Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mark Messier Tells You Who Your Leader Is, and You Will Like It

After winning 'Leader of the Year' will Chelios make a run for the White House?
Paul Sancya/AP

You all know that I'm a cynic, so I might be reading too much into this one, but something smells awfully fishy about the Waterworks McGee Mark Messier Leader of the Year Award that the NHL handed out yesterday. Sponsored by COLD-fX, Cry Baby Messier named a 'leader of the month' during the regular season, and this is the year-end version of that award. The Ageless Wonder, Chris Chelios, was the lucky recipient of the year-end award.

The gang over at the NHL FanHouse called it "a marketing scheme," and I agree completely. They also went on to question Messier's, um, selection process.
"While I don't doubt Chelios is a great leader, this is a real slap in the face to Nicklas Lidstrom, who actually, you know, CAPTAINED the Red Wings squad and led them to such a successful season. As we've seen with past awards, Messier doesn't seem to have a real basis for awarding his Leadership Award other than how much he likes the guy on a particular afternoon."
Don't knock Chelios, though. The $25,000 that he will receive is going to charity.

Whether or not you agree that this is one of those good ol' fashioned 'blatant marketing ploys,' I figure that the NHL might need some ideas for other awards. In an effort to help out Mr. Bettman, here are some other awards that may help boost attention/revenue. After all, it seems that the NHL's biggest desire these days is to market the sport as much as possible. Feel free to add your own awards in the comments.
  • GM/Executive of the Year; presented by Mike Milbury and sponsored by Enron.
  • Pink Slip Award; given to the player who mailed it in down the stretch, sponsored by the US Postal Service and presented by Donald "You're Fired" Trump (Getting Trump involved could be good on another level -- have him try to keep the NHL in the news by holding press conferences announcing his disdain for random people around the NHL.)
  • Sportsman of the Year; presented by Sean Avery.
  • The Jeremy Roenick Ambassador Award; given to the player who best exemplifies a willingness to embrace others, work hard and embodies the 'spirit of the game'.
  • The Brian Emgblom Award; presented to the best hair in hockey, be it player, coach, broadcaster or other. Sponsored by Propecia.
  • The Barry Melrose Mullet of the Month; This one is self explanatory and naturally, my favorite.
  • Journeyman Trophy; given to the player who logs the most miles by changing sweaters as often as most people change socks.
  • Theodore/Hilton Award; presented to the NHL player with the hottest 'significant other,' presented by Hugh Hefner.
  • The Brett Hull Trophy; given to the team/player/referee who does the most to screw over the Buffalo Sabres during the year. Sponsored by the NHL Official's Association. Foot in the crease, anyone?
  • And, obviously, we have to create an award for the Best Playoff Beard. Sponsored by Just For Men and presented by Keith Hernandez and Walt Frazier.

The Daily Sniper: Sens Still Looking for the "Easy Button"

The Daily Sniper: News and notes from last night's aciton...

Giguere and the Ducks take a 2-0 with them to Ottawa.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Didn't it look the the Sens had found the 'Easy Button' for their run through the Eastern Conference? As it turns out, they haven't been able to find one to use against the Ducks.

In Game 2, it was all Anaheim. The Ducks out shot Ottawa 31-16, a larger margin than Game one, kept the Sens' power play in check and showed why they're the Western Conference Champs. The game ended 1-0, but that doesn't accurately reflect the difference between the two teams.

Anaheim's checking line was dominant again last night, with Sammy Pahlsson netting the game winner with just under 6 minutes left in the third.

The lone bright spot for Ottawa - Ray Emery's critics can be quiet now. The netminder was excellent, stopping 30 of 31 shots, keeping his team in a game they should never have been this close to winning.

Up in Ottawa, some are still positive about this whole deal; including Don from Battle of Ontario.

"The saying is that you aren't done until you lose at home. Well, Saturday night's the night for fighting and we'll see if the our Sens are going to do what we know they can do... I may have the rose coloured glasses on but I don't think the Ducks outplayed the Sens tonight. The shots were uneven but I don't think they reflect the scoring chances."

Out of Left field is not as optimistic this morning:

"I simply cannot see how this a team can win a game against the Ducks, let alone four, unless Ray Emery steals four straight games, which he almost did last night in a phenomenal 30-save performance before Pahlsson surprised him with a sneaky shot to his blocker side"

Tom Luongo has some pretty on point thoughts on this whole deal:

"Anaheim is showing the entire Senators team no respect at all and stepping up all over the ice, doing to the Sens what the Sens did to the Sabres... Like Lindy Ruff did in Game 4 (and should have done in Game 3), Bryan Murray has to do this now... coach Game 3 to win, at all costs, because doing what brung you here isn't working."

As you can imagine, Anaheim is getting confident:

"Ottawa joins Minnesota, Vancouver and Detroit in wondering what is the secret to the checking line on the Ducks. Normally one tries to figure out how to deal with the top lines and the offensive threats. A checking line is not usually at the top of a coach’s game plan and how to work around them. This checking line, however, has been both the checking line and the offense. It’s enough to make a coach’s head spin, not to mention the players. And spin they did, literally and figuratively."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Must... Make... Time... Pass... Faster...

Sammy Pahlsson laid the smack down on the Sens' candy asses in Game one, recording a game high eight hits.

Today is a very slow day, almost as monotonous and boring a Wednesday as is humanly possible. The day has somehow managed to take on the agonizing crawl that early August (in all it's hockey-less glory) has. Maybe it's just that there's not a whole lot to talk about outside of the Finals, and most of those talking points are already worn out. Maybe I should have tried to sleep for more than five hours last night. Maybe Dominik Hasek needs to retire so that we could all talk about when his comeback would be. Either way, 8 o'clock needs to get here. Fast.

To try and kill some time, I'll recap what should be the key points to tonight's Game two in Anaheim.

For the Ducks:

  • Keep up the physical play - Jack up the intensity and keep this a physical series. The Sens top line of Heatley-Spezza-Alfreddson was bested by the Ducks checkling line (although the Sens trio still managed to get on the scoreboard), and a repeat of that could push the Ducks to a 2-0 lead.
  • Ryan Getzlaf: Make it look like you've been here before - Getzlaf scored the tying goal in Game One, and had a superb effort in the third period, but he's going to have to make it a sixty minute affair if the Ducks are going to be successful. They've chosen to put the pressure on a 22-year old (yikes), let's see if he can continue to step up.
  • Stay out of the box - Part of the problem with being such a physical team is that it will get you into trouble with the Zebras. The Ducks led the NHL in PIM during the regular season, and they're doing the same during the playoffs where they average just under 19 minutes per game. That's almost a full period! If they can 'walk the line' between penalties and clean play, they can make the Sens' lives that much more difficult.
  • Get all up in Ray Emery's grill - Game one proved that Emery has trouble dealing with traffic in front of him. Now it's time to exploit that.

For the Senators:

  • Lead by example - The Sens' top line put forth a good effort in Game one, but they are the reason that the team has gone this far. They helped carry a majority of the load through the playoffs - now they have to take the Sens to the promised land.
  • Come to play - After Game one, it was apparent that the Sens didn't play up their normal standards and may have been a little rusty. Not only is the top line going to have to step up, but the rest of the team is, too.
  • Challenge J.S. Giguere - Sometimes it helps to throw the puck at the net and see what happens. Ottawa managed only 20 shots on goal in Game one, three in the first period alone. That number is only two-thirds of their playoff average (30.75) and even less compared to their average during the regular season (32.3). Their mission for Game two; get more pucks on net.
  • Continue to win the special teams battle - 2-for-7 on the power play is a good statistic, and more importantly it's much better than the goose egg that Anaheim recorded on Monday night (0-for-4). If those stats hold up during Game two, the series will be a split going back to Ottawa.
  • Hold onto the puck - The Sens need to do a better job controlling the puck. They had 14 giveaways in Game one, compared to only 5 for the Ducks. We saw what turnovers did to the Red Wings, the Sens needs to try and hold onto the puck to avoid the same fate.

That's all for now. Try and enjoy the rest of your afternoon, I'll talk to you tomorrow morning after the dust has settled.

Playoff Beards are Having the Best Week Ever!

For those hockey fans around here that are more Hollywood-inclined than the typical hockey fan, the people over at VH1's Best Week Ever have put together their own playoff beard/lost the TV show/hockey/Daniel Alfreddson comparison. Basically, it's along the same lines as the Playoff Beard Comparisons that ran on BMR a few days ago, just with characters from Lost and a better understanding of the English language than my own. Lost, if you haven't heard of it, is that TV show in the states on ABC that everyone says is really good but most of us never get around to watching anyway.

An excerpt from BWE:
"Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer = Jack
He’s the Ducks’ Captain and unquestioned leader, plus he’s been a hero before (dragged the New Jersey Devils out from a burning car after he almost drunkenly jumped off a bridge). Like Jack, he’s also sporting a sweet playoff beard."

It turns out that when someone grows a really spiffy playoff beard, people take notice.

For those readers that don't care about any of the aforementioned topics, please accept my condolences in the form of Barbara Bermudo (pictured right).

Grant Lamos IV/Fashion Wire Daily

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Last Islander Related Post Today. Promise.

Hopefully that Don Maloney post didn't bore all of you to death. If that's the case, there should still be a few BMR readers out there. Just in case you didn't get your fill of New York Islander related stories, I have one more for you. Don't worry, I'll make this as quick and painless as possible. It'll be the last one about the team until they sign Ryan Smyth. Promise. (I can dream, can't I?)

Effective today, Mike Milbury will no longer have ANY ROLE in the operation of the New York Islanders. I repeat; Mike Milbury is gone. For good. FINALLY.

Excuse me one moment.

[deep breath while thrusting my fists high into the air]


[another deep breath, as I try to collect myself]

OK, there is one string attached although it's a very, very minor one. Milbury will still be an advisor to Owner Charles Wang, but only in regards to Wang's "special projects". Specifically, Wang's Project Hope youth hockey program, which is trying to build youth hockey in China.

There you have it, folks. It took 12 years, but the last person associated with all that went wrong on Long Island throughout the 1990's has left.

Mike Milbury

The Daily Sniper: Insert Duck Related Pun Here

The Daily Sniper: News and notes from last night's action

The first game of the 2007 Finals turned out to be a dandy in Anaheim last night.

The Senators jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first two minutes, which was a 2-1 margin at the second intermission. The Ducks would shut the door in the third, led by the play checking line of Rob Niedermayer, Sammy Pahlsson and Travis Moen. The trio was matched up against the Sens top line (Heatley-Spezza-Alfreddson) all night, and helped in limiting Ottawa's trio to only five shots on goal.

Ryan Getzlaf tied the game during the fifth minute of the third and Moen would add the eventual game winner at the 17:09 mark, leading the Ducks to a come from behind 3-2 victory.

Sens fans seem to be taking this pretty well. There don't appear to be too many "chicken littles" north of the border, and rightfully so. A loss on the road to begin a series isn't the end of the world.

From Battle of Ontario:

"You can sure hear the neophyte fan coming through loud and clear on the Team post-game show. They lose one game and you want to break Alfie off that top line? The perils of big bandwagonism I guess.

Relax - they'll hit the stationary bikes, have a look at the tape and come out flying in G2."

Ray Emery made more saves than J.S. Giguere, but got the loss.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Out of Left Field is quick to let this one slide:

"Let's chalk this one to the layoff. The Senators sat at home with nothing to do but read for nine straight days in Ottawa’s dailies the greatest adulation ever given to players who, lest we had all foolishly forgotten, hadn’t won anything but a ticket to the show."

And across the continent, over at On the Pond:

"When this writer arrived home, even the local ducks who take up residence at the community pool were quacking loudly as if celebrating with their on ice brethren. This is the first time that the Senators have lost the first game in a series during this post season and they have never trailed in a series until now, even if they are down only 1 - 0 in the best of seven series."

We can only hope that Game two on Wednesday is just as good as the first edition. And did I mention neither Versus nor CBC interrupted the game with horse racing or election coverage?

Maloney Set to Dismantle The Phoenix Coyotes

[Start Rant]
Don Maloney will ruin the Phoenix Coyotes. Those are my words. Write them down. Add them to your MySpace. Do whatever you need to do to remember them.

The word tonight from TSN is that Maloney has been appointed GM of the Coyotes. This season, he was the right hand man to New York Rangers' GM Glen Sather.

Maloney's last GM job ended way back on December 2, 1995 after he was terminated by the New York Islanders. There's a reason it's been more than a decade since he commanded an NHL front office, folks.

Maloney was heir to Bill Torrey's throne on Long Island. If you don't remember Torrey, he was the man that built the Islanders' dynasty in the early 1980's. Torrey stayed on for another decade, a length of time some may argue was too long, leaving the team after the 1991-92 season to help build the Florida Panthers. After Torrey's departure, Maloney took over and almost singlehandedly drove the team into the ground.

Don Maloney

In Maloney's first season on Long Island, he didn't make any significant changes to the team or any of the personnel that Torrey had brought in. That year, the Islanders made an improbable run to the Conference Finals, which currently stands as the last time the team has won a playoff series. The following year the team was swept in the first round by the Rangers and you can argue that the franchise has never recovered from that defeat.

From there, Maloney's madness set in. In the only move to appear reasonable at the time, he brought in Ron Hextall and let fan favorite Glenn Healy walk as a UFA. That never panned out, and things just went downhill from there. Maloney traded away Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov for (deep breath) Kirk Muller. He got rid of Benoit Hogue and let Ray Ferraro, the team's leading scorer, walk. Possibly worst of all, he was the man who initially hired 'Mad' Mike Milbury, who has been a thorn in the organization's side for years.

Now, you're probably thinking; 'You're a huge islander fan, this is probably some sort of exaggeration or slander, right?' Sort of. Everyone is subject to bias, so that may be true to an extent, but the facts speak for themselves.

If Maloney is such a talent as a GM, it should not have taken this long for him to get another gig. After he was let go on Long Island, Maloney was hired as a scout by the San Jose Sharks. To his credit he has a great eye for talent evaluation. He drafted Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, and Wade Redden. That's not all there is to being a GM in the NHL though, and surely someone would have given him another shot at it (or at least a job higher on the totem pole than a scout) if they thought he could do a good job. The fact of the matter is for twelve years no NHL team thought Maloney was good enough as a GM for their team. Twelve years is a long time between jobs, and his track record speaks for itself.

The good news for the Coyotes is that after finishing second to last in the NHL this season, things can't get much worse.
[End Rant]

Monday, May 28, 2007

Your Obligatory Finals Preview

Ah yes, it's Monday morning in hockey land. Today is not any Monday though, it's actually quite a special one. If you haven't heard by now the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks will face off in Game one of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight. Game time is 8 pm in the east, and can be seen on Versus in the US and CBC in Canada (hopefully without interruption).

Senators' fans have been in a frenzy for quite some time now, but we'll have to wait until Game three on Saturday to see the euphoria up close. Tonight's game takes place in Anaheim in front of what should be an electric fanbase, albeit one slightly more subdued than anything Canada can produce.

Right now it's time for the most important part of the whole deal; the predictions. Everyone and their dog has written an analysis of the series, so I'm not about to bore you with any of that. Chances are, you've already read a few of those anyway. Let's just cut to the chase and see who around these internets has put their 'balls to the ban saw', if you will. Feel free to add your own insight in the comments.

Monday Morning Ice Breaker

Here at BMR, we hate Mondays. So, to try and ease everyone back into the work week, we present to you a weekly installment of nonsense and (hopefully) laughter. Without further ado, here is your Monday morning ice breaker...

This week, most hockey fans are having a pretty crappy Monday morning. After a weekend jam packed with zero hockey games, and the most exciting news of the day was about Rick Tocchet's conviction, let's face it; the hockey world was downright boring this weekend. If you're not living in Canada (excluding Toronto) or California, you might not have any rooting interest in tonight's game. Thanks to the beauty of YouTube, I present to you someone hopefully everyone can laugh along with, the immortal Chris Farley.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Say Thanks to the Troops

Seeing as it's Memorial Day Weekend (and there's no hockey this weekend), I'm going to be heading out of town for a few days to see some family and friends. Chances are I won't be near a computer, so BMR is going to be taking the weekend off, too. The weather is looking pretty good for most of the country, so we all should just get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Unless you're allergic to sunlight, parades or war veterans. Then please, please stay indoors. I'll see you all back here on Monday. Drive safe!

That car meant a lot to me, Gus. I got memories of that car I can't even remember.
IMP Awards

Friday Wrap: Predators to Kitchener, Cheerleader Sues Rangers

Just a few things to catch up on before I head out for the holiday weekend...

Playoff Beard Comparisons

It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting warmer, flowers are blossoming and playoff beards are in full bloom. With Game One of the cup finals almost upon us, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, the details, the things that everyone wants to know about and the questions that everyone wants answered. Questions such as; ‘How does Ryan Getzlaf look so much like Steve-O from Jackass?’ and ‘Why would anyone give you a blog if you’re going to write drivel like this?’ Without any further ado, it’s time for… NHL playoff beard comparisons!

Mathieu Schneider

Billy Mays

First up is Detroit defender Matty Schneider, who went with the Billy Mays look this year. It’s furry all over, but not too long and trimmed neatly along the sides. You don’t want it to get messy, cause then you just look like a hippy. Despite getting injured during Game two of Detroit’s series against San Jose, Schneider kept the beard going. If you saw Schneider on the sidelines during the Conference Finals, you might have noticed the eerie resemblance between Schneider and everyone’s favorite screams-in-your-face-repeatedly product salesman. The only difference between the two is that Schneider is much, much calmer and coherent.

Chris Drury

Luke Wilson in ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’

This year Chris Drury wins the award for looking the most like Luke Wilson. He has not only the beard, but the eyebrows and far away stare as well. Wilson has never been one for facial hair, but he put together the messy version of ‘the Billy Mays’ (it’s a full beard, but we don’t feel like trimming it everyday!) for his role in ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’.

Daniel Briere

Johnny Depp in ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Buffalo’s Danny Briere didn’t grow his beard quite like Drury or Schneider, but he still managed to pull off a rare look. It’s the elusive look Johnny Depp used for his role in ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico.’ There’s some semblance of a beard, but they’re not really trying. Briere certainly gets bonus points for creativity and originality with this one.

Scott Niedermayer

Bob Vila

Anaheim’s veteran defender Scott Niedermayer is starting to go a little grey. No worries, all he had to do was find an older demographic to market himself towards. As you can see from the photos above, Niedermayer is going for the look of home improvement guru Bob Vila. It’s the greyer version of ‘the Billy Mays’. Who says you need hair color? A little grey never hurt anyone as these two veterans prove.

Chris Pronger

Jim Carrey

Chris Pronger is obviously looking to make the hockey Gods mad by not growing a playoff beard. Maybe the problem is that he can’t grow one and is later going to blame the Canadian media for his misfortune. Either way, Pronger is going for something a little bit deeper here. He’s not trying to grow a beard to make him look like someone else; he’s actually trying to be someone else. See that smirk? That’s a Jim Carrey smirk if I’ve ever seen one.

Brian Campbell

Will Ferrell in the SNL Cowbell skit

Brian Campbell has a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell! This entry gets an ‘A’ for effort and an ‘F’ for execution. Campbell’s got the hair color down, and he’s working on the beard, but it’s tough to tell how well he pulled it all off under that helmet. We need to see the red afro! Somehow, I don’t think he’s coached by Christopher Walken, either.

Actor John Pyper-Ferguson

Jeff Bridges in ‘The Big Lebowski’

I’m not really sure what John Pyper-Ferguson is famous for (certainly not being a hockey player), but cameras spotted him screaming his lungs out at a Canucks game during their series with Anaheim. I’ve listed him because he deserves special recognition for his work outside of the movie industry. He’s essentially the cleaned up, angry version of the Big Lebowski. With a little attitude adjustment and a goatee, Pyper-Ferguson would be a prime candidate for the ‘Best Likeness’ award.

Ryan Getzlaf


Congratulations to all of you who stayed with me this far! Extra credit goes to those who have read this much and are not stoned. Last but not least we have Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who much like his teammate Chris Pronger, opted out of growing a playoff beard. It’s really quite amazing that the Ducks are even in the Finals, considering the amount of karma that they have lost thanks to Getzlaf and Pronger’s clean shaven faces (Wow that sounds way too much like Brett Hull. Sorry.). Nonetheless, it’s obvious what’s going on here. Ryan Getzlaf is actually Steve-O from ‘Jackass’. During the day Getzlaf poses as a wild, eccentric, daredevil. At night, it’s a different story as he suits up for the Anaheim Ducks.

That’s all for now, folks. We hope you enjoyed the show!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

You Stay Classy, Brian Leetch

Former Bruins defensemen Brian Leetch announced his retirement today, ending an 18-year career that should culminate with a Hall of Fame induction. Aside from his statistical and championship winning achievements, what amazed me the most about Leetch is consistent play and leadership.

He was drafted by the Rangers in 1986, and played for them until he was traded to Toronto in 2004. After the lockout Leetch played for Boston in 2005-06, but could not find an NHL contract this season. Now 39, most teams passed on him due to price tag and age.

Leetch was always the player's player. He was a quiet leader, and took over the 'C' for the Rangers from 1997-2000 while Waterworks McGee took a vacation in Vancouver. There was a certain respectability about Leetch; that he always was the hard working, blue collar, dependable kind of guy that never sparked a riot.

Being a huge Islanders fan, you would think it would be hard for me to heap praise on someone who did so much for the Broadway Blueshirts for so many years. Not true. For as long as I can remember, Leetch has been the one player on Broadway whom I never viewed hatefully or as an enemy.

Sure, he played for the Dark Side. That just didn't matter, since there was a certain respectability about him. He was the type of player whose team you wanted to beat, destroy even, but Leetch was the player that at the end of the game you smiled at and shook his hand because he was the one that you had a serious competitive respect for.

Has it really been 3 1/2 years since this guy played on New York's blue line?
Ed Betz/AP

As much as his teammates may have induced Islander fans into an expletive laced tirade, such as when Dan Cloutier threatened the entire Islander bench; Leetch never, ever had that effect.

That result was always evident at the Nassau Coliseum. When the Rangers came to town during Leetch's career, there were never any derogatory chants involving him. From 'Crackhead Fleury' and 'Cry Baby Messier' to the 'traitors' Kasparitis and Trottier, there was never a word about Leetch. 'Riiiiichter, Riiiichter' might echo down from the nosebleeds, or some harassment aimed at Jagr's/Messier's/Prucha's/Lindros' mother, but never Leetch's.

Leetch was a professional who always played by the rules, never sucker punched your left winger, and always knew how to talk to the media. In an age when stars such as Jeremy Roenick and Brett Hull mouthed off at the media, Leetch never budged.

After sitting out a season with no suitable contract offers, Leetch knew it was time to hang up the skates for good. Of course, he made the announcement exactly in classic Brian Leetch style. No big press conference. No long farewell tour. A few phone calls with reporters and a story from the AP.

Let's Move the Predators to Canada!

Alright, alright. I admit it. I tried to pull a fast one with that title. No one's trying to move the Predators to Canada (yet). I'm not endorsing the Predators moving north, although I would like to see another team in Canada. I'm really just trying to open a can of worms. Call me naive, but I've said it before and I'll say it again; I'll believe that there's going to be a seventh Canadian team when I see it.

As of last night, everyone and their sister is reporting that rich-as-heck Canadian business man Jim Balsillie has sealed a deal to buy the Nashville Predators.

Remember him? He's the founder of Blackberry who tried to buy the Penguins with the hopes of moving them to Hamilton, Ontario a few months ago.

It's not that much of a stretch to think that he might be planning something similar with the Predators.

At this point I'm going to redirect you, as there is already a lot of good coverage of this story around the internets. The FanHouse has a take on the situation, and James Mirtle is declaring that the Predators are going far north in the near future. Out of Left Field thinks that Winnipeg is an option along with Hamilton. Really?

...And excuse me for posting celebrity pictures twice in a row, but Faith Hill is all that comes to mind when I think of Nashville. Is that so wrong?

Will Jim Balsillie move the Preds out of Nashville and far away from Faith Hill?
Mark Terrill/AP

Canada's CBC Pulls An "NBC"

I know it's a few days late, but this is the most surprising thing that I have read all day. This TV-stations-giving-hockey-a-run-around stuff doesn't seem to die, either.

Chances are you remember that little gem of a programming flaw that NBC had Saturday during Game five of the Western Conference Final. As SI's Alan Muir found out, our friends north of the border had similar problems during Game six on Sunday.

It turns out that the first two periods of the game were not shown in the province of Manitoba (home of Anna Paquin, pictured right, who played 'Rogue' in all those X-Men movies). Instead, viewers were greeted with coverage of the upcoming provincial election. The game was televised throughout Canada during the third period, and would have stayed on the air in the event there was overtime.

Maybe it's because I wasn't directly affected by this, or it's the fact that elections are ever so slightly more important than legalized gambling/animal cruelty, but I just can't seem to get very riled up about this one. I think it's probably because I already used up all my anger on NBC. My feelings aside, I'm sure there were quite a few people ticked off about this north of the border. Hockey is after all, the national pastime up there. Just like you wouldn't cut off a New Yorker in traffic, you certainly do not take away hockey from a Canadian.

I'll be honest, the people over at CBC can do their jobs however they choose, but they should be more careful about whose hockey they preempt.

Don't let the dress fool you. She's a ruthless killing machine.
Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

A friendly word of advice; I'm not so sure if it's a good idea to take the risk of making the X-Men mad. That Beast character is one thing, but Rogue can kill a person just by touching them. It might be me, but I wouldn't mess with someone who has that kind of power. It's possible that this argument is moot because she hates hockey and doesn't care at all that Sunday's game was preempted, but the folks at CBC should still be careful. In a life or death matter, it's better to be safe than sorry.

There you have it, folks. Probably one of the worst weeks ever for trying watch a hockey game on television. Not only does NBC want to remind American hockey fans their sport is less popular than horses running in circles, CBC is trying to piss off fans of their country's national pastime. Now that's marketing! That's how you bring back fans after a lockout!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Daily Sniper: Bow to Your Water Fowl Overlords

The Daily Sniper: News and notes from last night's action...

Congratulations to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who are now on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Ducks put the nail in Detroit's coffin last night, winning Game six of the Western Conference Final 4-3.

Thanks a lot Anaheim, now we all have to endure six whole days without hockey.

The NHL announced yesterday that the Finals won't start until Monday. Add that to a no Game seven in this series and all you get is no hockey this weekend. Great. That's just great. You can also thank none other than our good friends at NBC for that one.

Gone, too, are all the articles telling us just how much extra rest Ottawa is going to get. No one needs to take the time to tell us how healthy they are going to be either. Six days is more than enough time for the Ducks to be well rested for Game one.

Emilio Estevez? 'Was not invited', is the end of that sentence.
Mark Avery/AP

The biggest story out of Anaheim last night, other than the fact that the Ducks won the game, is how they won it. Some people criticized them earlier in the week, myself included, saying that the Red Wings had out played Anaheim in Games four and five.

The Ducks played solid hockey all night, holding a 4-1 lead with 10 minutes left to play. At that point they seemed to ease off the gas pedal a bit, allowing Detroit to score two power play goals to close the gap. In the end, the Ducks were able to hold on for a well earned 4-3 victory.

Crosby: A Ping Pong Ball Away From Anaheim

The 2007 NHL draft is now only a month away, and it got me thinking. What if the ping pong balls had bounced a different way two years ago?

July 22, 2005: The NHL lockout officially ends, and a lottery system involving all 30 teams is set up. Pittsburgh, as you might remember, comes away with the #1 pick and wins the 'Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes'. Eight days later on July 30th, they make it official and the second coming of Mario Lemieux commences in Pittsburgh.

Anaheim had the second pick in that draft. It wasn't because they had the second worst record, giving them the second best chance at the #1 spot. In any other year, that would usually be the case, but because the NHL had to throw something together quick after the lockout, it wasn't.

In '05 the league came up with one hell of a contraption for the lottery, involving all 30 teams. Usually, only the non-playoff teams from the previous season are involved in the lottery system. It just so happens that when you skip an entire season, everyone is a non-playoff team from the previous year.

What am I getting at?

Let's get back to the original question.

The though of these guys playing alongside Sidney Crosby is downright scary.
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
What would the NHL be like if one ping pong ball had gone the other way and Anaheim ended up with the top pick in 2005, putting Pittsburgh in the #2 slot? Never has one spot in the draft mattered this much. The consequence would have been Sidney Crosby skating around on the Pacific coast, helping to start what could be a dynasty in Anaheim. On the other end of the continent, the Penguins almost certainly would be playing in a different city right now. Kansas City? Maybe not, but one thing is for sure. Definitely not Pittsburgh.

Think about it.

Crosby has been an instantaneous superstar, averaging 111 points in his first two NHL seasons. At only $800,000 a year, there's no doubt Brian Burke would have found a way to squeeze him in under the cap. Imagine him centering a line with Penner and Perry on the wings. Or maybe he or Andy McDonald would be shifted to left wing so that he could play on a line with McDonald and Selanne? Either way, Anaheim's already talented core of forwards just added an 111 point producer. Instantly, he becomes their number one forward.

Honestly though, it could have started a dynasty. The Ducks made it to the finals this year without Sid the Kid, and they could certainly win it all without him. Obviously, you still can't overlook the impact he would have. A line of Crosby-McDonald-Selanne is almost on par with Alfredsson-Heatley-Spezza.

Last year, the Ducks lost the Western Conference Final in five games to Edmonton, but were only outscored by a 16-13 margin. A little Crosby would have gone a long way in that series, maybe even taking the team all the way to the Cup. Right now, we might be talking about the Ducks quest for a Stanley Cup repeat.

The other major implication of Crosby going to Pittsburgh, and not Anaheim, is that he may have singlehandedly kept the Penguins in Pittsburgh. This is a similar argument to the one all those conspiracy theorists make about how the NBA fixed the '85 draft, allowing Patrick Ewing to go to the beleaguered New York Knicks, immediately restoring power in one of the league's storied franchises.

I'm not saying that the NHL fixed the draft for Pittsburgh. I'm also not saying that I'd be surprised if Gary Bettman actually did that.

The point is, Crosby had the same impact on the Penguins that Ewing had on the Knicks.

Both were previously dominant franchises, that now found themselves at the bottom of the standings. Both were mired in mediocrity in the financial department as well.

The Knicks had made it out of the first round three times between 1974 and 1984 and managed to win only 71 games in three seasons from '84 to '86. The story was similar in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins finished last in the Atlantic Division in all three seasons prior to Sid's arrival, and hadn't had much playoff success since winning their last cup more than a decade earlier. They got into the playoffs consistently between '92 and '01, but only managed to make the Conference Finals twice, losing both times. Everything finally hit rock bottom after that run.

The effect Crosby had on Pittsburgh economically was the same Ewing had on the Big Apple. Crosby, dubbed the next Gretzky/Lemieux/insert-legend-here, was sure to put butts in the seats no matter where he landed. If he was half as good as everyone said, he would certainly be doing that for years to come. With the Penguins on the edge of bankruptcy and voters refusing to fund the new arena that the team so desperately needed, he was the closest thing to a sure fire marketing tool. Not only that, his contribution on the ice had been so substantial that the Penguins pulled one of the biggest turnarounds in NHL history during his second year. This season, the team nearly doubled it's point total from '05-'06 going from a meager 58 points to 108. After all, there's nothing that grows local support faster than a winning team. With that winning record, came a new arena deal and a new lease on life in the Steel City.

So, did Sid the Kid really save the city of Pittsburgh and hinder the start of a Ducks dynasty? It's debatable, but I believe there's quite a case for it. Did Gary Bettman fix the '05 lottery to save the NHL's most endangered team? Probably not. One thing's for sure, history tells an interesting story when you let ping pong balls decide it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Martin Gerber Cannot Be Stopped

Did you know, this will be Martin Gerber's third finals appearance in the last four years?

Gerber will backup Ray Emery with Ottawa in this year's finals. Last year he lost the starting job in Carolina to Cam Ward, but eventually went on to win the Cup with the Hurricanes. Way back before the lockout, he backed up J.S. Giguere when the Ducks lost to the Devils in the 2003 finals.

The man is truly unstoppable. You can keep him from all the starting jobs you want, but on the bench he is a miracle worker. Maybe Toronto should look into signing him after the season is over. Who knows, he could be the key to solving the Cup drought that they have up there. Whatever his purpose, it's obvious that some day he'll be vice president of the world, and we might as well start embracing him as our superior right now.

What I really meant to say all along is that there is a pretty neat article about all this over at the NHL FanHouse, written by Jon Press. Go check it out!

Could Martin Gerber be the solution to ending your team's Stanley Cup drought?
Clear Channel

Tampa Bay Does Not Appreciate High Save Percentages

The Tampa Bay Lightning and President Bush should get to know each other. They might have more in common than they think. Some people might say that President Bush is living in denial as to how poorly the situation in Iraq has unfolded (crap I should not bring up politics). To a similar extent, on a topic far less significant, the Lightning are in denial. They think that Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis are the answer to their goaltending problems.

In Sunday's St. Pete Times Lightning GM Jay Feaster praised his two net minders.
"The bottom line is that we have two goaltenders under contract, and those two goaltenders won 44 [games] and put up 93 points for us," Feaster said. "So that's not a bad starting point."
Alright, I'll bite.

Are you saying that Denis and Holmqvist are more important than Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis? I sure hope not, cause then we'd have to check your medication. Lecavalier only put up 52 goals (1st in the NHL) and 108 points (3rd NHL). St. Louis was 5th in both categories. I'd be willing to bet all that had a little something to do with those 93 points.

Yes it's true, you do need to put someone in net. I just can't imagine that either Holmqvist or Denis is the answer to Tampa's problems. Holmqvist had the better save percentage in 06-07, but that was good enough (those are two very generous words) for 39th out of the top 44 NHL net minders. Meanwhile, Denis was dead last. The pair also combined for a whopping two shutouts.

Good news Lightning fans, I hear that 42-year old Ed Belfour is available. He was 21st in the league in GAA and 28th in save percentage. Sadly, even he is an upgrade at this point.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Red Wings Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda... But Didn't

It was just six days ago that the Red Wings looked like the team to beat in the Western Conference, heading to what could be described as 'an entertaining head on collision' with the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game three saw Detroit take a 2-1 series lead thanks to stellar net minding from Dominik Hasek and scoring from what seemed like most of the roster. The Wings won the Game, which was played in Anaheim, by a dominating 5-0 margin. Four players had at least two points and six more found the stat sheet in some capacity. Things were only supposed to get better, as Chris Pronger got himself suspended for Game four (unless you ask Pronger who blames, of all things, the Canadian media).

What a difference a week makes. Pronger's suspension woke up the Ducks, as they charged back to take Games four and five. The most notable performers were Teemu Selanne and J.S. Giguere who have almost single handedly carried the team. Selanne was held pointless during the first three games, but managed five points (2G, 3A) in games four and five, including the overtime winner last night.

The Dominator needs to have a strong showing in Game six to keep Detroit's playoff hopes alive.
Rebecca Cook/REUTERS

Giguere has a similar story.

The 2003 playoff MVP was pulled early in the second period of game three after allowing three goals on 13 shots. He has only allowed four goals in two games since that night, stopping 36 shots in both game four and game five, playing 131 total minutes.

After losing Game five at home last night, the Wings are just trying to hold on for dear life. The argument that the Wings were the better team in Games four and five (save for the scoreboard) isn't that far fetched. All that the box scores of the games do is support their case. Anaheim was vastly out shot over the two games, by a total of 76-49, and those weren't just lobs at Giguere. Detroit fired hard, and often all night.

If you watched the games you probably drew a similar conclusion, as the Ducks were out worked and out muscled most of the game. Part of that can be attributed to Pronger's absence, as the Ducks' defense looked completely overworked from picking up the slack -- and they were. Scott Niedermayer's ice time went up 10 1/2 minutes between games three and four, Sean O'Donnell had an extra six and Francois Beauchemin had five more. Nonetheless, give them credit for bending but not breaking. In Games four and five, they held Detroit to a 2-for-13 power play record (0-for-7 in Game five alone) and blocked 21 shots.

There is not a whole lot of room for improvement from Detroit's point of view. Their most pressing need is to figure out J.S. Giguere, who been the difference in the last two games. The Wings are getting all the shots they need, they just have to find some way to turn them into tallies on the scoreboard. That includes the power play, which could use some work after going 0-for-7 in Game five. They'll be golfing come Wednesday if that stat doesn't improve.

Obviously, they need to try and get things sured up a little defensively as well. Turnovers sure can come back to haunt a team, and there's no better example than Selanne's OT winner yesterday. You can expect to play a perfect game, as one bounce of the puck can determine the entire game, but they can certainly try and take better care of the puck.

One of the biggest keys to Game six is without a doubt Dominik Hasek. After a dismal effort in Game four that saw him concede five goals, he had a great outing in Game five. The Dominator allowed only two goals last night, and his team certainly left him out to dry on the second goal. Detroit desperately needs Hasek to shine and outplay Giguere, as a repeat of Game four could prove to be disastrous.

Your Monday Morning Ice Breaker

Here at BMR, we hate Mondays. So, to try and ease everyone back into the work week, we present to you a weekly installment of nonsense and (hopefully) laughter. Without further ado, here is your Monday morning ice breaker...

This week, it's probably Sabre fans who are having the worst Monday out of anyone we can think of. Thanks to the beauty of YouTube, we give you an old SportsCenter commercial featuring Rob Ray. If you look closely, that's Barry in the background.

The Daily Sniper: Quack Quack Mothafucka!

The Daily Sniper: News and notes from last night's action...

Get this: If you were watching the Wings/Ducks game today on NBC, you got to see overtime! What a concept!

But I digress. I think that's going to be a joke beaten to death in the coming weeks.

Game Five of the Western Conference Finals took place in Detroit this afternoon, and it would be the visiting Ducks who came up big. Down 1-0 with a minute left in the third, Scott Niedermayer's shot from the point deflected and found it's way past Dominik Hasek to tie the game with 43.7 seconds left in regulation.

In the overtime period, it would be Teemu Selanne scoring the game winner. Andres Lilja turned it over in the slot and Selanne lifted a backhander past Hasek for the win, putting the Ducks up 3-2 in the best of seven series.

The Finnish Flash scores the overtime winner.
Dave Sanford/Getty Images

If anyone needed a reason to put J.S. Giguere at the top of their Conn Smythe lists, today's game was as good a reason as any. The Ducks net minder stopped 35 of 36 shots, completely shutting down the Wings. To add to it, Detroit was 0-for-7 on the power play.

Game six is Tuesday night in Anaheim and can be seen on Versus in the US, and CBC in Canada.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

On The NBC Situation

This morning SI's Alan Muir picked up on NBC cutting off the Sens/Sabres game yesterday afternoon. He's got a much different opinion than mine, but a very interesting and intelligent read (he always is, and is one of my favorite writers). Muir blamed the NHL as opposed to NBC for pulling the plug on the game.

"Just don't make out NBC as the villain here. While they could have held out for the extra 20 minutes, their position is defensible. After all, the Peacock Network pays a hefty sum for the rights to the highly rated Preakness. They simply share ad revenue for the rights to NHL games, and since there are no TV timeouts in OT, that's not a tough decision to make.

No, this one falls squarely on the sagging shoulders of the NHL. Instead of saving Saturday nights for Hockey Night In Canada, they've bent over backwards to provide NBC with the games it wants at the times it wants. And in giving NBC this game at this time with the hard deadline of the Preakness staring them in the face, they made the wrong decision."

I'd agree that the NHL is certainly at fault, I just think that NBC isn't out of the woods either, as they did a serious disservice to their viewers. Would they have stayed with an NBA playoff game in the same situation? Probably. Would NBC have stayed with an NFL playoff game in this situation? Without a doubt. They would have cut as close as they could to the race. What this really shows is a lack of respect towards the NHL and it's viewers. What NBC did was the equivalent of showing Friends and cutting out the last ten minutes. No viewer would be happy about that.

Yes, the NHL should have had the foresight to try and get around the situation, and NBC should of too. I just can't seem to wrap my mind around the fact that no one at the network/NHL was able to suitably plan for overtime. I really don't see how moving the game up as little as an hour or missing, at most, 20 minutes of pre-race coverage was out of the question. That would of meant the network would stay with one more period of action, at least. If the game goes into two, three or four overtimes, that's obviously something that is excuseable. It's ridiculous to set aside a time slot that large, but is having enough time to squeeze in one overtime asking too much?

UPDATE: Feel free to check out articles from DeadSpin, Off Wing Opinion, Out of Left Field and Darryl Reaugh. Off Wing and Left Field have tons of links to more articles on the subject. Many thanks to DeadSpin, Out of Left Field and Behind the Jersey for linking to BMR!

Your Sunday Conn Smythe Candidate Round Up

Far be it from me to be able to tell you a whole lot about who does and who doesn't do their job well. I figure that it's probably just best if I leave that kind of judgment to the people who, you know, get paid for talking about these sorts of things. So, I've searched the internets far and wide to bring you various opinions on who the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy are.

The FanHouse (AOL) (5/20)
A Look at the Potential Conn Smythe Candidates by Jes Golbez
1. Nick Lidstrom - Detroit
2. Dany Heatley/Jason Spezza/Daniel Alfredsson - Ottawa
3. Chris Pronger - Anaheim
4. J.S. Giguere - Anaheim

TSN (5/19)
Alfreddson Earning Playoff MVP Honours by Bob McKenzie
"If the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP was to be awarded right now there is no question that Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson would be going home with it."

ESPN (5/17)
Woke Up This Morning... With Playoff MVP Leaders by John Buccigross
-J.S. Giguere - Anaheim
-Nick Lidstrom - Detroit
-Jason Spezza - Ottawa
-Chris Drury - Buffalo

Lidstrom seems to be a popular Conn Smythe pick.

USA Today (5/17)
Alfreddson Leading Conn Smythe Trophy Charge by Kevin Allen
1. Daniel Alfreddson - Ottawa
2. Dominik Hasek - Detroit
3. Nick Lidstrom - Detroit
4. Chris Pronger - Anaheim
5. Ryan Miller - Buffalo
6. Jason Spezza - Ottawa
7. Dany Heatley - Ottawa
8. Chris Drury - Buffalo
9. Pavel Datsyuk - Detroit

ESPN (5/10)
The Playoff MVP Debate Starts Now by Scott Burnside
-Chris Pronger, J.S. Giguere - Anaheim
-Nick Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Dominik Hasek - Detroit
-Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfreddson - Ottawa
-Chris Drury, Daniel Briere - Buffalo

Saturday, May 19, 2007

NBC Does Not Care About Your Precious Overtime

Imagine if you will, Game Five of last year's ALCS between the Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers... or that it's last December and the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears are squaring off in the NFC Championship game. Hell, even imagining one of the games in the upcoming Cavs/Pistons Eastern Conference Finals will do. Now, imagine you've spent the past two and a half hours watching that game and it is about to go to overtime (or extra innings).

Here's the million dollar question: If you've invested the past two plus hours of your Saturday afternoon watching any of these events, what would you like to see happen next?
a) The rest of the game.
b) About an hour of pre-race coverage of some fucking horses that are about to run around what looks like a dirt NASCAR track, also known as the Preakness.
c) Overtime (or extra innings).
d) A conclusion that gives meaning to the last two and a half hours of your life.

If you answered B, you either are in charge of programming at NBC, or shouldn't be visiting this website.

"Viewers? What Viewers?"
Logo (C) NBC

If you answered A, C or D, then you probably found out the hard way that not only does NBC not give a damn about you, but just when it didn't seem possible, the NHL's television contract just got worse.

A little before 6PM in the east, NBC took the time to give a big 'go fuck yourself' to everyone who had tuned in to watch the first three periods of Game Five of the Sabres/Sens Eastern Conference Final. After regulation finished up, the network cut away to someone who looked like an older version of Pam Ward interviewing a short, scrawny guy in tight Under Armour (I hear they are called jockeys). This left anyone who wanted to see the rest of the game to find a way to watch Versus, which had picked up the game.

Depending on your cable/satellite package, fixing this dilemma could have been as easy as changing the channel, or as hard as, well, not watching the game at all. If you don't get Versus for some reason, congratulations! You just wasted part of your Saturday afternoon! Hopefully, you enjoyed the Preakness.

This is really just another reminder about the sad state of hockey in America and how ridiculously lame the NHL's television contract is. If ESPN, CBS (which consistently preempts '60 Minutes' on Sundays), FOX, ABC, the NBA, MLB or the NFL had a hand in any of this, I'm sure you would have been able to watch a completely uninterrupted overtime period, which saw the Senators advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

What amazes me the most is that no one had the foresight to move the time of the game, as is done so often. Instead, we all got to watch a bunch of horses run around for two minutes and the countless inane hours of pre-show that go along with it.

Congratulations, hockey is now lower on the food chain than a sport whose glory days are far behind it, and has tried in vain to find a 'champion for the ages' that will captivate mainstream America and spark a new era of growth. Wait... or is that the NHL?