Jun 062008
 

There is nothing I hate more than being used and I think everyone, from the media, to the bloggers, to the average joe fan, has been used the past few days by the write of the Hockey Night in Canada theme song. It was the day of game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, the final game of the NHL season, that the owners of the HNIC theme song, Copyright Music & Visual, put out a press release saying that CBC had decided not to renew their license to the song and thus that night would be the last time it will be heard.

The press release tried to make it clear that this was a CBC decision:

“The CBC has been offered a new license on terms that are virtually identical to those that have existed for the past decade (the cost to CBC to use the theme is approximately $500.00 for each game broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada). However, the CBC has chosen to move in a new direction.”

But was it? We now find out that the CBC is being sued for a ridiculous $2.5 million because they used the song in ways there were not licensed to do so. If CBC did use the song in ways they shouldn’t have they should pay up, but it seems pretty clear that the sum of $2.5 million is outright ludicrous. CBC is accused of using the song in “commercials for Hockey Night in Canada, an advertisement for Ford Motor Co. and broadcasts including the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, curling competitions, the Royal Canadian Air Farce, a Guy Lafleur tribute, and a Rick Mercer special.” So lets say the CBC used it 50 times more than they should have. At $500 a shot, that would only amount to $25,000. So at $2.5 million the lawsuit seems downright ridiculous at best and I don’t blame CBC one iota for not wanting to deal with such a greedy and overzealous group of people.

As for myself, I feel used. I was first outraged that the CBC would just ditch the theme song either to save a few bucks or to rebrand a Canadian television staple just for the sake of rebranding it. But I now feel used because it seems clear to me that it was the goal of Copyright Music & Visuals to create this fan outrage and to force CBC’s back to the negotiation table and to negotiate not only a new license agreement but a settlement to their ridiculous $2.5 million lawsuit. I hate being used and because of that I have decided to support CBC in ditching the song and going in a new direction. I hope the owners of the song never make another penny off of it. CBC and HNIC made this song what it is and made the creators of the song a whole boatload of money and if the creators of the song choose to bite the hand that feeds them then I can only hope they they never get fed again. It’s time for CBC and everyone else to ditch the song and its greedy overzealous owners.

May 222008
 

David Newland has an interesting article on 10 ways to improve the NHL which prompted a disagreeing response from Eric Francis. David’s suggestions were:

1. Management must love the game more than the money.
2. Bring back the tie, get rid of the shootout, and then rule changes must stop.
3. Play with wooden sticks, reduced equipment, and increased respect.
4. Favour franchises in real hockey markets.
5. Cut the playoffs down to the month of April.
6. Accept that hockey is an international game.
7. Get rid of the mindless violence.
8. Allow fans to watch every game on TV.
9. Arena naming rights have got to go.
10. Let the real fans back in the rinks.

For those that have followed my writings here will know that I don’t like a lot of what has happened in the NHL the past dozen or so years and I agree with some of what David Newland has to say. But the reason why I am writing this post is to disagree with some of what Eric Francis has to say in his counter arguments.

Eric’s response to #2: “HE TIE IS THE WORST THING IN SPORTS, THE SHOOTOUT IS THE MOST EXCITING – FEW CAN ARGUE EITHER.”

Well, I can argue both, sort of. I will accept that a tie is not the ideal ending to a sporting event, but I will argue that a shootout is worse. The reason the shootout is worse is because it is not fair. Bad teams can be good at the shootout and good teams can be bad at the shootout. Edmonton, a team who missed the playoffs was 15-4 in the shootout. Atlanta, maybe the worst team in the league from start to finish, was a second best 9-6 in the shootout. Minnesota, one of the better teams in the league were a dismal 3-8 and Detroit, easily the best team in the league this past season was a mediocre 5-5. Can anyone explain to me how Tampa goalies had a better save percentage in the shootout in 2006-06 than they did in the actual games? Is it worse to end a game in a tie, or using a method in which the relative quality of each team at playing hockey has little bearing in the outcome of the shootout? If integrity and fairness matter to you at all then a tie is the better way to end the game.

As for whether the shootout is exciting, I disagree there. What makes the shootout exciting is the anticipation of the game being decided. Everyone complains about how unexciting the NHL skills competition is at the all-star game, well the shootout is no different except the anticipation factor. Sure, every now and again you get a real highlight real shootout goal that gets everyone talking but for the most part all shootout attempts fall into one of two categories: The player tries to deke the goalie, or the player tries to shot through one of the goalies ‘holes’. Most of them are not all that special and independent of the situation would be dull and boring.

Eric’s response to point 3: “BETTER STICKS INCREASE SCORING AND YOU CAN’S LEGISLATE RESPECT. GRANTED, GALIE EQUIPMENT NEEDS TO BE REDUCED. ”

Do better stick really increase scoring? Is there any evidence of that? The evidence I have is that scoring dropped dramatically during the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s which was the exact same time that these new composite sticks became popular. It is a difficult argument that they have increased scoring. Yes, I know the theory of it all: Players can shoot harder making it harder for goalies to stop the puck but has anyone ever proven that theory is in fact reality in the concept of the game? I haven’t seen such a study. Maybe because players feel they can shoot harder they focus on shooting harder and not more accurately or maybe they shoot more often take hard slap shots from the blue line and less slower more accurate shots from in close. If being able to shoot harder changes how players play in a way that in fact reduces scoring then it may not be better for the game.

One must also not forget that maybe one of the reasons goalie pads have become bigger is because the shots are harder. Why not go back to wood sticks and smaller pads like we had in the past.

Eric’s response to point #4: “DOES HE WANT A TEN TEAM LEAGUE?”

I understand that that is clearly a bit facetious but the concept of focusing on big markets and hockey markets is a valid one. One could easily argue that increasing fan interest in New York by 5% will do much more for the league than increasing fan interest in Nashville by 25%. The TV networks don’t want a Nashville-Carolina Stanley Cup final, they want a New York-Detroit final. MLB doesn’t want a Milwaukee Brewers-Kansas City Royals world series. They die if that happened. They want the Yankees or Red Sox against the Cubs or Dodgers. Fan interest in big markets is what will generate TV ratings and revenue and from there you will then have a basis for improving the relative strength of the non-traditional hockey markets. Focusing on making hockey popular in Carolina or Nashville will to very little for the NHL.

Nov 072007
 

The Leafs have struggled at times this year but is it really fair to call the Leafs “vehemently awful” as Howard Berger does today? If vehemently awful describes a team which is 6-5-2 when not playing a team with a 13-1 record, what adjectives would you use to describe the Washington Capitals who are 2-9-1 in their last dozen games? The Leafs are not without problems but to call them vehemently awful is probably something only a vehemently biased member of the media would write or say, particularly when you follow that up with “emerging catastrophe.”

As for my opinion, the Leafs need a change. They need a new direction. I have liked a lot of what John Ferguson Jr. has done except for what he has done with his goalies. He has made two major moves with his goalies and both have flopped thus far and the worst move of them all was giving Toskala a 2 year, $8 million extension before he proved he could do the job. TO a lesser extent, I am not convinced that Paul Maurice is the right guy for the job either. For whatever reason he has not been able to get his team to play as a team for a full 60 minutes as and some of his teams worst efforts are against the weaker teams in the NHL. When Maurice was hired he was supposed to be a systems coach (compared to Pat Quinn’s more free flow approach) but I don’t see any kind of system in place. Ian White had a horrible game last night and looked out of place on several occassions but somehow he got rewarded with 24 minutes of ice time. That just doesn’t seem logical to me. Maybe I am wrong and that this group of players aren’t capable of playing a system but if Ken Hitchcock can get the noname Columbus Blue Jackets playing a strong team system and off to a 8-3-2 record I suspect that this crew can too. You cannot convince me that a defence anchored by an aging Adam Foote and waiver pickup Ron Hainsey and first round dud Rostislav Klesla and complemented by Jan Hejda, Kris Russel and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is any better than the Leafs.

The problem is, the team is playing paranoid. They are playing as individuals. The forwards seem to be trying to do too much on their own rather than play with each other. They are trying too hard to score goals and make the big plays but not remembering to help out their teammates and defensemen in particular once and a while. It’s not that hard. When a defenseman pinches, a forward drops back to protect his place. If you are undertaking a 5 man rush, you do everything you can not to turn it over at the opposing teams blue line as your players are not moiving in the right direction to defend a counter attack (play dump and chase instead if you can’t skate the puck across the blue line). But for some reason this team isn’t playing that way. The players definitely deserve some blame but so does the coach. If he doesn’t have a system, he should be fired. If he has a system but the players aren’t responding, players need to be benched or even called out publicly. But I don’t see that either. And on top of that it seems apparent that Leaf ownership is not committed to JFJ and in turn not committed to Maurice. That is a problem too a the players know that next week, next month or next year there will probably be a new GM and coach in place. Why learn Maurice’s system (if he has one) when a new coach and a new system is likely to be right around the corner. Why do that when I can play all out offensively and pad my offensive statistics which should land me a better contract?

So, while the Leafs are far from “vehemently awful”, that do have some problems that needs to be addressed. If the teams upper management is not going to commit to JFJ and if JFJ is not going to commit Maurice then something definitely needs to be done and it is better it gets done now. There is just too much lack of focus and lack of consistency and lack of committment (from the players to the coach and from the owners to the GM) to justify not making a change of some sort.

Oct 242007
 

The Toronto hockey media continues to amaze me. Today it is Howard Berger…

Having compiled 17 points in 10 games (including a league-leading 11 assists), Sundin is tied atop the NHL scoring stats with fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit

Mats is almost 37 years old. He’s playing like a 27-year-old right now, but the lack of offensive support will turn him into a 57-year-old by February.

Now they are complaining about the lack of scoring depth on a team with the 3rd best offense in the NHL (based on goals per game). The first thing worth mentioning is that you can’t lead the league in assists without at least a little help from your teammates. Second, the Leafs have scored 37 goals with Sundin having been in on 17, or ~46% of them which is high, but not extraordinarily hight. Zetterberg has been in on 55% of his teams goals and Crosby was at 45% last year and Lecavalier 44%. I don’t hear much complaining about those teams offenses or lack of help for those players. For the Leafs Blake and Antropov are both producing points at greater than a point per game. The Ducks last year had just one player (Selanne) producing at a point per game pace but it didn’t seem to hurt them. They have 6 guys with 3 or more goals and that puts each of them on pace for 20+ goals and that doesn’t include Darcy Tucker who has averaged 26 goals the past 2 seasons. Last years best offensive team, the Buffalo Sabres, only had six 20 goal scorers. Mr. Berger, offense and offensive depth is the least of the Leafs problems and hasn’t been a problem for years.

Oct 222007
 

I am going to write more about the Leafs in another post probably later this week but for now let me continue my rants against the media:

Today Mike Zeisberger writes:

The Leafs are allowing an average of 35.33 shots per game, leaving them as one of the worst teams in the league in that category.

Now, I don’t have a problem with that statement per se, but the problem I have with it is Zeisberger is using it as an example of the Leafs bad defense while a year ago he ignored the fact that the Leafs allowed the 7th fewest shots against in the NHL and still claimed that the Leafs defense was bad. The real story here with regards to the shots against totals is whether the Leafs defense overachieved for 82 games last year or are they dramatically underachieving for the first 9 games of this year. One could, and probably should, conclude that this is a good defensive team that is currently playing poor defensive hockey. But I guess that is either too difficult of a concept for members of the hockey media or doesn’t sell enough newspapers for their liking.

Sep 172007
 

There are a few people in the media that I really dislike and Pierre McGuire is one of them. It’s not that I don’t think he is knowledgable about the game of hockey (like Steve Simmons who I aslo dislike) but just that he often everexaggerates everything and/or he panders to his audience. For example, when he is on Ottawa radio he often puts down the Leafs because that plays well in Ottawa. He does that much less so on Toronto radio. But some things he has said in the past 2 days really has me wondering about his sanity.

1. On Friday he said he thought that the Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to be in the playoff race. That’s a pretty bold statement for a team that finished with 65 and 71 points the past two seasons and will likely need closer to 95 points to make the playoffs. It’s even more bold when you consider that the only moves of significance they made was signing Robert Lang and Yanick Perreault and trading Adrian Aucoin for Andrei Zyuzin and picking up Sergei Samsonov for a couple of fringe players. I am sorry Pierre but those moves plus the addition of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews is not going to be enough to turn the blackhawks around unless you think both Kane and Toews will be the next Sidney Crosby next season. But even Sidney Crosby didn’t turn the Penguins around in year one. The Blackhawks have next to zero chance of making the playoffs.

2. This morning he stated (in the context of how difficult it will be for the Leafs and Canadiens to make the playoffs) that Washington will also be in the playoff fight. Now I think this is a bit more viable than the Blackhawks prediction because I think the Capitals added more this off season (Nylander, Kozlov, Poti, and top rookie Backstrom) but I don’t think even that is enough to move them from 70 points to the 90+ points it will take to make the playoffs.

3. In the context of how tough it will be for Toskala to play for the Leafs he mentioned that he will be playing for a team with a weak defense and for a team that will struggle to score. Now, as you all might know, I don’t think the Leafs have a weak defense (and goaltending was their problem) but at least McGuire has the team goals against average to use to back up that statement. But a weak offense? This is a team that finished 8th and 7th in goals scored the past 2 seasons and just added a 40 goal scorer and should get more games played by Wellwood and Tucker this year. The Leafs are not an offensively challenged team.

I am going to be interested to see where he predicts the Blackhawks, Capitals and Leafs will be when TSN has their season preview show in a few weeks. Any bets that he says that Washington and Chicago have little chance at the playoffs and the Leafs have a chance?