deal soon. In fact, one could argue that this was obvious to them when they made their last two awful proposals.

I think that on the off chance the draft actually went ahead as scheduled, the NHL is better to do it with less fanfare behind closed doors in a conference call. I'm sure a draft open to the public in Ottawa will bring in some disgruntled fans. Some fans will be upset at the loss of the 2004/05 season, some fans will be upset that Ottawa gave up a great shot at the Stanley Cup in the lost season and other fans will be likely upset about the method used to determine the draft order. It probably would not be an orderly fan friendly draft under those circumstances.

Probably the best chance for the NHL public relations machine is to hide as much of their dealings as possible until they can unveil an actual hockey season. Drafts that would be open to the public are an example of a situation where disgruntled fans might be seen and heard and there is no hockey to showcase yet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Drugs and Hockey

On Friday, I wondered about steroids and hockey. It appears that in the wake of the baseball steroid hearings in congress, many other people have wondered the same thing and have been asking questions

Wayne Gretzky reports that he doesn't think that steroids are a significant issue in the NHL. I'm sure this is true for finesse type players like Gretzky. Steroids would just slow them down.

However among goons, there appears to be significant steroid use. Dennis Bonvie and Dave Morissette both report this.

Morissette goes on to discuss stimulant use in the NHL. I think this is far more common then steroid use. Players take caffeine, sudafed or similar substances to help them "get up" for the game. Both he and Stephane Quintal report about stimulant use and health problems that they have experienced as a result of them.

Bob McKenzie makes the ridiculous claim that the NHL has a strong drug policy. Given the fact it doesn't have a CBA, it has no drug policy whatsoever. Even if there may have been agreement in principle on the issue at one point between the NHL and NHLPA, it is clearly not resolved until a CBA is signed. I imagine this alleged drug policy refers to steroids and not to the stimulant use that appears to be a bigger problem in the NHL.

I think this is a good example of Bob McKenzie spreading pro-NHL propoganda in exchange for "scoops". Tom Benjamin agrees with this theory. He thinks McKenzie breaking the story of a possible Todd Bertuzzi reinstatement before the NHL officially said anything is an example of this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fantasy Baseball Draft Today

I like baseball. Its a fun diversion when the NHL is not in season (is that 12 months a year now?). Today a group of hockey buddies got together online to have our annual fantasy baseball draft. I do not claim we know a lot about baseball, so you may see some of our picks as questionable. Nevertheless, we had a good draft and I hope will have a great season.

1st Round
Guinness- Albert Pujols
Detroit Skaboys- Alex Rodriguez
Pedro's Daddy- Randy Johnson
Phoenix Cubs- Johan Santana
The Drunken Clams- Pedro Martinez
Ball Five- Vladimir Guerrero
Ll Jamz- Carlos Beltran
NY Snakeeaters- Miguel Tejada
Skydome 72ers- Eric Gagne
NY Knights- Alfonso Soriano
3 Baggerz- Bobby Abreu
Throw the damn ball- Jason Schmidt

2nd Round
Throw the damn ball- Todd Helton
3 Baggerz- Manny Ramirez
NY Knights- Tim Hudson
Skydome 72ers- Ichiro Suzuki
NY Snakeeaters- Carl Crawford
Ll Jamz- Barry Bonds
Ball Five- Scott Rolen
The Drunken Clams- Curt Schilling
Pheonix Cubs- Aramis Ramirez
Pedro's Daddy- Gary Sheffield
Detroit Skaboys- Adrian Beltre
Guinness- Roy Oswalt

3rd Round
Guinness- Juan Pierre
Detroit Skaboys- David Ortiz
Pedro's Daddy- Derek Jeter
Phoenix Cubs- Mark Prior
The Drunken Clams- Keith Foulke
Ball Five- Jim Thome
Ll Jamz- Miguel Cabrera
NY Snakeeaters- Mark Teixeira
Skydome 72ers- Jim Edmonds
NY Knights- Eric Chavez
3 baggerz- Francisco Rodriguez
Throw the damn ball- Ben Sheets

4th Round
Throw the damn ball- Aubrey Huff
3 baggerz- Jimmy Rollins
NY Knights- Mark Mulder
Skydome 72ers- Melvin Mora
NY Snakeeaters- Carlos Delgado
Ll Jamz- Rafael Furcal
Ball Five- Mariano Rivera
The Drunken Clams- Adam Dunn
Phoenix Cubs- Nomar Garciaparra
Pedro's Daddy- Ivan Rodriguez
Detroit Skaboys- Edgar Renteria
Guinness- Hank Blalock

5th Round
Guinness- Brad Lidge
Detroit Skaboys- Marcus Giles
Pedro's Daddy- Jason Isringhausen
Phoenix Cubs- Carlos Zambrano
The Drunken Clams- Jason Varitek
Ball Five- Lance Berkman
Ll Jamz- Victor Martinez
NY Snakeeaters- Michael Young
Skydome 72ers- Phil Nevin
NY Knights- Orlando Cabrera
3 baggerz- Sammy Sosa
Throw the damn ball- Javy Lopez

6th Round
Throw the damn ball- Scott Podsednik
3 baggerz- Carl Pavano
NY Knights- Danny Kolb
Skydome 72ers- Roy Halladay
NY Sankeeaters- Roger Clemens
Ll Jamz- Chipper Jones
Ball Five- Oliver Perez
The Drunken Clams- Jeff Kent
Phoenix Cubs- Derrick Lee
Pedro's Daddy- Richie Sexson
Detroit Skaboys- Carlos Guillen
Guinness- Jose Reyes

7th Round
Guinness- Rich Harden
Detroit Skaboys- Jake Peavy
Pedro's Daddy- Kerry Wood
Phoenix Cubs- Octavio Dotel
The Drunken Clams- Moises Alou
Ball Five- Barry Zito
Ll Jamz- Mark Loretta
NY Snakeeaters- Bret Boone
Skydome 72ers- Jorge Posada
NY Knights- Justin Morneau
3 baggerz- Chone Figgins
Throw the damn ball- Joe Nathan

8th Round
Throw the damn ball- Corey Patterson
3 baggerz- Paul Konerko
NY Knights- Joe Mauer
Skydome 72ers- Hideki Matsui
NY Snakeeaters- Billy Wagner
Ll Jamz- Francisco Cordero
Ball Five- John Smoltz
The Drunken Clams- Mike Mussina
Phoenix Cubs- Trevor Hoffman
Pedro's Daddy- Andruw Jones
Detroit Skaboys- Armando Benitez
Guinness- Jason Bay

9th Round
Guinness- Brad Wilkerson
Detroit Skaboys- Johnny Damon
Pedro's Daddy- Placido Polanco
Phoenix Cubs- Shawn Green
The Drunken Clams- Troy Glaus
Ball Five- Magglio Ordonez
Ll Jamz- Josh Beckett
NY Snakeeaters- Vernon Wells
Skydome 72ers- Matt Clement
NY Knights- Carlos Lee
3 baggerz- BJ Ryan
Throw the damn ball- Pedro Feliz

10th Round
Throw the damn ball- Guillermo Mota
3 baggerz- Mike Lowell
NY Knights- Freddy Garcia
Skydome 72ers- Bobby Crosby
NY Snakeeaters- David Wright
Ll Jamz- Travis Hafner
Ball Five- J D Drew
The Drunken Clams- Brian Giles
Phoenix Cubs- Jose Vidro
Pedro's Daddy- Greg Maddux
Detroit Skaboys- Eddie Guardado
Guinness- Braden Looper

11th Round
Guinness- A J Burnett
Detroit Skaboys- Javier Vazquez
Pedro's Daddy - Luis Castillo
Pheonix Cubs- Sean Casey
The Drunken Clams- Danny Graves
Ball Five- Andy Pettitte
Ll Jamz- Mike Piazza
NY Snakeeaters- Troy Percival
Skydome 72ers- Tony Womack
NY Knights- Jose Guillen
3 baggerz- Cris Carpenter
Throw the damn ball- Livan Hernandez

12th Round
Throw the damn ball- Julio Lugo
3 baggerz- Brad Penny
NY Knights- Shannon Stewart
Skydome 72ers- Jeremy Bonderman
NY Snakeeaters- Shingo Takatsu
Ll Jamz- Aaron Rowand
Ball Five- Wade Miller
The Drunken Clams- Torii Hunter
Phoenix Cubs- Dave Roberts
Pedro's Daddy- Jose Mesa
Detroit Skaboys- Danys Baez
Guinness- Chase Utley

13th Round
Guinness- Mark Buehrle
Detroit Skaboys- Chad Cordero
Pedro's Daddy- Julian Tavarez
Phoenix Cubs- Kelvim Escobar
The Drunken Clams- Brad Radke
Ball Five- Jeff Bagwell
Ll Jamz- Odalis Perez
NY Snakeeaters- Steve Finley
Skydome 72ers- Jared Wright
NY Knights- Bob Wickman
3 baggerz- Luis Gonzalez
Throw the damn ball- Miguel Batista

14th Round
Throw the damn ball- Jacque Jones
3 baggerz- Derek Lowe
NY Knights- Garrett Anderson
Skydome 72ers- Preston Wilson
NY Snakeeaters- C C Sabathia
Ll Jamz- Zack Greinke
Ball Five- Brian Roberts
The Drunken Clams- Jason Kendall
Phoenix Cubs- Juan Uribe
Pedro's Daddy- Dontrelle Willis
Detroit Skaboys- Ken Griffey Jr
Guinness- Geoff Jenkins

15th Round
Guinness- Coco Crisp
Detroit Skaboys- Jeremy Affeldt
Pedro's Daddy- Rocco Baldelli
Phoenix Cubs- Lew Ford
The Drunken Clams- Kazuo Matsui
Ball Five- Bartolo Colon
Ll Jamz- Larry Walker
NY Snakeeaters- Paul LoDuca
Skydome 72ers- David Wells
NY Knights- Duncan McPherson
3 baggerz- Johnny Estrada
Throw the damn ball- Randy Winn

16th Round
Throw the damn ball- Jon Lieber
3 baggerz- Chin-hui Tsao
NY Knights- Mike Sweeney
Skydome 72ers- Juan Rincon
NY Snakeeaters- Matt Morris
Ll Jamz- Brandon Webb
Ball Five- LaTroy Hawkins
The Drunken Clams- Frank Thomas
Phoenix Cubs- Rodrigo Lopez
Pedro's Daddy- Bill Mueller
Detroit Skaboys- Milton Bradley
Guinness- Kevin Brown

17th Round
Guinness- Ramon Hernandez
Detroit Skaboys- Greg Aquino
Pedro's Daddy- Eric Byrnes
Phoenix Cubs- Matt Lawton
The Drunken Clams- Mike Hampton
Ball Five- Aaron Boone
Ll Jamz- Jeff Weaver
NY Snakeeaters- Russ Ortiz
Skydome 72ers- Corey Koskie
NY Knights- Joel Pineiro
3 baggerz- Jason Lane
Throw the damn ball- Doug Davis

18th Round
Throw the damn ball- Kevin Millar
3 baggerz- Horacio Ramirez
NY Knights- Ted Lilly
Skydome 72ers- Al Leiter
NY Snakeeaters- Tom Gordon
Ll Jamz- Akinori Otsuka
Ball Five- Jason Giambi
The Drunken Clams- Jeromy Burnitz
Phoenix Cubs- Scott Shields
Pedro's Daddy- Bronson Arroyo
Detroit Skaboys- Alex Sanchez
Guinness- Pat Burrell

19th Round
Guinness- Danny Haren
Detroit Skaboys- Michael Barrett
Pedro's Daddy- Bernie Williams
Phoenix Cubs- Mike Lieberthal
The Drunken Clams- Jake Westbrook
Ball Five- Khalil Greene
Ll Jamz- Randy Wolf
NY Snakeeaters- Kris Benson
Skydome 72ers- Mark Bellhorn
NY Knights- Jorge Julio
3 baggerz- Paul Byrd
Throw the damn ball- Noah Lowery

20th Round
Throw the damn ball- Shea Hillenbrand
3 baggerz- Matt Holliday
NY Knights- Austin Kearns
Skydome 72ers- John Thomson
NY Snakeeaters- Victor Zambrano
Ll Jamz- Lyle Overbay
Ball Five- Trot Nixon
The Drunken Clams- Rafael Palmeiro
Pheonix Cubs- Tadahito Iguchi
Pedro's Daddy- Toby Hall
Detroit Skaboys- Ray Durham
Guinness- Jason Marquis

21st Round
Guinness- Mike Adams
Detroit Skaboys- Reggie Sanders
Pedro's Daddy- Alex Gonzalez
Phoenix Cubs- Richard Hidalgo
The Drunken Clams- Ryan Freel
Ball Five- Edwin Jackson
Ll Jamz- Brian Lawrence
NY Snakeeaters- Craig Biggio
Skydome 72ers- Tom Glavine
NY Knights- A J Pierzynski
3 baggerz- Brandon Backe
Throw the damn ball- Marquis Grissom

22nd Round
Throw the damn ball- Brandon Inge
3 baggerz- Juan Gonzalez
NY Knights- Ugueth Urbina
Skydome 72ers- Jermaine Dye
NY Snakeeaters- Vinny Castilla
Ll Jamz- Woody Williams
Ball Five- Adam Eaton
The Drunken Clams- Mike Cameron
Phoenix Cubs- Ben Broussard
Pedro's Daddy- J T Snow
Detroit Skaboys- Casey Blake
Guinness- Nick Swisher

23rd Round
Guinness- Chris Burke
Detroit Skaboys- Jeff Suppan
Pedro's Daddy- Tim Wakefield
Phoenix Cubs- Kenny Rogers
The Drunken Clams- Craig Wilson
Ball Five- Charles Johnson
Ll Jamz- Tim Worrell
NY Snakeeaters- Scott Linebrink
Skydome 72ers- Jack Wilson
NY Knights- Erubiel Durazo
3 baggerz- Ryan Klesko
Throw the damn ball- Ty Wiggington

24th Round
Throw the damn ball- Michael Cuddyer
3 baggerz- Scott Kazmir
NY Knights- Joe Blanton
Skydome 72ers- Jamie Moyer
NY Snakeeaters- Carlos Pena
Ll Jamz- Jose Cruz
Ball Five- Esteban Loaiza
The Drunken Clams- John Lackey
Phoenix Cubs- Steve Trachsel
Pedro's Daddy- Jorge Cantu
Detroit Skaboys- Damaso Marte
Guinness- Jerome Williams

Monday, March 21, 2005

Why A Salary Cap (and the Lockout) is Bad For the Ottawa Senators

My last post was about why a salary cap is bad for the NHL and Bryon has argued that point. We have been specifically discussing the effect of a salary cap and the lockout on the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa is one of the best teams in the NHL. They have one of the best young groups of players in the NHL. They have not (yet?) won the Stanley Cup but would have to be considered among the favorites if there ever is another Stanley Cup playoff.

Bryon argues that a salary cap would help the Sens. I strongly disagree.

Ottawa already is one of the best teams in the NHL. Ottawa could very well win the Stanley Cup this year if there were no lockout. Sens fans should be mad as hell at the NHL for letting that chance get away.

A salary cap does "level the playing field". It takes away any advantage a team gains from drafting or otherwise producing a young core of extremely talented players. In fact, under a salary cap, there is little to no advantage to drafting well. The teams that draft well will be forced to give up much of their bounty to the teams that didn't bother to draft well so that they can stay under the salary cap.

Right now, Ottawa has a fine young core. This core will stay together at the very worst until they reach UFA age. By then, if the team has won a Stanley Cup or more, they will have more then enough money and motivation to continue to keep that core together. If they haven't won, they likely won't ever win, since players currently do not reach UFA age until age 31, when they have passed the best years of their career. At that point, it would be in their best interest to dismantle their core and try again.

Under a salary cap, Ottawa has no chance whatsoever of keeping together their current core. It would cost too much to pay all of their current stars to have them stay under the salary cap. They won't have any chance of having few more years with their current core. Under the pre-lockout system they had a chance - and it may have been a chance to be a really special team that would have been one of the greatest of all time.

Their stars would go to teams that did not draft well and can afford their players under their salary caps. Some would go to the bigger markets of New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. It is ironic that the current system allows Ottawa to keep their core, but the system some Ottawa fans seem to want would not allow this.

The current NHL system is pretty fair. Any market can build a top team. Ottawa has. Calgary and Tampa Bay played in the Stanley Cup finals. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago all missed the playoffs. It is very possible that Tampa, Ottawa and Atlanta will dominate the NHL for the next several years. That would mean more bad rating finals (people dont want Tampa vs. Calgary - but they would watch if the Rangers or Kings made the finals). Something had to be done. A salary cap is one way to break up the small markets that have become too powerful.

Make no mistake about this lockout. It is not about fairness in the NHL. It is about the almighty dollar. With a salary cap, the big markets make even more money. With a salary cap, the big markets get shots at top players in their prime even if they do not draft well. In the previous system all you could buy is older broken down players (see the New York Rangers for example).

Ottawa has a top team. They have a top team right now. They did that under the current NHL CBA. The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could not do that. They built teams that miss the playoffs. Bring in a salary cap and Ottawa cannot keep its core together so Ottawa cannot dominate. Liberalize free agency in the process and some of those stars may wind up signing with the biggest markets. For example, Marian Hossa will be a restricted free agent this summer. If there is no CBA, there will not be anyway Ottawa can give him a qualifying offer. So he might be an unrestricted free agent. If he is UFA, a team like the New York Rangers who shed a lot of salary would be in a great place to sign him.

This lockout has cost Ottawa one shot at the Stanley Cup so far. Its resolution may cost it its core of stars. Ottawa has been one of the teams that has most suffered due to the lockout and its expected resolution.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Why A Salary Cap is Bad For The NHL

Salary caps lead to more player movement. They lead to valuable players on good teams being let go for no reason other than staying below a salary cap. This will ruin the continuity from one year ot the next. This will make it more likely that your favorite player on your favorite team has to leave town and play for the opposition

If your team drafts well and produces a lot of talent in today's NHL, your team will win. In a salary cap league, this is no longer true. It doesn't matter if you draft well to produce a lot of talent, when the players you drafted become good, you will have to give them up to the teams that didn't draft well - because you cannot pay them all and stay below the cap. Drafting no longer is important to producing a winner. The important thing is having good accountants who know how to stay below the salary cap.

Can the NHL afford to not have a salary cap? Of course they can. Teams just have to stop signing contracts that pay out to players more then they can afford (assuming they did that in the past). Each team makes its own budget and each team sticks to it. Its that simple. Couple that with the 24% salary rollback the NHLPA offered - or merely with a long lockout where the vast majority of the NHL contracts expire and the owners get a redo on contracts where all they have to do is stick to their individual budgets and they will be fine and make money. Of course thats not what the NHL owners want. They want to break the NHLPA. They are not even trying to make any settlement offers that have any chance of being accepted by the NHLPA.

A salary cap may have consequences in the calibre of player we get to see in the NHL. Some very good players may stay in Europe because they will no longer make the money in the NHL that it is worth relocating themselves and their families to a new continent. Players such as Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin may be lost from the NHL talent pool. Thats a serious bite. That would weaken the NHL for all the fans.

It seems quite likely that the new NHL CBA will have some kind of salary cap. That is too bad. That will make the league WORSE for the fan. The payoff for missing a year plus of NHL play will be a worse league in the future. Of course, given the uncertainty of the situation, it is quite possible that what seems likely now will not come to pass in practise. That is what I hope will be the situation. I hope we see an elite league (probably with less that 30 teams) with all the best talent in the world. I think that a salary cap league would not allow this. Too many top hockey players come from Europe and can make very good money in Europe, so won't venture to the NHL unless there is large financial gain for them to do so. A salary cap league would reduce that gain. Further, a salary cap league significantly reduces the length of time a player stays in one market and reduces the value of drafting while increasing the value of accountants. Who needs that?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Steroids and Hockey

With baseball players testifying in front of congress about steroids, it is natural to wonder if NHL hockey has a steroid problem. I imagine some players in the NHL do take steroids. The only well documented case of steroid use I can recall off the top of my head is John Kordic, although I an sure there are others. Goon type players like Kordic taking steroids is quite likely. So would power forwards or stay at home defencemen or even a Gordie Howe-type aggresive forward. It probably would help a player recover from injuries during the marathon seasons in the NHL. But how widespread are steroids in hockey? We don't really have any reliable way to answer that question.

I really like Hockey Bird's comments
What made me sad was that there's not a shot in hell that we'd see Congressional involvement in the current NHL vs. NHLPA wars. How cool would it be to see our beloved game become so important that the U.S. Congress itself would step in to force these two parties to quit the crap and strike a deal. Of course, that will never happen, hence the dejection on my part.
I wish I had put that in words first. I feel the same way, but never fully vocalized the idea.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Case Study: Blog vs. Media

Lyle Richardson is a very good hockey blogger. His site Spector's Soapbox is a must read for me every day. He posts his daily musings on the comings and goings in the hockey world of the last 24 hours. Its usually very well written and very informative. He also frequently writes very good opinion pieces about hockey for foxsports. An archive of his foxsports writings can be found here. For completeness, I should also mention that he is also involved twice monthly in hockey chats that can be found at which I must admit that I have never listened to. Experimentally, I also learned today that he is a patient man who answered several (likely annoying) emails that I sent him today to try to understand the situation that I am highlighting for this case study.

On Tuesday, my post More Tabloid Hockey Journalism highlighted one of his blog posts. It can be found on March 15th in his archives here. This morning, I first noticed his latest writing on the FoxSports website here. I quickly notice that they addressed the same topic. They both address how the hockey writers have been improperly using the words "scab" and "hypocrite" to garner emotional negative responces against the NHL players in lieu of facts in many articles. Since the FoxSports article did not have the other daily musings intertwined in it and since it wasn't buried in an archives list, I thought it might be better to edit my Tuesday post and give this link .. until I read it more closely. The topic was the same, but what was written was different.

In my opinion, the blog post is actually the stronger argument. The paragraph that I quoted in my Tuesday post (as the strongest one - at least to the point I thought he was making as it related to my point):
The only reason certain reporters bang this story like a gong is because it sells, it plays upon the emotions of angry hockey fans. Welcome to tabloid journalism, stories without substance, provided only to whip readers into a frenzy whilst devoid of facts.
is gone.

It was replaced by:
The reason for that, of course, is because it doesn't sell papers or generate ratings. Few, if anyone, in the media gave a damn about Europeans and minor leaguers losing jobs to washed-up NHL players in the past. But because this time around it's locked-out NHL talent still in their prime taking away those jobs, it makes for sexier headlines.

It makes the same basic point, but it loses the important accusation that this behavior by reported leads to tabloid journalism to whip fans into a frenzy without actually exposing them to facts. It still comes down against the media, but not as harshly. It seemed interesting to me that even one of the people in the media (although not with TSN or ESPN-type exposure) tones down his opinions when they are in the media. This is an example of what I am ranting about. For the readers of FoxSports, the strongest backing of Lyle Richardson's opinions does not see the light of day. They have less exposure to anything that is not in the corporate mainstream.

I exchanged several emails with Lyle today asking about this situation - and he was kind enough to answer - despite the fact I am sure to have been annoying. I learned that he wrote the FoxSports article on Monday night. The topic is one that he felt was important, so he commented further about it in his Tuesday's musings on his blog. On Wednesday, he sent the article to FoxSports. He feels that he can be "rawer" on his blog. He sometimes has to tone down the language for FoxSports and can be more uncensored on his blog.

Clearly, this is a minor example compared to what goes into an article for the mainstream media. I'm sure it gets far more complicated for the more "important" journalists who have more well-established relationships with more of the people on whom they are reporting and have much deeper relationships with their employer. The ways this can influence their opinions and what is written and the way the expectations on them influences what is written, is probably quite complex and quite interesting.

Finally, a note to Lyle Richardson. Thank you for patiently answering my emails. And please object if you think what I have written is not accurate.

Lockout Now Half Year Old

Today is the 183rd day of the NHL lockout. That makes it half a year old.
** Technically if a year is 365 days, then half a year is 182.5 years. **
Has it been good for you? I can't say I have enjoyed spending half a year watching this instead of NHL hockey.

Today the NHL and NHLPA met for two and a half hours with only about 20 minutes spent actually talking to each other. Information can be found here. Apparently, the NHL proposed two new offers that, as far as they have been reported so far, are worse then offers in previous meetings in February. They offer either a salary cap of $37.5 million (when they had previously offered $42.5) or salaries linked to 54% of the NHL "defined revenues" - a term that to the best of my knowledge has never been defined (they had previously offered 55%). The story from the NHL is if the players wait, then offers will continue to get worse.

Now maybe I am missing the point, but can anyone explain to my why the percentage the owners can afford to give to the players of their revenue should drop the longer it takes for a deal to be reached? Even if total revenues drop, shouldn't the player's percentage remain the same? Hadn't that been the owners position since day one when discussing possible increases in revenue?

I don't imagine there is any chance at all that a deal will be reached if the NHL keeps making worse and worse offers. Its ridiculous. You said no to better than this before, will you accept less than you already refused now? That's not real negotiation. It seems clear the NHL wants to attempt to negotiate the legal minefield of impasse. That means it will get worse before it ever gets better.

Its awful that the NHL has put the fan through this for half a year so far, and it seems clear that the worst is yet to come.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Great Link on Media

Since we got a bit of a disagreement on the independence of the media in hockey (comments of yesterday's post), I dug out a great link that discusses this topic in a much more broad context (ie. the world media - not just the hockey media) George Monbiot on media. I first found this link through Tom Benjamin's wonderful hockey blog.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More Tabloid Hockey Journalism

Yesterday, I wrote a post complaining about the way the "credible" hockey media is irresponsibly reporting the news in a tabloid style. Today I stumbled across another post by Spector's Soapbox (this is the March 15th entry in the archives - there is no way to link to individual stories) that comes to the same point from a different point of view. He writes that words like "scab" and "hypocrite" are incorrectly used by the "credible" hockey media in order to portray the players in a negative light.

He writes:
The only reason certain reporters bang this story like a gong is because it sells, it plays upon the emotions of angry hockey fans. Welcome to tabloid journalism, stories without substance, provided only to whip readers into a frenzy whilst devoid of facts.

I think he is correct. Again the readers of the hockey media deserve better.

I think the problem is two-fold. Much of the media is owned by the same big business that owns the NHL teams. So there is a conscious decision to not make statements that will anger the bosses of writers (often the NHL owners).

Further, a member of the media who loses access to a team has little or no value. They cannot get any "inside scoops" (such as they are). Teams allow writers to get close to them in return for positive exposure in the media.

The idea that the hockey media is independent and reliable is a myth. We deserve better.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Tabloid Hockey Journalism

A few weeks ago, several "reputable" hockey media organizations reported that a CBA deal was going to be agreed upon on February 19th, 2005. The Hockey News even reported this on their website. When this did not happen they printed this retraction. This did not go over very well with many people. Tom Benjamin was one of the most vocally speaking out against this media blunder.

Did the media as a group learn anything from that? It doesn't appear that they did. They have made another blunder. Its a smaller blunder but nevertheless equally wrong. It was reported Peter Forsberg's career may be over due to concussions.

In fact this was reported: His father, Kent Forsberg, is MoDo's head coach and as far as he is concerned his son's pro hockey career is over. When asked whether Peter has played his last game, Kent replied: 'As it looks now, yes.'

A little later, the Globe and Mail is reporting that the concussion is minor and its effects were greatly exaggerated. The media ran on a story based mostly upon a quote from a worried father, instead of waiting to learn the truth.

It seems clear that in order to have a "scoop", even the reputable hockey news organizations are reporting things that are factually questionable. This is misleading all of the fans. The reader of hockey news should demand better. This is not good enough.

Like everyone else, I am somewhat dependant upon the "reputable" hockey media for my hockey news. If TSN or the Hockey News or ESPN reports something it should be true. I haven't yet fallen for either of these widely circulated false reports with posts on this blog, but it is only a matter of time before I do. I am trying my hardest to only report that which is true - and when I speculate to make sure it is clear that it is merely speculation.

We deserve better.

Edited to add: I just noticed that Jamie Fitzpatrick posted almost exactly the same story.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Missing The Race For Playoffs

If this was an NHL season, right now teams would be racing to get into position for the playoffs. It would be great fun to watch. Instead we get nothing. Isn't that a great trade off?

NHL and NHLPA met for 90 minutes on Friday in a Toronto airport hotel. Assuming the NHL came in from New York for the meeting, they would have spent longer in transit then they did meeting.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Boltsmag on Southeast Division All Time Best Players

Yesterday, I completed a series of posts on the best all time players of each team that is currently in the NHL. My choices for the Southeast Division are here. Boltsmag responds to my choices here. He disagrees with a few of my choices.

I responded to him briefly as a comment on his blog. Here is my responce:

Interesting comments. I will address them in some detail in a further post on my blog - probably tomorrow (Friday). I think the disagreement comes down to how the all time best player is defined.

In principle, I would define it as the player who would produce the most cumulative value to his team over his tenure with the club to date (I refuse to project into the future because those projections are often wrong) above the level of the average replacement player.

I am vague on purpose with some of those terms. By cumulative value I mean some concept similar to “win shares” that Bill James has defined in baseball. However, I do not believe that hockey is a sport that can be statistically analyzed on the level baseball can to produce such a stat. Nevertheless, as fans we have a general idea who should have produced the most “cumulative value". And we can argue about our opinions on this. By the average replacement player, I mean quite literally the average guy floating around the NHL at the time. If the average forward scores 25 points a year with no significant contribution to defence or leadership etc, then a player only really contributes value to his team by being better than that level.

I posted my opinions so that we could discuss hockey. The good parts of hockey. I’m tired of the negativity of the lockout. If we can discuss the days past when this wasn’t always the case, I think this is a positive thing.

The choices he disagrees with are Atlanta Thrashers. I chose Ilya Kovalchuk. He chose Dany Heatley. Here are their cumulative stats to date with Atlanta:
Ilya Kovalchuk GP-227 G-108 A-97 Pts-205 PIM-148
Dany Heatley GP-190 G-80 A-101 Pts-181 PIM-132

So Kovalchuk has played more games (due in a large part to Heatley missing much of last year due to his car crash) and scored 35% more goals and slightly over 13% more points. So I stand by my choice that Kovalchuk has produced more value for Atlanta then Heatley has. That may or may not change in the future - but I'm not going to gaze into my murky crystal ball - I'm only reporting my opinion based on events that have actually occurred.

He also disagrees with my choice of Robert Svehla as the Florida Panthers best player. He selects John Vanbiesbrouck. The comparison is not as simple since they play very different positions. Vanbiesbrouck was a very valuable goalie who was their number one goalie for 5 seasons, including one run to the Stanley Cup finals. Svehla was probably the best defender on the team for his entire run with the squad. He was there for 7 complete seasons plus 5 games in 1994/95. He had a longer run as a frontline player with the team. Svehla is the all time asists leader for the Panthers franchise. He has been one of the offensive leaders in history club history from defence. Svehla may not have been as valuable in a single season as Vanbiesbrouck was, but I think he contributed more in his whole run with the team.

His final disagreement is my choice of Vincent LeCavalier as the best player in Tampa Bay history (being as he has a Tampa Bay based blog I have to take this opinion very seriously). He thinks both Brad Richards and Martin St Louis are more valuable. We will compare career stats with Tampa Bay
Vincent LeCavalier GP-467 G-146 A-181 Pts-327 PIM-284
Brad Richards GP-326 G-84 A-193 Pts-277 PIM-63
Martin St Louis GP-295 G-105 A-134 Pts-239 PIM-88

So Vinny has played more and scored more. Hence he has been more valuable so far in franchise history. Thats not to say that St Louis wasn't more valuable last year in the regular season or that Richards wasn't more valuable last year in the playoffs. And that is not a prediction for the future. Its merely an opinion on the past.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Best Player All Time By Team Summary

Over the past few days I have posted my opinion of the best player in franchise history for each of the 30 franchises. Here they are:

Anaheim Mighty Ducks- Paul Kariya
Atlanta Thrashers- Ilya Kovalchuk
Boston Bruins- Bobby Orr
Buffalo Sabres- Gilbert Perreault
Calgary Flames- Al MacInnis
Carolina Hurricanes- Ron Francis
Chicago Blackhawks- Bobby Hull
Colorado Avalanche- Joe Sakic
Columbus Blue Jackets- Geoff Sanderson
Dallas Stars- Mike Modano
Detroit Red Wings- Gordie Howe
Edmonton Oilers- Wayne Gretzky
Florida Panthers- Robert Svehla
Los Angeles Kings- Marcel Dionne
Minnesota Wild- Marian Gaborik
Montreal Canadiens- Maurice Richard
Nashville Predators- Cliff Ronning
New Jersey Devils- Martin Brodeur
New York Islanders- Mike Bossy
New York Rangers- Brian Leetch
Ottawa Senators- Daniel Alfredsson
Philadelphia Flyers- Bobby Clarke
Phoenix Coyotes- Dale Hawerchuk
Pittsburgh Penguins- Mario Lemieux
St Louis Blues- Brett Hull
San Jose Sharks- Owen Nolan
Tampa Bay Lightning- Vincent LeCavalier
Toronto Maple Leafs- Turk Broda
Vancouver Canucks- Pavel Bure
Washington Capitals- Rod Langway

This group of players includes 23 Forwards, 5 Defencemen and 2 Goalies. In general, an NHL team dresses 20 players in a game - 12 forwards, 6 defencemen and 2 goalies. To keep those ratios, we should have 18 forwards, 9 defencemen and 3 goalies. I probably have the same failing as the NHL does in this respect. Forwards are over represented as Hart Trophy winners in history and they are over represented on my all time player list. Or is this accurate? Most talented athletes who start playing hockey as children chose to be forwards. Does this trend carry over into the NHL?

If I summarize players by the decade where they accomplished most with their team, I would expect to have more recent players, merely because most of these teams did not exist throughout most of the NHL's history. Some of the choices of decades are a bit arbitrary - I tried to chose the one where the player had the most value to his team. I do this and find:

40's (2)- Richard, Broda
50's (1)- Howe
60's (1)- Bobby Hull
70's (3)- Orr, Perreault, Clarke
80's (7)- MacInnis, Gretzky, Dionne, Bossy, Hawerchuk, Lemieux, Langway
90's (9)- Kariya, Sakic, Modano, Svehla, Leetch, Alfredsson, Brett Hull, Nolan, Bure
2000's (6)- Kovalchuk, Sanderson, Gaborik, Ronning, Brodeur, LeCavalier

Does this exercize prove anything? Most players were most valuable to their team in the 80's and beyond. Only 8 players are not in this group. Most of the current teams existed in the 70's and before, yet do not have their best player in that era. Does this mean hockey players are getting better? Or does this mean that we tend to remember the recent players and forget the older ones? Five of the players played during the original six era (although I classify Orr as having been at his best in the 70's as he won most of his Norris trophies in the 70's). Given there are only six orginal six teams, that is a high ratio. That would be an argument against the idea that I chose more recent players over the ones before them.

Best All Time Player By Team Southeast Division

Here is the final of six divisions. Look in the history for the other five divisions best all time players.

Atlanta Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk. This club has a short history. Ray Ferraro was one of their initial stars. Afterward, Dany Heatley and Kovalchuk have emerged. Since Kovalchuk did not miss most of last year due to a car crash, I pick him.

Carolina Hurricanes (includes Hartford and WHA Whalers) - Ron Francis. He's the all time team leader in any stat of note. WHA stars include Gordie and Mark Howe and Rick Ley. When they hit the NHL there was Mike Rogers and Blaine Stoughton. Kevin Dineen was a star along with Francis in the 80s. More recently Arturs Irbe and Jeff O'Neill have been some of the more successful players on this franchise.

Florida Panthers- Robert Svehla. He was an early star of the franchise along with John Vanbiesbrouck and Scott Mellanby. Pavel Bure was a star during his tenure with the club. More recently they have had Viktor Kozlov and Olli Jokinen as stars. Roberto Luongo could one day become their all time best player.

Tampa Bay Lightning- Vincent LeCavalier. The early teams gave us Darren Puppa, Brian Bradley and Rob Zamuner as stars. The more recent Stanley Cup teams have Vinny along with Martin St Louis, Brad Richards and Nikolai Khabibulen. LeCavalier has the longest run with the team of that bunch.

Washington Capitals- Rod Langway. He won two Norris trophies with this club. Early teams offered Yvon Labre, Ryan Walter and Denis Maruk. Bobby Carpentor and Mike Gartner were Langway contemporaries. More recently, Kevin Hatcher, Dale Hunter, Michal Pivonka were stars. Olaf Kolzig and Peter Bondra were stars of the most recent teams.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Integrity in the AHL

Since the NHL is locked out, the AHL has the highest calibre of hockey to offer in North America so far this year. Its a great opportunity to showcase the league. The Calder Cup playoffs should be the most exciting they have been in years.

Of course, this may be ruined (at least in part) because of the recent actions of the San Antonio Rampage and the Chicago Wolves. The Wolves are the Atlanta Thrashers farm team and have one of the better attendance records in the league. They are one of the better teams in the AHL - although not the best team in the league. San Antonio is the Florida Panthers farm team. They are likely to miss the playoffs this year and have had constantly dropping attendance since they came into the league.

Yesterday, it was announced that San Antonio is loaning Jay Bouwmeester and Stephen Weiss to Chicago for the rest of the season. Its not uncommon for AHL teams to loan players to one another. For example, if my team has two goalies that I would like to see get "number one" minutes, and another team has no legitimate number one goalie, I might loan one of them to that team. Both teams win. And since the AHL is a "development league" it doesn't really affect things too much. If the goalie I loaned was really a star, he would be called up to the NHL and not in the AHL in the first place.

Now this year, with an NHL lockout, players who would be in the NHL are playing AHL hockey. Both Bouwmeester and Weiss have spent most of the last two seasons in the NHL before the 2004/05 season in the AHL. Both would be in the NHL if there was an NHL this year.

The Florida Panthers organization has decided that it would help the development of these two players if they got to play in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Chicago Wolves get to beef up for a playoff run. San Antonio (a struggling AHL market) will be paid by Chicago (one of the most successful AHL markets) for the use of these players. So everyone wins ... except the integrity of the AHL.

Instead of seeing the teams we saw compete all season, we see a Chicago Wolves team that is colluding with a weaker squad to make their cup run. Its unfair to fans of the Manchester Monarchs or the Rochester Americans if they wind up losing the Calder Cup to a Chicago (with Bouwmeester and Weiss). I for one will be cheering for anyone but Chicago.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Swirve Baseball RIP

Last month, I reported that Major League Baseball had purchased the rights to all fantasy baseball on the internet here. I was worried that this may have lead to negative changes as seen by the fantasy baseball player. These negative consequences are starting to show up. Swirve baseball has announced that they won't be able to play a season.

Here is their announcement:

Due to a new standards and restrictions set by Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball Advanced Media, we will not be able to offer a 2005 Fantasy Baseball game. We apologize for this inconvenience and disagree with MLB's policy on these matters.

However, at this time, MLB-AM requires that we pay for the right to use player names in any of our games. We do not believe this is their legal right, but have no desire to litigate this matter with them and believe the fees they charge are unreasonable.

In the meantime, we will continue to offer our football and college basketball related games, and are looking for other options for interactive sports games we can provide.

Its sad that because of corporate greed, fantasy sports fans lose one option. I hope there are not more fantasy baseball games that die out and I hope this trend does not stretch into other sports like hockey.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Best All Time Player By Team Atlantic Division

This is post 5 in the series. Look back for the other 4.

New Jersey Devils (includes Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Scouts) - Martin Brodeur. He's been an all star goalie for years for them. Early cadidates include Wilf Paiment, Lanny McDonald and Chico Resch. Kirk Muller, Ken Daneyko and John MacLean are some of the next group of players. Scott Stevens is Brodeur's closest competitor. Patrik Elias and Scott Niedermayer are some other top players on the current team.

New York Islanders- Mike Bossy. For a while he was the second best playing in the NHL (behind Gretzky). Ed Westfall and Billy Harris were the first stars on this team. Then came Bryan Trottier, Billy Smith, Denis Potvin and Clarke Gillies in the cup years. Pat LaFontaine was next. Alexei Yashin and Adrian Aucoin have probably been the best of the current bunch.

New York Rangers- Brian Leetch. Conn Smythe trophy winner in their only Stanley Cup of most of our lifetimes. Early stars include Bill Cook, Frank Boucher, Art Coulter and Davey Kerr. Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate are stars in the original six years. The 70's included Ed Giacomin and the GAG (goal a game) line Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield. Barry Beck was probably their biggest star in the 80's. Mark Messier was a star and is still with the team. Wayne Gretzky also starred for a few years. Jaromir Jagr has the talent that if he can still have a multi-year run in New York he can join the group.

Philadelphia Flyers- Bobby Clarke. He's still the face of the Flyers years after retiring. Ed Van Impe was the first Flyer star. Then along came Bernie Parent, Reggie Leach, Rick MacLeish and some Stanley Cups. Bill Barber, Brian Propp, Dave Poulin, Tim Kerr, Mark Howe and Rick Tocchet were stars of the 80s. Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins dominated the 90's, while Ron Hextall kind of straddled both decades. Today, Jeremy Roenick is probably their biggest star with Simon Gagne most likely to one day rise to that level.

Pittsburgh Penguins- Mario Lemieux. Who else? Early players were Jean Pronovost and Orest Kindrachuk. Rick Kehoe and Randy Carlyle came next. Mario's time was shared with Kevin Stevens, Paul Coffey, Tom Barrasso and Jaromir Jagr. Mark Recchi has also been a star and might climb on this list as he returns to the team.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Best All Time Player By Team Northeast Division

This is the fourth post in the series.

Boston Bruins- Bobby Orr. He's the best defenceman ever. This franchise has a long history with Eddie Shore, Dit Clapper, Lionel Hitchman, Tiny Thompson and Milt Schmidt from the early days. Johnny Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers and Phil Esposito were Orr's contemporaries. Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton and Cam Neely are more recent. Joe Thornton is a current player who will take the best run at this position.

Buffalo Sabres- Gilbert Perreault. The all time team leader in most stats. Dominik Hasek is his closest contender. Mike and Craig Ramsey, Rene Robert and Rick Martin are also contenders. Recently, Miroslav Satan is the best player they have had.

Montreal Canadiens- Maurice Richard. This team has the best group of players in their history. Richard still leads in all time goals more than 40 years after his retirement. Early day stars include Newsy Lalonde, George Hainsworth, Georges Vezina, Howie Morenz, Joe Malone and Aurel Joliat. Elmer Lach, Bill Durnan and Toe Blake came up with Rocket Richard. Jacques Plante, Jean Beliveau, Doug Harvey, Bernie Geoffrion and Henri Richard are the next bunch. Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson are next. More recently there is Patrick Roy and Markus Naslund. Saku Koivu and Jose Theodore are the top of the current crew.

Ottawa Senators- Daniel Alfredsson. Alexei Yashin was their first star. Marian Hossa, Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara are stars today. Alfredsson is the only one who was there through most of their history as a star.

Toronto Maple Leafs- Turk Broda. Suprising choice for a long storied franchise? He was the key to their 3 Stanley Cups in a row in the late 40's. Other early stars include King Clancy, Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy and Charlie Conacher. Next came George Armstrong, Tim Horton, Johnny Bower and Frank Mahovlich. In the 70's there were Darryl Sittler and Borje Salming. Then Rick Vaive, Doug Gilmour and currently Mats Sundin.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Best All Time Player By Team Central Division

This is the third in a series of posts. Refer to Tuesday and Wednesday for the ground rules.

Chicago Blackhawks- Bobby Hull. He wins a close one with teammate Stan Mikita. Hull made first all star 10 times in Chicago and still is the all time goal scored leader. Mikita is the all time points leader - mostly because he played more games. Other candidates are Glenn Hall, Max and Doug Bentley, Pierre Pilotte, Denis Savard and Tony Esposito. I think Tuomo Ruuttu might one day make his run at this level, but he has a long way to go.

Columbus Blue Jackets- Geoff Sanderson. Short history the team has had so far. Ray Whitney and Marc Denis are candiadates. Rick Nash will one day take the lead, but so far hew has only had one big season.

Detroit Red Wings- Gordie Howe. All time leader in everything for the franchise. Other early candidates are Ted Lindsay, Ebbie Goodfellow, Sid Abel. Then came Alex Delvecchio and Terry Sawchuk. Steve Yzerman is a candidate recently. Nicklas Lidstrom also, but he hasn't been around as long as Yzerman.

Nashville Predators- Cliff Ronning. Other candidates include Greg Johnson, Scott Walker, Tomas Vokoun and Kimmo Timonen. Given a few more years a more significant star should step forward.

St Louis Blues- Brett Hull. He narrowly beats out Bernie Federko. Early stars in the franchise inclued Red Berenson and Barclay Plager. Brian Sutter and Mike Liut were stars in the 80s. More recently, Al MacInnis was a top player here. Chris Pronger is the current player who might one day become the best player in their history.

Friday, March 04, 2005

More Board of Governors Meeting Fallout

Several meetings were held this week. The NHLPA met with themselves and then met again with the player agents. Also, the NHL Board of Governors met. After each meeting the participants happily announced to the press that they are more united then ever. With a few days time, news is leaking out about what actually occurred at those meetings - which draws into queston their public declarations of unity.

Yesterday, the news that venture capitalists had offered to buy the NHL came out. I wrote a post about it. Today, we learn that Toronto Governor Larry Tanenbaum was involved in an argument at the BoG meeting. It appears that he is upset at the money the Leafs are losing during the lockout and wants it ended in time for regular NHL play next year. It appears he would accept the last NHLPA offer.

This leads to an interesting proposition. I'm sure many of the largest markets would find it in their best financial interests to play right now under the NHLPA's last best offer. What is to stop them from leaving the NHL and forming their own league? This league would be smaller than the current NHL - only in "elite" markets. If it was set up without an artificial salary cap, it might be able to lure all the best talent in the world - thus leaving the remaining NHL teams as a feeder league for them. A smaller competitive league with all the best players in hockey in it would be a great thing for the fan. The games would be played at a higher level then current NHL games. Could it be done? Possibly. It is an exciting prospect to think about - even if its just empty thoughts.

If you are worried about the fact I haven't produced any posts in the last couple days giving the best all time players by team in further divisions. They are not forgotten. They will come up in the future.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Venture Capitalists offer to buy NHL

On the surface, this story seems a little bit weird. Venture capitalists offered to buy the NHL. Reportedly, Bain Capital Partners LLC backed by Game Plan LLC offered to pay $3.5 billion for the entire NHL at Tuesday's board of governors meeting.

How do I interpret this? I think that these people made the offer to the NHL (Gary Bettman?) and instead of completely dismissing it, he let them have their say at the meeting and the governors completely dismissed it. I think the fact that it took a couple days for the news to come out shows that this is not something the NHL is particularly proud to display into the media - but there is too much evidence to completely deny it also.

Does this mean there actually is $3.5 million outside of the NHL waiting to be invested in pro hockey in North America? Not at all. This is a venture capital move and nothing more.

Information about Bain Capital can be found here. I cannot find a similar website for Game Plan LLC -at least without some effort. Probably because the words "game plan" are quite commonplace. I do know that this is a company that has brokered the sale of several sports franchises including bringing the Ottawa Senators through their bankruptcy and selling them to Eugene Melnyk.

Venture capitalists most commonly raise start-up funds for promising high-tech companies. Their goal is to grow the company into something that can be sold for more than they spent on it. They rarely have any desire to hold onto a company for the longterm. They also buy companies that are in financial distress, either to build them back up or (more commonly?) to sell off their assets and close them down at a profit to the venture capitalists.

So what would be the business plan if I were a venture capitalist who bought the NHL? There are several potential plans. The one that scares me the most is the plan of buying the league and selling off its assets to close it down. I think when purchasing a large organization like the National Hockey League, it is probably the one that makes the most sense.

First thing I would do is end the lockout and then sell off some assets. NHL players (particularly Europeans) with large contracts could be sold to European teams. Guys like Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Yashin, Mats Sundin and Bobby Holik might command a pretty penny if they were sold to European teams. Free agents will be signed for whatever I want them to be signed for into whatever market I want them. Its not collusion, I am not competing with myself. Maybe we can still play some kind of Stanley Cup tournament this year involving all 30 teams.

The goal is to prop up the markets that have value but have not done well. Talent must be infused in places like Chicago, Los Angeles and of course the New York Rangers. Let them acquire the best available talent - guys like Sidney Crosby need to go to one of them. Big talents in smaller markets like Jarome Iginla and Roberto Luongo need to go there - this could be accomplished through "trades" since the league owns both teams or through a liberal new version of free agency. The smaller markets are only used to produce talent for the big markets. Care must be taken to not go too far, there must remain suspence as to which team will win the Stanley Cup. So no need to make the Rangers chances any bigger than those of the New York Yankees in baseball, but they must be a serious contender. As owner of the league, they can be given every break to ensure this happens. This is good for hockey TV ratings since there will be lots of coverage of Stanley Cup finals involving the largest cities in the US. No more Tampa Bay vs. Calgary finals that nobody notices.

Now we can sell off markets. The very weakest markets financially may be closed down altogether. Either that or after their talent is sufficiently depleted they can be sold to the AHL or something. They'd be excited to have an ex-NHL team or two - even if its the Carolina Hurricanes who now have a top scorer Kevyn Adams. The big successful markets need to be sold off one by one either to new NHL owners or to new owners in an upstart WHA type league. Markets that dont sell might be moved to Europe and sold or sold to AHL type leagues.

When all is said and done, the best talent in North America is placed in 10-15 teams that make up the new major pro hockey league which may or may not be called the NHL. There are significant talented players in Europe who never come to the North America at all.

Is this good for the hockey fan? Probably not, but it made huge money for my venture capital company.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Best All Time Player By Team Pacific Division

The ground rules are set in yesterday's Northwest Division post.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks- Paul Kariya. Their first draft pick ever. Their highest career scorer. Teemu Selanne is another candidate but he didn't spend as long with the team. Maybe Jean Sebastien Giguere will take over this spot given some time.

Dallas Stars (including Minnesota)- Mike Modano. He's the current captain, top scorer in franchise history and was instrumental in a Stanley Cup win. The early Minnesota days offer Bill Goldsworthy as a candidate. Neil Broten, Bobby Smith, Craig Hartsburg and Brian Bellows were significant players on the 80's. The most likely candidate from the current team to make a run at Modano might be Marty Turco.

Los Angeles Kings- Marcel Dionne. Gretzky is the Great One but he didn't stay here as long as Dionne or score as much. Dave Taylor and Rogie Vachon are candiates from their earlier days. Bernie Nicholls is a bit more recent. Luc Robitaille also is a strong candidate who is still with the team, but he will need to keep going a few years.

Phoenix Coyotes (including Winnipeg)- Dale Hawerchuk. He is the team's all time point leader and spent most of his Hall of Fame career with the team. Bobby Hull is a strong candidate from the WHA days along with Lars-Erik Sjoberg. Thomas Steen had a good career with the Jets in the 80's. Teppo Numminen and Keith Tkachuk are more recent. Maybe Shane Doan is the current player with the best shot at making a run at Hawerchuk, but he is still getting started.

San Jose Sharks- Owen Nolan. He's the longest running captain and top scorer in franchise history. Other candidates are Teemu Selanne, Evgeni Nabokov and maybe Mike Rathje (since he's their all time games played leader). Patrick Marleau may one day take over the lead.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Best All Time Player By Team Northwest Division

Since there is no on ice hockey action, let's look back at the past. Here are the best players of all time with the 5 franchises in the northwest division. I am only including games played with the franchise (so for example, Gretzky's days in LA don't count with the Oilers). I am including all previous incarnations of the franchise (ie the Quebec Nordiques/ Colorado Avalanche are included together along with Quebec's WHA days).

Calgary Flames (including Atlanta) : Al MacInnis. The Flames had several very good players in the days of their '89 cup win. Theo Fleury and Joe Nieuwendyk are in this group along with MacInnis. The days before that team offered Kent Nilsson and Dan Bouchard. Today's team offers Jarome Iginla. MacInnis has career offensive numbers that are as good as any of them - and he did it playing defence. Also, MacInnis won the Conn Smythe trophy in their cup win. In the future, if Iginla stays with the franchise, it won't be too long before he takes over the spot.

Colorado Avalanche (including Quebec) : Joe Sakic leads the team in career seasons, games, goals, assists and points. He won a Hart trophy. He is the man here. Before Sakic come Peter Stastny and Michel Goulet. Real Cloutier and JC Tremblay are stars from their WHA years. Patrick Roy was very important for their cup wins. If he stays healthy and can be convinced to stay in the NHL with Colorado, one day Peter Forsberg will be the best player in their history.

Edmonton Oilers: Wayne Gretzky wins easily. Many other great names from their cup days. Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr lead the list. Nobody from the WHA years or the current years comes close. I guess Curtis Joseph and Ryan Smyth are the best of the more current years. Maybe Al Hamilton from the WHA years.

Minnesota Wild: Marian Gaborik. Not a very long history for the franchise yet. I think Dwayne Roloson would be number two on the list.

Vancouver Canucks: Pavel Bure. One day, Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and/or Ed Jovanovski will take this spot if they stay with the franchise. Trevor Linden and Kirk McLean are other candidates from Bure's day. Stan Smyl, Richard Brodeur and Harold Snepsts lead the earlier bunch. Bure had 2 60 goal seasons with the Canucks and was important in a run to the cup finals. That gets him the edge over Naslund right now.

Over the next few days, I bet you can guess 5 other posts I might make.

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