Saturday, 1 December 2007

No News Is Good News

With the amount of hockey news flying around the hockey world the last couple of days, you would have thought that I would be writing up a storm. Well, it was my full intention to post a couple of articles, however it appeared that the Blogger service wasn't liking me. I couldn't even get on to the website, let alone log in. In any case, we worked out our differences, and I'm back. The NHL Board of Governors were also back in action as well, discussing everything under the sun at a golf course in Pebble Beach, California. When the dust settled on their little pow-wow, they decided to leave well enough alone.

The only real ruffling of the feathers was caused by Barney Rubbles Hairpieces' president Larry Quinn, who wants to see more money poured into research and development to try and improve the game.

"We didn't propose any rule changes either," said Quinn to The Canadian Press. "What we said is, goal scoring is going down, we don't think the zone trap is what our fans want to see, and we've got to find a way to get it out of the game without damaging the game. And that requires a lot of research and development in my opinion. So it was a good discussion.

"If somebody wants to go to a bigger net or a smaller catching glove or anything, we have the desired outcome at the end by researching it before we do it," Quinn added to his initial thought. "For instance, there's a theory that bigger nets would get rid of the trap and improve goal scoring. Who knows if that's true? I don't. So ideas like that need to be tested thoroughly so that if we decide to do something like that, it has the desired result. You'd hate to do it and not have it work."

However, most executives think differently than Quinn. In fact, Quinn's only support appeared to come from Los Angeles Kings' GM Dean Lombardi.

"I think the most important thing they said in there which I think is accurate that maybe we've got to spend a little more time on research when we make changes which I've always kind of advocated," Lombardi said to reporters.

Quinn's opposition seem to come from all walks life, including former players.

"I'm not so concerned with goal scoring being down, regardless of whether it's 1-0 or 5-4 you can have exciting hockey games," said Detroit Red Wings' vice-president and former captain Steve Yzerman. "We made dramatic changes to the game coming out of the lockout and some of them have been very positive and some of them have had a negative effect on the game.

"I wasn't really in favour of making dramatic changes three or four years ago and I'm certainly not in favour in making any changes at the time being. Let's just play the game and continue to develop good young players from all over the world. We cannot keep tinkering."

New York Rangers' president and GM Glen Sather agreed with Yzerman. "I think it's a wonderful game the way it is today. Just because the goal-scoring is not as high as everybody would like it to be, I don't think there's anything wrong with the game. It's a terrific game."

The always-entertaining Brian Burke, GM of the Anaheim Ducks, also chimed in with his opinion. "The game is in excellent shape. I think the package of rule changes since the lockout made the game better and showcased the skill.

"People wring their hands about that but I don't think goals sell our game. It's scoring chances. I've said that for years and I've built my teams on that in terms of entertainment value. If you go to a game there's a series of events that entertain you: scoring chances, a fight, a big hit. Our goal is to provide as many of those per period. We don't need more goals."

And then there's me, who is nothing more than a fan of the game and blogger on the game. Personally, I think leaving the game as it is now is best for the game. Too many changes makes it too hard to follow for the fans who are just getting interested in the game. Changing it more also pushes away the traditionalist who loved the game when there were 21 teams. Good on the Board of Governors for resisting the idea to change more of the game.

There were some things that were voted on and accepted during Friday's meeting:

- The sale of the Nashville Predators to a local group in Nashville. led by Nashville businessman David Freeman, was approved. This was the best solution for all.

- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the Governors that the salary cap is expected to rise again. As an aside, I find this absolutely ridiculous. Why has the cap gone up every year since the lockout? Either the NHL is lying about its numbers, or someone is doing some creative accounting. The cap was supposed to stop owners from spending, yet the NHL hasn't done anything to back that statement up.

- The NHL changed its schedule format back to the old format where every team plays everyone else. Each team will play 24 divisional games, 40 in-conference matchups, 15 games against non-conference teams, and three wild card games against out of conference teams. This is great! The west coast teams will get to see Crosby, Ovechkin, Lecavalier, and Kovalchuk more often. The NHL can't underestimate how important star power is when it comes to selling tickets. Good on the NHL for this move.

In other news, Pierre Lebrun of Sportsnet.ca reports that there is a push from the NHLPA to go back to an 84-game schedule rather than the current 82-game schedule. Paul Kelly, the new NHLPA executive director, addressed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman regarding his findings.

"I told the owners that from talking to players on the teams I've visited, they wanted change," Kelly said. "Frankly, they wanted to play the teams in the other conference home and away, as opposed to just once.

"The players I've talked to would appear to favour increasing the size of the schedule from 82 to 84 games to accommodate this so long as you could limit the number of pre-season games. Right now, you can play up to nine. If the owners would be willing to reduce that to five, the players would agree to 84 games.

"The players are tired of seeing the same guys week after week and they believe the fans in their buildings want to see the star players from other teams and they'd like to visit other cities. The players out west would like to go and play East Coast teams."

Unfortunately, Mr. Kelly's proposal was delivered too late in terms of a vote, but don't expect the NHLPA to just walk away. Mr. Kelly and teams such as the Red Wings will most likely continue to press for the 84-game model at NHL meetings so that it may have a chance to be adopted for the 2009-10 season.

The idea of this increased schedule is that the pre-season schedule is reduced to five games, something that I believe most fans and players would be in favour of, and most owners would agree to. Watch for this to remain a hot topic.

The best part of the meeting came directly from Mr. Kelly's mouth when he emphatically stated that the NHLPA will not be interesting in a labour interruption to get what they want.

"I told [the owners] expressly that it is my view that any labour interruption in this sport would be devastating," Kelly said. "That the public, particularly in the United States, would turn away in disgust. And that we owe it to the game and to the fans to work through issues and to avoid any discussions of lockouts and strikes. And I sensed a positive agreement on the part of the owners to that comment."

I think that everyone involved in some capacity with hockey, whether you're a fan, owner, GM, player, reporter, blogger, or employee of a hockey team, should applaud Mr. Kelly for his commitment to the game. The NHLPA and NHL have taken enough black eyes for their constant bickering. Good on Mr. Kelly for being upfront and honest about his views on the state of hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

CKim said...

The west coast teams will get to see Crosby, Ovechkin, Lecavalier, and Kovalchuk more often. The NHL can't underestimate how important star power is when it comes to selling tickets.

I completely agree with you on this and am definitely excited to see these guys on the ice. Highlight reels can only show so much, but I’m also curious to see how these top players work with their teammates on plays on both ends of the ice. I want to see "the real deal" live in Technicolor. I mean, who do I want to see from the Coyotes? Umm…well, I know Gretzky will be there…

"What we said is, goal scoring is going down, we don't think the zone trap is what our fans want to see, and we've got to find a way to get it out of the game without damaging the game. And that requires a lot of research and development in my opinion. So it was a good discussion.

Something I think that’s interesting (and shouldn’t be ignored) is the fact that, since the lockout, the coaches and players are taking these rule changes and working with them. The style of play is changing and developing around what the Higher Ups want. I give my props to the players and coaches for their abilities to evolve and adapt their games through all this stuff that’s happened. With any new situation that comes up, there’ll always be certain changes that occur. I don’t think it should be viewed as a "problem" in this case, more like a "result." Am I alone in thinking this?

The idea of this increased schedule is that the pre-season schedule is reduced to five games, something that I believe most fans and players would be in favour of, and most owners would agree to.

This is a certified yes from me. Get a couple of games to get the gears working and get the show on the road!