Thursday, August 14, 2008

August and Everything After

That's right, it seems like there hasn't been Hockey since that album was released. I know, we were in the SCF and then the NHL Awards... the closing of the 08 Season, and my feverishly erasing my primary NHL 08 file (which had my Create-a-93-goal-scoring-power LW) to send Hossa packing. No more riding Sid's digital coat tails on his way to 149 digital points.

So now, the only things in the Hockey world appear to be Toronto creating McCabe trades to see if they'll gain any traction, and Scandinavian all-star forwards who won't sign contracts, and the discussion of the proposed "Nordic League", which will have top Scandinavian club teams against each other. The early problem apparently is that this league would be made almost entirely of Swedish teams, with only 2-3 from Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

It is true that the Fins don't like to be called Scandinavian, but they won't actually confirm who they're tolerant of so as to link them to a major land mass. They're taking the aggressive "we hate everyone" stance. They share a border with Norway, Sweden, and of course, Russia... I'm really not sure where they feel they can leverage an argument that they aren't "part of Scandinavia" without being lumped into the Soviet sphere. You see, if you try to just say "We're independent of the larger countries", you end up being Estonia, the Haiti of Europe.

I also need to see more serious discussion about floundering NHL franchises being moved to Canada. I think this is the make-or-break season, hopefully, for such discussions. Atlanta doesn't have a shot in hell at signing Kovalchuk to an extension, and when he leaves via UF Agency, there will not be anything resembling an NHL franchise. This would be OK if the fans loved the team and could survive an honest rebuild, but I think there is already a lot of trepidation regarding the team's future. Sure, they drafted Bogosian, but who's their second most promising defensive prospect? Boris Valabik?

Florida, similarly, put half the rumor monger core out of business as they finally traded Olli Jokinen. They now cannot seem to gauge the interest long-term of awesome talent Jay Bouwmeester, who seems intent on playing for a legitimate team. That is the trend, players not wanting to end up like Kovalchuk or Hossa before him; making the dollars, but being out of the playoff hunt (in a terrible division) by February. Who can blame them? Who wants to only start making the playoffs by the time they've played 7 or 8 years in the league?

Carolina and Washington, on the other hand, have a future. Carolina has won a championship and remain competitive every season. There are quite a lot of transplants from the Northeast that keep their building rockin, and although there aren't any mega-stars in the lineup, they win games by committee.

Washington had better start selling their building out. Ovechkin is the most marketable commodity in the league (yes even more than Sid) because it is very easy for the casual U.S. fan to quantify his worth. Last time I looked, D.C. has a good economy in place and plenty of diversity in terms of who attends their games. Honestly, if they don't sell that building out every game after OV signed that ridiculous contract, I would rip that team away from them.

NHL Hockey exists for the most part on ticket revenue, so for the league to not squeeze every nickel out of their greatest asset is a horrific possibility. Washington can have a team back in 5 seasons or something, but a team worthy of playing in front of 80% capacity crowds. D.C. had better attendance figures on the road, which should be as embarrassing as shitting your pants in public, but the much-heralded love affair between the Southeast and Gary Bettman remains as incredulous as ever. Their ranking is #24 both at home and overall, meaning they're behind New Jersey in attendance.

Just for some perspective, Pittsburgh is #16, but not for lack of persons shelling it out to see the team. We average over 100% attendance at home (100.7) a n d on the road (105.5). Once we get the New Igloo with its' capacity of more than our average 17,076 fans, that will all change. We lead the NHL in average overall attendance with 103.2% of seats sold, with the only other teams breaking the 100% margin being Buffalo (101.8) and Calgary (101.7).

Washington? 88.2, good for 26th.

Look at the home % for Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, and Montreal. All above 100% home attendance, even as two of those teams miss the playoffs. Quebec and especially Ontario can facilitate these teams.

Before I forget, Tampa has a very respectable home attendance record. Also, it is a circus down there at the moment, too much fun to relocate... although you could argue the feasibility of creating 2 run-and-gun teams given the number of forwards under contract. Their strategy: Roll all six lines, like the trap-era teams of the mid-90's. Horrible.

Carolina, as it turns out, is putting up an 88.8% home figure. That isn't terrible, and their overall is padded by a 91.2% on the road. They remain competitive, have won a championship, and have a few legit NHL stars despite winning games by committee. There are tons of Northeast transplants in the Carolinas, and I could actually see each Carolina with an NHL team. That would be an instant rivalry... plus, the team concept is good. Yes, I just said South Carolina could have its very own NHL team, and still have one in North Carolina. What you do is take the team you erroneously placed in Columbus, change the logo's colors to reflect the Confederacy, move it to Charleston (Where Fort Sumter is), call the team "Rebels", and market the idea that "The Charleston Rebels; beating the North at their own game". Believe me, they'll support that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What can be called "news" in August...

So, Sid can get his drink on. Everyone is speculating over the Crown Royal vs. how stupid is a 21 year drinking age in America saga, but just you remember how massive Mr. Lemieux's wine cellar is.

What do you purchase Sid for his birthday? A duster for his trophies? He's got the shoe endorsement, still rocks Tim Horton's, and a can of mace for any and all trips to Greenfield.

We all look at the acquisitions Pittsburgh has made since the run to the Finals, the Fedotenkos and the Cookes. Keep in mind that we've got the superstar talents already; we don't necessarily need to go out and get them. A number of teams (see: Toronto) would murder some guys to pry a Penguin away. The latest from that black hole, by the way, is that they won't leave Bryan McCabe alone and are speculating that he'll be persuaded to waive his No Movement Clause for a King's Ransom, you know, because although he's not a very good defender, the virtue of him playing in Toronto enhances his trade value and the fact that everyone owes Toronto a favor for being ├╝ber stands as the singular point of reference. Bouwmeester is on the way out of Florida is exhibit A, and the extreme covetousness of one Jordan Staal is exhibit A1. All they need is a fulcrum, and they think McCabe is the guy. If I was Cliff, I would be waiting to see what Buffalo wants to do with Afinogenov.

At this time, I would like to point out something that I think applies to Sid and another former Penguin Captain.. Jags. In the history of the NHL, Jagr's style simply doesn't reflect any predecessor's. He is unique, something which cannot be said about very many players. The way Sid plays, in my opinion, is one of a kind. His rookie season, for instance, he backhanded his way to a ridiculous point total and continued to dig in every corner. He backcheckd to the point where Palffy was five steps behind the play. He wanted to do squats on the bench between shifts. Adam Hall at this point was still an auto mechanic who really liked Diamond Rio...

Ottawa continues to suck at running a hockey organization. I'll be interested to see what reaction Ruutu gets when he comes back to town, as if it isn't obvious. Eric Godard will most likely introduce himself, and the law will have been established. I just remember when former Penguin stalwart Darius Kasparaitis tried to produce one of his patented open-ice hits on Mario, whereupon Kaspar was stiff-armed a shocking 7 feet down and across the frozen water. We all remember when Ovechkin lined up Gino from 20 feet only to be repelled helicopter-style into the boards.

Brian Burke is looking everywhere for Teemu Selanne. Teemu, meanwhile, is sitting adjacent to Jim Morrison around a remote campfire, roasting a marshmallow discussing the psycho social ramifications of their PS3s "getting a bug just as they thought they triggered the event which leads to the Gray Fox appearing in Bruma". Just then, J. Edgar Hoover laments the absence of new strips of "Peanuts".

The NHLPA won't stop goading the League Office into defending their position on expanding to Canada. Any knowledge of basic economics promotes the idea that, even though the Canadian dollar is competitive in the World market, the complete lack of corporate industry in the key cities mentioned remains a wedge between even relocation of the NHL's "ugly sisters", specifically Florida and Atlanta, and the poor cries of bringing back the Nordiques or Jets which are falling upon dead ears.

I will reiterate that the Florida Panthers™ should play a very special "home game" in Hamilton, Ontario 41 times starting in 2009-10. "Hamilton Ice-adaptable Panthers" has a nice ring to it as well. Sooner than later, Phoenix and Wayne will loose its magic. Imagine Wayne setting up a play to try and tie the game with the goalie pulled.

"Ok. You, you will win the face off clean by slashing the other centre on and about the wrists and forearms. Our defender will then control the puck and pirouette around thier RW, working a give-and-go with (points at the Phoenix LW) you. At that point, make a 71-foot saucer pass to the centre who will be cutting to the middle of the ice, splitting the defence as his mullet sways and flutters with each elegant stride. Do a little forehand-fake, then roof it far side from the bottom of the hash marks. I used to do that all the time. The key to this working is you (nods to RW) will have to obstruct thier LW by pointing to a random space on the ice, distracting the second referee, and high-sticking thier LW in the neck. At that point, go in for the backdoor play in case we hit the post".

Finally, I wonder if this will finally be the year New Jersey stinks to high hell. It has to happen one of these years, why can't it be this one? It has been proven that Brodeur can win games even when left comletely unguarded. I seem to remember him shutting us out one home opener, eschewing an abysmal 20-game stretch resulting in multiple retirements and disappointment. I'll never forgive those assholes for letting the Rangers reach the Finals in 94, the worst year of my life. Kurt Cobain, Ranger mercenaries win, and The Cowboy Way™ is released in theaters. Brutal.