Monday, 27 October 2008

Brian Burke: Visionary

I had written an article some time ago about the best Brian Burke quotes that he has ever uttered to a microphone. Some were funny, some were poignant about issues, but the key was that they resonated due to their truths. It's very clear from a few of the comments made by Mr. Burke that he has absolutely no friendship with Al Strachan, a reporter who works for Fox News and appears on Hockey Night In Canada's Satellite Hotstove segment on CBC. Why the CBC has Al Strachan on national television is beyond me because, personally, he's a hack. I don't know where he gets his info from, but some of his "stories" seem to be way out there.

I'd like to recall a Brian Burke comment spoken when he was still the GM of the Vancouver Canucks. Al Strachan had reported on the Satellite Hotstove segment that Burke had discussed trading Brendan Morrison and Bryan Allen for Mike Peca, and was insistent on Burke having discussed it with Sabres' GM Darcy Regier.

Burke appeared on Hockey Night In Canada a week later with this comment: "The very fact that Al Strachan reported it, in my opinion, makes it extremely likely it has no factual basis what-so-ever. I deny it specifically and categorically. I have never discussed Brendan Morrison with Buffalo, I have never discussed Bryan Allen with Buffalo and I have not talked to Darcy Regier in three weeks. So I'm shocked that a respectable media outlet like Hockey Night in Canada would allow this garbage rumour-mongering to take place. I'm amazed that whoever produces that show would tolerate this."

And that Brian Burke comment brings me to Al Strachan's recent Satellite Hotstove commentary. Scott Burnside, a respectable reporter for ESPN, tuned into the Satellite Hotstove this past weekend, and was slightly surprised at Al Strachan's "reporting" of a story that Lightning co-owner Len Barrie had spent time in the Lightning's dressing room in Europe for the opening weekend, diagramming power-play and penalty-killing strategies. He also suggested that the Lightning are "imploding" and that "the league over/under" on Barry Melrose's coaching tenure is mid-November.

If you'd like to see Al Strachan utter these very words, please click here. Just remember: Strachan was told by "one of the players". That's simply horrendous reporting. It would be far better if Strachan would just admit that he made it up.

Yesterday, Oren Koules, co-owner of the Lightning, told that Strachan's report was "a blatant lie. It never happened". I'm going to side with Koules on this one.

First off, Len Barrie designing powerplay strategies? Len Barrie played 184 NHL games in his career. He had career totals of 19 goals and 45 assists. Yet, Barrie is telling Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, and the rest of the Lightning how to play on the powerplay? Are you kidding me?

I'm not sure why Strachan subscribes to theories that hold no water. For him to appear on Hockey Night In Canada with this "garbage rumour-mongering" only makes Brian Burke look like a genius. Al Strachan could be the PHWA's Eklund with crap like this.

Secondly, I'm pretty sure that Barry Melrose, Cap Raeder, Rick Tocchet, and Wes Walz are a competent bunch when it comes to strategies. Melrose and Raeder took a Gretzky-led team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Tocchet has won Stanley Cups as a player, and was a solid powerplay guy during his time on the ice. Wes Walz was a penalty-killing expert, and knows how to play in a defensive system. But, according to Al Strachan, Len Barrie would rather undermine the coaches that they hired by pushing them aside to show the players how to play in the systems?

Thirdly, why would Barrie go into the dressing room during the opening weekend to show the players powerplay and penalty-killing strategies when they were 0-1 on the season? What purpose would that serve? If one loss generates that kind of break-neck reaction from Len Barrie, he's in the wrong business. And it's not like the Lightning got blown out in that first game. They lost 2-1 to the Rangers. They went 0-for-4 on the powerplay, and gave up the game-winning goal while killing a penalty, resulting in them being 6-for-7 in the PK department. But it's hardly the kind of thing where you need to have a meltdown, and bring in some "specialist" to help when there is a man-advantage. Barrie coming into the dressing room to design strategies is complete nonsense after a 2-1 loss.

Personally, Strachan's reporting disgusts me. He gets airtime on CBC and The Score highlight channel, but he's a complete hack when it comes to hockey. Case in point?

  • Strachan reported on the Satellite Hotstove last season before the trade deadline that Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier would ask for a trade in the off-season from the Lightning. Strachan indicated that his source is very reliable and close to Lecavalier. The result? Lecavalier, of course, signed an 11-year contract extension in the off-season, essentially making him a member of the Lightning for life.
  • In January, Strachan reported on the Satellite Hotstove that then-Maple Leaf Mats Sundin would accept a trade to the Vancouver Canucks. The result? Sundin vetoed any trade from the Leafs by the trade deadline, and then rejected a contract offer of $10 million per season from the Canucks in the off-season. On that same episode, Strachan reported that the Philadelphia Flyers were the front-runners for Peter Forsberg's services. Forsberg ended up signing in Colorado. Strachan also reported that Olli Jokinen requested a trade from the Panthers.
In two episodes, Strachan goes 1-for-4 in his "reporting", yet that Jokinen "fact" was pretty much known throughout the hockey world. How does this guy keep a job? That's absolutely horrific. Do some investigating, and get your facts correct, Al. Otherwise, keep your yap shut. You do a great disservice to your colleagues and peers by doing this sort of reporting.

Frankly, Al Strachan should go away quietly, and stay far away from hockey altogether.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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