Archive for Rants
I live in the UK. I have been to America and Canada numerous times in recent years spending an obscene and difficult to justify amount of my spare income; all visits inspired in part thanks to my love of one thing: hockey. We won’t discuss which countless bars the income was spent (yes, it wasn’t just spent on hockey tickets).
Here’s the thing. Hockey is different to sports in Europe. Yes we have hockey, and yes we have significant sports and sporting events but for me NHL hockey is different. The quality, the intensity, the long climb to the top only to fall one step from the summit only to get back up and do it all again. No league, no competition comes close to the NHL for the passion it can draw from its hardcore fans. No league frustrates you more and keeps you coming back. Ok, maybe if you’re a Jets fan you may disagree but I digress.
The moment the league and the players association (*gasp* in unison) decided to disregard its entire fan base – globally as well as domestically – it decided it wasn’t serious about growing its sport. I fight the corner of hockey to anyone that’s willing to listen where I live. I tell people that no sport is more exciting, no trophy is harder to win or more glorious when it’s raised and I plead with friends locally to be antisocial and stay up late and catch games in the hope they’ll catch the bug. Just like how I caught the bug when I first saw the Rangers’ Mark Messier steam-roll some hapless fool on Channel Four at some unacceptable hour when this then 13 year old should have been in bed anticipating the next day’s maths sermon…
By now you’ve read a million of these, but here’s another post lamenting the looming lockout.
“That just got me ridiculously excited for a hockey season that may not happen. But that was a great video.”
As the players are set to release their counter proposal to the owners offer last month, the focus is on greed. As I ranted on Sunday, there doesn’t appear to be any good reason why these negotiations are progressing in the manner that they are. Without rehashing the entire rant, both sides are to blame here. The owners are being unreasonable and fail to see that revenue sharing is the only answer to their problems. The players delayed their response by a month, and it can only be blamed on waiting for the owners to provide financials.
I don’t buy either side, and in the end it’s the fans that lose out.
We are the same fans who sat through a lockout-shortened 1994-1995 season. The same fans that lost an entire season in 2004-2005. And we are the same fans who are now facing another lockout in four weeks. Fans now have an answer in @UnfollowNHLSept15.
When the owners made their ludicrous first offer last month, there was a lot of panic around the interwebs. We all know that the offer itself was “a bit” in the one-sided realm, but there wasn’t really much cause for concern at that point. Sure, it was an offer that generated a lot of talk, but the talk was in the media and on blogs and on Twitter. The talk was not where it should have been.
The talk was not among the NHLPA.
Now, almost a month later, we are finally going to get the NHLPA’s counter offer. Yes, it took them a month to respond. That’s as ludicrous as the initial offer itself. It appears to be a message to the owners that the players won’t concede as much as they did in 2004-2005. But why did it take them a month to send this message? It took a month to tell the owners “no?”
For years I couldn’t stand Glen Sather. The man steadfastly refused to stop star chasing and as a result the Rangers failed to make any progress, stuck as a perennial borderline playoff team and incapable of putting together a true contender.
Sather learned his lesson and now just as stubbornly refuses to abandon his plan of sticking with youth by including prized youngsters as trade pieces in pursuit of the latest high-priced stars around the league.
I am a firm believer that the outcome of a game is never directly effected by officiating. If you blame the officials for a loss, then about six or seven other things went wrong prior to the loss. Inconsistent officiating goes both ways, and while it may seem like your team is getting hosed, the calls and non-calls are going both ways. There is no conspiracy theory against a club.
That said, the officiating in this year’s playoffs is alarmingly terrible. As a player, you can generally deal with refs calling everything or not calling anything at all. That’s consistent officiating, even if you may or may not agree with it. The most frustrating official is the official that does not make consistent rulings; an official that lets one slash of a stick go, and then calls a penalty on the same type of play three minutes later; the official that misses someone leave their feet to decapitate someone, only to have that player suspended for 25 games later that week.
The last example may be a case of a ref just having his head turned the other way, but there have been way too many examples like this of officials just being completely inconsistent with calls. I’ll even let the Ilya Kovalchuk delay of game call from the other night –the one where it clearly went off of a Flyer’s stick– slide as just a blown call. Blown calls aren’t the issue. It’s inconsistent calls.
When the Rangers “forgot to show up” for their game against the Caps on Saturday, many people panicked. How can they win in the playoffs if they don’t show up for what amounts to a meaningless game? How dare they not show up on the final game of the year! The prize wasn’t the President’s Trophy. The prize is the Stanley Cup.
Quick…who won the President’s Trophy for the 1997-1998 season? No Google allowed.
Ok, who won the Stanley Cup? The Red Wings, their second in a row.
That’s the point here. No one remembers who won the President’s Trophy. Everyone remembers who wins it all. John Tortorella knows that, and he gave regular shifts to everyone on his club. Only Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal came close to 24 minutes of ice time, which is a good sign for Staal. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh played 21:17 and 19:50 respectively, roughly 50 fewer minutes than they usually play </exaggeration>.
Sure they lost the game and the President’s Trophy, but there are far worse things in the game of hockey. Derek Stepan played 20 minutes after almost losing a limb on that Brooks Orpik hit, which is probably the most important thing to come from that game. Reiterating a point from above, Staal played close to 24 minutes of ice time. The Rangers will need him to be able to handle that workload throughout the playoffs if they are going to succeed. That’s two great signs for the Rangers.
The Stanley Cup is the prize in June. No one cares who wins the President’s Trophy.
The term “untouchable” is often tossed around on Twitter, on blogs, and around the interwebs in many different forms. “Untouchable” is a term that fans have given to players they have either grown attached to, think are special in some way, or are vital to the organization’s well being. In the business that is hockey, there is no such thing as an “untouchable” player. Everyone can be had in the right deal. Including the most important player the Rangers have had since Brian Leetch: Henrik Lundqvist.
Now, will Lundqvist be traded? Absolutely not. But let’s say the Red Wings came calling for Hank, and they offered up Jimmy Howard, Henrik Zetterberg, and a top prospect for Lundqvist. Only a fool would say no to that trade. We all love Lundqvist, but in this case, I make that trade. Remember: emotions have no place in the business of the game.
“Untouchable” is a phrase that is used for prospects as well, which is mind boggling to be honest. I again use the Bobby Ryan for Chris Kreider scenario. Ryan is proven, and still young. Kreider is still unknown, and at his absolute peak is what Bobby Ryan is today. If the Ducks ask for Kreider for Ryan, you make the trade (assuming the other pieces make sense of course).
The phrase “untouchable” is a phrase used by those who have formed emotional attachments to players, prospects, and picks. Any player, any prospect, or any pick can be had in the right deal. It is a general manager’s job to evaluate all possible trades and determine the best path for his team’s success. If that means trading the captain, or the top prospect, or the heart of the team, then so be it. It is the cost of doing business in the NHL.
Actually, the more I write this post, the more I realize there are a few players that are “untouchable”. Those are the players with no-movement or no-trade clauses. They are “untouchable” because they can’t be moved without their approval. But even then, they aren’t really “untouchable”, they are just more difficult to move.
Is there an end to the madness that is the phrase “untouchable?” Likely not, but might I suggest saying “It would take a big overpayment to get that player.” Much like the Lundqvist example above, the Rangers aren’t moving him unless there is a huge overpayment. No general manager would make that trade, but it’s a trade that would make Hank very, very movable. No one is “untouchable.” Period.
The Rangers are in the middle of a four game winning streak. A streak where they have looked dominant against some teams, and managed to get victories in games where they may not have shown up for the majority of the game. The top three lines are clicking, the defense pairs are playing above and beyond anything expected, and the goaltending has been spectacular. But yet, there are still some whispers about when Sean Avery will be “unleashed.”
There is an old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This holds true with the Rangers on this current streak. Sean Avery has only been getting five minutes a game, but the top three lines have been superb thus far. The problem with trying to get Avery more minutes is that those minutes have to come from someone else. There is not a single person on the top three lines that Avery can replace without having a negative effect on the overall product on the ice.
The main argument is that he should be taking time from some of the veterans playing over 20 minutes per game, specifically Brad Richards. The problem with that logic is that Richards is getting almost five minutes per game on the powerplay, thus he is only playing 18 minutes at even strength. Eighteen minutes is normal for a top line center, and 23 minutes is normal for someone who is the powerplay quarterback.
The only other forward to play more than 20 minutes is Ryan Callahan, who plays on the powerplay and the penalty kill. Should minutes be taken away from him to make more ice time for Avery? I think a better question is would you prefer to have Avery on the ice on special teams over Callahan? The answer here should be a resounding no.
So while Avery’s recall has apparently provided some spark –the Rangers are 4-0 since the news of his recall broke, the thought of getting him more time is just irresponsible for the time being. The Rangers are winning, and there is not a soul on the top three lines that should be dropped. Sometimes, you have to make it work with what you have, and Avery has been doing that thus far. It’s about the team, not the player.
This offseason was a tragic one for the NHL, KHL, and global hockey. The tragic deaths of former Ranger Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, and the entire KHL Locomotiv squad –which included many former NHLers– have been acknowledged league wide with moments of silence and video tributes. However for MSG, the tragedies were only met with a TV timeout montage. This, in short, is an outrageous mistake by MSG brass.
To ignore tragedy across the sport is inexcusable. But to ignore the tragic deaths of current and former teammates goes beyond that. No matter what you thought about Derek Boogaard and Karel Rachunek, they were Rangers, and deserved to be honored as such by the fans, players, and management of this organization. The fact that there wasn’t even a moment of silence is complete disrespect.
Scotty Hockey and I rarely see eye to eye, but on this, we do, as he really put it best:
“How do you bury the obit for Boogaard, the lives lost in the Lokomotiv crash and other summer casualties in a bad montage during a tv timeout? People are talking, getting up, walking around … And then, on the big screen, to wipe away from the cheesy ‘we will never forget’ frame to a bunch of people waiting to cheer for their Chase-sponsored free tee shirt? Disgusts me. The team smartly skipped the pregame talent – no Blue Man Group, no Ace Frehley – and wonderfully had FDNY and NYPD hockey players as an honour guard during the player introductions but all of the goodwill earned from that was wasted away by the obit. They could have included #94 when individually naming the players and have a moment of silence then. But instead it was shoehorned in while MSG ran some commercials for crap you won’t buy. Original Six teams are supposed to be classy.”
I doubt I am alone when I say that the organization failed to properly honor those that lost their lives this summer. I hope that MSG does something to rectify this, because they dropped the ball, big time.