Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A hockey fan's guide to the Summer Olympics

It was a flame that cost a fortune but didn't do
anything, so the locals called it "Dennis Wideman".

It's been a slow week for hockey news, but that's probably just as well. After all, nobody is paying attention to the NHL these days. That's because the eyes of the world are focused on London, as they play host for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

There's no doubt that millions of hockey fans will be tuning in to get their offseason sports fix. If you're one of them, here's a handy guide to the various similarities and subtle differences between the NHL and the 2012 summer games.

The Olympics: If a seemingly endless stream of teams are emerging one-by-one until over 200 have made an appearance, you are watching the "Parade of Nations" at the Opening Ceremonies.
The NHL: If a seemingly endless stream of teams are emerging one-by-one until over 200 of them have made an appearance, you are listening to Shane Doan's agent list the teams his client is currently negotiating with.

The Olympics: If you see somebody peering intently at a target to see where it was hit, you know that a judge is attempting to determine the winner of one of the shooting competitions.
The NHL: If you see somebody peering intently at a target to see where it was hit, you know that Brendan Shanahan thinks this is an especially important suspension decision and wants to double-check where the dart landed.

The Olympics: South Korean archer Im Dong-Hyun has become the feel-good story of the games by setting a world record despite being legally blind.
The NHL: Nobody who was legally blind has ever set a world record, unless you count "Most times designing the latest New York Islander uniforms".

The Olympics: In an amazing display of the human capacity for synchronization, two athletes from the same team can execute an incredibly intricate dive at the exact same moment.
The NHL: In an amazing display of the human capacity for synchronization, every hockey fan reading that last sentence immediately thought "And here comes the Vancouver Canucks joke…"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - That time Pat Quinn screwed up the lineup card during a playoff game

In his defence, he did write "overrated waste of money"
so the officials should have known who he meant.
Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - An ongoing series to honor the greatest, completely meaningless moments in Toronto Maple Leaf history.

Imagine that you're the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs…

Wait! Stop crying. We're not done with the hypothetical yet.

Imagine that you're the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it's about ten years ago. See! Much better. It's before the salary cap, the team is good, and you're in the playoffs every year.

In fact, imagine you've got a big playoff game coming up this very night. In the final moments before the teams take the ice, what do you need to do?

As best I can figure it, as coach of the pre-lockout Maple Leafs you basically have five jobs:

  • Remind everyone not to bother ever coming back past the red line and helping Curtis Joseph in any way
  • Double-check the line combinations to make sure Mats Sundin isn't playing with anyone good
  • Tape the emergency ketchup packets to Tie Domi's forehead (Ottawa Senator games only)
  • Stop by Richard Peddie's office to meet the candidate he's interviewing for the GM's job and wonder how they both managed to get their ties stuck in the fax machine
  • Make sure you've successfully completely the incredibly simple task of filling out the lineup card correctly

Could you handle all of that? If so, you're one up on Pat Quinn, coach of the Maple Leafs squad that faced the New York Islanders in the opening round of the 2002 playoffs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The pros and cons of matching the Shea Weber offer sheet

Shea Weber debuts his "Just realized
the Predators could match" face.
Shea Weber dropped a bombshell on the NHL last week when he signed a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. The heavily front-loaded contract would see the restricted free agent collect over $50 million in the first four years of the deal, making him the league's highest paid player during that time.

The Predators have the right to match the offer, but the contract seems to have been carefully designed to force Nashville general manager David Poile into an almost impossible decision. Does he let his best player walk away, receiving four first round picks as compensation but potentially devastating both the team's fanbase and its playoff hopes? Or does he match the offer, knowing the burden of the contract's first few years could put the financial health of the franchise at risk?

It's a tough call, and so far there's been no indication which way Poile was leaning. So since he still has a few days to make up his mind, I thought I'd try to help out. After talking to sources and crunching the numbers, here's my list of the Nashville Predators' pros and cons of matching the Flyers' offer sheet for Shea Weber.

PRO: The contract is front-loaded and doesn't call for Weber to be paid very much over the final three seasons, which is great since those will be the only ones actually played thanks to the lockout this contract will cause.

CON: The process of matching the offer may be confusing, since the section of the NHL owner's manual that covers dealing with offer sheets for star players simply reads "Remind the other team that we all got together a few years ago and secretly agreed to never actually use those".

PRO: The Predators have been receiving revenue sharing payments from the league's wealthier clubs for years, and Maple Leaf fans would probably enjoy seeing MLSE's money go towards signing a big name free agent for once.

CON: Weber has expressed a desire to play in Philadelphia and upsetting him could make life difficult around team headquarters, according to the janitor who would be in charge of cleaning all the David Poile face smears off of the windows.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NHL owners' other leaked CBA demands

During a break in negotiations, Bettman takes a
moment to consider plans for his sun-blocking device.

Any sense of optimism over the NHL's upcoming CBA negotiation disappeared last week when details of the owners' initial offer to the players leaked to the public. Despite some early hope that the two sides would learn from past mistakes and find common ground quickly, it looks like fans are in for another contentious battle.

The owners' initial offer - which includes slashing the player's share of league revenues, a five-year limit on contracts, the elimination of arbitration and significant changes to free agency - has no chance of being accepted. But while some have chalked the proposal up as just a basic negotiating tactic, others see it as a signal that the league is intent on undergoing yet another long work stoppage.

And that's just based on the high-level details that leaked out - it turns out that the actual proposal included plenty more for players to chew on. My spies were able to get their hands on a copy of the offer, which sheds light on some of the additional demands that NHL owners are insisting on seeing in the next CBA.

  • The league and its players must work together to come up with new revenue streams that could add millions of dollars to the league's bottom line, such as having Cam Janssen bring a swear jar to all his radio interviews.

  • Columbus would really like us to consider another round of expansion, since they're running out of teams to laugh hysterically into the phone when Scott Howson calls with his latest Rick Nash proposal.

  • Any time the NHLPA starts talking about how the union will absolutely refuse to bend on certain key principles, the owners reserve the right to order in for pizza and then drum their fingers nonchalantly when Bob Goodenow shows up to deliver it.

  • We're going to need to roll back the salary of every active NHL player, with the exception of Brad Richards, since according to this magazine we picked up the poor guy can't even afford to buy clothes these days.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Behind the scenes of the 2012 Free Agent Frenzy

Just a reminder that there was a time when Zach
Parise was capable of actually signing something.
The last 48 hours have marked the “free agent frenzy” period in the NHL – the first opportunity for unrestricted free agents to consider offers from teams around the league. Despite a relatively thin crop of available players this year, fans were expecting plenty of movement and big dollar deals. They weren’t disappointed.

By the end of the first day, reports had the total spending spree at almost $200 million. That total only grew on Monday, with several big names who sat out day one coming to terms.

It all made for a hectic few days, and you’d be forgiven if you missed a few details here and there. Here’s a rundown of the major moments the past two days.

Sunday, 8:48 a.m. – For the fourth straight day, Dennis Wideman wakes up muttering “I had the craziest dream” before realizing he was indeed sleeping on a giant pile of Jay Feaster’s money.

Sunday, 11:03 a.m. – People all around Toronto take a break from thinking about free agency to head out with friends and family to celebrate Canada Day – or, as the entire Maple Leafs roster refers to it, “only three more days until July 4”.

Sunday, 12:42 p.m. – As the first signings trickle in, HBO 24/7 producers go ahead and start writing the “Jonas Gustavsson shuts out the Maple Leafs” epilogue for this year’s final episode.

Sunday, 2:13 p.m. - After spending the entire day frantically working the phones, the Minnesota Wild front office decide that everyone in the media has now heard that they plan to be in on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and they can maybe call a few hockey players now.