Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

April 2nd, 2012

A Simple Truth About Sports Television

Came across an interesting graf in Phil Mushnick’s column at the New York Post over the weekend:

Even post-Dick Ebersol, the “NBC Sports Report” inserts remain comically dishonest. Saturday, anchor Julie Donaldson, in order, reported: LPGA results (the LPGA is now largely seen on Golf Channel, an NBC property), NHL (an NBC property) results, a promo for an Indy car race (to be seen the next day on NBC Sports Net), and news that fired Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber had been hired by Kansas State.

While Mushnick might be right, I’m having more than a little trouble working up any bile over something like this. Last time I looked, it’s 2012, and spots like the “NBC Sports Report” are hardly the only source that exists for breaking sports news when we’ve overserved by multiple national and regional cable sports networks, sports talk radio and that whole Internet thing the youngsters are so enthusiastic about.

As for Muchnick’s complaint about NBC using the spot to promote its own broadcast properties, excuse me if I stifle a yawn. ESPN’s own SportsCenter, which was once rightly termed, “a thinking man’s version of World News Tonight,” has devolved into nothing more than a vehicle to promote its own programming — endless coverage of Tim Tebow and Bret Favre even in the NFL offseason being an object lesson. And never forget, some folks have actually accused ESPN of actively working to destroy sports leagues that it doesn’t air.

Bottom line: all’s fair in love and ratings.

 
July 5th, 2011

The Solution to the 3-Ball Walk

When it comes to Major League Baseball these days, it’s hard for me to pay close attention to any team other than my New York Mets (middle age will do that to you). Which is exactly why I missed this news over the long weekend:

During the fifth inning of the Seattle Mariners’ 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres on Saturday, Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin(notes) drew a walk on what everyone in the ballpark believed to be a full 3-2 count. The only problem was that Mariners pitcher Doug Fister(notes) had only thrown three balls in the at-bat.

[…]

The three-ball walk to Maybin was costly for the Mariners, as he eventually came around to score on an Alberto Gonzalez(notes) single. That ended up being the game’s only run, as the Seattle lineup only mustered two hits against Cory Luebke(notes) and three Padres relievers.

After Maybin scored, word began to buzz around the field and press box that a mistake had been made. But since no one protested and play kept going, the umpiring crew had to wait until the game had ended to review the play. Sure enough, they discovered that the count should have been 3-2 when Maybin was given the walk.

As embarrassing as this may be, there’s a very simple solution, and one that MLB has already established a precedent for. The only choice is to call a do over and replay the entire game from the incorrect call of ball four.

So what’s the precedent? Does anyone else besides me remember the pine tar incident?

 
July 5th, 2011

… And Exit Matt Bradley

Again, while I might be coming it late, let me add my voice to the chorus singing the praises of Matt Bradley as he departs D.C. for Florida after six solid seasons with the Caps. The move was pretty much telegraphed when Bradley’s agent let everyone know before the free agent signing period that Washington hadn’t offered him a new contract. It’s sad, but business is business, and from the looks of things last season, the team was more than happy with the emergence of Matt Hendricks, a player who stepped in and more or less stole Bradley’s role on the team for himself.

For me, lasting memories of Bradley will have to include his two-goal game against the Rangers in Game Five of a first round playoff series in 2009—a game that helped the Caps stave off elimination on their way to winning in seven games. But over and above that, I’ll just remember the incredible bravery and toughness he displayed time after time when he had to drop the gloves. You’ll recall that the team had declined to re-sign Donald Brashear after the 2008-09 season, which meant that the responsibility for taking on the other team’s heavyweights fell primarily to Bradley.

In the two seasons since Brashear left via free agency, Bradley piled up 15 fights, more than any other Caps player (though it should be noted that Hendricks piled up 14 majors in 2010-11, four more than Bradley last season). Perhaps his gutsiest moment came in the 2007-08 season when he had no choice but to drop the gloves with Boston’s Milan Lucic:

Normally, you’d think that Lucic would have sought out Donald Brashear. After all, according to the tale of the tape, Lucic has at least 30 pounds on Bradley. As fighters, they’re not even in the same class. If you follow "The Code," Bradley ought to have been able to decline Lucic’s invitation, but it’s pretty clear he didn’t want to let down his teammates even though he was clearly overmatched.

That’s the sort of bravery and guts Matt Bradley still has right now. The Florida Panthers are lucky to have him. Best of luck to Brads, who only did everything that was asked of him while he was in a Washington Capitals uniform.

 
July 5th, 2011

Enter Tomas Vokoun …

Unlike other folks who were watching the free agent news like hawks, on a holiday weekend, it was a little while before I discovered that Caps GM George McPhee had pulled off what looks like the coup of the free agency period by signing goalie Tomas Vokoun to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

While I find myself having a hard time adding anything that Ryan Lambert hadn’t already written at Puck Daddy, there is one important parallell that needs to be pointed out, namely, how McPhee has played the market so masterfully that he’s been able to create an absolute strength in net without having to pay a blockbuster price. Better still, it’s an advantage that’s going to exist for at least a few seasons into the future.

Next season, the combination of Vokoun and Michael Neuvirth in net will cost Washington just a shade over $2.6 million, with Braden Holtby stashed in Hershey for a little under $650,000 per year. So, in 2011-12, the past, present and future in net for the Washington Capitals will cost just $3.2 million, with a little less than a fifth of that cost (the Holtby contract) not counting against the salary cap. Compare that to Philadelphia, who will be paying just a shade above $5.6 million next year for Ilya Bryzgalov alone.

Let’s say next season that Vokoun takes the starting job and leads Washington to a Stanley Cup? If that’s the case, Washington will still have Neuvirth and Holtby under contract for the 2012-13 season for about $1.7 million. So, if Vokoun earns one last huge contract, and Washington decides it doesn’t want to pay, they can easily let Vokoun go and insert the tandem of Neuvirth and Holtby—something the team was prepared to do in the 2011-12 season in any case. And even if the converse occurs, the Caps are still set in goal for the forseeable future both in terms of personnel as well as the salary cap.

At bottom, it looks a lot like the situation that Red Wings GM Ken Holland has created in Detroit—one that’s given him the flexibility to fill out the roster in front of his very affordable goaltending. I’m having a hard time thinking of a better model in the NHL to emulate.

 
July 1st, 2011

Caps Make a Splash as Free Agency Opens

When Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said his team was going to be busy on the opening day of free agency, he wasn’t kidding. In just a few hours, three new players were added to the lineup, another was traded and another left Verizon Center voluntarily. Let’s take a look at how it all shook out.

Welcome Back Halpern: When I saw this deal pass over Twitter I couldn’t help but gasp. While others might not recall, Jeff Halpern’s departure from the Capitals wasn’t exactly on the best of terms. Not that anyone could really blame Halpern. At that point in his career, it looked as if it would be years before the Caps were a contender again. It was just as clear that he would be able to fetch a higher price on the open market than he would have had he re-signed with the Capitals.

So, he was off to Dallas, and well, while nothing was really said out loud, somebody around here wasn’t happy about it. The evidence: when the Stars came to Verizon Center the next season Halpern got the start for Dallas, ostensibly so he could get a nice hand from the locals on his first visit back home. Conincidentally, it was also the only time I can ever remember when the Caps failed to introduce the starting lineup of the visiting team.

Now, clearly all is forgiven. Unfortunately, welcoming back Halpern means saying goodbye to long-time good guy Boyd Gordon. His hard work all these years in a Caps uniform earned him a modest raise in Phoenix, one that the locals would soon not be able to afford.

The Varlamov Exile: The owner made it pretty clear today that he wasn’t terribly happy with the way Semyon Varlamov and his agent were playing games in the press, but something tells me that Varlamov’s agent played this the best way he could. Simply put, there is only space for a pair of goalies on an NHL roster. Unfortunately, the Caps had three who could legitimately lay claim to a starting job. Varlamov, who saved Washington’s bacon in the playoffs two seasons ago against the Rangers, wanted the job for himself along with a requisite raise. Management, however, clearly had other ideas with cap space at a premium.

When you look at it that way, it’s a little easier to understand why Varlamov and his agent made so much noise with the KHL option. The Caps made it clear they couldn’t guarantee what he wanted, at least not right away, and the games began. Which is right around the time that General Manager George McPhee found a dance partner in the Colorado Avalanche—a team that apparently had draft picks to spare. Boom! Problem solved, with Washington picking up two picks in next year’s draft, with one that could be from the lottery.

Fill and Patch: Neither the signing of Joel Ward nor Roman Hamrlik will go down in history as transformative deals for the Caps. Both players fill a need, and are doing it for reasonable prices. Ward seems to be a younger version of Matt Bradley, (a man who will find work elsewhere after good work here in DC) albeit with a little more scoring touch. As for whether or not Ward can kick it up a notch in the playoffs again as he did with Nashville last Spring, I’m not sure I’d count on that just yet. As for Roman Hamrlik, he’s better in his own end than you might imagine, salted with just enough offensive talent to keep most folks happy. Who knows, with a lefthanded shot, he might just be able to step in on the point opposite Mike Green and let Alex Ovechkin move down to the halfboards on the power play.

So what’s next? According to Cap Geek, the team has a little more than $2 million of cap space left with Troy Brouwer, Karl Alzner and Braden Holtby still needing to be paid. Long story short: expect some bodies to be moved shortly. As fast as this offseason started for the Caps, it doesn’t look over yet.

 
May 17th, 2011

Officially Still Open for Business

A friend sent a note to me today asking if Off Wing Opinion was "officially" on hiatus.

The answer is no. I reserve the right to come and go as I please without notice, official or otherwise. Expect more soon.

 
December 16th, 2010

Some Thoughts on 24/7 Penguins Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic

I just finished watching the first episode of 24/7 Penguins Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic for the second time, and I’m already planning on watching it again.

Yes my friends, the show is that good, and if you’re a hockey fan who doesn’t already have HBO, you need to get in touch with your cable or satellite provider right now to address that oversight. If anything, episode one consistently exceeded my expectations. The cable outlet has another breakout winner on its hands, and the NHL should be thanking whatever god they pray to for being along for the ride.

The moment that kicked the show into overdrive for me was during Pittsburgh’s road trip to Buffalo, footage that was backed musically by the 70s hit, "Right Back Where We Started From," by Maxine Nightingale. It was an obvious nod to every hockey fan’s favorite film, "Slap Shot," and one that sent the message that the folks doing the series love and respect the game as much as its most ardent fans—a welcome change from the message national media outlets usually telegraph when it comes to their feelings about the game.

It was great to see hockey treated in a manner that we usually see reserved for other major sports. My colleague at The TV News, Jeff Grimshaw, says the key to shooting hockey for television is to eschew the traditional "eye in the sky" view for tight shots on the action, and HBO seems to understand that implicitly. So while you may have watched hockey in HD, few have ever seen it like this, which means while this series is a great reason to subscribe to HBO, it’s an even better reason to buy an HDTV if you don’t already have one.

But while it’s impossible to ignore what I saw last night, it was what I heard that couldn’t help but warm my heart. Sure, there have been plenty of times when players have been wired for sound during a game, but those audio tracks have usually been sanitized for a family audience. That’s not the case with 24/7. Instead, we get to eavesdrop on fights, meltdowns on the bench and players cursing under their breath after enduring a locker room tirade. We’ve always known that Washington winger Alex Ovechkin had a wicked sense of humor, but he kicked his reputation to a whole new level last night. After an official explained that teammate Alexander Semin had drawn blood after cross-checking Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles in the neck, a horrible lapse in judgment that earned Semin a game misconduct, Ovechkin deadpanned, "He (Liles) must have sensitive skin."

Considering his team was in the midst of a 12-game winning streak at the time, I’m not surprised that Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma was depicted as cool, cerebral and in control. Then again, through the lens of HBO, it was hard not to come away with the impression that Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau’s stock had crashed out of the NASDAQ and into the pink sheets.

That impression crystallized while watching footage of Sunday’s 7-0 loss against the Rangers. With his team down 3-0, Boudreau called timeout during the second period in order to rally his troops. After berating the team for demonstrating a lack of courage and strafing them with a string of F bombs, Boudreau wrapped up his rant with, "Let’s get our fucking asses out of our heads," a line that can only be described as "bass ackwards." One can’t help but wonder what Boudreau’s players thought of his malaprop.

After one episode, we have our storyline: one one side we have the Penguins, a team that already has a title, riding high and feeling confident. On the other, we have the struggling Caps, a team with a well established reputation for failing when it matters most, struggling to get things back on track.

After taking it all in, it’s impossible not to wonder how the show is playing inside each organization, especially here in Washington. In the past, if the Caps stumbled into a losing streak, the media attention would be negative, but not nearly as searing as it would be in a more rabid hockey market. But now, with expectations of success and television cameras recording their every move, ending the losing streak has become more imperative then ever before. Washington had a chance to alter the narrative last night, but still found a way to lose to Anaheim at home, 2-1 in overtime.

With six days left before the next episode airs, Washington has three chances to alter the storyline: first on Saturday in Boston, on Sunday in Ottawa and back home again against the Devils on Tuesday. As the losses continue to pile up, and the gap between Washington and the rest of the pack in the Southeast Division tightens, you have to start wondering whether or not collars are going to begin to tighten in Washington’s executive suite too. Stay tuned.

 
October 4th, 2010

Hockey Fight of the Weekend

Back when I was still at FanHouse, I used to post video from the hockey fight that received the best rating from the users over at HockeyFights.com during the previous weekend.  This weekend, the tilt that pinned the meter was this clash from last Friday night between Raitis Ivanans and Steve MacIntyre

For more details on the bout, visit the Edmonton Journal.

 
September 11th, 2010

Remember

 
May 25th, 2010

Time for the NHL to Steal A Good Idea from the Tennis Channel

From time to time I’ve noted how other sports leagues, especially the NFL, have a habit of stealing good ideas from the NHL.  After the NHL ran the ad where Alex Ovechkin punked Sidney Crosby with a room service order, it wasn’t all that long before the NFL did more or less the same commercial with Reggie Bush and Peyton Manning.

There are other examples, but I’m sure you get the idea.  But today, I’m going to suggest that it’s time for the NHL to do the stealing, this time making off with a heist from professional tennis:

Tennis Channel, the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle, will provide a portion of its advertising inventory to Google TV Ads’ system, effective immediately. The arrangement makes the network the first single-sport channel inventory partner of the three-year-old online-based television platform.

Tennis Channel will have the opportunity to develop new business through Google TV Ads’ extensive client base and take part in the system’s unique auction setup. Google’s system makes the advertising inventory across more than 98 networks available to media buyers who are able to build national TV campaigns and track highly targeted ads right from their computers. Additionally, Google TV Ads offers second-by-second measurement and data, which Tennis Channel will apply to its ad sales efforts.

If you’re a hockey fan who has access to the NHL Network, I think you know what I’m getting at here.  If you even watch just 30 minutes during the day, you’ll inevitably be exposed to what seems like an endless loop of network and league promos.  Every cable network runs them, but it isn’t too hard to notice that the NHL Network runs them a lot more often than many of their counterparts.

There’s only one reason why that’s the case, and that’s because there’s a lot of ad inventory on the network that goes unsold.  That shouldn’t be a shock during a period of severe economic contraction, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do all you can to generate some sort of return on that unsold inventory, and it would seem like working with Google TV Ads would be a good idea to get that done.

 
May 21st, 2010

On Versus Dumping Cycling Coverage in Favor of the NHL

My latest appearance doing the Sports TV News.

 
April 16th, 2010

Photos From Caps-Habs

 
April 14th, 2010

Washington Caps Stanley Cup Playoff Notebook: Day 1

Dave Steckel looks to make a breakout pass.
The Habs might hang around, but not for long.

The playoffs are finally here, and while I’m not much of a follower, after reading more than a few capsule predictions elsewhere that caused me to wince, I feel compelled to share my own predictions. As always, the following are provided for entertainment purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any actual cash wager …

East

Washington vs. Montreal: I watched all four games between these two teams in the regular season, and the overwhelming feeling I had more than once was, why in the world are the Caps having so much trouble putting this team away? There’s no way Montreal can win the series, but they have the ability to win two out of three games at home in a six game series. That will most likely be Game 3 at home. The real test for the Caps will come in Game 4, where they’ll have the opportunity stomp the life out of the Habs. Washington in five.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia: This is a real trap series for New Jersey. Not in the sense that they’ll lose it, but more in the sense that Daniel Carcillo or Chris Pronger may well snap, thereby putting one of the critical cogs in the Devils lineup on the injured list for 2-3 games. What else do you need to know? How about Martin Brodeur vs. Brian Boucher? New Jersey in five.

Buffalo vs. Boston: Do I really need to write that this is going to be a tight series? Boston may get Marc Savard back, but he’s something of a perimeter player whose effectiveness is going to be muted during the playoffs. Otherwise, all you need to know is Miller > Rask and Ruff > Julian. Buffalo in six.

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa: Last year, the Senators had Dany Heatley in the lineup all year and didn’t make the playoffs. Before the start of the season, they were forced to trade him, and Cory Clouston still figured out a way for the team to finish fifth overall. The man knows what he’s doing, and he’s actually got a number of sort of grizzled vets on his roster that you like to have around this time of year. They won’t win, but they’ll hang around long enough to make it interesting. Pittsburgh in six.

West

San Jose vs. Colorado: Yes, I know that the Sharks have a postseason hill to climb like no other team in the league. Fortunately for them, they’re facing a very young Avalanche team that overachieved early, and had just enough left in the tank to make the playoffs at the end of the season. Colorado has a bright future, but they don’t have the horses to upend the Sharks this time. San Jose in five.

Chicago vs. Nashville: Congrats to Barry Trotz and David Poile for successfully replicating the 1980s model of Washington hockey success in Nashville. They play playoff hockey all year long out of financial necessity and it works. Like Ottawa, they’ll hang around and leave the Blackhawks bruised up, but it won’t be enough. Chicago in six.

Vancouver vs. Los Angeles: It can’t help but warm your heart a little bit when you see a team that’s been down so long get back into the NHL playoffs. It would be great for the game to see the Los Angeles Kings beat Vancouver in the first round this year, but I’m just not sure their young lineup is ripe enough as of yet to get it done. Like Colorado, their best years are yet to come. Just not this year against a team that boasts what may be the league’s best goalie and its leader in points. Vancouver in five.

Phoenix vs. Detroit: Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett deserves a medal for the job he’s done in Phoenix this year. Unfortunately, they don’t give medals in the NHL, so the Jack Adams Trophy will have to do. His reward: facing a team that dug itself out of a trough early, one that’s led by the man who is generally regarded as the league’s best head coach year-over-year, no matter which bench he might be running. Some reward. One last thought: Wayne Gretzky must be more than a little bitter right now. Detroit in six.

So who wins it all?  Before the past two playoffs, I was reluctant to pick a Caps team that I believed was still too young and inexperienced to win the Cup.  That time is over.  And while I’ll always be the sort of person who waits for the other shoe to drop, I have no reason to believe that this won’t be the year.

UPDATE: I just got a note from the folks at Bookmaker.com, and they provided me with the current line on winning the Stanley Cup.  At this point, the Caps are favorites.  Click here for the line on the Cup and the Conference winners:

BOSTON BRUINS +4000 (2%)

BUFFALO SABRES +785 (11%)

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS +385 (21%)

COLORADO AVALANCHE +5000 (2%)

DETROIT RED WINGS +950 (10%)

LOS ANGELES KINGS +2500 (4%)

MONTRÉAL CANADIENS +4600 (2%)

NASHVILLE PREDATORS +3600 (3%)

NEW JERSEY DEVILS +655 (13%)

OTTAWA SENATORS +3200 (3%)

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS +2200 (4%)

PHOENIX COYOTES +1300 (7%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS +725 (12%)

SAN JOSE SHARKS +390 (21%)

VANCOUVER CANUCKS +950 (10%)

WASHINGTON CAPITALS +275 (27%)

[The +/- Indicates the Return on the Wager. The percentage is the likelihood that response will occur. For Example: Betting on the candidate least likely to win would earn the most amount of money, should that happen.]

 
March 3rd, 2010

Wikio Listing of Top Hockey Blogs

A couple of days back, I received the following email:

Hello Eric,

This is Marjorie over at Wikio. I’m contacting you about the March Top Blog rankings. As you know, our rankings are officially published on our website on the 5th of each month, and we offer a sneak peek at them to a selected blogger. So I was wondering if you’d like to announce the exclusive on your blog before the official publication on http://www.wikio.com/blogs/top next Friday, as your blog has risen a lot in the ranking.

Let me know if you are interested or if you have any questions. It’s pretty simple: today or tomorrow, I’ll send you some html code to paste into a post on your blog and you can either just publish that or do some analysis – as you like. :-)

See you soon.

Best Regards,

Marjorie Montillon
Community Executive @ Wikio
 

To say the least, I was intrigued.  So I said, sure, send me the list.  Just a few minutes ago, I was sent a piece of code to paste into a post.  It appears below.

1. Kukla’s Korner

2. On Frozen Blog

3. Mc79hockey.com

4. Russian Hockey Fans

5. Scotty Hockey

6. Greatest Hockey Legends.com

7. St. Louis Game Time

8. The College Hockey Blog

9. CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

10. Sixty Minutes. No Alibis. No Regrets.

11. PensBurgh

12. Goon’s World

13. Mile High Hockey

14. National Hockey League Digest

15. Hockeytown Static

16. Off Wing Opinion

17. USCHO.com News

18. The Blueshirts Blog

19. Capitals Insider

20. Hockey’s Future

Wikio: Collection of blogs

To say the least, I was a little taken aback to be listed at all.  I’ve been less than fully active at Off Wing for some time now, and considering how much the hockey blogosphere has grown recently, I guess I’m happy to simply be included in such fine company.  In the meantime, I’ve sent a note to Wikio asking them how they compiled the rankings.  I’ll let you know what I find.

UPDATE: Marjorie from Wikio sent me a followup note.

Eric,

The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. These links are dynamic, which means that they are backlinks or links found within articles.

Only links found in the RSS feed are included. Blogrolls are not taken into account, and the weight of any given link increases according to how recently it was published. We thus hope to provide a classification that is more representative of the current influence levels of the blogs therein.

Moreover, the weight of a link depends on the linking blog’s position in the Wikio ranking. The Wikio rankings do not take into account either the Google PageRank or traffic of your blog. We use our own algorithm. With this algorithm, the weight of a link from a blog that is more highly ranked is greater than that of a link from a blog that is less well ranked.

The rankings are updated on the 5th of each month.

Thanks to Marjorie for the answer.

 
January 22nd, 2010

Ian LaPerriere’s PSA Outtake

Thanks to my old buddy Gil Edwards at Red Lasso for digging up this local clip from the Fox affiliate in Philadelphia.  In it, we’ve got a local news personality interviewing Riley Cote of the Flyers.  Towards the end, they cut to an outtake of Ian LaPerriere gamely trying to shoot a public service announcement even though he’s without his false teeth.  Let’s just say the attempt was less than successful.

As was previously reported by CSN Philadelphia, somebody swiped the new bridge LaPerriere just had made after he took a puck to the face earlier this season.

 
December 24th, 2009

Another NHL Fail on Alex Ovechkin

Here in Washington, we’re always sensitive about how the league sends consistent subtle, but detectable, signals that it likes Sidney Crosby more than Alex Ovechkin.  Yesterday, Nate Ewell from Caps PR pointed out in a tweet that the league’s Xmas commercial for shop.nhl.com mentions Crosby by name in order to move product, but can’t seem to do the same for a two-time NHL MVP.

Here’s another real-world example from an article at NHL.com:

Ovie NHL Fail
#2 overall? Wasn’t that Evgeni Malkin?

Just to remind everyone, Ovechkin was #1 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.  Pittsburgh chose Evgeni Malkin at #2.  Thanks to @JapersRink for the heads up.

 
October 27th, 2009

Is This a Great Time or What?

Purchase price of 42 inch 1080p high definition television: $800.

Monthly subscription to satellite television service: $100.

Yearly subscription to NHL Center Ice: $165.

Listening to an online radio feed of the Caps and Flyers after spending all of that money in order to ensure that you can watch any hockey game you want: Senseless.

There are some things money can’t buy, and that apparently includes a simple regular season hockey game being played in your own hometown.  Thanks for nothing Versus, DirecTV and the NHL.

 
October 22nd, 2009

Redskins Fans Express Their Dipleasure to Mr. Snyder

Here’s a picture for all the Washington Redskins fans.  The following picture was snapped by a friend of mine on Route 28 in Virginia near the team’s training complex in Ashburn.

Snyder Cerrato
 

Apparently firing the owner isn’t an option.

 
October 20th, 2009

Hockey Relationship Advice

Via Twitter, Andy Sorensen of Minnesota passed along the following question in the early morning hours: "Am I a bad bf for sitting the gf down on our anniversary Sat night and having her watch her 1st hockey game (Canucks/Leafs on HNIC)?"

Dear Andy,

Introducing your significant other to one of your passions is a lot like shooting the puck on net: it’s always a good idea, it’s just that depending on the situation, it might not always be your best option.  With that in mind, I still need to know some other information in order to fully answer your question.  Did you ask her to watch the game as part of a number of activities that you could enjoy as a couple?  If so, and watching the game serves as a way to wind down from a special evening together, the request  is perfectly reasonable.  After all, if you’re going to have a future together, she’ll be watching many hockey games with you, just as you will be sharing many of her favorite activities as well.

If however, as I suspect from the tenor of your tweet, you gave your significant  other no choice but to watch the hockey game, I’m afraid that trouble may be brewing.  Though this anniversary might not mean much to you, it may very well mean quite a bit to your girlfriend.  If that’s the case, "sitting her down" to watch the game could be interpreted as a sign that your relationship isn’t all that important to you, or, alternately, that your wants and needs will always come first.

If so, while this was a mistake, it need not be fatal.  Simply sound out your girlfriend, give her a chance to express her anger/disappointment/untrammeled rage, apologize and find a way to make amends by making more appropriate plans.

Sincerely,

Captain Off Wing

P.S.  The Canucks and the Leafs play twice this year.  If you really need to see them play one another, get a DVR, or just wait it out until January 30, 2010 when the Maple Leafs host the visiting Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.  Alternately, you could just ignore my advice, in which case you just might be watching that  second game alone.

UPDATE: Andy sends along the following note: "Thanks. Upon further debate (and after a nite of sleep), I’m retracting the idea. Leafs suck, and besides, apple picking’s more romantic."  Bravo.

 
October 13th, 2009

Odds to Win the Stanley Cup

Well, we’re almost two weeks into the NHL regular season, and I thought it might be a good time to take a quick look back at some numbers the folks at Bodog.com sent my way a few weeks back.  It was on October 1 that they published the odds to win the Stanley Cup.  Here’s the rundown:

Odds to win the 2009/2010 Stanley Cup

Detroit Red Wings 5/1

Pittsburgh Penguins 5/1

Chicago Blackhawks 8/1

San Jose Sharks 8/1

Boston Bruins 9/1

Washington Capitals 10/1

Philadelphia Flyers 14/1

Vancouver Canucks 14/1

Anaheim Ducks 15/1

Calgary Flames 16/1

Montreal Canadiens 25/1

New Jersey Devils 25/1

New York Rangers 25/1

Carolina Hurricanes 28/1

Toronto Maple Leafs 28/1

Ottawa Senators 30/1

St. Louis Blues 34/1

Edmonton Oilers 35/1

Minnesota Wild 40/1

Buffalo Sabres 42/1

Columbus Blue Jackets 42/1

Dallas Stars 44/1

Los Angeles Kings 55/1

Florida Panthers 60/1

Nashville Predators 60/1

Tampa Bay Lightning 70/1

Colorado Avalanche 85/1

Phoenix Coyotes 85/1

Atlanta Thrashers 100/1

New York Islanders 150/1

After only a few weeks, one has to wonder why anyone would think the Maple Leafs were as legitimate a contender for the Cup as the Carolina Hurricanes, a recent champ that advanced as far as the conference finals just a few months ago.  Even after last night’s choke job in Chicago, plenty of folks have to think that the Flames are a little better than 16-1.  Meanwhile, stock in Boston, Washington and Vancouver is probably dropping like a rock.

 
October 2nd, 2009

Some Quick Thoughts on Caps Opening Night

It’s hard to think about how things could have gone better for the Washington Capitals on opening night in Boston on Thursday.  Though just about everybody is having their say right now, I think J.P.’s wrap is most on point: everything that’s always worked for the Caps in recent years continued to work (offensive flow); while everything that drove us insane a season ago (lax penalty killing) seems to have resolved itself — at least for one night.

If there was any single surprise last night it had to be not only the play of Brooks Laich (2 goals), but the fact that he had more ice time than offseason free agent acquisition Mike Knuble (16:08 to 14:58).  That was thanks to the fact that Laich was playing on the team’s first power play unit (2:16 to :56). 

For the most part, when we think of a team transitioning from year to year, we always take a look at the new parts, and perhaps don’t pay enough attention to the players who are already here and how they may progress and evolve into a larger role.  I’ll have to say that I’m probably guilty of that with Laich, who has managed to put his game together over the past two seasons, and done it in a way that augured well for his future success and his ability to hold his own while playing alongside the team’s marquee talents.

I’ll be in the box on Saturday night for the home opener against Toronto.  See you there.

 
September 25th, 2009

Brandon Sugden and Donald Brashear Tangle Twice in New York

I know I haven’t written much about the Caps thus far this preseason, and that’s a function of the fact that my "real job," continues to encroach upon what little free time I seem to have left.  Still, I couldn’t help but notice that my old friend David Singer found time to post not one, but both fights between Washington’s Brandon Sugden and New York’s Donald Brashear that took place on Thursday night.

Here’s Round One:

And here’s Round Two:

Now I can’t imagine any sort of circumstance where Sugden could possibly be on Washington’s opening night roster, but you never know when he might be subject to an emergency call up later this year if/when Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau feels the need.  Good on Sugden for making the most of his time with the big club.

 
September 14th, 2009

Are We Being Too Hard on Serena Williams?

I don’t think so, but Fillip Bondy of the New York Daily News thinks otherwise.

 
September 9th, 2009

Caps on Ovechkin and Sochi: Take Two Aspirin and Call Me in 2014

Via NHL FanHouse, I picked up an interview that Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside of ESPN.com did with Alex Ovechkin earlier today where the Russian sniper made it clear what his intentions were regarding playing in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi:

Ovechkin’s pledge to defy his own contract and go AWOL if the NHL decides not to take part in future Olympics ups the ante considerably on both sides of the debate.

"I don’t care," Ovechkin defiantly stated. "I’ll go play in the Olympic Games for my country. If somebody says to me you can’t play, see ya."

Even if it meant the Washington Capitals would suspend him?

"I don’t care," he said.

… Ovechkin said it was likely other Russians would have a similar mindset toward playing on their home soil in 2014.

"Who can say you can’t play for your country in the Olympic Games? I think it’s …"

Unfair?

"It’s not unfair, it’s stupid," he said. "Somebody don’t like it, see you next year."

That led my former NHL FanHouse colleague Bruce Ciskie to write, "So, if you’re the Washington Capitals, do you just let the guy go for two weeks, or do you put your foot down?"

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to follow up, I sent a note to Nate Ewell with the Caps asking if the team had any reaction to Ovechkin’s vow.  His answer: "We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it."  Which, when you think about it, is an eminently reasonable answer with more than 4 years to go before the opening ceremonies in Sochi.  After all, isn’t the world supposed to end in 2012 anyway?

Besides, this problem really isn’t owned by the Caps right now.  Instead, it’s totally the responsibility of the NHL owners and their Commissioner, Gary Bettman.   For a solid explanation as to why owners of sports franchises aren’t crazy about seeing their players at the Olympics, click here for Mark Cuban’s take.

NHL owners have already made it clear that they’d prefer to end the NHL experiment with the Winter Games, while the NHLPA has made it just as clear that the players want to go.  Now you have the league’s reiging two-time MVP making it all too clear where he stands: Sochi or bust.

Looks like that next CBA negotiation is going to be a doozy.

 
September 9th, 2009

Can Long Island Still Afford the Islanders?

Over at NHL FanHouse this morning, Chris Botta is reporting that six different municipalities, including both Kansas City and the New York City borough of Queens, are interested in becoming the new home of the New York Islanders.

I don’t doubt Botta’s sources and I don’t doubt his enthusiasm for the Lighthouse Project, the redevelopment plan that Islanders owner Charles Wang believes is necessary for the team to stay on Long Island.

I don’t doubt that keeping the Islanders where they are is what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wants too. After all, despite the team’s woes on the ice — they haven’t won a playoff series since 1993 — this is a franchise that won four Stanley Cups, won 19 straight playoff series and put five players, a head coach and a team executive in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Moving a franchise with that sort of pedigree is not a headache Bettman wants, especially if he wants to avoid larger questions about the financial viability of the NHL and other franchises.

And, finally, I don’t doubt that losing the Islanders would be a tremendous blow to Long Island’s civic pride. I should know, as I grew up about a 10-minute car ride from the Nassau Coliseum and rooted for that team as a child. When it comes to big media in New York City, they had little reason to report on anything going on in the suburbs on Long Island, but even the big shots in Manhattan had to pay attention to the region when the Isles were piling up Stanley Cups while the Rangers were well into their fourth decade of playoff futility.

But the question I haven’t seen too many people ask is whether or not the Lighthouse deal is a good one for the taxpayers of Nassau County, the Town of Hempstead and New York state. Yes, I’ve read plenty about how the project will create construction jobs and become a magnet for ancillary economic development. But as Will Leitch pointed out in his excellent piece over at New York about how there isn’t any reason to get rid of the Meadowlands, we always hear those arguments:

Giants Stadium cost just over $70 million (financed by bonds backed by state racetrack proceeds) in 1976. Many new stadiums are publicly financed by selling the myth—and it is a myth—of utility and profitability down the line.

The reality, on the other hand, is that building arenas and stadiums to support sports franchises are a luxury — and it isn’t obstructionist to ask whether or not it’s a luxury that municipalities can afford, especially in light of competing priorities during a serious economic downturn that has pushed government budgets at all levels to the absolute limit.

That’s not an idle question for me, as my entire immediate family still lives in my hometown on Long Island. While I was growing up there, it was impossible to go a few weeks without hearing my parents, neighbors and parents of my friends complain about the tax burden there, one that’s always been among the highest in the nation.

I’ll admit one thing: I don’t know the answer to that question, which is properly up to the local officials and taxpayers on Long Island.  In my heart, I hope they can get a deal done.  Unfortunately, my head suspects that paying the price to keep the NHL on Long Island might come at the expense of other public priorities.  Keep your fingers crossed.

 
September 3rd, 2009

Cheerleading: The Bloodsport of the 21st Century

Bring It On Poster C10120538

At least that’s the conclusion I came to after reading this story in today’s edition of the Washington Examiner:

[N]ow three Montgomery County cheerleading gyms are locked in an ugly legal battle that involves accusations of poaching cheerleaders, stealing funds, setting up false Web sites and starting a whisper campaign that a rival coach is a pedophile.

[...]

The legal fight started whenXtreme Acro and Cheer sued one of its former coaches, Nicolas Sweeney, for breach of contract. Xtreme’s owner, Judi Eicher, said Sweeney was the "face" of the gym who stole money and poached the gym’s cheerleaders for a new facility he was starting on his own, called Fearless Allstars, while on the clock.

"He just ripped her off," said Sarah Hall, Eicher’s attorney. "He tried to walk out the door with her business."

I guess this is the point where I let all of you know that the NCAA has been sponsoring competitive cheer as an intercollegiate sport for a while now.  No doubt the first recruiting scandal is just around the corner.  Thanks to Radley Balko for the link.

 
September 2nd, 2009

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Over at On Frozen Blog, my friend Mike Rucki is annoyed over the whole Versus/DirecTV conflict, a feeling that’s been fueled by the less than impressive performance that the two companies have been turning in via Twitter.

As for me, I have to admit I’m a pretty happy DirecTV subscriber, and I mark the day I turned in my Comcast (the parent company of Versus) cable box as one of the happier days of my adult life.  But given that a total of seven Caps games are going to be on Versus this season, I’d hope that DirecTV would give serious consideration to coming to an agreement sooner rather than later.

Of course, this is money we’re talking about, so we shouldn’t expect this dispute to get resolved until a few minutes before the puck drops on the Versus NHL season premier on October 1.

 
May 26th, 2009

Caps Sign Undrafted Free Agent Jake Hauswirth

The Caps have officially signed Jake Hauswirth of the USHL’s Omaha Lancers to a three-year entry-level contract. He was slated to attend Michigan Tech in the fall, but it looks like his plans have changed. Hauswirth fits into the recent Caps trend of drafting and signing big-bodied players. He is listed at 6’5″ and 210 lbs., up from 180 lbs only a few seasons ago. What was once an inconsistent game and a finesse style that resembled what you might see in a smaller player has become a more physical and productive game.

Hauswirth attended the Caps development camp last summer, and will be in attendance yet again this summer. Last season he turned a lot of heads, and, as J.P. notes, was the unofficial 2nd star of the camp. Since then he has only gotten better, and his skill level is shown in the Capitals’ desire to sign him and have him progress within the organization instead of waiting and improving his game in college.

Hauswirth could be another big guy with the scoring touch the Caps could use, someone along the lines of Brooks Laich. With the exception of Laich, the Caps have not had an abundance of guys who were willing to crash the net, especially in the playoffs. If he can finish developing his game enough in Hershey, he could be a big help in Washington one day.

 
March 28th, 2009

Midwest Regional; Notre Dame vs. Bemidji State

The nightcap out west starts at 7:30 at Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Notre Dame

The last few years Notre Dame football has lost its dominance and prestige. Some think it left with Brady Quinn, others feel that Charlie Weiss killed it off. But there’s a much simpler explanation: hockey took it. Three years ago the Notre Dame hockey team lost in the first round of the CCHA playoffs to Alaska-Fairbanks. Two years ago they lost their regional final 2-1 to Michigan State. Then last season they lost the national championship to Boston College. This season they come into the tournament as the number 1 seed in the midwest regional. All signs point to them going deep again this year.

Like BU, Notre Dame is dangerous across the board. From Inside College Hockey;

The Fighting Irish have it all: an imposing offense, a downright scary defense, terrific special teams and one of the best goaltenders in the country. Notre Dame has a ton of experience on its roster and showed that they mean business in the NCAA tournament with a run to the national title game last year. Throughout this season, they have continually shown that they

 
March 27th, 2009

Northeast Regional; North Dakota vs. New Hampshire

New Hampshire gets to stay close to home, as the puck drops at 2pm in Manchester, NH.

North Dakota

Inside College Hockey lays out what you need to know about UND.

North Dakota has reached four straight Frozen Fours coming out of the West (twice), Midwest and East regionals. The Fighting Sioux have talented (and clearly experienced) seniors, and it’s a group that feels it has unfinished business, having come up short in the semifinals each year. They rebounded from a lackluster first half (9-10-1 at the New Year) to claim the WCHA regular-season championship.

Maybe they keep the streak alive and advance from the one region in which they haven’t done so. Should they make it to the Frozen Four, they will do so with their balanced scoring. They have 6 guys with 10 or more goals, and 9 skaters with 20 or more points. Their 2nd and 4th leading scorers are defenseman Brad Miller and Chey Genoway, who tie for the team lead in assists with 29 each. They will also rely heavily on their second line, with 2007 Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan centering Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall, who all have at least 11 goals and 25 points.

And for Caps fans that want a glimpse of the future, Joe Finley will be manning the blueline for North Dakota. Fortunately Wisconsin and Minnesota didn’t make the tournament.

A troubling fact is that North Dakota has given up 112 goals on the season, 99 by starter Brad Eidsness, who has played 40 games. He ranks 26th in the country in goals against, but does have a save percentage of .908. Fortunately North Dakota’s blueline creates enough offense to offset the higher number of goals they allow, but if they run into a hot goaltender, that could hurt them. We know they can put up points; it will be interesting to see how their defense responds in the tournament.

New Hampshire

The Wildcats are a very average team. They average 2.99 goals a game and give up 2.88. As the Hoover Street Rag points out;

That’s 21st in the country in offense and 34th in defense. Junior Brian Foster has taken over in goal following the departure of Hobey Baker finalist Kevin Regan and has performed pretty well. He has a solid .910 save percentage, giving up 2.45 goals on 27.22 shots. Not bad, not great.

They only have 4 guys with double digit goals. Van Riemsdyk is the offensive stud of the team, but has a tendency to be inconsistent. Says Inside College Hockey, “He